HC Deb 08 March 1993 vol 220 cc665-759

Amendment proposed [4 March]: in page 1, line 9, after 'II', to insert the words '(except Article 138d on page 42 of Cm 1934)'.—[Mr. George Robertson]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

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

I remind the Committee that we are also considering the following: amendment No. 33, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 158 on page 44 of Cm 1934 relating to the appointment of the Commission).'. Amendment No. 34, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(with the proviso that the Government of the United Kingdom shall before the nomination of persons they intend to appoint as members of the Commission seek the approval of the House of Commons to the nomination of those persons).'. Amendment No. 99, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert `(except Article 146 on page 43 of Cm 1934 which relates to the Composition of the Council of Ministers)'. Amendment No. 168, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 8d on page 12 of Cm 1934)'. Amendment No. 221, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 189c(a) on page 52 of Cm 1934'. Amendment No. 222, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 189c(e) on page 52 of Cm 1934'. Amendment No. 235, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 138b'. Amendment No. 236, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 138e'. Amendment No. 393, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 138(c) as referred to in Article G on page 42 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 394, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 147 as referred to in Article G on page 43 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 395, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 151 as referred to in Article G on page 43 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 396, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 159 as referred to in Article G on page 45 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 397, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 160 as referred to in Article G on page 45 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 398, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert 'except Article 175 as referred to in Article G on page 47 of Command Paper number 1934'. Amendment No. 430, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert (except Article 157(2) on page 44 of Cm. 1934 relating to the independence of members of the Commission).'. Amendment No. 19, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Article 10, Clause 2 on pages 60 and 61 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 21 in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Article 9 on page 60 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 22, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Article 10 on page 60 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 23, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Article 20a on page 62 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 24, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert `(except Article 20b on page 62 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 25, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Article 20d on page 62 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 26, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Chapter V on page 65 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 136, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert 'except paragraph 3 of Article 21'. Amendment No. 137, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert 'except Article 20d'. Amendment No. 410, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Articles 7 to 17 on pages 60 to 62 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 413, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert '(except Articles 20a and 24 on pages 62 to 63 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 141, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert 'except paragraph 3 of Article 108'. Amendment No. 142, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert 'except Article 170d'. Amendment No. 414, in page 1, line 9 after 'IV', insert `(except Articles 107 a-c on pages 69 and 70 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 417, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert '(except Articles 160 a-c on pages 74 to 76 of Cm 1934).'. Amendment No. 55, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not Article 137 in Title II thereof'. Amendment No. 143, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not paragraph 3 of Article 21 in Title III thereof'. Amendment No. 144, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not the second paragraph of Article 24 in Title III thereof'. Amendment No. 148, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not Article 107a in Title IV thereof'. Amendment No. 219, in page 1, line 10 after '1992', insert 'but not Article 189a(2) on page 50 of Cm 1934'. Amendment No. 220, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert 'but not Article 189b on pages 51 and 52 of Cm 1934'. Amendment No. 285, in page 1, line 14, leave out subsection (2).

Amendment No. 426, in page 1, line 17, at end add 'with the proviso that Article 138(3) is fully implemented in the United Kingdom before the fourth direct elections to the European Parliament.'.

New clause 1—Rejection of common position

  1. '(1) Where, in pursuance of Article 189b of the Treaty of Union, Paragraph 2 (c) or (d) of that Article, the European Parliament has given notice that it intends to reject the common position of the Council of Ministers of the Community, Her Majesty's Government shall lay before Parliament in a Command Paper an account of the Commission proposal and the view of Her Majesty's Government concerning that proposal the reasons for the Council common position, its reaction to any proposal of the European Parliament, and any subsequent proceedings of the Conciliation Committee and subsequent events provided for in the Article.
  2. (2) Any Report shall include reference to any United Kingdom parliamentary proceeding related to that proposal and may include matter relating to more than one proposal.'.

3.34 pm
Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

When I was last speaking on the treaty, I was interrupted by the 10 o'clock motion. I had been talking about the growing bureaucracy in Europe being duplicated, both there and here. I said that additional powers in Europe normally tended to mean the diminution of United Kingdom powers.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and other Ministers: many Conservative Members feel sincerely about the problems in Europe. We think that Ministers would do themselves more credit if they argued their case for the benefit of the country and ceased to denigrate Back Benchers who have individual views.

It is important that we should deal with the matters as we find them, and the European institutions such as the European Parliament. There seems to be a cleavage between the views of those who have read the treaty and those who have bothered to go through the clauses one by one.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for showing his characteristic courtesy and giving way. Did he read yesterday's edition of the Observer, particularly the article by the grand old Conservative Lord Blake, who argued the case for a referendum from a Conservative perspective? Does the hon. Gentleman agreee with Lord Blake's view?

Sir Trevor Skeet

I did not read the Observer yesterday, but if the hon. Gentleman would like my view on a referendum, may I say how wise it would be—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman must stick to the subject of European institutions.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Perhaps I should change my response to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), as I have been checked by the Chair—yes, I do.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My hon. Friend said that he wished that more people would read the treaty, as they could come to only one conclusion. The division in the House is between those who believe that what is in the treaty will happen and those who do not believe that. Those who believe that what is in the treaty will happen are against it.

Sir Trevor Skeet

If one reads the treaty carefully and takes a long-term view, one reaches a conclusion about precisely what will happen. Many people who take a short-term view will get the wrong end of the stick. It was not surprising that, when the Minister of State sought the opinion of his Department, he was given one version, and when he went to the Attorney-General, he received another. I am sorry that I cannot pursue that subject further, as I shall be ruled out of order. I shall return to the subject of the institutions.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Is not my hon. Friend sad that some of the Ministers and others who hurl abuse at men of integrity and principle like my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), are never here to listen to the arguments about the treaty when they are advanced in Committee, which is conducted under a splendid Chairmanship?

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be much better if, instead of trying to negotiate scrappy and nasty deals with minority parties in smoke-filled rooms, more of the so-called tiny band of Euro-hitmen in the Government would come to our debates and listen to the arguments? Instead, they engage in dreadful bogus deals with minority parties, in which they have to try to stand on their heads. As my hon. Friend rightly said, we should have a referendum.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I agree with my hon. Friend. My simple point was that Ministers should take the arguments to the country and argue them before the country, so that everyone can hear the debates, and that they should not simply argue about matters in the Chamber and reach general conclusions.

As for the European Parliament, certain co-operation procedures have been in operation, and they have been greatly extended under the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty. These procedures are fairly complicated, as is article 189b.

I am thinking of the negative assent procedure, the information procedure, and the budget procedure under article 206. With the completion of the single market on 1 January 1993, the volume of co-operation procedure legislation will be sharply reduced, so it would be desirable to assign further pieces of legislation to this category. Although I am not encouraged by a great increase in the powers of the European Parliament, I believe that it should enjoy a balanced position, and this is the only way of achieving that.

The European Parliament still cannot initiate legislation; that is the sole prerogative of the Commission and of the Council of Ministers. The powers of the Commission have not been reduced, and there is no prospect of their being reduced. The democratic deficit will remain for many years to come.

Having looked at article 189b, I have come to the conclusion that it is far too complicated to work. If the treaty is to be revised in 1996, it would be a good idea if those who revise it carefully looked at this matter again to determine whether more of a controlling influence would be had over the Commission, which is the cause of many of the troubles.

Mr. Marlow

I apologise for interrupting again, but is it not an essential ingredient of good government that people should understand how they are being governed? Anyone looking at article 189b or article 189c would throw up his hands in horror and not have the vaguest idea of what was being done to him.

Sir Trevor Skeet

In the House of Commons, we pass legislation through various stages; that is not done in the European Parliament. It has only a right of veto. That veto may be exercised only over legislation that falls into a defined set of categories—outside them, it does not operate at all. It is a well known fact—it is an admitted fact—that the Commission is a non-elected body. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the Governments of the member states. So between the two, the people have little say.

Before we concede any additional powers, should we not ensure that the people have their say on matters that are indispensible to the future of this country?

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As one of the small minority of pro-Europeans in the Chamber today, may I ask the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Pro-Common Market—there is a difference.

Mr. Dalyell

Yes.

Would the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) accept that the European Parliament is rather better at monitoring what it has done and the money that it has given out than is the House of Commons? We are in no position to lecture that Parliament on the monitoring of legislation or of what happens to the money.

Sir Trevor Skeet

But we have several Committees to monitor these things, and they do remarkably good work. This House has many years of experience of these matters, and some of the Select Committees are quite capable of handling them. We should remember that the European system is of a European type, which is rather different from our own. Certainly, it is up to European standards, but the European Parliament has had a short life by contrast with the centuries of experience behind this place.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Would the hon. Gentleman like to remind the Committee that, although the work of the Court of Auditors is excellent, it is limited? Does he agree that, when the work of the Public Accounts Committee is set against the work of any of the European institutions, it becomes painfully clear that, far from there being proper auditing, not hundreds of pounds but hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted by European institutions?

Sir Trevor Skeet

We are aware not only of the waste of money in Europe but of the big mountains of agricultural produce. We are also worried by the amount of fraud in certain parts of Europe.

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

In view of the point made by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) no doubt my hon. Friend will welcome the provisions of the Maastricht treaty to strengthen the powers of the Court of Auditors and formally to make it an institution of the Community.

3.45 pm
Sir Trevor Skeet

Shall we not have an extraordinary system? We shall have checks in the United Kingdom and in Europe, and we shall be over-governed by all those additions. Why not continue with the existing, thorough arrangements? Over time, there could be more Select Committees and not simply a check on legislation covering a vast range of subjects and coming from other people.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am afraid that I cannot allow my hon. Friend, or the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich, to have it both ways. I agree that, regrettably, there is fraud in the European Community, but surely the Court of Auditors being formally made an institution of the Community and being given further powers to investigate such fraud should be welcomed.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Does not the Minister agree that the United Kingdom is known for the purity of its operations? I have been in Parliament for about 26 years, and I do not think that I have discovered a single case of fraud. In the European Parliament, and in some of the European institutions that have been built up, there is evidence of fraud—in Greece and Italy and elsewhere. I do not know how my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) can smile at that, because he knows perfectly well that it exists.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

It was a modest smile. Every report of the Court of Auditors, year in and year out, emphasises that there is fraud in every member state, including the United Kingdom, over the operation of the CAP and other matters.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

May I ask my hon. Friend about this question—

The Chairman

Order. We cannot have an intervention on an intervention.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I have listened attentively to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East. He and I have roughly the same experience of Parliament. He says that there are illustrations of fraud here, but I have not discovered any. One cannot say that about the European institutions which we are being invited to join.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Would my hon. Friend explain to the Minister of State that, while greater powers of inquiry and the principle of a European institution are to be granted to the Court of Auditors, it will still have absolutely no power of any sort to do anything apart from publishing its annual report? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the Government do not seem to take those reports very seriously, because this week, as my hon. Friend is aware, we shall discuss the latest annual report for an hour and a half after midnight on Wednesday?

Will my hon. Friend make it clear to the Minister of State that, although there is a vast amount of shameful, scandalous and shocking fraud, the Court of Auditors has no power: it can only publish its reports and seek views on them? Those views are usually disregarded, especially by the Government, who will have them discussed for an hour and a half after midnight.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am obliged to my hon. Friend.

Is not the trouble precisely that we have not uncovered fraud? I have experience of the Public Acounts Committee and the sub-committee of the Budget Committee of the indirectly elected European Parliament, which was responsible for such matters. Along with Martin Bangemann, who was then an MEP, and others, we turned our attention to fraud. We did so, often in difficult circumstances, in respect of Italy.

Something was done years before the issue would have been examined by the Public Accounts Committee. At least such incidents are dealt with reasonably currently. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) does a splendid job, but his Committee examines only cases that arose many moons ago, by which time nothing can be done. At least the European Parliament can attempt to take some action.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's comments, but I do not want to be taken too far down that path. It will be apparent from the record that we have a good reputation. Many of the other European countries will say what they will do and then ignore the result, and allow checking by the Commission at a later stage. Our attitude towards government and the law is one of respect and compliance.

Mr. Marlow

Newspaper reports appearing in the past few days make it apparent that there is a European policy on sanctions against Serbia, yet arms, petrol and other supplies are flooding into Serbia through Greece—which is a member of the Community. Institutions and policies already exist to stop Greece permitting that. The treaty contains more institutional powers that will supposedly prevent Greece allowing such a thing in future.

How optimistic is my hon. Friend that those powers will be effective with regard to Greece? If a similar problem applied to the United Kingdom, how effective would those powers be with regard to the United Kingdom? Would it be a level playing field?

Sir Trevor Skeet

Yes. My hon. Friend is perfectly right, but I cannot pursue that aspect because we shall be debating title V, article J, later, in relation to foreign policy and defence. The article leaks like a sieve and will continue to do so.

Extraordinarily enough, the Commission has the exclusive right to initiate legislation. It can modify its proposals before they are presented by the Council of Ministers, and thwart the European Parliament under article 189b. I am only left in doubt as to the full extent of the functioning of the Conciliation Committee. Will it not add to a particular complication?

The Commission will also have special powers under the pillars that are outside the treaty. It will be an enormously powerful body—much more powerful than the House of Commons, because it will be Europewide in its application.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Will my hon. Friend describe the powers that the Commission will have under the pillars that it does not already enjoy in relation to intergovernmental activity—such as European political co-operation.

Sir Trevor Skeet

The Commission has a right to be fully informed about and to take an interest in both articles J and K. It has a right to settle legislation, if legislation is to be agreed. It will have a right to carry that legislation out, by convention or other methods.

Mr. Garel-Jones

If my hon. Friend examines the Commission's position in relation to European political co-operation, which is the governmental activity that currently exists under the treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act, he will find that the Commission already has those powers. What are the enormous new powers to which my hon. Friend refers?

Sir Trevor Skeet

Under article 100c, the Commission has powers, by convention, to carry things through—but these all come out of the fact that they are an addition to the powers that the Commission could normally utilise, not simply under the treaty of Rome. It could now use them under the pillars that are being established.

My right hon. Friend the Minister and other Ministers have claimed that, as the pillars are outside the treaty, they are also outside the European Court and the Commission. That is certainly not true.

Mr. Garel-Jones

What I am saying is that the Commission has no new powers in, for example, the intergovernmental pillar relating to interior justice. I believe that the wording of the treaty is "fully associated with", but those words are lifted from the provisions in the Single European Act that established existing practice for European political co-operation. My hon. Friend tells us that the Commission has a huge range of new powers; I am asking him to tell the Committee what they are. So far, he has not done so.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I very much want to come on to that, but I fear that articles J and K are beyond the remit of our debate. I should like to be led into such a discussion, however, so that I could explain to the Minister that the Commission has substantial powers, and that Ministers have not been frank with the country in saying that some of those powers are entirely outside the provisions of the treaty.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend has quite properly been preparing for other aspects of the debate, but this is to do with the powers of the Commission. Article K.3(2) states that the European Council may, on the initiative of … the commission, in the areas referred to in Article K.1(1) to (6) … adopt joint positions and promote". The Commission has a great deal of power within that article, although the Government have said that it has not. If my hon. Friend has time to read it in detail later, he will be alarmed at the massive power of initiation that the Commission will have in the areas of justice and home affairs.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, but I am familiar with that article. Under sub-paragraph (2), the Council may "draw up conventions", after adopting "joint action", and may even stipulate that reference can be made to the European Court of Justice, which will settle the matter. The Minister knows that that is so.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Perhaps my hon. Friend should ask the Minister of State to read the treaty. He may be in grave danger of finding himself in the same position as the Home Secretary. Notwithstanding the various discussions in which he has engaged, the Minister should be prepared to listen, and to examine article K.9. That article allows specific policy areas, such as immigration and fraud, to be transferred to the remit of the treaty through the extension of the application of article 100c of the treaty establishing the Community.

My hon. Friend should advise the Minister to stop making silly interjections, to read the treaty and to appreciate that, by extending the provisions of article 100c in that context, we are making a substantial change. Does my hon. Friend agree that, by bringing whole new areas of policy into intergovernmental agreement, we are extending the Commission's powers specifically, clearly, and in terms of the treaty that the Government have signed?

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It is clear that the Minister of State has not read the treaty closely.

Mr. Garel-Jones

rose

Sir Trevor Skeet

The Minister rises again, and he will be thrust down again. Ministers must read the treaty extremely carefully to find out what it actually says. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—whom I support—

Mr. Skinner

Not very often.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I do support my right hon. Friend. He has been telling the country that the pillars make a very big change: they are outside the European Court and the Commission. I consider that quite wrong, because they are inside for certain specific purposes.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I promise him and the Committee that I shall not try to intervene on him again. I respectfully submit that, were I to intervene every time he needed to be corrected, we should not make much progress.

In seeking to support my hon. Friend's argument that the treaty gives the Commission enormous new powers in the intergovernmental area, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) tried to talk about the transfer of competences from article K to article 100c. As a close student of the treaty, my hon. Friend will know that, for any such transfer to occur, the member states must first agree to the proposition. The Commission is not a member state, and therefore has no vote. It must then be agreed by the parliament of every member state.

Therefore, far from getting new powers, the ability of the Commission to obtain new powers, which my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) sought to illustrate, is entirely dependent on the unanimous vote of the parliaments of all 12 member states.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Is it in order for the Minister to predict inaccuracies, as he sees them, in the future speech of an hon. Member?

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair. The Minister is responsible for his own views.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am not impressed by what the Minister says. He is talking about the contemporary position. I was told that a certain result would follow from the Single European Act. Many of us were let down by the advice that we were given. My right hon. Friend the Minister is wrong: all the current trends are towards majority voting. How long will unanimity last? The Commission will shortly be involved in other operations, by which time we will have lost a freedom that we shall never be able to get back.

4 pm

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

The hon. Gentleman referred to the pillars and the trunk. Many of us believe that there is no separation and that it is all one edifice—the union. Indeed, article E of title I gives us that impression. Will he draw Conservative Members' attention to article J.8, which deals with a common foreign affairs policy and which states: Any Member State or the Commission may refer to the Council any question relating to the common foreign and security policy and may submit proposals to the Council." That is not the European Council—

Mr. Garel-Jones

As now.

Mr. Spearing

Under this treaty, it will be able to submit proposals not only to the European Council but to the Council of Ministers—an institution of the present market that would become part of the union.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am much obliged for that intervention.

The Minister should put his ideas before the country in a referendum, from which he would learn that the British people have their doubts and want clarification.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Trevor Skeet

No. I shall proceed for a moment. We shall shortly debate this article under foreign policy, at which time it can be argued extensively. It would be wrong if I went further down that road.

Sir Teddy Taylor

The Minister said that there was no provision in the treaty to extend powers, but article K.9 is specific, and we should worry about it, because it transfers responsibility for immigration and fraud to the EC. That may require a unanimous vote, but, sadly, many unanimous decisions are taken as part of horse trading.

Instead of trying to trap my hon. Friend, quite wrongly and unsuccessfully, it would have been more helpful if the Minister had informed the Committee of the huge dangers in article K.9—which I am afraid he did not mention at all.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. The Minister has intervened on the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) about half a dozen times. It is becoming apparent, post-Harrogate, that the Tory party and the Government do not have an answer, and that nobody believes what the Minister says about the common market and Maastricht.

Would it not be more sensible to halt proceedings so that the Attorney-General could be brought here? Let us have some more new legal advice. There is no point in listening to the Minister when we know that he gets it continually wrong. It would be a good idea if we packed up the proceedings, got fresh legal advice and then started afresh.

Several Hon. Members

rose

The Chairman

Order. I must rule on one point of order at a time.

The hon. Gentleman's good advice is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I hold the mirror image position of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I agree with him about the presence of Ministers. Do you recollect that, during previous debates on European matters, at least the Solicitor-General, the then right hon. and learned Member for Reigate, was constantly in attendance to offer his expertise? We also frequently saw the Foreign Secretary and other senior Ministers.

What better occupation do the Law Officers of the Crown and the Foreign Secretary have than to come to the House of Commons at this juncture to help the Minister of State, who has unprecedentedly made declarations about his own future? I agree with my hon. Friend that it is deeply unsatisfactory for the business to be handled in this way, and that we at least deserve the presence of the Foreign Secretary. What better things has he to do?

The Chairman

I am sure that members of the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman, but he will know that it is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You will be aware that, when we held very important debates on the Single European Act, the House was given assurances by the Government that it would be able to maintain its competence over immigration policy and such issues as the working week. However, that has proved not to be the case.

We are now receiving assurances from those on the Government Front Bench about the meaning of the treaty, but, similarly, they might be wrong. I agree that it would be in everyone's interest, now and in the long term, to have permanent legal advice available in the Chamber, especially while we are discussing the powers of European institutions. It is a matter of controversy, and it is important that we should be able to ask those who can best give us the answers.

The Chairman

Again, that is not a matter for the Chair, and I do not think that it needed a point of order twice as long as that of the hon. Member for Bolsover.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

I appreciate that this may not strictly be a matter for you, Mr. Morris, but it is a matter for the Committee whether we are going to get correct information, especially from the legal point of view, about the complex matters being debated. The Minister of State has intervened repeatedly on his hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) in order to give him information. I was under the impression that the House was to be assisted fairly frequently by the Attorney-General. I do not recollect seeing him here yet, although we are reaching a complex stage at which his help might be necessary.

May I remind you, Mr. Morris, of a letter sent two weeks ago by the Prime Minister to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition? The Prime Minister said: If the House of Commons wishes to have further advice on the meaning and effect of the Bill, Law Officers will be present when the Committee Stage of the Bill resumes. I believe that this is the right way to proceed, consistent with established practice and to ensure that the House of Commons has available to it the advice it may need. Surely the Attorney-General or another Law Officer should be here when we need them, especially while we are debating such complex matters.

The Chairman

I suggest that we hear from the Minister of State.

Mr. Garel-Jones

If you will allow me, Mr. Morris, and if it will help the Committee, I can confirm that my right hon. and learned Friend is available to the Committee. If the Committee wishes to put a specific legal point to the Government, he will make himself available immediately.

Mr. Robertson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris. I appreciate your problem, and I admire your forbearance. The Minister, on a point of order, is articulating a novel constitutional arrangement. How will it be procedurally possible for us to say that we wish to have a point answered if the Attorney-General is not present? The Minister is not here on the basis of listening and then enunciating what has been said. He is present, and he has chosen to intervene in many speeches as the debate has proceeded.

If the Committee needs the valued opinion of the Attorney-General on a point, how precisely are we to bring to your attention, Mr. Morris, the fact that we want to hear his opinion? How can he be involved in the debate without some notice being given to him?

The Chairman

I have already ruled that the Treasury Bench is occupied. Presumably it is listening, and presumably it will act. There is certainly nothing further that the Chair can do other than to emphasise those three points again.

Several Hon. Members

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

I hope that these are new points of order.

Mr. Dalyell

You raised the subject of the Treasury bench being occupied, Mr. Morris. The fact is that the Treasury Bench is not fully occupied. Not since the late Dick Crossman was left completely alone by his colleagues on the reform of the Lords has a Minister been so deserted on the Treasury Bench. We all know that the previous occasion was caused because the Government of the time decided that they did not like the proposals for reform of the Lords. That is why Dick Crossman was left alone.

We have a very lonely Minister here; apart from him, the Treasury Bench is unoccupied. Those of us who are pro-European think that it is high time that it was occupied, to give the expertise necessary for the answers to the legitimate questions being asked by hon. Members from all points of view.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Government are indivisible.

Several Hon. Members

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

I shall take no more of the same points of order.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I want to ask the Chair a question on a point of order.

The Chairman

I hope that it is not on the same issue.

Mr. Walker

I assure you, Mr. Morris, that my point of order is a matter with which, I judge, you should be able to deal.

The Chairman

Is it on the same issue?

Mr. Walker

No. My point of order covers the conduct of the Committee.

The Chairman

I shall trust in the hon. Gentleman's honour.

Mr. Walker

Is there any point in the proceedings at which you, as Chairman, can make a judgment that the Committee is not being given the assistance required to carry out its duties properly? If so, at what point do you intervene?

Mr. Spearing

On a new point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

It may be an entirely new point of order. However, the hon. Gentleman must allow me to deal with the present point of order.

The Chair has to listen to the debate. The Chair has no responsibility for statements made by any hon. Members as long as they are in order.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

I hope that this is an entirely new issue.

Mr. Spearing

My point of order concerns a new procedural issue, Mr. Morris. Of course we accept that you have no responsibility for anything said by any hon. Member in this place as long as it is in order. I also accept that you have no responsibility for any statement by any Minister who, as you have stated, is indivisible from the Government.

We have had a certain undertaking, to which I shall not refer, relating to advice from Ministers who are present to answer in this debate. In the opinion of certain hon. Members, that advice has not been shown to be effective.

In those circumstances, in view of the disagreement on a matter of interpretation of the treaty between the Minister and the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), and as no reply has been given about that undertaking, about which we all know, may I have your permission to move that we report progress so that we can discuss the matter until such information is available?

The Chairman

No, I am not prepared to accept that.

Several hon. Members

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

I ask Sir Trevor Skeet to proceed.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I find that the next six groups of amendments all contain legal technicalities, because they cover subjects such as institutions, subsidiarity, the Court of Justice, the European system of central banks, the banking system, economic policy and deficits, and economic and monetary union.

