§ GENERAL IMPLEMENTATION OF TREATIES
Amendment proposed [13th June]: No. 429, in page 4, line 25, at end add:
§ Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
Those of us who listened to the debate last evening on this important question of what control the House would have over our future representation in the European Parliament, cannot but agree that the debate was highly unsatisfactory and that we were no further forward at the end of it. I make no apology for taking up some of the time of the Committee this afternoon because the question of our representation in that Parliament is extremely important. We ought to have further time on this matter even though the "Clause 2 stand part" debate is important. I would have thought that whatever our views on the merits of the Bill, whether we are for it or against it, there would be general agreement on one thing: namely, that none of us is satisfied with the democratic content of control over the administration of the European Community.
§ Mr. Steel
That is precisely why I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's assent and that is why I think this is an important matter which ought not to be allowed to go in the way it went last night. The fact is that neither from the Government nor from the official Opposition did we have any views put forward as to what form that representation should take and what we ought to be doing once we are in the EEC to strengthen the powers of the European Parliament.
The only constructive suggestion we had during the entire debate was from the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Darling), who put forward the idea that the Labour Party's representation in the European Parliament should be decided by a vote among members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I make no comment on that. I am not at all hostile to the idea. At least it was one constructive suggestion. We ought to have had a great many more of that kind. There is some urgency about this. If things go according to the Government's plan and we enter the Community on 1st January, then we shall have membership of the European Assembly. I understand that we would have to arrange for our representatives to be selected by whatever method is agreed, obviously in advance of 1st January.
I believe that the European Parliament has extended an invitation for the prospective delegation to attend its session this autumn to see the workings of the Parliament before we enter. If this is so it is clearly essential that our representatives be selected before October. Bearing in mind that the House will have a Summer Recess, we hope, it is clearly essential that the question of our representation in the European Parliament should be settled at an early stage.
While I accept the argument that altering a Clause in the Bill is not the right way to settle this, it is surely legitimate for the Opposition to move an Amendment to elicit from the Government their intentions as to our representation in the European Parliament. If this matter is not to be settled as a result of this short debate it is essential that we have an undertaking from the Government that there will be another occasion to debate our representation in the European Parlia- 1512 ment before a method of selecting our representatives is finally settled.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) raised the perennial question of the quality and the powers of the European Assembly as it exists. This is very much a chicken and egg question: which comes first, the improvement in the constitution and the powers of the European Parliament or an improvement in the quality of the representatives willing to attend? This is something to which this country could make a positive contribution because it is some years before member States will agree to a system of direct elections. However, there is nothing to stop any individual State from moving directly and unilaterally to a system of direct elections for its own representation in the European Assembly. The preference of the Liberal Party has clearly been for this country to agree that on entry we will select our representatives by some process of direct election, thereby setting an example and helping to move forward the position of the democratic content in the European institutions.
I am attracted by the basis of the plan which has been put forward by the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), although I disagree with some of the details. He has operated from the proposition that of the 36 representatives that we shall have in the European Parliament six should be from the other place. I do not agree with those who say that the other place should be totally unrepresented, because as long as we have a bicameral system it is right that there should be some manner of representation from that House in the European Parliament. I am not wedded to any particular formula, but let us take the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. It is that 30 of the 36 should be elected representatives. He proposes that there should be regional elections. If that happened it would be necessary to have some form of proportional system, not just on the merits of the case but because in due course when the members of the Community together agree on a system of direct elections for the European Parliament it is inconceivable that of all the systems of election available in the member States they would choose the British system as being the one which is 1513 most out of step and most undemocratic. Therefore, we might as well start by thinking of a proportional system of election for this regional representation.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
Is not the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) being inconsistent? On the one hand, he is so concerned about exact representation that he advocates proportional representation for the selection of representatives to the European Parliament. On the other hand, he is standing by the idea that a large proportion of our delegation should come from a place which represents nobody and no constituency.
§ Mr. Steel
I am not saying that there should be a large representation from the other place. The Liberal Party has consistently put forward proposals for the democratic reform of the Upper House. The fact that this has not happened is no reason why the other place should go totally unrepresented. I will not digress into the Liberal proposals for reforming the House of Lords. All I say is that there must be some representation from the House of Lords, and I am coming on to mention a new rôle for the House of Lords.
The right hon. Member for Fulham suggests that the 30 regional Members of Parliament elected to represent this country in the European Parliament should have seats in this House. I do not believe that would be acceptable to the House, and I do not like the idea that 30 extra Members of Parliament, with no ordinary constituency representation, who spend a lot of time in Europe, should be able to come here whenever they wish to speak and possibly affect the Divisions. Therefore, I suggest a positive proposal.
We have to meet the present requirement of the European Parliament that the delegates we send are also Members of the national Parliament. My suggestion is that those 30 elected persons should have seats ex officio in the other place for the duration of their office. That is not such a revolutionary suggestion as it sounds. In 1959 the House of Commons approved the suggestion that new creatures called life peers should be created. There is no reason why we should not go a stage further and create peers ex officio for the period for which 1514 they hold office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members who jeer might say how otherwise we can meet the requirements that the members we send must be Members of the national Parliament. Would they prefer that the 30 members should be able to influence our Divisions? That would be much more undemocratic.
Moreover, there is a precedent for electing people in the other place. Until 1963 there were 16 elected peers from Scotland. Admittedly, they could not stand for election unless they were peers in the first place, and the only people who could elect them were peers, so it was not a democratic system, but there is no reason why we should not use it as a precedent for the creation of new peers ex officio. It is not necessary for them to be trammelled with all the trappings of office. After all, if the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lord Lambton) can sit in this House and have the privilege of calling himself Lord Lambton, there is no reason why, for example, the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) should not be elected to the European Parliament, sit in another place and have the privilege of calling himself Mr. Hamilton. It is a perfectly logical process. In the meantime, it is unlikely that the Government will be prepared to consider a system of direct election, so we fall back on to the question of how the representatives will be appointed from our own number.
I agree with the spirit of the Amendment. It is important that the members, by whatever method they are selected, should be approved by the House of Commons and that they should be listed on the Order Paper—in the same way as appointments to the Select Committees are approved by the House.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ In considering what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said yesterday, it is not enough to draw an analogy with our present method of selecting representatives for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, by which the usual channels submit nominations and the Prime Minister announces the appointments in a Written Answer. That would be inadequate for the new machinery of the European Parliament. I intervened in the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy yesterday to ask him about this, 1515 and he said that it was always open to debate. My researches have gone back only 10 years, but never in the last 10 years has our delegation to the Council of Europe been debated in the House. It is not enough to say that the machinery could be found for providing the opportunity for debate on a Supply Day, on a Private Member's Motion or on an Adjournment debate. As the Amendment suggests, there must be an undertaking from the Government that whatever method is used—whether it be the usual channels, intra-party elections or whatever—the final list will be included on the Order Paper, debated in the House and approved. I hope the Government will give an assurance that the House of Commons will at least have that power.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
There might have been misunderstanding on both sides of the Committee about what I was trying to say last night. In dealing with what I thought would be a short debate, I emphasised that these are not matters for inclusion in the Bill but matters of procedure. The Government have always been willing to discuss matters of procedure through the usual channels—we have, of course, received no response from the Opposition—but we in no sense contemplate dealing with a matter of this kind by announcing a delegation by a Written Answer. There is no possibility of the House of Commons being bypassed, without there being discussion and debate upon the composition of the delegation.
Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), have mentioned the procedure adopted in other countries. Other shave said that we should have regard to our experience in the Council of Europe Assembly and Western European Union, and there may be other considerations.
If it is the wish of the Committee, the Government are perfectly willing to propose the setting up of a Select Committee to consider the ways in which members 1516 could be nominated for the European Assembly. That would provide a full opportunity for views to be expressed and examined. The Select Committee could report to the House, and the report could be debated if the House so wished. I hope that I have clarified the position.
What I emphasised last night is that it is not right for matters of procedure to be dealt with in the Bill. It is unnecessary and would create an unreasonable restriction, but I agree that these matters should be discussed, and I hope the Opposition will be ready to do so in the usual way. I give the assurance that we should be happy with procedure such as a Select Committee, which would ensure that the matter was debated and considered.
§ Mr. Steel
I am grateful for that rather lengthy intervention. My immediate reaction is that the Chancellor of the Duchy has gone further than he did last night in giving us an assurance that the Council of Europe method of appointment will not be applied to appointments to the European Parliament, and I welcome that. If the Chancellor of the Duchy means that a Select Committee will consider the methods by which our representatives are chosen, it will have to start work very quickly. I hope, if that is an agreed proposal, that the Select Committee will be appointed soon.
I consider that the present method of selecting and appointing our delegation to the Council of Europe is utterly unsatisfactory, and that that method must not be repeated for the selection and appointment of our representatives to the European Parliament. I gave notice to the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) that I would refer to this. The hon. Member for Greenock in the present Session was dropped from the delegation to the Council of Europe by the method of the Written Answer for inner-party discliplinary reasons which have nothing to do with the way in which he conducted his responsibilities at the Council of Europe. It is disgraceful that the House of Commons has no control over matters of that kind. There must not be a similar situation in the European Parliament whereby members are chosen or dropped for reasons of internal party discipline rather than for the way in which they conduct their responsibilities.
1517 We have taken the matter as far as we can today, but I hope that there will be an occasion for us to debate it again.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I wish to express agreement with the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) since what he has said is a regrettable fact. It would be just as regrettable if it occurred on this side of the House. This matter of repreentation in the important European assemblies should not be confused with matters of domestic party political discipline. Nobody gains by it and it is right that this point should be made.
I agree with the two basic points behind the hon. Gentleman's remarks—first, his point about the importance of this matter, and, secondly, the fact that this is not a suitable moment or opportunity to have a wide-ranging debate upon it.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) last night sought to present himself in a very favourable light. He put himself forward as a knight—not a knight of the shires, because that would place limits on even his histrionic abilities but as a knight of the constitution fighting an impossible Government who were determined to push through the Bill at all costs, and accept no discussion or Amendments. But the hon. Gentleman well knows that a power struggle is taking place in this House and that if there are hon. Members anxious to push the Bill through, there are equally other hon. Members who are willing to push it out.
The hon. Member used the important matter of representation of this country in the European Parliament as a procedural device to harry the Government and to delay the Bill.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
On a point of order, Sir Robert. My hon. Friend has just accused the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) of using a method, with the assumption that it is not a parliamentary method, to harry the Government in order to get rid of the Bill. Since this Amendment was accepted by you, Sir Robert, at the last minute, is this not a reflection—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
This is an extremely important subject but needs to be discussed in a less contentious atmosphere than that which surrounds Amendments on this Bill. If the invitation to discuss this matter through the usual channels had been accepted, the hon. Member and others would have been able to discuss the important proposal which was put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy this afternoon. It is a very important advance to have the offer of a Select Committee to discuss the involved questions that arise when Members of this House are selected for these assemblies. A Select Committee would appear to be the way to deal with the problem, and I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend has said.
I hope that we shall have a full debate on this subject on a Supply Day, in Government time, or a combination of the two. The issues that arise under article 137 of the treaty cannot be disposed of in a brief debate. There is the problem of finding 36 Members of this House who are willing to take on this task. I believe that they should be largely Members of this House. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles when he says that there should be some Members of the other House involved in these duties—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because this is a bicameral legislature and both Houses should be represented.
I do not think one should accept the hon. Gentleman's idea about peers ex officio, which would be a new departure. He sought to compare it with life peerages, but life peerages were not a new departure. As the mode of creation of life peerages was the point at issue in the Wenslydale peerage case it was held that peerages could not be created by prerogative. However, life peerages had been known in the House of Lords for hundreds of years before that case. The spiritual peers, for example, have life peerages. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be a radical departure.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
It is true that they are peers ex officio, but I suppose one would have to look at what "officio" they are proceeding from. One 1519 cannot compare the position of the established Church, an estate of the realm, which has been here for hundreds of years, with something as new and as evanescent, as it is at this stage, as the European Assembly. It is important that we should be properly represented in this assembly and that we should not be represented by only elder statesmen and by those who feel that they can spend their declining years in such an assembly. It is important that we should not be represented by ghosts—in other words, by those who never appear in this House. It is also important that representation should not be confined to those who have given up hope or those who have never had any. We want a delegation that is representative of the best in the House of Commons and will require intense discussion to discover the best way of bringing about this situation.
Most of the difficulty flows from the amount of time which Members have to spend in meetings of the full European Assembly or in various committees. It has been estimated that a Member who takes on this task will have to spend 100 days abroad. This raises problems of attendance in this House and of the relationships of Members to their constituencies. Those who have served in the Council of Europe or in WEU know the difficulties one can face through absence from this place and through being away from one's constituency when taking on this form of service. The situation will be much worse under the terms of the EEC Treaty. This again is a problem which will have to be examined.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
Could the hon. Gentleman say why his remarks, which I hope he will soon draw to a close, are relevant to the Amendment, which asks only that any arrangement should be subject to this House? Is he in favour of arrangements being subject to the House. If not, will he tell the Committee why he is not in favour?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Since I had the courtesy to give way to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), he might have been a little more courteous to me. If he thought my remarks were a little long, then he certainly made his contribution to them. Of course, I am in favour of 1520 this House having control of appointments. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that it would not be suitable to do this in the same way as we appoint members to WEU or the Council of Europe. That would be a quite unsuitable way to handle the matter. I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's statement, but, since this matter would not lend itself to inclusion in the Bill because it is on another issue, I feel that the hon. Member for Acton has only confused the matter.
We have also to consider the present state of the European Assembly as well as the future development of its powers, which undoubtedly will grow if that Parliament is to become a Parliament in the true sense. In a sense, at the moment the European Assembly has both too great a power and too little. It has too great a power because it can dismiss the Commission, and that is a weapon of such great power that it can never be used. On the other hand, the devices of question time, and so on, which have been developed in this House, have not been fully developed there. There are great potentials. All these issues could be fully discussed in a Select Committee.
There is also the related question of where the European Parliament should have its sittings. This will materially affect Members in this House. If it were here in England, which would be very suitable since England is the Mother of Parliaments, it would aid Members here considerably. On the other hand, there is a suggestion which has been put forward in The Economist this week—[Interruption.] This is an Amendment which has been tabled by the Opposition, and, therefore, we have a right to discuss it. There is the suggestion put forward in The Economist for a Parliament which would move from centre to centre. That also would have a great deal to be said for it.
There are many different views on this subject in the House. This debate, although it has been far too short, has been the occasion of the first debate we have had in this House on the question of the European Parliament. It has served a valuable purpose. It has not exhausted the subject. I hope that it 1521 will merely be a preliminary to a full-scale debate in connection with the proposition to appoint the Select Committee which has been made by my right hon. Friend this afternoon.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I intervene extremely briefly, partly to respond to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, because he has made a novel proposition in reply to the spokesman for the Liberal Party, and partly because I hope that the Committee may be willing—I have no powers to compel it—to proceed to vote on this Amendment so that we may have a discussion on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".
Some of us on both sides of the Committee think that Clause 2 involves the widest and most far-reaching transfer of powers from this House of any Bill which has been presented to us for many years. It would be a great tragedy if the "Clause stand part" debate were severely curtailed, as it will be further curtailed if this debate goes on, because that debate must come to an end at 7.30. That is the situation.
I fully appreciate the feelings of all hon. Members on different sides of the House, including the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The composition of the people to be sent to the Assembly is an extremely important question. It is not our fault that we do not have much longer to speak on the matter. That might be noted by hon. Members on all sides of the House. We would have been extremely happy to have had a whole day to discuss this question. Indeed, I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that there ought to be time provided by the Government, at a very early date, to discuss this subject. Nor do I exclude the possibility that there might be a Select Committee to examine some of these questions.
Certainly on this side of the House we shall consider that. We have not previously had the proposition to consider a Select Committee on this matter. We proposed a Select Committee to examine the whole question of the financial obligations under the Bill. It would have been better if the first proposal for a Select Committee on this matter had been made in this debate today. Cer- 1522 tainly we will consider that. All we were offered was the proposal to discuss this matter through the usual channels. Our reply to that was to say that we did not think it was a proper matter to settle between the usual channels. What we wanted was the safeguard that the matter had to be brought before the House of Commons. That is the narrow point on which this Amendment is now being discussed.
That does not conflict with the possibility of a full debate on the matter, which I entirely agree should take place at an early stage in Government time. Nor does it conflict with the possibility of our agreeing to a Select Committee in some form. We will certainly consider that. All it provides is that this House of Commons shall have a final remnant of control over the matter. It is not restrictive in any way. It is merely the final obligation of Government to bring the matter before the House of Commons in the end. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has continuously insisted that this would happen anyway. If it is going to happen, why not accept this Amendment?
I hope that the Committee will agree to vote on this matter now. It is not binding anybody as to the form of the representation. It is not binding anybody as to preventing the Select Committee or preventing another debate. Indeed, it should encourage another debate. All that we shall be doing is establishing in this Bill that there shall be some eventual control.
On that basis, I plead with the Committee to vote on this matter in order to allow the maximum time for a debate which will govern the future of parliamentary government in this country for decades to come.
