HC Deb 25 February 1993 vol 219 cc1023-119

Amendment proposed [22 February]:No. 13, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Title XIV on pages 36 and 37 of Cm 1934)'.—[Dr. John Cunningham.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

I remind the Committee that we are also considering the following: Amendment No. 28, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that in the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 concerning the Committee of the Regions, the 24 members and 24 alternate members of that Committee shall be drawn from elected local government representatives.)'. Amendment (b) to amendment No. 28, in line 4, after `representatives', insert `who in the case of Scotland will include a minimum of one member and one alternative member nominated by each of the four major Scottish political parties'. Amendment No. 102, in page 1, line line 9, after 'II', insert `(except Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm 1934 which relates to the Committee of the Regions)'. Amendment No. 103, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 130(a) on page 36 of Cm 1934 which relates to regional policy)'. Amendment No. 106, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(provided that implementation of Articles 198(a)(b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 establishing the Committee of the Regions, shall make provision for the direct election of the members and alternate members of that Committee to represent Wales; that those voting in such direct elections shall be local authority elected members, Members representing Welsh constituencies and Members of the European Parliament representing Welsh constituencies; and that there shall he two separate elections the first of which shall provide for representation of the counties of South and Mid Glamorgan and Gwent, and the second for the counties of Gwynedd, Clwyd, Dyfed, Powys and West Glamorgan)'. Amendment No. 107, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that in the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 establishing the Committee of the Regions, the members of that Committee representing Wales and their alternates shall be directly elected by a vote of local authority elected members from Wales, Members elected from Welsh constituencies and Members of the European Parliament representing Welsh constituencies and by none other).' Amendment No. 111, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that on the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 establishing the Committee of the Regions, the members of that Committee shall include the eight members of the European Parliament representing Scottish constituencies).'. Amendment No. 156, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 130a'.

Amendment No. 157, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 130b'.

Amendment No. 158, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130c'.

Amendment No. 187, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 3(j)'.

Amendment No. 198, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 4b on page 11 of Cm 1934'.

Amendment No. 229, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 198e'.

Amendment No. 248, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 130d'.

Amendment No. 249, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `except Article 130e'.

Amendment No. 273, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that in the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 concerning the Committee of the Regions, the 24 members and 24 alternate members of that Committee shall be drawn from elected local government representatives, and shall include representatives from each English Standard Planning Region as well as representation from Scotland and Wales.)'. Amendment No. 332, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 198a on page 56 of Cm 1934)'. Amendment No. 425, in page I, line 9, after 'II', insert `provided that United Kingdom members of the Committee of the Regions established under article 198 (a) on page 54 of Cm 1934, of whom at least nine shall be representatives of Wales, shall not be nominated until Parliament has had the opportunity of considering a Bill introduced by Her Majesty's Government to provide for an elected all-Wales forum to elect the representatives of Wales who shall reflect the political balance on the forum, and providing for a monthly report to be made by the representatives to the forum.'. Amendment No. 431, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that implementation of Articles 198 (a) (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934, establishing the Committee of the Regions, shall make provision for the direct election of the members and alternate members of that Committee to represent Wales and that those voting in such direct elections shall be local authority elected members).'. Amendment No. 432, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(provided that in the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934, establishing the Committee of the Regions, the members of that Committee representing Wales and their alternates shall be directly elected by a vote of local authority elected members from Wales.).' Amendment No. 438, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert ',except that articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 may only have effect if the nominated members and alternate members of the committee of regions are numerically and politically representative in proportion to the populations of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the Standard Economic Planning Regions of England,'. Amendment No. 418, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert '(except Articles 166, 168 and 170 on pages 76 and 77 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 56, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert `but not Article 198 in Title II thereof'. Amendment No. 62, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert `but not the Protocol on the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.'. Amendment No. 150, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert `but not Article 170 in Title IV thereof'. Amendment No. 223, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert, 'excluding Article 194 thereof'.

Amendment No. 226, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not the Protocol on Economic and Social Cohesion'. New clause 26—Committee of the regions`In meeting its obligations under Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm. 1943 Her Majesty's Government shall ensure that at least eight representatives of the Committee of the regions are from Scotland and that the Secretary of State for Scotland shall select such representatives from a list of candidates submitted to him by any organisation representative of Scottish local authorities.'. New clause 41—Regional representation'In discharging its responsibilities under Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm. 1934 the Government shall ensure that those serving on the proposed Committee of the Regions shall reflect, on a proportional basis, votes cast for political parties in Scotland and Wales at the most recently held election for the European Parliament.'. New clause 61—Economic and Social Cohesion (No. 1)— 'Her Majesty's Government shall report to Parliament annually on the implementation of their obligation under Article 130b to conduct their economic policy in such a way as in addition, to attain the objectives set out in Article 130a.'. New clause 62—Economic and Social Cohesion (No. 2)— 'Her Majesty's Government shall report to Parliament on the European Commission report, provided for in Article 130b, on the progress made towards achieving economic and social cohesion; and no action may be taken by the Government in respect of any accompanying proposals, as provided for in Article 130b, without the Commission report first having been considered by the House of Commons.'. New clause 63—Committee of the regions'In meeting its obligations under Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm. 1934 Her Majesty's Government shall ensure that at least eight representatives of the Committee of the regions are from Scotland and that they shall be elected Community, District or Regional councillors, elected by an electoral college or colleges of councillors under a system of proportional representation.'. New clause 64—Representation on Committee ofRegions'Before Her Majesty's Government discharges its responsibilities under Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm. 1934, Parliament shall have had the opportunity of considering a Bill to provide that at least four of the United Kingdom members nominated to the Committee of the Regions shall be from Wales and shall be directly elected by the people of Wales.'. New Clause 65—Regional representation (Scotland)— 'Before Her Majesty's Government discharges its responsibilities under Article 198(a) on page 54 of Cm. 1934, Parliament shall have had the opportunity of considering a Bill to provide that at least nine members nominated to the Committee of the Regions shall be from Scotland and shall be directly elected by the people of Scotland.'.

4.37 pm
Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In my original point of order that I raised on Monday this week, when the Committee and, I am sure, the country were very appreciative of your decision concerning an opportunity to debate the effect on ratification of the treaty of amendment 27 being carried, I asked you about a further debate on the substance of amendment 27 and the social protocol. You were good enough to say on Monday: We are some way off a vote on amendment No. 27, and other developments may occur at any time, but at this juncture I am minded to take seriously the need for a further debate before the Committee votes on that amendment"— [Official Report, 22 February 1993; Vol. 219, c. 685.] Since then, my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) has submitted amendment No. 443, in support of which I shall be appending this afternoon the names of Opposition Front-Bench Members. That is clearly related to the subject of the social protocol, the debate on which has come and gone. I seek your guidance, Mr. Morris, since amendment No. 443 does not appear in today's provisional selection of amendments, on what your intention might be on that amendment, the subject in general, and therefore the position of the Committee in relation to fresh amendments on the subject the legal implications of which we discussed on Monday.

The Chairman

As the hon. Gentleman has just demonstrated, developments are always occurring. Right hon. and hon. Members will recall that on Monday I left open the possibility of a further debate on amendment No. 27. As I said then, other developments may occur at any time and I am not therefore prepared to announce my decision now—although, of course, I shall make the Committee aware of my decision in good time. Equally, amendment No. 443, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is under my consideration. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the issues raised are very complex and there is no immediate need for a decision. My concern now is not to be over-hasty; a little delay will, I think, be wise.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

There can be nothing further to that point of order.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As you are the senior occupant of the Chair during the Committee's proceedings, may I put a point of order to you? Several comments have been made —you may have heard them—regarding our progress, or lack of progress, in the Committee stage. Some of those comments come from abroad. Will you take the opportunity to confirm that it is entirely up to the Committee debating the Bill to decide on progress and that we shall certainly not be influenced in any way by people abroad, however high or senior their positions may be? That applies to Chancellor Kohl—and to anyone else, for that matter.

The Chairman

My job is to ensure that there is a full and fair debate and I am satisfied that we are making adequate progress against that yardstick.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I much appreciate your comments about considering matters in a measured way and examining things carefully over a period, especially since a new and important amendment has been tabled. May I therefore suggest it would be a good idea to adjourn the Committee until next week, to give you the necessary time?

The Chairman

I am always grateful for the hon. Gentleman's kind concern for my well-being, but at the moment I am pretty fit and able to make decisions—when they are appropriate.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I am sure that you heartened the Committee by saying that you wanted to ensure that there was always full and fair debate, but you will be aware that closures have often been moved in the Committee which have prevented Ministers from replying to important points raised by Back Benchers. I should not wish to impinge on your jurisdiction in any way, but will you do your best to ensure that such abuse of the Committee does not happen?

The Chairman

The Minister will have heard the hon. Gentleman's plea—although I must say that I do not accept his premise.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I appreciate what you said about the need to consider amendment No. 443 further, but would it be possible to give the Committee any idea when a decision on that important matter may be conveyed to us?

The Chairman

In good time.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

Not many people take three weeks to deliver a speech and I shall endeavour to keep my remarks as short as I can. At the end of the debate on Thursday 4 February, which is recorded in column 576 of the Official Report for that day, we were discussing whether those representing local authorities should be appointed to take all the United Kingdom's places on the Committee of the Regions.

The Minister of State argued that, because certain other countries had nominated individuals not directly elected from local or regional authorities, the United Kingdom was free to follow suit. He suggested that Greece and the Netherlands were good examples of countries whose nominated representatives on the Committee of the Regions were not chosen exclusively from directly elected local government representatives. The Minister had emphasised the Government's view earlier: I do not think that it is necessary that there be an obligation on any Government to ensure that all the nominees are from local government."—[Official Report, 4 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 515.] It is necessary to look in more detail at the people actually appointed in Greece and the Netherlands. I am a little concerned that the Minister's advisers in the Foreign Office may have let him down—although I cannot imagine how that could have happened. It appears that a slightly more detailed examination of those who have been nominated from Greece and the Netherlands might present a picture rather different from that suggested by the Minister.

4.45 pm

Every Netherlands representative is from a local authority. Within the Dutch system of local government, councils and their executive bodies are chaired by Government-appointed Queen's commissioners, known as Burgemeesters. Seven of those Queen's commissioners have been chosen, with five members of Dutch local and provincial authorities. As the Queen's commissioners are effectively the mayors of councils in the Netherlands, they are entirely accountable to elected bodies. They are clearly therefore part of the local government system and would be recognised as such if their equivalents had been nominated in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones)

I do not want to sound nit-picking, but the point that I was trying to establish —the hon. Gentleman may agree with me—is that the seven Queen's commissioners are not elected.

Mr. Hoon

I accept that they are not elected, but clearly they are representatives of local authorities. That is the pont that I sought to establish.

Similarly, the Greek representatives are eight elected members of Greek local authorities and four regional administrators known as nomarchs. To be fair to the Minister of State, I must admit that those four people are Government appointees, but they are in effect responsible for regional administration in Greece, so they have responsibilities that we would identify with local government.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I hope that he will recognise that in a sense he is speaking against the amendment tabled by his hon. Friend, which clearly refers to "elected local government representatives".

Mr. Hoon

I am speaking to the Minister of State's assertion that he can justify the appointment of the Government's friends from the health authorities, the regional arts boards and the Welsh Office and Scottish Office, instead of local government representatives. The argument that I seek to advance is that the representatives appointed by the Netherlands and Greece are in fact people who represent local government as we understand it. That could not be said of representatives from the Welsh Office or the Scottish Office.

Perhaps the argument could be readily resolved. The Minister has made it clear that he sees no obligation for the Government to appoint directly elected people from local authorities to take all the relevant places for the United Kingdom. Will he make it equally clear that he does not intend to appoint people with no connection with local government? That would satisfy many Opposition Members that he was concerned to reflect the interests of local authorities in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Does not the critical difference, which the Minister has failed to recognise, depend on who chose those people in Holland and Greece? Is not the critical question whether they were chosen by central Government or chosen to reflect the choice of local authorities?

Mr. Hoon

Certainly I believe that the Minister's choice of countries to justify his assertion has been somewhat selective. Decisions already taken in Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain and Luxembourg make it clear that only elected members of local or regional authorities will be included in those countries' delegations to the Committee of the Regions.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Does my hon. Friend recall that one of the Minister's arguments against choosing directly elected representatives of local authorities was that he estimated that it would take them one or two days a week fully to discharge their responsibilities and that that would be inconsistent with their responsibilities to local authorities? It would be interesting to know how the Minister reconciles that argument with the expressed desire of the Secretary of State for Wales to represent Wales and therefore to spend two days a week away from Whitehall.

Mr. Hoon

I am grateful for the hon. Member's observation, because that is a point that was canvassed in the earlier part of this debate some three weeks ago. It certainly strikes me as inconsistent that the Government could make a point in relation to the time that it would involve when members of the Government are indicating their interest in these positions.

Much of the confusion might be resolved by looking carefully at the role and functions of the Committee of the Regions. In this debate, it is being considered along with structural funding. Some hon. Members have tended to suggest that the sole responsibility of the Committee of the Regions would be the distribution of European funds, but its real purpose is to involve new and different levels of government in the framing of European legislation and policy. So in addition to the European Parliament and national governments and parliaments, the idea of the Committee of the Regions is to permit local and regional government across the Community to have its say in the framing of new European legislation. It may appear to right hon. and hon. Members particularly appropriate, given the responsibility of local and regional authorities for the implementation and enforcement of large parts of the European Community's legislation.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

The hon. Member has just made a very important point on local and regional interests, which do not tally entirely with elected representatives. Indeed, a wide spectrum of interests could well be represented in the Committee of the Regions. In addition, the problem with just taking elected representatives is how they are selected. The Western Isles might be represented by a Strathclyde-elected member, which might not go down too well. One can see the complications. A balance must be achieved and the proposals in the amendment do not strike that balance.

Mr. Hoon

I said "authorities", not "interests". I specifically used the word "authorities" to try to prevent the question asked by the hon. Gentleman. It appears to me that we are looking at a different approach to European legislation. The idea is to allow those who are ultimately responsible for the enforcement of the legislation some say in its final shape, so that when they come to enforcement they can, in the light of their practical experience, say that a particular idea is good or bad.

Unfortunately, article 198 does not spell out the specific areas of competence of the Committee of the Regions—it is necessary to look elsewhere—but as well as matters affecting regional policy, legislation in public health, education, culture, consumer protection and trans-European networks will be referred to the Committee of the Regions for a formal opinion. It is an opinion that must be given before the Council of Ministers can consider any draft legislation.

In other areas, although there is no obligation to consult, the Council may consult the Committee of the Regions, and in addition the Committee of the Regions can, if it considers it appropriate, decide to deliver a formal opinion on its own initiative—under article 198c—in cases where it considers such action appropriate. It seems likely that the Committee of the Regions will use that power extensively as its own competence develops.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Is it not also possible that this Committee of the Regions might turn out to be one more way in which the European Community will be able to bypass the House? Article 130 says that, when the European Community wants specifically to extend its activities outside the funds, without reference back to the main framework, it will be able to do so by the unanimous decision of various bodies, including this committee. It is a way in which the Community can end up saying that it has authority to act in a particular way while leaving the House entirely out of it.

Mr. Hoon

With great respect, I believe that the hon. Member sees dangers where none exists. The Committee of the Regions is invited to give an opinion on legislation. What it has, therefore, is a delaying power similar to the delaying power presently enjoyed by the European Parliament. It can refuse to give an opinion and thus delay the process of legislation, but it cannot force the Council of Ministers to take a positive decision. That seems appropriate. The point that I am trying to make is that the Committee of the Regions will allow the European Community a greater spectrum of opinion by permitting people—who are, I hope, elected from local or regional government—to indicate the sorts of difficulty that they have in considering new proposals for European legislation, in order that those new proposals fully take account of their needs and concerns. It seems a wholly welcome and sensible development.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Before the hon. Member gets carried away too far with the great power of this new body, will he accept that the power of delay, which he has stressed as a great democratic development, is subject to the Commission, under article 198c, having the power to say that the maximum delay is four weeks? Will he agree that it is a load of codswallop and that what we are doing is creating something of which the Soviet Union and eastern Europe were full—useless workers' organisations with nothing to do but spend money on themselves and express opinions which can be wholly disregarded?

Mr. Hoon

I was not exaggerating the committee's powers. Indeed, I went out of my way to say how limited those powers were, but I wonder whether the local authorities in the hon. Gentleman's constituency would share his opinion. They very often have to enforce European legislation and they might welcome the opportunity of having a direct say in how the legislation develops. That is really all that the Committee of the Regions is designed to achieve and it seems to me an entirely sensible and not at all dangerous development. I am astonished at the difficulties that certain hon. Members see in relation to this proposal.

The reason why I have stressed the functions of the Committee of the Regions is that, in the Maastricht treaty, article 198a states that its members shall be completely independent in the performance of their duties". That makes it clear to me that membership of the committee would not be compatible with membership of a national Government. It should be possible for the Minister of State to be as categorical as he was in relation to local authorities in saying that the Government have no plans to nominate Ministers or, perhaps more significantly, their substitutes.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, under protocol 16, there is a requirement for the new Committee of the Regions to share a common organisational structure with the Economic and Social Committee? The Economic and Social Committee has nine areas or functions with which it is concerned and which do not coincide with the functions, as we understand it, of the Committee of the Regions. Furthermore, the arguments that he has just adduced, and in line with point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) that the nation state itself and its own status are at risk, are those directed to a Committee of the Regions which would, on his own argument, be independent and so form the nucleus of a new unitary state in Europe. In other words, does he accept that he is moving in the direction of acquiescing in the unitary vision of the European Community as it is being constructed?

Mr. Hoon

With great respect, I honestly feel that the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is found in the terms of his question. By referring to the Economic and Social Committee, he is pointing out the way in which the European Community has a variety of sources of information about legislation, of which the Economic and Social Committee is one. It is possible for the Economic and Social Committee, representing business and the trade unions, for example, to put forward its point of view, and it does so within the areas of responsibility that it has to reflect those particular concerns. Similarly, the European Parliament has directly elected Members of the European Parliament to reflect the views of their constituents.

In exactly the same way, the Committee of the Regions will be able to reflect that degree of administration in each member state which we would think of as local authorities. As I see it, it is a way of decentralising decision making, not creating a unitary state. There will be a series of different institutions, each capable of giving an opinion on new European legislation, which will surely add to the quality of the legislation—something with which we should all be concerned.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is a bit much for Conservative Members, who have consistently supported a Government who have been suppressing the national rights of nations within the United Kingdom, to whinge about the national rights of this Parliament being eroded? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Committee of the Regions is a way of enhancing the rights of regions and small nations within member states, such as the United Kingdom?

Mr. Hoon

I agree entirely with that. That is why I found it surprising that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) saw the committee as a means of centralising the decision-making process of the European Community rather than the reverse.

5 pm

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the requirement under article 198a that members shall be competely independent in the performance of their duties creates an ambiguity about their status within the member states? The European Court of Justice might ultimately interfere with that and lay down guidelines on how appointments should be made, for example, preventing direct Government appointees as we automatically assume.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)


Mr. Jenkin

If my hon. Friend is suggesting that he can give me an assurance about the future behaviour of the European Court, he is a wiser man than anyone else.

Mr. Hoon

The answer is that the European Court of Justice will interpret the treaty. It will start with the terms of the treaty and then give effect to it, which is why I quoted from that section. In the event of a member state being tempted to appoint to the Committee of the Regions someone who was not independent, it might lead to a challenge such as the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) mentioned, but only on the basis that the individual was not independent, say, of Government. If the Secretary of State for Wales continues in his ambition to be a member of the committee, that might be challenged on the basis of his lack of independence.

Similarly, it might interest the hon. Gentleman to know that there is talk in Greece of challenging the four appointees to whom I referred earlier, simply on the basis that they are Government-nominated administrators of the regions and therefore perhaps not as independent as they might be. Once again, that demonstrates the difficult y which the Minister of State has had with the advice and the information that he is given.

On funding, it appears that we have not concentrated sufficiently in the debate on the cohesion and the structural funds, specifically as they apply to the United Kingdom. By tending to concentrate on the Committee of the Regions, we have perhaps overlooked the important role played by the European Community in the redistribution of funds from the richer to the poorer areas of the Community.

I was disappointed that in earlier contributions some hon. Members appeared to challenge the very basis of the structural funds, arguing against any redistribution of wealth within the Community from richer to poorer nations and from richer to poorer regions. The justification for the redistribution is altruistic and ethical, but it is also economic and political. If the European Community is to develop and grow, and continue as a community, it must offer a consistent and coherent set or standards across the whole of its geographical area. It must aim as a priority to reduce regional disparities.

Moreover, if the more developed northern countries are to continue to have markets for their manufactured goods, they need to encourage and foster growth in the less-developed south of Europe.

Mr. Wilkinson

Why should it not be the priority of Her Majesty's Government to maximise the wealth of this country and this nation, through the structural funds and everything else? Is not it irresponsible to our electorate to export jobs to southern Europe and create industries to compete with our own in Portugal, Spain, Greece and so on?

Mr. Hoon

I sought to develop that argument. It is not simply a question of redistributing wealth within the United Kingdom, which I hope the hon. Member for Ruislip-North (Mr. Wilkinson) supports, as his question suggests, but equally of redistributing wealth across the Community. Redistribution is not just an ethical priority; it benefits industry in countries like the United Kingdom. Unless countries such as Portugal, Spain and Greece develop the wealth that we take for granted, their people will not be in a position to consume the manufactured goods that our industries want to produce. So there is a benefit to the United Kingdom, to its people and to its industry in allowing the European Community to develop consistently across its territory.

The point that I want to make about the structural funds arises in article 123. There will be a change in the way in which the funds will operate as a result of the Maastricht treaty. Article 123 will facilitate workers' adaptation to industrial changes and to changes in production systems, in particular through vocational training and retraining. That is a welcome development since it will allow local authorities to provide proper education and training for those hardest hit by the recession.

There will be few changes in objective 2 status, although it appears that the Commission is likely to permit greater flexibility in determining eligibility criteria. Objective 3 will be redefined to permit assistance to the long-term unemployed for the occupational integration of young people in particular. There will be a new objective 4, responding directly to the new and changed role of the European social fund regarding workers affected by industrial change throughout the Community. So there is a significant development for the European Commission in making funds available directly to assist those hardest hit by the recession.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the effectiveness so far of funding in the regions has been largely impeded by Her Majesty's Government because there is no regional policy and because of the failure to provide matching funds?

Mr. Hoon

My hon. Friend anticipates my next point. Notwithstanding the availability of funds from the European Community, and a revision of the schemes available, the United Kingdom Government have demonstrated their marked reluctance to match the efforts of the Community.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I hope that I have got the hon. Gentleman right. The hon. Gentleman talks about objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4, and says that the Commission will do this, that and the other. How can that be the case? We have not even ratified the treaty yet.

Mr. Hoon

If the hon. Gentleman will listen, I will explain.

A revision of the structural funds is to commence on 1 January 1994. Since the European Commission correctly anticipates that the new rules under Maastricht will not be in place by the relevant time, it is producing a new system for 1 January 1994, to last for six years, without the treaty having been ratified. That is why the comments about the Committee of the Regions earlier in the debate were misplaced, because the committee will not have the opportunity to make specific comments about the review of the new arrangements for structural funding until the next but one review of the system. Therefore, the changes are being made under the existing rules rather than under what is likely. Obviously the Commission is taking into account the terms of the treaty as it frames the new programmes.

What is in considerable doubt is the extent to which the United Kingdom Government are willing to match the funds available from the European Community. Bruce Milian, the Regional Policy Commissioner, has indicated that Britain is at risk of losing up to £1 billion in European Community financial assistance to our most depressed regions because the Government are not prepared to authorise the relevant matching funds. Not a penny of the £1 billion available for 1992 and 1993 had been spent by the end of last year. That means that in total a package of about £2.5 billion of public expenditure has to be committed in the next 10 months. If the money is not committed in the next 10 months, there is a clear risk that it will be lost to the United Kingdom and will go to other European countries.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

My hon. Friend is making an important point. Obviously, we all want more public expenditure. How does he equate the need for extra public expenditure with the other parts of the treaty which say that we must reduce our public expenditure to 3 per cent. in terms of financing?

Mr. Hoon

I always understood that my right hon. Friend was sympathetic to the responsibility of the Government to use their economic ability to generate employment. I am concentrating on those parts of the treaty and, indeed, the review of the structural funds which allow Governments in the European Community, in partnership with the Community itself, to redistribute the wealth of the Community in a way which I hope my right hon. Friend would support.

Mr. Davies

Perhaps my hon. Friend misunderstood my question. I certainly was not against more British Government public expenditure to match any European expenditure; I was merely pointing out that in another part of the treaty we are supposed to cut our public expenditure to reduce the deficit to 3 per cent. of gross national product. That seems to be a basic contradiction.

Mr. Hoon

The best way of dealing with my right hon. Friend's point is probably to wait until we get to the part of the debate which deals with that specific subject. Obviously, we are considering the whole package. We are not simply concentrating on bits here and there and pointing out apparent inconsistencies: we are seeking the whole package. The whole package presupposes a commitment by the United Kingdom Government and other Governments in the European Community to play their part in relieving the regions of the chronic poverty and unemployment from which they suffer at present.

Mr. Ian Taylor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being generous enough to give way to me a second time.

The answer to the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) is that the Community's budget is set for the next seven years. Therefore, what the Community does in terms of internal adjustment to the budget obviously represents a series of political judgments. It does not change the national commitment to reduce overall Government expenditure to the 3 per cent. ceiling over a period.

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) is interested in trying to create jobs through structural expenditure. Does he recognise the constructive role which the European investment bank can have in juxtaposition with private capital? That is precisely what was agreed at the Edinburgh summit. The role of the European investment bank, in attracting private capital rather than putting a burden on taxpayers, is one to which the hon. Gentleman should pay tribute and which he should recognise.

