HC Deb 20 May 1992 vol 208 cc261-470

Order for Second Reading read.

[Relevant documents:

Treaty of Rome, as amended by the Single European Act (Cm 455)

Treaty on European Union (Cm 1934)

Fifteenth Report from the Select Committee on European Legislation (House of Commons Paper No. 24-xv of Session 1991–92)

Second Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee (House of Commons Paper No. 223 of Session 1991–92) on Europe after Maastricht and Observations by the Government on the Report (Cm 1965)

Third Report from the Health Committee (House of Commons Paper No. 180 of Session 1991–92) on the European Community and Health Policy

Minutes of Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 5th, 12th and 26th February 1992 (House of Commons Paper No. 215 of Session 1991–92 on Migration Control at the External Borders of the European Community

Minutes of Evidence taken before the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on 19th February 1992 (House of Commons Paper No. 285 of Session 1991–92) on Economic and Monetary Union

Fourth Special Report from the Treasury and Civil Service Committee (House of Commons Paper No. 334 of Session 1991–92) on European Community Finances

The White Paper on Developments in the European Community, July-December 1991 (Cm 1857)

The White Paper on Developments in the European Community, January-June 1991 (Cm 1657).]

Madam Speaker

Before I call the Prime Minister, I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. I have also determined that today I shall not invoke the Standing Order on the 10-minute rule for speeches, but in response to my generosity in that respect, I hope that individual right hon. and hon. Members will exercise some self-restraint. There are a large number of Members who want to speak. We want all their voices to be heard in the debate.

3.41 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When my right hon. Friends—

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to disrupt our proceedings at this stage.

Mr. McAllion


Madam Speaker


Mr. McAllion

The Government are denying Scotland its democratic right to—

Hon. Members

Name him.

Madam Speaker

Order. I do not wish to name anyone. I understand the passionate feelings that run high here, but I am confident that the hon. Gentleman, who I am sure represents his Scottish constituency very proudly, is not seeking to disrupt our proceedings today, which—

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

They are misgoverning our country.

Madam Speaker

Order. This is a very serious matter. Let us deal with it in a serious way.

Mr. McAllion


Madam Speaker

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider what he is asking me to do.

Mr. McAllion

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I spy strangers, and the strangers are those who are denying Scotland its rights in this very important debate.

Madam Speaker

In that case, I must put the motion.

Notice being taken that strangers were present, MADAM SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 143 (Withdrawal of strangers from House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw:—

The House divided: Ayes 13, Noes 284.

Division No. 17] [3.43 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene McKelvey, William
Canavan, Dennis Salmond, Alex
Chisholm, Malcolm Wigley, Dafydd
Connarty, Michael Wray, Jimmy
Dafis, Cynog
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Tellers for the Ayes:
Galloway, George Mr. Mike Watson and
Jones, leuan (Ynys Mön) Mr. John McAllion.
Llwyd, Elfyn
Adley, Robert Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Alexander, Richard Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Allen, Graham Burns, Simon
Ancram, Michael Butcher, John
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Butler, Peter
Arbuthnot, James Butterfill, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Ashby, David Carrington, Matthew
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Carttiss, Michael
Ashton, Joe Cash, William
Aspinwall, Jack Chaplin, Mrs Judith
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Clapham, Michael
Barnes, Harry Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Bates, Michael Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Batiste, Spencer Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Battle, John Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Beckett, Margaret Coe, Sebastian
Beith, A. J. Colvin, Michael
Bellingham, Henry Congdon, David
Bennett, Andrew F. Conway, Derek
Biffen, Rt Hon John Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Blair, Tony Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Booth, Hartley Corbett, Robin
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Cran, James
Bowden, Andrew Cryer, Bob
Bowis, John Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Boyes, Roland Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Dalyell, Tam
Brazier, Julian Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bright, Graham Davis, David (Boothferry)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Day, Stephen
Devlin, Tim Lait, Ms Jacqui
Dicks, Terry Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Dixon, Don Lawrence, Ivan
Dorrell, Stephen Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dover, Den Lidington, David
Duncan, Alan Lightbown, David
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Dunn, Bob Livingstone, Ken
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lord, Michael
Durant, Sir Anthony Lynne, Ms Liz
Dykes, Hugh McAvoy, Thomas
Elletson, Harold MacDonald, Calum
Enright, Derek MacKay, Andrew
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Maitland, Lady Olga
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Major, Rt Hon John
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Mandelson, Peter
Evennett, David Mans, Keith
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Marland, Paul
Fenner, Dame Peggy Marlow, Tony
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Foster, Donald (Bath) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Foulkes, George Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Maxton, John
Freeman, Roger Merchant, Piers
Gale, Roger Michael, Alun
Gallie, Philip Milligan, Stephen
Gardiner, Sir George Mills, Iain
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Garnier, Edward Moate, Roger
Gill, Christopher Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Golding, Mrs Llin Monro, Sir Hector
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Greenway, John (Ftyedale) Morley, Elliot
Hague, William Moss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Murphy, Paul
Hargreaves, Andrew Neubert, Sir Michael
Harman, Ms Harriet Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Harris, David Nicholls, Patrick
Hawkins, Nicholas Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hawksley, Warren Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heathcoat-Amory, David O'Hara, Edward
Henderson, Doug O'Neill, Martin
Hendry, Charles Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Ottaway, Richard
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Paice, James
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Patnick, Irvine
Hoon, Geoff Pawsey, James
Hordern, Sir Peter Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Pike, Peter L.
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Porter, David (Waveney)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Powell, William (Corby)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Randall, Stuart
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Illsley, Eric Raynsford, Nick
Ingram, Adam Reid, Dr John
Jack, Michael Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jackson, Ms Glenda (H'stead) Richards, Rod
Jenkin, Bernard Riddick, Graham
Jessel, Toby Robathan, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Johnston, Sir Russell Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire) Rogers, Allan
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rooker, Jeff
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rowlands, Ted
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kilfedder, James Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Sedgemore, Brian
Kirkhope, Timothy Shaw, David (Dover)
Kirkwood, Archy Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knapman, Roger Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Kynoch George (Kincardine) Skeet Sir Trevor
Skinner, Dennis Tipping, Paddy
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E) Tracey, Richard
Soames, Nicholas Trend, Michael
Spearing, Nigel Trimble, David
Speed, Keith Twinn, Dr Ian
Spencer, Sir Derek Viggers, Peter
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waller, Gary
Spink, Dr Robert Ward, John
Spring, Richard Wareing, Robert N
Sproat, Iain Wells, Bowen
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wheeler, Sir John
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Whitney, Ray
Steen, Anthony Whittingdale, John
Stott, Roger Wicks, Malcolm
Streeter, Gary Widdecombe, Ann
Sumberg, David Wilkinson, John
Sweeney, Walter Willetts, David
Sykes, John Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wilshire, David
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Rt Hon D. (Strangford) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Wood, Timothy
Temple-Morris, Peter Wright, Tony
Thomason, Roy
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Tellers for the Noes:
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Mr. Tim Boswell and
Thornton, Malcolm Mr. Robert G. Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Is a further point of order necessary at this stage?

Mr. Walker

indicated assent.

Madam Speaker

Mr. Walker.

Mr. Walker

I am sure that you would always wish to defend the rights of Members, Madam Speaker, but you will be aware that the recent disruption was not spontaneous: it was in the Scottish press yesterday, and we knew that it would happen. It is an abuse of the House.

Madam Speaker

In response to that point of order, I made the point earlier to the House—I do not come in to this Chamber entirely unprepared.

3.55 pm
The Prime Minister

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a second time.

When my right hon. Friends and I went to Maastricht we went with a clear mandate from this House. The agreement that we brought back honoured that mandate in every respect. It was approved by a large majority in the House in December, and by the electorate last month. I believe that the Maastricht agreement protects and promotes our national interest. The Bill before us carries that agreement into law.

Clause 1 carries into United Kingdom law amendments to the treaty of Rome and other Community treaties. It reflects the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978, which provides that there can be no increase in the powers of the European Parliament without the express approval of this House.

Clause 2 implements the agreement we secured at Maastricht to ensure that it is entirely a matter for this Parliament to decide whether, and if so when, to join a European single currency. We are under no obligation to do so.

Clause 2 provides that a separate Act of Parliament would be required before the United Kingdom could notify its partners in the Community of its intention to move to the third stage of economic and monetary union. That provision for primary legislation is not a legal requirement which flows from the treaty. It does, however, reflect the Government's belief that it will be for Parliament to determine the issue, and to do so in the way in which Parliament most clearly demonstrates its sovereignty.

I do not believe that it is right to predetermine a decision that should only properly be taken by Parliament, in the light of the circumstances then prevailing across Europe. This decision is too important to be an act of faith—it must also be an act of judgment, and that judgment cannot sensibly yet be made.

Before I turn to the substance of what is in the Bill, let me stress for the convenience of the House what is not there. The Bill contains no provision for those aspects of the Maastricht treaty which cover foreign and security policy, and justice and home affairs issues. If it did, we would have failed at Maastricht to meet the commitments that we gave this House last November. The virtue of those provisions in the Maastricht treaty is that they are outside the treaty of Rome, outside the competence of the Commission, and wholly for agreement between Governments, on a case by case basis. They need to be put to the House, but quite specifically have no direct effect in United Kingdom law.

The content of the Maastricht treaty is well known to the House. The draft of the treaty was debated before Maastricht, and the treaty itself was debated afterwards— a total so far of some 30 hours of debate.

What we kept out of the treaty at Maastricht is as important, in the event, as what went into it. There is no social chapter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—and I shall come to that later.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

Not at this stage.

There is no social chapter, there is no diminution in the role of NATO, there is no power for the European Parliament to approve decisions rejected by the Council of Ministers, no weakening of our power of national decision-taking in foreign policy, no word "federal" and no commitment to a federal—by which I mean a centralising—Europe.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

Not at this moment—later, perhaps.

Many in this House and throughout the country have expressed anxiety that decision making in the Community is becoming too centralised. In fact, many of the issues which are most problematic for us—I shall talk about some of them later—arise from the application of the original treaty of Rome, not the Maastricht treaty. The Maastricht treaty marks the point at which, for the first time, we have begun to reverse that centralising trend. We have moved decision taking back towards the member states in areas where Community law need not and should not apply.

Let me inform those who are unaware of that fact that we have done so in a number of ways. We have secured a legally binding text on subsidiarity. That text provides that any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the treaty. More specifically, it provides that, in areas that do not fall within the exclusive competence of the Community—such as environment, health, education, social policy—the Community shall take action only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be achieved by the member states.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Will the Prime Minister give way now?

The Prime Minister

A little later, perhaps.

We need to ensure that the Commission gives full effect to that requirement. I believe that it is obliged to give full effect to that requirement. Were it not to meet that requirement, we now have the power to take the issue to the European Court of Justice for adjudication. That is a right that we argued for at Maastricht and obtained.

In the published work programme for 1992, the President of the Commission said: If a success is to be made of Maastricht and the Single Market, the Commission will have to comply fully with the principle of subsidiarity. Indeed its future existence depends on this. The Commission … will have to ensure that no attempt is made to regulate matters that are best dealt with at national level, and to avoid a surfeit of legislation. Those are not my words, but those of the President of the Commission, but upon that matter I agree with him. Subsidiarity is vital. If that failed, we would not be the only member state that would insist on reviewing the policy to ensure its effective implementation.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

As the Prime Minister is so keen to stress the importance of subsidiarity as between Europe and the United Kingdom, does he agree that the same principle should be applied by him and his Government within the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

We are a single United Kingdom, and we are going to remain a single United Kingdom, for it is in the interests of every part of it that we should do so.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Will the Prime Minister accept that that is his definition of subsidiarity and not the definition of the Spanish or German Governments? Does he not understand that in Spain, for example, the countries of Catalonia and the Basque will be able to benefit from the principle of subsidiarity? Why not Wales and Scotland?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the traditions of this Parliament and the methods by which this whole United Kingdom is governed. I believe that they represent the right way for every single part of the United Kingdom, and the Government have no plans to change them.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has had plenty of opportunity in recent weeks to make his case, and, by and large, the electorate rejected it.

Nor does subsidiarity mean that relatively minor issues are returned to the member states in exchange for a growth of power at the centre. I know that that is what many people fear, not least some hon. Members. They fear that the institutions of the Community will increase their powers step by step so that, in the end, we create what we understand by a federal Europe: a strong, central Government in Brussels with some powers devolved to the individual nation state.

I understand those fears, but that is not the route foreshadowed by the Maastricht treaty; nor is it a route down which this country will go. The question is not whether the risk of centralism exists: the question is whether we have the confidence to exert our influence to build the Community we want to see. We have, we can, and we are building such a Community. We can win those arguments. We are doing so. I must say to those hon. Members who dissent that I frankly do not understand why so many people must always assume that we will lose policy arguments in Europe when we so often win them, as we did at Maastricht.

Let me explain why I am confident of that. For the first time in a single treaty, agreements between Governments are given equal standing with action under Community law. In foreign and security policy, and in justice and interior matters, the member states will work together when it is in their common interest to do so. What exactly does that mean? It means that, where such co-operation is helpful to this country, we shall co-operate with our partners in Europe. It also means that we cannot be forced into policies we do not approve of. We keep our ability to act on our own where we need to do so. We shall co-operate within a framework of international law but outside the framework of Community law.

For example, any dispute would go to the International Court of Justice, not the European Court of Justice. I believe that that marks a vital and important change in direction for the Community. It strengthens the unity of the member states but reinforces the case for tackling our common problems by the most effective means available to us. That may on occasion be the treaty of Rome. It may equally well be intergovernmental co-operation. The Maastricht treaty provides for both, and it allows for neither—where the member states can act better on their own. That opens fresh opportunities for the future development of the Community.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

If we proceed in foreign security matters on the basis that we shall co-operate if it is convenient for us, that applies equally to all other countries in the Community. How can we achieve a coherent policy in that way?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman should ask that question in the reverse way: would he prefer our foreign policy to be determined by the majority vote of other countries? That is not a proposition to which I am prepared to agree on behalf of this country. I am prepared to agree to the pooling of foreign policy where it is in the interests of this country and Europe, and where we agree that it will be to the communal benefit to do so. But thus far and no further.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Will the Prime Minister touch on one aspect of the treaty with which he has not dealt: the transfer of power from the legislature to the executive? The Prime Minister, using the Crown prerogative of treaty making through a Cabinet Committee, can agree to laws in Brussels at the Council of Ministers, which take precedence over laws passed by the House. For the first time since 1649, the prerogative controls the House, instead of the House controlling the prerogative.

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, he is referring not to the Maastricht treaty which we are debating, but to a principle that goes right back to the 1972 Act. In practice, greater control over the European executive was ceded at Maastricht as a result of the treaty—predominantly, in this case, to the European Parliament—but no authorities were taken from the Council of Ministers, and Ministers remain responsible to this House.

The strength of what we have achieved is not just that the choices that I mentioned a moment ago are in the treaty but, equally important, that they reflect the growing wish of the member states. The old tendency among some of our partners to think that action by the Community was always the answer is diminishing. Many countries joined the Community to strengthen their own national democracy. Now that their own democracy is strong and more firmly rooted, it is becoming much more possible in the Community to have rational discussion about what should be done at Community level and what should be done at national level. That is a healthy development for the future of the whole European Community.

Within the framework of the Community treaties, we have secured amendments to the treaty of Rome to reflect important United Kingdom objectives. We have strengthened the rule of law in the Community by stricter rules on the implementation of agreed provisions. In future, if directives are agreed across the Community, they must be implemented across the Community, or penalties will inevitably follow. That provision directly responds to the concern felt by many that, while our domestic law compels the United Kingdom to implement Community law speedily, others sometimes do not act with the same dispatch.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I should like to make more progress.

We have also secured better financial accountability. At Britain's insistence, the Commission will now have to provide an assurance that sufficient resources are available for any proposed Community action. It can no longer commit itself to expenditure for which resources are not available, and we keep a complete lock on the overall resources available to the Community. There can be no increase in those resources unless we agree with our European partners that there should be. There can be no change in our abatement without our agreement, and I have no intention of agreeing to any adverse change in our abatement in the discussions that lie ahead.

The Court of Auditors, which now becomes a Community institution, will present the Council and the European Parliament with a statement of assurance on the reliability of the accounts and the legality of the underlying transactions. The treaty contains new provisions to counter fraud.

In the agreements reached, we have also extended democratic control over the Commission. The European Parliament will in future have authority to call the Commission to account for its expenditure and for the operation of financial control systems. Individuals will be able to petition the Parliament about abuses by any of the Community's institutions. The Parliament will appoint an ombudsman to investigate maladministration by any of the Community's institutions, including the Commission.

The treaty also sets exactly the framework that we want for economic and monetary union. It provides a commitment to open and competitive markets, a commitment that this country has sought for years and that many felt might never be available from our Community partners. It sets tough economic tests that any member state wanting to move to stage 3 would have to pass. The framework contains a commitment to price stability. Above all, it contains an absolute right for the United Kingdom—its Parliament—to decide later, and at a time of its own choosing, whether or not it wishes to move to the third stage of economic and monetary union. Those are arguments that we have won in Europe and that set policy in the direction in which we believe it should go.

There are differences in the House and across the House about some of those issues. The Opposition, notably the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) and many of his right hon. and hon. Friends, have said that they would be prepared to throw away our carefully negotiated right to join the single currency or not. One may ask precisely what they mean by that. They mean that they commit themselves now to enter a single currency in unknown economic circumstances in the future, with the Community at an unknown size and with economic convergence at an unknown level. They would have had to commit this country to a procedure whereby, regardless of Parliament's views, other member states could oblige us to move to stage 3, which would be a profound mistake for this country.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No, I shall not, as I wish to make more progress.

The Opposition have also latched on to the social chapter in what I consider to be a triumph of ideology over common sense. Signing the social chapter would have removed from employers and employees in this country their right to determine for themselves such matters as working conditions. The social chapter would have given the unions at European level new powers to negotiate employment conditions on behalf of employees, whether or not they were trade union members, and to have agreements imposed through Community legislation on British employees. That is corporatism at its worst. Worse than that, it is the negation of subsidiarity. Those Opposition Members who support subsidiarity cannot, in logic, support the social chapter. Characteristically, the Opposition's reasoned amendment does both those things.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

How does the Prime Minister's interpretation of article 3b encompass the stocktaking exercise that he claims to be conducting on the government of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman does no good to his arguments about Scotland by bringing them into this instance. I have made it clear to the House that I will take stock of the Scottish position quite apart from the Maastricht treaty, and that I am doing. The hon. Gentleman must be patient. I will take stock in my own time and then bring out proposals.

The Opposition have learnt only one thing. Over the past 20 years, they have held six different policies on Europe. The Leader of the Opposition has held two contradictory views at the same time. Now it seems that Labour accepts and supports Britain's membership of the European Community. I welcome that unreservedly, not least because, if there is broad agreement about membership, it will lend more strength to Britain's voice in Europe.

Labour's vision of Europe, however, is distorted. Labour Members can hardly wait to sign up to every centralising dream; to every high-spending regional policy; to every statist attempt to regiment working practices; to every central effort to direct industrial policy. Where they have failed at home, they hoped that they would succeed in Europe.

The future of Europe is now based on a different foundation. It is based on free trade and competition, on openness to our neighbours, on a proper definition of the limits of the power of the Commission, and on providing a framework for co-operation between member states outside the treaty of Rome. That is the Conservative vision of Europe; it is where the future of Europe will lie; and it is a future based on Conservative principles.

In this House and across the country, we debated the Maastricht issues before and immediately after the last European Council. In some of our partner countries, that debate is only now being held, but I have little doubt that all our partners will ratify the treaty by the end of our presidency in the second half of this year. As we debate the treaty, it is right to look at some of the issues that we shall have to tackle during our presidency and beyond.

The concept first put forward, I think, by Ernest Bevin—of being able to buy a ticket at Victoria station and travel freely anywhere in Europe—is attractive. It appeals to the instincts. The freedom to move goods and services lies at the heart of the single market which we British pressed on the Community. But there is a practical problem, recognised in the text of the Single European Act and its accompanying declarations.

All of us in this country live daily with the evils of terrorism and drug smuggling. No one doubts that we have to control immigration, in the best interests of everyone who lives in this country. The issue of the open frontier must be treated rationally, not ideologically. For most of our partners, the idea of an open frontier does not mean that there should be no limitations on what goods and people travel from one country to another. It reflects the fact that they cannot control these matters at the frontier and have therefore devised internal controls to do so.

Our practice is different by virtue of our island status. Experience has shown us that control at the frontier gives us the best possible chance of containing smuggling, terrorism and illegal immigration. We accept the right of Community citizens to move freely between member states, but we must, as we agreed under the Single European Act, keep the controls that we consider necessary to control immigration from third-world countries and to combat terrorism, crime and trafficking in drugs. That means that we must retain frontier controls, and we intend to do so.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

Does the Prime Minister recall publishing on Thursday last week in the Official Report a reply to a question by me in which he admitted that neither he nor the Government had the foggiest idea of the number of constables in this country and in particular of their numbers at British ports? That makes nonsense of all the humbug in his remarks that we need to control what comes into and goes out of British ports.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has clearly not understood a word of what has been said in the past five minutes but that—if I may say so—is his problem, not mine.

I believe—

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way to me on that point. Will he recall that we are not only one island but that we have a land frontier in the same way that other member states have a land frontier, and that therefore the control—the necessary control—of immigration and other matters is not merely a matter of port controls?

The Prime Minister

We are well aware of that, and the special relationships that exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have existed for a long time, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

I believe that the development—

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

The Prime Minister expresses excellent sentiments, but it is widely reported that the European Commission is likely to challenge in every respect our attitude to frontiers, and to call for the free movement of people and vehicles, as stated in the Maastricht treaty. In such circumstances, which seem likely to arise after 1 January next year, will the Government make it clear what their attitude would be to a decision by the European Court insisting that all frontier controls must be removed?

The Prime Minister

If indeed it challenges them, as my hon. Friend fears, I have just set out the view that the British Government will take. We believe that those frontier controls should be maintained, and we believe that the declaration that Mrs. Thatcher obtained in 1985 recognised that fact. We shall fight very fiercely for the fact that that is the position in law.

I believe that developments in the former Soviet Union and in eastern Europe are more significant—

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course.

Mr. Shore

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way on this extremely important point.

It is absolutely right and rational that we should have control over goods and people coming into our own land—that is part of the meaning of being an independent state—but the question put to the Prime Minister a moment ago was not answered. The question is, if the disagreement or clash over the claim to have a Europe without frontiers and our claim to have the right to defend those frontiers in the way described goes to the European Court, will it not be for the court to decide under the treaty, not the British Government? What does the Prime Minister say about that?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman sets out the legal position. I have set out the position that I believe is the case with the declaration that was attached to the Single European Act in the mid-1980s, a declaration that expressly made the point that our frontier controls would remain. That is a point—if the question is raised by the Commission—that we shall debate and argue at that stage.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that we had a full debate in the House on the Single European Act. The House was given the assurance that the Luxembourg compromise still existed—in other words, where our vital national interests are at stake, the Luxembourg compromise would apply. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the last resort we could still resort to the Luxembourg compromise?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course that is correct. The Luxembourg compromise is a delaying mechanism—it is not wholly the end of the matter, as my hon. Friend knows. It still exists and has recently been reaffirmed by other member states, so there is no doubt that, as my hon. Friend intimates, the Luxembourg compromise is still there.

I believe that the developments in the former Soviet Union and across eastern Europe are more significant for the future of the Community than any other development since we joined 20 years ago. By 1995, I hope that Sweden, Austria and Finland will be members. During our presidency, we shall prepare the ground for those enlargement negotiations. By the end of the decade, I hope that Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia will have followed suit. Other countries will follow. The Community will have to develop its relationship with the Baltic states and with many of the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The politics, economics and social fabric of the Community will change radically as the Community enlarges. We shall have to show imagination, flexibility and generosity. It would be fatal to take the attitude that we have our prosperous club and that nobody else can join unlesss they are prepared to pay a heavy price. We—the Community, this country—would all pay a heavy price if, by our attitude, we damaged the chance of re-establishing for the first time in 50 years a firm democracy throughout the whole of Europe.

Some argue that enlargement points to more being done at the Community level. I believe that a Community of 20 member states will need the sort of flexibility that we have shown in the Maastricht treaty. A lot more will have to be done on the basis of intergovernmental co-operation. A lot more may be left to the national level. The changes that we have negotiated do not weaken what is valuable in the treaty of Rome. They do create the flexible framework we need as the Community reaches out to new members. The institutions of the Community must adapt to the needs of the members and not the other way round.

What should not and need not be negotiable are the core beliefs and foundations of the Community: its commitment to democracy, its framework of law, the creation of a genuine single market and the fact that the Community exists to promote the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe.

We in this generation have the opportunity and the responsibility for managing the biggest transition to democracy in our continent in its entire history. There will be many means at our disposal for achieving that, both national and international. I have no doubt that crucial among them is the European Community. If we had to point towards one endeavour that can consolidate European democracy, boost our collective European economic prosperity and enhance our collective international influence, it is the European Community.

Sometimes the national interest and the Community's interests are at variance. Where they are, we shall fight as we have done in the past for our national interest. But I have no doubt that, overall, through the European Community, our national interest can best be promoted. At Maastricht we obtained a good deal for this country. We improved the way in which the Community works. We set the basis for the growth and expansion of the Community in the years ahead. I believe that that was a good deal for this country and for Europe. I invite the House to have confidence in our future in Europe, and to approve the Bill.

4.26 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which keeps the United Kingdom outside the scope of the Protocol on Social Policy, thereby excludes the United Kingdom from the Social Chapter and prevents the people of the United Kingdom from being part of the full social dimension of the European Community to which its eleven partners have agreed in order to facilitate greater protection for employed people in their working conditions, better rights of consultation and information, equality of treatment and opportunities for men and women and the integration into the labour force of long term unemployed people, including disabled workers, deeply regrets the Government's failure to make any attempt to build into the Maastricht Treaty convergence criteria which emphasise the need for balanced development, a high level of employment and sustainable growth in the regions and countries of the Community; deplores the fact that the opt-out provisions of the Treaty on the approach to Monetary Union would mean that neither the European Monetary Institute nor the proposed European Central Bank are likely to be located in Britain; and regrets the fact that the Bill does not include provisions to strengthen co-operation between the sovereign nations of the Community, within a structure of subsidiarity, to enhance political, social, environmental, economic and technological progress throughout Europe and in the developing countries, or to ensure the maximum of democratic accountability of current and future Community institutions to national parliaments and to the European Parliament.

The Labour party has already made it clear that it broadly supports the treaty concluded at Maastricht because it is a necessary framework for the economic, social and political development of the European Community. The treaty provides for majority voting on issues of the environment and on certain other important matters such as youth training and public health. It entrenches the democratic principle of subsidiarity so that decisions are taken at the most appropriate level—local, national or Community. It establishes a cohesion fund and provides for regional policy to be an essential component of the single market.

We welcome these changes, and we welcome also the fact that the European Parliament is to get new powers that will help to close the democratic deficit caused by the fact that powers and decisions have been ceded to the Commission and other Community institutions. All those and other features of the treaty are worthy of support.

We cannot, however, extend that support to the Bill. We cannot endorse the Government's action in opting out of the agreements made by the II other European Community member countries on social policy and on the approach to economic and monetary union. Both those decisions by the Government will disadvantage the British people. The social policy opt-out would be reason enough by itself to justify refusal to support the Bill.

Eleven other Community countries—countries with conservative, socialist and coalition Governments—all endorse the social chapter that was agreed at Maastricht. They will all take decisions on social policy on the basis of qualified majority voting on specific matters. The United Kingdom, because of the Government's opt-out, will not be able to vote on those decisions or be part of the deliberations on those decisions. That is not an assertion of sovereignty; it is a resignation of sovereignty.

The Government argue, of course, as we heard again this afternoon from the Prime Minister, that to accept the social chapter and qualified majority voting would have a devastating effect on British labour relations. Both the Prime Minister and the former Secretary of State for Employment, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), have used increasingly lurid language to say that the implementation of the social chapter would mean strikes and giving trade unions abroad authority on labour law matters—we heard that again from the Prime Minister this afternoon—and would bring the country to its knees. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that it would be corporatism at its worst. Not one of those or any similar allegations made by the Prime Minister or others in government is actually true. Every one of those absurd claims is rebutted by the terms of the agreement which 11 other Community countries reached at Maastricht.

Article 2.6 of the social chapter says: The provisions of this Article shall not apply to pay, the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lock-outs. Article 3, which provides for agreements to be made between management and labour at a Community level, was prompted by a joint initiative from the employers' organisation UNICE and the European TUC. There is no question of such agreements superseding the Commission, the Council or Governments by altering trade union or strike laws.

The social chapter also makes that clear. It states: this arrangement implies no obligation on Member States to apply the agreements, to work out rules for their transposition, nor any obligation to amend national legislation. As the employers say: Our clear understanding is that the Article cannot be used in any way connected with laws relating to strikes or Unions and in any event we would not agree to any arrangement that did have that effect. All of that, and much more in and about the social chapter, makes absolute nonsense of the Government's claim that the social chapter would wreck or cripple the economy.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Would the right hon. Gentleman, whom I think we all respect, say why he is worried about the social chapter exclusion when the Commission can shove through everything that is in the social chapter under the terms of the Single European Act? Indeed, it is already doing so with the 48-hour week and the parental leave directive. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who I know studies these matters, what can the Commission do under the social chapter that it cannot already do under the Single European Act by majority voting? It is doing that today and it will be doing it again next week.

Mr. Kinnock

It would be appropriate for the hon. Gentleman to take up his complaints about the Single European Act with the Prime Minister or with the former Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, who was responsible for introducing it. Meanwhile, I shall continue to argue—as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will permit—that the claims made by the Prime Minister and his colleagues about the impact of the social chapter on Britain or, indeed, any other country are absolute fantasies. There will be none of the disadvantageous effects that the Prime Minister pretends there will be.

The Government must know that all that I say about their description of the effects of the social chapter is true, so why do they employ such fictions? Why did we hear wild allegations from the Prime Minister again this afternoon? The answer is simple—the Government need the false threat of what the Prime Minister calls disruption and militancy to cover tip their desertion of duty to the British people on matters of everyday concern to individuals at work.

The Government refuse to accept the social chapter, which makes provision for qualified majority voting so that the Community can support and complement the activities of member states in improvement…of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety; working conditions; the information and consultation of workers; equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work and the integration into the labour force of the long-term unemployed, including disabled workers.

Those commitments are, to say the least, not excessive provisions in a modern economy or a democratic society. But the Government recoil from them. This Government, unlike any other Government in the Community, reject them. The excuse that they offer for their opt-out is that accepting such provisions for individual employees rights in Britain would make our economy less competitive.

What the Prime Minister calls, as he did in his speech in the debate on the Queen's Speech, "the social charter paraphernalia," will, he says, hold Britain back. But do good conditions really prevent improvement? Do inadequate conditions really breed greater achievement? We in Britain have plenty of experience from which to learn. British men work longer hours than any others in the EC. Ours is the only country in the Community without statutory paid annual leave. In the United Kingdom, statutory sickness leave is barely half the average in the Community. Measured in terms of equivalent full weeks of maternity pay, payments to women on maternity leave in Britain are the lowest in the Community. Portugal and Ireland are the only other two countries in the EC where there is no statutory right to parental leave. In all those and in many other ways, including the treatment of part-time workers, conditions for individual workers in Britain lag well behind those of employees in most or all of the other Community countries.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

If what the right hon. Gentleman has enunciated is the case, why did he and his party vote against the Single European Act when it came before the House?

Mr. Kinnock

For the simple reason, as I pointed out during our debate in December and as the hon. Gentleman will know if he attended it, that it included no obligation to the social charter. On the contrary, the Government of that day, like the Government of this day, were against the social charter in principle even though they are obliged to accept certain provisions now made under the charter.

When we bear in mind the conditions that I accurately described and the comparison made with those in much of the rest of the Community, we have to conclude that, if fewer rights, lower standards and worse conditions for workers were ingredients of success, Britain would surely be top of all the Community's economic leagues. Yet we are the only major EC economy in prolonged recession. We have the fastest growing rate of unemployment in the Community and a huge increase in long-term unemployment. We have the worst fall in investment.

When all that is clear, whatever else can be said about inferior working conditions, they certainly do not make for superior economic performance. They never have and they never will, and it is high time that the Government faced up to that and stopped hoping that, if they can make Britain into the labour market bargain basement of Europe, they will have some edge over our competitors. That cannot work and it will not work. That is why the Government's social chapter opt-out is not only an injustice against the British people, but also contradicts Britain's economic interests. Sadly, that is also true of the Government's other opt-out—the economic and monetary union opt-out.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I voted for the European Communities Act in 1972 and do not need lessons from him about being a good European.

Of course we are all concerned about the unemployed—that goes without saying—but can he explain why the two countries among our partners that have most fully implemented the recommendations of the social chapter to which the Opposition's amendment refers have the highest percentage of their populations unemployed?

Mr. Kinnock

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should talk in those terms. He should recognise his complicity as a supporter of a Government whose policies have taken unemployment in Britain back up to 2.75 million and produced yesterday a third of a million rise in long-term unemployment and whose record—although I am sure that as an individual he sympathises with the unemployed—shows a lack of concern for unemployment and for the conditions of those who are employed. Otherwise, he would support the social chapter of the Maastricht agreement.

The opt-out over economic and monetary union was contrived by the Prime Minister to mollify the former leader of the Conservative party and her followers. That policy means that the Government cannot say—even in circumstances in which monetary convergence has been achieved, and in which other countries are going ahead with monetary union—whether they want Britain to join that union, or tell us their recommendations. However, they must do so soon—much sooner than the Prime Minister would like, judging by his comments today.

At Maastricht, the Government agreed to a timetable for the approach to economic and monetary union which makes it clear that its formation will not be left to decisions to be taken in 1997 or 1999, but will depend on preparatory decisions taken after stage 2 of the process of union starts on I January 1994—which will probably be within the lifetime of this Parliament.

The Government will have to make specific proposals to the House and to take action by then. They will not be able to opt out of that. Neither will the Government be able to avoid questions about their judgment and recommendations to the House as the process of union advances according to the Government-agreed timetable.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

As the Government have made clear their commitment to convergence and have not opted out of discussions about the shape of economic and monetary union, why does the right hon. Gentleman want to deny the House the right to take the final decision? That seems a strange position for a politician to take in a democracy.

Mr. Kinnock

The hon. Gentleman has followed the debate closely and is very interested in these matters, so he will probably recall that I have said on three or four occasions that our approach is not based on an objection to the House having the vote. That is entirely appropriate. I said—and this is becoming increasingly true—that other Parliaments in the European Community will as a matter of convention want to participate in decisions as we move forward. It is not that some special deal has been struck by the Government in respect of decisions relating to the progress towards union. Our involvement in this House is necessary—and comparable involvement will be common throughout the Community.

Mr. Shore

Is it correct to infer from my right hon. Friend's remarks that he would find no objection to the existing protocol and articles on economic and monetary union, and that he is prepared to see a Labour Government and a Labour Chancellor, caught in the 3 per cent. gross domestic product public borrowing rule, being subject to penalties under the European treaties if they broke that rule? Is not that sufficient reason for any leader of any party in this country to object to EMU?

Mr. Kinnock

My right hon. Friend also follows these matters, and will be aware that in December, and on many other occasions, I said that the policy of the party that I lead—I am certain that this will continue to be its policy—is, subject to the conditions of convergence, to favour the movement towards union, because that would serve the interests of the people of our country and the wider interests of the Community. Those who do not share that view must consider that there is no halfway house or semi-detached status for our country, and that if we stood back from convergence, there would be damaging consequences as other countries move towards economic and monetary union. If my right hon. Friend will allow me, I will address the subject of deficits later.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

There is a considerable difference between financial, monetary and economic convergence—and it is the latter that my right hon. Friend has strongly approved. However, is there not a lesson to be learned from events in Germany, which is transferring between £50 billion and £60 billion a year from west Germany to east Germany, but is still failing to achieve the economic convergence that my right hon. Friend and I want to see?

Mr. Kinnock

The German example is instructive, but Germany does not have to counter—as the British Government do—a deep recession caused by Government policies. Germany is taking on the unprecedented challenge of amalgamating an efficient economy with a disastrously inefficient economy. It is natural in those circumstances that Germany should use more resources and make calls on international markets. Despite that huge challenge, Germany has managed to sustain a positive growth rate in excess of 2.5 per cent.—whereas Britain suffered a negative growth rate of 2.5 per cent. over the latest period.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) shares my confidence that we should persist with a policy—typified by Germany—that reflects a determination to raise standards of living, generate employment and increase investment. That is the model that we should all follow. Instead of greeting economic difficulties with the kind of defeatism that is obvious on the Conservative Benches, we should go for expansionist policies, so that we do not end up with 2.75 million of our fellow citizens unemployed for the second time in 10 years.

As the Government come to make their decisions in the near future, uppermost in their minds should be the reality that the European Community has an increasingly interdependent and integrated economy. That is of special relevance and primary significance for our country. Sixty per cent. of our exports now go to other EC countries. The leading importer of British goods is Germany. France comes next, and then the United States—which used to take most of our exports. It is closely followed by the Netherlands.

That is the pattern of our trade now and that tendency will increase as we move closer to the single market and the Community is joined by other countries such as Austria, Sweden and—as we heard again this week—Switzerland, and as products and production processes become increasingly integrated in multinational companies.

Given that exports account for one third of our gross domestic product, a large proportion of our production capacity and of British jobs depend on sales in the Community. That basic consideration should guide Government policy on economic and monetary union. The growing interdependence to which I referred will make it essential for the British Government to play a full and constructive role in the process of achieving the economic and monetary union that is under way.

It is not enough for the Government to content themselves with monetary convergence and then to stand back. If only that were on offer, the future would be bleak. Low inflation, low interest rates and manageable levels of public borrowing are all important elements of stability. However, if the Community's future is left at that, the stability achieved could be the stability of stagnation— with continuing high unemployment, low growth, low standards of competitive performance and even worse imbalances between regions.

No member of the Community could benefit from a continuation of such difficulties—which is why it is essential that the Community gives real substance to the task that it defines for itself in article 2 of the Maastricht treaty, of promoting harmonious and balanced development, sustainable and non-inflationary growth, respect for the environment, convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and social protection, economic and social cohesion and solidarity between member states.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

That is not in the Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

That hon. Gentleman may he among those who will deviate from the line taken by the Prime Minister. We were invited to vote for a Bill that embraces the treaty, with the exception of the opt-outs. I have just quoted from article 2. It is very much included in the Bill.

All 12 countries have subscribed to those purposes. They must now be turned into action by policies of co-ordinated and sustained expansion across the Community.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kinnock

No. I have given way several times, so I shall desist for the moment.

That co-ordinated expansion is the only way systematically to reduce unemployment in the Community. More than 16 million people are now unemployed, many of them aged under 25. Co-ordinated expansion is certainly the best way in which to achieve balance in the Community between the impoverished regions and the congested urban areas, and between the north and the south of the Community. Co-ordinated expansion is also the best way of obtaining convergence in investment, production, competitiveness and employment—the real convergence that is necessary for the long-term success of the Community and for the long-term success of any form of monetary union.

It is clear, moreover, that co-ordinated expansion is vital as the most effective antidote to the resentments and tensions that are rooted in economic disadvantage and insecurity. The Maastricht treaty provides a framework for such action. It gives the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers the power and the responsibility to monitor economic performance and it enables the member states and the Council to act as the focus for concerted action. It is an essential basis for the advance that must take place. What is needed now is the willingness to build on that and to see that European countries move forward together.

I urge the Government to show such willingness. I urge them to work for such expansion and not to go on accepting high unemployment, poverty and regional imbalance within our own country and within the Community.

Within a few weeks, the Prime Minister will become President of the Council of Ministers. He has said that he wants to be at the heart of Europe; that he wants to foster enlargement of the Community; that he wants to reach out to the countries of eastern and central Europe. I put it to the Prime Minister that he can show genuine commitment to those objectives only if he uses his period in the presidency for the purpose of promoting economic expansion and social justice throughout the Community. Then, as even his Conservative colleagues recognise, he will be fostering the combination that is needed to ensure the existence of vitality and confidence in the west of Europe, and to promote stability, hope and strong democracy in the east.

We shall be doing everything possible to make the Government pursue those purposes. Let me commend to the Prime Minister, as a reminder of the need to do that, the advice of Hans-Dietrich Genscher, given as he left his position as Foreign Minister in Germany a few days ago. Herr Genscher said: People who hark back to yesterday's dreams may try to escape down nationalistic paths. The only way of barring off such routes is to open the road to Europe. This demands great effort and solidarity. If we fail in that task, we will face incalculable consequences for our own stability and prosperity. I hope that the Prime Minister will heed that advice, and will get rid of his opt-out mentality. If he does not, he will not begin to fulfil the task that he has set himself; he will not serve the best interests of Europe; and, most of all, he will not do his full duty to our country and its people.

4.53 pm
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

Earlier, Madam Speaker, you advised us of the virtues of restraint in the light of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak. Let me make a personal affirmation. I believe that all out-of-work Privy Councillors are born-again Back Benchers, and I shall approach my remarks in that spirit. They will necessarily be limited, I hope to 10 minutes or so, and I trust that my colleagues will appreciate that. I shall consult tomorrow's Division list to find out whether gratitude is a lost art in politics.

I wish to make three brief points. The first is a philosophical observation about the nature of Community debates, while the second relates to the objectives of Community policy, which have been furthered in the debates so far. Finally, I want to consider the mechanics which serve those objectives, and which have led to the Bill and the treaty on which the House will vote.

Let me say a word about our approach to debates such as this. I believe that they have been fundamentally transformed by the cataclysmic events of recent years, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister described as the liberation of 400 million people in eastern Europe. Their introduction into the realistic European dimension really has altered, and should alter, all our concepts and judgments. There are no sacred cows left in our debate.

It is perfectly legitimate for those who argued at one stage on the basis of—almost—the immaculate conception of the Rome treaty and its derivatives to ask now what basic reforms are needed for that very structure, to enable the new Europe to arise out of the ashes of the old. That is the nature of our position today. There is no point in our engaging in a great and glorious discussion about how things looked in 1972, or at any time subsequently. The truth is that we are all constrained to try to look at the problems anew.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. On 28 April, he addressed a meeting at the Albert hall which concerned the great European issues, and the need to establish principles that would give us working parameters within which to conduct policy. He said: I make no secret of my view that we want a Europe that is a community of nation states. Of course we can argue about what powers are appropriate to a nation state, but they certainly go considerably further than the ability to enter the Eurovision song contest; as though we might say we now have a cultural identity, which is what really matters. I assert that nation states are about administration, law-making, enforcement, and engaging the loyalty of a population and its preparedness to accept discipline.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went on to say: A wider Europe of nations working in partnership, reaching to"— these I think are the vital words— and embracing Russia itself—that is our goal. Embracing Russia itself is the most challenging of the commitments in which we now engage ourselves. The challenge of the east faces not only the British Government but—obviously and, indeed, primarily—the Germans. My right hon. Friend made a particularly telling and effective point when he talked of an extension "embracing Russia itself' because, clearly, that is not the German view. On 3 April, Herr Kohl made a keynote speech, which the Financial Times reported as follows: Former republics of the Soviet Union should not be allowed to join the European Community". There will be a debate on the issue. I wish my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister every success in encouraging within the German federal republic the view that a happy and well-judged Europe is one that extends from the Atlantic to the Urals, in which Russia is one of the great historic nations. Its exclusion can but lead to difficulties in due course.

That leads me to the whole question of the mechanics that should serve such a policy. That question really lies behind this afternoon's debate. I should like to put up a broad and most anodyne proposition: that we shall secure that wider partnership on the basis of encouraging national co-operation rather than greater centralisation. Much of the argument today, tomorrow and in Committee is bound to turn on the extent to which we think that Maastricht encourages centralism and Euro-size to a degree that is counter-productive in terms of what should be our national policy.

I take, I hope, a reasonably generous attitude on all these matters. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on, in particular, the development of the intergovernmental concept. That is a valuable improvement. It has great prospective benefits for the future. However, when I look at the treaty, I have to admit that I have considerable reservations about it. It still contains a great deal of centralist commitment. The whole concept of the single currency will bring about a powerful force for centralism in the economic management of those countries that make up the European Community. I do not believe that we can have a single currency without a complementary movement in other economic forces generally.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

That must be right.

Mr. Biffen

I am willing to bear the cross of the support given to me by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown).

As I look through the treaty on European union, I reflect, first, upon the role of the European central bank, which will be crucial, also upon article 99, which relates to indirect tax harmonisation, article 104c, relating to controls over Government borrowing and article 130d, relates to the cohesion fund. All these measures have a centralising concept because of the single currency.

There is a tendency to believe that, because of the welcome terms negotiated, this House should take another view on these matters before final decision, which will have retarding consequences. I do not entirely understand that view. I wish that we could have a simultaneous debate with all the other parliamentary assemblies within the Community. I should love to know whether they have the same somewhat restrained commitment to the single currency. I should like to know whether there is the same general unease about these matters.

I refer not to the debate so far this afternoon, which has been carried on at what can be described as a stratospheric level, but to the more mundane discussions that one has in the Tea Room. I get the impression that the argument there goes along these lines, "Don't get too anxious; it's not going to happen," as though the treaty were a piece of shoddy electrical work which would collapse before we had had much time to make use of it. I do not believe that we can adopt that rather casual attitude towards the Maastricht treaty.

There is a considerable requirement, therefore, for us to view the legislation with caution, if not circumspection. When the European Community was founded, there were powerful forces which drove it towards the consequence of the Messina agreement and the eventual treaty of Rome. We are now faced with the immensely difficult and challenging task, in the Prime Minister's words, of a Community embracing Russia itself. Let us make no mistake about the diplomatic, political and economic implications. There is no popular movement for that in Europe today. We have only to look at the signs. I do not take the roll call with any satisfaction, but there are the Front National in France, the republicans in Germany and the Lombard league in Italy. Those are not the heirs of the traditions of de Gaspari and Adenauer.

This Parliament can contribute constructive caution. We should seek European co-operation, based upon the IGC principle, not the enthronement or the taking forward of principles which belong to the supranationality of the treaty of Rome and the European Court. Tomorrow will be a foregone conclusion. I know that in the Ayes Lobby there will be the Goliaths—the Goliaths of numbers, of talents, of the received wisdom of the Foreign Office—and that in the Noes Lobby there will be a handful of street politicians. The instinctive prejudices and wisdom of street politicians hold the key to Europe's future, not those of the good and the great.

5.4 pm

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

The Prime Minister put a somewhat optimistic interpretation on what had been achieved at Maastricht. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) put his finger on two important matters: that the whole architecture of Europe has changed during the last three or four years and that entirely new approaches are needed if we are to get anything like the wider Europe that many of us wish to achieve.

It is an irony, which I believe commentators and historians will note, that the thrust towards economic and monetary union and the whole enterprise that led to the Maastricht treaty was put into shape and launched just before eastern Europe was liberated and the Berlin wall came down. Most of the assumptions behind the launch towards a federal Europe, which is the underlying thrust of the treaty, were entirely consistent with the Europe that had existed up to the end of the cold war, the liberation of eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The leaders of the European Community, particularly Mr. Delors and, above all, France and Germany, have been pushing hard and deliberately for a federal development in Europe. The House should not seek to evade that very obvious fact. We all remember that, until almost the last moment, draft article A of the treaty on European union said: the High Contracting parties establish among themselves a Union. This treaty marks a new stage in a process leading gradually to a union with a federal goal. Article W said: A Conference of Representatives of Governments of the Member States shall be convened in 1996 in the perspective of strengthening the Federal character of the Union.

There is no doubt whatsoever about what was in the minds of the great majority of our continental neighbours, and certainly in the mind of the Commission when it began to draft and push forward this treaty. I am very glad that that article was dropped, and I congratulate the Government on achieving it. However, that did not change the character and nature of the treaty; it simply changed the wording of the introductory and closing articles. That is a very different matter.

The single currency, to which the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North referred, is very much at the heart of the treaty. If we want to build a federal Europe, of course we must have a single currency and a single central bank. That is the principal thrust of the treaty. The Government could say, "There is an opt-out article," or, "We have not yet opted in and we have reserved our position." I am glad that they have reserved our position. The last thing that I would want would be to have our position conceded.

However, that does not alter the fact that, through this device, the Government have, in a sense, evaded facing the central question, which is where Britain is to go, faced with neighbours in the European Community the great majority of whom wish for a different future and a different destiny from that which our own people want. We have to face the fact that, almost from the start, our neighbours have wanted a federal union on the continent of Europe, and the British people have never wanted that. I understand why Governments are reluctant to face the issue. The moment the British people are alerted to what really is at stake, their deep reluctance and hostility to it will come out. Successive Governments have not wanted to face that fact at all. As a result, we indulge in all kinds of evasion, deception and self-deception.

On evasion, we cannot sensibly discuss whether the thrust and intention are federalist, because none of us poor things can actually agree on what federalism is. We say that it is too complicated and far too difficult. That is rubbish. It is a basically simple concept, and everyone knows it. It means an extra tier of government which is superior to the present national tier of government, to which are transferred basic decision-making powers. Not a single federal state in the world today lacks those characteristics.

Such a state conducts the trade and commercial relations of the whole union. It has a single currency and a single bank. It has a common citizenship, with no control, obviously, over residence and movement in and out of the separate component states which form a united state. Finally, it has competence over foreign and defence policy. That has broadly described the United States.

We must look at Europe today and at what is proposed in the treaty, and measure that against it. We surrendered a trade and common commercial policy ages ago. The single currency and single bank are the great issues in the treaty. Yes, common citizenship is in the treaty, but nobody has discussed it. Apparently, all of us are to be jammed together in a single citizenship. Has anyone asked one person in this land whether he or she wishes to have that additional citizenship, what obligations that involves, not necessarily now but in the future, and what rights it would bestow? What is all this about a Europe without frontiers, except to demolish the whole idea of a nation state having sovereignty and control over its own frontiers?

I agree that the Foreign Secretary fought hard to keep foreign policy in a different category from the European Community's treaty structure. It is still part of the treaty of union. Those who think that there is not a serious threat that other states will take over foreign policy and defence had better look again at that commitment to a further intergovernmental conference in 1996, and think again that it was only in 1986 that we were entirely content— nobody in the House wished to change it—with political co-operation; that is, where possible and where sensible, to speak with a single voice. We have gone well beyond that.

The basic point on foreign policy is a commitment. Article J.1 states: The Union and its Member States shall define and implement a common foreign and security policy". That is it—define. We do not yet have majority voting for that, but right hon. and hon. Members and I know that, in 1996, others will be hammering on the door and saying that Britain alone is preventing the emergence of a European collective foreign and defence policy.

By not facing those issues, we do no service to ourselves and none at all to our people. As I have said, there was not just a failure to face facts but deception and self-deception. The Government are deceiving themselves about the opt-out clause. I am glad that it is there. As the Chancellor clearly said in his speech to the Confederation of British Industry, and as the Governor of the Bank of England said in the present quarterly issue of the Bank of England Journal that was published today, it is absolutely clear that we must start converging financially with the European Community so that we can be eligible and able to join in four years. We shall see, in public expenditure exercises, tax cuts and in the whole range of policy, efforts to squeeze the country into the framework of the European commitment to join an economic and monetary union. We shall see, whatever the circumstances, the public sector borrowing requirement coming down to 3 per cent. of GDP. That is it—it is in the treaty.

Once we converge on those financial indicators, the Government will hardly say, "It was not worth it. The whole effort was an absurdity. We are suffering. We have high unemployment, high interest rates and all those disadvantages. In spite of all that, and having made that the central theme of our economic policy for the past four years, we should not join the economic and monetary union third stage." The Government are deceiving themselves by using that device.

My own right hon. Friends have contributed enormously to self-deception. They seem to think that we are discussing not the treaty that is before us but a make-believe, fantasy treaty which contains precisely the clauses that they would like to see. But it does not. The parliamentary party had circulated to it only a few days ago a paper giving some guidance from the shadow Treasury team about the Maastricht treaty and what it means. My right hon. Friend echoed it today. It said that, because article 2 of the treaty contains a reference among 10 lines to the purpose of achieving a high level of employment and sustainable growth, that put those objectives on a par with the achievement of economic and monetary union.

That briefing paper went on to state: from our point of view this"— that is, that reference to a high level of unemployment— is the most important part of the entire treaty. It establishes the aims of sustainable growth and a high level of employment as economic goals of equal importance with price stability. My right hon. Friend and the briefing paper were referring to a few words in one general paragraph at the beginning of the treaty—article 2. What economic and monetary union have to say about it and what they are concerned about above all, as we all know, is price stability. There are 50 clauses and four protocols spelling out precisely how that is to be achieved. Not a single clause spells out anything about the employment objective. We deceive ourselves if we try to pretend that the objectives of a high level of employment and price stablity are on all fours. It just is not so.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to argue the toss, article 105 begins: The primary objective of the ESCB shall he to maintain price stability. Without prejudice to the objective of price stability, the ESCB shall support the general economic policies in the Community". Therefore, provided that it does not prejudice the objective of price stability, which in this context is a deflationary objective, it may pursue those other policies which are clearly more acceptable and agreeable to my right hon. Friends.

Are we in our party imagining a future in which the country, with a Labour Government, volunteers to abandon its control over its own budget policy? Do we seriously imagine that, in all good conscience and keeping faith with ourselves and our fellow countrymen, we can say to them that we are willing to place our wrists in the handcuffs of the treaty and let others determine the size of the public sector borrowing requirement from now on, and that, if we refuse to obey the 3 per cent. limit, they will have the power—it is written into the treaty—to inflict fines upon us and to call up credit from British banks to the European bank? I find it objectionable. Frankly, it is a disgrace. No person in the Labour movement could accept that control.

I draw attention to the grave consequences for Britain of economic and monetary union and convergence with it. We have enough unemployment in Britain today.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones)

Which would the right hon. Gentleman find more objectionable for a Labour Government to be bound by—a single currency and a European bank over which Finance Ministers would have a degree of political control or the terms and conditions that Dr. Witteveen laid down for the Labour Government in 1976?

Mr. Shore

The Minister makes a comparison which is instructive for the whole House. When the International Monetary Fund has inflicted its presence on the British Government in the past, it has visited the Government for a two-month period. The moment that the debts were cleared, out it went. The House has been asked to contemplate a European Commissioner sitting permanently at the Cabinet table dictating the policies of this country. We should be aware of that.

Our level of unemployment is high enough as it is, yet I fear that the combined effects of monetary union on not only the British economy but the rest of Europe will be deflationary, as countries try to come within the constraints of the convergence criteria set out in the treaty. That means that we will be in for a period of still higher unemployment. It will endure for years ahead.

By linking ourselves to a currency dominated by the deutschmark, we link ourselves in a foolish way to the German economy without any possibility of making corrections for its undoubted greater productivity and growth potential. If we had linked ourselves with the German economy at any time in the past 10 years, without the ability to change our exchange rate, we would have suffered terrible penalties, and we know it.

I do not know quite what my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench or the House want. We have tabled many reasoned amendments. I have tabled one, and there are others that I like the look of. I do not object terribly to the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I think that I could bring myself to support it, but it is somewhat feeble. If any reasoned amendment is rejected, we have a duty to vote against the treaty and the Bill.

5.23 pm
Mr. Kenneth Baker (Mole Valley)

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), because in the past 20 years or so, when the arguments for federalism and greater control from the centre have grown, his voice has always been that of scepticism and doubt. For many years, it was a lonely voice. It was made all the more lonely by the fact that his party changed its policy and officially became much more communautaire. He has lived through all that and has reached the stage of seeing the tide begin to turn his way, although it has not turned completely, and I would not like to see it turn as much as he would.

What I thought was interesting about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was that he said that, in the next few years, he wanted to see greater flexibility. He wanted to see more things left to national level. Indeed, I hope that that will be the tenor of Government policy during the lifetime of the Government and his premiership. The successful development of Europe will be based on successful intergovernmental co-operation—the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) made—rather than increasing centralisation.

I noticed that the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney intervened on the Leader of the Opposition about economic and monetary union. After an exchange, the Leader of the Opposition said, "It is all perfectly clear." If that is clarity, we await the advent of opacity. It is by no means clear. I suspect that the possibility of a single currency and a single bank will recede rather than grow nearer during the remaining years of the century.

I wish to speak specifically on the matters in which I have had a hand—justice and interior matters. They are germane to the type of Europe that will develop. In the negotiations that led up to Maastricht, we were faced with proposals from our partners to increase the competence of the Commission and bring matters now decided by the Home Secretary and the Home Office and, ultimately, the House of Commons under not only the Commission but the European Court. I am glad to say that my colleagues strongly resisted those proposals. They believed that the way forward was through intergovernmental co-operation.

Indeed, the success of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was that our partners in Europe accepted that there should be three pillars—the pillar of economic and monetary union, which has protection in the treaty that we shall be asked to approve tomorrow, the pillar of foreign affairs and defence matters, and the pillar of justice and home affairs. Those matters should be left to the agreement of Ministers of nation states working together. There must be greater co-operation.

There must also be more co-operation between police forces in Europe to deal with international crime. I should like to see even greater development. I welcome the creation of Europol, which was part of the Maastricht treaty. It is basically a clearing house of information on international drug smuggling. I opposed, and was right to oppose, giving that body operational powers so that it would be a European police force operating in different European countries. We do not want to see such an extension of competence and power.

I wish to deal specifically with the problem of frontiers—a matter on which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was interrupted three times this afternoon. It is an important point. The ability to control one's frontiers is an essential element of the sovereignty of either a national state or a community of states. The European Community is trying to establish an external frontier at which certain things happen when people cross but within which people can move freely.

Mr. Cash

One country.

Mr. Baker

I shall come on to that in a moment.

The problem with the concept of an external frontier for the European Comunity is that of geography. Countries in Europe which are part of the continental land mass find it difficult to police their frontiers. No one wishes to police the frontier between France and Germany, for example. Of course, in this century it has been policed with vigour. In previous centuries, it was policed with even greater vigour. But it is now virtually impossible to police. Similarly, the German-Polish frontier is impossible to police. The Greek islands present great problems, as does the long shoreline of Italy. So the development of an effective external frontier presents very great problems. Indeed, negotiations are continuing.

I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government that we have the great advantage—they know it only too well—that we are an island. An island can police its frontiers by policing the airports and sea ports around its shore. We must continue to do that. That is what I was particularly anxious to ensure that the Maastricht negotiations did not weaken. I am glad to say that they did not. Certain of our partners wanted to increase the competence of the Commission in such matters. We resisted that.

The competence of the Commission is increased in only two matters. The first is what is called the common visa list. That is sensible. It is a list agreed by all European countries of those countries whose citizens require a visa to come into Europe. That seems to be sensible. It means that the United Kingdom will probably require visas from citizens of at least 20 or 25 more countries.

The second area where we are prepared to concede competence is to agree a common format for visas, which is also sensible, because visas will thus be more forgery-proof.

On the other matters, we said no, and that was correct. We built a double lock into the treaty that we are being asked to approve. Immigration control and asylum, which are sensitive and difficult issues, will not move into the competence of Brussels—either the Commission or the courts—without two events happening. First, it will require the agreement of the British Government and, therefore, the Government have a veto. Secondly, the specific approval of the House will be required. That is the double lock, and it is an effective one.