§ Mr. Fell
I start with the most humble apology to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who made an appeal to us to vote. Let me tell him straight away that were I to believe, as I did at one stage last night at about a quarter to seven, that were the vote to come quickly there was a chance of the Government being defeated on the Amendment, I would hasten to be with him because I believe this Amendment should be accepted. I 1523 remind him of this in extenuation of my saying a few words on this matter.
This is the hon. Member's Amendment. He believes strongly in it, as was evidenced by his powerful speech last night. But he is not the only one to believe strongly in this matter. Members in all parts of the House have strong feelings on how this House should eventually be represented in the European Parliament. The whole thing is a nonsense, because I do not think it will be physically possible for the usual channels or the votes of this House, which are only hit or miss however one looks at them, to devise a way of sending only 36 Members of this House from both sides, with perhaps one from the third side, to represent the views of this House. Even if this House could devise a method satisfactory to the majority, one has to consider also the satisfaction not only of this House but of the people who put us here.
It was said the other day that this Bill is a battle not between us and the Government but between Parliament and the people. There was no truer description used during the whole of these debates than that description, that this is a battle between the people and Parliament. In spite of the enormous weight of publicity and all the means at the disposal of modern plastic men to persuade the electorate that this European Bill which the Government are trying to press through at the moment is to their advantage and that they will prosper and grow to great proportions or will recover some of their lost individuality and belief in themselves and faith in the world through joining Europe, the fact is that the Government and their panoply of advertisement, such as has never been seen in the history of Parliament before, have failed abysmally. There has been no genuine, open cry from the British people "Yes, we want to join Europe."
I should be in the greatest danger if I continued to generalise when discussing an Amendment concerned with the representation of this House in the European Parliament, and I should get into even more trouble from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who wants the Committee to vote at once, were I not to call in aid the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire. 1524 East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) last night, when drawing attention to the importance of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. In the course of his remarks, my right hon. and learned Friend said:It has excited very considerable interest outside. To date, that interest has been insufficiently reflected in our proceedings.That is why the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale went to considerable effort to table an Amendment on this subject at this stage. My right hon. and learned Friend went on:It may well be that if this is not the occasion for a major debate on it, steps should be taken to initiate such a debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1972; Vol. 838, c. 1392.]When will debate be initiated? We are working to the timetable. At least there is no blood on my hands from the guillotine. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale talks about his Amendment, which he has rightly and fairly tabled, and says that the Committee must come to a decision upon it. Why? His reason is that this afternoon we are due to debate the Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill". We hope to be debating it. However, if we were debating in fairness and in truth and with Government blessing, we should be debating this Amendment alone for a full day.
Where are we now as a result of the guillotine? We have had the benefit of hearing the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale for 10 minutes. His remarks were admirably clear and brief. We have heard my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East for 10 minutes. We have heard the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) for only a few minutes. In addition, one or two other hon. Members have spoken. We are now asked to come to a decision. To do what? To plead with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy in some way to alleviate our fears about the Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill". What rubbish is this? There is not an hon. Member who does not realise that the Government have foresworn themselves and sold themselves. There is not an hon. Member who does not realise that there is no chance in the world of amending the Bill, since the Government do not intend to allow the Bill to have a Report stage. So we are placed in the invidious position of being asked by right hon. and hon. 1525 Members opposite, who after all are major figures in the battle against the Bill, to come to a decision.
Having had my say and because I want to respond, I say little more. However, it would be rude in the extreme if, having had my say, I were to invite other right hon. and hon. Members to respond to the kindly and genuine invitation of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I conclude my remarks by repeating that it is all very well for us to discuss an Amendment which seeks to find a way to make representation in the European Parliament more possible and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East said, more democratic than any way that has been thought of so far. However, everyone in this House who has thought about these matters knows that such a possibility does not exist, however much we may desire it. We are entering a chaotic state of partnership which has no chance of success.
I remember very well in Yarmouth, which some hon. Members may know was a fishing port on the East Coast, an experiment about 10 years ago, in the kind of EEC co-operation that the Government now ask for, in relation to one trawler. It lasted one trip, after which the whole idea was withdrawn. It was found impossible for all those concerned to equate their ideas with each other and to run one trawler for money.
§ Mr. Fell
As my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) says, we have had two multi-national Everest expeditions. Both ended in disaster. Yet here are Her Majesty's Government gaily suggesting a similar venture without a thought as to how it is to be brought about and what future there is for Britain's influence upon the Europeans. What a prospect for the British people, and what an encouragement for them to give full-hearted consent to this tragic Bill which was the child of Mr. Harold Macmillan, and the adopted child of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister!
I pray that in the end some way will be found for the true will of the British people in this matter to exercise itself upon this House, whatever the result may 1526 be for their representaiton in this Parliament, which I love and which I know my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy loves. How ever, my right hon. and learned Friend, like many others, is caught up in the tragedy of a promise which he cannot—I was about to say "not only"—deny but which he cannot even improve the methods towards—
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I shall be extremely brief. I have the record of a Trappist despite the lengthy proceedings of this Committee. However, reference has been made to me, and I shall take this opportunity also to raise one or two matters.
Today, the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and I find ourselves allies. I recall the words of the great Duke when, at Torres Vedras, reviewing the newly arrived reinforcements from England, he said:I do not know what the French will think about them, but they damn well frighten me.As an ally, the hon. Member for Yarmouth frightens me. However, he has a point.
I interrupted the Chancellor of the Duchy with a brief question last night, and I did not find his reply satisfactory. I thought that his offer today of a Select Committee was an answer on how to deal with the long-term problem and a very good one, and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has responded in as warmhearted a way as he has.
But what of the short term? In this Amendment we are concentrating on this very simple point. The question is not whether or not the Chief Whips of the three parties continue to select the Members to go to the Council of Europe or the other Assemblies, either Western European Union or the North Atlantic Council. That has been the convention 1527 for many years. I do not complain about anything that has happened recently. What the Lord giveth the Lord also taketh away. It is not in that spirit that I speak.
This Amendment proposes that we should have an affirmative Resolution to endorse the names of those who are going, however they may be chosen, to represent the entire House of Commons in the European Parliament. That being so, this procedure means there has to be a debate. Personally, I hope the parties would agree that they would have election machinery within their own parliamentary groups to elect these members.
The Chancellor of the Duchy is not being fair to us in saying that somehow or other machinery exists for this to be discussed at the present time. It does not exist. The matter never has been debated, so far as I know, and I have been here for 16 years. I cannot see what mechanism there is for us to have a guaranteed annual debate of that kind.
The Chancellor could be completely honest and tell us he does not want any kind of Amendment to this Bill. I can see some sense from his point of view in that opinion. That may be the reason why he is not going to accept any Amendment, however sensible. He has not frankly confessed that. Maybe he is not in a position to do so. If that is not the confession, if it is the case that he could accept the Amendment then I think this is an eminently sensible one. It does no harm to his general proposition as expressed in the Clause or in the entire Bill. At the same time it safeguards the interests of all Members of the House which were so ably defended not only by all the previous speakers yesterday and today but also by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale.
§ Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
I should like to tell the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) how much his cheerfulness and ability are missed at the Council of Europe.
I should like to ask the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) whether in the course of the last quarter of an hour or so he has reflected that if he pursues this Amendment to a Division he will be depriving two of his 1528 hon. Friends, or other Members of this Committee, of the opportunity of taking part in the subsequent debate. He has said that he put down this Amendment because he objected to the position in which it appeared that the membership of the European Parliament might be given in answer to a Written Question, having been entirely fixed up through the usual channels. He has heard since that at the very least it will appear on the Order Paper in the same manner as that in which a Select Committee is appointed. I should have thought that was the minimum that this House would accept. In pursuing this Amendment the hon. Member is prejudging the situation when, as is hoped, not only will there be a full later debate but that will be preceded by an inquiry by Select Committee into this most important topic.
I would urge the hon. Gentleman to consider how many technical matters need to be thoroughly examined; not only the practice in other countries—as to how they enable members of their national Parliaments to reconcile their duties with attendance at the European Assembly—but matters of peculiar difficulty to Britain such as the fact that because we are an island it generally means one must take an aeroplane to leave the country. It is obvious that those Members who go to the European Assembly will need to keep in very close touch with this place if only for the reason that Members of this House will very much want to question members of the European Assembly to get them to explain their actions. There must be a very great interchange of views.
That is going to be difficult to organise. Therefore, it is something that a Select Committee wants to look at very closely. There is the matter of pairing and official leave of absence. It would be better for those things to be inquired into and to be the subject of a full debate later on.
As it is, the hon. Gentleman is seeking to get the House to alter its own long-established practices. The House of Commons has a method of selecting and appointing its Members to perform specific duties, either by a Select Committee or by other means. The names appear on the Order Paper. They can be questioned. Yet the hon. Gentleman is seek- 1529 ing by this Amendment to bring in a complete innovation which is a departure from all our long traditional practices. It seems utterly out of character for him.
I would hope the hon. Gentleman would not press this Amendment to a Division but would allow two more hon.
§ Members to take part in the subsequent debate.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 274, Noes 284.1533
|Division No. 219.]||AYES||[4.25 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Fell, Anthony||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Allen, Scholefield||Fisher, Mrs. Doris(B'ham, Ladywood)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Ashley, Jack||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Ashton, Joe||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Foley, Maurice||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Foot, Michael||Mabon, Sir J. Dickson|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Ford, Ben||McBride, Neil|
|Baxter, William||Forrester, John||McCartney, Hugh|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fraser, John (Norwood)||McElhone, Frank|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Freeson, Reginald||McGuire, Michael|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Garrett, W. E.||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Biffen, John||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mackie, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Golding, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Body, Richard||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McMaster, Stanley|
|Booth, Albert||Gourlay, Harry||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Bradley, Tom||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightslde)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tte-upon-Tyne,W.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marquand, David|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Marsden, F.|
|Buchan, Norman||Hamling, William||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hardy, Peter||Marten, Neil|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Harper, Joseph||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Meacher, Michael|
|Cant, R. B.||Hattersley, Roy||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Carmichael, Neil||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mendelson, John|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Heffer, Eric S.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hooson, Emlyn||Millan, Bruce|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Horam, John||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Milne, Edward|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Huckfield, Leslie||Moate, Roger|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Molloy, William|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Molyneaux, James|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardigansthire)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hunter, Adam||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cronin, John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Irvlne, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Moyle, Roland|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Janner, Greville||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Murray, Ronald King|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Oakes, Gordon|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ogden, Eric|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||John, Brynmor||O'Malley, Brian|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Oram, Bert|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Orme, Stanley|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham,S.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Padley, Walter|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Dormand, J. D.|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Judd, Frank||Paisley, Rev. Ian|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Kaufman, Gerald||Palmer, Arthur|
|Driberg, Tom||Kelley, Richard||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Duffy A. E. P.||Kerr, Russell||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Kinnock, Neil||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lamble, David||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lamborn, Harry||Pendry, Tom|
|Ellis, Tom||Lamond, James||Pentland, Norman|
|English. Michael||Latham, Arthur||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Evans, Fred||Leadbitter, Ted||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Ewing, Henry||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Faulds, Andrew||Leonard, Dick||Prescott, John|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Spearing, Nigel||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Probert, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Rankin, John||Stallard, A. W.||Wallace, George|
|Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Watkins, David|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Weitzman, David|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Strang, Gavin||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Roderick. Caerwyn E.(Br'c'nSR'dnor)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Roper, John||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Rose, Paul B.||Swain, Thomas||Whitlock, William|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Taverne, Dick||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Rowlands, Ted||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff,W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Sandelson, Neville||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Shore, Rt. Kn. peter (Stepney)||Tinn, James||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Tomney, Frank||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Torney, Tom||Woof, Robert|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Sillars, James||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Silverman, Julius||Varley, Eric G.||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wainwright, Edwin||Mr. James A. Dunn.|
|Adley, Robert||Dean, Paul||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hiley, Joseph|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Dixon, Piers||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Astor, John||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Holland, Philip|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Drayson, G. B.||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dykes, Hugh||Hordern, Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Eden, Sir John||Hornby, Richard|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Batsford, Brian||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Emery, Peter||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Eyre, Reginald||Hunt, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Benyon, W.||Fidler, Michael||James, David|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Jessel, Toby|
|Blaker, Peter||Flelcher-Cooke, Charles||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Boscawen, Robert||Fortescue, Tim||Jopling, Michael|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fowler, Norman||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Bowdon, Andrew||Fox, Marcus||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fry, Peter||Kellett-Bowman Mrs. Elaine|
|Bray, Ronald||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gardner, Edward||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Gibson-Watt, David||Kimball, Marcus|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Allck (Angus, N&M)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B||Kirk, Peter|
|Buck, Antony||Goodhart, Philip||Kitson, Timothy|
|Burden, F. A.||Goodhew, Victor||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gorst, John||Knox, David|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray&Nairn)||Gower, Raymond||Lambton, Lord|
|Carlisle, Mark||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Lamont, Norman|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gray, Hamish||Lane, David|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Green, Alan||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Channon, Paul||Grieve, Percy||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Chapman, Sydney||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Grylls, Michael||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n'C'dfield)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gurden, Harold||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Clark, William (Surrey. E.)||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Longden, Sir Gilbert|
|Clegg, Walter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Loveridge, John|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Luce, R. N.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Coombs, Derek||Hannam, John (Exeter)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Cordle, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||McLaren, Martin|
|Cormack Partick||Haselhurst, Alan||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Costain, A. P.||Hastings, Stephen||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)|
|Critchley Julian||Havers, Michael||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Crouch David||Hawkins, Paul||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hayhoe, Barney||Maddan, Martin|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Madel, David|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutstord)||Heseltine, Michael||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hicks, Robert||Mather, Carol|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj-Gen. James|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Raison, Timothy||Tapsell, Peter|
|Mawby, Ray||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Redmond, Robert||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Temple, John M.|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Money, Ernie||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, s.)|
|Monro, Hector||Ridsdale, Julian||Tilney, John|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|More, Jasper||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Trew, Peter|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||van Straubenzee, W. R|
|Morrison, Charles||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Mudd, David||Rost, Peter||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Murton, Oscar||Royle, Anthony||Waddington, David|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||St. John Stevas, Norman||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Neave, Airey||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wall, Patrick|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Scott, Nicholas||Walters, Dennis|
|Normanton, Tom||Scott-Hopkins, James||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Nott, John||Sharples, Richard||Warren, Kenneth|
|Onslow, Cranley||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Shelton, William (Clapham)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Osborn, John||Simeons, Charles||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Sinclair, Sir George||Wilkinson, John|
|Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Soref, Harold||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peel, John||Speed, Keith||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Spence, John||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Sproat, Iain||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Stainton, Keith||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Younger, Hn. George|
|Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Stokes, John||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||Mr. Kenneth Clarke.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ [Mr. BRYANT GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]
§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am extremely grateful to have the somewhat unexpected opportunity to start the debate. I shall not stand very long in the way of my hon. Friends. The point I want to make is one on which I feel I have been consistent. I make no particular claim to consistency. I am, after all, a former Secretary of the British Council for a United Europe. But one thing I have been consistent in is my view that a free economy must be regulated and that it can only be regulated by a price system.
This is the reason why I for the first time found myself in concert with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) when I denounced the industrial relations proposals introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), and also when I opposed the incomes policy introduced by the Labour Govern- 1534 ment. One thing is quite clear, and that is that the powers which we are surrendering to Europe by Clause 2 are certainly those powers which are absolutely necessary to implement any sort of effective incomes policy.
The Government have had experience of humiliation in their attempts to work the unworkable Industrial Relations Act. There is talk in the Tory Party and particularly within the Liberal Party about the necessity of an incomes policy. The Liberals must really make up their minds. They cannot have Clause 2 and an incomes policy because the two things are totally inconsistent. We tried an incomes policy; we tried it without adequate currency control and we tried it without an effective control of imports and exports. The result, of course, was that the balance of payments went wrong on us and the policy collapsed. It was bound to.
I remember at that time reminding the Labour Government that the attempt to control prices within an economy was a pretty ancient one. It was tried by Julian the Apostate in Antioch when he moved an army there. He proceeded to regulate prices, upon which all goods disappeared from the open market and 1535 moved on to the black market. He proceeded to try to stop the black market and then all goods disappeared altogether. He finally arrested the whole Senate of Antioch and marched them off to prison. But still his policy did not work and it had to be abandoned. Any attempt to regulate an economy in this sort of way by independently jamming the controls is destined to that sort of failure. It is important to emphasise this even in the absence from the Chamber of the Liberals, who at one and the same time demand Clause 2 and an incomes policy. The two are totally inconsistent.
An incomes policy can work. Indeed, it has worked brilliantly. The great example of a successful incomes policy was that worked by Dr. Schacht in Germany in the 'thirties. It was for a disgraceful end, but we should not blind ourselves to the astonishing success with which it dealt with mass unemployment and produced a staggeringly vigorous and effective economy. It did it. It achieved it, and one should note what was necessary.
It is said that the end cannot justify the means. When I hear that said I often wonder, if the end cannot justify the means, what the hell can? But—thisis looking at the matter on the inverse basis—the end should not discredit the means if the means are successful, and the example of an incomes policy then was astonishingly successful. It was successful because it exercised all the kinds of controls which we are prevented from exercising by the acceptance of the Clause.
First, it involved a huge public works policy to correct the unemployment problem. In the German case that was, in the main, armaments, but it need not be armaments. Heaven knows what a public works policy the ecology calls for in Britain today. It would be available to absorb any slack in the economy, as would a public works policy of consumer durables.
