HC Deb 11 June 2002 vol 386 cc716-7
43. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

If he will bring forward proposals for improving the procedures for discussing EU legislation and for considering EU expenditure in the House. [57423]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The House has already implemented almost all the Modernisation Committee's recommendations of the last Parliament on this issue and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will consider carefully today's report from the European Scrutiny Committee. It and its sister Committee in the other place play an important role in examining EU legislation and expenditure.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does it not worry the Minister that the European Union, to which we send more than £1 million every hour, has become such an uncontrolled centre of graft and corruption? The most recent examples of that are the awarding of grants for more than twice the number of sheep and goats that actually exist in Italy, and a massive grant to a gentleman from Essex, although not from Southend, to help to provide prostitutes in Hungary with guidance—money that he has spent on buying a new house and two new cars.

In case the Minister thinks that the answer might be the Court of Auditors, does he accept that the court finds those practices just as disgusting as I and most hon. Members do, and has declined to approve the EU's accounts for six years? Is there not a case for someone to supervise expenditure?

Mr. Bradshaw

The whole House will agree that the common agricultural policy needs radical reform. However, if the hon. Gentleman is alleging criminal activity, he should report that to the police. As I said, we in this House and Members of the other place have two effective Committees. I have served on one of them, and they do an excellent job of scrutinising the expenditure and decision making in Brussels that the hon. Gentleman mentions.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new post. Does he think that there is further room for exploring how we can subject the decisions of the European Central Bank to greater scrutiny, especially as we hope that those might have more direct relevance to the economy of the United Kingdom in a year's time? Has he received specific advice from Mr. Rupert Murdoch about how we might examine legislation on European matters?

Mr. Bradshaw

In the few days that I have been in my present job, I have not had time to receive such advice. I agree, however, that the European Central Bank has much to learn from the workings of our central bank, which have been extremely successful.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

I, too, welcome the Minister to his new position. He was doing a good job in his previous post and I cannot understand why he was moved.

How can the Minister say that there will be fiscal controls over expenditure in the EU, when his former colleague, the Minister for Europe, told me in parliamentary written answers that the Government have conducted no analysis whatever of the total costs or total benefits of this country belonging to the EU, and have no intention of doing so in the future?

Mr. Bradshaw

I cannot speak for my colleague in the Foreign Office, but colleagues of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) will have an opportunity to scrutinise my right hon. Friend on this very subject when he appears before the House of Lords European Union Select Committee on 9 July.