Thursday, May 07, 2009

No, no, we must not press for reform

Yesterday afternoon there was an interesting exchange in the House of Lords about the EU budget. Lord Campbell of Alloway, who is a semi-sceptic asked
Her Majesty's Government what is the justification for the projected increase in the United Kingdom's net contribution to the European Community Budget to £6.5 billion in 2010-11.
Not an unreasonable question at a time of financial difficulties (not that the government has noticed that, spending money, as it does, in resemblance of the proverbial drunken sailor).

The response by Lord Davies of Oldham was the usual one - we really do not like the system and we really would like to rectify matters but as we can't we shall just have to keep handing the money over. I wonder if all those people who promise such reforms ever bother to read these replies and ever ask themselves why the situation is as it is. (Yes, Open Europe, Libertas and Taxpayers' Alliance, I am referring to you.)

When he was pressed by Lord Campbell, Lord Davies became so snappy and rude that their lordships expressed their displeasure, as they do without needing a Speaker. He then proceeded to snarl:
My Lords, the House will appreciate that, if such a solution were available, all—or the majority of—European states would follow the strategy. However, the issues are more complex because the problems with accounting in the European budget are largely the fault of expenditure that is partly controlled by the member states; so it will not do to say that the issue relates directly to the European Commission or any other institution. Member states, too, must improve their standards of accountancy and effectiveness, which is exactly what the United Kingdom has been doing.
That last sentence is questionable in view of the fact that statistics have become meaningless under this government, what with all the shifting of goalposts and chaning of parameters.

The question of enlargement was ignored and the subject of the surrendered part of the rebate, raised by Lord Waddington, pooh-poohed. Then Lord Lea of Crondall got to what his side see as the crux of the matter:
My Lords, is it not the case that the thesis, "We want our money back", is demeaning for a country in our position in the world after the G20 and all the commitments that we have entered into? The Conservative Party policy, "We want our money back", would mean that there would be no EU, which is what the Conservatives are driving at.
Well, actually, there is nothing demeaning in a country's representatives taking good care of its money, however rich that country might be. Bribing your way to respect, as Lord Lea seems to think we should be doing. is far more demeaning as well as counterproductive. Which politician was respected more, Margaret Thatcher who got the rebate or Tony Blair who gave it away?

Please note, however, the bogeyman produced there. We must not push too hard for any kind of reform or proper accounting because the net result of that will be that there would be no EU. Oh the horror of it!