Mr. Hoon

I agree with that entirely. I have no disagreement with the hon. Gentleman in making that point. However, what I disagree and have difficulty with is the attitude of the United Kingdom Government towards local authorities. The United Kingdom Government have consistently blocked the ability of local authorities to match the funds available from the European Community. In the past, that has led to the European Commission freezing the sums available under the RECHAR scheme for mining areas. That row should have been resolved last year, but it appears that the Government are still not allowing local authorities to play their full part in the process.

The Association of Metropolitan Authorities wrote to the European Commission complaining about the attitude of the United Kingdom Government towards additionality. The Regional Policy Commissioner replied: I am indeed concerned by the accumulating evidence that there are difficulties in funding resource cover, which put at risk the take-up of E.R.D.F. grants and thus the implementation of the agreed programme. There is a concern in the European Commission that the United Kingdom will not receive the funding for which it is eligible.

Local authorities have experienced considerable problems in securing European funding—not problems with the European Commission but with their own Government as a result of bureaucratic delays in Whitehall. Local authorities complain about complicated systems of administration of those funds in Whitehall, about central Government interfering in the regional programmes and insisting on prior vetting of certain payments and about not being allowed to make matching cover available in order to secure funds. They have made a series of comments on the sort of difficulties from which they suffer.

Beyond anything else, local authorities are saying that the Government's system of allocating public expenditure makes it extraordinarily difficult for them to plan in advance to secure appropriate funding. The reality of that, for which the Government are responsible, is that the United Kingdom is missing out on money which it would otherwise receive from the European Community.

That is ironic, considering that this debate has featured a number of Conservative Members complaining bitterly about the amount of European funding going to the poorest nations and regions of the European Community. If Conservative Members directed some of their complaints to those on the Government Front Bench, it might be a somewhat more accurate complaint to make. If the United Kingdom is missing out on money which would otherwise be available from the European Community, it might be more sensible for Conservative Members to complain to Ministers, instead of complaining about the money going to the poorest countries in the Community.

5.15 pm
Mrs. Gorman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the structural funds, which will handle £23 billion, will have a terrible job keeping track of that money? For example, is he aware of the latest scandal in Greece, where they have fiddled £45 million of taxpayers' money by exaggerating their harvest, another fiddle in Rome where they have fiddled £22.7 million for cooking the statistics on durum wheat, another scandal about oil in Calabria and so on? Given those vast sums of money, how will we keep track of the fact that people—never mind our regions—will be fiddling like mad?

Mr. Hoon

I might be somewhat more persuaded by the hon. Lady's intervention and her examples if she had paid regard to what I said about the difficulties of local authorities in the United Kingdom securing European funding. That is the point that I am making. It is no good complaining about what is going on elsewhere in Greece or Portugal when the Government—whom from time to time the hon. Lady supports—are not making their best contribution in terms of getting funding from the European Community.

Mr. Macdonald

Might not the difficulties be somewhat eased after the ratification of the treaty? I do not know whether my hon. Friend has noticed that article 130b permits each national Government to pursue policies of economic and social cohesion through their national policies as well as in their contributions to the Community. After the treaty is ratified, there will be a constraint on the British Government to pursue regional policies and ones which improve the prospects of local authorities and make it possible for local authorities to challenge them in the European Court if they fail to live up to the treaty's obligations.

Mr. Hoon

That is right, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his assistance in that respect. Essentially, I am demonstrating that we could have a much simpler system if the United Kingdom Government allowed local authorities to carry through the decisions which they have already made with the European Commission in terms of funding specific projects. Local authorities have already agreed with Brussels the projects that I am describing where the money has not been spent. Unfortunately, because of the complexities of the system in Whitehall, authorisation has not always been received, so many local authorities are simply waiting for authorisation from Whitehall to go ahead with schemes that they have already agreed with Brussels.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I am listening with great care to the hon. Gentleman's interesting speech, which undoubtedly reflects his experience in the European Parliament. Would not he be correct in answering my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) by saying that the reports of the Court of Auditors say repeatedly and with great emphasis that fraud occurs in all member states?

Mr. Hoon

I am grateful for that observation.

Mr. Wilkinson

The hon. Gentleman takes Whitehall to task for not authorising, if I have his figures right, some £2.5 billion of British public expenditure in order to have the benefit of £1 billion from Brussels. Is it not the case that, of that £1 billion from Brussels, only about £200 or £300 million constitutes British money which went to Brussels in the first place? Therefore, it would be bad arithmetic and logic that, to get back £200 or £300 million of our own money, we would have to expend £2.5 billion which it is not necessary to expend at a time of economic stringency.

Mr. Hoon

The hon. Gentleman and I have a different perspective on whose money belongs to whom. The money which the European Community distributes is money which it is responsible for collecting directly. It is part of the system of the European Community. Clearly, it is possible to break that down and say which countries give which amount of money, but that is simply the difficulty that the hon. Gentleman has in coming to terms with the obligations that we have had as a member of the European Community since the beginning of 1973. The world has moved on.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hoon

I give way for one last time. I am trying to finish.

Mr. Shepherd

Will the hon. Gentleman return to the point made by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)? The treaty contends that we should depress public expenditure to meet certain criteria, while he advocates an increase in public expenditure. How does he reconcile those two arguments?

Mr. Hoon

I thought that I had said how I proposed to deal with that question. It is much more sensible to do it on that basis.

I began this speech some three weeks ago by complaining about the attitude of the United Kingdom Government to local authorities and their elected members in the context of appointments to the Committee of the Regions. The Minister of State poured scorn on those criticisms. I have concluded my speech tonight by demonstrating the practical attitude of the Government to local authorities, which have sought strenuously to secure funds from the European Community but have been consistently blocked in those efforts by our Government. That is a matter of great regret, but it is a practical demonstration of the Government's attitude to local authorities.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

This is an interesting opportunity to speak on the Committee of the Regions as we consider the Maastricht treaty. I am speaking to amendments which have been tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats. We make strong arguments in support of the Committee of the Regions and seek to expound our view on how the committee should develop.

It is important, first, that I put on record my principled stance that for a Scottish Nationalist or Welsh Nationalist or, indeed, Liberal Democrat, the Committee of the Regions will never be a substitute for the right of our nations to be represented independently within the European Community, with full access to the Council of Ministers and the Commission, where so many of the key decisions are taken.

As a member of the Scottish National party, I believe that we should have full independent representation within the Community. Having said that, we must talk clearly about a Committee of the Regions which will not regard Scotland or Wales as regions but deal with the regions of Wales and Scotland. That is what we seek in examining how the membership of the committee should be founded.

Some people say that the proposed Committee of the Regions should have merely a consultative role, and therefore dismiss some aspects of it. I have always believed that consultation is important in the political process. Others have said that the Committee of the Regions will take on a lobbying role. The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) said that the structural funds had already been altered. Therefore, the lobbying aspect of structural funds and various objectives have perhaps already been decided.

However, I have no doubt that ultimately the Committee of the Regions will play a substantial role in the allocation of the structural funds. I agree with the Minister of State that the committee will ultimately accrue to itself additional powers. I share his optimism that the committee has a great deal of potential. If Europe is not over-centralised or over-bureaucratic but has real meaning for people in every corner of the European Community —in the most far-flung island in the north of Scotland or a Greek island in the Aegean sea—people will have a sense of involvement. The Committee of the Regions has the potential to be meaningful to all of us.

The institutions of Europe will change in the next 10 years. I find it depressing to listen to some of the loyal imperialists and backwoodsmen and women on the Conservative Benches who seem afraid of change. Europe offers us a facility for change which is challenging and exciting. We should not take it too easily but we should be prepared to rise to the opportunity and ensure that our people play their full role.

We shall definitely see Europe expand in the next few years. In expanding Europe, we must ensure that the voices of all people are heard. It is possible that Norway, Austria and other countries will join our Community. As the insitutions evolve and develop, we must all be there to argue that the Council of Ministers, the Commission, the Parliament and the Committee of the Regions accrue to themselves additional powers but at the same time decentralise those powers.

When we consider the Committee of the Regions as it is contained in the treaty, one argument worries hon. Members on these Benches and, I know, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie). We are worried about the distribution of the 24 seats which have been allocated to the United Kingdom. If we considered Scotland as a nation equal to Denmark, we could argue that it should have nine seats. If we considered Wales as equivalent to the Republic of Ireland, it, too, should have nine seats on the Committee of the Regions. If we considered Northern Ireland as the equivalent of Luxembourg, it should have six seats. That neatly adds up to 24 seats. The Minister might like to start an "independence for England" movement so that it can also have adequate representatives for the regions of England.

I make a serious point. The south-west and north-west of England are different and have regional variations; people who live there also have the right to be represented. But the 24 seats will have to be allocated for the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There will be severe difficulty in allocating the seats. I make no secret of the fact that I believe that Scotland should have a minimum of eight seats. That would reflect the Scottish seats in the European Parliament and would make it possible to take account of the geographical variations.

Earlier today, in an exchange on the Floor of the House, I referred to the importance of objective 1 for the highlands and islands of Scotland, and asked where the boundaries will be drawn. Will Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland regional council or other boundaries be used? The highlands and islands have different economic and social needs from, for example, the central belt of Scotland, where what is left of our industry certainly creates specific needs. The borders of Scotland have different needs again. They are all different regions. The north-east of Scotland has a particular interest in the offshore oil and gas industry. In deciding how to allocate the seats, it will be important to take account of the geographic and economic needs of different regions.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should not be sacrificed to the needs of Greater London. Greater London seems to have its full share of people who are prepared to argue their case elsewhere. I remind the Minister that the Secretary of State for Scotland said on 23 November 1992 that he would bid extremely high for seats for Scotland on the Committee of the Regions. I hope that that will ultimately be reflected in the allocation.

Another issue is the mechanism for appointing, nominating or electing the representatives on the Committee of the Regions. We have made it clear in our amendments that we would prefer direct elections. We believe that that is the fairest way. Direct elections would give a credibility and authority to our representatives on the Committee. I suspect that the Government will not accept the idea of direct elections. Perhaps that reflects the view of the Member of the European Parliament for Lothians, David Martin. He said that direct elections to the Committee of the Regions could give people ideas beyond their responsibilities, but that is not a proper attitude. I would prefer representatives from throughout the United Kingdom to be directly elected and accountable for their areas.

One of the difficulties is that the Government have not been able to come up with a principled outline of where they stand on the mechanism. The research paper from the House of Commons Library makes it clear that other countries have taken a principled outline, although they may not yet have settled the details of how they will make appointments.

In considering the mechanism for appointment and nomination of representatives to the Committee of the Regions, we should take account of geography, and there must be a geographical balance. Scottish representatives from the islands will identify with people from other islands elsewhere in the Community. Representatives from the central belt of Scotland will identify with other Community countries that have industrial interests. They will not solely argue the corner for Scotland, but will argue the case in specific spheres of policy which clearly relate to the geography of our communities.

5.30 pm

Secondly, there must be an element of proportionality. Four parties operate in the political spheres of Wales and Scotland, and members of those parties all stand for election to this Parliament, the European Parliament and to district and regional authorities. Much to my regret, we do not have proportional representation within the United Kingdom—or to be technically correct, within Great Britain—which would be extremely desirable.

When the Government produce any mechanism for deciding representation on the Committee of the Regions, they must take account of the proportion of votes cast for each political party at an election. In one of our amendments, we have attempted to link that proportionality to the European election which is due to take place next year. If we are not going to have direct elections to the Committee of the Regions, the votes cast at that election will be the most recent test of public opinion. I suggest that there must be an element of proportionality to reflect that. We must take a separate account of votes cast in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland—where they already have proportional representation for European elections—and in England.

Scottish nationalists are not prepared to accept the idea that there should be any quango-type appointments by the Secretary of State, whereby he can select the people whom he thinks would represent his interests as opposed to those of the people of Scotland.

On the amendment which stands in the name of the Official Opposition, I can understand why they look to local government as an appropriate body to represent us on the Committee of the Regions. My understanding, however, is that anyone who serves on that committee will have to commit themselves to a minimum of 140 days per year, and perhaps more. A substantial number of days is involved—even under the alternative suggestions—and I therefore believe that the people chosen to be on the committee—

Mr. Wilkinson


Mrs. Ewing

If Conservative backwoodsmen would be quiet, they might hear some information. It is difficult to speak against the background of rowdyism from the anti-Europeans across the Floor.

The importance that we attach to the Committee of the Regions will be demonstrated by the first people chosen to serve on it. They must not be part-timers, or people who are expected to represent their constituents in the local ward or local government while also having to take themselves off to Brussels and Strasbourg. They must be given full authority by being genuine representatives on the committee.

I think that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) will agree that no one fought the last district or general elections in Scotland with any commitment in their manifestos that they would seek nomination to the Committee of the Regions if they were elected. European issues did not come into the last local government elections.

While there is an important role for local authorities on the committee, I do not necessarily think it correct that we should consider local authority representatives alone.

Mr. George Robertson

The hon. Lady has an argument, although she used so-called information from the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which as we now know is not always reliable, when she mentioned the work load that might be involved. Will she watch what she says as she develops her case? The amendment tabled in her name and that of her hon. Friends from the Scottish National party, which has been selected in the provisional selection for today, seeks to amend the Opposition amendment, but will leave in place the principle that members will be elected local government representatives. If she is arguing against that, she may have to reformulate the amendment that she and her colleagues have tabled and intend to press to a Division.

Mrs. Ewing

I would be interested to know whether the hon. Member for Hamilton accepts our amendment. We have tried to build an element of proportionality into it, recognising that we have four political parties in Scotland and that the political views of people in Scotland should be taken into account. If George Bolton can say that 630,000 people voting for the Scottish National party at the last election cannot be ignored, I do not think the hon. Member for Hamilton can challenge them too seriously on that matter.

I understand the Government's difficulties in trying to reach a democratic mechanism for the nomination, appointment or election of people to the Committee of the Regions. Through our amendment, we seek to link representation to proportionality and to public opinion in Scotland and the future of the committee, tying it in with the changes in institutions that will occur. I hope that, in his response, the Minister of State will fully recognise that those are key principles which cannot be ignored.

I have strong reservations about the Opposition amendment, because it links solely to local government. The Committee of the Regions goes well beyond that, and I hope that the Government will take that into account.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon)

If a week is a long time in politics, the last three weeks appear to have been an absolute eternity. I can tell the Minister of State that we have used the time wisely because we have studied carefully his remarks on 4 February when formulating our response on the Committee of the Regions, cohesion funds and the way in which structural funds should operate, especially from our prospective in Wales.

I wish to speak to the amendment standing in my name and that of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru. We have also tabled joint amendments with the Scottish National party.

As the Committee appreciates, the Committee of the Regions will be established by article 198a of the Maastricht treaty, where it is described as an "advisory" body to be set up in recognition of the fact that the regions of Europe have an important role to play in the way in which the European Community evolves.

It is important to stress that, in recent years, the role of the regions has been enhanced greatly outwith the formal Community institutions. The German lander, for example, already have a strong, but informal presence in Brussels. They have established offices there and are lobbying hard for Community funds for their regions, but there is no formal way in which they can participate in decision making. They are also lobbying hard for the Community institutions to be changed to reflect the growing importance of regional thinking in Europe.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman and I should like to ask a question for information, not for partisan purposes. Does he agree that Wales—it may also be true of Scotland—already co-operates with other European regions, in particular Catalonia and a region in France? That co-operation is proving productive. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that shows that it is difficult for any of us to anticipate what will come of the Committee of the Regions? It may turn out to be a body of some influence.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that information, because it demonstrates that there is a growing recognition that Wales, as a nation, as well as other European regions and nations, has a joint role to play in evolving the Community. I should like to remind the Minister, however, that the regions that currently have a relationship with Wales all have an elected form of government at regional level. The current democratic deficit prevalent in Wales needs to be addressed, even though we have to approach the question of the Committee of the Regions from a different perspective.

The word "regionalism", in common with "federalism", is much misunderstood and much maligned in Europe. I have no problem with the word "regionalism", because, in relation to Wales, it means the historic nations and regions of Europe. It is important to put on record the fact that use of the word "regionalism" does not in any way compromise the right of Wales to be regarded as a nation in its own right. When considering the Committee of the Regions, we must also recognise that the only way in which the democratic deficit in Wales can be overcome is by establishing a Welsh parliament.

We need to look at the words of the Maastricht treaty, which say that it is designed to create an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe"; but it also states that it is designed to bring decision making in certain areas and competences to below the level of the nation state. It is designed to bring decision making closer to the people but that presupposes that a mechanism exists to make that happen. Such a mechanism is not available to the people of Wales.

In time, the two-way process of looking at government from a European level and a local level will erode the centralising force that is prevalent in the British system of government, where competences that were dealt with by local government until recently, for example, health, education and housing, have been transferred to the centre. We must get away from the idea that sovereignty is rigid. It is something to be shared where different decisions are taken at different levels, for different purposes at different times. That philosophy distinguishes my colleagues from some of the Conservative Benches.

Sir Teddy Taylor

In case Wales gets carried away by the prospect that the hon. Gentleman is offering, does he at least accept that the Committee of the Regions will have no power to do anything but talk, and that it will have no budget? Is there not a danger that the hon. Gentleman might get carried away with the potential of that committee when it is simply a kind of talking shop, exactly the same as that which existed in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, because the Committee of the Regions is an advisory body and, if it remains so, it will be nothing but a talking shop. I have sought to stress, however, that there is a growing recognition among those who are members of that committee that there is a valuable and growing role for the historic nations and regions of Europe in the decision-making process of the Community. It is the potential of that committee in which I am interested. It may be an advisory body now, but it has enormous potential.

5.45 pm

Let us remember that, five years ago, none of the European historic nations and regions had any influence or any role. Today, the German lander, the Catalans, the Basques and many other nations have offices in Brussels, and they are lobbying hard for their people. The establishment of the Committee of the Regions recognises their growing role. We want Wales to play its part in that process.

My party and I may be optimistic, but we have a view about how Europe should develop. We want, eventually, a second chamber in Europe to represent the regions and historic nations—a bicameral system—which will introduce the checks and balances that are necessary in any democratic system. Many believe—including many Conservative Members—that the Maastricht treaty is a centralising document. They believe that it will transfer power to an unelected and unaccountable Commission.

Mr. Denzil Davies

It will severely limit our powers.

Mr. Jones

I accept that the right hon. Gentleman and others believe that it will severely limit the ability of member states to decide their economic policy. I know that they fear the creation of an independent European central bank. However, the opponents of the treaty had to recognise on 4 February that the powers in that treaty are subject to a number of qualifications. The Community is well aware of the danger of it concentrating wealth and power in the core cities of Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and the like.

It is important to recognise that the treaty is subject to checks and balances. I accept that a certain amount of power will be transferred to the centre, but it is also transferred back to the regions and that makes us confident that the Maastricht treaty is, on balance, absolutely correct.

Mr. Denzil Davies

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. He and I would agree that we need devolution of power within the United Kingdom. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can now explain why he is so keen to centralise that power even further away when the argument has always been that we should go for decentralisation of power and devolution.

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Gentleman should note that the difference is that his concept of sovereignty belongs to the 19th century. It is totally outdated and has been shown to be ineffective. Within the European Community, we now have democratic systems that recognise that decisions may be taken at different levels for different purposes.

Sovereignty is not embodied in one place for ever—if it shifts in one way, it can shift in another. I accept that, in certain circumstances, power has been transferred to the centre, but there must also he a corresponding transfer of power back to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman should note that the Maastricht treaty is a good case for transferring that power back to those people, and that is why he should support it.

The treaty refers to a Committee consisting of representatives of regional and local bodies". it is absolutely clear that the choice of those words was deliberate. The original concept of membership should be that nominations or the committee's composition should not be in the hands of central Government but in the hands of regional and local bodies. The problem in the United Kingdom is that there are no regional bodies from which to choose members. The danger is that, although some may be elected local authority representatives—the Minister said that was a possibility—the remainder could be nominated and unelected.

I listened carefully to the Minister of State in the opening exchanges in this debate, and he kept his options open. That was good of him.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government will face a personnel problem in Wales, because the pool of Conservatives from which they can draw has been so reduced by the number of quango appointments that there will be no one left to go to Brussels?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. He will recall the exchanges with the Secretary of State for Wales on that very point in Welsh questions four or five weeks ago.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I left the options open precisely because they are open. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will give their ideas, because we are genuinely seeking to obtain the views of all shades of opinion in the Committee before beginning to consider how to proceed.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to the Minister for reiterating the point that he made during our deliberations on 4 February. I remind the Committee of his precise words: I am not prepared to commit Her Majesty's Government to a guarantee that the 24 members appointed to the Committee of the Regions will be elected local government councillors. Answering an intervention later, he said: There is a case for a mix—a case that I hope that the Committee will address."—[Official Report, 4 February 1993; Vol. 218, cols. 517, 530.] I hope that means that the Minister is prepared to consider a method of selecting members that includes some local authority representatives—though he was adamant that they would not all be local government representatives. So far, that is all to which the Minister has committed the Government.

We will not support any Government move to allow the selection of committee members to be in the gift of the Secretary of State for Wales. That would be totally unacceptable. The Secretary of State already wields considerable powers of patronage in appointing Government supporters to numerous quangos in Wales.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

My hon. Friend touches on a most important point. The issue at stake is not who goes but who chooses. I was interested in an exchange between my hon. Friend and Labour's Front-Bench spokesman. A Labour amendment would provide exclusively for local government representatives, but it does not touch the issue of who chooses them. I was unable to detect from the response from the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) whether he supports our amendment to Labour's amendment, which would guarantee in Scotland at least a representative selection of local councillors on the committee. Is my hon. Friend any clearer as to Labour's position?

Mr. Jones

No, I am not. However, I am sure that Labour will have an opportunity to make it clear whether our amendment is acceptable.

Mr. George Robertson

As there will be no opportunity for a member of this Front Bench to re-enter the debate —to do so, given the number of right hon. and hon. Members who want to speak, would be against the general will of the Committee—I may say that our amendment was constructed with some care, to establish the principle that the pool from which the Committee of the Regions would be drawn will comprise local government representatives. It flies in the face of that principle for Parliament then to lay down precisely who those individuals will be. Let the local authority representatives themselves make up their own minds.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his response. The question remains who will choose the representatives. Unless the hon. Gentleman can clarify that, we will be no nearer to understanding Labour's position on the amendment to its amendment.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

Can the hon. Gentleman reassure me that his opposition to the Secretary of State for Wales choosing the representatives would be just as strong if the right hon. Gentleman selected a member of the hon. Gentleman's own party—perhaps someone who has been elevated to membership of another place?

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. Whoever the Secretary of State chooses, if that selection is in his gift, it will be no good to us. I remind the hon. Gentleman that many former Labour Members have been elevated to another place in recent years.

It is important that the choice of representatives reflects the political diversity of Wales. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) emphasised how crucial that is. Nothing would be worse that for the Secretary of State to nominate individuals from one political party or tradition, or from one part of Wales, that did not reflect its political diversity and the challenges that face various parts of it.

I make it clear to the Minister that we would not support a system whereby the choice of representatives is in the hands of the Secretary of State for Wales. Those chosen must reflect the political diversity of Wales. We made an interesting suggestion to the Minister of State —that those chosen must be answerable in some way to the people of Wales.

We put an interesting proposal to the Minister—a forum in Wales. I put this to the Minister as an interesting idea.

Mrs. Gorman

Another one.

Mr. Jones

I agree with the hon. Lady. Currently, the Welsh Grand Committee is nothing more than a talking shop. We want to make it something more, which is why we suggested to the Minister that the Welsh Grand Committee be revamped.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthy Tydfil and Rhymney)

The hon. Gentleman is making very heavy weather of this, although I accept the principles that he is trying to establish. However, I remind him that the United Kingdom will have 24 members on the Committee of the Regions, of which between two and four will be elected or selected from Wales. It will at best have four members from Wales, and does not deserve quite the degree of constitutional import that the hon. Gentleman attaches to it.

Mr. Jones

I am very surprised at the hon. Gentleman's intervention, and the fact that he believes that Wales should have as few as two representatives.

Mr. Rowlands

No, I said that at worst—

Mr. Jones

Yes, that is the point that the hon. Gentleman made. I totally reject that argument. We believe that the Committee of the Regions will be an important body once it develops, and we must get it right from the beginning. Those selected to represent Wales and various parts of Wales should be answerable to the people of Wales in some form. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts that point.

Like me, he knows that we are answerable to the electorate of Wales at every election. All Members of the European Parliament and local authority members are similarly answerable. What is wrong with asking members of the Committee of the Regions to be answerable in the same way?

We are saying that there should be a revamped Welsh Grant Committee, to which could be added MEPs and local authority representatives, and that the Committee of the Regions would have to account to that body for the way in which it represented Wales. Otherwise, once selected, its members would be answerable to no one but themselves.

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Wales should have a least four members on the Committee. We are not prepared to countenance fewer than that, as our amendment makes clear. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said that, given the position of Ireland and other countries, we should be entitled to nine. We accept that we are not in the same position now, but we feel that we are entitled to at least four members. I hope that the Labour party will support us in that regard.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

I am intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's argument. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) argued that there should be eight members representing Scotland, one for every European seat. I understand that there are also four European seats in Wales. The extension of that argument would lead to the establishment of 81 British seats on the Committee, which, surely, is nonsense. I am as anxious as my Scottish and Welsh colleagues for adequate Scottish and Welsh representation, but it is important to recognise that, on the basis of that argument, the English regions will also require adequate representation.

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman must understand that, in a United Kingdom context, Wales will have no more than four representatives. Ireland and Denmark, for instance, are independent countries and entitled to a specific number of members. The hon. Gentleman is right: in a United Kingdom context, the ridiculous position that he has described would indeed result. That is why we are now asking for seats.