Alas, the matter does not rest there, as the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney perceived in his intervention on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member has doubts about the Single European Act, rather than merely about the Bill we are debating. Therefore, I shall refer to that Act as it relates to justice and home affairs.

Article 8a, which establishes the principle of the free movement of people, is the important article. When that was agreed during the previous Parliament in 1986, an essential proviso was built in. Mrs. Thatcher, Sir Geoffrey Howe and my right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary, who was then the Home Secretary, insisted that article 8a should be qualified by a general declaration, which contained these words: Nothing in these provisions shall affect the right of Member States to take such measures as they consider necessary for the purpose of controlling immigration from third countries. That is an important undertaking.

I do not believe that Mrs. Thatcher, Sir Geoffrey Howe or the present Foreign Secretary would have asked the House to approve the Single European Act without that general declaration; nor do I believe that the House would have approved the Act without that clear declaration.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the difficulties with the Single European Act was that it was guillotined and that debate on all the issues that could have been properly investigated was curtailed? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be unwise if the House were to make the same mistake about this treaty?

Mr. Baker

I see that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary is in his place, and he does not have cloth ears, so I dare say that he has heard what my hon. Friend has said. As I understand it, the treaty will be debated exhaustively on the Floor of the House, and it is not for me to comment on that.

The House agreed the Single European Act on that declaration, so it is important. We are told that the declaration might not be worth the paper that it is written on. That is the view of some lawyers, but advice differs and others say that the general declaration is of some significance. So there is doubt and difficulty at the centre of this issue.

If that declaration does not count, from 1 January 1993, we shall not be able to operate our present passport and immigration controls at ports and airports, for example at Heathrow, Gatwick, Dover, Liverpool and Manchester. European Community nationals will be able to come here because that is implicit in the treaty—we have all accepted that EC nationals have the freedom to travel, work and reside within the Community—but it is the rights of non-EC nationals to that freedom of movement which are at issue.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Baker

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall not give way for a moment.

That right of movement is important, because what has been learned in Britain in the past 30 years, and in Europe in the past five years, is that rights of movement lead to settlement and rights of settlement.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)


Mr. Baker

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I must pursue my argument.

The retention of passport and immigration controls is of great national importance to Britain. After all, we have taken more than 30 years to establish our system of immigration controls, and they are the most sophisticated in Europe. We have had to deal with migratory pressures that other European countries have not had to deal with until the past four or five years—[Interruption.] I know that my hon. Friends are anxious to support my arguments, but will they please hear them first? This is an important issue.

Faced with that dilemma, what should the Government do? They should do three things. First, they must make it absolutely clear, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, to our partners in Europe that it is an essential and important issue for us and that we are not prepared to surrender control over our frontier controls—[Interruption.] If my hon. Friends will wait for a moment, please. They should wait with anxiety to find out what I am going to say.

When I was Home Secretary, I constantly gave my fellow Interior Ministers that message. They had to understand the importance of the issue for Britain and for British politics, as far as all parties were concerned. It is important that we say, again and again, to our partners that we cannot make any concessions over frontier controls. We must also say that to the Commission and to Mr. Bangemann. So that is No. 1—[Interruption.] I am glad to have the agreement of my hon. and right hon. Friends, but I am only on my first point and I am coming to my second and third.

It is important to say that, because none of the alternatives to frontier controls will be effective. It is said that, if one had internal controls, one would not need—

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Baker

I ask my hon. Friend to contain his natural impatience and to listen to my arguments.

If one abandons frontier controls in favour of internal controls, they will not be as effective. There are two types of internal control. The first is to oblige employers not to employ illegal immigrants. If one does that, one has to police it. America has tried that to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico, but it does not work. Large companies observe the law and medium-sized companies do not. What is more, there would have to be a series of dawn raids on employers to detect those breaking the law. So that does not work.

The second argument is to introduce identity cards—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Some of my hon. Friends have said, "Hear, hear." I am not against introducing identity cards, but they will not be a substitute for frontier controls. Many countries in Europe already have identity cards—cartes d'identitees—but they are not an effective control for dealing with illegal immigrants.

Again and again, one is driven back to the fact that one needs effective frontier controls, and we must first persuade our partners of their importance to our country.

If we are taken to the European Court and the interpretation of the declaration is challenged, which would take two or three years or even longer, we must fight the case strongly—

Mr. Budgen

What happens if we lose?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend must be patient. I am coming to my third point.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend must also contain her natural impatience.

Mrs. Currie

I am supporting my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Baker

Then yes, I shall give way.

Mrs. Currie

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend.

Does he agree that it is not only in the interest of this country that we ensure that there are proper controls over migration and immigration, especially into Europe from countries outside? It is also in the interests of other European countries, which face considerable problems because they have virtually no controls. Among the results are racialism and local unrest, with which they have no capacity to deal.

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend is right and that brings me to my third point.

We must fight in the courts, but if we lose, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench must make it clear to our partners that, at the next renegotiation in 1995–96, the first item must be the revision of article 8a. I am sure that most of my hon. Friends would agree that that issue will not come up until that time. If that renegotiation occurs then, I am absolutely clear that other European countries will realise that the line we are taking is the only effective one left.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said, the thing that is destabilising the Governments of European country after European country is migratory flows. One has seen what has happened in Italy, where north and south have almost been divided. That has left that country with no Government and no President. In German politics, the main issue is not the Bundesbank, the deutschmark, the German economy, or even the unification of west and east, but the fact that 1,000 refugees and illegal immigrants are entering Germany ever day.

Mr. Tredinnick


Mr. John Greenway (Rydale)


Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)


Mr. Baker

I know that my hon. Friends want to intervene only to support what I am saying.

Mr. Tredinnick

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. Does he agree that, if the controls were removed, it would inevitably damage race relations in Britain? If this matter went to court and we lost the case, does my right hon. Friend believe that the removal of border controls would be essential before any revision could take place?

Mr. Baker

No. In such a situation and time scale, we should continue to retain our border controls until the next renegotiation of the treaty came up.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Baker

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will not give way, but I am sure that he will try to speak later.

The immigration controls that we have developed in the past 40 years have been difficult to secure. We have had to face immigration pressures quite different from those faced by other European countries. It has proved a great difficulty for all parties in the House, whether in government or in opposition, to agree to those controls. We have had to sustain them and we have done so in an intelligent and civilised way. Our immigration controls are among some of the most effective and fair in Europe and we should be proud of that. Those controls have certainly helped to harmonise race relations in Britain. That is why it is important that we should continue to enforce them. I was glad to note the clear commitment that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to that effect.

In my short speech, I have tried to flesh out the consequences of that commitment. I believe that three steps are necessary to ensure that we can continue to control our frontiers, because control of them is an essential element of the sovereignty of this country.

5.42 pm
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who raised a number of interesting points, although I cannot agree with all of them. Those of us who believe that the long-term aspiration towards open borders in Europe to goods and to people is one to which we must cling will accept that the right hon. Gentleman has raised a number of issues that we must address. In particular, he drew attention to the balance that must inevitably be struck between external and internal controls. I accept that it is important to assess those controls in terms of their impact on race relations, about which many people involved in race relations are concerned.

I was rather more struck by the powerful speeches from the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). If the case against the Bill must be put, their speeches did so effectively. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North struck the nail on the head—he also helped to clarify my mind—when he identified the premise on which his argument and that of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney was built. He believes in the eternal utility of the concept of the nation state.

Frankly, I do not. I do not believe that the nation state is anything other than a relatively recent historical invention. I do not believe that it will always remain. [Interruption.] If such a notion were mentioned in any other European Assembly or Parliament, it would meet with ready understanding, and agreement. We are the most backward of European Parliaments when it comes to such understanding, and it is extraordinary that that notion is a matter for derision and laughter.

I believe that throughout this decade and next century the importance of the notion of the nation state will decline, although I do not argue that it will disappear. At the same time, advanced democracies will witness the rise in the importance of community and regional identity and supranational institutions. I do not see how we shall be able to cope with some of our emerging problems unless we are prepared to accept that our interdependence will lead to a greater dependency on international institutions. My party parts company with the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North on that basic principle, and that is why we have adopted different positions on the Bill.

Mr. Benn

Over the years, nation states have varied in their size and nature. The crucial question is democracy and whether the people of this country will be able to remove, through the ballot box, those who make the laws under which they are governed. The argument about the nation state is secondary, because under the present arrangements of the Maastricht treaty, that right goes.

Mr. Ashdown

The right hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. One of the deficiencies of the Maastricht treaty is that it does not address the democratic deficit in Europe.

Let me be blunt with right hon. and hon. Members. I do not believe in the sovereignty of this place—I believe in the sovereignty of the people. I believe that the people can vest their sovereignty in any place where it is of benefit to them to do so. Some can be vested in local government, some at Westminster and some in a form of government for Europe at Brussels. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is correct: wherever the people vest that sovereignty, it must be accountable. Such power must be subject to removal by the will of the people. The right hon. Gentleman is right that the Maastricht treaty fails to provide such democratic accountability for the European institutions it creates.

Despite that deficiency, we shall vote in favour of the Bill.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)


Mr. Ashdown

That can come as a surprise to no one, including the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). We have held to our position consistently and unitedly for more than 40 years—something that cannot be said of the Conservative party, and most certainly cannot be said of the Labour party.

We shall not vote for the Bill because we believe that the Maastricht treaty is perfect; it is not. We shall not vote in favour because we believe that Ministers have done a wonderful job in negotiating it; they did not. We shall not vote for the Bill because we believe that the Prime Minister has, true to his word, put Britain at the heart of Europe; he has not. We shall vote in favour because we believe that the Maastricht treaty is a step forward that must be taken. It would be a disaster for Britain and Europe were it not ratified.

I do not want to make too much of the Labour party's current position—I do not wish to intrude too much on private grief—but I find the Labour party amendment curious to say the least. It is clear from the amendment that the Opposition's objection to the Bill does not, as the Leader of the Opposition claims, just rest on the opt-outs. It rests on something much more fundamental. It now appears from the amendment that the Labour party disagrees on three counts, not just with the Bill but with the treaty. It has identified a lack of appropriate "convergence criteria", a lack of any mechanism to strengthen co-operation between the sovereign nations of the Community and a lack of anything to ensure the maximum of democratic accountability". If the Labour party is to hold to that amendment, the logical consequence is that not only the Bill but the treaty is unacceptable to it. Although Labour Members will be able to get through tomorrow without betraying splits in the Labour party by abstaining, the logic of the amendment is that they must vote against Third Reading of the Bill, because the treaty is unamendable.

I merely say to my colleagues in the Labour party—[Interruption.] They are fellow members of the Opposition. In a broader sense, Tory Members are also my colleagues in this place. It is curious that a party which, only weeks ago, was telling us that it was the most pro-European party in Britain, ends up in a position where, to behave logically, it must vote against the Bill.

There seem to be two remaining positions of credibility in relation to what happens in the European Community: those who believe that the Community must now move forward, that Maastricht is not a finishing point but a transition: and those who will vote in favour of the Bill—every hon. Member on the Liberal Democrat Benches, some on the Conservative and some on the Labour Benches. And then there are those who believe that we have already gone too far and that the Community must now retrace its steps.

There was an element of that in the Prime Minister's speech today. Those Members will vote against the Bill, and will include some Conservative and some Labour Members, but the Government take the view that we should follow neither of those two cases and that the European Community should now move neither forward nor backward but should simply stay still. They regard the Maastricht treaty not as a point of transition but as a full stop. The Prime Minister used the words: thus far and no further. That is not a position but an illusion. If the Community does not develop, it will start to unravel.

Serious problems are already building up within the various member states. The impetus that the development of Europe has received is beginning to be set back as nations deal with their internal problems. Already, their will is beginning to fail. One of the key tasks for the Government during their presidency will be to ensure that Europe has a clear direction forwards. If that does not happen it will begin to unravel. That will be welcomed by some Tory Members, and no doubt by the hon. Member for Newham, South and many of his hon. Friends. However, a retreating Community is not good—it is extremely dangerous. A Community that has lost the will to go forward has lost its capacity to play its part in the Europe that is now developing.

Mr. Spearing

In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman correctly referred to the need for further international co-operation, which many Labour Members who do not like the treaty of Rome or its development would heartily endorse. He has now suggested that, due to developments, unless there is further change and centralisation, those arrangements will fall apart. Does he agree, therefore, that the basis of the present treaties is at fault but that we should now emphasise the international rather than supranational aspects of it, for which the right hon. Gentleman will vote tonight?

Mr. Ashdown

My answer to the hon. Gentleman is no.

If Europe does not progress forward, it will start to unravel. That would be dangerous at this point in history, because at the very moment when we shall need some sense of unity and cohesion in the west to balance a descent into confusion and rising nationalism in the east, Europe will be unable to provide it. At the very moment when we shall need to begin to integrate not only our markets but our industries in Europe, to compete against the Japanese and the economic growth of power in the Pacific basin, Europe will have lost the will and capacity to produce that integration.

When we shall need to face up to the environmental threat that confronts all of us, to co-ordinate more effectively to tackle it, Europe will have lost that capacity. At the very moment when we shall have to act together in a more united fashion to establish peace in the areas around our borders, even if that attempt is sometimes in vain, we shall have lost that capacity, too. At the very moment when we shall have to move toward the integration of our defence and security because their traditional foundation in NATO will be changing, we shall have lost the will and the ability to do so.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying, but why is the Liberal Democratic party—among all the Liberal parties in Europe—against the social chapter? Surely that means getting together and co-ordinating.

Mr. Ashdown

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I shall come to that in a moment. I shall develop my argument in my own terms.

When I hear the voices of some Tory and Labour Members—the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North is not one of them—I am often drawn to the conclusion that they seek to persuade us that all Europe's problems spring from the Community. Nothing could be further from the truth. The problems now facing Europe—those of the rise of the right, our economic problems and the broader problems caused by disintegration—would exist whether or not the Community existed. The European Community and its growing integration have not caused those problems but are the instrument by which we can more effectively tackle them. If that is to happen, we must begin to deepen the integration of the Community and strengthen its institutions.

Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the rise of the right is not a phenomenon of the European Community, but is it not a phenomenon of proportional representation?

Mr. Ashdown

Nowhere on earth is there a perfect electoral system. Every electoral system has its flaws and disadvantages. The hon. Gentleman may choose between an electoral system that allows one Member of Parliament to be elected from an extremist right-wing organisation when it has 6 per cent. of the vote—that is what proportional representation does—and allowing the Communist Government of Italy to have power, as it did throughout the 1960s in Italy, on 30 per cent. of the vote. That is what the electoral system of this country would have provided, had it existed in Italy. The hon. Gentleman may choose between the two systems.

I know where my choice lies. One system gives an extremist right-wing organisation, such as the National Front, one Member of Parliament at 6 per cent; the other could make that party the Government of the country at 36 per cent. Is that the kind of electoral system that the hon. Gentleman wants, because it is the system that he has here?

The Prime Minister said that he believed that we had to widen Europe. I agree with him and, if that is his aim, we shall support him. However, lying behind his comment was a different idea: that widening and deepening Europe were incompatible and that we could not do one and continue with the other. Many people, including me, believe that the Government's determination to concentrate on widening is deliberately being used to dodge the issues on deepening Europe.

If that is the Prime Minister's view—I suspect that it is—he must face up to three facts. First, he must face the fact that, if he wishes to enlarge and widen Europe, all those nations that now wish to join the Community wish to join not the looser Europe that he has described, but the Europe that is deepening and integrating its institutions. The European Free Trade Association, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia do not want the Europe that the Prime Minister and so many of his right hon. and hon. Friends describe: they want the Europe that they see being built around the Maastricht treaty—a Europe moving forward to closer and deeper integration.

The second fact that the Prime Minister must confront is that, if the Europe of which he speaks is enlarged, the present institutions will be incapable of providing the sort of guidance that such a Europe would need. God knows, they are incapable enough of providing the sort of central policy direction necessary for 12 member states; they would be incapable of providing it for 15 or 16—or even 22 or 23—member states.

If the Prime Minister wants Europe to be widened, does he want the institutions to be totally ineffective? According to the reply that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), it seems that the answer to that question is yes. My hon. Friend asked the Prime Minister whether there would be more co-ordination in foreign policy matters. The Prime Minister said that we could not take any decision unless it was to the advantage of us all. That is a recipe for paralysis and inaction. It would mean that, even with its present 12 member states, the Community could not take reasonable and co-ordinated steps. Therefore, with the 16 or 20 that the Prime Minister wants to create, it certainly could not.

The third factor that the Prime Minister must understand is that, if he wills the ends of a wider Europe, he must will the means of a wider Europe. There is no possibility that the sort of action that we would have to take to enable Poland and Hungary to join Europe could be taken through the Council of Ministers. The scale of such an operation is visible to us in the scale of the operation needed to unify Germany. The idea that we could achieve our goal simply on the basis of a horse trading forum like the Council of Ministers is inconceivable.

If the EFTA nations are to join the Community, how will we reform the common agricultural policy? Every one of the EFTA countries is a high subsidy agricultural nation. If they come into the CAP, they will merely join the horse trading forum, and will not help the thrust towards the reform of the CAP. Instead, they will be determined in their commitment to hold up its progress, as France now does.

If there is a drive towards the reform of the CAP, it comes not from the Council of Ministers but from the European Community. To the credit of the Government, that drive often has their support when no other Governments are willing to provide it. However, that does not always apply to this Government's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If we are to widen Europe, we must also deepen it; otherwise, the institutions will not cope and we shall not have the means to achieve the goals desired by the Prime Minister.

There are deficiencies in the treaty. We do not believe that the opt-out clause is necessary. Some Conservative Members are proud of it, but in order for us to believe that it is necessary for Britain, the Prime Minister will have to describe to us why. If he is to do that and to convince us, he can do so only if he can describe the circumstances in which it would be in Britain's interests to stay out of a monetary union that we had the ability to join. He has never been able to describe those circumstances. Until he can do so, the argument based on need falls and we see the opt-out for what it really is: nothing to do with Britain's interests, but more to do with splits in the Conservative party.

We all pay a high price for that piece of sticking plaster. We pay for it in that we shall not have the influence that we should have over the shape of the monetary union institutions. We pay for it in that our opportunity to have the European central bank located in Britain has been blown away. We also pay the price through uncertainty in the money markets as Britain does not know where it will be in three or four years' time. It could be inside or outside EMU. We also pay the price in that, should the pound come under pressure, we shall have higher interest rates.

The Labour amendment makes it clear that the party is unhappy with the criteria which Britain would have to meet if it were to join the European monetary union. It is unhappy with the entrance fee and wishes to renegotiate it. The positions of the two major parties are clear for all to see: the Labour party wants to join the club but will not pay the entrance fee, while the Tory party will pay the entrance fee but is not certain that it wants to join the club. I am not surprised that the machinations of the House and the two main parties sometimes cause our European neighbours to look at us with despair.

The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) mentioned the social chapter, about which my concerns are well known and well articulated. I believe that some elements of the social chapter will lead us towards the recreation of the old corporate structure in Europe that we in Britain have got rid of during the past 12 to 15 years. I do not believe that it would be sensible for this country or for Europe.

However, I greatly regret that, by opting out of the social chapter, the Government are opting out of the capacity to shape the social institutions. They have many friends in this context—the Portuguese, the Irish and others would also wish to ensure that the application of the social chapter should be changed to make it more amenable to the views of their Governments. I do not understand why the British Government have deliberately denied themselves that opportunity.

The great deficiency of the Maastricht treaty is the democratic deficit. The institutions that we are building will not be accountable to the European Parliament or to those who elect Members of the European Parliament. That is an issue to which the treaty, the European Commission and the House will have to return. For the moment, the Liberal Democrats are prepared to support the treaty as it is a step towards what we should like to achieve, but it is not perfect.

The Prime Minister has recently told us that he is his own man—now he can be. He has his mandate—as far as our electoral system provides one—and can ignore the minority so-called Euro-sceptics among Conservative Back Benchers. He can also ignore his predecessor who is still writhing with the phantoms that haunted her during her premiership. Let him show us that he is his own man by marking a path forward and using the presidency that starts this July to give Europe a sense of direction forward. He must not allow it to stay still, certainly not allow it to go backwards. I believe that the Prime Minister understands the importance of Europe to Britain and the significance of an increasingly integrated Europe in the world.

If the Prime Minister succeeds in obtaining those goals, he will be giving Europe the sense of direction that it needs and acting in this country's best interests. In the next two or three months, we shall see what he does and whether he is his own man. If, during the progress of the Bill and the period of Britain's presidency, the Prime Minister's claim to be his own man is tested and proved to be correct, in the interests of this country and Europe, my hon. Friends will support him, tomorrow night, during the passage of the Bill, and in the months to come.

6.8 pm

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I am very pleased to be able to participate in this debate with the freedom of a Back Bencher. I am even more delighted to be able to do so having heard the speeches that have been made. I should like to offer my congratulations, humble as they may be, to the Prime Minister on having so clearly set the scene for the introduction of this Bill to ratify the treaty of Maastricht.

I intend to approach the debate from the point of view of my constituents—a rather more simple approach than some of the hyperbole to which we have been treated this afternoon. In large measure I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who talked about the need to make haste with caution. I suspect that most of my constituents would agree with that. The reason for their caution is that they are uncertain what the future has in store.

Many of the people who work in my constituency are business men, who welcome the single European market with open arms. They want to participate in it, because they can see that that is where their future lies and that of their businesses, small and large. Their opportunities will be even greater, they believe, if, as the Prime Minister and I hope, we extend the European market beyond the Twelve to the countries of eastern Europe and to the EFTA countries that want to join.

I disagree with the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) about the reasons why European countries want to join the Community. It is not necessarily because they want a deeper Europe; it is because they want the benefits of the single market and of the level playing field within it. They see an advantage for themselves in trading in that market.

The Leader of the Opposition told us the reasons why he is so worried about the Government's desire to opt out of the social chapter. That reminded me, as I am sure it would have reminded my constituents, of the reasons why they were so cautious about supporting the Labour party in the recent general election. The people in my constituency are ordinary, average men and women, and they want to live and work as they choose. They want to enjoy the opportunities for employment which have been hard won over the past 13 years by getting rid of restrictive practices and rolling back the corporate state. All that has given them the chance to work and live as they would want to.

Women in particular want to keep the right to work part time and to work as they want. More women work in this country than in many other parts of Europe, and they treasure the opportunity to work. The money goes towards the family income, and we should not lightly discard this privilege in favour of the social chapter, which I fear would seriously threaten it.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) touched on an important point. It was clear during the course of the election that many people are worried about immigration—a sensitive area. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right to point out that, for 45 years, we have had a great deal of experience of how to absorb people from other nations, especially Commonwealth nations, and of how to integrate them.

When in government, I used to talk with considerable pride of an integrated multicultural society. We can impart a great deal of expertise to our European partners and teach them the benefits of living in a multicultural country. Our legislation and our institutions—the Commission for Racial Equality, for instance—could serve as models for other nations that will have people of other cultures coming to live among them.

This country is now composed of people of many different cultures, colours and religions, and I think that I speak for my constituents in this matter. About 20 per cent. of them come from other cultures and have become part of this country, and I am sure that they share our view that it is essential that we keep our border controls as they are. They would be most concerned were they to learn that those controls were under threat. I share the anxiety of hon. Friends who have asked what will happen if the controls are discarded—if the Government cannot retain them. If the European Court ruled against us, what would become of our border controls? How satisfactory would it be to have to introduce identity cards?

I have no particular objection to identity cards. When I go shopping, I have to produce endless pieces of identification when I want to write a cheque, so I do not have a rooted objection to such cards; but I am absolutely sure that they are not a clear way of identifying those who enter and remain as illegal immigrants.

When I say these things, I speak on behalf of a large number of people outside this place—far from this wonderful enclosed forum where we debate among ourselves and sometimes fail to reach people on the Clapham omnibus. They have fears, and everyone who lives in this country believes that we are now close to the maximum number of people we can sustain in employment and underpin with our social security system.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the crucial issue is not whether identity cards are good or bad but whether we as a nation want them or have them forced upon us?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I quite agree. I would much prefer to have a choice. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley said, many people are seriously worried that the European Court of Justice will force us down a road that we do not wish to travel. Somehow or other, the Government must adopt the toughest possible line on these controls on behalf of the people of this country.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I raised this issue during the general election myself. Does my right hon. Friend accept that economic migration is a problem faced and worried about by every country in Europe for different reasons, and that it is a matter that we must deal with as the world's population doubles in the next 30 years?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I agree, as I suspect most thinking people would.

In this debate we may hear a lot of hyperbole and a great many high-flown ideals. Some Members may want to resist everything European and to say that we are self-sufficient. The truth is that we have not been self-sufficient for a very long time. For nearly 20 years, we have gradually worked more closely with our European colleagues, and we cannot resist the momentum now. We cannot sensibly resist the notion of closer intergovernmental co-operation in foreign affairs and defence. But I have great reservations about a single currency, as I suspect do some of my constituents. I should want to study it at much closer quarters before I came to a final and certain conclusion.

I am satisfied that we can go this far and that the Government will take us this far with the utmost expertise. What I worry about are the implications for the future, and I suspect that I and my colleagues will take great care to study in detail the various directives and issues as they come before the House, because we have the right and the duty to protect our constituents.

6.19 pm
Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

The heart of the Maastricht treaty—the Bill is about the ratification of that treaty—lies in the proposals for economic and monetary union, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) so eloquently said. However, the Prime Minister hardly mentioned economic and monetary union. He dealt with the issues in the treaty which do not need internal or domestic legislation, but he did not deal with economic and monetary union—presumably because he felt that the opt-out from stage 3, which he managed to negotiate in Maastricht, meant that he did not have to deal with it. We heard much about subsidiarity, which is the latest Government fig leaf in respect of the train that is still proceeding rapidly towards a federal union, but we heard little about economic and monetary union.

I believe that, once we have completed stage 2, the reality will be that we shall have very little option but to sign up for stage 3. That is why it is important to debate economic and monetary union in the Second Reading debate. The economic and monetary union proposals in the treaty entail a massive, substantial shift of power over money and our fiscal and economic policy from democratically elected Government and Parliament to undemocratic Community institutions.

As has been mentioned, the spirit of the age in Europe, as elsewhere, is for more and better democracy and—to use a vogue word—deeper democracy, but the House is being asked to take a gigantic step back from more, better and deeper democracy, a step that is the very antithesis of the spirit of the age in Europe.

We are being asked to cement ourselves into a treaty on economic and monetary union, not a union of the peoples of Europe but a Europe of bankers and bureaucrats, a Europe shaped by that old Hegelian ideal of a universal class of expert civil servants whose loyalty and duties lie primarily with institutions. Of course, in their case, that means with the institutions in pre-war Germany—with those of the state—and in this case with the institutions of the Community, primarily those of the new central bank, of the Commission and of the European Court of Justice. Their loyalty and duties do not lie with the elected representatives of the peoples of the different nations within that union.

The cental bank will be able to control the supply of money, untrammelled by politics. The concept of price stability will be enshrined in fundamental legislation and, ultimately, the Commission will have the authority and power to pester, to bully and perhaps even to fine elected Governments who spend more on and borrow more for public services than is allowed under the arbitrary and ridiculous percentages enshrined in the treaty. Community institutions will have a virtual veto over the policies of elected Governments, and economics will be taken out of politics. I believe that the consequences will be enormous. They will be enormous for this House, for the democratic process throughout Europe, for the mainstream political parties in Europe and, especially, for the parties of the left, including my own.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other colleagues on the Front Bench have tabled a reasoned amendment, as it is described. It certainly expresses some misgivings about the treaty and, indeed, about economic and monetary union. However, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said—I took a careful note—that we, meaning the official Labour party, broadly supported the treaty. The implication of the reasoned amendment is that, broadly, we acquiesce in most of the treaty, and certainly in the part dealing with economic and monetary union.

Indeed, it seems that we are asking for the central bank to be in London. Why we are so keen to have it in London I do not know. I walk around the city from time to time—we have plenty of banks in London. Britain needs fewer banks and more production, so I cannot understand the desire to have another bank. Perhaps some of my right hon. Friends will have more lunches at these highly geared and responsible banks. I am sorry that my right hon. Friends have decided that the Labour party should not vote officially against the Bill, and, in effect, against the proposals for economic and monetary union.

My fear is that by acquiescing, we shall have to acquiesce in many of the domestic economic consequences of the treaty and in its proposals for economic and monetary union. I shall mention a few of those consequences. First, I do not know what the Treasury is plotting, but if the Bill becomes law, I should not be surprised if we had a new Bank of England Act in the next year or two, because it will be necessary—

Mr. Cash

Next year.

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman says, "Next year." It will be necessary to repeal the old Bank of England Act 1946, which was an attempt by a post-war Labour Government to impose direction and control on the Bank of England following the bank's activity—or lack of it—in the 1930s and the dreadful unemployment that we suffered, partly as a consequence of what the bank failed to do, or what it did.

In effect, the new Bank of England Act will transfer power and control over monetary policy to Mr. Robin Leigh-Pemberton, his heirs and successors. They will be responsible not—as they are now—to the Chancellor of the Exchequer but to the president or the governor of the European central bank. In acquiescing in the treaty, I presume that the Labour party will be acquiescing in privatisation or to the handing of monetary power from the Government to the Bank of England and, through the Bank of England, to the European central bank.

Secondly, let us consider public expenditure. We have been told that entrenched in the treaty is a condition that the borrowing requirement—the public sector borrowing requirement as we call it—should be 3 per cent. of a country's gross domestic product. At the moment, it is about 4.5 per cent. in the United Kingdom. Last night, in his speech to the Confederation of British Industry, the Chancellor said that attempts would now be made to bring the PSBR down to 3 per cent. of GDP—I am sure that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is already sharpening his knife. Cuts will have to be made even if there is considerable growth in GDP in the next few years. There will have to be cuts in public expenditure to get the PSBR down to 3 per cent. as demanded by the treaty agreed at Maastricht.

Again, my fear is that if we—the Labour party—fail to vote against the Bill, we may very well be seen to be acquiescing in those cuts in public expenditure to bring PSBR down to 3 per cent. I do not believe that most of my colleagues would want that but, intellectually, it will be impossible to oppose those cuts from the Back Benches or the Front Benches when we have acquiesced and not objected to Second Reading.

Thirdly, "price stability" is a phrase lifted from the Bundesbank Acts which were passed when the western part of Germany was the Federal Republic. There is nothing wrong with it for that reason, but price stability means zero inflation. I see that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury nods in agreement. Indeed, it is something that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last night.

The vague phrases that we have heard about unemployment are all subject to the main objective of the European central bank, which is price stability and, in turn, zero inflation. With low growth in Europe, I do not believe that it will be possible to achieve zero inflation without having higher and higher unemployment. That is the only way that we shall be able to achieve zero inflation in the Europe of today. The central bank, however, will press inexorably for the goal of zero inflation. As it does so, unemployment in Europe—already exacerbated by low growth and immigration—will increase.

Is the Labour party, by not opposing the Bill's Second Reading, saying that it now accepts price stability as the main goal of economic policy in Europe? The Labour party has never accepted that before. We are against inflation, but we have always felt—Conservative Members may disagree with this—that there are trade-offs. Fashions come and go in economics but we, the Labour party, have always felt that there is a trade off between zero inflation or inflation and unemployment. Are we accepting price stability by not voting against Second Reading? Right-wing monetarists have long advocated the concept of price stability, but are we accepting that it should be entrenched in the United Kingdom's economic constitution?

A further consequence for the Labour party—I apologise to Conservative Members for discussing these matters in these terms, but these are important considerations for a party of the left—will be difficulty in preparing a manifesto for the next general election. Having accepted all the canons of economic policy that are set out in the treaty, I do not know how we will be able to set out an alternative and distinctive economic policy. They are the canons that have been promulgated by the right wing of the Conservative party and even by the Keynesians on the Government Benches. I think that a few Keynesians are left.

These canons have been accepted by the Friedmanites on the Government Benches. Are we, the Labour party, to accept them? By failing to oppose the Bill, we are sending a signal that we as a party of the left in Britain, with the other parties of the left in Europe, accept the concept of strict monetarism that in the past we have always deprecated.

I have spoken in many of the debates on Europe over the past 20 years, and they are characterised by much wishful thinking. It goes like this: "It will all fall apart anyway. It is not going to happen. It will be all right on the night." A variation on that goes as follows: "These words in the treaty are awful. The language is terrible. It is easier if you are a lawyer. These French and German people are very academic. When men of good will and practical common sense get together, the words will not mean anything. We can then work it out between us."

Even Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, was taken in. I read in a newspaper the other day that somebody promised her that the Single European Act would not affect sovereignty. She did not have to read the small print, because the reality was to be seen in large print.

There was some more wishful thinking from the Prime Minister this afternoon, and subsidiarity was part of it. It is used as a cloak to prevent people questioning too deeply the movement away from parliamentary sovereignty. Apparently we are now back at the heart of Europe, Germany is now in permanent decline, things are terrible on the Continent and the general election in this country has been won by the Conservative party. We shall have the presidency of the European Council of Ministers for the next six months. We can invite all the Ministers to Holyrood house and give them dinner with the Queen, and they will admire the tiara. Everything will be fine. The Foreign Office will be happy. We are back at the heart of Europe and the other Europeans will follow us and do what we want.

That is the "big Englander" argument. It is advanced on the basis that we know better than they do and they will now recognise that. My experience tells me that it ain't going to happen like that. It has not happened like that in the past. The European Court of Justice, for example, may decide that we can no longer have our border controls. The right hon. Members for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) and for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) will not be able to do anything about that. If the House of Lords makes a judicial decision and we believe that it should be overturned, we can do so by means of a vote, but it is not possible for us to overturn a judgment of the European Court of Justice. Probably the 12 member states could do so, but it would be a herculean task to get them together, quite apart from getting them to agree. My experience tells me that in the end the central bank will enforce its status.

Sir Russell Johnston

The right hon. Gentleman is going on about wishful thinking, which I believe is accompanied by a certain amount of self-delusion. He attacks Conservative Members on the ground that Europe is full of Friedmanites. Those on the other side of the argument mount an attack on the ground that Europe is full of people producing social charters. There is something in the middle which is much more sensible despite what the right hon. Gentleman said about men of good sense not being able to carry the day.

Mr. Davies

Perhaps I am a simple Welsh lawyer, but I read the words in the treaty. Those words are reasonably clear. The European Court will enforce its status, the central bank will try to achieve price stability, the court will enforce the treaty and the Commission will rely on its powers. That is what has happened until now and that is what will happen in future.

There is no hiding place which offers escape from the main clauses of the treaty. My party's reasoned amendment provides no escape and no hiding place.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

My right hon. Friend has made some play of the trade-off between zero inflation or price stability and unemployment. I am sure that he has read the reasoned amendment, but I shall draw his attention to it. Part of it reads: deeply regrets the Government's failure to make any attempt to build into the Maastricht Treaty convergent criteria which emphasise the need for balanced development, a high level of employment and sustainable growth in the regions and countries of the Community". Does that not meet my right hon. Friend's concern?

Mr. Davies

I certainly agree with what my hon. Friend read out. That part of the reasoned amendment seems to provide a good reason to vote against the Bill's Second Reading. I intended to make that point in my conclusion.

We in the Labour party have always prided ourselves on being a party of democratic socialism. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I came into the House in 1970, and I know that he has always honourably maintained that tradition and spoken for it. I have read the treaty, and there is nothing democratic in the part that relates to economic and monetary union. There is nothing socialist about it, either. That is why I cannot understand why we should not vote against it.

6.38 pm
Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

The speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) was interesting. He is one of the more perceptive Opposition commentators on economic affairs. His remarks showed that it is beginning to dawn on those within the Labour party that the stance of its Front Bench spokesmen, with their cavalier acceptance of the full implications of stage 3 of monetary union and their outright rejection of the far more cautious and prudent stance of my right hon. Friends, is a dangerous one.

I was especially glad this afternoon to hear the view of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the Maastricht treaty, as presented to the House and embodied in the Bill, will reverse the centralisation and the centralising tendencies that are to be found in the Community. That is the most important task of all for democratic leaders and democratic assemblies, given that, like it or not, we live in a world of enormous centralising tendencies. It is surely the duty of us all not merely stubbornly and negatively to resist, but to create a balance between the great centrifugal forces at work in modern technology, modern business, modern bureaucracy and modern international institutions, and the decentralising tendencies that democrats must believe in and fight to retain.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would be the first to recognise that if that is the aim and the intention as we go into this post-Maastricht phase, there is still a great deal of work to be done both here and in the other capitals of the existing member states. It appears that the mood is turning in those capitals. The fears of those who feel that we shall be caught up in the same snags and snares as we were with the Single European Act are less well founded now than they were then.

I understand those fears, but the mood is changing. The sort of debates that we have in this country are being repeated in other countries, which is welcome. We can play a part in stimulating those debates. We should not simply sit and feebly say, "The Eleven are against us, it is hopeless and nothing can be done." A great deal has been done and can be done if we show intellectual vigour. Indeed, that process began at the Maastricht meeting in December when my right hon. Friends showed that they were not inevitably caught up in the steamroller process. They came back with the opt-out from the social chapter and the protocol on monetary union.

A great deal of the attack by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, which was made with much feeling, was simply tilting at a gigantic windmill. The Conservative party is not against sensitive and well-tuned social and employment legislation. We have a proud record on those matters and we have been very successful over the years. However, we are against the idea that they should be laid down in a remote place and not in this nation, in the appropriate way that we choose to make our laws and design our legislation.

The Opposition amendment fails to understand even the beginnings of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained we were seeking to do in the post-Maastricht phase, which is to make a reality of the undeniably vague word "subsidiarity", about which there has been so much talk. I believe that the word comes from canon law, although some tell me that it comes from the military law of the second Roman empire. Either way, it is the beginning of a process in which we shall conduct our law making and lay down the rules and regulations for governing the order of our lives in a way that is diverse and which differs from country to country. Only in certain cases will the central Community authority be regarded as subsidiary and competent to deal with those matters.

Provided that we work with vigour on the definition of "subsidiarity"—the Oxford English Dictionary refers to a central authority having a subsidiary function—it in fact means that the centre is subordinate. The Community should not be seen as above the House of Commons or the nation state; the centre is the body to which we delegate certain functions that could be better achieved at Community level. Therefore, I welcome, vague though it is, the beginnings of a different direction towards the sort of Europe that provides a balance between the nation state and nationhood—a Europe of nations in a modern sense, not the old Gaullist sense—and the necessary central functions that we delegate to the Community and its offices. They are not the higher authority, but the authority to which we delegate certain acts, as we choose.

In the coming weeks and months, we shall discuss the details of the Bill and the Maastricht treaty, and the way in which that reforms the Rome treaty. Tonight is a time of principles, and the one that I believe should be strongly upheld is the principle embodied in the word "diversity". Of course, diversity means the very opposite of convergence—the word that we hear so often and which is in the Labour party's amendment. "Convergence" is a fashionable word, most especially in relation to monetary union aims, but also in relation to a whole range of other matters in the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty. The more we think about convergence, the more inappropriate and worrying it becomes, so it is significant that that principle is embodied in the Opposition amendment.

Convergence means central aims to flatten the disparities and remove the discrepancies between the nation states. We must question whether that is even a practical idea, let alone a healthy ideological one. What do we make of the convergence in Germany, which is supposed to be the lead country in commitment to monetary union? The Germans are trying to achieve convergence between the former east and west Germanies, but it is an utter failure. The more they try to achieve common labour laws, common minimum wages and even a common currency on a one for one basis—against the shrewd advice of Karl Otto Pöhl—the more they plunge into hideous disparities.

The very attempt to create convergence simply results in even more disparities, so that they have now created not just a welfare state—I am not necessarily against that—but a growing dependency with bottomless expenditure, with bottomless demands on the west German taxpayers and on the borrowers of Europe, at our expense, all in the name of trying to create an unnecessarily precise convergence between east and west.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that all becomes even more worrying when we remember that Spain is supposed to have the same gross domestic product per capita as the former east German state? Therefore, if it costs DM 150 million a year to subsidise the former East Germany and bring it up to the standards of the former West Germany, what will it cost the Community in subsidy or increased taxation to do the same for Spain?

Mr. Howells

I was about to deal with the broader questions raised by my specific example, and my hon. Friend has touched on one of them. I was about to mention Italy and question how convergence is working out there. The poor Italians hardly even have a Government at the moment—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

That is a great advantage.

Mr. Howell

My hon. and learned Friend has a shrewdness that he brings to us from the northern kingdom.

Italy has a budget deficit of 127,000 billion lire. Perhaps that figure is too large to fit into Hansard. The very idea that Italy will even begin to formulate a policy to bring about the convergence necessary to overcome the disparities and prepare the way for stage 3 of monetary union is pure fantasy. The truth is that convergence is applied as a doctrine—the sort of doctrine that the Labour party apparently wants and which is embedded in the attempt to move towards the third stage of monetary union. I do not want to sound cavalier, but I do not think that that first stage will ever happen. Convergence is unattainable and undesirable.

If there is to be a thriving single market, we need more diversity. Trade and competition thrive through differences, not through the flattening of differences—between level lakes no water flows.

The constant theme of many parts of the Maastricht treaty and of the Europe-builders of the past few years has been that we must do away with diversity and achieve a commonality, a similar pattern, a uniformity of taxes and social regulation as embodied in the social chapter, employment law, schooling, culture and so on. That does not promote competition; it is anti-competitive and needs to be challenged at every point. It is the larger Europe, on which I hope that my right hon. Friends will concentrate during our presidency, that will have the necessary strength. Looseness is strength; the rigidity and flattening of the disparities is the real weakness which will lead to Europe breaking apart.

I am not talking simply about convergence, to use the jargon as applied to monetary union. The same theme occurs in the former Single European Act and is still there, I am afraid, in the present revised treaty where it appears in the new jargon as cohesion, Cohesion receives a big boost in the new treaty in article 130b. It also appears in a new commitment to educational and vocational policy and in the European social fund and the European structural fund. In all those areas there is a vast commitment to flattening and removing disparities.

When people talk about momentum in the EC, they do not mean what they used to mean when we first joined the Community, which was a momentum towards the market and towards removing barriers and obstacles; they mean momentum towards more central recycling of funds, more vast transfers of resources and more commitment by the central administration to the gigantic merry-go-round of redistribution. That is a dangerous course.

The idea that one first denies the poorer areas of Europe the opportunity to compete on costs, to move their exchange rates and to operate their fiscal policies in ways which would attract private investment, and then compensates by redistributing funds on a vast scale is socialism at its silliest. I do not believe that that is what my right hon. Friends want to see emerge after Maastricht, and they are right to seek to check it in every conceivable way.

The doctrines of convergence and cohesion have been promoted at every point. Even the sacred level playing field, an idea which has been carried to extreme forms by market-minded officials who have gone well over the top in seeking to flatten and level everything in sight, leads to a pattern which is far from promoting competition and the single market. Those doctrines are founded on the economic fallacy that, through redistribution, one can compensate for the patterns of similarity which have been imposed on everyone.

That is not the European greater single market that we want to see. Contrary to what has been said, it will not be welcomed by the new east European democracies, the Finns, Swedes or even the Austrians. They want the great prosperity of a single market, as do we all, but that will be destroyed and defeated by the huge merry-go-round of redistribution. That did not work at a national level, as was shown in Britain in the 1980s and in many other countries—there was an absurd idea that we could compensate through socialisation—and it will not work at the European level. We should use the opportunity of the Maastricht agreement secured by my right hon. Friend to ensure that the passion for sameness is blocked by the policy-makers of Europe during the next few years and that we go in a different direction.

We must take this opportunity to establish new priorities and to establish principles on which an open and enlarged Community can work. We must use this opportunity to obtain a constitutional settlement on where the competencies lie and to establish a balance between Community and national rules and get away from the feeling that everything is sliding to the centre, which is what will happen unless politicians are perceptive and fight hard.

Above all, we must equip this Parliament to achieve that balance. That means not merely scrutinising current legislation and regulations, as is done so ably by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and his Committee, but giving this Parliament a far more effective pre-legislative role so that we can reverse the centralisation and maintain the balance of a healthy democratic Community.

6.54 pm
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

First, I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. I remember a long while ago returning from exile to Pontefract and the first meeting of an education committee under your chairmanship. It is nice to be back with your fairness and firmness once again. [Interruption.] We people from Pontefract must stick together.

We seem to be living in some "Alice in Wonderland" world when we talk about sovereignty where words mean what each person says they mean rather than what they actually mean. What is this wondrous sovereignty that we are losing? I understand sovereignty to be the ability of people to control their own lives; to be able to control the large corporations, the things in the larger world but also the things at their level.

What is so unique about Westminster and Whitehall that all sovereignty resides there, which is what I have been given to understand by speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House today? That is the clearest nonsense. The sovereignty of this House, as far as I have seen in the relatively short time that I have been here, does not mean the control of the Government; it means listening to what the Government say and then trooping through the Lobbies in the way that the Whips direct. That is scarcely sovereignty.

We have the worst examination and scrutiny—I am pleased to be able to say this in front of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) because it is not his fault—of European legislation of all 12 member countries. We should consider what happens in Denmark which truly takes control of the Council of Ministers and truly knows what its Ministers will be saying. In Denmark, the subject of prawn-flavoured crisps would have been debated before it became an issue—unlike here, where we blame the loss of our prawn-flavoured crisps on the loss of sovereignty.

Mrs. Currie

The hon. Gentleman seems to be completely unaware that, in addition to the Scrutiny Committee chaired by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), there are two European Standing Committees. I do not think that he is a member of either of those, but he could join us and spend many hours debating the issues long before they reach the stage that he describes.

Mr. Enright

I should be delighted to accept the hon. Lady's invitation. I was not allowed to join either of those Committees even though I put my name down as soon as I was elected. I am glad to have the hon. Lady as an ally in my quest to become a member of those Committees. But it is not the Committees that are at fault. I do not blame the Committees. I blame those who set up the Committees with their terms of reference and the way in which they are circumvented.

Mr. Spearing

One of the features of the new scrutiny system on which my hon. Friend comments is that he will be able to attend all the Standing Committees when they are set up, even if he is not a voting member, and he will be able to speak at all of them, along with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). Is my hon. Friend aware that our system, although it could be improved, is the best of all systems in that it reports on each item of legislation from the Council of Ministers, the Government provide an explanatory memorandum and if the Scrutiny Committee requests a debate, there is one? I know of no national Parliament within the Community that covers the matter in that way.

Mr. Enright

The Danish Parliament does precisely that, and in an infinitely more effective way. A whole range of legislation has passed through the House, including the Single European Act. Many of the provisions about which Conservative Members complain were implied by that legislation. They accepted and voted for it, and it is too late for them to complain.

Sovereignty is the getting of proper control. National Parliaments need to control the Council of Ministers, and we ought to give much more power to the European Parliament—which the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) will, I understand, soon be joining—in order that it can properly scrutinise the Commission. That is the double whammy—the way in which we ought to control the Community.

The Community has all kinds of imperfections. I would not dream of saying that it is a perfect institution. However, one must be positive about one's objectives. If all that one wants out of the Community is money, money, money and for it to serve just as an exchange and mart, the Community will crumble and fold. There is no chance of that happening, however, because—contrary to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) the Community's 11 other member states will sustain it.

It is interesting to study the attitude of the European Parliament in that respect. As soon as Conservative Members of the European Parliament joined the Christian Democrats, the liberals there said, "You're even more right-wing than we are, so why don't you move seats?" The extreme right of the Conservative party is viewed precisely as such by many Christian Democrat parties, because they do not share the hang-ups that Conservative MEPs have about trade unions.

The social chapter is important because it will make Europe a Europe of the citizen—not a Europe just of the big bankers. Europe is for every individual citizen. It should be accessible to the individual through us and through Members of the European Parliament. Economics is the handmaiden of society, not an end in itself. Economics is a tool to ensure—and this is enshrined not in the Single European Act or Maastricht treaty but in the treaty of Rome, and in the European Coal and Steel Community—the quality of life of workers and of consumers. If the social chapter is removed, we shall be finished.

Mr. Dykes

The hon. Gentleman does not need to criticise the banks. Last year's report from the Deutschebank includes a four-page section espousing the virtues of the social charter measures.

Mr. Enright

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The House will understand why I proposed him as president of the European Movement.

One aspect of the treaty has not been mentioned. It is disgraceful that the Prime Minister's speech made no reference to the Committee of the Regions, which will be a real test for the Government. They talk about subsidiarity, and that committee is an important part of subsidiarity.

Our present structure is not very helpful in gaining for our regions the recognition that is enjoyed by, for example, German lander. If the committee of the regions is to be appointed by the Government and not be proportionally elected locally, there will be real problems. Germany has done well out of regional and social funds because its lander have direct access to both the Commission and European Parliament. They established substantial structures for that purpose and, even more importantly, to convey developments to their local industries.

Dr. Godman

The Committee of the Regions is purely an advisory body, and it has no power vis-a-vis Europe's central institutions. According to the Prime Minister this afternoon, his interpretation of subsidiarity confines the allocation of competencies to central institutions. There is no question of the present Prime Minister devolving power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or the English regions.

Mr. Enright

I accept entirely my hon. Friend's argument, but I do not downgrade the importance of being able to offer advice, which is also the ability of the regions to accrue knowledge—and that is a powerful tool. Regions can inform their Members of Parliament what is happening.

A practical example of that is RECHAR, which was an attempt by the European Community to ensure that those made redundant from the coal industry would be compensated. Restructuring left a legacy of dereliction, environmental blight and unemployment. I invite Conservative Members to Hemsworth, to visit the pit villages with me and to see the enormous problems that restructuring created there.

There have been big arguments between the Government and the European Commission about the way in which the RECHAR money should be used. At no time were local authorities properly consulted by the Government—although it is interesting that they were consulted by that awful body the European Commission, as well as by the European Parliament. The one body that did not talk to local authorities was the Department of Trade and Industry.

The former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the right hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley) announced on 17 February that all the additionality problems had been resolved. Local government, local bodies and private industry look forward to the resolution of those problems and to the money arriving.

In Upton in my constituency, there is a huge complex of pit baths, which a local entrepreneur—not the local authority, but with its agreement—wants to restore, so that they can be used as work units for small and medium-sized enterprises. That is one of the Commission's other pet themes, but it was not mentionied by the Government. However, we still do not know how the RECHAR money and cover is to be provided.

Part of our sovereignty in Parliament is the ability to scrutinise and to put down questions. I asked the President of the Board of Trade how the capital cover arrangements for RECHAR operational programmes are to be introduced. I tabled that as a priority question, because it is a matter of priority in my constituency. The first response that I received stated that the Department would reply shortly. I received its full reply this morning: My Department expects to make an announcement shortly."—[Official Report, 19 May 1992; Vol. 208, c. 105.] Is that the kind of nonsense that we can expect when European money is being thrown about? If we had a regional committee, it would be harrying the Government every moment, and it would not be left to one or two Labour Members to do that. Regional committees would serve a useful purpose, although not if they were appointed in the same way as area health authorities.

A good deal of nonsense has been talked about monetary union. We talk as though we could advance an economic policy in isolation, here in the United Kingdom—assuming that there is a United Kingdom—that would solve all our problems, rather than being ruled by these nasty foreign bankers. Under successive Chancellors of both shades of political opinion, however, what has happened abroad is what has affected the price of the pound—and, as a result, affected our economic policies and the level of employment.

We could issue pleas. In the very old days, we could say to the United States of America, "Please do not do this to us." Before we were members of the European Community, we could say, "We are going to join the Americans, and the strength of the dollar will help us." Now we have a decision to make: do we have a currency that can stand up to the yen and the dollar or do we have an offshore currency that will end up being policed in the way in which we are told that immigration points should be policed? That would be nonsense. As a result of coming together and pooling our sovereignties, we shall gain infinitely more sovereignty over the pound and economic policy than we have at present.

Successive Chancellors in the present Administration have talked about the way in which they are shadowing the mark, and discussions have taken place in Germany with the famed independent central bank. I have not known that bank to be so very independent of the policy pursued by West Germany. Far from it: what the Government have said, the bank has followed. We certainly could not boast such an arrangement in this country. Is the Bank of England as an entity subservient or subject to the Government? I certainly have not noticed its being subservient or subject to Labour Governments, and from time to time it has taken action that has proved awkward even for Conservative Chancellors.

I cannot see that, under the present system, our Bank is anything other than independent—and, in practical terms, the Bundesbank has been less independent than the Bank of England. The Bundesbank made it patently clear what it thought about union between the East German mark and the West German mark: it was against it. It may well have been right; I am not arguing about the rights and wrongs of the matter.

Chancellor Kohl said, "We will join together," and they did join together. There was no nonsense; it was a shotgun marriage, with the gun pointed at the head of the bank. That is precisely what will ultimately happen to us when there is a central bank in the European Community. The Opposition amendment is sensible, because it says that we must openly put in ECOFIN and develop its powers so that we can be absolutely sure that we are running in parallel. We are talking not about taking separate paths, but about taking the same path to combat unemployment. The only way in which we can combat that dreadful problem is by working with our European partners and strengthening our manufacturing industry. We can do that together, but we cannot do it separately.

In no way will that do what the right hon. Member for Guildford seemed to suggest that it would do. It will not produce a sameness throughout the Community. A huge variety exists. If the right hon. Gentleman attends the European Parliament more regularly, he will see that it is the minorities that are defended by it—minorities that are often ignored in their own countries, in much the same way as we seem to be ignoring Scottish, Welsh and, even more important, Yorkshire culture because of our insistence on centralisation. That insistence is unhealthy and dictatorial. We need a Europe that is open; a Europe that is together; a Europe that can and should improve the world in many ways.

7.14 pm
Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Personally, I have always believed in the European Community. I voted for the referendum and I voted for the Single European Act. I did so on the basis that the Community is an effective means of achieving co-operation and increasing free trade, not only within Europe but in the world as a whole—the contracting global village that we inhabit.

My opposition to the Bill and to the treaty is based on the fact that, under the proposals, we are moving into wholly different territory. The Bill is about the future government and democracy of Europe and of the United Kingdom. The gravitational pull in the treaty—which is endorsed by the Bill—would take us, indeed, drag us, into a federal Europe. If anyone cares to use the expression "a unitary state", I do not really mind. The key question is not related to the theology of federalism, or the term "unitary state"; it is the question of what functions are being allocated, where the power will lie, who will be accountable to whom, who will be elected by whom and how the representative functions will be distributed. That applies not only to Government, but to the people as a whole.

I have a further problem with the proposals. Contrary to what some people believe, this is very much a centralising measure. I will go further, and say that I have proof: I put it as high as that. Strictly speaking, we are not debating the common provisions—title I of the treaty—because they are excluded from the Bill, which deals with the prerogative question. Those provisions, however, contain a clear statement that we shall now be operating within a "single institutional framework". Article C states: The Union shall be served"— there are no ifs or buts— by a single institutional framework which shall ensure the consistency and the continuity of the activities carried out in order to attain its objectives while respecting and building upon the `acquis communautaire'. I think that I can more less rest my case.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Hear, hear.

Mr. Cash

I am glad to hear the Minister say that.

We are being told that this is not a centralising measure, but it is clear from the common provisions—which are part of the treaty, and on which we must therefore rely—that a single institutional framework is involved.

Moreover, as far as I can judge, no reasons are being given for what is being done. I have never found any reason for us to be put in our present position, although I have heard a great deal about the fact that we will not have such a position imposed on us. I spoke about that in a debate in the previous Parliament. The question, surely, is not whether the position is being imposed on us, but whether we are prepared to agree to it.

Back in the days of the last Prime Minister, I asked repeatedly for a White Paper. During the Conservative party leadership campaign, the Foreign Secretary suggested that a White Paper might be a good idea, and he may have gone further; but we have seen no White Paper. We have had no referendum, and we are to have no free vote.

Sir Russell Johnston

The hon. Gentleman has said that his pre-eminent objection to the proposal is that it is a centralising proposal. If that is so important to him, why does the reasoned amendment to which he has attached his name emphasise his opposition to both the principle of subsidiarity and the creation of a Committee of the Regions?

Mr. Cash

I am delighted to hear from my hon. Friend. I call him that in this context, because we have discussed the issue many times. I shall come to the question of subsidiarity in a moment.

The problem is that the common provisions prescribe a union. I do not think that much attention has been paid to that yet. It is all set out. It absolutely amazes me when those of us who have been looking at these documents find that things which have been skulking around in obscure parts of the House of Commons Library for some time are only now just becoming obvious.

We are being taken into a union. I remember the debate that took place on about 25 June of last year. It was said then that the high contracting parties would establish themselves into a Union and impose duties upon the citizens of that union. Apart from obtaining certain rights, duties would be imposed upon them.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

My hon. Friend paints an eloquent picture of the dangers that he thinks we now face in going into a certain type of Europe that he never contemplated. Presumably he is distressed by that, because he voted to go into Europe; he voted for the single European market; and he voted for the exchange rate mechanism, and the rest. Would not the logic of his own eloquence today be to say, "I was conned," or. "I now realise the error of my ways"? Ought he not now to say that he wants to found a movement for coming out of Europe? If he were to do that, he might find that many of us would want to join him. If he does not say that, he lays himself open to the accusation that he is talking about a world that that he would like to be in, not about the world he is in.

Mr. Cash

In all fairness, that is a very good point. The Single European Act did not do what many people claimed it did. The difficulties that have emerged from the Single European Act have arisen largely because of the mischievous way in which the European Commission has used the provisions of, for example, article 100A in order to bring things within the ambit of what the Commission would like to be included. The health and safety provisions in relation to the working time directive are a good example.

It is the misuse of the powers of that Act rather than the Act itself which has caused difficulties. The Single European Act was based upon co-operation. The reality is that the European Commission has misused those powers. We are therefore perfectly entitled to stand by what we have done. Certainly I do so with regard to my support for the Single European Act.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

If it was possible for misuse of the previous Act to have been made against our interests, why should we not use the present Act in our interests?

Mr. Cash

We shall be using the provisions of this Act to assist ourselves, provided that it does not take us, as I believe it does, into this ever deeper and more centralised European union. The main point is that we are being told—my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) made this point—that subsequently we shall be able to move towards a system of decentralisation. The problem is that the contents of the treaty and the Bill have the effect of centralising this system. We shall find it increasingly difficult afterwards to decentralise. My answer, therefore, is that we should reject the treaty now, precisely because this is the opportunity to do so, and that we should not wait until afterwards. This is the moment.

Mr. Butterfill

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of article 100A, does he not accept that the so-called misuse of the Single European Act, or of article 100A, makes a difference only because, if we use it for health and safety, we come under qualified majority voting, whereas otherwise it has to be unanimous voting? That is the only difference. The problem with the Single European Act that my hon. Friend identifies remains the same. The difference is that, under the treaties that we are now considering, the principle of subsidiarity is introduced and the Commission has the obligation to apply it.

Mr. Cash

I believe that the principle of subsidiarity is a con trick. It is said that there will be a devolution downwards of functions. Yes, that will happen. However, the critical fact is that the main functions will be transferred upwards. One has only to look at the main provisions of the treaty that are taken to the upper tier—economic and monetary union and matters of that kind—to realise that that is where the real power would lie. Apart from the fact that many distinguished jurists have repeatedly rubbished the concept of subsidiarity, including Counsel to the then Speaker, the fact remains that this is a concept which, in my judgment, is centralising rather than decentralising, yet we are being told the opposite. It is extremely difficult for me to accept that.

