HC Deb 04 May 1993 vol 224 cc134-58

'. Where within the Treaty on European Union referred to in section 1 above there is a requirement for changes in voting procedure in its Council of Ministers, or other changes therein specified that decision be made after assent by the member states and in acccordance with their respective constitutional requirements, in the United Kingdom that assent shall be by Act of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Shore.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Shore

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this it will be convenient also to discuss the following: New clause 4—Procedure for determining the common foreign and security policy'. When it is proposed that the Council of Ministers responsible for determining a common Foreign and Security Policy are to define matters for joint action in accordance with Article J.3.2 of the Treaty named in section 1 above, no Minister of the Crown shall assent to such a proposal before those matters proposed to be specified are given approval in a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. '. New clause 19—Adoption of conventions in the fields of justice and home affairs'No convention drawn up by the Council of the European Communities under Article K.3.2.(c) of the Treaty on European Union shall be adopted by the United Kingdom unless the decision to adopt the convention has been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons. '. New clause 38—Adoption of conventions in the field of justice and of home affairs'No convention drawn up by the Council of the European Communities under Articles K.3.2.(c) of the Treaty of European Union shall be adopted by the United Kingdom unless a draft of the proposed instrument of adoption has first been approved by Act of Parliament. '.

Mr. Shore

The Government are obviously in an accommodating mood, but I have not yet heard them say that they are prepared to accept new clause 2. No doubt a message will come to me encouraging me in my remarks. If the Government have a few manuscript amendments to make, I shall willingly accept them and we can then proceed.

We are all aware that there is much poison in the treaty. I would divide it into two sorts of poison. The first is the sort that we have just been discussing—the harsh, deflationary bias of the treaty and the appalling effect that it will have on a Europe which is already in deep recession. We have had discussions about what that means in terms of a European central bank, control of alleged excess deficits and the convergence criteria. I am talking not about that sort of poison, but about another sort—the transfer of powers and decision making from the people and Parliament, both of this country and of other countries in Europe, to European institutions.

Many transfers of power will take place under the Maastricht treaty. I refer not only to the extension of Community competence. Article 3, with its subclauses from (a) to (t), and the subsequent spelling out of what they mean, shows the vast number of our affairs that are to be handed over to the European Community. Those many new competencies include the introduction of a qualified majority vote which will take away any effective control that the House may exercise over its Ministers.

What does new clause 2 seek to achieve? It cannot deal with that which is already handed over in the Maastricht treaty, but it can at least put a brake upon the further transfers of power and competence which are envisaged in different parts of the treaty. We are seeking to make sure that the authority of an Act of Parliament would be needed before Ministers could accept further proposals to take powers and exercise them on a Community basis.

The House will agree that an Act of Parliament is necessary when I have given one or two illustrations. Before I do that, I want to say a word or two about new clause 4 in which we do not seek the authority of an Act of Parliament and are prepared to accept a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I refer to the provisions under foreign and security policy, where joint actions are envisaged.

As the House will remember, under the foreign and security policy which is far-reaching in its commitment and is the compass of the whole enterprise, there is provision for a common position and joint actions. Those joint actions could be of great importance. They could cover, for example, non-military sanctions and the recognition or non-recognition of states. When a common action is agreed, majority voting takes place within that range of matters dealt with by a joint action.

The new clause provides that when a joint action is proposed, before a Minister can assent to such a proposal he should first get the authority of both Houses of Parliment and a motion should come before both Houses for that purpose. That is my one illustration of an area where a resolution would be right. We have proposed a resolution rather than an Act of Parliament because we are all aware that in foreign policy matters events move fast and there is not always the luxury of dealing with matters within the time scale of an Act of Parliament.

Let me turn back to where we want the authority of an Act of Parliament. Many parts of the treaty are important. I refer first to the proposals dealing with citizenship. As the House may recall, under article 8e, the discussion of the rights of citizenship ends as follows: On this basis … the Council … on a proposal of the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may adopt provisions to strengthen or to add to the rights laid down in this Part, which it shall recommend to the Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. As those who have read new clause 2 will see, we wish to see the words, "respective constitutional requirements" interpreted as an Act of Parliament and by no other means.

Citizenship is clearly extremely important. The rights of citizenship under article 8 are a modest beginning, but here is envisaged the extension of the rights of citizenship. We consider that proposals for extending those rights should be brought before the House and proper legislative authority be given for them if they meet with our approval.

I shall give just two illustrations of what might be thought to be a problem arising out of the extension of the rights of citizenship. One is the totally unrestricted right of movement and residence which is already allowed for in article 8a but which could be extended by the removal of those remaining constraints under article 8a, which states that it should be subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in this Treaty and by the measures adopted to give it effect. People can otherwise move and reside freely throughout the Community.

The provisions go too far in any event and I have the strong feeling that there will be an attempt to expand them still further. As we know, voting rights are given to Community citizens wherever they may be so that they can take part in a local election and in a European Parliament election. That is already conceded under article 8c. I am willing to bet that the next step will be the right to take part in national elections. No such right should be extended without the proper consideration of the House, which should include full debate and full legislative proposals.

I have mentioned only rights so far. Article 8.2 provides: Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights conferred by this Treaty and shall be subject to the duties imposed thereby. The duties may be far less acceptable than the rights. We should keep a close watch on the duties and obligations that may be imposed on us.

Mr. Rowlands

What are they?

Mr. Shore

We have not yet had them defined. They are kept under wraps. A great deal of restraint is going on in the Community so that those who have not yet ratified the treaty are not frightened. There has been an almost Trappist vow of silence in the European Commission, which has been unusually quiet during these tense months of negotiation and debate.

Mr. Rowlands

My right hon. Friend kindly responded to my sedentary request about what the duties were. He said that we do not know yet. Will he tell us whether it is possible for the citizens of the union to renounce citizenship without renouncing national citizenship?

Mr. Shore

There appears to be no provision for any citizen to renounce European citizenship. It is imposed on people. The analogy that comes to my mind is the famous story of a Chinese general who baptised his army as Christians with a hosepipe. We are all being hosepiped with European citizenship and I do not find that at all attractive. It is important that we should retain the right to reject that imposed citizenship if we do not want it.

Mr. Spearing

My right hon. Friend tabled amendment No. 49, which was not selected, which might have given that democratic right. Does he agree that the word "rights" is ambiguous? Should not the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who has happily joined us, elucidate the word now or later? If the right of a citizen was extended, the adjudication of that right would take place centrally. Therefore, the power of the central authority, of the court or wherever would be extended, perhaps by an Act of Parliament. That also applies to the right of the Community over its citizens. Should not we, therefore, get some explanation from the Minister of State, unless he is happily able, as in previous debates, to say that he accepts the new clause?

Mr. Shore

If the Minister wishes to intervene, I shall give way. Evidently he does not.