Finally, let me deal with structural funding. The Commission has announced that it is prepared to grant financial support to pilot schemes to promote combined transport initiatives. I hope that the Minister of State will examine that. We in Wales are very conscious of the need to ensure that structural funding is applied in a way that will reduce Wales's peripherality in the context of the Community. The support announced by the Commission would enable, for example, the undertaking of feasibility studies for the upgrading and possible electrification of the two main railway lines in Wales—the north Wales and south Wales lines. I hope that the Government will seek funds for those schemes.

Another important initiative is the Interreg initiative, which aims to promote inter-regional cross-border co-operation. The first Interreg scheme, introduced in 1991, approved 31 programmes, including links between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and between Kent and the coast of France. According to our information, further funds would be available after December 1993, as it seems likely that an Interreg 2 will be negotiated during the next year, alongside the renegotiation of the structural funds.

One of the areas currently being considered for development under a possible Interreg 2 is the central corridor—and the southern corridor—linking Ireland and Wales. We ask the Government to throw their weight behind that plan, which would be of immense long-term benefit to the economies of north-west and south-west Wales. As I have said, it would also reduce our peripherality in the context of the Community.

I have detained the Committee too long. I appreciate that other hon. Members wish to speak, but I have given way several times to my hon. Friends. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the contributions made by Scottish National and Plaid Cymru party Members, which I hope have themselves been positive.

Mrs. Gorman

It was very kind of you to call me, Mr. Lofthouse. I have sat through all 13 sittings of the Committee so far, and I have written eight little speechlets; now, at last, I have an opportunity to speak up—as much as anything, to speak up for the way in which the amendments affect my constituents in Billericay. That is what concerns me.

Many people have expressed grave concern about the social chapter; others have expressed concern about the central bank. However, these amendments—which deal with the social cohesion strategy in the Maastricht treaty —will also have grave consequences for my constituents if they are passed. When I was selected and subsequently elected as a Member of Parliament, my constituents made two things clear to me. First, they want a reduction in bureaucracy and Government intervention. They want fewer layers of government: we do not want county councils, let alone the latest proposal for a Committee of the Regions. All Opposition Members seem to be fighting for a share of the action in that regard. Secondly, we in Billericay do not want more taxes and waste of public funds—we want less.

I sometimes think that Members of Parliament—especially those who occupy the elevated lower Benches —have no idea where the money comes from: money that Members of Parliament themselves decide is to be spent. We all know that the European Community gets through £42 billion a year—or possibly £45 billion—in its budget, of which we contribute about £5 billion and get back £2.8 billion. In any event, we make a substantial net contribution. We contribute about £50 million every working week.

That is the kind of money that we were wasting in the 1970s when we had all those nationalised industries. We complained then that it was beyond our ability to sustain that waste, and we got rid of it: we turned it around. Now, we give as much money to the Community. If we proceed with the cohesion fund, and give the extra money for which Mr. Delors is calling, we shall end up spending four times this amount by 1999.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the Committee of the net contribution that we make. Is not that the equivalent of about 100 national health service hospitals?

Mrs. Gorman

It certainly is. I dare say that it is also the equivalent of half a dozen channel tunnels.

My constituents want to know where the money is coming from for this wonderful idea of redistributing finance in the form of cohesion funds. I will tell them where it is coming from: it is coming from their back pockets. We draw our pay cheques, and benefit to some extent from the tax structure in this country; but loads of people out there are struggling to find the money to placate the VAT man and the income tax inspector. They must find the money to keep their businesses going—and here we are, blindly planning a vast new enterprise that will supply everyone, throughout the Community, with their wants at our expense.

Mr. Randall

I entirely support the hon. Lady's views about waste, but might not her opinions on regional policy be coloured by the fact that she represents a seat in the south-east? In such areas as Hull, which I represent, there is terrific deprivation and a desperate need for a regional policy. We need cohesion funds. Are we not bound to disagree? Until the recession, the south-east was one of the most opulent parts of the country, while other parts were very poor in comparison.

Mrs. Gorman

The hon. Gentleman's constituency was probably doing very nicely before we entered the European Community and gave away all our fishing rights. The Community was responsible for that.

The amendments deal largely with economic and social cohesion. The wording in the treaty of European union is: In particular, the Community shall aim at reducing disparities between levels of development of the various regions". What that means is transferring money from the better-off parts of Europe, which at present just about include this country, to the southern parts.

We all know that one cannot make the poor rich by making the rich poorer—Abraham Lincoln taught us that —yet that is what this policy is about. Shall we benefit from this wonderful cohesion fund? No, we shall not, because one must have a per capita income of 90 per cent. or less of the average of the Community as a whole. So all these other regions which are champing at the bit to get this money will benefit from it while we as a country will be forking out that kind of money. As has been said by my hon. Friends, time and again, we shall pay the other European countries for their factories—the noose that will hang our domestic industry.

Mr. Wilkinson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is making an extremely distinguished and important speech, for giving way. May I point out to her that Portugal, which was hitherto one of the poorest countries in the Community, has had a rate of growth of more than 4 per cent. a year for the past three years, while we have had a negative rate of growth. In other words, we have seen our unemployment rise and their employment increase, at our expense. From the point of view of the British taxpayer, that is not responsible.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, and he will be pleased to know that our own Chancellor is well aware of that. He warned us in a debate in the House on economic and monetary union in which he quoted Karl Otto Pal, the director of the Bundesbank. He described the German experience of trying to level out the income of the east and the west, as a drastic object lesson of the dangers that follow these glorious, euphemistic and utopian ideas of making everybody equal.

In fact, transferring funds on that scale can have devastating effects on the economy. The Chancellor made the comparison. He said that our average manual wage in this country is approaching £15,000 a year, while in Greece it is £4,500 and in Portugal £2,000. So transferring funds from our manual workers to bring these people up to much the same level will inevitably cause a drastic cut in the income of working people in this country.

Mr. Watson

The hon. Lady surely chose a most inappropriate example by quoting Karl Otto Pal. Is she aware that, in Germany, one of the functions of the ldnder through the Bundesrat is to achieve an economic sharing out of resources. They have been very successful in doing that. Is that not an example of how the poorer regions can be helped successfully by the richer regions?

Mrs. Gorman

I suggest that the hon. Member tells that to the people in west Germany, because they have a different view of what is happening, with taxes going up, inflation rising and all the other problems that come with one of these artificial schemes. Our own Chancellor said how much greater those strains and tensions will be if 12 very different states with different economies try to adapt themselves to a single standard. This is our own Chancellor warning us of the dangers inherent in this policy.

Who will get all this wonderful amount of money? Do we all remember that little shadow boxing match that went on in Edinburgh when Felipe Gonzalez, the Premier of Spain, said that he would not sign the Maastricht treaty until he got some concessions. The concession he wanted was a guarantee of a very large amount of money for a massive hydrological plan in Spain. He wanted £17.7 billion for this scheme. We conceded at Edinburgh that Spain will get more than half that money from the cohesion fund.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the gravy train. These people stand to benefit enormously. What will Spain use that money for? It will be used for more irrigation schemes. Spain already uses more water for irrigation than any other country in the European Community. It will grow more grapes and olives, and anything and everything to add to the butter mountains, the wine lakes and the olive mountains which we already have. We shall be corrupting and distorting the economy by allowing all this money to go to the so-called hard-up regions.

Mr. Randall

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way to me twice. Is she not aware that the British contribution to the cohesion fund is only 5 per cent., so that in that sense her constituents will not be that much affected? Abatement cannot be changed until the end of the century. I am not sure what she is so worried about.

6.15 pm
Mrs. Gorman

The hon. Member is making a point. I have heard Ministers assure us that by 1999 we shall add only another £200 million to the amount of money we give them, but we all know how these sums suffer slippage. There was a time when we were the second lowest in terms of economic growth and income and we got a substantial rebate. However, since we took in all these poorer countries, we are in the middle position and are not even likely to get the rebate we currently get under the common agricultural policy.

The structural fund budget is made by reducing the amount spent on CAP from 80 per cent. of the budget to 60 per cent. That will have a profound affect on whether or not we get the rebate and will also affect the amount of money we have to spend on our own citizens.

Mr. Barry Legg (Milton Keynes, South-West)

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is aware that, at the last meeting of the Committee about three weeks ago, it was agreed that £750 million would come from British taxpayers up to 1999 to fund the cohesion fund. I wonder whether she thinks that this amazing generosity is somewhat inappropriate when we are looking at running a budget deficit in this country of some £50 billion in the coming year.

Mrs. Gorman

My hon. Friend makes a splendid point. We are dealing with pie in the sky or money that apparently grows on trees, money which we all know we can manufacture by borrowing from international banks, until the point will come when they will step in and say, "Enough is enough." We cannot spend what we do not earn. If one does not invest one's money in one's own economy, the economy will not grow. That is the plain truth, and the people in Essex know that, even if Labour hon. Members do not.

Mr. Wilkinson

And in Middlesex.

Mrs. Gorman

And in Middlesex; and good Conservatives throughout the country know it. That is why they want a referendum and to have a say in the matter. That is why they are so concerned.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

I am listening carefully and attentively to the hon. Lady; she extended the same courtesy to me. She has given important reasons why the structural, regional, and cohesion funds should not be applied to the poorer regions of the Community, but would she explain how she would deal with regional disparity in the Community?

Mrs. Gorman

The hon. Gentleman has given me an opportunity to tell him my regional policy. I would not have one, because I believe that, left to itself, the free market will shift funds to where there is a good labour supply available and where the facilities merit it. When one starts directing money to regional funds, one gets the equivalent of peanut schemes—and we all know what happened to that money in Africa.

Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

Is not that the difference between the two sides of the Committee? We see redistribution taking place through the market, through mechanisms where people exercise their free choice, with companies getting their costs down by competing and bidding in the market place, which is free, and they therefore transfer the money back to their regions. That is the difference between the Opposition's attitude and ours.

Mrs. Gorman

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I find it tragic that a Government and a party which have committed themselves to getting out of all these interfering schemes should be caught in the idea of getting involved in what is pure socialism.

Mr. Legg

Does my hon. Friend agree that the regional and cohesion funds are now being advocated because of the exchange rate mechanism and of the efforts to develop economic and monetary union? The effect of that is to create more unemployment in the regions. To balance the loss of the shock absorber of the currency, Jacques Delors and his colleagues are advocating that funds be transferred to these areas.

Mrs. Gorman

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. A great lady who used to sit not far below where my hon. Friend is sitting now constantly reminded us of that fact. Rather than establishing artificial monetary schemes, currency must he allowed to float and find its own level. That policy stood Britain in good stead throughout the 1980s and helped it to recover its economic respectability. If we try to buck that system, we shall experience grave difficulties.

The amendments will commit funds to the social chapter. Under the protocol, the Government have not committed themselves to the social chapter, but this group of amendments will commit us to funding that policy. How do Ministers reconcile that with our stated policy?

The European investment bank will get £7.6 billion of taxpayers' money to back schemes that are chosen by bureaucrats in Brussels. Most of them could not manage to back the loser of the donkey derby, let alone the winner, but this vast amount of money will be commited to schemes that are agreed by horse trading among members of the European Community late at night: "I will give this to you, you give that to me. I will get money for my hydro-electric scheme and you will get something in exchange."

Money will be allocated not according to market forces but by favours, which will have a distorting and corrupting effect. One of the lessons that we surely have learnt from handing vast amounts of aid to third-world countries is that such money goes into the pockets of the rich. It goes from the poor of the rich countries to the rich of the poor countries.

Spain and Portugal are examples of the devastation that such policy wreaks. I spend holidays on the Algarve, where vast tracts of what was beautiful countryside—the ecology which all the greenies want to save and which, apparently, is covered by the European policy—are scarred by roads that have been cut through areas where literally nothing happens. Quiet country villages with beautiful stands of eucalyptus and cork oak are being smashed down because Portugal is getting £2 million a day from the Community, and under these proposals it will get a lot more. The tourist industry is suffering because the Portuguese Government no longer invest in tourism; they are getting the gravy straight from the European Community.

Mr. Wilkinson

My hon. Friend is making a very serious point. She is striking at the illusion of cohesion within the Community. The only thing, surely, that British people do not want is for Britain to be turned into one great big Belgium, with motorway from end to end, little country and the sort of devastation, which she is so eloquently describing, that has been perpetrated in the Algarve.

Mrs. Gorman

My hon. Friend makes an admirable contribution. The Conservative party enhanced its reputation by embracing the doctrine that we should leave people to spend or invest their money as they see fit. Although mistakes will be made, they will be trivial and minor compared with the devastating mistakes that will flow from massive amounts of so-called public funds being manipulated and engineered by bureaucrats. That is what will happen under the treaty.

I want to say a couple of words about the Committee of the Regions. Are we not already seeing the spoils being Fought over on the Opposition Benches: "You give us four more people and we may do a deal and vote with you on amendment No. 27; we might slip in the right Lobby if you give us a couple more seats"? This afternoon, I have witnessed the bones being handed to the dogs—give a dog a bone and he will come running home.

The Committee of the Regions could, at best, be a waste-of-time, quango-type talking shop, but at worst it could be a means by which the European Community will seek to bypass the wishes of hon. Members. I sometimes think that we have 650 turkeys in this place voting for Christmas. If these proposed organisations are set up, with all the money that they will take from our taxpayers—our working population; the very people whom Opposition Members seek to represent—we shall pay for it. All that lovely money will be distributed beyond our countrol to schemes approved by politicians and bureaucrats—the last people who can make such decisions and get them right. As we all know, by and large, regional aid in Britain has been a disaster. That is why we shifted our policy.

The Committee of the Regions could have a sinister purpose. It could be part of the demise of the House of Commons. I have sat through our 13 days of debate, and I oppose this wretched Maastricht treaty because I think that this is the place where my constituents expect me to represent their views. It is the only place where I can do so. This is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, and for the people here; not by delegation to Maastricht, Brussels or wherever. If we agree to that, we shall all soon be getting our P45s. The public will not pay us to sit on our backsides nodding things through in the afternoon.

That is the essence of the treaty—other people making our minds up for us. We should have discarded the treaty long ago. We are grown-up people; we do not need the crutch of Maastricht to sustain us as a nation. People outside do not expect that of us, and if the Labour party had any real feeling for working people or anybody else it would support the concept of the British people having a say.

It is not easy for Conservative Members like me to oppose the Government—we sacrifice more than most hon. Members by doing so—but we do so because the principle involved is robbing the British people of the right to spend the product of their labour on the things that they want. People in Essex are famous for their hard work and for pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, even though they are often traduced in the House of Commons and insulted. They are the salt of the earth, and I know how hard they work to pay their taxes. They do not want to see Britain's income being shifted down the line to a lot of other countries.

Let those countries work their own way up and do what people in mine and other constituencies do—look after themselves, their own interests and those of their country. That is how we shall make progress.

Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

It is always a bit difficult to follow the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). Although I did not agree with her views, I enjoyed the manner in which she delivered them.

I should like to speak briefly to amendment No. 273, which I tabled and which several of my hon. Friends support, on the composition of the Committee of the Regions. Before doing so, I should say that I am getting confused messages from Conservative Members about that committee. On the whole, the message so far has been that it is not important and that it is only a talking shop, but having listened to the hon. Member for Billericay, it now seems that it will lead to the demise of the House of Commons as we know it. I do not believe that that is correct, but nor do I think that the Committee of the Regions is a meaningless talking shop.

Amendment No. 273 seeks not a share of the action but balanced regional representation on the Committee of the Regions across the United Kingdom. Obviously, there must be representation from Scotland and Wales, but I should also like representations from each of the standard planning regions of England to ensure a regional balance.

That would mean having a representative—or possibly two—from each of the following regions: the north, the north-west, Yorkshire and Humberside, the east midlands, the west midlands, East Anglia, the south-east, which it is important should have a London dimension, and the south-west. It is important that this commitment to regional balance be built in. It is alarming that, so far in the debate, the Government have failed to give any assurance that there will be regional balance in the representation on the Committee of the Regions. I am glad that my amendment is being sponsored by Members from throughout the United Kingdom. I hope that this means that it will be considered favourably by other hon. Members if, as I hope will happen, the Committee is given a chance to vote on it.

6.30 pm

I was very alarmed by what the Minister said in introducing the debate on the Committee of the Regions. He seemed to take the view that the representation on the Committee might be restricted to Government appointees or business people. I have nothing at all against the notion that business people should be allowed to express their views very strongly in the European Communities, but they are already represented on other EC institutions and would therefore be getting a double dose of representation, whereas regional representatives and local authority representatives from the regions would be likely to miss out altogether.

That is a matter for great concern. The business community is already very well represented on the Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities and the business voice is heard in Europe through UNICE, the employers' organisation at European level. Indeed, the latter has proved to be a very effective lobby in the context of the European Commission. However, it would be highly inappropriate to have such representation on the Committee of the Regions, too. I hope that the Government will give this point very serious consideration.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if this country selects, rather than elects, members of the Committee of the Regions, the committee, when it chooses its bureau or executive consisting of 30 members, will not include anyone from the United Kingdom, as almost all members from other countries will he elected? In other words, by selecting, rather than electing, members, this country would be putting itself at a disadvantage in the Committee of the Regions.

Ms. Quin

That is a very important point. We would cause needless resentment by approaching our representation in the manner that the Government seem to be considering.

I was alarmed when the Minister of State, in response to an intervention from me some time ago, failed to deal with the need to respect the political make-up of each region and nation of the United Kingdom. I believe that my region is the only one in which the Labour party clearly obtained more than 50 per cent. of the vote. It would be quite wrong of the Government to undertake a frantic search for the few Conservatives who might be found in the northern region so that they could be put on the Committee of the Regions. That would be an insult to the region.

I urge the Government to take into account the political complexion of each region when deciding the representation on the committee. It is very worrying that the Government have failed to appreciate the need for regional balance. I hope that, before the end of the debate, they will give us some assurance on this point.

The Government have failed completely to understand the regionalisation process that is already going on in the United Kingdom, under their own nose. The district and county authorities in my region have come together voluntarily in an organisation called the Northern Regional Assembly of Local and District Authorities. That assembly would be a very suitable body to choose the northern region's representative on the Committee of the Regions. By making this point I am giving my response to a question that has been raised by a large number of Members during the debate.

My amendment is really a supplement to one tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). It would be best, certainly in the short and medium term, to have local authority representation on this committee. If, ultimately, we move to a regionalised system of government in the United Kingdom as a whole, with devolved government in Scotland and Wales, those regional governments could choose their own representatives. It seems to me, however, that, in the interim, the most satisfactory method would be the one that has been proposed by my hon. Friend. At the same time, I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the need, indicated in my amendment, to ensure that there is balanced representation from England, Scotland and Wales so that the best use may be made of this committee.

I should like to respond briefly to hon. Members who have said that the committee will be just a talking shop and will not, therefore, have a worthwhile role. The same was said of the European Parliament when it was set up, yet most people now realise that, even if it is a talking shop, many of the amendments on which it votes are incorporated in European Communities legislation. In my opinion, the Committee of the Regions will play a valuable role by putting forward ideas likely to be taken on board by the Commission in its draft directives. There will be a clear line of communication into the European institutions. That is something which must be stressed.

Mr. Wilkinson

How democratic does the hon. Lady think the European Parliament is? Do the majority of her constituents even know who their MEP is? Do they regularly go to his surgery? Does he receive 20, 30 or 40 letters a day, as we do? Is he as accessible as the hon. Lady and other Members of this Parliament are? Does not the hon. Lady agree that members of the European Parliament are seen by their constituents as being abroad and very remote? Surely it is pure imagination to think that the European Parliament can exercise any effective democratic control over the other institutions of the Community.

Ms. Quin

As I was a member of the European Parliament for 10 years, I hope that I am in a good position to respond to the hon. Gentleman. In many ways MEPs fulfil a role that is not fulfilled by any other body but may be fulfilled to a certain extent by the Committee of the Regions. The European constituencies are very large. They tend to comprise either regions or sub-regions. Very often members of the European Parliament look at the directives emanating from Brussels and evaluate their effect not just on the United Kingdom as a whole but on the parts of the United Kingdom that they happen to represent.

When I first went to the European Parliament, the details of the common fisheries policy were being negotiated. Although I opposed that policy, I realised how important it was to have representatives evaluating the details of the legislation to see how they affected not just British fishermen as a whole but fishermen in various areas of the United Kingdom, who might fish for different species, or at different times of the year, or on the basis of different regional or local traditions.

I therefore feel very strongly that regional and local issues should be considered seriously at European level. Although the House of Commons can do a great deal of worthwhile work in evaluating European legislation, there is a direct regional input which can be complementary to, and not in conflict with, what Parliament does. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that response to his point.

I do not believe that the Committee of the Regions is simply a matter of securing funds. In many ways, there has been far too much emphasis in this debate on the question of funds. I see the Committee of the Regions as making a contribution to the European policy-making process and introducing an element that would otherwise be overlooked or neglected. It should consider the regional impact of all European Community policies, not only those dealing with funds. It should consider not only what we can get out of Europe but what we can contribute to it.

The European Community is, of course, a Community of member states, but it is also a Community of nations and regions. We should stress that point and ensure that it is part and parcel of the European decision-making process, not something which has no place in a Europe where, at the end of the day, the main decisions are taken, as we know, by the Council of Ministers. We must stress that it is not only a Europe of nation states but a Europe of regions and localities. I hope that the amendment Nos. 13 and 273 will receive wide support.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quirt), who gave an excellent and interesting explanation of her stance on this issue.

Although article 198 is thin in content, and may be regarded by many as being of little significance when compared with the weightier social chapter, it is a n interesting concept. The potential exists for a Committee of the Regions to have substantial influence on the future direction of the Community, which I welcome. Although at this stage it will have only advisory and consultative status, it has the ability to become a force for good within the Community.

The Committee of the Regions will form a link between Europe's variously defined regions, from Germany's federal states to Scotland and Wales and the autonomous communities of Spain. It should also bridge the gap between those levels of government and the Community, which is at present dominated by the 12 member states. Of course, Scotland does not have its own Government, but perhaps more of that later.

When compared with Germany, the House, with its belief in centralisation and its own sovereignty, is no doubt uncomfortable with the idea of the Committee of the Regions, because there is no history of subsidiarity within the United Kingdom. The House has been unable to transfer powers to its component parts, so it can envisage no easy way of allocating seats. Although the Minister has explained that, it appears that that is why the Government have not yet given any idea of their thinking on this issue. [Interruption.]

Article 198—[Interruption.]

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. It seems that some hon. Members who claim to be most interested in the Bill are the least interested in the debate —I am finding it very difficult to hear the hon. Lady, whom I very much want to hear.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

It has not gone unnoticed.

Mrs. Michie

Article 198 has been welcomed with various degrees of enthusiasm or lack of it. The latter was noticeable in the Minister's cautious evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on 19 January, but I think that he has since become a little more enthusiastic. He said that it was difficult to predict, but that the Committee could become an organisation of some importance and consequence. I am glad that he accepts that, and I endorse what he said.

However, in a speech at St. Andrews on 23 November, the Secretary of State for Scotland was quite positive. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) has already referred to it, but it is worth repeating. He said that it was an exciting initiative, which would strengthen beyond recognition the representation of the countries and regions of Europe which are represented at the top table by member states at the moment.

It would be churlish to question the Secretary of State's keenness, although I have a suspicion that the Committee of the Regions will appear as part of the conclusions of the stocktaking exercise. His commitment will be proved by the number of seats that he manages to deliver for Scotland, which leads me to the composition of the Committee.

New clause 63 calls for Scotland to have at least eight of the 24 seats allocated to the United Kingdom. That would bring Scotland into line with its counterparts in Germany, where the Bundestag agreed to allocate 21 seats to the Lander and with the autonomous communities of Spain, which are campaigning to take all 21 seats there.

6.45 pm

Some would argue that eight seats for Scotland would mean over-representation, but that is not so. As we have already heard, in population terms, over-representation is a principle of the European Community. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but the obvious example is Luxembourg, which, with a population of 380,000, has a vote at the top table of nation states and an allocation of six seats on the Committee of the Regions. More representation for smaller units is also a good federalist principle.

The Secretary of State for Scotland agreed when he gave the assurance that he was bidding high. He also said that smaller units have invariably had more representation than the larger, in a bid to compensate for their smaller scale.

Article 198(a) refers to representatives of regional and local bodies being members of the committee. In the absence of a Scottish Parliament, the new clause states that the representatives shall be elected members of Community, District or Regional councillors, elected by an electoral college or college of councillors". It is essential that the Scottish representatives are democratically accountable to the people of Scotland. It would be wrong and unacceptable for the Secretary of State for Scotland to nominate them, especially if they were chosen from the multitude of quangos which have now been created there.

He should certainly not consider that they should all be members of the Conservative party.

Mr. Garel-Jones

indicated dissent.

Mrs. Michie

I see that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) is shaking his head, which I take as agreement that they would not all be members of the Conservative party.

There may be some raised eyebrows at my inclusion of community councillors. I deliberately included them because we do not yet know the outcome of the restructuring of local government. I like community councils and believe that they are a good concept. Some have worked well and others not at all, but that is because they have had no power although they should have had it. I hope that the Secretary of State will take that into account when considering reform of government in Scotland.

Suffice to say that some community councillors are extremely competent people. I could name many in my constituency who would have no problem in dealing with the Prime Minister of Bavaria or anyone else on the Committee of the Regions.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

A little earlier, the hon. Lady made some comments about the possibility of Conservatives being chosen to be members of this ghastly committee. Let me make it quite clear to her that, if I were eligible, if I were selected, if I were ordered to, I would not in any circumstances wish to be associated with it.

Mrs. Michie

That is an interesting observation from the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] I am hearing comments around me to the effect that perhaps he would not be asked to serve on the committee. But I make the point, because it has not been ruled out yet, that they may be selected or nominated by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

Will the hon. Lady tell the House how many community councils in Scotland she has visited touting her idea that they should be responsible in part for electing Scotland's representatives to the Committee of the Regions? Does she honestly believe that those often very genuine people who have gone into community councils to do something about pavements, roads and street lighting want that responsibility?