All those amendments, including the group headed "Foreign and Security" relating to article J, require the attention of the Attorney-General. It would be a happy compromise, as all hon. Members in the Chamber would agree, if the Attorney-General were to sit through all those debates, as they are of a technical nature.

I should make a little progress, because I hope that the Whips will take note of my suggestion. It is important that we should receive the correct advice. I do not blame my right hon. Friend the Minister of State: he is not a lawyer, and he is doing the best he can in respect of the difficulties involved. However, we are entitled to the best advice before we surrender the powers of the nation.

4.15 pm
Mr. Corbyn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Trevor Skeet

I think that I should make a little progress first.

Mr. Corbyn

Give way.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I have been giving way continually, and I have been very patient. Perhaps I will give way in a few minutes.

Just a moment ago, I referred to the substantial powers of a non-elected assembly. I stated that it had an exclusive right to initiate legislation. It can frustrate the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Although both those institutions have rights of way or entry, as it were, the Commission has substantial enforcement powers in respect of imposing fines under the treaty. To be able to impose fines is very important. I have selected a number of cases in respect of which fines can be imposed.

Mr. Corbyn

Give way.

Sir Trevor Skeet

In a moment.

Those cases involve article 171 for non-compliance with the treaty and article 104c on instructions of the Council of Ministers in stage 3 on monetary policy. Fines may be imposed for breaches of competition business, and search warrants may be issued to enter private premises. There would be a free right to approve agreements that have been negotiated.

Under article 169, breaches by member states may be referred to the European Court of Justice. Those enormous powers are being granted to the Commission either through the Council of Ministers or through the Commission's inherent right. Under Maastricht, those powers have not been diminished-they have been increased.

The Commission is the executive body that implements Community policies, in particular, in respect of European integration. Let no one suggest that it cannot implement that. Under the obligations of the treaty, it is there to do so. The Commission is the body responsible for negotiating treaties with states outside Europe—for example, under GATT and in respect of articles 113 and 228. It is the agent for the union.

Is not that body, which has supreme powers, completely unelected? The United Kingdom public receive no knowledge from Ministers about the enormous powers that the public are ceding. Once those powers have gone, they are like rockets in the sky—they burst and are gone.

Mr. Skinner

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is a little ironic that, after those two or three days in Harrogate, when people like the hon. Gentleman were told that they were to be pulled into line and that the Government were going to go to town and explain Maastricht, the hon. Gentleman is putting forward his arguments about the institutions when there is only a tin-pot little Minister present today, who gets it wrong every time he opens his mouth?

I fully expected to see rows of Ministers present today, including the President of the Board of Trade and all the rest, to argue their corner and to challenge the hon. Gentleman. What has happened? After Harrogate, it is all the same again. The rebels are in charge, and Ministers have left the sinking ship.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I feel obliged to protect the Minister, because he has a difficult job to do. As I said, he is not a lawyer, and the Attorney-General is not here to advise him. The Minister is doing the best he can, but he could get things in better shape. When we reach article J, in about six paragraphs' time—

Several Hon. Members

rose

Sir Trevor Skeet

I shall proceed a little further.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

I think that my hon. Friend will accept that we might have trouble with the next set of amendments, relating to subsidiarity, because it seems that no one knows what it means. There has been a competition, with a first prize of 140,000 ecu, but who won the prize? A former president of the European Court said that subsidiarity was a prime example of gobbledegook. How can the Committee consider such a set of amendments if no one knows what they mean?

The Chairman

Order. That is not relevant to this batch of amendments. It is the next selection, not this afternoon's selection.

Sir Trevor Skeet

We should not go round in circles on this matter. My suggestion is that the Whips and the Minister should take it on board that we should have a Treasury Minister and a Law Officer in Committee to answer the questions that we have raised.

I should like to mention the extension of competences under the Maastricht treaty. The original areas of the treaty of Rome, as amended by the Single European Act, include competences ranging from A to K in article 3. That is quite a slab of mainly economic power. I should like to mention a few of the competences: the free movement of people, services and capital, competition policy, the single market and, of course, a common agricultural policy.

People in the United Kingdom appreciated that the treaty of Rome was an economic treaty, and they understood it. It was called the European economic treaty. When we move to Maastricht, we move into an entirely different plain with a different stratum. In article 3, we have an extension of the categories from J to T. Those categories are partly economic, but largely political.

One of the political competences is citizenship, which we have already dealt with in article 8. Economic and monetary policy is dealt with in articles 102(a) to 109. Many people would say that that was dead as a dodo in Europe, because the only country which would qualify for it at present is France. Germany would not qualify, so it is unlikely that we will have a common currency in the future.

There is a whole linkage of categories, including education, culture, public health, consumer protection, trans-European networks, industry and development co-operation. Do people realise how far the political powers have been extended?

There has been no reduction in the Commission's powers. Article B argues that the Commission must maintain in full the "acquis communautaire", and further tasks have been assigned to the Commission for those major purposes.

Majority voting has been alluded to. I would not be overdoing it if I said that there has been a vast expansion of majority voting in many policy areas. Column 511 in Hansard of 12 March 1986 on the Single European Act shows that the matters to which majority voting applied totalled about 86, and unanimous voting another 32. When one looks at Maastricht and written answer 169 in Hansard of 20 May 1992, one finds that qualified majority voting increases by another 40. Enormous areas of policy are covered by majority voting and the trend is definitely towards majority voting being extended further.

In a Europe of 12, majority voting might be serious or less serious, but in an enlarged Europe of up to 16 countries, it would become more complicated. On several matters, such as the middle east, we would never co-operate. We have to operate as members of the United Nations Security Council. Would we not find ourselves with incompatible duties? We are still largely responsible for the Commonwealth. We have certain historic obligations. I doubt whether we could have done anything in the Falkland islands if the Europeans had been invited to have their say.

Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

My hon. Friend referred to majority voting. There is a serious consideration here, is there not? If the Scandinavian countries come in, their interests will differ in many respects from those of the rest of the Community. They will not wish to join if decisions are made by majority voting and their interests are overwhelmed by those of other countries. That message is coming through clearly from the Scandinavian countries.

Sir Trevor Skeet

As my hon. Friend appreciates, in 1996 the treaty will be renegotiated. That will mean even more majority voting. As the process of enlargement continues, we shall find ourselves in great difficulties.

I noticed that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his article in The Independent on 4 March, talked about a Europe extending right across to Russia and as far south as we could imagine. That would bring in about 30 states. He asked us to imagine what we would be able to achieve in a Europe of that size. In fairness to the Government, since the large draught of qualified majority voting was introduced under the Single European Act, we have been outvoted on only three occasions. We were outvoted on emulsifiers, on the safety warning on tobacco products and on fisheries policy in the Factortame case. That may be true. It is encouraging. That is in the past three years, but I can see us getting into great difficulties in later years.

Mr. Corbyn

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has returned to the issue of majority voting. Is he aware that, when we move on to discuss foreign policy—if we do—the issue will be crucial? It is possible that, by qualified majority voting, troops could be ordered into parts of the world and deployed in battle? The internal foreign policies of certain countries could be overridden. For example, Ireland has a tradition of neutrality going back to 1922. That is ended by the Maastricht treaty and the consequences of qualified majority voting.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I dare say that my right hon. Friend the Minister would say that unanimity might rule. That might be true in one or two cases in the early stages. However, before the introduction of the Single European Act we had many majority cases. They will be converted to majority voting. We are on the road down. The only way to operate a large Europe is to have majority voting. If decisions are made by majority voting, it matters little what one happens to think of the United Kingdom. If the public appreciate that and are prepared to give away their powers, that is another matter, but we are under an obligation to point that out to them in the first instance.

Mr. Marlow

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to article 104c, which deals with excessive deficits? Article 104c (1) says: Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits. The protocol says that article 104c does not apply to the United Kingdom. Article 104c (5) says: If the Commission"— the Commission, no less: Mr. Delors and his friends— considers that an excessive deficit in a Member State exists or may occur, the Commission shall address an opinion to the Council. The article goes on to say that the Council, on the recommendation of the Commission, by majority vote shall take such and such action. The Commission will get into the entrails of the economy.

Does the exemption under the protocol apply, or do articles 104c 5 and 6, which are not exempted, apply? Will the Commission have any control over a United Kingdom Government deficit, and will it be able to make any recommendation or have any opinion on it? As we have a large deficit, that is of fundamental importance. It is so important that we require legal advice, and the Attorney-General should be here to give it.

4.30 pm
Sir Trevor Skeet

We shall reach debate on that subject later, but article 104c applies only during stage 3. We can debate the words "avoid excessive government deficits". The protocol removes article 104c 1 for application to the United Kingdom.

European union operates on consensus, which derives from the increasing use of majority voting. Member states with great power and authority will end up with the greatest authority. Germany had 63 million people and added another 16 million when it amalgamated with the east, which makes about 79 million people—let us call it 80 million. Under article 148, it has 10 votes on the Council; Luxembourg, with 384,000 people, has two votes; and Portugal, with a population of 10.5 million, has five, or half as many as Germany.

When the treaty is revised, I envisage that someone will suggest, quite reasonably, that the numbers of votes should be altered, that Germany should get more and that Portugal's votes should be pared down, but that will be a difficult decision.

Let us not fool ourselves: with an economic and political treaty, the country with the greatest potential in Europe▀×I think that it is here▀×will have the right to determine that it has more rights and more say about what does on in Europe. I do not want to be directed by a German-French axis.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

My hon. Friend's actions, in attempting to undermine the Maastricht treaty, would deliver the very thing that he fears most—a Franco-German axis dominating future developments. If the House does not approve the Bill and the Government do not ratify the treaty, who does my hon. Friend think will dominate the 1996 intergovernmental conference? Having thrown away the chance to take the initiative in the Community, which we established at Maastricht, it certainly will not be our Government. If we throw, that chance away, we shall not dominate the next intergovernmental conference.

Sir Trevor Skeet

That is totally misconceived; I had thought that my hon. Friend would come up with a more rational idea. The Government have been saying that the capital position of the United Kingdom will be almost negated and that the Americans and Japanese will leave this country. The new Governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Eddie George, said that the City's position depended upon the completion of the single market rather than on monetary integration—in other words, he was saying that we are in Europe. The single market is here and will remain, as the Japanese know.

Referring to the Japanese, the Confederation of British Industry—a fairly responsible organization—says: Only a small number would see this as having a major effect on their investment, provided it did not lead to withdrawal or exclusion from the single market". We are not suggesting that the United Kingdom should withdraw from the single market; we are suggesting that we should withdraw from Maastricht, which, as a political treaty, could lead to complications. Switzerland—a neutral country—was invited to join the European Communities. It decided to remain isolated and independent, and it is doing very nicely.

I am all for co-operation, but the rights of the people must not be surrendered without their consent.

Mr. Ian Taylor

My hon. Friend must realise that other countries are applying to join on the basis of the Maastricht agreement. That is a very important point. Another point of importance is that, following a survey last week, the CBI, which my hon. Friend has just quoted, has pointed out that 19 per cent. of investment in manufacturing industry in Britain in the last five years was accounted for by overseas companies, and that more than half of those investors would regard our failure to ratify Maastricht as having a very negative impact on investment and on jobs. I refer to a CBI press release of 2 March.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Other countries invest in the United Kingdom at the time of their supreme power for the purpose of gaining access, through our membership of the single market, to other European countries. But this is not the story that Ministers are spreading.

Mr. Taylor

I am not a Minister.

Sir Trevor Skeet

My hon. Friend says that he is not a Minister. On this basis, he has no propect of becoming one.

I am keen to promote accurate information. In years to come, there may be some abatement. Germany and many other countries are going through a recession. Once they start pulling out, investment will increase again. The United Kingdom is sitting pretty. It will be the first country to come out of recession, and will be able to lead Europe in many ways. This is the most inventive country in Europe. That is why the Japanese have come here, instead of going to France and Germany. We think up processes, and the Japanese apply them.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I am sure that we have a splendid Government, but I must ask my hon. Friend to accept that we shall recover from the recession earlier than other countries because we got out of the ERM—whereas, sadly, the others are still stuck in it. Will my hon. Friend warn our friends at the CBI that, if this treaty is approved, we shall be back with fixed exchange rates from 1 January? The Government are entitled to much credit, but my hon. Friend should appreciate that most of it is due to the fact that we escaped from the dreadful, irrelevant, artificial European monetary system.

Sir Trevor Skeet

My hon. Friend supports the line that we should remain in the ERM.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I am against the ERM.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor).

The Government were against our pulling out of the ERM. However, we did so, and were able to lower interest rates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that, if we were to stick to the mechanism we should be all right, that we should go through with the Bundesbank. We found, however, that it was not appropriate.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

We were proved right about the exchange rate mechanism, but the Maastricht treaty would take us straight back into that system. This country cannot afford the risk of absorption into a political union that would bring protectionism and lead to massive losses in our international trading, at a time when we are running a deficit of about £15 billion a year with the European Communities.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I accede to that, but do not think for one moment that one is not obliged to return to the ERM at a later stage. If one makes a close reading of article 109—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is being tempted into areas into which he should not stray and he should return to the amendment he was summating.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. It would be churlish, given what I said a short time ago about the presence of senior Ministers, not to record that the Foreign Secretary is in his place.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Morris. Much against my will, I have spoken for longer than I intended, largely because of a number of interruptions—

Sir Teddy Taylor

From the Front Bench.

Sir Trevor Skeet

And elsewhere. I am glad to give way to some of my colleagues who are breaking their necks to try to speak in this debate. I would say to the Foreign Secretary—now that he is here—take your campaign to the country, sir, and give the public the facts.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that on this group of amendments. I have already ruled on that once this afternoon.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am very much obliged. In that case—

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend has mentioned Japanese investment in the United Kingdom. We have an existing institutional arrangement with the European Community. The treaty suggests—

The Chairman

Order. This specific set of amendments is about the Council, the Commission and Parliament; it is not about Japanese inward investment. Sir Trevor Skeet.

Mr. Marlow

rose

Sir Trevor Skeet

rose

Mr. Marlow

rose

The Chairman

Order. I called Sir Trevor Skeet, not the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). The hon. Gentleman may wish to speak later, in which case I may seek to call him.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Bearing in mind the number of interruptions from the Floor on the amendment concerning the institutions, I think that it is only right, given that the closure is likely to follow in two hours' time or perhaps even sooner, I should give other people the opportunity to make their contributions. Against my will, I have spoken for an hour, which I did not intend. I intended to be very brief, but I was induced to make a further contribution. I have done so, and I am now only too glad to finish.

Mr. Garel-Jones

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I would be grateful for your advice, and I believe that the Committee may be, in view of the fact that, after the completion of the debate on this group of amendments, I believe that we may then come to a vote on amendment No. 28.

Throughout the debate on this group of amendments, I made it clear to the Committee that the Government had made no final decision on this matter. We shall retain an open mind on the merits of restricting representation on the Committee of the Regions to elected local government representatives. We shall, however, still be asking the Committee to reject the amendment—not because we have a rooted objection to the principle of elected local government representatives, but because, from the discussions that we have already had and the content of the debate, it seems wise for the Committee and the Government to retain an element of flexibility to enable us to meet the specific requirements of our regions. However—

Mr. Corbyn

Why is this a point of order?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am coming to that.

The real issue that lies behind amendment No. 28 is not its content but the fact that its approval by the Committee would trigger the Report stage, thus deliberately delaying ratification of the Maastricht treaty. [ Interruption.] I am coming to the point of order.

The Chairman

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is asking the Chair to make a specific ruling—that is the only basis on which a point of order can be raised, not a point of debate.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Of course. I am just coming to the question that I want to put to you, Mr. Morris. Some hon. Members have made it clear that they will be voting on this issue as a tactical manoeuvre, as it were—an approach which we deprecate. [ Interruption.] I am just coming to the question I want to ask, which is important.

The Chairman

Order. Let us be clear on the procedures of this Committee. When a point of order is raised, obviously anybody from one of the Front Benches is called earlier than other hon. Members. Nevertheless, it is a point on which the Chair must rule, and it is not correct for any hon. Member to raise an issue on a different set of amendments. That is why I called to order the hon. Member for Northampton, North. The point of order must relate to the institutions and current group of amendments, and not to subsequent amendments.

Mr. Garel-Jones

If I could have your indulgence for one moment, Mr. Morris—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe that I am right to say that, when debate on this group of amendments is completed—the Opposition have been good enough to inform the Committee that they do not intend to press the lead amendment in this group to a Division—we shall then move immediately to the next group. I think that that is right.

4.45 pm
The Chairman

Order. I announced last Thursday that there would be a vote on amendment No. 28 if it were moved immediately following the conclusion of the debate on the amendments which are before us now. That is established. What is the right hon. Gentleman's point of order?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am grateful for that, Mr. Morris. It seems to me and to my colleagues on the Front Bench that the issue that will now be voted on is a procedural one. Would it be possible—this is the question for you, Mr. Morris—given that we seek to reject the amendment in order to prevent the artificial delay of the Bill, for a further debate to take place on that matter before the Division is called?

The Chairman

No.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

I was very interested in your earlier ruling, Mr. Morris, when you said that, as a legal entity, the Government were indivisible. We have just seen that this is a difficult concept to apply when the Government are schizophrenic and move from one interpretation to another of what should be done in the Committee.

Mr. Spearing

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is remarkable that a Minister of the Crown, a Privy Councillor, is unaware of the basic procedures in relation to this group of amendments and subsequent ones? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Attorney-General should attend the Committee to answer the matters raised by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and my hon. Friend? Unless he attends, in accordance with the undertaking given, we should ask the Chairman—not at this stage, but when the debate is concluded—to consider accepting a motion to report progress.

Mr. Barnes

That seems an intelligent suggestion, which should be taken on board.

On Thursday, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) was taken to task by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) on the interpretation of the word "federal". It was felt that the hon. Member for Stafford was mixing up "federal" with "unitary" and using them in an interchangeable way. The problem is that there is a sense in which the words can be interchanged, under certain circumstances, because they describe the same set of arrangements. They are most commonly interchanged when a highly bureaucratic system is being described.

Therefore, the federal structure is something of a sham, because it really turns into a unitary system. The tendency is to use the words "federal" and "unitary" in a similar way. That was how the word "federal" was used to explain the position in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. In that sense, it might not be wrong to describe federalism and the unitary system in Europe as similar. However, if we want to apply the concept of democracy to the developments that should be taking place in Europe, the distinction between "unitary" and "federal" becomes of key importance.

Some people look towards a United States of Europe modelled on the United States of America, with nation rights equivalent to state rights and federal rights at the centre. They see a clear democratic division, and democratic systems determining matters at nation level and at federal level. In that context, the terms need to be kept entirely separate. I argue that we should introduce democratic aspects into the picture. We should be concerned about the serious democratic deficit in the developments currently taking place in the European Community. We seem to be heading towards a unitary system, not a federal system.

When we first entered the Community in 1973, the Commission was clearly the only co-ordinated, organised and permanently centralised influence operating in the Community. The restrictions placed on it related to the unanimity rule, especially as it operated under the Luxembourg accord, and the treaty base under which decisions had to be justified as legally acceptable. However, the restrictions on what the Commission could do were only limited. Even within the unanimity arrangements, horse trading was possible between nations, and between the Commission and different nations, in order to advance as many items as possible and to allow the sphere of influence and treaty considerations to grow. Even then, the treaty was sufficiently wordy and complex to allow extra bits to be added.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Could it be registered that the Foreign Secretary stayed for eight minutes to hear the Minister of State's point of order, and has now gone again, leaving the Treasury Bench friendless, as it was before?

Mr. Barnes

We hope that the Foreign Secretary has made way for the Attorney-General, and that someone will soon join the Minister on the Front Bench.

Mr. Marlow

On a totally separate and perhaps surprising point of order, Mr. Morris. Would it be in order for the Front-Bench team to give a commitment with regard to the Liberal party that it will introduce amendment No. 28—on which a vote is about to be taken —in the other place? Would it be in order for that deal to be done and for my right hon. Friend the Minister to make a statement to that effect from the Dispatch Box?

The Chairman

No.

Mr. Barnes

I see that, in order to make my speech intelligible for those who read it, I shall have to get some scissors and paste to stick together the flow of ray argument.

As well as the co-ordinating factor of the Commission, the other aspect that existed from the time of our entry into the Community in 1973 was the role of the Council of Ministers. It met in secret conclave and operated—depending on which version one prefers—either as the legislative organisation making the final decisions in Europe or as a rubber stamp, somewhat like the Privy Council when it agrees to ratify legislation that has passed through the two Houses. The Council of Ministers finally gave legal respectability to measures that were based on decisions that had earlier emerged from the Commission.

Mrs. Dunwoody

That was never the case. It was always clear that the Council of Ministers—through its civil servants in the Committee of Permanent Representatives and through previous meetings—had total control over the agenda. Although there was some horse trading, there was never any question of the Council of Ministers becoming a rubber stamp. We need to develop our EC Committees so that they have even more powers to control our Ministers, not to seek to create other institutions outside.

Mr. Barnes

That intervention illustrates the distinction between our two views on Europe's future development. Presumably my hon. Friend looks towards a Europe of the sort that initially emerged, whereby, under the unanimity provisions, we could block measures through decisions taken by our Ministers. I look to something different; I want something of a proper, democratic, federal nature to be established in Europe. For there to be merely a blocking mechanism, which could be used by nation states, was unacceptable to me. Our views are influenced not just by what has occured, but by how we see matters developing in future.

The next set of institutions that developed were consultative and included organisations such as the Economic and Social Council and the European Parliament—a strangely named parliament, which was not a parliament in the sense of a decision-making institution. It was no more a parliament—perhaps even less of a parliament—than that which developed in Germany under the Kaiser, which was a consultative avenue. At least Germany at that time was under universal franchise, and the Parliament was seen to be important and a sign of the various developments of the Social Democratic party. It gave various openings to Germany's future.

The same could not be said of the European Parliament, which was a purely consultative and amorphous body consisting of different representatives of different nations of different political tendencies. The representatives' voices might be taken into account, but often were not. No wonder there was little interest in what took place in European elections. The decisions that were being made through those elections had very little impact on what would influence the future development of Europe.

The problem with the subsequent changes under the Single European Act and the Maastricht provisions is that the move to overcome the democratic deficit is complex. It contains some progressive elements that are heavily stressed by advocates of Maastricht. However, it also contains many regressive elements that are used by opponents of the development of the Maastricht treaty. We must be aware that those two elements are intimately interconnected.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I shall not interrupt further. Will he give a short and accurate description of exactly what the term "democratic deficit" means in English?

Mr. Barnes

Essentially, it means that Europe is not operating according to the democratic principles. We want a move either to establish such an operation or to pull away from further bureaucracy. I do not know whether the hon. Lady wishes to take up those points—

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am your hon. Friend.

Mr. Barnes

I think that as I progress it will be discovered that I have very few friends in the debate. I argue strongly against Maastricht and involve myself in all activities in the House that seek to block the Maastricht treaty. We want a proper, social, democratic and federal Europe. That is often the aim of some of those who support the Maastricht treaty, but it will not achieve that. I support many of the arguments relating to danger used by opponents of Maastricht and agree with the vision of some of its supporters, but I do not think that their aims will be achieved by the treaty, which sends us further into the unitary democratic progress.

The Chairman

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman philosophises any further, will he return to the amendments under discussion?

Mr. Barnes

I thought, Mr. Morris, that I was confining myself to this rather wide group of amendments; I was dealing with some of the relevant aspects of political philosophy, but I shall, in deference to you, return to the subject.

It seems to me that Europe has been only nibbling at the democratic deficit, not tackling it head on. We have moved some way towards giving the European Parliament a greater impact, but such moves have been severely limited. Under the Single European Act, the Parliament operates co-operation procedures with ECOSOC. If there is no unanimity in the Council, certain measures can return to the Parliament for what is called a second reading— although it is a strange form of second reading, and not one that we would understand. Here, on Second Reading, we can make solid decisions or block legislation. In Europe, we are talking about a second consultation on a measure that has been to the Council of Ministers.

5 pm

If the European Parliament is not co-operative and amends a measure, and if the Commission agrees, the Council can adopt the qualified majority voting rule, but the Parliament is only employed to provide further scope for the operation of that rule.

To some simple-minded people, it might seem that qualified majority voting was a democratic procedure. A number of people get together; they do not have to agree unanimously; one lot can outvote the other. It all depends who is making the decisions, and how they have been appointed. In this case, they have been appointed by the nation states and they have been horse trading among themselves before deciding how to act. They are all experienced at using certain devices to hoodwink their own national parliaments about what is taking place.

In this House we have a system of so-called scrutiny, but even if we decide to change a recommendation from the Government in Committee, the Government merely change the resolution when it comes before the whole House and pass what they have wanted all along. The scrutiny measures of the House cannot actually control the Government, therefore. That is not a shortcoming on the part of hon. Members or of our institutional arrangements; neither is it the fault of our Clerks who serve the various Committees. Everything is done as effectively as it can be, but ultimately nothing can be achieved because of the structures into which we are tied.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

If the treaty came into force, would we not get the worst of both worlds? We would lose a great deal of our power from the House. That power has been diminished in the past 20 years in favour of the Community, but we would lose even more of it. Moreover, the European Parliament would not be able to take over those powers, for reasons that my hon. Friend is explaining, and in any case I would not be in favour of its so doing. I might disagree with my hon. Friend about that.