As for economic and monetary union, I believe that, by the end of the second stage, we shall be so locked into the system that is being provided—the cranking together of the machinery of the various banks, civil services and Treasuries of the member states—that to all intents and purposes it will be unrealistic to turn round when we reach 31 December 1996 and say, "We're going to dispense with all this; we're going to turn the clock back." I just do not believe that that will happen, and I am not sure that very many other people do, either.

As for our own protocol, there are the difficulties that I have already described. The general economic protocol declares, first, that we shall not use the veto to prevent any other member state from going ahead and, secondly, that we shall be tying ourselves into an irreversible, irrevocable commitment to economic and monetary union. That seems to me an incredible state of affairs. I entirely accept the valiant efforts that were made to get ourselves an opt-out, but I am afraid that ultimately it will not work. The general economic protocol locks us in very significantly.

The setting up of a central bank raises the question of accountability and democracy. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there is an effective opt-out for ourselves. However, the gravitational pull of the treaty is towards a central bank and all that goes with it. I have to say unequivocally that it is crystal clear from the statutes of the central bank that the bankers will be unelected and unaccountable. They cannot guarantee price stability. If they fail to produce it, nobody can get rid of them. Opposition Members have repeatedly stated—for their own reasons, which are not necessarily the same as ours—that they are deeply worried about the impact that a central bank would have upon our parliamentary democracy. They are absolutely right.

The one lesson that I have learnt from the speeches that I have heard so far and from my previous observations on the point is that the Bundesbank does not have the degree of independence that is attributed to it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford pointed out, Karl Otto Pohl pleaded and remonstrated with Chancellor Kohl not to go down the one-for-one route, but he did it. Look at what happened, never mind all the instability that that could create for Europe.

The reality is that these independent, unelected bankers are to be given the surrogate power of government in Europe. That is absolutely and totally unacceptable. On that principle alone, we ought to reject the Bill.

7.29 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Tomorrow night 1 shall vote against the Bill. I cannot vote for the Opposition amendment which, if it makes any sense to me, argues that we should go further towards European union and the central bank. This is not a debate between those who are anti-Europe and those who are pro-Europe. I very much resent the terms "Euro-sceptic" and "Euro-enthusiast", which were invented by the media and by some of my colleagues to blank out the serious debate about two important questions on which there is a wide and legitimate difference of opinion: first, about how Britain should be governed in the next 10 years and, secondly, about how Europe should be governed. If we could just get it into our minds that there are legitimate alternative opinions, the debate will at least be rational.

Some of my hon. Friends favour a fully democratic, federal, united states of Europe. I happen to think that it would be a bit unwieldy, but it would not fall under any criticism on the ground that it was undemocratic. One thing that would happen, of course, is that the Commission would be abolished, because the Commission has been elected by nobody. Jacques Delors struts across the European stage, very often supported by the Liberal party, with no democratic credentials whatever. They talk about proportional representation in Britain, but not about electing Jacques Delors by any principles at all. Yet they endorse him.

I understand that point of view, but I do not share it. There is the Maastricht view that we should go thus far but no further. The Opposition are wildly enthusiastic—the Front Benchers, at any rate—to go further into Europe. There is a view, which I hold and which has come out very interestingly in the debate, that if we want a durable Europe we must proceed more slowly, by consent between member states, not because we are nationalists but because we are democrats. That is the argument that I want to put forward.

I now refer to the much-neglected question of how Britain is governed. If we are in this new stage, it will have a profound effect on how we are governed. My experience may be a little rusty, but perhaps I may tell the House what happened in the five years when I was on the Council of Ministers and in my six months as President of the Council of Energy Ministers in 1977. A secret Cabinet Committee—we are told that the membership of such committees is to be published and it will be interesting to know whether this one is—in which the Foreign Office played a leading part would decide— [Interruption.] The reason why the Foreign Office likes the Common Market is that it runs every Department now, because every Department has to go through the Foreign Office to get anything done.

The secret Cabinet Committee met, and the Minister—whoever it was who was going off to Brussels—was given a brief as to what law he was to agree to. When he went to Brussels, the royal prerogative was invoked and the matter was done. Civil servants used to ask, "Why bother with a Bill in the House of Commons when we could get the measure through the treaty machinery in Brussels?"

Many measures, such as the harmonising of gas appliances, were passed. That was quite harmless; I am not in favour of a variety of different gas appliances. However, in the old days we would have an Act of Parliament, but Brussels is a quick way of doing it. Of course, when we get to Brussels, there is the Committee of Permanent Representatives—COREPER, that mysterious animal composed of permanent officials. Sir Humphrey Applebys of every country in Europe have got together, and they say, "You cannot do that, Minister, because we have agreed with the Dutch that if they do that, the Belgians will not object to what the Italians have said to the people in Luxembourg." The Minister has no power, anyway, [Interruption.]

I am an archivist of my European experience, too. I have kept all the papers. I looked at them over the weekend. The matter is worth studying. We can hardly imagine anybody more important than the President of the Council of Ministers, which is the job that I had. In that capacity I was not allowed to put in a paper. I could say yes or not to what the Commission wanted. We were a collective monarchy who could say, "La Reyne le veult," or, "La Reyne s'avisera," as they say when Royal Assent is given, or not given, but we could not put in an alternative. That is a fundamentally undemocratic structure.

I am not a nationalist—I would not follow Mrs. Thatcher anywhere on this matter. She abolished the Greater London council and various other bodies, so I do not even accept her credentials as a democrat. The right to dismiss the people who make the laws under which we are governed is what democracy is all about. We are being told that sovereignty does not exist. Of course it does not exist. Nobody is sovereign. The Americans are not sovereign, because they can be destroyed by a missile from China, for all I know. Democracy is about whether we have the right to respond to a situation over which we have no control. When we go into the Community, we lose the right to respond because the laws are not made by people here.

I have never forgotten an incident between two brothers—alas, both dead—Sam Silkin and John Silkin. John was the Agriculture Minister and Sam the Attorney-General. It was Sam's unhappy duty to tell John that his pigmeat regime was illegal. I sat in the Cabinet Office listening to those brothers, one explaining to the other that, although we had a parliamentary majority and had passed a measure, it was illegal.

Later, two Commissioners were chasing me about a scheme introduced by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) when he was Secretary of State for regional development or something. The Commissioners said to me, "What you are doing is illegal—it is helping the Scottish industry to produce equipment for North sea oil rigs." I said, "I am sorry: you introduce a scheme in Europe—we do not want a special one." They took me to court as Secretary of State. They chose polling day 1979, when I was busy, and after that the matter disappeared.

We have misled the British people about the meaning of the Community from the point of view of our own Parliament. The House is now governed by the royal prerogative for the first time since 1649. Over the centuries, Parliament has grabbed back prerogatives from the Crown—even that one on the security services, inadequate as it was—and put matters in statute. Now any Minister can use the prerogative to encompass and control Parliament. That is a fact. Hon. Members may argue in favour of it if they like, but they should not call it an extension of democracy or merging sovereignty—no doubt Saddam Hussein thought that he was merging his sovereignty with Kuwait when he went in, and so on. It reduces the House of Commons to a municipal body which can be rate-capped and fined.

When I joined the Labour party, I hoped that my leaders had greater aspirations than to be the municipal leaders of the Great Britain corporation, which, for all I know, could subsequently be wound up by the Commission or by the Community in its new form of union. Nothing in the world would persuade me to go along with that. If I did, I would be stealing the powers of the people who sent me here.

Even if I agreed with every bit of it, I cannot give away the powers of Chesterfield, which have been lent me for five years, the right to make laws, subject to my being removed. I do not have the right to do that—nobody has the right to do that. Any hon. Member who gives away powers from his constituents will betray their trust. That is my conviction. It applies whether one is Conservative, Labour or anything else, because, under the democratic structure, one can use the power to have monetarism, socialism, liberalism or whatever, but now the people will lose the right to make that choice.

I understand the arguments for European integration. I have heard them many times: capital is internationalised; we can have guaranteed economic growth; the ecu will stabilise our currencies; the central bank will prevent inflation; Britain cannot stand alone; integration will guarantee peace in Europe; we have an ancient culture; a federal Europe will be a world power; European influence will modernise Britain; Britain is not very democratic anyway—that is true; there is no alternative—a phrase that Mrs. Thatcher invented. Those are the arguments and I understand them. I have heard them so often.

The plain truth is that Europe has changed fundamentally since the Common Market was set up. Then it was the cold war Europe—the Europe which was trying to get capitalism on its feet again in case the Russians came in and overthrew it. It is a wholly different Europe now. It is not even the Europe of growth that was promised by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup when he took us in. Entry into the Common Market was to be good for Britain, good for Europe and good for everyone—I think that that was Harold Wilson's phrase.

The position has changed in the sense that the eastern economies have collapsed. Western Europe has not given us growth. We now face a slump. In these circumstances, a slump reinvents and encourages the nationalism, racism and xenophobia that I fear. I am against the rush into a federal system because I fear the very thing that it will allegedly overcome. Integration has to be achieved slowly. Unity does not guarantee currency stability. America is a powerful country with a common currency, but the dollar goes up and down according to events. There is no guarantee that the ecu will be stable. We have to accommodate a much wider range of traditions than is even the case in the United States.

I fear that when the British people discover that they cannot change laws and policies by voting, either they will not vote at all or they will riot. I made a speech at the election of the Speaker in which I said that I feared a time of social unrest. Some hon. Members expressed their disagreement. But historically, riot is a traditional method not only here but in every country that has not had democracy. When experts say that they understand the institutions of Europe, I wonder how many people study with equal care the incredibly delicate relationship that we have with the people we represent.

If there is discontent, every one of us says, "Do not riot—vote." When we can no longer say that, we shall have licensed riot. I do not say that to stimulate riot. Riot is the most unconstructive way of achieving change. The Strangeways riot probably produced more prison reform than we have seen from any progressive Home Secretary. But riot is not the way to do it. That is what this place is about. It is not about the Crown, the mace, or the Speaker's silk stockings. It is about somehow maintaining in a society of different ingredients an agreement to be governed by people who only have a narrow majority. Lose that and we have lost everything. I am genuinely afraid of it.

I am in favour of a commonwealth of Europe. I should like to see a Europe that is wider and which harmonises. It should have a Council of Ministers which discusses co-operation, rather as the Prime Minister said today would happen for areas outside the treaty. I should like to see an assembly that met and worked out conventions to which member states could adhere. I should like to see a human rights commission that would examine people such as the Turks, who are banging at the door of the Community and have a rotten, dictatorial regime. I should like to see all of that.

The ultimate consent must come stage by stage and step by step from member states within the framework of their understanding of how fast they can go. That is why the decision to deny a referendum is an outrage. I was alone in urging a referendum in 1970. I was in a minority of one in both the shadow Cabinet and the national executive of the Labour party. I had the satisfaction of seeing it come through later. We held a referendum. It was right that people should be consulted. It is absolutely wrong that a step of the magnitude of that proposed in the Bill should he taken without consulting the people who will lose their power through the Bill. It is utterly immoral.

That my party's Front Bench team should be against a referendum is not only immoral but inexplicable. After all, we argued for the referendum, carried it through, put it on the statute book and voted in it in 1975. These are big questions. I hope that in Committee a referendum can be inserted in the Bill. I hope that we shall be able to make progress with a new Europe, because this continent of ours has enormous potential.

We have had two world wars. Everyone in Britain lost people in them. I lost an uncle in the first world war and a brother and friends in the second world war. Everyone wants a peaceful Europe. But the House should not think that enforced centralisation produces peace. Look at Bosnia-Herzegovina, at Slovenia and Croatia. One cannot run capitalism from Brussels in the way that people tried to run communism from Moscow. It has to be done by agreement at almost every stage. Otherwise, the thing breaks down.

I urge the House to listen to the view that I put forward and to bear it in mind tomorrow. It is not hostile to the European enterprise. I have a deep belief that we must go forward on a different basis. The Government have said that some co-operation will be outside the treaty. That is a gain. Perhaps they should draw the real conclusion that co-operation inside the treaty should also be on an intergovernmental basis. If that were the case, we might make a lot more progress.

7.45 pm
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

What a fascinating speech we have heard from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). However, I must admit that it smacked more of Jeremiah than of the idealism which he would like us to believe that it was. In the context of his speech, we should remind ourselves, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reminded us at the beginning of his speech, that, uniquely in Europe, there has been a healthy debate in Britain about the way forward in and for Europe. It took place before the treaty of Maastricht and after it, and it continues to take place now.

The Government are not steamrollering the treaty through in any greater sense than any of the previous steps into Europe or the decision to stay in Europe were steamrollered through. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister deserves our praise for that. The British form of parliamentary democracy has been enhanced by it. Unlike the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, I believe that the British stance on Maastricht has been sensible, open and extremely cautious. That is exactly the stance which he encouraged us to take.

As the Prime Minister said this afternoon, Britain is fully committed to stages 1 and 2 of economic and monetary union. But, aware that there are risks of the unknown in planning the currency union in stage 3, the Government believe that we shall be in a better position to weigh the pros and cons of a single currency, and the economic consequences of convergence by member states, when that becomes a real option in the mid-1990s, or whenever.

So Britain insisted on a special protocol to delay a decision on stage 3 and to decide later whether to participate. We shall be able to see then whether there must be political union for monetary union to work. I believe that political union is unlikely. We can also decide at that stage whether to join a single currency, which also seems rather unlikely.

Certainly, the architects of economic and monetary union saw no economic imperative for political union. The Maastricht agreement reflects that. We must not be frightened or put off by the hypothetical, imaginary, fantasy bogeymen conjured up by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). Contrary to the view of the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said, the prospect of implementation of stage 3 seems to be receding. That point was also made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker).

Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the hon. Member for Chesterfield claimed, nothing in the Maastricht treaty means that we have denied or should deny the forces of nationalism or individualism. That is what really worries my constituents in Lewes and I am sure that it is one of the things that worry the right hon. Gentleman's constituents in Chesterfield. In Sussex, we have the saying, "We shall not be druv." That underlines many of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments.

The power of a nation or the people in it to harness the human spirit and to encourage endeavour is undoubted, considerable and valuable, and that has underpinned many of the speeches this afternoon. No lasting union could ever be built on a desire to submerge individual and national characteristics or identity. That is extremely important, and nothing in the Maastricht treaty threatens it.

The provisions of the Maastricht treaty relating to intergovernmental co-operation in foreign and security policy do not form part of Community law and are not part of the Bill, as the Foreign Secretary has frequently pointed out, and the Prime Minister reminded us today.

It is worth considering that the Maastricht treaty leaves the way open for the Western European Union, in consultation with NATO, to develop European Community defence and security co-operation. Only recently, our Secretary of State for Defence and his German counterpart emphasised the complementarity of the role of NATO and the increased activity of the WEU. In that context, WEU activity should be guided by two fundamental principles—openness in consultation and complementarity in decision making.

There are questions about how the WEU will develop, especially after its enlargement through the membership of Spain and Portugal, and its involvement in the Gulf war. Of particular importance is the question of the accession to the WEU of Denmark, Greece and Ireland—the remaining members of the European Community—and the linked question of observer status and associate membership of European NATO for Iceland, Norway and Turkey, which are not in the WEU. Those questions concern the scope and the instruments of the WEU's future operational role.

What has been clearly established is that there is no contradiction between European integration in security and the strengthening of solidarity between NATO partners. Closer co-operation between the parliamentary assembly of the WEU, the European Parliament and the North Atlantic Council should ensure that.

At a time of shrinking defence budgets and continuing—some would say growing—uncertainties in the eastern countries of our continent and the countries to their east, Europe must now develop so that it can better pool its defence resources and use them more efficiently. Maastricht provides direction for Europeans to move ahead and create the military apparatus that will be responsive to risks from all quarters in Europe as well as those from beyond our continent.

The Government were correct in the Queen's Speech, and in the Prime Minister's words, to reiterate the importance of the WEU and to recommit Britain to it as the pillar of European security.

I digress from the narrow confines of this short Bill briefly to touch on the continuing importance of security in Europe, because it has not yet been mentioned. I also digress because the agreement signed at Maastricht established that the European Community can develop in more ways than one, without the European Commission having a monopoly of initiatives. Our House of Commons will continue to exercise its own scrutiny of those matters. What is not included in the Bill can be just as important as what has been included, and that is another reason why the motion and the treaty deserve ratification.

7.54 pm
Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn)

As this is my first speech in the House, I am sure that you will bear with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I refer to my predecessor and to my constituency before turning to the main item for debate.

On my way to the Chamber, I reflected that I would not be here if it had not been for the backing that I have received from my family. I was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a politically active family, but that has a down side. During my first week here, when I did not know any of the rules—I now know a few—I left the Chamber without bowing to Madam Speaker. I was pulled up not by a Whip or by a senior colleague, but by my mother, who saw it on television and telephoned me to tell me off. I have not yet learnt to be in awe of the Whips Office, but when a mother tells you off, you do as you are told.

It is a great shame that my father is not alive to be here, as I am sure that he would have been proud. It is a special thing to represent one's home town in this place, and I am proud to do so. My father had to leave my home town of Great Harwood in 1933. When he was 15, he lied about his age to run away from home and join the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery because there were no jobs in the town. In some ways it is ironic, but I am sure that he would have been proud that, nearly 60 years on, his only son is representing the town in Parliament.

Since the constituency's inception, Hyndburn has been represented by Ken Hargreaves. It is no overstatement to say that he has devoted his life to representing the people of the area, first on the old Oswaldtwistle urban district council, later on Hyndburn borough council, where he became mayor, and from 1983 to 1992 as the Member of Parliament. He won respect from both sides of the House for putting the views of his constituents before those of his party Whips. I accept that that may not be a recipe for promotion in Parliament, but it is a recipe for winning respect for integrity, and that is something that he has in abundance.

Ken Hargreaves said in his maiden speech in 1983 that he would rather have beaten any member of the Labour party than Arthur Davidson. I echo that by saying that I should have liked to beat any member of the Conservative party but Ken Hargreaves, who was a thoroughly decent man.

Hyndburn did not exist as a parliamentary constituency before 1983. Before then, it was partly made up of the Accrington seat, which was ably represented by Arthur Davidson for 17 years. I know that he is fondly remembered in Accrington. He came up during the general election to help with my campaign, and I notice that many more people wanted to shake his hand than mine. If I can represent the area half as well as he did, I shall not go far wrong.

The other part of what is now Hyndburn, Great Harwood, was represented before 1983 by Lord David Waddington. In the 1987 general election, I stood against David Waddington in Ribble Valley. Members with marginal seats will give me some sympathy when I say that I was unfortunate to lose by a narrow 22,000 votes. In mitigation, it was raining on polling day in 1987, and everyone knows how difficult it is to get the Labour vote out in the rain. I should be grateful that there was sunshine in Accrington on 9 April this year.

Hyndburn is better known for its main town of Accrington and for Accrington Stanley football team, which I am sure I shall welcome back to the Football League in the not too distant future. Hyndburn has an unfair public image, something of a "Coronation Street" image, of mills and terraced streets, which exists, although, sadly, most of the mills are now idle.

To be fair, Hyndburn borough council has done its best to change that image and to promote the town, but the council could do more if it was given the resources to do so. More than half the houses in my constituency either are unfit for human habitation or require serious renovation. I hope that the Government will bear that in mind when determining the next round of housing investment programme allocations.

The Accrington Victoria hospital was built not by the Government but by public subscription. The people of Hyndburn, and of Accrington in particular, feel very strongly that the Government have no moral right to close ward after ward, as they have done in the past 13 years. It is now rumoured that the maternity unit is threatened with closure. Any such proposal would meet with strenuous opposition, not just from me, which is neither here nor there, but from people from all sides of the community and of all political parties.

I noticed that the Prime Minister said that what was most important about the Bill was not what was in it, but what has been left out. That is absolutely true. My constituents were dismayed by the Government's decision at Maastricht to opt out of the social chapter. A survey earlier this year in my constituency showed that between 5,000 and 6,000 people in employment earned less than £3.40 an hour. Those people cannot understand why the Government appeared to betray their interests at Maastricht.

The economic options open to the Government are stark. We either undercut our competitors and become the Taiwan or the South Korea of Europe, or we compete on the basis of quality. We can be a low-paid, low-skill economy or a high-paid, high-skill economy. When will the Government learn that exploitation damages not only our economy but the fabric of our society, whereas decent pay and conditions benefit the economy and society?

My constituency is home to a famous brick company. Anyone who has been to a party conference in Blackpool will know that most of that town is constructed from Accrington brick. That company manages not just to compete with the Germans, but to beat them in their own market. It is able to export successfully because it has invested not only in technology but in its work force, who are properly paid and properly trained.

We have heard quite a bit about subsidiarity within the Community and the United Kingdom. The Government could show their commitment to subsidiarity by assuring the House that our representatives to the EC Committee of the Regions will be elected members of local authorities from those very regions rather than mere appointees of central Government.

In the time that I have been in the House, I have noted the gloating, perhaps understandably, of Conservative Members at winning a fourth election in a row. May I issue a word of caution? The electorate of the country, and certainly of my constituency, did not give the Conservatives a mandate for every dot and comma of their manifesto. The social chapter is one example of matters on which the people have not given the Conservatives a mandate. I hope that they will bear that in mind and will listen to that majority.

8.3 pm

Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

I am not sure what the normal form is when one maiden succeeds another, but I should like, metaphorically, to blow kisses across the Chamber and congratulate the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) on his excellent maiden speech. He set a high standard and I was particularly impressed at the generous tribute that he paid to his predecessor and the fluent and moving way in which he delivered his speech.

I should like to begin in the same vein by paying tribute to my predecessor, Sir David Price. He served in this House for 37 years and he was one of the few Members of the previous Parliament who had also fought in the second world war. He brought to this job the soldier's quality of bravery when he spoke out independently on certain issues. He also brought to that job the soldier's quality of loyalty to one's colleagues when he put his own interests second to those of others.

Sir David took a particular interest in the health service and the disabled. In the constituency he was not only respected, but loved—a number of people in the House who knew him have also expressed similar sentiments. The best pledge and boast that I can make to my constituents is that I shall be pleased if I do this job half as well as Sir David.

My second duty is to tell the House that I am fortunate enough to represent one of the most excellent seats in the country. Eastleigh has a famous history. It was at our airport that the Spitfire was developed, which helped to defend the country in the second world war. More recently, the Vosper Thornycroft yard at Woolston built the glass fibre minehunters that played a crucial role in saving British and allied lives during the Gulf conflict.

Eastleigh developed as a railway town at the turn of the century. In the past 15 years, it has become a boom town—thousands of new jobs have been created, tens of thousands of new houses have been built, new schools have been opened and new churches consecrated. We even have a new railway station at Hedge End. If hon. Members want to see the booming Britain of tomorrow, to which we can all look forward, they should come and visit us in Eastleigh.

Eastleigh is not only an economically thriving area; it is a strong community with a strong sense of responsibility for those who are less well off. We can be particularly proud of our network of voluntary services—we have the best dial-a-ride scheme for the elderly in Hampshire. Eastleigh is a strong, caring community.

Eastleigh is a world leader in another respect—speed of milk bottle delivery. Hon. Members may be aware that Eastleigh was the home of the late Benny Hill and that that is where he began his milk round before he became a comedian. Hon. Members may remember his song about Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west. I am glad to tell the House that Ernie is still alive and still working, but, after 40 years as a milkman, he has, unfortunately, moved on to another job. But it is clear that high productivity levels are still much in strong evidence in Eastleigh.

While we are on the subject of dairy products, I should like to apologise to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the fact that he was hit by an egg when he was kind enough to visit the constituency.

Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth)

That was not the first time.

Mr. Milligan: No, indeed. However, I was able to reassure my right hon. Friend that that egg was not thrown by one of my constituents, although there are 93,000 of them. The person who threw it was from far afield. The true feelings of my constituents towards my right hon. Friend were shown on 9 April when they gave a massive vote for the Conservatives.

I am proud to be pro-European; I make no apology for that. But now I should like to turn to the treaty we are discussing tonight. I believe that the European Community has been one of the great success stories of recent times. I have spent much of my journalistic life in eastern and western Europe writing about European events. I am still an enthusiast for Europe and I have found some of the comment in this debate depressing because it was essentially negative and it misunderstood Britain's role in the present world.

I had the good fortune to work for the BBC and to report the revolutions in eastern Europe. If hon. Members had seen the faces of the young people of Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Berlin as those revolutions took place and if they had had the opportunity to talk to them, they would have discovered that they have not only a great passion for freedom and democracy, but a great desire to join western Europe and the Community, our Community. Those events served as a reminder that, even today, the Community has the power to move hearts as well as road haulage quotas.

Eastleigh is enthusiastic for the Community, for practical reasons. We are developing an airport that will create 5,000 jobs and develop links across Europe. We have hundreds of businesses that export to Europe, especially through the port of Southampton, which is now doing a booming trade with Europe. We are twinned with two railway towns in France and Germany and have close relationships with them. Our sixth form college at Barton Peveril is, for the first time, welcoming East German students.

However, enthusiasm for Europe does not mean support for every idiocy suggested by Jacques Delors. May I give two precise examples from my constituency? My constituents cannot understand why the European Commission has taken it upon itself to try to block the completion of the M3 motorway at Twyford down. For 30 years my constituents have suffered intolerable delays because of the failure to complete that motorway and many people have been killed and injured on the Winchester bypass because of that delay. Not only can my constituents not understand why there is a delay, but they cannot understand why an Italian Commissioner should tell the British Government where to build a British motorway.

The second example in my constituency is that we are fortunate enough to be home to Mr. Kipling's bakery, which bakes "exceedingly good cakes". Many of the bakery staff work long hours and a double night shift. They do so not because they like the smell of mince pies but because they want to earn good money for themselves and their families. Yet, under the Commission's proposals, the social chapter and the social charter, the idea would be to deprive those workers of the right to work those hours. They cannot understand why Europe should want to restrict their right to earn good money.

Hon. Members will therefore understand that my enthusiasm for Europe is tempered by scepticism about some of the nonsense that is now coming out of Brussels. That is why I heartily welcome the treaty. It seems to combine positive developments in Europe, the extension of the efficacy of the Court of Justice, a more effective foreign policy and important steps toward economic and monetary union, which are in the interests of my constituents, together with a change of direction in the institutional structure of Europe.

The treaty develops a new model for Europe, which is different from that which Jean Monnet drew up 40 years ago. There will be more supranationalism in one or two areas, but the main move is towards a new intergovernmental structure, particularly on the sensitive issues of immigration and foreign policy. The decision to opt out of the social chapter is not only right but sets a useful precedent for negotiations with the new countries that will come in from eastern Europe. They will be unable to stick to all the same rules as the countries in the existing Community. If we are to enlarge Europe, it is important to make it a multi-track Europe. Obviously, all countries will have to stick to certain common principles, but individual countries will want to opt out in many cases if the rules prove too difficult for them to accept.

The treaty was possible only because of the remarkable relationship that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has developed with Chancellor Kohl and the German Government. He has done that through his qualities of courtesy and plain speaking, which have made him so popular in this country, and in Germany. Because of that relationship, the Germans were willing to moderate many of their demands, which the House would have found unacceptable. The fact that we now have the best relationship between Bonn and London for many years augurs well for this country and the future of the Community. That is why I have every enthusiasm in supporting the treaty, which is good for Eastleigh, good for Britain and good for Europe.

8.13 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

I commence by congratulating the hon. Members for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) and for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) on the delivery of their maiden speeches. The speech of the hon. Member for Hyndburn was marked by the tribute that he paid to his predecessor. It is good when an hon. Member speaks highly of a predecessor from another party. The hon. Member for Eastleigh spoke without a note, which was a magnificent performance for a maiden speech. It made a big impact on me.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was in Prague, Budapest and eastern Europe, where I have been over the years. But the fact that the inhabitants of those countries wanted to be part of Europe did not necessarily mean that they looked forward to being in the European Community. There is a difference. They wanted freedom and democracy, not necessarily the European Community.

We are now taking part in a debate on the unmentionable subject of the general election campaign. The Conservative and Labour parties entered into a conspiracy not to raise the issue of Europe during the election campaign. That is why it came as a surprise to me this evening to hear the Prime Minister say that he had gained a mandate for Maastricht by winning the general election on 9 April. A Government do not have a mandate for a subject when they fail to mention it during an election campaign.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that he resented the fact that he has a reputation for being anti-European simply because he questioned some of the issues raised by the Maastricht agreement and the European Community. I share that resentment. I have been actively involved in European politics since my university times more than 30 years ago. I joined the European youth campaign and have been involved in European organisations across Europe in the past 30 years, including 10 in the European Parliament. I take a great joy in the development of democracy and freedom right across western Europe, spreading into eastern Europe. I therefore resent any suggestion that, because one questions the Maastricht agreement, one is anti-Europe.

The Ulster Unionist party can look the other parties straight in the eyes and say that we have been consistent in our policy on Europe. I listened with amazement to Conservative Back Benchers complaining today about the problems now arising on border controls, immigration issues and the 48-hour working week. Those problems arise not from the Maastricht agreement but from the Single European Act, for which the very same Conservative Members voted. I am glad to say that the Ulster Unionist party voted against it and, on behalf of the party, I was one of the few Members of the European Parliament who voted against it in Strasbourg. There is only one Labour Front-Bench Member present now. We approach the subject with a clear conscience, but Labour Members' consciences cannot be clear because in the past few years they have jumped around so much on their policy on Europe.

We must congratulate the Prime Minister, however, on the way in which he negotiated the Maastricht agreement. There is no doubt that the Government proved themselves good and skilful negotiators. They have managed to negotiate a treaty that will result in a victory tomorrow night for the Government. It is a true opt-out, although some of us would say that it was a cop-out because the Government are avoiding the real issue and postponing it for another day.

Last week I had the privilege to return to the European Parliament. It was an important week—asparagus week. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am surrounded by some other Members of the European Parliament. One of them spoke earlier this afternoon and six former Members of the European Parliament fled Europe to come here. They may have heard that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) was trying to get there. Not only was it asparagus week, but there were two other important events, one of which was especially important for me—our first Northern Ireland exhibition in the European Parliament, which went successfully and was opened by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In addition, we had the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, which has not yet been mentioned in this debate.

The Queen's visit to the European Parliament was magnificent. The way in which she performed, from the moment of her arrival to her departure, made one proud to be British. On the morning of her arrival, I looked at the English newspapers and was horrified by the squabbling and scaremongering that appeared to be taking place. I looked forward to the Queen's speech with trepidation, but having listened carefully to every word of it, I found myself in full agreement with the text. I know from my friends in the Christian Democrat party and other groups that all nations felt great respect for the United Kingdom following Her Majesty's speech to the European Parliament.

When we talk about the United Kingdom in Europe and, to use the Prime Minister's phrase, "the heart of Europe", we must ask ourselves what sort of Europe we are discussing. Is it the Europe of the present common market of the European Community? Is it the Europe of the Maastricht agreement? Above all, is it the Europe of nation states or a Europe of regions? That issue has not been clearly defined by the Government, who are hedging their bets.

This afternoon the Prime Minister said that he interpreted the Maastricht treaty as a transfer of matters back to the nations. Not one of the other 11 Prime Ministers in the European Community would interpret that agreement in that way. Having been involved on the continent of Europe for 15 years, I can assure the House that the projection is towards federalism and a united states of Europe. To pretend otherwise is to mislead the people of the United Kingdom.

We need a wider Europe and we certainly need greater co-operation in Europe. We also need more nations in the European Community. An Ulster Unionist has many Roman Catholic friends in the European Parliament and works happily with them. Many of them say that they look forward to the introduction of a greater Protestant work ethic in Europe as a result of the entry of Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and perhaps even Norway. We want those countries to join the European Community, but, above all, we want less centralisation in Europe, with less bureaucratic control from Brussels.

When we talk about the Maastricht agreement, we are debating a treaty for European union. There seems to be, particularly among Conservative Members, a pretence that we are not talking about European union. There is an avoidance of the fact that we are talking about federalism. Some people pretend the word does not exist or, if it does, that it can be interpreted in different ways, but in Europe federalism is being interpreted in only one way.

The treaty for union makes reference to votes for all citizens of the European Community in whatever nation they live. So far, the vote is restricted to local and European elections, but next it will be extended to apply to our national elections—everything in the European Community goes step by step, not all at once. That development is creating problems for some countries. In the next European elections in Luxembourg at least one of their six Members of the European Parliament will be Portuguese, not Luxembourgers as already about 20 per cent. of the population of Luxembourg and thus, under the new legislation, 20 per cent. of the voters, will be Portuguese. Such problems are being created for small countries and regions in the European Community.

We in the Ulster Unionist party certainly welcome the reference to the committee of the regions. I would be the first to agree that Northern Ireland, More than any other part of the United Kingdom, has benefited from the European regional development fund. We give thanks for the work of both Labour and Conservative Governments when in office for the way in which they assisted us in Northern Ireland to take advantage of the ERDF.

However, it is tremendously important that the people of the regions which benefit from the fund know how it operates and participate in the decision-making institutions. Therefore, we welcome the idea of a committee of regions and trust that Northern Ireland will be fairly represented on it by the people of Northern Ireland and not politicians sent over to rule Northern Ireland.

The treaty refers to the cohesion fund, which was to apply in those states which had less than 90 per cent. of the average gross domestic product in the European Community. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland was excluded from the benefits of that cohesion fund for some reason. I hope that if our exclusion was an oversight—I suspect that it was, as we were one of the districts to benefit from the European regional aid and so should have been included in the fund—we will gain compensation by being granted further assistance from the ERDF.

The main issue in the treaty is that of monetary and economic union, and the suggestion of a single currency. What does a single currency require? It requires a central bank to control it, which means the surrender of national freedom to vary either interest rates or exchange rates. It even means that we would give up the right to decide the major economic policies to benefit United Kingdom citizens.

The Labour party, Liberal Democrat party, Conservative party, Ulster Unionist party and all other political parties will cease to have a right to introduce different economic policies, as we shall be governed by factors outside the United Kingdom and outside our democratic control. That is the key issue facing this Parliament and the citizens of the United Kingdom. That is why we want a referendum on the Maastricht agreement in the United Kingdom before a decision is taken. I know that some Conservative Members, some Liberal Democrats and some Labour Members support that idea, which, regrettably, has been rejected by the Prime Minister.

If we fail to secure a referendum this time, I hope that there will be one before a final decision is made in two or three years' time on whether to join the European central bank with a common currency and all that goes with that. If we enter a central European economic system, it will ultimately be controlled by a central European institution outside our control.

The Government's policy has been too clever by half. The policy has been determined in order to hold the support of most Conservative Back Benchers and also, I fear, to deceive our Community allies in the other 11 countries who now significantly misunderstand the United Kingdom's attitude to the European Community.

By enacting the Bill, Parliament will be running away from the issues, as happened in the recent general election. The day of reckoning will simply have been postponed—but that merely means that the day will be more painful when it finally arrives in three years' time.

8.29 pm
Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)

I hope to follow the remarks of the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), but first I should like to congratulate most warmly the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) on his maiden speech. He spoke most graciously of his predecessor, of whom we were all fond, and he was listened to with great interest and enormous respect. I cannot promise him that he will always be treated with such respect; that will depend on how much he riles Conservative Members.

As for my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan): what a tour de force. He spoke without notes and the excellence of his speech was greatly to his credit. We especially appreciated his kind remarks about his predecessor, David Price—a great favourite of ours who will be long remembered in this place. I am sure that my hon. Friend will represent his constituents as ably and with as much integrity as David Price did, and we look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend and from the hon. Member for Hyndburn again.

We have had continuous debates about the European Community during my time in the House and we are now approaching a watershed. The Maastricht treaty is important for several reasons. First, as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) rightly said, conditions now are very different from when the Community started. We are no longer in the cold war. There has been an enormous change in eastern Europe, and the treaty must be examined in the context of the challenges that Europe will face in future.

Today's state of affairs is very different from that which obtained 20 years ago when we signed up as members of the Community. The great change has been in the relations between the Community and eastern Europe—as the Prime Minister rightly said, that is the most significant change of all. It would be absurd to try to arrange a treaty that took no account of the changes in eastern Europe.

I know that a number of Members would like to concentrate on creating a deeper Europe before we create a broader one, but that option is not open to us. The enthusiasm to join among the east European states is such that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh rightly said, it would be intolerable if we ever turned our backs on it. That is why the idea of subsidiarity is of the greatest importance in this treaty. Everything should be judged against it—against how rigorously we can apply the principle of subsidiarity to every issue in the treaty.

As time has gone on, countries in the Community have seen to it, after their initial enthusiasm, that they took good care of their own. The French have never hesitated to do that. They coined the word "communautaire", but that word means whatever is good for the French. There has never been any doubt about that since the time of Colbert, and the French view of French policy is very different from ours. They want a European state favourable to the French. The more centralised the state that they can obtain to that end, the better they will be pleased.

This is not our idea, however. The love of the French for Cartesian logic has bred a race of functionaries certain that they are always right; of such is Mr. Delors. In France, this takes the form of protectionism; in Brussels it takes the form of deepening the European Community before broadening it. That means that Brussels will take every opportunity to centralise power, convinced that that is in the best interests of the Community.

What should our attitude to Brussels be? Given the new circumstances in eastern Europe, we must take a critical look at the institutions of the European Community and at what is proposed in the treaty. We should approach our European negotiations with the same caution as we would show to a particularly demanding mother-in-law with a tribe of foreign cousins on the make. That is what the European countries do, and we should do the same.

Of course we are wedded to Europe, but that does not mean that we should fail to look with a critical eye both at present Community institutions and at the proposals for the social chapter and the budget. The common agricultural policy is a long-standing European institution. I dare say there was much to be said for it when it was founded, at a time when Europe was short of food. It is now a disgrace. It provides poor support for farmers, it damages third-world agriculture and it is likely to ruin the GATT negotiations unless it is drastically reformed.

The CAP is also corrupt in a technical sense, in that the Court of Auditors has found far too many cases of fraud in claims for agricultural support. As Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, I have had talks with the Comptroller and Auditor General before and since the Maastricht treaty to see what might be done to tighten up the procedures to counter this fraud. The House will know that, under article 206, both the European Council and the Parliament will examine the observations of the Court of Auditors, and the Commission will report on measures taken to combat fraud. It seems to me that this is a real role for the European Parliament to play. It is one which our own PAC has played conspicuously well, with never a minority report in well over a century.

I hope that the European Parliament will call the Commission to account in just the same way as the PAC calls permanent secretaries to account, and I hope that it will be rigorous in its examination, because there is nothing worse than disrespect for the European Community because of the fraud of which there is far too much evidence. The European Parliament should play this extended role with our full backing.

I hope, too, that the European Parliament will make the fullest use of these powers and will devote rather more attention to detail of this kind and a little less to invoking the spirit of Charlemagne at good lunches—that would be good for European parliamentarians. They have a real job to do and it represents a welcome addition to their powers.

Subsidiarity, as I have said, is important. It has been followed more by other nations than by ourselves. The Italians regard the Community as a form of grand opera: overflowing sentiment, broken pledges and commitments unfulfilled. The French regard the Community as a form of outdoor relief for their farmers, as do Spain and Greece. The Germans think of the Community as a form of insurance against themselves. They are going through a rough time, but I do not doubt that they will recover and become the strong economic force forecast by Mrs. Thatcher.

I do not believe, however, that the best response is to station United States marines on the Rhine. Rather, we must regard a strong Germany as an opportunity for our exports; a weak and over-burdened economy, either of Germany or of France, cannot be good for Britain or for anyone else.

Economic success does not depend on a common currency. It would certainly be more convenient to have one, but, if we are to achieve economic success, there is no substitute for free trade and competition and doing away with waste such as that caused by the CAP. It is an illusion to suppose that we would lose our sovereignty if we adopted a common currency.

When we were strong, in Victorian times, sterling was fully convertible to gold, and no one complained that we would lose our sovereignty because of gold production by Californian or Australian gold miners. Nor did anyone complain after the war when, under the Bretton Woods agreement, sterling was made exactly equivalent to the dollar for many years. It might be argued that that resulted in our being wholly dependent on the Federal Reserve for the value of sterling, yet I do not recall anyone saying that we had surrendered our sovereignty then; no more will we in this case.

It is necessary to decide whether it is in our interests to adopt the very strict regimes that the Maastricht treaty provides—in other words, to reduce the deficit to about 3 per cent. of GDP. I do not know whether the House is aware of the fact that the Italian deficit is about 12 per cent. of GDP and there is no reasonable prospect of countries such as Greece reducing their GDP to such a degree. However, the 3 per cent. target is well worth aiming for.

The important question is whether the targets set for a common currency are desirable. If I believed that, in examining the coming expenditure round, my right hon. Friends could reduce the deficit swiftly to 3 per cent. of GDP, I should be very pleased, but I think that may be accomplished only with difficulty.

I shall be right behind my right hon. Friends in their efforts, but the idea that other countries would be able to do so swiftly and within the next four or five years is fanciful. When the other eastern European countries join the European Community—as we all hope they will—it will put those very desirable objectives in some doubt, so I believe that a single currency is many years hence.

I shall say a word or two about cohesion, which is another important part of the treaty. There is a notion that a large physical transfer of resources is the only way to provide the circumstances required for a single currency, but I do not believe that that is the case. Surely the economies that are growing most rapidly are those in the far east. There are transfers of resources in the far east, but they take the form of substantial investment by, for example, Japan, Singapore and Thailand and other developing countries.

There is no question of the Japanese transferring resources by taxing their citizens and giving away that money. There is substantial investment by the richer countries in the poorer countries, and I see no reason why we should not adopt the same attitude in the European Community. In fact, I would go further: we shall not be successful unless we have a free trade regime in which such investment can take place easily.

National Parliaments are closer to their peoples than the European Parliament can ever hope to be, and we can never afford to weaken the hold of democracy. We now have the strongest parliamentary democracy—indeed, the strongest Government—in Europe. More than at any other time we are now in a position to shape the future of Europe and make it a free trade, outward-looking community of nations, and I have every confidence that we shall seize that chance.

We are far from being a united Europe. There is much in the treaty that may cause us concern, but progress towards a united Europe can be better achieved not by grandiose sentiment or impractical arrangements but by the creation of conditions in which enterprise may flourish and in which new European businesses may be set up. I think that the Government have a better opportunity now than at any time since we became members of the Community to impress our leadership on the Community, and I hope that we shall seize that opportunity.

8.42 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I think that I might be the last member of the Labour party to be described as an enthusiastic European, but I put it on record that, since 1948, when I visited Hamburg and helped the Hamburg international youth club to rebuild the Gestapo headquarters into a new theatre, I have been anxious to see the rebuilding of an international Europe on democratic lines.

For the benefit of my colleagues who may not know this, I want to make clear my views on the various treaties that we have had to discuss in the past 20 years. I believe that they did not provide the fruit that I wanted and, above all, that they will be a danger not only to the democracy of our country but, conceivably, to that of our colleagues across the channel.

In that spirit, I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) because he mentioned two major issues on which I shall concentrate—the importance of the definition of subsidiarity and the importance of economic control and its link with democracy. The House cannot be unaware that control of finance, credit, taxation and expenditure and the criteria on which the decisions are made are fundamental to democratic representative institutions. I shall end my speech on that note.

Conservative Members have spent a lot of time discussing the unexpected and perhaps unwelcome results of the Single European Act, especially the definition of a single market as an area without frontiers. I believe—I think that this is becoming clearer—that the results of that Act, or that treaty, have not been easily predictable. I fear that the same will be true of the treaty that we are discussing now in its connection with the existing treaties and the results of the third treaty which we have yet to see. Indeed, I believe that it would be wrong for us in Committee to move to that stage of debate without a consolidated treaty which would be the result of the merger of the two documents that we are considering. Without that, I do not think that we can scrutinise its outcome.

Partly because of the way in which various ideas have been promulgated, it is possible that, while the Government have been skilful in their negotiation of the treaty, deep within the recesses of the Foreign Office certain ideas or descriptions may not have been what they should have been. That is a very serious charge—especially as I shall suggest that it applies to the Prime Minister himself, whom I shall quote in a few moments—but that is perhaps not altogether a surprise for those of us who served on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

A few years ago, when that Committee was dealing with the constitution of our Commonwealth in Canada and the relationships between this Parliament and that country, the Foreign Office's legal department told us how it had advised successive Prime Ministers of this country. Through careful work, we discovered that it had advised successive Prime Ministers incorrectly. The documents of the Kershaw committee, as it was called, assisted us in resolving what might have been a very difficult situation between the two countries. I now return to what I said about the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister.

At Prime Minister's Question Time on 12 May, the Prime Minister gave his celebrated reply about sovereignty not being "up for grabs". I shall deal with that at the end of my remarks. He went on to say: perhaps one of the most essential parts of the Maastricht agreement was the agreement on subsidiarity—that things must be done on a national level when they can best be done on a national level".—[Official Report, 12 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 493.] That might be a good definition, but it is not one that is in the treaty. As many colleagues may know, there is no definition of subsidiarity in the treaty. All that the treaty does—and it does so pretty importantly—is to state in article 3a how the principle shall be used.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister again quoted something about subsidiarity. I do not know whether he was quoting the treaty, but I shall, because one should do so on Second Reading. Article 3b states: In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community. I shall not spend long on the exegesis of that complex statement, but one can see that there are three variables even when the undefined principle is applied and, of course, the judgment on that matter—surprise, surprise—lies with the European Court of Justice.

Perhaps the most important part of it is the first sentence, which refers to areas which do not fall within the Community's exclusive competence. In other words, in areas which fall within the exclusive competence of the Community, subsidiarity, whatever its principle and whatever its definition, does not apply. That is the clear meaning of the article which is to be added to the treaty.

I have tried to find a definition of the exclusive competence of the Community. I tabled two questions to the Attorney-General. By great good fortune, an answer to my most recent question appeared in Hansard yesterday. The Attorney-General refers to my previous question, in which I used the word "jurisdiction", which has been changed in the treaty from December 1991. In effect, the right hon. and learned Gentleman states that the answer is the same. He states: The answer to the hon. Member's question about exclusive competence is the same as to his question about exclusive jurisdiction, mutatis mutandis: the European Community has exclusive competence where that is conferred upon it by treaty provision or measures taken under the treaty. Current examples include the common agricultural policy, the common commercial policy and the external tariff "—[Official Report, 19 May 1992; Vol. 208, c.67.]

It being a legal opinion, I should have thought that it might have been a good thing for the Attorney-General to continue with what would have been an inclusive list. Instead, he merely gives examples, which I do not think is good enough. I hope that we shall hear more about this matter in Committee. Without a definition—perhaps it will have to come from the European Court of Justice and not from the Attorney-General—we would not know where subsidiarity, even as defined in or operated under the article, would operate.

Accordingly, I challenge the basis of many of the statements that have been made about the wondrous word "subsidiarity". Indeed, I am left wondering whether there has been some publicity which has gone slightly beyond the accurate. My Front-Bench colleagues circulated a document earlier this week which referred to the treaty enshrining the concept of subsidiarity. It contained a quotation which, while taken from the treaty, I think was not entirely accurate.

Perhaps the prize goes to Mr. Baker—not the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), but the Secretary of State of the United States of America. He was quoted, presumably accurately, by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) on 20 November as saying: the architects of a united Europe have adopted the principle of 'subsidiarity', something like American `federalism'—that is, the devolution of responsibility to the lowest level of government capable of performing it effectively. My hon. Friend then said: Clearly the American Secretary of State has not been paid to listen to the right hon. Member for Finchley"—[Official Report, 20 November 1991; Vol. 199, c. 380.]

I do not think that the American Secretary of State has it right, and I cannot speculate why there has been some slippage between the article and the American Secretary of State. I am merely saying that for some reason—I shall not speculate—there has been a massive misinterpretation of an extremely important article, albeit by the Prime Minister as well as others.

The hon. Member for Horsham talked about the single currency, the single bank and economic and monetary union. I must refer now to the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. They were set out clearly by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) on 21 November. When criticising the Government, he said: We have heard nothing from the Government about their participation in the discussions in the economic intergovernmental conference about the accountability of the proposed European central bank and the allocation of responsibilities for economic and monetary policy between the Economic and Finance Ministers and the proposed central bank. The Labour party has argued consistently for the bank to operate in a stronger framework of political accountability than the present draft treaty proposes. Like the French Government, we believe that ECOFIN—the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers—should play a crucial role in determining overall economic and monetary policy. We believe that it is important, for example, that the setting of the external exchange rate for a single currency should be a matter for ECOFIN."—[Oficial Report, 21 November 1991; Vol. 199, c. 508.] Similar sentiments were set out in the Labour party's election manifesto.

At the risk of being tedious, I shall read article 107 of the treaty. I think that it is right that I should do so. It states: When exercising the powers and carrying out the tasks and duties conferred upon them by this Treaty and the Statute of the ESCB, neither the ECB, nor a national central bank, not any member of their decision-making bodies shall seek or take instructions from Community institutions or bodies, from any government of a Member State or from any other body. The Community institutions and bodies and the governments of the Member States undertake to respect this principle and not to seek to influence the members of the decision-making bodies of the ECB or of the national central banks in the performance of their tasks. What greater separation can there be between the elected representatives of the people here and in the other countries of the Community and the central, economic, fiscal and taxation authorities, bodies that play such an important part in the economic life of the Community and of the United Kingdom?

That is why I believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends were right when, before Christmas, they set a target that would satisfy them in terms of the relationship and democratic accountability that we seek. I do not think that the target has been reached and that is an important reason—perhaps the crucial one—why I cannot support the treaty. Indeed, it has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House that, the Opposition having made that point in the reasoned amendment and having lost the amendment, we cannot then proceed to vote against the Bill itself. Surely one must follow the other.

Without that which we seek, how can we see that the essential quality of democracy that the Community claims as one of its major features will be retained inside its institutions and inside the very nations that form the Community? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said, unless people have the power to change policies, including economic policies, and to change the people who determine those policies—it is a major democratic right—how can there be a link with democracy?

I return to the Prime Minister, who I believe got it wrong on subsidiarity on 12 May. I am sorry to say that I think he has it wrong on this issue. He said: The sovereignty of the House is not a matter that is up for grabs—that is perfectly clear."—[Official Report, 12 May 1991; Vol. 207, c.493.] I do not think that it is clear at all. If the position is that which the Prime Minister states, why do we have clause 2? Clause 2 provides the opt-out that would allow that "grab" to happen.

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments that could make about the Prime Minister and his very skilful Foreign Secretary is that they managed to obtain that temporary reprieve in very difficult circumstances. However, those circumstances showed that that power, sovereignty and linkage—not a popular word with some of my colleagues—were up for grabs. That is why we are having this debate.

How is it that a Prime Minister of this country can say that even his responsibilities as First Lord of the Treasury—there lies the power—are not up for grabs, when clearly the function of our Treasury is to be taken away, perhaps under pressure and certainly under the treaty, if the opt-out is not used? I am talking of those very functions on which the treaty says there should be no political linkage.

If Europe is not to be dominated by bankers for bankers, there must be some form of democratic accountability. I cannot see that in the treaty or in the aspirations of those who support it. That is why I shall vote against the Bill tomorrow.

9 pm

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I am grateful to be called at this stage of what has become an increasingly interesting debate, in which there have been a number of enthusiastic speeches about the future of the European Community and our involvement in it.

In this Parliament, with its traditions, one has to be careful about praising Members of another party, but the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) was kind enough to refer to my role as chairman of the European Movement. That movement embraces politicians of all the political parties, people who are not members of any party, members of other groups and, indeed, individuals. Praising a Member of another party is more of a habit in some of the continental Parliaments, where it is not viewed as sinful to agree with someone on the opposite side. Here, it is still regarded as a slightly sinful act.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) made an enthusiastic, striking and excellent maiden speech—and without any notes, as other hon. Members have already said. It was a striking reaffirmation of enthusiasm for the European Community. The good thing about that and other speeches is that they provide a balance that reflects the growing consensus in this House in favour of the Maastricht treaty [Interruption.]

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is heckling, but I cannot quite catch what he is saying. I repeat with unequivocal emphasis, so that he can absorb it more easily, that there is a growing consensual enthusiam for Maastricht, for the skilful negotiations conducted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his senior ministerial team and for all the implications that flow from this Bill and from the Maastricht treaty, which adds to the treaty of Rome and other related treaties.

That growing enthusiasm is very good for the country. It was, at least to some extent, a background factor in the general election, although I agree that it is difficult to measure precisely. Although mainly domestic political, social and economic factors were at the heart of the general election campaign, an important background factor was the Government's great success in negotiating at Maastricht a treaty for this country that will stand us in good stead with the other member states. Therefore, the scope for negative speeches tonight and tomorrow is limited, because increasingly the public want the House of Commons to be enthusiastic and positive about these matters.

Other hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall refer only briefly to the important provisions in the treaty. I remind both sides of the House that article 3c refers to an internal market characterised by the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. That is a solemn and important aspiration, both of the treaty and of other member states. It is not to be taken lightly; it is a serious commitment.

In the Single European Act, the British Government regarded the creation of a single market as the most important component. They, above all others, insisted on the operational applicability and practicability of majority voting in order to get that primary component of the Act through the House and accepted by the other member states. That therefore equally binds this country and this Government to an equally solemn commitment.

As was evident in the ratification debate in the National Assembly in Paris, the main preoccupation was not economic and monetary union or other matters of enormous importance to the future of the Community and to the accretion of greater sovereignty by sharing it with others. That is the definition of a strong and powerful geopolitical treaty—a part of our history—and this treaty is another important example of it.

In view of the anxiety shown in Paris and the anxiety that exists in Britain and Germany, and now in Italy, which has rather weak immigration provisions, it is right for the Government to express reservations about what compromise will eventuate in the area of immigration controls. However, we cannot go too far down that road without distorting the single market that we want to create.

The idea that there can be completely free discretionary movement of goods and freight and severe restrictions on people moving through the Community channels, because it is not possible physically to segregate them in any practical way in principal ports and airports, would, I think, be completely unacceptable to British citizens in growing numbers, not simply to active politicians in this place and in the upper House who take a deep interest in the matter. The Government would face certain difficulties—I do not say this with any pleasure—if they were to go too far down the path of a solution that would produce a practical restriction.

The Government have said repeatedly both previously and, subject to reading Hansard tomorrow, in this debate as well, that that will not be a problem and that in the intra-Community between the member states—the citizens of each member state are now to be citizens of the European union as well—people have the exclusive 100 per cent. total right, subject only to the restrictions of criminality and prosecution the traditional authorities of the member states, to move between the member states.

The Government must have regard to what would happen if that right were to be too limited. I sympathise with the Government on the problems. It will be essential to have that practical segregation of the channels in ports and airports, but I believe that it can be done in a satisfactory way.

The other point that must be made concerns the huge area of economic and monetary union. I referred earlier to a German bank's report which referred to the social chapter, but that does not necessarily mean that I do not understand and, to some extent, sympathise greatly with the Government's reservations on the social chapter provisions. We have seen the campaign launched by the CBI saying that we did not want to be hamstrung or handicapped by some social charter provisions that would strike adversely at Britain's growing economic and commercial recovery which has resulted in the past few years from successful economic management by a Conservative Government who are now in their fourth term. The CBI did not want to see that achievement reversed, reduced or harmed in any way.

It is interesting to observe and reflect on how much more relaxed people in other continental countries are, including those who represent the general capitalist class, about some of the social charter provisions. I imagine that, as they come off the production line as individual items, we shall be able to accept at least part of them and so return to the greater cohesion that the other 11 member states increasingly feel about the measures.

It is a mistake for us and some of our anti-European colleagues here and elsewhere to say that other countries are indulging in fundamental second thoughts on the Maastricht provisions. That is simply not true. There is no evidence of it. I remind the House once again that in the National Assembly debate, when 77 members voted against ratification but a huge majority was in favour, the preoccupation was with immigration and other such matters, not the central provisions of the Maastricht treaty.

But there will always be suggestions on economic and monetary union—it has been said at least once tonight—that stage 3 will never be reached because the criteria are unrealisable and because other economic and financial circumstances will deter various other member states from even wishing to accept stage 3. I do not believe that. It would, for all sorts of reasons, be untenable and wrong to suggest that there may be renegotiations on some of the provisions, but obviously that alternative may arise in order to get stage 3 going properly.

As to containing the situation in respect of Italy's large deficit, I remind the House that European Finance Ministers urged the Italians again yesterday to begin their programme of public expenditure cuts. Italy is the worst example, but even that does not gainsay that EMU stage 3 is an objective for the entire Community.

There is far too much obsession in the House and elsewhere with the apparent but rather phantasmagorical argument that the Commission is accruing to itself excessive powers on an exponential basis, becoming tyrannical and dictatorial, and telling everyone what to do without proper consultation or accountability. That totally misrepresents the true position.

Sometimes, the much-maligned Jacques Delors deserves to be criticised. I am not defending him tonight, but perhaps a member of the Opposition Front Bench will say something. Nevertheless, when he makes major policy declarations, they are more and more in response to requests from—guess who? surprise, surprise—member states. They are for ever asking the Commission to do more by way of new programmes and policy formulation. That was the background to the whole EMU exercise, which involved an intergovernmental committee, not the Commission machinery itself.

Also, Jacques Delors speaks with the combined authority of all the other Commissioners, who—surprise, surprise—include the two British Commissioners. Although there is frequently a majority vote, most of the time policy declarations are unanimous. Jacques Delors the sole dictator, unelected and with no democratic accountability—acts on behalf of them all, and produces programmes that arise from the Community's own legislation, treaties, and duties that are given to the Commission by delegated legislation and powers.

That is not at all terrifying, despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). If the Commission did not produce those programmes, we would roundly criticise it for dereliction of duty, not bothering with its task, and failing to undertake its work.

Not one speaker tonight arrived at a logical conclusion as to how—though this is beginning to occur in the Maastricht provisions—we can more easily take care of the fact that the Commission is not directly accountable in the way that we should like, and the way that we perceive national Governments to be. In a sense, perhaps accountability is at its strongest here, by comparison with other national Parliaments—but we have many weaknesses as well. Other national Parliaments, such as that of Denmark, provide examples of strong accountability.

Also absent from the speeches made so far has been any mention of the increased powers of the European Parliament. That is the way to achieve greater practical control of the Commission—so that well-informed, well-researched, and well-paid members of the European Parliament can pursue the Commission and ask it questions.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dykes

I think not.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] As I finish my remarks, I shall think about giving way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

My hon. Friend should be a parliamentarian—a British parliamentarian.

Mr. Dykes

I may tell my hon. Friend that I am.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. Right hon. and hon. Members know full well that if a speaker chooses not to give way, he is entitled to continue.

Mr. Dykes

Despite your kind advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am still thinking about giving way to my hon. Friend in a moment.

We can also at long last begin the crucial exercise of building on the liaison between national Parliaments with the European Parliament. Several of my right hon. and hon. Friends are nervous about all the foreign adventures in which we are engaged, but about which the public are increasingly enthusiastic—and is that not annoying to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and others? What they do not want is the greater democracy that would be implanted by those two exercises: increased powers, activity and authority for the European Parliament, and more working together by national Parliaments—particularly our own Parliament, with all its experience of trying to keep the Executive in order.

I say that partly with tongue in cheek. As we know from our own experience, heavy whipping being the fate of all Members of Parliament, that would be the most crucial way in which it could then be said that the Community had reined in, on behalf of its citizens—citizens of the union as well as those of the member states—the necessary democratic and parliamentary control. So often the "antis" do not want to accept that—which is why I now give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that the whole House is excited and elated to hear of the new role of the European Parliament that is envisaged by my hon. Friend. No doubt we can look forward confidently to such proposals as and when we move further into the heart of Europe.

