European Union (Accessions) Bill
Considered in Committee.
[MR. MICHAEL MORRIS in the Chair]
Extended Meaning Of "The Treaties" And "The Community Treaties"
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 1 is important. It provides an opportunity for several countries to join the European Community. If we do not approve the clause, that opportunity will not arise. I wish to make three points that I hope the Committee will consider in relation to clause 1 only.First, I hope that the Committee will bear it in mind that the countries of the European Economic Area have had one of the most shameful and scandalous tricks played on them about the EEA. They were approached in 1989 by Mr. Jacques Delors about the idea of an EEA, which was presented as an attractive half-way house that would give its members the advantages of the single European market without giving away their sovereignty and neutrality. Now that we know the details of the EEA, it is abundantly clear that all those countries have to accept about 60 per cent. of every EC law, whether or not they are a member. I hope that we shall bear it in mind when considering the clause that when we offer those countries an opportunity, it is not nearly as significant as some people think. It is not a choice between liberty and abandoning liberty, but a political decision. The countries have to obey the majority of EC laws, but they play no part in their drafting. Secondly, while Ministers gave us assurances in the earlier stages of the discussions when we were considering the merits of the Bill, I hope that our friends in Norway and Sweden will bear it in mind that all the assurances given to other applicants many years ago have been shown to be virtually bogus. That still happens. Hon. Members will remember that when Britain was joining the EC, we were told that it would lead to a dramatic improvement in trade with the EC. We always had a positive trade with Europe before we joined, but we now have a cumulative deficit of £100,000 million, which has done grave damage to our economy. We were also told that membership would provide a great boost to jobs. The continent is awash with unemployment and the EC faces a more serious economic problem than most other parts of the world where there are no wars. Thirdly, I hope that Norway will consider the assurances that we have given to our fishermen. I represented a Scottish constituency at the time and was astonished at the extent to which fishermen in Scotland and England voted for the EC because they were in no doubt that a clear assurance had been given that all would be well with the fishing industry. We have seen for ourselves that the value of the catch of North sea fish achieved by the British fishing industry has declined by more than three quarters since we joined.
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, especially to what he has to say about the fishing industry which, as he knows, is close to my heart. When the Foreign Secretary presented the Bill on Second Reading, he said that the accession of Norway would provide British fishermen with great opportunities from 1997 onwards. Is the hon. Gentleman a little sceptical about that promise?
Frankly, I do not believe one word of what was said. That is not because I regard Ministers as disreputable or as a bunch of liars, but because pledges are made to please everyone. I would ask the Norwegians to look at the declarations, which apparently guarantee everything. I hope that Norwegians will realise that the declarations are of no value; they have no legal binding and contain nothing one could refer to in a court. They are simply statements of intent with no validity. The Norwegians should not worry about the British, but think about the Spaniards, the assurances that they have already been given, and the promises and pledges that they have already made to their fishermen.
Is not one of the problems with the declarations that we do not know their status? It is part of the difficulty in understanding the way in which the European Court of Justice works. It is not a court of justice in the sense that our House of Lords is. It is a quasi-political body that constantly takes into account political gestures such as a declaration or the general mood of the Community at any one time.
My hon. Friend, who is wiser than me and knows far more about such matters, will know that declarations have no validity. They are shoved in to pacify and please people and give them assurances, but they are worth nothing. My hon. Friend knows that well, which is why, with his usual professionalism, he interrupted me to allow me to underline that point. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office is one of the honest Ministers—
He certainly is. I think that the Minister is a decent chap. He is someone whom I have always regarded as truthful and honourable, and he would not intentionally tell a lie.I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that we are being misled day after day. Only yesterday I had word—this will shock hon. Members—that a massive new job involving a Government office that was being carried out in Southend had been put off because there was a panic about spending. It coincided with the publication of a statement by the Paymaster General that, to our astonishment and horror, and despite all the assurances given by Ministers, in 1995 our gross contribution would increase by £2,000 million. That is £3 per week per British family. That came out of the blue. It was not expected. We also found out from a paper produced by the Commission last week that, even though Ministers had been telling us that agricultural spending would fall as a result of all these wonderful reforms, agricultural spending would exceed the legal limit agreed in Edinburgh by more than £1,000 million.
My hon. Friend said that the budget and our contribution to it will increase by a massive amount. I do not think that anyone anticipated that that would happen. Certainly, at the Edinburgh summit when the financial conditions were agreed, there was no indication that our budget would soar to those heights. Does my hon. Friend agree that the House would be well advised to throw out the financial mechanisms agreed at the Edinburgh summit to increase our contribution, if they come to the House?
As my hon. Friend knows, the House has no power. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will appreciate—I say this sincerely—that under the clause, in which we give the people of Norway and Sweden the opportunity to join the Community, what he is being told is basically utter nonsense.If one asks Ministers about the legal limits, they say, "It was agreed in Edinburgh. The legal limits will be adhered to. Nothing can stop it." Here is how they intend to do it. I have the papers here from the EC. I also have something from the Treasury, although it is not meant to be generally available. The Government will have to draw on the monetary reserves. Remember what happened the last time we had strict budget controls under our wonderful previous Prime Minister. The Government used the metric year, with which financial journalists, financiers and rich people are familiar. One had 10 months of spending and 12 months of income. That is how they kept to the legal limit then. Now they will keep it by drawing on monetary reserves. They will keep the limits agreed at Edinburgh by doing a fiddle and a fraud. I hope that hon. Members will appreciate when they pass the clause, first, that there is the clearest of evidence that the poor unfortunate people of Norway and Sweden will pay more per head in net contributions than people in the United Kingdom. I feel thoroughly ashamed, as I am sure that all hon. Members do, that the poor families in Southend-on-Sea have to pay—according to our Foreign Secretary—£28 a week extra in taxes and higher food prices simply because of the repulsive CAP. Next year they will have to pay £5 a week for their net contribution. That is £33 a week which the poor families of Southend and England, Scotland and Wales will pay unnecessarily.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has heard Front-Bench Members argue strongly that to widen rather than deepen the Community would make the United Kingdom's financial position easier. Surely now, even with the widening, we shall have to pay even more than we pay today.
My hon. Friend is so right. I know that people in Northern Ireland are suffering from poverty. I hope that the Labour party will highlight the position. I know that it fights for poor and neglected people. Are Labour Members aware, unlike some of the former silly twits in our Foreign Office, that poor families will pay £33 a week that they do not need to pay?I hope that in passing the clause we appreciate that we are telling the people of Norway and Sweden not to be misled by the assurances. Happily, we are well aware that the people of Sweden and Norway are great people. The opinion polls show that 52 per cent. of the people of Norway want nothing to do with the EC. Only 28 per cent. are in favour. We know that the good people of Sweden are of the same democratic mind: 43 per cent. oppose it and only 31 per cent. are in favour. I hope that they will appreciate that they should not believe a word of what they are told about the future. The Foreign Office is inherently optimistic. Ministers say, "Do not worry. It will be all right. Things will get better. The CAP will be reformed. Expenditure will be controlled. Budget limits will be imposed." People should not bother about that stuff. They should think about all the assurances that have been given about trade and jobs. They should appreciate that western Europe is awash with unemployment, that the position is appalling and that borrowing is getting out of control. I hope that by passing the clause we shall tell the good people of Norway and Sweden that if they say yes they will do great damage to their country and to the poor people of their country, who have suffered appallingly, particularly from filthy EC taxes such as VAT, which are simply a tax on the poor. More importantly, they will take themselves into an economy that is protectionist, bad, awash with unemployment and in great misery. I hope that we shall give a simple message to the people of Norway and Sweden: do not be conned, do not be fooled and remember that democracy should matter to every one of us.
A subject which, rightly, has exercised the House deeply when we have considered enlargement of the Community, is qualified majority voting—for the very good reason that it affects the powers of the House. No one would argue, whether he is in favour of extending qualified majority voting or takes the opposite view, that qualified majority voting is not an important issue for the House. When something is decided by qualified majority voting, our Government and, therefore, the House of Commons can be cut out. Therefore, the higher the threshold and the smaller the blocking minority, the greater the remaining powers that we have.I hope that the House will excuse a certain amount of simple mathematics. The treaty states that if all four countries join the Community, we shall require a blocking minority of 27. That is 27 votes out of 90—precisely 30 per cent. Let us go through a few what ifs. We know that Finland will join. It wants Europe to protect it from a resurgence of the Soviet Union and wants to be part of the European Union. One can understand why. But what if Norway votes no? It has three votes. Let us say that it decided to reduce the blocking minority by one. Then a blocking minority of 26 out of 87 votes would be required. That is a blocking minority of less than 30 per cent. So the powers of Her Majesty's Government and the House would be sustained and reinforced, albeit marginally. Let us suppose that Sweden alone decides not to join. It has four votes. Let us suppose that the blocking minority is reduced by about one. We should then require a blocking minority of 26 out of 86 votes. That is greater than 30 per cent. If Norway and Sweden dropped out together and two votes were taken off the blocking minority, the effect would be the same. The second and third options would make it more difficult for Her Majesty's Government to block. Therefore, it would reduce the powers of the House. That is for general, run-of-the-mill qualified majority voting. On some issues such as a proposal that does not come from the Commission, a decision is not dependent only on qualified majority voting. A threshold of member states has to agree. Put another way, a threshold of member states has to disagree. At present, if five out of 12 do not want it, it does not happen. Under the proposals, if all four countries join, if six out of 16 do not want, we also have a block. Suppose that Norway and Sweden do not join. Will five out of 14 or six out of 14 be able to block? It makes a lot of difference. We raised the question of qualified majority voting on Monday. My hon. Friend the Minister was helpful and referred us for guidance to article 2.2. So what happens if there is an unfortunate hitch, things do not go as the Euro-elite—the witch doctors of Brussels—would wish and some of these good countries decide in their wisdom that they do not want to join the EC? I am pleased to be able to tell the House that it is very straightforward. All one has to do is look at article 2.2, which states:
That is one for the lawyers, isn't it? Who decides whether something is indispensable? Does it have to be a unanimous decision that a change is indispensable? If there is no unanimity, there can be no immediacy. Let us suppose that Norway and Sweden do not join. At the moment, a blocking minority of 27 is required. If the Council is not unanimous, and my hon. Friend on the Council says that he does not agree immediately—and it has to be immediately—with the views of everybody else, what happens? The treaty says that 64 votes will be needed for a qualified majority vote. If the Government do not agree, and if some of the countries concerned do not join the Community, the powers of Britain and of the House are increased. If one looks at the text of the treaty and the words unanimously, immediately and indispensable, one sees that the Government could actually strengthen our protection with regard to qualified majority voting if one or more of the four applicant countries does not join the Community. It is important that the House should know today—before we agree to the clause—what action the Government will take and what the Government's interpretation will be of those facts. The treaty is a legal text, and I am sure that the Government totally understand its implications. I am sure that the Government and my hon. Friend the Minister understand how important the matter is with regard to the powers of Government and of the House. I am sure that he will be able to tell the House clearly and unambiguously what the Government will do in the circumstances that I have set out, and what the Government believe to be the meaning of that text within the treaty."The Council of the European Union acting unanimously shall decide immediately upon such adjustments as have become indispensable".
