House Of Commons
Monday 1 July 1991
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Vale Of Glamorgan Railway
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will meet the chairman of British Rail to discuss the reopening of the Vale of Glamorgan railway line to passenger transport.
It is for British Rail to consider the case for reopening this line to passenger use.
The Minister will be pleased to hear that many of my constituents welcomed the recent statement by the Secretary of State for Transport about the new commitment and investment in rail transport and switching transport from road to rail. Is he aware that they welcomed the statement because they have suffered over the past few years from the familiar problems of traffic congestion, noise and pollution? The reopening of the Vale of Glamorgan freight line to passengers would solve that problem and provide a very attractive tourist magnet and a vital link to Cardiff-Wales airport. We welcome the statement and we hope that the Minister will ask the chairman at least to carry out a feasibility study for opening the line. I am afraid that some of my constituents are saying that it is all very well for the Government to make a statement, but they should put their money where their mouth is.
The Government put their money where their mouth is and that is why last week my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State announced the increase in funds available to British Rail. We need no lectures from the Labour party about the importance of British Rail. We have presided over a net opening of stations while the previous Labour Government presided over closures.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the chances of reopening the Vale of Glamorgan railway line would be considerably enhanced by the privatisation of British Rail? In that context, can he comment on the Government's progress in considering the possibilities of privatisation?
An important part of the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State not so long ago was our intention to end the monopoly under which British Rail runs on the railways. That will bring competition to the railways and it will be better for the future of British Rail and provide opportunities for new lines to be opened.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the implementation of his objective of transferring more freight traffic from road to rail.
I recently announced an improved environmental grant scheme to help pay for rail freight facilities that will keep lorries off unsuitable roads. I plan in due course to end British Rail's monopoly by opening up the railways to other operators who want to provide rail freight services and I am giving full support to BR's plans for channel tunnel rail freight services which will remove some 400,000 lorry journeys from our roads each year.I am pleased today to announce that I have approved British Rail's investment in a further seven new locomotives for channel tunnel freight services, costing some £20 million.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the Government's objective of moving freight from road to rail will be meaningless without increased funding? Does he deplore British Rail's decision to refuse to allow a channel tunnel freight facility in the north-east of England? Will he take this opportunity publicly to express regret for the 12 years of wasted opportunity when the Government could have promoted the cause of the railways, but singularly failed to do so?
British Rail is authorising some £300 million of expenditure on freight services to service the channel tunnel. It is for BR to decide whether a particular freight terminal in the north-east is necessary. On the latter part of the hon. Lady's question, one recalls that investment in the railways fell during the previous Labour Government while it is higher today than at any time since Dr. Beeching.
While wholeheartedly welcoming the recent policy change announced by my right hon. and learned Friend and hoping that the thought is father unto the deed in respect of new investment in the railways, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to contemplate the proposition that our industrial competitors in the Community are running new stock on new railways while our investment goes into providing new stock for Victorian railways? Will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore look at what the west Germans are doing, particularly the government railway commission which was set up by Chancellor Kohl, and examine infrastructure and investment so that we can begin to get a level playing field for investment in roads compared with rail?
I am most interested in what is happening elsewhere in the European Community. I was particularly delighted that, at the previous meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers, the European Community accepted a British-inspired initiative which, for the first time, will ensure the opportunity for competition in the provision of international freight services throughout the Community. For the first time in our history it will be possible for British Rail operators to provide international freight services to other countries of the Community as a matter of right. I hope that the Opposition, who until now have preserved and been enamoured of British Rail's monopoly, will realise that Europe as a whole has rejected monopoly and is welcoming competition.
How can the Secretary of State justify his recent statement about being enthusiastically and unequivocally in favour of the movement of freight from road to rail when this week he will be responsible for closing Speedlink to save £30 million, thereby putting many thousands of loads on to the roads, particularly the A1, and when he is about to spend £800 million to widen the A I to deal with extra loads?
The hon. Gentleman is characteristically wrong both in his facts and his interpretation. First, Speedlink is a decision for British Rail. Secondly, this year, it expects, on a total turnover of £45 million, a loss of about £40 million. If the hon. Gentleman would maintain a business with that sort of loss, it shows why he is unfit to he put in charge of the affairs of this country. Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman seems to be completely unaware that British Rail has already negotiated for more than half its Speedlink traffic to continue to be carried by rail by other means.
Although I accept my right hon. and learned Friend's latter point about Speedlink, does he agree that it seems to many of us that British Rail has almost deliberately run down its freight services, particularly in areas like mine in Cornwall? Over the weekend, for example, a haulier rang me about the closure of the Speedlink depot in Truro which serves a large part of Cornwall. Is not the British Rail approach to business summed up by the train on which I travelled from the west country today? It set off from Plymouth with only eight sandwiches in the refreshment car. Is not exactly that approach being applied in some other parts of British Rail's business, not least freight?
My hon. Friend is correct in emphasising that there seem to be occasionally missed opportunities for British Rail, particularly in the west country which he represents. It is for such reasons that we are committed to ending British Rail's statutory monopoly in order that new rail operators, including Foster Yeoman in the west country, can provide the rail services, particularly rail freight services, that they believe to be necessary. It is a matter of great sadness that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and Mr. Jimmy Knapp appear to be the last two petrified fossils in Europe seeking to preserve that monopoly when all of Europe is now rejecting it.
Channel Tunnel Freight Terminal
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the case for a channel tunnel freight terminal in Greater Manchester.
British Rail plans a channel tunnel freight terminal for 1992 in Greater Manchester, either at Trafford Park or Guide Bridge. A decision will be made shortly. For the longer term, British Rail is examining the feasibility of establishing a freight terminal on a greenfield site in the north-west, with good motorway connections.
May I urge the Minister to use his offices to persuade British Rail to pick the Guide Bridge site on the edge of my constituency? It is an extremely large site and it would be very good for picking up freight in Greater Manchester and transferring it to rail to go across Europe. British Rail has examined the site, but has taken a long time to decide on it; and it is a matter of great regret that it has not announced a decision to go ahead at Guide Bridge straight away so that hauliers in Greater Manchester can start to plan for that. It will also have excellent motorway links by the time it opens.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supporting British Rail's concept of trying to develop combined transport—freight delivered by road within a fairly narrowly defined area to a rail terminal for onward shipping to other parts of the country and through the channel tunnel. I shall pass on his concerns to British Rail and tell it of his support for the idea of a new freight terminal.
Will my hon. Friend speed up British Rail's granting of freight terminals in Greater Manchester and the rest of the north-west? Inward and various other north-west industrial organisations urged the previous Secretary of State for Transport to use his good offices to get the chairman of British Rail to make a decision. We must plan for the future; the tunnel will be open in 1993 and we have not reached the starting point for our freight. For areas on the periphery of the tunnel, connection to the continent is important so that we can deliver our exports quickly and speedily.
As my hon. Friend knows, of the nine sites for channel tunnel freight terminal business, six have already been announced and three have yet to be specified—Merseyside, Manchester and the Strathclyde-Glasgow area. I intend to visit the north-west shortly and I am confident that British Rail will have made a decision before I go.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many pedestrians are killed or injured each day; and what steps he is taking to reduce the numbers.
The provisional figures for the first three months of this year show that the average number of pedestrians killed or injured each day was 142, a reduction of about one fifth compared with the same period in 1990.
Does my hon. Friend accept that a group of pedestrians who put themselves at unnecessary risk are those who weave in and out of traffic at major crossroads plying their services as washers of windscreens? Is not there something that my hon. Friend could do to stop it?
The best solution is for drivers of vehicles to wash their windscreens before they embark on their journeys—that would put those people out of business. But there is a more serious issue to do with pedestrian safety—
It is free enterprise.
The hon. Gentleman may say that, but this is indeed what free enterprise is all about. If there is no demand for a service there will be no opportunity to make money from it. I suggest that if people cleaned their windscreens before setting out on their journeys there would be no business for those who obstruct traffic in this way.
Is the Minister aware that the number of child deaths and injuries is causing great concern to many road safety organisations? Will he launch a nationwide campaign to get the figures down?
I am pleased to say that in the first three months of this year the number of child fatalities among pedestrians fell by one third. That is jolly good progress.
Will my hon. Friend hold urgent discussions with the Home Secretary about the prosecution of cyclists who cycle on pavements, especially taking into account the case of four-year-old Abbie-Gail Copley, who came out of her house last week in Chapelfields road, York, and was knocked down by a cyclist, following which she required more than 20 stitches in her face? Sad to say, North Yorkshire police have taken no action. Will my hon. Friend discuss such cases urgently with the Home Secretary so that cyclists know the state of the law?
I doubt whether there is any dispute about the state of the law. It is not ignorance of the law that is causing a number of cyclists to behave in an anti-social and dangerous manner. Enforcement of the law must be a matter for the police.
Although I welcome the reduction in the number of pedestrian deaths, does the Minister accept that many of these deaths are due to fast driving, particularly in built-up city areas? Does he also accept that something more should be done to reduce the speed of cars in our inner cities and, where drivers are going faster than they should, to ensure that they are prosecuted so that elderly people in particular are able to walk about, feeling safe on the pavements?
There is much sense in what the hon. Lady says. The Government are in favour of traffic-calming measures in urban areas and we have introduced a power for local authorities to impose 20 mph zones. All that is lacking is the will on the part of some local authorities to take the necessary action.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the latest estimate he has as to the current level of debt being carried by the Humber bridge board.
