§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ Question again proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
I was not only in the middle of a sentence, when the Question was put, I was in the middle of a word, and the word was "begrudge". I was observing—and it is my last observation on the initial point I wanted to make—that this Committee, and not only one section of it, will begrudge it if it is suspected that the Government are determined as a matter of principle to allow no Amendments or improvements to be made to the Bill. I hope that the experience on subsequent Clauses will be different from that which we have had on Clause 1.
The previous Leader of the House, now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said on 1st March, 1972:The House has the absolute right,—we are much indebted to my right hon. Friend for that forthright declaration—over and above any Amendments which are selected, to discuss and, if it so desires, to reject each individual Clause on the Question, 'That the Clause stand part of the Bill.' The selection of Amendments cannot, and certainly does not, in any way deny that right to the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c 442.]Our minds were certainly sensibly relieved when we heard those words. The question is: what use, and what best use, can we make of this "absolute right" which we are conceded, to discuss, not just to vote upon, the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill?" Can we discuss the treaties mentioned in Clause 1, in particular the all-important Treaty, which brings us here and is the cause of this Bill, the Treaty in Clause 1(2)(a) relating to the accession of the United Kingdom to the Community?
At the beginning of our Committee proceedings we had some difficulty as to the manner in which these treaties could be discussed, if at all. You will recollect, Sir Robert, that the attempt was made to secure some kind of discussion of them by way of Amendments to Clause 1, 636 which Amendments, however, for various reasons it proved impossible to discuss.
Now, in the course of those initial proceedings of the Committee, you, Sir Robert, referring to these proposed Amendments which sought to deal with different important aspects of the treaties and of the Treaty of Accession in particular, said thatall these matters can be discussed in the debate on the Question 'That the Clause stand part of the Bill', as far—you added—as they are in order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 294.]I am sure, Sir Robert, that when you used the wordsas far as they are in orderyou were not cancelling all that you had said before; you were only, very naturally and very properly, inserting the caveat that you could not, of course, give a guarantee in advance that anything on these subjects which any hon. Member might say or wish to raise on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," would not be ruled out of order. What you did, as I understand it, was clearly to recognise that" Clause I stand part", containing as the Clause does, these references to the treaties and making these treaties the fulcrum and mainspring of the Bill, was an opportunity, if we were to have one, to discuss the treaties, and particularly the Treaty of Accession.
In considering whether we can do so, however, the Committee finds itself confronting a difficulty which has been mentioned before but which it is right to put on record again at this stage. It is simply not possible, in the course of a debate, however long, upon the Motion, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill", to discuss all the important matters involved in the Treaty of Accession alone, and for the same reason for which it is literally true to say that in all the days of debate on these matters from last June onwards we have never had the opportunity to debate the specific provisions and agreements enshrined in the Treaty of Accession. The reason is the perfectly simple and perfectly parliamentary reason, that matters of that kind can only be considered if they are taken specifically, separately, one by one. It is only when 637 one topic is debated at a time that right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench can be compelled seriously to address themselves to the propositions which are put by hon. Members, and can be forced to answer them.
§ [Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair.]
§ When I use the word "compelled" or "forced" I do not mean, I assure my right hon. and learned Friend, to convey the idea of deliberate reluctance or, still less, of anything more disagreeable. However, my right hon. and learned Friend knows as well as I do that the nature of the most effective debates in this Chamber, those in which the actions of the Government and the decisions of the Government are most effectively called to account, are not general debates, either debates on a White Paper which is supposed to have decided this matter, or debates on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"—not even, Sir Myer, with your predecessor's assurance that "all these matters can be discussed" in that debate. Our difficulty, the difficulty with which we have been confronted through so many months, is that if we wish to ascertain whether the Government have in fact carried out their undertakings in regard to fisheries, in regard to sugar, in regard to New Zealand, in regard to the Commonwealth, we are incapable of following through the debate and of securing a proper answer addressed to each successive subject because the separate items of the treaties have never as such been put to the House. Nor are they now being put to the House in Clause 1; and it is because of the form of Clause 1 and of the Bill that the House of Commons is precluded from satisfying itself on the contents of the Treaty of Accession and upon what for many hon. and right hon. Members is the be-all and end-all of this whole question—the terms, albeit transitional, of accession.
§ I am afraid, Sir Myer, that, badly though we need the opportunity to call the Government to answer on these matters in the form in which they now stand in the Treaty of Accession, which came into our hands only two or three months ago, we are unable to do so within the scope of the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"—not 638 because it would be out of order but because of the nature of the Bill itself and the way in which this legislation is being conducted.
In the debate to which I have already referred my right hon. and learned Friend said that we could throw out each Clause as we came to it:
…if the House rejects some fundamental part of the Bill—and it still has the opportunity…"—
That was on 6th March and the House still has the opportunity—
Clause by Clause and on Third Reading, which would prevent us from fulfilling our obligations, then it would be fundamental to the whole principle of the Bill which could not go forward and be ratified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1972, Vol. 832, c. 1053.]
I imagine he meant that the Treaty could not be ratified. So in a sense each Clause is a Second Reading of the Bill. A yea or nay on each proposition "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", goes to the root of the matter and to the question whether or not this country shall be associated in this form with the EEC.
§ There is a certain inconsistency between this proposition and what we have constantly been told, namely, that we cannot discuss Amendments which, if they were carried, would involve the amendment of even the tiniest part of the treaties. It is a strange paradox to be told that one cannot carry a Motion which would make or imply a miniscule alteration in a treaty but that one can take, in the form of a Motion deleting a single Clause, a decision which would destroy the Bill. Still, we have my right hon. and learned Friend's authority for it, that every one of these debates is in this sense a decision on Second Reading, and that the consequence if the Clause were lost would be the loss of the Bill and the necessity of beginning ab initio to work out some new form of association with Europe.
§ That is especially true of Clause 1, which has already been described as the trigger Clause of the Bill. When they began to study the Bill most hon. Members were inclined to turn rapidly from Clause 1 and to say to themselves, "It is merely 'interpretation'; let us not examine it too closely"—only to realise almost immediately that, by reason of the interlocking of Clauses 1 and 2, Clause 1 was of the essence of the Bill and that it was not for nothing that it is in the position which it occupies. On that ground, 639 as one who opposed the Second Reading of the Bill, I must give my vote against the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".
§ There are however grounds on which hon. Members who would not wish to see the Bill lost should seriously object to its being added to the Bill in its present form. That is not a speculative statement, because in the course of our proceedings we have heard right hon. Gentlemen who are explicit protagonists of British membership complain in the bitterest terms about the form of Clause 1. I mention here only the speech of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell), and I wish to recall the highly objection able features in the Clause to which he drew attention.
§ One has already been mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith); but it is so important that it should be mentioned again before we decide, whatever our view on the EEC, whether the Clause should be added to the Bill. That objectionable feature is that it is completely open-ended for the future.
§ The Clause as it stands means that we can have no knowledge of the content or nature of treaties—except that they are somehow connected with the existing Community Treaties—which, by enacting this Bill, we shall enable—I was going to 640 say to influence, but that is not sufficient—to make the law of this country in future without the further interposition of Parliament. It is a completely open-ended Clause in that respect, with only a safeguard which I believe on all sides of the Committee is regarded as inadequate—the safeguard in some cases of a resolution approving an Order in Council. I say "on all sides" advisedly, because clearly my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General did not like this aspect of the Clause any more than do a great many of the rest of us. So little did he like it that he would fain find means of saying that when there was any important new treaty it would not happen in that way but that there would be new legislation.
§ The salient fault of the Clause with which we are parting—I hope we are parting with it for good, but at least we are parting with it for the moment by adding it to the Bill if we so decide—is that it does not determine here and now that legislation is to be necessary in future if further major treaties are to be put into the shoes of the existing treaties for the purposes of the machinery of the Bill.
§ That fact alone—the renunciation blindfold of legislative control for the future—is sufficient ground for any right hon. or hon. Member, whatever be his view about Britain joining the EEC, to say "No" to the proposition that the Clause should stand part of the Bill.641
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I agree with one part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). It is time that those who are pledged against the Common Market have been better in their attendance at this debate, and perhaps more forceful in expressing their views. I would not agree with him that the dialectic has always been superior, but certainly their presence has been evident and continuous. It is noticeable that when those who are in favour—as I have been for a long time—rise to speak, the enthusiasm of hon. Members is rather less evident than it is on other occasions.
For me the whole of the Clause—and I have sat through the bulk of the discussions on it—has been very much, as was said for the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) on an earlier occasion, a crash course in law. There is no doubt that a great part of our debate has been taken up by a complex examination of complicated legal issues.
There has also been for me and for others the difficulty of distinguishing in terms of Parliament between the root-and-branch opposition to entry and the opposition in terms of the Bill to the method which has been chosen to achieve accession. There has been great difficulty in distinguishing those two. Perhaps inevitably much of the debate has tended to be of the former character, contributed to by those who have based their arguments not particularly on what is in the Bill but on their objection to the Community. I suppose that that was inevitable in a debate on a Clause seeking to define the grounds on which the Bill is based. As we move more into the Bill, I suppose that there will be a greater tendency to concentrate on the second.
It was noticeable again today that very much of the debate concentrated on sovereignty, and I want to comment briefly on that. I have in mind not only the sovereignty of the State but that of Parliament. Both have been examined at different times, and both were subject to a variety of interpretations, according to the approach adopted.
642 What is sovereignty? That is an obvious question and one which it is very difficult to answer. Some say that it is very easy to answer. I say that it is difficult.
One very important question that one asks about sovereignty is whether we gain or lose sovereignty if we share it. The answer depends very much on whether one believes that the alternative to sharing is more or less advantageous. Sovereignty is conditional, like freedom, which we all uphold. I am free to stay in the Savoy. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so economically. Sovereignty is essentially valuable only if it can be used to the State's benefit—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] I hear a right hon. or hon. Member muttering "Rubbish" from behind me——
§ Mr. Johnston
I said that sovereignty is valuable only if it can be used to the State's benefit or if its loss is to the State's disadvantage; otherwise there is no relevance in it.
I am one of those who believe that sharing sovereignty in Europe will strengthen rather than weaken our capacity to protect our interests. It will be proper now for someone behind me to say "Rubbish" if he chooses, because he may fairly disagree. However, I believe that that is a fair statement in logical terms, irrespective of political attitudes. Sovereignty is about protecting one's interests.
Let me give one recent example. During the monetary crisis, on 17th August last year, we had a situation in which the Americans made certain proposals. They dealt with the Community as a whole. I do not argue that the bargain ultimately struck was not less good than it might have been. But what again is fair and logical is that the fact that the Community members were operating together, with Britain joining them, enabled a better bargain to be struck than would have been possible if the United States had been dealing individually with each nation one after the other.
§ Mr. Powell
Does the hon. Gentleman envisage the possibility that the only result was that they all made the same mistake?
§ Mr. Johnston
That is a perfectly logical possibility to envisage. I have conceded that the bargain struck was not perhaps as good as it might have been. But it is fair to argue that were the situation different and were the United States dealing with six or seven sovereign Powers individually, they would be less capable of striking as good a bargain.
Much time was rightly spent on the treaty-making powers given to the Executive. This was much criticised. It was argued by many that it would diminish the sovereignty and the capacity of Parliament to regulate, control, mitigate or alter what the Executive intended to do.
A variety of frightening hypotheses were dreamed up by various right hon. and hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Wolver Hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) used the evocative and effective expression "prerogative legislation," saying that the Executive would be enabled to have its way in a manner which had not previously been possible.
I think that the right hon. Member for Wolver Hampton, South-West takes a somewhat apocalyptic view of life: that there is but one way, and that the other way lies disaster, utter doom and destruction.
There was something of that view in some of the examples adduced by other right hon. and hon. Members. I recall the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) adducing at some length—perhaps it was the lateness of the hour which created that impression—a frightening picture of a one-party state being introduced by prerogative legislation
Indeed, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—I do not recall his exact words—not exactly chided, but, in a friendly fashion, said that it was not the friendly, avuncular and approachable Chancellor of the Duchy who he was postulating might use these devilish powers in a devilish way, but that some future individual might be tempted by the law to act in a capricious and dictatorial manner.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
The hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that he could not recall my exact words. I cannot recall them either, because I have never made any such reservations about the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Johnston
I think that the general intention was there.
So we have had the horseman of the apocalypse on the march.
I accept that it is right and proper to examine and seek to improve the discursive procedures which we must develop if the Bill is passed; but it is also fair to point out that in reaching a genuine decision on the rightness or wrongness of a particular course we must inevitably go beyond the simple legal framework within which that course is encompassed.
Here, again, there was a wide area of diagreement in discussion on the Clause. The Chancellor of the Duchy quoted at length, as did other right hon. and hon. Members this afternoon and evening, the Luxembourg disagreement, as it is called. He quoted the practice of behaviour and the custom of dealing with differences. This approach often found itself pitted against the legalistic criticism or fears of potentially damaging legislation introduced by the Executive or, alternatively, as some allege, introduced from Brussels by the Community acting qua Community in which this Parliament would have no part.