May I ask whether my hon. Friend is in favour of tax-raising powers for the European Parliament?

Mr. Dykes

Not at this stage, and perhaps not for very many years. The only real answer that can be given to my hon. Friend's interesting question is this. If a central tax-raising capacity is eventually created in the Community, it is possible that such powers will eventually follow. It will depend on how the structure of European union works out—and we are talking of a union of sovereign states; it is not federal in the sense that anyone is suggesting the creation of a single sinister super-state Government based in Brussels.

I very much doubt whether that will happen, however. It is much more likely that the European Parliament will have a limited residual role. That might reduce the accountability that I have been asserting, and, because I have been suggesting otherwise, my hon. Friend could claim that I am being illogical. I am talking, however, of a separating of powers—a tussle between various layers of politics and various different institutions. That is the only answer that I can give at this stage.

Perhaps I am now being phantasmagorical, as the "antis" often are, but I believe that there is a chance that we could agree on a common voting system for the European Parliament next time. Such a system could be based on the regional list construction—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dykes

Not to my hon. and learned Friend. I must finish my speech.

The other possible alternative is the multi-member constituency structure. As all this is only a couple of years away, however, that may not be a possibility. I know that the prospect is terrifying for some of my hon. Friends, but the nettle must be grasped in due course. In the meantime, I hope that the whole House will give an enthusiastic welcome to this excellent Bill tomorrow night.

9.17 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Even the good-humoured hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) will recollect that his patience was a little stretched in the indirectly elected European Parliament when some of our French colleagues went into "explications de vote". I am afraid that I must deliver one of those tonight, however: I must explain to my colleagues and the House that tomorrow night I shall vote for Maastricht in the Division on the main question—voting, coincidentally, in the same Lobby as the Government.

The reason for my action goes back a long way. I am one of a dwindling band of Labour hon. Members in whose time the party was led by Hugh Gaitskell. It is now a matter of record that he talked about "a thousand years of history". As a very new Member for Parliament, I was hauled into his office—he was formidable, if charming—to explain the European beliefs that a number of us held at the time, and ever since then I have believed that those of us in the Labour party who are pro-Europe really have to say so—and to say so means voting accordingly, however uncomfortable that may have made us in the past.

Furthermore, I do not very much love the fact that the House of Commons as a whole is taken less and less seriously. When the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), bustling and perspiring, returned from Brussels to give his reports, in 1962, there were debates week after week that were attended not only by Mr. Macmillan, who was then Prime Minister, but by many of the heavyweights in his Cabinet. I am not making a party political point. My hon. Friends the members for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) have already been good enough to do that, but I have not spied a single member of the shadow Cabinet on the Opposition Front Bench since the main speeches were made. Equally, only the Foreign Secretary was here earlier.

I recollect that, apart from Harold Macmillan, Iain Macleod, as Leader of the House, certainly attended the debates on these vital constitutional matters, took notes and remembered everything. So did the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald Maudling, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Christopher Soames, and many other Ministers of State. The House of Commons was taken seriously.

We have to ask ourselves tonight whether the House of Commons is being taken very seriously. When the Chairman of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), and the former Home Office Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), were speaking, both of whom made important speeches, there was just a junior Treasury Minister taking notes. I do not complain about the Foreign Office Minister, who is assiduous. However, the Government as a whole are not taking the House of Commons seriously on this constitutional issue. That is a change. If one wants to make a point, one has to do it these days by vote.

There are only four of us—my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and I—who, rightly or wrongly, were among the 69 Labour Members of Parliament who went into the pro-European Lobby on 28 October 1971. For those of us who do not regret it, it teaches the lesson that the only way to do this kind of thing is by vote. For that reason, I shall be voting for the Bill. I do not know how many of my hon. Friends will reach the same conclusion, because these are personal matters, but one has to ask why one feels so passionately about this question.

Let us talk about the future rather than about the past. A number of us believe strongly that many of the world's future problems can be addressed only on a European basis. I do not complain about the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) not giving way, but he attacked centralism. As a concept, "centralism" is a bit of a dirty word, but how other than through a centralist approach does one approach the problem of the ozone layer, on which I had an Adjournment Debate on 4 March? How else other than on a central European basis can we do anything about the rain forests? And how else can we do anything about marine pollution? The air that we breathe is common. If we want to do something about chlorofluorocarbons in the third world and about skin cancer, we must do it on a European basis, or on an even wider basis than that.

Mr. Spearing

Wider, wider.

Mr. Dalyell

Yes, wider.

That brings us to some other questions for the Foreign Office, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has prompted them. I should like someone to answer the question, "How wide?" I listened to the Prime Minister with absolutely rapt attention. I may have got him wrong—it is difficult without seeing his speech in print—but some of my hon. Friends and I understood him to say that he hoped to bring Russia into the Community.

Mr. Garel-Jones

indicated assent.

Mr. Dalyell

The Foreign Office Minister assents, so I do not think that I am wrong.

I speak as a friend of the Community. How wide is it to be? If we bring in Russia, the Community will stretch from Ireland to the Aleutian Islands. Where, incidentally, do we draw the boundaries? If we include Czechoslovakia and Hungary, then Romania, and if we take in Russia, do we then exclude the Ukraine? I do not think so. Then we must consider the difficult area of Kazakhstan and the Asian republics. I am asking for a Foreign Office comment on where the line should be drawn. It will become logistically unmanageable.

I listened to the hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) speaking of fraud. It so happens that I was a member of the sub-committee of the Budget Committee of the indirectly elected European Parliament, which looked precisely at the issue of fraud. When we investigated, for instance, how funds were spent in relation to a dreadful earthquakes, at Udine and Germona, in Friuli, I was extremely impressed that there was absolutely no sign that funds had been misappropriated. Because no Italian would go, there was the Earl of Bessborough, myself and one of our German colleagues, and we all came to that conclusion.

Any genuine accusation against the Community for squandering funds may be misplaced. I think that they are basically honest and competent people in Brussels. If the Minister has an idea of fraudulent incidents, of course they must be investigated. As a former member of the Public Accounts Committee, I know that we have our problems and so do they, but I should like a defence of the much maligned Brussels bureaucracy in relation to fraud.

If I vote in the way that I have mentioned, it is partly for another reason. I had an extremely expensive education, as did a number of my colleagues—

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)


Mr. Dalyell

I had an expensive education—it is not where my hon. Friends think—in the European Parliament, from 1976 to 1979. It was an eye-opener. The conclusion that I draw from my experience in Europe is that, unless one is enthusiastically at the heart, one will not carry much weight. As happens so often in politics, the halfway house can he the worst of all possible worlds.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South, my right hon. Friends the Members for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), and doubtless my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), have a right—perhaps it is a duty—to go into another Lobby to vote. If they do not do so, in the light of what they have said or doubtless will say, they will debase the House of Commons. I am a believer in the House of Commons, but equally, my right hon. and hon. Friends will allow me to go into a different Lobby to vote.

Mr. Benn

Hear, hear.

Mr. Dalyell

I am glad to have the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) on this matter. Although we take different views, perhaps we are united in thinking that we should vote. In view of the time, I shall limit myself to one more question to the Minister.

Mr. Foulkes

A very important question.

Mr. Dalyell

It is not a parochial question; it is an important question.

I should like the Minister to say a little about how the Foreign Office sees the relations post-Maastricht between the Community and major local authorities and regions. I will be excused for thinking particularly of Lothian region. Partly as a result of the efforts of its excellent Member of the European Parliament, David Martin, good relations have been established. A great many of my constituents think, rightly or wrongly, that they have better relations with Brussels than with Westminster.

Dr. Godman

That is true enough.

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend says that that is true. The truth is that, among the Scots, the Community is pretty popular. I happen to think that the prospect of independence for Scotland within the Community is extremely unreal. The Germans will ask, "What about the Bavarians?" and the Spaniards will ask, "What about the Catalans and the Basques?", as the Minister knows better than anyone. Nevertheless, the Community is well regarded by the electors in Scotland who sent me to the House of Commons.

How can we establish better links post-Maastricht between Brussels and Strathclyde, Lothian region, Grampian and so on? Madam Speaker, you asked us at the beginning to be disciplined as to time. All of us could go on and on, but on that question I conclude.

9.31 pm
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I follow the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in one particular, but I prefer to use the English language. This speech is by way of being an explanation of my voting intentions.

Maastricht was the most effective defensive battle fought on the European mainland by a British leader since the Duke of Wellington at the lines of Torres Vedras. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on his success. It was truly magnificent. I also add my congratulations to the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). His victory has had its effect. There has even been progress since Maastricht.

I understand that the French to some extent, the Germans to a greater extent and the Danes, who knows, are having second thoughts. Even better, the United Kingdom is seen since the election as having the potential for an economic and political stability that is the envy of our partners in Europe. We are about to secure the powers of the presidency of the Community in July. We have a new credibility born of a positive, if not yet federal, vision of Europe.

It is we, we are told, who will have the power to mould the Community. Brussels will be putty in our hands. "Do not rock the boat, things are going our way"—that is the message to my hon. Friends. It is mood music. It is sweet, it is seductive, but it is mood music. Sadly, such a scenario is one of hopes and aspirations—a grand strategy of apple pie and motherhood, but not yet reality. It is that reality which is before us today. It is much more mundane. It is the hard reality of legislation, the allocation of powers and the who and the how of its control.

Many hon. Members will remember that much the same overture was played at the time of the Single European Act. The chorus then was equally harmonious to most ears, even though then, as now, no one really understood the score. For example, we were told, as we have been told tonight, that the rights of workers, not least the length of the working week, was a matter for unanimity, eventually a matter that could be decided in this House. We were told that our methods of immigration control were a matter for unanimity and effectively, in the last resort, a matter for the competence of this House. Nor did we then imagine for one brief moment that a domestic matter such as tobacco advertising would be other than under our control.

We have been cheated, swindled and mugged by the self-same institutions that this very day are grovelling on their knees for us to give them more of our powers. Having lost our innocence and our wallets, does it not seem a little perverse to venture again so soon on to the dark back streets of Brussels?

The Single European Act was a mere 23 pages of intractable and ambiguous prose. It was clear, curt and comprehensible in comparison with the 134-page monster from Maastricht that I have here. Surely, before we consider surrendering yet more power over such areas as the environment, health, education, training, citizenship and culture—you name it, they will have it—should we not first clarify the present arrangements?

When we know that there will be no 48-hour week, when we have an undertaking that our system of border controls can remain, when we have clear evidence from the European Court of Justice that its understanding of subsidiarity is the same as that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, then—and only then—may the House feel that it is safe to consider the treaty. Once bitten, twice shy; once cheated, mad to buy.

Whatever our differences, one thing binds us together in the House—we are all Members of Parliament. Today, we have an awesome responsibility to the House and to our predecessors and successors. We are the guardians of the powers and privileges of the House and, through it, of the rights, liberties and well-being of our people. The passage of the Bill would shrink this Parliament and demote the democratic safeguards of our people.

Maastricht was a brilliant tactical victory, but the forces of federalism—artificially camouflaged during ratification—have yet to be banished. The heart of Bonaparte still beats in many breasts—[Laughter]—for example, over on the Opposition side. The House should dedicate itself to the fight against Bonapartism. This should be the trumpet, the clarion call, the beginning of a march to a second Waterloo.

9.38 pm
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

I begin with the complaint made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—hoping to take advantage of his presence—about the attempt to polarise this debate between the pro-and anti- Europeans. I am sympathetic to his complaint, as that is too simple a way to view the debate. He tried to turn it into a debate between democrats and anti-democrats—that was much of the thrust of his speech.

If one is concerned about the lack of democracy in Community arrangements, the answer is to stay within the Community and attempt to change or improve it, to make it more democratic, rather than to talk about withdrawing from it. There are many ways in which we could do that. We could improve the powers of the European Parliament and we could, and I believe that, eventually, we will, make the Commission and its President directly accountable to the citizens of the Community.

The real division that underlines this debate is not between democrats and anti-democrats or pro-Europeans and anti-Europeans, but between unionists and nationalists. That is the key philosophy that divides people within the parties as well as across the Chamber. I am justified in identifying my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield and others who have spoken against the treaty as nationalists from the tone of their remarks and from looking at the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend and other hon. Friends. That amendment contains my right hon. Friend's specific aspiration for a wider association of fully self-governing nations, harmonizing their policies by consent … rights or self-government of all the Member States".

I am not seeking to denigrate the nationalist case I want to be exact about it. I acknowledge that the nationalist point of view, whether we are talking about Scottish nationalists or Welsh nationalists—

Dr. Godman

Or English nationalists.

Mr. Macdonald

Yes, indeed. I accept that that nationalist case is a respectable and sustainable one. I have the highest regard for people who feel in their heart of hearts that they must defend the rights of their nation to full self-government and the exercise of sovereignty.

It is a little odd to talk about nationalism or to put the case for national self-government in this Chamber. This Parliament is unique among west European Parliaments, because it is not a national Parliament, but a multinational one. The arguments that have been advanced by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chesterfield and for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and others echo those advanced in the Scottish Parliament in 1707.

In 1707, similar crucial decisions had to be made about giving up the right to self-determination, including specific financial and fiscal rights. In 1707, people decided that it was worth giving up those national rights for the greater political adhesion of the United Kingdom. I believe that we face crossing a similar threshold in this decade as we consider the fate of western Europe.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield that, as we come to make decisions about the treaty in the months and years to come, we must have our eyes open about what we are committed to. It is clear that the treaty is not a treaty in terms of co-operation, alliance or partnership between Governments; nor does it speak, as others have tried to suggest, about intergovernmental consultation and collaboration. It is a treaty of political, social and economic union.

As has been rightly pointed out—it needs to be emphasised again and again—article A of the treaty says: the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Union. That has been disguised by some of the comments that have been made tonight and, to some extent, by what the Government have tried to suggest the Bill is all about. Indeed, the Bill's fundamental nature could not be discerned by looking at its title: "The European Communities (Amendment) Bill". It sounds like a secondary piece of legislation that merely adds or tidies up details, consequent upon the original accession to the treaty of Rome. In reality, the Bill does something fundamentally different. It represents a wholly new departure from the political life of our country and the other countries that are about to participate in the union.

The treaty sets up a common citizenship, common fiscal and monetary policies, a common social policy and a common foreign and security policy. The Bill should therefore be called the European Union Bill and we would then know what we were really talking about. It represents all the apparatus and language of the multinational political union, that we are now engaged in establishing.

Some hon. Members have asked what kind of Europe we are embarking on. Reference has been made to the Prime Minister's comment on a Europe embracing Russia. It is not the first time that he has used that phrase—I have heard him use such language before. Surely a Europe that embraces Russia cannot be the kind of Europe that the treaty talks about constructing. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, it would be logistically impossible to extend the competencies allowed for in the treaty all the way from the Hebrides to Vladivostok.

It is fantastical to think that the European union that we are discussing can be extended so far, because the essence of the success of the project on which we are embarking—a political community—depends on whether the citizens of that community consider themselves to be part of a distinctive, unique, separate political community. Do they genuinely feel that they are fellow citizens? Do they share the subjective attitudes and emotions necessary to engage in the construction of a political community? Do they share enough historically, culturally and in their way of looking at the world, especially politically?

The key difference that divides hon. Members tonight is between those who feel strongly that a sense of political union is now developing across western Europe and those who simply cannot find it in themselves to share that sense. I am one of those who feel strongly that we are developing a sense of political community across western Europe, and that the appropriate expression for that sense is the sort of European union that we are now engaged in constructing.

There are four key aspects or fundamental principles in the treaty. I wish that I could say that one of the principles was to make institutions more democratic, but I do not think it is—work still needs to be done on that.

The treaty contains the principle of subsidiarity, which is extremely important. It has been discussed sufficiently this evening, so I shall say no more about it except to note the importance of the setting up of the Committee of the Regions. I acknowledge the reservations of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) that the Committee of the Regions will not have real powers. It is an advisory committee, but that in itself is important, as the committee will begin to have an influence and to shape the future development of European union.

The pity is that the principle of subsidiarity is not being applied in the United Kingdom. The German lander are now acquiring increased powers in the context of the development of European union, and even over the foreign policies of the federal German Government. We in Scotland clearly expressed our desire for such subsidiarity in Scotland, but are being denied it.

The second fundamental principle in the treaty is a push towards economic convergence and cohesion. On this issue I disagree radically with the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell). It seems obvious that economic and monetary union must lead to the greater use of regional policy, and an elaborate and developed system of fiscal transfer within the Community—a means of distributing money within the Community from those districts that are better off to those that are not so well off. That must happen as a consequence of economic and monetary union, in exactly the same way as it would within an individual nation state.

The right hon. Member for Guildford said that modern Conservative Britain was moving away from the notion of regional policy and transferring money. Regional policy may have ended, but by far the greatest part of the transfer of money occurs in other ways such as spending on education, health, social security and the building of roads and railways. That is how money is transferred and distributed throughout a political community such as the United Kingdom, and that is what must eventually happen within the Community. That process must happen as, if we have monetary union, we will lose our present defensive mechanism of the manipulation of currencies and the exchange rate. If we lose that defence, we must replace it with a system of fiscal transfer.

The third fundamental principle is related to the second one and involves the introduction, for the first time, of the notion of a social Europe. Europe is not just about the free movement of goods and capital, but about having common standards of welfare and working conditions in the Community—the subject of the famous escape clause won by the Prime Minister. But that clause is worth very little. It is inevitable that what is agreed by the other member states will gradually, instrument by instrument and Act by Act, be taken on board by the Government.

From a purely partisan point of view, it might almost be a good thing that the Government won an escape clause, because that stops them gumming up the works beforehand, and it means that the instruments and agreements that will be reached will be arrived at on the basis of a social philosophy shared by Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in the rest of the Community—a philosophy fundamentally different from that of the Government. Perhaps the Government would not have played a constructive role on social policy and are better off out of it. They will have to accept what is agreed in their absence, however.

My final theme is not mentioned in the Bill but is fundamental to the treaty—the establishment of a common foreign and security policy. Article B of the treaty states that the new European union shall assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy". The treaty goes on to mention the need to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the European union.

The treaty explicitly refers to the need to adopt common positions in international forums, citing the United Nations as an example. Secondly, contrary to what many have said, the European Commission and hence the Community will have a role in a common foreign and security policy. Finally and crucially, the Western European Union has declared itself to be the defence component of the European union. So the pieces are all in place: the notions of economic union, of citizenship, of social union and political union, and now of a common foreign and security policy. The treaty will create a new multinational union, which is why I look forward with optimism to the future of that European union.

9.57 pm
Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) suggested that differences of opinion in this debate can be characterised along the lines of those who are nationalist and those who are unionist. That may be true in Scotland, but it does not do justice to differences present in the rest of the kingdom and in this Chamber. Those differences are a good deal more subtle and profound than that.

I pay tribute to the two maiden speeches that we have heard this evening. The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope), in a remarkable contribution, showed a great deal of humour and—much appreciated by Conservative Members—generosity to our former colleague, Ken Hargreaves. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan), in a remarkable opening innings, showed us that some good can come out of the BBC.

With the exception of these two maiden speeches, however, we have had a rerun of many previous debates—most of us are old hands at them now. We have made our points many times before, which is not to deny that we are considering a fundamental and crucial step forward in European affairs. Crucial and fundamental though the issue is, I find it depressing that we still get bogged down in detail and that none of us can get away from our basic attitudes, which cut right across party lines.

I do not think that most hon. Members reflect the weight of opinion in our respective parties, and I worry increasingly that the tenor of the debate is out of tune with the mood of the country, which is much less querulous and questioning and more disposed to accept the reality of Britain's relationship with the European Community and Britain's right and duty—this has now become a cliché—to be at the heart of that Community. We do our constituents a disservice if we do not listen to that development outside.

Some of us, consistently, honestly and with honour—from the beginning, from Messina, and certainly from 1972—have always been against Britain's participation in the European Community. While the camouflage or cosmetics may change a little, the fundamental position never changes. It must be respected for its consistency, but, I think, for little else. I believe that it was always wrong. As the world develops, it becomes increasingly wrong and outmoded.

Whether we like it or not, the world is developing—or has developed—into three significant blocks. It is in our constituents' interests that Britain should be in one of those blocks. We may be nervous about that development—we may even deplore it—but it is happening, so it is especially important that Britain should be at the heart of one block. Through our history and our inclination we, as a nation, still have a strong instinct for internationalism and we have a distinct contribution to make to ensure that our block—the European Community—does not become fortress Europe but is outward-looking and that the world progresses in as cohesive a manner as possible.

The three poles are growing ever more real. Last year, the United States' GNP amounted to no less than $5.4 trillion. The European Community was not far behind with $4.6 trillion, and Asia was just behind with a little more than $4 trillion but growing at a tremendous rate, as we know. The growth rate in the major Asian countries last year was 5.75 per cent., and it is estimated that in the rest of the decade it will be 5.5 per cent. Last year, the volume of exports of the Asian countries increased by 13 per cent. on 1990, growing at four times the rate of the rest of the world.

I offer those figures rather late at night, which makes them even more indigestible than they would usually be, but they underline the challenge facing Britain's legislators to ensure that our country stays in the race. Many hon. Members, and many of my hon. Friends, would accept that thesis, but they would then say, "That's fine. All that we want is a free trade area, a trading relationship." That is not an option—it never was and it certainly will not be in the future. The experience of every country that seeks to separate economics from politics has proved that it is not possible. What happened in Gorbachev's Soviet Union and what is now happening in China proves that.

I remind the House that the need to relate economic and trading relationships with political and social relationships was identified about eight years ago by a far-sighted Head of Government of the European Community, who said that what was needed was a series of new policies to promote the economic, social and political growth on which the future well-being of the Community depended. The passage continues: This means giving greater depth to the Community in both its internal and its external activities. The Head of Government then emphasised that the European Community should develop into something much more than a trading bloc and that it must be our objective to aim beyond the commercial policy through political co-operation towards a common approach to external affairs. You pointed out that the Community has 'weight and must show more political will to act together.' It was envisaged that it might even require military action.

The Head of Government then said: Our objective must be to strengthen the European pillar of the Alliance and improve European defence cooperation. Finally, I quote the part of the speech where it is stated that there is a need to heighten the consciousness among our citizens of what unites us". That is essentially the text that we should follow. The speech was made by my right hon. Friend—I think that she would have claimed to be that and I would claim her friendship—Mrs. Margaret Thatcher to the Heads of Government in June 1984. She set out the principles that we must adhere to and develop. That gives the answer to those who say that the European Community is merely a trading area.

There arc two threats. There are those who say, "Let's jump off Europe. We are nothing to do with it, so let's forget it." There are others who say, "Let us have just a trading area." A third threat was highlighted significantly by the important contribution of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—that of stretching ever further eastwards and creating an entity that would be unwieldy. The hon. Gentleman raised an important question that we should consider carefully: just how far is far enough? If we want to make the entity work, there must be a limit. We cannot go on and on to Vladivostok or wherever. It is not merely a trading area that we are seeking to develop.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

My hon. Friend has said that we are split into three blocks. I have listened to him with care, but I do not understand what the blocks are or should be.

Mr. Whitney

I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend has not understood. As it is so late, I hope that he will forgive me if I do not retrace my steps. I wish to make some progress.

There is the danger of the federalist bogey. That there are arch-federalists—one or two collegues in the house may merit that label—in Brussels and other parts of Europe is something that cannot be denied. That they will always he there is something that will always be a reality. It is a reality also that the real dangers of the sort of federalism about which fears have understandably and justifiably been expressed this evening are increasingly recognised in the capitals of Europe. The pressures that a pell-mell rush towards a single currency would put on weak economies are increasingly understood. We should be ever alert to the dangers of federalism, but we should not, in adopting that approach, turn away from an extraordinary enterprise. The Maastricht achievement was an extraordinary one.

Our friends who have doubts and who wish to jump off and stop the train must ask themselves what it is that is attracting the Swedes, the Austrians, the Swiss, the Poles and others. Are they too stupid to understand the threat to their national identity? Are they all socialists who wish to turn some great dirigiste structure and to be bossed around from Brussels? Are they failing to understand the impact of the huge economic differences between Germany, for example, and Czechoslovakia? Of course they are not that stupid. Of course they understand those threats, of course they understand those dangers—but what they also understand is the great challenge of the European enterprise. That is something which sometimes many of our colleagues forget as they become bogged down in minutiae.

While always fighting our corner about immigration controls, the 48-hour week and so on, we must not keep our eyes on the minutiae and forget the broad European enterprise, which the British people support and endorse.

10.10 pm
Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

I promise to respond to the request that you made many hours ago, Madam Speaker, for hon. Members to be brief.

I have spent the past eight years in the European Parliament, but I have decided not to seek re-election in two years. One reason for that is that I do not share Delors's vision of the future of Europe—a vision which I believe is reflected in the Maastricht treaty. I do not share Delors's vision that decisions affecting the community in which I live in Blaenau Gwent increasingly should be made by bankers who are neither elected by nor accountable to our people. However, that is what an independent central bank is all about. The powers of those bankers would make it almost impossible for a future Labour Government to begin to respond to the problems in our communities—the bad housing, mass unemployment, and education and health services increasingly under attack.

I was brought up in south Wales to believe that it is the task of the Labour movement to try to take powers away from bankers and other unelected people. Therefore, I do not intend to allow history to turn on its head, and I will not vote to give bankers and others additional powers. If we allow that to happen, it will take economic decision making outside the political arena. Nor will I vote for another group of unelected, unaccountable individuals—the European Commissioners—to work alongside the unelected and unaccountable bankers and take decisions that will affect my community. If the Commissioners insist on those powers, as a Parliament we have the right to question their record and discover whether it stands up to serious analysis. In my opinion, it will not.

This very day, the EC is still spending more than 50 per cent. of its budget supporting the common agricultural policy. Not that long ago, a parliamentary answer showed that the average family in Britain was paying about £17.50 a week to support the CAP.

In a debate a few days ago, an hon. Member said that there was obvious anger among the people of our communities because in the past the EC had paid farmers not to grow food. I remember that some years ago the EC introduced a set-aside scheme to encourage farmers not to farm the land. What happened? I know of a Scottish farmer who had reached the grand old age of 31 and who received more than £200,000 from the EC not to farm his land. It was also agreed that within five years he could return to the soil and continue as normal.

Imagine what would happen if redundant coal miners and steel workers were offered similar payments. There would be a national uproar. But nothing was said when that money was given to big farmers.

Sir Russell Johnston

I appreciate the criticisms that the hon. Gentleman is making, but none is the fault of the Commission; they are the fault of the Council of Ministers on which the Government are represented.

Mr. Smith

It was the Commission which put forward the proposal and it is the Commission which wants the powers outlined in the Maastricht agreement. Therefore, it is right that we should look at the Commission's record.

What was happening to my community while all that money was being wasted? Very little money was being invested in regional aid or spent on trying to overcome problems of unemployment. But the Commission is not satisfied with wasting the money that it already has. Under the Delors plan, it wants billions of pounds more from member states. I would not give it an extra penny. Why should we give it extra powers when it has already misused those that it has?

Whether we are talking about bankers or Commissioners, those elected to take decisions will soon no longer have the power to do so, while those who were never elected will be taking the decisions on their behalf. If we allow that to happen, parliamentary democracy will become a sham. Future generations will never forgive us, and they would be right not to.

We have been told that this is probably the most important vote in which we will participate in the lifetime of this Parliament, and I agree, so I cannot abstain on the issue. In the months and years ahead, we shall be concerned not simply with the issues of Maastricht, but with issues such as proportional representation. If we are once again advised to abstain on that issue and proportional representation becomes a reality in Britain, decisions will increasingly be taken, as in Germany, not by the largest party but by those such as the Free Democrats who virtually never obtain more than 10 per cent. of the vote but who always wield the balance of power. Such Governments are formed not by the vote but by deals done behind closed doors by party leaders who are no longer accountable to anyone.

Would it not be ironic if the House were to accept proportional representation at a time when other countries in Europe are increasingly rejecting it and when other Governments in Europe are in chaos and fascism is once again raising its ugly head? I shall have nothing to do with proportional representation.

If we make points about the undemocratic nature of the EC, we are sometimes told that we are ignoring other positive developments such as subsidiarity. In theory, that may be right, but the reality is somewhat different. One example of that is the EC public procurement policy which has taken considerable powers from local authorities. I have been interested during past years to listen to the debate on the need for devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales, and while those debates were taking place, the EC, the Commission in Brussels, were taking from us the very powers for which we have fought in our own little communities.

History will judge us not on words but on actions. Therefore, we should judge the EC and the Maastricht treaty not on grand theories but on what is happening in the real world—a move away from democracy, devolution of power and accountable government to decisions being made by those who have never had the courage to stand for election in order to put their ideas to the test. That is the direction in which the Maastricht treaty is taking us and that is why we must have the courage to reject it.

10.19 pm
Mr. Ian Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election. As this is my maiden speech, I ask the House to bear with me if I make a series of mistakes.

Earlier, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) reminded the House of the great honour that our electorate bestow upon us in permitting us to represent their views and interests in a sovereign Parliament. I may point out that Chingford is officially part of Greater London, not Essex. Having heard the recent results in Basildon, I am sad that it is not part of Essex.

The majority of the people who live in Chingford have striven for a long time to buy their own properties, take care of their own lives, and make the most that they can—to hand on to future generations—from hard work and the sweat of their own brows. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will immediately recognise those as key principles that have supported conservatism, and which my party promoted during the whole of the 1980s. Chingford represents those interests, and we represent Chingford's interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) mentioned that there is a factory producing Mr. Kipling cakes in his constituency. I cannot boast of such a place, but we do have the London Rubber Company in the middle of my constituency. That company is heavily linked to today's debate. The House may recall the little problem that existed with the Italian regulations, on the size or width of certain items that London Rubber produces—so it has a keen interest in what goes on here.

Few constituencies are so associated with a particular individual as Chingford. I refer of course to my predecessor, Norman Tebbit. Some may remember only the "Spitting Image" vision of a leather jacket, studs, and chains—but I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will keep in mind the image of a man of incisive wit, telling rebukes, and most of all, reforming zeal.

If it were only for his political achievements, Norman would be remembered as one of the most important figures in British political history—but he is remembered for much more than that. The House owes him a great debt. On that terrible night in Brighton, the lives of Norman, Margaret, and their family were devastatingly and treacherously changed for the worst—yet at no time has Norman or Margaret complained, and they consistently serve as a great inspiration to me and many others.

It is not overstating the case to say that Norman brought great honour to the House. I know that all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in wishing him great happiness in the future, in all that he does.

So often in the past when Europe has been debated, there has been a knee-jerk level to the debates. It is said that there are those who are pro-Europe—the Europhiles—and those who are anti-Europe—the Euro-sceptics. If the issue is always polarised in that way, it will be impossible to have a rational debate. The question is rather, whether we want to interrogate certain aspects and regulations or not, the public have a right to know the detail, and it is important that we examine the detail of the treaty and put it before them. I will attempt to do that this evening.

Let me begin by congratulating my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor on their great negotiating skills, which have produced the treaty that is now before us. Their achievements in securing our exclusion from the social chapter protocol, and in reserving Parliament's right to decide whether to enter currency union, are greatly appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

As I read the treaty, however, I must confess to a growing disquiet. My chief worry is that, despite the Government's considerable successes, we remain locked into what I see as a continuing progression towards a European super-state. I consider that neither necessary nor desirable.

Maastricht—following, as it does, from the Single European Act and the treaty of Rome—embodies that movement; perhaps it is proceeding at a slower rate in this context, but it is a movement none the less. Let me explain—echoing what was said earlier by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)—that my reasons for believing that are based fundamentally on the ethos that exists in the institutions that the Community now contains. I refer chiefly to the European Commission and the European Court.

In my view, successive Governments have failed fully to understand the way in which the Commission seeks constantly to advance its competence. In so doing, it will be supported by the European Court. The Commission is not just a bureaucratic body, as so many people seem to think; it has substantial law-making powers—very excutive powers. Beyond those powers, it exists as much to propose legislation to the Council of Ministers. Through its performance of both those roles, constant pressure will continue to extend the process of European integration.

All too often, press and politicians talk about Delors as though he were an expletive. His role is quite clear to him; I believe that it is our understanding of that role that is unclear. Obviously, the European institutions hold the key to the concern that I feel over Maastricht—the Single European Act and, originally, the treaty of Rome.

The European Court of Justice has the role of interpreting and applying Community law. Through the interpretation that it gives the treaties within the Community, it can and does fundamentally affect the balance between nation states and the Community. The Court, through its judgments, cannot be considered neutral by any means: it is part of those key institutions that consider it their duty constantly to push forward the concept of the Community, ultimately at the expense of the nation state.

An example of that is provided by a judgment in a case brought by the Netherlands against the high authority. The power of the Court was defined by the Court as the ultima ratio enabling the Community interest enshrined in the Treaty to prevail over inertia and resistance of member states. Many other judgments also illustrate the point.

The history of the European Court clearly shows, time and again, that it will be far from impartial, invariably finding in favour of what it perceives as the interest of the Community. Furthermore, the difference between the tradition of common law that exists in this country and the tradition of Continental law—based, as it is, so fundamentally on the code Napoleon—means, essentially, that the European Court will regularly fall back on the preambles to treaties, and will use them to interpret points, as it sees them, within the spirit of the agreement—the members. Every treaty that we have ever signed has given the Court greater scope to interpret.

The preamble to the treaty of Rome raises general provisions urging member states to attain ever closer union with general objectives. To most common law lawyers, that might appear fairly general on the surface. However, it is a major signpost in continental law. The preamble to the Single European Act is full of references to the states implementing a union. Article I clearly refers to progress towards European unity—a major signpost for the European Court.

Here we seem constantly to have disregarded the general wording of the preambles to the treaties. Under common law, they are not part of any agreement, but in the code Napoleon and continental law, they form a major part of any agreement. The treaty on European union sets out no less clearly in its preamble that defence, foreign policy, economic and social policies and the free movement of people are all set to converge in ways which on the surface may appear rather general but which will be critical to the functioning of the treaty. Therefore, across a full range of matters the Maastricht treaty extends further the areas to which Community law applies.

Given the natural desire to the Community institutions constantly to push forward with closer ties and greater compliance, it is natural that they will seek to find areas that are open to extensive secondary legislation affecting our national life that have not yet been affected.

That can be clearly seen in the proposals for a 48-hour working week. We never perceived under the Single European Act that that would necessarily be the case, but the Community—in the shape of the Commission, ultimately supported by the European court—pushes for that extra bit to be brought to the Commission, under majority voting. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is doing all she can to sort this out, and I wish her the very best of luck. However, I remain a touch pessimistic about the outcome.

Both sides of the House have made much of subsidiarity, probably because most people do not have a clue what the heck it means. I suspect that some hon. Members on both sides of the House also fall into that category. It is the devolving of power to a lower level, as perceived by the treaty—that of nation states. As a means of trying to retain control over our national identity, it should be given some approval, but if we look back we see that it is a two-edged sword. It very much cuts both ways.

Originally it was a papal concept. That concept was about power that could flow downwards to the constituent parts of the papal dominion. The key factor was that that power had to be given, as judged by the central authority. In line with that, if we come forward to Maastricht again, we see that it could imply that anything that cannot be justified at national level should, therefore, be taken to the European level. That is the other edge of the cutting sword: that the Community could easily turn round and say, "Justify the fact that you have the right to retain control over that area; otherwise, we shall take it under our powers and competence." It therefore follows that the European Court would ultimately find in favour of the Community. That is part of its ethos.

Therefore, I propose some measure of reform which I believe we must undertake if we are to make sure that the sort of Europe that we want to see is the one that goes through and that we can control. First, I propose that we should repeal sections 1 and 2 of the European Community Act 1972 and replace them with clear statements about this Parliament's supremacy over all European Community activities that affect the relationship between this House and the courts—and, in fact, all other constitutional matters.

Secondly, we should set about reforming the Commission, starting with the European Court. We should position a constitutional court over the Community, I stress, to take an impartial position on questions which affect the competence of nation states.

Thirdly, the Commission should be slimmed down, losing many of its existing portfolios. We should get rid of the position of the President and make the Commission more of a non-executive body. Those moderate suggestions are offered, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with some deference to your position.

Most of all, we must therefore seek to refocus the Community as one of a group of nation states determined to seek co-operation on a defined but limited number of areas. That would greatly assist the inclusion of other states, which is proposed and with which I thoroughly agree, while keeping the flow of trade as free as possible through co-operation not coercion.

From successive treaties, we have seen a growing erosion of the powers of the House to legislate, not to be overruled by the European Court. Much has been made about the exclusion of the word "federalism". Having read the treaty time and again, I have to say that, even if we exclude it, the obvious signs are there for all to see—that is, that that is the inevitable march. After all, a bite from a rottweiler hurts just as much even if we insist on calling it a pekinese.

We are asked to support the Government. There is no doubt in my mind of the Government's intentions, and those I support. However, the problem is that far too much trust is expected of us in this House to be vested in the institutions in the Community. I do not believe that, if we notice how the general tendency is to move towards greater integration, that trust will be well placed.

It has been ably pointed out several times that we have seen the Government and previous Governments fight rearguard actions to prevent the growing power of the Commission from encroaching. Those rearguard actions have been fought in the knowledge that we have signed up to something which has given the Commission powers to get in and take control of certain aspects of our lives.

The treaty is therefore somewhat out of date. It reflects, sadly, concerns from the past which are no longer relevant. I hope that, if we consider the problems and changes that are going on in the Community, hon. Members will agree with me. The treaty keeps the door open to a federalist, centralist and uncompetitive Europe which is clearly moving us in the wrong direction from the rest of the world.

I am not by any means anti-European. After all, Europe is a geographical expression. Therefore, being in the centre of Europe or supporting Europe is neither here nor there. The key is a European Community of nations trading and co-operating through sovereign Parliaments. There is no other time but now. I have talked to many hon. Members who have said, "Don't worry, this matter will ultimately collapse; things will change and we will not have the problems."

If now is not the time to put the line in the sand and say, "Thus far and no further," when are we to say that? This matter has caused me great concern and problems early in the Parliament, but I hope in the next 24 hours to show where my true attitudes lie.

10.38 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

It is a pleasure to follow the new hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) and to congratulate him on an elegant, thoughtful and perceptive speech. Some might argue that he broke a convention because it is the convention not to be controversial in a maiden speech. Of course, he was not controversial because I agreed with everything that he said. The convention that a maiden speech should not be interrupted was maintained apart from my cries of "Hear, hear" and similar cries from the Conservative Benches.

The maiden speech of the new hon. Member for Chingford was very different from the kind of speeches that his predecessor used to make. He had a shrewder instinct for pressing an unwelcome knee to an unwelcoming groin. The performance of the new hon. Member for Chingford was more elegant and urbane and I am sure that the House looks forward to future performances from the hon. Gentleman of the same nature, particularly if he continues to take the same line of very cool Euro-scepticism. I congratulate him on that.

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Chingford should be introduced to this place in tonight's debate on European matters. It is difficult to think of a political entity that has been created in a more shambolic and, in a sense, more deceitful way than the European institutions. Those institutions did not follow revolutions and they were not built by popular acclamation. They did not emerge from chaos and war. Instead, the European institutions are an amorphous entity, growing like a great swelling amoeba without popular consent. They are carried through by bamboozlement and imposed on the people. The people are not consulted.

The Bill will receive a Second Reading by what amounts to a species of deceit, because we are not considering the real issues. The Bill will not make progress because the people want it to or because the argument has been won. It will receive its Second Reading because the Opposition will abstain.

That process of bamboozlement is implicit in the nature of an institution in which the nations that form it cannot agree on what they want or what they want to build. Those nations cannot and do not consult the people about what they want because the issues are never presented in a clear-cut fashion. Those nations cannot build on the existing foundations because they are deadlocked by vested interests such as the common agricultural policy. One cannot make a palace out of a cowshed.

Instead, there is a process of building from the top down. With regard to the Maastricht treaty, we will unleash economic forces that will subject Europe to a common economic misery under a dominant German economy. We are going down that road because, in practice, all the other avenues for the advancement of European unity have been blocked. So they have the temerity to withhold consent.

In 1978, it seemed that the only road open was the path of monetary union that began with the exchange rate mechanism which, in the 1980s, turned the Common Market countries into the high-unemployment, low-growth blackspot of the advanced industrial world. The record then was worse than the record of this country in the 1980s with its disastrous monetary and economic policy. The European record was worse in terms of unemployment and growth.

We followed and became part of that mistake when the present Prime Minister bullied his shy, hesitant predecessor into entering the exchange rate mechanism in 1989. We entered at a crippling over-valued rate. We are now locked into an inescapable deflation because we cannot bring down interest rates as we are locked into the German economic cycle. Germany wants high interest rates, so we have to have them, too. Our interest rates should be half the current level if we are to have a recovery.

There cannot be recovery so long as we are locked into the exchange rate mechanism and are compelled to maintain high interest rates. By joining the exchange rate mechanism, we have achieved much the same as Churchill achived in 1925 when he took the pound back to the gold standard at an overvalued level. That was described very well in "The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill" by Keynes. The economic consequences of Mr. Major will be exactly the same.

We are going through the same process: industry has to cut costs, fire labour and throw overboard more research, design and development—everything that makes for competitiveness—just to survive and keep going. That is a finite future. That is the position that we are in now because at this stage in building European unity we need a futile gesture. We have made it. We have joined the exchange rate mechanism.

Now, in the treaty that we are debating, we are asked to take that gesture further by making it the first stage of economic and monetary union. In other words, we are making the process immutable and locking ourselves on the rails to a deflationary target. The treaty will lock a deflationary regime on the economies of Europe by requiring Governments to cut deficits, cut growth and get inflation down to abnormally low levels, destroying their manufacturing bases in the process.

The treaty is a deflationary charter because a national currency plays a vital role in national economic life. It is rather like the atmosphere round the planet. It sustains independent economic life. It protects the economy from shocks and abrasions from outside. If we tie, as we have tied, our currency to Germany, we shall import its economic trends. It will be the dominant economy. If we harden that into monetary union we shall throw away all the weapons of economic management that we need to rebuild British industry and solve the balance of payments problems.

It is odd that a Government who believe in free markets in every other respect do not believe in them in the one crucial area of the exchange rate when the consequences of not allowing the market to operate are serious. In a free market system, the pound would come down so that we could divert resources into our balance of payments and to rebuild our manufacturing base. The market cannot now operate, because we have agreed to shackle ourselves to Germany.

By ratifying the treaty, we are embarking on hardening the monetarist obsession which is now dominant in the British economy. The treaty refers to the achievement of a high degree of price stability". That is central to the whole treaty. There has never been an economic regime that was dedicated simply, solely and overwhelmingly to price stability. Under the gold standard, prices were not stable. The price of gold was stable, but other prices fluctuated around it. We have never had price stability. One can get it in a graveyard, but that is the only way. To dedicate the system to price stability dedicates it to deflation.

The problem is not now inflation. Any fool can bring down inflation simply by putting so many people out of work that it falls to zero. The problem is unemployment, underused resources, the growth that we are throwing away and the waste of the nation's economic time and future. What happens when inflation is zero? There is no natural regenerative process which will suddenly produce growth. The Government constantly tell us that they are producing the conditions for growth. What will produce the growth when inflation gets down to zero? At the present exchange rate and interest rate, there is nothing that can produce economic growth and revival. We are chaining ourselves to a futility.

Mrs. Currie

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

Can I ask my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] Who is my hon. Friend giving way to?

Mr. Mitchell

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Robertson

It might have been better to give way to the hon. Lady. Purely out of interest, has my hon. Friend found any industrialist of any significance in Britain who argues for the floating exchange rates to which he refers?

Mr. Mitchell

I have met many industrialists who have argued for more competitive exchange rates and lower interest rates, which are not possible if we are tied into the exchange rate mechanism at DM2.95. I have met many who have argued for stability in exchange rates, but stability helps importers as well as exporters. As we import more than we export, the main benefits of stability go overseas. Industry wants and needs a competitive exchange rate. That is the answer to my hon. Friend.

Mrs. Currie

I think that I heard the hon. Gentleman argue that, if we have zero inflation, there is no possibility of growth. If that is the economic policy of the Back Benches of the Labour party, he is talking absolute economic nonsense. If he suggested that to a business such as Toyota in my constituency—which aims to have zero price inflation and to generate growth through increasing productivity year by year—it would also say that he was talking economic nonsense.

Mr. Mitchell

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Lady because her intervention was nonsense. I did not say what she claimed I said. I asked what would produce economic growth when we got down to zero inflation. What are the dynamic forces that lead inevitably to produce growth, when the Government say that they are producing the climate for it, at the present exchange rate and interest rates, even with zero inflation? That was my point and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) did not understand it, but I can make it again and she will he hearing more from me about it.

Mrs. Currie

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mitchell

No, that is enough for the moment.

All too often Labour Members say what we want out of Europe—the treaty of Maastricht that we would like, the economic regime that we would like. We would like a central bank controlled by peasants and workers; we would like a redistribution system; we would like a symmetrical system of obligations. We accept the treaty, on the basis of what we would like, and hope to change it in our direction, but the treaty is clearly defined. It is hard and fast. It is a deflationary regime and it will not be changed. There will not be a central hank that can be controlled—in fact, it has been laid down that it cannot be controlled or interfered with by politicians. There will be no system of redistribution because it is not implicit in the treaty and Germany certainly will not pay for it. If there is an adhesion fund, it will go to the poorer Mediterranean states, not to the poorer regions of this country.

We are saying, "Let us accept the treaty on the basis of total myths." The reality is a monetarist regime that will impose the same sort of deflation that we faced in the 1920s, controlled by central bankers and untouched by democratic controls or influence.

A central objective of the Labour party has always been to put the power of money at the disposal of the people—surely that is what we are about—and to place popular control over economic forces and the power of money. Yet through the treaty we will hand back that independence to the central banks—to monetary power.

Socialism is about using the power of money for the people, about stimulating growth. It is still as Crosland described it. It is still about economic growth, full employment and well-being. We cannot achieve any of that in a deflationary regime that is cutting production, increasing unemployment, increasing Government deficits and imposing a crippling burden of taxation merely to keep benefits at the present inadequate level. That is the object of deflation.

If this regime goes ahead, if a monetarist regime is fixed on Europe, the people will demonstrate an increasing frustration because their vote will count for nothing. They will be facing rising unemployment, economic difficulties, bankruptcies, liquidations and cuts in Government spending—all are implicit in the deflationary regime—and their votes will count for nothing, because the regime is imposed externally by monetary union and the exchange rate mechanism, which the politicians cannot control, influence or change.

In that situation, politics will turn sour. People unable to influence politicians, unable to reduce unemployment through political action, unable to use the power of democratic government over the power of money, will turn against immigrants, each other and everything that is better, altruistic and good in our society. There will be sourness. As the cake contracts, people will compete more bitterly and more fiercely for a share of that shrinking cake. That is not the sort of society that I am in politics to build. I am not in politics to make Europe fit to be ruled by central bankers, uncontrolled by the democratic power of the people.

I conclude with a brief quotation that sums up my feelings exactly: We must challenge the despair and defeatism of deflation with renewal, regeneration and recovery. We must welcone the efforts of any government to reflate its national economy and to expand its trade. And thus our aim is to weaken the restrictions of Community institutions that enforce compliance with monetarist economic policy … We do not breed understanding and mutuality between peoples through the EEC we now have. We breed hostilities through policies which, although masked by the grandeur of fine phrases are operated by remote, bureaucratic institutions and impose disadvantages on producers and consumers throughout the EEC countries. That is what Neil Kinnock said in 1984.

10.55 pm
Mr. Mark Robinson (Somerton and Frome)

I rise with some trepidation having heard some eloquent contributions, but this is the first opportunity that I have had to speak in the House for five years. I return here to represent the beautiful constituency of Somertom and Frome, which has all the charm and characteristics of rural Somerset and a great display of historic churches in whichever village one cares to visit. The constituency has not been immune to the difficulties of the recession or the problems that face the rural community.

I should like to digress for a moment and put on record the depth of feeling that I have for my former constituency of Newport, West and its people. The past 10 years have been a period of regeneration for south Wales and for Newport. It has been a success story, but with some mixed fortunes along the route. I now represent Somerton and Frome. That has been a life-long ambition because I was born and grew up in Somerset and I have always wanted to represent it in Parliament.

I pay great tribute to my predecessor, the honourable Robert Boscawen, who served in the House for nearly 22 years. His contribution was recognised again and again on the doorstep in the election campaign, when I met people whom he had managed to help in one way or another across the length and breadth of the constituency.

Bob Boscawen was also extremely well known in the House. He served in the Whips Office for well nigh 15 years and he was well versed in the murky waters of the usual channels. I know the esteem with which he is held in the House and we all wish him well in his retirement.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) on his excellent, eloquent maiden speech. The return speech is no maiden, so I am not bound by any constraint to steer away from controversy—not that that precedent is necessarily being followed. The only comment I have—it might be applicable to several speeches that I have heard—is that there may be an element of divergence between what I have to say and what has been said by others.

The treaty that we are discussing is the work and success of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It is the result of skilled and difficult negotiation—a negotiation that has already been approved by the House. I do not see that anything has changed between the time the House approved that negotiation and now. When we are debating the treaty. I hope that, after all the words, the House will approve overwhelmingly the Bill that endorses the treaty.

That is not to presuppose that the Maastricht treaty does not raise important issues—of course it does, and many of them have been aired tonight. It is and will be neither the beginning nor the end of the debate about the development of the European Community. That debate will continue in this place and well beyond it for many years because the process of institution building in Europe has always been, and always will be, consensual. That has been the key to progress in the past 20 years, just as it will be henceforth. Rapid acceleration, which some of our colleagues on the continent want, would be a dangerous course to pursue at this stage. I urge caution on those who, flushed with the heady wine of Maastricht. think that the agreements that have been reached can be moved forward rapidly in the next few months.

In urging a moderate pace, I do not argue that we should move as slowly as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would like. Far from it. Rather, I echo the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), because the outstanding priority now is to work to complete the single market. That is what business men in my constituency, both those who trade in Europe and those who have plans to trade in the wider European market, want to see achieved.

In the months ahead, we must also deal with vital issues connected with reforming the common agricultural policy, which is important to farmers in my constituency. They too are business men and strongly believe that they deserve an opportunity to compete on a more even playing field.

Maastricht has given us an opportunity to tackle those issues, not to go off—as some wish—towards a Euro Disney fantasy world. The European Community should be seen as a family of nations. That is precisely what it is and what it will inevitably grow into, which is why there is no reason to delay the accession of Austria and the other EFTA countries into the EC beyond the period that has now been set. The newly emergent nations of eastern Europe must not be made to feel that the removal of the iron curtain has been replaced by a tariff curtain. The countries of western Europe owe it to those countries to make them feel that they have a place in a democratic and capitalist Europe.

The notion of perfect harmony first and expansion later is dangerous, for if it is pursued it will divide Europe unto itself. Edmund Burke said in a letter to the sheriff of Bristol: Between craft and credulity the voice of reason is stifled. We must ensure that that does not happen as we seek to develop the European Community in the next few years.

The Community needs to grow up as well as out, which is why it is so important to tackle the definition of "subsidiarity", as the treaty starts to do. I attended a conference in Europe called purely to discuss this. We are all using the word frequently, but it is an ugly word in the English language and has a different meaning, depending on which nationality one is talking to.

That is why it is so important that the Maastricht treaty has put the definition of "subsidiarity" right at the top of the agenda. After all, it should be about pushing down to nation states decisions that have, in certain circumstances, been taken from them. At the same time, certain other decisions are given up to Europe. Those are in the process of discussion and include the negotiation of a single currency, which is clearly highlighted in the treaty. My right hon. Friends have wisely succeeded in the negotiations securing the right for this House to decide at a later date whether we should move to a single currency.

European institutions require democratic accountability, and we must never lose sight of that. I believe that the treaty takes a step in that direction as it gives additional powers to the European Parliament, but it is a timid step. That issue will come to the fore in future negotiations, of that I am absolutely certain.

If we give our people the impression that they are being governed by unelected bureaucrats from Brussels, we will create and store up future dangers for the Community's development due to the political forces that will be unleashed. If we act sensibly and make further progress and development, those forces will be contained.

The most important challenge facing the Government is the British presidency over the next six months which can set the tone for the European Community to move forward in a steady, cautious and consensual fashion. I have no doubt that, under the leadership of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary during the next six months, that is precisely the course that will be taken.

11.6 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) on his maiden speech. I hope that he will take it as a compliment when I say that he looked and sounded as though he had been here for years. I am sure that he will soon be fitted with his own leather jacket.

Perhaps I have the easiest task of any new hon. Member in paying proper tribute to my predecessor. Frank Haynes was popular in all parts of the House because of his genuine friendliness and good humour, his commitment to a range of good causes—from local hospitals to the fortunes of Sutton Town football club. He was popular with political friends and opponents alike.

Had I needed any convincing of that, it was confirmed recently when, with characteristic generosity, he agreed to help me to show a constituency school party round the Palace of Westminster. He has a formidable reputation as a tour guide and the Kirkby Woodhouse school party was not disappointed. As we made our way round the Palace it was clear that we were in the presence of a star. Wherever we went we met people who would stop and congratulate Frank and wish him well for the future. Everyone from police officers to Members of the House of Lords had a good word for him.

Frank's popularity is reflected in the constituency of Ashfield. There cannot be an organisation, group, club or society of which Frank is not a member or which he has not helped in some way over the years. I say that with some confidence as, since my election, representatives from them have all written to me asking me to carry on the traditions that Frank established. Frank's talent and obvious popularity are based on the sheer force of his personality and the sheer volume of his voice.

Frank had one quality that I believe has not been given proper attention: his considerable political skills which have perhaps been overlooked. He won Ashfield after arguably one of the worst by-elections in Labour party history. He held Ashfield for the Labour party in some extraordinarily difficult circumstances in Nottingham. He was greatly assisted in that by the wisdom and experience of his agents, Clarrie Booler and Bryan Denham.

In 1979, Frank replaced the current hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith), who might like to know that he still has at least one supporter in Ashfield. In the dying days of the general election campaign, I knocked on the door of the house of an elderly lady, who kindly invited me in and asked why I had taken so long to get round to see her. Like any candidate anxious to win votes and influence people, I politely explained that it was a big constituency and it took a little time to get around. "Tim Smith," she said, "called on everyone." In my candidate's mode, I still more politely pointed out that there were 75,000 electors in Ashfield and I could not see how he could have met them all. "Of course he did," she said, "regularly."

My candidate's charm school smile was wearing a little thin by the time she asked me what I had to say for myself. I launched into the two-minute version of the Labour party manifesto, trying to steer the conversation in the direction of her voting intentions. "Oh, don't worry about that," she said. "I have already voted by post." I now know what is the political equivalent of the blind man in a dark room looking for a dark cat. It is a Labour candidate canvassing a Tory lady who has already voted by post.

In making my preparations for this speech, I realised that the last three people to represent Ashfield now belong to three different political parties. David Marquand left Ashfield for a career in the European Commission. By contrast, I shall be leaving the European Parliament to concentrate on the constituency of Ashfield. He made his maiden speech in 1966, when he was able to state that mining was the linchpin of the economy of Ashfield. He went on to say, however: the coal mining industry of Nottinghamshire faces a grave crisis of confidence."—[Official Report, 5 May 1966; Vol. 727, c. 1965] He argued that it was urgently necessary to work out a comprehensive fuel programme in order to be able to assure the miners of the east midlands about their future for a long time to come.

These words have echoed down the years. There has been a massive reduction in the number of local collieries. I expect to represent Ashfield when its last colliery closes. That will be a sad day for the local community and it presents a bleak prospect for young people, who will also face difficulties finding work in Ashfield's other great industry, the textile trade.

From 1955, Ashfield was represented by Will Warbey. He had first been elected to the House to represent Luton in 1945. On 23 August 1945, in his maiden speech, he used words which are of particular relevance to today's debate: absolute national sovereignty is now an out-dated factor in international affairs. He quoted the right hon. Member for Woodford, Winston Churchill, who had talked of the mixing of the nations, and went on: I believe there is a great opportunity in the future for nation States to get more mixed together, especially in their economic functions. We have a particularly excellent opportunity in the case of those nations in the north and west of Europe, and I include our own, which, I am glad to say, have now very largely a common political outlook, and which are intending to pursue similar policies of planning for full employment and for raising standards of living. We can get together and plan very largely in common in order to achieve those objectives."—[Official Report, 23 August 1945; Vol. 413, c. 898] That was what the House was discussing in August 1945, and in essence it is what this debate should be about.

The Members meeting in Parliament in 1945 were determined to end the divisions of Europe based on the extreme nationalism that had caused two catastrophic world wars. Like many others in a similar situation, my father volunteered to fight in the second world war on his 18th birthday. When he came to Strasbourg shortly after my election to the European Parliament, he said how much better what I was doing was than what he and millions of others had had to do in the second world war.

We now have to build on the European foundations established by previous generations. Although the Maastricht treaty is a far from perfect addition to the European building, it contains much that will contribute to the mixing of nations. Others have already criticised Britain's opt-out on economic and monetary union and on the social chapter. Since I am still a member of the European Parliament I want to concentrate my remarks on the institutional aspects of the treaty and to express my regret at the timid steps taken towards real democracy in the decision-making processes of the European Community.

Too often we have heard Ministers complain about decisions taken in Brussels as if they had played no part in the process or had no responsibility for the failure to hold the European Commission properly to account. The same Ministers were responsible for the intergovernmental negotiations that led to the treaty. If Brussels is to blame, so are the Ministers who have failed to reform the treaty to control the Commission and to make it answerable to those who have been directly elected to represent the people of Europe. Those representatives sit in national Parliaments and in the European Parliament.

Members of all the Parliaments of Europe should be working together more closely to improve the democracy of the European Community. We could start by considering how to improve the working relationship between Members of this House and British Members of the European Parliament. There remains an uneasy tension between those two democratically elected institutions which, in a European context, should be following a common purpose—the proposing, amending and approving of European legislation as well as holding the European Executive to account.

The uneasy relationship exists in spite of the fact that in the present House of Commons, 62 hon. Members have experience of one or more of the European institutions. Thirty of my new colleagues have been members of the European Parliament, directly elected or appointed like our Speaker, and 32 have been members of the Council of Europe.

The uneasy relationship allows the European Commission—the least democratic of the Community's institutions—to assert a disproportionate influence over legislation. During the debate on the Single European Act, it was suggested in Britain that the treaty changes then being debated marked a final shift of power from Westminster to the European Parliament.

In practice, the European Commission has significantly increased its power over legislation because of its ability to determine which amendments to propose during the various stages of the legislative process. In effect, it has been able to play off the European Parliament against the Council of Ministers, telling the Council that the European Parliament would not accept certain amendments and, in turn, telling the Parliament that it could not propose Parliament's amendments to the Council because they would be rejected. As a result, the Commission's policy line has been strengthened at the expense of the democratically elected Parliament and Council.

Certain measures in the Maastricht treaty will undoubtedly tilt the institutional balance slightly in the direction of the European Parliament. It will do little, however, to make the European Commission subject to democratic control. Similarly, the decisions of the Council of Ministers, meeting in secret, are rarely subject to democratic scrutiny. The Maastricht treaty will do little to improve the ability of elected Members of national Parliaments to oversee the activities of Ministers meeting in council.

