HC Deb 04 November 1992 vol 213 cc283-385
Madam Speaker

Before we come to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, I must inform the House of two things. First, more than 90 hon. Members have intimated to me that they wish to speak in the debate; I therefore ask all right hon. and hon. Members who are called to exercise a great deal of restraint. I am sure that it will be obvious that I have had to impose the 10-minute limit on speeches between the hours of 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock. Secondly, I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, so let us get on with it.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely it is wrong that the procedures of the House do not take into account what is clearly a multi-party system. The amendment tabled by Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party—a motion of no confidence in the Government's blundering handling of the Maastricht treaty—has widespread support in the House and in the country. What steps can be taken to protect the rights of minority parties—especially when our amendment of no confidence has the support of the majority in the country—and to ensure that their rights are upheld? Our amendment deals with the issue that is at the heart of today's debate.

Madam Speaker

All the authority I have—through our Standing Orders and procedures which have been handed down for centuries—is used to protect the rights of minority parties. The hon. Gentleman is right. He has been to see me about the matter and I am sympathetic to what he said, but I have to make a decision to protect the rights of majorities as well as those of minorities.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. There is a solution to that problem, and it is very easy. If that minority party there —the Scottish nationalists—will tell this minority party here—the Liberals—to vote with us tonight on our amendment, they can have a vote of no confidence tomorrow.

Madam Speaker

Would that all my problems were solved as easily.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)


Madam Speaker

Is the hon. Lady seeking to raise another point of order?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) knows that he was out of order, because he had no seat in the House when he raised his point of order.

Madam Speaker

There are so many Members crowding into the Chamber that I could not see whether he was in his place at the time. We must now make progress.

3.42 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

I beg to move, That this House notes that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill received a majority of 244 at its second reading and was committed to a Committee of the whole House; acknowledges that the House was promised a debate prior to the committee stage; notes that the Danish Government's intentions have now been clarified; recalls the Lisbon Council's commitment to subsidiarity, the Birmingham Council's agreement on a framework for decisions to implement that principle and the practical steps already taken to achieve it; recognises that the United Kingdom should play a leading role in the development of the European Community to achieve a free market Europe open to accession by other European democracies, thereby promoting employment, prosperity and investment into the United Kingdom; and invites Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the Bill in order that the House should consider its provisions in further detail. I should like to turn in a moment in some detail to the provisions of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and the agreement at Maastricht, but I should like, for a moment, just to put this afternoon's debate in context, for I think that that is relevant.

The past two years have seen massive changes, both within Europe and beyond it in almost every part of the world. The Soviet empire has collapsed. Russia has 1,500 per cent. inflation, and the Ukraine higher still. Across the whole of eastern Europe, new democracies are looking to the west and trying to rebuild their countries in a democratic image.

In Europe, in the former Yugoslavia there is a brutal war. The United States—the mightiest economy in the world—has been struggling for the past two years. Japan has falling growth and severe problems in the financial sector. Within the European Community, Italy, France, Germany, Greece and Spain all face increasing economic difficulties as well as those that we face in the United Kingdom.

The world has not seen such a whirlwind of events coming together for many decades, and that is an important background to the debate today. The motion before us is about the treaty agreed at Maastricht, but the substance is about Britain's priorities in Europe, and the essential question there is quite simple: in this country, are we or are we not to play a central role in Europe's future development? I believe that the answer that this House gives to that question is fundamental to our future well-being—both economic and political. I have no doubt about the anwer to that question. The answer, in our own national self-interest, must be yes—we will play a central part in the future of the European Community.

Several hon. Members


The Prime Minister

If Opposition Members will have some patience, I will give way when I have made a little progress, but I should like to set the scene and make some progress first.

I do not believe that it is credible for this country to sit by on the sidelines of Europe and let other people determine policies. That is frankly no way for the United Kingdom to behave. It is not in our interests—not now, not in the future, not at any time. I believe that I carry the majority of people in the House in the belief that very few people would advocate leaving the European Community; so let me take our future membership as a point that is accepted across the House.

The question is, what sort of Europe is it that we wish to help build? The Community today is at a crossroads. No one should duck, dodge or weave around that question. There are important decisions to be made, now and in the immediate future, about the way in which the Community develops. We can develop as a centralist institution, as some might want, or we can develop as a free-market, free-trade, wider European Community more responsive to its citizens. I am unreservedly in favour of the latter form of the Community, and I believe that that is the overwhelming view of this country.

But there is only one way in which we can bring that Community about, and I believe that it is this—by Britain playing a full part in the Community, by arguing its case, by forming alliances, by exercising its influence and authority, by persuading, by pushing, by fighting for its interests and, sometimes, by digging our toes in and saying no as we did over the social chapter and the single currency.

There is a second question of equal importance. How can a centralist federal Europe develop if some people wish to develop it? The answer to that is equally clear. A centralist Europe is most likely to develop if Britain has no influence in the Community, if it is sidelined, and if we do stand aside and let others run Europe while Britain scowls in frustration on the fringes. That is not the sort of Community that this country wants, and it would not be in the interests of this country or any political party in this country if Britain were to stand on the sidelines and let others run the Community.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As one who voted in favour of the Maastricht treaty on Second Reading, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he accepts the advice of the House authorities that, even if he were to lose the vote tonight, he could put the Bill into Committee on Monday or any time that the Government please? Is that not fact?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman will know that the answer is not as straightforward as he may suppose. Technically he may be correct, but perhaps only technically. Our position on the timing of the Committee stage is clear. We will seek to make some progress before the Edinburgh summit—we need to do so if our views on subsidiarity, enlargement and other vital issues are to carry the day when we get to that summit in Edinburgh.

The hon. Gentleman's views on Europe are well known —he has held them for many years—and he may be trying to comfort himself with the thought that a vote against Maastricht today will not compromise his principles, because the Government can still move ahead with the Committee stage. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that, in the unlikely event that the Labour party amendment were carried, we would obviously listen to the views that had been expressed in this House. The hon. Gentleman cannot shrug aside the amendment that his own right hon. Friends have put down.

To return to the question that I was developing, I cannot believe that the House wants a European Community with minimum influence for this country.

Let me now deal directly with the motion and the Bill before the House.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

Not upon this point, because I should like to make some progress, if the hon. Gentleman will permit me. I am sure that hon. Members will wish to develop many questions of substance later, and I will wish to give way when we reach some of those points.

On 3 June, I indicated to the House that there would be a debate before resuming the Committee stage. I did so in response to the then Leader of the Opposition. Despite the amendment put down by the Opposition, the roots of this debate were a request by the Opposition in the summer. Since then, we have had the French referendum, the Danish White Paper and specific proposals and, of course, the Birmingham summit. By Christmas, 10 of the 12 member states expect to have ratified the treaty, leaving only Denmark and Britain to do so.

It is against that background that the Opposition amendment proposes that we delay ratification on the grounds that we do not yet have sufficient clarity about the Danish position or certainty about the implementation of subsidiarity.

On subsidiarity, we secured the principle in the Maastricht treaty, and it is justiciable. In Lisbon, we made progress and agreed that subsidiarity should be integrated in the work of the Community as a legally binding rule. In Birmingham, we agreed a framework for specific decisions in Edinburgh.

That framework provides for a clearer understanding of what member states should do and what needs to be done by the Community. It provides for action by the Community only where member states have given it the power to do so in the treaties, and only where proper and necessary. It also provides for the lightest possible form of legislation, with maximum freedom for member states on how best to achieve the Community's objectives.

We made more progress in Birmingham than we foresaw when we went there. Implementing decisions will be agreed in Edinburgh, and the House will probably debate subsidiarity in Committee only after Edinburgh, when the outcome of Edinburgh will be known to the House.

As regards the position of Denmark, the Danish Government have now put forward a memorandum with firm policy proposals. We shall discuss that memorandum with the Danish Government and other member states. Some of the work called for by the memorandum is already in train, and was set in train not least in Birmingham. The task that lies ahead is to find ways of accommodating the needs of the Danish Government while respecting the intention of all member states, including Denmark, not to reopen the substantive text of the Maastricht treaty itself. That is a task that will very much involve Britain as President of the Community.

Let me turn for a moment to the Opposition amendment. In June, the then Leader of the Opposition said that, before the House resumed discussion on the Maastricht Bill, we should have a written report on the Danish position and a debate. The House has the report, and this is the debate.

Against that background, it can be seen that the amendment which the Labour party has put down today is a fraud. It is a very odd amendment from an allegedly pro-European party. The amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) might usefully be called a "Napoleonic" amendment. "Not tonight Josephine," is the message from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, "we'll debate it at some other time." That is not the politics of principle. It is the politics of political expediency—[Interruption.] We are told that the Leader of the Opposition is a man of great principle. We are told that he has deeply held views about Britain's place in Europe. As long ago as 1971, he said: Ministers are in a better position to secure national interests and bolster up the country's sovereignty when they are inside the conference room, not waiting outside."—[Official Report, 26 July 1971; Vol. 822; c. 128.] I could not agree more with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Then, last May, he said: I do not think that we"— the Labour party— should oppose the Maastricht treaty". Then, in September, he said: I have always believed Britain's future lies in Europe and that we must take a confident and leading role in the European Community". A leading role, but he is seeking to hide behind Denmark and the splits in his own party.

The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said just over a month ago: I want to see progress in the European Community as set out in the Maastricht treaty". He wants to see progress. That is why his amendment proposes delay—so that we can see progress. These are said to be deeply held views—principled views, honourable views. Yet now all is set aside in the interests of an expedient amendment.

The Opposition would do well to recall what the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said recently, which was as follows: Another Labour flip-flop over Europe would not only rob the party of all credibility but would be against the best interests of Britain and the European Community. He added that it would cost Labour dear. I agree with him. He then said—the Labour party should bear this in mind— there would be a heavy domestic political price to be paid for yet another volte-face over Europe. There will be.

Mr. Ashton


Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)


Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

Madam Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is not giving way.

The Prime Minister

What is the effective message from the Leader of the Opposition? It is: "Lord, give me Europe —but not yet."

Mr. Radice

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, by his technical ineptitude, he has provided the circumstances in which the pro-Maastricht majority in the House can be dissipated, and ensured that pro-Maastricht Members can go with anti-Maastricht Members into the Lobby against the Government? Does he not understand that it is not the job of a Labour Member to prop up a discredited Government by supporting a motion that is procedurally unnecessary and expressly designed as a vote of confidence in himself and his Administration?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has said that he is proposing to vote for something that he does not believe in, and against something that he does believe in. If this were truly a vote of confidence, why did the Leader of the Opposition not table a vote of confidence? So much for principle. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has his principles cast adrift on a sea of expediency. When that happens when he is in opposition, he deserves to stay there. It is the sort of contemptible wriggling that will earn him no plaudits either here or in the Community.

I turn directly to some of the genuine concerns about the treaty that have been expressed in each and every part of the House. Sometimes people have said of the Government that we have talked too much of what is not in the treaty and too little of what is in it. I make no apology for talking about what we managed to keep out of the treaty, for I believe that it would have been damaging to the interests of this country. I took the view at Maastricht, as I do today, that a single currency cannot necessarily be in our interests, and certainly is not in our interests at this time.

The timetable that was set at Maastricht was too ambitious. I think that that is becoming increasingly apparent to nations across Europe as week succeeds week. We were therefore right to have our special protocol. It is doubtful that the necessary degree of economic convergence will be there in the time scale set out in the treaty, and I have made that point to the House on many occasions.

The danger that now exists on that issue is not that we shall get economic convergence across Europe. In present circumstances, there is a genuine danger of economic divergence.

We have made the point often enough that the social chapter would damage jobs, and I am happy to reiterate that. There is, however, much in the treaty that we want. There are both large and small things that are very much in the interests of this country.

As for some of the more modest things in the treaty, we have long sought fines on member states that do not comply with Community rules. This country complies with Community rules, and the Attorney-General would say something smartly to us if it did not. However, that has not been universally the case throughout Europe. Now, under the terms of the treaty, others must comply or they will pay a financial penalty for not doing so.

One of the matters that concerned us most in the run-up to the negotiations was that, hitherto, each and every development in the Community could go only through the central institutions—the treaty of Rome and the Commission, and justiciably through the European Court of Justice. At Maastricht, we developed a new way, and one much more amenable to the instincts of this country—co-operation by agreement between Governments, but not under the treaty of Rome. It covers interior and justice matters, foreign affairs and security, and the option is available for it to cover wider matters in future.

Some member states—I make no secret of it—had ambitions for that co-operation to be through the traditional route. We resisted that, and in doing so set a pattern for further co-operation.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there has been a leak of the Maastricht treaty minutes? They have appeared in a Dutch newspaper, which basically says, "Major wants opt-out from EMU and he gets it," and "Major does not want an immigration policy from Brussels and he gets it." The paper asks, "Why is it that Major always gets his own way?" Can my right hon. Friend enlighten us on what appears to be an admirable performance by him?

The Prime Minister

I do not know about the article, but I like the principle.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way? [Interruption.] I have horns and a tail, but I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He mentioned the pillars. Why is it that, under them, the Commission has rights of policy initiation? Does not the Commission have enough powers already without giving it more?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, under the pillars any decision must be unanimous; therefore, we have an absolute block on any decisions taken. That is the critical point in preserving our national interests.

Mr. Ashton

As an ex-Whip, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, even if he wins the vote tonight, he will still need a guillotine to get the Bill through the House? Is he prepared to make deals to obtain that guillotine? Will he accept amendments relating to the social chapter or to other parts of the treaty, or does he intend to go ahead with the Bill as it stands?

The Prime Minister

I cannot anticipate what will happen when we reach the Committee stage, and the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to do so. I certainly do not anticipate accepting amendments that would bring the social chapter within the ambit of our proposals.

I was dealing with the question why we should co-operate with our European partners, either through the twin pillars or by other routes. I tell the House that it is very much in our interests to have that co-operation. There are issues throughout Europe that cross frontiers and can be dealt with only internationally, such as drugs, crime and illegal immigration. There is the exchange of intelligence on terrorist threats, the Dublin asylum convention—something of great importance to us—and the co-operation in the fight against drugs, with 60 per cent. of heroin being seized at United Kingdom frontiers after it has passed through other countries in the Community. Those are practical reasons for the co-operation that we agreed to enter into under the Maastricht treaty.

I know that many hon. Members throughout the House are concerned about ensuring that we keep immigration issues under the control of this House and out of the competence of others, including the European Community. That is the effect of the references to immigration and asylum issues in the Maastricht treaty. Those matters will be kept out of Community competence and dealt with under separate intergovernmental pillars—that is, by unanimous agreement between Governments. Only two limited aspects of visa policy are transferred to Community competence, and I shall explain to the House the rational reason for that. The two aspects are: a visa list and agreement on the format of visas.

Several hon. Members


The Prime Minister

I shall not give way, as I am in the midst of advancing an argument that is relevant to many hon. Members, and I should like to conclude it.

The purpose of that co-operation is clear. We may need at any time in the next few years to deal with the possible difficulties of large-scale migration, either from across eastern Europe to western Europe or from north Africa, up through the southern states of Europe into northern Europe. The Maastricht treaty equips the Community as a whole to deal swiftly and effectively with such problems, should they arise.

I know that the following matter concerns some hon. Members—not least some of my hon. Friends. The test alludes to the possibility of further Community competence, but that is subject to a double lock: first, the agreement of all member states—that would require the United Kingdom's agreement—and, secondly, the specific approval of national parliaments, including this Parliament. Therefore, there is a double lock to protect our authority over immigration matters.

I shall mention another matter of concern to the House: the number of issues of competence that fall under the control of the European Community. One of the greatest concerns has been what many hon. Members in the past few years have referred to as the "creeping competence" that comes about either by the abuse of articles in the treaty or by judgments of the European Court of Justice. I shall illustrate the issue by using the health and safety article to pursue wider social legislation. That is by no means the only illustration, but it is an important one.

Due to provisions contained in the Maastricht treaty, the article codifies, clarifies and limits competence in the sectors of health, education, culture, vocational training and others. It closes down the difficulties that we have faced with creeping competence in a way that has not previously been done.

I shall give but one illustration to the House, as I know that it is one of concern. A number of hon. Members have expressed the fear that the treaty gives the Community a greater say in education. The reality is that article 128 of the treaty of Rome was an example of an article subsequently used for creeping competence.

That article is abolished by the Maastricht treaty, and the new article spells out that it is the responsibility of member states to deal with the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems. The action that the Community can take is spelt out clearly, and stipulates that the Community is specifically debarred from any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of member states. There are many such illustrations that the House will wish to discuss in Committee when we embark on it.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the Prime Minister help the House with the context of the debate? Who authorised the briefings held the weekend before last, at which the Prime Minister threatened a general election if he lost today's vote?

The Prime Minister

I am talking about the substance of debate today.

The difficulties and concerns that some people have expressed about the relationship—

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

Last week, the Foreign Secretary said that tonight's vote would decide whether the Prime Minister leads the British representation at the Edinburgh summit. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Foreign Secretary? If he does, does that not make tonight's vote a confidence vote?

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

Not true.

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) will have heard my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary say, from a seated position, that that was untrue. The right hon. Gentleman has been misled—I know that he will accept that.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Does the Prime Minister agree that the declaration adopted at Birmingham stated that there could be no change to the Maastricht treaty? If so, how can the Prime Minister argue that the Danish position has been made clear, when the Danish Government are arguing for a legally binding change? How can there be a legally binding change that will satisfy the needs of the Danish people while. at the same time, there is no change to the Maastricht treaty?

The Prime Minister

Almost every intervention from Labour Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer".] I shall answer specifically in a second—has been trying to find another weaselly excuse for not voting for a motion that they are in favour of. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's specific question is that the Danish Government are not seeking to change the substance of what is in the treaty. They are seeking to add to it clarifications and extra matters beyond the treaty, as their Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No, I will make some progress. The House is aware that I have given way a number of times already.

I should like to turn now to the exchange rate mechanism and the fears that have been expressed about the relationship between the mechanism and any possible future commitment to a single currency. It is the Government's intention that the United Kingdom should enter the second stage of monetary union in 1994. It is important to understand precisely what that involves. During the second stage, monetary policy remains a national responsibility and the United Kingdom is not committed to going beyond stage 2. This is not affected by the establishment of the European Monetary Institute, whose functions will be in elaboration of the existing committee of central bank governors. We will continue to take our own decisions on monetary policy matters and will remain entirely free whether or not to participate in the exchange rate mechanism as a quite separate matter from the ratification of this treaty.

The only relevance of the mechanism in this respect is as one of the convergence criteria for the move from stage 2 of economic and monetary union to the final stage of a single currency. I have repeatedly made it clear, and do so again today, that it is far too soon to consider whether the United Kingdom should join a single currency. I have made that clear in the House on many occasions in the past.

Mr. Den Dover (Chorley)

The Prime Minister will be well aware of the strong misgivings in the House and outside about the possibility of moving to a single currency. Will he therefore at least keep the door open about whether there should be a referendum on that matter at some convenient time?

The Prime Minister

I have kept the door entirely open to decisions by the House, at a time when it is economically appropriate to make a decision. As I have said many times in the past—I repeat for my hon. Friend what I said on 20 May—I do not believe that it is right to predetermine a decision that should properly be taken only by Parliament, in the light of the circumstances then prevailing across Europe. This decision, as I said then, is too important to be an act of faith: it must also be an act of judgment, and that judgment cannot sensibly be made until we see the economic circumstances of the day.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Everybody respects the Prime Minister's desire to take Britain to the heart of Europe, but does he honestly believe that the people of this country can be made to accept that on the basis of legislation passed by the Whips, of either party, on votes of confidence? Is it not clear that, as he is prepared to wait for the Danish people to determine in a referendum whether to reverse their previous decision, he should have the same respect for the rights of the British people—of all opinions, for and against Maastricht, and of all parties—to have a part in deciding the biggest constitutional issue that has come before Parliament this century?

The Prime Minister

I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman as a parliamentarian, and as a parliamentarian he will know that, through the centuries, it has been through this House that we have dealt with such matters. I understand the strong feelings that exist in many parts of the House about referendums, but it has always been my view that these matters are best dealt with by the House, because we are ultimately answerable to the electorate for the decisions we take.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me? I have given way generously to hon. Members on both sides, and I would like to make a little more progress.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)


Madam Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has made his views clear.

The Prime Minister

So the provisions that we have in the treaty mean that, in both stages two and three, we will be entirely free to decide the framework and institutional arrangements for the conduct of monetary policy in the United Kingdom. That is the position, and it will remain so. I believe that it will be better understood not just in the House but beyond it when we have had the opportunity of discussing these matters at great length in the Committee to which I trust we will move, both before and after Christmas.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)


The Prime Minister:

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have given way on many occasions, and I would like to make some progress.

I turn now to the important question of citizenship. Let me again make it clear to the House that our position as British citizens now and in the future will not in any way be affected by the Maastricht treaty. That is the position, and it will remain the position.

In tomorrow's edition of The European—I have not often found things that I like in newspapers in recent weeks, but I have now—there is an article by the Chancellor of Germany, who makes the point very clearly that we will remain, he writes, Germans, Britons, Italians and Frenchmen, and at the same time Europeans; there is no question of subordination to a European citizenship in any way in the treaty immediately in front of us.

One other important matter of concern to the House in the treaty is that of common defence, so let me turn to defence and the perspective of a common treaty.

Mr. Cryer

The treaty needs 12 states to support it—he is wasting time.

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman were to read the treaty, he might better understand it, and if he were to listen, he would understand it better yet.

Mr. Cryer


The Prime Minister

The treaty reflects a British concept of a possible longer-term perspective of a common defence policy, and it does so because, in my judgment, it is right that Europe should do more in its own defence in future; but it is important to realise the context in which that will happen.

Any defence co-operation will take place within the Western European Union, and the Western European Union is free to take its own decisions on defence. It will not be under instruction in any way from the Community member states, now or at any stage in the future. It is equally clear that any decisions must be without prejudice to our obligations under NATO. NATO has in any case already recognised the Western European Union as the European pillar of the NATO alliance.

All the decisions in this area will be taken by unanimity. There is no question whatsoever of our allowing any of these provisions to come within Community competence now or in the future.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way—my point is an important one. May I remind him of the decision of the National Assembly of France on 30 August 1954 not to ratify the proposed European defence community? From that decision there arose the free association of independent sovereign states—the Western European Union and, as a consequence, NATO was strengthened through the accession both of West Germany and of Italy. That procedural motion of 30 August put France, by the decision of its parliamentarians, at the heart of Europe for the next generation. No one can say that they were unmindful of either France's interests or Europe's and nor shall we be when we vote against the Government motion tonight.

The Prime Minister

I am not entirely sure that I detected my hon. Friend's question.

Let me turn to an important issue that is not itself directly in the treaty but is absolutely dependent on the treaty—the enlargement of the European Community. The United Kingdom's policy is unreservedly in favour of widening the borders of the Community. We should like first to bring in the EFTA states and then in due course the newly democratic states of central and eastern Europe.

We would like the EFTA states to join us for a number of important reasons. First, it would widen the Community to embrace democracies which look to us for political and economic stability; secondly, it would increase the free trade area of the single market; thirdly, it would reinforce the democratic structures of Europe.

But there is a fourth reason why it is very much in Britain's self-interest, and that is that the EFTA states would bring in further net contributors to the European Community budget. In future, when the EFTA states have joined, those factors will ensure a better balance. The EFTA states will also ensure our vigorous enforcement of Community obligations.

One of the difficulties at present in the Community is that, of the 12 member states, only three, Germany—by far the largest—the United Kingdom and France, are significant net contributors to the Community budget. Italy and the Netherlands are broadly in balance, but the others are all net beneficiaries, in some cases by large amounts. The practical effect of that is to tilt decision making in favour of the centre because of the interest which a majority of states have in more Community expenditure and because the Commission has responsibility for the administration of those funds.

We will have a much better balance in the Community when the extra contributing nations join it. That will mean that we have nearly 50 per cent. of contributors, a much more healthy position for the future development of the Community.

There are a large number of practical reasons why we should ratify the treaty. I know that there is a seductive argument used by some that says, "Delay—don't hurry. We didn't want the treaty in the first place, so just concentrate on the economy and push it to one side." But the fact is that our European policy and our economic well-being are inextricably linked, and will remain inextricably linked in future.

The EC receives £60 billion-worth of manufactured goods and 54 per cent. of our total trade is now with the EC. An estimated—[Interruption.] I should have thought that the Opposition would be interested in this point. An estimated 3 million jobs depend on trade with the Community. In 1990, the United Kingdom received £17 billion-worth of inward investment, and 50,000 manufacturing jobs flow from Japanese investment in the United Kingdom—new markets, new jobs.

The economic reality is that the Community has been economically good for Britain and good for our position as a power in world trade. Scottish Members will recall a practical illustration of that. It was GATT action by the Community that persuaded Japan to open the market for Scottish whisky. I could stretch that list from here to the doorway and back again.

The Community is good for future trade, and the evidence is clear in the attitudes of countries not yet in the Community. A large array of countries is queuing to join the Community—Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Can they all be wrong about the advantages—social, economic and in security terms—in joining the Community? They all see the Community as a necessary ingredient in their future prosperity, and I believe that they are right in that judgment.

We are seeking to build—this treaty is part of that building—a safer and more secure Europe than any previous generation has known. That is an opportunity for this generation of politicians if they have the courage and the vision to take it and I believe that the House should do so.

Neither is this just a question of international matters of that sort. The fact is that our relationship with the European Community is very hard-headed and very much in our own interests; our jobs, our markets, our future prosperity. That is not just the Government's view. British Aerospace is a large company in which many people will have an interest and they would do well to listen to its chief executive, who says: The risks of non-ratification to all our businesses and employees are too high to be seriously worth consideration. As 27 senior business men recently wrote: We are also concerned about the signal that failure to ratify the treaty would give about our future position in the Community. If our interests are so great—and undeniably they are great—this country must play a central role in the Community, and we cannot do that if we shy away from the agreements into which we have entered with our partners in the Community.

I know that it is the wish of some that the Maastricht treaty might not have been proposed by others in the Community. The fact is that it was. It is equally the case that we got the best out of it that we could in our own national interests. Those who argue that, because we did not propose the treaty, we should take advantage of present circumstances to ditch it do so in the belief that we could have everything we want in Europe and sacrifice nothing. I have to tell them that that argument is not real in regard to the way in which the Community conducts its business.

Without the Maastricht treaty, there would be no enlargement of the Community—and every hon. Member knows that it is right to enlarge the Community, and that it is in our interests to do so. Without the Maastricht treaty, we would have no means of developing co-operation between member states outside Community competence—and we want to develop co-operation outside Community competence.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, Derby)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No, I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Without Maastricht, we would have no subsidiarity, and we know that we need that. No hon. Member should kid himself that, without Maastricht, we would have a Community without any of the problems posed by the Maastricht debate. Instead, we would have a Community fighting—day after day, time and time again—all the battles that were fought and largely won by us in the treaty that the House will shortly reconsider. Anyone who believes that that situation would be good for political stability —

Mr. Wareing


Madam Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that he is not giving way. The hon. Gentleman should not proceed in such circumstances.

The Prime Minister

With respect to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Derby (Mr. Wareing), I have given way frequently enough, and many hon. Members are waiting to speak.

Anyone who believed that that situation of uncertainty would be good for political stability, for business, for growth and for jobs would simply be deluding himself. It would be a fatal cocktail for the future interests of this country if we were to shrink from meeting the agreement into which we freely entered.

There is a very practical point of real and immediate importance that the House should consider. At the Edinburgh summit in a few weeks' time, we will have important matters to agree with our European partners —matters of crucial interest to us: the Community's future financial arrangements, the final stages of the single market, and enlargement. If the House votes against the Government today, it will diminish our capacity to negotiate successfully on matters in our own national self-interest. That is the point that every hon. Member should carry into the Lobby. If hon. Members want to diminish our capacity to negotiate what is right for this country, they should vote for the Opposition amendment and against the Government today.

