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European Parliament (Direct Elections)

Volume 931: debated on Saturday 5 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government have yet decided what system of voting to recommend to the House for direct elections to the European Parliament; and if it is his intention to consult the House before presenting a Bill.

The Government will put their conclusions on these matters before the House shortly.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that only a very small number of hon. Members had the chance to express their views in the debate? Would it not be very much better, before we have the Second Reading of this Bill, for the House to be afforded an opportunity to debate and vote upon what system of direct elections we should have, if we are to have direct elections at all?

I am certainly taking that into account. In view of Mr. Speaker's instructions on the length of replies, I will simply say that there are those who argue, contrary to the view of the hon. Gentlemand and that such a Bill must be considered as a whole rather than that these issues should be taken separately.

But is that answer not simply a cover-up for some private agreement between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)? Why should the obvious requirements of constitutional protocol be subordinated to a stay of execution for the Liberal Party?

I do not follow that convoluted thought, but a major constitutional question is involved in the issue of direct elections, and I think that due consideration should be given to it.

We have been going along saying that it is a major constitutional issue, that there is this way and that way, this view and that view, and that it is all very difficult. But is it not the Government's job to get over difficulties? When is the right hon. Gentleman actually going to produce some idea as to how he intends to resolve the difficulties about which he constantly tells us and which, of course, we also appreciate?

All the points that the right hon. Gentleman has encapsulated are still the case. We shall produce our ideas soon.