In a passionate speech the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), when he picked up the second point made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), said that the treaty, in its strict term, was not irrevocable and that we could get out of it but we could do so only by breaching our plighted agreement with all the countries in Europe, and that would be a course of action which would be difficult to contemplate. That cannot be denied, but one cannot do other than deny that the treaty is revocable if the worst comes to the worst, and we are talking only about the worst coming to the worst. The right hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head. I am no lawyer, and I find 645 myself confounded by lawyers. When I read legalistic language I am often bemused, but I realise the whys and the wherefores when I listen to lawyers arguing.
There is a distinction between a treaty entered into between two or three sovereign nations and a contract between individuals. If someone breaches a contract and decides to leave it, he can be sued and subjected to various legal procedures. But if a treaty is breached—and that, after all, is surely the essence of the concept of sovereignty—because a nation, in extremis, decides that it is in its own interests to breach it, there is no law to prevent it. There is force which can prevent it, of course, but a treaty exists only so long as the participants find it not to their disadvantage or to their advantage in political reality. I am talking, not about morality, but about reality, and there is a distinction between the two. In the EEC there is a collection of sovereign States which are seeking to harmonise all their economic needs and probably the slow fusion of their joint political will, if such a thing ever evolves.
I come back to the Luxembourg Agreement. This was the concept of a veto on a matter of vital national interest. What is national interest? It has never been defined. Nobody has said whether it refers to this, that or the next thing. Many hon. Members have said that it is a bad thing that the Luxembourg Agreement, or disagreement, is not written into the treaty at some point. Is it so? Is it not better, and is it not also evidence that there is flexibility in dealing with problems and with international relationships?
I think that it is evidence of a relationship in which a striving after compromise is clear, and that is the sort of comment that I should make to those who during the debate on the Clause—and I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East was the last to do so—have commented on the fact that individual commissioners have criticised the lack of democracy in the Community. That is true. There is no direct democratic control, but there is democratic control in a sense through the Council of Ministers, and through back to this place.
646 In conclusion, I want to touch briefly on three matters—the mandate, the sovereignty of Parliament and the Ad Hoc Committee. I shall not go over the argument about what this or that manifesto said. I make only one comment, which I do not think is naive. It is what happened.
When I listened yesterday to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) examining the Prime Minister's famous expression about the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the people—examining it as if it were almost a theological text on which he was preaching—I thought that speeches were never written quite in that way. I dare say that either the Prime Minister or the person writing the speech for him wrote the phrase "With the full-hearted consent of Parliament" and then, with a rhetorical flourish, added "and people".
The Prime Minister, like a number of others, believed and believes that the consent, opinion and intention of the people is achieved through Parliament rather than through the introduction of extra Parliamentary devices such as those proposed yesterday by the hon. Member for Banbury. Indeed, I feel that the famous "Pound in your pocket" statement was coined in precisely the same way, without any devilish intent. We politicians often become prisoners of our own rhetoric.
The reform of the decision-making process and the examination of the voting system are not requirements which I have regularly heard put forward by those now advocating referenda.
Perhaps the most important point to come out of this debate is the fact that we shall have to do something about reforming our decision-making process, and it is regrettable that we know so little about the Ad Hoc Committee and that it was proposed so late in the proceedings.
We should not pretend that the existing internal decision-making procedures of this House are all that marvellous or allow back benchers and the Opposition all that much ability to contribute to the evolution of legislation. Hon. Members may recall that in the early debates on the Community the hon. Member for 647 Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh quoted the example of how he approached the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about the price review. The Minister told him, "We cannot talk about that until I have seen the NFU."
This problem exists and Select Committees have sought to do something about it. Perhaps that is why the Select Committee on Agriculture had such a short life. We must do something about it but, in doing it, we cannot start from the supposition that our existing situation is all that strong, because the Executive in this Parliament is very strong indeed.
I am sure that if we join the EEC the present arrangements here will have to change. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy, who has had a chance to cogitate on this during our debate on the Clause, will say something about what he considers to be the task of the Ad Hoc Committee, what progress he has made in establishing it and what reaction he has had from the major opposition party about it.
Much more information is necessary. There is the whole question of contact with Brussels. Hon. Members have rightly complained about the lack of information. There will have to be time for European Questions in Parliament and we must debate matters before they happen, rather than try, as is often the case with White Papers and Green Papers, to stop events once they have started to happen.
These are all great and serious problems and I am under no illusion about the solution to them all being found when we enter Europe. There will be a continuing complexity of problems. But we are set in the right direction. That is what I believe. Many hon. Members disagree with me. This we must continue to discuss and I hope that the quality and standard of debate on the Bill will continue to be as good as it undoubtedly has been on the first Clause.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I am in a somewhat distressing situation somehow, because I have ended a period of working to rule and now I have resumed normal working. I am a little troubled that the Chief Whip, at the instigation of some 648 of my colleagues, may apply to the Industrial Relations Court to get me to work to rule again.
Some reference has been made to the amount of my voting in the Committee stage so far. The fact of this matter is that I was paired—working to rule, as I have said. This was what my party arranged for me. After all, my hon. Friends would not begrudge that. I was very happy to pair. I do not conceal from the Committee that it was not altogether unpleasant to be absent at the particular points of time when these matters of argument came to a climax. However, I have now resumed normal working, and I hope that hon. Members will endure such interventions as I make.
The first thing that I am able to say now, which I could never say from the Front Bench, is that in the course of these debates there have been strong feelings. I do not resent that, even when they are strong feelings and opinions contrary to my own. This place becomes a meaningless charade if people who hold strong views have to keep them bottled up and have not the courage to express them, on either side. However, I have always felt that if one has strong views in direct conflict with those sitting around one, one is not as heartily cheered as when one has strong views which one insists on expressing in harmony with those around one. As Nye Bevan once said, "Some people accept the crown of thorns and the thirty shillings as well." I do not think that that should be the object of parliamentary life.
I also believe that sometimes those strong feelings and the way in which, within our parliamentary machine, they are given vent to displease even the Chair, Sir Myer—although I am not referring to yourself, or to today. But there have often been attempts to remind us that things can bring the House of Commons into disrepute. Happily, the object of the House of Commons is not to achieve repute. That we leave normally to Dorcas Societies and pop groups anxious to get a particularly generous subsidy from the Arts Council. The object of the House of Commons and this Committee is to reflect the feelings of the people of this country and to be genuinely representative of the feelings of the country.
649 I am sorry to take a moment or two on this, but I want to convey to some of my colleagues that I feel strongly about what people regard, on either side of the argument, as of great importance, and curiously enough, on the Opposition side, of even more fundamental importance, in a sense, than the most passionate European. If I believed what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) believes, I would be on the point of emigration from a land which had virtually committed itself to the abandonment of self-government.
I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) is a member of the Safeguards Committee and wrote some interesting statement trying to rally people. I do not have it with me, but I shall put it as honestly as I can. It was really on the ground that self-government in this country would be abandoned if we entered the European Community.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend believes that. If one believes that, and if a substantial number of Members of the Committee believe that, if the House of Commons is to claim to be a representative assembly, they certainly ought to have ample opportunity of voicing and arguing those very serious views and seeking to persuade others. They may not convince them, because we often spend a good deal of time in a not-too-hopeful attempt to change other people's opinions.
But changing opinions is not the whole dramatic process. It is a question of influencing the minds and spirits of other hon. Members.
As the right hon. Member for Wolver Hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell—with whom I so seldom agree—has pointed out, the debate on each Clause of the Bill is in effect a Second Reading debate on the Bill. As one who wishes Britain to join the Community in good time, I think that no kind of pedantic ruling should restrict a genuine debate of the type that we have had yesterday and today. I have not yet had the good fortune to read every word that has been spoken in all our previous debates. However, the passage of time will repair that omission.
The debates yesterday and today have consisted of discussions on worthy points, 650 some of which have caused me anxiety, not on the principle of our entry, but on the question of the attention the Government should give to ensuring that the will of Parliament is rendered effective by enabling it to give a searching and careful scrutiny to the legislation which by licence or leave of the House of Commons will become effective in Britain.
I do not think that the definition which we have just heard of sovreignty and of obligations under treaties could be accepted unless the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) takes the opportunity to explain his views a little further and defines what he means by continuing the treaty only as long as it is in the interests of the parties bound, That view would have to be defined. If the hon. Gentleman means that the moment an immediate gainful calculation suggests that it would be worth our while to drop out of the treaty we are free to do so, that would be too extreme.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton said, in effect, that I argued yesterday that we would retain complete sovereignty and that the Bill would not make a constitutional change. As I shall explain, I am not sure what a constitutional change is, because we have no formal constitution. I am sure, however, that I know what is a constitutional change of the kind to which I was referring.
What I said yesterday was this:The other thing that confuses a great many hon. Members is that it is said that this is a constitutional change of a kind that must be preceded by some sort of referendum or election. The kind of constitutional change which must by convention, not by law, be preceded by an election or referendum is a constitutional change which alters the way in which we elect Parliament or the way in which Parliament exercises its powers within Parliament itself, such as the power of the other place or the way in which people vote."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1972; Vol. 835, c. 374.]As I understand it, no such change as by convention requires a General Election takes place here; therefore, even less does it justify the concept of a referendum. That does not mean that a General Election would not be welcome to hon. Members on this side, including myself. I have never asserted that what we are doing could not in some way be construed 651 by somebody as a change of the constitution. I do not know quite what a change of the constitution means. I can only say that I recognise, as every hon. Member should be able to recognise, what a constitutional change is of a kind which it would be improper for a Government to enact without either having a specific mandate for it or without allowing a General Election to precede it to get that mandate. That kind of constitutional change, whatever that may mean, is not involved in this legislation.
§ Mr. Lever
That is my view and would not be my view if I took the view of my hon. Friends or of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, because he took the view—and it is within the recollection of hon. Members so I will only sum it up—that the laws of Europe, or of the Community, would become paramount over British law and that we cannot honourably revoke any of it, and so on.
The truth of the matter is, however, and I will take it first in its pendantic form and then discuss it in its practical form, that, as I maintain, after the passing of the Bill, as before, any law which is in force will be in force because Parliament has willed it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Mere contradiction will not answer it. If a law continues in force, that will be because Parliament so wills. The moment Parliament wills it otherwise, as it has to do, that law will cease to have any effect. Hon. Members are shaking their heads.
§ Mr. Deakins rose——
§ Mr. Deakins
The point my right hon. Friend is making, that the law does not bind us, occupied us in debates on subsection (3). We are in no doubt that any new treaty can be willed by Parliament under the affirmative Resolution procedure. Our objection is that it cannot be amended under the affirmative 652 Resolution procedure and that it should be enacted and capable of enactment under the appropriate procedure which should have been introduced in the second part of subsection (3).
§ Mr. Lever
If my hon. Friend had waited patiently, I would have come to that. If, for example, the Bill becomes law and the Government come, with a treaty, before the House and the House rather dislikes one clause and thinks it should come out, whatever the consequences may be, hon. Members must take it out. They must vote to take it out and vote against the treaty and the Order in Council. What would happen would be that the treaty would have no legal effect. What is wrong with that? If Governments choose to offer the House a treaty without offering the House a chance to take out a clause but only to throw out the treaty, the right course for the House is to throw out the treaty and the order.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman is looking ahead to the period after we join the Community. At that stage there can be no doubt that under the Treaty of Rome and everything that derives from it Community law takes precedence over law here.
Has the right hon. Gentleman not studied both the Treaty and the various decisions and cases stated, some of which were referred to by Professor Wade in The Times, that if this Parliament did not give its assent by Order in Council, still Community law would prevail because we would have signed the Treaty of Rome? That is the dilemma in which we find ourselves and the right hon. Gentleman must not oversimplify this difficult and grave position.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
It makes no difference. If the right hon. Gentleman will look ahead and read the Bill and get to Clause 2 he will find that both existing and future Community law will take precedence over our law.
§ Mr. Lever
Without further formality? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Without action on the part of the 653 House? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Without further treaty? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I have just said that I do not care if the Committee brings itself into disrepute now and again, but some hon. Members are too immediately accepting the invitation. It is no good bellowing in my ear. I am trying to ascertain exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying. He is saying that the whole body of existing law automatically comes into force when we pass this Bill, that this was part of the application to join the Community [Interruption.] I ask hon. Members to listen or it will hardly be worth intervening. I will go back to working to rule. I merely want to see whether I can find some meeting of minds. [Interruption.] I know hon. Gentlemen feel passionately on this, but if they feel too passionately to conduct a rational argument I shall regret it and withdraw from the proceedings. Merely shouting and bellowing will not allow us to have a useful argument.
The Temporary Chairman
If the right hon. Gentleman will address himself to the Chair I think he will have a smoother passage.
