§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [15th February.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Davies)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in introducing this Bill yesterday, outlined the basis upon which it had been drawn and refuted squarely those who seek to represent it as a kind of legal conjuring trick devised to circumvent the proper processes of Parliament. I have no need, and do not intend, to traverse again the ground he covered, but I will recall the essential philosophy that underlies the Bill.
First of all, it assents to the principle already clearly accepted in 1967 by the Labour Party that the substantial body of Community law which is directly applicable in member States should be applied here. Second, it provides in specific terms for those major changes to existing British law, including repeals and amendments where required, to be made on accession or quickly thereafter. Third, it creates means to implement and supplement Community instruments requiring positive legislative action by member States arising on or shortly after entry. Subordinate legislation has been reserved for issues which are in every case of lesser weight, the benefit of the doubt having been given to specific provisions in this Bill whenever some measure of doubt existed.
It is to be noted that the whole body of regulation, directive and decision emanating from the Communities during their lives is focused upon the economic issues confronting their members collectively and severally. We are dealing here not with a wide range of social and personal legislation but with down-to-earth economic issues, no less important for that but rarely of a kind directly to affect the individual in the conduct of his daily life. I do not pretend that the provisions herein are ones which, in fact, 444 do not have a very real impact upon the individual. I say that these provisions are of an economic kind, which broadly affect the country as a whole and thereby the individual. This Bill, in short, does what is necessary, without elaboration but without short cuts, to bring our body of law into harmony with the Community where existing agreement requires it to be so at the time of accession or soon afterwards. By virtue of these provisions, we not only undertake the obligations which we have agreed in negotiation, we also acquire the rights to which membership entitles us.
As regards the future, the Bill gives effect to future Community legislation directly applicable in member States in whose preparation and development, it is to be recalled, we will have played our full part. It puts us in a position to deal in subordinate legislation, but not exclusively in subordinate legislation, with Community instruments which will require us to take legislative action.
It is evident that in so far as essential primary legislation is concerned, our future measures submitted for the approval of Parliament will have been drafted to take account of Community conclusions in the matters concerned, conclusions in which, I repeat, we will have played our full part.
I apologise for what may appear to be a somewhat tedious rehearsal of matters already covered in my right hon. and learned Friend's speech yesterday, but I was anxious to set the framework within which I might come down from the heights of the philosophical content of the Bill to the rather more gritty details, and notably those which deliberately affect my responsibilities in Government.
Looking, first, at those parts of the Treaties which are directly applicable in member States, many of the provisions of the E.C.S.C. Treaty and some of the provisions of the Euratom Treaty fall into this class. For example, Article 65 of the E.C.S.C. Treaty, which establishes the Community law on agreements tending to distort, restrict or prevent normal competition in the coal and steel sphere, and Article 66 which provides for the control of mergers.
As far as the E.E.C. Treaty is concerned, there is not a great deal which is directly applicable which comes into 445 my sphere. None the less, Articles 85 and 86 are important, dealing, as they do, with restrictive trade practices which may affect trade between member States. Here again, we are dealing with nothing new. All these provisions have been there for a very long time, and it has always been known that accession to the Communities involved their adoption as they stood.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
These provisions have been the law over there, but not here. That is new.
§ Mr. Davies
It was always recognised in every negotiation that these specific provisions would have to be imported into our own arrangements.
Clause 2(1), which brings these provisions of the Treaties into effect as far as we are concerned, also provides for the directly applicable secondary legislation of the Communities to apply in this country. Again, the impact of such provisions upon my Department's responsibilities is not very extensive; much more affects agriculture, about which my right hon. Friend will doubtless be speaking this evening.
However, a sphere of great importance concerns the regulations imposing the common customs tariff and providing for its administration. With still earlier effect will be the assumption of E.E.C. Regulation 17 and subsequent related regulations which give practical effect to the rules of competition set out in Articles 85 and 86 of the E.E.C. Treaty, to which I have already referred.
Of still a separate kind are the regulations concerning commercial policy—for example, covering liberalisation quota lists—which, although of direct application, usually call for action only by the Government themselves.
In the field of the E.C.S.C. Treaty, legislation directly applicable to us concerns pricing arrangements, merger controls and the provision of information. As for Euratom, these are items of somewhat less significance covering such matters as the security of Euratom information and reporting on nuclear investment projects.
Next, I come to those Community provisions when we are required ourselves to legislate to meet our obligations. The provisions of Part II of the Bill propose specific changes in our law to reflect Community requirements.
446 Clause 5, taken with Schedule 3, makes full statutory provision to enable us to move towards, and eventually adopt, the full operation of the common customs tariff. These provisions reflect our agreement with the Community that the tariff changes during the transitional period will be made under United Kingdom legislation in accordance with the timetable we have negotiated.
Clause 8 removes discrimination on grounds of nationality in our existing legislation against Community film makers, and it provides that the films of member States will be treated in the same way as British films for the purposes of the screen quota. We thus comply with the obligations imposed on all member States by directives requiring the removal of restrictions on the right of establishment and the freedom to provide services in the film industry. The practical effect of these changes will in fact be small.
Clause 9 makes changes, some of a detailed kind, to comply with E.E.C. Directive 151 of 1968, the general purpose and effect of which is to give additional protection to persons dealing with companies. These are generally desirable changes. Those relating to the ultra vires doctrine and preincorporation contracts go a long way towards implementing recommendations by the Jenkins' Committee.
Clause 10 deals with restrictive trade practices. Its purpose is to clarify the relationship between United Kingdom and Community legislation. It ensures that the relevant United Kingdom authorities can comply with their Community obligations and that they have sufficient flexibility to avoid actions which could conflict with those obligations. It also saves British firms from being burdened with avoidable duplication of inquiries under the United Kingdom and Community systems. Similar provision is not needed in relation to United Kingdom monopolies and mergers legislation since both the initiation of inquiries and the taking of follow up action under our legislation are in the hands of Ministers who will themselves be under an obligation, by virtue of Clause 2, not to exercise their powers in a way contrary to the Community provisions.
My hon. Friend, the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) asked in the course 447 of the debate yesterday whether the Government had given thought to the implications of entry for new monopolies legislation and, if so, whether this was the reason why the Government's proposals have been held up. The answer to his first question is "Yes". As for his second question, this is not the reason why new legislation has not so far been introduced. The legislation will be introduced as soon as it is ready.
There was also a reference yesterday by the hon. Member for Edmonton to the need for a concerted European policy to control international companies. Existing Community and United Kingdom law are, of course, relevant here. But I must make it clear that we see enlargement as something that will encourage large international companies to establish their European headquarters in the United Kingdom to our advantage.
Clause 12 allows certain statistical information of an economic nature, collected—
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
While this was always one of the strongest arguments for entry on the right terms in relation to the wider market for international companies, will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the situation which has been reached in the computer industry, which was always quoted by many of us as relevant, where there seems to have been a ganging up of continental companies to the exclusion of I.C.L.? Is that on purely technical grounds because of the different kind of style, or does the right hon. Gentleman fear that there may be a continuance of this practice in which international groups on the continent will gang up to the exclusion of quite a large and certainly efficient firm on this side of the Channel?
§ Mr. Davies
The right hon. Gentleman's question relates to something slightly different from the point which I was making. I was referring to the location of the headquarters of international companies coming in from outside and being constituted here. However, the point is of great validity and is certainly worth deep consideration.
In the particular case to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, there has been, as I am sure he knows, a long history of negotiation between our Indus 448 try and that on the continent of Europe. One of the big problems involved has been technical compatibility which has presented both them and us with difficulties. I do not see the present developments in Europe as necessarily a bar to still wider association in future. However, for the time being at least, it is felt that the development of our own computer industry, with all its importance, can be enhanced on its home base without having to reconcile itself to difficulties of technical compatibility in this sphere.
Clause 12 allows certain statistical information of an economic nature, collected under the Statistics of Trade Act, 1947, or the Agriculture Act, 1947, which is subject to limitations on its disclosure under provisions of those Acts, to be disclosed to a Community institution in pursuance of a Community obligation in like manner to its disclosure to a Government Department. Without this provision, it would in some cases be necessary to issue a separate statutory requirement to a business firm asking on behalf of the Community for information which the firm had already supplied to the Government under existing powers.
What, in brief, we are concerned with here is statistical information which could, for example, because of the small number of producers of a particular commodity. disclose the affairs of an individual undertaking. Community institutions protect such information in much the same way as Government Departments.
Part I of Schedule 3 and parts A(i) and A(ii) of Schedule 4 complete the legislative measures which are necessary in respect of customs duties and the tariff implications of entry. Part IV of Schedule 3 includes repeals which are necessary to make our legislation compatible with the obligations imposed on us by the E.C.S.C. Treaty. These are the abolition of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council and of the Iron and Steel Consumers' Council and changes in the duties of the domestic Coal Consumers' Council so that it will become an advisory body, repeal of the Ministerial power to control investment in the private steelmaking industry and repeal of the Ministerial power to hear complaints by the private sector against the marketing practices of the British 449 Steel Corporation. It will be noticed that there is no specific reference to the Ministerial power to give general directions to the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation, a power which, as was pointed out in the July, 1971, White Paper, will have to be modified.
The required modification is covered by a general provision in Clause 2(2) read in the context of our treaty obligations. The relevant words in Clause 2(2) are:…in the exercise of any statutory power…including any power to give directions…the person entrusted with the power may have regard to the objects of Communities and to any such obligation or rights as aforesaid".This provision, in conjunction with our obligations to comply with Community law, provides for the power of general direction not to be used in a way incompatible with our E.C.S.C. Treaty obligations.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that the impact upon individual citizens in the United Kingdom will be only indirect, through matters applying to the country and not directly falling upon any individual. Is it not rather strange that this major change, which will directly affect the livelihood and the future prospects of every steel worker in this country, should be hidden away in this general Clause? Is it not absolutely essential that this should be subject to special legislation?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman will perhaps recognise that I have not sought to conceal the means by which this is to be attained, but it is attained perfectly effectively within the framework of the law as put before the House. What I said earlier was that these provisions were of a general economic kind which might indeed have an impact upon individuals, but that they were not of a specific and social kind which affected them in the normal conduct of their lives. I am sure that this is correct.
This modification of the use of the power to give general directions does not affect my ability to continue to make appointments to the boards or to exercise the power to approve the general lines of investment or to authorise borrowing. The boards will continue to submit to me their annual reports and 450 accounts, and I shall lay them before Parliament.
The essential framework of the industries' accountability to Parliament and the public will therefore remain intact. Nor, of course, will the modification in any way affect the control of location of new plants by industrial development certificates.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
Is it not correct that there is a provision in the treaty for the charging of the transport costs of finished steel? Will this not have a very important effect on the location factor?
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, but this is entirely within the framework of the discussions which the British Steel Corporation and private steel makers, to the extent that they are involved, will have with the Community. It is up to them to make their decision about basing points and, therefore, to observe the related transport provisions. So this does not undermine their capacity effectively to price their goods in accordance with their own best marketing practice.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
To help us to get this matter clear, because it is important, since the right hon. Gentleman is interpreting Clause 2(2) for us, does what he is saying mean that some of the powers which he at present enjoys it will no longer be appropriate for him to exercise, because they will be in conflict with the rules of the E.C.S.C.? How are we to know, how is the industry to know and how are all those people who are concerned with steel to know which of his powers are capable in future of being exercised and which he will have to abandon? Surely this is the whole point, that in this manner of dealing with these changes no one knows what results he intends.
§ Mr. Davies
If that is so, how is it that the right hon. Gentleman was apparently in ignorance at the time when his Government were making these negotiations, of the terms of direction which would remain to him? Under Clause 2 I am required to interpret the provisions of the Statute in this respect in relation to my broad acceptance of Community requirements. I shall do so. The Community requirements are clearly stated. The provisions of the treaty are there 451 and I shall, therefore, have to exercise all the rights I have of direction within that framework. This is, clearly, a provision of Clause 2. There is nothing particularly complicated. Certainly nothing is concealed in this legislation for dealing with that.
I now want to turn to regional policy. There is nothing in the Bill on this subject, for the simple reason that there does not need to be. There is no need, in order to comply with our obligations under the negotiations, to include anything in the Bill on the subject of regional policy. But that does not mean that we are not giving deep thought to the development of regional policy in the context of entering Europe.
The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) asked yesterday what proposals we had for a European regional policy. This is certainly a subject on which we propose to concentrate in the enlarged Community. At present, the existing Communities' regional policies have not advanced very far, as the hon. Member knows, although the Six are very conscious of the special needs of underdeveloped regions. The Treaty of Rome specifically refers to the reduction of differences between various regions as one of the aims of the Community and to the needs of areas suffering serious underemployment. As members of the enlarged Community, we shall devote a major effort to the development of Community regional policies, which take fully into account the problems of older industrial areas such as our own development areas, as well as the needs of outlying under-populated regions.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
The right hon. Gentleman is on a very important point. Will he confirm that no policy pursued by the previous Government or by this Government would be debarred by any of the provisions of the Treaty of Rome or the Instrument of Accession? Can he give such a categoric assurance?
§ Mr. Davies
I cannot answer for the provisions of the previous Government. I can answer for the provisions of this Government, in which there are material changes since those of the last Government, but no doubt some clarification can be given. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a recent provision 452 of the Community in relation to the maximum disparity between certain incentives which can be given for the central areas in order to encourage investment. On entering the Community, we shall, clearly, require to negotiate what is meant by "central areas" as regards this country, and we shall then have to see whether the kinds of incentives which exist in this country, and the extent of them, are likely to be caught by the definitions of "central areas" which are eventually arrived at. We cannot know as yet what the definition of "central areas" is because we have not completed the negotiations.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
Should not the right hon. Gentleman have got this cleared up before introducing the Bill?
§ Mr. Davies
That would have been impossible—[Interruption.]—because the Community itself would not have been capable of completing the discussion. However, the matter is very much in our minds and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that my concern is as great as his. We wish to ensure that in all areas where we deem it necessary to see that adequate incentives are available for the encouragement of industry, such matters would not be debarred or resisted within the Community. I therefore think I can say that, subject to the conclusion of the negotiations, I can give a positive answer on this issue, but clearly the negotiations must first be completed.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
The right hon. Gentleman has already indulged in a great deal of technical talk—what one might call Euro-jargon. Is he aware that the British people are entitled to have this matter explained in plain words?
§ Mr. Davies
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should say that, because I find myself an infant in terms of legal jargon and have to interpret these matters first for my own benefit. I always hope by that means to arrive at language which is, broadly speaking, comprehensible to others. I regret very much that the hon. Gentleman should think that I have failed in that endeavour.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
I appreciate the Minister's difficulty in being able to make a categorical 453 statement about how we will bring our development areas into unison with similar parts of the Community. However, does he recognise that no I.D.C. or special incentive will be allowed to be given to industrialists to go to a part of the Community's area? In other words, if a person is refused permission to develop in London or Birmingham, there will be nothing in the Articles of Association to oblige him to go to Scotland or any other part of England.
§ Mr. Davies
Nor is there any such power in our existing framework of law for our own industries. It would, therefore, be extraordinary to insert such a provision in the framework of the Community.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
If somebody wishes to start an industry in Birmingham or London we can help to encourage him to develop in a different part of Britain. If we enter the Common Market we will not have the same power.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not believe that to be the case. I answered in a former debate a similar question from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I gave him a categorical assurance which I equally give to the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that this is a matter which should preoccupy him. If I thought otherwise, I would be deeply preoccupied with it myself, which I am not.
§ Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley)
If the provisions of the Treaty of Rome are so benevolent on the question of regional policy, why did the Italian Government have to ask for a special protocol to enable them to carry out the sort of policy they wished to pursue in this context? If it was necessary for the Italian Government to do that, why cannot we do it?
§ Mr. Davies
After a careful study of this point—there is a similar provision in the protocol of agreement for the Republic of Ireland's membership of the Communities—we came to the conclusion that there was no virtue in having such a protocol; that it would add nothing to our rights and powers. We therefore felt that it would be unnecessary to incorporate one.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Further to my right hon. Friend's 454 reference to Ireland, may I ask him for an assurance that, even without such a protocol, we shall be able to offer similar inducements to industry to come to Northern Ireland and that, in particular, we shall be able to safeguard our jobs in Northern Ireland by, for example, preventing an influx of foreign workers?
§ Mr. Davies
The simple answer to my hon. Friend is "Yes".
I have dealt, as comprehensively as time allows, with the legislative changes in the field of trade and industry. But in this mass of detail we must never lose sight of the fundamental purpose of this Bill, which is to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Treaty of Accession and so enter into full membership of the European Communities.
Parliament has already fully debated the principle of entry and has declared in favour of it, on the terms negotiated, in quite unequivocal terms. We have now established a firm balance of payments position. We have resources of manpower and production capacity which we must ensure are fully and effectively used as soon as possible. We have an industry which is overwhelmingly in favour of entry and which is confident of its ability to meet the new challenges and to take full advantage of the new opportunities.
§ Mr. Davies
I feel that I have given way enough. I wish to bring my remarks to an end.
This legislation is not an end in itself. It opens the door to a new and exciting chapter in the long history of this country. I have not the slightest doubt that time will show that through the wholehearted acceptance of our new European future we were able, after many years of frustration, to again realise the full economic potential of this country to the benefit of all its people.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry began by summarising the principles governing the Bill. Unhappily, he did not attempt to show how they are to be applied within, and made to fit into, the corpus of law of this country.
An interesting illustration of the failure of the Bill to do this—I shall come to 455 this subject in greater detail later—is Clause 9, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. This Clause merely lifts a small piece of company law out of its context for the immediate requirements of the Community, whereas we should be looking at company law as a whole.
It is well known that company law is about to be the subject of major codification and that a full Companies Bill is on the way. There was no immediate urgency for this minor amendment to be introduced via Clause 9 at this stage. We have a period of transition. Instead of this piecemeal adoption of an alteration of a little of the law in this way, we need a fundamental review of our company law. Only confusion and distortion of this branch of the law can result from this singling out of a particular item.
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with many of the serious matters that were raised in yesterday's valuable debate, particularly—I say this without criticising the hon. Gentleman personally—as the Minister of State restricted himself to the terms of a very narrow brief indeed in replying last night. Many anxious questions were raised yesterday, not only about constitutional and legal matters, to which I shall come, but about matters like the Government's intention on policy for the regions, if and when we enter the Community.
The right hon. Gentleman touched on the need to think out problems like the definition of "central areas", but should not matters of this sort have been thought out already and Government policy on them decided so that we might know what proposals may be put forward by the Government to the Community?
In this, as in other matters, the Government are inviting Parliament and the people to take too many things on trust. They are asking for a blank cheque without our having any certainty of the use to which the powers which they seek will be put and whether they will be used in the interests of the British people.
One of my main objections to the Bill—and there are many—is that it conceals more than it exposes. Unlike much contemporary fashion, it hides more than it discloses. Entry into the Community will undoubtedly affect seriously the individual lives of every citizen. I thought 456 that the right hon. Gentleman rather underestimated that factor in his speech, not only because it will affect the citizen's economic fate but because in certain respects, as I shall indicate shortly, it will affect him personally, and his rights and, indeed, his freedom. There are provisions for criminal sanctions in the Bill to be introduced by a Minister acting by Statutory Instrument. The measure of the failure of the Bill to tell the House and the people of this country what the Government are doing and what is involved was perhaps most graphically illustrated by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who supports the Bill. He said yesterday:I hope that during this debate…the Government will devote a long time to explaining exactly not merely what obligations we are undertaking but what opportunities we may insist upon, and for whom.That is a remarkable statement that needs to be made by a supporter of the Bill, that he does not know what obligations we are undertaking and what provisions and opportunities we may insist on. He went on to say:because unless this is done much as I approve of the price we are paying"—and we on this side of the House, of course, do not—I do not think it has been sufficiently spelt out. Let there be no hypocrisy"—[Interruption.] Let there be no sneezing.Let there be no hypocrisy, no misunderstanding and no vagueness."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 342.]There is room for all those things, the hypocrisy, the misunderstanding and the vagueness, as a result of the content and the form of the Bill. It is a matter which we shall pursue vigorously in Committee if the House is so foolish as to allow the Bill to reach that stage.
