§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified].
§ [Relevant document: Second Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Session 1992–93 on Europe after Maastricht (House of Commons Paper No. 642).]
§ Madam Speaker
I remind hon. Members that between 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock I shall have to limit speeches to 10 minutes. I hope that all hon. Members, including Privy Councillors, who speak outside that period will limit their speeches so that as many Members as possible may be called.
§ 4.6 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A reasoned amendment has been tabled to the Third Reading and you did not say whether you had selected it. It is a useful amendment, which many people would support if there was an opportunity to vote on it.
§ Madam Speaker
I am well aware of the amendment and read it carefully a couple of times this morning. I thought that it said exactly what the hon. Member wanted to say and that perhaps he did not want to be called in the debate as he had expressed himself so well. I must tell the hon. Member that I have not been able to select his amendment.
§ Mr. Hurd
The House last debated the Bill as a whole almost a year ago on Second Reading and gave it a majority of 244. Since then the House has spent 204 hours of debate on the Bill. More than 600 amendments were tabled and the Committee stage took 163 hours during 23 days of detailed debate. So it would be fair to begin by congratulating those hon. Members who were most closely involved on all sides of the argument. Perhaps the House will allow me to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), for his diligence and—most of the time—for his good humour. I cannot tell, Madam Speaker, but I think that there is a sense of relief in some parts of the House that the ordeal is almost over and that, as the poet observed,even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea".I do not think that the House should be defensive about what has been a remarkable, although complicated, parliamentary endeavour. The Bill has grown from its original three clauses to eight, but without altering its central thrust. Its purpose remains to bring into United Kingdom law, where necessary, those parts of the treaty of Maastricht which give rise to Community rights and obligations.
I will mention again those amendments which deal with the social protocol and, in his reply, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will touch on those that deal with the economic and monetary aspects of the treaty.
382 The House has prepared itself more thoroughly than any other Parliament of the Community for the crucial vote tonight. Tonight we shall decide whether to approve the Bill and, through it, the treaty that the Government signed at Maastricht. That decision is with Parliament, not with the Government. The Government will not ratify the treaty unless Parliament passes the necessary legislation.
I know that there is a public perception problem. Most of the press—I shall not embroider the point, for it is a general one—have given up reporting debates in the House, although plenty of space is provided for interpretation, gossip and the odd colourful phrase. With the exception of radio, the media have chosen barely to exercise the right for which their predecessors had to fight very hard in the 18th and early 19th century—the right to report what is said and done in the House.
That is a pity. It is a pity on this occasion, too, because the quality of debate on the Bill has been generally high. Anyone, for example, who is interested, as many people are, in establishing what subsidiarity means, or how, for example, the new arrangements under the treaty for co-operation on foreign and security policy will work out, would be hard put to it to find better discussion of those issues anywhere than the one which now appears in the pages of Hansard, on both sides of the argument.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
Has it occurred to the Secretary of State that the radio and press have not reported these discussions because the public have had no role whatever to play in them? Anybody who has been to Denmark knows that the media there covered the debate extensively. The Maastricht treaty was made available, but in Britain, as the Government chose to keep the public out, there was perhaps no reason why the radio should explain what was going on.
§ Mr. Hurd
We have chosen to operate—and the House of Commons endorsed this in its vote on the referendum —as a parliamentary democracy. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently and ably set out his views in theory in public, in theory within earshot of his constituents, but in practice not, for the reason that I have given. Those who struggled in the late 18th and early 19th century for the right to report the proceedings of this House would feel, I think, that that is a pity.
In addition, we have had an excellent report on Europe from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which analyses the implications of the treaty. The House is obliged to the Select Committee for the work that it has done—not just this time, but on earlier occasions. It has also begun to look ahead, as we all should, to the agenda for 1996.
After this detailed scrutiny and preparation, the House stands ready to take its decision on the Bill and the treaty as a whole. The Danish people, as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said, voted decisively in a second referendum on Tuesday in favour of ratifying the treaty, as clarified and amplified by the agreement at Edinburgh. Despite some extraordinary forays from Britain by editors and other distinguished persons, designed to scare the pants off the Danes, the Danes refused to be scared in that way.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Is it the position now that if the Danes had said no, the Government and the other countries of Europe would have ganged up against them, as my right hon. Friend so effectively threatened the Danish people?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend is doing again what he has done throughout these proceedings—for example, on the European Court of Justice. He is putting words into people's mouths which were never uttered. I would refer my hon. Friend to what I actually said and to what the Prime Minister said subsequently. If the Danes had voted no, I should have spent most of yesterday in Rome with the Danish Minister and the other Ministers of the Community deciding and setting on track, I hope with the Danes, how the 12 members of the Community should react to that event. Fortunately, however, that was not so.
Nine of the other member states of the Community have used an exclusively parliamentary route to ratification, as we have. That is not because both they and we are, in some way, less democratic, but because that is the normal constitutional procedure for the approval of treaties in this country and in those other member states. The House considered the option of a referendum and decisively rejected it.
I shall not go over the argument again. Like others, it was a thorough and principled debate. We decided to do the job for which we were elected rather than to pass that job back to those who sent us here.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
My right hon. Friend is making an important point. Is he aware of a German poll, which was reported in The Guardian today, which showed that 83 per cent. of the German people wish to have a referendum on the proposed treaty on European union? How can it be said to be inimical to parliamentary democracy for this Parliament, or any other democratic Parliament, to set the question for a referendum and then to judge how the question is decided by the outcome of that referendum as expressed by the people? How is that against parliamentary principles?
§ Mr. Hurd
We argued that point at length in the House. I cannot remember whether my hon. Friend took part in the debate, but his argument was strongly put. The House came to the conclusion—I am sure rightly—that many people work very hard to elect Members precisely so that we should take decisions of this kind. Therefore, the House was right to follow exactly the line that was taken by my noble Friend Lady Thatcher, when we in the Conservative party voted exactly on those grounds of principle against having a referendum on Europe in 1975.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
The Secretary of State has said at least twice in the past few minutes that we do things differently from Common Market countries that have had referendums because we are a parliamentary democracy, in which we debate Bills differently. That has been the solid argument of the Government for refusing a referendum. Why is it that when a majority of hon. Members in this so-called parliamentary democracy decide to accept the social chapter, the Foreign Secretary says from the Dispatch Box, "I don't care how many people vote for it, we are going to ignore it"? In this tin-pot parliamentary democracy, the British people cannot have a referendum and if something is passed that the Government do not like they say, "Get stuffed."
§ Mr. Hurd
We have never accepted a proposal that would include the social chapter in the treaty or impose burdens on this country. I will come to that. The only time that the House voted on the substance of the matter, it rejected the social chapter on the reasoned amendment that was proposed by the Labour party.
§ Mr. Hurd
I want to get on, but if my hon. Friend interrupts me later I shall give way.
I want to look at the background of the wider scene of the discussion and the decision. The negotiations leading up to the treaty were launched at a time of tremendous change in Europe. They followed the liberation of central and eastern Europe and the peaceful reunification of Germany and during the negotiations the Soviet empire collapsed. It is no secret that we would have preferred to have waited for such events to settle and for the completion of the single market before setting out on the negotiations. The treaty that resulted is a genuine attempt to strengthen the framework for European co-operation in such a way as to reflect the importance of the Community in this new Europe.
We need to become more effective in promoting our shared interests in the world. We need to co-operate more effectively against crime and illegal immigration. We need to tackle shared environmental problems. We need to make the single market work effectively. Above all, we need, as Europeans, to tackle the main political and economic burden that is needed to buttress reform and democracy in the eastern part of the continent. The decision that we take tonight will obviously be important for us and for Europe.
I do not think that the treaty is constitutionally more radical or innovative than the Single European Act, which the House approved in 1986. It is not the blueprint for a European super-state. Of course, there are some significant figures who continue to believe that the Community should develop into a united states of Europe. Commissioner Bangemann, for example, is always anxious to share his thoughts with us and they are constantly picked up, especially by Conservative Members. There are others who share his views.
It does not require a shock-horror lead story on the front page of The Sunday Telegraph to reveal that the Belgian Prime Minister is a federalist. During the Maastricht negotiations the Dutch Government set out, in good faith, a centralised model for the treaty, with a single Executive and most co-operation made subject to the authority of the European Court of Justice. That model was unacceptable to us and was rejected by most of our partners. Instead, we agreed to proceed on the basis of the "pillar" structure, including intergovernmental co-operation, which is contained in the treaty and which the House has discussed for many hours.
The treaty is not the final word in the development of the Community. There will continue to be differing views in all member states, which is perfectly healthy. We must continue to argue our case strongly. But the treaty, in contrast to its predecessors, marks an advance for our approach. Others will continue to hold views that I regard as old-fashioned—for example, that the only respectable way forward for Europe is that of steady integration and centralisation. We believe differently and the public across 385 Europe increasingly express a different opinion, as does the treaty. The debate will continue; we should not be dismayed by it.
If we consider the hours of discussion in the House, we see that the Bill has been assailed by two main groups of critics.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Does the Foreign Secretary accept that those who want a federal set-up—be they abroad or the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—see the treaty as the basis for creating, in a short period, a centralised, federal state of Europe modelled very much on the United States of Europe? The third stage of the treaty contains powers that provide the basis for that vision. Why is not the Foreign Secretary as honest with the House as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup?
§ Mr. Hurd
We are both entirely honest in putting forward differing views on the future of Europe. Those who think in the way described by the hon. Gentleman will continue to argue their case as they are entitled to do—I have mentioned some of them by name. We shall continue to argue our case. I hope that I am making it clear that the sort of Europe for which we are arguing is theone that will exist and that will be based on the treaty that we are asking the House to enable us to ratify. The evidence to support my assertion is constantly piling up.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
Before the Foreign Secretary leaves the issue of the protocol and his great respect for parliamentary sovereignty, will he state whether there has ever been a time in the history of Parliament when the House of Commons has acted as it has over the protocol? It voted to show that it did not want taxpayers' money to be used for a particular purpose—to pay for the social chapter of the other 11 members—but, despite that clear vote on the protocol, the Government have said that they will use taxpayers' money for that purpose.
§ Mr. Hurd
We will use taxpayers' money in the legal ways for which provision is made. My hon. Friend makes a specific point about administrative expenses. I have discussed the matter with him on the Floor of the House and in correspondence on several occasions. He certainly knows how we intend to proceed if any administrative expenses are incurred as a result of the social protocol. Clearly, we must act in line with the provisions approved by the House under different Acts.
§ Mr. Hurd
No. I have not ignored my hon. Friend, although he seemed to think that I was going to do so earlier.
In the House, the Bill has been assailed by two groups of critics whose avowed objectives were incompatible, but who were prepared to make common cause from time to time to seek to damage the Government or the treaty. The Labour party has shown itself to be obsessed by just one aspect of the treaty, the social chapter. It knows that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could not have fulfilled the mandate given to him by the House had he signed the social chapter. It knows that almost every member state has now ratified the treaty containing the social protocol which excludes the United Kingdom from the effect of the agreement of the Eleven.
It knows that at the last election it put forward such corporatist policies, but was not elected. If it wants to pursue such policies it would be better for it to seek a mandate through the front door rather than try to smuggle in such policies through the back door. Our view remains unchanged. We believe that Britain and the Community as a whole will be better off without the damaging provisions of the social chapter. I shall briefly set out our case yet again.
At present, in social affairs and employment law, the treaty of Rome gives the Community specific power to legislate by qualified majority vote on minimum standards of health and safety for workers. If other action is suggested in the social sphere, it has to be on the basis of unanimity. The social agreement of the Eleven would extend the use of qualified majority voting to new areas, including working conditions, informing and consulting workers, and the equal treatment of men and women. If it had been adopted for the Community as a whole, it would have provided more scope for Community action to centralise policies in which, because of the strongly differing experiences and traditions of member states, we believe that the principle of subsidiarity should apply. I have been asked several times to specify.
We believe that a range of unwelcome legislation could be imposed on the British Parliament, including a compulsory model for worker consultation in British firms, a rigid framework for rules and conditions of employment, costly new restrictions on part-time workers, and the notion that, in sex discrimination cases, employers should in effect be considered guilty rather than innocent.
Furthermore, the trade unions are clearly watching the provisions of the social charter, which would allow Europe-wide deals between unions and employers' groups, which may or may not be representative, and for those deals to be transformed into Community law without United Kingdom Government or parliamentary involvement. In short, we believe and argue that the provisions could place in jeopardy many of the achievements of the past 14 years in freeing our labour market from restrictions that destroy jobs.
§ Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)
Will the Secretary of State explain why he believes that the social chapter would be so much more damaging to this country than other member states believe it would be to their economies? Will he join me in condemning the advertisements that have recently appeared in the German press, extolling the virtues of our low wages and low national insurance contributions and encouraging German firms to invest in this country on that basis? Why 387 is he equating us with third-world economies? Why will not he adopt the social chapter and allow our workers to have the same rights as others so that they can compete equally with other EC member states?
§ Mr. Hurd
We do not want our economy to suffer from the high costs that are causing such harm to the German economy at the moment. [Interruption.] Members of Labour's Front Bench are hopelessly out of date. If they were following the debate on the continent, they would know that the Commission, the Germans, the new French Government and many other people are concerned about European competitiveness and the high labour costs—wages plus other costs—which European employers are having to shoulder in comparison to those in the United States, Japan and Asian countries.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
If that is true—if Britain offers less protection to people at work, lower standards of safety and health at work and lower wages —why have other economies done so much better than ours?
§ Mr. Hurd
I would say, "Watch that space." That is not what is happening at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] We are emerging from recession more quickly than most commentators, and certainly the Opposition, expected. Part of the reason may be the fact that our labour market is organised not to put such extra burdens on employers.
In answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson), who said that we were isolated, I quote from a statement made on 3 May by Mr. Carlos Ferrer, the president of UNICE—the Union of Industrial and Employers Confederations of Furope—to Employment and Social Affairs Ministers. He set out a long series of criticisms and demands, which are summed up in the phrase that he used to the assembled Community Ministers:Please stop taking measures which unnecessarily destroy jobs.He is not an Englishman, but the head of the European employers' organisation, and he makes our point exactly.
§ Dr. Cunningham
But, in all of that, the head of the European Employers Federation never once asked the other 11 to withdraw from the social chapter.
§ Mr. Hurd
The European employers have been a little slow to realise what is afoot. I strongly advise right hon. and hon. Members to read what was said. The critique here—rather belatedly put forward, I agree, but very cogently argued—is exactly what Conservative Members have constantly urged and supplies the reason why we did not join the social chapter. We are adhering to that position and will continue to do so.
§ Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)
My right hon. Friend will be aware, as is the rest of the House, that we had encouraging news today about unemployment, which has now fallen for three months in succession. We are the only country in Europe in which unemployment is falling, much earlier in the economic cycle than expected. One reason for that, cited by many economists, is the flexibility that employers in this country have to hire people because they are not burdened with excessive, social regulations.
§ Mr. Hurd
No. I must get on, as I promised, to amendment No. 2.
Amendment No. 2 featured as amendment No. 27 in a previous life. I made the Government's position clear in the debate on 5 May. The effect of the amendment has been to add the social protocol to those parts of the Maastricht treaty—such as the intergovernmental pillars —that are not being incorporated into United Kingdom law because they do not need to be.
I come now to the point of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). The amendment does not—and its movers did not claim that it did—force the United Kingdom to accept the social chapter, although that was the excuse given for the efforts to delay ratification; nor does it delete the social protocol from the treaty. I will not repeat the arguments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, but we are confident of our legal ground, which has been explained to the House on a number of occasions.
§ Mr. Hurd
I will come to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.
Before I come to the critics on the Conservative Benches, I will deal with the general stance of the Labour party. It has, of course, altered constantly over the years. The Labour party has adopted as many positions as possible. In the early 1960s it opposed our membership of the Community; in the late 1960s it was in favour; in 1972 it was against; by 1974 it was in favour of someone else's taking the decision; by 1975 it was recommending a yes vote in the referendum; in 1981 it was back to opposing the Community as a capitalist plot—some hon. Members still believe that. I think that we are now in the parliamentary lifetime of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). In 1987 the Labour party was back in the pro-membership fold. In 1992, it claimed to support the Maastricht treaty—but it is a funny kind of support that we have had in the proceedings in the House. So the weathercock of the Labour party has turned and turned again.
Now the Labour party has reached a decision on how it will vote tonight. I do not know, of course; I only know what I have read, and I may be wrong—I hope that I am. The whole House is waiting for the decision of the Opposition Front Bench. Against this background of the weathercock, will Labour Members vote yes or will they vote no? What will be the intellectual climax of all these years, these decades of reflection and debate in the Labour party? It will not disappoint us; it has now come up with something new. Tired of yes, tired of no, Labour Members will abstain.
Some of us remember Mr. Frank Maguire, who, in 1979, for a fairly crucial vote, braved the perils of the Irish sea and came from Fermanagh and South Tyrone to abstain in person. There they are, the talent, the courage, 389 the massed firepower—the relatively massed firepower; all of 35 Labour Members are present—who have come here from all parts of the kingdom to abstain in person.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I thank the Foreign Secretary for giving way. I assure him that at least 60 Labour Members voted against the Bill on Second Reading and I am sure that they will vote against the Maastricht treaty again tonight, primarily because it takes away from national Parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community.
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman has made the transition in my speech easy. He believes that the Community is a bankers' ramp and a capitalist plot. Now I shall speak to those of my hon. Friends who are persuaded from time to time that the Community is a socialist conspiracy, or possibly even, as I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) has said, a communist plot. Let me move from one group of critics to another.
§ Mr. Hurd
No, I want to get on. I have given way to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) many times over the years and I have already given way to him once this afternoon.
The second group of critics are my right hon. and hon. Friends, so I should like to deal fairly and gently with the deep and genuine concerns felt by some of them. Their concerns are mainly about the existing Community, but they also fear that the treaty of Maastricht will make it worse. I believe that their fears of a lurch into a super-state are misguided. We share their concerns about aspects of Community life and ways in which the Community functions under the existing treaties. However, none of that would be cured by rejecting Maastricht—indeed, the opposite would happen. We believe Maastricht to be an improvement on the previous position. It is not a perfect treaty, but, as negotiated for this country, it will suit us well. As the continental commentators noticed at the time, it was largely settled on our terms.
Why do I say that? Because, as a result of the treaty, there will be a strengthened basis for co-operation in foreign policy and in fighting cross-frontier crime and illegal immigration. The two big new areas of work under the Maastricht treaty—foreign policy and the Home Office subjects of law and order—will be managed between national Governments accountable to national 390 Parliaments. The Commission will not enjoy a monopoly of initiative and the processes will not fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court.
In many parts of the world it makes sense for us to work together in foreign policy, because that way we are more likely to get results than if each of us goes our own way. For example, we cannot solve the different Yugoslav crises from outside and we all therefore feel frustrated and angry. However, although it has been imperfect, what good news there has been has been achieved through the process of European co-operation on foreign policy: creating a peace process and supporting the efforts of Lord Owen and Mr. Vance; imposing sanctions; providing the peacekeeping monitors and the humanitarian aid, and the European troops to escort it; and helping to contain the conflict.
That is not enough, which is why we have all continued to be frustrated and angry, but one thing is certain: the situation would have been much worse if the old states of Europe had divided, as they have done before, between client states in the Balkans. History has shown where that disintegration of European policy can lead.
§ Mr. Dykes
Does my right hon. Friend agree how striking and noteworthy it is that the three western European applicant countries, and perhaps Norway, too, have unanimously said that their keenness to join is enhanced and augmented by the Maastricht treaty? The treaty has increased their enthusiasm.
§ Mr. Marlow
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The Maastricht teaty is taking us towards a halfway house on the road to a European institution that would control defence and foreign policy. Will my right hon. Friend say that the Government will not agree at a later stage to defence and foreign policy coming within the ambit of European institutions?
§ Mr. Hurd
They do not. They exist as one of the pillars for co-operation. I am glad that after all the weeks of debate, my hon. Friend concedes that, because it has been much disputed by some of those who have worked with him.
I cannot say what will happen in 1996. I argued strongly and successfully against majority voting on foreign policy. I do not wish to commit this Government to what will happen in 1996 or thereafter. I simply speak of what is in the treaty today, where this whole area is firmly in the sphere of co-operation between Governments. Our special interests and responsibilities in this field are safeguarded —basic decisions on common foreign policy and security matters are by unanimity, the treaty takes account of our 391 distinct position as a permanent member of the Security Council and the position of NATO is preserved as the key to Europe's defence.
One of the most important innovations in the treaty is the principle of subsidiarity. The matter has been much debated in the House arid it lies at the heart of our view of how the Community should develop. It stems from an Anglo-German proposal. We put that case and argued it through and there it is in the treaty.
As enshrined in article 3b of the treaty, it means that three questions must be answered before Community legislation is put forward. Can the Community act, which is the question of competence, and it can act only when the treaties allow it to act; should the Community act; and how much should the Community do? That offers us the chance to arrest the centralising, harmonising tendency of which I have spoken. Under the treaty of Maastricht, that will become a legally binding provision of the treaty of Rome. Before that, and anticipating that, we have worked, as the House knows, to create it as a political fact.
§ Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the date of the paving debate—I have just been to the Library to check—265 regulations and directives are to come before the House from the EC? Shall we be doing a favour in our quest for reduced bureaucracy and red tape to vote for or against those regulations and directives?
§ Mr. Hurd
Some of them are required to put the single market into effect, while others are required for shared environmental purposes. The volume, the total, has substantially reduced because the Commission has been cutting its legislative proposals in response to subsidiarity, even before ratification of the Maastricht treaty. There are still some which we strongly object to and resist and we have our own proposals for scrapping existing legislation. That process—what I described as the political fact—is in being, even before the treaty is ratified, and we certainly want to carry it further.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. The hon. Member knows that if the Foreign Secretary does not give way, he must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Hurd
Thus the structure of the treaty, the concept of the pillars of inter-governmental co-operation and the concept of subsidiarity lie in prudence. There are others which I will not detail. We regard the tightening up of the definition of a number of areas of competence—the exclusion of harmonisation, the provision for the better enforcement of Community law, the increased accountability of the Commission and the confirmation of the role of the European Council—as steps forward.
We are clear that there would be lasting damage to British interests if, with ratification completed or in sight in 11 member states we were now to destroy the treaty. British reservations would not dissolve the desire of our partners to pursue the agenda at Maastricht. They would certainly seek to move ahead in some areas without us, 392 while our influence on other fronts—for example, the GATT talks, enlargement and the single market—would be put on to the margins. We would still be in the Community and in the single market, but our ability to promote and defend British interests would be diminished.
§ Mr. Shepherd
In all the debates to which my right hon. Friend referred—the 160 hours or more—we never returned to the first principle of democratic and accountable government. The profound rejection expressed by many people across Europe is based on their belief that it is not a democratic treaty. It contradicts government by and for the people, and so on. That is the fundamental objection. During all the hours of debate, the occupants of both Front Benches scrupulously moved aside from, and did not discuss, the issue of democratic and accountable government. This House is built on that. Why are the Government weighing more highly than democratic government the institutional arrangements that are profoundly anti-democratic?
§ Mr. Hurd
It is not anti-democratic to have a structure which puts emphasis in the new spheres of work on national Ministers co-operating together and being responsible, as I am, to national parliaments. There is nothing undemocratic about that.
There is nothing undemocratic in assessing and increasing the role of the European Parliament in monitoring the work of the Commission. So we have a Community which has both characteristics: the Community and Community institutions and the work between Governments. Both must be accountable, I agree with my hon. Friend, and that is what is in the treaty and that is what we have endlessly discussed. My hon. Friend is shutting his eyes to what is in the treaty because he wishes to haunt himself with what is not in the treaty.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for AldridgeBrownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who is the most eloquent of all the critics on this score, that we are not sufficiently confident in the way in which we look at the Community. In recent years, British ideas have been decisive in the construction of the single market, the development of co-operation on foreign policy and against terrorism through Trevi, in reforming the CAP, in limiting Community spending, in designing association agreements with the countries of central and eastern Europe, in championing subsidiarity and in securing agreement to enlargement.
That has been formidable progress, yet too many people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills and others, still believe the Community to be in some way a conspiracy by wily and over-clever foreigners to outwit us. That is not how the rest of Europe sees it. As it happens, and without any leading from me, one European Foreign Minister told me this week that, having thought about it, he thought that 40 per cent. of the intellectual content of the Community today owed its origin to my noble Friend Lady Thatcher—[Interruption.] I know that, for more than one reason, these are perilous waters, but I am simply reporting what an intelligent observer, reflecting on subsidiarity, on the single market and on the British rebate, had to say.
393 In the next few years, the Community has a huge programme of work. I am thinking of GATT, enlargement and help in reforming the east of our continent. Beyond that, in 1996, there will be a further intergovernmental conference to review the treaties. The Maastricht treaty does not prejudge that review. We intend that at that conference British ideas should enrich the agenda.
Looking to the future beyond the Maastricht treaty, we need to build a more decentralised and diverse Community, outward-looking and free-trading. We need to look again at the Community institutions—for example, to make the Commission more accountable. We need to build up further the role of national parliaments. That is acknowledged in the Maastricht treaty, but it needs to be built up further. We need to end the assumption that, outside the established areas of the core policy, all member states must automatically do everything together at the same speed. We want a debate and to achieve a consensus in this country and beyond it on that type of agenda.