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I seek your clarification on a matter of guidance given to Members on page 119 of "Erskine May". My point of order relates to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), to whom I have given notice of my intention to raise the matter. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be in his place to respond, given that this is the Committee following the Second Reading of the Bill. The comments to which I shall refer were made on Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman said:
I seek your guidance on how that statement relates to page 119 of "Erskine May". Earlier in the debate, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had voted yes in the 1975 referendum, although he did not refer to the fact that he—"How dare the Foreign Secretary conclude that hon. Members have such short memories and that the people of this country forget so quickly the promises and commitments solemnly given in the House of Commons and in European summits about their approach to the European Union. In a desperate attempt to cling on to votes at any price, the Foreign Secretary abandoned all his long-held principles on Europe, whereas I never have."—[Official Report, 11 July 1994; Vol. 246, c. 700.]
Order. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman may continue in a second. I hope that he will relate this to clause 1 stand part, because that is the issue before us. If he does not, he will have to find a different occasion on which to raise the matter.
May I seek your guidance—
Order. I have given guidance, which I hope will be taken.
It will be taken, Mr. Morris. When will I have an opportunity to raise the matter, because my point of order relates to the Second Reading of the European Communities (Accessions) Bill?
The hon. Gentleman might like to see me later, and I shall be very happy to give any assistance that I can. But as of this moment, I am solely concerned with clause 1 stand part. The hon. Gentleman's point of order clearly does not relate to that.
This debate is important for the four applicant countries. If the four countries are successful—as I hope they will be—in joining the European Union, the Union will be enlarged in an interesting way. Three of those countries are neutral, and the fourth is a member of NATO.Under the treaty of European Union, the Western European Union will become an increasingly important part of the European Union. Article J.4, paragraph 2, of the treaty states:
It is clear that the "necessary practical arrangements" referred to will have big implications for the European Union. There may be new members coming into the European Union to add to the existing members which are not members of WEU—at present, the Irish Republic, which is neutral, Denmark, which has so far made it clear that it does not wish to be a member of WEU, and Greece, which is in the process of joining. As the European Union enlarges; as we approach the intergovernmental conference in 1996; as the reflection committee is established in 1995 to prepare far that conference—and given that it is clear that the future of Europe's defence and security will be an integral part of the discussions in the IGC and in the preparatory meetings for it—we will be in a complex position. There may be members coming into the Union and taking part in the preparatory process of that IGC which have not so far been either in NATO or in the WEU. What will be the implications of that for the future of European defence and security? We must look at what the Maastricht treaty says and at the direction in which things may be moving over the next few years. I am very concerned that not enough attention is given in this country to the defence and security aspects of the European Union. In the past, all of us have taken NATO for granted. The foolish decisions taken by the United States Congress about the situation in Bosnia and the lifting of the arms embargo have meant that there is a growing tension in the relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic. Fortunately, we have seen more positive and Atlanticist approaches coming from France in recent months. In February this year, the French Government adopted a new defence White Paper which made the most positive statements ever made by France about NATO and the transatlantic relationship. President Clinton recently addressed the French National Assembly. It may have been coincidence that his visit to Europe took place when our Parliament was not sitting; in any event, he did not come and speak to us. We know that he has been in Germany in the past few days, talking about the special relationship between the United States and Germany—[HON. MEMBERS: "Unique."] It is unique, but it is also important to recognise that our historic relationship with the United States cannot be taken for granted. Because of the attempts by the Conservative party to interfere in the last American presidential election, the relationship faces some difficulties that need to be dealt with. I hope that we will use all available channels to try to build up that relationship again. The French Government's White Paper makes it clear that they want a continuing American presence in Europe. When President Clinton spoke to the French National Assembly, he said that the United States would remain committed to a defence policy involving keeping American troops in Europe. It is quite probable, however, that the American Congress will not go along with the President's commitment to keeping 100,000 troops on European soil indefinitely. Budgetary pressures and pork barrel politics are likely to mean that the Americans are more in favour of closing bases in Europe than they are of closing bases in the United States. We must be careful about our approach to European defence and security; we do not want to send the wrong signals across the Atlantic to the American public and legislatures. The French White Paper was welcome in that respect, but we must go further. As the European Union grows bigger and as the Visegrad countries join in the next wave of enlargement after the Nordic countries and Austria, I hope that Europeans collectively will begin to do far more about our defence and security. If we do not, we may find a dangerous vacuum that we might rely on the Americans to fill—but the American commitment to fill it may not be as great as we might suppose."The Union requests the Western European Union, which is an integral part of the development of the Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications. The Council shall, in agreement with institutions of the WEU, adopt the necessary practical arrangements."
The hon. Gentleman has said that Britain should not take the special relationship with America for granted; and that the French seem to have made a pitch at improving that relationship; and that the Germans have too, if I extrapolate correctly. He strongly suggests building up that relationship—but then goes on to say that we must have a separate European defence strategy. The two ideas do not exactly go hand in hand.
I did not use the word "separate". I am not in favour of separating west European NATO countries or WEU countries from the relationship with the United States. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument—
Order. I am rather hoping that the hon. Gentleman will develop his argument about the four countries joining, instead of sticking to his brief, which covers transatlantic matters.
I will indeed, Mr. Morris. Sweden, Austria, Finland and Norway already make a significant contribution to the United Nations defence effort. We must try to persuade them to come closer to WEU and hence to NATO's collective security role in Europe and the world. If the United Nations Security Council asks NATO for help in some regional conflict, or if NATO asks WEU for such help, or if the two work side by side, a difficulty may arise. Member states of the European Union that are not in NATO or WEU may also want to contribute to such security efforts, but they are not institutionally integrated with the other Western European Union countries—Britain, France and, following the Karlsruhe judgment, Germany.There may be a way around this problem. NATO has developed a concept of joint task forces that might provide a practical solution. It will be far easier, however, if, having joined the European Union, the applicant countries at the time of the IGC in 1996 consider their relationship with European defence and security structures. After all, the IGC will have to consider the future of the Western European Union. Its treaty, based on the 1948 treaty of Brussels, has a 50-year life. The issue will therefore be central to the debate in 1996 and beyond. I believe that the Government should be doing far more to educate the public and Conservative Back Benchers about the importance of this issue. It is not enough to see the European Union as being merely about free markets or deregulation. We have to discuss the political and security aspects of Europe, including its defence policy and its defence relationships both with the United States and within the United Nations. It is high time we began a public debate about that. Some ambiguities remain. The Maastricht treaty seems to face both ways. Article J.4, paragraph 1, states:
Paragraph 4 of the same article, however, qualifies that statement:"The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions related to the security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence."
The reasons for the differing paragraphs are clear. During preparations for the Maastricht treaty, in 1990–91, there was a great deal of tension among the British, the Dutch and, later, the Italian Governments, which had a more Atlanticist approach and, on the other side, the Franco-Belgian approach which favoured building a separate west European defence identity. The choice was fudged, and the ambiguity remains. The fact is that WEU does not have an integrated military command structure or control over armed forces. It is still a shadow organisation which lacks the defence structures that NATO possesses. Still, the French Government, and some other Governments, have long pursued the ambition of a European defence policy without the United States."The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework."
Order. This is an absolutely fascinating lecture, but the hon. Gentleman really must relate it to the four applicant countries, which he has not mentioned in the past five minutes. I shall have to be very firm with the hon. Gentleman. He must relate his speech specifically to accession of the four applicant countries.
When Sweden, for example, joins the European Union, how will it relate to the defence debate? Will the Swedes, who have been neutral since 1812, be prepared to engage in a debate about the future of European defence and security? Will they take the attitude that they would rather not discuss the issue, or—as I suspect—will they decide, even though they are not members of WEU or NATO, that it is extremely important? Given the ending of the cold war, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fact that the Swedes need to have security in the Baltic and a close relationship with their neighbours, particularly the Norwegians, will they decide to take a role in that discussion? We should be doing all that we can to encourage Sweden, and likewise Finland, to become involved in that debate and, in doing that, influence Denmark towards joining the Western European Union.The position of Norway is more difficult. As was said on Second Reading and earlier today, it is not clear whether Norway will vote for membership of the European Union. I very much hope that it will, but I understand from my friends in the north of Norway that the problem of the rural and fishing communities is very serious. Oslo may vote in favour, but outside Oslo people may vote against. There is serious danger of a repeat of what happened in 1972. That would be a serious setback, not just to the future of European co-operation, but to European defence and security. If Norway stays out of the European Union and, therefore, stays out of the emerging, growing western European defence structures of the WEU, it will be more difficult to get Sweden and Denmark to play a more positive role. I very much hope that the Norwegian people will see the sense and logic of that future position, but I fear that they may not, in which case the architecture of European defence and security will become even more complicated than it could be if the four countries join the WEU. I should like to say something about Austria and its neutrality.
Before the hon. Gentleman moves on to Austria, has he the slightest evidence of any sort from anywhere for his ridiculous statement that Oslo is likely to vote yes? Does he agree that there is not the slightest sign of that from any opinion poll? Why did he say that and where is the proof?
I have no more evidence than the hon. Gentleman does about what will happen in future, but it is clear that the urban populations have been more positive about European integration, as have the young and educated populations, and that people living in rural areas—
That is not proof.
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will answer his point.People in rural and fishing communities have justifiable fears about the impact of Spanish trawlers and fishing quotas, but the people in urban areas are dependent: upon manufacturing industry and international trade. They know that the future of Norway as a wealthy west European country depends on access to markets and trade and co-operation with its Nordic neighbours. That is something from which Norway outside the European Union would not benefit indefinitely. For those reasons I believe that the urban populations, particularly in Oslo, are more positive than those in rural areas, but it is impossible to say whether or not that would represent a majority. I hope that it will.
On the basis of my experience of Norway and Norwegian communities, which extends over many years, I am not so sure that there is such a gap and distance between the urban and rural communities. May I also point out that many people in Oslo and its conurbation have strong family links with Bodo, Vardö, Hammerfest and other northern communities?
People who live in Tromso, Kirkenes, Narvik or the Lofoten islands will undoubtedly be worried about the impact of membership, just as the people who live in northern areas such as Lulea and Norrbotten in Sweden and the Nordkallotten in the Arctic circle will feel more peripheral to the European Union. They may well be more negative than those living in Stockholm, Malmo or other places in the south of the country. Nevertheless, I stand by my point and will now move on to talk about Austria.7.45 pm Austrian neutrality has to be considered differently from that of Finland or Sweden. After all, Austria was neutral because, after the second world war, the Russian troops withdrew voluntarily from Austria and a deal was struck whereby Austria became a neutral country when the Russians withdrew. Austria considers itself part of the main western European economic system, but it also sees itself as a bridge to Hungary and other central and eastern European countries. I believe strongly that Austria will have fewer difficulties in terms of integration with the Western European Union and the European defence and security structure than Sweden and Finland, but we also have to be sensitive to the fact that Austria borders on Yugoslavia. The political and economic problems in that relationship will be negligible compared with those of dealing with the continuing war and conflict on those borders. No doubt this is outside the terms of the debate and I shall not pursue the point, but it is imperative that the European Union does far more to get the warring parties in Bosnia together to bring about a peace settlement and put pressure not just on the Serbs but on the Government in Sarajevo, who are as much opposed to an indefinite peace treaty and compromise as the other side. All sides in that conflict bear responsibility, and we should be putting pressure on them all for agreement at this stage. The future of the Western European Union and the European Union will be greatly strengthened if there is a positive vote in the referendums in Sweden, Finland and, it is to be hoped, Norway. I am confident that, if the general election in Sweden results—as I expect it to—in the return to power of Ingvar Carlsson and the Social Democratic party, that will lead to a positive result in the referendum. I am worried that, if by some freak, the present Prime Minister, Mr. Bildt, remains in power, the voters will be less likely to support accession to the European Union. On that basis, it is in the interests of Europe, Britain and certainly Sweden and its neighbours if we get a Social Democrat Government in Sweden this year, as I hope, and am confident, that we will.
