HC Deb 20 January 1993 vol 217 cc382-469

Amendment proposed, [20 January], No. 6, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Articles 126 and 127 on page 32 of Cm 1934)'.

[Mr. Tony Lloyd.]

Question again proposed,That the amendment be made.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

I remind the Committee that with this we are also considering the following amendments: No. 193, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 3(p)'.

No. 199, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 57(2) on page 13 of Cm 1934'.

No. 212, in page, 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 127(2) on page 32 of Cm 1934'.

No. 365, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 57 as referred to in Article G on page 13 of Command Paper number 1934'.

No. 52, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not Article 126 in Title II thereof".

Sir Richard Body

A number of important issues arise from the articles. I hazard a guess that you, Mr. Morris, selected some of the amendments, as they were of a probing nature. A number of questions arise which have not yet been put to the Minister. He may be aware of the article that appeared on 18 September last year in the journal Education, in which Mr. Delors was quoted. Anyone reading the quotation—no doubt many of those in the teaching profession did so—would have felt apprehensive about the Commission's intentions.

Mr. Delors clearly said that every European must—not ought to—have the same educational route. That seems to be a denial of the principle of subsidiarity. When my right hon. Friend replies to the debate, it would be helpful if he would say how he interprets those words, and how the Government's representative in the Council of Ministers, will react when proposals are made by the Commission in accordance with the powers that the Commission will soon be granted under the treaty—[Interruption.] Does my right hon. Friend the Minister wish to intervene?

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


The Chairman

Keep going.

Sir Richard Body

I hope that my right hon. Friend will say a little more about what he understands the term "education of quality" means, when linked, as it is in the context of one of the articles, with culture. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, the larger the country or unit, the lower standards of education tend to be? It was said last night that Scotland has, for a long time, had a tradition of providing higher standards of education than England.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

But it does not have higher educational standards than Northern Ireland, which has retained its grammar schools.

Sir Richard Body

We are treading old ground. We discussed that matter last night, and we must not go over old ground; otherwise you, Mr. Morris, will intervene—and we do not want that.

In both contemporary and historical terms, the smaller countries have given more to the world in terms of culture than the larger ones. That has been the case in our country both historically and in contemporary times, and there are a number of other such examples around the world. If we are to have common educational and cultural policies and schemes, there is a great danger that standards will fall, because culture and education should be judged qualitatively, not quantitively. That means value judgments, which can be made with unanimity only if there is some homogeneity—and that is manifestly lacking in Europe. It may always be lacking, because the great wealth of Europe is not material so much as the rich diversity of its culture. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with that point, and also assure us that he does not share the view of Mr. Delors

Amendment No. 199 stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who, as the House knows, is suffering from flu. Unfortunately, he has not been able to be here as much as we or he would have wished. The amendment relates to article 57, paragraph 2. I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to one vital word —"shall". The paragraph says, "the Council shall". There is to be no option, no discussion; it is a mandatory instruction to the Commission to introduce legislation under article 189 of the treaty of Rome—which, as we all know, bypasses this House.

Yet again, we come to subsidiarity. How will my right hon. Friend or his successor judge such a serious matter in the Council of Ministers? Thousands, if not millions, of self-employed people in this country could be affected.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Does my hon. Friend again accept that paragraph 2 does not apply to everyone—there is no question of everyone being affected —but only to "natural persons"? Until we can get our right hon. Friend the Minister to explain what that means, we do not know what category or percentage of people will be covered by that paragraph.

Sir Richard Body

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will deal with that point. I also hope that he will deal with the matter of majority voting. Millions of self-employed people will have their lives redirected because of majority voting in the Council of Ministers. That is made perfectly clear in the first half of paragraph 2.

In the second half, after the full stop, there is a reference to unanimity. However, unanimity in a decision by the Council of Ministers appears to apply only if a member state has already introduced and passed legislation concerning the affairs of the self-employed. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with that point with some care. There are hundreds of self-employed people in his constituency, in mine and in all others. My constituents, like his, want to know where they stand.

Has my right hon. Friend investigated whether there is already on the statute book legislation concerning the self-employed that would enable us to veto any legislation proposed by the Commission under that article? The matter affects possibly millions of British people, so I hope that it has already been carefully considered by those who advise my right hon. Friend. I hope that they have the answers to my questions ready, and that they will have already briefed him on this important matter.

If the unanimity rule applies, should not we consider at this stage whether it would be wise to introduce legislation to safeguard the interests of the self-employed in future? Unless we do that fairly promptly, we shall, as I understand it, forgo any opportunity to veto legislation by the Council of Ministers governing the lives of our self-employed constituents.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend is talking about training, but we are also concerned with education, and he will be aware that article 126(4) says that changes with regard to recommendation can be produced on the basis of a qualified majority but only on the basis of a proposal from the Commission. The Commission is in the driving seat. The Commission is the only—

The Chairman

Order. I made it clear yesterday that hon. Members should ask one succinct question. The hon. Gentleman has asked that.

4 pm

Sir Richard Body

As always, I agree with my hon. Friend. We have learnt that that is how the Commission works. That is how great quantities of legislation are churned out. That is the result of article 189 of the treaty of Rome. Those of us who opposed it many years ago may feel that our position was justified.

Amendment No. 212, also in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, excludes article 127(2). There are important questions to be answered. That paragraph hands over to Brussels considerable activities concerning vocational training. We discussed some of the details at length last night, and I shall not repeat them. But one question above all arises, and that is that the article suggests that there should be co-operation between European countries on vocational training. That is a fine idea, which I support.

I am glad to see that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), is to reply. I want to ask him why on earth, all these years, we have failed to use the services offered for vocational training by the Economic Commission for Europe. As my right hon. Friend must know, it sits in Geneva and is in a position to do a great deal for Europe. When I say "Europe", I mean all Europe, not just 12 countries. The Economic Commission for Europe has around the table representatives of all 35 countries of Europe. It has the power and the mechanisms necessary to co-ordinate the activity which the Government now appear to consider desirable.

Why have we not used the Economic Commission for Europe? If my right hon. Friend is a true European, as I am, and therefore believes that Europe consists of 35 countries, not just 12, here is an opportunity to bring round the conference table and to co-operate with countries beyond the 12. Surely among them, just as much as among ourselves—more so, indeed—there is a need for such co-operation.

It is sad that the Foreign Office has put the brakes on the Economic Commission for Europe. If it had not been for its antipathy, I have not the slightest doubt that the Economic Commission for Europe could do a great deal more for the benefit of Britain and for all of Europe. I hope that, in reply, my right hon. Friend will explain why we have not been able to use the services of that European institution in recent years.

Amendment No. 365 is in the name of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). No doubt he will have various questions to ask if he catches your eye, Mr. Morris, but I shall ask just one.

The amendment would enable mutual recognition of various formal qualifications. In our language, "mutual" implies the existence of two parties. Does the wording mean that, within the Community, two countries may agree to recognise each other's qualifications, or does it mean much more than that—that qualifications will be agreed throughout the Community?

I shall not go over old ground, but it was pointed out last night that in some countries professional qualifications are of a lower standard. I hope that no lowering of standards will result. May we have an assurance about that and may we also be assured that, under the article—it is not a bad article, in my opinion—mutual recognition in the ordinary sense of the word will be possible? Many people in this country believe that we have much in common with certain other countries in regard to professional qualifications: I am thinking especially of Germany, Denmark and, of course, Ireland.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Article 57 states: In the case of the medical and allied and pharmaceutical professions, the progressive abolition of restrictions shall be dependent upon co-ordination of the conditions for their exercise in the various Member States. Is it not interesting that, in matters of life and death, the absurd nonesense of trying to homogenise all the rules and regulations remains at the discretion of nation states? Should not that guiding rule apply to all recognitions of qualifications?

Sir Richard Body

As ever, I agree with my hon. Friend. I only hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will agree as well; he is not quite a lost cause, but I am not over-optimistic about my chances of persuading him.

Amendment No. 52 also raises a number of questions. The phrase "quality education", for instance, seems to limit the concept of education. Why is that? Are we embarking on another value judgment, and is that judgment to be made in Brussels or elsewhere? Have we completely forgotten about the principle of subsidiarity? In the treaty, we ask Brussels to support my right hon. Friend in matters of education. What kind of support does he seek?

The article also contains the word "supplementary". What supplement is needed? Are we conceding to the Opposition Front Bench that much is lacking in the provisions for educational and vocational training? I hope that we shall be given a clear explanation of the meaning of the word, and of why it is used.

The article provides for an exchange of information. The Economic Commission for Europe already performs that function, and is willing to expand it in respect of 35 European countries. Why is such duplication necessary? The treaty uses the phrase "European dimension". Does it mean Europe in the true sense of all 35 countries, or does it mean only the 12? Surely we are missing an opportunity—the Economic Commission for Europe has the resources, facilities, expertise, mechanisms and committees already established but we are failing to use them. It is a criticism of the Government that they have failed to support the Economic Commission for Europe because, I fear, they are so besotted with what happens in Brussels.

Sir Teddy Taylor

My hon. Friend kindly referred to an amendment which I hope to move and to speak to shortly. Does he agree that the basic point, which I hope to illustrate, is that the words "quality of education" mean exactly what the Commission decides? In other words, it can introduce any directives as long as it believes that they refer to the quality of education. Basically, it can do what it likes, and it is a waste of time looking for a definition, because there is not one.

Sir Richard Body

I fear that my hon. Friend is right. As lawyers say, obiter dicta. Mr. Jacques Delors, whom I admire because he is frank and honest—unlike some others—has said that all Europeans must follow the same educational route, which is why I am suspicious of the fact that we are handing powers to Brussels. We may have better education as a result, but I would rather that we had our own education system and powers to decide our own practices. I fear that we are on the way to giving away that ability.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

The hon. Gentleman's comments on Mr. Delors will be echoed by many of my colleagues. Mr. Delors makes it perfectly clear what he, as President of the Commission, wants to do. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) should also be congratulated on making it clear that he wants a federal Europe, and that it is the pro-Maastricht people who are not so frank, especially those among the Tory Members, who should be condemned?

Sir Richard Body

The hon. Gentleman's last word is a strong one, and I would not wish to echo it. However, I too congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) on having spoken frankly in recent weeks. I can remember speeches that he made decades ago, when he spoke differently about what he saw for the future of Europe. We are not to know whether his views have changed in the intervening years, but I am glad that he is now frank about what he wants, and what I fear various hon. Members also want but which they are unwilling to state frankly to the British people.

I feel strongly about that. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) may know that I was once a federalist—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying and being repetitive. I should be grateful if he would restrict his remarks specifically to the issues with which he was dealing.

Sir Richard Body

Of course I shall, Mr. Morris.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will respond to my final point. The regional fund has been increased as a result of the Edinburgh summit from £10,000 million to £16,000 million, and it seems that this country will be eligible for an appreciable sum of money from that fund. We said last night that some of the proposals will be costly. Money must be found from somewhere, and I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether we shall be able to tap in to some of the regional fund.

It is not a matter for pride that we are now proving eligible for regional fund money. Northern Ireland has received it in recent years, but when the regional fund was established, not only were we major contributors but no one at that time believed that our standard of living would fall so much that we should be entitled to make a claim.

Under objective 1, concerning the budget, regional fund money may be available if average earnings in an area are 75 per cent. of the Community average. Northern Ireland, at 76 per cent., is almost in that position, and it is disturbing to read that, in the highlands and islands, the figure has fallen from 98 per cent. to 78 per cent. I understand that the Commissioner for regional policy, Mr. Bruce Millian, whom we remember as a Member of the House, is holding a meeting today to find out whether the 75 per cent. ruling could be made more flexible.

4.15 pm

That is of some importance to this country, because many areas in the United Kingdom are drawing close to the 75 per cent. It may be a matter for some shame that our standard of living, and our average earnings, should be falling. Those areas of the United Kingdom include my constituency, because many hundreds of my constituents work in the gangs. They do casual work on the land, and many earn only £2 an hour, so manifestly they are earning 75 per cent. of the Community average. That is a matter for concern to my constituents, so I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will give us a clear answer. If those figures for our average earnings are right, we shall be eligible for an appreciable slice of the £16 billion in the regional fund.

I submit to my right hon. Friend that vocational training should fall within that branch of the budget. It would equip many people to get jobs or to earn more, so would it not be appropriate for that part of the Community budget in the article to come under the regional fund? If so, does my right hon. Friend envisage areas of the United Kingdom becoming eligible, and will he say how he thinks we would spend that money? Would all schemes have to be approved by Brussels, or could we have some subsidiarity and tailor our schemes to our own needs?

I have put rather a long list of questions to my right hon. Friend, but they are important questions, because we shall not have many opportunities to debate this part of the treaty. I have studied it closely this morning, and I am horrified by the extent to which the Commission will attract to itself powers which the House will lose. The Government may not altogether lose those powers, because they will still be a member of the Council of Ministers, but the House will lose a great deal as a result of the two articles.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will give the assurances that we have sought, and will answer my questions.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

In one sense it is an unqualified pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), because to do so means by definition that his speech must have come to an end. You recently uttered an amazing phrase, Mr. Morris—although I do not know whether it will find its way into the Official Report. When the Minister was talking to another of his hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Holland with Boston thought that his right hon. Friend was intervening in his speech, and you advised the hon. Member for Holland with Boston to "keep going". That was a brave thing to say, Mr. Morris, and I shall be interested to see whether it is duly recorded.

My remarks refer not so much to what the hon. Member for Holland with Boston said this afternoon, as to his speech last night. That substantial contribution reminded me of the boy who was sent to church on Sunday on his own. He came back a long time later, and his parents asked him, "What did the Minister talk about in his sermon?" The boy replied, "Well, daddy, he talked about sin." The boy's parents said, "You were away a long time, son. What did the minister say about sin?", to which the boy replied, "I think he's against it."

The hon. Gentleman talked about the amendment. I think that he is against the group of original provisions, but I do not know that we got much further than that. He said that this was his first contribution since the general election last April. I am sure that, their appetites having been whetted, the House of Commons and the country are looking forward to many more contributions from him during the passage of this Bill, as we deal with the entire ratification process.

Last night the hon. Gentleman said that he did not consider it at all appropriate for the Community to concentrate on vocational training and to do so to an even greater extent. Leaving Maastricht aside, I regard that as an astonishing observation. A number of years ago Parliament legislated for something called the single European market, with all that that implies. Is itnot a logical consequence of the single market that we must think about education and training, too, so that we may be as competitive as possible right across an integrated economy? It seems to me that that is a logical corollary of the Single European Act—never mind the signposts that the Maastricht treaty contains. I suppose, therefore, that I have a fundamental disagreement with the hon. Gentleman. I respect the position that he takes, but I cannot see eye to eye with him.

Sir Richard Body

Does the hon. Gentleman go as far as Jacques Delors, who, according to words that I quoted earlier, believes that every European must go along the same education route? It will be interesting to hear the Liberal party's view on that matter.

Mr. Kennedy

I have said that I regard myself as a good European. In so far as M. Delors was indicating that it makes sense for educational developments in one member state to take account of what is happening in other member states and to provide for a degree of integration—for reasons with which I shall deal later—he was talking extremely good sense. If the whole idea is that the European Community should become an economic engine capable of competing effectively, on a global basis, with the Pacific basin and with the single market that is being put together in north America, it makes sense to go in that direction.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) by reminding him that article 126 states specifically that the Community must fully respect the responsibility of member states for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems. In addition, it specifically rules out any harmonisation measures.

Mr. Kennedy

I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention, to which I should like to add a postscript.

Sir Teddy Taylor

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Surely quotations from the treaty should be accurate. The Minister has said that article 126 contains the word "must". In fact, it does not.

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Sir Teddy Taylor

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

Order. The matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised has nothing to do with the Chair.

Mr. Kennedy

I can see that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is exercised about this matter. I expect that if the Minister catches your eye, Mr. Morris, he may want to deal directly with it—presumably to his hon. Friend's satisfaction, as the Opposition have observed is customary on these occasions.

On the basic point of principle, there has been a fair degree of paranoia and xenophobia—hysteria, indeed, though carefully controlled. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) made an impassioned speech, but I noticed, with professional respect, that his passion was well channelled. His attack was carried in "Yesterday in Parliament" this morning, so his views were communicated with some effect to the outside world.

What came through in the debate on culture and is now coming through in the debate on education is a degree of not only hostility, but downright paranoia about openness to other member states in the Community. I find that attitude especially perplexing in Conservatives and in Unionists. In the United Kingdom Parliament, whatever arguments we may have about constitutional reform within the United Kingdom, nobody can say that as a result of not only a common currency, but a common language and a common legal system—albeit with different traditions in different parts of the United Kingdom—the English, the Scottish and the Welsh have become indivisible and unrecognisable one from the other. We all know that that is not the case.

Why are Unionists, in the United Kingdom sense, of all people so worried about losing their sense of individualism and national character in the European Community? The Community is nowhere near as centralised or homogeneous as the set-up in the United Kingdom. I find that worry perplexing.

Mr. Marlow

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy

I will not because I want to make progress. We have listened to an immensely long speech and I do not intend to detain the House. Others wish to speak and there are other issues that we want to discuss this evening—the sooner the better.

It is encouraging to see greater emphasis being placed on vocational study as well as on non-vocational study. We very much support that. If we want an effective and well-resourced expansion of further and higher education, the emphasis being given to education at Community level acts as a good signpost for the United Kingdom. Some will say that the policy will cost money, which is a fair criticism to make when Opposition parties propose it.

I remind hon. Members that during the election, the Liberal Democratic party laid special emphasis on educational policy. We went further and said that we believed that the basic rate of income tax should increase by 1 per cent. to fund it. That was an example of the seriousness with which we approach—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) does not seem to be terribly interested in listening to different viewpoints. He seems to display the lack of tolerance that he ascribes to every European country apart from our own.

The emphasis that the Liberal Democrats placed during the election on education in this country is an emphasis that we want to see at European level, too. That is why the provisions on education are so important and why we give them our support in this debate.

We want the provisions to go further, not least for tertiary education. In some ways Scotland has been more continental and more international in its outlook, not least in education. Scotland has looked to the continent of Europe. Scots are proud of that outlook, which has served us well. We now want to take the opportunity of the single market and of greater integration at European level to build on that outlook for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Schemes such as the Euro-credit transfer scheme, whereby Europewide credits can be obtained in universities across the Community, could contribute to a more flexible degree programme. I like to think that in years to come, more students will not only think of universities within the United Kingdom where they can pursue their educational endeavours, but will look automatically to other member states as well. That will broaden education and will become the norm rather than the exception, as it is at the moment.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

To which amendment is the hon. Gentleman addressing himself? I inquire so that I may relate his speech to the text and to the amendment.

Mr. Kennedy

I note that the hon. Gentlman did not raise that question during the two hours of verbiage that we heard last night. I am addressing in the main the group of amendments currently under debate, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The amendments give rise to a variety of different, interlinked educational and training issues. That is perfectly legitimate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The hon. Gentleman has just said that he hopes that in future young people in this country, students and potential students, will look to a whole range of universities, not just within the United Kingdom. I endorse the view that he has expressed. I entirely agree with him. But would he not accept that a very large number of people from Europe and elsewhere in the world currently look to United Kingdom universities for their higher education and that this sector of education has a high reputation not just in Europe but throughout the world?

4.30 pm
Mr. Kennedy

Yes. If the hon. Gentleman looks in the record of the debate tomorrow, he will find that I made that point just about two minutes before I went on to make the point about the future. No one is decrying educational attainments and standards in this country. One is proud to say that in many cases we have centres of world excellence and we want to maintain and extend that. What I wish to add—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman disagrees with me on this point—is that this very excellence can be sustained and built on by those would-be graduates and graduates going through the system at present, gaining from their international experience, coming back to the centres in this country and enriching them as a result. That is something that we want to sec developed and built on and it is something which this aspect of the treaty can help emphasise and give an impetus to. That must be a good thing.

The debate that we had yesterday on the importance of culture—the diversity of culture and the bringing forward of European culture in general—together with the emphasis in this section on education and training, is worth while. It bodes well for better understanding and greater harmony—harmony not in the technical sense of harmonisation, but in its proper meaning of understanding and comprehension between individual countries and between Europe and other parts of the world. It is something that, in principle, Liberal Democrat Members very much support. It is one aspect of the treaty that deserves a positive response, not the negative and at times xenophobic response that it has received from some hon. Members on the Government Benches, and we are happy to support it.

Mr. Marlow rose in his place and claimed to have, That the Question be now put, but The CHAIRMAN withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Thank you very much, Mr. Morris.

Sir Teddy Taylor


Mr. Garel-Jones

If I may be allowed just to enter upon my speech, I think that it will be of help to the Committee.

I begin by thanking the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) for opening the debate and for indicating to the Committee that amendment No. 6 is a probing amendment, the purpose of which has been to offer the Committee the opportunity to discuss the educational and vocational training aspects of the treaty. I shall try to respond to the invitation that the hon. Gentleman issued in opening the debate.

I shall also, as I proceed, seek to respond to some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) in his intervention last night, but I hope that he will forgive me—and I am sure that the Committee will—if I make a distinction in responding to amendments moved as probing amendments, to provide us with the opportunity for debate, and the amendment in the name of my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). You have guided us, Mr. Morris, with the help of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), in making it absolutely clear that no amendment selected by you is a wrecking amendment, and I accept that; but the amendments that my hon. Friends have moved and intend to press, if given the opportunity—and the Committee needs to be clear about this in other important debates that we are to move on to—would make the United Kingdom a non-ratificant country.

I know that it is offensive to many of my hon. Friends, but a consensus has now emerged in Britain about our membership of the Community. That does not mean that the Conservative Members agree with Opposition Members. Indeed, we are shortly to have a debate, in which our disagreements will be very sharp, about how we wish to use that Community, to shape that Community and to make our contribution to it. It is that consensus—that overwhelming consensus—which now exists in the House for our membership of the Community that I am seeking to address.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Garel-Jones

I will not give way just for a moment.

My hon. Friends will forgive me if I do not address every point that they have made in the detail that they would wish, because I understand, and the Committee understands, that their purpose is not the purpose of the Committee. Their purpose is to make the ratification of the treaty impossible. Let me give just one example.

My hon. Friends the Members for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) and for Southend, East have made great play about the term "natural person". The Committee will understand that that is a matter of very great consequence. The term "natural person" is in the treaty of Rome, as amended by the Single European Act. Its meaning is perfectly clear. It seeks to make a distinction between a person, people and institutions or companies. I do not intend to detain the Committee by making copious reference to every point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Southend, East and for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), because their purpose is well known to the Committee.

Mr. Marlow

I will admit to my right hon. Friend that I do not want to see the treaty ratified, but I do not wish to leave the Community. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends would agree with me. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would not misrepresent us.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not think—the record will so reflect tomorrow—that I was presumptuous enough to say what are the ambitions of each and every one of my hon. Friends and, indeed, Opposition Members so far as Britain's future in the Community is concerned. That is not for me to say. I simply make the point that there is a difference, it seems to me, between those who wish to ratify the treaty and those who do not. It is courteous of me to address the overwhelming majority in the Committee who wish to debate these matters in a ratificant mode.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for the courtesy that he is showing in his response to the debate. Several times he has referred to the overwhelming consensus in the Committee supporting the—

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Put it to the test.

Mr. Winterton

Will the hon. Gentleman please give me time?

Although my right hon. Friend assumes that the Committee overwhelmingly backs the ratification of Maastricht, does he accept that one of the vital constitutional purpose of the House of Commons of Westminster is to represent the interests of the people of the United Kingdom? Will he therefore perhaps be more understanding of the role of those Conservative Members whom he describes as Euro-sceptics? We are doing precisely that. We should be only too happy if my right hon. Friend were to say, "We are prepared to give the people of this country, not just the House of Commons, an opportunity to express their views on the Maastricht treaty."