I must tell the House, however, that, if it were to do that, our European partners would not take our negotiating position seriously, now or in the future, and we would not be able to make agreements that are in our own national self-interest. I understand very clearly the frustration that some people feel in having to make compromises to advance the British interest; the temptation to break out—to go our own way—is sometimes strong. I must tell the House, however, that it would be wrong to do so. National self-interest is not about striking attitudes, but about striking deals that are in our own interest—and that is what we must do in the Community. That is why every British Government from Harold Macmillan's onwards has sought first to enter the Community and then to make a success of our membership.

I have to tell the House, and I have to tell the country, that we cannot continue to make a success of our membership of the Community unless we ratify the treaty to which we agreed. That is my clear judgment, and I would be doing the country and the House a disservice if I did not back that judgment with all the force at my command.

That means that, after this debate has been concluded and won by the Government, we shall bring back the Bill and seek the support of all the Members of this House to secure its adoption—that is what is in our own national self-interest. In order that we may do so, I ask hon. Members to support the motion.

4.30 pm
Mr. John Smith (Monklands, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from first "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: recalls the conditions relating to the Danish position and to subsidiarity laid down by the Prime Minister in the debate in this House on 24th September; and believes that these conditions cannot be satisfied until the Edinburgh European Council at the earliest and that therefore further consideration of the Bill should await the outcome of that meeting. Before I enter on the merits of the debate I think that it would be appropriate to congratulate Governor Clinton on his tremendous victory in the American presidential election—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear] He fought a positive campaign, which set out a new agenda for America's future, and he eloquently and effectively made the case for change. He deserves his victory, and we in the Labour party wish him well. I add that we are delighted that a major battle has been won against negative campaigning—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]

Madam Speaker


Mr. Smith


Madam Speaker

Order. The House should settle down now.

Mr. Smith

I take it, Madam Speaker—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. A bit of fun is all right, but we want to make some progress now—[Interruption.] Order. I can hear as well as anybody else in the House.

Mr. Smith

I take it from Conservative Members' reaction to what I said that the two Tory strategists who were sent to help President Bush will not be welcome when they come back to this country. What the Conservatives have done seems an odd way to start off a relationship with the new President.

The House will remember that the roots of the motion and the debate go back to 24 September—[Interruption.] If the Prime Minister will hear me out, and listen to the argument, he will be able to pass comments on it. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that on 24 September, in the recall debate following black Wednesday, he chose to set out to the House in clear terms the way in which the Government proposed to deal with the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. He made two points, which he referred to only obliquely today—the Danish question and subsidiarity. This is what he said: we need a definition—a settled order—of what is for national action and what is for Community action. We need clear criteria by which Community proposals will be judged. When we are satisfied that such a system has been put in place, and when we are clear that the Danes have a basis on which they can put the treaty back to their electorate, we shall bring the Maastricht Bill back to the House of Commons. It is clear that the Prime Minister prescribed that there should be a settled order of subsidiarity, and that the Danes should have a basis for a new referendum—both to be in place before the House proceeded further with the Bill.

Today the House must judge whether the substantive conditions have been met.

The Prime Minister

The roots of the debate go back to the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) when he was Leader of the Opposition, when I agreed that we would consider arranging a debate in the House in October, as soon as we came back from the recess. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House subsequently specifically confirmed that to the House.

Secondly, I fear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have looked at the paragraph governing the words that he has quoted. That said: It would not make sense to bring the … Bill back to the House … before we know clearly what Danish intentions are, and when and how the Danes propose to consult their people again. When those things are known … we must examine the Bill further. As I clearly set out in my speech, both those things are now known.

Mr. Smith

[Interruption.] Hon. Members will surely let me reply. Clearly, the Prime Minister was planning for two eventualities because he put two versions to the House. The version that I have quoted embarrasses him because it says clearly: When we are satisfied that such a system has been put in place."—[Official Report, 24 September 1992; Vol. 212, c. 8.] The words carry no ambiguity.

The Prime Minister said that the roots of today's debate went back to the debate with my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock). My right hon. Friend asked the Prime Minister for a written paper and a debate. I do not know where the report is. We do not have a written report before the House. In any event, I will not quibble with the Prime Minister about that because there is a more important matter.

The Prime Minister

Just to ensure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no need to quibble, the paper is in the Library.

Mr. Smith

The proper—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister was heard in reasonable order by the House. The same must apply to every right hon. and hon. Member.

Mr. Smith

The proper place for the Prime Minister to put any report is before the House, not in the Library.

The Birmingham summit—a non-event to which I shall return later—has occurred and the Danes have set out their negotiating position in a series of proposals to other member states, the most important of which they wish to be juridically binding. Do those developments satisfy the conditions set out by the Prime Minister? Is there now "a settled order" for dealing with the allocation of responsibility between nation states and the Community? The Birmingham declaration said: we reaffirm that decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. Note the word "reaffirm". It is not a word which signals some change.

The communique went on to say: the Maastricht Treaty provides the right framework and objective for subsidiarity. It was interesting that, when the Prime Minister came back to the House after the Birmingham summit, he told us that for the first time there was a proper framework for the practical definition and implementation of subsidiarity. When we check that against the summit communique, we discover that he was referring not to something new but to the treaty itself, which existed long before the Birmingham summit.

All that happened at the Birmingham summit was that member states invited reports—presumably from the Commission—on the ways in which Maastricht might be taken forward. The Prime Minister came back and told the House that decisions would be taken at Edinburgh to make subsidiarity an integral part of future Community decision-taking. He did not succeed in discharging his obligation to the House.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman must allow me to finish this point because it is at the heart of the amendment.

The Danes have set out their stall. We have yet to know the reaction of the other 11 member states to that. Their reactions might be positive or negative but the Prime Minister must confirm—

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

I have already said that I want to finish this point. If I am allowed to finish this passage, I shall give way. I am adopting the same practice as the Prime Minister in the early part of his speech.

The Prime Minister told us that it was the aim of the Danes to ratify the treaty. He said in his report to the House: we plan to set in place at Edinburgh the framework that will allow them to do so."—[Official Report,20 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 320.] Note that in both cases the Prime Minister said "at Edinburgh". He did not say "now". That is the undertaking which he gave to the House and which has not been discharged. It was not the Opposition but the Government who gave that undertaking to the House.

If the Danish position cannot be resolved, how can there be a basis for a new referendum? If there were any doubts about the Danish position, they were revealed in a memorandum from Mr. Michael Jay, an assistant under-secretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He said: The Danish plan is unlikely to be acceptable as it stands to member states and some of them may make this clear. We may therefore have a difficult negotiation ahead of us, which could play awkwardly with the paving debate and the Maastricht Bill". That is an interesting passage—

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)


Mr. Smith

I have not yet finished this bit, but I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will be persistent.

Mr. Thurnham

While the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in the Library checking on his other facts, will he look at The House Magazine for 28 September and refresh his memory? He said then that he did not begin to understand why the people of Bolton did not vote Labour. Does he agree that the people of this country will never trust such an unprincipled wriggler as he is proving himself to be today?

Mr. Smith

Since the hon. Gentleman has challenged me directly he will allow me to say that it is a curious idea that to vote against the motion that the Government have tabled is a move to betray the European ideal.

Mr. Oppenheim


Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)


Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)


Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)


Mr. Smith

The motion is drafted in such deliberately anodyne terms that it does not even mention the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)


Mr. Smith

I hope that the House will listen carefully, since many Members seem interested in my reply. The motion is also framed only to endorse the Conservative view of Europe. If the Opposition were foolish enough to vote for it we would endorse the opt-out from the social chapter, and that we are not prepared to do. It might suit Liberal Members, but for us it would be a betrayal of an important principle.

Mr. Oppenheim

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. May I suggest in a helpful spirit that he should celebrate his accession to the Labour leadership by changing the rather faded red rose symbol for a fig leaf behind which to hide what little is left of his party's integrity?

Mr. Smith

Not for the first time I have made an error of judgment in giving way to the hon. Gentleman. I thought that he was going to raise a point of substance.

Mr. John Marshall

In 1971 the right hon. and learned Gentleman was seen as a man of principle because he put principle before party. This evening he is seeking to put party before country. Does he not realise that the fact that we are not in the social chapter makes Britain a haven for inward investment, as Monsieur Delors has admitted?

Mr. Smith

On the first point, I have already demonstrated that the motion before the House is not some rallying call for the European ideal, the Maastricht treaty or the European Community. It is a narrowly, carefully drafted motion which has more to do with the internal problems of the Conservative party than with the European Community.

Mr. Brandreth

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

I must move on; I have given way with considerable generosity. On second thoughts, I will give way.

Mr. Brandreth

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his courtesy. To come to the heart of the matter, if the engineers, the employers, the motor car industry, the CBI and the chambers of commerce all say that they want Maastricht but not the social chapter, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman a Leader of the Opposition who listens, or is he simply the leader of the opportunists who does not give a damn what message his party sends to the world? At least the Liberal Democrats stand by their principles.

Mr. Smith

Once again I have given way expecting a question only to be given a speech. If the CBI's view is to be accepted, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read some of its comments about the state of demand in the economy and the effects of Government economic policy.

Mr. Mallon

I take this opportunity to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman exactly the same question as I would have put to the Prime Minister had I been given the opportunity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and I know that in this House there is a majority in favour of Europe and of Maastricht. Can he explain how that majority has been whittled down to a potential minority? Secondly, can he explain why someone like me, in a minority party, cannot vote and deliberate on this issue on its merits but must debate it on the divisions in the Tory party and the contradictions in the Prime Minister's own position? Does not that border on an abuse of the House?

Mr. Smith

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but if he gets the chance on another occasion he should direct it to the Prime Minister. It is he who is responsible for the Government's handling of this and other legislation and it is he who drafted the motion before the House. I agree that it does not even mention the treaty.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman telling us that the vote tonight on the motion and on his even more carefully drafted amendment goes to the heart of Britain's policy towards Europe and that, if lost, it would lead to the resignation of the Government? Or is he telling us that this is a narrow and unnecessary motion whose defeat is neither here nor there?

Mr. Smith

I must ask the right hon. Gentleman and other Liberals to read the motion that they are attempting to vote for. All it does is note that there was a majority on Second Reading. It goes on with a few oblique references to subsidiarity and the Danes; it reaffirms the Conservative view of Europe; and it says that we should proceed with the Bill at some stage. I do not regard that as a touchstone of European policy, but what I will tell the Liberals is that they have been conned by the Conservatives and that they suffer from two great defects: naivety and self-importance.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)


Mr. Dickens


Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)


Madam Speaker

Order. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman giving way?

Mr. Smith


Madam Speaker

In that case, hon. Members must resume their seats.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A reference was made a short time ago to a document that is apparently in the Library. When I went to ask Library staff they did indeed produce a document, but it seems fundamentally diferent from that to which the Prime Minister referred. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The document that the Library gave me is a letter from Poul Schlüter to the Prime Minister covering Denmark and Europe. Whatever else it is, it is not recognisable as a report to the House of Commons. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker


Mr. Smith

The Prime Minister is waving a document. I think that I have the same document before me. It is a letter from the Prime Minister of Denmark enclosing a document entitled "Denmark in Europe". It is merely the Danish proposals, yet the Prime Minister pretended to the House that it was a report given to us. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House must come to order.

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


Mr. Smith

I am not giving way.

Madam Speaker

Order. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman giving way?

Mr. Smith


Madam Speaker

Is the Minister raising a point of order?

Mr. Garel-Jones

Yes. Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), Madam Speaker. The documents available in the Library are a letter from Prime Minister Schlüter, a copy of the document issued by the Danish Parliament and a memorandum from the Foreign Office commenting on the Danish document. [Interruption.]

Several hon. Members

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Unless the House comes to order, I shall not be able to hear those hon. Members who are screaming to have points of order heard.

Mr. Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

I hope that it is a point of order for me.

Mr. Davies

It is a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not the practice of the House that if a document is tabled to condition a debate—particularly if it is a report to the House on which a debate is purporting to take place—that document is listed on the Order Paper?

Madam Speaker

I understand that it is not the document that has been tabled. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Oh. It has not been tabled."] If the hon. Gentleman would listen, I am sure that he could hear me. The document has been placed in the Library. I call Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith

We are all clear about that, then: it is not a report from Her Majesty's Government to the House but a letter from the Danes with a few comments from the Foreign Office. That should put us all on our guard; we should be very careful about accepting assurances from the Prime Minister.

Mr. Couchman


Mr. Smith

I must move on. I am trying to debate the issue but am being frustrated by hon. Members continuing to raise points of order.

Mr. Couchman

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way yet again. May I ask him—

Mr. Smith

I am not giving way, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Does the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) wish to raise a point of order?

Mr. Couchman


Madam Speaker

In that case, will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat?

Mr. Couchman


Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman told me that he did not have a point of order for me. Has he now changed his mind?

Mr. Couchman

I asked the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) whether he would give way. He resumed his seat and I therefore assumed that he was giving way. That is quite natural, but I am quite prepared to raise the point that I wanted to raise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman on a point of order. Would that be in order?

Madam Speaker

No. Points of order are for me, and not for the right hon. and learned Gentleman at the Dispatch Box. Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith


Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Like many hon. Members, I am having difficulty knowing what today's debate is about. May I ask you, because in the Opposition amendment, there is no mention of Maastricht whatever.

Madam Speaker

Order. We must now make progress. Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith

Let me get back to the subject of the debate, which is a motion tabled by the Government, which we are debating together with an amendment tabled by the official Opposition. I am surprised that I should have to tell the Government that, although such is their state of incompetence on other matters that perhaps I should not be surprised.

People will be wondering why we are holding the debate now, given that we know perfectly well that the earliest date at which the Danish referendum can be held is May 1993. The Prime Minister knows that as well as I do. When we look at the political situation, and the Prime Minister's predicament within his own party, we realise that this debate has far more to do with the right hon. Gentleman's problems than with the future of Europe. That is why we have had all the feverish activity of the past few weeks, culminating in the arm twisting of the past few days. Many devices have been used, including, most startlingly, the on-off threat of a general election.

If the debate is only about the timing of the Committee stage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, why was it that, when the Prime Minister flew to Egypt on 24 October, the accompanying lobby journalists were briefed that the Prime Minister would hold a general election if his authority was further challenged? There is no question about it: the headlines in the Sunday papers carried the story. In The Sunday Times, we read: Major threatens general election if he fails to win Maastricht vote", and in The Sunday Telegraph: Angry Major threatens an election". On the flight back from Egypt, no attempt was made to dissuade people from believing the stories.

In an attempt to try to find a resume of those events that Conservative Members would find fair and impartial, I turned to The Sunday Telegraph, whose leader last Sunday summed up the matter very well. Let me briefly remind the House what it said: This newspaper tries to keep its readers abreast of events. At present, however, we suffer from a difficulty: a week is such an incredibly long time in current Conservative politics. Last Sunday we reported faithfully the assertion by No. 10 Downing Street that if the House of Commons turned out the Maastricht Treaty Mr. Major would call a general election. On Monday, Downing Street distanced itself from its own suggestion. As the week went on, it was reported, variously, that the Government would back down over the motion for the paving debate this week, that it would 'go for broke', that Mr. Major would make Maastricht an issue of confidence in him, that he would insist that it be treated solely, in his words, 'on its merits', that his tactic was to go for a bang and that it was to opt for a whimper. As we went to press last night we understood that the Government had proposed a motion on Maastricht which, by not mentioning the subject, hoped to persuade the Tory rebels to back it. By the time you read this the situation may well be different again. After that series of events—and we all watched them unfold—is there any hon. Member in the House naive enough to believe that the motion is only about the timing of the start of the Committee stage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill?. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes. The Liberals."] Yes, there are some hon. Members but not very many. How can a motion that attracted the threat of a general election not be about the credibility, competence and authority of the Government? That has been evident in the statements made by Ministers in the past week or so.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) drew to the Prime Minister's attention the reply given by the Foreign Secretary at Foreign Office questions last week. As I understand it, the Prime Minister answered that my right hon. Friend had somehow been misled about the reply, which I shall quote so that the House can decide and so that the Prime Minister can correct me if I have been misleading myself in my reading of Hansard:

The House will have to decide whether it wants my right hon. Friend to preside over that summit preserving and extending this country's influence over what happens in Europe or whether it does not"—[Official Report, 28 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 1004.] The House has to decide whether the Prime Minister does or does not do that.

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. and learned Gentleman gabbled a little bit that he did not want the House to hear. The point that I was making was not that the choice before the House was whether my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would go to Edinburgh or not, because I took it for granted that he would. No, no. The choice before the House, as is clear from the bit that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gabbled, is whether my right hon. Friend would go equipped with all the possible influence that he could exert, or whether he would go weakened by the kind of twists and turns in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is indulging.

Mr. Smith

I must say that, having listened to the Foreign Secretary's reply, I find it a bit rich to be accused of twisting and turning.

The Foreign Secretary said that the House will have to decide whether the Prime Minister will or will not. Let me be charitable to the right hon. Gentleman and take his alternative explanation, that it is about the authority of the Prime Minister when he goes to the summit, which is further evidence that it is not about the Bill.

Mr. John Hume (Foyle)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On the question being discussed, given that the House has already approved the Second Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill on the Maastricht treaty, can you tell us whether this debate is a necessary part of the constitutional process of endorsing that treaty? If not—which is what I expect you to say—this debate must be for some other purpose.

Madam Speaker

That is hardly a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman knows that formal proceedings on the Bill will not be affected by the outcome of the result today—[Interruption.] Order. Hear me out. The Committee stage of the Bill will remain among the Remaining Orders.

Mr. Smith

I also referred to statements made by other Ministers about the nature of this debate. In "On the Record" the Secretary of State for Wales—

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the Opposition calls for a four-week delay in consideration of the Bill, until after the Edinburgh summit. First, that is surely at odds with your ruling. Secondly, is it not at odds with the Leader of the Opposition's speech, which seems to be about confidence?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman and the entire House should not anticipate what will happen at the end of the debate and should allow it to proceed normally. Hon. Members are seeking to speak, and I think that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) is one of them, so let us make some progress.

Mr. Smith

Some Conservative Members seem to be reluctant to engage properly in this debate, but I am doing my best. Even if there are another 10 bogus points of order from the Conservative side, I will refer to the statement made by the Secretary of State for Wales in "On the Record" on Sunday. He warned Tory rebels that they were playing with fire and told Mr. Dimbleby: We have to show our confidence, not only in the Government, but also in John Major. That was a sort of double whammy confidence motion.

The third—perhaps even more ominous to the Prime Minister—was the President of the Board of Trade, who said on ITN on Monday: The Prime Minister is entitled to our confidence now. The right hon. Member also chooses his words with care, so I do not believe that the qualifying "now" was accidental—now, but not necessarily for ever. That was not the only effort by the right hon. Member, the Lord President. I beg his pardon: he has an even grander title than Lord President of the Council; he is President of the Board of Trade. I think that, for short, we shall call him Mr. President during this exchange. He told BBC radio—presumably he was addressing Conservative Back Benchers as he used direct speech: if you vote against the Prime Minister and the Government on Wednesday, on Thursday you have a policy vacuum at the centre of British decision making of incalculable destructiveness. Gosh, what an awful prospect that would be.

After all the clear and decisive leadership of the past few weeks, after all the consistent and determined implementation of long-established policies, well and clearly understood, how could we cope with the black hole of a policy vacuum? Perhaps Mr. President could reflect that the Government's basic problem is not the threat of a policy vacuum, but the stark reality of such a vacuum, which extends right to the heart of the Government.

Only this week, with singular appropriateness, the Governor of the Bank of England referred to a policy vacuum at the heart of economic policy.

The Prime Minister

Yesterday the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted the Governor of the Bank of England. I gather that he misquoted him, and that the Governor will be writing to him about that. So he had better not pursue the point.

Mr. Smith

While the Governor is doing that he had better write to the newspapers from which I quoted, which quoted him in direct speech. When I checked with the Bank of England I was told that the quote was from a question and answer session with foreign journalists and that the Bank was unable to provide a text. I shall look with interest at what ends up in the Library.

If we had any doubt over what the debate is all about, we could have resolved it by looking at the terms of the motion. There are no ringing declarations about the future of Europe, which would rally the troops under the Maastricht banner. There is no declaration of principle of any discernible kind. I have already drawn attention to some of the hallmarks of the motion, which has the Prime Minister's style all about it. It is the product of the internal machinations of the Conservative party, and it is designed for internal Conservative party purposes. Only someone of enormous naivety—

Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)


Mr. Smith

I should have been delighted to give way to more hon. Members if there had not been so many organised points of order. I have to get on with my speech. If the hon. Gentleman has a complaint, he should take it up with his hon. Friends.

Only the most naive of people would believe that the motion is some touchstone of loyalty to the treaty. The truth of the present situation and the background to the debate, as the whole country knows, is that an increasingly angry and bewildered nation is watching with astonishment and dismay as the Government stumble from one disaster to another. They recollect the Prime Minister's bland assurance—that is why they would not want them to be propped up or given a motion of confidence of any kind—that if they were only to vote Conservative on Thursday, recovery would continue on Friday. Not merely has there been no recovery, but the Government's economic policy was blown to smithereens on black Wednesday.

In the motion, the Government have the nerve to refer to the promotion of "employment, prosperity and investment". Do they know what is happening in this country? When the Prime Minister emerges blinking from his bunker, does he not see the destruction that his economic policies have caused? Bankruptcies and home repossessions continue at record levels and unemployment is rising relentlessly and, I fear, menacingly, and will certainly pass 3 million. Hardly a day goes by without new redundancies, as prestige firms in vital manufacturing industries throw more skilled workers into unemployment and undermine the country's wealth-creating capacity.

Ominously, the most recent surveys of business confidence—I refer this to the attention of the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) who mentioned the Confederation of British Industry—from the CBI and British chambers of commerce point to a further downturn in output, investment and job creation. All the signs are that the country is heading from recession into slump.

Just before the election, in the March Budget, the Government sought to paint a different scenario. In the budget we were told that growth would be 1 per cent. this year, and—it seems incredible that they were able to say so, but they did—that it would be 3 per cent. next year. They said that manufacturing output would rise to 4 per cent. by next year and forecast the balance of payments at £6.5 billion.

What are the forecasts now, six months after that election? According to the Treasury survey of independent forecasters, growth will fall again by almost 1 per cent. and will not rise; manufacturing output is expected not to rise but to fall by 1 per cent.; and the balance of payments deficit is predicted to be £12 billion, which is almost double the predicted figure. That is in the middle of the worst recession since the war.

The Government have never realised that our economic success in the European Community—we have heard a lot about that from the Prime Minister and others—can only be achieved if we build a strong economy, based on manufacturing strength, investment, skills development and on Government partnership between industry and commerce. Nor have they realised that the Community can best recover from recession by co-ordinated policies for recovery, growth and jobs.

The United Kingdom presidency of the Community, which has about eight weeks to run, has been a disastrous missed opportunity. Why was the Birmingham summit not used to consider urgent Community-wide action to promote recovery and investment, instead of the Prime Minister's game of words over subsidiarity—a principle which he lauds for Europe but which he denies here?

I have a direct question for the Prime Minister: why did he refuse to put growth and jobs on the agenda for the Birmingham summit although he had been asked to do so by the Commission? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The Prime Minister can clear that up. I am told that the Commission asked for those subjects to be put on the agenda for the summit, but, if that were not the case, the Prime Minister can correct me.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. and learned Gentleman better wait for the reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) before he pursues that line of argument.

Mr. Smith

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going to ask me to go to the Library.

The Prime Minister

There is no need to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to go to the Library. He gets all his information from The Sunday Telegraph.

Mr. Smith

I know that the Prime Minister is very good at telephoning the editors of newspapers, but I think that that is one number that he should not put at the top of his list for a little while.

Instead of positive action being taken in the Community, what have we had? Instead of the Government working together with the other member states at the heart of Europe—where the presidency of the Community takes the United Kingdom—their effort has been concentrated in other directions. They have proposed plans to close 31 pits, which will lock off millions of tonnes of recoverable coal reserves, destroy 100,000 jobs in the mining and related industries and devastate whole communities throughout the coalfields.

Next week, in the autumn statement, we will be told who is next to pay the price of Government incompetence. I suspect that it will be teachers, nurses, the low paid, the sick, the elderly and the poor. Because of Government incompetence, public services will be undermined even further and the recession prolonged even longer. [Interruption.] I know that Conservative Members do not want to listen to this, but that is what is happening.

As the public well understand, it is not just policies that are the problem— it is the Prime Minister as well. He has the precise opposite of the Midas touch: from black Wednesday to the pit closure fiasco and onwards to the mysteries of whatever the Government's new economic policy is, his baleful presence courts disaster. I understand that even at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans would prefer he stay away because most times when he attends Chelsea loses.

Last month the right hon. Gentleman contributed to a book about football entitled "We'll support you evermore"—obviously not a Conservative party publication. When we think of the Prime Minister's record since the election, a passage about his experience as a football supporter hits the truth with uncanny precision. He wrote: After all, I have nearly 30 years behind me of high hopes at the start of a season fading into disappointment with a string of disappointing results by January. As we have repeatedly made clear, as recently as our last annual conference, our commitment is to closer economic and political co-operation in Europe. [Interruption.] But we have a different agenda for the Community from the Conservatives. We want a Community for people, not just a market for business. That is why we will continue our efforts to overturn the foolish opt-out from the social chapter, which is regarded as essential by all the other 11 member states.

I noticed that the Prime Minister's speech consisted of telling us that we should be at the heart of Europe, but for most of the time he told us how he had successfully disengaged us from it.

We also recognise that the British economy is and will continue to be closely integrated both financially and industrially with our EC partners. Those realities mean that Britain's industrial and economic performance depend crucially on developments in the European Community. But it also means that if we are to contribute to and gain from the Community, because it is always a two-way process, we must have a strong and dynamic economy. Under the Government we have been pushed to the sidelines principally because of economic weakness. That affects our stance in Europe just as it affects it over the whole range of Government policy.

We set out our view clearly, and at some length, in the reasoned amendment for which we voted on Second Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and we will reflect that view in further proceedings on the Bill.

In a curious sense, this debate and the ambiguous and anodyne motion upon which it proceeds has no formal parliamentary status. It is a device, a happening, a political event justified by the Government at different times and on very different grounds, to very different people, as both expediency and the tide of war within the Conservative party dictated.

Those of us who have a sense of political reality can see clearly through all these manoeuvrings. This debate has been turned by the Government into an occasion to garner support for a discredited Prime Minister and a discredited Government. We on the Labour Benches will not be conned by the Government's contrivances. We will vote against a Government who are undermining our society, destroying our economy and thereby wrecking our future in Europe.

5.16 pm
Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

Before I begin what I hope will be a brief intervention in the debate, which I understood was to be about Maastricht, I should like to make it absolutely plain that what I am going to say has been in no way affected by bullying from the Whips; it has not been affected by the recent structure of an anti-Maastricht mafia in the House of Lords; nor has it been affected by the widely publicised secret session of the 1922 Committee. In fact, I have to confess that what I am going to say will be purely my own thoughts.

I should like to begin by recalling to the House the end of the debate that settled that Britain would become a member of the EC. When I wound up that debate, I spoke about letters that I had received after the veto by President De Gaulle in 1963. One of them was from an ambassador who was accredited to the Community in Brussels during the negotiations. I quoted that letter, which said: When you left India some people wept. And when you leave Europe tonight some will weep. And there is no other people in the world of whom these things could be said.' I went on to say: That was a tribute from the Indian to the British. But tonight when this House endorses this Motion many millions of people right across the world will rejoice that we have taken our rightful place in a truly United Europe".—[Official Report, 28 October 1971; Vol. 823, c. 2212.] There was a majority of 112 in that vote. It was many times the size of the Government majority because 69 right hon. and hon. Members from the Labour party voted with us and 20 abstained. They defied a three-line Whip from their party to vote with us and among them was the present Leader of the Opposition. I greatly admired his integrity and I have continued to do so since, until this afternoon. I must say that I am saddened and dismayed by his performance and by the attitude which he has taken towards Europe. He knows full well that, if he had wished to attack the Government on their shortcomings or the Prime Minister personally, he could have immediately tabled a vote of no confidence. That is the customary practice in the House. He knows that, had he wished to comment on the fact that the Prime Minister had not carried out his obligations in delaying the discussion on Maastricht or dealing with the Danish proposals, he could have said so, and he could have urged the Prime Minister to speed things up. But neither of those things has he done. So today, for the sake of the plaudits from some of his Back Benchers, he has forsworn his integrity. Having done that, he will find that he will never be able to regain it.