We have heard a most interesting analysis of the effects of the new applicant nations joining the European Union and the effect that that is likely to have on the emerging security policy.It is curious that the hon. Gentleman's useful and perceptive analysis seemed to reach absolutely the wrong conclusions. I congratulate him on spotting that article J.4 of the Maastricht treaty is a complete fudge that will be worsened by the admission of more neutral countries. The prime concern, however, should be the coherence of NATO, which the legislation undermines. For a few moments the hon. Gentleman sounded like an Atlanticist. To conclude that we are sending the wrong signals to the United States and that, to redress that, we need to develop the security policy of the European Union even faster is to get the wrong end of the stick. We need to explain to the United States and to Bill Clinton that European politics is not quite so simple as Mr. Clinton apparently thinks it is, and that we can construct a sensible defence and security policy in Europe only with the American relationship as its linchpin, as it has always been. NATO, not the European Union, has kept the peace in Europe for 50 years since the end of the second world war. The European Union has demonstrated the "efficiency" of its common foreign security policy through the conduct of its policy in Yugoslavia. God forbid that that should be translated to the security of the European Union as a whole. It will not work—it cannot work. An enforced consensus among countries with such diverse perspectives and views of the world—different Weltanschauungen, one might say—will never produce a coherent policy. NATO's effectiveness was built on the fact that only some of the European nations were involved with it and able to give it a coherent policy.
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's view of the importance of the American part of Europe's defence. Is it not possible, however, that Europe had become so excessively dependent on America that when it was left alone to intervene in an attempt to establish peace in the former Yugoslavia it could produce only a farce rather than any meaningful contribution with a chance of success?
Order. Before we go any further, let me point out that all references to Yugoslavia are way outside the terms of the clause stand part debate. I hope that hon. Members will recognise that, and return to the subject of the four specific countries mentioned in the Bill and their relationship.
Clause 1 is at the heart of the Bill, and at the heart of the accession of the four applicant states. What does that accession mean, and what sort of Europe will it bring us to? Listening to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Monday, I was struck by how differently each of us assesses the latest developments in Europe; having read the same evidence, we reach opposite conclusions. Most interestingly, in Monday's debate my right hon. Friend's optimism about the efficacy of current policy was confounded not just by Euro-sceptic critics but by Euro-enthusiasts: we agree on what is happening in Europe, but it does not seem to be the official Foreign Office line.The paradox of the enlargement, to which clause 1 is vital, is that while enlargement represents a step towards a new Europe—a wider, more free-trading Europe—the old Europe of Delors, Kohl and Mitterrand is still trying to reassert itself. I welcome the Bill and the clause, but I question whether we are seeing the dawn of the new Europe that we British Conservatives now envisage. Is the old Europe—the western Europe of the cold war—perhaps merely adapting its grip? The Europe of Monnet, Schuman and Adenauer, of Delors, Kohl and Mitterrand, was founded on the stability provided by the cold war. Those people's views and policies were forged by the aftermath of the second world war. They were and are among those who founded and promoted the western European Christian Democrat-Social Democrat consensus which built the western Europe that we know today. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer confessed to being an enthusiast of that tradition in his recent speech to the German Christian Democrat Union Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn. He explained how he had seen the Berlin wall go up 30 years ago, and described the impression that it had made on him. It should be added that the British political tradition never truly embraced that consensus, preoccupied as we were—and remain—with our changing global role in international politics. The cold war, however, created a certainty and stability in which the consensus provided comfort for a divided continent. Western Europe was divided from the east, overshadowed by the communist bloc and held in the US embrace of NATO. The subject of the clause is, most directly, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Three of those countries excluded themselves from NATO, and they all excluded themselves from one or more of the formal international structures. Nevertheless, they were all firmly embedded in the free west. In particular, the neutral nations were able to benefit from the effect of NATO's protection, but without the expense of commitment. Today, the Berlin wall which so shaped political opinions and created consensus in western Europe is down, the communist bloc has disintegrated, the cold war has ended and Germany is reunited; all of that certainty has gone. All over the world the post-war ground rules have been ripped up and we must radically alter our basic assumptions about that world. Much is better. In the middle east, there is more promise of a mutually agreed settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute; in South Africa, apartheid has been ended in a way for which none had dared to hope; and capitalism is newly confident, especially in the far east. Much is ominous, however. There is a new multitude of feuds, flashpoints and wars across the globe—
Order. I am sure that there are all sorts of flashpoints around the world, but not many are relevant to clause 1 stand part.
My point, Mr. Morris, is that European politics and the enlargement with which we are dealing cannot be immune to all those changes around the world.On the contrary, Christian democracy has been swept aside in Italy, is being subsumed into Gaullism in France and, even in Germany, is adopting a more overtly nationalist hue. Nor can British politics be immune; the question is, what should be our response? When Lady Thatcher first suggested at Bruges that the EC should be extended to include national capitals such as Prague, Warsaw and Budapest—and, by implication, Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden—she was regarded with hostility and derision. Now the enlargement of the European Union appears to be orthodox. Why has Germany, at first apparently hostile, so changed its view? The fact is that it has not. Whereas Lady Thatcher advocated EC expansion to break down the barriers which divided Europe and to promote the widening of free trade, this enlargement will have the opposite effect. As has been pointed out, although we no longer have a Berlin wall, there is a new wall across Europe—a wealth wall, erected by the west. We in the United Kingdom do not set limits to EU expansion. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister often speaks of his desire to see a free trade Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals, but others' enlargement ambitions are much more cautious because they are trying to maintain the old certainties of cold war Europe. This enlargement is only a very small first step towards the kind of Europe that will match the agenda set out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in an article in The Economist on 24 September last year. There is no sign in this accession treaty of the multi-layer, multi-speed, multi-track Europe that he advocated in his Ellesmere Port address.
Order. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman spoke on Second Reading, but these are Second Reading points. We are discussing whether clause 1 should stand part of the Bill; that clause relates to just four countries. The hon. Gentleman is now talking about other countries, other speeds and other articles which have nothing to do with clause 1. I suggest that he think again about continuing to read out a speech that he has written. In any event, he really must relate his speech to clause 1 stand part.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In fact, this treaty is aggregated with others, including the Maastricht treaty, and therefore automatically—through the acquis communautaire—includes reference to all matters relating to Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. If I may say so, it would be out of order to rule such matters out of order on the ground that they are irrelevant.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I recognise that his knowledge of the subject is deep. However, he is wrong again. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) wishes to challenge the Chair, I shall have to take appropriate action. This is not a Second Reading debate; it is a Committee stage and we are debating clause 1 stand part. There are four countries involved. If the hon. Member for Stafford thinks that this is a great joke, perhaps he will share it with me afterwards. We are dealing with four countries: we are not dealing with other countries that may wish to join the European Community at some time in the future. I make that point to the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) and I hope that he will return to relevant matters.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris.
I do not think that we want another point of order.
It is a different point of order. May I seek your guidance? The House will be grateful for your ruling on the previous matter. In a clause 1 stand part debate, it is normal for people to make speeches which are relevant to the clause and which are spontaneous in the sense of an intrinsic debate rather than reading a closely typewritten script somewhat akin to Kim Il-sung' s final speeches.
The House recognises that the hon. Member for Colchester, North has done an assiduous amount of research and preparation. Unfortunately, his research has gone beyond the clause under discussion. Perhaps he will amend his notes accordingly.
Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Morris. I apologise if I have been leading the Committee astray.My speech principally concerns clause 1, which refers to the accession treaty involving the four countries. If we approve the clause, it will take Europe in one direction or another; I wish to discuss which direction the Community is taking in approving the clause. In the accession treaty there is no sign of the development of a multi-track Community. The central pillar of the Union remains inviolate. None of the applicant states sought so much as an opt-out from the social chapter or from monetary union or from any other aspect of the European Community. By the accession they become obliged to accept every jot and tittle of the acquis communautaire and to accept its ever-widening reach and scope. The enlargement is likely to strengthen the centralising tendencies of the Community. It gives a wider field of national protagonists for the central institutions of the Community to play off one against the other. Even our vain efforts to achieve a minor concession on the arrangements for qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers was ruthlessly brushed aside and condemned as obstructive.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he is against the enlargement because of the fears about centralism that he has suddenly expressed?
If the hon. Lady had been paying attention to my speech, she would know that I have already said that I am in favour of the Bill, the clause and the enlargement.There are two conclusions to be drawn from this. First, the enlargement will serve to maintain the federalist agenda in the European Community. After all, that is what the applicant Governments want and it can be explained easily. The countries had no need overtly to join western Europe when they were held to us by the iron curtain. Today, particularly as small states, they fear exclusion from a bloc which is no longer defined by super-power politics but which defines itself by its supra-national institutions, its laws, policies and interests. Article B of the Maastricht treaty specifically establishes the objective of the Union
"to assert its identity on the international scene".
I have been listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's remarks and I acknowledge the consistency that he and many of his colleagues sitting around him have adopted on these matters. If the Bill and the proposed accession of the four countries, to use his phrase, serves only to maintain the federalist momentum of the European Union, how can the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues fail to vote against it since they are opposed in principle to any federalist momentum?
It does not accelerate the process that is already under way. It reinforces it. It does not reverse it in the way that the Government have declared. I shall deal with the only way to reverse the centralising tendencies of the European Community later in my comments.With communism no longer the defining threat, with NATO unsure of its ongoing role, with increasing emphasis upon Europe organising its own security—however unrealistic that may be—and against the background of endemic European protectionism towards the east, the applicant states feel safer in the embrace of the Franco-German axis than outside it. That is despite their superior economic performance over the past 20 years. Although I welcome their accession and their net contributions to the burgeoning EC budget, I wonder whether they will find that accession helps them to adapt more quickly to the ever more competitive world in which we live. Do they believe, vainly, that federalism will obviate the need to become competitive? The second conclusion is that the Government must continue to adapt new policies and a new coherent anti-federalist approach to Europe in time for the intergovernmental conferences in 1996. That is not helped by the present and rather laughable ambiguity on the single currency. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the fresh impetus that he has brought to our thinking with his writings and speeches. He is right to place emphasis on free trade and the wider enlargement needed to stabilise the new democracies in eastern Europe. He is right to labour the need to end the requirement for uniformity across Europe. The nation states of Europe are not regions to be absorbed into a superstate—they are Europe itself. By his Corfu veto, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is right to practise the tactics that he will need to employ to avoid the United Kingdom's absorption into a federal Europe in 1996. I congratulate my right hon. Friend because this is not retrospection or reaction. It is the sort of modernisation of the Conservative party that we must have if we are to remain in government, having already held office for such a long period. Neither Europe nor the world has stood still in the past 15 years, and nor must we.
