§ Sir Edward du Cann (Taunton)
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 13, after `Communities)', insert`but not Articles 6 and 7 thereof'.
§ The Chairman
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 3, in page 1, line 13, after `Communities)', insert `but not Article 8 thereof'.
No. 13, in page 1, line 13, after `Communities)', insert `but not Article 9 thereof'.
No. 51, in clause 3, page 2, line 22, leave out paragraph (a).
No. 52, in clause 3, page 2, line 25, leave out paragraph (b).
No. 42, in clause 3, page 2, line 32, leave out from `below' to 'but' in line 33.
No. 43, in clause 3, page 2, line 33, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 41.
No. 44, in clause 3, page 2, line 34, leave out paragraph (a).
No. 45, in clause 3, page 3, line I, leave out sub-section (3).
§ Sir Edward du Cann
Before I deal with the substance of the amendment, I should like to make a short reference to the exchanges that have taken place in respect of points of order on the timetable for our discussion.
The title of the measure that we are now discussing in some detail—European Communities (Amendment) Bill. is wholly misleading. The Bill, if Parliament in its wisdom decides to enact it, gives effect to an international agreement, the Single European Act, which is a new treaty, and at least equal in significance to the original treaty of Rome. That measure is of supreme constitutional importance. It is a great step towards the creation of a European super-state and of a European political union. The outstanding thing, the regrettable thing, is that this Single European Act has never been discussed in either House of the British Parliament.
I do not comment on whether the treaty is desirable or undesirable. I say only that any attempt to suggest that the 488 Bill is a minor matter and exists merely in order to facilitate the workings of the Common Market would be a confidence trick.
I think that Opposition Members and my hon. Friends who have spoken publicly in the Chamber and privately to you, Mr. Walker, and to the Leader of the House and to the Patronage Secretary requesting that adequate time should he taken to discuss this measure have not only right but common sense on their side.
If we take the separate subjects for debate — the harmonisation of taxation, the common agricultural policy, European union, the powers of the European Parliament and other subjects which, as the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) said, we shall probably not have an opportunity to discuss — each of those subjects alone requires a whole day at least for proper discussion. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that it is good that the representations on this subject — not through the usual channels but through unusual channels —have been heeded.
Whatever our views on the European Community may be, none of us wishes to delay the debate, or to prolong it unnecessarily, or to impede sensible legislation, but it is entirely appropriate that Back Benchers should demand adequate time in which to bring into the open the realities. They need to be fully discussed in this Chamber. The great British public needs to be made fully aware of the realities and their implications.
As for amendment No. 2, in a nutshell the Bill gives additional powers to the European Parliament to influence decisions of the European Community. Already there is great controversy about the extent of the increase in those powers. I shall not cite the references; right hon. and hon. Members are well aware of them. However, in my experience unclear law is always bad law. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), the Minister of State, will make a very clear statement about the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. First, what will happen? Secondly, what will occur in practice? Thirdly, in the event of a dispute between the Commission and the Assembly, who is to be the arbiter? I am sure that, like me, every other right hon. and hon. Member has observed that the Members of the Euro-Assembly are now hungry for power and authority.
Individual Members of the Assembly have already stated that they will exploit these new powers to the fullest possible extent. What individuals say is one thing, but what the Assembly has said collectively is pretty remarkable. The Assembly has collectively expressed the view that it will exploit the new powers to the fullest extent. Indeed, such a decision was made formally by the Assembly in a resolution that was passed by 206 votes to 63 on 16 January 1986.
In case you, Mr. Walker, or anybody else should think that 63 elected representatives were not prepared to go quite so fast as the 206 who formed the majority, let me stress that the 63 who voted against did not vote against the sentiment — quite the reverse. They expressed their distress about what they saw as the inadequacy of the new powers in the Single European Act. The text is available and the writing is very clearly on the wall. If right hon. and hon. Members do not care for the graffiti on the wall, they can see the text in the Library of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Marlow
My right hon. Friend has been telling the House very eloquently that the significance of this 489 monumental piece of legislation is not yet sufficiently recognised. I remind him of a judgment earlier this week in the European Court of Justice. Effectively, it requires Her Majesty's Government to make social payments to various categories of the population. Years ago, when the original European Communities Act was introduced and when various debates took place and a referendum campaign was held, nobody suggested for a moment that an impost of this kind would he placed upon Her Majesty's Government by an institution such as this. Things will happen as the years unwind that at this stage nobody is able to imagine. The result will be a massive reduction in our sovereignty.
§ Sir Edward du Cann
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the point that I wanted to make to the House next and for putting it so clearly.
Hitherto, the Assembly has been chiefly an advisory body. When the question of our signing the treaty of Rome was widely discussed in the country during the referendum, it was never suggested that the Assembly would be other than an advisory body. Now, however, its function is about to change, and change dramatically. If the amendment is not carried and the Bill is passed in its present form, the Assembly will be able to block Council proposals, unless the Council disagrees unanimously with its views. It is obvious to anybody who knows anything about the way in which the European Community now operates that that is extremely unlikely.
The chances of achieving unanimity are the slenderest ever. There are now 12 members of the Community, including Italy. That country favours extra-parliamentary powers. It always has done and it makes no secret of its views. And, as everyone knows, it rarely disagrees with the Council. If the Council wants to get legislation through there will be immense pressure on it to accommodate the views of the European Parliament. Whether we like it or not, whether people know about it or not, the European Parliament will take immense new authority. Part of the reason for moving the amendment is to make that point absolutely clear to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)
Does my right hon. Friend not think that there is a rather sad irony in the fact that a new democracy such as Italy should be so keen on providing the European Community with an effective parliamentary constitution but that apparently this country, the mother of Parliaments, should be so reluctant to do so?
§ Sir Edward du Cann
It is legitimate to hold another point of view. We have evolved our style of parliamentary democracy over the centuries. There is not one hon. Member who is privileged to serve in this House who is not immensely proud of it and who wants to make his contribution in his own way to its effective working and, as time moves on, to its enhancement. Not every European country has the same proud parliamentary tradition of democracy. I prefer to defend what we have rather than to embark too early upon a new and untried experiment in which we shall have only a minority interest. The proposal is that the authority of the European Assembly should be greatly increased. In effect, it follows that there must be an equivalent decrease of the authority of United 490 Kingdom Ministers. It follows, too, that equally there must be a decrease in the authority of United Kingdom parliamentarians from whom Ministers are selected and to whom hitherto they have been answerable. My view, for what it is worth, is that that is unacceptable at this stage in the European Community's development.
The purpose of the amendment is to exclude these proposals from United Kingdom law and thereby to continue to preserve, or to attempt to preserve, the sovereignty of this Parliament. I repeat what I said earlier in a different context. At no time has the proposal to increase the powers of the European Assembly been put to the United Kingdom electorate. If that were done and if the answer were in the affirmative, I might be content. That has not been done, and as it has not been done I cannot be content.
It is absurd that this Bill should be sold to the community— by which I mean this country's community —as a simple tidying measure. This proposal represents a most significant constitutional change. If this choice were put squarely to the electorate of this country, I doubt very much whether they would be in favour of it. The electorate may like to make jokes about us and about their Parliament — that is their right, their privilege and their freedom — but they probably prefer to keep what they have rather than to embark on a new experiment. Therefore, at this time I think it is right to refuse to sanction this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
As a signatory of the amendment, may I say on behalf of the official Opposition that we support the amendment. If the Government are not prepared to accept it, we shall divide the House.
I must say to the right hon. Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) that the demand for adequate time to discuss this matter comes not only from the Back Benchers on both sides of the House, but from the Labour Front Bench.
Like the right hon. Member for Taunton, the Opposition believe that this group of amendments, and amendment No. 2 in particular, brings us to the key issue of the Bill. It is of serious concern to the Opposition. We are not just talking, as the phraseology of Europe would have us believe, about co-operation between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. We are talking of cold decision-making by the European Parliament. This measure represents a substantial change, which must not be under-estimated.
The change may not be enough for the European Parliament. The right hon. Member for Taunton called its Members power-hungry. It is understandable that they have this wish to increase their power, but it is also right for us to examine the effect of the measure, if implemented, on our powers as a democratically elected institution.
The European Parliament may have said in resolutions that were adopted on 16 January that that was only modest progress towards its aims. We disagree with that view because we regard it as a significant transfer of power, from Westminster, to Strasbourg as well as Brussels. That is why we oppose it.
§ Mr. Marlow
I am sorry to intervene so early in the hon. Gentleman's speech. Can he tell the House at this stage, if a Labour Government were to be elected, whether they would repeal the Bill?
§ Mr. Foulkes
That is something that we would have to take account of when—not if—a Labour Government was elected. It would depend on how circumstances changed before then.
The changes proposed diminish the powers of Westminster in four ways, which I shall outline to the House. First, scrutiny by the House of Commons will be even more difficult than it is now. We accept—indeed, I believe that even the Government accept—that scrutiny is not good at present. The Government accepted the Opposition's amendment on 4 March and promised improvements. But the Government's response so far to the improvements in scrutiny that the House — not just the Opposition—demanded has been inadequate so far.
Secondly, the power of the Council will be reduced and circumscribed. As Minsters are also responsible to Parliament, that factor would reduce our powers in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
Thirdly, the opportunity to veto by the United Kingdom Government, or the power to block, will be greatly reduced. We shall discuss later the areas where the decisions now carried out by unanimous agreement of the Council will be changed to a qualified majority. Suffice it to say that at present the Luxembourg compromise, which we have never accepted as legally binding but which has been effective up to now with one or two exceptions, will become less effective.
The fourth way in which our power is being diminished is that the compromise will be much more difficult because of the second stage in decision-making. This is not just the view of the Opposition, although I am stating it on behalf of the Opposition. The Government recognise this and they were strongly opposed at first to the changes that they now advocate in the Bill. The Bill represents a humiliating climbdown by the Government.
To answer the question put by the right hon. Member for Taunton, it is no wonder that the Government want to keep the issue, as well as this debate, low key. It is embarrassing for them to climb down in this way.
In the Dooge report, the then Minister of State who has been promoted to be Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), insisted, along with the Greek Government, on a reservation on this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, as it says in the report,entered a reservation on this section. He considers that the European Parliament should he encouraged, within its Treaty powers, to make more effective contributions to Community decision-making. The Parliament should make more use of its right to put forward proposals for Community action. The Council should follow up resolutions with the Parliament, or explain its reasons for not doing so. There should be improvement and extension of the conciliation procedure, in particular by more effective consultation between the Council and the Parliament at earlier stages of the consideration of proposals.That was as far as the Government would go. They insisted on that reservation being included, but they were clearly and firmly against co-decision-making. The Prime Minister herself was against any intergovernmental conference even to discuss and consider the matter, yet all the proposals in Dooge, except powers in relation to revenue-raising, have been adopted by the Government and are advocated by the successor to the right hon. and learned Member for Pentlands, by the hon. Member for Wallesey (Mrs. Chalker).
As those of my hon. and right hon. Friends who are members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee will 492 know only too well, these institutional and procedural changes embodied in the Single European Act go further than the Government had proposed at first. They will have a significant effect on the operation of most of the Community's institutions.
The Opposition believe that the Government's first response was correct and that we should examine the implications in more detail, especially in relation to scrutiny. The extended procedure for considering legislation—the Second Reading nature of the procedure —will make scrutiny by the House of Commons much more difficult. Each proposal will have to be examined and then, if it is changed, it will have to be examined again by the House. That would potentially double the time given to examination. In some ways, speeding up the timetable of procedures and the ultimatum date will also make that difficult.
Although the Minister of State wrote a letter to me explaining how she thought the scrutiny procedures could be improved in Parliament here — that is published on page 67 of the Select Committee's report—it goes only a small way towards achieving the improvements in scrutiny that we were asking for.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is entirely up to date with what has been happening. Is he aware that the Minister of State has written to the Chairman of the European Legislation Select Committee, of which I am a member? In her letter of 16 June she says:May I simply confirm that we recognise that the Single European Act will involve some added burden of scrutiny and the Government are ready to make the necessary changes in existing scrutiny arrangements.Therefore, it would appear, subject to what the Minister of State will say, that there is every reason to suppose that we shall have effective scrutiny arrangements, in line with the Government's commitment.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing me up to date on that matter. I have not seen that letter. He is more optimistic than I about the Government's ability to put forward adequate scrutiny arrangements. The Minister will be speaking later in the debate, and I look forward to hearing her reply and perhaps an elaboration of her remarks on 16 June.
Let me deal with the Government's improvement in the scrutiny procedures. The Minister might be able to answer some of the questions about scrutiny — for example, about the recesses. The recesses of this Parliament do not correspond in time to those of the European Parliament, and that will create difficulty. That point has not been dealt with.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. However good the scrutiny procedure is, it only allows vision, and does not allow for any influence or action on the Ministers or the European institutions.
Leaving that aside, is my hon. Friend aware that the second special report from the Select Committee on European Legislation, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, suggested ways in which the work of the Committee could be slightly extended to give the House proper notice of all European developments. I should add that the report was unanimous and encompassed many views on this matter. Despite its name, the Select Committee was not able to report wholly on the very business before us today.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I accept all the points made by my hon. Friend. I know that the House is grateful to the Select Committee, and especially to my hon. Friend as Chairman, for the work it does. I also know that he is the first to admit that the way in which it is able to operate is inadequate to scrutinise the burden of legislation that we get from the European Community. We are not doing it justice. Important matters are considered inadequately, late at night and in a cursory way.
That brings me to another point that needs to be answered, which is the timing of debates. The squeezing in of important issues at an inappropriate time late at night or between other business so that no proper scrutiny can be carried out has been raised again and again. I accept that scrutiny is only one aspect of it and does not necessarily allow influence.
As I said earlier, the power of the United Kingdom Government in the Council will be reduced. I mentioned the Luxembourg compromise. The House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities said in its report, pages 6 to 8, that it will be difficult for any Government, in our case the British Government, to resist a united front of the Commission of the European Parliament and the rest of the Council. It is clear from the report—I think that its analysis is right—that a political momentum will build up behind a particular proposal and that although there may be a technical agreement in relation to the Luxembourg compromise it will be very difficult for the British Government to resist that momentum.
Proposals which are amended by the European Parliament, the amendments of which are accepted by the Commission, can be rejected only by a unanimous vote of the Council. That means that the powers of the British Government are severely circumscribed.
The Prime Minister stated, I believe in reply to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), that the last word remains with the Council. That is not much good if the only last word it is permitted to say is "Yes".
§ Mr. Marlow
As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that the European Assembly or Parliament, whatever it is to be, can propose an amendment. The Commission could agree with that amendment. That amendment could be very radical and very much alter the proposal being put forward. The hon. Gentleman was saying that, unless the Council is unanimous in opposing that amendment, it would go through. The hon. Gentleman is saying that the Commission and the Parliament/Assembly together could bring forward almost totally new legislation unless all members of the Council — every country in the Community, at Foreign Minister level—were against it.
§ Mr. Foulkes
The hon. Gentleman has underlined my statement and made it clearer. That is an exact description of what I understand the position to be.
As the report of the House of Lords Select Committee says, the power of United Kingdom Ministers within the Council has been reduced, so the power of the United Kingdom Parliament has been reduced. It says that United Kingdom Ministersmay be outvoted more often. The intervention of the European Parliament is outside their control. They will have less opportunity …to influence the Commission through negotiation at the second stage …494 It also says that some legislative powers will actually be delegated to the Commission.
§ Mr. Foulkes
The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) may shake his head, but that is correct. The Minister will have an opportunity to contradict not only me but the report of the House of Lords Select Committee. The members of the Committee may not be elected—I have my reservations about that —but they still have an ability and understanding of the situation and have made their comments quite clear.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we shall want a full explanation from the Minister because at an earlier stage she talked about this not being a zero-sum game. When it was put to her that those proposals would lead to a reduction in power both of the House and of British Ministers she was very keen to suggest that there was some way in which power could be expanded. I hope that we will get some explanation because since we have had the two very useful reports of the Select Committees it has become obvious that she is wrong.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I know that the hon. Gentleman is as concerned about this matter as I am. We are in Committee and do not necessarily have the formal structure of Second and Third Reading and the Minister will have an opportunity of correcting the Select Committees, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and myself if we are wrong. However, I very much doubt that all of us are wrong.
I shall now come to the areas on which co-decision-making, the important extension of the responsibility of the Community, is taking place. It is important that we know exactly what areas are affected. Are they marginal; to our way of life? Are they peripheral matters? The areas are not peripheral or marginal; they are important. We are talking about article 7—rules to prohibit discrimination on grounds of nationality"—and article 49—measures to bring about freedom of movement for workers …by ensuring close cooperation between national employment services:(b) by systematically and progressively abolishing those administrative procedures and practices and those qualifying periods in respect of eligibility for available employmentThese are important matters. The responsibility is going to be increasingly transferred away from the House towards Strasbourg.
We are talking about article 56(2), which states:directives for co-ordination of national measures providing for special treatment of foreign nationals on grounds of public policy, security or health.Article 57(2) refers tomutual recognition of formal qualifications.and, of course, all the arrangements for the internal market.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and others will participate in the debate later on the group of amendments dealing with the internal market. Samples of the areas concerned are speed limits for motor vehicles, public procurement arrangements, life insurance and mortgages, company liquidation, takeover bids and policy on state aid for coal, steel and shipbuilding or whatever. Therefore, these are not peripheral matters. They are central to our economy.
495 On top of all that, the Bill implementing the Single European Act introduces majority voting for the Council on a number of areas on which unanimity was previously required. The Single European Act talks of moves towards European union. It means greater integration, as we have seen in terms of the European monetary system. I know that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is in favour of that. It means a movement towards tax harmonisation. The official Opposition believe in cooperation with our European partners and within Europe. However, we are against moving towards a united states of Europe. We are against the kind of union that is implicit and explicit in the Single European Act and the Bill that implements it. That is why we oppose the Bill and ask the House to support amendment No. 2 tonight.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)
When in 1978 the House ill-advisedly consented to convert the European Assembly into a directly elected body, it was predicted that a directly elected body, which was already endowed with the power to refuse assent to the budget of the Community and to dismiss the Commission, would soon discover and explore the potential powers which it would exercise, as in past centuries the House had made a similar discovery and exploration. The anxiety which was expressed on that score was strong on both sides of the House. As a result of that, what professed to be a protection was written into the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 which enacted:No treaty which provides for any increase in the powers of the Assembly shall be ratified by the United Kingdom unless it has been approved by an Act of Parliament.Hon. Members who have looked at clause 3(4) of the Bill will notice that that is precisely what we are invited to do in approving the Bill. We do not need to argue whether the consequences of the treaty and the Bill are an increase in the powers of the Assembly. The Government say that that is so. The Government may seek to argue that that increase of the powers of the Assembly is not at the expense of the powers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. That proposition rests on an important fallacy about the nature of power. There is no vacuum of power unexercised, unavailable, which is ready to be dished out to new occupiers and exercisers.
At the moment, the power exists and it is shared between this Parliament and the institutions of the Community in accordance with a particular pattern. If the power of any portion of those institutions is increased, as the Government tell the House it is increased in respect of the Assembly, by the treaty and the Bill, it must follow that the effectiveness and real power—the political power—of the other elements, the other possessors, is diminished. Whatever is arrogated to the Assembly by the legislation and the treaty is deducted from what is available to this Parliament and, thus, to the people it represents.
No unoccupied ground or unexplored territory can be colonised by the Assembly without a diminution in the control and powers of this House. We are discussing an actual deduction from the powers of this House so that those powers may be exercised by other bodies over which we do not have anything like the same opportunity of control.
There is a kind of tripod in the institutions of the Community—the Council, the Commission, and what was hitherto called the Assembly. It is only through the Council that this House can assert itself. It is only in the 496 Council that the members of the Government who are answerable to this House can assert themselves. Of course, in the last resort, they can only assert themselves in the Council when there is decision by unanimity. Whether they decide in the Council by unanimity or otherwise, it is through the Council that this House still exercises a degree of power, on behalf of the United Kingdom, in the institutions of the European Community.
A big shift is created in relative power the Council—its relative power in the tripod—by the treaty and the Bill. That power is transferred and inures to the benefit of the other two elements — the Commission and the Assembly. Anyone who has studied the co-operation procedure, as it is delicately called, with which the amendment deals will have seen the joint interest that the Commission and the Assembly have in co-operating with one another. Indeed, an almost corrupt deal has been struck between the Commission and the Assembly— a log-rolling or back-scratching arrangement between the two — whereby, if the Commission proceeds by way of the co-operation process, it can use the added power which has been attributed to the Assembly to strengthen itself and its intentions vis-á-vis the Council. Therefore, it is the Commission and the Assembly, jointly, which are given an accretion of power at the expense of the Council and, therefore, at the expense of this House — the Council being the only element which can be directly influenced and ultimately controlled by the Parliament and people of the United Kingdom.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
I wondered why the right hon. Gentleman used the word "corrupt" in that sentence. It seems a perfectly legitimate exercise on the part of the Commission to seek to extend its influence.
§ Mr. Powell
All power tends to be associated in human experience with corruption. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is not strange to hon. Members that methods which could indelicately be described as "corruption" are essential to the control and management of any democratic and elected Assembly. I hope that the House will not be too prissy about the use of that rather ugly expression. Two of the three elements in the structure of the European Economic Community can, by collusion with one another — by mutually supporting one another — weaken the third. If the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) prefers the words "collusion" and "conspiracy" to "corruption", I am prepared to make that concession.
§ Mr. Spearing
Is the right hon. Gentleman more right than perhaps he first thought? The preamble to the Single European Act states:the wishes of the democratic peoples of Europe, for whom the European Parliament, elected by universal suffrage, is an indispensable means of expression".If that is taken to heart as it is meant, the Commission will present proposals which are liked by the European Parliament but which together will be corrupting to the influence of this House.