Those of us who have followed these events in Europe for more than 40 years have longed for the time when we could feel that the Leader of the Opposition was genuinely in favour of the European Community. This was the first occasion on which we have had it, and today that situation has been thrown away. It is a loss to the Labour party and a loss to our country. And it is a loss which, I am afraid, cannot be made up.

What is not always realised here is that those people in Parliaments in the European Community have no comprehension whatever of what is going on with a manoeuvre of that kind. That is the damage that is being done by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said today. The damage is widespread, because we must face the fact that, in the Community as well as outside, Britain's position has become widely suspect— [Interruption.] I am stating the position, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have helped to deal with that.

The delay in action on Maastricht—in recognising the treaty—has caused dismay throughout the Community. The Prime Minister himself, said that, with the exception of Denmark, all the other countries will have ratified the treaty by December.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I normally listen with respect to the right hon. Gentleman, even though I do not always agree with him, but he is fundamentally wrong when he alleges that people in Europe are either dismayed at, or will not understand, the position taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith). Moreover, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman why, because I personally discussed our position with Jean-Pierre Cot, the leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament, and with other European socialist leaders. They fully understand and support our position.

Sir Edward Heath

All that I can say is that, in the past five weeks, I have discussed the matter with Heads of Government in the Community, in Japan, China and worldwide. They do not understand the attitude of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East.

Dr. Cunningham

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Edward Heath

No, I cannot give way twice.

As far as this country is concerned, other members of the Community take the view that the delay is quite unjustifiable, and I say that bluntly to the Prime Minister. The fact that the Danish referendum, by a very narrow majority, went against the Government is no reason why the British Prime Minister and the British Government should have delayed our confirmation of Maastricht—none at all. The Prime Minister has a responsibility, as President of the Community for these six months, to try to find a solution to the Danish problems with the co-operation of the other members. It is not his responsibility to say that Britain, in the meantime, must fail to take action on Maastricht. The other member countries—10 of them—have all taken action and will have completed it by December. I wish that we had done the same.

I am therefore delighted that the motion says that we shall go on to Committee stage, but I am saddened again by the Prime Minister saying that part of it will be before Christmas and that we shall go on with the Committee stage next year. That is no indication to Europe that we are whole-hearted in being at the centre and in reinforcing Maastricht. The House is capable of dealing with the Bill in Committee immediately—there is nothing whatever to stop that. I hope that the Prime Minister will consider the impact on the other members of the Community by delaying still further the passage of the Bill.

Mr. Dalyell

Technically, what is there to stop the Prime Minister doing exactly that for which he asked— putting the Bill in on Monday? Although I have voted with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), albeit in 1971, I shall vote with my party tonight because this is a gratuitous motion that is about the Conservative party's political needs.

Sir Edward Heath

The hon. Gentleman, whose vote I acknowledge, is entitled to his interpretation of the motion, but to what does he object in it? He says that it is to achieve unity on this side of the House. Very well, but what is wrong with the motion? One thing that is wrong with it is that it talks about "a free market Europe". It is not a free market Europe and it never will be—a free market means a market that is open to the whole world. It is a single market for the members of the Community, for those who become associated with it and for those who later become members. To take one specific example, we have a quota system for textiles from the developing world —from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We have had that for many years and we shall go on having it. I am told that it is worth 100,000 jobs in this country. We are not going for a free market, but it is the use of such language that causes so much trouble inside the Community, particularly in view of the fact that the Prime Minister's immediate predecessor has now said openly that what she wants is just a free market and not a Community. That is what is causing a lot of trouble.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend accept from one who, on a free vote, voted for our accession in 1971 that it is his concept now of a closed, protectionist Europe which he seeks to perpetuate that is so anathema to us? It has helped to perpetuate the difficulty in achieving a successful negotiation on the general agreement on tariffs and trade, particularly on agriculture.

Sir Edward Heath

I am not in the least out to maintain a protectionist Community. As I said before, when I negotiated Britain's entry I had to lower all our tariffs by a very large amount, which infuriated business and industry, but it was necessary. Is my hon. Friend saying that he wants to abolish all quotas and just let in all textiles from developing countries? Not for one moment, and he would not hold his seat if he did. Let us be realistic about the matter.

I want to say a word about another important matter—the responsibility of Ministers. We are told that the public do not understand what is really at stake. Very well, then the responsibility is ours for not explaining it to them. But what is also clear is that, when the Commission is acting, it is acting under the authority of the Ministers who approve their recommendations. Yet how often does a Minister stand up at this or other Front Benches and say, "Yes, I agreed to all that. It is not the Commission's fault. You can't blame the Commission, we accepted it"?

I hear complaints from my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), whom I heard the other day boasting on television that he did not understand two words of French. I do not know what there is to boast about.

Mr. Marlow

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "In French!"] Peut-etre que mon ami peut dire a cette maison, what is meant by "acquis communautaire"? Just two words in English, so that we understand.

Sir Edward Heath


My hon. Friend"s problem is that the Commission keeps coming forward with proposals, but that is the structure of the Community. That is the way in which the Community has become, in 40 years, an outstanding success. It has restored the beacon countries of Europe to their present state of prosperity. It is the structure of the Community and the Commission that have achieved that.

It is deplorable that there is a constant attack on the President of the Commission, Jacques Delors, who has done a superb job.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)


Sir Edward Heath

Why does my hon. Friend say that that is wrong? The single market was settled six years ago. It was agreed by the British Prime Minister. Who has carried out all the work and shown leadership in getting the single market established? The answer is the President of the Commission. He is the one who has done it. It is because the Commission has been a success that the countries to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred— Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland—want to become members.

The campaign by The Sun against Jacques Delors, urging people tomorrow to put up posters and speak of "Fawk Delors", is sordid, filthy and unworthy of any British newspaper. In fact, that newspaper is American owned and American directed. It makes me ashamed to be in a country in which it is published. It is—[HON. MEMBERS: "Australian".]

Sir Edward Heath

It is not. It is American owned because it is a renegade Australian who has gone to America.

Apparently, we are the only country that wants to get rid of the President of the Commission, and quite wrongly so.

Great emphasis has been placed on subsidiarity. Very well. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said towards the end of his speech to the effect that subsidiarity is necessary in some ways. However, we must take a positive attitude towards what will be done in the Community. If we are to be at the heart of it, we can do more things together than we can by saying, "We are not going to touch this."

At present, it is vital that the Commission and the Community concentrate on economic recovery for the Community as a whole. Subsidiarity has little to do with that. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with it. Where are the continuing discussions at the highest level about economic recovery in the Community? We hear nothing of them. We were told that the meeting at Birmingham had been called to deal with the flaws in the exchange rate mechanism, but they were not discussed. No one has yet told us what the flaws are or were. Many of us suspect that the flaws were to be found in us and not in the ERM. Until we face the facts—face reality—we shall never be able to overcome our present difficulties.

The difficulties that we now face are, in my view, some of the most serious that have confronted the United Kingdom since the second world war. I would say that there is absolutely no doubt about that. It will take time to overcome them. We cannot keep on saying, "Yes, recovery is just around the corner." We have seen what has happened in the United States as a result of a President taking that line. Our difficulties will take time to overcome, and in overcoming them we shall need friends. We need friends wherever we can find them and, above all, we need them in the Community.

To say after a meeting, "We have won everything, we have beaten them, we have got what we wanted" is not to make friends. It is a community. Very well, let us look after British interests, but let us look after Community interests as well. If we do not take that approach, we shall not make friends. As I said, we need them desperately at this moment.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, if he were true to himself, he would admit that in his heart much of his European passion—his passion for the European ideal—is based on a severe distrust of the United States? On this day of all days, as a new President is elected, will he take the opportunity to reaffirm his belief in the special relationship that we have with the United States, which is of equal importance to the relationship that we have with the Community?

Sir Edward Heath

Of course, I offer my congratulations to the new President.

On the lawn of the White House, in front of President Nixon, I said that there was no such thing as a special relationship. Again, what is the impact of that on our colleagues in the Community? If we say, "We are special and you are not", what is the impact on south American countries, which are so close to the United States? In effect, we are saying, "You are nothing. We have a special relationship." To take that view is to show no understanding of international relations. That was fully accepted by the Americans.

The Americans do not refer to a special relationship. They take that approach because they do not want to upset the rest of those with whom they are working. What we have—some would say that it is more important—is an historic relationship. We can argue about how good it has been, and if we reflect on recent history, including the history of atomic weapons after the second world war, we might begin to doubt the strength of the historic relationship. Of course I want good relations with the United States, but I am not prepared to give up Europe because of relations with the United States. I am not prepared to do that for one moment.

Dr. Spink

I am indebted to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Given the election result in the United States, does he agree that it is likely now that protectionism in the United States will grow? That makes it even more important that we support the Government tonight to reinforce our relationship with Europe, which is so necessary for jobs and prosperity in this country.

Sir Edward Heath

I would not like to commit myself to saying that the President-elect will go for tariffs and other policies of that sort. On the other hand, I agree with my hon. Friend that Europe is necessary for us from the point of view of industry, growth and financial investment in this country. These factors have already been damaged by uncertainty. Talk to any of those who are involved in investment and they will say that, the longer the uncertainty continues, the more investment in this country will be damaged. That is true. That is why I am urging that the process be speeded up.

Mr. Cryer

That is right!

Sir Edward Heath

The hon. Gentleman wants to get out of Europe in any event.

We must recognise that the Community is essential to us and that we must work in it and with it. We no longer run the world, although some behave as if we do. It is—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Hon. Members on the Front Benches below the Gangway must not have arguments across the Chamber when other Members are speaking.

Sir Edward Heath

We do not run the world, Europe or the United States.

There are those who are contemplating abstaining or voting against the Government. In more than 42 years in the House, and having been associated with my party for about 50 years, I accept that there have been major differences.

Mr. Skinner

The Conservative party has them now.

Sir Edward Heath

They are serious difficulties.

I cannot recall, however, any episode in which those who have taken a different view from that of the Government were prepared to endanger the life of their Government. I look back to the India battles at the beginning of the 1930s when I was at Oxford. That group was never for one moment prepared to endanger the then Government.

Mr. Skinner

Did the right hon. Gentleman support it?

Sir Edward Heath

I was not a Member of the House at the time.

I look back to the Suez problem, which arose in the 1950s. That, of course, was the time when the Suez group was operating. At no point was it prepared to damage the then Conservative Government.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Well reminded.

Mr. Skinner

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was a Whip then.

Sir Edward Heath

Yes, I was. I respected the group's views. Its members were always ready to assure me that in no circumstances would they damage the Government.

Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends hold views about Maastricht and the European Community as a whole that are different from mine. I know that some of them never wanted to belong to the European Community. I have always respected their views. I do not believe, however, that it is right for them tonight in any way to endanger the outside world, the Conservative party or the United Kingdom by voting against the Government.

5.39 pm
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Once again, I find myself following the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir. E. Heath) in a European debate. By and large, I could not find a single point of disagreement with what he said—[Interruption.] It is often the case that on specific issues one can agree with those from other parties. Indeed, it is often the case that, when that happens, the nation benefits.

The right hon. Gentleman expressed sadness about the position adopted by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and the many others who showed great courage in 1972 but who have now decided to change their minds—[Interruption.] I shall seek to show that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is, I greatly regret, driven more by opportunism than by anything else.

The question before the House this evening is probably the most important question with which we have dealt in recent years. It is about Britain's future in Europe, not about the survival of the Government. That is the central issue at stake today. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has a deservedly fine reputation as a parliamentary debater. I believe that, when he looks back on his speech today, he will find that it did not enhance that reputation. The whole of his speech—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) says from a sedentary position that we are frightened of losing our seats—[interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) wants to intervene, he should do so in the proper manner; otherwise he must restrain himself.

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Member for Workington might reflect on this fact. In 1972, we voted on a matter of principle, and we voted for Britain's future in Europe. There was a deeply unpopular Government at the time, and we heard exactly the same charges against us from Labour Members then that we hear now. They said that we would never be forgiven. However, within three or four months, we had won the by-elections in Sutton and Cheam, Orpington and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Two years later, we won our largest vote ever, because we stuck to our principles when the Labour party did not stick to its.

I want to deal with the matter that took up practically the whole of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, the central question whether we are debating a motion of confidence. His speech, which turned on a lawyer's legalistic analysis of text rather than anything substantial, must be set against his statement the day before yesterday that this was a "virtual confidence motion". If he examined Britain's constitution, he would realise that there is no such thing as a "virtual" confidence motion.

The way to judge a confidence motion is by a single criterion—if the Government lose the vote, will there be a general election tomorrow? The answer is no, as all right hon. and hon. Members have conceded. Instead, there will he a vote of confidence, which the Government will win —turkeys do not vote for Christmas. On Friday, we will wake up without a general election but with Britain's future in Europe desperately damaged. We will not vote for that.

There is a paradox in that there is a clear majority in this House in favour of ratifying the Maastricht treaty. People outside the Chamber and those viewing our debate from Europe will find it extraordinary that a decision that should be taken on whether it benefits our country is instead being swept to one side in pursuit of what I am bound to call discreditable opportunism.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had tabled a confidence motion, we would have voted for it. If there were an opportunity to remove the Government, we would not miss it. I take second place to no one in my wish to get rid of the Government, and I will not miss the first opportunity to achieve that. However, that is not on offer this evening.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman chooses not to table a confidence motion but instead asks his hon. Friends to vote against something with which they agree in order to show support for a motion that he has not dared to table, he will not win the trust of this country.

Mr. John Smith

I note that the right hon. Gentleman increases his attacks on the Labour party according to the intensity of the representations he receives from his followers throughout the country. They will understand what I mean when I accuse him of staggering naivety. He knows that, if the Government win the motion, they will use it as justification for public expenditure cuts, their economic policy and other matters. The right hon. Gentleman will have to explain to his party and his voters why he was conned across the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Ashdown

When someone runs out of arguments, he indulges in just that sort of name calling. There is an argument for saying that, by voting against the Government, we could damage them. But the central question we must consider is whether we would damage the nation more. The Labour party will inflict damage on the Government, but, as I believe I can show, it will inflict ever greater damage on the country in the process.

There are sincere reasons for voting against the Government's motion—

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)


Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman, to whom I will give way later, has always argued his case, as have the hon. Members for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey)—who was elected on the basis that he opposed the treaty. I disagree with him, but he is entitled to his view as, indeed, are others. I accept that they have a case to put, to which I and the nation will listen with a great deal of respect. At least they are doing what they believe to be in the national interest.

However, those who want to assure Britain's future in Europe but who vote against the motion are putting party political interest before that of the nation. That is the main charge that I level at the Labour party.

Another case that may be made by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East and those who vote with the Labour party tonight is that we may so damage the Prime Minister that he would have to be removed. I would weep no tears for that. But we must judge the issue against the national interest. Will it do Britain's condition any good for the current Prime Minister of a Tory Government to be replaced by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke)? The answer to that question is no. Will it damage the country if we do not ratify the Maastricht treaty? The answer to that is unquestionably yes.

Other reasons have been advanced for voting against the motion tonight. One that we have heard articulated is that the motion is unnecessary. That was the first reason the Labour party gave for voting against the motion—until someone pointed out that this debate is being held precisely because the Labour party had requested it on 1 June, a request followed up later by the Labour party's spokesman on foreign affairs.

The second reason advanced was that Maastricht was imperfect. I accept that argument; we were the first to state some of the treaty's imperfections. But unless the Bill proceeds, we shall not be able to amend those imperfections later.

The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East argued that to vote for the Government tonight was to give the Labour party's imprimatur to the opt-out of the social chapter. Then, why did the Opposition not vote against the Bill on Second Reading? They never did so; they abstained. Neither I nor my party want the social chapter opt-out or the monetary union opt-out, but if Maastricht goes down, the social chapter and monetary union go down with it. Only if we ratify the Maastricht treaty can a future Government—hopefully a more European one—readopt both clauses, which we want to see.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As the leader of a party that has fought for people's rights year after year, does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that our democratic system will be greatly damaged if the Bill is pushed through without the people having the right to express their view? Could we not put a stop to the bogus nonsense and attacks by one party on another if we simply agreed now to give people the right to a say? Would that not stop all the nonsense of people concentrating on each other's motives?

Mr. Ashdown

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. As he may know, I have always supported a referendum on the matter, and I hope that one will be agreed under the Bill. I agree that the Bill involves a shift of sovereignty—one that I recommend to the British people and in which I passionately believe—but the House does not have the right to give away sovereignty that it does not possess.

Sovereignty comes from the people. I believe that there should be a referendum. If there were a referendum, we should not be seen to take our people into Europe, which I strongly recommend they enter, depending on their ignorance or in the face of their hostility. That has always been my view, and will remain so.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)


Mr. Ashdown

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman: I have given way a number of times, and should like to make progress. I am aware that we are approaching the time for the 10-minute rule to be applied to speeches.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)


Madam Speaker

Order. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has just this minute said that he is not prepared to give way. I clearly heard him say so.

Mr. Ashdown

I shall make a little more progress; then I shall happily give way.

The last reason which is given for voting against the Bill, and which lies at the heart of the Labour party's amendment, is that we should wait for the Danes. I cannot imagine a more demeaning attitude for the country to take than to have to shelter behind the skirts of the Danish people. Every other nation in the European Community has ratified or will ratify the agreement without waiting for the announcement from the Danish people on their reconsideration.

Only one question needs to be asked by the British people and the House: whether Maastricht is in Britain's interests. I believe that it is. Whether it is regarded by the Danes as being in Denmark's interest is totally irrelevant.

At the heart of the Labour party's amendment is the belief that the debate should be delayed for a further six weeks. What the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East would have us believe was a great and towering issue of confidence is merely an opportunity for the Labour party to sit on the fence for another six weeks. That is not a convincing argument.

Mr. Wareing

Last Friday, I talked with a Liberal Member of the Swedish Parliament, who said that, in two years, the Swedes are to have a referendum on whether to join the European Community. The Swedes are carefully watching the way in which the large countries such as Germany, France and Britain are treating Denmark. Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that, if we are to persuade the Swedes and other small countries to join the European Community, we should treat them fairly?

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman completely misunderstood the position—as he so often does. It is not a question of treating the Danes fairly. Of course we should listen to them and seek to do what we can to accommodate their views. But that does not have any bearing on whether it is in Britain's interests to join the Maastricht process. It is in Britain's interests, not Denmark's, which is the issue that the House and the country must address.

Mr. Cryer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

No, I wish to make considerably more progress before giving way again.

Let us consider the Labour amendment. The Labour party wants a six-week delay. What happens in those six weeks? First, severe damage will be done to the respect in which this country is held abroad. I have no doubt that the voice of this country in its EC presidency will be undermined during the six-week delay.

Beyond that, what is the six-week delay about? It is about a Labour party that went to the electorate in April to ask them to vote for something, and now ends up voting against it. It is about considerably more damage being done to the British economy. It is about the fact that the uncertainty that now acts as one of the primary blocks against trying to get the country out of recession will remain for a further six weeks. It is about the fact that the inward investment on which we so much depend in reviving the economy in order to save jobs will not improve for a further six weeks.

Therefore, we shall pay for the Labour party's six weeks with more lost jobs and a deeper recession. One night of fun in Westminster for the Labour party will result in tens of thousands of additional lost jobs in Britain.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Ashdown

No, I shall not give way.

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)


Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not persist, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has just made it clear that he is not going to give way.

Mr. Ashdown

The economy is in a mess, and the Government are culpable. Of course the Government's economic policies are the origin of that mess, but there is one certain way to make that mess worse and to lose more people their jobs: for the motion to fall and the Maastricht process to be delayed. That would result in this country's economic mess getting worse, not better. The Labour party's action tonight will have brought that about.

Not long ago, a sensible article in The Observer said: The Government is not going to be able to solve the economic crisis unless it secures a European solution. Correct. It continued: The ingredients of a practical alternative to that grim future"— by which the author meant the Government's recession— are to be found in the Maastricht treaty". Correct. The author concluded: It is essential that these are acted upon … to-day. The author of that article was not the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister, but the then leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock). That is what he felt, but tonight he will vote against those sentiments.

The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has written one of the best books produced by any Member of the House in recent years on the European question. He said: The Labour party must sustain its new commitment to the European Community. A switch back to outright opposition—or even to scepticism—would lack any credibility. He is right. I am only sorry that he has decided not to support his words in the Lobby tonight.

We will vote not for the Government but for Britain's future in Europe. Tonight, we will vote not for the Prime Minister but to save jobs and to get the economy going again within the only context that makes that possible. This country's tradition does not lie in isolation from Europe. Our history has always been involvement and participation in Europe. Twice this century, when Europe has faced its darkest hour, this country has made great sacrifices to ensure that we play our full part. Now, when Europe again is facing considerable economic problems and when we are seeing rising nationalism and deepening threats to peace in Europe, it cannot be in the interests of this country to abandon that tradition.

I finish with a letter that appeared in The Observer, which I saw on Monday night. It spoke of an old man who was seen by the graveyard in El Alamein. Looking at the rows of white crosses ahead of him in the desert, he said, "This is the reason why I believe the Maastricht treaty must be ratified: that must never happen again." The question before the House tonight is whether that old man, in that single sentence, was able to express more wisdom than the whole of the House in this debate tonight.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I remind the House that speeches between now and 8 pm must be limited to 10 minutes.

6.3 pm

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

I agreed with much of the impressive speech of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), but I rise to tell the House for the first time for some time, in case there should be any muddle, that there is no unanimity in Southend on the European Community. Therefore, in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), for once I should like to give my views.

The debate is ostensibly on a motion to proceed with the Bill. We all know that, if we want to, we can proceed with the Bill anyway. The debate is taking place because the Labour party and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends wanted it. If we proceed to debate the Maastricht Bill, either now or in a few weeks' time, we shall still have the opportunity to amend it, throw it out or do whatever the House wants to do. All the fuss and debate revolve around a Labour amendment to delay the proceedings of the Committee for six weeks. [Interruption.] That is what Labour's amendment says. I said "ostensibly" because we all know that other considerations lie behind it.

In reality, the House is making an amazing fuss about very little indeed. All of us will have a chance to say more if the Bill is considered, but the basic principles are clear.

Fear was expressed that the Bill might he pushed through. Goodness knows how the Bill will he pushed through. It will have the longest Committee stage of any Bill since the war. I shall be very surprised indeed if it is pushed through.

Let me give the House my views, for what they are worth, which I suspect is not much. I think that it is essential for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Community; not every hon. Member agrees, but the overwhelming majority do. All the old arguments still apply. I am strongly in favour of completion of the single market and of attracting inward investment. There are some signs of people involved with inward investment being worried about what will happen if we do not ratify Maastricht. I must say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), to whose experience I bow, that I am in favour of much freer trade. Indeed, I fear that action may be needed on textiles, to which he referred.

There are both undesirable and desirable provisions in the treaty. If I believed, for example. that ratification of Maastricht would lead to Mr. Martin Bangemann's view of affairs prevailing, I should not be in favour of it. It is interesting that no one has mentioned Mr. Bangemann, which shows that no hon. Member takes his predictions seriously. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I shall look forward to hearing from my hon. Friends in due course.

I do not believe in a federal Europe, and nor do the Government, the House and the Opposition. I believe that Maastricht represents if anything a step back from federalism rather than a step towards it. Of course Maastricht is not ideal. I do not know any hon. Member who thinks that it is. I am not mad keen on it. I go further than many of my hon. Friends: it would have been much better if it had not happened at all. It was thrust upon us and we had to take part in it. It would have saved us much trouble if the French had voted against it, but they did not and we must face the facts of the real world rather than of the world that many of us would like.

Do we want to be in or out? We cannot take an a la carte approach and choose the parts that we want. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister returned from the meetings in Maastricht at the end of 1991, was he received with derision by the House? Was there universal opposition to what he came back with? Not at all. It was a triumph. We were told, and I believed, that my right hon. Friend had achieved remarkable success in getting the British point of view accepted. I remind the House of the motion that was passed on 19 December 1991, with the support of most of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East. It reads: This House congratulates the Prime Minister on achieving all the negotiating objectives set out in the motion that was supported by the House on 21st November; and warmly endorses the agreement secured by the Government at Maastricht."—[Official Report, 19 December 1991; Vol. 201. c. 555.] I repeat: This House … warmly endorses the agreement secured by the Government at Maastricht. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East and many hon. Friends—who, I read in the newspapers, hold slightly different points of view now—supported that.

The negotiation was a great success. I have a copy of the Dutch magazine to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) referred in the speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister: The third main protagonist in Maastricht is the British Premier John Major. He was the winner of the negotiations. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup: that is a quotation; it is not I who said that. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wanted "an opt-out from the EMU" and he got it. The magazine went on to describe that what happened at Maastricht was a resounding British success. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister managed to defuse the issue; he did not compel this country to go in for the social charter—I know that there are differences between the two sides of the House on that. We were not committed to economic and monetary union; we were not committed to a single currency; and we made progress towards subsidiarity.

Of course there are worrying features of the agreement, at least from my point of view. The Commission itself described it as expanding many of their existing responsibilities and bringing in new policy areas. Yes, there are things that are not perfect in the Maastricht agreement. We also know that all over Europe there is increasing concern about the powers of the Commission and the way in which it is out of touch with public opinion in the various member states. If that were not so, we would not have had the situation in France, we would not have had the situation in Denmark and we would not have the powerful body of opinion in this country against the powers wielded by the Commission, or at least against the way in which it chooses to exercise its powers.

What happens if we say no to the Maastricht treaty, if we say no tonight and eventually do not ratify it? Do hon. Members think that it will make the centralising tendencies of the Community better or worse? I believe that it will mean that this country will be in a very much weaker position, not a stronger one, if we stay in the Community. Of course, if I were a Member who believed in our getting out, that would be a different matter. Those hon. Members who want to leave the Community have an entirely different point of view. But for those of us who want to remain, how do we remain as an effective negotiator if we do not in the end sign what we have agreed in a free negotiation and which the House has approved by an enormous majority? Who apart from us in the Community will argue for less Commission control or more subsidiarity?

I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that we must make real progress in Edinburgh on subsidiarity. It has been an amazing achievement by the Government, but it must be there in black and white, meaning something rather than a pious message. We must win Mr. Delors' prize. Mr. Delors' monetary prize will, I hope, be won by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he gets to Edinburgh.

Mr. Hurd

I will buy you all a drink then.

Mr. Channon

My right hon. Friend can buy us all a drink—well, he may well be right, but he must win that battle because it is very important for the future of the Community and for the future of the Bill as it passes through the House.

The House has the power to alter or throw out the Bill; neither the motion nor the amendment will affect that. We will debate the Bill in due course. It is ridiculous that we have turned this debate into such an enormous occasion and that we have had the Labour party turning away from its position of supporting the European Community and the treaty in order to try to make some cheap party political capital out of the genuine concern among some of my hon. Friends about parts of the Maastricht treaty. The Labour party seeks to exploit that. I understand why, but the House must not let itself be fooled: there is nothing of merit in the Labour party's case. All it can put forward is this idea of amending our motion to make the line-by-line consideration take place a month later.

I urge my hon. Friends, if they are in any doubt whatsoever, to support the Government motion. It will not prevent them from proposing amendments to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill later if they want to do so, nor will it prevent the House from taking a view on the Bill or throwing it out in the end. The amendment is merely a device to exploit the very understandable differences of view on the Government side of the House. I urge my hon. Friends not to be taken in by it, and to support the motion.

6.13 pm
Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

I begin by congratulating my Front Bench on the decision to oppose the Government in the Division later this evening. It is a course of action that I and many colleagues urged on them, and I am naturally delighted that they have taken the advice and reached that decision.

