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David Taylor: Even the shadow Chancellor.

Mr. Connarty: I am reminded that the shadow Chancellor came to this country from Spain, but I think that that was for political reasons.

Despite our fears when Spain came into the EU, people went back there because, through the structural funds, we lifted the Spanish economy so that it became attractive for them to return and use their skills and talents back in Spain, even if that meant that roads were built in Spain that the right hon. Member for Wokingham might think should have been built in his constituency. If we compare the gross national product of the two countries, it is clear where the money should go in a fair and balanced EU.

Similarly, the idea that we might discuss the taxation systems across the EU has been mocked, even though some of them work against the UK. Tax changes will not necessarily always benefit someone else. The rationalisation and sensible application of tax rules and regulations will benefit the UK. It is not good enough to try to score points by scaring people, particularly at the beginning of a Parliament, when there is no election in sight apart from the Conservative leadership election. Perhaps that is what lies behind the mocking; it certainly has nothing to do with the benefits to the people of the United Kingdom.

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The rural economy was mentioned. After the BSE and foot and mouth debacles, and the extensive changes to the rural economy, the inclusion of the rural economy in the Berlin agenda in 1999 was visionary. We now realise that it is not just about farming and the common agricultural policy, but about the structure of society in rural areas, many of which are not directly reliant on farming but depend on people using the rural economy as an asset, bringing value to it and allowing others to remain in their rural communities. The negotiation team should be commended for the prominence given to the rural economy.

The Bill is preparatory; it is not the measure that will allow enlargement to proceed. I am keen on the enlargement of the EU, having served on the European Scrutiny Committee and visited the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The EU would benefit, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe described, in defence terms and in other ways not covered by the Bill; and also in terms of growing the market and the valuable common idea of a Europe of democratic nations—not one European state, but all of them giving and taking, balancing and growing the EU together—for example, by examining tax and the way in which that income is disbursed. Nations that have strengths should give to those that have weaknesses, but that should be done sensibly.

I am not a Minister, so I do not have to worry about acknowledging that I was upset by and a little ashamed of the Irish vote. I come from an Irish background and have many relatives in Ireland. It is clear that that vote was an attempt to keep the benefits of the European Union—which Ireland has received in large measure and used to grow its economy—for those already inside this "better" group of nations, and not to allow those benefits to be dissipated by being given to nations that need them much more. Most of the countries that I mentioned—Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland—need the benefits of EU membership more than Ireland currently does. Ireland has reaped tremendous benefits from the EU that could now be available to people in the former Soviet bloc.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The terms of the debate are fairly narrow. We are discussing financial arrangements in the Community budget.

Mr. Connarty: Thank you for that direction, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thought that the document to which the right hon. Member for Wokingham referred dealt with the basis of enlargement. The negotiations have protected us from having to pay increasing amounts into the budget, as we have retained our abatement, but we must consider preparations for using that budget in different ways throughout the EU. We should see the Bill in those terms. It is not monumental, as it does not deliver what the Nice treaty will achieve when it is debated and—I hope—passed by EU nations. However, it prepares the way for those changes to be made without destroying our finances. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe said, less than 1 per cent. of taxation and expenditure will be going to the EU.

The hon. Member for Hertsmere made much of administrative spending, but it was pointed out that such spending amounts to only 1p a year for UK taxpayers. Administration expenditure is at about 5 or 6 per cent.,

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which is low. That level does not frighten me, as long as we ensure good governance, implement Commissioner Kinnock's recommendations and run the budget efficiently. We should not be concerned only about keeping down the administration budget. If the audit function is removed in order to save money, the ability to run a fair budget is thereby destroyed. We must look underneath the expenditure level, rather than merely play around with the figures. A number of private organisations would like only 5 or 6 per cent. of their budgets to be spent on administration.

Mr. Clappison: The hon. Gentleman may be making the case that Labour Front Benchers did not make. Does he not accept that it is natural to ask questions about administration, when it seems to be the fastest rising item in the budget?

Dr. Palmer: It is not.

Mr. Connarty: My hon. Friend may want to give us the figures, which he probably has to hand. I know that he is knowledgeable about these matters.

On the fraud and financial management recommendations, everyone was worried about fraud and corruption—for instance, with regard to the tobacco regime. When the regime was investigated, it was reckoned that the same tobacco leaf was being counted almost five times in the EU. Tobacco can be moved around the EU as a wet product before it dries out. It was suggested that Mafia connections were involved, but we did not find out about them after the investigation, as the gentleman in charge of the regime jumped, fell or was thrown from his fifth-story window in Brussels and died before his knowledge of the regime could be revealed.

If administration expenditure is increased because of an anti-fraud and audit drive, the money is being well spent. I am not worried about an increase to 5 or 6 per cent. if the money is being spent correctly. I would be much more worried if the amount were low and not enough officials were available to ensure that things were done correctly. That is why the increase does not bother me.

This Government believe—as I hope the Conservative Government did—that fraud in EC budgets is unacceptable. Hon. Members may remember that the anti-fraud office was based on an initiative suggested by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Mr. Prodi's first act as EU President was to appoint Mr. Kinnock as the Vice-President with responsibility for reform. When Mr. Kinnock came before the Scrutiny Committee, he gave a very good account of himself and his work. We should have commended our Front-Bench Members on making sure that they were fully behind the work in the negotiating round. It is significant that we now have a code of conduct for Commissioners and Commission officials that did not previously exist. We have a whistleblower's charter. Such matters may be administratively costly, but they are also sensible.

The Bill is productive. It will not change the world, but it does not allow the past trend of massive increases in the budget to continue. It is not a trivial measure, as the Liberal Democrats would have us believe. It stops the rot and turns the EU around. It achieves much, but much remains to be done. I support the Bill and commend it to the House.

