HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1046-132

Amendment proposed [20 January], No. 7, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert

(except Article 123 on page 31 of Cm 1934)".—[Dr. Cunningham.] Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

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

I remind the Committee that we are considering at the same time 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".

4 pm

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As a new Member, I admit to being somewhat bewildered by the procedure adopted in dealing with the Bill. Having talked to other hon. Members, I am sure that I am not alone in that. I have had the benefit of a brief seminar with the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). [Interruption.] I can assure the Committee that it was relatively brief. I think that I now understand the procedure being adopted and the strange reason for the order of the amendments printed on the amendment paper. I also think that I understand why we debate amendments and then vote on them some time later.

My point of order relates to making the whole process easier for hon. Members to understand. We have a selection of amendments before us, but there is no information on the list as to where the amendments are on the amendment paper. I have asked the Library to give me that information, and it has done so. Unfortunately it gave me the information with the page numbers from last Wednesday. For example, amendment 7 was on page 1425 last Wednesday. On today's amendment paper, amendment 7 is on page 1515.

I ask you whether a brief explanation of the procedure, and perhaps information on which pages the amendments are on the amendment paper, could be given to hon. Members to make our lives a little easier.

The Chairman

Like the hon. Lady, I have to go through the amendment paper every morning. As I do not make the final selection until about 12 o'clock each day, I suggest that she do the same homework as I do and find the amendments on the amendment paper. I hope that the inclusion of subject headings, which is an innovation, will help her to find what we should be debating.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. On behalf of the Committee, I thank you for all that you have done to date to make things as intelligible as possible. Would it be fair to say to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones) that it is the intention of all Community institutions that all Community legislation should be as unintelligible as possible?

The Chairman

We are lucky that the Committee is dealing with legislation which is intelligible.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Last Wednesday, we were discussing the social chapter. When the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) opened the debate on this group of amendments, he said that he and his hon. Friends were offering the Government an opportunity to embrace the social chapter which had overwhelming support throughout the European Community. He went on to castigate the Government for what he claims to be covering up the real impact of the provisions of the social chapter. That is an invitation which the Government should refuse, and the hon. Gentleman's description of the Government's conduct must be denied.

It must be recognised that the other 11 member states have agreed that they wish to be bound by the provisions of the social chapter. Equally, it must be recognised that those other 11 countries, represented by responsible and accountable political leaders, have agreed that they and not the United Kingdom should be bound by the social chapter. It is not a case of Britain forcing something on its EC partners but an example of all 12 countries unanimously coming to a single agreement—the Maastricht treaty, which contains provisions that affect the contracting parties, sometimes uniformly.

All the 12 countries have agreed that the social chapter will not apply to the United Kingdom. I am sure that it is recognised by all hon. Conservative Members that common social objectives and minimum standards should not be imposed artificially from above.

To adopt that approach is to invite interventionism and over-regulation and to threaten the competitive edge of the European Community as a whole. There is a danger in being over-prescriptive of adopting pan-European solutions which conflict with the traditions of each domestic market or the circumstances of individual companies.

Our decision not to be a party to the social chapter, which was taken with the assent of the 11 other countries, is not an example of our refusing to play ball and taking our bat home but the result of reasoned unwillingness to allow our country and its economy to be shackled by what we see as the dead weight of prescriptive interventionism, international employment legislation and the tendency to strengthen the role of trade unions.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

While the hon. Gentleman is—understandably, from his point of view—so much against the social chapter, will he bear it in mind that, if the treaty goes ahead, many employees in Britain will not need much encouragement to go to the European Court of Justice, despite Britain's opt-out? People may say, "If the other member countries have the provisions and facilities of the social chapter, why should we be denied them?" With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he should not conclude that, because the treaty will go ahead with the British opt-out, that will be the final say. His best bet would be to vote against the treaty.

Mr. Garnier

I never thought that I would hear a member of the Labour party encourage the creation of work for lawyers.

The social chapter and all that flows from it would push up industrial costs, inhibit job creation and blunt industrial competitiveness. It would have been a grave dereliction of duty for the Government to sacrifice the achievements of the 1980s in freeing the individual from the trade unions, creating a climate attractive to foreign investors and increasing the efficiency and productivity of British industry, by simply swallowing the social chapter with all the collectivist policies of welfare and employee rights which other European countries will increasingly find that they cannot afford.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As my hon. Friend has obviously studied the issue with great care and is an expert on the subject, will he give the House one example of a piece of legislation which he believes could come from the social chapter which could not come from article 100, or, indeed, from the health and safety provisions of the Single European Act? In view of what he has said, will he consider what happened only yesterday in Standing Committee F? EC-based legislation was passed which gave extra powers to the trade unions on wages, working conditions and takeovers.

Mr. Garnier

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the matter to which he refers flows from the Single European Act.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Give me one example.

Mr. Garnier

My hon. Friend will have an opportunity to catch the Chair's eye in due course.

Increasingly, the standards to beat in global manufacturing are being set in the east rather than on the continent of Europe. I am talking about higher labour costs. Those productivity pressures, coupled with the decline in the dollar against the European currencies in the late 1980s, have brought into sharp focus the high cost of labour in many European countries. That reflects the high non-wage elements in labour costs, such as social security payments and holiday entitlements. Such elements amount to almost 50 per cent. of total labour costs in Germany, France and Italy. By contrast, the United Kingdom appears to be much more competitive in terms of labour costs, despite similar levels of pay for time worked.

Two problems are highlighted by labour costs. The first is the impact on competitiveness relative to comparable industrialised economies, in particular the United States and Japan. The second is that, as the 1990s progress, EC producers are likely to face a twin competitive challenge from low-cost producers in the far east and on the eastern fringe of the EC. We all know that labour costs in the newly industrialised economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea are between one third and a fifth of those in EC countries.

Similarly, low labour costs will be enjoyed by companies producing in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. An uncompetitive Europe increases the threat of protectionism which will damage the United Kingdom, with its widespread international links. If European industry as a whole is allowed to remain or become uncompetitive, Britain more than most will not be able to escape its consequences.

Has the Labour party, which advances this attraction—that is to say, the social chapter—considered the cost of its imposition on the businesses that we seek to protect in this country? Of course they want to give back to the trade unions the powers that they gave them over the years, powers which we in the Conservative party have recoverd for the individual. They want us to return to the days of good old beer and sandwiches at No. 10.

When blanket wage deals are giving way to locally agreed wage settlements, when commitment and productivity are being rewarded, when profit sharing, employee shareholding and personal pensions increasingly find favour with the public, when flexibility and mobility are the watchwords and when self-employment and small businesses are becoming increasingly popular, the proponents of these amendments are attempting to burden us with collectivism.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

Will my hon. Friend not also confirm that it is the decentralised nature of many of the arrangements that we make in British industry which adds to the possibility of Britain making a similar move towards consultation but in a different manner from that on the continent? Given that the overall objective in the Community is for employees to have greater consultation in the firms for which they work, the main thing is to decentralise it so that each firm, not just each nation, can find the best way of achieving it.

Mr. Garnier

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. Those of us who had the opportunity of attending this morning's conference organised by the AngloJapanese parliamentary group will have learnt that lesson.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that, to be competitive, working conditions and social costs in the United Kingdom should be the same as or lower than those in, say, Taiwan or Korea?

Mr. Garnier

The hon. Gentleman is seeking to rehearse the old canards about social dumping and social tourism. I will not go into it now; it is old stuff.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

My hon. Friend has made an excellent point about the need for decentralisation and for variety between different countries and so on. The trouble is that the treaty before us, particularly article 2, which we discussed last week, says the opposite. It says that we must have something called social cohesion and solidarity, Community harmonisation and balanced development. They are built into the treaty. So all these wonderful arguments which my hon. Friend puts forward, and with which everyone on the Government Benches would agree, rather break down when we look at the treaty itself.

Mr. Garnier

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) voted for the Single European Act, out of which those very words emerged. What I am complaining about is the increase in bureaucracy and in centralism which would come from the adoption of the social chapter. The United Kingdom labour market is largely a decentralised one, with a strong emphasis on local cultures and traditions—my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) will accept that. It neither lends itself to centralised regulation nor can such regulation readily accommodate the wide dispersion of individual practice.

Its industrial relations structures are also atypical—especially, for example, with multi-union workplaces. Directives framed in Brussels and seeking to give new rights to unions would, if implemented, fall more heavily on establishments where many unions are involved than on single-union ones.

We must face up to the realities of global competition. This means that a new approach to social policy in the European Community must be adopted. It will mean taking steps which allow companies flexibility to improve productivity and cost-competitiveness. It means reducing burdens on business rather than increasing them. This approach does not imply lower living standards or less protection for employees; rather, it is the only way to raise living standards and provide a sound basis for higher social welfare. On that basis alone, I invite the Committee to reject the amendment.

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

I should begin by thanking the hon. Member for Cunningham—

Dr. Cunningham


Mr. Garel-Jones

I am sorry, for Copeland. I am relieved that I did not call him the hon. Member for Sellafield.

I should thank the hon. Member for Copeland on behalf of the Committee for making it clear that the Opposition do not intend to press amendment No. 7 to a Division. So far, the Committee's debate has concentrated almost entirely on amendment No. 27, which, to my surprise—as I told the hon. Gentleman when he spoke —the Opposition intend to press to a Division.

The debate has been interesting and important and I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Morris. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) moving nervously in his place. I hope that he is not going to move a closure. Although we have had a long debate, the extension that you have kindly given us, Mr. Morris, by exercising your judgment not to accede to my hon. Friend's request, will enable me to respond to some of the important arguments voiced.

Mr. Marlow

I was not surprised when the closure motion was not granted, but I am interested to establish the circumstances under which it is likely to be. One had drawn the conclusion that most closures happen at times that are convenient to the Government, when their support is here in strength. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way because he said that the debate "has" been interesting. As many of my hon. Friends and many Opposition Members wish to speak, what does he mean by "has"? The debate is interesting and I presume that there is much more to be said. Will he give an undertaking to the House that, when other hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken, he will come back and refer to their remarks?

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend and I came to the House together and I would not want to teach him to suck eggs. The decision on when closure motions are moved and whether they are accepted is for the Chair. I know nothing of such matters.

As the debate has developed—it will no doubt continue, perhaps even after I have resumed my place—it has generally been a good debate and a good Committee stage. It has reinforced my view—if reinforcement were needed —of the importance of the House. Many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members have aired points of view on this group of amendments and on others with which I disagree, but the House can take credit for the way in which the Committee is discussing the Bill and its implications for our country and I hope that other Parliaments in Europe will look to that example.

Mr. Winnick

The Minister said that the debate on this group of amendments has been interesting. Perhaps he will agree that, by and large, the debate has been interesting all round. Does he understand that the reason why some hon. Members on both sides of the House are so critical about the implications of the Bill is that if the treaty becomes law many matters of great importance will be decided elsewhere? It will not matter what sort of debates occur on the Floor of the House or in Committee; they will not have much relevance because the decisions will be taken elsewhere. That is why we believe that the treaty is crucial and why so many of us are determined that we shall do whatever we can to ensure that the Bill is not passed.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I understand and respect the hon. Member's sincerity. What I shall seek to demonstrate—as I have done during debates on other groups of amendments—is that the Maastricht treaty improves the position of the United Kingdom in comparison with that which pertains under the Single European Act.

If the Committee will allow, I shall reply to the debate in three parts. First, I shall address some brief remarks to right hon. and hon. Opposition Members. Secondly, I shall deal with the well-crafted and thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) and finally I shall address some general remarks to my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The Minister said that he is replying to the debate. But the debate has not finished. Many hon. Members have waited for two days for an opportunity to take part. The Minister may intervene at this stage, but surely only a later contribution could be regarded as a reply.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have to intervene in these debates as and when I can. I have already explained—to the incredulity of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends—that I make a point of not seeking to discuss very carefully, with people about whom the Committee knows, what the tactics of those people may be. I simply seek to intervene when it seems to me convenient to do so. Indeed, I have intervened more than once in some debates. I also do my best to give way to hon. Members. But the hon. Gentleman knows how the Committee works. I am not directly concerned with procedure. Such matters are for your judgment, Mr. Morris.

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

I understand the Minister to have said a couple of minutes ago that this treaty in no way diminishes the stature of the British Parliament. That is at the very least arguable. Will the Minister concede that certain articles of the treaty at least strengthen to a considerable extent the role and function of the European Court of Justice in such a way that it will in every sense become a supreme court for the 13 legal systems of the 12 nation states?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall not reply directly to that question at this stage as it concerns a matter that will be the burden of my speech.

I should like first to direct a few remarks mainly at Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Copeland indicated that the Opposition intended to press amendment No. 27 to a Division. He said that it was his wish to fold the agreement between the Eleven into the treaty. Thanks to the hon. Gentleman's courtesy in giving way to me, I tried to make clear what Her Majesty's Government believe would be the consequences of carrying amendment No. 27. I have made our position clear and I do not want to labour the point. However, I should say to Labour Members and to other Opposition parties that, if I am right, there would be very serious consequences, not just for Britain but for the entire European Community. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) took my point.

Mr. Leighton

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. The Minister is indulging in boring repetition. He has already replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). What is the point of replying a second time, especially as some hon. Members have not had a chance to speak once?

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair. I did not notice any repetition.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have the greatest respect and affection for the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that any of us need lessons from him in boring repetition.

As I said, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber clearly took the point that I had made. I hope that he and other Opposition parties, and, indeed, other individual hon. and right hon. Members, will take their own advice on this matter. They know where to go for advice that is independent of what I am saying to the Committee. I hope that they will take such advice and will reflect very carefully. I am content—certainly in the case of Liberal Democrat Members—that, in the light of that advice and of their reflection, I shall be able to rely on their judgment in this matter.

Dr. Cunningham

Whatever the Liberal Democrat Members and other Members do, I hope that they do not rely on the advice of the Minister as what he is saying is complete and utter claptrap. I have just—literally, within the hour—returned from discussions with the federal German Government, including the Minister of State in the Foreign Office, a lady whom I think that the Minister knows well, Ursula Seiler-Albring, and the Minister of State in the Chancellor's office, Friedrich Böhl. They clearly said that they would be delighted for Britain to reverse its decision on the social chapter and that such a reversal would not occasion the reopening of the German ratification of the treaty. That view is held throughout the Community as a whole. It is shared by socialist colleagues in other Governments in the Community. For the Minister to raise that red herring for a second time is simply to mislead the House.

For good measure, I also took the opportunity during my brief visit to the federal republic to speak to the leaders of the chambers of commerce—the employers. I asked them if they believed any of the nonsense that we have heard from Ministers—and have just heard repeated by a Conservative Back Bencher—about the threats to industry from the social chapter. The employers do not believe it. When I asked them if they had considered asking the federal German Government to opt out of the social chapter, they said that they had not done so for a moment.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have two observations to make. First, at the rate that we are going, there will not be any socialist Governments left in Europe. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is not telling me or the Committee anything new when he says that the 11 partners would welcome it if the protocol and the agreement did not exist and the British Government were to go back on the negotiating position that they took in Maastricht. That is not the burden of my argument. We all know that—the wretched protocol exists because we refused to go along with the social chapter.

I am issuing an invitation to the hon. Gentleman—albeit with no hope or expectation, as we have all seen the Labour tactics on the Bill and will make our judgments, as will the country, on the party's new-found commitment to Europe and the treaty. I am not fishing for votes from the hon. Gentleman, but inviting those who take such matters seriously, and have some scruples and principles, to seek their own advice. I have described the position as we see it. It is for other right hon. and hon. Members to use their own sources. We were once given the opinion of the hon. Member for Copeland on what Mr. Cot thought. The following week, in this very country, Mr. Cot repudiated what the hon. Gentleman had said.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)


Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall give way to the reformist wing of the Labour party.

Mr. Mandelson

Talking of principles, I do not think that the Minister is being absolutely scrupulous when he describes the position of the other 11 member state Governments. If they were as weak in their commitment to the protocol that contains the social chapter and would find so much difficulty in making the adjustment to which my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) referred, they would have caved in at the eleventh hour when the British Government were making so much fuss about the social chapter during the final moments of the Maastricht treaty negotiations. They did not cave in; they stood their ground and agreed a protocol. Surely 11 member state Governments who feel as strongly about the protocol containing the social chapter as they did at Maastricht will hardly create many obstacles to allowing the speedy adjustment that would be needed in the wake of our amendment being carried by the Committee.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not want to labour the point, but I shall try to cover the ground once more. I am not placing in any doubt the enthusiasm of the other 11 member states for the protocol attached to the treaty and the agreement of the eleven that flows from it.

When talking about European negotiations, I do not like to speak in terms of cave-ins or collapses by anybody. Our 11 partners would have wished the content of the agreement to be included in the Maastricht treaty, but the United Kingdom resisted. That is why there is that separate agreement. One can say that they caved in or that we caved in, but the agreement is not in the treaty; it is an agreement of the Eleven which flows from the protocol.

4.30 pm

I suggest that hon. Members take advice about my next point. When the Irish Government sought a minor amendment, relating to abortion, to a protocol in which everybody wished to accommodate them—no one had any disagreements about that—the partners refused to allow an intergovernmental conference because of their fears of what that would open. There must be an intergovernmental conference, but even if one of 30 seconds could be arranged—that is debatable—the consequences that would flow from it under article 236 are clear.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not want to go any further into this, but I will give way to the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy).

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

I am sure that the Committee appreciates why the Minister is desperate to make progress, having got into this quagmire. As he was kind enough to mention the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), will he address the precedent mentioned by my hon. Friend, that of Norway in 1972? When it chose not to join the Community, the alterations resulting from that were agreed not by an IGC but by a decision in Council. Is not that a more valid precedent than that of Ireland?

Mr. Garel-Jones

That is quite a good try and I have written to the hon. Gentleman about the matter. It is not a more valid precedent because, in advance of that intergovernmental conference dealing with accessions, arrangements were pre-made to facilitate matters in the event that one of the possibly acceding countries did not accede. It is a complicated legal point, but I believe that I have written to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber about it.

Mr. Mandelson

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Would it be in order to clarify whether the Hansard reporters correctly picked up the Minister's observation that an intergovernmental conference could be held within 30 seconds to enable our accession to the social chapter?

The Chairman

The Hansard reporters will record what they hear. It is for the hon. Member who has made the speech to check its delivery.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am happy to confirm that, but that is not the burden of my argument. Even if I go halfway down the road with the Opposition and say that everyone will accept the social chapter and will agree and be helpful —all that is possible—hon. Members should consider the other consequences flowing from that.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

No. I wish to make a little more progress.

We have heard some excellent contributions to the debate. He is not here now, but the Committee was not surprised to hear a distinguished and original contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden). My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) also made an excellent speech. However, those of us who heard my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) will agree that his carefully argued speech encapsulated many of the arguments touched on by a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and their anxieties. I shall try to deal with his speech in some detail and with the care that it deserves. For those who were not present, I will try to sum up my hon. Friend's argument fairly.

Like all my right hon. and hon. Friends, my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford abhors the thrust of the agreement on social policy by the 11 member states. He believes also—and I agree—that if that agreement produced the sort of actions that are presaged within it, that would bring about a huge competitive advantage for Britain. My hon. Friend goes on to argue that if that competitive edge became acute, others would seek to undermine it by quoting the treaty objectives set out in article 2 and the new competences set out in article 3—and, in conjunction with article 5, they would seek to draw back that competitive advantage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford fears that, on that basis, cases will come before the European Court of Justice alleging that Britain is enjoying an unfair competitive advantage and that the court would be likely to rule against Britain by importing the provisions of the agreement among the Eleven into the treaty—folding it in, as the hon. Member for Copeland would say, but by a different route. I hope that I have more or less summed up, in the form of a synopsis, my hon. Friend's speech.

Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

For the purpose of clarification, I never made the point that such things would come in wholesale. I said that they would come in through specific areas of unfair competition.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.

It is not unknown for Ministers to dismiss from the Dispatch Box arguments with which they do not agree in a robust and even colourful way, knowing that there will be votes at particular times. As I said, I believe that the matter needs a careful exposition and I shall attempt to give one.

Let us be clear from the start—my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford touched on this—that the argument that the existing social provisions can provide a route to unwanted legislation is one against not the Maastricht treaty but the treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act as it exists today.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)


Mr. Garel-Jones

If my hon. Friend will allow me to develop this argument. I shall later give way as generously as I can.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford made quite a bit of the changes that have taken place in articles 2 and 3 of the treaty, relating to the Community's objectives. He suggested that those changes in some way alter the present position and would give the European Court of Justice greater leeway in interpreting the bounds of propriety in the use of article 118a for measures not strictly concerned with health and safety. I pause because that is an important point.

The Committee has already debated the point that articles 2 and 3 are not vires-conferring. They are not operational in themselves and contain no powers for the Community institutions to act. Before they can act, one must look to the appropriate and specific treaty provision that gives the power to act.

Mr. Cash


Mr. Garel-Jones

I will give way in a moment. I wish to develop this point.

In this case, article 118a is the article to which we would look. I repeat that article 118a was included in the treaty under the Single European Act. It is even arguable—and lawyers argue this—that article 2 should have been changed at the time to reflect more accurately the objectives of article 118a.

If article 118a does not provide for a specific action that the Community has in mind, it would have to look—right hon. and hon. Members are very familiar with this—to article 235 as the legal basis for such action. My right hon. and hon. Friends will not need reminding that article 235 is a unanimity provision and one that has existed in the treaty of Rome since not the Single European Act but the treaty's inception.

I stress that articles 2 and 3 are not operational.

Sir Teddy Taylor

What happened to article 4?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am coming to the court. A long passage of my speech relates to the court, which I hope my hon. Friend—

Mr. Michael Spicer

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

If I may be allowed to finish this part of my speech, I will give way to my hon. Friends the Members for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) and for Stafford (Mr. Cash).

Articles 2 and 3 are not—I repeat not—operational. The same is true of article 5. I shall return later to the court case to which my hon. Friend referred under article 5. Article 5 remains as it has been since it was included in the treaty of Rome in 1957. Articles 2 and 3 refer to the Community's objectives. We debated that earlier. They are general articles which inform the specific provisions elsewhere in the treaty. It is those specific provisions that give the power to act to achieve the objective. They are now amended to reflect more accurately the position in the new treaty.

Mr. Michael Spicer

As I understand it, my hon. Friend is making the point that general articles, sets of objectives, general contexts in which treaties and constitutions are formed, are not serious legal territory and, therefore, should not be taken into account. He may return to that point later, but will he at least accept that Roman textual law, with which we are now dealing, is alien to Britain but it has a history of and is specifically involved in taking a view about the context in which the specific text is to be judged? One of the great differences between our form of law and that law—it has proved historically true in the past 10 years—is that the European Court takes into account those generalisations or objectives. One of the problems that British negotiators have had in the past is appreciating that. One of our mistakes may have been not to have taken that fully into account. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will return to that point.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall indeed return to it. My hon. Friend makes a fair point and I shall return to it when I refer to the European Court because I shall be seeking to demonstrate to the Committee that the relatively minor changes in articles 2 and 3 in most instances begin to address the very point that my hon. Friend is making. We all learn as we go along in the Community and articles 2 and 3 can inform a judgment that the European Court makes. However, it is not vires-conferring and it cannot be the basis on which action is taken, which has to be a specific article in the treaty.

Mr. Cash

My right hon. Friend alleges that most of the troubles, as he repeatedly says, stem from the Single European Act. When we deal with the 48-hour working directive, the Government, rightly, are saying that the vires of that under the Single European Act is not justified. However, we are in the ludicrous, stupid and supine position where, instead of challenging that at the right moment, or sorting it out before the Maastricht treaty was negotiated, which was a complete failure of negotiation, we are waiting until it has all been decided in the rather absurd hope that we might be able to extract something from the Court of Justice later. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will accept the scale on which we let down British industry and explain his role in that.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall try to respond kindly to my hon. Friend. It was he who supported—I welcome his support—the inclusion of article 118a in the treaty under the Single European Act. I shall seek to demonstrate that some of the difficulties that have arisen—the one to which my hon. Friend refers is one—show that our position will be and is being substantially improved, not just by the Maastricht treaty but by the climate that it has created.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Garel-Jones

I have given way to my hon. Friend once. I know that he wishes to move the closure motion and that he did not even wish me to speak. I must make progress.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend give way on article 5?

