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Mr. Brady: The EUROSTAT affair is linked to the point that the Minister for Europe made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). Those funds should be spent and controlled directly by the Commission, yet there is no control and rampant fraud.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: My hon. Friend is quite right. The excuse that much of the money is spent in member states is a feeble one. The accounting system is based in Brussels, and Mrs. Andreasen told us that there is no audit trail at all. When something goes wrong, it cannot be traced back to the person responsible in the Commission's accounting department for authorising that money. There is a complete lack of accountability at every level, and it will get much worse under the European constitution, because the same institutions will be given even more powers and staff. The whole thing will get bigger, even though its foundations are shaky.
In the Convention on the Future of Europe, I tabled a number of amendments to try to rectify the position. I suggested that when the European Court of Auditors discovered problems in a budget line, further money should not be spent under that budget heading until the auditors were happy. If there was fraud, mismanagement and waste in a national programme operated by a member state, no money would be spent at all the following year. We would simply turn off the tap. Of course, no one took the slightest notice of my amendments, because the people who drafted the European constitution are employed in the institutions and will receive all the extra powers and, indeed, expenditure.
The European Union has an enormous problem. It has suffered a loss of public confidence, and there is a growing gap between the European political class and ordinary members of the public. The constitution, instead of solving those problems and reforming the institutions, makes everything much worse. My concluding thought is simply that it does not have to be like that. This should not be the only Europe on offer. There is a new, different and better Europe trying to be born, but the first thing that we must do is get rid of this wretched European constitution. Fortunately, the means to do so exist in the referendum that we have been promised. I challenge the Government to give the people a say on the constitution in the referendum without further delay.
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Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I am pleased to participate in our debate and to follow so many interesting and good speakers, especially the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who gave an excellent and entertaining speech. There have been many other good speeches, but I was particularly struck by those two. Like the right hon. Gentlemen, I strongly oppose the current proposals on Europe, although we probably differ on what we want in their place. However, we can debate that another time.
I did not intend to talk about the euro, but I shall dwell on it because we have moved in a positive direction. Five years ago, the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, to which I am proud to belong, invited Sir Edward George to an open meeting. He made a sound case against the euro, and I asked him whether he was suggesting that it should be kicked into the long grass. He said, "Yes, it should be kicked a long way into the very long grass." It clearly is in the very long grass now and I am sure that Sir Edward, in his retirement, will be pleased about thatas, indeed, am I. One need only compare unemployment in the eurozone and than in Britain since the establishment of the euro to see that things are getting worse there. We are doing relatively better outside the eurozonethe constraints of membership will cause serious political stresses in those countries very soon, especially with the depreciation of the dollar, which could cut the eurozone economy off at the knees. Those countries must start to manage their economies very differently.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke about Turkey. I am an enthusiastic member of European Standing Committee B, an exciting scrutiny Committee; unfortunately, not too many members of it attend, and most interestingly, the Liberal Democrat members hardly ever attend. Given that the Liberal Democrats are the most enthusiastic Europhiles in the House, I am surprised that they do not attend, because the Committee is always interesting.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): As a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), may I tell the hon. Gentleman that our Committee is in exactly the same position? The Liberal Democrat members never turn up.
Mr. Hopkins: I have not yet reached that elevated position, but I am fascinated to hear about it. I should point out, however, that some Liberal Democrat Members have, like me, a more sensible view of such mattersone of them is in the Chamber today, and I understand that there are one or two others. I digress.
We were all in favour of Turkey applying for membership of the European Union, although that is some way off at this stage. I have always been in favour of enlargement, precisely because it will make Europe a much looser association of states, and more power will inevitably move to member states and away from the centre. I push that argument whenever I can, and the admission of Turkey would certainly have that effect.
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Some questions were raised about Turkey's membership. Amnesty still has some concerns about Turkey's human rights recordalthough it is improving, it still has some way to go. It is important that we press the human rights argument at every turn. We do not want backsliding in that respect anywhere in the European Union and we must keep pressing Turkey on that point.
Interestingly, the document that we read talked about the need for more public sector restructuring, which, I think, is code for privatisation. I do not want a Europe that makes privatisation a condition of membership. I am against privatisation of our public services, and Turkey should not be pressed in that direction either. Apparently, 80 per cent. of its economy is already in the private sector, so 20 per cent. in the public sector is not unreasonable for a modern, democratic state.
The document also raised the issue of the common agricultural policy. Clearly, that would be problematic, as a much poorer country with a very large agricultural sector would put enormous pressure on the CAP. The document said that the CAP would be applied only in a limited way to Turkey. It did not even say that there would be a phasing-in of the CAP arrangements, as is the case for other new member states, I think, but that there would not be full membership of the CAP. I will return to the CAP later.
A broader point has been raised about whether Turkey is part of what we might know as Europe. That is not an unreasonable point. It is perfectly reasonable for Turkey to join the organisation, however, although perhaps we ought to give it a different name, as I suggested in European Standing Committee B. I have wrestled with possible different names, none of which sound impressive or snappy, but one possibility would be the "Western Eurasian Association of Democratic States". That would be a reasonable description[Hon. Members: "WEADS?"]
In time, however, I believe that other states, further afield, might want to join the organisation. For examplethese are realistic possibilitiessome of the Francophone north African states, as they move towards becoming much more democratic and modern, might want to join. Indeed, I think that France would be keen to have at least one other Francophone country inside the European Union, or whatever it becomes, to bolster the Francophone component, as such countries speak French as their primary language, after Arabic, I suppose.
Europe will be a looser association of states. The imposition of a rigid set of rules and a rigid constitution was conjured up in the minds of those like Sir Edward Heath who thought of the European Union as a smaller group of western nations essentially based around France and Germanythe post-war deal. Those who
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still have that mindset about the design of Europe are wrong about the future, because Europe will not be like that. It is a great mistake to impose rigidities on it.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the budget. As we have heard, the Court of Auditors has failed to sign off the Commission's expenditure for the 10th consecutive year. The budget is clearly not audited properly. It is not run by accountants. Many of my hon. Friendsfine peopleare accountants, and they are doubtless very worried about the state of the European Union's finances.
The Foreign Secretary made a good point about the need to reduce the proportion of member states' national income to be contributed to the European budget. That is an excellent proposal, but implementing it would be politically difficultalthough there is one simple way in which that could be achieved at a stroke. As I have said before, abolishing the common agricultural policy would solve many problems: the problems caused by new nations joining the EU, our own rebate problem, and problems that the CAP causes in the wider world.
I have often described the CAP as an elephant on the lawn. When people talk about reform they turn the elephant around occasionally, or take a little of its food away temporarily. Perhaps it does not grow so much in one year, and then grows more in another. It is still there, thoughand elephants rightly belong in Africa and Asia. Indeed, if I may pursue the metaphor, if we helped the agricultural nations in Africa and Asia rather than the agriculture sector in the EU, we would do a better job for the world and would be seen in a more benign light by those outside the EU for whom the CAP causes great difficulties.
The CAP should simply be abolished and agriculture policy should be repatriated to member states. If Britain withdrew from the CAPif that were possiblewe would do better outside it. We would not have to make the contributions and we would even have an opportunity to buy cheap surpluses.
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