HC Deb 20 July 1983 vol 46 cc375-6
68. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he intends submitting to the next meeting of the Council of Ministers with the objective of furthering community development; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall be amplifying the ideas that I introduced at the meeting of the special Council yesterday on a safety net arrangement that will ensure that no member state will have to bear an excessive budgetary burden, and for a financial framework governing the growth of agricultural expenditure.

We shall continue to argue for our ideas for the development of the Community in a number of areas, including the internal market for goods and services, energy strategy, regional and social policy, and for the acceleration of the negotiations for Spanish and Portuguese accession.

Mr. Hicks

As a significant proportion of the expenditure on the common agricultural fund is essentially social, so that it is in effect, a rural support fund, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider advocating the formal introduction of a rural fund to ensure the continued viability of rural areas through enhanced infrastructure and other forms of investment?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the importance of a sensible agricultural policy to the rural areas in this country. I am interested in his alternative proposal. The central feature is that there is a limit to the resources that can be found to finance programmes of any type, whether rural or urban.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Secretary of State acknowledge and recognise that if the Government persist in a system of unfair voting for the European Parliament they will not only deprive the people of this country of fair representation in the European Parliament, but will distort the political composition of that Parliament? When does he propose to end the anomaly of Britain being the only country in the European Parliament without a fair system of representation?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman's question does not arise out of question 68. That is a different question. I have no proposals to put before the House on that matter.

Mr. Crouch

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is important to develop the Community as a political force rather than just consider our budget problems and the problems of economic and industrial development in the Community? In his new portfolio as Foreign Secretary, will he bear in mind that one of the most important contributions that he could make would be to ensure that the Community began to take a further initiative in foreign affairs, particularly on the middle east?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I agree with my hon. Friend about the potential and importance of the Community's role in political co-operation in the middle east as elsewhere. One of the most important political questions for the Community at the moment is the resolution of the longstanding budgetary problem. For too many years now Foreign Ministers as well as Finance Ministers have had to devote too much time to the resolution of recurrent rows in that area. I make no apology for treating that, among other things, as an important political question for the Community.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain in a little more detail than he has hitherto precisely what proposals the Government have for furthering community development? The Government are saying that the proposals for the future of the Community must, more or less, be along the lines of the Government's policies in this country over the past four years. Is he suggesting that we should export Thatcherism to the whole of Europe? We have high unemployment because of Tory policies. Do the Government want even higher unemployment throughout the entire Community?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

No, and the hon. Gentleman knows that that is an absurd proposition. The point I am making is that, whether in the Community or in this country, wealth must be created before it can be redistributed or redirected. Whether in the Community or in this country, commonsense principles apply, of which the most important is that finance should determine expenditure and not expenditure determine finance.

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