The House will look at its decision tonight in the perspective of 50 years. That is the age of the Community —it is not quite 50 years old—which is very short by any European measure. It was natural that, in its early days, the founders set themselves to struggle against the past and to assert the future of the Community in contrast to the all-powerful nation states which had brought Europe to disaster twice this century.
It was natural that at the beginning the founders should treasure as an advance every move towards integration and every increase in the competence of the Community, as if by each such move of integration Europe was climbing rung by rung out of a pit. But now, and particularly during the past three or four years, we can see the limits of such an approach. The diversity and variety of Europe are no longer seen as anachronisms and we are no longer heading towards a union in which such diversity will be smothered or swept away.
I quote from a recent speech of Chancellor Kohl which illustrates how his thinking has changed:It is clear to me that we all need the political union of Europe but that does not mean that I shall cease to be German, John Major will cease to be British or Francois Mitterrand will cease to be French. We shall remain what we are. Our identity will remain. We are not building the United States of Europe. The statement which Churchill made here in Zurich appeals to me a lot, but unfortunately it is misleading. I have to admit that I have used it for far too long. The United States of Europe would mean that we would be like Texas or California. That is not the case. We shall remain in this Europe to a large extent nation states with our own identity and separate administrations in many areas. What we need now is a firm European roof over the old structures.I would not use those exact words, but they are very interesting. They show how the thinking of even as fervent a European as Chancellor Kohl has changed. The European union set out in the treaty will not be a unitary state. Nor will it be a federation on the lines of the United States, Canada, Australia or Germany.
I have sketched—and we shall go on setting out—how we think the Community should evolve. The longer I am involved in Community meetings, the more clearly I see that what counts in the end is not the architecture or the machinery or the rulebook, but the will. I will give two examples of that in closing. We have a single European stance in the GATT negotiations, based on the absolute competence of the treaty of Rome. The Commission 394 negotiates on behalf of us all. That is not easy and every now and then the boat is rocked, but it is essential. No one would benefit, certainly not the business men in this country or those with whom we negotiate in the rest of the world, if the common European negotiating position in those negotiations disintegrated.
The second example—central and eastern Europe—is different. There are huge tasks ahead and we have only just begun to grasp the difficulties. There is a huge task ahead for us Europeans, not just in economic terms, but through closer political links and in the field of security in central and eastern Europe. We have to act together on those things if we are to act successfully. The treaty of Rome provides no competence in this matter. The Commission has no monopoly. The treaty of Maastricht shows how this can be done by co-operation. It has to be done and this is not a matter that we can shirk or leave aside.
These are two completely different European tasks and they are essentially European tasks to be achieved through quite different pieces of machinery. It is the will to agree and work together which in both instances will be decisive. Let us reduce and criticise the detail, the regulation and the small-minded acts of interference, but let us do that not in a negative way but to find again the decisive will to act together successfully in the great matters where there is a European interest and where there must be a European effort. Because the Bill enables us to play our full part in reasserting that will power, I commend it to the House.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
I join the Foreign Secretary in paying a compliment to the House for the generally good-natured way in which a very long and arduous series of debates has been conducted.
We all saw that the right hon. Gentleman could barely suppress a sigh of relief as he sat down at the conclusion of his speech. It is true that, as well as some serious debates, there have also been some lighter moments. We have just observed a couple during the right hon. Gentleman's speech. We can always tell when he is in trouble, because his normal silky-smooth appearance changes. He goes slightly red. The decibel knob is turned up. Words come louder and louder, but meaning goes further and further away. That is exactly what happened when he tried to defend the Government's untenable position on the social chapter this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman was full of bluff and bluster about how the Labour party will or will not vote tonight. That is a bit rich coming from the right hon. Gentleman, who sidled away from so many votes on amendments in the last few weeks that we have lost count. He has twisted and turned, and given more explanations than the Vicar of Bray for why he was accepting this or that amendment on the social chapter, or for why he did not want a vote on the record and risk a defeat for the Government in the House.
I do not know why on earth the Foreign Secretary began his speech by launching into an attack on the press. It has been difficult for the press, let alone members of public reading the newspapers, to understand some of the Byzantine manoeuverings of the Government. Hon. Members have even faced difficulties in obtaining votes on some of the most important aspects of the legislation. I am not surprised that that made neither graphic reading nor instant headlines for the popular press.
395 The right hon. Gentleman's attacks on European employers were a bit rich also. I shall remind him of what a European Conservative conference had to say about the position that he was trying so ineffectively to defend. The meeting was the conference of the European people's parties heads of government and party leaders, so I assume that either the Foreign Secretary or his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was present. [Interruption.] Perhaps they were too embarrassed to attend and in view of the content of the resolution, I am not surprised. The organisation said that itDeplores the fact that the British Prime Minister and leader of British Conservative party took a negative position in Maastricht concerning European political union, particularly with regard to a common social policy.Even the Government's Conservative allies and colleagues in the EC not only disagree with but deplore the very action that the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to justify.
§ Dr. Cunningham
Not at the moment. I shall return to that point.
There have been lighter moments on other occasions also. There was the performance of the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Minister of State at the Foreign Office. He huffed and puffed like Tristan the Tank Engine about amendment No. 27. "Ratification, ratification! Oh dear, it will not be possible!" Stern warnings were issued to the boys and girls playing with the signals. The Maastricht express would be derailed, he warned. This little game kept him amused for months on end. It was a simple pleasure, until "Whoosh! Up pops the Oxford flyer, Douglas the Diesel." Streamlined, slick and polished, up he streaked—at least that is what The Guardian said—because he had lost his trousers. "Oh dear! A terrible shunt." "Watch the signals," bleated Tristan. "Tiresome and undesirable," said Douglas. "Let's ignore them for the sake of completeness and clairty."
It was not the treaty or the legislation that was derailed: it was the Watford warbler. The advice that he had given and the protests that he had made were wiped out at a stroke without the apology by his right hon. Friend, who is sitting next to him today.
There has been a lot of amusement, and there have been a lot of attempts by both the Foreign Secretary and the Minister to mislead the House. I shall come to a few examples in a moment or two.
The Foreign Secretary and I nevertheless agree I hat the treaty represents an important series of developments for the EC. It creates new opportunities for European co-operation. The agreement on the pillars of the treaty ensures the opportunity for developing co-operation outside the Community institutions—a welcome innovation.
The progress on European policy development and European co-operation can thus take place within the Community institutions—the Commission, the Council and the Parliament—or outside them. Co-operation on common foreign and security policies and the common urgency to fight crime more effectively are issues of considerable importance which will be dealt with under the pillars of the treaty.
Labour has already made it clear on many occasions that it broadly supports the treaty concluded at 396 Maastricht. We believe it is a necessary framework for the economic, social and political development of the European Community.
§ Dr. Cunningham
If the hon. Lady had been listening she would have heard that I was referring to the treaty. We are debating and voting on the Bill, which is an entirely different issue.
We believe that the treaty is a necessary framework for the economic, social and political development of the Community. A significant number of specific aspects are welcome: regional policy, the cohesion fund, majority voting on environment policy issues, public health and training for young people. The principle of subsidiarity is welcome, too, although controversy surrounds the Government's attitude towards it.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I said that I would give way and I will do so in a moment or two.
New powers for the European Parliament are also welcome, indeed overdue, and deserve support as a necessary first step towards greater openness or transparency and more effective democratic control of the Commission and other Community institutions.
Last year at our annual conference, Labour put forward our view on how the Community should develop —our agenda for change. I reiterate our belief that Britain's future is intimately involved with Europe and reaffirm our commitment to closer economic and political co-operation.
In 1992, the annual conference of the Labour party decided thatThe Maastricht treaty, while not perfect is the best arrangement that can currently be achieved".
§ Mr. Cormack
If the treaty has these attributes, why has the right hon. Gentleman done everything he can to delay ratification? Why has he himself earned the criticism of his social democratic friends in Europe for the extraordinary attitude that the British Labour party has taken throughout the past year?
§ Dr. Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman is wrong on both counts. First, I have never, and nor have my hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench, participated in any filibustering or procrastination on the Bill. On occasions, we have actually moved and voted for closures. If we had wanted to prevent the ratification of the treaty, there were endless opportunities on which we could have voted for amendments to prevent them. The hon. Gentleman's first point is completely wrong.
On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I defy him to produce evidence that any of my socialist or social democratic colleagues in the Party of European Socialists, of which I am vice-president, have articulated the view he ascribed to them today. I reject it and they will reject it too.
§ Dr. Cunningham
Not for the moment. I shall give way in due course.
Yesterday the Labour party national executive committee agreed a new policy document entitled 397 "Prosperity through co-operation: a new European future". That document looks at the post-Maastricht realities in social, political and economic terms.
§ Dr. Cunningham
That shows how much the hon. Gentleman knows. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is no longer a member of the committee.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Can my right hon. Friend enlighten us all and, indeed, the public about the extent to which any draft of such a policy was circulated to all members of the party of which he and I have the honour to be members and which claims to be a democratic party?
§ Dr. Cunningham
The document was produced by a working party. It was submitted to the joint policy committee of our party. It went from there to the new policy forum of the party and to the national executive committee and it will go to the party annual conference in the autumn. Any suggestion—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman continues, may I remind him that this is the Third Reading of the Bill. I hope we shall not go too far from that in this interesting matter.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I am trying to respond to an earlier intervention. I can hardly take another one while I am dealing with this one. I understand what you say, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I was responding to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).
Of course, the document recognises the shortcomings of the treaty. It sees Maastricht not as an end but as part of a developing Europe—something to improve and build on. We must look beyond the treaty to the Europe that we want to help fashion, but we do not share the Government's view of Europe. There are and remain fundamental differences between us.
We have from the outset drawn a clear distinction between support for a developing European Community and our opposition to the Maastricht Bill which has been before the House for so many months. We could not support the Bill on Second Reading and we cannot support it tonight.
The Government's decision to exclude Britain and the British people from the advantages of the social chapter is fundamentally unacceptable to us. We have consistently argued that the Government are wrong on this vital social policy aspect of the treaty. They are wrong because it will result in lower status and fewer rights for British people compared with their European neighbours, because it envisages Britain as a low-wage, low-skill sweatshop economy and because it sets Britain apart from, and against, the other members of the Community. As I have 398 said, those views have been widely endorsed by political parties, employers and leaders of Conservative parties across the Community.
As the Foreign Secretary referred to the Federal Republic of Germany, let me remind him that when my hon. Friend for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) and I met German Ministers in Bonn and spokespersons for the German employers federation I asked them, "Did it ever occur to you to ask your Government to opt out of the social chapter?" "Not for a moment," they said.
§ Mr. Milligan
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving the House a full account of the meeting. Could he also give us a full account of the meeting between his right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition and President Mitterrand who publicly expressed his concern about why the Labour party was not supporting the treaty?
§ Dr. Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I am not sure how he knows what Francois Mitterrand said to my right hon. and learned Friend. He repeatedly peddles that myth and I am sorry that I showed him the courtesy of giving way to him.
One of the lessons that we in Britain should have learned by now about developments in the Community is that to stand back, to remain apart and to join late inevitably leads to disadvantages for our country. We lose influence and we play no part in shaping events or institutions.
The record shows that Britain eventually signs up, but the Community has moved on. Britain is chasing the game and usually losing as a result. The Government have repeated this basic error again over the social chapter and the Maastricht process in general.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I shall give way in due course.
The political stance of the Conservative Government has everything to do with Conservative party politics and nothing to do with Britain's best interests or the well-being of the British people. Indeed, it is a betrayal of the British people.
§ Mr. Budgen
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, many Conservative Members wish to dissociate themselves from the allegation that the Labour party attacked the Bill. It is obvious that, throughout the proceedings, Opposition Front-Bench Members have given the most full-hearted support to the Government. All who support the Maastricht treaty should understand that they have, in a most courageous way, abandoned the traditional role of opposition and have given the Government the most slavish support that has ever been seen.
§ Dr. Cunningham
That was a wonderful piece of cheek, but there was not a word of truth in it. The truth is that we have tried over many weeks and in many ways to change and amend the Bill. We have had considerable success, as is set out in this schedule, which I am showing the hon. Gentleman. As he is some distance away from me, I have coloured it so that he can see the amendments that have been made to the Bill as a result of the debates and the pressure from those on the Opposition Front Bench. There is a graphic illustration of exactly how wrong the hon. Gentleman is in his assertion.
399 The Labour party has ensured that the Maastricht treaty has been properly and thoroughly debated, and largely at a sensible time of the day. We have not been involved in time wasting, filibustering or obstructionism. Our objectives were to try to get for Britain the social chapter of the treaty, reverse the opt out, obtain improvements to the Bill, in line with party policy objectives, that would not render the treaty unratifiable, which was never our policy, and ensure that a complex and hugely important treaty was given the proper and detailed scrutiny that it merited.
We have secured a vote on the social chapter, after Royal Assent but before ratification. We gained a valuable legal change, which, it is believed, may yet allow British workers to use the European Court of Justice to benefit from the social chapter. We defeated the Government's attempt to keep the new European Committee of the Regions as yet another home for their business and political friends. We passed amendments on the accountability of the Bank of England, on co-ordination of economic policies and ECOFIN, on requiring comparative assessment of the United Kingdom's economic performance and on convergence and the assessment of Government deficits.
I do not exaggerate the importance of those gains—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, they are a long way in advance of any gains that anyone else has made as a result of this long, drawn-out process. Given that those amendments were won in spite of the Government's twists and manoeuvres and the unpredictable performance of Ministers, and their various amendments, and that the House will now have the clear opportunity to vote on the issue of the social chapter, it would be obtuse of Opposition Members to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. If we defeated the Bill, the people of Britain and Europe as a whole would be denied the treaty and the social chapter.
I remind the House that every democratic socialist party in the Community, in or out of office, wishes to see the Maastricht treaty ratified. Every democratic socialist party in the applicant countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria wishes to see the treaty approved and has agreed to accept it as part of its application to join the Community. The citizens of all those 15 countries will enjoy the whole of the treaty. The result of the Danish referendum on Tuesday, which was warmly welcomed by the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, was organised and planned by the social democratic Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and his colleagues. A majority yes vote in Denmark would have been inconceivable if the social chapter had been excluded from the treaty for Denmark.
§ Mr. Marlow
The right hon. Gentleman is referring to the vote in Denmark. I understand that Her Majesty's Opposition are in favour of having a referendum on the trivia of proportional representation. Why are they not in favour of having a referendum on the immensity of European union?
§ Dr. Cunningham
We debated that at length in the House, but if the hon. Gentleman wants me to summarise the position, I shall do so again. We also debated that at length as a matter of policy at our annual party conference and the proposition that we should support a referendum was overwhelmingly rejected, so our party policy, like that of the Government, was that we should proceed on the 400 parliamentary process of ratification. What is more—I remind the hon. Gentleman for what it is worth, although I do not suppose that he will take much notice—the British people had a referendum, thanks to a Labour Government in 1976, on the issue of membership of the Community. We know what the outcome was.
In Britain alone, the social chapter will not apply.
§ Dr. Cunningham
No, I am not giving way.
In Britain alone, the social chapter will not apply, and that is why we cannot support the Bill. That is why, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the shadow Cabinet, I urge Labour Members to abstain in the vote. [Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary would not be smiling if I had urged them to vote against Third Reading.
Some of our critics, among the Liberal Democrats as well as among those on the Conservative Benches, have argued that our position on the social chapter is a tactic, a device and that our decision to recommend abstention is aimed at exposing the deep, even vicious, divisions in the Conservative party. I am flattered to think that there are some who believe that we can bring Bill and Edwina together or that we can bring the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) back into the fold of the Prime Minister. I suspect that he has already had his "Dear John" letter from her. I do not think that there is anything that we can do, or would want to do, to overshadow those divisions.
As The Guardian put it rather indelicately, following the Foreign Secretary's speech on 5 May:Over the past six months, Her Majesty's Government has adopted more positions than are set out in the Kama Sutra. No wonder Mr. Hurd looked exhausted when he sat down.The Financial Times described his performance as "an ignominious climbdown". We have no reason to apologise to the Government. We have been consistent throughout this long process. All the inconsistencies have come from those sitting on the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)
The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Kama Sutra is a great deal more interesting than Labour party policy documents. Given his full list of expressions of support for the treaty, would it not be sensible for him to support the Third Reading? He has also claimed credit for what was new clause 74, which concerned the principle of the social protocol, and a vote on that can come only when the Bill has become an Act. He should speed it on its way with his full support.
§ Dr. Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening. Perhaps I can remind him briefly of what I have said. Were those Government manoeuvres over many months, and was our response to them, merely a tactic? Are maternity benefits, equality for women and ethnic minority communities, maximum working hours regulations, annual holiday entitlements, rights for 3 million unemployed people, health and safety at work, protection of children and adults from employment exploitation and improved social and professional integration for people with disabilities all a tactic, or are they matters of principle and importance, which are being denied to the people of this country by the Government's pig-headed obstinacy on the matter of the social chapter?
I remind the Government of the point made in an intervention by one of my hon. Friends, that they promoted advertisements in Germany to try to persuade 401 German employers to contact the British consul in Düsseldorf to find out how they could invest in Britain. The advertisements proclaimed that wages were lower in Britain, and that employment protection and social charges were significantly lower than in Germany. Is that the kind of image that the hon. Gentleman thinks should be portrayed abroad? Do the Government want us to endorse a sweatshop economy? There is no way in which we would endorse that kind of approach.
Before anyone says that the problems in the British economy were caused by the trade unions or by working people, I draw attention to the speech by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, whom I am glad to see in this place, as reported in The Daily Telegraph editorial yesterday. It stated:In a speech this week to the Tory Reform Group, Mr. Dorrell, one of the ablest young Ministers in the Government, widely tipped for Cabinet office, produced a sharp analysis of the 1980s boom, attributing it to the monetary indiscipline of the late Thatcher years. He described it as 'built on sand'".That is his view of the economy that his right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Prime Minister were responsible for constructing. It was "built on sand", but the Government have the gall to tell us that to give protection to British people employed in the British economy is a threat to our country.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
My right hon. Friend referred to matters of principle and consistency when speaking about the case, as he sees it, against a referendum. In the light of what happened yesterday, we are entitled to an explanation. After all, did not my right hon. Friend vote for a referendum in 1975 following which there was a referendum on accession to the Rome treaty? Did he not and did not my right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the party move a motion for a referendum on Welsh and Scottish devolution in February 1977, outlining the issue as being a matter of great constitutional importance on which the people had not had a chance to express their views?
How can he reconcile the position that he took in the debate in April, in which he not only advocated opposition to a referendum but voted against one, with his obvious acceptance yesterday of the case for a referendum on a matter of far less importance, proportional representation? Where is the consistency, where is the principle and where is the democratic accountability in all that?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I answered that question when we debate the referendum and I am happy to answer it again. We had a referendum about membership of the Community. My right hon. Friend knows that, and he was a member of the Cabinet at the time. He was on the losing side in that argument. He has never accepted the decision of the British people in that referendum, and there is no evidence to suggest that if there were another one he would accept the decision this time. The decision has been taken.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that if during the period of a Labour Government there was a desire to test the will of the British people about a change in the system of electing Members of Parliament, the matter should be put to the people to see whether they wanted to change from first past the post to 402 any other system. That would be a new and fundamental proposition, and that is why my right hon. and learned Friend proposed it.
I was speaking about the social chapter. It is to the credit of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) that he has said that it was an error to opt out of the social chapter. Of course the President of the Board of Trade takes the same view. In an article entitled "Time to get off the sidelines", in The Times in 1989, he said:Our absence can only permit the self-interest of other nations. We paid a heavy price when others designed the CAP. It would be unforgivable to repeat that mistake in industrial and financial policies. The same argument applies to the social charter.There we have it from the President of the Board of Trade, with all his candour. However, in his Budget statement on 16 March the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:this Government will never sign the social chapter."—[Official Report, 16 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 170.]With which of his Cabinet colleagues does the Foreign Secretary agree? Does he agree with the President of the Board of Trade or with the Chancellor? Will he take this opportunity to endorse one or other of those statements? Does he back the Chancellor, and will he repeat the statement that the Government will never endorse the social chapter?
§ Dr. Cunningham
That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The House is entitled to know whether the Foreign Secretary supports, or will repeat, the statement by the Chancellor that the Government will never endorse the social chapter. Will the Foreign Secretary repeat that commitment'? The right hon. Gentleman has ducked it. It is quite obvious that he is not willing to endorse the Chancellor's statement.
During the long process of ratification, one matter that has clearly emerged in this country, as in others, is that there are deep public concerns about the European Community, about recession and the Community's failure to act in the face of 17 million unemployed. There is dissatisfaction about the lack of clarity and openness in the conduct of Community business.
People want more from the Community than just a business market. They want more democratic accountability and more policies for people. Europe is in danger of achieving the worst of all worlds, of being over-intrusive, on the one hand, while being unable or unwilling to act effectively and urgently, on the other. Sadly, the British presidency was an all-too-obvious example of the latter.
Europe currently falls far short of the ambitious goals of article 2 of the treaty. That is why the Community must continue to change and expand. We should work positively for the admission of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria to an expanded Community. Europe needs a strategy for growth and employment. The Community can make a unique contribution to extending equality rights for women and for all members of ethnic communities. On environmental protection, the Community can be much more powerful than the sum of its separate member states. 403 The Bill guarantees none of those things and does not merit our support. The absence of the social chapter guarantees that.
The Home Secretary said that he would search for consensus on development in the Community. It was an odd way to begin to search for consensus by deliberately deciding that Britain, alone in the Community, should opt out of the social chapter.
The Government do not deserve our support tonight. Their tawdry conduct of this business and their abuse of the House have, in some instances, demeaned the House of Commons. Above all, their miserable, negative, conservative view of Europe is one that we cannot share and will not endorse. That is why we will be staying out of the Lobby tonight.
§ Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
Today's debate is vital, which is why it will be watched closely by the leaders of the other member states of the Community, their parliamentarians, their business men and their professions. The United. States and other countries will also be watching this debate.
The other countries have had a year during which they did not know what Britain would do about future developments in the Community. That has undermined their confidence, their preparedness to invest and their willingness to do business with us. Tonight is the time to settle the issue. That is why those countries will be watching and listening—
§ Sir Edward Heath
Strangely enough, they know that the result of this debate will come after the cup final—and the last thing they want is another draw.
As a Back Bencher, I join those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have paid tribute to the work of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State during the year that the Maastricht discussions have been taking place in this House. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his consistency in what has been one of the most difficult years for any British Prime Minister since the second world war. I applaud the elegance and fluency of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the tireless patience—which most of us could not begin to emulate —-of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. We should express our gratitude to them for what they have done, because it has been invaluable.
However, I hope that my right hon. Friends in return will spare a moment's thought for those of us who, in supporting their work, have refrained from intervening in the discussions and thereby taking up Government time. That attitude has not only helped to prevent our debates on Maastricht from being prolonged, but has prevented the disruption of the Government's other business that otherwise would have occurred. I hope that that will be acknowledged.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we who had for so long supported the Community and its continuing development are now out of date. He said the time for Community ideals was over and that nation states would he the answer to everything. I am afraid that I 404 regard my right hon. Friend as the one who is out of date. Basically, he is going back to the Hague conference and saying that everything can be done through co-operation.
The truth is that in the years after that conference the countries of Europe that had been wrecked—where people were living in holes in the ground—found that they could not get the action needed simply by saying, "We will co-operate." That is still true today and it is why the treaties of Paris and Rome were created. Those treaties require unanimity on certain matters, but majority voting on others. It is the provision for majority voting across a large area that enables action to be taken. It is essential that the Community takes the action described by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), both in dealing with this economically difficult time and in other areas.
Let us consider the actions of the Community over the six years from 1986 to 1992. It created the single market. I willingly join my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in paying the greatest possible tribute to the intellectual capacity of our leader at the time. It is not a characteristic that I had noticed before, but I accept it. By contrast, Britain has spent six years discussing whether there should be a fast rail link to meet the channel tunnel, and we are still discussing whether there should be and, if so, where it should be.
That is the difference between what has been happening in the Community—and it has been so since 1950—and what has been and is happening in this country. As President Mitterrand so charmingly put it, we are far behind our colleagues in the European Community.
That is why I am so sorry that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary puts such emphasis on the word "co-operation". It needs more than co-operation if we are to get decisions in the Community. All the other Community countries and their Governments realise that and they have always accepted it. The people—not just the Governments and the politicians—of all those other countries have become very suspicious of us because we continue to say, "We will co-operate, but we must not allow further development in the Community. We must extend the Community and become wider and wider, but must say nothing about becoming deeper and deeper."
Those people then say, "Ah, Britain wants to bring in other countries so that they can help it to break the fundamental nature of the Community." That is the heavy suspicion under which Britain suffers at the moment, and that must be put right. That is why I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to concentrate on the other aspects of the Community described in the treaty.
I wish that the Opposition would vote for the treaty tonight. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and one or two other Ministers are out of date in harking back to what the Labour party did in 1950 when it was in power and the Community was born, what it did in 1961, and so on. That is history, and historians will deal with it. What is important is that at last the Labour party and the trade union movement have officially accepted our membership of the Community. That is basic to our country's welfare and our position in the Community.