Perhaps this explains why Mr. Alan Clark wrote his article in The Daily Telegraph outlining his experience of what happens in Europe, where permanent officials have tremendous power and Ministers are happy to delegate that power to them.

Mr. Barnes

I agree. Losing powers from the House does not mean that we pass them to an alternative Parliament. Instead, we hand them to the institutions of the Community, giving the Commission greater influence and leaving decisions to the Council of Ministers, where horse trading and outvoting by qualified majority voting are allowed, with no democratic checks and with the electorate having no say.

Under the Single European Act, and until the conference at Edinburgh, the Council still met entirely in secret, and there was no record of how its members had voted. Governments may have made statements about that on occasion—we had some feedback about our Government—but there was no full record. Since Edinburgh, that has started to change. We have to dig around to find out what is going on, though. I have had to table questions to discover what the votes were at the recent Agriculture Council meeting.

I trust that the Government will see to it that such votes are recorded for our information in future so that we can check up on what they are doing and on whether it ties in with the decisions of the House—and of the two Committees that investigate some of these proposals.

There are still some inadequate features of Council meetings. The qualified majority voting provisions have been extended and will be further extended under the Maastricht treaty, by means of the co-decision procedure which amends the consultation and co-operative procedure that has applied hitherto. Formerly, when an item was dropped, it might be lost altogether. Now it can be resurrected under the co-decision procedure. The Council and the Parliament will be equally represented on the Committee dealing with co-decison making. If they can agree, a joint text goes to the Council of Ministers and to the Parliament. Parliament can then decide by simple majority and the Council by qualified majority.

That seems to represent some sort of democracy for the European Parliament, but it actually provides more opportunities for decisions to be taken by the Council of Ministers by qualified majority voting. That is fundamentally undemocratic. Before, when a number of nations came together, the unanimity provision gave a say to each country that was party to an agreement. Qualified majority voting, however, prevents that. So we have been kidded that we are making a democratic advance in this area.

Mr. Marlow

On another institutional aspect, we have referred before to article K.3.2, under which the Council may, on the initiative of the Commission in the area of home affairs and justice, adopt joint positions and promote, using the appropriate form and procedures, any co-operation contributing to the pursuit of the objectives of the Union". The Minister has said that this is all subject to a double lock, under the unanimity procedure and the procedures of the House, but the article is not subject to that double lock and the Commission, with its agenda day by day and year after year, can pursue policies without the House having any further control over them. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address that matter, because it gives the Commission massive new powers that this Parliament will not be able to gainsay.

Mr. Barnes

I am not impressed by the double lock argument because even if decisions are unanimous a treaty provision will allow the area to be decided by the Community to be extended, even if all that happens is that some nations get together and agree. Treaties should spell out the precise areas of operation and such treaties should be ratified throughout Europe in a series of referendums.

These are seeming sets of democratic changes to facilitate undemocratic practices of qualified majority voting. Maastricht considerably extends qualified majority voting through economic and monetary union, common citizenship, education and public health. Areas that are already covered are extended. The Labour Front-Bench spokesman said that 61 items were to he added to qualified majority voting. Even the social policy provisions fall within those areas and are not entirely unproblematic for democratic socialism.

There will not be a host of social provisions flowing from the social chapter. It will merely provide some hooks on which the Commission and the Council of Ministers can hang certain provisions. Many of those provisions may be progressive, but some could be regressive. Social policy should proceed hand in glove with the development of democratic decision making and should he determined democratically.

There will be a bean feast for Brussels bureaucrats. I am not against bureaucracy in all cases. One cannot have democracy in the advanced systems of the modern world without a host of associated bureaucracies. Bureaucracy should be under solid democratic control and checks, and should not itself run the show. Under the current arrangements, that will occur because of agreements between top politicians in the Government and the Commission.

Mr. Winnick

My hon. Friend has one or two fatal, subversive ideas, but I am glad to know that he is an ally on this measure. He spoke about democratic control. Even if the treaty did not have the glaring omissions and defects that he recognises, what kind of democratic controls or accountability could there be as an effective substitute for Parliament? This Committee is an exercise in democratic accountability, because, however keen the Government are to get the Bill through, they cannot do so until the Committee has examined it line by line. No European Parliament could ever achieve such democratic control, and it would be ridiculous to suggest the contrary.

Mr. Barnes

The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) spoke about problems in the Conservative party and Conservative arrangements in Europe and their links. We should consider the position of democratic socialists. The development of democratic revolutions has always been to the fore in the Labour party. In this country, that revolution was associated with universal franchise. That was not achieved until 1928, when afterwards a minority Labour Government came to power for the first time.

We in the Opposition should direct our minds to democracy in Europe and how it can be established. That is why we should reject the Maastricht treaty and adopt an agenda for a fully fledged democratic, social and federal Europe in which all powers are accorded to the Parliaments, whether European or national. There should be a clear division of authority for those Parliaments. Subsidiarity in no way overcomes the problem; nor is it a substitute for the arrangements that I have outlined. It is a vague and waffly notion and we can get our teeth into it at some later stage. We should seriously involve ourselves in the democratic concept of Europe.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

The hon. Gentleman describes subsidiarity as a vague and waffly notion. He will recall that it was basically and originally a theological notion.

5.15 pm
Mr. Barnes

It is a philosophical, social and political theory. It is not a legal concept of constitutional significance that can have anything to do with establishing systems with clear divisions of authority. People should not be fooled by it. We shall come to that on the next amendment.

There is some emptiness about the way in which we deal with European measures. I am involved in many such matters because I am a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation and of Standing Committee A which considers European legislation. That does not fool me into believing that my work on those Committees is of any great import. I am discovering the difficulties of Parliament's having some say and control of such legislation. We spend a great deal of time and effort investigating such matters, but there is no possibility of our making any serious decisions.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am also a member of European Standing Committee A. We are discussing institutions. Does my hon. Friend accept that the machinery of those Committees is there to be exploited, and that hon. Members do not use those powers? No other part of Parliament has the right to question a Minister for an hour in detail. Hon. Members who do not use such facilities are missing a great opportunity.

Mr. Barnes

My hon. Friend is greatly involved in the activities of Standing Committee A. She fully uses the facilities and makes many fruitful contributions. Hon. Members should be encouraged to do that and can involve themselves in the work of Standing Committee A and Standing Committee B without being members of them. The hour's question time before the one and a half hours of debate on European measures is most fruitful. That procedure would be beneficial in other parts of Parliament.

The Committees and their procedures can unearth details of measures and can embarrass the Government and thereby influence consultative procedures, but they are of minor legislative significance. Even if an amendment is accepted in Committee, it is stood on its head on Report or it is taken over by the Government and put down in their name. We do not know what happens when the amended measure reaches the Council of Ministers because there is no complete report of what happens there or details of the Council's vote. If that changed, the Committee's institutional significance would become more important. Meanwhile, I accept that they are valuable and worth while, and I encourge right hon. and hon. Members to become involved in them.

It is a shame that there are only two European Standing Committees. We tried to establish three, but not enough right hon. and hon. Members could be found to fill them. The Committees are worth while, but let us be under no illusion that they can achieve the unachievable. There must be changes in the Community itself before the scrutiny undertaken by the House can have any democratic significance.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend makes his point very well. However perfect our procedures can be made, and regardless of the number of right hon. and hon. Members who attend European Standing Committees—I know that my hon. Friends the Member, for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) and for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) do so assiduously—those Committees are purely advisory, and until the Community's institutions become transparent, there will be no proper accountability. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the treaty makes no provision, those who say that the institutions are democratic should not agree to the treaty because the institutions are not transparent or fully accountable in the way that my hon. Friend described?

Mr. Barnes

They are neither transparent nor accountable. There should either be extensions or the type of democratic provision that I described, whereby there would clearly be a federal division between different areas of responsibility. The House could then investigate at a federal level, though it would still have no great say because that would be done under the provisions of an over-arching constitution. This institution could complain that its rights were being invaded. A federal institution could make proper provision, discuss matters and ensure that the legal provisions existing in Europe were observed.

My position is not commonly held in the Committee. Those who are against Maastricht are not usually great friends of the European Community or in favour if its extension and development. Those who are friends of Maastricht are usually happy with its likely achievements. However, I believe that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have a democratic vision of the future after Maastricht, in which some of the improvements which I suggested might be achieved.

I do not believe that that will happen. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) suggested that there was among many Members of the European Parliament a belief in the dream of federalism, and that it is on the cards. If I also believed that, I would be in the Maastricht camp, but I do not. I doubt whether the Council of Ministers and the Commission will readily surrender the powers that Maastricht will confer on them.

A Labour party briefing—I will not spill all the beans, but I will dissociate myself from some of the points that it makes—states: The EC is not a unitary state and we do not agree that further progress towards European unity will, or should, lead to a European superstate. I wholly believe that Maastricht's provisions will take us much closer to a unitary state and to becoming a European super-state that lacks democratic input—or which provides, at best, for democratic consultation—and democratic decision making. We must add those other elements to produce something acceptable. If that cannot be done, the treaty must be stopped until the safeguards that I described are on the agenda.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Before I turn to lead amendment No. 18, moved by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), it is worth noting that a considerable number of amendments in the group relate to titles III and IV of the treaty. They cover the provisions establishing the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Changes made by the treaty are purely technical, to bring those provisions into line with the treaty of Rome. It would be nonsense to have different rules for appointing the Commission depending on which Community treaty was being used. That would be a recipe for chaos.

I hope that the Committee will think it right that I do not deal with the European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom provisions separately. I shall limit my remarks to those amendments which relate specifically to the treaty of Rome, which will hold true also for Euratom and the ECSC.

I am sure that the Committee is grateful to the right hon. Member for Copeland for indicating that amendment No. 18 is a probing amendment. It has allowed right hon. and hon. Members to have a wide-ranging debate on Community institutions. Amendment No. 18 seeks to delete article 138d of the treaty, which grants citizens of the union the right to petition the European Parliament. I hasten to say that I feel certain that the Opposition have no wish to remove that privilege from European citizens.

I am sure that most right hon. and hon. Members agree that individual citizens should have a channel to air grievances relating to the Community. Article 138d formalises and confirms a right which has existed in practice and in the rules and procedures of the European Parliament for many years. It provides useful clarification by specifying that grievances must be concerned with matters which come within the Community's fields of activity and which affect the petitioner directly. It is entirely up to the European Parliament to decide how to respond to complaints. It may refer them to the ombudsman provided for under article 138e.

It is important to remember that those provisions help to make the Community more real and accessible to the people, which I am sure will be welcomed by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend knows that I have the greatest personal respect for him, and the greatest sympathy for the difficulties in which he finds himself at the moment. Many technical, legal questions were asked during the debate, and others might be put to my right hon. Friend during the course of his speech. Is it the intention that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be present for part of this debate?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am extremely grateful for my hon. Friend's sympathy and concern, which has been a great encouragement to me throughout the Committee stage. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it clear that, where specific matters require the Committee to receive legal advice on amendments and their legal status, he will make himself available.

My hon. Friend reminds me that I had some exchanges with one of my hon. Friends, and I shall refer to them. The Committee will decide, but I think that they were commonplace exchanges about opinions—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That matter is for the Committee to decide when I reach the relevant point in my speech.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman later, but I should like to make a little more progress. The right hon. Gentleman was not present at that point in the debate. I do not say that in any critical sense; I know that he is a frequent attender.

The role of the European Parliament is strengthened by the provisions of the Maastricht treaty, in both the legislative and non-legislative spheres. Apart from the establishment of the right to petition the Parliament, and the establishment of an ombudsman, the Parliament will be enabled to set up temporary committees of inquiry under article 138c to investigate alleged contraventions of maladministration in the implementation of Community law. The Parliament will also have a similar role in scrutinising the actions of the Commission, particularly through enhanced provisions for financial accountability. Those proposals were both promoted and strongly supported by the United Kingdom during the Maastricht negotiations.

5.30 pm

There is also an increase—albeit limited—in the legislative role of the European Parliament. The Parliament has always been consulted on EC legislation. The Single European Act increased its involvement by creating a "two reading" procedure for single-market and other business. That procedure, which is known as the co-operation procedure, is now in article 189c. The Maastricht treaty makes two important changes. First, it extends the co-operation procedure in article 189c into some policy areas, such as transport and training; in those areas, the voting procedure moves up from simple majority to qualified majority. Secondly, in article 189b, the treaty introduces a negative assent procedure—into certain areas, such as the single market.

That is a "three reading" procedure. After the Council has made its final decision on the substance, the European Parliament may block the legislation, but it may not amend it. It cannot overrule the Council on substance. The choice is between legislation on terms decided by the Council, and no legislation at all. When the institutions disagree, there is a conciliation procedure; but the last word on substance remains with the Council, and I think that the Committee will agree that that is right.

Mr. Cash

rose

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have already promised to give way to the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). If he does not wish to intervene now, I shall continue.

Two other amendments tabled by the official Opposition—Nos. 33 and 34—are of particular interest. Both deal with the Commission.

Mr. Marlow

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

May I make a little more progress? I will give way when I have finished this part of my speech.

Amendment No. 33 seeks to delete from the Bill article 158 of the Maastricht treaty, which relates to the appointment of the Commission. The article provides for an increase, from 1995, in the term of office of the Commission's president from two to five years, and in that of ordinary members of the Commission from four to five years, thus making their appointment conterminous with the European Parliament. Article 157 makes it clear that the Commission must remain independent, and we shall work to ensure that that remains the case.

Article 158 also subjects the Commission as a body—including the President—to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. That is a welcome step forward. The Commission will now be subject to greater democratic scrutiny, but member states will retain the right to nominate their own Commissioners, and to appoint both president and Commission. The third element introduced in article 158 is the establishment of an interim Commission, whose term of office shall expire on 6 January 1995. As the Maastricht treaty has not yet entered into force, the present Commission has been appointed for four years under the existing article 158, but on the understanding that its term of office will end in January 1995.

Before I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), let me answer a specific point put to me by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) about the European Parliament. He asked about decisions on the additional six seats that Britain will have as a result of the Maastricht decisions. The distribution of seats is now under active consideration by all Departments, and I expect the Government to reach a view at a very early date. Of course, we shall then consult the Opposition parties.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the need to redraw boundaries. As he will know, the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 contains no provision that permits use of the Boundaries Commission in these circumstances; the Government are therefore considering how best to proceed, and hope to reach a decision soon. We are aware of the tight deadline to which the hon. Gentleman referred —before the 1994 elections—and the heavy work load on the existing Boundaries Commission.

Mr. Marlow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Among the most important characteristics of a nation state—even one which is co-operating with other nation states—are defence, foreign policy, immigration and judicial affairs. Why has it been found necessary to involve the European Parliament in those affairs? Doing so suggests that we are moving towards a European nation state, rather than a group of independent nation states.

Mr. Garet-Jones

I strongly agree—as do the Government—with my hon. Friend's identification of what could be regarded as the most significant attributes of nation statehood: foreign policy, interior, justice and defence. One of the unique breakthroughs of the Maastricht treaty is its provision of a framework for co-operation between member states, albeit within the wider framework of a union treaty.

We have debated these matters earlier in the Committee stage. I have never claimed—nor, I think, have the Government—that we can be positively certain that we can entrench the intergovernmental structure which, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's negotiating skill, is a unique feature of the Maastricht treaty. We believe, however, that it marks the point at which intergovernmentalism—co-operation between nation states—becomes respectable: indeed, we would argue that there is nothing more respectable, in co-operation between 12 member states within the framework of the traditional treaty of Rome, than intergovernmental co-operation.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Gard-Jones

Perhaps I may finish the point. Then I will give way to the hon. Member for Hamilton.

As I have said, we have never claimed that we can be certain of entrenching that intergovernmental structure for ever. The point about the Community is that there is a perfectly proper, continuing debate between nation states about the way in which we want it to develop. We believe —with the support of not only Conservative Members but, I think, all hon. Members—that we now have a chance to influence and shape that debate. In my view, the Maastricht treaty will give us the opportunity to entrench the aspects of co-operation between nation states to which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North and I—and, I believe, all hon. Members—attach importance.

Mr. George Robertson

I am grateful to the Minister for responding to the specific questions that I asked him last Thursday about the six extra seats in the European Parliament that were agreed at the Edinburgh summit.

When the Minister submitted his highly publicised but lengthy notice of resignation, he said that his resignation would allow him greater flexibility to speak his mind during the Maastricht ratification procedures. However, his answers to the questions that I have put to him on a specific and important issue read like a classic "Yes Minister" script. The matter is "under active consideration"; a decision will come "at an early date"; "we expect to hear soon"; "we appreciate the early deadline, but I am not going to tell you anything".

Does the Minister realise that the European elections are some 56 weeks away? This time next year, candidates will be standing for constituencies in this country. It really is not good enough to tell the House of Commons at this stage that the Government have all these matters "under active consideration", but cannot tell the House anything now. Is this yet another sign of the Government's present state of dazed confusion over the whole European issue? The Minister has nothing to announce, because the Government are paralysed by the splits in the Conservative party.

The country will come to exactly the same conclusion. Given that the Government have gone such a short way down the road to agreement on the boundaries, candidates will be chosen and then have to be chosen again.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman is a perfectly charming Member of the House and of the Committee, and I do not object to being teased about my postdated cheque, but as he has never been a Minister, and is not likely to become one, it may surprise him to learn that from time to time Ministers have to read out bits of paper given to them by other Departments. The essential point that he made was a fair one, and it is well taken. The matter is extremely urgent, and I assure him that, despite the rather turgid prose that I have read on its behalf, the Home Office attaches importance to it and is well aware of its urgency.

Amendment No. 34—

Mr. Spearing

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I shall in a moment. I like to make progress, if I can, in little chunks.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I have given way twice to my hon. Friend. I shall give way next to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

Amendment No. 34, which stands in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), would require the Government to obtain the approval of the House for its nominees as British Commissioners. There is already some consultation between the Government and the Opposition on the appointment of the United Kingdom's Commmissioners. The Government intend to continue this practice, but it should remain a matter of practice. It would be inappropriate to enshrine it in legislation.

Amendment No. 426, which stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), is important. It is, essentially, the proportional representation amendment and it would require the Government to implement a uniform electoral procedure for the 1994 European parliamentary elections. It is clearly a reference to proportional representation, and the Committee understands the motives of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in tabling it.

It is impossible for the Government to give a commitment to implement proposals which depend on agreement, first, in the European Parliament and, next, by unanimity in the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament has been trying to agree a uniform electoral procedure for, I think, 20 years. It is considering new proposals which would require at least 50 per cent. of seats in member states to be elected by proportional representation. It is necessary, first, for the Parliament to agree those procedures; they then have to be agreed unanimously by the Council of Ministers.

Sir Russell Johnston

The Minister is correct. Nevertheless, it is a fair guess that the DeGucht proposals, as they are popularly known after the rapporteur, will reach the Council of Ministers later this month. That being so, and unanimity being required, is the Minister saying that the Government will seek to veto the proposals?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I would rather wait and see whether Parliament approves them. It has failed to do so in the past 20 years. If it approves them, we shall see what becomes of them.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

The Minister may unconsciously be misleading the Commmittee, but the European Parliament agreed a proposal for a uniform system in 1983, which was ignored by the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Garel-Jones

If that is so, I stand corrected. It certainly was not my intention to mislead the Committee. I am not aware of that proposal being put to the Council of Ministers. My understanding is that, if it had been agreed under the normal procedures, it would have gone automatically to the Council of Ministers.

5.45 pm

New clause 21, which stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) is also important. It would require the Government to provide a written account of their position and intentions if the European Parliament, acting under the negative assent procedure, stated that it intended to reject a common position agreed by the Council of Ministers. I believe that that is the import of the right hon. Gentleman's new clause. We had a debate similar to this on another new clause tabled by the right hon. Gentleman.

I understand that hon. Members will wish to be informed of the progress of proposals under the new negative assent procedure, especially if the European Parliament states that it intends to reject the common position agreed in council. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the House will be kept fully informed, as it is now, of the progress of all legislative proposals under existing scrutiny procedures. Under those procedures, the Government have agreed to keep Parliament informed of developments which occur after an initial explanatory memorandum has been supplied detailing the Commission's proposals and the Government's view. Hence, we would expect to submit a further explanatory memorandum if the European Parliament rejected a common position.

The scrutiny procedures of the House—I shall comment further on this later, as the hon. Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) raised it only recently—work well and are capable of dealing with the extension and modifications of the co-operation procedure that the negative assent procedure entails.

I say to the Committee, especially to Conservative Members, that we should be extremely cautious before passing an amendment which would tie down the way in which hon. Members scrutinise legislation. The Committee will recall that the scrutiny arrangements for European Community legislation were revised in 1990 following the fourth report of the Select Committee on Procedure in the 1988–89 Session.

Two recommendations of particular significance were made, to which the hon. Members for Crewe and Nantwich and for Derbyshire, North-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) referred. Hon. Members, regardless of their view and attitude to the Community, have made a significant contribution to the work of the House on those Standing Committees. The Procedure Committee reported in December 1991 on its review of the first Session of operation of the two Standing Committees, which led to some minor changes.

I ask members of the Committee to put to one side their differences about Britain's place in the Community and how it may develop. This is, essentially, a House of Commons matter, and if we lay down procedures on how the House is to scrutinise Community legislation—

Mrs. Dunwoody

rose

Mr. Garel-Jones

May I finish the point? I shall then give way to the hon. Lady, who has made interesting interventions on this point and who plays an important role in one of the Standing Committees.

The procedures are bound to some extent to be inflexible. It would require further legislation to change them if they proved less than ideal. That would require parliamentary time, which could be devoted to more useful purposes, and furthermore—this is a point that the Committee will want to bear in mind, and I mean this with no disrespect to the other place—it would mean that the other place would have a legislative say in the procedures of this House.

The two new Standing Committees may have defects, and we may want to improve them as we go along, but if we tie the way in which we scrutinise EC legislation we shall be going down a very dangerous road. I am sure that the irony of the situation would not be lost on a number of my colleagues if we reached the point where our procedures were effectively regulated by a piece of European legislation.

Mrs. Dunwoody

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that much of the legislation which comes before the House has the force of law and that we seek adequate ways not only of debating it before the decisions are taken but of getting a report. If the right hon. Gentleman seriously cares about the House of Commons, he will want it to be possible for us to get a report on what is happening. If he does not care but wishes to transfer all our rights, he will clearly not accept the amendment.

Mr. Garel-Jones

With respect, we are discussing what I would call a House of Commons matter. I am attempting to separate it from the disagreements that we may have about our approach to the Community. I agree that it is important that the House should have the opportunities that it thinks appropriate to examine matters in Committee. The hon. Lady was kind enough to say that she thought that the new procedures introduced in the Standing Committees, which enable right hon. and hon. Members to question Ministers on an inquisitorial basis for an hour before dissolving themselves into a Committee, were an interesting innovation. Certainly it is an innovation of which she has made particular and distinguished use.

What I am trying to say is that it would be a rather rigid way in which to proceed if we were to put such matters, about which the House knows a great deal, into a Bill which much pass through another place and then become an Act of Parliament. As I said, the irony would not be lost on a number of my hon. Friends who are anxious—as I am, and as we all are—to preserve the House's position if we were to allow a piece of EC legislation to become the vehicle through which the procedures of the House were decided. If the Committee divides on any of the new clauses, I hope that hon. Members who are worried about the House's position—especially my hon. Friends among them—will at least for these issues place on one side our debates on the treaty as a whole and regard this as a House matter.

Two other issues have been raised in the debate so far. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) suggested that all the activities listed in article 3a to 3t are now for decision by qualified majority voting, not unanimity. That is not quite correct. Unanimity is retained for key decisions on the environment under article 3k, for all decisions on industry under article 31, for key decisions on research and development under article 3m, for all decisions on culture under article 3p, and for all decisions on energy, civil protection and tourism.

In a previous debate, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) mentioned legislation on zoos. He should know that the Commission agreed at Edinburgh to consider withdrawing its proposals on the conditions in which animals are kept in zoos on the grounds of subsidiarity. Of course, that is to be the subject of the next debate when the Committee moves on, but I observe in passing that it must be significant that proposals are already being considered for withdrawal under subsidiarity before it has even come to have the force of law, as I hope and trust that it will when the treaty is ratified.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) was kind enough to give way to me several times. He was, of course, right to say that as a general proposition there are, under the treaty of Rome, areas in which the Commission's power has been extended. I do not dispute that, but I was attempting to explain that the wording of the arrangements in article J.9 of the new treaty, where the Commission is fully associated with the work of the Community, applies by extension to the new intergovernmental areas. The wording is broadly speaking that of article 30(3)(b) of the Single European Act. Article J.9 states: The Commission shall be fully associated with the work carried out". I believe that the wording is, indeed, identical with that of the Single European Act. That is the point that I was trying to make. I do not dispute my hon. Friend's general proposition about other parts of the treaty.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way because he said a little while ago that he would give way on that point. Does he agree that the Commission will have greatly increased powers of initiative in what he claims is an intergovernmental area? Under article J.8, which covers foreign and security policy, the Commission can initiate matters to the Council. Under K.9 it can initiate matters relating to six home affairs topics, such as immigration, asylum and similar issues. So is the Minister not wrong to suggest to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) that there are no increased powers? As the Minister knows, powers of initiation are very important, so the idea of the intergovernmental being separate—as the Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who has just walked in, would claim —will surely not be correct in practice.

