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Mr. Miller: I am sorry; I meant my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd). The 1988 and 1994 agreements allowed for considerable real-terms increases17 per cent. in 1988 and 22 per cent. in 1994. The contrast with the treaty that we are debating today is that Berlin stabilises EU spending.
It would be worth while for the House to reflect on the history of such agreements over a number of years, and specifically on what happened in 1980. It is brilliantly set out in Sir Ian Gilmour's book, "Dancing with Dogma". I have heard it said that it should have been called "Dancing with Wolves", but I believe that the book came before the film. The book sets out how, at that time, the contribution for the first two years of the process for that negotiation was reduced, by skilled negotiation, by two thirds. However, when Ian Gilmour and Peter Carrington returned to Northolt, they were harangued.
To put the matter into perspective, I shall read a short paragraph:
There are those in the House who believe that we can avoid our trading relationships with Europe. That is certainly not the case in the context of my constituency, where a very significant part of our manufacturing base depends totally on two-way relationships with the mainland of Europe. Although many of those companies are also global players, they all tell me in no uncertain terms that their relationship with Europe is strengthened by a stable economic framework, and a number of players have given credit to the Government for achieving the success that they have. After all, half the United Kingdom's tradeI believe that it is £132 billionis with Europe, and at least 3 million jobs are affected by that trade.
Particularly important in the context of the financial arrangements are the parts of the agreement that impact on waste and fraud. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). Having heard him rant about the processes that apply, I ask, why did the Conservatives, when in government for so long, do nothing about that very serious matter? In any large organisation, let alone an organisation as large as the European Union, there will inevitably be an element of waste and an element of fraud, and it is up to us, as a member state, to take a strong role in combating such activities.
In the context of the treaty, the Government have had a remarkable success. I hope that not only the Government but every person in the House believes that any level of fraud against the EU budget is unacceptable, and I hope that the root and branch reform that the Prime Minister called for will be accepted by all Members of the House. I hope that we also all support the Commission's reform proposals, which involve a radical reform of financial management. We must continue to put pressure on the Commission to ensure that they are deliverable.
The new European anti-fraud office was the initiative of our Chancellor. The Commissioners have already introduced a code of conduct for Commissioners and Commission officials, published a whistleblowers' charter, established fairer arrangements for appointments to senior posts, and started a major modernisation of financial management procedures that will establish clear lines of responsibility for preventing waste and fraud. Just compare that with the previous EC finance Billthe European Communities (Finance) Act 1995, introduced by the Conservative party, which did nothing to tackle
Of course, the Commission's reform proposals cannot be implemented overnight, and in-depth reform will take some time, but we need to continue to put pressure on the Commission to ensure that these reforms are delivered in full. I hope that, despite the fragmentation of the Conservative party at the moment, there is general support for that principle, because it goes without saying that when our Ministers attend summits, the knowledge that it is not just their party but the whole of the British Parliament that is taking a stance strengthens their position.
The body that has been set up in this field has the almost Scandinavian-sounding name of OLAF, but of course it comes from the French: Office Lutte Anti-Fraude. Its first annual report, which has just been published, is worth reading. It describes the organisational activities and analyses the types of fraud detected during the period. It says that 241 new files were opened, as were 68 administrative investigations and 181 co-ordination files. The total value of the cases under consideration was 264 million euros. That is not to say that that degree of fraud exists, but examinations are being carried out into these matters.
There have been a number of high profile cases that hon. Members may have seen in the press. The press in different parts of Europe give a slightly different perspective, and it is worth examining the facts with some care. The body that has been set up as a result of the Chancellor's initiative is clearly having successes, ranging from the illegal importation of bananas from Ecuador, adulterated butter, a series of issues around flax production in Spain and irregular wage payments in the Commission office in Sweden. These are extremely important issues and will have an impact on the economic probity of the Council and the Commission. Together with other member states, we have made it clear that such activities must stop.
Taking one of the examples that I cited, there was a major fraud involving some 16,000 tonnes of adulterated butter that had been sold for 45 million euros, if I am allowed to use that word in the presence of some Opposition Members. The entire cycle has been traced by the public prosecutors office in Naples and the Italian revenue police, thanks to the co-operation of the European anti-fraud office and the serious financial crime office of the French judicial police. We have created a mechanism that, in co-operation with existing authorities in other nations, has produced some important gains, to the benefit of the European taxpayer. Those who argued that because of the nature and scale of the institutions and the complexity of dealing with them, one could not tackle fraud successfully have been proved wrong.