Mrs. Michie

I certainly do not say that they all want that responsibility. I will not name names, but I know people who would serve very well on this Committee of the Regions, and I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland knows them as well. They are elected community councillors and there is no reason why they should not be on the Committee of the Regions. The hon. Gentleman's allegation demeans people who are concerned with pavements.

A system of proportional representation is at the heart of my new clause. It is a constant source of embarrassment that the United Kingdom Government have persistently refused to bring us into line with our European partners by having a fair system for the European elections. Here is an opportunity to move away from the outdated and undemocratic first-past-the-post system. Proportional representation would allow a wide representation of political opinion and include independent councillors—although I have always wondered what those councillors are independent of.

I welcome the article in the Maastricht treaty, because I see it as a step, albeit a small one, towards Scotland moving closer to Europe. We need to be there. We have much in common with the national regions that will make up the committee and, because of our geographical position and peripherality, we need a more powerful role, to influence EC policy and decision making and to focus on underdeveloped areas for co-operation and assistance, particularly from the centre to the periphery.

Perhaps, if the Committee of the Regions had been in existence at the time, there might not have been what I hope is just a muddle about the question of objective I status, when it appeared to be announced from Brussels that my constituency of Argyll and Bute—and, indeed, that of the hon. Member for Moray—was being left out of the traditional highlands and islands areas. I am hoping very much that the Secretary of State will see to it that this is resolved by the Council of Ministers. I believe that, if the Committee of the Regions had been in being, this would not have happened.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

I am most grateful for the hon. Lady's courtesy in giving way. She is now, I think, implying that one of the criteria for representation, in line with the regional aid criteria, should be the relative prosperity or poverty of particular regions. If three English regions have lower per capita income than Scotland, and if the Welsh region has a lower per capita income than Scotland, does this mean that they too should have eight representatives each? If so, have we not run out of representatives to be distributed across the United Kingdom?

Mrs. Michie

That is an argument that should be put to the Government, not to Europe. As for Scotland being underdeveloped, certainly there are areas of Scotland that require assistance, and, like other hon. Members, I see nothing wrong in trying to get the assistance to where it is needed, whether it be in Scotland, Greece, Portugal or Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or England. Or Merseyside."] Well, fine in England, but England has its Government here. [HON. MEMBERS: "So has Scotland."] We will come to that; do we indeed? But certainly England has its Government here, and it ought to be able to support the regions that hon. Members are talking about.

Judging by what has been said by hon. Members—some of whom have been described as backwoodsmen, although I would not call them that—it sounds as if England does not want to be at the heart of Europe, but I believe that Scotland does. Good grief, is Scotland to lose simply because there is an attitude in the Committee against closer co-operation and being at the heart of Europe? I hope that that will not be the case, and that we will ratify the Maastricht treaty.

Mrs. Gorman

It troubles me that the Scots seem to have the attitude that they are victims of this place. Surely the hon. Lady is aware that there are more Scottish people sitting in the House representing either Scottish or English constituencies than there are members of any other single group in the country. They should be pleased about that. If all the power goes to Europe and to the committee on which the hon. Lady is madly trying to get extra seats, this place will become impotent, and the Scots here with it.

Mrs. Michie

I believe that the hon. Lady does not understand that the Scots want to have their own parliament to look after their own affairs. They do not want to be here; they want to have a parliament of Scotland looking after their own affairs. That, I hope, answers the hon. Lady's question. It would be no problem to be in Scotland looking after our own affairs, rather than here. It is the right of every country, every nation, to look after its own affairs. That should not be denied to the nation of Scotland, and it is denied in this place. That is what the Scottish people find it so hard to take.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way, because I believe that her contribution and that of the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) have touched on a very sensitive point. I have listened to the terms "nation", "state" arid "nationality" being used right through this debate, not just today but previously. Is there not something very worrying here?

We can easily define Welsh nationalism as something that is looking out towards Europe, which wants to be part of it. The same goes for Scottish nationalism and for Northern Ireland's nationalism as expressed throughout constitutional politics—an outward-going thing. But English nationalism? Think of the term Sinn Fein, which means in English "ourselves alone". That is the type of nationalism that we are hearing from some of the people on the Conservative Benches: narrow, introverted and refusing to play its role in the world.

Mrs. Michie

The hon. Gentleman makes the point very well, and I can follow that.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)


Mrs. Michie

I would just like to develop this point, because it follows on from what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Leighton

Will the hon. Lady give way on this point?

Mrs. Michie

In a minute, please.

Mr. Leighton


The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. If the hon. Lady does not resume her seat, the hon. Gentleman must resume his.

Mrs. Michie

As I said, Scotland needs its voice to be heard—and listened to—as a nation. That is something which the House of Commons has singularly failed to do. In Scotland we have a different political tradition. Here in the House of Commons, Members of Parliament believe in the sovereignty of Parliament, and that is fine, if that is what they want to do. But in Scotland we believe in the sovereignty of the people; we believe that the people have the right to determine how they will be governed.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Does the hon. Lady understand the frustration of many English Members listening to her, knowing that they represent constituencies with 75,000 or 80,000 electors—mine has nearly 84,000—and that not one Scottish seat has anything like that number? Most Scottish Members represent electorates half that size. If we are talking about over-representation, Scottish seats have a lot to answer for.

7 pm

Mrs. Michie

All I can say to the hon. Lady is that the Members of Parliament representing English seats can always outvote any other block of Members, and that they continually outvote the majority of Scottish Members in the House. I am sorry that some of the constituencies in England have problems, but that is the Government's problem, Parliament's problem, or the problem of the hon. Lady who looks after her constituents. It is not an excuse—

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. It seems that we are now going very wide of the group of amendments. No doubt the hon. Lady feels that she has been provoked, but perhaps she could now draw her remarks into the scope of the grouping before us.

Mrs. Michie

Thank you, Dame Janet. Perhaps I was led further that I should have been by some of the interventions.

Mr. Leighton

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Michie

No, I really should carry on—but I did say that I would give way to the hon. Gentleman. I shall give way for the last time.

Mr. Leighton

I have listened carefully to the hon. Lady's speech, and she said a moment ago that Scottish Members of Parliament did not want to come here. Does she really mean that she does not want to be here? Presumably she wants to go somewhere else. Is that her party's official policy?

Mrs. Michie

The official policy of the Liberal Democratic party is to have a federal United Kingdom, and that includes a Scottish Parliament looking after its own affairs. I have come here, and it is pleasant to meet you all here, but—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. As the hon. Lady is here, she must abide by the rules of the Committee.

Mrs. Michie

I hope that you will accept, Dame Janet, that I was trying to reply to the intervention by the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton).

I believe that Scotland will get a better hearing on the continent in the Committee of the Regions than it gets in the House. The Minister would find it easier to nominate representatives to serve on that Committee if we already had the federal United Kingdom that I described. Its members could then be more easily drawn from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as they are drawn from the regions of Germany.

There is no doubt that a truly democratic European Community needs to be accountable to the interests of all the countries that lie within its boundaries. That includes countries such as Scotland and Wales. We in the Liberal Democratic party want to see a strengthened and more democratic European Parliament. I believe that there, and through the Committee of the Regions, Scotland in particular will find a voice, albeit a small voice as yet, in the Community.

Allies will be found there among the peoples on the geographic periphery of the EC and from the centre, and among other ancient and historic nations with which we shall be able to co-operate and find common interests, not least cultural interests. For the time being, the Committee of the Regions gives Scotland a voice. That can only be good for our country.

Mr. Garel-Jones

This has been an interesting and useful debate for Ministers to listen to.

Mr. Leighton

On a point of order, Dame Janet. The Minister says that this "has been" an interesting debate. I would say that the debate "is" interesting. Why is the Minister using the past tense, as though the debate is closing?

The Second Deputy Chairman

As I have had occasion to point out before, whoever is in charge of the Committee is not responsible for the accuracy of what is said.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I used the phrase "has been" in the sense that I shall now refer to the points that have been raised. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-East will be aware, it is not a matter for me when the group of amendments will cease to be debated. I am simply intervening at a time that seems convenient for me and for the Committee.

As the Committee will be aware, the lead amendment in the group, amendment No. 13, was moved as a probing amendment—

Mr. Bill Walker

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I should begin my speech before taking interventions—but I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Walker

I trust that when he responds to the points that have arisen, my right hon. Friend will take careful note of the way in which separatist elements in Scotland see the Committee as a vehicle for breaking up the United Kingdom.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have, of course, taken note of that fact, and my hon. Friend can rest assured that I shall deal with it.

The Committee is indebted to the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen for giving us the opportunity to debate both cohesion and the Committee of the Regions. I shall begin with amendment No. 28, on the Committee of the Regions, because that is the subject about which most, although not all, hon. Members have spoken.

I do not want to resume, if I can avoid doing so, the exchanges that I had with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) about what other member states have done. The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) said that my choice of illustrations was selective. Indeed it was—the only two member states to which I referred were those that have actually selected their membership. I simply said—and I reiterate now—that in neither of those countries were all the nominees elected local government representatives.

I reassure the Opposition, and the rest of the Committee, that the Government have made no decision whatever on either the distribution or the composition of the Committee of the Regions. I may inadvertently have misled some Opposition Members, but I am not in a position to say even that the Government reject the concept that we may end up with elected local government representatives. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment, if there is a Division on it, because enough interesting and important suggestions have been made from both sides of the Committee and from all the parties represented here for there to be meat for a proper consultation process.

I utterly reject the idea that the Government have it in mind to pack the Committee of the Regions with Conservatives. I hope that we are not seeking to be frivolous, or to make debating points across the Chamber. If we are not, every Member of the Committee will know that there are proper ways for us to consult each other, both between political parties and, if that seems appropriate, between regional interests. That is what we intend to do.

Mr. George Robertson

We listened with great care when the Minister said that the Government still have an open mind on the matter. But of course we have listened with enormous care to him in the past, too, and we have learnt that all is not always as it seems.

I shall ask the right hon. Gentleman a question: can we take it that, if the Committee votes for amendment No. 28, the Government will accept that decision and will not use some legal trickery to vote down or ignore the voice of Parliament?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Member and all of us at times find it difficult to resist making clever debating points. Let me say two things to him. First, it goes without saying that, if the Committee votes for his amendment, the Government will accept the will of the Committee in this matter. It also goes without saying that, when it became apparent to the Government that the legal advice—I accept that the hon. Gentleman will come back to this —which I gave the Committee in good faith was not correct, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came immediately to the House—

Mr. George Robertson

He did not.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Yes he did, and he apologised to the House.

This is one of the amendments on which it is indeed the case that, if the Government's view did not prevail, the Government would of course accept the will of the Committee. It also means, I hope, that we can have a serious and proper debate where we listen to each other. I assure the Committee that the Government have made no decisions whatever on this matter.

Mr. Salmond

Amendment No. 28 says nothing about political balance. Theoretically we could have 20 local councillors who were Conservatives. What many of us would like to hear is some elaboration of the Minister of State's point that there will be a proper political balance proportionate to support of the parties in the various parts and nations of the United Kingdom.

Sir Roger Moate (Faversham)


Mr. Garel-Jones

If I may, Dame Janet, I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham. Then I would like to come to the meat of the debate and answer the point made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond).

Sir Roger Moate

When my right hon. Friend said that the Government would accept the will of the Committee if the amendment were carried, may I urge him to be more cautious? Presumably he meant the will of Parliament as a whole. There would be a Report stage, would there not, and proceedings in another place, which would allow us to reverse such an ill-judged decision?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not anticipate the defeat of the Government on this matter, because I have listened carefully to what all my hon. Friends have said and I think that I have sensed in other quarters of the Committee some reluctance to tie the Government down—or, rather, tie the country down—in this matter. I would now like, if I may, to come to the principal points that have been made in the debate.

In essence, we are looking at a Committee of the Regions which, as the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said, could be important. I would not care to anticipate how the Committee of the Regions may or may not develop. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), who speaks for Plaid Cymru, made points which many of my hon. Friends picked up. They are separatists. I do not think that they would deny it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Perhaps I shall stand corrected, but they have a view about the United Kingdom which I do not share and which I think that nobody on the Government side shares.

Having said that, however, I think that the Committee of the Regions, like so much else in the Community, depends on what the political parties and the participants in it choose to make of it. Our intention is that the United Kingdom should send people of the highest quality possible to the Committee of the Regions, and I hope that they will play a constructive role in it.

Mr. Gunnell


Mr. Garel-Jones

I wish to make a bit more progress and address some of the arguments. Then I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The Committee will, I hope, play an important consultative role—the House will recall that the Committee of the Regions is a consultative body—and the information and feedback that will come in from the regions to the Commission and to the Council will be of consequence.

But the two issues that must be addressed are, first, the breakdown of the 24 members of the Committee and, secondly, its composition. The hon. Member for Moray —the point was picked up immediately by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher)— made the point extremely well. She put it to the Committee that there was a case, at any rate, for Scotland to have nine members. She went on to say that, if Scotland had nine members, Wales should have nine and Northern Ireland, like Luxembourg, should have six members. She acknowledged that that would account for all 24 members of the Committee of the Regions. I was pleased to hear some of my hon. Friends asking, as I asked myself, what about England? What about England indeed?

The hon. Lady was making the point to be helpful to the Committee, to demonstrate what a difficulty we face and how we need to bear these matters in mind in our discussions, but let me stand the hon. Lady's point on its head. It will not have escaped her notice that, on a proportional basis, England—my constituents—might be able to claim 20 of the 24 seats, leaving us two for Scotland, one for Wales and one for Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Ewing

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because he appreciated that I was making, essentially, a fairly facetious point in that regard. But do we not have to look seriously at the difference between a United Kingdom argument and a European argument, because we are talking about a European committee and not a United Kingdom one?

7.15 pm
Mr. Garel-Jones

I hope that I made it clear to the Committee, for those hon. Members who have just come in, that the hon. Lady was making the point to be helpful to the Committee and to illustrate how difficult it will be to crack the problem of distribution. I simply make the point, as an English Member, to the separatist Members here that I am a Welshman representing an English seat —and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is a Scotsman representing an English seat. So I suspect—it would be unfair otherwise—that the lion's share of the members must go to England. Equally, even English Members sitting behind me, whose voices were, rightly, raised in defence of England and the English regions, would recognise that there needs to be some tilting towards Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr. Marlow

To a certain extent I agree with my right hon. Friend, but whereas one can make a case within the United Kingdom that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, in numbers of constituents, should be slightly over-represented, for various reasons that we all know about, when it comes to a European institution which is trying to achieve regional representation throughout the European Community, there is no argument whatever that Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland should be more heavily represented than the regions of England—none at all.

Mr. Garel-Jones

These are matters in which the opinions expressed in the Committee must carry weight. I am sure that most of my hon. Friends will agree that the Committee of the Regions, which is, I understand, a subject of great interest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is not one that has been on the front page of the Watford Observer over the past 12 months—nor probably the Northampton Times.

Mr. Marlow

I assure my right hon. Friend that if Scotland had three times the representation of my constituents, it would be all over the front page and the back.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I detect, unusually in these debates, a consensus between my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and myself and perhaps a consensus in the House, too. Not all the seats on the Committee of the Regions will be allocated to Scotland, to Wales and to Northern Ireland; nor can it be the case that England will get 20 of the 24 seats. We have the mechanisms—our political system in Britain is quite sophisticated—for discussions among ourselves to try to find a sensible balance that enables the regions and England to be fairly represented.

If we can solve that difficult problem, the second point is the composition of the Committee of the Regions. Various difficulties and points have been raised, particularly by the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), or Anglesey, as we would say on this side of the border. He spoke of the methods of nomination and about who chooses. Again, I assure hon. Members that the Government will listen to the ideas flowing from all quarters of the Committee. Of course, there is political diversity in parts of the United Kingdom. As hon. Members have pointed out, people live in a four-party system and there will have to be some effort to take that into account, if possible.

The hon. Member for Ynys Mon made two interesting and novel suggestions. The first, in regard to the Principality, was that the Welsh representatives on the Committee of the Regions should be answerable to a form of revamped Welsh Grand Committee. That suggestion is new to me, and it would need to be discussed. He also made the interesting suggestion that the Interreg programme might be used to assist Wales, as it were, in a structural manner. That idea is for discussion as well.

The principal point that I put to the Committee is that while I will ask hon. Members to reject the amendment, I do so not because we do not recognise that a substantial—

Mr. Gunnell


Mr. Garel-Jones

I am sorry; I promised the hon. Gentleman that I would give way.

Mr. Gunnell

May I again make the point that the Committee of the Regions will have a total membership of 189? It cannot function, even as a consultative committee, with 189 members without developing its own executive or bureau. My understanding is that the protocol will go for a bureau of 30, to be elected by the 189 members. I think the Minister accepts that the majority of nations will send elected members. If we do not send elected members, what likelihood is there that the 189 will choose our non-elected members to go on the bureau? By having non-elected members, surely we will not be effective in the operation of the committee.

Mr. Garel-Jones

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the two countries that have so far nominated have not nominated all their people as elected representatives. Seven of the 12 Danish appointees will be Queen's commissioners, appointed by the Crown. Those people play the role of mayors or burgemeesters in their areas, but they are not elected. The Government do not reject the proposition that there could be, or almost certainly will be, some elected local government representatives on the Committee of the Regions. For all I know, they may all be elected local government representatives.

Given the complexities that have emerged, and the balances that we must seek, especially in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in England, too, so that it is properly represented, it would be unwise of the Committee to fetter our joint hands by approving the amendment. When the amendment is reached, I shall ask the Committee to reject it.

Mr. Gunnell

The right hon. Gentleman has cited Denmark. We already know that from Germany there will be at least 21 members representing regional authorities; from Italy there will be at least 22 representing regional authorities, and from Spain 21 more representing regional authorities. The argument in other European countries is about the balance between regional authorities and municipalities, not between elected and non-elected members.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The assertions of the hon. Gentleman cannot yet be backed. Of the two countries which have completed the process of nomination, neither has nominated solely on the basis of elected authorities. He talked about Spain and asserted that the autonomies would be represented. In Spain there is a strong dispute on the distribution of the 21 seats between the 17 autonomies or regions and the municipalities; that dispute has not been resolved. Reportedly, the Spanish Government may nominate elected officials or, in the case of the autonomies, appointed officials from the regional governments.

We may end up where the Opposition amendment seeks to bring us, but all that I am suggesting—I do not think it is controversial—is that it would be unwise at this stage to approve the amendment. Rather we should have proper discussion of the kind that we are used to in this country.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the Minister for giving way, because I probably will not get an opportunity later to make this point. Earlier in the debate, when we were discussing nationalism in its various forms, Welsh, English and Scottish, I referred to the Irish term Sinn Fein and its literal definition. It means "ourselves alone". In retrospect, that may have caused offence to some hon. Members who were arguing from a different point of view. It was insensitive to use the term in that way. I still feel that that type of nationalism, which is introverted and introspective, leads to problems. I ask hon. Members, and especially the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), to accept that I was less than sensitive in putting in that way.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Before I move to discuss briefly the points raised by hon. Members on cohesion—

Mrs. Gorman

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the point, will he make it clear to the Committee whether those who serve on the Committee of the Regions will receive remuneration? If they are to receive only their expenses, will he tell the Committee how those expenses are to be controlled? If they are to be selected from among people already elected to public office, how will their duties be tied in and co-ordinated with the duties which they already have in this country? Our electors already find it unacceptable that so much of their money is gobbled up by this bureaucracy.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend should speak to those who serve on the Economic and Social Committee, where the work is similar and equally valuable. If I am corrected by my officials, I will ensure that the Committee is aware of it, but I gather that the expenses to be paid to members of the Committee of the Regions will be similar to those enjoyed by the members of the Economic and Social Committee.

In the last few months, we have lost some valuable members of that committee who were unable to meet the burdens of the work. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that the amount of work done, and the potential for feeding regional points of view into the councils of the Community, is an undue burden to ask our taxpayers to bear. I agreed with the hon. Member for Moray when she said that the geography of the matter needs to be taken into account. I certainly agree with the principal point of her remarks, which was that proper consultation must take place before any final decisions are made.

Finally, I should like to say a few words about cohesion, which was referred to by some hon. Members.

Sir Roger Moate

I am sorry to interrupt again, but my right hon. Friend said "finally", so he has left the question of the Committee itself. Before he leaves that matter, perhaps he could address some of the many points which have been made in the debate on the principle of the Committee of the Regions. He will be aware that the Committee has been welcomed by—as he calls them—the separatists and the nationalists, for obvious reasons, and by the federalists and the socialists for their reasons.

Is not my right hon. Friend worried that such a proposal from Conservative Members is attracting such support, when it is clear that, philosophically and constitutionally, the Committee of the Regions is intended to bypass this Westminster Parliament and create a structure that relates the regions directly to Brussels? Is not that the reason why the Committee is so welcomed? Does he not feel a sense of embarrassment or even shame that we should be proposing something of that sort?

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that my view and the view of the Conservative party about the way in which the Committee of the Regions will develop—I hasten to tell them that the setting up of the Committee was welcomed by Her Majesty's Government—will prevail, just as the views of the party to which he and I belong have prevailed for quite some time. That is why we sit on this side of the Committee and Opposition Members sit on the other side of the Committee.

I urge my hon. Friend not to believe—as one would expect the Welsh National party and the Scottish Nationalist party to believe—that this will be some sort of Trojan horse which will insert all those separatist dreams into the life blood of the Community. I assure him that that is not part of the agenda of the Spanish Government, the French Government or the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Secretary of State for Wales and the hon. Member for Ynys Mon recognise that. The regions in the United Kingdom have already taken an important initiative which brings Wales into contact with other regions in the Community. That is our agenda for the Committee of the Regions. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) that our agenda in this, as in so many other matters, will prevail over the agenda of the Labour party.

I shall now turn to the cohesion fund. I simply remind the Committee that cohesion has been an explicit Community goal since 1986. As the Committee will be aware, the roots of cohesion go back much further than that. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) reminded us of that in his intervention:in the debate.

Several hon. Members and hon. Friends asked why the cohesion fund is directed towards countries and not regions. The cohesion effort takes place at regional, national and Community level. The cohesion fund will provide support for projects of general interest to the Community in transport infrastructures and the environment in the least prosperous states while they are under the strict budgetary restraints which are required by the convergence process.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

7.30 pm
Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall give way in a moment.

I remind the Committee that the whole of Greece, Portugal and the Irish Republic and most of Spain are already classified as objective 1 regions. I have checked the figures which I gave the Committee as to how much the United Kingdom and other member states are contributing to the cohesion fund and I am glad to say that they are accurate.

The United Kingdom is the fifth largest contributor to the cohesion fund. Germany will contribute about 30 per cent., France 20 per cent., Italy 20 per cent., Spain 10 per cent. and the United Kingdom 5 per cent. The United Kingdom contribution is only slightly larger than that of Holland.

Mr. Gill

My right hon. Friend will not be unaware of the current interest in railways. It has been said that, when the trans-European railway network is completed—it will be defective in the United Kingdom but completed on the continent by and large—it will be possible to get from Frankfurt to Messina in a much shorter time than it will be possible to get from Frankfurt to Glasgow.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that some of our constituents might have a view about that, and might question why the United Kingdom is contributing to cohesion funds which will create such facilities in countries in other parts of Europe out of our taxpayers' money when those facilities which we consider we so badly need will not be available in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am sorry that my hon. Friend continues to examine these matters in what I regard as an exceedingly narrow way. He intervened previously to make a similar point. I think my answer to him then was that, since the United Kingdom has more transnational companies than any other country in the Community, the improvement to the trans-European network—albeit, as he would see it, building roads for the Greeks and the Portuguese—redounds to the benefit of our companies, which are big investors in all four cohesion fund recipient countries.

Sir Teddy Taylor

The Minister will be aware that, in terms of the gross national product per capita, Wales could well have qualified in its own right for cohesion funds—although, obviously, we do not qualify when the gross national product per capita is taken on the United Kingdom basis. Given that the attempts to get objective 1 status for Wales appear from the announcements in the newspapers today to have failed, can the Minister in any way press, through the institutions of the European Community, to see whether the transnational links to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) referred a moment ago can be improved by virtue of the cohesion funds in a way which would benefit the railway services running through north and south Wales linking London to Ireland?

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) made some interesting suggestions in that area. I have given an undertaking that we will not only examine them but, if there is any way forward on that line, we will certainly press them.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Is the Minister saying that Britain will qualify for aid from the cohesion fund? I am sorry; I misunderstood him. I thought that he was saying that to the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones).

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not think that he was saying that; my hon. Friend must have misheard him.

Finally, I shall refer to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who is not in his place. I will not detain the Committee. My hon. Friend made three points which were all wrong, and I shall say why. First, he said that the European investment bank never issued any press releases. The bank issued a press release in January announcing that Sir Brian Unwin, the chairman of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, had been made president of the bank.

My hon. Friend then said that Italy got 40 per cent. of all receipts. That is also wrong. The actual figure is 24 per cent. The United Kingdom is the third largest beneficiary, with 15 per cent. of the total lending, with Spain second at 19 per cent. Finally, my hon. Friend said that Britain would be paying £7.24 billion. That reflects a misunderstanding of the bank's capital structure. We are committed to contributing £102 million between now and 1998.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 288, Noes 259.