It secondly required the creation of a means to absorb the purchasing power created by that vast employment policy. There was one recommended to us yesterday by the Minister of Housing and Construction, or whatever his latest title is—the purchase of council houses. That is one of the means whereby, if this policy is being planned, the recipients of the 1536 expansion policy are enabled to purchase that share of England which they had never possessed. That is a means.
One of the means used in Germany was the creation of a power to purchase long-term consumer goods on an instalment system. One thinks of the Volkswagen, and many other examples. That kind of policy is available now, but it will not be available within the Common Market system which imposes an open market, not only in goods and produce, but in the employment of labour. That kind of thing is unavailable to us under the European system.
Amongst the absorbers which could be used if there were a serious incomes policy would be a substantial capital levy on industrial investment and the sale of the produce of that levy in terms of industrial shares to the workers for whom we were creating new employment. All this kind of thing is forbidden by the Clause.
Finally, if we are to have an incomes policy we must be able to deal with the balance of payments problem which is going to hit us. That problem can be dealt with only if we control imports and exports by a licensing system. If we are to expand production by a public works system, we must be in a position to import those things which are necessary for that programme, and in doing that refrain from importing the things which are not necessary to it. That again was recognised and worked on by Dr. Schacht. It would not be available under this system.
But more important than everything else, we must be in a position to control our currency. This is where the previous Labour Government collapsed. Their social system and everything which they planned depended upon an expansion of production which they dared not accept because they could not accept that expansion of production and maintain the currency at a given level of exchange. The refusal to devalue spoiled the whole programme. The Prime Minister in his negotiations with M. Pompidou has undertaken that we shall not independently use our currency to promote our industrial interests.
Every one of those things is forbidden by the Clause. The whole purpose of the Clause, the whole purpose of Community legislation, is to impose a free system of exchange regulated by a price 1537 system of free negotiations for goods and of free negotiations for labour. If one tries to control those two one throws the whole system out of gear, and all the legislation of the Market is designed precisely to prevent us doing that.
The single, short point is that people who wish for an incomes policy and this sort of European policy are wishing for two policies which are utterly inconsistent. That applies particularly to hon. Members in the Liberal Party. They must wake up and realise they can have one or the other, but not both.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I have listened, as I always do, with interest and pleasure to the ingenious speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I listened with all the more pleasure because his speech illustrates extremely well a point I want to come to in a few moments.
No one, whatever his views, would for a moment question the immense importance of what we are being asked to decide today or its ultimate implications one way or the other. But clearly there is bound to be some difficulty in striking a proper balance between the narrow consideration of the terms of the Clause and the wider issues involved, which of course have already been repeatedly discussed, one might almost say ad nauseam.
I have so far not spoken in the Committee's debates on this Bill, but I have done my best to follow them and I have been greatly struck by the exceptionally high standard of debate on both sides of the Committee and on both sides of the argument. What has also struck me—the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was no exception—has been the tendency on the part of the opponents of the Bill and of this Clause in particular, to concentrate, perhaps quite naturally, on its more negative aspects, especially on the transfer of powers and controls, while completely ignoring its positive side.
In fact, it has always been recognised thatmembership of the Communities involves a vesting of legislative and judicial powers, in certain fields, in the Community institutions and acceptance of a corresponding limitation of the ordinary exercise of national powers in those fields.…Accession to the 1538 Treaties would involve the passing of United Kingdom legislation. This would be an exercise, of course, of Parliamentary sovereignty, and it is important to realise that Community law, existing and future, would derive its force as law in this country from that legislation passed by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, cc. 1088–9.]That, I think, is a fair enough statement of the position. And, in case hon. Members are surprised at the unwonted clarity and cogency with which I have been expressing myself, I hasten to admit that my last three sentences were lifted in toto from the speech made in this House five years ago by the present leader of the Opposition who was then, of course, Prime Minister. And we all know, especially after his speech at Nottingham last weekend, that consistency is the right hon. Gentleman's middle name.
So that, while I agree that there is a certain, in my view, rather mad, logic in the attitude of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have always opposed the whole concept of entry into Europe tooth and nail, root and branch, the present official attitude of the party opposite seems to me completely illogical. Surely, to accept five years ago by an enormous majority the principle that a Bill passed in all its stages through Parliament, in theexercise, of course, of parliamentary sovereignty"—as the present Leader of the Opposition put it—as a perfectly proper and a democratic way of fulfilling our undoubted obligations under the Treaty, and then, when it comes to the point, to hold up their hands in horror at the mere thought of such a thing, does not make any sense whatever.
There is something else that always surprises me. I am amazed by the assumption made by the opponents of entry, whether they are old hands or more recent converts, that, when we go into Europe, we shall automatically become the underdog; that we shall always be taking orders from someone else. It seems to me, to put it at its lowest, that that assumption does not take into account either our history or our known national characteristics. For example, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) keeps on talking about our new tax-masters. But, in fact, when we 1539 enter the community, we shall very soon have just as much say in fiscal policy and indeed all other fields of policy as anyone else. After all, we are joining a community on equal terms and not putting ourselves in a position of subjection to it, as some hon. Members seem to suggest.
This is not the Scottish Standing Committee and I do not know how many hon. Members here read the Scotsman. I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) does; it would not be worth his while not to. But the point I am trying to make was, I thought, put extremely well in a recent letter to the Editor of the Scotsman from the former Convener of the Church and Nation Committee of the General Assembly, who happens to be a constituent of mine, the Reverend George Balls. He asks:Have those who are so implacably opposed to our joining the E.E.C. so little faith in British ideals and institutions and in what Scotland has to contribute, that they believe that inevitably it must be the community which will shape us and that we can have no influence on the community?Another thing that amazes me is the narrow nationalism, the deep distrust of anybody or anything foreign, not so much on the part of my right hon. and hon. Friends from some of whom one might conceivably expect such views, but from right hon. and hon. Members opposite, who in their more progressive moments, if that is the right word for it, chose to pose as internationalists. I find that absolutely staggering. And any of us who attends meetings of the Council of Europe. North Atlantic Assembly and who meets European trade unionists and Social Democrats, will know that they find it absolutely staggering too. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that, to find such deep seated, old fashioned nationalism, such pathological suspicion of everybody and everything foreign, one nowadays really has to go quite a long way behind the iron curtain—
§ Sir F. Maclean
I had never thought of my hon. Friend as an internationalist, let alone an international social democrat, but we live and learn. Nor would I have thought that the Common Market at present, less still when it is extended next year, could properly be described as a miserable little body. Nor do I think that the very fact of welcoming in four more countries is proof that they are inward-looking. I should have thought that it proved exactly the opposite.
It seems to me a pity that hon. Members opposite have either adopted this attitude or had it forced on them—
§ Sir F. Maclean
Because I have a feeling that, left to themselves, a large number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite would be just as ready as most of us are to go into Europe and to play a useful and constructive part there as members of an extended and enlarged Community. After all, at any rate some of the hundreds of hon. Members opposite who voted for entry five years ago must have known what they were voting for.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
It is now six weeks since we embarked on the debate on Clause 2. The structure of the Clause has of course made it inevitable that we should tackle it bit by bit and subsection by subsection, but now that we have worked our way through it, it is right that we should have some time to consider the totality of what these subsections involve.
I would say to the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) that if we have found in our discussion of these subsections that there are many negative features in relation to the practice and prospects of democracy in this country, it is not because we have imported pessimistic material and conclusions into the substance of the Bill. It is because they are there, and the positive and more hopeful aspects are certainly not.
I would also say to the hon. Member that it is not good enough—it is a kind of intellectual laziness—for him to accuse those who have very real doubts and 1541 objections about what is proposed of being animated by some kind of narrow nationalism. The choice is not that at all. Whether we wish to be nationalist or not in this country, we are involved in the whole progress and prospects of the human race. We are involved in every international organisation that exists. We are connected with all the continents of the world more intimately and with more connections probably than any other country in Europe.
The proposition before us is whether we should seek to establish a unique and special relationship with the Continent or part of the Continent of Europe. It is a relationship which involves—again, it is wishful thinking not to recognise this—a choice of giving a preference to that relationship with the countries of Western Europe and turning our backs, to a greater or smaller extent, on the much wider groupings and larger numbers of people with whom we are associated in other parts of the world. If any hon. Member does not recognise that this is part of the choice, one of the great matters that we have to decide, he has not faced this issue and the implications of our decision.
This takes us somewhat away from the immediate material that we have to consider in Clause 2. I can only put certain major points in winding up the debate on this Clause for this side of the Committee.
First, I emphasise what is apparent to all—the formidable nature of the rights and powers that the European institutions will acquire, if we pass this Clause, in relation to Britain and the British people. Over the whole area covered by the treaties—perhaps we do not need to be reminded that we are talking not just about the Rome, Paris and Luxembourg Treaties but also about the hundred other treaties which have proliferated in the life of the Communities—Britain will in effect cease to be self-governing. The power to make law, the power to raise taxes and to spend money, will have passed out of the control of Parliament and of the people whom we represent.
Just how completely this transfer will be effected is made all too clear in subsection (1). Not only must we import, without discussion and without any ability to amend, the output of these twelve years 1542 of Community legislation, but henceforth, in relation not just to the thousand regulations which already exist but to the tens of thousands which are yet to come, the representatives of the British people will have no legislative function whatsoever. We cannot make them, we cannot amend them, we cannot repeal them. We will simply be notified, in the official journals of the Community, that they exist.
Further, under subsections (1) and (3), the Community acquires the right to tax the British people, in particular to take the proceeds of the new levies on our imported food and the whole of our Customs duties and up to a one per cent. value added tax. These sums, which will total anything from £500 million to £700 million a year will not belong to us at all. They will become part of the "own resources" of the Communities and they will "flow", as the Treasury Ministers have told us, directly from the British people to the European institutions, and this House will have no power to alter or to stop the flow or to decide on what these large sums will be spent.
Under subsection (2), Parliament is awarded the minor rôle of enacting that part of Community law which, for one reason or another—the reason has not yet been made clear—is not considered suitable for direct Community self-enacting legislation. Parliament will have the right not to refuse to enact a Community directive but only to introduce such minor modifications as enable it to fit the particular circumstances of our land.
To equip themselves for this task, the Government have taken, under subsection (2), powers to issue Orders in Council over an enormous area of our affairs in what amounts, as I said earlier, to a European Supplies and Services Bill.
Finally, under subsection (4), the Government have deposed the fundamental constitutional doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament. Whether it is their intention and whether, if it is their intention, it will be the result, the words, as they stand and as some of the most eminent authorities in the country have interpreted them, would have the possibility at any rate of binding future Parliaments within the confines of this Bill.
In addition, no attempt has been made to assert that the area in which we shall be ceding self-government is limited. 1543 On the contrary. the area will grow and the ability of this House to contain that growth will have been greatly weakened by the provisions of this Clause.
It needs only an affirmative Resolution under Clause 1(3) to double, treble or quadruple the powers to make law that Clause 2 vests in the Communities. A new Rome Treaty, far more ambitious than that of 1958, could be introduced and made operative by these means. As we know, there are treaties waiting in the wings which will, before long, come on to the very centre of the European stage. The powers that the House of Commons has been asked to renounce are clearly very substantial. No one who has any sense or an understanding of these matters will dispute that for a moment.
We come to the question whether this abandonment of our own powers is essential for the successful operation of an enlarged Community. It is a very important question. The answer will inevitably turn on what we conceive to be the fundamental purposes of the European Communities. Here we face one of the great complexities that has always surrounded this issue since it was first debated, for the European Communities have never been and, perhaps, can never be precisely defined. But if the main objective—I say "if"—is to establish a customs union in Western Europe, with certain common policies thrown in, and if Ministers are sincere when they say, as they did in the July White Paper, that the reality of the Community is that sovereign Governments are represented around the table and thatThere is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereigntyclearly, if that is so, the powers that the House of Commons has been asked to renounce are substanially in excess of those required for the successful operation of such a Community.
In the whole of our long debate on Clause 2(1), the only practical reason why the House of Commons should permit the Communities to make law for this country in the way that the subsection allows was given by the Solicitor-General on 25th April when he said:It is necessary for there to be some rules regulating the operation of that Market which 1544 operate in identical terms throughout the Market area.This system can be achieved by a single coherent system of directly applicable Community laws applying in each Member State within the spheres covered by the Treaties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1972; Vol. 835, c. 1413.]That is a practical explanation of Clause 2(1). The Solicitor-General did not say that this was the only way that the system could be achieved. He said that it "can" be achieved in this way. But the Solicitor-General knows as I know, that this requirement for uniform practice within an enlarged Community could be met, just as other Community requirements will be met, by the House of Commons legislating the necessary provisions. That is the truth. We can have a customs union and common policies with Europe if that be our wish without transferring out of this country the powers that are involved and which are abandoned in the Clause.
§ Mr. Shore
I want to complete my point because it will perhaps help the hon. and learned Gentleman. I want to give an analogy, a rather important one. Just as in EFTA free trade in industrial goods and common rules about trading policies and practices were agreed and carried out without ceding law-making powers to supranational institutions, so, too, a European Community whose major purpose was to establish a customs union and to harmonise its economic policies while preserving the reality of continued independence of the member States could work without any such device as is contained in Clause 2(1).
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
The point that the right hon. Gentleman is overlooking is that he is describing the nature of a Community which could be devised in a different form and arguing that, therefore, the Bill should be in a different form. He overlooks what his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made so clear 1545 in the debate on 8th May, 1967 when speaking about the two main features of the treaties:First, they provide continuing powers for the institutions of the Communities themselves to issue instruments which are binding upon the member States or take effect as law directly within them. Secondly, in some areas of Community law, Community institutions have power to adjudicate on and to enforce its provisions. Thus membership of the Communities "—I interpose here the Communities springing from these treaties—membership has always involved what the Leader of the Opposition said—a vesting of legislative and judicial powers, in certain fields in the Community institutions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746. c. 1088.]That is what the Community is and always has been. The right hon. Gentleman is talking about a different Community.
§ Mr. Shore
I have not seen the hon. Gentleman feature very prominently in these debates. We can continue to ignore him for the rest of the afternoon, as he has ignored us during the several days in which this matter has been before the Committee.
I was not about to dismiss without thought, the point the Solicitor-General has made, but rather to move on to the matter he has raised, which was precisely what I intended to do.
I have said that no practical reason for this hand-over of power, other than the one I have quoted, has been adduced in these debates. But there is another reason why the Government have used these words. If I had given the Solicitor-General a few minutes longer he could have reminded us in a direct way that Article 189 of the Treaty of Rome at least appears to require the abandonment of national parliamentary control in the form that Clause 2(1) seeks to enact. I say "appears to require", because this 1546 was one of the matters in serious dispute in the all-too-short debate that we were allowed under the guillotine. It will be recalled that there were a number of strong challenges to the Government's interpretation of the requirements of Article 189 of the Treaty as having to be expressed in the form that it is expressed in subsection (1) of the Clause. But even if the Government were right, if the translation of Article 189 required what I consider to be the appalling and brutal formulation of Clause 2(1), and if at the same time I am right in saying that no practical justification can be argued for it, are not we entitled to draw the conclusion that we have been misled about the purposes of the European Communities and the continuing reality of national decision-making within them?
Where such a provision as that contained in Clause 2(1) would be right, indeed, essential, would be in a European Community that was clearly programmed to become not just a customs union with a few common policies to assist it, but a sovereign State in some form or other, a United States of Europe. If that is the aim, the abandonment of the powers of self-government that subsections (1) and (3) impose upon us is wholly right. Indeed, if the aim were to establish such a Europe, a Europe not of national States but something quite different, in which the national States are submerged and subsumed, Clauses and subsections of this character would be essential. But that is something that the Government are specifically denying. It is something that the people of this country, and of Europe as well, as far as we can judge, have no wish for.
For the future we cannot speak. But should such a will and a wish emerge in the decades ahead, it would be right for fresh propositions to express that will and submit it to the peoples and Parliaments of the nations concerned. But if there are those whose coveted aim is to push toward a single State in western Europe and who justify Clause 2(1) and (3) in private, if not in public, on the grounds that it helps to forward this process by dismantling the powers of the individual States, then let me warn them that the price to be paid will be exacted from democracy itself.
The transfer of powers from the British Parliament and people that is involved 1547 in 2(1) and 2(3) is not a transfer to a European Parliament. In the very short debate that we had earlier that point at least became clear. When I see the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) nodding I know that this is at least one matter on which he and I have been finding ourselves in agreement in this long debate. The transfer of powers is not to a European Parliament where similar functions to those which are performed in this House will be performed. It is a straight transfer to non-elected institutions of the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.
Let no one believe that the establishment of an effective parliamentary democracy is even yet remotely in sight. It will be extremely and extraordinarily difficult, given the institutional structure of the Communities, for a genuine Parliament to emerge. There is an example in the case history of the decision of April, 1970, to provide the European Communities with their "own resources". This was the moment when the European Communities achieved one of the major attributes of sovereignty—the power to tax and the right to dispose of their proceeds. But at this historic moment when the Strasbourg Assembly tried to bring these new powers of taxation and expenditure within its own competence, it was decisively rebuffed, as anyone who studied what happened in the winter of 1970 and the spring of 1971 will know well. Today the Communities have their own resources but 90 per cent. of them are wholly excluded from any kind of control by the European Assembly and are kept within the decision-making grip of officials, Ministers and Commissioners in Brussels.