4.45 pm
Mr. Garel-Jones

No, I am coming to article 5 as well. I want to make progress.

I wish to say something about the potential abuse of article 118a which lay at the heart of the concern of my hon. Friend. The Committee should remind itself of what the article says. It is by no means as vague and all encompassing as some would have us believe. It is brief. It says:

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. I do not deny that, as with many other provisions of the treaty, there will always be someone who will try to make a case for interpreting the provisions of a particular article more widely than is immediately apparent from its language. That is why my hon. Friend has a good point. I accept that. However, I invite the Committee to consider what will happen. What is happening now under article 118a?

First, we can and we do vigorously debate any proposal in the Council. We change it. We change its shape. We change the detail and the content. We remove defects. We are securing derogations where we need them and we have been successful in that. Of the 40 measures tabled under the social action programme, 25 have now been agreed. In all cases we have not felt the need to vote against the end result. Many have been adopted by unanimity. Where a qualified majority vote was possible, Britain has never—I repeat never—been outvoted.

Mr. Cash


Mr. Garel-Jones

I wish that my hon. Friend would calm down for a minute and listen because I am trying, to the best of my ability—my hon. Friend may judge that I have not succeeded—to answer what I thought was a thoughtful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford.

I simply put it to the Committee that that is hardly a devastating record of Britain being rolled over in any particular area. But if, having fought a proposal through the Council, we were to lose—it has never yet happened in the social field— and it was adopted against the United Kingdom's vote, we could challenge its adoption in the court as being ultra vires under article 118a. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment—this point has already been made—has already referred to that possibility in relation to working time.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Minister clarify, for those of us who are sympathetic to the Community, what happens when a proposal on the social chapter affects 11 of our partners but not us? What is the mechanism for British abstention? Will we not be there or not have a say? We shall be voting on matters that do not have any effect in our own country.

Mr. Garel-Jones

In the event that the 11 partners choose to use the agreement—I have no idea what their intentions will be—and choose to introduce a series of measures, the first thing that will happen is that the United Kingdom's competitive advantage will be increased daily. With regard to the mechanics of the thing—this is not the only area in the Community where this happens—the United Kingdom, if it finds itself in the chair, will move the chair on to the next person in the troika who will assume the presidency. I stand to be corrected by my officials, but I think that I am right in saying that we would not vote on or take part in any of the discussions relating to actions taken by the 11.

I want now to make two points about the European Court of Justice. The last part of the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford was that the motive will exist, the bridge exists, and the European Court will not be favourable for us.

First, the assumption that underlay my hon. Friend's remarks was that the court will find against us. Secondly, I want to make some general remarks about the European Court of Justice and what I believe should inform the United Kingdom's attitude to it. A substantial part of my hon. Friend's speech was based on the assumption that the European Court will find against the United Kingdom and that, in a centralizing sense, that will expand the competence of the Community.

I want to test that proposition and illustrate my point with some examples of cases which are more recent than those cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford. The Committee will recall that he cited two specific cases. He very fairly told the Committee their dates. The first, the Defrenne v. Sabena case, was in 1976. That is quite a long time ago—nearly 20 years. The second was the Cullet v. Centre Leclerc case in 1985. Again that predated the Single European Act. I shall refer to both those cases later.

I understand my hon. Friend's fears, which I know are shared by many of my hon. Friends, and I do not claim for one minute that those fears are groundless. The European Court has, perhaps, traditionally been a centralising institution, expanding the powers and scope of the Community with what I might call purposive interpretations of the treaty. I contend, however, that there have recently been clear signs that the court is sensitive to the change of mood in the Community—even in advance of the ratification of the Maastricht treaty, which itself sends out a clear signal through article 3b; that article concerns subsidiarity, which we shall discuss later.

The court is showing itself to be increasingly sensitive to states' rights, and is giving increasing weight to the national arrangements. It is less inventive in its interpretation of Community law, and is demonstrating a welcome willingness to give greater scope to exceptions and derogations. I will cite three recent examples.

In July 1992, in the national insurance contributions case—a case, the Committee will note, in the field of social policy—the court upheld the maintenance of different state pension ages for men and women in the United Kingdom. In December 1992, in the most recent batch of Sunday trading cases, the court upheld the United Kingdom's Sunday trading legislation: many hon. Members may have regretted that decision, but in acting thus the court recognised the importance of national social, cultural and ethical traditions.

My final example concerns the environment. In the Wallonia waste disposal case, the court upheld a ban on the import of waste by the Belgian region of Wallonia. In so doing, it allowed generous derogations from article 30 of the treaty for waste, rather than adopting its traditionally restrictive approach to exceptions and derogations from the free-movement principles.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

I cited the two cases that I cited to illustrate my theory that the real problem will occur where the market is destabilised—the market across Europe that we would destabilise by being more competitive. None of the cases that my right hon. Friend has just cited affect that. They can arguably be said to be isolated within the nation states, whereas my point was that we would now destabilise the whole market place.

Mr. Garel-Jones

That is a fair point, but let me make two observations. First, as I believe that my three examples demonstrate, the European Court of Justice—perhaps like the Supreme Court in the United States—will go through periods when its approach is centralising, and periods when it may be slightly more centrifugal.

Mr. Cash

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have not finished my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford.

My hon. Friend quoted the Cullet case in connection with article 5. I believe that that case was heard in 1985. Let me make two points. First, as I have said, the principle that it presupposes is the existence of Community law. If such a rule has been adopted, article 5 operates to require member states to support it, rather than undermining it. Britain is in favour of that. Secondly, in the Cullet case, the court went on to find that the national rules in question did not prevent the operation of competition rules, and did not contravene article 5. I shall deal with that in more detail later.

Sir Teddy Taylor

In his enthusiasm and optimism, the Minister is in danger of misleading the Committee by giving the impression that the European Court has been moving towards a more national approach. I could cite half a dozen cases, but I shall confine myself to a recent one. In 1992, the court said that a directive had the object of guaranteeing the rights of employees", and that it applied to all employees, even if it is limited under national law. Is it not dangerous for the Minister, by citing three cases, to give the impression that the court is moving in a certain direction when a multitude of cases might show the opposite?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am not seeking to make a sweeping, general point. I am merely saying that—especially in the light of recent European Court judgments—it is not fair to assume that the court will necessarily and at all times make centralising judgments. I do not know exactly what the case cited by my hon. Friend involved; perhaps it involved health and safety. I very much hope that, if the British Government have agreed to a directive to protect the health and safety of workers, it will be upheld both by our own courts and by the European Court.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I wish to make a little more progress. I shall give way to my hon. Friend later.

I put it no higher than this: I do not think that it can any longer be assumed that the court will automatically adopt a centralising or harmonising approach, even in the social field. I see clear signs of a change of emphasis, and I believe that that trend will be reinforced by the Maastricht treaty. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is wrong to assume that the court will adopt a negative approach to the arrangements in the social protocol, which were agreed by all 12 member states.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it not a question of the sensitivities of members of the court? I draw the Minister's attention to the dilemma of Judge David Edward, a distinguished QC and member of the European Court of Justice, known to many of us in Edinburgh for a number of years. He expresses extreme sensitivity about having to take part in judgments in the social field. He says, "When my country is excluded from the social chapter, how can I, with full authority, take part in judgments that relate to others, and not to the country that sent me to the court?"

Mr. Garel-Jones

That is a matter for the learned judge himself.

My second point is about the court in general, and about Britain's general attitude to it. I believe that it is wrong to suggest that the court is Britain's enemy; we need it, and we should not fear it. That is, perhaps, more true of Britain than of any other member state. The Community is a community of law, and we look to the European Court to enforce, and make a reality of, the single market for which we in Britain have fought so hard. We look to the court to check breaches of the rules by economic operators and member states. That is why we —the British Government—pressed so strongly in the Maastricht negotiations to extend the court's power to fine those who fail to comply with the law.

Britain plays by the rules in the Community, as all hon. Members expect it to. We have rarely been called before the European Court. In the past five years, Britain has appeared before it only nine times, compared with Germany's 34, Belgium's 47 and Italy's 87. Of course there will be judgments that we do not like—that is true of all courts but it is overwhelmingly in Britain's interest for us to have a judicially enforceable level playing field.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford cited the Defrenne equal pay case involving article 119. That case simply states that a member state that breaches a rule of the Community, or a lawfully adopted directive, should be liable to court action. We strongly support that principle. It goes without saying, however—this goes back to the 48-hour week—that if we were to believe that any directive had been unlawfully adopted or that it had been adopted on a false treaty base, we should not hesitate, in a proper case, to test that proposition.

Several hon. Members


5 pm

Mr. Garel-Jones

I should like to make a little more progress, so I will not give way. The next person to whom I shall give way will be my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord).

It is against that background that I hope that my hon. Friend will look at the words in the protocol, which could not be clearer. The protocol says: Acts adopted by the Council and any financial consequences other than administrative costs entailed for the institutions shall not be applicable to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That protocol is annexed to the treaty of Rome. It is an integral part of the treaty. It was unanimously agreed by the 12 member states. The protocol has equal status with the treaty. For the reasons that I have given, I am confident that the European Court of Justice will give it effect. The Opposition are clearly confident of that, too. That is why they have moved the amendment and want the protocol to be removed.

I do not deny that some people will seek to challenge that, as our competitive advantage becomes more apparent. I do not underestimate for one minute the ingenuity of lawyers or, more importantly, the persistence of economic operators who believe themselves to be disadvantaged by this competitive advantage. I do not dispute that. There will be tests. But the protocol is clear. From what I have said about the European Court of Justice, it must be clear that my judgment is that we can look to it with confidence to enforce that protocol.

Mr. Lord

One of the big advantages of this Committee stage is that we are slowly teasing out some of the truths that some of us have suspected for a very long time, particularly the powers of the European Court as they have influenced this country in the past and as they may influence this country in the future. My right hon. Friend now admits that in the past the European Court has interfered where it should not have done and that, in his own words, it has been too centralised. Some of us have been saying that for a long time, but it is nice to have it admitted now. My right hon. Friend says that he detects a change in the attitude of the European Court. Therefore, we are supposed to pin our faith on this supposed change of attitude.

My right hon. Friend has also admitted in the debate today that if the Council of Ministers cannot get its way on a particular issue, it may go to the European Court and that at some time in the future the European Court may find against us. My right hon. Friend says that, so far, it has not done so, but that it may do so. In those circumstances, this country may have to put up with a rule or regulation which is very detrimental to our nation. That is what most of us are extremely worried about. My right hon. Friend asks us to pin our faith on this change of attitude that he detects in the European Court. Does he not see just how concerned many of us are, and why we are so concerned?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I hope that I have made it clear to my hon. Friend, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford, that I understand these fears, but I do not think that I am being unfair in asking my hon. Friend to recall the fact that it was our party, under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), that led this country into the Community.

Sir Teddy Taylor

It was a grave mistake.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend acted in a perfectly honourable way at that time and he has continued to take that position. I respect him for it.

It should come as no surprise to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford, however, that in those areas where the member states, including ourselves, have given competence to the Community and to the European Court, the writ of the European Court runs. The European Community is a developing organisation. Under the terms of article 118a, attempts have been made to expand the treaty. Through the courts and by introducing article 3b, we must seek to influence the way in which the Community works, not to despair about it. Above all, we must remember that a great deal of this impetus comes from the fact that the European Court is the instrument to which we look to protect the single market that we have fought so hard to achieve.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Garel-Jones

I must make a little more progress. I do not know how long I have been on my feet, Mr. Morris —too long, I imagine, by now.

Article 118a of the treaty is unamended from the Single European Act. That is an important point. Secondly, article 5 of the treaty is unamended from the treaty of Rome. Thirdly, articles 2 and 3, though amended, are not vires-conferring, nor operational. Fourthly, the European Court is not the enemy of the United Kingdom, but the instrument for enforcing the level playing field in the single market that we fought so hard to achieve. Finally, the European Court of Justice has in the past been a centralising institution and perhaps prone to purposive interpretations, but there is growing evidence—some of which I have put before the Committee today—that we are now in a new climate and that that tendency is being arrested.

Mr. Cash

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

No, I shall not give way to my hon. Friend. I am referring to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford. When I have finished this part of my speech, I shall give way.

The protocol is specific in excluding Britain. In my judgment, there is every reason to expect and believe that the European Court will uphold that exclusion. I understand the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford. I hope that I have made that clear to the Committee. I do not dismiss them out of hand. The track record upon which my hon. Friend bases his fears is there. In this, as in so many other areas, however, the Maastricht treaty is an improvement on the position which pertained under the Single European Act. That is my judgment. That is the judgment that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government made. I hope that my hon. Friend, to whom I shall give way now, will consider that we had good grounds for making that judgment.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

My whole argument was founded on the fact that we, and we alone, were absent from the protocol and the social chapter. What was clear, therefore, from the word go was the intention of the 11 other member states to go down this route. For the first time in the Maastricht treaty, in articles 2 and 3 we allowed clear indications of social policy to emerge as a steering route for the whole Community, yet we had absented ourselves from the social chapter. I was arguing that there was a real line from one place to another which took us, winding all these together, to an obvious point of confrontation with the 11 other member states. It must be logical that they would seek to challenge us.

Articles 169 and 170—dealing, in the treaty of Rome, with the European Court of Justice—clearly give another route, which I assumed that everyone knew, and I am sure that they do, to the European Court of Justice for a challenge. My right hon. Friend said that article 3 was not, therefore, all that powerful. He then cited the subsidiarity clause which, as we know, is in article 3. I shall be grateful, therefore, if my right hon. Friend will answer that point.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I will try to pick up some of my hon. Friend's points. There is a strong body of opinion in the Community that article 2 should have been amended at the time of the Single European Act to reflect article 118a. In a sense, what the amendments to article 2 of the treaty are doing is reflecting the inclusion of the social chapter under the Single European Act. The essential point about that article is that it is not vires-conferring and that it is not operational. It can, of course, be prayed in aid to inform a judgment that action needs to be taken under the treaty. That is the distinction.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Can my hon. Friend confirm that there is nothing irreversible about the ways in which these standards rise and fall? I met a delegation the other day from the Christian Social Union in Germany. The members of that delegation were exceedingly anxious about the capacity of Germany to be able to continue to maintain the standards that they had forced upon themselves over the years. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that were a number of the 11 members states to discover that they could not maintain the conditions that at present they have agreed to force upon their workers, it would be possible for them to negotiate a change in the standards to which they had previously agreed?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am sure that that is the case, but it remains to be seen what action, if any, our 11 partners decide to take under the agreement.

My final point is directed particularly at my right hon. and hon. Friends. There is another debate which lies underneath this perhaps rather technical debate on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and amendment No. 27. That debate is about what has motivated Conservative Members in the battle of ideas in the past two decades. It goes to the core of what our party has been about in Government for the past 14 years; it goes to the core of the ideas that have brought about a better balance in the activities of the trade union movement and have, properly, moved Britain back on to the road of economic liberalism and away from the corporatism under which we were suffering.

We have fought that battle and won. Before I came to the House, I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) and Lord Joseph stomping up and down the country preaching the virtues of economic liberalism in polytechnics and universities. They were reviled and spat upon, no doubt sometimes—[Interruption.] Yes, reviled and spat on, no doubt sometimes by friends and supporters of the Labour party. In the end, the ideas that they were propounding emerged triumphant. I urge all my hon. Friends to consider the fact that the amendment seeks to put Britain back into the corporatist world from which we have now made our escape.

We have come a long way together in fighting that battle of ideas. We have stood shoulder to shoulder on the issues—[Interruption.] Oh yes, we have, and my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton has been with us.

The Chairman

The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).

Mr. Garel-Jones

I accept that reprimand from the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris). My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North was with us. It may come as a surprise to the Opposition that we stood shoulder to shoulder because we believed in our ideas. They are put at stake in amendment No. 27, but I am confident that when the Question is put, we shall again stand together and throw the wretched amendment back in the face of the Opposition.

Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words at this point in the debate and to react to what the Minister has said and to the contributions made last week.

We have expressed strong and impressive support for the social chapter; we have outlined its importance for British citizens and shown the need for us to vote together on amendment No. 27. In addition to welcoming what my hon. Friends have had to say, I also welcome what members of the Liberal party have said because it seems that we are all delivering the same message and have had similar assurances from other countries and our contacts within the European Commission that what we are seeking to do is feasible and desirable. I hope, therefore, that when we vote, we shall achieve victory.

The debate has been significant because, for the first time, many Conservative Members have disagreed with the view that they previously expressed about the Prime Minister's so-called triumph in negotiating the Maastricht agreeement and the two opt-outs which were to apply to Britain. In this instance, we have been discussing the social opt-out. In the past year or so, especially during Prime Minister's Question Time, Conservative Members have repeatedly crowed about the triumph of the social chapter opt-out. However, in this debate we have heard Conservative Member after Conservative Member say that it was not a triumph, that it has all been an illusion and that, if we are not careful, we shall have the unpleasant social measures imposed on us in any case. That is a significant development, which will mean that the debate will be remembered for some time to come.

5.15 pm
Mr. Marlow

I do not think that the hon. Lady is quite right. It was a triumph by the Prime Minister. We might have some of the disastrous measures imposed on us by other means, but if we agreed to the social chapter, we would have them imposed on us.

Ms. Quin

Anyone who listened to the debate last week will certainly have got the impression that many Conservative Members were not at all happy about the deal obtained at Maastricht. Indeed, I can see quite a few nodding now. The argument was put most forcefully by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), but it was echoed by the hon. Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) and others, who all appeared to believe that the social opt-out was not the triumph it was originally portrayed as being.

Of course, some Conservative Members—

Sir Teddy Taylor

In order to reassure the House and the country, will the hon. Lady make it abundantly clear that the measures in the social chapter cannot be used in any way to affect matters relating to pay, the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lock-outs."? Will she therefore urge all hon. Members not to excite the public, because the social chapter cannot be used to affect pay, strikes or the right to union membership? Is it not a limited matter, which is already covered by the Single European Act and article 100 of the treaty? Is it not merely a non-event?

Ms. Quin

I do not agree that it is a non-event, but the hon. Gentleman is right about the items excluded from the social chapter. It is not a non-event because, by their refusal to implement the social chapter and their desire to be excluded from it, the Government sent a strong signal to people at home that they are not interested in working conditions and employment rights. They also sent that message to our European partners. It is a negative message which the Government will come to regret.

Some Conservative Members—although not as many as I am sure he would have liked—supported the Minister's view and the official party line. Although one would have to study coded sentences to realise it, I think that some Conservative Members secretly agree with us about the social chapter. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) is on record as believing that Britain should be a part of social Europe, and I have a feeling that other Conservative Members agree— perhaps they are consoling themselves with the argument of some Euro-sceptics that the social chapter will be imposed on us anyway.

Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

The hon. Lady has a strong and well established record of supporting European causes, and I am sure that she would not push the amendment if it were to disrupt the treaty of Maastricht. She and the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) explained that they have had assurances from the German Government and the European Commission that the amendment to allow us to join the social chapter could be incorporated rapidly, but can she explain how she would get around the legal problem that that would pose? Either all countries must go through the ratification process or there would be a danger of a British employer being able to go to the Court of Justice and having the agreement scrapped. How would she get around the legal problem?

Ms. Quin

I do not think that the legal problems would be nearly as great as the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest. [Interruption.] Some of my hon. Friends are reminding me about 30-second intergovernmental conferences, and the interesting Norwegian example from 1972 has also been mentioned. If our amendment is accepted, we may save ourselves many future legal battles. Many Conservative Members are worried that, because of our so-called competitive edge, other European countries will embark on lengthy court proceedings against us. It would be simpler to accept the amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) spoke tellingly of the Government's isolation in Europe. He said that all the other 11 countries are against our position, and that all the other political parties in the European Parliament, apart from those of the extreme right, reject the Government's view on the social chapter.

Denmark is often looked upon as the odd one out in Europe, but it strongly supports the social chapter. I am sure that my hon. Friends would like me to say how delighted we are at the appointment of Mr. Rasmussen, who belongs to our sister party in Denmark, as Danish Prime Minister. Even the former Danish Government and Prime Minister strongly supported adherence to the social chapter.

I was interested in a letter about the social policy priorities for the Danish presidency, sent by the former Danish Government to members of the European Parliament Committee on social affairs: The main task of the Danish Presidency will be to find ways and means to tackle the problem of unemployment by giving the Community a more active role. Efforts to improve employment in the EC by—giving the Council (Ministers of Labour) a more active role in the negotiations of a long-term employment policy—giving the social partners a role in this important task. The letter continues also saying that the Danish presidency will attach particular importance to the attempt to expand and further develop existing social dialogue, so that the social partners at Community and national level are given increased possibilities to take an active part in the development of future labour market policy of the Community. That interesting letter should give heart to the many people in Britain who wish the social chapter success, and want us to be part of it.

There were some interesting and unusual contributions to last week's debate by Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) seemed to think that the whole social chapter was the fault of "socialist Frenchmen". Sadly—from my point of view—he wildly overestimated the importance of socialist Frenchmen, and wildly underestimated the adherence to the social chapter of all the nations and parties in the European Community, apart from the British Conservatives.

The Conservatives' Christian Democratic partners in the European Parliament were mentioned last week. I was interested to read an article by Martin Rhodes of the department of government at the university of Manchester, which said: At the end of the 1986 British Presidency, employment minister"— the writer gives the name of the Minister responsible at that time— was severely rebuked by the spokeswoman for the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament: 'we would prefer it if the UK co-operated closely in current Community programmes and stopped blocking social directives. My feeling is that you do not have much to teach us in the social field. But you do have a great deal to learn'". That description of the attitude of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament still holds true today.

It was good to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) say that Conservative Members of the European Parliament do not follow the same line as Conservative Members of the House. Indeed, since our debate last Wednesday, I have read a speech by a Conservative Member of the European Parliament who supported the directive on working time which has attracted much criticism from Conservative Members here during the debate.

The Government not only fail the test on the EC social chapter; they fail to live up to the Council of Europe social charter, which was adopted many years ago. To our shame, more workers in Britain than in any other EC country have wages below the Council of European decency threshold. That is a disgrace.

Subsidiarity has been mentioned in the debate—again, in a way reminiscent of clutching at straws. I had been puzzled by the Tory Government's interpretation of subsidiarity, but during the debate it became clear that the word refers to any European directive that the Government do not like. Apparently, anything that they like can be decided at European level, but anything that they do not like must be decided here at home.

What has been said about subsidiarity certainly contradicts the outcome of the Edinburgh summit. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland explained, it was stated in Edinburgh that the Community countries do not wish to re-examine the various social directives at this stage; they want to build on them in the future. They are considering such matters not under the heading of "subsidiarity" but in the belief that the social dimension is an integral part of the treaty.

The reason why other countries see the matter in that way was reinforced last week by the reasoning of some Conservative Members, who said that the social provisions were already in the treaty of Rome, so it was misleading for the Government to separate the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty and maintain that it was entirely different from anything else that we have encountered before in the EC.

Some of my hon. Friends have pointed out that there are many reasons why the Government should change their mind about the social chapter. Many companies in Britain will eventually change their minds on it, too. Surely it is absurdly inconsistent for us to argue for a level playing field in all other areas of the single European market yet seek to exclude from that internal market working conditions and freedom of movement for workers.

Many Conservative Members honestly believe that inward investment may be jeopardised if we accept the social chapter. I refer them to the findings of the recent Ernst and Young survey of companies, which showed that many companies felt that inward investors would look more worriedly upon the United Kingdom in future simply because we had opted out of certain key areas of European policy. We seemed semi-detached from the European market, so we might not be such a good base from which to conduct companies' European operations.

I should like to say a great deal more, but I know that time is short and many of my hon. Friends wish to speak, so I shall finish soon. I should have been greatly surprised if the Minister had announced a change of heart on the issue, especially in a week in which the Government are due to press again their outrageous policy of abolishing wages councils, in the Committee stage of the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill tomorrow.