Division No. 161] [7.37 pm
Adley, Robert Devlin, Tim
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Dickens, Geofirey
Aitken, Jonathan Dicks, Terry
Alexander, Richard Dorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Alton, David Dover, Den
Amess, David Duncan, Alan
Ancram, Michael Durant, Sir Anthony
Arbuthnot, James Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Elletson, Harold
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ashby, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Aspinwall, Jack Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkins, Robert Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Baldry, Tony Faber, David
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fabricant, Michael
Bates, Michael Fenner, Dame Peggy
Batiste, Spencer Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fishburn, Dudley
Bellingham, Henry Forman, Nigel
Beresford, Sir Paul Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Forth, Eric
Booth, Hartley Foster, Don (Bath)
Boswell, Tim Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bowden, Andrew Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bowis, John Freeman, Roger
Brandreth, Gyles French, Douglas
Brazier, Julian Gale, Roger
Bright, Graham Gallie, Phil
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Browning, Mrs. Angela Garnier, Edward
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gillan, Cheryl
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Burns, Simon Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Burt, Alistair Gorst, John
Butler, Peter Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Butterfill, John Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grylls, Sir Michael
Carrington, Matthew Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hague, William
Churchill, Mr Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Clappison, James Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hannam, Sir John
Coe, Sebastian Hargreaves, Andrew
Colvin, Michael Harris, David
Congdon, David Haselhurst, Alan
Conway, Derek Hawkins, Nick
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hayes, Jerry
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heald, Oliver
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hendry, Charles
Dafis, Cynog Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hicks, Robert
Davis, David (Boothferry) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Day, Stephen Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pickles, Eric
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Rathbone, Tim
Hunter, Andrew Redwood, John
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jack, Michael Richards, Rod
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Riddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Robathan, Andrew
Johnston, Sir Russell Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Key, Robert Sackville, Tom
Kilfedder, Sir James Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom Salmond, Alex
Kirkhope, Timothy Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kirkwood, Archy Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Knox, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shersby, Michael
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Sims, Roger
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Leigh, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Speed, Sir Keith
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lidington, David Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lightbown, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sproat, Iain
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Llwyd, Elfyn Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Luff, Peter Steen, Anthony
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stephen, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stern, Michael
Maclean, David Stewart, Allan
Maclennan, Robert Streeter, Gary
McLoughlin, Patrick Sumberg, David
Madel, David Sykes, John
Maitland, Lady Olga Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Malone, Gerald Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mans, Keith Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Thomason, Roy
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mates, Michael Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thurnham, Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tracey, Richard
Mellor, Rt Hon David Tredinnick, David
Merchant, Piers Trend, Michael
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Trotter, Neville
Milligan, Stephen Twinn, Dr Ian
Mills, Iain Tyler, Paul
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Viggers, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Moss, Malcolm Waller, Gary
Needham, Richard Ward, John
Nelson, Anthony Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Neubert, Sir Michael Waterson, Nigel
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Welsh, Andrew
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Norris, Steve Whitney, Ray
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Widdecombe, Ann
Oppenheim, Phillip Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Ottaway, Richard Wigley, Dafydd
Page, Richard Willetts, David
Wolfson, Mark Tellers for the Ayes:
Yeo, Tim Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Mr. Andrew MacKay.
Abbott, Ms Diane Eastham, Ken
Ainger, Nick Enright, Derek
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Etherington, Bill
Allen, Graham Evans, John (St Helens N)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Fisher, Mark
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Flynn, Paul
Armstrong, Hilary Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Ashton, Joe Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Austin-Walker, John Foulkes, George
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fraser, John
Barnes, Harry Fyfe, Maria
Barron, Kevin Gapes, Mike
Bayley, Hugh Gardiner, Sir George
Beggs, Roy Garrett, John
Bell, Stuart George, Bruce
Bennett, Andrew F. Gerrard, Neil
Benton, Joe Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, Gerald Gill, Christopher
Berry, Dr. Roger Godsiff, Roger
Betts, Clive Golding, Mrs Llin
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gordon, Mildred
Blair, Tony Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Blunkett, David Graham, Thomas
Boateng, Paul Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Body, Sir Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Boyce, Jimmy Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boyes, Roland Grocott, Bruce
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gunnell, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hain, Peter
Burden, Richard Hall, Mike
Butcher, John Hanson, David
Byers, Stephen Hardy, Peter
Caborn, Richard Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Henderson, Doug
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hendron, Dr Joe
Canavan, Dennis Heppell, John
Cann, Jamie Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hinchliffe, David
Cash, William Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Chisholm, Malcolm Home Robertson, John
Clapham, Michael Hood, Jimmy
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hoon, Geoffrey
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clelland, David Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoyle, Doug
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hutton, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corbett, Robin Ingram, Adam
Corbyn, Jeremy Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Corston, Ms Jean Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cousins, Jim Jamieson, David
Cox, Tom Jessel, Toby
Cran, James Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cryer, Bob Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jowell, Tessa
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dalyell, Tam Keen, Alan
Davidson, Ian Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Khabra, Piara S.
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kilfoyle, Peter
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Knapman, Roger
Denham, John Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Dewar, Donald Legg, Barry
Dixon, Don Leighton, Ron
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Donohoe, Brian H. Litherland, Robert
Dowd, Jim Livingstone, Ken
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Eagle, Ms Angela Loyden, Eddie
McAllion, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Macdonald, Calum Rooker, Jeff
McGrady, Eddie Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McLeish, Henry Rowlands, Ted
McMaster, Gordon Ruddock, Joan
McNamara, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
Madden, Max Sheerman, Barry
Maginnis, Ken Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mallon, Seamus Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Marek, Dr John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Marlow, Tony Short, Clare
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Simpson, Alan
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Skinner, Dennis
Martlew, Eric Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Maxton, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Meacher, Michael Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michael, Alun Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Snape, Peter
Milburn, Alan Soley, Clive
Miller, Andrew Spearing, Nigel
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Spellar, John
Moonie, Dr Lewis Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morgan, Rhodri Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Morley, Elliot Steinberg, Gerry
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Stevenson, George
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mowlam, Marjorie Straw, Jack
Mudie, George Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mullin, Chris Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Paul Tipping, Paddy
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Trimble, David
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Vaz, Keith
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
O'Hara, Edward Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Olner, William Walley, Joan
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Paisley, Rev Ian Wareing, Robert N
Pendry, Tom Watson, Mike
Pike, Peter L. Wicks, Malcolm
Pope, Greg Wilkinson, John
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wilson, Brian
Prescott, John Winnick, David
Primarolo, Dawn Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Purchase, Ken Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Quin, Ms Joyce Wise, Audrey
Radice, Giles Worthington, Tony
Randall, Stuart Wright, Dr Tony
Raynsford, Nick
Redmond, Martin Tellers for the Noes:
Reid, Dr John Mr. Alan Meale and
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Mr. Jon Owen Jones.
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 26, Noes 281.

Division No. 162] at 7.50 pm
Beggs, Roy McAllion, John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Madden, Max
Cash, William Maginnis, Ken
Corbyn, Jeremy Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cryer, Bob Paisley, Rev Ian
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Kilfedder, Sir James Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Knapman, Roger Trimble, David
Lewis, Terry Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Tellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld) Mr. Harry Barnes and
Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Adley, Robert Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Faber, David
Aitken, Jonathan Fabricant, Michael
Alexander, Richard Fenner, Dame Peggy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Alton, David Fishburn, Dudley
Amess, David Forman, Nigel
Ancram, Michael Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Arbuthnot, James Forth, Eric
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Foster, Don (Bath)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Ashby, David Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Aspinwall, Jack Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Atkins, Robert Freeman, Roger
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) French, Douglas
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gale, Roger
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Gallie, Phil
Baldry, Tony Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Garnier, Edward
Bates, Michael Gillan, Cheryl
Batiste, Spencer Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bellingham, Henry Gorst, John
Booth, Hartley Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Bos well, Tim Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bottom ley, Peter (Eltham) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bowden, Andrew Grylls, Sir Michael
Bowis, John Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brandreth, Gyles Hague, William
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Bright, Graham Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hannam, Sir John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hargreaves, Andrew
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Harris, David
Burns, Simon Haselhurst, Alan
Burt, Alistair Hawkins, Nick
Butler, Peter Hayes, Jerry
Butterfill, John Heald, Oliver
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hendry, Charles
Carrington, Matthew Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hicks, Robert
Clappison, James Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Coe, Sebastian Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Colvin, Michael Horam, John
Congdon, David Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Conway, Derek Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Dafis, Cynog Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jack, Michael
Day, Stephen Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Devlin, Tim Johnston, Sir Russell
Dicks, Terry Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Dover, Den Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan, Alan Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Eggar, Tim Key, Robert
Elletson, Harold King, Rt Hon Tom
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Kirkwood, Archy
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knox, David
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evennett, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Leigh, Edward Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Sackville, Tom
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lidington, David Salmond, Alex
Lightbown, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shaw, David (Dover)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Llwyd, Elfyn Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Luff, Peter Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Shersby, Michael
Lynne, Ms Liz Sims, Roger
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
MacKay, Andrew Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maclean, David Soames, Nicholas
Maclennan, Robert Speed, Sir Keith
McLoughlin, Patrick Spencer, Sir Derek
Madel, David Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Maitland, Lady Olga Spink, Dr Robert
Malone, Gerald Sproat, Iain
Mans, Keith Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Marland, Paul Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Steen, Anthony
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Stephen, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stern, Michael
Mates, Michael Stewart, Allan
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Streeter, Gary
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Sumberg, David
Mellor, Rt Hon David Sykes, John
Merchant, Piers Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Milligan, Stephen Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mills, Iain Temple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thomason, Roy
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Monro, Sir Hector Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moss, Malcolm Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Needham, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Tredinnick, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Trend, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Tyler, Paul
Norris, Steve Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Ottaway, Richard Waller, Gary
Page, Richard Ward, John
Paice, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patnick, Irvine Waterson, Nigel
Patten, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wells, Bowen
Pickles, Eric Welsh, Andrew
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Whitney, Ray
Powell, William (Corby) Widdecombe, Ann
Rathbone, Tim Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Redwood, John Wigley, Dafydd
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Willetts, David
Richards, Rod Woltson, Mark
Riddick, Graham Yeo,Tim
Robathan, Andrew
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Tellers for the Noes:
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Mr.
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Title XVII on page 40 of Cm 1934)'.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

With this, it will be convenient also to discuss the following: Amendment No. 194, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 3(q)'.

Amendment No. 233, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130x(2)'.

Amendment No. 241, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130w'.

Amendment No. 242, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130x(1)'.

Amendment No. 389, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130u as referred to in Article G on page 40 of Command Paper number 1934'.

Amendment No. 390, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article I30v as referred to in Article G on page 41 of Command Paper number 1934'.

Amendment No. 391, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 130x as referred to in Article G on page 41 of Command Paper number 1934'.

Amendment No. 392, in page 1, line 9, after '11', insert 'except Article 130y as referred to in Article G on page 41 of Command Paper number 1934'.

New clause 60—Development co-operation'Her Majesty's Government shall report to the House of Commons annually on the implementation of the objectives of article 130u, including the campaign against world poverty, respect for human rights, and compliance with the United Nations, having regard to the co-ordination and consultation required by Article 130x.'. New clause 66—Development Co-operation Annual Report'Her Majesty's Government shall make an Annual Report to Parliament on the operation, including income programme and activities, of the Development Co-operation as set out in Articles 130u-y of the Treaty on European Union, which shall include—

  1. (a) a report on the activities of the European Investment Bank in respect of Development Co-operation and the criteria adopted by them in the preceding year for their financial operation relating to these Articles,
  2. (b) the steps taken by the various official bodies of the European Community or Union in respect of co-ordination of national development policy, and
  3. (c) initiatives taken by the Commission and its activities in relation to the initiation or conclusion of agreements with third parties on behalf of the European Community.'.

8 pm

Mr. Meacher

Amendment No. 16 is a probing amendment and relates, together with the associated amendments and new clauses, to article 17 of Command Paper 1934 and EC policy on development co-operation. This is an important issue because of the damaging interaction between EC aid policy and Britain's own aid contributions. I shall spell out why.

The EC has decided that its aid to Asia, Latin America and Europe and its food aid should go up by 60 per cent. in real terms by 1999. That decision, which was made at the Edinburgh summit in December, would have been good news in normal circumstances, but the British Government are not proposing to increase their aid budget to pay for their part of that increase. The total aid programme is planned to fall in real terms in 1994–95.

On that basis, the EC increase will be funded by large cuts elsewhere in the British aid programme, with the EC share of British aid rising perhaps to as much as 40 per cent. That may mean that, by 1999, Britain's own bilateral aid will, in real terms, be equivalent only to three quarters of its 1990 level. That would also mean that severe cuts would be made to aid given through other multilateral channels such as the United Nations. African countries, in economic crisis and in desperate need of balance of payment support, would be most hard hit by cuts in aid.

Projects in low-priority countries would also be hit, for example, the well regarded British agricultural project in Bolivia.

It is significant that the policy of switching aid contributions to the EC is a volte-face. EC aid has regularly been criticised, not least by the Minister for Overseas Development. By contrast, Britain's own bilateral aid programme is well regarded, as Ministers so often tell us, and receives support, for example, in the most recent review of British aid by the OECD Development Assistance Committee.

An increase in EC aid is, of course, welcome, but only if it is an increase and not merely a reallocation at the expense of the poor. The evidence clearly suggests that the latter will occur.

The EC aid comes from two pockets. Almost all aid to Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, the poorest regions, comes from the European development fund, which is negotiated on a multi-year basis under the Lome convention. The rest of the aid, including food aid, is called EC external spending and comes from the EC budget.

In 1990–91, EC external spending, which excludes Lome aid, took only 9 per cent. of the Overseas Development Administration's budget. By 1999, it could be 29 per cent., unless the Government increase the aid budget faster than currently planned. If one adds the Lomé aid, the total EC share of the British aid budget would then rise from 18 per cent. in 1990–91 to about 40 per cent. in 1999. That is a big increase but its effect obviously depends on what is cut. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what the Government intend to do.

Even if the share of other multilateral aid, such as that provided by the International Development Association of the World bank and UNICEF, were cut by one third, Britain's own bilateral aid would have to fall from 60 per cent. in 1990–91 to around 45 per cent. of the total. That, in turn, would mean that Britain's bilateral aid in 1999 would, in real terms, be equivalent to about three quarters of its level at the start of this decade.

I would be the first to recognise that the cuts could be shared on a different basis and I hope that the Minister will say how he believes that that will be done. But, however it is done, the effect is dire. The Committee should concentrate on why there has been a switch so that the EC provides a much bigger share of Britain's aid policy. There is a lingering suspicion that it has little to do with aid policy.

When the deal was agreed at the Edinburgh summit, the Government were under pressure from their EC partners to increase spending in a number of areas. With the Maastricht debate in Parliament in its current fairly balanced state—I put it as sensitively as I can—the Government were under equal pressure to minimise any increase in the net British payments to the EC.

It just so happens, by an accounting quirk, that that overseas aid contribution is not included in the total net payments to the EC, which is reported annually to the United Kingdom Parliament in the public expenditure White Paper. One must ask whether that aid increase was agreed as an increase that was easy to hide. It would be interesting to hear the Minister's reply. I would simply say that it is also an expensive type of EC spending for Britain, because that money is not subject to any rebate from the British rebate mechanism which was secured by Baroness Thatcher.

Despite the drawbacks for Britain's aid programme generally, the British Government's policy is firmly set on shifting aid more and more into an EC context. The Council of Ministers resolution on development policy of 18 November 1992, under the British presidency, centred on increasing co-ordination between EC member states' aid policies for the first time—a significant development. That is disturbing when, as I said, the EC's aid record has been severely criticised, not least by the Minister herself, for several good reasons.

The quality of EC aid—with certain notable exceptions —does not have a good reputation. British nongovernmental organisations in particular have difficulty securing emergency money from the EC, and its funds very little rehabilitation—the essential work after a disaster or conflict that is often most important in preventing further conflict.

The same criticism is directed at ECHO, the Community's recently created Humanitarian Office. It is flawed by its definition of emergency aid as being independent of development processes, as well as by its notorious lack of consultation with local organisations in developing countries. Both limitations make it an inappropriate model for the kind of humanitarian intervention that is so desperately needed. The suspicion persists that the establishment of ECHO has more to do with extending EC competence than any enhancement of EC aid policy.

There are other major criticisms of current EC aid policy. The European development fund continues to devote too high a proportion of its budget to capital-intensive projects rather than to projects aimed at improving the productive capacity of poor people. The implementation of EDF programmes is often slow and notoriously inefficient and bureaucratic, in most cases. While I do not dispute the principle behind the Stabex fund, it has not been able to compensate for the collapse of commodity prices in the 1980s.

The importance of that can hardly be overstated. The price of tea, coffee and cocoa fell by an average 1 I per cent. a year in the 1980s, with stunning impoverishing effects on 48 out of 55 African countries that depend on those three commodities for more than half their total export earnings.

Another criticism is that much EC aid focuses on assisting infrastructure development rather than human development, such as primary education, health care and community action. Food aid is also used as a channel to flush down common agricultural policy food mountains, and for that reason the proportion of total EC aid that is food aid is far too high. There continues to be an imbalance in aid to the poorest countries of Africa, compared with those of Asia.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend's remarks reflect entirely the EC's general policy towards Lomé convention countries. The Community's aim is not to advance them but to keep them impoverished, as primary producing countries. Although their raw agricultural products are allowed into the EC without tariff, as soon as a Lomé country develops an agricultural industry in which food is processed and packaged, or refined in some other way—an essential move for any country wanting to improve its infrastructure and agricultural industry—the EC slaps on tariffs to protect preferentially its own domestic agricultural industries.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I shall refer later to the high tariff levels imposed on agricultural products in general. The EC tariff on cocoa is very low, at about 3 per cent., but once that commodity is processed, the tariff is about 16 per cent. Such a policy discriminates against countries attempting to escape from the poverty caused by mono-dependence on single primary commodities.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

It is important that the Committee understands the hon. Gentleman's meaning, because he no doubt represents the Opposition's view on this important amendment. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he is unhappy for the Community to provide so much food aid, or that it is merely too high a proportion of the total cost of food aid? I believe that we should provide more food aid, albeit that I am also sympathetic to the view that we should increase other forms of aid to developing countries. I trust that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the level of food aid to people starving in many parts of the world should be reduced.

8.15 pm
Mr. Meacher

Of course I am not saying that, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to clarify my comments. At this very moment, many countries are in a dire state of emergency, with starvation rife in many parts of Africa. I am merely arguing that the proportion of EC aid that takes the form of food aid is too high, and reflects EC interests in reducing food mountains. That policy is not primarily concerned with developing countries.

The biggest criticism of all is that the common agricultural policy of offloading huge surplus supplies from EC food mountains on to world markets does far more to destabilise the commodity prices of developing countries and to undermine their fundamental economic interest than the whole of the EC aid programme does to assist those countries.

This stringent critique of EC aid policy is not mitigated by the anodyne language of the first paragraph of article 130x: The Community and the Member States shall co-ordinate their policies on development co-operation and shall consult each other on their aid programmes". That is too vague and generalised to be of any value.

Either the Bill or the treaty—and perhaps it is not appropriate for the Bill—should contain sharper, more precise commitments of the kind found in the White Paper "Horizon 2000".

First and foremost is the commitment to devoting 0.7 per cent. of gross national product to aid, plus a statement of intention to move beyond that. It would be highly embarrassing for the British Government to press for that in view of their lamentable record of cutting aid by nearly half as a proportion of GNP—from 0.51 per cent. in 1979 to 0.3 per cent. today—but still such a commitment should be sought.

Moreover, there should be a statement that aid for central and eastern Europe should not divert money, time or expertise from work with the poorest countries. The EC increased the share of its external assistance budget to eastern Europe from 38 per cent. in 1992 to 42 per cent, in the current year, and it seems likely to continue that trend. At the same time, the United Kingdom's aid budget for developing countries has been frozen for the next two succeeding years, and that is unacceptable.

Mr. Randall

I am a little confused. Article 130x says that the Community and member states should co-ordinate their policies and develop aid programmes in a co-operative way, based on joint action and so on. That is very laudable, but my hon. Friend seems to be saying that he wants the policies to be built into the treaty. Although what he says makes sense to me, I wonder whether it is appropriate for that level of policy detail to be incorporated in a treaty document of this kind.

Mr. Meacher

I agree. I said that it might well not be appropriate to incorporate such detail in the protocol or the text of the treaty. I am trying to explain that this section of the treaty reflects—or should reflect—the contents of the EC White Paper "Horizon 2000". I am commenting on what I consider to be the deficiencies and inadequacies of that. It is one thing to co-ordinate policies, but, if the policies involved are deficient—or, indeed, thoroughly inadequate—in important respects, and if their objectives are unclear or insufficiently high, co-ordination of those policies will be far from sufficient, even if the wording of the text is anodyne.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Successive studies carried out by the Commission itself have recognised that a failure to co-ordinate has prevented the effective use of the aid that is there. I am thinking particularly of something that costs nothing—the way in which accounts are done for food aid. I do not mean emergency food aid; it is important to distinguish between that and other types of aid. It is also important, however, to co-ordinate how such aid is accounted for between the United Nations, the various bilateral agreements and the Community. As I know only too well, the resources of countries that genuinely benefit from Community aid are being overstrained.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend has made a good point. We believe that there should be regular and systematic independent evaluation of EC projects and programmes —in respect of food aid, and in other respects—with specific tests in the form of social and environmental audits. That should be combined with a commitment to transparency and accountability in EC aid, in policy development as well as its application—again, at both EC and member state level. That is why we tabled new clause 60: we wanted to remedy the lack of accountability to the House of Commons, and to ensure that EC aid policies were fully understood in detail and could be assessed by the House.

Although the treaty specifically mentions a poverty focus as an important aim of the aid programme, in reality the commitment will be undermined because of a lack of sufficient staff—particularly trained experts—to monitor EC aid in Brussels and the regions of the world. I think that that is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) was making. He is not alone in remarking on the confusion and lack of co-ordination between Directorate General 8 and DG 1 I; both directorates have relatively few staff.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend may not agree with me, but I think that we should put the EC into context. The EC is no friend of the poor countries of the world; indeed, it connives at their exploitation. Moreover, when emergency food aid is supplied to particularly dire areas of the world, the Community resolutely refuses to get any from its stockpiles, or to have emergency strategic stockpiles from the huge food mountains created by the absurd common agricultural policy, because everyone knows that certain areas will be in danger. Instead, the Community uses EC money to buy food on world markets.

On several occasions, I have tried to encourage Commissioners to have stockpiles of food, and to pay for their storage in strategic areas where such pressures exist. Of course, the Commission has resolutely refused, because it wants to pay the money for storing food to wealthy farmers in the Community rather than to poor countries that might benefit.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend may be surprised to learn that I am extremely sympathetic to his view. I feel strongly that EC food mountains should be used at times of extreme starvation to provide food at very low, perhaps virtually nil, cost. It is astonishing that they cannot be used at a time when up to half a million people have starved to death in Somalia. Having visited the area, I know that that starvation is partly due to an inability to distribute food, but it is also due to extreme delay in its availability. Certainly vastly greater quantities could have been made available much earlier, at an extremely low cost. It seems extraordinary, and perverse, that food mountains can be allowed to accumulate when people in desperate need, dying of starvation, are denied that advantage.

Mr. Enright

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to an important point—one that is difficult to grasp, and certainly has not been grasped by the majority of the British public? If we simply shift our surpluses, we shall put peasant farmers out of business. That is wrong. We should do what the Community is doing in some of the poorest countries—I am thinking particularly of Guinea Bissau. We should encourage the local farmer to build up his stock, and to buy locally. In many cases, it is impossible to store food, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), and many of the surpluses that we produce—particularly powdered milk —are totally unsuitable for use in such countries.

Mr. Meacher

I am grateful for the opportunity to expand on this point. I stand by what I said in regard to areas where starvation is rife, but I take my hon. Friend's point: of course we should not offload supplies on countries with a moderately flourishing local agriculture. Of course we want to support local farmers. I was thinking exclusively of countries where, as a result of civil war and armies crossing their territory two or three times—as happened in south and south-west Somalia—farmers have not sown any seed, and hundreds of thousands of people are unable to obtain access to food. In such circumstances, it is extraordinary that the EC has not taken the opportunity to make some of that food available.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher


Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

It follows from that point.

Mr. Meacher

I am sure it does, but we have already discussed the point, and it is only one aspect of the general policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "She is leaving now.") I was trying to analyse—[Interruption.]

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. The Committee has become somewhat noisy, and it is difficult to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Mr. Meacher

Thank you, Dame Janet. I hope that the remainder of the Committee will stay to listen to my analysis of other aspects of EC aid policy.

We think that there should be a statement on response to emergencies. There is no mention of emergency action or co-ordination in the treaty—or, indeed, in the White Paper—although we are lurching from crisis to crisis, in Europe as well as in developing countries. That, too, is a major point. In the last week or two, the Foreign Secretary has rightly said that a proliferation of crises—crises of ethnic nationalism, and regional conflicts—is erupting across the globe.

8.30 pm

The principle of humanitarian intervention is one where I believe the EC, alongside the United Nations, should be seeking to make its contribution both in establishing the political parameters as well as administrative and military logistics.

Perhaps the major weakness, however, of article 130x is its extremely limited perspective on the concept of development co-operation in general. Aid is only a small part of development co-operation. Much more important is trade. According to UNCTAD, the value of developing countries' exports is 17 times greater than the total aid that they receive.

The developing world's share of global GDP has fallen in recent years from 22 per cent. in 1980 to 18 per cent. in 1988, largely as a result of two factors, the collapse in commodity prices and the rise in western protectionism. The EC is the world's biggest trading block. It accounts for 37 per cent. of world trade and one third of its imports and exports are with the third world. It is therefore in a position to make a substantial contribution to the developing world, and I submit that at present it is failing to do so.

A second great omission from EC policy on development co-operation concerns the whole issue of debt reduction. More than a third of the commercial debt of the 17 highly indebted countries, such as Argentina and Mexico, is to EC companies. The fall in commodity prices in the 1980s has been so great that it is now estimated that 42 per cent. of the developing world's debt is the result of deteriorating terms of trade. That is a staggering statistic. Servicing that debt accounts for as much as a third of the foreign exchange earned by African and Latin American exports.

Apart from the Trinidad terms on official debt, proposed by Britain and which I think we all support, but which apply to a minimal part of the debt of the least-developed countries, the EC has not played an active part in proposing debt reduction initiatives.