Mr. Garel-Jones

If I gave that impression, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, to the Committee and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North. I am trying to say that the powers under article J.8 or J.9—

Mr. Spearing

Article J.9.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The powers under article J.9 are, in practice, not new powers because they have developed under European political co-operation. In practice, the Commission has already been able to initiate discussions and this merely formalises it in the treaty. I do not think that there will be any disagreement between the hon. Gentleman and me on this issue. The crucial difference is that, within the treaty of Rome proper, as one might call it, the Commission has the exclusive right of initiative; that is its essential power in that treaty.

I realise that many other hon. Members wish to speak. I have perhaps spoken a little earlier than the Committee expected, but I now conclude so that other hon. Members can participate.

Mr. Hoon

For the first time in these debates, I have some sympathy with those who consistently criticise the European Community and, in particular, the operation of some of its institutions. Clearly, proper criticisms can be made, but I differ from the critics over what solution should be suggested to the problems that they describe.

From the debate so far, I can only assume that the solution favoured by most of the critics would involve the repatriation of virtually all European Community decision-making powers, thereby making most of its institutions redundant. The practical difficulty with that argument is that it assumes that it is possible to return to decison making by each of the 12 member states, presumably operating together on an intergovernmental basis to produce what would, in effect, be a series of international treaties.

Even those who have been most critical of Community institutions have accepted that it is necessary to take decisions at the European level. Indeed, I think that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) who spoke about the operation of international rules on environmental protection. In the modern world, it is clearly vital that we recognise the urgent need to take effective international action to protect our environment. In such urgent matters, it would not be possible to wait for a series of countries to agree on the text of an international treaty.

Anyone familiar with the operation of the various conferences considering ways to protect our environment knows that, in the end, we reach the lowest common denominator of agreement, which is usually far too late in terms of the problem under consideration.

The institutions of the European Community have one significant advantage over any international organisation —the advantage that is most criticised in this debate. The EC's advantage is that it can make law that is binding across its territory. Moreover, it can now by a majority make that law for all 12 member states, which are then bound by those decisions.

6 pm

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

My hon. Friend makes a good point on the environment. However, does he agree that the environment and pollution cannot be dealt with across half a continent? If we are seriously to deal with the matter, we must involve eastern Europe and countries outside Europe. The only way in which we can deal properly with environmental questions is internationally.

Mr. Hoon

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. We are concentrating for the moment on the environment as an issue in relation to institutional change. Because the EC takes decisions more efficiently by majority voting, it can set standards that are often then followed by the very countries to which my hon. Friend refers. The EC manages to produce a series of standards which, if we waited for every country affected to agree a policy, would be far too late in terms of environmental protection.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is my hon. Friend seriously suggesting that many of the existing Community members automatically follow the rather poor environmental standards that are set by the Community?

Mr. Hoon

I do not accept that the environmental standards are poor. Indeed, in many respects the EC has enacted progressive standards—

Mrs. Dunwoody

Are those standards followed by member states?

Mr. Hoon

I shall come to that point. Those standards have not been received especially enthusiastically by this Government. The Community enacts legislation, and if member states are found to be in breach of it, there are proper procedures within the treaty to enforce it. Right hon. and hon. Members frequently draw that point to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

I make that point as an illustration of the difficulty for the critics of the existing constitutional arrangements. They seek simply to turn the clock back, and for each member state to try to reach a common decision. That is impractical in the modern world. Nevertheless, given that the EC has legislative responsibility, an essential underpinning all its legislative activities is that that legislation is passed by democratic institutions. In this respect, the European institutions fail a significant test—the democratic test.

Of the various European institutions that we are debating, the one that has been directly elected to reflect the views of the people of Europe, the European Parliament, has the least influence and the least responsibility, both in terms of day-to-day decision making in the European Community and, crucially, in terms of its role in the legislative process.

It has often been observed that, when the EC considers whether a country should be admitted to membership, the first basic question which is always asked is whether that country operates democratically, whether its institutions are freely and fairly elected, and whether they exercise proper control over its Government. It has been rightly argued that, on that test, the EC's own institutions would fail on the ground of their lack of democratic accountability. It has been argued that the EC's own institutions would not qualify to be admitted to membership of the EC.

The debate about democracy in the EC is not new. The Single European Act was seen by some as marking a significant change in the powers of the European Parliament. Although the Single European Act has clearly improved the ability of the European Parliament to delay legislation, the real beneficiary of the Act has been the European Commission, especially because of its ability to select amendments during the legislative process.

Since the passing of the Single European Act, the European Commission has been able to play off the European Parliament against the Council, and vice versa. When the European Parliament's amendments agree with the line established by the European Commission, it is generally prepared to accept them. It rejects amendments that might cause it difficulty in the Council. The Commission also tells the Council that certain amendments are vital to the European Parliament, and that it is not prepared easily to be deflected from its course. As a result, the institutional view of the Commission increasingly prevails, as it plays off one institution against the other.

The weakness of the European Parliament can be seen by examining in detail the legislative process in the European Community. At the end of what may have been a long period of consultation, of debate and of decision, the European Parliament agrees on amendments to proposals for legislation. Those amendments may reflect the views of Members of the European Parliament from 12 different countries, they may reflect the views of a wide range of political parties and groups, and they may be approved by the overwhelming majority not only of the Members of the European Parliament present, but of all those who are entitled to be present.

At the end of that exhausting process, what happens far too often is that a single Commissioner rejects the amendments, not necessarily in terms of principle. The Commissioner may say not only that will he not accept the amendments, but that he will not even put them to the Council for consideration. Nothing in the Single European Act requires that. It is simply a way in which the Commission has chosen to exercise its powers.

As many hon. Members have said, the European Commission, which has the sole responsibility for initiating legislation, in practice can also determine which amendments are selected for further debate in the Council. The Commission's response is that the great majority of amendments tabled by the European Parliament are ultimately accepted by the Council of Ministers. The reason for that, again, reflects the lack of real accountability in the European Commission.

The amendments accepted tend to be sensible and practical amendments, which are necessary because the European Commission often has not thought through the detail of legislation when it makes proposals for new directives or regulations. The European Parliament provides the opportunity for widespread public consultation among those affected by the Commission's proposal.

Dr. Godman

My hon. Friend is offering a sustained and thoughtful critique of the modus operandi of the European Commission. Surely that institution, along with the others, will have new competences as a result of the treaty. Is it not likely that the extent of those competences will be determined ultimately by the European Court of Justice?

Mr. Hoon

Certainly, challenges to the institutional framework of the EC have occasionally been successful in the European Court of Justice. I am not sure that I can anticipate what those challenges are likely to be in future. The European Court of Justice certainly fulfils a constitutional role in determining the precise framework of the EC decision-making process, but I cannot say what those cases are likely to be.

The European Parliament often fulfils a function in the legislative process in the EC similar to that fulfilled by a House of Commons Standing Committee. Essentially, a series of amendments are tabled, many of which are readily accepted by the European Commission because they are tidying-up amendments that alter the wording, but not necessarily the substance. Those amendments may have been tabled at the suggestion of interest groups directly affected by the legislation which had not previously been consulted by the Commission.

If it is sensible for the European Parliament to table tidying-up amendments and assist the Commission to produce more sensible and practicable legislation, it must follow as a matter of principle that the European Parliament should also have a much more significant role in determining what is politically necessary.

After all, the European Parliament has been directly elected to fulfil a particular responsibility within the Community. The European Parliament should have political responsibility. The Commission should not be allowed to claim, in the interests of its own institutional policy, that the amendments of the European Parliament cannot be put before the Council of Ministers. Unfortunately, that happens far too frequently.

The Maastricht treaty provides changes in that legislative procedure and some improvements, which can be welcomed with two small cheers. The co-decision procedure allows the European Parliament the opportunity of a Second Reading across a much wider range of subjects than was previously the case. It offers the European Parliament an enhanced ability to reject legislation. In turn, that gives the European Parliament a greater ability to pressure the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament will have greater bargaining power within the institutional framework that we have been discussing.

The problem with the negative powers, which have been available to the European Parliament under the Single European Act, but which are extended by the Maastricht treaty, is that, after many years of discussion and debate on a particular legislative proposal, in practice the European Parliament can reject legislation entirely or simply accept what is on offer at a fairly late stage in the process.

Those who criticise the operation of the European Parliament because the Maastricht treaty allows it far too much influence and power are missing the point. The European Parliament either accepts what is on offer or it throws out the legislation, with all the consequences of doing so. The changes in the Maastricht treaty will only slightly enhance the ability of the European Parliament to participate in the legal process of making law. However, they do not do that in a helpful or constructive way.

I welcome the assent and consultation procedures. The assent procedures were originally introduced by the Single European Act, and they are likely to be extended by the Maastricht treaty to new areas involving the structural and cohesion funds and certain international agreements. The assent procedures, as extended by the Maastricht treaty, will undoubtedly give the European Parliament greater bargaining power. There are currently suggestions in the European Parliament about how those bargaining powers might be used.

However, in the context of an intergovernmental conference, where there were great debates about giving the European Parliament real power and responsibility, it is unfortunate that the power that can be exercised in the light of the Maastricht treaty will, in the end, be only at the margins. It will be a power for the European Parliament to use its negative influence to block what might otherwise be sensible proposals to achieve something practical. That is a matter of regret.

I want now to consider the European Commission, and link that to my remarks about the European Parliament.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

I have followed my hon. Friend's comments with great interest. He is making a thoughtful contribution. However, does he agree that, in the way that he has described, the European Parliament is not being given the necessary powers to control the Community—and, in particular, to regulate and control the monetary express train that is now sweeping through Europe? The European Community is increasingly dominated by unaccountable bankers, financiers and business interests. We do not have through the European Parliament what we should have—which is a proper democratic mechanism to regulate and control. In other words, the interests of economics, business and financiers are being put before democratic interests, That is the problem with the treaty.

Mr. Hoon

The view that I have held for many years, and the view that I hope would receive a widespread support in the Committee, is that the real issue for the European Community is to make the Commission subject to some democratic control. That must be control through a series of national parliaments or—I believe that this is more practical—through national parliaments working together with the European Parliament. In practical terms, it will not be possible for 12 separate, national parliaments to control the activities of the European Commission. In practical terms, control will have to be exercised by the European Parliament.

6.15 pm
Mr. Leighton

My hon. Friend has made an interesting contribution about the European Parliament. However, does he really believe that the European Parliament could hold the European executive to account? Does he really believe that the European Parliament could be accountable to the European electorate? There is really no such thing as a European electorate. There are a number of different electorates. The European Parliament will never be the focus for the aspirations, hopes and loyalties of the diffrrent European electorates.

Mr. Hoon

I do not see the difference. There are clearly different electorates across the Community. However, I dare say that my right hon. and hon. Friends from Scotland would claim that their electorate is different from that in Ashfield which elected me to the House. Electorates vary in the different parts of the European Community.

I see no difficulty in the European Parliament controlling the activities of the Commission. Those who have criticised the operation of the European Parliament have claimed that it is not democratic. In a sense, if that is the criticism, we must find ways of making it more democratic.

One argument that has been advanced which I do not accept is that we could make the Community more democratic by repatriating decision making to national Parliaments. The days of that kind of approach have passed. The kind of decisions that we now have to take must be taken at an international level.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the problems is that the Community has reached the point where it is taking highly important decisions on economics and politics and imposing them from the top downwards? There is no sign in my constituency that people want the powers that my hon. Friend is talking about to be transferred to the institutions. There is no clear commitment in any part of the electorate that people want those powers to shift. Why cannot my hon. Friend accept that repatriation, as he calls it, would conform with the views of our electorate, while centralisation would not?

Mr. Hoon

That depends on a basic philosophical view of the role of parliaments and elections. It seems to me that parliaments exist to control the forces that my hon. Friend has described. The economic forces need to be subject to the democratic control provided by parliaments. However, I disagree with my hon. Friend in that I do not believe that many of the decisions that she described are capable of being controlled by one Government in one nation state.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Does the hon. Gentleman share my view that we must seek to exercise democratic control not simply through the European Parliament, but also through national parliaments? One of the tasks of this Parliament in the next four years is to improve the Committees on which the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) serves, and make them more effective where we can. We must also try to influence other national parliaments, which have not been as active as this House, to take an interest. Democratic control in respect of the Commission should be exercised by national parliaments in co-operation with the European Parliament.

Mr. Hoon

The Minister has anticipated some of the points that I hope to develop.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is an alternative which he has completely excluded? We could return to the previous situation, in which the assembly of parliaments in Europe was indirectly elected and reflected the situation in each of the member states' parliaments. Effectively, that would answer the points which the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made about the European Parliament reflecting the views of the nation states.

Mr. Hoon

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, and it is certainly a possibility. As someone who is struggling with responsibilities both in the European Parliament and the House of Commons, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the volume of legislation which goes before the European Parliament makes it much more difficult to combine the two functions than perhaps it was before 1979. Therefore, I am not sure that that is still a practical possibility.

Given the weaknesses, as I see it, in the decision-making process in the European Community in terms of the criticisms which have been expressed about a lack of democratic accountability, the first priority on which we could agree is that the European Commission should be subjected much more to the democratic will of the European Parliament. The intergovernmental conference failed to address that properly.

There was the opportunity, with widespread support across the Community, of tackling the problem which hon. Members have criticised—that decisions were taken by the European Commission without reference to parliaments, and sometimes without reference to Governments. Those decisions need to be checked, and the way in which to check them is by making the Commission much more accountable to the European Parliament.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman has a great deal of faith in the European Parliament, although I do not think that it is shared universally. One reason is that there is a suspicion—I put it no higher—that the European Parliament will always take a decision based on what that decision will do to enhance its power and prestige, not on what is best for the government of Europe.

Another reason is that we have a Parliament here which is not perfect, but at least we speak the same language, and we have coherent parties. The European Parliament speaks about eight different languages, has no such thing as party and is often referred to as the tower of Babel. It is not a coherent body which can take coherent decisions and coherently monitor other European institutions.

Mr. Hoon

There are nine official languages in the European Parliament. All I can say about the tower of Babel is that, when I came here, I was not entirely prepared for the amount of noise which is generated at 3.15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is no criticism of the House of Commons; it is simply part of the nature of our democracy.

If the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) spent some time listening to the European Parliament and the excellent interpretation and translation facilities which are available, he would not have the difficulties he anticipates. If he spends some time at the European Parliament, he may well be more impressed than he is at present.

The Commission enjoys some improvements to its position as a result of the Maastricht treaty. The treaty will allow the European Commission to have an improved role in the process of bringing about economic and monetary union, especially in the assessment of the economic performance of member states as a basis for entering the third stage of that system. Article 171 gives the Commission power to impose fines on member states which the European Court of Justice might have found to be in breach of the treaty. Essentially, the changes do not substantially alter the role of the European Commission.

A much clearer effort could have been made at the intergovernmental conference to bring about the appointment of a European Commission which was more clearly subject to control by the European Parliament. Article 158 contains a new power to allow the European Parliament to approve nominations to the European Commission, Moreover the President of the European Commission will be nominated only after consultation with the European Parliament.

Article 158 says: The president and the other members of the Commission … shall be subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The provisions set out in the Maastricht treaty reflect only article 144 of the treaty of Rome, which allows the European Parliament to dismiss the European Commission as a whole by passing a vote of censure with a two-thirds majority. That has never happened in practice, although it came close once. Over many years, the European Parliament has recognised that the power to dismiss is in the nature of a blunderbuss. While eliminating a specific Commissioner who might have been unpopular or incompetent, one lost many friends in the process.

Given that the changes in the Maastricht treaty will allow the European Parliament to play, for the first time, some role in the reappointment of the Commission, there may be some slight improvements in the treaty, which must be welcomed. Nevertheless, we have not established a situation in which the European Commission and, more importantly, individual Commissioners are aware that their decisions are subject to the control that we would expect to see with in the relationship which exists between an elected body and appointed officials. Changes in the terms of office for the European Commission may help. The coincidence of the terms of the European Parliament and those of the European Commission may improve the situation by making the Commissioners more accountable.

I turn to the points made by the Minister of State a few minutes ago. In the institutional framework in the European Community, we must find a way of bringing together democratic control by national parliaments, together with the sort of control which should exist at the European level. In a practical sense, that is the only way in which those of us who are concerned about the lack of democracy in the European Community can look forward to the necessary changes.

We need to establish a community of interest. We must find ways in which we can bring together, in an institutional sense, members of national parliaments, together with members of the European Parliament. That is already done practically in two countries. Belgium and Germany have established joint committees of elected members of the national parties, which meet regularly with members from those countries of the European Parliament. That gives the advantage of early warning of legislative proposals from the European Community to national parliamentarians. Equally—I recognise the criticisms made earlier in the debate about the European Parliament—it gives members of the European Parliament access to the prestige and institutional arrangements which are available as far as most national parliaments are concerned.

It would have a double advantage for each of the bodies involved in the process. The joint committees appear to operate effectively as a means of channelling information from the European level to the national level and—recognising the concerns and sensitivities of this Committee—from the national level to the European Community level. That is one practical way in which we could enhance the process of making the European Community accountable.

I have not spend much time talking about the Council of Ministers. The Minister of State talked about the role of the Standing Committees of the House of Commons. Clearly, those Committees must exercise much greater control over Government decisions. There must be a much greater understanding of the ways in which the decisions are taken in the Council of Ministers in order to render those decisions properly and effectively accountable in the House of Commons.

Ultimately, we need properly to recognise the role of democracy in the European Community. We must not simply criticise the institutions but must examine ways, perhaps at the next intergovernmental conference, to tackle the problems which were not properly faced at the last intergovernmental conference to put in place real democratic reform in Europe.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) and I will have to agree to differ about the European Parliament. An effective European Parliament with effective powers exist when there is a European nation state. I do not believe that we have a nation state of Europe, that we should have a nation state of Europe or that the people want a nation state of Europe. Times and circumstances may change. If they do, there may be a case for a European Parliament with some of the powers which the hon. Member for Ashfield would like it to have.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Which is the nation state of the United Kingdom?

6.30 pm
Mr. Marlow

The simple answer is two words: the "United Kingdom".

I wish to dispatch a few small red herrings. First, I and my hon. Friends who are referred to as Euro-sceptics are not anti-European. We are not against the single market. We are very much in favour of it. We believe that within the single market the United Kingdom can take the lead and be prosperous. Secondly, we oppose the institutional provisions of the Maastricht treaty and believe that they are the most significant and important part of it. We oppose them not necessarily because they are wrong for Britain—although we believe that they are wrong for Britain—but because they are wrong for Europe.

Europe has not reached the stage at which it wants a central Government. The treaty seeks to impose a central Government on Europe. It is the ambition of Mr. Delors, President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl to impose their blueprint of a European union on Europe before it realises what has happened and before they have moved from the European scene.

If the Maastricht treaty is imposed on Europe, it will be bad not only for Britain but for Europe, because it will be unstable. It will try to do things in a way that is unaccountable and will cause resentment, stress and strife among the European nations which make up the European Community. It is for those reasons, not because we are anti-European, that we oppose the treaty. We feel that it is damaging to both Europe and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Knapman

My hon. Friend will be aware that some people suggest that the treaty is a decentralising measure. Admittedly, Chancellor Kohl in the Financial Times said the opposite. Perhaps the thought that the treaty can mean all things to all people is its strength.

Mr. Marlow

I shall deal with that point later. The difficulty—or, as my hon. Friend would say, the strength—of the treaty is that everyone can say that it satisfies his requirements. Everyone looks at the treaty from a different angle, through a different pair of glasses and from a different perspective.

When one reads the treaty on any subject, there are about 15 different routes through it. Some of those routes are blocked by other aspects of the treaty. Some of those routes are not blocked. There is a problem with the social chapter in the treaty. The Government have said that we must exclude the social chapter —

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. The hon. Gentleman should refer to the institutions of the Community. He is becoming somewhat Second Readingish. If he will stick to the amendment, it will be useful to the Committee, and will enable other hon. Members to speak. The social chapter has already been discussed and will be discussed in the future. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would stick to the amendments.

Mr. Marlow

I accept your point entirely, Mr. Lofthouse. We are dealing with the powers that the treaty gives to the institutions of the Community to take action on the social protocol, even if it is excluded.

Mr. Garel-Jones

As Chancellor Kohl has been prayed in aid yet again by those who believe that the objective of the Maastricht treaty is to create a super-state, I wish to remind the Committee and my hon. Friend what Chancellor Kohl said in Oxford on 11 November: We have not laid the foundation stone with Maastricht for a European superstate …we have committed ourselves to a Europe constructed on the principle of unity in diversity.

Mr. Marlow

I might be in difficulty with you, Mr. Lofthouse, if I followed my right hon. Friend's point, because he was not referring to the institutions of the Community. I can reassure my right hon. Friend, although I am not prepared for it, that Chancellor Kohl has said many things about the European Community. Rather as the treaty is all things to all men, Chancellor Kohl is all things to all men.

Mr. Bill Walker

This group of amendments covers the institutions of the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament. My hon. Friend will recognise that, if many of the amendments were accepted by the Committee, they would effectively do what the majority of those who have spoken in the debate want. They would remove the additional powers that are provided and destroy the treaty.

Mr. Marlow

I am sure that my hon. Friend has a valid and interesting point, on which other hon. Members will comment later.

Mr. Garel-Jones

In case you call me to order, Mr. Lofthouse, I promise that I will not pursue this line of argument much further. However, my hon. Friend will have noticed—this is connected with the institutions—that a group of Members on the Conservative Benches believe that the treaty is a communist conspiracy, and a group of Members on the Opposition Benches believe that it is a capitalist conspiracy.

It is neither. The treaty is what we choose to make of it. It is my belief that, on the basis of the treaty, my hon. Friend and I, from this side of the House, will be able to make the contribution that we want to make, and others will seek to make the contribution that they wish to make.

Mr. Marlow

Again, I am not sure how my right hon. Friend's remarks relate to the amendments, but they obviously do, Mr. Lofthouse, because you have not ruled him out of order. I have given way twice to my right hon. Friend, and I shall be happy to give way to him again, because this is an important matter which relates to the amendments.

Why have the Government seen fit to involve the European Parliament—which the Government do not hold in particularly high esteem and to which they do not want to give certain powers—in defence, foreign policy and judicial and home affairs?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I apologise to my hon. Friend for not responding to that point in my speech. He is right that the European Parliament has a consultative role on the pillars. That does not include defence. However, the decisions are for the Governments. The European Parliament already has a consultative role under the Single European Act and European political co-operation of which, as my hon. Friend knows, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) is so staunchly in favour.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend is not being completely forthcoming to the Committee. He knows the treaty pretty well. He will find that the European Parliament is mentioned in many capacities in which it has not been mentioned before. It is mentioned to a far greater extent, and is given far more scope than previously, in foreign affairs, defence, home affairs and judicial affairs.

Mr. Garel-Jones

It does not have scope in defence, but it has scope in common foreign and security policy, which builds on European political co-operation under the Single European Act. It does not have scope in home/interior/ justice affairs, because those matters have only just been included in the treaty. The European Parliament has the right to be consulted. That is precisely the same right as it has under European political co-operation in the Single European Act.

Mr. Marlow

I do not want to bore the Committee, but article J.7 says: The Presidency shall consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and the basic choices of the common foreign and security policy and it shall ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration. So the European Parliament is to be consulted, and its views will be taken into account at central European level.

It continues: The European Parliament shall be kept regularly informed by the Presidency and the Commission of the development of the Union's foreign and security policy. That is not how it was written before. It is an extension of the competence of the European Parliament on those issues. People should be well aware of that.

Mr. Garel-Jones

This is such an important point that it is important to clarify it. I know that my hon. Friend would not wish to mislead the Committee. First, the common foreign and security policy is not a common defence policy. The defence dimension of Europe is contained within the Western European Union, which is outside the European union and the treaty on European union. Secondly, the power to be consulted already exists under European political co-operation. I know that my hon. Friend would not wish to mislead the Committee on that matter.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has said that security policy is not defence policy—it seems rather like defence policy to me.

Mr. Cash

On the European Parliament and increasing its powers, has my hon. Friend seen the Maastricht referendum petition on page 9 of Saturday's edition of The Sun, which went out to 4 million people in towns and villages throughout the land? That gives them the opportunity, within the rules of the House, to sign a petition and to ensure that they express their views on the importance of a referendum.

Mr. Marlow

I do not normally get beyond page 3 of The Sun, but it is appropriate that the public should be consulted again through a referendum, given the massive increase in powers to European institutions proposed by the treaty.

The problem within the Conservative party, and the difference between my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and myself, is that the Government say—of the powers given to institutions in the treaty—that it will not happen: subsidiarity will rule, everything is under control and we should not worry, as things are moving in our direction. When I read the treaty, I find that the powers that it gives to institutions are very real, and I am concerned that Community institutions will take advantage of them to reduce the powers available to the House.

Instead of a group of sovereign nations co-operating at European level, the new powers given to European institutions—I am looking at you, Mr. Lofthouse, as I speak, because you are looking at me, so I keep saying the words "European institutions" in case you take the view that I am going off the track—will enable them to turn it from a free-standing group of sovereign and independent nation states into a European union and a unitary state. That is what many Conservative Members are concerned should not happen.

I read the treaty and believe that it means what it says. My right hon. Friend on the Front Bench reads the treaty and says that it will not happen.

