Despite massive whipping operation, 37 Conservative MPs vote to cut UK contribution to EU
By Tim Montgomerie
Yesterday I highlighted an attempt, led by Douglas Carswell, to reduce Britain's contribution to the EU.
The following Tory MPs voted for his amendment*:
- Baker, Steve
- Baron, Mr John
- Bebb, Guto
- Bingham, Andrew (not on yesterday's list)
- Binley, Mr Brian
- Blackman, Bob (not on yesterday's list)
- Bone, Peter
- Carswell, Mr Douglas
- Chope, Mr Christopher
- Clappison, Mr James
- Cox, Mr Geoffrey
- Davis, rh Mr David
- de Bois, Nick (not on yesterday's list)
- Dinenage, Caroline (not on yesterday's list)
- Eustice, George (not on yesterday's list)
- Goldsmith, Zac
- Halfon, Robert
- Heaton-Harris, Chris
- Henderson, Gordon
- Hollobone, Philip
- Latham, Pauline (not on yesterday's list)
- Lewis, Dr Julian
- Main, Mrs Anne
- McCartney, Jason (not on yesterday's list)
- McCartney, Karl (not on yesterday's list)
- Mosley, Stephen (not on yesterday's list)
- Nuttall, Mr David
- Percy, Andrew
- Reckless, Mark
- Redwood, rh Mr John (not on yesterday's list)
- Reevell, Simon (not on yesterday's list)
- Stephenson, Andrew (not on yesterday's list)
- Stewart, Bob
- Stuart, Mr Graham
- Turner, Mr Andrew
- Vickers, Martin (not on yesterday's list)
- Walker, Mr Charles
Congratulations to all 37. The whips mounted a massive operation to minimise the rebellion and urged support for an amendment put down by Bill Cash which, more meekly, "call[ed] on the Government to reject European Parliament proposals to increase the budget". That later was passed.
The following Tory MPs did not vote for the Carswell amendment despite signing it:
- Philip Davies
- David T C Davies
- Jackie Doyle-Price
- Richard Drax
- Chris Kelly
- Kwasi Kwarteng
- Andrea Leadsom
- Stephen McPartland
- Patrick Mercer
- Priti Patel
- Andrew Rosindell
- Richard Shepherd
Some might have bowed to the whips' pressure but that won't be the explanation for all. Philip Davies and Richard Shepherd, to name just two, are serial rebels and may simply have had prior, immovable engagements.
The overall debate was a festival of Euroscepticism with particularly strong contributions from younger, newer Tory MPs. One got the sense that the baton of opposition to the European superstate was passing to a new generation. Priti Patel, in particular, was on great form. Here is one extract from her contribution:
"When the Lisbon treaty was passed, we heard claim after claim that it would make the EU decision-making process more efficient and democratic. How can it have led to more efficiency, when the EU budget is due to increase by 5.8% in payment appropriations? Even the Opposition, with their astonishing record on spending and waste, would struggle to justify an annual increase in spending on that scale. I very much doubt that, in the current economic climate, any Department calling for such an increase in its budget would be given any consideration.
The Government's position is to keep cash levels at the same rate as last year, but, at a time when most domestic Departments are looking to make efficiencies and cuts ranging from 25% to 40%, why is the EU not being pushed further? With a total budget exceeding €130 billion, it is not unreasonable for the Government and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in her negotiations, to pursue the Commission and other member states to make deeper cuts in order to bring down the cost of the EU and to protect the British taxpayer.
My constituents in Witham and the majority of the British public now understand that the Government are dealing with spending, and that spending must come down. As decisions affecting my constituents are taken, however, they will be furious to see that, although they cannot have their new school buildings or road improvements for now, more and more of their hard-earned money is being handed over to Europe."
Credit also to Justine Greening, Treasury minister. She was robust in her statements to the House and was later compared to Margaret Thatcher by John Redwood:
"The last time we had a good battling female Minister who stood up for Britain she was armed only with a handbag, yet with that one piece of equipment she came back with the biggest rebate we ever got: the rebate the Labour party stupidly gave away, and the rebate we need back. That rebate would give us twice as much money as the amount the Government are hoping to save from the cut in child benefit. We know the Minister has the right equipment. She assures me that she has an excellent handbag, so we wish her every success in putting that argument."
Highlights from Ms Greening's contribution:
- The EU should not be immune from spending cuts: "I will not hide from the House the Government's frustration that some of our partners-and those in EU institutions-do not seem to understand how bizarre it is, when national budgets are under such extraordinary pressure, that the EU should be immune from that."
- All over Europe nations are cutting costs, but not the EU itself: "If we look at the size of the EU budget, we see that there is a marked disparity between the Commission's proposed budget increase and the substantial reductions in public spending that countries across the EU are having to make. The Governments of, among others, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Romania, as well as our own, have all announced sizeable austerity measures¸ and the EU as a whole has taken unprecedented action to secure economic stability. Yet the Commission has proposed that the EU budget should increase by nearly 6% in 2011. The Commission's draft budget explains that the proposed increase is driven primarily by pre-planned rises in the financial framework, and by large spending programmes such as the research framework programme. As we have heard, however, it is impossible to ignore other elements, such as the startling 4.4% increase in the cost of running the EU institutions themselves."
- EU budget priorities, as well as the total spend is wrong: "The Government will not only focus on the size of the EU budget. We also want to focus on its priorities for spending, because it is clear that certain areas of the EU budget simply do not offer the best possible value for money that we should be able to expect. The common agricultural policy, citizenship spending in some areas and spending on the EU's own administration are foremost among them. There is also, of course, the perennial question of why the EU is based in both Brussels and Strasbourg. Critically, we want an EU budget that prioritises economic growth and recovery across the EU and worldwide, just as we are doing with our fiscal consolidation measures here in the UK. We want a budget that is focused on prioritising poverty reduction, promoting stability and addressing the challenges of climate change."
- The Carswell amendment cannot be supported: "We want to see the 2011 budget cut. The problem with the amendment is that if we withdrew our money from the EU, under its terms that would be illegal. We cannot support an amendment that would make our action illegal, so we will have to reject it, but I can tell my hon. Friend that if he had worded the provision slightly differently, we might well have been able to support both amendments. It is with regret that we have to reject his amendment, despite agreeing with its sentiments."
- Up until now we don't have venough votes in the EU to freeze the budget: "I should remind the House that when we had the opportunity in the European Parliament to vote against the rise in the Parliament's 2010 budget, we took it. Although the Council had battened down the rise proposed by the Commission, the Government could not accept the proposed level of budget increase and we therefore voted against the Council's first reading. In fact, six other member states joined us: our Nordic partners-Finland, Sweden and Denmark; and the great brewing nations of Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The Council's position was, however, adopted by a qualified majority, although I just remind the House that we were very close to achieving a blocking minority on that vote; we were just three votes away from doing so-we got 29 votes when we needed 32. That is why we have been working so hard with our European partners to put our case, because we want, at the minimum, to be in a position to have a blocking minority. We really want to aim for a majority, and that is what we are working towards."
* Five non-Tories also supported the amendment.