HC Deb 13 March 1996 vol 273 cc895-917

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Dr. Liam Fox.]

9.34 am
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for granting this important debate this morning. I feel enormously privileged to open the first of two debates on the White Paper on the intergovernmental conference. As we all know, the IGC is scheduled to start its deliberations on 29 March and, in the intervening period, right hon. and hon. Members will have the opportunity to form opinions about whether the negotiating position set out in the White Paper reflects their aspirations for the future of the European Community and, more to the point, their aspirations for the future of the country to which we all belong and to whose sovereign we have all sworn an oath of allegiance.

It is a sad commentary on our times that, at this defining moment in our nation's history, the White Paper makes but a passing reference to the single currency, which is pivotal to the debate about the future of the Community.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

That has nothing to do with the IGC.

Mr. Gill

Doubtless that is because the Government believe, or have been pressured into believing, that economic and monetary union do not lead to political union. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, when he replies to the debate, will confirm or deny that the statement made to me by the Economic Secretary in her letter of 15 February—that any move to monetary union … does not necessitate political union"— is an accurate representation of Government thinking.

Mr. Harris


Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)


Mr. Gill

I intend to give way to hon. Members, and I notice that two of my colleagues wish to intervene. I wish to reach the end of my first section and then I will give way. I have a long speech to make and I do not wish to prolong the debate unduly.

Notwithstanding the answer to my question that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will give the House, let me remind him that there is a strong and growing body of opinion in Parliament and in the country that will not accept the abolition of the pound sterling and the consequences that must inevitably stem from that decision. So the second question my hon. Friend must answer, assuming that the Economic Secretary's statement is correct, is how the Government will persuade the people of this country that they have genuinely set their faces against political union.

Mr. Marlow

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way to me because I may be able to answer the question that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) tried to put. From a sedentary position, he suggested that monetary union was nothing to do with the IGC. The IGC is about any reform of or changes required to the Maastricht treaty, and half of the treaty is to do with monetary union. Therefore, monetary union is a proper subject to discuss at the IGC.

Mr. Gill

I agree with my hon. Friend and I hope that he has satisfactorily dealt with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) made from a sedentary position.

I remind my hon. Friend the Minister that I asked whether the advice that I have been given by the Economic Secretary is correct and, if it is correct, how we will persuade the great British public that economic and monetary union does not lead on to political union. When he answers that second question, may I urge my hon. Friend to recognise the fact that we are long past the point at which mere rhetoric will satisfy the voters, because for 25 years or more they have been duped and deceived by politicians whose hidden agenda is only now revealed? My hon. Friend must explain how, in logic, it is possible for a nation to surrender its currency without at the same time surrendering its sovereignty. Without a satisfactory answer to those questions, the House is entitled to conclude that the end game—as many of us have long suspected—is not a Europe of nation states, but a totally integrated United States of Europe. Why else is it that Governments have signed not one but three significant treaties, all of which have imposed ever-increasing hegemony on Europe? I trust that the Minister will answer that question too.

I turn next to the submissions that Ministers have received in advance of yesterday's publication of the White Paper. Quite apart from representations from individual Members of Parliament, my hon. Friend will also be aware of the papers submitted by the Conservative 2000 group, the British committee of the European Research Group—comprising 12 right hon. and hon. Members—and the group of eight Conservative Members from whom the party Whip was withdrawn on 28 November 1994, because of their refusal to support a Government motion to send an additional £75 million to Brussels. I trust that the Minister will not be dismissive of the views expressed in those submissions, and that he will not underestimate the huge body of public opinion that supports them—a body of opinion that will be profoundly disappointed by the Government's failure to produce proposals for treaty amendments.

Although I welcome the modest objectives that Ministers have set themselves, I will not be alone in expressing the view that failure to identify treaty changes will come to be regarded as a missed opportunity to recover competences that should never have been given away in the first place. While I am grateful that Her Majesty's Government have acceded to the request from the so-called Euro-rebels for a White Paper, I hope against hope that the statement in the conclusions of the White Paper—that the Government are still considering their detailed approach—is a sign that Ministers, even at this late stage, are prepared to modify their negotiating stance in the light of today's debate and in the light of the debate that will take place on Thursday week. Perhaps when he sums up the Minister will be kind enough to give me that assurance.

I should like now to draw the House's attention to the submission of the European Commission—

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Gill

I will give way to my hon. Friend provided that he is not going to be a complete nuisance.

Mr. Marlow

I am afraid I am. We dislike party splits, but I am afraid that there is a split between my hon. Friend and me. He says that the Government are not asking for treaty amendments, but in yesterday's statement the Foreign Secretary said: The Government do not believe that directives, once enacted, are irreversible, and will press for treaty amendment if that proves to be the best way".—[Official Report, 12 March 1996; Vol. 273, c. 786.]

Mr. Gill

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that error in my speech.

The submission by the European Commission is entitled "Reinforcing Political Union and Preparing for Enlargement". On the very first page of the document it is unequivocally stated in paragraph 2 that since 1993 the member states have adopted and given effect to the treaty on European union, which derives from a broad, twofold aspiration: a determination to extract all the positive effects of the internal market by adding to it a single currency … and … to give the union a genuine political dimension". Later, in paragraph 6, it is stated that the deepening and widening of the Union are intertwined. Barring the odd detail here and there, the Commission's opinion probably reflects the views of a majority of the member states. It is instructive, therefore, to compare it point by point with our Government's White Paper. The Commission says, for example, that there should be a stronger role for the European Court of Justice. If there is one special disappointment in the White Paper, it is that Her Majesty's Government's stated position on the ECJ is far less robust than we had expected. My hon. Friend, the Minister will not be surprised to hear me say that the House will want to examine the Government's proposals for reform of the European Court in some considerable detail when the promised memorandum is eventually published.

The Commission states: The social dimension should be one of the central themes at the Conference". On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government make it clear beyond all reasonable doubt that they will not accept the social chapter, when they state that the United Kingdom will not give up its opt-out and cannot be forced to do so". The Commission says that it should have the power of initiative in all fields. Our Government say that the EU is not a state and should take care not to develop ideas that feed people's fears"— they are real fears— that it has a vocation to become one. In this connection I welcome the statement that the Government are considering ideas for limiting the scope for Community action in certain areas—in particular, to prevent the health and safety article being used for social policy by the back door. What a hollow ring that statement has in the light of yesterday's recommendation by the Advocate General concerning the working time directive; and what a vindication for all of us who have been warning the Government that Britain's opt-out from the social chapter would be circumvented in precisely this way.

Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I am sure that my he, like me, will welcome the fact that after a number of outrageous and deeply offensive decisions by the European Court of Justice and the—entirely separate—European Court of Human Rights, Her Majesty's Government are at last facing up to these matters. I hope, however, that my hon. Friend will spell out what further practical measures he would like HMG to adopt in this respect, because I foresee difficulties.

Mr. Gill

I am grateful for that important point. There is increasing resentment among the people whom we represent at the ever-increasing number of decisions taken by this people's Parliament which have been overturned by the European Court of Justice. Many of us, like my hon. Friend, feel very strongly about that—as I am sure the Government know.

The Commission believes that there should be a transfer of justice and home affairs to the Community framework. That stands in complete contrast—to answer my hon. Friend's point—with what is advocated by the Government, who seek a greater role for national Parliaments in the justice and home affairs pillar. Similarly, the Commission says that the contents of the Schengen agreement should be incorporated in the treaty; but Her Majesty's Government have refused to accept that agreement. The whole House will welcome the renewed commitment to the third pillar given in paragraph 49, and the pledge in paragraph 51 to take whatever steps are needed to maintain our frontier controls". On foreign policy, the Commission says that the Union must be able to present a united front. Her Majesty's Government say, quite rightly, that the common foreign and security policy can never become an exclusive policy that would replace national foreign policy. The Commission takes the view that qualified majority voting should be the norm for the CFSP. The British Government do not accept that the unanimity provisions for the CFSP constitute a restriction on its development, or that it would be strengthened by the introduction of voting models that overrode the key concerns of member states. Still on the subject of external relations, the Commission believes that a proper common foreign and security policy should also extend to common defence, and that this requires the better integration of the armaments industry in the general treaty rules. The Government's oft repeated view is that decisions on defence policy should remain where they belong—with sovereign nation states". I am quite sure that the House welcomes that adamant statement in the White Paper.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

While I agree that we should welcome the Government's commitment to maintaining our border controls, will my hon. Friend make it clear to the House and the country that if the European Court of Justice tells us that we cannot maintain those controls any longer, there will be nothing the Government can do about it?

Mr. Gill

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for adding to the burden of my submission.

Still on the question of defence, all the lessons of history demonstrate that it is quite right and proper for Britain to take the view that she does—that decisions on defence policy should remain with nation states. It must be made clear to our European partners that anything which takes away from or undermines NATO is simply not acceptable. The White Paper commitment that any review of article J4 should aim to reinforce NATO as the bedrock of European security is most welcome; as is the statement that it would be inappropriate for the Commission, the European Parliament or the European Court of Justice to have any role in defence decision making.

On voting procedure, the Commission … proposes that qualified majority voting becomes the general rule". Her Majesty's Government are opposed to further extension of qualified majority voting.

Finally, the Commission concludes by advocating the shift to a more genuinely Political Union"— a determination powerfully articulated only yesterday by Messrs Maartens and Santer, who make no secret of the fact that the pre-eminent objective in Europe remains, as it always has been, political union.

Throughout the 20 pages of the Commission's opinion, I can find only three phrases with which I can agree: first, its conclusion that this debate must be opened up at once, in order to give the negotiators their bearings"; secondly, its opinion that Europe must do less, so as to do it better"; and, thirdly, its statement that only a competitive economy can create lasting jobs platitudes that are practically meaningless in the circumstances in which the voice of the people has either been ignored, as in the case of the first Danish referendum on Maastricht, or not even sought, as in our own case; circumstances in which all the indications are that far from doing less the Commission continually seeks to do more, as evidenced by the opinion to the IGC from which I have quoted; and circumstances in which whole industries face an uncertain future due to the overweening interference of a bureaucracy in Brussels that has an interventionist approach to economic affairs which is totally at odds with the policies of our Conservative Government.

The prospects of the United Kingdom getting satisfaction in almost any subject area are, on any rational analysis of the evidence available, remote. Our objectives, as I have demonstrated, are in many instances totally opposed to those of the Commission. We are poles apart. It is unlikely that other member states will take our part, and on the basis of past performance I am sad to say that it is highly probable that we shall seek to appease and compromise rather than challenge and confront.

But there are those of us who believe that some good could come out of the IGC if instead of playing on our weaknesses we played to our strengths. Having already given so much away—our fishing rights are a good example of this—we have little to barter with, but in that context I should remind Ministers that although I welcomed the commitment to end the abuse of quota hoppers, nothing short of the restoration of full national control over our exclusive fishing zone will satisfy the fishing industry and those of our constituents who are equally incensed by the common fisheries policy.

The time has come for us forcefully to remind our European partners that we in the United Kingdom contribute 60 per cent. of the EU fish stocks, that we are a net importer of goods from other countries in Europe, and that with Germany we effectively bankroll the rest of the Community. At the end of the day, we have a veto and we must not be afraid to use it.

I conclude by saying what I have said on so many occasions. In the final analysis, if we cannot get a deal that protects British interests and is acceptable to the majority of the British people, Her Majesty's Government must be prepared to get up from the conference table and walk away. Taking the lead in Europe is not about rushing to the head of a queue that is going up a cul-de-sac. It is about persuading Europe's political elite that the whole concept of European Union is doomed to failure unless they can carry the people with them.

Once again, it is Britain's historic destiny to champion the cause of freedom and guide our European partners away from the totalitarianism that threatens to engulf them. I urge the whole House, in giving our negotiators their bearings for the forthcoming IGC, to make clear its opposition to political union and, indeed, to any other proposal that would lead to that same conclusion.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)


Mr. Gill

It is most unfair of the hon. Gentleman to interrupt my peroration, but as I have not given way to the Opposition, I gladly do so now.

Mr. Randall

Did I hear the hon. Gentleman clearly? Did he say that the British Government should walk out of the IGC?