The question of duties and rights is, again, an area that we have not properly explored, although we have had a number of days of debate. We have done our best to explore the many important issues that are crammed together in this now five-clause Bill, which refers to more than 200 pages of treaty text.

The same problem arises about the procedures for electing the European Parliament. Again, we find in article 108.3 the following: The European Parliament shall draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States. The Council shall, acting unanimously … which shall act by a majority of its component members, lay down the appropriate provisions, which it shall recommend to Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. I believe that our constitutional requirement should, once again, be an Act of Parliament. I do not believe that we should agree to changing, as may well be the case, our electoral system for election of Members of the European Parliament to a European generalised system if it is not a system of which we approve. What we must face straight away is the whole complicated argument about whether we should have a form of proportional representation, because that is the system that the European Community will undoubtedly adopt. Any such change, therefore, should be the subject of serious debate in the House before any consent was given.

11.45 pm

That is a second example which I think is important. There is another one which is probably the most important of all, and it is in the area of home affairs and justice. A number of articles are called in question here. Article 100c, hon. Members on both sides will recall, deals on the face of it with the rather narrow matter of possession of visas and refers to the fact that from 1 January 1996 decisions about whether to have visas in relation to other, third countries shall be made by a qualified majority vote on a proposal by the Commission. But more important than that and a little bit further down under the same article, paragraph 6 of 100c says: This Article shall apply to other areas if so decided pursuant to Article K.9 of the provisions of the Treaty on European Union which relate to co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs, subject to the voting conditions determined at the same time. So, inevitably and rightly, we turn to article K.9. What do we find there? After "The Council, acting unanimously", and so on, on the initiative of the Commission, we find: may decide to apply Article 100c of the Treaty establishing the European Community to action in areas referred to in Article K.1(1) to (6), and at the same time determine the relevant voting conditions relating to it. It shall recommend the Member States to adopt that decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Article K.1(1) to (6) deals with matters of enormous importance to the House. Section (1) deals with asylum policy. Section (2) deals with rules governing the crossing by persons of the external borders of the Member States and the exercise of controls thereon". We shall be faced with this still quite unresolved question of whether 200 or 300 Europeans, providing they wave a piece of purple cardboard, can come through a British port or airport without any further check. That has yet to be resolved, because the Commission takes one view and the Home Secretary, we hope, takes another, and the matter will presumably in the end be dealt with by the European Court of Justice. Anyway, here it is allowed specifically to come within a common policy in future and to be decided by qualified majority vote, because that is the essence of article 100c.

Section (3) of article K.1 concerns immigration policy and policy regarding nationals of third countries: (a) conditions of entry and movement by nationals of third countries on the territory of Member States; (b) conditions of residence by nationals of third countries on the territory of Member States, including family reunion and access to employment; (c) combatting unauthorisied immigration, residence and work by nationals of third countries on the territory of Member States". This is a huge and complex area and we have made many efforts in the past 30 or more years to devise immigration policies which, we hope, try to be fair and sensitive and to avoid racial discrimination in their application. I cannot say that we have always been successful, but that at least has been our purpose. I believe that any changes of this kind require an Act of Parliament and the most serious consideration by the House.

Paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of Article K.1 refer to combatting drug addiction in so far as this is not covered by 7 to 9; combatting fraud on an international scale in so far as this is not covered by 7 to 9; judicial co-operation in civil matters". These do not have quite the same dramatic impact as asylum, the removal of internal frontiers, and immigration policy, but any attempt to bring them under a common policy and to use majority voting procedures under this article should not be allowed without an Act of Parliament. We must insist on that, and that is what the new clause seeks to bring about.

Mr. George Robertson

The items that my right hon. Friend is discussing are certainly serious and important, and if any changes along these lines were made, Parliament would assume that they would be treated in a serious way. In building his case for the Bill to include a statutory requirement for an Act of Parliament on every occasion, however, can my right hon. Friend point to any examples of measures of similar importance being dealt with in the House in ways less serious than what he proposes?

Mr. Shore

Many important changes have been effected, but I would have to search my memory for any such examples during the 21 years since we signed the treaty of accession. Irrespective of whether there have been examples of developments of Community competence that have not been incorporated in Acts of Parliament, however, I maintain that the instances that I have cited, of occasions when we are invited to approve measures according to our own constitutional requirements, are important enough to require Acts of Parliament.

My hon. Friend may tell me not to worry, but there is no guarantee that such changes would appear in Acts of Parliament. They might be put into effect by means of a resolution, or we might just be told that they had happened and then receive a report from the Minister. I am trying to maintain an element of parliamentary control and accountability over and for what could be major extensions of the treaty or what could be other major decisions.

Mr. Hoon

Perhaps I may put in a different way the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). Although I agree about the serious nature of my right hon. Friend's illustrations, the difficulty is that none of his examples has led to Acts of Parliament. They have been dealt with in different ways under the United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements. Perhaps they will be dealt with differently under those arrangements in future, but I cannot see that the Maastricht treaty makes any difference to the situation. We may have our criticisms of our constitution, but it is not necessarily changed, in this context, by the treaty.

Mr. Shore

Those constitutional arrangements consist of Ministers signing accords or of Ministers doing whatever they want and then reporting back to Parliament. Alternatively, they may interpose, before making a decision, a parliamentary procedure. And there are only two parliamentary procedures: one is a motion of both Houses; the other is an Act of Parliament. I have already said that a motion or resolution would be right, for reasons of time and speed, in the area of common action under foreign policy. I am citing the other areas where I believe strongly that there should be an Act of Parliament. If my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton wants to argue against that, let him do so when the time comes.

Mr. Spearing

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only purpose of the interventions of our hon. Friends was to question the need for an Act of Parliament? [Interruption.] They shake their heads; I am relieved at that. If there is anything less than an Act of Parliament, surely there is a risk that the Executive will be stronger, perhaps by a single vote. In respect of the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), does my right hon. Friend recall that, when the original legislation was passed in 1972, there was no provision for an Act of Parliament to sanction any increase in the power of the European Parliament? That was imposed only at a time of direct elections. Clause 1(2) of the Bill refers to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978, and the powers of the European Parliament in the treaty can be agreed only by virtue of that part of the clause. Does not that make the case for my hon. Friend's amendment rather than the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton?

Mr. Shore

I hope that I am carrying my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton. I expect the support of the whole Labour party for new clause 2. I cannot see any reason why he should fail to give full support to that new clause. I hope that there will be support from hon. Members in other parts of the House who are concerned that we should retain proper control over further actions which would reduce the competence, the authority and the power of this Parliament.