The Bill is of revolutionary importance so far as both the constitutional structure and the law of the country are concerned. The heart of the Bill, Clause 2(1), is dismissed in a few words in the Explanatory Memorandum, yet the Clause not only adopts the Community treaties, hook, line and sinker, the lot of them, but it does not even trouble to list them all, least of all make them annexes to the Bill. I do not know whether the Government hoped that that would reduce Parliamentary discussion of them— 457 we shall see. No fewer than 41 or 42 volumes of law, whatever the number may be, are to be domesticated into the law of England. While most of them, it is true, are small, some are very big and important.
The hon. and learned Member for Darwen referred in particular to that relating to the right of establishment and residence of the nationals of the various member States of the Community. We are not enabled to see how those provisions fit into our domestic law. How, for instance, it will and they will impact on our laws relating to Commonwealth immigrants, and what other consequential Amendments might be made or ought to be made to our law as a result of this and other changes in the Bill, we cannot see because we do not see the changes in the context of our domestic law.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Sir A. Irvine) put it, the Bill fails to spell out the effect of the directly applicable self-executing provisions of the Bill on our existing law or what encroachments they make on our common law. The whole form of the Bill makes it impossible for us to see the changes required in our English law as a result of the adoption of Community law in their settings so as to enable Parliament to make whatever consequential changes Parliament may think desirable. This represents a fundamental failure and fault of the Bill.
What is perhaps more startling is the chasm that the Bill leaves in Parliament's rôle in regard to Community affairs and Community transactions. I think it was Lloyd George who once said that it is unwise to try to traverse a chasm in two leaps. The Bill seeks to traverse that chasm in many leaps, and most of those leaps are consigned to ad hoc committees or to other committees to resolve the Government's problems for them. In relation to the powers and actions of the executive, the citizen of this country is entitled to look to the protection of Parliament and the courts. There is no doubt that changes in Community law will affect our fellow citizens profoundly, yet there is no machinery in the Bill and no mechanism outside the Treaty or elsewhere which, as my hon. and learned Friend 458 the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) pointed out in a powerful speech last night, would allow this Parliament to provide for factual information and to feel that it had a right to get it. As my hon. and learned Friend said, the very least that Parliament and the public should be entitled to is to have the very maximum possible information about why a regulation is thought necessary, how it has been conceived and what it implies.
The House may think, indeed, that it is astonishing, after the months and months that this obsessive Government have had to prepare this legislation, that it was not until yesterday that the Government made a statement as to what arrangements they proposed in regard to the manner in which the House would be apprised of draft regulations and directives before they go to the Council of Ministers for decisions. We would have thought that this was a matter of such importance that the arrangements should have been fully thought out and decided, and that statutory provisions would have been included in the Bill so that Parliament could know clearly where it stood and what its powers are. It is interesting that, for instance, the German Parliament—and Germany has not, after all, been the outstanding example in modern times of zeal for parliamentary government—
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
The German Parliament has insisted, and the German Government has agreed, that there should be provided in the ratification legislation Article 2, requiring the German Government to refer to the Bundestag any draft decisions of the Communities which would either necessitate German legislation or be directly applicable in Germany before the Council of Ministers takes decisions, that applying also to the self-executing Community legislation. A special procedure has been devised by the Bundestag as a statutory matter in Germany to regulate the application and working out of that Article. I understand that on occasions the Bundestag committees have recommended to the German Government that a Commission proposal should be rejected outright.
Similarly, the Dutch Parliament has established a similar statutory procedure 459 to achieve the same kind of result. It is spelt out quite clearly in its legislation. Nothing of the kind appears in the Bill. There is only a reference of the matter to a Committee. This is a wholly unsatisfactory situation. At least one might have expected the Government to indicate a decision taken already to set up a Select Committee to scrutinise Community processes and enable Parliament in appropriate circumstances to intervene in them.
But all that has been done, and all that was announced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman yesterday, is that the Government have decided to pass the buck to an ad hoc Committee of both Houses. It is that Committee which is to consider the most suitable method of ensuring adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the draft regulations and directives. The Government might have been expected to give an indication now, in the course of the discussion of the Bill, of what they have in mind, but nothing is indicated. These important matters of the protection of Parliament should have been provided for in the Bill. We should not be left vaguely expecting them to be provided for after the Bill has become an Act. Here again is an illustration of the Government asking the House to give them a blank cheque without indicating the kind of parliamentary scrutiny of the draft regulations and directives they have in mind.
Next we consider parliamentary scrutiny of any subsequent subordinate legislation that Ministers are to be empowered to introduce. Here again, in this important matter, the Government have passed the buck. This is the second jump to cross the chasm. The Government have referred the matter to the Select Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Brooke, without giving us any indication of what their own proposals are, although clearly this is a matter fairly and squarely within their responsibility.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman really suggesting that it is the Opposition's view that Committees of the House or Joint Committees are not proper bodies to initiate anything?
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
I am not suggesting anything of the kind. What we are 460 anxious to know, for instance, is precisely what powers the Government have in mind to give a Standing Committee, which would seem to be one of the obvious methods that should be introduced. I confess that perhaps the Administration to which I had the honour to belong was not as enthusiastic about Standing Committees at times as it should have been. But here we are moving into a wholly new field where there is a massive transfer of decision making, affecting the whole pattern of our economic lives, to an immensely bureaucratic machine making its decisions in secret in the Council of Ministers. That is the reality of what we face. It underlines the importance of Parliament having an effective means of keeping these matters in check and under proper supervision.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman also agree, in view of the expenditure, the raising of taxes and so on, that there is nothing in the Bill about an expenditure committee, a very valuable part of the machinery of the House, being able to operate on our taxpayers' money in Europe?
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
I am greatly obliged to the hon. Gentleman. The provisions of the Bill regarding taxation and financial matters are of the most casual and unsatisfactory kind. The Government, through lack of preparedness or a deliberate intention to conceal, are failing to bring these important matters before the House as a part of the Bill.
The provisions with regard to subordinate legislation are set out in Clause 2 and Schedule 2. What form the subordinate legislation is to take when it comes before the House is left wholly at large. The right hon. and learned Gentleman commended that yesterday as a demonstration of flexibility. Here again, he was disposed to let a Committee assist in the determination of the matter. It was to be the Select Committee under Lord Brooke, but that is not good enough. The Bill gives no indication as to whether these powers are to be exercised through Orders in Council or through the negative decision procedure of the House, or whether the mere laying of an order is something the Government have in mind.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
I will just illustrate what I have in mind, and then if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to pursue the matter I will of course give way.
The matter is dealt with in Schedule 2, paragraph 2(1) which says:Subject to paragraph 3 below, where a provision contained in any section of this Act confers power to make regulations (otherwise than by modification or extension of an existing power), the power shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.It does not define what kind of Statutory Instrument, and it gives no clue. Perhaps the Solicitor-General will tell us in due course the significance of the words in parenthesis:(otherwise than by modification or extension of an existing power)Does it mean that regulations in regard to that matter will merely be laid, or what?
Subparagraph (2) says:Any statutory instrument containing an Order in Council or regulations made in the exercise of a power so conferred, if made without a draft having been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House.What does that mean? Does it mean that there is power to proceed by way of the Order in Council procedure or that a Statutory Instrument shall be subject merely to annulment? What is the meaning of the phraseif made without a draft having been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament"?There is total uncertainty about the matter. I would have expected at the very least that the mechanism for giving the Minister such powers should require these changes affecting our lives and our laws to be made by Order in Council requiring the affirmative Resolution of both Houses.
There is an indication in Clause 1(3) of the proposed use of an Order in Council. But it is breathtaking that the power to be exercised there is contemplated as being used through the machinery of an Order in Council. That power affects the recognition and coming into force of new treaties, Parliament's approval of which the Government will have power to secure by Order in Council. The sole issue in the matter is for the House to agree with 462 the ipse dixit of the Government that the new treaty is to be regarded as one of the Community treaties. That is apparently all that Parliament will have power to do. At any rate it should be a procedure requiring an Act of Parliament for confirmation or acceptance of a new treaty. That is the least that would be appropriate in the circumstances. What we see in the provisions of this Bill is a complete free hand being given to Ministers and to the Department as to how they should treat the House in the exercise of this subordinate legislation.
Of course, the right hon. and learned Gentleman yesterday sought to quell our anxieties and concern by saying that these powers in the field of subordinate legislation arestrictly limited…by the overriding restrictions in Schedule 2".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 284.]But are they? One or two of the restrictions in Schedule 2(1) are so obvious that one would have hardly thought it necessary that they should be stated. The first is that subordinate legislation should notmake any provision imposing or increasing taxation.Thank you very much, most generous, most kind of the Government Front Bench to deprive a Minister of that power. Of course, it does not deprive the Community of the power, or a Minister in the Council of Ministers, but at any rate, he cannot do it in this House by a subordinate instrument.
The next is:to make any provision taking effect from a date earlier than that of the making of the instrument containing the provision".That is very reasonable—that they should not have retrospective force—but again not a very revolutionary piece of giving rights to this House which it did not have before. [Interruption.] We did not do it by subordinate legislation.
The next isto confer any power to legislate by means of orders, rules, regulations or other subordinate instrument, other than rules of procedure for any court or tribunal".It does not give the Minister power to give someone else power to introduce regulations or rules of procedure. There is not much in that.
We were reassured by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that Schedule 2 463 prevents a Minister from creating a new criminal offence punishable with a substantial penalty. But he has power under Schedule 2 to introduce by subordinate legislation an instrument creating a new criminal offence punishable with imprisonment for two years. Is that not a "substantial penalty" even in the eyes of Selsdon Man? I shall be interested to know whether the Government really contemplate that power should stand in the Bill in circumstances where such new criminal offences could be created and introduced by subordinate legislation introduced by a Minister not even with the necessity of an Order in Council.
That entry into the Community will involve a surrender of important elements of parliamentary sovereignty is well known, but it could be justified only if the terms of entry were clearly and beyond doubt such that they showed that the people of this country would benefit from them. That of course, has not been shown. Proof of that burden has never been fulfilled by the Government. But even if the terms have been good for this country, bearing in mind what lies ahead, Parliament should not be left naked as this Bill leaves it with hardly a fig to cover the occupants of the Government Front Bench, which indeed covers up a horrendous spectacle. [An HON. MEMBER: "Fig leaf."] Or a fig leaf. There they sit naked and exposed, and they have left Parliament naked in the process.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
To reduce the power of this Parliament, as I submit this Bill does, is worrying enough, but, as was pointed out yesterday in some important and eloquent speeches, it is even more worrying against the background of a European Parliament which is little more than a shadow. The bureaucratic top-heaviness of the Community is well known and is admitted even by its advocates. Nothing has been done to change it before the Government signed the Treaty of Accession and, so far as I know, no pressures were brought to bear to try to achieve a change. The European Parliament has little or no control over the decisions of the Council of Ministers or the Commission. That makes it doubly important for this 464 House and this Parliament to have at least the certainty of a powerful voice in determining our economic fate whereas this Bill leaves a vast question mark over the whole constitutional position.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves that point, may I recall that a very important question was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) yesterday, which has been ventilated in this House on numerous occasions? Unfortunately, we have never had a proper answer to it. I wonder if my right hon. and learned Friend would give the House the benefit of his extensive legal knowledge by saying whether or not acceptance of this deterioration of sovereignty and giving the power of this Parliament to another organisation in Brussels is or is not in accordance with the Act of Union?
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
If my hon. Friend expects me in the presence of the shadow Lord Advocate, a great authority in these matters, to answer that question, I am afraid he is doomed to disappointment. It may well be that the Solicitor-General will give us a discourse on it tomorrow night.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
It seems to be a point of very great substance. It is a remarkable fact that the Act of Union foresaw the kind of problem which is presented to this House in 1972. I attach great weight to the tentative view that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) expressed, that in his opinion it was in breach of the Act of Union, although with his customary modesty he thought it a matter which ought ultimately to be decided in a court of law. The provisions of this Bill leave far too many matters unresolved and undecided.
We shall, of course, in Committee probe further the mysteries of subsection (4) of Clause 2, which I submit with every respect to the Chancellor of the Duchy, was left yesterday in a state of fog in which he groped in vain to find a light. It may be that the Solicitor-General will enlighten us. He will have a hard job when he replies to these 465 matters. On the face of it, the subsection seems to bind, or to attempt to bind, all future parliamentary legislation not to infringe the provisions of Clause 2. It seems to be saying that no future Act of Parliament shall be effective to infringe the provisions of Clause 2.
The only precedent I know of in our legislation is an Act of Parliament which King Henry VIII insisted on passing. That said that for all time thereafter it would be a treasonable offence to question the validity of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Is it the intent that the words in subsection (4) contemplate that no enactment to be passed hereafter shall have the statutory power to infringe the provisions of Clause 2?
It may well be that this is the intention. However, when one looks at the subsection it will be noticed that there is an intrusive "but" which comes in after the semi-colon. Why the "but" is there I do not know. No doubt the learned Solicitor-General will tell us. There follows after the "but" the words:…except as may be provided by any Act passed after this Act…That seems to contradict what is said in the first part of the subsection. What has been taken away is given back, to use the words of the Scripture—[Laughter.] It is agreeable to have fun about these things, but this goes to an important matter.
I am sorry that I am taking more time than I contemplated, but I should like to deal with one aspect of the Bill which is of great importance and that is the other potential safeguard of the rights and privileges of our citizens whose position should be more clearly spelled out in the Bill. I refer to the position of our courts in relation to Community law. Clause 3(1) subjects English law to Community law as interpreted by the European Court. The meaning or effect of any Community instrument, if not referred to the European Court—when the issue comes before a final court, the House of Lords or possibly the Court of Appeal in some cases, it has to be so referred—is to be determined in accordance with the principles laid down by any relevant decision of the European Court.
I cite subsection (1) of Clause 3. In the Explanatory Memorandum, and in 466 the language used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman yesterday, the word "jurisprudence" is used. I respectfully agree with what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) yesterday, when he pointed out that it is a grand word, but like him I am not sure what it means in this connection. Perhaps the Solicitor-General will tell us in due course. Does it mean that English courts will not be free to use the system of interpretation of Statutes and Statutory Instruments which they now use when they construe a European regulation or a Community Treaty? That method of construction, whether good or bad, has evolved as being valuable in our courts through the centuries.
Is an English judge to be free to say hereafter that the provision in a future Act of Parliament shall prevail even if it conflicts with a European regulation? I should have thought it was important to spell that out for the guidance of the courts. There is a further difficulty. Reference to:any relevant decision of the European Courtseems to contemplate an application of the doctrine of precedent by that court, but the European Court of Justice is not bound by precedent. It has never declared that it was so bound nor do the treaties or the statutes of the court so require. It is entitled to depart from its previous decisions. I ask whether it should not be the case that the right of interpretation of these treaties and regulations should remain in our own courts?
I should like to know whether the German courts are as restricted as ours in their ratification legislation, or indeed whether the courts of any other member States are so restricted. The information I have is that we have imposed greater restrictions on our own judges' right of construction and interpretation than is the case with other countries.
As a final matter of law, in my submission the House is entitled to clarification about the power of veto in the Council of Ministers. That matter has not been clarified, and I submit that it is of great importance. After all it is relied upon by the Government to ensure that no future amendment affecting our law would be made which would prejudice the vital national interests of this country. The right hon. and learned 467 Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred last night tothe amorphous, inprecise and impracticable provisions of the Luxembourg record of disagreement "?—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 319.]It is on any view a ministerial not a parliamentary power, and the astonishing fact remains that it may well be held in a critical case by the European Court of Justice that this claimed power of veto runs counter to the Treaty of Rome. It is intolerable that a matter of such considerable importance should be left in this state of uncertainty. There are a large number of other matters which will fall to be considered in Committee. In my submission the Bill casts a hood over the British public and Parliament and should not be approved by this House.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I have often talked on the general question of entry into the Community. I know that many hon. Members want to speak, so I shall leave out the general argument. People know my views; I have been against entry now for 10 or 11 years. I wish to concentrate on the parliamentary aspects of this question, because this has always been the dominating factor for me. In the Bill we are face to face with the sovereignty issue. The difficulty in joining the Community has always been that the British parliamentary system is quite different from the parliamentary systems of the Six. Indeed, the 1957 Treaty of Rome was founded on a different conception of Parliament.
It is regrettable that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was so diligent in his negotiations, entirely neglected this aspect and failed to secure adjustment of the Treaty to ensure that there were protocols to the Treaty of Accession that would have better fitted Britain into the system.
At Westminster we have two primary principles. The first is the effective scrutiny of legislation which is proposed to be passed by the Executive. Secondly, we have to secure the right of redress against administrative injustices or acts of the Executive.
Clause 2(1) of this Bill destroys both those functions over a wide field of economic, fiscal, financial, commercial and 468 social matters. For the first time in the history of the British Parliament British laws will not be made by this Parliament but by an outside body. It may be said, "Well, the Six had to face that difficulty", but if we look at the parliamentary constitutions of the Six we shall find they were not faced by that difficulty. Under the 1958 constitution of the French Parliament, which was modelled very closely on that of the Six, there are three methods under which laws could be made without going through Parliament, first, by decree by the Government under Article 38 of the constitution, secondly by decree of the President, and thirdly, by referendum—a method which is not liked by the present Government of this country for securing the views of the people. The French put through all the necessary laws under Article 38 of the constitution.
This is the difficulty which I find with the Rome Treaty and this Bill: it is modelled too closely on the French constitution. If hon. and right hon. Members will read the standard work on the present French Parliament they will see that Phillip Williams of Nuffield College describes it so well on page 118 when he says that the French Parliamentis sadly inefficient as a forum for popular grievance, as a check on the administration, as a defender of the liberties of the subject, or as a political sounding board for the Opposition (or indeed the Government) to appeal to the electorate. [...]ow morale within and low prestige without further react on its ability to perform any of its functions.This is what worries me principally about the Bill which is before us today. We are in fact adopting French devices of by-passing Parliament and reducing this House to the same state of incompetence.
Effective scrutiny of legislation must mean the right to debate, to amend, or to reject legislation. When I spoke in October I asked how many Acts, how many regulations, will be amended or repealed if we accede to the Treaty. I got no reply in that debate. We have had only a very partial reply today. My first appeal, therefore, to the Government is this: should we proceed with this Bill, will the Government give an undertaking to the House that they will set out in a piece of consolidated legislation all the alterations in law required by this Bill? The House will recollect that under the consolidation procedure the 469 right of amendment is restricted and there is an accelerated procedure for it, but to me it is vital that the people of this country should know what is actually involved in change of law by textual amendment, and this seems to me to be not a very large thing to ask.
Let me welcome at once what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said about draft regulations, but I think we must be told a little more about that. Have we to set up a committee to inquire what form of committee is to look at them? I belong to the Select Committee on Procedure which has already inquired into the broad question of pre-legislation. We recommended last summer that there should be a Select Committee set up to examine proposals for legislation and to report to the House. That recommendation was adopted by the Leader of the House. I should have thought that we could have started off at least with the recognition that this problem of draft regulations requires, as in Germany, some form of pre-legislation committee to examine legislation as it comes forward, and to make its report duly to this House. What was not clear from what my right hon. and learned Friend said was whether what he was proposing was that there should be a report to this House on the draft regulations—a report which could be debated in this Chamber so that, if necessary, the House could express an adverse opinion. I hope that whoever is to reply to this debate will give us further enlightenment. This has to be done early. There is no question about that, because these draft regulations pour out from Brussels as from a sausage machine.
I would ask on that, may we be quite clear what is involved in the undertaking? Is it all the draft regulations whether they go to the Council of Ministers or not? Does it include the draft regulations which are normally decided by the committee of permanent representatives, bearing in mind that Herr Dahrendorf says that that is 90 per cent. of the draft regulations?
I turn to what is an even more important point, and that is the right of redress against the Executive. My right hon. and learned Friend rather glossed over it with a rather broad generalisation when he said thatthe House will be able to bring its influence to bear by all the traditional parliamentary 470 procedures, such as Questions, Adjournment debates and Supply Days."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 274.]We have got to know, and do not yet, what will be the machinery by which an individual Member of this Parliament can protect the interests of his constituents. First, consider Question Time. I remember well—unfortunately, I am probably one of only a few now who can remember—the outcry which came in the years 1945 to 1949 when Ministers refused to answer Questions after nationalisation Bills had been passed. Eventually, after there had been a lot of discussion about this, the then Speaker gave a Ruling that Parliament had to give up any Parliamentary Questions on day-to-day administration, but would be allowed to retain power on matters of public importance on the ground that Ministers could give directions to nationalised boards. What, in the wide field covered by this Bill, will he the position of Parliamentary Question Time if we enter? As I understand it Ministers have no power to give directions to the Commission.
