Skip to main content

European Parliament (Membership)

Volume 895: debated on Monday 7 July 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That Mrs. Winifred Ewing be designated a member of the European Parliament: That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]

I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and his hon. Friends: after "Mrs. Winifred Ewing", insert "and Mr. Geraint Howells", and leave out "a member" and insert "members".

I also understand that Mr. Speaker has been asked whether he will allow a manuscript amendment, as an amendment to the proposed motion, in line I after "That" insert
"Mr. Russell Johnston be discharged from membership of the European Parliament and that…".
Mr. Speaker has indicated that he is willing to select this amendment. Because it comes at an earlier place in the motion, that amendment will have to be moved and disposed of before the amendments which stand on the Order Paper.

I beg to move, as a manuscript amendment, in line 1, after "That", insert

"Mr. Russell Johnston be discharged from membership of the European Parliament and that".
I understand that, following discussions with the parties concerned, the amendment is acceptable.

3.13 a.m.

I wish to say at the outset that I was grateful for the succinct way in which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Davies) moved his manuscript amendment, leaving me in moving my amendment to explain the reason behind the manuscript amendment.

I shall be as brief as I can. We have already had a major debate on this issue. I wish to make it absolutely plain that I am not opposed to the selection of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing), still less to the suggestion that the Scottish National Party should have a seat in the European Assembly. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than the fact that the SNP will now seek to represent the majority view on Europe, as shown by the Scottish people in the referendum. We hope that we may see—here I call in aid "Rab" Butler's words in a different context—them become the best Europeans we have. It may produce certain frictions and pressures on the body politic of the SNP, but I hope that they will become as great a convert as did the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture. We shall watch the matter with close attention.

The reason we are speaking tonight is to register—

Order. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting but we should dispose first of the manuscript amendment before the right hon. Gentleman moves his own amendment.

I apologise. Perhaps I may formally second the manuscript amendment and leave it at that. I hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I have not precluded my right to try to catch your eye.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not starting a precedent of seconding motions or amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

3.15 a.m.

My colleagues and I wish to take part in this debate in order to register a protest at the final balance of the United Kingdom delegation, which, as the House knows, consists of 16 Conservative Members, one Liberal Member and one SNP Member. We have tabled two amendments—one seeking to insert the words "Mr. Geraint Howells" in the motion after "Mrs. Winifred Ewing" and the other, consequential, seeking to leave out "a Member" and insert "Members".

The second reason is that we suggest that the different formulae that have been prayed in aid to justify the final selection are totally out of date, and the third reason is that we deplore what I can only describe as the hole-in-the-corner way in which the whole of this matter has been handled. My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has today already made our protest in the European Parliament. He has indicated that the basis of the United Kingdom delegation has upset the balance that has been traditionally accepted by the Community and that he stood in the European Parliament today representing 5⅓ million people, as the sole delegate—[Interruption.]—Hon. Members may not have read the Treaty of Rome; I will refer to that in a moment—representing more than Denmark. Luxembourg and Ireland added together. They have 26 delegates.

Since the debate on 1st July 1 have had the advantage of hearing the broadcast made in "News Desk" on 4th July by the Patronage Secretary, so I know exactly what his views are, and, for greater accuracy, I have brought the transcript. We know that the right hon. Gentleman, when dealing with a combination of facts which include Europe and the Liberal Party, is not always in what one might call his most calm and reflective moments. We remember a previous broadcast after the Second Reading of the European Community Bill when the Liberal vote unashamedly saved the Tory Government from defeat. Had it not been for that vote, we might not now be discussing the representation at the European Parliament. On that occasion I think the right hon. Gentleman said that the Liberal Party were "in the gutter". However we make allowances for his colourful broadcasting.

According to the transcript, the right hon. Gentleman said that I was talking nonsense and that I knew it. Very few people know that they are talking nonsense. They might be talking nonsense, but to be cognisant of it is the height of acuity. He said:
"The Scottish Nationalists are also a party in their own right, so are the Irish. The trouble with Mr. Thorpe is that he is not living in the world of today."
May I say that the reverse is the case. No one is more aware than I am that the chemistry of this House of Commons has changed. The formula of the Council of Europe, the formula of the Committee of Selection which existed in the day when there were two major parties and a Liberal Party with six Members of Parliament and 2 million votes, when all the minority could hope for were the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table, has changed. That is why I protest at the present selection of the 36 delegates to the European Parliament. I have not underestimated the change. It is the right hon. Gentleman and his croney on the Opposition Front Bench who have not changed. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is not in Europe. They could have fixed many things, but they did not fix that. They are continuing to use the formula on the basis that there are two major parties and one minority party.

