§ 1.14 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. John Tomlinson)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of EEC Documents Nos. COM(77)600, R/325/78, R/734/78, R/774/78 and R/2982/77 on the European Foundation and Cultural Sector.Today, we debate five documents covering two subjects—the European Community action in the cultural sector. At its meeting on 26th April, the House of Commons Scrutiny Committee recommended a debate on the five documents since they raised questions of legal and political importance. It is also a fact that Early-Day Motion No. 108 on the European Foundation demonstrated the views of hon. Members when it attracted 320 signatures.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The Minister has said only a few words and already an hon. Member wants to intervene.
§ Mr. Spearing
In respect of that Early-Day Motion, is my hon. Friend satisfied that its terms accurately reflect the central objectives of this Foundation?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
There might be proposals of objective, but as there are no objectives for the European Foundation yet, it would be premature to speculate on them.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
We have not signed anything in relation to a European Foundation. Perhaps it will be more appropriate to develop the argument and 937 to listen to my hon. Friend later. Otherwise, this will clash with something that I intend to say later.
I propose to deal first with the background of the present stage of discussions reached on the Foundation. I shall then turn to the developments leading up to the production of the Commission's communication on action in the cultural sector, concluding with some remarks about certain aspects of the cultural sector proposals which are of more direct concern to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, leaving the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, to comment more fully on the Foundation and other aspects of the cultural sector document.
The first four documents, which set out the background to the Foundation, are amplified by the Explanatory Memorandum of 3rd March 1978 and the Updating Memoranda of 3rd April and 12th June, submitted by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, copies of which have been made available.
The Government are committed only to the principle of establishing a European Foundation. And to the fact that it will be in Paris. We are committed to no more than that. The scope of the Foundation's activities and its structure are still very much matters for discussion and the purpose of today's debate is to give hon. Members a chance to let us hear their views.
In the discussions in Brussels among officials, we have made plain our wish to have a Foundation which is modest in size, with strictly defined objectives, whose finances are subject to the maximum control by member States—that is to say, that Community expenditure should be obligatory.
§ Mr. Spearing
This is most important. My hon. Friend has just said that the Foundation has strictly defined objectives. I think that Hansard will show that earlier he told me that it had no objectives yet. Can he clarify that?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
My hon. Friend is having a problem of tense. I said that at present the Foundation has no objectives. What I have just been trying to point out is what our objectives are. At present, we are committed to nothing more than that there shall be a European 938 Foundation and that it shall be in Paris. That is the limit of our commitment. What I am saying is that, in the discussions, those are our objectives—modesty of size, strict definition of purpose and maximum control by member States. I was going on to say that by that I mean that the Community expenditure should be obligatory.
We shall insist on adequate provision for audit to ensure not only that moneys spent are fully accounted for but that the expenditure has been directed entirely to the limited range of agreed programmes and activities.
We are also concerned to ensure that the Foundation should be organised so as to avoid duplication with other institutions working in the same area, and oriented so as to co-operate effectively with those institutions. The proposals for Community action in the cultural sector do not spring from any new or recent thinking. Such ideas were in evidence well before British accession to the European Communities.
In April this year the Commission Communication was submitted to the House under an Explanatory Memorandum jointly presented by the Department of Education and Science and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Under the normal procedures the Communication has been referred from the Council of Ministers to the Assembly and to the Economic and Social Committee. As yet we do not have the opinion of either of these bodies. Officials here have examined the Commission's proposals and on 7th June gave evidence before a Committee of the other place. The evidence taken has not yet been made available but I would like, against that background, to make the Government's position clear.
The Community enjoys no automatic competence in the cultural sector under the provisions of the Treaty of Rome. It would not be in the interests of member States to seek to establish any such united policy. The set of proposals covers a wide range of subjects straddling the areas of responsibility of several Government Departments. Most of the ideas in Part I of the Communication attempt to add a cultural dimension to possible areas of action being considered in other forms, for example, freedom of trade, mobility 939 of labour, rights of establishment, taxation and so on. These proposals have to be viewed on their individual merits and in many instances we are not convinced that there is much that is feasible.
Certain items in Part II are already in operation, such as scholarships, assistance to the Nuclear Research Institute at Grenoble for research into methods of conserving items of cultural importance, help for museums and so on. Other topics are so vaguely formulated that they hardly represent proposals. However, the general thrust represents a response to a feeling of need for enhanced co-ordination of activities in the cultural area on a pragmatic basis.
In principle the Government would be ready to discuss with their Community partners specific proposals as the occasion arises and in other institutional frameworks, such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO. It is not the Government's intention to accept the totality of these proposals, which we believe are varied in their degree of merit. In particular, the Government would strongly resist any attempt to impose yet another level of bureaucracy in an area in which the Community does not already enjoy competence.
Having said that, I draw attention to the draft resolution at the end of Document R/2987/77. This resolution essentially poses to member States Governments, including Her Majesty's Government, the question whether these proposals are desired. I hope that this debate will help to clarify the view of the House on this issue.
I understand that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends see in these proposals the threat of creeping federalism. I re-emphasise to them that neither the Government nor, I believe, the official Opposition—and certainly not the Labour Party or me—espouse the cause of federalism. I am as opposed to the concept of federalism as many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have regularly expressed their fears in this House. I stress to them what the Prime Minister said in his letter to Mr. Ron Hayward, General Secretary of the Labour Party. He said quite clearly:The Government has never accepted that the Community should develop into a federation. It is our policy to continue to uphold the rights of national Governments and Parlia- 940 ments. We do not envisage any significant increase in the powers of the European Parliament.My right hon. Friend went on to utter the words which my hon. Friends will know as well as I do in relation to the powers of the European Assembly.
What was said in the context of the Assembly applies even more widely to the general principle of federalism in Europe. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be reassured that the Government will take as staunch a view in the future in opposing anything that we consider to be a move towards federalism as we have done in the past.
There are five documents involved. There has not yet been any decision reached in relation to the European Foundation other than that, as I explained, we support the creation of a European Foundation and accept that it should be located in Paris.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
What some of us would like to know is whether this Foundation is to be the vehicle for pro-Market propaganda, something which may be of considerable importance in the year when there may be what some people like to call Euro-elections.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I can readily assure my hon. Friend that we have no intention of allowing that to happen. I do not think that the risk is real, but what I have said about the strict definition of objectives, the modesty of the fund and the operation of the audit—all of which we shall want to see as an integral part of the Foundation—shows that there is no possibility of such fears being realised.
We have expressed our agreement in principle to the establishment of the Foundation and put forward our scepticism about the need to extend Community competence.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
I would not wish to follow the Minister into any discussion of federalism or the internal correspondence of the Labour Party. My view is that we must create European unity step by step and with realism. The proposal for the European Foundation is such a sensible and realistic step.
I begin by congratulating the Government on their success so far in carrying 941 out the wishes of the House with regard to the establishment of the European Foundation on the lines now proposed. This is a good example of what the House can achieve if it takes the initiative and seeks to create policies rather than merely react to them. Until this House expressed its view the Tindemans proposals had been quietly laid on one side. The House will recall that in February 1977 324 hon. Members—an absolute majority—drawn from all parts of the House signed the Early-Day Motion tabled in my name and in the names of right hon. and hon. Members representing all political parties.
That motion urged the Government:to take the initiative in the Council of Ministers of the European Community with a view to marking the 20th anniversary on 25th March of the signing of the Treaty of Rome by launching a European Foundation on the lines recommended in Mr. Tindemans' Report, to be financed partly by grants from the member States and partly from private funds, with the aim of promoting, either directly or by assisting other bodies, any measures which will help towards greater understanding of European aims but placing the emphasis on human contact such as youth activities, university exchanges and town twinnings.In the event the European Council, on the initiative of the United Kingdom—because we were in the Chair at the time—in Rome on 26th March 1977 took the necessary first steps by asking the Commission to draw up a report for presentation at its December meeting. This was done in the way the documents before us explain.
The decision in principle having been duly taken last December, we have now reached the stage where in Copenhagen, on 7th and 8th April, the Heads of State and of Government laid down, as they said in their communiqué, the scope of the objectives of the Foundation and agreed on the framework for the structure and the financing. They decided that the seat of the Foundation should be, I suggest suitably, in Paris. There is a broad framework and there is agreement between the Heads of Government on the scope of the objectives and on the framework for the structure and the financing.
All that now remains is to conclude the formal discussion, in the words of the Copenhagen communiqué, "as soon as possible". I trust that that will be done within a few weeks. I am glad 942 that the emphasis has been placed, in dealing with the scope and objectives of the Foundation, on ensuring that the activities will be complementary to those of existing organisations. It will act as a catalyst with the aim of buttressing but in no way supplanting efforts which are already going on.
Specific reference has been made, rightly, to the need to collaborate with the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam and with the Council of Europe. That Foundation is an international non-governmental organisation, which devotes most of its income to the promotion of cultural, scientific and educational activities. It already has an agreement with the Council of Europe which ensures excellent relations.
The sort of other existing organisation which might look to the Foundation for assistance include, for example, the Council of European Municipalities and the International Union of Local Authorities, which are much concerned with town-twinning and youth exchanges. Another example which would deserve assistance is Europa Nostra, which is concerned with the protection of our European architectural heritage, or the European Youth Orchestra, or the European Choir. These and similar bodies, as I see it, will continue to be completely independent and responsible for formulating their own programmes. Where appropriate, they will all receive additional support and finance from the new Foundation.
It should be made clear that existing independent organisations will still need to raise funds from private sources. I think that that is essential, since the Foundation will only rarely, I understand, engage in direct activities and will be mostly concerned with helping those who help themselves. So, as the Minister said, the Foundation will not need to have any elaborate structure or incur any large administrative cost.
The prime objective is to expand the scale of voluntary work, particularly in cultural and educational exchanges, all of which are at present gravely restricted by lack of sufficient funds. I hope that the financing of the Foundation will be agreed without delay. The basic proposals have already been formulated. What is required is an initial endowment and annual contributions which can be financed partly from Government funds 943 —that is right, since it should be an intergovernmental rather than a Community organisation—and partly from a contribution in any event from the Community budget. That can be supplemented by private sources, particularly if we can ensure that those who contribute to the Foundation will have the tax advantages that normally apply in member States.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I was interested to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remark to the effect that the voluntary bodies would remain independent. He went on to say that those bodies are already severely handicapped by lack of funds. Can he tell us how these bodies will be more benefited by getting the British taxpayer's money through a European body than they would by getting it directly?
§ Mr. Rippon
I have no objection to their getting both. When I was a Minister at the Foreign Office, I played some part in establishing funds to support our British organisation. I thought that that was a good thing. It may well be that it could be revived. But since most of these organisations are on a European basis and produce European programmes, it seems appropriate that they would be financed through a European Foundation. What needs to be supplied is the precise amount of initial endowment and the scale of the assured annual income.
Whatever formula is agreed, I would have thought that the total amounts involved are hardly likely to be a matter of great concern to the Treasuries of the nine member States. The suggested contribution from the Community budget of five million units of account in the first year, 10 million in the second year and about 20 million thereafter does not seem to me to be excessive.
Whatever differing views there may be in this House about the economic issues that arise from time to time in relation to our membership of the EEC, I hope that we have—indeed, the Early-Day Motion suggests that we have—a very wide measure of agreement on the desirability of bringing the peoples of Europe closer together and creating a wider knowledge and understanding of our European civilisation and heritage. That is why I think it important that the Heads 944 of Government have envisaged that although this should be financed by the nine member nations, its activities will not in any way be restricted and there will be possibilities of ensuring the greatest measure of co-operation with the Council of Europe and its member States.