The Government's attitude to the matter shows indifference to the great problems of low wages, poverty and deprivation, and dependence on inadequate benefits, which are all too prevalent in Britain today. The Government are wrong; their attitude means that workers earn such low wages that they have to depend on state benefits to survive. In effect, the Government are giving massive subsidies to employers that pay very low wages. I appeal to the Government to look sympathetically on the approach to social matters of every other country in the EC. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will repent and end their foolish and damaging isolation on this important matter.

5.30 pm
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who has just left the Chamber, entertained us with a courteous, lengthy and most constructive analysis of the Government's defence of their position on the social chapter in the light of the compelling analysis made last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith). I shall return to that in a moment.

I thought that my right hon. Friend's peroration did not entirely match the weightiness of the main text. It clearly showed that, in his retirement, he will become a pamphleteer for the Institute of Economic Affairs. I say that with some regret, because I do not believe that the issues under debate are essentially ideological in content.

Of course there are different attitudes about the collective nature of social provision and about how best it can be put into effect. If one is thinking in terms of continental countries, one may have to draw on Bismarck or on the papal encyclicals to understand a tradition that is significantly different from our own. However, I do not believe that the argument is enhanced by suggestions that there is a sweatshop zone in Europe which is occupied by some of the major European countries. That is not true.

We should be better advised to consider what has been proposed using the lack of inhibition that we apply to our own domestic legislation. What we see before us may not add up in competence and in general direction, but we must remember that it has always been a tradition of the Committee stage—I say this with great courtesy, as I do not wish to undermine the principle of Second Reading—to return the matter for further consideration. That is what the Opposition seek through amendment No. 7, and more especially through amendment No. 27.

My remarks will be directed entirely to amendment No. 27. The first point that we must establish is how significant the issue is and how big the battle is. What is the nature of potential victory or defeat? As the arguments have proceeded—here we owe a great debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford—the significance of the protocol is beginning to be reassessed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford pointed out in a compelling speech last week how much could be achieved otherwise through European legislation. The challenges that would secure that state would be mounted by essentially corporate interests that were threatened by an alleged British competitive advantage. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) talked about individuals going to the court to challenge the protocol.

I listened with great care to the erudition of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, although I, as a humble street politician, could follow his argument but indifferently. It was towards the end that the message became clearer and clearer. It was that our safety valve lay in the growing flexibility of the European Court. In our own domestic legislation, it would fill us with horror to think that the changing sentiments and instincts of the court were our safeguard. Normally in such matters, it is the resolute certainties of the judicial system which are our guarantee.

I understand the point made persuasively by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in a week in which we have heard that the European Commission will look favourably—I am sure that the press reports are accurate —on a subsidy for coal. I remember that, when I was a humble apprentice Euro-sceptic, we used to be given little lectures by our elders and betters, who said that the great thing about the Commission, about the European Community and about its commitment to liberal economics was that the bad habits of national subsidy could not be practised. Everything moves on, and my right hon. Friend is right to remind us that the European Court also moves on.

I ask Opposition Members and my right hon. and hon. Friends whether this is a position of which we approve. When we view the evolution of the structures for Europe, do we want to place more emphasis on a structure in which the result lies ultimately with the determinations of the European Court, which is acquiring these more flexible characteristics?

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Biffen

I will not. I hope that the hon Gentleman will forgive me.

I reflect on that point because we must first determine whether we want a social dimension to European affairs. I am perfectly happy to conceive of a European Community whose ambit includes social affairs, but I believe that the method now being proposed is questionable, because it looks backwards. It looks backwards to the role of the Commission, to the role of the European Court and to the integrated structures which derive from the original treaty of Rome, and which are reinforced by the Single European Act 1986.

Maastricht is intended to be a pause and a means by which to redirect our affairs to deal with a position that will be overwhelmingly influenced by the collapse of Soviet power and by the enlargement of the Community to include not only the first line of enlargement countries, such as Sweden and Austria, but the countries of eastern Europe and, as the Prime Minister said, eventually Russia itself.

I should like the whole social dimension of European policy to be placed outside the rigidity that is now proposed, protocol or no protocol. I should far sooner that we adopted the device that was made available to the Danes at Edinburgh, although I do not suggest that particular device to the Committee. I suggest that, if we are serious and constructive in our approach to the problem —it is a problem because of the deficiencies in the protocol which have been identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford—we should start to consider the intergovernmental co-operative techniques that are embodied in the treaty, especially in titles V and VI, and we should see through the intergovernmental process the opportunity for social affairs to be considered.

What would be the advantage of that approach? First, we should have European co-operation without European uniformity. Matters would be left essentially to national Governments and national Parliaments, and there is no harm in including our Parliament in that. Secondly, the roles of the Commission and the European Court would be marginalised. That would be an immense advantage in matters of substance, such as the one under debate, in which European co-operation must turn on the ability of national institutions to strike up partnerships.

Such a structure is very much better for the prospective enlargement of Europe, because many countries, especially in eastern and central Europe, will come with traditions in the social sphere which are very different from ours. They still have to be accommodated within the wider and looser Europe that the future beckons. We should not now be afraid of trying to establish a pattern that looks to the future rather than to the past.

What role is there for the House? Let us suppose that we passed amendment No. 27. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has said very properly that it would make for great difficulties over ratification. I have said that my right hon. Friend could be sent to the conference chamber with a reasonable negotiating brief, which I have outlined. I believe that such a position would point to a far happier European Community than that contained in the present proposals.

The House must take its own chances and make its own decisions. My right hon. Friend has some time before the vote on amendment No. 27. The amendment raises real issues about the kind of European Community that we want to see proceed and, above all, about the kind of Europe in which, in political and commercial terms, the European Court would have an influence that we should like to avoid.

Mr. Leighton

It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biflen). On 24 July 1991, the Select Committee on Employment produced a unanimous report on the European Community social charter and I should like to make a brief reference to that.

I shall preface my remarks by saying that I support the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and I will vote enthusiastically for his amendment. Having said that, I think that one should add a word of caution. We should have a care, we should be realistic and we should not exaggerate what is in, and what will come out of, the social chapter.

There have been some illusions. For example, I have heard colleagues speak of harmonising conditions at the highest level, having a minimum wage Eurowide and having the right to join a trade union, for example, at GCHQ. None of those things is true. The Trades Union Congress embraced the social chapter enthusiastically, perhaps because it had had a decade of exclusion from the consultative process of British politics.

It is not surprising that the trade unions were enthusiastic when Jacques Delors hot-footed it from Brussels looking something like a saviour and promised them the renewal, by means of the social chapter, of all that had been denied during the Thatcher years. They were won over by the goodies that were dangled in front of them. They were promised that the 1992 process would give equal emphasis to the social dimension as well as the economic dimension. Both those dimensions were to come in tandem, in a balanced way and according to the same timetable.

The Select Committee visited Germany, Portugal, France, Spain and Greece. In each country we spoke to the trade unions, employers and the Minister of Labour. After meeting the employers and the Minister of Labour, the idea that they were falling over themselves to give extra rights to workers was not realistic.

The Select Committee report says that both dimensions were to proceed on the same timetable, so the social dimension should now exist. The economic dimension, the single market, has been completed. We must now ask ourselves: where is the social dimension? The trade unions were led to believe that it would not be simply a business man's Europe with fierce competition, restructuring of industry, mergers, closures, redundancies and winners and losers. Many of the losers will be in the United Kingdom because of the weak state of our economy. The trade unions were led to to believe that there would he a people's Europe that benefited workers, the elderly, children, the weak and the unions. The unions were to become valuable social partners, which was an attractive idea for them. They were to have obtained all sorts of advantages. As 1992 has been and gone and the social dimension should have been achieved and put in place, we must ask: where is the social dimension?

While the business man's Europe has raced ahead and the single market is in place, there has been little progress on the social dimension. Perhaps that is because the single market had a treaty, the Single European Act, which put it in place, whereas the social dimension merely had a social chapter that has no legal basis. I always value the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) on such matters and I am pleased that he is paying attention to what I am saying. I shall listen avidly to what he has to say.

5.45 pm
Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)

I always listen to my hon. Friend's speeches with great interest because of his reputation on such matters. He asked: where is the social dimension? If we were to get the amendment through tonight, would not we be able to get much of the legislation which many Labour Members want to see because we could invoke majority voting as opposed to unanimity? An example would be the protection of pregnant women at work. Legislation enabling women to receive full wages during the period of pregnancy has been blocked by Her Majesty's Government using the unanimity rule. That rule would disappear. Is not that an important part of the social dimension?

Mr. Leighton

As is usually the case, my hon. Friend has put his finger on an important point that we must examine. The Select Committee reported on the matter.

I shall deal with some of the matters which my hon. Friend raised because the social charter is replete with vague and grandiloquent statements and high-flying aspirations. The social charter was merely a solemn declaration; it had no legal effect. The Select Committee examined that matter. I should explain that social charters are not new. There have been many social charters. The social charter in the treaty is based on the social charter of the Council of Europe. It is similar. The Council of Europe has existed for a long time, as has its social charter. Where is its social charter? It is not there.

If the member states which had signed the voluntary social charter wanted to implement it, they could do so. There is nothing to stop them implementing it. However, the political will is not there to implement the Council of Europe's social charter. I fear that it is the same position with the European Community's social charter.

I shall turn directly to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland. I draw his attention to the fact that the social charter went through a number of drafts during which it was very much watered down; it was emasculated. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) will agree with me on that point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland listed the headings. The first is "Fair and decent wages". Originally, fair and decent wages were to be implemented "by law". In the next draft, those words were struck out and in their stead were the words, in accordance with arrangements in each member state". In other words, no legislation would be needed. The status quo would be maintained and there would be no change. That is the end of the naive idea that there would somehow be a Eurowide minimum wage.

The second heading is, "Improved living and working conditions". The reference to "maximum duration of hours" was deleted, as was the reference to weeekend working, night shifts and shift work". Instead, the formula, according to arrangements in each member state was inserted. What does that give us? It maintains the status quo.

The next heading to which my hon. Friend referred is "Social security". The original draft contained the words: minimum income for those excluded from the labour market". Those words came out and in went resources in keeping with their particular situation", and again, the magic words according to arrangements applying in each country. So what will that give us? What change has been made?

Then we come to an important section of the social chapter entitled "Freedom of association and collective bargaining". It refers to the right to join or not to join a trade union. The Labour party accepted that and that was the end of any Labour party support for the closed shop. We never advocated the closed shop. In the past we said that if employers and workers wanted a closed shop, it was not for Parliament to interfere. But now we are positively against the closed shop.

The words freedom to negotiate and conclude collective bargains", came out of the original document and in went the words under conditions laid down by national legislation and practice.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Leighton

I hope that I have not upset my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. I am happy to give way to him.

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend never upsets me. However, to point out the deficiencies in the social charter and give its history does not undermine the argument that there is and should be a strong social dimension to the European Community. The social action programme was the fulfilment of the social charter in legislative form. Of the 38 measures in the social action programme, 21 have been implemented. Several of them have produced considerable benefits for British workers which they would not have enjoyed under domestic British law. I direct my hon. Friend's attention to just one such measure—the transfer of undertakings provision. It is causing much trouble to Conservative Members. It has been welcomed with open arms by trade unions involved in the wholesale privatisation process. It was achieved through European law. We could not have achieved it in Britain under a Tory Government.

Mr. Leighton

I am grateful for that helpful intervention. I emphasise to my hon. Friend that I intend to vote enthusiastically for his amendment. The transfer of undertakings issue goes back decades. There is nothing new about it. It is a matter of interpretation. It comes under not the social charter, but a previous measure. My hon. Friend agrees that such measures do not come under the social chapter. They are reinterpretations of legislation adopted a long time ago. I am glad to have my hon. Friend on my side because I intend to vote for his amendment.

It would be an outrage for the Labour party to vote for the Third Reading of the Bill without the social dimension and social chapter. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton that it is an important item, but I simply point out that we should exercise care and caution and be realistic and accurate. I shall come on to the social action programme.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear to his hon. Friends on the Front Bench that the transfer of undertaking provisions, which were dealt with yesterday in Standing Committee under clause 26 of the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill, were not a reconsideration by the Government? Infraction proceedings were taken against the Government by the EC Commission. It was not a voluntary change of mind, but something which we were forced to do and which we did not believe was the legal position back in 1981.

Mr. Leighton

I think that that is right. I do not want to push my luck on this one, Dame Janet. We have said what needs to be said and I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Godman

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) referred to a strong social dimension. Does my hon. Friend agree that the treaty, with or without a social chapter, fails to do anything for the 55 million citizens of the European Community who live in poverty, 17 million of whom are unemployed? Surely a strong social dimension should have as its major aim the elimination, or at least the diminution, of the poverty suffered by so many fellow European citizens.

Mr. Leighton

I am sure that that is right. I can only say that I have read and studied the social chapter and its adoption would not eliminate poverty. The words, minimum income for those excluded from the labour market in the section entitled "Social Security" in the original social charter were deleted and in their place were put the words resources in keeping with their particular situation. I do not know whether my hon. Friend knows what that means. I do not know. That provision will not remove poverty. The social chapter has been weakened on that issue.

Dr. Godman

It means that nothing whatever will be done for the millions of people who live in poverty. The Minister has ignored that important issue. All those who are in favour of the treaty as it is drafted choose to ignore the important point that 55 million citizens will not be helped.

Mr. Leighton

That is right. It is now my pleasure to give way to my geographical neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South.

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

Mr. Nick Raynsford.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

It is Mike Gapes, Dame Janet. It was a good try. It is the first time I have heard it suggested that south of the river and north of the river were geographically next to each other.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the European Trade Union Confederation, the British Trades Union Congress and many other organisations that represent working people and those who were made unemployed by Thatcherite and monetarist policies in recent years are in favour of the social chapter? Is he aware that the European employers' organisation worked out an agreement with ETUC before the Maastricht treaty was adopted and that that wording was incorporated almost entirely into the text of the Maastricht treaty?

Does my hon. Friend agree that the concept of social partners, which is so hated by the Conservative party, is the reason why the Government opted out of the social chapter? Others recognise that that model of co-operation is the way forward for Britain and the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, the British Government want to take us back into the past. They stand up against the co-operation that is so common in other European countries.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, may I point out that interventions are becoming longer and longer and it is important that they should be short.

Mr. Leighton

I was about to congratulate my hon. Friend on the brevity, succinctness and wisdom of his intervention. Representatives of ETUC appeared before the Select Committee and gave evidence. It grieves me to say that they were pretty incoherent. I hope that this meeting is in private. I do not want them to know that I said that.

In the five or six European countries that the Select Committee visited we met the representatives of the national trade unions. They expressed great disappointment at the limited amount that they would get out of the social chapter. They were all critical of the slow progress on implementing the social charter. I am happy to be at one with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South because I am a great supporter of the social chapter. I shall vote for the amendment. I hope that the whole Committee will do so, including many Conservative Members.

Mr. Winnick

Of course, Opposition Members are all in favour of the social chapter. It would be amazing if the position were otherwise. But is not the social chapter undermined by article 104c, which places a limit of 3 per cent. of GDP on the budget deficit that a Government can run? That would entail the application of even more vindictive monetarist policies than those pursued by the Tory Government in the past few years. What is the point of one gain if it is undermined by all the reverses contained in article 104c? I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made some critical remarks about that article, albeit at the meeting in Paris.

Mr. Leighton

My hon. Friend is right. His point demonstrates that the Maastricht treaty is an old-fashioned and outdated document. It was conceived before the Berlin wall came down. It does nothing for eastern Europe. It did not envisage the recession with which we are now dealing. As my hon. Friend rightly says, a deficit of more than 3 per cent. of GDP would be regarded as excessive. Her Majesty's Government are running a deficit of 7 per cent. or more now. If we wanted to move to stage 2 we would have to reduce our deficit to 3 per cent. To do so, we should have to cut public expenditure by £20 billion to £25 billion. If we cut public expenditure by £25 billion, I suspect that it would lead to vastly increased unemployment and I do not think that the trade unions would be in favour of that. My hon. Friend has put his finger on an extremely good point and I am pleased that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition has cottoned on to it in a strong way and has made a speech in Paris, saying that we cannot have this. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend may be leading us into the Lobby on Third Reading to vote against such a mad monetarist idea. I certainly hope so.

I want to get back to the question of freedom of association and collective bargaining which was one of the main features of the social charter. The words right to resort to collective action, including the right to strike were taken out and in went these words:

rights … subject to obligations … under national legislation". 6 pm

So what does that give us? What is new? What is being added for British workers by those words? If we are talking about strikes under national legislation, they mean that there is no right to strike in this country. In most countries, if a strike is lawful the contract of employment is put on ice; in this country the contract of employment is breached and one can be sacked, as was demonstrated at Wapping. There is no right to strike in the social chapter. Perhaps I should also draw attention to the fact that the workers at GCHQ will not have their rights restored. The charter says: The internal legal order of member states shall determine under which conditions the extent of rights under Articles 11–13 shall apply to the armed forces, police, and civil service That means the status quo at GCHQ, although many people think that under the charter the workers would be given the right to join a union.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) referred to the protection of children and young people. The wording in the original charter was: Young people … must receive equitable remuneration", but later the words in accordance with national practice were added. So what does it mean? Ah, my hon. Friend knows.

Ms. Quin

Does my hon. Friend agree that the reason why so many of these provisions were watered down—something which, like him, I greatly deplore—was the intervention of the United Kingdom Government, not the attitude of the other 11 countries?

Mr. Leighton

I am not certain that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. On my travels round Europe I found that many European employers do not abide by the rules. There are no health and safety executives in the back streets of Naples. There is no health and safety executive anywhere in these countries. Nor is there a commission for racial equality. In the social charter—even the Minister is agreeing with me on this—there is nothing like the British Commission for Racial Equality. There are no paragraphs about racial equality.

Mr. Mandelson

Should we rejoice in the fact that the people of Naples and elsewhere do not have the benefits of a health and safety executive and the advantages of a commission for racial equality? Surely under the principles of socialist solidarity we should want to export these good ideas to the rest of Europe. That is why many of us on the Opposition Benches support the social chapter and the entire treaty.

Mr. Leighton

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. I agree with him 101 per cent. He is someone whom I admire very much and I agree with him completely. All that I am saying is that we must beware, be cautious, be realistic and avoid exaggeration. We must not give untrue perceptions of what is in the treaty. I am trying to give hon. Members the result of the Select Committee's work. The Committee visited six countries, spending taxpayers' money and making an investigation—

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Will my hon. Friend explain to some of our hon. Friends who seem to find it hard to understand that it is difficult to export high standards if they are not written down in the first place?

Mr. Leighton

Yes, that is true. If we want the social dimension, we must work for it and we must vote for the amendment tonight.

After the section on the young, there was a section dealing with the elderly. No words were deleted, but new words were inserted at the beginning: According to the arrangements applying in each country"—

Mr. Randall

Before my hon. Friend deals with that, may I ask him about article 104c and deficits? Most hon. Members will be concerned about over-restrictive deficits during a period of recession, but perhaps what one must do in a period of recession, for all sorts of obvious reasons, is borrow and invest in the infrastructure. Is my hon. Friend aware, however, that there may be greater flexibility in the treaty than he implied? I refer him to paragraph 3, which says that the Commission will take into account all relevant factors, and if I may just suggest —[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. We cannot have a sort of sub-plot going on.

Mr. Randall

There is a question, Dame Janet, as to whether the situation is as rigid as my hon. Friend suggested. Paragraph 3 of article 104c says, take into account all other relevant factors, including the medium term economic and budgetary position of the Member State. Surely these words mean that in a period of recession there would be flexibility.

Mr. Leighton

Once again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is helping my case: He is referring to a previous intervention and saying that the Commission might be gracious enough to consider—

Mrs. Dunwoody

Take account of.

Mr. Leighton

Oh, "take account of". That is very nice of it. I take the view that the budget deficit should be decided according to the circumstances of the day—which change—by the elected Government of the day. I do not think that any of this nonsense should be enshrined in the treaty. I have heard about the end of history and I do not understand much about it. But this is the end of economics. We cannot discuss economics because it has all been decided: 3 per cent., in the treaty, unless the Commission will take something into account. It is nonsense. These things should be decided by our own democractically elected Parliament and I do not want our people stripped of their powers in favour of the Commission, with an international treaty and a court that will decide what is to be done. Who believes in that nonsense? I hope that we will vote against all this stuff.

I turn now to implementation. Here there were references to "legislative measures", but they were taken out. The Commission was to present an action plan by a certain date, but the date was taken out and the words "as soon as possible" were put in.

That is the charter. What has happened since? Sometimes when I discuss these things with my friends, I ask them if they can think of any directive that has come out of the charter since it was promulgated. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East produced a brilliant briefing for us in which she mentioned three things. One is that there should be a written contract of employment. Most workers will have one, but it is right that they should all have one. Secondly, there was an amendment—not a new directive, but an amendment to the 1985 directive on collective redundancies. Someone should tell the President of the Board of Trade about it. Thirdly, there was something for pregnant workers, but again this shows the way things are going; it was so emasculated, so watered down, that in the end the pregnant workers were given so many weeks off with sick pay, as though pregnancy were a sickness. Incidentally, the Italians—who love children and value women—voted against it because they thought that it was not enough —[Interruption.] Have I said the wrong thing?

Apart from directives, regulations and decisions that have a binding effect, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East will find, from looking through her papers, that there are numerous opinions, communications, recommendations and resolutions. The only trouble with them is that they are all pious and meaningless because they are not binding. They have had little effect and most have disappeared without trace.

No one can say what we have got out of European Community legislation. The Select Committee on Employment asked the Government to describe the state of play and the effect of all the legislation coming out of the charter. They sent us the "Memorandum on European Community Legislation", which I have here. I recommend anyone interested in the subject to get a copy of this document so that he can find out what has happened.

One directive, entitled "Working Time", has been dropped. It seems unlikely that it will ever see the light of day again and if it does it will have been emasculated. There will be so many exceptions that it is likely to be meaningless.

Another directive is entitled "Information and consultation of workers, or European Works Councils". Are not they the Vredeling proposals, which date frorn more than a decade ago? They have been blocked and nothing has happened. Once again, the Government tell us that there is no progress.

A proposal entitled "Access to Training Decision" was opposed by employers. I think that one of my hon. Friends said that continental employers are all in favour of such training, but employers were starkly against that proposal, as were five member states. What happened? There will be only a recommendation, which has no legally binding effect and everyone will ignore it.

Another proposal was a "Directive on part-time and atypical work". The Government tell us that the state of play on that directive is that it is "dormant". That is a word that we do not often use in the House. I looked it up in the dictionary, which said: lying inactive as in sleep—in abeyance". The Government's definition is that no progress has been made on furthering"— the proposal— for a considerable length of time. I support the proposal, but I am afraid that it is dormant.

A proposal on the equal treatment of men and women dealt with the burden of proof in sex discrimination cases. That is known to many hon. Members. The Government tell us that it is dormant and has been for several years, so we do not hold out much hope for that.

Another directive, entitled "Parental leave", would have entitled workers to uniform conditions of parental leave, regardless of sex, in all member states. What has happened to that? It has been "dormant for several years." The Government are telling the Committee, "Forget it, you don't have to worry about that one."

The "labour clause proposal" concerns the introduction of a labour clause into all public contracts. That is what we used to call contract compliance and it is a good idea. What happened to it? The Government memorandum tells us: The Commission are now unlikely to produce a separate proposal on this subject. So I think that we have to forget about that.

The only conclusion that I can draw from all that is that the expectations that marked the 1980s and found expression in the social charter are ebbing away. There is no life in the charter—it is running into the sands. The momentum has disappeared and the chance of most of the important proposals in the charter being implemented is becoming increasingly remote. Was the social charter a phantom? Was it only a slogan? Was it a smokescreen of verbiage to cover the 1992 competitive free-for-all and to keep the unions sweet and on board? Was it meant to drag the wool over their eyes?

I enthusiastically support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland. We should demand a social dimension. Everything should have such a dimension, but it is not in the Bill. The business man's Europe is there, but the workers' Europe—the Europe of the people, the unions, the young and the elderly—is not. That is not what we are being sold. We must fight for the social dimension and the social charter. It would be outrageous if the Labour party voted for a Bill that resulted in the business man's Europe, without thinking of the people who work in it.