I appreciate that what I am saying really applies only to the Chair and that only Mr. Speaker will be able to answer the question, and not a spokesman for the Government. However, it looks as though all rates of customs duties, after 1978 the rate of value added tax, agricultural prices, and the cost of food, will no longer be matters on which Ministers can be questioned, because they will no longer be responsible—and the Commission has no parliament to put questions on these subjects. I appreciate that this is a matter primarily for Mr. Speaker, but the difficulty is that we are discussing the Bill before any thought has been given to parliamentary procedures.
What will be the position on Supply and on Consolidated Fund Bills? The Minister of State, Treasury, last night told us that such matters as the agricultural contribution and the European Investment Bank would be put directly on the Consolidated Fund Bill, which is a euphemism for saying that it will be dealt with under Consolidated Fund standing services and, therefore, not included in the Consolidated Fund Bill. Are these matters thus to be brought into the same position as judges' salaries and the interest on the National Debt, which 471 are not in the Consolidated Fund Bill and are out of order for hon. Members to raise for that reason?
One matter which is of urgent importance to the people of this country is that the House of Commons should be able to discuss the agricultural contribution. I ask the Government—this is well within their sphere of influence—to consider how so to arrange the procedure of the House that those matters which appear to be no longer the responsibility of Ministers but of the Commission can be debated in the House both on Opposition days—which used to be called Supply days—and also on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I have no doubt that on many occasions, if we enter the European Community, we shall wish to complain about the bureaucracy of Brussels and its damaging effect on the interests of our constituents.
Another great difficulty is that under the Treaty of Rome there is no power for Ministers to raise proposals. All proposals have to be raised by the Commission. That appears to affect our doctrine of the responsibility of Ministers. If our Ministers have no power under the Treaty of Rome to put forward a proposal, how can we question them about some defect of the Commission? With good will we could so alter our parliamentary procedure to get over this difficulty.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
My right hon. Friend is supposing that the Commissioners have no contact with the Council of Ministers. These two bodies dovetail together, and there has never been any question of the Commissioners putting forward proposals which are lumped in front of the Council of Ministers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. The relationship between the Council of Ministers and the Commissioners does not work in that way.
§ Sir R. Turton
I am delighted to hear that, because under the Treaty of Rome there is no power for proposals to come from Ministers. From what my right hon. Friend says, I hope we shall not be precluded from raising these matters. We want to be able to raise not only the action but the failure to act.
In general there is a prevalent criticism that government is getting too 472 remote. The whole value of Parliament is that it provides a link between the people and the Executive. Should the Bill be passed, this link will be whittled away, because the decisions will be increasingly taken outside Britain on the Continent of Europe, and Westminster will be powerless to intervene.
There has been a curious reluctance to consult the people of Britain at Election times and between elections on the parliamentary consequences of accession to the Treaty of Rome. I have always believed that I have not been sent here by my constituents to gamble away parliamentary sovereignty, and I have made that clear in every address to my constituents. I regret that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in whom I have complete confidence on other issues, appears to take a very different view on the importance of parliamentary sovereignty.
In my view, entry to the European Community cannot be achieved without great danger to the whole of our parliamentary system, which I have tried to serve for 42 years. For that reason, I cannot support the Bill.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton), whose views have been long and consistently held and clearly set before this Parliament and others, is less than fair if he suggests that those hon. Members who favour entry to Europe are consciously gambling with parliamentary sovereignty. It is certainly an opinion, but it is not an opinion to which he is entitled.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will return to that point in a moment.
This has been a strange debate in that many hon. Members are not sure whether it is a debate specifically about the Bill or a continuation of the debate on whether or not we enter Europe. For many it has been a continuation of the debate on entry, rather than a specific concentration on the wording and content of the Bill. There has, however, been a natural and understandable tendency to concentrate on the issue of sovereignty because, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said yesterday, that is basically what the Bill is about. This is 473 the nitty-gritty of it, and the enunciation in the Bill of a reduction in sovereignty inevitably has attracted much of the comment.
I wish to pose three questions. First, is it fair to say that an intent to share sovereignty represents a loss in sovereignty in modern terms? The clear contention of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East is that this is so, but I dissent from that answer.
We are talking about reconciliation in Europe. One of the great initial triumphs was the reconciliation of the animosities of war. We are moving towards the much more difficult problem of the reconciliation of pressures and demands and the conflicting vested interests of nations whose activities overlap national boundaries. Those who condemn us for wishing, as it were, to sell our sovereignty ask why Britain should not have the courage to stand on her own feet. That is the wrong question to ask. It takes more courage to seek to make agreements than to turn one's back and walk away.
Today the national interest can only be furthered by looking beyond the national interest. I do not regard these matters as separable. Only by concerning ourselves with the requirements and needs of others can we expect co-operation from others in dealing with our problems.
I would also reject the kind of argument put forward yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray), and I am sorry he is not in the Chamber at the moment. He sought to distinguish between what he described as peripheral sovereignty and inner core sovereignty. He criticised the arguments which had been advanced that there was a parallel to be drawn between membership of N.A.T.O. and the United Nations, acceptance of G.A.T.T. and our accession to the Community. He seemed to be saying that such international relations represented the giving up of sovereignty in a peripheral sphere but that in entering Europe we were involving the heart of our domestic constitutional being. I question this distinction since in our relations with other countries we are always dealing with something very central. One cannot make that sort of dis- 474 tinction, which represents a misconception.
The second question was posed yesterday by the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) and involved the right time to go into Europe. The hon. Member said:I believe that this country should be in Europe but that this Government are unfitted to lead us in.That will be the simple, classic argument of pro-Market Labour Members of Parliament; that is their case in a nutshell. I do not regard it as a fair or logical argument to use. In that speech the hon. Member harked back 10 years and said that at one time he had been against entry into Europe. He said:When I was an opponent of entering, Dr. Adenauer was in power in Germany."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c 311–12.]In other words, he appeared to be putting the view that somehow or other the particular Government in power in the particular country at the particular time should be the determining factor, and that there was no question of a general policy being pursued with Governments of whatever political complexion. I do not accept this.
§ Mr. Marten
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that anybody who listens to pro-Market Labour speeches realises that what Labour Members are after is European Socialism? They keep on saying this again and again and so do all the Socialists in Europe.
§ Mr. Johnston
Yes, that is their object in life. That is a perfectly reasonable objective. What is not reasonable is the attitude they have adopted, to quote the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East, who said that to will the end but not the means is not a proper political thing to do. I feel more sympathy for the Labour Members in this situation and understand and respect the views of people like the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), and the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), who are utterly consistent in what they have said, rather than I have for the Leader of the Opposition, who is now so vigorously engaged in rebutting his own case. [Interruption.] That is fair, with great respect to the 475 right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) who mutters on the Opposition Front Bench.
It is, of course, true that the Government are open to criticism, as indeed is the Community. But I take a different view from the right hon. Member for Stepney in quoting Professor Dahrendorf, whose name also cropped up in the debate in October. It is surely a good thing to find a commissioner criticising the lack of democracy within the Community. If there were no commissioners adopting such an attitude, I would regard that as being considerably more dangerous.
There is no question that we need to develop a European Parliament. The Liberals have argued for this strongly throughout the duration of the European argument. I did not follow at one point the remarks made today by the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones). I accept what he said about lack of direct democratic control, but on the one hand he appeared to be saying "Look at what the Dutch and the Germans have been able to do in terms of better parliamentary control—the Government have not done as well in their Bill" while on the other hand he seemed to be saying that in any case it was not possible to exercise parliamentary control. That was contradictory.
It is equally contradictory to argue on the one hand the utter importance of British self-national interest being safeguarded and on the other hand to criticise the capacity of an individual country to do this through the Council of Ministers and through the veto. There are two different approaches to the European community. One is via the Council of Ministers and a Gaullist approach, and the other is through a directly-elected European Parliament.
European regional policy certainly has a long way to go in terms of development. However, I was surprised that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry did not mention that the proposed distinction between peripheral and central regions aimed at a 20 per cent. ceiling on expenditure in the central regions, which is more than we in this country spend now on intermediate and development areas. We kid ourselves that we do much more about regional development than we 476 really do and we should not exaggerate the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the situation of international companies, and one of the problems in Europe has been that individual countries have been able to bid against each other to attract international companies. This can be overcome when we ultimately enter Europe. The basic question which we face is what is the right way to proceed.
I come to my third and final question. This matter has puzzled me for some time. I ask this question particularly of opponents of entry into Europe, to whose speeches I have listened throughout many debates. I find most strange the alliances which have been created by opposition to entry. Yesterday we had the right hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) billing and cooing at each other during points of order. We then had the right hon. Member for Stepney and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East grunting with pleasure at each other's remarks. Their view appears to be that somehow or other there is a British view of life which is separable from and uniquely superior to the possible end product of the political philosophies of right, left and centre in Europe and that control over British sovereignty is unique. Surely this is logically what they are saying?
Is not the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale saying to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West "I would prefer to have you as my Prime Minister"—and the vice versa argument applies—"rather than allow my country as a country to go into Europe and have the decisions which are of the inner core", as the hon. and learned Member for Leith mentioned, "made by the strange Continentals", of whom the Leader of the Opposition again talked in terms of ganging up against us? That is contradictory.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Without springing to the defence of either of those who have been mentioned, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has been speaking about strange alliances. Does he not think it even stranger that the great defence of British life brings into combination the hon. Lady the 477 Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and the hon. and reverend Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)?
§ Mr. Johnston
It is very interesting, yes. However, I will not pursue that argument further.
It is probably a fair argument advanced by anti-Common Marketeers that the financial burden this country will have to bear in order to have the opportunity of economic expansion—and it is only a matter of having an opportunity, it is not a guarantee—and also to have a voice in the political power which is evolving is higher than it would have been if Labour Governments and Conservative Governments alike had been rather earlier in their conversions. Nevertheless I believe it is a price which, set against the opportunities, is not too high and that if we delay further it will become too high. My colleagues and I will for that reason support the Government in the Division Lobby tomorrow night.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. David Knox (Leek)
I find myself in large measure in agreement with the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston). As a non-lawyer I found it something of a relief that the House was able to move away from lawyers' argument for a short time and discuss some of the real issues once again, because this is an important debate. It has been said before that important issues are much too important simply to leave to lawyers. It is a pity that this debate has been so sparsely attended so far. I find this understandable at the present moment because I am speaking, but because other hon. Members have participated in the debate and because of the importance of the issues involved I would expect the occasion to warrant a much better attendance in the House.
It is a pity, too, that this issue has been a matter of dispute between the major political parties in this country. The responsibility for this lies in large measure with the Leader of the Opposition. I do not wish to labour the point and I will merely say that the about-turn which he did in the summer of last year meant that the Opposition did not quite go through their finest hour. As far as Labour pro-Marketeers are concerned, tomorrow night this House will be voting on the principle of the Bill, the 478 principle of entry into the Common Market.
Those who vote against the Bill will be voting against that principle. The argument that they are voting against this Government simply will not hold. The argument that somehow they do not trust this Government will not hold either because the real issue at stake is whether we are to join the Common Market. It is now or never. We will not have another chance and if we fail to get in now we never will get in; and whatever the merits or demerits of the present Government, they will not stay in office for ever. By passing the Bill we will be creating in this country a situation in which any future Labour Government—naturally, I hope that that will be long delayed, but there will be another Labour Government—will have tremendous opportunities. If, however, we fail to go in now, the consequences will be bad for future Tory Governments, bad for future Labour Governments and, most important of all, bad for Britain.
In this debate a great deal of time has been spent discussing the surrender of sovereignty. If I may say so with the greatest respect to lawyer friends on both sides of the House, much of the discussion seems to me to have been quite fatuous because it has been based on the misconception that in the world in which we live today we in Britain control our own destiny. The harsh fact of the matter is that we do not. We live in an age of interdependence of continental Powers and of the utter dependence of of small Powers. Outside Europe, Britain is a small Power in the world. We do not control our destiny. However, deplorable some may regard it, it is a fact that we do not control our own destiny and we do not even have a say in the big issues that affect this country in the world at large.
The dialogues that are taking place in the world today are between the United States and the Soviet Union, between the United States and China and between China and the Soviet Union. Although what they are talking about affects us a great deal we have no presence and no say in what is happening. We have no say because we are a small insignificant Power. But if we were part of Europe, particularly a politically-united Europe, we would be part of a unit that would 479 have a say in the world. If we were part of the European Economic Community the world could not ignore European interests, and whatever some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House may say, European interests are British interests.
Those who oppose the Common Market are right to some extent about the surrender of sovereignty. By merging our sovereignty with the E.E.C. there is no doubt that we are giving up the right to decide matters like lorry drivers' hours and things of that nature. It seems to me that that sacrifice will be worth making if it means that we will be part of something bigger in the world, something that matters and something that can have influence, as the E.E.C. is increasingly coming to have, because it will enable Britain to make a contribution, through the E.E.C., to decisions that really matter and affect this country.
Last night the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) mentioned Scotland and the Act of Union. Does anyone seriously consider that Scotland or Scotsmen, even Scotsmen who represent English constituencies, would have had anything like the say they have had in the world these past 265 years if their sovereignty had not been merged with England?
§ Mr. Knox
If the hon. Member really believes that, he really lives in cloud-cuckoo land.
To take another example, does anyone really think that if the individual States of the United States had remained separate they would have had anything like the influence in the world that the United States as a union has had? Of course, the individual States would never have been able to assert any influence on their own, but together and united they have been able to do so. If we join the Common Market we will have access to a new sovereignty.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
Would the hon. Gentleman apply that argument to Bangladesh and its independence?
§ Mr. Knox
I do not wish to be diverted from my main argument. What Bangla 480 desh does is its concern, not ours. I am concerned with Britain and British influence.
By joining the Common Market, Britain will have access to a new sovereignty which neither she nor any of the individual countries of the Common Market can ever enjoy if they stay separate. Therefore, it seems to me that the argument about sovereignty in respect of the Bill is a very narrow legal argument which ignores common sense. I can only express regret that it is a point which has not been confined to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The speeches of the anti-Marketeers in the debate have emphasised, when they have dealt with the economic aspects, the disadvantages, real and imaginary, of British entry. However, they have not mentioned the economic disadvantages of staying out. It is worth restating them because they are important. It is well to remind ourselves that the great majority of people who are involved in their day-to-day business in international trade, with Europe and with the rest of the world, believe strongly in Britain's entry.
What are the economic advantages? There is tariff-free access to a large domestic market of about 300 million people. It is not just a matter of free trade in that market. It is rather more than that. What is important about the Community is that it attempts a harmonisation of other aspects as well which affect competition. Competition in the modern world is not just a matter of tariffs or prices. There are non-price factors as well. One of the advantages of the Community is the attempt in the long run to harmonise competition rules, indirect taxes, and so on. Inside the Community, British industry will be able to compete on terms of equality with countries which are at the same stage of development as ourselves in terms of price and other matters.
The importance of this is illustrated by a telephone conversation that I had this morning with the managing director of a small engineering company in my constituency. His company exports 45 per cent. of its output and two-thirds of its exports go to the Common Market. As matters stand at present, it is not just enough for the company to be competitive with the Germans if it is selling 481 in France and with French competitors if it is selling in Germany. It has to be more than that. If it is selling in France against German competition, it has to get over a 14 per cent. tariff which its German competitor does not have. It is no wonder that the company wants the United Kingdom to join the Common Market. Its estimate is that inside the market it should be able at least to double its exports. That must be in the interests of the country.
The second major economic advantage is that the size of the market will enable us to exploit modern science and technology. Membership of the Common Market will not be important for small firms with little scientific or technological base. But it is important to those industries which use modern science and technology. This is normally expensive. The cost of research and development in many of the most modern industries is enormous. Unless we can get a much broader domestic market, we shall not be able to cover the research and development costs involved in many of our modern industries.
Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition raised the question of the computer industry. He made a very valid point. However the point that I make is that if we do not enter the Common Market there will be no British computer industry at all in 10 years' time and in all probability there will be no British aircraft industry either, since we shall be precluded—
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
Since the hon. Gentleman is considering what may happen if we do not go in, perhaps he will tell us what future he saw for Britain on the assumption that the opposition that we experienced in the time of de Gaulle was continued and we did not become a member. Would the hon. Gentleman have emigrated to the Soviet Union or to America?
§ Mr. Knox
Certainly I should not have emigrated to the Soviet Union. However, I have never concealed my belief that it was imperative for us to join the Common Market. After the veto in 1963 I retained my support for British entry. I have never hidden my belief that the country was finished in the way we have known it if we did not get into the Common Market, and 482 certainly that it was finished as a country which played a part in international affairs and enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world.
The third economic advantage is that the availability of a large domestic market will enable us to undertake much larger-scale production and facilitate long runs. In certain of our industries today the cost of capital equipment is enormous, and unless one can he sure of selling a very large number of units and so spreading costs over a large number of units, one cannot compete in the world. The motor industry is a good example. Whereas between 1964 and 1970 there was a slight decline in Britain in the demand for motor cars, in the E.E.C. there was an increase in demand of 51 per cent. This forced up the unit costs of British cars in the home market and in overseas markets, both in the Community and in the wider world. What is more, it meant that the British motor car industry in the last few years did not get the sort of return that would have enabled it to undertake the research and development that it needed to keep it competitive in general terms.
It was easy to dismiss these economic arguments as theoretical 12 or 14 years ago when the Community first came into being. It is not so easy today, for the simple reason that the Community is a proven economic success. It has delivered the goods. Its living standards have gone up more quickly than ours, and social and public expenditure has gone up equally quickly. If any hon. Member doubts that, he has only to refer to HANSARD around Easter last year when a number of my hon. Friends and I tabled a large number of Questions, the answers to which illustrated this point very clearly.
In this debate it is important also to talk about the future. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) did so yesterday. In that connection I make four points. The first is that once inside the Community we have to turn our minds to other matters, including its development. There is one sphere of activity where we have a unique contribution to make, and that is in the democratisation of its institutions. We are more experienced in this than other European countries. The right hon. 483 Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) was right yesterday when he said that institutions grow and are not mechanically created. We can help these institutions to grow and, with our experience, we have a tremendous contribution to make.
My second point about the future relates to the point made yesterday by the hon. Member for Edmonton about the importance of our sending very high calibre people as our representatives in the Common Market to look after our interests.
§ Mr. Knox
I am glad to notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) agrees with me about that. On this at least we can join forces. The quality of our representatives there is important. I want the E.E.C. to work and I want to see Britain making a real contribution in the Community.
My third point relates to regional planning. There is much work still to be done in the Community on this. We have a great deal of experience, though mostly in the nature of failures because, for all the talk that we hear in this House, the fact remains that in the past 40 years regional policies in this country generally have not been very successful. But one can use failure, as one can use success, as a guide to the future. In helping the Community to develop its policies, we have plenty of examples of past failure.
In passing, I would mention that I do not believe that there is a single region in the Common Market which is in a worse position today than it was in 1958. That suggests, perhaps, that the Community is better at dealing with regional problems than we are.
My fourth point is that once we are inside the Community it is important that we take the initiative in making the Community a more cohesive political unit. I believe that this is going to happen anyway. The E.E.C. is going to develop in matters other than economics. I believe that this country should encourage this trend. We should play a real part in the creation of the political institutions which will enable Europe to speak with one voice in the world, a voice 484 of growing influence, a voice which the constituent parts of Europe can never have if they remain separate nation States.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
I shall not deal at length with the points made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Knox). I think that his speech might just as well have been made last summer and that the hon. Gentleman has perhaps succumbed to the effects of his own sales talk. It may be good from some points of view but it recalls the speech made last night by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Loveridge) which was of the same sort.