Mr. Gill

Yes, indeed he did. I very much take the view that the British Government must approach the IGC as hard-nosed business men. They have to strike a bargain there, not to please the Foreign Office or the Front Bench but to please this Parliament and the people. It will not work if they do not. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, as it gave me the opportunity to make that very important point. Sadly, the House lacks people with experience of having to strike bargains. It seems to me that the history of our overseas negotiations in the post-war period is to approach negotiations in a spirit of compromise. "We have to get a deal" is the attitude that seems to pervade the Foreign Office. I do not share that attitude. I feel most strongly, as do many of my constituents, that unless we can get a deal that is good for Britain, good for British industry, good for Britain's farmers, and good for Britain's fishermen, we cannot afford to sign up any further.

I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will recognise that, in not going far enough with the White Paper—either in the direction of our European partners on the one hand; or, on the other, in the direction of British public opinion—the Government risk falling between two stools. At the end of the day, I trust that Ministers will recognise the inescapable reality that in all these matters it is British voters who will have the final say. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend the Minister, who is an astute politician, will recognise that fact.

9.55 am
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) on persuading you, Madam Speaker, to allow us to have this debate. It is timely—

Madam Speaker

The debate was won by ballot. It has nothing whatever to do with me.

Mr. Mackinlay

I am sorry about that. That is why I have always been polite to you, Madam Speaker. I was always living in hope that I might succeed.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on this timely debate. I am pleased to take part, as a large number of us will be squeezed out of the main debate on the IGC White Paper to be held a little later. It should be a two-day debate, not a one-day debate, but I guess that the powers that be on the two Front Benches will concoct that it will be a one-day debate. We shall see.

I approach the debate as someone who describes himself as a European. I believe in the concept of the European Union. I was keen to contest European elections long before it was fashionable in the Labour party to do so. I make that declaration. I have spoken before in the House about the need for the whole-hearted consent of Parliament and the people to any further integration or treaty arrangements. Therefore, if there was to be any significant constitutional change following the IGC, it should be put to the people by referendum.

I do not argue for a referendum as a political expedient, which is why the Prime Minister is now contemplating one in order to get himself off a dangerous hook, or indeed which was the motive of Harold Wilson. I believe that referendums are a good practice in our democratic processes. We should have referendums more often where there are constitutional changes. I would like to see legislation that would allow Madam Speaker to decide that matters that were of paramount importance relating to the constitution were subject to ratification by the people. I believe that that is what should happen with regard to this and other important matters.

I believe that the IGC will soon discover that there is limited scope for deepening the Community. That may be a good thing. Public opinion, not just in this country but elsewhere in western Europe, needs a few years—perhaps a decade or more—to digest what has been a rapid change in the European Union. There needs to be consolidation, a bedding down, before people, Parliaments or Governments contemplate any major changes.

I shall deal with an issue that is often thrown across the Chamber, that somehow my party is federalist whereas the Conservative party is not. That is absolute rubbish. I have never heard or known of a Labour Member who is a federalist. I have noticed, however, that there are always at least two or three federalists on the Conservative Benches—I notice that they are not in their place this morning, but hon. Members will know precisely who I mean—those who are prepared to contemplate a formal European Union on a federal basis. The federalists are on the Conservative Benches. That needs to be made quite clear.

For me, a priority is not the deepening but the widening of the Community. A historic window of political opportunity is open to us—the opportunity to entrench, preserve and promote the emerging and, in some cases, delicate democracies of central Europe. I see membership of the European Union as part of that. I would give a great deal to bring Poland in particular, Hungary, the Czech Republic—the Visegrad countries—and some other states into the Union—and, for that matter, NATO—as soon as possible.

I was somewhat irritated by the Government's failure officially to mark the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's speech at Fulton, Missouri. It was wrong on a number of counts to abdicate that to Lady Thatcher. I mentioned the speech in the Chamber some months ago, and also asked the Foreign Office to mark the anniversary officially. Let us remind ourselves of what was said in 1945: "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across Europe behind which we must refer to it as, the Soviet sphere."

For half a century we have been saying to the countries of central Europe, "Look over the wall. See how wonderful things are in the west." Anyone who believed our propaganda would think that the sun always shone and the rain never fell in western Europe. What happened then? Communism collapsed, the wall came down and those countries asked, not unreasonably, "Can we join the club?" We said, "Hang on a moment. There are a good many things to decide."

I do not want to minimise the hurdles that stand in the way of facilitating the entry of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other states into the European Union, but our moral obligation is not being recognised by our Government and, perhaps, others. There is an urgent need for us to fulfil duties of which we spoke for over 50 years, and which constituted the raison d'être for the cold war. Now we are trying to find excuses to keep those countries out, which is entirely wrong. I stand by the commitment made at Fulton: we should not now concede, instead of a Soviet, a Russian sphere of influence. There should be no Russian veto on the legitimate aspirations of free democratic countries.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mackinlay

No, I will not. Time is limited. Moreover, the hon. Lady speaks about Europe a great deal, whereas I do not speak about it very often. Page 9 of the White Paper states that Parliament must approve any new treaty that emerges from the IGC. May I ask the Minister whether that constitutes a change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government? One point on which I agree with some Conservative Members is that our Parliament is always denied the right to approve treaties. We approved legislation subsequent to the Maastricht treaty rather than approving the treaty itself. Is it true that our Parliament will approve our treaty accession if a new one emerges from the IGC? If so, I welcome that, but, if not, the Minister should clearly state that we will not have such an opportunity, and that approval will be given by means of the royal prerogative. That would be entirely wrong: treaties should be approved by the legislature, as they are in other countries.

On page 15 of the White Paper, a great deal of humbug is spoken about the role of national Parliaments in relation to the business of the European Union. Having been in the House for nearly four years, I must say that I think that the way in which we scrutinise European legislation is a sham. This lovely Parliament, of which I am proud to be a Member, needs to crank up its machinery so that we can probe and criticise European legislation much more effectively. It is interesting to note that European Standing Committees A and B sit in Committee Rooms where there are no television cameras. I think that television is an important part of scrutiny. Everything is loaded against the possibility of holding a full debate and public understanding of what is going on. Parliament should be much more proactive, and should be able to initiate developments in Europe; but there is no real scope for that here.