The Chairman

Order. I hope that the Minister will not be tempted down that route. There are later amendments on that topic.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have already said, Mr. Morris, as you have reminded the House, that there are amendments on a referendum, and I look forward with considerable relish to dealing with them with the hon. Member for Macclesfield. So far as Euro-scepticism is concerned, I do not describe the hon. Member as a Euro-sceptic. To the extent that I would give him a description, it would be "Euro-nihilist". I regard myself and every right-thinking person in Britain as sceptical about the Community, as we should be sceptical about the Community. We should also be sceptical about Whitehall, the Government and any institution that is funded by the taxpayer. It is our duty to—

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I wonder whether you could clear up a matter for me. I shall be brief. My right hon. Friend said that he is prepared to address the arguments of those who are in favour of the treaty, but that he is not prepared to address the arguments of those who do not want to see the treaty ratified. Is that a proper process?

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I will now make some progress in my speech.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Garel-Jones

May I simply respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North. I think that the Committee will thank me for this. I do not think it is possible to respond in detail to every point made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I shall say why not in a moment, if I am allowed to make some progress. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who made a lengthy speech yesterday, I am not under written instructions from anybody about how long I should take with my speech. I shall make my speech in my own time, and I shall respond to those points that I believe are worthy of response.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

No, I will not give way for a moment. As the Committee will be aware, co-operation on education between the member states of the European Community and the Commission is nothing new. In 1976, the member states agreed to a programme of intergovernmental co-operation in education outside the scope of the treaty of Rome.

Mr. Knapman

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In the past few minutes, my right hon. Friend said that our purpose is to debate the question whether to ratify the treaty. Does that mean—

The Chairman

Order. If the hon. Gentleman raises a point of order, it must be something on which I can rule. I cannot rule on the content of speeches from any hon. Members unless they are out of order. So far, nothing has been out of order. What exactly is the point on which I am to rule?

Mr. Knapman

Does that mean that the House has any opportunity to amend the treaty? If what my right hon. Friend is saying is correct, we are not here to amend the treaty; we are here for a canter around the course.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that we have many days ahead of us. If he uses a little ingenuity, he may find that further amendments are possible, but I cannot decide that until he puts them in writing.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The co-operation has comprised non-binding resolutions, exchanges of information and experience and pilot studies. One outcome has been the establishment of a working group to exchange ideas about teaching the European dimension in schools. The most recent fruit has been the establishment of a small programme of school partnerships. Schools throughout the Community have been brought together to pursue projects. Twenty-three British schools are involved. I am sure that the pupils in those schools will receive an invaluable insight into Europe.

In addition to such intergovernmental co-operation, the Community's education programmes, ERASMUS, LINGUA and COMETT, have been adopted under articles 128 and 235 of the treaty. They have produced substantial benefits for universities in the United Kingdom. COMETT has helped United Kingdom universities to link up with industry across Europe, LINGUA has assisted with the teaching of foreign languages and ERASMUS has enabled more than 25,000 United Kingdom students to spend part of their time at university studying abroad. The Committee will be pleased to know that the United Kingdom is a leading—often the leading—participant in all of those programmes.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

On that point, will my right hon. Friend give way?

4.45 pm
Mr. Garel-Jones

Not yet.

At Maastricht, it was accepted that amending the treaty of Rome to insert an education article was the logical next step in building on the co-operation. This treaty will put the co-operation between member states on a firm footing. It will clearly distinguish between those areas in which the Community can assist the member states and those in which it should not be involved. That is an important development, because the potential scope of the existing article 128 on training is both unclear and unlimited and has given good grounds for considerable anxiety on both sides of the House.

I want to clear up the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East made. The treaty article explicitly enshrines the principle of subsidiarity in education. My hon. Friend was right to jump up, because it might not have been clear to Hansard exactly at which point the quotation marks come in. The quotation marks come in after the word "fully". Article 126 mentions the Community fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. In addition, any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of member states is expressly ruled out. There is thus no possibility of Community interference in, for example, the national curriculum.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

Not for the moment.

The Community will be limited to adopting incentive measures—

Mr. Richard Shepherd

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

When I have made my point, I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills.

The Community will be limited to adopting incentive measures, such as the exchange and co-operation programmes already adopted, and making non-binding recommendations. The treaty envisages Community activity in matters with a genuine transnational character: for example, teaching the languages of the member states, exchanges of information and experience, distance education, and so on. The enthusiasm of our schools and universities to become involved in European projects and programmes is ample evidence of the benefits that they see in European co-operation. With the boost of article 126, they are set to benefit even more.

Mr. Shepherd

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am about to finish my point and then I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

As I have already said in passing, Community activity in training is well established. The existing article 128 provides for the Community to lay down general principles for implementing a common vocational training policy.

The new treaty provision constitutes an improvement for two main reasons; this is a point of which I am anxious for the Committee to be aware. First, the voting base is changed from simple majority to qualified majority voting. That is an improvement on the position under the treaty of Rome, as amended by the Single European Act. It will increase the control of member states over Council decisions and will allow member states to wield much greater influence over the control of the training budget. Secondly, the new treaty text states that the Council

shall adopt incentive measures, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. As for the new education article, the treaty specifically rules out any attempt by the Community to impose on member states training strategy common elements that take no account of their diversity. That is a welcome change. It respects subsidiarity and is a substantial improvement for member states over the position that pertained under the treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act.

Mr. Shepherd

My question for information arises out of an earlier comment in which my right hon. Friend outlined the ways in which the Community attempts to influence education policy in the Community. My right hon. Friend may recall that, at a conference in Madrid recently, Dr. Lenarduzzi argued that there was no authority under the treaty of Rome for such excursions. If that is right, what is the authority by which the member states are expending money to influence educational projects?

Mr. Garel-Jones

In a sense, that is my point. I did not have the pleasure of attending the conference in Madrid with my hon. Friend. One of the anxieties that we have felt is that the Commission has sought to insert itself into education through the training article in an inappropriate way. There are some areas in which we want the Commission to insert itself. However, we believed that it was right to define and limit what the Community could and could not do.

If my hon. Friend read the five or six tirets in paragraph 2 of article 126, he would find that most of our fellow citizens would prefer to promote co-operation between educational establishments. In the United Kingdom, 25,000 schoolchildren already benefit from such programmes. So these are worthy programmes which supplement and complement what we are doing in the United Kingdom. That is why it is important to make the distinction between the overwhelming majority of the Committee, who are in favour of the treaty, and the small but perfectly honourable and respected minority who see a phantom in every line and a ghost in every article. That view is not shared by any political party in the House; nor is it shared by the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

This was a probing amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Lloyd

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 483, Noes 58.

Division No. 117] [4.50 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Adley, Robert Bell, Stuart
Ainger, Nick Bellingham, Henry
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Benton, Joe
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Beresford, Sir Paul
Aitken, Jonathan Berry, Dr. Roger
Alexander, Richard Betts, Clive
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Blackburn, Dr John G.
Allen, Graham Blair, Tony
Alton, David Booth, Hartley
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bowden, Andrew
Arbuthnot, James Bowis, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boyce, Jimmy
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Boyes, Roland
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bradley, Keith
Ashton, Joe Brandreth, Gyles
Aspinwall, Jack Brazier, Julian
Atkins, Robert Bright, Graham
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Baldry, Tony Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bates, Michael Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Batiste, Spencer Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Battle, John Burden, Richard
Bayley, Hugh Burns, Simon
Beckett, Margaret Burt, Alistair
Butler, Peter Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Butterfill, John Evennett, David
Byers, Stephen Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Caborn, Richard Faber, David
Callaghan, Jim Fabricant, Michael
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Fatchett, Derek
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Faulds, Andrew
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Fenner, Dame Peggy
Cann, Jamie Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Carrington, Matthew Fishburn, Dudley
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Fisher, Mark
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Flynn, Paul
Chapman, Sydney Forman, Nigel
Chisholm, Malcolm Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Clapham, Michael Forth, Eric
Clappison, James Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Foster, Don (Bath)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Clelland, David Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Freeman, Roger
Clwyd, Mrs Ann French, Douglas
Coe, Sebastian Fyfe, Maria
Colvin, Michael Galbraith, Sam
Congdon, David Gale, Roger
Connarty, Michael Gallie, Phil
Conway, Derek Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Garnier, Edward
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Garrett, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Gerrard, Neil
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Corbett, Robin Gillan, Cheryl
Cormack, Patrick Golding, Mrs Llin
Corston, Ms Jean Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Couchman, James Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Cousins, Jim Gordon, Mildred
Cox, Tom Gorst, John
Cummings, John Graham, Thomas
Cunliffe, Lawrence Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Grocott, Bruce
Dafis, Cynog Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Dalyell, Tam Gunnell, John
Darling, Alistair Hague, William
Davidson, Ian Hall, Mike
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hampson, Dr Keith
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hanley, Jeremy
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hannam, Sir John
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hanson, David
Day, Stephen Hardy, Peter
Denham, John Hargreaves, Andrew
Deva, Nirj Joseph Harman, Ms Harriet
Devlin, Tim Harris, David
Dewar, Donald Haselhurst, Alan
Dickens, Geoffrey Hawkins, Nick
Dicks, Terry Hayes, Jerry
Dixon, Don Heald, Oliver
Donohoe, Brian H. Heathcoat-Amory, David
Dorrell, Stephen Henderson, Doug
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hendry, Charles
Dover, Den Heppell, John
Dowd, Jim Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan, Alan Hicks, Robert
Dunn, Bob Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Dunnachie, Jimmy Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Durant, Sir Anthony Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Dykes, Hugh Hinchliffe, David
Eastham, Ken Hoey, Kate
Eggar, Tim Hood, Jimmy
Elletson, Harold Hoon, Geoffrey
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Horam, John
Enright, Derek Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Evans, John (St Helens N) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hoyle, Doug Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Martlew, Eric
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Maxton, John
Hutton, John Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Illsley, Eric Meacher, Michael
Ingram, Adam Mellor, Rt Hon David
Jack, Michael Merchant, Piers
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Michael, Alun
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Milburn, Alan
Jamieson, David Miller, Andrew
Janner, Greville Milligan, Stephen
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Mills, Iain
Johnston, Sir Russell Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Monro, Sir Hector
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Morgan, Rhodri
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Morley, Elliot
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Jowell, Tessa Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Moss, Malcolm
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Mowlam, Marjorie
Key, Robert Murphy, Paul
Khabra, Piara S. Needham, Richard
Kilfedder, Sir James Nelson, Anthony
Kilfoyle, Peter Neubert, Sir Michael
King, Rt Hon Tom Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Kirkhope, Timothy Nicholls, Patrick
Kirkwood, Archy Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Norris, Steve
Knox, David Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) O'Hara, Edward
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Olner, William
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman O'Neill, Martin
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Leigh, Edward Oppenheim, Phillip
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Ottaway, Richard
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Page, Richard
Lidington, David Paice, James
Lightbown, David Patchett, Terry
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Patnick, Irvine
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Patten, Rt Hon John
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Llwyd, Elfyn Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Luff, Peter Pendry, Tom
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Pickles, Eric
Lynne, Ms Liz Pickthall, Colin
McAllion, John Pike, Peter L.
McAvoy, Thomas Pope, Greg
McCartney, Ian Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Macdonald, Calum Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
McGrady, Eddie Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Powell, William (Corby)
MacKay, Andrew Prescott, John
McKelvey, William Primarolo, Dawn
Mackinlay, Andrew Purchase, Ken
Maclean, David Quin, Ms Joyce
McLeish, Henry Radice, Giles
Maclennan, Robert Randall, Stuart
McLoughlin, Patrick Rathbone, Tim
McMaster, Gordon Raynsford, Nick
Madel, David Redwood, John
Mahon, Alice Reid, Dr John
Maitland, Lady Olga Richards, Rod
Major, Rt Hon John Riddick, Graham
Mallon, Seamus Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Malone, Gerald Robathan, Andrew
Mandelson, Peter Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Mans, Keith Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Marek, Dr John Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Marland, Paul Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan Temple-Morris, Peter
Rooker, Jeff Thomason, Roy
Rooney, Terry Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Rowlands, Ted Thurnham, Peter
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Tipping, Paddy
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Sackville, Tom Tracey, Richard
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Tredinnick, David
Salmond, Alex Trend, Michael
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Turner, Dennis
Sedgemore, Brian Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, David (Dover) Tyler, Paul
Sheerman, Barry Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wallace, James
Shersby, Michael Waller, Gary
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Walley, Joan
Short, Clare Ward, John
Sims, Roger Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Waterson, Nigel
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Watson, Mike
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watts, John
Snape, Peter Wells, Bowen
Soames, Nicholas Welsh, Andrew
Soley, Clive Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Speed, Sir Keith Whitney, Ray
Spellar, John Wicks, Malcolm
Spencer, Sir Derek Widdecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Spink, Dr Robert Wigley, Dafydd
Spring, Richard Willetts, David
Sproat, Iain Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wilshire, David
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wilson, Brian
Steen, Anthony Winnick, David
Steinberg, Gerry Wolfson, Mark
Stephen, Michael Wood, Timothy
Stern, Michael Worthington, Tony
Stevenson, George Wray, Jimmy
Straw, Jack Yeo, Tim
Streeter, Gary Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sumberg, David Young, Sir George (Acton)
Sykes, John
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. Jack Thompson and
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Mr. Alan Meale.
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Abbott, Ms Diane Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Barnes, Harry Jessel, Toby
Beggs, Roy Knapman, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Legg, Barry
Bennett, Andrew F. Lewis, Terry
Biffen, Rt Hon John Litherland, Robert
Body, Sir Richard Livingstone, Ken
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Lord, Michael
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Loyden, Eddie
Canavan, Dennis McCrea, Rev William
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Madden, Max
Carttiss, Michael Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Cash, William Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cohen, Harry Pawsey, James
Corbyn, Jeremy Porter, David (Waveney)
Cran, James Redmond, Martin
Cryer, Bob Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Galloway, George Simpson, Alan
Gardiner, Sir George Skeet, Sir Trevor
Gill, Christopher Skinner, Dennis
Godman, Dr Norman A. Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Wise, Audrey
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Trimble, David Tellers for the Noes:
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Mr. Nicholas Winterton and
Wilkinson, John Mr. Tony Marlow.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 67, Noes 292.

Division No. 118] [5.07 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane McCrea, Rev William
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Madden, Max
Barnes, Harry Mahon, Alice
Beggs, Roy Marlow, Tony
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Biffen, Rt Hon John Pawsey, James
Body, Sir Richard Porter, David (Waveney)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Redmond, Martin
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Canavan, Dennis Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Carttiss, Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cash, William Skeet, Sir Trevor
Corbyn, Jeremy Skinner, Dennis
Cran, James Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Spearing, Nigel
Fry, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Galloway, George Steinberg, Gerry
Gardiner, Sir George Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gerrard, Neil Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Gill, Christopher Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Townend, John (Bridlington)
Gordon, Mildred Trimble, David
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Wilkinson, John
Hardy, Peter Winnick, David
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Jessel, Toby Wise, Audrey
Knapman, Roger Wray, Jimmy
Lewis, Terry
Livingstone, Ken Tellers for the Ayes:
Lord, Michael Mr. Bob Cryer and
Loyden, Eddie Mr. Harry Cohen.
McAllion, John
Adley, Robert Bowden, Andrew
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Bowis, John
Aitken, Jonathan Brandreth, Gyles
Alexander, Richard Brazier, Julian
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bright, Graham
Alton, David Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Amess, David Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Ancram, Michael Browning, Mrs. Angela
Arbuthnot, James Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Burns, Simon
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Burt, Alistair
Aspinwall, Jack Butler, Peter
Atkins, Robert Butterfill, John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baldry, Tony Carrington, Matthew
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bates, Michael Chaplin, Mrs Judith
Batiste, Spencer Chapman, Sydney
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Clappison, James
Bellingham, Henry Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Beresford, Sir Paul Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Blackburn, Dr John G. Coe, Sebastian
Booth, Hartley Colvin, Michael
Boswell, Tim Congdon, David
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Conway, Derek
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cormack, Patrick Jack, Michael
Couchman, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnston, Sir Russell
Dafis, Cynog Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Day, Stephen Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Deva, Nirj Joseph Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Devlin, Tim Key, Robert
Dickens, Geoffrey Kilfedder, Sir James
Dicks, Terry King, Rt Hon Tom
Dorrell, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kirkwood, Archy
Dover, Den Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Duncan, Alan Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dunn, Bob Knox, David
Durant, Sir Anthony Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Dykes, Hugh Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Eggar, Tim Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Elletson, Harold Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Leigh, Edward
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lidington, David
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lightbown, David
Evennett, David Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Faber, David Llwyd, Elfyn
Fabricant, Michael Luff, Peter
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lynne, Ms Liz
Fishburn, Dudley McGrady, Eddie
Forman, Nigel MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Maclean, David
Forth, Eric Maclennan, Robert
Foster, Don (Bath) McLoughlin, Patrick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Madel, David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Maitland, Lady Olga
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Major, Rt Hon John
Freeman, Roger Mallon, Seamus
French, Douglas Malone, Gerald
Gale, Roger Mans, Keith
Gallie, Phil Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Garnier, Edward Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gillan, Cheryl Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gorst, John Mellor, Rt Hon David
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Milligan, Stephen
Hague, William Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hanley, Jeremy Monro, Sir Hector
Hannam, Sir John Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, Andrew Moss, Malcolm
Harris, David Needham, Richard
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson, Anthony
Hawkins, Nick Neubert, Sir Michael
Hayes, Jerry Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heald, Oliver Nicholls, Patrick
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hendry, Charles Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Norris, Steve
Hicks, Robert Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Oppenheim, Phillip
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Ottaway, Richard
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Page, Richard
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Pickles, Eric
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Sykes, John
Powell, William (Corby) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Rathbone, Tim Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Redwood, John Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Richards, Rod Temple-Morris, Peter
Riddick, Graham Thomason, Roy
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Robathan, Andrew Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Thurnham, Peter
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Tracey, Richard
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tredinnick, David
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Trend, Michael
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Twinn, Dr Ian
Sackville, Tom Tyler, Paul
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Salmond, Alex Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wallace, James
Shaw, David (Dover) Waller, Gary
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Ward, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Shersby, Michael Waterson, Nigel
Sims, Roger Watts, John
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wells, Bowen
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Welsh, Andrew
Soames, Nicholas Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Speed, Sir Keith Whitney, Ray
Spencer, Sir Derek Widdecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Spink, Dr Robert Wigley, Dafydd
Spring, Richard Willetts, David
Sproat, Iain Wilshire, David
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wolfson, Mark
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Yeo, Tim
Steen, Anthony Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stephen, Michael
Stern, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Streeter, Gary Mr. Andrew Mackay and
Sumberg, David Mr. Timothy Wood.

Amendment accordingly negatived.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 123 on page 31 of Cm 1934)'.

The Chairman

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 127, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(excluding Article G D(10) on page 12 of Cm 1934).-'.

No. 129, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(excluding Article G D(12) on page 13 of Cm 1934).'.

No. 186, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 3(i) on page 9 of Cm 1934'.

No. 58, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not the Protocol concerning Article 119 of the Treaty establishing the European Community'.

No. 27, in page 1, line 13, after 'Community', insert ', with the exception of the Protocol on Social Policy'.

Dr. Cunningham

Amendment No. 7 is a probing amendment which we intend ultimately to withdraw.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

No. I shall not give way as I have just begun to speak.

I shall address my remarks to amendment No. 27 on which, in due course, we shall press the Committee to a vote. Amendment No. 27 states: Clause 1, page 1, line 13, after 'Community', insert ', with the exception of the Protocol on Social Policy'. I shall address my remarks to that protocol and the importance to the Labour party of the social chapter.

The Bill keeps the United Kingdom outside the scope of the protocol on social policy, so excluding the United Kingdom from the social chapter. It prevents the people of the United Kingdom from being part of the full social dimension of the European Community. The Bill excludes Britain from provisions which our 11 partners have agreed to facilitate greater protection for employed people in their working conditions, better rights of consultation and information, equality of treatment and opportunity for men and women, and the integration into the labour force of long-term unemployed people, including disabled workers. Those benefits will flow to the citizens of the 11 other members of the Community, but will be denied to the people of our country by the actions of the Conservative Government.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and particularly grateful—as is the Committee—that he has said that amendment No. 7 is a probing one.

Will he give the Committee and those of his hon. Friends who sit below the Gangway the benefit of his view on one issue? He said that the Labour party will press amendment No. 27 to a Division if it is called. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, under the terms of the amendment, United Kingdom law would not conform to the treaty's provisions, so it would be impossible for the United Kingdom to ratify the treaty—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful to my hon. Friends.

We have just seen on the closure motion—thanks to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd)—the majority that exists in the Committee in favour of ratification. Will the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) explain to his hon. Friends and other interested hon. Members why the Labour party intends to press amendment No. 27 to a vote?

Dr. Cunningham

Yes, I can simply and willingly explain that to the Committee. As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, I would not move the amendment on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and my other hon. Friends if we did not fully understand its implications. Those implications would be to remove the protocol on social policy, which refers to the exclusion of the social chapter from the treaty. That would require Her Majesty's Government to negotiate with the other 11 Community members.

The solution to the problem would be for an agreement to emerge that folded the social chapter into the treaty, thus benefiting Britain and the British people, as well as the other 11 Community members. Of course I recognise that that would present Her Mjesty's Government with a dilemma, but we have taken the precaution to check that the other 11 member states would be happy for that outcome to obtain.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman admits that there is what he refers to as a problem. Will he confirm that that problem—as he describes it—is that the United Kingdom is not in a position to ratify the treaty? Furthermore, will he give the Committee the information that he says he has on the views of other member states?

Dr. Cunningham

I do not agree with that intervention, any more than I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman's first intervention. The problem is one for Her Majesty's Government, and there is a simple solution to it. The solution would be to include the social chapter in the treaty and approve it and for the citizens of our country to receive all the manifest benefits which flow from the social chapter and which will be enjoyed by the citizens of the other 11 member states.

While we are on the subject, Her Majesty's Government alone—the British Conservative party alone of political parties in the Community—have decided to exclude the social chapter and its benefits from application in the United Kingdom. No other party, in or or out of Government, in the European Community supports the position of Her Majesty's Government. No applicant Government for membership of the European Community supports the position of Her Majesty's Government. The European employers organisation does not support the position of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, the isolation of the British Conservative Government in Europe on the issue is absolute. They should regard that not as a badge of honour but as a badge of shame against Britain.

Mr. Marlow

I merely make an innocent observation. My right hon. Friend is trying to put the wind up and the frighteners on the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), but I can tell the hon. Member for Copeland that if there is anything that I dislike more than the Maastricht treaty, it is the social contract.

Dr. Cunningham

I am not absolutely fazed by that intervention. Perhaps I should apologise to the Minister and the Committee for a slight error earlier. There is one other political party in Europe that supports the position of the British Conservatives: Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen and the French neo-facist party. I hope that the Government feel comfortable in his company.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I promise that I shall not intervene further. I shall comment later on the supposed merits of the matter. However, the question remains and the hon. Gentleman must answer it—does the amendment place the British Government in the position of being a non-ratificant? One thing that we wear as a badge of honour is the support of the British people. We obtained the support of the British people, not least because of the exclusion from the provisions of the social protocol which we obtained for Britain. I recommend to the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) that, when we next face the British people, they do not promise to import that pernicious protocol into our law.

5.30 pm
Dr. Cunningham

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not asking me to apologise for placing the Government in a predicament. I thought that that was one of the principal roles and duties of the Opposition. Of course, the Government will be placed in a predicament—that is exactly our intention. However, we are also offering a clear and unambiguous way out—which is to embrace the social chapter, as every other Government in the European Community have done. That is the purpose of our amendment—a wholly beneficial purpose—which is well intentioned and motivated. It has overwhelming support throughout the European Community and we make no apology for it.