I wish to talk about the Bill and in particular Clause 2(1). I think it would be right for that subsection to be read at least once in this House in the course of this debate. It is perhaps the most important Clause ever to come before this House in the whole of its history. It states:(1) All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures fom time to time provided for by or under the Treaties, as in accordance with the Treaties are without further enactment to be given legal effect or used in the United Kingdom shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly and the expression "enforceable Community right" and similar expressions shall be read as referring to one to which this subsection applies.It is, of course, the three words "without further enactment" which are the key to the Clause. It is a legal technicality, and the keynote of this debate so far has been set by the three legal and business technocrats who have spoken from the Front Bench against what I take to be the more authentic democratic voice of Britain which we heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) yesterday and his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) this afternoon. I do not believe that those speeches were necessarily incompatible with joining the European Economic Community because I think it might have been possible for some of the better features that all hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Leek, want to see to have been included as part of the Bill and of the negotiations which have been going on over the past year. In fact, the Government have not tried to do this at all.
485 The last thing we heard yesterday was the last-minute recantation which, I suspect, was more for the purpose of getting hon. Members into the Lobby or giving them an excuse than because of real concern for the democratic institutions of the Community. Had hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that the price was worth paying and that it was important enough to have democratic institutions inside the Community, we might have been prepared to pay the price; but they have not even negotiated it. I think that this has been one of the greatest mistakes of any Government or party at any time in our history, because the idea of parliamentary government and of democracy is based, as I understand it, on confidence, consent and credibility. People will only do things under the law if they have confidence in the way that law is made. As an ex-school teacher of 15 years' standing I have grass-roots experience of this because to start with we had virtually no sanctions, at least in day schools, and this feature is common to other matters across the water.
The point I am making is that this fundamental idea of confidence, consent and credibility will disappear because the gossamer threads of democracy, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) referred earlier, are getting very thin and I believe that the Bill will make them thinner still, if not break many of them altogether. The origins of the House of Commons itself lie in this very process. In our history books we read that the reason for this House was so that the common people could come and listen to the lords and barons in their discussions and then go back and say, "We are not getting arbitrary laws. The matter has been discussed thoroughly and we can tell you what has happened". Later the House of Commons was consulted and became part of the legislative process.
I wish to speak in particular of four things that this House has. They are consultation before legislation; the redress of grievances before granting Supply; representation before taxation; and the responsibility of the Executive. I submit that on all these four things the Government are selling out almost completely. I do not believe that with their 486 technocratic city-life background they have realised the meaning of what they are doing.
Let us take the matter of consultation before legislation. We have heard that even the Bundestag is to have that, but when there is a direction from the Community we have to take it. This goes deep down to the roots of how people have to live. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Leek but I think he may be surprised.
Let us consider transport, which is very important to the people of London. Let us consider what happens in regard to transport. The Commissioners can propose; nobody else can. They have an advisory committee set up under OJ 25/509, and Article 1 of that directive states that:The Committee shall consist of experts on transport matters designated by the Governments of Member States…from among senior officials of the central administrationand othersof acknowledged competence.But Article 3 states—this may be a great surprise to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who will perhaps tell their hon. Friends about it before they go into the Lobby:Committee members and their alternates shall be appointed in their personal capacity and may not be bound by any mandatory instructions.So much for consultation before legislation, because it is that committee which advises the Commission on what proposals it shall make to the Council in respect of transport.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
The hon. Gentleman used the word "advises". He will not forget that.
§ Mr. Spearing
Exactly, but it is the Civil Service which advises Cabinet Ministers; but for the Civil Service to be the only people who could initiate would be quite different. We heard an hon. Member earlier today give a verbal assurance but there is nothing in the constitution about the Council proposing to the Commission, and that is what we have to remember.
Often in this House we get grievances, and rightly so, and the Executive has to reply. That is part of the framework of our proceedings, but it is not going to continue. Taking transport again, the 487 other day we were discussing the Transport (Grants) Bill, involving many millions of pounds as subsidies—a bad word to hon. Members opposite, but they brought in the Bill—to the transport services of the country. The E.E.C. says that these shall be reduced to a minimum; and if it does not like what is going on, it will put pressure on the Government. Even in this sphere we shall not have freedom. Even more important is the harmonisation—a nice word for what will be a very difficult and crushing process—of the transport infrastructure. I put a question about whether we shall be free to make transport infrastructure grants for new roads of the size that the public now require and which the Government are looking into. Will we be free to make this sort of grant as much and as liberally as we wish? These are the sort of questions we have to ask. Even if we can ask them now, will we be able to do so in the future? It is this sort of sovereignty to which the hon. Member for Leek should pay attention.
We have already heard about taxation and about representation. Whether or not we have a committee to look into the question of spending by the Community on our behalf is an open matter. This has not even been built in, and the Government did not even try to build it in as part of the negotiations. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) chided me yesterday when I intervened in his speech to point out that there is not even any regulation about the pollution of the River Rhine. In all the 1,400 regulations, or whatever the number may be now, there is not one about pollution of the Rhine. The hon. Gentleman's only reply was, "Well, that is why we want to go into Europe. We can contribute to the European Parliament and these matters can be discussed." But if this major matter of international co-operation has not been tackled by the Community, as manifestly it has not, despite 23 pages on the mechanics of lorry drivers' tachometers and their cabs, what sort of Community are we joining? Where are our priorities in terms of international sovereignty about which the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) spoke? Of course I agree that we 488 have to think on a world-wide scale, but not necessarily on this scale.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Obviously, pollution both in Europe and in this country is a very great problem. But does the hon. Gentleman judge by the same criteria the Governments of this country which have failed to stop pollution or have until now failed to introduce any measures to stop the pollution of our rivers?
§ Mr. Spearing
I do not follow why the hon. and learned Member intervened unless it was to stop my flow. I put it to him, however, that this country has more control over these things than many other countries have, despite the difficulties of Bristol and many other things. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to look at this aspect further, he should read some of the international yearbooks. It is because we are a very small island with limited natural resources, and because we have a democratic style of government, that we have been able to introduce legislation to this effect. I am sorry, but I do not follow the point of the hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention.
Finally, in this series of four principles, perhaps the most important is the responsibility of the Executive. Any of us can ask any member of the Government any question relating to his responsibilities. We might get a hand-off reply—a "no" reply, as is common perhaps with any Minister. When a Minister does that, he knows that he is risking the consequences of doing so. But under the new structure in the Community, on any direct or indirect matter affecting the Commission or the Council of Ministers, we shall not be able to have direct responsibility. Indeed, this is already beginning to creep in.
Yesterday I asked the Minister for Transport Industries about priorities for infrastructure grants to railways in London. He said that he could not do anything unless London Transport or British Railways proposed it to him. When I wrote to them, however, they said "We only put up things and the Minister can decide." No one takes the responsibility. This is a businessman's dodge, and we are getting it already in this House.
489 In the Common Market we will not know where the actual decision-making lies. That is asking for trouble because, when people do not know who is making the decisions and why, that is when they get annoyed and that is when democracy begins to break down. I do not need to tell my hon. Friends—I do not know about hon. Members opposite—that the credibility of this Parliament and of our parliamentary structure as it stands is under considerable strain.
I have been out canvassing as a candidate. The people did not know that I was a candidate and I know what they think of politicians and Parliament. [Laughter.] The very fact that hon. Members opposite laugh shows that they do not understand the seriousness of the situation in which this country is placed on this issue. I can only suggest that they go canvassing on behalf of their party in an area of the country which they do not know and where they are not known, and they will be laughing on the other side of their faces.
The four principles I have dealt with are the bulwarks of our democratic way of life. We have no written constitution but the Community's constitution is written, in many volumes. The frontier of freedom in this House lies along the middle of the House. If we have any written constitution at all, it is in the volume known as "Erskine May". By accepting Clause 2(1) of the Bill we will be throwing all this away and when our people are told that we cannot do something because of Brussels, or because a Minister here does not think we can, there will be trouble on a big scale.
We have seen already in the United Kingdom itself that when people do not regard a law as being just, or do not accept that the Government have a right to pass it or accept it, they will not accept it themselves. The Prime Minister said that he would not go into Europe without the consent of Parliament and people. He is now, of course, forgetting the people. Even if it is the right thing to do, he cannot do it without their consent. When there is discontent, the people are forced to take action. We may think it unwise, and some say "Let us have law and order." But we must ask ourselves "What sort of law, and what sort of order? This is the sort of thing which has happened in Rhodesia and in 490 Northern Ireland. If we are not very careful, hon. Members by their attitudes and votes on Thursday will bring this sort of trouble here in the next few years.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Luce (Arundel and Shoreham)
In one sense, I am pleased to be able to follow the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), whom I know well. I appreciate the sincerity and strength of his views about the Common Market. But in another sense, I am saddened by what I have heard him say. I think he is absolutely wrong to designate the anti-Marketeers as being democrats and the pro-Marketeers as being anti-democratic. That is utterly and fundamentally wrong. What was worse, he showed a streak of isolationism and an astonishing lack of faith in the ingenuity of the British Parliament, its ability to adapt to a new situation, and the ability of Great Britain, once it is a member of the Common Market, to influence the evolution of its institutions in such a way as to make the decision-making process as democratic as possible. I found that part of his speech very sad indeed.
As many hon. Members have said, this Bill is to a considerable extent a lawyer's paradise. But like my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox), I want to broaden the debate a little, although not in any way underestimating the importance of legal scrutiny of the Bill. When, on 28th October, I voted in favour of entry, I did so for two fundamental reasons. Nothing that has happened since then has made me change my mind.
First, there is the political reason—that Britain will undoubtedly have a stronger voice in Europe; that the history of Europe shows that we have no alternative but to co-operate more closely; that twice in this century two world wars have been sparked off in Europe. When I meet some of my retired constituents who have seen two world wars, I am sometimes told, "Because I have been involved in two world wars, I want nothing whatever to do with Germany"—and some of them add, "And France, for that matter". But I say that we should get together precisely in order to ensure that we never again spark off a world war in Europe.
The second reason is economic. Over the last 10 years, we have had a jungle of statistics to try and prove or disprove 491 the advantages or disadvantages of entering the Common Market. Of course, there is no certainty in any of this. But the evidence suggests that the opportunity is there, if we wish to take it, to increase our standard of living at a faster rate than we would if we did not join the Common Market. The ball is in our court and it is up to us to exploit the opportunities. I have sufficient faith in the British people to believe that they can and will respond to that challenge.
There are two other aspects in the Bill on which I wish to touch briefly. One is the legal and constitutional aspect. I am no lawyer, nor am I a constitutional expert. The Bill, in Part I, states that one of the main purposes isto give the force of law in the United Kingdom to present and future Community law which under the Community Treaties is directly applicable in Member States".If we accept the principle of entering the Common Market on the terms which have been negotiated, then undoubtedly we must accept that there is existing law to which we must adapt. If we look to the formulation of future regulations and directives when we join the Market, I believe we come to a matter of fundamental importance about which the hon. Member for Acton and many others are deeply concerned. We have to devise consultative machinery which will ensure that we play an effective part in helping to formulate these regulations. That is why I welcome the fact that the Government are setting up an ad hoc committee to study the matter very carefully.
The hon. Member for Acton mentioned transport regulations. Many of these regulations will, of course, affect the daily lives of many individuals in this country.
We have every right in this Parliament to scrutinise proposed regulations which the Commission initiates. What is so extraordinary is that so many hon. Members seem to feel that we have not now got the ability to adapt ourselves, our system and processes to take this into account and to improve our decision-making procedure.
§ Mr. Spearing
The hon. Gentleman may have missed my earlier point. I go with him in much of what he is saying. However, if it is so important, I should have thought that we would have nego- 492 tiated many of these things beforehand. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the level of season tickets for his commuter constituents to London should be somehow subject to decision in Brussels?
§ Mr. Luce
I think that the hon. Gentleman has missed the point that I was trying to make. We have to accept the existing institutions in the Common Market. We have not been a member of the Common Market so we have not been able to influence its decision-making process. However, we have to look to the future and devise means whereby we can improve the system and ensure that Parliament has a say in the formulation of regulations.
§ Mr. Luce
I should like to complete this point. The other aspect was the ad hoc committee. We must be careful, in examining what precisely is to be the rôle of these 36 Members of Parliament who are to be represented in the European Parliament, to ensure that they have an effective part in scrutinising regulations in their formative stage.
§ Mr. Rose
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he and those who support his view—indeed, there is much that I support in his view—will press at the earliest opportunity for direct election to the European Parliament in accordance with Article 138(3) of the Treaty of Rome? Does he agree that when application was made for entry we knew that all these matters that had previously been negotiated had to be accepted and that nothing has changed since?
§ Mr. Luce
I thank the hon. Gentleman for mentioning this point. In broad terms I agree. I think that in due course direct election must come. However, in the interim we must devise measures in this Parliament, with the help of the 36 Members, to ensure that we improve the decision-making process.
Those right hon. and hon. Members who say that the existing institutions of the Common Market are inadequate are again expressing a sense of defeatism, because there is enormous respect in the Common Market countries for Britain's skill and expertise concerning constitutions, and so on. Our ability, when we 493 are members, to influence the evolution of these institutions must not be underestimated.
The other aspect concerns the underdeveloped countries. There are still many people who say that we have an option either to enter the Market or to adopt what is called an open-seas policy. Those particularly concerned with the underdeveloped countries say that the Common Market is a rich man's club which has no concern whatsoever with the underdeveloped countries. Others say that they would like to see us join a closer white Commonwealth, despite the fact that the white Commonwealth countries are becoming less dependent on us of their own free will. What we are failing to stress, however, is the enormous trading opportunities that are opened up to Commonwealth countries by our joining the European Community and the prospects for the underdeveloped countries to get additional development aid. We know about the generalised preference scheme, preferential trading agreements, bilateral agreements or, for that matter, the tight form of association in the Yaoundé Convention and the Arusha Agreement.
Since I voted on 28th October, I have done a brief tour of Latin America. One thing which impressed me in three of those countries—Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay—was the feeling not only that it is right for Britain to co-operate more closely with Europe, but that the Community is an outward-looking institution and organisation. Indeed, Argentina and Uruguay are at present negotiating special trading arrangements. What is more, the substantial British communities of those countries, looking from the outside, felt that it was right for Britain to join the Community.
It is extraordinary that it was a great white Commonwealth leader and statesman, Field Marshal Smuts, who advised the British Government, after the First World War, that it would be right for Britain to unite more closely with the countries of Western Europe. We failed to take that advice. We fought another World War. Surely it is right this time that we should heed his advice.
On Thursday, the Bill, on which we will vote, will give expression to the decision that was taken by Parliament on 28th October. It is time for all Members 494 of this House to stand up and be counted. I, for one, shall vote in favour of the Bill.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The speeches which we have so far heard from the Government Front Bench have seemed to me to be designed not so much to defend as to conceal what the Government are doing to Parliament in the Bill.
I should like to ask the House to reflect for a moment on the prospect now facing this country as a result of the Prime Minister's obsession with this policy and refusal to heed public opinion. On the basis of the Treaty of Accession and the Bill taken together, this country is now to be crippled by a huge and quite unnecessary balance of payments burden, made heavier by the still further rise in E.E.C. food prices. The Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. trading areas are to be broken up and our export markets narrowed throughout the world. Indeed, we now read that the United States, to counter the E.E.C., is seriously considering organising a rival trading bloc which would include such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. This is apparently where we are now being led.
In order to achieve this, the British Parliament is being asked to hand over much of its powers of legislation and some of the basic democratic rights of the British electorate without any mandate from the people. In addition, the Government have almost totally surrendered on the key issues of fisheries, of New Zealand and of sugar, and have, indeed, even broken some pledges which were given in the October debate.
On fisheries, in the debate on 20th January I showed that, so far from there being a "fair and open" review at the end of the transition period, as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the House, the special arrangements for fisheries were simply, to quote the exact words,derogations in force until 31st December, 1982and they could thereafter continue only with the consent of the other members of the E.E.C. The Treaty of Accession confirms this beyond dispute. The veto is in the hands of those who would wish to 495 revert to the common fisheries policy. The Chancellor of the Duchy has not denied this, because he knows it is true.
The House was also misled about New Zealand in the October debate, and the truth emerged only with the publication of the Treaty of Accession after the debate on 20th January. For cheese from New Zealand there are to be no special arrangements whatever after 31st December, 1977. For butter, we were assured that there were to be continuing arrangements and a fair review.
Even Mr. Marshall, now New Zealand Prime Minister, was misled by the British Government. He said in his Parliament on 20th July:Members may recall that at one stage in the negotiations the Six included a proviso that a unanimous decision would be required by the enlarged Community to permit the continuation of the quantitative guarantees for New Zealand beyond 1977. We opposed this and the British were able to ensure that this proviso was eliminated from the finally agreed text…It would be a breach of faith for the concept of unanimity to be re-introduced.Yet Protocol 18 of the Treaty of Accession says:Appropriate measures to ensure the maintenance after 31st December, 1977, of exceptional arrangements in respect of imports of butter from New Zealand. including the details of such arrangements, shall be determined by the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission.In Mr. Marshall's words, that is a direct breach of faith not merely with this House but with the New Zealand Government. It also means that, after 1977, there are no assured arrangements whatever for New Zealand.
The Chancellor of the Duchy tried to answer this last night by saying that the veto related only to the form and not the fact of the continuity. But the words are:…exceptional arrangements, including the details of such arrangements".Therefore, it would be open to any other country to veto trade beyond an amount of say five tons a year. So there is no substance in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument.
I have a letter in my hand from Sir Keith Holyoake, dated 4th February this year, which says:We share your regret that the details of the agreement are subject to a unanimous vote.496 So much for New Zealand.
Second, the Bill makes it indisputably plain that, by accepting the Rome Treaty, we are not just pooling sovereignty, but are surrendering a large measure of national independence, some of the essentials of parliamentary government and basic democratic rights of the electorate.
In this debate, Ministers have again sought to mislead the electorate by suggesting that this is no different from going into N.A.T.O. or the United Nations or G.A.T.T. or any such organisation. But what this Treaty and this Bill do, and what N.A.T.O. and other treaties like that do not, is to hand over to bodies other than the British Parliament the power to legislate and tax in future in a way binding on the British public within this country. This has never been done before and has never even been proposed or contemplated before, so far as I know.
Another fact, which seems to be not fully understood, is that the Rome Treaty and this Bill give the power to legislate and to tax not just to the Council of Ministers, which might be regarded as indirectly responsible to the British Parliament and electorate, but also to the nonelected, non-responsible Commission. Do the Government deny—I hope they will say so if they do—that Articles 189 and 190 of the Treaty of Rome give to the Commission, as well as to the Council, the power to legislate in three ways—by regulations which are binding in their entirety and take direct effect on each member state, by directives which are binding as to the result to be achieved but leave the choice of method to the State, and by decisions binding in their entirety upon those to whom they are directed?
Are Ministers really prepared to deny that the non-elected Commission has the power to legislate in all these three ways without approval by or reference to the Council of Ministers? In the case of regulations—direct and binding laws—the volumes of these already promulgated show that a large number are regulations not of the Council but of the Commission. In the year 1970 alone, according to the Secretary-General of the Commission, the Commission—not the Council—enacted 2,448 regulations.
Not only is this Commission, which, under the Bill would replace Parliament 497 as a legislative authority over a wide field, including taxation, prices, food and social affairs, not elected by anyone and not responsible to any elected authority: it is not even responsible to the Council of Ministers. Nor—contrary to what many people including, apparently, even the Prime Minister, believe—does it even have on it a representative of the member countries. There would be no British representative on this law-making Commission whose decisions would bind the British public.
The Rome Treaty is extremely explicit about this. In Article 157, it lays down this rule for members of the Commission—not just members of subsidiary committees alone:In the performance of their duties, they shall neither seek not take instructions from any Government or from any other body…Each member state undertakes to respect this principle and not to seek to influence the members of the Commission in the performance of their duty.The Commission also decides by a majority, so there would be no veto even if there were a national representative.
On top of that, the balance of power between the Commission and the Council is of course totally different from what we take for granted between the British Cabinet and the Civil Service. First, in the great majority of cases, the Council can only deliberate or decide on a proposal from the Commission. Second, the Council cannot amend such a proposal unless it is unanimous, while the Commission can. For the most part, therefore, the Council cannot initiate and cannot amend.
I know that there are some who blindly and ignorantly say, as the Minister of Agriculture tried to this afternoon, that that is all true by the letter of the Treaty, but that it works in practice quite differently. I would advise anyone disposed to deceive himself with that illusion to study this excellent E.E.C. publication, "How the European Community's Institutions Work", by none other than M. Noel, the Secretary-General of the Commission, a document which was published in 1971.