Of course, there may he more room for controversy about some of the detailed recommendations in the Commission's proposals as set out in Document R/2982/77, such as the harmonisation of value added tax on works of art. While it may be convenient for that document to be debated together with the subject of the European Foundation, the proposals in it are quite separate and distinct. They raise a whole number of separate issues, and it would be a pity if we confused the two matters. They carry no legislative effect, and the draft resolution to which the Minister referred, which in any event is not binding on member States, is in very general terms.
As the Select Committee points out, some of the measures proposed are already covered by existing Community legislation. Some, such as, for example, the recommendation to all member States to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of the Architectural Heritage, we have already implemented—in that case as long ago as 1972. As for the rest, where they require legislation or involve additional expenditure, they will all go before the European Parliament and other institutions, and in due course before the Select Committee in the usual way, and they can be considered on their individual merits which, I am inclined to agree, vary from case to case.
What I think should be welcomed in relation to this document, as in relation to the proposals for the European Foundation, is that this is further evidence that the Commission and the Council of Ministers are fully seized of the importance and the relevance of stronger action to preserve our European architectural and cultural heritage and to develop cultural, educational and other human contacts on a much broader basis than we have hitherto been able to achieve.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)
This debate, as the right hon. and learned 945 Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) has said, covers two matters which are somewhat distinct. While, unlike some of my hon. Friends, I welcome the proposal for a European Cultural Foundation—and one congratulates the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his initiative there—I have many more reservations on the development on the cultural sector.
In that respect I should declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Committee on Culture and Education of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. I have perhaps an interest particularly if it is thought that this document is in any way a threat to the valuable work undertaken over a number of years within the Council of Europe and, in particular, within the Council on Cultural Co-operation, which goes wider than the 20 countries of the Council of Europe and also involves Finland and the Holy See, and has been meeting in Strasbourg this week.
Before coming to the role of the Council of Europe, I should say something on the proposal for the Foundation. Even with the most recent additional memorandum from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, I am still a little confused as to whether this will be a Community institution or another governmental body. It seems to be something of a hybrid. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science can say a little more about its status.
I hope that Annex II to the most recent proposals that went to the Council, referring to the Council of Europe, will be applied. When we are considering the cultural dimensions of Europe it is important to see Europe on as wide a basis as possible. The countries of the Nine, as they are now, and the Twelve, as they may well become, represent the majority of the population of Europe, but we must remember that valuable contributions to our common culture are developing in countries outside the Nine, and indeed outside the Twelve.
One has only to think, for example, of the tiny country of Iceland, which preserves within its culture one of the important sources of the whole of European culture. I could give examples of many other countries which are not, and 946 do not intend to become, members of the European Community and which should be involved in this work.
I was reassured by many of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Minister about the document on the cultural sector. However, I must admit that it is not the threat of creeping federalism that makes me uneasy. Indeed, if someone could put forward some sensible policies for federalism, which has not been done yet, I should be prepared to consider them on their merits. What I am concerned about is creeping bureaucracy. This document could represent a risk of creeping bureaucracy in Brussels and duplication of bureaucracy there on matters which can be done already. I hope to examine and outline why that is so.
It seems to me that cultural policies are inherently national, or perhaps not even national. Within the United Kingdom we rightly allow cultural policy to be dealt with as appropriate in different parts of the country, because of the different cultures which co-exist within one united kingdom. Certainly at one level it is a problem for national or sub-national policies within member States, but it must also be considered at the widest possible European level.
I am therefore somewhat sceptical about the view adumbrated in the document that the level of the Nine is an appropriate level at which to co-ordinate and develop cultural policy. The level of the individual country and, as appropriate, the level of the Council of Europe, representing as widely as possible the cultural interests of Western Europe as a whole, seem to me very sensible levels for discussions and consideration. But I am not persuaded that the level of the Nine is appropriate on a number of the matters covered in the document.
As my hon. Friend the Minister said, the first part of the document really applies what one might describe as the economic aspect of the Treaty of Rome to the cultural field, where the Nine have a role. When we consider freedom of trade, we are clearly operating within the economic community and the cultural dimension of that community is an appropriate area for community action.
Similarly, it is sensible to consider the freedom of trade in cultural goods or of 947 movement and establishment of those who work in cultural industries, in the same way as we view the freedom of movement of doctors, dentists or anyone else, at a Community level. That possibly also applies to questions of harmonisation of taxation and legislation in the cultural sector, although I am not persuaded that it is necessarily a good idea for us automatically to adopt the scheme of public lending rights which commends itself to the Federal Republic of Germany. It seems to me that even within these areas of cultural legislation the Community has not reached a state in which it is by any means necessarily desirable to have the same forms of legislation on matters such as public lending rights throughout the Community. That is so paticularly as, given the differences in languages, there is not a great deal of borrowing of French, German or Italian books from British public libraries and vice versa. Therefore, that aspect will require a great deal of further attention.
But it is really with the second part of the document that I concern myself. We must begin by looking at the curious resolution at the end of Document R /2982/77, in Annex II. I refer to the last three clauses. If ever there were a blank cheque that the Council was asked to endorse, this is it. The first paragraph of the resolution says:Community action in the cultural sector shall he implemented on the basis of the guidelines laid down in the Commission Communication.If the Council adopts that resolution, it is buying the whole document—I shall later point out some of the interesting matters it contains—hook, line and sinker. It is an extraordinary resolution, which I trust British Ministers will examine carefully and resist. No hon. Member would support acceptance of the document hook, line and sinker.
I turn to the individual proposals. I should perhaps begin by saying that the document is written in a lyrical style which does not always come out of Government communications, and particularly Community communications. That is one aspect of it which is rather welcome. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) will no doubt have read the section on museums, which compares them with icebergs and refers to the "dusty jumbles of yesteryear". That 948 displays a tine style, but not necessarily one that we should want to have in a document to constitute the guidelines for the future of the Community's policy. Nevertheless, I am pleased to know that lurking somewhere in the Berlaymont is a man with a romantic imagination who was able to dream up this document. He is certainly an optimist.
I come to a rather more significant matter. On pages 3 and 4 there is an attempt by the author to deal with the problem of duplication with the Council of Europe. Clearly fearing attacks such as I am making, the writer says at the bottom of page 3:Far from duplicating the Council of Europe's own programme, Community action in the cultural sector provides the starting point for a combined advance…it is easy to determine what each can best achieve and to make optimum use of this division of labour on both sides.He is certainly an optimist.
The writer explains how the division of labour shall fall. At the top of page 4 he lays down that it is the task of the Council of Europe to think and of the Community to do or, to use his words,it is undeniably the task of the Council of Europe to continue its high-level, fundamental research on culture itself…which enables it to update and adapt basic concepts—cultural democracy, socio-cultural leadership, or integrated conservation—to the changes taking place in society.I shall not ask whether the House would be glad to have those concepts updated—they do not come into our everyday parlance—but there may be those who would like to have them updated. That is the role of the Council of Europe—to update these somewhat vague concepts.
In the next paragraph we are told that the Community's task isto move on to practical measures".We have a division of labour easily throughout, with people in Stratsbourg thinking of vague concepts and updating them and other people doing things in Brussels.
That is what is pernicious abour the document as a whole. If there is to be collaboration, it should be at the level of the Council of Europe, involving all 20 countries and not merely those which happen to have joined together in an economic community.
949 There is in the whole document, under each category, the danger that exists in any bureaucracy of building up a rival machine, a new machinery in Brussels, no doubt providing well-paid and fascinating jobs for more civil servants of the Community, able to write prose just as lyrical as that in the document, but I believe duplicating work which is being done in Strasbourg and which should be done more effectively there through the provision of more resources and perhaps more qualified people. I find it particularly arrogant that the author, when explaining the objectives of the measure, says on page 3 of Annex I:It stands to reason that activities concerning the development of cultural exchanges must be carried out at Community rather than national level.When I read something telling me that "it stands to reason", but without giving any reasons, I become very sceptical of the rational basis on which this has been developed. Again, that typifies the approach of this document, which is unsatisfactory, vague and will set back the cause of Community co-operation if it is pursued without proper definition and clarification.
I believe that there is room for useful co-operation within the Community on these matters which are closely linked to the Treaty of Rome and on those matters which are economic. But, in the wider sense, it is essential that we should pursue cultural co-operation at the widest level in Europe, and that is at the level of the Council of Europe.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I should like to associate myself closely with many of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper). He sensibly divided these two documents, and rightly gave praise to one and some severe and well-merited criticisms to the other.
I certainly welcome the Foundation, which has now been agreed upon. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people feel so apprehensive about it. It seems to me that co-ordination of this sort is one of the things which is most needed in Europe, and which is least offensive, even to those who have reservations about other areas of co-operation. I hope that the Foundation will be 950 quickly established. I think that it could do a great deal of good in a modest way. I do not think that anyone could suggest that it will be a vehicle for creeping federalism.
§ Mr. Cormack
I shall indeed wait, as my hon. Friend says. As I wait I shall get impatient, because I want the Foundation to be established. I believe that it will contribute much good.
§ Mr. Cormack
Well, it is always better to anticipate than to react. Knowing that my hon. Friend is sitting here bubbling with indignation about this entirely unexceptionable and admirable project, I thought that I would just provoke him a little.
As I say, this is an admirable project. It is something which is needed. I cannot see that it will do any harm. I hope that it will do a lot of good. I think that we do need a cultural catalyst and a greater understanding of our common heritage and of our common cultural problems. One of the things that I have found in recent years is the lack of knowledge which exists in member countries of our respective systems for preservation and conservation. If the Foundation can help to make us more aware of how we care in individual countries, it will be doing a great deal in that sphere alone.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), to whom much credit is due for this particular concept, referred to helping such worthy schemes as youth orchestras and choirs. I hope that it will go much further than that. For instance, I hope the Foundation will consider a code of protection for our heritage in Europe. That seems to be an appropriate task for such a Foundation. Many of the things that are badly dealt with in the second document could be properly given to the Foundation to study in depth so that it could produce a decent paper.
§ Mr. Rippon
As I see it, the purpose of the Foundation would not be to conduct such a study itself but, for example, 951 to give funds to Europa Nostra, and similar organisations, to conduct such a study themselves and then publish the result.
§ Mr. Cormack
Yes, indeed, but the Foundation could have a co-ordinating function and could inspire proper studies. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for what he has just said. I do believe that we have real cause for apprehension and criticism in respect of the second document. I liked the references of the hon. Member for Famworth to the prose in which it is written. It is nice to have something which is colourful, but none the less this document is bureaucratic and threatening, despite the colour.
I should like to single out a few things of which we should be extremely wary. I was glad that when the Minister spoke he damned it with faint praise. The suggestions on VAT are quite unnecessary and would be wholly disadvantageous to this country as the centre of the world's art market and everything else. We devised an admirable scheme for VAT on works of art. Many of us did not want VAT on works of art at all, but in true British style a compromise solution was reached during the period of the previous Administration and it is working reasonably well. It is far better than the nonsensical uniformity proposed in this document. I hope that no British Government would ever countenance a move in the direction of the flat 30 per cent. of selling price which is here suggested.
It seems to me that it is perfectly reasonable that we should have common codes and practices with regard to combating thefts. That is fine. No one will object to freedom of trade in cultural goods. As has been said from both sides of the House, in many cases this is a rehearsal of what already exists, and has existed, for many years. However, as I see it, it is not the business of the Community to deal with matters such as the harmonisation of laws on copyright and public lending right. The problems are different in different countries. I am one of those who has always advocated PLR, and will continue to do so until it is on the statute book of this country. But I do not think it would be easy, or necessarily desirable, to have the same system throughout the Community.