The debt on the Humber bridge at 31 March this year was just over £400 million. Since 1986, we have accepted that the bridge is an exceptional case. My right hon. and learned Friend is writing to the chairman of the bridge board to propose a package for writing off and suspending those parts of the debt that cannot be financed from toll charges. Some debt will remain to be serviced from toll revenues. I shall introduce at an early opportunity the necessary legislative measures to give effect to the arrangements.
Has not this saga gone on long enough? As my hon. Friend has admitted that this is a special case, will he be reasonably clear about when the Government will make an announcement about a partial debt write-off? I say that reluctantly, but I have had to reach that conclusion because my hon. Friend knows as well as I do that the income from the bridge does not even meet the interest payments, let alone the amount necessary to write off capital.
I accept that that is the problem and that is why I have just made my announcement. I cannot be more specific until we know exactly when we can bring in the legislative measures. It will then be necessary to calculate what amount of debt has to be written off to make sure that the toll charges are bearable.
High-Speed Rail Link
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on British Rail's proposals for a high-speed rail link through Kent.
The Government are considering British Rail's report on the options for the rail link.
My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that four of the proposed routes for the high-speed rail link go across my constituency. For three years, local residents have had to put up with agony and anxiety as British Rail has blundered forward with its plans. In coming to a conclusion, will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind the fact that we in north-west Kent have nothing to gain in transport terms from a high-speed rail link and everything to lose in terms of our environment?
I understand my hon. Friend's concerns and they will be taken into account in considering the recommendations of British Rail which I received just over four weeks ago. I emphasise that not only has British Rail already commissioned considerable environmental assessment studies of the various route options, but that whichever option might be chosen as the preferred route will be subject to a full environmental impact assessment with the proper opportunity for public consultation and comment.
As the Secretary of State is aware, the London channel tunnel group, which wishes to pressure him to make a decision, is here to lobby Parliament. Therefore, will he tell us whether he will make a statement before the House rises for the summer recess? Will the Secretary of State make a decision on the Government's view before the full environmental assessment study on one or both routes?
I cannot give the precise timing of any Government decision on the preferred route. British Rail has asked us to say whether we can agree what the preferred route should be, so that it can go ahead with a full environmental impact assessment of whichever route might be chosen. That is the basis on which we are approaching these matters.
My right hon. and learned Friend said that he received the report four weeks ago, but he answered the question to the effect that he received it on 3 May, nearly two months ago. [Interruption.] That is what he said in reply to the question. Does he appreciate that although he said that early publication would cause blight to properties along the route, such blight has existed for some years and continues? Bearing in mind the fact that, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) said, the London channel tunnel group is here lobbying the House today, urging for publication of the proposals so as to remove uncertainty, speculation and rumours, will he seriously consider publishing the proposals? My right hon. and learned Friend has already said that he will not show a preference, but only publish them. Will he please do it so that we all know where we stand?
I shall clarify the position to ensure that my hon. Friend is not misled. If we were to publish all four routes now that would cause considerable unnecessary concern to many people. The preferable course of action is for the Government to consider the recommendations that British Rail has put to us and to come to a judgment on the preferred route—the route on which a proper environmental impact assessment should take place. That is what we are working on at the moment and I intend to report to the House on those matters as soon as I can.
Fishing Vessels (Safety)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has any plans to meet representatives of the catching sector of the fishing industry in order to discuss matters relating to the occupational safety of the crews of United Kingdom-registered fishing vessels; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. and learned Friend met representatives of the Scottish fishing industry on 24 April. There is a regular dialogue with the fishing industry on all aspects of safety, including the occupational safety of crews, at the twice-yearly meetings of the fishing industry safety group.
The circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Antares aroused deep distress and considerable anger throughout Scotland's fishing communities. I believe that the Minister is aware that the Royal Navy has published its report into the sinking of that vessel. When will his Department publish its report? Has the Minister received any suggestion from the Lord Advocate's office that a fatal accident inquiry will be held? Does he agree that the families of the four men who were drowned in that tragic collision between the submarine and the fishing boat deserve substantial compensation? Presumably that compensation will not be paid until his Department has published its report and a fatal accident inquiry has been held. Has the Minister any information about that inquiry?
As the hon. Gentleman said, the question whether there should be a fatal accident inquiry is a matter for the Lord Advocate and specific questions about establishing such an inquiry should properly be directed to him.As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, last week my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces announced a major extension of the monitoring scheme, operated through the coastguard, which records where submarines are operating. That extension was warmly welcomed by the fishing industry. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must do all that we can to ensure that accidents such as that involving the Antares do not happen again.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is considerable relief in the United Kingdom fishing community at the retention of the Decca navigation system? That community would have faced substantially increased costs had the Loran C system been adopted in place of the Decca system.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right that strong representations were made by the Scottish fishing industry to my right hon. and learned Friend at the meeting to which I referred. We took account of those representations as well as of the fact that, in the end, we received a far better offer from Decca which made us able to switch back to that system. It is worth pointing out that it is only in the United Kingdom where the user pays. It is important that, when we agree on negotiations, the user pays as little as possible, but gets a good system.
Is the Minister also aware that there is widespread growing alarm at the number of tragic accidents involving the loss of fishing vessels and their crew? I am talking particularly about the Pescado and the Wilhelmina J. When will the Minister give me a full answer to my letter to him of 30 April? When will he give us the real details that were exposed in an article in the Daily Mirror last Thursday? The Minister must tell the House when we can expect the full Department of Transport report into the Wilhelmina J tragedy to be made public. Why will not the Minister agree to our demand for a public inquiry about shipping safety and for tougher safety regulations to cover flag of convenience shipping?
It seems that in response to the hon. Lady's supplementary question we must go over ground that has been trodden in the past. Losses of fishing vessels between 1975 and 1979 were far in excess of the losses of the past five years. I am sure that no one in this place disagrees that safety is extremely important. The sinking of the Wilhelmina J is still being considered by the Department's legal advisers. I should like to be able publicly to issue a bulletin, but I am unable to do so because an injunction has been served against the Department. The document was given to various relatives and others involved and it has now fallen into the hands of the press. The situation is not acceptable and I am considering the way in which the regulations are framed to ascertain whether an amendment is necessary to enable me to publish the document.
Given the important responsibilities of the Department of Transport to ensure the safety of fishermen, has the Department undertaken any review of its system of discussing with the Department of Energy and the Ministry of Defence such matters as the Antares disaster and the difficulties that fishermen face as a result of debris being left in the North sea by those engaged in the oil industry? Is any specific mechanism being established, or does the Department of Transport just wait for other Departments to initiate discussions?
Not at all. There are regular discussions between all Departments on matters that concern fishermen. Today my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces announced an increase in the area that is covered by the submarine notice. I think that that announcement was warmly welcomed by the fishing industry in Scotland.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to ensure that plans for freight movement on the channel tunnel rail link will be on United Kingdom wagons which are compatible with the gauge of continental tracks.
British Rail plans to use freight wagons on channel tunnel services which will be compatible with both United Kingdom and continental loading gauges.
Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the alternative proposals to that of British Rail is to make provision for a dedicated freight route with a track and wagon gauge that would be fully compatible with European gauges, which I think British Rail's are not?
My hon. Friend is well aware that the Ove Arup proposal includes some facility for freight to pass along its railway lines. I can assure my hon. Friend that in deciding upon a preferred route and then making an announcement on the route for the new rail link, both British Rail and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will consider whether the existing arrangements—small-wheeled bogies, special wagons and the use of the existing railway lines—are consistent with a proper international freight service by the end of the decade.
Will the Minister pay careful attention to what the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) said, which was absolutely right? No amount of waffle from the Government Front Bench will compensate for what the Government are not doing for the railway system. If the Minister wants freight to be moved on our railways instead of on our roads, he should announce that continental loading gauges and freight wagons will be able to come into the United Kingdom on a dedicated track from Folkestone to Dover and then up to the midlands and on to the north-east and the north-west. Anything less from the Minister will not do.
To convert British Rail's tracks to continental gauge throughout the country would cost many billions of pounds, and there is no prospect of that happening. From 1993, when the channel tunnel opens, onwards, British Rail and the other railway operators are planning to use special wagons—low-wheeled bogied wagons—that will be able to travel on both European and British gauges. That will provide a freight service that will meet demand from 1993 onwards. In the longer term, as I made clear in answer to the supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden), we shall consider whether these arrangements are adequate for the services needed for international freight at the end of the decade.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that long-term planning features in the decision that is made on both freight and passenger traffic? Is my hon. Friend aware that if Britain's system is not compatible with the European system, we shall put ourselves at a long-term disadvantage in both the passenger and freight sectors? Does he further agree that there is a danger even now of Britain being described, sometimes in despair, by SNCF people as "branch-line" Britain? That we cannot have.
This Conservative Government believe strongly in long-term planning—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) may laugh, but he conveniently forgets that we have a 15-year, long-term construction programme for London Underground and a road building programme stretching over a comparable period.Following a statement that my right hon. and learned Friend hopes to make in due course about a rail link, we will have a railway building programme that will provide a long-term plan for Britain's railway system. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) is right to say that we need a first-class freight system to take freight between this country and the continent, and we shall have it.