§ Mr. Powell
Before I conclude I shall refer to the nature of the Assembly and its claims to be democratic or parliamentary.
I now turn to the three subjects covered by the group of amendments. The first is the embodiment by the Act in the law of the United Kingdom of what is called the cooperation procedure, which reduces the powers and opportunities of the Council in the event of certain 497 decisions being taken by the European Assembly. The second concerns the hitherto external powers of the Council to make additions to the associated membership of the Community. The third subject concerns the nomenclature of that body.
I have discussed the consequences of the new cooperation procedure which is at the heart of the treaty. It is probably the prize which was most valued by those in the Government who secured agreement to the treaty. It represents an actual and literal transfer of power from one place to another within the institutions of the Community. The result of that procedure is that the input of the European Assembly alters the respective powers of the Commission and the respective power of the Council of Ministers in a manner which inevitably diminishes the influence and possibilities open to a member of the Council representing one of the member states of the Community.
It is a machinery whereby, at the will of the Commission and the Assembly, the hand of this Government and, therefore, of this Parliament and the electorate of the United Kingdom can be weakened or tied. The matter does not need to be argued at exhaustive length, because the co-operation machinery, as it is set out in article 7, displays quite clearly what the consequences for control through the Council will be.
It is useful to look at the effect of articles 8 and 9 which amend articles 237 and 238 of the treaty of Rome. As the treaty stands, under article 237 the decision to increase the membership of the Community is dealt with by the Council after the opinion of the Commission has been obtained. The new article which will replace that provides for the key power to be transferred to the Assembly. That can happen only after the assent of the European Parliament is received. The European Parliament is put in the key position in the expansion of the Community which was hitherto exclusively occupied by the Council of Ministers. If hon. Members will look at the consequences of article 9, amending article 238 of the treaty of Rome, they will see exactly the same process being applied to association.
The Parliament is being inserted in the position of ultimate authority and control, which was hitherto occupied by the Council. It is another reminder and indication—it may be marginal in its practical effect but it is significant — of the triumph of the Assembly, as against the other institutions of the Community, which is represented by this treaty and the Bill.
That brings me to the third topic—nomenclature. It is no small matter for the House of Commons to declare solemnly that the European Assembly is a Parliament and to bless that nomenclature, although it has been popularly used hitherto. "Parliament" is a word of magic and power in this country. We refer to "parliamentary sovereignty." We live under the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. Our history and political life would be unintelligible if Parliament were removed from that history. There is no other European nation of which the same can be said. There is no other European nation at the heart of whose identity and history lies its parliamentary assembly.
When we proceed to accord the title "Parliament" formally and by the law of the United Kingdom to another assembly, we should be conscious of the symbolical nature of the act which we are performing. We are endowing that 498 institution potentially with the same sovereignty, powers and representative quality that we in this Parliament possess. It is an act of meaning. It is not something that we can dismiss as a mere formality, a matter of nomenclature to be hurried over. It is significant and, if there were any possibility of otherwise mistaking the meaning and importance of the treaty and the Bill, we should be put upon warning by this part of the legislation.
The hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West interrupted the right hon. Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) and asked what was wrong with calling the European Parliament a Parliament, because it was a democratic assembly. He said that it was an elected assembly, and he asked what was wrong with equating election with democracy. But merely to be elected is not to be democratic, in the sense that we understand it. There is a certain relationship between electorate and elected body upon which the very nature of parliamentary sovereignty and our claim to be a representative body depends.
Our Parliament implies a homogeneous electorate. It implies a single nation which elects the disparate Members who sit together in the House. It is the Parliament of a united kingdom. The Parliament which assembles at Strasbourg is an assembly of those who have been elected in different nations, and, incidentally, under different electoral systems, to congregate together. They do not come together as the representatives of a single self-recognising community. The nature of that assembly is different in kind from the nature of this Parliament. We are performing a type of solecism in attributing the term "Parliament" to that Assembly. What we should not do is create the implications and hallow the assumptions which attach to the word "Parliament" when applied to the European Assembly. The European Assembly is not, in our sense of the term, a "Parliament" and it is not the wish of the people of this country that it should ever be a Parliament in the sense of being the ultimate repository of the legislative and executive powers under which the people of the United Kingdom are to live.
By sanctioning these changes, and especially the change in nomenclature, we are perpetrating a lie in the face of Europe, implying that the British people voluntarily intend to surrender to the institutions of the Community those powers over themselves which hitherto have been exclusively vested in the House. They do not intend to do that. When they become aware that that is what is happening, they will put a stop to it.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
It is impossible to withhold admiration for the determination with which the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) defends the shadow of the absolute sovereignty of this Parliament. I shall refer rather more to the substance of this Parliament's sovereignty. In his own eloquent, incorruptible way, the right hon. Gentleman fights against all change, however inevitable and inexorable.
I should like to take up one aspect of that substance. The right hon. Member for South Down said that any powers taken by the European Parliament would be powers taken away from this Parliament. In theory he is correct, but he makes no allowance for the factor that underlies the purpose and existence of the European Community—the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If the Community becomes effective, it will exercise real power and influence in the world. This Parliament, as a constituent member of that Community, may, in theory, 499 have surrendered some of its powers to a European Parliament, but it will exercise its powers, slightly limited, on matters in which it can influence events.
It was sad to listen to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann). There is no hon. Member who has contributed more, from both the Front Benches and the Back Benches, to making this one of the great Parliaments of the world. We all greatly esteem his contributions to our debates.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
This is no knife. I wish merely to express sadness at the fact that my right hon. Friend should so lack confidence in this Parliament's ability to put its ideas across to the rest of the world that he fears that, by allowing ourselves to be drawn into the operations of a European Parliament, we will prejudice the rights and privileges of the House.
I felt sad, in a different way, when listening to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). I know of his great devotion for many years to the cause of closer co-operation in Europe. He talked a lot of sense about the need to improve our arrangements. If those arrangements are inadequate, the fault lies, not in our stars, but in ourselves. It is up to us to evolve a better system for scrutinising the great mass of legislation from the European Parliament. It was sad to listen to the hon. Gentleman's nit-picking, mean-minded approach to a matter of vital interest to us all — how we can make parliamentary institutions in the European Community function more effectively.
When Britain joined the European Community, there was one thing which the other Community states looked confidently towards us to provide—an example of how the parliamentary institutions of the Community could be made to function effectively. I am the first to admit that the solution which has been chosen of a directly elected European Parliament is not necessarily ideal. I see a possible difficulty in trying to treat this Parliament as though it were closely analogous to a national Parliament. There is a fundamental difference, because the European Parliament in no way sustains an Executive. None the less, it can and should play a vital role in controlling that Executive. This is surely a function that we should teach the European Parliament the better to fulfil instead of constantly carping and seeking to limit its powers and restrict contact between this Parliament and the European Parliament. In this respect Britain has been a great disappointment to the other members of the European Community, who looked to us, in this matter above all, to set them a good example.
We have already heard much, and we shall hear a great deal more during the rest of the debate, about the restrictions which the new clause will place on the powers of our Parliament. I have already admitted that it will place some theoretical restrictions on it. None the less, by those timid steps in the direction of creating a European Community the better able to carry out its functions, and the better able to subject those functions to some parliamentary scrutiny, we shall create a Community which far more effectively than the present one can further the purposes of Britain's policy, economically and in foreign affairs.
500 Therefore, I warmly welcome the provisions of the agreement and shall have no hesitation in opposing the amendment.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I strongly support the amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann). I join the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) to the right hon. Gentleman, but I make my tribute absolutely unqualified in the sense that I shall be happy to support him in the Lobby. He has done a great service, along with the many other services he has contributed to the House of Commons, in bringing the matter before us.
I am sad that I was not present on 23 April when the right hon. Gentleman made another important contribution on the subject. I recall that James Maxton once said that the House of Commons is a very dangerous place to be away from. I regret the fact that I was away from it on that day, especially because I was unable to vote then, although I shall vote for the right hon. Gentleman's amendment with all the more pleasure today.
As hon. Members listen further to the debate they will have the experience that we had during our debates on the European Communities Act 1972, which we are now amending, increasingly recognising the growing significance of what we are discussing. When we debated the 1972 Act, people thought at the beginning that most of the Committee matters could be dealt with briefly, but we soon discovered that the issues became greatly enlarged. That is the case now. It should not be called the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, but the "European Communities (Concealment of Real Intentions) Bill".
The Bill goes far further than was suggested by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he introduced it on Second Reading. Naturally, I read carefully what he said then. My hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) enlarged on the matter when he presented it today. The more we discuss the Bill, the more it will be recognised that the Government must deal with it differently from the way they intended. No one can tell how long the proceedings will continue in Committee, but I hope that the Government will make up their mind immediately that they cannot deal with the Bill on Third Reading next week in the way that has been proposed. I hope that they will set aside a full day for the discussion. The more they listen to the issues, the more they will recognise that that is the proper course.
I would not use words such as "corruption" or "corrosion", as did the right hon. Member for Taunton, to describe the processes by which those matters are discussed in the European institutions. There is not the slightest doubt about the truth of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the balance between the European Assembly and the other institutions of the European Community. Different powers are given to the different bodies in the European Assembly. In 1972, if we had been told that the European Assembly would have increasingly enlarged powers—if the European Assembly's rights and powers had been defended in 1972 on the grounds that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West suggested — the objections to the Bill would have been even stronger than they were, because we could have seen the mammoth transfer of power from this place to the other institutions. But it was concealed.
501 The transfer was concealed because it did not take place between this democratic Assembly and the Council of Ministers. The legislative powers were transferred, but, of course, the Council of Ministers was a different institution. No one knew exactly what sort of institution it was, because it was an extraordinary body. It was an executive body which also had legislative powers, and which was removing from this place the power of exercising proper legislative control over our actions.
In 1972, we did something unknown in the history of Parliament. We transferred great chunks of legislative power from the House to an institution which had no proper legislative process. We agreed to do it because we were told that that was the only way in which the Community could be established. If we had been told at the same time "By the way, a hit later we shall introduce a little amendment Bill to ensure that the European Assembly and Parliament will control this extraordinary contraption, removing some powers from the House of Commons," the objections would have been even greater.
I shall not discuss all the other matters which were presented to the country at that time. Many hon. Members will recall that we were told at the time of the referendum that there would be a great enlargement of our employment opportunities and our economic prospects. We were told that there would be no interference with the power of economic decision-making in Britain. Those were the prospects held before us. That was how the referendum was pushed through and the majority was retained. It makes it all the more important that the House of Commons should not proceed to the next stage without examining everything in detail and ensuring that every possible safeguard exists.
We should pass the amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Taunton. I hope that we shall not be told, as we were at the time of the 1972 Act, that the entire Bill must be passed and that no clause could be removed without the agreement of the other countries.
That was an infringement of the rights of the House, which was why some of us objected so passionately to the Act and the form in which it was presented. It was presented to the House of Commons without any possibility of amending even one clause.
I hope that the Govenment will give us the absolute assurance that that does not apply to the Bill, that we can amend it as we wish and that we may have enough time to do it. That is what the House of Commons should do; if it does not, it will fail to discharge its responsibilities.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Although I did not have the good fortune to be a Member of this place and see at first hand the right hon. Gentleman's heroic opposition to the European Communities Bill, could he remind the Committee whether he was in the same Lobby as I was when I opposed the European Assembly Elections Act 1978?
§ Mr. Foot
No. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Gentleman reminds the Committee, that I was a member of the Government who introduced that measure. As a member of that Government, I supported it and helped to carry it through. It is all the more necessary that we should prevent an extenson of the powers of the European Assembly, however it may be elected. I have been opposed to the extension of those powers, and I remain so.
Of course, I understand that such assemblies have a natural power hunger. One does not blame the individuals 502 concerned. Some of my best friends are members of the European Assembly. Mrs. Castle could never be described as lacking power hunger. Even she has been able to restrain herself, however, so great is her allegiance to the authority of the House. We should follow her example.I am not surprised that the Italians and the Spaniards, who have just joined the Assembly, wish to make it stronger, although many of them will draw back, as we should draw back, when they see what really happens. The Parliaments of many member states, including the French Parliament, try to retain powers in their countries, although the French seek to do this differently because of the greater authoritarian powers vested in their President and executive.
We must preserve every precious part of the power that we retain in the House. The right hon. Gentleman's amendment serves that purpose and I hope that it will be supported by the Government. Perhaps when the Minister replies she will show us the best way forward, which would be by allowing a free vote. That would settle the matter here and now. I hope that the hon. Lady will give the House an absolute assurance that the Bill will not be forced through the House with the insistence that every letter, comma and clause must be carried. She should give us an assurance that the Bill can be amended, and that: the House can apply its ideas to the Bill so that the result may be a better Bill, if indeed any Bill could emerge from such proper scrutiny.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Every hon. Member has agreed that the clause is one of a series which would remove power from the British Government and the British Parliament and transfer it to the institutions of the Community. Therefore, it is right and proper that we should think carefully about whether this is a sensible thing to do at present and especially on today of all days. Despite the solemn agreement made by all member states on 4 December 1984 that strict budgetary controls would be applied, we have today received a paper from the European Commission, which is only now available in the Vote Office, stating that the Commission will not have enough money to pay its bills, even on the basis of the further 1.4 per cent. VAT contribution. Even more worrying is the fact that this has come only two days after the Government's solemn assurance in a written answer that a 1.22 per cent. rate was more than enough for its requirements.
I suggest, therefore, that we should consider not whether to give more power to the Community institutions, but whether we should take greater powers to try to control some of the excesses of the European Assembly and Commission. When discussing proposals and pledges, we should also remember that the agreement of 4 December 1984 gave a solemn pledge that member states would be given a monthly report on agricultural spending. I have asked the Prime Minister three times, and the Foreign Secretary twice, when we shall receive those reports. Not one such report has been produced. We must ask ourselves whether it would be wise to transfer more power and responsibility from the Government to the institutions of the Community.
It is important that we should consider whether the European Parliament uses its existing powers in such a way as to justify more power being given to it. Hon. 503 Members have complained that the European Assembly does not have enough power, but it has some power. We must ask ourselves whether it uses that power responsibly.
We need consider only two recent decisions of the European Court. The first related to complaints that the European Parliament had illegally and fraudulently given £27 million to political parties and had not asked for it back. Secondly, the European Assembly passed an illegal budget. The British Foreign Secretary and Attorney-General complained to the European Court about the illegal action. The battle is still being fought, but Britain has won the first round. Is it wise to give more power to that organisation?
The crucial thing is that not many hon. Members are aware of the details concerning the power that will be transferred to the European Assembly and the reason for this is obvious. The House of Commons Library provided the excellent advice that, after studying the Single European Act, it was not clear as to how the new arrangements would work, nor what additional powers would be transferred. This is probably the most dangerous aspect, especially when we remember, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) said, that the Assembly has passed a resolution saying that it will exploit to the full its new powers, and do so in the context of a European union of member states.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
Does my hon. Friend take any comfort from the fact that the existing powers of the European Parliament derive not so much from its original treaty powers as from the Iso Glucose case, which gave it considerable powers to delay legislation under the existing provisions? Does he take even greater consolation from the fact that the European Parliament has rarely got its act together sufficiently to exercise any influence over the EEC in any way, shape or form? What makes him believe that with any enlargement of its powers it will be able or prepared to take advantage of those powers in the future?
§ Mr. Taylor
My hon. Friend is well aware that one of the Assembly's powers relates to budgets. He will know that it has had much influence, because it passed the illegal budget which caused a massive extension in the provisions made for spending by the Council. It has used its powers considerably.
I shall deal with two matters which I hope will cause hon. Members some concern and persuade those who believe that this is a positive step forward not to increase the Assembly's powers. Will the extra powers be positive powers? If the Assembly is a bright, fresh democratic institution, will ideas be put forward to help solve the problems of the EEC?
My reading, with which I hope the Minister of State will agree, is that the Assembly's new powers are almost wholly negative. They will stop things happening and stop the passage of reforms. That is the most dangerous sort of additional power to give to any democratic assembly.
Paragraph (c) of new article 149 on page 6 of the Single European Act states clearly:If the European Parliament has rejected the Council's common position unanimity shall be required for the Council to act on a second reading.504 The Council's only defence, if the European Parliament should muck up something, or insert massive amendments, is to drop the whole business. Paragraph (e) states:Unanimity shall be required for the Council to amend the proposal as re-examined by the Commission.The Assembly now has the power to change or reject something which the Council can overturn only unanimously. This would be unlikely, bearing in mind the fact that at least two member states are constantly looking for ways to give additional powers and responsibilities to the Assembly.
My fear is that, instead of being a comparatively new legislative power or a power to consider expenditure, the Assembly will have the power to prevent things from happening and to block proposals coming from the Council of Ministers, which, in many cases, are desperately needed to reform the institutions.
§ Mr. Marlow
Is not there a very grave danger that the Assembly, or Parliament, will indulge in power politics on its own behalf? There may be things which we would all appreciate and agree with in this House which the Community wants to put through. There may be things which the Assembly wants done through amendment to enhance its own prestige, power and authority. May it not seek to delay those which we would all agree with so that it can enhance its own power as a quid pro quo for agreeing to that which we would want?
§ Mr. Taylor
That is my other fear. My hon. Friend has anticipated me. Sadly, in the EEC, as those who have taken part in it will be aware, things are not always decided on their merits. For example, five or six Councils sit in the same week. If one country wants something passed through one Council, it may have to do a deal to allow something else through. An example is the Single European Act. Although the British Government did not want it, the Prime Minister opposed it, the Foreign Secretary had the courage on this occasion to say he did not want it, and we were told that there was no need for it, we have a Single European Act. My understanding is that we agreed many matters, including strict budgetary controls, which turned out to be utterly irrelevant because they did not work. Matters are decided on package agreements one way or the other.
I appeal to hon. Members who are anxious for the European Community to develop to ask themselves whether they feel that the powers in article 149 will help the Common Market in any way to become a better organisation. I accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) would like the European Parliament to do the big stuff and to undertake a great deal of the decision making at present done by national Parliaments. He has advocated his case with great sincerity. I could understand it if he regards this as a stepping stone to that objective, but the powers in article 149 are wholly negative and will certainly not make the Common Market any better, even if the powers were used responsibly.
I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind what my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton said so eloquently, which was that the trouble was that nowadays we pass matters in dull, colourless language. The words do not mean a great deal to us and refer to general principles. We are all fully aware that the day will come before too long when our constituents and businesses and organisations in our constituencies will ask, "Why can't 505 you as a Member of Parliament do something about this?". Increasingly we shall have to reply, "I am terribly sorry but the power has gone entirely from us."
Section 145 of the Single European Act gives massive new powers to the Commission. The erosion of the veto will mean that Britain will have far less say in decision making, and that laws will be imposed on us against our wishes. These new powers for the European Assembly will greatly diminish the powers of the Council to do anything except abandon its reports.
§ Mr. Spearing
The hon. Gentleman has been suggesting that the powers are negative and would not help even the aspirations of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). Does he agree that article 149(2)(c) states:The European Parliament may within the period of three months referred to in point (b), by an absolute majority of its component members, propose amendments to the Council's common position"?If that change in the Council's common position is contrary to the views of Ministers of this House and is passed by an absolute majority of the European Parliament, does it not show that it has substantial positive powers, especially if the Commission agrees?
§ Mr. Taylor
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the procedure is rather complex. If, for example, the European Parliament suggests amendments, the suggestion goes to the Commission which introduces a revised package. The Council could make those changes only by a unanimous decision. Therefore, the Council has the power, either to accept the changes made by the Commission to the proposals put by the European Parliament, or to scrub them completely. We are all aware, bearing in mind the European Assembly's wishes to extend its powers and to extend harmonisation and expenditure, that the changes which the Assembly and Commission will propose will involve all those objectives. Therefore, there will be a choice of either abandoning the original reform which the Council wanted, or accepting the amendments which will probably be expensive and give further powers to the EEC. This new power will not enable changes to be made, but, sadly, will simply cause the Council not to get through some of the amendments and changes to new decisions which it wants. To that extent, I regard the powers as negative and dangerous.
We know that the Common Market has some problems. It has a problem controlling its expenditure, which has been a complete disaster area. Despite all the promises and pledges, we have news today that the Common Market is insolvent and does not have the money to pay its bills for 1986. We know that the common agricultural policy is nonsense. Everyone accepts that. When £150 million a week is spent on dumping, destroying and storing food, something is wrong. It must sicken poor Mr. Geldof, who sweated his guts out to raise £100 million, to find that the Common Market spends 50 per cent. more every week on dumping and destroying food.
What I say and what I hope all hon. Members will say is, "Why can't the Common Market get down to solving those problems before it looks for more power and responsibility?" For that reason I hope that we shall approve the amendment. It is the right way forward. If we do not, we shall bitterly regret this step in years to come.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
It will not come as a stunning surprise to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) or the right hon. Member for Taunton (Sir E. du 506 Cann) that I do not accept their arguments. I wholly accept the need for a full and proper debate, but I am sceptical about it resulting in any sort of change. Even the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) mentioned change. I have participated in these debates for approximately 14 years and I have never observed anybody changing his opinion. The House should take that into account. The more that the hon. Gentleman and I listen to each other, the more we are convinced that we are right and the other is wrong. That is a plain fact. [Interruption.]
§ Sir Russell Johnston
The remedy lies with the hon. Member for Southend, East. I have entreated him on many occasions to take it.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
Does the hon. Gentleman want to make an exception of the right hon. Member for Blaenau, Gwent (Mr. Foot) on the subject of direct elections to the European Parliament and changing his mind?
§ Sir Russell Johnston
It was a question not of a change of mind but of the pragmatic necessities of the moment.