How can such a surrender of self-governing power be justified? How can the Government persuade the House today to connive at the dismantling of so many of the powers of the British state, and at the surrender of their own rights and powers? I hope they will not say, as was asserted from the Government's back benches a moment ago, that all this was understood and agreed by their predecessors. It was not. But in any event that would be no reason why the House, in the light of all the information that it now has, should make and approve such a decision.
1548 Nor would it do for the Government to claim against the clear and appalling evidence of the Clause that it does not mean what it says, that there is some magic in the practice of the Community—the alleged veto that we had so little time to discuss yesterday, or some other device—which cancels out these provisions. There is no such device. Nor can they say, for they do not have the gall to say it, that they have the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the British people. The latest polls, in spite of all the propaganda to which the nation has been subjected, show that the nation remains resistant. Its heart is not in it and its will is against it.
This is one of the most fateful votes that we or any of our predecessors are likely to take. In voting today we have to think not only of the arguments for and against the Clause but of the wider repercussions the Clause will have for our democracy and on our national future. Parliamentary democracy, and with it the widespread acceptance of peaceful change and respect for the law is among the greatest benefits we possess. These are things we have inherited and things that successive generations have defended and preserved. It is a terrible responsibility on us to renounce for the future so much of so much value. It is a terrible offence, as I see it, to do it against the wishes and without the consent of those who sent us here.
We are voting today not simply or even primarily about whether we should join the European Communities on the terms so disastrously negotiated. We are voting as well about whether we shall continue to be a Parliament worthy of the name.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
The problems which are worrying me arise directly out of the Amendments which were considered by the Committee last night. I was grateful then for the help from the Government Front Bench, particularly from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in considering Clause 2(5). However, my hon. Friend's answers raised further problems in my mind. It is provided that the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall not be restricted by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and may make certain provisions in line with the preceding provisions of Clause 2.
1549 I accept what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said, in summing up, that it is the Government's intention to restore Parliament to Northern Ireland. But what happens if a Government come into power who disagree with some of the Common Market requirements? How far does the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament extend over Northern Ireland in this respect? I am thinking particularly of local legislation in Northern Ireland which restricts the right of movement of labour. The legislation was enacted because of high unemployment, a situation which has been seriously aggravated by the recent disturbances in the Province. What will happen if the position deteriorates, as well it might? What will happen if there is no great fillip to industry in the United Kingdom from joining the Common Market, or even if there is some impetus given to industry in Great Britain but this does not extend to Northern Ireland, so that in five years' time the problem remains as intransigent as it is today? What will happen if the Government of Northern Ireland disagree with the Westminster Government over the enactment of certain provisions required by our joining the Common Market?
Would it not be appropriate or necessary to amend the Government of Ireland Act in this Bill so that the Imperial Parliament at Westminster could legislate for Northern Ireland on such points? The legislation safeguarding the employment position will be reviewed, and we hope renewed, at the end of a five-year transitional period. I am concerned, however, that there might be a change of Government in this country, bringing with it, perhaps, people less sympathetic to the position of Northern Ireland, people who are not prepared to extend the exceptions at present provided in favour of Northern Ireland. It was for that reason that I pressed earlier that the matter should be incorporated in a protocol. I remain disappointed that it was not properly regulated in a more permanent way than by simply a subsidiary agreement.
I am also concerned about the effect of other matters on Northern Ireland, which arise directly from the passing of the Measure and particularly the implementation of the Clause. I am concerned 1550 about the help Northern Ireland will receive if Britain joins the Common Market. We have suffered drastically from the recent disturbances.
First, many businesses have been destroyed and burnt out. The damage is continuing at a ferocious pace, and it will take a long time to re-establish and rebuild the businesses concerned. Some have gone for good. Secondly, in Northern Ireland we have a difficult unemployment problem, which arises not only from automation, in common with the rest of the United Kingdom, but from the peculiar difficulties of our agriculture and heavy industries, such as shipbuilding, which have been run down to a certain extent. We have had to attract new industry to the Province and create 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs each year just to keep pace with the run-down of the traditional industries. In the past two or three years very little new industry has been coming in, and it is not likely that in the immediate future we shall attract much new industry to Ulster. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will say how he expects the Treaty to help deal with the problems peculiar to the Province.
Many fears and anxieties are expressed in Ulster, particularly about the future position of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. A Secretary of State, responsible to this House, has been appointed. This matter might be dealt with more completely by my right hon. and learned Friend when he sums up. It is expressly covered not only by subsection (5), the permissive subsection, but by Schedule 2. I should like further clarification of the posititon, first, in the immediate future—the period between 1st January and the restoration of the Parliament of Northern Ireland—and, secondly, in the longer term. What will be the position with respect to Northern Ireland if Britain does accede to the Treaty of Rome? What provisions are to be made to cover the requirements of those who live in Northern Ireland concerning employment and social conditions? These are all matters which have not yet received the full attention of the Government Front Bench. If something can be said to clarify the position, it will help those Ulster Members who are taking part in and following the debate.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
I hope the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him into what to me are the labyrinthine by-ways of Northern Ireland anxieties. I am rather more concerned with the anxieties of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). What we are discussing is, as my right hon. Friend rightly says, a matter of great importance, the principle of the assimilation of law between this country and the countries of the Community. We are discussing also the way in which effect should be given to that principle. On the way in which effect should be given to the principle, I have no differences whatever with my right hon. Friend. We can and must devise, and I think the Government will in the course of time be able to devise, ways in which the supervision by Parliament of the on-going assimilation of law can be more effective and make the voice of the House effective. Therefore, I shall record at the conclusion of this debate my dissent from the way in which the assimilation of laws is so far to be supervised.
I agree with everything said by those anxious to preserve the rights of the House on the need for a careful review of the scant provisions here made for the on-going supervision of this assimilation. But I should not like any hon. Member to believe that I give the smallest support to any of the complaints about the assimilation of law itself which is to take place and which it is the intention of this Clause to implement, albeit in a way which can and must be improved upon. I believe passionately that this assimilation of law is not only necessary in order to enter the Community but that it marks a great step forward in the achievements of mankind in seeking to regulate its affairs as between nations.
There are two equal and opposite errors that creep into this discussion, and it might help those of my hon. Friends who disagree with me to know that the error is equally on the pro-Marketeer side as on the anti-Marketeer side. There are those on both sides who believe that this groping by mankind to some better method of achieving the expression of national sovereignty is itself the abandonment of all national sovereignty. That can be regarded as either glorious or evil according to the particular aspect of one's 1552 delusion. I do not believe this is the case. I think that what is being done here, painfully and gropingly, and still at its beginning, is an effort by mankind in Western Europe to make nationalism in its legitimate expressions tolerable and effective. The whole of the history of this century has been that the form in which nationalism existed but imperfectly took into account that mutuality of interest of nations which in itself is a supreme national interest in modern circumstances.
We could go on for centuries with an adequate expression of national sovereignty, before we had all our destructive toys of one kind and another, in which we intermittently murdered each other and raped each other's countries, and in between this intermittent murdering of each other's citizens we could continue happily to seek to encompass each other's ruin. All this was possible in a bygone age. It is no longer possible in the modern age for a legitimate sovereignty to find expression unless it is in a context which takes into account the heretofore neglected and vital national interest of the mutuality of nations'interests—that is, which takes into account the needs of others, they at the same time taking into account our needs.
I do claim not that the European Economic Community represents an accomplished achievement of a magic formula to bring about this total step forward, but that it is a clear step in the direction of recognising that national sovereignty, as we have so painfully and bloodily learnt, if it continues in its present expression can only be to our destruction and ruin and that we must evolve some machinery—I believe this is the hopeful beginnings of that machinery—to set national sovereignty in a viable context, which takes into account the whole of national interests. That includes the interests of our neighbours and forcing them in turn to take into account our interests.
I am by no means abandoning my concept of national interest. In supporting the assimilation of law I am seeking to develop the means which will permit the continued legitimate expression of national interest without defeating its own object. Otherwise we will end up, if we stay with this narrow view of national 1553 interest, which takes no account of mutuality, in rather the same way as the quarrelling family who, when their rich parent has died, are so determined to exact each his own maximum national interest that they continue the litigation for a period long enough to destroy the entire estate.
Europe has given evident signs of being in something like that situation. The family national interest must be recognised to be part of the individual's interest too. Therefore we have to find a means of running the two together and we ought to be bending all the goodwill of people like my right hon. Friend, the Member for Stepney who is certainly not a "Little Englander" or a chauvinist to dealing with the errors that have been made to developing what is necessarily, in its early stages, imperfect, into something more perfect.
I want to tell my right hon. Friend that one not altogether impartial colleague in the Committee rejects each of the three pillars on which he propounds his opposition to this Clause, other than the mechanics which I have already mentioned. He first of all alleges that there is authority for saying that this will bind future Parliaments—authority worth taking into account. Secondly he says that this is part of a commitment to a programme to create a sovereign State, the precise nature of which we have not had disclosed to us. Thirdly he says that by passing this Clause we will be abandoning national sovereignty over certain substantial areas which will be affected by existing and new regulations of the Community.
Let me take these three points in order. It is not true that my right hon. Friend's fears about binding future Parliaments can be justified. This must be accepted, that if Parliament wishes it can rescind an Act of Parliament. What then are we doing in enacting this? We are entering into an international commitment, affirming our intention to observe it scrupulously by agreeing that the commitment shall automatically become the law of our country and the law of each and every other country that is a party to the Treaty. It would for example, have been an equivalent if, when we signed GATT we had been in sufficiently intimate confidence with all the nations of GATT, and I hope one day we might be, that the 1554 Treaty and the many regulations made under it became law, automatically, in our country. They are not law.
The effect of this is that for the first time we are signing a treaty when, without further formality what we have committed ourselves to do will automatically and without any specific Act of Parliament be made the law of our land. That is all. We have agreed to become members of the Community; we have agreed that these specific areas should be dealt with in a certain way, and we have agreed that when these regulations are made, except for the occasions when affirmative Resolutions are required and so on, we have agreed in principle that all of them shall become the law of the land, covering the area of the Treaty. Whether that is done by Resolutions or legislation or any other means, this is the nature of the commitment. I welcome that commitment because it means that the peoples of Europe, for the first time, have enough confidence in each other and enough knowledge of the needs of our century to realise that it is no longer enough to sign treaties where each signatory can be the judge without any challenge on what the treaty means—or when the only challenge is at angry meetings of the cosignatories from time to time, when everything is drowned in words and nothing can be legally and impartially decided. We have all agreed that what we have bound ourselves to do to each other shall become the law of our countries and that, whether we are implementing, our bond shall be decided by our own court.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The effect is not to create an irreversible abandonment of sovereignty. What it means is that all the signatories to the Treaty cannot renege on their obligations except by blatantly subverting the courts of their own country or, since these are countries where that is not so readily to be achieved, fortunately, by specific legislation to control the courts of their own country. It is quite false to proclaim that we are abandoning the right to control the British courts. What we are abandoning the right to do is to put our interpretation on our obligations irrespective of the true interpretation of 1555 the obligation as given by the British courts. If we do not like it, we the British Parliament, now and at any time, can simply instruct the British courts by Statute about what our obligation is to be. If we do so, we will be blatantly breaking our pledged word under the Treaty. That is all it amounts to.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
When the Germans negotiated their way into the Six they also negotiated an annexe which in effect made Eastern Germany an associate member of the Common Market by proclaiming the doctrine of internal trade as applying to trade between the two parts of Germany. Why has no attempt been made by our Government even to talk about some such provision in our own case?
§ Mr. Paget
The right hon. Gentleman says that if this Parliament decides that it wishes to reverse what Europe has decided that would be a breach of our contract but still something which we are entitled to do. Is he quite sure that is correct? This Clause, as I read it, provides that the courts are to interpret any subsequent legislation which we may pass in a manner which is consistent with the laws in Europe. If we pass a law which is meant to repeal this Measure, if the judges interpret that in a manner consistent with this Measure it means that they must interpret that subsequent law as having no effect. How do we know that the judges will not interpret this in a manner which binds subsequent Parliaments?
§ Mr. Lever
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend is absolutely ingenuous in his questioning and is not relying too much upon the lack of legal knowledge or patience to hear legal explanations of my hon. Friends. If Parliament passes an Act rescinding the Bill now before the House—assuming it passes—saying that the European Communities Act, 1972, is hereby rescinded, no judge could properly, without flouting his obligations as a judge, pay the slightest attention to the European Communities Act, 1972, 1556 because counsel on the other side, if he were my hon. and learned Friend, would say to him, "My Lord, your Lordship appears to be unaware that the Act was rescinded only last week. Once the Act is rescinded all its provisions are of no effect and any oratory expended on them should be brought to a halt." If my hon. and learned Friend, in stating the proposition that once the Bill is enacted Parliament cannot rescind it wishes to debate that proposition at any length, it cannot be now.
I assert, and go on record as saying, that it is the elementary and unchallengeable law of this country that Parliament can rescind what Parliament has enacted, and that is the legal position. If Parliament rescinds this law—and I very much hope that it will not be desirable or necessary, but it has the power to do so—all these detailed provisions become so much waste paper, and we need not scrutinise them with any anxiety once they have been rescinded because it does not matter what is contained in the provisions; they have become null and void. If that is not unchallengeable law, I give up and will not seek to go into it further.
It is not true that we are ceding sovereignty or that there is anything irreversible or irrevocable about it. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that irreversibility was the crucial and fundamental basis of his anxieties. I cannot soothe him with any great authority on this, but since I spoke on the referendum issue, when he expressed this opinion, he has had the further assurance of M. Pompidou, who has confirmed that he, too, does not regard it as irreversible or in all circumstances irrevocable.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who also debated this issue with me when the referendum was discussed, might be consoled because he then admitted, contrary to the spirit of his question, that we could reverse it in law but he was troubled whether we could reverse it in honour. He argued that the basis on which we were going in was regarded by the people as irreversible; hence, it would be a breach of faith for us to reverse it. Now he knows quite authoritatively that M. Pompidou does not regard it as a breach of faith to hold my view about the reversibility of the Community, and 1557 no member of the Community has contested the statement of M. Pompidou. I think we can safely say that the basis on which we are entering the Community is the one I have outlined.
§ Mr. Lever
What I am saying is not that M. Pompidou is a judge but that he has stated publicly what I stated in the House at the time of the referendum debate, without dissent from any of his partners who might be expected to dissent if they held the view that what he was saying was the contrary of reality.
We all know the reality; it has been stated in the House over and over again, and it has been stated by M. Pompidou. None of us wants to reverse it—at least, none of those who see it as a hopeful development. I do not know which decision some of my hon. Friends will take. Will they say that it is a dreadful thing because it is irreversible, or will they, while we are debating it, say that it is a dreadful thing that it is irreversible and when we have passed it go round the hustings urging people to vote for them so that it can be reversed? They should tell me what their decisions are. I will tell them mine.
If an hon. Friend of mine thinks it is wrong—and he is perfectly entitled to take this view—that we should remain a member of the Community, he is entitled to urge and argue that even after the Bill is law. If he says that, never will I say to him that he is bound and committed and that it would be improper, legally and morally, to withdraw. I have to argue it on the merits now and hereafter.
It is absolutely wrong on the one hand, while we are debating it here, to hold before the public the bogyman of irreversibility. I take it that, if the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West really believes in this bogy he will be silent after the Bill becomes law and will cease his efforts to persuade his fellow countrymen to batter their heads against a statutory brick wall against which he warned them when it was going through Parliament. He has not the right—nobody has the right—to attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the public by arguing at this stage that it is a horror because it is irreversible while secretly 1558 resolving, even though Parliament passes the Bill, to campaign round the country seeking to have it reversed. One should take up a position of integrity on this point, and I will. I will never argue to any of my countrymen that they are not free to reverse it.
§ Mr. Shore
I do not see why my right hon. Friend should make heavy weather of this point. The real difficulty is not in terms of what the House of Commons can do—any Measure passed here is reversible. On the contrary, I shall be the first to urge precisely that course on my colleagues. What I say is that it will be extremely difficult to reverse it after we have entered into the full Treaty obligations with all that means in the break-up of the other associations to which we belong. That is why it is a serious matter, and my right hon. Friend must not be frivolous.
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is raising the debate to a new level of courtesy. Most of my hon. Friend's interventions seem to have as their main purpose the diminution of his own reputation. I should have thought that he would feel that he had accomplished sufficient in that direction not to insist on further interventions.
It does not lie in the mouth of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney to say that I am being frivolous when he has said today that it is said by authority that this Statute will be binding on future Parliaments. If my right hon. Friend will withdraw that, I will agree that the analysis I have made is not strictly necessary.
We must take into account that what we are doing here is entering the Community, which is an organisation of sovereign States designed to explore and organise the application of the sovereignty of its members to points of common interest. That is a great step forward and, for the reasons I have already given, I believe that we can perfect and advance that concept. It is a necessary step forward to the peace and prosperity of Europe.
