§ 4 pm
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
I seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter which should have urgent consideration and which appears to me to be one of the most serious and urgent issues which has arisen for years in relation to the rights of the House of Commons to control spending, namely,the decision of the Council of Ministers to proceed today with the discussion of a Commission proposal to approve a £2.3 billion spending programme when no resources are available within the legal budget limits and when the Court of Auditors of the European Community has stated that the expenditure would be unlawful.
This is not part of the continuing debate on EEC spending which goes on all the time in the House, its Committees and elsewhere. The issue is simply that, although previous modest excess spending has always been carefully cloaked in legality and matched by policies at least designed to claw back spending the next year, the proposal today is for a massive spending increase without any legal resources whatsoever being available to cover the spending. In addition, there is not even a pretence that policies recently agreed will produce savings to finance even a fraction of the spending which falls, in theory, to be repaid in 1989 or thereafter. That is why the Court of Auditors has taken the unusual step of describing the spending plan as illegal before today's meeting.
If the Council, despite this advice, approves the package, it will not just mean that millions of tonnes of butter will be cascaded on to the world market at knockdown prices. It will mean that the Council of Ministers has taken upon itself the power to fix EEC spending at whatever level it considers appropriate. Of course, there are some who would take the view that this would be a positive step, just as there are others who would feel that, without spending limits, any hope of EEC reform would disappear. We obviously cannot consider the merits of any such proposal in an application for a debate. I argue, however, that the decision should be made by this House and by other Parliaments of the European Community. It is not the kind of decision that should be made by the Council of Ministers, particularly when the auditors have stated categorically that the action would be illegal without a new treaty.
The importance of the issue is clear. The urgency is created by the matter being on the Council's agenda today. I therefore hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow a debate on the very narrow, but important, subject which I have proposed.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the decision of the Council of Ministers to proceed with the discussion of a Commission proposal when the Court of Auditors has stated that the expenditure would be unlawful.
I have listened with great care to what the hon. Member has said. As he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the orders set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that I cannot find 599 that the matter which the hon. Member has raised meets all the criteria laid down in the standing order. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.