Mr. George Robertson

I have listened with care to my right hon. Friend. As he knows only too well, I cannot make definitive judgments on the spur of the moment about what the Opposition Front Bench can support. My right hon. Friend keeps hoping that I will be changed as the spokesman; that is one of his many hopes. Lest he took the wrong message from my first intervention, which was a genuine request for information, he should not draw anything more than that from it. Again I ask a question. My right hon. Friend has thought about it a lot and he is building his argument.

Based on what my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) has just said, there is a variety of constitutional ways in which the House of Commons, the House of Lords, or Parliament, might decide to deal with these matters, and which would conform to national constitutional arrangements. Might not an order in this House be a preferable instrument to an Act of Parliament that would involve the other place in the process? We might not feel that it was appropriate for the other place always to be involved in a cumbersome procedure to deal with all the matters that my right hon. Friend has laid out.

Mr. Shore

Orders or motions of approval are alternatives to Acts of Parliament. I remind my hon. Friend once more of the issues that I illustrated: one, extensions of the rights and possibly the duties of citizenship; two, the procedures for election to the European Parliament; three, the very important areas of asylum, immigration and related matters which come under justice and home affairs. I cannot believe that he could find any reason why we should not have a full parliamentary procedure and not simply a debate, whether it is carried out in this House alone or in both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Bill Walker

I have been listening carefully because the right hon. Gentleman is getting into important areas that should properly be examined. Has he considered the rights and duties of the monarch of the United Kingdom? He will be aware that the monarch in Scotland is the Queen of Scots, not the Queen of Scotland. There is a substantial difference. The 1706 Act and the treaty of Union clearly spell out the position of the monarch and the monarch's heirs. [Interruption.] There is no point in hon. Members shaking their heads or laughing. That area could unravel this whole business. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the position of the monarch?

Mr. Shore

I confess that I have given that little consideration. My general objection to compulsory citizenship of the European union would become even more pointed if such citizenship were applied to the monarch who is also Head of the Commonwealth. Such compulsion would be absurd, and I am sure that that sentiment is widely shared.

My last illustration is important and relates to our constitutional procedures, the admission of new members to the European Community and the conditions under which they are allowed to join. Those issues should be subjected to serious debate and investigation before we allow a decision to be made on our behalf by the Community as a whole.

I have not attempted to identify in the treaty every conceivable instance of a constitutional procedure being allowed, but I think that I have identified most of them and I have certainly picked out the most important ones. I hope that we shall vote on the new clause and that I shall have the support not only of my Front-Bench colleagues but of hon. Members in all parts of the House. I shall be pleased if the Minister of State is as forthcoming in dealing with the new clause as he has been in dealing with all the other amendments that have been moved.

12 midnight

Mr. Garel-Jones

I regret that I shall have to disappoint the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) who, unusually for him, has moved a wrecking amendment. We are debating a House of Commons matter and I do not disguise the fact that the new clause is a wrecking amendment.

Mr. Shore

The right hon. Gentlemen well knows, because he has been rebuked about it, that he cannot describe an amendment that has been allowed by the Chair as a wrecking amendment.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I accept that. By definition, any amendment selected by the Chair is not a wrecking amendment because it is in order. In case you thought that I was being disrespectful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should say that in my terms a wrecking amendment is one that would render the Government incapable of ratifying. The new clause and the other clauses and amendments that are grouped with it call for some sort of specific domestic procedure by which the House should register its approval of various activities carried out under the Maastricht treaty. I hope to demonstrate that not only in the specific matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is the new clause unnecessary, but that for reasons related to the traditional way in which the House organises its business it would be extremely unwise to include in an Act of Parliament the kind of procedural devices that the right hon. Gentleman seeks.

New clause 2 provides that where decisions taken by the Council, acting unanimously, are to be adopted by member states, in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements, an Act of Parliament shall be the constitutional requirement in the United Kingdom. It has been the practice that substantive changes brought about by the decision of the Council—for example, in relation to articles 138 on European Parliament electoral procedure, 201 on own resources, 236 on treaty amendment and 237 on the admission of new members —are covered by an Act of Parliament.

I can give the House some examples of that. There were accession Acts for Greece, Spain and Portugal. The European Communities (Finance) Act 1988 gave effect to the own resources decision. The House judged, that. in order to meet our constitutional requirements, such measures required an Act of Parliament. Similarly, an Act is likely to be the most appropriate method to give domestic legal effect in United Kingdom law to any substantive changes brought about under article 18. The right hon. Gentleman referred to additions to the citizenship rights. Article K.9 deals with transfers into United Kingdom competence.

I remember having an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who is not in his place but is in the House. I hope that those who have taken what one might generically call a sceptical view about the Government's wish to ratify the Maastricht treaty might be able, when new clauses and amendments such as this are moved, to step back from their opposition and to consider it as a House of Commons matter. I do not think that the House would wish, on reflection, to pre-empt the possibility of using a parliamentary procedure other than an Act of Parliament, as would be the case if the new clause were accepted. It may be that there could be a less significant substantial change for which the House might feel that an order under section 1(3) of the European Communities Act 1972 would be entirely appropriate.

Mr. Spearing

Is the Minister saying that it is not within the option—I use that word carefully—of the House to determine the way in which the House, rather than the Government, determines its own United Kingdom constitutional arrangements for implementing those changes in the treaty? If he does not accept the new clause, he is saying that it is in the hands of the majority of the Administration of the day to choose whether it is done with an order under section 1(3), an hour and a half after 10 o'clock if one is lucky, or some other procedure. Why cannot it be, in principle, in the Bill?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am not saying that. I shall be dealing with those specific points later. The hon. Gentleman is rightly held in high regard in the House for the interest and the assiduity with which he attends not just European Community business but all business. I am astonished that his commitment to wrecking the Maastricht treaty is so strong that he is prepared, in a House of Commons matter, to write into an EC Act of Parliament the procedures of the House, to subject the House to the scrutiny of another place on matters that are our own procedures. He is well aware that the way that the House of Commons operates in procedure—I know that the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) will confirm this—is not on the basis of the Executive, whatever kind of majority it has, being able, in matters of procedure such as this, to ride roughshod over the wishes of the official Opposition or of the House as a whole. The hon. Gentleman knows that to be the case.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I want to make a little more progress. I shall return more specifically to that point and if the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene again I shall give way to him.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney also touched on new clause 4. It requires the Government to obtain approval in a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament before a Minister agrees to joint action. My contention—I hope that the House will accept this—is that there is no need for this new clause. I shall explain why.

The common foreign and security policy, including joint action, builds, as the House is well aware, on the close co-operation already established under European political co-operation through the Single European Act. Many actions taken under European political co-operation would fit the joint action criteria. It is certainly the Government's position that the best interests of the United Kingdom lie in co-operating with our partners on foreign policy issues to achieve a co-ordinated approach.