Article 2, paragraph 6, of the social chapter states: The provisions of this Article shall not apply to pay, the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lock-outs. Article 3, which provides for agreements to be made between management and labour at the Community level, was promoted by the joint initiative from the employers' organisation UNICE and the European Trades Union Congress. There is no question of such agreements superseding the Commission, the Council of Ministers or member Governments by altering trade union or strike laws.

I have said all that to remove another canard from the Government's argument: that, somehow, if the social chapter were adopted and applied in Britain, it would set back the clock and reverse the decisions of the House on industrial legislation and wage bargaining. That is a wholly false argument, and it always has been.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Earlier in his speech, the hon. Gentleman assured the House that he had the approval of all the other member Governments for the approach that he has adopted on behalf of the Opposition. As that would be a gross interference in domestic politics, which is outside Community regulations, can he explain in detail exactly what he meant?

Dr. Cunningham

As the hon. Gentleman is usually critical of the Labour party for not being sufficiently pro-European, I regard his intervention as pathetic. First, he clearly was not listening to what I said, so he misrepresented my remarks. Secondly, we are confident that other member Governments would be happy to renegotiate the matter to include the social chapter in the treaty. I stand by those remarks.

Several Hon. Members


Dr. Cunningham

No, I shall not give way at the moment.

From the outset, it has been the purpose of the Conservative party and the Government to erect a bogus case, to pretend to slaughter a paper tiger, to perpetrate a squalid fraud on the British people and to promote the Prime Minister as some sort of pathetic hero tilting at the windmills of the distressed minds in his own party on social and employment policy issues. It has been a charade—a squalid fraud—to cover the real impact of the provisions of the social chapter.

I shall revert for a few moments to the social charter, which expresses fundamental principles relating to 12 major themes. They are: free movement of workers based on the principles of equal treatment in access to employment and social protection; employment and pay to be based on the principle of fair remuneration; improved living and working conditions; social protection based on the rules and practices proper to each country; freedom of association in collective bargaining; vocational training; equal treatment for men and women; information, consultation and participation of workers; protection on health and safety in the workplace; protection of children and adolescents; the guarantee of minimum living standards for elderly people; and improved social and professional integration for disabled people. Those are the 12 main objectives of the social charter.

Of course, the charter itself has no force in law, but it provided the initial political impetus for an action programme of specific measures which was drawn up by the European Commission and which was before the Council at its Strasbourg meeting. The social chapter was based on the provisions of the social charter.

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

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the treaty, as it now stands, not only discriminates against workers in this country, but formalises the discrimination shown within the European Community to immigrant workers? In terms of the free mobility of workers and their families, there are two classes of people—the citizens of Europe and the immigrant workers and their families. That discrimination is formalised in the treaty.

Dr. Cunningham

I agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Dr. Cunningham

No. I have already given way four or five times, so the hon. Gentleman can hardly complain if I do not give way now.

Just as they declined to support the social charter, the Government refused to agree to a chapter on social policy being included in the body of the treaty on European union and European economic and monetary union agreed by the European Council in Maastricht in December 1991. The purpose of our amendment is to reverse that decision.

What was said at that time was set out in the protocol, which made Britain's position clear. It stated: The United Kingdom … shall not take part in the deliberations and the adoption by the Council of Commission proposals made on the basis of this Protocol and the abovementioned Agreement … Acts adopted by the Council and any financial consequences other than the administrative costs entailed for the institutions shall not be applicable to the United Kingdom". In other words, although Britain is opting out and denying the benefits of the chapter to our people, we are still expected to pay our share of the costs of European Community activities.

Mr. Wells

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the difference between him and many other members of the Committee is that we believe that matters of vital concern to all the people of this country are properly and naturally the concern of the House and the country? They should not be imposed on us by the European Community through the social chapter. Is he further aware that if he manages, by chance, to get the social chapter included in the treaty, he will undoubtedly find that there will be no majority among Conservative Members to ratify the treaty, with the result that the whole treaty will be lost?

Dr. Cunningham

I agree with little, or even none, of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I would be more persuaded of the force of his argument if there was some evidence on the Conservative Benches of a liberal approach to social and employment policies. I do not regard the abolition of the wages councils, which provide protection for the poorest and lowest-paid people in our communities, as liberal social and employment policies. Therefore, I do not agree with that part of the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I certainly do not agree with the second part, in which he suggested that somehow decisions on such matters would be taken away from the jurisdiction of this House. If it is so important to have a level playing field under the Single European Act for business, industry and commercial development, why is it so wrong to have a level playing field in social and employment policies?

The agreement appended to the protocol states, among other things: the Community shall support and complement the activities of the Member States in the following fields: —improvement in particular of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety; —working conditions; —the information and consultation of workers; —equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work; —the integration of persons excluded from the labour market". It continued: To this end, the Council may adopt, by means of directives, minimum requirements for gradual implementation, having regard to the conditions and technical rules obtaining in each of the Member States.

Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

May I pursue the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes)? The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that he understood that the other 11 countries were happy to renegotiate with regard to the social chapter. But does he have information that the other 11 countries are prepared to restart their entire ratification processes and, in the case of Ireland and France, to hold new referendums to accommodate the hon. Gentleman?

Dr. Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand what is going on. The other 11 countries have already accepted the social chapter. They do not need to reopen their ratification processes. If he does not understand that, he does not understand much about what has been going on in the past few months in the rest of the Community.

The agreement refers in particular to the need to take measures to promote equal opportunities and to the role that trade union and employers' organisations can play in reaching agreements that help to give effect to the aims of the social chapter.

Finally, on the EC-wide aspects of the matter, the social policy was on the agenda at the Edinburgh summit at the conclusion of the British presidency. We just need to remind the House and our fellow citizens what was decided there. Part A, annex 2, of the conclusions of the Edinburgh summit says: Turning to social policy, the Commission considers that the group of directives based on article 118 of the treaty is too recent to warrant re-examination. There are no prizes for guessing which member state was asking for re-examination. It goes on: Furthermore, instead of re-examination its priority will be to supplement them by implementing all the provisions of the chapter of the fundamental social rights of workers. That is the most recent view of our Community partners on this nexus of issues.

The Labour party agrees with our European partners that the primary source of Community strength, the single most important element in our wealth creation, is people—the working men and women of Europe. That is why we see the social chapter as an integral part of the Maastricht treaty. That is why the development of common basic standards for people at work is central to our vision of a future Europe.

As I have already pointed out, we do not want Europe simply to be a marketplace; it must be a developing community. Progress is not just about economic and industrial development; it is about associated social and employment policy developments, too, and social justice. A civilised society is measured not just by its wealth but by the treatment of its citizens.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I agree wholeheartedly that Europe is more than just an economic unit. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that all the noises that we hear from the Conservative Benches on the narrow economic and market issues are usually noises in favour of a level playing field, yet in this one instance Conservative Members are trying to get preferential treatment at the expense of ordinary working people?

Dr. Cunningham

I am delighted to be able to agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman's intervention.

For people throughout the Community, the social chapter offers the prospect of a platform of basic rights—the right to decent working conditions, the right to be consulted about changes that affect them and the right to protection against bad employers. It places individual employees on a par with their employers, empowering them to demand fair treatment and real participation in the workplace. All that is opposed by the Government and their supporters on the Conservative Benches.

Britain's Conservative Government have chosen to opt out of the social chapter and that is entirely consistent with their indifference to the rights of ordinary people, their disregard for decent working standards and their determination to empower no one but themselves. As I have said already, it is consistent with their callous decision to abolish wages councils, the last remaining defence of many low-paid workers against exploitation.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition did on a previous occasion, I shall quote what Winston Churchill once had to say about that. When you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad and the bad employer is undercut by the worst. Where these conditions prevail you have not a condition of progress but a condition of progressive degeneration. Someone on low pay in Britain will now no longer be offered legal protection even at that level. It is the economics of the sweatshop and it should have no place in a civilised society.

5.45 pm

Opting out of the social chapter is saying that we should compete with Taiwan on price rather than compete with Germany or France on quality. We will never attract investment on the basis of low wages; we will attract investment only on the basis of the high skills, proficiency and productivity of our working men and women. The best aids to that efficiency and productivity are good working conditions, safe workplaces, good controls on working practices and health and safety and the involvement of the work force in discussion of those matters.

Opting out of the social chapter goes against that which is clearly understood everywhere else in the Community—that the future has to be in high-quality, high-productivity industry and services. That means training, investment and proper rewards for the people who work in those industries and services.

Labour wants Britain to be able to stand alongside our European partners and say that we are proud of our work force and that we treat them with the respect and dignity that they have earned and deserve. That is why our major objective for the proceedings on the Maastricht Bill will be to reverse the opt-out on the social chapter.

Mr. Marlow

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham

If the hon. Gentleman must.

Mr. Marlow

It is a fairly important point. It is the difference between our two parties. The hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that people considering investment in the United Kingdom are not concerned about employment costs. If so, he is living in Mickey Mouse land.

Dr. Cunningham

No, I am not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting that, in addition to employment costs, of course, people considering investment in the United Kingdom are concerned about the ability and skills of our working people. Increasingly, Britain is being left behind, first because of disinterest and, secondly, as a previous Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer said, because our ambition is not a high-tech economy, or a low-tech economy, but a no-tech economy. That was his ambition for British industry.

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that such an approach to the future of our economy, with the kind of balance of payments deficit and public sector borrowing requirement that we have, is the way forward for Britain, he must be living in cloud cuckoo land.

To its credit, the organisation of employers in the EC supports the provisions of the social chapter. In an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), speaking for us on employment matters on the issue, the director of social affairs at the UNICE said:

The procedure in articles 118A and 118B of the annex is a means of recognising the autonomy of the social partners and of introducing an obligation to consult them on any Commission proposals in the social field. It also introduces a mechanism to realise any agreement of the social partners to be used if they so desire. Our clear understanding is that Articles 118a and 118b cannot be used in any way connected with laws relating to strikes or unions, and in any event we would not agree to any agreement which did have such effect. That—very clearly and succinctly—blows the Government's whole fraudulent case out of the water. It has been rejected not by the Government's political opponents, or by Governments in other countries, but by the European employers' organisation. That statement by the UNICE was, and is, supported by the Confederation of British Industry: even on home territory. The Government's posture is not supported. Who, then, supports the Government?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The British people.

Dr. Cunningham

We have to keep reminding the right hon. Gentleman that the Government were not elected by the majority of British people, even in the most recent general election. Even that claim does not bear simple examination.

No one supports the Government's position—not any Government of any political persuasion in the Community; not any applicant for Community membership, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland or Austria; not the European employers; not the European Parliament; not even the Conservative Members of the European Parliament. They were obliged to sign a declaration in support of the social chapter on joining the European People's party: therefore, their isolation is virtually complete. Given the attitudes of Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen, I suspect that they wish that they did not have his support.

Had not the social chapter been denied to the British people, I—along with many of my right hon. and hon. Friends—could have supported the Bill. We shall continue to press, at every opportunity, for Britain's acceptance of the social chapter: it is right for the British people and for our country. A future Labour Government will immediately sign the social charter and move for the implementation of the social chapter in Britain. That is why we shall not jeopardise the future of this aspect of the Maastricht treaty, which is fundamentally important to our European partners, and that is why I intend to press the amendment to a vote.

Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

I wish to concentrate on amendment No. 27.

On Second Reading, which seems a very long time ago, I expressed anxiety about the status of the European Court and about its ever-increasing power, which I believe is enhanced by this treaty. Let me say at the outset that I consider the attitude of the Opposition Front Bench to be wholly cynical. Its real reason for wishing to incorporate the social chapter is the fact that it has lost all hope that a socialist party will ever be returned to power in this country. It needs all the assistance that it can find to ensure that someone else can do its dirty work for it.

On Second Reading, I congratulated my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister of State on their skilful negotiation of a position that excluded this country from the social chapter. Since then, I have examined the treaty more carefully, and I now believe that the social chapter is no longer relevant. The treaty covers a series of open doors through which many of the intentions of the social chapter may well be introduced. Although I still admire my right hon. Friends' negotiating skills, I do not believe that that is the end of the story.

Under amendment No. 27, the existing provisions on social policy contained in the treaty of Rome would be subject to significant interpretation, according to the new objectives set out in article 2. They include "social cohesion and solidarity". For example, article 118a of the treaty of Rome—which concerns the working environment, and the health and safety of workers—would have to be interpreted in the light of article 2 of the Maastricht treaty, and of article 3j, which specifies the strengthening of economic and social cohesion as a Community activity. Paragraph 1 of article 118a of the treaty of Rome states:

Member States shall pay particular attention to encouraging improvements, especially in the working environment as regards the health and safety of workers, and shall set as their objective the harmonisation of conditions in this area, while maintaining the improvements made. Article 118a is subject to qualified majority voting. The provisions on page 31 of the Maastricht treaty bring majority voting in that context into line with the new common operating procedures of article 189c, which—along with article 189b—specify the way in which qualified majority voting is to be handled.

There is currently much talk of a new Community directive on a 48-hour working week. That directive is based on article 118a, and is therefore likely to be subject to majority voting. If it were agreed, Britain would have to comply with its provisions or face action against it in the European Court of Justice. Our opt-out from the social chapter will not help us in that regard.

The protocol on social policy clearly states—this is important, because it divorces the social chapter from the main body of the treaty— this protocol and … Agreement are without prejudice to the provisions of this Treaty, particularly those relating to social policy which constitute an integral part of the 'acquis communautaire.' It is clear that whether we have signed up to the social chapter is irrelevant; we are already obligated to the parts of the treaty that we have already signed up to.

If we were taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with that Community directive, how could I reassure business men in my constituency of Chingford that they would not find themselves at a considerable disadvantage as a result of the court's ruling, given the extra cost implications? The court would be likely to follow precedents established by previous rulings.

The court's ruling in the sex discrimination case of Defrenne v. SABENA in 1976 is important, as it gives a clear indication of the way in which the court would rule in this instance. On that occasion, the court ruled to avoid a situation in which undertakings established in States which have actually implemented the principle of equal pay have suffered a competitive disadvantage in intra-Community competition as compared with undertakings established in States which have not yet eliminated discrimination against women workers". It is therefore already interpreting in the light of how the majority of the Community is likely to have worked.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he does not accept the conclusion in that case, which provided for equal treatment for men and women throughout the European Community? Is he saying that the court was wrong to decide as it did?

6 pm

Mr. Duncan-Smith

If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I am developing a case; I am not judging whether the court was right or wrong in that particular case or with regard to sex discrimination in general. I am trying to prove that the aspects of the treaty which are justiciable from the European Court's point of view will lead the court and other countries to start introducing many of the elements in the social chapter from which we have opted out. I cited the ruling merely as an example of the court's thinking in terms of the acquis communautaire.

The Defrenne decision was based on the same title of the treaty of Rome dealing with social policy as the 48-hour working week directive with which we are threatened. Sex discrimination in fact falls under the following article, article 119.

There is powerful evidence that the court would rule that Britain was enjoying an unfair competitive advantage if it did not comply with the 48-hour directive which was in force in other member states. If there is the slightest doubt, it is wholly removed by title II of the Maastricht treaty, because the European Court of Justice would interpret article 118a under the new objectives of article 2, which are "social cohesion and solidarity". That is an important phase. The new objectives would be subject to interpretation under the commitments to which we have already agreed in article 5 of the treaty of Rome, which is an important and powerful article.

Mr. Marlow

I am perhaps looking to my hon. Friend for legal rather than political advice. The Committee has been told many times that social cohesion has to do with the expenditure of funds in the poorer areas of the Community and nothing to do with social policy. Is my hon. Friend sure that the court would interpret it in that way? Under the new article 118a(2), the impositions under majority voting would have to have regard to the conditions and technical rules obtaining in each of the Member States". To what extent would that be a safeguard?

Mr. Duncan-Smith

My hon. Friend makes an interesting and important point. I believe that "social cohesion" and "solidarity" must be taken together. The European Court must eventually have regard to the spirit underlying all the articles and, bearing in mind what is best for the majority of the Community, decide how the rest are proceeding and why there is some deviation. Essentially, I believe that the answer to my hon. Friend's question is that the court would not necessarily rule in our favour.

I give a specific example of article 5 being interpreted by the court to impose continuing obligations on member states. In Cullut v. Centre Leclerk in 1985, the court ruled that member states are allowed to adopt measures which would undermine the effectiveness of the community legislation, even if they do not directly contradict its terms. Therefore, article 5 of the treaty of Rome, although it is not being amended, is of major importance to the debate, because it provides a legal basis on which the general treaty objectives and goals, which many people view as general and undefined, suddenly become very clear and may be converted by a process of interpretation by the European Court of Justice to binding and specific legal rules.

Article 2, as amended by Maastricht, gives much greater precedence to social objectives. Accordingly, the court will give much more weight to social aspects and determinations.

Dr. Godman

I remind the hon. Gentleman of the 15th report of the Select Committee on European Legislation from the 1991–92 Session. It refers to the growing power of the European Court of Justice but points out a new factor. Paragraph 34 on page 49 states: The jurisprudence of the Court … recognised a right for individuals (in carefully defined circumstances) to sue their Member States in their national courts for damages flowing from non-implementation of obligations intended for their protection. I can envisage a flood of complaints heading for our courts in England, Wales and Scotland on the basis of the treaty.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point, which stands on its own. To some extent, I agree that these articles will come back to haunt us because of the great and growing power of the European Court to rule over nation state Parliaments and, necessarily, Governments. I believe that I am succeeding in proving that the text provides a route to the European Court of Justice on social matters.

I list some of the new objectives of article 2 which powerfully prove my point. They include: social protection, the raising of the standard of living and quality of life, and … social cohesion and solidarity among Member States". That is powerful language. In the debate so far, many Members have said that they are general objectives, but I maintain that the general becomes specific once it is bound by a court which will rule and interpret—and interpret behind closed doors—and issue its interpretation as a statement.

I have already said that the protocol on social policy specifically states that it shall not prejudice … the provisions of this Treaty, particularly those relating to social policy which constitute an integral part of the 'acquis communautaire""". Therefore, the route that I have demonstrated leaves the door open for substantial Community interference in social policy, effectively undermining our exclusion from the social chapter.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I have been trying to follow carefully the hon. Gentleman's argument. Does it not lead to the conclusion that, if all the provisions can be secured by the courts or through other mechanisms, there is very little to be lost by including the social provisions for the United Kingdom as for the other 11 countries?

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I disagree fundamentally with the social chapter, and I congratulated my right hon. Friends the Minister and the Prime Minister on their negotiating skills in keeping us out of it. However, having re-read the treaty, I believe that there is an established route for all of the social provisions to be implemented through the European Court. That poses a challenge, although I have not yet shown how that challenge would arise.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend is developing an interesting point. Does he agree that it is probably a fair assumption that the 11 parties which intend to proceed with the treaty will have read it very carefully? If they felt that the objectives were achievable under the treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act, why does he think that they went to the trouble of making these arrangements—or does he think that he and he alone has espied the route for implementing the objectives under the existing treaty?

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I am not sure whether I alone have espied the route, but I was hoping that my right hon. Friend would be able to prove that I was incorrect. I shall be looking for him to do that at the end of my speech. I could assume a Machiavellian intent on the part of other nations—perhaps they made a big fuss and pushed us to the brink, knowing that they could make a concession but still implement the proposals—but for all 11 countries to think in that way would imply an acquis communautaire which I am not sure necessarily exists.

Mr. Michael Spicer

Whether or not my hon. Friend is the only person to have espied that route, would it not be fair to say that previous British Governments of all complexions have missed the central point of previous legislation amending the treaty of Rome? As my hon. Friend is explaining, that central point is the importance of the preambles and listings of objectives in the legislation. We have sometimes overlooked the combination of the preambles and objectives with some of the detailed wording, because that is not the way in which we go about things. We simply look at the main text of legislation; we do not have a tradition of examining preambles. But other countries have. That is a central point.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

Indeed, that has always been my point. In my maiden speech on Second Reading, I said that the European Court of Justice was a more significantly powerful organisation than many of my colleagues on both sides of the House thought, because it had far more latitude than our High Court. If we examine the European Court's rulings, we see that it tends to interpret more according to the spirit of legislation; it looks to the general objectives underlying the words, not necessarily the words alone.

I believe that it was Lord Mackenzie-Stuart who wrote a couple of letters to The Times about article 3b. I apologise, Mr. Lofthouse, if I appear to be moving away from the amendment, but what I am saying is related to it. Lord Mackenzie-Stuart said that, although politicians had given the European Court a near-impossible task of interpretation, it would none the less do as it had done in the past and interpret according to what it found in the treaty. It has become clear that the court sees that part of its task as to ensure that the interests of the Community as a whole go forward.

Mr. Marlow

The intervention by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State must have been uncharacteristically naive—because I am sure that he was not dissembling. Is not the reality that the Government have to sell the treaty to a British public who are, to say the least, somewhat sceptical? Among that public are industry, the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry. It is important for the Government, as it was for Chamberlain when he stepped off the aeroplane, to come back waving a victory—the victory that we have been excluded from the social chapter. Yet the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) thus far has conclusively proved that we have not been excluded from the social chapter at all. It will be interesting to hear what my right hon. Friend the Minister says about it later.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

My hon. Friend's objections stand on their own, and I shall not elaborate on them.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

It is important to enlarge on the argument about the scope of article 2 and the activities of the Community. Where the Commission feels that it can make a proposal which would command the support of a qualified majority of the Council of Ministers, it merely needs a pretext, and can choose the article under which to achieve such a vote. It is inconceivable that the European Court would subsequently rule against a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

Indeed. All that, which I have previously stated, underlines the point.

It is never enough simply to prove a route to somewhere. I dare say that it is not difficult to find a route to the European Court of Justice through many parts of the treaty. The key difference is the reason why we may proceed along such a route.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech, and the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) pointed in the right direction, too. Of course, one of the things that we have learnt is that the Community is a developing process. In the previous debate I tried to clarify the fact that we have seen that there is a desire—understandable, perhaps—on the part of the Commission and its officials to extend their writ into more areas. They sometimes sought to do that in ways which did not seem proper to us. In various other debates we have attempted to close those gaps.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) raises an important point, and I shall seek to reply to it in detail later. He has made it clear to the House that we abominate the content of the social protocol—I believe that that is common ground amongst Conservative Members. We believe that it would not only undermine but reverse much of what we have achieved in the past decade. If my hon. Friend has identified a route by which the social chapter could be imported into the treaty, that would be a serious matter, and I shall try later to deal in detail with that important question.

6.15 pm
Mr. Duncan-Smith

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. This matter needs much consideration, and I hope that it will receive it.

As I was saying, it is not enough simply to prove a route. In legal terms, there are always routes to all sorts of decisions. The key is to prove that there is a reason for those routes to be taken. We must consider all 11 of the nations that were behind the social chapter—much of it was generated in France—and ask why we might be dragged down some of those routes. The answer must surely be that—not in one year's time, perhaps not even in two years' time, but as things develop—it will become clear that the United Kingdom is a low-cost country with much simpler worker-management relationships.

I should applaud that—it will be lauded by all Conservative Members—but France or Holland may say, "It is unfair. The United Kingdom is part of the Community and has signed up to the spirit of all the agreements, yet underneath it all United Kingdom products are becoming very competitive. We are finding it difficult to compete with the British, and they have a right to our market. And it is all because they have no minimum wage and no social objectives, as we have. We can point out many ways in which they are not implementing the agreements."

Those countries would then encourage the Commission to examine the matter and report that the United Kingdom was in contravention of the body of the treaty. They will say that, under articles 2 and 3, in conjunction with article 118a and bearing in mind article 5, there is a good reason for the Council of Ministers to investigate and bring the United Kingdom into line. They could pick us off in one area at a time.