6.15 pm
Mr. Marlow

I have tabled two amendments in this group—Nos. 127 and 129—which deal with freedom of movement for workers, as that is obviously an important issue.

Whereas that matter was decided by qualified majority voting, it is to be decided under the procedures of article 189b. I do not want to go on at length about my amendments but article 189b seems very complicated. I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to explain its implications when he replies to the debate— [Interruption.] I am not sure what my right hon. Friend the Minister said. Does he want me to give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend moved a closure motion because he clearly thought that the debate should have come to an end last week and he tried to prevent me from intervening altogether.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend made a very good speech today—a speech that I enjoyed. It was informative and held together, although I did not agree with all of it. I am sorry that he has to make that sort of debating point by way of an intervention. He knows as well as I that there are such things as probing amendments—that was a probing closure.

When my right hon. Friend winds up the debate for a second time, can he tell the House the implications if freedom of movement of workers is decided under the procedures set down under article 189b rather than by qualified majority voting? I am sure that the House would be grateful if he could also explain, in words of one syllable and in a short time, how article 189b works, so that when we return to our constituencies we can inform our constituents.

Amendment No. 7, tabled by the Opposition, seeks to remove the social fund from the Bill. As I understand it, the social fund is a slush fund—a means of taking money from taxpayers in my constituency and in this country and giving it to taxpayers in other countries. It is a means whereby the Commission and European institutions can gain clients in other Community countries and thus gain support in those countries. I think that it is on page 31, is it not?

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is the inevitable and honest logic of capitalism that if one wants to create a genuine single market one needs a mechanism to redistribute wealth from the more dynamic areas of the market to the poorest areas? Therefore, it follows, absolutely logically, that one needs some form of social chapter and fund and that that should grow inexorably year by year until Europe can replicate the situation in today's nation state, which redistributes about 40 per cent. of gross domestic product via central taxation and benefits. If that is not the logic, I should like to hear someone explain how one would create a genuine common market without redistributing wealth to relax the tensions between rich and poor areas.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman sits on the Opposition side of the House, and I sit on the Government side. We have different philosophies. The hon. Gentleman makes no bones about the fact that he is a socialist and is in favour of redistribution. I do not share his views on redistribution, although we obviously have social obligations that we are very happy to meet. I do not know about the hon. Gentleman, but I want a single market. I want the Germans to be able to sell in our market, and the British to be able to sell in Spain. I want a level playing field in terms of the movement of goods, but each country in the European Community should be entitled to make its own decisions on social policy and, to a certain extent, on commercial policy and taxation, thereby encouraging its own prosperity so that it can deal with its own social problems.

Mr. Livingstone

I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. What I am suggesting is not being put forward as socialism. In fact, the mechanism for the redistribution of wealth began here long before there was a Labour party. Some historians estimate that about 1.5 per cent. of local wealth was redistributed under Queen Boudicca. This is not new; it has grown inevitably, Government by Government, until we are now absorbing about 40 per cent. In a genuinely common market a substantial proportion of wealth will be funnelled in this way by capitalists, corporations and conservative politicians across Europe. I wish this were socialism so that we could claim it.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman has his view of Europe, and I have mine. The Europe that I want—by being competitive, by having competitive rates of taxation, by including countries which do not embrace the social charter and, therefore, have competitive labour forces—will generate more wealth. Wealth that is generated in individual countries enables those countries better to look after pensioners, hospitals and other social needs that all Members of this House, in their different ways, want to provide for. My view of Europe is different from the hon. Gentleman's.

Mr. Duncan-Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that the reality lies in the difference between the two approaches? On the one hand, there is the socialist approach, which seeks, through political manoeuvring, to engineer the distribution or redistribution of wealth; on the other hand, there is the true free market capitalist philosophy, which seeks to operate in a naturally competitive environment where trade is drawn to more competitive areas, which distribute their own wealth. The question is whether one sees Europe as a nation with a national obligation to redistribute or as a collection of individual nations with no obligation to redistribute.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend made the definitive speech of this debate, and he has just made a definitive intervention. Indeed, he makes much better than I the point that I am trying to put across—that by competing within Europe we all generate wealth. That is what we must do. If we are forced into the same mould, if we are directed from the centre by the inevitably bureaucratic institutions that Europe has at present, enterprise and therefore the generation of wealth will he discouraged. In those circumstances, we shall not have the resources to do the best for the people for whom we all, including Opposition Members, want the best.

Mr. Lord

Bearing in mind the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), may I put it to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that, in all of this, the basic conundrum is that we are being urged to co-operate and to compete at the same time. The two are incompatible.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend makes his point very well indeed, and I am grateful to him.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

The hon. Gentleman speaks about the distribution of wealth. That is what we all want; yet after 14 years of the magnificent free enterprise Tory Government there are 5,000 homeless people from Scotland sleeping on the streets of London. Does the hon. Gentleman want that situation to continue? The social charter would at least give those folk some hope.

Mr. Marlow

No hon. Member in any part of the Committee will deny that we have social problems, but neither will any hon. Member deny that there were social problems in 1979. However, I put it to the hon. Gentleman that if he looks at the general level of prosperity—if he looks into people's houses, at people's cars, and so on—he will see that it is far higher than it was previously. Let him consider the resources that we in this country are applying to social security, hospitals and education. The amount being spent on these social services is several times greater than it was when there was last a Labour Government. If the hon. Gentleman looks fairly at the situation, he will see that that is the case.

The Opposition's amendment seeks to apply the social fund more widely. The new article 123 says: In order to improve employment opportunities for workers in the internal market and to contribute thereby to raising the standard of living, a European Social Fund is hereby established in accordance with the provisions set out below; it shall aim to render the employment of workers easier and to increase their geographical and occupational mobility within the Community". That was all there already, but there are added the words: and to facilitate their adaptation to industrial changes and to changes in production systems, in particular through vocational training and retraining. In particular, yes, but not only. It seems that ever more resources will be applied to this fund and that it will be used to facilitate adaptation to industrial change and to changes in production systems. It seems to me that that means direct investment in other people's industries and factories. How can I go to my constituents and say, "Some of the money that is being taken from you by way of tax is to be sent to Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece so that people there may improve the productivity of their factories, produce goods more cheaply than you can and, therefore, close your factories and put you out of work"?

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

We are recipients from the fund to a substantial extent.

Mr. Marlow

That may be the case, but the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well why. Under the original provisions of the Community budget and the common agricultural policy, there was such a deficiency of Community resources coming to this country that some funds have been diverted, by device through the social fund, into the United Kingdom. Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that, as things develop, with the stated need for cohesion in the Community, we shall be able to keep that share of the social fund? If he does, he is very much in the minority. As things develop, increasing amounts of that money will be moved from the United Kingdom to other parts of Europe, from my constituents to people in other European countries.

In an intervention today, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that there was overwhelming support in Europe for the social chapter, that all the other 11 countries were in favour of it and wanted us to join. It is easy to understand why they want us to join. Recently I talked to a major business man in Northampton. He had just come back from Germany, where he had talked to business men, including someone running a company with a turnover of £300 million a year. The Northampton man asked the German how he saw himself as he would be in four years' time. The German said, "I think I'll be out of business."

He said that, in addition to the problems caused by eastern Germany, his country suffered because wages were too high and social costs were much greater than in the United Kingdom.

It is because of the high wages and social costs and the burden imposed on other European countries by many aspects of the social chapter that those countries want to place the same obligations on us. They realise that the burdens are increasingly making them less competitive, whereas the United Kingdom is becoming increasingly competitive. How can it be in our interests to have to shoulder those burdens? I am perplexed and puzzled. Why does the Labour party—which every day claims that it is concerned about unemployment, which it describes as the biggest problem confronting this country—want to impose on this country the burdens that other European countries have imposed on themselves and, through the social chapter, want to impose on us?

I must say categorically that I and most of my colleagues deplore and dislike the Maastricht treaty, although we congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on making the best of a difficult job, but the one thing about it that we dislike above all else is the potential damage threatened by the social chapter.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

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

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 290.

Division No. 126] [3.47 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Adams, Mrs Irene Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Ainger, Nick Barnes, Harry
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Barron, Kevin
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Battle, John
Armstrong, Hilary Bayley, Hugh
Ashton, Joe Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Austin-Walker, John Bell, Stuart
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hoon, Geoffrey
Bennett, Andrew F. Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Berry, Dr. Roger Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Betts, Clive Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Blunkett, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Boyce, Jimmy Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bradley, Keith Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Brandreth, Gyles Hutton, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Illsley, Eric
Browning, Mrs. Angela Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Callaghan, Jim Jamieson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Jessel, Toby
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cann, Jamie Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Jowell, Tessa
Clapham, Michael Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clelland, David Keen, Alan
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Coe, Sebastian Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Coffey, Ann Khabra, Piara S.
Cohen, Harry Kilfedder, Sir James
Connarty, Michael Kilfoyle, Peter
Corbyn, Jeremy Kirkwood, Archy
Corston, Ms Jean Leighton, Ron
Cox, Tom Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Livingstone, Ken
Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd) Llwyd, Elfyn
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Loyden, Eddie
Dafis, Cynog Lynne, Ms Liz
Dalyell, Tam McAllion, John
Darling, Alistair McAvoy, Thomas
Davidson, Ian McCartney, Ian
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Macdonald, Calum
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) McFall, John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Mackinlay, Andrew
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) McMaster, Gordon
Denham, John McNamara, Kevin
Dewar, Donald Madden, Max
Dixon, Don Mahon, Alice
Dobson, Frank Mandelson, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H. Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Dover, Den Martlew, Eric
Dunnachie, Jimmy Maxton, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Meacher, Michael
Eagle, Ms Angela Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Eastham, Ken Miller, Andrew
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Morgan, Rhodri
Enright, Derek Morley, Elliot
Evans, John (St Helens N) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Fabricant, Michael Mudie, George
Fatchett, Derek Mullin, Chris
Faulds, Andrew Murphy, Paul
Fisher, Mark Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Flynn, Paul O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Foster, Don (Bath) O'Hara, Edward
Fraser, John Olner, William
Galbraith, Sam Patchett, Terry
Garrett, John Pickthall, Colin
Gerrard, Neil Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Pope, Greg
Gordon, Mildred Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Graham, Thomas Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Primarolo, Dawn
Grocott, Bruce Purchase, Ken
Gunnell, John Quin, Ms Joyce
Hain, Peter Richards, Rod
Hall, Mike Robathan, Andrew
Hannam, Sir John Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Hanson, David Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Harris, David Rooney, Terry
Henderson, Doug Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Hendron, Dr Joe Rowlands, Ted
Heppell, John Ruddock, Joan
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Salmond, Alex
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Sheerman, Barry
Hinchliffe, David Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Home Robertson, John Shersby, Michael
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Tipping, Paddy
Simpson, Alan Turner, Dennis
Sims, Roger Tyler, Paul
Skinner, Dennis Wallace, James
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Walley, Joan
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Wareing, Robert N
Spearing, Nigel Wigley, Dafydd
Spink, Dr Robert Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Winnick, David
Steinberg, Gerry Wise, Audrey
Stevenson, George Wright, Dr Tony
Straw, Jack
Sweeney, Walter Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Mr. Malcolm Wicks and
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Mr. Malcolm Chisholm.
Adley, Robert Luff, Peter
Alexander, Richard Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Mills, Iain
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Neubert, Sir Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Nicholls, Patrick
Carttiss, Michael Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Cash, William Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Pickles, Eric
Colvin, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Congdon, David Redmond, Martin
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Shaw, David (Dover)
Cormack, Patrick Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Couchman, James Skeet, Sir Trevor
Dickens, Geoffrey Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Duncan, Alan Speed, Sir Keith
Duncan-Smith, Iain Sproat, Iain
Dunn, Bob Stern, Michael
Dykes, Hugh Sykes, John
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Gardiner, Sir George Trend, Michael
Gorst, John Trimble, David
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Watts, John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Whitney, Ray
Grylls, Sir Michael Whittingdale, John
Hardy, Peter Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Hawkins, Nick Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Jenkin, Bernard
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Tellers for the Noes:
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Mr. Tony Marlow and
Legg, Barry Mr. Ronnie Campbell.
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Division No. 127] [6.30 pm
Adley, Robert Chaplin, Mrs Judith
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Churchill, Mr
Alexander, Richard Clappison, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Alton, David Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Amess, David Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Ancram, Michael Coe, Sebastian
Arbuthnot, James Colvin, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Congdon, David
Ashby, David Conway, Derek
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Aspinwall, Jack Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cormack, Patrick
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Couchman, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Critchley, Julian
Baldry, Tony Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bates, Michael Davis, David (Boothferry)
Batiste, Spencer Day, Stephen
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Deva, Nirj Joseph
Bellingham, Henry Devlin, Tim
Beresford, Sir Paul Dickens, Geoffrey
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dicks, Terry
Booth, Hartley Dorrell, Stephen
Boswell, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Dover, Den
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Duncan, Alan
Bowden, Andrew Dunn, Bob
Bowis, John Durant, Sir Anthony
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Dykes, Hugh
Brandreth, Gyles Eggar, Tim
Brazier, Julian Elletson, Harold
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Burns, Simon Evennett, David
Burt, Alistair Faber, David
Butler, Peter Fabricant, Michael
Butterfill, John Faulds, Andrew
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fishburn, Dudley
Carrington, Matthew Forman, Nigel
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Forth, Eric MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Foster, Don (Bath) MacKay, Andrew
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Maclean, David
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Maclennan, Robert
Freeman, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fry, Peter Madel, David
Gale, Roger Maitland, Lady Olga
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Malone, Gerald
Garnier, Edward Mans, Keith
Gillan, Cheryl Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorst, John Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Merchant, Piers
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Grylls, Sir Michael Milligan, Stephen
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mills, Iain
Hague, William Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moate, Sir Roger
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Jeremy Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, Sir John Moss, Malcolm
Hargreaves, Andrew Needham, Richard
Harris, David Nelson, Anthony
Haselhurst, Alan Neubert, Sir Michael
Hawkins, Nick Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hayes, Jerry Nicholls, Patrick
Heald, Oliver Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Norris, Steve
Hendry, Charles Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Hicks, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Page, Richard
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Paice, James
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Patnick, Irvine
Horam, John Patten, Rt Hon John
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pickles, Eric
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew Powell, William (Corby)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Jack, Michael Redwood, John
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Richards, Rod
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robathan, Andrew
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Key, Robert Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kilfedder, Sir James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
King, Rt Hon Tom Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kirkwood, Archy Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shersby, Michael
Leigh, Edward Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lidington, David Soames, Nicholas
Lightbown, David Speed, Sir Keith
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Spencer, Sir Derek
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Luff, Peter Spink, Dr Robert
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spring, Richard
Lynne, Ms Liz Sproat, Iain
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Tyler, Paul
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Viggers, Peter
Steen, Anthony Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Stephen, Michael Walden, George
Stern, Michael Wallace, James
Stewart, Allan Waller, Gary
Streeter, Gary Ward, John
Sumberg, David Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sweeney, Walter Waterson, Nigel
Sykes, John Watts, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wells, Bowen
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Whitney, Ray
Temple-Morris, Peter Whittingdale, John
Thomason, Roy Widdecombe, Ann
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Willetts, David
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wilshire, David
Thurnham, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wood, Timothy
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Yeo, Tim
Tracey, Richard Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Twinn, Dr Ian Mr. Robert C. Hughes
Abbott, Ms Diane Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Adams, Mrs Irene Corbett, Robin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Corbyn, Jeremy
Allen, Graham Corston, Ms Jean
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cousins, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cox, Tom
Armstrong, Hilary Cran, James
Ashton, Joe Cryer, Bob
Austin-Walker, John Cummings, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Barnes, Harry Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Barron, Kevin Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Battle, John Dafis, Cynog
Bayley, Hugh Dalyell, Tam
Beckett, Margaret Darling, Alistair
Beggs, Roy Davidson, Ian
Bell, Stuart Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bennett, Andrew F. Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Benton, Joe Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Bermingham, Gerald Denham, John
Berry, Dr. Roger Dewar, Donald
Betts, Clive Dixon, Don
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dobson, Frank
Blair, Tony Donohoe, Brian H.
Blunkett, David Dowd, Jim
Boateng, Paul Dunnachie, Jimmy
Boyce, Jimmy Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bradley, Keith Eagle, Ms Angela
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Eastham, Ken
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Enright, Derek
Burden, Richard Etherington, Bill
Butcher, John Evans, John (St Helens N)
Byers, Stephen Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Caborn, Richard Fatchett, Derek
Callaghan, Jim Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Flynn, Paul
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Canavan, Dennis Foulkes, George
Cann, Jamie Fraser, John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Fyfe, Maria
Cash, William Galbraith, Sam
Chisholm, Malcolm Galloway, George
Clapham, Michael Gapes, Mike
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Gardiner, Sir George
Clelland, David Garrett, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann George, Bruce
Coffey, Ann Gerrard, Neil
Cohen, Harry Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Connarty, Michael Gill, Christopher
Godman, Dr Norman A. Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Godsiff, Roger Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Golding, Mrs Llin Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Gordon, Mildred Martlew, Eric
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Maxton, John
Gould, Bryan Meacher, Michael
Graham, Thomas Meale, Alan
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Michael, Alun
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Milburn, Alan
Grocott, Bruce Miller, Andrew
Gunnell, John Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Hain, Peter Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hall, Mike Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hanson, David Morgan, Rhodri
Hardy, Peter Morley, Elliot
Harman, Ms Harriet Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hawksley, Warren Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Henderson, Doug Mowlam, Marjorie
Hendron, Dr Joe Mudie, George
Heppell, John Mullin, Chris
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Murphy, Paul
Hinchliffe, David Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hoey, Kate O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Home Robertson, John O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hood, Jimmy O'Hara, Edward
Hoon, Geoffrey Olner, William
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Neill, Martin
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hoyle, Doug Paisley, Rev Ian
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Parry, Robert
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Patchett, Terry
Hutton, John Pendry, Tom
Illsley, Eric Pickthall, Colin
Ingram, Adam Pike, Peter L.
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Pope, Greg
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jamieson, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Janner, Greville Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jessel, Toby Prescott, John
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Radice, Giles
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Randall, Stuart
Jowell, Tessa Raynsford, Nick
Keen, Alan Redmond, Martin
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Reid, Dr John
Khabra, Piara S. Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Knapman, Roger Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Legg, Barry Rogers, Allan
Leighton, Ron Rooney, Terry
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lewis, Terry Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Litherland, Robert Rowlands, Ted
Livingstone, Ken Ruddock, Joan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Salmond, Alex
Llwyd, Elfyn Sheerman, Barry
Lord, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Loyden, Eddie Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McAllion, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McAvoy, Thomas Short, Clare
McCartney, Ian Simpson, Alan
McCrea, Rev William Skeet, Sir Trevor
Macdonald, Calum Skinner, Dennis
McFall, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McLeish, Henry Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McWilliam, John Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Madden, Max Soley, Clive
Maginnis, Ken Spearing, Nigel
Mahon, Alice Spellar, John
Mallon, Seamus Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mandelson, Peter Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Marek, Dr John Steinberg, Gerry
Marlow, Tony Stevenson, George
Stott, Roger Wicks, Malcolm
Strang, Dr. Gavin Wigley, Dafydd
Straw, Jack Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wilson, Brian
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Winnick, David
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Tipping, Paddy Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Vaz, Keith Wise, Audrey
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N) Worthington, Tony
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Wright, Dr Tony
Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold Young, David (Bolton SE)
Walley, Joan
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Tellers for the Noes
Wareing, Robert N Mr. Gordon McMaster and
Watson, Mike Mr. Peter Kilfoyle.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put and negatived.

Dr. Godman

On a point of order, Dame Janet. Is it the custom and practice of the House for the occupant of the Chair always to accept a closure motion put to him or her by the Government Whip? I say that because some Opposition Members were anxious to take part in the debate that was so drastically and disingenuously curtailed by Government Whips.

The Second Deputy Chairman

The decision is left to the discretion of the Chair. If the hon. Gentleman has some grievance against the Chair, there are proper ways to make that known, but now is not the time.

Mr. Fraser

On a point of order, Dame Janet. I do not want to whinge because I have sat here for two days and not been able to say anything about racial discrimination in Europe, but it would be helpful if we had some ground rules about how to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair. For instance, if an hon. Member has spoken for several hours, will he, like a racehorse, carry a penalty for having spoken for so long at the expense of those who have short but relevant contributions to make? Some hon. Members are called several times, even if they have made a contribution lasting several hours, while others who have conscientiously attended for some time—I am not the only one—have no chance to speak. Is a list of such hon. Members kept in the same way as it is on important Second Reading debates and other similar debates? We are confused as to how to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair, the weighting, and the degree of fairness as between one potential contributor and another.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Clearly, the Chair has a problem when many Members want to speak. All who occupy the Chair seek to maintain proper balance and fairness over time. If one considers the whole time scale, that balance and fairness becomes more evident than over a comparatively short period.

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 100c on page 17 of Cm 1934)'.

The Second Deputy Chairman

With this, it will be convenient also to discuss the following: Amendment No. 110, in page I, line 9, after 'II' insert

'but in respect of paragraph 9 on page 11 of Cm 1934, Her Majesty's Government as part of their formal process of ratification shall state that so far as the definition of the single market is related to an area without internal frontiers (to be enshrined in Article 7a of the amended Treaty establishing the Community) they regard absence of such frontiers only as not impeding the operation of that market and without prejudice to any action related to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.'. Amendment No. 133, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert

'(excluding Article 100c on page 17 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 134, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert

'(excluding Article 100d on page 17 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 359, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert

'except Article 3(d) as referred to in Article G on page 9 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 104, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'and IV' and insert 'IV and VI'.

Amendment No. 46, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert

'but not Article 100c in Title II thereof'. Amendment No. 113, in page 1, line 17, at end add—

'The above subsections shall only come into force subsequent to the laying before Parliament by Her Majesty's Government of a Command Paper concerning the implications and operation of the provisions contained in new Article 100c of the Treaty on European Union (Control of third country visas by the European Council of Ministers and related powers of Member states) and to approval of its terms by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.'. New clause 12—Application of Article 100c of the Treaty of Rome to certain provisions on co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs

'No notification shall be given to the Council of the European Communities that the United Kingdom has adopted a decision of the Council under Article K 9. (Application of Article 100c of the Treaty on European Union) of the Treaty on European Union unless a draft of the notification has first been approved by Act of Parliament.'. New clause 13—Adoption of conventions in the fields of justice and of home affairs'No convention drawn up by the Council of the European Communities under Article K.3.2.(c) of the Treaty of European Union shall be adopted by the United Kingdom unless a draft of the proposed instrument of adoption has first been approved by Act of Parliament.'.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

On a point of order, Dame Janet. I believe that this is the appropriate moment to draw your attention to amendment No. 110 and to new clauses 11 and 12, which are included in this group—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. There is too much noise and I cannot hear the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shore

The amendments to which I refer are of a different sort from those grouped with amendment No. 8. I ask for your indulgence, Dame Janet, so that it may be possible at the end of this debate, or as you think appropriate, to have a separate Division on amendment No. 110, which deals with the right of movement under the citizenship clause, and on the two new clauses at the end—which insist on an Act of Parliament before any part of that which is looked upon as the second pillar of the treaty is brought within the trunk.

The Second Deputy Chairman

The occupant of the Chair always takes note of requests for Divisions. However, the Division that the right hon. Gentleman seeks would take place not at the end of this debate, but when the appropriate point on the selection list is reached.

Mr. Blair

Amendment No. 8 is designed to secure a debate on extremely important issues relating to justice, home affairs and immigration. Although we will not press it to a Division, those issues are critical to this debate.

I want to make clear the basis of the proposals in the Maastricht treaty, ask the Government for their views and intentions in relation to those detailed and complex proposals and raise specific questions in respect of asylum policy and co-operation over policing.

Article 100c and article K leave no doubt that co-operation across areas of immigration, asylum, policing, justice and home affairs is envisaged. Any suggestion that the treaty ignores or rejects such co-operation is patently absurd. The procedures for determining the limits and nature of that co-operation reflect the sensitivity of certain issues covered by both articles.

Apart from visa policy, there is little chance of Britain being forced against its will or being obliged to co-operate in those areas. Equally, such co-operation is plainly contemplated and encouraged by the way in which the articles are drafted.

