Teddy Taylor – 1993 Speech on the European Communities

Below is the text of the speech made by Teddy Taylor in the House of Commons on 9 December 1993.

It is a shame that we shall not be able to vote on amendment (c). It would have been helpful to the House and to the public in general if we could have simply recorded the fact that the debate is pointless, worthless and useless, and can have no influence on determining developments in the wide range of issues that are mentioned in the huge pile of documents. It is terribly important that people should realise that, in the House and outside.

I ask hon. Members, look at that huge pile of documents, dealing with vast expenditure! There is nothing that we can do and, no matter how we vote about anything, it is simply a waste of time. It might help the unemployed and those people who are suffering if we were to get across the simple message that no matter how they vote, no matter what they do, the power has gone. The second message that we have to get across—although it is sad to say so, when we have the always most courteous Foreign Secretary opening the debate—is that it is important that we start telling people the truth.

I heard, and all of us heard—and I am sure that he meant it—the Foreign Secretary say that we now have control of the funds; we are not going to have overspending; we cannot go across the budget. In Edinburgh, however—I have the letter here from the Agriculture Minister—even though there was a budget laid down for spending on agriculture which one could not exceed by a penny because the Foreign Secretary and civil servants would prevent us, in practice they agreed to exceed it by an extra £1 billion on the basis that that was a special reserve fund.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford) Does my hon. Friend agree that half the problem with the CAP is that, although it is aimed at farmers, to help to sustain their income—that may be a laudable aim—60 per cent. of the money goes to the administration and only 40 per cent. reaches the farmers?

Sir Teddy Taylor My hon. Friend is so right. The CAP is totally wasteful and damaging to almost every interest. I find in my constituency, and I am sure that Treasury Ministers find in theirs, that poor people have to pay more and more for their water rates because vast sums are being spent on huge machines for taking out of the water the nitrates, pesticides, and all the other things that are thrown into the ground in order to produce more and more food. We have to spend a fortune on destroying or dumping those substances.

I was at Hanningfield recently, and I wish you had been there, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to see how the Essex water company—now privatised and French-owned—is spending millions of pounds on a new procedure for taking out pesticides. I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have all those nasty nitrates and things in the ground in the first place?” I was told, “Of course.” And it is the water rate payer who foots the bill.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) told people the facts of life, and he will accept that there is little point in saying to the voters. “Those nasty Tories are putting up your water rates; Labour will not do that,” when we know what is really going on. Poor people are suffering and their burdens are increasing.

Secondly, it is sad to hear all the assurances being given to try to pacify us. For example, our courteous Foreign Secretary—with sincerity, doubtless—talked about all the things that were going wrong, with people breaking the rules, and told us that the Commission would now impose fines. I have been looking at the figures, and they are frightening. The Court of Auditors report is one of the big documents that I mentioned earlier, and it shows that, although millions of pounds have been levied in fines, only 10 per cent. of them have been collected. There is a great new mechanism to sort everything out, supported with enthusiasm by the Liberal Democrats and designed, once again, by those clever Foreign Office civil servants to ensure that people do not do nasty things. Yet the fines are still to be paid; only 10 per cent. have been paid over many years.

Thirdly, we must watch carefully what is happening on the continent today. It is frightening, and I hope that: the Economic Secretary to the Treasury will answer one simple question. I have been horrified to see that the other European countries have been borrowing vaster and vaster sums of money. All of us, even those who do not have degrees in economics, know that that simply cannot go on, because there is a limited amount of money to lend—unless we start printing.

The whole message of Maastricht and of the EC is that one should not print money. Even the Leader of the House would stop us if we tried to print money in this country. Continental countries are borrowing huge sums of money this year and next. Germany is borrowing £57 billion, and we are told that France is borrowing £30 billion—although we know that that sum has now increased. Italy is borrowing £70 billion; and Belgium is the worst of all. Where will the money come from?

The Treasury in Britain is in good condition, because the currency is strong, so we are ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the European countries will not be able to do that. I understand that some money can be borrowed domestically. In Britain about £22 billion can be obtained from the institutions. But much of the money has to come from other sources. Where will it come from?

I have been told by my friends who advise the insurance and banking firms of which I am a director that, basically, it is the Arabs and the Japanese who provide the cash. But the poor old Arabs are having a difficult time these days, because the price of oil has dropped like a stone, so they do not have so much to lend. The Japanese, too, have plenty of problems of their own, and are holding on to their money. I hope that the Minister will comment on that, because I fear that early next year, because so much money is being borrowed and there is a limited amount of money available for loan, there will be a sharp rise in interest rates on the continent. I realise that that may not happen—although I believe that all the conditions are in place—but if it does, what the blazes will we do about it?

