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European Union

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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If he will make a statement on the responsibilities of his Department in promoting enlargement of the European Union and in drawing up Agenda 2000. [16013]

We have lead responsibility within the Government for policy towards the European Union, including enlargement. The Department also co-ordinates the Government's overall position on Agenda 2000. Tonight, I depart on a tour of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to prepare for the launch under the British presidency of negotiations on enlargement and to assure those countries of Britain's firm commitment to opening the doors of the European Union to the new democracies of central Europe.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that enlargement must involve substantial reform of the common agricultural policy? In the past, there has been a tendency to allow the CAP to be discussed only by farm Ministers, or the Council of Agriculture Ministers. Will he ensure that his Department and others are intimately involved in reform of the CAP? Sixty per cent. of the EU budget is spent on a system that is in need of dramatic reform and that money should be redirected toward other more productive uses.

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the matter was discussed by the Foreign Ministers of Europe only yesterday and that it is a priority of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is plainly not satisfactory that we should go into the next century with 50 per cent. of Europe's budget being spent on an industry in which less than 5 per cent. of the work force are engaged. We shall continue to press for realistic reforms.