HC Deb 21 May 1980 vol 985 cc507-15 3.37 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the holding of a Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should continue to be a member of the European Economic Community. Next month we have the fifth anniversary of the 1975 referendum, when 42 per cent. of the United Kingdom electorate voted in favour of continued membership of the Common Market. Next month we shall also have the first anniversary of direct elections to the European Parliament, when only 32 per cent. of the United Kingdom electorate bothered to vote.

Pro-Marketeers will argue that in 1975 the majority voted to stay in the EEC. However, there are recent indications of a substantial switch in public opinion. Last month the Sunday Telegraph published a Gallup poll which indicated that 59 per cent. of the electorate would now vote to come out of the Common Market and only 27 per cent. would vote to stay in. The majority, including many who voted "Yes" in the 1975 referendum, realise what many of us have said for many years—that our membership of the Common Market has been an unmitigated disaster. It has brought escalating prices—especially of food—destroyed thousands of jobs, had a crippling effect on our balance of payments and been ruinous for our economy.

In January 1973, when we joined the Common Market, inflation stood at 8 per cent. It is now 21.8 per cent, which is worse than for any other Common Market country. In 1973, unemployment on average was just over half a million. It is now more than 1½ million, with the worst figure for May since the war. In 1972, the year before entry, our balance of payments deficit with the Common Market was £647 million. In 1973, the first year of membership, it had more than doubled, to £1,399 million. Last year it had doubled again, to £2,735 million.

In 1973, our net contribution to the Common Market budget was £102 million. By last year it had risen to £959 million.

The Government's White Paper on public expenditure indicates that unless there is a radical change it will increase to £1,550 million by 1984. It is interesting to note that the only year in which there was a net gain out of the Common Market contribution was 1975, the year of the referendum, when it appears that the British public were lured by a £56 million net gain in our Common Market contribution.

I accept that the Common Market cannot be blamed for all our economic ills. Nevertheless, our membership has made things significantly worse instead of better. The common agricultural policy, for example, has contributed largely to our budget deficit and also to inflation through increased food prices. Yet, paradoxically, millions of tons of food are going to waste.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was coy about giving me up-to-date figures on the total amount and value of food in storage. However, with the help of the Library, I managed to get figures for October 1979. These show 353,000 tons of skimmed milk powder, at an estimated value of £240 million; 1.3 million tons of wheat, at an estimated value of £110 million; 54,000 tons of barley, at an estimated value of £5 million; 49,000 tons of beef, at an estimated value of £120 million; and 244,000 tons of butter, at an estimated value of £930 million. As hon. Members will know, a few weeks ago, there was a Common Market deal to sell 20,000 tons of surplus butter to the Russians at the knock-own price of 25p a pound—less than one-third of the price that the British housewife has to pay in the shops. It also appears that the British housewife may be expected to pay some of the price for any reduction in our Common Market contribution if a new deal is negotiated on farm prices leading to higher prices for food in the shops.

What is required is not simply a reform of the common agricultural policy or a reduction in our budgetary contribution. The fundamental problem is the Treaty of Rome—a charter for making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The freedom of movement of investment inherent in the Treaty of Rome has meant an exit of investment and jobs from this country. If that is thought to be Socialist rhetoric, hon. Members should study the letter, dated 30 April, from the director-general of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, sent to all hon. Members, stating: We feel that the ' Golden Triangle ' countries have taken a disproportionately large share of what investment has been available in recent years. There has been an exodus of investment from this country, especially by multinational companies with a European connection. One thinks, in Scotland, of Massey-Ferguson. There was also yesterday's news from Talbot of another 1,300 threatened redundancies at Linwood. Whole industries have been crippled and jobs destroyed because membership of the Common Market reduces our ability to stop import penetration of the United Kingdom market. I can point to damage in my constituency to industries such as chipboard, foundries and paper. A few weeks ago I visited a paper mill that is due to close in the town of Denny. Both management and trade unions put forcefully to me the point that our membership of the Common Market meant a reduction in our share of the United Kingdom market—let alone the European market—rather than an improvement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why"].

The pulp and paper industry faces difficulties exacerbated by our Common Market membership. I hope that pro-Marketeers such as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) will reflect on the troubles facing the pulp mill in Corpach, where 450 jobs are at stake, as well as more than 1,000 jobs elsewhere in Scotland—including some in my constituency—in such occupations as forestry.

These events make a mockery of the slogans used during the 1975 referendum by pro-Market fanatics, that membership of the Common Market would mean jobs for the boys. What jobs? What boys? Perhaps the slogans refer to the 410 Euro-MPs and such people as Lord Soames, who became a vice-president of the Commission, and Roy Jenkins, the present president of the Commission and supposed head of that bureaucracy with an annual salary of more than £85,000. He has done quite well out of Common Market membership. It is clear, however, that the vast majority of people now realise that they were conned by the expensive and massive propaganda of the 1975 campaign.