Paragraph 30 of the White Paper, on page 15, refers to new competences, and mentions areas of competence that the Government do not think it appropriate to cede to the European Union. I shall not comment on what is said there, but I note what has been omitted. I am interested to note that there is no reference to aviation policy, airports and air traffic control. Do Her Majesty's Government concede that such matters are to be a European competence? As it happens, I think that that is inevitable and might even be a good thing, but I should like to know the position. If it is not the case, however, the Government clearly needed my assistance when preparing the White Paper, because they overlooked these matters.

The White Paper makes great play of the size of the Commission. I do not understand why that is a big issue. As I have said, I look forward to enlargement. I suspect that some small states will join the Union in the not too distant future; I accept that not every state should necessarily be able to nominate a Commissioner, but certain portfolios such as transport and foreign affairs can clearly be broken down, in the case of transport, into various forms of transport, and in the case of foreign affairs, into geographical areas. All Parliaments have junior Ministers. I know that Commissioners are not the equivalent of Ministers, but surely enough portfolios are available for each country to be able to nominate a Commissioner or an assistant Commissioner.

The White Paper makes various suggestions about how progress should be made as enlargement continues, and they are worthy of consideration. As I have said, I do not think that there is much scope for change. Existing arrangements should be allowed to bed down; by and large, qualified majority voting should remain as it is now.

Euro-sceptics have repeatedly referred to the decisions of the European Court, but the White Paper reveals that its judgments have gone against the United Kingdom on relatively few occasions. I do not say that; the Government do. We must see the position in perspective. On occasion the United Kingdom errs in its interpretation of European Union treaties, and it is in the nature of court cases that we are sometimes disappointed. You win some, you lose some.

It should be said that some recent judgments are very welcome, because they will protect workers. It should also be said that Ministers who go on about resisting the social chapter are talking absolute rot. In this regard, I probably agree with some Conservative Members. As sure as night follows day, much of what is in the social chapter will be conceded by the Government. They will huff and puff, and pretend that it is all the doing of a load of judges in Europe, but they will concede it. I welcome that; I part company with my Essex colleagues who disapprove of it. We can agree, however, that the Government's protestations of innocence are cosmetic rubbish. Inexorably changes will come about that will improve the lives of working people, increasing their capacity to shape, influence and have access to developments that affect their working lives.

The White Paper is silent on two issues. One is the size of the European Parliament. I believe that there should be a European Parliament, although I do not think that its powers should be significantly increased. It has an important role and function, but, if enlargement takes place in the Community, it is absurd that it should continue to grow. It already has 670-odd Members; I think that it is already too large. The IGC should decide to "downsize" it.

I realise that there is a problem in relation to Luxembourg, but exceptions can be made. Luxembourg was in at the beginning: it is a foundation member, and its number of Members of the European Parliament should therefore be protected. However, the size of the European Parliament should be capped. Its membership should certainly not be enlarged, and I think it should be gradually reduced. That might also push us, and other countries, into thinking in terms of an alternative voting system for Ministers of the European Parliament that reflects views in this country. I welcomed and played a full part in the Labour party's great win in the last European elections, but clearly Labour's representation in the European Parliament is disproportionate to its electoral vote. Conversely, in 1979, when my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) was first elected to the European Parliament, Labour was substantially disadvantaged because of the crackpot electoral voting procedures for the European Parliament. That should be changed and the number of Members of the European Parliament should be reduced. The Parliament is also extremely costly.

There is a danger of the European Parliament becoming an absurd assembly moving between Brussels and Strasbourg. The Government should tackle the nonsense of there being sessions in Strasbourg. The only logical place for it to meet is Brussels, to which Members of this Parliament should have access. I know why the Government do this—

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for 15 minutes.

Mr. Mackinlay

The hon. Gentleman says that I have been speaking for a quarter of an hour, but he speaks time after time on Europe and I know what he is going to say—he is like a long-playing gramophone record. Now it is the turn of the hon. Member for Thurrock to have his say on Europe. I want to give a balanced view on the way in which we should proceed. Nevertheless, I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I promise that, if he does not interrupt me again, I will conclude my speech more quickly.

If the European Parliament was in Brussels, we could go there more and understand more of what is going on. More facilities to travel to Brussels should be available to hon. Members than the one absurd concession a year, which is no good. I want to understand what is going on to be able to probe, examine and check up what is being discussed.

If there is enlargement, we must stop additional languages being made official European Community languages each time a new country joins. It is crazy. In many cases, applicant members that join the European Union will be prepared to use English or other existing official languages. There is considerable language competence elsewhere. Many people in applicant countries can speak other principal languages of the European Union. The cost and the bureaucracy is so absurd that we must say, "Enough." That should be one of the prices of new countries acceding to the European Union.

If those countries find that uncomfortable, we must say to them that, if, after they become members, they want their language to be an official language, they must pay the total cost involved, in addition to their normal contributions to European Union costs. I think they would consider that to be an absurd and unnecessary additional cost, and that is why the number of official languages should now be capped.

The real decisions will have to be taken by my hon. Friends when they are in government. The conclusion of the IGC will mean that a Labour Government will be at the helm. I hope that they will realise that Europe is universally popular in this country, provided that there are no great concessions or that further tranches of sovereignty and this Parliament's capacity to control things are not lost. I hope that they will accept that treaties should be ratified by the House and that they should make institutional arrangements whereby this Parliament can improve its capacity to probe, examine and be proactive on European matters.

Above all, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East will acknowledge the overwhelming and legitimate case for central European countries to join the European Union and NATO, which is referred to in the White Paper. That case is compelling. We should recognise it as a moral issue, an obligation and a matter of our own self-interest.

10.13 am
Sir John Cope (Northavon)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) on his foresight and on his fortune in instituting this timely debate, which gives not only the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) but me an opportunity to get in a word on Europe. Like him, that is not something that I do frequently, in contrast with some of my hon. Friends.

I agree with the hon. Member for Thurrock about widening rather than deepening the European Union, although I would not go along with all that he said. As to whether the Labour party is federalist or more federalist than the Conservative party or some individuals in it, I draw attention not only to the social chapter but to several other items on the European Commission's wish list, which my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow set out in detail, and which the Labour party supports.