I am not alone in recognising how archaic is the selection procedure. Lord Shepherd in another place said that he was prepared to have immediate conversations with the noble Lords Carrington and Byers and any independents. All I can say is that discussion in another place on the composition of delegates from that place would make a considerable change compared with anything to which we have been accustomed in the handling of these matters in the last few weeks and days.

The right hon. Gentleman himself said:
"We had better get together and try and work out a different formula to ensure that in fact this is more evenly spread.…"
How right he is. I accept that. Why did he not think of doing that at the beginning before the selection was made and before the great feeling of injustice was felt? I suggest that the right hon Gentleman is a very late convert to the idea of consultation.

Even that being so, I accept it and ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it will be immediately. Will it be without commitment as to the numbers? Or is it to be a case of "Whatever happens the Government must have 18 and the official Opposition must have 16, and we can discuss what happens about the rest"? It is rather like the statement by Henry Ford—"You can have any colour cat provided that it is black." If the right hon. Gentleman says "We are going to have discussions with all the parties in the House, without commitment as to numbers, to see whether we can get a fair reflection of representation in the House of Commons and we are prepared to look also at the criteria whereby the rest of the Community countries elect their members", something will have been done.

My next point is that the right hon. Gentleman says that we are demanding two Members and we are not interested in the Scottish Nationalists or any other party, that we want two for our 11. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to talk to minorities, he might just as well know how many Members there are in the minorities. We do not have 11 Members. We have 13 Members. The right hon. Gentleman should get his figures right.

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that not only have I not denied the case for the Scottish National Party having one Member but that in my letter of 16th June to the Prime Minister I suggested that there should be an allocation to the SNP as being an important minority in the House. So the suggestion that I was suggesting that we would be taking a seat from the SNP can be totally disproved by the correspondence.

In my letter to the Prime Minister I said that the Government party should have 18, the official Opposition 15, the Liberal Party 2, and the Scottish Nationalists one.

I hope that this outbreak of democracy does not horrify the hon. Member who is representing the official Opposition from the back benches.

What has happened is that the allocation of the Liberal Party has been halved, though in 1973 we had six Members of Parliament and 2 million votes and now we have 13 Members of Parliament and 5 million votes.

The Government must justify this. What has happened, of course, is that they have made a complete hash of the thing, but they have to justify it. First, they established a principle which I think is perfectly correct and understandable, which is that there must be just as many Conservative Members going as there are Labour Members going. That is not based on any known formulae. It is rather the reverse of any known formulae. It is usual for the Government to want more than the Opposition. However, the Patronage Secretary rightly takes the view that if the Opposition are, say 12, the Government should be 12. I do not dissent from that view.

The Prime Minister justified matters in this way in his letter to me of 27th June:
"I explained that the elements in our Delegation have so far been related to the party proportions which the Committee of Selection use but with additional places being taken up pending the Government's participation."
Therefore, the Prime Minister's view was that one starts with the Committee of Selection basis, which would give the Labour Party 19, the Tories 15, and the others two. The Prime Minister started with this view and prided himself on having dropped from 19 to 18 for the Government, until it was realised that they had bumped up the Tories from 15 to 16 and that that might take some explaining in the constituencies. So the Government then dropped that formula and said "we are not using that formula at all." So that formula has gone out of the window.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd had to grasp at some alternative. He said in another place that what they were really doing, he had understood from the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk), was what the Tories had done in 1973—using the Council of Europe formula of 18, 16 and 2. I should like to know who discussed whether it would be the Council of Europe formula. Who discussed whether it would be the Committee of Selection formula?

Are we to believe that in 1973, when the Labour Party refused to take up its allocation of seats, it said "We would like you to be quite certain about one point. If we had taken up our allocation, we would have done so on the Council of Europe formula"? Are the Government seriously suggesting that there was an agreement between the two major parties in 1973?

If indeed it is correct, as the Lord Privy Seal claimed in another place, that—this is in column 342 of the House of Lords Official Report for 3rd July—whoever goes represents Parliament as a whole, when was this magic formula agreed, between whom, and who was consulted? I suspect that nobody was. I suggest that we have had a posthumous explanation from the Government for their figures.