The Single European Act introduces only modest increases in the powers of the European Parliament. Certainly there are fewer changes than the European Parliament wants. The changes mean that the process of Community legislation is brought rather more out into the open and will be subject to better, fuller parliamentary scrutiny than has previously been the case. They will also oblige the Council to state its position more clearly, and the member Government represented on the Council to vote more openly. That is all to the good. They will have to make clear how and why certain decisions in the Council have been made, who made them and why they adopted that position. That is desirable. Anyone anxious for openness of government and for open covenants openly arrived at cannot but welcome the changes.
Many hon. Members and others are worried about the way in which major legislative decisions are reached in the Council. To try to subject individual national Ministers after a Council meeting to national parliamentary scrutiny and review is a recipe for chaos. It would bring the whole Community procedure to a halt. The Community cannot be subject in the normal process of legislation — if, indeed, we want Community legislation—to a veto by a national legislature, whether it be the House of Commons or the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies, after the agreement has been reached by the Council. The time to exert influence is before the agreement is reached.
The House of Commons and the House of Lords, which all hon. Members will agree does exceptionally well, are entitled to examine draft Community legislation and to express their views to Ministers before they go to the decisive Council meeting. But in the last analysis, if there is to be Community legislation and if there is to be parliamentary supervision of that Community legislation, it can be achieved effectively only by the European Parliament.
§ Mr. Marlow
When the Cabinet decides on legislation, it introduces a Bill into the House. Indeed, there may even be a White Paper first. The Bill is debated in the Chamber, in Committee, on Report, and on Third Reading and then goes to the House of Lords. Equally significant legislation 507 can come from the European Community. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he does not believe that we should have any power whatever as the democratically elected Parliament of the United Kingdom to have a view on that legislation?
§ Sir Russell Johnston
I did not say that. The hon. Gentleman dreams about the so-called parliamentary democracy of this Chamber, about which we hear so much. It is nothing like so marvellous as some suggest. I said that, knowing what proposals come up in the Council, the House should scrutinise them before Ministers go to the Council to make a decision. To try to do it the other way round is not practical or possible. We have the European Community, and if we want to be democratic we have to give the Parliament more power. It is unrealistic to refer ritualistically to sovereignty and its erosion. I never cease to be amazed at the persistence of nationalism in Europe despite its malign record. If we are to have democratic decision making in the Community, it can be done only through the Parliament.
I do not know how many hon. Members read the interesting article by Sir Henry Plumb in The Times on Wednesday.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
That is a matter of opinion. The right hon. Gentleman's opinion is different from mine. The paragraph that I shall quote conveys the truth of the matter much more directly and clearly than the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) suggested. Sir Henry Plumb said:The Single Act, if ratified by all governments by the end of the year, will certainly herald a transfer of sovereignty. Not a transfer from the national to the Community legislative structure, but a transfer from government and Commission civil servants to the democratically elected representatives of the people. The European Parliament is still a long way from being able to exercise its mandate over the majority of the Community budget, but this small extension of influence in regard to the internal market is good news for those who care about effective democratic control of our institutions, and bad news for the hardened professional civil servant who has long been used to usurping this function. That is the real transfer of sovereignty inherent in the Single Act.
§ Mr. Cash
The hon. Member may recall that Sir Henry Plumb's article, which I have here as well, followed an article that I wrote in The Times last week, in which I pointed out the importance of maintaining effective scrutiny and control here in Westminster over decisions taken both in Brussels and by our Civil Service. Sir Henry Plumb makes it clear in this article that he shares my great concern about this matter. He shows that he, too, thinks that there is a role for Westminster as well as for the European Parliament. I should he grateful if the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to make that clear.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
I admit to the human weakness of quoting articles with which one agrees rather than those with which one disagrees. There is no need for me again to go over the ground over which I went with the hon. Member for Northampton, North, which meets the point that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) is making. It is incredible that someone like Sir Henry Plumb cannot get into the House of Commons unless he queues outside or is brought in. He cannot get a pass to come into the 508 place. If we wish to have proper relations with Members of the European Parliament we should take a more civilised attitude than that. American research assistants find it easier to get in here.
The core of the changes provides for the European Parliament, after giving its initial opinion on a proposal from the Commission, to have the right to amend or reject, within three months, the position adopted by the Council. If the Parliament does not exercise this right, the Council position prevails. It should be stressed that this new cooperative procedure does not extend to all Community decisions—something that has not been emphasised so far—but is confined to a limited number of them.
It would be foolish to deny that there are risks of conflict between the three institutions. The challenge to all three institutions is clear. They must make a positive effort towards the closest co-operation, or at least consultation, at the earliest possible stage. For example, the Commission could extend the practice of informal discussions with the Parliament and its Committees before it formally publishes draft legislation. That is a sensible thing to do. While those Committees are subsequently scrutinising the proposals, the opportunity for discussion with the Council and the individual Governments with their own Parliament would enable effective scrutiny to take place.
The Government are to be congratulated. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) made a rather rumbustious assault on the Minister on the ground that the Government have rather changed their position, which is true. I would rather compliment them on this. That they and the Minister have seen the light is admirable and the Government should be congraulated, having treated the European Parliament rather badly before, on putting this behind them. They seem to have entered into the new spirit. I understand that, in the latter half of this year, it is planned that 15 of our Ministers will be addressing the European Parliament. That shows a different attitude, while also of course reflecting our Presidency of the Council.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is to the European Parliament itself. Since 1979, it has not always been clear that it has fully found the direction that it wishes to take, or it has found it difficult to find a future direction. That is not surprising, because it has never had a Government or an executive as we have, but is nevertheless subject to the same natural political division as we have. Parliament will have to arrange its procedures to be more effective, and the challenges of where it sits and so on will have to be looked at carefully. A strong, consistent stand on the way in which it gets elected should also be taken.
Because of my self-restraint and the pressures on time, I shall not dwell on the scandal of the way in which Members of the European Parliament are elected in the United Kingdom, which excludes a whole section of political attitude. This Parliament should not be proud of that. The constituency system is irrelevant to the European Parliament, which is concerned not with specific cases but with guidelines and general principles.
On Second Reading on 23 April, I raised a question with the Minister about which she subsequently wrote to me on 30 April. I inquired about the proposition by the Dutch that, if the Commission is allied to a minimum of three member states within the Council, this would obligate the Council to proceed directly to a vote, which might accelerate the decision-making process. The 509 Minister's letter was a beautiful example of agreeing and not agreeing simultaneously, which I suppose is one of the delights of diplomacy. She said:At present, it is for the Presidency alone to decide when to call a vote; and … the Presidency is often the best judge … though if a majority of member states made clear that they wanted a vote, that would significantly influence the Presidency's decision.There is nothing wrong with that.
The letter continues:Any individual member state or the Commission should, in the Government's view, be able to propose a vote when it thinks this appropriate, but not to determine when a vote is held. Calling a vote when the majority do not want one would be pointless.It would not be pointless. The whole point is that, if a number of Members consistently, over a length of time, prevent any votes being held, that is a means of putting off a decision. Sometimes the decision may be no, but at least one knows what it is.
I draw the Minister's attention to the European Parliament working document A2–56/86, part I, which is a report on the use of the veto in the Council by Mr. Nord, the Dutch vice-president of the Liberal group in the European Parliament dated 30 May. It says:the co-operation procedure established by the Single European Act between the European Parliament and the Council denotes the will of the Member States to improve the Community decision-making process and to involve the European Parliament in this process. To this end, it would be wise to take over the proposals formulated in the Dooge report with regard to voting rules: The Presidency must proceed to a vote where the Commission or 3 Member States so request. The vote must be taken within a time limit of 30 days.I would appreciate the Minister giving some account of what she thinks about that proposal.
I cannot end without some brief reference to the speech of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). I have heard his speeches on many occasions and he seemed once again to be caught up with the mysticism which is inherent in nationalism. It almost seemed as if he would levitate during his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said that Britain was a "self-recognising community." We are not the same as the other communities across the Channel. By the clearest implication, we are also better than these other fellows across the Channel. A "self-recognising community" indeed. That sounds more like self-perpetuating tribalism. He used those familiar words, "control, veto and assertion". These are negative and fractious words.
Right hon. and hon. Members must realise that Europe's problems and the problems of the Community will not be solved by some resurgence of nationalism, in so far as that has any real meaning any more. They will be solved only by political solutions, whether they be Conservative, Labour or Liberal. The proper forum for that, within the Community, is the European Parliament. I welcome this limited extension of its influence.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
We need only remind ourselves of the traditional and heroic alliance manifested yet again between the speeches of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) and that of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) to oppose the amendment. We heard again that saddening and depressing recourse to the past.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) said about the self-delusion which Members such as the right 510 hon. Members for Blaenau Gwent and for South Down reveal about our system and this Parliament. He described their sense of fantasy and imagination which is in no way connected with the truth either of yesterday or of today. If anything, their view is a reverse of the truth. Their 'view must be par excellence the reverse. Unfortunately, the parliamentary system in the Euorpean countries — and there are many details, exceptions and constitutional traditions which we could discuss at great length but we will not do so tonight — where the power of the Parliament vis-á-vis the Executive, both the Civil Service part and the ministerial part, is weakest when the process is a self-sustaining ritual and which, as many commentators have said, is a quintessential and classical demonstration of the elective dictatorship.
We can by all means say that there are many good and positive aspects of that system which enable Governments to go ahead on a rapid basis with the creation of new legislation. However, to pretend that that is not true and that there is some heroic mystical and perfect democratic function in this place is absurd. It is also absurd to imply that those terrible, ill-educated foreigners— ill educated in all matters of democracy and constitutions—have no idea about these sacred subjects. That is not only absurd; it is irresponsible. That idea would give people outside this House with a less elaborate education than the two right hon. Gentlemen I have mentioned the impression of something special which is phantasmagoric, self-imagined and absurd.
Right hon. Members of such distinction and with such long parliamentary careers as those to which I have referred have a responsibility to the public. They should be more realistic about the limitations of our system. They should espouse its good qualities, but also say honestly and truthfully that there are many weaknesses —
§ Mr. Dykes
I will give way later.
They must be honest and say that there are many weaknesses in the system. However, that does not help us much in what we are considering today. We are considering the practical world and the complexities of these relationships between giant bureaucracies and the major, complicated decisions which must be made for the promotion of the economic and social welfare of the public in this country and of the other European states. To pretend that there is some special sovereignty syndrome in this place, which must not in any way be changed by accession to any treaty, is nonsense.
§ Mr. Foulkes
The hon. Gentleman is attacking hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, he has not made any arguments in favour of the transference of' power away from this House to Strasbourg and Brussels in the areas of competence which I and other hon. Members described earlier. The hon. Gentleman has not given any reasons why these decisions can be better taken by the Community rather than by the United Kingdom Parliament or why we should agree to them. If the hon. Gentleman addressed himself to those points, we might listen to him rather more carefully than we are now, as we listen to the general assertions and attacks that he is indulging in.
§ Mr. Dykes
That is the second part of the complete picture which I will discuss in a moment. However, it is 511 necessary as a preamble to that to establish what I am suggesting. Of course the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) would not accept that as he really is a good European.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
He is a good European when it suits him.
§ Mr. Dykes
I have given way once to the hon. Gentleman. If he can restrain himself, he will be able to speak later. I believe that I know what he wanted to say.
Of course the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley was right to allude to the second part of the picture. I simply do not like the false premise which was created at the beginning of the debate. That was a chemistry of nonsense. Those arguments are completely at variance with the truth.
The additional powers that will accrue to the European Parliament are important. The stronger relationship of the European Parliament with the Council of Ministers and the so-called transference of powers are also important. These points have already been mentioned in paragraph 29 on page 10 of the 12th report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities entitled "Single European Act and Parliamentary Scrutiny".
§ Mr. Dykes
I will then refer first to paragraph 28 as I have been prompted to do so by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins). There is no effective parliamentary scrutiny procedure or mechanism for maintaining a strong surveillance of NATO decisions. That is a more powerful treaty when we consider its subject matter. Any treaty agreement in relation to that is more ominous in terms of the surrender of power from this place as a sovereign Parliament when compared to anything else in the European Community, however profound the European Communities are by way of the creation of a treaty base. All treaties do what is stated in paragraph 28.
I intended, however, to refer to paragraph 29, which states:The erosion of some of the power of national Parliaments was an inevitable consequence of membership of the Community.We have always known that and it was always made clear. That was a positive aspect and part of the recommendation of the keen Europeans. It was accepted by others who said that there would be a reciprocal benefit greater than that diminution of the intrinsic national power. Paragraph 29 continues:It is liable to be accelerated by measures which make the Community more effective politically and economically.That is the centrality of the case. We can see how slow the Community has been to develop to the benefit of all member states and how the constitutional frustration can be overcome only by additional power-increasing measures for the European Parliament vis-á-vis other institutions. As the proponents have already said, these 512 powers are limited and modest and should not terrify me or others who are more dispassionate than I am about our membership of the Community.
The paragraph goes on to say:it is encouraged by the existence of the Community's own directly-elected Parliament.Once we as a sovereign Parliament, like the others in the member states, took that decision, rightly, I think, to favour direct elections — the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent was enthusiastic about it—the increased powers of that Parliament have to be rationalised as well. It is not a Parliament in the national sense of an Executive being present within it, as the right hon. Member for South Down said, but it is a true and developing Parliament in the sense of a trans-national body, perhaps akin to the developing, germinating United States Congress in the early days.
Many similarities are now developing in the separation of powers. It will be greatly to the benefit of the new European entity and the European union of the future. That will not be a United States of Europe, so those fears are groundless. It will be a special new creation, not known in the world so far, but none the less one which will be greatly to the benefit of the economic progress of members of the public of the member states.
However, there is an additional difference which must be brought out. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for South Down who said that there would be a straight net transference process of power from this place to the European Parliament plus a bit to the other institutions as well. He referred to there being no vacuum, but at least a semi-vacuum exists in the set up which has to be taken care of as well, and is effectively, by the Bill. That is an additional reason why the amendment should be rejected.
The vacuum or semi-vacuum has been all the decisions which the Council of Ministers should have made in recent years at the suggestion and behest of the Commission, which has a constitutional duty to propose new legislation under the treaty, which it has not done for reasons of the overweening nationalism which exists in that body. The right hon. Gentleman may be pleased about that. The paralysis comes from the feeling that it has to agree unanimously because of the Luxembourg compromise, and the desire of the politicians in that Council, of whatever country, to stop progress in the EEC, even if that progress is not a direct reflection of any diminution of any national policies expressed in one or two member states. That at least is a semi-vacuum. By overcoming that by the proposals in the Bill we shall see that the Community can make the kind of progress that members of the public in all the member states want because they know that that is synonymous with rising living standards, the freedom that comes more and more from being a European as well as a citizen of an individual member state, and the feeling that Europe can survive and prosper only by acting more and more closely together through its developing and sophisticated parliamentary mechanisms.
§ Mr. Deakins
Three of the amendments that we are debating in this group are in my name. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I take a few minutes to develop certain themes.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) talked about Labour Members coming clean. I remind him that he and those whom he supported in the 1975 referendum, 513 and still supports, both the federalists and those who wish to see a European Government, should come clean with the British people.
I have here a document put out by the British Government for the 1975 referendum. On two separate pages there is a headline:Will Parliament lose its power?Part of it says:No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament.Where does that assurance stand now in the light of the new co-operation procedure? I shall have more to say about the loss and weakening of the veto in the debate on clause stand part.
The same document says:Remember: All the other countries in the Market enjoy, like us, democratically elected Governments answerable to their own Parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their Parliaments any more than we would.Is not the clear implication of those words that there would he no weakening of the sovereignty of the British Parliament in the acceptance of the European Communities Bill in 1972? The electorate was misled by the hon. Gentleman and his friends in 1975, and they would no doubt go on misleading them again if there were a similar opportunity.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
Can the hon. Gentleman justify a view in which he seems to be saying that he would prefer to give influence and authority to a British Conservative than to a German Socialist in determining legislation?
§ Mr. Deakins
The only way that one could justify giving authority to anyone from overseas, however linked with us in co-operative agreements, would be as part of a European system of government, which I completely reject. I do not wish to see Britain as part of a federal Europe or any form of European union. However, we shall have these debates in more detail on later amendments. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I simply express my profound and absolute disagreement with him. He is a federalist. There is nothing wrong with that: it is perfectly legal. People should declare themselves rather more than they have done in debates such as this.
I shall say nothing about the growth in the Assembly's power since 1973. In view of the undoubted wish of the Committee to proceed to a vote in a reasonable time on this group of amendments. I shall reserve my remarks on that aspect for the clause stand part debate. Indeed, I shall say little more on the issue of the veto.
Amendments Nos. 43 and 45 relate to the change of name and the retrospective provision in clause 3. The Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been misled by their officials over clause 3. It would have been perfectly possible to deal with the change of name, regardless of what one feels about it—I am utterly opposed to it—without going to the length of introducing retrospective legislation. In effect, clause 3 rewrites history. It will expunge from the records of Britain any reference to a European Assembly. In future, all those references will be changed so that we shall be referring to a European Parliament. That is worthy of a totalitarian Government of the worst possible type—rather like the Communist regimes which continually rewrite histories. Russian history books contain no mention of Trotsky. Secondary legislation passed by the House of Commons in the past 14 or 15 years since we have been a member will contain 514 no reference in future to the European Assembly. I am sure that if it could the Foreign Office would like to rev, rite the history books as well.
I do not see what advantage there is in that. A change could have been brought about perfectly simply by merely saying that, where the word "assembly" occurs in legislation passed up to the date on which the clause comes into force, it shall be taken in future as referring to the European Parliament. It is as simple as that. But the Foreign Office, which is now full of federalists—most of them advising the Minister—is telling the Minister and Parliament in the Bill that we must expunge the word "assembly" from our record. I challenge the Minister when she replies to give me any logical explanation of why this method was chosen rather than the method that I have suggested.
The fact is that the Foreign Office does not like, and has never liked, the idea of an assembly. It has always been responsible for Ministers, including the Prime Minister, from the time that we became a member in 1973. calling it a Parliament when it was still legally an assembly. The Foreign Office did that for its own purposes and it has taken Ministers along with it.
In the referendum campaign in 1975 the Assembly was called an Assembly and not a Parliament. If it had been called a Parliament, as it will be if the Foreign Office and Ministers have their way under this legislation, there might well have been a different outcome to the referendum.
§ Mr. Cash
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that in evidence to the Select Committee on European Legislation on 26 March 1985 my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) said:as is well known, we would not support the federal or quasi-federal interpretation of the concept"—by which he meant the concept of European union. In the light of that comment, can the hon. Gentleman explain how he sees us moving towards a federal or quasi-federal system of government in Europe in the terms that he has expressed it?
§ Mr. Deakins
I apologise to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), because I shall not have time to go into the detail in which I would like to explore this set of amendents. I give him an undertaking that during the debate on European union I shall go into the matter in much more detail, because I shall have more time than is available to me now.
The co-operation procedure has been the subject of a couple of Select Committee reports in this place and in the House of Lords. In this co-operation procedure there is a great danger not merely to the House of Commons and to the Government, but to the Council as a whole — to other member Governments. At present the Commission can accept or reject amendments passed by the Assembly. It can do that now, so why are we making such a fuss about the change in the co-operation procedure? The answer is that there is a fundamental and major change. In future, the Assembly will act on an absolute majority of all its members. It does not have to do that now when making amendments to Commission proposals and going up to the Council.
That absolute majority will strengthen the Assembly's hand vis-á-vis the Commission. At present the Commission can say that something was passed by a fairly 515 small majority and that it need not bother with it and it can explain its action when it puts forward revised proposals for consideration by the Council. I am talking about legislation. That is an important matter for the House of Commons, because the House is our major institution concerned with legislation. Now we are proposing to introduce a rival.
The Assembly's objections and amendments to Commission proposals will have much greater weight in future if they have to be carried by an absolute majority of the total membership of the Assembly. Like the Assembly, the Commission is basically a federalist-inclined institution, and for that reason it is likely in nearly every case to accept amendments to Commission proposals and to push them up to the Council under the co-operation procedure. That will mean a combination of the Commission and the Assembly against the Council.
I say to the federalist and pro-European Members who somehow want to see us march towards European and economic and monetary union that they are laying up a lot of trouble for the Community in this new procedure. They will set two of the Community institutions against the third in a way that has not emerged so far.
§ Mr. Forth
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that within what he says about the absolute majority there is a problem for an institution such as a European Parliament in that it has to get the bodies there? Will he accept my word that, from my 'experience of that institution, it is extremely rare for an absolute majority of Members even to attend, never mind for a majority of them to agree on a measure? Strangely enough, one of the safeguards is precisely the indifference or apathy of the members of that institution. I understand what the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) is trying to do, but one could make a similar comment about other legislatures. Will the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) take that factor into account when considering the point?
§ Mr. Deakins
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) for his intervention, because he has experience in these matters and I have not. Once this Single European Act has been ratified and passed into law by all the member Governments there will be a major change. The apathy in the European Assembly will not continue for long once there is a prospect of exerting real power over Community institutions.
I should like to turn to amendment No. 13 which is also in my name. The Assembly would be given veto powers not merely over new members, but over new associate members. At the start of our proceedings I raised a point of order to the effect that this was probably an important feature because it imposes a limitation on the royal prerogative. At the moment, in association with other Governments, our Government can make treaties and those matters eventually come to the House of Commons.
The royal prerogative will be substantially affected by the new power given to the Assembly. It would be perfectly possible for the royal prerogative to be exercised in giving power to Ministers to sign a treaty and for all 12 of the appropriate Ministers in the Community to agree, but by a majority the Assembly could say no. That would diminish the royal prerogative. Whatever one thinks about its exercise, perhaps the Minister can tell us if the Queen's 516 consent has been notified to this diminution of an ancient right of the monarch and the Crown and the Queen in Parliament.