It is significant that the pro-Market side, according to its own account, spent more than £1,500,000—an amount more than 10 times the amount spent by the anti-Market side. I propose in my Bill that there shall be maximum expenditure, similar to the limits placed on candidates at a general election, making for a fairer campaign and a fairer result.

I submit, finally, that my Bill is timely. There is to be another Common Market summit in Venice next month, when, for the third time, the Prime Minister will try to obtain a satisfactory reduction in our Common Market contribution. If last week's meeting in Naples is anything to go by, it looks as though she will be heading for a third failure. The right hon. Lady is on record as saying that she is in favour of referendums. I suggest that after the summit the people of this country should have their say and be given the chance to undo the mistake made in 1975.

To leave the Common Market would not mean shrinking into inward, narrow-minded nationalism. I am not a nationalist. I have never believed that co-operation between people should stop at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the English Channel, the Berlin Wall, or any other barrier, whether man-made or natural, but the Common Market has created a barrier round itself. It is a protectionist bloc consisting of only a minority of the peoples of Europe. The whole ethos of the club is not international co-operation but ruthless, cut-throat competition, where the rich members get richer and the poor members get poorer.

A referendum now would reverse the 1975 result and provide an opportunity for pursuing better domestic policies in industry, agriculture and fisheries and throughout the whole economy, as well as building valuable political and economic links on a wider international basis throughout the world.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Member for Inverness (Johnston) has indicated to me that he wishes to oppose the motion.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I ask the House to reject the application of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) to introduce the Bill, on two grounds. The hon. Gentleman suggests that a referendum is in some way a noble, democratic device, introduced for high idealistic reasons by individuals who, above all else—whatever their personal views—wish to ensure that the public will is known and implemented. While conceding that there are a few hon. Members—I think especially of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart)—who regard referendums as good things, I do not think that this is felt to be the case either in the House or in the country. Both in the House and in the country there is an acceptance of the value of representative government, whereby people study issues carefully and decide upon them, knowing that in due course they will be accountable at the polls. As a passionate advocate of proportional representation, I argue that the basis of this representative government is distorted, but this has nothing to do with the acceptance of the value of representative government per se.

Referendums are advocated only by those who believe that they would win a referendum at a particular time. [Interruption.] I wish that someone would try to silence Labour Members below the Gangway.

Mr. Bob Oyer (Keighley)

The hon. Gentleman is trying to gag us.

Mr. Johnston

For example, if we take issues of life and death, such as capital punishment and abortion, it is surely significant that those who advocate the return of capital punishment advocate a referendum, while those who are opposed to abortion do not. That is an indication of the fact that those who argue for the Bill, irrespective of the validity of the arguments, are interested only in ensuring that a reflection of public opinion is achieved at a time when they feel that their view holds water.

Secondly, if the Bill were accepted, it would be taken as a clear sign from the House that it wished to turn its back on the European Community. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When one considers the history of Europe in this century alone and the particularly dangerous instability of the wider world at the moment and the limited nature of our disagreements—I stress that—against the deep gulfs—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must be fair to the hon. Member for Inverness and allow him to make his case without constant interruptions.

Mr. Johnston

It would appear that those who are opposed to the Community feel that the noise of their interjections lends validity to their arguments. I do not believe that that is so.

The area of disagreement that we have entered into in the Community is limited compared with the deep gulfs in the world at large, which have been drawn to our attention by the Brandt Commission. Therefore, if we turned our back on the Community, it would be a profoundly negative act.

We have never really tried to make the Community work.

Mr. Cryer

It will not work.

Mr. Johnston

We can achieve nothing if we do not do it in a spirit of commitment.

I reject flatly the contention of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire that everything that is wrong in this country is the fault of the Community.

Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)

My hon. Friend did not say that.

Mr. Johnston

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire referred to the situation facing a pulp mill in my constituency. That has nothing to do with the Community. It is a good example of the fact that many hon. Members and others blame what is wrong on someone else.

All members of the Community face similar problems internally, while externally the threat to world peace is greater than at any time since 1939. Certainly there are differences among our nine countries, but I do not believe that their resolution will be achieved by rhetoric and nationalism. They will be achieved only by politics, fair argument and patience.

My late fellow-countryman, Dan McGarvey, of the boilermakers' union, was a good man in many ways, but I have never forgotten that he once said that if he had to choose between the well-being of Scottish boilermakers and the well-being of French peasants, he knew which side he would be on. That was a profoundly erroneous analysis. Whatever we do in this country, we have a common interest in achieving, throughout this Continent and the world, the fair resolution of disagreements.

I believe that in the European Community we have an opportunity to do that and we should be foolish in the extreme to turn our back on it.