I shall not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) as I want to make a few important points without detaining the Committee too long.On Monday the Foreign Secretary said that our task was to understand the need for change. It is because of that comment that I feel it necessary to intervene now. I believe that we must pass the Bill, but if we pass the Bill and do not follow it with other similar developments it will be an example of further unwisdom. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) may remember that when I first came to the House in the 1970s I spoke against entry into the Common Market. I had advanced a similar view for some years before then and I did so because I was convinced that a Common Market built on and almost exclusively concerned with the common agricultural policy was not necessarily in the interests of Britain or of a wider Europe. I spoke against it in the House and I voted against it. When the referendum debates took place I was the most junior and humble member of the Foreign Office team and I campaigned and voted against it. However, as a democrat I had to accept that the referendum decision was significant. When the Government saw the Single European Act through Parliament, that development had a considerable effect on those of us who had taken a different view. The logic now is that the widening of Europe is a process which must be continued. As the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) pointed out on Monday, there are serious implications because, as Europe widens, the pressure upon the common agricultural policy becomes even more acute and I believe that that is a highly desirable end. It might also be desirable if, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) pointed out, Europe becomes more intelligent in its approach to defence and security. That would be welcome. As you will be aware, Mr. Morris, I have probably served longer on the Council of Europe and the Western European Union than is good for me—certainly longer than any Labour Member or, I think, any Conservative Member. I have been closely involved in the developments there for a long time. In April, a planeload of Russian parliamentarians, led by Mr. Zhirinovsky, came to Strasbourg. He was clearly opposed to the European developments of which hon. Members on both sides of the House approve. In a serious speech, he called for the restoration of the Baltic states as Russian provinces. He also made a number of other serious comments. The worrying thing was that not one of the substantial number of Russian parliamentarians, most of whom were supposed to be strongly opposed to his policy, would publicly dissent from his outrageous comments. Last week in Austria, Mr. Zhirinovsky paraded his views at the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. He attacked the west for rearming and planning to invade Russia. As history changes rapidly, the House should consider his other comment that there would soon need to be an eastern European economic bloc. He did not say a new eastern European military alliance—even Mr. Zhirinovsky recognises economic weakness when it stares him in the face. He could perceive the possibility of two Europes developing, which would be hostile to each other. Such a development would not in the best interests of our sub-continent. For that reason, the Bill should be passed, but it must be succeeded by further Bills which will widen Europe in an intelligent way or it will be of little value. We should pass the Bill, even at the cost of treading on those countries which value and benefit from the common agricultural policy a great deal more than we do, with only 2 per cent. of our population dependent on agriculture. The political health of Europe in the 21st century requires this measure. I welcome the accession of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria because they are more natural allies of the British than some other member states. As Europe widens to the south, it may bring in countries warmer than Britain normally is, but less notable for their political probity than we normally are. They may be more excitable or less efficient than we normally are. We need Sweden, Norway and Finland to be with us. I am less enthusiastic about Austria. I, and those who study Europe carefully, perceive the possible development of a German hegemony, with Germany, Hungary, the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Slovenians forming a tighter economic accord than may be good for member states, even the more recently amiable French. That development must be balanced by the addition of the Baltic countries at the earliest possible date, which would provide a balance in the European Community. Those countries would inject not merely probity, but a closer attachment to efficient administration than some people have become accustomed to in Brussels in the past 20 or 30 years. For that reason, I welcome the Bill and the clause. The Minister should understand, however, that if the Government do not seek to establish good relationships with those countries and to ensure that the Community's boundaries continue to be changed quickly, we shall not gain any advantage. There is another anxiety. You may have been present, Mr. Morris, on the historic occasion in Strasbourg when Mr. Gorbachev spoke about the need to build the common house of Europe. I listened with passionate approval to that speech. Unlike some Conservative Members, I was on my feet when Mr. Gorbachev walked in. I was delighted, however, that everyone was on his feet when Mr. Gorbachev walked out at the end of his important speech, which was entirely consistent with the aims of the Bill. 8.15 pm Unfortunately, both the British Government and the American Government issued statements on Mr. Gorbachev's speech earlier than they should have done—even before he had sat down. He started his speech an hour late because his journey from Paris was delayed. The comments of the British Government and the American Government after that important, visionary speech were aimed at pouring cold water on and dampening the implications of Mr. Gorbachev's speech. We treated him badly that day and the summit treated him badly when it left him exposed and vulnerable and allowed him to be overthrown. The fact remains that Mr. Gorbachev's vision was correct. If we are to achieve the common house of Europe and, therefore, a peaceful Europe, we must ensure that the momentum created by the Bill is maintained. If it is not maintained, the Bill merely causes further difficulty and an internal hotch-potch of bureaucratic incompetence. I remain critical of the administration and the limited vision which still exist in Brussels; only through the pursuit of a wider vision shall we achieve peace in the sub-continent, which has eluded us for so long.
I am grateful to be called and I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I wish to speak briefly, despite the encouragement of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—I shall resist that temptation, but, as always, I am grateful for his support. I welcome his heckling because it means that at least one is being listened to.I did not wish to be unkind and mean to my distinguished colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), who spoke earlier. It was just that I share the informal, personal view of my other colleagues that it is bad practice—I hope that this will not annoy him—for hon. Members to speak from typescript in the House. Obviously, Ministers have to do it because they make official statements and sometimes one has to have a lot of typescript on an important speech if it involves a complex matter. Some typescripts are read word for word—although that was not the case with my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester, North and for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson)—and are written by a public relations man or the anti-Europe group, whose well-funded office is located over the road, and which can provide ample material for the young fogeys to make their—
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Is it possible that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is incapable of reading and that jealousy is prompting his remarks?
I think that the occupant of the Chair deprecates personal remarks in the Chamber and in Committee. I would have hoped that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) had been here long enough to recognise that courtesy is the basis of good debate.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris.
Order. I repeat that courtesy is the basis of proper debate.
I was referring to the reality of the extremely well-funded organisation across the road that provides material to the anti-European parliamentarians.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris. Madam Speaker has ruled that it is inappropriate for my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) to refer to us as anti-European. It is not true, and I wish him to withdraw his remark.
The hon. Gentleman is getting a little excited. I know that it is hot outside, but it need not be that hot inside. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) has the Floor.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris.
It is a genuine point of order.
Order. I hoped that it would be genuine.
Order. I have the Floor at the moment. I hope that the hon. Member would always make genuine points of order. I am asking the hon. Member for Harrow, East to debate clause 1 stand part. Perhaps we can proceed on that basis.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to me by name. May I say that no public relations firm has ever written any part of my speeches?
I am not sure that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood was accused of not having written any of his speeches. I have listened to him many times and I know that he makes very good, short, poignant speeches.
That is exactly what I said. I was paying tribute to my hon. Friend for his wonderfully spontaneous and moving speeches, which he makes without notes. That is the best method of all, but there is always a half-way house that involves a little bit of writing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North may prove if he catches your eye, Mr. Morris.I think that the House will welcome not only the Bill as a whole but the clause, especially in view of the agreement of one of the new member countries. We had a very thorough Second Reading debate on Monday. We can speak only according to our own suppositions and speculation and the evidence accumulated on our visits if we get a chance to go to those countries or talk to their citizens, but I think that the other three will vote in their referendums to join. I think that I am right in saying—
They will not have ecus.
In ecus, or £1,000 perhaps? I think that I am right in saying that referendums are constitutionally compulsory in all four countries. There is a great campaign in the remaining three to get a significant yes vote. I concede that the biggest question mark is over Norway. Some hon. Members may have agreed with me on Monday when I said that it is not compulsory for those countries to join. They can simply go away—no one is insisting that they join the European Union. However, I think that they would be sad about that on reflection because it would be a great opportunity missed. The European Union will gain in strength with this enlargement, as it did from the recent enlargements which brought in the southern countries. There is a great accretion of collective strength in the south and the north of Europe coming together.I do not want to alarm my hon. Friends, but they have to accept the reality, which is that we are one member state among 12 at the moment and, I hope, 16 when this constitutional process is completed in the existing and putative member states. I have the impression that the new member states are interested not only in widening but in deepening the process as a result of their accession.
This issue has arisen many times. My hon. Friend is always prepared to elucidate, so perhaps he could clarify what he means by "deepening".
I shall do so, subject to my not irritating the Chair by going on too long because we risk having another general Second Reading debate. I therefore relate my comments to the clause stand part debate.My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) made the most open, straightforward and honest speech on Monday in which he outlined what he thought was the future direction of the European Union. I agreed with him, although he, of course, deplores and disagrees with it. However, he was right, and I welcome it. I am delighted to be able to remind the House, with great emphasis but without being pompous—which I hope that I never am—[Interruption.] I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood is—
Boring but not pompous.
The distinction between the two is a matter of ontological debate.Colleagues must accept the reality that the European Union wants to proceed in this direction. I know that a small number of parliamentarians—unfortunately mostly gathered on the Conservative Benches—who want to halt the process and feel that they can perhaps do so in this country. I doubt that they can in view of the inexorable reality, but they cannot halt it in the other countries—not in the existing 11 member countries or in the four new members countries. On Monday, I cited the definitive and unequivocal adherence to deeper integration evidenced in all four new member states.
I shall give way in a moment, but not for long. What I have to say is relevant to the clause stand part debate, I think.In column 688 of Monday's Hansard, I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary whether he agreed with that proposition and was rather depressed to find that he did not. He did not answer my question directly. The four new members have all expressed a wish for deeper integration, and we should acknowledge that deepening and widening go together.
My hon. Friend will have noted the Foreign Secretary's remarks as reported at columns 685 and 687 of Hansard on Monday. He referred to
He had previously said:"the old-fashioned idea that European construction came only by the steady centralisation of power in Brussels."
My hon. Friend has been a consistent supporter of the European vision for 30-odd years—"Old certainties are changing; unthinking centralism is a theme of the past."—[Official Report, 11 July 1994; Vol. 246, c. 685–7.]
Perhaps it is 40 years. Will he tell us over what period he has seen any change in what the Foreign Secretary describes as "unthinking centralism"? Is that just another bland description of Europe to sell to those who wish to accept a particular view? Is there any objective evidence to prove that the "unthinking centralism" has been abandoned?
My hon. Friend will have to put that question to the Foreign Secretary—it is up to him to answer it personally. I have never accepted that particular description of the way in which the Community has developed. It has always been decentralised in the sense that sovereign member states work together, with majority voting becoming more frequent as a result of the Maastricht arrangements—something that was long overdue and about which we were enthusiastic in terms of the single market. The only manifestation of centralism is the fact that there is one body in Brussels—the Commission—deploying the new legislation on behalf of the member Governments, more and more at their request. There is no danger of the Commission becoming an overweening, powerful bureaucracy, unaccountable to anyone. That is merely black propaganda—the myths and nonsense that we hear about the development of the European Community.