We are laying up a lot of trouble for the Community and its further development by giving to the Assembly the power of veto on new members and new associate members. At present, new members and new associate members have to be approved not merely by national Governments, but, certainly in the case of Britain, by Parliament as well.
One can easily foresee a clash between the elected representatives here, who give their assent to the admission of a new member country or to a new associate member following an agreement worked out by the Council of Ministers, and the Assembly, which will be able to claim to represent in some ways the people of Britain. It might arrive at a totally different conclusion. One can see a lot of clashes ahead between directly elected United Kingdom Members in the Assembly and those sitting in this Parliament.
I know where my loyalties lie, and I hope that the loyalties of all hon. Members lie in the same place. In any clash we should put the interests, the views and the decisions of this Parliament over and above decisions taken by the Assembly. There will undoubtedly be some constitutional crises in the years ahead. I do not look forward to that. There will be many troubles in the Community, and we will not wish to burden ourselves with such troubles. That is another reason for opposing this accretion of powers to the European Assembly. In view of the points that I have made, I asked the Chairman if there could be a separate vote on amendment No. 13. Perhaps that can be considered when the time comes to vote.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
I shall be brief, because I understand that we hope to close fairly soon the proceedings on this part of the Bill. Because I shall be brief, I hope that no hon. Member will think that I do not care deeply about what I am saying or that I have not given a lot of thought to my speech.
I am anxious about the proposal to remove the power of veto, because at the time of the referendum the people of Scotland were given a clear pledge that the United Kingdom would retain the power of the veto. We shall be discussing that matter later. At the time of the referendum there was no qualification to that pledge, nor was there any suggestion that this could or would be changed. That is important. Those hon. Members who argue that this will not undermine our national sovereignty will have to answer to the people of the United Kingdom and tell them why at the time of the referendum they stressed the importance of this aspect, while now they are trying to suggest that this is quite a harmless little Bill and will not change things very much. They say that it is all a bit of a bore and do not undertand why we should spend time on it. It is neither a harmless little Bill nor a bit of a bore.
This directly elected body will have its name changed if we accept the Bill. We are led to believe that the reason for the name change, and probably the reason for the retrospective nature of the name change, is that it has called itself a Parliament from the beginning anyway. It is argued that if through use and custom it has called itself a Parliament we should accept that by legislation. I find that argument fascinating. I remind hon. Members that I 517 am a Scot and a Scottish Conservative. It has been suggested by Opposition Members that we are a beleagured minority.
§ Mr. Walker
We are in one sense, because we are the one party that is opposed to a Scottish Assembly, and hon. Members should note the phrase Scottish Assembly. Opposition Members may laugh, but I do not find it amusing at all. I was a Unionist before I was a Conservative. Unionism and union mean something to me. I have fought on that platform during the whole of my adult life, and that is not a matter for jest. The Union is fundamental to me. The Union of our Parliament and of our Crown is steeped in history and the Scots do not take lightly those who treat it with levity.
§ Mr. George Robertson
How strong a Unionist was the hon. Gentleman when, in his own city of Perth, the then leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), made the famous declaration that the Conservative party was in favour of devolution and of a directly elected Assembly for Scotland?
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman must know that I have never embraced the nonsense of so-called devolution. When my then leader espoused it, as he did on the occasion to which the hon. Gentleman referred, he lost me as a friend. My right hon. Friend's place in the Chamber is directly in front of me and he might wonder why I murmur behind his back.
The Scots Conservatives who are opposed to having a Scottish Assembly, in whatever form, realise, recognise and understand that all Assemblies, call them what one will— I take up the remarks of the former leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who made a most interesting speech— will attempt to embrace more and more power. All Assemblies will want to do that and we should not be surprised that that is their wish.
Liberal and SDP Members talk about narrowness when someone is not prepared to embrace the European structure and wants to change and improve it by moving to some sort of federalism. Yet these Members are advocating the introduction of an Assembly for Scotland, with all that that means. Indeed, they are giving support to the change in name from Assembly to Parliament. We have heard their spokesman, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), explain his reasons for supporting the change. I find it rather odd that the language which he uses when talking about Europe is different from that which he uses when talking about Scotland. There is nothing narrow and national about being a Scot or arguing that we should have a Scottish Assembly, as the hon. Gentleman says. Yet those of us who are opposed to wanting an Assembly in Europe are accused by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends of being narrow and national. I have never understood the differentiation between Europe and Scotland. The demand for a Scottish Assembly seems to me to be fairly narrow and national.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is no contradiction between arguing for powers that are appropriate at a European level and powers that are appropriate at a Scottish level? Surely the argument is 518 complementary. As we are on this subject, perhaps he will explain what quasi-federalism is. It is something that I have never understood.
§ Mr. Walker
The issue is what the hon. Gentleman thinks is appropriate and what I think is appropriate in terms of powers. That is where we shall probably differ. There is no need to explore the matter further. I believe in the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom being the voice of the people of the United Kingdom.
More and more of my constituents are growing increasingly concerned at what we are proposing through this legislation. It can be seen that we are proposing that the Parliament, as it will be called, will have powers that can block the Council's proposals unless the Council disagrees unanimously with the Parliament's view. I would suggest that such unanimity rather unlikely when there are 12 member states including Italy, which favours extra-parliamentary power and rarely disagrees with the Parliament. My constituents are asking, perfectly properly in my view, "Why is it that we have to move along this route when Europe as presently structured and organised is not working effectively?" My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) spoke on this issue at some length and I shall not bore the Committee by taking it up again.
I have received a lengthy letter—it runs to about 20 pages—from an elector. It contains many questions, and some of them I cannot answer. I do not know the answers and I am hoping that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be able to provide them. One question is as follows:The solemn Privy Council Oath provides for those taking it to: (a) Be a true and faithful servant of the Crown. (b) Not to countenance any word or deed against the Sovereign, but to withstand the same to the utmost of their power, and to reveal it to the Sovereign. (c) To bear"—this is the paragraph that bothers me—faith and allegiance to the Crown, and to defend its jurisdiction and powers against all foreign princes, persons, prelates, States or potentates.Given the royal prerogative and paragraph (c), one wonders whether our Privy Councillors are aware that the Bill will give powers to the European Assembly—
§ Mr. Walker
I am not talking about potentates. Ih the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) wishes to use that term, he may do so.
I want to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State give a clear and unequivocal answer to the elector who has gone to enormous trouble to write the letter from which I have quoted. I am staggered by the number of questions that he has asked. I have not repeated them all, because if I were to do so it would take the whole evening. I have selected the question which I have read because I do not know the answer to it. After the Bill is enacted, will Privy Councillors be breaking their oath if at some future date we determine a policy on behalf of the monarch which is overturned by the European Assembly or Parliament?
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will consult his Conservative colleagues in Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), who was chairman of the British Labour group in Europe, can testify that he led the only 519 group in the Assembly that opposed the extension of the Assembly's powers. When I was a Vice-President of the Assembly, I sat on the Institutional Committee that was chaired by Mauro Ferri. The main Rapporteur was Altiero Spinelli. The Conservative members of that committee sold Britain down the river time and time again. They are doing that constantly in Europe to conform with and to obtain the votes of their lobby in Britain, which is to he found in the farming community in particular.
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that I consult my hon. Friends who are members of the European Assembly. The fact that I consult them does not mean that we reach agreement. One of the problems with the present structure in Europe is the difficulty that is experienced in reaching agreement. When we come to matters of constitutional change that are of importance to the United Kingdom, the result very often is a collection of strange bedfellows. I have never been ashamed of the group with which I keep company, whoever and whatever its members may be. I am content that the group is defending our unitary Parliament, the position of our monarch and all the things about which I care deeply.
§ Mr. Spearing
I shall be as brief as the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), whose remarks I wish to take up. The hon. Gentleman has hit on one of the central dilemmas. The power of the monarch and of the Crown is affected because legislation which comes direct from Brussels does not pass through the House and does not receive Royal Assent. That means that the Crown is bypassed. It is possible that years ago Privy Councillors operating in this area would have been had under the law of praemunire but often people do not understand what is going on.
The irony is that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, having opened the conference centre in her name on the other side of Parliament square—
§ Mr. Spearing
Account should always be taken of Scots susceptibilities, as they were in 1688.
It is ironic that the conference centre is going to be used for many discussions that will not be public. In effect, that will undermine the rights and privileges of this Parliament and of the Crown, especially in the next six months.
§ Mr. Dykes
The hon. Member had to give way because he must understand that his assertion is thoroughly irresponsible. As Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee on the EEC, he must consider carefully before making such reckless and irresponsible statements.
When Britain joined the European Community it was a treaty decision and all such treaty accessions have a limiting effect on our sovereignty. The idea that the monarch's intrinsic, residual powers are in any way reduced by the whole process is thoroughly misleading. All legislation of the Community, either by treaty accession or by direct examination—in this place through directives —is, ipso facto, approved by the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Spearing
I must apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but that was not the reason why I gave way. He is quite 520 right about my susceptibilities on the matter of representing the Scrutiny Committee. I am sure the hon. Member would agree — the Minister has given me an answer today that a Gymnic series of meetings are taking place in that building. Any Council decisions taken in Brussels—they are discussed informally outside—which are regulations, which he and I study each week, do not require, by legislation, Royal Assent. He is giving his assent to me in that respect, but in that respect the Crown is completely bypassed. I think that is a matter of fact, from which he cannot dissent. In the light of that, I would invite him—I am aware we are in Committee and I am sorry to divert it—to answer that point. If he can deny that the Crown is being bypassed by direct legislation from Brussels, whether Parliament is involved or not, he should say so. I believe that to be the fact. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) has not risen, although I would like to debate this with him, so I shall proceed.
§ Mr. Spearing
No, I must proceed.
The question we have before us today is whether or not the Assembly/Parliament will have more power. I refer— as a sort of test — to the statement made by the Foreign Secretary on 23 April, 1986:The new co-operation procedure will produce a greater awareness in council and Parliament of each other's views, but it will make no decisive change in the institutional balance because the last word remains with the Council."—[Official Report, 23 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 322.]That is the text I wish to pursue, because I believe that even the Foreign Secretary is unaware of the difficulties which will ensue. The words which the right hon. and learned Gentleman used were carefully drafted, especially the word "decisive". On narrow grounds—the Minister will know what I mean—the Foreign Secretary is correct because, in theory, the Council may have the last word.
On 7 May, the Minister and I had some discussions about this in a public Select Committee and we had a slight misunderstanding about the matter. The Minister was right because, in procedural terms, the Council does have the final say.
§ Mr. Spearing
The point is that the Council has a final say in entirely different circumstances. I invite the Minister to intervene at any time and say whether I have got this wrong.
At the moment, the Commission has to take account only of the opinion of the Assembly/Parliament. I call it that for convenience. It does not have to take account of anything it says. In those articles and legislation subject to the new procedure—of course, it is not the whole of the treaty of Rome — the Commission must take account, first of all, of the fact that it can get a majority through the Council and, secondly, that the Assembly may knock it back by an absolute majority. Therefore, before it starts to present its proposals to the Council, the Commission is in a new ball game.
As long as the majority of the Council agrees, the Commission can get legislation through, but it must be sure that the legislation will not be knocked back by a majority of the Assembly. As the parliamentary draftsmen, Whips and civil servants are constrained by the majority in this House, so the draftsmen of the Commission — before it gets going— will have to take account of the new constitution.
521 Certain legislation is subject to this second round procedure—it has not been described as such, but it is the second round. The answer I received from the Minister today is important as it relates to what constitutes the common position of the Council. Until now, everybody has said that the Council comes to a decision and makes its common position on legislation known.
The Minister stated:The Council's common position will be determined by the member states in accordance with the relevant Treaty article as amended by the Single European Act. The common position will be drafted following discussion in the Council. We shall, as now, play our full part in these discussions and in establishing the common position which will be conveyed to the European Parliament by means of a Presidency communication containing the text of the common position.In other words, the Council's view will not just be on the legislation as such; it will be on the legislation accompanied by a common position. New article 149 means that the European Parliament can propose amendments. Subsection (d) states that the Commissionshall, within a period of one month, re-examine the proposal on the basis of which the Council adopted its common position, by taking into account the amendments proposed by the European Parliament.Therefore, the Commission can either change the proposal or, if it wishes, completely adopt it. Many hon. Members have suggested that the latter is the more likely procedure.
Subsection (e) states:The Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall adopt the proposal as re-examined by the Commission.Therefore, if the Assembly or Parliament, by an absolute majority, inserts amendments, which it is entitled to do, and the Commission adopts them, which it is entitled to do, the Council can adopt them by a complete qualifying majority. That means that even two member states cannot block the Council. As the Minister has not interrupted me, I assume that she gives her assent to this procedure.
§ Mr. Spearing
The hon. Lady shakes her head; that is signally unfortunate, because I had invited her to interrupt at any stage if I had got it wrong. These are vital matters. I refer again to the phrase used by the Foreign Secretary:it will make no decisive change in the institutional balance" —(Official Report, 23 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 322.]It might not be decisive in the strict adjectival sense, but it will certainly be a decisive change in the balance. It is true that the Council can assert itself by unanimity, but that is a very different procedure from the present one. What the Foreign Secretary has done — I make no apology for saying so—is what he did many years ago in debate with my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), then the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. In those debates the right hon. and learned Gentleman used phrases which implied one thing but which, on examination, meant something else.
It is clear that the balance of institutional influence and power will be changed, although the constitutional mechanisms for decisions may remain. Any other claim by the Government, the Minister or the Foreign Secretary is misleading the House and the British people. That is not just my view. I conclude by repeating the view of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in its conclusions in paragraph 50(ix): 522Although the new 'co-operation procedure' leaves the final decision-taking power with the Council, there is, in our view, little doubt that if the Commission and the Assembly are in accord in respect of any particular item of legislation, the freedom of the Council to adopt a different position will be inevitably circumscribed as a result … the new procedures will therefore undoubtedly reduce the ability of individual Member States to pursue their national interests to the point of actually obstructing the progress of new legislation regarded as acceptable by the majority".It is for those reasons that I support the amendment.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that we are discussing an important change in the balance of power. If this admirable debate has done nothing else, it has convinced the Committee and, I hope, the country that we are discussing matters of considerable significance. We have also flushed out the Government, who have been trying to pass off the Bill as some minor trivial amendment matter.
Only a few weeks ago, on 5 March 1986, my hon. Friend the Minister said, as reported in column 338 of the Official Report, that the changes that we are discussing are "modest in their legal scope". On Second Reading, she dismissed the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who had suggested that the changes meant an enhanced role for the European Parliament. She said:That is a dangerous fallacy. That is not the position; life is not a zero sum game."—[Official Report, 23 April 1986; Vol. 96. c. 390.]Whatever that hideous piece of Euro-jargon means, it probably characterises the effort made by some of the other Euro fanatics in the House to imply that we are discussing minute and trivial points.
I rather liked the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) when he said that the Bill should be renamed the European Concealment of Intentions Bill. However, I could have retorted that his speech might have been renamed the European Recantation of Past Mistakes speech. After all, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) elicited from him the confession that he had felt it necessary to vote in favour of the Bill that originally set up the European Assembly.
§ Mr. Aitken
It is in any case the legislation that is the father of this present mistake.
In 1978 I was one of that relatively small band of hon. Members who, along with the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), opposed that original legislation, because I felt in my bones—it did not need the wisdom of Solomon to do so—that it would be only a matter of time before directly elected members of the European Assembly became dissatisfied with its impotent and advisory status, and would come back seeking the red meat of legislative power. This legislation begins to realise those fears. The Bill's provisions mark a significant opening of the door towards legislative power for the European Assembly.
I have three points to make about the new legislative power of the European Assembly. The method is described with the somewhat euphemistic label "the co-operation procedure". It sounds harmless enough, but in reality the 523 co-operation procedure is a Trojan horse which will inflict many a painful defeat on Britain's national interests. It will begin the long-term decline of this Parliament's sovereign powers. The co-operation procedure means that the Council of Ministers will in future have to adopt certain legislation in co-operation with the European Assembly. The European Assembly can amend such legislation, and in order to overrule those amendments the Council of Ministers must reject them unanimously.
It is, of course, obvious that unanimity in the Council of Ministers is most unlikely. Apart from the endemic desire to divide and split within the Council of Ministers, the Italians are great supporters of more power for the European Parliament or Assembly, and rarely disagree with it. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) intervened with some philosophical thoughts on why the Italians feel that way. I happen to take a different view, which is that the political heirs of Cavour and Mazzini, who united a rabble of minor states, principalities and duchies less than 150 years ago, when there was no real tradition of democratic assemblies of Parliament, do not feel as some of us do, in our bones, for the traditions of a Parliament that has governed our country since the days of Simon de Montfort.
We care about parliamentary sovereignty. We understand it, and we do not want to see its powers eroded. We do not want to see this House being downgraded to the status of a county council.
§ Mr. Cash
Some misleading analogies have been drawn between the convergence of the city states and principalities of Germany or Italy and what is going on in any move towards a federal Europe. There is a world of difference between combining nations that each has a separate and deep heritage and combining countries that have a common heritage. There is a world of difference between a pan-European convergence towards federalism and a convergence within each of the existing countries, as happened in the case of Germany or Italy. It is important to emphasise that point.
§ Mr. Aitken
That is a profound point, and I basically agree with it. In the jargon of the European Parliament or Assembly, it is easy to forget some of the big differences of heritage and tradition. There is a danger that any fears are brushed aside as exaggerations. In this case, it is said that everything will be all right because the Council of Ministers will still have the last word in disputes with the European Parliament or Assembly. Under the Bill, it is technically true that if the almost inevitable squabble occurs, the European Parliament's amendments can be deemed eventually not to have been adopted. It would be a sort of lobster quadrille, with two steps forward and two steps backwards and not much happening.
That is the optimist's view of how small these changes will be. But once the legislation has been enacted the European Assembly or Parliament will have much more muscle. It will be able to put immense pressure on the Council of Ministers to bow to its wishes. It is bound to use that muscle to push its power down the road of greater legislative influence. Indeed, the warning signs have already gone up in big clear letters. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) said in 524 his admirable speech, the European Assembly passed a resolution on 16 January 1986 which is worth quoting. It declared that the European Assembly wouldexploit to the very limit the possibilities offered by the single Act and instructs its Political Affairs Committee to ensure that this is done; reaffirms that it will pursue its endeavours in the spirit of its draft treaty of Union with the aim of a genuine political and economic union between the states of the Community.There could not be a clearer sign than that.
Amendment No. 3 seeks to remove the new power given in article 8, which enables the European Parliament to veto new members of the Community or new association agreements with third countries. I do not like that power, because it effectively allows it to blackball new candidates for the Common Market. Turkey is a prime candidate for admission to the EEC. A lot of wrangling is already going on. Greece is battling to exclude Turkey, for reasons that have little to do with the interests of the Community. As a result, it is hard for Turkey even to obtain association status, let alone entry to the Common Market. We have moved a long way from the days when Greece tried to seek entry to NATO. There is a nice story that, when Mr. Attlee was in charge of the Cabinet, a long discussion took place. At the end of the discussion Attlee said, "I fought against the Turks myself at Gallipoli — good fighters, rather have them on our side than against us"—and they were in NATO. It will be much worse if this goes through. Already we are hearing talk of a southern alliance of some of the farming states of Portugal, Greece and Spain. They could easily unite in a parliamentary sense to block the entry of Turkey. I am, therefore, against this power being granted.
On the nomenclature, whether we should call the organisation an assembly or change its name to a parliament, I was fascinated by, and agreed with, the rather romantic, almost mystical, musings of the right hon. Member for South Down when he enlarged on the true meaning and nature of a parliament. Coming down to something that we would all understand, when we call ourselves Members of Parliament and with some pride put "MP" after our names, we all know what we are talking about, and our fellow countrymen know what it means, whereas the letters MEP mean almost nothing in terms of clear understanding. I have always thought that the "E" stood for emptiness.
The danger, I believe, is that for the first time we are here giving the possibility of real meaning and real power, and an MEP will be somebody who can do something in terms of legislative power that will change the status of this sovereign Parliament. That is why I am against it.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who seems to have left the Chamber momentarily, was critical of, and appeared to ridicule, the phrase "a self-recognising entity" when applied to the British people. I think that that is an extremely good description. We all recognise ourselves as being members of a political unit. The proof of that is when there is an election. Sometimes we win elections and sometimes we lose. Losing is painful, but we do not question it. We accept that we are members of a political unit and that we have lost, and we hope that we shall win next time. We accept it, even though we consider that the policies of the party that has defeated us are damaging to 525 our interests because that is the democratic wish and decision of the political entity to which we belong. It is a question of loyalty.
I wonder whether that loyalty and the recognition of entity could conceivably be transferred to some great amorphous group of a dozen nations if an assembly or parliament not elected by us or removable by us were to carry out policies that we thought were damaging to us. As one hon. Member said, if we take this view, does it mean that we are superior to other nations? Of course it does not. I am certain that the French see themselves as a recognisable entity, but I do not think that the French would transfer those feelings of loyalty to this other body.
The first reason why I wish to support the amendments is that the Single European Act, in its preamble, states:the European Parliament, elected by universal suffrage, is an indispensable means of expressionof the wish of the people of Europe. That is not true. Why should we be invited to support a statement that is apparently untrue? If it were indispensable, people would have voted in the election. What proportion of British people voted in the European Assembly elections? I think it was less than one quarter. I am certain that in Newham many voters have never heard of the so-called European Assembly, they are not interested in it, and did not vote for it. The idea that it is an indispensable means of expression is nonsense.