Some years ago, there was a treaty called the Single European Act. At the time, we were told that the powers that it gave to Community institutions were nothing to worry about. We were told that the treaty was all about the single market and free trade with Europe, and we were all in favour of those. Since then, we have discovered—and been told continually during this debate—that the major powers available to be surrendered, were surrendered at the time of the Single European Act.

Many years ago, at the time of the Single European Act, we were told that it was unimportant, whereas we are now told that it was vital and that the House conceded power through that Act. When debating powers to be passed to European institutions under the Maastricht treaty, we are told, "Relax, don't worry, things are coming in our direction—it will not happen."

Yet, if one reads the detail and sees the vast areas in which powers are being potentially transferred to the Commission, the European Parliament and other European institutions, one is bound to be cautious. If one values the powers of this House and the ability of this country to govern itself, one can come only to the conclusion that one must oppose the transfers of power within the treaty.

Another reason for opposing the treaty can be found by thinking back to the time of Maastricht, when the powers were negotiated. I am second to none in my admiration for my right hon. Friend, who was in a difficult situation. Everyone had come forward with proposals, which were not desired, suggested or required by the United Kingdom. In a way, he was ambushed by all the other European countries and by the European Commission: his action was defensive—damage limitation—and, in the circumstances, my right hon. Friend did a magnificent job.

Mr. Cash

Which right hon. Friend?

6.45 pm
Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

However, 15 months later, we are faced with the reality. Europe has changed. The requirements and desires of Europe with regard to co-operation are different from the desires of 15 months ago. The French have had a referendum, and only one third of the French people voted in favour of the treaty. The Danes had a referendum and voted against the treaty. Surely that points to the fact that we should have our own referendum. It concerns me that the future of the treaty is dependent on what the Danes decide in a referendum and not on what we in Britain decide in a referendum. Is that not a matter of some concern to you, Mr. Lofthouse?

The other reason why we must be concerned about whether the powers given to European institutions will be used is because of the other countries in the European Community. Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg are not countries. They are provinces, but they want to be part of a country—for them, that country would be Europe. Italy is incapable of governing itself, and is desperate to have some form of government.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

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

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 49, Noes 313.

Division No. 173] [6.45 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms Diane Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Adams, Mrs Irene Leighton, Ron
Austin-Walker, John Lewis, Terry
Barnes, Harry Livingstone, Ken
Beggs, Roy Loyden, Eddie
Benn, Rt Hon Tony McAllion, John
Bennett, Andrew F. Madden, Max
Boyce, Jimmy Mahon, Alice
Boyes, Roland Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Paisley, Rev Ian
Canavan, Dennis Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Cann, Jamie Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Chisholm, Malcolm Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Cohen, Harry Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Connarty, Michael Simpson, Alan
Corston, Ms Jean Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Cryer, Bob Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Davidson, Ian Trimble, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Winnick, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Wise, Audrey
Galloway, George Wray, Jimmy
Gerrard, Neil Young, David (Bolton SE)
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Gordon, Mildred Tellers for the Ayes:
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mr. Dennis Skinner and
Hood, Jimmy Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
NOES
Adley, Robert Beresford, Sir Paul
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Blackburn, Dr John G.
Aitken, Jonathan Body, Sir Richard
Alexander, Richard Booth, Hartley
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Boswell, Tim
Alton, David Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Amess, David Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Ancram, Michael Bowden, Andrew
Arbuthnot, James Bowis, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Brand reth, Gyles
Ashby, David Brazier, Julian
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bright, Graham
Aspinwall, Jack Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkins, Robert Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Browning, Mrs. Angela
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Baldry, Tony Burns, Simon
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Burt, Alistair
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Butler, Peter
Bates, Michael Butterfill, John
Batiste, Spencer Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Bellingham, Henry Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Carrington, Matthew Hawkins, Nick
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayes, Jerry
Churchill, Mr Heald, Oliver
Clappison, James Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hendry, Charles
Coe, Sebastian Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, Michael Hicks, Robert
Congdon, David Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Conway, Derek Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Horam, John
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cormack, Patrick Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Couchrnan, James Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Critchley, Julian Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Dafis, Cynog Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jack, Michael
Day, Stephen Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Devlin, Tim Johnston, Sir Russell
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dicks, Terry Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dover, Den Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Duncan, Alan Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Dunn, Bob Key, Robert
Durant, Sir Anthony Kilfedder, Sir James
Dykes, Hugh King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Kirkhope, Timothy
Elletson, Harold Kirkwood, Archy
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knox, David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Faber, David Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fabricant, Michael Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Leigh, Edward
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fishburn, Dudley Lidington, David
Forman, Nigel Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forth, Eric Llwyd, Elfyn
Foster, Don (Bath) Luff, Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lynne, Ms Liz
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Freeman, Roger MacKay, Andrew
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Gale, Roger Maclennan, Robert
Gallie, Phil McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Madel, David
Garnier, Edward Maitland, Lady Olga
Gillan, Cheryl Major, Rt Hon John
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Malone, Gerald
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mans, Keith
Gorst, John Marland, Paul
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hague, William Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Merchant, Piers
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Hampson, Dr Keith Milligan, Stephen
Hanley, Jeremy Mills, Iain
Hannam, Sir John Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hargreaves, Andrew Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Harris, David Monro, Sir Hector
Harvey, Nick Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Haselhurst, Alan Moss, Malcolm
Nelson, Anthony Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Neubert, Sir Michael Steen, Anthony
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stephen, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stern, Michael
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stewart, Allan
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Streeter, Gary
Norris, Steve Sumberg, David
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Sykes, John
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Page, Richard Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Paice, James Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Patnick, Irvine Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Thomason, Roy
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Pickles, Eric Thurnham, Peter
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tracey, Richard
Powell, William (Corby) Tredinnick, David
Rathbone, Tim Trend, Michael
Redwood, John Trotter, Neville
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Twinn, Dr Ian
Richards, Rod Tyler, Paul
Riddick, Graham Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Viggers, Peter
Robathan, Andrew Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wallace, James
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Waller, Gary
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Ward, John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Waterson, Nigel
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Watts, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wells, Bowen
Sackville, Tom Welsh, Andrew
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Salmond, Alex Whitney, Ray
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, David (Dover) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wigley, Dafydd
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Willetts, David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wilshire, David
Shersby, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Sims, Roger Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wood, Timothy
Soames, Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Speed, Sir Keith Young, Sir George (Acton)
Spencer, Sir Derek
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Tellers for the Noes:
Spink, Dr Robert Mr. Sydney Chapman
Spring, Richard Mr. David Lightbown.
Sproat, Iain

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 28, in page 1, line 9, after 'II'. Insert '(provided that in the implementation of Articles 198(a), (b) and (c) on pages 54 and 55 of Cm 1934 concerning the Committee of the Regions, the 24 members and 24 alternate members of that Committee shall be drawn from elected local government representatives.)'.—[Dr. John Cunningham.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 314, Noes 292.

Division No. 175] [10.06 pm
AYES
Adley, Robert Dorrell, Stephen
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aitken, Jonathan Dover, Den
Alexander, Richard Duncan, Alan
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Alton, David Dunn, Bob
Amess, David Durant, Sir Anthony
Ancram, Michael Dykes, Hugh
Arbuthnot, James Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Elletson, Harold
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Aspinwall, Jack Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Atkins, Robert Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Faber, David
Baldry, Tony Fabricant, Michael
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bates, Michael Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Batiste, Spencer Fishburn, Dudley
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Forman, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beresford, Sir Paul Forth, Eric
Blackburn, Dr John G. Foster, Don (Bath)
Booth, Hartley Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boswell, Tim Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Freeman, Roger
Bowis, John French, Douglas
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gale, Roger
Brandreth, Gyles Gardiner, Sir George
Brazier, Julian Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bright, Graham Garnier, Edward
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Gill, Christopher
Browning, Mrs. Angela Gillan, Cheryl
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Budgen, Nicholas Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grylls, Sir Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hannam, Sir John
Coe, Sebastian Hargreaves, Andrew
Colvin, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Congdon, David Hawkins, Nick
Conway, Derek Hayes, Jerry
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Heald, Oliver
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Couchman, James Hendry, Charles
Cran, James Hicks, Robert
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Day, Stephen Horam, John
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Devlin, Tim Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Merchant, Piers
Jack, Michael Milligan, Stephen
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Jenkin, Bernard Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Jessel, Toby Monro, Sir Hector
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Moss, Malcolm
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Neubert, Sir Michael
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Nicholls, Patrick
Key, Robert Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Kilfedder, Sir James Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Kirkhope, Timothy Norris, Steve
Kirkwood, Archy Ottaway, Richard
Knapman, Roger Page, Richard
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Paice, James
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Paisley, Rev Ian
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Patnick, Irvine
Knox, David Patten, Rt Hon John
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Pawsey, James
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Pickles, Eric
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Porter, David (Waveney)
Legg, Barry Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Leigh, Edward Powell, William (Corby)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Redwood, John
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Lidington, David Richards, Rod
Lightbown, David Riddick, Graham
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Robathan, Andrew
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Lord, Michael Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Luff, Peter Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
MacKay, Andrew Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Maclean, David Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
McLoughlin, Patrick Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Madel, David Sackville, Tom
Maitland, Lady Olga Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Malone, Gerald Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Mans, Keith Shaw, David (Dover)
Marland, Paul Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Marlow, Tony Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shersby, Michael Tredinnick, David
Sims, Roger Trend, Michael
Skeet, Sir Trevor Trotter, Neville
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Twinn, Dr Ian
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Soames, Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Speed, Sir Keith Walden, George
Spencer, Sir Derek Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wallace, James
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waller, Gary
Spring, Richard Ward, John
Sproat, Iain Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Waterson, Nigel
Steen, Anthony Watts, John
Stephen, Michael Wells, Bowen
Stern, Michael Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Stewart, Allan Whitney, Ray
Streeter, Gary Widdecombe, Ann
Sweeney, Walter Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sykes, John Wilkinson, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Willetts, David
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wilshire, David
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Temple-Morris, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Thomason, Roy Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Tellers for the Ayes:
Thurnham, Peter Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Mr. Timothy Wood.
Tracey, Richard
NOES
Adams, Mrs Irene Hood, Jimmy
Barnes, Harry Lewis, Terry
Boyce, Jimmy Livingstone, Ken
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Loyden, Eddie
Canavan, Dennis McAllion, John
Connarty, Michael Mahon, Alice
Corbyn, Jeremy Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Cummings, John Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Davidson, Ian Winnick, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Wise, Audrey
Donohoe, Brian H.
Flynn, Paul Tellers for the Noes:
Galloway, George Mr. Bob Cryer and
Godman, Dr Norman A. Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Graham, Thomas

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Hain

On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. Have you received any information about the grubby deal done by the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, who have sold out the interests of Wales and Scotland to support the Government on the amendment?

The First Deputy Chairman

I have heard nothing about any deals.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. Will you confirm that, as the amendment has been passed, in due course there will be a Report stage?

The First Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman has been here a long time and knows the procedure as well as I do.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. As the Prime Minister and nearly all leading Cabinet Ministers staked their position at Harrogate at the weekend and said that they would deliver the votes on Maastricht, would not the right and proper thing now be for the Government to resign? [Interruption.]

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. Will hon. Members please take their seats?

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has been in the House a long time and knows that that is not a matter for me.

Mr. Ian Taylor

On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. Is it in order for a party that wishes us to make progress on the Maastricht Bill to provoke a long delay, which is what the Liberal party has done?

7.15 pm
The First Deputy Chairman

Order. We must now proceed to the next group of amendments.

Mr. George Robertson

I beg to move amendment No. 29, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 3(b) on page 10 of Cm 1934 relating to the principle of subsidiarity.)'.

The First Deputy Chairman

With this, it will be convenient also to discuss the following amendments: No. 77, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(other than Article 3b)'.

No. 105, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(except Article 3b on page 10 of Cm 1934).' No. 126, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert '(excluding Article G B(5) on page 10 of Cm 1934).'. No. 340, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, after 'II, insert 'except the second paragraph of Article 3b on page 10 of Cm 1934'.

Mr. Robertson

I am seeking to—[Interruption.]

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. Will hon. Members leaving the Chamber do so quitely so that we can continue with the business.

Mr. Robertson

As I was saying, and I may have to say again, amendment No. 29 is a probing amendment and we do not intend to push it to a Division.

We are debating a group of amendments entitled "Subsidiarity", so the debate is of acute importance, not just to the Government, but to the country and the European Community as a whole. I understand that the Foreign Secretary will not be present for the beginning of the debate, and I have received his apologies for that. I am sure that he has business outside the Chamber as he attempts to explain the Government's humiliating defeat to the outside world. However, later in the debate he will undoubtedly show the Committee the importance that he attaches to the concept of subsidiarity, which is not an isolated concept.

In this country, subsidiarity has much to do with the way in which we should take our own decisions. In that context, it is remarkable that this evening the Government have gone down to a stinging defeat on an issue of importance, both to the Bill and the treaty. They did so with the votes of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties behind them. It says much about the Government that they were willing to do a deal—the details of which we do not yet know—with those who seek to break up the Union of the United Kingdom itself. They did so when they knew that they would he defeated, and that those votes would not be their salvation.

The incident tells us nothing new about the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, as we knew about their capabilities in that respect long before now. When the day comes, they will be judged in Scotland and Wales against their record of voting with the Government against an amendment that will make it possible for elected representatives of the people to represent this country on the European Committee of the Regions.

Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the Committee what benefit even more weeks of delay on the discussion of the—Bill which is the effect of the amendment—will have on this country's reputation in Europe?

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite out of order.

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman was not only quite out of order, but made a pathetic response to what has happened. I do not intend to test your tolerance any further, Mr. Lofthouse. If anyone imagines that the vote was about delay, they are completely wrong.

We are debating subsidiarity and coming to the kernel of the Government's contention that subsidiarity is important in Europe and that, as a concept in the Maastricht treaty, subsidiarity is of fundamental importance to the Government's achievements at Maastricht. The role of the Committee of the Regions will be a key part of the way that subsidiarity will be won. Therefore, there are no apologies from the Labour party for the decision that was taken.

Dr. Godman

To me as a Scots Member, the squalid behaviour exhibited by the Scottish nationalists came as no surprise. However, it might have been a salutary lesson to English Members of Parliament. Does not my hon. Friend agree that, no matter how vigorously the concept of subsidiarity is applied, it cannot arrest the growing centralisation of decision making among the central institutions of the European Community?

Mr. Robertson

I do not agree with my hon. Friend in that regard. Of course, I agree with him about the nationalists, and I agree that there could easily be a centralising influence in the European Community. I hope to deal with my hon. Friend's other points during my speech and to make the central part of my case the inability and unwillingness of the Government to deal with these serious matters.

Mr. Dalyell

Surely the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan), who is a pro-European, ought to understand that Opposition Members who are pro-European greatly resent the Government's attempt—this is part of their undoing—to have things a la carte. If they had agreed to the social chapter and to a proper regional policy they might not have suffered this humiliation. It is the idea of taking policy a la carte which creates such great resentment among those of us who have believed in Europe all our political lives.

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is right. It is regrettable, but it is hardly surprising. The Government preach one thing and practise another—that is what is at the root of their problems, as I said last Thursday. If there were any willingness by the Government to seek consensus about this country's objectives in Europe—if there were anything more than an obsession with Conservative parry unity—this country might be able to move forward together at a time when critical decisions will be taken in the Community.

The Government took nine months to look at the amendments on the Committee of the Regions and still had no positive proposals to put to the House, and that directly led to their humiliation this evening.

Mr. Bill Walker

The hon. Gentleman's European credentials, in Scotland or anywhere else, are not in doubt. Does he agree that the nationalists' credentials are in doubt, as was clearly shown this evening? Will he press Ministers on the legal definition of subsidiarity? Like me, he will remember the long debates that we had on the legal definition of a thing called devolution, which was all things to all people. Is he not concerned that this is another similar lovely word? He wants things to work in Europe, so he will want this matter clarified, and I hope that he will press the Government on it.

Mr. Robertson

We are fortunate in this debate—we were unfortunate in the previous one in this respect—to have the Attorney General with us. The Lord Advocate, the equivalent Scottish Law Officer, is in the House of Lords, so he cannot join us at this stage, although I have a feeling that he may come under cross-examination when the Bill leaves this place.

I will have a few words to say about the legal definition of subsidiarity in a few moments. The nationalists' credentials, which I never trusted in the first place, have yet again been highlighted as fraudulent. It will be interesting to hear what explanations they come up with for the act of treachery in which they indulged.

The Foreign Secretary himself has said that the subsidiarity aspect of the treaty was a British achievement. That acheivement was one of the mechanisms whereby he and the Minister of State sought to buy off the rebellion which even then was going on in the Conservative party. It was the beads that were to be given to the Back-Bench natives, the totem around which they could all circle. It was the great victory for Thatcherism. It was the noble Lady herself who had set out on the mission to achieve subsidiarity, seeing it as a unique vehicle for bringing back the powers that she and others had given away to Brussels —bringing them firmly back to the heart of London, and no further.

The secret Conservative party briefing document entitled, "European Communities (Amendment) Bill Departmental Brier, marked confidential, which was handed to Opposition Members—to our great delight—talks about entrenching subsidiarity, speaking of "a unique British initiative". With that sense of understatement that is so well known in the Conservative party, it calls this a turning point in Community history". The briefing says: subsidiarity's meaning, however, should be clear. Subsidiarity is the concept whereby action is only taken by the Community where objectives cannot be satisfactorily achieved by national Governments. Here we come to the key to the Government's internal inconsistency: their obsession with national Governments and their lack of concern for anything else. Their definition markedly differs from that adopted in the treaty and in all the documentation from other Community countries. Indeed, it is contradicted by the Conservative central office briefing, which states: Britain has led the campaign for decisions to be taken as close as possible to the people whose lives they affect. The Conservative party declares, therefore, that the concept was brought into the treaty for the very first time—legally justifiable, we are told, and designed to bring decisions right down to the people who will be affected by Community laws.

What is this great British achievement? What was achieved at Maastricht on behalf of the British people? Was it the triumph of the Thatcherite philosophy that says that everything must be dragged back from Brussels to national level? Was it the triumph of this Administration seeking to make social measures and environmental and regional policies purely national issues, taken away from the Community? That was what we were told, during the British presidency, was to be the objective of the British Government.

On the other hand, was the achievement something else entirely, something much deeper and more fundamental, as seen through the eyes of our Community partners?

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is not entirely correct? It was always envisaged that certain aspects of these policies, particularly environmental policies, would need Community action, because it was recognised that certain actions taken in certain countries affect the population of other countries. It was the petty areas of harmonisation of Community laws that were objected to, not the areas that naturally needed common decisions.

Mr. Robertson

That is the common-sense position; it is not the position taken by the British Government, whose view of subsidiarity was that it would allow them to take back inconvenient policies—to repatriate them—but to leave other policies virtually untouched at European level. The Government made no secret of that. Ministers clearly said that they believed that environmental policy, especially majority voting on it, was to be opposed. They believed that it should be dealt with at national level, and their record on European environmental directives is so bad that it is evidence, if the hon. Gentleman wants evidence, for what I am saying. They made it clear, too, that social policy should be a matter for national Governments only—hence the absurd opt-out on social policy. Ministers also identified regional policy as suitable for repatriation to national level; they object to regional policy at home and violently oppose it in the European Community.

All those are areas which, as the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) says, should logically and practically be subject to Europewide action, but the British Government decided that it was better to take them back home, where they could impose their own narrow, reactionary policies.

Other people in the European Community held a view of subsidiarity wholly different from the British Government's. The Commission published a document in October 1992 in which it laid out its ideas about subsidiarity. They were, as Commission ideas usually are, enshrined in the thoughts published in the Edinburgh Council conclusions. It is interesting to note the Commission's view of subsidiarity. Conservative Members and some of my hon. Friends take the view that the Commission is the most centralising of all the European institutions.

Paragraph 1 of the Commission's document states: The subsidiarity principle as applied in the institutional context is based on a simple concept. The powers that a state or a federation of states wields in the common interests are only those which individuals, families, companies and local or regional authorities cannot exercise in isolation. No pro or anti-Maastricht Member would disagree with that basic principle. The document continues: This common sense principle therefore dictates that decisions should be taken at the level closest to the ordinary citizen and that action taken by the upper echelons of the body politic should be limited.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Robertson

I shall give way to my hon. Friend when I have completed my description of what the Commission says, because it is important and will let hon. Members see that the imagined threat from the Commission is not reflected in the Commission's view. The document continues: The first application in law of this essentially political principle"— we should note the phrase "political principle"— is to be found in the relationship between some of the Member states and their regions where it takes various forms depending on their constitutional traditions. In the Community context subsidiarity means that the functions handed over to the Community are those which the member states at the various levels of decision making"— sad to say, in this country that is represented by only one level— can no longer discharge satisfactorily. Any tranfer of powers must have due regard for national identity and the powers of the regions. That is the Commission's definition of subsidiarity and how it should work in practice.

7.30 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson

The debate on this cluster of amendments relates to the very nature of the Community, the extent to which it will be centralised and to which powers will be devolved as closely as possible to the people. It is about the essence of the distribution of power in the Community. Is my hon. Friend puzzled that no member of the nationalist parties of Wales and Scotland has thought fit to attend the debate? Are they smarting from their wounds because of the result of the Division? Is it not rather an abdication of responsibility in an area in which those parties are expected to have expertise that no one has bothered to turn up for this vital debate?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend's point is extremely good. However, he should not be surprised, in view of how those parties have voted and the fuss that they made today about subsidiarity in the Welsh Grand Committee in Cardiff. No wonder they are hiding. I cannot imagine how far they needed to go to hide, but they had to hide. Their absence from the debate should be a delight to us because it underlines the synthetic nature of their interest in the way in which the Community is developing and the central part that subsidiarity will play in the new relationships, not only between the member states after the Maastricht treaty comes into effect but between the regions of those states.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

My hon. Friend is famous for his generosity. I understood from the first part of his speech that subsidiarity is rather like the Holy Roman Empire—a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense. However, he subsequently said that the Commission is not the centralising terrible beast that some of us think it to be. To refresh my memory, will he tell me the Opposition's stance on subsidiarity? Are we for it or agin it?

Mr. Robertson

We are for it. We called for it even before the Government thought about it. We believe in it and think that it is a good concept. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend. The answer is as open and straightforward as the design on my hon. Friend's tie.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Robertson

Perhaps my hon. Friend would wait for a moment.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am not wearing a tie.

Mr. Robertson

On the ground that my hon. Friend of long standing is not wearing a tie, I shall give way to her.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I have a simple question. Is my very good and hon. Friend standing by the Commission's definition of subsidiarity, which seems to suggest that only regional decisions will be delivered for individual states?

Mr. Robertson

If I had to choose from the definitions of subsidiarity in all the documents that are before me, I should choose the one by the Commission. It does not state that all power should lie with the regions. It states, as do all the Labour party documents, that Community decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level, which is the lowest and closest to the individual citizen. My hon. Friend and I would not disagree on that, although we may disagree on many other issues in the debate.

The real question is whether the Government pass any of the tests for the definition of subsidiarity, either in what they say, because they have claimed great enthusiasm for the concept of subsidiarity, or in practice, because, of course, the Government cannot simply be tested on heir reckoning about the future of Europe. However, they can be easily, simply and devastatingly tested on their record in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Barnes

A problem arises about the concept of decisions being taken at an appropriate level. Although we all agree that that should be so, when Mussolini was an anarcho-syndicalist, he would have had one view of the appropriate level, but when he was I1 Duce he would have had another view. We can all agree, but that tells us nothing.

Mr. Robertson

It tells us little in terms of rhetoric, and that is precisely the problem with the Government. As the Community moves towards closer integration, it is attempting to put more flesh on the idea that we should test each decision and each potential law against the principle that the policy should be implemented at the lowest practical level. I see nothing wrong with that. It may fail because at times the centralising instincts of some of the institutions will overcome common sense. At times Governments, such as that of the United Kingdom, will try, as they have demonstrated over the years, to take back powers that are more properly and sensibly exercised at European level.

Through the Community as a flexible political institution, which it has been in the past and will continue to be, we must try to work out a flexible method by which subsidiarity can be taken out of the statute books and treaties and made to work in political practice.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

My hon. Friend will agree that the attempts made so far to define subsidiarity do not clarify the matter at all. Surely we must return to specifics. Does my hon. Friend think that, for example, interest rate policy is best determined by the Bank of England in London or by a European central bank, wherever it may be?

Mr. Robertson

I admire my right hon. Friend's sentimentality about the idea that interest rate policies are determined by the Bank of England in Threadneedle street. Do we imagine that the Chancellor telephones the Governor of the Bank of England and transmits crucial decisions and that the decision is not made by people sitting around a table at the Bundesbank at its fortnightly meeting in Frankfurt?

The reality is that some of these decisions are taken out of our hands anyway. That will happen increasingly. I am the chairman of the British-German parliamentary group and I have a great admiration for Germany. If I have to choose between interest rates for the people I represent being set by German central bankers in Frankfurt or by European central bankers on whom there is a British influence, I have no doubt that I would choose to have them set at European level.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Robertson

I am beginning to learn that a debate such as this does not require one to prepare a speech. One has only to be prepared to stand at the Dispatch Box for three quarters of an hour answering everybody's questions. Again on the ground of sentimentality, I will give way.

Sir Russell Johnston

The hon. Gentleman's last debating point indicated that one danger of subsidiarity —I agree with almost everything that he has said about it so far—is that the nation state can easily make it an excuse for a return of the veto under disguise.

