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7.38 pm

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): One of the joys of being a final speaker is that it is possible to hear many interesting speeches, and today I have had the pleasure of hearing four splendid maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) made a re-maiden speech, because he made excellent

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contributions when he previously served in this place. There is no doubt that he will once again be a great champion of Castle Point. He showed great understanding of, and concern for, its people and all that they stand for. I am sure that we wish him well in returning to that area, which has always had splendid representatives. I was interested, as always, in his speech and look forward to hearing more from him.

The other maiden speakers set themselves serious objectives. The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who is a Scottish nationalist, made a fascinating speech in which he said that he was going to fight for the interests of the fishing industry. The Chief Secretary will be well aware from his experience of Europe that, whereas we used to have 80 per cent. of the waters and fish of Europe, we now, sadly, have only 20 per cent. Clearly, the hon. Member for Moray will have a major job on his hands if he is to do something about that. I am not sure that Parliament has any powers at all in that respect, but I am sure that we all wish him well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) also made a splendid speech, in which he said that his objective was the reform of the common agricultural policy. I have had the pleasure of waiting for that reform for about 20 years. We have heard three speeches proclaiming the merits of the reform that has happened so far; we all know that it is a load of codswallop, because all that we have had is a small reduction in some prices and a transfer of subsidy to what are called "area payments", which are being paid for by member Governments. To that extent, it is possible to say that the real cost of the CAP is no greater than before.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) made an inspiring speech, in which he said that he was in favour of extending the membership of the European Economic Community. Despite all the talk, Ministers well know that that cannot and will not happen.

As someone who has had to listen, time and again, to discussion of European regulations and treaties, I know that the same thing always happens: views are expressed about the merits and joys that will ensue, but later, when one looks back, one finds that they simply never emerged.

Remarkable comments have been made today. A Member who represents a Welsh constituency said how wonderful it was that we are to have more objective 1 and objective 2 grants, which will bring pleasure to Wales. We should be well aware that if those grants are linked to EEC enlargement, that will wind up Britain's receipt of them. If, by chance, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania become members of the EEC, the money available to the United Kingdom for grants will be very restricted. We should ask ourselves what the blazes the benefit of those grants is, bearing in mind the fact that if we controlled that expenditure, we could spend twice as much.

Probably because I do not like the EEC, I take pleasure in the fact that my constituency is the only place in Essex that has objective 2 grants. We applied for only three wards, and the EEC insisted on awarding grants for five. It turned down places such as Basildon and Tilbury, and said that my constituency, including the place where I live, was an area of deprivation that needed lots of money, so we got all the money for Essex. There will no doubt be big posters around the constituency saying, "Given by the kindness of the EEC", and I feel like putting a Teddy Taylor poster underneath each one, simply pointing out that every pound costs us two pounds.

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The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) made the wonderful statement that the Bill will improve our trade, which has been an astonishing success. If we look at the facts we see that, far from being an astonishing success, our trade has been an abysmal failure, because our trade deficit with Europe since we joined is £166 billion. That means that for every £10 of goods we have sold to Europe, it has sent us back £11 of goods. We have also been told that by changing the basis for the collection of the money from VAT to GDP, the Bill will reduce fiddling and fraud. That is typical of the comments that we always hear about the joys that will flow from the new powers that we are giving Europe. Experience shows that those benefits will not emerge.

In a splendid speech, the Chief Secretary gave us two new assurances. He said that he accepted that the Governments of Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands were thrilled and delighted that, under this proposal, they will pay less in contributions, but he explained that, far from Britain making up the difference, it will be made up by other member states. He said also that Britain's position would be stable and settled because we have the advantage of the rebate. My experience of other Bills on Europe tells me that I will have the pleasure of reminding him of what he said when we get the figures for the contributions that we have made.

The Chief Secretary did not explain what the effect on Britain's payments of the windfall payments not being taken into account will be. We know that there are windfall payments that should come to the United Kingdom. I understood the figure to be about £200 million, but one Member was talking about pennies, so I ask the Economic Secretary, in her wind-up speech, to tell us what will be the consequence of abolishing windfall payments.

What worries me most is that although we are told that the Bill will not result in more cash going to Europe, hon. Members will find, if they look back at previous debates, that we have had the same assurances every time. What are the facts? In 1973, the year in which we joined, our net payment was £88 million. Ten years later, it was £796 million. In 1993, the figure was £2,154 million, and in 2000, it was £4,048 million. There has been a massive increase, and that will inevitably continue.

Those are net figures; let us talk about gross figures. I have not had the pleasure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of visiting your constituency more than twice, but I know, as we all do, that everyone there loves having you as their representative. If I were to hand you a cheque for £5.5 million and tell you that you could do whatever you liked with it for your constituency, I am sure that being the kind, caring and conscientious MP you are, you could think of many things to spend it on. It is a lot of money. I am sure that if I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point a cheque for £5.5 million and told him to spend it as he wished, he would think of many causes in his constituency that needed help. I mention that figure because it is the amount that we have sent to Brussels since we started this debate at 3.30 pm. Some £1.2 million goes to Brussels every hour. Daily, the amount is £29 million, and weekly, it is £210 million, and that rate of contribution will increase.

When the Government discussed the financing of the EEC and how the money should be spent, did they wonder what possible good was coming from it? Did they, for example, think about the fishermen to whom the hon. Member for Moray referred ? Our fishermen have been

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ruined by our arrangement with the EEC; instead of 80 per cent. of the fish and the fishermen, we have 20 per cent., and the figure is falling. What about the businesses that we have been talking about, and the trade that we were told was so wonderful? We all know that trade with Europe has been disastrous, and that the problem will get worse. What about the CAP?

Dr. Palmer: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that trade is valuable only if it involves exports, and that he is not interested in consumers having the opportunity to import at reasonable prices?

Sir Teddy Taylor: I am saying that it is not good for a country that has a positive balance of trade with an area to make a change in its trading arrangements which results in a massive deficit. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the deficit is due to the extra costs that, unfortunately, stem from the EEC. He will know that we used to have a positive balance of trade, but we now have a net deficit of, depending on how one looks at it, £166 billion or £300 billion.

Why do we want to spend more money on the CAP? We should look at the figures for the destruction of food. I hope that enthusiasts for the EEC will ask themselves what the point is of spending so much money on destroying food, which is essentially what CAP funds are spent on. We should consider grants, and ask ourselves what is the point of some of the crazy items that we are spending public money on. I suggest that in discussions of grants, the Government should ask themselves whether it would not be better if the EEC had no money at all, instead of simply trying to make changes to give it a little more. I suspect that if we looked at the various schemes that have been implemented, we would find that they do not help Europe or assist its people. Their only outcome is a massive waste of public money, which should worry us all. If we want to help people and countries, we can do it by dropping money from aeroplanes, or sending a cheque through the post, without becoming involved in the ludicrous schemes of the EC.

I hope that the Government will consider the consequences for this country's expenditure of items that are not direct amounts that we have to pay because of the Bill, but—disregarding the Bill—stem instead from our other arrangements with Europe. In connection with one such item, I wish that the Minister would give a straight answer to this question: how much money have Britain, its taxpayers and people lost by the sales of gold and the purchase of euros?

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