Much of the debate so far has concentrated on criticisms of the present operation of the European Community. I share some of the criticisms, but I disagree strongly about the appropriate solutions. If the European Community overrides democracy, the solution is to make it more democratic.

I am grateful for the House's attention.

11.17 pm
Sir George Gardiner (Reigate)

We have been treated to some very eloquent maiden speeches, and may I be the first Conservative Member to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) on a maiden speech of considerable intellectual content. I am sure that we all appreciated his tribute to his predecessor, Norman Tebbit, and to Margaret Tebbit, both of whom suffered so much from terrorist outrage. Like his predecessor, my hon. Friend did not eschew controversy, and we hope to hear much more from him in the future.

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) on an entertaining and interesting speech. I do not think that any of us who served in previous or earlier Parliaments will ever forget his predecessor, Frank Haynes. We appreciate what the hon. Gentleman had to say about Frank. He said that he had been enjoined to carry on the tradition established by Frank—he will have a hard job, but I am sure that in the end he will do so. I tell him only that he must develop the jabbing finger that Frank used to emphasise every point that he made to the House. We look forward to hearing further contributions from the hon. Gentleman.

I welcome back my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson). It was not a maiden speech but an eloquent relaunch, in which he paid proper tribute to his predecessor.

Over recent months, I have often been surprised at the references in the press to myself as a Euro-sceptic. Throughout the arguments of the 1960s and 1970s, I was a firm advocate of Britain's membership of the European Community, and I do not repent that now. If not a Euro-sceptic, I am no Euro-fanatic either. I think that it was the Daily Mail that coined the term Euro-pragmatist, and I am happy to accept that label.

It is as a Euro-pragmatist that I utter a few words of warning. The European ideal for which I fought in the 1960s and 1970s was a genuine and open, free-trade, outward-looking Community, or common market as we used to call it, with such common standards for goods and the provision of services as were necessary to ensure effective competition to the benefit of all our citizens. We looked forward to greater co-operation on matters of common concern such as pollution and control of the environment.

The common agricultural policy was nonsense, but many of us were prepared to accept it in order to achieve the greater aim. We were confident that such idiocies would in time compel reform. That was the European ideal for which many of us fought. It was never any part of that ideal that we should be drawn into some sort of federal structure. That possibility was expressly ruled out when the issue of Community membership was put to the British people in the 1975 referendum. Yet there are those in Europe, especially on the Commission, who are trying to force the Community step by step into a centralised federal straitjacket, despite all the lessons of recent history on the fate of such super-states with centralised control.

The idea of a free community of nations is under threat from two directions—from those who want to propel us into a centralised federal structure and from a bureaucracy in Brussels that often seems hell bent on accruing to itself still greater powers. Often the two come together.

When, in her famous Bruges speech, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher warned of federalist ambitions, she was derided by many of her critics. They claimed that she was conjuring up a demon that did not exist. The past 12 months have shown how perceptive her warnings then were.

It is a tribute to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at Maastricht they succeeded in halting the progress of federalism, and in some respects reversing it. Their great achievement at Maastricht was to open up other avenues for effective co-operation between nation states outside the existing institutions and hence their bureaucracy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in opening the debate, saw this as a change of direction, and I hope that he proves to be right.

It is worth recalling some of the ambitions that were expressed before the Maastricht negotiations. The federalists wanted our foreign policy to be decided by majority voting within the Council of Ministers, then passed to the Brussels Commission to implement. Instead, foreign policy will proceed on a unified basis only after all member states agree, with no role for the Commission or for the European Court.

The federalists, again, wanted our defence to be subordinated to the Council of Ministers and then implemented through the Western European Union. Instead, WEU will remain outside the Community institutions and fully compatible with NATO. The federalists also wanted a whole range of Home Office responsibilities to be decided by majority vote in Council and implemented by the Commission. Instead, a mechanism has been created for closer co-operation outside the institutions.

Most of all, the federalists wanted us to be bound by the social chapter, which would have allowed majority voting to determine our industrial relations law and other related matters. Instead, the other 11 states will implement those ideas through a protocol if they so wish, but Britain will be no part of it. Whether, in the end, the other 11 burden their economies with that albatross remains to be seen.

Maastricht was a disappointment all round for the federalists. However, they were halted but not defeated, and their hope is that the provisions on a single currency will bring economic, and hence political, federation into being in due course. I do not want to develop the arguments against that in what I hope will be a short speech, but 1 share the anxieties on that matter expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done well to reserve the rights of this Parliament in that respect, but it remains a direction in which we would not wish this country—or, indeed, the remainder of the Community—to proceed. Thankfully, doubts are growing in a number of other Community countries.

We should congratulate the Government on what they achieved. They have shown how the Community can develop in ways other than by a steady drift towards a centrally controlled super-state—rightly described by Mrs. Thatcher as "yesterday's future". For Europeans, federalism is certainly a dated dogma.

Much still needs to be done to ensure that the Community develops as a community of nation states, where the principle of subsidiarity—on which much has been said this evening—is given real meaning, where the overweening ambitions of the Community are cut down to size, and where institutional barriers are erected to deter other nation states of Europe to the north and to the east from joining.

I have no doubt that the Government will get their majority tomorrow night, or that they deserve it. However, the feeling of a great many on the Conservative Benches is that, although my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister deserves full credit for what he has achieved, there is anxiety that some provisions could present grave dangers in the years to come.

The shadow of federalism has already fallen across the free nation states of the Community. It must be the Government's objective to push it back at every stage and at every Council meeting, developing instead greater co-operation outside the bureaucratic institutions of Brussels. With that understanding, I wish the Government well and will have no hesitation in voting for the Bill.

11.29 pm
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (YnysMôn)

We have listened to many thoughtful, constructive and powerful speeches tonight in what is clearly an important and vital debate on the Maastricht treaty. The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) made an interesting and thoughtful speech when he set out possible scenarios as to the way in which various nationalist groups might view the Maastricht treaty.

The ultimate irony of this debate is that those of us who have been described as nationalists will go into the Lobby in support of the Maastricht treaty, and those described as unionists will go into the Lobby to vote against the treaty.

The Maastricht treaty marks a watershed in the process which leads to European union. In it we see the process by which power moves in two directions, away from the nation states to the European stage, but also downwards from the nation states to the nations and historic regions of our continent.

The removal of the federal concept in the original draft of the treaty and its replacement by the embodiment of the concept of subsidiarity cannot mask the fact that power is moving away from nation states to a European model on the one hand and to a decentralist approach on the other.

That interpretation of subsidiarity is well understood on mainland Europe, and in particular in those states that have a decentralist, federalist or regional structure of government. Decision-making is now seen to be working on three levels. That fact is inescapable, and the only thing that we must decide is at which level each decision should be taken.

That debate should have been reflected in our deliberations today, but I fear that the Government's careful balancing act and their own interpretation of subsidiarity will prevent that debate from being heard.

My party believes in the principle of greater European integration as well as the economic and social necessity which drives that process on. We in Wales have nothing to fear from that concept embodied in the treaty, which says that we move towards an ever closer union amongst the peoples of Europe.

Our whole culture, our historical perspective, has been at the heart of Europe over many generations. Welsh literature, in its written and oral traditions, derives much of its influence from mainland Europe. Even today, Welsh youth culture and popular television culture through the television channel S4C is reaching out and conquering new markets on the European scene. The Welsh are a bilingual multicultural nation which can live side by side with the multilingual culture which predominates in Europe.

We also recognise that our economic future is linked to that of Europe. The truth of that statement appears in sharp focus in my constituency. For example, the link between Dublin and Holyhead linking two member states is an important European link to be seen not only in its localised context but in the wider context.

Despite its poor timing, the decision to enter the exchange rate mechanism gives the necessary discipline to ensure economic progress and to ensure that it is not marred by what I would describe as artificial stimuli to a stagnant economy. It will also give the business community greater stability and allow it to plan ahead with more certainty.

However, the drive towards monetary union has a downside. The greatest danger lies in the failure of the wealthy centre to acknowledge the fragility of peripheral economies. We must counter-balance the risk of wealth being sucked to the centre, with measures that buttress economies at the periphery of Europe. Wales urgently needs to see the Community's regional and social policies strengthened, which is why we argued so strongly against the Government's stance on additionality—when millions of pounds were locked into the system because of Government intransigence and Treasury rules; millions of pounds that are now flowing into the rural and former coal-mining areas of Wales, where they are much needed.

The anomalies inherent in the current regional funds criteria for objective status must be removed. It is nonsense that the whole of Ireland—north and south—qualifies for higher objective status than Wales, simply because we are treated as part of the United Kingdom for that purpose. If Wales were treated as a single entity, it would qualify for higher status.

We are also critical of the Government's refusal to accept the social chapter. If European union as envisaged at Maastricht is to be successful, workers and their families must be satisfied that their rights are fully protected. Refusal to adopt the social chapter would protect European workers against exploitation, by controlling their hours of work and providing minimum levels of job security, while workers in Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom would lose out.

We welcome the establishment of the Committee of the Regions, but the Government's interpretation of subsidiarity in relation to the committee is totally untenable. For Cabinet Ministers to claim that they have the right to attend the Council of Ministers to represent the Government and also the Committee of the Regions is profoundly undemocratic and absurd.

The treaty says that those who attend the committee should represent the areas that send them. How could the Secretary of State for Wales be said to represent us in the Committee of the Regions? He is unrepresentative of the political situation in Wales, and represents a minority party in Wales. The Government should think again, and revert to the treaty's original wording, so that those who attend the Committee of the Regions are elected by the region or nation that sends them. The principle of subsidiarity as enshrined in the treaty would then be fully protected—as it will be in Spain and Germany, and elsewhere.

Wales belongs at the heart of Europe, but it is currently denied the right to play a full part in the Community's institutions. Until she can, Wales will not be able to play a constructive role and to make a valuable contribution—as she will—to the economic, social, cultural, political and other developments that are set out in the Maastricht treaty.

In time, as the Community develops according to a decentralist model, the case for a Welsh Parliament will be unanswerable; and I hope that, in time, the House will recognise that too.

11.39 pm
Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

I am extremely grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye. Some little time ago—on 27 April, to be precise—I found it very difficult to do so. I had brought my harp to the party, as had my right hon. Friends, but we were not called on to play. As a fully-paid-up member of the harpists' section of the Pudsey musicians' union, I was deeply saddened by that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), with his Irish harp, was eloquent. he had a velvet tone, and played with genius: it could well have been a great occasion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who came, I suspect, with a Grecian harp—the lyre, which was brought from Crete by the first Saganauts, who started out from Worthing many years ago—could also have amused the House. As for me, I was unable to find a harp of suitable size. I came equipped only with something nicked from the Brighouse and Rastrick band—a two-stringed lute; but, even with that, we were unable to catch the eye of the master mariner, our right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir Edward Heath).

That, however, is all history. All that I wish you to do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in conveying my words to Madam Speaker—along with warm congratulations on her success—is to warn her that from time to time she must beware of master mariners, who wish to keep their hands on the Tiller; now, however, the master mariner from Sidcup has his own Garter—and long may he enjoy an award with which there is so great an affinity.

The Maastricht problem can be divided into three parts. First, I think that we all share some anxiety—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, whom I am glad to see in the Chamber, feels it as well—about the extent to which the considerable progress that he and the Prime Minister have made in the recent discussions will genuinely lead to a fundamental shift in the understanding of what the British position may be in the future development of the Community; and, conversely, about how far the genuine shift in the Community will extend in its response to the British position.

Secondly, there is the question of the actual interpretation of the words that we find so important. The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) laid a fair amount of stress on additionality, which is one of the buzz words in relation to European activity. It is one of the words used by Her Majesty's Treasury when it wishes to reduce something, as opposed to adding to it.

I think that the hon. Gentleman has every reason to feel that that is an odd concept—although I am bound to say to him, and indeed to the House, that the new buzz word "subsidiarity" strikes me as equally capable of misinterpretation, from Montenegro to Moscow. It is an admirable thought that somewhere in Spain, or possibly in lower Saxony, people will be able to determine that subsidiarity means that the nation state is somehow enabled to make more individual decisions than it would otherwise. But then, as the word does not exist in the German or French languages, I suspect that it might be difficult to persuade our colleagues that that is indeed the case.

We have produced this settlement on the basis that there should be more devolution of decision making upon the nation states. One of the common threads running through our debate today is that, as much as possible, powers should continue to be devolved into this Parliament, where a decision-making process that is reflective of, and responsive to, popular opinion can be lodged. So long as that can be delivered, and made a constant and developed thread of Community decision making, there will be a wide measure of agreement that what was decided at Maastricht was the start of a wedge that will ultimately have a fundamental effect on Community structure.

Whatever the words may be, and whatever the interpretation of them, there is still a fundamental and cultural difference between what the majority of member states in the Community believe is right in practice, and what the majority believe is right in prospect. So many are so willing so often to sign up to the objective but so few, and with great infrequency, are able to deliver immediately the requirement of the law. Thus it is that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have laid great stress on the point that, written into Maastricht, are provisions for fines on nation states that fail to implement the directives.

For heaven's sake! We have been obligated to do this, as have been all who are signatories to the Single European Act and members of the Community, for several decades. Now, we are coming to the conclusion that it is necessary, for the sake of comparability within our structures, to require the European Court to fine member states for non-implementation of treaty obligations entered into by them many years ago. That is a clear example of the cultural differences between us and others.

Our arguments today, as they always are, are on what is actually contained in the treaty. Clause by clause and line by line, phrase by phrase and word by word—the anxieties spill forth as we recognise that, if everything had to be implemented to the letter of the European Act, our freedom of action and our freedom to interpret what we consider to be in the rights of our national state would be devastated, with a corresponding effect on the willingness of our people to support the Act.

I do not believe that the Germans or the French are fussed. I do not believe that the Spaniards will suddenly decide no longer to support the Olympic games simply because there is some requirement to implement the water directive in Barcelona. I have no idea what they are doing about such measures. All I know is they take a fairly relaxed view of what comes through the tap, if anything. Still, they are able to continue as a nation state of the Community, to ride high in the reputation of the Community, to borrow, to beg or otherwise obtain resources from the Community for the betterment of the kingdom of Spain. All credit to them.

All I say to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is that that is all very well, but if we have to pick up that little tab and say that it is now necessary to bring them to court for non-observance of directives that we have implemented ourselves, that will be a deeply saddening occasion.

I recall very well, as one of those in the engine room of this splendid Government in a previous year, having to take the lawn mower noise regulations through a Standing Committee, trying to relate them to the ice cream chimes regulations and sort them out with the other requirements on pollution control of the European Community. I lost the lawn mower regulations. I failed to realise that they could not be implemented because most of the lawn mowers in use in the United Kingdom could not be adapted to conform to them. Ardua ad acto was my motto. There are real difficulties over the interpretation of European legislation.

I am prepared to welcome and support this measure. However, I would add a word of hope and a word of conviction. I beg my hon. Friends who are sceptical about this process to remember that this Government have five years ahead of them. During that time, they will probably become the most senior Government within the European Community. The Government of the German Federal Republic are in considerable difficulties. The Government of France are fragmenting at the edges. The Government of Italy do not exist. During the next five years, therefore, the United Kingdom Government will probably be the most potent force in the argument over how the Community is to develop.

Furthermore, in my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary we have two of the most outstanding statesmen in the European Community. During the next five years, they are also likely to become the most senior statesmen in the Community. If that is so, this risk which we are invited to take will be worth taking. With such experienced hands at our disposal and with this Government's commitment at its back, the United Kingdom should be able not just to drive but to widen the wedge and to ensure that the shape, future, structure and effectiveness of the Community are radically altered in favour of the United Kingdom.

11.51 pm
Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I intend to refer to my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent, South, but before doing so I offer my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that they will be among the many that you have already received. While I am in the congratulatory mode, every hon. Member will have noted that Stoke City beat Stockport County in the Autoglass Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday. We shall all want to congratulate the team on its victory. Even my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) will, I know, want to share in the congratulations.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) referred in his eloquent maiden speech to the fact that his constituency was proud that the Spitfire had been developed in Eastleigh. He did not refer, although I am sure he intended to do so, to the fact that Reginald Mitchell was born in Stoke-on-Trent, South. All hon. Members will want to recognise that important event. He also said that his constituency is beautiful. I wish to register that claim for Stoke-on-Trent. Part of its beauty lies in its people. They have proud and long traditions, forged in the industrial and manufacturing history of the area.

We need no reminding of the fact that the pottery industry is renowned the world over for its unique skills and the quality of the product. One of the largest tyre manufacturers in Europe has its headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent. Engineering and the coal industry are also vital to the economic and social well-being of the area that I have the honour to represent. Unfortunately, all those industries have one sad feature in common—they have been seriously adversely affected by the continued recession. My constituents believe that the Government's response to such vital issues has been wholly inadequate. The inevitable result in my constituency—I do not claim any uniqueness in this matter—is that unemployment has massively increased. Last year, in general terms, unemployment was 49 per cent., and long-term unemployment—that is, those who have been out of work for 12 months—increased by more than twice the national average.

Right hon. and hon. Members will understand my concern when it appears that unemployment could not even get a mention in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech to the CBI last evening. On the same day as the Chancellor engaged in the debate on the Queen's Speech, the local press in my constituency carried headlines that announced further serious job losses. Employment prospects are not enhanced by the fact that the one remaining large colliery complex in my constituency which presently produces more than 2 million tonnes of coal and has massively increased its productivity over the past five years is now threatened by a systematic dismantling of the industry.

My constituents sent me to the House, among other reasons, to press for direct measures that will reverse the blight of unemployment. I pay tribute to the local authorities in my area which have made and are making determined efforts to attract investment and create jobs. Of course, that means a partnership between local authorities, the private sector and the Government. The President of the Board of Trade, in a previous incarnation as Secretary of State for the Environment, intervened and such a partnership was forged. A derelict site in Stoke-on-Trent was turned into the garden festival site and is now a thriving industrial area. We need such intervention. We should call on the President of the Board of Trade to intervene again so that future investment in my constituency can become a reality. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be allowed to intervene positively.

It is a great honour to represent the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent, South. Election to the House is a special event in all hon. Members' lives. Hon. Members are honoured to represent their constituents. It is a particularly special event for me because I have the honour of succeeding Jack Ashley. Faced with great adversity, Jack took on the challenge and triumphed. He served Stoke-on-Trent, South, the House and the country with great distinction for 26 years.

Jack and Pauline Ashley have set an example that continues to be an inspiration to us all. His values, including fighting discrimination, putting people first and tirelessly seeking economic and social justice, were relevant to him during his time in the House. Perhaps those values are more relevant today than they have ever been.

I was grateful for Jack Ashley's inspiration when I considered the Bill. I agree entirely with right hon. and hon. Members who have said that this is probably one of the most important decisions that the House will be asked to make for some time.

It is difficult to find any inspiration in the Bill as it stands. It appears that the singular achievement that the Prime Minister is claiming is how quickly and under what conditions we can opt out of the basic and fundamental issues in current policy developments. The United Kingdom will be handed the presidency of the Council of Ministers in July. I understand that that occurs as a result of an alphabetical accident. It has nothing to do with any other consideration. In that respect, the phrase that I have heard used is "buggin's turn".

The presidency provides our Government with a unique opportunity to have real, positive influence over what is happening. It is a tragic irony that we will not be fully involved or at the heart of the positive progress that might benefit all our people. The preoccupation seems to be diktats of the market. I believe that the interests of the Community have been cynically dismissed.

The opt-out of the social chapter is a disgrace. There may be arguments about burdening industry. However, opting out of the social chapter holds out the prospect of serious disadvantage to millions of people in Britain. Opting out will widen the already wide gap between the economic and social conditions in many comparable Community states and the United Kingdom. It will officially establish the fact that we have a two-speed, two-tier Europe.

I wonder whether there are signs that the Government are buckling. The Secretary of State for Employment seems less certain—that is putting it mildly—about the Government's attitude to the current discussions in the Labour and Social Affairs Council. I believe that such uncertainty can be damaging. Contrary to Government propaganda, I believe that investors are deterred not by the social charter, but by the prevarication and uncertainty that surrounds the United Kingdom's attitude. Business and industry would welcome clear support for the social charter and a positive approach.

I want now to consider some of the institutional concerns which I am sure all hon. Members share. Obviously, some aspects of the Maastricht agreement, such as the extension of majority voting and increased involvement of the European Parliament, are welcome, but we should not fool ourselves. We are in danger of making the same mistakes as were made in 1986 when the inappropriately named Single European Act was forced through the House without real consideration of the necessary measures that would establish democratic accountability over the Commission and the secretive Council of Ministers.

Although I readily accept that some progress is being made in the Maastricht agreement with regard to accountability, that progress is six years too late. If we believe that marginal measures that will hardly affect the democratic deficit are going to be sufficient to address the serious problem and curb the increasing authority and power of the Commission, we delude ourselves. Perhaps in five or six years' time we will wonder why we did not insist on certain measures being adopted now. The Government should have acted accordingly in 1986.

We are not talking about transferring sovereignty from this House. We are concerned about making accountable what is happening now. Responsibility for the environment and health and safety matters have been transferred to the Community. The Government were willing and anxious to transfer all sorts of matters to the Community. But there is that gap, that democratic deficit, which means that the Commission, in its unaccountable way, can walk right through the middle. It continues to do so. I have heard enough in the debate today to satisfy myself that Conservative Members are as worried as Opposition Members about that vital issue.

The question that we must ask ourselves is whether the Bill even begins to address the democratic deficit. I believe that it does not. It certainly does not establish any basis for real democracy over a European Community that is increasingly dominated by an unaccountable Commission and a secretive Council of Ministers. The House should not support the Bill because it fails to meet the essential tests of democratic accountability, the interests of all the British people and putting the British Government at the heart of policy developments that are bound to have a dramatic effect on the future of all our people.

If the Bill is supported, it will work against the best interests of the vast majority of people in Britain. Most certainly, despite what we heard from the Prime Minister and others, it will hold out the prospect of marginalisation of the United Kingdom as policy developments take place in the European Community.

12.6 am

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Thank you for calling me this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I begin by congratulating you on your recent appointment to the Chair. I wish that you may have many years in that office. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson), who has just made a forceful and trenchant contribution to tonight's proceedings. I am sure that he will make a worthy successor to Mr. Jack Ashley in that seat.

Several fine maiden speeches have been made this evening. It was with increasing trepidation that I sat here and waited to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The quality, fluency and style of the maiden speakers who preceded me only increased my terror. I was delighted to hear from the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) about his predecessor but one, Mr. Arthur Davidson. Following his departure from the House, he became the legal manager of Associated Newspapers Group, the publishers of The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail. As a libel lawyer and a member of the defamation bar, I have been helped in no small way by him to make my way in the world.

I was also delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) speak with such confidence—a confidence which I cannot claim—when he spoke without notes and with such enthusiasm. Then we had the brave speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), which I am sure will be remembered for many years to come.

The Harborough constituency which I have the honour to represent stands at the very heart of England. It is justly proud of its history, its towns and villages and its rolling countryside. The town of Market Harborough, in the south of my constituency, is aptly named. It was given its market by King Henry II in the 13th century. He also gave it the status of town. We still have the market, where sheep and cattle are traded to this day. I am afraid that it is soon to be covered by a supermarket. I am reliably informed that that is progress.

I hope that it will not be long before Market Harborough has a new agricultural market—perhaps just outside the town—so that the links between town and country can be maintained, to the advantage of both.

In 1381, 170 families were listed on the Market Harborough poll tax returns. In 1991, the equivalent list would have contained the names of more than 16,000 souls. I will not, however, pause to consider now the respective views of my constituents and their forebears on the question of local government finance.

The other main centre of population in the Harborough constituency is the borough of Oadby and Wigston, hard by the city of Leicester—fiercely proud that it is not a part of that city, and fiercely determined that it never will be. Oadby and Wigston has every right to be fierce and proud. It is the home of the Tigers—the Leicestershire regiment, which is now part of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Elsewhere, Harborough is made up some of the finest country in England—undulating farmland, dotted with villages and hamlets, all of them vibrant communities, which play their part in giving the constituency its special identity and in contributing to its diversity. It is a farming constituency, but it also earns its living at home, in Europe and in the wider world, thanks to its textile, knitwear, hosiery and footwear industries, thanks to its engineering and financial services industries and, above all, thanks to the hard work, practical common sense and enterprise of its people.

I am sure that the House will understand that in the Harborough constituency we are looking forward to the reform of the common agricultural policy, which will surely come, and to the resolution of the current GATT round.

I respectfully adopt the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) concerning the powers of the European Parliament and its control of the CAP, and I trust that in due course progress will be made in that direction.

I am fortunate to be the Member for Harborough, but I feel equally sure that for the past 33 years Harborough has been fortunate in having Sir John Farr as its loyal and diligent Member of Parliament. I am sure that there are few hon. Members here today whose parliamentary memories go back as far as 1959. There will be fewer still, on both sides of the House, who know Sir John Farr and who do not remember him with affection and respect. Although recently troubled by ill health and in considerable pain, he never wavered in his duty to his constituents, and he always fought for them, regardless of their politics, with determination and vigour—qualities for which he is famous within the House as he was on the cricket field.

In his maiden speech in November 1959, John Farr warned of the dangers to the environment posed by the indiscriminate use of toxic agricultural sprays. He spoke as a countryman, and as a man with real knowledge of such matters. He spoke of the need to protect our fields, rivers, woods and hedgerows and of the need to protect bird life, insect life, fish life, and indeed mankind, from poisonous chemicals. The modern Green is way behind Sir John, for he was ahead of his time.

In espousing the not altogether popular cause of the Birmingham Six in recent years, he again showed that he was ahead of his time, and that he was fearless in the pursuit of justice for those who were in need of his help. I am happy to tell the House that Sir John is restored to good health and is enjoying an extremely active retirement.

I should like to add my small voice in support of ratification of the treaty of Maastricht. The time has come for us to lead and to shape the future of Europe. I suggest that that is best achieved by working the clay rather than by smashing the pot. We can no longer afford, politically or economically, to treat the European Community and our place in it as subjects unfit for polite society. We must use the Community, and use it unashamedly, to the advantage of our country and of our constituencies. That is certainly what the majority of my constituents want. They will not thank us for failing to complete what my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Chancellor set in hand in December.

On a lighter note, there are few sights more pleasing to my constituents than that of a Frenchman, German, Spaniard, Greek or Italian or any other mainland European decked out from top to toe in English clothes, preferably made in Leicestershire. The person inside those clothes should be well fed on a diet of Leicestershire meat and cheese. I want other Europeans to share that privilege, be they from Scandinavia, Austria or further east in Europe. They will not have that privilege if the Bill is not passed and we are sidetracked into fruitless and mind-numbing arguments by centrists across the channel.

I suggest that not to ratify now would unravel all that has been achieved at an intergovernmental level and outside the agencies of the Community. Not to ratify now would endanger our justifiably British approach to currency and monetary union, employment law, immigration policy, foreign policy and security, domestic and international. Not to ratify now would also endanger our links with the United States, which are dear to many of us here. Failure to ratify would undermine so much of what we have sought to underpin—our support of the doctrine of subsidiarity.

We stand for the transfer of power away from the centre to the nation states. In delegating power to Europe, as we must do occasionally, we do not abdicate it, but delegate it. We know a little about unravelling in my knitwear constituency—it is not a pretty sight. To pass the Bill is to ensure the orderly development of Europe and, what is more, to reinforce it with the authority of this ancient House.

12.18 am
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

First, I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. I have often seen you in the Chair in Committee, when you always acted with great fairness to all members of Committees.

If the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) had any fears that his nerves would show through, he disabused us of any such impression. He did extremely well. I am sure that if Sir John Farr had been here, he would have been very proud of his successor. He represents a beautiful part of the country, of which he shows a keen awareness. He paid an excellent tribute to his predecessor, who had been a Member for a long time before I entered the House and who was greatly respected. I am sure that his successor will be heard many times in the future and I look forward to hearing what he has to say. He said that he was a good European and I am pleased to hear that, although we may have differences of opinion on exactly what a good European is or should be.

Everyone in this country today knows what the European Community is, even if he or she still uses the expression "Common Market". I cannot help but think back to a selection interview held in Liverpool for a parliamentary candidate. One of the people to be interviewed was a member of the markets committee of Liverpool city council. When asked what he thought of the Common Market, he looked up at the ceiling, then at the floor and about him, and said, "Well, I don't care where they put it, so long as it's not in Great Homer street."

No one misunderstands what we are talking about when we refer to the European Community. However, when we deal with the Maastricht treaty, we should do so against the background of what we believe is in our constituents' interests. On the doorsteps during the general election campaign, I heard not one suggestion—I doubt whether other hon. Members differ from me—that my constituents were worried about sovereignty. What really matters to us is our electors' sovereignty and what they want, which is a decent life, a decent chance for their children in education, a decent chance in health matters, and proper social and public services. If those are to be obtained through various layers of government, so be it. If Europe can provide the goods that my constituents want, that is fine by me.

There can be no doubt that the various functions of Government and Administration must be administered at different levels. Euro-sceptics exist on both sides of the House, although it is interesting to note that those Opposition Members who expressed scepticism on Europe tend, with one or two notable exceptions, to be conspicuous by their absence. They will doubtless read Hansard tomorrow and be converted to the view that we should now expect our country to play a full part in the Community.

I am astonished when I hear Conservative Members talk of centralisation. They also talk about subsidiarity. The hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said that the highest form of subsidiarity was the nation state and that that was where we could expect all decisions to be taken. He said that it was the lowest level—the nearest to the electors—at which they could be taken. I find that absolutely astonishing, because the Government have defied all the principles of subsidiarity in this country.

There was a time when local authorities could bask in the sunshine of local self-government and democracy. It was the former Prime Minister—who now says that we should fear centralisation from Brussels—who abolished the Greater London council, Merseyside county council and all the metropolitan councils simply on the grounds that they were controlled by a party that opposed the one of which she was leader.

This Government have not sought to grant any subsidiarity in relation to the financial powers of local authorities. Alone in Europe, Britain's local councillors, whether good or bad, can be disqualified from office, not because they fail to win the electors' votes, but because they do not abide by the financial constraints placed upon them by a highly centralised Government. There can be no doubt that the most centralised state in Europe today is the United Kingdom, where the buck stops at 10 Downing street and Whitehall. If I were not a Member of the House, I would not rush to be a member of any of this country's councils, denuded as they are of power and control.

What pleases me about the treaty of Maastricht, which was signed by the Prime Minister, is that it refers to a committee of regions. God knows how the Government, who signed the treaty, will interpret the committee of regions, on which the United Kingdom is to have 24 members. I suspect that the Prime Minister thinks that he can ensure that those 24 members are like the bureaucrats—the placemen—that he has put on the hospital trusts that have been created under recent national health service legislation.

However, I have no doubt that the people of this country will be looking for proper representation of the regions in the corridors of power in the European Community institutions. I believe that, no matter how strongly the Conservative Government—alone of all Governments in Europe—resist the idea of regional government, democratic regional government will come, as the pressures for it exist in the Community.

When people in this country see that the citizens of Bavaria and the various regions of France and Italy have rights that they do not, I am sure that they will say that they want the same regional representation as those other countries. They will see that subsidiarity stops not at the nation state, but much lower down the scale, nearer to the elector—the consumer of services. I am sure that, irrespective of the wishes of the Tory Government, that is what will happen.

Furthermore, I believe that the Government will be forced to accept the social protocol. Of course they do not accept it now, and have put up various notions that the country will be strike-torn and there will be other industrial relations problems if the social protocol is accepted. But as my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said earlier today, if one reads the treaty—I wonder how many people have done so—and studies the social protocol, one will see that the last paragraph contains no reference to pay and conditions of negotiation. The treaty of Maastricht is not trying to control that aspect of industrial relations and its provisions do not cover strikes and lock-outs.

Any Member who says that the Maastricht treaty embraces the possibility of more militant industrial action in our factories and places of work is lying. Such ideas are merely the excuse that the Tory party used to attack the Labour party's support for the social protocol in the recent election. Most people do not know any better, but Members of this House should know better than to say such things.

There are certainly faults in the treaty, and I do not agree with everthing that it contains. Some aspects of it will have to be changed—and will be changed as they prove to be impracticable. I believe that the stricture that budget deficits may not exceed 3 per cent. of gross national product will prove impracticable—and not just in this country. The British people will also continue to press the Government to ensure that we are not left behind in the move towards acceptance of the social charter.

As for the free movement of labour, given the mass unemployment in some of our regions, there is every reason to expect that many of the people whom we represent will soon be represented by deputies in the National Assembly or by members of the Bundestag, because they will move where the jobs are. As British workers move around Europe and discover that conditions in the Siemens factory in Munich are better than those in the GEC factory in Liverpool, word will get around. We want the same health and safety conditions in this country as workers abroad enjoy.

While the docks legislation was being pushed through the House I came across some Liverpool dockers in London who had just been to a meeting of the Transport and General Workers Union at Transport house. They said that they had been to Hamburg and discovered to their amazement that workers there were represented on the supervisory boards of the works in which they were employed. They had always thought that Britain enjoyed the best working conditions. In future, employers in Germany, France, Britain and Italy will find that they have to provide the same rights and conditions for their workers no matter which part of the Community they work in.

I strongly believe that we should support the Opposition amendment. We cannot oppose the treaty as such because that would send the wrong message to those who represent working people in the rest of the Community. Our sister parties throughout the EC will expect us not to give our blessing to everything in the treaty, but, with them, to try to correct some of the faults in it and to develop the Community to the point at which it will have the full support of all our people.

There are grave divisions in the Tory party and I know that there are some dissidents on the Opposition Benches, too. [Laughter.] I take the point. We do not have a Bruges group and we did not meet at the Carlton club. The Conservative party has a problem. It has a small majority and does not know what will happen when there is a new leader in another place.

Mr. Morgan

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the headline in today's Financial Times, which I just happen to have seen. The lead story is entitled "Major and Thatcher in clash over Maastricht" and has as the strapline "Whips' attempt to control feared revolt undermined". Would he care to comment on those two headlines?

Mr. Wareing

I thank my hon. Friend for those observations, which I enjoyed considerably because they are true. My hon. Friend will probably agree that the Prime Minister does not have the guts to make it clear to his predecessor that he is his own man. We shall no doubt hear in a few weeks' time that there is a new countess in another place. She certainly does not put the fear of God into me, but she would if I were a Tory because she will not keep her mouth shut if she gets to the other place. The great centraliser who is so critical of Jacques Delors and of those in the European Community who recognise the regions, who do not deny the people of their Scotlands and their Wales's equality of rights and even have them represented in the upper Chambers of their Parliaments, will be sent to the other place—that is where the biggest opponent of the Tory leadership within the Tory party will be.

There is a solution. If the Prime Minister wants to prove that he is his own man, especially on Europe, he should turn to Mrs. Thatcher and say, "So you want to be in the other place? No, no, no."

12.37 am
Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

There was much to enjoy in the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). We have become used to courageous speeches from him over the years, but for him to accuse the Tories of being split over Europe is at once perfectly obvious and completely inappropriate. The one thing that has been clear this evening is that there is a wide divergence of views among both parties, which is extremely healthy. The Government have a stance to recommend to the House and to Conservative Members, but on this issue more than most hon. Members will hold their own views and their own counsel. It is hardly surprising that there are splits within the parties.

What is more interesting than the party split is that we have often heard hon. Members analyse the issue and I have often accepted nearly all of the analysis only to disagree with the conclusion. I have in mind especially the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the earlier speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). I found much of what they said extremely appealing. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and I have trodden the European boards together and have certainly agreed about Europe.

The difficulty is that my right hon. and hon. Friends seem to start from the position in which they would like to be. In politics one cannot speak from the position in which one would like to be—one is stuck with one's real position. For example, I wish that we were not in Europe. I believe that 20 years ago we missed the golden opportunity not to go into Europe. I should have liked us to build our contacts with Australasia. I should not have wanted us to be anti-Europe but to have recognised that it had a culture and communality of interest and that we could co-operate with it but not be part of it.

If that had been our attitude to Europe in those days, it would have meant among other things that our farming, which matters greatly to many hon. Members, especially on the Conservative Benches, would now be thriving. It would be able to produce as much food as we could consume and for our surplus foods we would be able to look to Australasia. It would have meant a transformation of the fortunes of the United Kingdom over the past 20 years. I should have liked to be in that position, but that is a pipe dream and an "if" of history. The fact is that we went into the Common Market and that is where we are now.

In some speeches—by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but mainly from the Government Benches—there have been references to "the dangers", almost as if the debate was taking place 20 years ago and we were talking of the dangers of going into Europe. Whether we like it or like it not, we must face the fact that we are in Europe. We must say to ourselves, "Given where we are tonight, what is the best route to take and what is in the best interests of our constituents?"

I do not know how many hon. Members have read the treaty of Rome. I confess that I read it only about three years ago. I was going to Paris to make a speech and officials thoughtfully provided me with a copy of the treaty. It was quite an easy read and a short one at that. I then had more sympathy than ever before with some of the federalist aspirations of our European partners.

Anyone who reads the treaty realises at once the dangers that it has for us and the interpretation that will be placed upon it by our European partners. It reflects no credit on some that, when the arguments of the 1970s were taking place, we were told, "You need not worry because there are no federalist dangers or implications in it." Anyone who had read the treaty would have realised that there would be dangers for us.

Where do we go from there? I can understand the position—curiously, it has not been voiced tonight—of someone who says, "I don't want to be in Europe. I want to get out of Europe. I think that there is a viable possibility of being able to close the door on this era of our history and leave Europe." I think that that is completely unrealistic. As I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, if I thought that there was a realistic, sane and sensible way, even now, in which we could pull out of Europe, it would be a drum that I would follow, but that route is not available to us.

Those who say that, however—if some of them crop up in the next 24 hours or so—are at least taking a position that is intellectually respectable. I do not know, but I suspect that when my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will sound that trumpet. He will say, "We should get out of Europe." Although I consider that to be a romantic view, I can see at once that it is attractive. It is completely unrealistic, but at least it is understandable.

I understand also the view of those such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). My hon. Friend has tremendous courage. He is prepared to stand before the House, to turn to the Conservative Benches and to say that he looks forward to a time when we have multi-member constituencies and proportional representation. He virtually genuflected the moment he even slightly criticised President Delors. That is the other side of the argument and it is logical as far as it goes.

I have difficulty in understanding the middle course. I do not understand how any of my hon. Friends can say, "Don't worry, dear boy. I am absolutely pro-European. I want to stay in Europe. My European credentials are fine but I don't accept the Maastricht deal. No, we must outlaw that. I am as good a European as the others but I am not going to go along with the Maastricht treaty."

What are my hon. Friends who say that trying to convey to the House? It is invidious to name names, even in terms of their constituencies, but are we supposed to believe that there is a body of opinion among Conservative Back-Bench Members that if they had been Ministers they could have gone to Maastricht and obtained a better deal than my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary?

I know that the Government Back Benches are full of talent. The amount of talent among ex-Ministers on our Back Benches is ferociously strong. I even exclude myself, however, when I say that I do not know of any colleague on the Back Benches, be he an ex-Minister or not, whom I could confidently have sent to Maastricht to get a better deal than the one with which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister returned. I do not understand the position of those who say that they are pro-European but who imply by saying that they will oppose the Maastricht treaty that a better deal was available, which my right hon Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary did not get. Frankly, that argument will not stack up in the end.

There are those who say that what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister obtained at Maastricht was an illusion, that there are still great federalist dangers, that there are still battles to be fought and that, at the next intergovernmental conference in 1996, the federalists will be out again. Of course they will, because there are some battles that can never finally be won. Surely in this House, of all places, we are used to that. Every time there is an election, we have to go out again and fight our political opponents and they have to fight us. We do not give up because there may be other battles to fight when we have to repel views with which we do not agree. Obviously, the federalists will be out again in 1996 and the same arguments will have to be won all over again. However, they have been won on this occasion, so why should it be any less likely that we will win again?

We should consider the context in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to Maastricht. It is obvious that a number of our European partners had become so thoroughly sick of the British that in a sense they did not even consider their own interests. It was sufficient for them to give the Brits a bloody nose. In a very short time, our Prime Minister went to Europe, made alliances, got on with some countries, made deals with some countries and actually got over to the Europeans the fact that, although their precious treaty of Rome might have pointed in a federalist direction, there were other possibilities as well.

What has come out of Maastricht is not simply a full stop on the advance towards federalism; there has actually been an alternative vision, and of something that many of us thought we were going into Europe to do in the first place. It is not to move towards some final political union, not to become part of some wretched united states of Europe, but to have ever closer co-operation in our mutual interests. That is an alternative vision of Europe which we are now in a position to convey. It is surely a great deal more attractive that merely going to Europe and saying,"We don't want to play with you. We don't like your ideas or your vision. We have got nothing to say to you other than that we will not co-operate."

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), in a good and telling speech, said that it was his experience of the old co-opted European Parliament that we could not get anywhere in Europe with half measures. It simply does not work to stand on the European boundaries and howl that we do not want to play on their playground—they get on with the game without us. If we are not prepared to come out of Europe, we must stay and fight.

It is worth considering some of the things that have not been included in the Maastricht treaty. We will not be bound in foreign policy, home affairs, justice, defence, security and all the rest. All those will be dealt with by intergovernmental conferences. We know that the federalists in Europe will try, as they always do, to say that really those matters fall not under IGCs, but under an article of the treaty of Rome. That is the game that the Europeans play. That is the sort of people they are. They want to bring those matters within their ambit, so they will try to argue that they come under the treaty of Rome.

That battle must be fought—it has been fought before and it will be fought again. However, the mere fact that the federalists will not ultimately go away does not mean that we have to give up the ghost and not be prepared to take the argument to them.

We now have an opportunity in Europe that we have never had before. I have contacts with business men in Belgium who have been saying to me for years, "Why don't you Brits really get into the Common Market and give us a lead?" Some small countries in Europe do not like what they see of German and French behaviour. Those small countries take pride in their sovereignty every bit as much as we take pride in ours. They have been looking for a major country that will give them a lead and play a constructive part in Europe, without trying to turn it into a federalist super-state.

A number of references have already rightly been made to the fact that Germany is in one heck of a state at the moment. A great many Germans are now saying to themselves, "Do we really want to give up the deutschmark just so that we can have the ecu instead?" Reference has also been made to the fact that France has its problems.

If ever there was a time when Britain could put itself at the heart of Europe, take a lead and come up with an alternative vision which ultimately appeals to all, this is that opportunity. If we do not take it, we have no reason to believe that that opportunity will ever come again. It is all very well to flex one's patriotism over a few bottles of claret at the Carlton, but at the end of the day we must ask ourselves whether we can use Europe to our own advantage. The country expects better of us than posturing about where we would like to be. We have been given a unique opportunity by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

As it is not realistic for us to leave the EC, we should take that opportunity and make a success of it. It is all very well to say that we wish that we had never joined—so do I, with all my heart—but we are in it, we cannot get out of it and we have a unique opportunity to make a success of it.

12.50 am
Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

It is about 10 weeks since my predecesssor, Merlyn Rees, made his final speech to the House. In that speech, as in a number of others, he combined the experiences of his upbringing in a south Wales mining villages with his work in his Leeds inner-city political base. He spoke of the effects of unemployment in each of those areas and, as he often did, he showed the concern and anger with which he always faced the deprivation and poverty which were the consequences of that unemployment.

It was Merlyn's caring approach which characterised not only his work in the constituency but much of his work in the House and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell), but the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) should not bring refreshments into the Chamber.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is only water.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It may be only water, but it is still liquid refreshment. Mr. Gunnell.

Mr. Gunnell

Hon. Members will agree that Merlyn carried his caring approach even to the highest offices of state. That was one reason why he was held in such respect and why, even though he has long ceased to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he still carries with him the concerns of Northern Ireland and his knowledge of its people which was developed in those days.

Merlyn Rees served the Leeds, South constituency for 29 years, and for the last eight of those was also the Member of Parliament for the Morley area. He followed an equally distinguished predecessor in Hugh Gaitskell, who also had a long association with the constituency, in his case 26 years. But of those 26 years, the first eight were spent as a prospective parliamentary candidate because, although he was selected in 1937, he did not get to fight the seat until 1945.

Following two such distinguished predecessors is a daunting task, but I have had the advantage of sitting with Merlyn in his surgeries which he took with Colleen, his wife. They brought to those surgeries and to the people of south Leeds whom they met that sense of caring which meant that for many people the very act of telling their problems was in itself cathartic. They knew that he had taken those problems on board and that he would do what he could to sort them out.

Merlyn was undaunted by any problem. I well remember the end of one surgery when a man came in somewhat breathless to complain that a herd of cattle had escaped from grazing land on a former opencast site into council house gardens. What to do?—find the owner?, telephone the housing department?, explain that the matter did not fall within a Member of Parliament's remit? Merlyn did none of those. Instead, he took us up there in his car and in 10 minutes the cattle were back in place. But, of course, he had a great advantage because, as he was Home Secretary, he was always followed by some plainclothesmen and some members of the West Yorkshire constabulary, so he had plenty of people on hand to make sure that the job was done efficiently.

Merlyn was one of the last members of the last Parliament to announce that he was standing down. The way that news was greeted showed the regard in which he was held in the constituency. He received one honour that even the House could not bestow on him. He was almost embarrassed when, last November, the Yorkshire Society named him Yorkshireman of the year. After that accolade, it is easy to see how Sachin Tendulkar managed to get past Yorkshire county cricket club's committee.

My constituency is in two parts. Morley and South Leeds are geographically adjacent, but not even a direct bus service connects them. It is a marriage by the Boundaries Commission. I have worked in the south Leeds area since 1975, and know well the people there. The area comprises part of the great industrial centre that built the city's economy. It is one of traditional industry. The world's oldest railway—the 1758 Middleton railway—is in my ward and constituency.

The housing and the tight communities that Richard Hoggart reminisced about have gone. Their place has been taken by new estates, some of which are themselves rapidly falling into decline.

Morley is very different. An independent West Riding borough built on the traditional industries of textiles and mining that have long departed, reluctantly, in 1972, found itself forming part of Leeds. Even today, according to a local newspaper poll, 27 per cent. of Morley's residents want its independence from the city—but that is a minority.

Housing, employment, and planning issues are all of concern to the people of Morley, which faces the prospect of applications for opencasting. Its residents are concerned that the green belt that divides the two halves of my constituency is being eroded by further development. We hope that it will be limited—not least because the homes that are being built are not of the kind needed by many of my constituents. Mine is a constituency of change, and one having considerable needs.

My work as a local government representative in a number of offices has affected my thinking on Europe, and that is pertinent to tonight's debate. For the past 11 years, I have served as chairman of the Yorkshire and Humberside development association—one of the regional development bodies supported by the Department of Trade and Industry to attract inward investment from overseas.

My first few years in that office were frustrating, because few companies came to the region. In recent years, however, there have, been a series of investors from Europe, the United States, and Japan—primarily because of the potential European market. It is clear that this country's success in attracting inward investment owes much to its involvement in the Community. Especially in an area such as mine, dominated by Labour-held constituencies, the support given by both major parties for the Community has made it that much easier to attract investment from Japanese and American companies, and we have seen a number of significant developments.

I must add, however, that I do not share the view expressed by some Conservative Members that overseas investors will be put off if the social chapter is accepted. I have worked actively with three Japanese companies that have invested m my area, and my impression is that they want to give their work forces a good deal. They may insist on single-union agreements, but within those agreements they are willing to give their work forces conditions that are often not granted by British companies.

The standard of management in those Japanese companies is an example to many of the indigenous firms in my region, and is accepted as such. Employees of such companies as Pioneer—which has recently settled in Wakefield—or Citizen, in Scunthorpe, say that they value their jobs and are proud to have them. I do not believe that accepting the social chapter would mean turning away companies that continue to be interested in investing in this country. Even now, a number of companies are visiting our region, and we hope for additional investment.

Some have suggested that the south bank of the Humber should be separated from the north bank, and that Humberside should be split up. That would do nothing for the economy of the region. The companies that we consulted made it clear that what interested them about the Yorkshire and Humberside region was the through route to Europe through the European ports: they are locating on or near the motorway sites, so that they can not only make direct use of the traffic through to the rest of the United Kingdom market but ensure that they have direct access to northern Europe. That is a very important link.

I have been involved with the Assembly of European Regions; indeed, as leader of West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, I was the only English person present when it was formed. Since then, I have acted as an adviser to the assembly, and have been the only English person present at bureau meetings. I have seen the organisation involve regions not only from within the Community but from eastern Europe: they are part of it. I have seen it develop on the strength of the German Hinder and the Italian and Spanish regions, and I have seen it press for a senate of the regions. The Maastricht proposal for a Committee of the Regions is a not dissimilar idea. With 184 members, it is unlikely to be such an effective committee, but it would nevertheless constitute the first official recognition of the significance of regions.

Much has been said today about the principle of subsidiarity. When that principle is applied, although the 24 United Kingdom representatives will no doubt have been nominated by the United Kingdom Government, it will be important for them to be acceptable and to represent their regions. Yorkshire and Humberside must have two representatives, and the nominees must be elected within the regions concerned. They must have a proper democratic remit in those regions. The idea that Scotland and Wales—whose representatives attended the recent conference of the Assembly of European Regions in Mannheim—could be represented by Members of Parliament who are not elected from the regions strikes most of the European countries with which we are associated as unthinkable. If we go down that route, we shall certainly not be fulfilling the principle of subsidiarity.

Thirdly, I have been involved in the North of England Regional Consortium, of which I have been the chairman since it started. We have argued the northern case—for example, for links to the channel tunnel. The Government must ensure that any benefits that come from the single market, and any economic benefits that they believe will come from the signing of this treaty, are benefits for the nation as a whole, not just for the south-east. For eight years, we have been fighting for proper links with the channel tunnel for the three northern regions, and I am still dissatisfied with British Rail's proposals.

Because of the rules laid down by the House under section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, those proposals would not give my constituency even a second-class service, because it is in West Yorkshire. Market forces alone will not provide links to the north. If there are benefits from membership of the Community—what I have said shows that I think there are—they must be shared by the nation as a whole. That is the Government's responsibility, and as matters proceed, they must attend to that responsibility.

1.6 am

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

It is a great privilege for me to take part in the debate, for two reasons. The first is that this is obviously an important debate, but the second is that my road to Westminster has been a long and bumpy one. Having failed in two safe Labour seats—Swansea, West in 1987 and Pontypridd in 1989—I used my considerable experience to lose the 13th safest Conservative seat in 1991, in Ribble Valley. Three new Evanses entered the House at this election, and I am proud to say that I am the only one to represent a valley constituency.

Ribble Valley became famous last year for the sporting political event of the by-election. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Michael Carr, the former Member of Parliament for Ribble Valley, who looked as surprised on the night of 7 March that he had won as I looked shocked that I had lost. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that he was an asset to Ribble Valley as Member of Parliament. He was well-liked and respected in the House, and he won the respect of his constituents.

Michael Carr succeeded David Waddington, now known as Lord Waddington of Read. Lord Waddington won two by-elections. First, he won Nelson and Colne after the sad death of the great orator Sydney Silverman. Secondly, he won the by-election in Clitheroe after the death of David Walder.

Described in "Roth's Parliamentary Profiles" as a no-nonsense Lancastrian barrister and a Euro-sceptic", David went on to hold various offices such as Home Secretary and Chief Whip before his elevation to the other place. Colin Hughes of The Independent described him as a realistic, right-wing cynic about his opponents", while Ian Aitken of The Guardian wrote: As Chief Whip, he presided over what is widely acknowledged to have been the most aggressive whipping operation in years. I have a tough act to follow, but I shall try. I am sure that the House will wish David Waddington well in his appointment as governor of Bermuda and I am sure that many old friends are renewing their acquaintance with David and Jilly even as I speak.

Those right hon. and hon. Members who visited Ribble Valley during the by-election will know what a beautiful constituency it is. Three quarters of my constituency is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty and there are many stunningly beautiful villages. It incorporates the forest of Bowland, with marvellous views from all quarters. My constituency also includes the leafy suburban district of Fulwood.

Furthermore, it has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the United Kingdom. Indeed, it has the lowest level of unemployment in England. However, I am not complacent. I am deeply concerned about any of my constituents who do not have jobs. Therefore, I am anxious that the European fighter aircraft project should go ahead. It is a joint project between this country, Germany, Italy and Spain. A lot of jobs in the north-west rely upon the EFA project going into full production.

To turn from one sort of European union to another, there have been speeches from those with strong views on Europe—from Euro-sceptics, Europhiles, Europhobes and Euro-pragmatists. I have been all of those at different times. I am sure that each and every one of us gets upset when Europe seems to meddle with trivial things, and at times it disappoints us.

The European Community has a population of 344 million. With the enlargement of the Community to take in some of the EFTA countries, it could rise to about 370 million. That demonstrates how important a trading bloc it is. The Maastricht treaty will help towards its enlargement, through its structure and development. That will benefit those countries of eastern Europe that are also looking towards joining the European Community.

There is, however, no monopoly of vision among those who seek a united states of Europe. Those of us who back Britain being at the centre of Europe but not being consumed by Brussels have a vision, too. We want Europe to act together on those issues where it can be most effective, such as the environment. Global problems need global solutions. As for third-world aid, the European Community provides 42 per cent. of all third world aid. Forty per cent. of the third world aid that we contribute is now channelled through organisations such as the European Community. Last year, the United Kingdom gave £330 million to the European Community's aid budget.

We must work more closely together if we are to achieve stability and peace throughout the world. That is being achieved through the intergovernmental conferences. They provide a valid route that lies outside the Commission's competence. I welcome also the clear statements that have been made: on federalism—"No"; and on subsidiarity—"Yes." The á 1a carte provision of the pillared structure of the treaty, and the protocols over European monetary union and the social chapter strengthen our position without weakening our sovereignty.

Yes, we have to watch for encroachment. The working time directive has already been mentioned. We must fight strongly against its introduction by means of the health and safety directive. If it had been included in the social chapter, we could have decided not to opt into that directive. If we go ahead with it, it will cost the United Kingdom £3 billion.

The directive should not be introduced by means of qualified majority voting. If ever there were a case, this is a case for subsidiarity. We have been working steadfastly over the past 14 years to roll back the frontiers of socialism and we do not want to see it reintroduced through the back door, or through any open window that it can possibly find.

We have an excellent record when it comes to implementing Community law. I welcome the fact that the European Court of Justice will be able to fine members of the European Community which, on the face of it, seem to be communautaire but in reality are rather less when implementing Community law.

The future for all of us is exciting—working in unison, but making sure that this country stands up for areas where we can best implement domestic policies. I refer to matters such as zero-rated VAT; the right for us to determine our taxation policy; border controls to stamp out illegal immigrants, drug smuggling and fraud; and the preservation of unanimous voting in matters that most concern us.

The Maastricht treaty is imaginative in style and structure and it will take us to the next review stage in 1996, when, yet again, we shall look at further enlarging the Community, but not with greater Community encroachment.

1.15 am
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

First, I offer my compliments to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) on his maiden speech. I have taken part in numerous European Community debates in the House, but this debate is an exceedingly civilised affair. In part, that might be because of the numerous maiden speeches to which we have willingly listened. I must inform the hon. Gentleman and my new hon. Friends that such debates are not always so civilised and even-tempered as this. I hope to maintain that decorum during my intervention.

I begin by asking the Minister a question on article 198a, which concerns the Committee of the Regions. As a Scotsman, I appeal to him seriously to consider ensuring that the United Kingdom contingent on the Committee of the Regions is made up of local and regional Scottish representatives. Regional and local authority representatives could play an important part on that advisory committee. That is an eminently reasonable request which the Government could accept with something approaching equanimity.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said—I agree with him—that Scots hold the Community in high regard. One or two unkind colleagues suggested that that is because of the money that has come to Scotland by way of the regional and social funds, but that is not wholly the case. In many respects we have a high regard for the Community, but there is a certain ambivalence of view. Many of us in Scotland hold to the view that we live in a highly centralised, multinational state which appears to be having imposed upon it with the implementation of the treaty a deeply centralised, multinational European state. There is a fear among Scots that political decision making has slipped from Scotland and, to a large extent, is slipping from the House of Commons.

We have already experienced the power of the European Court of Justice—for example, with regard to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 which, within 12 months of its implementation, was changed; or rather, a section of it was suspended by an interim decision taken by the president of that court, sitting one afternoon in late 1989. We were deeply disappointed by that decision because we had agreed with the Government that that measure was particularly important for the interests of our fishermen and fishing communities. However, the President of the European Court of Justice knocked out a recently enacted Act of Parliament because he decided that it was incompatible with the treaty of Rome. That was an example of a European Community institution exercising its power.

The centralising process that now has a momentum of its own could be halted or slowed down through the rigorous and vigorous application of article 3b of the treaty, which refers to subsidiarity. Earlier today, I challenged the Prime Minister on his interpretation of subsidiarity. I said that it seems that where he and the Government are concerned, subsidiarity as defined in article 3b involves the allocation of competencies between central institutions of the European Community and the Westminster Government.

With the growing centralisation of strategic decision making, we should be devolving decision making to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, if the demand exists, to the regions of England. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that the Roman Catholic Church first gave the classical formulation of subsidiarity. In 1931, Pope Pius XI said: It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies. I am a Presbyterian, not a Roman Catholic, but I believe that that part of the encyclical could be quoted against certain elements of the treaty if we do not have rigorous implementation of article 3b.

Subsidiarity should be concerned with the allocation of competencies among the central institutions of the European Community, national Parliaments and legislatures, and regional governments—as will be the case with the länder in Germany and regional government in Spain. That continental definition of subsidiarity should be brought into the English language and applied to our domestic political affairs. I see nothing wrong with that interpretation of subsidiarity, but I see dangers with what appears to be the Prime Minister's position, which is too narrow and rigid.

I asked the Prime Minister earlier how his stocktaking of the governance of Scotland could be encompassed by his narrow interpretation of subsidiarity. There is sharp incompatibility—unless he is offering Scotland a cosmetic exercise or a placebo designed to ensure that the Scots continue their remarkable adherence to civil obedience in relation to the governance of our country.

I hope that the Prime Minister and his Ministers will rethink their interpretation of article 3b and let us have a continental European interpretation of it. If we do not, I do not see how we can hope to apply any braking action on the growing centralisation of decision making here in London, in Brussels, and in Luxembourg at the European Court of Justice.

We do not control the decision making of Ministers and we cannot much influence the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers. In the last Parliament, I was a member of the Select Committee on European Community legislation and, indeed, of European Community Standing Committee B. Despite what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said, I do not believe that the House effects much restraint over the central institutions of the European Community. I know that the Government have been defeated a couple of times in Standing Committees A and B, but that does not add up to much. With the change in the Standing Order governing the modus operandi of the Committees which was introduced by the then Leader of the House, the Government can comfortably ignore those defeats when a report is made to the House following the deliberations of those Committees.

We have to aim for a partnership on the implementation of subsidiarity so that the House retains some effective restraint on the decision making of the central institutions to which I refer. Decision making at local level should be developed. For Scotland, it should be in a Scottish Parliament or Scottish assembly.

I have a couple of other points to make. I promise to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Economic and monetary convergence, a single currency and a central bank are also important elements of the centralising process. If the European central bank is to be located in the United Kingdom, it ought to be sited in Edinburgh and not London. It would go down well with the Scots if it were sited, say, in George street in Edinburgh rather than in the City of London.