As in other areas of foreign policy, considerations of confidentiality and speed are vital to the effectiveness of policy. It would not be appropriate or effective to require the Government to seek parliamentary approval for each decision. In the past 10 days we have had the example of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The House was concerned and representations were made by the official Opposition and by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Of course, in such circumstances the Foreign Secretary needs to come to the House and to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to give account of himself and the Government's actions in that matter to the House.

I assure the House that all major decisions under the common foreign and security policy will be taken by unanimity, including any decision on whether to use qualified majority voting on some procedural decisions on joint action. The Government would certainly not agree to any policy that they regarded as inimical to the United Kingdom's national interests. If hon. Members step back from the controversies that surround the treaty, they will accept that this Administration have not been criticised for not being willing to make statements to the House and appearances before the appropriate Select Committee.

Mr. Shore

I am not entirely convinced, because the nearest thing that we have had to a joint action, a common foreign policy, in Europe in recent years is the recognition of the various republics that once formed Yugoslavia. I strongly believe that the House would have benefited greatly from a debate before the Foreign Secretary agreed to that decision.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I do not agree. There have been a range of decisions under European political co-operation which would fit into the joint action criteria.

New clause 19, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), and new clause 38, in the name of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney, refer to parliamentary approval for conventions drawn up under the justice and home affairs pillar. Paragraph 2(c) of article K.3, to which the new clauses refer, already requires such conventions to be recommended for adoption by the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. In other words, such conventions will acquire a kind of ratification by member states.

In the United Kingdom, the position will vary in accordance with well-established practice according to whether the convention requires any change in United Kingdom law before it can be given effect. If it did, Parliament's approval of the legislation would be required before ratification. If it did not, the Ponsonby rule would apply and there would be the usual opportunities for debate. There is no need to treat international conventions drawn up under paragraph 2(c) of article K.3 any differently from those concluded elsewhere—such as in the United Nations.

I understand the wish of the right hon. Gentleman and of other right hon. and hon. Members to examine proposals, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the House will be kept fully informed, as it is under our existing scrutiny procedures. As I explained in Committee, it is essentially a matter of how the House arranges its own procedures for scrutinising Community business. It is a question of domestic housekeeping for the House and wholly inappropriate for enshrinement in an Act of Parliament, as the amendments seek.

12.15 am
Mr. Rowlands

The Minister's whole case is that these procedures are a continuation of European co-operation. Will he confirm that there was no suggestion that European co-operation of the kind that we have known would be subject to any form of qualified majority? Will he further confirm that a contentious decision—such as the recognition of a future Croatia—would only be reached by unanimity and would never be subject to a qualified majority process?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I made it clear that the decisions to move to qualified majority voting can be taken only by unanimity—and even then will only be for a limited period. It goes without saying that no United Kingdom Government of any political colour would agree to matters that we would regard as being of great consequences or which had a significant effect on our national interest being decided by qualified majority voting. I can give that commitment on behalf of not just this Administration but, I believe, any future Administrations.

I have tried to show that any changes under articles 138, 236, 237, and so on, would in any event be covered by an Act of Parliament. In Committee, I touched on the general point that it has not been the practice of the House to embody parliamentary procedures in legislation.

Mr. Spearing

This is not a procedure.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Perhaps I may continue. Procedures laid down in statute are, by definition, inflexible. If these procedures were found to be deficient in any way or in need of fine tuning, we would require additional legislation to make the necessary changes, however minor they might be.

That has two implications, which I ask the House to consider carefully. Changing an Act of Parliament by statute is a relatively slow process. It would eat away at parliamentary time that could be devoted to other purposes. Also, altering an Act of Parliament requires the consent of the House of Lords. I mean no disrespect to the other place in pointing out that the effect would be to surrender in some sense control over the internal procedures of this House to the other place.

I will give the House a good example of that. The existing scrutiny procedures of this House have proven themselves flexible to meet challenges in the past, and I believe that they will meet our new requirements. As I reminded the Committee, the 1990 review of scrutiny arrangements gave rise to two particularly significant developments. The six-monthly debates on European Community developments were made more forward looking than in the past, and the two European Standing Committees were established.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—whom no right hon. or hon. Member would describe as a Euro-enthusiast but who is a member of European Standing Committee A—spoke well of the kind of scrutiny of EC directives that is undertaken in the European Standing Committees. She clearly thought—and I share her view—that the work done by those Committees was useful to the House.

The Procedure Committee's review in December 1991 of the first session of the new Standing Committees led to some minor changes. Hon. Members should note that, were these procedures enshrined in an Act of Parliament, even such minor changes would have required statutory backing. The new clause strikes me as a way of fettering the House's freedom of manoeuvre—as a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend suggests that he is concerned about tying the hands of the House. It seems more likely that he is concerned about tying the hands of the Whips and the Government's business managers. He said that we should not enshrine in legislation the way in which the House should deal with some future events arising from the European Community, but we are doing that in the Bill by saying that the single currency must be subject to an Act of Parliament.

The new clause seeks to add two other aspects. It does not apply to all Community legislation, but it seeks to add "changes in voting procedure" and circumstances in which a decision is made after assent by member states and in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements". It is suggested that that assent should also be by Act of Parliament. There is no difference between such matters being decided by Act of Parliament, and the single currency being decided by Act of Parliament.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Let me correct my hon. Friend. I think that clause 3 specifies that if the conditions were ever to pertain for Britain to consider going into a single currency, the matter must be debated in the House first. The essential point that he misses, however, is that a range of weapons is available to the House of Commons, allowing it to scrutinise the way in which Community business is handled.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend was present for the beginning of my speech, but a substantial part of the business would in any event be handled by Act of Parliament. I gave a number of examples of decisions taken in Council in which what we in the House would regard as constitutional requirements in the United Kingdom would involve an Act of Parliament. Certainly, any decisions made under the provisions for intergovernmental co-operation in the justice and home affairs pillar that would change the law in the United Kingdom would require an Act of Parliament; but a number of other decisions may not require an Act of Parliament. The House may need to scrutinise those in a different way.

For all my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North and I know, in the coming years—as the House becomes more accustomed to dealing with Community business—it may wish to elaborate on the Standing Committees that have already been set up, which give it additional powers. One of the beauties of the House of Commons is its flexibility in this regard—its ability to scrutinise, and to call Ministers in for statements and debates.

I assure my hon. Friend that the Executive has substantial powers in the House; but, as someone who has spent quite some time working in the usual channels, I know that it is simply not possible to run the British Parliament if the Executive believes that it can trample over the Opposition's rights—and, indeed, the sentiment and the will of the House. That is part of the mix that goes into running the House.