M. Noel, who is very learned in these matters, first says, quite rightly, that the Commission…throughout their tenure of office must act in full independence both of Governments and of the Council.498 He explains that the Commission is the initiator of E.E.C. policy, that its powers cover competition, fiscal practice, state subsidies, agriculture, coal, steel and transport, and that they have been greatly extended and not curtailed since the E.E.C. was set up.
§ Mr. Jay
No, I will not give way; the hon. and gallant Member will probably learn something from this.
In M. Noel's own striking words, the Commission…draws up the proposal that the Council is to deliberate—and only on the basis of that proposal can the Council deliberate at all.He goes on:Except in a very few cases, the Council can proceed only on proposals by the Commission. If the Commission submits no proposals the Council is paralysed.That is working practice according to the Secretary-General. The Commission not merely legislates over a wide sphere, passing 2,000 or more laws a year, but powerfully influences the way in which the Council operates and the decisions it takes. That is the system, though Ministers do not like us to know it, which this Bill and the Treaty proposes to substitute fore the British Parliament as a method of governing a major part of Britain's economic and social affairs.
Such a system is literally bureaucracy. It means not just a loss of sovereignty or of parliamentary Government. It places the power of legislation and taxation—the power to issue decrees with legal force—in the hands of an unelected body of officials, something which has not been done in Britain since the 17th century. It offends the democratic fundamental principle that people should not be coerced by laws in which they have not had even an indirect hand in making.
The Chancellor of the Duchy tried to meet this yesterday by saying that there would be some vague arrangement for Parliament somehow to scrutinise draft regulations. But this Parliament, however long it scrutinises, will not be able to amend or reject anything. It will be reduced to having what the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry called, in another connection, a purely advisory capacity.
499 Some hon. Members have said in this debate, "Let us get out of this difficulty by forming a directly elected Common Market Parliament with real powers." I appreciate that that is the honestly held view of some people. But it would mean out-and-out federation, and the end of Britain as a sovereign independent country. That may be what some people want but we know that not more than one in a hundred of the British people and not more than a tiny minority in this House really want that. Indeed, if this is what the Prime Minister really wants I wish he would have the honesty to say so.
I find it extraordinary—this is, of course, an issue which is far above and beyond party politics—that any Government with no shred of mandate should even introduce a Bill which is, from any informed point of view, a constitutional outrage.
The three other applicant countries are to hold referenda on the question of joining the Community and apparently, rightly in my opinion, the Prime Minister proposes one for Northern Ireland. Nobody pretends that the Government have any mandate for this Bill from the people or anything approaching full-hearted consent.
The Prime Minister's "sole commitment", to use his own words from the Conservative Party Manifesto, is to "negotiate—no more, no less". To press ahead with such a Bill in these circumstance is, in my view, a breach of faith by the Prime Minister as well as a constitutional monstrosity. Millions of people in this country will feel, as I do, that legislation passed in this way, with no consent, cannot command the assent of the country and would lack moral and contitutional validity.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) said in a recent Irish debate that it was highly dangerous to destroy people's confidence in the constitution and legal processes by which society is held together. I wholeheartedly agree.
If this legislation is passed, the Prime Minister will be not merely undermining the future economy of the nation and our place in the world. He will be damaging—something which has not occurred in Britain in three centuries— 500 the confidence of the people in the way they are governed and the way in which the laws binding them are passed.
I am at least grateful to the Leader of the House for his agreement two weeks ago that anything done by this Parliament can be undone by the next. If a Measure anything like this were passed by this House, it must be, and it will be repealed by the next.
But how infinitely better for the House to reject the Bill totally now. If it were to do that, then it would be performing the greatest service to the people of Britain, and winning the most heartfelt applause from them, in the whole of its long history.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate. Although I will not comment on most of the points raised by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I must in fairness point out that he has been consistent in his view on this issue. One must, therefore, respect him for his view, even if one disagrees with it.
I have been somewhat saddened by the attitude of some pro-Marketeers on the benches opposite—particularly, for example, the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie)—because although not an ardent pro-Marketeer, I have been anxious to hear the views of hon. Members on both sides with a view to being influenced by their remarks.
Bearing that in mind, I am bound to be saddened when I hear hon. Members veering away from views they have expressed and held in recent weeks. My general view about the Bill and about going into Europe has not changed. As I say, I am not an ardent pro-Marketeer, though I accept that the economic case for our entry is good. I have political reservations, and from the federal point of view I am still violently opposed, but my overall view, which has not changed fundamentally, is that it will benefit Britain to join the Common Market.
The Bill makes it abundantly clear that there will be changes in many spheres of our national life. Many changes will have to be made to enable us to comply 501 with the obligations entailed in membership. This is the root cause of much of the opposition both in this House and in the constituencies.
People are fearful of change. When a change of any description is proposed they want to know the facts, and I appreciate that it is not always possible to give them. I therefore have a certain sympathy for those who are opposed to entry simply because they fear what is bound to result from the changes that will be made.
Some say that this is an act of faith, and it might be called that. It is not possible to make out a definitive case, though on balance I feel that entry will benefit Britain. Indeed, such advantages can already be seen and there is no doubt that as we grow and work together the benefits will become more apparent.
Although not skilled in foreign affairs, I was impressed by the strong stand which was taken by this country and the Community, and particularly by France, over the American financial problems and the import surcharge. That stand undoubtedly had a considerable effect on the American President. We saw a third bloc having influence in an important matter. Indeed, for the first time we saw what can be achieved—I appreciate that other factors were involved—when nations work together.
I turn to agriculture, which I know a little more about, and to Clauses 4 to 7 and the Schedules. A large amount of the Bill is taken up with the effects on agriculture, food prices and so on. Therefore, we shall have to look at these Clauses and the Schedules very carefully. Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I believe that the Committee stage will be most interesting. We shall certainly be able to probe every section of the Bill, and rightly so. The Bill may be fairly short, but the Committee stage is absolutely vital. Certainly, I shall want to look at it very carefully.
§ Mr. Biffen
Would my hon. Friend take this opportunity to repeat the fascinating and welcome view he expressed in the "British Farmer and Stockbreeder" that he would contest any Common Market regulations that were unsuitable or damaging to British interests? Does he consider that the Bill is so drawn that he will be able to do so?
§ Mr. Mills
I have the very strong feeling that I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) is any longer my hon. Friend. I thought that he would raise this matter. Certainly it is our duty to look at every regulation and to see how it affects the particular interest with which we are concerned. I do not make any blanket promises to support the Government on every regulation. This matter has to be looked at very carefully.
On the whole, agriculture welcomes this step. The terms and regulations give British agriculture the chance it has long needed. Agriculture will welcome the control of imports and the fact that we shall not have to experience the unfair dumping which we have experienced over many years. British agriculture does not mind competing on a fair basis, but heavily subsidised imports are an entirely different matter.
I welcome the idea of increased home production in agriculture. We have the ability to achieve this. It will be of benefit to the consumer. British agriculture can help to protect the consumer from being held to ransom by imports. There is no doubt that world shortages have caused a rapid increase in prices to the consumer when British agriculture has not been expanding and producing. Butter is a classic example of that. Would to goodness we had had increased home production under both the previous Tory Administration and the Socialist Administration. We should not have been in our present position concerning butter prices if that had been so.
British agriculture has the chance to lighten the cost of our entry. That is very important. It will be extremely difficult for Britain to pay the price of entry into Europe unless home agriculture expands and makes up for present imports. Agriculture has a vital rôle. I make a small dig at my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that he will prime the pump to see that we can produce the goods needed if we enter Europe.
As for the need for increased agricultural production, cutting back on imports and saving the cost of our entry into Europe, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will look carefully at his policy towards marginal land. The 503 best land in Britain at present is probably producing as much as it can. The increased production may well have to come from the poorer land or marginal land. This matter should be examined very carefully, especially when 1,100 acres per week of our best land are being lost to industrial purposes. If we want to enter Europe and want the Bill to become an Act and a fact, we shall have to examine that point very carefully.
Coming to what is probably a Committee point but one worth mentioning, looking at the Bill generally, the relationship of the British Government and the E.E.C. concerning agriculture must be made much clearer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) was concerned about that matter. I, too, am concerned. Admittedly it is a Committee point, but agriculture and the Government have a fairly happy relationship at present; we can, as it were, get at our Minister of Agriculture, put our questions and have our debates. When we enter Europe, we want the relationship of the industry as a whole defined more clearly so that we can understand how we can put our viewpoints. That is important.
Clause 4 and Schedule 4 deal with food, horticulture, fertilisers, feeding-stuffs and animal health, and all these are extremely important matters for British agriculture. Those who feel that we have much to offer the Community on the subject of animal health should think again in some respects. In many cases it is the other way around, especially regarding slaughterhouses and so on.
Clause 5 is concerned with import duties and transitional arrangements. I have rather changed my mind about the transitional arrangements for agriculture. These could well be speeded up now. Much has changed since a transitional arangement was first envisaged. I hope that the Opposition will not howl me down when I say that there is now a difference in the end prices which farmers are receiving. Food prices are higher and slightly nearer those in the Community. Therefore, the need for a transitional period in some commodities is not as necessary as was originally thought. The serious problem is the dangers ahead under the Clause. We could be at a grave 504 disadvantage with Community farmers who receive a subsidy for exports of their products to the United Kingdom in this transitional period. My right hon. Friend the Minister should look at this point to see whether, for some commodities, the transitional time could be shortened.
Clause 6 sets up the Intervention Board. Here again, much needs to be done. Although my right hon. Friend is considering setting up this intervention authority, we certainly need to know how this will apply to the various commodities, such as cereals and meat. This cannot be overlooked. There will be changes in the support for agriculture. There will also be charges in the C.A.P. With the increased number of countries joining, probably the whole internal conception of the C.A.P. will have changed, and we have a major part to play in that.
How much of the Agriculture Act, 1957, will be repealed? As I understand it, we can go until 1978 with guaranteed prices if so desired. But can we continue with guaranteed prices for certain commodities which are not controlled under existing E.E.C. regulations? The farming community is anxious about that.
Clause 7 is concerned with sugar arrangements. It is true that the higher prices for sugar that have been experienced have altered the situation altogether. While I am very keen that the Commonwealth producers should be protected and have a right of entry, there is a serious problem. We shall bring it up in Committee, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister will be concerned about it too. British farmers, seeing what is happening in the Community and in Eire, where farmers are already starting to increase their sugar beet acreages, say that it is absurd that they should be expected to hold back an increase in their acreage, unless something is done. This may not be a popular thing for me to say, but it is concerning British agriculture, and it is right that I should say it.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
The hon. Gentleman will recollect that the Government recently closed down the sugar beet factory in Scotland in preparation for entry into Europe, to permit the expansion of the sugar beet industry on the Continent. That is very significant.
§ Mr. Mills
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, whom I admire in many ways, he is quite wrong. Coupar was closed not because it was not a viable proposition but because the sugar content of the beet there was not up to requirements. Even worse than that, the farmers were not producing the acreage of sugar beet required to keep the factory going. We have the new factory in Norfolk now to meet the increased acreage that is bound to come. So what the hon. Gentleman says is rather a red herring.
Clause 10 concerns restrictive trade practices. The National Farmers Union is concerned about the Clause, and the N.F.U. has set most hon. Members a brief which says:Finally, the Union regrets that under Clause 10 it is made clear that the substantive law of the United Kingdom on restrictive practices remains. Restrictive trade practices legislation in the United Kingdom is very much more severe in its impact on agriculture and agricultural trade associations than in any of the individual countries of the Community or than the Community regulations, and unless there is a substantial easement in the application of such legislation to agriculture there will continue to be, to the detriment of home producers, distortion of fait competition which the Treaty of Rome expressly seeks to avoid.I hope that we may have an answer on that important point tonight.
There are several more things I should like to say, but I shall only repeat that we shall obviously have to look very carefully in Committee at those parts of the Bill that affect agriculture. I believe we shall go into Europe, and that in the long run the Bill will be of benefit to this country.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelly)
I hope that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) will not think it amiss if I do not follow him into the ramifications of the effects of entry into Europe on British agriculture. I was interested to hear him say that he would oppose, or at least strenuously argue against, any regulations he felt were not in the interests of British agriculture. If he votes in favour of the Bill tomorrow night he will have lost the opportunity to do that, because whatever else he argues or does is of no consequence. By accepting Clause 2(1) he accepts all the regulations issued so far which might be contrary to British agriculture. He cannot 506 reject some of the regulations and accept the implications of the Bill.
Of all the major constitutional Bills ever presented to the House, none can have been shorter or more obscure in language than the Bill we are debating. I do not like saying this, but it seems to be the natural culmination of one of the most dishonest acts of constitutional chicanery ever perpetrated on the British people. That well-known man of principle, the Prime Minister, once made a promise that the Conservatives would merely negotiate entry into Europe—no more, and no less. That was a promise dishonestly given, because he knew very well that should negotiations be concluded he would bring a Bill of this kind before the House.
The right hon. Gentleman made another promise, that his Government would not enter Europe without the full-hearted consent of the British people. That was another promise dishonestly given, because he had no intention of honouring it. It seems that for a man of principle in the pursuit of the European Holy Grail the ends justify the means. Now the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends present us with a Bill the form and content of which embody all the underhandedness that has gone before.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was interested in the standards he wanted every Member to adopt. I followed his points about what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and they have caused many of us to have doubts. But will not the hon. Gentleman be disturbed to be in the Lobby with his right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his 69 right hon. and hon. Friends who established a principle that apparently they will break?
§ Mr. Davies
I shall not be disturbed in the least, because what the Government have done, and the way in which 507 they have presented the Bill, have brought home even to those right hon. and hon. Friends of mine that there must be a better way of entering Europe than with a Bill like the one before us.
The form and content of the Bill emphasise the underhandedness that has gone before. For example, the Bill mentions about seven very important treaties by name, but, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) said today, no attempt is made to annex them to the Bill to enable the House to debate them and inform the British people of their content. Further, the Bill provides that 100 or more treaties—10 volumes I am told—will also be incorporated into the law of the United Kingdom. No attempt is made even to name them, let alone list them in the Bill.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster tells us that there are 1,500 regulations, 40 volumes of them. There is no mention of any of the regulations in the Bill, no listing of them. None is annexed to the Bill.
The reason is obvious. It is to debar us as far as possible from putting down Amendments so that these treaties, regulations and directives can be properly debated and so that the people who will have to obey them in future can know the law that they are obeying.
The Government think they have been very clever in the way they have drafted the Bill, but it is another example of the lengths to which the present Executive are prepared to go to conceal from the public and the House the full effects of joining the European Communities.
Apart from the form in which the Bill is drafted, its substance and content represent a serious blow to parliamentary control and parliamentary democracy, for two brief subsections, subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 2, take away some of our most cherished powers and vest them not in another parliamentary assembly but, to a lesser extent, in the executive, and, to a much greater extent, in a non-elected body situated outside this realm and not subject to parliamentary control by this House or any other parliament.
Let me take the lesser of the two evils first, Clause 2(2). I understand that this 508 enables the Executive to give legal effect to the numerous directives that emanate from Brussels from time to time. We are told that they can at least be debated in the House. The treaty does not forbid that, but even here the Government have chosen to allow Ministers to have the right to say how the directives are to be debated, if at all.
As I read the Bill, it is perfectly possible for all these directives to be incorporated into the law of the United Kingdom by means of negative procedure. We know how many Prayers get debated in this House—a very small minority. It is possible for a Minister, by means of these procedures, to create criminal offences punishable with imprisonment of up to two years. I suppose this is the kind of "open government" which the Prime Minister promised the electorate.
The Leader of the House has exhorted us to devise new procedures to meet what is described in the fashionable phrase, "The challenge of the E.E.C." This statement, like so many others by the Government with reference to Europe, seems hypocritical. His name is on the Bill. If he had been sincere, he would have seen to it that every directive which came from Brussels would be debated in this House on an affirmative Resolution. The Government have failed to do that and have failed to ensure that we can debate the regulations on the Floor of the House.
An ad hoc committee is to be set up. I am a member of the existing Joint Committee on Delegated Legislation. When that Committee met a few weeks ago we were very concerned about this question. We all agreed to press for information about the effect that entering Europe would have on subordinate legislation. We agreed to ask the Government to publish a paper on this. We agreed to give them two weeks in which to do so, and the Committee was to meet today. Alas, yesterday we received a little note saying that the meeting was postponed, and it was found that the paper would not arrive until late tomorrow evening. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said that he is concerned about parliamentary democracy. Where has he been all this time?
Subsection (2) of Clause 2 does not go so far as subsection (1). The effect under 509 Clause 2(1) will be that for the first time since Tudor days the British people will have to obey laws created by institutions and bodies outside the realm, outside this House. It is proposed that all Community regulations—there were almost 3,000 last year—should become part of our law without Parliament being allowed to debate, let alone to reject them. Once a decision has been made, in secret, by the Council of Ministers, all effective discussion will be terminated and British citizens will be forced to obey laws which have not been debated by their elected representatives.
The Isle of Man Parliament will have even greater powers than this Parliament, because it will be empowered to debate and reject regulations. One of the great feats of negotiation by the Chancellor of the Duchy has been to secure for the Isle of Man Parliament rights which are to be denied to the Mother of Parliaments. Apologists for the Executive have said, and will no doubt argue, that nothing better was possible in view of the mandatory nature of Article 189 of the E.E.C. Treaty. But did the Chancellor of the Duchy ever attempt to raise the question of the iniquitous nature of that article when he was conducting so-called negotiations? If he had done so, I refuse to believe that he would not have received some sympathy from the Parliamentarians of the Six. I cannot believe that the Parliaments of the Six are happy about Article 189. The trouble is that he was not negotiating with Parliaments, but with Ministers and civil servants. They have a vested interest in concentrating power in the E.E.C. Commission and the Council of Ministers, and the Executive here has a vaster interest in concentrating power there.
Did the Prime Minister ever raise this question at the Elysée Palais and say, "This is fundamental to my country"? Of course he did not, because the President of the Republic would not have taken kindly to a suggestion which would have increased the power of his own weak Parliament. Article 189 tells us a lot about the temperament and political philosophy of those who drew up the treaty. They took away powers from the Parliaments of the Six. Instead of doing what we in this House would instinctively have done if we had been in 510 volved, instead of transferring powers to some other Parliament or assembly how- ever effectively that might be done, they chose to concentrate the powers they had taken from democratically elected assemblies and to concentrate them in the Council of Ministers and its civil servants.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Presumably in this argument the hon. Member has in mind that there has come from the Commission or the Council of Ministers during the last 10 or 12 years a number of regulations or directives to which the national Parliament of at least one country in the Community has made strong objection. Otherwise, the hon. Member could not use this argument. Could he give two or three examples which he has in mind where objection has been taken in the national parliament of any country in the Community?
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. and gallant Member, but I have not one example. Once these directives come from the Council of Ministers there is no point in objecting to them, because the matter is a fait accompli.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. and gallant Member misses the point. This body of men consciously chose not to give the members of the E.E.C. any democratic parliamentary control. Far from being men of vision, as we are sometimes told they are, these people seem rather autocratic little men, for otherwise they could not have consented to this Article which takes away most parliamentary control. We will no doubt be told that Article 189 and consequently Clause 1(2) are necessary to further the cause of European unity. But what that Article and the Clause are designed to do is not to create unity but to impose uniformity. It has been one of the errors through the ages in the history of the British Isles—the nations of the British Isles are replete with examples of this—to believe that one can impose unity merely by laying down and imposing uniform laws. That is attempted by this Article.
This Bill in practically every line and Clause, destroys control by this House. It also shows a certain contempt on the part of those who drafted it for the 511 institutions of this House, for parliamentary control and the traditions of the British people. It assumes that we are men of straw and ready to follow the Executive wherever the mandarins care to lead, provided they can devise a way of doing so. I say to my hon. Friends who believe sincerely and so passionately in the European ideal that neither that ideal nor the cause of Western democracy will be enhanced by the emasculation of the British Parliament which this Bill envisages and entails.
Tomorrow let us show that this House is not impotent and that the elected representatives of the British people are not men of straw. Let us proclaim that the House is not prepared to abdicate to civil servants beyond our shores the powers which we should hold in sacred trust for the British people.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies) made his speech in the way he did. He knows that I do not agree with almost every word he said, apart from the point he made about our not being men of straw. I agree that we are not. He may be as firm in his views as I am in mine. The House knows that I am passionately in favour of this country joining the Common Market. This Bill is the right and proper way of going about it.
