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Reform And Structuring

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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55.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of his statement in the Official Report on 3 March, c. 267, he has anything further to add on British budget contributions; and if he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Member to my reply earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor).

Is the Minister aware that when Britain entered the Common Market we were told that, irrespective of budget contributions, unemployment would be reduced? Throughout the five-year transitional period, when we were paying less than the others, we were told that that would also assist Britain to reduce unemployment. During the referendum campaign in 1975 we were also told that, whatever the budget contribution, unemployment would be reduced. We were also told that the refund that has just been mentioned would help Britain to bring down the level of unemployment. Is it not a fact that the Common Market, coupled with this Tory Government, is an unmitigated disaster, whatever the budget contribution?

It seems to have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that countries outside the Community also suffer from unemployment.

Will the Lord Privy Seal at least remind his colleagues in Europe that since we joined the EEC we have paid net more than £3,000 million, or more than £1 million every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays?

My hon. Friend has used those figures before. I remind him that our total net contribution last year was £55 million. That is an improvement, and the present discussions taking place in the Community are designed to secure the position for the future.

Does my right hon. Friend think that the nature of questions tabled by the Opposition in any way reflects their disappointment that the Labour Government were unable to achieve what the Conservative Government have manifestly done—secure a major reduction in the amount that we pay to the EEC?

I am sure that it does, and the Labour Party has a great deal about which to be disappointed

As the right hon. Gentleman is so scathing about the alternative of the guaranteed deficiency payments system that Britain operated before making such massive contributions to the CAP, will he say what calculations have been made by his Department on the possibility of again embarking upon a guaranteed deficiency payments system?

No. Because our efforts at present are designed to reform the CAP, and we believe that we shall be successful.