952 However, there are other matters in which it is quite right that the Community should interest itself. I should like to see a high level of efficiency and proficiency in restoring. When one looks at the problems which the European heritage faces, and many of the difficulties encountered by those seeking to maintain our cultural heritage, one sees that in many countries of the Community there are not sufficient trained and equipped restorers. Although there is now a better interchange of information—one can cite the wonderful contribution of the V and A people to "Venice in Peril"—nevertheless, moves on this front are wholly to be desired. Anything which can be done within the Community to coordinate and raise standards will certainly have my support.
I should like to draw attention to something which has not yet been mentioned. It is contained in the memorandum submitted by the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and by Lord Donaldson, the Minister for the Arts. The penultimate paragraph of that memorandum contains some words which I find deeply disturbing. It states:Some of the recommendations in the Commission communication could, if implemented, result in significant additional expenditure being charged to the Community budget. Expenditure on cultural activities is classified as non-obligatory expenditure.".Yes, a statement of fact, but it would seem to me eminently desirable that expenditure on these matters should become obligatory expenditure throughout the Community. Therefore, I welcome the fact that there is a Community interest, and I hope that there will be a prodding from Brussels so that we can have in every Community country a higher degree of priority awarded to culture, the heritage and the arts.
When one considers the vast sums of money that are passed with nothing more than a shrug, a nod or a wink, but that when it comes to a matter of cultural or heritage importance a small sum is suddenly regarded as an enormous one, it is quite ludicrous. With leadership from the Community, I hope that through the Community we can attach a higher degree of priority to these matters.
Recently, a Select Committee of this House presented an admirable report on the National Land Fund. With some of 953 our Community partners, I hope that before long we shall be able to establish the equivalent of a Community heritage contingency fund. It is needed. It could be provided at very little cost but with enormous benefit to all the peoples of the Community. This is an area where the peoples of the Community can be served in a way that perhaps they cannot in other areas.
I welcome the establishment of the Foundation. I hope that it will soon be doing good work and that it will soon become a valued part of the European heritage and cultural scene.
I welcome this other document in as much as it shows that there is a higher degree of priority being awarded to these matters than was the case formerly. I criticise many of its contents. I am opposed to some of its suggestions. But I hope that from it we can have a continuing debate on these matters and that our common heritage will become increasingly the concern of those who sit here and those who will sit in the first directly-elected Parliament in Europe.
§ 2.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I question the desirability of holding this debate today. In the first instance, we have had very little time to study these extremely complex documents. At first glance, I had an entirely wrong idea about the purpose of the two documents, until I studied them both in detail. It was only on closer study that I realised that my objections to one of them were much greater than my objections to the other.
I thought at first glance that the European Foundation was a harmless cultural body. Instead, it is a sinister body for the purpose of promoting a federal Europe. I thought that the other document was putting forward proposals which were intended to have a practical effect in a fairly short time in this country. But I find on closer examination that the other document is the lesser of the two, although it contains a rather curious resolution at the end, and does not seem to be as wicked as I thought it was. Indeed, I find many of its contents quite admirable. In other words, it is a curate's egg.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It is curious that on a Friday we are presented with two documents which are entirely dissimilar in character. We are debating them when there are relatively few of us in the Chamber and apparently, at the end of the day, we shall take a decision which may have important implications. On the one hand, the Minister tells us that it really does not matter very much what we do and that this is really a little private chat amongst ourselves because nothing much will happen. On the other hand, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) tells us that this is an important and rather earthshaking occasion and that we are deciding some very serious matters.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Where precisely are we? I think that we are in the position that we ought not to be having this debate on a Friday at all. We ought to have it in two or three weeks, after we have had an opportunity to study the documents through our respective organisations. Both sides of the House have sub-committees which specialise in and study these matters. They have not had sufficient time to study the documents or to make recommendations to us. Therefore, we come to discuss complex and difficult documents unprepared, and the Government seem to want us to say "It does not very much matter. Let the documents go through. Nothing much will happen."
I am inclined to think that something will happen and, for that reason, since I wish to make my protest known, I say here and now that because I think that this debate ought not to be taking place today, if any other hon. Member decides that he would like to demonstrate his distaste for this procedure by dividing the House at the end of the debate, I shall accompany him in that decision.
§ Mr. Rippon
In making his remarks about taking these matters together, has the hon. Member borne in mind that that was the recommendation by the Select Committee as long ago as 26th April? In view of that, does he not agree that it might be right of the Government to ensure that the Select Committee is a little more careful in the way in which it brings these matters before us?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am the last person to criticise the Select Committee. I have no doubt that it had its reasons for doing this. However, the access to the documents of those hon. Members who do not serve on the Select Committee was too recent to enable them to form a considered view. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham is right in the middle of this subject and has been throughout. In fact, his name is mentioned in one of the documents. But there are those of us who have other preoccupations. We have not followed the whole matter through and, therefore, we do not come here today having watched its progress almost as though it was our own child. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not disown an element of parentage.
Those of us who are not in that position are required to drag ourselves away from our other concerns and, on a Friday, in a very thinly attended House, reach a decision which the right hon. and learned Member says is of considerable importance and which the Minister suggests is not quite as important as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says it is. I hope that my hon. Friend is right and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. It would be in accordance with precedent if it proved to be so. That is usually the case. But I have doubt about the papers, and I turn first to the one which at first glance I thought was a pretty harmless idea; to establish a European Foundation.
The first feature that I find objectionable is that the document is totally inaccurate from start to finish in its misuse of the word "European". It does not mean European at all. It means the EEC. There are some 32 nations in Europe. The document refers to some nine nations—possibly 12 in due course—in Western Europe. So it is pernicious because the use of the word "European" in this sense leads to confusion in the mind of anyone seeking to discover what the document is about. It talks in the first paragraph of strengthening understanding of and support for the work of the Community. There we know what we are about. This is a propagandist document intended to strengthen the whole idea of the EEC and to pave the way towards the establishment of a federal Europe. I am sure that the right hon. 956 and learned Member for Hexham will not deny that there is an element of that in it.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It goes on to talk of projecting the Community to the world. This is a blatant propagandist objective.
Then we move to other matters and begin to talk about the greater awareness of European civilisation. The nations which make up the EEC are very important. They are nations with great histories and tremendous contributions to European culture. But even the most committed European would hardly dare suggest that they have a monopoly of European civilisation. Civilisation is not located only among the Nine. There are other nations of Europe which have made a profound contribution to European civilisation. The appropriation of European civilisation to this rump of Western Europe in the EEC is done far too often. We get so used to hearing this that we take it for granted. We hear the word "Europe" used as if the EEC embodies the whole of Europe. Yet this is the organisation that some of us have opposed from the beginning and continue to oppose because we consider it a wrong and mistaken development. To go so far as to say that the EEC constitutes Europe is quite wrong.
For this reason I have doubts about the desirability of debating this document—and that is putting it mildly. If other hon. Members feel disposed to demonstrate that objection by dividing, I shall join them in the Lobbies.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have not finished my speech, Mr. Speaker. You have anticipated its termination by several minutes. I am about to turn to the second document.
§ Mr. Speaker
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman whose speech is of tremendous interest, only to be equalled, I expect, by the next one.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am not entirely surprised that you should regard what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, as two different speeches—
§ Mr. Jenkins
That is true. But the reason I think that Mr. Speaker thought that I had finished was that I seldom trouble him with lengthy orations. However I expect that when I speak he will give me full opportunity to develop my points.
At first glance the second document worried me considerably. Now I am a little less worried. That is partly because of the assurances that the Minister has given and partly because there are in the document some very good proposals and some even better aspirations.
However, there are some worrying things in it as well. I am sure that it is not completely harmless. For example, there is the rather worrying approach to VAT. Personally I think that VAT is a very bad tax. I do not like it at all. Further, I take the view that to apply VAT to any area of art, culture or communications is utterly pernicious.
In this country we have taken a fairly good approach to VAT. We still have it in some areas of the arts, such as the commercial theatre where is should not apply, but on the whole our approach has not been too bad. I would be very woried if by harmonisation we mean harmonising upwards. It has been suggested that there should be a harmonisation of 30 per cent., and that would be appalling.
§ Mr. Cormack
The document recommends a harmonised 30 per cent. of selling price. That would certainly have an upwards effect in this country.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It is rather vague. Our previous experience is that trying to arrive at a common policy with other EEC countries means that we have to suffer a worsening of the good traditions, practices and customs that we have established in this country. Obviously, I would be greatly concerned about that.
On the public lending right, it is true, unfortunately, that there are hon. Members in this House—one is present at the moment—who have opposed the development of a public lending right in this country. Our scheme, which is not yet on the statute book but which I hope will be soon, is immensely superior to that which operates in Germany and Denmark. I suppose that one might say that any form of public lending right is 958 better than none. I know that the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) would say exactly the opposite. But to put all our eggs in one basket and to say that we accept this form of public lending right would be a very grave mistake.
Obviously I have grave doubts about this document. I share the view that has been put forward about the undesirability of a resolution at the end which seems to give the Commission a free hand to do anything that they wish after the document is passed. I like neither of the two documents, although I like some of the things in the second one. But for the reasons that I have given I think to take them together is also a mistake and I hope that I shall have the opportunity of demonstrating my dislike in the Lobbies.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)
I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for the advance warning you gave that I was about to catch your eye. I hope that it caused no distress to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins).
This is a cultural debate and we are dealing with two different aspects of cultural policy. I believe that it is unfortunate that the Scrutiny Committee brought the two documents to the House together, but at least it gives us a chance to debate cultural policy. This is important to me as I represent a minority culture within the United Kingdom.
It is significant that this debate is taking place under the wing of European legislation. I do not remember a single debate on cultural policy in this House. We have had debates in Welsh Grand Committee on the arts, and debates in the House on broadcasting, but that is all. That reflects the awareness in the EEC of the importance of the cultural dimension and the lack of awareness in this House.
During the EEC referendum, which feels like a decade ago, my party campaigned on the slogan "Europe yes, EEC no". We withdrew that slogan after only a week because it was confusing to the electorate. I hesitate to add that the slogan was bilingual. I shall take that slogan as my text for this debate.
959 It seems that the attitude towards the EEC and towards cultural policy in the EEC is as the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) explained earlier. This was also confirmed by the hon. Member for Putney. Europe extends tar beyond the EEC, and it also extends within and below the structure of the EEC itself.
I was very struck by the emphasis in both documents on the contact between the peoples of the Community and the diversity of the European heritage. The use of the word "peoples", which has been chosen deliberately rather than "nations", demonstrates this. When we talk of European culture we are not talking merely of the cultures of the major languages of the member States, which are official languages within the Community. We are also talking of the minority languages within those nation States which are not official languages in the Community, and indeed other languages which are official languages but not working languages of the Community.
If we study the aims of the Foundation, we find among its objectivessupport for the provision of necessary language learning facilities.Does this extend beyond the official working languages of the Community? I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson), who is an excellent Breton speaker, could take advantage of any of the facilities offered by the Foundation to existing institutions within the Community to improve his knowledge of Welsh. My hon. Friend sang in Gaelic in my constituency over the weekend but was not able to sing in Welsh. He expressed the view that he would like to do so. Does the Foundation intend to provide language assistance not only to the major languages but also to the minor languages of the Community? It is extremely important to those of us who speak minority languages.