If the commitments made at Maastricht and Rio are to be translated into action, certain fundamental objectives must be incorporated. One is putting the poor first. With more than a billion people in the world now unalble to afford the bare essentials of life, the first aim of EC development policy should be to reduce poverty. Addressing poverty is a key element in achieving sustainable development, yet at present only 7 per cent. of the bilateral aid of the richest countries in OECD goes into primary health care or basic education and safe water programmes; 41 per cent. of aid is directed at high or middle-income countries and 50 to 55 per cent. of EC aid, which is worth about $10 billion, is tied to the purchase of goods from the aid donor.

That is much more about satisfying the interests of donor countries than about satisfying the interests of the poorest in the southern world. If poor countries are to break out of the cycle of poverty, they must be able to sell their goods in EC markets to gain resources for development, yet over the last decade there has been a considerable growth in western protectionism and it is the developing countries which have suffered most.

Studies show that non-tariff barriers raised by industrial countries more often discriminate against goods from developing countries than they do against goods from industrial countries. World bank figures show that the overall share of exports in developing countries facing non-tariff barriers is roughly 20 per cent., and that is twice the share for exports from the industrialised countries.

The worst affected are third-world agricultural exports and more than a quarter of these face non-tariff barriers. It is estimated that the cost to developing countries of northern protectionist policies amount to $100 billion a year. That is far more than the total of EC aid policies. Third-world countries also have had their own production undercut by the dumping of subsidised agricultural goods on world markets.

Mr. Michael Spicer

The hon. Member is making these points as if they were some kind of backdrop and interesting factual analyses against which other things can be discussed. He is actually making a fundamental attack on the institutions, the policy and philosophy of the EC. That is what the EC is about—the CAP and protectionism of trade and farming. This is a fundamental attack. How can he support the whole momentum of the EC when he is making this kind of attack on its very essence?

Mr. Meacher

I am glad to answer that. My views about the impact of the CAP, the unloading of surpluses on third world countries and the effect on prices are well understood, and shared, I think, in many and most parts of the Committee. The effect and the enormously damaging way it undermines any good that EC policies do is iniquitous. It is of course not EC aid policies as against UK aid policies. UK aid policies are not entirely free from a lot of these criticisms. UK aid policy, in a number of respects, is better than EC aid policy for the reasons that I have given, but I am not suggesting that EC aid policy is something to be decried, but something to be enormously improved and linked also with different policies on trade and on debt relief. That is as much an attack on the United Kingdom, France and Germany in their bilateral relations with third-world countries as it is on the EC.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)


Mr. Meacher

Since it is my hon. Friend, and I am sure that he would like to have a place in this debate, I give way to him, but this is the last time.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is surely approaching the pith of this debate. Does he agree with me that this treaty means the end of British aid policy as such and the advancement—and its takeover—by the overseas aid policy of the European union?

Mr. Meacher

No, I do not believe that that is a fair conclusion. It is certainly not the end of United Kingdom bilateral aid policy. I am saying that it leads to a diminution. Despite the low level of United Kingdom aid, the fact that it has been cut and the criticisms that Labour hon. Members have so often made, we believe that it has a real value but that it needs to be linked with trade reform and debt relief. I have also made the point that it will lead to a significant reduction of that aid in the interests of EC aid which is, in our view, of significantly less value. We think the balance is wrong and would like to see it changed. Those are precisely the criticisms that I have made, but I do not think that it leads to the end of the United Kingdom aid policy.

It is because we have all these stringent reservations that I have tried to explain about EC aid policy in principle and in operation, that we have tabled new clause 60. It requires the Government to report to the House annually on the implementation of the objectives of article 130u, including the campaign against world poverty, respect for human rights and compliance with the United Nations, having regard to the co-ordination and consultation required by article 130x.

Where more and more British aid is being fed through EC channels—I agree that it is something we deplore—this new clause is the minimum in terms of accountability that can be properly demanded, but it puts in place a check that is urgently needed.

I shall be asking my right hon. and hon Friends to support it in the Lobby tonight and I hope that it will carry support on all sides of the Committee.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

Speaking on the 13th day of the debate, one feels a little like a schoolboy from the fifth form, who has burst in on a pillow fight in the sixth form, only to find that the real battle is outside on the playing field.

I oppose the amendment because I find it illogical to delete from the treaty the first chance that we have had of codifying overseas aid and development policy in statute. Far from handing powers to a federal union, as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) suggested, we have an opportunity to influence the debate that perhaps we have never had before.

I believe that many of the world's problems are caused by over-population and by the population growing out of control. I shall describe the nature of the problem, why it matters and how the treaty can help. In 1930, the population of the globe was just 2 billion. By 1975, it had grown to 4 billion and by the year 2000 it is estimated that it will reach 6 billion, having passed 5 billion in the mid-1980s. The simple reason for this sudden spiralling of the population is that the death rate has declined as a result of the introduction of modern medicine. That has set up what is known as population momentum, which means that tomorrow's parents have been born and that the population of the world will continue to grow.

The population of the continent of Africa is doubling every 23 years, and the result is a downward spiral in its economic growth. If a country's population grows by, say, 3 per cent. per annum, its economy must grow by 3 per cent. per annum just to stand still. If it fails to do so, the result, quite simply, is poverty.

Why should we be concerned about population growth? Why does it bother us, here in a country where the population is stable at about 50 million? The first reason is that the growing population, particularly in Africa and along the area south of the Sahara desert, is causing deforestation. Mobile tribes who cannot find wood for fuel cut down trees. Other countries are removing the rain forest as a result of the ever-increasing demand for the income that that produces.

The second reason why population growth has an impact on us is the global pollution that it is now causing. It is estimated that, by the year 2025, developing countries will emit about 44 per cent. of the world's CO2, output. The economic drive of China, which has just arrived in the top 10 exporting nations, is based on coal-fired energy. Its coal-fired power stations have none of the sophisticated desulphurisation equipment that ours have and are emitting neat CO2, into the atmosphere.

The third reason is that environmental decline is having an impact on global warming. No less an expert than Sir Crispin Tickell, backed by environmental experts such as Dr. David Bellamy, believes that by the year 2025 we shall witness a 1.5 deg. rise in temperature as a result of the erosion of the ozone layer and CO2, emissions. That will have an impact on patterns of disease and of climate. Cholera outbreaks in Peru might be explained by the 1 deg rise in the temperature off the coast of Peru, which has allowed the vaccilus to burst into light.

The fourth reason why we should be concerned about population growth is that it increases immigration tensions. It is estimated that there are 17 million political refugees and about 10 million environmental refugees in the world and that is probably an underestimate. The pressure will be felt in southern Europe. In 1945, about two thirds of the population around the Mediterranean shores was in southern Europe, but such has been the population growth in northern Africa that two thirds of the population in the Mediterranean now live on the northern African shore. They are all trying to get over into Europe, which will inevitably create tensions in southern Europe. We shall have to raise barriers as they seek to enter Europe.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

What barriers?

Mr. Ottaway


8.45 pm

The fifth reason is the erosion of renewable resources. It is estimated that in 1988 the annual fish catch exceeded sustainable yields and that the oceans can no longer provide the fish that the world requires. No fewer than 39 developing countries have insufficient water for their requirements. In his excellent book, "The Third Revolution", Paul Harrison said that there are three factors at work in the environment: population, or the number of people involved; consumption, or the amount that those people consume; and technology, which decides how much space and resources are used. They all interact.

The question is, what are we going to do about it? I believe that action on population is the most promising avenue. Stabilising the world's population will offer slower growth and slower environmental impact. By slowing growth, we lower infant mortality and persuade mothers to have fewer children. We must impress on developing countries the economic benefits of lower population growth. In the 1980s, the incomes of the 50 per cent. of countries with slower population growth rose 2.5 per cent. per annum faster than the 50 per cent. of countries with faster population growth.

What is needed is action on a global scale. It is imperative that we increase funding for global family planning programmes, I am a great supporter of the programmes of the Overseas Development Administration. It has an unparalleled record of success in boosting population programmes, and the growth in population programmes in the past 14 years probably far exceeds that in other public expenditure programmes. It starts from a low base indeed, and we should be seeking to make a positive contribution to the World bank's family planning programme, which estimates that it will cost $10 billion a year to stabilise the world's population growth early in the next century. In global terms, $10 billion a year is a relatively insignificant sum. I argue that a better purpose could not be found for that expenditure.

That money should be given to the United Nations fund for population activities, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and non-governmental organisations that specialise in the subject. They want to get down to the brass tacks of providing sex education and contraception on demand to developing countries. There is an unmet demand for family planning services. It is estimated that 300 million people cannot get the contraception that they require. If all OECD countries spent 4 per cent. of their aid budgets on family planning policies, it would raise about $2 billion a year, which, coupled with the existing family planning budgets of developing countries, would make a total of $5 billion dollars a year—halfway towards the target at which we are aiming.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The Committee is well aware of my hon. Friend's commitment in this area and of his interest in aid and in limiting the world's population. I have been listening extremely carefully to his well-structured and well-prepared speech, but it seems to me that he has not paid any attention to the cultures of various countries that have population problems—problems as he sees them. I am thinking of religious problems and the traditions of countries. It is very easy to talk about making more contraceptives available and about providing more people to flog international parenthood ideas, but I must ask my hon. Friend whether he accepts that countries have different cultures and traditions and that his simple approach is not always the best one.

Mr. Ottaway

My hon. Friend recognises my commitment in this area, and I recognise his opposition. I would never for one moment advocate anything other than a voluntary programme. My hon. Friend is right to say that we have to recognise people's cultures. However, he should realise that almost every developing country now recognises the need for the introduction of family planning to stabilise population. I deliberately use the word "stabilise" rather than "limit". What my hon. Friend has said implies some mandatory, oppressive regime.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), when he was describing the hon. Gentleman's remarks, talked about a simple approach. That is a view which is not held by many hon. Members, who genuinely accept the reality of the problem and support the voluntary approach that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting.

Mr. Ottaway

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's comment. I believe that his view is shared by the overwhelming majority of hon. Members.

Two problems are experienced in the introduction of these programmes. There is some short-termism in the overseas aid provided under development programmes. It is very easy just to provide more tractors and food, but a long-term approach involves considering how many people want to use these facilities. That is a subject that most governments are unwilling to address. It is a politically sensitive issue in respect of which they are usually unwilling to bite the bullet.

Historically, the opposition to these programmes has come from two sources. First, over the past 12 years—the Reagan-Bush era—there has been opposition from the United States Government. Regrettably, in the United States there has been some confusion between the abortion issue and the population issue. The United States Administration, under Presidents Reagan and Bush, took the view that money provided for family planning programmes could go to abortion programmes, to which they were ideologically opposed. Thus, regrettably, they withheld funds from the United Nations and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. It is to the credit of the British Government that this country leaped to the aid of the IPPF in the mid-1980s and provided it with a home after the United States withdrew its funding.

However, I congratulate President Clinton on his victory. If I were a United States citizen, I should not have voted for him, but I wish him well in the next four years. In any case, he is reversing that policy. On this front, opposition from the United States Administration has probably fallen away, and that gives us much hope for the United Nations conference on population which is to take place in Cairo in 1994. I hope that on that occasion there will be a more positive response from the United States than was evident at the earth summit in Rio.

The second type of opposition is that from the Roman Catholic Church. It is the type of opposition to which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield referred. I do not criticise the Roman Catholic Church for this stand. 1 t is a fact of life; it is what the church believes. I believe that opposition to artificial methods of family planning exists only at the top of the church. The vast majority of Roman Catholics would probably support the use of artificial methods of family planning. The Church supports natural rhythm methods; it is only techniques and methods about which we are talking.

How does all this relate to the treaty? [Laughter.] I hope, in the last minute, to demonstrate that the treaty probably has more impact in this area than in any other area being discussed in this debate.

At the Council of Ministers, support for European population programmes has been blocked primarily by the Roman Catholic countries of France, Italy and Spain. That is why the European Community has a poor track record on population policies. Whatever one may think about qualified majority voting, that block is now going to disappear. We shall now be able to have co-ordinated EC programmes on family planning. The initiative on this issue is most likely to come from Europe, so I believe that, by rejecting this amendment, we shall be taking a lead on a fundamental issue.

Mr. Randall

My contribution will be very short. I should like to refer the Committee to the aims of development co-operation, which are set out in paragraph 1 of article 130u. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldharn, West (Mr. Meacher) referred primarily to article I 30x, which deals with co-ordination of EC policies on development co-operation and how consultation should take place. To my mind, the objectives set out in article 130u are very commendable. The article says: Community policy in the sphere of development co-operation, which shall be complementary to the policies pursued by the Member States, shall foster: — … sustainable economic and social development …, and more particularly for the most disadvantaged …. ․the smooth and gradual integration of the developing countries into the world economy; ․the campaign against poverty in the developing countries." These are extraordinarily laudable objectives. As the EC becomes more unified as an institution, its role in the world context must become more focused. We have seen the cuts in aid programmes through the United Nations. The United Nations does terrific work. Many people tend to think of that organisation as only sorting out war situations, but its role in the health, hygiene and other development work in the world is remarkable. I regret very much that over the past 10 years the Conservative Government's contribution, as a proportion of GNP, to the United Nations has been deplorably bad.

Now that the European Community is probably the biggest and most sophisticated trading bloc in the world, and is certainly extraordinarily healthy, its contribution must be co-ordinated and effective. I should like the European Community—or the European union—to stand out as a beacon in the world. It should stand out as a rich bloc unquestionably, but also as a magnanimous unit which aims to improve the lot of the poorer countries.

Mr. Spearing


Mrs. Currie


Mr. Randall

I give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

Mr. Spearing

As my hon. Friend knows, I agree in principle with much of what he is saying, but will he amend his earlier description of the admirable objectives as the objectives of the Community? Article 130u states only that the member states shall "foster" these objectives, and article 130v states that they shall be taken account of. As he knows from other spheres, there is a great difference between that and making them the objectives on which policy is predicated.

Mr. Randall

Not having taken part in the construction of the Maastricht treaty, I believe that the wording and intensity of the sentences is appropriate, bearing in mind that we are talking about complementary action among member states. There will be co-operation, so I am not perhaps as worried about the weakness of the wording as my hon. Friend who exercises his terrific brain on these matters.

9 pm

Mrs. Currie

I want to take up a point made earlier by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall). He said that the European Community, being a rich area, should be making a contribution to the rest of the world. I am sure that many of my colleagues would agree with that. But if the hon. Gentleman has any influence with the new President of the United States, might it not be wise to say the same to the Americans and to tell them to pay their contributions to the United Nations?

Mr. Randall

The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. In the next few months, many of us in the House of Commons and in the country will be watching to see how the new President performs because we are worried about isolationism and we know that the American economy is in a dreadful state—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is sufficiently experienced not to be tempted to follow that train of thought. I regret having to bring him to order, but will he return to the amendment?

Mr. Randall

I shall refrain from describing the backcloth to European policy, which I believe is necessary to put the issue in context. I shall not describe how President Clinton might perform.

Expectations of the European Community are unquestionably very high because of its growing richness and wealth. As we said earlier, the Community will attempt to raise the standards of its poorer countries, but the key is to do all that we can in the world at large.

The question of aid and development must rest on the economic development of the poorer countries. My wife and I have worked with Oxfam for many years. It is clear from a number of cases in which we have been involved that the development of water and sewerage systems to ensure good health as a first step is a prerequisite to economic development. Such systems are often preceded by aid programmes. Article 130u states that member states shall deal first with the "most disadvantaged" countries. I welcome that priority.

Somalia is a very good example because it reveals the terrific difficulties in attempting to tackle such problems. A war there has prevented agencies from carrying out their work, but the ending of the cold war is important to world aid. One of the main problems for aid and development was the sale of arms, which has held up the economic development of many countries. In Somalia, it prevented the agencies from even getting to various parts of the country. It is commendable that we can now divert money from arms into the economic development of such countries. It also provides a greater justification for using Community money when we know that it will not be frittered away on arms.

Finally, I want to say a word about trade. I believe that trade with poorer countries is vital. The future of Europe can and must be a very exciting one, but we must ensure that there is an opportunity for trade to take place. As I said earlier, article 130u talks about the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries into the world economy. For that to happen, trade must be allowed to take place. It is the easiest thing in the world to stifle that trade by introducing very high tariffs. I hope that we will ensure that we are fair to those countries and will allow trade to take place.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

I am most grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, particularly as he has intimated that he is coming to the end of his admirable speech, with which I believe many of us agree. Is there not a bit of a contradiction, however, in suggesting that the European Community should do all it can to assist developing countries and to assist in freeing trade with developing countries, while at the same time hedging the European Community round with a wall of tariffs and restrictions?

Mr. Randall

That is the very point that I was making. It seems to me that, if we were to introduce a barrier of tariffs—this is the point that was made about the United States, where one sees that happening—the effect on poorer countries could be very serious indeed.

The Maastricht treaty is not a policy document. In my view, it is a framework for decision making. I hope very much that when it comes to developing policies they will fit in the the objectives here. I will personally be very happy with that and I hope that it will lead to the alleviation of poverty and a better world in which there is an opportunity for development and greater prosperity in those countries. The Community could serve as a beacon, and I welcome the whole thing in principle.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

I am very pleased to intervene at this stage.

There was a moment in the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) in moving the amendment, and indeed in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), when I thought for one glorious moment that Maastricht was all over, the debates were finished and we had nothing more to conclude in the Committee stage of the Bill; that we were back to the old debates on aid policy and the arguments which the hon. Member for Oldham, West has advanced before on the levels of aid and all those matters that I debated with his predecessor on many occasions. Sadly, I have never debated with him in a discussion which the Opposition might have launched.

We were saved from that situation by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall), but even he, I am afraid, drifted into general aid policy, although I agree with much of what he said about the provisions that we are discussing tonight.

I recognise that this is a probing amendment and, for that reason, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Oldham, West for giving us the opportunity to debate this area of the treaty—the five articles in title XVII on development co-operation.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West was the first to put his finger on one important feature of the hon. Member for Oldham, West's speech.

It would be quite wrong to have built into any treaty or into our legislation the policies that anybody on which Britain had influence was to administer. It would be a constraint on future action, apart from anything else, because no doubt it would require amendment to change policies, and it would lead to great inflexibility. I heartily agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West that that would be quite wrong.

That brings me to what the hon. Member for Oldham, West said about emergency action. Of course emergency action is high on the United Kingdom's agenda in its relationship with the EC, and high on our own agenda of aid policy. It was debated at the Development Council under the United Kingdom presidency, and it will be debated again at the next Development Council. There will be a meeting of senior officials of European Community member states next week to discuss the subject. It is of course covered implicitly by title XVII, but there is no need for the explicit reference that the hon. Gentleman seemed to want. That would be wrong. I saw the hon. Gentleman nodding earlier when I said that it was wrong to specify aid policy within the treaty or within the legislation, but that was the inference that one must draw from what he said.

Mr. Meacher

I did not say that the treaty should include the detail of aid policy. If we are talking about the co-ordination of aid policy with the EC, it is important to be clear what we are co-ordinating. I was commenting on the nature of those policies; I did not propose that they should all be in the treaty.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I shall say more about co-ordination in due course.

I judge that the hon. Gentleman's speech was enormously coloured by hostility to the whole idea of a European Community development policy, and to the idea of the incorporation by implication of those articles into the Maastricht treaty and into our legislation.

Mr. Meacher

indicated dissent.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he was enormously sympathetic to his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) made that point most forcefully.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West was sympathetic to the criticisms expressed, and those who listened to his speech with care will draw the inference that he showed hostility to the European Community. It was a perfectly honourable hostility—a disagreement with the success of the policies that we have been implementing in the EC over many years. The hon. Gentleman denies it, but many hon. Members had that impression. We all felt it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South accurately drew attention to it.

Before dealing with other aspects of the hon. Gentleman's speech, I shall say something about the five articles under consideration; I think that the Committee would like an explanation. The first important point is that, in the five articles, development policy is specifically included in the scope of the treaty of Rome for the first time. I see the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) nodding, and I suspect that that is a rather ominous nod. I want to dispel the ominous nature of that nod. Development policy is specifically included, but the hon. Member for Newham, South should note that the text reflects a long-established practice.

We are incorporating into the treaty, and legislating for, long-established practice. For the first time we are setting out the objectives of the Community's development policy as it has been arrived at over the years. Those objectives include the promotion of sustainable development, poverty alleviation, especially for the poorest countries, the underlying principles of democracy—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

May I finish? I shall give way in a minute.

As I was saying, those objectives include the underlying principles of democracy, human rights and good government in development co-operation.

Before I give way to my hon. Friend, I want to emphasise the fact that will strike any observer of British development policy as I read that list out. The list is remarkable in that most of the objectives have been part of British development policy over the years; they reflect our British development policies, and as such they demonstrate part of the British achievement in the EC in influencing policy in the direction in which Britain wishes it to move.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend accept, from someone who served on the development committee of the European Parliament and was present at Lome I, that these are the sort of things that we want to have codified? It is much better for it to be properly set out rather than haphazard, as it has too often been.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree with her.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman referred to what I think he called an ominous nod. May I take him up on that? As a former member of the Select Committee on Overseas Development, when it existed, and the Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, I would concur with what he said about the description of the British aid policy in what he termed the objectives in this treaty. But does he not recall my exchanges with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall)? Alas, these are not objectives; they are matters which are to be "taken into account." Although I agree with him that they may have been done in co-operation at European Community level until now, putting them into the terms of the treaty means that there are some obligations rather than free co-operation, as has been the practice up to now.

9.15 pm
Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will say something more about co-operation in due course, but what the hon. Member must recall is that the actions of the Community heretofore in development policy have been based on article 235 of the treaty of Rome, the catch-all article which I am sure he has criticised on many occasions because it catches all: if there is no power to do what one wants, one uses article 235 to do it. This is a specific set of requirements and objectives.

Mr. Spearing

They are not objectives.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Whatever word the hon. Member likes to use, they set certain guidelines, and it is not a catch-all power.

Mr. Randall

Has the Minister noted, in article 130w, the words shall adopt the measures necessary to further the objectives referred to in Article 130u"?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, that is absolutely right, and the word "objectives" is therefore appropriate. I am grateful to the hon. Member.

Community policy is complementary to that of member states. That comes in the first sentence of the first article that we are discussing. Hon. Members who were present in the Standing Committee on European Legislation, where we debated these matters in December, will recall that we had a rather extensive debate. Member states retain their right to determine their own development policies in conjunction with the provisions on complementarity.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

It is a question of words and what they mean. On the one hand, the Minister is talking about the policies of the European Community being complementary to the policies of member states, yet there it is in the treaty in article 130x: The Community and the Member States shall co-ordinate their policies on development co-operation". How is it possible to do the two things?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member made that point in Committee. I was amazed that he made it then. I find nothing difficult in it and it does not seem confusing to my mind. It seems logical that, if the United Kingdom has policies and the Community has policies, there should be consultation, mutual discussion and co-ordination to ensure that there is no wasted or duplicated effort. That seems to me an intelligent basis for going about this matter. I do not understand the hon. Member's doubt. It confused me in December, and it confuses me now.

There are two themes of co-ordination and consultation between the Community and member states which are vital if we are to gain the maximum benefit from national and Community development activities. At the same time, the treaty makes it clear that member states have the freedom to act internationally in any way they want; their freedom to act internationally is unaffected by these articles.

Article 130y states explicitly that the Community and member states should co-operate with third countries and international organisations, without prejudice to member states' competence to negotiate in international bodies and conclude international agreements. Where it is in the United Kingdom's best interests, we will work with our partners to take action together in order to strengthen our influence internationally.

In the Foreign Office, I see this constantly as a matter of joint European Community demarche and joint agreement. That means that, where we consider it necessary to take action in support of good government—an area with which I and other Ministers in the Foreign Office have been involved—we do so in a manner which maximises pressure, for example, on the protection of human rights or investment in sustainable development policy. But if it is not in the United Kingdom's best interests to do so, we will not take joint action.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend is making a constructive speech and is seeking to deal with the questions. In making the Government's contribution to this important debate, will he say whether, in order to achieve what he is setting out to do, he will be willing to accept Opposition new clause 60 or new clause 66, which would ensure that the Foreign Office and the Government report back to the House on precisely what is being done within Europe in the area we are debating?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend is anticipating a later passage in my speech. I shall refer to that, but I should like to make progress on another matter first.

Article 130v is most important and is relevant to some of the contributions which have been made. Under that article, the Community can take account of development policy objectives when it establishes policies in other areas which are likely to affect developing countries. Obviously, there would be little point in agreeing the objectives underlying the Community's development policy if at the same time those principles were ignored when determining action in other areas which would affect the very country that we are seeking to help. To take a recent and important example, about which I shall say more later, it would be ridiculous to seek to harmonise internal Community arrangements on bananas without considering the impact on third world exporters.

From the beginning, the Community has maintained wide-ranging and comprehensive development activities. It is only now that those activities are being placed upon a specific basis, establishing the objectives which should guide policy. Past and present Governments have worked hard to ensure that those objectives fully reflect our development co-operation priorities.

I shall turn to some of the specific points which have been made.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My hon. Friend will not be able to reply to a question which I have not been able to put to him because I have not been called in the debate. Does he recognise that the protocols in the treaty on France and Portugal show that those two countries are insisting on monetary and financial arrangements which will tie the overseas territories and ex-colonies more tightly to the metropole?