Mr. Shore

The right hon. Gentleman says that it has not been the habit of this House to legislate on its own procedures and that the new clause would curtail the freedom of the House. When I hear remarks like that, I think that I am standing on my head. We are considering legislating on our own procedures precisely because it was never the habit of this Parliament, before the past 20 years, to hand over its powers to agencies outside its control and to submit itself to their superior authority and to treaty law. That is the essence of the difference. The purpose of my new clause is to impose stricter parliamentary control over any further transfer of powers. That, surely, the Minister understands.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Of course I understand that, but, with the greatest respect, the real position of the right hon. Gentleman—it is a perfectly respectable one, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) was prepared to resign from the Administration on account of it, which was not a light decision to take—is that he has never accepted the treaty of Rome. As he says, for 20 years or more, a parliamentary practice has built up. I maintain that the scrutiny requirements and procedures of the House will almost certainly need to be reviewed—in particular, the examination of activity under the two intergovernmental pillars—at an appropriate time, not just through the usual channels but by the Select Committee on Home Affairs. The House, in its own way, will grope its way towards what it considers to be the right and appropriate procedure for keeping a check on Ministers.

For the reasons I have given, I do not believe that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill is a suitable vehicle for changing the scrutiny arrangements of the House.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend corrected me. Can I try to correct my right hon. Friend? If I am incorrect, he can correct me again. My right hon. Friend said, with regard to the single currency, that it was not necessary to have an Act of Parliament. I think that he referred to clause 3 of the Bill. However, clause 2 says that No notification shall be given to the Council of the European Communities that the United Kingdom intends to move to the third stage … unless a draft of the notification has first been approved by Act of Parliament".

Mr. Garel-Jones

I stand corrected. My hon. Friend is right.

Mr. Spearing

To use the Minister's words, we are now about to grope, are we not? Does he not make the distinction, which we make, between report and scrutiny on the one hand and control on the other? We are talking about parliamentary control, not all the other issues that the Minister mentioned. Can he help me to determine whether I am mistaken, or whether he is ignorant, or whether he is trying to deceive the House? One of those three must, I think, be right.

About 10 minutes ago, the Minister said that it is not the practice of the House to lay down what procedures shall be found within an Act, but surely he agrees that Acts of Parliament abound with requirements for reports and with requirements for statutory instruments—whether it be an ordinary order, an order that is subject to the negative procedure or an order that requires resolution —to be made by Ministers to achieve a certain purpose. That happens thousands of times in Acts of Parliament. Why should we not say that we do not want a resolution, we want an Act of Parliament?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The answer to those three questions is that there is a fourth question. The hon. Gentleman deceives himself. It is a matter of judgment for the House. It is not a question of the different views that are held about the merits of the Maastricht treaty. I believe that the flexibility that the House has to change and alter its procedures will be needed by the House in the years to come as the functioning of the treaty on European union gets under way.

As I said in Committee, I am sure that the irony of the situation would not be lost on the House were any of the new clauses to be accepted because our procedure would then effectively be regulated by a piece of European legislation, which is not a happy prospect for those of us anxious to preserve the House's position.

12.30 am
Mr. Spearing

I shall take up the Minister's point straight away. He claims that he will resist the new clause because it is anti-Parliament and something which will bind our successors in a way that they would not wish to be bound. He is nodding his head, but I think that he, not my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), is standing on his head.

Is the Minister afraid of an Act of Parliament which will affect any future Administration, not just the current one? We are talking about the next X number of years, as long as the treaty lasts. I thank the Minister for his initial statement and I agree that the debate is about the scrutiny of procedures and about control. At the beginning of his speech, the Minister properly said that, if the new clause were accepted, it would not affect ratification of the treaty in any way. As he rightly says, we are discussing House of Commons procedure.

In a homely term, the Minister said that we should not write into an Act how Parliament should operate in what he called a "housekeeping" capacity. I suggest that it was a slightly misleading term because our procedures in relation to housekeeping come under the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services), along with the way in which the buildings operate, the salaries and wages of staff and even our own returns. There is a great difference between the order of the House under the rules of procedure, which are neutral and which cross the whole range of activity, whether it be a question on foreign affairs or an Adjournment debate—the latter has brought down a Government before now—and what the Minister is now saying. The Minister is saying that he does not want any future Executive to be bound by the duty and need to bring an Act of Parliament. He says that it is a rigidity which will bind the House itself. Surely, the real binding is the binding of the Executive of the day.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I began my remarks by giving a list of instances in which, on past practice, it is well accepted that an Act of Parliament would be the constitutionally appropriate way for the House to give its assent. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) waggled one of those instances—changes in the electoral process for the European Parliament—before the House as a skeleton. I am saying that the new clause seeks to cast the net in such a way as to make it not only cumbersome but inconvenient for the House.

None of us is naive and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that under many of our procedures the usual channels have to dragoon hon. Members in to keep the debates going. Let us not deceive ourselves about what we would be shackling the House with. In matters of scrutiny, I believe that the two new Standing Committees have been successful. The House has the ability to build on them and will do so. I do not want that process to be inhibited by an Act of Parliament.

Mr. Spearing

I do not think that I misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. Just before I gave way, my charge was that the shackles were not on the House but on the Executive and Government of the day. With due respect, he has not answered that charge. Clearly, a requirement in the Bill for, say, a resolution or an affirmative order would mean a requirement on the Government.

As it happens, an Act of Parliament rather than a resolution is specified in the set of amendments. That shackle is stronger and bigger and it may be a more inconvenient and cumbersome instrument, but it is not in a different category; it is an obligation of the Administration of the day towards the House. Surely that is the essence of the matter.

Mr. Garel-Jones


Mr. Spearing

I shall give way in a moment, but first may I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that that is not a cut-and-dried issue? I shall reply to what he said to me before I give way again. He may say that in the past there has been an Act of Parliament for this, that or the other, but may I remind him of a certain famous occasion on which Lady Thatcher of Kesteven said that there would be an intergovernmental agreement to raise the financial contribution. Does the Minister remember how the Government got round the 1 per cent. arrangement? The money was topped up through an intergovernmental agreement outside the treaty. As the Minister said, an attempt was made to do that under section 1(3) of the European Communities Act 1972.

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) is in the Chamber, because I intend to talk about something that happened during his premiership, or just afterwards. Under section 1(3) of the 1972 Act a simple affirmative order in the House, which would have agreed the treaty, was tried. There was a challenge in the courts and a judicial review and a separate Act of Parliament—a Consolidated Fund Bill—had to be introduced instead of the order that the Government of the day tried to use.

I tell the Minister, therefore, that the practice is not a rigid one. One cannot always rely on custom and practice, unless the precedents are well built in. The example that I have given shows that the House had to go through the financial procedure of a Consolidated Fund Bill to agree to the payment out of the Consolidated Fund, because there was not an automatic Community obligation under the European Communities Act introduced by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.

Sir Teddy Taylor


Mr. Spearing

I shall give one more example before giving way again to the Minister.

