HC Deb 01 July 1992 vol 210 cc843-4
12. Mr. Gill

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to arrange for the essential elements of any treaty on European union to be circulated to every household.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The Government have no plans to do so. Copies of the treaty on European union and of the memoranda produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Her Majesty's Treasury are available to members of the public from Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Mr. Gill

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the precedent in the previous Parliament whereby certain aspects of Government policy were brought to the attention of every household. If the treaty on European union is in the best interests of the British people, why is my right hon. Friend so keen to stifle wider public debate by refusing the public a referendum and denying them the essential information on which to reach their own conclusions?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not think that the accusation of stifling debate on this matter can be levelled against this House, the press or the British public.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister tell us why the Government, for the second time, are blocking the progress of the European Union (Public Information) Bill? What are his objections to the principles of that Bill? Can it be that he is afraid of the expenditure? Will he consider putting down a money resolution? Surely the expenditure involved would be a far less than that involved in the 19 charters, including the one just mentioned.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Unless I am mistaken, the Bill to which the hon. Member refers has been introduced at the back of the Chair. The fate of such Bills tends to lie in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, rather than in my hands.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend think again about the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill)? Does he accept that many of us who are not Euro-sceptics believe that there is a great deal to be said for thoroughly informing the people of this country about the benefits of Maastricht?

Mr. Garel-Jones

Of course I accept what my hon. Friend says. The Government have to judge very carefully. In the first instance, I am sure that the House will accept that copies of the Maastricht treaty were made available to the House quickly and in large quantities. Given the way in which the debate is developing, the Government will have to consider whether it would be in the interests of the House and of the country at large to make further information about the many benefits of the Maastricht treaty available to a wider public.

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