The stated reason for the decision is that this evening's motion and the whole debate have very little to do with the issue of Maastricht but everything to do with bolstering the flagging fortunes of a discredited Prime Minister; but I want to make it clear that, for myself and perhaps for others voting on this side of the argument this evening, there are other and perhaps even stronger reasons for doing so.

I shall be voting against the motion, for instance, because I believe that it is premature. It is premature because it flies in the face of the assurance that the Prime Minister gave in September that we would not reconsider the matter until the Danes had resolved their situation. The Danish Government have, of course, put forward their proposals, but there is no guarantee that the Danish people will listen to those proposals any more than they did when they decided the matter in the first referendum. Nor is there any guarantee that the requirements of the Danish Government will be accepted or even entertained by other European leaders. The Foreign Office has revealed that it understands that very well, and Mr. Delors' initial response shows all too clearly that arrogance and disregard for public opinion which got us into the Maastricht mess in the first place.

I shall vote against the Government this evening because, of all the provisions in the Maastricht treaty which one might or might not wish to support, it is surely perverse for our Government to turn their back on the social chapter, the one provision in the treaty that offers at least the chance of a people's Europe rather than a bankers' Europe. This is the one provision that gives some protection to working people right across Europe against the depredations of employers looking for the lowest wages and the poorest working conditions.

I shall vote against the Government this evening because the Prime Minister has consistently misled his own party, the House and the country about the true effect of the treaty. The Prime Minister claims that it is a decentralising treaty. He says that the provision about subsidiarity has real and precise meaning. That simply flies in the face of the actual provisions of the treaty. The treaty is clear, and we must understand that when our partners write these words they mean them.

The treaty is clear: it establishes a European union of which henceforth we are all to be citizens. Mr. Bangemann spoke the truth. Why should he do otherwise? It is as plain as a pikestaff to anyone that the treaty is designed to be a major step towards a federal Europe. The very term is itself inadequate to describe what is aimed at. What is aimed at is a unitary state, a European superstate with centralised political institutions, and it does no credit to the Prime Minister, in that maladroit way, to say that Mr. Bangemann is wrong and that his own interpretation is right. The most charitable thing that we can say about the Prime Minister is that he appears not to understand the treaty that he negotiated.

I shall also vote against the Government tonight because of what the treaty has to say about economic and monetary union and a single currency. It is ironic, is it not, that we are again being beguiled with those seductive messages from the captains of industry and the leaders of our economy to the effect that we must accept Maastricht for the sake of our economic future. Hardly a dot or a comma has been altered in the similar protestations and messages in support of our membership of the exchange rate mechanism, uttered with the same certainty and confidence just eight weeks ago. The reality is that to accept Maastricht would be to throw this economy once again into the abyss; to entrench in permanent and irreversible treaty law all the mistakes of the ERM which created a deepening recession, destroyed jobs, homes and businesses and blighted lives.

That is what we now face by way of the treaty of Maastricht on economic policy. We must not accept it. The provisions of the treaty simply fly in the face of the best economic interests of this country. How can we accept a treaty that sets up an independent central bank which is to control and decide all the major questions of economic policy in a way which is directly and specifically said by the treaty to be unaccountable to any other influence, let alone the democratically elected Governments of the Community?

How can we accept provisions which direct those bankers, if they need such direction, to concentrate exclusively on price stability, even in the depths of the worst recession for two generations? How can we accept convergence criteria defined exclusively in monetary terms; criteria which would require us, if they applied today, to lop £20 billion off public spending? How can that be accepted? What a breathtakingly audacious attempt this is by the bankers to secure for ever their dominance over elected politicians. No responsible Member of the House should give away such centrally important powers of self-government, and certainly not without so much as a word of consultation with those by whose authority we sit in the House.

What is proposed is not just a new arrangement; it is intended to be irreversible. That is the point of enshrining it in treaty law. No British electorate, in any subsequent British general election, could vote in a Government, even a party which stood on the explicit programme of implementing a different economic policy, who could produce a change of policy without a direct breach of our treaty obligations.

I make this case not just for the British people but for the people of Europe as well. I speak as a European politician as well as a British politician. Those who argue that the decision is whether we remain in Europe are frankly wrong. They are not only wrong; the reverse is the case. It is those who are pressing Maastricht who are jeopardising the European project because they will subject that project to such intolerable strains that it will burst asunder.

The argument that somehow tonight's vote can be skated over, that it does not matter, that there will he other opportunities—as we heard from the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon)—is insidious but wrong. So, too, is the argument that we have heard so often that we should just accept this step because it will take us to the heart of the negotiations where we can influence events.

We know from Mr. Delors' own lips that there is to be no negotiation; no change to the treaty. Once we accept it, if we accept it tonight, that is that. Whatever the Prime Minister says tonight to his Back Benchers about the nature of the decision, be in no doubt that, if he wins, he will say tomorrow that Maastricht is back on the rails arid Maastricht will then he ratified.

I say to all those who now have to make up their minds that we shall all be put to the test tonight. We shall all have our own reasons. None of us need accept the motivations ascribed to us by others. Some will decide out of genuine conviction, others, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, will prefer pious posturing, and some will be willing dupes of deliberate blandishments and threats.

But the decision will depend on perhaps a small group; people who understand their responsibilities, who know the great struggle for democracy in this country, who know what is at stake is this country's future in Europe. Those people will lift their eyes to a longer horizon. They will understand what is at stake. They will exercise their responsibilities in a proper manner and with proper regard to the interests of the people not only of this country but of Europe.

I do not know how many those people will be. They may he few in number, but, for the sake of Britain and Europe, I pray that they are enough.

6.23 pm
Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), not just because I disagree profoundly with every word that he has uttered for the past 10 minutes, but because, in the few minutes available to me, I want to address my remarks to those such as him who are not just interested in whether tonight we vote for postponement of the Committee stage for six weeks or more but who, like him and like some of my hon. Friends, do not believe in the Maastricht treaty at all, do not want to see it ratified, and do not want to see us progress further with our continental colleagues towards a closer union.

All hon. Members will have noticed that, in all the eloquent words uttered by the hon. Member for Dagenham, he offered not one single word of an alternative. He wanted to turn the clock back. He assumed that life could go on as it had in pre-Delors days; no Maastricht treaty, no change, just an economic area. But it is not like that. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said clearly, the other 10 countries will certainly ratify the treaty before Christmas. We have no reason to believe that the Danes will not ratify too within the next year—[Interruption.]—no reason at all.

In any event, my hon. Friends should look around them. On 1 January 1993, if all goes well, the European economic area will come into being, along with the internal market. The seven EFTA countries will all have a full part in that. Those seven have accepted the full body of EC legislation, existing and to come, dealing with the internal market, social policy, environment and competition. On top of that, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland have applied for full membership of the Community, Maastricht and all.

Are those countries all wrong and the hon. Member for Dagenham and a few of my hon. Friends, whose sincerity I respect even if I think that they are blind, all right? Or have those new applicants who accept the Maastricht treaty looked back in history, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) did, at the past 40 years in which, year on year, Germany, at the heart of the Community, has had a growth rate 1 per cent. per annum higher than us, and France, at the heart of the Community, has had a growth rate 0.5 per cent. higher than us; and have they decided that that is the example that they want to follow rather than that of Britain, which is constantly at the fringes of the Community, a late entrant, always asking for exemptions from this and that, and regularly getting poorer than its continental neighbours?

I remember well the time when the deutschmark was 12 to the pound. It was then 10 to the pound. It was then four to the pound. It is now between 2.40 and 2.50 to the pound. If we back away from the Maastricht treaty, not only will it scare off new external investment in Britain —there are already signs of that happening as I see in my constituency—but the deutschmark rate will fall to 2, 1.50, to 1, and we shall progressively become poorer while those in the Community who move to closer union will become richer.

That will be the unalterable tide of history. Those who say that we should beware the Maastricht treaty because it is federalism and will lead on to this, that or the other never come forward with any alternative. I agree with those who say that this is not a perfect treaty. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary did a marvellous job of negotiating in difficult circumstances. The treaty is not well drafted, it is difficult to read and there are parts in it that none of us likes. But our partners, our friends in the Community, are getting on with it. We have to be there too, to change it, to make it better, but also to see that Britain is more prosperous than it otherwise would be.

I make my position clear. Some years ago, I worked in Canada for five years, just when Canada was negotiating its free trade arrangement with the United States. I know how painful and difficult it was to create that free trade market in north America. Mexico is now part of it. Any idea that we could join a north Atlantic free trade area now is turning history back 25 years.

I have been many times to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore as a business man. They are all developing their own free trade areas within the Pacific rim countries. Do those of my hon. Friends who wish to oppose Maastricht seriously believe that we can stand back, a little England, on the edge of the continent and have inward investment, prosperity, full employment? It is just not possible.

I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath); we need to do a better job of explaining the treaty to everyone in the country. We should not run away from it. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will take that point on board, and will tell us what he has in mind. I do not think that he should emulate the document put out by a number of EC members, which takes the form of a small card; nor do I think that the lengthy 140-page consolidation of the treaty is quite right. I strongly recommend something like this pamphlet headed: Info-pratique—Maastricht—faites votre choix. Les 35 points clés pour voter. I am sure that all hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to read that document, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will find a means of ensuring that similar documents are delivered to every household in the country at Christmas or thereabouts, so that it is available to the public when we are debating the Bill's Committee stage. There should be no deficiency in the provision of information. Although the decision must be made in the House, it is possible to ensure that our constituents are much better informed than they are now. A pamphlet summarising the terms of the treaty is undoubtedly needed.

Let me say a final word, which I address particularly to Opposition Members—many of whom I know well, and many of whom I know to be, at heart, strong supporters of Maastricht. I suggest that they return late from dinner tonight. Perhaps their taxis will be blocked; perhaps they will find some other good reason not to be present for the vote. I believe that they could all benefit from practising the wisdom of a Denis Healey or a George Brown, and turn up late after a good dinner in order not to vote in an embarrassing way.

Let me remind Opposition Members of the time in the 1970s when they were in government with a small majority. When the debate concerned defence or Northern Ireland, Conservative Members did not vote to bring the Government down; we followed our principles rather than trying to defeat the Labour Government on issues in which we believed. Many hon. Members who think as we do on the Community now sit on the Opposition Benches, and they should be honourable enough not to be here to vote. If they do not take such action, they—like their new leader —will earn the contempt of the British people, which will hang around that new leader's neck like an albatross. He will never forget it.

The new Leader of the Opposition has done an incredible thing. In one great leap, through his wobble and his hypocrisy, he has made his predecessor seem a paragon of consistency and principle. I never thought that that would be possible, but the Leader of the Opposition has achieved it.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you ask the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) to withdraw his allegation of hypocrisy?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I must say in all honesty that I did not hear the word "hypocrisy", but, if the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) used it, I am sure that he will withdraw it.

Mr. Renton

As you agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you were not listening with full attention. What I said was that the Leader of the Opposition had shown, or practised, an example of hypocrisy that he would never forget. I think that that comment has the general approval of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate has been conducted with full-blooded enthusiasm by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman might be advised to make it absolutely clear that he alleged no hypocrisy on the part of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Renton

It is certainly true that I was not calling the Leader of the Opposition a hypocrite; I was saying something rather different.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

He repeated exactly what he had said before.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We do not need sedentary remarks.

6.34 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

This seems to be a debate for short speeches, and I sincerely hope that mine will be the shortest of all.

I believe that the comments of the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) were addressed to people like me, who have always strongly supported the principle of closer union in Europe. It seems a bit much, however, for a former Government Chief Whip to appeal to Opposition Members to stay away so that his wretched, discredited Government can remain in power, and he will not get away with it. There are a number of words for such behaviour. and certainly the right hon. Gentleman used some ugly words when he described my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition as a hypocrite. That was nonsense.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now stretching the Chair's patience. Let us return to the debate.

Mr. Home Robertson

I think that I am right in saying that the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex withdrew his comment. If so, we can leave it at that.

As I said, I have always strongly supported the principle of closer European union. Along with my constituency party, I campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum; I only regret that I did not join my hon. Friends the Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) in the Lobby on Second Reading of the Maastricht Bill. Had I done so, the Bill would have been given a majority of 245. Nevertheless, we shall have further opportunities when the Bill reaches its later stages. I intend to vote for an "opt-in" provision relating to the social charter and all the other bits and pieces in regard to which the Prime Minister dug his toes in—and tried to claim credit for doing so earlier in the debate.

I come from a country that has shared its sovereignty with a powerful neighbour for a long time—ever since 1707—and I do not share the hang-ups of Conservative Members and my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) about a development along those lines in the Community. I hope, indeed, that the Community will develop in ways that will give smaller countries like Scotland a stronger and more direct input into the affairs of the Community, as well as their own affairs.

Let me stress the important point that I put to the Prime Minister when he made his statement last week. Subsidiarity must not stop at Westminster. It would be a travesty if the Länder of Germany, such as Bavaria, were given more power according to that principle, while Scotland and Wales continued to be administered from Whitehall like colonies, governed by Westminster legislation. It would constitute the grossest irony if the European Council assembled in Edinburgh, of all places, and agreed to a package that would deny subsidiarity to the people of Scotland.

The Maastricht treaty—with the opt-outs negotiated by the Prime Minister—is certainly far from perfect.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)


Mr. Home Robertson

Let me remind my hon. Friend of the deliberations that took place at the Labour party conference, which resoundingly supported and endorsed a resolution that stated: This Conference reaffirms Labour's vision of Europe with Britain's future at the heart of a European Community which is economically prosperous and which has high standards of social and environmental protection and citizens' rights … Conference believes that the Maastricht Treaty, while not perfect, is the best agreement that can currently be achieved. That resolution was overwhelmingly supported. Another draft resolution, which stated: This Conference calls on the Parliamentary Labour Party to oppose ratification of the Maastricht Treaty", was overwhelmingly rejected.

As I have said, the treaty is not perfect, and we must vote for improvements to the Bill. That is the approach that we should adopt, and I am confident that the official Opposition will adopt it. If it is appropriate, I intend in due course to vote for the Bill's Third Reading.

If the motion had been genuinely and substantively about Europe, I would have voted with the Government in the Aye Lobby; but it is not. It is a paving motion—a gimmick. According to our procedures it is completely redundant. Indeed, in response to a point of order, Madam Speaker specifically clarified that point earlier. There is no need for the motion, because there is nothing to stop the Government from going ahead with the ratification of the treaty. When they do so they will find that I, and most Opposition Members, approach it in a constructive and positive manner.

This is not a paving motion about Europe; it is a detour round some of the obscure back alleys of the Conservative party. Tonight we are dealing with the stepping stones by means of which the Prime Minister is trying to paddle through the morasses of Southend and elsewhere. It is no part of our job to help the Conservative party through such problems.

The motion is clearly one of confidence in the Government. We are told, "Yes, it is," and "No, it isn't," as different messages come out of different sectors of the Cabinet and the Conservative party—but to all intents and purposes we are dealing with a motion of confidence in the Government.

If, in my 14 years in the House, there were ever a Government which was not worthy of anyone's confidence, it is this Government. We could have argued that we had no confidence in the previous Prime Minister, but we always had confidence that she knew where she was going and what her policies were. Nobody can possibly have any confidence, in the strict literal meaning of the word, in the present Government. They do not know what is going on. Cabinet Ministers do not even have confidence in themselves. That is why the House should reject any notion of any kind of confidence in the Government. We certainly should not help them to plod their way through the morass that they have created for themselves with the motion.

I repeat that when the Bill comes back before the House I shall view it constructively, and I am likely to support its Third Reading. However, the motion before us has nothing to do with that. It is designed to save the neck of a discredited Prime Minister, and I sincerely hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will vote in that spirit.

6.41 pm
Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

The speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) was the speech of a very clever lawyer with a very bad case. If his mood had been a little less ungenerous, and if the Labour party were in a less uncertain and ambiguous position, he would have given credit where it was due, and acknowledged what has happened right from the start of the Maastricht debate.

I am talking about what has happened not only since the treaty was signed, but way back, when there was first pressure for the intergovernmental conference—which this country resisted—and then for the conference to give birth to the treaty text—about which this country had doubts —and then when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary went to Maastricht with a mandate to warn against excesses and to secure what they could for this country—which they did brilliantly. All that time, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the House of Commons—let us, as a House of Commons, take credit for this—have called it right about the unfolding Maastricht programme.

We are the ones who warned that there were excess elements, and dangers, in going full out for an imposed timetable, monetary union and a high political union. And now we are hearing the voices of pro-Europeans all round the continent, both inside and outside the Community, saying that we were right, and that the foot flat on the accelerator was the wrong approach, whereas the British stance, and our example, was right.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell

No, unfortunately I cannot give way, because of the 10-minute rule. Otherwise, I should be happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman.

Having reached the point at which this country is protected from some of the excesses of Maastricht, we are now in a strong position to move forward in Europe and to work for two aims. My personal view is that we should get over the hurdle and ratify the treaty, because we have work to do in formulating a new treaty.

I am sorry to burden my right hon. and hon. Friends with the prospect of a new treaty, but we need one to provide for the new priorities in Europe, which were not entirely foreseen at Maastricht but which are becoming clearer all the time.

Let us be clear about the goals we are fighting for. One of those lies before us, only eight weeks away. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) has said, a gigantic market, the largest single free trading area ever created by trade negotiators in history, is about to come into being. It will include not only the Community but the European Free Trade Association countries as well—and, I hope, thereafter the Visegrad countries.

On 1 January, in only eight weeks' time, there will be a consumer mass market of 375 million people, covering 46 per cent. of all world trade, with a GNP of about $7,000 billion—I am afraid that that sum is worth more pounds now than it was last week. That is a fantastic achievement, and a high road to great prosperity and opportunity for all the nations in that great economic space—the Community countries plus the European economic area signatories.

Our task in drawing up a new treaty will be to defend and maintain that huge trading operation, that huge economy dominating world trade, in a way that does not allow it to be eroded by protectionism or centralism, and does not allow political busybodies and interferers of every kind to undermine that colossal achievement. We must get on past the Maastricht treaty and begin to design the kind of treaty needed to maintain and strengthen that huge achievement in totally new conditions, which are different from those which existed when the Community began and which hold grave new threats, especially from instability in eastern Europe.

For that reason we, the British—after all, we have called it right all along—must begin to shape the new treaty. I want to see us get over the Maastricht problem, accept the ratification of the treaty while recognising its many inadequacies, and move on to the new tasks ahead.

First, we want a Europe in balance and equilibrium. We do not want a Europe of trains, buses, momentum and destinations, of blueprints and inevitable destiny. We need powers in a treaty—a constitution of Europe—to prevent that. As the Prime Minister said, that is needed to overcome people's deep worries that there will be a continuous slippery slope down which all the powers tumble into the spin drier of the Community. We do not want that, and we need a treaty which can lock in the brakes and barriers to prevent it.

The word with which we conjure to achieve that end is "subsidiarity"—and we have only just started on that. The seed is in the Maastricht treaty, but it is a tiny seed, hardly fertilised. An enormous amount of work is required. We need subsidiarity-plus, and that will not be secured entirely even by taking matters forward in Edinburgh—which I am sure will happen. A new treaty will be required to entrench genuine forces of subsidiarity, and a real reverse thrust into the Community structure to prevent it from going the wrong way.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has recently been advised on subsidiarity by a great many lawyers. I am afraid that the lawyers all agree—it is usually a matter for alarm when lawyers all agree—that subsidiarity is not a precise legal concept. Indeed, the Counsel to the Speaker, in an excellent document which I believe was submitted to the Scrutiny Committee, concluded that subsidiarity was a principle of policy which is far too imprecise to have any clear legal effect. The fact of unanimity among lawyers would ordinarily cause great apprehension to the public at large; but here it is having a constructive effect. Non-lawyers are having to make the best they can of proposed Article 3b". In other words, it all falls upon the politicians—us—to make the best we can, or more than that, of making the political concept of decentralisation, subsidiarity or whatever one likes to call it, work.

That will require not only establishing subsidiarity as a political convention in the workings and processes of the Community, but backing it with new procedures, which will require legal force, and will have to be binding. By new procedures I mean, for example, ensuring that the House, our national Parliament—indeed, all national parliaments —can give a view on, and indeed check, all new initiatives, whether they come from the Commission or the Council.

It is important that the next treaty should provide for our Parliament to have a much earlier say on proposals before they reach the legislative stage—before the Council of Ministers decides on them, or before the Commission initiates them. The Maastricht treaty does not provide that; we must go beyond it and build on it. We must deliver safeguards which will lock in the process of building a flexible, diffuse Europe instead of a centralised Europe.

Maastricht was sadly deficient. We must build on it. It was inadequate to deal with the problems of eastern and central Europe. It has been suggested that we should have a commissioner for eastern Europe. I have no doubt that the priority task of Europe should be to prevent the countries of eastern and central Europe from disappearing into fascism and militarism, of which there is great danger. That will require huge political effort, which will not be sufficiently sustained by Maastricht. We must build on the treaty to ensure that eastern and central European countries do not slide into militarism.

We shall need new institutions to cope with enlargement of the Community. We speak glibly about our desire to see Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and so on in the Community. However, to enlarge the Community will require new institutions. The work has to be done. The treaty and the constitutional procedures must be established.

We shall need to complete the single market, which we think is all in the hag. It will come into effect on 1 January, but we have only just begun. It will be a vast new task to complete to make that single market operate genuinely. Even greater tasks will be required to ensure that the whole thing is not destroyed by the breakdown of the GATT negotiations. There could be no greater catastrophe than such a breakdown at a time when the planet is beginning to slip and slide into deflation. It would be an utter disaster, for which those who say that we can settle for Maastricht could never be forgiven.

I have described the tasks which a new treaty requires. The question is, who will take the initiative in pushing forward those ideas? Will we be dragged along unwillingly while others make progress? I hope not. I hope that we will recognise what has to be done.

People talk about being at the heart of Europe, but we always have been. This nation has spilt a great deal of blood over the centuries and in recent times. Many families have lost relatives. Their lives were given up by Britain being at the heart of Europe, preventing it from destroying itself yet again and turning to yet more new blueprints and sinister destinies.

So do not let us be told that we are not at the heart of Europe or that it is a new idea for us to be so. We have always been at the heart of Europe. Britain has played a fundamental role in ensuring that Europe remains a balanced, free and open democracy. Where we have failed, catastrophe has resulted.

From the beginning none of us—neither Conservative nor Opposition Members—wanted the Maastricht process—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Ten minutes is ten minutes.

6.51 pm
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

I agree entirely with the concluding words of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell). None of us ever wanted the Maastricht treaty. It is a good thing that the House has an opportunity today to discuss the issues connected with that treaty. I remind the House that the reason why we are having the debate is the sea change that has occurred and the events that have taken place since the Danes had the courage to say no.

No one should deny that the Danish referendum had a remarkable effect. It got rid of the sense of inevitability and helplessness which most people in most of the countries of Europe felt. People felt that their political elites were doing things over their heads. People did not believe that they had any chance of arresting the process. However, the Danes succeeded in arresting the process.

It is interesting that Mr. Mitterrand's immediate reaction to the Danish result was to announce a French referendum. He believed that he would bury the Danish no in an avalanche of French yeses. Three months later, Maastricht was put to the test of French opinion, and the French gave their consent by a similarly narrow margin. Of course, the French are the founders of the treaties.

Just before the French referendum, Britain had the brutal shock of the pound being forced out of the exchange rate mechanism. Such events made people, not only in Denmark and France but in Britain, think. The plain truth is that there is now far more knowledge and far more criticism about what is in the treaty among people not only in Britain but elsewhere.

One of the Prime Minister's most important remarks this afternoon was when he asked what sort of Europe we were developing through the Maastricht treaty. I agree that that is probably the most important question. In spite of the Prime Minister's assertions and the reservations which the British Government wrung from our reluctant partners in the European Community, the commanding text of the treaty remains.

I remind hon. Members on both sides of the House of the opening declaration of the treaty on European union. It said that the member states were Resolved to mark a new stage in the process of European integration … Resolved to … establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a single and stable currency, … Resolved to establish a citizenship common to nationals of their countries, Resolved to implement a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy". Those are not small matters. They are the essence of national sovereignty. To be a self-governing nation is to make decisions in those areas.

I have never heard of a sovereign independent country which did not have its own currency. Yet a declared objective of the treaty is to establish a European state. Who can doubt that the purpose is to establish a European state? The Prime Minister dismissed those matters as European guff. I hope that he was misreported. Those matters are written into the treaty. If he said that they were European guff, he made precisely the same error as his predecessor made with the Single European Act. She did not read the text sufficiently clearly, closely or seriously.

Mr. Cash

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Shore

No, I cannot, much as I would like to.

I draw attention to a point which has not attracted sufficient attention. Mr. Bangemann made a speech in Berlin yesterday in which he spoke about what virtually everyone on the European continent takes for granted in political circles. The speech was not an ambush of the British Government. He simply took it for granted that there was nothing interesting in what he had to say. He said that, in the Maastricht treaty, the goal of a federal European state was spelt out for the first time, and that subsidiarity presupposed the idea of a federal European state". I have always found that entirely convincing. It is implicit in all the speeches made by the more fanatical pro-Europeans in the Chamber.

Dealing with the idea that subsidiarity might lead to the return of some of the powers that Governments had previously exercised, Mr. Bangemann said that the inadequacies of Community decision-making could not be remedied by returning power to the member states, and that the subsidiarity debate must not lead to a "rolling back". It is too bad. There is an awful lot of disappointment implicit in those words. He also said that more and more decisions could be taken only at European level.

Lastly, to encourage us, Mr. Bangemann siad that the next step after Maastricht's ratification should be the evolution of the EC treaties into a European constitution. Drafts of such a European constitution are already talked about in the European Parliament.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) understands all this. He revealed in the debate on 24 September his understanding that a single currency leads to a single government and a single country. Do not let us deceive ourselves about what we face. The Prime Minister showed some skill in finding a little space between the trunk of the Rome treaty and all that has sprung from it, and the pillars of foreign and defence policy, immigration and home affairs. A little space could be found there, but it is my belief—this is certainly the understanding throughout Europe—that those pillars will merge into the trunk at the very next intergovernmental conference in 1996, which specifically refers to the revision of the treaty, taking account of the objectives expressed in A and B of the common and general clauses.

So there we are. Against this background, subsidiarity is a figleaf. It does not deal with the return of powers or the prevention of powers leaving the United Kingdom. It refers only to the methods by which the European state can implement its policies in the member states—perhaps in a slightly more agreeable way. Perhaps the regulations, to take an obvious example, will become directives. Perhaps we could find some even looser form of directive than has yet been legally defined. As long as the nation state does what the Community wants, then the forms that it adopts to do so can be a matter for subsidiarity.

In the end, it will not be the Government who decide what powers belong to the nation state and what powers belong to the Community. That is all decided by the treaties, and the interpreter of the treaties is the European Court.

So much for subsidiarity, one of the issues that was to be clarified by the Prime Minister and his colleagues before the Bill returned to the House. What about the Danes? They are asking for major derogations. They do not want economic and monetary union, or citizenship, or anything to do with defence. They want a legally binding derogation. That is possible only if it takes the form of a protocol or an amendment to the treaty. A declaration will not do.

Of course, Mr. Delors immediately told the Danes that that was not on. He told them that they could not have a change in the treaty—they could only have a declaration. We have not yet got very far with solving the Danish question—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I call Mr. Devlin.

7.2 pm

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton. South)

It is appropriate that we take part in this debate with poppies in our lapels. As we watched the unfolding tragedy in Yugoslavia this summer, it would have done no harm to reflect that it was the prospect of further wars in Europe that led to the foundation of the European Community.

From the very start, the Community has been a political, not merely an economic, entity. It has been designed to stitch together the fabric of our separate nations so as to prevent them from being rent asunder by Europe's age-old rivalries, which are now beginning to resurface. It was foreseen by the founders of the Community that the cold war would not always divide Europe.