Shortly after the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup ceased to be Prime Minister there was a debate when he was in opposition and my right hon. and hon. Friends and I were in government. A statutory instrument was introduced under section 1(3) of the European Communities Act, designating five or six treaties—they made quite a high pile—as Community treaties. One of those treaties altered the arrangements of the European Parliament on non-obligatory expenditure and the way in which the tennis match took place vis-á-vis the Council of Ministers. That effectively altered the treaty of Rome by way of a statutory instrument that did not even mention the treaty. The amendment to the treaty was contained in a schedule to the order. That is how the Community has been able to deal with legislation and obligations in the past, by a subterranean method; perhaps that will happen again in the future.

To ensure that there is proper control of the House, as opposed to reportage and scrutiny, which is a different function and can bring about only a certain amount of visibility, there has to be an Act of Parliament. No Government, including the present Government, should try to suggest that we demote that method in favour of some other way, as yet undefined. The Minister has not said that he thinks that a statutory instrument resolution would be better. The method could involve section 1(3) or any one of all sorts of other means. So the Minister is using subterranean tactics, which are too flexible for comfort in this highly charged and vital matter of public control. Does the Minister wish me to give way to him now?

Mr. Garel-Jones

indicated dissent.

Sir Teddy Taylor

After our experience involving merchant shipping and the Spanish fishermen, is not it rather silly to try to pretend that Acts of Parliament passed by the House can any longer give rights to the people of Britain? In connection with what the Minister said about article K, if there were an agreement by unanimity that we should, for example, allow the entry of 100,000 people from eastern Europe, and if that required parliamentary legislation and the House rejected that legislation, would the rights disappear? Would the 100,000 people from eastern Europe have no rights, simply because the Houses of Parliament had turned the legislation down? After all the Acts that we have passed and all the treaties that we have agreed, is it not bogus nonsense to pretend that Acts of Parliament can afford any protection now, when they can be overturned by European agreements interpreted by the European Court?

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman tempts me down a road that I do not wish to travel because for once the Minister and I agree that the matter relates to parliamentary procedure. I should be adducing the same argument if I were on the Government Benches, even if I were in favour of the Bill.

What the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) says may or may not be true, but it is clear from the Minister's remarks that citizens of the United Kingdom are being deprived of the right to peruse a parliamentary measure that has been published and put on the Table and on which there must be a Second Reading, Committee stage, Third Reading and perhaps a Report stage in another place. They are being deprived of the opportunity to know what is being done in their name by their representatives as a result of the sort of decision that the Minister is taking today. In that respect, he is not only taking away power from the people and this House, but at the same time is reducing visibility.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The House knows that, even if the hon. Gentleman were on these Benches, he would be arguing the same case with the same vehemence. I shall not labour the point further, but his problem is that he has never accepted the treaty of Rome.

The hon. Gentleman might have reminded the House that the judicial review to which he referred was won by the Government of the day and that that Government chose afterwards to proceed by way of an Act. There should be choice in such matters, with the right legislative method being adopted in each case.

There being many experienced hon. Members present, I need not labour the point that the hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that section 1(3) orders were a kind of pushover. In fact, they require affirmative resolutions in both Houses. The hon. Gentleman is slightly spinning the ball in the wrong direction on that matter.

Mr. Spearing

I agree that that judicial review was lost by the person who brought it, now deceased. But is the Minister really saying that if that had not been challenged in the courts, the Government would have produced an Act? Of course not. The order in question was printed and laid. Was not it legitimate for a citizen of this country to bring the matter into the open? I agree that the Government of the day, perhaps using their wise discretion, took a certain course. Even the present Government occasionally wander into the area of wise discretions, as they did earlier today when they accepted some amendments.

The Conservative Government under the previous premiership may not have been too good at doing that. They did not see some of the rocks ahead. But the present Government are more sapient in that respect. Why should the citizen be denied the opportunity to erect warning lights, even by taking court action? The fact that the Minister reminds us that the case was lost, and that the Government took some notice of it, reinforces my point.

The Minister claims that statutory instruments are no pushover. I accept that on occasions they may not be, but he knows from his experience of many years in office that on certain days, when business is light after the main debate and an instrument comes up after 10 o'clock, it is not difficult to get through important abstruse matters after a one and a half hour debate. As for visibility, a statutory instrument does not have the visibility of a Bill.

I reinforce the important points made my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney relating to new clause 4 and foreign and security policy. I want the Minister of State to comment on that subject as I do not understand it. People think that I have read the treaty many times, but I am mystified by the specific sequence of events. It is important because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney said, we have recently expressed a unanimous decision on Croatia—on which there were various views that I shall not adumbrate.

12.45 am

Article J.3 states: 1. Whenever the Council decides on the principle of joint action, it shall lay down the specific scope, the Union's general and specific objectives in carrying out such action, if necessary its duration, and the means, procedures and conditions for its implementation. 2. The Council shall, when adopting the joint action and at any stage during its development, define those matters on which decisions are to be taken by a qualified majority. Where the Council is required to act by a qualified majority pursuant to the preceding subparagraph, the votes of its members shall be weighted in accordance with Article 148(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community, and for their adoption, acts of the Council shall require at least fifty-four votes in favour, cast by at least eight members. I am puzzled about the stage at which there is a change of gear. The Council—I presume, the Foreign Affairs Council—is simultaneously acting in various dimensions. It is dealing with scope, general objectives, specific objectives, duration, means, procedures and conditions for implementation. The treaty states that the Council shall when adopting the joint action"— presumably in the process of deciding to do so— and at any stage during its development"— foreign affairs certainly develop define those matters on which decisions are to be taken by a qualified majority. It does not state which form of voting will be used to do so. It does not state whether the voting will have to be unanimous. The treaty is a difficult one to read and no doubt somewhere within it—the article may be at the fingertips of the Minister of State, who may be present in the Council where the voting is being held—is the procedure to be followed when decisions are being taken on whether to move from common action to that requiring a qualified majority vote. Perhaps such a move would require a unanimous vote. A well-laid-out treaty should state the means by which that decision is made.

Therefore, I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney. It would be for the benefit of the country and the House to know if, when that change of gear takes place, subsequent assent is needed to a policy that is to be a common policy. There have been difficulties in Europe—in former Yugoslavia—and we can imagine problems anywhere in the world to which the procedure would apply. We can imagine it being applied to problems that we have experienced in the past two or three years. What would happen within the joint Council when the matter is decided by a qualified majority vote? How would the House retain its influence and control? At present, on anything that is tabled in co-operation or unanimity, the House can have an Adjournment debate and the supporters can chunter away in the Members' Lobby, the Tea Room, or by letter or deputation, and tell the Foreign Secretary what they are willing to tolerate. They have probably been doing that over recent events. The Government know that they must keep within those lines —that is the hidden force of Members of Parliament.