Those items include the size of the European Commission. Unlike the Government, the hon. Member for Thurrock wants a larger Commission. That should not surprise us. The shadow Government is a good deal larger than the actual Government. There are more appointments in the shadow Government.

Mr. Mackinlay

I am not in it.

Sir John Cope

I know, but more people are appointed to the shadow Government than to the actual Government. That will cause a bit of pain if the Labour party ever forms a Government, but never mind—that is the position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow quoted extensively from the Commission's wish list at the start of the great process of the intergovernmental conference. I recall the start of the last IGC and the atmosphere then. Many continental politicians thought that Europe would take great leaps towards federalism. They confidently expected that foreign affairs, defence, home affairs and justice would become Community matters in the full sense. The Germans were not just paying by far the biggest share of the Community's costs but happy to do so and to pay more. In effect, no one else except the United Kingdom was making a substantial financial contribution to the Community's costs.

The British Government were therefore faced with considerable difficulties at the start of last IGC, but, as we know, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues blocked all the worst federalist proposals. They were extremely successful in the negotiations and all the alarmist talk at the beginning was not justified. My right hon. Friend won or reserved the UK's position on all the important points by quietly and firmly saying no and by arguing the case in detail. He did not have a great showdown or walk out; he argued his case in his own effective manner. That is what he will do again with his colleagues.

The White Paper puts the issues and the British position with great clarity and firmness, which is the right thing to do as we approach the IGC. I welcome the fact that it has been published. I am sure that it will be studied carefully throughout Europe in all the Foreign Ministries and that it will be a useful basic document to refer back to as events proceed.

The atmosphere this time is different from that at the beginning of the last IGC. The political atmosphere, the economic background and the financial position have changed. In many respects, the Commission's wish list is not too dissimilar from the wish list of those people at the beginning of the last IGC, but the background is different.

On the political position, obviously, some of the principal characters have left the scene, notably President Mitterrand and Jacques Delors. Chancellor Kohl is still in power, although he escaped defeat by a small margin at the last elections. He has, however, begun to shift his position. That is evidenced by the speech that is quoted on page 4 of the White Paper and to which reference was made yesterday—one of several speeches in which he has placed a slightly different emphasis.

Recently, the socialists have been defeated in Spain. Since the last IGC, everyone has lived with the problems of ratification—not only hon. Members, who dealt with them at some length, but some of the other countries in the Community, notably France and Denmark. The political background, therefore, is different in relation to Governments and public opinion in Europe.

Economically, the position is also different. Problems of recession have arisen across the Community and are still much more obvious in countries on the continent than in the UK, which is further forward in coming out of the recession and building its prosperity.

It is already becoming absolutely clear that economic and monetary union cannot be achieved in the way envisaged in the Maastricht treaty. Of course, in view of the currency markets, Finance Ministers are bound to keep talking about sticking to the timetable and the criteria—such phrases are still used throughout Europe. The truth is that we cannot do both: we can have a timetable for some sort of union or co-operation if we wish or we can stick to the Maastricht criteria.

Mr. Randall


Sir John Cope

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way as a number of hon. Members wish to speak and time is limited.

We cannot have both the timetable and the criteria, so renegotiation is inevitable. The ultimate proof of that is Belgium, which can never fulfil the criteria within the timetable; it will need decades more. That puts the whole of Benelux in doubt. I accept that, if the criteria were to be waived or altered, it might be possible to proceed on a different basis—but it would be a basis different from that envisaged at Maastricht. Renegotiation will become essential.

The financial position of the Community has changed completely. Germany is the biggest single financier of the Community, but its finances have come under strain since the last IGC and it is extremely conscious of that. Germans are still paying an additional 10 per cent. tax to cover the costs of the reunification of eastern and western Germany. They also have to pay a premium on their bond rates for three or more years because of the possibility that those loans will be repaid in a different currency from the mark. Those considerations will bear harder and harder on, first, the Bundesbank and then on German financial thinking. Germany has become much more reluctant to continue to finance the Community with a more or less blank cheque.

The Dutch are now having to pay heavily into European Union coffers—more heavily per head of population than Britain, I believe. No one is more conscious of that than their Prime Minister, Wim Kok, a former Finance Minister with whom I had to deal during the former British presidency when I was President of the Budget Council.

At that time, the French were beginning to be on our side because their bills were getting bigger. Since then, they have had tremendous difficulties with their economic policy and a change of Government. The socialists were defeated in the presidential elections—and, indeed, looked like being defeated so far in advance that Mr. Delors withdrew from standing, as he had been expected to do and had appeared to be making moves towards doing. The Italians are having to pay more and are worried about that—and who would not be, given their financial position?

The result is that the whole discussion of EU finances takes place against a background very different from a few years ago. That puts the squeeze on the common agricultural policy.

Sir Teddy Taylor

It is going up.

Sir John Cope

My hon. Friend is right to say that the CAP has gone up; it will do so again. Nevertheless, the different background to Community finances is a lever that will help to reform the CAP. In order to work, any lever needs a fulcrum, which in this case is expansion to include the countries of eastern Europe. We all recognise that it is impossible to widen the Community without reform of the CAP. That is also recognised on the continent and it will lead to reform in due course.

Another aspect is the home affairs pillar. It was and remains important to keep that as an intergovernmental matter. We must build on operational and intelligence co-operation between the police, the customs services and other agencies across the borders—not just within the EU, but much more widely. European terrorism is one matter; European organised crime is another within Europe, but it has a much wider base than that so co-operation needs to be very wide.

The home affairs pillar cannot be put within the framework of the treaty of Rome. No country would entrust the operational control of its police force to that sort of framework, not least those countries with close land borders. Britain is primarily an island, but we have a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I have some experience of that border and I know how difficult co-operation across it can be. The considerations for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ministers dealing with policing matters north of the border are different from those of the Garda and Irish Ministers who must deal with those matters south of the border.

I am not for one moment criticising the co-operation we received from the Irish; on the contrary, we had some very good co-operation for much of the time. However, their operational considerations were different from ours—and, sadly, still are. That is one, admittedly acute, example of the differences in policing either side of a land border. A sea border makes it easier, but there are land borders across most of the continent. As part of the changed atmosphere, countries have had to face the increasing problem of immigration and asylum seekers, and nowhere more so than Germany.