That is a powerful reason why either individual nations or the Commission will push for harmony. That would drive the others forward, with us as part of the process rather than our undermining them, which would otherwise happen—and which I should applaud, but which would be seen as a threat to the other nations.

That is why the other nations will wish to go down that route and challenge us in the European Court. That is why the European Court will, not for the first time, be called to make a judgment on a matter which is now supranational, in an area where we as a Government have distinctly refused to take part. Yet suddenly the European Court will find against us in one area and then another. As qualified majority voting cut in, we should find ourselves in dispute with the other members of the Community. Arguably, that would not be the best way to encourage a decent relationship with them—if that is what people want us to do.

I have tried to demonstrate that the social chapter is already to a greater or lesser extent in the body of the treaty. For Conservative Members the problem is that, although we all applauded the great skills of my right hon. Friends, hidden away underneath everything is not only the route but the reason why we shall be brought to account, whether we like it or not. We shall find that the invidious social provisions will be introduced bit by bit.

Yet again, the nation state will lose its position and its ability to make decisions. Our opt-out of the social chapter will be put on one side. Who here would say—it may be a wiser man than I—that in 10 years' time the opt-out will not be almost forgotten, and we will not already be tightly bound in to many of the social provisions?

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) will probably not agree with what I have to say, but I do not intend to take quite as long as he did.

On many occasions, I have been critical of several aspects of the European Communities, but I am certainly not critical of the approach to the social problems of Europe or the socio-economic management of the Community. A few moments ago the Minister of State expressed opposition to the social charter. He said that it undermines the achievements of the last 10 years. Well, what have we achieved? In 1979, Britain was the fifth wealthiest country in the world; it is now the 15th. In the past 10 years, we have seen wastelands created, industries wiped out and social and economic devastation inflicted on many parts of the country, which is rapidly becoming criminalised. We have become a criminal, impoverished, under-invested and paganised nation. When someone, even in Brussels, offers to help to get us out of the mess, we have evasion, pompous and unjustifiable boasts, such as we have heard from the Minister, and further evidence of the decline in public standards.

In my brief remarks I shall refer to one aspect of the social policy of Europe—the structural funds through RECHAR. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) will recall a debate of about a year ago in which he and I participated. Hon. Members with constituencies in which there are coalfields that have been devastated in the past decade became increasingly concerned about the fact that, although the British Government were receiving resources through the structural fund, we did not seem to be getting any benefit. We had very serious misgivings. We pressed the Government about the matter and, in response, they assured us that the money was flowing to the coalfields.

But then Mr. Bruce Millan, acting responsibly and properly in fulfilment of his duty as a Commissioner, established beyond all doubt that the Government were receiving this money but were not passing it to the coalfields. He said that, as the money was not going to the coalfields, he would not pass it to the British Government. Conservative Member after Conservative Member denounced Mr. Millan, and Ministers said that he was acting irresponsibly. Members of the Government subjected him to the most appalling, irresponsible and dishonest condemnation and criticism. Not a single Member from the Treasury Bench had the guts to admit that Bruce Millan was right.

Some hon. Members went to see Ministers about the matter. At one meeting, I pointed out that the Government's claim that the money was being paid to the coalfield areas could not stand up. Let me refer to the way in which I illustrated the point. The Government had worked out their disbursements to local authorities in September of the year in question—two or three years ago—and said that in those disbursements they had allocated the RECHAR money. But it was not until three months after they had calculated the aid for the coalfield areas that the Government found out what the RECHAR money for the following year would be.

We challenged the Minister to consult the right hon. Gentleman who is now President of the Board of Trade but was then at the Department of the Environment, and find out whether he could deny that charge. The response of the right hon. Gentleman was to leak a letter referring to the pressure to which he and his colleagues were being subjected by Labour Members of Parliament who had—he did not use these words—rumbled the Government's approach.

At that point the Government, quietly—very quietly indeed—accepted that Mr. Millan was right. That was after we found out that they had not met Mr. Millan for about 18 months. But they did not tell their friends—or those whom they sometimes assume to be their friends—that Mr. Millan's action was justified. They had spent 12 months or more blackguarding the Commissioner for action that was entirely responsible and proper, but they did not take any significant steps to offer the public apology or expression of regret that was due to our former colleague. Indeed, I know that Conservative Members and Ministers tramped round the country linking Mr. Millan's action with the evils of the so-called social policy. How is it that Germany, France, Spain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have all passed Britain in the international prosperity tables while they have pursued policies which are acceptable to their peoples but are apparently not to be accepted in this country, which is in rapid economic and social decline?

I assumed that the Government had turned over a new leaf—that they had accepted that Mr. Millan was right and that they would in future pass on the social funds. But, a short while ago, I received from the Minister for Industry a letter whose contents the Committee needs to know, because the Government are about to change their policy as quietly as possible—as quietly as they sought to retrieve their position following the dishonesty about Mr. Millan's intervention.

The letter says: You ask about future assistance from European Structural Funds for coalmining areas. RECHAR must be considered together with all the other Structural Funds Community Initiatives … Taken together, the Initiatives cannot be shown to have brought the UK more than if the same money had been spent on ordinary … programmes. What the Minister meant was that the initiatives could not be shown to have brought to Britain from Europe any more than had been received before, when the funds were buried in the moneys that allowed the Government to pursue a tax-cutting policy that did not have any economic advantage for the country.

The letter goes on: However, the Government shares the view … that there have been too many Community Initiatives. For that reason, the Government will seek to end the RECHAR programme. However, they offer the comforting sop that they will make good use of RECHAR while it lasts. The letter continues:

the Government will continue to give all due priority to the needs of areas such as South Yorkshire, though you will accept, I am sure, that regions with needs unrelated to coal must also receive their fair share. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) will recognise, even the current Government pretend to accept that the coalfield areas are in particular need. Brussels not only recognised that fact, but sought to do something about it. We were extremely grateful when Mr. Millan sought to compel the Government to do something about it. We had hoped that acceptance of the accuracy Mr. Millan's statements might lead the Government to maintain the provision of these funds for areas like ours, which, had the Government had their way in October, would have seen further blight at enormous public cost. We now have very good grounds to be suspicious of the Government and not at all ungrateful for some of the actions in Brussels.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

I thank my hon. Friend for his extremely powerful and knowledgeable argument. I think that no hon. Member knows more about this situation. Can he confirm that the obligations arising from RECHAR and other moneys intended to assist coalfield areas and other declining industrial regions arose as the result of an obligation under the treaty of Paris, which was subsumed within the treaty of Rome, and that the Government not only were duplicitous in their treatment of the RECHAR moneys but also offended against—if they did not actually break—the treaty obligations undertaken when the European Coal and Steel Community was set up, long before the days of European Economic Community and the treaty of Rome?

Mr. Hardy

My hon. Friend is quite right. What we have seen from the Government is a repudiation of some of the basic principles on the basis of which they were eager to enter the Community. Apparently they are eager to remain in the Community so long as it does not affect that small proportion of the British people on whom they believe we all depend—the entrepreneurs. There is a place for the entrepreneur, but there must also be a place for a decent society. The Government have rejected that decency.

I mentioned the hon. Member for Southend, East. He will recall a debate in which we discussed RECHAR. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that his argument was that money should not go to the coalfield areas, but that it should be used to assist all the British people. I am sure that he accepts that, although people who live in places such as Southend are not free from problems, which may be exacerbated if the Government pursue their policy towards British Rail, there are areas in which levels of unemployment, and economic and environmental devastation have risen and have now reached chronic proportions.

6.30 pm

The Government now say that moneys from Europe should assist everyone and not only areas in which there are special needs. I submit that the Government have no sense of reasonable priorities and no understanding of the fact that they are supposed to represent the whole nation. Given that, it is wrong to have Britain in an isolated position in Europe.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

Does my hon. Friend accept that there are problems for some local authorities? There is a strong possibility that they will not be able to take up the RECHAR moneys because of cuts in public expenditure. They will not have the moneys to meet their part of the cost of projects that are so important to communities such as my own.

Mr. Hardy

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that I represent a coalfield area, as he does. I know that he has great familiarity with, and knowledge of, such areas. I strongly suspect that, when Ministers in the Department of Employment consider the implications of the 1991 census, they will be astonished. There is excessive complacency about unemployment, and the Government believe their own figures. They are foul in their present form as official measurement, and they are obscene in reality. In areas of high unemployment, the 1991 census will reveal the astonishingly low levels of people in work.

Given that reality, which is not exposed by Government statistics, there is an urgent need for a far greater priority to be given to social and socio-economic policy. It seems astonishing that there is a contemptuous rejection of the social charter, which is more relevant to Britain's needs than it is to the needs of most of our competitor countries, which have not suffered the economic decline that Britain has experienced over the past 10 years.

I am extremely critical of many aspects of Europe, but the social charter is not one of them. Of all the aspects of the treaty, the social charter is the one which we should be eager to espouse. We should not reject it with the rather contemptuous and careless approach which is typical of the Government's attitude.

Mr. Jenkin

This is the first time that I have been called to speak in a debate on the Bill. The present group of amendments allows a fairly wide-ranging debate. Before picking up two or three threads that have already been teased a little by right hon. and hon. Members, I will briefly set out my general attitude to the Bill.

I am pro-Europe and pro-Community and I have always been so. One of the disturbing aspects of the argument on this group of amendments is that I have never before felt the need to protest my pro-Community credentials. I have expressed my misgivings about the treaty on European union and people seem determined to misconstrue my motives.

Why should the social aspects be brought into the Community at all? The true intent of the Maastricht treaty is that it should lead to a federal Europe. Why should a truly separate economic pillar include matters such as social protection and social cohesion and solidarity, especially if our opt-out from the social chapter is to free us from those very activities?

I do not suggest, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of state said, that I want to see nothing more than a market in the Community. I point out the inconsistency in arguing in favour of a union based on well-defined pillars while making changes to the economic pillar which weaken its identity. The indisputable effect of what my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford has already described in his extremely able speech, which included many cogent arguments, is to increase the breadth of the European Economic Community's activities so that the change in name is entirely relevant because it betrays the much expanded scope that was given to the Community at Maastricht.

I shall point out some of the developments that will not be reversed. The Maastricht treaty is determined to maintain what it calls the acquis communautaire. When Ministers speak to Conservative party conferences and publish Conservative party documents in which they claim that the direction of the treaty has been reversed, one can only assume that they have been deeply misinformed.

I take as an example the proposed directive on the 48-hour working week. The directive has been delayed, but the important point about it is that it was completely unforeseen by the Government. Assurances were given to the effect that anyone would have believed that such a directive was impossible to achieve. The Government have, admittedly, reserved their position to go to the European Court to plead that the matter is outside the scope of the powers of the Community, but Ministers have been advised to negotiate the 48-hour working week directive on the basis that they had better agree something because they might otherwise have something even worse imposed on them.

What assurances can Ministers give us this evening that the process is not going to continue, using article 118a, and drawing on the objectives at the beginning of article 2, on the activities in article 3 and on article 5, as demonstrated in the case alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford?

I draw the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends to another recent development on the social side under the existing treaty of Rome, which is being specifically preserved in the acquis communautaire to which the Maastricht treaty refers. I have here a cutting from the Observer of 17 January 1993, which says: The Home Office has 'put on ice' plans to privatise prison education. Opposition Members may be pleased. However, here we have another part of the social sphere being imposed on the United Kingdom without any warning. The article continues:

Kent has won the go-ahead for a High Court judicial review and has been joined in the action by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. Natfhe will argue that contracting out is illegal if it does not abide by European Community directive guaranteeing equal rights and conditions for public sector workers whose jobs are transferred to private companies. Here we have the possibility of a European Community directive, whose scope is being potentially expanded by a European Court ruling, encompassing the entire contracting-out programme and the entire programme of a whole Government Department—the Office of Public Service and Science—and bringing the whole thing to a halt. That is the problem that we are faced with when implementing further competencies in the treaty, regardless of whether we feel that we have opted out of them. I do not wish to detain the Committee longer; I simply wish to ask the Minister to give assurances that the social legislation that the Community seeks to put upon us will be prevented.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I accept—I think that it is widely accepted—one of the burdens of the point that my hon. Friend is making, which is that the Commission, sometimes for perfectly laudable, motives, sometimes not so laudable has sought in the past and will continue to seek, I am sure, to extend its writ into areas where we would not wish it to go. It is my belief, and we are making the case as we go through the Committee, that this treaty inhibits the Commission more than it was inhibited before.

The crucial point is this. I think that my hon. Friend would agree that everything in the protocol that is the subject of the Opposition amendment is unacceptable to him, to me and to most other Conservatives; and even if I were to accept the risk that there will be efforts—of course there will be—to push the ball in another direction, surely he and I would not wish to bring about a position where there is any risk whatever that the opt-out that we have obtained from these provisions is put in jeopardy. That is precisely what Opposition Members are trying to do.

Mr. Jenkin

Whether or not I agree with my right hon. Friend on that point, I wish that the British Government would be honest about the effects of the treaty. We have one assertion after another that black is white and white is black, in defiance of the text of the treaty.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the Committee when we discussed the last group of amendments to do with training and education. That is a very good example of where the Community has begun to insert itself into an area by simple majority voting; under the terms of this treaty, its ability to do so is restricted and defined and we move up from simple majority to qualified majority voting. That is an advance on the earlier position and it is just one example of the way in which this treaty improves our position from the position under the Single European Act.

Mr. Jenkin

I gave way to my right hon. Friend, expecting him to make a point about the group of amendments that we are discussing at the moment. If there was some specific exclusion clause, apart from the exclusion clause to that protocol, which related to articles 2 and 3, I would feel more reassured, but that is not the case.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that the area which I touched on and to which he has alluded— article 5 of the treaty of Rome—gives significant and powerful support to the case that the European Court will be forced to interpret? Therefore, to some degree, it is irrelevant whether individual nation states or Governments wish a certain thing; what is important is what the view of the European Court will be, particularly in the light of some of the judgments that Lasok and Bridge have produced in their period of recording.

Mr. Jenkin

I agree with my hon. Friend, and that leads me to my concluding point.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend the Minister is trying to cover his nakedness by referring to education. I am afraid that it does not cover anything and the sight is still pretty disagreeable. The Government thought that the Lingua programme was illegal, yet still, under the previous treaty, it was imposed upon us and in the new treaty the Lingua programme is enshrined. This just reinforces the point that my hon. Friend makes: the Government say one thing—they have said one thing before—but the reality is always different.

Mr. Jenkin

I hear the point that my hon. Friend makes.

I conclude by drawing attention to the motives of our European partners. They will wish to make us bear the same burdens of cost as they currently envisage bearing themselves under the social chapter and they will seek whichever way they can to make sure that we bear those costs. Even though we wish to opt out of the 48-hour working week directive—I must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on doing a very good job of muddying the waters—it is impossible to imagine a situation in which, 11 member states having voted for a particular directive, the court will not rule against us if we continue to defy the directive.

6.45 pm
Mr. Wells

The 48-hour working week to which my hon. Friend refers has been introduced by the Commission under article 118a of the existing treaty, as amended by the Single European Act. The British are disputing that the Commission can do so under that article because we do not believe that it is a matter of health and safety at work. The Maastricht treaty, with its subsidiarity clause, inhibits or begins to slow down the process and asks the Commission and the whole of the Community whether they are right to extend their powers into this domestic legislative arena. Surely, therefore, the Maastricht treaty is an advance in the direction in which my hon. Friend would like the Community to go.

My hon. Friend should have a little more confidence in the European Court sustaining British objections to proceeding on the 48-hour week under article 118a.

Mr. Jenkin

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to articles 2 and 3 of the treaty compared with what is in the existing Rome treaty. We have considerable additions which will widen the scope of the European Court's rulings and widen the competence of the Community, particularly in social affairs. Even though we have opted out of a separate list of social policy objectives, we are still wide open to the 48-hour working week, and perhaps more so, because we will have less defence against the 48-hour working week if we sign up to such matters as economic and social cohesion and solidarity among the Member States", to quote from the treaty.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

In his concern, has my hon. Friend taken on board the fact that 10 out of 12 countries in the European Community have already ratified the treaty, which permits this country to opt out of the entire social chapter? Does he not consider that in those circumstances he might be better advised to be arguing the case alongside the Government instead of against them? If we had had any other Government elected last year, he and I and Front-Bench spokesmen would all be together in opposing what a Labour Government might have produced, which would have included this particular social chapter.

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Lady unfortunately missed the cogent and able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith).

Mrs. Currie

I am asking you.

Mr. Jenkin

I would be very happy to take my hon. Friend through Hansard tomorrow morning and point out the argument. I can give her the answer if she wishes, but I do not wish to detain the Committee longer than necessary. It relates, in summary, to the way in which article 118a can be used now in conjunction with the approval procedures in article 189c, using the objectives laid out in article 2 and the new activities of the treaty laid out in article 3, in conjunction with article 5, where it says that it is against Community law to frustrate the objectives of this treaty. If one takes that as meaningless, have no fear, but the truth of the matter, as we have learnt from the Single European Act, is that the preambles and objectives of those treaties are vital.

The European Court will draw upon the objectives of the treaty to inform its rulings and the Commission knows that. When the Commission initiates legislation in the knowledge that it can get a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers and that the European Court will draw upon the objectives laid out in articles 2 and 3, one can be confident that we are going to find ourselves in a minority. The Government's lawyers will tell Ministers, "You had better agree and sign up to something better than nothing, or you will have the worst imposed upon you."

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will my hon. Friend perhaps correct the issue over the 48-hour directive by consulting Hansard? Does he appreciate that, when the Minister of State, Department of Employment, was asked about going to the court over the 48-hour directive, his answer was that he would consider doing so if it remained in its present form, but not necessarily if it was changed in some respect?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the negotiations on the 48-hour directive are nearly complete and that one of the agreed parts is that French bakers are exempt from the 48-hour week but British bakers are not? Will my hon. Friend consult the Hansard record of yesterday's Question Time and read question No. 2 for the right answer on the 48-hour week being challenged in the court?

Mr. Jenkin

I will certainly consult Hansard.

Mrs. Currie

I am most impressed with the way in which my new colleague is approaching the issue, but I put it to him that the broad principles on which he is objecting have been dealt with in earlier debates and were passed with large majorities. The Single European Act, which is the source of much of what he is complaining about, passed through the House some years ago with large majorities. Is my hon. Friend going to stand by his principles, with which many Conservative Members agree, and vote with the Government tonight?

Mr. Jenkin

The contention of the Government and, I presume, of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), is that the Maastricht treaty somehow addresses the concerns that we have come to experience in the Single European Act. My contention and that of a growing number of people in this country is that that is not the case and that every aspect of increased competence in the European Community increases the likelihood that we are going to finish up with laws being imposed upon us which we do not want.

It seems extraordinary to say that we have lessons to learn from the Single European Act and then to grasp tenfold the same mistakes in the Maastricht treaty. The objectives of the treaty are laid out before my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South. If she cares to read them and obtain an understanding of how the legal structures in the Community are likely to work, we might be in a position to avoid making the same mistake.

I have detained the Committee long enough. I thank the Committee for its indulgence.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful for the opportunity briefly to intervene at this point. This is the first time that I have addressed the Committee on these provisions, and I am glad to do so. My party and I not only support the objective of being a full member of the European Community and playing a full part as a full partner, not as someone who picks and chooses which parts of the package he wants and insists on having exceptions for other parts, but we agree with the objective of amendment No. 7 in order for the social provisions that are available to the other 11 member states to be available also to us in Wales.

I say that for the reason that we in Wales, as has been reflected in election after election, look for a balance of social and economic policy which is different from the balance of social and economic policy that is reflected in the Chamber. Quite frankly, we are more likely to get the social policy that our people in Wales want from the European institutions than we are likely to get from Westminster, Whitehall and the Government who, election after election, are returned to the House of Commons.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech with care, not least because I know that he and his party are very committed to the Maastricht treaty and wish to see it ratified. It seems likely that the amendment will not be voted on for some time. If the amendment were to be carried, the treaty of Rome must be amended, a further intergovernmental conference would have to take place, and then further ratifications would have to take place. It really is playing with fire for anyone to support the official Opposition's amendment.

Mr. Wigley

If the position is as outlined by the Minister of State, that surely is a consideration that he and his Government should have taken on board when they negotiated the way to exclude the social provisions from the treaty. The Government have cobbled together this exclusion for internal party policy, in order to hold together a coalition on the Conservative Benches to overcome the general election that took place in April. It is nasty internal politics and not the objective of what is best not only for the peoples of the islands of Britain but for the development of unity within Europe, which the right hon. Gentleman wants to see as much as I do.

The workings of the single market cannot possibly take place in the fulness of time if 11 member states have a certain minimal provision in social matters that relate very directly to the economy, to the labour force and to the costs of production and manufacture. A minimum provision is required of those 11 members, and there is a 12th member of the European Community that does not have those rules, applying to it and, therefore, as the Government themselves have boasted, is enabled to have a cut-price economy and has tried to obtain a competitive advantage over the other 11 members. We cannot build a united Europe—a Europe in which the 12 member states trust one another, co-operate with one another and work towards common objectives—if that let-out is allowed for one member state in order to obtain a competitive advantage.

Dr. Godman

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) said, among many other things, that, despite the exclusion of the social chapter, the European Court of Justice, given the powers that it has, seemingly, of a supreme court with regard to the 12 nations, could defend the interests of workers and trade unionists in relation to article 118a. The hon. Member for Chingford seemed to suggest that the European Court of Justice could protect and promote the interests of ordinary people, despite the Government's exclusion of the social chapter.

Mr. Wigley

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) with considerable interest. It was an exceptionally good speech and it was delivered in a manner which was a great credit to the Committee. It was a thoughtful speech. Perhaps we should hear more such speeches. The hon. Gentleman begged the question for himself and for his colleagues—perhaps he will throw it back at us—that, if it is possible to use the courts and other provisions which have been agreed and which would be applicable to us in order to sustain the social provisions that are otherwise dependent upon the chapter from which we are excluded, perhaps there is no need to have the social chapter in it at all. Perhaps we can rely on that.

If that is the case, as I asked him in an intervention, what is the argument against having that full provision so that at least we would know where we stood? It would then be clear cut and we would not have the inevitable uncertainty involved in going to the courts on questions of interpretation.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I shall try to answer that question. Conservative Members abhor the social chapter because we think that it essentially destroys the competitiveness of this country but, from the point of view of those who would wish to have it, it tidies up all the provisions in one clearly identifiable aspect. The hon. Gentleman can see the matter from the other point of view as well as our reluctance to have the social chapter. My point is that, with or without our signature appended to it, most of the provisions will be found in a variety of ways in the body of the treaty.

7 pm

Mr. Wigley

I respect the hon. Gentleman's position. If he and his colleagues were to say that we are not allowed to exclude ourselves from these social provisions, we would be happy not to be members of the open market and the free movement of people, goods and capital with free competition, which has been the basis of development in the European context recently.

To argue that we should be allowed to have our own laws on labour, standards, working conditions, information, consultation of workers, equality between men and women and all the other provisions in the treaty, which would give us a competitive edge over the other 11 member states in the Community, and then expect them to treat us as an equal member does not hold water. We should not be allowed to compete and undercut the other 11 member states in their own marketplace.

Mrs. Currie

That matter is obviously the heart of the debate. Many Government Members think that the social chapter is bad for the whole of Europe. We strongly believe—I certainly do—that the opportunities for employment are diminished by raising the cost of employment. One need look only at a modern factory which is crammed to the eyeballs with equipment to see what the effect might be.