What worries me is the way in which people like the hon. Member for Llanelly and his right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) approach this. They show an incredible misunderstanding, one might almost say that it was ignorance—in the case of the hon. Member for Llanelly this may be so—of the way in which the machinery in Brussels actually works. I would not dream of accusing the right hon. Member for Battersea, North of ignorance. He said what he did quite deliberately. As he is not present I do not want to pursue that argument.
It is understandable that the hon. Member for Llanelly should say that it is in the Council of Ministers where the decisions are taken. It is right that it does not initiate the proposals but the work of the Commissioners in drafting regulations and recommendations 512 flows directly from decisions taken by the Ministers. These matters have already been discussed in national Parliaments and cabinets and it is in the light of that that such decisions are reached.
The hon. Gentleman said that the present Government and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had been dishonest. I strongly repudiate that. He said that we should have all of the regulations brought here for debate and amendment. Surely he realises that we have accepted the regulations and that there is no question of amending them. This cannot be done. If we are to join the Common Market we must accept the regulations as they stand.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
This is exactly the position taken by the party opposite when they were in power.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite accepted the principle of joining the Common Market and it is no good their trying to run out now because the going is getting rough and they think they can get some form of political advantage from it.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
Since the hon. Gentleman has called me ignorant of the Community procedures, may I ask him whether he is happy to accept regulations when he knows nothing about their contents?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The regulations which have been passed are available to all hon. Members and they flow from decisions taken by the Council of Ministers. These I accept. If I had not accepted them I would not be in a position to say that I wanted to join the E.E.C. That must surely be plain to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) raised the point about the machinery which will be established to examine the draft recommendations and resolutions flowing from the Council of Ministers. It is suggested that there should be a committee to devise ways and means of examining this legislation, whether draft regulations, instruments or resolutions, before it is finalised in the Council. It is important that the 513 committee gets on with its work as soon as possible, particularly in examining the draft recommendations and resolutions. It is essential that the House should have an opportunity of examining these at the earliest possible moment and making its recommendations to the Government about them.
The hon. Member for Llanelly said how useless the European Parliament was. I do not think that over 150 European parliamentarians would be spending their time attending that Parliament if they felt it was a waste of time. I accept that they have no decision-making power at the moment. They have, however, a great deal of influence; they have consultations with the Council of Ministers and with the Commission at the various stages. It is extremely important work and all parties in the House will have to think carefully about how right hon. and hon. Gentlemen can fulfil the duties and functions of members of the European Parliament while remaining Members of this House. It is vital to have members of the European Parliament who are also Members of this House. It is wrong for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that their value is minimal because that is not so.
My right hon. Friend also said that the sovereignty of Parliament would be attacked and that we would lose a certain amount of that sovereignty. Of course we will; anyone would be a fool who said we would not. I am prepared to accept that amount of loss of sovereignty because I believe that we gain much by so doing. We gain through our presence in Europe, in the Council and the various other institutions. This is not the end of the European adventure. We will go much further than this. This is only a first step. I do not support a federated Europe but I believe that the co-operation and co-ordination of European countries will increase over the years.
I turn now to agricultural matters. There are one or two points I would like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to deal with. The first concerns Clause 6 giving authority and power to set up a buying agency, which is necessary for intervention purposes. I do not know what plans my right hon. Friend has or how he intends to set this up, whether he intends to delegate power as is foreseen in subsection (2) to either the 514 Cereal Authority or the Meat and Livestock Commission or whether he intends setting up a new body. It would be interesting to know what he has in mind and to know what are the provisions in the Bill about financing these operations. If any mention of them in the Bill is necessary, I cannot find it.
I wish also to deal with animal health regulations. I am delighted to see in Schedule 4 that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been able to negotiate over our animal health regulations about which there was a great deal of anxiety. I am glad that these are not to be changed by our entry. There is in paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 4 to the Bill power for the Minister to make regulations about animals brought to this country to be slaughtered here. The Minister can take action by order.
I come back to the main theme of agriculture. The common agricultural policy has been the backbone of the development of the E.E.C. economic policy throughout the last 15 years. At the moment it is standing up under tremendous strain from entirely external influences bearing upon it. The strain which it has had to undergo is from fluctuations in the monetary scene and greatly increased margins in the currencies, and the strain, although it has not made the agricultural policy unworkable, has come very near to doing so.
I have seen this on my visits to Europe over the last 18 months. One has seen clearly the problems arising from fluctuations and increasing margins in the currencies. At the moment, even after the Washington agreement of January, there can still be a maximum marginal difference between the E.E.C. currencies of 9 per cent., with 4½ per cent. on either side. It brings an unfair and an undue strain on the common agricultural policy of free trade in agricultural goods within the European Community, using the dollar as the main monetary unit for purposes of calculation.
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Battersea, North who said there was no hurry to move in the monetary field. I believe there is need to hurry and that by July or August the European countries, including our own, have to come to an agreement about narrowing the margins between our currencies and the 515 fluctuations between them if we are to see the common agricultural policy in the future without the complications of setting up customs and all the rest.
Unless one does this and takes the next step of forming a European currency for a working capital reserve I do not believe that Europe, including ourselves, Switzerland and others, can avoid falling within the ambit of complete control by the United States dollar. I am not arguing the right or the wrong of this but I believe it would be wrong. It is my view, however, that we have to be quick in taking these decisions. After all, my right hon. Friend's agricultural policy is at risk. I am sure he is fully aware of the dangers which exist here. I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is more than aware of them, and I would only say to my right hon. Friends that there is here a situation which is very real and very grave, and by October at the latest, probably by August, there should be an agreement in outline and principle reached on this matter.
There is one final thing I wish to say. In general I believe that this co-operation in the economic field, helped through the Bill, although it will give us problems and headaches, is desirable; and I do not believe that any better agreement would ever have been negotiated either by right hon. and hon. Members opposite or by the Government. I believe that these are the best terms one could possibly have got, and although we are giving away something we get infinitely more in return. The agriculture industry, which is the key, will greatly benefit in the medium and the long term from the Bill. The hill and marginal farming areas and also the main heart and bulk of the industry should benefit greatly.
This is the first step towards greater co-operation and co-ordination, not only in the economic and monetary fields but in the political field. I wish the Bill well and I give good wishes to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister in getting it through.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
My favourite Conservative, although he was then known as a Tory, Dr. Jonathan 516 Swift, once described the Peace of Utrecht, which, of course, was consolidated by a treaty, as being like the peace of God in that it passeth all understanding, I find myself in precisely the same position in relation to the Bill. I cannot understand three-quarters of it, which means that I have been totally incapable of following most of the points made in the debate so far, certinly the abstruse legal points which have been made with compelling authority.
In this respect I am being treated with far less consideration than the black inhabitants of Rhodesia. They at least have had the Pearce Commission. They have got the Pearce Commission to try to find out what they think of a similarly rather abstract proposition; they are being consulted. I find it very mysterious that whilst Her Majesty's subjects in durance vile in the rebellious State of Rhodesia can be consulted even while an act of rebellion is being perpetrated there, the citizens of this country cannot be consulted by any means.
With my usual modesty, I make the suggestion to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that as soon as the Pearce Commission has finished its work in Rhodesia it should proceed with the same kind of mission in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If that proposal is not acceptable I would suggest to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that some of their hon. Friends, if we are to believe the Prime Minister, can tomorrow night see another kind of referendum by a general election in which this issue will feature very prominently, although I am not asking anybody on either side of the House to do a kamikaze dive.
It seems to me that the arguments have proceeded on the basis of our committing a partial execution, and I would like to use the term in its exact and literal sense as distinct from its legal sense. It has been said that we are committing partial execution on ourselves if we pass the Bill. It is exceedingly difficult to commit a partial execution. An execution has to be total or it is not an execution. I think that what is in front of us at the moment is the probability, to change the metaphor, of long, long hours of very interesting discussion as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House begin to explore the actual implications of the vote 517 which was cast on 28th October last, when they begin to look at the regulations which they must swallow whole. Some hon. Members may have stronger legislative digestions than others but I think that as the debate proceeds, and as the instruments of the Community are examined in closer detail, one thing will emerge. Here I come to my main point, since I have neither the wish nor the ability to follow my hon. Friends in some of the abstruse parts of their arguments. I come to the main constitutional position. I want to set this debate in its historic context.
We are not discussing the price of butter, eggs or bacon. We are not discussing whether it is desirable to have large units in industry. We are not even discussing whether it is desirable to be associated with Europe. My hon. Friends on this side of the House, and many hon. Members on the Government side, know that I am one of the most active advocates of participation between ourselves and our European colleagues and I have been secretary of the Anglo-German Group in this House, a group which has grown by 300 per cent. Nobody in this House can accuse me of being anti-European.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) said yesterday, we are already part of Europe in a hundred different ways. We belong to the institutions of Europe, and our membership of those institutions to some extent limits our sovereignty. We limit our sovereignty by being in N.A.T.O., but we can debate N.A.T.O. policy in this House in great detail. It is true that few hon. Members turn up for defence debates, but we can raise N.A.T.O. issues and we know the precise machinery with which we are dealing.
The whole European tradition of Parliaments is totally different from ours. The term "par lement" in Europe signifies something different from the term as we use it in the English language. Parliaments in Europe were always consultative and advisory bodies. One can study the evolution of the Reichstag—since I have cleared myself of the possible accusation of being anti-German—and of the French National Assembly. Most of these Parliaments have been considered by successive leaders of the countries as purely advisory bodies.
518 This Parliament is totally different. The many Europeans I show around this Parliament and talk to leave the building envying this Parliament and being fully conscious of the difference. I put it to them that the function of this Parliament is not so much to rule or even to advise a ruler, whether Kaiser, King or Prime Minister; it is to prevent misrule. That has been its function since the middle of the seventeenth century. It was established to do that. Sometimes it has not succeeded—it is not succeeding at this moment—but at least we have the opportunity to try, and there is a chance of a second innings not only for us but for our electorates.
There is a fundamental difference in attitude. I am not suggesting that the continental European attitude is in any way inferior to our own. When I maintain that oil and water do not mix, I am not suggesting that either material is superior to the other. If Anglicans go to church, they are not thereby insulting Roman Catholics who go to church and indulge in a different form of worship. I am talking about unmixable ingredients. I cannot see how our parliamentary traditions, those unwritten codes and conventions which have been built up from the middle of the seventeenth century and earlier, can be fitted into the bureaucratic structure of Europe, into which we shall be pushed if the House is foolish enough to allow it, as a constituent part.
My personal friends in Europe who belong to Socialist democratic parties and desire to expand the Community do not wish to see our Parliament emasculated; they wish to see its best traditions and many of its procedures transmitted to Europe. But we are prohibited from exporting our traditions and procedures to Europe by the nature of the Bill.
Given the present feeling of the country and the sense of frustration which is shown sometimes in Gallup polls and other forms of consultation with the public—I know that polls reflect only moods and not voting intentions—a great deal of convincing needs to be done among the ordinary citizents, in spite of nearly 10 years of debate about joining the European Economic Community and the two other Communities. The people still remain significantly, manifestly, sometimes resentfully, and always in my 519 case aggressively, unpersuaded. I do not worship the great god public opinion any more than I adore that abstract entity called the general will, but if the British public feel that they are being asked to do something which they neither understand nor want, most of the effects of which, financial and otherwise, will fall upon their shoulders, their immediate hostility will turn against this House.
Hon. Members will remember an important observation by one of my colleagues from a mining constituency in the debate on Monday when he pointed out that however inconvenient the miners' lobby might be, it would be terribly dangerous to the spirit of British democracy if protesting miners and protesting citizens of any profession ceased to come to the House and were not able to look to it for the redress of grievances.
If we go into the Community structure with its different set of traditions we shall be injecting into the body politic of this country an almost lethal dose of poison, and we shall be exporting into the Community not the democracy and the traditions which we all cherish in this House, but the feelings of a rebellious, almost mutinous populace who so strongly object to what has been done in their name that they will not only oppose the silly little Assembly that sits in Strasbourg, the European Parliament, but will begin to resent and object to this Parliament.
The only reason we were able to stave off revolution in the nineteenth century was that the rebels, from the Chartists onwards, were able to use this House to effect changes that benefited them. Once the people of this country begin to feel that they can no longer do that, once the arguments in this House degenerate to the level of the obnoxious arguments in the state legislatures of Alabama and Mississippi about states' rights and the doctrine of the inter-position of state's rights as against federal rights, we shall be destroying by an act of self-execution the very thing which certainly the Socialists in Europe want us to bring into the Community—parliamentary democracy, British style. I am in no sense a jingoist when I use that adjective.
If the Bill is allowed to pass, we shall be tying ourselves to a chariot wheel 520 which is going God knows where. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) was logical in saying that if we take this first step we must naturally proceed to all the other steps.
Only last week in an Italian journal President Pompidou made it quite clear what all those other steps will lead to. The British people, in so far as we can test their feelings, do not want this to happen; nor do I.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I am sure the whole House thoroughly enjoyed—even if it did not agree with—the speech of the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher), which stemmed from a great knowledge of our history. He said he did not understand the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce), whose speech I enjoyed but did not agree with, said that the Bill was a lawyer's paradise. I am a lawyer, but I find this no paradise.
The hon. Member for Ilkeston said that we were not being consulted, but I can assure him that some Conservative Members are being consulted. He also said that the Bill would lead to execution. I did not quite agree with him on that. I think it would lead to vasectomy of this House which would make it a political eunuch.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) said that, once we join the Community, high-powered British people should be sent to Brussels. I agree with him that, if we get in, people should go to Brussels, but I believe that those who are sent should be basically anti-Common Market so as to get the best value in putting up a fair fight for British interests.
I should like to deal with one other comment before coming to my main points, and this is to deal with the matter of consultation mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins). He discussed the draft regulations, and this is one aspect which worries me and which ought to worry the House. We were told that we shall have a chance to express views on these regulations in the House. It is said that our man in Brussels or our man on the Council of Ministers will discuss these things with his colleagues over there. We know perfectly well—because 521 we have been told by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—that these things are all settled in a compromise over coffee and whatever is taken with it, and that since a compromise will be reached there will be no need to use the veto. But if a compromise is reached which may be significantly different from the view of the House of Commons, then the House of Commons will have no right at all to question the compromise.
I feel for the Opposition on this matter, because something may go forward to the Council of Ministers which is thought to be a Conservative proposal and, when the Opposition assume the reins of office, they may have a chance to question that matter once the treaty is signed. Here is an example of surrender of sovereignty. The people who want to go into the Market do not seem to understand this. Between pro-and anti-Marketeers there is a yawning gap about the real rôle of our Parliament.
I wish to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), who has groaned once or twice, that we should be aware of what might happen in the fullness of time. If we go in we shall be in inextricably and after our period of office—let us say, after 13 years—we shall find ourselves in Opposition and will have a Socialist Party serving as the Government. Perhaps by then we shall have a Communist Party in Italy, which is likely, and Socialist Governments in France and Germany, and a nice cook-up of Socialist Governments in the Council of Ministers. They would not hesitate to use the system as a method of getting Socialist legislation into Europe without consulting the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
Since my hon. Friend has referred to me perhaps I may be allowed to say this. He alleged that there would be no opportunity for an Opposition to criticise or object to proposed legislation in the Community context. I profoundly disagree with him. There would be many opportunities before the legislation became final.
§ Mr. Marten
Perhaps my hon. Friend did not grasp what I said. I will explain it to him outside the Chamber a little later, so as not to hold up other hon. Members who wish to speak.
522 I turn to the political question of the vote on Thursday night. I had intended to talk about the Bill, but since so many other lawyers have dealt with its provisions, I shall refrain from so doing. In view of the reports in today's newspapers on which the Prime Minister has said that he and the Cabinet will resign if the Bill is not given a Second Reading, I feel that I must deal with that aspect tonight, because nobody else has yet done so on this side of the House. I do not know whether those reports are true, because I have not been selected for an interview. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Perhaps I am over the border or something of the sort. I say quite sincerely that the country would regard it as an act of the utmost irressponsibility if the Government were to do this.
Constitutionally, as the House well knows, the Government have no need to resign if they do not get a Second Reading of this Bill tomorrow night. But if they choose to dissolve Parliament—and they would have to do it or presumably go to the Queen on Friday—at a time like this, with the coal strike, Northern Ireland and massive unemployment, I cannot help feeling that the country would say the Government were using the excuse of the defeat of this Bill to run away from their responsibilities. I say that, because in a very important document for Conservatives, our election manifesto entitled "A Better Tomorrow"—[An HON. MEMBER: "When?"]—tomorrow, or Imshallah as they say—we set out our policy in a nutshell on pages 6 and 7 and the final paragraph says:These policies will strengthen Britain so that we can negotiate with the European Community confident in the knowledge that we can stand on our own feet if the price is too high.So we can stand on our own feet if we do not go in. I would ask, therefore, why is it in any way necessary to resign if it is not constitutionally necessary to do so? Then there is the vital matter of the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister during the last election on 2nd June, 1970, and in Paris before then, about not joining the Common Market without the full-hearted consent of Parliament and people. That was his expression. Later, during the course of the election, he explained that he did not really mean "the people", he 523 meant "the people through Parliament", so originally, when he said it in Paris, he meant the full-hearted support of Parliament and he should not really have put "people" in there.
This was a pledge given to the nation because at the time of the election the nation was afraid of being bulldozed into the Common Market; and it was clearly meant to reassure the electorate on that very point. The consent of Parliament can be obtained by one vote, by a majority of one, but if words mean anything at all, full-hearted support is something much greater than that—[HON. MEMBERS: "One hundred and twelve."]—I will deal when I come to the point with those hon. Gentlemen muttering from a seated position the magical number "112". It should be something much greater, much more than that. When we speak of the full-hearted consent of Parliament do we not mean that in its heart and soul it wants to go in? I have not observed in any of our debates that Parliament in its heart and soul wants to go into the Common Market.
We are being asked to vote for this Bill under the unnecessary threat of the Government's resignation, even if a majority of 20 is obtained on Thursday night, as this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as full-hearted consent. Not only would the majority be too small but on the basis of a threat of resignation the majority would be a forced one, without any heart in it. In other words, it would not be the full-hearted support of Parliament. And if there is only a small majority on Thursday, what would the Prime Minister do? Would he honour his pledge to the electorate and advise with good grace that we cannot join? Or would he not?—because the Government declared that the whole principle of entering the Common Market is not one of confidence in themselves when they gave the House a free vote on 28th October and said, "You can vote how you like. It is not a question of confidence". Then the Prime Minister said in addressing the nation on television on 8th July, and I quote from his national broadcast:It is a big decision. It is one that goes far beyond party politics.524 So surely he can clearly accept a defeat on this Bill with honour and good grace, on a non-party basis. It may be claimed that full-hearted consent was given, as one of my sedentary commentators muttered a minute ago, on 28th October last.
At that time, though, the negotiations had not been completed. Even if they had been, the vote tomorrow night is the real test. For the first time, this House will know all the precise terms of the deal, and it will have the Bill and the secondary legislation before it. It is the first time that the House can judge whether it gives its full-hearted consent.
To support what I say, I quote from the Financial Times, which is a very pro-Market paper and possibly pro-Conservative. On 15th February it said, referring to tomorrow's vote:This is after all, in the constitutional sense, the truly decisive vote. The debate in October on the 'principle' of entry was in fact merely a decision to approve the Government's White Paper, and although both Government and pro-Marketeers on the Labour side are saying that that vote was the critical one, they are wrong. It is the Bill which enshrines the principle of entry to the Market and it is the Bill which makes the crucial cession of sovereignty in certain areas to the Community.That was the leader in the Financial Times, for which its whole Conservative managerial outfit takes responsibility.
According to the Press, the vote might be very marginal for the Government, if they have a majority at all. It is hard to obtain absolute perfection in our calculations. If the majority is tight, clearly we should not go in. But if we proceed on a small majority, the important election pledge given by the Prime Minister on behalf of our party will have been broken, to the eternal shame of the party to which I belong—
§ Mr. Marten
It is a question of how one approaches politics. If a pledge is given at an election and not honoured, I regard that with shame. I am proud to be a member of a party which gave 92 pledges at the 1959 election and, according to the Conservative Central Office, honoured 91 of them. That is politics as it should be, and I have put forward that argument time and time again to show 525 how Conservative promises given at elections can be relied upon. If this pledge is not honoured, Conservative candidates at future elections will find it very difficult to say that the party can be relied upon. If this pledge is broken, it will hang round our necks like a millstone at future elections. Pledges at elections and the keeping of them are the very essence of British politics. If they become expendable when it suits the party in power or when they become inconvenient, the public will regard politicians rightly with the utmost contempt, and I am not prepared to condone that.