I understand why the Opposition are not supporting the Bill tonight. They want to expose the grievous breaches in the ranks of the Conservative party. It is a political reason and I do not blame them for that. However, I believe that I am right in saying that the Labour party is 405 the only social democratic or labour party in the Community that has not voted in support of the Maastricht treaty.
§ Dr. John Cunningham
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being generous to my party. He has certainly been more objective than his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. However, the truth is that the socialist and social democratic parties in the Community have voted for the whole of the treaty. We have not been given the opportunity to do that.
§ Sir Edward Heath
The right hon. Gentleman has made his point about the social chapter and he knows full well that there will be another debate on it after the Bill is passed. Therefore, surely he should say, "We have made our point, the House can now reach a decision and we intend to show that, like other social democratic and labour opposition parties in the Community, we will support the Maastricht treaty." I wish the right hon. Gentleman had said that.
§ Sir Peter Tapsell
Does not my right hon. Friend think that the very fact that every socialist party in Europe supports the Maastricht treaty is cause for us to have considerable concern about it?
§ Sir Edward Heath
That remark was not worthy of my hon. Friend and he knows it. I said every socialist and labour opposition party in the Community—
§ Sir Peter Tapsell
The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said it was every socialist party.
§ Sir Edward Heath
But I said that it was every social and labour opposition party. That is going back to the attitude of the Labour party in 1950 which said, "If we do this, it will be an entirely Conservative Community." That was nonsense, and it was rapidly proved to be nonsense.
In the Community today we have Conservative Governments—the Germans have had a Conservative Government for years and there are other Conservative Governments—and socialist Governments. How can my hon. Friend, who has contributed so much to the House over the years, make an intervention of that kind? I am sorry.
When it comes to the social chapter, I would ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Government to move with extreme caution. I do not accept the figures that have been given by the Government or, in particular, by the Secretary of State for Employment on the consequences of the social chapter, and nor do the majority of people in the Community. Further than that, they do not see how we can reconcile our demand that there should be a level playing field with our opting out of the majority of arrangements that affect that playing field. It is just not logically a consistent position.
Of course, I join the right hon. Member for Copeland in deploring the British consul's advertisement in Dusseldorf. It is deplorable. I understand that it was certainly not put in with the approval of the Secretary of 406 State for Employment or, I doubt, with the approval of the Foreign Office or the Government. But to advertise in Germany that we can provide sweated labour, that and, the quicker workers come here the better, is unworthy of this country. I hope, therefore, that that will be made clear.
We heard just now about Germany and its difficulties, but its difficulties are not because it created a high level of wages. We ourselves fought the election on high wages, high productivity and low cost, and that should be the objective of every economy. That is what the Germans achieved. What have their difficulties come from today? Not from what brought about their previous achievements but from the fact that they have taken responsibility for 18 million people with a standard of living on only one fifth of their own which they are determined to bring up as quickly as possible to that of western Germany. That is what has provided the problems for them.
We can all agree—they agree themselves—that the Germans underestimated the problem. Those of us who have been across eastern Germany knew what the situation was, how appalling it was and what a major task it would be. Now they find that, because of that situation, 80 per cent. of all the investment in eastern Germany has to come from the Government because private enterprise is not prepared to try to put the situation right.
For taking responsibility for 18 million people, the Germans deserve credit, not to be laughed at. What have we done, what have other countries done, comparable with that? We have taken 4,000 refugees, I think, and they have taken 18 million people. Who is prepared to take over Poland and say, "We will look after you and put you right"? Who is prepared to take over Bulgaria and say, "We will look after you and put you right"? Nobody. That is why we must treat what the Germans have done with great respect. Therefore, I ask the Foreign Secretary to treat the question of the social chapter with caution because we have been caught out on so many things lately.
When it comes to the question of the political arrangements, subsidiarity and so on, the whole point of the Community is to do more and more together because in that way better results can be achieved. We should not spend all our time looking around for things on which we can say that we should have a special arrangement to contract out.
Let us look at the things that we can make a success of. We have heard them listed today—jobs and all the other things that are required. That is where the emphasis should be. As long as we are seen to be a country that is emphasising wider and wider and more and more responsibilities, not going deeper and deeper in order to cope with them, we are suspect.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
My right hon. Friend has made great play of the historical context in which the European Community has moved. Will he now take this opportunity, in what he has described as an historic debate, to repudiate that part of the White Paper that he presented to Parliament in 1970 which said that we would not give up the veto, that we would retain our essential sovereignty and that this country would never become part of a federation of provinces or countries? During the past few months he has repeatedly accused others of misleading. Will he be good enough to put the record straight by repudiating that White Paper?
§ Sir Edward Heath
I shall do absolutely nothing of the sort. What the hon. Gentleman has done is to distort what other people have done before him. I heard the hon. Gentleman on television, I think that it was two nights ago, saying that the French referendum really was lost, not won, by the Government.
§ Sir Edward Heath
I heard the hon. Gentleman. He said that if the French had another referendum they would lose it. Then he said that the referendum in—[HON. MEMBERS: "Denmark."]—yes, it was Denmark—was bogus because the second result was different from the first one. That does not stand examination. The Foreign Secretary made a rather critical remark about Members such as the hon. Gentleman—my hon. Friends—who went across to Denmark and interfered. I wish that he would not be critical of them. [HON. MEMBERS: "What were you doing?" [I was invited by the Conservative party. I was invited by the former Prime Minister, so I went. The plain fact is —every day will confirm this—
§ Sir Edward Heath
Of course they helped us. They helped us enormously. The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the way in which he behaved was an enormous help to the yes campaign, and so was Lord Tebbit.
§ Sir Edward Heath
Because I would much rather behave like the rest of us than like the hon. Gentleman.
In conclusion, I want to deal with the economic side of things because I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reply to the debate. Here again we have a crucial point. I should like my right hon. Friend tonight to tell the House exactly what happened over the devaluation of sterling. All the Europeans know. All the banks know. They talk to us about it and tell us what really happened. I think that the Chancellor should tell the House, quite openly and frankly, the details of what happened in that ghastly period.
When offered a devaluation, working with other countries, it was refused, it was turned down. That may have been because just before that the Prime Minister had said that we would have the strongest currency in the Community and the best economy in the Community. I understand the Chancellor's embarrassment if he then felt that he could not accept the proposal. But all the rest know what really happened. Then, when it came to black Wednesday, we had no friends in the Community at all. That goes to the crux of the matter. If we are to be successful, we must have friends in this world today.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here quite long enough to know that interventions that have not been accepted by the hon. Member who has the Floor are not in order.
§ Sir Edward Heath
If we had had friends, we would not have been in the position in which we found ourselves. The French have not had a black Wednesday because they had friends who supported them. We have not got them. That is the plain fact.
The Government must make friends in the Community. Every time that we say, "Now we will turn this Community into what we want," we lose friends; we do not make friends. The Government and the Foreign Secretary must realise that. Every time that we say that we will turn the Community into what we want, the others say, "We are not a colony of the British; we are a Community. We want them to help us to create the Community that we want."
I beseech the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and members of the Government not to make commitments about the ERM. If I may say so, our friends in the Government have got enough troubles already with the commitments that they have made on which they are now having to back. As far as the country's financial arrangements are concerned, I have said before that Governments never used to commit themselves to a lowest or highest rate of taxation. They said, "We can use these as weapons in any given economic situation." That is the situation today in respect of the currency in Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that the single market is absolutely basic and that it was the Government's great achievement. Very well—but one cannot point to a single market in the world that has more than one currency. The United States has a single currency. There are enormous differences between the states. Who is to say that Arkansas is in the same situation as California or New York State?
If we do not have a single currency, the single market will be chipped at the edges, and then it will crack and disappear, because the other trading countries will say, "You're cheating—and if you're cheating on your currencies, then we must cheat as well." That will destroy the single market. That must be faced, for a single currency is logical and can be brought about perfectly well in a comparatively short time.
Every time that we say that we cannot do that—worst of all, that we cannot do it in the lifetime of this Parliament —the other member states ask, "Are you part of our Community or not?" Those are the facts of Community life with which we must deal. I support the Government's action. I am sorry that it has gone on so long. I wish them every success.
The reason for the Northern Ireland referendum was that we closed its Parliament, so there was no other way of learning the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland. There is no Parliament for Scotland or for Wales, so the referendum was a way of testing opinion. We do have a Parliament, which has already taken a decision.
If the House of Lords is urged to overthrow that decision, we shall have a major constitutional crisis. The House of Lords knows perfectly well that it has never taken any part in electoral arrangements or electoral law. If it is to be urged to do that now, that House will be going back nearly a century and will produce a constitutional crisis—and we can well do without that. I trust in the common sense of the House of Lords and that it will not have anything to do with motions to secure a referendum or anything like that. Having progressed the Bill quickly through the House of Lords, I hope that the Government will really put it into effect.
409 We are the last in the line, which is not the place that I like my country to be in. I doubt whether the House does either.
§ Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was, as ever, direct and consistent. He said that we need not more co-operation but more than co-operation—the capacity to make decisions—and that decisions could not be made simply on the basis of unanimity. I agree entirely. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks about honesty and openness in respect of black Wednesday were salutary and we look forward to hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's response.
As the Foreign Secretary said, it has been a long process. Occasionally, it has been a wearisome process and certainly fraught at times. There have been moments of mystery, such as when the Attorney-General, like a high priest coming down from on high—but looking surprisingly normal, nevetheless—interpreted the holy writ of the law with unfathomable confidence. I thought that, as the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, the Foreign Secretary was perhaps a little less confident when he offered his legal interpretation. In fact, the Foreign Secretary looked downright embarrassed. Still, both succeeded equally admirably in being unfathomable.
Good speeches were made in all parts of the House. I may disagree with the hon. Member for AldridgeBrownhills (Mr. Shepherd), but I neither dispute nor deprecate his passionate sincerity. Nor do I cavil at the forthright consistency of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), with whom I have been locking horns for 15 to 20 years. I have never believed that a good way of persuading those with whom one disagrees is to shout at them or abuse them. That is the last thing that will succeed. Why should I cast aspersions against the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore)? He has been saying the same thing for 20 years. That may mean that he is not learning very well, but he is certainly entitled to his views. I do not complain about the Euro-sceptics.
Sometimes, good things happen to one. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has temporarily disappeared. I do not complain even about him too much, except that I wish sometimes that he would moderate his decibel level, because he is rather wearying otherwise. I compliment also the Minister of State, who has also vanished temporarily, and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson)—both of whom were articulate and patient throughout a long Committee stage and both of whom, I believe, are privately well ahead of their respective parties in their views on the European Community.
I will say something about the way in which it was done, if I may use that term. We should have had a timetable at the beginning, which would have made matters much more straightforward, easier and fairer. In fact, there was a timetable, because there were closures and suspensions of the 10 o'clock rule. Labour would not play. It was not prepared to facilitate the Bill's procedural advance, so we had to do so—and we did. That was not always easy for 410 us, and nor was it easy for the Government. It must be very galling for a Government to rely for certain things on a minority party.
I must say that the Government Chief Whip and the pairing Whip, the hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis), were straight and courteous with us throughout. I say that because it is true. Nevertheless, it was odd that the Foreign Secretary made no reference to the fact that we have reached this point tonight because we did all that. The Conservative and Liberal parties were engaged in ferocious local government contests at the time in question and the Newbury by-election was held then as well. It was not easy for everybody, but it was all achieved.
I am told that there were dungeons beneath the Government Whip's Office, in which Euro-sceptics hung from chains in dank, miserable darkness, although I never saw them. The House is always going on about how marvellous it is to have independently minded Members of Parliament who speak their minds. Sometimes when they do that, men in big boots come and try to trample them down. There is something contradictory about that.
The main issue was the social chapter. We shared Labour's objective of manoeuvring the Government into the position where they had to choose between having the Maastricht treaty with the social chapter or no Maastricht treaty. That may yet be achieved by new clause 74. It has been a strange experience, watching an elected Parliament being denied the chance to make a decision on a issue about which it wants to make a decision. In fact, it was all very unreal.
If one compares the treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act and its social chapter, with the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty, one sees that there is no profound difference between them. The Prime Minister had to return from Maastricht with some triumphs, so he said that he had saved us from creeping corporatism and creeping continental socialism.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) put his foot gently into Denmark for a moment when he made a few slightly grumpy remarks, which called forth thunderbolts of various kinds from the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). The right hon. Member for Henley said that all the competition from the far east would force on the other countries of the European Community the attitude that his party adopts with regard to social conditions, wages, and so on. But the right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If pressure from the European Community is to have this effect, what is the problem about signing the social chapter? There is no problem. I do not understand that attitude.
In one of the best speeches of the entire Committee stage, the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) clearly and incisively made the point that, even if the social chapter were not signed, competition policy would result in our arriving at the same destination. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said the same thing a few moments ago. If competition is seen to be unfair, someone will certainly bring the matter to the European Court. We should certainly do so were we to find ourselves in that position.
Then there is the question of federalism. This is another illusion. There are many mirrors here. The Prime Minister came back from Maastricht and said that this fearful word had been excised. But that does not make a dock leaf of a difference. The Foreign Secretary dredged up a quotation from a recent speech by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Well, 411 Chancellor Kohl makes many speeches of some length, but they are certainly consistent. We all know perfectly well that it is nonsense to pretend that the Chancellor of Germany is not a committed federalist who believes that federalism means decentralised government.
As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup knows better than most, it does not finish there. The next stage of the argument will be about how the show is to be run constitutionally. This will include proportional representation. I resent the attitude of those who say that PR is of no importance or significance. It is both significant and important. It is about democracy. I deny totally the idea that it is a trivial matter. In the entire European Community, together with countries in what was the European free trade area, this is the only country that does not have a fair voting system. Please let us have no more such comments about proportional representation.
I do not intend to say much about European monetary union. I shall not spend a great deal of time on currency convergence and banks.
§ Mr. Shore
I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to remarks that I made. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I should say that I am not necessarily opposed to a referendum on the future of our electoral system. I was referring to the incredible lack of proportion between those who can find it in their hearts to argue that we should have a referendum before changing our system of voting but, at the same time, would deny us a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, which is of far greater importance.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
The right hon. Gentleman is certainly entitled to his views, but I could hardly feel any less represented in the European Community than I feel now, and have felt for many years. Thus, the right hon. Gentleman is not entirely entitled to say what he has just said.
On the question of European monetary union, I do not see how we can have a single market without a single currency. However, the timetable will have to be revised. I gather that Luxembourg is now the only country that meets the criteria. Changing timetables is nothing new. The European Community has operated on that basis all along. If timetables are not set, one does not do anything. If one cannot keep to a timetable, one stops the clock. But the clock cannot be stopped for ever, and after time the only way to move forward is to make another timetable.
The Government have argued for Maastricht less on the basis of its content than on the basis of the exceptions that they managed to achieve. That is hardly a clarion call. More seriously, they simply, in effect, reject the idea of further effective democratic integration. The Foreign Secretary made that very clear. The Government believe that, somehow, it is possible to have an effective working Community with a good deal of provision in respect of the environment and in other fields—with a single market—and, simultaneously, to retain the old sovereign stale with all its powers more or less unimpaired. That cannot be done.
This is a very important point. The Government talk about changing little things. It seems to me that what has been missing throughout recent stages of this debate is a grand design, a hope, an aim, an ideal—something to work for.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
The hon. Gentleman makes the point that it is about survival.
What about the hon. Gentleman's party—the Labour party? No doubt it, too, is interested in survival. The Labour party's spokesman explained at some length why he would not vote for the Third Reading. I did not find his argument very compelling. What sort of leadership is that? I read the magazine of the House of Commons occasionally. The other day I read in that publication an article by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who may have written it in the hope that nobody would read it—we all do that sort of thing. He said that we must have a single currency and a central bank. He has not made that point very loudly in the Chamber.
What do Liberal Democrats want? We believe that a single market is good, but that it cannot work without a single currency, an agreed social policy and common rules on competition and regional regeneration. Only in that way is it possible to achieve growth and employment. We believe that a coherent community needs a common foreign and defence policy to solve internal problems and achieve external influence—internal problems like Yugoslavia; external influence with the United States and Japan.
We believe in a strengthened European Parliament, fairly elected, at the democratic heart of the Community. It must certainly relate to the Council of Ministers, as that is the nature of a federal approach, but it must act openly. We are supranationalists, whereas the Government are intergovernmentalists. That is a basic difference, and the argument will be rehearsed again and again over the coming months and years.
The Maastricht treaty refers to the role that transnational political parties will increasingly play. That is the way forward for Brits and Germans and Dutch and Danes. They will not be in any way ashamed—indeed, they will be particularly proud—of their distinctive cultures, languages and history, but they will co-operate in respect of economic, political and social matters across national divides. In determining these issues, national divides are not the central concern. We want the common good in Europe, and that is what we shall continue to work for.
§ 6.9 pm
§ Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who made a powerful and compelling speech. I have slightly less confidence in the effectiveness of the 204 hours and 23 days of debate than was demonstrated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham).
I was not here for all the debates, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I was here for quite a few of them, and when I look back on them I wonder precisely what we have achieved. True, we have turned a Bill that was one and a quarter pages long into a Bill that is one and a half pages long. I have to be careful in saying this, because I know how much this House treasures its privileges and its place as the mother of Parliaments and the mother of democracy, but one reason why so many people in Britain 413 became so determined and anxious to have a referendum was, I believe, because they thought that we were wasting a great deal of time on trivia.
There were times when the legal significance of our debates seemed to be totally incomprehensible to many of those outside the House. That is why the cry for a referendum, which I do not agree with, was magnified. That is the lesson that we have to remember, if this Parliament is to be convincing in future debates of such enormous constitutional importance.
If we are to convince the outside world that our debates are of great significance, it is important that we do not waste time—by, for example, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) spying strangers at 3 o'clock in the middle of the night and leading between 450 and 500 grown-up men and women back into the Chamber on a farcical excuse. How can one mention that sort of incident to politicians and friends on the continent and then pretend that we in this House are treating the Maastricht treaty with all seriousness? When behaviour of that kind is reported, it seems like a farce.
I hope that one of the benefits of this long debate is that we reform our procedures by the time of the next intergovernmental conference so that the mother of Parliaments, this Westminster Parliament that we all love so much, regains respect. When we have the son of Maastricht treaty, which is only four years away, I hope that we shall debate it fully in a two or three-day debate and that at the end of that debate we, like the French or the Spanish, will come to a firm conclusion and decide whether to ratify the treaty, or otherwise.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said, the great issues are now unfolding before us as a result of the Maastricht treaty and the Bill that we are to ratify, I hope by a very large majority, tonight. The first of those great issues is the exchange rate mechanism. That question will not go away. What we have to consider, and what I am sure my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench must consider, is how we are to reform, with our continental friends, the processes of the exchange rate mechanism so that we, and the Italians, can join it again.
According to the treaty, on 1 January 1994, a mere seven months away, stage 2 of the process towards economic and monetary union starts. Under stage 2, we are committed to moving the Bank of England to independence from political control. One has only to read article 109e, paragraph 5, to see that. I hope that we shall take that course early on. When I look at countries with independent central banks—notably the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany—I see, despite the hiccups in Germany at present, that those countries have shown over decades consistently higher rates of growth since 1945 than we have.
One conclusion must be that bankers, not politicians, are better at deciding questions of monetary growth and consequential interest rates. It is not necessarily that they have better brains than we have, but they do not have to operate within the same electoral four-year-cycle as we do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd)—I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment—made a key intervention and, with his typical trenchancy, said that the important thing now is to have a more democratic Europe, with proper controls over 414 what is done in Brussels and Strasbourg. I am convinced that the way that we shall achieve a more democratic Europe is by a deeper examination of the powers of the European Parliament.
Next year, the European Parliament holds its elections. We, surely, have to be ready with our decisions and our thoughts about the increase in the powers of that Parliament in good time for the 1996 intergovernmental conference. So many times in the past few months I have heard, as many other hon. Members must have heard, the comment, "I believe in Europe, but I don't like the Maastricht treaty. Despite subsidiarity, if I understand what that means, the treaty adds to the scope of and provides the Commission with too many new powers." Even those of us who believe strongly in Europe cannot arrogantly brush away that criticism.
So what is the answer? It must lie in more democracy within a powerful Community for the European Parliament and greater accountability and openness in the Council of Ministers. That is one of the problems for this Parliament of ours at Westminster. We have never really come to accept the European Parliament. We have to learn not only to live with it but to realise that it is not just a talking shop. It must become, and we must help it to become, a more effective brake on the Commission and, at times, on the Council of Ministers.
Inevitably, that will mean more power and control moving from his House, not to the Commission—that is the Whitehall, the civil service of the Community—but to the European Parliament. I realise that that is a difficult concept for hon. Members to accept. I accept it. Our task, after ratification of this treaty, over the next three years is to examine how that can effectively be done. What are we to give to the European Parliament? Are we to give more power to investigate the management committees? Are we to give it First, Second and Third Reading powers over all new policy areas where there is majority voting in the Council of Ministers? These issues will have to be examined. What we cannot do is to demand more democracy within the Community and yet not seriously consider the question of how to make the European Parliament work more effectively.
We must certainly also consider the role of the Council of Ministers. How can we help it to act more visibly, more transparently, so that what the Council of Ministers does can be seen by the constituents of the member states of the Community? I realise that the Danes have tried that. They held a few open or televised sessions of the Council of Ministers. It did not work too well, but that is no reason for giving up the experiment. The thoughts and conclusions of the Council of Ministers must be seen to be openly and freely available to their European constituents.
Slowly, therefore, we in this House have to come to terms, while we look for more democracy, with the fact that we are part of the continent of Europe. Let me remind the House, before I sit down, of the famous words of John Donne:No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less".Britain, we all know, will always be an island, but reluctantly we have to accept that in the 21st century we shall inevitably and inextricably be part of the European continent as well. Our job in this House is to merge those two ideals—insularity and European statehood.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
I am conscious of being the first Member to speak in this Third Reading debate who hopes that the Bill will be negatived. Hon. Members have spoken well, but regardless of what side of the House they have spoken from they have all seemed to send out the same message.
The reality is that, in this year-long debate, we have witnessed the unspoken alliance of the leaders of all three political parties and their joint determination to ratify the Maastricht treaty. Labour Front-Bench spokesmen have made their points about the social chapter, but, as we shall see later, they are quite willing to accept the Maastricht treaty even though it does not contain a social chapter.
It was interesting to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) defending himself against accusations of Labour-wrecking, as it were, and saying that the Labour party could have destroyed the Maastricht treaty on many occasions if it had wanted to. My God, I wish that he had wished to do just that. If he had, he would have earned the thanks of a large proportion of the British people—including, I am glad to say, as he will soon find out, the great majority of ordinary Labour party members, supporters and trade unionists.
§ Dr. John Cunningham
The reason why we did not want to do that is quite simple: it was not the policy decision that was taken by our conference, which my right hon. Friend refuses to accept.
§ Mr. Shore
I have never taken the view that, on matters of major constitutional and political importance, my decision about how I should vote in the best interests of my constituents, my party and my country should be dictated by a majority vote at our annual conference—never. That is the doctrine to which I hope every member of the Labour party would subscribe. We take note, we take seriously and we consider what our annual conference has to say, which is fair, but to use it as the authority for refusing to act in the interests of the country and of our constituents is absolutely repugnant.
It is exactly a year since the Second Reading debate. It has been an interesting and important year. Taking full account of the last Danish referendum—I do not think that there will be a third one, but perhaps the best of three might be the way of deciding it—I wish to say how profoundly grateful I am to those sturdy people in Denmark who value self-government and independence in their own country to the point where they turned over their own political establishment and voted no. Their referendum of 2 June gave people, not only in Britain but all over Europe, the chance to think again and to look far more searchingly into what their political leaders had committed them to.
As we all know, what emerged across Europe was the recognition that there was indeed a classe politique—the professional Europeans, the professional politicians who were dedicated to the European idea and ever closer European union. For example, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) is now an open federalist.
There are disguised federalists, too, many of whom feel that it is imprudent to state too early what the real objective is. For example, the Foreign Secretary denies what is on the face of the treaty and does not recommend 416 to the House what everyone else in Europe thinks it contains but says that Britain has not gone along with certain things and how remarkably successful the Government have been in negotiation. I think that they have had some successes in negotiation. They have not signed up for stage 3 of European monetary union. I should have thought that that was a matter of congratulation, but I find that Labour Front-Bench spokesmen want stage 3 of EMU as well; they are not content with what they are getting.
It is especially on the economic side that the gravest damage is to be done—not only to our economic interest and the British people but to the people of Europe as well. I shall devote most of my remarks to that matter, but let no one have any doubt that my feelings are equally strong about the transfer of powers, the loss of self-confidence and the willingness of Members of Parliament, in this of all Parliaments, to hand over the powers of their constituents and their country to alien institutions abroad and to abide by the decisions that are made there.
Let me deal with the economic issues, which greatly disturb me. Last year, 16.2 million people were unemployed throughout the Community—about 9.3 per cent.—but today the figure is 17.5 million, or more than 10 per cent. According to a Commission report, the outlook for growth in the European economy in 1993 is 0.7 per cent., which, as the House will well know, is quite insufficient to sustain the present level of employment. Productivity in the European Community is currently growing by roughly 2.5 per cent., but unemployment will increase next year because it is forecast that production will grow by only 0.7 per cent. In addition, the more recent forecast of the International Monetary Fund expects growth within the European Community to be 0.1 per cent. this year.