I have often been moved by the sincerity of the opponents of the Clause and the Bill who have reminded us, quite 1559 rightly, that we are trustees of the powers we have as Members of Parliament. They seem to have a bleak and inadequate view of what trusteeship involves. They say that we are trustees to hand back those powers intact. Yet we are more than that. We are trustees of these powers to deploy and use them in every way we can for the benefit of our people and coming generations. I do not believe in the narrow view that we are concerned only to deploy those powers as they have been deployed in the past and that that is our sole duty.
Our duty is to learn the grim lessons of the past, to look at the difficulties of the future and to raise our standards and our vision, as I believe the peoples of Europe are doing in entering into community together to seek their national interest in co-operation rather than in intermittent self-destruction and continuous injury to each other and to seek the highest common welfare of us all. That way lies safety. That way lies the right deployment of the powers of this Parliament in the interests of the people of the country and in the discharge of our trusteeship of those powers.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Adley
I am somewhat diffident in speaking after the speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). The right hon. Gentleman has a way of putting things in the real world which enables us to understand, not the lawyers' world in which we are to enter, but the real world we are to enter in the Community. I hope it will not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman if I say that his speech—similar to the one he made on the referendum issue—put more clearly and lucidly than almost anyone else in the House of Commons the underlying philosophical reasons for our joining the Community. He explained the reality of our legal obligations and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) explained the legality of our obligations.
In the right hon. Gentleman's brief exchange with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, I felt that the hon. and learned Member was implying—and I agree with his implication—that the only way the other members of the Community can ensure that this 1560 country follows to the letter of the law every obligation into which we are entering would be to send over tanks to make sure that we kept our part of the bargain. That is an unlikely situation.
§ Mr. Adley
I was dealing with the point implied by the hon. and learned Gentleman that it would require tanks to keep us to our obligations.
I was not in the House in 1939 when the House faced a major decision which split our ranks asunder, as has now happened on this great issue of entry into the Common Market. However, Members of the House then took a decision they thought to be right, a decision which they thought was in the interests of the people of this country. This is all that motivates me and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who believe that as a member of the EEC we can look forward to a better future.
I feel sorry for the pessimists. I feel sorry for the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), whose frequent use of the word "surrender" is not analogous with the sort of future that I envisage for this country.
I recall the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) saying in an earlier debate on the defence aspects of the treaty that this Bill would enable the Government to take major defence decisions without having to bring them before Parliament—decisions which were fundamental to the future defence of this country. I intervened to ask the hon. Gentleman in what manner Mr. Attlee brought legislation before the House of Commons before we acquired the atomic bomb. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to agree that he disagreed with that decision. This is not an inappropriate time to remind the Committee that the decision which we are taking in the Bill, though in many ways unique, is by no means without precedent in the way it affects our future.
Those who believe that it will be a disaster if Britain joins the Community will not at this stage change their view. I take the contrary view—the view that if we stay out we shall suffer from a growing cancer. I consider that Clause 2 1561 embodies the act of faith which many of us feel we are taking in the Bill, and I support the Clause with great enthusiasm.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The last two contributions have brought the Committee back to the importance of this debate in which we are being asked by the Government to part with this most important Clause.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) has left the Chamber. I make no point about his not being here at the moment but I wish to criticise his speech, which I thought was well below the requirements of a debate of this importance. He made a pitiful Second Reading speech and spoke wildly about people hating foreigners and all the rest of the rubbish. It showed clearly that he had neither studied the Bill nor paid attention to our debates about Clause 2. This is not untypical of some hon. Members who blow in from time to time and pay a brief visit, which clearly shows that they have paid no real attention to this legislation.
We all know that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is an acknowledged expert on a number of important subjects debated by Parliament. We all know about his book "Eastern Approaches" and appreciate his profound knowledge of the last war. However, it was clear from his pitiful speech this afternoon that he had done no work at all on this legislation. It is an indictment of a number of hon. Members who reach high standards in their normal contributions but show contempt when taking part in these most important national debates. This should be put on record before we vote on this important Clause. In contrast, those who have taken an active part in these debates have developed an argument which will stand up when in years to come the historian turns to these proceedings.
I wish to deal with one or two points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) who sits next to me in the House in more than one sense, no matter what disagreement we may have on this piece of legislation. My right hon. Friend is always heard with great respect by the Committee because of the way he puts his case and also because nobody would 1562 ever accuse him of not studying the legislation. Therefore, he has come to his conclusions not because he has failed to do his homework but because he did not want to see certain things materialise that were put to the Committee by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). That is the obvious conclusion I draw, knowing the high standard of work done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham and the profound intellectual analysis that he always applies to all the legislation with which he is concerned, either in government or in opposition. Therefore, I must probe more deeply his reasons for coming to such erroneous conclusions on this Clause.
Clause 2 is the "guts" of this debate. It assumes that the United Kingdom is entering into a permanent new political body. Anybody who does not start from that point does no justice either to the Bill or to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney. That must be common ground before we enter into any discussion about irreversibility. We are making life far too easy for ourselves if we merely say "We can always reverse the process", with the rider that it is a well-known constitutional doctrine that Parliament can reverse anything. This is no answer. If this were a matter of appointing by legislation the manager of the English football team, I would go along with that sort of approach—although even in that sphere irreversibility would not appear to be easy. That is not what we are asked to do by the Government, and at least on this one rare occasion I seem to carry with me the Solicitor-General. I treasure the moment and I want to put it on record.
What we are asked to do in the Clause is to agree, first, that all the self enacting requirements in the Clause are right in themselves. The second proposition is as important as the first, in my submission, that it is inevitable that they must be put in this form if the country is to adhere to the Treaty of Rome. Those are the two propositions.
I will deal now with the Government. I have made one comment on my right hon. Friend's contribution. I will come to another in a moment. I deal first with the Government because, they are in charge of the legislation, however much my right hon. Friend may have his heart 1563 in what they are trying to do. The Government are putting these two propositions to Parliament and to the country, and in my judgment it is on an examination of these two propositions that hon. Members must determine how they vote tonight. If they decide that the first proposition, the second or both of them are false or unnecessary, they ought to decide to reject the Clause.
I begin with the second proposition. All of us have friends and contacts in the six countries which now belong to the Community; some of us know Members of Parliament in those six countries, and occasionally we may know one or two Ministers, whom we have met at various international gatherings. There are many hon. Members present in this Committee who have such contacts. I also have contacts in a modest way. I cannot find one person whom I have known for 10 years or more, who has had a look at our legislation and who is already in the Community, who accepts the Solicitor-General's proposition that the legislation must be drawn in this way. I challenge him to defy that statement.
There are many people in the Parliaments and Governments of the Six who disagree in discussions of this subject on all sorts of matters. They disagree, for instance, about the national burden which would accrue to this country. They disagree on other things, but none of them disagrees in any of the discussions I have had that it had to be done in this way. They say that this is how our sovereign Government wanted to do it. They all say that. They say that the Government must have had their reasons. Nobody says that it was a requirement of the United Kingdom's adherence that it had to be done in this way. This is relevant evidence which ought to be before this country.
Secondly, on the same point of whether it had to be done in this way, I do not deal here with what I consider to be the rather petty point, although it must be brought up from time to time, that the Government do not want an Amendment which has to do with timetables and with the surrounding political struggle. I am not speaking about that at all. That is far less important. The Government have set out to resist any attempt to persuade them that some of the Bill's provisions 1564 might usefully be changed from the point of view of the country, for reasons which they have never explained to the House or to this Committee.
There has not been one occasion when the Government have been in difficulty in trying to justify the precise way in which they have done it. I have watched, for instance, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who when he reaches such a point of difficulty says "That is one way of looking at it, and I look at it in this way", and then leaves it at that. I do not condemn the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that because as he has no rational explanation he does not want to tell us a blatant lie. So he tails off into insignificance and to incoherence when he reaches this point. I do not condemn him for that; I can understand it. A more dishonest man might have told us a huge lie at this stage and tried to get out of it. That is his difficulty. Therefore, we have never yet had a reasonable answer in such a situation.
I turn to the first proposition, which I have left to the last, concerning the importance and significance of what we are asked to do in passing the Clause. I return to the contribution made by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend talked to us as Members about what we might say to the British people outside, either on the hustings or at ordinary meetings which will take place between now and the next General Election. It is wholly unrealistic to go to the people and say to them "We are asked to pass this Clause but, if at some time in the future Parliament does not like the consequences, we can pass a one-line Act saying that we shall abolish the lot." I cannot believe for one moment that when my right hon. Friend reads that part of his speech tomorrow he will regard it as a responsible suggestion for any Member of Parliament at any time.
I say in mitigation that my right hon. Friend was led away by a number of interruptions which the rest of us do not always suffer. That is why I say that when he reads his speech tomorrow he will probably find it wholly unworthy of his contribution at any time to advance a simple proposition. I do not call it irresponsible because I think it was an error of judgment on his part to say to right hon. Gentlemen on the Government 1565 side, or to any Member on this side, that one must say that one can pass a simple one-line Act.
Then my right hon. Friend tried to put Members into the logical dilemma that if they are now concerned about this permanent aspect of legislation they could not at the same time argue the other aspect. Any Member who is not concerned about the permanent aspect of what the Government are putting to us is not doing his job as a Member of Parliament. The Government are saying to themselves all the time that this is something which should be permanent.
What my right hon. Friend is proposing will make life easy for him. I do not normally expect him to do that. He says that if there are such insuperable difficulties when we are in the Common Market, if we find that everything there is going against our national interests, every country can throw up the whole lot and say that it wants no part in it. That is not a serious way of discussing these propositions.
The underlying assumption of the legislation is that this is in the best interests of the people of this country, and it must be part of our debate to be persuaded to that proposition. We cannot say that that proposition has a great question mark against it and then go on debating as if it did not matter. That is the crux of the debate, that the Government say it is in the interests of the British people. If that feature is left out, there is no debate left. Even the lawyers who concentrate on the legal aspects occasionally have to come back to the "guts" of the debate, and the debate improves miraculously as soon as they do. I say this about the lawyers on both sides impartially.
I come now to my third point, which is a new one and has nothing to do with the speeches which have been made so far. It concerns what has happened since we began the Committee stage. There have been some weeks in which we have not debated the Bill, and we have all been able to refresh ourselves by going to Brussels, to Paris or to other places to listen to what was going on. I might perhaps ingratiate myself a little with the Solicitor-General if I report that I spent five days in Brussels staying at the Hotel Charlemagne which is only a stone's throw from the Marché Commun, as the 1566 building is called, where all the administration takes place. At any rate, I ought to be somewhat refreshed and inspired by that experience. At any rate, I can disprove the allegations of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire that we who oppose this legislation are prejudiced against any of the five countries.
Whilst I was on the Continent I listened carefully to what was being said in some of the semi-official and official circles, because I happened to be there on the day when the unfortunate Foreign Secretary of Belgium, Mr. Harmel, was taking lunch with Mr. Pompidou in Paris. It was a difficult experience for the Foreign Secretary, I understand. He went there to discuss with the President some of the views of the Government of Belgium, small country though it is, about the proposed summit conference. It was announced in the serious Belgian papers on the eve of Mr. Harmel's departure for Paris that they would be important private conversations. To the shock of a good many officials, there were banner headlines the next day about how the President had made his statement at a luncheon that he offered to Mr. Harmel. I am not keen on interfering with the social life of the Belgian Foreign Minister. However, speaking for this country, I do not like to think of his being subjected to that kind of treatment.lb/> What the French President did was to forget about private conversations and to issue an ultimatum to all the other countries concerned. However, no one but Mr. Harmel was there. I do not know whether the treatment would have been the same had the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster been invited for lunch. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not give us detailed accounts of his experiences. What the President said was "Unless serious progress is made, unless resolutions are accepted and unless problems are resolved before I ask you to come to Paris, I have no intention of maintaining my invitation".
At the moment a number of difficult problems are being discussed, and this is a third reason why I should be in favour of not proceeding with this part of the Bill now. There are important discussions concerning future economic policy and future monetary policy. As can be seen from the articles published in the 1567 Financial Times this week, a large number of people who do not necessarily hold my point of view about the legislation are pointing again and again to these developments and suggesting that it would be better for Parliament to reconsider some aspects of this legislation in the light of them.
President Pompidou has shown that he is not a man who likes to wait around once he has made up his mind about what is in the interests of France. In my view it would be right and proper if the Government considered carefully whether in the light of all the circumstances it was not better to call a halt and to say that they do not want to commit this country to permanent large-scale changes until it can be seen more clearly what is demanded of us.
On these occasions the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster always says that it would be better if we were inside the Community before becoming involved in these discussions. I want to examine that argument briefly. President Pompidou does not accept the logic of it. He does not say "We will have you in Paris in October because once we are all there it will be easier to settle these problems". He feels that it is much more advantageous to France to settle these matters in advance. He does not accept that it is always wise to be inside first when there are difficult problems to settle. For that reason alone, I question the wisdom of the argument that is always advanced by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.lb/> Considering the momentous nature of the decisions that the Government ask us to take, it might be wiser to probe some of these matters in more detail while the legislation is still pending in the House of Commons. While the legislation is not passed, we have a powerful lever. When we speak about the true representation of the interests of the British people, is it not a good idea to tell the British people that there are very difficult matters that we want to probe and that meanwhile we shall hasten slowly? One way of doing that responsibly is to call a halt and to say that we are not parting with this Clause. We shall be able to see whether there is any better basis for the representation 1568 of the national interests of the British people if we reject the Clause tonight.
§ Mr. Marten
I agree with the third and concluding point made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). It is one that I have made myself, though not in relation specifically to Clause 2. I have said in the House and in a letter to the Daily Telegraph that we should not have a Report stage and Third Reading of the Bill until after the summit conference, if there is to be one. If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to a summit conference before the final stages of the Bill, he would have a strong card to play. He would be able to list our reservations to his fellow Prime Ministers, saying "We are not satisfied with this, this and this." I hope that regional policy would be one reservation, political institutions another and the movement of heavy Continental lorries in this country another. My right hon. Friend would be able to say "Unless we get satisfaction on all these matters, it is highly unlikely that the House of Commons will give our European legislation a Third Reading." If we did not get satisfaction, we could table Amendments for consideration on Report, following which we could see whether the Bill received a Third Reading. Frankly I do not believe that it would unless we got satisfaction on these matters.
The remaining two-thirds of the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone was directed to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), whom we welcome back to our debates. It is good to hear his views once again, though they might have been put slightly differently had the right hon. Gentleman been here in the meantime. However, they were refreshing to us all.
I take up the right hon. Gentleman's point about our being trustees. We have argued that as Members of Parliament we are trustees and have no right to give away the sovereignty of this Parliament. We feel strongly that we have no right to give away the powers proposed in the Bill until after there has been a General Election or a referendum. I know the right hon. Gentleman's views about a referendum. But certainly until the electorate has been consulted we feel that we have no right to divest ourselves of the powers put in trust to us.
1569 As for the irreversibility of the legislation, the reality of course is that we can reverse it. It would be a breach of international law if we did but, assuming that we were foolish enough to go into the Common Market, we could reverse it. However, after a number of years we should have become so interlocked that we could not de facto get out although de jure we might be able to.
§ Mr. Michael Grylls (Chertsey)
Is not another consequence that people in industry and commerce would realise how valuable it was to be in the Community and would not want to come out for that reason?
§ Mr. Marten
My hon. Friend talks about people in commerce. I am talking about ordinary people in the country, not about people like him who are in commerce.
The remark was attributed to President Pompidou that the decision was not permanent. In fact it was Mr. Lipkowski, who is Minister of State at the Quai D'Orsay, and not President Pompidou who said it. His reason was one of timing. However, if we proceeded along the federal path along which the Government are determined not to proceed, the position would be different and Mr. Lipkowski's remark would not be correct.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ [Sir ALFRED BROUGHTON in the Chair]
§ The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) underlined the point that the country has no enthusiasm for the Bill, for entry into the Common Market or for Clause 2. There has been a curious stubborness about the reaction of the country to that proposition. In spite of all the money poured into propaganda to try to persuade the people, I am proud to say they are not genuinely persuaded about it. It might be a good thing—if we are to have a Select Committee on the election or selection of Members to the European Assembly—to have another Select Committee to examine the amount of money that has been spent on propaganda. In spite of all the propaganda, the country has no instinct for entry. It is this which the Government totally misunderstand. They misunderstand the instinct of the people over this matter.1570
§ The right hon. Member for Stepney asked why we are unnecessarily giving away sovereignty under Clause 2. Before answering that I should like to deal with the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). He imputed certain views to those who are opposed to the Common Market. He referred to us as taking a narrow view and having an underdog attitude. That was the general impression I obtained.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I said that it seemed to me that most of the opponents of entry appeared to assume that when we entered we would always find ourselves in the position of underdogs taking orders from other people.
§ Mr. Marten
That was what I understood my hon. Friend to have said.
What will happen if we join the Common Market? After the playing of the necessary requiem, we as a nation will try to play according to the rules and obey the regulations. After a few years we shall suddenly realise that this does not pay off when we are up against the members of the Six. I would not say that with reference to the Scandinavians who might be joining with us, but certainly we shall be up against the 14 years of experience of the other six members. The British civil servants, for whom I have the greatest admiration, would be very hard put to it to cheat in the way that the Common Market members cheat as we have heard in these debates. As a nation we would get very frustrated about our inability to get on. I often wonder what will happen. Under this sense of frustration, the British people might well again become imperialists. This is something the Six should recognise. We have it in our blood to be a colonial Power. We have had many centuries of it. If we became frustrated we might look upon the other countries of the Common Market as within our colonial sphere.