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury agrees with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) who said on 19th December 1972 that not only should the House appoint a delegation to the Assembly but it should also discuss the general principles on which appointments were made. I do not believe that there was any formula. I think it was a botched-up job between the two Front Benches with Buggins taking his turn.

There are four major Opposition parties, apart from the Tories, as well as an SDLP Member and an independent Member who is unlikely to take his seat.

The right hon. Gentleman must not get himself into such a state. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maguire) has not only taken his seat but has voted almost as many times as has the right hon. Gentleman himself.

In that case he must be a very active hon. Member and that strengthens my case. Not only do these Opposition parties, with the other two hon. Members to whom I have referred have a total of 39 hon. Members, they also represent 7 million votes—24 per cent. of the total.

The hon. Lady for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) has accepted an invitation to represent the United Kingdom in the Assembly—

I would not like the hon. Lady to be under any illusions about the honour to be conferred on her. Unless and until we have direct elections with constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales, while she may speak only for Scottish interests, like it or not she is going as part of the United Kingdom delegation. This has resulted from the referendum on which the Liberal Party successfully pressed for Scotland's votes to be counted separately. Now we know the majority in Scotland, with which the SNP could not find itself in agreement before the vote.

Who says that, for all time, the official Opposition must have 16 representatives, that all other Opposition parties must have only two and that the Council of Europe formula must be applied? The Council is quite different because it allows substitutes. What criterion says that the Government must automatically have 18 seats whether they have a majority of 30 or a majority of one or two? It would have been better if these matters had been discussed before, rather than after, the event.

I had two discussions with the Prime Minister on 23rd June. They were private, but the Prime Minister sought to find a solution, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary was aware of the suggested solution. When that particular solution failed, why were we not told? Why did we have to wait until the 10 o'clock news bulletin to know that on 26th June Lord Shepherd had put down a motion in another place, the effect of which was to appoint six Labour and four Tory peers, which meant that Lord Gladwyn had been axed and that the Liberal delegation was to be one?

Why was it that only after the event, at 4.50 p.m. the next day, the Prime Minister's letter arrived suggesting that we should take one off the Nationalists or the Tories? Why was there this total abdication by the Government from trying to see what was fair? As the Nationalists know, no approach has been made because we believe as one of the minorities in this House that they have rights and that it is right for them to have a seat. It is regrettable that it should have to be at our expense.

Lord Shepherd then said that it was only on Thursday night at 6.40 p.m. that he knew that Lord Byers was anxious about what might be in the motion which was being put down. Was there no communication between No. 10 Downing Street and Lord Shepherd, because if there were, it is strange that the noble Lord did not know until then of our interest. Then, having put down the motion, Lord Shepherd said,
"I apologise because I did not appreciate the full implications of the Motion on the Order Paper. I knew what was sought to be done… but I did not appreciate that it arbitrarily removed a certain name from the existing list."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 3rd July 1975; Vol. 362, c. 345]
If the noble Lord knew that there were to be only 10 names and that one of the existing Peers was being excluded yet did not know that that Member was being axed, being of a generous mind I can only suggest that, having previously suggested that the noble Lord was being discourteous and devious, I shall withdraw "devious" and be prepared to suggest "naivety". That was the most extraordinary naivety which the noble Lord could have shown. That was the way in which we heard for the first time that our delegation was being cut from two to one.

We have only two considerations. First, we want to see how we can make the best possible contribution to the European Assembly. The second is to ensure that the Liberal Party is properly represented. My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness has served with great distinction and was speaking in the European Parliament today and making our protest known. He and my noble Friend Lord Gladwyn were campaigning in the European Assembly—dare I say it?—long before the Labour Party became converted to its Europeanism. Had it not been for the Liberal Party, who knows whether there would now be a British presence in the Parliament?

It happened that I was assaulted by one of the hon. Member's hon. Friends because it was the Liberal vote which saved the Second Reading of the European Communities Bill, and it was that which led the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) to say that the Liberals were in the gutter. The Prime Minister would never have got a majority for his views against the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party but for the support in the Lobbies of the Conservative and Liberal Members.