However, if the matter is decided on qualified majority voting, the Minister can bargain. We know what happens in the European Community—there is package bargaining in the Council. If a matter is to be decided by qualified majority voting, one decision is offset against another. That is done in the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which is—and always was—part of the treaty. One of the functions of that Committee, which is not often mentioned in the House and about which I know a little, is that of a sort of bargaining place where one makes a minor concession to gain what one considers to be a major concession. It is, in a sense, a policy market and it has a currency. If I am wrong, the Minister will correct me. Perhaps he will clarify two points. First, on change of gear, how and by what method is it achieved? Secondly, although we are not voting on it as unfortunately it has not been selected, in those circumstances, why should not the House control that Minister, who might well be outvoted anyway, by resolution rather than by general debate and what passes for scrutiny?

Mr. Garel-Jones

In passing, let me ask the hon. Gentleman a question. Were it appropriate, would he like to see similar controls over decisions taken by unanimity in the Security Council of the United Nations, or is it just the Community that he finds offensive? Unanimity is the general rule for common and security policy as set out in article J.8(2): The Council shall act unanimously, except for procedural questions and in the case referred to in Article j.3(2). That means that any decisions to use qualified voting will be taken by unanimity.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification and simply express the thought that it might have been better drafted by putting it in a different place in the treaty. However, we are relieved to know that that is so.

The Minister asked me a personal question about the Security Council, but I do not consider it to be comparable. The United Nations, which many of us heavily support, is an international organisation in which individual nations get together and fulfil their roles, co-operating where they can and, one hopes, all the time, but our Foreign Secretary and our Prime Minister speak for the United Kingdom.

The treaty will require a certain amount of harmonisation even in the United Nations, as in every international forum, and that will blunt the originality in foreign affairs for which the United Kingdom is known. Be that as it may, I would answer the Minister's question by saying that it is a different matter. In many foreign policy matters, we will have a common policy, some of which may be subject to qualified majority voting. It is entirely different.

I know that the Secretary of State has said in that beautiful way of his—he is very skilled—"But this is nothing more than we have at the moment. We have it under title 3 of the Single European Act. We have come together under political co-operation; we shall have a few more political directives and hot it up a bit, but it is only putting into treaty form what we already have." However, it is not. What we have at the moment is co-operation, or so we are told by the Foreign Secretary, in which any member state is free to say, "I am sorry, but we cannot go along with that," and they exercise their common judgment.

As the Minister said, states do not have to come to a common view on anything. However, there is pressure in article J to reach a common view and a presumption that, where possible, we shall come to a common foreign policy. I am glad that the Minister is nodding in agreement. The presumption to come to that common view is stronger than the desirability in the Single European Act. The Minister now shakes his head, but any reading of the treaty comparing the two groups of articles would suggest that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stephney referred to Croatia. May I refer the Minister to the Foreign Secretary's words in one of the last debates in Committee? When tackled on the matter, he said that it was perfectly true that the Germans were changed in their view on the recognition of Croatia. He said that if it had not been for the necessity for a common decision, the Germans would have recognised Croatia earlier than was the case. He then said that the United Kingdom would have recognised Croatia some time earlier than was the case. I do not have the exact words, but I know that they were something of that kind. The Foreign Secretary did not say how much sooner the United Kingdom would have recognised Croatia. We are now in a different ballgame altogether and I am surprised that the Minister denies that.

Mr. Garel-Jones

In the United Nations, an organisation that the hon. Gentleman and I strongly support, the United Kingdom seeks, along with other members of the Security Council, to arrive, whenever it can, at consensus and unanimous decisions. The hon. Gentleman, I and most hon. Members regard such international cooperation as a good thing. It is, of course, true that in the context of the United Nations, the United Kingdom sometimes makes concessions and sometimes makes changes to its policy to arrive at international agreement. The hon. Gentleman approves of that. I do not understand why he does not approve of similar efforts to co-operate with other nation states in a European context. I believe that the reasons is that the hon. Gentleman has never accepted either the treaty of Rome or Britain's membership of the Community, and that he is obsessed about those matters.

Mr. Spearing

One may not go along with a particular Act, perhaps because one is in opposition. The Minister was not here when his party was in opposition. Is he saying that, just because a certain Government are in power and because certain Acts of Parliament are enshrined in the law of the state, one must go along with those laws? Of course, one must obey them. Is the Minister saying that one must stop arguing against them or saying that they are wrong in principle? Even his hon. Friends said, time after time, that the poll tax was wrong in principle. Is the Minister denying their right to say that?

Mr. Garel-Jones

indicated dissent.

Mr. Spearing

The Minister says no. What difference is there between the right of hon. Members to dissent from an Act of Parliament or a policy imposed by one Government and their right, in a measured, logical, careful and accurate way, to dissent from a change in the constitution of this land?

Mr. Gard-Jones

I do not dispute the hon. Gentleman's right to dissent. It is already well established that qualified majority voting can be agreed to only by unanimity. I am making a genuine effort to understand why the lion. Gentleman finds co-operation between member states in the United Nations so laudable and why he finds similar efforts to co-operate with member states in the European context so offensive.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The debate is straying somewhat beyond the group of new clauses. May we get back to the new clauses, please?

Mr. Spearing

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am referring to new clause 4 which relates to the lack of a resolution on a single foreign policy. There is a great difference between co-operation between nations that are members of the United Nations and the position of members of the Community which are bound together by much more than co-operation. They are bound together by a structure of authority.

To return to the main question of the debate, we are debating the question of by what authority changes in the structure of that authority are made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney made a powerful case for the House agreeing to or not agreeing to those changes by Act of Parliament. The Minister, in his speech and in his interventions, has dissembled on that point by saying that the House must retain flexibility.

I put it to him that what he wishes to retain is not the power of the House, but the power of any Government of the day to get round what otherwise might be the proper procedures of the House in relation to treaty changes, changes that should be made only by Act of Parliament in the full procedure of those Acts, so that the British public knows what is going on and hon. Members have the maximum opportunity to control the Government of the day.

1 am

Mr. George Robertson

I rise to contribute briefly to this interesting debate. I do not intend to take the time of the House to deal with the new clauses which have not been selected; that will be a mercy to the House as well as to me. I would, however, like to comment on new clause 2, the Second Reading of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) moved and which I think he will accept is the most important of the new clauses in this group.

There is considerable difficulty for the House, for those of us who are interested and those of us who are obliged to be interested, when Madam Speaker makes a selection for the debate ahead of us at 12 noon, because it is hard to give attention to the detail in the new clauses in the available time. So if my right hon. Friend thinks that his new clause has received inadequate attention and that perhaps I have come to it late in the day—or late in the morning, as it now is—he will not be surprised at what has happened, because we were both standing in the No Lobby at 12 noon today, waiting to see which of the large number of new clauses and amendments had been selected for debate by Madam Speaker.