Britain, an island, has always been suspicious of continental combinations. Our geography has traditionally allowed us to stand aloof from our European neighbours and to concentrate on trading with the wider world on preferential terms bought by military might.

Those days are over now, and our small country must look to the future. It has taken nearly 30 years for Britain to come to terms with our changed circumstances, and to catch up with the unfolding European Community. Being late entrants, we have not had the opportunity to steer the Community away from its more disastrous policies, such as the common agricultural policy. But we now have the best opportunity to lead the continent since Churchill's call for unity in 1946.

There is no point in our being reluctant members. If all we do is criticise, we throw away the opportunity to shape Europe. If all we do is complain, no one will listen to us. The Prime Minister declared in his acceptance speech that he wanted us to be at the heart of Europe. He has shown that the best way to steer ourselves away from greater centralisation in Brussels is to be one of the big players in the negotiating process. That was how, in the case of the Maastricht treaty, he was able to secure a deal dismissed by many beforehand as impossible.

Now, for the first time in any European Community treaty, Maastricht contains an article specifically remitting anything best done at national level to national Governments. Britain opted out of the social chapter and reserved the right to decide later on a single currency. It was thus that the Council of Ministers agreed in Oslo on 4 June to proceed with ratification.

It is not our way to renege on an agreement negotiated in good faith. Moreover, it is an agreement which for the first time gives us weapons against the centralisation in Brussels. It creates a union, but not one that supersedes nation states. Foreign policy and home affairs are specifically reserved as national pillars.

If this treaty is delayed in its ratification, as the Opposition want, that puts at risk our new role in Europe. We would have to fight all over again the battles that we have won in the past two or three years, or be consigned to the slow lane of a two-speed Community. The Government have worked hard to propose a new and effective agenda that is in the best interests of this country.

First, the Community must be good for British business and British jobs. Coming as I do from the northern region, which has been one of the greatest recipients of inward investment resulting from this forward-looking policy, I know the benefits that it has brought. So it must be a Europe of free trade, where our goods can compete on equal terms.

Secondly, we must ensure that only decisions which need to he taken at European level are taken there, and that we do not become overburdened with the minutiae of unnecessary regulations. Indeed, we want rid of some of the existing ones.

Thirdly, we need to encourage new members such as Austria, Switzerland and Finland to join as soon as possible, not least because they will be net contributors to the Community. That will lessen the burden on our own hard-pressed economy. We also want the east European countries to become members as soon as their economies are in a fit state to enable them to do so.

Travelling extensively through Europe this summer, I found many people in Austria and Sweden asking when we were going to ratify the treaty, because they wanted to join the Community at the earliest opportunity and they wanted to be part of the new, closer union that is to be brought about.

If we do not bring in eastern Europe in the near future, we will find that its citizens vote with their feet and cross the borders into the countries of the west. Travelling through Europe, one could not help noticing either, especially in eastern Europe, the emergence of a new German super-power on our doorstep—an economic power permeating the whole of central and eastern Europe. It will become ever stronger as it overcomes its own domestic difficulties.

With Europe in a state of flux following the collapse of communism, never has there been a greater opportunity or need for British leadership. Never have we stood to gain more from this challenge. At this crucial time in Europe's history, I hope that hon. Members will agree that it would be wrong to retreat to the sidelines. I ask all Members to look at the text of the motion on the Order Paper.

What will be achieved by the Government's failure to carry their motion? An overwhelming majority in this House is in favour of the Maastricht treaty. The treaty and the process will go on in Europe, and that will affect this country. If the motion is not carried, we will merely repeat the mistakes of the past and ensure that any new leader or new Government coming into the breach will have to pursue the same policies from a much weaker position. That cannot be good for our country. I urge the House to support the Government.

7.8 pm

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Reluctantly I have to admit that there was not much in the speech by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) with which I disagreed. I have long been a staunch supporter of Britain's involvement in the EEC. I was one of those who voted for our entry in October 1971 when a lot of these youngsters were not around, and I maintained that position by breaking ranks with my party early in 1972. I, along with my right hon., learned and revered Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), am one of the six parliamentary survivors of that happy band. My support has not wavered over many many years, and I was never open to the "Shall we, shan't we?" casuistry of the party over the years. My support is such that, as the House will recall, I—along with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—voted a few months ago for the Second Reading. My hon. Friend and I were the only two Labour Members to do that.

Then came this little oddity, the paving motion—an innocuous little thing with no word of which I can disagree. It lacks the word "Maastricht", which I would rather it had contained, but the ways of Prime Ministers are devious and, in the case of the present Prime Minister, timorous.

Had the motion contained that naughty word "Maastricht" I might have been constrained to vote for it —yes, I am a staunch supporter of the Maastricht treaty even though the Government have mucked it up—but then politicians on both sides of the House started to exercise their imaginations on the motion. Lo and behold, the issue became a vote of confidence. Although I cannot find those words in the Government's innocuous motion, I am assured by hon. Gentlemen with greater political nous than I—and with perhaps slightly less political integrity—that such it is, or has become with skilful manipulation and some considerable misrepresentation. So in my innocence, which I have maintained over 26 years in this place, they have convinced me that this is, indeed, an issue of confidence.

I do not usually go along with the mob, especially when it is an excitable mob. I have voted against my party on Vietnam, on arms for Israel in 1973, on east-African Asians and on the EC, and on each issue I was absolutely right, as the House will now realise. I must confess that I do not relish the prospect of being skinned alive on Parliament green if the Prime Minister were to win by one vote and I had abstained.

I must say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, however, that, for an old timer like me, enough is really enough. As we fought the election as ardent Europeans and our conference heartily endorsed that stance—which perhaps some of my colleagues ought occasionally to remember—I now expect the parliamentary Labour party, and its Front-Bench spokesmen in particular, to support strongly the progress of the Maastricht Bill. There must be no erosion of our European position. There must be no obstructionism in Committee.[Laughter.] The laughing would suggest that some berks —I mean, some hon. Members—are going to try it. I hope that they will be roundly defeated. There must be no abstention on Third Reading. As a pro-European I shall certainly vote for Third Reading—regardless of what devious position the party may by then have adopted. What will be interesting at that Third Reading will be to know under which Prime Minister we are then serving.

7.14 pm
Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth)

The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) made an admirable speech, and I honour him for that, even if I do not agree with much of what he said.

The Leader of the Opposition opened his speech by congratulating Governor Clinton on becoming President-elect of the United States. As I watched the American election results in the early hours of this morning and saw the celebrations of the Democrats' victory, I recalled our own election night on 9 April. When my result was declared at Great Yarmouth town hall, I told those who had elected me that I could not celebrate that victory while so many people in my constituency continued to be out of work.

The message that came from the United States via our television screens last night was clear and strong: President Bush had not addressed the jobs problem; he had seemed to leave the recession to sort itself out and had had no coherent economic programme; and he had lost touch with the people of America. I have to say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, if he does not address the problem of jobs, establish a coherent economic programme and regain touch with the people of this country, he will go the same way as George Bush—only quicker. I do not want to see that happen, but I feel that this Maastricht Bill, and the debate on it, is monstrously irrelevant to the real issues that face the Government and the country.

Various right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken—including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whose remarks will no doubt be reiterated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—have said that the Maastricht Bill is a means of establishing a climate in which jobs will be created. I see no evidence of that, except that there will be jobs for the boys—the boys in Brussels and Strasbourg.

I admired my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's opening speech, but I wish that the Government had told us exactly what benefits Maastricht, if ratified, would bring to Britain. Those of us on the Conservative Benches who have doubts about Maastricht have heard ourselves described by the Home Secretary and the chairman of the Conservative party on the radio and television as the tail wagging the dog". My vote is as good as my right hon. Friends' votes.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, for whom I have the greatest respect, and whom I believe to be a most distinguished occupant of that great office—even if, with typical modesty, he is not listening to what I am saying—cannot reduce honourable and deeply held convictions that go across the party divide to what he has described as "internal squabbles". He demeans himself by using that epithet to describe views that are contrary to his own but that are held with a sincerity and conviction equal to his own.

I am told that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says that we must trust him. Of course I trust him. I do not have the same trust in President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, Mr. Delors and the rest of the Euro-elite. I do not mean that those statesmen are any less or more trustworthy than statesmen in any other country. What I mean is that their interpretation of what the Maastricht treaty means cannot be relied upon to coincide with my right hon. Friends' interpretation, or—more important —with judgments made by the European Court when the Commission seeks to enforce a decision in the United Kingdom in years to come.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) said, no one has mentioned one German whom I trust implicitly and whose assessment of the Maastricht treaty was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). His assessment of what the treaty really means is the same as the assessment that I made when I voted against Second Reading in May. That man is Mr. Bangemann. It is no good the Prime Minister saying that that eminent Vice-President of the European Commission was being silly and ill-informed—although perhaps he was silly to let the cat out of the bag at a time of considerable inconvenience to my right hon. Friends.

The Prime Minister tells us that Mr. Bangemann, in interpreting the Maastricht agreement as a step towards a federal Europe, cannot know that because he was not in Maastricht at the discussions when the treaty was negotiated. When the European Court in Luxembourg is required to adjudicate on some issue relevant to the United Kingdom and the judges find that we have not interpreted the treaty correctly, and therefore find against us, will we be told that their judgment is silly and ill-informed because they were not present when the treaty was agreed?

Subsidiarity is the fundamental issue. We all know that it means different things to different people, even when they speak the same language. It is a sure thing that it means different things when they speak 12 different languages. Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, the President of the European Court from 1984 to 1988, described the treaty definition of subsidiarity as a prime example of gobbledegook, embracing simultaneously two opposed concepts. He was President of the European Court for four years and called it "gobbledegook", but he suffers from an enormous disadvantage as he was not present at Maastricht when the treaty was agreed.

Due to the short time available, I must confine myself to fewer remarks than I had intended to make. When we made a mess of the exchange rate mechanism—I told my right hon. Friend Lady Thatcher that we should not have joined—and things did not work out, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the scales had fallen from his eyes—or at least I read that he said so. I may be wrong, in which case someone will correct me. The scales fell from my eyes some months ago. That is why I voted against the Second Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill in May. In two years' time, when something in the treaty has been interpreted as lawyers say it should be, but in a way that my right hon. Friend does not accept, will he say that the scales have fallen from his eyes?

My hon. Friends have urged me to vote with the Government and not to let my right hon. Friend down, although the Government motion, and the debate, is of his making. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) made it crystal clear from the Labour Benches that he and his fellows view this as a vote of confidence in the Government and I cannot join them, since I have no confidence in the Labour party to handle the United Kingdom's affairs in Europe, out of Europe or wherever we happen to be in 10 years. I cannot join them in the Division Lobby in their squalid attempt to—

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

The hon. Gentleman has chickened out.

Mr. Carttiss

I do not care. The Opposition are a classic case of chickening out. They have been talking Europe, promoting Europe and wanting Europe, yet tonight they intend to record a vote against Europe. I shall vote against them and against the Government and for a referendum —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—so that the people of this country can decide.

7.23 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

This has been an excellent debate on the position of the United Kingdom in Europe. I stress that because we are now in Europe and we must make the best of it for all the United Kingdom.

There has been only one sour note during the debate, which unfortunately came from the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sideup (Mr. Heath), in his offensive and arrogant personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition. At one stage, I had to check that the new Leader was not a woman, such was the vigour of his personal attack.

Hon. Members who have served in the European Parliament for many years have had to endure many boring resolutions. Hon. Members present who were there will recall them. We went through a list of meaningless statements such as, "This Parliament accepts that the earth goes around the sun," that "The Single European Act was passed in 1986," and recognising that "Today is Wednesday 4 November 1992," and so on. Judging from the Government's motion, they have become very European in their thinking, because it is anodyne and mundane—a truly European motion.

Unfortunately, the motion is unnecessary. There is no good reason for this debate. Denmark's position has not been clarified. The Danes have come up with proposals, but they have already been shot down by the President of the European Commission. We now know that subsidiarity will not be made clear until after the Edinburgh Council meeting. The two provisos which were to be clarified before we could make progress have not been resolved.

The Prime Minister seems determined to make Maastricht a personal issue and so we are forced to vote on the motion. The Ulster Unionist party has been consistent in its attitude towards the Maastricht agreement. In the recent general election campaign we were the only party which stated clearly in its manifesto that we were opposed to the agreement. Let us not forget that it is a treaty for European union. That is spelt out in detail in the agreement, and for the Government to pretend otherwise is to avoid the truth facing us in this debate. It creates European citizenship, which is also defined in the agreement. It goes further and it extends Community control over our security, immigration and, eventually, defence policies and will extend major control over our economic policy. The Maastricht agreement is another step towards a federal Europe, which many Europeans in the 12 countries of the Community want.

I served with Martin Bangemann in the European Parliament, and I know him well. What he said yesterday is true. I was surprised to hear the Prime Minister say that the Commission had dissociated itself from Herr Bangemann's statement. I looked in the press today and there did not seem to be any rejection of his statement by the Commission. I should like a further clarification that the Commission has not condemned him for what he said yesterday.

I notice that our Liberal colleagues are nodding in agreement with the statement that Herr Bangemann was reflecting the real thinking within the European Community, and the final objective of a united states of Europe—a federal Europe. We must face that in this Parliament.

Of course, the opt-out clauses in the agreement have been praised, but they would isolate the United Kingdom within the Community. Opting out isolates us, so it is not the answer for those people who say that we do not want to be isolated in Europe.

Some people say that they do not want a two-tier Europe but, once again, the Maastricht agreement lays down the formula for creating that, because it will lay down which countries will join monetary union and which ones will stay outside. There will be two systems within the Community.

Subsidiarity still has to be clarified in Edinburgh. Some business men, but not the majority, and some business organisations—in Northern Ireland most business men would not identify with the comments of some business organisations—fear that if Maastricht is rejected we shall lose a market of 340 million people, but that is nothing. If Maastricht disappeared tonight, which it will not, there would still be a European Community and 340 million people living in it, and the single market would still start on 1 January 1993. They will all be there for business men to benefit from, and I wish that they would fully understand that.

I am sorry that the Prime Minister and the Government have decided to deny the people of the United Kingdom a referendum. Denmark, France and the Republic of Ireland were given one, but we have been denied the right to express our views on whether or not we want Europe to be further involved in the internal policies of the United Kingdom.

From a local point of view the cohesion fund is important to Northern Ireland. It has been denied to us under the Maastricht agreement and promised to the Republic of Ireland. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has often mentioned how unfortunate it is that that assistance is to go to the south rather that to Northern Ireland. The one way in which to ensure that there is no disparity in this matter is to bring an end to the Maastricht agreement and therefore to the cohesion fund. We would then have a level playing field for Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Ulster Unionists strongly support greater co-operation in Europe on the basis of sovereign states. We reject federalism, common security and defence forces, common European citizenship and a European central bank, which would have adverse implications for our national economic policies. Ulster Unionists would not sell the United Kingdom short in Europe, but some members of the Government obviously would.

Tonight we will call upon Her Majesty's Government to recognise the strength of British people's opposition to the Maastricht treaty and to await clarification of Denmark's position. They should let the people speak through a referendum. Alas, the Government seem intent on giving even greater control to Brussels. A delay in the proceedings on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and a decision to hold a referendum in the United Kingdom would be well received not only by our citizens, but by the majority of the citizens in Europe. We saw what happened in Denmark where 50 per cent. of its citizens were against Maastricht—a similar number were against it in France. I believe that at least 50 per cent. of Community citizens would welcome a decision to give the United Kingdom people the right to express themselves.

It seems that the Government have closed their ears to those appeals and, that being so, Ulster Unionists have decided, unanimously, that they have no alternative but to support the Labour amendment this evening.

7.31 pm
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

I hope that the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) will forgive me if I do not comment on his speech, but I am sure that he will understand that my time is curtailed by the 10-minute rule.

I speak as someone with no love for the way in which Europe has developed in the past 10 years. I have had some experience of that development, because on a number of occasions between 1983 and 1987. when I was a Minister in the Scottish Office, I found the European Commission beginning to intervene in what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary called some time ago, "the nooks and crannies of our national life." It intervened to the extent that distillery workers' jobs were in danger of being sacrificed in the interests of 300 geese. At that time, I decided that this was not the Europe that we had voted to join in 1971 and that we had voted to support in a referendum in 1976.

The Europe of nations, the Europe of the common market, which was the Europe that we had supported, had been hijacked, in effect, by those who saw a European superstate and a European federation as the direction in which they wanted to go. That direction is not one that I would or could support, nor am I being asked to support it tonight.

We were led to believe that such a Europe was inevitable because of the train analogy. Hon. Members will recall the number of times that we were told that, if we were not on that train, we would not be part of Europe. We were told that, if we were not in the driving cab, we would have no influence on the destination of Europe. One thing I know about trains is that they are run on a railway track, that that track ends at a single destination and that one cannot diverge from that rail on the way.

That myth did a lot of damage to the European cause. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set off for Maastricht, I was sceptical about whether he could achieve some of his stated objectives because I believed that the firmness of the railway track would prevent him from doing so. The achievement of Maastricht was that the Prime Minister came back and showed that Europe was not a train on a single track, but a tanker, very slow to stop and very difficult to turn, but something that could be turned. The significance of the Maastricht treaty was that it showed that the beginning of that turn had started.

All right, we can have our doubts about the word "subsidiarity" and of course it lacks definition. The important thing about subsidiarity is that the concept of devolving power from the centre of Europe to nation states has been given voice. We can build on that. I accept that, at the moment, we alone have the right to exercise the opt-in provision on the single currency. I am prepared to wager, however, that by the time that single currency is established in 1996 or 1997, other countries will ask for the same right to express their views on it. That is healthy.

It is also important to note that defence and foreign affairs have been excluded from the areas of competence. The Maastricht treaty was the first European treaty that enabled nations to say that they would retain their right to self-determination and would co-operate only where we could all agree that such co-operation was necessary. That the Community has shown that it can turn makes it important to me that the Maastricht treaty is ratified. Much mention has been made today of Mr. Bangemann and federalism. Some time ago, he talked about prawn-flavoured crisps, but he was wrong about them and he is wrong about federalism.

Maastricht did not create any vast change, but it is significant because the train analogy has been replaced by that of the tanker—a tanker slowly turning. The turn that started with the Maastricht treaty can be built upon. We can and must turn more, but we can achieve that only if we are still on the bridge and at the helm. That is what ratification of the treaty means.

We have an opportunity to play a role in turning the great European tanker because underlying currents in Europe are running in our direction. We witnessed that with the vote in France. There have been murmurs about change in Italy, while in Germany there have been discussions about the importance of retaining the mark. We can be the natural leaders in achieving change because we were the first to recognise the need to make it. We can do that only if we retain our credibility.

The concept and the movement towards a new Europe of nations are much bigger and greater than the semantic arguments we have had about the commas and semicolons in the treaty. I am a lawyer and I love having black letter arguments about what words mean and in what context, but our neighbours in Europe think that that is completely mad. They look at wider meanings, directions and momentum. We often find ourselves at a disadvantage in Europe because we look at the letter of the law while our European partners look at the concept that lies behind it.

Tonight is an occasion when we must look above and beyond the text of the treaty. We must consider what would happen if the treaty did not exist. Those who are against the treaty have failed to offer an alternative. I am frightened by their lack of recognition of the fact that failure to ratify the treaty would destroy our ability not only to lead the move towards that new Europe but ever to seek any special treatment for this country again.

I fear that those who say that we should turn our backs on Maastricht are taking a tremendous risk—the black risk of a centralised Europe, the risk that Europe will go on without us if necessary, and even if we are part of it, our colleagues will say, "You've had your chance. In future you can take it or leave it."

In my constituency, Honda is busy creating 4,000 jobs. We cannot leave Europe without creating enormous disruption in our economy. If we stay in Europe, I do not want to be part of a Europe in which we were dragged along by the decisions of others. I want to be part of the decision-making process.

I said at the beginning that I did not want to be part of a European superstate. Equally, I do not want to find myself in a country that is outside a European superstate, with our industries unable to penetrate it.

Supporting Maastricht to achieve further change requires a degree of faith. None of us can prove what will happen either way, but nothing worth while in history has ever been achieved by logic and law alone. It requires inspiration and will. Every battle and every great change in history tell us that.

A wind of change is blowing through Europe in the east and the west. For the first time in my political life, the direction of Europe can be changed and we can lead that change. To those who talk about national pride, I must ask, "What pride will there be if we turn our backs and run away from the challenge that we are now offered?" I am prepared to make that act of faith and to take that risk, which is why I shall wholeheartedly support the Government in the Lobbies tonight and when the Bill is considered in Committee.

7.40 pm
Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

I disagree with the previous speaker because I believe not only that we should not proceed with the Bill but that the Maastricht treaty is the wrong treaty at the wrong time for Europe, as Europe has developed in the past few years.

At the heart of the treaty is the pursuit of economic and monetary union and a common currency. The pursuit of economic and monetary union will intensify the recession throughout western Europe and cause considerable damage to western Europe's industrial base, which is not as strong as people sometimes think. Indeed, it is weakening most of the time. The pursuit of economic and monetary union also poses a real risk to social cohesion and the social fabric of the member states of the European Community.

At the heart of economic and monetary union lies the goal of price stability, which is doublespeak for zero inflation. Price stability is really the new gold standard. To achieve price stability, member states' monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies are to be corralled and converged, despite the diversity of those member states' economies. The money supply will be dealt with by an autonomous central bank that will control monetary targets and the growth of money. Fiscal policy—public spending—will be enshrined and dealt with by the treaty, and exchange rate policy will be dealt with by the movement within the European monetary system, as has happened already, towards irreversible fixed exchange rates. In those three areas of policy, all the decisions are taken away from democratically elected Governments and placed in the treaty or in Community institutions.

I read a publication today by a Conservative lawyer who suggested that we were in breach of the treaty by not re-entering the EMS. I do not know about that—it seems rather extreme—but I have little doubt that, if the treaty is eventually ratified in the House, we shall be back in the EMS within six months, perhaps even sooner.

It will not all happen a long time in the future. The Prime Minister fairly pointed out that the second stage of monetary union—the opt-out provision does not affect the second stage—starts on 1 January 1994 with the setting up of the European Monetary Institute. That body will have no teeth and will be able to issue no directives. But it will be an important body because two of the functions that it must deal with will be, first, to try to work out common monetary indicators and targets in readiness for setting up the autonomous central bank. Secondly, it must try to establish a uniform consumer price index by which means the goal of achieving zero inflation can be met.

That is the reality of what will happen. It will be deflationary but much worse than that, not only because Europe is going through a difficult recession and will continue to do so for some years, but because of the single market and the Single European Act. We hear little about the single market. It is an enormous market, which will lead to considerable rationalisation of European industry. In Europe today, we have eight or nine car firms, if we count General Motors and Ford of Europe. The United States of America has existed for a long time on two and half car firms, if one describes Chrysler as a half. Europe will be unable to maintain seven, eight or nine car firms in the next five to 10 years, with the momentum and process of a single market and the Single European Act.

The steel industry, too, will be affected. Europe will be unable to have two or three steel companies in each EC country. All that rationalisation, quite apart from the Maastricht treaty, will cause considerable problems. Factories will close, jobs will be lost and unemployment will increase. Those problems are difficult enough, but on top of those we shall throw the deflationary Maastricht treaty into the pot, with all the effects that it will have on European industry.

What will happen if we reach that gold standard—price stability—or do not quite reach it? What benefits are likely to come from it? I spent some weeks of the long recess reading literature on price stability and zero inflation. There is a considerable amount of it in Europe and the United States. Most of it is gobbledegook and comes to no real conclusion about the benefits of so-called zero inflation and price stability. Eventually, it reached metaphors, saying that price stability is the tip of the iceberg. The benefits above the iceberg can be seen but far more benefits lie underneath that iceberg. We are not quite sure what they are but they are certainly there. In my opinion, a better analogy would be with subatomic physics and quarks. Apparently, those quarks, or particles, can be seen only by the high priests of the mysteries and when the high priests of the mysteries are not looking at them they are not there.

Those are benefits from zero inflation and price stability. The European high priests may be able to see them—nobody else can—and when they are not looking at them they are not there. So I am not sure what is supposed to be the benefit of driving all the diverse economies of Europe, from those of Greece to the United Kingdom, towards that great goal of zero inflation and price stability.

The people who will suffer on that journey will not be the European bureaucrats or the European political class. They will do well out of it. Indeed, cocooned in their glass and steel offices and their limos, they will do better. I see that the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), is amused at the prospect. They will churn out more and more paper, destroying more and more Brazilian rainforests, and will benefit from all that. Those who will suffer will be industrial workers, the unemployed, the poor and the disadvantaged—those unable to be part of that rationalisation and that treaty of deflation. Neither will they have much hope of changing the policy because we are taking economics out of politics. Adam Smith talked about the political economy. That will no longer exist and all that will remain will he an economy decided by institutions, bankers and unelected bodies. All those people who will suffer as a result will have little hope. Elections will become rather deceitful. We shall pretend that we disagree on certain matters but the whole economic question, like judges' salaries and the Consolidated Fund, will be fundamentally enshrined. People will be able to do nothing about it because it will be outside the role of democratic Government.

That is not a healthy position and makes no sense. If we ratify the treaty by means of the Bill, it will be a dangerous nonsense. The House of Commons has a good tradition of puncturing dangerous nonsenses. I hope that we shall have the courage to do so tonight.

7.49 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

The Leader of the Opposition began his speech by applauding the election of Mr. Clinton, as he then was, to the White House. I do not know whether he is aware that President Clinton campaigned on a policy that would take United States investment from Northern Ireland in the advocacy of the MacBride principles. I remind the House that MacBride was a former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army and that thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent by the Government on trying to counteract those principles which would do great damage to the Northern Ireland economy.

I do not welcome the proposal of the new President to interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland by sending a special envoy to beat our heads together to make us see a united Ireland as he wants to see it. The new President should keep out of Northern Ireland affairs. After all, his own state of Arkansas is one of the two states of America that have no civil rights legislation. Let him put his own house in order before he comes to Northern Ireland to set our house in order.

I am glad that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office is on the Government Front Bench because I hope that he will convey what I have said to his boss, the Foreign Secretary. I hope also that his boss will convey his remarks to the right people. I am sorry that I had to waste valuable time, but what I have just said had to be said.

I am amazed that those who are all for Europe are advocating a breach of the treaty of Rome. The treaty makes it clear that there can be no vital change to it, until every partner agrees that change. The Common Market is prepared now to engage in an illegal act, and I say that on the basis that the Maastricht treaty has been stopped by the outcome of the referendum that the Danes held.

There was much laughter in the Library when we read the Danish document because we thought that we had missed a vital report. In fact, the Danish people stated: As a result of the referendum of 2 June, the Bill on Denmark's ratification of the Maastricht Treaty lapsed. Consequently, the 11 countries that signed the treaty are faced with a real problem which can be solved only by all 12 countries together. So, until Denmark agrees the treaty, there is no treaty. We must make that clear. I see that some hon. Members are shaking their heads. They can do so as much as they like but that does not alter the facts and the law.

I happen not to believe in the treaty of Rome. I do not like it. But why are the advocates of the treaty not prepared to carry a banner for it and argue that we should go legally about this business?

It is no use telling us that France does not police the treaty. I agree that it does not. Similarly, it is no use telling us that the Italians have one inspector in 10 factories when we in Northern Ireland need five if the law is to be kept. There is no point in taking up those issues and at the same time proceeding illegally with a treaty that cannot be ratified until Denmark agrees it.

The Danes have made it clear what they are against, and the things with which they do not agree go right to the heart of the treaty. It is the axe laid at the root of the tree. We are told in a document: Denmark does not participate in the so-called defence policy dimension … Denmark does not participate in the single currency and the economic policy obligations … Denmark will have no obligations in connection with citizenship of the Union … Denmark cannot agree to transfer sovereignty. Well done, Denmark. I am glad that it does not agree to transfer its sovereignty. The document continues: As a result of this, the objectives of the Union set out in the common provisions of the Maastricht Treaty will not apply to Denmark on the above points. At the end of the Foreign Office's comment—it is a typical Foreign Office paper—there appear these words: With the publication of this memorandum, we know clearly what Danish intentions are, and that at the end of the negotiations the Danes propose to consult their people again. They do not propose to do anything of the sort. They are saying, in effect, that they will accept the treaty only if their conditions are met. Unless they are met legally, they will not go back for a second referendum. They know that if they did so it would be rejected. That is what the people of Denmark are saying.