This leads me to examine the subject of the location of the Foundation and its other objectives. I hope that the Foundation in its attempt to improve contacts between the various parts of the Community will look at developing contacts not only between the majority cultures but between the minority cultures. Some of us would have preferred to see 960 the Foundation located at Rennes rather than in Paris. The centralist cultural policy of the French Government has had a more devastating effect on minority languages in France than the policies of the United Kingdom Government have had in the context of the countries of Britain.
I hope that the Foundation's attitude will be flexible towards the minority groupings in the Community and towards minority cultures. The position within the Community shows that there are over 30 minority language groups within the existing member States. I incude the people of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, the Gaelic speakers of Scotland, the Occitane speakers of France, the Catalan and Basque speakers, the Corsicans and the Bretons. There are six linguistic minorities within the borders of Italy.
All these minorities have been subject recently to increasing study and interest and policies have been developed to some degree by the Governments of the nation States to promote and maintain the minority cultures. The position of these cultures varies.
I wish to refer briefly to the situation in France in respect of the minority cultures. I wish to draw from some of the material in a great tome written by my literary boss in the Welsh Arts Council, Meic Stephens, on linguistic minorities in Western Europe. He highlights the position of Breton, which is a Celtic language closely linked to Welsh. Since I am able to speak some medieval Welsh, I can hold a rudimentary conversation in Breton, but it is difficult for a modern Welsh speaker to hold an extensive conversation with a Breton speaker.
The position of the Breton language is that on the eve of the First World War there were about 1,300,000, or 90 per cent., of the inhabitants of Lower Brittany who spoke Breton. Breton was the Celtic language that was most widely spoken in the modern age. Over that period the language has declined.
The latest survey was one conducted on 21st February 1974 by the Breton newspaper in Brest. It revealed that out of a total population of 1,500,000 in Lower Brittany, only 685,000 people-44 per cent.—were capable of speaking Breton. Of these, only 18,000 out of 961 360,000 were children under 14, while 56,000 out of 225,000 were aged between 15 and 24 and 400,000 were between 25 and 64, and 168,000 out of 200,000 were over 65. Those statistics speak for themselves. There is a decline in the number of Breton speakers, particularly in the younger age groups.
Although I have attended a number of Fez Noz in Brittany in recent years, it is difficult to find in many parts of Brittany examples of the official use of the language in education and broadcasting. Indeed, the television time awarded by the French channels to Breton is only five minutes per week. That reflects on the centralist policies of the French Government, in regard not only to Breton but to the language spoken by the overwhelming majority of the populaion of Southern France. There are about 15 million people who live in Occitanie in Southern France, and of that population is is estimated that about 2 million use that language in their daily lives. That language has no official status in France. This again reflects the centralist policy of the French Government.
I hope that when the Community comes to examine cultural co-operation between the various member States, it will also invesigate the need to develop cultural links between minority language groups.
One of the most psychological problems of minority language groups is that they feel themselves to be isolated and up against a majority culture. This leads to frustration and to the attempts at direct action which have taken place in almost all the minority language areas in recent years to try to obtain some degree of State support and legal status and of use in business life and broader cultural support for the languages. An understanding within the European Community of the nature of minority languages would be helpful to these peoples.
I should like to see the Foundation funding work on the probelms of bilingualism and biculturalism as they affect minority groups. It could fund the study of teaching techniques not only for majority languages but for minority languages.
The Foundation also devotes part of its objectives to improving contacts between 962 young people in various parts of the Community. I was particularly impressed by the proposals for exchanges of young workers. There is a danger in the EEC that we are exchanging only elites. We are conscious of a European heritage as between various educated elites, particularly those in higher education, but we are not so conscious of the needs of those people who leave school and go straight to work. I believe that exchanges of young workers organised through existing bodies, such as the young farmers clubs, if funded through the Foundation, would be extremely beneficial.
It is also important that the cultural activities of the Foundation should not be linked only to the forms of what we have come to call high culture or minority culture. I am impressed at the fact that the Foundation's proposals are aimed at the largest possible number within the Community. I hope that the Foundation will be able to provide support not only for book, architectural and artistic culture, but also for media and film culture. Here again, minority language groups have specific problems. Mass media culture tends to be organised on the massive scale of French-speaking or English-speaking culture. It is often difficult for the minority language group to provide the visual means of mass communication in its own language.
Attempts have been made. There has been established in Wales recently the Bwrdd Ffilmian Cymraeg. We have been involved in a long campaign to try to get funding from the Department of Education and Science and the Welsh Office for this body, but so far we have been unable to do so. The Welsh Arts Council has given some funding, but there have been no funds made available by the Government to enable this film-making board to continue its activity. At present, funding is available only to maintain its staff in posts, but there is no funding to enable the body to make films.
The position is similar for other minority languages. Some have more access to television time than others. We have a Government commitment on the allocation of the fourth network in Wales, and this will improve the access of Welsh-speaking people to media culture, but in order to do this effectively, we need to be able to exchange television programmes and funding to 963 improve dubbing facilities and so on. What applies to Wales in the United Kingdom context applies with equal force to Breton and other minority languages in Europe.
I hope that the Foundation will look at these problems because it could make a distinctive contribution to improving understanding and techniques of communication, not merely at the nation State level and between majority European cultures but between minority European cultures.
I take a different view on the document concerning action in the cultural sector from that taken by some opponents of the EEC on the Labour Benches. The document tells us that EEC action in the cultural sector does not constitute a cultural policy. I believe that the Community should have a cultural policy. Within the EEC, we should be moving towards a common cultural policy which could be of particular assistance to the smaller cultural groups.
For example, we have common policies that are specifically designed to provide assistance to remote regions. It comes mainly through the common agricultural policy and FEOGA funding for hill and less-favoured areas and so on. It is time that the Community thought imaginatively in terms of using its social fund for hill and less-favoured cultures—cultures that are in a difficult position because of the increasing economic integration and centrifugal pull of the Community. Is it not time that the Community looked at ways of funding the cultural infrastructure of its remote regions and minority cultures as well as funding its economic infrastructure?
When we talk about the conservation of the artistic heritage of Europe and the major artistic monuments of our heritage, we must also appreciate that linguistic conservation is as much a part of the conservation of our heritage as is architectural conservation. An ability to understand the work of the mediaeval Welsh and Breton poets and the troubadors and to maintain that culture must be as much a part of the conservation of the European heritage as is the conservation of our architecture.
The Council for the Welsh Language has proposed to the Government that £18 million should be made available annually 964 for supporting the Welsh language culture. The Secretary of State has said that it is a matter for discussion and may be a matter for action by the Welsh Assembly if it is established. The argument is always that there is no funding available on a United Kingdom basis to give the sort of cultural support that we need to maintain and develop the Welsh language.
§ Mr. Litterick
Has the hon. Gentleman read page 3 of Annex 1 to Document R/2982/77 (AG 67)? May I draw his attention to the fact that in the context of something called "Europalia"—whatever that is—multidisciplinary teams of university professors, senior lecturers and postgraduate students are to be mustered to examine a festival in Brest? Does the hon. Gentleman not concede the possibility that such a multidisciplinary team financed by, for instance, this Foundation, is unlikely to have a very respectful consideration of local culture, bearing in mind what the document tells us what they are really at?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am grateful for that intervention. I intended to mention the scrutiny and assessment of European cultural festivals. Is the assessment to be merely an assessment of the metropolitan culture, which is the point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick), or will it be an assessment related to the culture of the area concerned? I know the Brest area fairly well and I am well aware of the sensitive problems faced by Breton speakers in that area who are seeking greater opportunities for their children through the French education system but are being denied those opportunities. I suspect, as does the hon. Member for Selly Oak, that the tendency will be to evaluate on a metropolitan culture basis rather than on a minority local culture basis.
There is a proposal that the Government should spend £18 million on maintaining and developing the Welsh language. We are told that resources are not available. Why cannot the Community look at the possibility of making resources available from its social fund or a new EEC cultural fund so that the United Kingdom Government will be able to take advantage of those resources to maintain and 965 develop Welsh? What I argue for Welsh, I argue for Breton and all the other minority languages in Europe. The richness and diversity of the European heritage must mean the conservation and development of these localised, minority, small nationality cultures as much as the development of the cultures of the nation States.
I turn finally to the festivals that the cultural policy is supposed to be evaluating. We already have in Wales an international festival at Llangollen with which I am associated. It will be held at the beginning of next month, and any hon. Member who can find time to attend will be welcome. It is a festival of dancing, singing and performing arts to which groups are attracted not only from Western Europe but from all sections of the developed and the Third World. This festival should be studied by the multidisciplinary teams of professors.
§ Mr. Thomas
I doubt whether they could form a choir, and if they could, I doubt whether they could sing in tune—certainly not in four-part harmony.
This sort of festival should be studied so that it can receive support. Of course, there are other festivals, such as the National Eisteddfod, to which the Government contribute £250,000, which immediately trebled its budget for Welsh language spending. Should not other festivals in smaller cultural areas of the Community be studied as part of the cultural policy, and funded? These individual, small cultures have as much to contribute to the members of those cultural groups and to the broader European heritage as any major European cultures.
The United Kingdom Government have a role to play here. When Ministers are talking about cultural affairs with, for example, the French Minister of Culture, it might be appropriate for them to put to the French Government the views held by hon. Members of all parties in this House on the cultural policies of the Government and the need to foster minority cultures. I hope we shall have that assurance at the end of the debate today.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
I think that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) has properly used the so-called cultural debate to point out that nations, or collections of nations, do not necessarily, in his view, give a fair deal to minority cultures. I think that he was justified in doing that.
I suggest that this is a political, not a cultural, debate. If, in the effluxion of time, the Foundation gets off the ground—I hope that it does not—the Welsh-speaking cultural people, whom the hon. Gentleman represents, will find that, if they want grants, there will be hooks in the conditions either explicit or, more likely, implicit. Before very long the young people and others of whom the hon. Gentleman spoke would be shown the advantages of European union in the political sense. That would be a channel to the young people of Wales to persuade them that European integration of the kind which is not favoured by many people in this country would be a good thing. Therefore, I believe that basically this is a political debate.
There has been agreement on two matters by all who have spoken, except the Minister—namely, that these matters should not have been put on the Order Paper as one motion. There are two distinct questions before the House. One concerns Document R/2982/77 on the cultural sector, about which there seems to be general discontent, and the other relates to the four other documents on the so-called European Foundation. It is on that question, which divides the House, that I wish to speak. I am sorry that the Lord President, in his role as Leader of the House, did not put down two motions. I think it improper that he did not. I hope that he will take account of my request.
The opening speakers in this debate did not do justice to this subject. One of the most remarkable omissions was any indication about how much money might be raised and its impact on this country. It was not until my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary spoke today that we had any indication of the Government's attitude to the Foundation. An attitude was expressed in the memorandum concerning the cultural sector.
967 One of the defects of our procedures is that, when the Government produce a White Paper, a Bill, an order or something of that description, everyone knows that they are in favour of it. But the procedure which perforce we have to adopt for EEC matters means that we do not know the Government's position until the Minister makes a statement from the Dispatch Box.
The most remarkable feature of the two opening speeches was the difference of opinion, aided by interventions, on whether the objectives and scope of the European Foundation had been agreed. I think that reference to Hansard will show that it is a disagreed point between the two Front Benches.
§ Mr. Rippon
I simply had regard to the text which was issued after the Heads of Government meeting at Copenhagen on 7th and 8th April. From that it is clear that theHeads of State and of Government laid down the scope and objectives of the Foundation and agreed on the framework for its structure and financing. The European Council decided that formal discussions on setting up the Foundation should he conducted as soon as possible. The seat of the Foundation will be Paris.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention, because that concerns my next point. The Heads of Government meeting on 7th and 8th April, if I recall correctly, was extra-constitutional. The right hon. and learned Gentleman nods his head. It was an informal meeting, the results of which were put into legislative form inside the EEC constitution by, not the Heads of State, but by the other Council. The documents are confusing on this matter. It is at that stage that the overall objectives may be changed. But it is difficult in practice for that to be done.