Article 100c concerns a common policy on certain visa matters. It provides for a common policy on third countries whose nationals will require a visa, certain procedures for developing a common visa format, and for emergency situations created by a flow of people across national frontiers.

It is important to understand that the policies proposed in article 100c will come into existence only following multi-stage consultation. Before 1996, the list of third countries requiring visas will be drawn up only following a proposal from the Commission, consultation with the European Parliament and a unanimous decision by the Council of Ministers—at least in respect of visa third countries.

If, on the contrary, there is a desire after 1996 to have a common list of countries where visas are required., that can be done by qualified majority. The imposition of emergency visas will result from a recommendation of the Commission and from a qualified majority in the Council. Extension of the six-month emergency period will require the same procedure as that which is required for drawing up the original list.

The format of the visa itself requires a proposal from the Commission, a qualified majority in the Council and consultation with the European Parliament. If a qualified majority applies, it will apply to third countries where visas are required. After 1996, it will apply to the emergency provisions and the format. The ratification process is not clear—although it is clear in dealing with article K.

Quite apart from understanding the procedures for visa co-ordination, it is important that any visa regime—domestic or European—is not used as a back-door method of denying asylum to those genuinely seeking asylum in Britain or elsewhere in the Community.

At present, if entry from a country requires a visa—as is the case with many countries—and as applications can be made only at the British port of entry, in practice asylum applications are often disbarred. A few months ago, visas were required for Bosnia, but no consulate existed to grant them.

It is important that article 100c is understood in that context. It provides for a common visa policy, but also for unanimous decisions where they clearly matter. Whether or not that common visa policy is developed, it should not be a regime of the lowest common denominator but one that attempts to guard the civil liberties of those seeking asylum in particular.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

My hon. Friend says that the policy followed will not necessarily adopt the lowest common denominator. Why does he believe that? Hon. Members in Committee on the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill became acutely aware that the whole thrust of western European thinking is to reduce all immigration and visa policies to the lowest common denominator—including the more important area of refugees.

Mr. Blair

I did not say that it would be the lowest common denominator. There is no such provision in relation to article 100c, which provides for a procedure for determining a common visa policy. I was arguing that it should not be based on the lowest common denominator. As my hon. Friend knows, we strongly made the point in respect of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill that it is erroneous to think—although my hon. Friend is not saying this—that, outside Maastricht, nothing is happening in relation to asylum and immigration matters. Agreements are currently being reached that will operate according to a much looser formula than that set out in the treaty.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I hear what my hon. Friend says, but will he tell the Committee whether he is for or against article 100c?

7 pm

Mr. Blair

As I hope I made clear, article 100c, by providing for a procedure whereby a common visa policy can be determined, is entirely acceptable. Whether one decides to agree such a policy depends on the type of policy that is to be agreed. It is a procedure, a process. Whether in the end we decide to accept that process depends on what can be negotiated and what is on offer. On behalf of the Opposition, I am making it clear—no doubt the Secretary of State will make his own position clear—that we shall not agree to procedures that are based on the lowest common denominator. We want procedures that fully accord with the civil liberties of those applying.

Mr. Shore

Is not it the case from what my hon. Friend said a moment ago that, from 31 December 1996, decisions will be made by a qualified majority vote? Therefore, it will not be a case of our deciding on the merits of each case on which we could exercise a veto.

Mr. Blair

As my right hon. Friend will understand, at present the Council acts unanimously. Decisions made after 1 January 1996, with regard to countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa when crossing the external borders of member states, can be made by qualified majority. It does not follow that the immigration rules will be decided by qualified majority. As I shall show when we come to article K, dealing with substantive matters in relation to immigration, justice and home affairs, there is, almost throughout, a requirement of unanimity.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

I do not wish to misunderstand my hon. Friend. I understand that he agrees with the procedure, but does he agree with the. principle of a common visa? As I understand it, a person prevented from obtaining a visa to enter any one European country cannot enter any of the other countries.

Mr. Blair

With respect, the issue is the determination of those third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa. As I understand it, that decision must be made unanimously up to 1 January 1996. After that the list of those countries can be determined on a qualified majority basis, but we are still in charge, through article K, as I shall show in a moment, of basic immigration policy. It is important to realise that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Blair

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman and then I shall develop my argument, but the article is clear.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) asked the hon. Gentleman whether he was in favour of article 100c, which says that after 1 January 1996 those countries to which a visa should be applied from the European Community could be decided by qualified majority voting. Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of article 100c?

Mr. Blair

I have made it clear that I am in favour of the procedure for determining those countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa. However, it is clear from article K that that is not the same as saying that immigration policy is to be decided by qualified majority. It is not. When one looks at article K, which we should now do, it is clear that unanimity is required in its main elements. I see nothing wrong in the principle of co-operating in those areas provided that the co-operation is on a proper basis.

Mr. Livingstone

Am I right in assuming that, although my hon. Friend accepts the structure of the treaty, he expects it to be operated in a progressive fashion and is not worried about the lowest common denominator? How then does he explain the terminology of the treaty which talks about a threat of a sudden influx? The treaty seems to perceive a horde of Arabs and black and brown peoples threatening to come. That does not encourage me or my constituents to believe that we will not end up with the lowest common denominator in practice. What guarantee do we have?

Mr. Blair

With the greatest respect, my hon. Friend is being a little unreasonable. Article 100c, paragraph 2, says: in the event of an emergency situation in a third country posing a threat of a sudden inflow of nationals … the Council, acting by a qualified majority … may introduce, for a period not exceeding six months, a visa requirement". That is to contemplate a situation that must be within the serious contemplation of anyone. It does not follow that the tone of the treaty is designed on some racist basis, or on the lowest common denominator. It is a procedure.

The immigration policy applied by the Conservative party during the past 10 or 15 years should hardly be held up as a model of decent immigration policy. If we look at the matter with an open mind, we will see that a procedure is set out for determining those countries from which a visa is required. Article K is the main part that deals with immigration policy.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

My hon. Friend will agree that it is good to get the position clear before we move to article K. Does he also agree that the provision of article 100c is that, after agreement on the common visa policy, any one of the 12 nations of the Community in relation to any third country, A to X, can make arrangements for anyone from country A to X to come to any country 1 to 12? Once that administrative arrangement is made, the person with a visa for the Community can travel freely inside the Community on the administrative arrangements made under the aegis of one of its members. If that is the situation, we should proceed on something like that understanding, because that is the heart of article 100c, whatever we may believe about the co-ordinating machinery for visas.

Mr. Blair

I do not think that that is right. As I understand it, the agreement is made by the Community as a whole with regard to countries that will either be on the list of countries whose nationals require a visa or not. That degree of agreement depends on the country concerned and the negotiation around it. But I cannot for the life of me see anything repugnant about co-operating on the basis of that procedure. The content of that decision is another matter. That is precisely what is negotiated between the member states. However, I see nothing inherently bad about nation states co-operating when we operate as a European Community. I should have thought that that was good.

Mr. Corbyn

Along with many other hon. Members, I am deeply concerned about the concept. We are moving to a position where, by majority voting, there will be a removal of rights that are ordained to people under the 1951 Geneva convention on refugees. If a country admits an asylum seeker who has previously been refused a visa by any member state and that person seeks asylum in that country, he would have entered the country illegally because he had been denied a visa. European law would then force us to expel someone who was seeking political asylum, be it from former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka or any other place. I ask my hon. Friend to think carefully about the serious step that is being taken which I believe will be against the interests of those seeking asylum.

Mr. Blair

Again, I do not think that that is right. Under the treaty the position of refugees is protected, as is the position of people under the United Nations convention. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] In article K.2, paragraph 1, for a start.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I do not often rise in support of the hon. Gentleman, but I suspect that I am rising in my own defence as well because I am sure that I shall get caught up in the same debate. First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman—I realise that he has less support than myself —who has so far impeccably and correctly stated the position under the treaty. Article 100c brings within Community competence decisions on the list of countries from which visas are to be required by the member states. After 1996 that can be subject to majority voting. But that in no way affects the admission of any individual, the criteria upon which we would issue visas, or anything of that kind, which would be solely within our competence. As the hon. Gentleman correctly says, anyone who reaches these shores and applies for asylum will be treated by us as an applicant for asylum, and be entitled to have his application dealt with in the ordinary way. I have no doubt that the debate will broaden out into immigration and asylum policy generally, but the operation of immigration policy and our visa policy remain within our competence, subject to the House, because the Government will determine them in the immigration rules. The Bill merely brings a narrow area into Community competence.

Mr. Blair

I am not sure whether I should thank the Home Secretary; it might have suited me better had he attacked me vigorously. However, I shall accept his support, for what it is worth. I shall deal more fully with the position of refugees in a moment, but I believe that it is covered specifically by the treaty.

Mr. Cohen

My hon. Friend said that he was confident that it would not be a question of the lowest common denominator. Has he seen the minutes of the Trevi committee and those of the ad hoc committee on immigration? Other hon. Members have not seen them —the Government have kept them secret—but they are crucial to whether we accept that my hon. Friend's interpretation of the treaty is correct.

Mr. Blair

That is a point in my favour, rather than that of my hon. Friend. We have criticised the Trevi group, and the ad hoc group of Immigration Ministers, for operating outside the proper procedures. A careful reading of the Maastricht treaty will show that its purpose is to bring such operations within those procedures.

Mr. Cohen

The treaty has not yet been ratified.

Mr. Blair

I will deal with the issue of ratification in a moment. My hon. Friend will probably find that the treaty will give us a better opportunity to debate some of the critical issues than we have now. At present things are done in secret and we are not given an opportunity to debate them properly. It is for precisely that reason that there must be sense in trying to impose some form on what is now happening.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman is concerned about the Trevi group. Decisions made there are arrived at unanimously and a Minister then has to justify them in the House. Under article 100c and article K, it is possible that a series of issues—not just visa issues, but issues of general immigration policy—could be decided by qualified majority vote, without coming back to the House. The United Kingdom and the House of Commons would be excluded from the process and we could do nothing about It. It is as serious as that.

Mr. Blair

I hope that, once I finally get on to article K, I shall be able to show that that simply is not true. As for the Trevi group being a wonderful example of the openness of government, perhaps the hon. Gentleman can exchange views with my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen); certainly, that is not my experience.

Sir Teddy Taylor

The hon. Gentleman has obviously studied the matter very carefully, but hon. Members who have not done so would appreciate his advice. According to his reading of article 100c, would there be a common arrangement for the style of visas and on which countries will require visas? Does he believe that a person with a visa valid for entry to, say, Italy or Greece would thereby have the right to enter this country? Article 100c does not make that clear. Will everyone have the same kind of document? A Minister has been unable to clarify that; I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to.

Mr. Blair

The hon. Gentleman expresses a vain hope. It is a question of more than the form of the visa, but article K—with which I will now deal, irrespective of requests for interventions—makes it clear that immigration policy is still a matter for unanimity. That, at any rate, is my view.

The co-ordination procedures in article K are complex, but there are broad areas of common interest, including asylum, immigration, justice—both civil and criminal—and customs and police co-operation. The procedural dimension of the article divides into two parts. First, there is the co-ordination envisaged by paragraphs 2 to 6 and paragraph 9. A common policy derived in the first way requires an initiative of a member state, or the Commission, and a unanimous decision in Council. That, I take it, will be the effect of article K.4(3).

Furthermore, any conventions drawn up unanimously by the Council shall be adopted in accordance with the "respective constitutional requirements" of member states. That is the point involving ratification to which I shall turn shortly.

The measures implementing joint action may be decided on a qualified majority basis if the Council unanimously so decides. There is, as it were, a trigger of unanimity before qualified majority voting operates. Measures implementing conventions shall be adopted by a majority of two thirds of high contracting parties, unless such conventions state otherwise. Obviously, they will often state otherwise, because they will be drawn up on the basis of unanimity.

7.15 pm

In addition to the requirements laid down explicitly in articles K.3 and K.4, there are other, more general safeguards. There are supplementary requirements, consisting of compliance with two international conventions, which are mentioned in article K.2. One of those conventions is that relating to the status of refugees, so that point is specifically covered. Then there is the consultation with the co-ordinating committee of senior officials, mentioned in article K.4, and the consultation with the European Parliament and the Commission referred to in article K.6. Perhaps most crucially, article K.2(2) refers to the responsibility of member states to maintain law and order and to safeguard internal security. Those matters are clearly set out and remain unaffected.

Article K.9 provides for the importation of the procedures relevant to article 100c into the areas covered by paragraphs (1) to (6) of article K.1. Perhaps the Home Secretary will confirm that the importation of the procedures in article 100c will, in a sense, involve the Commission in a way in which it otherwise would not be involved. Such an incorporation involves—indeed, requires—an initiative on the part of the Commission or a member state, a unanimous decision by the Council, successful completion of the voting according to whatever voting conditions are then imposed by the Council and the recommendation that the decision be adopted in accordance with those "respective constitutional requirements".

I want the Home Secretary to explain clearly what is meant by the words "respective constitutional requirements". I understand them to mean that ratification, or debate in the House, would be required.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The meaning of article K.9 is certainly important. There is, in effect, what the Government tend to describe as a double lock if it comes to any suggestion of extending Community competence beyond article 100c. Such extension would require a unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers, followed by constitutional endorsement in each member state. That, in effect, means a vote in this Parliament. Community competence, under article 100c, could not be extended without all 12 member states voting in favour of it and the House of Commons supporting that extension.

Mr. Blair

That is certainly my understanding and I think that it is made fairly clear in article K.9. At the Edinburgh summit, the Danes declared that the agreement to use article 100c would require the same constitutional procedures as governed the ratification of the treaties, which would mean a five sixths majority in their Parliament or a referendum.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

To what extent will the European Court of Justice function and what will its role be?

Mr. Blair

According to article K.3, the conventions that may be agreed—obviously, they will be agreed by the full European Community—may stipulate that the court shall have jurisdiction to interpret their provisions and to rule on any disputes; but that will be decided in relation to the specific conventions involved.

To obtain action or agreement in relation to the areas of policy in article K, there must in each case be a figure of unanimity before procedures—some of which may involve qualified majority voting—can be implemented. There is a ratification process before Community competence is extended. Both of those are there and seem to be fairly clear.

Mr. Spearing

I hope that I can make myself clearer than I did on the previous occasion. My hon. Friend asked the Home Secretary what the Government thought was the correct constitutional procedure for ratification of what is, in effect, an expansion of the powers of the Community in the treaty under article K.9. My hon. Friend may have noticed that in new clauses 12 and 13, which apply to a similar and even riskier procedure under 2.(c) of article K.3, some of my hon. Friends and I have said that the lock, when it comes to this country, should not be a vote of the House of Commons alone but a specific Act of Parliament. I remind my hon. Friend and the Committee that by means of a simple vote on a statutory instrument it is possible to ratify something as being a Community treaty. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that a statutory instrument, or even a resolution of the House of Commons, should not be able to extend the powers of the Community—by, in effect, ratifying a Community treaty —and that it should be done by nothing less than an Act of Parliament.

Mr. Blair

I understand my hon. Friend's point and his concern about the fact that there is a difference between the procedure for ratifying something and an Act of Parliament. The most important point is that the House of Commons should be given the opportunity to express its view. That is the vital aspect. Provided that that is done, the precise form in which it is done is less important. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I take the point that my hon. Friend has made, but the most important point is that there should be a chance for us to express our view.

Mr. Shore

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Blair

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to answer this point before I give way to him.

It is clear from reading article K.9, in conjunction with the other articles in article K, that in only a small number of cases is it possible for that situation to arise. It is also absolutely clear from article K.9 that the procedures in article 100c—in other words, the extension of Community competence—cannot happen at all except unanimously and after measures have been taken in accordance with constitutional procedures.

Mr. Shore

This is a very complex matter and difficult to get right. One accepts the fact that unanimity is needed in the first instance. That is absolutely clear. However, once unanimity is gained, there is no possibility of clawing it back. The importance of that first step is crucial. The second step is also crucial. The second step appears to be, through the operation of articles K.9 and K.1(3), that the whole of our immigration policy may conceivably be shifted into the European Community domain, under article 100c, under which matters can be decided by a qualified majority vote. We need something very much stronger than a simple resolution of the House of Commons, or a vote in the House of Commons. We need an Act of Parliament before any such act could be authorised.

Mr. Blair

There are a number of different steps within article K.9. It is important to understand the differences between each of those steps. Article K.9 will not apply at all unless there is a unanimous decision of the Council. At the same time, the Council determines not merely whether European Community competence is to be extended, but the relevant voting conditions that relate to it. That is a fairly significant safeguard. Article K.9 also recommends the Member States to adopt that decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. I understand entirely the point that my hon. Friends have made, which is that the procedure for an Act of Parliament is very much bigger than it is for a resolution of the House of Commons. Even before one reaches that point, however, the Council must unanimously decide it. It can also lay down—this can be part of the negotiations upon which unanimity is founded—the relevant voting conditions relating to it. We should have to be extraordinarily negligent in the conduct of our business if we were unable to construct sufficient safeguards within article K.9 in order properly to protect our position.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman is speaking on behalf of the Opposition. The hon. Gentleman opposes this Government. This Government may be in favour of policies which his hon. Friends look upon as racist and deplorable policies. On the basis of those policies, my right hon. and learned Friend might be unanimous with other European Governments. He might then come back here and, on the basis of one debate and one vote, and with the support of the Patronage Secretary, drive us all through the Lobby. And that would be it. The hon. Gentleman's party—the Labour party—would be able to do no more about it. That is what the hon. Gentleman is saying to his colleagues. He says: "Trust this Government. We are very impressed. We are delighted."

Mr. Blair

I am saying nothing of the sort This Government can provide poor legislation. The co-operation at the moment, outside the Maastricht treaty, has resulted in decisions with which we powerfully disagree, but it seems to me that, as a matter of principle, it cannot possibly be said that it is wrong to seek the prospect of co-operation. Whether we then grant that co-operation depends upon us. I do not believe that the safeguards are inadequate.

When the Secretary of State replies to the debate, I should be obliged if he would give us his views relating to the situation in which he may be prepared to activate article K.9 and his views on ratification. It must not be thought, however, that the alternative to what is in the Bill now is that there should be no discussion of these issues. It is absolutely clear that since 1975 intergovernmental meetings have been taking place under the auspices of the Trevi group. Various policy groups have been meeting to co-ordinate policy. At the last ministerial meeting of Immigration Ministers in London on 30 November, issues relating to harmonisation, asylum and safe third countries were discussed. Some Parliaments—for example, the Dutch Parliament—gave their people the opportunity to debate these matters. The papers were laid before those Parliaments before decisions were taken. None of those steps is at present open to this Parliament. It is extremely important, therefore, that we do not believe that the choice at the moment is between nothing happening in this area and what is happening under the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. Corbyn

This is an extremely important point. If the Government were to come to some agreement at Trevi on changing the immigration rules in some way, they would he put to the House of Commons in a one and a half hour debate on a statutory instrument, on a negative prayer. And that would be it. The Opposition have always complained that that is a totally unsatisfactory way of deciding immigration law and immigration policy. That, too, apparently, is all that we shall get under the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. Blair

It is not. If one looks at the treaty carefully, one sees that that is not what is happening. The safeguards there are greater than the existing safeguards. The point is that none of these things exists or comes into being unless effect is given to the procedures that I have delineated a number of times and that are set out in article K.9. It is important to take account of that fact when deciding our attitude to the procedures that are before us now.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blair

Very well.

Mr. Trimble

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman when he obviously wished to continue his speech. However, a thought has occurred to me and I should be interested in his reaction to it. The hon. Gentleman obviously considers the safeguards in the Maastricht treaty on this point to be adequate. Perhaps they would be adequate for member states that have a proper ratification procedure, but because of the nature of our constitution we do not have a proper ratification procedure. If we were to change our constitutional requirements and introduce a proper ratification procedure so that anything that had to be ratified came back properly to the House of Commons to be embodied in legislation, that might be all right, within the context of those agreements. The problem lies perhaps not so much in the terms of the Maastricht agreement but in the fact that our constitution must now be fitted underneath the new written constitution for the European union. Our constitution was evolved for a different purpose and we may have to think more deeply, but a proper ratification procedure in the House would solve some of the difficulties that have been raised.

Mr. Blair

I understand and have some sympathy with that point. However, in a sense, it is a matter for us to determine. Within the context of the Maastricht treaty, the procedures are plain as they apply to all member states.

I deal with two particular issues arising from the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). I apologise for intervening. I am sorry that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise references, but if he reads certain volumes of Hansard from the late 1970s, he will see that his party's Callaghan Government accepted a demand by the then shadow Home Secretary, now Lord Whitelaw, that any such development—any such ratification—must be by Bill, not by Order in Council or any other form of statutory instrument. His Government accepted that willingly.

7.30 pm
Mr. Blair

I am always delighted to be reminded of the time when my party was in government. I understand the point about the process of ratification and, as I said, I have some sympathy with it. However, in the end, it is something for us to determine outside the provisions of the Maastricht treaty.

I deal now with two particular issues arising out of article K of the Maastricht treaty. The first has to do with asylum policy. Much of what has been said by some of my hon. Friends who oppose the treaty is based on a belief that our asylum policy has worked extremely unfairly for those seeking asylum. However, if we can get the right basis for agreement, there is a strong argument for co-operation on asylum policy, a co-operation that genuinely solves the problems and is not based on the lowest common denominator.

I submit that there have been two striking changes in the European asylum situation in the past 20 years. The first is a huge rise in the number of asylum applications from about 13,000 throughout Europe in 1972 to more than 600,000 today. The second is the dramatic fall in the proportion of asylum seekers being granted asylum. Virtually all were granted refuge in 1972 whereas today the figure is only about 20 per cent.

Those changes are the result not only of a change in procedure but of the changing nature of refugees away from those subject to individual persecution at the hands of various totalitarian regimes towards the position today when most refugees are fleeing from ethnic conflict or civil war but are not themselves subject to individual persecution. The second type of refugee is not explicitly covered by the 1951 Geneva convention and Yugoslavia is a classic example of the problem.

Inevitably, many of those seeking asylum are not asylum seekers in the strict sense of the word because they are not subject to individual persecution, but, nevertheless, they are in a desperate situation. Countries acting on their own, merely pulling up their drawbridges as fast as they can, is not the answer to the problem. It requires to be managed on the basis of shared goals and responsibilities. Indeed, if some of the energy presently being expended on the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill was directed towards helping those displaced by the conflict on the basis of a proper policy of co-operation, it would provide a much better solution than those that we have recently debated in the House.

Contrary to some of the more lurid headlines, the vast majority of refugees did not want to leave their homeland and are desperately keen to return. A policy of co-operation and joint action is surely the only intelligent response.

I have one or two points to make on international policing.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Before my hon. Friend moves on to the issue of policing, will he agree that the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, which we have recently considered and which is now in another place, is the basis and blueprint for a future European policy? Is it not true that Britain's role in the past year in dealing with Bosnia and the former Yugoslav states is quite shameful and that the number of refugees whom we have so far received in this country is minimal and derisory? Is that not a matter of absolute shame, not only for the Home Secretary but for the entire Government?

Mr. Blair

My hon. Friend will know that colleagues from the Front and Back Benches have constantly raised the plight of the refugees and have strongly criticised the Government's asylum and immigration policy. I do not believe that the Bill should be the basis of co-operation between member states, although that is what is happening, irrespective of Maastricht. It is important for us to raise these issues, whether we are debating Maastricht or asylum and immigration policy in general.

The system for international policing would be affected if some of the provisions in article K.1 were to come into effect. The growing levels of international crime demand a more concerted international response. However, the procedures give some cause for concern and I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would respond specifically to this point. The problem is not that there are too few avenues for information exchange, but, at the moment, there is a danger that there are so many systems that they may at best cause unnecessary duplication and, at worst, conflict with each other.

The Trevi group, outside of Maastricht, has long had working groups dealing with anti-terrorism, police technology and organised crime and has set up its own European information system. In addition, the countries that are party to the Schengen agreement, which does not include this country, are attempting their own common information systems, backed by agreements on cross-border chases and similar matters.

