12 APRIL 1975, Page 11

Sovereign State


Richard Body, MP

Rather a mischievous suspicion comes to one, sitting in the foyer of that huge edifice, Berlaymont, that houses the thousands that Make up Eurocracy. Hundreds of secretaries are Pouring in: no other workplace in the world, definitely no other, could garner to itself such a beautiful — aye, bedworthy — array of talent. There is just a leetle something in their hmintien that suggests they know it. Funny, no Wedding rings are to be seen, yet nearly all of them seem beyond the age when such as they get led to the altar. Can it be that the idealism bequeathed by Schumann and Monnet inspires them to forego more ordinary ambition? It is possible, but the annual visitor to Brussels, as I have become, Perceives how steadily it has been vanishing. The girls are going up to work with men who (!e things differently after eighteen years, for levy Matters can be so conducive to a narrowing ,vision than drafting memoranda about the length of asparagus — unless it be the s1,1thsequent hours of nit-picking debate. Having 'ad little success to sustain them over the Years, they now suffer from the influence of colleagues more recently recruited; and you do hot have to scratch them very deep to find motives that would harrow the founding "hers. So, as the girls surge into the lifts, let's not break the tenth Commandment. Any man Working here may be tempted by those hazardous twins, alcohol and adultery — Punch and Judy, as George Brown called them. Another much, much more serious development can be witnessed by the annual visitor. Something that is growing at a rapid rate. It is „ lobbying. The scope the new system ords, the very scale of it, and the effect it can tt,ave upon demoralised officials, who now have 1,e Power to make laws affecting our daily 'yes, makes me believe it is a major argument about the Market. Some of the officials are blatantly cynical bout it. "We are the Community of Ten" is a „„IttLe in-joke they have. The tenth is Unilever. C.,.111 a veto substantially more useful than :-Ixernburg's. Imported food is subject to a, ,ystem of levies and duties, as we well know, ?Ut how many are aware that oil-cake and soya ,Tan have become exceptions? The importer is ilever; and it is not in Unilever's interests that their cost should be increased, as its ,rhargarine would find it more difficult to '.,,?rnpete with Community-produced butter. ftne tariff on imported margarine has also been i come so high that it is impossible for any to rne in. Exemption from the same system -r given to an Italian firm called Plasmon. hey make homogenised baby foods and rueided that if they could import meat free of tY or levy they would have a useful advantage over any competitor. They engaged

former official in Brussels to act as 'a

nsultane and in due course gained their. objective.


1,„ g companies, especially monopolies, tr_gerstand the potential use of the regula`'n-making procedures in Brussels. Certainly in this century has it been possible for us to lj.dsve the laws of the land changed to the advantage of the great consuming public. If ?ts.Ta.11 minority of MPs are corruptible, putting _ its very lowest, there is always a majority wno want to remain in the House; and know

that their seats are conditional upon their retaining the confidence of electors who are no less consumers.

Article 189 of the Treaty of Rome ends that simple safeguard. Regulations passed in Brus sels become law as soon as they are passed. They apply throughout the Market of 250 million fairly affluent consumers as soon as they are decreed.

Monsanto, with a monopoly-patent for laminated windscreens, were not slothful in getting the message. They set up a lobby in Brussels to argue the case for a Regulation to make it compulsory for laminated windscreens to be fitted. Eventually, they succeeded in getting a directive issued by the Commission requiring member governments to pass the necessary legislation. That this was less than they hoped to get was due to an effective counter-lobby by Saint-Gobain, the company making most of the existing windscreens, who moved in too late to prevent their rivals keeping their initial advantage. However, they have maintained their lobbying and it looks as if the Commission will not enforce the directive. Prospective car buyers might note that the laminated windscreen in which Monsanto had an interest was appreciably more expensive than the reinforced types that were probably as safe and readily available from existing manufacturers.

All the really large companies operating in the Market have joined in the lobbying process. A journalist posted at the Berlaymont assured me that most of them have set up a listening post in Brussels and/or have a permanently rented apartment for entertaining.

The temptations for an ailing idealist are many, but let one example I was told about suffice. The official telephones the Brussels representative of an Italian company to say that he is thinking of taking his family to the Italian coast for a holiday and asks for some advice as to where they might go. The lobbyist offers to make some inquiries and later he rings back with the news that it just so happens that a villa normally reserved for the directors is available for a month in August.

Smaller companies cannot compete in this kind of activity. In a parliamentary democracy they are entitled to expect their elected representative to make sure that changes in the law do not injure their interests unless there are greater considerations that must prevail.

Smaller firms in the pharmaceutical industry are a case in point. The many regulations governing the manufacture, testing and sale of drugs have been made in the Nine member countries in such a Way that none of these firms have been prejudiced. But because these regulations vary from one country to another in the Market, the process of harmonisation must now take place to permit the free movement of the industry's products. A handful of giants stand to gain, in any event in any mass market, at the expense of the small men who tend to concentrate on one product or on one locality. The harmonising of the regulations by the Commission will give these giants another and equally obvious advantage. Their lobbyists in Brussels are doing their best to make sure that their own interests are not impaired by the new regulations; but they can go further: they are in a position to suggest to the Commission a change in the law that could injure a small competitor making a rival product, and the Commission might well act in bona fide ignorance of the competitor's existence. No MP is around, not even the Strasburg ones, to intervene.

With a few minutes to spare in my hotel, I thought I would try to assess how many of the big companies have set up a permanent lobby. With a list of companies that have given generously to the European Movement in the last two years in one hand, with the other I thumbed through the pages of the Brussels telephone directory. There they were, one after another!

And we have had a foretaste of the kind of pious argument, laced with a few threats about Marxism and mass unemployment, with which the chairmen of these companies will regale the electorate between now and the referendum. As to the charge of being a Marxist "Little Englander,' I will admit it rather than be guilty of what some of our fellow-countrymen are now doing in Brussels.

Richard Body is Conservative MP for Holland with Boston.