Mr. Wigley

I know that the hon. Lady is a good European. She has aspirations to play a fuller part on the European stage. I am sure that, as a good democrat, she will accept that, if unanimity is as great—if the people and political parties within the 11 member states agree with this—we may well have to accept it in the name of the European Community, which we believe is important, and in the name of the level playing field which we believe is important for the companies which are competing with each other in the marketplace.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

I know that the hon. Gentleman has great experience in industry, and his views must be respected in that regard. In his own words, he has vividly illustrated precisely why it will be intolerable to the other nations which have adopted the social chapter on competition policy grounds. I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said.

The advice which I have received from outside is that our exemption will be so intolerable that the other member states will bring their action on the grounds of competition policy through, first, qualified majority voting in the Commission and, secondly, interpretation of competition in the protocols and elsewhere. Once the French and the Germans wake up to the fact that it is 25 per cent. cheaper to employ British engineers to do the same job, and the effect that that will have on European investment, there will most certainly be such an action.

Mr. Wigley

Yes; and I respect the ministerial background which the hon. Gentleman has in such matters. His argument is that the provisions will come through one door or another because of the imperative of the discrepancy which arises. There will be an imperative on other countries to cut out the unfair competition of which we are taking advantage. I simply say this: let us have it clear. Let us have it on the face of the Act so that we know where we stand. Everyone involved will know that the social provisions are there in black and white and that we agree with them.

I know that the Committee is divided on the question of whether the provisions should be available, given that they were supported and advocated by 11 of the 12 member states across the board in Europe, with the only exceptions being the Conservative party and Le Pen in France. In the name of democracy and in the name of the free competition which the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) and his colleagues have advocated for so many years, surely we must have democratic unanimity if a united Europe means anything at all.

Mr. Llew Smith

Will the hon. Gentleman accept the point made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) that low wages create full employment? If that were the case, would not India probably be one of the richest countries in the world, with full employment, and would not Germany be experiencing tremendous poverty and mass unemployment?

Mr. Wigley

I agree wholeheartedly. The future for our manufacturing industry must be based on quality, investment, technological development and being able to compete with German, French, Spanish and Italian industry head on. We should be inventive, take our products to the marketplace, and be able to win in that context. That is the only future on which we can build a high-wage economy and an economy which can sustain the social payments which are essential for our people.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman is advancing the proposition that, if 11 member states believe something to be the case, Britain is bound to agree with it in the end and should agree with it out of community spirit.

I agree that one of the objectives is that the Community should seek consensus wherever it can find it. On that basis, let us take the British abatement. Does the hon. Gentleman argue that, because the other 11 member states disagree with the abatement, the Government should give way on it? On the basis of what the Government have done on the social protocol, surely one of the purposes of democracy is that they sought and received the support of the British people for what they did.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and my hon. Friends can be assured that not just the protocol exempts the United Kingdom from any acts taken under it. We do not hesitate to stand on that position, even if we must stand alone.

Mr. Wigley

I understand that there are times when a principle is so fundamental that a nation must stand alone, whatever the rest of the world is saying. However, I do not believe that our insistence on keeping the social provisions for working people, working conditions, information and equality between men and women is such a fundamental argument that we stand alone against all comers.

As far as the abatement argument is concerned, every country will argue for the best financial deal. It is perfectly natural, and any Government should be doing that. When it comes to the building blocks on which the new open market will be constructed—where fair competition will exist, where there is a level playing field, where company and enterprise compete and where 11 of the 12 member states have one set of rules and the other has another set of rules which gives a competitive edge which hon. Members have talked about and which Ministers have boasted about—how on earth can such provisions remain? It is only a transitional provision, which must crumble within a short period.

Government Members would be more honest if they faced up to that. We must put the treaty's provisions into legislation rather than have some bridging provisions which are convenient for the Conservative party. The Conservative party is leading the British public down the garden path as far as these provisions are concerned. It is selling employees short.

Mr. Michael Spicer

The argument that it is unfair to have a competitive edge is interesting. Is it not the case that that is exactly what trade is about? Trade is about using the competitive advantage. Will we have sunshine everywhere? Will olives grow everywhere? Will there be any difference in the utopian world which the hon. Gentleman is painting, or will there be a competitive edge? Perhaps that is a point in favour of our side.

Mr. Wigley

With respect, we are trying to build a competitive edge in law. A competitive edge is secured by innovation, scientific and technological research and investment in plant and machinery to produce better products, which is needed. We must then recommend those products in the marketplace and get a larger slice of the marketplace.

That is what it is all about. It is not about the whole basis of the Common Market before the European Community existed. The whole basis has been about getting a level playing field. In the Bill we are building a playing field on a slope. Government Members may believe that it is a lasting basis, but I suggest that it is a basis which cannot possibly remain. The basis may last for the duration of the Bill if the Government can cobble together a majority on it, but within a year or two pressures from other countries, possibly through the Chingford route which was referred to—through the courts—will mean that it will not last. It would be more honest for us to face up to that now.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

The hon. Gentleman talks about a common market. Is he aware that industry in Germany—especially engineering industry, as I learned from a visit on Monday—is already conscious that it needs to shed the shackles of the social policy that has been imposed on it formerly by trade unions and now by Maastricht? It will work within Germany to reform those provisions. So I suggest that our competitive edge will last only a short time.

Mr. Wigley

I can well imagine that the cancer in the thought of the Government could spread. When the British Government tell industrialists in Germany that we have a competitive edge over them, that we have cheap labour and that we can undercut them, of course they will say that they do not want the social chapter either. The cancer could run through the whole of Europe. The social provisions which have been built up in Germany, Denmark and other countries could be undermined by the thinking of this reactionary Conservative Government.

The Government wish to increase profits by undermining the rights of employees—rights which have been enshrined in the treaty. The social chapter creates a minimum standard. It is not a straitjacket. It acknowledges that many countries may want to go beyond that standard.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Wigley

I should like to make progress, because I know that other hon. Members want to speak.

I draw it to the attention of the Committee that the social chapter includes a provision which says: before submitting proposals in the social policy field, the Commission shall consult management and labour on possible direction of Community action. Presumably we are excluded from that consultation. The Commission will consult people on both the management and the labour side in 11 member states but will not consult them in the United Kingdom when formulating policy of considerable importance within the Commission.

As it is important within the Commission, it will affect policy on many other issues. European social policy will inevitably affect Britain indirectly.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman says that there are great matters of principle. It may have escaped his notice that one of the core debates in Britain in the past decade has been about corporatism and the way in which the corporate approach to industry has damaged our competitiveness and prospects. He may not like it, but Conservative Members wear it as a badge of honour that the policies that we have pursued have produced four election victories for us. If the Labour party wants to import the social protocol into the treaty of Rome, it had better win an election.

Mr. Wigley

I understand the Minister's warnings about the corporate approach. I understand its dangers and the lessons that we must learn from the post-war history of Britain. I was making the point a moment ago that the Commission would develop policies. That right has not been taken away from the Commission. It will develop policies in many areas and will be influenced by the opinion of management and labour in 11 out of the 12 member states. The conclusions reached will inevitably affect Britain.

The provisions of the social chapter also say: The Commission shall draw up a report each year on progress in achieving the objectives of Article 1, including the demographic situation in the Community. The effects of the demographic situation in the Community must be the basis on which regional policy will be developed. Demographic considerations are fundamental to regional policy. The Commission will take information from 11 out of the 12 member states, from which reports will be compiled on the demographic situation in Europe. Those reports will undoubtedly underpin the regional policy pursued by the Commission. We shall miss out. Wales, Scotland and the regions of England will miss out. They desperately need a proactive regional policy to counter the inevitable centralisation that will accompany the creation of the free market.

If we intend to remain in the European Community and play a full part, we must be right in the centre. We must not look for exclusions such as that from the social chapter in an attempt to buy a short-term competitive edge which we know cannot be sustained. It would be far better for us to be in there, advocating the improvement of standards for working people in our industry as well as the industry of Europe. It would be better for us to be there when the Commission develops policies which affect other countries so that our circumstances and needs are taken into account. We must not be regarded for another decade as an offshore island which cannot determine whether or not we want to be part of Europe.

7.15 pm
Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

I wish to establish two points. The first is that the amendment is a wrecking amendment to the treaty of Maastricht. The second is that the amendment is undesirable.

When the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) rebutted my intervention, he said that I did not understand the position. The position as I understand it is as follows. Changes were made to the interpretation of the treaty at the Edinburgh summit to allow the Danes to have a second referendum. However, the amendment proposes a change to the body of the treaty. The treaty clearly specifies that Britain will not take part in the deliberations on the provisions of the social chapter or in their implementation. Therefore, the amendment would require the renewal of the ratification procedures in all the other EC member countries. It might require a new referendum in France and Ireland.

I understand the Opposition Front-Bench team saying that the other countries might be in sympathy with us because they supported the social chapter. That might be so, but they would face a severe legal problem. Their peoples and their Parliaments agreed to a specific treaty which did not include Britain in the social chapter.

Mr. Hoon

The hon. Gentleman referred to the referendums in Ireland and France. Does he accept that in their referendums the peoples of France and Ireland ratified not simply the treaty but the protocols?

Mr. Milligan

Precisely. The social chapter is a protocol to the treaty. If the hon. Gentleman reads page 117 he will find the specific protocol. That was the protocol which people in France and Ireland ratified.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Let me assist both my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps they will recall that there was a moment at which the Republic of Ireland had some problems with the proposals on abortion and its constitution. It asked its partners for a minor amendment to one protocol which would have had no effect on any other country. Ireland was denied such an amendment because it would have prompted ratification by all member states. So Opposition Members have no escape: they have tabled a wrecking amendment.

Mr. Milligan

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that clarification. I understand Opposition Members' political point that if they had negotiated the treaty they would have included the social chapter. But they did not. We are dealing with a treaty and the House must either accept it or reject it. The amendment is a wrecking amendment.

The second point that I wish to establish is that the amendment is undesirable. It is inappropriate for the Community to legislate on social matters. The treaty has established the principle of subsidiarity, which is that, wherever possible, issues should be decided at national level. One can put the case for social intervention and regulation of hours and wages, but that is a national decision. It is not appropriate for the Community to act in such matters.

In any case, the social chapter is damaging. Many Opposition Members have spoken of their concern for jobs. Conservative Members are also concerned for jobs. However, the fact is that raising industry's costs by introducing new regulations such as the 48-hour week—which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) said, is a damaging sign of what might come if we accepted the social chapter—would not create jobs. It would damage businesses and especially small businesses. It would be bad for Britain.

There is also an issue of freedom. In my constituency we have two bakeries. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is not in the Chamber. He spoke of the exclusion of the French bakeries. There is no exclusion for British bakeries. The Mr. Kipling plant is in my constituency. As hon. Members may know it produces, "exceedingly good mince pies." British Bakeries is also in my constituency.

People work extremely long hours for not very high wages in those plants, and may work 60 or 70 hours a week in shifts starting at 6 pm and ending at 6 am. They do not work those hours because they like to do so, but because they want to earn money to feed their families. They have the right to work long hours if they choose. It is not right for bureaucrats in Brussels or Whitehall to determine what hours they should work.

The Labour party has always been committed to the principle of free collective bargaining and that is the chant that we have heard so often. Why is that not allowed to apply in this case? If trade union members freely agree that they wish to work long hours, why should a regulation made in Brussels—or a part of the Maastricht treaty, if Opposition Members have their way—be allowed to stop them? That would be a fundamental contradiction of a basic human right? I should be interested to know from the Labour Front Bench whether a Labour Government would allow free collective bargaining to dominate and whether they would allow workers the right to choose to work more than a 48-hour week.

The exclusion of the social chapter has positive advantages to this country as well as removing some negative aspects that might be associated with its adoption. Mr. Delors has said that this country will be a paradise for Japanese investment, which has been one of the few encouraging areas of job creation in recent years. More Japanese investment would be extremely good news for this country and for jobs.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) raised the spectre of our undercutting our continental rivals. What is the danger in that? Surely that is what we must achieve if we want more jobs and increased exports, and if we want to put our balance of payments right.

Mr. Wigley

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we should undercut them by virtue of our design, efficiency and use of capital, rather than by using legislation to build in the sort of edge that cannot possibly last?

Mr. Milligan

Frankly, I would agree to any edge that would create more jobs and prosperity. I believe that it will last, but even if it does not, let us take advantage of it while we can. I do not see any disadvantages.

The hon. Member for Copeland said that we could compete with Taiwan on price, but that we should be competing with Germany on quality. In the export business, one must compete on both price and quality. Unfortunately, British industry has not always succeeded in competing on quality, which means that we have a greater need to compete on price. The exclusion of the social chapter will bring us positive advantages in crucial export markets.

My hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) said that we were already suffering from the effects of the treaty of Rome, and that the exclusion of the social chapter would not make a great difference. First, we are not debating the treaty of Rome—

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I never said that we were already suffering. I said that the treaty of Rome was empowered to a greater extent by the social policy amendments. We are discussing that treaty because we are discussing amendments to it and there may be a link with the European Court of Justice because of the route that we are choosing to take. Elements of the social chapter may have to be introduced. I was not saying anything else.

Mr. Milligan

I understand my hon. Friend's argument. In his speech, he said that there is a danger that the European Court might interpret the phrase "greater economic and social cohesion" in a way that would be unfavourable to this country. I believe that that phrase has little meaning. One could say that there was a danger that the court could interpret anything to mean something that we do not want it to mean, but we must work on the assumption that the treaty says what it means.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

It is precisely for that reason that I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that the treaty is riddled with socialist engineering and social philosphy. The cohesion funds, which are clearly stated in the treaty and which we are subscribing to, are nothing more or less than socialism in every conceivable respect. Does he not agree that, for that good reason, we have no reason to sign up for many of the provisions in the treaty?

Mr. Milligan

For once, I would entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Yes, the treaty contains social engineering —the social chapter, which we have opted out of, and which we are discussing. If by social engineering he means the phrase greater "economic and social cohesion", then he is reading far too much into it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Milligan

I shall not give way again. I hope that Conservative Members can ally on that issue because we are all agreed that the social chapter, the social charter and the social protocol are damaging to jobs in this country and I hope that we can all find ourselves in the same Lobby on that issue.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

May I begin by declaring an injury, Dame Janet? I have a sprained ankle, but it was caused not by a hostile Euro-sceptic but by an over-enthusiastic Hampstead dog. It means that my speech will be very short and, with your indulgence, I shall have to stand while taking interventions because it is too painful for me to sit down.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

Of course, we understand and will waive the usual rules where there is an injury—but not for anyone else.

Mr. Radice

Thank you very much, Dame Janet.

On the Conservative side, the debate has been an argument between the anti and pro-Europeans about whether the social chapter is excluded from the treaty and whether it will be watertight, rather than a debate about the advantages of the social chapter, which says something about the modern Conservative party. I think that I may safely predict that, if either the Heath or the Macmillan Governments had been negotiating the treaty, we would have had the social chapter. Only the modern Conservative party would have opted out in such a way, which says something about what has happened to that party.

Although the social chapter is outside the treaty, it is very much part of the system that the treaty sets up, because member states, except for the United Kingdom, accepted that social progress for people is as important as the free movement of goods, services and capital, and that is a good principle.

As the President of the Commission, Jacques Delors, rightly said, no one falls in love with the single market. If one wants a European Community which has the support of the people it must have a social dimension. Indeed, the Government recognise the force of that argument, because they are slightly worried about it. I have heard the Minister who is responsible for European affairs saying that the Government are in favour of the European Community having a social dimension. However, when they are offered the prospect of one, they opt out, and that is their problem. Other countries are in favour of the social dimension.

I sometimes think that Conservative Members cannot have read the social protocol.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

indicated assent.

Mr. Radice

I am not sure whether I shall continue to carry the hon. Gentleman with me.

What is so terrible about article 2.1, which states: the Community shall support and complement the activities of the Member States in the following fields: —improvement…of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety; —working conditions"? What is wrong with that? Are they against it? Are they against having more information and consultation of workers"? Are they against more equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work"? Are they against the integration of persons excluded from the labour market"? They should tell their constituents if they are, because we did not hear anything about that during the general election.

Conservative Members may be against those issues on which the Council will act unanimously, which are social security and social protection of workers; protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated; representation and collective defence of the interests of workers and employers. Perhaps they are worried about them.

Mr. Edward Gamier (Harborough)

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman and I are standing at the same time; let us hope that we will still be at the end of the Committee. Although many Conservative Members approve of the protections to which the hon. Gentleman just referred, we object to being told by Brussels how to provide them. The matters under consideration are much better dealt with locally, at the factory level, by management and trade unions or employees.

7.30 pm
Mr. Radice

I am grateful for that intervention, because it allows me to say that the purpose of the social protocol is to establish minimum standards. It does not lay down how certain things should be done, or how far matters should go. It establishes minimum standards.

The old canard is that that protocol will apply to pay, the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lock-outs, but those matters are specifically excluded from it. It is about time that Conservative Members who talk so much about the protocol actually read it, because that would be very useful.

Mrs. Currie

Someone in France who is trying to keep a business going and to employ people may want to reduce his work force when times are difficult, but he finds that it is almost impossible to make people redundant in such circumstances. What happens is that the entire business must close and everyone has to be made redundant. Many business men who are running small companies feel that that is one of the reasons that the French unemployment rate is much higher than our own. One of the reasons why we object to that rule and to such a minimum standard is that it does not improve working conditions but reduces the number of jobs available.

Mr. Radice

I know that the hon. Lady has connections with France, but so do I, and I do not believe that the situation is as she describes. It is true that perhaps one or two employers complain about certain minimum conditions being imposed upon them, but those complaints are heard across Europe. If we are to have a decent Europe, we need to impose some minimum conditions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is we'?"] The European Community.

Mr. Cash

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, within the European Parliament, the European People's party is in favour of the social chapter? That party includes many Conservative Members of the European Parliament. Apparently they are enthusiastic about the proposals, and they have expressed their views through the EPP.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman has made an extraordinarily good point and his hon. Friends should dwell upon that, because they are the odd ones out. The Christian Democrats of Europe do not share Conservative Members' extraordinary view about what should happen.

Mr. Wigley

I should not like any credence to be given to the point made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). Therefore, it is important to draw attention to article 2(2) of the protocol, which states: directives shall avoid imposing administrative, financial and legal constraints in a way which would hold back the creation and development of small and medium-sized undertakings.

Mr. Radice

It is a pity that the hon. Lady was not listening, because that was a devastating riposte to her intervention, which I wish I had used. However, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has drawn our attention to it.

The second argument in favour of the social chapter is that of the level playing field, which was put extremely well by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). The argument is simple: if one has a level playing field for goods, services and capital, one needs a single labour market with common employment conditions. It is about fair competition. The other European countries accept that, and they do not see why we should try to gain a competitive advantage in a morally repugnant manner.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is the stated intention of some of the larger firms that, if it comes to lay-offs, they will lay people off in this country first—precisely for the reasons outlined by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South—because that is so much easier given our employment conditions?

Mr. Radice

That is a telling point.

The Government reject the argument for the social dimension—in practice if not in theory. They also reject the level playing field argument, because they have a particular model of the future Britain. They want it to be the sweatshop of Europe—the country and the economy that employs cheap labour and is unregulated. That argument was well put by Lord Ridley, who wants us to be the Hong Kong of Euurope. It would not be a good model to follow, because it is morally reprehensible and is doomed to failure. I do not believe that we would be able to compete by offering cheap labour in comparison with other countries. If we have a future, it is as a high-wage, high-tech, high-quality economy. That is the way in which we can compete. We would not be able to compete by adopting the model that has been put forward by those on the Conservative Benches—it is unattractive, and it is doomed to failure.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

The hon. Gentleman is making a persuasive case and it may be of interest to him, taking both sides of his argument, to know that one of the subsidiaries of one of the largest companies in this country has just closed a factory in Taiwan and reopened it in Manchester. I am rather in favour of repatriating jobs from abroad.

Mr. Radice

So am I, but I do not know the circumstances of that decision. I should like to consider it more closely before deciding whether it proved the hon. Gentleman's case or mine.

One or two Conservative Members argued powerfully that the opt-out may not prove to be watertight. As the hon. Member for Chingford sadi, the Maastricht treaty has reformed and amended the treaty of Rome and it could be used to introduce the elements of the social protocol. I know that that possibility has been denied by the Minister, but that serious point must be considered. In any case, the other countries will not allow us to continue to retain our advantage over them. It is no good thinking, therefore, that the existing social protocol, with our opt-out, will survive. When one has private conversations with Ministers, it is interesting to note that they share that view.

Mr. Dykes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way while still standing up, which he has done courageously. He is well known as a good European and a fair-minded parliamentarian. Without embarrasssing him, I should like to commend his excellent book on attitudes in Britain towards foreigners. It has done a great service to the Community, and I hope that more people will read it.

The hon. Gentleman has sought to compare our attitude to the treaty with that of other countries. He also said that the hon. Member for Copeland made a good speech—that is his opinion, but I do not believe that it is shared by those on the Conservative Benches. Was he not shocked by the reaction of his hon. Friend, who represents the official Opposition, to the extremely important constitutional and technical point made by my right hon. Friend the Minister? He said that, if the Opposition amendment were carried tonight, it would not be possible for us to ratify the treaty. No Foreign Office Minister would say that unless he had been given expert constitutional advice from his officials at the Department.

In riposte to that point—and in anticipation thereof, almost—the shadow spokesman on foreign affairs made an astonishing assertion, about which I am still shocked —as, I am sure, is the hon. Gentleman, as a fair-minded person. The hon. Member for Copeland said that all the other member states—presumably he had consulted them officially through their Governments, because there would be no point consulting their opposition parties—would be quite happy with the procedure he had outlined of slipping back into the treaty, once the amendment had been passed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is totally impossible, impracticable, and unacceptable constitutionally? Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that matter, which is just as important as all those flaccid assertions?

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman is trying to create an alibi for why he will not be voting with us. I know that the Government are trying to obtain support among possible doubters because they know that they are vulnerable on the amendment. I do not believe that it would be impossible to devise a mechanism to which we could quickly adhere, particularly as all the other countries are so enthusiastic for us to join the protocol, were it passed.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

In line with what I said earlier, if within the body of the treaty that is judiciable by the European Court of Justice, there are areas where the social provisions can be introduced because the intention of the majority of nations exists, does the hon. Gentleman agree that what others refer to as general language in titles II and III, can now be seen as specific and clear?

Mr. Radice

I agree with that. Might that not be one way forward were the amendment to be carried? It might be one way in which the Commission and the other member states could move to ensure that we were able to adhere to the social protocol—I do not know. Given that everyone is in favour of it, I do not believe that it would be impossible to devise such a mechanism. The European Community is good at devising such mechanisms, provided that there is a consensus.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Radice

Yes, but this must be the last time, as it is not fair to other hon. Members who wish to speak.

Mr. Paice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, as I have tried to intervene several times.

I refer to the level playing field that the hon. Gentleman described and his belief that, in one way or another, the rest of the Community will not allow us to get away with the treaty as it stands. The protocol is only a framework of objectives. It clearly states that directive regulations will have to follow from it. Some 13 months have already passed since the treaty was agreed and, in that time, the recession has deepened throughout the Community in different ways.

The belief has become much stronger, not only among industry in many parts of the Community, but among politicians in the Community, that overweening social legislation in the labour market is counter-productive and that much of the protocol may never happen. By the time that the Commission brings forward the directives and regulations that it envisages, the attitude may have hardened, so that many of the other 11 member states will then be saying that the protocol seemed a good idea at the time, but they do not want it now.

Mr. Radice

I do not know whether that that will be the case. If it is, what is so terrifying about our amendment and the social protocol? As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, it merely lays down some general principles. That is why some of the Conservative propaganda has been so incredibly exaggerated. The Government know perfectly well that the protocol sets down principles. The hon. Gentleman should have a word with Tory central office to tone it down.

Mr. Paice

Has the hon. Gentleman ever tried to do that?