Let us consider subsidiarity. Subsidiarity comes from dogma of the Roman Catholic church, which I know little about. It is devolution of power from the hierarchy to the lower regions. Who made so many countries in Europe the hierarchy? When did they get such power? Others in Europe are saying to us, a national Parliament, "We shall give you this, that and that." Where did they get that power? Did Parliament vote them all that power? They tell us, in effect, that they will release certain parts of their power.

I was at the European Parliament in Strasbourg; so was the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who is sitting with his feet resting on the Government Dispatch Box. He did not stay very long because he had a lunch appointment. That was his great submission to the European Parliament. I do not blame him for that. The President, Mr. Delors, made an interesting contribution to the debate. He spoke about four things, and I am sure that the Minister remembers them. The President talked about transparency, efficiency, proportionality and nearness. He said that he would describe subsidiarity as a "presence of mind" on the basis that it "cannot be defined". He added: It is like the academic debate between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. I think that I know who the Jesuits are, but in this debate I am not sure who the Dominicans are. However, if the high priest of the Maastricht treaty cannot define subsidiarity, how are we to do so?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the high priest is not a signatory to the treaty, nor one of the high contracting parties to it.

Rev. Ian Paisley

He is the general director of the treaty and the man who will put it into operation. He has the President of France with him. It is wrong for the Prime Minister to say that Mr. Bangemann's view is not accepted by any Government in Europe; it is accepted by most Governments in Europe. I have sat as a member of the European Parliament since the first elections and I have listened time and time again to ideology about Europe. It seems that it is focused on centralism and not real federalism. Centralism is far stronger than federalism. It means that the crumbs from the rich man's table will be given to the recipients.

I regret the remarks of the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor). My party has campaigned on these issues more than any other party in Northern Ireland and those issues appeared in its manifesto. The manifesto that was produced by the right hon. Gentleman's party was not the only one that dealt with these matters. I am a consistent anti-marketeer. I do not sit among the big battalions in Strasbourg. The Official Unionist Member sits with the Christian Democrat ranks, which are adamantly for Maastricht. I do not sit with them. I sit alone. I raise my voice—I shall continue to do so—against something which I believe is detrimental to the United Kingdom. Let no one go down a side alley this evening. We are debating whether we shall accept the Maastricht treaty, not whether we are coming out of the Common Market. What the treaty—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I call Mrs. Margaret Ewing.

7.59 pm
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

In speaking today, I represent the views of the joint Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru group in the House. I remind hon. Members that all seven of us cast our votes in favour of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and therefore contributed to the majority of 244 on Second Reading. The fact that those seven votes were cast in that way might not have appeared to be important on that occasion, but I give a clear warning to both the Treasury and the Opposition Front Benches that this is a multi-party Parliament and no one should arrogantly assume that the votes of the smaller parties will be automatically cast in any particular direction.

I have missed only about eight minutes of today's debate. There has been a sense of unreality about it with each hon. Member interpreting the motion in his or her particular way. Some have said that the debate is about ratification of the Maastricht treaty, which it is not. Madam Speaker gave a ruling on that earlier. Others have said that it is about confidence in the Prime Minister. However, the only party that had the courage to table a motion of no confidence in the Government's handling of the Bill was the joint Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru group. Had our amendment been selected, we could have had a much simpler debate because we could have dealt with European issues and where the Government stand on them.

The Government have set a dangerous precedent by saying that they are holding this debate because the Opposition asked for it. If that is so, I assure the Government that this opposition will be asking for many more debates on vital issues. For example, my fishermen would very much like a debate on the common fisheries policy.

We are debating what is called a paving motion. In Scotland, the pavements are covered with crazy paving —and the Government's motion falls into that category. It makes no sense to anyone either inside or outside the House. Hon. Members have said that people in Europe do not understand what the debate is about, but I suspect that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand either.

I wish to make clear why we are voting against the Government tonight. We would not have tabled a motion of no confidence if we had not meant it. The Bill was flawed at the start by the Government's cavalier attitude to the Maastricht treaty—the other 11 partners had their copy, while they went home with ours. It is like the advertisement for a certain brand of lager, "I've got mine." It was hailed as a great victory. That set an example to the other member states so that they would want an a la carte menu on the treaty. The Government's attitude has flawed the concept of moving towards closer European union.

The United Kingdom opted out of two aspects of the treaty. The Danes now want clear opt-outs on four aspects and they have made it clear that they want that to be legally binding for an unlimited period. It will be difficult to ensure that the Danes ratify the treaty. They have said that, assuming that the four opt-outs are accepted by the other member states, another referendum might be held as late as November next year. It will be a long time before the treaty can be ratified.

The Government have shown themselves to be extremely weak in allowing the backwoodsmen on the Conservative Benches to set the agenda on Maastricht during the past few months. Those Members have narrow attitudes; they believe that civilisation stops at the white cliffs of Dover. They have now driven even the Prime Minister, who said that he wanted to be at the heart of Europe, to say that he is the biggest Euro-sceptic in the Cabinet in an attempt to get them to vote for him. That is pitiful. The Government have been weak and vacillating. There should have been a straightforward debate which would have allowed us to move immediately to the Committee stage. Instead, we have this waste of everybody's time.

I want the Foreign Secretary to think about a few specific points; as the Government currently hold the European presidency, they should have considered them carefully already. Every hon. Member who has spoken tonight has mentioned subsidiarity and said that it is gobbledegook. Indeed, even the Foreign Secretary has said that it is an unlovely phrase. The Danes, who visited us in Parliament yesterday, said that it was a strange example of Eurospeak. The concept that was supposed to bring Europe closer to the people has been defined in such a way that no one understands it. The Government have a responsibility during their presidency to deal with the question of subsidiarity. The motion says only that a "framework for decisions" was established at the Birmingham summit; it does not mention the decisions themselves. That is a dilatory approach.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

The Government have not budged an inch on the concept of subsidiarity as it relates to Scotland and Wales. They maintain their selfish attitude of keeping it as a concept purely between London and Brussels.

Mrs. Ewing

Indeed. I had intended to say that the concept of subsidiarity sits uneasily with many on the Government and the Opposition Front Benches. Britain is the most unitary state in the European Community. We want to move away from centralisation. Subsidiarity should mean Parliaments in Scotland and Wales, directly elected by our peoples. We could then participate as equal partners within the European Community.

The Prime Minister held out the idea of subsidiarity as a key victory in his negotiations, but he has quickly forgotten it and is leaving it to rot on a shelf somewhere. The Committee of the Regions is often cited as an example of subsidiarity. We believe that Wales and Scotland are nations, not regions. However, the Committee of the Regions is an aspect of subsidiarity that should be dealt with during the United Kingdom's presidency. Naturally, we have reservations about it being a consultative body. It is rather like the Prime Minister taking stock of the constitutional position at the election—the exercise goes on for ever. I am always wary of extensive consultation. A committee that is purely consultative will obviously be weak. In the absence of Scotland and Wales having their own Parliaments able to send people to that committee, there is a responsibility on the Government to ensure that those who do represent the United Kingdom reflect the political aspects of Scotland and Wales. The whole political landscape must be accurately reflected.

There is a prospect that the committee might develop further. I do not want it to be like the Economic and Social Council, just making a comment here and there. It should develop beyond a consultative role and possibly even into a second chamber within the European Parliament. That would be a great step forward for real democracy within the European Community. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will deal with those issues.

Because of the 10-minute rule, I shall not deal with other matters such as the cohesion funds, which are a vital aspect of the treaty.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. The 10-minute rule no longer applies, but self-denial would be welcome.

Mrs. Ewing

I shall conclude as I am conscious that many other hon. Members wish to speak and they, too, have been sitting in the Chamber throughout the debate.

Having given the Bill a majority of 244 on its Second Reading, at this stage in the United Kingdom's presidency we should have been much further along the road to ratification. We should have been in the Committee stage. We should have had a constructive debate on various aspects that concern people, whatever their views on Maastricht or Europe. Instead, there is just a mishmash that has caused confusion. The Government did not get their act together and table a straightforward motion to move the Bill on to its Committee stage. My hon. Friends and I have no option but to show that we have no confidence in the Government and we shall vote against their motion.

8.9 pm

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

Hegel, whose works are to be found in the Library of the House, observed that the great crises of history are clashes not of right against wrong, but of right against right. A striking feature of the debate on Maastricht has been that both the federalists and the anti-federalists have, with validity, claimed the treaty as an advance for their own cause. However, the federalists are also bound to concede that the treaty marks a much smaller step towards the fulfilment of their long-prepared design than they hoped that it would be in those heady days when Mr. Delors held out to the European Parliament the prospect of 80 per cent. of economic legislation and, possibly, of social legislation emanating from Brussels in a few years' time, and the Delors plan was being devised.

Correspondingly, my right hon. Friends are entitled to be proud of their achievements during the arduous negotiations that culminated at Maastricht. They denied the federalists the wholesale extensions of Community competence proposed during the Dutch presidency. They established the concept of a pillared Community, with major areas of intergovernmental co-operation falling outside the scope and processes of the treaty of Rome. In that way they established a new concept of the union to which member states are required to aspire. The British right to opt out of European monetary union and the equivalent right that the Danes are bound to be granted mean that the centralists do not have a clear road open to them for the creation of a unitary European state, even if the difficulties with convergence are ignored.

My right hon. Friends' achievements at Maastricht applied a powerful brake to the federalising process and opened the prospect of a different sort of evolution of the Community, much better suited to the individualities of its constituent peoples. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister deserved the praise that he received from the Conservative party when he returned from Maastricht, and he deserves a clear endorsement tonight so that the House can proceed briskly with ratification of the treaty. The more reluctantly and slowly we proceed, the more the standing of my right hon. Friends and the Government in Europe will be undermined, and with it their capacity to act effectively in our interests. I would remind some of my hon. Friends that politics is about obtaining power, using it to good effect, and certainly not about throwing it away.

Isolationism has never been a part of Britain's tradition. I indeed recollect Baroness Thatcher saying, in 1979: our island is our base and not our refuge". Heine has an image of Britain as a great sea monster, crawling back to its island cave, but that was only after we had done the job that we had to do to defeat Napoleon's attempt to establish a European hegemony and, afterwards, at the Congress of Vienna. After the Congress of Berlin, Bismarck paid tribute above all to Disraeli's brilliant diplomacy. Twice in this century Britain, vigilant for her own interests in Europe, has chosen to go to war on the European continent, once in support of Belgium and once in support of Poland. Our engagements have always been both European and global.

Disraeli observed that real statesmen are inspired by nothing other than an instinct for power and a love of their country. On both counts, Britain needs to be at the heart of European decision-taking. It is simply too effete, too dangerous for us not to be.

It is a truism that Britain lives by trade, and 60 per cent. of our exports go to the European Community. It is crucial that we exercise a powerful influence on the Community's trading policies, although many of them have been less than admirable. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the enormous personal commitment that he has made during his presidency in seeking to achieve a rational and constructive position for the Community in the general agreement on tariffs and trade negotiations.

If, in the future, we are to be perceived as marginal to the European Community, inward investment will cease to come to this country in any worthwhile sums. I would not fancy our prospects were we to attempt to set up as a Singapore of the North sea. Our fellow citizens do not generally evince the characteristics that have enabled the people of Singapore to make the success they have of their economy, and I say nothing of the Singapore style of government. Were we to try to go it alone, in my view we would be wiped out economically by the true Singapores, the new industrial powers of the Pacific rim.

Vital British economic and diplomatic interests need to be secured through the Community. We should grasp the opportunity to do that with alacrity and in positive style, through rapid ratification of the treaty.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister needs to resume his task, on behalf of Britain, of leading the debate and setting the agenda for the reform of the Community. In recent years Britain has set the pace for at least three major advances within the Community: the single market, the pillared Community, and the acceptance within the Community of the desirability of enlargement. In addition, important work has been set in hand by Britain during its presidency to put flesh on the bones of subsidiarity. Once ratification is behind us, there is the need and opportunity for Britain to continue to lead the Community's development.

One of the agreements at Maastricht was that there should be a further intergovernmental conference in 1996. It is vital that we ensure that the propositions on the table for decision in 1996 are ours and not, this time, those of the federalists.

As the events of the summer have shown, there is a large constituency across the peoples of Europe for our view of a less centralised, less authoritarian and less grandiose Community.

Mr. Rogers

I have enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's speech up to now, but exactly where does he believe that Europe should go? Having served at the European Parliament with other hon. Members present when the Spinelli report was drawn up after close perusal of Europe's future development, I know that all the Conservative Members in the European Parliament supported the Spinelli recommendation for closer European union. What is the hon. Gentleman's vision of Europe? The Prime Minister says that he is in, but wants to move out. What do the Government want from Europe?

Mr. Howarth

I am happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman's invitation. Britain must continue to lead the member states in the redefinition of the powers and procedures of the Community institutions so that subsidiarity becomes truly entrenched, the Commission is, in future, more modest in scope, and the European Court of Justice ceases to aggrandise itself. Even more importantly we need to lead the development of policies within the Community. We must lead the economic debate so that the Community puts behind it sectional subsidies and protectionism. We must secure acceptance that cohesion on a continental scale is no more likely to promote general prosperity than socialist redistribution on a national scale. We need more of the peoples of Europe to recognise that European monetary union, a single currency, would not only be impoverishing but mean the destruction of essential national self-determination. We should underline the terrible inadequacy of a so-called European Community that jeopardises the fragile economies and democracies of central and eastern Europe by restricting its imports of their food, iron, steel and textiles.

All those are important and difficult arguments, and powerful vested interests will have to be overcome. But we shall have allies, not least the Germans, who have no interest in losing the deutschmark and the Bundesbank, and to whom the cost of cohesion on top of their existing costs in the new lander would be intolerable. The Germans in any case are more naturally interested in their relationships with the countries of central Europe and the European Free Trade Association than with those of the Mediterranean.

The experience of the French referendum has shown that there is a huge body of opinion against a federal, homogenised Europe, even a Europe run by enarques. There can hardly be a Frenchman who does not acknowledge the truth and force of Sir Winston Churchill's observation that the Almighty, in his infinite wisdom, did not see fit to create Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen".

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many people have the view that federalism is not about centralisation but about decentralisation?

Mr. Howarth

There has been a great deal of quibbling, and sometimes wilful semantic confusion, in the debate on Europe. Federalism has been interpreted in the debates that we have had in recent months and years as a movement towards a unitary European state, and it is that to which I refer.

The old leadership in France and Germany does not have long to run. With the natural effiuxion of a short space of time, and by virtue of his own abilities and of Britain's standing, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will emerge as Europe's senior statesman. But the precondition for that is that my hon. Friends agree to ratify the treaty and allow my right hon. Friend to seize the opportunities that are open to us in Europe, if only we will take them.

8.20 pm
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

Many hon. Members have said that their decision on how to vote is motivated by high principle and that other hon. Members who will cast their vote in a contrary way are engaged in some venal calculation. I am in a fortunate position. My principles and venal calculations lead me to the same conclusion: I shall vote against the Government tonight because I do not believe that hundreds of years of struggle to achieve basic democratic rights have now reached their apex in Europe and that we should pass many of those most vital and important powers to a committee of unelected bankers to take decisions that effectively govern and control our economy.

My venal motive is simple: to remove that shower on the Benches opposite as rapidly as possible. I do not care if there is only a one-in-a-million chance of the Government being brought down—I will take it. My duty is to my constituents, who are being thrown out of work, who are losing their homes and who are seeing their basic services devastated by Government cuts and by cuts imposed on local authorities. The sooner that lot opposite are thrown out of office, the better. The way in which they have conducted the Maastricht debate alone shows that they no longer deserve to lead this nation.

We are trying to come to terms with a Government policy as though it were in the middle of a great grey blancmange—one dives in, feels something in one's hands but it slips through like mush. What does the Prime Minister believe? What does the Tory party want? Are they committed to a move towards a united Europe? Are they committed to hanging back? If they are committed to the latter, they should vote against Maastricht, which is the logical second stage from the ERM and which leads inevitably to monetary union and a common central bank. If hon. Members do not want that, they should vote against the motion, because it will be no good whingeing in 10 years' time, "I didn't mean that when I voted to support Maastricht." That is what Maastricht is all about, and it has been the drift of the European Community for the past 15 years. The first stage was the move towards the creation of a genuine common market—a complete barrier-free Europe—and then a common currency and central bank.

The weakness is that there is no common democracy to control those great central institutions. If the Government and the pro-Europeans were saying, "We are going full speed towards a genuine, united, democratic union of Europe", we could debate that, but they are not. I find myself very much in agreement with the nationalist parties and Liberal Democrats about creating a genuine democratic Europe, but that is not what is on offer to the people of Europe. Maastricht is about winding down our democratic rights. It is about a major shift of power from ordinary people to great and unaccountable financial institutions. We shall be reduced to a body of no more relevance than the average county council subject to rate capping. That is not what I came into power—[Laughter.] one day, we shall get some power as well—into politics, to see.

My opposition to the motion is not personal. I think that the Prime Minister is a nice guy. If he were a family's neighbour, he would feed their cat and water their roses when they were away on holiday, but he does not have a clue where the British economy is going, so I shall take every opportunity to bring this painful period for the British people to an end as rapidly as possible.

The Liberal Democrats have made a crass mistake by allowing the Government to set the terms of the debate. I am pro-Europe but against that lot over there and I have not the slightest problem about going into the Lobby to reject a fatally flawed treaty. I have not debated with any Liberal Democrat at public meetings or on radio or television programmes without hearing that person say, "This is a flawed treaty. It is not the treaty that we want. We are really unhappy with this. We would have created something better." Why accept this inadequate treaty that is damaging for the British people? They should throw it out and fight for what they believe in, as those of us who are genuine European federalists are prepared to do.

The peoples of Europe will be soured against European co-operation when they see unemployment worsening and their social wages being ratcheted down under the structure created by the treaty. Only a few Opposition Members have debated the issue tonight. Which Conservative Members have honestly told us what they would do if the Maastricht treaty were in operation in Britain today and the Commission and Council of Ministers instructed the Government to reduce their borrowing requirement to comply with Maastricht law? Where would they make the tens of billions of pounds of cuts if the treaty were in power, because that is what the treaty says? Would they make them in the military sector or in social security? Would they savage further capital works? Why ratify a treaty that they cannot live with now, hoping that somehow the British economy will be better in five or six years' time?

The truth is that for Britain, one of the weakest European nations economically, to lock itself into this situation until it has created a growing and dynamic industrial economy—the modern economy of which the Leader of the Opposition spoke—is disastrous. Maastricht creates an economic unit, with all the benefits for the successful and large corporations and the most dynamic economies, but are we creating a mechanism for the redistribution of wealth, which is effectively what the nation state is? How would Britain have survived if we had redistributed only 2 per cent. of GDP by central Government activity? Britain would have fractured long ago, and that is the flaw of the treaty. If we were creating a Europe that was going to take vast amounts of wealth from the most wealthy parts of the European Community and use them for the poorest parts, we would be creating a mechanism that could function, but that is not what is on offer. The small amount of funds, in relative terms, which is available may assist Greece, Portugal and Ireland—nations with relatively small economies—but Britain stands to suffer most in the move towards European integration unless its economy is re-energised and there is manufacturing growth. There will not be enough wealth from Brussels to save our people from the pain of this treaty.

In a sense, this debate has many of the echoes of the debate when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Prime Minister, took us into the exchange rate mechanism. What were we told then? There was an overwhelming majority in favour, a huge consensus. Sadly, most of my party went along with the consensus. It was the biggest consensus in British politics since the consensus to appease Hitler, and it was as devastatingly bad. We have lost two years of our life as a nation. We have seen 1 million people added to the unemployment figures, as those who criticised the level at which we joined the ERM accurately predicted. We are now seeing stage 2. We are in an incredible mess. I hope to God that enough Conservative Members will put their nation and constituents before their loyalty to propping up a broken-backed Government who are locking us into a treaty that will devastate their constituencies, as it will devastate ours.

8.29 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

We have had a debate as distinguished as the hour deserves. We have heard historic speeches from both sides of the House.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) warned us of the financial consequences of the ever-greater integrating approach of the Community to the management of our economies. He pointed out that it has been a vain attempt because the economies of western Europe are not converging but diverging and to seek artificially to bring them together, which is what the Maastricht process is all about, could lead only to further disasters following that of our withdrawal from the ERM and the withdrawal of Italy, which were wholly predictable and which the Government were warned about in advance.

Then we heard the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) whose credentials in these matters are second to none. He pointed out the serious problem of citizenship. Citizenship is not something for us to wish away. We cannot vote in this matter without the assent of the British people. Who are we to say that they should have additional citizenship of the union—and I quote from the proposed treaty—with its attendant duties and responsibilities, unless they, the British people, assent thereto? In this debate, certainly from the Government side, there has been all too little reference to the British people. So many people allege that there is a democratic deficit in Europe. The democratic deficit is here in Westminster, and if we tonight, on behalf of the British people, allow this proposed treaty on European union to proceed, we will betray the trust which is ours and which was conferred upon us at the last election.

I sought, in what may have appeared to be an arcane intervention in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to point out that the action of parliamentarians, acting according to their conscience in what they regard as the national interest, can be for the greater good not just of their country but of Europe as a whole, and I referred to the decision of the French National Assembly on 30 August 1954 to vote on a procedural motion—funnily enough, it was not on the issue but on a procedural motion—not to go ahead with the ratification of the European defence community. It was a community which was more political in intention than militarily practicable, and the French deputies had the good sense to realise it and vote it down.

The Western European Union, with its assembly, with its armaments control agency and its standing armaments committee, ensued and the WEU, as a bulwark of our western security in Europe, has endured to this day, so much so that it is to the WEU that, under the proposed treaty of union, the execution of union policies—I say that deliberately, the entity's policies—in defence could ultimately be assumed if the Maastricht treaty were approved.

It was, with hindsight, a development that everybody could approve of because it strengthened Europe's defences and strengthened our mutual co-operation, and it did so on a basis which could endure—that is, of co-operation which is freely sustained by the will of independent sovereign states.

If the union, that integrated entity, goes ahead as the proposed treaty suggests, we know that an artificial creation of this kind without the majority assent of the peoples of the 12 countries of Europe cannot endure. We have seen artificial unions and they do not last. The union that is most akin to what is proposed is paradoxically the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was not a federal structure but a union, and a union is what Maastricht proposes. The glue was a common ideology and, apart from the ideology, there was, of course, the threat of coercion, the big stick of the party apparatus, the KGB and the military.

There is nothing like that in this, but all I can say is that it is not even a federation. If a federation were proposed, with appropriate checks and balances between locally elected legislatures in the constituent countries of the federation and with a central parliament with appropriate competencies, all would be well, but it is not to be like that. The proposed treaty on European union suggests a highly integrationist approach. There is almost nothing in it about the role of national parliaments; there is more in it about the role of the regions, funnily enough, than there is of the national parliaments.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends not to let this opportunity for a historic decision on behalf of our people slip by. If Her Majesty's Government, in winding up this debate, were wise enough to say that they would bring legislation to the House to make possible a referendum so that the British people could decide, they would have my support; but unless they can do that, I shall vote for the Labour amendment and against my Government. Some will say that in so doing I am being disloyal. Those who say that should have heard the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss). He spoke many home truths. A number of home truths have come out in the debate—truth will always out. Commissioner Dr. Bangemann's intervention in Berlin was a home truth that needed to be expressed, and he is at the heart of Europe, after all. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), who has a long and respected experience of European affairs, said that Dr. Bangemann spoke with authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth spoke with the authentic voice of conservatism and for the principles that can on occasion transcend transient party loyalty.

We must make sure that what we do tonight is the will of our constituents. In the general election campaign there was a virtual conspiracy of silence on the proposed treaty of European union because at the time it suited the three main parties that it should not come up. I even voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. Only when the Danes, by their brave action in the referendum, caused me and others actually to read what the treaty proposed did I change my view. If anybody has any doubts about what this debate is all about, I ask him or her to read the treaty, the treaty and nothing but the proposed treaty.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Wilkinson

Not at this moment.

Read not what right hon. and hon. Members say is not in the treaty or what derogations we have secured, but the treaty, because in it is spelled out the irrevocable objective of the signatories of the treaty: an ever-closer union from which there will be no withdrawal without the great pain and grief which attend upon any divorce, particularly of parties who have gone into an enterprise with good will but perhaps without sufficient appreciation of what is at stake.

Mr. Allason

I share many of my hon. Friend's reservations about the Maastricht treaty which he has urged the House to read. Would it be incorrect to say that he should read the Government's motion? It is tremendously anodyne and there are many of us who voted against the Maastricht treaty and will continue to do so but who find it perfectly possible to support the Government this evening.

Mr. Wilkinson

There is much sophistry around in the Palace of Westminster and at no time more so than when a debate of this nature is forced upon us.

I was about to say that loyalty works both ways. We should not be put into a position where we are made fools of. The anodyne motion—supposedly anodyne—is gravely deficient on two cardinal points to the extent of being blatantly disingenuous. First, we cannot presuppose what the Danes will ultimately democratically decide in their second referendum, and until that second decision the treaty is dead; it does not exist. Secondly, with regard to subsidiarity—

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is not the central point of the Government's motion that it progresses the Bill which ratifies the Maastricht treaty? I, for one, do not want that to take place.

Mr. Wilkinson

My hon. Friend is right.

I thought from reading the Evening Standard, which as a London Member I do, that the Prime Minister had his reservations after our withdrawal from the ERM about pressing ahead regardless. Everyone has his or her formative influences. Those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister were probably in the bank and those of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary were, rather as today, on the diplomatic cocktail circuit in Europe and elsewhere. Those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones)—well, when the Prime Minister spoke of creeping competencies, I understood what he was talking about.

I had my formative influences flying aeroplanes. No pilot would press on regardless, letting down through cloud, knowing that there were mountains underneath, if he wanted to survive. We are being asked in the Government motion to do something that is clearly foolish. All it can achieve is to unite the Labour party, which is fundamentally divided on Europe, against us and so discredit the Government who were paradoxically seeking thereby to enhance their reputation and standing for the forthcoming Edinburgh summit.

How bringing a majority of 21, and one of more than 200 on Second Reading, down at best to single figures and probably to a minus quantity would somehow enhance our credibility at Edinburgh, I cannot for the life of me understand. That is why it is not acceptable for the Conservative party to be made fools of. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth was right when he spoke those home truths so eloquently. I hope and pray that we will take our destiny in both hands and do what we know to be right by voting for the Labour amendment and against the Government tonight.

8.43 pm
Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)

When we speak of Britain being at the heart of Europe, we should consider for a moment what that means to our constituents. What should they reasonably expect? For the people of Hartlepool as for others it should mean, above all, employment opportunities. It should also mean standards of living that match those of Germany, a quality of infrastructure on a par with that of France and public services that compare with those enjoyed in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Yet we in Britain are at the bottom of the European league on jobs, divisions between rich and poor, falling spending power and deteriorating public services. We are, in short, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) observed earlier, in a desperate mess in this country.

I do not blame the Government and their present head entirely. They are the enthusiastic inheritors of a slide that they have done nothing to reverse and, in most senses, have made worse. They have failed to use the economic opportunities available to us in the 1980s and, as a result, have failed to prepare us for the challenges of the 1990s. They have also signally failed on what this debate is ostensibly about—their record on Europe and, in particular, their attitude to Maastricht.

As they are asking us to vote tonight in favour of their policy on Maastricht, it is as well to ask precisely what that is. Maastricht has become for the Prime Minister a totem, not of his European policy but rather of his personal credibility. I do not mean simply the absence of the word Maastricht from the motion, though that surely has its own symbolic significance. It is that he defines the nature of his position on Maastricht not by how much he is participating in its processes, but by how little; not by the parts of the treaty to which he has opted in, but by the parts from which he has opted out.