I have therefore been placed in an appallingly difficult situation. The representation of the Liberal Party has been arbitrarily axed, and I had to learn that from the 10 o'clock news. I am in the difficulty that Lord Gladwyn has a draft resolution on defence which he has discussed with the defence Ministers of the other nine nations. It is just possible that when it is discussed in the autumn there will be unanimity within the Community. There is a chance of that. It has immense significance if that be the case and it is something with which he is associated personally. As Vice-President of the Political Committee he has been much concerned with the report on the whole future of the Community which last January agreed to the concept of direct elections. Whether the House likes it or not, that is a pretty important decision by the Nine, and my hon. Friends and I have thought, not without much heart searching, that the contribution he has to make in the next few months is of extreme importance.

We are also aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has done tremendously important work on the regional committee concerned not only with Scotland but with other areas of high unemployment and low wages from which I believe the country can derive great benefit.

We have been faced with the appalling dilemma that we cannot have two representatives. Therefore, we believe it right that, temporarily, my noble Friend should at least get his report through the European Assembly and hope that it will be accepted by the Community as a whole, and then early in the autumn my hon. Friends will come back to the House after our parliamentary party has selected who from this House shall go back to the European Assembly and ask the House for its approval.

It is an appalling dilemma with which to be faced. I do not believe that it is a dilemma with which we should have been faced. I do not believe that we have gone about the representation of this party, and not merely this party but this country collectively, in the way that we should have done, and that is why we are talking about the European representatives of the United Kingdom as a whole. It is for all parties to be brought into these consultations and for us to try to see whether we can agree a formula which is as fair as that obtaining in the rest of the Community.

I personally make no secret of the fact that I hope that there will soon be direct elections. An article in the Western Mail recently suggested that there should be three specific seats for Wales, six for Scotland and 27 for England. One can argue about the figures, but I should like to see each of the nations of this country given a specific right to choose its own representatives at the European Assembly.

We are protesting tonight first, because of the arrogant assumption that has operated that the old formula of the two-party system of the past still obtains; secondly, because the ultimate balance is wrong and is unrepresentative of the people of this country; and thirdly, because of the way in which it was done. Finally, the two Front Benches have nothing of which to be proud in this matter. They have much to do to put it right, and I hope that we shall move towards some formula by which we can select Members for the European Assembly which is at least as fair as that obtaining in the rest of the Common Market.

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to move his amendment?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether I am clear that he withdrew the charge of deviousness against the noble Lord to whom he referred during his speech?

Yes, indeed I did. I substituted another word, but I say in fairness to the record that it was an allegation that I made on a previous occasion and that it passed without comment. But for the purpose of the record I withdrew it and substituted what I think was a more accurate word on this occasion.

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I was not in the Chair on the previous occasion or I should have drawn attention to the matter then.

3.39 a.m.

I am sure it is of some comfort to the Government tonight that no major legislation is before the House, because if there were they might be outvoted by the ranks on the Opposition benches.

I am sure it is of some comfort to the Opposition that one Scottish Member is present when we are discussing the major issue of Scotland's representation in the EEC.

I shall not try to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party in his remarks, except to say that I feel that the Liberal Party has some cause for complaint in the way in which its representation has been treated and the way in which it has been considered in this whole matter. All parliamentary colleagues from Scotland would wish to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) for the work he has carried out in the European Assembly, the way in which he has represented Scotland and the contribution he has made. I hope that he will accept this tribute from all parties in Scotland for his work. I hope that his absence from that body will be only temporary and that he will be returning there shortly to make the sort of contribution he made in the past.

My purpose tonight is to support the nomination of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) as a member of the European Assembly. If I may quarrel for a moment with the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) I must make it clear that my hon. Friend is going there to speak not for the United Kingdom but only for Scotland, for Scotland's rights and interests and no one else's. Let that be clear. We nominate her to speak for the people of Scotland who are entitled to a voice in that body that is exclusively and authentically Scottish.

The right hon. Member for Devon, North suggested that the Scottish National Party might be the best Europeans we have. The Scottish people have always had very much closer connections with the European countries that we have had with some of our neighbours in these islands. In a sense it will be a case of our returning home, to get back to our neighbours in Europe. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve) finds that amusing, in the same way as he finds amusement in the fact that there is urban deprivation in Scotland and massive unemployment.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) repeating my quotation of "Scotland returning home". He is a late conversion.

We have always believed that Scotland has a connection with countries in Europe whether in the EEC or outside it, because the EEC is not the whole of Europe. Most sensible and right-thinking people appreciate that.