The recession is biting deep. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who gave figures for Germany and other European countries, knows only too well how industrial production has collapsed in many countries. The European Community faces a very serious problem. Everyone, especially those who are feeling the burdens of recession, is saying, "We are trapped. We want to do something. Why cannot we have programmes and policies to expand the economy and combat rising unemployment?" We all know the reason why. No European Community country can set interest rates lower than the Bundesbank's base rate, which is just under 8 per cent. Interest rates in other member states must therefore not be lower than 8 per cent.
Japan and America, which are not as badly afflicted as Europe, are worried about recession. What are their interest rates? Are they 8 per cent.? Not a bit of it. Both have rates which are less than 3.5 per cent. That is part of the difference. Why cannot European countries lower their interest rates and enormously boost growth, employment and so on? Because they are stuck in the exchange rate mechanism, and the treaty tries to keep them in it. Only the markets, operating in the most tumultuous way, can change their treaty obligation to maintain exchange rates in the fixed parity. It is quite crazy.
The only country, as the Chancellor well knows, that has partially escaped and whose growth prospect this year is better than 0.1 per cent. is Britain. Our growth prospect is 1.6 per cent. That is nothing to cheer about, but it is all right compared with the rest; and we have the lowest interest rates in the European Community. Ours are lower 417 than Germany's, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) did not believe was possible. I well remember asking him in earlier debates, "What is the use of having sovereignty in the sense of control over interest rates and exchange rates? It means 25 minutes of freedom before adjusting to fall into line with the Germans"—
§ Sir Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I welcome the Third Reading of the Bill, for which I firmly intend to vote. I hope that the House will not forget that—as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said—the treaty was not of Britain's seeking. Of course we could not turn our backs on what had happened at Maastricht, but it was inevitable that the Prime Minister was faced with a damage limitation exercise, and he and his colleagues in the Government deserve our thanks for the skill and persistence with which they have conducted it. The same cannot be said of the Bill's opponents, from whichever party. Conservative opponents of the Bill will receive no thanks from me today.
I am not prepared to go as far as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), but it will be a long time before some of us forget the disgraceful sight of corridor conspiracies being conducted with the Opposition Chief Whip aimed solely at frustrating the business of the Government whom the hon. Members involved were elected to support. I can understand that hon. Members may be slow to forgive colleagues who sloped into the Opposition Lobby, then sought to blame the Government for spending so much time on the Bill. I must say in his absence that it surprises me that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) still seems to be regarded by the press as the true voice of the loyal right.
However, those are side considerations. The rebels have marginalised themselves and will find themselves in curious company in the Lobby tonight. But that is their affair and need not worry the House as a whole—it is more important to look forward. Much has happened since the first day of Maastricht. There have been significant changes in Europe and we need a few agenda. I am delighted to have had the Prime Minister's testimony that rejoining the exchange rate mechanism is not on the agenda for Britain. I warmly welcome the statement that he made yesterday on the BBC when he said that the conditions for considering re-entry—let alone re-entry itself—do not currently apply. I believe that they are unlikely to do so for a long time.
The enlargement of the Community must be a high priority, and I have no doubt that the Government will press actively for that. I am also sure that we can rely on my right hon. Friends to press on with their campaign against the over-regulation that the Community has inflicted on us and which our own bureaucrats have so often succeeded in compounding. We must finish spring cleaning the nooks and crannies that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary identified a while ago.
Just as we must ensure that unnecessary rules and regulations go, so we must ensure that all our partners 418 comply with necessary rules. The latest report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry highlighted sectors in which Government action is still needed to secure fair competition, eliminate illegal state aids and ensure a level playing field. I hope that that task is high on Whitehall's agenda.
Whatever the agenda, hon. Members must never forget that they have been chosen to represent Britain's interests. Our purpose in seeking to be at the heart of Europe is not to try to dominate Europe, as France and others have always feared that Germany would. It is right to seek to make the most of our own skills and strengths, which is why it is vital that we should not allow ourselves to be shackled by the social chapter.
At a time when our industrial costs are lower than those of Germany, why does the Labour party want us to throw away that advantage? Does it believe that to do so would strengthen our economy or create more jobs? We can only prepare ourselves to face the mounting competition from outside Europe if we are strong enough to compete inside Europe. I can illustrate how intense world competition is likely to become. Last week I heard of a firm in Germany that has decided to relocate its research facility in India because the top rate for a computer programmer in Bangalore is one tenth of that in Berlin. Against such a background, we must identify the fierce competition that we are about to face.
Another major change since the Maastricht process began is the recession that the Germans have entered. I expect that, being Germans, they will have a good—or, should I say, thorough—recession. France is threatened by the same sort of force, although, under its new Government, it has a better chance of surviving it. Those factors show why we have every reason to reject the millstone of the social chapter.
My hon. Friends and others who seem to fear that the treaty will lead to outright political union in an inevitable super-state in Europe should not forget the lesson of Bosnia. What is happening in the former Yugoslavia poses a potential threat to peace in the whole of Europe, and we must not ignore it. But simply because Britain is fortunate enough to have the best Army in Europe, it must not allow itself to be cast in the role of Europe's policeman. We must sometimes work with others, but we must not surrender sovereignty over our armed forces or the rights of the House. I am sure that the Government recognise that.
Bosnia can only provide a damage limitation exercise for Europe, just as Maastricht has been for Britain. If we are sensible enough to see things as they are, we shall realise that there is still a great deal that we can achieve to build the sort of Europe that we want. Tonight's vote is a necessary step towards that goal.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
Tonight's vote on Third Reading will have a pre-set majority. But not one hon. Member has the legal or moral authority to hand over the powers that they borrowed from their electors last April to people who will not be accountable to those whom we now represent. Not one of us put the Maastricht treaty before the electorate last year, because it was not then published in English. We offered them no choice—the Labour party, without any conference authority, decided to support the treaty. I know that the Labour party had no authority, 419 because the Maastricht treaty was negotiated after the conference, which intervened before the manifesto was written.
The problem for those who are passionate about Europe is that they cannot offer this country to Europe. Only half the seats in the Chamber are occupied for tonight's debate and the Opposition intend to abstain in the vote. If I were a passionate federalist—which I am not —I would feel more concerned about tonight's vote than anyone else. If others in Europe say that 'we have supported them, it is not true. The House of Commons, under the Whips, the patronage, the discipline and the disillusionment, has supported them, but not the British people.
A democracy consists not merely of a mechanism of becoming elected and passing a law. It contains the responsibility of gaining the continued consent of the electorate. At the next election I shall have to say to the people of Chesterfield, "Vote for me and I shall fight for you, but do not vote for me to deal with your agricultural, environmental, trade or even foreign policy, and certainly not your economic policy." We are handing over the British people, without their consent, to a system that has replaced parliamentary democracy, which we have been told is the justification for what we are doing tonight.
Would the House have been entitled to take Britain into the United States of America, join the Warsaw pact or invite in Soviet troops without a referendum? Of course not—nobody would believe that for a minute. We have experienced a coup d'etat by a parliamentary elite, not only in this country, but in the whole of Europe. They have abandoned their tasks as representatives and become the managers of Europe.
§ Mr. Benn
I should love to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I have an argument that I want to advance and I have only 10 minutes in which to do so.
The House has given up its power, because it has lost interest in its role. I do not think that the House of Commons wants power any more; it has traded status for power. Hon. Members now get on the television and are introduced as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield or whatever, but they do not want power. For them, status is much more important.
The Labour party has adopted a completely new philosophy—that of being in government when not in government. We now have shadow Ministers—the French call them "phantomes", which is appropriate. I heard that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) went to Paris and Le Monde called him le secretaire d'etranger phantome de Britannique. I can imagine people placing entries in "Who's Who" such as "Phantom Prime Minister 1983–1992". We shall have a phantom queen next, who will call for Buckingham palace to be open for two or three months a year at £9.50 a tour.
We have abandoned our representative role, and the same is happening in every country. It is that crisis that lends support to a Ross Perot and Le Pen. As Members of Parliament, we do not represent people; we hope to manage them. If we cannot manage them, we pretend that, if we were to manage them, we would do it better than the Conservative party.
During the election, the Chancellor appeared on a Labour poster as Batman. I thought that it was a Tory 420 poster, trying to make him more attractive to younger voters. What is the point of abuse when there are matters of substance to discuss, such as how to solve unemployment, what sort of Europe we should have and what new world order? We have abandoned all those issues.
I must not be controversial—that is not my practice —but my party, in supporting the Maastricht treaty, has abandoned everything for which the party was established. Others may take a contrary view. The Labour party believed that people had the right through the ballot box to control those who made the laws and, by getting a majority, to change the economic system under which they lived. However, the party has now given it all up. I am not saying that it has done so out of wickedness; it was out of a lack of self-confidence.
I do not think that members of Labour's Front Bench would have even two ideas about what to do with the economy if they came to power, other than with a central bank. I say this with some regret, but a series of sound bites glued together and called an economic policy is not an economic policy. That is the problem—[Interruption.] I am sorry to speak sharply, but, if this is my last speech in a free Parliament, I had better say what I think and take the consequences.
I bitterly resent the title "Euro-sceptic". Am I an "Anglo-sceptic" because I did not like the Thatcher Government? I oppose the Maastricht treaty as a European because it takes from every country in Europe the rights that are being taken away from us. It does not offer durability. The treaty has divided every country in Europe—Denmark went one way and then the other, France agreed by a narrow margin and Ireland by a bit more, but in Britain the people are not allowed to vote.
Let no one tell me that proportional representation to put people in an impotent Parliament within a European federation merits a referendum. That is an utterly disreputable argument, and no one will believe it. Labour does not want to have to put to the Labour movement and the public the arguments for the Maastricht treaty and European union, because it knows that those notions would not win support.
A moment ago, someone said that 83 per cent. of the people in Germany want a referendum and two thirds wish that the Danes had voted no. The treaty will fail; that is the tragedy. I shall get no satisfaction from its failure, but it will fail because it cannot be made to work. When it fails, a Bosnian-type crisis will emerge, because one can no more impose capitalism from Brussels than communism from Moscow. It cannot be done—you must carry people with you.
That is why I suggested a commonwealth of Europe, a looser arrangement where harmonisation is by consent. I believe that the crisis in the former Yugoslavia would be much less serious if we had a commonwealth of Europe in which it could find a place without having in place of the iron curtain a gold curtain or a deutschmark curtain, which means that, if one cannot fit in with the policies, one is not acceptable.
I hope that the House will forgive me for speaking with passion. I have often wondered whether, when we lost democracy in Britain, it would be to the red army, the Militant Tendency or Oswald Mosley, but in fact we ourselves have given it up. The House has agreed to abandon its responsibility to hold to account those who make our laws. We have given it all up. Walter Bagehot 421 said in the 19th century that the British constitution was divided between the dignified and the efficient. He said that the Queen was the dignified and that the Commons was the efficient. The Executive is now the efficient, and we are the dignified.
We no longer want power. We do not care whether it goes. The nation accepts that because, after centuries of subservience to a monarch whom we cannot elect or remove, we are trained to be subservient. If we learned to live with William the Conqueror, we can learn to live with Jacques Delors. People have been trained—there is a culture of bowing and scraping, going to another place with my Lord this or my Lord that. The nation has never been allowed to develop the equality that comes with birth, to govern oneself as one thinks right and then to collaborate, harmonise and co-operate with other nations.
The idea of one country living alone is absurd. We could be killed by a Chernobyl nuclear disaster or destroyed by a nuclear weapon from China. There is no national sovereignty, but there is a right to choose and remove the people who make our laws. When we vote tonight, under the discipline of the Whips and the patronage system, which is also a corrupting influence, the House will abandon that which makes it a focus of interest and attention for generations of people, from the chartists and the suffragettes until now.
In 1970, we permitted the vote at 18. The meaning of the vote was taken away on 1 January 1973. There were two and a half years of the right of the electorate, but it was too dramatic a power and the Government, without a referendum, took it away. I regret the fact that my right hon. and hon. Friends now hope that they will get more justice from Jacques Delors than from the Government. It is not a policy which any progressive party could pursue.
§ Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)
We have spent more than 200 hours in Committee, mainly debating legal interpretations of the treaty. I shall refer to some of the economic issues and especially to what one might call the intelligent Garrick club member arguments. Those arguments are as follows: first, that Britain belongs to the weakest of the three major trading groups in the world, secondly, that during phase 2, all countries will be required to reduce their deficits to specified levels and there will be determined effort to implement the single currency; and, thirdly, that we shall transfer economic policy from elected Parliaments to non-elected institutions and that the European central bank is insulated from democracy. It was because of that authoritarian power that Charles I lost his head.
On the first point, we need not doubt that economic growth is faster in the far east and likely to be faster for some time in the United States. I do not know whether we are supposed to try to become a member of the American free trade area or its equivalent in the far east, but such a suggestion would be as absurd as it is impractical. We do not need to weaken ourselves by leaving the European Community in order to invest in the United States or the far east, which we already do rather more than any other European country.
We must have the resources to invest in the rapidly growing parts of the world, which means that we cannot 422 afford to weaken ourselves. I fear that that would happen if we failed to ratify the treaty. We have attracted huge amounts of inward investment in recent years, especially from the United States and Japan, and only because we are full members of the European Community. We have attracted some £2,000 million from the Japanese alone, who have employed 70,000 extra people. As a result, we expect our balance of trade in motor vehicles to be in credit within two years and to double car production within the next five years.
As the House will know, a survey was recently carried out for the Confederation of British Industry by an economic research institution. It showed that, if we did not ratify Maastricht, about 47 per cent. of American and Japanese major investors would cease to invest in this country. That is real evidence rather than a matter of legal interpretation, which has been bandied around the House in recent weeks.
§ Sir Peter Hordern
No, I shall not give way, because, as my hon. Friend knows, time is limited.
Sixty per cent. of our trade is with the European Community. We need a strong home base, which the Community provides, to increase our investment in the United States and the far east. We also need to bring down the tariffs and to make a success of the GATT round. I cannot see how we can make a success of it unless we are a full member of the European Community, negotiating with fellow member countries to bring down the tariffs all over the world and, in particular, in the United States. We can influence the negotiations only from within the European Community.
The second proposition is that, during phase 2, all countries will be required to reduce their deficit to specified levels. I do not think that there is any truth in that. Indeed, the treaty states that, in phase 2, we mustendeavour to reduce excessive deficits"—a praiseworthy and commendable thing to do.
As for deficits, the House knows that all European countries, with the possible exception of Luxembourg, are way outside those limits. Belgium—which I suppose is the keenest federalist of all—has a financial deficit of 6.7 per cent. and a debt of 130 per cent. of GDP rather than 60 per cent. Italy has a financial deficit of 10.5 per cent. and growing, and a debt of 105 per cent. The Netherlands—another very federalist country—has a debt of 80 per cent.
Are we seriously to believe that in the next two years those deficits will be reduced by half? Is it seriously to be considered that those countries will cut their public spending by half in the next two to three years, or double their taxation? It is a ludicrous idea. Only an academic, lost in an ivory tower, would believe any such thing. We do not believe in signing up to such an arrangement and hence, very sensibly, my right hon. and hon. Friends have secured the opt-out from that arrangement.
I think that we ought to consider why these convergence factors are in the treaty at all. It is likely that the Bundesbank, the German people and the German Parliament—all of whom have to ratify the single currency and will have the final say—are not happy to abandon the deutschmark. It is quite understandable that, if they are to accept the single European currency, they will demand at least as stringent conditions as are currently applied to the deutschmark. I think they are right to do so. If there were ever to be a single currency, the conditions set out in the 423 treaty would be sensible; but it is simply not going to happen, because the terms and conditions in the treaty cannot conceivably be met.
The proposition is that the European central bank would be somehow insulated from democracy, and that never in the course of our long island history have we ever been called upon to sacrifice our sovereignty in this way. That is absolute nonsense. Ever since we were on the gold standard, from 1660 onwards—and again under Peel's Bullion Act of 1819—more often than not we have been tied to the gold standard or some other fixed currency. In more recent times, under the Bretton Woods agreement, we were completely fixed to the United States dollar for 22 years, and in that time our monetary policy was conducted not within the Bank of England but by the Federal Reserve of the United States.
If, by any chance, hon. Members should say that that was a deplorable time, I would mention the fact that interest rates were commonly about 3.5 or 4 per cent. at that time, inflation was about 3 per cent. and unemployment about 500,000. Those were halcyon days. I do not see any difficulty, in practice, in our tying ourselves to another currency.
As many of my right hon. and hon. Friends know, for some time I have favoured an independent Bank of England. Many opponents of the Maastricht treaty would like to blame our membership of the ERM for the recession. I say to them that it is worth remembering that, before we joined the ERM, interest rates had been at 15 per cent. for a whole year and at about 14 per cent. for a year before that, and that inflation was at 12 per cent. That was the position before we joined the ERM. We did not join it because of any great enthusiasm of Baroness Thatcher for the European Community; we joined it as a way of dealing with inflation. In that respect at least, it was extremely successful; it brought inflation down from 12 to 5 per cent., and interest rates fell from 15 to 10 per cent.
Of course. it can now be argued in retrospect that we ought to have joined the ERM sooner—I believe that we should have done—and that it might have been very much better if we had devalued the currency within the ERM. There is no case to be made for a floating currency without any regard to other currencies. If we float our currency, it invariably floats downwards, and up goes inflation. That is the record of the last 20 years: there is no denying it. It is not surprising that foreign holders of sterling—to whom we are extremely indebted at the moment, having to borrow some $50 billion—demand a very high price for it, as they will if they think there is any doubt about the level of sterling.
Whether in currency or in trade matters—as in defence or foreign affairs—we cannot act as an island alone. Whether in the GATT negotiations on the negotiations for an enlarged Community—which I think we all wish to see—we need to be at the heart of Europe to help steer it in the right direction, and that is why I am in favour of ratifying the treaty.
§ Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)
The positive and decisive result of the Danish referendum—which I welcome—has without doubt radically improved the prospects for ratification of the Maastricht treaty. The truth is that the Danish no last June threw the whole EC into turmoil; another Danish no on Tuesday would 424 certainly have derailed Maastricht and the Bill, even if 10 or possibly even 11 of the 12 member states had joined forces to cobble together a replacement treaty. Thanks to Danish second thoughts, however, Maastricht has survived.
I remain convinced that the Maastricht treaty provides a valuable, indeed essential, framework for the economic, social and political co-operation and integration of the 12 EC countries. Like the Labour party conference, I support the treaty and believe that it should be ratified as soon as possible.
I strongly agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench that the Conservative Government have grossly mishandled the passage of the Bill. It was the Prime Minister himself who specifically linked British progress on the Bill with events in Denmark —first by delaying the Committee stage, and then by saying that Third Reading would not take place until after the Danish referendum. More fundamentally, it was the Government who stifled the emergence of the natural pro-Maastricht majority in the House—thus slowing the Bill's passage—by insisting on the retention of the social chapter opt-out which was negotiated at Maastricht, mainly for internal party-political reasons.
In fact—as was made clear when the Foreign Secretary read out parts of the social chapter—it is a very mild document, which should have caused no alarm to Conservative Members. Everyone knows that, if the Government had been prepared to accept the social chapter, we would have been able to ratify the treaty long ago.
As my hon. Friends have said, the Bill is still incomplete, because it does not contain the social chapter. Even so, I shall be obliged to resist the advice of my right hon. and hon. Friends to abstain in the vote tonight—although that advice was couched in the gentle and attractive guise of a one-line Whip. As you probably know. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am not a natural rebel. I was encouraged to abstain on Second Reading, and I did so; I was encouraged to support my party in the paving debate, and I did so—although I was given some stick by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrats for abandoning my European principles. On those occasions, however, I had good reasons. At the time of Second Reading, the Bill did not contain the social chapter; and, in my view, the vote on the paving debate constituted a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister and his Government. On this occasion, however, I shall vote in favour of Third Reading.
Of course, I understand the position of those on the Front Bench. Abstention maximises Labour party unity and helps to exploit divisions in the Tory party. It also underlines the fact that the Bill still does not contain the social chapter. However, unusually for politicians, my Front-Bench colleagues are underestimating and underselling their own achievements in Committee and on Report.
I am not referring to the fact that five out of eight clauses in the Bill are actually Labour amendments, or to the fact that some useful gains have been made with regard to the composition of the Committee of the Regions and economic and institutional accountability. Their most crucial achievement was on the social chapter. The opt-out has always had an uncertain legal and political basis, as any Minister will admit in private. It has always been inherently improbable that two social regimes should 425 continue to exist side by side, one for 11 members and the other for the 12th member. The acceptance of amendment No. 2 on Report made it even more unlikely.
When, after ratification, British trade unionists or French, German or Danish business men challenge the social chapter opt-out in the European Court, as they will, the British Government will not now be able to argue that the social protocol, or rather, the British opt-out from it, is part of British law.
What is more, the Government have accepted that the Act will come into force only after a vote on the social opt-out. That was a victory for the Labour party, which I believe it has not made enough of. But we shall have a vote on the social protocol and the British opt-out only if the Bill is given a Third Reading. If the Bill falls there will be no social protocol vote, and, indeed, no social chapter for anyone, because the Maastricht treaty will not be ratified.
I shall vote for Third Reading for all those reasons, and for another, personal reason. I have campaigned in two referendums for a yes vote over the past year—in the French referendum, at the invitation of the French socialists, and in the Danish referendum, at the invitation of the Danish social democrats. Both referendums were won, incidentally.
§ Mr. Radice
Fortunately my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) did not go over to Denmark; otherwise the majority would have been even bigger.
Even with an incomplete Maastricht Bill, it would be inconsistent if, when it came to my turn, I were to abstain. So I shall vote for Third Reading.
§ 7.1 pm
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
Like my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I welcome the likelihood that the House will give the Bill a Third Reading despite the bizarre and faintly ridiculous position of the Labour Front-Bench spokesmen, to which the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) is an honourable exception. I do not know how many more exceptions there will be.
I welcome the likelihood of the Bill's securing a Third Reading, not because I regard the Maastricht treaty as perfect in all aspects—it has many faults and problems —but because ratification will clear the way and enable us to get on with our ideas and proposals for developing a Europe to meet the real priorities of the 1990s and of the next millennium, rather than the backward-looking hopes of a previous era. It will enable us to focus on 1996 and to develop the ideas on which the Foreign Secretary has already touched for designing a decentralised Europe resting on the authority and legitimacy of the nation states —a modern design, not an old-fashioned, over-centralised structure.
Ratification will also enable us to get on with the single market, which is far from complete. It may work well for British beer drinkers who visit Calais—in fact, it is working too well in that respect—but in general there are many hurdles yet to be overcome before we can make the great single market yield its full benefit to this country.
I also dare to hope that ratification will provide us with an opportunity to unite the Conservative party. I do not 426 believe that the Euro-rebels should be hated for ever. I regard that as a ridiculous statement, and I see the validity of many of their concerns. Nevertheless, I believe that in putting the Maastricht Bill and the principle—although not the process—of ratification behind us, we have an opportunity for what Enoch Powell once described as the elaboration of a mental map, a map that we can honestly all share about the way in which Europe should develop and the way in which we should operate within it. In approaching that work, we now have the opportunity of a completely new context within which to operate.
Almost every Government have been in severe difficulties within the European Community; indeed, almost all the democracies have been in difficulties. That is because the context in which they were operating and in which the treaty was drawn up has changed totally. We can now see clearly that we have not a one-speed Europe, nor even a two-speed Europe, but a three or four-speed Europe, with some countries right outside the exchange rate mechanism—including this country, which is coming through the recession—some countries with so-called hard currencies, such as Germany, Belgium and Holland, with Switzerland and Austria outside the Community, and with France hanging on by its eyebrows—those countries are being dragged into the depths of the recession—and other countries that have already had to retreat somewhat within the ERM, such as Spain and Portugal, with Italy now right outside it.
We have a three-speed Europe, within no convergence of any kind taking place. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) said, far from seeing convergence, we are seeing divergence. Not a single country's deficit, or debt as a proportion of GDP, conforms in any way with the Maastricht criteria, and those factors conform less as time goes by. That brings home the fact that the Maastricht architects' high hopes for European monetary union have proved totally impracticable. I do not know of any responsible banker with real insight and wisdom in the whole of Europe who now believes that the proposals and timetable for monetary union in the text of the Maastricht treaty are realistic or will be fulfilled.
Worse than that, the existence of the dream of a single currency—a single currency is not at all necessary for a common market, and those who say otherwise are wrong —has turned the ERM and monetary co-operation in Europe into what has seemed like a stepping-stone or glide path to monetary union and the single currency, and that undermines sensible, practical monetary co-operation in Europe. We shall have to return to that sensible, practical co-operation when we have got rid of the fantasy of moving towards a single money and a single monetary policy for the whole of Europe from Lisbon to Berlin, and from Palermo to Glasgow. That is all nonsense, and it is undermining both the single market and the hopes of monetary co-operation in an extremely volatile world.
