Skip to main content

Information Campaigns

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


What European Commission finance is presently available in the United Kingdom to fund information campaigns. [15993]

General information and communication work concerning the European Union, including the Commission's information activities in the United Kingdom, is funded under chapter B3–30 of the European Community budget. For 1997, 107 million ecu—which is about £72 million at current exchange rates—has been allocated.

On 28 October 1997, the Foreign Secretary made it clear to the House that the Government would not apply for European Union funding to pay for a pro-single currency campaign. How is that statement consistent with the answer that the Minister has just given or with the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has made it clear elsewhere that the Government will be applying for European Union funds to pay for a euro campaign?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has approached the European Commission on whether it would provide some funding for a general information campaign, so that British business and British citizens have access to information on very important matters which will be considered in the coming months and years. The difference between the previous Government and this Government is that they thought that everything should be kept secret, whereas we think that information should be provided to inform people.

Does the Minister agree that, for informed debate on Europe, it is imperative that essential information is provided? Is it not clear that the Tories want a debate informed by their own prejudice, and that they are not interested in the facts?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Commission now knows where the Government stand on the issues. Before the general election, the Commission did not know whether it should speak to one end of the Government or the other, because each gave a different answer—making it impossible to provide information.

Is not the point that, on 28 October, the Foreign Secretary told the House that there would be no EU funding to promote the euro? The Minister has now had to concede that there will be a general information campaign, funded by the EU, to inform people about the euro. What is the difference? Is it not merely a disingenuous play on words? Does it not come from the same stable as the Prime Minister's assurance last week that he had paid back the £1 million, only to concede five minutes later that it had not been paid back? Would it not be better if Labour Ministers adopted a new policy of telling Parliament the truth in the first place?

I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. I should have thought that he would realise that there is a huge difference between the propaganda against Europe that the previous Government frequently tried to perpetrate and giving information to people, so that they can make their own assessment of the issues involved and make their own preparations—so that, when and if a referendum is held on the matter, they can make a decision based on knowledge, not prejudice.