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President Of The Commission

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet with the President of the European Community.

I expect to meet the President of the Commission, Mr. Jenkins, when I next attend the Foreign Affairs Council on the 5–6 May, if that is what the hon. Gentleman has in mind in his question.

That is what I have in mind. I apologise for the mistake in terminology. When the right hon. Gentleman meets the President of the Commission, will he explain to Mr. Jenkins, and will he explain to us now, why the Government will not accept finance from the European Community if it also involves finance from United Kingdom Government sources? Does he accept that this exacerbates our budget problem?

No, I do not. I am not certain on what the hon. Gentleman bases his question. As he knows, there have been Commission proposals to spend EEC money in Britain, which we have welcomed.

Does my right hon. Friend recall the judgment at the time of our original application to join the EEC, namely, that the cost of membership would be high and easy to quantify, and that the benefits of membership were unquantifiable but certainly very much higher? Does that judgment still not hold good? Does it not account for the ease with which one can set out the disadvantages and the relative difficulty in setting out the advantages?

Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It will not have escaped his notice that the Labour Party, when unfortunately, it is m government is in favour of the EEC, and that when it is in opposition it always turns against it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer about the balance of trade between the EEC and the United Kingdom is misleading? The figures that he used include the trade in oil. If he considers the trade in manufactured goods, which must be the test of any industrialised nation, he will see that Britain has suffered again and again as a result of its membership of the EEC. Have the positive and substantial benefits of the balance of trade that were promised by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in the 1971 White Paper come about?

That is because our economic performance in general declined sharply under the previous Labour Government. The fact remains that we are doing better with the EEC than we are with the rest of the world.