Can the Minister confirm that the Ove Arup proposal studied by British Rail and W. S. Atkins was for a two-tier railway that could be used for both passengers and freight, and which would be built to the higher European standard gauge? Does he accept that the public are aware of the routes that are being considered? As his right hon. and learned Friend refuses to say that he will make up his mind before the summer recess, will the Government acknowledge the public interest in this matter and publish the reports at the end of this parliamentary Session?
Not only is there great public interest in a new rail link, but my right hon. and learned Friend and the Government are paying a great deal of attention to what is a most important project. We need a new rail link between Dover and London primarily to cope with passengers. We must deal with the increase in the expected number of international passengers and the growth in commuter service demand in the south-east. Freight is important, but in the short term, from 1993, it will travel on existing lines and with the new technology, to which I referred earlier.
When considering freight movement following the building of the channel tunnel, will my hon. Friend and British Rail reconsider the possibility of a freight terminal at Reading? I assure him that there is a great deal of support for that.
I shall certainly convey my hon. Friend's view to British Rail. It is for BR, rather than for Ministers, to decide where freight terminals should be located. Ministers' responsibility is to ensure that British Rail has a policy and gets on with it.
West Yorkshire Rail Electrification
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement concerning the future of the West Yorkshire rail electrification scheme.
As I said in my reply to the hon. Member on 18 June, credit approvals are reserved for the infrastructure costs of the West Yorkshire rail electrification scheme. We shall consider resources for rolling stock as a matter of urgency when decisions are taken on the allocation of credit approvals for 1992–93.
Will the Minister confirm that his Department remains committed to the electrification scheme and recognises the importance of retaining Bradford as part of the InterCity network, the need to encourage more people to use local trains, and the importance of electrification to jobs and the expansion of the local economy? It will be very much regretted that he has been unable today to confirm that the scheme—all parts of it—will proceed immediately. We recognise the dead hand of the Treasury behind the dither and delay. Will the Minister give an early sign that a green light will be given to the scheme so that it can go ahead without any further delay?
Unlike the Opposition, the Government have to find the money that they commit themselves to spending. However, I hope that the electrification project can go ahead next year.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the considerable significance that people, not only in Bradford but Airedale and Wharfedale, attach to that scheme, which would more than better the 8 per cent. return on capital that the Treasury requires? Will my hon. Friend bear it in mind that unless West Yorkshire passenger transport executive can order soon the rolling stock to run on its splendid new electrified lines, its price may rise—which might place that 8 per cent. return in jeopardy?
I am well aware of that problem, and I stand by my statement that I hope that the project can get the go-ahead next year.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has to permit new railway operations.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said earlier, we propose to give private-sector operators a right of access to British Rail's track. We are considering the details of how to do that, but legislation will be needed.
The north-west rail users' group believes that the Liverpool to north Wales line could be a commercial proposition, but apparently British Rail does not share that view. Will my right hon. and learned Friend's proposals allow a commercial operator to prove British Rail wrong?
The answer is yes. Meanwhile, before primary legislation can be presented to the House to permit such a commercial venture, all propositions involving private sector finance are welcome, and British Rail and my right hon. and learned Friend will study any such proposals.
New Opera House
To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will consider funding the building of a new opera house in London.
London already has two large-scale opera houses and an increasing range of other places in which opera is performed. Much as I might personally welcome it, I see no need for a further opera house.
Although one would not expect a Tory Government to emulate a French socialist President, will the Minister confirm that Covent Garden's subsidy averages about £40 per seat per performance? Nevertheless, when great stars appear at Covent Garden, few ordinary people can see their performances because of business subscriptions and the prior claim to seats that many other people have. Does the Minister agree that there is a case to be made for staging productions with world-famous stars at a much bigger auditorium, so that the benefits of subsidy can be enjoyed by a much larger number of people?
Despite the fact that the French have just built a new opera house, there are many more opera performances in London than in Paris. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a need to present opera to a wider audience, which is why I am happy that a number of groups, such as Opera 80, Opera Factory, and Mecklenburgh Opera, perform in small theatres throughout London. The Royal Opera house has reduced the proportion of its income that is derived from subsidy from 53 per cent. five years ago to 37 per cent. now. It also plans to stage at Kenwood and in the piazza outside Covent Garden popular productions that will be seen by many thousands of people.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that as no one would attend the opera unless it was subsidised from the public purse, even contemplating the building of a new opera house would place another millstone around the taxpayers' neck?
I am bound to remind my hon. Friend that when the Royal Opera house stages and records "Carmen" in the open air in the piazza, there will be no direct cost to the taxpayer. I hope that my hon. Friend himself will take the opportunity to sample the delights of "Carmen".
Most right hon. and hon. Members, although perhaps not all, will have been disappointed by the Minister's reply to the original question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser). Will the Minister consider two related points? First, English National Opera's lease on the London Coliseum expires in 1996, when it will be the only national company without a permanent home. Secondly, the London Coliseum and other great cultural buildings incur high maintenance costs. The Minister will know that the Tate, for example, has holes in its roof and needs to spend £27 million, and that the national gallery, where the new Sainsbury wing is to open tomorrow, needs £20 million spent on it. Is not that an appalling indictment of 12 years of Government incompetence and neglect? Does the Minister have a policy, and what does he intend to do about the English National Opera's lease and our great cultural buildings?
I am well aware that English National Opera's lease expires in 1996. The Arts Council, others and I are in negotiation with the owners of the lease to find out on what terms it might he continued so that ENO can continue the great run of successes that it has had at the Coliseum. As regards the wider question raised by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) Labour's arts policy on such difficult issues has the size and originality of a postage stamp. I wrote an article in Saturday's The Daily Telegraph about encouraging business sponsorship of the arts. What do I find? Most of my arguments were repeated by the hon. Gentleman in The Mail on Sunday yesterday, bringing to mind the old saying of Tom Lehrer,
"Plagiarise, plagiarise, let nothing evade your eyes."
To ask the Minister for the Arts how many symphony concerts by symphony orchestras or sinfoniettas receiving publicly funded support took place in London in June.
I do not have information on the number of concerts funded by local government, but I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that 46 concerts were given by symphony orchestras, sinfonietta and chamber orchestras in London in June with Arts Council support.
Does not that excellent figure of 46 reflect a superb range of concerts of great breadth and diversity and, as the BBC Promenade concert season is about to begin, reinforce London as the music capital of the world? Is not the figure noticeably better than that for Paris where there are larger subsidies?
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend, as I am sure does the whole House. He makes his point—dare I say it—on a high note. I congratulate him on behalf of the whole House on the fact that he has just been appointed to the Council of the Association of British Orchestras. There he will doubtless continue clearly to make his point about the success of London as a centre for music.
Regional Arts Boards
To ask the Minister for the Arts what progress has been made in setting up the new regional arts boards.
I am delighted to report that good progress has been made. Eight chairmen and one chairwoman have been appointed to nine of the 10 new boards, and the remaining board members have been, or are, in the process of being appointed.All the new boards now have chief executives, and a start has been made on recruiting other members of staff. The new boards are, therefore, firmly on target to be fully operational by 1 October this year.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, which shows great progress towards the establishment of a more cost-effective form of administrating the arts. Would he care to tell the House about the sort of savings that he might envisage as a result of doing away with a centralised bureaucratic structure and replacing it with a more clearly identifiable regional structure?
Yes, I am hoping that in the first stage of reorganisation there will be savings by 1993 on an annual basis of at least £1 million. All that money will then be available to go to arts companies, rather than to be spent on administration. That is a significant amount and I shall look for further savings once the new regional arts boards are fully in place and we can tell how the integrated structure between them and the Arts Council at the centre works out.
Can the Minister say how near he is to knowing which clients are to be retained by the Arts Council and which are to go to the regional arts boards? When does he expect that to be sorted out?
An initial list of delegated clients—as the phrase is—was announced by the Arts Council with my agreement a month or two ago. There will be no further delegations until the autumn of next year. Then, when the new national arts strategy has been delivered to me by the Arts Council, I shall take further decisions about the delegation of those companies that remain with the Arts Council.
To ask the Minister for the Arts what measures he intends to take to promote amateur theatre in the regions.
Amateur theatre is traditionally self-reliant. In the past 25 years or so there has been a sustained growth in amateur theatre, which has been encouraged by the regional arts association network and local authorities.
Will my right hon. Friend have a word with North West Arts to find out whether it can get together with Warrington borough council to find a new home for the Centenary theatre group in Warrington which has been displaced out of Crosfields?
I am sorry to hear of that difficulty. Amateur theatre and the arts generally play a vital role in arts provision in all areas, including places with limited access to professional work. I have already taken up with the Arts Council the question of that little company and I am glad to say that the Arts Board: North West will be writing to my hon. Friend today to tell him what steps it proposes to take.
To ask the Minister for the Arts what proportion of the Arts Council grant in 1991–92 has been allocated to the north-west of England; and if he will make a statement.
The Arts Council grant to Merseyside Arts and North West Arts and its own estimated direct spending in the region amount to nearly £9·5 million. This represents 4·9 per cent. of the total Arts Council grant.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of the Arts Council grant to many of the cultural activities of the north-west. It is especially important to our orchestras, such as the Hallé and the Royal Liverpool philharmonic. Has my right hon. Friend any plans to assist the Royal Liverpool philharmonic with its ambitious project to expand and with its original costs, incurred by its taking over a new building in the centre of Liverpool?