I do not think that the so-called European Parliament will ever be a focus of the loyalty of the British people. We were invited to give it extra powers. Where will those powers come from? They cannot be conjured out of thin air. If the European Parliament is to have extra powers, they have to come from us. We will have fewer powers in the Westminster Parliament, as will be the case in the other national Parliaments in the Community. That is bad, not because it is taking away powers from us as individuals, but because it is taking away the rights of the people of this country, exercised through us. That is what is being undermined. This institution, Assembly, or so-called Parliament is not elected by us or removable by us. As powers leave us to go to that Assembly, we should become something rather like a county council with limited delegated functions. We would be transferring powers to untried institutions outside this country beyond our control and not answerable to us.
Our political freedom and liberties will be undermined. Our sovereignty will be damaged. I know that many people think that it is old-fashioned to use the word sovereignty and that it is somehow a reactionary idea. I do not accept that. This country gave sovereignty to all the ex-colonies of the British Empire—it was then held to be a very progressive thing to do. Now we are being asked to give up our own. Sovereignty is the right of people to run their own country in their own way. It is the right to democratic parliamentary self-government. There is nothing reactionary about that. It is the most precious possession that we have. Ask those countries that do not have it and they will testify to how valuable democratic parliamentary self-government is.
Our present liberties and freedoms have been fought for and achieved by the struggles of our forefathers going back to Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Chartists, the Reform Bill and women's suffrage. We have inherited these rights and liberties as Members of this Parliament.
526 We are the custodians of those rights and liberties. We are responsible for handing them on to future generations We certainly have no mandate to surrender or abandon these freedoms to institutions outside this country, not elected by us and not responsible to us, and I do not think we would be forgiven if we did so.
What we should be doing is dispersing the institutions of government to the regions, bringing them closer to ordinary people, making them more responsible to ordinary people, and encouraging the participation of ordinary people. However, this is a giant stride in the opposite direction, making the institutions more distant, less representative and more inhuman. It would be a severe blow to our parliamentary democracy. I agree that in future, if constituents come to us to complain about this or that, we will have to say, "It is no good coming to us, you must go and see Herr somebody or Senor somebody on the continent because the powers are there." People come here to lobby us. I sometimes feel a little cynical about that. What do they think they are achieving by lobbying us? But it is right and proper that they do so. Think of the situation if they felt that it was not worth coming to the British Parliament. Where would they go?
Matters will be decided, not here in the sovereign Parliament of Westminster, but in Brussels or Strasbourg. Is that healthy or right, or the road we want to go along? I am certain that it is not. It is not a point of view that I support.
§ Mr. Marlow
I wish to say a few words first about amendment No. 3, which seeks to delete from the Bill the power that will be given to the European Assembly, or Parliament, to veto the application of new members to the European Community. If each and every country, national Government and Parliament in the Community wishes another country to join the European Community, why should the European Assembly, or Parliament, have any status or view on the issue? My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) suggested that it would have a black ball power. I think that it might he more sinister than that. It would give the power of blackmail to the European Assembly. It would allow it to say, "Yes, you may all want it, but we do not want it. We will agree to what you want, provided that you give us something that we want." That is why, in a nutshell, I oppose the granting of this power.
We are debating a Bill which the Government said they did not want and which the Prime Minister said was unnecessary. If the House were to accept these amendments, I believe that we should be doing the Government a service. The Government do not want the Bill, and the House does not want the Bill. Let us throw it out.
The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), will tell the House about the advantages that the Bill will confer. She may be able to persuade the House that it should accept the Bill without these amendments. Let us wait to hear what she has to say. The treaty was ratified by this Government and the other Governments in the Community. I am sure that the Government will accept the will of the House. If the House wishes to delete various aspects of the Bill, I believe that the Government will be quite content for that to happen. The powers that are being taken away are not the powers of the Government, but the powers of this House. Therefore, it is this House that should decide.
527 I take as my text some quotations from the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities:Any enhancement of the importance of the European Parliament will tend to shift the balance of Parliamentary responsibility from the Member States to Strasbourg …the United Kingdom Parliament exercises no control over Community legislation other than through the voice and vote of United Kingdom Ministers in the Council of Ministers…any weakening of the power of United Kingdom Ministers is felt equally by the United Kingdom Parliament…The powers of the United Kingdom Parliament will be weakened by the Single European Act.The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) referred to the referendum. There was no debate or discussion then about weakening the powers of this House,and there was nothing in the Queen's Speech about bringing before the House a Bill to reduce the powers of this House. There has been no suggestion that because a referendum was held when we joined the Community another referendum should be held on this massive change in the powers of this House compared with the powers of the Assembly. The Government have not put the case before the public. They have not gone to the public, in glorious technicolour, and said, "Yes, there will be a change in the powers of the House of Commons and the powers of your Parliament will be reduced." That has not been said, loud and clear, and it is up to Back Benchers, as the Government are not doing it, to say it.
The most important function of this House is to secure democratic control and accountability. The amendments would secure democratic control. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who speaks for the Liberal party on these matters, said that nothing happens in this House, that we control nothing, that this is an elective dictatorship and that this House does not matter, so why should it matter if these powers are given to the European Assembly?
In a previous Session of this Parliament the Government introduced a Bill which abolished the metropolitan counties. We decided that those creatures of this Parliament should be done away with. It was a major Bill and there were major debates upon it. There was a Second Reading, a Committee stage, part of which took place on the Floor of the House, a Report stage and a Third Reading. The Bill went to another place. Major amendments were made to the Bill. It was a major constitutional issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) looked upon it as the greatest constitutional issue of the day. Where is he now?
We decided, within our powers, to do away with those institutions—those creatures of this House. This Bill takes powers away from both the British people and this House and gives them to the European Assembly. It increases the power, role and significance of the Commission, the European Court of Justice and other countries within the European Community — small countries which have votes, in majority voting, which are beyond the relevance of their size. Is this not a big constitutional issue? If the Local Government Bill was an issue of major constitutional significance, what is this? That Bill took up weeks and months of parliamentary time. This much more significant Bill is expected to go through the House virtually on the nod. The heritage of 528 our people and the power and influence of this nation's democracy are being cast on one side in three or four short parliamentary days.
The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) waxed eloquent when he told us about the distinction between a Parliament and an Assembly. He pointed out that there is a difference between a Parliament and an Assembly. We know that there is a difference between a Parliament and an Assembly, because when the European Assembly was established the first thing that it sought to do was to call itself a Parliament. It arrogated unto itself a title that had not been given to it, because it knew that that title had greater significance, and by arrogating that title to itself it knew that it would have more power.
The European Assembly, or Parliament, has a very important role to play. European legislation is very complex. It is formulated by the Commission. The Assembly, or Parliament, is co-located with the Commission. It knows the Commissioners and it works alongside the Commission building. During the formulation of Community legislation the Assembly, or Parliament, exercises a valuable and worthwhile influence. That is right and proper. However, the Assembly, or Parliament, also has ambition. If we remember our "Julius Caesar", Brutus and his colleagues "did" Julius Caesar, not because they were worried about his role or about whether he was doing his job, but because he became ambitious. That is what this House should be worried about. We know what has happened in the past. If we pass this Bill, do we know what will happen in the future?
Let us concern ourselves with the democratic control that is exercised by this House. The European constitution is different, complex and developing. We are unaware of so many things that are going on, and so many things are set out in such a way that we are expected and supposed to be unaware of them. People do not want us to know what is happening. They want a fait accompli. They want things to be forced upon us that we cannot control.
How will the Bill, without these amendments, affect our democratic control? First, it will give more power to the Assembly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it".]. Hon Members on the Opposition Front Bench think that this issue is of such small significance that time is important and that we should wrap up the debate, but this is one of the most significant issues that has been discussed and debated on the Floor of this House. I am sorry that in the position of responsibility that he holds the hon. Member for Motherwell. North (Mr. Hamilton) does not understand that.
Any institution assesses an issue in various ways, as we do — Left versus Right, special interests and regional differences—but the Assembly has another ingredient. It is concerned simply for itself. It is concerned for its own power. The Assembly may be democratically elected, but on certain issues the only decision that it will make will be based on whether it enhances the prestige, reputation, power and significance of the European Assembly. Is that democratic?
We have already discovered this week that the European Court of Justice can make decisions about social payments made by individual nation states within the Community. We never anticipated that. As we increase the powers of the other institutions within the Community, we 529 shall also increase the powers of the European Court of Justice. Laws will be made and decisions taken by this politic court, not by our political forum.
The preamble to the Act says that it will:transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union.This political court will use the preamble in making its decisions, over which we shall have no power, and to enforce them and move us towards European union. As many hon. Members have said, if the powers of the Commission and the Assembly are increased, our Ministers will have their powers reduced.
With regard to majority voting, hon. Members have not noted so far that we shall have 10 votes within the majority voting system, whereas Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Ireland taken together will have 28 votes. Yet their populations are smaller than ours. Every Irish citizen has five times as many votes in that institution as every British citizen. Is that democracy and fairness? All those small countries together can block measures going through the Community. We cannot do so, with a greater population. We and Germany together, each with our greater populations, cannot block things that they can.
There will be ganging up by the smaller nations, who have always been in favour of federalism, because that is how they achieve influence and power. Those nations will gang up. The institutions of the Community will gang up. What power will our Ministers have then?
My hon. Friend the Minister will be addressing the House very soon. I say to her that our one safeguard is the national veto. My hon. Friend owes it to the House to explain just how secure that veto will be under the new powers. My hon. Friend owes it to the House to tell us what influence the European Court of Justice will have under these arrangements on our national power of veto within the European Community.
We are being asked tonight to give more powers to the European Assembly — that tower of Babel. The only reports that we get from it deal with how its members wish to spend more public money for their personal and private extravagance. We are being asked to give more power to the institutions of the European Community. How have they used that power so far? What has happened to the financial mechanism that was to keep expenditure under control? What has happened to the common agricultural policy, which was taking 60 per cent. of Community expenditure when we joined? We were promised that it would take 40 per cent. of the budget, but now it takes 80 per cent. How can we trust them to make our laws and look after the interests of this country?
This is an important constitutional issue and I hope that hon. Members will support the amendments.
§ Mrs. Chalker
For the sake of right hon. and hon. Members—I understand the desire of the Committee to have two votes on the amendment — I shall draw together these issues as clearly, factually and speedily as I can. I shall not touch on issues that do not arise from the amendments.
In respect of the co-operation procedure between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which is covered by amendment No. 2, it may help the Committee if I explain again what is involved. There have been many wild and factually incorrect assertions. Therefore, I shall tell the Committee exactly what is involved.
530 The European Parliament already has the right to be consulted under some 17 articles of the treaty. The Single European Act provides in chapter II for 10 articles— five in the EEC treaty and five new ones—where the procedure will be changed.
The co-operation procedure is designed to enable the Parliament to make its views known, and for the Council to take account of them before positions are set in concrete. The 10 articles to which I have referred are mostly measures affecting the internal market. Under the 10 articles, when a proposal goes to the Council, it will discuss it and adopt a common position. Thereafter, if the European Parliament votes for amendments to the proposal by an absolute majority of all its members, then both the Council and the Commission will have to take account of those amendments.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) has said, it is highly unlikely that every Member will be there, given the performance of that Parliament to date. There does indeed have to be an absolute majority of all the members. Where the Commission agrees to change its proposal to accommodate the Parliament's amendments, then, as now—and I say this twice over — the Council can further change the Commission's proposal unanimously. It is for the Council to do so acting unanimously.
Where the Council accepts the revised proposal, then, as now, it will vote according to the relevant article of the treaty. That would be done not by unanimity, but by qualified majority. However, if the European Parliament rejects altogether the common position of the Council, which it can do only by absolute majority, the Council can still adopt the proposal unanimously. At present. that is required for many of the Council acts, such as those under article 100.
During the debate, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have expressed the fear of an alliance between the Commission and the European Parliament, or that. the Parliament will reject the Council's common position and that it will then be difficult to achieve the unanimity required to push the proposal through, especially if there is an alliance between one member state and the European Parliament.
Were that to happen, we should he no worse off than we are now with the current requirement for unanimity that some hon. Members wish to retain. In practice, I cannot see that that will be a real risk. For a start, to reject or amend a proposal, the Parliament will have to muster an absolute majority of all its members—260 out of the 518. In practice, very few proposals before the European Parliament command an absolute majority in favour.
Secondly, we are talking about proposals that will have originated with the Commission and on which Parliament will have already given an opinion. Unless the Council has changed the Commission's proposal out of all recognition —which it can do only unanimously under the existing treaty rules—then the Parliament will be looking at a proposal that may already reflect its view. It is much more likely that the Parliament will propose amendments rather than reject proposals altogether. Where it proposes amendments, the position remains as it is now, as I have explained.
However, if the Commission and the Council have laboured hard on a proposal that can command majority support among member states, the Commission will not lightly accept amendments that could destroy its majority 531 and lead to a proposal lapsing through lack of support. In this context, it is important to remember that the Council is under no obligation whatsoever to accept Parliament's amendments. There is no question of those amendments going through unless the Council votes against them unanimously. They go through only if there is a qualified majority in favour of them. If there is no qualified majority, the proposal will lapse after three months. That applies only under those articles that require a qualified majority.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I have been very patient throughout the debate, and I am reaching the end of my remarks.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The European Parliament is in a position to influence proposals, and that position is clarified by the Single European Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) asked what would happen in the event of a dispute between the Commission and the Parliament and who would be the arbiter. My right hon. Friend will have appreciated from my account of the co-operation procedure that no arbiter is needed. The Council can take its decision whether or not the Commission and the European Parliament disagree. After one month the Council can act whether or not the Commission has reacted to the opinion of the European Parliament. That is the exact position.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) spoke about the three main thrusts of the debate, although it was very early in the debate. I have written, as hon. Members have already quoted, on the issue of scrutiny; and the Government have, as the hon. Gentleman knows, accepted the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee on improved arrangements for scrutiny.
§ Mr. Spearing
I appreciate the careful drafting and words that the hon. Lady has just used. However, I do not think that anything that she has said is incompatible with what I quite carefully said earlier. If she is challenging what I have said, would she say so now or perhaps look at the draft and let me know by letter? The hon. Lady is trying to say that nothing has changed. If it has not changed, why is clause 3(4) telling us that there is more power to the Assembly?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I will look through the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I have stated the exact position as clearly as I know how. I shall compare his remarks with what I have said, and, if necessary, write to him. I shall be coming to the hon. Gentleman's latter point shortly.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and other hon. Members were worried about the reduced power of the Council. The power of the Council as the decision-taking body in the Community remains as before. The Council will have the last word on all decisions, and it is in no way bound to accept amendments proposed by the European Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton drew attention to the vote in the European Parliament which he said expressed its 532 determination to exploit the new procedures. That vote was 206 to 63, as one hon. Member commented. To have any proposed amendment considered, the European Parliament would have to do a lot better than that. Thereafter, such proposed amendments will not be accepted unless the Commission adopts them as part of its proposal and unless the Council votes to accept them.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley also talked about the Council of Ministers' power to block. The Council can only change a proposal of the Commission by unanimity. There is no change in that. That is exactly as it is at present. We are talking not about co-decision with the European Parliament, but cooperation in areas where we want to see progress, especially the internal market, which is the subject of our next debate, where the European Parliament has consistently voted for progress. That is what we also are seeking to achieve.
There have been many challenges as to why all this is necessary, and it has been said that it is not necessary. I refer my right hon. and hon. Friends to what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Committee, because that was challenged by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. My right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that we had earlier thought progress could be achieved without treaty amendment, but that we had secured our objectives in the limited treaty amendments which we succeeded in negotiating. He said:So this is a way of achieving what is necessary for Britain in a…good way.I would go further. Other hon. Members have said that the Prime Minister should not have been involved. It was the Prime Minister who negotiated the changes to the treaty. She commended them to the House as an important step towards enabling this country to realise more fully the benefits of membership of the European Community. I hope that my hon. Friends who were quoting the Prime Minister in their support of these amendments realise that she has taken their concern into account and come to this conclusion at the end of that consideration.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. It is quite clear that the hon. Lady is not giving way. Hon. Members must resume their seats.
§ Mr. Budgen
On a point of order, Sir Michael. Unless we are able to get to our feet to invite my hon. Friend to give way, we have no opportunity—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. As I said before, the hon. Lady clearly is not going to give way and she has indicated as much. Therefore, hon. Members must resume their seats.
§ Mr. Budgen
Further to that point of order, Sir Michael. Could you tell us how we are to know that my hon. Friend is not giving way? I did not see her give any indication.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I shall now turn to amendment No. 3, to which a number of hon. Members have spoken. That amendment deals with the question of the European Parliament's power over new accessions.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The opinion of the European Parliament is already required on new accessions. Under the new procedure, new accessions will go to the European Parliament for its assent. The consent of this and every other national Parliament in the Community will still be required for new member states to join the Community. Therefore, there is no change in the role of national Parliaments in approving new accessions.
§ Sir Edward du Cann
On a point of order, Mr. Leadbitter. I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend the Minister, but I wonder whether you would give us some assistance. I appreciate that you have only just come into the Chair and did not hear the earlier exchanges. My understanding is that we are in Committee. My understanding of the Committee stage is that it is customary for there to be a good deal of give and take. I know that the Committee wants to make progress, but this is the only opportunity that Back Benchers have of putting questions to my hon. Friend the Minister on matters which are of supreme constitutional importance. We all agree about that. Surely it is in accordance with the best traditions of the House of Commons that if there are doubts the Minister who is replying should give the opportunity for misunderstandings to be rectified. Is that not the normal procedure in Committee?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Ted Leadbitter)
The Chair recognises the traditions of the House of Commons. Plainly, if the hon. Lady or any right hon. or hon. Member indicates that there is no wish to give way, it gives other hon. Members the right to come back when the hon. Lady or other right hon. or hon. Members sit down. In Committee, the traditions of the House are upheld, and the right hon. Gentleman will rise when the hon. Lady has finished.
§ Mr. Budgen
On a point of order, Mr. Leadbitter. I hope that I am not making a sexist remark, but sometimes ladies change their minds. If the Chair assumes complete consistency, it does not give them the right to change their minds in a way which is not known to males.
§ The Temporary Chairman
There is no change of mind. It is traditional in Committee that if a right hon. or hon. Member wishes to rise on the subject matter of the amendment, he is free to do so.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I do not want to upset my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Budgen). I will give him his sexist remark and give way.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
How can the hon. Lady say that the powers of Parliament to agree to the admission of new members are not changed when this Bill gives the European Assembly the right to veto the decisions of national Parliaments? In other words, even if this Parliament. the French Parliament, the Dutch Parliament and all the others agree to Turkey coming in, if the European Assembly says no, then, under this new Bill, and 534 only under this new Bill, it will not happen. Does the Minister accept that that is the position and that there is a fundamental change in power?
§ Mrs. Chalker
The overruling would be by the national Parliaments of the individual countries. Article 237 deals with the accession of new member states. Article 238 deals with association agreements with third countries or groups of countries. Such agreements would be concluded by the Council under those articles of the EEC treaty. That requires the assent of the European Parliament by an absolute majority of its members. It refers not just to those present and voting; it is the 260. At present, under both articles, the European Parliament is consulted, but the Council has no obligation to act. The consultation still takes place without any obligation. The new articles give the right to approve or disapprove new accessions or association agreements.
The Members of the European Parliament are elected by the member states. They are not elected by some foreign body. They are elected by members of the European Community states. That does not change the power of this Parliament, which still has to continue to approve new accessions.
§ Mr. Budgen
My hon. Friend has prayed in aid the support of the Prime Minister. Has not the Prime Minister reluctantly agreed to a package, part of which had the disadvantage of having to agree to the Single European Act? I thought that the Prime Minister believed and hoped that the advantage to this country would be a system of firm financial control. It is not possible to consider that package without explaining to the Committee whether, in my hon. Friend's opinion, the advantage of firm financial control has been achieved. Many Conservative Members believe that the package has been entirely disadvantageous. We have the Single European Act, but the hopes of financial control have proved to be nothing but a dream.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I know how concerned my hon. Friend is about the financial package. I understand his concern because I share it. In budgetary matters we must, and shall, remain within the 1.4 per cent—
§ Mrs. Chalker
I should like to complete my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) referred to a written answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Treasury. He stated:We estimate that the highest rate of VAT contribution for 1986 implied by the Council's Second Reading budget of last December is 1.22 per cent. The actual rates for the year"—this is the part my hon. Friend did not quote—will depend on the outcome of discussions on a new 1986 budget which will begin after the European Court has delivered judgment on the 1986 budget dispute."—[Official Report, 23 June 1986; Vol. 100, c. 531.]My hon. Friend knows that we are awaiting the judgment of the European Court on the 1986 budget. Until then, it will not be clear exactly what the figures are. That is why my hon. Friend the Minister of State could not give my hon. Friend the definitive and final answer he seemed 535 to suggest he should. There will not be an increase in that 1.4 per cent. ceiling before 1988. Any change in that ceiling could be achieved only by the unanimous agreement of all member states. I have said, on behalf of the British Government, that that will not change. Therefore, there will not be unanimous agreement of all member states, and the 1.4 per cent. limit will remain until 1988. To change anything in that period would require unanimous agreement.
I can honestly assure my hon. Friends the Members for Southend, East and for Wolverhampton, South-West that, whilst I share their concern about the budgetary position, we are determined to reduce not only agricultural surpluses but the costs in order to manage within the total budget to which we are committed.
§ Mr. Cash
My hon. Friend and other hon. Members referred to the Prime Minister and her view regarding the concept of federalism. Does my hon. Friend agree that on 5 December 1985 the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear? She said:I do not believe in the concept of a united states of Europe, nor do I believe that it would ever be attainable. The whole history is completely different, so I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that matter. I am constantly saying that I wish that they would talk less about European and political union. The terms are not understood in this country. In so far as they are understood over there, they mean a good deal less than some people over here think they mean.—[ Official Report, 5 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 432.]