What Foreign Minister—indeed, what Minister of any kind—would go against what was tacitly agreed by his Head of State at the Copenhagen Summit? That is one of the ways in which the EEC can deceive the people whom it seeks to represent.
I suggest that in practical terms it is impossible for a country to renege on what its Head of State agreed—possibly over the dinner table, for all we know—as part of a package deal. I suggest 968 that, unless we have evidence to the contrary, that procedure was adopted in this instance. The Heads of Government and the Council meet in secret, so we do not know where we are. I suggest that that is one of the ingredients in the disagreement which has clearly emerged across the Floor of the House today.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate the point that I tried to make earlier. There is all the difference in the world between the statement of the European Council—
§ Mr. Tomlinson
—of an intention to establish a European Foundation in Paris and the position explained by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon)—that we have not yet agreed exactly what the objectives should be. There is a general declaration of outline. The intention and the wish of the European Council is that the Council of Ministers should discuss the matter in detail as soon as possible. That is the importance of the debate today.
§ Mr. Spearing
I understand that that is the Government's position, but, as I develop my argument, I shall suggest that it is unrealistic. Indeed, it is as unrealistic as the belief of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) that he was right on the fisheries issue and on protecting British interests. It is clear that he did not and could not.
§ Mr. Spearing
We shall see. I believe that the Government have misread the situation. Unless they show good cause to the contrary, that unfortunately is the position.
I turn now to the famous Early-Day Motion No. 108 which was mentioned by my hon. Friend at the commencement of his speech and which I challenged at once. The importance of this motion was made clear by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham. He said that the Tindemans Report on European Union was, in effect, a dead issue and that nothing would come out of it until a majority of Members passed or put their signatures to the motion, and therefore it became a live issue.
I want to draw atention to the wording of the Early-Day Motion. It has a 969 preamble, but I shall not read that. It refers to:launching a European Foundation on the lines recommended in Mr. Tindemans' Report, to be financed partly by grants from the member States and partly from private funds, with the aim of promoting, either directly or by assisting existing bodies, any measures which will help towards greater understanding of European aims, but placing the emphasis on human contacts such as youth activities, university exchanges and town twinnings.I do not know what was in the minds of hon. Members who signed that motion. They probably noticed town twinnings, university exchanges, youth activities and all these excellent things which I would support. It is the "European aims" which worries me. Mr. Tindemans' report was concerned not only about how we should operate the Common Market as it is, but about—indeed, these were his terms of reference—European union. For my hon. Friend the Minister to say that all that was agreed was in principle to set up the Foundation, and then for him to pretend that it was nothing to do with what Mr. Tindemans said means that he is mistaken, and that is the kindest adjective I can use at this stage.
The Tindemans' Report dealt not only with European union; a whole chapter of it was devoted to the European Foundation. It is Chapter 4 and it is entitled "A citizen's Europe". Tindemans said:I propose that the European Council should decide to create a European Foundation",and he continued along much the same lines as we have heard. He finished by saying:This Foundation will also have a rôle to play in presenting abroad the image of a United Europe. By virtue of its character, this Foundation will often be able to intervene more flexibly and more effectivly than national or European authorities. It will also offer the innumerable supporters of European unification in our countries an opportunity to make a personal contribution by aiding the Foundation. In this manner it will be more clearly apparent that the creation of the Union can and must be a matter for us all.In view of that, I should have thought that for the Government to say that the objectives and scope of the Foundation are up for grabs and yet to be decided is a mistaken submission.
My hon. Friend the Minister has pointed out on a number of occasions 970 that we are quoting from out-of-date documents. I do not believe that the Tindemans Report is out of date in relation to the European Foundation. My hon. Friend may be able to claim that the Commission Report on this matter, made in 1977 and part of Commission Report 61/78 or Com. 77/600—documentation, of course, is always confusing—is out of date. The later document that my hon. Friend may claim supersedes it, which is Document R 734/78 of March this year, cancels it out. But there is nothing in that later document to contradict Commission Report 61/78.
It is to the Commission Report that I now turn. It is a very extensive and thorough document. In its opening remarks the Commission makes it clear that it was not the work of the Commission unaided. It set up an advisory council of outside experts who produced the framework of the report, and I see that among those whose names are appended to it are those of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham and Lord Asa Briggs. I suspect, therefore, that quite a lot of this document was produced by the outside experts and perhaps was added to by the Commission itself. They make it clear that they follow the Tindemans line. One page 22 they repeatThe need to provide the Foundation with maximum room for manoeuvre,"—I bet!—the intention to entrust it with the task of promoting private initiatives in the move to achieve European union";and then at the end it repeats Mr. Tindemans' point about opportunities for supporters to supply funds. The report makes it clear that it follows the Tindemans line. I can see nothing in later documents to suggest that that has now gone out of the window. It includes an interesting paragraph on the research into European integration, and that is practical, not only theoretical, research, and a number of other topics.
So it seems quite clear, unless the Government can offer some proof to the contrary, that the objectives and the operations of this Foundation are already more than half agreed, in practice if not de jure.
A number of other matters in the document could perhaps be changed, but the structure of which is fairly clear. There 971 will be a council to run the Foundation, and it is proposed that it should meet twice a year. There will be a management committee of about nine distinguished European figures who will presumably be the patrons of the substantial funds that will be scattered around the Community. These people will presumably be in a position of patronage and able to decide what sort of organisations will receive money, and upon what basis and criteria and according to which priorities the funds will be allotted.
The Commission document also deals with the legal status of the Foundation. This is of considerable significance. It discusses a number of ways by which the Foundation could be established. As I understand it, it comes down fairly clearly in favour of the solution of using Article 235 of the Treaty of Rome. The difficulty is that the Common Market does not make explicit provision for such a Foundation in the Treaty. A means therefore has to be found whereby public money can properly be channelled to it.
Article 235 is the let-out clause in the Treaty of Rome. It readsIf action by the Community should prove necessary to attain, in the course of the operation of the common market, one of the objectives of the Community and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the Assembly, take the appropriate measures.In opening the debate, the Minister said that this should be part of the obligatory expenditure of the Community. I see him nodding his head. But Article 235 is surely the non-obligatory part. Therefore, if the expenditure is not under Article 235, may we be told under which article the Government expect to support the creation of the Foundation? Surely the matter cannot be covered by Article 100 because that deals with the harmonisation of existing powers. If it cannot be done under Article 235, surely it cannot be done at all. To do it under Article 235 would require the unanimous assent of the member States.
In a letter to me, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State made it clear in a discussion on the expanded powers of the Assembly thatthe decision to launch such a new policy has to be taken by the Council of Ministers, acting unanimously".972 So it is clear that the Government have a positive veto. Therefore, if the proposal goes further, the Government will have to give their assent under Article 235. I believe that on the present basis the Government should not give that assent. If they are to be true to the Prime Minister's letter, which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, they cannot give their assent, for the reasons I have explained.
Not only is the Foundation obviously and clearly designed to promote European integration and European union. It does it in a very clever and effective manner. It does it by making grants to existing organisations, and we are told in the financial part of the proposals that the eventual sums of money will be between, initially, 5 million and 10 million units of account and ultimately 20 million, which, taking an exchange rate of £1.5 to the EUA, is in the region, possibly, of £10 million a year. Of course, that could be reduced, but equally it could go up.
But, as has been made clear, this money is not only money which is likely to be in the Foundation. There will be calls on corporate and private persons' purses, and the proposals make it clear that it is expected that nation States will give tax relief on the money so donated. So the additional money which it will hope to collect will attract some tax benefits in the countries from which it is drawn.
I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, who has some knowledge of educational charities, whether the EEC Foundation will be subject to the charitable exemptions which we have in this country. Clearly it will be a political charity, and we in this country quite properly say that political charities shall not be exempt from tax. But even if it was not exempt in this country, it would no doubt be exempt in other countries, and therefore valuable additional private moneys will be donated at public expense.
I return to the method by which grants will be made. It will, of course, be indirect, and therefore, any body promoting exchanges, visits or cultural activity of any sort, or, indeed, wishing to have a look at the EEC will quite clearly have to show evidence of being in tune or in accord—or certainly not out of accord—with the objectives of the Foundation.
973 Therefore, if the organisation which may apply for assistance can show that it is providing an opportunity for a speaker of a European union or someone from the Community to address a meeting or conference, or perhaps to distribute literature, that will be all to the good. If I were a trustee of such a fund, I would think that that was the right thing to do and would certainly bear it in mind when looking at the applications and the undertakings that would be given, or, indeed, the likelihood of such additional activities taking place with the applicant body. Therefore, I suggest that the indirect effects of this Foundation could be very considerable indeed.
But the matter does not end there. There may be many organisations that would like to have the money, but they know that they would not stand a chance unless their oriented or slanted their existing activities in a particular direction, because they would know very well that unless they did that they would not stand a chance, or would stand less of a chance, of getting the money.
Therefore, the idea of complementarity, which sounds so nice and is a good word, is in fact not complementarity at all. It is an amplifier circuit. As has been said, it is a catalyst. That is quite right. A catalyst enables things to happen which did not happen before, and it will amplify the effect of this fund in many subtle and unseen ways which might not be able to be proved.
One of the other objectives of this organisation is that it can provide money for research. The universities of this country do quite a bit of research on EEC affairs. One of them has an institute of European studies. I shall not name the university concerned, because I was told only yesterday that it gets a substantial amount of money from the existing European institutions. I shall have to check that. Therefore, I shall not name it. But let us suppose that it got only half its present funds from existing EEC sources. This Foundation will be more flexible. I suggest that one of the important factors in academic life is objectivity. How can any institution or person that is expecting or would hope for money from such a foundation or, indeed, moneys from the EEC at present be expected to be impartial?
974 Indeed, the matter goes further than that. Money can buy advocacy, but money can also buy silence. If an individual or an institution or a body which may be operating for excellent purposes hopes for resources from a particular quarter, it is less likely to be objective and less likely to speak out when it ought to speak out than it would be if those resources were not available.
I do not say that the European Foundation would operate knowingly in this way if it were founded, but I suggest that there are certainly dangers in that direction.
When British liberties are at stake, we expect dogs to bark. Everyone knows the famous Sherlock Holmes story of the dog that did not bark because it trusted someone who was betraying its trust. The Government should have barked, but instead several Ministers' names appear on the motion. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham, who knows more about the background to this Foundation than anyone else, did not disagree on the facts—I do not expect him to agree with my opinion. How anyone can claim that the Foundation has nothing to do with European union is past my understanding. The only charitable explanation is that they have not read the documents as I have or seen the possibilities.
§ Mr. Rippon
The hon. Gentleman said that I have not disputed any of the facts, but only his opinion. In the document prepared by the working party, we carefully concluded that the final choice of objective and priorities should be taken by the European institutions. We said that because we covered a wide range of possibilities. The Commission then made certain changes in the thrust of what the working party suggested. As I understand it now, the decisions of the Council of Ministers improve upon—at least in my view—the views of the Commission. So this is a continuing process, and the hon. Gentleman should recognise that.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for partly confirming what I said and for adding some information. But that immediately illustrates our problems with the EEC. Although there may be some modifications, the background still stands. 975 It has not been negatived. The Foundation, when established, will have at least as much money to disperse in the United Kingdom as the Nuffield Foundation—that is, £1 million a year. On the figures on the documents, that could easily be the figure available in two or three years.
