HC Deb 11 March 1980 vol 980 cc1148-50
Q2. Mr. Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether she has any plans to publish a consultative document on methods of reducing the United Kingdom's net contribution to the EEC.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We are working on the basis of the Commission Paper of 5 February, which has been placed in Vote Office.

Mr. Renton

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the new title that she has won in the French Press today, namely, the Uranium Lady? As a chemist, she will know that uranium causes fusion as well as fission. Does she agree that Western Europe badly needs to be more united and that there is much constructive work to be done in the Community in, for example, giving assistance to the developing world?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions should be shorter.

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to enter into a dissertation on the chemical qualities of uranium, except to say that it is a very lively metal indeed. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that Europe needs to be united, and to stay united, as a free Europe against the unfree part of Europe, which is bound by bands of steel around the Soviet Union.

Mr. David Steel

Are the Government prepared to accept more help than they have accepted to date from the EEC social fund to help restructure the steel industry?

The Prime Minister

I am pleased to report to the right hon. Gentleman that we have applied for every aid for which we could possibly apply from the EEC. If anything more is forthcoming, we shall gladly apply for it. I understand that the possibility that more money may go to the European social fund for steel closures would involve a comparatively small amount, about £20 million, which is small compared with the large amounts that have been set aside for redundancies within the cash limits by the British Steel Corporation. We shall apply for whatever is available. After all, we are paying for it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

When considering our contributions to the EEC, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be wholly wrong to have any time for any Commission proposal to tax the consumption or importation of oil into the EEC? Such a tax would have two effects. First, it would raise prices for our consumers and, secondly, it would give encouragement to our colleagues in the EEC not to repay the money that the EEC owes to us

The Prime Minister

I think that some of us regard that proposal with some suspicion, even though we are told that it would apply more heavily to Con- tinental countries. We should be slow to put any more taxes on oil for European reasons.

Mr. Heffer

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that, despite her eloquence on French television last night, she has weakened the case for reducing the budget by saying in advance that under no circumstances would she accept either the empty chair policy or withdrawal from the EEC?

The Prime Minister

I happen to believe that it is in Britain's interests, and in the interests of Europe as a whole, that Britain should remain a member of the Community. I believe that the Community would be very much less effective without Britain. Nothing will move me from that belief. I tried to show last night how the French would view matters if they were in the same position as Britain, and how fiercely they would demand justice from the Community. We shall continue to do just that.

Mr. Heffer

The right hon. Lady will not get what she wants.

Mr. James Callaghan

Was it not made clear at the time of the original negotiations for entry into the EEC that if an unacceptable position should arise appropriate measures should be taken to put that position right? At the same time it was made clear that common agricultural policy expenditure would be reduced to below 50 per cent. of the total budget. As an unacceptable position has now arisen, and as the common agricultural policy expenditure has not been reduced, I hope that the right hon. Lady will go to Brussels knowing that she has the full support of everyone in the House for a substantial reduction in the amount of the payment. If she does not secure that reduction, it would be appropriate for us to withhold the whole or part of our value added tax contributions.

The Prime Minister

I confirm what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that at the time our entry into the EEC was negotiated it was said that if unacceptable positions should arise it would be for the Community to find a solution to the problems. An unacceptable position has arisen, and it is for the Community to find that solution.

Forward to