HC Deb 13 May 1982 vol 23 cc934-5
5. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his latest assessment of the net contribution that the United Kingdom will make to the European Economic Community in 1982 in the light of the recent European Economic Community discussions on the contributions issue.

Mr. Ridley

The United Kingdom's net budget contribution for 1982 will depend on the outcome of the discussions mentioned by my hon. Friend. I cannot predict what this will be. However, the Council is in any case committed under the agreement of 30 May 1980 to adopt an arrangement granting the United Kingdom refunds in respect of the 1982 budget along the same lines as were agreed for 1980 and 1981.

Mr. Taylor

Will my hon. Friend assure us that he will not agree to a one-year temporary rebate settlement as part of a shabby deal in an effort to ensure the continuance of the embargo on trade with Argentina? As the CAP is the root of the budget imbalance, will he assure us that the Treasury at least will resist the plans to have the highest ever food price rise in the EEC farm prices at a time when inflation is falling?

Mr. Ridley

The Government will continue to believe that an early agreement on a long-term solution of the problem is infinitely to be preferred as an outcome, both for ourselves and for the Community. In answer to my hon. Friend's other question, he will know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food still insists, not only that there is a connection between the budget problem and the agriculture price problem, but that the agricultural solution is not necessarily the right one for us.

Mr. Shore

The Minister will be aware that the crucial quest of the British budget contribution to the EEC and the agriculture price decision come together this weekend, and that both decisions are overshadowed—or at least in the shadow of—a decision to be made by the EEC on the renewal of sanctions against Argentina. I ask him to make sure that his right hon. Friends who will be attending the Council fully understand that any backing down by the British Government on either the budget contribution or on the outrageous agriculture prices that have been proposed will not be forgiven by the House of Commons or by the British people. More important, the other countries of the EEC will not be forgiven by the House or the people if they insist on driving home bargains or arrangements that are clearly disadvantageous to this country.

Mr. Ridley

I confirm my right hon. Friend's resolve in this matter. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, neither of the two problems to which he referred has yet been solved. We still believe that we cannot agree to the price-fixing proposals when we do not know what the final impact will be on our budgetary position. We must await the next round of negotiations. However, I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. Friend what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Dykes

Is it not absurd how the anti-marketeers keep rabbiting on about the excessive budget contribution, since the net aggregate figure for 1981 was only about £60 million, and the figure for this year is likely, at the most, to be only about £500 million to £600 million, which is one-quarter of the aggregate figure estimated in the original White Paper for the first five years of our membership of the Community?

Mr. Ridley

The final outcome for 1981 is not yet entirely firm, although we think that it might be a small positive contribution, rather than a small negative contribution. I remind my hon. Friend that we cannot be certain that the conditions that brought about that happy result in world market prices will necessarily appertain in future years.