The Prime Minister is bitterly opposed to the social chapter. Even now, he cannot or will not say what his views are on a single currency. He is even unable to say definitively whether he still believes in managed exchange rates even though, a few weeks back, that was supposedly the crux of the Government's economic policy. Therefore, Maastricht for him is little more than a legal document, a treaty to which he is committed without, aparently, being committed to what it means. It has become, in his hands, a mere paper transaction.

We have reached the absurd position where the Prime Minister's justification for the Maastricht treaty rests on almost nothing more than his having given his word to his European partners that it would be ratified and his desire that that promise should not suffer the fate of all his other promises. But on the actual issues, the moves that give meaning to the process of Maastricht. he is silent, agnostic or opposed.

The key point that I want to make, therefore, is that the Government, under the Prime Minister, are now incapable of leading this country towards the greater European co-operation that Maastricht seeks to implement. This is the pro-Maastricht, pro-Europe case for opposing the Government's record on Europe in line with my party's official conference policy.

The result of the incompetence and machinations of the past few weeks is to leave the Conservative party in the position where it can do no more than offer grace words in support of Europe, while making it clear that no practical action will follow as a result.

Therefore, I want to argue not why Maastricht should be ratified under this Prime Minister who does not believe in its essential elements, but why Maastricht itself is right for Europe and, most important of all, right for Britain.

Whatever its imperfections, the treaty is the best way forward for the European Community. It enshrines the social chapter in Community law. It creates a social cohesion fund for the benefit of less prosperous regions. That will be crucial for my town and the north and needs to be strengthened if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the single market.

Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mandelson

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I am speaking against the clock.

The treaty improves environmental and consumer protection—

Mr. Whitney


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) has been here long enough to know that if another hon. Member does not give way, he must resume his seat.

Mr. Mandelson

The treaty improves environmental and consumer protection and makes a significant advance in overcoming the EC's democratic deficit. It is vital that the European Parliament's ability to oversee the work of the Commission is enhanced and that the power of co-decision with the European Council is strengthened.

We must, however, ask another question, about our own work in the House. Maastricht extends the scope for intergovernmental co-operation, which is desirable and gives the lie to the claim that the treaty creates a federal Europe. None the less, we must also strengthen Westminster's ability to hold the Commission and the Council properly accountable. Without that, the Community's bureaucracy and democracy will remain badly out of balance, which will make it difficult for us to win the necessary popular support for the Community's development.

I do not underestimate the difficulty of achieving that, in relation to the economic and monetary aspects of the treaty, which are the foundation of the Maastricht process. That is particularly true in the wake of black Wednesday. The forced withdrawal of sterling from the exchange rate mechanism—which is, after all, the key building block of economic and monetary union set out in the treaty—made many suppose that it was the Euro-system, not the weakness of sterling and the surrounding events, that was at fault.

Let us be clear about this. The crisis of black Wednesday was born out of the fundamental weaknesses of the British economy. It was as much the product of 11 years of Thatcherite neglect as that of two years of Majorite incompetence. Public doubts and disinformation about Maastricht, however, have been fed further by those who argue that, having left the ERM, in one bound we are free and can now insulate ourselves from further European economic and monetary integration. That is a deeply dishonest message to peddle.

I share the strong feelings of all hon. Members who are in despair at the scale and depth of the recession—who daily witness in their constituencies the destruction of Britain's manufacturing base, and who daily see the victims of unemployment.

Mr. Cormack

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mandelson

The hon. Gentleman will have to forgive me if I do not: others wish to speak.

Opposition Members want action now, and action at home, from this weak and feeble Government. We want action to kick-start recovery, to begin to return the unemployed to work and to make householders secure in their homes again. There is so much that the Government could do to lift the economy out of recession, if only they had the will to do it. Yet, in the long term, it is the gravest of illusions that Britain can solve its economic problems by acting alone. It is disingenous to argue that the way out of our economic decline is to operate within a purely national framework of policy that ignores the huge interdependence of Europe's economies. That applies particularly to monetary policy, and to the levels of interest and exchange rates.

When it comes to monetary policy, national independence of action is as much a part of history as is the British empire. That is why the Government need to plan now—as soon as is reasonably possible, and at a level that can be sustained—to resume Britain's membership of the ERM, within a practical timetable. That remains necessary for the achievement of macro-economic stability, without which long-term planning for investment and growth under any Government will certainly be undermined.

Although the Government have not specifically ruled out a return to the ERM at some point, they certainly seem to have cooled on the idea. If that is true, the Government's support for economic and monetary union, and their stated desire to be part of the Maastricht process, can hardly be taken seriously. The Labour party has consistently argued that, for Britain's membership of the ERM to work successfully, accompanying policies are required to strengthen the industrial base of the economy. That is all the more true and all the more necessary now, as part of any timetable for re-entry to the ERM.

The choice facing Britain is clear. We can wish away the growing interdependence—

Mr. Whitney

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We all understand that hon. Members are reluctant to give way when the ten-minute rule is in operation, but surely at this stage, in the interests of debate, an hon. Member who is reading out an essay ought to give way, as every other speaker has done.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) knows very well that it is entirely up to the hon. Member who has the floor to decide whether to give way. That is well established, and there is no doubt about it.

Mr. Mandelson

Had the hon. Gentleman been present during any part of our earlier proceedings, I might have been more inclined to give way to him.

As I was saying, the choice facing Britain is clear. We can wish away the growing interdependence of Europe's economies. We can try to set out our own interest rates, unaffected by levels in the rest of the European Community—as long, of course, as we are prepared to suffer the devaluation that will be necessary to sustain them. I strongly believe, however, that, in the long term, such independence is unsustainable. We are not free agents outside the ERM, any more than we were free agents inside it. Inflation would follow from the depreciation of sterling, and an interest-rate premium would be demanded by the money markets as a result.

The alternative route is for us to play our part in building cross-national institutions to cope with that economic and monetary interdependence within Europe. We can have our say in developing the policies that dictate the European benchmark. Instead of railing at the power of German monetary policy, and seeking to insulate Britain from it by staying outside the ERM and eventual monetary union—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I understood that the rules of the House permitted hon. Members to refer to copious notes, but the hon. Gentleman is definitely reading every word of his speech.

Madam Deputy Speaker

It is certainly the practice of the House for Back Benchers, at least, not to read speeches; but I defy anyone to determine precisely when an hon. Member is reading and when he is using copious notes.

Mr. Mandelson

Thank you for your support, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Instead of railing at the power of German monetary policy and seeking to insulate Britain, we should seek to Europeanise that policy. A monetary policy implemented by a European central bank, acting within a framework of objectives set by the ECOFIN Council, has a far better chance of achieving rational co-ordination of policies—including interest rate reductions across the board—than the present arrangement, in which, like it or not, the Bundesbank determines its own priorities and others must simply respond. That approach is at the heart of the Maastricht process. That is why, rather than opting out of those crucial developments in Europe and putting Britain on the sidelines of monetary union, the Government should use the moves forward in the treaty to construct a long-term strategy for truly sustainable growth and employment. That is where Britain's true interests lie—and that is where secure employment for my constituents will come from.

It is tragic that the Government's lamentable lack of vision and purpose in their European and economic policies is putting that prospect further and further out of reach.

8.58 pm
Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should be grateful if you would tell me how long we have before the closing speeches. I want to make my speech brief and to the point.

Madam Deputy Speaker

My understanding is that the Front-Bench speakers would like 25 minutes each, which means that the first should begin at 9.10. However, that does not mean that the hon. Gentleman has to fill the time between now and then.

Mr. Booth

I shall bear that in mind, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am grateful for your guidance.

The debate has demonstrated the feelings in the country. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that they are in favour of Europe and yet against Maastricht—or that they are for their party but do not intend to go down its main line. It has been a case of tip-toeing not so much through the tulip fields of Maastricht as through the poppy fields of Ghent.

Hon. Members will be grateful to hear that I have consulted the people of Finchley on the issue—[HON. MEMBERS: "What did she say?"] I shall support the Government. We cannot play ducks and drakes with our exports; 57 per cent. of our exports go to Europe, and we cannot play risky games with those. As other hon. Members have said, our trade is the life blood of our nation. Nevertheless, I recognise the deep feelings not only among Conservative Members but among Opposition Members. I recognise the depth of agony that runs right through the nation on the issue.

We have been told that we had a debate last December, but that was six months before a certain document—Cm. 1934, the "Treaty on European Union"—was published in May. We have been told that we had an election—but both sides agreed on Maastricht. We have been told that we had a main debate in the summer. Yes, but that was before the Danes made their decision.

On 23 January 1975, the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, set out two grounds when he announced his referendum. He said that, on an issue of deep constitutional importance, on which there was a deep division in the Government, there might be a referendum. There are benefits from a referendum. My people in Finchley would have the benefit of more information. There would he more debate and more choice, and we should give more power to our negotiators in Europe.

I have listened carefully to all the objections to a referendum. On a previous occasion, one of my right hon. Friends said that no one read referendum papers—or at least that only 10 per cent. of people did. But nowadays, such debates are conducted on television. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, understandably, has said that we as a nation must make our decision on the issue before Edinburgh. That is quite right—but there are four weeks before then. It took only three weeks to hold a general election. Why can we not have a quick referendum?

Then there is the "mixed up" argument that the issue would be mixed up with other issues such as the economy, as happened in France. But in France, one of the main parties argued against Maastricht, whereas in this country all the main parties are in favour of it.

Some of the people who oppose a referendum say that the question is too complex. That is an insult to the British people. Are we really saying that our people are less intelligent than the Danes, the Irish and the French? Of course we are not.[Interruption.]

Some say that there may be drafting problems with a referendum. We had one before in 1975, so why can we not have one again? It is also said that to have a referendum would involve a U-turn by the Government. I and many other hon. Members go—or at least, used to go—to the Court of Appeal every day. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I must observe that there is an increasing buzz of conversation in the Chamber—and it is not confined to one side of the House.

Mr. Booth

Many hon. Members have been to the Court of Appeal. No one would regard the decisions that it takes every day as U-turns. Its decisions to change its mind are based on new information. We in Britain and Parliament have new information about the depth of anxiety about Maastricht among the people whom we represent. That is a new circumstance, and we must learn from it.

It is said that to call a referendum would be weakness. It is never weakness to trust the people. The House of Commons has been in existence for almost 800 years. It has grown great and become the mother of parliaments by trusting the people. We should do that again in this crisis. I call on both Conservative and Opposition Members to support me.

There is nothing to fear from a referendum but fear itself. If the vote is tight tonight, I call on my colleagues, particularly on the Front Bench, to use courage and common sense and to show confidence in their case, which I shall support.

9.5 pm

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

In the five minutes that I have, I wish to call into question the central theme that the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), have put to their party, the House and the country in the past few months.

They have suggested that, for the first time in the evolution of the European Community, they have rolled back the advance of centralism; they have cabin'd and to some extent confin'd the scope of the European institutions, especially the Commission and the court. I hope quickly to prove in two ways that what the Foreign Secretary and the Minister have suggested is not the objective truth.

In the past year or so of negotiation, the Government have slowed down what would otherwise have been a faster advance towards centralism. They rest their case on two issues—subsidiarity and the erection of pillars of the union separate from the trunk of the Community.

Mr. Hurd

indicated assent.

Mr. Spearing

I see the Foreign Secretary nod.

There is enormous doubt about subsidiarity. Even if the principle is defined, after competitions and 20-page documents from Mr. Delors, the Foreign Secretary knows that it is not applicable to matters in which the Community has exclusive competence. I tabled a written question in which I asked the Government to define exclusive competence. The Minister of State replied on 23 October. He said that topics within the exclusive competence of the Community included single commercial policy and single agricultural policy. Undoubtedly they would include the single market, too. However, he said: It is not possible to draw up an exhaustive hypothetical list."—[Official Report, 23 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 409.] In other words, subsidiarity—if it is successfully defined—will apply in a relatively small area and, I suspect, at the margins.

The other issue is that of the pillars—A to S at either end of the treaty. They apply to single foreign and security policy. Can the Foreign Secretary separate foreign and security policy from defence policy? I do not believe that one can separate them. They are two sides of the same coin. As the Foreign Secretary is aware, article J.2 of the treaty makes it possible in certain circumstances for majority decisions to be made in such matters.

I put it to the Foreign Secretary that our armed forces would not be loyal simply to the Government and the monarch of the day: they would be loyal to the policy of the European union and its president for that six months. That is absolutely essential to the concept of citizenship also found in the new treaty. Curiously enough, it is found in the trunk of the treaty of Rome, in article 8.

There, as the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) reminded us, we find the duties of citizenship. If there will be no change, as the Prime Minister misleadingly implied at Brighton and again today, and if we all remain British citizens, what is the purpose of making us union citizens in a twinkling of an eye on the stroke of midnight at some future date?

I assert that the citizen of the union would also be the monarch of the day, and that the monarch in Parliament would assume the duties of the citizen of the union. So the theoretical sovereign power would assume these duties, whatever they turn out to be and whoever interprets them.

The idea that we have rolled back the advancing powers of the European Community is false. Their advance may be slowed down by Maastricht, but it is because the Government have tried to give the House the wrong impression that we should vote against proceeding further with this Bill—unless and until the Danes have decided whether they can ratify it. If we proceed before that, are we not undermining the principles of democracy itself?

9.10 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I have sat through almost the whole debate. Once we had got rid of the boorishness and the false points of order made by Conservative Members during the speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition, it became a good-natured and enjoyable debate.

Many of the speeches from both sides were well worth hearing, and I shall refer to some of them in detail shortly. The arguments about the need for the House to debate today's motion and the significance of its outcome have been kaleidoscopic: give them a shake and they all appear to change before our very eyes.

Some have argued that the debate is about some huge and fundamental principle. I do not believe that. Others have argued that it is about the whole future of the Maastricht treaty. I do not share that view, either. Even wilder allegations have it that the future of the British economy is at stake tonight. Would that that were so, with a discredited Government facing possible defeat.

In many respects, the House would have been better employed debating the various crises that our country faces in economic, industrial and social policies. There seems to be a Cabinet meeting every day, and still Ministers cannot get things right. Just as the Government have failed the British people at home, so they have failed and continue to fail our country in Europe.

The British presidency of the Community has been a fiasco. The British Government have sought the lowest common denominator in the European Community time after time. This Conservative Administration has failed to give a lead. I heard a speech claiming that Britain was leading Europe. I wonder what our European Community partners think of such arrogance on the part of supporters of the Conservative Government.

Far from taking the lead, the Government have failed to give a lead. They have failed to take any initiative during their presidency—on economic recovery in Europe, on the disastrous unemployment in the Community, and even, tragically, on the Community response to the appalling conflicts in Yugoslavia, which was misjudged.

Stripped of the hype and misrepresentation of recent Community events and their significance, this debate is really on a motion about procedure, but a motion with the prime objective of trying to re-establish the authority of an increasingly accident-prone and embattled Prime Minister, who is trying to establish his authority over his increasingly querulous party. We do not intend to help him in that objective, and those who do so intend will be required to account for their actions to an angry and incredulous British public.

As the Prime Minister has struggled over the results of his own misjudgments, of which the coal crisis is merely the latest in a long and sad line, and as the Cabinet meets to consider public expenditure cuts and possibly a public sector pay freeze, who really believes that an incompetent Conservative Government deserve the support of opposition parties?

Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

Not for the moment.

All that—and the various changes of explanation for the wording of the motion that we are debating tonight—was graphically set out in the editorial in The Sunday Telegraph, referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition. That editorial continued: There must always be a strong presumption against rebellion if the country is to be run successfully. That is the point made by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath).


said The Sunday Telegraphthe problem of which all Tory MPs are acutely aware is that the country is not being run successfully. That is the reality of the circumstances we face, and there is not much sign of confidence, in the wider debate that is taking place in the country, in the Government's ability to get things right.

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Marshall

The hon. Gentleman said that he would.

Dr. Cunningham

No, I did not, and I do not intend to.

What of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup? The right hon. Gentleman grossly misrepresented the position of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition and, what is more, he quite erroneously ascribed—to European socialists, at any rate—views that they simply do not hold. I asked him to withdraw what he said. He did not do so. I repeat that he was wrong to say it.

I understand that Conservative Members are somewhat sensitive about the Opposition's charge that the motion is a motion of confidence in the Government in disguise. I can only say that any suggestions of that nature have not come from us—[Laughter.] Oh, no. They have come from the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Wales, the President of the Board of Trade and, most emphatically, at the end of his speech, from the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who urged his right hon. and hon. Friends not to vote against the Government tonight. Pleas for support and confidence in the Government are coming not from us but from members of the Cabinet and other Government supporters.

I have a thing or two to say about the speech made by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), which was strong on sanctimony and weak on judgment. The right hon. Gentleman spoke immediately after the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup but seemed to deny that this was an issue of confidence in the Government, even though that had been the tenor of that right hon. Gentleman's closing remarks. We need no sanctimonious lessons from the right hon. Member for Yeovil, who lost part of his share of the vote at the general election, who has lost support in the country since, who once changed his mind on his party's defence policy in a single afternoon, and who has made many other U-turns since.

Mr. Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

I am not giving way.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. Do I understand that the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) does not wish to give way?

Dr. Cunningham

indicated assent.

Madam Speaker

In that case, hon. Members must resume their seats.

Dr. Cunningham

Perhaps the speech that took the prize for the greatest cheek was that of the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton). In a distinguished parliamentary career, the right hon. Gentleman has been, among other things, a Government Chief Whip who has bullied, arm-twisted, cajoled and threatened hon. Members into the Lobby against their better judgment for all sorts of reasons, but who came to the Chamber tonight to tell Labour Members not to go into the Lobbies—the denial of half a career's work as a member of the Whips Office.

Mr. Renton

What the hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten, but I have not, is that there are some hon. Members with honour sitting behind him. I suggested to them that they should not come here in time to vote but should take the liberty of a long dinner, so that they could save their honour rather than act hypocritically.

Dr. Cunningham

I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman recognises that the hon. Members in the House who have honour are on the Opposition side, and not sitting behind him. What is more, they have more honour than he has, and a lot less pomposity.

I admired the speech of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), although I did not agree with what he had to say—

Mr. Ashdown

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

In a moment. I am referring to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, and when I have finished I shall give way. He spoke with great courage and clarity about his convictions. Even though I did not agree with some of his arguments, I shall welcome his commitment to support us in the Lobby.

Mr. Ashdown

Since the hon. Gentleman is talking of honour, I wonder how he can with honour recall that, three or four weeks ago, he vociferously suggested and recommended to the French that they should vote in favour of something that he will vote against tonight.

Dr. Cunningham

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the vacuous motion tabled by the Government is about the principles of Maastricht, greater European integration or greater commitment to the European ideals, among all his other faults, he simply cannot read. It is not about those issues at all.

I do not wholeheartedly share the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), but I must pick him up on one thing. He said that there was an almighty effort to get a French yes because of the rejection of the treaty in the Danish referendum. Whatever the size of the majority in the French referendum, it could not negate the fact that the Danes had voted no, and the fact that, until an accommodation of the Danish problem is clearly agreed, the treaty cannot be ratified.

That was confirmed by none other than the Prime Minister, writing in the Evening Standard on 21 September, when he said: The plain fact is that the Maastricht Treaty can only come into force if it is ratified by all member states. In Denmark they have voted against it and, unless the people there change their minds, the treaty cannot go ahead … But I made it clear that I will not bring the Maastricht bill back to the British Parliament until the Danes have made their intentions clear. I also applaud the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) and for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), and I congratulate all those Conservative Members who spoke, even though I may not agree with what they had to say, who had the courage and the decency to ignore Tory central office instructions to launch bitter and abusive personal attacks on my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

The motion is simply procedure dressed up as principle—saving face dressed up as substance. Even the president of the Liberal Democrat party called the motion a "contrivance". The Foreign Secretary told the House last week that it was about the authority of the Prime Minister". The Secretary of State for Wales said on BBC television: These are very important issues. We have to show our confidence not only in the Government but also in John Major. In those circumstances, and given the repeated claims for support for the Prime Minister from his right hon. Friends, how do the Government believe that it would be possible for the Opposition to do anything other than oppose the motion?

The Government's position tonight has nothing whatever to do with principle; we have that on no less an authority than that of the Foreign Secretary, who said at the Conservative party conference in Brighton: If huge matters of principle are at stake, collisions are sometimes inevitable. But that does not apply here". The right hon. Gentleman said that no great issue of principle was involved, and that remains the case with the motion before us.

So there we have it: principle does not apply. There is no mention of Maastricht in the motion. It is contrived, it has no substance—no confidence. It is, as Oscar Wilde might have put it, "the motion which dare not speak its name". That is the type of motion that we are being asked to approve tonight.

How did the Government come to inflict this latest crisis on themselves—for clearly it is all the Prime Minister's work? Step by step, he has added to the confusion at the heart of his Government, in the House and in the country.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

The hon. Gentleman and his party have made great play of the fact that the Government's motion makes no mention of Maastricht. Would he please mind telling me what the European Communities (Amendment) Bill is about if it is not about Maastricht?

Dr. Cunningham

In that case, why not mention it in the motion?

On 24 September, the Prime Minister set out for the House the two conditions that needed to be met before the House should be asked to proceed with the Bill. The first was the common one, which was well known and agreed on by both sides of the House—an accommodation for the Danish Government and their people. That condition was never contested by any members of the Conservative party or of my party. There was general agreement in the House on that requirement.

Without being pressed and without any political duress, the Prime Minister added his own second condition—the need for a clear definition of subisidiarity. At that time, no one in the House challenged what the Prime Minister said. It was a generally agreed position, and one which the Labour party had constantly occupied since the result of the Danish referendum in June.

Very little has changed since 24 September. It is true that Denmark has published its demands—the so-called national compromise—which mean that the Danish position will be discussed and agreed by the 11 Community members before Denmark can put any "accommodation" on the treaty to the Danish people. Of course, no such accommodation has been agreed, and nor is it likely to be before the Community summit in Edinburgh at the earliest.

That was confirmed by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), during a BBC interview on 28 October, when he said: When it's approved by the Danish Parliament all the member states will look at it. But I am pretty confident that by the Edinburgh Council we will be able to have a position that might be acceptable to the Danes. That is what the Secretary of State's principal Minister for Europe said "might be acceptable".

The reality is reinforced by the letter from the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mr. Poul Schluter, to our Prime Minister, dated 30 October. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the letter was his report to Parliament. It was not a report from Her Majesty's Government to Parliament; it was a letter from the Danish Prime Minister. Moreover, if it was a report to Parliament, why was it placed in the Library of the House of Commons as late as 2 pm yesterday, with no notification, formal or informal, to any Opposition party or anyone else in the House? It is an odd way for the right hon. Gentleman to keep his promise to make a report to Parliament.

Even in that document, the Danish Government say: Denmark and the eleven other countries which signed the Treaty are therefore faced with a real problem which can be solved only by all twelve countries together. Earlier in the same submission to the President of the Council, they say that there will have to be negotiations leading up to the European summit in Edinburgh before there is any hope of an agreement being reached.

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

There is no question of the Danish accommodation having been resolved at the present time. We now know from the Foreign Office memo, which the Prime Minister carefully skated over and which was leaked to the press a few days ago, presumably in the Government's latest contribution to more openness in Community affairs, that, quietly and privately, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not optimistic about the Danish demand.

The memorandum said: The memorandum is unlikely to he acceptable as it stands to member states and some of them may make this clear. We may therefore have a difficult negotiation ahead of us which could play awkwardly with the paving debate and the reintroduction of the Maastricht Bill". That is the real view of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the Danish demands and this matter.

It is interesting that the sanitised version of the Foreign Office memorandum, placed in the Library, has had that passage removed from it altogether. Those words appear in the leaked memorandum but not in the one placed in the Library for the information of Parliament. I wonder why.

The Danish Government, it goes on to say, have effectively had to swallow, as their own proposals, a document put forward by the Opposition. The proposals will need to be sold by Ellemann-Jensen, who will not believe in them. That is the real view of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the circumstances we face.

We also know that the Prime Minister's demands for an agreed definition of subsidiarity have not been met. People have said that tabling this amendment to this nonsensical procedural motion will make no difference to the position in the House if it is defeated. No one really believes—not even the Liberal Democrats—that, if our amendment is carried and the motion is defeated tonight, it will have any impact on the Committee stage of the Bill other than simply to delay it until after the Edinburgh summit. A vote for our amendment tonight cannot negate the vote on Second Reading of the Bill. We have made our position on the European Community clear at our conference in Blackpool. I stand by those decisions, as does my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition. They are set out in our document, "Europe: Our Economic Future", which was approved overwhelmingly by the Labour party, and it remains our position.

The Labour party has already made it clear that the Maastricht treaty that we wanted would have been somewhat different from the one that the Prime Minister wants. We wanted a more democratic approach to European decision making. We wanted a much more socially conscious approach, as reflected in our support for the social chapter. Irrespective of the outcome today, which is not really about the Maastricht treaty anyway, Labour's position, as already stated, is support for Europe, and it will be in no way diminished.

The Government's motion fails the Prime Minister's tests on Denmark and on subsidiarity. That is why we have tabled the amendment, which does not and could not negate other decisions of the House. It simply proposes awaiting the Edinburgh Council, which is only five weeks away. The real reason for the Government not being prepared to wait that long is that the Prime Minister wants to take on and humiliate the opponents in the Conservative party. That is the reason for today's debate; that is why we are here.

In normal times, that would be a questionable judgment, but now, with the Government all in pieces, with all coherence gone, it is surely complete folly. The amendment would almost save the Prime Minister from himself, if only he could see it. It would allow time for the Edinburgh summit finally to decide the outstanding issues on subsidiarity and on accommodation for Denmark. Then, and only then, should we proceed to consider the Bill in Committee. That is why I urge the rest of the House to join us, the Opposition, in the Lobby.

9.35 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

This has been a spirited debate but a complicated one, as the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has said. He compared it to a kaleidoscope. Now that he has shaken the kaleidoscope the situation is even more confused than it was when he began to address the House. Few motions can have received so much analysis. All sorts of interpretations have been placed upon it as if it contained long extra passages in invisible ink, but there are none. The motion means what it says.

The survival of the Conservative Government is not at stake. What is at stake is the survival of a credible European policy for the United Kingdom. There are Opposition Members who believe in a European policy for Britain that is based on the success of the Community, and they have made some sacrifices for that belief in the past. I have not been enormously enthused by their excusing speeches today. It remains to be seen whether those Members will allow themselves to be driven off their beliefs when the main motion is put to the House.

The speech by the Leader of the Opposition was on a motion of no confidence that he has not tabled. If that is how he feels, why has he not tabled the motion? The answer is that he hopes to lure some of my hon. Friends into the Lobby with him. His speech showed clearly the trap, and on the whole when traps are set in the sight of the victim they do not catch him.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House—and certainly some of my hon. Friends who sit behind me—have through the years wanted nothing to do with the European Community, and that is still their view. For them, the amendment and the motion have no attractions. The great majority of the House, however, believes that Britain and British interests are secured by joining energetically in the European Community.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hurd

No. I shall make some progress.

Most of us—the great majority of us—have broadly the same idea of how the Community should work. We believe in a Community that is based on the effective work together of nation states, whose roles and institutions enable it to intervene—that is the Community—only where it is necessary and proper for it to do so—for example, in enforcing a single market. The words "necessary and proper" are in the Birmingham declaration, which was agreed by all member states.

Most of us reject the idea of a European superstate. We believe—certainly Conservative Members do—in a Community that is based essentially on the principles of the free market. We believe also in a Community which is ready to admit new members as they qualify and wish to join. All this is just about common ground for most of us—almost all of us—on the Government Benches and for many beyond us.

