HC Deb 11 May 1983 vol 42 cc785-6
55. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation with Her Majesty's Government took place before the publication by the London office of the European Commission of the document "Why have a party" on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Community.

Mr. Hurd

None. As the Lord President of the Council told my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) on 28 March 1983, the European Parliament and the Commission are responsible for their own information programmes and are not required to consult member states about them.

Mrs. Renée Short

Assuming that the Minister saw such a shoddy piece of propaganda, does he not think that the paucity of information that it contains about the alleged benefits that Britain is supposed to have received during the past 10 years of membership illustrates the poverty of the benefit that we have received?

Mr. Hurd

I have seen the publication. It contains many pretty pictures. I am not responsible for its editorial content. The Government have circulated their own material in recent months on this subject. If the hon. Lady studies that material, I am sure she will agree that it is balanced and constructive.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does it not worry my right hon. Friend that so much taxpayers' money—several million pounds—is being spent on putting forward debatable arguments on an important political issue? Might there not be a case for getting the European assembly, the Commission and Governments together to try to reach some sensible arrangement, such as we have in Britain, whereby taxpayers' money is used only to put forward the facts, not political opinions?

Mr. Hurd

The Commission and the Parliament have their budgets, which are examined in advance. However, once they are approved it is for those institutions to decide how the money is used.

Mr. Ginsburg

In connection with this publication, will the Minister reconfirm that Europe is now Britain's largest trading partner? Will he stress that withdrawal from the EC would constitute an economic disaster for this country?

Mr. Hurd

Of course that is right, and with the help of many people in several parties we shall be able to ram that point home.

Mr. Cryer

Are not the Government backing such shoddy documents as "Why have a party" by failing to tell the truth about the Common Market, which is that it has cost us more than £6 billion—the majority of which has been paid during this Government's period of office? Is it not also the case that our membership has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country, and that we shall regenerate the economy only by gaining control over our economy, which we cannot do while we are still in the Common Market?

Mr. Hurd

We take every opportunity to point out the truth, without exaggeration, which is that we are now beginning to make a success of British membership of the Community and that employment and investment prospects, quite apart from our political influence in the world, would suffer irreparable damage if we were to put that process into reverse.