§ Mr. Lever
I hope you will not make it impossible for me. Sir Myer, to conduct an argument by treating me as a number of my hon. Friends are so that I can hardly hear what is being said.
If we applied to join the Community those of us who were in favour would perfectly well recognise that in voting for the Bill we would assimilate the European law into British law. If the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East, wishes to give it a gloss and say it gives precedence to European law he can use that word. But it is not giving precedence. It is the British Parliament enacting a law that European law shall have effect in our land. Some right hon. and hon. Members do not like that. But some of us had that firmly in mind when we started the application. If the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East will tell me that does not derive from British sovereignty, it would seem odd to me. He can use any tendentious words he likes, such as "giving precedence to European law". If I chose to give precedence to my butler it does not make him my boss. 654 It is my free choice which I can revoke at any time I like in law. We shall come to the question of practice in a moment.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that under British law we shall no longer be free to annul the effectiveness of any law whatsoever in this land, whether it is Community law or any law enacted domestically? I am saying that the House can now, and could in future, by the simple passing of an Act of Parliament, make any one or more laws that it chooses null and void in the courts of this country. From then on, whatever Professor Wade says, and whatever the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, if the House wills it, that law will cease to have effect. I repeat my assertion that if that law continues in effect it will be cause the House is assenting or has assented to it continuing in effect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can talk around in circles about precedents and priorities. At any moment that the House desires to act there is no law made in Brussels by bureaucrats or otherwise which cannot be instantly annulled in its legal effects by the Government of this country.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is it not clear that once that happens, once the House decides it will carry through a law contrary to anything that applies in Brussels, our relationship with the EEC is fundamentally changed and we would therefore have to leave the EEC?
§ Mr. Lever
The official party position—I do not say that my hon. Friend is obliged to be deeply attached to the party line on this any more than I am—is that if we become the Government we shall insist—[Interruption.]—I am recalling the position to the best of my ability. If anyone else can give the correct version, I will yield to him——
The Temporary Chairman
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is extending invitations wholesale to hon. Members to deal with something which does not arise on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. I ask him to address himself to that Question.
§ Mr. Lever
I do not want to have any differences on this, Sir Myer. I am replying to a speech which was permitted. I am replying in detail and in the strain of speeches which have been made all around me. I cannot see that if I have strayed in answering this argument—[Interruption.] One thing at a time. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton has asked me whether it is possible in law or practice to change the rules which now operate. That is precisely the policy of his and my party, that if elected to Government we shall insist on renegotiating the terms so that these laws and those laws will not be effective. The leader of the party has said that in the event that those laws are not changed by agreement, we shall shake hands and say an amiable "Farewell." Whatever views may have been expressed, I do not think that is dishonourable, for reasons to which I shall come. The official position of the Labour Party is precisely that we can renegotiate with Europe, and if we do not obtain a satisfactory renegotiation it is lawful and honourable for us to come out.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) intervened, my right hon. Friend was saying that there was no difference in the position, namely, that the House could decide that it did not want a law which had been passed in Brussels and which, because of the Bill, would become part of our law. He was saying that there is therefore no change in the situation. But there is one particular change. Up to now a law has not been a law until Parliament has passed it, whereas the position with Community law, as my right hon. Friend outlines it, is that a law will be a law regardless, until the House decides to repeal it.
§ Mr. Lever
It is true that a law becomes a law only when Parliament has passed it. But unfortunately the needs of modern society have required an immense and complex variety of legislation, and the power has often been delegated. Indeed, it has been so copiously delegated that it is impossible for the House to control it. I am very anxious that domestic delegated legislation should be better scrutinised.
656 But, however the argument is framed with tendentious words about precedents and the like, the only legislation of the European Community that comes into force in this country is delegated legislation of this House, because it is delegated, as it were, to the European Community law-giving sources by this very Bill. Without this Measure, Community law is not worth tuppence in this country. With it, it is enforceable. The moment Parliament does not like it, or does not like the system, it has simply to revoke and repeal it, unencumbered with referenda apparatus. One of my hon. Friends shakes his head, but that is the legal position.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
There has been in operation for quite a considerable period a common market between the nations of the United Kingdom. When it was formed in 1707 it was believed that with the passage of time, if the trade and commerce were not as satisfactory as expected, it could be broken up. The same applies with regard to the treaty of union with Europe. It is my right hon. Friend's contention that we can nullify it at the present time. But what will happen in 10, 15 or 20 years, when we are so much combined with Europe that it will become impossible?
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Lever
I was talking about the position, and the legal position, I assure my hon. Friend, is as I have stated it, whether we are speaking of five, 10 or 500 years from now. I do not deny that the practical situation might change. I very much hope that it will. But the legal position is that, so long as this Parliament exists, it will have the power to revoke, terminate or amend any laws in force in this country. The nature of British parliamentary sovereignty is such that its supremacy can be brought to an end only by the closing down of Parliament.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
There are many objections to the proposition which my right hon. Friend is putting—I think that he is falsifying the position—but, apart from any other reasons, will he explain, if what he is saying is true and the House can pass any law it wants and revoke any proposition which it wishes to revoke, what is the significance of the provision in the Bill about the European Court, and what is the power of that court?
§ Mr. Lever
The Bill is intended to bring European law into effect. This seems to have startled some people, but it has been a matter of common knowledge for many years to most of us. Hon. Members may not like it—I sympathise with them, I understand their view, and I am willing to argue it—but some of us like the idea of assimilation of laws. To some of us, it does not come with the shock of novelty and surprise that that is one of the objects of joining the Community in these important areas of commercial activity, so as to enable free trade to come in, so as to allow all sorts of co-operation in terms of regional development, anti-pollution measures and the like. We welcome the fact that the British Parliament, of its free will, intends—we hope it will succeed—to make effective in this country a co-operative decision on Community law.
I wonder whether we are talking at cross-purposes here. I have been speaking about legal sovereignty, and I go on record as saying that the position as I have expressed it is undoubtedly and unquestionably true. It will remain true. No court in Britain will enforce laws other than those laws which the British Parliament approves, be they Community laws or not.
We could make Greek law effective in this country if we wanted to. We could say that from now on all laws relating to beer bottles shall be governed by Greek law. "Good heavens" it would be said, "the Greeks have taken over. It is irrevocable"—and the rest. But not so. Why could we then enforce the beer bottle law of Greece in this country? Not because the Greek courts say so or the Greek Parliament say so, but because the British Parliament says so.
Anyone who wants to enforce a law in this country, so long as the House continues in existence, can enforce it only because that law derives title, directly or indirectly, from the House of Commons, its predecessors, or its successors. That is the position now, and it will remain so.
§ Mr. Lever
I am coming to that. My hon. and learned Friend made 658 a most remarkable speech against entering the Community, obviously from deep conviction, and he said to me, in effect: "What you said yesterday was all right in terms of pedantic legal effect", and he concedes now that what I say is right, because he is a lawyer. But I think that there is confusion among my hon. Friends because they mistake what I am saying when I speak about legal sovereignty. Now he is saying that if we exercise our legal sovereignty there will be a practical fetter on it, that we shall be breaking a Community obligation. Breaking a Community obligation is wrong, breaking a treaty or a moral obligation is wrong, but it has nothing whatever to do with sovereignty. This is a question of practicality.
I attach great importance to the obligations of honour of this country. This House of Commons should be jealous of the honour of the county. But what my hon. and learned Friend is saying is different from what has been urged many times. He is saying not that we are abandoning our sovereignty but that in practice we shall not dare or find it proper to revoke the authority of Community law, once we have granted it in this Bill, as a matter of practicality and honour. I have great affection for my hon. and learned Friend and I feel deeply ashamed that he should have begun his speech with a phrase which I find unjustifiable.
I am prepared to discuss this on a practical basis. My hon. and learned Friend must not combine legal pedantry as to the effect of the Treaty of Rome and practicality when it comes to the question of sovereignty here. This is the reason for his justified passion. If the Treaty of Rome were to be interpreted strictly and English law is interpreted strictly, then I am content with the legal position. But the trouble in these debates is that it is embarrassing for Ministers to talk candidly and with complete lack of reticence.
The Treaty of Rome has become rather like a sacred text. It has nothing to do with what is going to be enforced in fact. The trouble with the anti-Market critics is that they want it both ways. They want me to pretend that the Treaty will be pedantically enforced against them but that the legal rights of the House of Commons will never be enforced against 659 the Treaty. I do not mind debating the matter on ground either of practicality or of legal rights. On legal rights, my hon. and learned Friend has not a leg to stand on. He rightly and honestly emphasises what he regards as the practicality. He may watch how the Treaty works, with strict attention to every dot and comma and with unfailing application of every article. I have the greatest regard for his sincerity and high intelligence. But on the practicality I have formed a totally different view from his. If Is hared his view, which is the view of others of my hon. Friends, I would share their position on the Bill.
We are entering a Community which is an institution at the exploratory stage, investigating how far we can exercise jointly our carefully preserved separate legal sovereignties and how to deploy those sovereignties jointly to the advantage of the safety, welfare, and prosperity of the peoples of our countries. But we are still retained in separate sovereignties.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
My right hon. Friend argues that we need not worry too much about the details of the Treaty of Rome because it is not operated very specifically by the Common Market.
§ Mr. Leverindicated assent.
§ Mr. Foot
Does he not, therefore, think that it would be a good idea for this country, before signing the Treaty in these circumstances, to raise with the Community Countries the points which we think are not being operated and to get that matter cleared up here and now? Does not he think it would be a good idea to do it in this Bill? If he is prepared to do so, we shall be happy to have his support.
§ Mr. Lever
What my hon. Friend does not realise is that there is a very old law in everyone's law of this type, that the custom breaks the strict letter of the law with this kind of convention. That is why I attach such importance to the legal sovereignty because the great fall-back is the retention of the separate legal sovereignties of all the parties. The Treaty of Rome is a complex and near-theological doctrine and the trouble is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen cannot use these disrespectful 660 terms. Commissioners use them. But everyone who deals with the Community does not take it in this serious way. It is only my hon. Friends and those who are opponents of the Treaty of Rome who passionately believe that this is binding totally, to the last letter a rigid enforcement in the Community. I do not know where they have been if they are willing to believe that.
The fall-back is that if the practical application does not continue in the spirit intended the separate sovereignties of the nations are there to protect that Community spirit, good sense and flexibility. Why is this? With great respect to the hon. Member for Inverness and others who lamented that there was not much democracy in the Community, there is no democracy at all—[Interruption.] I will not trouble the Committee further because I see that everyone is particularly anxious to move on. I see that some hon. Members do not want to debate this question and I will not trouble them further. [HON. MEMBERS: "Carry on."] I understood that the Chief Whip was complaining.
The reason why there is no democracy in the Community is that the Community is not a stage of political development when it wields real sovereignty. That will take years of negotiation and agreement. What we are talking about is a joint exercise of separate sovereignties, exploring to find common interests that would justify the deployment of sovereignty jointly among ourselves. Surely that is not something that is unwelcome to the sensible people who have to live on the Continent of Europe? The reason why no nation has given up its sovereignty is that there is not as yet an adequate receptacle for that sovereignty.
It is idle to talk of democracy or no democracy in the Community. The answer is that the time when the Community will develop to a point where it could be an adequate receptable of the separate sovereignties or part of them is a long way ahead. Hon Members must welcome the arrival of that time. I very much hope that one day the peoples of Europe will arrive at that point when they are able to create a political organisation which would be a suitable receptacle for sovereignty yielded and pooled.
I will not detail this, but the basic principle is that we should search for it. To some people it sounds a terrible 661 thing. To me it sounds one of the most promising prospects that could open up for the people of Europe. Either way it is not for now. That is not what we are negotiating. We are negotiating the first step of bringing into being Britain's association with an institution which will allow us effectively to pool at points of common interest the sovereignty which separately exercised is much less effective, much less useful and advantageous to the peace and welfare of Europe.
I am sorry to have gone on for so long and I am sorry that what I have said arouses the passion of hon. Members who are opposed to the Common Market. There seems to be an elementary failure of communication. Either I am the victim of an innocent understanding of the law or hon. Members are thinking of something different.
If a bad, unfair or unjust law is enacted or continued in this land, as long as there is this Parliament it will be the responsibility of this Parliament. This Parliament will have the means to bring it to an end honourably and this Parliament will have the means to assent to its continuance. Legally that is unchallengable. Practically, there would be no breach of faith, having regard to the practice of other countries in the Community which is run on the assumption that its long-term survival and success depends on the continuation of separate sovereignty. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) looks at it from the legal and practical side and if he makes the judgment that I have made, he will find that his fears are not well founded.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair.]
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
I am astonished by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). If my right hon. Friend is under such a misconception about the facts of the case it is not surprising that he supports the Bill and wishes to join the EEC. My right hon. Friend forgot this later in his speech because he got lost in his argument, but he started by saying that although there would be some change in the British constitution if we accepted the Bill, the change would not be drastic enough to justify reference to 662 the electorate for sanction. My right hon. Friend is not aware of the facts as yet, and seems unwilling to learn them.