No, I shall not give way. If I did, the debate would become too long. In addition, I am planning to give way briefly to my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester, North and for Stafford if they still wish to intervene.I was asked what "deepening" means. Simply and straightforwardly, it means following the prescriptions and procedures laid down in the Maastricht treaty. I can think of no greater sublime nonsense than that we work hard—and far too long, in fact, over a ridiculously attenuated Committee stage dealing with the ratification of Maastricht—and then proceed to denounce it. The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) referred to Mr. Gorbachev. I remember his last visit when he came to an Inter-Parliamentary Union reception. He has a delicious sense of humour and said that it was marvellous to revisit the most robust democracy in Europe, but that he recognised the same faces from his previous visit in 1980, despite the intervening elections. That was an interesting reflection on our Parliament. In this mother of Parliaments—apparently the most mature of all Parliaments—we have to bear in mind that we are talking about sovereign countries working together and that they suffer no loss of sovereignty from the collective arrangements. That is the way that they want to go. In a European Union of such strength and collective maturity, which has the wisdom of many years of constitutional and political development, we cannot say that we disagree, without leaving. In the end, the other member states will say that if we disagree so fundamentally and whinge and moan so much, we should pull out. What would our reaction be, then? I see a wonderful smile on the face of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor).
Order. The hon. Member for Harrow, East has also got rather carried away. We are debating clause 1 stand part, which deals with four new member countries.
I was merely referring to that, Mr. Morris, because there are some people in those four countries who were asked, "Do you think Britain should leave?" They all said, "No, we want Britain to stay."
They want our money.
They are all contributors to the budget. That was the original motive of the founding countries when they pleaded and begged us to join, and that process continues with the arrival of the one plus the three.Again, it must be said that my hon. Friends have a duty to the public. They mislead the public if they misrepresent and mix up fantasy and propaganda, and pretend that it is reality and fact. Let us look at what the malevolent British newspapers, from the tabloids to the broadsheets, said about the Austrian referendum. Austria was definitely going to voteno—that is what the papers said. If there were time, and if you were patient, Mr. Morris, I could produce the bits and pieces from the newspapers with the relevant quotations. But look what happened in the event. That is why I do not think that Norway will necessarily be such a disappointment. I hope that it will not—but that is the biggest question mark. In the other two countries there is great enthusiasm for deepening, and for going all the way with the acquis communautaire, which they all accept solemnly. I am sorry that that feeling is not shared by my colleagues here—that phalanx of distinguished fogeys, young and old. I mean that in the most praiseworthy sense of the word; it is a colloquial description, now used by the press, of our anti-European colleagues.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
My colleagues do not want to accept—
My hon. Friend said that he would give way to me.
I shall not give way now.My hon. Friends do not want to accept that that all includes the single currency. I have never heard of any more absurd suggestion—it produces real mirth in the four new countries that are about to enter—than the idea that in the single market we shall harmonise every piece of instrumentation, all physical equipment, all the financial instruments of one kind and another, the dimensions of bricks, nuts and bolts, and all measurements and dimensions, but that there is to be one exception—the most important lubricant of all, the currency. Apparently we are to say, "No, no. Sorry, there are 16 of those." A man or woman from Mars would ask, "Have they gone crazy? Have they gone mad?" It is an absurd notion. The four new countries accept all those things. Their opt-outs are non-existent, with the possible exception that the ability of foreigners to buy houses in one of those countries—Austria, I believe—will be limited. The Austrians may be worried about the purchasing power of the citizens of a neighbouring country. But there are no other exceptions. There are no opt-outs or hesitations of any kind. Those countries are joining enthusiastically, despite the fact that there may be geographical and agricultural difficulties in the Nordic countries, and Austria had some hesitation in respect of some of its industrial—
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I shall in a second, very briefly.Austria had some hesitation in respect of some of its industrial and commercial sectors. My hon. Friends really must accept all that. The tragedy of the European election campaign for the Conservative party was the fact that fantasy, propaganda and self-induced sublime nonsense of the worst kind took over from reality when we were talking to the public.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I have given way to my hon. Friend once already, and I am just about to give way again, so I hope that my hon. Friend will restrain himself. I hope that he will catch your eye, Dame Janet, and make his own speech in a moment. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, and grateful, too, for his advice on how I should conduct myself in the House. He has always been generous with his advice. However, the implications of what he is saying constitute a criticism not of those of us who criticise the centralising process, but of the Government for enunciating that the centralising process has been stopped. My hon. Friend agrees with me that the centralising process has not been stopped; the only difference between him and me is that I support the Government's objective, which is to try to stop it. Does he support the Government's objective of avoiding a federal Europe, which was the original aim before we set off to negotiate the Maastricht treaty ?
I knew that it was a mistake to allow my hon. Friend to intervene because again he misunderstands.I shall finish by expressing briefly a couple of descriptions of what I believe is the understanding of subsidiarity as it is perceived in operation in the modern world in the four new countries. It means that they too recognise the nonsense of the extended and continuing unfair attacks on the Commission in Brussels, which has had more and more to do in recent years. That has happened partly because of that pernicious institution, the ad hoc development of the European summit, which has done much harm by loading the Commission with more and more tasks. One of the worst features of the summit was the Saturday night dinner. At least we have done away with that now, and the meetings tend to end on a Saturday afternoon, which is a great improvement. The Saturday night dinner, armed as it was with delicious clarets and other wonderful wines, induced the leaders of Governments to say to the Commission, "Do a study on that," "Do a report on this," "Let's ask the Commission to look into this or that." And away went the Commission from the summit with yet another load of work. One of the best examples of all was a result of the intergovernmental process, not of the overweening tyrannical European Commission foisting its views on a hapless unwilling public in all the member states and on all the member Governments. That was the plan for monetary union itself, which came from an intergovernmental committee of central bank governors chaired by Jacques Delors, who was originally rather an unwilling chairman. That should be put on the record. He said, "Thank you very much for asking me, but I am rather busy. Could you find someone else?" But eventually he agreed to do it. That is the reality that we never have the chance to hear about in the British media. My understanding of what the four countries mean by subsidiarity has been helped by the fact that I have had the opportunity of discussing such matters with various people in those countries. The modern concept goes into the three strands of effective practical subsidiarity. First there is a whole panoply of domestic politics and legislation that does not come under the European Union at all. We all have our favourite examples. I think of domestic education policy as one of the classic examples, and the national health service is another. None of that is anything to do with the European Community. That is one sense of subsidiarity, whereby the nation states have plenty in their own terrain and territory that does not come into the European panoply of legislation or directives. The second strand is that which was originally designed at the request of the member Governments. I emphasise the fact that that is the basis on which all such things are done. The sovereign member Governments constantly ask the Commission to produce more legislation on this, that and the other—
Order. What has that to do with clause 1?
I am just about to explain to you, Dame Janet, to your satisfaction I hope, that that is directly relevant to clause 1, concerning how the Swedes and the other countries that will enter have recently thought about such matters.We have the Brussels-produced legislation on behalf of the sovereign member Governments. In the four countries that will operate in the same way. According to the treaty of accession they accept all those procedures, whereby there is then a devolution back to the member state on how that legislation is to be constructed.
Will my hon. Friend give way very briefly?
No, I shall not give way now, because I do not want speak for too long.We see already that the stream of legislative instruments coming from the Commission week by week—we deal with them in our European Select Committee—is now about one third of the size that it was a while ago. That is because the single market legislation is all finished. That is why there is a sudden drop, even apart from the Commission's willingness to say that it would legislate only in important areas in future, so long as the member Governments did not load it with additional tasks found within the treaties—the nearest thing that the European Union has to a constitution. The third area is when Commission legislation is withdrawn and left completely to the member state. If there were a project on the table the Commission would drop it, or it would not proceed with a new one if one had not yet been devised. Everybody would welcome those three strands and say that that was the modern expression of subsidiarity for the four new member states. We do not have the chance to read the media of those countries in great detail—by definition, we are too busy—but I have not noticed in any of the debates on accession in any of the countries any hesitation about the concept of practical subsidiarity. So what is the propaganda and the anxiety in this country, other than self-induced, self-imagined fantasy of the worst kind, which I think is grossly misleading and unhelpful to the British public? It causes a vacuum of enthusiasm and great hesitation about our membership of the European Union, which is not found in other countries—
So it is just us?
—except, of course, the manifestations of the recession—
If people are unemployed, how can they be enthusiastic about the development of any union, let alone a European Union, which is too vast and too great to grasp—[Interruption.] The fact that I am being heckled by some of my colleagues shows that what I am saying is perfectly correct, and acceptable in other forums. Otherwise my hon. Friends would not be heckling me.My conclusion is that when those four countries are in the Union, which I hope will have happened by the end of this year, we shall see—
I am sorry that my hon. Friend is so unhappy about that. We shall see an intensification of the deepening which strikes such terror into his heart and alarms him, because he knows that that is the reality, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly said on Monday. [Interruption]
Order. This is not a private conversation; it is a debate.
There is considerable substance in the argument of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) that the processes of widening and deepening are not mutually exclusive.In response to an earlier intervention by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) made disparaging comments about the European Court of Justice. I should have thought that, with the accession of the four countries, if all four join—I have much greater concerns about the anxieties felt by many Norwegian people than the hon. Member for Harrow, Fast has—the European Court of Justice, despite the disparaging remarks of the hon. Member for Southend, East, will be the supreme court, in which 17 legal systems will be concerned. There will be the Scottish legal system, the English and Welsh legal system, and others. The court's decision-making almost inevitably ensures a deeper degree of integration of the 16. We can see what power the court has in terms of domestic legislation. At this very moment, the Government have a case at the European Court of Justice which relates to the payment of invalidity benefit. I have no doubt that if Norway becomes a member, the Norwegian Government and perhaps the others too will one day find themselves at that court in Luxembourg. There is a great deal of substance in what the hon. Member for Harrow, East says. The Minister has been something of a bystander in this debate. I should like to ask him a couple of questions. It is surely the case that the countries coming into the European Union have to honour certain obligations. My question for the Minister will, I am sure, be picked up by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) if he catches your eye, Dame Janet. What is the position concerning the activities of the Norwegian whaling industry once Norway becomes a fully integrated member of the European Union? I believe that Norway has some flexibility in terms of its membership of the European Economic Area. Is it the case that the rules concerning that maritime activity are much tougher? Can the Minister state that, when Norway becomes a member, it will have to cease forthwith this disgraceful maritime activity? That question was put to me by a group of schoolchildren in my constituency. I awarded them 10 out of 10 for their perceptiveness in asking such a question. One of them said, "Ah, Dr. Godman. The Norwegians will have to stop hunting these whales when they become members of the European Economic Community." It is a little old-fashioned for a 14-year-old to refer 10 the European Union as the European Economic Community. However, the question is important. As a member of the European Union, Norway may have to honour certain obligations. I should like the Minister to tell us whether that is one of them. I return to the speech by the hon. Member for Harrow, East. Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), he seems to be utterly confident that the Norwegian people will say yes in the referendum. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth said that the people living in and around Oslo will out-vote the people living in the northern Norwegian fishing communities. I am not so sure that that can be safely predicted. My family have long experience of working with Norwegian fishermen and their communities. When my father was injured while fishing off northern Norway, he received hospital treatment in Vardoe. More recently, when a brother of mine was injured on his trawler, he was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Bodo. Our links with the Norwegian fishing communities are fairly strong. 8.45 pm There is no point in dismissing these people's anxieties. They have deep-seated fears that their communities could be fatally harmed by the imposition of the common fisheries policy. Those communities are part and parcel of the Norwegian culture, as acknowledged by the metropolitan types down in Oslo. There is concern, and the Norwegian Government will have to pay heed to it. In Norway, there may well be another vote—perhaps by a narrow margin—against joining the Union, largely because this important industry and its communities are threatened. Some people say that they do not trust the Norwegians. The ones I do not trust are the Spanish fishing operators. As was the case with the fishermen from the former USSR, the Spanish fishermen will sweep the seas clean. They will clean out grounds and then move away. The Norwegians cannot afford to clean out their grounds; that is why they have such tough policing regulations for those who fish in their waters. I have a question for the Minister about the obligations that the Norwegians will have to honour. I refer to what the Foreign Secretary said on Monday, when I was unable to persuade him to give way:
What are the new opportunities? If the Minister cannot give me an answer this evening, I hope that he will be his usual courteous self and will write to me. If new opportunities will be offered to fishermen from United Kingdom fishing ports, presumably they will have to be offered to the Spanish as well, although their history of fishing in Norwegian waters is much more sparse than our long tradition of fishing in Norwegian fishing grounds."Our fishermen will have new opportunities in Norwegian waters from 1997 onwards."—[Official Report, 11 July 1994; Vol. 246, c. 694.]