I want to say a few words about referendums. Sir James Goldsmith, a French Member of the European Parliament, has written to many of us calling for a referendum in Britain on the Maastricht treaty. It is far too late for that. Whatever the arguments were for such a referendum, they were made some time ago. Much of the outcome of the Maastricht negotiations was, in any case, favourable. If there were a referendum, the voters would have to consider all sorts of matters, both favourable and otherwise. It would be difficult to frame a question on the Maastricht treaty as a whole.

It is quite different to talk about a future referendum on a single currency, but that is not what Sir James is calling for in his letter. If ever a single currency became reality—I have already expressed doubt about that—it would be a long way off. It will be the result of many complex considerations at that time. It may be desirable to hold a referendum before clinching the matter because undoubtedly, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, it will have political and constitutional implications. Given that we do not know how negotiations will go, except that they will not follow the pattern set out at Maastricht, I see very little point in a more firm opinion being given at the present time.

All in all, the White Paper is very positive. It sets out a practical approach to the IGC, which I welcome. The tide of opinion is running in the same direction on the continent as it has been in this country, to a much greater extent than before. We are therefore well placed to get a good result from the IGC.

10.30 am
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

From where I stand, the approach of the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) is wholly negative, and compares, as the European Commission said, predictably with the Government's largely negative White Paper. I am getting rather tired of all this rubbish about hidden agendas. I have fought nine elections and never concealed my belief in a federal Europe. It is simply not true that we engage in all sorts of fancy scheming. I say positively and clearly that I do not fear a federal Europe; it is an ideal to which I aspire.

The hon. Member for Ludlow opened his speech with a few remarks on the single currency, which will not, as we know, be dealt with at the intergovernmental conference. I agree with him that it is, however, behind the whole argument. Perhaps he has not noticed the most recent information about business attitudes to a single currency. A report published earlier in the year by Coopers and Lybrand found that 57 per cent. of British businesses favoured a single currency. The hon. Gentleman might take that into account. A single currency and a single market are no more than common sense, and business men, many of whom support his Government, clearly recognise that. I doubt very much that business men in Ludlow think differently from those anywhere else. They may simply like the hon. Gentleman and thole his eccentricities, but he should not assume that they all agree with him. I am sure that they do not agree with the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).

Mr. Gill

Does the hon. Gentleman think that there is any significance in the pronouncements of Professor Otmar Issing, who, as he knows, is a director of the Bundesbank? He is apparently on record as saying that monetary union could destroy the European Union.

Sir Russell Johnston

I have just visited the Federal Republic of Germany. That view, if it is quoted accurately—I have a feeling that it is somewhat out of context—was not held by any part of the German political establishment, including the Social Democratic party.

One passage of the speech of the hon. Member for Ludlow reflected the weakness and the negative nature of the Euro-sceptic attitude. I do not think that there is a Euro-sceptic case at all. The hon. Gentleman—I do not think that I am quoting him accurately, but he is present and can correct me if I am wrong—said that the Government should challenge and confront rather than compromise and reconcile at the IGC. If it is necessary, he said—there was an intervention at that point—they should walk out. Such rigid, confrontational politics is bad and one of the major weaknesses of the British political system. It is reflected in the House and maintained by an unfair and undemocratic electoral system. I am therefore afraid that I do not think that that is a good way in which to approach anything.

The right hon. Member for Northavon (Sir J. Cope) quoted Chancellor Kohl and said that he thought that his attitude was changing. I had an hour with Chancellor Kohl on Monday night and saw absolutely no evidence of such a change. He was still very much convinced that the only sensible thing for the European countries to do was to come closer together. He could not understand the arguments for pulling the countries apart, creating difficulties and erecting barriers. He wanted barriers to be broken down.

I also had the opportunity to speak with others in the Federal Republic's political establishment and one thing that struck me forcefully was their desire to adhere to the economic and monetary union timetable. Personally, I share the views of some that it will not be possible to adhere to such a timetable for a variety of reasons, mainly because the criteria will probably not be met by a number of countries. Nevertheless, I was rebuked quite properly by the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, who said that if I began by thinking that the timetable could not be met, it never would be met. I had to admit that that was perfectly good logic.

Sir John Cope

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman. A quotation of Chancellor Kohl—he has said similar things on other occasions—is repeated on page 4 of the White Paper, in which he says to the Bundestag: We do not want a centralised European state that subsumes regional, national and cultural traditions or dismisses historical experience. I do not think that he would have said such things a few years ago and that led me to make my remarks.

Sir Russell Johnston

With great respect, that is completely untrue. Kohl has been saying such things all along; that is his view of federalism. I remember him making a speech at Edinburgh university when he was given an honorary doctorate about six or seven years ago, in which he said that we would have unity in diversity, a federal, decentralised Europe—not a centralised Europe. Kohl has always believed that. It is strange—almost self-inflicted and blind—how many people consider federalism as if it were centralisation; it is not. We gave Germany a federal system because we wanted it to be decentralised. That is why it happened.

I shall conclude because I gather that there is some kind of pact between the two Front-Bench teams that they should deliver of their wisdom shortly. I would not want to prevent that. I shall make four quick points. We believe that qualified majority voting should be extended and that there will not be effective reform of the common agricultural policy, the environment and other matters unless it is. QMV will become even more important if there is enlargement.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Agriculture has majority voting already—now, today.

Sir Russell Johnston

Not in all cases.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

I have checked it out and discovered that 98 per cent. of decisions on the CAP are taken by majority voting.

Sir Russell Johnston

I accept—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)


Sir Russell Johnston

I accept that the majority of decisions are taken by QMV, but, still, some are not.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said that he wanted the Visegrad countries to join the European Union as quickly as possible. That will be hellishly difficult. Poland, for example, with its textiles, steel and agriculture, could not be taken in before the common agriculture system was reformed. I do not see any great advantage in extending NATO at the moment if its consequence is to alarm Russia. That would not necessarily be a good thing.