The facts are that, first, we should transfer the power of taxation of British citizens to an authority other than the British Parliament outside this country. That is a major change. Secondly, the Bill would automatically give the force of law to a whole series of regulations, directives and decisions and a whole series of treaties, not all of which are even known to us. That is a serious infringement of the British constitution. Thirdly, the Bill and the Treaty of Rome together—although my right hon. Friend is still unaware of it because he listens to no one but himself—would hand over powers of legislation on British affairs to authorities outside this country.
The Bill gives power to the Council of Ministers in Brussels and the Commission to make regulations, decisions and directives which will automatically have binding effect in this country and be enforceable in the courts. Is that not a substantial change in the British constitution? We should also be giving this power to the Commission of officials, which is an unelected body, not responsible to anybody and on which there is no representative of the British electorate. Dees my right hon. Friend not think that that is a substantial change in our present constitution?
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
For the benefit of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), would the right hon. Gentleman explain that under Article 189 this House would be completely bypassed and would have no say in the regulations?
§ Mr. Harold Lever
My right hon. Friend asks whether it is my view that this is a change in the constitution. It is difficult to define a constitutional change. What he has said does not constitute a constitutional change, because it in no way alters the law-making power of this country.
§ Mr. Jay
If my right hon. Friend thinks that it is not a major change in our 663 constitution to hand over powers of taxation and legislation over British citizens to authorities overseas, I find it hard to believe that he is treating the subject seriously. Not merely would this be unprecedented, but if we are to hand over power of legislation to an unelected body, over which the British electorate has no control whatever, we are not merely making a sweeping change in the British constitution, but we are offending against the most essential principle of democracy—namely, that people should not be coerced by laws which, if they wish to object to them, they have no powers to amend. That surely is a serious alteration in our constitution.
Over and above that, if we accept these treaties and the Bill, we not merely make these immediate legislative constitutional changes, but in future we shall hand over to the Council of Ministers in the EEC, provided that they act unanimously—and I agree there is a veto, but subject to that—power to alter the constitution of the EEC itself and to commit us to all sorts of further constitutional changes which we cannot foresee. I can hardly believe that my right hon. Friend is being serious if he thinks that is not a change in the British constitution.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
It is purely a form of words. I recognise that the change is as stated, but whether it is called a constitutional change or not I care nothing. I have told the Committee about the constitutional changes about which I care. But will my righthon. Friend add the rider to everything he has threatened, that if in any instance the House of Commons decides to revoke the Bill, all these laws cease to have effect in this country?
§ Mr. Jay
Yes, this Parliament can undo it. If we pass this Bill, it will be in the hands of this Parliament or a future Parliament to repeal it. What my 664 right hon. Friend will not acknowledge or does not understand is that, although that is true under our constitution as we know it, it would be illegal under the Treaty of Rome and under international law for us to repeal this Measure and repudiate the obligations under the treaty——
§ Mr. Jay
If my right hon. Friend does not understand that, he is not taking this subject seriously. Every student of the Treaty of Rome knows that there is no provision in it for denouncing the Treaty or seceding from the Economic Community. Here, perhaps my right hon. Friend will agree with me. The simple truth is that for this very reason the power of the British Parliament to reverse any previous decision of Parliament is wholly incompatible with the Treaty of Rome. The two are legally incompatible. That seems to me to be one of the strongest reasons, if not the strongest reason, for this House not accepting the Treaty of Rome and not accepting the sweeping changes in our constitution, rather than putting our signature to all these documents and then, as apparently my right hon. Friend lightheartedly invited us to do, to repudiate them and tear them up afterwards.
§ Mr. Rippon
It might be helpful if I intervened at this stage. There has been quite a long debate, and a number of important points have been raised to which I might usefully reply.
Since Second Reading, we have spent nine days and one all-night sitting on the Bill. A good deal of time has been spent on procedural matters, votes of censure, consideration of the principle of the Bill, and so forth. I do not want to go over all that ground again. We have traversed it many times. We eventually started on the substantive task of considering Clause 1 on 7th March. Since then, we have had five days of debate. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) described it very well when he said that we had spent long hours and laborious days and, indeed, some nights on this Clause. I will not weary the Committee by going over all that well-trodden ground. I shall try to deal with such few new points as have been raised 665 in the last four hours. If I do not cover all of them, I shall read the debate afterwards and see whether there are any matters with which it would be right to deal with later or on which I should write to right hon. and hon. Members.
There was much noisy and lengthy protest from certain quarters at the Chair's ruling that certain Amendments were out of order since they challenged the very principle of the Bill and thereby the decision of the House on Second Reading. It was claimed that the Committee would be frustrated and that discussion would be stifled. It seemed to me at some times that, so far from being stifled, it was almost unending. The ruling on the selection of Amendments has not prevented our considering 39 possible Amendments and, for good measure, future European economic and monetary union, defence, a General Election, a referendum and, today, EFTA. For what is primarily a definition Clause, except for the important parliamentary safeguard in subsection (3), this must be regarded as a pretty thorough and wide-ranging exercise in parliamentary democracy by any standards. I will not repeat comments made in the debate yesterday. But there comes a time when right hon. and hon. Members who wish to challenge the principle of the Bill have to accept that the majority has some rights as well as the minority.
Opening this debate, we had another wide-ranging and stimulating speech from the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray). He covered pretty rapidly a great many topics. He made one specific challenge. He wanted to know the legal status of the treaties. I think that he was a little afraid that I might side-step that issue. I do no such thing. As the hon. and learned Gentleman suspected, it arises under later Clauses. Nevertheless, without going into too much detail, I will try to give some help.
When the hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the legal status of the treaties, I assumed that he meant: how will the texts of the treaties operate as law within the United Kingdom? In many respects these treaties involve international obligations which do not impinge on our domestic law. Therefore, to that 666 extent they do not acquire any legal status in our domestic law.
The question of legal status in domestic law will arise in two circumstances. The first is when a treaty provision is intended to have direct effect in law. In that case, it will be given the effect of law by Clause 2(1). Indeed, this matter arises not only on Clause 2 but on Clause 3.
The second circumstance in which we have to consider the question of legal status in domestic law arises where these treaty provisions impose an obligation to effect changes in our domestic law. Such changes are effected by our own legislative process and are, indeed, pointed by the kind of provisions set out in Part II and Schedule 3.
The Treaty of Accession itself falls to be treated in the same way as other Community treaties with which it provides the essential link so far as this country is concerned. I hope that that will help the hon. and learned Gentleman in setting the scene for discussions at the proper time. They do not arise on Clause 1 stand part.
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) raised certain questions on the legal status of General Programmes. That was a matter of general interest to the Committee which has not been considered before. It certainly is not a matter suitable for an Amendment. I am not talking about whether it was in order. I do not think that it falls to be considered in that context. However, the Committee is interested in the nature of these General Programmes and their effect.
The first two General Programmes simply set out the general conditions under which freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services might be obtained or attained within the Community for each type of activity and the stages by which they might be attained.
The third General Programme defines an order of priorities for the elimination of technical barriers to trade resulting from differences in legislation, regulations and administrative measures of member states. As the hon. Member for Putney gathered, the programmes do not constitute binding Community instruments, since it is clear from the terms of Articles 667 54 and 63 of the European Economic Community Treaty that the implementation of these General Programmes as regards a particular activity requires the enactment of further specific directives whose force, as other hon. Members have understood, derives from Article 189, not from the General Programmes. Such directives, a number of which have already been enacted, naturally constitute binding Community instruments giving rise to Community obligations as defined in Article 189. However, as such, they fall under Clause 2 rather than under Clause 1. I hope that may help the hon. Gentleman a little.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I recognise that I cannot pursue this matter too far at the moment. However, did I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say—I think I did—that certain General Programmes had been given the force of law? When this has been done, in what form has it been carried out? Has it been carried out in the form of a Council directive or in some other form?
§ Mr. Rippon
The General Programmes do not have the force of law. They are not binding, but the General Programmes are set out. Thereafter by the proper methods directives are brought in which, in due course, have binding legal effect.
This is one illustration of the way the Community works in practice. It illustrates the opportunity that particular interests have—I understand that the hon. Gentleman is particularly interested in the cinema and the effect on the film industry—to consider what effect these programmes might have on them and how, together, they can work out arrangements and ultimately embody them in directives for the good of all. It illustrates how one does not get taken by surprise by some dreadful act of faceless bureaucrats.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East, in his, as always, wise speech from his point of view—I approve of some of his observations—complained of imprecision. I think that that is a little unfair. There has been a detailed consideration of the Clause, which has affirmed the definition of the pre-Accession and Accession Treaties to which we shall be acceding on ratification. There is nothing new there.
668 Secondly, and more importantly, we have looked to the future, about which there cannot be the same degree of precision, as my right hon. and learned Friend acknowledged. We have done that, as I hope we shall continue to do throughout the Bill, for it is to the future prosperity and security of this nation, in Europe and in the world, that the Bill is addressed—not to the past, however much some of us may regret that it is no longer the world in which we live.
We have considered in some detail the types of treaties into which we may enter in the future as full and active members of this great Community enterprise. We all have to acknowledge that it is more than a customs union. It is a Community, and it is that ideal that has fired the imagination of peoples in Europe and in this country. In a year or two we shall be astonished to discover how meaningless are many of the fears and anxieties that we have heard expressed during the debate on the Bill.
I think that it was the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) who referred to the fact that the opinion polls shows how many young people are fired by enthusiasm for our entry into Europe. It is perhaps only natural that the fears expressed are the fears of the older generation who are afraid of change because any change, even for the better, is not accomplished without difficulty.
Many people are thinking in terms of the future development of the Community, the rising standards of living and prosperity. It is perhaps not unnatural to look to the future. Others are fearful. This happened in the Community countries themselves, and it is happening here, but the encouraging feature of the great debate that we have conducted is the way in which the younger generation know in their hearts that this is the right way for all of us in the future.
We shall in the future all be involved from the conception to the execution of the treaties, regulations and directives. We have all had to accept that there are great difficulties in getting on to this train ten years after it set off from the station, but in the future we shall ourselves want to initiate some of these treaties, regulations and directives. We may want to resist others. We shall be 669 playing a full and influential part in these developments.
I hope that in future we shall increasingly debate what we ought to have in our minds now, and consider the future contribution that we can make. Many people talk about the price that we shall have to pay, but there are great benefits. These benefits will be the greater the more we realise that we have much to contribute and that out of that contribution will come the greater good of us all.
In our debates on possible future treaties in this context among member States, we have distinguished clearly between those treaties which the member States may in future conclude among themselves, ancillary to the original treaties, and those which may go into new fields. The Bill is not concerned with the latter. Treaties which do not stem from the basic Community treaties or treaties ancillary to them will have to be considered separately and judged accordingly.
Much as some of us may enjoy defence debates, they have no place in the consideration of the Bill and I am sure that the Committee will recognise that the debate we had on defence, which produced a rather extraordinary combination of forces and arguments of a sort not seen in this Chamber for many years, was totally irrelevant to the Clause.
It is important to emphasise that there is no question of developments in the Community which are not genuinely ancillary to the treaties emerging in any secretive fashion. One of the striking features of the Communities is the openness of their evolution, and there will be every opportunity for us to consider step by step where our interests lie.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East and many others have been properly concerned about parliamentary safeguards in relation to future treaties. The Committee will not wish me to retrace all the safeguards we have proposed and the discussions we have had on this subject in our debates.
We have proposed in the Bill safeguards for Parliament to fulfil its proper rôle in relation to future treaties of the kind which fall within the ambit of the Measure. Parliament will act as a watchdog, as it does all the time, over Govern- 670 meat policy and conduct and consider legislation or the need to empower the Government to legislate for changes in our domestic law before we can fulfil such treaties.
If, in this watchdog rôle, Parliament feels that the Government have not, of their own accord, brought these matters before the House of Commons for approval, then, apart from any provisions relating to Orders in Council, Parliament has many other procedures for calling the Government to account—and I agree with the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) about the ultimate sovereignty of Parliament. What he said cannot be gainsaid. The safeguard in Clause 1 (3) is rightly there in case there is need for it, but there are other procedures for Parliament, and above all there is the fact, which the right hon. Member for Cheetham mentioned, that no law can take effect in this country if Parliament wills otherwise.
Our intention is that we should go into the Community with the idea that we play our part in its development. If it went wrong, Parliament could, of course, say, "We have had enough of this," but that is not our intention. This is a treaty of an indeterminate length, but it does not surrender any more sovereignty than, in effect, the Brussels Treaty, which committed us for 50 years to keeping our troops on the Continent of Europe to go to the defence of any of the Six members of the Community who might be attacked.
I am sometimes accused of quoting the Leader of the Opposition too often, but he can put things very well when he puts his mind to it. He was right when he said that one must look at the common law as well as at the Statute law. He was talking about the Luxembourg Agreement and said that it was not part of the Treaty complexes and therefore could not be built in. He added that one had to join the Community and accede to the treaties before one could have the benefit of the common law and practice.