I can assure the House that my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn will be a worthy representative of Scotland. She will speak fearlessly, without inhibition and will in no way be intimidated or prevented from speaking for the people of Scotland.

The hon. Member was very kind to me and I am grateful to him for that. But I cannot allow him to be too caught up in his own rhetoric. Certainly the hon. Lady will speak effectively on the views of the SNP. But she will no more be speaking for Scotland than I did or any other Scottish Member.

I am sorry that the hon. Member should bring that rather sour note into our proceedings.

I think it was rather sour. It ill becomes him to introduce this note, particularly as my hon. Friend will be speaking on behalf of 31 per cent. of the Scottish electorate whereas the hon. Member spoke for less than 8 per cent. of that electorate. In that sense we have a fourfold increase in Scottish representation in the European Assembly. The hon. Member would have been well advised not to intervene. I commend my hon. Friend to this House for nomination to the European Assembly.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury will repeat the assurance given by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd in another place, that we must have new talks and a new view about representation, not simply in the European Assembly but on a vast variety of matters. The days when matters could be settled between the right hon. Gentleman and his opposite number, who mercifully is absent from the Opposition Front Bench, and when the House could operate effectively as a result of their discussions must be past. The Government's majority is about one, represented by the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stone-house), who, I believe, is shortly to return to our midst.

In those circumstances, it is right that there should be a complete review of the way in which the affairs of the House, its committees and procedures are conducted so as to take account of all the elements and views represented in it by the democratic vote of the electorate. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will assure us that this will happen, not just in relation to the European Assembly but in connection with the affairs of this House. Knowing the right hon. Gentleman to be a fair and honest-minded democrat, I am sure that practical, positive and earnest proposals will be put before us.

3.46 a.m.

This is not a happy occasion for the House, and plainly it is not a happy occasion for the Liberal Party. It is difficult to believe that the Government have handled the question of the selection of Members for the British delegation as well as they could have done. There are two lessons to be drawn from that. First, we should hasten to find an acceptable formula for direct elections to the European Parliament, and, secondly, until we achieve that, which may be some years, the problems which have arisen on this occasion must not be allowed to arise again.

It is news which I had not heard before this debate that the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), who has been my colleague in the British delegation for 21 years, must now withdraw from it. I should like to pay a tribute to him for the work he has done in the European Parliament. His dignity and conviction have carried much weight in the Parliament and its committees and added lustre to the delegation. Colleagues in my party will miss his presence in Strasbourg, and in saying that I believe that I speak for all members of the European Parliament. It seems a pity that his services will not continue to be available to the European Parliament, at any rate for the present. I regret the news that he must withdraw.

We shall welcome the presence in the European Parliament of the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing). The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) did not quite capture the mood of the European Parliament in his remarks, and I hope that his hon. Friend will be able to convince him of that with the passage of time. The issues which we tackle in Strasbourg go wider than purely nationalistic issues. I feel sure that, with her talents and knowledge, she will be able to make a contribution on a much wider scale. I am sure that she would wish to do so, and I trust that she will.

3.49 a.m.

The name in the amendment is that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), who is an excellent candidate for the European Parliament in his own right. But I speak briefly to the fact, which I believe to be of considerable significance, that he is also the Liberal Member for Cardigan.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is talking of an amendment which his right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) indicated that he did not wish to move. We are now discussing the Government motion.

I thought that I might be in order if I briefly refreshed the memory of the House as to what was on the Order Paper. I now address myself to the question of principle.

The European Parliament stands out as the institution of the European Community to which this country can claim to offer the biggest contribution. In a geographical and social sense the United Kingdom has one of the most representative Parliaments in the European Community. Our Parliament is based upon constituencies. We have no time for party lists. We pride ourselves on reflecting all sorts and conditions of men and women in these islands. It is a tragedy that on the two major occasions when this House has addressed itself to the way in which it should be represented in the European Parliament it has made a thorough botch of the job as a result of the antics of one or more of the major parties.

I do not want to open old wounds. However, on the first occasion the Labour Party abstained from membership of the European Parliament, thereby preventing our delegation from being fully representative. On this occasion, when that could have been repaired, the hole and corner business between the two Front Benches has again botched the job.