My hon. Friend referred in relation to whaling to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). If the whaling matter is resolved by a reduction or an elimination of whaling, which it could be, and if the threat of Spanish fishing becomes a reality, is it not true that a recourse to agriculture, which may be the alternative in the northern parts of Norway, would be limited by the imposition of the common agricultural policy? The threat may be threefold, even if one course of action may gain some sympathy from the British public.
What my hon. Friend says makes sound sense. I am not a lawyer, but, in my view, the whaling question will finish up in Luxembourg. I believe that it will go to the European Court of Justice. I hope that, if the Norwegian Government refuse to stop whaling on accession—if the Norwegian people agree to accession—the European Commission will take the Norwegian Government to the European Court of Justice.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, when the Council of Europe considered the matter a few months ago, Norwegian whaling policy met with the approval of the assembly? Labour Members voted against it, but, unfortunately, the Liberal and Conservative votes were cast in favour of Norway's whaling policy. That may well have some influence to bear on the diplomatic direction pursued by the British Government, and possibly that of other member states.
I can only agree with my hon. Friend. However, the European Commission—another powerful, centralising institution—will have its power enhanced by a wider membership.There is another point to consider about fishing and the Norwegians with regard to their tough policing regime, which I mentioned earlier. We shall see some fun and games when the Spanish try their tricks in Norwegian waters—the kind of tricks that we are used to on the west coast of Scotland and that the fishermen are used to in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, because the Norwegians will hit the Spanish for six if they try their tricks. I hope that the Norwegians will be supported by the European Commission in that regard.
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, under directive 92/43, appendix v, I think, whaling will be totally illegal if Norway joins the European Community. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the appropriate question to ask the Government is whether they would go for a derogation in the event of Norway joining? The law is abundantly clear: the directive could not be clearer. The only question is whether the British Government or others will or will not agree to a derogation.
I am grateful to be aided and abetted by the hon. Gentleman. Incidentally, when my wife was a social worker in his constituency in deepest Glasgow, she thought that he was a first-class constituency Member of Parliament. I am sure that he does the same job in Southend.He is absolutely right. What is the Government's position if those circumstances arise? For what it is worth, my view is that the European Commission will intervene correctly by taking the Norwegian Government to the European Court of Justice. However, given the backlog of cases from which that court suffers, a decision would not be reached for at least two years. Nevertheless, that institution, that supreme court, will be the final arbiter and not the Council of Ministers—not derogation, but that remarkable supreme court, which is aiding and abetting the deepening of the Community. May I ask the Minister another question, which also relates to the Norwegians' obligations when they take on membership of the Community. We in Scotland are deeply concerned about the harm inflicted on our salmon farming industry by the deliberate dumping of farmed salmon into markets in what we now call the European Union. The Minister knows about the issue, as I think that I have mentioned it to him before, and I have certainly mentioned it to his right hon. and hon. Friends. I believe that, under the terms of the treaty, certain restrictions are placed on Norway concerning the European Economic Area, but am I right in thinking that, once Norway becomes a fully fledged member of the European Union, the regulations governing such exports, sold at such low prices, will be much tougher, and that the Norwegians will find that it is a much stricter regime once they are completely through the gate and are a full member of the European Union? I return to the Foreign Secretary's promise of more opportunities for our fishermen in Norwegian waters following the accession of Norway. What does that mean? Does it mean that access restrictions will be eased, and that more of our fishing vessels from the east coasts of England and Scotland will be able to fish Norwegian waters, or does it simply mean that a certain number of vessels will be allowed to continue to fish in those waters? I was struck by what the hon. Member for Harrow, East said about the deepening and the widening of the Community. Those processes are combined. We are moving, if not towards a federal Europe in the next few years, certainly towards one which is increasingly centralised. I deeply regret the Government's interpretation of article 3b of the Maastricht treaty, which deals with the application of subsidiarity. I should like to see a much greater devolution of political decision-making to a Parliament in Scotland—and, indeed, to local authorities throughout the whole of the so-called United Kingdom. The scrutiny of European legislation by the four countries' elected representatives in Strasbourg and in their own national Parliaments will bring added democracy to what is at the moment something of a ramshackle edifice, especially when we think of all the fiddling which goes on in some countries and of the misappropriation of structural and other funds, which occurs on a daily basis elsewhere in the so-called European Union.
In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), as so often on European affairs, was a veritable Valiant for Truth. He has sought to look behind the seven short lines of the clause and to come to the heart of matter. It is, as he explained, essentially financial; I shall return to it later.My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) proved himself, as in his youth, a good sapper and miner, inasmuch as he undermined the Government's position on the question of qualified majority voting after the putative accession of the four applicant countries—particularly as we do not, of course, know whether they will all join. One wonders whether we ought to be passing this legislation in advance of their Parliaments' ratification and the affirmative resolution of their people in a referendum, but that is by the by. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) referred to fishing and whaling, which are so important to Norway. That would take us into tempestuous waters and I shall not take such a course, except to say that it has been our experience in the United Kingdom—I hope that our Norwegian friends will examine our experience closely—that, since we joined the European Community, there has been a severe depradation of fishing resources around our coasts. Entire fishing communities have gone to the wall. I trust that the people of Norway will think extremely carefully about it. I am sure they will. 9 pm I return to the financial matter to which I alluded earlier. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about the "practical consequences of enlargement". He said:
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East later sought clarification of that hoped-for reduction in our expenditure which would be consequent upon the accession of the four applicant countries. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should have been much more open with the House, but we cannot really expect that from Foreign Secretaries. Obfuscation is the name of the game when it comes to matters European, and all Foreign Secretaries play it the same. My right hon. Friend said that he would disclose to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), in response to the inquiry of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the likely increase of the budget for the United Kingdom for 1995. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East is rightly smiling, and I applaud him for his researches into these matters. He said that an extra £2,000 million of additional expenditure was likely to be incurred by the United Kingdom in 1995. Against that background, a saving of £300 million over six years is pretty small beer. I hope and ask that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not take for granted everything that is said about the consequences of enlargement. Our experience has consistently been that of being duped over the process of European integration. With the accession of the four applicant countries, if four join, the Community will certainly be wider, but I cannot see that it will be a more harmonious Community. Existing tensions will almost certainly run deeper, especially the tension between the relatively rich and prosperous north and the poorer south. I doubt whether countries such as Norway, Austria, Sweden and Finland will be glad to continue to pay huge sums—Austria, Sweden and Norway will, like ourselves, be net contributors—to meet the cost of the objective of economic convergence. Will they be happy with that for very long? The objective of economic convergence will itself be made less realisable when four additional, disparate and different economies come into the Community. They have their own particularities. After the accession of the four applicant countries, the idea of bringing in the Visegrad three—Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary—will almost certainly be unrealisable. Perhaps that should be made clear now. I hope that we do not welcome the accession without comprehending that, even with friendly countries which have long been well disposed towards the United Kingdom, such as the applicant four, not all will be well in the European Union. I remind the Committee that it was the run on the Finnish currency, strangely enough, which presaged the ultimate break-up of the exchange rate mechanism and our withdrawal from it. Let us take note of the difficulties we experienced when we joined the Community. I am sure that the four applicant countries will experience difficulties at least as great. I suspect that, before long, tensions within the Community as currently designed will be too great for it to remain a union for very long."The fact that four relatively well-off countries will be coming into the European Union will reduce the amount that other countries, including Britain, will need to contribute to the budget. We expect our British contribution to be some £300 million sterling less over the first six years of accession than it would otherwise have been."—[Official Report, 11 July 1994; Vol. 24.6, c. 691.]