We know that the Government are devoting great sums of money to spreading the English language throughout the Common Market. That is part of the deep-laid plot of imperialism, or colonial-Power behaviour, and is quite typical. The trade unions will gradually spread the "English disease" over there. Some British businessmen seriously believe that 1571 they will do well and that there will be great takeovers by British business if we get into the Common Market. We are fully aware of our unique links with the United States. We are both English-speaking nations. I think we shall act as a bridge between the United States and the Common Market.
In that way we shall gradually achieve what I have always wanted. We shall break down the Common Market into being much more of a free trade area, which is the logical way things are developing these days. That is the aim of the Government. I am convinced they would not be stupid enough to join a Common Market having a common agricultural policy such as they have. It must be the fundamental aim of the British Government to break down the Common Market into a free trade area, bringing in the Commonwealth and the United States where there is no common agricultural policy. That is my argument to my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire as the way I see the British people reacting if we join the Common Market.
May I give the reason why I want Clause 2 thrown out? Everybody probably knows why we want it thrown out. As it stands, it is unamended. It gives away unnecessarily too much of Parliament's power. I was not elected to the House of Commons for that purpose. The Government have refused the Amendments, even those moved in very moving terms by pro-Marketeers. The Government have turned down those very proper, sensible Amendments. Many of the points raised in the debate by those of us who are opposed have not been answered by the Government, because they could not answer them. That is proof beyond reasonable doubt that no Amendments to the Bill are to be accepted.
We shall have no Report stage. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) believes we are not going to have a Report stage because the Government want to get the House away on holiday. I think we had a reference to grouse shooting on 12th August. I cannot believe that to be the intention of the Government. It is not the intention of the Government to refuse 1572 Amendments because they want to get away on holiday. That would not make sense.
In answer to the question why the Government are having no Amendments, I am beginning to wonder whether the Bill is framed purely to satisfy the demands of the Common Market. The Common Market knows the great reluctance of the people of this country to join. Its assessment could be that while the Six want us in the Market because they, like the French, want to get our agricultural market, they might fear the effects of a reluctant British Parliament if it was left with too much power. Part of the bargain for allowing us in is to weaken the power of the British Parliament and to ensure, by the form of the Bill, that we are properly weakened and tied down as political eunuchs before we go in.
On that basis Clause 2 is totally unacceptable. It should be rejected and brought back at Report stage, which I am sure we shall have, suitably amended, so that the House retains some power in these very important matters. The issue is not whether we go into the Common Market. It is an issue concerning the rights of Parliament and of the people in this country.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The first weakness of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) was that while he uttered many excellent and worthy sentiments with which we all agree they had little to do with Clause 2 or the Bill. We are already as a nation a member of a great many inter national organisations, and we all support that. Our objection to joining the European Economic Community is not that it is international but that it is undemocratic. My right hon. Friend seems entirely to have failed to understand this.
The second weakness of my right hon. Friend's speech was that he would have understood the Bill much better if he had attended our debate yesterday and, indeed, a good many of our previous debates on Clause 2. I believe that the debates on the Clause have been extremely valuable. The further they have proceeded, the more extraordinary, the more revolutionary and the more indefensible has the Clause been shown 1573 to be. I hope that the House of Commons and the country now understand that the Bill not merely takes away the power to legislate for British affairs from the British Parliament, responsible to the British electorate, but places it in the hands of bodies not responsible to the British electorate or, indeed, to any one else, and does so in a way which is not even necessary in order to comply with the Treaty of Rome.
The Government, simply, it seems, on grounds of expediency and convenience, are almost casually sacrificing basic principles of our constitution and showing themselves at heart—and here one detects the attitude of the Prime Minister—more dictatorial than even the authors of the Treaty of Rome. Not merely does the Clause give away the British Parliament's law-making authority unnecessarily to irresponsible bodies, but yesterday's debate showed, as the Solicitor-General admitted, that the Bill declares invalid all British law which is inconsistent with Brussels law. In addition to that, it lays down that any future legislation of the British Parliament will be invalid if it conflicts with Brussels law. It would be for the courts, we were told, and not for Parliament to decide which law prevailed.
That is a grave and undeniable infringement of the most basic constitutional principle that a newly-elected Parliament is not and cannot be bound by the dead hand of its predecessors. To abandon this principle in this casual fashion in the face of all the accumulated experience of British history and, indeed, of Continental history, is an extraordinary course to take.
The Solicitor-General defended this extraordinary proposition on the ground that it is necessary in order to enter the EEC on these terms. Even that is not wholly true, but in so far as it is partly true that is precisely the reason why everyone in this country who really understands the issues involved is resolutely opposed to entry on these terms. These facts are also an overwhelming justification for those who say that no settlement or legislation of this kind can be constitutionally valid or binding unless it has secured the specific assent of the electorate.
But the sacrifice of fundamental democratic rights is, as yesterday's debate 1574 showed, even more far-reaching than that. Here I come to my right hon. Friend's argument about irreversibility. The Solicitor-General attempted to argue yesterday that Parliament's future right to repeal the Bill, and therefore undo the whole mischief from the roots upwards, could not be impaired. I agree that constitutionally and morally Parliament's right to repeal the Bill cannot and must not be infringed in any way. What the Solicitor-General failed to show was that the Bill would not legally seek so to impair it.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
I ask my right hon. Friend to follow the argument. What would happen if the Bill were to be repealed by a future Parliament and then some legal person, perhaps from another member State of the Community, or from the Commission, contested in the Common Market Court the validity of that legislation on the ground that it was plainly inconsistent with the Rome Treaty? It would apparently be for the Court and not this Parliament to decide what is surely the most important political issue that could ever come before this country: whether to sacrifice for all time its national independence and the right of the British electorate to change the decisions of its predecessors.
I should have thought that we have had enough experience in the last few months of judges trying to take political decisions for us now to place the most important of all political decisions in the hands not of Parliament or of the electorate, but of judges. What judges would they be? What assurance have we—we did not get it from the Solicitor-General—that British legislation repealing the Bill could not be contested in the Common Market Court as inconsistent with the Rome Treaty? It could well happen, but it is something which would certainly be rejected by the vast majority of the electorate if they understood that what was involved was taking a decision on the whole future of this country out of the hands of the British electorate and placing it in the hands of a number of Continental lawyers, no doubt very learned and excellent men but hardly qualified to take a decision of this character.
1575 My right hon. Friend posed a dilemma. Is membership of the Community reversible or not? The answer, I think, is simply that, under the British constitution, under the principle that no Parliament can bind its successor, it is reversible, but that under the Rome Treaty it is not reversible. Therefore this country would be placed in the position in which it could not reverse the decision or repeal the legislation without breach of the Rome Treaty.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Let us assume that my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) are right and that Parliament can and the Community Court cannot. Will my right hon. Friend explain how we can legislatively unscramble scrambled eggs?
§ Mr. Jay
That is a further difficulty. What I am arguing—I do not think that any Minister has denied it—is that we could not repeal this legislation without being in breach of the Rome Treaty. The simple common sense of the matter is that when all the legal paraphernalia is stripped away, the Rome Treaty and this Bill—even more so—are wholly incompatible, indeed irreconcilable, with the principles and spirit of our parliamentary constitution, with representative Government and with the convictions of the mass of the British people. That is the conclusive reason why the Committee should reject Clause 2 outright.
§ Mr. J. Selwyn Gummer (Lewisham, West)
I believe that we have spent some time discussing the question of irreversibility partially because the phrase itself was misused by the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). I do not believe he can have meant irreversibility, because it is clear that even with the difficulties which have been outlined by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) it is possible to reverse the Bill simply by passing a short Bill, such as was referred to by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). It is perfectly right to say that. But that is not really what the argument is about.
1576 It may be that the Bill is so complicated and will effect such great changes in our society and in our connections with other countries that one cannot imagine a situation in which it would in practical terms be possible to reverse it. But that is not irreversibility. It is the difficulty of reversibility. It has often been claimed that it would be wrong to nationalise steel in such a way as to make it impossible to reverse that decision because in some senses that would limit future Parliaments in the decisions which they make That was not a reasonable argument for this side of the House of Commons to put forward then.
It is impossible to argue that because this is so important a Bill, because it is so far-sighted a Bill, because it is so effective a Bill, we should not pass it; that the House should not have the right to pass Bills which are of fundamental importance in case at some future time it might want to reverse them. That seems an unjustifiable argument. The argument that we must have is about the Clause and about its merits: whether it is worth while paying this price for the benefits which we believe we shall get from entering the EEC.
Those in favour of the Bill say that the kind of pooling of sovereignty which is entailed by the Clause is not only a price worth paying but is in itself a valuable and good thing. I belong to the section which says the second part of that with particular emphasis. Like the right hon. Member for Cheetham, I believe not only that this is the kind of move which we ought to have been able to make earlier but that it is of itself a realisation that the concept of national sovereignty as a fixed and immutable thing which may not be changed is thoroughly dangerous. Had it been held at the time of the Union with Scotland or, indeed, when the seven kingdoms joined together to become England, we should never have got either to England or to Great Britain.
It would be odd if suddenly, like some of the curious sects who believed that suddenly from the heavens dropped to Mary Baker Eddy or some other person the answer to the world's problems we had an answer which had not been seen before, and which meant at this point that 1577 the nature of sovereignty should become immutable for all time.
I believe that the next step in national sovereignty is to exercise it in conjunction with our friends and neighbours so that the totality of sovereignty is very much greater than the parts which have made it up. Indeed it is very much like the parable of the talents. A gentleman was given one talent. He dug a hole and left it there, and nothing happened to it. At the end he pulled out the talent and presented it back saying "Look, I have kept it". That is what we would do if we were to say that our trusteeship of sovereignty means that we must not change it in any way, that we must not seek to allow it to grow and that we must not use it to meet the problems which face this country today. It would be odd if the nature of the sovereignty which was suitable in the nineteenth century was particularly suitable in the twentieth century or if the kind of sovereignty with which we faced the world of 1939 is the same as the sovereignty with which we hope to face the world in 1979.
I believe the Clause to be not just a necessary evil but an advantage, because it says at long last that we are not merely going to have pious hopes of being friendly with our neighbours but that with them we shall exercise greater sovereignty inside that community which we are joining.
The right hon. Member for Stepney suggested that either we wanted a customs union or a United States of Europe. He posed those two alternative possibilities as a result of the Bill and suggested that if we wanted a customs union we need not have the paraphernalia of the Clause. He suggested that the hidden reason for the Clause was in case in future we wanted some sort of sovereign State which brought in a sort of federal State in Europe.
I suggest that there is a third possibility: that what we seek here to do is to join a Community which is neither a static customs union nor a Community fixed on tramlines moving towards a federal Europe, but a Community which seeks to have enough freedom and independence to make its own future as an association of sovereign States. If in 20 or 30 years' time people decide that the association which they want ought to be 1578 closer than that which has evolved from the decisions which we are making today, it will be for them to make that decision and I do not grudge them the right so to do. To suggest that at this point we ought to restrict for all time the relationship of this association in Europe to that of a customs union is not to be in the 1970s but to be back in the arguments of the 1950s and the European Free Trade Area as it was first suggested.
The right hon. Member for Stepney was proposing a Community which is not there. He was suggesting that if we wanted to found a Community, to set up an arrangement, this is the way we might do it; but that is not what the Bill and the Clause are about. The Bill is about the relationship of this country with a Community which exists and whose attitudes, forms and treaties have been arranged.
How sad it is that we did not join in that arrangement. Not having done so, however, it is living in cloud-cuckoo land to suggest, in the debate on whether the Clause should stand part of the Bill, how that Community might have arisen if we had happened to set it up. That is not what we are debating, and it is for that reason that the Committee ought to support the Clause, because what it does is not to pay a necessarily evil price for a benefit which we shall get but to give a chance to this new Community to form a new kind of relationship inside which we shall exercise our national sovereignty to the greater good of our people, to the greater good of Europe and, I believe, to the greater good of the world.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
It would be tempting to continue the debate which the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) has pursued, and which was partly initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), on some of the international consequences which might follow if we join the EEC. Certainly we on this side of the Committee are not deterred from doing that but we should like to do so on other occasions because we have more immediate matters with which to deal.
I believe that liberty begins at home, and it is liberty at home that we have to protect. I must say in passing that anyone who imagines that the internationalist 1579 influence rests with those who are in favour of entering the Common Market can scarcely have studied the debates at Santiago, where a different state of affairs was revealed.
We are dealing with this Clause today, and it is essential for us not to be distracted from it because we have very little time for our debate. Despite the fact that we are taking action that will affect our international position we have to operate under a domestic guillotine. We have to debate the Bill and discharge our duties in a situation in which the House of Commons has been denied the right to deal with essential matters which arise under a Clause the like of which has never before been proposed to the House, a Clause which proposes to transfer powers from the House on a scale never before suggested, in a manner never before devised, with consequences which have scarcely received the proper examination which they merit, even in the hours of debate that we have had.
Although we on this side, with others from other parts of the Committee, have sought to examine and discuss the Clause, one part of it which we have not been able to discuss in any detail and which has far-reaching ramifications deals with subordinate legislation.
It has always been one of the primary concerns of the House of Commons, particularly in the past 30 or 40 years when subordinate legislation has grown at such a pace, to insist on arrangements for dealing with subordinate legislation and to see what that legislation might mean. There was a famous clause, the so-called Henry VIII Clause, which led to the controversies over Lord Hewart's new despotism and the rest. I draw the attentiton of the Committee to a part of the Clause which we have hardly had a chance to examine under the operation of the guillotine, lines 5 to 10 on page 3, which reads:in the exercise of any statutory power or duty, including any power to give directions or to legislate by means of orders, rules, regulations or other subordinate instrument, the person entrusted with the power or duty should have regard to the objects of the communities and to any such applications or right as aforesaid.That is a wide sweeping proposition. What will be the effect upon it when 1580 the judges have to take it into account? Under the laws of the land, under the way that this country's constitution operates, the judges have power not only to administer the law but to decide whether Ministers are going beyond the powers given them by Parliament. Under that wide-ranging provision, as I read it, judges or Ministers would be able to argue in the courts that they were taking into account the wide-ranging interests of the Community, and that they could take that factor into account in dealing with the exercise of any statutory power or duty.
As I have said before, we had a clause of this character years ago which was called the Henry VIII Clause. This Clause should be called the Louis XIV Clause. It offers such widely embracing protection for the Minister that it greatly enlarges the capacity of the Minister, the Government or the Executive, under the proposals of the Bill, to carry much further the way in which they introduce subordinate legislation, and to reduce greatly the way in which the judges can examine whether they are acting according to the law which has been laid down by the House or going beyond it.
The principal debate on the Clause, although it touched the previous Clause as well—I am glad I have the absent support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham, which I do not want to disturb in any way—has been concerned with whether it was necessary for the Government to take the far-reaching, far-ranging powers they have taken in the Clause to achieve their objectives. In a sense, the principal argument which we have been debating is whether it was necessary for such wide-ranging powers to be taken to secure entry into the Common Market.
Some hon. Members now present did not attend our debates. Therefore, it is necessary for us to recall some matters on that account. What happened before we proceeded to the Committee stage is something which I scarcely recall happening on such a scale on any previous occasion in the House of Commons. We spent about two days examining the kind of Amendments which would be tolerable, acceptable and possible. I am sorry to return to this argument which we have discussed before. I hope that I will not 1581 be accused of labouring it, but it is absolutely relevant to whether the Government required to take these powers in this way to achieve their purpose.
The Government's argument, to use the appalling word used by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the debate on the financial part of the Clause, subsection (3), is that it is the automaticity of the matter which is involved. That has been the argument of the Government in defence of the action they have taken on each of these subsections. It is because of the automaticity of the measures which are involved in the Treaty of Rome and the measures which they have bound themselves to take that it is not permitted under the Bill to have the proper parliamentary processes of examination, enactment and so on.
The Government claim that all these provisions are necessary and that all our Amendments must be ruled out because of the necessity of automaticity.
The first reason why that is disproved is because of the debates and the ruling which we received in the Committee stage which governs this Clause as well as Clause 1. The ruling of the Chair at the beginning of our debates was that it would exclude from selection and debate all the Amendments which might upset the Treaty of Accession or the other treaties. The only Amendments the Chair has allowed us to debate are those which do not raise automaticity. The Chair has ruled that all the Amendments it would select would be those that would not upset the Treaty of Accession or the other treaties to which we have bound ourselves. The Chair has ruled that all our Amendments laid down perfectly reasonable and proper alternative methods of achieving what the Government had concurred with.
I can see that the Government might have objected to that ruling. We objected to it, but the Government did not. They accepted it. Having done so, they cannot say "All your Amendments had to be rejected because they would have upset the automatic operation of what was laid down in the Treaty of Rome.:
There is a second and more profound parliamentary reason why the idea of automaticity should be rejected by the British House of Commons. Automaticity means that the House of Commons shall 1582 be deprived of any say in the matter. That is the constitutional meaning of automaticity. I wonder whether the point was ever put to President Pompidou or President de Gaulle. If anybody had said to President de Gaulle, possibly even to President Pompidou, "Your country, by signing the Treaty of Rome, will have to agree to many measures which automatically must come into operation in France. Automaticity will govern the situation", President de Gaulle would have repudiated that doctrine with great severity.
