asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects the new date for the postponed European Council meeting scheduled for 31 March to be announced.
The European Council is now to be held in Luxembourg on 27 and 28 April.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Can he say whether he is now convinced that the worst of the unthinking, narrow-minded, knocking of the Community in this country is over, and that, although the summit was postponed originally for the wrong reasons, the refixing of the new date offers a good opportunity for the Community to reach positive and constructive solutions both on our own budget contribution and on taking the Community forward on a number of important matters?
I cannot tell what will be done by what my hon. Friend called the knockers of the Community. However, I agree with him that there is a great opportunity at the forthcoming Council not only to make considerable progress and to achieve a solution on our budget contribution, but to make progress in other areas.
Has the delay in holding the summit given the Government any more room for manoeuvre over Britain's budget contributions?
We are not seeking greater room for manoeuvre, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has frequently said. We are seeking a genuine compromise, and we have a limited area in which to manoeuvre. However, the enforced delay has enabled various contacts to take place.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are much more likely to get a sensible answer to the problems of Britain's contributions if at the same time we show our determination to make the European Community a real force for peace in the world?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. He will be aware that since the Government came into power, and especially over the past two months since the invasion of Afghanistan, we have shown a distinct wish and inclination to do just that.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that one other thing has happened in the interim? At the same time as he has been asking for a considerable change in our budget contributions, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has managed, by moving to positive MCAs, to increase the contributions. How will he explain that to the Market?
As the hon. Lady will know, or should know, the increase in our contributions as a result of the move to positive MCAs, of which she talks, will be so infinitesimal that I do not think it needs explanation.