HC Deb 28 March 1983 vol 40 cc17-8
32. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord President of the Council if Her Majesty's Government are notified in advance by the European assembly and the European Community Commission of the information campaigns which they conduct in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Biffen

The European assembly and the Commission are responsible for their own information programmes and are not required to consult member states about them.

Mr. Taylor

Is it not outrageous and unreasonable that vast sums of taxpayers' money should be used for propaganda drives in Britain? Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are about to have another £2 million propaganda drive with public funds, sponsored by Saatchi and Saatchi? Would it not be wise to ensure that the information put out at least confirms to the specific information given by Her Majesty's Government in answer to parliamentary questions?

Mr. Biffen

The sums voted to that purpose are subject to monitoring by Community institutions. My hon. Friend should not be too worried that they are suborning the populace in relation to how they perceive the national interest of Britain relative to the Community.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Leader of the House aware that even though we do not like the fact that the Community has large sums to spread propaganda, some of us have come to the conclusion that it is not likely to make much impact, no matter how much money it spends, because the assembly seems to spend its time deciding on the length, weight and size of gherkins, regarding that as important and taking away massive amounts of money from Britain and operating a tinpot agricultural policy that benefits the farmers and not the farm workers? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of Britain know that the Community has been an unmitigating disaster?

Mr. Biffen

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. Both charity and prudence prevent me from commenting upon the merits of his argument.

Mr. Dykes

As the turnout in the last European election was low, would it not make sense to provide more information about what the Community and the European Parliament do? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it should not be party-political information, but information based on what the institutions themselves represent?

Mr. Biffen

I understand that slightly more than £12.5 million has been devoted to that end. Therefore, my hon. Friend should feel a sense of satisfaction.