Another important dimension of the treaty is the development of a social Europe—the harmonisation of welfare and health provisions. Linked to that is the important concept of economic and social cohesion. It is right and proper that the rich nations should give financial support to the more impoverished nations of the Community. We shall certainly have to do something along those lines when certain eastern and central European nations join the Community—if they are allowed to do so by certain neighbours of ours in the Community.

The provisions for a common foreign and security policy have profound implications for NATO. The preamble to the treaty says that anything said in it shall not be prejudicial to the obligations that member states have towards the North Atlantic Treaty. I cannot see how the development of a foreign and security policy can allow for the continuation of NATO as we know it. The one must supersede the other.

There is a growing body of opinion in America that the defence of Europe should be left to the nations of Europe. Gore Vidal recently made that point in a typically brilliant essay, and the view is certainly gaining ground in America. Canada is pulling out of NATO. I believe that in the near future America will reduce its forces in continental Europe to an absolute minimum. That is one of the implications of the common foreign and security policy. One day, the European Community will have to deal with the implications of a foreign and security policy based on the premise that Europe will have to be defended by the forces of European countries.

1.30 am
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate.

I believe in a group of sovereign and nation states co-operating for their mutual advantage, principally through the means of a single market, regulated as little as possible. That is very different from integration, federalism or union. Silly me—I had thought that that was party policy, but unfortunately there has been some turning of the tide. However, having listened to some of the speeches, I wonder how much the tide has turned.

The most important aspect is subsidiarity—we are all agreed that that is vital. So, let us read the treaty. On page 5 it states that their various Majesties Resolved to mark a new stage in the process of European integration". Over the page, it states: This treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union … The union shall be served by a single institutional framework". Judging by those quotes—and there are plenty of others—the prospect of subsidiarity is looking a bit sick, long before we get to article 3b. With thoughts like that, after two happy years in the Ministry of Defence, I succumbed to friendly fire. I suppose that I should be grateful to the press. Half an hour after my resignation, they promoted me from Parliamentary Private Secretary to Parliamentary Secretary, doubtless on the theory that the higher the post that one holds, the further and faster one can fall.

The Maastricht treaty is a great success. I know it, because everybody says it. Sometimes I wonder if that is because the words mean whatever one wishes them to mean. To the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)—the Liberal Benches are not packed—the treaty is a decisive, irrevocable step towards integration and unity. That is what he would say, whatever the agreement.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, far more perceptively, that it was game, set and match and that he recommends the treaty for ever closer union, and he is a very skilled negotiator. I was also pleased that, in the debates on 18 and 19 December 1990, following an intervention from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), he could say that he would have sympathy for a "looser association" or "a commonwealth". That is in the record.

The right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) also made a speech on 18 December. He stumbled on the truth. Initially he described the treaty as "historic". Then he complained about the opt-outs that have been negotiated because we were standing still. Having changed his mind six or seven times on the business, standing still is not a bad idea or one could feel fairly giddy.

So nearly everybody is apparently pleased with the Maastricht agreement. It is a great victory—the press tell us so. Everybody tells me that it is a great victory. The question is, is it a great victory like Dunkirk, or is it a damage limitation exercise? So many in the party have said to me, "Don't worry about this, the EC will disintegrate, it will collapse. It is like those plants that grow up so tall, but, in the autumn, collapse under their own weight." I do not believe that that is the official policy, but, with the new open government, we shall soon see.

The Bill guarantees ever closer union. What it does not guarantee is our ability to enlarge the Community, which is what we need most. I well remember the referendum on staying in the EC. Apparently a referendum on going into the EC would not have been acceptable, but one on staying in the EC was. I remember the then chairman of the British Leyland motor corporation, Lord Stokes, saying that a much larger market would be extremely useful. He said that he would be able to sell his cars to the 300 million people of Europe. My word, he was going to sell some cars—the Austin, the Morris, the Riley, the MG and the Wolseley. We all remember the spirited campaign of the Beaverbrook newspapers.

The whole thing grew until it came to the Single European Act 1986. I have been here for five years, and colleague after colleague has said to me, "If ever I had to use my own judgment, that is the Act against which I should have voted." The only time I saw Mrs. Thatcher discomfited by questioning was when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asked at one Prime Minister's Question Time whether she was proud that she had forced through the Single European Act. It would have been so easy for her to say yes, but she did not.

On Friday, Mrs. Thatcher made a marvellous speech in the Hague. I would advise anyone to take careful note of her comparison between current developments in Europe and the Habsburg empire. It was so bureaucratic that, by the end of its life, one person in four worked for the Government. No doubt similar rules applied in the federal system of the USSR.

What is the cost effect of the increasing bureaucracy of the EC? How is that effecting our ability to increase our share of world trade? What effect is it having on the EC share of world trade? I hope that we will get the answers by tomorrow night.

The 1986 Act was sold as an expediting one. It would ensure that the single market could be completed by the end of this year, which was a laudable aim. The reality is that the Act has given excessive power to bureaucrats.

During the election campaign, I spoke to many shopkeepers and the owners of large and small businesses in the constituency. They all complained about having to comply with directions and regulations, and yet more directions and regulations. They found it difficult to comply on grounds of practicality and cost.

Every farmer in my constituency complained that the local abattoirs had to close because they could not comply with the latest EC directives. One abattoir received a directive about the need for a new washroom for the men. That all-tiled washroom, which cost a fortune, was installed. In the next post, it received another directive about foot-pumps for the taps. That instruction did not matter, because the firm went bust, but I do not know whether that directive was the cause.

Every baker and confectioner has had to get new chilled cabinets for his custard pies and pastries. The same directive applies, whether one is in Stroud or Sicily, in favour of the great god harmonisation. The list is endless.

Perhaps I was the only constituency Member to have such conversations during the election campaign. The bandwagon is to harmonise, standardise and regulate. The one constant is that it always favours big firms at the expense of small ones. What is the effect of a 48-hour working week on a small industrial firm that suddenly gets a £50,000 export order that must be delivered by Friday week? Are staff told to roll up their sleeves—all hands on deck? Oh no, not if a 48-hour week is introduced. In this country, people obey the law, whereas in many other countries they do not. Laws that are ignored are bad laws.

I hope that no one will vote, after this debate, without at least having studied Mr. Norman Tebbit's speech on 18 December. He referred to the treaty creating the European union, covering the Community's existing and increased responsibilities. In a nutshell, that is what we are asked to vote for tomorrow night. If hon. Members think that it is just another step down the road, they should listen to this: the aims are the creation of the common foreign and security policy covering the formulation in the longer term of a common defence policy, which may in time lead to a common defence; an increase in the role of the European Parliament … the appointment of an ombudsman plus an improvement in the Parliament's legislative powers by the introduction of the co-decision procedure; redefinition or extension of Community competence in education, training, cohesion, research and development, environment, trans-european networks, industry, health, culture, consumer protection and development cooperation".—[O? cial Report, 18 December 1991; Vol. 201, c. 323.] That is an extensive list, and little is left for national Parliaments if it comes about. It does not include all the regulations and directives still to come under the 1986 Act, or anything about the citizenship of the union.

I fear that we are probably progressing towards a single currency. "Whether" and "when" will, 1 suppose, satisfy for the moment, but one dog is not barking in the dark. I wonder whether it is proposed that we should lose the power to decide the size of the EC budget. Can it be guaranteed that that will not happen? I should be grateful for a reply on that point.

The combination of directives and the list that I read out will damage national Parliaments, particularly this place. I hope that we shall use our time as President of the EC to widen, not deepen. A distinguished parliamentary draftsman who lives in my constituency tells me that, in his opinion, the Bill is so badly defective that disputes with the Commission and the European Court of Justice are certain. I suppose it would be extremely cynical to say that that would be in some people's interests.

It is no wonder that the EC is now prepared to define subsidiarity. I believe that we are simply being asked to define it, as I see little about putting it into practice. But no subject of any consequence remains in which the centralists would not claim to have control.

What is it to be: democracy or bureaucracy? I shall vote against the Bill for several reasons. Only by doing so will we be more likely to retain our national frontiers. Are we not aware of the dangers of deepening before widening, creating a rich men's club of 12 nations, with millions of have-nots on its eastern borders? Hundreds of thousands of people will certainly seek to enter the land of plenty—the EC countries—and they will enter, legally or illegally. What effect will that have on public opinion in Germany, France or Italy? What effect is it already having there on public opinion? The right-wing fascist groups are already in the ascendant.

As has already been said, whether we like it or not, the issue of national boundaries will almost certainly be decided by the European Court of Justice. There is little doubt what it will do in the name of ever closer union.

My second big doubt relates to cohesion or regional development grant—the old idea of Governments picking winners. I thought that the Conservative party was the party of low taxes and market forces—policies that served us so well in the 1980s. Rebates have been negotiated and that system can be changed only by a unanimous decision of the member Governments, ratified by their Parliaments. Therefore, there is no great battle to fight or quids pro quo to be exchanged on that issue. We retain our right to those rebates for ever.

If we are to have cohesion or regional development grants worth billions of pounds, how are they to be paid for? If value added tax is to be harmonised, how is it to be paid for? It can be paid for only by direct taxes, and 1 cannot remember preaching the gospel of increased direct taxation in my constituency during the last election campaign.

There is a convenient notion that Germany will be everybody's favourite aunt, somehow wishing and willing to fund reunification—the cost of which has already been mentioned tonight—and perhaps to take in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the east and the USSR, while at the same time being able to fund cohesion, principally in southern Europe. To think that Germany can achieve all that is a fallacy. If it is to be the paymaster—even assuming that the deutschmark is still a safe anchor—it will demand increased powers, and who could blame it for wanting them?

Do we believe—as apparently the French do—that it is realistic to try to tie down the Gulliver that is Germany? No doubt, when he is tied down, his cheque-writing arm will be left free. If hon. Members do believe that, they should vote for the Bill. The Commission's powers have increased, and are still doing so. If hon. Gentlemen believe that they should be further increased, they should vote for the Bill. If they believe that ever closer union is substantially different from federalism, they should vote for the Bill.

I thought that we opted out of the social charter in December. Therefore, I hope that we shall be given a full explanation why negotiations are still being conducted on the 48-hour working week. I would have preferred to see that matter settled before we were asked to vote for the Bill.

If hon. Members are trying to delude themselves into thinking that the so-called pillars in the Bill are built of stone, and inter-Government activity is to be unchallenged and able to withstand the ravages of both time and bureaucracy, I ask them to look at volume I of the second report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. It states: It cannot be taken for granted that the common foreign and security policy and co-operation on interior and justice matters will continue to be handled intergovernmentally". The pillars are already looking a bit shaky.

If, despite the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 and the Factortame case, we believe that we are still a sovereign Parliament and that the European Court of Justice will not overturn further Acts passed here and usurp the powers of the House, we should vote for the Bill. Are we to believe that we can have ever closer union and still retain the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? If we do believe that, we should vote for the Bill.

It may be a minority view, but if Sir John Stokes were here, he would be saying, "People are beginning to talk about this in pubs." That is a serious matter. I think that they will be rather angry when they see what we are doing in their name.

Since December, public opinion has moved fast against federalism—in Germany, in France and in the United Kingdom. Recent polls—I know that polls are not the flavour of the month—suggest that a large majority are against many of the provisions of the treaty. That is why we must delay the deepening before the widening. The institutions appropriate to a Community of 30 nations are not the same as those suitable for a rich men's club of 12. Above all, we held a referendum on whether to stay in the EC; we are the custodians, not the owners, of the people's sovereignty. The moral and constitutional case for a referendum is overwhelming.

1.50 am
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

While offering you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my congratulations on your new post, may I also thank you for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this historic debate? Looking around the Chamber, I suspect that I will set a record as the new Labour Member to have sat the longest time in one sitting before making a maiden speech. I only hope that, by the end of it, no one will feel that few have sat for so long to say so little.

We have heard some good maiden speeches tonight. I was especially interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan), who represents the constituency next door to mine. Last week, he wrote to the Boundary Commission suggesting that the ward of Woolston in Southampton be transferred from the Eastleigh constituency to my constituency. It is an extremely strongly Labour-voting ward. Whilst the transfer would therefore have the deplorable effect of ensuring that the hon. Member for Eastleigh remains the Member for that constituency for as long as his party selects him to do so, it would also have the admirable effect of achieving the same result for me in my constitueucy. That seems to provide a basis for a long-lasting partnership between the two of us.

I am interested in election results. My majority might be described as wafer-thin. I replace the only person to break Labour's line of electoral successes in the constituency since the second world war. Chris Chope was above all a conviction Thatcherite politician. When he told the press that he cried when Margaret Thatcher lost the leadership of the Conservative party, he restated his political position in a memorable way. He also confounded some of us by finally revealing the issue on which he could show such deep human emotion.

It is debatable whether Chris Chope's resolve to drive a six-lane motorway deep through a beautiful Hampshire down finally cost him his seat, but the determination with which he set about the task was certainly typical of him. I do not want to seem ungenerous. In the constituency, Chris Chope will be thanked by many hundreds of families for his work on the Housing Defects Act 1984. There are many pre-cast reinforced concrete homes in the constituency. Secondly, although a member of the Tory Right, he never attempted to play what is euphemistically known as the race card in my constituency. By refusing to use poison for political advantage he contributed to the fact that, although racism is definitely serious and present in the constituency, it is by no means as bad as it is in many other multiracial parts of the country.

Thirdly, from the moment that Chris Chope entered the House to the moment he left it he was a politician who stood up consistently and forthrightly for the values in which he believed. As far as I know, he never tried to shift with the tides of changing public opinion. That is probably what he would most like me to say about his time in the House.

While waiting to make my maiden speech, I could hardly say that I felt at home, but at times I felt a sense of deja vu. As far as I can remember, my first involvement in a national political campaign was during the referendum on Europe. I voted no, but as time went by, as transnational companies came to dominate our economy more than ever before, as the financial system was deregulated more than we had ever thought possible in the 1970s, and as our economy became more integrated with that of Europe, as Europe became real and inevitable, there were times when I wondered what had happened to the ghost of the "no" campaign of the 1970s. Had it, like a traditional ghost, been doomed to wander the corridors and rooms of a venerable palace? Sitting here tonight, while my eyes closed occasionally and while I listened to the voices around me, I could hear the ghosts of that campaign. I believe that such ghosts are better exorcised than reincarnated.

I represent a large part of the great city of Southampton. There are few cities in this country which have been so shaped by the world at large and which have done so much to shape the world at large. My city's history is international, cosmopolitan, ambitious and courageous. The banks of the Rivers Itchen and Test, which flow through and past my constituency, have over the centuries been invaded, raided and bombed. Troops have left the port of Southampton to go to many conflicts—English archers to Agincourt and allied troops to the Normandy beaches among them.

In its time, the Saxon port of Hamwic was a rival to Viking York in the wealth and extent of its trade links, even then reaching deep into the heart of modern Russia. The Pilgrim Fathers left from Southampton—not Plymouth, as Plymouth's tourist board sometimes claims—on their historic voyage to America.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the development of the modern port once again put Southampton at the heart of an international network of trade and of people. From the Huguenot weavers onwards, people have come to my city from all parts of the world and all parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to make Southampton the place that it is today. Because of that history, the international world and the European world hold few fears for Southampton today. It is a great European city and will grow as a great European city. A city council report, which was debated today while I was here, stated: Southampton must stand for quality, equality and opportunity as a leading cosmopolitan city in Europe. If any right hon. or hon. Members are at a loose end in the recess next week. I invite them to Southampton and to the international trade fair which opens next week. Visitors will be struck by the commitment, vision, participation and strong partnerships for success in Europe which exist in the city.

After all, what is the significance of hundreds of schoolchildren and older students participating in educational exchanges, or of pensioners attending the recent European pensioners' parliament in Strasbourg? What is the significance of a chamber of commerce forging strong links with other chambers of commerce in Rouen, Le Havre, Barcelona and elsewhere, or of trade unions regularly meeting their colleagues in Germany, France and Spain?

What is the significance of traffic engineers collaborating with colleagues in Greece and Germany on the problems of urban congestion, or of the university, the institute of higher education and the technical college with literally hundreds of academic and training links? What is the significance of a city council whose ties with Le Havre and Rems-Muir-Kreiss are not tea parties but the real basis of economic collaboration and of co-operation in training, research and culture?

I suggest that the significance is that Europe, in a city such as Southampton, is not an abstract entity to be dissected in an academic way as some hon. Members have done today. Instead, it is a living reality. All the links that I have mentioned, and many others, are part of a real commitment on the part of the city to make Europe work.

My city has a breadth of vision of Europe. It is a vision that includes the understanding that Europe, above all, must be for people. Those of us who live in a great European city, one that is already organically tied to Europe in every part of its daily economic life, know that economic success is only half the challenge.

I have constituents who ask questions about Europe. Pensioners ask whether there will be a European future for them or whether they will always be the most shabbily treated pensioners in Europe. Parents ask whether their children have a European children's future or whether they will always have less chance of child care and nursery education than children in most other European countries. Young people ask whether they will have a European future here or on the continent without the quality of education and training that other young Europeans enjoy.

Those who ask those questions do not do so because they do not want to be part of Europe. They want to be full partners in Europe in every way, in a Europe for people and not in a Europe with 11 players and the United Kingdom on the substitutes' bench. In Southampton there is participation, commitment, vision and partnership.

Yesterday, the director of the chamber of commerce wrote to me as follows: A significant ingredient in our future economic development is the close partnership existing between the Chamber and the City Council. It is a Labour city council that is at the heart of Southampton's European drive. It is not doing everything and controlling everything, but it is shaping, guiding, focusing, supporting, providing an infrastructure, opening up the waterfront, investing in science parks and providing services which are at the core of a successful united effort in Europe. As I have said, it is a Labour city council.

I must contrast the mood and achievement in Southampton with much of what I have heard in the House and with the Government's record. The Government's commitment is shallow. The bottom line is that nothing shall be done to promote Britain's interests in Europe which can possibly conflict with the interests of the Conservative party in Britain.

There is narrow participation in a Europe for business perhaps, but not for a Europe for people. There is myopic vision in which the options seem to be, "Take it if you like it; leave it if you don't." There is no understanding of grasping Europe and using it as the opportunity that it really is. There has been a rejection of partnership. The Government have turned their back on the proper role of elected government at local, national, regional and European levels in shaping a Europe for all their people.

There is not time to dwell on the details of the many Divisions which lie ahead, tomorrow and in the coming weeks, and it might not be proper to do so in a maiden speech. I know, however, that the message which goes from the House must be that what Southampton is doing is right. Any message going from the House which questions what a city like Southampton is doing to be a great European city will be a great and bitter disappointment to the thousands of my constituents who are building a new Europe and a great European city.

2.5 am

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

It is good to have the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. I am glad to be called by you to speak in this interesting debate. I want to make a point to my Whip. Why do the best speeches always take place when there is a one-line Whip? Surely there must be a message there. We have heard wonderful speeches tonight, including many good maiden speeches and many powerful and potent ones from Members who have been here for some time. As we always have the best speeches when there is a one-line Whip, why do we not have more of them?

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). Like many of my hon. Friends, I both knew and valued the hon. Gentleman's predecessor, so it was good to hear how highly the hon. Gentleman himself valued Christopher Chope's service to his constituency. I think that he will be a worthy successor to Christopher Chope, as he has obvious commitment to and great knowledge of his constituency. It was especially interesting to hear him speak of the ties that his many-faceted constituents have already forged with the European Community. I look forward to hearing many more speeches from him.

I was also glad to be in the Chamber to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), who originally came from my constituency. He made a very powerful speech. I do not want to make that sort of speech. There have been many grand speeches tonight, and many wonderful emotions and visions have been rolled out for the House to consider. I want to talk on a more practical level about the impact of the European Community, about where we are now and about how it has affected us already.

Because MacSharry is of such importance in my constituency, in the run-up to the general election we had a major conference on his proposals. Because the European debate about Maastricht is so crucial to our future, we had a large open meeting about that. As many hon. Members have said, during the election the question of our membership of the Community was on people's lips and minds because of the dominance of Maastricht last December.

My main concern is that I do not believe that many of our electorate realise the position that we already hold in Europe. Indeed, it is true to say that, since Madrid two years ago, there has been a large and determined shift from Britain towards the heart of Europe. That followed our signing of the Single European Act. Maastricht is a small issue compared with the largeness of that decision. My concern is that we have not properly briefed the public; perhaps we have not even properly briefed ourselves.

The Single European Act debate seems to have been so relatively slender compared with the largeness of the debate that we have already allowed ourselves on Maastricht, yet it appears to me, as a Member of only five years standing, that at least half the political decisions that affect this country are taken by the European Community, in Brussels or in Strasbourg. Perhaps we fool ourselves if we see any reason for that other than our own votes here in Parliament.

The primary engine of prosperity in my constituency is agriculture. Can we honestly say when we last took a major agricultural decision in the British Parliament? We cannot, because the decisions are made elsewhere. That is true for other enormous industries where the political decisions, such as they are, are taken in Brussels or Strasbourg. I want us to work from where we are and not from where we might have been or were.

We have talked a lot tonight about the European Court of Justice, but the fundamental work of any Parliament, be it Strasbourg, Westminster or elsewhere, in an economy such as our own is the legislation and its amendments, the Green and White Papers, Bills and Acts. That is where we can best see where we fit into Europe's legislative programme.

Harmonisation is meant to be the key focus of the Brussels legislative activity, but Brussels is now creating new legislation which overrules our own. It has taken us time to recognise that draft directives from Brussels have that capacity.

My previous industry was computer software. I therefore worked hard on the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, at least half of which was dedicated to computer software. The importance of that industry cannot be overstated. It is the largest industry in the EC. It is perhaps the central issue on which the resolution of the GATT Uruguay round rests because of copyright's economic impact. For computer software and pharmaceuticals, copyright is the critical factor. The size of the computer software industry in Europe may be a quarter of the total national budget of the United Kingdom. That is why I say this is an important matter.

We spent 12 years creating our new Copyright Act. We started with a Green Paper and went on to a White Paper, we had a Bill in the other place and we spent two years arguing about it in the other place and the House of Commons, and then it went back again to the other place. In 1988 it received the rubber stamp of Royal Assent. I remember people saying that that was it for the next 30 years. The new Act had taken 30 years to create, and we were not expected to need another for a further 30 years.

Less than a year later, an interesting animal hove over the horizon. I smelt it coming, because it was within my area of work—a draft directive on computer software. I went to see Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry, but they said that our own new legislation was wonderful, that it stood supreme, that it was as good as any in the world, as good as that in the United States and it could not be bettered; it was an example. I said that it might be an example, but that something was coming which could alter it. But I was told that the Act would not be altered and that anything that came from Europe would come underneath it and fit in neatly. I said, "How very interesting."

Then a number of large multinational companies came to see me, such as Shell, BP, IBM, ICL. People representing some very large companies indeed appeared on my doorstep here. We settled down and discussed some extraordinarily difficult concepts coming in that draft directive. If I go into detail, it is to give just one example, but it is a particularly interesting one.

When we sell goods in Britain, the purchaser buys the product as fit for use. I am sure that there must be some wonderful legal phrase for that, but it means that, if I go and buy something over the counter, it is supposed to be fit for the purpose for which I have purchased it.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1892 will give my hon. Friend that definition.

Miss Nicholson

I thank my hon. and learned Friend. He still has not given me the definition, but as a Scot I shall forgive him.

That concept is not so in other member states. When one buys something there, it does not come under that framework. When one buys a piece of shrink-wrapped software in the United Kingdom, it will inevitably have faults. I am afraid that it always does. One is allowed to take it home, open it and try to make it work. If it does not, the software can be rectified on the spot by the purchaser because it is not fit for use. In other EC member states, that cannot be done and the draft directive specifically lays down that that cannot be done. Instead, one has to go back to the supplier and pay him to come and put the software right.

That does not matter a scrap if the software is a trivial game for one's laptop computer—but if the buyer is Shell International, they cannot stop a continuous manufacturing process every time a new piece of software develops a fault, and get an IBM engineer to put it right. We had a wonderful argument over that.

The draft directive created about seven other extremely abstruse problems. The DTI said, "Don't worry. They will not affect us. The directive will fit into our legislation." Sixty-seven parliamentary questions and many months later, the reverse applied.

We have no ability to amend draft directives, which come at us rather like cannon balls. They are not really drafts at all, but large, concrete objects that hurtle past our parliamentary ears. They may glance harmlessly off European Standing Committee A or European Standing Committee B, but they cannot be amended there either—although civil servants can make proposals back to Brussels away from Parliament. Ninety-nine times out of 100, there is not even a vote in our European Committees.

I tried all sorts of tricks to secure a debate on the Floor of the House on the computer software directive, but none of them worked. The subject did not fit an Adjournment debate or Government business, and one would be lucky to secure a private Member's Bill. In any case, as it was money-related, it could not be debated. We have allowed ourselves to be plugged into an enormous and powerful engine, but we have failed to buy the toolkit. We have not given ourselves the ability to make any changes.

Harmonisation may mean new legislation for some countries—such as Portugal, which did not have any software copyright legislation—but for the majority it has been a melding of best practice. That is what it is meant to be. The information market, however, is probably the key player in the effectiveness of the Single European Act. The physical movement of goods can only happen through the transmission of knowledge—and that is achieved through the newly identified information market.

It is a true market, in which the stalls offer the sale of information and the means of altering and moving it. Many Community members have only a fragmented information market, and others have virtually none of their own but an ability to link with parts of the information market on offer from other nations.

The SWIFT banking system for transmitting funds in a wholly secure computer environment is a key early example of the' international information market. However, because the information market in almost every European country is either non-existent or very fragmented, Brussels has started to create new legislation in areas of intellectual endeavour that have not yet been constrained or buttressed by the law.

All sorts of exciting things are emerging. Data protection is an obvious one. Our legislation was founded on the Council of Europe's 1981 draft directive, and there is this common thread throughout all 12 member nations. However, the Community in its wisdom has discarded that directive in favour of new thinking, and has introduced a wholly fresh data protection draft directive.

Data protection is really a misleading description of the holding of information about us all—knowledge storage about every citizen in the United Kingdom. The originator of the draft directive on data protection does not like direct mail, so the directive is going to outlaw direct mail. That may be fine for you and me, but many people like stuff to plop through their letter boxes: it is how charities raise the bulk of their funds. That is a small point; the draft directive contains a good deal more for hon. Members to look up and think about.

As yet, there is no United Kingdom provision on privacy. I believe that we are almost unique in Europe in having no law on personal privacy, and we shall not be able to last long without some such provision if new information market legislation is to come out of Brussels. Ownership of data is also critical. There have been comments in the newspapers this week about identity cards, but data ownership is already a subject of great concern in the United Kingdom.

There has been a small move in that regard, however—in the south-west, actually—in the form of the smart card, which contains the individual's health data. That enabled people to plug into hospital computers, dentists' computers and ambulance computers, and the authorities concerned would know at once what the patient's health needs were and what to do. But there have been problems with data ownership, because the individual was not allowed to own it. In the end, Treasury counsel deemed that, for the moment—until a better concept could be found—it belonged to the Secretary of State for Health. Ownership of data will certainly be a very large problem in the near future.

I make these points only to show the House that, under the current EC system, there is little or no effective member-state parliamentary input into matters of huge importance. My own solution would be to offer a systems exchange—a link between Strasbourg and member Parliaments at a very early stage. The House has set up an all-party parliamentary group to examine the difficulties that we have identified in the current system. I have the honour to be the chairman. We have called it the European information market all-party group. I do not think that we are going to offer a democratic-deficiency sticking plaster but we may offer a practical way of bringing relevant experience of member Parliaments into the creation of important new legislation at an early stage.

Much has been said tonight about sovereign states. I do not believe that the sovereign state exists in the modern world; it has not existed for years. It certainly does not exist with the sort of ownership and transmission of knowledge that I have touched on so briefly tonight. Indeed, I believe that most large decisions are made outside modern Governments, owing to the success of our democracy and the genuine subsidiarity of the industrial and business marketplaces—not the political marketplaces. I think that decision making has long since stopped being the vertical action described tonight by hon. Members who have spoken in support of sovereign state, and became a lateral, indeed a multilateral effort.

I hope that we shall move, with due dignity and not too much speed, towards a single European currency. I believe and hope that we shall move into less politically constricted central banks—although I know the difficulties that that will bring in regard to democratic accountability, which is an important issue.

I believe that the fundamental shift that has taken place in Britain since the Madrid summit has been the move towards the heart of Europe. I wish that we had triggered that move earlier; we could have, if we had engaged in a debate on the Single European Act with all the vigour and breadth of involvement that we have brought to today's debate on Maastricht.

The Single European Act—pace my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman)—brings benefits, but also constraints. It offers four great freedoms: the movement of goods, capital, skills and qualifications. To be effective, those freedoms must be protected, and to be beneficial they must be harnessed rather than roaming freely. A wider and deeper Europe lies ahead, and that is why I support the Government.

2.24 am
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

Although the treaty signed at Maastricht and before us in the Bill represented a step towards greater European unity—a reason why many people would welcome it—I believe that the Bill should be opposed on Second Reading, for a number of important reasons. First, it exhibits and reflects a monetarist vision of Europe, where low inflation, currency stability and low borrowing are all given pre-eminence over other vital issues of economic policy such as full employment, growth, regional equality and redistribution of wealth. Those issues, which have been ignored in the treaty and in the stance taken by the Government at Maastricht and represented in the Bill, were put forward by the Labour party in the debate leading up to the Maastricht summit, but were ignored by the Government's negotiators. That, coupled with the economic framework that we see being put in place as a result of the treaty and the Government's policies, will produce a Europe with an economic programme that is profoundly deflationary, particularly in its impact on Britain. It will block a policy for full employment, which must be central to the British Government's economic programme.

Furthermore, it will create, as we are already seeing, not just in Britain but throughout Europe—in some places to a far more worrying extent—a rise in racial inequality and tension, feeding off the massive unemployment and deflation which result from this monetarist vision of Europe.

Secondly, I urge rejection of the Bill because it excludes the social chapter. We are alone in doing that, and the reasons why it should have been included have been well made by my right hon. and hon. Friends already. Thirdly, the Bill is profoundly wrong because it thwarts the project for democratising the European Community that the Germans and others put forward but that the British Government, pre-eminently, succeeded in blocking.

The Bill is essentially a Conservative Bill, following a Conservative-negotiated Maastricht treaty. If a Labour Government had negotiated that treaty, or if, after 9 April, we had been in a position to re-negotiate, the outcome would have been very different. I hope that, even if we are unable to oppose the Bill on Second Reading, we shall oppose Third Reading if our amendments are rejected in Committee.

Mr. George Robertson

My hon. Friend makes some valid objections to the treaty, but will he bear in mind that every socialist and social democratic party in the European Community is in favour of ratifying the treaty? [Interruption.] And so are all the conservative parties. Only Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France, the Republican party in Germany and the Lombard Neo-Fascist League in Italy are opposed to ratification. All the other parties believe that this treaty—warts and all —represents a step forward. My hon. Friend and I, and our party, will campaign for improvements to the treaty, in the hope that the aims of the intergovernmental conference of 1996 might be achieved. When we come to the vote tomorrow night, I ask my hon. Friend to bear that point in mind.

Mr. Hain

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's instructive comments, which I shall certainly bear in mind. However, I remind him that what we face as socialists in Britain, quite distinct from our counterparts in the rest of the Community, is a Bill from which many of the advantages for which they fought and have succeeded in maintaining are excluded. I refer in particular to the social chapter and to the opt-out clause on economic and monetary union. They have won those achievements. Ours have been thwarted and barred to us. That is the difference.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. Denham) was right to talk about exorcising the ghosts of 1972 and 1975. Socialists in particular have to see the debate in an entirely fresh context. We see now two broad agendas for the future of Europe: one from the right, which favours the free market, and the other from the left, which favours the social market. To put it another way, Conservative Members of Parliament favour capital and private profits, while Labour Members of Parliament wish to defend the interests of labour and community values. A massive gulf is opening up in Europe between those two agendas. There will continue to remain a conflict of interest over those issues in the debate on the European Community.

Mrs. Currie

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about this distinct gap. Why did we not hear about it during the general election that we have just won? Why did we not hear anything from the Opposition about socialism until after they had lost the election?

Mr. Hain

The hon. Lady may well have been deaf during the election to the Labour party's arguments not least, incidentally, on proper convergence conditions for economic and monetary union to be included in the Maastricht treaty. We put forward very clear socialist policies, but the hon. Lady was obviously not listening.

Many people regard the debate on Maastricht and its complexities as arcane and erudite, but it is crucial when set against the background that I have described. Until Maastricht, for example, majority voting in the Council of Ministers was restricted to economic issues. That favoured the right. It was impossible for any one country to exercise the veto against the interests of capital and the triumph of market forces. By contrast, the veto could be exercised and was exercised by the British Government on social and environmental issues. To some extent, the veto can, post-Maastricht, still be exercised.

This scenario is no accident. The absence of majority voting means that a country such as Britain could block measures to protect the interests of workers, consumers, or citizens, but that it could not block economic, competitive measures. The result is that economic harmonisation has been given much greater priority than social harmonisation. From my socialist point of view, that imbalance needs to be reversed. Economic convergence over monetary policy, inflation, interest rates, currencies and so on has been put before social convergence over welfare benefits, resource redistribution to deprived or outlying regions and minimum wage levels. That imbalance is at the heart of the debate on the Maastricht treaty. For example, the Prime Minister was able to win acceptance for sidelining social policy from the Maastricht treaty, whereas a Labour Prime Minister would never have been able to sideline the central issue of competition policy.

If we look at this framework of a left versus right view of Europe, it is important to identify the differences not just over economic policy but in other respects. Take, for example, the future composition of the European Community. In the post-Gorbachev era it might appear that the enlargement of the European Community eastward is common ground. But it is hardly conceivable that the Prime Minister would have announced that he favoured a Europe stretching to the Urals if the former Soviet states had not lurched so enthusiastically toward free markets and privatisation—the Minister of State is nodding in agreement—and if many western capital sources did not see an advantage in the new eastern Europe and the cheap pool of labour which could be exploited. That is why there has been a return to a more favourable view of eastern Europe and, possibly, of embracing it within the European Community.

Socialists such as myself have always argued for a united Europe and for bringing eastern European countries into the European Community, primarily for political reasons, but we are now hearing that argument being advanced for quite different reasons. Against that background there is a choice to be made between the rapid economic and monetary integration of the European Community as it currently stands and as Maastricht points toward—the fast-lane that was decided at Maastricht—and the enlargement of the Community to include the EFTA states and eastern Europe.

The right in particular tends to favour the fast-lane option, but there is a case for saying that enlargement of the Community is the greater political priority and that the choice between horizontal integration across the whole of Europe, compared with vertical integration deepening economic and monetary integration of the existing 12 European Community states, is important. It amounts to a choice between the democratic and economic imperatives of European unity. The two may be in direct conflict. If, for example, the Twelve accelerate their economic integration with the speed now envisaged, they may effectively prevent enlargement because the entry conditions for the other countries are prohibitive. We should face up to that dilemma.

The democratic issues at stake have not really been addressed by the Maastricht treaty, except on the fringes. The Government have consistently turned their backs on them. It is interesting that they have done so, because they want a European Community that has no serious democratic mechanisms for holding capital and the free market accountable. They want an economic free-for-all. That is another key difference between us.

It has been alleged by both sides, in particular by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), that greater power for the European Parliament would deny British sovereignty. That is false. To present the choice as being between Westminster and Brussels is to misrepresent or misunderstand the distribution of power in modern Europe. The issue is not surrendering more power from the British people to European institutions of one kind or another—that was surrendered long ago—but whether power should be discharged by freewheeling appointees and Ministers or directly elected representatives. That issue has been ducked by the Government and by the debate on the Maastricht treaty. We shall see that the Government have surrendered a major democratic principle which we now need to address.

Sovereignty was ceded to a Euro-level, not so much politically but, more important, economically, a long time ago. In a nutshell, capital has gone European but labour has not. Transnationals now dominate the European economy. Financial deregulation has made it very difficult, if not impossible, within nation states to exert any serious democratic accountability. Business and finance now operate at a European if not a global level. However, there are no effective democratic mechanisms to exert a countervailing influence on behalf of the ordinary citizen.

Many people in Europe look with absolute wonderment at the obtuse British debate which suggests that Bonn, Barcelona or Paris might, for some odd reason, be more enthusiastic than London about conceding power to Brussels. That is palpably not the case. The debate in the rest of Europe is quite different from the notably inward and backward looking argument in Britain.

Unlike many romanticists on both sides of the House who foresee a loss of sovereignty in increasing European political integration, I share the view of many continental socialists. They see the real issue as one of reclaiming some of the sovereignty that has been lost via the only feasible institution appropriate—the European Parliament. That is the base for the future that we should have entered into in the Bill and in the Maastricht treaty. At the moment, the European Parliament is little more than a talking shop. The Commission is not obliged to consult it properly and Members of the European Parliament cannot initiate legislation or control the Commission effectively. Although some people say that the Maastricht treaty makes some advances in that direction, they do not go far enough. The Labour party should continue to address that point.

Although the Commissioners and their officials wield considerable power, diatribes against Brussels bureaucrats miss the main point. They are not democratically accountable, but nor is the Council of Ministers—the all-powerful body in the European Community. Although it has greater claims to democratic legitimacy because it consists of representatives of member Governments, it effectively acts as a secret cabal. The basis for its decisions are not open to public scrutiny or democratic debate. It operates via a process of brokerage and wheeler-dealing. It is difficult to influence from the outside especially in concert with the Commission. The whole point of the European Parliament is to express the general interest of European citizens through their representatives, not through indirect representatives as on the Council of Ministers. To claim that the Council of Ministers is a democratic force is to claim, in effect, that Britain should be governed by representatives of the Association of County Councils. That is the real analogy, but it does not stand up in the British context and it should not stand up in the European context.

Our European colleagues also find it very difficult to comprehend the debate in Britain about federalism. Many people in Europe seem ignorant of the real meaning of federalism. It does not mean greater centralisation with fortress Europe stripping Westminster of its authority. On the contrary, a federalist structure is one in which powers reside at each level of government. Those powers are clearly defined and each level has sovereignty over its own decisions and the duties that are specified as its responsibility. Crucially at each level appropriate decisions are not delegated by some higher authority—they are taken as of right.

The socialist writer Harold Laski once said that all power is federal. He meant that, in a genuine democracy, power is dispersed on a pluralistic basis and federalism is a reflection of that. It is significant that, in the British context, the Labour party has been moving towards a federalist structure, notably through advocating devolution to a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly and to elected authorities in England. A European Parliament worthy of the name would be a logical next step above the intermediate national sphere at Westminster.

It is wrong to suggest that European federalism is about greater centralisation. It is about democratic control and ensuring that unaccountable Euro-elites are made accountable to the people and their elected representatives. It is also important in the context of the importance of the regions. There is a danger that European growth, particularly under the monetarist conditions set out at Maastricht and pursued with enthusiasm by the Government, will cause European growth and wealth to be concentrated at the hub—in the Benelux countries, western Germany and perhaps northern Italy and the south-east of England. The periphery of Europe will decline.

Unless there are stong European regional investment policies, vast areas of the European Community will become poorer. Capital will flood to the hub, where political power will also increasingly be centralised. That is the danger of political centralisation. It is not the mythical danger that federalism would create through a powerful European Parliament.

Areas such as Wales, for example, are in danger of becoming forgotten parts of Europe unless the imbalance is addressed and significant adjustments are made by means of democratic mechanisms. So we should insist on an active regional policy to complement an active democratic framework for Europe. In that context, the proposal for a central European bank is a vital issue which was not satisfactorily addressed by Maastricht. The only way in which it can be addressed is by making the bank democratically accountable to not merely the European Council of Finance Ministers but a rejuvenated European Parliament. Otherwise, we face the certainty of a bankers' Europe rather than a democratic Europe.

In short, the Bill is typical of a Government who are concerned only with monetarist economic policy. They do not care about creating social justice, about democracy or about economic equity. That is why I oppose the Bill. That is why I would like to see promoted with greater vigour in the coming years a socialist Europe in which people's power rather than bankers' power rules.

2.46 am
Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

First, I join those who have congratulated you, Sir, on attaining the high office of Deputy Speaker of the House. It has given great pleasure to Members from all parties—not least, if you are still allowed to have them, to your many friends on the Conservative Benches.

It is a great privilege to take part in this great and important debate. Otherwise, why would we all still be here at a quarter to 3 in the morning listening to important and interesting speeches and waiting to play our part? I belong to that growing group of people who are keen that Britain should play an important part in Europe with commitment and enthusiasm, but we are deeply worried—I make no criticism of my right hon. Friend the Minister— lest we may be selling the past for the future. Certainly, the number of regulations and directives that have come from Brussels in recent years over which we were told that we had no control whatsoever is worrying.

We are told, "Ah well, you signed up for this when you signed the Single European Act. You accepted that when you accepted the treaty of Rome." The latest proposals on tobacco advertising may be contentious, but they are a case in point. My constituents expect me to have a meaningful input, but if the matter comes before the House, I doubt that it will be for us to make a decision. It will come on a recommendation or a directive from Europe, and there will be nothing that the House will be able to do about it. We shall be presented with a directive, and that will be that.

Much was made at Maastricht and in subsequent discussions about our stand against total acceptance of the social chapter. That is all very well, but there is no need for us to have a discussion on it. We had already sold the pass by signing the Single European Act. All that Europe need do is produce directives under that Act. We do not need to bother with a social chapter at all. Again, that would be that. There need be nothing anti-European in all that, but a degree of healthy scepticism is essential when dealing with some of our partners in Europe. We have seen what some French farmers do to our sheep when they are over there.

Those hon. Members who served on the Select Committee on Agriculture and other Select Committees know that other countries in Europe subsidise industries. It is difficult to pinpoint or to give examples. Those countries are the first to accuse us of being anticommunautaire but, in reality, they are the first to look after their own interests, regardless of what they signed up for at Maastricht. We will be the ones to conform; they will point the finger at us, and yet go their own way.

I wonder how many of the leaders of the other 11 nations of Europe have discussed with their Parliaments, in the way that we have discussed with ours last December and now, their commitment to so many things—for example, to a single European currency. Has the average farm worker or shopkeeper in France, Germany or Italy had discussions with his leaders on whether the franc, the mark or the lira will be abolished in favour of a different currency? I rather doubt it. Even if they did decide to do so, I think that they would ignore the commitment completely. When this country signs up, it means it. It does not sign up and think that it can ignore the commitments that it made if things do not work out.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came away with an unfettered right for Britain to take its own decision on when and whether to join a single European currency. It will not be for this Parliament to decide, but when it is decided, I hope that the House will consider giving the people the right to decide, through a referendum on Britain's currency. The people ought to be sovereign on that matter, not Ministers and Members of this House.

I was heartened to read in Mrs. Margaret Thatcher's speech at the Hague at the weekend her criticism of government by the Commission. I hope that Europe's leaders will hesitate long and hard before they allow civil servants to take decisions in the name of the people. In this country we have a long tradition that, while suggestions, ideas and proposals may come from think tanks, civil servants and others, the decisions are made by those who take responsibility for them in the House and afterwards at the ballot box.

One of my greatest frustrations is having to tell my electors, in correspondence and personally, that there is nothing that I can do about a proposal because a decision has already been taken somewhere else—albeit by Ministers, one of whom is a Member of the House—that there is nothing that anyone can do because the decision has been taken outside these shores, so there is no point in writing to me.

It would be reprehensible to extend the concept of ministerial decision to Commission decision. It would emasculate our position as Members of Parliament and it would deprive the decision-makers of that essential element in any democracy—accountability to those who put us here. That is my paramount message to my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whose views on the matter I generally share.

I remain sceptical and slightly unhappy about the commitment of the other eleven to our immigration and anti-terrorist laws. Other countries with shared borders do not share the same concerns with us on the question. The Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs have confirmed openly that the Bill will not prevent us from having our own anti-immigration laws.

I hope that that is the case. I regret the likely possibility that our laws on immigration, such as we pass, may be challenged in the European Court. That is reprehensible, and I hope that we will fight hard should we be taken before that court. It is easy for nationals from other countries to get in here—Africans can come here via Italy or via Macao and Portugal. I look for a firm commitment from the Government and from the other 11 states on the protection of immigration controls.

I support the Prime Minister's aims at Maastricht. I shall support the Bill without equivocation, and I will do so on behalf of my constituents. I will take much on trust, probably more so than I have ever done in my time in the House. I believe that that trust is not misplaced, or I would not join the Government in the Lobby tonight. However, I pray that we have got it right—an anxiety shared by everyone who has spoken. I am anxious that our people are not let down on the fundamental questions that I have raised. With those reservations, I support the Government.

2.55 am
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

May I add my congratulations to those that you have received, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment? In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. Denham), I hear the distant sounds of the "No" campaign. If I had been told 20 years ago that at some time in the future I would speak here in support of closer union within the European Community, I would have been slightly surprised, to put it mildly.

In common with many of my hon. Friends, I was never anti-European, but 20 years ago we had some concerns about the EC—and some concerns remain. We must recognise that changes have occurred since we entered the EC. The European political atmosphere outside the Community has changed. The boundaries of the Community have changed and are likely to do so again. There is genuine public support across Europe for moves towards greater co-operation, integration and unification. Those moves have gathered pace and strength in recent years.

The current situation offers the House enormous opportunities, provided that we are willing to accept them. I shall support the reasoned amendment tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends, because I believe that it offers the best way in which to achieve the greater unification that will benefit the British people. We must take advantage of the available opportunities.

The issue of European union is not just a matter of monetary union. The treaty refers to progress on economic growth, employment and regional policy. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) that the treaty puts insufficient emphasis on those other issues; far too much emphasis is placed on monetary union. There is little evidence that the Government have seriously tried to argue the case for those other issues. Their effort seems to have been directed at trying to exclude the country from developments on the social, defence and foreign policies.

I have three objections to the treaty. First, I accuse the Government of opting out on many serious matters that affect all our constituents. Secondly, the Government have displayed a half-hearted involvement in social, defence and foreign policy developments. Thirdly, they have failed to ensure that the process towards European union and the results of that process will be subject to accountability to the people who elect us.

As some hon. Friends have already said, it is a disgrace that the Government should have opted out of the social chapter. That is a denial of the rights of employees in this country and undermines equality. Not only social but economic issues are involved. Are the Government seriously telling us that, if the conditions in the social chapter were imposed on British industry, they would make our industry so uncompetitive that we could not compete with other industrialised countries that are prepared to implement the social chapter? If they saying that our economy is weaker than Germany's, I could accept that; but are they saying that this country could not afford to give its workers the same rights as those of Spain, Portugal and Greece? Is the economy that they run so weak that those rights cannot be afforded our workers?

I accuse the Government of being half-hearted and of opting out on a single currency. It is nonsense to pretend that the Parliaments of other European countries will not vote on a single currency—of course they will—but we must recongnise that a single currency will eventually happen and that this country will adopt it. In the meantime, the opt-out clause in the treaty removes our chance to influence and shape that future and, in particular, to argue the case for wider convergence criteria before a single currency is introduced. Perhaps, however, the Government believe that we shall not adopt a single currency because their economic management will not achieve the convergence criteria, limited though they are in the treaty. That is for them to answer.

Ultimately, the most serious issues of all, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Neath touched, are those of sovereignty and accountability. There has been much talk about the sovereignty of this Parliament. I challenge that concept, because ultimate sovereignty rests not in this House but with the people, who give us the right to exercise power on their behalf. Equally, they can give a European Parliament, regional assemblies or local authorities that power. It is simply a matter of finding the right level at which to exercise power on any individual issue.

All other things being equal, the best level of government is that which is nearest to those affected by it. In this debate some hon. Members have placed far too much emphasis on what is little more than a narrow-minded attempt to hang on to power in this House irrespective of what is happening in the wider world. We must recognise that, in the future, power will inevitably be transferred from this House to a European Parliament, and also in the other direction, toward regional assemblies and local authorities. Those changes will come in the next 20 or 30 years.

Thus, the issue of sovereignty is not about sovereignty within this Parliament but about accountability—or lack of accountability—and the exercise of power. If there is no locus for elected representatives in the decision-making process, true accountability cannot exist.

On the proposed creation of a European central bank, article 107 of the treaty is an abdication of political responsibility. To have an independent bank that is unaccountable under any circumstances to any elected representatives is to undermine the sovereignty of people who cannot influence vital monetary and interest rate policies. That is what really constitutes giving away sovereignty. Elected representatives would not be able to influence decisions at any stage. That power has been given away and, as I understand it, the Government have done nothing to prevent that. Instead, through the opt-out arrangements that they have negotiated, they have given away their authority to exercise their influence on future decisions.

Where is the best place for decisions to be made? The Government make a great play of trying to protect this Parliament's right to take decisions, and not allowing them to drift up towards Europe. I accept that many decisions are best dealt with at national level. Equally, other decisions are best taken at regional or local level. Contrary to what is happening in the rest of Europe, I see no evidence of this Government being prepared to accept the process of devolved government.

In the first draft of the proposal for the Committee of the Regions the phrase "local authorities" was used to describe the organisations with responsibility for appointing representatives to that committee. In subsequent drafts, the phrase "local authorities" was changed to "local bodies". It would be nonsense if our Government nominated representatives to the Committee of the Regions so that representatives of the Council of Ministers could consult with their nominees on the Committee. That will not happen anywhere else in Europe.

If people are worried about centralisation, they should be anxious not about centralisation towards a European Parliament—a fear that is often mentioned—but about a Government who cannot tolerate any view in this country other than their own. They cannot tolerate within their own boundaries the principle and practice of subsidiarity, and cannot accept the meaning of the word "pluralism".

Given the Government's attitude to the regions and local authorities, it is not surprising that there is no great emphasis on regional or structural funds.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

As I am short on vocabulary, will the hon. Gentlemen tell me what "pluralism" means?

Mr. Betts

I would interpret the word pluralism as a recognition that there are different views and different strands of opinion in our country, and it is perfectly proper to have various approaches to decisions and even different decisions in separate parts of the country which are affected by a variety of issues. The creation of regional assemblies and proper local democracy in our country would allow for varied responses to regional and local problems. I would welcome such a development, but clearly Conservative Members would not.

It is not surprising that there is no reference to regional or structural funds, but I would argue strongly that to have an effective and fair common monetary and economic policy, we must have a counter-balance to the working of free economic forces to protect the poorer and peripheral parts of our country. I trust that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) understands the need to defend the country in which he represents a constituency.

I am extremely worried that, if we do not give proper emphasis to structural and regional funds, we will not have the power to stop the inverted polo effect: we will have a prosperous centre and poverty-stricken fringes. We cannot allow that to happen.

The treaty is a classic missed opportunity. Europe is taking steps of historical importance. I do not belive that history will judge the Government's role in that process kindly. They have left our people out of crucial developments such as the social chapter. They have sold us short and denied us the opportunity to influence and shape our future in terms of a European currency and the criteria for convergence.

Most importantly of all, they have failed to protect the right of our people to accountable government, underpinned by a real commitment to the practice of subsidiarity operating within our national boundaries as well as beyond them.

3.9 am

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

I have not a scintilla of doubt about my voting intentions tomorrow night. I shall be right to vote against the Bill, and I shall do so for many reasons.

First, the case has not been made. More importantly, there has not been sufficient public debate on the issues, the arguments and the consequences which stem from those issues. Progress within the European Community to date has been less than satisfactory, and the prospects for the future are no brighter.

I am particularly worried that the attempts to define the meaning of subsidiarity have been inadequate, especially in respect of its effects on the United Kingdom. I consider the Maastricht treaty to be a poor deal for British democracy because it ends the sovereign right of the Westminster Parliament to tax and to spend. It is a poor deal for the British people, because their democratically elected representatives will increasingly be seen to have had their influence over the nation's affairs neutered.

I further believe that the treaty is a poor deal for my party, whose endorsement of a treaty which institutionalises socialism will in the fullness of time be seen as a negation both of its philosophy and of its better judgment. The treaty denies many fundamental principles of our party and its philosophy, because it will take monetary policy out of national control, it will cede control over fiscal policy—that is in article 99—and it will establish beyond peradventure that perceived inequalities within the Community will be eliminated not by the opportunity to create greater prosperity in a free and enlarged market, but by massive public expenditure. Given the authorship of the treaty, that should come as no surprise.

What is more remarkable, though, is that the awesomeness of these proposals causes Labour Members to oppose the Bill, which is much nearer their philosophy than mine. Doubtless they recognise, as I do, the effect of the treaty on the Members of this House and on the political parties that we represent. Stripped of power to influence or decide matters of state, we shall have created the classic recipe for failure: responsibility resting with a body of people who do not have the authority to discharge that responsibility in full measure.

This will result in public disillusionment with politicians and with people's capacity to obtain satisfaction through their elected representatives. In the fullness of time, that disillusionment will turn to frustration and anger, which will lead ultimately to the rejection of established political leadership, traditional party loyalties and the whole body politic. To pick up a point made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts), that is the serious question facing us now: are we prepared to put our signature to a treaty which will erode the power and influence of Members of this House to such an extent that they are incapable of delivering the natural and legitimate aspirations of their constituents? Our constituents look to us to obtain redress; if the only satisfaction that we can give them is to say that the matter is out of our hands, it will not be long before they begin to wonder why they voted for us at all.

The circumstances in which nationalism asserts itself are not hard to recognise, and we ignore them at our peril. If we consider the course of world history, we see that the failure of federalism is well documented—in Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Russia, and now in western Europe, in Yugoslavia. We are foolish to ignore the lessons of history. Federalism has failed not because it was more responsive to the natural and legitimate demands of people but because it denied them those aspirations.

Sir Russell Johnston

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me one sentence at least? He cited the example of Yugoslavia, but that is an unreasonable criticism of federalism. Yugoslavia was a centralised, communist state with the appearance of federalism but it had nothing to do with genuine federalism.

Mr. Gill

My point is no less valid because of what the hon. Gentleman just said. He has admitted that the weakness in that state was its great centralisation, which denied the people that to which they aspired. That is the trait which runs through the failure of all the federalist states—the failure to allow people their natural and legitimate aspirations.

I invite right hon. and hon. Members to consider the history of the Union to which we already belong, that of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is an economic and political union which has a single currency, common laws, a directly elected sovereign Parliament and a constitutional monarchy.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

And a common language.

Mr. Gill

I shall come to that. Does anyone seriously believe that all is sweetness and light within the existing Union? Surely not. There are recognisable stresses and strains, which are plain to see despite the fact that, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) said, we are all bound by a common history, common interests and, above all, a common language. Even those common bonds are not enough.

For too long, the Union has been preserved by the transfer of funds from the richer country to the three poorer countries. Similarly, that is the cornerstone of the European Community's policy. The European Community will secure the compliance of the poorer regions at the expense of the richer ones, and it is bound to fail. There must be more finesse, a defter touch, more responsiveness to human nature and less emphasis on the price of cauliflowers and the quality of sheep carcases.

Hon. Members do not fully understand that, although independent nation states might agree on a principle—for example, free trade or mutual defence—reaching agreement on practical detail within a disparate group will continue to defy the wisdom of Solomon. I invite hon. Members to consider the instance of NATO, our defence organisation which was founded in 1949. Nearly 50 years later, we still have not managed to standardise and harmonise many essential components of that defence in terms of the equipment and weaponry on which our defence has depended. It is easy for nations to come together and to agree on the major principle in, for example, defence, but it is very much more difficult for them then to agree on the detail of which aeroplanes or munitions should be the standard.

To change the subject, another of my concerns is for the rule of law. In the United Kingdom, we have always has a great respect for the law and, by and large, the British people are a law-abiding race. Why is that? It is because our law has been established not by diktat or decree but by the consent of the people through their duly elected representatives.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

With great respect, we have two systems of law in this country. If English law had been as sensible as the system of Scottish law, none of the embarrassments of recent decisions, letting those who were convicted be unconvicted, would have occurred. If the convictions had occurred in Scotland, first, if they were wrong, the defendants would not have been convicted; secondly, they would not have been unconvicted.

Mr. Gill

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for his intervention. I say in all sincerity that we have much to learn from the diversity that we currently enjoy. One of the objections that many of us have in relation to the treaty is that it would destroy the diversity and richness built up over centuries of tradition, custom and practice. We sacrifice that at our peril.

Mr. Wareing

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the rule of law operates in the United Kingdom when we consider it against the background of what happens to those convicted of not paying the poll tax and what happens to companies such as Sainsbury and Tesco which defy the law on Sunday trading?

Mr. Gill

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the community charge because I intended to raise the matter. We have respect for the law in this country—that is the great strength of our system—because it is made by the democratically elected representatives of the people in this free Parliament. If the law proves subsequently to have been defective, unacceptable or unsatisfactory, those same democratically elected representatives in this Westminster Parliament can change it. That is exactly what happened to the community charge legislation.

In contrast, law in the Community is not made by directly elected representatives. Laws are proposed and promoted by non-elected people, by the members of the Commission. National input into that legislation is limited to the influence of one Minister among 12, a number which will soon become greater. It is a limited influence that the House, through one Minister, can have upon proposed Community legislation. As the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Harvey) has said, in the majority of cases, and perhaps in all cases in future, European Community law will take precedence over domestic law.

It is stated throughout the treaty that the law which is proposed will be irrevocable. That makes what we are considering tonight very much more serious than our consideration of domestic legislation, which is a feature of the House most of the time.

I fear that there could be a lack of respect for law for two reasons. First, legislation emanating from Europe will increasingly fail to gain public acceptance. That will persuade an erstwhile law-abiding nation to become selective in its compliance with the law. Secondly, in the commercial sector such selective obedience may become a financial necessity.

I have confined my remarks to the generalities of that which is before the House. The specifics will be debated in Committee, when clearer definitions will be sought. In the final analysis, as many right hon. and hon. Members have recognised, interpretation and decision will be a matter for the European Court, not for our Ministers and not for national Governments. Nevertheless, the principles at stake have the capacity to alter our whole national life and the way in which we are governed.

Those are all matters on which the British people might reasonably be expected to have a view. Indeed, they have a right to be consulted, and until they have been so consulted we have no mandate to accept the conditions of the treaty. If the inalienable democratic rights of free-born Britons are to be devalued or depreciated in such a profound and fundamental way, the case for a referendum is irresistible.

3.25 am
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I must say what a personal pleasure it is to see you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Chair. We look forward to your presiding over many sessions of Parliament and many speeches at 3.30 am.

I wish to start with the point on which the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) finished—a referendum. At the general election, the three major parties—Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat—all campaigned on a pro-European programme. It would be extraordinary if, only a few weeks after a general election, we were to hold a referendum and return to the people with the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats all still supporting a "yes" vote.

During the 1975 referendum, I was on a train going from London to Newcastle and I spoke to the people in my compartment. I asked one man how he would vote and he said, "The Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the Leader of the Opposition Ted Heath are telling me to vote in support of the referendum, while Tony Benn and Enoch Powell are telling me to oppose it, and on that basis I know how I am going to vote." If we were to have a referendum on this issue, how would we explain it to the people? How would they view a referendum that was supported by all three major parties?

Mr. Gill

The point at stake is one to which the hon. Gentleman has already drawn attention, which is that at the general election the three major parties all campaigned on the same European platform, so the electorate had no choice on an issue that will have profound and significant effects on our constitution and the constitutional rights of the individual citizen. This matter needs to be lifted out of party politics and presented to the people as a separate, free-standing issue on which they can make up their own minds. It is obvious that there are divisions in all parties on the issue, but the fact remains that at the general election the electorate were given no choice.

