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Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I understand what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting, but there is an alternative approach that might be being considered, and which has already been adopted by the EU bureaucrats: to bring in parts of the constitution by the back door, by stealth, as they have always done.
Sir Menzies Campbell:
There was some agreement in this House that parts of the proposed document could
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be introduced without the need for constitutional proposals. One example that I can refer to, and which was mentioned by virtually everyone who spoke in the six, seven or eight debates that we had on this issue[Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary indicates by semaphore that there were six such debates. Virtually everyone who spoke in those debates was of the view that the proceedings of the Council of Ministers should be in public and that voting should take place in publicthat there should be transparency to a degree not previously achieved. We could do those things now, and if such measures were in effect they might help to deal with the disillusionment of the people of Europe to which the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) referred earlier. I may be proved wrong, but it is my belief that in due course, the pressure of trying to operate 25 countriesperhaps it will be 27 or even 30; who knows?within the framework of the existing treaties will become such that the need to alter the constitutional position will become overwhelming.
Two weeks later, the Prime Minister said that, after his talks with the Swedish Prime Minister, he was in fact prepared to negotiate on the rebate. It has been our consistent view, in supporting the Government, that the rebate should be renegotiated only in return for wider changes to the European Union budget, and in that regard I agree with the principle that Great Britain should be willing to make a contribution to the cost of enlargement.
The hon. Member for Leicester, East made a point earlier about public opinion in the countries of the 10. One need not go very far in those countries to find an approach to, and support for, Europe that is a long way short of the euphoria that was characteristic only 18 months to two years ago. We should remember that the purpose of the European Union is not just to provide a market and economic opportunity, but to ensure political stability. So it cannot be in the long-term interest of the European Union as a whole that disaffection with the EU should arise in those countries because of a failure to meet obligations, and because of a feeling that expectations have not been properly met.
Part of the Government's difficulty is that they failed to set out what the changes to the budget ought to be. There are two particular changes for which we would argue. Firsthere, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks and I are again in agreementthere should be a significant improvement in the EU's position on tariff cuts during the World Trade Organisation negotiations. Given what the Commissioner said this morning, it seems that it is too late to achieve that in Hong Kong: he has gone there with a certain mandate or remit, beyond which he cannot go. But Hong Kong will not be the end of the matter. If we are concerned about the fate of the poorest countries in the worldas we rightly should be, as many of our constituents are and as the G8 summit appeared to bemaking more concessions on agriculture is absolutely essential. Perhaps most important of all, we need to tackle the practice of dumping, which undercuts indigenous agriculture and puts farmers in the countries in which
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dumping takes place in an impossible position. It is hardly surprising that there is such indignation in those countries, where agriculture is often at subsistence levels or just above.
I turn to the second change for which we would argue. It is surely time to consider restructuring common agricultural policy funding through co-financing. European Union support would be substantially reduced and member states would be permitted, under conditions, to supplement it if they so choose. That would give more responsibility and influence to domestic Parliaments. In turn, it would benefit EU consumers, help to make more progress toward the creation of a free market in Europe, and be of considerable benefit to economies in the developing world. There has been a sad lack of detailed reform of the Government's position on this issue.
Everyone agrees on the need to reform the CAP, which has been described as an anomaly. I cannot remember a single Member making a speech in favour of it, but in talking to representatives of the National Farmers Union in my constituency, it is clear that many of our farmers regard the CAP as being of significance. [Interruption.] Given the nodding of heads in the Chamber, I suspect that my experience is common to others. Those farmers are waiting with some anxiety to see how the single farm payment system, introduced some 12 months ago, will operate in real-life, practical terms. But I have no doubt that the CAP does require reform.
The difficulty with the Government's approach to CAP reform is that no detailed proposals were put forward. CAP reform was mentioned only twice in the White Paper on the presidency: once in the context of reform of the sugar regime, which had already been proposed by the Commission, and once in the glossary.
If we were serious about CAP reform, we surely had an obligation to put on the table the precise way in which we would seek to bring about such reform. We can hardly be surprised at a lack of enthusiasm for reform if we fail to provide the detail necessary for people to make an informed judgment.
I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I have sat here listening to his complaints about our alleged lack of vision for agriculture, as echoed by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), with some surprise. We have produced a series of papers on CAP reform and we have followed that policy in practice, as
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illustrated by the big reduction that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs achieved the other day in respect of sugar. Just two weeks ago, we brought together this approach in a 70-page document entitled "A Vision for Common Agricultural Policy", which was published jointly by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and put before this House. I am very surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his staff, who are normally well-informed, failed to spot this.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I spotted it, but four weeks away from the end of the presidency, one has to ask precisely what kind of impact it will have. The whole House has been united on this issue for a long time. Surely, if we were serious about securing this necessary reform, we would have been in the marketno pun intendedwith proposals long before four weeks before the expiry of our responsibilities.
Mr. Brady: It is actually even worse than the right hon. and learned Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) have said, because the document to which the Foreign Secretary refers"A Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy", which was published two weeks agostates:
Sir Menzies Campbell: Perhaps the Government need one of the devices that can be fitted to the motor car: if one plumbs in the proper information, it will provide a direct road-by-road demonstration of how to get from here to there. We can all agree, I think, that CAP reform is vital and that much more needs to be done.
In that context, we should note that, in 2003, the Government endorsed the financing arrangements for the CAP, which would remain unchanged until 2013. I have some sympathy for the Prime Minister because on that occasion he was bounced. By the time he arrived at the summit, Messrs. Schroeder and Chirac had arrived at an accommodation, shall we say, that they were determined to press through.
Doha has already been mentioned by myself a few moments ago and by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. In the White Paper, "The UK Presidency of the European Union", let me remind the House of what the Government said under the heading, "Prospects for the EU in 2005":
"The UK will play a key role in moving the Doha trade round negotiations forward . . . to ensure a successful outcome at Hong Kong . . . which helps to deliver a freer and fairer global trading system."
We had some amusement at the expense of the Conservative party a little earlier. Looking around, I suspect that not all of us remember Sir Robert Atkins. Let us describe him as a former hon. Member with direct and robust views and a man of considerable political acuity. It is remarkable how reputations can improve as soon as one has left and gone elsewhere. I cannot do other than refer again to the quotation attributed to Sir Robert:
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