When we look at the Community we must look at the substance and not just at the form. The political reality under our system of parliamentary democracy, as I said on 8th March, is thatany Government are responsible to the House of Commons. Therefore, if they entered, or 671 allowed the Community to enter, agreements which could not be carried through this House or which were subject to a vote of censure, they would be open to great difficulty."—[Official Report, 8th March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 1581.]
§ 12 midnight.
§ Mr. Rippon
We are talking about the sovereign power of Parliament. One must recognise that this is a treaty between sovereign powers. In this country the sovereign power resides in Parliament. We must declare and should declare it to be our intention that this should be so. Once the debate has taken place and we have joined the Community we shall find a consensus of opinion about remaining in, when all the bogeys are dissipated.
One cannot escape the fact that we have the sovereign power in Parliament. That is the fact of the matter. Whether it would be a desirable or proper thing to do, having entered into a treaty, to withdraw, is a moral as distinct from a legal issue. But international law can not override our domestic law, for Parliament still——
§ Mr. Rippon
We would be in breach of an international obligation. But we have to recognise that sovereign States are in a position to do that if they choose. I do not think that we ought to choose to do so. I cannot conceive, in practice, of any circumstances in which we shall wish to do so. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is a great European and a great advocate of European defence, but if his extraordinary suggestion that faceless men could suddenly overnight impose conscription on this country was ever attempted, it would be perfectly clear that the whole purpose and basis of the Community had been destroyed. That is an utterly unreal conception of the Community that we are seeking to join.
672 The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), dealing with the question of parliamentary safeguards, raised the position about the Ad Hoc committee. That proposal was put forward from this side of the House of Commons. An ad hoc committee is not something that remains for ever. It was a temporary device whereby Parliament could, if it so wished, consider matters of procedure. Matters of procedure are not for the Bill. The Bill stands on its merits. We could not write procedures into the Bill. After all, this is a matter from one Parliament to another. We would not wish to repeal an Act of Parliament every time Parliament wished to change its procedures. We are considering now how we may improve our procedures in another respect. Our proposals for the Ad Hoc committee have not been acceptable as yet to the Opposition. That is not our fault. We put forward the proposition. It may be that other methods must now be considered. But certainly Parliament has the power to devise such procedures as it feels would be appropriate.
Finally, I follow what the hon. Member for Inverness said about parliamentary sovereignty and the treaties. In the debates on the Clause there have been many charges that Parliament will be losing rights of sovereignty or rights of power over treaties as a result of the Bill. We have had a never-ending stream of speeches from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), of a blood-curdling nature, of the sort which make it understandable that many people are fearful of what will happen if we join the Community. They talked of the sweeping curtailment of the powers of Parliament. There have been so many grotesque statements that I cannot repeat them all.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may himself be exaggerating. Does he agree that one of the main articles of the Treaty of Rome is that which concerns the adoption of a common policy in transport? Is it not possible that in the infrastructure of motorways and the degree to which we spend public money on the surrounding areas we could be against a common transport policy in Europe to which we 673 should nevertheless be subject but with which we might not agree?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am immensely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because he has proved the whole of the case on sovereignty. Of course there will be discussions, sometimes going on over many years, as to how we could evolve in Europe common transport policies and common environment policies, to give but two examples. There are so many fields in which so many want to work together in Europe. Regional development is another example. This would not involve a loss of sovereignty. This is something which we should welcome with open arms. This is what it is all about. It is working and living together in a European community and dealing with all these matters of administration in relation to which it is not correct that our ultimate sovereignty has been threatened or destroyed in the way that has been suggested.
Sovereignty is a word which is used much more for its emotional than for its legal significance. Of course our sovereignty will be affected. No one has ever denied that. It will be affected because we will, as the hon. Member for Inverness said, be pooling an element of it with other member States which are equally pooling their sovereignty.
The question we must ask ourselves is the question the hon. Gentleman put to the Committee. If we share sovereignty, do we gain or do we lose? Those of us who believe in the concept of the unity of Europe, who believe in the United Nations, who believe in NATO, believe that if sovereignty is shared and pooled one gains in the modern world more than one loses. In fact, in the modern world it is impossible even to exercise such sovereignty unless one is prepared to share and to pool it in a reasonable way.
We must look at the Bill as enabling us to share sovereignty on the basis that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, that the power of the Community to defend and promote its members' interests is manifestly greater than the sum of the power of the individual members to do so. This was evidenced in the Kennedy Round and, more recently, in the trade and monetary talks with the United States.
What is sovereignty considered in isolation? It is nothing unless it is used, 674 and in the modern world it cannot be used effectively unless it is pooled. As I have said, the legal significance of parliamentary sovereignty is a matter, not of international law, but of domestic law, and nothing that I have said overrides that concept of the legal sovereignty vested in Parliament.
I think that Parliament is right to exercise its sovereign power to pool its sovereignty within the European Community. Those of us who believe that that is the way in which the modern world will evolve are those who are in favour basically of the Bill. The national interests of the Six manifestly have not suffered diminution in the last 10 years. On the contrary, they have prospered and they have gained in influence for good in the world. At the same time their administration and their constitutional independence have remained secure; and so they will be secure for us in this country.
§ Mr. Heffer
I shall not be long. I want to take up one or two points raised in this debate and give some reasons why I am opposed to this Clause.
I would first like to take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). He made a most remarkable speech and I personally have no objection to the fact that it was a long speech. He exercised his democratic right in this House to make that speech. I was delighted to hear it. because my view is that the more speeches made by him and his hon. Friends who support his view, the better for those of us and the country as a whole, because they will understand the very good reasons why we should not go into the European Common Market. The arguments adduced were some of the most remarkable I have ever heard.
My right hon. Friend suggested that we should look at what he calls the practicalities and realities of the situation and not at the written word. He said that it does not matter what the treaty says, what exists in the written word, that what we should be concerned about are the practicalities.
It reminded me very much of the situation which exists at present in the railway men's dispute. Here we have the practicalities. There is a rule book of which nobody takes the slightest notice. 675 and when railway men decide to take notice of it the law in invoked against them.
That is a remarkable situation and it could happen in the Common Market, because on an occasion when the European Court decides to invoke the rules, it is no good arguing that the rules do not exist, because it is the rules about which the Court will be concerned. That is the important point which should be made.
My right hon. Friend should look more deeply at the practicalities. It is not just the important question of the long-term objective. One reason why I came out strongly against our entry into (the Common Market was because I realised that we should have to accept on accession all the existing regulations and treaties in which we had had no say. Whether we liked it or not, those regulations would then become applicable to this country without our having any say whatever, and if my right hon. Friend does not think they are there, he has only to look at the great pile of regulations which would be applicable to this country brought in by my hon. Friend, the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). Surely no one can suggest that that pile will not apply? If they do not, why have them?
This is like the argument on the Industrial Relations Bill. People said that there was no need to worry about it because it would not be brought into operation—but it is brought into operation; and these regulations will be brought into operation. It is no good my right hon. Friend or anyone else arguing that case. It is not good enough. It is not buying a pig in a poke because it is neither a pig nor a poke.
I listened to my right hon. Friend carefully tonight and his whole argument was that, practically, we do not have to worry because the practicality is that the written word of the European Common Market does not mean a thing, because the practicalities are one thing and the written word is something else. I am saying that that is a dangerous philosophy.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I have not said anything of the sort. What I have said is that full regard to every notional exer- 676 cise of the rules of the Treaty of Rome in its rigidity have never been exercised, nor will be, in the way of a notional recourse. One can argue on the practicality and the amount of practicalities brought in, or on the legal position of sovereignty.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Heffer
My right hon. Friend must know that there have been a number of cases over regional development. If he knows that, why does he argue a different case? Why does he try to suggest that it does not matter what is in the Treaty of Rome? I do not argue that every dot and comma, every line and clause, are rigidly enforced on every occasion. We all know that this situation does not happen in any law, whether it is in this country or internationally. But as long as the law is there, it can and will be used, and it has been used on occasions when it has proved necessary.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
I think I can help my hon. Friend in advancing his argument. Is he aware that when we signed the EFTA treaty and it was passed in this House nobody dreamed of some of the implications which would arise from it? For example, in Scotland we discovered that we should not be able to pay a subsidy to the shale industry. We discovered that we had to sink the shale industry in part of my constituency and as a consequence we had mass un employment—[Interruption.]—and——
§ Mr. Heffer
I do not know whether I am supposed to be replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham, who is in a very excited condition tonight. He finds himself in the position of a rebel. If he wants to know what it is like to be a rebel, particularly when his own party is in Government, he should ask some of his hon. Friends. Some of us were in that position for six years on all sorts of occasions and we became quite used to being barracked from our own side. I ask my right hon. Friend to contain himself and to try to impose upon himself a cooling-off period.
I accept that he has a point when he says that the logic of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian 677 is that we would never enter into international agreements. I accept that, but in EFTA we found advantages and disadvantages.
I want to take up the point about sovereignty. I agree that the occasion could arise, even when we are in the Community, when, as free men, we could say "We are not prepared to accept this." But the logic of that is that once we decided in this House that we would not accept a Community decision, and if we continued to take that view in spite of all the economic and political pressures that would be applied to us, in spite of all the persuasion that would automatically follow, it would be quite incompatible for us to continue as part of the EEC. Once we were in, that would be quite a revolutionary act. It would be as revolutionary as when the Americans decided to defy the British Government when they established their independence.
§ Mr. George Thomson (Dundee, East) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Heffer
It is no good my right hon. Friend shaking his head. That would be the reality of the situation, and he has argued very strongly about realities.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster argued that we should under stand that in modern society there was the necessity to pool our sovereignty. There is an argument for that under certain circumstances, but it is remarkable how after a period some of the nations involved usually find that they are not quite as equal as the others. Let us take the example of Comecon, where there was a so-called voluntary agreement. Today, countries like Rumania have had to establish sovereignty to develop their own industries and at the same time to fight off encroachment from other parts of Comecon. That is what happens in society today. It is no good saying that there is a vast and growing conglomeration of nations all getting together. That is all right up to a point——
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury) rose——
§ Mr. Heffer
I am not giving way any more, because other hon. Members wish to speak, and I do not think we should go on all night.
678 The Common Market can be a united organisation only as long as the national interests of the nations that make it up coincide. I believe, because I happen to be a socialist, that once it is found in the Common Market, with the contradictions of the capitalist system within it, that the national interest of one country are contrary to another, it will not last five minutes. That is already beginning to happen. There is all the talk about the great prosperity and rising standards of living in the Common Market, but there are over one million unemployed in Italy, and there are economic problems in the other Common Market countries. The contradictions are such that the only real answer if European co-operation is wanted is a socialist Europe.
§ Mr. Heffer
We shall not get it under the present Community, because the Community operates on the basis of rules of competition. It is the opposite of what socialism will mean.
It is not a form of words that we are arguing about. The problems of taxation, the harmonisation of taxation policy, the CAP, and so on, are realities, and not just a form of words, as has been suggested. They are realities that will affect our people very badly. I have no wish to paint a blood-curdling picture of what Europe is likely to be—I do not know what it is likely to be—but what I say is that, if we accept the Clause and the Bill as they stand, our country's opportunity to retain its sovereignty and carry through its own Acts of Parliament without at some stage running into a great clash with all the other nations of the Common Market will be impossible. We should not put ourselves in that situation, and for that reason I hope that the Committee will reject the Clause.
§ Mr. Milne
The Chancellor of the Duchy dealt in great detail with some of the future prospects for Europe. But the Committee is debating Clause 1 of the European Communities Bill, a Bill before the British Parliament. In some ways, this underlines the points arising from the argument put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) on the question of the sovereignty of Parliament. 679 Generally, when we discuss a Bill, whatever be the subject, we are considering matters which affect this Parliament and the British people. But if we accept Clause 1, we shall accept laws and regulations laid down elsewhere. We may be voluntarily accepting them, by vote of the House, but the decisions in regard to them will have been taken by others.
In some ways, that is the kernel of the argument. But, what is more, it shows the fallacy of what the House did on 28th October in deciding to take the major decision in regard to Europe without discussing in detail what we were taking on. We should have discussed the implications of the ECSC treaty and the Treaty of Rome at that time, before moving towards acceptance of membership of the Communities.
The treaty setting up the European Coal and Steel Community, the fore runner of the European Economic Community, was signed 21 years ago, almost to the day. There is a historic parallel here which may interest some of my right hon. Friends. That very week, when the treaty was signed in Paris, three members of the then Labour Government, including the present Leader of the Opposition, resigned not on the issue of the Community but on the issue of Britain's overseas defence commitments. It may be some consolation to my right hon. Friends to know that one of them later became Prime Minister, and another——
§ Mr. Milne
If my right hon. Friend will allow me to continue, he may have some indication of where he will land up as well. Another became Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington. So there are glittering prospects here.