The context has changed totally in that sense, and it has also changed, as my hon. Friends have reminded the House this afternoon, in the sense that we now have a very high-cost Europe. Even Jacques Delors appears to be in something of a panic as he orders special inquiries to be made into why Europe is pricing itself out of jobs and ruining its competitive structure. Those developments are moving rapidly.
Can we compete, or can Germany compete, with Taiwan and Asia? Not only are labour unit costs in Hong 427 Kong one third of ours, but up the Pearl river from Guangdong province, people are producing not shoddy but high-quality goods at one tenth the labour costs of Hong Kong. To come nearer to home, to eastern Europe, some people say that Poland needs help. However, Polish exports need less and less help. They are extremely high-quality goods and very competitive. Those are the places with which we shall have to compete.
As the more perceptive Opposition Members know, that underlines the absurdity of arguing that we should hold on to the social chapter doctrine at a time when the main need of the European powers, led by the Germans, is somehow to get out from under the whole idea of massive social overheads and uncompetitive labour costs that is undermining the prospect of European growth and employment. That has all changed, and I am glad that my party is on the right wavelength, although the Labour party is on the wrong wavelength.
The priorities with regard to eastern Europe have changed, too. We have completely new, desperately important tasks. We must bring the Visegrad countries into democracy, which they will not achieve otherwise, and we must make some sense of the chaos and disaster that we have made of the Bosnian situation. Europe did the most irresponsible thing that a human being can do; it brought a child—a new state—into the world and then refused to accept responsibility for it or to do anything to prevent it from being torn into little bits, as is now happening.
Finally, enlargement will take place. There seems to be an illusion that that will not totally change the structure of the Community. The four new countries will make the total 16, with 11 small states and five big ones. There will be 21 Commissioners and a vast new range of Members of the European Parliament. Sixteen people will be sitting round a table designed for six, and there will be 72 language combinations. That will totally change the way in which the Community works. The Maastricht treaty is only a stopping point, an interim measure before we have to move towards totally new procedures and structures, for which a new treaty will be required.
We should now focus on the design for a decentralised Community, and for that we need more accountability. I dislike phraseology about decisions being brought closer to the people. It contains the patronising implication that power somehow comes from above, when it does not. Power goes upwards.
We must make subsidiarity a political procedure. Everyone recognises that it is not a legal but a political procedure. This House will have a vital role to play in ensuring that it is made a political procedure, with our having a say early on in the pre-legislative process. We do heroic work scrutinising the legislation as it comes down from Brussels. But we must get in earlier in the process and ensure that we have an opportunity, pre the legislation, to test whether they are matters about which the Community should be legislating. That is the only way to make subsidiarity work.
An enormous amount of work remains to do done. The Third Reading of the Bill will enable us to put immediate matters behind us—we do not know what is to come—and ensure that we begin focusing on the task of the 1990s to create the kind of Europe we want. Let us be realistic and accept that on the last occasion over Maastricht, Britain was on the defensive from the start. We lost the initiative 428 over the intergovernmental conference and even when we got to Maastricht, although we achieved some heroic exemptions.
If we have confidence, the opportunity exists—if we are not in the mood to cop out and opt out—to seize the initiative in the shaping of the Europe for which there will be another treaty in 1996 and about which the review must begin now. On the last occasion we were on the defensive. If we show initiative now, we can win the race.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) made an important observation when he said that the official Labour party and the trade union movement have at last accepted Europe and the European Community. That is clear and he was right to make the point. Indeed, it is one of the clear impressions to be gained from the debates in Committee and on Report.
There is today at the heart of British economic policy a grand coalition. The occupants of the Labour Front Bench as well as the leaders of the Liberal Democrats and the nationalist parties are junior members of that coalition. But members they are, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friends hope that, after the next election, they will be senior members of that coalition. Either way, the coalition will remain, and for the first time since the last war—perhaps in the pre-war era we had a kind of coalition for a short time over the gold standard—we have a fundamental and grand coalition on economic policy.
I also get the impression from the debates in Committee that Ministers have been operating under a delusion, and I say that with particular respect to the Foreign Secretary, who was rather more defensive today. Otherwise, he and other members of the Government have been operating under the delusion that they gained a great victory at Maastricht. They seem to think that they saved the nation state—that they rolled back the frontiers of federalism, challenged centralising tendencies and so enabled the nation state to live again.
I do not see Maastricht as a federal treaty, whether or not the word "federal" appears in it. Federalism implies democracy and I see little concern for democracy in the Maastricht treaty. Indeed, the European political class and the bureaucracy that follows it around is not that interested in democracy.
If one compares the European political class with the American political class, for instance, one detects a totally different attitude towards a fundamental belief in democracy. The European political class wants European integration without democracy. It wants to play with and enjoy the flummeries of the nation state and still transfer the power of the nation state to the central institutions with which it feels it can deal and to which it can have almost sole and unrestricted access.
So what we have from the Maastricht treaty is a Europe of institutions—a directoire of institutions—and of three in particular. They are the court, the Commission and a new institution, which will be the European central bank. The court gets more power. There are more words, there is another treaty and the court becomes more powerful. Should there ever be an ambiguity, absurdity or lack of clarity in the treaty, the court will interpret the relevant words and phrases in accordance with an ever closer 429 union. That has been the case in the past and it is bound to happen again, in the same way as the federal court in the United States has performed precisely that task.
The Commission gains power. The Financial Secretary said during the passage of the Bill that the Commission had always had a general oversight over the the economic policies of member states. But under the Maastricht treaty it gets more than an oversight. Its gets power over the economic policies of member states. The Commission is the institution in the driving seat on the journey towards economic union. The bank is in the driving seat on the journey towards monetary union, which is what the bank is all about.
As I say, we have a directoire of institutions which are ultimately responsible only to themselves, to the treaty and to the words. The three institutions are custodians of the word and, at the end of the day, the word is supreme in the whole set-up. We have been told that in 1996 there will be another intergovernmental conference. According to the treaty, that conference is supposed to make more efficient the institutions of the Community. The result will be more powers for the court, the Commission and the bank.
The British Government believe that somehow, if we bring in five more countries, the centralising progress and power of the Community will be lessened. In fact, the opposite will be the case. Five more countries joining the Council of Ministers will result in an even greater dilution of that democratic arm. Imagine the result with five more countries in the European Parliament. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) referred to 78 varieties of language. There will be an assemblage of Babel in the European Parliament.
The imperial civil service—the directoire, the three main institutions to which I referred—will become even more powerful. Politicians will come and go and they will not be able to understand each other without the necessary translating equipment. The translations will be terrible and they will have to return to their member states to clarify matters.
With all that going on, the imperial civil service will be in place. It will be there, just as it was in place when it governed India under British rule, as it governed the Austro-Hungarian empire and as the Soviet Communist party governed the Soviet empire. Those developments will strengthen, not weaken, the centralising tendencies of those concerned and of the institutions, all totally undemocratic, of the European union.
I fear that that will lead rapidly towards a common defence and foreign policy. The events in Bosnia and the rift with the United States reveal that the French and those who have argued against NATO have already won the intellectual argument and will move quickly towards a common European defence and common policy, with all its implications for the control of nuclear weapons and so on. There will then be a drive towards economic and monetary union and a single currency.
I do not accept the claim that all that cannot and will not happen. There will be such a drive because the single market is failing. About 17. million people are unemployed. Only 60 per cent. of the people of western Europe who are capable of working are at work. About 40 per cent. are economically inactive. In the United States, the figure is 30 per cent. and in Japan it is 25 per cent.
430 As I say, the single market is not working. It is said that it would work if we had a single currency. It is claimed that that is the catalyst we need to make it all come together. I do not believe that it can work. The over-centralised, undemocratic, institutional nature of the Community after Maastricht cannot make Europe competitive with the United States or Japan or make it competitive with what is happening elsewhere in the world, including some of the Asian countries. We are creating a structure that militates against growth and technological development; it merely creates unemployment.
Labour Front-Bench spokesmen are somewhat confused about a single or common currency. I believe that they agree with it. They also believe that monetary union is possible without monetary convergence. Apparently, with real convergence everything will work—but to have monetary union there must first be monetary convergence. Perhaps they believe that convergence will not be painful, but it will be extremely painful. The only way in which we can arrive at the sort of monetary union required in the treaty is by means of a sharp monetary convergence, as foreseen by those who drafted the treaty.
Those of us who have argued against the treaty have been portrayed as sceptics, as fuddy-duddies and as old-fashioned thinkers, by contrast with the modernists, who are in favour of centralising, undemocratic and inflexible institutions. I am not quite sure now who are the modernists and who are the ancien regime. I am beginning to think that those in favour of the treaty are arguing for an ancien regime that will not work. Perhaps we are the modernists and perhaps history will prove us right.
§ Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East)
I am enormously grateful finally to have caught someone's eye to make my maiden speech. I know that the House will afford me the usual courtesies for such an occasion. If I appear to be reading the speech, that is simply because I am. I should like to pay tribute to the taxi driver—anonymous—ill whose taxi I left the speech this afternoon and who took the trouble to return it to the House.
It has long been my intention to speak on Third Reading of this Bill, hut, optimistically, I had expected that to be some months ago. As the very last of the 1992 intake to speak, I congratulate all my colleagues on their speeches. The pride with which they were delivered was matched by a universal determination to make a better world for the generations that will follow us. The friendship and informed debate exhibited on both sides of the House make it possible to believe that that is achievable.
I intend to follow the traditional form of maiden speech before returning to the importance of the Bill to my constituency. That constituency is the only new and additional seat in this Parliament. Originally it was part of Buckingham and represented by that great socialist, Robert Maxwell—-thought then to be the epitome of the modern British Labour party. His name still appears on the boarded-up factories in my constituency, which he bought and then closed down.
Inexplicably, he lost in 1970, and for 22 years Bill Benyon represented what became the Milton Keynes constituency. He did so with a courtesy, charm and effectiveness which endeared him to his constituents and a clear sense of duty and principle which endeared him at 431 times to the leadership of his party. He never lost his belief in the future of the new city of Milton Keynes and its success is due in large part to his unstinting efforts, to which I now pay tribute. That tribute was echoed by the Boundary Commission, which found it necessary to create two seats so that two Conservative Members could succeed him.
In Milton Keynes, we boast by far the best built environment in the kingdom. We have more footpaths and bridleways than any other city, 7 million trees and almost as many roundabouts. We also have some concrete cows. But above all we boast of our people. We are a young and purposeful community which cares for its environment, which looks after its elderly and disadvantaged and which demonstrates best practice in many fields of endeavour. We build and plan better, we look after the environment better, we recycle what we can, and we work hard and live well.
Milton Keynes is an harmonious multicultural city with a "can-do" approach to life and business. We prove day after day that new can be good, that enterprise can succeed and that commerce and a caring society can be mutually compatible. Our city motto, by which we live, reads, "By knowledge, design and understanding".
My constituency includes a large part of rural North Buckinghamshire, with towns and villages which previous generations would still recognise. The Romans started a massive road improvement scheme in the early fourth century to encourage commercial activity in Britain. In my constituency, I am pleased to say, that programme is now nearing completion, with the widening of the M1 motorway. Perhaps the most astonishing continuity arises from the placing of the modern borough council offices —I believe by chance—just 100 yards from the old Saxon mound where the village moots, the earliest form of local government, were held. One thousand years of local people being involved in governing themselves is a proud record.
In those days a moot was what we would term an enabling authority. It employed no one at all. Meetings were undoubtedly shorter, but I feel certain that moots must even then have been under Conservative control—as the county of Buckinghamshire remains, uniquely, today. In 1992, Her Majesty the Queen attended the opening of a new ecumenical city church in the constituency and heard, for the first time since the reformation, both Archbishop and Cardinal preach. That was a powerful statement of belief and a welcome to a future of which we in Milton Keynes are not afraid.
To return to today's debate: it will decide whether the country joins Milton Keynes in welcoming the future. I shall try to maintain the tradition of non-contentious maiden speeches. From the vigorous and confident base that I have described, we look outwards to a hostile and dangerous world. Europe is a geographical area and a political conceit, but it is not a monastic retreat cutting us off from uncomfortable truths. As a trading nation we must know that we do not live or compete in Europe: we compete in the world. I have chosen to make my speech today because I believe that we should pause and consider before we vote on the Third Reading of the Maastricht Bill.
Those of us who have listened quietly to the views on each side and who have voted to accept rather than to welcome the treaty have surely earned the right to issue a caution. The sovereignty of our people comes down from 432 history. This country was not invented a century or two ago to settle some long-forgotten imperial argument. Our constitution was not thought up by any invader, or imposed by international tribunal, or by the force of recent insurrection—nor are we accustomed to seeing it torn up and redrawn. My constituents have entrusted me with their sovereignty; in return, I have supported my Government. If history judges us to have been wrong on this issue, and if the statement that we are citizens only of Europe should turn out to have some legal meaning after all, we shall have destroyed what was not ours to destroy, and given away what we did not own but held only in trust.
We live in a time of historic change. Socialism has collapsed, in Russia and elsewhere, and it does not look too healthy on the Labour Benches. That collapse has spawned desperate conditions for millions, now visible to us for the first time. War and starvation are widespread and not just where the television cameras go. Europeans are killing each other even as we speak.
Through this wasteland of dead beliefs and decaying institutions, it is our duty to force a passage for our country. We can adapt geography to politics and call ourselves Europeans temporarily, but Britain predates and will outlive the idea of a politically united Europe. So what touchstones can we employ? Surely our history and special personality answer that. Wherever we have looked to our own national interest, tolerant of other ideas but ultimately confident in our own identity, we have been successful, based on that tolerance and on the energetic Christian morality of our people.
Milton Keynes attracts investment from overseas, with 271 foreign-based companies choosing it because of the quality of our people, our communications and our lifestyle. We have welcomed 47 Japanese, 98 north American and 125 European companies. This inward investment is recognition that Milton Keynes is a quality place to do business, but it would not attract a single investor without the background of this Government's policies and our place in Europe.
I am not prepared to vote today to tell the employers in my constituency that the United Kingdom is closing its doors on international business and on the challenges and opportunities of the future.
I have heard too much about why we need Europe and perhaps too little about why Europe needs us. I believe that it does. Indeed, every true European visionary thinker has started from the basis that Europe cannot succeed without the United Kingdom. Without us, Europe would be incomplete and could never begin to fulfil its true potential.
We have a duty to use our particular genius to act as the dynamo for the development of a free trade, tolerant society of independent nation states co-operating to take our people into the next century. I have no doubt that our national interests and the interests of my constituents are best served by extending our influence in Europe while maintaining our separate role in the world.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently asked for principled support for the Bill. I hope that I have indicated that. Others today will no doubt supply abstentions, principled or otherwise.
I thank the House for its courtesy. If it wishes to extend a similar courtesy to me on another occasion I shall accept. I sit down with a relief which I am confident will be matched by all those who have been kind enough to listen to me today.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
That was a vintage maiden speech, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) on it. They say good wine is better for waiting to taste it, and that was certainly true in his case. We look forward to other occasions when we will have a similar opportunity.
We support the Bill; we supported it on Second Reading and for most of the time during its passage through the House. We have had a couple of reservations about it, but we want it on the statute book and we will be voting for it tonight.
Plaid Cymru Members have been the most consistent of all parties in the House of Commons in our pro-Europe stand. We welcome the implementation of the Maastricht treaty, but we regret that the social chapter will not apply initially to the United Kingdom. I say "initially" because I am convinced that in the fullness of time, and perhaps sooner than many hon. Members believe, it will be necessary for the United Kingdom to accept the social chapter.
I do not believe that it is possible to apply a single market on a fair basis if 11 countries have regard to minimal rights for workers and one tries to gain a competitive advantage by avoiding such responsibilities. I believe that we are in a transient position and that the sooner we accept the social chapter the better it will be for the working people of these islands.
As hon. Members have mentioned, the Third Reading will facilitate a further debate on the social chapter under the provisions of clause 7. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand the attitude of some Opposition Members who are not prepared to support the Bill and will be abstaining on Third Reading. If we do not get the Bill through, the social chapter will not be available for anyone, either here or in the rest of Europe, because we will begin negotiating some new treaty.
I respect the position of those hon. Members who have been opposed all along to the Bill, but I do not understand the mainstream within the Labour party who have said that they support Europe, have often voted with the most reactionary part of the Conservative party and are now making a principled stand of abstention on Third Reading.
I support the Bill because of the importance of the European dimension for the future of my country. Wales is a European nation. We are a Celtic people. Our language, culture, religion and traditions are all rooted in Europe. Our civilisation is a European one. Wales is an historic nation and a European region, and the new Europe is the positive context within which we believe our identity can flourish in the 21st century.
The treaty is also important in economic terms. To a large extent, the regeneration of the Welsh economy has been built on inward investment. Companies such as Sony, Bosch in Glamorgan and Euro-DPC in my constituency come to Wales because we are part of a European market and the European Community. If we were not, those companies would not be coming to Wales now. Companies considering investing there are holding back because of the uncertainty of our position. The well-being of Wales requires us to be a full, integral and enthusiastic part of the European Community, so, for economic reasons, it is necessary for us to be there.
In terms of the development of Government institutions, it is important for Wales that the treaty makes 434 progress. The political structures of the United Kingdom are obsolete and more decisions are being taken on an European level. The agriculture policy that affects my constituents is being determined in Europe, as are decisions influencing industry and commerce. Decisions on the nature of the unitary markets that are taking over are being taken by the EC, and environmental policies, where one country's industry causes another country's pollution, must be co-ordinated on a European level.
European Standing Committee B on which I serve demonstrates the significance of the growing European dimension for the workload of the House. We need structures that recognise that some decisions can, must and shall be taken on a European level. At the same time, some decisions that are taken here could be taken by the people they affect.
Wales needs direct, strong links to the European Community. There is one tentative step in that direction in the Bill—the creation of the Committee of the Regions. That is a small step in the right direction. I hope that the Committee of the Regions will grow into the second chamber of the European Parliament, a decentralist chamber providing a counterbalance to the centralising tendency that is inevitably part of any first chamber. That would be analogous to the model in Germany today.
It is important that Wales gets three or four seats out of the United Kingdom representation on the Committee of the Regions. We need democratic representatives. There has to be respect for pluralist nature of Welsh politics and it is essential that there is a reporting-back mechanism, that we do not send local councillors to that committee, sitting next to the ex-Prime Minister of Bavaria, without a strong regional base to give those representatives the credibility they need to argue the case.
The Government must let us know quickly about the provisions for setting up the representation on the Committee of the Regions. When the treaty is ratified, nothing will happen on a European level without the Committee of the Regions, because its opinion will be needed even if it does not have a veto.
For Wales to have a real link with European institutions we need more than a couple of councillors on the Committee of the Regions and occasional influence on the Council of Ministers through the Welsh Office. We need links from our own Parliament and representatives on European institutions in our own right. We need to ensure we have the same strength of voice and the same clout as other small nations such as Denmark and Ireland, and Catalonia, or regions such as Bavaria.
The Council of Ministers must change, and there has been talk tonight of another treaty. As Europe develops and other nations come in, inevitably the mechanism of the Council of Ministers must change. I realise that Wales is only a small country and that the mechanism by which small countries get an entree into the decision-taking process must be different from the way it has developed over the past 20 or 30 years. We will miss out if we have no links whatsoever.
The discussions over recent months about subsidiarity have been important, but we must recall that subsidiarity is not just an argument about the relationships between London and Brussels, Paris and Brussels and Rome and Brussels. If it means anything, subsidiarity is about authority, about sovereignty growing from the bottom up, and that can be aggregated on a Welsh level, a Scottish level and an English regional level, as well as a European 435 level. In other words, subsidiarity must be about taking decisions at the appropriate level and as close as possible to the people that they affect.
The treaty is important in terms of creating a united continent. The basis of the original EEC was to avoid France and Germany ever again going to war in the way they have twice this century, at a cost to all of us in Europe. People say that could never happen again, but we need only to look at Bosnia and Yugoslavia to see that it could happen again. As a basis for peace, we need to safeguard a united Europe, built around the structures that we have developed over recent years.
If we want other nations to join—the Scandinavian countries, Austria and eventually the eastern European countries—that structure must be based on maintaining the peace that is so essential. The Father of the House spoke of the need for us to make friends, and that must be a central consideration. The treaty is a step on that road. It is a step towards getting the sort of structure that can give the small, historic nations and small regions of Europe a direct voice within the decision-taking mechanisms. For that reason, we shall support Third Reading.
§ Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth)
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) on a superb maiden speech and one with which I am happy to express general agreement, although I may be going a bit further when I walk into the no Lobby against the Government, with no fear of the Prime Minister, this time, having any reason to ask me to change sides at the last second.
Watching the television version of Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" at the weekend, I was reminded of a comment that is true under all political regimes, and not just that in the reign of King Henry VIII—that to be different from everyone else is not easy. Sir Thomas More, a former Speaker and then Lord Chancellor, was talking to his son-in-law, Roper, who replied, "To be different is not necessarily to be right." Who is different and who is right about the Maastricht treaty is a good question.
As one of the so-called Euro-sceptics who will be voting against Third Reading. I am in the Sir Thomas More tendency of being different from the majority in the Chamber. That does not necessarily mean that I am right, but then the Government are different from the majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom in wanting the treaty ratified. The fact that the Government and their supporters are a minority on the issue does not make them necessarily right, either. The fact that the United Kingdom Government, alone in the European Community, 'Promote the Maastricht treaty as a decentralisation agreement—a significant check on federalism—does not make them necessarily right in that interpretation, either.
One searches in vain, except perhaps in Denmark, for anyone, other than my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who really thinks that Maastricht is anything other than a move towards closer integration for the European Community. The Belgian Prime Minister, to whom my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred, dismissed that view, and he is the man who will he presiding over the Council of Ministers for the next six months from June. He made clear his commitment to using the Maastricht treaty as a stepping stone to a more 436 federal Europe. That approach was endorsed by the Luxembourg Foreign Minister and by Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch Foreign Minister, who recently landed himself the well-paid job of European Commissioner for External Affairs.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a veritable Sir Thomas More in being in a minority among the European Heads of Governments in imagining that he has achieved a decentralising, anti-federalist Europe agreement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) has never been under any illusions about that; nor has he ever sought to obscure his objectives for the European Community and our country's position within it. He made that crystal clear in a fine speech today.
While I disagree profoundly with my right hon. Friend's view, I respect the sincerity and honesty with which he has always expressed it and I do not call into question his patriotism or that of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench and elsewhere who want to submerge the United Kingdom within a closely integrated European Community, eventually having all the trappings of a unified state such as a common currency—a subject on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup dilated again—and centralised control of financial and taxation policies throughout the member states.
It is to my right hon. Friend's shame that he appears unable to extend the same respect to those who disagree with him. At the weekend, he was heard to utter an extraordinary judgment on those of us who have a genuine concern about the Bill and the treaty that it is intended to implement. I heard him say on the radio, and it was repeated the next day in the Daily Mail,—These people—meaning those of us opposed to Maastricht—are going to be hated for all time. Think what they have done to our party.No hon. Member knows more about being hated than my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. He also said, as many Conservative Members have so often said, that we fought the general election on a manifesto that included the Maastricht treaty as central to our policies, and we have no business voting against it now. He even said that we had not stated our objections at the general election.
Long before the general election, and during the campaign, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) who represents the constituency neighbouring mine, will know—I am delighted to see him here in the guise of Chief Whip, and I am moderating some of the nasty things that I have said because I need his friendship—I made it clear that I could not vote for the Maastricht treaty until the British people had been consulted in a referendum.
In 1987, in common with my right hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Norfolk, for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) and for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I had in my election manifesto a commitment to replace the household rating system, a property-based tax, with a flat-rate community charge. That pledge was carried when we passed the Local Government (Finance) Act 1988. That did not stop the Conservative Government going back on the manifesto pledge and bringing in, through the council tax, a 437 property-based tax to help finance local government. That was the complete opposite of the pledge on which they fought the 1987 general election.
How dare those people say to me—I have been consistent on the issue—that I am not fulfilling my obligations to my electorate when I continue to warn them that the Maastricht treaty is not all it is cracked up to be? Everybody else in Europe can see that, but not those on the two Front Benches.
Those on the Opposition Front Bench have failed to fulfil their constitutional responsibility to oppose the Government. What a fiddle-faddle—I cannot think of the right word—what a load of nonsense—a rude word has come into my mind, one that we use in Norfolk, but that would not be appropriate in the House.
The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that we should have a referendum on the system of voting for Members of Parliament, but he does not believe that we should have a referendum on a fundamental change in our constitutional position, as a Parliament, vis-a-vis the European Parliament. It will not matter two hoots in five years' time how we elect Members to this Parliament, because we shall give away most of the powers that they have had in Milton Keynes and Great Yarmouth for centuries. One might just as well ask the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup to appoint all of us, as he used to do when he was leader of the Conservative party so as to ensure that only those who took his view ever got selected in the first place.
