HC Deb 20 February 1985 vol 73 cc1028-30
80. Miss Boothroyd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he now expects the accession of Spain and Portugal to take place.

Mr. Rifkind

As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) on 23 January, we are working for completion of the negotiations as soon as possible so that Spain and Portugal may accede on 1 January 1986.

Miss Boothroyd

If the accession of Spain and Portugal is one of the exceptional events that allow a change in the terms of budgetary discipline, will the Minister give an undertaking that the accession of these two countries will not mean increasing the 75 per cent. of the budget that is already spent on agricultural affairs?

Mr. Rifkind

The need for budgetary discipline is separate from the question of enlargement, although I freely concede that if there were no budgetary discipline, enlargement would create additional problems. It is the common desire of the House and of the member states that the proportion of total expenditure should be reduced and should continue to decrease, and the formula agreed so far on agricultural exenditure means that agriculture will progressively represent a lower and lower share of total Community expenditure.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

What account has my hon. Friend taken of the employment implications for the United Kingdom of the accession of Portugal and Spain to the Common Market? Is he aware that, in particular, the textile, clothing, paper and board industries will suffer enormously? What account has he taken of this factor, bearing in mind that, for the United Kingdom, there is no economic benefit from the accession, and that the European Economic Community is now a political community and nothing to do with economics?

Mr. Rifkind

It is certainly the case that there is concern in various quarters about the implications of enlargement. It is for this reason that tough and lengthy transitional arrangements are being insisted upon. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that there are no economic advantages to the United Kingdom. For example, the arrangement that has been reached on industrial tariffs and controls on imports of motor vehicles to Spain means that the present duty will be reduced by over half in the first three years after Spain's accession. That should give opportunities to the United Kingdom in that important area.

Mr. Leighton

As a tax increase to 1.4 per cent. was envisaged to cope with the Iberia enlargement, if that enlargement is delayed will the Minister guarantee that no such increase will be made? After all the talk of financial discipline, as agricultural spending is already punching big holes in the EC budget, will he assure the House that he will not be coming back for even more money for EC agriculture?

Mr. Rifkind

The proposed increase in own resources is caused by several factors, of which enlargement is only one. The Federal German Government have indicated that they could not support the introduction of any increase in own resources until after the ratification of the accession treaty has been completed. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's second point, we have already said that it may indeed be necessary in the current year to provide for further supplementary finance if the own resources provision is not brought forward.

Mr. Forth

Does my hon. Friend not regret that it has been left to the Greek Government to take a robust and sensible attitude to the accession negotiations? Does he agree that it is always more important to get the right answer, however long it takes, than to attempt to rush Spain and Portugal into the Community on the wrong terms?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. He will reflect that Spain's application for membership of the Community was made seven years ago, so I do not think anyone can be accused of rushing the negotiations. In regard to his comment on Greece, Greece is simply concerned about integrated Mediterranean programmes. It is openly and blatantly using its objectives in that respect as a bargaining point to try to achieve what it believes to be appropriate.

Mr. George Robertson

Is the Minister aware that the Labour party supports the accession of Spain and Portugal to the EC? Given the shambles at the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday, where does this leave the practicalities of accession on 1 January next year and the consequent EC funding crisis? Is there not genuinely a monumental crisis that cannot he shoved under the carpet any longer? West Germany will exercise a veto on any increase in own resources unless accession takes place before an impossible date; the British rebate is almost certainly doomed and the Community is running out of cash. How precisely will the Council of Ministers resolve the EC financial nightmare?

Mr. Rifkind

I am pleased to hear that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are in favour of Spain joining the community. I would be pleased to hear an equally unequivocal statement that they are in favour of Britain not leaving the Community. That itself would represent considerable progress. The hon. Gentleman correctly referred to the difficulties and problems that the Community faces. There is no belief within the Community that these problems cannot be resolved. Various proposals are on the table and it is reasonable to assume that over the next few weeks major progress will be made.