HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc1000-1
Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if she has made any special arrangements to co-ordinate the efforts of Her Majesty's Government aimed at reforming the structures and policies of the European Community in advance of the United Kingdom's presidency of the Council of Ministers.

The Prime Minister

The Government are as eager as my hon. Friend to achieve satisfactory progress on the restructuring of the Community budget, and this will be one of the main priorities of our presidency. The existing machinery for the co-ordination of policy towards the European Community is well established, and I see no need for additional special arrangements.

Mr. Taylor

Would it not strengthen the Government's position in seeking the major changes required in the interests of Britain and its people if we had a White Paper setting out the Government's negotiating aims, which could be debated and approved by the House of Commons? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is the Government's intention to seek major structural reform in the CAP this year?

The Prime Minister

It is our wish and proposal to seek major reforms in the CAP, particularly those aspects of it which lead to substantial surpluses falling on the Community budget and those which lead to such a heavy burden on the Community budget as a whole. It is not our intention at present to publish a White Paper. I do not believe in publishing one's negotiating stance in advance. It is not in the best interests of the country. The Commission is due to publish its proposals on budget reform in June. We have made it clear that we believe that it should keep to that timetable. I believe that the proposals will be debated in the House before a decision is made.

Mr. Flannery

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the present structure of the EEC' means that intervention is catastrophic, for instance, for the steel industry? Is she aware that in the middle of a terrible slump, with people being laid off all over the place, the EEC has issued a directive that we should cut down the amount of our money that we put into our steel industry and the amount of steel that we are producing, even though it is at rock bottom? Should we, not, therefore, come out of the Common Market, which is what the vast majority of our people want?

The Prime Minister

Rather special arrangements apply to steel. The arrangements that the Common Market made over the amounts of steel produced, which amounted to a carve-up of the steel market among Common Market countries, were beneficial to this country. I believe that the hon. Gentleman will find that the majority of the industry, including the trade unions, wishes the arrangements to continue.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that her Government's ability to negotiate the changes needed in the EEC depends on the conviction that she can convey of our intention to remain within the Community and to negotiate changes from inside?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. We get a much better deal if we are seen to be loyal members of the Community. At a time when the world has tremendous difficulties, it is important that the democracies of Europe are seen to hold together and that Europe is seen as an area in which democracies co-operate.

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