I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and be extremely brief. I acknowledge from the outset that my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who contributed on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to the Second Reading debate on Monday, made clear our unambiguous support for the accession—as we hope—of the four new countries to the extended or expanded European Union in due course.After observing the continuing debate or, should I say, constructive discussions in the Conservative party, it is clear that the Bill is part of a triumvirate of important European measures which will come before the House in the remainder of this Parliament—assuming that :it goes something like its full length. After Maastricht and this Bill, there will be the own resources Bill which promises to be more electorally divisive in the House in terms of the Division Lobbies. The third part of the triumvirate will be the outcome of the intergovernmental conference in 1996. Having listened to the ongoing debate between the Conservative Member representing the European Movement and his colleague representing some other kind of movement, not in itself unconnected with Europe, but not connected to it in the way that the European Movement is, it is interesting to note that if that represents unanimity in terms of everyone supporting the accession, one hates to think what it will be like when the Conservative party returns to genuine and authentic division when it comes to voting in the House on own resources and perhaps, who knows, on the outcome of the IGC. While I want to refer to the comments of the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) who, like me, speaks from a Scottish perspective on one aspect of the Bill, I share the general welcome to the four countries. In many ways, they are potential allies in the decision making that lies ahead. They are also economically potential allies. I hope that the course of the remaining referendums has not been too badly blown to one side or undermined from the outset by what I consider to be the quite farcical "Grand old Duke of York" performance over qualified majority voting and the signals that sent to the electorates and the difficulties it created for some parties in the other member states. I listened with interest to a Labour Member who referred earlier to his optimism that there would be a Social Democratic Government in Sweden after the general election there towards the end of the year. On the day that the qualified majority voting row was going on, it was my pleasure to join a Conservative Member at lunch with a visiting Swedish politician who would certainly have Cabinet rank in that Government if it were to come to power. That Swedish politician was aghast because the Swedish Social Democrats were having to take a difficult decision in opposition, similar to what happened on occasions in this House in respect of Maastricht, when an unpopular incumbent Government were trying to put through an important measure. The Opposition party in Sweden had to play off what it believed to be the right decision for Sweden's overall benefit against what was perhaps the easier, tactical electoral decision for its benefit in the forthcoming period. It felt disappointed and disheartened that the British Government's actions over QMV were making its dilemma more acute. That may not cause angst among those who would welcome Sweden saying no to accession, but we must note that what we say and what is done in one member state inevitably has a knock-on effect in others. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow rightly referred to salmon dumping. I have raised that subject before with the Minister and, following one of our exchanges, he wrote to me about it. I want to stress that, as and when Norwegian accession is achieved, I hope that the European Commission will be able to take a more active policing role under the terms of the single market which, hitherto, it has been unwilling or unable to take, in respect of the imbalance in the market price which Norwegian over-production and the loading of that over-production on other member states within the European single market has thus far created. I hope that the Minister can give some sign that, if the Norwegian accession goes ahead, we as a nation state within the European Union will press for that improvement at Commission level. Secondly, there is a happier side of the existing market relations between our country and Norway: the oil sector—not least the oil-related fabrication sector where significant progress has been made by United Kingdom firms. Of particular importance to the Scottish economy, but also elsewhere in the United Kingdom economy, is the fact that, in a fallow period in the UK market, we have been winning contracts that have been available from the Norwegian sector. We welcome that—the issue of the single market and the level playing field is equally applicable in this sector. I hope that if Norwegian accession is achieved, the Government will seek to use the good will that exists between Norway and Britain to form an axis to ensure that other member states over which we harbour continuing doubts about the level state of their playing fields—Italy and Spain are two countries that come to mind immediately—present us with genuine, fair competition with no hidden subsidies. Those are two practical points. I think that all of us who welcome the accessions do so in the right frame of mind. That is not to say that the accessions will solve all the problems. Every opportunity that comes before the European Union opens up new problems. These accessions will be exactly the same. I hope that the Minister will comment on the two specific points that another Opposition Member and I have raised or will write in more detail later.
Like the previous two speakers, I shall keep my comments brief. Before I speak about clause 1, I shall give the House a reminder of the long-held links between Norway and Denmark. I have a personal link as, during the last war, my father commanded the Norwegian and Danish wing in 1942. That should stand as a significant reminder to hon. Members of our long and significant connection with those two countries, many of whose citizens died to ensure that Britain stayed free of the oppression threatening us and Norway and Denmark.Clause 1 winds in the whole of the European Communities Act 1972 with the accession treaty. Like all foreign treaties, it is a curate's egg—good in parts. The good parts may just outweigh the bad. The treaty and the clause get my support. It is important to discuss some of the issues and problems that will arise from the clause, which is the Bill's main clause. In his opening remarks on Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that Europe had been juddering in the past few years as a result of the ending of the cold war. He used the analogy of geographic plates sliding against each other and moving constantly in the process. I understand that analogy and partly accept it, but I take slight issue with it. We need to take a much broader historical perspective. In Europe, we are seeing a return to instincts and traditions that we thought had, in many senses, long since died. The accession treaty that brings in those countries of Scandinavia could never have happened before the cold war, which has been the key. For 40 years, that blanket of oppression, which defined two sides so clearly, also split Scandinavia. Finland was locked into a position with Russia. That was reasonable—big brother sitting next to it. Sweden was neutral for the same reason, although that neutrality went far further back. 9.15 pm But that 40 years was not part of a natural process. It was an historical abberation. With the cold war lifted, we are now seeing a range of changes taking place across Europe which perhaps relate much more to the period before the second world war than to the period of the cold war. The unification of Germany has taken place. Germany is growing logically in strength and power to a dominant economic position at the heart of Europe. The position of the worried eastern nations as they look towards Germany and Russia is similar historically to their pre-second world war position. The position of the countries that we believe will come into the European Union is changing. They are having to look in different directions as a result of the collapse of the cold war. Underneath all that, the Europe of the European Communities Act 1972, to which the clause refers, developed under the blanket of the cold war. Many views were allowed to develop in isolation from the real world. Thoughts and ideas about the drive to ever-closer union, leading logically to some form of central government or federal state, might have seemed logical to states that had come out of the fear of the second world war under the oppression of the cold war, but, with the end of the cold war, it is time to reconsider the way in which these things will develop. The treaty of accession is the first act of the European Community since the cold war. Maastricht was a treaty of the cold war. It was about the cold war and the fears of the cold war. It was not about the changes post the cold war—the new national instincts that are re-emerging and the views of different countries, not least the four referred to in the treaty of accession. Looking forward, the accession treaty is the first opportunity that we have to hold a magnifying glass to the Community and the Union that we have created, which is very much a product of the cold war, and to try to understand how best it can change and what is going to happen. We should not be under any illusion about the countries that are about to come in. Many of them are long-term friends and many of them are democratic and adhere to the instinctive principles that Britain has represented over many hundreds of years, but they also bring with them certain aspects that will not be particularly to our liking. They already carry much higher agricultural subsidies than the common agricultural policy represents in Europe. They have much higher social costs than obtain in the countries of Europe. We watch time and again as my right hon. and hon. Friends go across to the Council of Ministers and argue about matters connected with social policy and express their fears about the imposition of the extra burdens of social costs which would shackle industry and make us less and less competitive both here in Britain and in other countries of Europe. Article 118 and others deal with the social matters that many of us believe should no longer be in the treaty and should be reconsidered. It is time that they were re-examined. When we consider those articles and understand what my right hon. and hon. Friends are discussing, we must have at the back of our minds an awareness that when those countries arrive they will not necessarily be our partners in discussions on these matters that we oppose. These matters cause us the greatest concern—the imposition of social costs. I suspect that they will not be with us in opposing those. It is more likely that they will be with those who seek greater imposition. There may be some differences of opinion on that, but we need to be aware that that is likely to be the case. The largest part of the debate in Europe is about the common agricultural policy. The countries that are about to come in carry with them a much higher burden of subsidy than the CAP represents. They would have to take a drop to reach the CAP. Here we are examining the iniquities of the CAP. Sixty per cent. of the budget goes to bureaucrats and into food mountains and, of course, massively into fraud and only 40 per cent., if any, reaches the farmers. We all say how dreadful it is, and that we must do something to reform it. In fact, many of us now have the view that much of the common agricultural policy should be repatriated to the nations comprising the European Community. The Government should be saying that more strongly. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to make their position clear on the matter so that we can demonstrate to those countries coming in as a result of this accession treaty that we are seeking a full reform of the CAP. It is not enough for the levels that exist at the moment to be dropped—fraud and bureaucracy must go. There can be only one way do that, and that is by repatriation. The treaty gives us the opportunity to open the arguments again in the run-up to 1996. Although the nations joining the Union will be independent-minded—that is to be welcomed, and perhaps they will be far less inclined to go down the road of federalism—there are other matters which will cause us some problems and which need to be looked at. I would point my hon. and right hon. Friends towards the position of institutional reform. When the countries come in, they will bring with them—logically enough—a requirement to have more Commissioners, and the number will go up to about 21. We may think that the system is unwieldy and difficult now, and that it is of a centralising tendency which brings more power to the Commission. However, 21 Commissioners will be more likely than not to ask for even more briefs to keep them busy. The treaty gives us an ideal opportunity to go forward to 1996 from the springboard of this excellent beginning to reform the institutions. We must reduce the number of Commissioners. That must be a logical position for the Government to place before themselves for 1996, and this treaty gives us an excellent opportunity to do just that. To reflect the nature of what we believe in—a Europe of nation states—decisions must be taken more and more at the intergovernmental level. They should be manipulated far less; we must not have too many Commissioners. Perhaps a good thing in the treaty is that it gives us an opportunity to look ahead to the reform of the institutions and of the CAP, and to start opening the arguments that we thought we had locked away following the Maastricht debate. There are things which must be done if we believe in looking ahead from the cold war. That will give us the opportunity to make the Community a workable one of nation states, rather than a heavily centralised, bureaucratic monolith which will collapse under the weight of its own failings. I would also urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to accept that the treaty and the clause make up only the first of two stages of enlargement. If they stand by themselves, there will be failure. But if we accept that this is only a hand's grasp away from enlargement into the east, the Government can feel rightly pleased that we have sought to enlarge the Community. We will have sought not to destroy the Community, but to make it a community of nation states that works. I am reminded that one of the directorates-general—either DG XII or XV—produced a document that talked about opening the markets immediately to the eastern countries, such as Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics, so that we could get cheaper agricultural produce, steel and iron. That would benefit us and we would be able to feed people at a cheaper rate and get the materials that would enable our manufacturing industries to compete with places outside Europe. We need cheaper raw materials and those places could have provided them. In return, we would provide them with the cash to continue to develop their own industries.
I agree with some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. He is advocating a wider and freer market over a wider area, perhaps on a worldwide level.Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a famous British exporter, which I will not name, has said that it cannot get iron castings manufactured in this country and has to get them from Turkey instead? Does he consider that good for our manufacturing industry? Should there not be a limit to the freedom of markets, in the European Community and across the world?
Of course it is difficult to procure iron castings in this country if none are produced here. For those who used to produce them here, that is of course a major problem. However, the point is that there must be free movement of capital and goods throughout the world if third world nations are to have the chance to develop, and hence to make the money with which to buy the goods that we want to sell them. That is the logic of it.If, however, we stand in the middle and block free movement—we are doing it to the eastern bloc countries now—it will be no good lecturing poorer countries about democracy and all the other wonderful things that we believe they should enjoy if we take away from them the one thing that will sustain them through the pain of all the economic changes to come. We must not take away their chance to make the money that they need. They have things to sell us, and it is not right that we should stop them exporting those things to us on the ground that we want to protect our industries. Our industries will benefit in the short and the long term from a commitment by us to trade. I accept that there may be some limitations of the sort that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. They are what GATT dealt with, and they are why we need to move further along the lines of GATT. Without going a stage further, what we are enacting today will prove an unmitigated failure. It is not enough to squeeze in only the countries that can afford the entry ticket and to ignore all the other countries which need us and which we in return need for our trade. Trading with them will do all our industries a power of good. I have tremendous reservations about what my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to as "deepening". Parts of this treaty include large elements of that deepening process; but I am prepared on balance to accept that the treaty will work to our benefit provided that we follow it up with the second stage: a wider Community. We must fight hard to stop the imposition of more social costs and to reform the CAP and the Union's institutions as we approach 1996. We must ensure that those institutions take account of a Europe of nation states of the kind in which the Government so rightly believe. It is what we must press for.