The British Parliament should be as jealous of its parliamentary rights as President de Gaulle was about his presidential powers. However, that is apparently not the case. Lots of people in British history would have been in favour of automaticity. It is an idea which would have greatly appealed to Charles II, James II, George III or anybody else who wanted to undermine, corrupt or suborn the British Parliament. Automaticity means denying to the House of Commons rights that we thought were ours.
On the basis of automaticity I remind the Committee that each successive Minister has defended what he is doing in this Clause in subsections (1), (2) and (3)—the tax power—and (4), which we discussed yesterday, by saying that it is due to automaticity, which, as I have said, should be rejected partly because the ruling of the Chair should have forbidden any such appeal to any such idea and partly because any elementary respect for the rights of Parliament should have ruled it out.
There are still further practical reasons, rightly and strongly argued in my opinion by my hon. Friend the Member for Peni-stone (Mr. John Mendelson). If constitutional and parliamentary sense will not appeal to the Committee, what about practical reasons? What about saying that we have some rights which we can use, exert, and retain to secure a better bargain from our partners in Europe? I do not want anyone to tell me that I must not be so practical and realistic to demand that we should think of anything as demeaning and undignified as bargains in dealing with M Pompidou or any of his Ministers.
Take, for example, what was said in a New Zealand newspaper on 29th May. 1583 This is a quotation of what happened and then or what was said by the French Minister. The report reads:The opposition of the Federation of Labour to the French nuclear tests in the Pacific would not be silenced by political blackmail from France, said the federation's secretary (Mr. J. Knox) tonight.The report goes on to describe that, because the Federation of Labour spokesman in New Zealand had protested against the proposed Pacific tests being undertaken, they had had a threat from M. Pierre Messmer, the French Minister for Overseas Territories in Noumea, who recently made the statement:We must not forget that New Zealand is on the asking side. At the time of Britain's entry into the Common Market she (New Zealand) came on her knees to beseech us to allow her to go on exporting to Britain. We have condescended to grant New Zealand guaranteed exports to Britain for a period of five years. If New Zealand now refuses to export to France, this limit of five years could be reconsidered and reduced and we could look at the application with disfavour.
§ Mr. Foot
Who is blackmailing whom, certainly. But suppose a French Minister says, "Of course, the whole proposition of the Common Market is reversible if we do not secure the terms we want." Do not let anybody tell me that a French Minister would not use a threat of that kind. That was exactly how the common agricultural policy was founded. Would it not be advisable to retain in our power in the House of Commons certain rights—elementary rights as some of us believe—which we could use in this situation over the coming months?
We are told that there are to be summit meetings to discuss matters which will affect not only the price of food, tremendous as that issue is and the levels of unemployment, tremendous as they are, but the whole economic future of this country, such as whether we can devalue our currency. All these matters are to be discussed at a summit meeting. But before we go to the summit meeting, the Government are demanding in the Clause that we should not merely give away elementary powers which we think are necessary in any circumstances, but should sign, seal and deliver our situation before the bargain is concluded. We have 1584 to tolerate the situation that M. Pierre Messmer can make these threats about New Zealand, and all the rest, without any remedy being available to us.
The Clause is abandoning elementary rights which we thought were ours at a time when many people did not appreciate what the situation was before the Bill was concluded. We are doing this against a background where the people of this country, so far from falling in with the Government, appear to be moving in the opposite direction, if any way at all. I am not a believer in Gallup Polls or public opinion polls at any time—I have said that whether they are for or against me—but, at any rate, I should think that a poll would show a little movement in their direction.
What are the Government proposing to do? They are proposing to go ahead with this abandonment of parliamentary rights at a time when the majority of the people are saying that it is against their wishes that we should enter the Community because it is, in their belief, against their interests.
How does the Prime Minister explain such a situation? As I said at the beginning of some of these debates, does this refusal by the British people to accept the Government's arguments, even though they have all the megaphones of propaganda available to them, mean that the British people are stupid? The Government, on a matter so momentous as this, should show a little deference to the sentiments and ideas of the British people, particularly when they are proposing in Clause 2 to take away from this Parliament, on a scale that has never previously been proposed, powers of decision and sovereignty.
The word "sovereignty" does not enchant me. Sovereignty is concerned with democracy. Sovereignty is concerned with the rights of decision of the House of Commons and the rights of decision of the British people. This Parliament should never agree to the Clause, because the British people have never had the chance even to discuss the meaning of it. If, even at this hour, the House of Commons were to assert itself and say, "We will not have it", it would mean a great upsurge of democratic strength in this country.
1585 We will not accept a situation where the Government say that not merely our Amendments, but every Amendment proposed by hon. Members on both sides, will be ruled out. The Father of the House and some most respected Conservative Members have put down Amendments on similar lines to some of our Amendments, though perhaps for different reasons, but the Government say that all of them will be ruled out. Why? Not because they think, on their merits, we have not been able to argue them. It is solely because of the exigencies of the Government's parliamentary timetable. That is a fine reason, is it not, for taking away the rights of the House of Commons in defiance of the wishes of the British people? If a Government do that for such squalid reasons, they will only add to the offence, to the fury, and to the continued and persistent opposition that they will meet against what they have proposed and which the people of this country will still dispose of in their own proper time.
§ Mr. Rippon
As was said yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), it frequently happens on a "Clause stand part" debate that many of the points have been made previously. I think that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will be the first to concede that he has made his points before, starting with his misunderstanding of the Chairman's ruling on what was or was not in order.
In our debates on Clause 2 we have considered a wide range of Amendments and topics. We have spent six and a half days, over 50 hours, examining the various subsections of the Clause. It is proper to have done that, because the Clause is undoubtedly right at the heart and centre of the Bill.
It has always been inherent in our acceptance of the treaties that we should have to pass legislation in this form. We are exercising our rights and responsibilities as Members of Parliament in a parliamentary democracy. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is continually telling us about the affront we represent to the views of the British people. The hon. Gentleman means that we do not accept his views. We are a parliamentary democracy. We have all said in our 1586 election addresses and debates in the country and in the House that when the time comes to judge whether we should join the Communities, after the terms have been negotiated, it would be a matter for each Member of Parliament to make his own decision. I should think the hon. Gentleman was rather more of a parliamentary democrat if he allowed more freedom of expression by some of his own back benchers. It is no good the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale claiming to speak, in the extravangant language he uses, with the full-hearted consent of the whole of his party.
Of course it is right that there have been critical and probing debates in which those on both sides who have anxieties have questioned the need for this Clause. We have gone through it subsection by subsection. As the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) said, this is the opportunity to consider the totality and to review the position as it is now.
It would be ungenerous at this stage not to pay tribute to the Chairman and to hon. Members on both sides who have endeavoured to keep their contributions as crisp and relevant as possible No one doubts the quality of the debates that we have had on this Clause. The right hon. Member for Stepney began our debates by asserting that we were startingto consider the extent to which we in Britain shall cease to be self-governing if we enter the European Communities on the basis on the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1972; Vol. 835, c. 1309.]He asked about the wider transfer of political power, about Parliament ceasing to be sovereign and the country ceasing to be independent in important areas of policy.
That aspect of the debate has been dealt with effectively today by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). As he said, it is extraordinary to campaign on reversing what one claims to be irreversible. We have had very full debates on this absurd allegation about the loss of parliamentary sovereignty. This has been dealt with over and over again today and previously. We come back again to the Leader of the Opposition—
§ Mr. Shore
Just before we reach the Leader of the Opposition, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree, whatever may be the argument about 1587 sovereignty, which is almost metaphysical, as we have discovered, on the argument about effective parliamentary control, there is no question about the nature or the extent of the transfer of power?
§ Mr. Rippon
We have had an argument about the general loss of sovereignty and a great deal of anxiety has been caused in the public mind by the manifestly wild allegations which have been repeated today by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay).
The matter was put in perspective by the right hon. Member for Cheetham—
§ Mr. Rippon
No, I had better not give way.
The Committee is aware that there is no question in our membership of the Communities or in this Bill of our relinquishing ultimate parliamentary sovereignty. But there is a question to which the Committee will recall I have drawn attention on a number of occasions. That is, how Parliament may best be able to bring its influence to bear on Community matters, and particularly on instruments in the making. On Second Reading I suggested that we might have an ad hoc Committee to consider how we could deal in practical terms with the legislation which would be coming before us. I spoke again this afternoon about the ways in which we could ensure that we had a properly constituted and effective delegation at the European assembly.
These are fundamental matters of practice, but we have to accept, as we had to accept it from the debates on 8th May, 1967, that it was inherent in our membership of the Community that we would have to accept the treaties and what flowed from them and that we should have to make provision in our domestic law for Community law to have direct effect in this country. That is what the Clause does and that is what we have been debating over the last six days.
A number of particular points were raised in the debate which we may have some further opportunities to discuss, but with which I cannot deal in the five minutes left to me. But I should like to take up the point made by my 1588 hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). To some extent, he was referring to the terms negotiated when he asked why we had not included in a protocol provision for the permanent maintenance of the Northern Ireland Employment Act.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ We have had some discussions and correspondence about this and I know my hon. Friend's great interest in the matter. As with other matters in relation to the Clause and other parts of the Bill, it is important to look not so much to the form as to the substance of the agreements that we have negotiated. We have had to negotiate on the basis of our adherence to the treaties and our acceptance of their provisions. Therefore, for the most part, we have negotiated and had to negotiate in derogation from the Treaties. We have said that transitional arrangements will, for the most part, be sufficient. But we put down very clear markers about the extent to which our vital national interests were concerned with regard to, say, New Zealand, sugar, fisheries and the Northern Ireland Employment Act.
§ So I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that there is no difficulty about the position up to 1977, and we have made it perfectly clear that we may need to revert to this and provide for an extension of the Safeguarding of Employment Act, 1947. This is well understood by the Community and I think that we are in a good position to defend our interests in that regard.
§ Mr. McMaster
My worry is about what happens if there is a change of Parliament and with a change of Parliament a change of intention on this.
§ Mr. Rippon
That makes the point which we have been making during these debates—if there is a change of Parliament, there can be a change of policy. My hon. Friend should make sure that there is not a change in the majority in this House. I can assure him that we are determined to safeguard his position.
On the constitutional point, there will be a further opportunity to debate this matter on Clause 4 and Schedule 2. Meanwhile, I hope that my hon. Friend will be sufficiently satisfied tonight by a firm assurance, which I willingly give, 1589 that nothing in the Bill affects the basic constitutional position of Northern Ireland, either at present or in normal times. My hon. Friend dealt with this matter at considerable length yesterday, and I hope that that is satisfactory. That is a practical point which has arisen out of today's debate.
I think that I can fairly say that all the other speeches have largely raised the same issues with which we have dealt at one time or another during the debates on these six days. We have had our debates on sovereignty, on the direct effect of Community law in this country, on immigration and on regional policy. We have had a debate which has enabled hon. Members on both sides to raise their anxieties as fully as they could
§ reasonably wish. There comes a point when the mere repetition of the fact that one is for or against a particular policy becomes a rather tedious repetition.
§ We have been debating today the most important Clause of the Bill. As a whole, it neither adds to nor subtracts from its parts. It is simply the sum of those parts, the sum of its subsections—no more and no less. There is very little that one can say in a debate of this kind, other than that I hope the Committee will now agree that the Clause should stand part of the Bill.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 296, Noes 288.1593
|Division No. 220.]||AYES||[7.30 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Crouch, David||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Crowder, F. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempslead)||Curran, Charles||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Astor, John||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dean, Paul||Hastings, Stephen|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Havers, Michael|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hawkins, Paul|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Dixon, Piers||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Batsford, Brian||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Drayson, G. B.||Hicks, Robert|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Benyon, W.||Dykes, Hugh||Hiley, Joseph|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Eden, Sir John||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Blaker, peter||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Holland, Philip|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Boscawen, Robert||Emery, Peter||Hordern, Peter|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Eyre, Reginald||Hornby, Richard|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia|
|Bralne, Sir Bernard||Fidler, Michael||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Bray, Ronald||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hunt, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fortescue, Tim||James, David|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Foster, Sir John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Buchanan-smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||Fowler, Norman||Jessel, Toby|
|Buck, Antony||Fox, Marcus||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Burden, F. A.||Fry, Peter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn)||Gardner, Edward||Jopling, Michael|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gibson-Watt, David||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Channon. Paul||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Chapman, Sydney||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Kimball, Marcus|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Goodhart, Philip||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Goodhew, Victor||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gorst, John||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Gower, Raymond||Kirk, peter|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow. C.)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Cockeram, Eric||Gray, Hamish||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Cooke, Robert||Green, Alan||Knox, David|
|Coombs, Derek||Grieve, Percy||Lambton, Lord|
|Cooper, A. E.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Lamont, Norman|
|Cordle, John||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Lane, David|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Grylls, Michael||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cormack, Patrick||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Costain, A. P.||Gurden, Harold||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Critchley, Julian||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Parkinson, Cecil||Steel, David|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Peel, John||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langslone)||Percival, Ian||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Longden, Sir Gilbert||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Loveridge, John||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stokes, John|
|Luce, R. N.||Pink, R. Bonner||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tapsell, Peter|
|MacArthur, Ian||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|McLaren, Martin||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Tebbit, Norman|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Temple, John M.|
|Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Maurice (Farnham)||Raison, Timothy||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Thomas John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Thomas Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Maddan, Martin||Redmond, Robert||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Madel, David||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Tilney, John|
|Mather, Carol||Rees-Davies, w. R.||Trafford Dr. Anthony|
|Maude, Angus||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Trew, Peter|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Mawby, Ray||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ridsdale, Julian||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Waddington, David|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wall, Patrick|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walters, Dennis|
|Money, Ernie||Rost, Peter||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Royle, Anthony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Monro, Hector||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|More, Jasper||Scott, Nicholas||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wilkinson, John|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Sharples, Richard||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Morrison, Charles||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Mudd, David||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Murton, Oscar||Simeons, Charles||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Neave, Airey||Sinclair, Sir George||Woodnutt Mark|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Normanton, Tom||Smith Dudley (W'wick & L'minaton)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Nott, John||Soref Harold||Younger, Hn. George|
|Onslow, Cranley||Speed Keith|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Spence, Jonn||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Osborn, John||Sproat, Iain||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Stainton, Keith||Mr. Walter Clegg.|
|Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Abso, Leo||Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Dunn, James A.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Dunnett, Jack|
|Allen, Scholofield||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Archer, peter (Rowley Regis)||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Edwards, William (Merloneth)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Ellis, Tom|
|Ashley, Jack||Cohen, Stanley||English, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Coleman, Donald||Evans, Fred|
|Atkinson, Norman||Concannon, J. D.||Ewing, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Conlan, Bernard||Farr, John|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Cronin, John||Fell, Anthony|
|Baxter, William||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Fisher, Mrs. Doris(B'ham, Ladywood)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Fitch Alan (Wigan)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dalyell, Tam||Fitt Gerard (Belfast) W.|
|Biffen, John||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Fletcher Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davidson, Arthur||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davies, Denzil (Lianelly)||Foley, Maurice|
|Body, Richard||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Foot, Michael|
|Booth, Albert||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Ford, Ben|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davis, Clinton (Hackney. C.)||Forrester, John|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Bradley, Tom||Deakins, Eric||Freeson, Reginald|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Garrett, W.E.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Delargy, Hugh||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)|
|Buchan, Norman||Dempsey, James||Golding, John|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow,Sp'burn)||Devlin, Miss Bernadette||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Doig, Peter||Gourlay, Harry|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dormand, J. D.||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire. E)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Cant, R. B.||Driberg, Tom||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Hardy, Peter||McManus, Frank||Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McMaster, Stanley||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Hattersley, Roy||McNamara, J. Kevin||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Maginnis, John E.||Roper, John|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Marks, Kenneth||Rowlands, Ted|
|Horam, John||Marquand, David||Sandelson, Neville|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Marsden, F.||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Marten, Neil||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Mayhew, Christopher||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Meacher, Michael||Sillars, James|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Hunter, Adam||Mendelson, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Mikardo, Ian||Small, William|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Millan, Bruce||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Janner, Greville||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Spearing, Nigel|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Milne, Edward||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Moate, Roger||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Molloy, William||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|John, Brynmor||Molyneaux, James||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Johnson, James, (K'ston-on-Hull,W.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Strang, Gavin|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Swain, Thomas|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Taverne, Dick|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Moyle, Roland||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Murray, Ronald King||Tinn, James|
|Judd, Frank||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Tomney, Frank|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Oakes, Gordon||Tomney, Tom|
|Kelley, Richard||Ogden, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Kerr, Russell||O'Halloran, Michael||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Kilfedder, James||O'Malley, Brian||Urwin, T. W.|
|Kinnock, Neil||Oram, Bert||varley, Eric G.|
|Lambie, David||Orbach, Maurice||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Lamborn, Harry||Orme, Stanley||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Lamond, James||Oswald, Thomas||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Latham, Arthur||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Padley, Walter||Wallace, George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Paget, R. T.||Watkins, David|
|Leonard, Dick||Paisley, Rev. Ian||Weitzman, David|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Palmer, Arthur||Wellbeloved, James|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pavitt, Laurie||Whitlock, William|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pendry, Tom||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Pentland, Norman||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Perry, Ernest G.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wilson, Alexender (Hamilton)|
|McBride, Neil||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Prescott, John||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|McElhone, Frank||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Woof, Robert|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Mckenzle, Gregor||Probert, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mackie, John||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Maclennan, Robert||Richard, Ivor|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
On a point of order, Sir Robert. As we have the attendance of the Prime Minister here and as the Government have achieved such a derisory majority on a matter on which the Prime Minister promised he would proceed only if he had the full-hearted consent of Parliament.—[Interruption.]