The question that divides us is whether these aims, which we share, are best advanced by ratifying the Maastricht treaty or wrecking it. I am sure that it is better to ratify it. That is not a question that will be decided today because before it can finally be decided Parliament will want to undertake detailed study of the Bill and the treaty. I welcome that. Indeed, we will have a more detailed parliamentary examination than any other member state. That is right because there is a whole multitude of questions and anxieties being tossed to and fro by the media and by individual citizens. This House is the place for those questions to be pinned down, to be definitely posed and answered and for anxieties to be stated and either confirmed or disproved. That is what the Committee stage will be about.

The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) took a different line in his speech. He is a familiar and, on the whole, agreeable figure in the House. However, we do not know very much about his opinions. For many years as shadow Chancellor his economic policy consisted of denouncing the Chancellor of the day and then shadowing his policies. We do not know much about his social or foreign policies. However, we thought that we knew one thing—that he was clear that Britain's place effectively lay in Europe. He has a long and good record on that. As the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) reminded us, the Labour party conference recently emphasised support for the Maastricht treaty without caveat. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) was hustled to the stake when he stepped out of line.

I had an illuminating Saturday morning last month when I was in Brussels meeting some of my Foreign Minister colleagues. Some of them happen to be socialists. They were in Brussels that morning because they were attending a meeting of European socialist leaders. Several of them—more than one—came to see me with great relief on their faces. They said, "Your parliamentary difficulties are over. We have just met that nice Mr. Smith and he has assured us that the Labour party will abstain and abstain and abstain." They regarded that as the height of statesmanship. In the circumstances, I understand why. When I pointed out that the Labour party was not quite as simple as that and that possibly even the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not so simple, they dismissed me as a ruthless cynic. I did not expect to be proved right quite so quickly. The truth is that the one principle, the one policy for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is known and respected is the one principle, the one policy that he has today clearly abandoned.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, taking a lawyer's tortuous path through the argument, spent a great deal of time analysing the Government's motion and explaining why he could not support it. We all remember that long before we published our motion he said that whatever we tabled he would oppose it. He must think that we have remarkably short memories.

After the vote tonight the House will turn its attention to other matters. Next week my right hon. Friend the Chancellor makes his autumn statement. There is no doubt that the domestic agenda is full and pressing. However, I cannot accept the proposition that the debates about our place in the Community are irrelevant to our concerns about the economy. As some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, the perception that Britain is a fully committed player in the Community is vital in attracting investment. American and Japanese firms do not come here for the weather; they come here because we have certain specific advantages—and at the moment one of them is continuing access to the economic arrangements within the Community.

I wish to deal with two points that have taken up a great deal of time in the debate. The Danish Parliament—with the support of seven of the eight parties in it—has now approved proposals that, if accepted by other member states—

Dr. Cunningham


Mr. Hurd

Yes, I said "if" accepted—would form the basis on which the treaty could be put back to the Danish people. The Danish proposals match our views on topics such as subsidiarity and the open way in which the Community works. The Danish proposals for economic and monetary co-operation aim for a position broadly the same as that already negotiated for this country.

The Danes have made it clear that they are not seeking to reopen the text of the treaty. They are essentially seeking to clarify how the treaty will be applied to Denmark in certain key respects. I had a long conversation yesterday with the Danish Foreign Minister who confirmed the Danes' approach on his visit to London. During our six-month presidency of the Community we must quickly take forward discussions among the Twelve. We aim to agree at Edinburgh on a political framework for a settlement of the Danish proposals. Having listened to the Minister and studied the first reaction across the Community—which was not unanimous—to the Danish plan, I believe that there are reasonable prospects for such a settlement.

The hon. Member for Copeland made heavy weather of the issue, but usefully read out an extract from an Evening Standard article by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If the hon. Gentleman studies what I have said and what my right hon. Friend wrote in that article, he will find that we are exactly at the position sketched by my right hon. Friend at that time.

We have not solved all the problems, but we have never said that we would not bring the treaty into Committee until the Danes had solved all the problems. We have said that we need to be clear about their intentions. We are clear about their intentions. I believe that there is a reasonable chance—I do not want to deceive the House —that at Edinburgh we shall be able to reach an agreement that will enable the Danes to go back to their people.

Mr. Enright

What is the position on European citizenship, as that is crucial to what the Danes are saying? If the Foreign Secretary is renouncing European citizenship on the part of the United Kingdom, that is a basic departure from previous statements.

Mr. Hurd

Our position is exactly that agreed by all member states at Birmingham. Citizenship of the union brings our citizens additional rights and protection without in any way taking the place of their national citizenship.

The issue of subsidiarity has dominated much of the debate. We made good progress at Birmingham. The Birmingham declaration makes it clear that in future the presumption will be that action will be taken at a national level. As one veteran remarked at the conference, that is a huge change from the vocabulary used in the early years of the Community when it was assumed that Community action was, in itself and without question, a blessing.

There are people, like Commissioner Bangemann yesterday, who cling to that faded belief, although I think that it is fading. But having had meeting after meeting in the past few months, I am certain that the climate on that crucial issue—on which the House concentrated—is changing in Europe.

No one who listened to the discussions at the Birmingham summit could believe that there was any prospect of a united states of Europe in the lifetime of the people here. Some people may regret that, but that is the tenor of the discussions.

Mr. Moate

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way on an issue that is of fundamental importance to many of us. The other day the Prime Minister was quoted as referring to the treaty's preamble, which contains so many of those federalist ambitions, as Eurowaffle. How can those of us who have consistently opposed federalism and the move to a centralist authority be reassured that signing the treaty when it contains those words will not have major legal and political significance?

Mr. Hurd

I shall develop the point. The point that I am trying to make is that the climate is changing. Those who believe, quite genuinely, that there should be a steady, inexorable movement towards a single Executive and single Parliament are now on the defensive rather than on the offensive. I do not claim more than that. I do not claim that their voices are silenced, but I am sure that they are on the defensive.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) will not accept that. He listens only to the voices that he most detests. He likes to cling to his nightmares. He said to us today that everybody except the Prime Minister and British Ministers believe that there is this inexorable move towards centralism. Perhaps I could quote from the article that the federal German Chancellor has placed in The European.I do not know what relationship it has to what Mr. Bangemann said, but Chancellor Kohl wrote: We have not laid the foundation stone with Maastricht for a European superstate which reduces everything to the same level and blurs the differences; rather we have committed ourselves to a Europe constructed on the principle of 'unity in diversity'. In a strong aside against Brussels"— this is the agency report— he says: 'We must all ask ourselves in a self-critical way what kind of impression this mania for rules and regulations makes on ordinary people and whether we are running the risk of bringing the European unity process into disrepute.' There is more on the same lines. It gives the absolute lie to the notion that we in Britain are solitary and isolated in pressing for changes in the Community on these lines. We are not. We are in an increasing body of opinion pressing in that way.

Mr. Peter Shore

The right hon. Gentleman's whole case is that the body of opinion is changing. The body of opinion has changed only because of the impact of the Danish no vote. It is not a change of fact or a change in the text of the treaty; it is a change entirely in presentation so that gullible people in this country will accept that there has been a change when there has not been.

Mr. Hurd

The change was there at Maastricht. The change was there in the British arguments at the negotiations. The change was there when we defeated the Dutch centralising draft in September 1991. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right—I want to be fair to him—that the Danish referendum and the debate in this country, in France and in Germany has added to this movement —of course it has. It is affecting people's views and opinions and that is quite right. It is affecting them in a way for which we have been pressing over many years.

Mr. Cash

Does my right hon. Friend know that in Management Today, which came out only a few days ago, 69 per cent. of the 3,000 readers who were requested to reply said that they wanted a referendum, and that 68 per cent. said that they were against the Maastricht treaty? Those are business men in this country.

Mr. Hurd

I have not had the advantage of studying that census. I do not think that it fits into the point of the argument that I have reached. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has explained why we believe that this place, and particularly this House, is the place for the detailed examination and then the final decisions on the treaty of Maastricht.

There is now an article on subsidiarity in the treaty. There was no such check in the treaty of Rome or in the Single European Act; now there is such a check. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney and I agree that much that has happened in the debate in different countries has shown that we are working with the grain of public opinion. We are not waiting for the article to be ratified and to become a legal obligation; we are making it a political fact. That work has gone on since the Lisbon summit in June, and was carried forward in Birmingham.

The Commission has been asked to produce examples of past legislation that fails the test and should be removed from the statute book. We have our own list to offer. Already, the Commission is changing. The number of legislative proposals from the Commission so far this year has dropped to 48, compared with the 118 that it had planned. That compares with about 150 in each of the past two years. We are working in the Council, too, and will discuss again on Monday new procedures so that we, the Ministers of the different countries, can test subsidiarity before discussing merits.

This will take time. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) is quite right to urge us to press this, but I must say to him—and this was part of his argument—that the idea that we can press this successfully if we are hanging back and are seen to be hanging back on the ratification of the treaty is fruitless. The fruits of the Edinburgh Council meeting can be taken into account as the Bill proceeds through the House, but for the Prime Minister—and this is the point I made earlier —to go to that meeting without the clear backing of the House would be to put him, as he said, in a weak and vulnerable position.

I agree with the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) about the importance of the treaty for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new Committee of the Regions, as she will agree, has the potential. It can be important. It depends how it works out. But we certainly do not believe that it should be underrated, and she knows very well the importance for those parts of our kingdom of the structure funds and of the point that I have already made about inward investment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) made a striking speech in which he said that what we have to do in eastern and central Europe is the most important job for the Community at present. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took a British initiative and invited here last week the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. That is exactly the kind of initiative which we are taking but which will wither unless the framework of the treaty of Maastricht is carried through.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor)—I am sorry that I missed his speech because I was out—and also the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) tried to indicate to the House that the Commission would have a sinister strength in the pillars, that is to say, in foreign policy, security matters and Home Office/immigration matters. That is not so. The Commission is present now in our discussions on foreign policy because if one is discussing Yugoslavia and sanctions one is discussing matters in which the Commission has a role, and it is useful for its members to be there. But they do not have—and the treaty excludes them from having—the monopoly of initiative, and there is no jurisdiction in these matters for the European Court. So it is quite a different system and the presence of the Commission and its ability, among others, to make proposals is entirely reasonable.

In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) and his plea for more information, we intend to issue reasonably soon—maybe next week—a booklet which explains the treaty.

This Community of Europe, among other things, is a forum of continuous debate, and this is natural in a community of 12 democracies. The debate on the future of Europe is not over and the centralisers are still active, though now on the defensive. But one does not stop the debate by refusing to ratify the treaty. If we did that we would merely ensure that in the debate the voice of Britain was muted and that the opinions of Britain carried less weight. We would increase the possibility of combinations forming on the continent which would deeply affect the prosperity and security of these islands but in whose policies we would have no say.

The treaty includes several of our own British ideas. We negotiated out of it obligations that we believed would be damaging for us. This is the only agreed framework for the Community over the next five or six years, and I am quite clear in my own mind that no agreement is possible at this time on a different basis, as the Danes themselves have recognised. If we wreck the treaty by refusing to ratify it, the Community will pass through a period of bad-tempered confusion. In that atmosphere, I would judge that there would be no enlargement of the Community—it would not be possible—that the single market would be spoiled and that investors and traders would be uncertain about Britain's place in Europe and therefore uncertain about our future. Within the treaty we can continue to press our own ideas as we are now doing with success on subsidiarity.

The Labour party leadership has shied away from the test. It has tabled an amendment. Once it comes to the point, it has decided to evade it. I hope that the House will take a different view. Let us have some self-confidence in our approach. Let us take advantage of the changing climate of opinion in Europe. Let us drive forward our own British ideas within the framework which we in Britain have helped to negotiate. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 313, Noes 319.

Division No. 82] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Adams, Mrs Irene Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Ainger, Nick Denham, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dewar, Donald
Allen, Graham Dixon, Don
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dobson, Frank
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Donohoe, Brian H.
Armstrong, Hilary Dowd, Jim
Ashton, Joe Duncan-Smith, Iain
Austin-Walker, John Dunnachie, Jimmy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Barnes, Harry Eagle, Ms Angela
Barron, Kevin Eastham, Ken
Battle, John Enright, Derek
Bayley, Hugh Etherington, Bill
Beckett, Margaret Evans, John (St Helens N)
Beggs, Roy Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart Fatchett, Derek
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Faulds, Andrew
Bennett, Andrew F. Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Benton, Joe Fisher, Mark
Bermingham, Gerald Flynn, Paul
Berry, Dr. Roger Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Betts, Clive Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Foulkes, George
Blair, Tony Fraser, John
Blunkett, David Fyfe, Maria
Boateng, Paul Galbraith, Sam
Body, Sir Richard Galloway, George
Boyce, Jimmy Gapes, Mike
Boyes, Roland Garrett, John
Bradley, Keith George, Bruce
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gerrard, Neil
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gill, Christopher
Budgen, Nicholas Godman, Dr Norman A.
Burden, Richard Godsiff, Roger
Butcher, John Golding, Mrs Llin
Byers, Stephen Gordon, Mildred
Caborn, Richard Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Callaghan, Jim Gould, Bryan
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Graham, Thomas
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Canavan, Dennis Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cann, Jamie Grocott, Bruce
Cash, William Gunnell, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Hain, Peter
Clapham, Michael Hall, Mike
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hanson, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hardy, Peter
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Harman, Ms Harriet
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Harvey, Nick
Clelland. David Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Henderson, Doug
Coffey, Ann Hendron, Dr Joe
Cohen, Harry Heppell, John
Connarty, Michael Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hinchliffe, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hoey, Kate
Corbett, Robin Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Corbyn, Jeremy Home Robertson, John
Corston, Ms Jean Hood, Jimmy
Cousins, Jim Hoon, Geoffrey
Cox, Tom Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cran, James Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cryer, Bob Hoyle, Doug
Cummings, John Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd) Hume, John
Dafis, Cynog Hutton, John
Dalyell, Tarn Illsley, Eric
Darling, Alistair Ingram, Adam
Davidson, Ian Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jamieson, David
Janner, Greville Pope, Greg
Jessel, Toby Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prescott, John
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Primarolo, Dawn
Jowell, Tessa Purchase, Ken
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Quin, Ms Joyce
Keen, Alan Radice, Giles
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Randall, Stuart
Khabra, Piara S. Raynsford, Nick
Kilfoyle, Peter Redmond, Martin
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Reid, Dr John
Knapman, Roger Richardson, Jo
Legg, Barry Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Leighton, Ron Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lewis, Terry Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Litherland, Robert Rogers, Allan
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rooney, Terry
Llwyd, Elfyn Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Loyden, Eddie Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
McAvoy, Thomas Ruddock, Joan
McCartney, Ian Salmond, Alex
McCrea, Rev William Sedgemore, Brian
Macdonald, Calum Sheerman, Barry
McFall, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McGrady, Eddie Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McKelvey, William Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mackinlay, Andrew Short, Clare
McLeish, Henry Simpson, Alan
McMaster, Gordon Skeet, Sir Trevor
McNamara, Kevin Skinner, Dennis
McWilliam, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Madden, Max Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Maginnis, Ken Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Mahon, Alice Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mallon, Seamus Snape, Peter
Mandelson, Peter Soley, Clive
Marek, Dr John Spearing, Nigel
Marlow, Tony Spellar, John
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Steinberg, Gerry
Martlew, Eric Stevenson, George
Maxton, John Stott, Roger
Meacher, Michael Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michael, Alun Straw, Jack
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Milburn, Alan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Tipping, Paddy
Morgan, Rhodri Trimble, David
Morley, Elliot Turner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Vaz, Keith
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Mowlam, Marjorie Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mudie, George Walley. Joan
Mullin, Chris Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Murphy, Paul Wareing, Robert N
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Watson, Mike
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Welsh, Andrew
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Wicks, Malcolm
O'Hara, Edward Wigley, Dafydd
Olner, William Wilkinson, John
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Paisley, Rev Ian Wilson, Brian
Parry, Robert Winnick, David
Patchett, Terry Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Pendry, Tom Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Pickthall, Colin Wise, Audrey
Pike, Peter L. Worthington, Tony
Wray, Jimmy Tellers for the Ayes:
Wright, Dr Tony Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Martyn Jones.
Young, David (Bolton SE)
Adley, Robert Day, Stephen
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Aitken, Jonathan Devlin, Tim
Alexander, Richard Dickens, Geoffrey
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Dicks, Terry
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Dorrell, Stephen
Alton, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amess, David Dover, Den
Ancram, Michael Duncan, Alan
Arbuthnot, James Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Durant, Sir Anthony
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Dykes, Hugh
Ashby, David Eggar, Tim
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Elletson, Harold
Aspinwall, Jack Emery, Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Evennett, David
Baldry, Tony Faber, David
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fabricant, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bates, Michael Fenner, Dame Peggy
Batiste, Spencer Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fishburn, Dudley
Bellingham, Henry Forman, Nigel
Beresford, Sir Paul Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Forth, Eric
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Foster, Don (Bath)
Booth, Hartley Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boswell, Tim Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Freeman, Roger
Bowden, Andrew French, Douglas
Bowis, John Fry, Peter
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gale, Roger
Brandreth, Gyles Gallie, Phil
Brazier, Julian Gardiner, Sir George
Bright, Graham Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Garnier, Edward
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Gillan, Cheryl
Browning, Mrs. Angela Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grylls, Sir Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Carttiss, Michael (Epsom-Ewell)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Hampson, Dr Keith
Churchill, Mr Hanley, Jeremy
Clappison, James Hannam, Sir John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hargreaves, Andrew
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Harris, David
Coe, Sebastian Haselhurst, Alan
Colvin, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Congdon, David Hayes, Jerry
Conway, Derek Heald, Oliver
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hendry, Charles
Cormack, Patrick Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Couchman, James Hicks, Robert
Critchley, Julian Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Horam, John
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hordern, Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Ottaway, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Page, Richard
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Paice, James
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Pawsey, James
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunter, Andrew Pickles, Eric
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jack, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, William (Corby)
Johnston, Sir Russell Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Redwood, John
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Richards, Rod
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Riddick, Graham
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Key, Robert Robathan, Andrew
Kilfedder, Sir James Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
King, Rt Hon Tom Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kirkhope, Timothy Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kirkwood, Archy Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knox, David Sackville, Tom
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, David (Dover)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Leigh, Edward Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shersby, Michael
Lidington, David Sims, Roger
Lightbown, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Soames, Nicholas
Luff, Peter Speed, Sir Keith
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spencer, Sir Derek
Lynne, Ms Liz Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spink, Dr Robert
Mac Kay, Andrew Spring, Richard
Maclean, David Sproat, Iain
Maclennan, Robert Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Madel, David Steen, Anthony
Maitland, Lady Olga Stephen, Michael
Major, Rt Hon John Stern, Michael
Malone, Gerald Stewart, Allan
Mans, Keith Streeter, Gary
Marland, Paul Sumberg, David
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sykes, John
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mates, Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Temple-Morris, Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Thomason, Roy
Mellor, Rt Hon David Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Merchant, Piers Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Milligan, Stephen Thurnham, Peter
Mills, Iain Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Tracey, Richard
Moate, Roger Tredinnick, David
Monro, Sir Hector Trend, Michael
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trotter, Neville
Moss, Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Needham, Richard Tyler, Paul
Nelson, Anthony Viggers, Peter
Neubert, Sir Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Walden, George
Nicholls, Patrick Wallace, James
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waller, Gary
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Ward, John
Norris, Steve Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Waterson, Nigel
Watts, John Wolfson, Mark
Wells, Bowen Wood, Timothy
Wheeler, Sir John Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Ray Young, Sir George (Acton)
Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Jerry Tellers for the Noes:
Willetts, David Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Wilshire, David

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 319, Noes 316.

Division No. 83] [10.17 pm
Adley, Robert Conway, Derek
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Aitken, Jonathan Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Alexander, Richard Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Cormack, Patrick
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Couchman, James
Alton, David Critchley, Julian
Amess, David Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Ancram, Michael Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Arbuthnot, James Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Day, Stephen
Ashby, David Deva, Nirj Joseph
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Devlin, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Dickens, Geoffrey
Atkins, Robert Dicks, Terry
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Dorrell, Stephen
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Dover, Den
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Duncan, Alan
Baldry, Tony Dunn, Bob
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Durant, Sir Anthony
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dykes, Hugh
Bates, Michael Eggar, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Elletson, Harold
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Emery, Sir Peter
Bellingham, Henry Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Bendall, Vivian Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evennett, David
Booth, Hartley Faber, David
Boswell, Tim Fabricant, Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bowden, Andrew Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bowis, John Fishburn, Dudley
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Forman, Nigel
Brandreth, Gyles Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brazier, Julian Forth, Eric
Bright, Graham Foster, Don (Bath)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Freeman, Roger
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) French, Douglas
Burns, Simon Fry, Peter
Burt, Alistair Gale, Roger
Butler, Peter Gallie, Phil
Butterfill, John Gardiner, Sir George
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Garnier, Edward
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gillan, Cheryl
Carrington, Matthew Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Carttiss, Michael Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gorst, John
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Churchill, Mr Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Clappison, James Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Grylls, Sir Michael
Coe, Sebastian Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Colvin, Michael Hague, William
Congdon, David
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Mawhinney, Dr Brian
(Epsom-Ewell) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hampson, Dr Keith Merchant, Piers
Hanley, Jeremy Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Hannam, Sir John Milligan, Stephen
Hargreaves, Andrew Mills, Iain
Harris, David Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hawkins, Nick Moate, Roger
Hayes, Jerry Monro, Sir Hector
Heald, Oliver Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Moss, Malcolm
Heathcoat-Amory, David Needham, Richard
Hendry, Charles Nelson, Anthony
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Neubert, Sir Michael
Hicks, Robert Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholls, Patrick
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Horam, John Norris, Steve
Hordern, Sir Peter Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Ottaway, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Page, Richard
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Paice, James
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Pawsey, James
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunter, Andrew Pickles, Eric
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jack, Michael Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Powell, William (Corby)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rathbone, Tim
Johnston, Sir Russell Redwood, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Richards, Rod
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Riddick, Graham
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robathan, Andrew
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Key, Robert Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kilfedder, Sir James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
King, Rt Hon Tom Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kirkwood, Archy Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Tom
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Knox, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Sims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lidington, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Soames, Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Speed, Sir Keith
Luff, Peter Spencer, Sir Derek
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lynne, Ms Liz Spink, Dr Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
MacKay, Andrew Sproat, Iain
Maclean, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Maclennan, Robert Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McLoughlin, Patrick Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Steen, Anthony
Madel, David Stephen, Michael
Maitland, Lady Olga Stern, Michael
Major, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan
Malone, Gerald Streeter, Gary
Mans, Keith Sumberg, David
Marland, Paul Sykes, John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomason, Roy Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Waterson, Nigel
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Watts, John
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wells, Bowen
Thurnham, Peter Wheeler, Sir John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Whitney, Ray
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Widdecombe, Ann
Tracey, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Tredinnick, David Willetts, David
Trend, Michael Wilshire, David
Trotter, Neville Wolfson, Mark
Twinn, Dr Ian Wood, Timothy
Tyler, Paul Yeo, Tim
Viggers, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walden, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, James Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Irvine Patrick.
Waller, Gary
Ward, John
Abbott, Ms Diane Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Adams, Mrs Irene Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Ainger, Nick Corbett, Robin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Corbyn, Jeremy
Allen, Graham Corston, Ms Jean
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cousins, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cox, Tom
Armstrong, Hilary Cran, James
Ashton, Joe Cryer, Bob
Austin-Walker, John Cummings, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Barnes, Harry Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Barron, Kevin Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Battle, John Dafis, Cynog
Bayley, Hugh Dalyell, Tam
Beckett, Margaret Darling, Alistair
Beggs, Roy Davidson, Ian
Bell, Stuart Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bennett, Andrew F. Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Benton, Joe Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Bermingham, Gerald Denham, John
Berry, Dr. Roger Dewar, Donald
Betts, Clive Dixon, Don
Bitten, Rt Hon John Dobson, Frank
Blair, Tony Donohoe, Brian H.
Blunkett, David Dowd, Jim
Boateng, Paul Duncan-Smith, Iain
Body, Sir Richard Dunnachie, Jimmy
Boyce, Jimmy Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Boyes, Roland Eagle, Ms Angela
Bradley, Keith Eastham, Ken
Bray, Dr Jeremy Enright, Derek
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Etherington, Bill
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Budgen, Nicholas Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Burden, Richard Fatchett, Derek
Butcher, John Faulds, Andrew
Byers, Stephen Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Caborn, Richard Fisher, Mark
Callaghan, Jim Flynn, Paul
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foulkes, George
Canavan, Dennis Fraser, John
Cann, Jamie Fyfe, Maria
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Galbraith, Sam
Cash, William Galloway, George
Chisholm, Malcolm Gapes, Mike
Clapham, Michael Garrett, John
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) George, Bruce
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gerrard, Neil
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Gill, Christopher
Clelland, David Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Godsiff, Roger
Coffey, Ann Golding, Mrs Llin
Cohen, Harry Gordon, Mildred
Connarty, Michael Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gould, Bryan Marlow, Tony
Graham, Thomas Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Martlew, Eric
Grocott, Bruce Maxton, John
Gunnell, John Meacher, Michael
Hain, Peter Michael, Alun
Hall, Mike Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hanson, David Milburn, Alan
Hardy, Peter Miller, Andrew
Harman, Ms Harriet Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Harvey, Nick Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Moonie, Dr Lewis
Henderson, Doug Morgan, Rhodri
Hendron, Dr Joe Morley, Elliot
Heppell, John Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hinchliffe, David Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Hoey, Kate Mowlam, Marjorie
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Mudie, George
Home Robertson, John Mullin, Chris
Hood, Jimmy Murphy, Paul
Hoon, Geoffrey Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hoyle, Doug O'Hara, Edward
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Olner, William
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) O'Neill, Martin
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hume, John Paisley, Rev Ian
Hutton, John Parry, Robert
Illsley, Eric Patchett, Terry
Ingram, Adam Pendry, Tom
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Pickthall, Colin
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Pike, Peter L.
Jamieson, David Pope, Greg
Janner, Greville Porter, David (Waveney)
Jessel, Toby Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prescott, John
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Primarolo, Dawn
Jowell, Tessa Purchase, Ken
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Quin, Ms Joyce
Keen, Alan Radice, Giles
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Randall, Stuart
Khabra, Piara S. Raynsford, Nick
Kilfoyle, Peter Redmond, Martin
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Reid, Dr John
Knapman, Roger Richardson, Jo
Legg, Barry Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Leighton, Ron Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lewis, Terry Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Litherland, Robert Rogers, Allan
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rooney, Terry
Llwyd, Elfyn Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lord, Michael Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Loyden, Eddie Rowlands, Ted
McAllion, John Ruddock, Joan
McAvoy, Thomas Salmond, Alex
McCartney, Ian Sedgemore, Brian
McCrea, Rev William Sheerman, Barry
Macdonald, Calum Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McFall, John Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McGrady, Eddie Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McKelvey, William Short, Clare
Mackinlay, Andrew Simpson, Alan
McLeish, Henry Skeet, Sir Trevor
McMaster, Gordon Skinner, Dennis
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McWilliam, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Madden, Max Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Maginnis, Ken Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mahon, Alice Snape, Peter
Mallon, Seamus Soley, Clive
Mandelson, Peter Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Spellar, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wareing, Robert N
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Watson, Mike
Steinberg, Gerry Welsh, Andrew
Stevenson, George Wicks, Malcolm
Stott, Roger Wigley, Dafydd
Strang, Dr. Gavin Wilkinson, John
Straw, Jack Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wilson, Brian
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd) Winnick, David
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Tipping, Paddy Wise, Audrey
Trimble, David Worthington, Tony
Turner, Dennis Wray, Jimmy
Vaz, Keith Wright, Dr Tony
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold Tellers for the Noes:
Walley, Joan Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Martyn Jones.
Warden, Gareth (Gower)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House notes that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill received a majority of 244 at its second reading and was committed to a Committee of the whole House; acknowledges that the House was promised a debate prior to the committee stage; notes that the Danish Government's intentions have now been clarified; recalls the Lisbon Council's commitment to subsidiarity, the Birmingham Council's agreement on a framework for decisions to implement that principle and the practical steps already taken to achieve it; recognises that the United Kingdom should play a leading role in the development of the European Community to achieve a free market Europe open to accession by other European democracies, thereby promoting employment, prosperity and investment into the United Kingdom; and invites Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the Bill in order that the House should consider its provisions in further detail.

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