HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc982-4
Q1. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the summit conference.

Q3. Dr. Vaughan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the summit conference.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I would refer my hon. Friends to the statement which I made yesterday. —[Vol. 843, c. 791–814.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the lesson of the summit that British interests, such as regional development, have been successfully advanced from within the Community and that the policy of renegotiating the treaty is as irrelevent as the nitpicking performance which we had from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Dr. Vaughan

Part of the Community statement refers to proposals for dealing with pollution. Will my right hon. Friend say something more about what he has in mind in that respect?

The Prime Minister

This matter was very fully discussed during the first day of the summit and it was generally agreed that the interaction of pollution in Europe with the quality of life could be of such consequence to the member countries that a firm programme should be laid down for dealing with it in its different aspects. At the same time, there were several indications that we in this country have made much greater progress than some of the other members of the Community and the techniques we have learnt, together with, in many cases, the equipment we produce, will be of value to the Community as a whole.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Is it not clear from what the Prime Minister said yester- day that he has no idea of the amount we are likely to receive by way of regional aid, let alone whether it will equal the amount we give to the common agricultural fund? Has he not taken a leaf out of the book of his predecessor, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, whose slogan, slightly modified, would be, "If you cannot concede, try, try, try again"?

The Prime Minister

The summit laid down the regional policy, its basis and the source of the funds—that is, from the Community funds as a whole. It is to deal with two matters of particular interest to us—the results of industrial change and structural under-employment. This policy will be worked out in detail by the summer, and the Council of Ministers will settle, in the Community budget, the funds to be allotted to it.

Mr. Shore

I am sorry that the Prime Minister has not taken the opportunity to add to the information he gave us yesterday because, as he will well understand, the whole House is interested to know what is involved in the regional fund. The communiqué refers to its being financed from the Community's own resources. Does the Prime Minister envisage a switch from the existing uses of the Community's own resources into the regional development fund, or does he envisage the Community raising additional resources within the category of "own resources"?

The Prime Minister

The sources of the Community's funds are already laid down. The balance between various uses of those resources has to be settled in the Community's budget by the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Peel

When dealing with the difficult but very important question of political machinery, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, and ask his colleagues to bear in mind, that it already exists in Western European Union, which could well be used if the members of it so desired? If they so desired, Ireland and Denmark might well be interested to join it, and that might help.

The Prime Minister

The views of the Heads of Government at the summit were that the machinery should develop in the Community itself. Western European Union fulfils a particular purpose in connection with the treaty, which is of great importance. But I do not believe that my hon. Friend is right in thinking that the Republic of Ireland would wish to join Western European Union.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the Prime Minister elaborate on the answer he gave just now to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) about the Community's own resources in relation to regional expenditure? Is it not a fact—I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with this—that the Community's own resources are pretty fully committed with expenditure commitments, including, above all, the common agricultural policy? Does he interpret what is now proposed as meaning that there will be a switch from existing expenditure—for example, a reduction in the common agricultural policy subsidies—in order to accommodate the regional expenditure; or does he feel, as is probably realistic, that additional taxation will have to be raised, which would fall very heavily on us in the present circumstances of taxation? Which of those two does the right hon. Gentleman have in mind—additional taxation for the regions, or a switch from agricultural expenditure within the present total?

The Prime Minister

The Community resources are increasing considerably, first, because of the economic growth of the Community, secondly, because of the additional new members, and, thirdly, because of value added tax coming into operation. The total amount of the budget will have to be judged from year to year, as with any other budget. The balance will be apportioned by the Council of Ministers.

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