I want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us how much control the House has over the question of the Communities brought into being 20 years ago. This is relevant to the situation of our coal mining industry. One of the Bill's commitments is an investment in the reserve fund of the ECSC, which stands now at £90 million. We are being asked to contribute £24 million in sterling within three years of our accession. We 680 are in difficulty with our mining industry. How much more shall we be in difficulty with this additional commitment to the-tune of £8 million a year in our first three years membership?
What happens if the ECSC decides that the reserve fund must be increased? Are we to go to our mining constituents and tell them, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the railway men last week end when they asked for a reasonable wage, that asking for higher wages is blackmail because the Government need money to bolster up the reserve fund?
§ Mr. Ripponindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Rippon
I shook my head sadly at the fact that the hon. Gentleman should be so unaware of what he should be telling his constituents. Of course we shall be contributing to the reserve fund, but we shall also be beneficiaries. He should tell his constituents of the enormous advantages which have arisen in Europe as a result of the fund. We have discusssed in the House all these aspects throughout the negotiations. They were well known before 28th October. The hon. Gentleman must take a happier view. The Labour Government were clear that in applying to join we accepted this contribution. On the question of the coal and steel treaty, we picked up the hand left by the Labour Government and got exactly what they wanted in our negotiations. There is no dispute about that aspect.
§ Mr. Milne
I am glad the right hon. and learned Gentleman has intervened. He made a debating point about the Labour Government. On 10th May, 1967, I voted against the Labour Government on this issue. He need not lecture me about what the Labour Government did in 1967. He talked about our responsibilities to constituencies and urged me to take a happier view. As my right hon. Friends will recall, the 1951 Labour Government refused to accept the ECSC because we would not have been able to operate our own publicly-owned industries, steel and coal, at that time, under it.
§ Mr. Milne
My right hon. Friend says "not now", but I am dealing with the 1951 situation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that we should adopt a happier attitude. Consider the contraction in the mining industry in the Community countries, particularly in Germany and Belgium. The mining communities there have suffered greater ravages than mining communities in Britain in the last ten years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman represents part of my county and he knows about this. There may be a difference of opinion about the impact of contraction, but on the basis of the figures there can be no argument.
§ Mr. Milne
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me to take a happier line and I was dealing with some of his misdemeanours. I cannot deal with all of them in a short speech. What the Chancellor did not tell us about the details of the effects on the coal and steel industry is only one part of what he kept from us about the effects of entry.
That is why this Clause is the kernel of it all. We decided on 28th October to accept something we had not fully discussed or understood. Now we are finding out that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman did for coal he did for fisheries and for agriculture.
§ Mr. Ridley
Will the hon. Gentleman answer my right hon. and learned Friend's point? The coal industry in this country will gain considerable advantages from the fund my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned. Has he told his constituents about this? Has he spread the good news in Northumberland about which he is so concerned? Why does he take such a gloomy view?
§ Mr. Milne
The hon. Member used to reply to my Adjournment debates about the gloomy things I had to tell my constituents when he sat on the Government Front Bench. Clause 1 shows 682 that many of the responsibilities we should have to accept on entry to the Community have never been discussed and I hope the Committee will reject it.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
A moment ago I threw a copy of the European Communities Bill away from me in considerable anger. To the extent that that represents an offence against the Chair, I apologise, Sir Robert, but I was prompted to do so by the observations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Lever). He spoke of the Treaty of Rome in much the same way as the late Kaiser Wilhelm II spoke of our one-time treaty with Belgium, as though it were nothing more than a scrap of paper. If the Treaty of Rome is nothing more than a scrap of paper containing 248 Articles—and, as the saying goes in Brussels, 2,480 exceptions—so is the Bill. I take a more serious view of the Clause and the Bill.
After the detailed examination to which the Clause has been subjected both by the Amendments which were rejected and the Amendments which were selected and spoken to, I begin to feel in rather the same frame of mind as the late Howard Carter might have experienced if, instead of the tomb of Tutankhamun, he had discovered an ancient Egyptian public lavatory. Clause 1 is far more important than we realised at the beginning of our proceedings in Committee. It is not only a definition Clause but it gives us some idea of where the Community is going, how it will evolve and, as you. Sir Robert, said when we started our deliberations, it provides the nuts and bolts for a certain type of political evolution.
In an earlier intervention I pointed out that the tenor of the speech then being made and the description of the Community's internal practice that was being given made sense only in the context of a Community which is evolving to a federal system of government. Legal personalities and political entities with a life of their own must acquire the natural trappings of sovereignty, and that means a Federal State in Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham welcomes that, but if the Government welcome it and have paved the way towards such an evolution by instant acceptance of all the treaties, why do not they say so in the Bill? Why is 683 there not documentation giving the Government's view of the future of Europe as they see it?
Do not let my right hon. and hon. Friends who are in favour of entry patronise me either on the subject of the Continent of Europe or on the proposition that I find it difficult to believe that the present Government will go into Europe to provide opportunities for us to socialise Europe. The countries which formed the Six have taken very good care in the treaties they signed, and in the Treaty of Rome in particular to block that road, if not for ever, at least for a good many years.
There is an interesting book on this subject in the Library written by an hon. and gallant Member opposite, a book called "Half Marks". That hon. and gallant Gentleman is also Chairman of the Conservative Committee for Europe and he makes it clear in the book that the Common Market is being raised as an obstacle to socialism and certainly is not intended to be one of the paving stones for a socialist Europe.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Would my hon. Friend not agree that constitutional instruments can be developed for purposes very different from those conceived by their architects? Would those in the United States who drafted the Bill of Rights ever have conceived that it would be used as an instrument to liberate the slaves?
§ Mr. Fletcher
My hon. Friend has made a valid point. It is an essential part of my political philosophy that institutions which at one time served one purpose can be used to serve another. Nevertheless, in Europe the crucial years are the next decade.
When I look at Europe politically, 1 do not see either the political forces of socialism being strong enough, or the institutions of the Community being flexible enough, to enable the kind of evolution which my right hon. and hon. Friends regard as desirable. This is a matter of personal opinion and observation.
I have never claimed to speak as though I were in personal communication with the Almighty or as if I were speaking from tablets of stone, but, as my 684 right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham will concede, I know a little about various European countries, and the political map of Europe I see offers small consolation to me as a socialist.
With the addition of the British Conservative Government to the existing Governments of the Six, many of these loose and flabby things in the Treaty of Rome will become as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. Because precedents have been set and because large dollops of legislation have been swallowed whole in one Clause, then the Clause, far from being merely an overture to the Bill, far from setting the main themes of the Bill, becomes to a great extent the kernel of it. If we allow the Clause to go away un-amended, we shall be giving the Government powers—we have already given them the necessary precedents—perhaps as far-reaching as the powers which they claim in Clause 2, which I know I must not mention.
I end as I began, by saying that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham can show me the detailed methods whereby this country as a constituent member of the EEC, as a candidate member of that Community, and in association with trade unions and other more or less politically helpless organisations in Europe, can so change the Treaty of Rome and all the other ancillary treaties, regulations, directives and so on, that what seems to be an obstacle to my own conception of socialism will become the highroad to socialism, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in joining him in his group. As the defendant said to the magistrate, "I am always open to conviction."
But I think that even my right hon. Friend does not care very much for Clause 1 in its present form. If he will join me tonight in voting against it, I offer my services to him for public or private tuition on the complexities of the Market. I ask him to sustain the thesis that he pesented at such great length earlier this evening—that is, damn and blast Clause 1. Then my right hon. Friend may try to persuade me that an instrument created as a substitute for socialism becomes an instrument of socialism.
§ Mr. Spearing
I take issue with the Chancellor of the Duchy, who was glad a little while ago that I intervened in the 685 course of his speech. I had not expected that the width of this debate would be as great as it has been. He raised a very important point when he talked about the pooling of sovereignty.
We all understand that in a modern world this is a matter of fact that sometimes we cannot avoid. In international trade and in matters concerned with currency, this is only too true. But surely it makes a great deal of difference which part of our sovereignty we cede, and it is a matter of the topic concerned rather than the principle as a whole.
When I raised as an example the extent of compensation for motorway routes, I was being quite serious. People in this country are very concerned about the compensation that this Government or any other can pay in respect of motorways. It may be desirable to have a good European transport policy——
§ Mr. Spearing
I am glad that my right hon. Friend agrees. But whether that policy goes to the extent of saying that in the north of Scotland, in central London, in central Paris or down in Genoa there should be the same compensation in respect of motorways is a different matter.
I am not against the EEC. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) may be glad to know that I am not anti-Market. I am non-Market because in many of the particulars of the Treaty of Rome it is pushing detailed topics in which we are supposed to have one policy into quite unrealistic forms. What we shall need if we are to have European unity is co operation, but not necessarily on the sort of matters that are contained in the Treaty of Rome, which may prove to be obstacles to the healthy development of our own communities where people can make reasonable decisions in their own way and not by a general pooling of policy, so that a bureaucrat in Whitehall, Brussels or anywhere else superimposes a uniform policy on a range of areas where a uniform policy is not necessarily to the benefit of everyone——
§ Mr. Spearing
I am glad to have my right hon. Friend's support. But he will 686 see from a study of the treaties and the regulations stemming from them that that is not possible.
I turn to one or two aspects of the debate which worry me. We have all engaged in our individual expeditions and found our nuggets. I intend to draw attention to four aspects only. The first is the wording of the Clause. The second is the way in which we have not been allowed to look at the treaties. The third is the legal machine being invented in Europe. The last is the safeguards which are claimed to be available to this House and to the nation in the working of the Treaty of Rome.
I ask the Solicitor-General why the Bill was drafted in this way, and why the Explanatory Memorandum could not be much more explanatory than it is. I will come back to why I think that Clause 1 is misleading. Why could not Clause 1 have been extended over two or three pages instead of having this dehydrated, interlocking, closely woven legal network of which anybody going to a public library to see could not make head or tail?
I had to intervene when the hon. and learned Gentleman was replying to that debate. When I asked why he had not dealt with my question about the length of the Bill, all that he could say was:I have listened to the points the hon. Gentleman has made."—[Official Report, 14th March, 1972; Vol. 833, c. 345.]That was the reply of the Solicitor-General of this Government and Parliament. He could not give any reason for this dehydrated, compact type of Bill. He would not dare to give any reply to an hon. Gentleman who has no legal training or knowledge and is a comparatively new Member. If that is the standard for which the Government are going, I hesitate to think what will happen to the Industrial Relations Act at a later stage. Is it realistic or not? That is the standard of reply which we have had throughout the debate.
The second matter concerns the treaties. I am glad that the Chancellor of the Duchy is present. On 6th March I raised with him the fact that he had said:During the Second Reading debate it was open to any hon. Member to raise questions 687 concerning any part of the Treaty of Accession or any of the other treaties—presumably he means the 110-odd—and to argue that the terms should not be accepted. Many did."—[Official Report, 6th March, 1972; Vol. 832. cc. 1052–3.]The right hon. and learned Gentleman was clearly saying that because that was part of the Second Reading debate—I am sorry to see him departing when I am making a point of some moment; perhaps he is going to find the answer—he felt that the treaties were within the scope of the Bill. The Second Reading debate was on the principle.
Only a short time before the right hon. and learned Gentleman had voted in support of a ruling which you, Sir Robert, had given. I know that it was a difficult ruling for you to give. In a letter to me the following day you said:The amendments marked 'A' on the enclosed amendment paper were ruled out of order because they subject to Parliamentary approval provisions of the Treaties already accepted and therefore fall outside the scope of the Bill".The Chancellor of the Duchy cannot have it both ways. The treaties either come within the scope of the Bill or they do not. Indeed, he praised hon. Gentlemen who had referred to them, and then voted in favour of a ruling that they were not within the scope of the Bill. This would be a serious matter concerning any Bill, but on this Bill, when time and again the right hon. and learned Gentleman has expansively said that this, that or the other has been clear from the start, it is a matter of which the Committee should take severe note.
Those who have secret doubts about the whole exercise should take note, because it confirms that the Government do not know what they are about. Alternatively, they know very well, but will not admit, that the Bill is essentially undemocratic in the way that it is drafted and is being defended in debate.
The third point concerns a new legal machine which I believe has been constructed by the provisions of Clause 1. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) said, it joins, as it were the statutory pipeline from Europe to the shores of this country. We are taking aboard neat European legislation discussed and produced in a European way. 688 I have no quarrel with that. Colleagues in France and Germany may find the Commission and the EEC very much to their liking. I have no doubt that the EEC legislation and documents are perfectly compatible. However, it is clear from Clause 1 that we have to take this pipeline and put it into our statutory bloodstream. I hesitate to recall the difficulties which we have had with drip and blood transfusions, but that is the principle which we are now adopting in Clause 1. These great volumes which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has brought into the Chamber on occasions will decorate the courts of this country.