Most crucially, Interpol, which obviously has a long history of international police co-ordination, has recently become considerably more efficient and more able to provide computerised records of fingerprints and other information that will be of some assistance in tracking down international crime. The important task is not to add another European body for information exchange, but to concentrate our efforts on focusing and enhancing the existing co-operation. It is far from clear which of those tasks Europol is primarily meant to undertake.

It would be right for the Home Secretary at this stage to say a word or two about Europol. It must be said that its beginnings have been rather inauspicious. There were disagreements over its location and when it was to become operational. Interpol has proposed to incorporate it within its own European secretariat, as a part of Interpol which will have separate functions. It will, in some senses, be a separate bureau but it will nevertheless still be under the aegis of Interpol. As that is specifically contemplated in the Maastricht treaty, I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would say something about it.

In his speech on the Maastricht treaty on 4 November last year, the Prime Minister was constantly at pains to point out how little co-operation was obligatory under the treaty. As with so much else in the treaty, the Government define their position not by the parts of the treaty which they embrace but by those which they think they can avoid. Provided that the right basis for co-operation can be found—I agree that that is the issue that must be determined—immigration and home affairs matters are not issues on which intelligent co-operation should be regarded as alien as long as there are proper safeguards to ensure that countries can continue to protect their own distinct interests where they wish to do so.

Sir Teddy Taylor


Mr. Blair

I think that that has been adequately set out earlier in my speech. The hon. Gentleman may shout, but some people will oppose co-operation on any basis. We do not. We believe that co-operation is entirely sensible provided that the basis of it is clear and it will work in our national interest. That implies not a wholesale destruction of sovereignty, but a process of co-ordination. If used reasonably, to further clear objectives, it will yield a far greater benefit to our country and to the people who live in it than would perverse isolation.

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

I have been listening carefully to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who made what I regard as a well informed and accurate speech. When speaking about article 100c(6) the hon. Gentleman suggested that other matters could be considered, but that that matter would be determined by the trigger article, K.9. Two conditions must apply. There must be a unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers. That is acceptedc, but unanimity does not last long in Europe. By article 100c we have already found out that the unanimity rule will be downgraded by 1996. The Single European Act was passed seven years ago, and unanimity has already gone in many areas. Over the course of time, decisions were made by majority voting.

Ratification by national Parliaments is the other side of the double lock. I appreciate that the law must be sound, but changes could be in prospect. A resolution of the House after one and a half hours' debate would not have a serious impact. It is unlikely that an Act of Parliament, which would be much more substantial, would be conceded.

In dealing with some of the points that have been made I shall refer to amendment No. 113 and new clauses 12 and 13.

Mr. Spearing

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should deal with the so-called double lock straight away? Some hon. Members, especially Front-Bench spokesmen, present it as a guarantee, but does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, whether it be over the arranging of the rules —that is important—or over the method of voting, once there has been a unanimous agreement the door back in the other direction is locked? The Home Secretary looks surprised—but once the agreement on the structure for decision making and voting procedures was concluded, unless there were a new treaty or a new Edinburgh summit or something else to change it all, any successor Government would be doubly locked into those procedures.

7.45 pm
Sir Trevor Skeet

There is a lot of sense in the hon. Gentleman's argument. The lock is a Bank of England lock, and when it closes, it closes. That does not mean that there will be no changes in future. As I have said, majority voting has gone in many quarters; there is no reason why it should not be modified here. I envisage that in future the provisions in articles J and K will be taken over as additional machinery required for the Commission and the Council of Ministers.

The Prime Minister has said that he is not prepared to allow a referendum—although we shall be able to argue about the possibility. The Prime Minister will not have a referendum because he does not consider it purposeful. In that case there should be full parliamentary control over any matter in which we can see great danger. The participation of the European Parliament is distinctly limited. Considerable powers could be taken away from a democratically elected Government here and surrendered to bodies in which representation is not so clear.

Another matter of grave concern to me is the fact that we are still supposed to be responsible for a large segment of Commonwealth countries. If we support the measures before us, surely we shall still have responsibilities not only in Europe but beyond which give cause for concern.

I am troubled by another significant matter. We are told that the treaty must go through without amendment. If that is so, there will be no satisfactory arrangement for the House to deal with any Act which becomes necessary to rectify article K.9.

The use of article 100c in conjunction with the citizenship provisions under article 8, and in alliance with the pillars under article K, has given the Council of Ministers and the Commission a stake in both camps. In this case, immigration policy is likely to follow.

The implications of some of the original arguments on visas are broad. I have considered some of the countries where visas are required. The United Kingdom lists 81 different states whose nationals require visas; France does things another way, and, rather than stating a requirement for visas, says that 40 nations do not require visas; Germany cites as many as 70 countries.

We could find ourselves in difficulty. Centralising within the EC could mean that, even if pressure were brought to bear, Britain would have to admit people whom it considers undesirable. For example, there are problems with the Algerians in France and with the Indonesians in the Netherlands. Once such people enter any country in the Community they can flow to any other part of it.

Furthermore, visas are often granted capriciously. To give a simple example, about two years ago I wanted to go to France and I had to obtain a visa. That was because a ship had been tied ashore in New Zealand, so the French decided there would have to be repercussions for the New Zealand Government, and made visas an essential requirement. I am glad to say that the requirement has since been removed.

We have noticed that the point of the treaty of Rome and of the Single European Act is free movement of people, services and capital, which is provided by articles 48 to 73. But that does not seem to apply to that big stretch of territory for part of which we are accountable—the British Commonwealth. What happens to the arrangements under the Hong Kong settlement? Will they be counterbalanced by certain people in the Community? After further upsets in South Africa, will people be permitted to return to the United Kingdom?

Mr. Corbyn

Is the hon. Member aware that under article 100c it is perfectly possible for EC member states to get together and decide, for example, that visa requirements should be introduced for visitors to this country from the Caribbean? That would be opposed by the British Government, who have already given a commitment not to introduce such visas, especially for people from Jamaica, but the requirement would be imposed on this country and then it would be illegal under European law for Britain to admit Jamaican visitors without a visa, even though the stated policy of the British Government was that they did not want to introduce visas.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Those anomalies must be ironed out, although it is quite possible that they could go through.

Has the matter been looked at carefully by the Commission, by the British Government and by others? I know that the Italians and Greeks have no effective administration for visa control. In that event, people may leak into these countries and then come across to the United Kingdom. They will have a right to be here for some time or they may be illegal immigrants. Once in the United Kingdom, they cannot be removed because they cannot be detected.

There is another anomaly. The French define the people of Guadeloupe and of Martinique as European Community citizens. Would we be able to define many of the people of our former colonies as citizens of the United Kingdom who should have free entry? Why has a special privilege been conceded to the French? I understand that the Portuguese have taken similar action with Macao. I dare say that those special matters have been arranged.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

Surely my hon. Friend appreciates that the freedom of movement between EC member states derives from the treaty of Rome and from the Single European Act 1986. It has nothing to do with the Maastricht treaty. British citizens given full British nationality under the Hong Kong citizenship scheme would be as entitled to freedom of movement as the citizens of Macao whom my hon. Friend mentioned.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am not certain that my hon. Friend is right about that.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will my hon. Friend tell his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) that the difference is that a limited number of people in Hong Kong, who have worked hard for this country and who have been good friends, will be able to come to this country? Every citizen of Macao is a Portuguese citizen and would be entitled to enter this country. That is the big difference. To suggest that we are giving preference to Hong Kong may be misleading.

Sir Trevor Skeet

It is inevitable that many suggestions will be made in a matter such as this, in which there are no certainties.

I have sat through most of the debates on Maastricht and I am amazed that no Law Officers are present. We are lucky today in having here an experienced Queen's Counsel in the form of the Home Secretary, who can make his own contribution, but the Law Officers should be present at all our debates because many legalities arise.

The Prime Minister said on 9 October that certain matters were outside the jurisdiction of the European Court and outside the competence of the European Commission. He said: We have wanted this principle established for years. My right hon. Friend was referring to the pillars. Having looked at the pillars carefully—the Opposition have rightly suggested that the pillars should be encompassed by the treaty itself because that is what it will come to in the end—I have tried to work out precisely the role of the Commission.

The Commission's role is not so innocent as it would seem. On the initiative of the Commission or of a member state, the Council of Ministers will be able to adopt common positions under paragraphs 1 and 6. A co-ordinating committee will be set up. Who will participate in that co-ordinating committee but the European Commission which will be fully associated with all its activities? That provision is in article K.4.2. Under article 152 of the treaty of Rome, The Council may request the Commission to undertake any studies the Council considers desirable for the attainment of the common objectives, and to submit to it any appropriate proposals. In other words, studies can be undertaken. The Commission has the right to draft and propose legislation on immigration policy, on drug addiction and on other matters alluded to.

I wonder whether the Government consider that they have been resourceful enough to insulate us against the revisions that are likely to be made to the treaty in 1996. We have had a treaty of Rome since 1975 and we have had the Community now for only 36 years. The House of Commons has operated for more than 700 years. We shall find that we may become a national council at the end of the day. We should consider the matter far more carefully and we should consider how our position as a national Parliament should be secured.

I note that article 100c falls within the provisions on the approximation of laws. It seeks to approximate the laws not merely on other matters, but on immigration policy and the like. I have said that article 100c deals with visa controls and presupposes broader immigration controls. There are three important articles in the treaty of Rome to which I draw the Committee's attention.

Article 5 says that member states shall take all appropriate measures to fulfil their obligations and they shall do nothing that is detrimental to the obligations being attained. Article 235 says that if the Community does not have sufficient powers, it can damn well take them. Article F should also be remembered. It says The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies. When one realises the significance of all this, when one realises what the Commission can do, when one realises what it has achieved in 36 years and when one compares that with what we have attained over 700 years, one wonders what will be left for this Chamber to do. Concessions are being made and rights are being lost, probably without even a referendum. The public may lose all their rights of representation in this Chamber and the great issues will be decided in Brussels.

The Home Secretary will probably refer to the new Minister, Mr. Flynn, who is a full-time appointee. My right hon. and learned Friend will probably say that as these matters are outside the competence of the Commission for the moment, Mr. Flynn will have nothing to do. I dare say that he can find a lot going on and I dare say that he will continue co-operation and negotiation as far as he can.

My final point deals with subsidiarity under article 3b. We have two choices. We can have pure international collaboration between states, which would suffice. After all, in previous years we have collaborated and we have been able to find satisfactory solutions. Alternatively, we could adopt the philosophy that the Government advocate of supporting the pillar arrangements of intergovernmental arrangements mixed with the Council of Ministers and with the European Court.

In the United Kingdom, we have learnt to live with immigrants, and our policies have been successful. We have long experience of racial issues because we have been a major colonial power. We have legislation on the statute book, such as the Immigration Acts of 1971 and 1988, and the British Nationality Act 1981.

It is worth remembering—we are primarily concerned with Europe—that there are 30 different ethnic groupings in the whole area. All these people could flood into other corners, and because of the free movement of people it would be difficult to resist them, provided that they had the means by which to support themselves and provided that they complied with certain regulations in the treaty.

In the Bedford area, we have more than 70 nationalities. If people felt that all their applications would ultimately be decided in Brussels, they would probably be shocked by the arrangements. I will not say that the British law on that matter is perfect, but it is much more tolerant than many of the arrangements which are likely to come out of Europe. Such arrangements resort to more absolutist methods.

We have gone a long way on this important clause. I am not sure where the articles will lead us. Eventually, it will be the foothold that the Council of Ministers and the Commission will use to secure their final entry, which could be extremely disastrous for the United Kingdom.

8 pm

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The provisions in article K, which are being considered in this group of amendments, go some way to improve the prospects of co-operation in Europe on matters of great pressing and immediate concern. The impact of matters such as immigration, combating drug addiction, terrorism and fraud on the member countries of the Community is growing. Some of the criminal problems which are dealt with in diferent countries by justice and home affairs departments know no national boundaries. Clearly, international co-operation is necessary if those threats to civil society are to be combated effectively.

The treaty marks an important step forward in establishing a framework of co-operation, improving co-ordination and opening up procedures which have been conducted to some extent in an unsatisfactory ad hoc way. There has been much criticism, especially from some of the quarters which criticise title VI of the treaty, about the lack of transparency in the procedures for tackling crime and in the activities of the ad hoc committee on immigration, the Trevi group, the Schengen group and so on.

Title VI marks a valuable step forward. It does not go much beyond recognising that the member countries of the Community would wish to co-operate on such matters for reasons of self-interest. It provides continuing servicing of that co-operation by establishing the co-ordinating committee and by specifying that decisions shall be arrived at unanimously, for the most part.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Does not title VI go a good way beyond that? We have already discussed how unanimity should be extended to qualified majority. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that all the conventions set out in paragraph 2(c) in article K.3, which we have not yet mentioned but which will guide the co-operation to which he referred, could be made subject to the judicial decisions of the European court? Does not that mark a great deal of change from what we have at present, which is rather more than the hon. Gentleman is suggesting?

Mr. Maclennan

It is an inherent characteristic of the sovereignty of the member countries of the Community that they may freely decide to draw up conventions which, as a result of the operation of their domestic constitutional laws, become binding in their own countries. That does not seem to go greatly beyond what is already the case. The provision that the European Court of Justice may have jurisdiction to interpret provisions is a step beyond the law as it prevails in the Community at present. I accept that it is a step forward. It is an extremely sensible step to take, because, if member countries seek to act in accordance with an agreement which has the force of the treaty, it is clearly desirable that they should all have the same understanding of what the treaty provides.

What more authoritative way of interpreting provisions could there be than submitting any doubts or differences to the arbitrament of the court, which would undoubtedly give the necessary steer? If it proved to be unsatisfactory to a member country, it remains open to that country to follow the normal proceedings for derogation of the provisions of the treaty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I hear a chorus of disagreement—I am not quite sure why. It is a normal principle of international law that derogation provisions are incorporated in any treaty. Provisions for denouncing treaties are incorporated in such conventions. That remains especially true for a convention which is drawn up under article K.2—for example, the European convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

At least once in the memory of many hon. Members, the Government have seen fit to announce derogation from the provisions. That seems to be the way in which we will proceed. There is nothing novel about that. It is a novel step to allow the European Court of Justice to have a specific role in interpreting provisions and to rule on disputes involving applications. It is a welcome step forward in the development of international law.

Mr. Spearing

I concede that the hon. Gentleman knows more about the matter than many of us present. The proper role and vires of the European Court of Justice is important. It is part of the so-called trunk and arises from the treaty of Rome, and the normal role of international courts and international law with regard to a possible derogation which could subsequently be arranged or may possibly be arranged under existing law.

If the European Court of Justice is to adjudicate on matters relating to those conventions, it will operate under the rules which stem from the treaty of Rome and the rest which follows. Therefore, the strength of the Community in its trunk sense is extending into those pillars, and it is no longer international in the United Kingdom: it is part of the Community structure.

Mr. Maclennan

It is international as between the member countries of the European Comunity. If 12 countries, or however many countries there may be in the Community, decide that they want to agree to a convention, there is everything to be said for having a common interpretation of what has been decided. To rely on the normal method of resolving disputes about conventional agreements in the European Community is to rely on the European Court of Justice to give an authoritative judgment in the matter. I acknowledge that there is no such comparable international court of justice outside the Hague framework. The international Court of Justice in the Hague is relied on to interpret, for example, the 1951 European convention on refugees.

Title VI is definitely a step forwad and a means of minimising disputes among member countries, rather than maximising them. The matter of greatest uncertainty in my mind is the adequacy of article K to deal with some of the pressing problems which member countries of the Community face. I question whether the Governments which drafted the Maastricht treaty were too timorous in facing up to the need to reach legislative agreement or agreement on a mode of legislating which could tackle some of the problems. It is desirable not only to co-ordinate the responses of Governments by intergovernmental agreement but to have common standards across the Community.

One example is combating drug addiction. There are different views within the European Community about how to deal with the problem of drugs. Some countries are regarded as more permissive than others. As a result, some countries may think that other countries offer a loophole or channel for the importation of drugs into the Community—the weak underbelly, if you like. I do not see how that type of problem can be dealt with by intergovernmental co-operation. It must be tackled by the adoption of a common Community response, for without boundaries such matters will become pressing and practical problems.

By denying themselves the ability to legislate quickly and adopt common provisions on home affairs matters, the 12 member Governments will limit their capacity to respond to problems which affect every member country. Article K.9 appears to adumbrate the possibility of some form of legislation on such matters under the provisions of article 100c. It is so tentative a step that it is scarcely adequate to the circumstances.

Mrs. Dunwoody

What the hon. Gentleman is talking about is important. Will he make it clear—I am not a lawyer—whether he is suggesting that the Community should have the right to impose legislation on member states, including those to which he refers as the soft underbelly? Presumably it would be policed and could be imposed by a central authority.

If that is not what the hon. Gentleman is saying, I find it difficult to follow his line of argument. If we are asking for the agreement of the soft underbelly states, whomsoever they may be, how can we proceed to legislate if those countries are not prepared to accept stronger policing and stronger methods?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Lady has not misunderstood me. I suggest that it may prove difficult to make effective co-operation between Governments and the police in matters such as drug addiction if there is no legislative competence to back up that co-operation. If we had different laws about drugs in Scotland and England, our capacity as a united kingdom to tackle the problem of drug trafficking would be seriously damaged.

We must recognise that, in moving towards a Community without frontiers, we are moving towards the United Kingdom position. There is no policing of the frontier between Scotland and England. That has certain practical consequences. It makes it sensible to have common law on some matters. It does not mean that common law is necessary on everything: it means that it is necessary to have the competence to decide where it makes practical sense to have common law.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I am carefully following what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Of course, if a common law is introduced, all countries will have to accept that law as it is. If it is the common view that Europe should have much less severe restrictions than we enjoy in the United Kingdom at present, the effect could be the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman says. We could find ourselves having law imposed on us which is far more relaxed than we would want.

8.15 pm
Mr. Maclennan

That is true. That is a consequence of living in a democracy. It is always possible to move one way or the other. The balance of opinion on drugs within the European Community is not on the side of the Dutch. It is fairly clear where the balance of opinion would fall.

I chose the example of drugs as a matter on which it struck me as clear that not to have legislative competence in home affairs could defeat the purposes of co-operation. Article K.9 provides a mechanism, if I read that rather obscure article aright, whereby The council, acting unanimously on the initiative of the Commission … decide to apply Article 100c of the Treaty … to action in areas referred to in Article K.1(1) to (6)". That is a peculiar reference, because article 100c deals with the one specific matter of the issuance of visas to third countries. As a matter of interpretation, I find it hard to understand.

Perhaps the Secretary of State will be kind enough in his reply or in an intervention to explain what he understands by the tie-in to article 100c. Does it say that all that is required when a step is taken unanimously by the Council is that the Council will, in an area covered by K1(1) to (6), act unanimously on a proposal from the Commission after consulting the European Parliament? That does not seem to provide a legislative mechanism. I find it difficult to understand.

I suspect that something is intended which is far-reaching and may have the ratchet effect other hon. Members have suggested. If that is so, we should be clear about it. Certainly, when the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) was asked whether the ratchet effect was in place, he did not deny it. I believe that he was right not to do so.

My party is content that this part of the treaty marks a valuable step forward in improving co-operation in Home Office matters between European countries, but we remain somewhat dubious about whether it goes far enough in giving the Commission and the Community the role that we believe that they should have in legislating on such matters.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I regard as the most positive achievement of the Maastricht negotiations and treaty the agreement to extend the areas of policy in which member states of the European Community would co-operate by the so-called pillared approach. That was the most significant decision taken by the 12 member states of the Community when they gathered at Maastricht. It was a position for which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister argued strongly on behalf of the Government. It marks a significant and desirable turning point in the way in which we shall develop what is described as the European union.

Today we are talking about the so-called third pillar of justice and home affairs. It covers a range of policies on which the British Government and all parties in the House wish to co-operate with other member states. We regard it as desirable to do so. We have been moving ever closer towards our partners on the key matters listed in article K. Certainly we have had the Trevi meetings to discuss peace and security matters and the ad hoc meetings of Immigration Ministers for many years, and I do not recall anybody ever challenging the position of the British Government who wished to discuss these matters and move, by a process of co-operation, ever closer to common policies in some of those areas, as we have been doing.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

If I may just continue for the present, I am resigned to the fact that I shall no doubt give way as often as the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) has done.

In developing that co-operation, the Maastricht treaty provides a framework which will put the whole thing on a more coherent basis. Insofar as it affects the relationship between Ministers and the House on discussions about European co-operation in these areas, it will almost certainly enhance the role of the House, increase the amount of information that comes back to the House and, no doubt, expose Ministers, quite properly, to more debate and discussion about the kind of things that we discuss in Trevi and in the ad hoc group.

Mr. Madden

Will the Home Secretary confirm that there has been constant criticism by hon. Members of the failure of the Government and successive Home Secretaries to make statements to the House following meetings of Trevi and other groups? There has been no parliamentary accountability and no opportunity for hon. Members to challenge the Executive about decisions taken or discussions conducted. It has been a disgraceful abuse of our parliamentary procedures and it gives us no confidence that things will improve if and when the treaty is ratified.

Mr. Clarke

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on, as usual in his interventions, sailing into a wild extravagance of language and grotesquely overstating his case, as he does on each and every feature of asylum and immigration policy.

My practice, which I think has been the practice of my predecessors, has been to report back to the House by way of parliamentary question on proceedings at Trevi and immigration councils. I do not recall that the pressure for oral statements about those proceedings has been altogether overwhelming. There have been no deafening demands on the Floor of the House. There have been demands that more of the papers should be available beforehand, however, and I anticipate that the Government will respond to that. I put in the Library a document that we were considering—the draft European external frontiers convention which, I was originally surprised to discover, it was Whitehall practice not to put in the Library. In due course we must come forward with proposals for reforming parliamentary procedures in this area. I quite accept and would argue strongly myself that we cannot have the House less well informed about the proceedings in the third pillar of the European union than it expects to be in the other two pillars.

Insofar as in the meetings that we have had in Trevi or in the ad hoc group of Immigration Ministers we might have reached the stage where we were agreeing to policy proposals that would require a change in British law for us to implement them, however, then as Ministers I and my successors would remain subject to our own parliamentary constitution and would have to come back here to get the legislative authority to make the changes in legislation on which we had committed ourselves to other Governments. That broadly remains the position here. A more coherent framework is proposed—

Several hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

I will give way in a second.

The reason why we have had these ad hoc groups before is that there has always been difficulty in moving the existing institutions of the European Community, the existing fabric of the treaty of Rome, into the areas of justice and home affairs. As an enthusiastic supporter of European union and of the European Community, I have always had reservations about extending Community competence under the treaty of Rome into areas of this kind. I am always described as a Euro-enthusiast, a description that I never resist, but I have found over the years that the method of determining policy in the European Community is frequently far from perfect.

Proceeding on what is described as intergovernmental co-operation, rather than bringing things within Community competence, seems to me to offer considerable advantage. The first is that the Commission does not have the sole right of initiating policy. The Commission is involved in the proceedings. It has in certain areas a right to propose initiatives. It is excluded from making initiatives in certain limited areas under article K, but it does not have the sole right. Member states may initiate proposals as well, and nothing would proceed except by unanimity so far as the member states are concerned.

This area of the third pillar is not subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice except in one tiny respect where, by unanimity, the member states may refer things to the European Court of Justice. The European Parliament has the right to be consulted and to give opinions, but the third pillar is not subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court.

This third pillar, therefore, is about European intergovernmental co-operation in the areas of justice and home affairs, which means that it requires the consent of the British Government and, insofar as the consent of the British Government might change either immigration rules, matters of criminal justice or anything of that kind, this Parliament would remain sovereign. We would have to come back here and seek Parliament's consent to any changes in legislation to which our European policy might commit us.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), with whose speech I agreed in large part, the hon. Member for Sedgefield and I are in almost total agreement on this subject—no doubt to the rage and wrath of members of our respective parties who are refusing to attend these debates—but when the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland says that co-operation is not enough and that we should have common policies, of course in some areas it makes sense in the 12 member states to move towards the area of common policy. In recent discussions I have talked about harmonising our immigration policies, which plainly makes sense, given our geography and the pressures upon us. I would like to move much closer to common policies on drug abuse, and so on. There is no reason why intergovernmental discussions should not lead to common policies, if all 12 member states consent by unanimous resolution and then if all 12 Ministers, including the British Home Secretary, can come back to their Parliaments and seek their consent to such policies. It is a way of proceeding which merely carries forward what we have been doing so far but in a more coherent way and one which is more likely to deliver results—results for which we are accountable to this Parliament.