Finally, one of the things that we shall have to do very soon is to reform the method of financing the Community. The Germans all said the same. Simply going on with the present system, including the British rebate, is unsatisfactory. We must develop a system that relates capacity to pay more directly to the contribution made. The Government would do us all a great service if they bent their mind in that direction.

10.39 am
Ms Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

I can assure the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) that, rather than there being some sinister pact, I expect to have the same amount of speaking time as he had. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) on his good fortune in winning the ballot and on being able to introduce this subject—but I am not sure whether all his right hon. and hon. Friends will congratulate him in the same way. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said, the debate is a curtain-raiser for our debate on the White Paper next week.

I was intrigued to hear whether the hon. Member for Ludlow would be pleased with the White Paper that was presented to the House yesterday. The fact that it appeared at all is something of a victory for the hon. Gentleman and his fellow Euro-rebels, because the Government did not originally want to produce a White Paper. None the less, I am sure that much in the document is a disappointment to him. Indeed, at times he described it as "modest" and said that it did not go far enough.

Later in the hon. Gentleman's speech, he seemed to recommend that, if the Minister did not get his way, and did not manage to go even further than the White Paper, he should walk out of the intergovernmental conference. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber talked about hidden agendas. There may be one behind the words "walk out"—that is, withdraw.

Sir Teddy Taylor

indicated assent.

Ms Quin

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) obviously agrees with that hidden agenda. It has been behind much of what we have heard this morning.

The White Paper is a strange document, in that it alternates between positive and negative sentences. It is clearly designed to try to appeal to two very different audiences. Its schizophrenic approach is evident in the section that deals with the European Court of Justice. In paragraph 36 we read: The Government is committed to a strong independent Court without which it would be impossible to ensure even application of Community law, and to prevent abuse of power by the Community institutions. At the same time, the White Paper makes an attempt to respond to some of the objections to the recent court decisions about which the hon. Member for Ludlow and his colleagues feel so strongly.

Mr. Marlow

The position is very straightforward. There are some things that Europe has agreed to do, on which the court should adjudicate, and there are some things that Europe has not agreed to do, concerning which the court has acquired powers to itself to make political decisions that should be made in Parliaments within the Union, not by the court. What the Government seek to do, in which we wish them success, is to ensure that the court concentrates on the areas with which it has the proper authority to deal.

Ms Quin

We feel that, in many the cases, some of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock, the court has acted properly. What is straightforward is the split within the Conservative party on the issue. There are some court judgments, whether made by national or by European courts, with which people agree and others with which they do not agree. The Government should be careful about what they propose, because they might end up with a worse situation.

In the White Paper the Government suggest that a Member State should only be liable for damages in cases of serious and manifest breach of its obligations". That could prove a hostage to fortune, because we want many other countries to abide by the obligations that they have entered into. The Government must think the problem through more carefully than they seem to have done so far. We have much to gain if other countries fulfil their obligations, especially on internal market matters.

Finally on the European Court, will the Minister confirm that, when he raised the question in the reflection group, he got no support from any other country? In that case, how does he expect to deliver on the attempts outlined in the White Paper?

One reason why Conservative Members do not like judgments by the European Court is the fact that many of them relate to social matters. Although in his statement yesterday the Foreign Secretary said that he would maintain the Government's commitment to the opt-out from the social chapter, which would not end during their no doubt short-lived existence, it is clear from what has been said, both by the hon. Member for Ludlow and by others in interjections, that the so-called Euro-rebels do not believe in the value of the opt-out. They clearly think that there are other ways, via other parts of the treaties, in which various social measures can be applied across the European Union.

Mr. Marlow

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Quin

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman again. I have already given way to him once, and I have little time left.

Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Quin

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), but this will be the last time.

Mr. Sykes

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way and indulging me. Is she aware that, in my constituency, there is a large company that could not afford to build a factory in France because of the social chapter and the minimum wage and that, as a result, it doubled its production in Scarborough? How would she answer that?

Ms Quin

By referring the hon. Gentleman to the speech recently made by President Chirac, in which he said that, these days, France is taking the lion's share of United States investment in the European Union. France is now second to the United Kingdom in terms of inward investment. That change has happened in recent years and it shows that, whatever the reasons are for inward investment going to particular countries, they have nothing to do with the social chapter.

That fact was confirmed to me by some of the Japanese firms that have invested in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to read the evidence given to the Employment Committee by the personnel director of Nissan, who said that the social chapter had no influence in its decision to invest in the United Kingdom.

Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary made a rather strange claim about subsidiarity, which I would like the Minister to address in his reply. We all agree that subsidiarity is a good principle, but yesterday the Foreign Secretary claimed that the United Kingdom had introduced that vital concept into the Maastricht treaty. My understanding is that that is not the case.

Subsidiarity already existed, under article 130S of the Single European Act. Treaty buffs will know that that is in the section of the Act that relates to the environment, which talks about working out which decisions should be taken at EU level and which should be taken at other levels. The concept of subsidiarity is not unique to the British Government and their approach to the European Union. Perhaps the Minister will say something about that.

The hon. Member for Ludlow and his Euro-rebel friends said that they wanted the power of the European Union to be cut. I have a feeling that the White Paper does not offer them anything like enough in terms of cuts in EU power. Perhaps the Minister could also address that point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock rightly stressed the importance of the enlargement issue—something about which I feel strongly and passionately.

Having encouraged the changes in central and eastern Europe, we have a moral, political and economic responsibility to make our relationships with the countries there a success, and to bring them into as close an arrangement for membership of the European Union as we can, as quickly as we can. Continued enlargement should not be regarded only as a problem, which it is often presented as being, but as an exciting opportunity.

There is not much vision in the White Paper. The Government mention enlargement, but not its exciting possibilities. They mention common agricultural policy reform, but express no specific ideas about the reforms they want. If they had suggested that we should reform the common agricultural policy to improve its impact on the environment and to try to make it more helpful to developing countries outside the European Union, that would have been welcome. The Government have blocked a welcome move to tackle the problem of racism and xenophobia at European level. We feel strongly about that omission.

The White Paper is a desperate attempt to please two different audiences. It is a thin document. Is will not win the Government friends in their party, in the country, or among our European partners.

I should like, finally, to refer the Minister to an article in the press this week by the former Foreign Secretary, Lord Howe. He said that the Government's approach to the European Union has engendered the view in European capitals that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do serious business with the UK this side of the general election.