Mr. Robertson

There is that danger. There are dangers in centralisation and repatriation. As I said in last Thursday's debate, at this time in Europe's history there is the danger of beggar-my-neighbour policies—such as competing interest rates—being pursued by European countries in general, and the attitude towards the repatriation of individual policies that are not liked is not in the interests of the people whom we seek to represent.

The greater interest must be regarded as important. That is why the concept of subsidiarity is so significant. I dare say I shall have the support of a member of the Government's Front Bench in that, when the Foreign Secretary eventually returns from explaining away the Government's defeat. When the Community eventually adopts policies and puts flesh on the concept, we shall see where the real balance lies.

Mr. Dykes

As vice-chairman of the British-German parliamentary group, of which the hon. Gentleman is chairman, I believe that he was right in his comments about the German effect and the inevitability of accepting it. However, other factors were involved. The action of the United States Federal Reserve is one of them, though perhaps that was less influential at the time in question. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was a pity that the Germans also did not consider themselves to be operating within the ERM framework, having regard to the whole group of member states and not just their own requirements? Even for internal purposes, the Germans needed lower interest rates at that particular time.

Mr. Robertson

Countries are increasingly acting in their national interest. Some right hon. and hon. Members and others outside Parliament think that they should do so. However, that world of speculation and competition is not one that produces an ordered society at a domestic, European or world level. If there is to be a measure of economic and political stability in future, there must be management in the system. That is why the concept of subsidiarity must be seen in the broadest context. Decisions must be taken at a European level where they make sense, and we must integrate at a level and to a level that makes sense.

At the same time, we must ensure that national identities and decision making are protected, where that is sensible and appropriate.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robertson

No.

Mr. Wilkinson

I remind the hon. Gentleman that I am also a member of the British-German parliamentary group.

Mr. Robertson

It is the largest in the House, apart from the British-American group, so almost everyone could intervene on that basis. There is a limit to my sentimental generosity. I want to make a little progress, so that other right hon. and hon. Members may have an opportunity to participate in this important debate. I can hardly complain of long speeches by the hon. Members for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who is not in his place, and for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), and then take up a large amount of the Committee's time on my own account.

The question is whether the Government, who have made such a song and dance about subsidiarity, really believe in it at a European level, or simply see it as a way of taking back powers to a national and, in particular, to a London level. Are they willing to go along with Community partners in a move forward in decentralisation? Do the Government really believe that subsidiarity is an appropriate concept at European level, and does that have any implications for what happens nationally?

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) produced a handy document for the Labour party that is most illuminating and which I commend to Conservative Members. It presents a list of legislation introduced by Conservative Governments since 1979 that altered local government responsibilities and functions. They range from the Justices of the Peace Act 1979 and Education Act 1980 to the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act, Local Government Act and Local Government (Finance) Act of 1992—all of which had an impact on local government in Britain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East performed a great service to the House and the country, because his list of centralising measures shows that, since 1979, Conservative Governments have been responsible for 145 separate pieces of legislation that centralised power and diminished local government powers in every respect —that from a party which says that it is in favour of subsidiarity and which claims with pride that it favours decisions being taken as close as possible to the people whose lives those decisions affect. The evidence stands against the Government.

7.45 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

The hon. Gentleman confuses layers of bureaucratic government with democracy as such. Much of the legislation passed by Conservative Governments has given practical local power to local people, whether it be in relation to the administration of their schools or a whole range of other matters. Merely because some local councillors have rather less direct power whereas some school governors have more, for example, is not a sufficient basis for making a wholesale attack on the Government as a centralising Administration.

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman is a reasonable man, so he just presents the party line, tongue firmly in cheek. There is a lot of inventiveness about that legislation. The poll tax was one piece of legislation buried deep in my hon. Friend's list. The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) knows, and every Conservative councillor would admit—almost publicly, never mind privately—that more and more decisions have been taken away from local government and placed in the hands of central Government officials. The Government have followed that course since 1979.

That list of 145 pieces of legislation is just one measurement of centralisation. The reality for local authorities, from the Shetlands to Kent, suggests that power has been taken from the local level and centralised in London, with the effect of reducing efficiency, effectiveness and democracy.

If the Government could argue that their concept of subsidiarity in the United Kingdom has produced beneficial results, they might be able to make a presentable case for it. They might be able to argue that the economic miracle in this country was such as to suggest that Whitehall centralisation produces the best decision. They might be able to argue that running Scotland with a handful of Conservative Members of Parliament but the whole machinery of government working for them has produced an ideal relationship between Scotland, England and Wales. However, not one Conservative Member would have the brass neck to suggest that that is the case.

Recession may be gripping the whole of Europe, but we still have the fastest rising unemployment rate. Growth levels throughout Europe may be down, but ours is still one of the longest-lived reduced growth records in the whole Community. Recession may be all about us, but it has certainly lasted longer and deeper in this country than anywhere else. Perhaps we can learn a few lessons from the way in which others have interpreted subsidiarity in their countries.

The expansion and economic success achieved by France derived largely from its experimental move away from the centralisation of the old fourth and fifth republics. The French now admit that decentralisation played a major part in the renaissance of the economy. The federal structure created, by and large, by the allies after the war has been at the root of German economic success; the fact that its economy is not dominated by one part of the country has given Germany an enormous advantage over other, more centralised nations.

In Spain, a unique form of devolution has taken place. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) pays only fleeting visits to our debates, because I am sure that he would agree with me about the Spanish devolution to the autonomous regions. Of course, the Minister of State is a great expert on Spain—not just the language—but some of the economic renaissance, under a socialist Government, took place at the same time as devolution to administrative regions. Spain is not merely preaching subsidiarity to the outside world, and enshrining vague phrases; it is taking action on an internal basis, and trying to bring power and decision making closer to the people.

The constitutional changes currently taking place in Belgium are designed specifically to relate to internal tensions in that country, but also to enshrine the concept of decentralisation in a country with a much more successful economy than ours. The hon Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is again absent for the second stage of this great debate. He was keen to attack Italy, but many of the problems facing the Italian republic derive from central domination of every part of the country's economy and society.

Decentralisation works, at both European and national level. Only this country sems to interpret its economic failure in this way, assuming that it need do nothing about subsidiarity at home while wandering around the continent preaching it as a European Community perspective.

Mr. Butterfill

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robertson

No; I have given way already.

Mr. Butterfill

It is about my "brass neck".

Mr. Robertson

I am sure that the glow of satisfaction experienced by the hon. Gentleman after polishing his brass neck will comfort him as he waits to be called to speak in the debate.

My hon. Friends have asked whether subsidiarity is a definable legal concept, or a purely political one. There are mixed views about that. Madam Speaker's counsel, who gave evidence to the Select Committee on European Legislation, has a special form of dry wit, which is reflected in the documents that he submits to Committees and to which the Attorney-General should perhaps aspire He tends—rightly—to stray beyond the strict legal brief, and to pass comment on the politics of European Community legislation. I think that we all gain considerably from his wise advice. In his evidence to the Select Committee, he said: Lawyers, whether they are individually pro-Community or anti-Community, are showing a quite unusual degree of unity in categorising subsidiarity as a principle of policy which is far too imprecise to have any clear legal effect. Having said that from the lawyers' point of view, counsel went on: Non-lawyers are having to make the best they can of proposed Article 3b"— as it then was— and the best is to contend that the definition (or description) of subsidiarity in that Article will operate essentially as a political restraint on the Commission when proposing and the Council when considering draft legislation. I think that those wise words should be taken on board, and I am sure that the Minister agrees with me. The European Community is a legal entity in one respect: it has a treaty base, a Court of Justice, laws, and—thanks to Baroness Thatcher—enforcement powers. Under the Maastricht treaty, it can impose huge levies on any recalcitrant nation state that chooses not to obey the European diktat. At the same time, it is made up of 12 independent, sovereign, self-confident nation states, which do not themselves agree that they are part of a rigid, centralising organisation, and which regularly assert themselves in order to prove that.

Over the years, that has been the nature of the Community. It would therefore appear that—despite the encyclopaedic detail that has emerged from the conclusions of the Edinburgh summit, which is as dense as anything that the Community has produced—it will continue to be a political concept, implemented by politicians. Let us hope, however, that those politicians will agree to the basic tenets of the philosophy that they are pursuing.

I was interested by the Minister's interpretation of subsidiarity in this quasi-legal context. On 13 January, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), he said: Subsidiarity means distinguishing those areas which are the responsibility of nation states from areas that may be the Commission's responsibility."—[Official Report, 13 January 1993; Vol. 216, c. 911.] I am sure that the Minister agrees that, even in the context of what Conservative central office says, that is a remarkably restrictive view. I am not certain whether he had resigned at that point—whether, that is, he had been liberated from the constraint of reading from other people's bits of paper. We shall wait for the Foreign Secretary to enlighten us later.

I heartily commend the Library's briefing document on further developments in subsidiarity. In its conclusions, it makes the following sensible point: As for the present, when the Commission submits proposals for legislation to the Council, these proposals are already accompanied by a justification for action in accordance with subsidiarity. That, then, will be the test. The Commission will have to explain every piece of legislation in the light of the developing concept of subsidiarity.

Mr. Denzil Davies

My hon. Friend has studied the matter far more than I have. He mentioned the Commission. He will have noticed that article 3b does not mention the Commission; it talks about the Community being subject to subsidiarity. Am I to take it that other Community institutions, as well as the Commission, are subject to subsidiarity rule?

Mr. Robertson

My right hon. Friend understands that, and I understand it. It must be at the base of all decision making. I crave forgiveness if 1 have concentrated too much on the Commission, which is usually regarded—often wrongly—as the most centralising of the Community institutions, and whose view, like the view that we take of what it will do in future, may therefore be more relevant at present. The concept of reducing the level of decision making to the level closest to the citizen—the most appropriate level—must apply to every Community institution if it is to work at all, and in that regard I am entirely in accord with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the concept of subsidiarity need not be confined to the European Community? Some of us find it hard to understand why the Government appear to attach so much importance to it in this context, while setting their face against an extra-Community forum involving the protection of human rights in Europe. Why do they refuse to allow fundamental rights and freedoms, guaranteed by the European convention on human rights, to be enforced in our domestic courts? That is the reverse of subsidiarity. The Government persistently seek to ensure that our citizens must take the long, expensive route to Strasbourg.

Mr. Robertson

That has been the thrust of my speech: the Government preach subsidiarity, but, at a domestic and EC level, they practise the opposite. I suppose that, after 14 years, we should hardly be surprised by that, but it is important that we do not allow the Tory party to get away with its propaganda that subsidiarity is a unique Tory achievement. It is nothing of the sort.

8 pm

The means of deciding subsidiarity is important. It is all very well to say that the Commission should have to pass a test for each piece of legislation that it proposes, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said, the Council and Parliament must agree tests.

I was impressed by the evidence that Professor Helen Wallace gave to the Foreigh Affairs Select Committee earlier this year, in which she dealt with that point. I know that the Minister favours a committee of wise men to decide subsidiarity. We shared a platform on International Women's Day, from which he enunciated that concept; it was as inappropriate then as it is today. Professor Wallace, who is the foremost authority on Community affairs in the United Kingdom, rightly says that the process must be more public than is being contemplated.

The Government hid all decision making in the far recesses of the government machine, but there must be a much more public process to define subsidiarity and what tests will be applied to the legislation. She said in her evidence: But there are some very important issues about the extent of detail of Community legislation, or the appropriateness of Community legislation, in those kinds of areas where one may have to rely much more on the normal legislative processes, plus whatever national parliamentary scrutiny mechanisms there may he, which clearly will have to be beefed up in all Member States, to try to sort out the ridiculous from the sensible. From a non-parliamentarian, who I believe has some connection with politics in her spare time, that is one of the best definitions: sorting out the ridiculous from the sensible. Perhaps in this lengthy debate we might bear that in mind.

Subsidiarity is a good concept and a valuable principle —but only if it works in practice. It is good for Europe and is a step forward for which the Labour party argued strongly and wanted even before the Conservative party discovered that it existed. It cannot be confined to a European ghetto—ideal for resolving Whitehall-Brussels disputes but seen against a centralist closed British system inside our country. Subsidiarity—the principle, as the Birmingham declaration said, of nearness of decision making and decentralised decision taking—is right for Europe and essential for the United Kingdom.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Thank you, Dame Janet, for calling me so early in the debate. This is my first contribution to the debate on the Maastricht treaty. I hope that you will agree that variety adds interest; it remains to be seen whether it adds wisdom.

It may help to explain where I stand and why I thought that it might be helpful to intervene. The Europhiles, if I may so call them, consider me unsound and the Eurphobes regard me as totally unreliable. That seems to me an ideal position from which to join the debate, as my central purpose is to warn both sides of the debate that subsidiarity does not help either cause. I must admit to having studied subsidiarity for a long time, academically outside the House and as a politician within it. It is invariably misunderstood or, more mischievously, deliberately misdefined. I conclude that subsidiarity is at best neutral and at worst downright dangerous.

It is worth considering why subsidiarity has become an issue which so many people hold up as an answer to problems. It strikes me as yet another worthy attempt—I do not mean that disparagingly—to placate critics, who in this case are those who worry about the societal implications of the further development of an economic community. The trouble with the approach of trying to placate those at the margins is that it does not get one far. One is merely trying to smooth things over.

The Euro-visionaries, if I may call them that without being unkind, have a classic economic model that they are seeking to develop—I accept much of what they say—in the belief that it will make all our lives better. And so it may, but like all economic models it keeps colliding with social reality—in this case, a deep-seated sense of who we are. That is a very powerful concept. The typical response of enthusiasts when reality bumps into their model is to try to make the real world fit their model, in the mistaken belief that if they blur the edges of the model often enough, all will be well. History teaches us otherwise.

When people started to object to the impact of economic integration on their societal separation as nation states, the Euro-visionaries conjured up the concept of subsidiarity and said, "Here is a way of placating those people who are concerned."

There are two snags to that: first, no one can agree what subsidiarity means; secondly, it is a means of papering over the cracks which keep appearing when we should be trying to fill the cracks and stop further cracks developing.

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) referred to the Library research note. I did the same, but it seems that we have a difficulty agreeing what subsidiarity means. Page 16, rather nicely, says: There is a plethora of literature on subsidiarity with few common strands except that no-one yet knows exactly how it will be applied in the context of European Union. That says it all. The document says that subsidiarity has a long history, starting, it suggests, with Aristotle, going on via Locke and Stuart Mill to Pope Pius XI.

Mr. Robertson

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman's scepticism about Government policy extends to railway privatisation, but there is much literature about privatisation and much about railways. There is no clear idea, even inside Government, how on earth the privatisation of British Rail will fit in practice, but that does not seem to have deterred Transport Ministers from proceeding with that experiment.

Mr. Wilshire

I would love to beat the hon. Gentleman about the head and tell him why rail privatisation is a splendid idea, but I have no doubt that you, Dame Janet, would rule me out of order, so the best that I can do is to stick with subsidiarity. The hon. Gentleman may then come to a different conclusion about my views on Government policy.

I was trying to say that the only thing on which we can agree is that there is no definition on which we can agree. Subsidiarity has a long history; so does prostitution, but that does not make prostitution a particularly good idea.

Mr. Barnes

Is it not the case that different arguments can produce different attitudes about whether or not we are in favour of privatisation? However, subsidiarity is presented to us as something with which we must all agree, whatever we want from it. It sounds like something compelling, when in fact it ends up being meaningless because there is nothing specific about it—unlike privatisation.

Mr. Wilshire

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would like to finish my speech, because that is precisely the direction in which I am heading. We do not agree on very much, but perhaps tonight, or at breakfast tomorrow, he will reflect on the fact that for once he has agreed with a Conservative Member. I recommend that he does it more often.

The hon. Gentleman rightly said that subsidiarity can be all things to all people, but if we are to pursue the concept of subsidiarity, we must understand it. There is no point in saying that we all have different definitions. We have to try to solve the problem to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Having been told that the Maastricht treaty was a good idea, I naively thought that I had better consult it. I thought that if anything could help, surely the treaty could. Article A, which has already been mentioned, states that decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. That is a splendid idea, but unless that article means that all decisions will be taken by parish councils—which heaven forbid—it takes us no further forward in deciding who takes what decision where.

Article 3b deals with the justification for Community action. It states that the Community shall take action if action cannot sufficiently be achieved by Member States or if it is better achieved by the Community. They are statements of the obvious. They tell us that different things are best done at different levels, but that is all. We knew that before we started.

If one listens to the various definitions and reads the Library document, one theme emerges in all the attempts to define subsidiarity, however different the attempts may be. The common strand that lurks and which has been touched on already is that there is a sense of different levels of activity. We need to hang on to that idea and think about it to see whether we can use it to discover what subsidiarity really means.

The issue of the sense of levels keeps bobbing up in the debate, but no one usually speaks about it logically. It is an instinctive rather than a rational concept. The sense of different levels is deep inside each and every one of us, not merely in the mind of the occasional visionary or academic who will explain it to us. It is crucial that we try to understand what the deep sense of different levels inside us is; if we can understand that, we can begin to understand what the debate is really about rather than what some people would like us to think it is about.

The instinctive sense inside us is a societal sense. It has nothing to do with economics. We have a sense of different levels out of a social rather than an economic view. We instinctively believe that this sense of different levels has something to do with organisation. In other words, we instinctively feel that it has something to do with government. More important, the sense of levels inside us is deeply territorial. Anyone who doubts that need only pop across to Bosnia and see what is happening in the name of controlling one's own territory.

Sir Russell Johnston

The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting speech. As he is talking about the territorial nature of subsidiarity, will he risk agreeing with me that the federal represents entrenched subsidiarity?

Mr. Wilshire

It might or it might not. It depends. If the hon. Gentleman asks me as an academic, he will get that type of answer. If he asks me as a politician, I shall later risk saying exactly what I think. However, if I am asked as an academic, I can only repeat my first answer. I ask the hon. Gentleman to be content with that and to wait. I understand what he means.

The sense of levels is highly territorial and we have to get to grips with the fact that it is also instinctively hierarchical. We instinctively understand that the different levels are stacked one on top of the other.

Mr. Wilkinson

My hon. Friend is making an interesting and thoughtful speech. I am fascinated—I am sure that the whole House is—by his definition of the epistemology of subsidiarity. However, on the subject of levels, is it not a fact that prima facie the Community will have competence in the areas set aside for Community action by the treaty itself and will have precedence over national parliaments in the pursuit of what the Community regards as Community objectives? Is it not a fact that the sole arbiter of the level at which decisions are to be taken will not be the supreme court of Parliament here at Westminster but the European Parliament in Brussels, over which we have no jurisdiction?

8.15 pm
Mr. Wilshire

My hon. Friend touches beautifully on the point which exercises the minds of people as they argue the issue. In return, I am trying to make the point that understanding subsidiarity will not add or detract from that point of view but will tell us merely that things should be done at different levels. The question is at which level is the very political issue that my hon. Friend highlighted. I am inclined to agree that there is a problem.

I return to the question of what subsidiarity might arise from. In a phrase, I believe that we are debating how society instinctively organises itself.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who is a distinguished classicist, used the word "epistemology". In my ignorance, I am unaware of the meaning of that word and wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), who clearly understood it, could enlighten me.

Mr. Wilshire

I hoped that I had got away with that, but my right hon. Friend has now embarrassed me into saying that I ignored it because I did not know what my hon. Friend was talking about. Will my hon. Friend enlighten me?

Mr. Garel-Jones

Is it a new word?

Mr. Wilshire

It was a new word to me, but as to whether it was a new word for the English, Greek or Latin dictionaries, for the moment I pass. No doubt my mailbag will tell me that I am an ignoramus and put me right in due course. We have to focus not on such words but on the emotional problem of what society thinks that it is.

If we have a sense of hierarchy, with different things being done at different levels, we must decide what the levels are and what should be done at each level. The debate will then tend to focus on doing things at different levels and whether we have got the level right or wrong. Having thought the issue through at some length, I believe that society has seven levels and that we all belong to each of them. The debate on subsidiarity must then be about which of the seven levels particular things must be done at.

Hon. Members may wonder what on earth an academic discourse about different levels has to do with subsidiarity. The answer is that each level is discrete. For example, one of the levels is a household. One cannot have a household inside a household: there is either a household or there is not. Another of the levels is the nation state. By definition, one cannot have a nation state inside a nation state. If we are to discuss issues which bear on a distinct level of society called the nation state, we must understand it. If we try to redefine it, we are striking at the instinctive sense of how people think about themselves.

Another important aspect of the sense of levels is that, having worked through the way in which society structures itself instinctively, one quickly discovers that there is a distinct and different focus at each level.

A couple of examples will make my point. I sense that there is a level in the structure which is instinctively about the delivery of local services. We argue at length about what local government is, but all hon. Members would agree that we sensibly leave the emptying of rubbish bins to whichever level is responsible for local services. Similarly, if we want to resolve the problem of the hole in the ozone layer, there is only one level that can do that—the whole world. There is no point in the EC Commission trying to solve the problem of the hole in the ozone layer because the rest of the world has something to do with it.

In the structure of levels, there is very much a sense of doing things in the right place. What does that tell us about subsidiarity? If subsidiarity is used—the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) made this point well—in the context in which we are discussing it, it is a political concept. Let us suppose that the Committee accepts my notion of a hierarchy of levels and accepts that each level has a distinct, separate and correct focus in the instinctive order of things.

If, through political expediency, we try to fudge the edges of the problem and to make the real world fit the model—and if as politicians we use a concept called subsidiarity to try to do things at the lowest level, to quote what many have said, when the lowest level is not the correct level according to the instinctive way in which society organises itself—we have a recipe for disaster. That is what concerns me about the whole concept.

Within the concept of levels, by far the most powerful level is the nation state. There is no point in beating about the bush and we cannot alter that. The most deep-seated of all levels in society is the nation state. Anybody who does not believe me need only go to the nearest churchyard or war cemetery to discover that more people have been killed defending that sense of territory, which is what we are talking about, than for any other reason. The economic modellers of the EC might wish it otherwise—although I believe that that is why they started the EC in the first place—but the most powerful of all levels is that of the nation state.

As I said when I was trying to draw out my point about that sense, the feeling is deeply territorial. Whether we like it or not, we have within us a concept of the nation state. The definition and the distinctive focus of the nation state is, above all else, to defend its territory and to protect the edges of it. Anything—even an economic model for the best of purposes, described as the economic betterment of the whole of Europe—which nibbles at that sense of national sovereignty is bound to cause trouble.

I fear that subsidiarity is being used as a means of blurring the edges so that we can shuffle a few things about in the hope that the problem will go away. I do not mind if people want to try that. My message is simply that that sense will not go away. It can neither be legislated nor reasoned away. It is there and it is very powerful.

I conclude at the end of this thought process that, although subsidiarity is an interesting subject and although it has a valid contribution, I fear that it offers no cure to my party if my party is using it as a way in which to prevent itself from tearing itself apart. Valid as the concept of subsidiarity is, all it does confirm that there is a hierarchy of levels, that different things happen at different levels, and that social harmony will be achieved only by doing the right thing at the right level. Subsidiarity will take us that far.

It is most important to understand what subsidiarity does not do. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), I point out that it does not help us to define the territories. If we agree on subsidiarity, on its definition and on this and that, we are still no further forward with the whole problem of the territories aspect of each level.

We can say that we must do things at the right level or at the best level, but subsidiarity does not help us one iota in defining what is to be done where. The concept is silent on that. What is best done by the nation state, for example, does not define a nation state's territory. We can have a long argument about whether the United Kingdom ceases to be the nation state, but we shall still have no sense of the territory. Subsidiarity is neutral on that. If subsidiarity is used by politicians to force the doing of particular things at a level lower than the optimum level at which the thing is sensibly done, in the way in which society organises itself, the concept of subsidiarity becomes downright dangerous.

Let us talk about subsidiarity by all means, but let us not be tempted to see it as a quick fix. If we see it as a quick fix, we do so at our peril. As was said earlier, subsidiarity is essentially a political concept. If it is used to try to redefine how society sees itself, and if we are really trying to redefine the role of society, we shall live to rue the day.

Dr. Godman

I too have difficulties with the concept of subsidiarity and with its application. With the treaty, we are experiencing the growing centralisation of decision making in the central institutions of the European Community. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), I cannot believe that even the most vigorous application of article 3b can arrest that continuing centralising process.

In its fourth report, the Select Committee on European Legislation said: The key question is whether the Maastricht treaty does or does not make the Community more centralist". My argument is that the treaty encourages the process of centralisation. As such, it totally ignores the concept and process of federalism.

"The Oxford English Dictionary" defines "centralise" as follows: 1…to come together at a centre; to form a centre; to concentrate…2…to bring to a centre, locate in a centre, make central; esp. to concentrate (administrative powers) in a single head or centre, instead of distributing them among local departments; to subject to centralisation. That is what the treaty will bring about. The same dictionary defines "federalise" as follows: To decentralise; to take from the central authority and hand over to federal bodies in the state, or to federal states in a union. Hon. Members should give up the label of the "European Economic Community". We are talking about the European union. The treaty does nothing, even with the application of subsidiarity, to devolve power from the centre. No one can claim that with article 3b we shall move even surreptitiously along the path of federalisation of institutions and decision making.

In our earlier debate on the institutions of the Commission, of the Parliament and of the Council, we acknowledged that under the treaty there will be a shift in the distribution of power among those central institutions. The Minister of State has acknowledged that, as has the Secretary of State on a number of occasions.