In February last year, a protocol was signed with the Italian anti-mafia directorate that establishes, in the light of article 280 of the European Union treaty, regular co-operation between the anti-mafia directorate and OLAF, aimed at more effective action against illegal activities in economic and financial areas. In the context of organised crime, whether in Italy or elsewhere, that body represents an important step forward. It is perhaps not the world's best-known body, but it has a free
These are incredibly important financial reforms and the Bill helps to build on the foundations for the proposed enlargement. These measures were needed, and some have been horrendously delayed. One wonders what happened with the previous Administration in this regard. Perhaps they were so wrapped up in their anti-European rhetoric that they forgot their way.
There must be continuing reform and, like the hon. Member for Moray and others, I want expansion to become possible. I can understand his frustration about some of the issues surrounding fishing regulations, but unless we look at the bigger picture, get the structures right and reform the CAP and fisheries policy, it will be difficult to address the details to which he referred.
I want the process of expansion to continue. I have some great friends in some unlikely places; some might say that they are the only friends I have. But whether they are in Slovenia, Estonia or Malta, I want Europe to expand and the common bonds that have been created strengthened as a result of greater economic co-operation. This Bill is an essential prerequisite to that, and I commend it to the House.
I ask all hon. Members to put aside their views about Europe. Unless one is a member of one of the Tory camps that wants us to come out of the EU altogether, we should all realise that this Bill is an essential building block for the future of Europe.
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point): I have been reminded tonight of what a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). We disagreed often in the Parliament of 1992 to 1997 and we will do so again in the future, but his warmth and courteous approach are always welcome in this House, even if he did try to butter us up tonight.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) on his excellent maiden speech, and also my hon. Friends the Members for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) and for Tatton (Mr. Osborne). They endeared themselves to the House tonight by speaking in this important debate with such eloquence and command of their subject. Their praise for their predecessors and their constituencies will reflect well upon them all. I am sure that all of them will have excellent careers in this place. It was a pleasure also to listen to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who showed, as always, a uniquely accurate and detailed grasp of European finances.
The Bill is yet another missed opportunity. The Government should have taken the opportunity today to get to grips with Europe and to tackle the thorny issues of European financing. Instead, they ducked that opportunity. The Government should have used this opportunity to promote wholesale reform of the financing structures and mechanisms, which are costly, wasteful and regressive. The Chief Secretary said that the effect of the
I do not agree that shifting the balance from VAT to GDP will necessarily be less regressive. I see it as a stealth-based way to transfer funds from those member states that work hard and generate wealth to those that are, shall we say, less prosperous. That fact has not yet emerged in this debate. This is a socialist, redistributive measure; it will enable new taxes to be imposed on our citizens, and it deserves closer scrutiny than it seems to have had so far from those on the Government Benches.
Every hon. Member knows the emotions that flow when one rises to make a maiden speechthe intoxicating blend of honour and humility, of trepidation, yet pleasure. I have now learned that the same emotions flow for those who have been described as quasi-retreads, but perhaps with a little extra added humility, which can be no bad thingthe humility that comes from having lost and then been chosen again by those who knew one before.
I have not been idle during my enforced sabbatical. There are benefits in extending one's experience outside the ivory tower of Westminster in the real worldor as my constituents often used to put it, earning an honest living. I went back to my old activities in British industryactivities similar to those of the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston. I hope that that experience will serve me well in future.
As my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) said, we are an exclusive groupa group of only two quasi-retreads, who won the election to represent the constituencies that we had previously held.
It is a tradition that I should heap praise on my predecessors, and I am very happy to do so tonight. My most recent predecessor was Mrs. Butler, who cared deeply for the Labour party and for Castle Point. She fought for key issues, such as Canvey's third road and to save the local radio station. She did an excellent job locally and she was very well thought of in Castle Point.
Indeed, Mrs. Butler followed in a line of great parliamentariansin particular Sir Bernard Braine, whom I succeeded and who later became Lord Braine. Serving as Father of the House in his later years, he brought great dignity and a real sense of caring to that office. It is with no exaggeration that I say that Bernard, after 42 years as a Member, was one of the best-loved Members of Parliament of the 20th century. He once held the record for the length of a speech in the House; I think he spoke for about three and a half hours on one occasion.
I will try to emulate Bernard's indomitable fighting spirit when it comes to the rights of my constituents, to simple justice for individuals and to defending this country, as we should be doing tonight. However, the House will be relieved to hear that I will not copy Bernard in his habit of making three and a half hour speechesI intend to restrict myself to only two hours tonight. Bernard Braine took the seat from another well known and much loved politicianthe Labour Member of Parliament, Ray Gunter, who contributed much to the trade union movement in this country. So my predecessors were indeed illustrious, and one would expect no less of Castle Point given that, in common with most Members, I believe that I represent the very best constituency in the country, and it is a great honour to do so.