I have met the chairman of the Hallé, and I know about its ambition to have its own concern hall in Manchester. That will require a good deal of money, but I hope that it will manage to raise considerable sponsorship, together with some support from the Arts Council. The appeal for the Royal Liverpool philharmonic is going well. I was delighted to be able to launch it some months ago. I hope that the Royal Liverpool philharmonic will soon have a redecorated home, and that the Hallé will have a new one.
To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will meet the chairman of the Arts Council to discuss support for poetry.
I meet the chairman of the Arts Council regularly for discussions on a range of subjects.
When the Minister next meets the Arts Council chairman, will he discuss with him the threat to the existence of the magazine Aquarius, which is published by Mr. Eddie Linden? This small poetry magazine requires very little financial support, although it has been a breeding ground for many a poet who has proceeded to become eminent and successful. Will the Minister arrange with the Arts Council chairman for an application for support to be made?
I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's interest in this subject and in the literary magazine in question. I assure him that the Arts Council provides help for literary magazines—usually as a one-off, as it prefers to avoid long-term commitments. I understand that no approach has yet been made to the Arts Council about Aquarius, but, if such an approach is made, the Arts Council will certainly consider whether it can give the magazine reasonable assistance.
Book Manuscripts (Vetting)
To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many manuscripts of books have been submitted for vetting by the head of the civil service in the last two years; and if he will list the authors.
In the past two years 10 authors have submitted manuscripts to the head of the home civil service under the guidelines of the Radcliffe report. Those whose books have so far been published include the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey); my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie); my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler); Lord Young of Graffham; Sir Alec Cairncross; Sir Bernard Ingham and Mr. Edmund Dell. Three others have submitted manuscripts but have not yet had their books published.
There are quite a few literary gems there.Is not the vetting procedure a bit of a nonsense? It has far more to do with preventing potential Government embarrassment than with protecting national security. Most ministerial memoirs—although not, of course, the book by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—are selective, impenetrable and tedious. Would it not be far better if we scrapped the whole procedure and adopted a free system, so that everyone could be given the truth? I doubt whether, when the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) writes her memoirs—no doubt they will be called "We Did It Our Way", or something of the kind—we shall read the truth about the Belgrano or Westland. Why do we not get away from all this rubbish? Ministers rarely tell us the truth in retrospect.
I am sure that the whole House will await the memoirs of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) with eager interest. I hope, however, that he will show rather more loyalty to his Front-Bench colleagues than did Barbara Castle. According to her memoirs, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was ticked off by Lord Callaghan for serving the Prime Minister and not the whole Cabinet. Apparently, Lord Callaghan said:
I assume that, whether or not he submits his memoirs to the Radcliffe committee rules, the hon. Gentleman will be rather more loyal to the shadow Foreign Secretary."Another of Harold's failures is that he has done nothing to reform the Civil Service, and merely comforted himself by surrounding himself with comics like Gerald Kaufman."
Will my right hon. Friend be candid enough to admit that the vetting procedure is becoming a charade, partly because civil service vetters are incapable of distinguishing between security and embarrassment and partly because there are no sanctions against those who defy the suggestions of the vetting office? Is he aware that at least one ministerial author, whose memoirs will be published shortly, has taken no notice of the cuts that were suggested? Will he be taken off to the Tower of London when the book is published?
My hon. Friend well knows that there are no sanctions, but I must disagree with him: the system, which is voluntary, has worked well. Sir Bernard Ingham submitted his memoirs to the Cabinet Secretary and made all the changes that the Radcliffe rules require. It is better to have a voluntary system than a compulsory one, and by and large it works reasonably well.
Is the Minister aware that the Prime Minister has prohibited the publication of the evidence that I submitted to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which contained the instructions that Mr. Callaghan gave Ministers about private financial interests? I have heard today from the Chairman of the Select Committee that, for that reason, he will not publish my evidence. Is he aware that, in the circumstances, I intend to publish it myself?
I am interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that. Whether his decision is right, and whether he can justify it to himself, it follows in the tradition that he has followed in the past. In his memoirs Against the Tide", he said:
I think that he is probably following the same path of slightly idiosyncratic rebellion that he followed when he was a Minister in the Labour Cabinet."when my civil servants turn up with a letter to undermine another Minister, I tear it up‖That's more than can be said of other Ministers."
Next Steps Agencies
To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what improvements in customer service have been brought about by the creation of next steps agencies.
Improving the quality of customer service is one of the prime aims of next steps, and agencies are given targets for that. To quote but two of the many examples, the Meteorological Office's "Weather Initiative" provided umbrella retailers and manufacturers with advance information on the likelihood of last week's rain so that they could plan their production and distribution accordingly. The Driver Standards Agency has reduced waiting times for driving tests, and in order to promote road safety, examiners will now explain faults made by learners.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's reply. Does he agree that the next steps agencies will help to improve service to all consumers?
I have no doubt that one of the main purposes of the next steps agencies is to give greater customer satisfaction, which will be achieved only by providing better service.
Does the Minister believe that one of the improvements in customer services as a result of setting up the agencies should be that applicants for income support should automatically be assessed for any other grant or benefit that may be available to them?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been over this before. As I said, it is for the Secretary of State involved and the agency's chief executive to set the performance targets that he expects the chief executive to meet. If the hon. Gentleman would like to take this matter up with the Secretary of State for Social Security and the chief executive of the agency, I am sure that they will carefully consider his suggestion.
European Community Institutions
To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what steps he is taking to increase the number of United Kingdom secondees to European Community institutions.
My Department has been spearheading a drive to increase the number of United Kingdom secondees to the European Community institutions. Since April 1990, the number of United Kingdom secondees has increased from 63 to more than 100.
That increase is highly welcome. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the number of secondees and their seniority play a vital role in ensuring that the United Kingdom's interests are well represented at the formulation of policy in EC institutions?
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. Secondments to the EC are an effective way of increasing our influence in the institutions. When secondees return to Whitehall, they bring back valuable experience which will be helpful in their Departments' dealings with the EC.
To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the civil service trade unions to discuss opportunities for people with disabilities.
I meet representatives of the civil service trade unions from time to time to discuss a variety of issues. They have not raised opportunities for people with disabilities with me, but my staff have regular meetings with them on this issue and keep me informed of progress.
Does the Minister agree that people with disabilities have a great deal to offer in many places, including the civil service? Many have acquired considerable skills in tackling their disabilities, which means that they would be of great benefit operating fully in the civil service. If there is anywhere that should provide open access and should not be biased against disabled people, it is the civil service.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He will be pleased to know that my staff have, for example, arranged exhibitions of special equipment in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff that will help employ those with disabilities. The civil service employs 7,900 disabled staff —a slightly higher percentage of registered disabled people than in the work force generally.
To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what is the number of press secretaries currently working for Her Majesty's Government.
There are only two posts in Whitehall which carry the title press secretary. These are in the Prime Minister's Office and the Treasury. In addition, there are eight with the title director of information, one chief of public relations and 10 heads of information in other Whitehall Departments.
In view of the challenge of explaining Majorism to the multitude, does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is enough?
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be able to explain his policies to the admiring British public without the need for any press secretary.