Watching the clock, and being conscious of the fact that I must finish by the end of my 10 minutes, I want to draw attention to a small example of how we have been misled, when the people of other European countries have not been misled. An article in The House Magazine quoted Karel De Gucht—I am not very good at pronouncing his name, but nobody pronounces mine properly so it does not matter. He was reported as pointing out:after the Maastricht Treaty has been ratified the parliament"—that is, the European Parliament—will be a genuine legislative body.He commented:Maybe it is helpful for this government to get the treaty through if they don't tell this to the people.The Government have refused to tell the people. We should have a referendum and I urge the House of Lords to give us that opportunity. The other place will not be taking a constitutional decision, but it could give us the opportunity to think again. The function of the House of Lords is to let this great place come to a second decision, to reconsider the need for a referendum that will let the people of Britain decide on their future.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
This disastrous Bill is based on a treaty which can only do immense harm to Britain and the other countries of the Community. Even if the treaty did not contain the most rigid monetarist policies, I would remain totally opposed to it. My hon. Friends who are in favour of the treaty vote on every occasion against the monetarist policies of the Government, but they hide from themselves what I shall 438 later describe in detail—the monetarist policies that will undoubtedly cause tremendous suffering to many people in our country.
However much I oppose the policies of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), I have some admiration for him over this matter. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) spoke about the right hon. Gentleman's foolish remarks on Sunday about Tory critics, but at least I admire the fact that he makes no secret of his desire for a federalist, centralist Europe and, moreover, that he sees the treaty as a basis for that. However, I cannot admire those Ministers who pretend that the treaty has no such significance. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup makes his views absolutely clear at every opportunity and looks upon the United States as a federal model for Europe. I wish that Ministers were as frank about the matter as the right hon. Gentleman.
The treaty is quite clear. It provides for economic and monetary union, although I accept that that will not happen immediately, a single currency, and a common defence and foreign policy—all of that leading in time to a single state. Euro-enthusiasts who believe that such a Europe is desirable will vote for the treaty. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who is nodding, holds that view, but those who do not share his enthusiasm are, I believe, in the majority.
At 10 o'clock there will be a large majority for Third Reading, and that majority will be made even bigger by the fact that my party intends to abstain. However, that vote will not accurately and fairly reflect the views of the House. If there was a free vote the treaty might still receive a majority, but it would be narrow and it is likely that the Bill would be defeated. Therefore, I do not see the vote at 10 o'clock as reflecting the House's view on the treaty. It is unfortunate that there will not be a free vote.
The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) made a good maiden speech, and like him I do not think that we have any mandate to give up large chunks of economic and political sovereignty to the European central bank and other Community institutions. We were not elected to do that. The Government say that the treaty was mentioned at the last election, but the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who is critical of the measure and of many other aspects of the European Community, said that in his borough his colleague here who represents a different view entirely got the same percentage of the vote. Therefore, how can it be argued that at the last election any of us received a mandate to give up so much of our economic and political sovereignty?
There will not be a referendum, but not for all the reasons that have been given by Front-Bench spokesmen. It will be because there is a feeling, I hope justified, that it would not produce a majority in favour of the treaty. That is why Britain, unlike other countries such as Denmark, will not have a referendum.
I do not challenge the fact that in future the House will be able to debate, as it has debated over the centuries, all the issues. The difference will be that crucial decisions for our country will no longer be taken in the House but elsewhere. Those who think that that is desirable may see it as another reason for supporting the treaty.
When debating this measure I am reminded of how, at the very end of the 18th century, the then Irish House of Commons voted for union with Britain. Every sort of 439 bribe and promise was used to get a majority of 46 for the measure. A leading opponent of the union, Henry Gratton, said at the time:The constitution may, for a time, be lost, the character of the country cannot be so lost.How right he proved to be, and how disastrous that union was.
The fight for Britain to retain its national sovereignty will continue, irrespective of tonight's majority and the passing of the Bill by the Lords. Those of us who hold the view that I have expressed will not give up our belief that the House has a right, a duty and an obligation to the people to carry on as we have done throughout the centuries to ensure that the important and crucial decisions affecting our country are taken in this House.
Like our predecessors on the Opposition Benches, I have always passionately believed that countries governed by Britain should have their independence. I argued for that and our predecessors argued for it even more strongly. That attitude was unpopular and at times Conservative Members accused Labour Members of speaking for every country but our own. If, like our Opposition predecessors, I believe so strongly and passionately that other countries should have had their national independence, how can I take any other view about my own country? We should retain our important national independence.
It is not only a question of national sovereignty because article 104C of the treaty, for example, sets out the monetarist policies that I have mentioned. Governments will be expected to comply with measures such as a deficit of no more than 3 per cent. of GDP. That percentage is contained in a protocol. Bearing in mind the present deficit, reaching that 3 per cent. would mean a cut in public spending of about £33 billion—virtually the amount that is currently being spent on the national health service. What possible justification could there be for pursuing such a policy?
A Conservative Government use every excuse to cut public spending. They do not need excuses, but would use the treaty by saying that they were trying to achieve convergence. A Labour Government, moreover, would be imprisoned by such policies. When they wanted to promote employment and training and spend money on our welfare services, they would be told time and again that they could not do so, that there was a limit in the treaty to the deficit. They would have to go to Brussels to explain, justify and grovel.
Do those of my hon. Friends who favour the treaty want such measures? That is why, apart from anything else, the treaty is wrong. It is deflationary. The Community has 17 million unemployed. Does anyone imagine that the treaty will deal with the problem? It can only make it worse. It embodies all the rigid, monetarist, deflationary policies which are so wrong and which the Labour party has opposed on so many occasions.
The treaty is disastrous. I find it difficult to understand how the Labour shadow Cabinet decided that our party should abstain tonight. We should vote against the Bill. I hope that at 10 o'clock, together with those Conservative Members who oppose the treaty, there will be many Labour Members in the "No" Lobby. However small the minority, it will more greatly reflect the opinion of the country than the majority that the Government will undoubtedly achieve.
§ 8 pm
§ Sir George Gardiner (Reigate)
I join in the congratulations that have been heaped upon my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler), who has now left the Chamber to take some well-deserved refreshment. He made a charming, witting and most informative maiden speech. He began by almost teasing himself for having left it for so long. He has shown that that is our loss, not his. Of course, there was once a newly elected Member called Margaret Thatcher who took 18 months to make her maiden speech—after that she never stopped. Whether or not my hon. Friend follows in her footsteps, he will be able to look back with some pride on his maiden speech tonight.
I have always been a strong advocate of our membership of the European Community. I was a founder member of the Conservative Group for Europe. I warmly supported my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) when he took us into the Common Market, as it was then called. During the referendum I campaigned vigorously for a yes vote. I supported the Single European Act. Indeed, I have no regrets.
However, I cannot accept the Maastricht treaty, or the Bill that would give it effect in our domestic law. Support for the single market and for joint action on such shared concerns as protection of the environment is one thing; support for the centralising tendencies and loss of democratic control embodied in this Bill is quite another. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spells out his view of the sort of Europe that he wants, I have no difficulty agreeing with him. The problem comes when I try to match those worthy ambitions with the contents of the treaty. I am afraid that the two do not match.
I listened to most of the debates during the Committee stage of the Bill, and what a revelation they were. The concept of subsidiarity has not lived up to the claims made for it and it still has no precise legal definition. The dice are loaded against any member state taking a case to the European Court when it is in dispute with the Commission over the application of subsidiarity. We heard all the arguments, and there will be more, about the social chapter, yet it has been shown that our voluntary exclusion can be got round by other means by a majority of member states—possibly by using articles 1 and 2 in conjunction with article 118a of the treaty of Rome.
Whether or not they want it, we are conferring on the Queen's subjects a European citizenship with rights and duties, yet no one has been able to say precisely what those rights and duties will he. We have the opportunity to opt out of a single currency, but I foresee that when we come to make that decision we will be subjected to exactly the same arguments as those which we have heared during our debates on the Bill.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in whatever capacity he might then hold, will say that if we do not embrace a single currency international investment will flood away. We will be warned of the dangers of setting ourselves aside from other states in Europe. There is no opt-out from the obligations to achieve monetary union, in particular the obligations of stage 2, which begins next January. By slow degrees, the British people, through the British Parliament, will lose control of our economic policy.
441 My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently made some comments, which I welcome, about our obligation to rejoin the ERM. I think that he is underestimating the pressure under which he will come from the rest of Europe for Britain to rejoin the ERM during stage 2.
With such far-reaching implications, the Government are most unwise—I put it no stronger—to proceed to ratification without granting any say to the British people. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup signed up Britain to the treaty of Rome, he at least believed—he had good cause for doing so—that he had the full-hearted consent of the British people. That was subsequently challenged by the Labour party and a referendum was held, which showed beyond any shadow of doubt that continued membership had our full-hearted consent.
I challenge any Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box and assert that the Government have the full-hearted consent of the British people to ratify the Maastricht treaty of union. They will not do that, because they cannot do it. It was never an issue in the general election and it has never been put to the British people. Ratification by the United Kingdom has no democratic legitimacy.
As the debate has proceeded, deep wounds have been inflicted on the unity of my party, both in the House and in the country. It has given me no joy to vote in the opposite Lobby to respected hon. Friends on what I judge to be an issue of principle. I very much hope that, after tonight, we can begin to heal the wounds. I have said previously that there must be life in the Tory party after Maastricht and we have many other important things to do.
However, for that to happen there must be mutual respect between those who have taken, and will continue to take, different views on a matter of such deeply held principle. There must be no talk of hatred for the rest of our lives. The argument over Maastricht will continue, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, until such time as ratification acquires some domestic legitimacy.
I fear for the future—not just for this country, but for the 12 nation states that are bound together in the Community—as democratic power is slowly shifted from national Parliaments to Community institutions. That shift of power will start next year when we enter stage 2 of monetary and, in consequence, political union. I can foresee the time when I, as a Member of Parliament, receive submissions from, for example, my local chamber of commerce. It will say, "Sir George, we believe that interest rates are too high for the efficient conduct of our business. Will you undertake to press the Chancellor to bring them down?" I will reply, "Yes, interest rates are too high, but I am afraid that there is nothing I can do to help you. You see, under the Maastricht treaty, power and decision over interest rates effectively lies with the unelected members of the European central bank."
"But surely," they will say "you can at least ask the Chancellor to press the case for British business." I will have to reply, "No, because even if I did, the Maastricht treaty prevents him from offering advice to those unelected bankers. They are cocooned against such advice and pressures. Nor is it any use going to your MEP, because he is not allowed to make representations on your behalf, either.
442 Then, I am sure, my constituents will look at me with incredulity and say, "But don't we live in a democracy? When were we consulted about whether we wanted to surrender this influence over our own future?" I shall have to say, "No, you weren't consulted. The powers have been signed away and we can never get them back." I have to warn the Government that when that comes to be generally recognised, the backlash will be terrible to behold.
I have three adult children and no grandchildren as yet, but when I have, never will they be able to come to me and say, "Grandpa, why did you vote to make the House of Commons irrelevant?" That is why I shall vote against the Bill.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
The House of Commons has a basic function to fulfil and that is not only to represent the views of the people who vote for us, but to tell those same people what is being done in their name by elected Governments.
I have been here a long time now and I have learnt to appreciate that, whatever the difficulties of this institution, it fulfils precisely that role. It is the link with the constituencies and the direct ability of our electorate to tell us their views which gives us our strength when we speak in the Chamber of the House of Commons. It is our commitment to protect their interest which gives us a legitimacy. Therefore, I shall vote against the Bill tonight because it is profoundly anti-democratic.
I have listened carefully throughout the debate. I have listened to those far more informed than I, including former Treasury Ministers such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), putting forward cast-iron arguments about the movement of control of our economy from Westminster to an unelected group of officials in Brussels.
I have listened to those who understand better perhaps than I do the finer points of constitutional law, and I have tried to understand how it can be that the House of Commons, which for so long has judged itself to be a protector of people's fundamental rights, has not somehow found it possible to convey to the people of the United Kingdom exactly what is being done in this Chamber and at this time, because it is such a wide-ranging change in our law.
Many people outside the Chamber do not understand constitutional law. Why should they? But they understand the connection between the gathering of taxes and the spending of taxes. That is so basic that they make their views known. It is frequently the basis on which they decide their votes in a general election. Yet here we are, as protectors of that fundamental right, being cheerfully prepared to hand it over without making it clear to the people who have put us here what we are doing.
One of the saddest things for me throughout the debate was to sit here and to regard our free press, noticeable by its absence, listening to Members of Parliament putting forward detailed arguments, knowing that they were, in effect, talking to a limited number of people.
We have been told by Ministers, even, I am sorry to say, by the Opposition Front Bench, "Don't worry about this legislation. It really isn't terribly important. After all, a lot of countries that signed up to the treaty didn't really mean 443 it. There has been a change in the Government. There has been a change in the economic situation. All will be well if you just have trust in letting the legislation go through."
I am not the youngest Member of this Parliament, and I am too long in the tooth to believe that any legislation should be allowed on to the statute book on the assumption that it will not count. Every bit of legislation counts. Legislation that takes powers from the House of Commons anywhere else counts more than any other.
After all, we are dealing with our economic control. How can members of my own party support loss of control over their own planning rights? How can those of us who care about the national health service, education, and housing, let decisions on those be taken by others elsewhere, over whom we have no control? "Don't worry," we are told in that pseudo-English that is the protector of those who wish to confuse rather than illuminate any argument, "we will correct the democratic deficit." By that they mean that they will transfer even more powers to even more people who will have the right to initiate legislation that we shall not have the right to correct.
The refusal of members of both Front Benches openly to debate the rights and wrongs of the legislation is, at the very best, unhelpful, and at worst, demeaning. There has been no correct exercise of our responsibility. Many women outside the Chamber say to me, "I don't know about politics." But they know what politics does to their families. They know what legislation means in terms of taxation, and they know that if they are taxed wrongly, if their views are not taken into account, and if the obvious legislators who should be voicing their opinions are not doing so, others will begin to take direct action. That is what I fear most.
The House of Commons developed because people believed that they had a right to say how their money should be spent, how their votes should be cast, how their Government should behave and how their future should be planned. I do not see anyone, on either Front Bench, telling my people in future, "You will be the citizen of a union—a union that you did not pick, a union that you were not asked about, a union to which you will have responsibilities that no one has even spelt out." To me, that is a most dangerous thing.
I do have grandchildren. I have six. They are being brought up to speak several languages and I find it sad, because language has always been my only facility—I had a father who said that I was frightened of stopping talking somewhere—to hear people in the House of Commons decide that those of us who oppose this legislation are little Englanders. With a Welsh father and a half-Irish and half-Norfolk mother, I find that description difficult to understand.
But I am a proud member of the United Kingdom, which is a free association of four different nations which work, live, argue, fight, support and are taxed and represented here within these islands. They are my concern. My party has served them ill and I shall vote tonight feeling firmly that the future of democracy is not served by those who impose political structures from above.
People decide what political structures they want, people create Parliaments, people demand rights and cast their votes, and we are tonight underplaying their interest and serving them very badly. I am ashamed of the role of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
The only notable contribution that I have made to the Maastricht debate so far was to support the Government in a crucial Division in my pyjamas. I could have remained downstairs in the ambulance and have been nodded through on that occasion in March, but I made that effort—which was quite painful—to demonstrate support for the achievements for Britain of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary at Maastricht and for their vision of the Europe of the future.
In common with my right hon. Friends, I want to see a decentralised, less bureaucratic and widening Community that will embrace EFTA and the new democracies, and a successful and expanding single market without a premature commitment to a single currency. I suspect that many of those who intend to vote against the Government tonight want the same—my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) confirmed that.
The judgment the House must make tonight is whether those objectives are more likely to be achieved with Britain remaining at the centre of the Community by ratifying the treaty or by Britain abandoning the principles of co-operation and compromise that brought us here tonight. I well understand the fears of some of my constituents at the possible consequences for Britain of the treaty. Much of its terminology is unfortunate; it is misleading; and it is certainly open to much misinterpretation. There are also fears that it is all irreversible if we sign.
There is nothing that the House cannot change if a majority of right hon. and hon. Members believe it to be in Britain's interest to do so—although I appreciate that not every right hon. and hon. Member will agree with that statement.
Much of the treaty is based on a bygone age. It was negotiated when the Soviet Union was in being. and agreed before the recession really hit Europe and the full consequences of German reunification were realised. It represented a negotiated compromise, but it has kept the Community together. Thanks to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the opt-outs that he achieved, for Britain the treaty is more symbolic than of substance.
We remain a leading and influential partner in the European Economic Community, and British business has been calling for that. My local Dorset chamber for industry and commerce regards that as essential for jobs and prosperity in our county. It wants an end to all remaining barriers to trade in the single market, with fairer competition. It wants the earliest-possible harmonisation of value added tax and duties.
In my constituency, tourism is the main provider of jobs. Hoteliers complain that VAT on tourism-related items in France and other Community countries is nearly three times lower than in Britain, and that is unfair competition for them. Off-licences, tobacconists and small corner shops complain that they will be put out of business by imports of duty-free goods from across the channel, and I hope that that situation will not continue to be ignored. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary is listening.
The principal reason that I want a ratified treaty to be put behind us is that we should seek with all possible speed a wider Europe, as opposed to a deeper, federal Community. As some of my hon. Friends know, I am greatly involved in bringing the new democracies into full 445 membership of the Council of Europe, as chairman of its Committee for Relations with European Non-Member States. In Strasbourg last week, we welcomed the accession of Slovenia, Lithuania and Estonia, and we anticipate the membership next September of Romania and Latvia. We are currently considering the applications of nine more newly democratising countries.
My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Tebbit was exactly right in March to warn against a new iron curtain between the rich post-Maastricht Community and the poorer democracies. But where he is wrong is that successfully to accommodate the wider Europe without compromising all that the Community has achieved to date requires it to be kept together by ratifying Maastricht now.
Thanks to the initiatives of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister before and during the British presidency, that process is already under way, with negotiations with some EFTA countries and association agreements with some new democracies. I am particularly encouraged that talks have begun between the Community and Russia about a free trade zone. It will be a close-run thing as to whether the Russian federation follows the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Every one of the new democracies expects to join the European Community one day. For them, a Community in which Britain does not have a central role because it did not sign the treaty is inconceivable. It would be a disaster for them, as it would be for democracy, human rights, and all for which we stood alone against Hitler in 1940. Since the last war, five pan-European institutions have been established with different roles and differing memberships to encourage peace and co-operation. If we were to start from scratch today, probably the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe would be the only organisation closest to that required to promote security, trade, democracy and human rights throughout the continent.
Instead, the Maastricht treaty paves the way to greater unity and security with the Community as the core, and a common foreign and defence policy as the means—as Churchill and others foresaw—to guarantee peace in Europe. Without British membership and influence, that wider, more secure Europe is less likely to be achieved.
As none of my hon. Friends who oppose Maastricht has produced any credible constructive role for Britain, I have no hesitation supporting the Government tonight.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. We have about 40 minutes before the wind-up speeches. I make a plea for five minute contributions. Mr. George Howarth.
§ Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)
It is just a year since this process started, with the Second Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill to ratify the Maastricht treaty. I spoke on that occasion, but not at subsequent stages. As a result, I have much to say, but as I am conscious of the number of my hon. Friends who want to contribute, I shall be brief.
446 My problem with the treaty and with the Bill is that I consider myself to be pro-European, but honour-bound to oppose the treaty. If that sounds inconsistent, I shall explain why I hold those conflicting views. I believe that Britain's future is in Europe—there is no alternative, and I can conceive of no circumstances in which, in this day and age, we would want to withdraw from the Community. However, it does not necessarily follow that one must support the treaty because there is nothing to take its place. That was the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson).
All the strong arguments in favour of the treaty hinge on an enormous lapse of logic. Even the Foreign Secretary and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee produced excellent examples of that today. They do not say, "This section of the treaty is so good, and the whole process of economic and monetary union is so sound, that you must support them." Instead, they say, "These things will never happen. They are all there in the treaty, but you must support it because there is nothing to take its place —but because those things will never happen, it will not hurt you to vote for the treaty."
I accept that it is not explicitly stated in the treaty that its purpose is to create a federal Europe. However, all the apparatus for that—or architecture, as the Foreign Secretary would probably more eloquently describe it—is present.
The Foreign Secretary would perhaps refer more elegantly to the architecture of a federal Europe. There is the whole drive towards economic and monetary union; there is the central bank; there is the move towards a single currency; and there is the attempt to recreate the institutions in a more federalist mode.
But we are told that these things will never happen. I find that a very difficult proposition to swallow. As a realist, however, I accept—with a heavy heart, as I am not one of the Labour party's natural rebels—that I must vote against the Third Reading. I accept that the current mathematics of the House of Commons means that the Bill will receive its Third Reading. Unlike other hon. Members, I do not think it likely that the measure will be significantly amended in another place. Indeed, any amendments at all are unlikely to originate there. Unless something inconceivable happens, the Bill is likely to end up on the statute book.
Given that, without the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself or of several Conservative Members, the measure will pass into law, there is an important function ahead for its opponents, especially my colleagues who will abstain tonight. Some of the central problems of Europe will have to be addressed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) referred to a document. I realise that several of my hon. Friends have not seen it, as it is going through a particular process. The document is about prosperity through co-operation and a new European future, and its headings sketch out the important features that must be considered—the extension of equality rights in a people's Europe, the lifting of the burden of the common agricultural policy, consumer rights, and democratisation of the Community. There is an excellent section about a wider Europe. Those are the issues that must be addressed.
This treaty is not the answer, but I hope that people —particularly members of my party—will ensure that the excellent objectives that we have set for ourselves will have flesh put on them. At present, there is a real fear that 447 Europe is moving in a direction that does not have the wholehearted support of its peoples. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, the backlash against such movement could be horrendous.
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
The only thing that this hour proves is that Privy Councillors are not always given the preference that other Members believe they receive.
Like many people, I am delighted that we have reached the Third Reading, and I hope that the Bill will be passed by the largest possible majority. The legislation sets out a formula by which the European Community can advance positively. Forty-five years ago, in the late spring of 1948, the first branch of United Europe was formed at Oxford. Among the people supporting that organisation with me were Peter Kirk, Sir Edward Boyle, Jeremy Thorpe and someone known as Richard de Taverne, better known to us as Dick Taverne, a previous Member for Lincoln.
I cannot understand the little Englanders, on either side of the House, who perceive Britain's playing little part in Europe but want and expect to be able to gain everything possible from the trading benefits that the European Community may provide. If they think that we shall benefit without playing our part, they might as well believe that Mitterand is a German in disguise.
As a member of the North Atlantic Assembly, I should be in Berlin at the moment. However, I remained here to speak and vote in this debate. As the treasurer of the new parliamentary assembly of the Conference on Cooperation and Security in Europe, I am in contact with many members of the parliaments of all the EC member states.
Those people—perhaps not the French and the Germans, though even the Germans to some extent—have often asked me why Britain is not playing a more major role in the European Community. They appreciate the role played and the leadership given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister while he was chairman of the Council of Ministers and at the Edinburgh summit. Perhaps those in Britain who criticise the Prime Minister's leadership should listen to the admiration expressed by members of the parliaments of other countries.
I want to speak about two financial matters and one other topic. It appears to me that there are merchants of gloom who reject the appeals and the statements of many people, especially the President of the Board of Trade, who clearly show that, with Britain playing its full part in the European Community, we shall be massively attractive from the point of view of enticing foreign investment to these shores.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lindsey, East (Sir P. Tapsell) has expressed the fear that Japanese investment could well be discouraged—even withdrawn—if we continue with Maastricht or let Maastricht overcome our thinking. My experience is exactly the opposite. As a director of an Anglo-Japanese company in this country, I have many Japanese connections here and in Japan. I can say absolutely that my entire experience of those people is that they are interested in Britain because Britain is playing a major role in Europe. [Interruption.] I do not mind what other people say, and I believe that people with first-rate experience in this field ought to be listened to.
Foreign investment here has other benefits. It brings business people, and often their families, on visits to this 448 country; it encourages interest in British goods; it facilitates contacts which, if properly used, can stimulate trade abroad.
The Prime Minister is correct in his view that it will be impossible for us to rejoin the exchange rate mechanism unless its inadequacies are corrected. However, anyone who is associated with exporting or importing, with international commerce, must understand and advocate the benefit of knowing of the stability of exchange rates in the context of the currency in which he has to conduct his business. The exchange rate variations that we have seen over the past few years cannot necessarily be covered or insured against affordably.
To those who advocate complete freedom in the open market in foreign exchange I say carefully and concisely that they are friends of the international speculator. It is ethically wrong and morally indefensible that a few international speculators are able to make massive multi-fortunes at the expense of ruin for a nation's currency. That type of outmoded free market is indefensible, and we must find a way to limit it.
Is that possible? I believe that it is. The most entrepreneurial market in the world—the American stock exchange—has stop controls which ensure that, if the market moves more than 50 points in either direction, it closes down. That also applies to a number of the commodity markets. I urge the Government, particularly finance Ministers, to get together with G7—not just our European colleagues, as we need Japanese and American co-operation as well—to consider the structure of foreign currency rates, which should be reviewed to a much greater extent than they ever were in the ERM.
When that structure is set, should there be movement above a prescribed and agreed level the settlement date ought to be put back for between seven and 10 days. That would stop the speculators and short term-borrowing. It would go a very long way towards ensuring that foreign currency rate variations were avoided. It would also mean that the speculators would be unable to ruin a currency.
Subsidiarity—that ghastly word—will ensure that power is not passed to the Commission, but remains the absolute right of the member state. There will always be organisations and civil servants who wish more power to pass into their hands. That is why Maastricht is so important. It puts an end to that happening by slow absorption. The European Parliament will be given more control over the Commission than it has ever had before. It will take back certain powers that have been assumed by the Commission in Brussels.