§ Mrs. Chalker
My hon. Friend has made a quotation that I intended to use a little later. I am grateful that he has saved me the trouble of doing so. I shall refer to the other amendments, otherwise hon. Members will be—
§ Mrs. Chalker
Mr. Leadbitter, I feel that I have given way as much as other hon. Members wish me to do. What I need to do now is to comment briefly—
§ Mrs. Chalker
My hon. Friend has a very high voice at times. I can hear him over the murmurs of approval for what I have just said.
The benefits of co-operation are to get a better and speedier movement of the things which are necessary, not only for this country but for other countries in the Community. The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) spoke about amendment No. 13 concerning association agreements. The Bill, and through it the Single European Act, gives the European Parliament a new opportunity — I have never said otherwise — to play a constructive role regarding association agreements without diminishing the role of the Westminster Parliament or any other national Parliament. It is most unlikely that the European Parliament would wish to hold up association agreements on which the European Parliament had been consulted, because that would damage the relationships which it is constantly seeking to improve.
This has been a somewhat lengthy debate. The problems which many hon. Members see are very much more matters of their imagination than facts.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow spoke of his anxiety regarding amendment No. 45. There is a good reason for drafting the subsection as it is. It is necessary 536 to ensure that former and present Members of the European Parliament who served while the institution was called an Assembly rather than the European Parliament continue to receive the pensions payable to them under the European Assembly (Pay and Pensions) Act 1979, as amended by the Parliamentary Pensions Act 1984. Without subsection (3), which, in the hon. Gentleman's eyes, is retrospective on the day that subsections (1) and (2) come into force, all the references will be to the Parliament, and the previous service of a representative to the Assembly would not count towards his pension. He would then receive a much lower pension. He would not receive the return for which he had contributed. That is the reason for that wording.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow asked me about the royal prerogative. There is no change in the exercise of the royal prerogative. Any agreements that now require the approval of the House will continue to require that approval in future. We are talking about agreements not between this country alone and another country, but involving the whole Community, and it makes sense for the European Parliament to be involved. Such agreements will still require the approval of every member state in accordance with its constitutional procedures.
Other hon. Members have raised a number of questions and I have tried to cover them, but, in the light of the debate, I cannot see the fallacy that the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) put before us. The Single European Act adds to the opportunity of the European Parliament to play a constructive role. That is what we have all sought. We have sought to move business faster. Because this involves a change in the powers of the European Parliament, the approval of the House is required in accordance with section 6(1) of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978, which provides:No treaty which provides for any increase in the powers of the Assembly shall be ratified by the United Kingdom unless it has been approved by an Act of Parliament.Those changes do not cut across the rights of national Parliaments. The Westminster Parliament, like any other national Parliament, will still have the last word in assenting to new accessions. National Parliaments still have the last word in the Council of Ministers.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I know that the hon. Gentleman could not be here for all of the debate. I do not blame him for that. That is no criticism of him.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The Council of Ministers has the last word.
The subsections which have been debated in the past three and a bit hours bring the term "Parliament", which has been used in official and legal practice, into line with usage since 1962. It would be self-defeating if we were to accept amendment No. 51 or others of the same ilk because we would partially allow in the long title some cases of previous usage to carry on. That would result in confusion. The wording of the Bill has been designed to sweep up all possible references.
I remind the Committee that, in the last and in previous European elections, all parties used the term "European 537 Parliament". We do not want confusion between the two terms, European Parliament and European Assembly. I very much agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on Second Reading, that it isextraordinary that, so long after joining the European Community, we are still arguing about whether the institution should be called an assembly or a parliament."—[Official Report, 23 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 354.]It is not an argument in which the country as a whole has any interest. The organisation is universally known as the European Parliament. It is directly and democratically elected. It does not make legislation, and there is nothing in the Bill which will cause it to make legislation. It therefore makes sense for the treaty to reflect common usage and to change our law to avoid any confusion.
We have had a long debate on these amendments. It has been useful for right hon. and hon. Members to air their views, but I believe that we should now conclude our deliberations. I advise the Committee that none of the amendments in the group is acceptable to the Government.
§ Mr. Marlow
I asked my hon. Friend the Minister whether she would address herself to the Luxembourg compromise and the power of the veto. She said that she was capable of changing her mind and answering questions later. Will she give the Committee the security that the veto will continue to exist and that the Luxembourg compromise will be safe? Will she assure the Committee that, if the Luxembourg compromise is tampered with in future, she will bring the Bill before the House for consideration again?
§ Mr. Budgen
On a point of order, Mr. Leadbitter. I see that a member of the Whips' Office is near you. I hope that you will not allow a vote on this issue until my hon. Friend the Minister has answered the point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). This is a Committee stage. If the Government are not prepared easily and courteously to answer questions put to them, they are bound to suffer the disadvantage that will arise if the Committee does not wish the measure to proceed to a vote. I hope that these points will be very much in your mind when you decide whether to receive the advice from the Whips' Office
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member has made an assumption. I understand why he has made it. There is some anxiety to deal with the business before the Committee in a manner approved and accepted by it. I give the assurance that this Chariman will comply wholly and strictly with the Standing Orders that control the Committee. No one will influence my rulings.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that I said at the beginning that I would concentrate on those amendments that were before the Committee because I believed that that would meet the convenience of the Committee.
The question of the Luxembourg compromise has been raised before, and it is bound to come up in later groups of amendments. The Luxembourg compromise is not a legal rule. It is not affected by the Bill in any way. I therefore believe that we should deal with it in detail at the point at which the matter comes up.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
I rise because, if I understand what my hon. Friend said, she may deal with my contribution later. She has not referred to my speech or to the direct questions that I put to her.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:
§ The Committee divided:. Ayes 132, Noes 202.540
|Division No. 235]||[8.10 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Leighton, Ronald|
|Ashton, Joe||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Barnett, Guy||McKelvey, William|
|Barron, Kevin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||McTaggart, Robert|
|Bell, Stuart||McWilliam, John|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Madden, Max|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Marek, Dr John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Marlow, Antony|
|Blair, Anthony||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Boyes, Roland||Martin, Michael|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Maxton, John|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Michie, William|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Buchan, Norman||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Budgen, Nick||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Caborn, Richard||Moate, Roger|
|Campbell, Ian||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Nellist, David|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Clarke, Thomas||Park, George|
|Clay, Robert||Parry, Robert|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Pike, Peter|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E.|
|Corbett, Robin||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Radice, Giles|
|Craigen, J. M.||Randall, Stuart|
|Crowther, Stan||Raynsford, Nick|
|Dalyell, Tam||Redmond, Martin|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Robertson, George|
|Deakins, Eric||Rogers, Allan|
|Dormand, Jack||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Rowlands, Ted|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Sheerman. Barry|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Fatchett, Derek||Short, Mrs R.fWhampt'n NE)|
|Fields, T. (L 'pool Broad Gn)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Fisher, Mark||Skinner, Dennis|
|Flannery, Martin||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Snape, Peter|
|Foster, Derek||Soley, Clive|
|Foulkes, George||Spearing, Nigel|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|George, Bruce||Straw, Jack|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Gould, Bryan||Torney, Tom|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Wareing, Robert|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Welsh, Michael|
|Heffer, Eric S.||White, James|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Winnick, David|
|Home Robertson, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|John, Brynmor||Mr. Don Dixon and|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Mr. Allen Adams.|
|Alexander, Richard||Hunter, Andrew|
|Alton, David||Irving, Charles|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Jackson, Robert|
|Amess, David||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Ancram, Michael||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Arnold, Tom||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Baldry, Tony||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogatej||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bellingham, Henry||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Benyon, William||Kennedy, Charles|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Key, Robert|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Knowles, Michael|
|Burt, Alistair||Knox, David|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Lang, Ian|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Latham, Michael|
|Cash, William||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Lester, Jim|
|Colvin, Michael||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Coombs, Simon||Lilley, Peter|
|Cope, John||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Corrie, John||Lord, Michael|
|Cranborne, Viscount||McCrindle, Robert|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Dorrell, Stephen||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Dunn, Robert||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Durant, Tony||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Dykes, Hugh||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Fallon, Michael||Madel, David|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Major, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Malins, Humfrey|
|Forman, Nigel||Marland, Paul|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Forth, Eric||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Freeman, Roger||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Galley, Roy||Mellor, David|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Merchant, Piers|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Gorst, John||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Gow, Ian||Neale, Gerrard|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Nelson, Anthony|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Neubert, Michael|
|Ground, Patrick||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Grylls, Michael||Normanton, Tom|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Norris, Steven|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Harvey, Robert||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Hayes, J.||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Hayward, Robert||Pawsey, James|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Hickmet, Richard||Portillo, Michael|
|Hicks, Robert||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Price, Sir David|
|Hind, Kenneth||Raffan, Keith|
|Hirst, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Holt, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Howard, Michael||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Howells, Geraint||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Trippier, David|
|Shersby, Michael||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Silvester, Fred||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Sims, Roger||Viggers, Peter|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Waddington, David|
|Spencer, Derek||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Wallace, James|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Waller, Gary|
|Squire, Robin||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Watts, John|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Stern, Michael||Wheeler, John|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Whitfield, John|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wilkinson, John|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)||Wood, Timothy|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Yeo, Tim|
|Terlezki, Stefan||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Mr. Gerald Malone and|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilord S)||Mr. Peter Lloyd.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. Marlow
I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not Article 15 thereof".
§ The Temporary Chairman
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 6, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not paragraph 1 of Article 16 thereof.No. 8, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not Article 19 thereof.No. 15, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not Article 13 thereof'.No. 18, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not paragraph 3 of Article 100A inserted by Article 18 thereof'.No. 49, in page 1, line 13, after 'Communities)', insert'but not Article 18 thereof".
§ Mr. Marlow
These amendments are to do with the internal market. My hon. Friend the Minister said in the debate on the last group of amendments that there are great benefits for the United Kingdom in freeing the internal market so that we can get some of the advantages for our services, our insurance industry and various other areas of United Kingdom entrepreneurial activity which so far have been baulked by other countries and institutions within the Community. However, the issues before us are somewhat wider than that. Although we all seek the advantages that the Minister hopes for, we must look very carefully at how the Bill approaches the internal market.
The purpose of amendment No. 5, which is in my name, is to delete article 15. Article 15 is by way of being an escape clause. It means that if rules, regulations or directives are introduced into the Community and some countries cannot put up with them, that should be taken into account and they should be exempted from the provisions of Community-wide law and policy. At the back of one's mind one suspects that some countries may be more inclined to seek those derogations than others. Indeed, I believe that the Greeks have not yet introduced the proper system of VAT which they were required to do when they joined the Community several years ago. I should be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister how this article will operate, what points the 541 Commission will take into account when it makes its decision, and what powers she as a Minister will have on the Council of Ministers to agree or disagree with the Commission's suggestions.
Amendment No. 6, which is in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann), is important because the Bill as drafted allows for changes in the common external tariff by majority vote. At a later stage we in the United Kingdom who largely believe in free trade could find ourselves facing a combination of Governments from other Community countries who, together with the Assembly and Commission, wish to be more protectionist. Therefore, they would be in the majority, and, although we, together with the Germans, might vote against such a policy, we could be outvoted and find our tariffs against the Commonwealth and the rest of the world raised without our being able to do anything about it. That is an important matter and I should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister if she could reassure us about it.
Amendment No. 8 deletes the provision for the Commission to draw up a list of national laws which it considers should be changed to secure harmonisation. In 1992, the witching hour, the Commission will assess how far we have moved towards harmonisation of the internal market. Having made its assessment, it will consider various laws and countries and say whether they have been harmonised, what has not been harmonised and what action should be taken. Again, that seems to give power to the Commission. The amendment, which is a probing amendment, seeks to delete that power, and I should be grateful to hear my hon. Friend's views on it.
Amendment No. 18 is of particular interest because it seeks to delete a paragraph from article 18, which inserts new article 100A. Paragraph 3 states:The Commission, in its proposals…concerning health, safety, environmental protection and consumer protection, will take as a base a high level of protection.In other words, the Commission will wish to have fairly stringent legislation when it puts forward its proposals on the internal market.
The Government want to lift the burden, cut bureaucracy and make life easier for small businesses, yet this paragraph suggests that life should be made much more difficult and intricate, that there should be more legislation and a high level of protection. We may believe that we have sensible rules, laws and regulations. Other Community countries may, for commercial advantage because they cannot compete with us in various areas, or because of their traditions, their pressure groups or present position, wish to have greater protection. The Commission will tend to move us towards more complex levels of legislation, regulation and bureaucracy.
In the Final Act at the back of the Single European Act articles state on behalf of the United Kingdom that we believe that the burden should not be increased, especially regarding small and medium-sized businesses. When my hon. Friend replies—I see that she is making notes, so I am sure she intends to do so—I should be grateful if she will tell us what the status is of the Final Act compared with paragraph (3) of article 100A. I have a terrible feeling that if the reduction in powers of the Single European Act in the Final Act does not have a great status, we shall be subjected to a great deal of extra burden and bureaucracy.
§ Mr. George Robertson
I understand the confusion at this stage over this important set of amendments. A person outside the usual audience of these debates would find the goings-on in which we indulge extraordinary.
The amendments deal with further progress towards the internal market, which is at the centre of the British Government's ambitions for the European presidency. Indeed, in evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Foreign Secretary said that that w as the central, most important objective of the United Kingdom during our months of presidency, which begins on Tuesday of next week.
On the philosophy of the internal market, we must consider the Dooge committee, which was the grandfather of the European Single Act, most of the provisions of which are about to be put into legislation in this Bill. The Dooge committee was lyrical about progress towards the internal market. It said that the internal market would bring more jobs, greater prosperity and faster growth, and would thus make the Community a reality for its citizens. Those are considerable ambitions, given the nature of Europe's problems today. Nowhere in the Dooge committee's report and in our many debates on these issues has any Government Minister cared to tell us how it is that the internal market—the breaking down of frontiers within the EEC and the establishment of this gigantic new market without barriers to trade—will be reached and assisted in the precise ways advocated by its most enthusiastic supporters.
Earlier this year my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) asked the Secretary of State what assessment had been made of the impact of a greater internal market on the United Kingdom economy. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) graced the Treasury Bench briefly during the Minister's reply. His interest may have had more to do with when he would get to dinner than with the intricacies of the Minister's defence, but I suppose we should be glad of the small mercy that he bothered to attend the debate. However, he would more appropriately be located on the Treasury Bench for this debate than he was during the debate on the powers of the European Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman, who is somewhat eccentric in his free trade views, said in a written answer that in generalremoving barriers to trade within the Community should further increase our trade with other member states and reduce costs to business. It should therefore help to stimulate increased efficiency in the use of resources and accordingly encourage growth in the economy."—[Official Report, 24 February 1986; Vol. 92, c. 422.]That is the simple article of faith that underpins the view that progress towards an internal market will produce more jobs, greater prosperity and faster growth. Nowhere is that more specifically pointed out.
I ask the Minister, as I have asked her predecessor, who has now been elevated to the Cabinet, what effect the internal market will have on the Community. What impact will it have on employment, on the balance of payments, or on import penetration, of which there has been a substantial amount since we became full members of the EEC? What impact will it have on the balance of trade in manufactures, which has so dismally worked to our disadvantage since the Government took office in 1979? What impact will it have on invisible earnings from services, which are usually the major example given by the Government as a sector in which we will benefit?
543 8.30 pm
There has been no White Paper identifying the benefits to the British economy from the internal market, no assessment of the impact on the economy or the country, no Green Paper, no working document from the National Economic Development Council. We are right to come to the conclusion that either the Government know what will happen, in which case I am sure they would have trumpeted loudly the benefits of the internal market, or, more realistically, they do not know and it is a gamble based on their obsession with deregulation and the free market ideology.
The "internal market" is an expression that is meaningless for 95 per cent., perhaps even 98 per cent., of the country. The Conservative philosophy is that it is the export of Thatcherism. Euro-Thatcherism is what they mean when they talk about the internal market in the EEC. Jobs are supposed to be the priority. Labour Members have, at tedious length, told the Government that jobs in the EEC are the priority. That some 15 million people across the Community are out of work is a tragedy and a disgrace. That should be at the top of the agenda for every European Council. We have said this ad nauseam, but the Government have chosen not to listen. The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) managed a whole speech about the current state of the European Community without once mentioning the level of unemployment in this country or in the European Community—an achievement which we can only expect added to his chances of promotion to looking after one of the most depressed parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Cash
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that when he criticises the Government's approach to the internal market and then says that it does not have anything to do with jobs he is betraying his ignorance of the subject? It is precisely because there are problems with transport and other matters that come within the context of the internal market that we will be able to increase the size of the market and the number of jobs, which I dare say his constituents would like to see.
§ Mr. Robertson
I am sure that my constituents would like to see jobs a lot more than would the constituents of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). He is talking gobbledegook, and if he cares to listen to the rest of my speech he will see why I believe that simple prattling about jobs is no solution and will not create jobs or utilise the immense resources of the EEC to make sure that jobs are created across the Common Market. Rhetoric about the internal market and reducing barriers does not often of itself create new jobs. The result is a spreading of the misery that Europe faces, rather than any increase in prosperity. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was part of another team for this evening's occasion—he is getting himself into a schizophrenic state. No doubt, as he is tantalised by my arguments, he will come to a different conclusion.
§ Mr. Robertson
We all fit into that category, with the obvious exclusion of the Minister.
The Foreign Secretary has changed his mind since the day when the right hon. and learned Member for 544 Pentlands told us that unemployment was not a problem at the top of the agenda for Europe. In The Hague last week, the Foreign Secretary said:Unemployment is a scourge in all our countries. It is our greatest and most urgent social and economic challenge, and one that can only be met with common policies and common determination.We strongly and passionately agree with that, and we welcome the conversion of the Foreign Secretary. Unemployment faces more than 4 million of his fellow countrymen and another 9 million or 10 million people across the Community. It is a blight on the picture of growth and prosperity, to which so many of the European countries have grown accustomed. It is worse in Britain, and it should be a worthy and necessary objective of the British presidency of the European Community to do something to end the misery and waste of unemployment.
What do the Government mean by this objective? Later in the same speech the Foreign Secretary went on to quote from a document produced by the Department of Employment, in association with the Governments of Italy and Ireland, on employment prospects in the 1990s, in which itextolls the virtue of encouraging enterprise and small business, and ending restrictive labour practices.The Foreign Secretary said:We seek an internal market economy unshackled by the remaining protective barriers to trade, services, capital and labour.Now we begin to see precisely what the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues mean by this progress to an internal market. The same iron shackles of monetarism are to be locked on to Europe. We shall export the manifest failures of monetarist priorities to countries which have already rejected inflation and cuts. While they have thrived and expanded by developing their economies, we have failed.
The Paymaster General is regarded, along with the Minister, as one of the key wets in the Government team. It was he who blew the gaff the day after the Foreign Secretary talked about the European agenda and the presidency and denounced, as the headline said, the "EEC debate as piffle". The Paymaster General is also the Minister for Employment and hebluntly described much of the existing agenda as 'piffle…We should be talking about the main problem we are all facing, which is unemployment and the need to encourage job creation throughout the Community.'To that we would all say, "Hear, hear." However, the great document drawn up with the Italian and Irish Governments has, as The Guardian says,a pronounced Thatcherite flavour…Mr. Clarke acknowledged that the paper was long on strategic aims, and short on detailed proposals.There is no real surprise in that. The same ideological obsessions are to be the hallmark of the British presidency of the European Community. It will be long on rhetoric about unemployment and on the objectives of pulling down trade barriers and making it easier for lorries to travel between countries, but short on doing anything about it, as the British experience since 1979 shows so demonstrably.
The view of this country on the internal market and where it could and should be differs widely from that of other countries within the Community. The Government say that the Community should be a free trade area of itself and that could produce its own rewards, merits and growth, but experience shows that it will produce even wider disparities.
545 The President of the European Commission, Mr. Jacques Delors, earlier this year highlighted the philosophical difference between the new presidency of the European Community and the bureaucrats who will be asked to implement it. He said:The creation of a vast economic area based on market and business co-operation is inconceivable, I would say unattainable, without some harmonisation of social legislation.Of course, it was the harmonisation of social legislation which the Paymaster General chose to categorise as being the "piffle" of the European Community's present debate.
A central provision of the Single European Act contained in the Bill agrees with Jacques Delors and not with the Foreign Secretary. The Single European Act contains, in article 18, a new article 100A to the treaty. As the Foreign Affairs Select Committee rightly said, this section has deliberately been entitled in this way to confuse both the British Parliament and the British people. The Minister of State added her signature to that part of the Single European Act which makes it clear that the attainment of the internal market must be accompanied by social and structural responsibilities to the areas which might suffer as a consequence of a drive towards a free market economy.
The Government believe that the protection of goods travelling between countries is far more important than the people who manufacture the goods. Section II of the European Single Act states that unanimity is to be retained only on the rights and interests of employed people. This is intended to protect the Government's standard, regular and continously used veto in areas where improvements in the rights and interests of employed people would have come about.
The Government will continue to deny the British people the benefits of the EEC. The British people will be denied the benefits of employee consultation provisions, participation provisions and parental leave provisions. Our prosperous Community colleagues already possess these benefits, and they already agree on their standard implementation.
The drive for deregulation will see workers' rights being stripped from them solely in the interests of an obsession with creating a gigantic 200-million strong free market. Why is it that this country always gets the worst of the European Community and never the best from its membership?