European Council (Luxembourg)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the European Council in Luxembourg on 28 and 29 June. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the United Kingdom.It was clear from the events there that Yugoslavia must be the first item on our agenda. I discussed the overnight position with Prime Minister Lubbers and with Chancellor Kohl before the Council opened. We were able to reach rapid agreement in the Council on invoking the emergency mechanisms of the conference on security and cooperation in Europe and a meeting is taking place in Vienna this afternoon. We also agreed to dispatch to Yugoslavia the Foreign Ministers of the troika—Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy. Their visit brought some respite in the conflict, but the situation was very fragile yesterday and the Foreign Ministers returned to Yugoslavia yesterday afternoon. They secured agreement to the appointment of Mr. Mesic of Croatia as the next President of Yugoslavia and to other measures to defuse the crisis. The situation remains very volatile and the Community will need to be closely involved over the coming weeks. In the meantime, Community aid to Yugoslavia has been suspended. British citizens have been advised to leave Slovenia. The main item of scheduled business was to discuss progress in the two intergovernmental conferences launched last year, one on economic and monetary union and the other on political union. Discussion centred on the issues raised in a draft treaty text circulated by the presidency, though there was no detailed negotiation of the text itself. This European Council—as we had wanted—was a stocktaking. It was not the occasion to take decisions, but we have registered the considerable progress made in the Luxembourg presidency as well as our collective will to reach an agreement at Maastricht in December. The conclusions, which have been placed in the Library of the House, incorporate a number of points of importance to the United Kingdom. I made it clear that I welcomed the structure of the present draft of the treaty, although some other partners in the Community disagree with it strongly. The present text means that some things are done on the basis of the treaty of Rome but others on the basis of intergovernmental action in which the treaty of Rome does not apply and the Commission does not have the sole right of initiative. I welcomed the concept of a common foreign and security policy set firmly within the context of the Atlantic alliance and stressed the need to work by consensus in this crucial area. There is agreement on the preparation of proposals to improve the implementation of Community law. That reflects a British proposal that would enable the European Court of Justice to fine member states that fail to comply with Community legislation. We have long argued for a level playing field and for full respect of the rule of law, and we are determined to get it. We have a good record on implementation and we believe that all states that sign up to Community law should implement it. The conclusions call for early progress on the remaining legislation needed to complete the single market. This means in particular measures on insurance, and air, sea and road transport, which are of importance to this country. The Council discussed the need to strengthen the Community's external perimeter boundary if free movement of people is to be able to take place within it. We also agreed to better co-ordination in the fight against international drug trafficking and organised crime through the establishment of a European Criminal Investigation Office. The conclusions also commit us to strengthening the Community's links with the countries of central and eastern Europe. This will initially take the form of association agreements with Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Government hope that those countries—and probably others—will be ready for full membership in due course. I also made it clear that there were things in the present draft treaty with which I could not agree, and it was understood that nothing could be agreed until everything is agreed at the conclusion of these discussions. I explained that even though to many federal union implies decentralisation, the term carried the reverse implication in this country and would not be acceptable in a text to be agreed at the end of the year. I explained our reservations about the existing text on the role of the European Parliament. We see a strong case for an increased role for the European Parliament in areas such as control over the Commission through audit of expenditure and measures to safeguard the rights of Community citizens, including the appointment of a European ombudsman. The text entirely reserves our position on the issue of co-decision. The present proposal, involving a complicated conciliation procedure, would not in our view improve Community decision-taking. In the discussion on economic and monetary union I maintained our reserve on a single currency and a single central bank. We discussed the issue of economic convergence. The need for such convergence is increasingly recognised by our partners, but the nature and extent of that convergence and its relationship with possible target dates for moves to stages 2 and 3 of economic and monetary union are still for negotiation. All other member states understand that there must, in any case, be a separate decision by the Government and this House on whether the United Kingdom would move to a single currency and, if so, when. The European Council has issued a number of political declarations which are also available in the Library of the House. The Council endorsed the initiative that I took in April to establish a United Nations register of conventional arms transfers, and we will together table a draft resolution on this at the United Nations General Assembly. The Council also endorsed a British and German initiative to improve the co-ordination of disaster relief within the United Nations system. We envisage the appointment of a high-level co-ordinator, with direct access to emergency funding and with the authority to pull together the whole disaster relief operation. We are taking that initiative forward in the United Nations now. At British initiative, the Council agreed a text on human rights, the first such declaration ever adopted by the European Council. The Community will use its leverage to promote human rights through the economic and co-operation agreements which it makes with third countries. We welcomed the abolition in South Africa of the remaining legislative pillars of apartheid. We also declared our support for the renewal of sporting links with South Africa on a case-by-case basis where unified and non-racial sporting bodies have been set up. The establishment of such an independent and non-racial body for cricket was announced on the same day. I believe that this European Council was a good example of the Community at work. We took rapid action to respond to the crisis in Yugoslavia and will continue to work together for a peaceful settlement. We took stock in a businesslike way of the progress made under Luxembourg's chairmanship. There are difficult issues still to be resolved. As in any negotiation, there will have to be give and take and a judgment will have to be made by the Government and by the House on the overall package at the end of the negotiation. There was a common determination in Luxembourg to work for an agreed outcome to the negotiations by the end of the year. I shall continue to argue for what I believe to be in the interests of our own country and the interests of the Community as a whole.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his statement. I begin by expressing my strong support for the initiatives taken by the European Council to try to achieve stability, a secure ceasefire and productive discussions in Yugoslavia. I also express the hope that the efforts will be continued and that all the agencies of the Community and of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe will be employed in trying to secure a speedy, peaceful and enduring outcome to the turmoil and divisions in Yugoslavia.Clearly, for our generation, there are no "small countries far away of which we know little". The Council is therefore to be commended on the speed and thoroughness of its action, which demonstrated how necessary and how possible it is to act as a Community in dealing with the security of our continent. Can the Prime Minister confirm that arrangements to assist British citizens wishing to leave Slovenia are proceeding satisfactorily as the day goes on? With regard to the discussions on the two intergovernmental conferences, does the Prime Minister agree with me that the negotiations are of supreme importance to the future of our country and that any Government's overriding objective must therefore be the national interest, both for our generation and for future generations? That being the case, may I first say to the Prime Minister that there are no foreseeable circumstances in which it would be beneficial for the European Community to take on responsibility for military defence matters? Secondly, would the Prime Minister accept, as a matter of principle, the requirement that any economic or political institutions established to share power at European Community level must be democratically accountable—because only democracy is truly robust and also because the powers already ceded by national Parliaments must continue to be subject to democratic control? Thirdly, will the Prime Minister explain why his Government have so strenuously opposed the extension of qualified majority voting on environmental matters and on the social charter? Is it not the case that, in the unified single market after 1992, every effort must be made to ensure that companies and countries cannot gain any unfair competitive advantage by seeking to lower environmental and social standards? Is it not clear, therefore, that common environmental and social protection should extend right across the whole Community and across all its peoples? Why is the Prime Minister still trying to stop that? On the economic intergovernmental conference, will the Prime Minister first confirm that his hard ecu plan has effectively been dismissed by other member states as impractical and undesirable and is now a dead duck? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm what he stated in The Daily Telegraph just two weeks ago—that he accepts the principle of a single currency? And as no national Government or Parliament would ever accept the imposition of a single currency against their will, will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to tell us why he continues to give the impression that the menace of imposition exists when it so clearly does not? Will the Prime Minister also tell the House how he regards the prospect of the creation of a European central bank and if there are any conditions in which he would accept such an institution if it were not accountable to elected democratic authority? On the vital matter of economic convergence, will the Prime Minister tell the House how he defines economic convergence in the European Community? Does not he agree that real economic convergence must involve improving performance in research and innovation, productivity and the skills of the labour force, all of which are necessary to achieve and maintain high levels of employment and balanced growth? After 12 years in power, what will the Government do in practical terms to improve performance, especially when investment, output and productivity are falling and unemployment is rising rapidly as a direct result of the Prime Minister's policies? If the Prime Minister attaches importance to real convergence, why does he not work for it instead of just hoping for it? As Maastricht approaches, why does he not stop playing for time for his party and start playing to win for Britain?
May I first thank the Leader of the Opposition for his support for the action taken on Yugoslavia and for the calling together of the CSCE mechanism? That will be helpful and I hope that it proves to be successful in bringing to an end what is potentially a very serious and alarming conflict. May I also assure him that the action to assist British citizens is proceeding satisfactorily and is under the very close control of the Foreign Office? We shall do all we can to ensure the safety and security of British citizens.I can also share with the right hon. Gentleman agreement on the importance of the two intergovernmental conferences that are presently under negotiation. They are of great importance to our present, and perhaps of greater importance to our medium and long-term future. I share his view that there is no case for European defence divorced from NATO. NATO is the central pillar of our defence now, has been for 40 years and will remain so. However, I take the view that there is room for increased action by the Europeans in terms of co-operation on a defence identity, most satisfactorily through the Western European Union, and by a larger European contribution to our collective defence. In so far as the economic and political institutions are concerned, of course they must be democratically accountable and there are a variety of definitions among our partners in the Community as to what nature of democratic accountability that should be. There is no agreement yet about that, but I think that the views of this House are perfectly clear. With regard to qualified majority voting, in 1985 we accepted the quite considerable extension of qualified majority voting in the Single European Act in a number of areas, and that has operated thereafter. We have accepted a number of social charter areas, but there are some that we find extremely difficult to accept, precisely because they would damage that which we most want from the social charter, which is the creation of jobs. Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor I would wish to see action taken that would damage employment prospects in this country. With regard to the hard ecu proposals, the right hon. Gentleman is wholly and completely inaccurate when he describes the hard ecu proposals as no longer being on the table. They most certainly are on the table. Not only are they on the table, but they have very materially changed the nature of the whole debate on economic and monetary union with the proposals subsequently put forward by other countries to harden the basket ecu and achieve the same economic effect that we sought with the hard ecu principle. We have made our position clear about a European central bank. If that comes about, it is many years away and it would certainly need to be accountable to a directly elected body. As for a definition of convergence, convergence would certainly mean bringing the European economies closer together on inflation, growth, performance, fiscal deficits and, as crucial as any of those, on the flexibility of the economies to respond to changing economic circumstances. With regard to the improvement of the economy over the past 12 years, the changing living standards of people in this country indicate very clearly the extent to which the economy has improved dramatically. In so far as our comparative positions on European matters are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is in no position to claim that he has any monopoly on the future interests of Europe. We are negotiating for the future of Europe in a way in which the right hon. Gentleman never could or would with the divisions in his party.
Order. Although I realise that the statement does not wholly concern Europe and that it is about wider matters as well, I propose to give precedence to hon. Members who were not called in last Wednesday's debate. I will call other right hon. and hon. Members later, if there is time.
Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations and those of the Government side of the House on the way in which he promoted and protected the interests of the United Kingdom and Europe at the meeting? With reference to the fact that the word "federal" does not appear in the conclusions of the meeting, does my right hon. Friend agree that a door that is gently closed can remain just as firmly shut as one that is slammed, and that it is less likely to provoke reprisals?
My right hon. Friend emphasises the point with delicious delicacy. It was not a drafting session in the European Council—that lies ahead--but I made it clear that we could not accept a text that included the concept of federalism. It is dangerously ambiguous and it simply would not be acceptable either to me or to the House.