Division No. 319] AYES [3.55 p.m.
Adams, Allen George, Bruce Newens, Stanley
Allaun, Frank Graham, Ted Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Ashton, Joe Grant, George (Morpeth) Paisley, Rev Ian
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Park, George
Bell, Sir Ronald Hardy, Peter Pendry, Tom
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Haynes, Frank Prescott, John
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Homewood, William Proctor, K. Harvey
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hughes, Mark (Durham) Race, Reg
Bradford, Rev. R. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Richardson, Jo
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Buchan, Norman John, Brynmor Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Robinson, Peter (Belfast East)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rooker, J. W.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Sever, John
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Kllroy-Silk, Robert Sheerman, Barry
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Lambie, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Coleman, Donald Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Leighton, Ronald Short, Mrs Renée
Cook, Robin F. Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cowans, Harry Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Litherland, Robert Soley, Clive
Deakins, Eric Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spearing, Nigel
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spriggs, Leslie
Dempsey, James McCartney, Hugh Stallard, A. W.
Dormand, Jack McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McElhone, Frank Straw, Jack
Dubs, Alfred McKay, Allen (Penistone) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Eastham, Ken McWilliam, John Tllley, John
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Marks, Kenneth Torney, Tom
Ennals, Rt Hon David Marlow, Tony Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Ewing, Harry Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Farr, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Weetch, Ken
Field, Frank Mason, Rt Hon Roy Welsh, Michael
Fitt, Gerard Maxton, John Wigley, Dafydd
Flannery, Martin Maynard, Miss Joan Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Winnick, David
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Forrester, John Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Mr. Bob Cryer
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Moyle, Rt Hon Roland and Mr. Ioan Evans
Adley, Robert Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Cope, John
Alexander, Richard Bowden, Andrew Corrie, John
Allson, Michael Boyson, Dr Rhodes Costain, A. P.
Alton, David Bradley, Tom Critchley, Julian
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Brame, Sir Bernard Dewar, Donald
Ancram, Michael Bright, Graham Dickens, Geoffrey
Arnold, Tom Brinton, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aspinwall, Jack Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Dover, Denshore
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Brooke, Hon Peter Duffy, A. E. P.
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Dunlop, John
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Bruce-Gardyne, John Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Banks, Robert Bryan, Sir Paul Durant, Tony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Buck, Antony Dykes, Hugh
Belth, A. J. Bulmer, Esmond Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Burden, F. A. Eggar, Timothy
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Butler, Hon Adam Elliot, Sir William
Berry, Hon Anthony Cadbury, Jocelyn English, Michael
Best, Kelth Campbell-Savours, Dale Fairgrieve, Russell
Bevan, David Gilroy Cant, R. B. Faith, Mrs Sheila
Biggs-Davison, John Chalker, Mrs. Lynoa Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Blackburn, John Channon, Paul Finsberg, Geoffrey
Boscawen, Hon Robert Chapman, Sydney Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) Fitch, Alan

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 219.

Fletcher-Cook, Charles Madel, David Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Forman, Nigel Major, John St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Fox, Marcus Marland, Paul Scott, Nicholas
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Mather, Carol Shelton, William (Streatham)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maude, Rt Hon Angus Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mawby, Ray Shersby, Michael
Glyn, Dr. Alan Mawhlnney, Dr Brian Silvester, Fred
Goodlad, Alastair Mayhew, Patrick Sims, Roger
Gow, Ian Mellor, David Skeet, T. H. H.
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Meyer, Sir Anthony Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Gray, Hamish Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Greenway, Harry Mills, lain (Meriden) Speller, Tony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Spence, John
Grist, Ian Molyneaux, James Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Gummer, John Selwyn Monro, Hector Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Montgomery, Fergus Squire, Robin
Hampson, Dr Keith Moore, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Stanley, John
Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Myles, David Stokes, John
Heddle, John Needham, Richard Stradling Thomas, J.
Henderson, Barry Nelson, Anthony Tapsell, Peter
Hicks, Robert Neubert, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L Newton, Tony Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Onslow, Cranley Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hooson, Tom Osborn, John Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Howells, Geraint Page, John (Harrow, West) Trotter, Neville
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Patten, Christopher (Bath) Viggers, Peter
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey Waddington, David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Penhaligon, David Wakeham, John
Knight, Mrs. Jill Peyton, Rt Hon John Waldegrave, Hon William
Knox, David Porter, George Walker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)
Lamborn, Harry Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Waller, Gary
Lamont, Norman Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Ward, John
Lee, John Price, David (Eastleigh) Wheeler, John
Le Marchant, Spencer Prior, Rt Hon James White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Raison, Timothy Whitehead, Phillip
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rathbone, Tim Whitney, Raymond
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Rees-Davies, W. R. Wickenden, Keith
Loveridge, John Rhodes James, Robert Wilkinson, John
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Ridley, Hon Nicholas Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
McCrindle, Robert Rifkind, Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Macfarlane, Nell Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Young, Sir George (Acton)
MacGregor, John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Maclennan, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Rossi, Hugh Mr. Russell Johnston
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Rost, Peter and Mr. John Home Robertson
McQuarrie, Albert

Question accordingly negatived.