I turn finally to the case of the individual Member and his pledges. On 28th October, the Government were given very clear notice that 39 Conservative Members were against the whole principle of joining the Common Market. They knew that they had an overall majority of only 26, yet they had persisted in going ahead with this Bill, despite the fact that there were more Conservative anti-Marketeer Members than their overall majority. I presume that they must have relied on Opposition Members to carry them through and, with respect to my friends and colleagues in the Government, that is one of the most elementary and foolish mistakes that any Government can make. No Government can rely on the Opposition to get through their legislation.
Since 28th October, opinions have changed, and for a variety of reasons. They have changed in both parties. Apparently some Conservative antis will vote in favour of the Bill, for reasons which doubtless they will have to explain to their constituents in due course. Some Labour pros have decided to vote against it. Yesterday, we heard an admirable speech from the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) saying why he had changed his mind. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is present at the moment. His speech was not very convincing. But it showed that since 28th October he has changed because, he said, of the Government's incompetence, their divisive policies and their disdain for Parliament. That illustrates the danger of the Government relying on some members of the Opposition to get their fundamental business through this House. I do not believe that this is fundamental, but that is another matter.
526 I wonder what the electors will think particularly of those Members who said at the last election that they would oppose entry into the Common Market, and have now turned. There may well be over a hundred Members of this House who have turned, either since 28th October or since the election, and I think that unless they have good reason their electors will in future be rather suspicious of what they say at election times.
Yet, as I see it, this is what some of us on this side of the House are being encouraged to do—to turn against our better judgment by this threat of the Government's resignation. This is quite clear for all to see, yet at the election a pledge was given that those of us who opposed the Common Market would be free to vote as we thought fit. That still holds good. We are free, and we shall vote freely as we think fit, because on the 28th it was not a vote of confidence and clearly the logic is that it should not be now.
I gave a firm pledge to my constituents at the last election that I would oppose entry into the Common Market. I was returned with an unusually handsome majority for me and not one single soul at my adoption meeting, which was attended by 300 to 350 people, in full knowledge of my opposition to Common Market entry, objected to me as a candidate. Before voting at the election every elector had my election address in which I stated that I was opposed to the Common Market. So everybody who voted for Neil Marten, as I then was—now the hon. Member for Banbury—everybody who put a cross against my name knew that I was opposed to joining the Common Market. The Government know this. Are they, by their threat of resignation if they are defeated, asking me to default on the pledge I gave to my electors? This is the crucial point for those of us who are anti-Common Market.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)
Would my hon. Friend apply the same critical remarks to those hon. Gentlemen opposite who pledged themselves to going into the Common Market but who are now changing their minds because of a particular vote?
§ Mr. Marten
The answer—very shortly so that I can get on—is "Yes", and as we share adjacent desks I will elaborate 527 on that later. That is two hon. Gentlemen I have to talk to.
I imagine the Prime Minister, man of honour that he is, cannot possibly expect me or any of my colleagues who sincerely believe that it is wrong to go into the Common Market to change our opinion in the vote tomorrow night. Nor would any of my constituents, who knew I was going to oppose the Common Market, respect me if I changed my vote tomorrow night. No one has persuaded me since then that it is right to go in. The more I debate it, the more wrong I think it is. It may sound vain and conceited, but I am convinced that in the end the votes which I and my colleagues cast may well be proved to have been right.
§ Captain W. Elliot
May I ask my hon. Friend a very important question? If he and his hon. Friends vote as he suggests they may, does he realise that the official policy of Her Majesty's Opposition is still to join the Community, so that he may well get not only the Community but a Labour Government?
§ Mr. Marten
One must wait for the winding-up speech before coming to a conclusion about the party opposite, because they may have something to say later in the debate and I should hate to mislead my hon. Friends at this early stage of the debate. We anti-Market Conservatives have had plenty of pressures put on us, not by argument on the merits of the case for joining but by other means. I believe that, by behaving like that, the Conservative Party has harmed the very case that it was trying to make to us. I am convinced of that. I was brought up as a boy to honour my pledges. My wife and I have tried to bring our children up that way. I passionately hope that they will turn out like that and that their children will carry on in the same tradition, which I believe is a tradition of our country.
If I voted for the Bill, I would be telling a giant lie. I know it; my family know it; my constituents know it, and the Government know it. I am simply not prepared to dishonour my pledge. I hope that the Government will not dishonour their pledge, because if they do they will be doing lasting damage to the Conservative Party, and they have no right to do that.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
The whole House will admire the courage and consistency of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and no one will criticise him for taking his stand. But I feel sure that there is an essential contradiction in his remarks, because he asks very strongly for a non-party decision. He said that the coming vote need not be a matter of confidence in the Government. But the fact is that it has been made a matter of confidence in the Government. That is how the issue is being argued. If it were not a matter of confidence, and if this were the simple issue of the Common Market, we would get for the Bill a repetition of the 112 majority we got on 28th October.
But there has been the most intense party pressure on both sides. It is being stressed that it is not just the Common Market but the future of the present Government that is at stake. That is the argument that is being put in the little interviews which the hon. Member for Banbury mentioned and that is the argument being put on this side of the House. I would welcome it if the Division were to take place simply on the Common Market because then we would again see a 100-plus majority for it.
I want to make a political point before turning to the major subject of possible limitations on our sovereignty, which has led to so many admirable speeches by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton), my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) and others. Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) concluded his speech by saying—it was the only new point he made in that speech, in which he was, I take it, speaking for the Opposition:we intend to re-negotiate and re-legislate…No decision that they"—that is, the Government—make can have more than an interim character…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972: Vol. 831, c. 301.]I would be grateful if my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench would explain whether this is the official policy of the Shadow Cabinet at 529 this moment because it makes a great deal of difference if it is. I sincerely hope it is not.
I say that for two reasons. First, I think it is utterly unworkable. It would be workable only if there were a General Election very soon. If this Bill is passed and we have an election in late-1974 or early in 1975, however, when this country will be 20 months or two years into the Common Market, does it make sense that we should go to the other member countries and say "We want to change the terms"? They would certainly reply "Wait until you see what the financial burden is because you will not know until the fourth or fifth year of the transitional period." If we say that we are worried about New Zealand, they will say "Let us wait until 1977 when the review takes place." If we say we are worried about sugar, they will say "You can use your bargaining power when the matter comes up for renegotiation later in the transitional period." To take the attitude "New terms or we pull out" would be the worst possible position for this country to adopt. It would mean that, having reduced or rearranged our connections with the Commonwealth and moved towards Europe, we would then turn and kick our new partners, the European Powers in the teeth. This is not a sensible policy for any major political party and I would be grateful for clarification from my Front Bench.
My second objection is that politically also it would be a great mistake because, so long as there is a question mark over whether a Labour Government would remain a member of the Common Market—if the present Government take us in—it is impossible for the Labour Party to devise a sensible foreign policy, a sensible regional policy or a sensible agricultural policy before the next election because we would not know whether such policies were being devised against the background of membership of the Common Market or whether we must assume a retreat to some new position—it could not be our present position, but a retreat to some other position out of the Market but lacking the Commonwealth and other arrangements we have today. I should be glad for clarification on that point.
I turn to the major issue of parliamentary sovereignty which has come up in the debate. I hope that right hon. and hon. 530 Members will accept that one of the few things I have tried to do in the six years that I have served on the Select Committee on Procedure has been to pursue the cause of parliamentary reform and to try and increase the powers, prestige and control that this House exercises over the Executive.
My first point is that it does not come suitably from any hon. Member to imagine that it would be possible to negotiate entry to the Market by any other principle than that embodied in Clause 2 of the Bill. This point has to be faced. Indeed, no one made it more adequately than the last Labour Government in their White Paper on "The Legal and Constitutional Implications of United Kingdom Membership of the European Communities", which said:The constitutional innovation would lie in the acceptance in advance as part of the law of the United Kingdom of provisions to be made in the future by instruments issued by the Community institutions".That means that a Clause 2 type procedure would be essential if we entered the Market.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies) I suggest that it would be impossible for each Member of Parliament to be allowed to amend, alter or change detailed negotiated regulations which have been produced as part of the inter-relation of the member Governments. This is directly contrary to the whole purpose of the Community, and the Labour Government, who applied to join in 1967, recognised that.
At that time the Labour Government placed on the tapis for negotiation sugar; they raised the issue of New Zealand butter and the cost of entry but they did not put this issue mentioned in the White Paper up for negotiation because it would have been impossible to enter the Community by any other method than that set out in this Bill. This approach was accepted by the Labour Government and by the 462 Members of this House who tramped through the Lobby in support of our application.
Having made that point, I come back to the key question. If we accept a Clause 2 type procedure and accept that agreed decisions of the Community institutions ipso facto become the law of this country, is it, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East said, a 531 disastrous derogation of the sovereignty of this House?
I should like to try to face this question flat on because it is the key question. When I do that, I have to be clear about the meaning of the word "sovereignty". I do not think sovereignty should be regarded purely in the legalistic sense. Sovereignty is a matter of power to make decisions and to achieve purposes. It is no good saying that sovereignty is a legal question. The Queen allegedly has sovereignty. We are not bothered about her loss of sovereignty if we go into the Market, because she exercises no power. We are bothered about the sovereignty of this House, of the Government and of the other powerful groups in our community. We have to turn and ask, first, how much power does this House have, and, secondly, what amount of that power would be lost if we entered the Market and is this tolerable? These are the realistic questions we have to pose.
I should like to take agriculture as an example. I could take several other examples, but I take agriculture because it is the area in which Common Market unification has gone furthest. Therefore, it is fair when arguing the case to take this example.
The Bill transfers to the Common Market the power to make financial regulations covering price levels, to collect Customs levies and to determine the broad economic policy prevailing in our agriculture. Are we losing sovereignty by transferring these powers to a Council of Ministers on which the British Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be represented? Is this House losing sovereignty?
I learned quite a bit about this matter when I first came here because, representing two agricultural counties, I recall going round before the Annual Price Review collecting information from my farmers. I studied the statistics and prepared a memorandum on what I thought ought to be done in farming policy for the coming year. I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who was then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, asking whether I could see him. I hope that he will not mind if I quote his reply, which I have always treasured: 532My dear John"—[Laughter.] I hope that the House does not mind my reading this, because it is an interesting letter and is apposite to the question of sovereignty.Thank you for your letter and I am, of course, always glad to see back benchers, particularly those with agricultural constituencies. However, as it is agricultural broad pricing and policy questions that you wish to discuss, I must point out that I am engaged with the N.F.U. and the Treasury in the annual price review, and it would be quite inappropriate for me to listen to, or be influenced by, the views of a Member of Parliament on such a matter.He went on to say that, once he had reached a decision and made an announcement, I could of course raise the matter in the House, and he would always be glad to see me at agricultural Questions and at other times of the year. [Laughter.] This has been the practice of the House. This is the reality of sovereignty. In the crucial three months of the price review period, this House has not been able to argue and discuss these matters or to see Ministers since the 1947 Act. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the other nine months?"] The other nine months make no difference in this case because the review is not on at that time.
This is a case where we have transferred sovereignty from this House by our own action to a conclave between the Treasury, the N.F.U. and the Minister. If we transfer this to Brussels and if the decision is then participated in there by the British Minister, and if he allows us to question him in the previous three months about what he is going to say, there will be no direct derogation of the sovereignty of this House in this matter.
The structure and the details of agriculture, including most aspects of marketing, are not covered by the regulations. The sort of provisions which are going through in the present Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill could still go through in the normal way. We know that this kind of legislation is now negotiated previously outside the House, but the House would have the same liberty as now to debate these matters.
Therefore, I am trying to suggest that, in many areas where we think that this House has total sovereignty, there has been a seepage and an erosion of that sovereignty, in practice, to the Executive. I regret that this has happened, but if 533 hon. Members try to say that they are worried that this seepage would be to a partially European Executive, with British Ministers present responsible on overall matters to this House, I do not think that it is such a good case.
I should like to take up the same points on trading policy. This House has never negotiated trading agreements. It has no direct authority in these matters. Ministers conclude the agreements and when we ask questions they tell us that they are bound by G.A.T.T. and the E.F.T.A. Agreement. We have not heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) say that it is intolerable that we have no freedom in this House because E.F.T.A. lays down certain rules which we must observe. Because this House wanted to join E.F.T.A., he accepted the rules.
If we want to change the rules of E.F.T.A., we debate them in this House. If we want to change the Common Market approach, we debate it in this House. The great activity of this House which I treasure is its power to make trouble, to make a row, to raise a political furore. The present practice in member parliaments of the Six shows that they have often done precisely this on Common Market issues, as hon Members here, could attack the Minister of Agriculture at any time for what he had or—this meets the point made by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton—had not done at the Council of Ministers. If he proposed or failed to propose something, at Question Time the Questions would be framed along the lines, "Would you at Brussels make the following point, or see that such-and-such is done?" Member Parliaments of the Six do precisely this.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East turned on the member Parliaments and said that they were weak and unsatisfactory—in a sense this was also said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston—because they did not have Question Time like the British Parliament. This was not fair because those Parliaments, particularly the German Parliament, work an elaborate committee system whereby interrogations of Ministers take place not on the basis of one question and a supplementary question but by means of a 534 consolidated interrogation which finds out far more. For this reason they do not need a Question Time of the type we have in this country, a system which we developed years ago because we could not put Ministers through proper scrutiny on the Floor of the House.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I would not normally intervene when time is so short. I do so only to put the record straight. I said that the Bundestag had oral questions but met, on average, on only 45 days a year.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
But they are 45 plenary sessions, which are equivalent to Second Reading debates in this House. The work in the Bundestag is done in committee, and the system there is such that the work in committee has a tremendous influence on the legislation which is being discussed. I wish that we in this House had the same powers to review, question and alter Government proposals. For this reason I have always been a strong supporter of the Select Committee system.
I quite accept that some sovereignty will move away from the British Executive to the European Executive and it is right that we should ask how we shall be able to maintain detailed scrutiny of what is being proposed by the European Executive. This question has been regularly asked in this debate. It is in this context that I must utter a word of criticism of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, under whom I serve with great admiration on the Select Committee on Procedure.
It was a little unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to say that this matter had not been considered. In fact, we proposed it as a subject for investigation by the Select Committee on Procedure at the beginning of this Session, but he was not anxious that we should investigate it in an effort to find out how best this scrutiny could be done. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will allow the Select Committee on Procedure, rather than an ad hoc body to look into this issue.
The best approach is to make sure that there is adequate scrutiny of the proposals of the Commission before they 535 reach the Council of Ministers and apply to this country. We should set up a Select Committee system of this House to examine proposals relating to, for example, agriculture, trade, transport and all the subjects which for the past six years I have been fighting to get scrutinised in this way. It would help greatly if this system was established once we joined the Common Market.
It would work in this way. When the Commission proposes something, it should be discussed by Specialist Committees of this House before the draft regulation goes to the Council of Ministers, as is the practice in the Bundestag. If I, as a Member of the Select Committee on Agriculture, had a right to question civil servants, including European civil servants, and call for outside experts on the framing of regulations, I would be given a power which is currently denied to me because of the closure of the Select Committee on Agriculture in this House, which was closed despite our desire to keep it open, and so as to enable us to question the Government on relevant matters.
We could organise this House to make this type of scrutiny of regulations possible before such regulations are enacted and before the relevant British Minister gives his consent. This is the way in which the veto becomes an important issue. It is a subject of extreme importance because it can be effectively used on, for example, a matter concerning agriculture; and if we had the sort of committee system to which I have referred, we could take the Minister to task for not using the veto when he should have done so.
If the Council of Ministers could be controlled in this way, we could also control the Commission by the means of a more effective European Parliament. I urge hon. Members to examine this matter. The Michael Stewart Plan offers a great opportunity for hon. Members from this Parliament to go to the European Parliament. We should not belittle the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart).
I am short of time, but my point is first that hon. Members are misleading 536 themselves if they think that this House has the full panoply of powers that some hon. Members suggest. Secondly, there is no reason why we should not be a really effective Assembly when we join the E.E.C. if we make the necessary changes in our Standing Orders and then. by importing our political and democratic vigour into the Community, we could help build up the kind of united Europe we wanted.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
Under our system the Annual Price Review involves decisions being taken by Ministers who are responsible to this House. The question of having a European price review is a different matter. It is true that our Ministers will be there as members of the Council of Ministers, but many of the Ministers there represented will not be responsible to Parliaments of this kind. For this reason our Annual Price Review procedure is to be cherished and we are afraid that it will be greatly affected by our entry into the E.E.C. That is not only my view as a politician; it is certainly a view of producers and farmers who are concerned about our main legislation on price review procedures.
We have had a series of debates on entry into the Community. On 21st July last year we had the first probing debate on a Motion to take note of the White Paper. That was followed in October by a Motion to approve in principle the terms that had been negotiated. Recently we had a procedural debate on a Motion concerning the timing of the signing of the Treaty of Accession. Now we have come to what I regard as the most important debate of all. Some hon. Members may disagree. We are now discussing the consequential legislation flowing from the acceptance of the Treaty of Accession and the terms finally negotiated by Her Majesty's Government.
In all these debates viewpoints have flowed across party divisions. We have just had an example of that. I respect hon. Members who have different points of view. Naturally, I hope that that is reciprocated. Throughout the debates, if one examines them carefully one finds that there has been little personal rancour. The fundamental issues arising from the acceptance of the Treaty of Rome have been examined from different 537 standpoints. Inevitably we have had arguments as to whether the terms negotiated by the present Government would have been the same as those which might have been obtained by a Labour Government if a Labour Government had been in charge of the negotiations. We have had arguments, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), about whether the people should have been consulted or how they should be consulted. This theme has run through many of our debates.
Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, what now? As I have said, I believe this debate to be the most important of our series of debates. We are now at the crunch. Parliament faces the reality of Britain's entry to the E.E.C. Previously we accepted the principle. Parliament approved it. There was a majority. But now we have to decide whether to accept not only the principle but also all the details of the terms negotiated: the treaty, the Act concerning the conditions of accession, the adjustments to the treaties, the two Command Papers, the Blue Books, Nos. 4862, I and II, all the annexes to the documents, the protocols, the declarations and the secondary legislation, whose English translations have only recently been available to hon. Members, and then the 10 volumes of treaties to which we shall be acceding under Clause 1. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) raised this matter previously when he questioned the Leader of the House.
We have now come to perhaps the most important Measure that we shall see in our lifetime. That is not dramatising it. The implications of the Bill could alter our whole way of life and especially have traumatic effects on the parliamentary system. We heard today one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard on the need to have proper parliamentary scrutiny. I refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton), the Father of the House. I think all right hon. and hon. Members would agree that it was one of the most powerful speeches to which the House has listened. In 1945, as a humble back bencher, I used to listen to the right hon. Gentleman with great interest as he had a northern constituency. I have always watched his love of this House and his desire to 538 protect it. If they did not hear his speech, I hope that hon. Members who may disagree with his viewpoint will read it carefully.
I am glad that that theme was expressed by many other hon. Members, for instance, in the powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) and by my hon. Friend, who is a new, young Member, the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davie). They made powerful speeches and were anxious to preserve the very best of our parliamentary system. That is why each one of us must, in the debate and when we have to make a decision about voting individually, weigh carefully the arguments and the issues involved. After all, the issues do transcend party prejudices and alliances. They do concern Parliamentary sovereignty and the wellbeing of the British people. So the decision is not easy.
Hon. Members are well aware of my personal views—they may say my personal prejudices. It is not always easy or fashionable to hold the views I hold, especially with the Press establishment sometimes hounding those who dared to be sceptical. My ministerial colleagues will remember the vicious attacks some of us had to endure at various times. This applies to people of various opinions.
Let us look at the Bill. Its form may have surprised many hon. Members. I remember that in our previous debate the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) argued that the legislation should consist of one Bill with one Clause and not a series of Bills dealing with the separate treaties. He listed a series of precedents, including the peace treaties. His advice was not accepted, but we do have a short Bill of 12 Clauses and four Schedules.
