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European Parliament

Volume 972: debated on Thursday 25 October 1979

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asked the Prime Minister what arrangements she has made for regular meetings with the leader of the European Conservative Members of Parliament.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will maintain regular contacts with the leader of the European Democratic group and his colleagues.

Will my right hon. Friend advise the leader of the European group that, when she is in Dublin to meet the Heads of State, she will advise member States that under no circumstances does she intend to permit the British Government to pay £915 million more to EEC funds than we receive in assistance, which is much more than that paid by Germany?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The present contributions and those proposed for next year are absolutely intolerable. We have been saying so. It is our object at Dublin to get the amount reduced generally to a broad balance between what we put in and what we get out.

Will the right hon. Lady clarify the position to members of her party in the European Parliament? Will she make clear what she means? She has been blowing hot and cold. First, we had the tough talk; then, last Tuesday, the soft talk. Will she make clear to her colleagues that she intends to withhold the contribution unless it is made fair?

I am not aware that I have ever talked softly about this matter. The present battle has to be joined at Dublin on the European budget. What general would reveal his tactics before the battle has even begun?

Will my right hon. Friend include in any sage counsel and wise guidance she is minded to give to the chairman of the group an exhortation that the work of some Members in the previous Parliament be continued and reinforced in seeking to ensure that the scope of Commission directives and regulations does not exceed that contemplated by the Treaty and the securing of the principle of no harmonisation for harmonisation's sake?

I agree entirely with my right hon. and learned Friend and praise his work in the last Parliament. The Commission is not there to standardise for the sake of standardisation but only where it is necessary to enable the objectives of the Treaty, namely the free movement of capital, goods and people, to be attained.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, since we initially raised this question, when there was not quite so much enthusiasm on the Conservative side and we were told that if only we would be good Europeans it would all come well, we now give her the full support that we wish she had given us earlier? She can go to Dublin knowing that there is a united House of Commons which wishes to see a successful conclusion to this matter? Is she also aware that, although we do not press now to know her tactics in the event of a refusal, we shall be very interested after the meeting has taken place?

That I totally accept. I trust that I shall be successful in negotiating a corrective mechanism at Dublin.