Do the Government know that, for example, Madeira has a rapidly growing offshore banking business which is subsidised by both Lisbon and Brussels? Do they know how the CFA zone works to ensure that French industry has a steady supply of cheap raw materials, notably from west Africa—uranium, iron ore, bauxite, phosphates and so on? Can he tell us his understanding of what it means?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am afraid that I cannot go into all that this evening because it is not relevant to the five articles. The areas in which the territoire outre-mer of France and other overseas territories gained development aid are areas—

Mr. Meacher

The pronunciation was middle English.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It most certainly was not, but I assumed that the hon. Member for Oldham, West spoke fluent French. I took it for granted that he would not come to the subject if he did not speak fluent French after an expensive, middle-class, public school education. Let us come back to the debate.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. During my brief career in Parliament I have been called to order twice: once for speaking in Welsh, and once for speaking in middle English. I was reminded that the only language allowed in the Chamber, quite wrongly, is English; but that is the rule under which we operate.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman is not entirely correct. There are occasions when Norman French is entirely appropriate. I imagine that that is what the Minister was quoting.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I should have said "territories outer mer" or something like that. That would have been better.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West was kind enough to concede that the United Kingdom aid programme had a high reputation—I heartily agree with that—in terms of substance, if not in terms of volume. The OECD drew attention to that. The hon. Gentleman should give credit because the OECD gave EC aid a good report. The hon. Gentleman should listen to this, because he criticised strongly the European Community's aid programme. The OECD development committee gave EC aid a good report and accepted that it was focused on the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is true that the OECD made some criticisms. We keep a close watch because the European Community is spending our money. European Community spending has improved recently and the Development Council keeps a close watch.

The matter of trade is an area on which Conservative Members would give a most hearty endorsement of the comments of the hon. Member for Oldham, West. It may surprise Conservative Members that they would be in the position to do that. We accept entirely the enormous importance of trade. A new GATT deal will be worth about US$90 billion per year to the developing countries. That estimate has been made by, I think, the OECD or perhaps by those responsible for GATT negotiations, but a large figure has certainly been given to me.

The Lomé convention is not simply an aid convention. It is important to remember that it is also a trade convention. It provides for considerable access to European Community markets for goods from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, especially agricultural exports. As I said earlier, the banana protocol has shown its worth for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in negotiations on the single market for bananas.

Mr. Meacher

Opposition Members certainly accept that, overall, GATT is to the advantage of developing countries, although its effect is patchy. Does the Minister accept that, if GATT were implemented, the lowering of tariffs under the current Uruguay round would reduce the relative value of the concessions under the Lomé convention? Will he give the House a commitment that he will argue for a restoration of the relative advantage of lower tariffs under the Lomé convention?

9.30 pm
Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I should like to think about that point, so I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. I shall not try to answer it on the hoof this evening. It does not have much to do with the five articles, in any case.

The allegation has been made that food aid is used to shift CAP mountains. That is a serious allegation. Britain has paid close attention to European Community food aid. The food aid regulation under the 1986 United Kingdom presidency changed the aid from supply-led food aid—in other words, based on shifting food mountains—to demand-led food aid—in other words, related to the needs of recipient countries. EC food aid is definitely not dictated by the CAP now.

We are working hard to ensure that food aid is increasingly directed at emergencies and less at the long term. That is right, because, if one is not careful, one causes harm to local economies. However, an important point to bear in mind about EC food mountains is that the products are rarely appropriate types of food. For example, milk products are not suited to local diets. We must take great care not to undermine local production.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend give way on the point about milk?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

All right.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Not only is milk not suitable for the local diet, but it can be absolutely dangerous. Mothers, thinking that they are doing their children a favour, often make up the milk—if they can get hold of it—twice as strong as it should be, and use unboiled water.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend is right. It is often incorrectly used by mothers who do not know how to take advantage of it.

Evaluation of EC aid is important, especially in the context of the outrageous attack on the EC aid programme made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West. I agree about the importance of evaluation. There are regular meetings between the Commission and evaluation experts from the member states. The Lomé convention arid the Asia/Latin American regulation provide for evaluation and environmental impact assessments.

I shall make one more remark about the five articles and then refer to the volumes of aid. The importance of linking EC aid policy with other policies is enshrined in the articles. It is enormously important. I agree with the points that have been raised. Article 130v provides precisely for such a link. It says that the Community shall take account of development policy objectives in the policies that it implements which are likely to affect developing countries. The conclusions on development policy which were agreed under the 1986 United Kingdom presidency provide for the Commission to report to member states this year on what it is doing about development policy in considering its policies on trade and agriculture. The hon. Member for Oldham, West mentioned the enormous importance of trade. I have mentioned the enormous importance of trade in Lomé as well as aid. Article 130v will enable those two matters to be closely tied together.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West made some rough and totally unwarranted allegations at the start of his speech. It is important for the Committee to realise that his party's policy to increase British aid to 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product within five years would result in a further £2.4 billion of public expenditure. I hope that the hon. Gentleman realises the implications of subscribing to such a policy, the great difficulties that would arise if we were to increase aid to such a significant level during the next five years, and the enormous burden it would place on the economy.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West asked me to say what areas of British domestic policy we would seek to cut to meet the increased aid that we should be paying to the European Community. First, we do not know what our aid levels will be after the current expenditure triennium, so we cannot possibly answer that question. We do not have a crystal ball. We know what the increase for the European Community's external budget will be, but it remains to be seen what the United Kindom programme total will be.

If the hon. Member for Oldham, West is going to question me, I must retort with similar questions: what areas of public expenditure would he cut to implement his policy, or would he add that expenditure to the public sector borrowing requirement or taxation?

We have agreed to meet that objective when we can and have substantially increased our aid programme. In 1991–92, it was 3 per cent. more in real terms than a year earlier. Britain's external assistance programme, covering aid to developing countries, assistance to the countries of eastern Europe and former Soviet Union and global environmental assistance, will rise by 10 per cent. in cash terms during the survey period, 1993–94 to 1995–96, and I per cent. in real terms. We are facing a period of great national difficulty, as the hon. Gentleman must concede, with the current levels of public borrowing. The aid budget emerged remarkably well from the last public expenditure negotiations.

The high quality of our aid must also be considered. In 1991, we had the sixth largest aid programme. Britain leads the way in debt relief, with the institution of the Trinidad terms, and earlier the Toronto terms. We launched the Trinidad terms in 1990, and 14 countries–11 in Africa—have benefited so far. We have relieved developing countries of more than £1 million of aid debt burden and recently announced our agreement to write off £56 million of Zambia's aid debt, provided that its reform programme stays on track.

In addition, the United Kingdom has one of the largest direct private investment standards in developing countries. It is consistently about half the European Community's total. According to our estimate for 1991, there was direct private investment of £3,000 million.

This debate is not about aid, but it has been coloured by aid considerations, and the United Kingdom and the Government have an enormously creditable record. I hope that the five articles will be incorporated into the legislation. I am glad that the hon. Member for Oldham, West has said that he will withdraw his amendment, because it would be totally inappropriate to force it to a Division.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

The need for co-ordination in the EC's development policy is an inescapable consequence of the single European market. Now that we have that market, there is no practical purpose in trying to maintain the basis of European co-operation at a bilateral and unco-ordinated level.

I should like to consider article 130v, because the critical test of the treaty, in practice, is the extent to which the development and aid policies, and their objectives, are reflected in the other policies pursued by the EC. In truth, little can be achieved ultimately by the best possible aid policy if other policies pursued by the EC, as an economic unit, do not reflect the imperative needs of the developing world. That issue raises the biggest question about our policies.

A number of hon. Members have already referred to the impact of the EC on the third world. It is an enormous trading block within the world economy and an enormous economic unit, and those are its most important features in relation to the third world. The extent to which the EC is able to contribute to economic growth in the third world, and how it contributes to it, are as critical to the third world as the EC's trading policies. Choices will be made about how the European economy develops; some may bring positive benefits to the third world, others could bring negative ones. The test of the new institutions is whether the needs of the third world are taken fully into account.

I shall highlight a number of areas in which problems have arisen in integrating the needs of the developing world in line with EC considerations. Debt policy is one of the most obvious problems. Over the past three years we have witnessed the fiasco of the EC's failure to cancel less than 0.6 per cent. of third-world debt payments owed to its financial institutions.

An EC Commissioner led an attempt to get that debt cancelled, but it was blocked, in large part by the simple fact that EC member states do not and will not co-ordinate their debt policy effectively. Before I entered the House I did a number of rough calculations and convinced myself that the cost of the air fares and hotel bills incurred in those three years of failed negotiations were almost certainly greater than the debt service payments that the EC was attempting to cancel from the third world. That failure was complete because, although the EC gives the Commission competence to negotiate the EC's external trade policy, it has absolutely resisted any similar co-ordination on debt policy and international financial policy, to the great detriment of the third world.

I am afraid that we witnessed a similar failure to implement the Trinidad terms. What is now being implemented under their guise falls far short of the objectives set out by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Prime Minister, when he launched those terms. They were meant to provide a five-year period in which 30 developing countries would have made no debt service payments on their bilateral debts. Unfortunately, the way in which those terms have been implemented has resulted in far less than that to which our Government aspired. That failure is again due to the fact that we met resistance from other Paris Club members, many of them also EC member states. That failure is also due to the fact that there is no co-ordinated debt policy in the EC.

Although the EC has harmonised legislation to provide a single European financial market for the banks, no attempt has been made to provide a European strategy to reduce commercial bank debt. This country and the EC cannot go on trying to ride two horses for ever. It is no good the United Kingdom trying to conduct its trade policy within the EC while conducting its international financial policy through the Group of Seven and the International Monetary Fund. If we are to move towards a stronger and more coherent Europe, the focus of much decision making must lie within Community institutions rather than be spread around world institutions, as it is at present.

9.45 pm

As to trade policy, I do not believe that the Commission or many member states ever instructed European negotiators in the GATT talks to give the needs of the developing world a high priority. I refer to one or two specific examples. One was the banana issue. Earlier this afternoon, we were visited by the Latin American banana lobbyists, but the real debate will develop tonight, with lobbyists on both sides of the Committee interested in the Windward islands. Immense effort went into that one issue, to defend the market for five tiny countries. Similar efforts should have been made throughout the GATT talks to protect the interests of developing countries in respect of intellectual property rights, protection of infant industries, and agriculture.

There is a great clash between the Community and the United States of America over farm subsidies. Third-world agricultural producers see it as a battle between two enormous, subsidising agricultural blocks fighting over their right to dump exports on the third world. It is ironic that, over 10 years when the USA and Europe have, in one form or another, been subsidising agriculture to a massive extent, the World bank and the International Monetary Fund, which are effectively controlled by the United States and Europe, have forbidden third-world country after third-world country to subsidise its own agricultural production—forcing the market open to dumped food from Europe and the United States.

Until the Community implements the sense of article 130b properly, so that the concerns of agriculturalists in the developing world are fully taken into account in CAP and GATT negotiations, that part of the treaty cannot realise its full potential.

If the European Community moves steadily, as I believe it should, towards monetary convergence and monetary union, the question of who represents economic interests and institutions such as the IMF and the World bank must be faced. At present, British bilateral and European Community development policies are overshadowed by the activities of the IMF and the World bank. One finds in any country in which there is a Community or British bilateral aid programme an IMF or World bank structural adjustment programme, and that determines the country's economic possibilities, social spending, public expenditure and agricultural policy. The British bilateral or Community aid programme has to work in an economic context set by another institution.

The World bank is experiencing increasing failure. The proportion of policies and projects that work has halved, with failures rising from 15 to 40 per cent. over 10 years. World bank projects fail partly due to their design, because they are conceived in Washington for countries far away, and partly because they operate in a context of too little debt relief, aid and capital flow. That means that they are doomed to failure.

Mr. Watson

Does my hon. Friend agree that this country and others are ploughing millions of pounds into the International Development Fund, which is the World bank's concessionary lending wing, and that greater accountability is essential? Should not that be provided as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Denham

I entirely agree. Accountability can be developed in two ways. One is a matter of great concern to me and other hon. Members—that Parliament should enjoy greater accountability with the Government's representatives in the World bank, which is why I support my hon. Friend's amendment. I think that, even in the European context, it will be important to have a level of national parliamentary accountability as well as European parliamentary accountability. As we all know, the Maastricht treaty does not go far enough in addressing the democratic deficit in Europe and strengthening the powers of the European Parliament.

Mr. Cash

Given that what the hon. Gentleman has said about accountability in the bank is correct, is his view shared by all Opposition Members? Would they be capable of pressing the matter to a vote when the time comes?

Mr. Denham

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the World bank itself. Certainly, those on the Opposition Front Bench share my view that there should be much greater accountability in its operations.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend's speech shows great knowledge and insight. In regard to accountability, has he noticed that neither my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) nor the Minister has mentioned new clause 66, which goes even further than new clause 60 in terms of parliamentary accountability? Does my hon. Friend go as far as supporting new clause 66?

Mr. Denham

My hon. Friend may ask that question, but I will not be drawn on the issue. Let me answer in a rather roundabout way. As my hon. Friend will have gathered, my view is that the Maastricht treaty needs to be ratified so that some of the issues that I have mentioned can become possibilities that we can work towards.

Mr. Spearing

New clause 66 would not stop that.

Mr. Denham

I shall study the new clause, and we shall see what happens when the time comes to vote.

There is a second way in which accountability and influence could be exercised over the activities of the World bank—through better co-ordination of the financial contribution made by the European Community and individual Community countries to programmes co-ordinated by the bank. The dominant economic influence on the economic policy of sub-Saharan Africa is the World bank co-ordinated special programme for Africa. At least 15 per cent. of the funds for that programme come either from the Community or from the United Kingdom bilateral aid programme.

I do not have all the figures, but I guess that, if all the other European Community contributions were added together, perhaps 30 to 40 per cent. would turn out to come from European sources rather than from the World bank. That would be a powerful lever to alter and improve the adjustment policies imposed by the World bank, if only Europe got its act togther. At present, the Commission is understaffed, under-resourced and badly supported, and has not the political clout to influence those wider policies. If we wish to alter the economic context in which sub-Saharan Africa is developing, better co-ordination of the European development co-operation and aid programmes is essential.

I do not believe that we have the option to move backwards in regard to development co-operation. A move back towards bilateral programmes alone would take us back to what is all too real now: far too many people are driving around Africa and other parts of the world in their four-wheel-drive Japanese vehicles, trying to implement unco-ordinated aid programmes. The potential for co-ordination of our activities presents a challenge—an opportunity that must be grasped.

Mr. Lester

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), whose knowledge and objectivity are an asset to the Committee. It will not surprise him to learn that I agreed with much of what he said, although I am not sure that support for the new clause is as fundamental as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) suggests.

I believe that an important element of the Maastricht treaty is the fact that, for the first time, development co-operation is included in the treaty of Rome. I agree very much with the philosophy of the hon. Members for Itchen and for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall). I felt that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) played the game on domestic points and used the chance of making what might have been a more statesmanlike speech as a vehicle for having a go at aid levels and revealing his own genuine prejudice about the European scene.

I should have thought that any programme which increased aid to the developing world, by whatever means, was something that this Committee should welcome, particularly when it builds on the best practice of our own ODA, which has been very well established and has laid down the sort of objectives that are now spelt out in article 130u, all of which, I imagine, most hon. Members on both sides would support.

Mr. Cash

Has my hon. Friend read the recent Court of Auditors report, and is he aware of the severe criticisms that have been levelled at the way in which the Commission is organising its aid?

Mr. Lester

I have not read the Court of Auditors report, but I try to lift my eyes a little further and to look a little more objectively at what Europe is about rather than nit-picking remarks about accountants, which can always be dealt with. I cannot imagine that anyone could not recognise the intellectual argument facing the world scene in terms of the increased necessity of closer co-operation, spelling out the aims, as has already been mentioned, which take us forward in this critical question of how we transfer resources to the developing world in the most effective way. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) talked about one aspect—population.

Whether one approaches it from a moral or a practical position, the reality is that, unless we transfer those resources in such a way as to improve the standards and the opportunites of people in all the surrounding countries of Europe, there will be enormous immigration pressure from the Maghreb and from eastern and central Europe. Simply passing laws about immigration will be of no assistance. We cannot have a barbed wire fence or a new Berlin wall to resist that pressure. It is essential that we recognise the value of Europe in transferring resources. There is no question but that the intellectual concept that 12 or more countries working together to build and create opportunities in developing countries is far more effective than the bits-and-pieces system which we have had up to now.

I am a great supporter of our bilateral programmes. I recognise their importance in every respect and their quality, especially when it comes to countries in which we have a special interest. That concept is taken into account by our agreement on this treaty.

Too many of us who have followed this subject for many years have seen what happens when people bid up. I have been at the river in Gambia, a long way from Banjul, and I have seen the bidding for tractors: tractors in a tiny community where there is not even a mechanic but six different makes of European tractors without a single spare part other than a saddle because one guy—who was used to horses—when asked what spare parts he wanted, ordered 50 seats for the tractor as a follow-up spare part.

That is what has happened where countries bilaterally say "What do you want?" They reply, "Tractors," and everybody supplies tractors, but nobody looks objectively at what the tractors are to be used for. Nobody looks objectively at how best one could co-ordinate an agricultural policy for Gambia so that all 12 countries in the Community could agree an overall pattern with the country and with other international organisations to ensure that there was genuine assistance and that there were roads and proper drainage and a single make of tractor and trained people to keep those tractors in the field. That would make a real contribution.

Already we have seen, in terms of common standards on human rights and good government, how an aspect of British policy which was spelt out by our Foreign Secretary about two years ago has been accepted under this treaty. It is an example for all EC countries, working both bilaterally and together. That is a major step forward and one way in which we see the benefits of all that the treaty is trying to achieve.

I am aware that there is to be a vote soon, so I shall conclude by saying that it is not beyond the imagination of any hon. Member to realise that the treaty is the way forward to achieving the essential transfer of resources to developing countries that depend on the European Community and its strength.

Mr. Watson

Like other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, I welcome the fact that development co-operation is written into the treaty of Rome for the first time. Articles 130u to 130x cover considerable areas of much importance.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) was a little unkind to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). His opening remarks dealt with United Kingdom aid policy, although we are dealing with the Maastricht treaty.

It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business),

That, at this day's sitting, the European Communities (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. MacKay.]

The Committee divided: Ayes 288, Noes 262.

Division No. 163] [10.00 pm
Adley, Robert Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Aspinwall, Jack
Aitken, Jonathan Atkins, Robert
Alexander, Richard Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Ancram, Michael Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bates, Michael
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Batiste, Spencer
Ashby, David Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Bellingham, Henry Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Beresford, Sir Paul Gorst, John
Blackburn, Dr John G. Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Booth, Hartley Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Boswell, Tim Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Grylls, Sir Michael
Bowden, Andrew Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Bowis, John Hague, William
Brandreth, Gyles Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bright, Graham Hampson, Dr Keith
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hannam, Sir John
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hargreaves, Andrew
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Harris, David
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Haselhurst, Alan
Burns, Simon Hawkins, Nick
Burt, Alistair Hayes, Jerry
Butler, Peter Heald, Oliver
Butterfill, John Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Hendry, Charles
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carrington, Matthew Hicks, Robert
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Churchill, Mr Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clappison, James Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Horam, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coe, Sebastian Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Colvin, Michael Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Congdon, David Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Conway, Derek Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jack, Michael
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dafis, Cynog Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Johnston, Sir Russell
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, Stephen Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dicks, Terry Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dorrell, Stephen Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Key, Robert
Dover, Den Kilfedder, Sir James
Duncan, Alan King, Rt Hon Tom
Durant, Sir Anthony Kirkhope, Timothy
Eggar, Tim Kirkwood, Archy
Elletson, Harold Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knox, David
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evennett, David Leigh, Edward
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Faber, David Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fabricant, Michael Lidington, David
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fishburn, Dudley Llwyd, Elfyn
Forman, Nigel Luff, Peter
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forth, Eric Lynne, Ms Liz
Foster, Don (Bath) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman MacKay, Andrew
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Maclean, David
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Maclennan, Robert
Freeman, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
French, Douglas Madel, David
Gale, Roger Maitland, Lady Olga
Gallie, Phil Malone, Gerald
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Mans, Keith
Garnier, Edward Marland, Paul
Gillan, Cheryl Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sims, Roger
Mates, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Soames, Nicholas
Merchant, Piers Speed, Sir Keith
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Spencer, Sir Derek
Milligan, Stephen Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mills, Iain Spink, Dr Robert
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sproat, Iain
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Monro, Sir Hector Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Steen, Anthony
Moss, Malcolm Stephen, Michael
Needham, Richard Stern, Michael
Nelson, Anthony Stewart, Allan
Neubert, Sir Michael Streeter, Gary
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Sumberg, David
Nicholls, Patrick Sykes, John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Norris, Steve Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Temple-Morris, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Thomason, Roy
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Page, Richard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Tracey, Richard
Patten, Rt Hon John Tredinnick, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Trend, Michael
Pickles, Eric Trotter, Neville
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tyler, Paul
Powell, William (Corby) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rathbone, Tim Viggers, Peter
Redwood, John Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Waller, Gary
Richards, Rod Ward, John
Riddick, Graham Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Robathan, Andrew Waterson, Nigel
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Watts, John
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Wells, Bowen
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Welsh, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Whitney, Ray
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Widdecombe, Ann
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sackville, Tom Wigley, Dafydd
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Willetts, David
Salmond, Alex Wolfson, Mark
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Shaw, David (Dover) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Tellers for the Ayes:
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. David Lightbown and
Shersby, Michael Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Ainger, Nick Body, Sir Richard
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Boyce, Jimmy
Allen, Graham Boyes, Roland
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Armstrong, Hilary Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Austin-Walker, John Burden, Richard
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Butcher, John
Barnes, Harry Byers, Stephen
Barron, Kevin Caborn, Richard
Battle, John Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beggs, Roy Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Bell, Stuart Canavan, Dennis
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cann, Jamie
Bennett, Andrew F. Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Benton, Joe Cash, William
Bermingham, Gerald Chisholm, Malcolm
Berry, Dr. Roger Clapham, Michael
Betts, Clive Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Blair, Tony Clelland, David
Boateng, Paul Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Coffey, Ann Hain, Peter
Cohen, Harry Hall, Mike
Connarty, Michael Hanson, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hardy, Peter
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Harman, Ms Harriet
Corbett, Robin Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Corbyn, Jeremy Henderson, Doug
Corston, Ms Jean Hendron, Dr Joe
Cousins, Jim Heppell, John
Cox, Tom Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cran, James Hinchliffe, David
Cryer, Bob Hoey, Kate
Cummings, John Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Home Robertson, John
Dalyell, Tam Hood, Jimmy
Davidson, Ian Hoon, Geoffrey
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hoyle, Doug
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Denham, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dewar, Donald Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Dixon, Don Hutton, John
Dobson, Frank Illsley, Eric
Donohoe, Brian H. Ingram, Adam
Dowd, Jim Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Eagle, Ms Angela Jamieson, David
Eastham, Ken Jessel, Toby
Enright, Derek Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Etherington, Bill Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S 0)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Fisher, Mark Jowell, Tessa
Flynn, Paul Keen, Alan
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Khabra, Piara S.
Foulkes, George Kilfoyle, Peter
Fraser, John Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Fyfe, Maria Knapman, Roger
Gapes, Mike Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Gardiner, Sir George Legg, Barry
Garrett, John Leighton, Ron
George, Bruce Lewis, Terry
Gerrard, Neil Litherland, Robert
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Livingstone, Ken
Gill, Christopher Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)
Godsiff, Roger Loyden, Eddie
Golding, Mrs Llin McAllion, John
Gordon, Mildred McAvoy, Thomas
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McCartney, Ian
Graham, Thomas McGrady, Eddie
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) McKelvey, William
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McLeish, Henry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McNamara, Kevin
Grocott, Bruce Madden, Max
Gunnell, John Maginnis, Ken
Mallon, Seamus Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Marek, Dr John Rowlands, Ted
Marlow, Tony Ruddock, Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sedgemore, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Sheerman, Barry
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Martlew, Eric Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maxton, John Short, Clare
Meacher, Michael Simpson, Alan
Michael, Alun Skeet, Sir Trevor
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Skinner, Dennis
Milburn, Alan Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Miller, Andrew Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Morgan, Rhodri Snape, Peter
Morley, Elliot Soley, Clive
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Spearing, Nigel
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Spellar, John
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mowlam, Marjorie Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mudie, George Steinberg, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Stevenson, George
Murphy, Paul Stott, Roger
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Strang, Dr. Gavin
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Straw, Jack
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Hara, Edward Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Olner, William Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Neill, Martin Tipping, Paddy
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Trimble, David
Paisley, Rev Ian Vaz, Keith
Parry, Robert Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Pendry, Tom Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Pickthall, Colin Walley, Joan
Pike, Peter L. Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Pope, Greg Wareing, Robert N
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Watson, Mike
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Wicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wilkinson, John
Prescott, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Purchase, Ken Winnick, David
Quin, Ms Joyce Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Radice, Giles Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Randall, Stuart Wise, Audrey
Raynsford, Nick Worthington, Tony
Redmond, Martin Wright, Dr Tony
Reid, Dr John
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Tellers for the Noes:
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Mr. Alan Meale and
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Mr. Gordon McMaster.
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

10.15 pm
Mr. Watson

I am gratified by that vote of confidence, even though it has come from rather strange quarters. I will resume my comments in respect of the EC aid budget, which, as a result of the proposals at the Edinburgh summit, is scheduled to increase by some some 60 per cent. between now and 1999.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West was quite correct in pointing out—he was not trying to score cheap points, because he was talking accurately—that the United Kingdom Government are not prepared to fund their part of that increase other than within their existing aid budget. That means a substantial drop in aid, particularly in 1994 and 1995. It underscores to some extent the commitment—[Interruption.]

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I ask hon. Members to be a little quieter so that we can hear the hon. Member make his important speech.

Mr. Watson

Thank you, Mr. Morris. I was saying that to offset the United Kingdom's contribution to the EC aid budget there will be cuts in other areas. That was certainly not intended at the Edinburgh summit by the other EC member countries. It is selling short the many recipients of United Kingdom aid and also the agencies that are vital components in ensuring that that aid is delivered through the various programmes in underdeveloped countries.

In an earlier part of this debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said that, should the treaty be ratified, this could be the end of the United Kingdom aid policy and the start of an overall EC aid policy. I do not necessarily agree with that. I do not think that an EC aid policy is anything but a good thing, or that this is necessarily the end of a United Kingdom aid policy. Certainly, those of us who will continue to contribute to debates in the House on this very important matter will do our best to see that it is not.