Mr. Maclennan

I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way and also for his recognition of the extent of agreement, but I was trying to suggest going a little further than common policy to a situation in which we would have common law, decided on a European basis. That does not seem to be something that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is advocating.

Mr. Clarke

No, we are all having difficulty in advocating the step that we are taking in the treaty. It is true that it does not go as far as the hon. Gentleman suggested, which should be some small consolation to some of my hon. Friends.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

May I just back-track on what my right hon. and learned Friend is saying, to the point at which he said that there was an area here for improved parliamentary scrutiny? We clearly do not have powers, or have not been using whatever powers of scrutiny have existed in this Parliament hitherto, but the third pillar presents the possibility that the Select Committee on Home Affairs might be the body of continuing scrutiny of those matters. Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us the Government's thinking about a process of continuing parliamentary scrutiny through the Home Affairs Select Committee examining these matters as they arise, so that Parliament may be better advised of what is intended by Government before they take their decisions rather than afterwards as has been the case hitherto?

Mr. Clarke

Discussions are going on about that within the Government at the moment. I will undertake very shortly to write to my hon. and learned Friend with our proposals for parliamentary scrutiny under the third pillar. He has raised one or two issues on which it is possible to come to more than one conclusion—for instance, whether it should be the Select Committee on Home Affairs or the European Scrutiny Committee which looks at matters under the third pillar—but I undertake to write to him, giving details of the Government's proposals by way of parliamentary accountability, and such proposals will of course be made more widely available to the House as well.

I wholly accept that the House will want some clarity about the way in which it is informed of proceedings under the third pillar, and has the chance to consider them before matters are determined and how, in effect, it gives or withholds approval to what is decided. I do not remotely expect that the House would consent to more restrictive procedures for matters dealt with under the treaty of Rome than those it has been accustomed to in that area. We simply have to ensure that the procedures of the House are well attuned to intergovernmental co-operation under the third pillar.

Several hon. Members


8.30 pm
Mr. Clarke

I shall give way once more and then move on to article 100c.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Nothing should put the fear of God into the House of Commons more than the sight of three Front Bench spokesmen—all of whom are lawyers—in total agreement on a policy. May I draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the wording of article K.9? When giving his interpretation of that article, he made tremendously reassuring remarks, but its wording is very revealing. It states: The Council, acting unanimously on the initiative of the Commission or a Member State, may decide to apply Article 100c of the Treaty. If he will forgive my saying so, that is not quite on all fours with what he has told the House.

Mr. Clarke

I believe that it is, unless I made a slip of the tongue. I said that the third pillar does not contemplate the Commission having the sole right of initiative. As someone who has attended countless Councils of Ministers, I have frequently been irked by the fact that, under the treaty of Rome, the exclusive right of initiative lies with the Commission, which is frequently persuaded by one, or a group of, member states to bring things forward, but legally has the sole right of initiative.

Under the third pillar, the Commission can make proposals to the Council, but it has no monopoly of that right. Member states can also do so, and any initiative requires the unanimous consent of all member states before it has any effect—with the exception of article 100c, which brings an extremely narrow area within Community competence and therefore makes it subject to treaty of Rome type procedures.

The article contemplates bringing within Community competence the list of countries for whose nationals visas are required for visits and also establishes a common format for the visa. We accepted those proposals in the Maastricht negotiations for reasons of efficiency. The amount brought within Community competence under article 100c is very limited. It contemplates that eventually all member states will have a common list of countries whose nationals require a visa. After 1996, if people wished, the question of a common list could be decided by majority voting. The article also requires a common format. It does not extend beyond that, nor does it in any way reduce this country's right to determine for itself to whom we give visas and the criteria upon which we award them. That will remain a matter for our immigration rules, subject to continual debate and controversy in this House.

Several of my hon. Friends have asked what will happen if another country gives a visa to someone who then wishes to come here. That is a serious question. Someone who is granted a visa, say by the Federal Republic of Germany, would not require a further document to come to this country and would present a visa in a format of a kind to be established. However, that would not automatically mean that they would be able to enter this country as they would still be subject to the immigration controls over third country nationals upon which we are insisting under article 8a of the existing treaty, which will become article 7a.

Persons presenting themselves with visas would still be interviewed by our immigration officers and would have to satisfy the entry clearance officer that they were entitled within our immigration rules to enter this country for the purpose that they had stated. The mere production of an EC visa would not enable someone to get past our immigration controls, although it would have considerable evidentiary value.

The more progress that we make in harmonising immigration policy, the more likely it will be that someone presenting an Italian, French or German visa will be likely to satisfy our immigration requirements. However, a British entry clearance officer will still be able to say that although someone has a visa, from his interview it was plain that it was obtained by deception and on grounds that do not satisfy our immigration rules. He could then refuse entry and turn the person away.

Sir Teddy Taylor


Mr. Clarke

It is not outrageous. I shall allow my hon. Friend to try to explain why he believes that it is. I am trying to explain that this does not affect the right of a third country national to enter this country. They remain subject to our immigration rules.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does the Minister accept that, instead of expecting every immigration officer to look at everyone coming into this country with a visa from Italy and the rest, the only powers reserved will be for the officer to ask, "Are you a drug addict or a terrorist?" If one has reasonable grounds for believing that they are, one can stop them. Is he saying that we would be able to decide that only 50 per cent. of such people could come in? Surely, under article 100c, we will not have that legal right, as it allows us to refuse entry only if we have reasonable grounds for suspecting that someone is something like a drug addict or a terrorist. Is that true?

Mr. Clarke

It is not true. Article 100c does not take away our right to apply our immigration rules. It only governs the list of countries from which member states require visas and the format—the colour, size, shape and content—of the visa. The British Government's interpretation of article 8a of the Single European Act, which is not before us today, is that we remain entitled to apply our immigration controls and that article 100c does not extend any further.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) asked how far that extremely restrictive area of Community competence would be extended to other areas under article K.9.

Sir Trevor Skeet


Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend has anticipated my question.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Before the Home Secretary gets there, does he suggest that existing United Kingdom immigration controls can be safeguarded in their entirety by article 100c(5) which states that it will not prejudice member states' responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security"?

Mr. Clarke

We do not need that. There is nothing to safeguard. Under article 100c we are giving away two things to Community competence—if that is the language that my hon. Friend likes to use—first, the list of countries from which we require visas and, secondly, what the visa will look like. Article 100c concedes nothing else and unless we move the procedures under K.9 nothing else will be conceded to competence.

There is a great deal of excitement about whether article K.9 will bring into Community competence all the questions of asylum, and immigration law and rules. As I shall seek to demonstrate, it most certainly does not.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

On fabrication, if someone from outside the European Community, holding an EC visa, but not one issued by the United Kingdom, were turned away from the United Kingdom, would he be able to turn to the European Court to seek to show that the United Kingdom authorities had not turned them away legitimately?

Mr. Clarke

In my opinion, no. Someone coming to this country from France and refused entry could not, in my opinion, go to the European Court and complain that that refusal was contrary to his Community rights. If someone presents himself with a European visa in the common format, in my opinion, no directly applicable law would enable him to go to the European Court. Whether we go in that direction entirely depends on where we go on article 8a—7a as it will be—which is outside this debate. So far as this treaty is concerned, anyone with a European visa who was turned away might have certain rights of appeal here but would have no redress through the European Court. It is feared that article K.9 will extend this very restrictive application of article 100c into other areas. Article K.9 opens up the possibility that eventually everything in article K might, as everyone wants, affect European competence.

One of the things in the Maastricht agreement on which we insisted—largely because of the sensitivities of members of my party and of those who were observing the Maastricht negotiations closely—was that there should be a double lock before any such extension of competence could take place. Going beyond the list and appearance of visas would require unanimous voting in the Council by the 12 member states, and each member state would have to ratify the agreement which, in effect, would be a new treaty. This country has a long-standing process for the ratification of every kind of treaty—something that was criticised by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). The sovereignty of Parliament is what concerns a large number of hon. Members. It remains our position that in this country treaties are ratified by changing the law if changes in domestic legislation are required and, otherwise, in accordance with the Ponsonby rules. That has always been the case, and is currently the position.

This Bill does not go along with the entire Maastricht treaty, and it was never likely to do so. It changes those parts of domestic law which have to be changed before we can ratify the treaty and comply with our treaty obligations. This is all extremely fanciful. The current Government oppose any extension of competence in this field, and we shall not make possible the necessary unanimity. I am not clear about the Opposition's position, but I believe that they, too, oppose any extension of European competence in this field. For the foreseeable future, therefore, the risk of achieving a unanimous vote is slight. It may be of further consolation to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) that the Danes are even more insistent than we that there should be no extension of European competence in this area. It is one of the matters that they expressly raised at Edinburgh.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

I entirely support my right hon. and learned Friend's approach, and I am very glad that he has been emphasising the big "C"s of co-operation, convention and consultation. In that regard, I am fully in sympathy with what he is trying to do. However, I have a limited tactical question about article 100c. If my right hon. and learned Friend is not able to answer it now, I shall be happy to have a response at a later stage—if necessary, in writing. Article 100c(1) refers to a unanimous decision to adopt the visa list. Paragraph (3) says: the Council shall adopt the decisions referred to in paragraph (1)". Does that mean that the Council, by the majority voting system referred to in paragraph (3), would adopt only that visa list which had been predetermined by unanimous voting? It seems to me that there need no longer be unscrambling by majority voting if there has already been unanimity. One is left with a curious paradox. Apparently. in paragraph (2), there is a remaining unanimity requirement for extending the special emergency list adopted by majority voting. Will this unanimous extension procedure remain in place even after paragraph (3) has come into operation?

8.45 pm
Mr. Clarke

I shall state my opinion now and, if I should prove to be wrongly informed, I shall write to my right hon. Friend or seek to intervene later.

I think that the list of member states whose nationals will require visas will be determined unanimously before 1 January 1996 but, thereafter, by qualified majority voting. It seems to me that that overtakes paragraph (2). Straight away, there can be qualified majority voting in the case of an emergency. If there were a huge exodus of people from another country, there could be a qualified majority to determine whether it was necessary to add that country straight away to the visa list. Six months thereafter, extension could be only by unanimity. However, I contemplate that when we get to 1 January 1996 that will be pretty well unnecessary as a country can be put on the list permanently by the ordinary qualified majority. As I look in a certain direction, I get the impression that I have that broadly correct.

Mr. Spearing

On the Ponsonby rules, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I are absolutely at one, as we are on the question of the purpose of the Bill, whose limited objective is to give us a link and thus enable legislative obligations to be put into British law. This is a matter about which there has been a good deal of discussion. In this respect, article K of title VI is a little ambiguous. This is a very important matter, so I want to deal with it very carefully. Article 100c(6) says: This Article shall apply to other areas if so decided pursuant to Article K.9. Thus, it is out of the area of visas, which until now we have been associating with paragraph (6). I see that the Home Secretary agrees.

Article K.9 says: The Council, acting unanimously"— there is a lock there, up to a point— on the initiative of the Commission or a Member State, may decide to apply Article 100c of the Treaty establishing the European Community to action in areas referred to in Article K.1(1) to (6)". Article K.1(1) to (6) contains a whole range of matters: asylum, immigration, judicial co-operation—the lot. Does not the Home Secretary agree that, by that mechanism —initially, I admit, by unanimity—it will be possible to deal with all the matters in article K.1? Very important to article 100c are the words subject to voting conditions determined at the same time". Although there may be an initial lock, article K.1(1) to (6) is brought into the purview of article K.9. Does the Home Secretary agree that that is correct?

Mr. Clarke

It is what I have just said. Paragraph (6) is the mirror reflection of K.9. They repeat each other. Article 100c has the very restricted application that I have described exhaustively. It can be extended only by the process referred to in article K.9, which requires a unanimous vote in the Council of Ministers, followed by ratification by each of the 12 member states under their own constitutional procedures. The current political reality is that there is not a snowball's chance in Hades that either the British Parliament or the Danish Parliament will agree to any such extension—assuming, for the moment, that the British and Danish Governments stand on their heads and suddenly decide that they wish competence to be enlarged.

The provision is even more restrictive than the hon. Gentleman has indicated. Even by the process provided for in article K.9, one could not bring in everything that is set out in article K.1. One can go down only to paragraph (6). So far as I can see, there is absolutely no procedure for bringing into competence, by any process whatsoever, judicial co-operation in criminal matters, customs co-operation or police co-operation.

Mr. Spearing

Why not?

Mr. Clarke

Because it would require another treaty —if we ever finish debating the Maastricht treaty and anybody contemplates another one. The next treaty revision is due in 1996.

We co-operate on a totally intergovernmental basis over the issue of policing, and have done for a long time. The Trevi meetings have been conducted for a long time. The most important part of the Trevi process is the operational level and the co-operation that must develop between 12 police services in a community such as the European Community.

I was asked about the process of developing Europol. There have been some active politics on the issue. The British Government are in favour of establishing Europol. We were in favour of establishing a drugs information unit to have effect from 1 January 1993. During our presidency, when I presided over the Council meetings, I did my best to achieve its establishment on 1 January 1993.

I assure the hon. Member for Sedgefield that there is no question of Europol cutting across Interpol. That is the plain view of the vast majority of European Community members. However, we see a case for a criminal intelligence gathering operation between the 12 member states, aimed at international organised crime, primarily drug trafficking.

Progress on Europol is still proving irritably slow for all 12 member states. The delay illustrates the dangers of proceeding by unanimity. All 12 member states want Europol, all want to begin with a drug information unit and all want Europol to start on 1 January 1993. We managed to reach agreement on the nationality of the director-general, but we failed to reach a unanimous conclusion about where the headquarters should be located. So scrupulous are the protections built into the procedure to satisfy sensitive Members of Parliament here and in other Parliaments who are concerned that sovereignty might be given away that until all 12 member states agree on where the extremely important organisation should be located and until all 12 Ministers have given their consent, returned to their Parliaments and received approval, the organisation cannot be set up. If that process does not underline the extent of the security to protect our sovereignty and reassure those concerned about Community competence, few other factors will.

My position, adopted on behalf of Britain, was that I could not care less where the headquarters were located. I made it clear that the British would vote for whatever location might command unanimity among the other member states. Unfortunately, there were other sensitivities involved, and the matter remains to be resolved. I hope that the problem will be resolved during the Danish presidency.

Mr. Maclennan

The Home Secretary is giving us a most fascinating account, and I am grateful to him for underlining some of the points that I was trying to make about the difficulty of progressing by unanimity. However, I am still unclear about the last part of article K.9. Is it envisaged that Community competence—which he said could be extended under that article—will extend to matters of Community legislation such as binding directives that have passed through the normal Community processes? Article 100c does not appear to provide for that. It appears to provide for common decisions on policy such as setting up the headquarters for Europol. That seems to be a restrictive provision—even more restrictive than that suggested by the Home Secretary.

Mr. Clarke

I think that we are talking about the difference between having Community competence and not having it. When a list of countries requiring visas, such as that under article 100c, is drawn up, it will be a matter of Community legislation. It will be dealt with as Community legislation when it is subjected to the scrutiny of the House. There is no provision for Community legislation on intergovernmental co-operation—the third pillar activities—so we would proceed with such measures by politically binding agreements, by resolutions. If their Parliaments approved them, the 12 member states would then make the necessary changes to their immigration laws and rules in order to comply with the Community policy.

The effect of bringing a policy into Community competence would be to move from the sphere of intergovernmental co-operation into the treaty of Rome as amended, opening up the way for such matters to proceed by way of European legislation. For the reasons that I have given, I do not think that that is likely at present.

I hope that I have satisfied the Committee, with the co-operation of the official spokesmen of the two other parties, that the amount that we are ceding under the third pillar is slight. I should like to believe that I have persuaded the Committee that a positive advantage of the Maastricht treaty is that it opens up a far more sensible procedure than we have hitherto had for the co-operation that we desire on justice and interior matters. I think that we have dealt with most of the fears expressed. I understand why people have fears over such important matters, but there is no question of Community competence over the issues that I have described.

I shall not enter into the other arguments of policy. They have been a feature of discussions on the Maastricht treaty throughout most of western Europe. Some people believe that a flood of immigrants will be let in by Community activity outside Government control; on the other side of the argument, others believe that we are setting up a fortress Europe and that many people will be kept out who should be let in. The key issues of immigration rules and asylum will remain a matter for the Government, the House and British immigration rules, subject to our continuing commitment to the Geneva convention and the European convention on human rights.

Sir Teddy Taylor

What are the implications of the continuing disagreement with the Commission—according to the Home Secretary's letter—on the interpretation of article 8a?

Mr. Clarke

That is a small footnote matter to raise at this stage in the debate. It remains the Government view —repeatedly asserted to the Commission—that we have committed ourselves, under article 8a of the Single European Act, to the free movement of European Community nationals within the Community. We believe that we are entitled to retain our immigration controls on third country nationals. That remains our position. The Single European Act was entered into by a Government of which I was a member under my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher. That issue will be discussed in one quarter or another, but is not a matter for the Maastricht treaty or for today.

Mr. Cohen

I very much oppose article 100c, and I have not been convinced by the speeches of either Front-Bench spokesman. Therefore, I support amendment No. 8, which would exclude article 100c. That is why I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who moved the amendment, whether he was for or against it. I am for it, but it appears that he is against it, in principle. However, I know that my hon. Friend, who has a good record on those matters, would not touch with a bargepole any similar measure, outside the context of the European treaty, that would transfer asylum or immigration policy to faceless bureaucrats.

The Government will allow no amendment of the Maastricht treaty. It has to be passed as it is. The role of the House of Commons is to scrutinise Bills and get rid of bad aspects, but that goes to the wall if no amendments are allowed. The logic is that, however appalling an article In a treaty, it has to be driven through the House. We know that that is the view of the Government, but I am sad to note that it is also the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend that we shall not get to the lowest common denominator. I believe that the whole process has been set up so that we can go to the lowest common denominator in immigration and asylum policy among European countries. Where are there any commitments to racial equality or to family reunification as a right?

Mr. Bernie Grant

Is my hon. Friend aware of the debates that took place in the Committee considering the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill on the removal of visitors' right of appeal? When we did a trawl of practice in European countries, we found that Britain was the only country that had the right of visitors to appeal enshrined in law. In other countries, that right was on an ad hoc basis and in some did not exist at all. The Trevi group brought British standards down to the level of Belgium and other similar countries. That is an example of the lowest common denominator being applied, and if it can happen here, it can happen with other aspects of the Bill.

9 pm

Mr. Cohen

That is a good example. I pay tribute to the work done by my hon. Friend and others on the Committee in drawing out those matters. He is right to point out that the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill will get rid of the right of appeal, thereby bringing us down to the level of other European countries and introducing, the principles of article 100c.

Tied up with the lowest common denominator argument is the point about immigration and asylum policy being conducted in secret. That is abhorrent. Already, officials in Ministers' private offices can interpret rules as they like, and Members of Parliament do not have much influence on that process. How much worse will that be if the decisions are taken by bureaucrats in Europe in secret?

Ministers will also make secret deals. Every now and then, when there are negotiations, perhaps over a subject that has nothing to do with immigration or asylum, deals will be struck in secret. One Minister will say to another, "You support us over an agricultural tariff and we will support you over the countries to go on visa lists." There is a grave risk that that will happen, although it would be scandalous if it did, because people's lives and rights—for example, to visits from their families, fiancees, husbands or wives—are at stake.

The argument of my Front-Bench spokesman and those in favour of Maastricht is that immigration and asylum procedures are so bad that we must get some change, and the change that is on offer comes from Europe. That is not the right approach. The procedures may be bad now, but I do not see why we should have to accept them as bad for ever, and enshrined in article 100c. Faceless European bureaucrats would have control over many of the principles in our asylum and immigration policy.

The treaty moves on from one clause to another—from article 100c, which refers to article K.9, which in turn refers to articles K.1(1) to (6). Let us look at those latter articles. What do they say that the bureaucrats will have control over? It is said that: Member Mates shall regard the following areas as matters of common interests:

  1. 1. asylum policy;
  2. 2. rules governing the crossing by persons of the external borders of the Member States and the exercise of controls thereon;
  3. 3. immigration policy and policy regarding nationals of third countries".
The whole list will come under European control. The linking of article 100c with articles K.1 to K.6 and K.9 will give the Community the power to take responsibility for asylum and immigration policy, which I regard as offensive and highly dangerous.

The deliberations by the ad hoc Trevi group on immigration were secret. My hon. Friends and I asked detailed questions, seeking to establish the decisions that were made, but Ministers repeatedly refused to answer.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle)

No, we did not.

Mr. Cohen

Yes, they did. Ministers answered only sanitised questions tabled by Conservative Back Benchers, which allowed them to paint in broad-brush strokes a picture of the Trevi talks. We have never received detailed information on the decisions of that group. That abhorrent secrecy will continue, and the kind of procedure established by Trevi will be institutionalised by article 100c.

The Minister said that the House might be able to debate a statutory instrument if there was a legislative change—but if the interpretation or reinterpretation is that no legislative change will occur but only an administrative change, there will be no such debate. Some so-called administrative changes would be deemed by my right hon. and hon. Friends and me as fundamental—but no debate would be permitted in those circumstances.

It may be that certain powers are lying dormant in that provision—particularly in article 100c(2), which states that a visa requirement may be introduced in the event of an emergency situation in a third country posing a threat of a sudden inflow of nationals". Who is to interpret that—a bureaucrat, as an administrative matter? He could make all the changes he liked without a debate in the House, which would be quite wrong.

If there were a debate on a statutory instrument, it is likely that it would last only one and a half hours, and would take place early in the morning, when most right hon. and hon. Members would have gone home.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) would oppose the measure—as he has many others, with great honesty—because people would be thrown to the lions and be denied a proper asylum policy, and families would not be allowed to visit their relatives. The Minister would stand at the Dispatch Box and say, "We're not in the same situation as before. All the members of the EC have approved this policy—so even if we agreed with you, we could not go along with you." It would be goodbye to any realistic opposition to such measures.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Can my hon. Friend explain why I heard an equally impassioned speech against articles 100c and K.9 during the French referendum, given by Jean-Marie Le Pen?

Mr. Cohen

I reject my hon. Friend's implication. I have no association with Le Pen and do not agree with him at all. I am totally opposed to his views.

Mr. Enright


Mr. Cohen

No. I must tell my hon. Friend that many right-wing movements are building up in Europe, and they could end up having an important voice in the European Parliament. They might even take over some European Governments and have a say in British asylum and immigration policy. More dangerous than Le Pen's speeches now would be for him to be in a position to act because of the institutional changes that the treaty will make.

Mr. Spearing

We occasionally hear such questions during these debates and outside. Le Pen is anathema to me, as he is to my hon. Friend, both as a person and in his politics. But is it not conceivable that his reading of the treaty on this matter might coincide with that of the European Court?

Mr. Cohen

Everything that Le Pen stands for is anathema to me. I do not want to go into what he reads into the treaty. I need not go as far as France to find such people. There are people in this House who may vote in the same way, but for different reasons. Le Pen's racism is abhorrent to me.

We have heard some strange things about the European Court of Justice. Both Front-Bench spokesmen have been keen to say that it will not have a role in implementing human rights and giving rights to individuals. What an amazing thing for them to say.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield said that it may be involved in injustices. That was crushed by the Secretary of State, who said that it would not. He said that there would have to be unanimity before even member states could refer matters to the European Court. Certainly individuals will not be able to use the court if their families have been denied visits. That is disgraceful. For both Front-Bench spokesmen to suggest that that is an asset is appalling.

Article 100c introduces majority voting from 1 January 1996. The United Kingdom's present asylum and immigration policy is appalling. I have tabled an early-day motion on that. It is anti-human rights. But at least that policy could be changed by a future Labour Government. That would not be possible under article 100c. A future Labour Government could be out-voted by the other European Governments, and we would not be able to change the policy that is set in stone by this treaty.

