HC Deb 23 June 1986 vol 100 cc12-3
33. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Attorney-General what progress is being made in the action he has initiated over the illegal budget approved by the European Assembly; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

As my hon. Friend knows, the President of the European Court granted interim measures in this case on 17 March, at the request of the United Kingdom, in effect suspending those parts of the budget contested by the Council. On 2 June Advocate-General Mancini delivered his opinion in this case. The judgment of the court is expected to be delivered on 3 July.

Mr. Taylor

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on the magnificent efforts that he has made to reclaim the illegal sums demanded by the European Assembly, but is he aware that the Common Market's response has been to ask Britain for an advance payment of £180 million to make that up, and more, and that the Parliament has also decided to disregard entirely the decision of the court that £27 million of taxpayers' money was fraudulently and wrongly given to European political parties? Is there nothing that the Attorney-General can do to stop the Assembly illegally and fraudulently using money provided entirely by the Parliaments of member states?

The Attorney-General

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said, and I am very pleased that we succeeded on the interim judgment. As my hon. Friend knows, it is not the first time that we have been asked, with other member states, to make an advance payment. It has nothing directly to do with the issue. In any event, it must be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Marlow

If, as happens quite frequently, the Community cannot cope with its budgeting problems and requires its members to cough up what is known in the trade as a reimbursible loan, is Her Majesty's Government entitled legally to say, -No, we will not cough up," or if we did say that would we he taken to the European Court, and if that happened, what would be the outcome?

The Attorney-General

The circumstances must vary from case to case. In each case, we look at the merits. One has always to worry about the penal interest that would be awarded against us if we failed; the penal interest being the highest rate of interest prevalent at any given time within the Community. At the moment, it is over 20 per cent. in Greece.