It is only the United Kingdom, as I said, that is cutting its aid contribution; the other EC countries are not and there is no call to do so. It is likely that the Government bowed to pressure from their own party, particularly from hon. Gentlemen present today, to minimise any increase in payments to the EC. We know, of course, that the Government are in some difficulty in carrying all their Members with them on this important matter. As a result, those countries which are dependent on United Kingdom aid are likely to lose out, particularly in 1994 and 1995.

We must also stress that following the opening up of eastern and central Europe 42 per cent. of United Kingdom aid is going to those areas, while aid for developing countries has been frozen. Those two events must be considered in similar terms, because they affect: the way in which overall United Kingdom aid is disbursed and allocated. We must ask what message is sent to the poorest nations of the world when their aid from the United Kingdom is to be frozen for two years and then cut.

On the previous set of amendments we discussed, among other things, the cohesion fund and attempts by EC Member countries to help their own poorer members and redistribute some of the wealth within the EC so as to ensure that the richer nations to some extent came to the assistance of the poorer nations. That is an aim to which even our Government, however reluctantly, have subscribed. They may argue—indeed they have argued —about the extent to which the Delors 2 package should be implemented and how much they should contribute to it, but it is fair to say that they accept the need for a cohesion fund and some redistribution of wealth.

Why should the Government then be prepared to reduce, with the minimum fuss and publicity, the aid that we make available to the poorest countries in the underdeveloped world? Those countries are often struggling desperately to feed their people. I stress the word "poverty"—a word that emerges all too rarely in our aid debates. I should like the Government aid programme to be evaluated to show how much poverty had been alleviated as a result of the many millions of pounds spent. With the current methods of reporting on the Overseas Development Administration's programmes and policies it is not possible to establish definitively what effect aid has had on poverty. It is time that that was clearly spelt out. The ability to address the increasing problems of poverty must underscore all aid programmes.

I welcome article 130u of the treaty, which says that the sustainable economic and social development of the developing countries, and more particularly the most disadvantaged among them shall be among the aims of the development co-operation under title XVII.

The means by which the EC gives aid specifically to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which are excluded from the aid figures that I mentioned earlier, are assisted by the Lomé convention agreements. Lomé IV came into being in September 1991 and will last until 2000. That is the first of the 10-year Lomé programmes; the previous three lasted for only five years each.

However, it is fortunate that there will be a mid-term review of Lomé IV, in view of ever-changing world events, especially in eastern and central Europe and in other parts of the world. It is important that there be a review to take account of changing priorities, not the least of which, as 11 said earlier, is the vast amount of money being sucked into eastern and central Europe. I welcome the fact that the 1983 figure for EC aid to eastern and central Europe has been frozen at 38 per cent. of total aid—the same as the 1992 figure. I do not minimise the problems that those nations face, but it is equally wrong to suggest that simply because those problems have emerged over the past three or four years we should give lower priority or less attention to the developing countries.

At the first meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific—ACP—countries following the agreement on Lomó IV, several problem areas were identified. The ACP countries are worried by the way in which EC aid is likely to develop and how that will affect them.

I am aware of article 130w, paragraph 3, which says that nothing within the treaty or in the terms of that article will affect aid to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. But that has not allayed those countries' fears and they remain dubious. They clearly stated at meetings between the ACP countries and the EC Council of Ministers, especially in August 1992, that they were in a state of "suspended animation", as they tried to work out where they fell in the new scheme of things.

The drought and famine which threaten human tragedy on a scale never before seen on the African continent made the feeling of despair even more apparent in the tone of many of the African, Caribbean and Pacific contributions at that meeting. Other events also affect their judgments in those matters, not least the protracted GATT negotiations. The ACP states believe that the current multilateral negotiations on GATT will, as they see it, erode their preferences in the Community market and the outcome of the Uruguay round will be unbalanced and to their disadvantage, particularly in agricultural and tropical products.

Several hon. Members, in what has been a good debate and one in which there has been a large measure of agreement, have mentioned the negotiations in respect of bananas. At the meeting to which I referred there was a real fear that the Caribbean countries would lose out on that, but since then there has been an agreement which seems to offer them the protection that they sought, and it is to be welcomed. However, the ACP countries are now, despite Lóme, and as a result of the Maastricht treaty recommendations in respect of article 130, asking where they stand and what will be the next threat to the aid that they desperately need and have come to depend on over the years.

So we must give some consideration to the Lomé convention and its effect on those countries. As far as possible, I want a contribution from this country which will ensure sustainable development. Not nearly enough attention has been given to the need to develop sustainable trade patterns, allowing countries to attain a level of economic independence and to reduce what is in many cases a crippling debt burden which makes them net contributors to the financing countries and organisations such as the World bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is a problem that must be faced and overcome if there is to be meaningful development.

Another aspect is that when developing countries seek to export manufactured goods, rather than just raw commodities, they become subject to tariff and trade barriers, often within the European Community, which prevent them from gaining access to European markets. While the raw goods are welcomed, whether it be bananas, sugar, cocoa or whatever, manufactured goods or goods made from these raw commodities are not acceptable and are not given that sort of access. Again this seems to be at odds with what the treaty says. Article 130u talks of fostering the smooth and gradual integration of the developing countries into the world economy". How can that happen when there are restrictions on finding markets for manufactured goods in Europe? It will take a sea change of opinion, not just in the European Community but in the IMF and the World bank as well, to bring about that sort of progress.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) outlined the problems in the World bank at present and the effect that its structural adjustment programmes have on the economies of developing countries, often forcing them to concentrate on one specific commodity. When the world price for the commodity slumps, the economy of the country is hit disastrously, and it often appears that the World bank has no back-up plan to assist a country in such a situation.

I do not want to add anything to what the hon. Member for Croydon, South said on population other than to say that, like him, I am a member of the all-party group on population and development and I know that there are crucial issues to be examined. Like others, I am sensitive to aspects, particularly in relation to the Roman Catholic church, of the population programmes throughout the world, but they are problems that will not go away and they are integral to any meaningful way of dealing with countries which are saddled with debt and poverty and whose populations are increasing out of all control. A country cannot begin to build any kind of sustainable economy when it cannot even feed its people.

There are fine words and good intentions in articles 130u to 130x and I would like to think that they will be carried forward effectively. The Government have not given the best indication that that is likely to be the case by refusing to commit their aid levels to increase at an equal pace with European Community aid levels in general, projected to 1999. I do not know whether the Minister intends to speak again in the debate, but if he gets the opportunity to intervene, I invite him to comment specifically on why our aid levels will be allowed to fall behind EC levels. That can only mean that the money will be coming from other sources. That does a disservice to the countries which we have an obligation to assist and which we have assisted for many years. It seriously underscores the good intentions of this part of the treaty.

10.30 pm
Mr. Nicholas Winterton

We have had a wide-ranging debate. I congratulate you, Mr. Morris, on allowing such a broad debate on these amendments, under title XVII, which relate to development co-operation and not specifically to overseas aid. I wish to make a brief contribution because I am interested in the subject which has a major impact not only upon this country in respect of some of our industries but upon many countries overseas with which we wish to trade, and with which historically we have had good and close co-operation and relationships.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) made a well-informed speech. However, he appeared to believe that in future development cooperation and overseas aid in particular would be almost entirely a responsibility of the European Community. He is misguided in that. In direct remarks to the Minister he referred to article 130v which says: The Community shall take account of the objectives referred to in Article 130u". The hon. Gentleman said that Europe had objectives. If we refer back to the previous article, we find, as my hon. Friend the Minister said in his informed speech, that the Community "shall foster" a number of objectives. Having objectives and fostering objectives are two totally different things. It is important to highlight that point at this stage.

The information that the hon. Member for Itchen gave to the Committee was helpful. He showed an informed and almost objective outlook which was valuable, although I disagree with his ultimate conclusion, as no doubt my hon. Friend the Minister would accept.

Earlier in the debate we had interventions from my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Official Ulster Unionist party, who pointed out that there was conflict between overseas co-operation, development co-operation and the tradition of the European Community. Although I am a believer in the single market, I do not wish to go down the path to further integration which under Maastricht, currency convergence and a single currency would lead inevitably to a federal structure of one form or another.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley rightly pointed out that historically the European Community looks inward, not outward. How will that bring down the tariff barrier which so many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have outlined as one of the problems that face the developing world in dealing with the Community? Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South has just left his place, but he and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley put their finger on the issue which should be at the heart of our debate on this group of amendments on development co-operation. I shall remind the Committee that all of us—or the overwhelming majority—want to see a satisfactory outcome to the GATT talks, the negotiation of the Uruguay round and the agreement of a new GATT treaty as soon as possible. That is important to all those countries—some of them have been specifically mentioned in the debate—which will be affected by this title and development co-operation within the European Community.

The country which practically put a kybosh on the possibility of a GATT treaty and agreement with the United States was one of the founding members of the Community. Of course, I refer to France. When it comes down to national interest, the country which stands out for its interests most vociferously, strongly and forcibly is France.

I must pose this question, although it is not entirely relevant to the amendments which are being debated: why are the ailing and aging President of France, Mr. Mitterrand, and the French Government, who do not have much longer to go, taking such a strong line on this matter? They do so because they have a lot of farmers. In the coming election, farmers will play an important part in who is elected to govern France.

Mr. Cash

Does my hon. Friend know that the protocol on France relating to development co-operation is an interesting document? I think that the Minister nods because he knows what I am about to say. The protocol contains some extremely generous provisions which benefit France and are, by implication, at our expense. The CFA zone ensures that French industry has a steady supply of cheap raw materials, notably from west Africa, including uranium, iron ore, bauxite, phosphates and so on. In other words, we are taken for a massive ride as usual under the treaty.

Mr. Winterton

I can only say, Dame Janet, that my hon. Friend will undoubtedly seek to catch your eye to speak in the debate. I can add little to what he said except to say—as so many hon. Members do when there has been a relevant, important and helpful intervention—that I entirely endorse what he said.

France is at the heart of the European movement and has combined its brigade with Germany to form a defence unit within the European Community. In a fundamental part of what we are debating tonight, we have a country which seeks merely to stand up for its interests and not honour the treaty and the spirit behind it.

I hope that there is an early settlement of the GATT round and that the GATT treaty can be negotiated. I only hope that France, which superficially professes to be so European, will see the sense of agreeing to a treaty which brings benefit far beyond the European Community and which is of great importance to the developing countries of the world.

I move on to another matter which formed the major part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). During an intervention in his speech, I said that I was aware that he had made a major contribution to the matter of the world's population and population control and that it was one of his major interests in the House. I am not sure what relevance his speech had, although it must have been relevant because the Chairman did not rule it out of order. It certainly related to overseas aid but I am not sure what it had to do with development co-operation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South referred to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. I intervened to say that, while indeed we wanted to help the third world in many ways, my hon. Friend had not shown any understanding of the differing cultures and traditions of the countries on which he wished to place what I would understand to be a western form of population control. I hope that he appreciates that in many of the countries traditions and religious and cultural beliefs make some of what he said unacceptable. He qualified his remarks by saying that he would not seek to impose such systems on the countries. It is important that we should not upset or destroy the balance of traditions in such countries because, by doing so, we would make no positive contribution to peaceful progress and development in those countries.

Sir Russell Johnston

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Winterton

I am tempted not to give way but I have great regard for the hon. Gentleman on the Liberal Democrat Bench. He and I have many common interests and I am happy to give way on a matter about which know that he agrees more with my hon. Friend the Minister than with me.

Sir Russell Johnston

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and the graceful way in which he did so. Would he exclude persuasion in respect of the matter on which we disagree?

Mr. Winterton

The hon. Gentleman tempts me to go into a definition of the word "persuasion". Various regimes which have operated in the world have used the word "persuasion". That persuasion became rather evil, wicked and totalitarian. Perhaps he might say that the word that I would choose to use in its place—"education" —could also be so defined. But I should prefer to say that by example and education we could seek to lead countries which have population problems—which, sadly, lead to starvation and all the poverty that goes with it—to accept some of the customs and traditions to which we have grown accustomed in the western world.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I understand the point that has been made. The hon. Gentleman referred to starvation. Is not the other side of the equation the concept of continued exploitation? When one links it with his comments about GATT, I am mindful of a person from one of those countries who told me, "We have no pension scheme. Our children are our pension rights." Should not that aspect have a bearing on the role which the countries of the developed world should play?

Mr. Winterton

I am tempted to—in fact, I can—call the hon. Gentleman my hon. Friend. We have known each other for many years and have a great many common interests. My hon. Friend raises important issues on which I find myself in agreement. We seek to raise the living standards of countries. We do not seek to change their customs and traditions.

The last point that I want to make in this brief speech is about agriculture. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) is often known as "Mr. Bananas" because of his interest in the West Indies and the islands which are the major suppliers of bananas to Europe and the United Kingdom. Other hon. Members have spoken about other aspects of agriculture. [Interruption.] Is my hon. Friend the Minister seeking to intervene?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Not yet.

10.45 pm
Mr. Winterton

I thought that I had the Minister's interest, and if I had provoked him to intervene I would have been delighted to give way.

Agriculture has featured markedly and forcibly in the debate, but no contributor has mentioned the fact that so often when western countries—sadly, including the United Kingdom—have given aid, they have sought to move people from the countryside into towns or cities. In so doing, they create more problems than those which the aid, infrastructure and education sought to solve.

Through aid we should help countries to help themselves. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said in his fairly positive response to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) who moved the amendment, the United Kingdom has a pretty good record on overseas aid, although we have not reached the United Nations' target figure. In other ways, particularly through private investment, this country has set a very good example.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

The European Community, in its reform of the common agricultural policy, has adopted a policy that will lead people away from the land in European countries. If the EC thinks that that is the right treatment for its own people, does the hon. Gentleman not think that it will try to force that policy on those countries over which it wants to exercise influence?

Mr. Winterton

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Perhaps that is the very argument that I am seeking to build into my case.

I believe that it is wrong that overseas aid and development co-operation should seek in any way to disturb the natural situation in many countries because in doing so it creates more problems than it solves. It is wrong to move people from the countryside where there is stability and work, although, sadly, that is not true in countries such as Somalia, where there is civil war and poverty and everything else that goes with it, and starvation resulting from drought. We all know of the great problems that have beset the Horn of Africa in recent years.

United Kingdom aid has in the main been excellent. I am worried that by adding an additional competence to the European Community and writing it into the treaty —which is an extension of the treaty of Rome and the Single Act—so that overseas development co-operation and aid become a genuine part of the Community's competence we may well reduce our ability to do what we believe to be right and what in the main has been right.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I sense that my hon. Friend is about to conclude his remarks. He expressed an interest in new clauses 60 and 66 and I would like him to give them further consideration. He drew attention to them with approval, but said that it is not desirable to incorporate new aid matters into the treaty. I suggest to him that it is not desirable to incorporate into the procedures of this House, by legislation, a procedure that is normally determined by the House. That is what new clause 60 would do. It would determine a procedure of the House by legislation, which is a strange thing to do, as I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree, not least because it would give the House of Lords an opportunity to determine our procedure by its scrutiny of the legislation that we send there.

Does he not agree that the amendment is unnecessary because we have terrific opportunities to review Government aid policy? We have monthly statements of Community business, the Scrutiny Committees, regular debates on development activities and reports to the House of the six-monthly Community Development Ministers meetings. Would he like to comment on all of those?

Mr. Winterton

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend because he has anticipated my final point. In an intervention in an earlier speech, I expressed the hope that my hon. Friend the Minister would refer to new clauses 60 and 66, with which I expressed some sympathy. I must tell my hon. Friend that I did so purely on the basis that I believe that the Government will seek to force the treaty through the House and that it will be ratified. I was hoping to build into the Bill a safeguard whereby the House, which is being deprived of many of its rights, functions and authorities, would still have something to do, because new clause 60 states: Her Majesty's Government shall report to the House of Commons annually on the implementation of the objectives of article 130u". At least that would give the House an opportunity to debate that report.

If the Bill does not become an Act and we do not ratify, I shall not in any way be interested in new clauses 60 and 66. It was interesting to note that, when my hon. Friend the Minister responded to the hon. Member for Oldham, West, he said that he assumed that this was a probing amendment. I understood from the hon. Gentleman's speech that he intended to urge his hon. Friends and those Conservative Members who might sympathise with him to vote for at least one of the amendments in the group and, I presume, given that he made specific reference to it, new clause 60. No doubt the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, will make the Opposition's position clear before the end of the debate.

I believe that the amendments are more important than the attendance in the Committee might suggest. We have heard a number of well-informed and constructive contributions to the debate. I hope that the assurances given by my hon. Friend the Minister about continuing to have and to follow our own overseas aid programme represents Government policy. I accept that should we act in co-operation with other European countries, the effect of overseas aid can no doubt be more constructive and positive.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has made his known speech opposing federalism in Europe, and, considering the lateness of the hour, I shall spare the Committee my known speech stating the opposite view. The hon. Gentleman referred to the supposed Europeanism of the French. I do not think that that was terribly helpful. I shall also refrain from commenting on that.

I do not claim the knowledge of the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), whose connection with development co-operation is long established, or of others who have spoken. I shall be brief.

We should remember that, after all, we are talking about a probing amendment—with all respect to the hon. Member for Macclesfield. Perhaps the Opposition will place some emphasis on new clause 60, but it is not all that exciting. It states that the Government shall report to the House of Commons annually on the implementation of the objectives of Article 130u, including the campaign against world poverty, respect for human rights, and compliance with the United Nations, having regard to the co-ordination and consultation required by Article 130x. I do not regard that proposal as very exciting. In fact, it seems perfectly reasonable that the House should have an opportunity to examine such matters from time to time. I do not know why anyone should get particularly excited about it.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be helpful for the Committee to have the discipline once a year of examining the EC's action in respect of co-operation and aid? As the hon. Gentleman knows, a horrible amount of money—more than £1,000 million this year—is spent on dumping high-tar tobacco in the third world, and a vast sum on dumping a large amount of food on the world market at a very low price, thereby impoverishing third world countries. Would it not be useful to examine all the consequences of such policies annually?

Sir Russell Johnston

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman —with whom I have crossed swords so often—that the likelihood of the House of Commons not dealing with Community issues more than once a year is not all that credible. It deals with the EC almost weekly, and will continue to do so. If the hon. Gentleman is pressing for annual debates about particular issues, I would certainly not be opposed to that.

This is essentially an aspirational and declaratory section of the treaty. It is not about policy but about four basic provisions. The first is that the Council, acting in accordance with article 189c, will devise development and aid measures.

The second is that development co-operation objectives should be reached in the light of other Community measures—which touches on the point made by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). Although I have often defended the CAP's genesis, I would not contradict the hon. Gentleman and others when they argue that it ultimately had non-beneficial consequences for Britain and developing countries. Nevertheless, the second principle acknowledges that account must be taken of that aspect, and is embodied in the approach to decisions.

The third provision is the co-ordination of policy between the Community and member states, including international organisations, and the fourth is cooperation, within their respective spheres of competence, between the Community and member states on the one hand and other countries and relevant international organisations on the other.

I do not entirely agree with the Minister's assertion that those objectives reflect British influence. They may do in part, but, with respect, I grow terribly weary of successive Ministers—not only the Under-Secretary of State—saying that everything good that ever happens is due to the influence of Her Majesty's Government. Our record of development co-operation is not all that hot, and we cannot claim that principles enunciated in the treaty are due to our record, influence or pressure. Let us face it: the criticism of European Community policy in this area—such as exists—is not so very different from criticism of the Government's policy. As has already been observed, we have not only failed to achieve the United Nations target but appear to have failed even to try to achieve it.

I know that there are good arguments for saying that the quality of our aid is good, and that our organisation is good—in some cases, better than that of others. I do not dispute that. I think that, not only directly through the Overseas Development Adminstration but through the non-governmental organisations, we do a lot of good work. Quantitively, however, we do not do as well as other countries which, in theory, have less capacity to perform. I think we should be a bit more humble, and not constantly say how wonderful we are.

11 pm

A positive aspect of the treaty is its reaffirmation that the Community, as an institution, has an interest in playing—and a desire to play—a major role in development co-operation throughout the developing world. I think that, in fairness, the Community has played its part in that over the past 30 years. Improvements have been made in, for instance, life expectancy, the rate of infant mortality, literacy and access to drinking water: all those simple, basic things have improved to some extent, and I think that the Community can claim some credit for that. The most notable feature is the Lomé agreement, to which the Community, acting collectively, made an important contribution.

Progress is not as good as I would like; it is not as good as many other hon. Members would like. It has, however, been positive, and, although it is often criticised, I think that the Community's partnership with the developing world has played, and is still playing, an important part. That is not confined to the African, Caribbean and Pacific states; it extends to ACP Latin American and Asia. Let us look at the statistics. EC aid to ACP states between 1990 and 1995 represents 11 billion ecus; EC aid to eastern Europe since 1990 represents 450 million ecus; EC aid to Latin America and Asia in 1991 amounted to 1.9 billion ecus. It should be recognised that the Community is making an effective and constructive contribution to a very difficult area of need.

I agree very much with the hon. Members who have said that access to the industrialised countries' markets is an essential prerequisite for the development of the underdeveloped countries. That is fundamental, and it is particularly true within the narrower confine of Europe, given the position of the newly democratised countries. It is all very well to be nice to the Visigrad countries, for example, but unless they are allowed to sell what they produce, all this is nothing but words—and not very effective words.

I also think that the Community needs to ensure more coherence between its approach to development and its approach to other Community policies, such as the CAP —as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Southend, East. I do not dispute that; it is a serious problem. The Community's development policy is, ultimately, a fundamentally co-operative venture, in which the Community's role must be to help the people of the developing countries to find and develop their own aspirations. In that, considerable effort is being made and considerable expertise is being shown. I hope that this country will continue to play a constructive role in a very difficult endeavour, but that is something that the European Community must continue to contribute to.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question That the amendment be made, put accordingly and negatived.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order, Dame Janet. We may be moving towards reporting progress. If that is moved, can you confirm that it is a debatable motion? Secondly, you will have observed that there are two new clauses on the amendment paper selected by the Chair. They are new clause 60, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) referred, and new clause 66, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and some of his hon. Friends. I think that sufficient indication has been given that if I were able to catch your eye, I would wish to speak to that. Reference to that new clause has been made, principally, by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and by the Under-Secretary of State.

I have not been afforded the opportunity to speak to that new clause, for it may, of course, if the case is good enough, be put to the vote later in the debate. But you, Dame Janet, have accepted the closure motion and that has meant that it has not been possible to speak.

I seek your advice as to the extent to which this matter can be addressed when and if progress is reported.

The Second Deputy Chairman

I can confirm that the motion about reporting progress is debatable.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again. —[Mr. Lightbown.]

Mr. Spearing

The behaviour of the Government on this parliamentary matter is despicable and undemocratic.

We have had a number of controversies about closures. I do not question your judgment, Dame Janet, but I question the good faith of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He knows full well that the debate that we have just partly concluded is not about overseas aid. Many hon. Members believe that we have been talking about overseas aid: we have not. That is not included in the treaty or any of the amendments.

The Minister knows that there is a united proposal for a single foreign policy, of which overseas development and aid is a part. I want to ask the Minister—[Interruption.]

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. There is too much noise; the hon. Gentleman is entitled to his say.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful, Dame Janet.

The Government have misled the Committee, or, putting it more charitably, have suppressed information that they know the Committee should have received.

I have a 64-page document from the Community, No. 6718/92, which was published in September 1992 entitled—[Interruption] This is going on the record, so hon. Members may talk if they like.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I remind the Committee again that we should have a reasonable amount of silence.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful, Dame Janet.

Document No. 6718/92 is a communication from the Commission to the Council and Parliament on the subject of Development Co-operation Policy in the Run-up to 2000 … The consequences of the Maastricht Treaty. It is a public document and it was published by the Commission in September 1992. It has been deposited in the Vote Office. It was the subject of a memorandum from Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, which she deposited in September 1992. The document makes it amply clear that a working party is discussing proposals to implement the treaty. It was meeting on 18 November last year with a view to forming a resolution. I put it to the Committee, particularly the Foreign Office Minister who spoke on overseas development today—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is now going well beyond the scope of the debate. If he does not wish the Committee to adjourn, he should explain why he wants to go on to the next set of amendments, instead of which he is harking back to the previous set.

Mr. Spearing

I shall correct that, Dame Janet, if you will keep me in line.

I want to know why the Government have not supplied the Committee with information to which it is entitled. Their failure to do so can be interpreted as suppression of material. Before we agree to report progress, the Minister should explain himself in respect of this matter. Or, if he does not know what happened at the Development Committee, perhaps his right hon. Friend does. It was the Development Committee that discussed the matter.

Secondly, the Minister should tell the Committee why he says that it would be improper for it to require the Government, consequent upon any Act, to table statements and reports. The Minister pretends that that would amount to interference in the procedures of the Commons. But there are many Acts of Parliament that require the Government to do just that. It is not just misleading but entirely wrong and indicative of arrogant contempt for Parliament—indeed, for democracy as a whole—for a Minister of the Crown, in an attempt to reply to a matter that has not been dealt with, to claim that the Government are not accountable and that they do not need to produce reports that the Committee requires under statute.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now give an explanation of the matters with which I have just dealt. I hope that he has a good answer; I can think of none.

11.15 pm
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Having been present for about two hours of the earlier part of the debate, may I concur with the remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). There were times when, as I read article 130u, I wondered whether I had come to the right premises. I intend no reflection on any earlier occupant of the Chair when I say that the debate ranged very widely but dealt almost exclusively with the matter of overseas aid. But it is quite clear that paragraph 1 of article 130u is about development co-operation, about the economic and social development of developing countries —

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I must make it absolutely clear that we cannot have a rerun of a previous debate. Otherwise, there would be no point in having curtailment of debate by way of a closure. Closure brings debate to an end.

Mr. Molyneaux

I am grateful for your guidance, Dame Janet. The purpose of my remarks is to explain that, in my humble opinion, because that vital information was withheld, or was not made available, the earlier part—in fact, the greater part—of the debate was completely out of order. The Committee was debating entirely the wrong subject.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.

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