Castle Point lies on the north bank of the Thames estuary, nestled between Basildon and Southend-on-Sea. It is good to see my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) here tonight. On the mainland are Thundersley, Daws Heath, Benfleet and, of course, Hadleigh, within which lies Hadleigh castle. In the Thames, we have Canvey island, to the east of which is Canvey point. The features of Hadleigh castle and Canvey point give us our constituency name. Canvey lies within the port of London to the east of the great Coryton oil refineries.
In 1605a date that hon. Members will remembergunpowder was manufactured on Canvey island and taken up the Thames in boats by Guy Fawkes and packed below the House, to blow up the historic palace. I guess that it is for that reason that the police always pay particular attention to my car when I arrive here from my constituency. However, there is no gunpowder, treason or plot to be found in Castle Point these days. We are a close-knit, sound community and loyal to Britain and our monarch.
We have other historic connections with this palace. Many of the timbers that made the hammer beam roof in Westminster Hall were cut from the great oaks of Thundersley wood. That is where I live today and have lived for many years. We have a varied and beautiful environment in Castle Point and the people are very special. Compared with the average British constituency, we have 30 per cent. more self-employed people, the highest number of owner-occupied houses, significantly more cars per household, and our population is younger than the averageand Canvey island football team had a great cup run this year, under the inspired stewardship of Jeff King. So the picture painted by the statistics and, indeed, by my experience in Castle Point is that of a young, self-reliant, enthusiastic and caring community.
Having heard how discerning my constituents are, the House will not be surprised to learn that the vast majority of them are rather sceptical about Europe. They believe that this country needs defending from the continual erosion of its sovereignty and from economic attack from Europe. I may be skating on thin ice in saying that, but this is only a semi-maiden speech, so I hope that I can semi-observe the conventions, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In any event, I must honestly represent the views of the people of Castle Point. Bernard Braine said in his maiden speech that we lived in times of peril. We still do. That demands courage and constancy from politicians of good heart and sound judgment. Our constitution and traditions are being eroded and our economy is threatened by inappropriate European integration. Worst of all, our very sovereignty is dangerously dissolving into the European melting pot. Castle Point people are pragmatic and understand money. They have not been deceived. They know that the Prime Minister has yielded a significant part of the rebate that Maggie Thatcher negotiated for Britain. That abatement should have belonged to Britain as a result of the enlargement programme. It amounted to hundreds of millions of pounds of so-called windfall. That is enough money to pay for 3,000 new teachers, 3,000 new nurses and 3,000 new police officers a yearin all, 9,000 extra dedicated and caring professionals whom the people of Castle Point and Britain dearly need.
My constituents know that the finances of Europe are riddled with fraud and waste. They know that the common agricultural policy, which may have served a purpose in
Castle Point people are grateful, of course, for the money that may be provided from European fundsfor example, for the Thames gateway regeneration projectbut they are sharp; they know that for every pound they get, they must first give £6, based on a net contribution of more than £4 billion and only £667 million in regional development fund receipts for this country. Castle Point people bought into Europe as an economically beneficial trading project, but they now see it for what it has becomea dangerous, expensive political experiment.
Those European financing issues are not the only ones that concern the people of Castle Point. Notwithstanding massive privatisation investment, the railway line still needs to be improved. Our roads need serious investment to reduce the ever-growing congestion in Hadleigh, Tarpots, Sadler's Farm, and especially on Canvey island. The number of police on our streets has been cut, just as our police stations, which I previously fought to keep open to provide 24-hour cover, have been closed or made part-time during the past four years.
We need to secure benefits from the Thames gateway regeneration and P&O port projects, but we must be aware of and defend ourselves from the potential negative impacts of those developments on our environment.
There are also real difficulties in our schools, with the lowest-ever morale now recorded in local schools. That has been exacerbated by massive teacher shortages in the south-east and by the over-burdening bureaucracy that flows from the Department for Education and Skills.
We need to create more employmentbut that can, on occasions, conflict with our environmental objectives, so care is needed. The Labour Government have set a massive and, I believe, unsustainable target of building an additional 2,400 houses in Castle Point. I will fight to ensure that the estates of new houses and the necessary industrial development, which must occur, will take place only on brownfield land.
I shall address all those points with Ministers and on the Floor of the House as the weeks and months go by. The 30 or so questions that I have already tabled stand witness to that fact. A Member of Parliament cannot represent the interests of his or her constituency or country without speaking out in this place. The House needs statesmenpoliticians who will hold the Executive to account in this Chamber and who can make the public aware that something needs to be done and then persuade them to do it.
I will seek all-party action where possible to resolve our problems. We need more courtesy and co-operation in politics today; but these times also call for strong opposition. Only the Conservative party truly represents the interests of the British people, and never more so than on European financing.