§ The Chairman
Order, The hon. Gentleman,I am sure, will not seek to make a political point on a point of order—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Foot
A statement could have been volunteered by the Prime Minister. There have been numerous occasions in the history of the House when a Government, particularly one with a majority sufficiently large to enable it to get a Bill through, have suffered a dramatic fall in their majority such as we have seen tonight and have been called upon to 1595 make a statement about their intentions. I ask therefore—
§ The Chairman
I am well seized of the hon. Member's point. It is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Government to decide for themselves, and there is nothing that the hon. Member can do to help the matter by addressing me.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I asked on my previous point of order that the Prime Minister, since he was here, should make a statement on a matter of such significance. I can recall many occasions in the history of the House when the Government have suffered such a dramatic effective defeat as this. The Government should volunteer a statement. If the Prime Minister has not got the guts of the nerve to do it, at least perhaps I could ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is in charge of the Bill, whether he will make a statement or whether he still intends to drive the Bill through the House without accepting any Amendments moved from any part of the Chamber. That would be an additional offence to all the multitudinous offences he has committed against us with the usurpation of time through his guillotine. With the failure of the Government to secure a reasonable majority on a matter of this importance, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman now give us an undertaking that he will treat every future Amendment on its merits and that it is not the Government's intention to try to drive the Bill through without a Report stage?
§ The Chairman
The Committee will realise that strictly speaking that would be out of order, but under the circumstances I am prepared to allow the right 1596 hon. and learned Gentleman to answer the point.
§ Mr. Rippon
In view of the timetable to which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has often referred, I suggest that the best thing we can do is to get on with the discussion of Clause 3 and see how we proceed. We received in the last Division the same majority as we had on Second Reading, and in the same circumstances.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. We have seen the Prime Minister slink out behind your Chair, but should there be on the Government Front Bench any right hon. Gentleman who did not fight the last election personally on a pledge that there must be the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the public, at least he might have the guts to give us a justificatiton of the Government's conduct in the face of the last vote.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
We are not certain whether the Prime Minister has resigned or whether he simply ran away when my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) challenged him. Can you help us to understand the position, Sir Robert?
§ Mr. Loughlin
On a point of order. When my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was speaking there was some commotion on the other side of the Chamber caused by hon. Members leaving. You then stood in your place, Sir Robert, and called, "Order". Those Members who were leaving refused to accept your ruling that they should remain in their seats and be in order. Why did you not exercise your authority by compelling them to stay in their seats?
§ The Chairman
I thought that when I asked hon. Members to leave quietly, they did leave quietly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—or quieter, to be more exact. I have no feeling that anyone did anything disrespectful to the Chair, and I 1597 did not feel called upon to take any further action.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. I recall that on one occasion when I passed between you in the Chair and the speaker on the Floor you sent me a note asking me not to do it. Why did you not send one to those hon. Members who were leaving?
§ The Chairman
I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman is deliberately trying to pick a quarrel with me. I have no intention of quarrelling with him.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
On a point of order. As the Minister responsible for the Bill has not satisfactorily answered the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) about the future proceedings on the Bill, following the dramatic drop in the Government's majority, is it not a responsibility of the Leader of the House to give us guidance, so that we can see whether we shall be proceeding on lines satisfactory to the Committee, and so that we can avoid a repetition of the present situation?
§ The Chairman
That is not a point of order. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Is it in order to ask whether, as has been alleged, when the Prime Minister left the Chamber it was because he was funking the issue or whether it was just a display of petulance or the sheer arrogance we have become accustomed to.
§ The Chairman
That is nothing to do with me. We should proceed with our business. Hon. Members have demonstrated their feelings. They know there is nothing I can do. I am charged by the House and every hon. Member to try to get on with the work of the House.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
We understand your position, Sir Robert, and no one is attempting to quarrel with you—I hope the imputation about the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) was not seri- 1598 ous on the part of the Chair. The question of the Government's conduct of the Bill has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. We have now reached a situation in which Divisions take place at the usual gagged intervals. It is clear that the proceedings of Parliament are being reduced to a farce because the Government will not accept a single Amendment, even if they get a comma out of place, as they are determined not to have a Report stage, and therefore they will deny Parliament its rights which are normal on any Bill of this kind, but particularly on one which so fundamentally affects the rights of Parliament. In this situation may we hear from the Minister in charge of the Bill, who carries a heavy responsibility, not only on the merits ordemerits of what he has negotiated, but on the very form of the Bill and the treatment of Parliament, that for the rest of the proceedings the Government will debate the issue on its merits and will be prepared to accept Amendments which obviously have a degree of acceptance throughout the House? Or are the Government simply trying to gag us by refusing a Report stage? If that is their attitude, we must give warning that we know what we have to do.
§ Mr. Rippon
We have debated all the Amendments and dealt with them on their merits. I suggest that we continue to look at Clause 3 and debate the merits of the Amendments to that. So far I have had to advise that the Amendments were either unnecessary or bad.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Sir Robert. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), with your permission, put a question to the Prime Minister, and while he was putting it the right hon. Gentleman treated you and the Committee, with disrespect by walking out. We know that as the guillotine is on no back bencher and no one on the Opposition Front Bench can move to report Progress, because that would go against the guillotine. But I think it would be in order for the Leader of the House, who is present, to beg to move to report Progress and ask leave to sit again. That would give an opportunity for the Prime Minister and those in charge of the Bill to consider what has just happened and 1599 report to the House after due consideration.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The Cabinet and the Government could not have given due consideration to the points which my right hon. and hon. Friends have raised. The Prime Minister, so filthy and shabby in his behaviour, never even had the decency to stay here and listen. May I ask the Leader of the House through you, Sir Robert, to get up and move that we report Progress and ask leave to sit again? This would give the Government the chance to consider the serious points that have been put by the Opposition Front Bench.
§ The Chairman
Order. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Member wishes to intervene again?
I see that he does not in which case I call Mr. Foot.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
On a point of order. May I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis)? I think that he has put up a perfectly valid point, particularly since you had permitted a question to the Government Front Bench and since the Chancellor of the Duchy who is in charge of the Bill will not give us this undertaking.
In view of this, may I ask the Leader of the House to give us an undertaking, first that no decision has been made by the Government or those in charge of the Bill that they will reject all Amendments to avoid a Report stage? Will he undertake that it is still perfectly open to the House to arrange a Report stage if that is found convenient and will he also give us an undertaking that he will ask the Cabinet to reconsider the whole question of the progress of the Bill in the light of the vote tonight and to make a report to the Committee when it next meets?
I would ask the Leader of the House who is in charge of the affairs of the House to answer these questions which have come from my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North and which are fully supported by all my hon. Friends.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)
Of course I will do my 1600 best to help the House and the Committee. I was under the impression, if I may say so in view of what was said by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), that no one was addressing a question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or to anyone else but was addressing a point of order to you, Sir Robert.
I believe that you had indicated at least once that it was rather doubtful whether it was a point of order. Certainly no one left while a question was being addressed to him.
As to the majority, it is one on which I have known the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends proceed in the past on major matters. For the Leader of the Opposition, who refused to give his party a free vote on the basic issue, to talk about anyone being gagged is, to put it mildly, an offence to the integrity of the rest of the House. In spite of his attempt to gag his own party on that vote, the House gave us a majority of no less than 112 for the policy and terms of the negotiations which this Bill is implementing. I am sure that both in constitutional theory and democratic practice the Government are in order in proceeding with their business as the House has decided.
As to the specific question put to me by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) I say, as my right hon. and learned Friend has already said, that we shall continue to listen to the arguments. If we are convinced that an Amendment does not have to be rejected on the grounds of being unnecessary or bad—I think that those were the words of my right hon. and learned Friend—we will treat it in the normal way. If such Amendments were to be passed there would have to be a Report stage.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
In view of the possible reflections which the right hon. Gentleman may have thought fit to cast upon you, Sir Robert, in that he suggested that this was a point of order which was addressed to you and that you were rulingon that matter, may I put another point?
Is it not a fact that it would be quite unprecedented for you or anyone occupying the Chair not to allow facilities for the Government to be asked of their future intentions after a narrow vote on a matter of great importance?
1601 There were only three Ministers who could have responded to the point. One was the Prime Minister who left his sinking ship in the most humiliating circumstances. The second was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who has shown his utter contempt for this Committee, not merely throughout the debate but by the form of Bill he has introduced. Surely we had the right to hope that the Leader of the House, who traditionally represents the interest of the whole House, which he has manifestly failed to do, should make a statement on this matter instead of trying to make party political points? Surely he should have said whether the Government intend to railroad this Bill through? Is it not a fair point, since the right hon. Gentleman referred to the vote on 28th October last, to say that this was an expression of opinion by the House. This is a Bill which is before us.
There were many who voted with the Government on that occasion, even those who might agree with the terms negotiated, who would still feel that the Bill is an outrage against the House, who would feel that even though they supported the terms, this is an outrage against the House, forced through in an unprecedented manner. No constitutional measure of this kind has ever been guillotined before—nothing that takes away the liberties of centuries from this Parliament. In these circumstances, surely we should have had an understanding response from the Leader of the House?
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
I do not expect it from the Prime Minister, not this one. [Interruption.] I was prepared to answer questions, when I was Prime Minister, about Government intentions after a narrow vote in the House. He just walked out in a fit of petulance or contempt without precedent in my time in the House. At least we have the right to expect from the Leader of the House some concern for this House in respect of its rights over a Report stage.
§ Mr. R. Carr
As I believe I said when we were discussing the timetable Motion, part of the principle of parliamentary democracy is that in the end the rights and the will of the majority should also 1602 be considered after having given adequate opportunities for those who take a minority view. That I believe is important.
§ Mr. Carr
We have had a six-day debate upon one Clause in the Bill. If this is steam-rollering the Bill through, then it is a strange interpretation of the word "steam-rollering". That charge comes ill from the Leader of the Opposition who denied a free vote to his own Members on the basic issue and who in spite of that was defeated by a majority of 120.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
In the light of these answers from the Leader of the House, and since we have had no statement from the Prime Minister, and since the Government will not send for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who at least tried to discharge his duties to the House, we have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he no longer commands the respect of the House as a Leader of the House dedicated to serving the requirements of the House as a whole and not just to forcing through a filthy Bill by rail-roading.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
On a point of order, Sir Robert. Does the rule about tedious repetition apply to points of order? The right hon. Gentleman has a point of view on this issue, a point of view which is known like my own. If he feels that by attacking personalities in the Government he is enhancing his purpose then I have to say that he is defeating his object. Does the tedious repetition rule apply to points of order?
§ The Chairman
Perhaps the Committee will do me the honour of listening to me for a few moments. I have listened attentively to what hon. Members have said. I fully appreciate the feelings of hon. Members on my left when an important Division like this is carried by so narrow a majority. Yet they are at heart good House of Commons men, and they know that at some future date they might have a Bill which is anathema to the other side on which a similar majority is obtained, and they would expect to be treated in a reasonable way. Hon. Members have made a considerable 1603 demonstration which will be noted by the Press and by the whole country. Having done that, surely we should proceed to our work and go on with the democratic process of further discussing the Bill.
The system is that even a majority of one is enough to carry the business of the House for the purposes of the Chair and of our unwritten constitution. From my experience of sitting in this Chair for many years I know when the Committee should cease a demonstration. Until now it has made an effective demonstration but, if it goes on, it will be overdone and its effect will be altogether spoiled. I ask hon. Members to accept that from me, from the heart. I do not wish there to be any disgrace to the Committee or any criticism that the Committee is not prepared to abide by its own decisions.
I hope that I shall now be able to call the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to start on Clause 3.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Further to that point of order. Sir Robert, you have said that you recognise the deep-seated and genuine feelings of hon. Members. May I ask the Leader of the House to take note of what has been said and to ask the Prime Minister to come here tomorrow to make a statement on why he walked out in the middle of a point of order that was being addressed to him in the conventional way in which all Governments expect points of order to be addressed on an occasion like this?
§ Mr. R. Carr indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If by nodding his head the Leader of the House is indicating that he does not intend to convey those feelings to the Prime Minister, he, as well as the Prime Minister, must expect a rough ride on this issue.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Further to that point of order. You have said, Sir Robert, that the Bill should go forward democratically. Will you explain to the Committee how the democratic process can be carried forward if the Government have made up their mind to accept no Amendments to the Bill?
§ The Chairman
I suspect that the hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that question as well as I do. Any Government who get a majority for what they 1604 are doing in the proper way in accordance with the rules of the House are entitled to that majority and to proceed accordingly. I think we should proceed now.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)rose—
§ The Chairman
I call Mr. English, who has not previously raised a point of order. Perhaps we can then move on.
§ Mr. English
On a point of order. I realise, Sir Robert, that you do not wish my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to be too unkind to the Leader of the House, but I am sure you will recollect that the Leader of the House today is perhaps in a slight mood since he lost control of the House last night on his own business.
At the very beginning of these proceedings, did you not make a ruling precluding any Amendment that would destroy the main purpose of the Bill? That being so, are right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench saying that they have not positively decided to refuse every Amendment, or are they saying that they so believe in the perfection of their Bill that not one of the 630 Amendments contains a modification designed better to achieveits purposes? For example, the Liberal Party, which is not renowned for being anti-Marketeer since that party first thought of going into Europe, put down an Amendment which also was refused by the Government.
§ The Chairman
That is not a point of order for me. I should be glad if the Committee would leave the position there and let us get on.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
On a point of order. Before any Amendment was put down to either the Housing (Finance) Bill or the Local Government Bill, the Government agreed through the usual channels that there would be in one case a six-day Report stage and in the other case a four-day 1605 Report stage. At that time the Government did not know the nature of any Amendment that would be tabled. Will the Leader of the House tell us, through you, Sir, why a precedent created only six weeks ago on those Bills should be completely disregarded?
§ Mr. Fell
Further to that point of order. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and others accused the Prime Minister of discourtesy. Hon. Members know perfectly well where I stand on the Bill and on the last vote. I was sitting here, just as they were. I heard the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) raise a point of order with you, Sir Robert. The point of order was turned down. The hon. Gentleman again raised a point of order. The Prime Minister sat through all that, and it was not until Sir Robert said that the second point of order was not a point of order that the Prime Minister went out, no doubt to an appointment.
§ The Chairman
These comments are interesting but not, strictly speaking, concerned with our business.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has something special and brand new that he wishes to tell us. I shall be pleased to hear it.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Sir Robert, I resent the tone that you use. I originally raised a legitimate point of order, and I resent the tone of your voice when you have not heard my next point of order. My first point of order was to ask whether the Leader of the House would move to report Progress. My next point of order is meant to be helpful.
The occupant of the Chair on these occasions has a difficult task. Points of order can cause hard feelings. From my proud 28 years' membership of the House of Commons I know that it is sometimes the practice of the Leader of the House to move to report Progress to enable the Chair to be relieved from the difficulty of deciding whether points of order are 1606 legitimate. I ask the Leader of the House to move to report Progress to discuss a matter which is even more serious than the Bill, the challenge by the Leader of the Opposition that the Leader of the House is not doing his duty to the House. We cannot argue and debate these matters on points of order, but if the Leader of the House were to move to report Progress we could have an hour's debate to see whether he is doing his duty to the House.
§ The Chairman
Order. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is under a slight misapprehension. There would be no debate. It is expressly laid down in the Motion that if those in charge of the Bill seek to move to report Progress, the Question must be put forthwith from the Chair without debate. Therefore, it would not help the hon. Gentleman. I am glad to be able to give him some satisfaction.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Whatever our disputes with the Government, Sir Robert, we think that you have done your best to assist the Committee in this situation. Although I understand the legitimate point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North, both on the first occasion and a moment ago, I should point out that if we were to argue the matter in terms of the tone of voice used, we would be raising matters of some difficulty.
What we are saying contains no resentment towards you, Sir Robert. Indeed, the situation is the very opposite. What we resent is the Government's conduct and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House made no effort to assist the Committee. We reiterate that we were seeking to raise matters in the normal way when an incident such as this occurs. Many of us think that the incident occurred in view of the nature of this Bill, which is a Bill of momentous importance.
I hope that we may now respond to your appeal, Sir Robert, and proceed. But we shall certainly seek to return to the matter and to deal with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. However, I do not believe we shall get any satisfaction from the Minister in charge of the Bill; we have had enough experience of him already. I do not complain about the Prime Minister all that much. I thought his behaviour was 1607 perfectly ordinary: he behaved with his usual boorishness.
§ The Chairman
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I was, if course, referring to what he said about me. It would be quite improper for me to give any indicatiton of a view about what he said about anybody else, and I would not do so. I am obliged to him for the way in which he has spoken, and I am glad that he has shown a desire to proceed with the business.
§ [Mr. BRYANT GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]