HC Deb 23 July 1975 vol 896 c539
12. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated cost in the current financial year of British membership of the Central Rhine Commission.

Mr. Carmichael

Provision in 1975–76 Supply Estimates for the United Kingdom contribution to the Rhine Commission's budget for 1976 is£26,705.

Mr. Watkins

Is this not an item of public expenditure which could be cut out without causing hardship to anyone, and will the Government therefore cut it out?

Mr. Carmichael

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great and long interest in this matter, but the arrangement allows traders to use a new and relatively cheap form of transport by ship-borne barge along the Rhine. Within 10 years the Rhine will be linked, through the Danube and the Rhone, to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. My hon. Friend will therefore appreciate that the Central Rhine Commission is a big maritime carrier and that we should continue our involvement in it.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Will my hon. Friend consider applying for honorary membership of the commission, in view of the large cost—to the taxpayer—of the British Army of the Rhine, which is there supposedly to defend the Rhine?

Mr. Carmichael

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting in that supplementary question, but I think he will admit that it is rather wide of the original Question.