The question before us this morning, therefore, is whether we should accept, or whether I should recommend to Labour Members that we support, my right hon. Friend's new clause 2 which would impose a requirement that in future, where there is any change in the voting procedure in the Council of Ministers or where the treaty prescribes that respective constitutional requirements be put in place, it can be done in this country only by Act of Parliament.

My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) have given a number of examples where they are afraid of significant changes taking place in the voting procedure or where it might well be circumvented or where an Act of Parliament procedure would not be involved. The Minister, however, has made it clear that in the case of the changes that would be required by article 8e and by article K.9 of the treaty an Act of Parliament would be involved. He has given that assurance to the House this evening, and it is now on the record.

The issue with which we must concern ourselves now, therefore, is whether the prescription that my right hon. Friend lays down in the new clause is appropriate in all other situations that might come up. The Minister has sought to persuade the House that we should not lay down procedures in an Act of Parliament that would bind the House in the future. He said so with some conviction but not necessarily with great persuasiveness. What we must decide is whether my right hon. Friend seeks to cover too many instances in too heavy-handed a fashion perhaps and whether, to borrow a phrase already employed by the Minister, we are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut—or several nuts.

I should like to come at my right hon. Friend from a different direction, however, briefly. I am not convinced —and when tomorrow he reads the Labour party's new policy document on Europe he will see a line of reasoning there—that an Act of Parliament is the most appropriate way for us to give proper scrutiny to the sort of measures that he put forward. In the past, I have shared his dissatisfaction with the way in which the House deals with EC business, and I have thought that we should strengthen our scrutiny procedures. The setting up of European Standing Committees A and B was due in part to pressure exerted by my Front-Bench colleagues and me, to make sure that some of this legislation was given more detailed attention.

Some of the policy documents quoted by my hon. Friends have suggested the creation of a European Grand Committee, in part composed of some of the Members who are here at this ungodly hour and who might more regularly and consistently look at general issues of policy connected with the European Community. All too infrequently do we debate some of the most weighty issues raised by my right hon. Friend this evening.

I have always believed that the Ponsonby procedures governing the ratification of treaties were inadequate. It seems crazy that the House may be asked, in Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, to give detailed consideration to the diplomatic immunity that will attach to inspectors who come under arms control treaties, but that it will have no opportunity to discuss the arms control treaties themselves. We may discuss the treaty on European union only because it requires changes in United Kingdom law. We were able to discuss the parts of the treaty that do not require such changes only because amendments were tabled, often by me, to include such parts of the treaty in our law.

There is an admirable case to be made for looking again at the way in which the House treats these matters. I believe, however, that the new clause is unduly prescriptive. It might be too burdensome if we demanded that the House pass an Act of Parliament each time these issues are considered. I believe that this ratification process is infinitely preferable to a referendum because, over a lengthy period, the House has been able to discuss the complex issues surrounding the treaty, often adding to the education of people inside and outside the House.

Sometimes, though, an Act of Parliament is not the best procedure. In the context of the new thinking which will have to be completed on how best to scrutinise European legislation, I fear that my right hon. Friend's new clause is both too demanding and too restrictive, and I cannot recommend that my hon. Friends support it in the Lobby this evening. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not press it to a Division at this stage.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 275.

Division No. 256] [1.08 am
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Livingstone, Ken
Barnes, Harry Lord, Michael
Bennett, Andrew F. McWilliam, John
Boyce, Jimmy Marlow, Tony
Budgen, Nicholas Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Cash, William Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Cohen, Harry Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cran, James Simpson, Alan
Cryer, Bob Skeet, Sir Trevor
Cunliffe, Lawrence Skinner, Dennis
Davidson, Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Gill, Christopher Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Graham, Thomas Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Wise, Audrey
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Wray, Jimmy
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Tellers for the Ayes:
Leighton, Ron Mr. Nigel Spearing and Mr. Ted Rowlands.
Lewis, Terry
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Beresford, Sir Paul
Aitken, Jonathan Blackburn, Dr John G.
Alexander, Richard Booth, Hartley
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Boswell, Tim
Amess, David Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Arbuthnot, James Bowden, Andrew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowis, John
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Brandreth, Gyles
Ashby, David Brazier, Julian
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) Burns, Simon
Baldry, Tony Burt, Alistair
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Butler, Peter
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Butterfill, John
Bates, Michael Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Batiste, Spencer Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Bellingham, Henry Carrington, Matthew
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hannam, Sir John
Chapman, Sydney Hargreaves, Andrew
Churchill, Mr Harris, David
Clappison, James Haselhurst, Alan
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hawkins, Nick
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hayes, Jerry
Coe, Sebastian Heald, Oliver
Colvin, Michael Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Congdon, David Heathcoat-Amory, David
Conway, Derek Hendry, Charles
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hicks, Robert
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cormack, Patrick Horam, John
Couchman, James Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Dafis, Cynog Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Day, Stephen Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Devlin, Tim Jack, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dorrell, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Duncan, Alan Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Kilfedder, Sir James
Elletson, Harold Kirkhope, Timothy
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Kirkwood, Archy
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knox, David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
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
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Freeman, Roger MacGregor, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Gale, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
Gallie, Phil Madel, David
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Maitland, Lady Olga
Garnier, Edward Malone, Gerald
Gillan, Cheryl Mans, Keith
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marland, Paul
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gorst, John Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Grylls, Sir Michael Merchant, Piers
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Milligan, Stephen
Hague, William Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Jeremy Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Moss, Malcolm Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Needham, Richard Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Nelson, Anthony Steen, Anthony
Neubert, Sir Michael Stephen, Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stern, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Streeter, Gary
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Sumberg, David
Norris, Steve Sykes, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Ottaway, Richard Temple-Morris, Peter
Page, Richard Thomason, Roy
Paice, James Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Patnick, Irvine Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Patten, Rt Hon John Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thurnham, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Pickles, Eric Tracey, Richard
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Tredinnick, David
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Trend, Michael
Powell, William (Corby) Trotter, Neville
Rathbone, Tim Twinn, Dr Ian
Redwood, John Tyler, Paul
Richards, Rod Viggers, Peter
Riddick, Graham Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Walden, George
Robathan, Andrew Wallace, James
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waller, Gary
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Ward, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Waterson, Nigel
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Watts, John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wells, Bowen
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Sackville, Tom Whitney, Ray
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shaw, David (Dover) Wigley, Dafydd
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Willetts, David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wilshire, David
Sims, Roger Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Yeo, Tim
Soames, Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Spencer, Sir Derek
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Tellers for the Noes:
Spink, Dr Robert Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Andrew Mackay.
Spring, Richard
Sproat, Iain

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

For the convenience of the House, let me make it clear that the Chair understands that new clause 22 has been withdrawn.

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