Mr. Bell

I follow the hon. Gentleman's logic. However, he argued forcefully and cogently for the rule of law and for the constitution, and it is part of our constitution that Governments are elected to govern. We must all respect the decision of the electorate. Unfortunately, for the fourth time running the Labour party has to accept that decision. Whether we like it or not, we succumb to it, we come to this House and we play our part in holding the Government accountable. We respect the Executive's right to govern us. So how do we then say that we no longer want to do that and instead want a referendum? It is a cop-out for Parliament and for the Government of the day to accept a referendum.

Mrs. Currie

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those hon. Members who so strongly argue for the sovereignty of the House are the ones who tend to argue for a referendum outside the House?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making my point for me. I do not want to spend all my time on the subject of a referendum, but it is odd that it comes up from time to time when Opposition Members are accused of being unprincipled because we do not support the concept of a referendum. However, there does seem to be unanimity between some hon. Members on that.

Listening to the debate, I am reminded in one sense of Dean Inge who once said, "I have had a great many problems, most of which never happened." Hearing the contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House on the EC one wonders why 11 nation states have been willing to enter into the agreements at Maastricht. Why do other states such as Sweden, Finland, Norway and now Switzerland, a federal state, want to join us? Why do the eastern European states aspire to join us? If the consequences are as dire as many hon. Members have said, why have so many other nation states signed up?

I lived in France for 17 years and I visit the continent regularly and see the prosperity there, far greater than it was 20 years ago, and certainly after the war, and the material benefits to all. One sees a great desire to continue the economic progress within a democratic framework. The hon. Member for Ludlow spoke of public disillusionment, but that disillusionment can come only if we see a failure within the EC, its institutions arid its economic progress. For as long as there is such democratic and economic progress, the British people will accept the changes which Maastricht brings about and which the treaty of Rome brought about way back in 1957–58.

Mr. Gill

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that other nation states wishing to join the Community do not do so out of any sense of altruism, but out of a sense of self-interest? When I argue about the terms of the treaty, I do so from the standpoint of trying to get what I believe is in the best interests of Britain and the British people whom I represent. That is my motivation; it is no different from that which drives other nations in seeking membership of the Community.

Mr. Bell

Self-interest motivated Britain. I remember the debates of 1957 when Anthony Eden and Mr. Macmillan said that we would not be a part of the EC. I was astonished at the time because we had fought a series of wars on the continent going back 300 or 400 years in order to prevent any nation on the continent gaining a supremacy which might challenge us, yet there we were turning our backs on a treaty of Rome, signed by six countries, which would create the pre-eminence and dominance over us. It took a little while for us to understand that as a nation state our self-interest lay in Europe, which is why we moved towards signing the treaty and finally signed in 1972.

We have seen our self-interest in the EC and, however much we might differ on certain aspects of Maastricht, the treaty of Rome or the Single European Act, the thrust is that we go towards the new Europe. To return to the point made by the hon. Member for Ludlow, I believe that the British people want us to go forward because they see the benefits of participation in this new European framework.

The hon. Member for Ludlow made an interesting point about federalism. As I have already said, Switzerland now wants to join the EC and it is a federalist country. There is nothing wrong with the federalism of the United States, despite all the conflicts between states which have existed there for many years, and which sometimes have to be reconciled by the Supreme Court. There are ways of making people work and live together in a harmonious and democratic framework, in which democratic effervescence contributes to debate and does not detract from it. I am not entirely clear that there is anything detrimental about federalism—which may not anyway be what Europe is all about ultimately.

The hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) made an interesting speech, and offered anecdotal evidence about the difficulties surrounding European directives. In fact, although we cannot alter them, they must all come before the House for approval.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) made a memorable maiden speech. One of the nice things about debates at the start of a new Parliament is that one hears so many maiden speeches. My hon. Friend referred to the ghosts of yesteryear and to the 1975 referendum. Listening to some of the contributions, I was reminded of Francois Villon: But where are the snows of yesteryear? They seem to be all around us. Many of our colleagues look to the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) argued for devaluation under the exchange rate mechanism. Labour devalued in 1948, and lost the 1951 election. A Labour Government devalued again in 1967, and went on to lose the 1970 election. I have no idea why any of my right hon. or hon. Friends should argue for devaluation, when it has cost us so dearly in the past. Every devaluation in France since 1929—not that I was around then—produced short-term relief followed by serious inflationary consequences that wiped out the benefits.

At the Labour party conference in 1976, James Callaghan stated clearly that the days of deficit spending were over, and that Britain could no longer spend its way out of a recession. Some of my hon. Friends argue that more than 3 per cent. of gross domestic product should be borrowed. The treaty is against excessive public deficits, and this side of the House also ought to be against them.

Some people seem to be caught in a time warp of past ideas. Much is said about the bankers' ramp, which dates back to 1931 and the times of Ramsay MacDonald. Lord George Brown put the gnomes of Zurich to rest in 1964. Nevertheless, we are still told that someone, somewhere, is impinging on our national sovereignty.

There is talk also of the effect that an independent central bank would have on Europe. At present, as we all know, we are entirely dependent on the Bundesbank. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to reduce interest rates by half of 1 per cent. a couple of weeks ago, everyone looked to the Bundesbank to see whether, because of the difficulties in the east, Germany was likely to increase its interest rates, or whether it would be safe to reduce our own.

When the Group of Seven met in Washington recently and asked the Bundesbank to drop its interest rates to benefit the world economy, it refused to do so, in the interests of Germany. The French want a central bank because they do not want the fate of their economy to rest on the decisions of the Bundesbank. Why should we do so for ever?

One of my hon. Friends said that the treaty is not clear when it comes to a central bank, but the protocol makes it plain who will serve as the members of its board and as its governors, and how ECOFIN will supervise and direct the bank.

So what do we prefer? Do we prefer the Bundesbank telling us what to do, or do we prefer a European central bank in which we would have some input, and in which we would, in a sense, pool our resources? We would stop speculation on our currency, and would build up resources rather than relying on the difficulties, or otherwise, of Germany. I have no difficulty in supporting the concept of a European central bank, within the framework of what has been signed up to in the Maastricht treaty.

As for the amount of sovereignty that we are giving away, as the Prime Minister said earlier, the actual terms of convergence are so stiff—so difficult—that they are unlikely ever to be met in the short run. Given their application to inflation, economic growth and employment levels, it would be very difficult for them to be met from one end of the Community to the other.

Some of my hon. Friends said that not enough—or nothing at all—is made of employment levels. In fact, article 2 of the Maastricht treaty refers to high levels of employment, because high levels of employment must accompany the growth and increased productivity that we want, and must be a serious element in the noninflationary, sustainable growth that is at the heart of the treaty.

The treaty contains a series of objectives that represent the harmonious and balanced development of economic activities that John F. Kennedy once described as all boats lifting on a rising tide". As I said earlier, all the economies involved are doing well, and the public will not suffer aggravation. We shall see sustainable, non-inflationary growth and a framework in which we can all look forward to working.

We hear a good deal about the federal concept and the "United States of Europe". Indeed, we hear a good deal about all kinds of idealistic visions of what Europe will be. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) even spoke in one debate of the inclusion of Russia, which went as far as Vladivostok. All that is desirable, but there is no federal Europe appearing on the horizon. There is no United States of Europe; there is a modern Europe—a new kind of Europe.

My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) talked about socialism within the context of Europe. That is why we want a social charter—to give a socialist dimension to offset the orientation towards the free market, the social market, the single market or whatever we want to call it. Labour Members do not believe that it is possible to have an essentially free-market society without social provision.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) raised the issue of socialism with my hon. Friend. My right hon. and hon. Friends must define what we mean by socialism, and by democratic socialism, within the context of the age in which we live. Let me quote an 18th-century poet: See how dark the backward stream, A little moment passed so smiling. We are always looking backwards. We have had a lot of "narrow nationalism", if I may quote the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). Let us look forward to a new concept and a new kind of society; a new willingness to work together; a new kind of democracy—with the problems, with the effervescence, with the debates and with the arguments, but nevertheless looking forward to the new kind of Europe that I believe will be of benefit to us as a society and to our children yet to come.

3.43 am
Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

The crux of the matter is this: the point of decision-making is becoming further and further removed from the electorate. It is for that very reason that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister decided that the answer lay in article 3b, which deals with subsidiarity.

I wish to deal with one or two of the arguments surrounding the article. It applies only to matters on which the EC does not have exclusive competence—and that is a diminishing area. Will the Minister give me the list of the areas of exclusive competence that another Minister refused to give to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing)? If this is a diminishing area, it will not have a great deal of influence on future events. To put it realistically, what is the value of this principle in those sectors from which it is excluded? In agriculture and fisheries, 90 per cent. of the decisions are ceded to the EC anyway. In trade and industry, between 50 and 60 per cent. of decisions are made by the EC. Monetary policy is on the brink of being transferred to the central banking system. I know that we shall have an opportunity to make our views known on that in two or three years' time. The Commission has assumed a big role in the decision-making process on the environment, particularly with carbon taxes and ways to deal with ozone layer problems.

Therefore, we must look critically at the use of article 3b. We have to work out who will decide that the matter cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member state, and that it is better achieved by the Community. Surely it is not the state in question, because it will be disregarded. It will be a matter for the European Court of Justice. The court will put a European interpretation on it, and the European interpretation could be entirely different from that of the United Kingdom.

The most extraordinary thing about the United Kingdom is that, traditionally, expenditure and taxation were decided by the House of Commons. This has always been the people's Parliament. In future, these matters will not be decided here because responsibility for many of them may be transferred to Europe. When one sees areas of competence gradually being transferred to EC institutions, as we saw in 1986 and 1992, and will see with the further revision in 1996, we must ask ourselves what will be left to which this principle can still apply. I hope that the Minister will consider this carefully.

The former Home Secretary dealt with article 8, which concerns border controls. He said that it would be desirable if this matter were left until after the revision of Maastricht in 1996. However, the European Court does not work in that way. There is no appeal against its decisions. It has been given powers, under article 172, with unlimited jurisdiction over penalties. It can impose considerable penalties on the United Kingdom if it does not agree with the provisions that the court has decided. In the end, it will be a body enacting law on all the decisions that come before it. It will be a legislation-making process. We cannot put undue confidence in article 3b. It could let us down seriously.

The balance of power between Westminster and Brussels has changed. This is a fact of life that we all accept. This has happened because, in certain sectors, European law takes precedence over UK law. There is the extension of EC competence to newer areas and sectors.

There has been an increase in qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers and the intergovernmental arrangements. Finally, additional powers have been granted to the European Parliament.

I am therefore entitled to ask what is to be the role of local Parliaments. In evidence to the Select Committee, the Foreign Secretary attempted to define that role, but he did not make any positive statement. Therefore, I hope that when the Minister or the Foreign Secretary winds up the debate we shall be told what that role is to be.

My questions will probably be ruled out as entirely wrong, but the public have the right to know and not to be deceived. If they are deceived, they can live for years in their own disillusionment. Is the role of the United Kingdom Parliament simply to scrutinise Community and intergovernmental law? Is it simply to legislate in the residual areas remaining to Westminster, which will diminish further as additional concessions are made? Will the United Kingdom Parliament become a secondary legislator on a great number of important issues and be subordinate to the European Parliament, or to unelected bodies such as the Council of Ministers or the Commission? Finally, is the House of Commons simply to note the agreements negotiated in intergovernmental committees and to deliberate upon them?

I hope that I am wrong. It would be a humiliating result if this ancient institution, which has been going since 1185 if my memory is correct—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Since 1707.

Sir Trevor Skeet

That was the Act of Union. I am going back still further, to Simon de Montfort's Parliament.

It would be humiliating if this great institution were to be entirely destroyed. I do not think that I am right, but I ask the Minister to give me a definition of the role of local Parliaments. The public want to know what that role is likely to be.

The intensification of government is not good for a free country. In 1900 there were 65 public Acts. In 1990–91 there were 69 public Acts and another 20 private Acts. In 1900 there were 926 statutory instruments. In 1990–91 there were 2,952. That is now supplemented by European Community legislation. In 1990–91 there were 223 binding regulations, 57 directives and 154 decisions that are also binding on the country at which they are directed. That is a total of 434, on top of United Kingdom legislation. Thus we have a plethora of legislation which confuses rather than illuminates the understanding of United Kingdom citizens. Although the word "federation" has been dropped from the treaty, its imprint has been firmly left there, a point already made by many other hon. Members.

Before I refer, finally, to qualified majority voting, perhaps I may make just one suggestion. Communism was formed in 1916, and it began to disintegrate in 1992. It took 70 years for the great transition to occur. We entered Europe in 1972, and in 1992 we are making irrevocable changes which could lead to a different type of House of Commons. Decisions may no longer be taken here; they may be taken elsewhere by unelected bodies. Is it right that we should irrevocably take those decisions after only 20 years?

Mrs. Currie

I have been listening very carefully to my hon. Friend. What he is talking about happened a long time ago. What is now on offer to us is to strengthen the existing democratic institutions of Europe, including an elected Parliament, to which this country sends Members.

Sir Trevor Skeet

That may be so, but the European Parliament at present has limited authority. It has been given certain concessions by Maastricht, certainly, but it still has limited authority. If we are to concede full powers to the European Parliament we shall have no powers left here. We shall become a regional government. My hon. Friend cannot have it both ways.

Mrs. Currie

All Parliaments have limited powers. Lots of matters that we cannot interfere with go to local councils, for example. My hon. Friend is describing the democratic deficit. The answer is not to bewail the loss of power of this House but to ensure that the House to which our constituents send elected Members has the necessary powers, some of which are provided for in the Bill.

Sir Trevor Skeet

My hon. Friend does not seem to realise that we have a number of strata of Government. We have not only Members of the European Parliament, but Members of Parliament, county councils, district councils, parish councils and the lot. Over the years we have been further governed by intricate systems of the law. Are we morally much better? Is the nation more sound? I leave it to my hon. Friend to decide.

Qualified majority voting was introduced in 1986 and has been extended by Maastricht to foreign policy, immigration in 1996 and many other aspects. I shall briefly mention the consequences of that. The principle yields disproportionate influence to the smaller states. The four largest states in the EC—Britain, Germany, France and Italy—possess only 53 per cent. of the total votes yet contain 71 per cent. of the population and 78 per cent. of the GDP, while Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg have only 4.3 per cent. of the population and 13 per cent. of the total votes. To my way of thinking, that makes the system absolutely absurd, and the further we extend it the worse it will become.

Another point about the qualified majority voting system to which we are committed is that it is a burden on the larger states. That is because of social cohesion, as mentioned in article 130. The President of the Commission wants to lift expenditure in ecu from 66.6 billion, equal to £46 billion, to 87.5 billion at 1992 prices over five years. Half that sum is to be spent on Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, and most of it is to be structural spending. The rest is to be spent on growing foreign policy commitments in eastern Europe, the former USSR, north Africa, and EEC infrastructure and research.

From the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), I understand that the European Parliament might effectively levy taxation to obtain additional revenue. The people of this country should be aware that that is a distinct possibility. The increased taxation that people will have to provide will be accompanied by less representation. The people affected will be the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. It is unique that the Spaniards said that they would agree to the ratification of the Maastricht treaty only on the basis that more money would be spent in their own country.

There are also problems about enlargement and the European Free Trade Association. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Austria involve problems on the neutrality issue. Turkey, Malta and Cyprus comprise the next group likely to join the Community. There will be a shortage of cash when they join and that will be a burden on the rest of the Community.

If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is right, the next group to join might comprise Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. They already have an arrangement with the Community, but that is not ready for admission. We must then consider the three Baltic states, Yugoslavia comprising four independent states, and perhaps Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Can we not see the way contemporary Europe is going? If it lasts, it will be expensive. If it lasts, will it be wise for us to subscribe to it interminably? Being at the heart of Europe, can we bring influence to bear to direct it on the course that we consider desirable in the interests of the whole of Europe?

4.1 am

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

It is a pleasure to see you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Chair and I look forward to addressing the house in future at 4 am under your supervision.

In a sense, we are discussing a series of lengthy and complex amendments to a written European constitution or the nearest thing that we have to a written European constitution. However, legally and formally, we are doing something entirely different: we are discussing a 25-line Bill which rubber stamps a series of amendments to treaties. The confusion between those tasks must be borne in mind. Are we constitution amenders or merely treaty supplicants? The only way that democrats can get out of that dichotomy is to get out from under the treaties entirely or to move beyond treaties to a proper European democratic constitution.

We are supposed to be examining a wide mixture of items. There are a series of amendments to the European Coal and Steel Community; provisions for the European Atomic Energy Community and a series of protocols, the most significant of which relate to the European central bank. There is also a protocol about the acquisition of second homes in Denmark. That is Denmark's opting-out procedure. That measure is also part of the Bill that we are debating.

The items that we will probably discuss most are the changes to the 1957 European Community treaty, which has already been amended on numerous occasions. We are now amending that treaty again. In its amended form the treaty now has about 280 articles. We have been asked to do a major scissors-and-paste job and change it dramatically.

On my count there are 44 articles to be replaced in total; six to replaced in part; nine to repealed in total; two to be repealed in part; 51 new articles to be added; and, in a series of blocks, 58 new articles replacing 36 old ones. It is a mammoth task merely to read all the material, because it has not been presented to us in such a way that we can properly examine it and see what the amended treaties, or something rather like an amended constitution, will look like. It is a peculiar procedure.

The few articles in the 1957 EEC provisions that are not amended include the series of articles on agriculture and the customs union. It might be that, if anything should be changed, it is the articles that tell us how the common agricultural policy should operate.

How can we see our way through all this material? We have done well in the sense that hon. Members have picked up many different items. But it is sometimes difficult to get to grips with the structures that we examine if there is no simplicity about them. I do not believe that we are supposed to get to grips with them. The opening speeches from both Front Benches seemed to be an attempt to have the bland leading the blind.

However, I grant that many hon. Members have not been blind to the measures before us. For example, we have just had a discussion about the position on subsidiarity. If the documents were proper constitutional material, a modern Parliament would expect to examine measures that were democratic and had what should go with democracy—a democratic simplicity and straightforward nature.

A characteristic of the American constitution is that it is easy to see what its principles are. I am aware that there are constitutions that are much longer than the American constitution. It has divisions and separations of power in different, clear categories. There is a procedure for amending the constitution which is very different from the game in which we are involved and from the great complexities that have come out of Maastricht and other revisions and perhaps will come out of future revisions. None of these things will be seen by me to be put right until we have a proper constitution for Europe and an amending procedure.

As a substitute for a fully federal constitution we have the tomfoolery and complexity of the principle of subsidiarity in articile 3b. It has already been asked who determines what is to be done on the basis of that principle. It is a question which I asked in a meeting of the Select Committee on European Legislation at which we interviewed the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). In a subsequent answer by letter he stated: It will be possible for any member state to object to a Commission initiative or to Community legislation, on the grounds of subsidiarity, citing Article 3b. Ultimately, the European Court of Justice could be called upon to adjudicate in such a dispute, but we expect the Article principally to have a deterrent effect. The following procedure can be used to decide whether subsidiarity is operating. The European Commission and the avenues of Europe act upon it. If we dislike the measure we can go to the European Court and claim that subsidiarity is not acting in accordance with its principle, and the court then has to decide whether the principle of subsidiarity is operating. The court will be taking not merely legal and technical decisions, but political decisions about the areas where decision-making is legitimate at national level and those where it is legitimate at federal level. In those circumstances, the European Court will have a massively enhanced status and will be involving itself in matters that should not involve the legal profession, but should be for democratically elected politicians to decide.

In my criticism of the principle of subsidiarity I may arrive at a different position from that of other hon. Members, because I believe that the precise distinctions which could take place and which subsidiarity could provide are more clearly made within federal structures. There could be federal structures within which this Parliament could be granted considerable powers. The European Court would decide where the dividing line should come, according to the overarching constitution, which might allow considerable decentralisation.

The principle of subsidiarity is also being referred to as an extra power being given to European Community institutions, on top of the areas of exclusive competence already included within the treaty. If many areas are already excluded from such consideration, why has the principle been put forward? It can now be applied only to areas that were not previously considered. So subsidiarity may potentially grant extra powers to the European Community and the principle does not guarantee support for a position that could be adopted within Parliament.

The claims of all the hon. Members representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies, who say that they want devolution and want to use subsidiarity for that end, are misconceived. If such a principle of subsidiarity operated within this Parliament, Parliament would have power over them.

The principle of subsidiarity needs to be examined very carefully and contrasted with the notion of democratic federalism, within which there would be clearly defined areas—despite the difficulties involved. Someone would have to hold the ring, and the courts could be brought in on various occasions, as they are in the United States of America.

Subsidiarity is a fog within which decision making passes to the more undemocratic institutions of the EC. The answer is to make those institutions as democratic as possible.

Whether the Maastricht treaty is adopted or rejected, and whether we have an opt-out or a set of opt-in provisions for the treaty, Maastricht is not good enough. We need a federal, social and democratic Europe.

Since moves towards the industrial revolution in this country, the working class, early labour movements, trade unions and progressive forces generally have always had to react to the developing structures of capitalism, and they have always acted as countervailing forces in that structure, attempting to promote their interests.

At one time the relevant political structure was that of the United Kingdom. The trade unions and other forces then had to struggle to obtain democracy and to use it as a means of achieving social welfare provisions. The fight for the vote by the Chartists and the suffragettes led to the introduction of legislation on education, pensions and the welfare state. The democratic process was the only way in which such changes could be introduced.

The position in Europe now is similar to that which existed here in the previous century. The massive technological revolution is changing the nature of capital and the terms of the structures governing Europe are becoming wider and wider. Those structures are largely democratically defective and therefore the forces for change must look to democracy as the means of improving social welfare provision as well as improving participation in that democratic process. Democracy is not just the means of achieving ends, but an aim in itself.

For democratic socialists, the claim that the EC represents a bankers' Europe and a capitalist club is just part of the truth. Democracy must be developed to change that. The Council of Ministers should not be allowed to continue—it is a hit like the arrangement that used to exist in the alliance between the Social Democrats and the Liberals. That alliance used to specialise in deals over the heads of party members about which they had no say. A similar system exists in the Council of Ministers, in fact it is worse, because at least some of the alliance's dealings were seen on television. The Council of Ministers meets in secret and heaven knows what deals are struck. All the decisions are over our heads.

Sir Russell Johnston

I know that it is 4.17 am but the hon. Gentleman's comments are getting extremely fanciful.

Mr. Barnes

I am not sure whether my comments are fanciful in relation to the old alliance or the Council of Ministers. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would agree that an air of democracy should be introduced into its dealings. Perhaps he did not like the analogy I drew, which referred to organisations with which he used to be associated.

The scrutiny procedures of the House are a farce. I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with the relevant Committees, the dedication of those involved in those procedures or with the manner in which the results of that scrutiny are fed to the House. Those procedures will always be a farce because they cannot have an effective say over EC directives and regulations. At best, the House can attempt to influence Ministers' actions at the Council of Ministers, but those meetings are equivalent to a secret conclave so we do not know what is done on our behalf. On many occasions our Ministers have been outvoted by weighted-majority decisions.

The relatively uncontrolled bureaucracy governing the Commission and the central bank should not be allowed to operate—that is unacceptable. The right way forward is a democratically elected European Parliament which would ultimately throw up a democratically appointed Government. In those circumstances, the openings for a national Parliament become quite significant. We are not moving towards a federal system but are part of a process that is leading to a non-democratic, unitary system in which bankers and bureaucrats have considerable control and great influence. The speech of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) pointed me towards the development not of federalism but of unitary provision going increasingly towards the centre and away from this House.

We want clearly defined areas and borders which people are not allowed to invade from either side. That requires federal structures that can operate only in a democracy. The analogies with Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are beside the point, because those systems were distortions of federalism. Federalism operates only in circumstances where democratic checks can be made to ensure that the system functions correctly.

The antithesis of the European system which we are already in, but are moving deeper into, is democratic and federal. It is a Europe that will exist for all its people through the democratic institutions that will develop. That is the agenda that we should seek, and it shows the inadequacies of the measures before us.

4.21 am
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

Like the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), I am pleased to welcome you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Chair, but I wish that I was not doing so at 4.21 in the morning.

We have heard many excellent maiden speeches in this constructive debate on the Maastricht treaty. I shall single out two in particular, those of my constituency neighbours—first, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) and, secondly, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). I enjoyed listening to both their contributions. They have shown themselves to be worthy successors of both Sir David Price and Chris Chope, of whom the House will have many fond memories. All the maiden speeches that we have heard during this debate, and the return speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson), have paid tribute to the predecessors of the hon. Members concerned. All newly elected Members have hard acts to follow but, on the basis of their speeches in this debate, they should have little difficulty in doing so with distinction.

There are few Second Reading debates in which it is not necessary to study the text of the Bill, but this is one. The Bill is very short, but it makes up for that by the weight of material that comes with it in the form of supporting documents some five inches deep. They represent some solid reading.

Yesterday I took a party of fifth formers from a comprehensive school in my constituency round the Palace of Westminster. Their visit left me in no doubt that they knew precisely what we were debating in the House today: their future and that of their children. They knew that the Bill was to ratify the Maastricht treaty on European union agreed on 1 December so that it could come into force on 1 January 1993.

What they did not know, and what I was able to tell them, was that the treaty needed ratification by all member states in order to be implemented, and that the failure of just one member state to ratify it would mean the collapse of the treaty. I hope that that does not happen, and so do the students.

Much reference has been made to 1975 and the referendum campaign. Similar circumstances prevail in this debate. In 1975 I had a gut feeling that we had been right to join Europe, and that the vote in favour of our entry would be based more on gut instinct that it was the correct action to take than on any detailed study of the consequences. Our attitude to the Bill will contain an element of trust. The alternatives are not promising, which is why I wholeheartedly support the Bill.

I believe that Britain had an advantage over our European partners at Maastricht as the principles on which the treaty is now based were set out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in advance of the summit. He went to Maastricht with the clear backing of Parliament, following a robust debate and the endorsement of those principles. Some hon. Members will argue that, as the debate was guillotined, it may not have been conclusive, but I believe that some of the best debates in the House occur when a guillotine is imposed. There is no doubt that the sight of the scaffold concentrates the mind, and our debate before Maastricht was a good one.

This is not the time to deal with the minutiae of the Bill, but there is one amendment about which I have fundamental reservations—the one which changes the name of the European Economic Community to the European Community. The comon market characteristic has been the strength of the EEC to date and by dropping the word "economic" we risk losing sight of that principal objective. I believe that we could still combine the system of democratic accountability, which many hon. Members feel is so important, with a common market.

Today we are debating the principle of the United Kingdom's greater involvement in the European Community. I say "greater" because the real question is whether we wish to deepen the relationship between member states or widen the EEC's membership. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) and the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) referred to the issue of whether we should widen or deepen the Community. I am aware that most of our partners in Europe have preferred to tackle the task of deepening the Community ahead of widening it, given that new members struggling to come to terms with the "acquis communautaire"—the—Community's achievements—are unlikely to be enthusiastic for further change in the short term. Another fear among those who are most keen to move ahead with integration and a deepening of their relationship is that the arrival of new members may frustrate their plans. I believe that that is as good a reason as any for proceeding with the widening of the membership in preference to deepening it.

The Maastricht treaty was a success for Britain and a personal achievement for my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, whose delicate political and diplomatic strategy has mitigated most of Mr. Delors' federalist plans, while avoiding any break with our continental partners. There has been much discussion of the word "federal". The House must appreciate that when continentals refer to federalism they are thinking of a confederal idea, with which I agree much more than I do with the rigid structure that follows from the English interpretation of the word.

The holding of the general election so soon after the Maastricht treaty gives the Government the mandate that they require to proceed with ratification, subject to the consent of this House. Most Members will agree that in the recent election Britain's future role in the Community was not exactly the most important issue for electors. Over the years, it has been difficult to excite the electorate about this matter. That does not mean, however, that we should treat it lightly.

Many of us who are strongly pro-European are cautious about certain aspects of Europe's development—such as economic and monetary union, with a single currency and a central bank. That caution is shared by many outside the House. Convergence will be difficult to achieve; there are already signs of a multi-tier Europe, which may not be such a bad thing.

We were told that the Single European Act was not much more than a technicality, yet it is from that legislation that some of Britain's recent European troubles have stemmed, leading to confrontation with our EC partners. The most recent example was the Commission's working time directive, which aims to impose a maximum 48-hour working week. Why are the Government climbing down on that? Ministers have said that the directive would have a more severe impact on the United Kingdom than on other member states because of our different patterns of employment—it is estimated that it could cost British industry more than £5 billion—so why are we agreeing to it?

The other problem arising from the Single European Act is the battle to retain controls at Britain's frontiers. I am, glad that the Republic of Ireland—also an island—is equally firm about keeping effective border controls. If we are once more forced to bow before the European Court of Justice, at least that may hasten the day when we can introduce the compulsory carrying of identity cards here—a long overdue reform. Still, they cannot replace effective border controls as a way of controlling immigration. We should have both.

Those of us fortunate enough to attend the annual dinner of the CBI two nights ago were left in no doubt as to British business's attitude to the European Community and the Maastricht treaty. The completion of the single market is seen as the priority, but British businesses want a single market that works—with level playing fields, and with our partners enforcing EC directives as we do. They want a market in which the barriers to business are removed, in which the goal of a single currency will help them—provided that the Government maintain the criteria for achieving that: firm budgetary discipline, a reduction of Government borrowing, bringing down inflation and moving into the narrow band of the exchange rate mechanism.

I heard no call for stage three of EMU; it was almost as if business was saying that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Business also wants greater harmonisation of the market. I do not see why we could not start by adopting a standard form of Euro-retail prices index. While levelling the European playing field, business wants similar fiscal regimes and state aid policies to prevail. If our European partners are slow to fall into line, it might just be possible for us in Britain to indulge in a little sin ourselves while converting the rest of the Community to virtue.

The business community needs the Government to resist the proposals on labour and social regulation, and I agree.

The social chapter is the opposite of the other achievement of Maastricht, which was the inclusion in the treaty of the principle of subsidiarity whereby action is taken at Community level only when that is more effective than action taken at national level. It is a pity that we did not manage to insert that provision into the single market through the Single European Act. If we had, we might have avoided all the problems that we have had over Arbroath smokies and British bangers, which could have been against the law. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) mentioned prawn-flavoured crisps which, I gather, are now back on the menu.

There is no doubt that Britain's membership of the EC has benefited us in terms of investment and trade. The fact that nearly half of the American and Japanese investment in Europe has come to the United Kingdom proves that the political and economic climate created by the Government is the most attractive for inward investors in the European Community. That confidence in Britain flagged last year as the opinion polls predicted a Labour victory in the general election, but it immediately began to pick up again once my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had his continued occupation of No. 10 Downing street confirmed on the morning of 10 April. Had the Conservatives lost the general election, the inward investment would have almost certainly moved to the continent and I hate to think of the effect on jobs of such a flight of capital.

Last December's treaty will be seen as a turning point in the history of the Community. The British Government have succeeded in tilting the European agenda in their direction, away from creeping centralisation. In the six months from 1 July, my right hon. Friend and his Cabinet colleagues will have another historic opportunity to influence events, and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has pledged his determination to make a priority the enlargement of the Community, incorporating the EFTA countries and, perhaps by the turn of the century, Hungary, Czechoslavakia and Poland.

While that is being achieved, a Conservative Government will preside over the completion of the single market about which, barring difficulties over working weeks and frontier controls, the entire country will be able to cheer. While the leadership of France and Germany suddenly look weaker, our Government are taking the lead in Europe. That is where we should—and, under my right hon. Friend's leadership, shall—remain. When we vote, I hope that the House will resist the amendment and support Second Reading.

4.37 am
Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I am grateful, even at this late stage, to have caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, in this important debate. As I am once again joining in towards the tail end of our deliberations on this subject, I shall keep my remarks brief, not least because whatever I was going to say will inevitably have been said by my colleagues, sometimes better than I could have done myself.

The question that I pose to my colleagues who remain here is what are we doing participating in this debate at 4.38 am? Unless we are posturing or pontificating, we are putting our view on the record so that, if the treaty goes horribly wrong and if the concept of the European Community goes horribly wrong in five or 10 years' time and we are lucky enough still to represent our existing constituencies, they will not ask what we did—did we consider the question, did we contribute or even read the treaty?

To put my view on the record, I have read the treaty. I do not yet understand it, but although I was once a keen and proud European, there are things in it that would now make me one of the most sceptical. I therefore give due notice to the Government Whips who are on duty that when we examine the Bill in Committee and consider some of the things that are set out in this illustrious treaty, I may not be able to support the Government.

We are discussing whether to give the Bill a Second Reading. We shall give it a Second Reading on the basis of a mandate that the House gave my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in December to go to Maastricht on terms that he had already laid out to the House. We cannot go backwards. There has been much talk about sovereignty and of what we do in this Parliament, but much of that was dealt with, in effect, when the House enacted the Single European Act. That brought an end to much of the posturing. That Act cannot be abrogated unless we move as a Community to change it.

The Maastricht treaty introduces into the Community important aspects which I think will be to Britain's advantage. However vague, the concept of subsidiarity is one which we should welcome. It is undeniable that it vests back on the ambit of national Governments authority that otherwise would have been subject to creeping centralisation by the Commission, especially by those in Brussels. There is that legal status within the treaty of Rome. Subsidarity moves in the direction of redressing the deficit of democracy which so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have recognised. I therefore welcome the treaty and I shall vote for the Bill's Second Reading.

Keen as I am on the concept of Europe, like many of my colleagues I am not keen on the direction in which we have allowed the Commission to take Europe. The only issue on which I would disagree with those of my colleagues who take that view is whether we should oppose the treaty now or whether we see this as one of the best and last opportunities, with Britain's forthcoming presidency around the corner, to influence the shape of Europe in a positive way. It is because I trust my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to do that and to make the concept of subsidiarity work that I shall support the Bill on Second Reading, notwithstanding my small concerns about some matters that I have read about in the treaty. I suspect that that position may be fundamentally different from that adopted by some of my hon. Friends who share my concerns but feel that the best way of meeting them is to stop the process now. I feel that we have already gone too far for us to go back.

What shall we be doing if we vote against the Bill's Second Reading? What can we do? We can do nothing positive at this stage except to encourage my right hon. Friends to make the best possible use of the treaty, of subsidiarity and of Britain's presidency to ensure that Europe works for us and that the institutions of Europe are subject to change, to improvement. We do not have to see Europe as being immutable. The structures of Europe are not immutable; they cannot be set in concrete. The very fact that we shall sign the treaty and ratify it proves that Europe and its institutions can be changed. They should be changed and the momentum leading to the establishment of a more democratic Europe can continue. Our wish to see change and improvement can be fulfilled if we lead from the front.

I know that my hon. Friends are anxious to add their words to the debate, so I shall simply say that hon. Members should by all means support the Bill, but they should also put on record some of our deep suspicions of some of its contents, about which our right hon. Friends should be very careful in their interpretation.

4.45 am
Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth)

At this hour of the morning, a Baedeker-type tour of even the most beautiful constituency in the kingdom would, I suggest, have slight limitations of appeal. I shall say no more than that Monmouth has in its historic towns of Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk a rich architectural heritage well up to any European standards. The valley of the River Wye is a jewel of European beauty that has long been appreciated. It is part of the great tradition of the 18th century formulation of the picturesque, which is the one British contribution to European aesthetics that is matched by nothing else in Europe.

Having said that, I must pay tribute to my immediate predecessor. It is fair to say that he and I had substantial differences, but he was always courteous and hard working. Like the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), I have no doubt that those in the Labour party responsible for such matters will ensure his return to this House for some other constituency.

Monmouth's former Member of Parliament, the late Sir John Stradling Thomas, was well known to hon. Members and was much loved. He is well remembered in the constituency.

My constituents have a long, active and robust tradition of involvement in Europe, beginning with the battle of Agincourt. In the 18th century the gentlemen of Monmouth erected an especially fine temple on the Kymin to celebrate the victories of British admirals.

It has always been at the forefront of British foreign policy to maintain the balance of power in Europe and to maintain our interests and our influence to the best extent possible with the means at our disposal.

I say to those hon. Friends who have criticised: what would our right hon. Friends have done? What else do they propose? Do they suggest that we should leave the European Community? I can tell them that I have heard very little support for that proposition in any section of the community. Indeed, the commercial interests in my constituency would be horrified at such a proposal. If it is not to be withdrawal from the European Community, what do the critics of the Maastricht agreement propose? Are they suggesting that my right hon. Friends could have extracted a better agreement? If so, they are not being realistic. The Government had a truly remarkable achievement at Maastricht, the true import of which has clearly been realised by the Labour party.

Certain doctrinal statements in the treaty, as amended and proposed, are of considerable significance for the whole Conservative approach to politics over the last decade. For example, new article 3a refers to the adoption of an economic policy that is conducted in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition. Those who seek to divide the policy of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister from that of his predecessor should reflect on the fact that it has been the main thrust of Conservative Administrations to emphasise the importance of a free open market in Europe.

The second paragraph of new article 3a, in describing the arrangement for monetary matters, refers to a single monetary policy and exchange rate policy the primary definition and conduct of both … shall be to maintain price stability, and without prejudice to this objective, to support the general economic policies in the Community, in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition.

I cannot imagine anything more fundamentally in alignment with what my right hon. and hon. Friends have fought for over the past decade or so. When one looks at the statute proposed for the bank, it says that the primary objective will be to maintain price stability. An Opposition Member rightly said earlier that that primacy is stated boldly, plainly and without any material qualification of the sort that one might have expected if one were of a socialist disposition, requiring, for example, conditions on full employment or a trade-off between inflation and employment.

What we see in the treaty is a bold political revolution carried out by my right hon. Friends in Europe which has carried Conservative principles to the forefront of the Community. It is rather like the achievement of privatisation, a political principle which has been applied in practice throughout the world and has transformed and undermined the approach of a whole generation or two to socialism and the order of the state.

The commercial interests of my constituency believe passionately that for their exports they want a single free market in which to trade. But if it is to be a free single open market, provided it works and provided the safeguards are appropriate, that must ultimately mean a single currency. It is all very well looking back upon the attractions of floating exchange rates, but when we have a treaty which sets out the principles of sound public finance and money, I find it deeply ironic to see some in the Conservative party who believe that a national right to sovereignty involves the right and freedom to debauch the currency at will. How that can possibly be justified I do not begin to comprehend.

The Opposition have clearly realised the inherently revolutionary nature of the proposed treaty. It is amazing to see the heirs of Lloyd George and Maynard Keynes talking as though they were Montague Norman or Winston Churchill going back on the gold standard. That is the irony of the position that we have reached. The Liberal Democrats have swallowed that to a degree that leaves us breathtaken inasmuch as they seem to swallow it regardless of whether it works or not. But what now seems to have achieved universal acceptance is the fact that sound money is the primary basis of successful economic policy. That is a good thing and it is not something to be regretted. It is the necessary precondition of all freedom and prosperity.

National Governments have no need, basis or right to intervene in monetary affairs. The best and most satisfactory arrangement of our finances was throughout the period from our constitutional revolution in 1688 until 1914 whereby, through a combination of freedom and constitutional liberty, the Bank of England, a properly managed public debt and the gold standard, we maintained stable prices for a century or more and were compelled only to come off those standards in periods of war and crisis.

It is a wholly admirable objective in the modern context to introduce into the EC a system to guarantee a basically sound currency by an independent institution not corrupted by democratic interference or the interference of politicians who are more interested in short-term advantage than in the preservation of sound money and public finance.

I find it deeply ironic that people talk about democratic control of central banks. We used to hear it argued that there had to be democratic control of the commanding heights of the economy. That was the justification of every socialist for nationalising them. There are aspects of our economy which have no business with politicians and are best left in free and independent hands. We should be clear that whereas that is consistent with the Conservative party's principles, traditions and practice, over the longer term the difficulties that it poses for the Opposition are immense.

One notes the refreshing enthusiasm—something we have not seen of late—of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) in stating socialist objections to the treaty based on its monetary soundness and the way it puts public finance on a firm footing. What of the more conciliatory and adaptive members of the Opposition Front Bench? Labour has just fought a general election in which it campaigned for a number of things that the treaty would, it appears, rule out. How could a Labour party seeking government argue what it would do?

Under the Maastricht treaty, Labour's borrowing as a proportion of gross domestic product would be limited, as would its ability to increase interest rates, print money, or fiddle the exchange rate. A Labour Government would therefore have to limit its expenditure or raise taxes to pay for it. The connection between the amount that Labour wanted to spend and the amount it would have to raise in direct taxation—a power which would remain in place—would be immediate, and incapable of obfuscation or evasion. I regard that as a wholly admirable achievement by my right hon. Friends.

There has been talk of the severity of the loss of sovereignty. I accept that fear. I understand and appreciate the traditions of our constitution, but one must view the matter in the context of the age in which we live. My constituents appreciate that in the case of a paper mill in Sudbrook exporting to Germany. If the Germans altered the regulations in such a way as to interfere with that company's trade, it would be powerless—under a free trade arrangement—to do anything.

The advantage of the European Community is that it makes it possible—at least in theory—to ensure a level playing field. It offers the possibility of running lorries from one end of this country to the far end of the European Community. It provides an opportunity to get car prices in this country down to more acceptable free market levels. With VAT harmonisation, hotel keepers, for example in the Wye valley, may have an opportunity to correct the gross injustice whereby they have to charge value added tax of 17.5 per cent. when, as many British people who enjoy cheap foreign holidays know, the hotel VAT rate abroad is minimal.

Those would not be diminutions of the power of the British state, but opportunities within the new framework to extend our influence in such a way as to promote British commerce and trade. I see in the treaty that my right hon. Friends have achieved something that is traditional, coherent in itself, and wholly consistent with the finer traditions of British policy.

Neither I nor my constituents want the social chapter. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary rightly and successfully fought against that. We prefer to deal at intergovernmental level with the four fundamental issues of foreign policy, security, internal matters, and immigration. We believe that the strengthening of the Council of Ministers is highly desirable, and I do not begin to accept that there is a democratic deficiency in those arrangements.

The treaty remains a treaty between states, with a new political organisation created alongside those states. The democratic element is this House in this country, and the Parliaments in other countries.

As to the European Parliament, it is inconceivable that it is possible to create what we would understand as a representative parliamentary democracy, with constituencies of half a million or more individuals—particularly if one adopted proportional representation, multi-member constituencies, or some other arrangement of that convoluted variety. Such a course would gain the respect of only the Italian Parliament. What we have rightly done —what my right hon. Friends have done—is to limit the opportunities for the European Parliament to useful and effective checks in limited areas.

I do not believe that the federal fears that have been raised in the House are realistic. Removal of the word "federal" from the treaty was a major political achievement. It will become much easier to avoid such arrangements as more states seek admission to the European Community. If eastern European states are admitted, it will simply not be possible to have an arrangement involving representation of states of that size and that sort.

The fact remains that my right hon. Friends have seized the opportunity to reach an arrangement that is in the best interests of our country, western Europe and indeed eastern Europe. If we have a fair and free open market in which states that cheat and do not comply can be fined, my constituents will regard that as a major step forward.

The European Community is not a state or a super-state but a new kind of political organisation which, along with the Union, has certain supranational features. It is all very well to talk in terms of unions of sovereign states, but the great lesson of the high commands of the first world war—separated between France and ourselves—was that it was vastly superior to have an allied supreme command. NATO is the classic example of a supranational organisation with a supreme allied commander in Europe, co-ordinating and creating an effective organisation to fulfil the wishes of its member states.

I believe that the whole purpose of the European Community is not to create some absolute federal state, but to fulfil the interests of our particular nation and to make western Europe, and the rest of Europe, a more prosperous and safer place.

5.1 am

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

We have just heard an excellent maiden speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans), to which we listened with great interest. I am sure that all who knew his predecessor, John Stradling Thomas, remember him well. He was famous for many things. He had an elephantine memory; he was one of the best raconteurs in the House; we all enjoyed his company very much indeed, and I personally miss him greatly. Judging by his maiden speech, however, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth will prove an excellent replacement, and we look forward to hearing from him many more times.

Many things influence us on our individual roads to the House of Commons. For me, one of the great spurs was that famous observation by Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". On the vexed question of the direction and development of modern Europe, too many of us in the House of Commons have done little or nothing for too long. I may excuse some hon. Members from that charge, but I do not excuse myself.

In regard to the treaty, we must ask ourselves the following questions. What exactly is at stake? How important is it? Do our constituents understand what we are doing? Having debated those questions, we must finally ask ourselves two more: is it right in itself and—more important—is it right that it should be done with the nation largely in ignorance?

If the answer to one or both of those last two questions is no, we must not do it. It is far too important a step to be taken in such a way. What is at stake is fundamental. We are talking about the power and purse strings of government. We are all aware of the history of the House, and the maiden speeches made by many hon. Members today have served to underline that. We shall be voting on our country's identity and on our right to govern ourselves as an island nation.

Every hon. Member must ask himself whether he wants more power slipping away from here to Brussels, or whether the time has come to arrest and reverse that trend. There can no longer be any fudging. The question is a basic one and in years to come we shall all have to answer, to ourselves as well as the country, for what we do now.

The difficulties of making the European Economic Community, as it was originally called, work were as obvious in the general from the outset as they have become in the particular over the years, as implementation has proceeded. The very idea that so many different nations, with different cultures, languages, histories, climates and work practices could ever be sensibly regulated by a single set of rules was nonsense. This was pointed out when the Community was formed, but it was denied. As implementation and enlargement have continued, so the harsh realities have become more and more obvious and the absurdities, not least the common agricultural policy, are plain for all to see.

When speaking in my constituency about the Community, I used to say that although the financial structures would probably never make sense, and there would always be imbalances between the various nations, this was the price we paid for peace. My constituents could accept that, but now this is being taken much further and I am being asked to believe, and to sell to my constituents, the idea that binding us ever closer together will one day result in all these inequalities being removed. I do not believe it, they do not believe it and the House should not believe it. I have come to believe that the tighter we try to bind ourselves together, the more the inequalities and irritations will chafe and, far from this being a recipe for peace, the chafing could well become an open wound and lead eventually to conflict. A looser framework, giving nations more elbow room and breathing space, will be much healthier in the long term.

For the civil servants and politicians involved in European legislation, there appears to be a kind of schizophrenia. Views depend entirely on which side of the channel the person is sitting at the time. Directives that seem sensible and communautaire when agreed in the neutral, rarefied and utopian atmosphere of a Brussels committee room or a Strasbourg restaurant turn out to be nonsensical when applied to the local factory, corner shop or women's institute. It would be amusing if it had not caused so much damage. However, it is doing increasing damage not only to the industries, organisations and people who live in our constituencies but to our ability to represent them here in the House of Commons.

I represent an agricultural constituency. In terms of the rules and regulations affecting agriculture, we were promised a level playing field. Instead of that, in some sections of the industry, we now have what seems like the north face of the Eiger, and the incline is never in our favour. That could mean, for example, the decimation of the poultry processing industry in my constituency, a major and vital employer. In this debate, the details do not matter, but what happens when I take up the issue with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? He tells me that he will do what he can, but he is only one of 12, and I may or may not get the satisfaction that I seek on behalf of my constituents. I do not blame the Minister—I blame the system.

We have a unique parliamentary system. Any Member of Parliament who is made aware of a constituency problem that needs prompt action can bring it to the attention of the appropriate Minister at once and, if his case is just and urgent, the Minister can act promptly. If that Minister has to consult 11 other Ministers a nd gain their agreement before he can act, what price our precious parliamentary system, and how long before other Departments go down the road taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food until, eventually, we are all prevented from serving our constituents in that unique way?

For an island nation, so many of our long-cherished protections are now under threat. We shall be hard pressed to prevent open access to our country for people and, very importantly, for animals and for plants. Each one of these matters presents enormous problems, and we must ask: if the European system is a good one, why are we being forced to take this obviously retrograde step, totally against our national interests?

Together with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who is dozing on the Opposition Front Bench, I attended the very first of the latest batch of intergovernmental conferences that finally resulted in the new treaty.

I went to Rome, supposedly to discuss the long-term future of the Community in a non-political, non-nationalistic way. Immediately we arrived the rules were changed. Everyone sat in party groups. The next thing that happened was that it was made quite clear that all the proposals being put forward—the kind of proposals in this treaty—had already been agreed to by almost everyone there, and the final resolution was being drafted before the first speech was made. The whole thing, in a British parliamentary sense, was high farce. We finished up, on the last morning, voting on no fewer than 222 amendments, printed on purple paper. I have them here and I shall keep them always. It took hours to vote and the outcome was a communiqué which, as I have already said, was drafted before we even started. Hundreds voted for it and 13, of whom I was one, voted against. Few people understood what they were doing or, as far as I could make out, cared.

Mr. George Robertson

I knew what I was doing at that time, what I was voting for and what was there. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the treaty he will see that his Minister agreed to a protocol at the end of the treaty calling for regular meetings or conferences of the Parliaments of the European Community, so it is going to happen again. We shall just have to wait and see whether the Whips choose the hon. Gentleman for the privilege, for the second time, of going to the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

Mr. Lord

If the Whips should ask me to go, I would be most reluctant. I regarded it as a complete waste of time, as did most of the people who were there, some of whom sit on the Opposition Benches.

Most people in this country do not understand what the treaty means. I suspect that most Members of Parliament still do not fully understand it. An attempt was made to get the appropriate documents laid before the House for the debate in a way that would have made clear exactly what we were debating, but that was not -done—for reasons that we can only guess at.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Which documents is my hon. Friend alleging the House needs but which are not available to the House?

Mr. Lord

It was suggested that we might have a simplified document, explaining to hon. Members exactly what we were doing, in a way that we could all understand. All that has been done is to make available all the relevant documents which, as my right hon. Friend will be aware, are very complicated and difficult to understand. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) tried hard to get documents that would be simpler for us to work with. They are not available. All that we have are what are called the relevant documents, which are extremely complicated.

During the election campaign I, like other hon. Members, knocked on thousands of doors and talked to thousands of people in my constituency. Whenever the question of Europe came up, the message I got was clear and simple. The people of this country want a common market, a free trade area, for which they voted in a referendum some years ago. They want that, and nothing more. I have already said that the implications of all the changes that are now taking place have not been fully understood by the nation at large. When they are, I believe that there will be great anger and resentment. People will justifiably feel either that they should have been told in simple language what was going on or that at least their legislators should have understood what was going on and anticipated the country's reaction. We pride ourselves increasingly on open government, but if people really do not understand what we are doing in this House of Commons they are shut out just as effectively as if the door had been closed in their face.

When the Prime Minister returned from Maastricht I was pleased with the job that he and his colleagues had done: protecting this country from the worst aspects of the treaty and, more importantly, buying time. I voted then in support of the Prime Minister's achievements, but since then it has become quite clear that there is now a new mood in Europe, partly brought about by the increasing changes in eastern Europe, partly by the British stand over many years and partly because, at long last, the Governments and people of the countries of the Twelve are starting to realise what is happening and what is at stake. I was interested to note at the time of the Maastricht meeting that, apparently, 75 per cent. of French people have never even heard of Maastricht. A golden opportunity presents itself.

Whenever sensible criticisms are made of the Maastricht treaty, the retort always comes back, "What is the alternative? Do you want to come out?" Nobody ever says what coming out really means or what the precise implications would be. In any case, I do not know, and I do not know that anybody else wants to come out of anything. Between coming out and European union there now lies a new prospect.

Railway trains are frequently referred to when describing Britain's attitude to Europe. We have been told that we should get out of the guard's van and into the driver's cab. Until now the driver was German and the fireman was French. We were allowed the occasional, albeit violent, tug on the controls. But now our country and our Prime Minister have a new stature and a new authority in European affairs and the rest of Europe is having second thoughts. Our presidency starts soon. We have the opportunity not just to sit in the driver's cab but to switch the points. The train need not come out in reverse, but neither should it career on down its present, increasingly criticised track until it finally hits the buffers.

Because of the tremendous job that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister originally did in Maastricht and because I trust, respect and admire him, I am sorely tempted to support him on the issue and to trust him to do what I want done. Unfortunately, I am forced to recognise that, no matter how high someone stands in our estimation, if he is asking us to sign something which is patently damaging to something which we hold dear and for which we are responsible, signing becomes impossible. I trust my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. But my constituents trust me.

As I believe in the authority and responsibility of the House of Commons, there surely can be no more important issue on which to demonstrate my belief than this issue, which directly diminishes that authority and responsibility. Like many other hon. Members, over the past 20 years I have tried to believe that the sillier and more dangerous aspects of Europe make sense. But, again to quote Edmund Burke, There is … a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

If, at the conclusion of the debate, I am convinced that the signing of the treaty will not mean a further dilution of the power of the House of Commons, and if I am convinced that the signing would be of real benefit to the country and to Europe, I might support the Government. I have never voted against the Government in the nine years that I have been in the House, but I do not want to become a citizen of Europe. In the interests of my country, my constituents and my conscience, with a very heavy heart I might have to do just that.

5.17 am
Mr. James Cran (Beverley)

It can truly be said that those of us who are left have staying power. If any of us had an imperfect knowledge of the subject, after 14 hours of listening to the debate—most of us have listened to nearly all the speeches—we must nearly be experts. I have heard some fine speeches and I am intimidated by the fact that the best ones have generally been maiden speeches. They have been of an enormously high standard. My maiden speech was quite unnoticed. Nobody said what a fine speech the hon. Member for Beverley made. I can only suppose that it was as mediocre as I thought it was at the time.

I am in an invidious position and I take no pleasure whatsoever in speaking in the debate. As I have made clear, I intend to vote against the Bill's Second Reading. That gives me no pleasure, because I know perfectly well what the Government have tried to do. I listened to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier and I was convinced that he tried his damnedest at Maastricht to limit the damage. By that I mean that he was surrounded at the table by a considerable number of people who wanted the kind of Europe that he clearly did not want and, incidentally, which I do not want either. I am delighted that we have had nothing to do with the social contract and that this House will decide whether we enter the third stage of EMU. I am also delighted that security and foreign policy will still be decided under the aegis of the intergovernmental conferences.

I readily accept that the situation could have been a great deal worse. However, I am afraid that that is not good enough. When I consider treaty amendments, I think about the kind of Europe that I want to see. We are all entitled to have a vision of Europe. The mere fact that I may disagree with the Government's view of Europe or with my colleagues does not make me a bad European. It simply means that I have a different vision of what Europe should be.

I do not regard myself as a Eurosceptic. I am very much in favour of Europe. I do not say that we should pull up the anchor and take the United Kingdom somewhere else. We are part of Europe and we must stay part of Europe. I am concerned only about the kind of Europe that we will have.

I wish to see an evolutionary Europe. Institutions are much better if they are allowed to develop slowly. I take exception to the fact that the people who are deciding matters at intergovernmental conferences want to force the issue of unification far faster than I would wish. I make that point against the background of the internal market. I want the internal market to be fulfilled. However, if we examine the issue, we find that the internal market is no nearer its fulfilment now than it was a few years ago. I predict that it will not be fulfilled for five, 10 or, as some say, 15 years. If the internal market has not been achieved, I fail to understand why our Government or any other Government should want me to consider another initiative within the aegis of the Community. I am aware of the need for much closer co-operation between Community states, but that should occur between nation states.

Mrs. Currie

If I understand my hon. Friend, he said that we are no closer to the completion of the internal market than we were a few years ago. What have we been doing for the past two or three years? We have considered directive after directive. Some 282 directives have been agreed as part of the single market and a few more have been added. More than 80 per cent. of those directives have been implemented into legislation in this country and many of them have been commented on in the debate. What have we been doing if we have not been implementing the single market?

Mr. Cran

My hon. Friend understands what I am saying perfectly. The House is aware that the United Kingdom was the moving force for the internal market.

She said, and I agree, that the United Kingdom has incorporated more directives into our law more quickly than any other country of the European Community. That is not the point. For those of us who have gone around Europe, the point is that some of our partners clearly will not implement the directives of the internal market, for perfectly good reasons.

I give my hon. Friend one example—takeovers and mergers within the European Community. The United Kingdom is an open market. We know that to be so. It is not so in certain other countries of the European Community. If my hon. Friend and I travelled around Europe as I have, she would find that people made it clear that they had no intention of so doing. I repeat to my hon. Friend that I wish to see the fulfilment of the internal market in all the countries of the European Community.

Mrs. Currie

My hon. Friend's invitation to me to go traipsing around Europe sounds exciting and I hope that I may take him up on it at some stage. But he is basically wrong. Everyone can pick up one example. One example does not disprove the broad principle that most of the internal market is now in place, particularly for trade. Most of our constituent companies have the opportunity to trade freely across Europe. He must also accept that the Bill that is offered to us contains the opportunity to take to court those countries and companies that deny opportunities. There is no longer the opportunity to deny the development of the single market.

Mr. Cran

My hon. Friend simply is not living in the real business world. I should like to take her to speak to at least half a dozen of the major insurance companies in Britain. If she does not know them I will certainly introduce her to them. They will explain that while insurance companies of other countries of the European Community can freely do business in the United Kingdom, it is a different kettle of fish when United Kingdom companies try to do business in other countries of the European Community. I make my hon. Friend the offer that if she does not have the entree to those companies I will happily arrange it for her.

I move on quickly because I know that we all want to come to a conclusion. If we accept the Bill we shall face pressure from our partners in the EC to agree to stage 3 of economic and monetary union. That pressure will be brought to bear very quickly. Other pressures will come on us within the United Kingdom to conform. I have heard umpteen speeches this evening and yesterday about the need to conform. Of course, that also means that we must not be left behind. Essentially, it means that we are on a conveyor belt to perhaps federalism or perhaps something else—I do not know. The fact of the matter is that no one knows. But we are on that conveyor belt and it is accelerating.

My former right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford, Mr. Tebbit, put it well in the debate in the House when he said: While I realise that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister feels that he has hedged around the bridgeheads established by the Community and the union with good defensive positions, all experience within the Community suggests that it will expand from any bridgehead which it has been given."—[O? cial Report, 18 December 1991; Vol. 201, c. 325.]

That is precisely what I think will happen, even with the agreement before us today.

I wanted to say a great deal more, but clearly time is not on my side. I finish with two points. Economic and monetary union is a key part of the Maastricht proposals, or will be at some time in the future. We can argue either way. I see the intellectual arguments on each side, although I err on the side of not being in favour of economic and monetary union. But we all agree that convergence is required before consideration of' any further steps of economic and monetary union. That seems clear. The presupposition is simply that it would need fairly massive movements of money and capital or people. That will not happen in my lifetime and if that is the case I fail to understand why the United Kingdom Government were bullied into considering it and making provision for its future. I particularly fail to understand that against the background that the United Kingdom's view of these matters is usually highly pragmatic—the view that there is no need to consider things before there is a need to do so.

If I thought for one second that the principle of subsidiarity would work, many of my fears would dissipate, but I fear that the principle of subsidiarity is nor more than a fig leaf. It worries me that when I go to Europe and speak to people whom I know to be federalists, they can use the principle of subsidiarity to expand the activities of the European Community in the same way as those who do not wish them to be expanded can use it. That seems to show that there is a considerable flaw in the principle, although I realise that if it were more specifically set out—with functions for the nation state and functions for the EC agreed beforehand—it would have influence and power and I would back it. The fact is that it has not.