I now refer to the geographical composition of the total delegation, which has been put together in such an extraordinary way. There are gaping holes in its representative character. If one of my colleagues is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will develop the case for representation for the western part of the country. There are two other great gaps. I refer to Yorkshire, my native county. North Yorkshire has a relatively small population of 644,000. It has an elected Member of Parliament who is a member of the delegation, for which I am glad. Humberside, which was formerly part of Yorkshire, has a population of 847,000. It is represented in the delegation by one Member of Parliament. South Yorkshire, with a population of 1,320,000, is also represented on the delegation by one Member of Parliament. West Yorkshire, which is perhaps best known in other parts of the country for its character, with a population of over 2 million people, is not represented on the delegation to the European Parliament. Mathematically that is unjustifiable. If there are 36 places for a population of 55 million, it follows that any characteristic group in the country with a population exceeding 1½ million would, on an arithmetical basis, be entitled to a member in the delegation.

I do not base my case on mere arithmetic. I believe that any group with distinctive characteristics and a homogeneous background is entitled to stake a claim for representation in our delegation. That brings me to the question of Wales.

Order. I have been very tolerant. The hon. Member must now address himself to whether Mrs. Winifred Ewing be designated a member of the European Parliament, and that the order be a Standing Order of the House.

I say at once that together with the Leader of my party, the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), I welcome unreservedly the motion that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) be part of the delegation because it fits in with the case I am making. I am appalled at the contrast between her appointment—which I hope will be made without any dissenting voices—and the unfortunate position of Wales which will have only one hon. Member included in the delegation.

Whereas North-East Wales will be reasonably represented in the European Parliament, West Wales will have no representation. It is within the knowledge of most hon. Members that those two parts of Wales have different characteristics and a different history.

I regret very much that because the choice of the delegation has been made in such a hole and corner fashion the team which will go to Europe, whatever the merits of its individual members, cannot claim to be representative in the way in which the House is representative of the social and geographic components of our great nation. That could have been avoided, and I greatly regret that it has not been.

3.56 a.m.

I also regret that at this interesting hour the House is having to discuss this subject, and I have every sympathy with the Members of the Liberal Party in their predicament. I suppose that I must be the non-opposing crony—referred to by the Leader of the Liberal Party—who happens to be here on the Opposition benches.

The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) referred to a hole and corner agreement. Let us be honest. This has nothing to do with the official Opposition. It is a matter entirely between the Government, the Liberal Party and the SNP. There has been no hole and corner agreement between the Labour Government and the Conservative Party. I am merely here as an interested spectator in this debacle—

If the hon. Gentleman had attended the debate in the other place and heard the support of the Tory Front Bench for the Labour Front Bench he would have realised that the Labour Government knew where their friends were.

I a talking about this place, not the other place.

Although I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Liberal Party, I wish to deal with the subject of the motion, which is Scottish National representation in the European Parliament. Whether we like it or not, the figures for Scotland are clear. At the last election 1,000,571 voted for the Labour Party, 681,269 for the Conservative Party, 228,855 for the Liberal Party and 839,628 for the Scottish National Party. The Members of Parliament elected were 41 Labour, 16 Conservative, three Liberal and 11 SNP. By any standards there should be a place for the SNP in the delegation to Europe. With all due deference, the people of Scotland put the SNP right. Of the minority parties the Liberals have borne the burden over the years when the SNP opposed membership of the EEC.

In view of his sympathy for the Liberals, does not the hon. Member think that it would he right and proper if the Conservatives, who are entitled to 15 seats because of their representation in this House, were to make an extra seat available to the Liberals, or even to the SNP? Would he not agree that an independent Scotland would be entitled to 10 seats in the European Assembly?

Another stupid intervention. We are dealing with the situation as it is. By any normal standards, Scotland is entitled to 3·6 representatives at the European Parliament and is getting five—two Labour, one Conservative, one Liberal and one SNP.

I am grateful to my neighbour in Aberdeenshire for giving way to me. Does he not agree that if Scotland were independent, we should have 10 seats, not five?

I entirely disagree.

Having supported the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing), let me say that I hope that she will live up to the standard and record of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), Mr. Brewis—the recent hon. Member for Galloway—and the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) and take to the European Parliament a voice not only for Scotland but for the United Kingdom.

I support the right hon. Member the Leader of the Liberal Party when he says that we are in Europe as part of the United Kingdom. Having been opposed by the SNP year after year, I have pointed out that we should invoke Article 138(3) of the Treaty of Rome, which calls for direct elections. If the hon. Lady were elected, she could then speak for Scotland. Until then she speaks for the United Kingdom and I trust that she will not forget her responsibility to the rest of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Lady has always spoken for Scotland and will continue to do so whereever she goes.