The Select Committee on European Legislation also referred to the less than radical shift in the distribution of power among the central institutions. On page xxxiv of the fourth report, it states: The main changes lie, patently—in the changes in procedure discussed in relation to the Commission: the Council is the principal loser in that wherever the co-decision procedure applies the Council cannot (even by unanimity as under the co-operative procedure) force through a measure to which the European Parliament will not assent. No one can deny that that is a shift in the power relations between those two institutions.

8.30 pm

The European Court of Justice is another central institution which must grow in power over the next few years. I appreciate that we will discuss the European Court of Justice under the group of amendments headed by amendment No. 32, but, there can be no genuine analysis of the concept of subsidiarity without passing reference to the European Court of Justice. As the concept of subsidiarity is in the treaty, it is potentially justiciable. The European Court of Justice must therefore be involved in determining what comes under the doctrine of subsidiarity.

The European Court of Justice is already a supreme court vis-a-vis the 13 legal systems in the 12 member states. In that respect, the Scottish system has equal status with the English and Welsh system. The European Court of Justice has overturned legislation passed by this Parliament in recent years. In that respect, I refer to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which contained a provision that was unacceptable to that supreme court. The House of Commons had to shift ground, not the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice is a powerful central institution. I submit that its power will grow over the next few years, particularly in terms of what is to be devolved to member states and what is to remain with the Commission. Although the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs may shake his head, I believe that I am right in saying that the Commission will be deeply reluctant to give up the areas of decision making that are now within its province or within the Community's province. I cannot see the Commission allowing that kind of devolution of decision making.

Before I go any further, I must state that I am perfectly willing to refer to those central institutions and to use them as tactical conveniences. Indeed, I suggested that to the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), when he made a notable speech about the power of the European Court of Justice. In the near future, I hope to raise a case in the sheriff court in Greenock. I hope that the representatives of my constituent will be able to persuade the sheriff, by way of article 177, to refer the case to the European Court of Justice. That is an example of the power that that court possesses at the moment. That power must grow with the ratification of the treaty—if it is resuscitated by the Danes.

I will leave my analysis of the role of the European Court of Justice to our debate on amendments that we will presumably reach later this week, when I hope to catch your eye, Dame Janet. However, that court will play an important role in respect of article 3b. No matter how vigorously and determinedly this Government or successive Governments apply article 3b, I do not believe that article 3b will arrest the alarming process of centralisation that we are witnessing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) has already quoted from the Select Committee on European Legislation, the members of which stated: Unhappily a sharp division of opinion has now opened up between lawyers and others. Lawyers, whether they are individually pro-Community or anti-Community, are showing a quite unusual degree of unity in categorising subsidiarity as a principle of policy which is far too imprecise to have any clear legal effect. If that is the case, the only arbiters will be the 13 judges who comprise that august body—the European Court of Justice. The arbiter will not be a Scottish court, the Court of Session in Edinburgh or a court south of the border. Having to determine such questions will give the European Court of Justice an increasingly politicised role in decision making within the Community. I am sure that that gives those judges no satisfaction whatsoever.

I am not a lawyer, and there are lawyers present in the Committee who may challenge what I am saying. However, as a layman, I must state that I genuinely believe that that supreme court will take those decisions and have sanctions to levy against recalcitrant member states. In terms of subsidiarity—this might be an advantageous implementation of subsidiarity—the treaty elsewhere allows individuals who believe that their nation state is not protecting them in terms of European legislation, to go to a national court and bring their Government to that national court. No doubt that must cause Governments nightmares.

A careful reading of the treaty and of the powers of the European Court of Justice shows that that kind of implementation of subsidiarity may arise. If an individual citizen believes that he or she is not being protected by the Government, state or Department of State, he or she can take that Government or Department of State to a national court. I welcome that degree of subsidiarity, although it has not been mentioned so far in our discussions.

I believe that subsidiarity is potentially justiciable, because it is in the treaty and judges will have to take decisions. The elected representatives in the 16 länder in Germany may feel fairly relaxed about the treaty in general and about article 3b in particular because they have fairly powerful powers in relation to the Government in Bonn. That sense of ease may be shared by elected representatives in the regional assemblies in Spain.

However, I cannot believe that the members of the Commission are relaxed about the prospect of the devolution of decision making to member states or regional governments. I cannot see how the concept of subsidiarity allows some areas of decision making to be taken away from the Community. Any such attempts would be vigorously rejected and opposed by the Commission.

I believe that the Commissioners genuinely believe that the Community is best placed to attain Community objectives. They are international civil servants in every sense of the words. I believe that they do not have a great deal of sympathy for the devolution of decision making to member states and regional governments.

I do not want to strain your patience, Dame Janet. I said that my speech would be fairly brief, but I am anxious to voice some of my concerns in my first speech in this debate. I am delighted that the Foreign Secretary is here and paying attention to me, although I am sure that he does not agree with me.

In Scotland, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the so-called United Kingdom, given its highly centralised structure. Many times, I have been asked whether the rather strange idea of subsidiarity will, when put into effect, take us along the path to a Scottish Parliament or even a fairer share of decision making over people's lives. I have said plainly and bluntly that my answer must be, "No, under a Conservative Government." I see that the Foreign Secretary does not disagree with me.

Tomorrow, the Secretary of State will offer my constituents—a growing number of all ages, but especially the young, are deeply dissatisfied with the present structure of the United Kingdom—a pathetically small concession towards the devolution of political power. It will not do. The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) said at the weekend that this was a fatal mistake—it was making concessions to the secessionist movement in Scotland.

Subsidiarity will not even satisfy those who seek a genuine devolution of power to Scotland. The application of subsidiarity—

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

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I should warn him that he is straying rather far from the substance of this debate. We cannot look at differing powers within the United Kingdom: we must look at subsidiarity in the European Community context.

Dr. Godman

I am grateful for that extremely courteous admonition. I was explaining that some people find it difficult to understand what it is in the treaty. They have asked me whether the implementation of article 3b will lead to a devolution of political decision making within the United Kingdom, and I have said no. At a meeting of the Select Committee on European Legislation, the Foreign Secretary said that the application of the document on subsidiarity is, to some extent, related to the devolution of decision making from Brussels to London and there it stays.

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

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right, and I shall give him chapter and verse on that. It was discussed at the Birmingham summit last year and decided that the arrangements within each member state were for that member state. We can argue about the merits of the hon. Gentleman's proposals for Scotland or those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) is correct in saying that it is not a matter for the Maastricht treaty or the Community.

Dr. Godman

In the absence of a referendum and a campaign, which would allow these questions to be debated at public meetings and be met, we must examine the interpretation of those questions in a debate such as this one. There is a genuine demand, supported by the overwhelming majority of Scots, for the reconstitution of the United Kingdom.

When my constituents have asked what the application of article 3b relating to subsidiarity can do in that regard, I have said that it can do nothing at all. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is absolutely right. This political doctrine is overwhelmingly concerned with the distribution of power between Brussels and the capitals of the 12 member nations. I do not want to run foul of you again, Dame Janet. All I am saying is that that is totally unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of people of Scotland. They want much more.

We are extremely fortunate that the secessionist movement in Scotland is, thankfully, peaceable—and long may it remain so. However, there are genuine demands, concerns and anxieties about the governance of Scotland which are not met by the treaty. Over the next 10 to 15 years, we shall see a federalist United Kingdom. This place will be an English Parliament, and Scotland, thankfully, will have a Scottish Parliament.

8.45 pm
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

We have enjoyed an extremely able speech from the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) in which he said that subsidiarity is somehow not applied in the United Kingdom. It is interesting to see how subsidiarity is applied in the United Kingdom in that it is hon. Members in this House who decide what matters are decided nationally and what matters are delegated to a lower level. Today, we are discussing the ability to make such decisions. That ability will be handed partly or totally to the Community. I also wish to refer to the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and I shall come back to that later.

On Second Reading on 20 May, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister asserted that, for the Community, the Maastricht treaty marked the point at which, for the first time, we have begun to reverse that centralising trend by securing a legally binding text on subsidiarity".—[Official Report, 20 May 1992; Vol. 208, c. 265–66.] He then claimed that, if the Commission pursued an act which we considered did not comply with subsidiarity, we could take the issue to the European Court of Justice for adjudication. In his September speech on the presidency, he reiterated that Maastricht was "a turning point" in which the very centralising tendency that many are so worried about was addressed and correct". Ministers frequently refer to subsidiarity when they make such claims. Indeed, subsidiarity was cited in exactly that way during the debate on the social chapter to demonstrate how the United Kingdom can expect, to protect itself from over-intrusive legislation.

I wish to turn my attention to such claims and test their validity, because it is evident that subsidiarity has been oversold in an effort to gain support for the treaty. The first question must be whether subsidiarity represents a turning point—whether it will influence the way in which the Community works. What exactly does it change? That is where Ministers have always had a difficulty.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister began to qualify the effectiveness of article 3b as soon as it was challenged. When he was pressed at Question Time on 16 June, he responded: We should speedily qualify its practical applications. In the next few weeks that will most certainly be one of our priorities of our presidency"—[0fficial Report, 16 June 1992; Vol. 209, c. 773.] When Parliament was recalled on 24 September 1992, he enlarged on that theme: So we need a definition—a settled order—of what is for national action and what is for Community action. We need clear criteria by which Community proposals will be judged." —[Official Report, 24 September 1992; Vol. 212, c. 8.] By implication, article 3b and the Maastricht treaty on their own do not provide clear criteria.

The Edinburgh declaration on subsidiarity is meant to be this clarification and is the clearest indication that we have of what article 3b is intended to mean in legal terms. The legal meaning is the only meaning which has any relevance. I heard with great interest the comments about the levels of hierarchy which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. It is not hon. Members in the House who will decide which activities are dealt with by which hierarchy, but the Community's institutions.

Article 3b contains little or no reassurance that subsidiarity is a sign of a new direction. The declaration begins by restating article 3b in terms of three main elements which cover the three paragraphs of article 3b. The declaration says that these reflect three distinct legal concepts which have historical antecedents in the existing Community Treaties or in the case law of the Court of Justice". Those concepts are spelt out. The first is: The principle that the Community can only act where given the power to do so—implying that national powers are the rule and the Community's the exception—has always been a basic feature of the Community legal order, (the principle of attribution of powers). That strongly suggests that subsidiarity is nothing new.

One of the standard legal text books of Community law is Lasok and Bridge. It explains the principle of attribution of powers. It says that the powers exercised by the Commuity originate from the member states but comprise a "common domain" which has been sublimated to that of the Community. The key sentence is: This domain, originally delimited in the founding Treaties, tends to expand through the combined effect of the preamble of the EEC Treaty which lists in general terms the political, economic and social objectives of the treaty. So—this is my first point—the starting point of article 3b, as defined by the Edinburgh declaration, is not about reversing the trend of Community competence. It is a stark restatement of it.

Mr. Butterfill

Can my hon. Friend explain why, if subsidiarity has no new effect, the moment that we reached an agreement in Edinburgh on subsidiarity, the Commission withdrew several of its draft directives—even before subsidiarity passed into Community law? It also said that it was actively reconsidering a raft of other directives and would decide whether they could be implemented in the light of the decision taken at Edinburgh. It went on to say that subsidiarity would affect the whole way in which it approached its work as a Commission in future. It has spelt that out in some considerable detail since.

Mr. Jenkin

In the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, "They would say that, wouldn't they?" The Commission is a political institution which is anxious, like any other Community institution, to see that the Maastricht treaty is ratified. Therefore, it is doing all that it can to avoid rocking the boat in the member states while the treaty goes through. I do not believe that its current behaviour can be taken as a guide to its future behaviour once that process is completed.

I was about to explain the principle of the attribution of powers which was restated in the Edinburgh declaration about subsidiarity. Lasok and Bridge continue their explanation of the principle of the attribution of powers thus: Once delegated the power cannot be withdrawn…This is the doctrine of the 'occupied field'…Thus, the Community determines the extent of the legal integration and does not permit the member states to be out of step. So the Edinburgh declaration on subsidiarity contains no suggestion that subsidiarity is intended to be about reversing the centralising trend of the Community. As we read on through the declaration, no doubt is left how the second and third of the distinct legal concepts are to be interpreted and enforced. We can be under absolutely no illusion that the institutions of the Community will decide whether an action can be better attained at the level of the Community than at the level of the member states. The institutions of the Community will decide the means to be employed to achieve the objective pursued.

The declaration goes on to describe how subsidiarity should respect the established basic principles; that subsidiarity cannot call into question the powers conferred on the European Community by the Treaty as interpreted by the Court…The application of the principle shall respect the general provisions of the Maastricht Treaty including the maintaining in full of the acquis communautaire. Therefore, while subsidiarity may well encourage the Community institutions to ask themselves whether a Community action is necessary, it will not provide member states with any additional protection from intrusive measures based upon the expanded objectives set out in article 2 or the enlarged areas of activity in article 3.

Moreover, not only is nothing reversed but, in the maintenance of the acquis communautaire, here as elsewhere in the treaty, all the Community's gains in competence are consolidated. The declaration continues: it shall not affect the primacy of community law. That seems finally to confirm that subsidiarity can only ever be an instrument by which the Community institutions themselves decide the extent of their own authority. It does not matter what we want it to mean as a concept: we shall not be in a position to decide. The Community will decide the levels of hierarchy to which my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne referred.

Later, the declaration reaffirms the obligation to comply with article 5 and abstain from any action which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the treaty. So it would be pointless for a member state to invoke subsidiarity if the court thought that a member state was trying to frustrate a treaty objective. That leads to my second point.

Subsidiarity could represent an additional centralising threat. It empowers the Community to take action where, by reason of the scale of the effects of the proposed action, the action is better achieved by the Community. But the final paragraph of article 3b creates a new centralising force. It says: Any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Treaty. That may sound harmless or even helpful to decentralisers but although it is phrased in the negative, it carries a positive corollary.

Moreover, the reference to the "objectives of this treaty" is significant. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State was at pains to point out during the debate on the social chapter that articles 2, 3 and 5 were non vires conferring. However, Lasok and Bridge confirm that it is a general principle of Community law that the objectives become doctrines to govern actions by the institutions. As well as indicating policy to legislators, articles 2, 3 and 5 are, to the court, pointers to interpretation and a formal source to complement inadequately expressed intentions to the makers of the treaty. The reference to the objectives of the treaty in article 3b therefore reinforces those centralising indications.

The Edinburgh declaration explains: Subsidiarity is a dynamic concept and should be applied in the light of the objectives set out in the Treaty. It allows Community action to be expanded where circumstances so require. Far from being a purely decentralising concept, therefore, it is explicitly stated there that subsidiarity can be used to widen Community powers; it therefore strengthens the centralising tendency of the Community.

In any case, if it was to achieve the aim of limiting Community intrusion into the affairs of member states, the definition of subsidiarity in article 3b is fundamentally flawed because it does not demand any concrete Community interest to be at stake as a justification for taking action. Instead, it merely requires that the action be necessary in furtherance of an "objective"—for example, a social objective which can be entirely internal to the member states.

The Edinburgh guidelines exacerbate that weaknss of definition, by explicitly recognising that actions may be taken by the Community even when no transnational aspect is involved, in order to further treaty objectives, such as economic and social cohesion and solidarity among the Member States"— to quote from the new article 2. Those new objectives will justify more extensive Community action in the social sphere and, because article 3b on subsidiarity defers to those objectives, it encourages rather than checks that tendency.

When President Mitterrand accuses the United Kingdom of "lack of solidarity" over "le dumping social" he is consciously alluding to an objective of the treaty that will inform Community institutions in their actions.

May I remind the Committee of the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith), during the debate on the social chapter, in which he argued that, far from securing the supremacy of Parliament in social affairs, the Maastricht treaty would further erode Parliament's ability to decide such matters independently of the Community, notwithstanding our so-called opt-out from the social chapter.

9 pm

In response, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office conceded the worth of those arguments and accepted that such issues would be entirely dependent on the ruling of the European Court of Justice. He accepted that the court has traditionally been a centralising institution". As a counterweight, he offered his vision of a changed European Court of Justice which, as we pursue our policies in the Community, would no longer be centralising. He claimed: it is not fair to assume that the court will necessarily and at all times make centralising judgments…I see clear signs of a change of emphasis, and I believe that that trend will be reinforced by the Maastricht Treaty. He later explained: 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."—[Official Report, 27 January 1993; Vol. 217, c. 1058–60.] However, when a majority in the Community are already to be carrying out action in the social field, if the Commission or another member state should seek to bring the United Kingdom into the purview of such actions, subsidiarity will be no defence. On the contrary, it strengthens the treaty basis for doing so.

In practice, however, the court is only a backdrop against which the Commission will make its proposals to the Council of Ministers. That body, when it enacts legislation, will effectively decide how to implement subsidiarity. Again, Edinburgh confirms that subsidiarity shall apply only to the extent that the Treaty gives to the institution concerned the choice whether to act". As we have so often found to our cost, where the Council has a will and a qualified majority, it will find a way. In the normal course of events, it will be inconceivable for a member state to invoke subsidiarity to stop a directive in the European Court, once a qualified majority had given its support to the measure. That flies in the face of earlier ministerial assertions. Once the Council has decided, there simply will be no case for a member state to make.

When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote, in a letter to The Sunday Times on 22 November that subsidiarity is an important legally binding constraint on Community action", he should have explained that the only constraint that it provides is that which the Council is prepared to impose on itself. For example, there is no protection from the working time directive through subsidiarity. Therein lies the real weakness of the United Kingdom opt-out from the social chapter.

The protocol on social policy provides that the 11 should enact their social chapter policies through the Council of Ministers. If the 11 are voting to impose their social costs upon themselves, subsidiarity will not prevent them from outvoting the 12th to ensure that we bear the same burden. If they have satisfied themselves that the proposed action passes the subsidiarity test, there is little reason to allow us to be an exception.

Every time that Ministers have tangled with the concept of subsidiarity they have put themselves deeper in the mire.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

My hon. Friend has obviously put a lot of thought into the interesting speech that he is delivering. If I understood him aright he has made the most extraordinary suggestion—that in practice the European Court of Justice would set aside the text of our protocol providing for an opt-out from the social chapter, to enforce on us the terms of a chapter from which we have explicitly been excluded by the text of the treaty as it stands. Is that what my hon. Friend is suggesting? Does he really believe that professional lawyers and judges of the European Court of Justice—men of integrity and intelligence—would for one moment impugn their profession by subverting the established text of the treaty in that way?

Mr. Jenkin

The important point that my hon. Friend makes—or, rather, misses—is that there are plenty of other treaty bases upon which the provisions of the social chapter can be applied. Articles 2, 3, and 5 provide the basic context for Community objectives and activities. We see there recognition of such important objectives as economic and social cohesion and solidarity among member states. So it is simply a question of going to one of the majority-voting provisions, such as article 118a, and asking the court to stretch the meaning, as has happened in other areas of Community law.

Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

Another point in support of this case is that the protocol is clearly distanced from the main body of the text in one area: it says nothing that affects essentially the means by which people will import the social provisions. Actual words to that effect are not there, but that is what is meant. That cannot be a basis for saying that articles 2, 3 and 5 may not be used.

Mr. Jenkin

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The social protocol says: without prejudice to the provisions of this Treaty, particularly those relating to social policy which constitute an integral part of the 'acquis communautaire'". We are not opting out of any social provisions already contained in the Single European Act or the treaty of Rome. Indeed, we are buying into additional social provisions by virtue of the expanded objectives set out in article 2 and the expanded areas of activity set out in article 3.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

The hon. Gentleman has indeed raised a very important point. However, the matter could be resolved immediately. The Foreign Secretary, who negotiated the treaty, is on the Government Front Bench. Why does not the hon. Gentleman challenge his right hon. Friend to say whether he is right or wrong? The hon. Gentleman is saying that the protocol negotiated by the Government for the social chapter opt-out has no real effect or validity. In other words, the Government simply wanted a blanket to cover their nakedness following the negotiations.

Surely the hon. Gentleman will want to press his right hon. Friend for an immediate answer. Thus we could resolve the confusion that seems to have crept into the debate. I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary is going to move. Perhaps he wants to wait for the return of the Attorney-General.

Mr. Jenkin

I was getting on extremely well with my speech until the hon. Gentleman invited the great man himself to intervene. If my right hon. Friend wants to come in at this stage I shall very happily give way.

Mr. Hurd

I am loth to yield to the mischief-making of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers). However, as he is indeed making mischief, we might as well indulge in it. On the specific point on which he has issued his challenge, I do not think that there is any great disagreement. Of course we have had problems with the legal reach of the existing treaties in the social sphere. The working time directive is one example. However, the fact that there are problems with the existing arrangements does not mean that one should multiply—double, triple, quadruple—those problems by adopting a treaty base that would turn what is now an exception into an everyday affair. It simply does not make any sense to do that, and that is the purpose of the opt-out.

My hon. Friend is making a fascinating and able speech. It is fascinating because it is outside the debate that has been taking place inside the Community for the past two years.

Mr. Spearing

So what?

Mr. Hurd

The point is that it is not so long ago that what my hon. Friend is challenging, objecting to and saying is inevitable was orthodox. People believed in the centralising tendency. Every advance made towards Community jurisdiction was judged a good thing in itself. That has changed. I accept that the change is not perfect and that there are people around who hold to the old view. However, it is a little out of date for my hon. Friend to look from outside the institutions of the Community and say that things cannot be challenged or changed by member states. Of course it is only member states who give power to the Community, as my hon. Friend acknowledged when he explained the first sentence of article 3b.

What is happening now, however—I ask my hon. Friend to take my word for it—is that the different institutions are changing. That is reflected in article 3b, the Edinburgh declaration, the activities of the Commission and the sharp reduction in the number of legislative proposals coming forward. That is political fact before it is a legal obligation.

We have the option to say that such changes are not any good, to be cynical and to say, "They would say that, wouldn't they?" We have the option to reject the changes, but that would be a mistake, because our arguments are beginning to bear fruit, and here they are.

Mr. Jenkin

I naturally take seriously everything that my right hon. Friend says. However, I recently visited the institutions of the Community, notably the Parliament and the Commission. I did not find anyone who supports our Government's view of the treaty and the direction of the Community. On the contrary, every other Government regards Maastricht as merely an interim step on the way to a federal Europe. My right hon. Friend may disagree, but where are all the people who support our view of the Community as one of nation states and our view that the treaty is reversing the centralising process? The only people I could find are those who are against the treaty, such as Mr. Philippe Séguin and the No Campaign of Denmark.

Mr. Rogers

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to press his right hon. Friend a little further. If I could be even more mischievous, I would suggest that the Foreign Secretary has not given his hon. Friend an answer to the simple question that was posed to him. Is the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) right to say that parts of existing treaties or of this treaty will overrule the protocol that the Government negotiated on the social chapter when certain specific situations come up? If that is the case, why are we having all the fuss about the social chapter? Surely the hon. Member for Colchester, North would want to press his right hon. Friend for an answer on that precise question.

Mr. Jenkin

I simply refer the hon. Gentleman to the answers that were given to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford in an earlier debate. We were told that we must seek to influence the way in which the Community works through the courts and by the introduction of article 3. That was the reassurance we were given. We were told that we should not despair about it.

I do not despair, but I require more than the requirement not to despair to reassure me that we shall not be included, eventually, in the purview of all social legislation. What exactly does the opt-out from the social chapter protect us from? What measures envisaged by the social chapter does the treaty not give a base to in its main body? If I received an answer to that question I might be reassured.

Every time Ministers have tangled with the concept of subsidiarity they have got themselves deeper into the mire. Subsidiarity consolidates the existing legal order. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not seek to explain that somehow we are subverting the principle of the doctrine of the occupied field, the legal principle on which the Community is founded. Subsidiarity consolidates the existing legal order, increases the scope for expanding the Community's competence and provides little recourse for member states against Community actions.

In the Second Reading debate on 21 May, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary claimed: The treaty of Maastricht reinforces the position of national Parliaments".—[Official Report, 21 May 1992; Vol. 208, C. 517.] However, Frank Vibert QC gave his opinion of subsidiarity, as defined in article 3b of the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said that the end result of Maastricht would be the eventual reduction of national parliaments to performing essentially agency roles for the central authorities. 9.15 pm

The Government regularly claim that the inclusion of subsidiarity was a great British success at Maastricht. However, in March 1991—some months before the union treaty was agreed at Maastricht—Jacques Delors, speaking at the Jacques Delor colloquium entitled "Subsidiarity—guiding principles for the future of EC policy and responsibility", defined the concept of subsidiarity as follows: Subsidiarity is not simply a limit to intervention by a higher authority vis-a-vis a person or a community in a position to act itself, it is an obligation for this authority to act vis-a-vis this person or this group to see that it is given the means to achieve its ends. That version of subsidiarity reminds us of Article A, which invokes an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen. It suggests that subsidiarity will be used to circumvent national parliaments and strengthen the direct relationship between Community institutions and the citizen.

Subsidiarity is to Delors the moral and legal basis for direct social intervention. Therefore, it was no surprise that we were able to persuade all his federalist allies to allow Britain to have subsidiarity as a face saver in the Maastricht treaty instead of "federal vocation". Subsidiarity is entirely consistent with a federal vocation for the Community. We were pushing at an open door. In summary, subsidiarity, far from confirming parliament as the supreme legislative authority in the land, will instead make it ever more subsidiary to the institutions in Brussels.