I urge my right hon. Friends who will serve on the different ministerial Councils to guard against power slipping away to the Commission. Equally, Ministers must ensure that when European Commission regulations are promulgated by means of regulation in this country, there is no extension of those regulations, either for the sake of clarity or, even worse, because they have been hanging around Departments for a long time. We must watch that like a hawk.
Anybody who understands what has happened in the House ought not to hanker after a referendum. The referendum motion was defeated by a majority of 239. Hon. Members in all parts of the House voted against it. It is important to emphasise that point, so that the other place, an unelected Chamber, does not try to override that 449 very strong expression of opinion in the lower House. To do so would be absurd and would lead to further delay in signing the treaty.
The single market means that Europe will become a constructive federation of nation states, not a single state in itself. Britain will play a positive role in the centre of the European playing field. In years to come, the treaty will be seen as a treaty that ensures the future of Europe. It will also ensure that wars between European nations will never again be fought. It will mean that Europe has a better and more unified economic structure. A united Europe will then be able to play a major role in the history of the world.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
The public do not support the treaty. It is not demanded by the people. It is being imposed from the top down by an arrogant elite who are going too far and too fast down a road that most people do not want to go. It is being imposed by a grisly gang of old men, like Mitterrand and Kohl, who have lost support in their own countries and whose time is up. They are the men of yesterday, seeking to foist their outmoded and outdated straitjacket on Europe.
I had wanted to say something about economics, but I intend to obey your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, apart from saying that the exchange rate mechanism, with its high interest rates, has pushed the whole of western Europe into recession. It has caused massive unemployment. At the moment, 20 million people are unemployed. There will be zero growth this year, which means that unemployment will rapidly rise to 30 million. That will be the effect on the whole of western Europe of the exchange rate mechanism.
If we are to make these major constitutional changes and set up a European union, of which we are all to become citizens, and if we are to transfer power over our economy to unelected bodies, which we cannot remove, including the autonomous central bank, it would be wrong and a grave constitutional impropriety and outrage to do so with no mandate and without the consent and agreement of the British people.
No one can say that the Government have explained to the British people what is envisaged or involved. The issue was not discussed at the recent election. The Bill is being pushed through a whipped House of Commons, with the important parts of the treaty having been debated in the dead of night while the nation slept and the media did not report. That is not only wrong but dangerous.
If we were to rejoin the ERM and conformed to the convergence criteria, which would lead to deflation, economic stagnation and even greater mass unemployment—which has already led to our constituents coming to us with their grievances—what should we say to them? We should have to tell them that their Parliament no longer had any powers over these matters, that those matters could no longer be affected by voting and that we, without consulting the voters, had given all these powers away when we passed the Maastricht Bill.
What would happen then? What would be the response and the reaction of the British people? Would it be in the least surprising if there were a growth of extremist 450 movements? Democracy would be threatened and Parliament undermined. That is why it is dangerous to push the Bill through without consulting the voters.
Those who want the treaty and who want to make these changes would be wise to ask the electorate to share the responsibility, so that if things go wrong they can say to them, "You voted for it." It is in everybody's interest that, if this is to be done, it should be done only with the whole-hearted consent of the British people. All else is improper and dangerous. That is the case for a referendum.
Another reason why it is dangerous is that we as parliamentarians have always told people to obey the law, because it has been democratically decided and can be changed democratically through the ballot box. But what if the law is to be made by institutions outside this country, by people who are not elected by us and who cannot be removed by us? If matters such as the running of our economy cannot be affected by voting and if Parliament and the people are to be robbed and stripped of their powers to determine their own future, that will be very dangerous. If it is to be done, the country should do it with its eyes open, consciously understanding what it is doing.
Under our system of parliamentary self-government, the only restricton on the sovereignty of Parliament is, by definition, that no Parliament can bind its successors. I regard that as one of the glories of our constitution. It means that each new generation can do its own thing in its own way. It can make changes peacefully and legally, without violence or bloodshed. All that would go. The treaty would rob future generations of those rights and powers. It even purports to tell future Governments and Parliaments—Governments not yet elected, even—what their budget deficit should be.
We are arrogating, binding, restricting and shackling future generations and Parliaments by seeking to extend our dominion into the future, thus robbing our successors of their freedom of choice. I want no part of that. It is outrageous that Parliament is purporting to do it without consulting the people.
§ Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)
You have asked, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for five-minute speeches. For me to give the reasons why I intend to vote against Third Reading in five minutes is a bit of a tall order, but I shall do it in this way, if I may.
I have had the honour to listen to almost every speech in the past few months during which we have debated the issue. I have detected four arguments in favour of the Maastricht Bill. I intend to spend one minute on each.
The first argument is that Maastricht is a step towards the reassertion of national independence. Two points have been made in favour of that argument. The first is subsidiarity; the second is the intergovernmental agreement.
Subsidiarity seems to me to be the opposite of decentralisation. In order to have subsidiarity, one must have a central organisation that can determine what. is subsidiary. Therefore, the Commission and the European Court will determine that we can build the Winchester bypass in return for us letting them run our economy. Somebody has to determine what subsidiarity is, or what 451 things are to be subsidiary. It has to be done by a central organisation, and that is the opposite of how subsidiarity has been presented to us.
Under European law, the intergovernmental agreement does not work in the way that it has been presented. Title V of the treaty, which proposes a common foreign policy, is subject to the intergovernmental agreement, but in the preamble to the treaty, article B says that a common foreign policy is an objective of the treaty. One fault of our lawyers is that, in negotiating treaties, they ignore the importance of the preamble in European law. That point has been made several times by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith). A preamble to a treaty determines how lawyers reach their judgments.
The core of the treaty is what matters. The core is a single currency. A single currency means a single Government, not only because a country hands over control of its coinage, money and banking system, but because a single currency means a single pricing system, and since we shall have unequal wages the Greeks will be unhappy about paying German prices on Greek wages. There will therefore have to be a single compensatory authority, a single taxation authority and single expenditure authority, which are provided for in the Bill. Once a country has handed over control of all that, it has handed over control of most of what is the essence of an independent state.
Those in the institutions of Europe who have really considered the matter concur with that, and once the Maastricht process is completed more people will come out who really know what is going on. For instance, the European Parliament's constitution for European union dropped off the back of a lorry into my lap. It is produced by the Committee on Institutional Affairs. The preamble states:
"With Maastricht", which it assumes to have been passed,the European Union (EU) has reached an advanced status and a degree of complexity which calls for a codification and with regard to the changing world order for a progressive new step for the realisation of an integrated Europe.It goes on to spell out what it means: that the Government of Europe should be the Commission and that the Head of State should be the President of the Commission. Rather generously, it says:National authorities should be given adequate room for manoeuvre so as to avoid the pitfalls of centralisation; the system should be sufficiently cohesive to prevent the watering-down of joint rules.The European Parliament is clear that, once Maastricht is passed, we shall move towards codification into a union of Europe.
The second point that is raised in defence of the treaty is that it is so absurd it will not happen and, in particular, that the Germans will save us because they do not want the deutschmark to be subjugated. It is argued, "It does not matter if we pass the thing. We might as well get on with it because it is the best damage containment job that we can do."
One can only say what has been said before: we must accept that this treaty will become the law of the land, and the law of the land will include, for instance, article 109j, which says:If by the end of 1997 the date for the beginning of the third stage has not been set, the third stage shall start on 1 January 1999.That will be the law of the land. We can argue about whether the opt out will apply and whether it matters in the long term—I shall battle for the continuation of the 452 opt out—but the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) made an extremely good speech at about three o'clock one morning in which he showed the continuing effect from stage 2 to stage 3; there is not time to go through that now.
It is clear that we cannot go ahead with the treaty on the basis that it will not happen. I suppose that some people went ahead with the Single European Act on the basis that it would not happen; people voted for it without knowing what they were voting for or because they thought that it would not happen.
The third argument, which has been made by several hon. Members, is that, if we do not pass Maastricht, it will be bad for jobs, bad for business and bad for investment. If that is true, why did the Japanese and others invest massively in Britain in the mid-80s, when we had flexible control over our economy? That investment began to dry up when we shadowed the deutschmark and almost came to a grinding halt in the middle of our membership of the ERM.
Now that we have left the ERM, investment is being made again, people are laying investment plans and we have growth and jobs. If our leaving the ERM was such a disaster, why is the opposite being reflected in economic statistics
It is said that there is no alternative. That depends, of course, on what one thinks of an unelected government of Europe superimposing itself on a democratic constitution such as ours. I do not argue my case on the basis of the eternity of the nation state—the nation state is a relatively recent invention—but from a concern about the replacement of our democratic institutions with undemocratic institutions that will control our lives; surely I must be allowed to say that there is an alternative. The alternative is what we have at the moment, which is a free trading market looking outwards with its democratic institutions intact—an association of independent states. That is what I base my case against the treaty on.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)
I should like to call this a day that will live in infamy, but it has been 26 days, most of which have been nights. It is no ornament —no glorious chapter in our parliamentary history because we have seen a three-party conspiracy to force on the House and on the country a treaty that the people do not want, and without consulting the people. It has been smuggled through on the basis of assurances, most of which I would call not untruthful but fantastic.
We had assurances—usually from junior spokesmen at dead of night—that all sorts of measures in the treaty do not apply. Labour Front-Bench spokesmen have assured us that nothing is irrevocable and that we can at any time take back the powers that we surrender under the treaty. I hope that they say that when we are in power.
We have had assurances from the Government that there is no compulsion to return to the exchange rate mechanism, despite the fact that stage 2 is built around the irrevocable linking of currencies. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said, we shall be forced back into the ERM.
The Danes have been pressured and conned into supporting the treaty at a time when the rest of Europe is turning against it, so the Foreign Secretary found himself in an embarrassing position this afternoon. He has the 453 genius that he always speaks better the worse his case is, which is, I suppose, the art of diplomacy. He ignored what is in the treaty—a treaty with a centralising drive that gives more power to the Commission and takes economic management from national Governments—and asked us to vote for it to get a decentralised Europe, a trammelled Commission and power returned to the parliaments of the national states.
Those were his arguments: vote for it because we want the opposite of what it proposes, which is slightly different from the argument of Labour Front-Bench spokesmen, which is, "Vote for it to get what we hope it actually means, even if what it actually says is not supported by our own people." A gulf is emerging between the Labour party and our own people.
The Labour Front-Bench spokesmen are determined to show themselves good Europeans by abandoning the weapons we need for the economic management of this country to rebuild our manufacturing business base, to return to full employment and to improve the lot of our people. Interest rates, exchange rates, the money supply and the level of Government borrowing will all be abandoned to show ourselves as being communautaire and good Europeans, even if our supporters and voters are not.
Such a stance cannot allow the treaty to be workable. Monetary union is at the treaty's core, and is impossible to achieve. If it proceeds quickly, we shall have "instant eastern Germany", if it proceeds slowly, we need the bridge of the exchange rate mechanism to arrive at that goal, and that bridge cannot be rebuilt. If we make the attempt to achieve that goal, we shall be locked into a deflationary regime and trap. I do not mind if others go ahead with monetary union. It will ruin them and benefit us because we are currently benefiting from competitive devaluation. It was good to see the Chancellor here this afternoon—he was allowed out into the community at last to listen to the arguments in this place. We know that that will not happen—instead, we shall be under intolerable pressure, both internal and external, to go back.
The treaty is outdated. It is a monetarist treaty when we need a Keynesian treaty; it is deflationary, when it should be expansionary. It is a treaty of fixed rate regimes, when we need a competitive devaluation treaty. It is a centralising treaty, when we need a de-centralising treaty. It is an exclusive treaty because it heightens the barriers and makes it more difficult for other countries to join; we need a looser relationship. The treaty is unworkable, but we still have to ratify it.
We have had 26 days of fiddling, fudging and fantasising to implement a treaty that is technically dead. I shall vote against it because the process discredits Parliament and the consequences of the treaty, if implemented, would hit most severely the section of the community whose interests I was elected to advance and whose cause I was elected to support. I shall vote against the treaty to try to re-establish some honour and integrity for the Labour party, as its position lacks those characteristics at present. I hope that a majority of those Labour Members who are free to think and vote for themselves will vote against it. Above all, I shall vote against the treaty because it gives away powers that are not 454 ours to give as Members of Parliament. Those powers belong to the people, and it is essential to let the people speak on the issue.
§ 9.2 pm
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
As we come to a final decision, the House should not forget that there are deep feelings in the country about our relationship with Europe, particularly the Maastricht treaty. I was greatly influenced by the second world war. My grandfather's generation was decimated by the first world war and my father's generation was decimated by the second world war. I have always felt reluctant, in my heart, to vote for European legislation that has come before the House in the past 23 years. However, I have always gone along with it on the basis of my belief that it would not be of great benefit to my generation, but might benefit my children and grandchildren.
There are two fundamental reasons why I shall support the Government in the Lobby. The first relates to the conflict in western Europe. I believe that we have reached the point of no return—never again should there be a major conflict between the nations of western Europe. Those in the House who remember war know the enormous price that this nation paid in losing a significant percentage of two fine young generations in this century. If we have to pay some price and make some sacrifice to ensure that that never happens again, we should do so.
I also believe that the House has no right to deprive our grandchildren of making decisions about the future of Europe. If I believed that tonight's vote was totally about being for or against a united states of Europe or a federal Europe, I would go into the No Lobby. I do not believe that that is the position tonight—it will be in the future. It will be for another generation to make that decision at another time. My children and grandchildren's generations have the right to make that choice because it will affect their lives far more than the rest of my life.
I shall go into the Lobby reluctantly and with no enthusiasm. The next four years for Europe will be critical, not just for this country, but for the other European countries, many of whose populations have shown considerable reservations about Maastricht. Those reservations were shown by the closeness of the French referendum. The opinions that I hear time and time again in the Council of Europe, on which I have the privilege to serve, have shown me clearly that there are growing doubts about how far Europe should advance towards federalism or a united states of Europe. In the next four years, Europe will have to prove that it can get the balance right between democracy and the institutions that have grown up in Europe. If we do not get it right, and if in a few years the British people are not satisfied, they may well say to Parliament, "So far and no further."
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The hon. Member for Brighton, Kempton (Mr. Bowden) has outlined the classic case for reluctantly voting yes tonight. We have heard the arguments for many years, but there is one major flaw in what he said—if we give the Bill a Third Reading, I do not believe that his children or grandchildren or the children or grandchildren of any hon. Member will have the choice of which he speaks, because 455 the members of both Front Benches are reneging on the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy as we know them.
I fear that the choice will not exist in economic terms. My hon. Friends have proved that we shall be in an economic straitjacket. Instead of the law enabling the markets to operate for the benefit of all, European law will have as its purpose the creation of markets and their regulation. The high priests will be the members of the Commission, dancing around the golden calf of the markets.
The same is true of the agendas of the various councils in which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has been involved. The Secretary of State, whoever he may be, will find that he has to deal with a wide range of subjects, not only foreign affairs. It will be a question not of the pillars supporting the central European Economic Community that was, but of a single edifice. It is no use saying that there will be only one policy.
We recall the Foreign Secretary talking about Croatia not so long ago. He said that a single policy had already been agreed and, but for that policy, Germany would have recognised Croatia a little sooner and we a little later. There may be a single policy, but it can be the wrong one. Everyone to whom I speak knows that that recognition led to some of the things that we see now.
Perhaps the nations involved and the aid agencies do not realise that if the Bill is passed we shall have a single overseas development policy, not an aid policy but a development policy based on the mercantilist selfishness of the European Community. Who can pretend that, in that so-called intergovernmental pillar, there is a distinction between the creation of a single market, the external Community policy for commerce and a common external tariff, a common foreign and security policy and a common defence policy? They move together in a single edifice.
I shall conclude because I may be the last person to speak against the Bill on the subject of citizenship. When Big Ben strikes at midnight in a few weeks, hours or months, we shall, willy-nilly, become citizens of the European union, as will the electors who sent us here. We shall become citizens of the European union without their permission and without receiving any mandate at the election. They will be subject to doubts and obligations and Parliament will be subject to the courts of the European Community, as will the Crown. This could be the end of British parliamentary democracy as we know it. There is no reason for the Minister of State to laugh, because that is what some of us fear.
I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that, in a few years, if a student asks a tutor whether the British constitution, the freedom of the subject and parliamentary democracy were undermined for constitutional reasons, the answer will be no. The next question will be whether there was a mandate from the people, and the answer from members of both Front Benches will again be no That is why many of my colleagues will be voting no tonight.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)
This debate —which has achieved in breadth what the Committee stage achieved in depth—has been marked by two features. First, it has been characterised by the humorous, wide-ranging and eloquent speeches of some of the most 456 senior Members in the House; secondly, it has been notable for the humorous, wide-ranging and eloquent maiden speech of the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler).
Following a year in which the name of a town called Maastricht has been heard throughout the House, it was good for us to hear something about the town of Milton Keynes. The hon. Gentleman showed detailed knowledge, a healthy scepticism about the political process, a broad vision of what needs to be done and a sense of humour. I particularly liked his reference to the road that had been started under the Roman empire, and had been completed in the last year—courtesy, no doubt, of the European regional development fund. His basic view is, I think, shared throughout the House: those of us who support greater European co-operation do so primarily because of the threat to peace that lasted for so much of this century, and the knowledge that European co-operation can help to prevent future war.
As the Opposition have made clear—not just on Third Reading, but throughout the Committee stage—we support the Maastricht process because we believe that co-operation, rather than isolationism, is the best way forward in economic policy. We believe that the single market requires the countervailing institutions of a Community; and we believe that, if we are to achieve the high levels of growth in employment and investment that we and the rest of Europe need, international co-operation is essential in an increasingly global economy.
Indeed, we believe that what is new and pressing is the need for the growing international competition between great trading blocs, and especially the high level of growth now being achieved by the Pacific rim countries, to be met by greater co-operation within Europe. Without that co-operation, Britain risks being left behind, losing inward investment and losing British company investment to mainland Europe. It may cease to be the financial centre of Europe.
We also believe that the cohesion fund, majority voting on the environment and the advances on regional and social policy are good for Britain and Europe. However, we cannot and will not vote for a Bill that denies Britain the benefits of a social chapter. The opt-out clause negotiated by the Government is retrograde, perverse and backward-looking: it is a piece of Government dogma which, as everyone knows, is designed not to unite the country, but simply to unite the Conservative party for the time being—even at the expense of dividing the country. If the Foreign Secretary was really serious about searching for consensus on these great issues of Europe, he should support the social chapter rather than oppose it.
This is our argument. It is absolutely clear that—when we need to use the benefits of international co-operation to strengthen the British economy; when, even now, we should be building, post-Maastricht, a European investment, employment and industrial strategy that would assist Britain—the Government are refusing to consider measures that are essential to achieve that, both at home and in Europe. I refer not just to economic co-operation, but to the benefits provided by a Community through the social chapter.
I believe that, after the long discussion to which the Bill has been subjected, the most important thing is for 457 European co-operation in relation to industry, employment and growth—long-term growth for the future—to be assisted by new measures originated in Britain, and hopefully acceptable in Europe.
As my hon. Friends are aware, we have presented proposals for new and flexible interpretations of the public expenditure criteria in the treaty, answering the criticisms of the current criteria. It is sad that the Government have refused to act, or to say anything about our proposals. We have pressed for greater investment expenditure to be available to the European investment bank, answering calls made not just in Britain but throughout Europe for joint European action. Unfortunately, the Government have done the least that they could get away with. In our new document on Europe, we have pressed for a substantial reform of the common agricultural policy. Sadly—even after all the Government's boasts about the CAP reforms that they have achieved it will still cost more next year than last year, and it is costing more this year than last year. The substantial reform for which we asked has not been achieved.
We have presented proposals for action against speculation in Europe, to reform the exchange rate mechanism and to place a growth and regional strategy side by side with it. I understand that, despite all the talk of the changes needed in the ERM, the Government have not advanced any real proposals to the European monetary authorities that are debating the matter on Friday.
Perhaps the Chancellor will be prepared to tell us whether he now supports the principle of a managed exchange rate and whether it is true that he proposed to the Cabinet that we should not re-enter the ERM at any point during this Parliament.
We have also put forward proposals that would enhance the power of ECOFIN, strengthening its institutions and building on their responsibilities under the treaty as laid down and debated within Europe. But the Government have done nothing; they have not even supported the French proposals that would increase the accountability of the European institutions through the role of ECOFIN.
We have made proposals for a joint industrial policy at a European level, which would tackle the problems revealed only a few days ago by a report which said that, among 5,000 European companies, Britain alone was cutting overall investment in research and development, and that among all the countries we had the biggest slowdown in training expenditure. Yet the Government have again resisted any attempt to secure the co-operation necessary for the advances in industry that we need.
Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that, while we have pressed for a tougher regional policy, concentrating especially on the small and medium-sized firms that will be at the heart of any economic revival that we can achieve, I have here a letter from the European Commission showing that Britain is not even bothering to pick up the money committed to it by the European regional authorities.
There is now an outstanding sum of £900 million that Europe is ready to commit to projects in Britain, but, because of our delays and our inability to collect, or even to apply for, many of those resources, we are not helping 458 many of the depressed areas in this country. Yet Britain has the most to gain from advancing on that front, since of all the major countries in Europe we have suffered the biggest fall in business investment during the recession years from 1990 and the biggest fall in employment, the biggest rise in unemployment, and the largest fall in manufacturing output.
When the Chancellor sums up, I should like him to confirm that in December, far from supporting the full and complete policy for growth discussed at the European summit, he thwarted a £200 million training initiative that would have helped people in Britain. Will he also tell us what the Government's attitude is to the new unemployment initiative being proposed in Europe? Does it make sense to lose British jobs and to fail to support European initiatives that would create jobs, simply as a means of holding the Conservative party together in some anti-European crusade? The Chancellor is holding back the job prospects of many people in Britain.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Department of Trade and Industry has within its doors a report that reveals the difficulties that the British economy faces. Investment in skills is up to 40 per cent. below the level in Europe and in the rest of the world; productivity is 30 per cent. below, and manufacturing investment is up to 100 per cent. below, the level in the rest of the world.
Our complaint against the Government is not only that they are unclear about future policy, but that, far from promoting the real policy measures for co-ordination and co-operation to achieve growth and employment in Europe, they threaten to thwart them in just about every forum in which they are involved.
§ Mr. Shore
I have listened with interest to what my hon. Friend has said, but is there not a large element of wishful thinking in the various propositions that he has advanced? They are all about getting Europe to do things, yet far from those propositions being in the treaty in its present form, precisely the opposite propositions are in the treaty. The treaty is about not growth but deflation. That is at its heart and my hon. Friend should address that problem.
§ Mr. Brown
I respect my right hon. Friend's contributions both to this debate and to many others, but I believe that he has misunderstood article 2 of the Maastricht treaty, which states clearly that the aims are growth and employment. Indeed, written into the treaty are proposals for an industry policy for Europe, a technology policy for Europe and a training and skills policy for Europe. With regard to the public expenditure criteria, I believe that my right hon. Friend would agree that the Labour party has led the way in calling for a flexible examination and assessment of the spending criteria. It is interesting that we are now receiving support from other countries in Europe—[Interruption.]
The Minister of State, who I believe is attending one of his last debates as a Minister, says, "Greece." Only the other day, the Belgian Finance Minister who will take over the presidency of European Finance Ministers said exactly what we have been saying for many months. It is wrong, in the circumstances in which the Government now find themselves, to say that a flexible interpretation of the spending rules is not to the benefit of Britain and Europe if we are to achieve the growth initiative we want.
If we are to solve the investment, technology and research gap that not only exists between ourselves and the 459 rest of Europe but which is growing between Europe and the rest of the world, common action in those areas and greater co-operation as proposed in the treaty is not only to the benefit of Europe but is particularly to the benefit of Britain. I find it difficult to understand why, as a matter of ideology, the Government insist on rejecting proposals that would assist the British economy and growth in the European area, particularly when we shall face growing competition with the Pacific rim in future years.
§ Mr. Winnick
Article 104c contains two and a half pages of steps that should be taken to achieve convergence, while another protocol refers to 3 per cent. Does not that mean that, however flexible a Labour Government—I am not referring to a Tory Government—may be, the fact remains that it is in the treaty? Is my hon. Friend aware that steps that I hope a Labour Government would want to take would be vetoed under article 104c? That is one of many reasons why some of us are determined to vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend has a long record of contributing to debates on this issue. I can best answer his question by quoting what the treaty says on that subject:The commission shall also take into account whether the Government deficit exceeds Government investment expenditure, and shall take into account all other relevant factors, including the medium-term economic and budgetary position of the Member State.If that does not allow for the flexible interpretation about which we have been talking, I do not know what does.
The Chancellor should be interested in the measures that we propose for greater co-operation to achieve employment growth and industrial investment because of what has been happening to the British economy during his period in office. The right hon. Gentleman has been in some difficulty in recent years, having lost the support of many newspapers. Indeed, I find it difficult to think of any newspapers that support him. The Sun supported him, then opposed him, supported him again but now opposes him. He has lost a great deal of Conservative party support in the country.