I am merely asking that when she gets to the European Parliament the hon. Lady should broaden her horizons. May I remind the minority parties that there are 319 Labour Members, 276 Conservative Members, 13 Liberal Members and 11 SNP Members, so the breakdown of the European Parliament delegation is not unfair. In fact, it is rather generous to the SNP.

If this unruly rabble of Members who have just discovered Europe will keep quite for a few minutes, may I say that I hope that now that the SNP has learned the decision of the Scottish electorate, it will be able to live up to it.

4.4 a.m.

I particularly welcome the selection of the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing). Although I understand her anxiety to speak just for Scotland, I make one plea from another would-be Celtic nation, Cornwall. Because of the selection, anyone from my constituency who wishes to put a regional matter before the European Parliament, whether it is the 7 per cent. unemployment rate or the substantial agricultural interest, or whatever it may be, has to travel 200 miles to find the nearest representative in the European Parliament. One of them represents one of the Southampton constituencies and one a Dorset constituency. If the Whips and the party leaders discuss regional representation, they should look more closely at the representation of some of the regions. It is little short of a scandal that areas such as Cornwall are not represented. We could not make a case for a Cornish representative, but there is not a single representative from Devon or Somerset.

I make the point, before Mr. Deputy Speaker gets up to shut me up, that there is a shocking lack of representation for an area with specific and special interests. It is an area that is misjudged by many people because they visit the county only as tourists. As a result, they do not know the underlying problems. I hope that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn will take with her to the European Parliament a little of the Celtic feeling that exists in my county.

4.6 a.m.

I shall be very brief as it is just after five minutes past four in the morning. I certainly do not want to get involved in the turmoil that has been apparent on the other side of the House. I have been trying to follow the arguments about who represents what, where and why. I shall to understand the arguments.

I have been asked for an assurance, and that is the purpose of my intervene have to read Hansard before I am able tion. I think that the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), the Leader of the Liberal Party, must concede that he knew all about the formula which has been followed. The right hon. Gentleman must not come out with all this nonsense about a formula suddenly being discovered which he had never heard of before, a formula which is out of date and outmoded. He knew all about the formula. We honourably followed a formula which had been followed for years, and long before I ever became my party's Chief Whip.

The detail of this matter was argued last Tuesday. I recognise that there is now a new situation in that there are other parties in the House apart from the three parties as they used to be when the formula was first introduced. It is interesting that one of the Northern Ireland parties has not yet applied to be considered for Europe. In considering any formula we had no application from that party. I noticed, by the way, that the right hon. Gentleman was going to put in a Plaid Cymru representative. It is rather strange that the hon. Member nominated on the original amendment—

The right hon. Gentleman should know better than I that that Member is my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells).

I would not know, but he certainly talks like a Plaid Cymru representative.

I give an assurance that we are prepared—I speak on behalf of the Opposition Chief Whip—to have discussions with the representatives of the other parties to see whether there is another formula that can be applied that is fair. However, I put on record that it is right and proper that the Government of the day—and I gather that one day the Liberals want to form a Government—should have the majority. I must make it abundantly clear that that will be the objective when we enter into discussions. As I said last Tuesday, we could have taken 19 seats although we took only 18. The fact that the Conservatives did not offer the Liberals a seat is not a matter for me. All that I would say is that there is a great deal of good will that I want to harness. I give the assurance tonight that was given in another place—

When the right hon. Gentleman says that there is the condition that the Government must have priority, he will recognise that on the present delegation the Government do not have a majority although they are the largest single party. Is that what the right hon. Gentleman means?

We are the majority and we have an overall majority over all the other parties. We are the Government of the day. I said to the House last week that every time there is a Division we seem to do very well.

This is a very important point. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's good faith and, speaking for my party, we shall want to have these talks as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said that it must be understood that the Government had the majority. In this House that is accepted. On the present European delegation the Government do not have a majority. They are the largest single party. Is that the phrase he meant to use or not?

I accept that. We are the largest single party, and it is in that sense that we shall go in. Although the formula has to be adjusted, there will have to be good will on the part of the Opposition if it is to make any sense.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


That Mr. Russell Johnston be discharged from membership of the European Parliament and that Mrs. Winifred Ewing be designated a member of the European Parliament.
That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.