§ Mr. Forth
In this context, is the hon. Gentleman prepared to tell the House how he views the benefits of the kind of European regulations which he has just described and the levels of unemployment in the Community as set against the relative freedom of the internal market in the United States and its relative prosperity and low level of unemployment? Will he accept that there might be a causal connection between over-regulation in the EEC and a relatively free market and prosperity and lower unemployment in the United States?
§ Mr. Robertson
There can be causal relationships in many things. An automatic comparison between the United States of America and its relative prosperity, which has largely come about through larger budget deficits, which I am sure the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) would deprecate and deplore, is not easy to make. The prosperity in America has come about through the budget deficits rather than through a lack of 546 bureaucracy. We should not make easy comparisons between prosperous part of the world such as the far east, Japan and the United States of America and the European Community. That does not help the issue.
We could debate that matter, and we may well do so during the course of the debate, but the Government's objective is to be carried out via the Single European Act and is contained in the mechanism and provisions that we are debating. These would allow more majority voting in areas which have already been referred to, but which would deny majority voting in areas where workers' rights are concerned. This is a more relevant subject for discussion this evening.
If there is to be prosperity in Britain or in the European Community, it must be accompanied, as the President of the Commission said, by a considerable social obligation on the rest of the Community to ensure that that growth is accompanied by the protection of rights that have been won with such great difficulty. For example, parental leave will still be subject to the continuing British veto. The House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities supported the directive on parental leave and suggested that there was no reason to believe that it would increase costs in British industry. It said that there was no reason to believe that it would threaten jobs. Of course employee consultation would not threaten jobs. In fact, that principle lies at the very heart of some countries, such as the Federal Republic of Germany and is at the economic heart of their success.
The continued British veto would be retained in such areas. However, in many other areas, where we have no idea or measurement of the consequences, the veto would be removed and majority voting introduced. The Government are relentlessly, inexorably and enthusiastically driving towards completion of a complete frontierless internal market by 1992.
The Government have said that there will be no harmonisation of tax or VAT rates as part of the progress towards an internal market. However, that lies at the very heart of the reasons behind the parts of the Single European Act that are being debated tonight. Lord Cockfield — an exile from the Government — is the principal enthusiast for, and believes strongly in, progress towards the internal market. Lord Cockfied is unequivocal and unambiguous in his desire and drive to harmonise tax and VAT rates and to have them eliminated with everything else in the years until 1992.
§ Mr. Robertson
The Minister has just said that he is not the Government. He was dispatched from the Government to do the Government's dirty work in Europe. He is still part and parcel of the ideological make-up which runs the Government. He is not alone. The leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament made it clear when he said:It is hard to see how there could be an internal market without a measure of harmonisation in fiscal matters.Underlying the arguments and the assurances which I know we will receive from the Minister at the end of the debate is an element of internal sabotage within the Conservative party and Conservative thinking which states that the internal market cannot be completed without that degree of fiscal harmonisation.
547 The recent report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities entitled "Indirect Taxation and the Internal Market" makes it clear that there is no question of the internal market continuing without the harmonisation of indirect taxes. It states:The committee believe that there is a good case for approximation of indirect taxes as an end in itself, in the interests of fair competition.We shall return to that issue later. It lies at the heart of our believing the Government's assurances on the exemptions and exceptions that they have sought to gain from the Luxembourg summit and which are now included in the Single European Act. The Committee will look with grave scepticism on the Government's assurances in 1986 when by 1992 the Government's vehicle, in accelerating towards harmonisation on taxation and fiscal matters, will be way out of control.
Across a whole range of issues the Government have laid down their own exemptions in order to make sure that their ideological brand of internal market is foisted upon Europe. In areas where co-operation between the European nations would make sense and work to our benefit the Government have little or nothing to say, and even less to spend.
Spending has gone out of control within the common agricultural policy — the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) said that the figures are now in the Vote Office for us all to see— but there has been a 16 per cent. cut in the European budget on technology and research, and these are areas of considerable effect.
I intend to return to the question of the social and regional funds, because article 23 of the Single European Act makes it clear that a strong regional and social fund policy is an integral part of the internal market policy. It would be refreshing to hear from the Government this evening that a commitment to the internal market will also be accompanied by appropriate and adequate resources, especially from the voted agricultural budget, for the social and regional funds. As I did yesterday, I would advise the Minister again not to listen to the fairly narrow views that are sometimes expressed on that count from the Benches behind her.
Of course there will be questions, but the internal market, as the Foreign Secretary has made clear, lies at the heart of the Government's presidential ambitions for the European Community when our presidency starts on Tuesday next week. It is right and proper for the Committee to ask the Government what their intentions are in these areas. Such questions have as yet received inadequate, if any, replies. Britain will not be well served during the presidency of the EC by Ministers of whatever Department unless the British people are given the answers to those questions and are satisfied by them.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The amendments are rather important. We know from previous discussions that the Government did not want the treaty. When the Minister challenged that, I thought that it was only right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Prime Minister, in an excellent exchange on 2 July 1985, said:I thought that our proposals, which would not have required treaty amendment, would be better. It is important that the internal market be completed, but I think it can be completed keeping the unanimity rule."—[Official Report, 2 July 1985; Vol 82, c. 189.]548 That, of course, was the Government's position. They did not want the Act, they did not think that it was necessary, and they thought that legislation could create problems.
Now we have the Act and I have found from previous discussions that there is one thing that the Government use to argue for legislation. They accept that there are many stupid things such as giving more powers to the Assembly, and so on, but they say that the one thing that is good about it is that it will help to complete the internal market. There is no doubt from the Government's point of view that that is the plus factor in this wretched little Act.
We should be a little careful because we should remember that free trade within the Community was the bonus factor that was put forward at the time of our membership. We were told that we would destroy certain of our arrangements with the Commonwealth, that we would lose a certain part of our freedom, but that we should look at all the trade and jobs that would result. Hon. Members may remember Lord Stokes, who was in charge of British Leyland, saying that if only we went into the Common Market we would be able to flood the place with cars and solve our unemployment problems. We know that that has not happened. We heard leading industrialists say that if only we could have freer and better trade within Europe things could be much better. We have seen for ourselves the disastrous consequences. Whereas we always had a surplus in our trade in manufactures with the Common Market in every year before we joined, in every year since we joined we have had a horrendous deficit which last year was £10,000 million.
Before we say that that is the fault of the lazy British workers and hopeless British managers, we should point out that we had a surplus in our trade with the rest of the world of about £6 billion. Obviously, something has gone very wrong in our trade with the Common Market. We have not realised the advantages that were claimed at the time of membership. But now the argument being used is that that is because the market is not free and there are still barriers. It is said that if only through this little Act we can sweep away those barriers it will all come right: there will be more jobs and trade and somehow we shall get the great advantages of this massive internal market. That basically is the argument being used. We are told that we cannot get things through that we want and that if only we can have majority voting we can rush through the hundreds of directives which Lord Cockfield wants before 1992 and then it will all happen. Presumably in the next Parliament, if there is a Conservative Government, things will get better and freer, and there will be more jobs, prosperity and trade.
§ Mr. Deakins
Did the CBI, representing British industry in 1971 and in 1972 and in the referendum campaign in 1975, make any point about the need for all those further directives and the completion of the internal market? Is it not the fact that, in those days of contact between politicians and industrialists and the electorate, the argument was simply that by joining the Common Market — I think then made up of about 220 million people — British industry would automatically benefit and that has not happened?
§ Mr. Taylor
Yes. Before we say that it is the fault of the lazy British worker, we should remember that our trade with the rest of the world has got better and better. It is our trade with the EC which has been a disaster. If we use 549 the CBI's figures, which show that about £10,000 of trade is equal to one job, we are talking here of a loss of 1 million jobs. Those who opposed our membership felt that that was an inevitable consequence, just as Northern Ireland and Scotland have always had more unemployment and depopulation despite all the efforts of the English to pour money into those places. The fact is that in Europe it is rather different. We are out on the periphery, but instead of them pouring money into us we are pouring money into them and throwing away the one advantage that we had of lower food prices and free markets. However, that is irrelevant to this amendment, which is more precise.
Those who were disappointed at the consequences of membership of the EEC to trade, particularly those in industry, bearing in mind the fact that our percentage of the trade of the original six is now almost the same as it was the year before we joined, about 7 per cent., there has been hardly any difference in our share of their trade in manufactures.
We should look carefully at this further measure which will give the Community the power to force through hundreds of directives by majority vote even if it is against the wishes of the British Government, the British Parliament and the British people.
What advantages are claimed for forcing through those directives by majority voting? The first that we are told is that, whereas Britain may not be so good at manufacturing, we are just wonderful at insurance. Some hon. Members who are present are particularly knowledgeable and experienced in insurance and they will be able to tell us something about it. People say that we are not very good at selling goods to Europe but that directives would enable them to sell insurance and banking, and that if they had the freedom to do that those services would make all the difference. They say that those things could be done if the barriers were removed. According to answers I have had from the Government, the directives are in existence. On 14 April I asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when a proposal to allow a free market in insurance was last considered. He told me:A number of directives in the insurance field have been approved. Generally, the effect of these directives has been to create a free market for reinsurance and freedom of establishment for both life and non-life insurers. Proposals for a non-life insurance services directive have been submitted by the Commission." —[Official Report,14 April 1986; Vol. 95, c. 239.]The Commission was awaiting the outcome of four cases before the European Court of Justice.
Most of the directives are already in force and form part of the law of Europe. If there is a dreadful failure by the insurance companies to sell insurance in the Common Market, it is not primarily because of a lack of directives. I declare an interest in this matter because I am a director of a most splendid insurance company, Ansvar, which insures only total abstainers. It has had the most wonderful success in selling insurance all over the world to good people who do not drink alcohol, but the one place that has been a total disaster for it is Germany. I should like to tell the Minister privately the sort of problems that we met in Germany despite the existence of this law.
We are told that directives would help with transport and that everything would sort itself out. The Minister 550 should have a word with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. He will tell the Minister about the problems we had in Southend even though the directives are already in place. We ran a successful service from London to Frankfurt. People took a bus from London to Southend, a plane from Southend to Ostend, and a bus from Ostend to Frankfurt.
It was a successful service, and to make sure that we did not upset the Germans we used buses provided by their nationalised bus company. Of course we took quite a lot of that bus company's business and suddenly the Germans told us that, sadly, they were not able to provide us with a nationalised bus any more. We appealed to the Germans and to the Foreign Office and to the ambassador in Bonn and went to the Department of Transport and said that all we wanted was any old bus provided by anyone to carry our passengers from Ostend to Frankfurt.
If the Minister cares to phone Mr. Gareth Evans, the airport director in Southend, he will tell her the story. The Foreign Office was very courteous and so were the people in the ambassador's office in Bonn. Everyone wanted to help, but nothing has happened and we still do not have a bus to take our Southend passengers from Ostend to Frankfurt. That is because, despite the directives already in force, the Germans will not allow any bus provided by any company, whether German, British, Dutch or any other nationality, to carry our passengers. They just say no; there are bureaucratic delays.
Let us look at the inner German trade agreement. The Minister is well aware of the problems there. Our biggest trade deficit is with Germany, and hon. Members will be aware of British workers being put out of jobs because of the massive flow of east European subsidised trade from East Germany to West Germany, thereby gaining access to the EEC. The rule is that those goods cannot be sent out of West Germany unless they contain a certain amount of added value. The Minister must be aware that the rules are blatantly disregarded. I have sent case after case to the Department of Trade giving it clear examples of total breaches of the law, fiddles. The cases are constantly referred to the Commission but nothing happens.
It should not be taken for granted that if we get all these new directives by majority voting everything will be sorted out. The problem with the Common Market relates to the implementation of directives and not the need for more directives. There are plenty of directives already and they do not work. As usual, Britain is the mug in the Common Market because we accept all the rules and the others blatantly and offensively disregard them. Germany and France are the worst culprits. The Germans do not admit it, but the French do.
§ Mr. Forth
Does my hon. Friend agree that the political motivation behind what we are discussing is that the implementation of the directives, which, as my hon. Friend points out, already exist if we want to use them, will be contingent upon the United Kingdom agreeing to this new political initiative in the EEC? The price that we are asked to pay for the implementation of what we want and what we are told was the original objective of the EEC—an internal market and free trade—is the further political impetus that the Single European Act will provide. Does he not agree that that might be a price worth paying for a genuine internal market?
§ Mr. Taylor
No, I do not agree. I cannot accept that. The fact is that there has been a problem in getting anyone to provide a bus service from Ostend to Frankfurt. If we were to abolish this Parliament and put all our powers and decision-making processes into the European Parliament, with the only democratic powers exercised in Britain residing with the Southwark and Lambeth borough councils, I still believe, sadly, that there would be no bus service from Ostend to Frankfurt, although the relevant directive would provide for one.
§ Mr. Spearing
Is the hon. Gentleman telling us that even the relatively non-controversial directives for an internal market do not work? Is it not possible for him, his firm or his constituents to get what appears to be the operation of them? Could he take this matter to the lower tier of the proposed court? If he decided to take that course, does he think that it would be too expensive? Does he think that the law may fall into disrepute because it is not operable?
§ Mr. Taylor
Anyone who doubts my word should telephone a splendid firm called MAYJEX which has been extremely diligent in chasing Members of Parliament and others in trying to get problems solved that are associated with the dumping of food in Britain from East Germany as a result of the inter-German trade agreement. More dried eggs are dumped in Britain from West Germany than West Germany produces. That is remarkable. In fact, the eggs come from East Germany. Representatives of MAYJEX have been everywhere. They have approached Government Departments and those Departments have contacted the Commission. The Commission has called for reports and the reports have been produced, but nothing has happened. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will not say that additional directives will suddenly cause everything to happen. I suggest that the problem is far more fundamental and difficult and that it will not be solved by introducing more directives.
§ Mr. Deakins
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the German Democratic Republic is to be considered part of the internal market? We know that the GDR is not part of the Community, but does the inter-German trade agreement mean that West Germany and East Germany can trade together and that Britain cannot trade with East Germany through West Germany because of the agreement? Is that not unfair?
§ Mr. Taylor
Of course it is unfair. It is part of the original treaty of Rome. The hon. Gentleman knows well —presumably he merely wants me to announce this—that the inter-German trade agreement is part of the basic treaty. If anyone has any doubt about this, he should remember the discussions that took place on the polluted radioactive foods coming from east Europe. We had to enact some exciting, new and dramatic legislation that stated that we would not import any foodstuffs from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and other east European countries except East Germany. East Germany was omitted from the list even though it is abundantly clear that food from other countries flows from East Germany to West Germany under the inter-German trade agreement. Why was East Germany not included? We know that East Germany is not further away from Chernobyl than other east European countries. There are 552 parts of Czechoslovakia which are much further away from Chernobyl than East Germany. East Germany was excluded because of the inter-German trade agreement.
I asked a Minister a splendid question to which I am still awaiting an answer. I wanted to know how we could tell a Polish pig from an East German pig. To my knowledge, there is no way of identifying the respective pigs. Livestock and goods flow from East Germany into West Germany and the existing rules are not implemented. Unfortunately, there is no effective machinery to ensure that they are. Other nation states act like protectionist nation states.
If there is any doubt about what I am saying, we should remember poor old Lord Stokes who told us to join the Common Market so that the British car industry could have a bonanza and flood the Common Market with cars. In Britain there are plenty of French and German cars on our roads, but we do not see a proportionate number of British cars on the continent. Is it that our cars are unsuited to French, German or Italian roads? I suggest that the answer goes deeper than that. If my hon. Friend the Minister of State thinks that by bringing in new directives we shall suddenly enjoy freer trade and the abolition of trade barriers, I would say that there are sufficient grounds for questioning that.
What will be the effect on the United Kingdom of a flood of new directives? They are not just concerned with tearing down barriers; when they are implemented, many will have disappointing results for our constituents.
For example, one of the many hundreds of directives which Lord Cockfield wants to shove through—one a day—is for harmonising Ministry of Transport tests for private cars. I wonder whether the Minister has considered this and the consequences on the payment made by our private car owners if they have to adopt the harmonisation of private MOT tests. I suggest that, if implemented, Members will receive many letters from their constituents, but of course there would he nothing we could do about it.
Earlier today I asked a written question of our splendid Home secretary—someone who is prepared to stand up for Britain at every possible time. I asked my right hon. Friend what discussions he had had about the proposed EEC broadcasting directive. His answer was splendid:The Department has had many discussions with the BBC and the IBA on the European Commission's proposals on broadcasting…and we are in close touch with them on the proposed directive. Both broadcasting organisations share the Government's view that a case for Community legislation in this field has not been made out.When the Single European Act goes through, that can be imposed on the BBC the IBA, and even on the new cash-rich Thames Television, by majority vote. There is a host of new directives which, I can assure the Minister, will be especially unpopular if they are forced on Britain by majority vote. I regard this not as a move towards freer trade but part of the European design, the Foreign Office design, of promoting harmonisation throughout Europe. I believe it has precious little to do with free trade.
What about the other proposal— the majority vote on common external tariffs and trade terms? What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the tariffs in Europe will be changed up or down by majority vote, although we disagree completely? This is one of the most dangerous parts of the proposal. We are well aware that the protectionist movement within the Common Market is strong and growing. There is no doubt that, instead of 553 being a movement towards freer trade, the Common Market is becoming more and more of a protectionist influence in the world. We see that especially in agriculture but also in other industries.
Does the Minister think that even if the Single European Act does not achieve free trade in Europe it will contribute to freer trade with the rest of the world? I very much doubt that. The EEC sadly disregards GATT minimum prices in its agricultural policy.
Amendment No. 8 asks the Commission to publish a report specifying all the laws of Great Britain which, in its view, conflict with harmonisation in the Common Market. The Commission wants legislation to ensure that goods move as freely between Rome and London as they do between Birmingham and London. The next amendment we shall deal with concerns tax harmonisation, and I challenge the Minister to say how goods can move between Rome and London as they do between Birmingham and London if VAT and excise duties are not totally harmonised. Of course, as Lord Cockfield has said and others have admitted, it is an inevitable legal consequence of the free internal market.
I am sure that the Minister genuinely believes that these proposals will be a step towards achieving freer trade. I suggest that, instead of having freer trade, which the Minister and all of us want, within the EEC, we will get a whole host of new, nasty directives imposing things on the British people which they do not want and which Parliament does not want. Unfortunately, we will not get the pay-off in freer trade which we all desire.
Sadly, the Common Market is in danger of becoming a nasty, protectionist organisation, disrupting world trade and undermining GATT. This Bill, if nothing else, will move the Common Market a further step towards that. It would be much better to concentrate on finding better, more effective ways of achieving freer trade on the basis of existing directives. Instead of bringing forward new laws, we should, like other member states, respond to non-tariff discrimination by doing the same ourselves.
Some of us have different views about whether it was a good or bad idea to join the Common Market. But even my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) may accept that we have turned out to he real mugs.
§ Mr. Taylor
If that is so, my hon. Friend should visit some of my friends who used to work in the steel works. He should find out whether they believe that they have been treated in the same way as the Italians, Germans and so on. If my hon. Friend has any doubts about us being the mugs of Europe, he should tell me whether he knows of any German firm that would find difficulty in obtaining a British bus to take people from London to any destination they chose. We see plenty of German buses in London, and no one seems to stop them. He should also telephone Mr. Gareth Evans of Southend airport, the Miracle bus company, or the Under-Secretary of State for Transport and ask them whether I am telling the truth. He should telephone the MAYJEX Company and ask what it thinks of implementing the inner German trade agreement.
Sadly, we are the mugs. We keep the rules, and if there are more rules we shall keep more of them, while the other 554 member states do not keep them at all. Rather than representing an improvement, the Bill represents a move towards greater bureaucracy and harmonisation, and there is no voice in it for Britain.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I begin with a confession that may little endear me to either side of the Committee. I have a deep-rooted prejudice in favour of freedom of trade. I am sorry about that, and apologise for it, but it is so deep as to be ineluctable. I cannot help believing that benefits for all concerned, inside and outside the nation, are likely to flow from freedom of trade.
Unfortunately, the EEC—despite its earlier legends—has nothing to do with freedom of trade. I need not labour the fact that externally it not only has nothing to do with freedom of trade but has disastrously interfered with trade relations between its member states and the rest of the outside world. Many, even of those who were in favour of it years ago, increasingly wonder whether the damage done by its external restrictions on trade outweighs whatever advantages accrue from the internal free market.
§ Mr. Powell
Indeed it is theoretical.
The internal free trade of the EEC is procured by compulsion and by an attempt to enforce similar regulations, practices and laws on all the participant countries. One of the beautiful advantages of free trade is that one does not have to interfere with anyone else to enjoy it. Freedom of trade between the citizens of two countries enables the inhabitants of them both to follow their own customs, ways and stupidities and to have their own forms of taxation and of internal restriction, yet they are still able to take the consequences without imposing them on anyone else.
Therefore, internal free trade within the EEC does not need compulsion, and is not even achievable by compulsion. How is the paradox resolved that the internal free market has to be striven for by a growing series of directives, compulsions and enforced harmonisation. In this group of amendments, we are considering how that enforcement could be more speedily and readily achieved The answer is that the EEC is not about freedom of trade. Despite its name, it is about not economics but politics.
There is a long tradition to that effect in central Europe. There is a long tradition of a Zollverein. In the middle of the last century it was not an instrument intended to bring about the economic freedom, liberation or advancement of the countries party to it, but an instrument of mediatisation. It was an instrument of growing pressure upon the minor states of central Europe to be joined in a political union under the leadership of Prussia. It was par excellence a political measure.
