HL Deb 13 May 1986 vol 474 cc1032-4

2.46 p.m.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how payments to the EC have changed in real terms since 1979 and how this change compares with the period 1974 to 1979.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, our net contribution to the Community in 1985 was £1,871 million, which was, for a number of special factors, unusually and regrettably high. It compares with a figure for 1979 of £1,571 million in 1985 prices. The equivalent figure for 1974 was £98 million. Our net contribution over the years 1974–1979 was, of course, reduced by the effects of the transitional financial arrangements applying for the first few years after accession. I have arranged for a table showing our annual net contributions to the Community Budget since 1974 to be published in the Official Report.

Following is the table referred to:

Current prices 1985 prices
1974 29 98
1975 -56 -155
1976 167 402
1977 369 780
1978 822 1,561
1979 947 1,571
1980 706 977
1981 397 491
1982 606 698
1983 647 709
1984 656 689
1985 1,871 [1,871]

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reply. I take it that the effort of Her Majesty's Government to keep EC expenditure under control is one of their major objectives at the present time.

Lord Young of Graffham

Yes, my Lords. Last year the contribution we made to the Community was unfortunately and regrettably high. That was because of the non-receipt, or the delayed receipt, of our 1984 abatement, and other matters as well. But for those adjustments, the normal contribution would have been substantially lower.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the message from the table of figures which he has kindly said he will place in the Official Report is that the contribution would have been so much greater had measures not been taken by Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, there I must agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, am I not right in assuming from one reference in the reply of the noble Lord the Minister that the table will be based both on current prices and on real terms?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it will be based on current prices and on 1985 prices.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, is the Minister not a little foolish to take too much party political credit for having reduced the net budget contributions, given that, despite all the juggling with figures which he announced initially, in 1985 the net contribution was substantially higher than it had ever been? Would it not be better if we concentrated on trying to obtain major changes in the agriculture budget, which would generally help this country and indeed the Community?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I have no doubt that adjustments should be made to the agriculture budget. But I would be failing in my position in the House if I did not point out to your Lordships that, if we had made the adjustments which we should have received—and which were received a few days later—the contribution last year would have been lower in real terms that the contribution for 1978.