The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised the stock-taking nature of the summit. Nevertheless, he is to be congratulated on ensuring that Britain does not suffer the catastrophe of isolation at Luxembourg. Does he now regret his uncharacteristic but nevertheless inflammatory remarks at Luxembourg on immigration? Does he agree that the Yugoslav situation underlines the importance of having a common European foreign policy? Does he realise that he has not dodged the crunch on Europe, but has merely delayed it, and that he cannot unite his party or lead the country effectively unless he clearly stakes out his position on Europe? Will he therefore begin the process now by saying clearly what is so obvious—that he profoundly disagrees with the crabbed view on Europe put forward by his predecessor in the House last week?
I dismiss the last remarks of the right hon. Gentleman—they are scarcely worth consideration. In so far as a common foreign and security policy is concerned, I stated expressly in my statement a few moments ago that I favoured a common foreign and security policy. Yugoslavia, as the right hon. Gentleman says, is a case in point, so, indeed, was the safe havens initiative of some weeks ago. There have been a number of other illustrations where the collective political force of the Community added to the individual political and economic force of member nations to the general good of all. The common foreign and security policy, working on the basis of consensus, is something which I wholly and unreservedly support.The Government's position is wholly clear. We are seeking an agreement at Maastricht that I can safely recommend to the House and which I believe is in the interests of the Community as a whole. I am not prepared and I am not going to stake out every tiny dot and comma of my negotiating position and undermine that negotiating position within our partners in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman can ask as much as he likes, but what matters at the end is what I negotiate in Maastricht, and I shall give that primacy in all matters between now and then. In so far as clarity on policy is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is a bit rich in much of what he says. There is certainly a crystal clarity in the Liberal party's policy: it is the transfer of power from London to Brussels, giving the European Parliament the right to override the Council of Ministers, and the phasing out of NATO. That is not our policy.
May I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend and his Cabinet colleagues on their skilful conduct of the talks and the success that he has evidently had in securing essential British and European interests, as well as on the clarity of his statement this afternoon? Those of us who heard the words that the Leader of the Opposition read out, who watched the Leader of the Opposition's face during my right hon. Friend's response, and who noted that it took the right hon. Gentleman 228 words the other day to say nothing are delighted that my right hon. Friend, not the Labour party, is in charge of these matters.
My right hon Friend is entirely right; I am grateful for his kind words. The divisions among the Opposition can scarcely be hidden, especially now that the Labour Common Market safeguards committee has made its position clear. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) has called in a communiqué for
The shadow Secretary of State for Transport, on the other hand, has stated:"The creation of monetary union governed by an autonomous central banking system which should arrive at the issuing of a single currency".
Which is the Opposition's position?"We are against a single currency."
Is the Prime Minister aware that in these negotiations he is dealing with the rights of the British people to elect and remove Members of Parliament who make the laws under which they are governed? Is he further aware that in 1987 no party put these matters before the electorate? Is he aware that a dying Parliament has no moral or constitutional authority to reach decisions before the British people have had a chance to assess them? Is he also aware that issues such as the repeal of the corn laws, the Irish question and free trade have in the past realigned British politics; and that the examples of Slovenia, Croatia, Quebec and the Baltic states show that enforced federation can have catastrophic effects quite contrary to those anticipated by those who advocated it? Will he reaffirm that it is the rights of the people, not the rights of Parliament, that are the basis of democracy in this country?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Members of Parliament are sent here to exercise their judgment on behalf of the people. Parliament is certainly answerable to the nation, but Members of Parliament have complete authority in the mandate that they have to decide what they believe is right in the interests of the nation and to seek legislation to that end. In due course, they will have to answer for that to the electorate.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no necessary contradiction between the judicious approach to developing the Community which he has adopted in his statement and the possibility of enlarging the Community, in good time and when the process is ripe, to include the nations of central Europe—notably Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary? Can he confirm that the association agreements to which he referred are but stepping stones to that desirable end?
Yes, I can certainly confirm that. Nothing that we do in these two intergovernmental conferences must throw such a girdle around the present Community that it prevents others from joining it in future.
Will the Prime Minister accept that, although action was taken on the events in Yugoslavia, many of us were extremely disappointed by the initial reaction of the Council to events in Slovenia? At a time when the Community is looking at the possibility of welcoming a common foreign policy, would not it have been better to issue a clear clarion call saying that we shall respect the ballot box, not the threat of the bullet? What will the right hon. Gentleman do now in the circumstances pertaining in Yugoslavia to recognise the democratic aspirations of these people?
The matter of the first importance is to stop the fighting and to prevent the potentially far worse fighting that might take place over the next few weeks. That is why we implemented the CSCE co-operation procedure and why we sent the troika, not once but twice, to Yugoslavia.I understand and accept fully the hon. Lady's concerns about the independent rights of Slovenians and Croatians.
May I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend for once again showing so clearly that it is quite possible and feasible to combine genuine interests of this country, as shown at Luxembourg, with the genuine overall interests of the Community? Does he agree that, contrary to the ludicrous assertion by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), the development of a strict, strong, combined Community immigration policy vis-a-vis third countries would be well received by all member states?
I am grateful for that remark, and I apologise to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) for neglecting to respond to his point earlier. The discussions that we had on immigration at the EC Council concerned our alarm at the potential immigration south to north and east to west which could occur over the next 10 years. It could literally amount to tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people. It is necessary for the Community to look to its external borders. Conversely, it is equally true—we are already doing this —that we seek to guide help and assistance to those countries to minimise the number of people who seek to move as a result of economic migrancy.
Is the Prime Minister aware that he is caught in a Catch-22 situation because he is opposing both the social charter and majority voting? If he maintains his objections to the social charter, his European colleagues will evenytually insist on majority voting on it, but if he accepts majority voting, that will enable them to implement the social charter that he so dislikes. Therefore, why does he not take the graceful way out and accept the social charter as a great milestone for workers' wages and hours and for women's rights?
We have accepted those parts of the social charter that are in the interests of the people of this country. We have not made a blanket objection to every element in the charter. A number of elements in the social charter programme have been agreed by all member states, including the United Kingdom, but we retain a strong objection to those parts of the charter that we judge would cause and cost job losses in the United Kingdom. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with that.As to qualified majority voting, as I said earlier, we agreed an extension in the Single European Act in 1985. We shall examine specific proposals for extension on their merits, but we shall need to be persuaded that it is of benefit both to the United Kingdom and to the Community before we agree to any such extension.
I congratulate the Prime Minister wholeheartedly on the line that he took in Luxembourg and the important decisions that he and the Foreign Secretary secured. Does he agree that the real argument about economic and monetary union in Europe is whether the people of the country are better off by going in or poorer by staying out? At the end of the day, there is very little sovereignty in becoming relatively impoverished.
The economic interests of the nation are, after defence, the prime concern of this and every Government. My hon. Friend has pointed that out accurately.
On the wider issues discussed at the meeting, was it accepted that if the criminal regime in Iraq does not carry out fully the United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear equipment and the destruction of all nuclear weapons, force may have to be used? Does the Prime Minister agree that the hide and seek games carried out by Saddam Hussein and his thugs over the past few weeks cannot be tolerated any longer?
The hon. Gentleman expresses my view clearly. The European Council strongly condemned the attempt by Iraqi authorities not to reveal part of their nuclear equipment, which we believe they have not done, in explicit contravention of Security Council resolution 687. In our discussions we made it clear that, so long as the Iraqis failed to comply fully with the obligation to observe all the provisions of Security Council resolutions 687 and 688, the Security Council could not envisage lifting sanctions in any circumstances.
Will my right hon. Friend say something about defence? Will he make it clear to his colleagues that the assembly of the Western European Union and its presidential committee have twice said that defence should be done by the Western European Union as part of NATO and that that was supported by the French socialist president of the WEU? Does he feel that his colleagues in Europe may feel that it is right for the European Community to accede to the Council of Europe charter on human rights?
There was not an extensive discussion on defence, although there was on security policy. Our partners in the European Community are aware that the view expressed by my hon. Friend is the view of the British Government.
While I support the invocation of the emergency mechanism of the CSCE with respect to Yugoslavia, are not there sound reasons for believing that if any international institution can avert civil war in that country, it is the European Community? I welcome the freezing of EC aid to Yugoslavia, but are there likely to be direct talks between the Council—through the three Foreign Ministers—and the federal army of Yugoslavia? Will consideration be given to any other sanctions that the European Community might bring to bear to try to avert a tragedy in that country?
I agree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is probable that there will be direct talks between the troika and the people involved in the conflict in Yugoslavia. I hope that they will also speak to the federal Government and the Slovenes and Croats. The troika has a wide-ranging discretion at present and in such a swiftly moving set of circumstances we must, to a certain extent, leave it to the discretion of the Foreign Ministers to take the action they believe is right.The fact that the Community has twice, within a matter of days, sent the troika to Yugoslavia is the clearest possible illustration that we agree with the central point of the question of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang): that the Community has a prime role to play in helping to bring the conflict to an end.
Will my right hon. Friend accept congratulations on the positive approach he exhibited during the weekend in Luxembourg and on his determination to ensure that the agreement at Maastricht can be signed by this country? That may mean compromises not just by ourselves, but by others for the sake of achieving the ever-closer union to which all 12 member countries are committed. Therefore, during the next few months' discussions on economic and monetary union, will my right hon. Friend try to get the emphasis not towards the goal that we do not necessarily foresee, but towards the means to achieve it? We as the Conservative Government are unlikely to object to a single currency if that is to what the market leads, but we want to know the means by which that might be achieved. That is the contribution which we can make to a successful outcome.