Mr. Michael Spicer

I want to be absolutely clear about what the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has said. Am I right in thinking that he will be voting for amendment No. 27? I imagine that there are reasons why he may not wish to do so.

Mr. Radice

Of course I shall vote for it. The hon. Gentleman is being ridiculous. [Interruption.] With great respect, Dame Janet—

The Second Deputy Chairman

It strikes me that the hon. Gentleman is in order.

7.45 pm
Mr. Radice

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) made a foolish point—I know that it may be important to him. If we can persuade him to vote with us, I do not mind on what grounds he does so—I want him to vote with us.

I shall give some advice to the pro-Maastricht Conservatives: if they wish the Bill to have a swift passage, they should vote for the social chapter. One of the unattractive parts of our political system is its divisive nature. There is a pro-Maastricht majority in the House of Commons, but the Conservative Government have prevented that majority from emerging because they have not been prepared to take the Opposition with them. That contrasts with what has happened in Federal Germany, where the Social Democratic party has been consulted by the Government, the Christian Democratic Union. SPD concerns about the treaty have been taken into account and brought together into a national consensus.

That has not happened in this country. On the contrary, on almost every occasion the Conservative Government have been divisive and tried to gain party advantage out of the European issue. That was a great mistake, made to the detriment of this country. I appeal to some Conservative Members—who freely offer their advice to Labour Members—that if the Government will not take the action, it is up to the pro-European Conservatives. They also have responsibilities and if they are so keen on Europe, they should vote for the amendment—not tonight, but soon.

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting point about the process of opposition and government. Is he attributing the frequency with which the Opposition change their mind on Europe to that process?

Mr. Enright

The Minister is at it again.

Mr. Radice

Exactly—the Government try to make party advantage. I am not trying to do so. It would be a refreshing change if, for once in the Committee, the Government did not try to make party advantage. Perhaps we should follow the example set by the anti-Europeans —at least they do not make advantage out of each other. The two sets of anti-Europeans get together. It might be a good idea if there was more consensus among those who support the Maastricht treaty.

Several Hon. Members


The Second Deputy Chairman

I think that the hon. Gentleman has concluded his speech. I call Mr. George Walden.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I have to make a convoluted point. It will probably come out in a simple way, because when I try to make a simple point it comes out convoluted. My speech has to be convoluted because it was designed for yesterday's debate on culture, but I must mentally switch it into the context of the social chapter.

The social chapter symbolises why the Maastricht treaty is misconceived. There is no escaping the fact that social legislation, as conceived in countries like France and Germany, is of a broadly corporate nature. I am not making a party political point, as I believe that the French, who have a completely different tradition from this country in matters of state, society and politics, have every right to that corporate tradition.

The French have every right to take an entirely different approach to matters of culture, as we discussed yesterday. That approach is, broadly, from the top down. That is true of the social chapter, where everything is regulated among the workers, employers and state. That is fine by me. I certainly do not want to deprecate that country, partly because I love it, partly because what the French do is up to them, and partly because they have not been unsuccessful in many spheres. However, our tradition— and those of some other European countries—is not the same as the French tradition.

I believe that I know not only where the social chapter of the Maastricht Bill originated but where other sections originated: in the fertile minds of some extremely intelligent, estimable, social democratic rather than socialist Frenchmen. They have every right to conceive of their Europe, but they have absolutely no right to thrust it on us. I draw a careful distinction between what can and does work in continental countries, with their distinct traditions, and what will not work in this country. Indeed, it is undesirable that it should work here, because it is not our way of thinking or the way that we do things, whether in social matters, in culture or in education.

I am not demonising Mr. Delors, who I know and greatly respect. I used to discuss these matters with him in the 1970s. He and his then party—he was a social democrat, but moving to the socialists—had a vision of Europe. They were frank about it. They wanted a socialist France—a certain idea of France, as they put it—and to extend it to other countries. Socialist Spain and Italy were to be part of the Community, as was Britain, which at that time also had a socialist Government. It was a social democratic and socialist political vision.

Mr. Radice

Of course the treaty is supported by social democrats and socialists throughout Europe, but we would be the first to say that it is not all our own work. It is rather absurd to suggest that the treaty comes entirely from the mind of Mr. Delors. There are other important forces in favour of the treaty, especially the Christian Democrats and the group to which the Conservative party in the European Parliament belongs. They support it because it is in their tradition.

Mr. Walden

The hon. Gentleman makes his point. I accept that I am dealing, of necessity, in generalities because we are discussing 12 different countries and many different cultures, which is the problem with the treaty. Geenerally speaking, the social chapter, as with so many other chapters—indeed, the whole treaty—is misconceived because it attempts to do the impossible and the undesirable.

I shall give one concrete example of why it is impossible and to show my enormous flexibility of mind on this matter. The social chapter says that there should be worker representation. Who in their right mind could be against that? We could not possibly be against voluntary worker representation, agreed within the firm with the bosses. That is something that the Tories have successfully encouraged, escpecially in small firms. Rather than having things imposed by unions, people get together around a table and sort them out for themselves.

That tradition has been alive and well in Germany for many years. It has functioned well and has helped the Germans. However, it has happened against an entirely different social and historical background from that which, unfortunately, prevails in Britain. Let us face it: we go back to the 18th century and class animosity. That is why I am strongly opposed to the imposition of worker representation within our antiquated union framework.

Mrs. Currie

I am glad that my hon. Friend has made the point that he, like me, is opposed to the compulsory imposition of such rules. Does he accept that those wonderful labour relations laws in Germany have had one significant effect—that its unit manufacturing costs for similar products in similar businesses to those in the United Kingdom are twice as high there as they are here?

Mr. Walden

I am pleased that my hon. Friend made that point because it leads on naturally to another point, which I shall make later.

This chapter of the treaty, like many others, pushes co-operation in Europe way beyond what is necessary or desirable. The end result will be to weaken Europe, and that is what really worries me about the Bill. Maastricht will impose impossible strains and confusions on Europe that will work against cohesion and co-operation and, in the longer term, give rise to the sort of nationalism to which we are all opposed.

The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) asked how anyone could be against improving the working environment. No one is. However, I invite him to meet a constituent of mine, Mr. Alf Baxendale of Cementone in Buckingham, and discuss with him the pile of papers that he has that tell him, for example, how many cans of paint his employees can lift at one go. If the Commission were given more powers in that area, there would be a great deal more of that sort of thing and the lives of Mr. Baxendale and many other employers, both small and large, would become impossible.

Mr. Dykes

Does my hon. Friend's assertion mean that he rejects the health and safety regulations, which are very strict on such matters, that are already either implicit in or built in to the treaty?

Mr. Walden

No. I gave an example of how bureaucratic matters can get out of hand under existing legislation. I strongly believe, as do the Government, that they would become farcically out of hand if the social chapter was accepted and the Commission was thereby given even more scope to interfere in the affairs of Mr. Baxendale and other employers.

I recognise the fact that the Government have opted out of the chapter. They may say that that therefore weakens my point about it being symbolic of a misconceived treaty, which is the way that I regard Maastricht, but there is a limit to how many chapters from which the Government can opt out. The Maastricht treaty is littered with parallel problems to those of the social chapter, culture, which we discussed last night, being one.

We must not forget that it has been only during the last couple of years that we have decided, possibly wrongly, to have a Minister responsible for culture. Why? It is because we have a wholly different approach to culture from that of other countries. In France, the Culture Minister is one of the top Ministers, active across the board. That does not mean that that makes France worse than Britain. France has Beaubourg. I quite like Beaubourg and I quite like the way France does things, but I would not want to emulate it either in cultural or social matters. That is what is wrong with the treaty; it tries to homogenise all sorts of cultures —economic, cultural, social and so on. That cannot and should not be done—[interruption.] Before my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) gets carried away, I shall deal with her point and develop it.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

The hon. Gentleman is talking rubbish. When I was a Minister I negotiated several directives. I found that most of the countries were doing much the same thing at the same time. We agreed directives which did not thrust things down other people's throats but which involved harmonisation.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that people in the north of Italy who speak German will have homogeneity forced on them? Surely, whatever people's language or culture, they should have cultural rights as they move around Europe. That is the current problem in the former Yugoslavia, where people have not learnt to live with the different rights to religion, language and script within one large continent.

Mr. Walden

The hon. Gentleman has two problems —one of language and one of logic. If he can think of no better criticism than to say "rubbish", perhaps he should study the education section of the treaty.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that European Governments were doing all these things in parallel anyway. My whole point is that there is no need artificially to harmonise them and that it could be dangerous to do so. Most sensible things are already being done by broadly sensible countries under the impetus of their own social needs. Therefore, generally, the hon. Gentleman has been making my point.

8 pm

I come back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South—competition. While we are discussing the Bill, whether education or culture yesterday or the social chapter that will not go through because the Government will not accept it today, many things are happening in the world. We have Iraq, Bosnia and a new American President. All sorts of things are happening in the world, while we are wasting the time of the House and the Government, wasting the efforts of Europe and dissipating the international influence of Europe by this introverted, nit-picking nonsense that the treaty represents.

While we are discussing the social chapter here and how, from the Opposition's point of view, we will put up and regulate the cost of British and European business even more thereby stifling competition, what, to choose but one example, is happening in southern China? Shanghai had a 20 per cent. growth rate last year. One may not like the regime—few of us do; I do not—but we will have to contend with what is going on there in a big way during the next few years.

I talked to one business man recently who told me that he bought not complicated but good lathes from Shanghai for less than the price of the components in Britain. That is the sort of thing that we in Britain and Europe will have to face. Meanwhile, the Opposition and Europe are talking about ways to put even greater trammels on our industry and impede its competitiveness even more.

Mr. Enright

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that we should be putting our wage levels and human rights on a par with the southern Chinese? If so, I would deny absolutely everything that he said.

Mr. Walden

What does one say to that sort of remark? It is so silly. I was trying to make a perfectly serious point. If the hon. Gentleman is asking me whether I am in favour —my God, how boring and laborious this is—of British wages and working conditions being the same as those in Canton or Shanghai, guess what the answer is—no, I am not. Satisfied?

I think that I have just about said everything that I wanted to say.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend will have heard our right hon. Friend the Minister telling colleagues, "It doesn't matter. It isn't going to happen. Let's vote for it anyhow."

Mr. Walden

I am perfectly serious when I say that the best thing that could happen for Britain and Europe would be for Maastricht not to happen. What concerns me, and where I sympathise strongly with the Government, is that I do not want any sort of overt clash with Europe, British isolation and all the rest of it. What I would like to see is the treaty run slowly and decorously into the sands.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I hope that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) will pardon me if I do not directly follow his argument—convoluted or otherwise, although in the end it came down, as he said at the beginning, to the simple proposition that we are different. It is a proposition which is often heard on the other side of the argument.

It is said that we in Britain are different and unique and do not have the same social and economic culture, so things like Maastricht will not work. I do not agree with that, but I return to the social chapter, which has produced as much confrontation between the two main parties as anything else in the Maastricht treaty. Labour has been consistently, firmly and solidly in favour of it, and the Conservatives have been equally consistently, firmly and solidly against it.

In many ways, I rather agree with the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), who made what we would all agree was an excellent contribution. It seems that the confrontation is rather out of proportion, because the social chapter in the treaty of Rome—which, after all, is the basic treaty to which we adhered in 1973—is not that different from the social chapter in the Maastricht treaty. Much of it is exactly the same. Article 118 of the treaty of Rome clearly states that the Commission will have the task of promoting close co-operation in

—employment, —labour legislation and working conditions, —occupational and continuation training, —social security, —protection against occupational accidents and diseases, —the law as to trade unions, and collective bargaining"— and so on, and so on.

That has been the position since 1973. In some respects, the Maastricht treaty limits the treaty of Rome in the social sphere. The social chapter of the Maastricht treaty states that it seeks

the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources". It also mentions the need to

take account of the diverse forms of national practices, in particular in the field of contractual relations, and the need to maintain the competitiveness of the Community economy. I find it difficult to understand what everyone is getting so worked up about. The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) quoted article 2, paragraph 2 of the Maastricht treaty which says:

the Council may adopt, by means of directives, minimum requirements for gradual implementation"— and so on. One finds pretty well the same stuff in the treaty of Rome. It says:

The Commission, on a proposal, may, acting by means of a qualified majority vote…minimum requirements for gradual limitation. All the stuff about equal pay for men and women is practically the same in the treaty of Rome as in the Maastricht treaty. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why there is such a noise about it. Quite apart from the plain arguments about right and wrong—to the hon. Member for Buckingham I would say that in politics simple arguments about right and wrong are often the most potent—

Mr. Walden

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that the simple answer to my argument is that he is right and I am wrong?

Sir Russell Johnston


The Liberal Democrats position on the social chapter has been clear and sustained. In our manifesto at the last election, we stated:

We will renounce Britain's social chapter opt-out and argue for a more flexible framework of social policy across the Community. The EC should set down minimum standards of health and safety and employee rights, leaving national governments and enterprises to decide how to meet them. That, broadly, is what one finds in the social chapter.

For Liberals, the Community must have a social dimension. We could not believe in anything other than a Community which accepts the need to set down basic standards for workers' rights in the form of a social chapter, although there can always be legitimate debate about the precise nature of its content. It is a wide area within which there are bound to be disagreements about ways and means.

At the end of the 20th century I find it extraordinary to listen to Conservative Members portraying social policy as a handicap. An hon. Lady who has just disappeared—I do not know her constituency, but certainly she does not believe in tailoring her dress to her political view, because she was attired in bright red—spoke, in a telling phrase of "shedding the shackles of social policy". Others said that the social policy would reduce our competitive capacity. That was the argument used by mine owners in the last century to justify sending little children down the mines.

Mr. Cash

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Russell Johnston

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would contain himself. Indeed, it would be greatly to the benefit of all hon. Members if he contained himself more often. Nevertheless, I will give way to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not too many times, please."] Unfortunately, I believe that one of the good things about the Chamber is the way in which hon. Members can interrupt each other, and the fact that hon. Members are not allowed to get away with saying certain things—although that creates risks for me sometimes.

Before I give way to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), let me finish what I was saying. It is extraordinary that we should consider ourselves so different—perhaps it would be more appropriate to say "so backward"—that we cannot contemplate introducing the same protections and conditions for workers as France, Germany the Netherlands or any other Community country. I consider that nonsense.

Mr. Cash

I was intrigued—especially in view of the hon. Gentleman's party's historical background—to hear him refer to workers' conditions, and to the days of child slave labour. Disraeli laid enormous emphasis on the requirement for proper social conditions: that was one of the key factors that led to his great Administration, and the One Nation group in the Conservative party has always taken him as its mentor. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a respectable Conservative tradition that runs in the same direction as his argument?

Sir Russell Johnston

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that there are respectable Conservatives as well as non-respectable Conservatives, I agree. Many Conservative Members—unlike the hon. Gentleman— support the Maastricht treaty; many Conservative Members of the European Parliament support the social chapter, and the whole concept of social cohesion in the Community. One feature of the Conservative party is that much of its policy can be ordered a la carte. I suppose that that has certain advantages.

Both the hon. Member for Copeland and the Minister of State, in several interventions, raised the possible effect of removing the protocol on social policy on ratification. That is relevant to amendment No. 27. I must be frank: although I do not think that it will create any dilemma for us, there is no point in pretending that that is not a possibility, and I therefore feel that it should be addressed directly.

From the outset, the Liberal Democrats have made their reservations about the Maastricht treaty well known. It is not perfect; it does not advance the Community in the federal direction that I favour. Nevertheless, we believe that the treaty must be ratified. Its rejection would strike a severe blow at both European integration and the overall stability of the continent. It was for that reason that, amid much criticism, we voted with the Government during the paving debate.

I shall not rehearse the details of our argument; basically, we acted as we did because we believed that it was necessary to progress to consideration of the Bill. Although it is true that the Government were busy using that debate as the means for a vote of confidence for their supporters—and, to an extent, the Opposition—the fact is that, had they lost, they would have engineered a genuine vote of confidence the following day and, with the support of the Euro-sceptics, they would have remained in office.

Our priority, now as then, is not to keep the Government in office—pleasant and amiable though the present Minister may be—but to bring about genuine progress towards the earliest possible ratification of the treaty. I see no reason for us to change that stance. Like the hon. Member for Copeland, we have taken legal advice on the impact of cancelling the United Kingdom's opt-out from the social chapter on the other 1 I member states and the Community's procedures. The advice that we have received from our partner Liberal Democratic parties in other European countries, and in the European Parliament, suggests a consistency of legal opinion across a number of countries which is at variance with the views expressed by the Government—and, indeed, by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) in various interventions.

8.15 pm

Our advice suggests that, while such a cancellation would theoretically require a new intergovernmental conference, might theoretically require re-ratifications and —in the event of an intergovernmental conference—might result in other member states' calling for additional changes to the treaty, making that the excuse that would lead to, as it were, a bleeding of the accord, such a consequence seems most unlikely. All the other member states have accepted the social chapter, and a decision by Britain to adhere to it would present them with no political problems. After all, they have already tried very hard to persuade us to do so.

There is a precedent. In 1972, when Norway decided not to join the Community, the text of the Act concerning the conditions of accession and the adjustments to the treaty had to be modified. Theoretically, that required an intergovernmental conference; in practice, however, it was implemented by a simple Council decision—an ordinary Community legal instrument, binding in its entirety on those to whom it was addressed.

The problem is here, in this country. It lies in the Government's well set out but inflexible position—I do not suggest that they have deceived anyone—and the way in which a defeat of the United Kingdom opt-out would affect them. Such a defeat certainly seems possible, even likely. It does not require a high standard of numeracy to work out that, if Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined with the nationalist parties—and probably the Irish the Government's fate would rest on the decision of the dissident group within the Conservative party: the Euro-sceptics. Although in the past—and, indeed, during this Committee stage—many of them have been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the social chapter, their priority is clearly the defeat of the Bill, and I am sure that they would not hesitate to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

The Euro-sceptics would vote for the social chapter not because they support it, but in the belief that it would provide a means of preventing the treaty's ratification. But would it? That is the central question. If I were persuaded that ratification would be impossible if the protocol on social policy were removed, it would not be inconsistent for me to vote against amendment No. 27—no more inconsistent than our support on Second Reading for the Bill minus the social chapter, or our support for the Government in regard to the paving motion. If the United Kingdom does not ratify the treaty, it will collapse, and with it the new social chapter. As I have said, however, I do not believe that we are facing that possibility yet.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, as, indeed, is the whole House. It will not surprise him to learn that I consider it unlikely that any Conservative Member would find it possible to support the social protocol; that, however, is a matter for my hon. Friends.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the social protocol is an integral part of the treaty of Rome. We shall be party to that protocol even if the arrangements of the 11, which are attached to it, do not apply to the United Kingdom. It follows that if the amendment were carried, United Kingdom law would not conform to the provisions of the treaty so we could not ratify it. Thereafter, an intergovernmental conference would have to take place.

The hon. Gentleman may not have been present when I mentioned this before, but when the Irish Government were confronted with a technical point on a protocol relating entirely to abortion—one which did not affect any other member state's ability to ratify—they were denied the opportunity of a 30-second intergovernmental conference to make that amendment, because other member states feared the consequences for the future of the treaty if a new intergovernmental conference were held.

It is true that under article 236 of the treaty of Rome, once an intergovernmental conference has taken place to amend the treaty, the amendment shall enter into force after being ratified by all Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional rules. Whatever disagreements we may have about the direction in which we wish the European Community to go, I think that there will be common ground between me and the Liberal Democrats we should not wish to subject the Community again to the six months through which the Community has recently lived—the Danish and French referendums and other demarches. Therefore, I was pleased to hear what the hon. Gentleman said, and I hope that he will continue to reflect on these issues.

Sir Russell Johnston

I have nothing to add, but my only comment on what the Minister said is that the advice we have thus far been given does not accord with what he said. However, I shall consider it carefully.

Mr. Michael Spicer

Where does the hon. Gentleman's party stand—will it vote for or against amendment No. 27?

Sir Russell Johnston

I have just told the Committee, and there is no point in repeating myself. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to speak to the Committee.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I apologise for having been absent for an hour—I was in Committee Room 19 addressing a European teach-in for the Bermondsey Conservative Association. That explains my absence, although I have been here for the rest of the debates.

Not for the first time, the Minister of State has put us in a difficult position. We know that he is a difficult person, but people like me, who are worried about the implications of the Maastricht treaty and horrified about the decision not to allow the people to have their say, were astonished to hear the Minister say at the beginning that if this amendment, proposed by the Labour party, was to be accepted, it would not be possible for the Government to ratify the treaty. That leaves us in a difficult position.

Until I heard this debate, I was inclined to abstain in the vote, because all the nonsense about the social chapter and the great debates between our two parties are basically bogus. Conservative Members are telling their constituents that, if the social chapter is accepted, the red brigade will take over, trade union laws will be changed and we shall again have a red revolution in the United Kingdom. However, Labour hon. Members are saying that, if we do not have a social chapter, British workers will continue to be ground into the dust by the nasty employers because we shall not have the right to protect them.

I appreciate that, although those words were not used in the excellent speech of the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, in Essex Labour supporters have been saying that openly, even in places such as that represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess). Such views have, to some extent, been reflected in today's debate.

It was made abundantly clear in two excellent speeches by two of my younger hon. Friends—one of whom was the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin)—that the debate is based on bogus rubbish. It is clear that a huge amount of legislation relating to social affairs has already been passed. If hon. Members were wise enough to go to the Library, they would find a long list of trade union legislation and legislation on the rights of people which has already been passed.

For example, under the social action programme of the European Community, as of 1 May 1992, of the 50 proposals contained in the programme, 38 have been published and, of those, 21 had been agreed. They relate to a wide range of matters affecting the rights of people, the rights of women and opportunities for employment.

Let us consider the astonishing 48-hour week directive. Baroness Thatcher must be appalled that part of the Single European Act for which she fought so hard—I voted against it because I was doubtful about it—is being used to promote that directive. As some hon. Members may know, yesterday I asked the Minister of State, Department of Employment what we are going to do about it because it is being implemented under the, health and safety conventions of the Single European Act. I was told that, if the directive remained unchanged, the Government would consider going to the European Court. Most of it has already been discussed and agreed, including the remarkable paragraph which states that French bakers should be exempt from the 48-hour week but that British bakers should not. When I inquired why that had been agreed, I was told that it was part of the bargaining process.

Two facts have emerged. First, it is almost certain that the 48-hour week directive would be supported by the European Court if the Government were to challenge it —that does not seem to be in doubt—and we are bargaining like mad to get something which is broadly acceptable. Therefore, if the Minister considers it absolutely terrible and frightful, he should think again, because most of it will happen anyway.

The Minister may ask why, if that is so, did anyone bother to include that particular protocol? The reason why the social chapter was wanted was basically one of presentation. The European Community is constantly increasing its power. The court, the Commission and some of the members who do not scrutinise measures adequately are adding to its powers all the time. The sad fact is that today we have not heard one example of the type of legislation which might be introduced under the social chapter but could not be introduced under existing legislation. Therefore, the whole argument is bogus. It will not make a great difference whether we have a social charter.

I wish that hon. Members would have the courage to face what is happening. We must remember that articles 2 and 3 of the treaty will add enormously to the legislation on which the European Court can rule as being relevant for the European Community. We should also not forget the possibility that the exclusion of the United Kingdom might cause problems in fair trading across frontiers. Some of the legal people whom I have consulted and who have written me letters have said that a case could be made for saying that we are in breach of that aspect of the treaty. However, that is pretty irrelevant.

Whether or not we have a social charter will make precious little difference. The social charter excludes many areas of activity about which particular concern has been expressed. If Conservative hon. Members are doubtful about the dangers of current legislation, they should consider the details of the 48-hour week directive, which is horrifying.

