HC Deb 16 December 1968 vol 775 cc858-9
20. Mrs. René e Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, in view of the recent economic crisis, he will cease to subsidise "Britain in Europe" and other organisations of this type supporting the Common Market.

Mr. Mulley

Since it remains the aim of Her Majesty's Government to join the European Economic Community as a full member, I consider that this expenditure is fully justified.

Mrs. Short

By the taxpayer, it seems. Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that growing numbers of people inside and outside the House are concerned about the way in which this money is spent largely on organising dinners and luncheons—to keep up the spirits of those concerned, I suppose? How many more rebuffs does my right hon. Friend intend to take before he decides to stop this waste of money?

Mr. Mulley

I do not think that a question of changing the Government's foreign and economic policy arises in connection with the relatively small grants for these organisations. These small grants are made to pursue a proper understanding of the British point of view in Europe and to bring our relations with Europe closer. We find them a convenient and useful way of pursuing those objectives.

Mr. Bessell

Is there any precedent for the Government spending money to subsidise propaganda organisations which happen to support the Government's policy?

Mr. Mulley

I would not call them propaganda organisations in support of Government policy. There have been many precedents of small assistance to non-Governmental, non-political organisations being a useful way of encouraging discussion on the matter concerned.

Mr. Jay

Whatever the Government's policy, is not it quite improper for the Foreign Office to use the taxpayers' money to subsidise controversial private propaganda organisations? Could not a very useful economy be made here?

Mr. Mulley

I do not see them as private propaganda organisations. The grants have been paid over a number of years and have been approved in the Estimates each year. There is no question of any hole in the corner business. The Government, like previous Governments, have found this a useful and convenient way of getting our point of view across in Europe.