HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1443-4
Q1. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister when next she intends to meet other EEC heads of government.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I shall meet President Giscard of France in London on 19 and 20 November and all my colleagues at the European Council in Dublin on 29 and 30 November.

Mr. Latham

Will my right hon. Friend insist, between now and the Dublin meeting, that we do not mind paying our own subscription to this club but we do not want to pay everyone else's subscription as well? Is it not the case that there are plenty of legal ways of being awkward in the Common Market if our just claim is not met?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, we are asking for a broad balance between our contributions and our receipts. He will also recognise that this is not a new problem. Indeed, during the British accession negotiations in 1970, the Community recognised that, if unacceptable situations arose in our Budget contribution— The very survival of the Community would demand that the institutions find equitable solutions". The situation is unacceptable, and we are asking for very substantial relief.

Mr. James Callaghan

I am glad to hear what the right hon. Lady has just said, but, in view of the contradictory reports that are emerging, can she put the position quite clearly? She told us earlier that she seeks a decision in Dublin not later than this month. Is that still the position? Is she still seeking a decision that there should be a broad correspondence between our payments and our receipts and, if so, over what time scale?

The Prime Minister

Of course we seek a decision in Dublin; a decision which will take effect in 1980–81. The right hon. Gentleman is the first to appreciate that our net contribution to the European budget has risen over the last five years from £16 million to £1,000 million. That is totally intolerable and we seek relief from it.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

When the Prime Minister meets the President of France later this month, will she resist the temptation to spend too much time on the "Field of Mutton Cloth" and elicit from the President of France the reasons why he organised a national conference in France on information technology which was opened by his Prime Minister and closed by himself? Will the Prime Minister ascertain from the President of France what effect this has had on the level of awareness of the importance of information technology throughout France?

The Prime Minister

I take it that my hon. Friend is urging me to take an even greater interest in science and technology than I already do. He knows that I am very keen on all these subjects and will do everything I can to help to get new technology into British industry.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the right hon. Lady reflect on her activity in trying to stir up trouble between the Chinese Marxists and the Russian Marxists? Will she not reflect upon the fact that in a major war between those two great nations Great Britain would not escape?

The Prime Minister

With due respect, that situation does not need anyone to stir it. What I am trying to do is increase trade between Britain and China including the possible sale of the Harrier.