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EU Budget (Reform)

Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 6 April 2010

13. What recent discussions he has had on prospects for reform of the EU budget; and if he will make a statement. (325361)

Reform of the EU budget was last discussed at the December European Council. Heads of Government agreed that the Commission should produce a report in order for the Council to provide orientations on priorities during 2010. Her Majesty’s Government remain committed to far-reaching reform of the EU budget.

I am grateful to the Minister for those comments. In 2005, however, the Government gave away £7 billion of money that was due to us from the European Union rebate in return for a complete review of the EU budget, which was supposed to have finished by the end of 2009 but clearly has not happened so far. By breaking their promise, and effectively giving away £7 billion of British taxpayers’ money for nothing, have we not seen how useless the Government are at standing up for Britain’s interests?

I really like the hon. Gentleman, but he sometimes speaks the biggest load of tosh when he absorbs everything that is poured out by his Front Benchers. The truth of the matter is that he, like many hon. Members, voted for enlargement of the European Union. We believed that it would be in the interests of this country to bring 10 new countries, and then a further two, into the European Union because we would be able to improve trade with them and they would be able to improve their human rights. However, we cannot wish something and not will the means, and if those new countries were to join the European Union, someone would have to pay that bill—we were prepared to step up to the mark. It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman’s party has become so Europhobic that it dare not even look at the facts.

Will the Minister reassure the House that, in any discussions on the reform of the budget, we will not lose sight of the goals that were set by the Lisbon agenda at the European Council in 2000?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need to ensure that Europe is competitive, and able to compete for new jobs and to be part of future economic models, rather than relying on its historical system of budgetary expenditure. That is why we have supported reform of the common agricultural policy for a long time, and I personally believe it is morally offensive that Europe should overpay so that other parts of the world are not able even to compete on a fair basis.