During the debate the Solicitor-General made it clear, on a concession, that if we liked it would be possible for this House to legislate. He was forced into a corner, and he admitted that. If that is so, why could we not have had what I have called a conversion machinery for all the legislation? With that we could have converted—it may be without much choice—that European legislation into our own customary statutory form. There would have been nothing wrong with that.
I now turn to what constitutes an international agreement. Under subsection (4), there is this new law-making machine of saying that any international agreement which is deemed as such by the Government can become part of the law of this country. Again on vital matters the Solicitor-General seems to be vague. On 15th March I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the exchange of letters on the matter of the agreement between countries concerning a system of fixing Community farm prices constituted an international agreement. It was an exchange of letters which fixed the procedure for making farm prices. Nobody in the House could underestimate the importance of such a procedure. Farm prices will be a vital part of the EEC negotiations, and there was an exchange of letters on the ground rules for these negotiations.
I asked the Solicitor-General whether this would be an international agreement and, on my reading of his reply, the Solicitor-General did not know. That is not surprising because, in talking about 689 the exchange of letters the right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that they may or may not constitute an inter-agreement. If we are to have such vague definitions of what constitutes an international agreement on such a vital matter as the ground rules for the decisions about what farm prices should be, and if the Solicitor-General does not even know that, what sort of legislative assembly is this? I do not think that this would stand up to academic investigation for one moment.
I wish to draw to the attention of the Committee a point that has been overlooked so far in our deliberations on the Clause. Time and again when I have opened my newspaper in the morning after our deliberations I have seen something like "Rippon says there are plenty of safeguards". We have heard about the safeguards of an Order in Council, of debates in this House, and of one thing and another. We have heard about the safeguard of the unanimity rule, or the veto, or the Luxembourg Agreement, or Luxembourg disagreement depending on what hon. Members like to call it.
I thought that it would be right to draw the attention of the Committee to a Question that I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 21st March. I asked whether he could give the origin of these procedures. We know that it was in the Luxembourg Agreement, but I asked for the origin of it because in the White Paper, Cmnd. 4715 the Government said:On a question where a Government considers that vital national interests are involved, it is established that the decision should be unanimous.We know that it is not established in the treaties. It is not in the 110 or so treaties which constitute the new statutory agreements to which we are to be subject.
I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman where this originated, and this is what he said:The statement in paragraph 29 of Cmnd. 4715 is based on a communiqué issued on 29th January, 1966, after a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community. It also reflects the practice of the Council of Ministers since that date. The relevant passage of this communiqué states that: Where, in the case of decisions which may be taken by majority vote on a proposal of the Commission, very important interests of one or more partners are at stake, the Members of the Council will endeavour, within a reasonable time, to reach solutions which can be 690 adopted by all the Members of the Council while respecting their mutual interests and those of the Community, in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty."—[Official Report, 21st March, 1972; Vol. 833, c. 324.]There is nothing there about a veto or unanimity. When it refers to endeavouring to reach solutions which can be adopted by all members of the Council within a reasonable time, it is only saying what any and every legislative body would say. This is no safeguard or veto. It is the sort of of twaddle to which we have been subjected from the Government. If I am wrong, perhaps the Lord Advocate will contradict me.
I trust that hon. Members will find it impossible to vote "Aye" in the Lobby for the Clause, for it seems that the Government have hardly any credibility in defending this miserable provision which is badly drafted, badly presented and rotten to the core in terms of the democracy in which we believe.
§ Mr. Deakins
I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) will allow me to come later to the point he raised about the status of the Luxembourg Agreement—or, more accurately, the Luxembourg disagreement.
Although I have spoken on many occasions in the discussions on the Amendments leading up to the Clause stand part debate, I rise with some diffidence at this stage because of the extremely high calibre of the contributions—from, for example, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith)—on the Clause. I am not sure that my talents enable me to emulate them.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made a telling point at an earlier stage when he said that the House of Commons was always at its best when considering the detailed provisions of a Bill rather than when debating broad general issues. Proof of that is the fact that I cannot remember any of the speeches that were made in the six-day debate last October, yet I am sure that for many months I shall remember several of the speeches that have been made in this debate.
691 I shall not repeat the major arguments against Common Market entry—for instance, superior legislation taking precedence in this country, and so on. I address my remarks to those hon. Members, if any, who may be in some doubt as to which way to vote on the Clause, and who have not had the educational benefit of regular attendance at our proceedings in the detailed discussion on each line of the Clause. I wish to make four brief points on the content of the Clause, and not on the broader issues—although I am tempted to do so.
My first point relates to subsection (4), which is part of this grand interpretation Clause, the subsection dealing with the definition of "treaty", which includes "international agreement" for the first time, I think, in British constitutional practice. In future a treaty will no longer be merely a treaty as we have always understood that word; it will be any form of international agreement.
One could say that there was nothing vague about that. But, although the wording may seem to be quite precise, as recently as yesterday the Government told us, in resisting Amendment No. 200 which asked that the treaties be listed in Schedule 1, that they could not do that because, among other reasons, they might include in that list of treaties one which was not technically a treaty within the meaning of the Clause or that they may omit one which was technically a treaty within the meaning of the Clause. If that is not vague and imprecise, I do not know what is. For that reason alone, the Clause ought to be re-drafted.
If we pass the Clause as it is, we shall have failed in our duty to ensure that our legislation is clear, precise and admits of no misunderstanding, not only for the courts of law which have to interpret it but also for business men who will no doubt be affected by many of the Community provisions, and, above all, for the ordinary citizen.
My second reason for pointing out the deficiency of the Clause has already been alluded to. It concerns the new parliamentary procedures in subsection (3). No one on this side of the Committee, including pro-Marketeers, would accept that it is sufficient safeguard that we should have the power of rejection of a new 692 Community treaty only by rejecting an affirmative Resolution. We have been told—but it is not part of the Bill—that if it were a major new treaty on, perhaps, economic and monetary union or the setting up of a federal parliament, the Government of the day would inevitably have to enact that. That means that a future Government would have to defy the particular provision of subsection (3).
Be that as it may, it is a very unsatisfactory position. It is even more unsatisfactory that the additional safeguard proposed, some sort of ad hoc Select Committee, has not been included in subsection (3). It may or may not be a safeguard. In the opinion of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, it could not possibly be a safeguard. The Government cannot reply, "The constitutional functions of that committee have not yet been agreed," because we could have put in a form of words which would have left the precise functions to a later stage.
My third reason for resisting the Clause is connected with the Luxembourg Agreement, or disagreement, of 1966. Here I follow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Acton. Article 148 of the Treaty of Rome is part of the statute law of the Community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham, whose point of view would, I think, be shared by the Treasury Bench, asserted that the Luxembourg Agreement—or disagreement, as I prefer to call it—is part of the common law and practice of the Community. Let us assume that that is true. There is, then, on the Statute Book a conflict between the Statute law of the Treaty of Rome and the common law of the Luxembourg disagreement.
The interpretation of any conflict is a matter for the British courts, as I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree. It is surely a fact—I speak as a non-lawyer and am, therefore, open to correction—that in any conflict between our common law and a precise Statute law the courts will always give precedence to the Statute law, on the grounds that the Statute law usually follows, in some cases perhaps many centuries after, the original common law 693 and for that reason, if for no other, must be considered to take precedence.
That means that if this issue were to be tested in the courts it would not be the practice of the Community which would be supreme; it would be Article 148 of the Treaty. No matter what statements had been made by Government Ministers—my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham could be included in that—they would not have much impact on the courts.
§ Mr. Maclennan
If the Luxembourg Agreement or disagreement is invoked, there is no Community regulation which would ever come before a court of law in Britain. Therefore, this dilemma which my hon. Friend sees would disappear.
§ Mr. Deakins
The EEC court, as well as the British courts, must interpret the Treaty of Rome. So must those who operate under the secondary legislation which stems from the Treaty of Rome. It is open to anyone to say, "This ought not to have been passed by the Council of Ministers in the way that it was, because it conflicts with the Treaty of Rome." In those circumstances, it would be no defence for someone to say, either before a British court or before the European court, that this particular defence was available.
My last point concerns the interpretation of Clause 1 and, indeed, of the whole Bill. Clause 1 states—or tries to insist—that it is an interpretation Clause, but it gives no guidance to the British courts as to how they are to interpret Community treaties or Community secondary legislation. I am well aware that the wording of Clause 3(1) which is not—I repeat "not"—entitled an interpretation Clause is:For the purposes of all legal proceedings any question as to the meaning or effect of any of the Treaties…shall be…dealt with in a certain way. I submit that the words "meaning or effect" do not cover the precise point of interpretation. If they did, the word "interpretation" would have been put alongside the subsection by the parliamentary draftsmen.
This will make it very difficult for the courts to interpret what Community legislation means. Indeed, anybody who has read through the 42 volumes of secondary legislation and the 10 volumes 694 of Community treaties will be well aware of how vague this legislation is which is now to become part of British law. I give one very important example. The Hague Agreement of December, 1969, which is an international agreement, by virtue of Clause 1(4) becomes a treaty which is part of the law of this country. There is a sentence in this treaty relating to the desires of the Governments there assembled to work towards a "United Europe". I will give the exact reference if it is wanted. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I will not be tempted by my right hon. and learned Friends into arguing about a united Europe or federalism. I should welcome an opportunity so to do, but I shall make myself very unpopular if I pursue that point now. I refrain from doing so, not from any reluctance or inability to do so, but because of the time factor. I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends that if they continue to attend the proceedings of the Committee I shall deal with the point without giving quarter.
The point I am making is that the interpretation of the words "movement towards a United Europe" would be a matter for the British courts; and, indeed, it is a matter for politicians. But we have been given no guidance by the Government on this point.
My conclusion is that those hon. and right hon. Members who have a great love for this House cannot genuinely at the same time have a love for the Common Market. The two affections are incompatible. I hope, therefore, that those who love this House above all else will reject Clause 1 for the reasons I have given.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I will seek to detain the House only for a few minutes because I do not wish greatly to extend the debate. Most of the points I wished to make in answer to my hon. Friends or enemies who argued in the debate have been effectively made by others of my hon. Friends. I shall therefore be brief. But I cannot refrain from returning to the arguments which some of my hon. Friends have had with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), whom I certainly welcome to our debates. This is what the House of Commons is for, not only for debates across the Floor but for debates where hon. Members represent 695 different views inside political parties. I therefore welcome my right hon. Friend and his contribution to debate. However much I believe that, what my right hon. Friend did today was to use his brilliant talents to darken knowledge, if the House were to accept what he was proposing and if the country were to believe what he said.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend was seeking to tell the truth, but I did not think that he was succeeding, and that is not his normal custom. I intend to indicate lines on which I hold that view.
My right hon. Friend insists that sovereignty remains in this House and seems to make that insistence on the basis that if a decision to set up some kind of authority or to make some law derives originally from this House, and this House retains some last resort power to recover that power which it may have yielded, then there will be no breach in the legal sovereignty of this House.
Let me make this supposition: suppose that this House were to decide, with the provision that I have stated—that after, say, three months or six months, or a year, it could, by resolution recover the power it surrendered—that it would say, "We will surrender all power to legislate, powers of Statutory Instrument, powers of Orders in Council, all powers—to some one man who might think himself capable of discharging all those functions—Lord Robens, shall we say—then my right hon. Friend would argue that because that decision derived from the House in the first place, and because the House had the power to recover its powers if it wished, it would not amount to any removal of sovereign powers from this House.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I did not exactly say that. It would be a lunatic act, and I do not now refer to Lord Robens. It would be a lunatic and repulsive act to delegate all power even to me, for example, but it would not change the sovereignty situation. Sovereignty is retained in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand my right hon. Friend. He should also understand that when hon. Members reply, they should be allowed to put the argument 696 consecutively for a few minutes and that he should not punctuate the debate as a toll gate so that we have to pay toll to him before we succeed in getting in. I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow me to pay my due and pass on.
It may be that even if we did that it would be no surrender of our legal sovereignty. But if that is the form in which he uses the name of legal sovereignty, it does not mean very much. In substance, such an act by the House would be an immense transference of powers away from the House to the other body or person to whom they were surrendered. In my opinion a major matter would be at stake, whether it was called legal sovereignty or not.
My right hon. Friend went on to the second part of the argument. Having disposed of this legal question by what I believe to be quibble, he proceeded to say that all the rest of these matters were merely matters of judgment, that there was nothing original, nothing new, nothing fresh or different about what was proposed in the Bill and in the allegiance to the Community.
But this is where I believe my right hon. Friend is so grossly misleading in what he says. The transference of power away from the House to other irresponsible and undemocratic bodies is different from that which the House has contemplated at any other time, so far as I can recall. There will be the transference of power over future taxation, the decision of the House here and now that we shall decide that in 1980 and 1990 we shall be committed, subject to the revocation of the whole of this apparatus, to a value-added tax. I am glad that my hon. and right hon. Friends detest that tax strongly and will march shoulder to shoulder through the lobbies to contest it during the months ahead, although we must have such a tax in order to get into the Community. My hon. and right hon. Friends will have to explain that inconsistency when we come to the time, and I shall be happy to listen to their explanations. To say that transference is similar to the transference we would undertake in any case seems to me a misuse of language.