There is always the possibility—although I would not suggest that it might be true—that the Minister of State is wrong in saying that, if we have a social chapter and get rid of the protocol, we must therefore scrap the treaty. I do not say that because he is in the habit of being wrong, but Ministers can sometimes be badly advised when they have to give urgent advice. However, if what he said is correct, we would have another opportunity to consider the issue. If the amendment were passed, we still have Report stage during which issues can be reviewed.

The Minister should be aware that there is a large groundswell of opinion in the Conservative party—it has been supported by two excellent speeches tonight—to the effect that, sadly, the process has been going through, is going through and will continue to go through under previous legislation. The social chapter will make precious little difference.

8.30 pm

However, tonight hon. Members will have to vote on whether we want to promote the ratification of Maastricht. I would love there to be a referendum for the people—but I know that if I so much as mention the word I shall be told that I cannot talk about that because it will be discussed later.

As the Minister of State has said clearly and precisely that if the social chapter is included we cannot ratify the treaty, hon. Members will appreciate that that is what we shall be voting on tonight. Having made that idea abundantly clear, the Minister of State may want to say now that it is not as simple as that. The Government may wish to say that, because of the uncertainty, there may be a case for allowing the people of Britain to make up their minds for themselves. As always, the Minister of State endeavours to be helpful to all hon. Members. He tries to put facts clearly and precisely before them, but he should be aware that although it is nice and pleasant when he makes the position so clear, in doing so he has created problems in the minds of hon. Members such as myself.

I do not want to give additional powers—

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

I have listened carefully to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) agonising. Over the years I have heard him agonising quite a lot. What he is saying is interesting and valuable to the House, but may I make it clear that, because of the rules of order, we shall not vote this evening on the crucial issue over which, rightly, he is apprehensive. We shall reach the vote on amendment No. 27 at a much later stage. However, I endorse the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions, and welcome his support, if such support is possible, for amendment No. 27.

Sir Teddy Taylor

That is the problem. I appreciate that we shall not vote on amendment No. 27 tonight. We are all aware of that; we try to follow matters—although I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. But how does that help us? It will make it more difficult. We shall have to talk to more people. We shall have to talk to our constituents and tell them that we are in an impossible position. We have voted against giving extra power to the EC—and extra cash, too. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) is well aware, the proposals concerned involve giving more cash to Europe—more European expenditure. In my view, that is wasted money and jobs in Britain will be destroyed.

All the examples that we have seen of the EC spending money—the common agricultural policy, among other things—have destroyed jobs and wasted money. It would be infinitely better if all the EC expenditure plans, subsidies, seminars and all those great conferences which Foreign Office officials attend, were abolished, and instead we sent aeroplanes to Europe to drop £10 notes at random. The money would be far more effectively directed than it is now.

I do not want the EC to take control of educational and cultural policy, as it does now. I am happy to be a Conservative and to say that the EC wastes money on fraudulent schemes.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

To help my hon. Friend to develop the argument whether, if the amendment were passed, it would destroy the process of ratifying Maastricht—that is an important concept to establish—may I add that the protocol would simply allow the other 11 countries which signed it to use the administration of the EC after Maastricht is ratified to put those arrangements into effect? If that connection were broken, the process of ratification must come to a halt. There would then have to be an immediate intergovernmental conference, because the whole set-up would have to be reconfigured and pushed back out for ratification. That is quite clear; most legal minds would come to that conclusion.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I had been doubtful about what the Minister of State said—not because I doubt him as a person, but because the Foreign Office sometimes says things and then has to revise them. But my hon. Friend's support removes that doubt and that makes my problem even greater.

Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen may laugh at what I say, and they may attribute my actions to all kinds of causes. But I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose from all this. I am a chap who has been here a long time and I have no ambitions. But I have seen more misery, unemployment, and horror in Southend on Sea over the past year than I have ever seen in my life—and I have spent most of my time in this place representing a Scottish constituency. Things are terrible. When I think of the money wasted on the EC, on fraud, and on forcing up food prices artificially; when I think of the horrors of the EC's loss of trade throughout the world, and the way in which step by step it is ceasing to compete in the world; when I think of the growing unemployment, I want to stop more money and more power going to the EC.

As has rightly been said, we have listened to the arguments year after year. In fairness I must say that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) is one of the most conscientious Members of the House. He is always here—and he, too, has heard time and again people saying, "Perhaps things are not right. Just give the EC a bit more power. Let them sit round a table and allow them to control things, and somehow things will get better." Instead, things got worse and worse and worse.

Our trade with Europe is getting worse, and the amount that we pay into Europe is growing. The burdens on the poor people of Britain are getting infinitely worse. We must remember that the people who suffer from all this are not Members of Parliament, who have decent salaries and sometimes other incomes, too, but the poor people. It is they who are losing their jobs and cannot get them back. They are paying an extra £17.50 a week for their food, and the £4 membership fee. All this matters a great deal to them.

When the Government introduced the Maastricht treaty, I said, "No, this is wrong—wrong for Southend and wrong for Britain." All kinds of terrible pressures were put upon us, but I said no. I could not care less what they do —I shall vote against Maastricht because it is wrong.

I think that the amendment is bogus nonsense. I do not believe that the social chapter will make any great difference. But then the Minister, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), who clarified the situation, says that if the amendment is accepted the treaty cannot be ratified. The treaty will be gone; it will be finished and they will have to start again. That gives me hope and expectation. I am delighted that, because of the rules of order, we shall not vote on the amendment tonight, and I hope that all hon. Members will think carefully about how to vote when the occasion arises. They will not be voting simply on the social chapter or the protocol; they will be voting whether they want to ratify the treaty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North made a brilliant speech earlier today, in which he made his position absolutely clear. What he said clarified again the fact that we are dealing with something terribly important and significant. We shall vote on whether we ratify Maastricht.

Fortunately, there are several days, perhaps even several weeks, before we have to make the decision, but I hope that hon. Members will appreciate what they are voting about. We shall not be voting for the nonsense of party propaganda; we shall not vote for those silly Tories who say that red revolution will come from the social chapter; we shall not vote for stupid socialists who say that without the social chapter the employers will take over and screw down the workers. We shall be voting on the ratification of Maastricht. In those circumstances, I hope that all hon. Members will think most carefully and prudently before deciding how to cast their votes.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)

I should like to address the industrial aspects of amendment No. 7.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) has made a point that is quite different from those made by most other Conservative Members. Most Tory Members have said that the reason for opting out of the social dimension is to protect British industry from the so-called burdens of the social chapter. Another argument has also been used: that if we were to increase the costs of industry, inward investment would probably be curtailed. I think that both those arguments are wrong, and my opinion in that regard is based on my own 25 years' experience in industry and commerce before I became a Member of Parliament. Matters are far more complex than these arguments suggest.

There is also the political dimension, which, in reality, has been excluded for the purpose of holding parts of the Conservative party together during the passage of the Bill. In other words, at the back of all this there is a cosmetic exercise.

The history of the Government's policy for industry, shows that it has been absolutely disastrous. The capacity of British industry has been reduced drastically, and the development of high-tech industries in particular has been impaired by lack of Government help. Investment in manufacturing industry in this country has been very poor, leaving it not only reduced in size but also in many cases out of date. The monetarist views that we had during the 1980s were based on the argument that the return from investment in British industry would be pretty low—3 or 4 per cent.—whereas in other sectors of the economy the return would be far greater. Thus, British industry was largely neglected.

There is no point in Conservative Members' thinking that, if we get an opt-out built into the legislation, nothing else will be needed for British industry. That is wrong. The package that we need is a complex one, but it certainly includes investment incentives. We need a well trained work force, we need people in the right places at the right time, and we need demand in the economy. There is a shortage of good policies for industry.

A good social policy for industry can result in greater profitability. The notion that simple reduction of costs is the only route to profitability is quite often fallacious. Much depends on what sort of industry one is in.

A few days ago, I had a meeting with a number of directors of BP. Many of the things that the social contract refers to are already done by such companies. They say, "What on earth are Members of Parliament talking about? These practices already exist in most modern, profitable, efficient industries." The assumption—it is one that has been made many times today—is that, on aggregate, low labour costs result in greater profits. That is a highly questionable assumption.

Let us take the high-tech industries. What one needs in the case of computers, information technology networks, and so on—value-added industries that can be highly profitable—is good working conditions and a work force who are well educated and well trained. In addition, there is a need for excellent management so that investment will be sensible and will yield good results. It is absurd to suggest that people working in industry should be screwed down by poor conditions. I suppose one could argue that in some cases—low-tech or no-tech industries—keeping workers in appalling conditions might work. But that is not where Britain ought to go. I want to see development in the high-tech area, which will lead to far greater prosperity and to reversal of the decline that we have had for so many years.

The European market is one of the most sophisticated, and certainly, with 350 million people, the largest in the world, and it provides extraordinary opportunity for Britain. It is nothing short of absurd to argue that the social conditions under which people so crucial to the well-being of the country are employed should be impaired.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

Surely the argument concerning the social chapter is about why the Opposition seek to have some other organisation bring in elements of what they want, as they no longer believe that they themselves are capable of doing so, whereas Conservative Members believe that it is for us to take those decisions.

8.45 pm
Mr. Randall

I do not think that that is the question at all. Our future is unquestionably in Europe. Industry, particularly some high-tech industries with very high development costs, including the costs involved in putting out new products, tends to cross national boundaries to a large extent. However, most jobs will be created not in the bigger industries but in the smaller and medium-sized industries. Article 2(2) refers to the directives that will be necessary to implement these social policies: Such directives shall avoid imposing administrative, financial and legal constraints in a way which would hold back the creation and development of small and medium-sized undertakings. That makes sense; I can live with it.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman think that social spending in this country would be higher under the social chapter than it would be if these matters were left to ourselves?

Mr. Randall

I am not sure. The question is whether, if there were higher costs, investment would be profitable. What I am saying is that investment in the types of industry in which Britain desperately needs to be involved in the future could be good. As I cannot assess the scale, I cannot give a definite answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question.

There is, for instance, the question of existing practices.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) made the point that many of these things are under way in any case. I am not fearful of improving the conditions and the productivity of people. Essentially that is what we are on about. We want British industry to be productive. Undertakings that are productive can compete in the value-added areas that, in turn, will create great prosperity.

Earlier there was a reference to China. I was in China a couple of months ago. In the area north of Hong Kong —in fact, throughout China—the aggregate growth rate of that great country is about 16 per cent. Indeed, down in the Hong Kong area it is about 20 per cent. There is no inflation, and there is no great debt. In addition, there is political stability, despite Tiananmen square and all that. But we shall not be competing with those people. As the average wage there is about £1,000 a year, it would be impossible for us to do so. That is out of the question. Our niche is in the high-tech areas where worker conditions, including training, must be enhanced.

I want to say something about inward investment. Today we have heard the phoney argument that businesses —for example, from Taiwan—that want to invest in this country are willing to come only because wages are very low. I do not believe that to be the case. A business will invest in Britain if it can do so profitably. What will determine profitability is the kind of work force that is available, as well as opportunities to market products in this country and throughout the Community. The idea that imposing a social dimension on British industry will result in inward investment plunging is nothing short of absurd.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I was amazed to hear what the hon. Gentleman said a moment ago. He said that, because cost levels in the far east market were driven by the low wage levels there, western Europe and Britain in particular could give up competing with the far east. He implied that we should therefore set up walls round Europe and that we should just dabble around within them. That is the hon. Gentleman's logic, which is the logic of the social provisions. That makes no sense. We are a world trading nation and we should continue to be so.

Mr. Randall

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to draw that conclusion from what I said. I was talking about low-tech or no-tech areas such as textiles—making T-shirts or lace tablecloths—in which there is terrific labour intensity. One can buy such goods in China which are nothing short of exquisite. If we tried to make similar products in a British factory, we could not compete. I do not believe we should focus our attention on such areas.

I regret that during the 1980s, especially when Lord Lawson was Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was a lot of talk about us being, not high-tech or low-tech, but no-tech. We were attempting to compete in that area, which was not what we should have been doing. In that area, one is competing against countries where the wage costs may be one tenth of what they are in this country. It is absurd to contemplate that.

What we should do is co-operate with such countries in joint ventures and work with them on high-technology projects. That is how things work in practice. I will not pursue that point in greater depth. I hope that I have undermined the two key points made this evening by Conservative Members.

For the United Kingdom to opt out from the protocol, as amendment No. 127 would require, is wrong. All the elements of the policy are described on page 118 of the treaty, so I shall not attempt to summarise them. Any good business man would naturally and obviously want to implement those elements in practice. Improved working conditions and dialogue between management and labour are essential. If business people are not doing that these days, heaven forbid—they are dinosaurs and do not deserve to succeed. There is a two-way street involving the attitude of the work force as well as the attitude of management. Article 2.2 involves the gradual implementation of all the provisions. The implementation will not be carried out in a way that will inhibit business.

The Government's track record on industry is absolutely appalling. We have heard comments about the abolition of the wages councils. We are the odd ones out in Europe in terms of the implementation of this element of policy, and I regret that very much. I wish that we could all vote for that element of policy when we divide on amendment No. 127. That would be for the well-being of this country, for the well-being of our industrial base, for the well-being of the people and for prosperity in the future.

Mr. Cash

I was somewhat puzzled by some of the remarks made by the Minister of State about the implications of the matters we are discussing in the context of ratification of the treaty. In considering the nature of the opt-out purportedly given to the Danish Government and people, it struck me that enormous emphasis was given to ensuring that a system is devised by way of the so-called "informal" decision which would preclude the necessity for ratification. I mentioned earlier that Chancellor Kohl had made that very point. Apparently it has been claimed that ratification would not be required.

The provisions deal with economic and monetary union, among other things, which are most firmly within the aegis of the Court of Justice and appear prima facie to affect the treaty of Rome. There is a serious question—I put it at that level at the moment—about the nature of the distinction made by the Minister of State on the question of ratification vis-a-vis the social chapter on the one hand and the questions I am raising vis-a-vis the Danish so-called "opt-outs" and the issue of ratification as respects the treaty of Rome on the other.

Mr. Garel-Jones

It is perfectly clear, not just from the legal advice from the Council secretariat but from the legal advice of the Foreign Ministries of every other member state that the Danish decision is such that it will not require re-ratification. The decision that must be made by Conservative Members has nothing to do with ratification. The decision that must be made is clear.

The social protocol, in a sense, enshrines everything that the Conservative party has fought against and won over the past decade. That is why the Opposition seek to import it into the treaty. The decision for Conservative Members is nothing to do with whether this amendment affects ratification. That is a matter for Opposition Members who claim to be in favour of ratification of Maastricht. Our decision is simple. I think I had better leave it at that.

Mr. Cash

That may be as well. Some of us believe that there are profound and deep strains—indeed rich seams —of socialism which run through the Maastricht treaty. The cohesion funds are one example. I know that my right hon. Friend fought hard to keep them out— [Interruption.] He did not try to keep them out. He was obviously encouraging member states to keep them in. None the less, such arrangements are deeply socialist. There are many other aspects of the treaty which correspond to the social engineering to which my right hon. Friend referred just now and which we have been opposing for so long.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend is right in one sense —we have had this debate across the Floor of the House on several occasions. Each political party represented here would seek to use the treaty to pursue the same political ends that it seeks to pursue in the United Kingdom. Of course Opposition Members would seek to use it as an instrument for socialism; we seek to use it as an instrument for advancing the policies of the free and open market. As regards this narrow amendment, however—my hon. Friend and all of us on this side of the House must speak for ourselves—it would be extremely difficult for any Conservative Member to justify, in relation to our own party and to the basis on which we have conducted ourselves for the past decade, supporting the amendment moved by the Labour party.

Mr. Cash

I am simply making the point that I made just now about the European People's party, into which our own Conservative MEPs are subsumed by the agreement made on 11 April 1991, with the chairman of the Conservative party writing to Wilfried Martens, requesting membership, and clearly stating that the request for the incorporation of Conservative MEPs within the membership of the European People's party had the full support of the Prime Minister, no less; it could bear some examination in this context. As I understand it—I am open to correction—the European People's party, so closely related to Egon Klepsch and all these worthy Christian Democrats—

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I had hoped to have an evening when I would not have to call the hon. Gentleman to order, but what he is saying has very little to do with the social fund or the amendment before us.

Mr. Cash

The Minister of State was making a point about the question of our party—

The Chairman

Order. The Minister of State was replying to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Cash

The question of what this particular provision does in respect of the political decisions that we make on the Government side of the House can be put very simply. That is what we are talking about. The European People's party has this view. It is a view shared by the Christian Democrats. I recall a conversation in June or July 1990 with an eminent Conservative who told me that, in the context of matters of this kind, it would be as well for people such as myself to understand that we lived somewhat in the past, that what we required now was a grey man's Europe, something administrative that we could just deliver, and that this would be in the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom. I remember that conversation very well. Perhaps the Minister of State remembers it too.

9 pm

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend has given us the view of Mr. Egon Klepsch and the European People's party, but he will agree with me, will he not, that there is no doubt about the view of the Conservative party in the United Kingdom in this matter?

Mr. Cash

Without a shadow of doubt, so far as we are tied into the European People's party, as we are, it presents serious questions about the extent to which one can serve two masters.

Mr. Biffen

If my hon. Friend is going to conduct this valuable task of evaluating the range of opposition to and support for the social chapter, one should put on record the fact that in this Chamber my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) has regretted that the Government have not signed up for the social chapter.

Mr. Cash

I am indebted to my right hon. Friend for reminding me of that extremely important statement, and I am delighted to know that it is now well and truly on the record, because it tells us a great deal about what is going on.

Mr. Jenkin

Am I not right in saying that the National Union of the Conservative Party, or some other Conservative party body, accepts as an appointee a representative of the European People's party, which is committed to a federal Europe?

Mr. Cash

Yes, and that body is very determined to see a federal constitution brought in.

I want to get back to amendment No. 27. It would be misleading to describe this protocol as an opt-out for the United Kingdom from the social chapter. The whole thing works differently, because the social chapter is not part of the Maastricht treaty; instead, it is a separate agreement between the other 11 member states. In fact, the United Kingdom is not actually a party to it, and deletion of the protocol would not make the United Kingdom a party to it.

The effect of the protocol is simply to allow the other 11, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) pointed out in an intervention, to make use of the Community institutions for administering their social agreement. The effect of the protocol is therefore that the 11 would no longer have permission to use the Community institutions for the administration of their social agreement.

There are further and wider effects of carrying the amendment. I see the Minister of State shaking his head, but—before another distinguished lawyer tries to develop an argument in an intervention—I am sure that he will appreciate that many of these matters depend on interpretation. Indeed, the extent to which the provisions of the social charter as they apply to the other 11 and the relationship of those provisions in law to what we have already acceded to under article 118a and so on of the Single European Act needs to be considered in this context. For example, the 48-hour working week has already reappeared in another guise, notwithstanding the fact that it is supposed to be a part of the social chapter.

I have asked Ministers, not over the past few weeks but repeatedly, even when the process was being negotiated, why we did not get these matters sorted out by amending and improving the Single European Act, as I have said with respect to many other provisions in the Maastricht treaty, in advance of the conclusions that were arrived at which have led to the difficulties that I see the Minister of State and the Government suffering from in respect of the social chapter.

Had we, for example, given ourselves the power by negotiation, or at least sought to give ourselves the power, to challenge what are blatantly ultra vires arrangements in respect of provisions in the Single European Act by procedural means such as an action for a declaration—I have repeatedly put this to Ministers—we could have avoided all the difficulties of subsequent interpretation when everything has been sewn up. We could end up with only a hope that we might be able to manage to get a little bit of a concession out of the argument at the end of the day. By the use of the existing powers, but without the opportunity to challenge them in the courts, we are put in an impossible position. That is effectively where we stand in this matter.

If article 118a within the Single European Act is used, in respect not merely of the 48-hour working week but of a range of other matters, we will find precious little difference between what is contained in the extended use of the existing legislative base and what is in the social chapter, anyway. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford has already made that point.

If the amendment were agreed, the other 11 member states would no longer have permission to use the Community institutions to administer their social agreement. They would need to amend that agreement to set up their own institutions separate from the Community institutions, and the Maastricht treaty would almost certainly need to go back to an intergovernmental conference.

Much of the enthusiasm that I have heard from Conservative Members and, to some extent, from Opposition Members has come from that group of Members of Parliament who believe in what I generally describe as Disraelian politics. I have always been a great devotee of Disraelian politics. I have always believed in the social dimension. Indeed, even in the early 1960s I belonged to an organisation that was almost entirely devoted to the memory of Disraeli, for a very good reason.

There is nothing incongruous in having policies that are a mixture of some of the liberal policies of the late 19th century—the desire of people such as Bright to ensure that people in factories had proper conditions, and Disraeli's determination to improve the lot of trade unionists and people working in deprived circumstances in factories. In fact, Bright and Disraeli worked out a relationship— effectively a coalition—to ensure that the Reform Act 1867 went through. That Act gave us our democracy, and it is being undermined by the treaty. I profoundly believe that provisions of the sort in the social chapter have a resonance for those in the Conservative party and the One Nation group.

Mr. Wells

Can my hon. Friend explain the result of his arguments tonight? As I understand it, he said that article 118a, which was agreed in the Single European Act, will introduce a large measure of legislation of the sort that he anticipates under the social protocol dealing with the social chapter.

Is my hon. Friend arguing that we should include the social chapter in the current treaty because we will get it under article 118a or that we should embrace what our negotiators in Maastricht tried to do, which was to exclude the social chapter, so that we can put a stop to the events under article 118a which my hon. Friend and I resent?

Mr. Cash

I simply say that the provision, as with so many other provisions in the treaty, is like looking in a hall of mirrors. It relates to interpretation, assertion and whatever appears to be the sort of gearing and spin that people want to put on it at a given time. I am left with the severest doubts about the arguments that have been presented on the subject over time. I remain as doubtful about those arguments as I could be about anything.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My hon. Friend will remember clearly that, when the Single European Act was going through this Parliament, we were given reassurances about matters that would not be affected by that Act and the advantages of it to the United Kingdom. Sadly, experience has shown, as it did with the 1972 proposals, that the outcome is different from what we were told in debates. That is why we are cynical today.

Mr. Cash

We have the continual problem of the shifting sands of argument and interpretation on these matters. I conclude simply by saying that one constantly finds that the arguments are distorted by the hall of mirrors, just as I find with the provisions of the treaty.

The same sort of confusion and uncertainty are created by our finding that the argument is put forward based on a good interpretation of the provisions in the social chapter by Ministers for the purposes of the United Kingdom, the Conservative party and its representatives in Parliament. The people whom I strongly supported when I was campaigning in the European elections in 1987 and who have joined the European People's party, adopt completely different positions. One cannot serve two masters. That is the point on which I am happy to conclude.

9.15 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Noon (Ashfield)

The first thing that needs to be said about the social chapter is that it contains nothing new in principle. Sometimes, when one hears Conservative Ministers talking about the social chapter, one would think that it contained agreements dreamed up by the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress over beer and sandwiches. But the European Community has always had a social dimension. That social dimension was clearly set out in the treaty of Rome. The Community has always sought to balance the centralising tendencies of the single market by protecting the interests of individuals directly affected by it.

Therefore, it is not surprising as we debate the social chapter today that the European Community, as it moves steadily towards the completion of the single market, should seek to strengthen the social dimension. I am almost tempted to say that such a process is historically inevitable, but I suspect that I had better not.

I assume that the Government agree with articles 117 to 122 of the treaty of Rome. They contain a series of social provisions. Article 117 says: Member States hereby agree upon the necessity to promote improvement of the living and working conditions of labour. Article 118 calls for close co-operation in employment, labour law and working conditions. That also includes vocational training, social security, prevention of occupational accidents and diseases, occupational hygiene, the right of association and collective bargaining between employers and workers. That is all in the treaty of Rome. It is not a bad summary of what can be found if one looks at the detail of the social chapter. It has all been decided and agreed before by Conservative Ministers.