A Labour Government with good humanitarian intentions could well be shackled by article 100c, unable to adopt a humane asylum policy. That is an amazing situation. I would have great sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield as Home Secretary in those circumstances. He would have to apologise to the House for being unable to implement the policy he wanted in order to save lives, because he was prevented by article 100c. I would not want to see my hon. Friend or any Labour Home Secretary in that position.

We have talked about a Bosnia-type situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield said that any one country could pull up the drawbridge. That is right, but under article 100c the whole of the EC could pull up the drawbridge. That could be done without any debate in the House. It could be done by the bureaucrats in the European Commission. None of the EC countries would let people in despite the life-threatening situations that they might face.

We would be stuck with institutions and procedures, shifting power to the EC, which have been set up by the Tories for their own narrow interests and view of immigration and asylum policy. I consider many of the Government's policies openly racist: some of the cases with which I have had to deal are clear examples of that. I do not want a future Labour Government to be stuck with quasi-racist policies with which they could not dispense because those policies had become a European institution.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made a good point about majority voting. He said that, although policy could be adopted under article 100c, it would be immensely difficult to change it if it proved to be wrong. He is entirely right. It might be impossible, or almost impossible, to alter a decision that had been made for the wrong reason —perhaps in panic.

9.15 pm

Our nation has certain long-standing commitments to other countries in the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) mentioned Jamaica; others have referred to Hong Kong citizens. Those commitments could be cast aside by a majority vote. Certainly the Home Secretary gave no assurances about people's rights to enter this country, and to travel to other countries. The Commission could wipe out those commitments. Surely we should not allow that to happen without even a statement in the House.

Article 100c is obnoxious, and it should be opposed. It shifts immigration and asylum policy to faceless bureaucrats in the EC. Its ratification would make it doubly difficult—indeed, virtually impossible—for my constituents to be visited by members of their families who live abroad. The Secretary of State made that clear. Relatives will have to meet all the visa requirements set up by the Commission; even if they manage that, they will still have to face the problems of an immigration policy that —if the Government are given the free hand to which the Secretary of State referred—is likely to become even worse.

Especially obnoxious is the way in which asylum policy may put lives at risk. If the EC adopts the policy that we are discussing, along with a set of principles that cannot easily be challenged in Parliament, people will be forced to return to their own countries and face torture or death. They will be kept out of safe havens.

Mr. Bill Walker

The hon. Gentleman speaks regularly about human rights, and no one doubts his integrity. I have often wondered what would happen if South Africa were suddenly to find itself in economic chaos, and to experience the problems that can arise at times of change. Many people might want to come to the United Kingdom, where their roots lie because of the origins of their parents and grandparents. What would happen to them if the Community decided that they could not come here?

Mr. Livingstone

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) who has just asked that question systematically voted for the Asylum Bill, which strikes out the right to be an economic migrant? As there is economic chaos in South Africa, the hon. Gentleman has provided a legal basis for keeping those people out of this country. We congratulate him.

Mr. Cohen

I shall not respond to that last intervention, except to say that many of those powers will be taken away from the British Parliament and given to the Community.

I believe that lives will be put at risk by such a shift in asylum policy.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

I do not propose to delay the Committee for more than 10 or 15 minutes. I thought that the last exchange was particularly interesting. Until now it has been this sovereign Parliament that has been able to make decisions about immigration and nationality. While the Opposition may not agree with current policies, nevertheless they must hope that the time will come when they are more to their liking. One thing, however, is certain. When the Maastricht Bill goes through, there is nothing that the House of Commons will be able to do about it. It will be unable to determine policy.

Until now it has been very much, with respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, a lawyers' debate.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I declined to intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), who waxed ever more lyrical about all this, but at some stage we should bring back the debate a little nearer to reality. My hon. Friend's opening proposition was startling. There is absolutely nothing either in the Maastricht treaty or in the Bill that takes away from this Government and this Parliament the right to determine our immigration policy and our immigration rules, except regarding certain vital matters that a few people get very excited about—the list of countries in respect of which we require visas and what the visa looks like. Otherwise, we are being treated to ever-wilder flights of fancy. I hope that during his 10 or 15 minutes my hon. Friend will not sail out on the same folly as that upon which the hon. Member for Leyton waxed lyrical.

Mr. Knapman

If we soon reach the position where there will no longer be internal barriers or boundaries, I do not see how our future policies will be anything like what they have been in the past. It is very much our fear that this Parliament will be unable directly to influence future policy. No doubt my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to exercise some influence from time to time, but the House of Commons will be a very ineffective check on any future Executive.

If a nation state cannot decide who its peoples are, it cannot, by definition, be a nation state. We know, from the make-up of the treaty, that the combination of Euro-citizenship and a European union without boundaries comes very close to what many of us believe to be a federal state. It may be that somebody can tell me the difference between an ever-closer union and a single institutional framework and how that is different from federalism, but I have not yet heard anyone do so. All that I know, having a 21-year-old daughter, is that if she told me that she had met a young man and that she was in ever-closer union within a single institutional framework, I should have to tell her that in all conscience I doubted whether that was a particularly decentralising remark.

If anybody in this country believes that the Bill is decentralising, I shall have to disagree. They certainly do not believe that on the continent. They certainly do not believe it in the continental press. Occasionally we have the benefit of the advice of Chancellor Kohl. In the Financial Times of 4 January, Chancellor Kohl was certainly under no illusions about what the Bill means.

This is potentially the most lethal part of the Bill. We are talking about the mass movement of people. I agree that the debate is all about article 3(c), article 8a, article 100c, article K.1 and article K.9. One needs, I believe, to say K.9 rather carefully. The mass movement of people, however, is the precursor to turmoil.

It is ironic that we should be proceeding with the Maastricht treaty just as the newspapers are telling us what really happens to those countries when they suddenly decide that they want free movement of peoples, capital and all the rest. Are we learning nothing from Yugoslavia? Have we learnt nothing from the USSR? What is the difference between what we are doing here and what they did there? It does not take too many decades to reap the harvest of that.

When the United States of America, Mexico and Canada were considering how to proceed, they were wise to study what we were doing; they took one look and said, "No, not for us, thank you very much."

Sir Teddy Taylor

Their unemployment is going down, too.

Mr. Knapman

This is almost a takeover bid.

The root cause of the problem with the Maastricht treaty is that it is for a small group of rich nations—it does not go wider, only deeper. Adjoining the rich nations are untold millions and tens of millions of very poor and often destitute people.

If anything brought down the evil empire in the east, it was the arrival of television. Years ago, the communist system could easily tell people that they were well off because it could jam the airwaves. Suddenly, it could no longer jam the airwaves—television arrived and the news travelled that the people were not well off. One cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

We are talking not only of Russia and other Commonwealth states adjoining it, although all are in desperate trouble—Romania, Albania, the Czech republic to a certain extent, or Slovak republic as it is now, Bulgaria and many more. The problem will not be restricted to the eastern boundary. Around the Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal and Italy will have problems of mass immigration —legal and illegal, although probably illegal—from north Africa and other small countries in Africa which have been racked by famine, disease and war.

There are so many thousands of miles of boundaries to the east and so many thousands of miles of coastline—do we really think that articles 3(c) or 8a and the rest will somehow control the mass migration of tens of millions of people? That may be our intention—I fear that it is—but it is doomed to failure.

Mr. Garnier

Could not the problem that my hon. Friend is apparently attempting to outline apply to any legislation? It is not special to the treaty or to the laws that follow. The problems of illegal immigration flow from the problems pertaining to population movements. It does not matter what the law is; illegal immigration will occur.

Mr. Knapman

I have already said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, and, no doubt, all lawyers, look at it that way. My concern and, I believe, that of a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends is still that as long as our sovereign Parliament can decide what policies are for the benefit of the British people, we can at least be free to make our own mistakes. As an island, we have certain advantages in that respect.

Mr. Marlow

Is not the basic point that if we agree article 100c, article K or whatever, a Government—with whom we might or might not agree—can, through a short process and what is called unanimity, agree an immigration policy in Europe, put it to the House between 10 pm and 11.30 pm and have a vote, and that will be it? Instead of having a United Kingdom immigration policy, we shall have a European immigration policy. I might take a view different from that of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). He might want an open door, or at least more of an open door than I might want—and that is his privilege. I might want a restrictive policy.

None the less, after that fateful vote with the pressure of the Whips upon us, there would no longer be a United Kingdom immigration policy but a European immigration policy. Thenceforth this House would be powerless to do anything about it.

9.30 pm
Mr. Knapman

My hon. Friend puts the problem well. There we shall be, under pressure from our hon. Friend the Whip, being told to vote in a certain way. Those of us who do not do that will suddenly be revealed as men with no particularly secret sex lives—as overweight, with double chins, mousy brown hair and spectacles. We shall have nothing to hide; we shall no longer be the objects of our constituents' admiration. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is right in all that he says.

Problems, such as the mass movement of peoples, are already happening. One million immigrants entered Germany this year. It is all very well for us to say, "It is shocking. Some of them are rioting and killing immigrants." But before we get on our high horse, let us ask ourselves what the reaction of the people of this country would be if we were asked to take in 1 million immigrants? Under the Bill, that is what we could face before long, whether those people came here legally or illegally.

Of course, Germany will be the magnet, because Germany has the economic power. People in general will look for prosperity. Germany has huge wealth; no doubt that has been much increased by the flirtation with the exchange rate mechanism. If people are looking for wealth they will go to Germany. A recent article about the Bundesbank said:

'the Bank that rules Europe' … almost doubled its currency reserves between August and December (from DM98.2 billion to approx DM 170 billion). Several nations in Europe are now having to beg for their repayment deadlines to be extended. We know where the economic power lies and from economic power other power is derived. We should not be surprised at that. The centre of Europe will be parts of France and Germany and the Benelux countries. Power and wealth tend to move towards the centre.

People are beginning to talk about all that. The other day I was surprised to read an article which reported General Carlos Coll, a commander in the Spanish air force, as saying that there were clear indications of German intentions 'to become the leader of Europe' … Germany is whipping up a situation, he says, 'which could almost be described as the prelude to war'. There is much more of that. The general is entitled to his opinion—but if that is what the Spanish air force is up to, we should examine his future pronouncements carefully.

Not all the immigrants are escaping from persecution. A large proportion of them are, but a large proportion merely want to better themselves. Some of the countries will be our partners in the EC. Others may hope to become partners. I wonder if we thought seriously about the effects on immigration implied by the present rate of wages in the Skoda factory. I believe that Skoda manages its body plant in the Czech republic and its engine plant in Slovakia—and that is just one of its problems.

Another problem is that for performing a 42-hour week a qualified Skoda worker earns about £120 a month For somone earning that amount, what a temptation it must be to hear on one's television set that one could do the same work in Germany, probably much more easily and with more modern machinery and other equipment, and earn many times more. Of course, Volkswagen does not have plants only in Germany. It has plants in Spain where wages are considerably lower. The free movement of people will enable workers to go from the Spanish car plants to the German car plants where they can earn a great deal more. What is wrong with that? At a time of mass unemployment, the local people in Germany will not tolerate that.

We can pass laws here thinking that we shall somehow control the mass migration of tens of millions of people. We shall find out that we are no cleverer than our forefathers were. We are selling our birthright for a mess of pottage and for future troubles which are difficult to describe.

Mr. Shore

The contributions by Front-Bench speakers have not entirely allayed the anxieties about article 100c. The argument boils down to this. The Government say that there is a double lock on the door before responsibility for immigration policy, for asylum policy and for all associated questions is moved from the national Parliaments and Governments to the institutions of the European Community.

It is said that two locks stand in the way. The first is the trigger of the unanimity vote, which we have identified already in article K. The second is the further agreement within the ambit of article 100c to devise the rules for the future control of immigration and of asylum policy.

The Home Secretary, who unfortunately is not here, said that there was not a snowball's chance in hell of any Home Secretary or Minister agreeing to give up the fundamental and important rights that now belong to the British Government and the British Parliament.

I am not impressed by that reassurance. It is simply an assurance by a Minister that he will not give up those powers. In the whole history of the EC, we see the progressive surrender of the powers of national Governments to the EC, for one reason or another. I assure the House that we shall not have long to wait before 1996 brings the Commission, the Europeans and all the enthusiasts banging on the door and kicking down the pillars that have been established under articles K and J which separate, for the time being, these major areas of policy from the normal procedures of the treaty of Rome and the European legislative process, including the Court of Justice.

I am not impressed and I point to the dangers. If there had been real concern that we should not face those dangers in the future, the connections between articles 100c and K would never have been made. The Home Secretary and the British Government, if they had been determined to safeguard our rights in this area, would never have conceded that these matters should have been brought into article K of the Maastricht treaty.

I now focus on a matter that has not been discussed in the Committee today. There is not just one movement of people coming from third countries—about which I shall say a good deal later, because there is the danger of all that being brought under a new regime and new controls; there is a different movement within Europe itself. If we are concerned about fortress Europe with regard to the rest of the world, what do we make of the total freedom of movement of 300 million Europeans within the fortress?

Under the treaty we are saying, "You are free to come in any time. Bring your families with you. There is no constraint on the movement of people provided that you are European nationals. Provided that you are a national of one of the 12 European states, you can come in and enjoy the great privilege and advantage of going out if you wish to do so." The treaty of Rome did not give anything like that freedom. I shall remind hon. Members of the provisions in articles 48 and 49 of that treaty, but I will not go into detail: Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Community … Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality … It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health: (a) to accept offers of employment actually made; That is a reasonable provision.

If there are job shortages in a Community country and a shortage of labour services in another part of the Community, it makes sense to allow people to come and take those jobs. Indeed, if there is a shortage of specific skills, countries may wish to bring in people with those valued skills. That makes good sense. The freedom of movement is related to jobs.

A sensible immigration policy, for us at any rate, is based on three major considerations: first, to allow people in to deal with identified labour shortages. In the 1950s and 1960s, many people came to Britain from Commonwealth countries and from the colonies, as they were at that time, to deal with identified labour shortages. Secondly, we have a right, a duty and a great tradition of keeping our doors open for people who need asylum. That should be maintained. The next source of a continuing immigration policy relates to the first one. It relates to the dependants, the people who have a family connection. Thirdly, there is the right of families to come together, to join their menfolk if they are the first to arrive in the United Kingdom. Those are the three clear principles that have activated all post-war immigration and asylum policies in Britain.

We are now covered by the Single European Act, which says that we will have a Europe without frontiers. Article 8a, which relates to citizens of the union, says: Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move freely and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in this Treaty and by the measures adopted to give it effect. I do not know what those limitations and conditions are and I would certainly like a response from the Government about them.

Article 8f provides that, because we have all become citizens of the union, we have the right not merely to look for work in other member states but to reside in those states, regardless of almost every other consideration. The right of citizens to reside is an important and fundamental shift and change. A nation and a state is defined by its right to decide who shall come to its land, who shall dwell there and under what conditions. As has been rightly said, there are differences between hon. Members in each political party and on both sides of the House about how generous or restrictive we are in allowing people to enter Britain.

It is a power of the British state to make such decisions. As long as we are a state, we must retain that power. We cannot possibly accept the transfer of that power to the European Community.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The right hon. Gentleman is developing an important, interesting and fundamental point. He has talked about the right of a nation. I shall bring the matter down to the local government level. I shall deal with some of the fundamental issues that might result from the treaty and the opportunity for people to be able to move freely to any country in the Community. Where would the opportunity for people to move freely put local authorities with regard to their function in allocating housing in a local government area? Would a citizen of an EC country merit equal treatment in the allocation of points, or in whatever system a local authority used to allocate its housing fairly?

9.45 pm
Mr. Shore

I do not know the answer to that. I should like to know what restrictions are placed on people exercising their right of free entry to Britain. Will they have that right regardless of whether they would be a burden on the state? Would the same requirement be placed on them as on so many of our constituents when they seek to bring their relatives into Britain—that they should have adequate accommodation? Will all those requirements be dropped for European citizens? If so, we are erecting two entirely different frameworks of law and systems of entry control which clearly discriminate in favour of the citizens of the nation states of the European Community who are now to become citizens of the European union.

Mr. Cash

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Dover there is already a channel through which people are expected to drive or walk which specifically states in bold letters that it is for European citizens, even before we have completed the proceedings on the Bill?

Mr. Shore

It is disgraceful that officials in Dover should anticipate what the House of Commons will do.

My amendment deals precisely with the needs of public security and law and order. Clearly, we cannot accept arrangements under which anyone has the right to enter Britain without proper checks and reside here. The major check, especially on people who bring drugs with them or are planning outrages or terrorist activities, is the check at the border of Britain. The only effective check at the border is the passport. I want some additional assurance from the Home Secretary about passports.

The Home Secretary is well aware that it is the view of Mr. Bangemann, the Commissioner who deals with these matters, that we have a legal obligation enforceable in the European Court of Justice to allow European citizens to come into our country without showing their passport. That is the contention of Mr. Bangemann and the European Commission.

The Home Secretary has tried to hold Mr. Bangemann at bay and has not allowed the matter to go to the European Court of Justice, although he could still do so. Shall we continue to inspect the passports of people from the European Community countries? If we accept the Commission fudge that all that people need to do is wave a piece of magnetic cardboard and say that they are citizens of the European Community, we shall reduce passport control to a farce.

In any case, how can one tell without looking at the passport whether the person is a citizen of a European member state? As the Home Secretary knows, there are at least 8 million residents in Europe who are not citizens of European states. Will there be a differential between citizens and residents? How can the one be detected from the other without passport checks? I suggest that we are in grave danger of going much too far in our treatment of our fellow members of the European Community. By allowing European citizens to enter Britain with so little control, we are making tough and severe the discrimination between that category and other United Kingdom immigrants and their families as well as people resident in Europe who are not citizens of another European country.

Mr. Clarke

The right hon. Gentleman is fishing for me to intervene. First, his question about the free movement of European Community citizens arises, as he well knows, from article 8a of the treaty of Rome, as amended, and is not affected in any way by the Maastricht treaty or by the Bill. Commissioner Bangemann asserts that under article 8a we are obliged to abandon what the Community would call internal frontier controls, which means checks at our ports and airports into European movements, but that is not a position that has ever been accepted by the British Government. It remains our view that the obligations that we entered into under the Single European Act, which was approved by the House, commit us to free movement of persons within the Community as far as EC citizens are concerned. It is relevant to the Bill that there are certain rights of residence for EC citizens who choose to come here, but that does not mean that we have in any way abandoned our right to retain frontier controls on third country nationals who wish to come here.

I have had discussions with Commissioner Bangemann on ways in which EC citizens can be distinguished from third country citizens so that we can just let them pass through and concentrate on the immigration controls on third country nationals which it is, in our opinion, our undoubted right to continue to exercise. But that is not remotely affected by the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman's amendment rightly probes this area, but it is not necessary; it is not an amendment which has any consequential effect on this important problem.

Mr. Shore

The Secretary of State has not said how one can distinguish those immigrants or those people moving across our frontiers who have no right to come in from those who are European Community citizens. How, without inspecting passports, can one category be distinguished from the other?

Mr. Clarke

It is an administrative question whether we exercise sufficient control to identify EC nationals. For some time we have been loosening, so far as is practicable, controls on EC nationals crossing our frontiers and it is in our interest to do so. British people are as irritated by inconvenience in passing through frontiers as other EC nationals are. But we must ensure that our entry clearance officers have sufficient evidence of identification of EC nationals to be able to sift them out from the rest and to run the full immigration check on the rest.

I have had some discussion with the Commission on whether production of documents will be sufficient. I will not agree to anything proposed by the Commission or by anyone else unless, having consulted my own immigration and nationality division, I am satisfied that those officials whose duty it is to exercise immigration control into this country believe that whatever is being shown is sufficient for the purpose.

If one goes to Dover now, one will see coachloads of people going through. If the immigration officer has no reason to doubt that the coaches are full of British nationals or EC nationals, we do not insist that the officer holds everyone up for half an hour, clambering about the coach and opening everyone's passports. It is a question of common sense and practicality in each case.

Mr. Shore

All that I can say to the Home Secretary is that I do not see how any passport control officer can have sufficient evidence unless he is able to look at the passport, see whose it is and pass on. We have all done this many times. It is not particularly hazardous or difficult.

Mr. Bernie Grant

Surely the only way in which immigration officers can exercise some control at the ports of entry is by looking at the colour of a person and stopping all those who do not look white—stopping people like me—and asking them to produce a passport. That is the only way in which they can do it.

Mr. Shore

That is a high-profile way to do it. It is very obvious and conspicious. How does the Home Secretary think that the millions of people who are not of European origin, living in the rest of the Community and in this country, will feel when they experience at first hand the operation of the procedures? How will they feel when one lot of people is simply let through and the other lot is stopped, interrogated and examined?

The Home Secretary said in his intervention that the Maastricht treaty adds nothing to what is contained in the Single European Act or articles 48 and 49 of the Rome treaty. Are we really to understand that the resounding declaration in the article on citizenship of the union— Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move freely and reside freely within the territory of the Member States"— does not mean anything and has not added anything? Are we to understand that it is all guff, wind, noise and words?

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I shall have to look up the quotation. The right hon. Gentleman is quoting from the citizenship provisions, which we shall debate in due course. New rights are given to European citizens, such as the right to vote in certain municipal and European elections and to stand as candidates. The other rights are to consular protection and so forth. I am content to discuss that.

The free movement of persons is not affected by the Maastricht treaty and by the Bill, except to the extent that, as a sovereign Government subject to the rule of a sovereign Parliament, we choose to co-operate in some changes. No one will reduce the free movement within the Community which has already been agreed for EC nationals. The important issue that the right hon. Gentleman is debating is how far we have already committed ourselves to that free movement under article 8a of the treaty of Rome which, for some reason, is soon to be called article 7a. The obligations imposed by article 8a are not affected by the Bill or by the Maastricht treaty. He has raised an important matter, but it is completely outside the ambit of our discussions.

Mr. Shore

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is telling us that the basic rights of free movement and of residence were already conceded under the Single European Act. They certainly were not conceded under the treaty of Rome.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept—as he, I and the Home Secretary were all here—that when debating the Single European Act we were not told that it could lead to the removal of internal frontiers? In fact, we were told exactly the reverse. Such things will now be decided by the European Court, not by the Home Secretary. If it decides that internal frontiers should go, there is nothing that the Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman or Parliament can do about it.

Mr. Shore

We shall need a searching examination of what the Government are committed to and what regulations and directives seek to implement clauses 48 and 49 of the Rome treaty and the relevant part of the Single European Act. It could be the case—I am not saying that it is, but I should like to know—that people can come into this country without any income. They might not be particularly attracted to this country, but some people might do that. They might have no intention of working here, be unable to look after themselves and thus become a burden on the state. Is that the case? I suspect that it is not, but I want to know. I want to know what we have entered into and what rights we have reserved.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

If the right hon. Gentleman's new-found concern about illegal immigrants—which comes as a big surprise to the rest of us—is so genuine, is he aware that the majority of them come here with valid papers and visas and overstay their welcome? Would he not support, at least in part, my view that we might deploy our immigration officers far more intelligently by sending them to the east end of London and to Leicester and Derby? That is how we will find the illegal immigrants and send them home.

Mr. Shore

I do not think that the hon. Lady followed clearly my remarks or my concern. I am worried about the fact that two standards are being created and I am conscious of that fact because many of my constituents are conscious of it. All that I know is that when I try to help to bring together families in my constituency they first have to cross the hurdle of the primary purpose rule. Secondly, they have to show that they will not be a burden on the state. Thirdly, they have to show that they have adequate accommodation. The relatives who may be brought in are limited to a very narrow range of people and they may enter only in very special circumstances. There is no such constraint in the case of people moving from continental Europe into the United Kingdom. It seems to me that this is discrimination, which will be resented greatly by immigrant communities in this country.

In addition, there are the approximately 8 million residents in continental Europe who are non-EC citizens. They will be stopped in the same way. They will not enjoy the free movement to which the Home Secretary referred. This is ridiculous. I am in favour of letting people come in to find jobs and of giving them reasonable rights, but I am not in favour of treating the rest of Europe as if its people were my fellow citizens.

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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