HC Deb 15 April 1981 vol 3 cc318-9
33. Mr. Russel Johnston

asked the Lord Privy Seal in what areas of policy the Government will press for greater integration within the European Economic Community over the next two years.

Sir Ian Gilmour

Our main task over the next few months will be to pursue the restructuring of the Community budget and the reform of the common agricultural policy. We shall also be seeking to encourage the development of Community policies in new fields and to improve existing policies, We shall continue our efforts to improve the machinery of foreign policy co-operation.

Mr. Johnston

Does the Minister agree with the basic principle that the only way forward for the Community is by further integration?

Sir Ian Gilmour

Many people would argue about the words, but if the hon. Gentleman means a greater convergence of policy and great unity in Europe, I think everyone would agree.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend explain why the principles for the reform of the CAP were not put forward before the recent farm price review so as to prevent yet another vast increase in expenditure occurring and encouraging even larger surpluses, which will either have to be funded by European taxpayers or dumped on world markets, to the disadvantage of the poor people of the world?

Sir Ian Gilmour

With great respect, my hon. Friend has not got his facts right. The prices agreed at the Agricultural Ministers' Council were lower than the prevailing rate of inflation. They should not add to the admittedly undesirable high rate of surpluses.

Mr. Jay

When the Minister is restructuring the budget, will he bear in mind that the annual administrative costs of the Commission now exceed the total expenditure from the regional fund?

Sir Ian Gilmour

That may well be true. I believe that the number of people employed is about the same as those who are employed by Wandsworth council. Although bureaucracy is not a major problem, it is always a problem, but it is made more difficult by the many languages that are spoken in the Community. That is an insuperable difficulty.

Mr. Dykes

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that anti-EEC detractors on the Labour Benches and elsewhere want to have the best of both worlds? If the EEC countries co-operate it is said that the gullible United Kingdom is being conned by foreigners, and if that does not happen there is a perpetual crisis. Can they have it both ways?

Sir Ian Gilmour

They probable can. In a sense, they do. However, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's sharp analysis of the situation.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Instead of talking about integration, would it not be better if the Government spent their time seeking ways of disentangle this country from the stranglehold of those treaties? Would not our relations with the other European countries in commerce, trade, agriculture and fisheries be much healthier if they were not based on those rather unequal and—it seems—immutable treaties?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The right hon. Gentleman should do something about his amnesia, on which I commented last week. He was a prominent member of the Labour Government who made no attempt at all to get out of the treaties which he says are so damaging. If the Labour Party felt that the treaties were so damaging, why did it not do something about them when it was in power? The Labour Party did nothing about it because, when in Government, it is slightly more responsible than when in Opposition.