Thursday, February 9, 2012

Does Baroness Wilcox know the answer to anything?

Judging by the brief exchange in the House of Lords yesterday, the answer to that question has to be "no, not really". Should the noble Lady not have a little clear-out among her officials? Their job is to provide her with answers, vague or specific but mostly the former, when she is on duty on behalf of HMG. She is, incidentally, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and used to chair the National Consumer Council.

I realize that quite a few of this blog's readers might not have known that. I did not know it myself until I read yesterday's Hansard. The Starred Question posed by Lord Vinson was not unreasonable, given that we have had some talk in the past about repatriation of various powers from the EU and been assured by a number of Conservatives that not only was this possible but would actually happen in the not too distant future.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they propose to seek the devolution to the United Kingdom of regional spending under the European Union structural and cohesion funds so that the £9 billion the United Kingdom currently receives from its £30 billion budget contribution to those funds can be self-administered and effectively targeted.
This, it seems, Baroness Wilcox had been briefed on.
My Lords, the Government will seek significant cuts to the EU structural fund's budget from 2014, aiming at reducing it to zero in richer countries after 2020. The United Kingdom will achieve substantial savings from the EU budget only by not contributing to the structural fund budgets of all wealthier member states, but that would require unanimous agreement by all 27. No other countries want to go down this road and we cannot unilaterally opt out of our treaty obligation to contribute to the EU budget.
What that means in ordinary political terms is that the UK can do nothing to stop handing money over to the EU to be used as it sees fit while we are members of this noxious organization but the government (whichever government happens to be around) will continue to make misleading noises about aiming to cut back the EU budget some time in the future.

Thereafter Baroness Wilcox managed to misunderstand Lord Wigley's question, did not know the answer to Baroness Royall's question, refused to reply to Lord Pearson's, did not know the answer to Lord Swinfen's enquiry about the amount of money wasted in administrative toing and froing, and agreed with Lord Harrison who came up with the usual meaningless europhile pap. Not bad for six minutes of the House's time.

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