I share my hon. Friend's view on that point. We gain and lose from time to time on compromises. That has been the way in which the Community has always worked in the past and it will certainly work that way in the future. The only means by which to achieve economic and monetary union safely and securely is by the proper convergence of all the European economies over a period of time. That was mentioned on three occasions at least in the communiqué that we agreed over the weekend. It was also the subject of a lengthy and worthwhile discussion in our deliberations on Friday.
Does the Prime Minister agree that, whatever federalism may mean specifically, in the European Community it is generally taken to mean the continuing process of the pooling of sovereignty on those matters on which that can be done appropriately? In fact, the Foreign Secretary said so at the weekend. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree that it can only be an English politician who can perversely and eccentrically say that federalism means the exact opposite—centralism—in the English language? The only reason he is afraid of any discussion of this issue is that it will underline the centralist tendency of the state in the past 12 years. He is terrified of any discussion of decentralisation in the United Kingdom and the willingness to move to decentralised institutions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that had he been present at our discussions on Friday he would not have phrased that question in that way.
Did my right hon. Friend see the opinion poll at the weekend that showed that the majority of people, irrespective of their political views, would rather have him negotiating for this country in Europe than the Leader of the Opposition? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the prospects that came out of the discussions in Luxembourg bode well for a harmonious outcome at Maastricht in December? Does he agree that that will give confidence to business men and investors in this country?
I believe that it is in everyone's interests that we are able to conclude these negotiations and remove at the earliest possible opportunity the uncertainty that faces business men and others. It is for that reason that, despite the formidable difficulties that still lie ahead, there is a general agreement that we should seek to reach an agreement at Maastricht the sooner the better and the sooner we can put it before the House.
May I say to the Prime Minister that I was terribly disappointed that he allowed himself to sink to the level of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jacques Chirac in his attacks against immigrants in Europe? What evidence does he have to sustain his contention that immigrants are responsible for increased crime, drug trafficking, terrorism and racial tension? Why was it necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to lump legal and illegal immigrants together and to suggest that, at 10 million, those people are equivalent to the size of the population of Belgium—the seventh largest member of the Community?Why does the Prime Minister support racist and fascist police officers from Italy, Spain and France who wish to enter the United Kingdom in hot pursuit of immigrants and others? Will he say clearly that the Tory party will not use immigrants as cannon fodder in the forthcoming general election campaign?
The House knows me too well, and has known me for too long, to believe for one moment that the views that the hon. Gentleman sought to attribute to me are my views. They most expressly are not, and the hon. Gentleman knows that. He should not have expressed such views in that way.There is legitimate concern in each and every country within the Community about what the outcome would be in the Community of a potentially massive immigration movement as a result of economic migrancy from south to north and east to west unless we take action to prevent it. I care at least as much as the hon. Gentleman about racial harmony in this country, and I do not wish to see it destroyed by the stirring up of old fears that have been put to rest.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decisive and, we hope, effective action taken by the European Community over Yugoslavia shows the right way forward for a collective EC foreign policy, just as did my right hon. Friend's initiative for Kurdish safe havens?
Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. I take the view as well that the Slovenes and Croats have a right to self-determination, but how that right is exercised must be a matter for discussion. We do not wish to see the civil war continuing. Indeed, we wish to see it stopped, and that is the first and most immediate duty of the troika of Foreign Ministers.
Why does the Prime Minister believe in a level playing field for competition law and not for employment law?
I believe in a level playing field where that is in the interests of all European Community countries. We are saying that we do not want imported into this country employment law that would damage the employment reforms that we have made, which have been to the benefit of the work force and the economy over the past 12 years. Nor do we want employment legislation implemented within the Community where it would potentially cause the same damage as it would inflict in the United Kingdom.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on diverting the sterile argument about whether we should participate in economic and monetary union into the much more fruitful area of determining how we can achieve economic convergence. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is costing the German Government DM 150 billion a year to have monetary union with the former German Democratic Republic? That has cost the Germans a 7·2 per cent. increase in their general levels of taxation. Has any estimate been made of what it would cost us immediately in terms of increases in taxation here and in Germany if we were to proceed immediately to monetary union in the Community?
I do not believe that it would be a practical proposition to proceed immediately to monetary union throughout the Community. Given the differing economic performances of the countries of the Community, monetary union would lead to massive regional unemployment, a massive collapse in asset values, a massive amount of unemployment generally, a massive population movement and huge demands for an increase in structural funds to deal with those problems. It is not a practical proposition until there have been various convergencies. That is undoubtedly meant by those who shout from a sedentary position.There is an analogy to be drawn, though not an especially accurate one, with the merging of the deutschmark and the ostmark. Essentially what we saw there was the takeover of a weak currency by a very strong currency, and my hon. Friend was right to draw attention to the difficulties that that has caused. The merging of a dozen established currencies is a far larger and more difficult operation to undertake.
Will the Prime Minister guarantee some practical action to curb the new international arms race and to support the splendid sentiments expressed in annex 7 of the communiqué? Is not it nonsense that while Britain has embargoes against many countries, it also supports the Chilean and many other Governments in their development of the multiple-launch rocket system RAYO in Buckinghamshire and Wales, even though the Chileans have announced that they will sell that weapon of mass destruction to any country in the world? Will the Prime Minister take practical steps to curb the greatest evil in the world—the international arms race?
It is precisely because we are seeking a greater level of arms control that that statement appears in the communiqué and we have taken other initiatives elsewhere. Of course, countries retain the right of self-defence, but we invite all those that export arms to take great care, as Britain does, over to whom they export arms.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the conclusions reached at Luxembourg amply demonstrate that my right hon. Friend—to use the term of the Leader of the Opposition —is "winning for Britain"? Is he not also winning for the development of a European Community that is sensibly and pragmatically based?
In our discussions within the Community on the two intergovernmental conferences, we have sought to lay down the right framework for the future development of the Community. That is an immensely important job over which it is worth taking considerable care, and we are seeking to do so.
In respone to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), was not the Prime Minister adamant that there was no question of the Community lifting sanctions against Iraq? Has the right hon. Gentleman read the absolutely spine-chilling report of the Harvard medical school, which asserts that 170,000 under-fives are likely to die this year? Because of the lack of generating plant and medicines, there is the most appalling risk of gastro-enteritis, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. In those circumstances—and not even for humanitarian reasons, but for the sake of the general impression within the Arab world—shoulcl not the right hon. Gentleman reflect on his policy?
The hon. Gentleman may have been misled by what I said. Medicines are not covered by the present sanctions, so they can be sent to Iraq. Food can be exported with the approval of the humanitarian committee of the United Nations. Medicines and food should be going to Iraq, and they were not covered by my response to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).
Does my right hon. Friend agree that firm immigration controls are essential for good race relations within the Community, and that some European countries are having to learn that lesson very quickly? Does he further agree that the problems of drug trafficking, international crime and serious crime more generally are very important? Did he also make progress with those issues?
I share my hon. Friend's views about the importance to good race relations of proper control of immigration. On the question of drug control, we examined and agreed to develop further the proposition by Chancellor Kohl to develop much greater co-operation between police forces in Europe specifically to combat the problems of drugs and other organised crime.
Was it not rather ungrateful of the Prime Minister to double-cross the Bruges group on economic and monetary union when most of that group voted for him in the Tory party leadership contest? Many of them are absent today, for some unknown reason. What will be the response of the president of the Bruges group?
As the premise is wrong, the hon. Gentleman's question is irrelevant.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the progress that he has made towards an agreement with our European partners will be a great encouragement to British industry and a boost to job prospects in Britain?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, with whom I agree. Industry and commerce generally will be much happier when the negotiations are concluded and they are aware of what the future holds for them.
Why cannot the Prime Minister define the word "federal"? Is he aware that federal institutions work only where there are proper democratic institutions, both at the federal and the state or national levels? What is happening about the development of democratic institutions in the European Community?
I said that I felt that one needed certainty in any treaty that one signed. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the dictionary, he will find at least five different definitions of the word "federal"—and that is in only the "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary." If he tries the longer "Oxford Dictionary," he will find more. If he refers to a German dictionary, heaven alone knows how many he will find.
Will my right hon. Friend comment on the concern felt by many of us that, unless the principle of subsidiarity is rigorously and precisely defined, far too much power will be left in the hands of the European Court of Justice in determining the extent to which the House and other national European Parliaments are yielding up sovereignty?
That, again, is a problem of definition which the Community itself is currently examining. Provided that we are entirely clear about what is meant by subsidiarity—and by that, I mean that nothing is done at central level that can better be done, and should be done, at national level—it would be entirely right to include such a definition in the treaty. I promise my hon. Friend that we will seek to achieve that.
I am one of those people who look forward to the day when this country is part of a united states of Europe— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—with full political, economic, and military integration. I realise that that view is not particularly popular on this side of the House; and it probably does not go down too well on the other side of the House either. The sovereignty of the House started to go with the treaty of Rome, and has gone that much faster with the signing of the Single European Act. Is it not time that the British people were more fully consulted? Does the Prime Minister completely rule out the use of referendums for submitting to the British people the far-reaching conclusions that will be reached at the intergovernmental conferences and beyond?