Subsidiarity is summarised in the excellent paper produced by the House of Commons Library. It explains how subsidiarity has been invoked as a guide to the means of limiting EC powers, just as federal states include a clause allocating and delimiting the powers of the state and its component parts. The US Constitution contains just such a clause in the Tenth Amendment …The German constitution, the basic law, has a similar clause in article 30". Subsidiarity—along with the establishment of the union, the single currency, common foreign policy leading to a common defence, the citizenship, the single institutional framework, the Council, the Parliament, the judges and the court presiding over a supreme body of law —is yet another manifestation of the centralised European superstate in the making. History will laugh at those who advocated the treaty in the name of the sovereignty of Parliament, or who said that it would strengthen the role of national Parliaments and was a step towards a Community of nation states. We are already in a legal federation.

As Lasok and Bridge explain, the doctrine of the direct applicability and direct effect of Community law unmistakably points to a federal character because in a federal system federal law bears directly upon the citizens of the component states". From this, subsidiarity not only provides no escape, but gives further impetus.

Finally, I remind the Committee of the negotiating mandate that the House of Commons gave to the Government before the final Maastricht negotiations. The Government were sent off to work for an agreement, in the words of the resolution, which avoids a federal Europe. It stretches the meaning of the English language to insist that that mandate was delivered.

I end with the words of Jacques Delors. Referring to subsidiarity at his colloquium the previous March, he said: it only makes sense in a federal approach".

Mr. Dalyell

I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary, who is present, a question to do with relations between Brussels and local authorities, and in particular about money.

Our country's comparative economic decline in Europe was underscored on 24 February when the Commission in Brussels announced that parts of England and Scotland should, for the first time, be eligible for the maximum rate of EC development aid. Merseyside and the Highlands and Islands have joined regions such as Campagna in the south of Italy as deserving objective I funds from the EC's £15-billion-a-year cohesion budget.

Our former colleague Bruce Millan—I had dealings with him when he was Secretary of State for Scotland and for a quarter of a century before that; we know that he is an extremely accurate man, not to mention an exceedingly careful accountant—is the Commissioner for regional funding. Mr. Millan has challenged the Treasury to spend about £1 billion more on the poorest regions in industrial decline, or Britain and the British Government will forfeit matching funds from Brussels.

I heard Bruce Millan say that on the radio and I tried to contact him over the weekend. I failed to contact him, but I have no doubt that the report is accurate. Britain is certainly catching up in the poverty stakes, according to the regional spending department of the Community.

After furious wrangling between civil servants of various nationalities, it seems that it was agreed that the English and Scottish regions were sufficiently economically disadvantaged. On Merseyside, the 1,400,000 inhabitants have incomes 78.9 per cent. of the EC average; the 277,000 people of the Highlands and Islands have incomes 78.7 per cent. of that average.

To be fair to Bruce Millan, I should add that he announced that the Abruzzi region of Italy, a long-standing recipient of full EC funding, was to be taken off the list because of its increasing prosperity. The Secretary of State for the Environment pushed for south Yorkshire, rural Wales and Devon and Cornwall to be added to the list, but was turned down by the Commission.

I want to ask whoever is to wind up about the warning that Bruce Millan gave the Government—that the Government risked forfeiting at least part of the £1 billion spent every year on Britain's industrially stricken regions with objective 2 status unless the Government backed down in the row over how the cash is spent.

Brussels accused London of flouting the EC regional aid rules by taking the cash into the Treasury and not immediately given it to local authorities to spend on designated projects. Tonight I look for some sort of refutation of Mr. Millan's argument, or acceptance that it is factually correct.

Local authorities in depressed areas in England and Wales strongly back the Commission in its row with the United Kingdom Government over the allocation of EC aid. I understand from the Minister responsible for industry in Scotland that he does not know about the troubles that have arisen; but I also know that Strathclyde and Lothian have had good relations with the EC and are thus rather disturbed that there should be any potential source of friction.

But anger and frustration are increasing in town halls because of the risk that up to £1 billion of EC aid could be lost to projects in our country's worst-hit regions because of a long-running conflict over the distribution of cash. At the heart of the dispute is whether the various EC funds are additional to the regional spending by member states or whether Governments, and especially the British Government, are using them to reduce the cost of capital programmes by curbing local authority spending. That is the root of the argument.

The EC Commissioner, Bruce Millan, is becoming increasingly convinced, following protests from local authorities, that the legal conditions for the distribution of aid are still not being met by the London Government and that EC money should co-finance projects that would not otherwise go ahead and which would have a genuine additional impact in the regions concerned. It is the classic and long-running saga of additionality.

In considering subsidiarity how does the Foreign Secretary hope to resolve the urgent problem of additionality? The director of economic development, Richard Davies, said: We have had the silly situation where we have had to cram three-year projects into a few weeks because it has taken so long for the funding to come through. Davis added bitterly: The bottom line is that the Treasury has been taking away the money from local authorities. I believe that that is true because I have spoken to the local authorities and, more important than my believing it, they believe it. I ask the Foreign Secretary: is it true that money to the tune of about £1 billion which would otherwise have come to the most hard-pressed local authorities in this country is not getting through? Well, I see that the right hon. Gentleman is not replying at this moment.

Barbara Edwards, the deputy director of the project, said: Everywhere else in Europe they're powering ahead—the government accepts that they have to pay up. But here nothing happened for over a year because the funds were blocked. Barbara Edwards believes that the continuing rows could also delay the stage of any project due to start next year.

Apparently a similar saga of confusion unfolds in the midlands, where plans to develop a railway line backed by a 1992 EC grant were held up through lack of funds to match potential EC grants. Enough money has been put together to start the line running north from Nottingham, but not enough has been raised to take it to Mansfield and Worksop. Although the line is supported by the EC, the authorities involved are unable to match the potential EC grants.

I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who is responsible for industry in Scotland, has entered the Chamber. He will be aware of the special report on investing in Scotland, in which Eric Baird introduces a three-page analysis of current trends. Mr. Baird says that we are in good shape to embrace a new beginning but expresses concern about the transfer package made possible by support from the Scottish Office, the Glasgow development agency and Strathclyde regional council's business development arm. Is it within the EC rules and is there any basis for the outcry that we are not getting funds that would otherwise come to us?

There is criticism that we are simply funding foreign ownership of new industry and providing an entry to European markets. That is true, but such a premise ignores the benefits not only in direct employment but to many smaller businesses.

Bruce Millan was closely questioned in "The World Tonight" radio programme and said that he was very sorry that he could not give a substantial amount of money to the most needy regions of our country. He explained that if there was much more delay and if he still believed that Britain was not accepting the EC rules, Britain had to be clear that the money will go to other Community countries and to their deserving regions.

The purpose of my intervention is to ask three direct questions of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland or of the Foreign Secretary. First, are Bruce Millan's remarks true? Secondly, has Mr. Millan in any way misunderstood the position? Thirdly, if by any chance Mr. Millan has not misunderstood the position—I suspect that he has not—what will the Government do to enable the most hard-up, needy regions of our country to benefit from European funds which are there for the asking but, one can only assume, for the pig-headedness of the Treasury in not providing matching funds?

9.30 pm
Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

This debate illustrates the wholly cynical approach that the Labour party has taken to all the Maastricht debates. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said that, although the Opposition had tabled an amendment that sought to delete the principle of subsidiarity from the treaty, he was nevertheless totally in favour of that principle. That shows the magnitude of the Labour party's "Alice in Wonderland" approach to all our debates on the Maastricht treaty, and the pure cynicism with which it pursues its entirely political objectives, which have nothing to do with treaty or with this country's well-being.

The Labour party knows very well that prolonging the debate is damaging Britain's commercial interests, exports, and prospects of inward investment, yet by their amendment the Opposition make it clear that their prime objective is to delay the treaty's implementation and to give a minority of my right hon. and hon. Friends—whose position I entirely respect, because most of them have opposed the European Community from the outset—an opportunity to embarrass the Government. That is Labour's position today, and it is entirely disreputable.

Mr. Jenkin

What does that have to do with subsidiarity?

Mr. Butterfill

The subject of this debate is subsidiarity, and it is taking place not because subsidiarity is contentious across the Floor of the Committee but because Labour wants to delay the treaty's progress.

Mr. George Robertson

It gets a bit wearisome at times continually to have to tell Conservative Members that the only way that the Committee can debate an important issue such as subsidiarity—the Foreign Secretary's presence is testimony to its importance—is by tabling an amendment to delete subsidiarity from the treaty. That is not meant as a ploy to delay ratification of the treaty but is the only device available under parliamentary proceedures to allow debate. When will Conservative Back Benchers learn that fact of life?

Mr. Butterfill

The hon. Gentleman's protestations would be rather more convincing if there had not already been many debates on the principle of subsidiarity. There was no need for tonight's debate, because, as the hon. Gentleman himself clearly said, Labour supports that principle. It is clear that tonight's debate is for the Labour party's political convenience, and has nothing to do with the treaty.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does not my hon. Friend acknowledge that a number of the amendments in the group under discussion include several in the names of Conservative Members, for good and serious reasons? They believe that the issue merits serious political consideration and debate. My hon. Friend complains that certain hon. Members are unnecessarily extending the debate. Will he bear in mind the fact that many debates were peremptorily curtailed by the Government by means of closure motions, and that they have the wherewithal readily at their disposal to end the problem of extensive debate, by calling a referendum and letting our people decide?

Mr. Butterfill

As my hon. Friend knows—because I said it earlier, and I am sure that he was listening carefully —I do not complain about what has been said by my hon. Friends who are opposed to European Community membership—

Mr. Wilkinson

Or to the treaty?

Mr. Butterfill

Indeed, they may be opposed only to the treaty. I do not complain about that; I am complaining about the sheer cynicism betrayed by the Labour party this evening.

Let me now turn to the meaning of subsidiarity. A number of attempts have been made to define the concept—

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Butterfill

I should like to develop my argument a little; then I may give way. We have heard a number of Conservative Members expressing opinions similar to those of my hon. Friend, at great length; I think that mine is the first speech to give some support to what the Government are doing, and I should be grateful if I could continue for a while.

We have heard what subsidiarity is. Let me deal with what it is not. Certainly, it is not what the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy)—speaking for the Liberal Democrats—suggested it might be. He suggested that, to create subsidiarity, we should—among other things—incorporate in English law the European convention on human rights. Nothing would be less designed to uphold the principle of subsidiarity: We would take away from the House the right to decide the correct way to proceed on human rights, on behalf of our constituents, and give it to an unelected group of three judges.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Butterfill

I shall do so when I have finished the point that I am making. Let us see whether the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene when he has heard me out.

If we incorporated the European convention in our law, we should give that right to three judges in Strasbourg who are unelected and not accountable to anyone. The House of Commons has decided to ratify the convention, and Parliament has never failed to uphold a decision by the European Court of Human Rights; but we reserve the right to take such action in the future, if it is in the interests of the nation. Opposition Members wish to take away the powers of the House, and to give them to an unelected court in Strasbourg by enacting in English law the whole panoply of the European convention. That is unnecessary, and would be an abuse of the House.

Mr. Wallace

Perhaps it is as well that I waited before intervening. The hon. Gentleman has made clear his total lack of comprehension of the European convention on human rights. What he describes as an abuse is what happens now: any British citizen who wishes to pursue his case under the convention, to which we are a signatory, must go to the judges in Europe. We want to allow British citizens to vindicate their rights in a Scottish, English or Welsh court.

When the hon. Gentleman said that the House might not uphold a decision by the European Court, did he mean that the House would willingly breach its international obligations? Is that his party's policy?

Mr. Butterfill

I am afraid that it is the hon. Gentleman who is displaying his ignorance. Under the present system, the European Court of Human Rights will not even hear a case unless it has been taken to the highest authority in this country. Our courts must judge first; only if a citizen fails to obtain what he considers to be justice can he go to the European Court of Human Rights, which—because we are a signatory to the treaty—may then order us to comply. And, because we are a signatory, we have never yet failed to comply.

The distinction that l am making is this. Under the present system, although we comply, we reserve our sovereignty; under the hon. Gentleman's system, we would give it away. The hon. Gentleman misses my point: the action that he proposes would negate subsidiarity rather than creating it. I challenge his suggestion—or that of his hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye —that we would create subsidiarity by adopting the approach they suggest.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend says that it is vital that we hurry up, reject the amendment and pass the Bill, or investment will evaporate or melt like snow in mid-summer. What will happen to the single market if we do not pass the treaty?

Mr. Butterfill

My hon. Friend has a long and respected position of not believing that Britain's best economic interests will be served by pursuing the Maastricht treaty and the union that is involved in ratifying it. I disagree with him. Most City opinion, every industrialist in my constituency and almost every industrialist throughout the country would disagree with him. He is entitled to his opinion, which he has expressed many times. I disagree with him, as so do most hon. Members, and most people in the country.

The Labour party has cynically used the debate on subsidiarity to promote devolution and giving power to the regions. It wanted the debate so that it could promote its views on the subject. It believes in uniform system of devolution to the regions, that we should all have lander like Germany and that it would be a wonderful panacea. It believes that that is subsidiarity. Again, it has got it wrong. Subsidiarity is about nation states taking decisions when it is appropriate for them to do so. It has nothing to do with imposing lander on Britain or giving independence to Scotland.

Scotland is part of a Union. Some would say that it is over-represented in this place, but a disproportionate amount of state money is spent on it.

Mr. Bill Walker

When Scotland and England united to form this United Kingdom unitary Parliament in 1707, we knew exactly what union meant. When the Government and others signed the Single European Act in 1986, I was given assurances in this Chamber that we were not signing up for the form of Union that I understood. Tonight, we have been told that we are creating a legal union, of which we shall become members. Is that not a sleight of hand?

Mr. Butterfill

No. I would not wish to get involved in a debate on the intricacies of Scottish politics. Suffice it to say that the Scots are well represented in the House and we have the Union. The treaty does not propose to divide Britain into lander, and nor would I wish to do so. Interestingly, the party that stood for the Union and promoted it in Scotland was the only one to increase its share of the vote in Scotland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) made an interesting and well thought out speech, but I do not agree with him about subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is not something to paper over the cracks between the demands of our national interest and those of the European interest. On the contrary, it defines what is the province of one and what is the province of the other. The definition that the Commission has put on subsidiarity—

Mr. Jenkin

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Butterfill

No. I have given way to colleagues who represent my hon. Friend's point of view, and I should like to develop my argument.

On subsidiarity, there is an acceptance that the rules of the Community, which need to be made for its proper maintenance, should not go further than is needed for Community purposes. Many of us believed that many of the Commission's previous proposals went a good deal further than was necessary for the Community purpose which we had all agreed. Therefore, the first definition of subsidiarity is that the purpose should not be exceeded.

The second definition is that action need not be—and should not be—taken at Community level if it can be taken more efficiently by the member state alone. Only if the member state cannot fulfil the purpose through its own legislation is there a need to introduce a Community rule.

9.45 pm

It is clear that much less needs to be done by regulation through the Commission, and far more by directives. Many people believe that Community directives are contrary to national legislation, but that is not so. They allow for the state to decide precisely how the Community's objectives should be put into national law. That difference of principle is very important. The principle of subsidiarity is an extremely important part of the treaty. It protects the interests of member states.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) made a powerful speech, and I agreed with a great deal of what he said. However, I disagreed with the main thrust of his speech. He seemed to disagree with the Community's and the treaty's objectives. He said that subsidiarity would not protect us from those objectives. Of course, if he disagrees with the treaty's objectives, he is right not to vote for it. However, if he merely objects to something that will not protect us from those objectives, he is adopting an irrational position.

Mr. Jenkin

I remind my hon. Friend that the treaty states that the Community shall have as its task the establishment of a common market and an economic and monetary union, and the implementation of common policies and activities referred to in articles 3 and 3a, including a common currency, a common foreign policy and other highly important emblems of statehood. The idea that we can use subsidiarity to protect our own statehood is the fallacy of the Government's argument.

Mr. Butterfill

I understand that, if my hon. Friend objects to the treaty's objectives, he will naturally not want to support it. However, most hon. Members do not object to its objectives and, under those circumstances—

Dr. John Cunningham

Before the hon. Gentleman continues his waffling argument, he should apologise to his hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin). He and all his colleagues oppose the treaty's objectives on the social chapter, they are now opposing those on subsidiarity and they have just voted against its objectives for the Committee of the Regions. What more does he want them to object to?

Mr. Butterfill

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we object to the social chapter, which is why we had it removed from the treaty. His argument is complete nonsense. I was agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North that some of the Community's institutions currently have a federal character. Any treaty that creates a union of different countries must create a federal character for that union. He may object to going further down the federal road—that is his decision. I accept that the treaty as drafted will create an additional federal character, but it is not an argument for objecting to the treaty itself.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

We have heard some thoughtful speeches in this debate. I am not sure that the speech by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) quite rose to the occasion. I found it interesting to listen to Conservative Members railing against the treaty, against Ministers and against Opposition Front-Bench Members on the ground that the legislation was likely to lead to the centralisation of power within the European Community. Those remarks came from supporters of a Government who have ruthlessly imposed centralised power on every part of the United Kingdom with no consent from several parts of the United Kingdom, especially Scotland and Wales.

I support the principles of the treaty and I look forward to voting for the Bill on Third Reading when, I hope, it will have been duly amended. I say that as one who represents a constituency in a country which has shared its sovereignty with its big brother since 1707, so I do not have the fears of some Conservative Members about sharing sovereignty.

I was intrigued by the point made by the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) about the prospect of the European Court of Justice imposing the social chapter on Britain despite the fact that it was not part of the treaty for us because we had an opt-out. That could be an even more bizarre prospect than the hon. Gentleman imagines. Not long from now, we could find that the House had voted to opt into the social chapter, but that, on the advice of lawyers, the British Government had been able to cling to the opt-out. Under the scenario painted by the hon. Member for Colchester, North, the European Court of Justice would be the only way in which to protect the right of the House to vote to opt into the social chapter. The hon. Gentleman should consider the logic of his position.

The term "subsidiarity" is singularly inelegant, but it is important. I believe in that concept passionately. I also believe that it should apply not only within the EC, but within the United Kingdom. Subsidiarity should not stop at Westminster or at Whitehall. The principle should apply within the United Kingdom as well as within the European Community.

That point is all the more important in view of the fact that the House has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted to protect the interests of the nations within the United Kingdom. Over the past 14 or 15 years, the Government have been allowed to ride roughshod over the interests of the people of Wales, of the people of Scotland and of the people of the regions of England, with the consent of the House.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

I notice that the hon. Gentleman has assiduously avoided mentioning Northern Ireland, where the rights of the people and the will of the people have been more rigorously overridden than is the case in any other part of the United Kingdom. Perhaps he will keep that point in mind in future.

Mr. Home Robertson

That is why I did not cite the people of Northern Ireland. I am talking about Scotland, the country that I know best.

In the Prime Minister's statement to the House following the Council meeting in Birmingham, he told us that the Birmingham declaration recognised the importance of national identities and that it called for a greater role for national Parliaments in the work of the Community. He also found that principle in the agreement which came out of Edinburgh—Edinburgh, of all places for such an agreement to be made. Edinburgh is the capital of a nation which does not yet have a parliament, despite the fact that the people of Scotland have voted again, again and again to have their own Parliament. That was a heavy irony.

Mr. Wallace

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the speech that the Secretary of State for Scotland gave to the Tory Monday club at the most recent Conservative party conference? He said that, although Scotland had not had its own parliament for 286 years, we would be a centre of cultural and economic prosperity. Does the hon. Gentleman honestly believe that the same argument can apply to Europe and that if we had not had the Westminster Parliament for 280 years and had been governed from Brussels, we would have enjoyed the same cultural and economic prosperity?

Mr. Home Robertson

The conclusion that I am trying to reach in my speech is perhaps a reverse of the phrase, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't". We have known this particular devil too long, and perhaps it is time that we had another to work with.

Following the Prime Minister's statement on the Birmingham summit, I wrote to the Prime Minister. He replied that the summit recognised that it is for each Member State to decide how its powers should be exercised domestically: … It is up to individual Member States to order their own constitutional affairs at a national and sub-national level. I suppose that that means that Wales and Scotland are sub-nations. I do not recognise that term. I do not accept it and I do not believe that the people of Scotland would accept it. We must consider what a nation is and how a nation or a group of nations can impose accountability on Governments who are supposed to be serving them.

Conspicuously, the people of Scotland have not been able to secure that accountability from their Government in recent years. We should compare that situation with what applies in other large European countries with regions and historic nations within their borders. In that respect, I think of Germany and Spain. We must consider the democratic accountability in German lander such as Bavaria and Spanish provinces such as Catalonia. We must consider their direct input into European institutions. However, Scotland and Wales will be denied such an input.

Any deal which denies Scotland and Wales the rights available to the people of Bavaria and Catalonia is not tolerable. The Government are simply offering stocktaking—something that I understand we shall hear more about tomorrow. The Tories received yet another fright in Scotland last year in the general election. As a result, the Prime Minister said that he would have to take stock of the constitutional situation there.

That stockpot has been boiling away on the back burner for the past 12 months and I believe that we shall see some very dry bones tomorrow afternoon when the Prime Minister makes his announcement. There will be bits and pieces of Committees and more administrative and non-accountable devolution to officials in a Scottish Office which is accountable to only 11 of Scotland's 72 elected Members of Parliament.

The Prime Minister declared that the principle of subsidiarity is a vital and important democratic principle that he has inserted in the European process. If subsidiarity is good for Europe, it must also be right for the United Kingdom. The House has dismally failed to protect the rights and liberties of our people and it deserves to be eclipsed by more democratic and effective institutions in Strasbourg, Edinburgh or Cardiff.

The subsidiarity that the Government are offering the Committee in the Bill and the treaty is a charade arid a sham. If it were real, we would support it wholeheartedly. I hope to goodness that Ministers will be able to persuade us that they believe in the principle and that they will apply it not only to Europe, but to the historic nations of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Bill Walker

I wish to follow the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) in what was a trip down a rather odd lane. He and I may take different views about what subsidiarity means, but I should make it clear to him that there is no doubt that the people of Scotland know what this Parliament represents for them and their interests. They understand that. They know the position. There is no doubt about what happens when they elect hon. Members to this place, whether those hon. Members come from any party, no party or whatever. At least hon. Members represent the interests of Scottish people in this place. We do not know what subsidiarity will mean in effect for Members from Scotland if and when the legal definition is properly and clearly articulated.

Dr. Godman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that application of the principle of subsidiarity will in no way arrest the growing centralisation of decision making within the European Community?

Mr. Walker

I could not agree more wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman.

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

Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.

10 pm

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to refer to the earlier Division on the Committee of the Regions, in which the Government were defeated. I wish to refer to "a deal"—I use not my words but those of the Secretary of State for Scotland—between the Government and the Scottish National party. I have a letter from the Secretary of State to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) which concludes: I hope therefore that we have the basis of a deal. Yours sincerely, Ian. Given that there was a clear deal between the Tory Government and the Scottish National party, is it not reasonable that this and any other correspondence should be placed in the Library and made available to both the House and the people of Scotland?

In 1979, when the Scottish National party voted with Mrs. Thatcher to bring down the then Labour Government, Jim Callaghan referred to turkeys voting for an early Christmas. Is there evidence that Christmas will be even earlier this year?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that what has taken place in Committee is not a matter for the Deputy Speaker. The Deputy Speaker cannot comment on it one way or another.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Is it further to that point of order or a new point of order?

Mr. Marlow

It is a new point of order. You and I share Northampton. How will you and I secure for our constituents representation on the Committee of the Regions equal to that which has been granted to the people of Scotland?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not need his help to look after my constituents.

Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fully appreciate the ruling that you gave on a previous point of order. Is it within the Standing, Orders of the House for the leader of the Scottish National party to come to the House and make a statement outlining the reasons behind what he has done tonight?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have already ruled that what happened in Committee has nothing to do with the Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Wallace

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You may be aware that earlier today Madam Speaker said how much she would deplore the leaking of provisions that would be in a forthcoming Government announcement. Can we have an undertaking from the Government Front Bench that the so-called deal between the Government and the Scottish National party is a leak of what the Government will announce tomorrow?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman heard Madam Speaker's ruling.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Are these new points of order?

Hon. Members

Yes.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A few moments ago the Government Whip reported progress, as he put it—[Interruption.] That is the expression that he used. Have the Government said that, before we resume the Committee stage, they will make a statement about what they intend to do as a result of what occurred today? Is it not necessary for us to have a statement of the Government's intention instead of continuing day in, day out, with the Committee stage when no purpose is served—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with the Chair.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you are familiar with the phrase "parcel of rogues" to which we now add the phrase "treacherous trio". It is an important point that all future discussion on the Committee of the Regions should be predicated on the basis of information that is before hon. Members. How can we continue to discuss the Committee of the Regions without knowing what deals have been agreed and whether they have any validity in the light of the splendid vote that occurred this evening?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair is not involved in deals with any party.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Since the Division this evening, the Welsh nationalists have disappeared. Could you direct the police to carry out the necessary investigations as to their whereabouts?

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not rather depressing that the leader of the Scottish National party took the Tory bribe but did not get the pay-off? In the circumstances, would it be a good idea if we asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to come along so that he can publicly wash his hands of this rather unsavoury affair?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that everyone feels better for that.

Back to