On Monday this week, in a document from the Royal Bank of Scotland, we found that the right hon. Gentleman had lost the support even of his former Treasury adviser, a gentleman who was at the Department from 1989 to 1992. What the aptly named Mr. Warwick Lightfoot said must give the Chancellor scope to think not only of what he should be doing to improve the British economy but of what he should be doing to improve our economy through measures taken in Europe as well.No mechanism for achieving the inflation objective has been established"—said Mr. Lightfoot.Demand growth over any recovery will outstrip supply potential… Potential output has been harmed by the recession to a very great extent… Much of the fiscal deficit is permanent.Mr. Lightfoot seemingly knows the department and dimension of the hole in the Government's affairs that the Home Secretary described—[Interruption.] I am quoting what was said by an adviser to the Treasury until only a few months ago. He went on:Little growth will be possible before the economy comes up against inflation and balance of payments constraints. The danger is that the continuation of stop-go policies will do further long-term damage to the growth potential of the United Kingdom economy.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman may be thinking of what Mr. Lightfoot said about the Chancellor, the Chancellor being yesterday's man. Mr. Lightfoot added:We are forced to conclude that the United Kingdom is once again embarked on a roller coaster of stop-go economic policies which will do long-term harm to the growth potential of the United Kingdom economy.If that were not enough, what about the comments of the Financial Secretary? I do not think that people have realised the significance of the speech that he made only a few days ago. He said—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) should listen to what a Minister of the Crown has said about the policies pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Interruption.] Mr. Deputy Speaker, Conservative Members usually want to hear what Ministers have said, but they do not seem to want to today.
The Financial Secretary said:Think back six years ago"—the time when the Prime Minister became Chief Secretary and the Chancellor joined the Treasury.The yuppy revolution was in full swing, but it was built on sand. The wheeler-dealer was the man of the moment. The best returns were to be found in trading financial assets.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have sat here throughout almost the whole debate and I have enjoyed it, but we have been listening to the hon. Gentleman for 17 minutes and I do not believe that he has mentioned the Bill once.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Opposition spokesman has clearly been addressing the wider issues of Maastricht.
§ Mr. Brown
I am, Mr. Deputy Speaker, referring to the Government's economic mismanagement, which spills over into everything that they do, especially into how they see their future in Europe.
The Financial Secretary concluded, speaking of companies at that time:Far from being sure-fire winners, many were in fact sure-fire losers. We can see them today marked by 'to let' boards. The resources that were attracted like moths to a lamp-bulb to the lure of easy money are resources that have been wasted. We are talking about the misallocation of resources in our economy.I maintain that the social chapter and the Government's other moves on public expenditure show that their vision of the British economy, in Europe and elsewhere, is that of a low-tech, low-skill, low-employment and low-wage economy. That was summed up best by the advertisement whose authorship no Minister has ever denied. Placed in Germany by the DTI, it is called for people to invest in Britain because of the low wages there.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
The hon. Gentleman has told us a great deal about Government policy, but will he turn his mind to the impact of the Maastricht treaty on the treaty of union between Scotland and England, and to the fact that economic, fiscal and monetary decisions will be given away to Europe? Why does he think it right to hold a referendum on how we vote to elect Members to this place but wrong that the Scottish people should have a say in what happens to the agreement of 1707?
§ Mr. Brown
We had a referendum on Europe in 1975. Everyone knows that it conclusively showed what public opinion was.
This debate has been going on in the House for many weeks and views on both sides of the argument have been expressed. I believe that we need co-operation in Europe to achieve high employment and a high-growth economy. Instead, the Government have landed themselves in the position of having to opposed the social chapter.
§ Mr. Brown
I will not give way again, as I have only a few moments left.
Conservative Members must face up to the truth. We have had four years of propaganda directed against the social chapter. Virulent allegations have been made about it almost every day and every month. There were claims that union militancy would explode as a result, that thousands of jobs would be lost and so on. The campaign must have cost the Conservative party millions of pounds, particularly during the European elections—yet, after all that, they have gained hardly a single convert to their cause.
I can think of no other country in Europe which now supports the Government's position on the social chapter. I can think of no country applying to enter the European Community which supports their views on the social chapter. 1 can think of no other party in Europe, apart from the French fascist party, which has given support to the Government's position on the social chapter. Even Conservative MEPs have not even been able to persuade all the Conservative group in the European Parliament to go along with them.
At the Edinburgh summit last December, everone recognised that far from gaining support as a result of what has happened over the past few years, far from people saying that Britain was right, the conclusions of the presidency on 12 December were that the Commission would proceed with the directives on the social chapter and not vary from its course of action.
When the social chapter covers the free movement of workers, principles of equal treatment, fair remuneration, improved living and working conditions and social protection on rules and practices proper to each country, is not the proper way to deal with objections to the social chapter to work with the principle and then change the detail rather than oppose the principle and allow other countries to set the detail?
When the effect on the British people of abandoning the charter and opting out is to deny us benefits of the social action programmes that now cover 6 million part-time workers, fair and equal treatment for women at work, protection for young people, the right to minimum holiday leave and better information for employees, is not the intelligent position to ensure that the rights of these vulnerable people are protected by signing up to the charter in principle and then participating constructively in the discussions if we want to change it?
Let us be clear that the rules will affect British workers indirectly, if not directly, because they will affect British companies in other countries and will be applied by foreign companies in Britain. There will be rules and directives which British companies, Commissioners, trades unions 462 and MEPs can discuss, but only the Government have contrived that, when the Council of Ministers is considering them, there will be an empty chair for Britain.
Far from these provisions adding to the social cost, they would enhance the economic efficiency of the British economy. Our failure to realise that our future depends on investment in the skills and well-being of our employees is at the heart of the Conservative failure to cope with the problems of the British economy. Let us remember that over the past few years all the objections that the Conservative party says were so integral to their opposition to the social chapter have virtually collapsed under the pressure of detailed argument.
For example, they said that it would mean strikes and lock-outs, but even their own briefing document for debates in the House of Commons says that the social chapter excludes pay, the right to association, the right to strike and the right to impose lock-outs.
The director of social affairs at the employers' organisation—the Foreign Secretary was prepared to quote him—says:There is a clear understanding that it cannot be used in any way in laws relating to strikes or unions and in any event we would not agree to any agreement which had such effect.Far from its being the charter that Conservative Members have tried to convince the country about without any great success, the social chapter lays down clearly what it involves.
In regard to the works council directive, hon. Members should pause to note that the President of the Board of Trade, who the Prime Minister has charged with relations with industry, said that there should be legislation for companies with more than 500 employees to conduct a dialogue with their work force. He said:this Government will never sign the social chapter."—[Official Report, 16 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 170.]That was no off-the-cuff remark, or throwaway comment. It was a deliberate statement. Had he cleared it with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary? If he had, why is it that when the Foreign Secretary was challenged to endorse what the Chancellor said, he signally refused to rise to his feet?
We know that there is opposition in the Cabinet to the position that the Chancellor has held on these as on other matters. We know that the President of the Board of Trade, as has been said today, supports the social chapter. We also know that if the Chancellor holds to the view that the Government will not, under any circumstances, sign the social chapter, he will create a major difficulty for the Government if, at the time of the vote next month, the House votes that it cannot ratify the treaty without the social chapter. When the Chancellor replies to the debate, he had better tell us what he proposes to do.
Our view on these matters is that, while we support the Maastricht process, we are not prepared to support a Bill that continues to exclude the social chapter from British law. Is it not the case that it has been the role of the Conservative party throughout the ages to restrict progressive legislation that would help employees? That is why it opposes the social chapter. I urge—I urge the Chancellor to change his mind about the social chapter because if he does not, the British people will eventually change his mind for him.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Norman Lamont)
Every hon. Member will have noticed that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) was lost for the last line of his speech. He could not bring himself to utter the words, "I urge my hon. Friends to abstain," although that was what he meant. Throughout much of his speech, the hon. Gentleman did not mention the word Maastricht. He tried to turn it into a general debate on the economy. If he wants such a debate, let us have one. Let him table a motion and we shall debate it and defend our position, as we have done again and again.
We are now drawing to the end of what has been an important and passionate debate, which that has aroused controversy and strong feelings not just in the House but across the continent. The House has spent hundreds of hours looking at every detail of the Bill. I have noticed that some people in Europe have been somewhat frustrated, if not annoyed, at the pace of our progress, but we do not owe them any apologies. It is right that we should deliberate carefully on a treaty of such importance, and it is also right that the final decision should be taken here in the House.
§ Mr. Lamont
In a minute. I agree with what the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West said about the quality of speeches that we have heard, including that from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn).
In particular, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) on a remarkable and excellent maiden speech. I am sure that all who heard it found it highly entertaining, not least because of his descriptions of the late Robert Maxwell's legacy and of the roundabouts in his constituency. He struck a note for many when he said—I know that he was speaking for some of my hon. Friends—that he accepted rather than welcomed the Maastricht treaty. He gave us a salutary reminder when he said that our trade and interests are not just in Europe but in the wider world. He is the last of the new Members of Parliament to make a maiden speech, but it was a pleasure deferred and we look forward to hearing him again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said that he strongly felt that, after the debate was over, there should be no continuing recriminations in our party, and I strongly agree with him. We must all recognise that there have been strong feeling on both sides of the House and people have legitimate feelings and every reason to put their views. Recriminations will have to be put aside. As my hon. Friend said, what we are deciding affects the future of the country. It is of profound importance, but it is not a decision about whether we want to join a federal Europe. We do not want to join a federal Europe, and that is not the kind of Europe that the Maastricht treaty will create. The first draft of the treaty, which was produced by the Dutch, included a federal goal, but that draft was rightly rejected.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said, the argument in Europe is now turning in our direction, and it has been doing so since the Maastricht process began. Even in Germany today, there are growing doubts about the social chapter and even about monetary union and a single currency. My right hon. Friend said that we should seize the opportunity, and 464 how right he is, because we have never had a better chance to lead Europe in the direction that we, rather than the federalists, wish to go. That is why the House should ratify the Maastricht treaty. If we do not, we shall effectively place ourselves at the margins of Europe's affairs, cut off, devoid of influence, and leaving the field to those who are pursuing an entirely different agenda.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Sir C. Onslow) said, there are elements of the Community that we do not like, such an excessive regulation, the waste, bureaucracy and the expense of the common agricultural policy. The Government also abhor the job-destroying social chapter.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman and other Ministers have laid great emphasis on the decision being taken by the House of Commons. If the Government fail to get half the Members of the House to vote for the treaty, would that be regarded as the full-hearted consent that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), a former Prime Minister, wanted, and would the Chancellor be able to go to his European colleagues and say, "That justifies ratification of the treaty"?
§ Mr. Lamont
I am absolutely certain that we shall have a substantial majority, and that is what matters. The hon. Gentleman has made his case for a referendum. It was debated, put to the House and rejected, and the right hon. Gentleman should accept that.
By ratifying the Maastricht treaty, we shall maintain a voice and we can fight for the Europe that we want while keeping crucial decisions in our own hands. The House should remember that at Maastricht we signed a treaty that was very different from the one signed by other countries. It leaves us out of the social chapter, which is potentially the most damaging part of the treaty, and it gives us a separate decision over a single currency. That is of great importance.
§ Mr. Lamont
I want to reply to some of the points made in the debate.
We may all have our own views about monetary union, about whether it is likely in the short term or desirable in the longer term, but we cannot ignore the simple fact that many others in Europe want it to happen. The attempt to bring into being a single currency carries obvious risks, one of which is that we may become locked into a single European monetary policy that is wholly inappropriate to our economy. If that happened, we would be on a slippery slope, because pressures would grow for huge transfers of resources across the Community, and there would be calls for even closer political union.
That is why the Government were simply not prepared to sign up to a single currency now. Our protocol, which I negotiated, gives this country complete freedom of manoeuvre for the future. If we ratify the treaty, it will allow us to take part in all the discussions and negotiations about a single currency, but it will not commit us to join one. It explicitly gives the House a separate decision about joining a single currency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate said that, if we kept that option open, the pressure would be so great that we would be forced to join a single currency. If my hon. Friend really believes that the arguments against a single currency are so overwhelming, surely he cannot oppose 465 merely keeping the option open until we have to make a decision, at which time the argument can be considered on its merits and my hon. Friend can put his case. I understand his anxiety, but if the case against is so strong it cannot be right to foreclose all options.
The choice before us is simple. We are not being asked whether we want to join a single currency. That is a question for later, and it is provided for in the protocol. The question for now is whether, if a currency union is established on the continent, this country should have the right to seek to join if the House so wishes, after a separate Act of Parliament has gone through the House. I simply fail to understand how British sovereignty would be enhanced if we forwent that right which was negotiated at Maastricht and is enshrined in the United Kingdom protocol.
§ Mr. Cash
Will my right hon. Friend explain how much influence we have exerted over the arguments about the so-called fault lines in the ERM as a result of the ECOFIN report? Will he also explain how much influence we can exert in stage 2, when the Governor of the Bank of England can neither seek nor be given instructions by the Government when he is a member of the European Monetary Institute.
§ Mr. Lamont
If my hon. Friend will give way, I shall come to those points.
Securing our protocol was a real negotiating success. It is really quite remarkable that the Labour party still opposes it. If the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) had his way, we would not have any choice—once we passed the Bill, if we fulfilled the convergence criteria we would be sent straight down the road to a single currency. We do not know today what the prospects for the single currency will be, we cannot predict all its implications and we do not know who will be in it. However, that does not bother the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he would board the train no matter who was on it, no matter where it was going. Quite simply, he would be prepared to drive the economic and political future of the nation into the buffers.
During this long debate, questions have been raised about the nature of stage 2 of monetary union. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate asked whether we were taking on some onerous obligations. There have been many controversies surrounding the Bill, but one thing is quite certain—the worries expressed about stage 2 are misplaced. Throughout the negotiations, I believed that in stage 2 it was essential that economic and monetary policy should remain firmly in national hands. That was our negotiating objective and that was what we achieved.
Whether or not a single currency is established, and whether or not we choose to join, the economic goals represented in the convergence criteria are objectives that we should all share—low inflation, sound finances and low budget deficits. Those are the economic objectives that the Government has been pursuing for almost a decade and a half. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) said, under stage 2—or, indeed stage 3 if we do not participate in it—there is no question of our being legally bound to achieve them or being penalised in any way if we do not.
466 I have been a little surprised by some of the anxiety that my hon. Friends have identified relating to budget deficits and the provisions applying to them. The Conservative party believes in sound finance and low deficits. Nothing in the treaty interferes with the sovereignty of the Government of this country in monetary and fiscal matters in stage 2. However, the treaty does allow for the Council of Ministers to monitor in stage 2 how countries are progressing with economic convergence, but that is not the same as imposing penalties or being able to compel countries to pursue particular policies. Of course it is irksome when international organisations express opinions about our affairs, but that has been going on for decades—through the OECD, the G7, the IMF and the European Community.
On the prospects for EMU and the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), the past 12 months have been a setback for those who wish to see an early march to a single currency. As well as sterling's departure from the ERM, there have been three devaluations within the ERM by Spain; two by Portugal; one by Ireland; and one devaluation by Italy within the ERM, followed by the lira's exit from the system. That leaves aside countries such as Sweden, Finland and Norway, which were forced to break their links with the ERM.
In all, no fewer than eight countries had their policies overthrown last September. All that puts paid to the idea, held on the Opposition Benches, that last September was somehow an event unique to Britain.
I come now to the exchange rate mechanism and I want to answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lindsey (Sir. P. Tapsell) during Prime Minister's questions. Let me make it crystal clear. There is no obligation, in the convergence criteria or anywhere else in the treaty, to make Britain rejoin the ERM. There was pressure to include such an obligation in the treaty; I was wholly opposed to that and I successfully resisted it.
The only obligation to join the ERM is if a country wants to go to stage 3 of monetary union, in which case it has to be a member of the narrow bands of the ERM for two years before moving to stage 3.
§ Mr. Lamont
I am answering my hon. Friends.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear our position on the ERM yesterday. The Government will not even begin to contemplate rejoining the ERM until Britain's economy is more in step with the rest of Europe. Above all, that means that economic conditions in Germany and Britain will need to be much more closely in line than they are now. After the great boom caused by reunification, the German economy is now moving even deeper into recession, while the British recovery is strengthening. So the needs and objectives of monetary policy are quite different.
It is impossible to predict how long it will take for the German economy to adjust fully to the massive strains caused by reunification. It may take two years, three years or longer, but until it does, it would not be appropriate for us to contemplate joining the ERM. It would not be in our economic interests and the Government will not do it.
467 My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford made the point that passing the treaty will give Britain and the Government a real opportunity to influence the future debate in the Community. Subsidiarity is only the beginning. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) has said in previous debates about taxation matters and retaining the fiscal sovereignty of the House. But we must push subsidiarity to the top of the agenda at every Council meeting.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said, we see a wider Europe, a different Europe, a free trading Europe. Above all, we see a Europe that concentrates on letting the peoples of Europe go about their business of creating the investment, jobs and prosperity that we all want to see, not a Europe of meddling bureaucrats always seeking more power, more influence and more leverage over independent member states.
Another area of the treaty that has taken up much time in today's debate is the social chapter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woking said that in Europe, which is one of the higher unemployment regions in the world economy, employers already face substantial burdens and social costs in competing with other economies, particularly, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East recognised, now that Europe is now in competition with the dynamic new economies of the far east.
Of course we all want higher living standards, but we have to earn them. We will not get them simply by piling up labour or social costs. We will get them by being competitive, by attracting investment from abroad and by encouraging investment at home.
§ Mr. Gordon Brown
The Chancellor said in his Budget statement that the Government will never sign the social charter. Will he confirm what the Foreign Secretary refused to confirm—that that is the Government's policy and that they will never sign it under any circumstances, even in the face of a decision of the House?
§ Mr. Lamont
The social chapter is the last thing that Britain or Europe needs. That is why we insisted on our opt out and the treaty that we will ratify will be the one that we negotiated at Maastricht. We put Britain first. We always have and we always will.
§ Mr. Lamont
No, sit down.
What is more, unlike Opposition Members, I do not believe that social policy should be decided in Brussels. I believe that it should be decided in this country and in this House. I know that some of my hon. Friends are concerned that the Commission and other countries will use means other than the social chapter. My hon. Friends the Members for Reigate and for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) made the point that they might use other means to impose obligations and costs on this country. I agree with those of my hon. Friends who complain that the health and safety provisions in the Single European Act have been used in a wholly improper way, to foist on this country laws that we do not want.
The question before us tonight, however, is not the Single European Act but the Maastricht treaty—and the treaty has a clear-cut protocol that unambiguously takes this country out of the social chapter.
468 No one should underestimate the potential threat that the social chapter poses. It isa really worrying attempt by Europe… to try to rebuild in Britain the things that we have dismantled over the past 12 to 15 years.[Interruption.] I hear them scoff, but those were the words of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). As usual, he has changed his mind and changed his policy, and tonight he wants to change his vote. But it is clear that no one on the Conservative side of the House would possibly want to put our opt out at risk.
What about Labour? What is their leader's vision of Europe? He is not even here for tonight's debate. It is quite unfair to say that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East does not have a European policy, because he has three. When it conies to the treaty, he does not know whether he wants to pass it, oppose it or wreck it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, like his predecessor, trots around Europe, posing for photocalls with leaders of other socialist parties, declaring his belief in all things European.
After the photocall in November, the right hon. and learned Gentleman even signed a communiqué saying:we … hope the process of ratification will be completed as soon as possible without further renegotiation.What did he do about it? He voted against the paving motion, called for delay until after the Edinburgh summit, opposed each and every closure motion, and put narrow party advantage above national interest—not just once, but hour after hour, day after day, and week after week.
Then, in his embarrassment, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to send the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) fumbling around Europe to apologise for their filibustering. The right hon. Gentleman had a meeting with Mr. Cot. I wonder whether my right hon. and hon. Friends remember him. He is the leader of the socialists in the European Parliament.
On 4 November, the right hon. Member for Copeland told the House that he had personally discussed Labour's position with Mr. Cot and other European socialist leaders and that they fully understood and supported its position. Just three days later, Mr. Cot gave us his side of the story:I must say I was a bit puzzled by Labour's demand to postpone the ratification process in Westminster…stop playing Russian roulette …! This stupid game just isn't funny.The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East likes to boast of his principled stand on Europe. In the endless profiles and interviews in the Sunday newspapers, he always tells how he voted against his party for our entry into the Common Market, and in off-the-record briefings he tells how he has lectured his party on how to be pro-European. Where are his principles now? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] Where is his party?
What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman propose to do tonight with the important question before the House? He is going to take a principled stand on Third Reading. He is going to abstain. He will not be sitting on his rebels—he will be sitting on his hands. That is a pathetic spectacle.
At the end of the day, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must either be for the treaty or against it. His right hon. and hon. Friends have not been impressed. I wonder whether the House can guess who it was who said that there was alack of direction … a lack of leadership"?469 It was the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). Who was it who said that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's "naive Euro-enthusiasm" had reduced him to an "unparalleled state of impotence"? It was the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). And who called his own Front Bench "disastrous and supine"? It was the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). The Leader of the Opposition cannot convince his party, and he will not convince the country. We shall vote tonight for ratification of the treaty. The position of the Labour party is a hollow sham. We have put our case tonight, and we shall put it to the country as well.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 112.471
|Division No. 277]||[9.59 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Cope, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Cormack, Patrick|
|Alexander, Richard||Couchman, James|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D' by' ire)|
|Alton, David||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Amess, David||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Ancram, Michael||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Day, Stephen|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Devlin, Tim|
|Ashby, David||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Dicks, Terry|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Atkins, Robert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Dover, Den|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Duncan, Alan|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Dunn, Bob|
|Baldry, Tony||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Eggar, Tim|
|Bates, Michael||Elletson, Harold|
|Batiste, Spencer||Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Booth, Hartley||Evennett, David|
|Boswell, Tim||Faber, David|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Fabricant, Michael|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bowis, John||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Brazier, Julian||Forman, Nigel|
|Bright, Graham||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Burns, Simon||Freeman, Roger|
|Burt, Alistair||French, Douglas|
|Butler, Peter||Gale, Roger|
|Butterfill, John||Gallie, Phil|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Garnier, Edward|
|Carrington, Matthew||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Clappison, James||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Gorst, John|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)|
|Coe, Sebastian||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Colvin, Michael||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Congdon, David||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Conway, Derek||Hague, William|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hannam, Sir John||Needham, Richard|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Nelson, Anthony|
|Harris, David||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hawkins, Nick||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hayes, Jerry||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Heald, Oliver||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Norris, Steve|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hendry, Charles||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hicks, Robert||Page, Richard|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.||Paice, James|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Home Robertson, John||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Horam, John||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Pickles, Eric|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Radice, Giles|
|Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Redwood, John|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Rendel, David|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Richards, Rod|
|Jack, Michael||Riddick, Graham|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Key, Robert||Sackville, Tom|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Knox, David||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Shersby, Michael|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Sims, Roger|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Leigh, Edward||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Mark||Soames, Nicholas|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Lidington, David||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Spring, Richard|
|Luff, Peter||Sproat, Iain|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Macdonald, Calum||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|MacKay, Andrew||Steen, Anthony|
|Maclean, David||Stephen, Michael|
|Maclennan, Robert||Stern, Michael|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stewart, Allan|
|Madel, David||Streeter, Gary|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Sumberg, David|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Sykes, John|
|Malone, Gerald||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mans, Keith||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Marland, Paul||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Thomason, Roy|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Merchant, Piers||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Milligan, Stephen||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Mills, Iain||Tracey, Richard|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Tredinnick, David|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Trend, Michael|
|Trotter, Neville||Whitney, Ray|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Tyler, Paul||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Waldegrave, Rt Hon William||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Walden, George||Willetts, David|
|Wallace, James||Wolfson, Mark|
|Waller, Gary||Wood, Timothy|
|Ward, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Watts, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wells, Bowen||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John||Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Knapman, Roger|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Legg, Barry|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Lewis, Terry|
|Austin-Walker, John||Litherland, Robert|
|Barnes, Harry||Livingstone, Ken|
|Bendall, Vivian||Lord, Michael|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||McAllion, John|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||McKelvey, William|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||McWilliam, John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Madden, Max|
|Body, Sir Richard||Marlow, Tony|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Boyce, Jimmy||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Butcher, John||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Callaghan, Jim||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Mudie, George|
|Canavan, Dennis||Olner, William|
|Cann, Jamie||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Parry, Robert|
|Carttiss, Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Cash, William||Pickthall, Colin|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Pope, Greg|
|Clapham, Michael||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Connarty, Michael||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Redmond, Martin|
|Cran, James||Richardson, Jo|
|Cryer, Bob||Robathan, Andrew|
|Davidson, Ian||Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Simpson, Alan|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Etherington, Bill||Skinner, Dennis|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Fry, Peter||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Stevenson, George|
|Gerrard, Neil||Sweeney, Walter|
|Gill, Christopher||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Gordon, Mildred||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Trimble, David|
|Gould, Bryan||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Watson, Mike|
|Hain, Peter||Whittingdale, John|
|Hall, Mike||Wilkinson, John|
|Harvey, Nick||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Winnick, David|
|Hoey, Kate||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Wise, Audrey|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jessel, Toby||Mr. Nigel Spearing and|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Mr. Ron Leighton.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.