Therefore, when these grants and activities get going and people begin to object, saying, "We did not realise that it would be like this", they will be able to point back to these documents, to the Tindemans Report and even to my speech and say "It was all clear at the time."
§ Mr. Litterick
My hon. Friend may have assumed that the sums of money written in these documents are the probable grants to the United Kingdom. Surely they are not. They are probable contributions by the British taxpayers to this European body, which they will not necessarily get back, if the history of the EEC tells us anything.
§ Mr. Spearing
I think that my hon. Friend has to think about income and expenditure. I was referring to the expenditure by the Foundation. The converse is true. If some parts of the Community lag behind on integration or are less enthusiastic for a European union than others, if I were a trustee of this institution I would switch the funds accordingly. I might give more to those areas where I thought fertilisation was required.
Unless the Government can show otherwise, it seems that, far from being neutral, the concept of this Foundation is to further European union. In quoting the Prime Minister as saying that we do not favour European union, the Minister is trying to get the House to take note of these documents without dissent, thereby tacitly agreeing to a Foundation which could be against the freedom of this House and the British people. Any economic union in Europe will clearly be at the expense of the powers of this House and the self-determination of the British people. I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary wags his head in disagreement about that obvious point. There is a distinct risk that this fund, through the use of British taxpayers' money—as well as the money of taxpayers from elsewhere—could undermine 976 the principles of the freedom and sovereignty of this House which the Government claim they seek to maintain.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
There seems to be some doubt about what precisely the Government have agreed. One thing is clear. They have already agreed in principle to the establishment of a European Foundation. Is it not somewhat discourteous to make such a commitment without bringing that proposition to the House? It seems that that could have been done, and I think that it should have been done.
We have been told by the Under-Secretary of State that the objectives of the Foundation have not been agreed. It seems odd that a Foundation such as this should be set up in principle without anyone knowing precisely what it is to do. In that sense I much prefer the version of events given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). He read out the statement made following the Copenhagen meeting, which said that the objectives had been agreed. I suspect that while this debate will have some effect on the margin, broadly speaking the decisions have already been taken in principle. It is likely that progress will follow the lines laid down in the documents before us.
In procedural terms this is the sort of thing which the House could have debated before the event. Why was that not arranged? If support is required for a proposition of this kind, the House of Commons should have been involved at an early stage. That would have avoided procedural disputes arising.
If we were talking about a Foundation which would be devoting its resources to promoting festivals in Llangollen or sending youth orchestras around Europe or choirs and the like around Europe, I would have no objection. If the Foundation were to be used for promoting cultural exchanges between European countries—not just Common Market countries—I doubt whether anyone would quarrel with the proposition.
My right hon. and learned Friend and others have hotly denied that this Foundation has any propaganda purpose. It has, they say, a cultural purpose. If that is so they could have tried to avoid 977 some of the traditional federalist argument that appears throughout this document. In promoting this Foundation I do not believe that my right hon. and learned Friend was seeking to establish a federalist propaganda machine. But once this institution has been created it will be beyond his control. Given the philosophy that runs through the documents and give the fact that the person in charge of the Foundation could be an enthusiastic federalist, it has to be acknowledged that once it is established, the matter is beyond the control of my right hon. and learned Friend. There is a danger that something which he thought would be a genuine association, promoting cultural exchanges, will become a propagandist machine for European union, thinly disguised as a cultural organisation.
§ Mr. Moate
The Government agreed to the Foundation being established. Once that has happened it is beyond their control. I suspect that after the Foundation is established, the money that would go into it would be used to promote seminars on economic and monetary union, to promote exchanges so that people could see more of the Brussels bureaucracy and to enable lectures to be given on the need for a common currency. This is not a figment of my imagination. It is in the documents. They have been quoted but they bear repetition. If my right hon. and learned Friend had not wanted this to be the philosophy behind the Foundation he should have avoided this language.
One sees from the beginning that the genesis of this proposal comes from Mr. Tindemans' report on European union, so at once it has to be seen in that context. The introduction to the document says that the Foundation hasthe object of making European integration"—not unity, but integration—'a matter for us all'".On the next page, it says, obviously with a touch of regret,Nor does it"—the Community—have even a symbolic presence in their midst: no flag, no currency, not even (as yet) a common passport".978 So clearly this is seen as a substitute for these other supranationalist trappings that the federalists so often claim to be desirable.
Later, according to page 3, Mr. Tindemans added,This Foundation will also have a role to play in presenting abroad the image of a United Europe.He uses a capital "u" and a capital "e". That is what Mr. Tindemans said, and that is the document we are being asked to take note of today. It is that theme which runs throughout these documents and which I say will set the theme and the spirit of the Foundation.
All that could have been avoided. It will be interesting to know whether the Minister can avoid it. We are now in his hands. The Foundation has been agreed in principle. It will obviously go ahead. But the Government, I suspect, if they show willing, can lay down very strict rules and can say explicitly that this will not be a propaganda machine, that it is there not to promote the EEC but to talk about European culture. If the Government can do that, so be it—it will be a welcome step forward. But there is no sign of it in these documents as they stand and which, broadly speaking, we are being asked to approve, since "take note" often implies that the House has given its assent.
It seems to me that what we are setting up here is a propaganda machine for the Common Market, and not what was originally no doubt genuinely intended to be a sensible vehicle for promoting general understanding and cultural exchange between members of the Common Market.
The further question arises from a clear statement made by the Under-Secretary of State. He said that the competence of the Community to legislate on these matters did not exist. Why, then, are we here at all? Why are we debating in the House matters of cultural exchange and educational matters that are not in the Treaty of Rome? I do not want at this stage to elaborate on this aspect at great length, but I am sceptical whether Article 235 gives a proper legal basis for a foundation of this kind. If that is so, why is the House discussing these matters in such depth?
979 Even if a legal basis could just be squeezed in by the lawyers—and they are clever at squeezing such things in—it is clear that, at every turn, there are those who are anxious to stretch the Treaty of Rome further and further so that it embraces every aspect of our life. It would have been more proper for the Government, given their fairly robust line on Community matters generally, to say, "No. This is outside the scope of the Treaty of Rome and we shall have no more to do with it."
That brines me to the other document, which is surely even more positively outside the scope of the Treaty of Rome, and therefore one wonders again why this sort of document comes before us. It is a document onCommunity action in the cultural sector".I do not know where cultural sector activities appear in the Treaty of Rome—I do not think that they do. If so, the document has very little value. But when one analyses it, one finds that it has even less value.
There is an element of farce in the presentation of some of these documents. The introduction refers to the Paris Summit, quoting the final communiqué as saying that the Communityshould result in an improvement in the quality of life as well as in living standards", and thatparticular attention will be paid to intangible values".That is the preface to legislation, or proposed legislation. As soon as one uses the phrase "intangible values", one tries to produce Community legislation which will somehow embrace them. So often in these Community documents one finds great sentiments or grand platitudes, with an attempt to try to elevate them into legislation or guidelines for countries such as ours to accept.
The more we look at the documents, the more we see that they fit into that theme of useless platitudes sometimes verging on dangerous interference in matters which are properly this country's concern. I am not opposed to many of the harmonisation ideas in the documents There is nothing wrong in harmonising value added tax if one can do so voluntarily. It is a desirable objective. There is nothing wrong in trying to harmonise public lending rights, because that would 980 make for a freer exchange of a variety of matters. But what I object to is Brussels trying to tell us how we should do it, particularly when it has no legal basis in the Treaty of Rome.
The issue that I particularly wanted to talk about was public lending rights. I had expected to cross swords with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) on this matter, but I found that he and I were in almost total agreement on our general approach to the documents.
I am opposed in principle to public lending rights, because I do not think that there is such a thing as a right to any benefit through the public lending system, but I am not opposed to proper help for authors. That is a very different matter.
There could be some benefit from harmonisation of treatment of authors in different Common Market countries. I believe that, for example, the Republic of Ireland is much more generous to authors. I believe that many of them pay no tax. Let us harmonise on that principle, but let us have no compulsory harmonisation on this or any other public lending rights scheme.
The Government document states clearly that they are still in favour of their scheme. I believe that to have been a had scheme. It was administratively unfair and nonsensical. It proposed that £1 million be spent, with half the money going on administration. The scheme would have paid about £5 per author per annum, with no benefit going to the writers of works of reference. Most would have gone to fiction authors whose books were lent from the library shelves.
That was a bad scheme. Paradoxically, I think that the Community scheme is somewhat better. As I understand it, the proposal offers a payment for books on the shelves. That would mean that more serious writers, whose books were not borrowed as much, would still receive a payment, instead of the money simply going to the most popular authors, who are therefore probably the least in need of any financial support.
I should like to see the Government adopt their next statement as a matter of principle:The Government's policy is to provide selective support through the Arts Council on the basis of an expert assessment of merit.981 That is the way to do it—through the Arts Council and not through a public lending rights scheme. This feature of the Community's proposal is objectionable. The Government's position is wrong. We should drop public lending rights from our discussion, whether it be Community-inspired or inspired by the Front Bench. Then we can work on other means of assisting authors, through the tax system or selective support through the Arts Council.
I believe that neither document before us will contribute anything to the benefit of the people of this country. We should be as well off without the documents.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The speech of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) has shown that there is scepticism in all parties about the proposals before the House.
We debate these matters in a cultural atmosphere, which has been demonstrated by the fact that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who has now left us, was fast asleep through most of the debate. That may be an appropriate state of mind for a pro-Marketeer, who simply stands aside and watches all these events going forward, but I regret that the hon. Gentleman has left us. I regard it as unfortunate that these far-reaching proposals should have been rolled up together in one take-note motion and discussed at a time when many hon. Members cannot easily be in the House and it is exceedingly difficult to have an adequate debate.
The two proposals for a European Foundation and for cultural exchanges are, of course, important. But for the sake of brevity I concern myself mainly with the proposal for the so-called European Foundation. As I think the debate has shown, this is neither non-controversial nor trivial. For those who have not studied the papers carefully, it is represented as a purely cultural organisation. I agree with the hon. Member for Faversham that if it was only a matter of cultural exchanges and contacts between students and universities, there would be no objection or political controversy about it. But as soon as one studies the documents, one finds that this proposed Foundation is largely, although not 982 wholly, a poiltical propaganda organisation which is designed to spend public money on propaganda in favour of what is alternatively called "European integration" or "European union", all of which means leading the EEC into some sort of federal State.
There are a number of documents, and I shall not go into them in detail at this time of the week. But the basic document is entitled "Report from the Commission on the Establishment of a European Foundation.". It starts very candidly under the heading "Tasks and objectives" with the following phrase:To strengthen understanding of, and support for, the work of the Community".In addition to a lot of other phrases it goes on to state:A continued high level of popular support for the Community cannot be taken for granted.That may well be true. Mr. Tindemans is then quoted as saying:This Foundation will also have a role to play in presenting abroad the image of a United Europe".We then come to the Report from the Council to the European Council which is dated as late as 3rd April this year. At the start of that we read:The objective of the Foundation is…to promote the better understanding of the European cultural heritage—that sounds innocuous—and to further a greater understanding of European integration".The documents are simply studded with phrases of that kind which one need not set out in detail. What all these documents show is that whether or not one favours a federal EEC—of course, opinions legitimately differ, although I understand that the Government do not—this Foundation is intended to promote not just cultural aims but political argument.
