Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Conservative Members clearly have a very simple message for the Minister: we wish her well and we wish her to be strong and fierce in argument and debate, because we think she should be more ambitious. It is not enough just to freeze this budget; this budget has to be brought down. If there is any budget of all the budgets we look at in this difficult time about which we can say, “We can get away with cutting that,” it is this budget. I suspect many Opposition Members would agree with that, were they being honest about it. We are talking about a budget of €143 billion or £120 billion, which is more than we spend on the national health service. A big chunk of that budget is down to us, and we get nothing like the value out of it that we get from the NHS.
I therefore hope the Minister will look to the following very important precedent. 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.
The argument to the Greeks, Italians and Portuguese must be that they are having to make far worse cuts than any that are suggested for the European budget. We can cut collectively in a much more sensible way than the damaging domestic cuts they are having to put to their electors. The French have already had riots on the streets over their domestic cuts. I am sure they will agree with our Minister that there are some easy pickings to be had by removing items from this European budget. I therefore also hope the Minister will point out that because this is a levy on all the member states and all the member states are borrowing too much money, every penny and cent of that €143 billion is going to be borrowed. The taxpayers will not just have to pay once, therefore; they will also have to pay all the interest on that and be ready to repay the debt.
Is this really the kind of thing we want to be borrowing money for? Of course it is not. So Godspeed to you Minister: put the case, and win over all those other Governments. They will surely agree with us that it is better to cut the European budget than to cut important domestic programmes.