HC Deb 15 February 1979 vol 962 cc1301-2
14. Mr. Marten

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he next expects to meet the other Common Market Finance Ministers.

Mr. Healey

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) on 18 January.

Mr. Marten

In view of the appalling net annual cost of Britain's membership of the Common Market, what will the Government propose to the other member States by way of getting some reduction of the net annual cost? How far is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to go to ensure that he gets a net annual reduction, which may help to answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)?

Mr. Healey

I have made it clear to the House on many occasions, as have my right hon. Friends, that the cost to the United Kingdom of the budgetary contribution to the European Community is grossly excessive. We are now negotiating with our partners to reduce it. The main area in which improvement is needed is the cost of the common agricultural policy. I know that the hon. Gentleman approves of the robust action taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in seeking to redress the balance in that area.

Mr. Watkinson

Has my right hon. Friend discussed with his colleagues in Euprope the French proposal to do away with monetary compensatory amounts? Does he agree that, if the monetary compensatory amounts were done away with and common prices were adopted throughout Europe, the result would be a totally unacceptable burden for the British people to bear?

Mr. Healey

We have made that clear on many occasions to our partners in the Community. We have said that we are not prepared to accept a settlement of the argument between the German and French Governments that would lead to higher food prices for the British consumer. I shall re-emphasise that point when I meet my colleagues at the Finance Council on Monday.

Mr. Peter Rees

Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity of that meeting to tell his Finance Minister colleagues and this opportunity to tell the House when Britain will honour its obligation to move to the free transferability of capital inside the Common Market? Will he take the opportunity to reassure the House that he will not erect an apparatus of exchange control between this country and Eire?

Mr. Healey

I regret to say that the Irish Government have already erected an apparatus of exchange control for transfers between Eire and the United Kingdom. We have made it clear that we would be prepared to do so if the European monetary system came into operation and that led to a divergence in value between the Irish pound and the English pound. That is well understood on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The hon. and learned Gentleman studies these matters and he will know that exchange controls on movement of capital are operated by a number of European countries to protect elements in their economic performance. We are no exception. We have no intention of being an exception to that general rule.

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