The hon. Gentleman and I have known one another for many years, and he has never shied away from unpopular views—and I respect him for that. I do not believe that referendums are the right way forward. I believe that there will be a general election in the next year or so—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think that is probable—indeed, possibly certain. When we have concluded the negotiations in December, as I expect we will have to do, there will be a certain amount of work to be done before it will be possible to put the conclusions of those negotiations before the House. So it is very probable that there will be a general election before the House is invited to accept the conclusions of Maastricht.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are doing splendidly. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that the limited and voluntary pooling of sovereignty within the European Community has been the main factor in stopping its members from having violent disputes among themselves? Is that not the lesson that the European Community has to teach eastern Europe?
That is certainly one of the lessons that we must teach eastern Europe, although there are others. My hon. Friend is right to point out that we have been pooling sovereignty with our European partners for 20 years. But we have not only surrendered a proportion of our sovereignty; we have gained a proportion of theirs.
With regard to the free mobility of labour throughout the European Community, what is the position in respect of those hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have long been domiciled in EC states? Are they to be denied the right of internal migration? Will they be confined to the countries in which they currently live?
No one will be confined in this country, but as I am not entirely sure of the conditions under which some migrant workers are resident in other host countries in the Community, I cannot answer in respect of them. However, I will find out the answer and write to the hon. Gentleman.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are determined to strengthen the rule of law within the European Community? Can he say what proposals the Government have to enforce compliance with the rulings of the European Court of Justice?
I can certainly tell my hon. Friend that we are determined to enforce the rule of law in every aspect of the Community and it is precisely for that reason that we have tabled our own proposals to fine nations that fail to adopt Community law.
Is the Prime Minister aware that it is well understood that in the past his predecessors as leaders of the Conservative party reached for the race card when their political fortunes were at a low ebb? Many hon. Members are deeply sorry that he appeared to reach for that card at the weekend. If he does not believe that to be the case, will he read newspaper reports of his remarks in Luxembourg and understand that what he said, and what was reported to be said by him, will give nothing but aid and comfort to racists in this and in other European countries? Will he give a clear undertaking that the United Kingdom Government will not join in any common agreement with other EC Governments about political asylum and refuge without the debate and approval of the United Kingdom Parliament?
The greatest damage to race relations in this country is done by people who seek to divine intolerance where there is none. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) heard what I said earlier to his hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). I invite him to reflect upon it and accept it.
Dare I ask my right hon. Friend, when he discusses future arrangements for decision-taking within the Community, to be very cautious about ceding extra powers to the European Parliament over the size and distribution of the European budget, because it has not shown itself to be very assiduous in protecting the interests of taxpayers, especially in countries like this one which make a net contribution to the European budget?
My right hon. Friend makes a valid point with which I agree.
As the Prime Minister knows, the Euro-federal juggernaut slowed but did not stop at Luxembourg. What he said in his opening statement about foreign, security and other policies being dealt with outside the framework of the Rome treaty is extremely important. Can he assure the House that the presidency statement, which in its description of the principles of political union says that it is all to take place within "a single institutional framework", is a clear mistake and something that we are clearly not committed to?
No. That statement refers to the treaty of Union and not to the treaty of Rome. At present the political union treaty has the temple structure, in which two parts of it, including common foreign and security policy and general home and justice matters, are on a basis of intergovernmental agreement and are not subject to the treaty of Rome and to the Commission. That is the present position under the draft treaty; it is not yet finally concluded. There are sharp divisions within the Community about whether it should be a unitary or a three-tier structure. I am firmly of the view that it should be a three-tier structure and that is a matter for which the Government will fight very hard in the months ahead.
As regards future discussion on the social charter, does my right hon. Friend agree that the main issue to concentrate on is even more imaginative retraining schemes so that unemployment in Europe may go down?
I agree with my hon. Friend. Twenty-three social action programmes have been published so far, and 12 of them have been agreed. We shall argue very hard indeed for the sort of measures that create jobs and help employees, and hard against the sort of measures that jeopardise jobs.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government have, in principle, agreed to economic, monetary and political union and are now merely negotiating the method and timing? In respect of his important answers to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) about the duty of judgment of the House, and in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), was he saying that it is only constitutionally appropriate for a Bill endorsing any treaty to be placed before the House after the next general election?
No, I certainly did not say that that was constitutionally the position. I said that as a matter of practicality that was likely to be what the position would be. If we were at the beginning of a Parliament when this matter was in its present state of affairs, I would think it entirely proper for the Government and Parliament of the day to decide. That is constitutionally proper and I think that I would be difficult to shift from that view.As regards economic and monetary union, I expressly said to the House earlier that I had entered a reserve on the question of a single currency. As to the principle of a single currency, when I introduced the hard ecu proposals in June two years ago, I made it perfectly clear that that could evolve into a single currency if that is what customers, individuals and countries so wished. That clearly would admit the principle, on the basis of its being a market-driven proposition.
Many of us feel much easier in our minds now that negotiations in Europe are in my right hon. Friend's hands.Today's European buzz words are "convergence" and "level playing fields". If we are to see a united Europe in any of our lifetimes, does that not mean a massive transfer of wealth from such countries as Britain, Germany and France to, for instance, Greece and Portugal? If we wait for natural convergence, no one will be alive to see the united Europe that everyone says he wants.
Over the past few years—most notably perhaps in Spain—we have seen the use of changing economic policies within individual countries which have dramatically improved their living standards and raised them predominantly towards those of the more developed and prosperous northern states in the Community.What brought that about was not a massive transfer of structural funds—although there has been some transfer —but the changing economic performance and opportunities of a single market, free of barriers, throughout the Community as a whole, and the right economic action within individual countries. That is the way in which we envisage Europe's growing and moving towards a level playing field. My hon. Friend is right: there are not sufficient funds in Europe to produce that result artificially through the transfer of structural funds.
First, does the Prime Minister agree that the main achievement of the Luxembourg summit was to delay any decision on the intergovernmental conferences? Secondly, did the Government make any positive contribution, or express any positive ideas, about the future shape of the European Community?
The answer to the first question is no. We were there, however, to take stock of where we are, and to set the orientations for the second half of this debate and the latter half of this year. In the last hour, I have set out precisely the measures that we and others took to lead us down that road.
Order. I will call hon. Members who have been rising regularly, but I want to move on at 4.45 pm, because I shall in any case have to place a 10-minute limit on speeches in the next debate. May I ask hon. Members to keep their questions brief?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who willingly voted to start down the European road in 1972, and confirmed ourselves on our journey in 1985, are now entirely happy with the route that he is taking? Will he accept from me—and, I think, from many of my colleagues—that it is nice to know what we shall do rather than constantly being told what we shall not do?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his generous remarks.
It is nice to hear an account of a stock-taking, rather than a stick-taking, Council.Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come to remind the British People that the Community represents much more than regulations about crisps, apples and so forth? It is far more to do with how we can create the prosperity in other countries that will make their populations want to stay where they are. It is about being able to send Foreign Ministers with clout to help to negotiate on difficult matters that put all Europe at risk. Is it not time to make that more positive message more clearly heard?
I agree. This is about building the right kind of Europe for our children: that is what we are now engaged in.It is instructive to note that, although we doubtless have considerable reservations about some areas in the Community countries around Europe are striving to join the Community, because they perceive it as the success that it undoubtedly has been.
May I return to the subject of Yugoslavia? Is my right hon. Friend aware that both Slovenia and Croatia have populations that are larger than those of many EC countries? If both areas hold referenda that come down firmly in favour of independence, will not the EC have to look sympathetically at the idea of recognising them as independent sovereign states?
I think that it is premature to take that view. In seeking to end the present conflict in Yugoslavia, I am not sure that it would be helpful for such a statement to be made. We all understand the aspirations of independence in Slovenia and Croatia, but my first concern is to try to stop what otherwise could be a potentially damaging and bloody civil war.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his approach to European integration has overwhelming support in the country? Will he disregard the shouts from the sidelines of his two predecessors, as he knows that he will receive overwhelming support when he makes his recommendations to the House at the end of the negotiations because it is his political judgment which we trust?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have no doubt that I shall receive much advice on many matters from all sources, and I shall listen most carefully to it. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I will have to make the decisions in Maastricht, and he and I will have to place them before the House and defend them.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that his predecessor was absolutely right when she said how important it is to include European foreign policy co-operation within the terms of the Single European Act? Will he build on the obvious success that has been achieved by ensuring that we proceed not by amendment of the treaty of Rome but through closer intergovernmental co-operation?
I most certainly will do that. As I said to the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), proceeding on an intergovernmental basis on foreign and security policy, on home affairs and on justice is the right way to proceed. We shall certainly do so.
Could it be that, characteristically, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has jumped to the wrong conclusions again? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the prompt response of the Council of Ministers to the dreadful problems in Yugoslavia showed that when there is a serious problem we can have united action? What would be quite wrong, and what the House and people of this country would not want, would be a permanent single Community foreign policy without the independent views of individual member states.
A common foreign and security policy will be successful only if it genuinely carries the support of each of the members of the Community. That is why we seek a common foreign and security policy based on consensus. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) rightly said that the Community was in a particular position to contribute to ending the Yugoslav conflict.
Among his many successes, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the European Council's endorsement of his initiative for a United Nations' register of conventional arms sales. Does he agree that the collective will of the Community can be used to bring this dangerous trade under control?