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Reform And Development

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he plans any new initiatives in the Council of Ministers with a view to reforming the institutions and policies of the European Economic Community.

I shall continue to take the initiative in the Council to press for constructive reform and development. Our aims include new policies of benefit to Britain and the Community, such as the ideas on coal now being pursued in the Energy Council, improvements in the operation of the common agricultural policy, and a fair solution to the budget problem, which is one of the things I have been discussing this week in Brussels.

Is not my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confessing that, after 10 years of membership, we have made no permanent changes whatever to the budget arrangements, which have so far cost Britain, net, over £3,500 million? Will my right hon. Friend explain why, when the remit from the Council of Ministers to the Commission was to produce plans for a permanent solution, it has apparently produced plans for yet another temporary arrangement?

A permanent solution has not been produced because the 10 members are not able to agree about that matter. I am still pressing them to produce a lasting solution, and I shall continue to do so. It is a mistake to say that nothing has been achieved. Already in the past three years over £2,000 million of our contribution has been repaid, which is a major acknowledgement by our partners that the budget was not fair. Britain was placed in an unacceptable position, and they responded accordingly. It is a mistake to underrate what has been achieved. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a lot more to do.

Which institutions of the EEC does the Secretary of State wish to reform, and how?

As I said in my original answer, we wish to reform the CAP, the budget arrangements and the financial structure. We support the enlargement of the EC by the accession of Spain and Portugal, and that has been negotiated. We are taking a positive approach to developments within the Community in many different ways.

Will the Secretary of State undertake, along with his colleagues, to carry new initiatives to Europe in order to provide a meaningful energy programme for the Third and developing world?

As the joint budgetary authority consists of the Council and the European Parliament, must not one of the most important initiatives be that the helpful declaration of 30 June, which was worked out by my hon. Friends, should be translated from good intentions to the completion of the 1983 budget procedure on time and in accordance with the Treaty?

Yes, Sir. I, too, hope that the Council and the European Parliament will be able to reach agreement on the 1983 budget and that it will be adopted in accordance with the Treaty.