§ Mr. Jay
Of course, controversial political argument is perfectly legitimate, but what is not legitimate is to finance it with the taxpayers' money under the disguise of setting up a cultural, educational organisation. Indeed, the slide nowadays into the use of taxpayers' money for controversial political purposes, which seems to be seeping into this country from the Continent, is a particularly 983 vicious tendency. Substantial sums of public money are involved. For instance, 20 million units of account, which is about £10 million, are mentioned. Here, if anywhere, is a good case for economy in public expenditure, about which we are always hearing lectures from Conservative Members, although we never get a practical instance of where it might be adopted. The most effective possible way of carrying out economies is to stop spending money on new projects which have not yet been adopted.
It seems to me that this European Foundation is even more objectionable for two other reasons on which, to some extent, the hon. Member for Faversham touched briefly. First, we are told that the Foundation is to be independent. That sounds very fine. But what it means is that as soon as its board is set up—with possibly the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) its chairman, for all I know, and I am sure that he would have the best of intentions—it can spend these millions of public money as it chooses with no control by Governments or Parliaments anywhere in the EEC. That seems to me to be a thoroughly bad principle.
Secondly, and even more objectionable, it is to be called "a grant-making body". We all know from experience of the European Movement over recent years—a strange, hybrid quasi-public, quasi-voluntary body—what that tends to mean. It means an attempt to influence by money payments all sorts of organisations, from universities to newspapers and heaven knows what, in the conduct of publicity and propaganda. Some unkind people, in plain English, would call this bribery or corruption, especially when it begins to influence universities, schools and newspapers. When it is done in the pro-Market cause, it is described as a grant-in-aid, a subsidy, a subvention or some other more polite word.
If this Foundation intends to finance political propaganda for a federal EEC with public money, it is a vicious proposal. If it does not, it is entirely unnecessary. There are already numerous organisations in Western Europe and elsewhere which can promote educational exchanges, cultural contacts and so forth, notably, incidentally, the Council of Europe's European Cultural Foundation now operating in Amsterdam, which 984 covers a much wider area of countries than the EEC. We already have that European Cultural Foundation, to which no one objects because it is genuinely a cultural Foundation, and it is mentioned in the documents. If that is the intention, why should not it carry out this job adequately? Why have a second European cultural Foundation which will arouse all these suspicions?
From what I understood of the Minister's contribution to the debate, he suggested that the Government's attitude would be to keep a close eye on this animal, to insist on safeguards, to tighten the terms of reference, and so on. But this leaves us in a very unsatisfactory position. Where are the terms of reference? Are they not already in these documents?
If the Foundation is to be genuinely cultural and non-political, to which none of us would have objection—though we might feel it to be unnecessary—and to have no connection with European federation, it would be an entirely different animal from the one described again and again in these documents.
May we know today what terms of reference the Government have in mind? I hope that they are proposing to lay before the House at some period in the future some new document which will be the effective terms of reference of this organisation. If so, may we be told today that no British commitment will be given to any such scheme until the House has seen, debated and approved the proposed new terms of reference of this Foundation? If we could be sure of that, our anxieties would be abated considerably.
So far no sound case has been made out for spending a great deal more public money on a project like this. Unless the Government can get specific assurances about this, I hope that the House will not in any way approve or endorse the proposals today.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
To the best of my knowledge, the net accumulated cost to the British taxpayer of our contributions to Common Market institutions—the budget itself, the Coal and Steel Community, and the European Investment Bank—to the end of last year was £1,800 million. That was the 985 difference between what we paid to these institutions and what we received back from them in terms of grant. In other words, we come to this topic today in the full knowledge that the cost to the British people of membership of the EEC in straight financial terms is already very heavy, and no doubt 1978 will bring a further tranche of costs.
My remarks do not refer to the other costs in terms of food levies and the consequent additions to the household expenditure bills of the average British family. My hon. Friend asks us today to take note of these apparently innocuous documents to set up this apparently altruistic cultural body, which will cost the British taxpayer another £1 million-plus a year.
It is not hard to understand why we feel just a little sceptical about this, if only on financial grounds. As speaker after speaker has demonstrated, our scepticism deepens as we go through these documents page by page. Nothing that has been said by the Minister or by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) has served to diminish that scepticism.
I am puzzled by the proposals for cultural exchanges. Is there a problem here? Everyone is in favour of culture, but nobody is very much in favour of paying for it. I wonder why it is felt that there is a problem, and if so, should it be tackled in this way?
Mick Jagger does not have any problem in moving from here to the countries of Western Europe and back again. Nor does he have any problem in making a lot of money, or in persuading people to pay money to hear him. Andre Previn and his orchestra have no trouble going to Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin, and similarly the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam does not have problems coming here. That is cultural exchange and there have never been any problems. It has been going on merrily for many years. It takes many different forms and it is sponsored in many different ways.
The most important aspect of all is the curiosity of the peoples of Europe to visit one another. More than 3 million Britons visit Europe each year. Their idea of Europe is not that of the Eurofanatics—it is not the mini-Europe tucked 986 away in the Western corner. It is the whole of Europe. British people make their own decisions about where they will visit and spend their own money. They visit every country in Europe—the real Europe, not just the countries that make up the artificial group in these documents.
That is the most encouraging sign not only of the fact that the British people are outward-looking but that their idea of the Continent, of which they are part, is much larger than the narrow-minded, defensive and rather phobic people of the Community who constantly espouse the interests of this thing called the European Economic Community.
In this connection, speaker after speaker in this debate has suggested that the purpose of these proposals is to make permanent the rather ad hoc propaganda institutions which have existed on behalf of the Common Market for many years and which, for instance, spent such large sums of money in greviously misleading the British people in the referendum two years ago. They want to make it permanent. There is a problem and that problem is theirs, because the Common Market—not as an idea but as an actual living fact—now looks decidedly tatty to British people and very much less significant than it was made to appear two years ago in the referendum campaign.
Therefore, more money has to be spent, so the Euro-fanatics clearly think, to make sure that a pro "little Europe" mentality is developed among the mass of the people. That is the purpose as set out on page 7 of the Commission document. Under the heading "Activities: Youth Work" it says:It is of vital importance for the European venture"—that is the big lie—that young people…should…be supplied with better information.On the next page under the heading "Schools", the document says that there should be:a wide range of activities designed to improve teaching on the Community in schools".We have recently witnessed the attitude of Tory Members on the subject of politics being taught in schools, but they do not regard this as politics. The EEC is some kind of transcendant truth that is above politics. That view is not shared 987 by the majority of Labour Members, or indeed by the majority of the British people. The EEC is very much a contentious issue in this country in our politics.
The document goes on to talk about "improving teachers' understanding of the Community." In other words, the teachers are to be programmed as remote control propagandists for the EEC. The money for that will come from us and will be channelled through this Foundation, as it is called.
Later the document mentions research into European integration. I do not recollect anybody talking about that aspect during the referendum campaign, except to say "No, that is not on the agenda, friends and citizens. Please vote "Yes'". This was denied during the referendum campaign. They said—and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was one of them—"No, European union is not on the agenda." But here it is—contained in this document in page 12.
§ Mr. Litterick
I can only suggest that my hon. Friend cannot read or, if he does read that his level of understanding is not very good.
A little further in the document, on page 21, we see a summing up of the purposes of this institution. The document makes no bones about the matter but simply says:if the Foundation does its work properly, the end result should be to increase public awareness and involvement in the European venture…our attempts to achieve European union will remain a dead letter unless there is an increased awareness of what the Community means in philosophic and material terms.In other words, it simply wants us to sanction, on behalf of the British people, the funding of a propaganda agency to further and perpetuate a set of institutions which, thus far, has done nothing to serve the interests of the Britisht people. On those grounds alone—and they are substantial grounds—we should refuse to take note of these ridiculous documents.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gordon Oakes)
We have had an interesting 988 debate, although some of the principles underlying some speeches have misunderstood what the House is discussing. I shall deal first with that aspect and with the timing of the debate.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) repeated that there was insufficient information before the House and that hon. Members did not know sufficient of what we were talking about. Of all hon. Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South takes the most meticulous care on any document relating to the EEC. He is right to do so because there are many such documents and they could be rushed through the House without hon. Members knowing anything about them. My hon. Friend frequently complains that documents are not available in the Vote Office, and I agree that it is shocking for the House to be asked to debate a document when copies of it are not available. But that criticism cannot be levelled at these documents.
The decision in the European Council was made in December 1977 and a document signed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science was issued on 3rd March 1978. Paragraph 3 of that document states clearly:In December 1977 the European Council considered the report and approved the principle of establishing a Foundation. It instructed the Council of Ministers and the Commission to examine the proposal in detail and report back to the European Council.The contentious document relating to the European Foundation was available to the House on 3rd March and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has stated as clearly as it can be stated that what was established at that time was the principle of establishing a Foundation. That is all; and that is all that the Government are asking the House to take note of.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North rightly raised questions concerning the details and accountability and I shall deal with those in a moment, but the principle before the House is the principle of establishing a European Foundation. The subsequent running of 989 such a Foundation will be a matter for member States and the Council of Ministers to decide.
§ Mr. Spearing
I was not complaining about the lack of documentation. My hon. Friend misunderstood my criticism. I said that there appears to be a lack of agreement between the Front Benches as to what are the objectives. I regard the memorandum from the Secretary of State as an incomplete description of what was agreed. I have a copy of the deposited document No. 7559 relating to the Copenhagen conference. It includes the wordsto promote a better understanding of the European cultural heritage in its rich diversity and oneness and to further a greater understanding of European integration.It is clear from this and from the Commission document what the objective was from the beginning.
§ Mr. Oakes
I was referring to the complaint that my hon. Friend and others made about timing. I was trying to point out that this documentation was at least before the House in March. When my hon. Friend says that there may well be disagreement between the two Front Benches, I can tell him that, judging from the tone of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), and from the rather cool response to the document by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and given the remarks I shall be making on this and the other document in a moment, there will be considerable difference.
§ Mr. Rippon
There is no difference between us. I am entirely satisfied with what the Heads of Government, including our own Head of Government, have done at Copenhagen.
§ Mr. Oakes
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, whose views I respect. He is a great European and is perhaps much more in favour of Mr. Tindemans' words than I or my hon. Friend would be. But we are not debating what Tindemans said. The concept we are considering and which will emerge from the setting up of a European Foundation might well be markedly different and distinct from anything that Tindemans was proposing in his—to use the word used by my hon. Friend the 990 Member for Famworth (Mr. Roper)—lyrical enthusiasm for the idea of European union. So, on the time scale, the facts were available to the House for a considerable time before the debate.
It is always easy for hon. Members to attack my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip about the timing of the debate. I can assure hon. Members that Ministers do not like debates on a Friday afternoon either. However, the Government always have difficulties in arranging full and lengthy debates on documents, particularly European documents. It is a question of balance. Is it better to discuss the document on a Friday afternoon, when we are reasonably fresh, rather than at midnight, when so many of the European documents come before the House, after a hard day's work by Members?
It was important that the documents should be discussed, and that was the recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee. It suggested—and the Government accepted the suggestion—that the documents should be discussed together, although I agree with hon. Members who have made the point that they present a mixed bag. They do not hang together. This is not one series of documents. The two documents are being debated on a Friday for the convenience of time and the House.
Let me deal, first, with the document on Community action in the cultural sector. It is far less controversial than the document on the European Foundation. The debate was remarkable in that criticisms of the document, many of which I would share, came from those hon. Members who are known either for their commitment against Europe or for their commitment for it. The document contains many proposals, and a number of them do not affect my Department. The cultural and educational proposals affect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my noble Friend the Minister who is responsible for the arts, and myself. But there are other parts of the document for which the Home Office and the Department of Employment are the lead Departments.