My right hon. and learned Friend the former Attorney-General, the Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) clearly and powerfully analysed the defects of the Bill. Every hon. Member will have read the main Clauses. Clause 2 begins:All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures from time to time provided for by or under the Teaties…We have in Clauses 1, 2 and 3 a serious attack on the power of Parliament. If 539 they are accepted they will restrict the freedom of action of any Government. We have only to look at Clause 2(4). The phraseology was termed "gobbledegook". When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was asked to explain the meaning of Clause 2(4) he had a difficult task, even though he was involved in the negotiations and had a legal education.
The Bill has some strange Clauses. I wish to give no offence to my hon. Friend who is my Member, the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) when I say that why there should be the Clause concerning cinematograph films amidst all the major Clauses is beyond my comprehension. Is that the padding referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman at a luncheon?
Why is there a special Clause about agricultural statistics? I have chided the Minister of Agriculture about this, because in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, now in Standing Committee, there is also a Clause dealing with statistics, and it may be affected by this Bill.
§ Mr. Rippon
We felt it important to put everything that could be described as being in any way a major change in our law in the main body of the Bill. It is arguable that in a Bill of this constitutional importance, where Clause 2 is perhaps the nub, there was no need for the rest, but I think we were right to put in the items mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. I hope we are not being pressed to leave them out.
§ Mr. Peart
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that what I said is quite right, and that it was padding.
It is not easy to understand parts of the Bill, and the explanations are also difficult to follow. Moreover, some Clauses are written in strange, indecipherable English. I have here a quotation from the Spectator of 5th February, in a very powerful and vigorous argument criticising the Bill and its effect on Parliament. The hon. Member for Banbury used the phrase that the Spectator used in its heading:Vasectomy of ParliamentThe article says: 540The cession of Parliamentary sovereignty intended in this almost indecipherable language is very great indeed.Then we have a very powerful piece of writing. Hon. Members may object, or think it rather extravagant, but this is what the editor says:The European Communities bill is an invitation from the Government to the House of Commons to undergo voluntary vasectomy and thereby to give up for good for itself and all its successors its creative power and to become instead a fat and flabby institutional eunuch".
§ Mr. Peart
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said "Enoch", but I said "eunuch". I did not refer to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who is a very vigorous Member and whose views on this subject are very acceptable.
Under this Bill a large body of administrative law in the form of directives, regulations and decisions by the Council of Ministers and the Commission may become at once part of the law of the land. It must be accepted that there is no effective Parliamentary scrutiny. The Chancellor of the Duchy has announced the setting up of an ad hoc committee, but he did not answer the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter):On the question of the role of Parliament. if when the Minister reports back and a debate takes place the decision of Parliament is against the decision of the Common Market Communities, how would we resolve that situation?—[OFFICIAL -[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972 Vol. 831. c 275.]What about all the secondary legislation? We have had a tremendous amount of documentation, about three quarters of which deals with the Common Market agricultural policy. There is a whole series of regulations. Are they binding in their entirety and directly applicable to all member States? I have referred to this on previous occasions, and so have many others. There is a whole series of regulations which are very complex and detailed. I shall quote from one dealing with the sugar industry. I am rather amazed at this sort of article. It is under the signature of the President of the Commission, Mr. Jean Rey. Regulation E.E.C. 106870 of the Commission 5th June, 1970 is binding in its entirety, and this is the sort of detail we have 541 under 1(3) of the Annex in the French and Italian versions. We have definitions and the regulation goes on to argue about the definition in relation to starch and high viscosity. It says:Prepare in a beaker: 99 gr. of crystallised white sugar, 1 gr. of the sample test product. Add 200 ml. of water. Shake the mixture for 3 hours at a temperature of 25°C. Arrange the filtration test in the following manner:The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not insult the Minister of Agriculture. This is typical of the type of regulation which has emanated from the Community.
§ Mr. Peart
It goes on in much detail and this is the sort of detail which we shall have to examine. Inevitably the complication of legislation and the intricacies of detail of the regulations binding on Community member States will encourage the growth of bureaucracy. The bureaucrats of Brussels have considerable power and influence. I do not say that there are no bureaucrats in other systems including our own but we have seen in Brussels the growth of a powerful Commission with tremendous influence.
The Executive and Administration are subject only to limited checks. The Parliamentary Assembly in the Community at this stage is only an advisory body. This is what we must bear in mind when examining the Bill, the regulations, the secondary legislation the documents and treaties flowing from it. No wonder Professor Dahrendorf the distinguished West German Commissioner criticised the weakness of this aspect of the Community's structure. No wonder over a period of time he has inveighed against the bureaucracy there. We will have to consider this carefully.
The Government believe that the ad hoc committee may be an answer. Here, strange to say, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). I am certain that the development of Select Committees must continue. Although it was said that in my period in office they were restricted, this was not so. We increased the number of committees. If we have to go into Europe there must be some check over the bureaucracy in Brussels and the directives which flow from it. We are discussing the sovereignty 542 of Parliament. I have been reading the controversy in the columns of The Times and I notice one hon. Member opposite who has made a contribution. One of those who have taken part is Professor Griffith, Professor of Public Law at the University of London, whose views I respect. He said on 7th February:In some ways the use of the word 'sovereignty' clouds the issue. It is simpler to say that the power to legislate for the people of this country is, in many most important respects, being transferred from the Queen's Government in Parliament to the Council and the Commission in Brussels. The power of the House of Commons to influence the content of laws is greatly reduced thereby That is what the Treaty is about.When we examine this Bill and the secondary legislation and the common agricultural policy, we must inevitably accept that point of view held by many about the loss of parliamentary sovereignty.
I wish to say a few words now about agriculture. The Bill contains three important provisions affecting agriculture, all of them in Clause 6. There is the setting up of the Intervention Board for agricultural produce—subject to the directions of the Minister responsible for agriculture—to carry out the Community's common agricultural policy in the United Kingdom. Secondly, we have the provision for the collection of the Community's agricultural levies. In the same Clause we deal with commodities, describing how they are to be removed from the scope of the present agricultural guarantees system.
Of course, there will be a transitional period as the common agricultural policy system takes place, and in that period there will be a phasing out of our system, and more commodities will be subject to the C.A.P. Other agricultural matters are dealt with under Clause 4, a very wide range of matters, including animal health, fertilizers and feedingstuffs, and others.
However, I believe that it is Clause 6 which is the most important part of the Bill affecting agriculture. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who was once an agricultural Minister, a very conscientious Parliamentary Secretary, revealed again in his speech today his knowledge of this industry, as he did in those days, and he 543 asked about the composition of the Intervention Board. I merely ask the Minister, will he delegate his functions to other bodies? There have been rumours in the farm Press about the Home Grown Cereals Authority and the Meat and Livestock Commission acting in that capacity. If the Minister cannot give an answer tonight, we shall certainly press this matter when we discuss the Bill in detail in Committee. I shall understand if he cannot give an answer at this stage, but I hope that he will bear this in mind, and that we should then have to return to this.
Then again, not only are there matters, profound and fundamental, in the Bill affecting agriculture, but there is a whole series of declarations contained in the Blue Book itself, a whole series of declarations involving various agricultural matters. On page 122 there is a whole section dealing with liquid milk, pig meat and eggs; and on page 124 a whole section dealing with farm prices.
I cannot really believe that we shall have meaningful discussions on these once we accept the procedure of the Community. I have carefully studied the details in the Blue Book and the declaration there and still I am not convinced. I cannot believe that that system will provide meaningful discussions such as those we now have with our producers every year through our normal procedure, where the state of the industry is discussed, prices are discussed and settled, and in the end the Government make the decisions.
All this will be changed when we go into the Community. There will be a different process of consultation. The Minister knows, I am sure, that it will be quite different. I believe it cannot possibly be so meaningful. It will not be so intimate. Many of the Ministers, as I said earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian, will be responsible to their own Parliaments, to their own people, to their own farmers. Within the Council of Ministers there will be horse trading—if I may use that word which was used by the Minister—horse trading negotiations and discussions, and in the Commission. In this country at present the Minister is subject to this House—decisions are then approved.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree, though, that, though they may not be quite as intimate, there will be far more power behind the discussions, because the proportion of farmers and agriculturists in the Community is much larger than is the proportion of our farmers in our country?
§ Mr. Peart
I cannot accept that, because there will be more dispersal of responsibility. The effective discussions which we now have will not be the same once we go into the Community. Even the Community farmers' organisation accept this, and they admire our system as distinct from that which operates in the Community. Moreover, even Ministers in the Community dislike the system. I have quoted Mr. Ertl, himself a German Minister, who only in July last year criticised the whole concept of the C.A.P. I have quoted Dr. Mansholt, who has recently been visiting this country. The view has been expressed that one day the Community will want to adopt the British system.
We know, too, the criticisms of the American administration and of President Nixon in his recent speech to the nation. We know that the C.A.P. has considerable defects, and the price-fixing mechanism is only part of it. It will be costly to the producers in the long run, and costly to the consumers. I cannot deploy this argument further as my time has been gobbled up by a previous intervention—I am not complaining.
There are other matters in the Blue Books affecting New Zealand and the sugar negotiations, on which there is still uncertainty despite what is said in the Command Papers associated with the Bill. Nothing has yet been negotiated on the sugar quotas for the Commonwealth and those areas which need the protection of a market in Britain and Europe.
We believe that the Bill is dangerous to our parliamentary system and threatens our parliamentary sovereignty. There is great danger to agriculture because of the existence of a policy which is not working, where procedures will change and probably in the long run harm our farmers, our consumers, and the nation in general. The C.A.P. is too costly. It has been accepted because the French have insisted. Even people who wish the Community well would like to change it.
545 We on this side of the House are tonight reflecting the views of the people outside the House and the nation generally. We are critical of the Bill, we believe it is a bad Bill, and we hope that it will be defeated.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
There is one great difference between this Common Market debate and the Common Market debates of the last few years. It is that this debate, for better or worse—I think considerably for worse—appears to be much more on party lines than ever before. This was exemplified by the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who made his usual well-informed, entertaining and passionate speech in favour of Britain joining the Community but sat down at the end without declaring which way he would vote.
The hon. Gentleman was quite honest about this. He was replying to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who made his usual speech and stuck to his guns that this was not a party matter. I have known my hon. Friend for many years and respect him for sticking to his guns, but he must realise, as the hon. Gentleman has realised, that this has become a party matter over the last few weeks. It does my hon. Friend less than justice if he says that he does not realise that the situation has changed. He can now see plainly why many hon. Gentlemen opposite are changing their minds. Of course, I respect his views, but there is the question of loyalty to one's friends and colleagues which always has a part to play in the House. We all know perfectly well that were this Bill left to a free vote of the House of Commons, this legislation would have as large a vote in favour as the vote on 28th October last year.
I turn to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) which was taken up by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. My hon. Friend expressed anxiety about the scope for Parliament to influence the making and operation of Community law. Yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred to the setting up of an ad hoc committee. I also remind the House that Community policy is 546 made by the Council which comprises ministers answerable to their national Parliaments.
What matters is the continuous influence Parliament can bring to bear on the Executive and its policies, quite apart from the legislative process itself. We have debates, Question Time and the other means by which Parliament can influence Ministers. This will be as true in Community matters as in non-Community matters. Before the Commission makes its proposals it consults widely with the interests concerned in the member States. Therefore, there is full opportunity at that formative stage for Parliament to impress its views on the Government and for those views to be reflected in what the Govenment say to the Commission.
I should like to draw upon personal experience and relate this matter to the Annual Farm Price Review. We have known for many months the Commission's proposals for increases in farm prices, and they could have been subject to debate in this House as they have been subject to enormous debate and pressure in every Parliament and discussion in the Community countries. The whole agricultural community in Germany at the moment is talking about the Commission's proposals; members of Parliament and Ministers in Germany are disussing the matter with their own farm organisations. It is strange, but they are having a much more open debate about price increases in the Community than we ever have in this House. We in this House tend to go into purdah about three months before any decisions have to be made; we must not discuss it in this House at all during that period. There is a great difference, and I believe that, in a strange sort of way, we may well find that we have more say in what happens rather than less.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
This is very interesting, and the right hon. Gentleman has clearly said that apparently the figures of price increases in the Community have been known for some months. Does he agree with Dr. Mansholt that it will mean an increase of between 25 and 30 per cent. for the British housewife?
§ Mr. Prior
The right hon. Gentleman seems to read into every single word written about the Common Market an anti-Common Market tone. What Dr. Mansholt said was that farm gate prices would 547 go up by between 25 and 30 per cent. He did not say that housewives would have to meet that in their budgets. The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong, and I should like him to withdraw that remark. It looks as though he does not wish to do so. When the Commission finally makes a proposal it does so openly, and Parliament can make its views known to Ministers before the proposal is considered by the Council. Therefore Ministers in the Council take decisions in the full knowledge of the expressed opinions of national Parliaments to which they will have to justify those decisions. Similarly, Parliament can call for changes and new measures that seem to be required. Finally the administration of Community law remains primarily the responsibility of national Governments. They are fully answerable to their Parliaments for the way the law is applied.
§ Mr. Prior
I will give the right hon. Gentleman a chance presently.
If I may turn now to Community law and agriculture, much has been made of the volume and complexity of the new edition of community law that has recently been published. I hope the House will not try to make too much of this because this is 10 years' legislation; and the amount of legislation and regulations we pass in 10 years is considerably greater than has been passed by the Community in 10 years. The great bulk of the agricultural legislation is nothing more than the Community system of agricultural support spelt out in legal form and, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out on many occasions, in technical detail.
I remind the House that this system was fully explained and its implications were fully set out in the 1967 White Paper for which the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) was responsible. Indeed, he has claimed credit for it and I think the House should be very grateful to him for what was a very valuable summary of the various Market regulations which make up the common agricultural policy. I would like to quote from it. The fourth paragraph of this document states: 548Under the Treaty the Community has over the years been producing a series of specific regulations, directives and decisions designed to lead to the eventual establishment of a common agricultural market and give effect to a common agricultural policy. The nature of these regulations etc. is described in more detail below.It is a bit hard to understand how hon. Members can come to the House now and say that they have never seen the regulations before. After all, the White Paper says what the regulations are.
Then I come to the statement made by Lord George-Brown to W.E.U. [Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Gentleman to jeer, but he said this:There is nothing in our law and practice which is irreconcilable with Community requirements. Many of the necessary adaptations could be made immediately following on a 12 months' standstill.So we know, and we knew then back in 1967, many of the regulations. They are enshrined in the White Paper. We know that Lord George-Brown went to W.E.U. and said they could be put into operation within 12 months. One wonders what the devil we are arguing about now.
Then we have the Leader of the Opposition who published a speech he made in White Paper form and said:I have already made it clear publicly that we must be realistic and recognise that the Community's agricultural policy is an integral part of the Community. We must come to terms with it.
§ Mr. Prior
I could go on for months but this is a perfectly fair quotation. It means that regulations which we know were put into the 1967 White Paper by the right hon. Gentleman, which was the Government's view at that time, were known to the right hon. Gentleman and he, of course, accepted them. Again, therefore, one wonders very much how it is that what has been for years accepted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite has suddenly become such a terrible stalking horse for them. However, before I become too controversial and before all my time has elapsed, perhaps I ought to turn to some of the provisions of the Bill.
I want to deal straight away with the point raised by the right hon. Member for Workington and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West 549 about the Intervention Board for agricultural produce. The Community support system depends basically on levies to maintain import prices and intervention to support the internal market. This system, as I have already said, is contained within the various Community market regulations. But we must provide the powers to collect the levies and an organisation to administer the intervention arrangements. These are the essentials of Clause 6 under which Customs will collect the levies and intervention measures will be carried out by a new United Kingdom agricultural department under a board responsible to the agricultural Ministers.
Intervention is a very wide term which covers not only support buying but also import and export licensing, the payment of export restitutions and the payment of various subsidies for denaturing—which is dyeing wheat with a blue colour—and for production. We need to have an organisation which will deal with the United Kingdom as a single unit. This body's functions will be largely executive but, though it will not be responsible for the formulation of policy in respect of the new support system that we shall be adopting, it will be dealing with very large sums of money and impinging directly on the lives and fortunes of a great many people in this country.
For that reason—this is interesting to those who say that Parliament will lose is sovereignty—we think the organisation must take the form of a Government Department directly responsible to Ministers who will be answerable to Parliament for its actions. Although its operations will be largely financed by the Community, we think it essential for the organisation to be accountable to Parliament for its expenditure and subject to the oversight of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. In other words, this body will be questioned through Ministers in just the same way as our statutory bodies are questioned now, and, because this body will have, if anything, rather more power from the point of view of cash, it will be able to be questioned in a rather more forceful manner than is the case with our marketing boards or other organisations at the moment.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Will it be able to be questioned on administration, or on policy?
§ Mr. Prior
It will be questioned on administration. But the policy is the responsibility still of the Minister of this country, and of no one else. The Minister of this country will be able to be questioned on that.
Much of the intervention work is of the sort normally performed by the Government machine and therefore by civil servants. This is particularly true of import/export controls and the payment of export restitution which is likely to account for the greatest part of the work and the greatest amount of the finance we shall receive from F.E.O.G.A., which is the Guarantee and Guidance Fund.
One of my hon. Friend's asked how we thought the board would operate. We cannot foresee with any real degree of accuracy what the board's work load will be. Some of the functions like support buying are sporadic in character, and one advantage of a single body is the flexibility it would have in sharing and deploying resources to meet the demands which might be made on it. We certainly do not want this new body to be any bigger than it has to be. We shall want to use the organisations that already exist where this would be appropriate and compatible with proper financial control. The board will be able to use existing statutory bodies on an agency basis and the staff of other Government Departments. It will also need to act in close co-operation with merchants, traders, food manufacturers and producers.
In drawing up our plans for a single intervention board we have taken into account the experience of the existing Community members. We are also currently engaged in a process of intensive consultation with the organisations representative of the various interests concerned, whether producers, processors or traders. A great deal of planning has to be done and when it is completed we shall put before the House an Order in Council containing further provisions for the constitution and administrative arrangements for the board, which will give the House a further opportunity to debate this important element in our provisions for entry.
551 As time is short I should like to end by a reference to the speech made by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark) yesterday. The hon. Gentleman was worrying about whether the Community could or would be able to play a part in regional development and whether it would look after the small farmer, the small, unprotected sections of society. I always find it very difficult to understand hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who, having applied for membership a few years ago, now find the consequences of their application so unpalatable.
§ Mr. Prior
No, the hon. Gentleman is not the hon. Member for Colne Valley. I know that only too well. I have to meet the hon. Gentleman in Committee, let alone on the Floor of the House. I am not attacking the hon. Member for Colne Valley, so there is no need to get worried.
Still less can I see why hon. Members opposite find the prospects of membership incompatible with their political principles. Socialist leaders in the Community are genuinely puzzled by this attitude, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know. They can see what the Community has done to improve the livelihood of their people. They believe that the prosperity of the Community is indivisible and that its enlargement will be for the benefit of all.
Dr. Mansholt is himself an eminent Socialist and he came over to see us the week before last. He went to Scotland, to Inverness among other places, and hon. Gentlemen will know what he said. I trust those who have painted a gloomy picture of regimentation from Brussels will have taken his remarks to heart. He made it clear that the Community's aim is not to impose arbitrary rules but to find realistic solutions to the difficult problems of its members. He recognised the nature of our problems and he was confident that they could be met within the system of mutual help which is what the Community stands for. That is why there is already a much wider measure of agreement in such subjects as the hill-farming areas of this country than there was even a few months ago.
552 We have now had Dr. Mansholt over here. He has seen the problem and now he understands our fears and why it is necessary to have special help. Therefore, far from the Community being against the interests of the regions, it is very much in favour of the regions, and this comes through time and time again.
§ Mr. Prior
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear", but may I just say to him that what I am about to say in conclusion will not come very readily to his ears. I believe that the agricultural industry of this country is not only broadly in favour of joining but recognises very well that it has a great opportunity by doing so. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know, if they look at this properly and conscientiously, that in the last few years they were unable to give the agricultural industry anything like what the industry required. The industry was in decline. They would have liked to do more, I dare say, but they could not do it, because they were circumscribed by the cash they could offer and the trading policies they were adopting.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.