Date: 22nd October 2010
Subject: Local MP leads rebellion against European budget increase
Local MP, Gordon Henderson would like to see the Government unilaterally reduce the United Kingdom’s contribution to the EU budget for 2011 by the average percentage cut imposed on Whitehall departments.
Mr Henderson also insisted that if the European Commission and Parliament are not happy with the Government’s decision and kick up a fuss, then the Government should hold an immediate referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU and let the British People decide our future once and for all.
Mr Henderson’s demand was made in a speech in the House of Commons, where Mr Henderson told fellow members that the EU Commission proposed to increase the EU budget next year by 5.8%, which in real money represents an increase of £6.2 billion pounds. The UK alone could expect to pay nearly £2 billion more in the coming year.
Mr Henderson expressed his concern that during an era of financial uncertainly and austerity, the British Government were expected to hand over to the European Union billions of pounds to waste on grandiose schemes such as the European External Action Service and the Institute of Gender Equality in Vilnius, Lithuania, and for which incidentally he said, the United Kingdom is being asked to cough up £800,000 next year.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Justine Greening MP said:
“In the wake of the worst financial crisis in living memory, there is no justification for an increase in the EU's annual budget of nearly 6%.
“We are already talking to our partners in Europe and in our group-the European Conservatives and Reformists. The Whip in charge of that group assures us that they will be voting against a rise in the European Parliament when it comes before them.”
Mr Henderson said, “I am delighted that the Government recognise the stupidity of the European Commission’s decision to increase its budget next year, however, I would like them to go one step further and actually reduce the amount British tax payers are expected to give Brussels.”
Mr Henderson was one of 34 Conservative MP’s who voted against the Government position.
Note to the Editor: A full transcript of Gordon Henderson’s speech follows:
SPEEECH ON EU BUDGET
Mr Speaker, over the last few months we have spent a lot of our time debating one or other aspect of the financial crisis in which the country finds itself.
Britain has a huge deficit and the British public have collectively built up a mountain of personal debt. All in all we are in a real mess.
The Government has set out on a series of measures to reduce the National Debt and I know that many individuals, including people in my own constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey, are trying hard to cut their own indebtedness. These are tough times for us all.
And we are not alone; many other countries around the World, including many in Europe, face huge financial challenges and are struggling to balance their books without pushing their national economies into another recession.
So in this era of uncertainty and austerity, what does that organisation of probity and good governance, the European Commission do? It proposes to increase the EU budget next year by 5.8%, which in real money represents an increase of 6,102 thousand million pounds! That’s right; £6.2 billion pounds.
Mr Speaker, what planet do European Commissioners live on? I’ll tell you where: They live on the planet of self indulgence. They live in a cushioned climate of privilege in which the Brussels gravy train doesn’t stop long enough for them to see what is happening in the real world.
To be fair our own British Government at least recognises the stupidity of the European Commission, as the Economic Secretary to The Treasury wrote in her briefing notes: “...the Government is very concerned by the proposed increase in payment appropriations of 5.8%”. Very concerned? I would be absolutely lived!
So at least one out of three cheers for the Treasury for that statement, but sadly, Mr Speaker, I can’t bring myself to give them any more cheers, because my Honourable Friend lets herself down by going on to address the profligacy of the EU by saying that the Government will propose that the EU Budget remains at cash levels equivalent to the 2010 Budget.
I bet all those ministers who have been tasked with producing a twenty percent cut in their department budgets are a bit narked about that one. I am sure that in the present economic climate that they would be delighted to be given a zero growth budget.
Mr Speaker, like many other honourable and Rt. honourable members, I have been inundated with letters and emails complaining about the proposed cuts in benefits, increases in tuition fees and changes to public service pensions.
There is a great deal of disquiet out there and coming from a constituency which has some of the most deprived areas in the South East within its boundaries, I share some of that disquiet.
But I am happy to go into bat on behalf of the Coalition Government and argue the case for those cuts because I think that in their heart of hearts most of the people in my constituency understand that we have no choice but to push through those cuts if we are to reduce the mountain of debt we inherited from the previous Government.
But Mr Speaker, I would not be able to look my friends and neighbours in the eye if we drove through a programme of painful cuts in our public services, while at the same time bunging the European Union billions of pounds to waste on grandiose schemes such as the European External Action Service and the Institute of Gender Equality in Vilnius, Lithuania, and for which incidently, the United Kingdom is being asked to cough up £800,000 next year.
Mr Speaker, next year the European Commission proposes to spend over £7 billion pounds on administration. By my calculation the United Kingdom’s contribution to those administration costs will be around £1 billion. If Government departments and public bodies in this country are being asked to cut their administration costs, then it is surely right that the European Commission should be expected to do the same.
Now I know that my honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury will say that the British Government will be pressing the EU to deliver greater value for money. But does anybody in this Chamber really believe that our friends across the English Channel in the European Commission will actually listen to them?
And when the Draft Budget is eventually presented to the European Parliament for debate later this year, do Treasury ministers really think that anything other than a small group of British MEP’s will take a blind bit of notice of their view?
I think not, which is why I would like to see the Government unilaterally reduce the United Kingdom’s contribution to the EU budget for 2011 by the average percentage cut imposed on Whitehall departments.
If European Commission and Parliament don’t like it and kick up a fuss, then we should hold an immediate referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU and let the British People decide our future once and for all. Perhaps we can hold it on the same day as the AV Referendum!
Mr Speaker, I support this amendment and would urge members on all sides of the House to do the same.