HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1332-3
35. Mr. Marlow

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make arrangements to discuss with his European colleagues changes in the structure and financing of the EEC.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that I should apologise all round. I tried not to call for a supplementary question any hon. Member whose question was likely to be reached, but I have called the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, Sir. We are not challenging the own-resources system of financing the Community. However, at Dublin it was agreed to look for ways of increasing Community expenditure in the United Kingdom and on the need to consider longer-term restructuring of the budget to reduce the predominance of agricultural spending. Discussions on how to achieve this are continuing.

Mr. Marlow

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if we do not achieve a satisfactory solution rapidly the recent suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition about withholding VAT payments will have a great deal of support on the Conservative Benches?

Sir I. Gilmour

As I have already told the House, we are working for an equitable solution. We have been putting across our case, and none more strongly than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her broadcast. That is what we are aiming to achieve at the next summit conference.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is not the Lord Privy Seal aware that the own-resources system is a crazy system, which works very strongly against our interests? Why is he not considering some other means of financing the Community if he is so determined that Britain should continue as a member?

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not agree that it is necessarily a crazy system. I am not sure to what degree the hon. Lady understands the system. It does not work in the case of Britain, and that is why we are seeking to adjust it. However, that does not necessarily mean that it is wrong in itself.