It is not only a question of taxation, as has been proved in the debates on Clause 1. The Clause transfers the 697 legislative power away from the House on a scale that we have never previously contemplated, and perhaps even on a scale that the Government did not realise. The Lord Advocate shakes his head, but the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is not quite so certain. I say this partly because of my well-known charitable nature and partly also because I have listened to what has been said in the debate. At the end of some of our debates the Solicitor-General, in order to escape from the illogical dilemmas in which he found himself enmeshed, said that if we did not like what was in Clause 1, if we did not find the affirmative Resolution procedure satisfactory for dealing with these matters, there were other parliamentary devices which could be used.
We said, very naturally, to the Government, "If there are other alternative procedures for dealing with these matters, why not put them in the Clause? If there are Acts that can deal with some of these measures, why not state it in the Clause?" We invited the Government to do so. We put down Amendments for that purpose. They were all rejected. So although we might say that the Government were innocent when they introduced the Bill in not recognising the scale of the change in the legislative process that was to be contemplated, they cannot be innocent at the end, because once the argument had been presented to them they still rejected it.
I have always said in the House that anybody would be a fool who did not respect the opinions and the sincerity of those who express the view of my right hon. Friend. But we on this side are entitled to ask that they should give their minds to the consideration of the Bill, that in our future debates they should tell us whether they agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson), when he described the Bill yesterday as a brief and brutal Bill. If it is a much more brutal Bill than ever a Labour Government would have introduced to try to secure these purposes, let them debate these matters and see where we go.
I believe that if my right hon. and hon. Friends had been willing to come and listen to these debates on the Bill 698 they would have been horrified at what has been proposed. They would have been outraged. I think they would have learnt something they have denied in recent weeks, that some of us have done our best to concentrate our attention on the nature of the Bill. I am not arguing that there is not something inherent in entry into the European Community to which I object. But there have been additions to the Bill. That is the argument we have had with the Government. I can prove it to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who looks as if he wants to interrupt. Perhaps I can make his interruption superfluous. Owing to the ruling of the Chair——.If the hon. and learned Gentleman prefers to interrupt, I am happy to give way.
§ Mr. Rippon
I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to say something pertinent, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to do so.
The hon. Member says that some right hon. and hon. Members have been absent from our debates. I think that if they had been present they would have learnt that there is nothing in the Bill in any way contradictory to what was said by a Labour Lord Chancellor on 8th May, 1967, and contained in the Labour Government's White Paper on legal and constitutional implications. It may be a brutal Bill. I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smiith) called it—[Interruption.] He did not call it wicked. My right hon. and learned Friend said it was an honest Bill. He said that it was perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Foot
I am not arguing at this moment, though I am prepared to argue, as we have, that it is not sufficient for Ministers, in order to defend their Bill, to go back to the legal implications of the White Paper of 1967. What I can prove beyond all argument is that this Bill in many particulars goes far beyond what is necessary to secure entry into the Common Market. It takes liberties 699 or licence with the procedures of the House in a manner which goes far beyond what is reasonable. That is proved not by me or by any Opposition spokesman in this debate but by the Chair. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not fully appreciated the argument about the ruling of the Chair. Once the Chair laid down at the beginning of our debates that the only Amendments which could be called were the so-called nuts and bolts Amendments and that we were not entitled to get at the Treaty of Accession itself, the matter was made clear for all to see. It was a doctrine which I disputed. I thought that the Chairman of Ways and Means was wrong in his judgment, and we moved a Motion of censure on the Chair on that account. But I am not reopening that argument. I am drawing the deduction from the decision.
The Chair laid down at the outset that every Amendment to Clause 1 which has been selected, and to the other Clauses, too, for that matter, could properly be passed by the House and still the Bill could be compatible with the treaties signed by the Government. If that were not so, one could only conclude that the Chair has allowed us to debate Amendments which were out of order, and I am sure that the Chairman of Ways and Means would not be guilty of any such delinquency.
Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman need not take it from me, and my right hon. Friends the Members for Dundee, East and for Manchester, Cheetham, who have been so worried about these matters, can vote for all our Amendments with an absolutely clear conscience. They do not offend their fastidious principles in any way.
Some question was raised by one of my right hon. Friends on another occasion about not liking the idea of going into the Lobby to vote for Amendments moved by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I know how fastidious they are about where they vote. But I know, also, how carefully they examine these questions. They need not worry. The Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman was 700 fully compatible with entry into the Common Market. The authority for that rests with the Chair.
I have always held the view that entry into the Common Market would be contrary to the interests of the British people, contrary to the best interests of our democracy, and contrary to the best ideas of democratic Socialism. But it is not on that basis that I have sought to lead the Opposition against the Bill in the House. That was not the commission which I was given. I was given the commission by my party, by the party meeting, and by the leader of my party, to conduct the fight on the basis of what has been laid down by the Labour Party.
Therefore, although we all know that different views are held about entry or non-entry into the Common Market, I find it rather strange that some of my right hon. Friends did not realise what had been happening. I could only conclude that the reason for that misunderstanding was that they had not been attending our debates. Now that they have decided to do so and things have turned out the way they have, perhaps we shall be able to resolve these questions, and they will be able to go into the Lobbies in future to assist us, even when there is a danger of defeating the Government.
§ Mr. George Thomson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his warm welcoe to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) and myself to the debates. Our absence from them was due, as is, I think, generally recognised, to our enforced silence until this moment. My hon. Friend has said that he was charged with a certain duty by the leader of the party and by the party generally. As we understood it, the duty was to state to the House that the Opposition remain in principle in favour of entering the European Economic Community but against the terms negotiated by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
My hon. Friend has been kind enough to quote more than once the phrase I used yesterday to the effect that the Bill is briefer and more brutal than the Bill which a Labour Government would have introduced. He did not go on to quote what I said thereafter, that this may be 701 due to the fact that the present Government face a different parliamentary situation from that which a Labour Government might have faced.
I respect my hon. Friend as a great parliamentarian, and I am more than ready to join with him in his opposition to the particular means which the Government may take regarding implementing Britain's accession to the Treaty of Rome. But I ask him to state unequivocally from that Front Bench, quite apart from the question of the economic terms, on which we disagree, whether he is against the degree of surrender of sovereignty and the subordination of our legislation inherent in entry when we were the Government.
§ Mr. Foot
My right hon. Friend knows my view. It has been clearly stated, as his has been, throughout. There is no point or intelligence in my trying to deceive the Committee, because it knows my position. When the application was made in 1967, I voted against it. I believed then and still believe that entry into the Common Market on these terms and the acceptance of these institutions in the unqualified manner proposed involved the danger of an infringement of the rights of decision-making by the House. I have not altered my view. If my right hon. Friend says, therefore, that on that account I am disqualified from speaking from this bench on behalf of my party, he must consult the other members of the party to see what the situation is. Considerable latitude was allowed to him and others of my right hon. and hon. Friends who took what may be an extreme view on this subject. I propose to continue on the course of trying to state to the Committee my views and to perform that function in a manner which conforms also to the rights and claims and official policy of the party to which I am proud to belong. I hope that he understands that as well.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
Does my hon. Friend think that the terms in which he invited my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) and I to vote with the party tonight were in conformity with the general encouragement to unity in which he invited us to vote even at the risk of bringing down the Government?
§ Mr. Foot
If my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham, and 702 my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East, consider the terms in which they addressed the Committee yesterday and again today, they must understand that other members of the Labour Party have the right to reply to what they said. I do not believe anyone has the right to complain of the manner in which I have replied to them. I have replied to them in a spirit of good temper, but I have the right to reply, because accusations have been made to which we are entitled to state our retort. The Labour Party officially believes that the dangers of entry on the terms agreed by the Government are greatly heightened by the nature of the Bill, which we have sought to modify by every form of Amendment, which the Government have consistently rejected.
This Clause, which does not state clearly what it is about, suppresses realities. It pretends that the affirmative Resolution procedure is a proper protection for dealing with huge legislative matters, when already the House of Commons is unable to deal with many such matters in this way. At the same time we are to entrust the future decision-making powers of the House, with no protection except in certain circumstances, to the affirmative Resolution procedure which derives us of the effective legislative power which the House has held for generations.
After all these discussions and arguments from all sides of the Committee, the Government still maintain that this Clause is so accurate, so infallible that they will not alter a comma or a subsection. They will not examine any matter; they will not include the names of the treaties. For the Government to treat the Committee in this manner on a Bill of this significance is an offence against the whole spirit of Parliament.
To end on a happier note, we have the comments of the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), who added to the gaiety of the occasion by saying that he thought that one of the causes of all this trouble about the full-hearted consent which we were supposed to have for this Measure, but which we have not got, was the fact that the Prime Minister was the prisoner of his own 703 rhetoric. If I thought of the Prime Minister being a prisoner of anything, then if that is the case, these are slender bonds indeed!
Often when I hear the Prime Minister talking on this subject of full-hearted consent, it seems that on this matter he is most on the defensive. He hates to have the question raised. He thinks almost that it is an indecency for anyone to recite these words. Whenever it happens, he summons up all his great resources of self-righteousness, gives a passable imitation of Lord Long ford setting off to do good deeds in darkest Soho and turns on us as if it were an outrage that we should raise such a question. Now we have the explanation: it was not because the Prime Minister was cal-
§ culating that these words might assist him to get a few votes—not him. He was not trying to squeeze this question of full-hearted consent in between pledges about prices and unemployment. Nothing of the sort. No, it is just because it was one of those occasions when the Prime Minister's words ran away with him, when he did not know where they were carrying him! As a result, the Conservative Party committed itself to the extraordinary proposition that the people should be consulted. But he did not mean it. On that happy note, I hope that we can all go into the Lobby and vote against the Clause.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 152, Noes 135.705
|Division No. 136.]||AYES||1.48 a.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Haselhurst, Alan||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hastings, Stephen||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Awdry, Daniel||Havers, Michael||Raison, Timothy|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Redmond, Robert|
|Batsford, Brian||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Holt, Miss Mary||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Benyon, W.||Hornby, Richard||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Boscawen, Robert||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Bowden, Andrew||Jessel, Toby||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Jopling, Michael||Rost, Peter|
|Bryan, Paul||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Burden, F. A.||Kinsey, J. R.||Sharples, Richard|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Kitson, Timothy||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Knox, David||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Lane, David||Soref, Harold|
|Churchill, W. S.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Speed, Keith|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Spence, John|
|Clegg, Walter||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sproat, Iain|
|Cooke, Robert||Longden, Sir Gilbert||Stainton, Keith|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Loveridge, John||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cormack, Patrick||Luce, R. N.||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Costain, A. P.||MacArthur, Ian||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Critchley, Julian||McCrindle, R. A.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Crouch, David||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen.James||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Dixon, Piers||Madel, David||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Mather, Carol||Tebbit, Norman|
|Eden, Sir John||Maude, Angus||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Tilney, John|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Miscampbell, Norman||Waddington, David|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Fowler, Norman||Money, Ernle||Wall, Patrick|
|Fox, Marcus||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Monro, Hector||Warren, Kenneth|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Montgomery, Fergus||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||More, Jasper||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Wilkinson, John|
|Gower, Raymond||Morrison, Charles||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gray, Hamish||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Green, Alan||Neave, Airey||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Normanton, Tom||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grylls, Michael||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gummer, Selwyn||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Oscar Murton and|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Mr. Paul Hawkins.|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Horam, John||Oakes, Gordon|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Atkinson, Norman||Huckfield, Leslie||O'Malley, Brian|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Orme, Stanley|
|Baxter, William||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bennett, James(Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Paget, R. T.|
|Biffen, John||Hunter, Adam||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Body, Richard||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Booth, Albert||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Buchan, Norman||John, Brynmor||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Carmichael, Nell||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Rowlands, Edward|
|Carter, Ray(Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kerr, Russell||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Coleman, Donald||Kinnock, Neil||Roper, John|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lamond, James||Rose, Paul B.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Leonard, Dick||Ross,Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Sandelson, Neville|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Loughlin, Charles||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton.N.E.)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McElhone, Frank||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Small, William|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Maclennan, Robert||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Deakins, Eric||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Spearing, Nigel|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||McNamara, J. Kevin||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Dempsey, James||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Strang, Gavin|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marks, Kenneth||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Marsden, F.||Tinn, James|
|Dunnett, Jack||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Torney, Tom|
|Eadie, Alex||Marten, Neil||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|English, Michael||Meacher, Michael||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Ewing, Henry||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Mendelson, John||Watkins, David|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mikardo, Ian||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Millan, Bruce||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Foot, Michael||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Milne, Edward||Wilson, William (Coventry S.)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen||Woof, Robert|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Moate, Roger|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Molyneaux, James||TELLERS FORTHE NOES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Hamling, William||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Mr. John Golding.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Murray, Ronald King|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Rippon.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.