10.50 am
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) on obtaining this debate, and at such an appropriate time. It will fall neatly between yesterday's statement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on the White Paper on the intergovernmental conference and the full debate on 21 March 1996.

Mr. Mackinlay

Only one day?

Mr. Davis

Yes. I do not have to debate the business of the House with the hon. Gentleman. I shall come to one or two of his points later.

I shall try to concentrate on points that were not covered yesterday and those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, and if we do not cover them all today perhaps we shall pick some up later.

I wish to dismiss almost out of hand the comments of the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin). They were a mixture of three not very desirable things. The first was ignorance. The White Paper was written in response to a request from three Select Committees, and the hon. Lady should have known that, especially as I told her in European Standing Committee B only the day before it was announced. Secondly, Labour policy is partly a lame shadowing of our policy when the Labour party is too afraid to have a view of its own. Thirdly, it is a pathetic wriggling on hooks—

Ms Quin

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Davis

No, I shall not. The hon. Lady has already taken enough time.

It is a pathetic wriggling on hooks that the Labour leader has impaled the hon. Lady on in moments of Europhoria.

On the social chapter, the hon. Lady took an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes). She admitted that France was second, not first—we are first—in terms of inward investment. She should read some of the French press of recent weeks, such as Le Monde recognising for the first time that perhaps France should learn from the British model in generating employment. Perhaps she should have seen "The Money Programme" earlier this week, in which several German business leaders spoke about the need for Germany to adopt the British model of deregulation and employment creation.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)


Mr. Randall


Mr. Davis

I shall not give way.

Modern Europe is based on the concept of nation states. The nation state attracts the allegiance, affection and pride of its people. People's sense of identity derives principally from their sense of nationhood. Any democratically elected Government must base their policies on that clear political imperative and act first and foremost in the people's interest.

Our membership of the Union has delivered important benefits. From within the Union we have been able to lead the drive for a European market that is open internally and which we intend to open to the rest of the world. European Union membership has been crucial to attracting inward investment to this country. The European Union is a major force for peace and stability in Europe.

Mr. Mackinlay

That is right.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) made some good points about that. It is in the context of the Union that we shall be able to heal the divisions of the cold war on our continent. The enlargement of the EU is an historic responsibility for Europe and a long-term British interest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow is right that the Union will remain a force for prosperity and security only if it is a Union that people feel comfortable with. That means remaining truly a partnership of nations based on consent, freely given, of its members.

Mr. Randall

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Davis

No, I shall not. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have very little time to answer most of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow.

No change should be brought about by dogmatic beliefs or zealous pursuit of some remote, unjustified or unaccountable centralism. If the need for change is not clearly demonstrated, change should be avoided. That is the basis on which we approach the IGC. The European Union should concentrate single-mindedly on what needs to be done at a European level and doing it well, and not interfering where it is not needed.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Will my hon. Friend give way on an important point?

Mr. Davis

If my hon. Friend is very fast.

Mr. Wilkinson

The Foreign Secretary rightly referred to President Santer's observation that the European Union should do "less but better". Cannot the British Government hasten that process by seeking to recuperate powers to this country at present undertaken by the European Union so that it can indeed do less?

Mr. Davis

I recommend that my hon. Friend reads the items on page 12 of the White Paper on limitation of powers and some passages about common fisheries. I shall discuss some of those points specifically later.

Mr. Randall

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Davis

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have five minutes to make several points.

Mr. Sheerman

The Minister just gave way to someone who just walked into the debate.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) was here at the beginning of the debate.

Mr. Sheerman

Oh no he was not.

Mr. Davis

Oh yes he was. I shall continue my point, if I may, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Of course, many member states are still attracted to elements of a federal vision for Europe. We have heard that the Liberal party is also attracted to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow outlined the views of the Commission in that respect, and they are not a bad proxy for several of those member states, as is demonstrated by the Benelux position taken last week, so we obviously have something quite difficult to deal with.

We still encounter the school of thought that says that the answer to popular disenchantment with Europe is more Europe. That is reminiscent of the Socialist party in the 1980s, when it was beaten in the elections, saying that the answer was more socialism. That view was as wrong then as this view is for Europe now.

Our approach to the IGC, set out in the White paper, will have to contend with the committed federalist positions of many of our partners, so there is a hard pounding ahead in the negotiations, but I am not as pessimistic as my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow about our chances of success. We have force of will on our side. We have a constructive and coherent approach, backed up by solid and convincing arguments. In many ways, the flow of events is on our side; that point should not be ignored.

Another factor is on our side. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Sir J. Cope) said in his excellent speech, all over Europe, people are expressing unease about the direction in which the European Union is going. Support for the Union is falling. It is our duty to stand up for those people, articulate their anxieties and develop constructive solutions to promote their and our interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood said that Mr. Santer had espoused a view of "less but better". That is an accurate description of what we want to do first.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow mentioned monetary union. That issue will not, or is unlikely to, come up at the intergovernmental conference. That does not mean that we shall be inactive on it. My hon. Friend witnessed the actions of the Prime Minister with respect to the ins and outs and the real problems that monetary union already poses to the single market.

I do not intend to intervene in my hon. Friend's correspondence with the Economic Secretary—I am sure that she can put the Government's case pretty well—but I say more generally that many of our fellow Europeans regard monetary union as a stepping stone to political union, and for that reason alone we must be hawk-eyed about it. A wide variety of people—such as Otmar Issing, who was mentioned by my hon. Friend, Ralf Dahrendorf and Bernard Connolly, for that matter—have expressed the view that EMU could break up Europe. Those people represent a wide spectrum of opinion, and there are many points of view in between, but that spectrum reinforces the wisdom of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's position in maintaining the opt-out for Britain while maintaining influence over the outcome of events. The range of possibilities is exactly why that is the right position to take.

I have only a minute to answer my hon. Friend's other points. At the beginning of this week, I had the pleasure of seeing him on television, asking, "Where's the beef?" in the White Paper. It was appropriate that he should ask that question. Afterwards, I went through his document—his green paper, as he called it. We drew up the policies in the White Paper in the course of—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Time is up.

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