There are now 17 million unemployed people on the continent. That is a horrendous figure. We can see the instability in Europe; it is shown by what has happened in Germany. We have seen the uncertainty and the attacks on minority groups there. In Italy—a delightful country—people voted for fascism or communism in the local government elections, not because they especially like those things but as a way of saying, “Please let us have a strong Government.” With an unstable situation, and unemployment high and rising, if there is a sharp rise in interest rates, what on earth will we do about it? I fear that there is a horrible danger.

Our Ministers at the Treasury and the Foreign Office, or at least most of them—now that there has been one resignation things are much better—are decent, respectable, sincere people. But it worries me sick that we are deluding ourselves about what is happening. I have been worried about what happens to poor people and the unemployed in the EC ever since I came to the House. I have probably been considered a silly minority person, putting forward a minority view, but it makes me sick to see people made unemployed unnecessarily because of the stupid exchange rate mechanism and all that came with it.

The facts are there and we all know what they are. It makes me angry to see poor people suffering because they have not got the money to pay their electricity bills or even to buy a light bulb when I know that, even according to the Foreign Secretary, all those people are paying an extra £28 a week for the stupid CAP. Think what a boost it would be to poor people in Britain if we could say, “You can have £28 extra a week—and an extra £3 a week for the cost of membership of the EC.” I have been talking about such things for a long time.

I know that Britain is now more popular in the EC. That nice chap Boris Johnson, who writes for The Daily Telegraph, says that Britain is more accepted because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been disclosing his personal support for the goal of a single Euro-currency. That may make him more popular in Brussels, but whether it does or not, please let us face up to the possibility that something nasty may happen. We must ask ourselves what we shall do if it does.

I am afraid that we British are comforting ourselves by saying that we are the best in Europe, but we all know that we are doing well economically not because we have a brilliant Government or a brilliant Opposition, but because we had the boost of getting out of the ERM. That made our currency and our interest rates drop like stones. It is rather like having an Australian uncle who sends one £1,000 to help with one’s financial hardship—it makes one feel good for a while. But that is not happening on the continent. It does not help us or the people there if we take the attitude, “We are the best in Europe and we are doing terribly well.”

Will the Minister say whether he thinks that I am right in any way to say that there may be a terrible problem with a sharp rise in interest rates on the continent next year? Will he tell me what we can do about that if it happens?

It is too late for Parliament to control the legislation. Maastricht has been passed, so to that extent our power is useless, but we must think, “What about the people?” What about the poor and the unemployed of Europe, who are now in a horrendous position? What shall we in Britain do if by chance things continue to get worse, and we have the social upheavals and misery that we have seen in Europe?

Conservatives must face the facts. We cannot go on kidding ourselves about the European People’s party, and saying that we are not linked with it, and have nothing to do with it. We may say that although we all sit together and work together, we do not agree on anything, but everyone knows the score. There was a meeting in Athens in 1992. The Conservative Members of the European Parliament and the members of the European People’s party were there, and a great document was drawn up to say that the EC should be given powers of taxation.

We should not bother about all the talk about federalism, because a federal Europe would be better than what we have now. I do not understand why Ministers keep saying that they will fight to the death to avoid a federal Europe. If we had a federal Europe, at least some things would belong to us. However, at some stage the Conservative party will have a real problem in deciding how to carry on with our stable mates—

Mr. Cash Would my hon. Friend care to know that the congress of that great European People’s party is meeting this afternoon? Furthermore, it appears that it may publish its manifesto tomorrow. It was not so long ago that Mr. Herman, the rapporteur of the Christian Democrats, published the European Parliament’s working document on a new constitution which said that if we did not go along with it all we would be expelled. Does my hon. Friend not think that that is becoming an increasingly reasonable proposition, from some people’s point of view?

Sir Teddy Taylor All I am saying is that the Government and my hon. Friends—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) does not agree. But he is a good guy. [Laughter.] I mean that sincerely; I am not trying to be funny.

It is crucial to stop pretending that people are stupid. We cannot go into the European elections and treat people as stupid by saying that we do not really have anything to do with the European People’s party; the names of the candidates simply happen to be in the same box. It will not wash. Similarly, we should not think that people are stupid when we talk about the EC. They know what is happening to unemployment on the continent. They are not daft. They know what is happening to prices which they must pay unnecessarily. They are not stupid. They can see the damage that is being inflicted by the mad EC system of everything being based on artificial prices and more money being spent.

I have been a Member for a long time. The same thing happens every time we debate a treaty. Ministers say, “Do not worry—we will get tough with the nasty Euro-guys. We will kick Mr. Delors down the stairs. Everything will be sorted out.” Sadly, it is continuing—more money, more power, more waste, more extravagance, less conservatism, less control for the people and more control for the bureaucrats.

This is a pointless, useless debate and all we can do is to express our views. The crucial point is that we must appreciate that something nasty will happen early next year. If we do not wake up to it, and if we do not treat people as adults and stop pretending that they are stupid, we will have a horrible democratic mess.