Even as recently as in the Single European Act, the Government accepted the competence of the European Community to introduce new European legislation dealing specifically with social issues. For example, article 118A of the Single European Act deals with new legislation on health and safety. Once again, the Government were happy and comfortable in approving European Community competence on social matters.

A fundamental misunderstanding by the Government of the implication of the Single European Act has got them into their present difficulty with the social chapter. The Government failed to appreciate how close was the connection between the creation of a single market and the consequential social protection that every other European country sees as the inevitable consequence of that single market.

Article 100A of the Single European Act was deliberately drafted to cover the establishment and functioning of the internal market. That is not only the rules required to create a single market, but the consequences of that single market. In the context of the social chapter, it means the consequences for people. The social chapter simply sets out in more detail the consequences of that single market as it affects individuals throughout the European Community.

It was perhaps only when the Government woke up to those consequences and to what they had agreed in the Single European Act that Margaret Thatcher, as she then was, started being difficult. When the Heads of Government signed the Community charter of the fundamental social rights of workers in December 1989, only the United Kingdom Government found it impossible to accept a list of fundamental rights affecting freedom of movement—something to which the Government had already agreed by accepting the treaty of Rome—employment, working conditions, equal treatment for men and women, the protection of children, protection of the elderly and protection of the disabled.

I am sure that, if hon. Members tried to draw up a list of worthy causes, they probably could not do any better than the social charter. It would be difficult to imagine a set of people more deserving of protection and assistance. Yet, way back in December 1989, the Government found it impossible to accept that list, which forms the basis of the social chapter.

My argument therefore is that the list in the fundamental charter is already extensively covered by existing obligations under the treaty of Rome and the Single European Act and has been accepted by all the other European Community Governments— Governments of the left, coalition Governments of the centre and Governments of the right—not once, but on a number of occasions.

Why do the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom find it so difficult to go along with the views of their parliamentary allies in the European Parliament and their political allies on the continent? The German Christian Democrats have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the social chapter, as has every other major political party on the centre right of the political spectrum in the Community.

We have heard a great deal from the Conservatives about their commitment to Europe. We also heard a great deal about it when the Conservative Members of the European Parliament joined the European People's party. Tonight there has been some discussion of the fact that it is okay for Conservative Members of the European Parliament to support the social chapter because they are part of the European People's party in the European Parliament and it is permissible.

It will be interesting to find out the position of the Conservative party during the next European elections, which are not too far away in June 1994. The Conservatives will put up candidates and clearly they will be asked for their view of the social chapter. What will be the answer? Will they say that Conservative Members of the European Parliament have consistently supported the social chapter in that Parliament and that therefore it is okay to vote Conservative, or will they give the answer that we have heard this evening—that the Conservatives are against the social chapter and that they will all vote against it? They cannot have it both ways and say in the House that they are against the social chapter, yet allow their Members of the European Parliament to vote in favour of it consistently.

Mr. Wells

I venture to suggest that the difference between the hon. Gentleman's view and that of the Conservative party is not that we disagree about making certain that the social conditions of the workplace are properly conducted and that there are fair wages and working conditions, but that we believe that those matters should be determined at national level—or perhaps not even at national level. We believe, as the Labour party used to believe, that they should be settled between an employer and an employee, represented by his trade union and by free collective bargaining. What is at stake is whether such matters should be determined at supranational level, disregarding the cultural and local conditions that apply in the workplace and make for harmonious management-worker relationships. It would be disastrous to lay down laws on such matters at international level.

Mr. Hoon

I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would deal with my argument about the apparent discrepancy between the views of Conservative Members of the European Parliament and their counterparts here.

Mr. Bill Walker


Mr. Hoon

To be fair to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), I should try to answer his question. The answer can be found in the documents that I mentioned: the treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the social chapter, which does not achieve what the hon. Gentleman suggests. The social chapter does not prescribe all the terms and conditions affecting relations between employers and employees, but seeks to set out a framework, which is guaranteed at an international level. As more multinational corporations operate throughout the Community, the need for consistent standards will become inevitable. That was the point of my earlier argument. If we have a single market, it must regulate activities across all that market, on behalf of employees and businesses. That is the point of the social chapter.

Mr. Wells

When the Single European Act was introduced, we thought exactly as the hon. Gentleman describes: that it contained general statements of intent which would be settled in detail at local as well as national level. What has happened is that enthusiasts in the Community have, time and again, extended the meaning of articles 117, 118a and so on to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It was at that point that my colleagues and I on the Select Committee on European Legislation and others began to smell a rat and say that we should halt and go no further. We cannot agree to the social charter, and therefore we cannot agree to the social protocol.

Mr. Hoon

The difficulty with the hon. Gentleman's argument is that the enthusiasts to which he refers are the European Commission. It has the sole right of initiative to make law. There are two British Commissioners, one of whom is a Conservative, and they and their colleagues are responsible for putting forward legislative proposals. Those proposals are then discussed in the European Parliament and, ultimately, a decision is taken by the Council of Ministers—a Conservative Minister is, at all times, a member of that Council.

We are not talking about an alien body trying to impose things on the United Kingdom, but such is the language often used by Conservative Members. We are talking about Britain playing its full and effective role in the creation of the single market.

I had always assumed that Conservative Members saw the benefits of the single market in terms of benefits for business. They must accept, however, that it follows that those benefits must be extended to all those who work for those businesses. One cannot simply say that one will take advantage of the single market in favour of businesses and will not extend those benefits to their employees.

Mr. Bill Walker

I sought to intervene earlier when the hon. Gentleman drew attention to the fact that it would seem that Conservative Members of the European Parliament are not always in tune with the policies of the British Conservative party and Government. Can he reassure me that Labour Members of the European Parliament have always supported Opposition Front-Bench policy?

Mr. Hoon

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. In any political party there is a range of views, but I am sure that he would agree that there is something different between occasional disagreements over policy and something as fundamental as the social chapter. After all, his Government spent an extraordinary amount of time and invested too much political capital in opting out of the social chapter. They clearly thought that it was important and that it was in the national interests, as we have heard over and over again. In June 1994 the Conservative party will ask people to vote for its candidates in the elections to the European Parliament and I do not think that it is unreasonable for people to ask what those candidates stand for. They should know whether they stand for the policies of the European People's party or for those of the Conservative party of the United Kingdom.

The Chairman

Order. I do not think that electioneering comes under the terms of amendment No. 7.

Mr. Hoon

I was temporarily carried away by the enthusiasm of Conservative Members.

There is a difference between the attitude of continental businesses and Governments to the social chapter and that of the British Conservative Government. We have been told tonight and on countless previous occasions that the reason why the British Government are so keen to opt out of the social chapter is that it makes British business uncompetitive. Why is it that German, French and Italian companies appear to have no difficulty in accepting its provisions? There is no pressure on the Governments of those countries to opt out of the social chapter, but many of them are what we would describe as Conservative ones —they are supposed to share the philosophy of the British Conservative party. The reality is that those European businesses recognise the practical advantages of the social chapter to their operations. They know that without the guarantees of basic standards of social protection, their businesses could be fundamentally undermined in a single market by the deliberate driving down of such standards. Multinational corporations could play off one country against another.

German companies know full well that in a truly single market there will be a temptation for capital to move to those countries where the costs of business are lowest. That might well mean—[Laughter.] Conservative Members should hear my argument before gleefully seizing on the point that I am making. At present, the costs of doing business are lowest in countries like Greece and Portugal, where wage rates and standards of social protection are significantly lower than elsewhere in the Community.

9.30 pm

The German Christian Democrats—the political allies of the Conservative party have accepted those arguments. That is precisely why they are so much in favour of the social chapter. They know that if one allows capital to move to countries like Greece and Portugal, the only way in which it is possible to compete for such investment is to continue the spiralling down of standards that that would necessarily involve. It caused some glee among those on the Government Front Bench when I made that point, but I think that British people would be interested to know whether the policy of the British Government in opposing the social chapter is designed to drive down levels of social protection, wages and the benefits available to employees to the levels that pertain in Greece and Portugal.

Is the argument against the social chapter that we want to compete for inward investment by reducing standards and wages to make us the cheapest place in Europe to do business? If that is the argument, it should be spelt out more clearly than it has been. If the Government want to turn Britain into an offshore economy, they should say so clearly. If they object to the social chapter because they want the lowest social standards in Europe because, at present, conducting business here is more costly than in Portugal and Greece, it is incumbent on the Conservative party to say so clearly.

Some support for the Government's position has occasionally come from employers' organisations. We have heard such organisations cited in the arguments of Conservative Members. Those organisations claim that it is impossible for them to meet the cost of the social chapter in the United Kingdom, but those same organisations— often the same companies—have operations in France, Germany and Italy. The same companies that complain bitterly that, in the United Kingdom, they cannot afford the social chapter, can apparently afford those costs in Germany, France and Italy. I have never been able to understand the difference and why it is that a multinational corporation can cheerfully apply the standards of the social chapter in Germany, Italy or France, but not in the United Kingdom.

We are witnessing the creation of a double standard, which means that those same multinational corporations, when negotiating terms and conditions with their work force on the continent, adopt a different approach from that which they take with their work force in the United Kingdom. Such a double standard will create significant legal confusion among the contracts of employment of those in the United Kingdom and those elsewhere.

The Government's refusal to accept the social chapter creates a curious legal position. By refusing to endorse that section of the Maastricht treaty dealing with the social dimension, the other 11 countries gave themselves an option. They could accept that, because they could not obtain unanimity on that part of the treaty, it should disappear. If some of the arguments made earlier were correct and there is already a groundswell of opinion on the continent against the social chapter, presumably those other countries would have decided that if all 12 member states could not agree to the social chapter, that part of the treaty should fall. However, that has not happened.

In agreeing to the social protocol, those countries demonstrated their determination to make that part of the Maastricht treaty law. They went to the trouble of agreeing a protocol that bound 11 member states rather than all 12. They need not have done so. In the past, they would probably have quietly abandoned the process. If the arguments made earlier in today's debate were true and there was real opposition to the social chapter, those countries should have done that. Instead, 11 countries, rather than all 12, agreed to bind themselves under the social protocol.

What does that mean in practical legal terms? It is that those 11 countries can make legislation under the terms of the protocol which will be binding and effective in those 11 member states. Presumably, it will not be binding or effective in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Garnier

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, despite the fact that the social chapter will be enforced only in the 11 countries that have agreed to it, if our Parliament thought that the principles in the social chapter would be good for this country we could pass a Bill to incorporate them into British law? Just because we have not agreed to the social chapter at the same time as the 11 other countries does not mean that we are forbidden to introduce similar domestic legislation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would support such legislation, although we might disagree about forcing it on this country. His argument is based on a false premise.

Mr. Hoon

I accept that the Government could introduce such legislation, but that would rather defeat the purpose of opting out of the social chapter in the first place. If the Government intended to do that, presumably they would do so through the institutions of the European Community. That is what the other 11 member states wanted and expected the Government to do.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

If what the hon. Gentleman says is true, can he explain why Sir Michael Agnus of the CBI has said that 60 per cent. of all inward investment into the EC during the past 10 years has come to this country precisely because we do not have the sort of rules and regulations favoured by the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Hoon

That argument cannot be sustained on any rational basis. The figure of 60 per cent. has not been worked out in any sensible way. The hon. Gentleman misses the point of what the single market and the European Community is all about. It is not about inward investment to one member state; it is about creating a consistent legal approach across the Community. The Conservative party has argued enthusiastically for the creation of the single market because it says that it is good for the very business described by the hon. Gentleman. Conservative Members cannot claim that somehow or other, because it is good for business, those benefits should not be extended elsewhere. That argument has caused the Conservative party the greatest difficulty. It failed to understand the implications of the single market for those self-same businesses, many of which have operations thoughout the Community.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

I want to clarify what I said earlier. I meant to say that 60 per cent. of all Japanese and American inward investment in the Community came to this country. Is it not a fact that if we are to compete as an advanced western economy and if we are to create the maximum number of jobs, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party want, we must have a high-productivity and high-wage economy? The only way to achieve that is by reducing the barriers of trade, not by increasing them, which is what the social chapter would force on this country.

Mr. Hoon

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I want this country to be an advanced western economy. My concern is that by objecting to the social chapter on the ground that we want to reduce the costs of employing people—which is really the argument—we will not become an advanced western economy because we will be competing with poorest countries of western Europe and, indeed, the world. How will we develop the training, education and skills required if the Government are constantly preoccupied with driving down the standards that we need to improve if we are to become an advanced western economy?

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

It is clear that there is concern about competitiveness. This country is nothing like as strong and as competitive as it should be. There is an obvious contradiction in the Government's policy. They felt that they could not accept a social chapter that would raise costs for British industry —that is inevitable as it would lead to an improvement in working conditions—because at the time they were committed to a fixed exchange rate and therefore could not make any alteration in relative costs by allowing the exchange rate to adjust itself to increasing costs. Is not that the real reason? Therefore, now that the Government have abandoned the exchange rate mechanism, surely their whole argument in favour of not accepting the social charter has collapsed.

Mr. Hoon

As ever, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. However, I suspect that if I were to answer his question fully and talk about the exchange rate mechanism, you, Mr. Morris, would rebuke me once again for straying from the subject of debate. Therefore, I shall resist that temptation.

I have talked about the Government's double standards. They have consistently argued against the creation of a two-speed Europe. But, in conclusion, I invite right hon. and hon. Members to consider the legal regime that has been created in the EC as a result of opting out of the social chapter. We shall now have a two-speed Europe where other countries will be able, by virtue of the social protocol, to move ahead more quickly to protect their employees and their people, passing legislation that will apply in 11 of the member states, creating in the process not simply a two-speed Europe but a two-tier Europe with two separate legal systems within European law, one for Britain and one for the remaining members of the EC.

If Conservative Memberrs are puzzled about that argument, I shall develop it a little. Presumably, when new European law is made under the social protocol, it will bind only the 11 member states that have signed the social protocol. They will pass new legislation which will become binding within their own jurisdictions.

If there is then a legal dispute over the interpretation of a new directive or regulation, whatever it happens to be, the European Court of Justice will ultimately be responsible for interpreting EC legislation. Its decisions are binding on all EC member states by virtue of the treaty of Rome. Its decisions are binding on the United Kingdom by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972.

European Court decisions are usually a synthesis of a variety of different European legal materials. They will look at the treaties, at regulations and directives and at decided cases. They will then interpret the new directive under the social protocol and try to reach a decision on the case before them.

But in reaching that decision, where do we in the United Kingdom look for our case law? Do we look at all European Court decisions that do not involve the social protocol and say that that is European law in the United Kingdom, or do we look, as lawyers on the continent will look, at all the European Court decisions?

How can the Government agree when there are two separate legal jurisdictions? How do we decide what legal protection is available to citizens of the EC when there are two different standards based on the interpretation of legislation made under the social protocol? It is legal and constitutional nonsense to suggest that that can occur, but that is the reality of what the Government have achieved by opting out of the social protocol.

Mr. Marlow

One reason why hon. Members are told that they should agree to the Maastricht treaty is that, if we do not, and there is no Maastricht treaty, the other 11 will put their own Maastricht treaty together, excluding us. The the United Kingdom is a signatory to the treaty of Rome, which will still exist. Therefore, there cannot be a Maastricht treaty of 11 against the treaty of Rome, for exactly the same reason as the hon. Gentleman is putting forward.

Mr. Hoon

That is really the argument that I was developing in the specific area of the social protocol. There will be legislation under the social protocol which will be interpreted by the European Court of Justice, which will produce decisions. I invite the Minister when he replies to comment on the British Government's position. What exactly will they do when a case is decided by the European Court of Justice that has implications—

Mr. Cash

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Would it be out of order to be put in a position of knowing what sort of discussion is currently going on with respect to the procedures that are being followed in the House and the movement towards the 10 o'clock motion—

The Chairman

Order. The Chair is not interested in movements in the Chamber, as long as they do not interfere with what goes on between the Chair and the hon. Member who is speaking.

9.45 pm
Mr. Hoon

I have talked about the position of a citizen on the continent who is concerned about the implications of the social protocol, or legislation made under it. It follows, however, that a United Kingdom citizen— working, perhaps, for a multinational corporation, with counterparts in other Community countries—might feel understandably aggrieved if his or her rights in relation to the employer were significantly different from those of employees in exactly the same position, in a country that had agreed legislation under the protocol.

Dr. Godman

It appears that the European Court of Justice, in terms of the Maastricht treaty, will have the jurisprudence to deal with precisely such complaints. An individual citizen will have the right to take his or her Government to court—a domestic court, that is—if he or she, and his or her legal advisers, believe that the Government concerned are failing to protect his or her interests.

Mr. Hoon

That, to date, has been the position in principle and it will remain the position until the Maastricht treaty and the social protocol come into force. But what will happen if a new directive is agreed under the social protocol and the United Kingdom citizen feels that his or her rights may be covered by that protocol? If we advise such people to take their cases to the European Court of Justice, the Government are likely to tell us that they are not bound by the directive. Clearly, the rights of United Kingdom citizens will be second rate in comparison with those of continental citizens.

Mr. Shore

That being so, is not it almost certain that appeals would be made to the European Court and the British position would be undermined?

Mr. Hoon

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to answer for the Government. I doubt, however, whether the Government will concede that, if a United Kingdom citizen takes to the European Court a case based on a directive passed under the social protocol, the case can be decided by the European Court on the basis of that directive. The Government will say, "We opted out of the social chapter and did not sign the social protocol; therefore, the European Court of Justice has no jurisdiction in this case."

Dr. Godman

May I put the social chapter to one side for a moment and refer my hon. Friend to directives established under the aegis of article 118a of the Single European Act? Surely such directives would allow an individual citizen, or a trade union, to take the Government to the European Court.

Is not it interesting that, in all his interventions, the Minister of State has chosen to ignore the growing power of the European Court of Justice and the power that is to be given to it?

Mr. Hoon

The Government have not opted out of article 118a. They cannot do so now; they accepted it when they signed up to the Single European Act.

My hon. Friend has made a fair point. It is interesting to note that article 118a will cover much the same areas as the social policy protocol in the treaty. Further interesting confusion will result if the citizen whom I have described challenges a directive under the social protocol. What will be the Government's reaction? In most cases dealt with by the European Court of Justice, not just one case or directive is cited, but a series of cases or directives. How do we disentangle the part of the European Court's decision which is outside the social protocol from that which is inside? How will it work in the United Kingdom?

The Government are creating a confused legal situation and are undermining the constitution and coherence of the European Community. They claim to be at the heart of Europe, but they are doing fundamental damage to the coherence of the Community; they have confused its constitution and are now producing a confused and confusing legal situation. They are failing in their duty to United Kingdom citizens.

Mr. Garnier

I begin by referring to an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan). The amendment and those who support it are in essence seeking to do nothing other than destroy the treaty. I am sure that I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe that one must ratify the treaty as a whole or not at all.

Now that the negotiators have provided the House and the country with one treaty to be considered as a whole, it is not open to us to say that we like one bit and not another, that we shall take one bit and leave another. We must consider the document as a whole. The treaty includes the agreement on social policy concluded between member states of the European Community with the exception of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The treaty of Maastricht contains the protocol that opts us out of the social chapter. We must not believe that there is one treaty for the 11 and one for us—it is one treaty. It just so happens—thank goodness—that, having negotiated at Maastricht in December 1991, my right hon.

Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor were able to bring to the House a treaty which does not contain the social chapter.

I assure the House that the textile workers in my constituency are gratified that we shall not have to suffer under the imposition of provisions that may be attractive to the other 11 but which are wholly foreign and unnecessary to us and, I believe, destructive of the economy of the east midlands. By bringing the Maastricht treaty into English law, the Bill provides that domestic decisions take precedence over the social chapter. We do not have to do what the other 11 member states wish to do.

Article 1 of the agreement on social policy states: The Community and the Member States shall have as their objectives the promotion of employment,"— a very fine thing— improved living and working conditions,"— again, very fine aims— proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion whatever that means. It continues: To this end the Community and the Member States shall implement measures which take account of the diverse forms of national practices, in particular in the field of contractual relations,

Dr. Godman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Garnier

I shall finish the sentence. Article I concludes its list of objectives thus: and the need to maintain the competitiveness of the Community economy. They are no doubt wonderful objectives, but we have not agreed to them being included in the treaty. However, we do not need to prevent the other 11 member states from agreeing them. It is fortunate for us that we have not agreed to them on this side of the English channel.

Dr. Godman

I ask this question with no hidden motive: was the hon. Gentleman present to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith)? If he was, he will have heard his hon. Friend say that the European Court of Justice may level out some of the bumps to be found here in the exclusion of the social charter. He suggested that under article 118a individuals or organisations may be able to approach the European Court of Justice to ensure that they are treated similarly to the way in which individuals or organisations in the other 11 countries are treated.

Mr. Garnier

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that, sadly, I was not here while my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford was speaking. No doubt I shall have the advantage of reading my hon. Friend's speech tomorrow morning.

I shall continue to deal with what the treaty actually says. As I said, it must be remembered that the treaty is to be looked at as one document. As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, it does not contain the agreement on the social chapter which the other 11 member states have signed.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

The hon. Gentleman read out a list of what he described as wonderful things. Surely that description was not genuine. I reckon that that list contains simple, decent honest aspirations for the working folk of Great Britain. Surely such things should not be described as wonderful; people should be entitled to them.

Mr. Garnier

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said a moment earlier, perhaps he would not have said that. The aspirations that the other 11 countries have agreed should form part of the treaty may well be shared by many British people, for all we know. But the difference between us and the other 11 countries is that I believe that such matters should be decided domestically, not through the Maastricht treaty.

I argue from an unashamedly Tory point of view. I fully accept that the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham), being a full-blown socialist— [Interruption.]—or a full-blown something else, may well have other views. He may wish the EC and the Commission to interfere in the shape of his doorknobs and everything else. But neither I nor my constituents want the Commission to interfere in domestic employment law or the other matters set out in the protocol.

Mrs. Currie

Does my hon. Friend accept that much of our health and safety legislation, for example, is extremely good—well ahead of standards set elsewhere in Europe? Would not the Commission and the Council of Ministers be wise to consider the way in which we do things, instead of trying to impose other people's rules on us? Should they not accept that the way in which we do things should be the model for the rest of Europe?

Mr. Garnier

Not only do I agree with my hon. Friend, but I can think of no better person than her to go across to Europe to inform people exactly what we do here.

Mr. Enright

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Garnier

May I continue for one more moment?

As I said, my approach to the treaty is unashamedly Tory—and I am happy to say that that was also the approach of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues at the Maastricht negotiations. What is more, our approach is also one of unashamed British national self-interest. [Interruption.] Perhaps we are hearing oohs and aahs from the Opposition because they are ashamed of being British, and rather ashamed of what the Government have done to advance the self-interest of this country.

Paragraph 1 of article 2 of the protocol suggests that With a view to achieving the objectives of Article 1", which I have already mentioned, the Community shall support and complement the activities of the Member States in the following fields: —improvement in particular of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety". As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) has said, the British Parliament has already passed health and safety legislation well in advance of anything we can see elsewhere. Paragraph 1 of article 2 says:

With a view to achieving the objectives of Article 1, the Community shall support and complement the activities of the Member States in the following fields.

Mr. Marlow

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but THE CHAIRMAN withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Garnier

I repeat what paragraph 1 of article 2 says:

With a view to achieving the objectives of Article 1, the Community shall support and complement the activities of the Member States"—

It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee to report progress; to sit again tomorrow.

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