Through all these enactments, through all the basic principles of the Common Market, we discern this meaning of the free market. This is a free market that is to be based upon common political institutions and upon the enforcement of common institutions and laws as a process leading towards, so it is imagined, political unification. It is about political unification and not about the benefits of free trade. Indeed, it is about compulsion and not about freedom. It is not really surprising in the end, if we look at the nature of this institution which we joined in 1973, that we should find that the United Kingdom, when it set out to try to secure greater reciprocity in freedom of trade in various respects, ended 555 up by being confronted and obliged to comply with a new regime for the enforcement of common regulations upon itself as well as upon the other members.
The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) is of course right when he says that in the end politics gets its way. A book has been published recently by an American, a former Minister in the Reagan Administration, under the name "The Triumph of Politics" in which he describes his originally innocent discovery that, whatever were the economic professions of the Government that he served, politics had its way in the end. That has been beautifully illustrated by the point of the hon. Member for Southend, East, that in this institution which professes to aim at the political uniting of the former, the ex-nations of central Europe, the nations are there alive and real, seeking their internal advantage, seeking their separate advantage, under cover of enforcement upon others of regulations that they think will be advantageous to themselves.
It is a remarkable example that we were reminded of by the hon. Member for Southend, East that, of course, the Common Market has an open window to the East because the German motivation of German reunification and the ability of Germany to hold the Common Market to ransom from its earlier inception enforces that upon the rest of the members of the Community, and makes an absurdity of their attempts at control. Not only are we pursuing a political objective, therefore, but we are pursuing a political objective which in the end, after all the grief and struggle, will be found to be a will-o'-the-wisp and a mirage.
I do not know whether I am getting agreement from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes)—no, I am not.
§ Mr. Powell
As they say, I am within the judgment of the House. It was my disappointed expectation that I could trade off with the Member for Harrow, East my acceptance with him that the motivation of the European Economic Community is political union with the recognition on his part that that political union is itself a mirage and a will-o'-the wisp. That is where the hysteria arises — in mistaking the unattainable for a solid, political objective which one can obtain by enforcing upon unwilling populations what, if they were free to do so, they would reject.
§ Mr. Cash
Is it not right that at the time of the European Communities original accession in 1972 the right hon. Gentleman said:I come to speak to you as a European among Europeans."?Perhaps he will recall that expression. But of course what he meant by that is not necessarily the same as some other people.
§ Mr. Powell
I think that the hon. Member is referring to my personal crusade in the early months of 1971 when, as best I could, in four of the languages of the Community, I sought to explain to them that the British did not really mean this, could not really entertain the objectives that were professed by the European Economic Community and, if they did not want a great disappointment, they 556 should not mistake British humbug for genuine British intention because it was not within the comprehension or within the capabilities of the British people genuinely to enter into the submergence of their institutions and their identity and their nationality into a European amalgam. I am obliged to the hon. Member for reminding me of that sub-heroic episode.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
As a prophet, the right hon. Gentleman is very often right. He invariably prophesies the worst, and the worst usually happens. He referred to Germany maintaining a window to the East, but does he recognise that in the view of other EEC members this country maintains a window to the West, because of the special relationship that a great many people claim we have with the United States and the very special relationship we have with, for example, New Zealand?
§ Mr. Powell
I think that the hon. Gentleman would have difficulty in maintaining that the United Kingdom has trade privileges outside the Community that are similar to those that have been accorded to the Federal Republic of Germany. However, I concede that the hon. Gentleman has rumbled my prophetic method. One of the advantages of being a cursing prophet rather than a blessing prophet is that things generally go wrong and therefore one is likely to turn out to be right all along.
§ Mr. Powell
I am glad to have the Minister's agreement. This is a subject upon which ministerial confirmation is perhaps better than the reinforcement that one could have from any other quarter.
I want to address a number of inquiries to the hon. Lady arising out of the amendments that we are making to the original treaty by virtue of some of the articles of the Single European Act that are involved in these amendments. The first is article 16. My question relates to the new article 28, which article 16 writes into the treaty. I must admit that this is a matter of inquisitiveness on my part. The main object of the amendment is to substitute qualified majority for that unanimous decision which, as the hon. Member for Southend, East reminded the Committee, the Government originally thought would be adequate for the achievement of their economic objectives.
What puzzles me is that the opportunity was taken to make another alteration. The original article referred toAny independent alteration or suspension of duties".Now we are correcting that and writing in instead:Any autonomous alteration or suspension of duties".I should be most interested to know whether the hon. Lady could obtain information in good time about the particular virtue of substituting "autonomous" for "independent". Was there some linguistic imperialism at work in the recesses and corridors of the European Economic Community that preferred one adjective rather than the other? I hope that it is not troubling the hon. Lady too much to satisfy my curiosity on that point.
§ Mr. Marlow
The right hon. Gentleman has great experience of legal and parliamentary texts. Although the article to which he has just referred relates to the common customs tariff, as discussions are taking place with regard to taking measures against South Africa, would it be possible, if the majority of Community members were in 557 favour of changing the tariffs for various items from South Africa, for them to use majority voting to impose that decision on the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Powell
The Minister will no doubt deal with that point when she is kind and courteous enough to reply to my less significant query.
One has to read article 18 together with article 19. Remembering that we are writing this article into the law of the United Kingdom by enacting it in this Bill, I inquire what it requires. The operative words of paragraph 1 of new article 100A arc:The Council shall…adopt the measures for the approximation of the provisions…which have as their object the establishment and functioning of the internal market.9.30 pm
Now, "shall" and "will" are an eternal torment for foreigners attempting to cope with the English language, and not all members of the component nations of the United Kingdom use "shall" and "will" in the same way. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect that there should be some precise meaning in any formulation that is going to be mandatory upon the citizens of the United Kingdom by virtue of being enacted in an Act of Parliament.
Article 28, with which we were just dealing, says:Any autonomous alteration…shall be decided by the Council acting by a qualified majority".I think I know what that means; that if the Council wants to decide upon an alteration it shall do it by qualified majority. That, I think, is the meaning of "shall" in new article 28.
But I find great difficulty in interpreting in the same way the word "shall" in new article 100A. The natural meaning of the expression "the Council shall" adopt certain measures is precisely that the Council shall adopt and is under an obligation to adopt certain measures. My suspicion that that might be the case is strengthened by what little I can understand of the remainder of the new article. If that can be taken as too abject a confession of nescience I draw attention to the remarkable words that, by the way, they are enacting as part of the law of the United Kingdom:The Commission…will take as a base a high level of protection.That is not the sort of language that parliamentary draftsmen are apt to dish up to Ministers who hope to get their Bills through the House of Commons and is a reminder of the strange combination of compulsion and vagueness that characterises the administration of the European Economic Community, whereby we are told here in this House and in this country, "You have enacted this. It is part of the law of the United Kingdom. This is what you are about to do by virtue of the international and legal obligations which you have undertaken". Yet, at the same time, when one reads it, one finds that it is deliberately so drafted as to be absolutely full of holes and let-outs. I see that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) wishes to help me.
§ Mr. Cash
Would my right hon. Friend agree that there are distinct differences in the interpretation of Community law when compared to domestic municipal law, which we have in the United Kingdom? Would he agree that it is precisely because of the width of the scope of the European treaty and the rules of interpretation having regard to, say, article 2 of the treaty of Rome against the background of 558 the general objective of the treaty, that we have to look with great care, although not necessarily be unduly critical, at the meaning of the preamble and its inclusion in the Bill?
§ Mr. Powell
That will no doubt entertain and amuse us later in the debate, if it is so unreasonably protracted that we reach the question of a preamble, which is interesting in its own right.
I thought that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) was going to remind me and the Committee that this very vagueness with which the law of the Community tends to be drawn is one of the reasons why the power and scope of the European Court of Justice is from the British point of view so exorbitant. They have to interpret a kind of law that is so drafted as to give to its interpretation by the court a width and a scope that is quite incompatible with our notions of law and judicial interpretation.
§ Mr. Deakins
On the sub-paragraph of new article 100A from which the right hon. Gentleman quoted the words "high level of protection", is it not extraordinary that Ministers should have approved so vague a word as "high", which could mean almost anything, particularly when it is not quantified? Will that not create many more problems in the evolution of the internal market, let alone in what the European Court of Justice will think of problems that are referred to it, if something more specific is not put into the Bill? If Ministers had devoted rather more time to the matter, they could have put in words that would at least have meant something positive and would not have been capable of such easy misinterpretation.
§ Mr. Powell
It would be interesting to know, perhaps we may be enlightened, whether Ministers would have preferred a tighter drafting of some of these provisions. I must say that I find it difficult to understand how even those who have spent less than 36 years wrestling with the draftmanship of British Bills and statutes could bring themselves to put their signature to documents, which are to be made part of the law of the United Kingdom by the operation in which we are engaged tonight, which contain such vague and almost meaningless expressions as these.
§ Mr. Deakins
I have just discovered in the Community's annual report for 1985 the following phrase written by the Commission:The Commission also ensured that its texts"—that is, the texts put to Ministers for approval—were sufficiently general not to contain excessively precise clauses on the development of new policies.
§ Mr. Powell
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his discovery. I hope that it will be given even greater publicity than the proceedings of this Committee might attract. He seems to have got hold of a gem, and it is something which could feature on bureaucratic desks inside and outside the European Community.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The right hon. Gentleman has obviously been studying the wording, and therefore may I ask whether he has seen the article which allows a member state to apply for exemption from all these measures if it considers itself to be less well developed? Has he found an appropriate definition of "less well developed"?
§ Mr. Powell
I am almost overwhelmed by the illustrative examples of my general thesis which are being offered from both sides of the Committee. Certainly, article 18 is a happy hunting ground for those who are 559 looking for vague formulations and uninterpretable generalisations which we ought to refuse, as a matter of principle, to allow to be made part of the law of the United Kingdom.
I am sorry that I have allowed myself to be diverted by the delights along the way, but I shall now return to the precise question I want to ask the Minister. I want to ask whether the word "shall" in paragraph I of new article 100A is mandatory. Is it a statement that it is the duty of the Council to do this, in which case the nature of its duty depends on the definition at the end of that paragraph, or does it mean that it can do so if it wishes? It is a rather important distinction and I do not think that we should part with these amendments without knowing the answer.
§ Mr. Spearing
I should like to address the right hon. Gentleman before he sits down, because it might be helpful to take it in sequence. Has the right hon. Gentleman realised that if the programme of enforced harmonisation required under this treaty is not completed under article 100A, article 100B takes over where the Commission appears to impose the laws of one nation upon another. Therefore, there is a continuing constraint and duty on the Council to obtain that harmonisation by majority voting. That is, no doubt, the constraint of "shall".
§ Mr. Powell
I am tempted by the intervention of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), perhaps due to old lexicographical habits, to go just to the extent of pointing out that the word "shall" also appears in the new article 100B. In that article it must be mandatory. Surely it means that the Commission jolly well must. That inspires me with fear that in article 100A the word "shall" means that the Council jolly well must. I hope that that is something on which we shall receive clarification before the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Dykes
Tonight, as always, when these issues are discussed in Committee and generally, a form of enthusiastic constitutional madness takes over. I use the word "constitutional" in its lightest sense. As our parliamentary colleagues get drawn into the semantic investigation of tiny words in clauses, they forget that they are complacent and over-reverent members of a Parliament which churns out a monumental amount of legislation every year. The legislation is ill-digested, unexamined, not properly examined. Through our tremendous rituals, usually on a three-line whip, hon. Members vote on the legislation without having had a chance to examine it properly. There is a vast quantity of undigested and ill-digestible legislation. We have that reputation among all objective observers.
I do not complain too much about that, because there is a good side to this robust Parliament — the manifestation of the will to legislate. However, we all know the adverse consequences of that. When we consider the procedure by which legislation is drafted and examined in the European Community, before it reaches the equivalent of our Second Reading stage — I say that in the colloquial sense; not literally—how can we say that our processes are infinitely superior?
§ Mr. Dykes
My hon. Friend has made many interventions. I do not intend to give way. He should 560 exercise a little patience. If I thought that he would make a short intervention, I would willingly give way, but at the moment I have my doubts. I may give way to him later, but not at the moment. I hope that he will forgive me.
The way in which the Community legislates is seen by more and more objective observers as a better way of legislating. A better legislative result is obtained than that achieved under our system, which is a repetitive nightmare of huge quantities of controversial legislation enacted and then repealed a year or two afterwards by the alternative adversarial political reform that is elected on a minority vote—not even on a built-in, genuine majority of the population.
§ Mr. Dykes
I shall not give way.
The idea that such a system is wonderful, sacred and marvellous and that the system of continental countries—our friends and allies—which are working together to create a European Community is not is myopic and absurd. The public know it. They are tempted less and less by the false blandishments of that reactionary, old-fashioned and out-of-date argument. That attitude is partly responsible for the decline of this country. That worries me and others who want to see the European Community develop in a robust, positive and, indeed—I refer to the tremendous delays that have been seen in the past—rapid way. That is why the amendments must be resisted by the Committee.
The creation of an internal market — whatever its relationship to the concessions made at the time of the latest summit agreements which form the basis of the Single European Act—is long overdue. The Committee should be a party to its creation as soon as possible. Such legislation is difficult to create. How different it would have been — I follow the remarks of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) — if we had accepted the invitation of our European friends to join the Community and the Common Market at the beginning instead of coming in too late, when we are less able to change things. We should have joined the European Community at the beginning when we could have forged many of its manifestations and structures in the way we wanted as the island power entering the continent of Europe.
The internal market is long overdue. Vast benefits will accrue to all the member states from its creation. The sooner that it is created properly the better. I reject the monstrous canard that is repeated on such occasions—that it is the wicked foreigners doing us down; that we are the only virtuous, honest and rule-obeying members of the European Community. That is utter nonsense. If we are endowed with the ability to use a foreign language when we visit other countries, we can easily get our ears bent by the many stories from business men who have tried to come to this country with their projects and have been frustrated by the internal national bureaucracy. That happens in all the countries as the common market in commercial and industrial terms is created.
§ Mr. Dykes
I shall not give way at the moment. I am referring to what he said from a sedentary position. There are many similar examples.
Recently, during a visit to the National Assembly, I listened to a debate during which references were made to the development of trade in Britain by French companies. Similar assertions were made then.
§ Mr. Dykes
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not giving way, because of the time.
It would have been useful if I had been able to stay longer to listen to the French complaints and try to assist them. That is the spirit in which all politicians of the member states work in creating a healthier economy.
§ Mr. Taylor
Is there not a danger that those who do not know my hon. Friend may think that he is a trifle arrogant? My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport have been trying for six months to get a German bus for Southend. There is a danger in my hon. Friend saying that he might be able to resolve the matter—I hope that he will—because those who do not know him may consider his remarks are a little arrogant.
§ Mr. Dykes
I was referring to the many examples in general terms. As my hon. Friend was shouting out about a bus, I thought that I would use it as an example. My hon. Friend may be right. There are many other examples in all the member states.
It has been asserted, justifiably, that an examination of the number of rules laid down and the number of times they have been breached by member states shows that we do not come at the top of the list. There are restrictive practices in all member countries. The essential aim in creating the internal market — I wish the Government every success in their efforts—is to get away from our difficulties and harriers, not to use them as part of a philosophical argument of resistance to the whole idea. That is the mental disease of the anti-marketeers in the Committee. They do not have a genuine wish to see the creation of a common market.
There are misapprehensions about the way in which the United Kingdom has succeeded, or not succeeded, as a member of this still rudimentary, primitive and underdeveloped internal market system, in terms of services and the provision of goods. It is difficult for us to separate out, in philosophical and technical operational terms, the internal demand management policies of any national Administration and the arrival of a new member in the market. I think that it is reasonable to assert that we have done well with respect to the net addition to our physical exports to other European countries and with respect to some aspects of our invisible exports to some European countries.
I have frequently quarrelled with the internal application of the Government's demand-deflation policy since 1979. Have that policy and excessive adherence to monetarism, which became unfathomable as time went on, 562 meant that our economy has been too weak and too small to take advantage of the opportunities in the larger market? Admittedly, we have done well with a certain number of increasingly rather esoteric products, but we have not done well with motor cars, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East said. Why? Is it a combination of union misbehaviour, weak management and poor marketing policy? Is it also the fact that the United Kingdom is, par excellence, the country that invests less than all advanced countries with equivalent populations?
The figures for investment in new assets, both public and private, for research and development and for reinvestment from our own creative internal resources fill me with a certain terror and anxiety for the future. That syndrome appears to be persistent.
§ Mr. Marlow
On a point of order, Sir Paul. I wonder whether you could direct the Committee's attention to the amendment to which my horn. Friend speaks?
§ The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Paul Dean)
I was beginning to listen a little anxiously to the hon. Gentleman who is straying into some of the later amendments. The amendments under discussion deal with the internal market.
§ Mr. Dykes
Obviously, Sir Paul, I shall follow your guidance. I was referring to amendment No. 5 and those grouped with it. I had to develop the argument about the state of the United Kingdom's economy and its investment weakness to relate it to the creation of the internal market.
Success or failure will be determined not only by the creation of the market and other markets in the world, but by the internal actions of the Governments. That is why the amendments should be resisted and why the articles are so important in the Single European Act.
Will the Minister assure me that in future we shall increasingly have the essential, qualified majority voting for all decisions taken by the Finance Council and by the equivalent of our economic Ministers' councils, at whatever level, for the reflation of the various member states' economies to get away from a prolonged period of deflation, not only in this country, which has remained weaker than the other large powers in the Community, but in the other countries, including France and Germany? With the introduction of the Single European Act, that can he done from now on. That could be the more hopeful aspect of what this European legislation can create, if the will is shown not by a curmudgeonly, nervous member state, feeling that it is half a failure or half a success only, and therefore unable to exert the political will to cooperate with our fellow member states, without providing a lead for the creation of a dynamic European economy.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) will accept a genuine expression of sympathy from me. I suspect that his ideological attachment to and his adoration and love for all things European has stopped him from enjoying the debate so far, and the masterly speech given by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). I am sorry for him because he seems so bored with controversial politics in the United Kingdom. He said how much he regretted the type of controversial legislation that we have introduced into this Parliament, sometimes to repeal it later. One can only conclude that my hon. Friend wants supranational laws passed on a greater scale 563 to put our activities into the perspective of a minor role. He regrets the legislation that he has been supporting in the Lobbies in recent years, and looks forward to the time when legislation will be done on a grander, broader scale, without the precise detail into which we enter. He looks forward to the day when the great Euro-ideals which he espouses will be accepted readily and easily by all hon. Members, without any chance to quarrel. I am sorry for him if he is bored by our debates, especially by our constitutional arguments, which others may view as significant changes.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would extend a little of his sympathy to me, too? Given that controversial issues are introduced and that part of the argument against a Single European Act is that it would reduce our capacity to defend our national interest, does he not agree that the national interest varies according to which party is in power, and that there is no abstract definition of it whatever?
§ Mr. Moate
That is determined by the British people and the Parliament at the time. Indeed, the definition of the national interest will change from time to time, but at least it is determined by the British Parliament or the British people through their Parliament. The hon. Gentleman makes well and clearly the point that the capacity of each nation to defend its interests is reduced by this proposition. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East is bored by these trivial debates. It is all too tedious for him. Why do we not just accept the splendid Acts rather than debate them at some length?
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
It is common ground that this country is uniquely well governed, in an exceptionally efficient system. My hon. Friend has to square that with the fact that France and Germany, which were beaten to their knees in 1945, have living standards appreciably above ours, which has probably nothing to do with the political system.
§ The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
Order. We are now straying from the subject of the debate, which is the internal market.
§ Mr. Moate
I thank you for making the point much better than I would have, Sir Paul. It is out of order, but my hon. Friend's point is not even relevant to the debate.
This brief debate on the extension or completion of the internal market is the reason for the Bill. The only reason that we have it before us is that it was the price that the Government were prepared to pay for the completion of the internal market. One would not think so from the fairly thinly attended debate or from the rather abstract discussion that we have had, but if it were not for the Government's wish to make progress in this direction, we should not be debating the Act. I do not believe that it is worth paying the price of the constitutional sacrifice that we are making for the contents of the Bill. What is supposed to lead us to the completion of the internal market is naive expectation elevated into statute form. It is pure optimism translated into legislation.
If one wants evidence of that, one has only to look through the Final Act and at our experience. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to address one point. What specific obligations will this Bill place on other member states for 564 the removal of obstacles to trade? We can well see that there could be majority voting on a number of issues, but there are so many exemptions that I suspect that, in practice, the completion of the internal market will make little progress. If we were talking about a Bill that put into precise form the removal of certain obstacles, we would be talking about something worth while, but we are not. We are talking about a whole range of proposals that wrap up the introduction of qualified majority voting on a number of issues. That is not the same thing as laying obligations on member states.
I make it clear that I am a great believer in the principles of free trade. I am not sure whether free trade is a principle, but it is in the interests of the country and pragmatically we should welcome it. I would warmly welcome the removal of as many tariff and non-tariff barriers and obstacles to capital movements and insurance sales throughout the Community as possible. However, we can achieve all that without joining the EEC. The EEC was essentially a protectionist device. It is not a free trade area, which is a concept that would have been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of people. This new proposition does virtually nothing to take away the Community's protectionist nature.
I would warmly welcome freer trade, but I do not welcome the imposition of compulsory harmonisation of those obstacles that are deemed by bureaucrats to be in the way of free trade. Free trade between nations is different from compulsory harmonisation of all the nations concerned. That is what we are being told: in many areas where we might object, we shall be compelled to accept majority voting. In many of those areas there could be considerable reaction in the House and throughout Britain.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will also consider the practical example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) on broadcasting. That is a classic example of one of the hundreds of smaller matters where harmonisation might be required, although I am sceptical about whether this will happen against the express wishes of the Government. Why should we do that? What does it have to do with the completion of the internal market?
It being Ten o'clock, THE SECOND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave leave to sit again.
Committee report Progress.