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5.50 pm

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): I hope that you will forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I comply with custom for a few moments and mention my predecessor and my constituency.

My predecessor, the noble Lord Temple-Morris, is a unique man. He spent 23 years representing the Conservatives and four years representing Labour. He also qualified as a barrister and a solicitor. He was clearly a man who liked to try everything. Hon. Members on both sides of the House—naturally—have told me that he was a diligent constituency Member, and I shall try to continue his constituency work and emulate his long and ennobling career.

His footsteps are unusually difficult to follow. However, the seat of Leominster has a history of unusual Members. Although, in 1305, the towns of Ledbury and Bromyard decided that a Member of Parliament was far too expensive, at 2 shillings a day, and chose to withdraw their privilege, Weobley and Leominster continued to pay up. John Scott, who went on to be the Earl of Eldon, was elected in Weobley in 1783. Perhaps worrying about voter apathy, he asked about the best way to win Weobley. He was told that it was to drive into the town with a dray laden with cider. I have not tried that method of canvassing. John Scott also avoided it, and instead rode into the town, knocked on the door of the prettiest girl and kissed her. Later, when asked the reason for his popularity, he fought his way into the crowd and kissed the same girl. He went on to be Lord Chancellor.

Leominster Members have had a variety of fates. One shot himself, one was hanged, another was imprisoned in the Tower during the south sea bubble crisis, and Roland Stephenson, who I am sorry to say was a London banker, was outlawed for fraud in 1829. He escaped by boat to Savannah, where he was arrested and taken to jail in New York. Happily, we also boast two Prime Ministers so far: William Bentinck, later Duke of Portland, and William Lamb, later Lord Melbourne. In Leominster, as well as in history, being christened William is an auspicious start.

Like all before him, my predecessor but one, Sir Clive Bossom, who made his maiden speech here in 1960, followed in his father's footsteps to the House. It is therefore a great responsibility and a source of enormous pride to follow in the footsteps of my father, Sir Jerry Wiggin, who represented Weston-super-Mare for more than 28 years.

The constituency of Leominster is great not only in history, but in size. It is at least 2,500 sq miles, and one of the largest constituencies in England. Its borders run from Wales into Worcestershire, and from Shropshire to the Wye valley. Julian Critchley, the late Member for Aldershot, described it as Arcadia. Indeed, it is a truly beautiful part of the country. Hon. Members who wish to holiday there instead of Tuscany will be delighted by the large number of excellent hotels, inns and pubs. That is hardly surprising, given that the fields are full of cider apple orchards, vineyards and hops.

Attractions range from Eastnor castle to Offa's dyke, as well as many beautiful houses and our unique architecture: the famous black and white trail that runs through Pembridge. The main market towns are Tenbury Wells, Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury and Leominster. All have the some of the friendliest, most charming people.

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It is no surprise that the county that produces the best food is also home to the finest and fittest soldiers. We are proud to host the SAS base at Credenhill. It is the only permanent garrison in the United Kingdom.

The terrible effects of foot and mouth mean that our tourism industry could do with all the support and visitors possible. It needs, not loan guarantees at 8.75 per cent., but a positive message backed by a properly funded English tourist board.

Foot and mouth has been a monumental crisis for my constituents. There have been several outbreaks in the constituency, and we have lost not only large numbers of stock but some hope for the future of farming. There has been widespread misery, and I pay tribute to those who have soldiered on resolutely. They have put up with the culling of healthy stock without confirmation of infection, D notices and movement restrictions, the stigma of dirty farms, the uncompensated loss to the value of cattle over 30 months, the bodies of culled stock lying awaiting removal for up to nine days in Winforton, the disinfectant at the gates, and the constant washing of vehicles and reclusive living.

The sense of helplessness was worst. Sometimes it was caused by Ministry vets culling healthy dairy herds while welfare culls were left waiting. We must not forget the suffering caused to animals that tried to lamb in chest-high mud. Our farmers care for their animals. They rightly feel a sense of rage against incompetence and cruelty when they watch their sheep starving or drowning, and know that they would be prosecuted for neglect under normal circumstances.

An outbreak was announced in Brecon today. The crisis is therefore far from over. Common-sense steps, such as supporting auctioneers who collect animals in collection centres, must be hurriedly implemented. The Government have created circumstances in which farmers might hope that their animals get foot and mouth because those whose stock is culled are better off than those who battle on against the virus. That contradiction has been created by pointless rules, such as the 20-day rule, which are applied without common sense.

If we are to prevent the disease from recurring, we must first hold a full and public inquiry. We must ban imported meat from countries where foot and mouth is endemic, and we must take any opportunity to reform the common agricultural policy. We must end the mechanism that pays farmers to drive the length of the country, collecting old ewes for the benefit of the subsidy.

The Government were quick to blame farmers for the spread of the virus through the movement of sheep, but they passed up the chance in Berlin to change the rules. The Government must grasp the nettle of reforming the CAP, which made the practice widespread. We do not have much time. Farmers in countries such as Poland would also like to enjoy agricultural subsidies. When they join, where is the money to pay for them? Which of our world-class public services will be cut to top up the contribution?

We have already lost the accident and emergency department of Kidderminster hospital, and the lives of my constituents are at risk from the distances that they are required to travel. We cannot afford to miss the chance to reform the CAP again. We must remember that it costs the average family £15 extra a week, yet we agree that British farming does not have the chance to compete on a level playing field.

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We must seize every opportunity to reform the CAP; we must not miss the chance. We must lead the way, and cut the Gordian knot.

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