The document is a mixed bag which contains many ideas. Some of them are useful. Most of them are already being pursued. Perhaps, as my hon. Friend the 991 Member for Farnworth said, supported by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate)—two hon. Members who are on different sides of the House and of the European debate—these functions could probably be better done by other organisations, which would be preferable to setting up a specific European organisation. I concur with that.
The other general point that I make is that the system for supporting the arts in this country differs significantly from the system in some other member States of the EEC. In particular, insofar as central Government provides financial support for the arts and crafts in this country, the money is provided by means of the so-called "arm's length" principle. It is for the Arts Council, the British Film Institute, the Crafts Advisory Committee and the directors and trustees of the national musuems and galleries to decide how they shall disburse the money which the Government make available to them.
Individual decisions on which artists and craftsmen, which concerts, plays, operas, exhibitions, theatres, companies and so forth should be supported, and by how much, are left to an independent body of experts drawn from a variety of backgrounds who apply criteria based on professional standards of excellence. This differs considerably from the practice in some other countries, which take a far more interventionist line, where a Government Department is responsible directly for cultural matters and makes payments direct to individuals and organisations in cultural occupations, and where the primary consideration is to put it mildly, not necessarily the quality of the artistic end product.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
As my hon. Friend has touched on the Arts Council, will he take this opportunity to tell us how he is getting on with the undertaking in the Labour Party's election manifesto to make the Arts Council more democratic and representative of those who work in the arts and in entertainment?
§ Mr. Oakes
The document ends with a draft resolution which asks the Council to agree that Community action should be implemented on the basis of the guidelines laid down in it.
What are these guidelines? My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth said that they were lyrical. If these are lyrics, I should not like to try to set them to music. They represent a heterogeneous collection of proposals, but it is very difficult to discern a common thread other than a loose connection with the cultural sector.
Surely guidelines should attempt to reconcile or at least reflect the different approaches of different member States. There would have to be prior discussion of the philosophical principles involved in State subsidisation of the arts and the reasons for the differences of approach from country to country. But whether any of this is the business of the EEC would have to be settled before such a discussion could be held. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has already indicated that the question of the competence of the EEC in this field is not at all free from doubt. Yet, even if the resolution were not agreed, much of the activity on customs procedures, on VAT, on employment programmes, on cultural exchanges, and so on, would continue anyway. Some of this action would proceed in the EEC, but some of it is for the Council of Europe and UNESCO which have a clear remit and considerable experience in the cultural field.
I do not wish to comment on all the points raised in the document, partly because, as I have explained, many of them are already under consideration by other Departments in other contexts. They may affect the so-called cultural sector, however that might be defined, but they also affect other sectors, other workers, other goods and services, and I should hesitate to advance any special pleading on behalf of those engaged in cultural occupations on the basis of arguments put forward in this document.
993 However, I should like to say something about public lending right. This matter has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth, by the hon. Members for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Cormack) and Faversham and, indeed, by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins). Again, this document has had a surprisingly unifying effect, because my hon. Friend the Member for Putney and the hon. Member for Faversham, although bitterly opposed on the Public Lending Right Bill, are at least united in not wanting this proposal. They consider that this proposal could be far worse than anything that the Government have produced or might possibly produce.
The proposal in the document is that public lending right should be harmonised on the basis of the existing schemes in Denmark, the Netherlands and West Germany. These existing schemes differ in some important respects among themselves and they also differ from the scheme which the British Government sought to introduce in legislation, which, as the House will be aware, has been very fully considered in recent sessions but which has unfortunately been obstructed. The Government are now considering the possibility of introducing their scheme on a voluntary, non-statutory basis pending the securing of a statutory basis. The continental schemes are based on different principles. Some are based on purchases of books as opposed to the principle in the Government's proposals of actual borrowings. The sample of libraries on which the statistics are based is very small compared with our proposed sample. Some schemes cover reference books, which will initially have to be excluded from the Government scheme. The collecting and distributing agencies abroad are in some cases semiprivate bodies, rather like the Performing Right Society, while our proposal would be for a public sector body to distribute the payments to authors.
The Council of Europe has recently published a report on PLR which seems to favour the United Kingdom Government scheme. The distinguished rapporteur was my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). Also, some other member States neither have 994 nor appear to be contemplating any PLR scheme.
A lot of work will need to be done before there can be any serious prospect of harmonisation in this field. Frankly, I consider that the Commission's proposal is wholly premature. I repeat, however, that the Government remain committed to introducing their own scheme at the earliest opportunity.
I hope that in the context of what I have said on this document—before I come to the more controversial document on the Foundation—I have assured the House that this document will not receive an uncritical welcome from British Ministers and officials if and when it is discussed in Brussels. I have noted the various detailed comments of hon. Members. They will provide useful material for such discussions. It remains to be shown that this collection of proposals is necessary or that it contributes anything new or worthwhile to what is happening anyway. To say the least, our stance will be a highly sceptical one.
Now I come to the probably more controversial document relating to the European Foundation. I think that I should begin by describing the present state of negotiations in Brussels.
In her updating memorandum of 12th June, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science explained that the European Council of 7th–8th April had agreed that the Foundation's seat should be in Paris, and that the Foundation should be set up by means of an agreement between representatives of the Governments of the member States within the Council. Even the exact form of that agreement has yet to be determined, and it is also for consideration whether the Community should be a party to it together with individual member States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth asked what sort of a body it would be. All I can say to him at this stage is that it seems likely that the agreement will be in the form of a convention, with the possibility of provisional application to enable the Foundation to start work without delay.
As was foreseen in the document, we expect that an initial endowment will be provided to the Foundation from the 995 Community budget. We have had an argument and a discussion about Article 235. This matter is uncertain. What is certain is the Government's determination with regard to accountability. En negotiations in Brussels we have been very properly and rightly concerned, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North is, to ensure that the Foundation should be fully accountable.
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has said, we are seeking to ensure that there is maximum control of expenditure by member States. We also hope to ensure that the objectives and scope of the Foundation are clearly set out and that the audit procedures are adequate to ensure that the funds allocated to the Foundation are used for the purpose intended. I believe that these points offer adequate safeguards on the question of accountability.
I should like to make a few comments on the sort of thing that the Foundation hopes to do. It is important to remember that there is at present no institution that is responsible for furthering human understanding within the Community outside a Government framework. The concept of a European Foundation, as it has developed, is not a grandiose one. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said—I should like to quote something else that he said—There can be no harm, whatever view we may take about the Community, in getting to know the other people of Europe better."—[Official Report, 10th April 1978; Vol. 947, c. 991.]Surely there can be no harm in promoting human contacts, in promoting human understanding, and in helping to break down any barriers of prejudice, suspicion or misunderstanding. I believe that a Foundation run on modest but effective and controlled lines could have a new and constructive orientation in supporting existing national or bilateral initiatives by voluntary and other bodies, and in giving them a European dimension.
§ Mr. Jay
In view of what he has said, will my hon. Friend assure me that the Government will not agree to this Foundation going beyond the functions that he has just described—promoting 996 human understanding between members of the Community—and that it will have no functions related to what is described as European union or European integration?
§ Mr. Oakes
If my right hon. Friend will be patient, I was just coming to that point.
I was intrigued by the speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas). His suggestion about minority languages and culture is precisely the sort of thing that the Foundation, which is not a Government body, could well support. I take exception to only one thing he said—his criticism of the Government over their support for the Welsh language. If he looks at what the French Government do in regard to Brittany and Corsica or what other European States do in regard to minority languages, he will agree that this Government are very generous.
§ Mr. Spearing
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that this business is exempted business and that it can run, if necessary, until 5.30?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Yes. Of course, one expected not a point of order but a realisation by hon. Members that that happens to be the case. One can judge that, of course, by the length of the speeches. However, each hon. Member can participate only once in the debate.
§ Mr. Oakes
I come now to the important issue of federalism. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney described the Foundation as a sinister body for promoting a federal Europe. There is no such thing in the document. We need to take a balanced view of the proposal to set up the Foundation. I do not share the enthusiasm that it has aroused in some quarters, but nor do I share the alarmist fears expressed today.
Nowhere is federalism mentioned in these documents. Document R/774, which is the document approved by Heads of Government, talks of such things as social and cultural activities, contacts between social and professional groups and the provision of information on the life of people in Euorpe.
997 I do not mind people having information about people in other countries. It is a two-edged weapon. It may lead them to favour European union, or it may lead them to oppose it. But we should never deny people the right to the information on which they can make up their own minds.
We have had a useful debate. I say in conclusion that there is still—
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
My hon. Friend has quoted me on one point, and I thought that he intended to go on. The European Foundation was originally presented to us as an organisation for the encouragement and sponsorship of culture and the arts. My point, which the Minister has not adequately answered, is that it is a propagandist organisation to put over a particular idea.
§ Mr. Jay
Would my hon. Friend allow me to intervene, since he did not answer my earlier question? He is telling us in effect that these documents are not the final description of the nature of this organisation and that the Government will try to convert it into one more in accordance with the spirit of this House. Can he give us a clear assurance—that would satisfy the House—that when the changes which he forshadows have been carried into effect a further document making it clear what the Foundation will do and what its terms of reference are will be brought before the House and that the Government will enter into no final commitment until we have seen that, debated it and taken a decision on it? That would be a fair solution. I hope that he can give that assurance.
§ Mr. Oakes
It is implicit in what the Under-Secretary and I have been saying about this document, and in our views about accountability, that we shall prevent this from becoming a propagandist organisation. As to my right hon. Friend's second point about another document, I do not know the position about another 998 document coming before the House. Hon. Members have opportunities to question Ministers, which is a sufficient safeguard. That should ensure that they can deal with something which is contrary to the wishes of the House.
§ Mr. Jay
It is surely not treating this House properly to say that some completely different arrangement, of which we have no knowledge, will be agreed by the Government yet to give no undertaking that when this is done it will be brought before the House. I must ask my hon. Friend to say that when these negotiations which he has mentioned have been carried out some document will be brought before the House. It is perfectly fair and reasonable that we should be able to consider and debate it. Will my hon. Friend say that, until this is done, the Government will not commit this country to participation?
§ Mr. Oakes
I certainly cannot give my right hon. Friend an assurance as wide as that. The Under-Secretary and I have explained to the House the care and control that will be exercised by Ministers to ensure that this Foundation does not become a propaganda organisation. It is primarily a cultural and educational organisation. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to take note of the documents.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I am a member of the Committee of the European Parliament which has a responsibility for this subject—the Committee dealing with social affairs and education. I can assure my hon. Friends that 99 per cent. of the members of that Committee will be absolutely committed to the idea of using such a Foundation for the promotion of the political concept of European union. That would be true of 99 per cent. of the total membership of the European Parliament as it is now and of any future directly-elected European Parliament.
By all means let the Government commit themselves against the proposition but let no one have any doubts about what the notions in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg will be. They are determined to use this and any other institution they can create for the pursuit of a 999 political end—one which is perfectly legitimate but with which many of us in this House disagree.
|Division No. 238]||AYES||[4.12 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Hampson, Dr Keith||Parker, John|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Huckfield, Les||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Tomlinson, John|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Luard, Evan||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Deakins, Eric||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|English, Michael||Moyle, Rt. Hon. Roland||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Thomas Cox and|
|Ginsburg, David||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. Peter Snape.|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Litterick, Tom|
|Bell, Ronald||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Mr. Roger Moate and|
|Lee, John||Mr. Nigel Spearing.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House takes note of EEC Documents Nos. COM(77)600, R/325/78, R/734/78, R/774/78 and R/2982/77 on the European Foundation and Cultural Sector.