Having waited a long time to speak, I simply say that I oppose the Bill and I associate myself with my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), who said that if the House agrees to impose the treaty on the Great British people, at the very least we ought to ask them before we do so. Despite all the imperfections of referendums, the only way for us to do that is to agree to a referendum and to ask the British people.

5.31 am
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

The only thing that thrills me more, Madam Deputy Speaker, than the fact that I am now standing is the fact that you are sitting where you are, and I congratulate you, with warm affection, on doing so.

When I was first returned to Parliament with a majority of 53 votes, I received a telegram from a great friend—a don at Oxford—which merely said: Sitting is better than standing. You are more comfortable than I am, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I divine that my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans), who made his maiden speech, is an English barrister. One can tell them by the manner of their speech. A great English barrister, F. E. Smith, who was also a great Member of this House and a great Lord Chancellor—although he did not have the benefit of being a Scot—7;after a long dinner, which I do not suppose lasted until 5.33 am, was the last to speak, as I believe I am—[SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS: "No, there are two more."] Very well. That makes it even worse for those who have yet to speak, because F. E. Smith said Before I came here tonight I prepared two speeches—a long one and short one—and in view of the lateness of the hour I propose to give them both. That is my intention. I want to take a rather different view from some who have spoken of the matters that we have discussed for so many hours.

In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran), I pay tribute to those who have joined us in the House. I also pay tribute to the fact that this debate has generated some of the traditional great speeches to which we have become, regretfully, unaccustomed. I will not be partial, because I believe that the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) was masterly in its parliamentary performance. I should also like to pay tribute in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith). I believe that he is a worthy successor to one of the most courageous Members of the House, courageous in every sense. It was an honour and a privilege to share the company of his membership.

May I make a principal point about the treaty? I remember when we debated that extraordinary document produced by the Church of England, "Faith in the City". The extraordinary thing was that I think that I was the only person in that debate who had actually read it. I am sure that you will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Scotland was mentioned once on page 12, paragraph 2, with condescension—what it said was wrong.

I have read the treaty and it is important that those of us who are discussing it should have done so. I will merely refer to two matters mentioned at the beginning of the treaty. Article A states: By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Union, hereinafter called 'the Union'". Article F states: The Union shall respect the national identities of its Member States, whose systems of government are founded on the principles of democracy. I am only a simple lawyer, but if those articles are not, in themselves, an entitlement to make of it whatever one will, I do not know what is.

Let us consider articles at random—for example, article 190, which states: Regulations, directives and decisions adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council, and such acts adopted by the Council or the Commission, shall state the reasons on which they are based and shall refer to any proposals or opinions which were required to be obtained pursuant to this Treaty. That is the shortest phrase in the treaty, and I could go through all the others, but what does it mean? It means nothing, everything, anything or whatever one wishes it to mean. Was it not Humpty Dumpty, when asked what it meant, who said: it means just what I choose it to mean"? That phrase is equivalent to the great opportunity for our Government.

Let us not forget that the concept of a European union was first suggested by King Henry of Navarre in 1600, when his great Minister, Sully, proposed a union of 15 states. The only history that we were ever taught in Scotland, as happens in England, was the history of Europe, which is a history of attempted confederations and associations—whether Attila the Hun, Caesar or the Austro-Hungarian empire—and super-states attempted by tyranny or agreement. Each eventually collapsed because of the competition of those who believed that they had an ethnic right to be different. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire started the first world war and an artificially congregated federalism caused the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Let us not forget that Winston Churchill first proposed a confederation of Europe in 1932, before Hitler came to power. In Blackpool in 1946, in the Guildhall in 1947 and in the Hague in 1948, before his great speech about the iron curtain, he proposed that Europe should unite and spoke of a federal Europe.

All that was in answer to certain forces. The force that brought together the treaty of Rome—far less Churchill's concept—was the fact that we wanted a third force between the Soviet empire, with all its rightfulness, power, villany and, eventually, nuclear strength, and the American union—the United States—whose power was held together by the threat of the Soviet Union.

I do not understand what my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) was talking about when he spoke of three blocs. He seemed to wander into naming the ASEAN basin as one of the blocs. The blocs that brought Europe together were Europe and America.

The terrible tyranny of the Soviet Union has now disintegrated and Margaret Thatcher was the principal person instrumental in that achievement. As I said throughout the election campaign, I did not believe that what has happened in the United States of America would happen so soon. America is ethnically unstable. Without the challenge and fear of the Soviet Union as a Stalinist bloc, America is not a stable federalism.

We were told on the news the other day that Korean shopkeepers were shooting Mexican looters, but I thought that they were all Americans there. I do not believe that that great federal state can have any more stability than other states ruled by tyranny, democracy or fear if it has no ethnic sensibility.

Europe has a wonderful culture, civilisation and history, with a rich tapestry of philosophy and religion, but the history of Europe is of conflict, disintegration, difference and constant change. I do not believe that merely trying to glue it together as an imaginary unit will achieve the inevitable integration of a false confederation.

The Government have a great opportunity. We can see the instability of Germany, and its propective power. I was in Berlin on the night the wall came down. We can see the instability of France, which has been comparatively ungovernable during our lifetime. We can see the instability of Italy, and understand that there is no likeihood of comprehension between the south of Portugal and the north of Norway or the north of Scotland. In the United Kingdom, Kirkwall is further from Edinburgh than Edinburgh is from London.

There was a great moment when Europe was united by the Romans—"civis Romanus sum"—but that did not compromise, alter or unite the three parts of Gaul, or Germany, Scotland, Hibernia or Grampus. It left that great variety and combined it with a major international comcept.

I have something frightening to say: I am a citizen of France under an Act passed by Mary Queen of Scots' mother. The citizens of Scotland and the citizens of France enjoy common citizenship. That was the inspiration for Churchill's offer to the French in 1940. Those of us who can trace our families back to that date are citizens of France. Let us have the great European concept—the great "civis Romanus sum, civis Europeanus sum". Let us have every form of co-operation. Let us have every form of trade. But let us not have a system that destroys the sovereignty, the individuality and the disparity of the nation states to which people know they belong.

The greatest speech of all on this subject was delivered by the Earl of Belhavon in 1707 as we said goodnight to the kingdom of Scotland and entered the Union—

Mr. George Robertson

Surely he did not deliver it at 5.50 am?

Sir Nicholas Fairburn

Oddly enough, he did.

In those days Scots lived north of the border and the English lived south of it, but they had a common culture and a common language. That painful union eventually led to total integration; 80 per cent. of Scots now live south of the border and are represented by Members from south of the border.

This union has some stress, but none of the strains of Europe. We should certainly be at the heart of the immense dynamic possibilities of Europe—indeed, Scotland always has been. There are Scottish quarters in Warsaw and in Amsterdam. There are more McKays in the Netherlands telephone book than there are Van Schevens. We are a cosmopolitan European nation with a great culture.

The important question is: how far are we going to go? Will we include Russia, Scandinavia and even Turkey, 90 per cent. of which is in Asia? It seems a little odd to include it in a European Community. And if we create an inclusive beneficiaries club, what happens to those who are excluded?

We did not need the European Community to create the International Air Transport Association or other bodies of international significance. International disciplines do not need to be imposed by huge, centralised organisations. The two burning issues that mankind faces—they are not covered by the treaty—remain economic migration and the population explosion. There is no point in Members discussing the minutiae of a treaty, which they in any case do not understand, if they do not comprehend these threats to the planet. In 30 years' time—I trust that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will still be in the Chair then—the population of the world will have doubled. If hon. Members want me to speak until the population of the world has doubled, at least one thing is certain—those who are listening to me will not be responsible for its doubling.

Seriously, these are global matters with which the comity of Europe—its culture, its civilisation and its association—can deal. We are now the masters. We are the one cohesive, confident, experienced nation in Europe and we are in charge. That is a great opportunity for the shaping of Europe. The treaty can mean what we make it mean and when I say, "We", I mean my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and our Government.

5.55 am
Mrs. Edwina Currie: (Derbyshire, South)

May I first congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your elevation to your important post. It is nice to see you there, and I thank you very much for calling me in daylight.

I have heard many speeches tonight—I gather that I am the 55th speaker—many of which have turned on the question of the sovereignty of this House. We will later debate the House's procedures, and I hope that we shall bear it in mind that although we have gone through the night, some colleagues still wish to speak. It does not seem a very sensible procedure that we have to debate in this way, and it is a great pity.

Some of the speeches have been excellent maiden speeches—I refer especially to the most recent, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans). It was the most brilliant maiden speech that I have ever heard. It was absolutely first class, and it augurs well for the future. A key aspect of his speech was that, unlike the bulk of the 50 or so that we have heard, he was not carping but making positive remarks about the European Community and about the Bill.

The Bill and the Maastricht treaty come to us against a background and, indeed, as a consequence of the near completion of the single market. That and our membership of the monetary union have made explicit what we have all come to realise over a long period of time—as a trading nation, we are interdependent on other countries and its partners, and the options that we might once have had of going it alone no longer exist.

I am delighted about that, because we are now part of the biggest free market that the world has ever seen. It currently has about 340 million people, which is more than the United States of America, more than the old Soviet Union. As Her Majesty the Queen said in Strasbourg, what we are doing is unique in history—not only in our history—because this is the first time that such a grouping has been put together without force. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) referred to civis Romanus but forgot pax Romanus, which meant force. That was how Roman Europe was put together.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn


Mrs. Currie

May I proceed, as I listened to my hon. and learned Friend for about 20 minutes?

The treaty was put together without force. It is rising from the ashes of two terrible wars in Europe, and is doing so because of the voluntary co-operation of great nations. Within 10 years, we could have 25 countries and more than 400 million people in the Community. Many of the questions that we debate today and tomorrow arise absolutely and inevitably out of that.

How are we to have 25 currencies trading? The answer is that we cannot. Already in my constituency, the businesses that are trading across Europe and the world are choosing to trade in one or two key world currencies, especially the dollar and the deutschmark over which we have no control. It seems that much of what is being proposed would at least give our nation some say over those currencies.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I know what pax Romanus is but, if my hon. Friend remembers, civis Romanus sum was St. Paul's plea when he was arrested.

Mrs. Currie

Yes—and a fat lot of good it did him, if I remember rightly.

While the creation of a great market has been taking place, the United Kingdom has been sleep walking. It is almost as if we joined the European Community by accident. I deprecate our grudging and negative attitude, which has persisted right the way through into this debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, rightly said when speaking in Bonn recently that at best we have had a timorous and at worst a curmudgeonly approach to Europe, and it has served us ill to take it. Instead, we should be delighted at the expansion of the free market and the growth of peace and security in Europe. One of the results of our attitude is that we are ignorant about attitudes in our partner nations. We still talk with them, about them and to them as if they were stupid and think that the best way to communicate with them is to speak English more loudly than we would normally. I despair of that approach. It would seem that we miss so many tricks as a result.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) rightly said that our young people do not think in that way. He put the matter well. Our nation is changing under our noses. This year nearly 50,000 of our young people will take an A-level in a modern European language, and the number is rising year by year. Last year 17 million British people went abroad, most of them to Europe. It is necessary to queue at the ports now. Bookings are being taken well into next year at the channel ports. The level of trade is rising dramatically. The old barriers are breaking down. Our country is changing and we are becoming more diverse. We are becoming more enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Europe even as we speak.

I listened to some of the speeches of Labour Members. I notice that they all gave up a long time ago and left the Chamber. The stance that they are taking provides them with nothing that they can be proud about. During the election, they portrayed themselves as being more pro-European than us in the Conservative party. That has turned out to be a total sham. If the Labour party had won the election, a Labour Government would be taking the Bill through the House in the form in which it is now before us.

Mr. George Robertson


Mrs. Currie

With all due respect, there would not have been time to renegotiate. As the Irish have recently found on the abortion issue, there would not have been the opportunity—it would have been denied by our European partners. Labour Ministers would have been standing at the Government Front Bench and hasseling us to let them take the Bill through the House. They would have slapped on a three-line Whip, and probably a guillotine as well. They would have insisted that everybody trooped through the Lobby in support of the Government.

What is the Labour party doing now? Labour Members have discovered their consciences, or perhaps they have discovered what they really think. They are going to abstain. How brave. How courageous. How pro-European of them. What a load of humbug. What an accurate view we now have of the Labour party in this country. The very fact that Europe was not an issue at the general election suggests to me that the people were more than satisfied with what our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary negotiated on our behalf. They regard the treaty as a very good deal for the nation.

Perhaps Labour's abstention is entirely appropriate. I do not believe that socialism has anything to offer either in this debate or in debates about the future of Europe. The President of the European Commission has made it clear in recent speeches that he wants greater central control and direction. Well, he would, wouldn't he? Mr. Delors is a French socialist. His ultimate objective is to become president of his own country. He is almost inevitably an empire builder. I suspect that he shares the same view as Voltaire: In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other. That is an old French pre-socialist.

The proposals to limit or impose restrictions on economic behaviour that are so dear to the hearts of trade unionists and socialists run counter to the general thrust of the free market and they might be challenged. It is right that the Government have challenged them.

I shall explain why I think that the social chapter is not a good idea. I am painted with all sorts of colours, but I am a Euro-enthusiast. What is going on in Europe is fantastic, but I think that the Government's stance on some of the issues is right. It is not a matter for Britain standing out against the rest. That rather priggish approach produces much resentment among our Community partners. It is what is best for the Community as a whole that is important, especially for the poorer nations and regions and for the nations that will join it, some of which are likely to be poor for a long time. It is far better for poorer nations and regions to exploit their low costs and attract labour-intensive activity. If they do that, they lessen their need for regional aid, and so the burden on the wealthier countries is reduced.

As Germany has found, the wealthy citizens of Europe do not have a bottomless purse and an ever-open heart. The imposition of German labour laws on the rest of the European Community will cost Germany a great deal of money. They have not yet begun paying out; neither have we, and nor have the other wealthy nations of Europe. More profound than that is the fact that a system that depends on a nation's own efforts is, as we have shown, much more likely in the long run to be successful. A system that does not depend on huge volumes of public money being shuttled from one country to another is much less likely to be corrupt.

That is not necessarily the way other countries view these matters. The small nations, such as the Netherlands, are arguing for competition on a different basis and it is essential that we understand that. They want competition not between countries but between businesses. They say that the multinational nature of many companies and their trade precludes control by one or two countries. Given the fuss that we have had with BCCI, the Maxwell corporation and a few other multinational businesses that have hidden their assets all over the world, those nations have a point. The poor countries feel, as is inevitable, that when we say that we do not believe in regional policy we want to condemn them to their poverty. I suspect that on those sorts of issues we are outnumbered and I expect that we shall be outvoted. It is in everyone's interest that the free market should be as unencumbered as possible and I urge my right hon. Friends to carry forward that style and that approch.

In 1857, Palmerston said: We have no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual and these interests it is our duty to follow. That is right: nothing is for ever, but I am certain that for my lifetime—certainly my political lifetime—our interests lie with Europe.

It is in our interests that the Community should grow and prosper, and it is doing so. In so doing, it is becoming an economic super-power. The European Community and the EFTA countries alone—just those 19 countries—account for almost 30 per cent. of the world's gross domestic product and almost 45 per cent. of the world's trade. We are an economic super-power, whether we like it or not. It is, therefore, in our interests that the institutions of the Community should be strengthened—in my view, especially its Parliament. Somebody has to monitor, to regulate, to assent to and to dissent from what is happening in Europe. Somebody has to ferret around in those Community budgets. Somebody has to put questions to the Commissioners and sack them if necessary. Somebody has to protect the consumer Europe-wide. Somebody has to investigate maladministration by the Commission. None of those tasks exists now, and none can be done by national Parliaments, whether this House or any other Parliament. It can be done only by what Her Majesty called the ever-more important Parliament and that is in Europe.

It has been said by some tonight, and I agree, that Britain is now the strongest country in Europe. We have the best Government, we have the most stable economic and political environment, and we can exercise leadership in the Community as I suspect we never could in the days since we refused to join, back in my childhood. We can show other nations, in the short and the long term, how parliamentary democracy does work, how minorities can be protected, how different nations within one country can be given rights and how their cultures can enliven the diversity of our world.

We have shown how popular capitalism works for the benefit of all the people. That is what we should be contibuting to Europe. We should be proud that we can do it and we should now get on with it.

6.8 am

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

I add my congratulations to the many that you have already received, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your elevation. I know that any Member of this House, from either side, who has ever served in Committee under your chairmanship will feel, as I do, that it is a very well-deserved and felicitous appointment.

I also congratulate the several maiden speakers whom I have heard tonight. I am only sorry that I was temporarily absent from the Chamber when my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) delivered his maiden speech, which received such a generous tribute from my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie).

It is a particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South in bringing to an end from the Back Benches the first part of our important debate on the Maastricht treaty. I shall be making different points, but they will chime well with the note that my hon. Friend has already sounded.

I shall be voting in the Lobby tomorrow night for the treaty without hesitation and with great enthusiasm. But that does not mean that I think that the text of treaty is ideal or that it has the finality of holy writ. In fact, a number of aspects of the treaty will, over anything more than the short term, prove to be seriously inadequate.

For example, I have severe doubts that it will in practice be possible, on the basis of the structure of pillars or columns on which the treaty is based, to carry out common defence and foreign policies which will be sufficiently coherent, focused, sustained, well supported and, therefore, sufficiently credible to be effective. Those common defence and foreign policies need to be effective if they are to be able to promote and defend the interests of Europe in what will certainly be an uncertain world.

Perhaps even more seriously, I have severe doubts about the extent to which, over anything longer than the short term, the relative absence of any structure of democratic legitimacy or accountability for the institutions of the Community will be acceptable to European public opinion.

Something that unites all of us in western Europe is a deep attachment to the principles of democracy. In that area, the treaty represents a number of improvements on previous treaties and the Single European Act. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go.

For example, the Commission, whose functions are laid down and described in the treaty, is based not so much on the concept of democracy as on a much earlier concept of government which might be characterised as benevolent paternalism or benevolent technocracy. The Commission has no electoral legitimacy and only inadequate structures of accountability.

I believe that over time it will prove unacceptable that the Council of Ministers, which has the greatest law-making power in the treaty, should continue to conduct those legislative functions in secret. Government behind closed doors was the practice in the nations of Europe in the 18th century and before. I cannot believe that we shall go far into the 21st century with that principle still enshrined in the constitution of our Community.

I pay tribute to the brave efforts made in the past few weeks by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to reduce wherever possible the secrecy with which government is practised here in Whitehall. The natural tendency of any Executive or individual, even if he or she passes from a legislature such as this behind the green baize doors into ministerial office, will, as far as possible, be to conduct their business in secret without the pressures of parliamentary or public opinion infringing on the ability to take the decisions that they see fit to take. But that principle is not acceptable to democracy and an increasing amount of democratic light will have to be let into the proceedings of the Council of Ministers.

None of this diminishes my genuine enthusiasm for the Maastricht treaty, for two reasons. The treaty does not pretend to be anything more than one further, if historic, stage in the process of European integration which began with the 1957 treaty of Rome—and I wholly agree with the statement repeatedly made in recent days by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that it would be wrong to pursue the constitutional arguments at this time. After all, the treaty makes provision for a review in 1996, which gives time enough to reconsider the important issues that I mentioned.

I shall therefore confine my remaining remarks to two decisions that must be confronted and taken in the months ahead—the social chapter and the working time directive, and the vexed issue of the free movement of persons and internal frontiers—[Interruption.] I could not hear the sedentary intervention of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), but I shall be happy to give way to him.

Mr. George Robertson

I said that the working time directive is particularly relevant at this time in the morning.

Mr. Davies

I do not share the reluctance of Labour Members to work long hours when it seems worth while. I am delighted, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you called me. It is a great honour to speak in this debate and I make no complaint at all about being called a little after six o'clock in the morning. That is particularly so given that the alternative for me and other Back Benchers who have no particular call on your favours, Madam Deputy Speaker—because we are not Privy Councillors, former Ministers or otherwise of importance in the House—is that we would not have been called at all.

The working time directive is important in the serious sense in which I mentioned it. I couple it with the social chapter, although I am well aware that the directives was proposed by the Commission on the basis of previously existing treaties. Nevertheless, it forms a seamless part, with the social chapter, of a particular way of thinking that would, if it were adopted, prove disastrous for this country and the whole Community.

That thinking is based on the proposition that it is somehow possible to regulate a population into prosperity. As we know, that concept is very dear to Labour, which produced its own version during the general election campaign, in the form of a statutory minimum wage. Of course it is not possible to regulate a population into prosperity. Would that it were so easy. Nor is it possible to increase employment by increasing the cost of labour and making it less attractive to employ people.

When regulatory action such as that envisaged in the social chapter has the effect of increasing labour costs, the demand for labour will fall. The result will be not lower unemployment—which I have no doubt is the sincere aim of those who promote the social chapter in this country and elsewhere in the Community—but higher unemployment.

One cannot improve industry's competitiveness by increasing its cost base. One cannot increase private or public consumption by producing less. If one adopts a working time directive that reduces the number of hours that are worked in the economy, it follows that all the men and women in that economy will end up producing less in any given year than they would otherwise. The potential for consumption and prosperity would be not enhanced but reduced.

The thinking that has brought about the social chapter is a form of collective madness. It reaches a form of acute schizophrenia when it is associated in people's minds with a genuine concern about the future competitiveness of the Community's industries.

A number of distinguished public figures, particularly in France—Mrs Cresson and Mr Calvert are, I suppose, the best exponents of this view—entirely accept the thinking behind the social chapter. They want to load more and more social costs on to European employers; they want to take legislative and regulatory action that will reduce the number of hours worked and directly reduce productivity; at the same time, they go around saying that they are terribly worried about our ability to withstand the challenge of Japan, South Korea, the far east or the rest of the world.

If we continue to burden our industries with excessive costs and regulations, it will not be the fault of the Japanese if our trade deficit increases; it will be our fault. That is why these working time directives and social chapters—which seem so attractive at first sight, because people believe that they are being offered something for nothing—are in fact a disastrous folly. I am extremely proud of the fact that the only country that has stood up against this nonsense is ours and that our Government are the only one to have taken a stand. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister; I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on all that she is doing to withstand the working time directive.

Let me couple those remarks with an observation addressed to some of my hon. Friends, who, I suspect, thoroughly agree with my analysis of the perils of social chapters, working time directives and the rest, but who appear to be rather more sceptical about the treaty. One reason why we should push forward with ratification of the treaty as soon as possible—there are many such reasons—is that I very much hope that, once we have ratified it and it has come into force on 1 January next year, it will be possible to pray in aid of the treaty—and, specifically, article 3(B) on subsidiarity—in the European Court of Justice, if we are taken to that court in connection with refusing the 48-hour week proposal and the other obnoxious provisions of the working time directive. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend the Minister could tell me—either in his reply or at some later date—whether his legal advisers in the Foreign Office see any scope for praying in aid the subsidiary article 3(B) in the present treaty, once it has come into force, in the context of the working time directive and any litigation in which we may be involved in respect of that directive, although it was proposed under the treaties as they previously existed.

Decisions must also be made over the next few months about the free movement of persons and internal frontiers. Many people on both sides of the channel have always believed that, from 1 January next year, we would be able to pass through any internal Community frontiers without let, hindrance or bureaucracy, but we now find that that may not be the case.

That is a classic example of the need, which arises so often in politics, to reconcile two desirable objectives. Both the objectives that are at stake in this instance are extremely desirable. That we should be able to prevent uncontrolled immigration and maintain our immigration controls is, of course, vital for social peace and harmony in this country and it is vital for many other reasons. The other objective is our ability to travel freely in the Community. That, too, is a very desirable objective, as I am sure Ministers agree.

I was horrified to hear the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) say that he believed that internal frontiers were an essential part of national sovereignty. The right hon. Gentleman obviously does not know much history. He could hardly claim that, before 1914, the states of Europe had insufficient sovereignty. After all, we fought an internecine war—about as good a test of sovereignty as one could get. However, it was possible to travel through western Europe without let or hindrance and certainly without showing a passport. People could go to Paris, Berlin or Rome without a passport and only at the frontier of the Russian empire would they have been asked for one.

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who are men of broad historical vision and men of most liberal disposition in the most true and original sense of that word, would be the last to suggest that we should preclude the possibility of ever returning to the pre-1914 position. I cannot believe that anybody would wish to preclude that, so we must find a way to reconcile these two desirable and important principles—the prevention of uncontrolled immigration and the free movement of persons.

I hope that the Government have already given the matter a great deal of thought and I am sure that they will continue to do so. As a way of at least provoking a response, I shall offer my own suggestion and I shall be pleased to hear the response of my right hon. Friend the Minister. One way to reconcile the two objectives would be to establish a unified European immigration service with responsibility for control at the external frontiers, whether they are at airports or ports or on land.

What concerns my constituents about the prospective abolition of internal frontiers is that they have no trust in, say, a Greek immigration officer on the Thracian frontier deciding who might ultimately install himself or herself in Lincolnshire. If, however, the service that was responsible for the control of the common external frontier was a mixed man force, committed to the standards of compliance and the high levels of enforcement with which we are familiar, there would be confidence in the integrity of the external frontier. It would then be possible for us to achieve this desirable objective of internal free movement. It would also avoid the embarrassment of litigation before the European Court of Justice, which I fear would otherwise inevitably arise, and the embarrassing, in diplomatic and other ways, anomaly of the Irish land frontier if we decided to determine a special status for ourselves on the ground that our other frontiers are sea frontiers.

I put forward that modest proposal as part of what I hope will be a massive effort, using every imaginative source of inspiration, to reconcile these two important objectives. I should be grateful to know whet her the Government can hold out some hope that there is not simply an irreconcilable conflict between these two principles which will mean that, for ever, we shall have to abandon the hope of free movement, or else face uncontrolled immigration.

6.29 am
Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

It is said, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is always very handy to have a sense of humour in the House of Commons. After sitting here for 15 hours, anybody's sense of humour—even Benny Hill's—would be stretched to its limits. I should like—not just because everyone else has done it—to congratulate you on your elevation to the Chair. There can be few greater honours in this country than to sit in the Chair of the House of Commons. I hope that you will have the honour to sit in that Chair for many years to come. As with so many other great honours, great responsibilities go with it. To have sat through 56 speeches in a debate that has lasted for 16 hours seems to me to be a fairly heavy price to pay for that honour, but no doubt you will carry it very well indeed.

One of the traditions of the House is to refer to those who have made maiden speeches in the debate. The fact that their stamina has not been up to surviving to this stage means that they will be faced with the well-known expression in the House of Commons, "I shall look forward to reading your speech in Hansard", which is the equivalent of, "My cheque is in the post" and, "I shall respect you even more in the morning, darling." I am sure that on Friday morning they will look intently at Hansard for Wednesday to see what was said about them.

I begin with the maiden speeches of the hon. Members for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) and for Monmouth (Mr. Evans). I do so for no other specific reason than that they are still here and are still, apparently, conscious. That stands in their favour. The hon. Member for Chingford came to the House with a speech that had many echoes of his predecessor, who cannot and will not be forgotten easily in the House. His courage, shown after the Brighton bombing, and his transparent love and care for his injured wife, Margaret, were as much an inspiration to many hon. Members as his political views were a complete turn-off. I am confident that Mr. Norman Tebbit would take that as a great compliment, coming from this side of the House. The hon. Member for Chingford spoke with fluency and conviction. We look forward to hearing him again.

The hon. Member for Harborough spoke with style, skill and modesty. He follows Sir John Farr whom we remember with great affection. The hon. Member for Monmouth was obviously a lawyer. The moment he stood up one knew that all that was missing was the invoice that normally accompanies any advice given by a lawyer to any audiences. I remember that when the present Secretary of State for Defence was a mere Back Bencher, he said to a dinner for lawyers in Glasgow, "Knowing how much it costs to speak to one of you, I am greatly complimented to be speaking to 200 of you." The hon. Member for Monmouth deployed an argument with which I did not agree, but he did it with some style. He reminded us of both his predecessors, who also made an impression in this House.

As for the speeches of those hon. Members who are not here at the moment—I am sure that none has returned, although some of them are probably coming in for breakfast and, if I keep this going for long enough, who knows, the compliments may coincide with their presence—my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) impressed the House with his humour and with the warmth of his tribute to his defeated predecessor. I went to campaign in Hyndburn in 1987 when the Conservative majority was 21. Not, I am sure, as a consequence of my visit, the Conservative majority went up to 2,200. Therefore, my hon. Friend the new Member for Hyndburn is probably quite glad that I did not go to help him in this election campaign. He certainly spoke fluently and with a sense of humour, which is one of the most valuable commodities that one can deploy in the House of Commons. I am sure that he will learn quickly that a sense of humour must be deployed with some aplomb.

My hon. Friend reminded us of a previous hon. Member for Hyndburn, when the constituency was called Accrington, Mr. Arthur Davidson. He is still remembered with great affection. He and I were Opposition defence spokesmen before we were sacked in 1981. Mr. Arthur Davidson was a Queen's counsel. He moved an amendment to the Army Bill, which would have had, he thought, the effect of removing homosexuality as a capital offence in the armed forces. After he withdrew the amendment, the Clerk at the Table told that Queen's counsel that, due to a flaw in the drafting, the amendment would have made homosexuality compulsory in the Army. We might have been remembering Mr. Arthur Davidson for even greater reasons.

My hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) and for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) are Members of the European Parliament, and therefore I know them extremely well. They both are friends. I am one of the few people in the House who are able to recognise or even to speak to more than half a dozen Members of the European Parliament from both sides of the political divide. My hon. Friends come with formidable reputations from that House. In following people such as Frank Haynes and Jack Ashley, they follow people of enormous stature. Both spoke with immense authority. The force of their convictions will help the House in its future considerations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr Gunnell) also comes from a formidable background. A major local government figure, he brings great expertise in the European dimension. My hon. Friend is a former leader of West Yorkshire county council. I know him well. He follows Merlyn Rees, who is a former holder of some of the great offices of state and also a friend of mine. The Morley part of my hon. Friend's constituency was held for an-all-too brief period by one of my closest friends, Ken Woolmer. I am sure that my hon. Friend will follow him with the same assiduity.

I also know the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan), because I met him when he was the BBC's Europe correspondent. He is one of the few people who will manage the transition well from one side of the television camera to the other. He impressed all hon. Members by his ability to make a speech of enormous authority and fluency without a single note. The vigour of his contribution and the fact that he has followed at close quarters the changing dimensions of Europe will be readily drawn on in future. I warned him that I would probably blight his career for ever with over-lavish praise for his maiden speech, so I shall restrict myself to saying that the House was impressed by what he said.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) made balanced contribution, given the traumas that he must have faced, as did the hon. Member for Monmouth, in fighting a highly publicised by-election and losing. Having fought a highly publicised by-election and won. I know how traumatic that can be. It is possible only to imagine that, by losing, one loses more that one's livelihood and expectations. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley follows, before Mike Carr, David Waddington, now Lord Waddington. I am the Member of Parliament for Hamilton—the first Hamilton of 22 Hamiltons in the world. One of the most celebrated Hamiltons is the capital of Bermuda. As David Waddington was my pair when he was Home Secretary, I look forward to a pairing arrangement between Hamilton in Lanarkshire and Hamilton in Bermuda, where there is a slight differential in unemployment rate.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I have inherited Mr. David Waddington's agent in Perth and Kinross and he is now in residence. I also met the prospective governor of Bermuda and told him that I hoped that he was not going to give up his processional uniform. He told me that he had been measured for his feathers yesterday.

Mr. Robertson

I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) could give the prospective governor lessons in feathers any day of the week. Nothing that the governor will wear out there will make him look more flamboyant that the outfit worn at 6.40 am by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross, who used to be my Member of Parliament.

Several hon. Members took the courtesy to apologise for their absence during the wind-up speeches although even more did not. I received a letter from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), which read: Dear George, Tam and I have to go off for a TV broadcast on Maastricht. If we miss your winding-up speech, will you accept our apologies? As both of them said that they were going to vote against the party line—one with the Government and the other not even voting for the reasoned amendment—I take it that that is an informal pairing arrangement. If only they had known to hang about until the winding-up speeches, they could have appeared live on breakfast television instead of being in the studio.

We are considering a major treaty and a major Bill. Our lengthy debate is a proper reflection of the importance that the House places on the subject. However, in this debate and in Committee, we must remember that the Maastricht treaty does not represent a conclusion: it is a stage in a process of continuing European integration which is not static, but dynamic. It cannot therefore be judged simply on the snapshot that the treaty represents.

The treaty is neither as rigid nor as iron cast as its critics said that it would be. Nor is it as far reaching or as significant as the visionaries would have had us believe at the end of last year. Instead, it is a compromise step forward. It is a cautious compromise of the 12 nation states in the long-term practical integration of Europe's nations.

The Labour party has campaigned for several years for much of what the treaty contains. The Government resisted much of that, but they accepted certain aspects at Maastricht in Holland in December. For example, we called for more democratically accountable institutions in the Community. The Government said no to that, but signed up to it in the treaty. We argued for majority voting on the environment and for certain areas in the social sphere. The Government argued against that, but signed up at Maastricht. We argued for a more positive role for the European Parliament in relation to majority voting in the Council of Ministers. The Government said, "No way", but they signed up to it at Maastricht.

We also argued for more new competences to take into account other areas such as public health, education and youth training. The Government said no to new competences, but they signed up to them at Maastricht. We said that there should be a role for the regions and that is in the treaty. We said that there should be voting rights for Community citizens in local government elections and European elections. The Government said no, but that is in the treaty.

We said that there should be a Community industry policy to balance the Community's internal market policy. The Government said, "No way", but they signed up to it in the treaty. We also said that regional policy had to be an integral part of building the internal market in the Community. The Government, who oppose regional policy at home and who said that it had no place in Europe, signed up to a cohesion fund and strengthened structural funds in the treaty.

The objective of the 12 nations on political union was to create a more co-operative, more democratic and more effective Community. There was progress in those areas. However, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said earlier, the Bill is not the treaty. We measure the Bill in relation to the principal defect—a unique British defect in the treaty. The social chapter is not applicable to this country. It is a glaring omission which is recognised and understood by the Prime Minister's fellow Conservative Heads of Government all over Europe. The social policy protocol which forced the other 11 countries to take the desired and sensible majority voting procedures outside the treaty is a simple monstrosity which has led to the Government's condemnation by their peer group in Europe.

In February the other Conservative Heads of Government in the Community said in a resolution: The Conference … deplores, in this context, the fact that the British Prime Minister and leader of the British Conservative Party took a negative position in Maastricht concerning European Political Union, particularly with regard to a common social policy. But while all this was happening, and on the day that the general election was called, to a man and woman all the Conservative Members of the European Parliament signed up for the European People's party grouping within the European Parliament. That meant that they signed up to a declaration which says: The bringing about of the Internal Market is unthinkable without the establishment of the social area, because a reduction in the level of protection afforded by social and labour regulations would have serious complications for employment and the social condition of the worker. Every British Conservative MEP has signed up to that declaration. They are full members of the overtly federalist arm of the European People's party in the European Parliament.

A dangerous suspicion has been left in the atmosphere of Europe that if the United Kingdom can opt out of the social policy provisions of the European Communities treaties, others may opt out of perhaps environmental law or even internal market law and, as a consequence, endanger all that has been achieved in the Community to date.

After a debate of this length, it is a cliche to say that we must look to the future and not to the past. I hesitate about using such clichés, because they sound so self-evident. But some hon. Members from both sides of the House who have spoken do not seem to realise that the old past, the old certainties and freedoms of movement and maneouvrability, and the old flexibilities that we used to enjoy as a nation state, simply no longer exist. Those people are in danger of making the grave mistake of confusing the trappings of independence and sovereignty, which so many small nation statelets in the world suffer from such as stamps, flags, United Nations seats and even bicameral legislatures, with real independence and sovereignty, which is an illusion for all but the strongest economies in the world.

The treaty has to be seen and measured not against what might be, might have been or even what was when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield presided over the energy Council of Ministers some 20 years ago, but against the world that we face today, with a dramatically interdependent and inescapable set of relationships within Europe. Sixty per cent. of Britain's exports are sold within the European Community. As just more than a third of our GDP is exported, that means that one fifth of Britain's GDP and, therefore, a fifth of all Britain's jobs depend directly on sales to other member states. That does not count the jobs that are indirectly involved. With that interdependence, we cannot escape, in or out of the EC or the ERM, the effects on all of us of the dominant influence of Europe's strongest economy—Germany. It is still strong, despite the problems that it faces, and it is still growing, in stark contrast to the British economy.

So our sovereignty—our sovereign ability to go it alone as if we could just cast off the handcuffs of EC membership to determine our own interest rates, our own ideal and profitable exchange rates, and our own public sector deficit—is just a myth. It is a myth, as the queue of new applicants to the European Community amply illustrates. France, Italy, Austria, Sweden and even Switzerland are not joining up as some act of selfless altruism to the European Community. They are doing it because they want to get back some sovereignty over decisions that have already gone from their countries and from the control of their Parliaments.

I admire and greatly respect Germany. I have a deep affection for the German people. I wear, with enormous pride, the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, but, as a British politician, I do not want the British economy to be run from Frankfurt. The treaty goes a small way towards creating the structure that will give us back some of our independence. It is filled with defects and in sore need of improvement. It must face up to the challenges that unemployment and lack of growth throughout the EC will cause in terms of strife and racialism, which is increasing.

However, it is a start. If we have the willingness as a country, we can ensure that we campaign and that the right criteria are pursued so that we are not trapped in a monetarist mould and are able to make an impact on the evils stalking the corridors of Europe, which are a serious danger to all of us. It is a small and a flawed movement forwards, but the House has given it fair consideration today. Undoubtedly, it will arrive at a sensible conclusion tomorrow, by voting for our reasoned amendment.

6.51 am
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Garel-Jones)

This is the first time that I have addressed the House with you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I join other Members who have congratulated you. I shall begin to sum up today's debate by quoting from the treaty that we are discussing in a way that will give you special pleasure, because before you took your place in the Chair you had a reputation in the House as one of the doughtiest campaigners on behalf of animal welfare. I know that it will give you pleasure to know that we have included in the treaty a declaration of animal welfare which ensures that the Community, when implementing Community legislation on the common agricultural policy, transport, the internal market and research, pays full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.

This has been a good debate. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said, 54 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have spoken—

Mr. George Robertson

And Ladies.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Yes, and Ladies. It has been worth staying to the end of the debate to hear the speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn). I shall return to those, because they had a special message for our general debate.

The debate was opened by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Opposition, who quoted from a recent speech in which Hans-Dietrich Genscher said that there was no point in harking back to yesterday's dreams. Although one is pleased that the Opposition seem to have deserted the position on Europe that they held for so long, the difficulty that they face can be judged by the amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), which still harks back to yesterday's dreams. That is not surprising, as the Labour party has to conduct an internal discussion about the sort of socialism—or whatever one is supposed to call it these days—that it will present to the British public in the coming years. It is not surprising that the amendment harks back to socialism, which is why it is not a convincing one. That is why many of the speeches from the Opposition have demonstrated a complete range of choices. Some Opposition Members will vote for the amendment, some right hon. Members of the Opposition will vote against it, while the Members of the Liberal Democrat party and of the nationalist parties will vote with the Government in favour of Second Reading.

The confusion on the Labour Benches does not hide the significance of the debate. I do not wish to detain the House, but I shall try to refer to most of the speeches. What emerged from the debate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) pointed out, is the fact that this is perhaps the first really important debate that we have had on matters concerning the European Community where a kind of consensus has begun to emerge. That consensus means that, at least, no party seriously questions membership of the Community. That may mean that, in the coming years, we shall have more debates of the kind that we have started to have today, where we are able to address not whether we belong to the Community, but the kind of Community that we want to see as a British Parliament and depending on the individual political interests of our respective parties.

The debate was opened from the Back Benches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who described himself as a born-again Back Bencher. He made two important points. First, he referred to the events that have taken place in eastern Europe. I am sure that the House will agree with him that those events have changed everything—they must change our view not only of the Community, but of the way in which it will develop in the future. I was particularly pleased to note the way in which he welcomed the achievement of the Government in the negotiation of setting up the pillars of intergovernmental co-operation. I hope that my right hon. Friend and other long-standing sceptics of the Community will begin to find that the new mechanisms within the wider union will make it possible for them not only to take part in debates on the Community—my right hon. Friend always does—but to feel more able to participate in our efforts in the Community.

My right hon. Friend called for more contact with other Parliaments and said that he would like to know what they are saying about the issues before us. I am sure that he will be pleased to know that the treaty contains within it the prospect of a conference of Parliaments. Most people who agree with that proposal hope that it will not be anything like the assizes to which my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central referred. Many of those who were responsible for setting up the assizes would want the conference of Parliaments to resemble them as little as possible.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) spoke about the federal character of the union. In effect he said that that was what other people think. However, he recognised that not only had the word federal been removed from the treaty but that the Government had managed to restrain the centripetal forces that seem to have operated for past 20 years in the Community. Nevertheless, because others take a different view, he chose to believe that that view would triumph.

The speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) interested the House substantially. Many hon. and right hon. Members referred not only to the interior justice pillar but the problem of article 8(A) in so far as it refers to the free movement of people within the Community. My right hon. Friend described the new justice and interior pillar, which he had a considerable hand in setting up with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, prior to the Maastricht negotiations. That pillar will be one of the tests of intergovernmental co-operation. I hope that, with the support of Opposition Members, the Conservative party will take up the cause of law and order on a European scale, where appropriate, with the same enthusiasm and drive as we have carried that cause forward at home. By 1996 we must demonstrate to our partners in the Community that that new pillar of European law and order works and delivers benefits in the struggle against terrorism, organised international crime and drugs. It must deliver benefits that will help to consolidate those pillars, because I cannot disguise from the House the fact that many people in the Community regard them as staging posts on the way to a more centralised structure. We must argue about that and demonstrate that those pillars will provide law and order benefits for our citizens.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley spoke about two areas of competence that are not in the intergovernmental pillar: the visa lists and the common format for the visas, and what he referred to as the "double lock". That means that all matters relating to law and order and interior justice, except the visa lists and the common visa format, cannot be removed from the interior justice pillar without the unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers, so we have a veto there. And even if that unanimous agreement is obtained, it must then be agreed by all the individual Parliaments of the 12 member states.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley, who was Home Secretary at the time and took a special interest in that matter, can claim to have secured for us within the Community an interior justice pillar that gives us an opportunity, if we are prepared to show leadership, to demonstrate to our partners that it can be an effective arm of European co-operation outside the scope of the treaty.

Our postion on article 8A of the Single European Act is well known. The former Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, negotiated not only the final eight words of article 8A in accordance with the provisions of the treaty, but a protocol signed by all 12 member states. We believe that our legal position is strong and we shall fight on it. But the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley was making was about political climate, and the European Court of Justice and judges in this country and in the Supreme Court in the United States must ultimately be influenced by political opinion. Political opinion within the Community is moving very much on that issue, because the issue of false asylum seekers and illegal immigration is now at the top of the agenda in Germany, France and Italy. The climate of opinion on the problems that we all face will assist what we regard as our strong legal position.

One of the steps that we in Britain can take, without being sanctimonious in any way, is to say that we have pretty strict immigration controls, which work. As was recognised only two or three months ago by the Council of Europe, however, we also have the most comprehensive and complete legislation of any European country to protect against racial discrimination. While none of us is entirely satisfied with the state of race relations in Britain and we think that they could be better, we know that they are improving and we are proud of the way the immigrant communities in our country are becoming more involved in the mainstream of social life.

We should say to our European partners, "We want to retain our tough immigration controls as we believe that it is right to do so and they provide the only way that we as an island state can exercise control, but do not imagine for a minute that we do not have good and improving racerelations: we have no fascist or communist parties—they do not have so much as a toe-hold in public life in Britain, and we intend to keep it that way."

As the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said, the Liberal Democrats have taken a consistent approach to the European Economic Community for 40 years. He knows that his party's position is not shared by Conservative Members. The Liberal Democrats have consistently supported what I suppose in European terms would be called the federal vocation. However, as I have said many times, it is not a mortal sin to believe in the federal vocation. There are even one or two Conservative Members who believe in it and, I believe, a growing number in the Labour party. Neither the Conservative party nor the Government believe in the federal vocation, but the Liberal Democrats have stuck honourably to their approach and naturally we welcome their support in the Lobby.

I was sorry to miss the speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), as he is always an interesting, distinguished and provocative speaker. I suspect from the notes given to me by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the right hon. Gentleman probably made the most capable contribution of those Opposition Members who believe that economic and monetary union is a shift of power to central bankers who would impose on a socialist party and a socialist Government an unwelcome restraint on borrowing. They believe that it would inhibit the pursuit of the sort of socialist society that the right hon. Gentleman still wants. A number of Opposition Members, to whom I shall refer later, made the same points in what I suspect was a less effective way than the right hon. Member for Llanelli.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who, in the previous Parliament, was Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, also made a distinguished contribution. His principal point, and one on which the Government lay great stress, was that co-operation between the 12 member states—whether via the interior justice pillar or the common foreign and security pillar—was not inferior to co-operation between the member states under the treaty of Rome. Indeed, it could be argued that, particularly in the spheres of foreign affairs and interior justice, co-operation will he stronger and more effective if it is entered into willingly by the member states than if it is achieved through the mechanisms of the treaty of Rome.

The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), in what I thought was his maiden speech, talked about trooping through the Lobby on behalf of the Whips—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was not his maiden speech."] That is excellent, as it means that I can be a little bit more robust with him than I otherwise might have been.

The hon. Member for Hemsworth complained about having to troop through the Lobbies. He is a relatively new Member; this House has a number of deficiencies, but, as he spends more time here, he will find that although the Whips do exercise power and attempt to get Members to troop through the Lobbies, this House is not quite so empty a vessel as he implied it was.

The hon. Gentleman made the mistake of saying that the scrutiny procedures of this House are the worst in Europe. He was immediately put right on that by his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who chairs the Scrutiny Committee. Scrutiny in this House may not be as good as we should like it to be, and I daresay that it is susceptible of improvement, but, as the hon. Member for Newham, South pointed out, together with that of the Danes ours is easily the most effective scrutiny of draft EC legislation in the Community.

We did not think it right in a treaty affecting this or other Parliaments to include a provision that would bind the way in which Parliaments operate, but we inserted a declaration at the end of the treaty urging national Governments to lay draft EC legislation before their national Parliaments in time for them to study and comment on it before Ministers go to Brussels. I am pleased to tell the House that in the course of debates in the French Assembly on the ratification process, the opposition have already demanded that this should take place, and have referred to our procedures. I hope that in the next three or four years we shall try to improve our procedures and that other Parliaments will begin to take scrutiny of the EC legislation as seriously as we do.

I can asure the House that no Minister from the United Kingdom goes to the Council to debate these issues without the opinions of hon. Members and their constituents ringing in his ears.

Mr. Robertson

While looking around at the ratification process in other Community countries, has the Minister noticed that the only other significant European leader to agree with the British Conservative party about the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty is Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French National Front? Should not the Minister and his party be ashamed of that?

Mr. Garel-Jones

If the hon. Gentleman hangs around for three or four years he may find that great rafts of social legislation do not emerge from the 11 member states who signed the separate protocol. He may find that the social ambitions of the Community continue to be pursued through the treaty and the 12 member states. One of the reasons why the public enthusiasm of some of our partners for this protocol will not translate into legislation through the 11 is that they realise, some of them with terror, that the British will no longer be in the forum—(Interruption.] Only time will tell, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that the public enthusiasm of some member states for the protocol will not translate into a great raft of social legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) told the House that he had voted both for the entry of Britain into the EC and for the Single European Act. I am sorry that he now regards the Bill as having what I think he called a gravitational pull towards a unitary state. I and, I think, most of my colleagues believe the exact opposite to be the case. This is the first time that the gravitational pull has begun to move in the other direction. If my hon. Friend carries out his declared intention to vote against the Government tomorrow, the European cause will have lost a substantial ally.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made a powerful and characteristic speech. He seemed to say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now ran the whole Government, and in secret. In fact, the opposite is true, because one of the wise decisions taken by this country when it entered the Community was that each Department would be responsible for its own business in the Community. That has served Britain well over the years—Ministers from various Departments attend Council meetings to look after their business and they liaise through the Cabinet Office. The right hon. Gentleman persists in believing that the Foreign Office runs everything in secret. He describes the Committee of Permanent Representatives as a mysterious group of Sir Humphries, and he now believes that we are governed solely by the royal prerogative. The best reply to him was given by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald).

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) also made an interesting contribution and supported in particular the right given to Parliament by clause 2—the right for this Parliament to make its decision at the time and in the light of the prevailing circumstances if the Government of the day were to recommend moving to stage 3 of economic and monetary union. I am sure that that is right, and some of the countries in the EC who have begun to discuss such issues post-Maastricht wish that they had also made the same wise provision that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister achieved for the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope), who was making his maiden speech, did so elegantly and modestly. He was witty and he amused the House, saying that he had been spotted on television by his mother and upbraided for not bowing to Madam Speaker when he left the Chamber. I think that the feeling of being scalded by mother is one with which many Conservative Members are familiar. We were extremely grateful to him for his remarks about Ken Hargreaves, which were generous but accurate. They were well received by the House. The hon. Member for Hyndburn spoke well and with modesty, and I am sure the House will look forward to hearing him again.

Also making a maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) spoke of his predecessor, Sir David Price. Sir David was liked and respected by members of all parties and did a substantial amount of work for the disabled not only on Select Committees but throughout his time in the House. He was an extremely popular and well-liked hon. Member. His successor spoke fluently and without notes and showed sensible support for what I would call a new model Europe. He mentioned one issue on which one cannot place too much emphasis, and that is the way in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has built a series of personal relationships of trust—not only with Chancellor Kohl but with other leaders in the Community—which has been of enormous benefit to the country. Politics—whether from the Government or the Opposition—depend to a large extent on personal relationships. I hope that the House—not we as a Government—will take up the exhortations in the declarations at the end of the treaty to build relationships with the European Parliament and to take part in the conference of parliaments. I hope also that individual Members will do all that they can to build personal relationships with the European Parliament and with other European politicians.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) described the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to the European Parliament. I am sure that his description of the visit gave pleasure to all who heard it. He also spoke, as did several other hon. Members, of the Committee of the Regions. One of the benefits of this debate and consideration of the Bill in Committee, which we are soon to undertake, is that right hon. and hon. Members, especially those with strong regional interests, will be enabled to put their views about the Committee of the Regions to the Government on the Floor of the House at a time when the Government have not yet proceeded to come to any conclusions. Right hon. and hon. Members will have the opportunity to put forward their views about the way in which the Committee should be managed.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who held an important position in the previous Parliament as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, made an interesting speech. I would take up two matters with him. First, I think that it is wrong to suggest that we should have before us now a consolidated text. I say that that is wrong because I think that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members would regard it as perhaps presumptuous to say the least if the Government and the Community were already printing a final consolidated version of the amended treaty before it had been approved by the House and by other parliaments throughout the Community and ratified.

I recognise that it is quite a complicated matter to read one document from the other, as my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central said. Many hon. Members take the trouble to read these documents and are well capable of doing so. I think that it is more important that the Community, Brussels and the Government should not be seen to be presuming that all the ratification processes will take place before the national parliaments have had an opportunity to examine them.

The hon. Member for Newham, South talked about article 3B of the treaty, which is the subsidiarity text to which several hon. Members have referred. The hon. Gentleman has raised the matter before. I have sought, clearly inadequately, to put his mind at rest. The fact about article 3B, which he seems not yet to have taken on board, is that there are three paragraphs, the third of which consists of one sentence which reads: Any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Treaty". The previous paragraph refers to areas that do not fall within the Community's exclusive competence. The reason that the final sentence is separated from that paragraph is to ensure that even in the areas of the Community's exclusive competence no action should be taken that goes "beyond what is necessary". I think that I have given the hon. Gentleman the answer previously and I hope that that will be sufficient.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) wrote to me, as he did to the hon. Member for Hamilton, and even as I speak he is perhaps appearing on breakfast television. Hon. Members may be interested to know—I had forgotten this—that the hon. Member for Linlithgow is one of the 67 Labour Members who rebelled against their own party and voted for Britain's accession to the European Community in the first place. The hon. Gentleman, in a characteristic speech, told the House that he intended to continue with the honourable position that he has held since then. He and. I dare say, the deputy leader of the Labour party, who is one of the four remaining Members, will be joining us in the Lobby tomorrow to support the Bill. I cannot think of any Labour Member with whom it would give me more pleasure to go through the Lobby than the hon. Member for Linlithgow.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) made a characteristic speech. Before the election, he returned from his place of permanent exile and actually voted for the Government in our debate at that time on Maastricht. He obviously found that an unnerving experience. While he was urging the House today to continue to fight against Bonapartism, which I think is his new description of the Community, it was clear that he was returning to exile. I regret to say that he put us under notice that he would not be supporting us in the division tomorrow.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) made an intelligent and supportive speech about the Community. The hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), whom I have not encountered before in debate, is a Member of the European Parliament. He made the same speech as his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli, but it was not so well chosen, so well phrased or so intelligent as that of his right hon. Friend. Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, all I can say is that the European Parliament's gain will be our loss.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) paid a tribute to Norman Tebbit which I believe moved not just Conservative Members but Opposition Members. Norman Tebbit was a quite extraordinary politician—was what our former colleague, Chris Patten, would describe as a very big beast of the jungle. In personal terms, he was an extremely courageous man. As my hon. Friend said—and, indeed, the hon. Member for Hamilton generously acknowledged—Norman Tebbit courageously bore the tremendous adversity and tragedy that was thrust upon him. He was an inspiration to many people.

My hon. Friend made a lucid speech. He fears creeping federalism, but I think that his fears are misplaced. The treaty begins to turn the tide against that. We certainly look forward to hearing more from him.

I note that the Whip is looking at me anxiously, so I shall conclude by referring to the remaining maiden speech and to the speeches of my two hon. Friends who are still in the Chamber. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) spoke of his predecessor, Mr. Jack Ashley—a man who was widely admired throughout the House. He, too, has been an inspiration to many. The hon. Gentleman is also still a Member of the European Parliament and I am sure that he will make many interesting and important contributions to these debates.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) spoke about our former colleague Sir John Farr, who was a courageous and respected colleague. The one way that we would all describe him is as a country man and an English man in every sense. He, too, had to bear quite a degree of personal adversity in his last few years in the House, and he did so with real courage. We are grateful to our hon. Friend for what he had to say about our former colleague. I was also grateful to him for the way he described his approach to the Community, which he commended to us—that we should work the clay rather than smash the pot. That is a felicitous turn of phrase.

The hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) made a maiden speech and my right hon. and hon. Friends were pleased with his remarks about Merlyn Rees. Merlyn held the highest offices in the land, but he remained a modest and widely popular colleague in the House. The hon. Gentleman clearly sees that investment in his constituency is investment generally looking for the wider European market and he, too, will clearly be a regular and important contributor to our debates on these matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) has had the harrowing experience of losing a by-election and then winning the election. I and, I know, other colleagues were particularly pleased to hear what he had to say about our noble Friend Lord Waddington. I served unber David Waddington in the Whips Office. He was a tough, trad-right hard, honourable Conservative and he was well liked as Chief Whip and in the other offices that he held. My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley made a fluent and well-crafted speech. He welcomed the principle of subsidiarity and intergovernmental co-operation and he, too, will be a frequent contributor to these debates.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) spoke of our former colleague Chris Chope. We were particularly grateful to him for the generous way in which he spoke of Chris Chope, whom he described as a conviction politician who did not trim, and certainly he was that—he may have seemed a tough man, and politically he probably was, but he was also, in the way that conviction politicians often are, a very nice man. We are sorry that he is not with us and we hope to see him back soon.

Mr. George Robertson

I intrude because I managed to miss my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) from my record of the maiden speeches. I would have said that he spoke strongly and, at 2 am, he commanded more attention than that time in the morning would have suggested. He has a great contribution to make. He defeated Chris Chope, who was at Dundee university with me. My hon. Friend defeated a formidable opponent and for that very reason he will make his contribution to the House.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I agree with that. The hon. Member for Itchen described Southampton as an outward-looking European city and it sounds to me as though he will be an outward-looking European Member and we shall look forward to hearing from him.

There were a number of other speeches from the Opposition Benches. One of the characteristics of the unreconstructed ones was that the hon. Members still seemed to be searching for a socialist Europe. Just as they will not achieve a socialism here in Britain, they will not achieve a socialist Europe either.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) expressed an interest in article 3B, subsidiarity, and the answer that I gave earlier also takes up my hon. Friend's point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) rightly drew attention to the number of debates in the House before the Maastricht treaty was signed. He made the point, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) that that gives the Prime Minister a considerable mandate not only prior to his going to Maastricht but on his return, having achieved the objectives that he set out for the House. That gives him the right to come to the House today and to ask for the support of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) made a confident and robust speech of the kind that we would perhaps take for granted from members of his profession. Nevertheless I thank him for his warm remarks about Sir John Stradling Thomas, with whom I also served in the Whips Office. I believe that he was happiest as deputy Chief Whip, and his success in that job was due to the enormous range of friendships that he built up in all parts of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth can be assured that his remarks will have been appreciated by right hon. Friends and hon. Members in all parts of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth asked a number of pertinent questions, and he gave the lie to the fears expressed by some, when he pointed out that the treaty refers specifically to the open market economy. He expressed the belief shared by a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends that the treaty as it now stands provides a charter for an open market and a liberal approach to the economy. My hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and for Stamford and Spalding (Mr Davies) made typically crisp and effective speeches.

Two speeches in particular caught my attention. Those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who know my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central well will not disagree when I say that he is in many ways a typical prototype Englishman. That is what he is, and that is what he represents. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central cogently expressed many of the fears and anxieties felt by middle England over the past 10 or 15 years about our membership of the EC. Will it take away the basic rights of the House? Will it make the country that we know and love substantially different? Shall we be forced into assizes, in which we find ourselves confronted by 250 composite motions? All those fears are genuine, and they are held by a substantial number of my hon. Friend's constituents and my own.

I always listen carefully to the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn). Scottish Members of Parliament—three are present in the Chamber now—will appreciate that even when my hon. and learned Friend is at his most witty and amusing, and sometimes at this most outrageous, one should pay close attention to his words. My hon. and learned Friend made two important points. He asked what is the history of Europe, and he gave the answer—conflict. Just so. He said also that the treaty can mean what we want it to mean. That is the real achievement of Maastricht.

For the first time I can remember, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has taken by the throat the European agenda and the centripetal forces which, for the past 20 or 30 years, have seemed to allow the Community to make the assured progress towards the finalite politique that Jacques Delors seeks. My right hon. Friend helped to shape a new construction called the European union.

I cannot tell my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central for certain that the Maastricht treaty is the moment when the tide turned, or that I am certain that we have won the arguments in respect of the intergovernmental pillars and the position that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister sought to secure for the Western European Union and its relationship with NATO. What I can tell him is that, thanks to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done, the treaty really can mean what we want it to mean. I can also tell him that, if he joins us in the Lobby tomorrow—and if Opposition Members do so as well—we can make the treaty mean what we want it to mean. We can build a European union which is not leading to the centralist finalite politique but will enable us and other nation states to co-operate in a way that my hon. Friend will find satisfactory.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

To be resumed tomorrow.