I oppose Norway's accession to the European Union, and not because I am anti-Norwegian. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) about our close links with Norway—links going back hundreds of years—although the Norwegians did come here originally as a form of early lager louts, stamping all over the good Celtic people up north. More felicitously, we have worked together and fought together in the recent past. It is, of course, not just a question of the Norwegians who died in the campaign to liberate Europe. A large number of British people died in the campaign to liberate Norway.Nevertheless, I take the hon. Gentleman's point about our historic links with Norway, which is why I speak more in sorrow than in anger about Norway this evening. I have spoken out against it consistently because of its policy of slaughtering minke whales, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission and the great weight of public feeling in this country and the rest of the European Union. The Norwegians are behaving quite unacceptably, which is why I take this opportunity to vent my feelings and express my protest in the only way I can. The Norwegian Government have licensed 30 vessels to kill 301 minke whales this summer. Those of us who are concerned for the future of this great marine mammal are grateful for the activities of organisations such as Greenpeace. A great many brave people from this country, Norway and around the world are at this very moment on the high seas trying to prevent Norwegian whalers from slaughtering the whales. The Greenpeace ship Sirius has been attempting to prevent the Norwegian whaler Senet from slaughtering whales. For their pains, apart from being threatened by the Norwegian whalers, the crew have been arrested by the Norwegian coastguards in international waters. Their boat has been seized and they have been arrested. I have a number of questions for the Minister. I should like to know what he is doing on behalf of the British Government to protest to the Norwegians about their behaviour in international waters and to find out how many Greenpeace campaigners are United Kingdom citizens who are entitled to the protection of the British Government, particularly when they are trying to prevent the Norwegians from breaking international law and agreements. That is why I am asking the Minister what investigations he has made. 9.30 pm My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) asked what the Government were doing in terms of protesting to the Norwegians about their whaling campaign, as did the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who is a great campaigner for animal welfare, particularly in terms of trying to prevent the slaughter of whales. What sort of deal, if any, has been done? Is it possible within the context of the accession treaty for any deal to be done? The word used was "derogation". Have the Norwegians been able to get an opt-out? Is there an opt-out in the rules regarding non-whaling within European Union waters? Have the Norwegians been successful in getting an opt-out from that requirement? Is that possible? I should be most grateful if the Minister would give me those responses, as a number of us on both sides of the House are concerned. The motor vessel Sirius—the Greenpeace ship—caught a Norwegian whaler shooting a harpooned whale in the North sea. That makes nonsense of the idea that somehow a whale can be slaughtered with a harpoon. There is no humane way of killing a whale. When the Norwegians argued that we, the British, kill cattle, I remember the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), making the famous point that we do not shoot a harpoon into a heifer and chase it through five fields trying to kill it. That is precisely the point. There is no humane way of killing a whale. I watched some footage of the Norwegians trying to electrocute a harpooned whale and shoot it with a gun. It is absurd and obscene and should not be allowed by any civilised nation. We should make sure that our protest goes out as strongly and volubly as possible from the House to our allies and close friends the Norwegians. The Norwegians killed 226 whales in 1993 and at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Mexico recently the Norwegian estimate of the north-east Atlantic minke whale population was seriously challenged by the IWC's scientific committee. The north-east Atlantic minke whale was protected by the IWC in 1985 because of its seriously depleted numbers, the population having been reduced to less than half its original size because of the activities of Norwegian whalers, with some help from the Russians and the Icelandics. Now that we have been able to build up the population of minke whales, the people who caused them to be depleted say that the population is sufficient to resume some form of slaughter. The Norwegians started by calling it scientific whaling, which was one way of getting round the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Now they are going for limited commercial whaling. The Norwegians do not need to sustain whaling for their economic prosperity. They have one of the highest per capita incomes on earth. Norway is a very rich country. If it were a small agricultural fishing community, I might have some sympathy with its predicament, but the Norwegians have no economic justification for doing what they are doing. Much of that whale meat is exported to Japan. The Japanese are rather like the Norwegians in terms of their totally oblivious attitude to world opinion. They feel that they can kill anything because it belongs to them. Whales do not belong to the Norwegians. No one harvests whales; there are no whale fish farms. Indeed, as we know, the whale is not a fish—but try to convince the Japanese of that. When they are attacked for whaling, they say that the meat-eating north is imposing itself in a racist way on the fish-eating culture of Japan. I must point out to the Japanese that, for all their scientific whaling, they still have not worked out that the whale is not a fish but a mammal—a mammal that can feel the pain of a harpoon shooting through it, or electrodes pushing electricity through it. Whales can feel bullets. Moreover, they have a family system and a community that may be something like ours. They sense; they feel; they understand. The Norwegians still believe that they have the right to kill whales. They do not have that right. The whales belong to all of us. They are international. They do not live in Norway; they migrate, and come to our waters as well. They belong to us as much as they belong to the Norwegians, and the Norwegians have no right to slaughter them. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy)—who leads the Opposition's Council of Europe delegation—and a number of other hon. Members on both sides of the House will remember the occasion when Mrs. Brundtland addressed the Parliamentary Assembly, of which I am proud to be a member. She paraded her green credentials—Mrs. Brundtland, who goes to the United Nations and says, "What a wonderful green socialist I am." I can only say that I am ashamed that Mrs. Brundtland should even presume to describe herself as a socialist. I do not recognise her as a socialist; I recognise her as a murderer, who is slaughtering a creature that is capable of comprehension which in many ways resembles that of human beings. I realise that I am becoming very emotional, Dame Janet. I am not tired and emotional; I am just emotional, because this is an emotional subject about which I feel strongly. I believe that my feelings may be shared by the great majority of our citizens, and it is on their behalf that I make my protest about the activities of the Norwegians. This has been an all-party effort: there has been a good deal of cross-party support. We have supported the British Government in their stand at the IWC. We have supported Ministers who have gone there and spoken for the British people, protesting about whaling. We shall continue to support the Government, as long as they support the whales and represent the feelings that the people of this country have expressed. I hope that the Minister will respond to some of my questions, and will realise that there are strong feelings about this subject—not only on my part, but throughout the House.
I believe that the question at the heart of the debate is, "Will the Bill benefit the United Kingdom, and will it involve Germany?" That is the ace question that has lain at the heart of the European Community since 1945. Will the Bill improve or retard our ability to achieve our objective?An article in The Spectator recently quoted something that Bismarck said in 1877. He described his diplomatic goals thus:
The question is, will the treaty that is now part and parcel of the Maastricht arrangements enable us both to widen the European Community and to ensure that we do not deepen it? We are told that, through the treaty, we will widen it; but I fear that it will be deepened as well. The two processes run together because of the legal framework created by the Maastricht treaty. In fact, the accumulation of power that will accrue as a result of enlargement and the accession of the four new countries—given the trade balances that operate throughout the European Community in favour of Germany—will enhance its power. The voting structure will ensure that there is a greater opportunity for those alliances to build up in favour of the matters that the Germans want to push through. I shall not today go through the extended list of areas in which the Germans have managed to accumulate greater power. However, it started with the speech on the Oder-Neisse line and, more recently, there has been the beef ban. There is a range of matters including the interest rate question, the way in which they behaved over the EMS and the recognition of Croatia. All those issues will be made much more difficult if the consequences of the Bill in terms of the accretion of the voting power of countries dependent on Germany results in their voting with Germany. The most recent figures on the subject in the "Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook" of 1993, which describes trade with Germany throughout Europe, including trade with the four applicant countries, show that, for Austria, the share of the total of exports to Germany is 39.8 per cent. The figure in respect of imports from Germany is 42.9 per cent. The effect of that is that the two countries are totally intertwined, and there is no reasonable prospect that the Austrian Government will at any time have the degree of independence that is claimed for them by those who say that the enlargement of the Community will enable Austria to go its own way as a separate nation state. I think that it will be bound up in an undesirable way. I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that that is the direction in which things will go. The figures for Norway are different. The figure for exports is 13 per cent; the figure for imports is 14 per cent. For Sweden, the figures are 15 per cent. and 18 per cent. respectively. There is an increasing indication, borne out within the Community as it stands under Maastricht, of an unhealthy over-dependence of the other countries upon Germany. That will affect the voting structure and that is why qualified majority voting, which we discussed in the House some months ago, is so important. It is precisely for that reason that it is essential that we reconsider the whole of the Maastricht negotiation and that the entire process back to the treaty of Rome and the Single European Act is re-evaluated at the intergovernmental conference in 1996. That re-evaluation must include the relationship that we have with the four applicant countries. I welcome their involvement in the enlargement process. My fear is that because it is based on Maastricht as well—Maastricht is about government rather than trade—the implications of the voting structure will tend to enhance the intrinsic power of Germany at the expense of the rest of Europe. That is contrary to what I believe was intended by the other members, although not by Germany."to create a situation in which all powers other than France need us, and are prevented as much as possible from building coalitions against us because of their relationships to one another."
I am grateful to my hon. and, on this occasion, learned Friend. I should like his legal advice before my hon. Friend the Minister begins his speech. My hon. Friend referred to qualified majority voting. If one of the applicant nations does not join the European Union, article 2(2) of the treaty comes into effect. That article says:
The threshold for qualified majority voting is 64. If the Government took the view that it was not indispensable to reduce that threshold, would they be able to make that point stick?"The Council of the European Union, acting unanimously, shall decide immediately upon such adjustments as have become indispensable."
My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. It was the reason why I tabled an amendment, which was not selected—and I make no criticism of that decision. The amendment highlighted the fact that, if all the countries did not ratify the proposal through referendums, according to the constitutional requirements envisaged in article 2 of the treaty, the voting structure would be distorted. My hon. Friend makes a valid point and his contribution was a valuable one.Although I have the greatest sympathy with many of the arguments on whaling and other matters that were advanced by some hon. Members, this issue is much more important than it seems. This is not just any old accession treaty: it enhances and increases the centralising process of the Maastricht treaty because it is based on it. My comments on the relationship between the acceding countries and Germany were not hostile towards Germany. That is not the point. The key question is whether the measure will create an imbalance in favour of Germany as compared with the other member states. We are talking about what is called the European Union or the European Community. If it is to be a fair and proper arrangement, it must be balanced and it must not automatically lead to one or two countries enjoying superdomination over the others. The original treaty of Rome and all that went with it in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was designed to avoid such an occurrence. In May 1953, Jean Monnet said that, if Germany were to obtain a degree of industrial domination in Europe, which he could not foresee but which has happened, the concept of the European Community that he had in mind would disintegrate. That is part of the problem. With great respect to my friends in the United States of America, the situation was not enhanced by Mr. Clinton's recent speech. With deep regret, I say that he has failed to understand the nature not only of the susceptibilities of the people of Europe but of the intrinsic balance of power that prevails even today, although some people may pretend that it does not. I should also like to quote a great statesman, Bismarck. Some of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members may be surprised by that, but those people who know the difference between the Bismarckians and the Nazis would understand that he knew what he was talking about when he said:
Instead of blood and iron, we now have pen and rules. The four applicant countries may yet discover that it is not as easy to join the European Community as they had originally hoped. In the past few days, I have received a letter from a 13-year-old constituent of mine. It states:"I have always found the word Europe on the lips of those politicians who wanted something from other Powers which they dared not demand in their own names".
The girl also sent me the list of signatories that she had collected. I read that letter with some concern because it is 50 years to the day since my father was killed in the war and won the Military Cross fighting in Normandy for the liberation of Europe. Many other people did the same. Many Germans do not want that to happen again and they have honest intentions; others, however, have another agenda. I fear that the effects of the treaty and the accumulation of evidence of the assertiveness of Germany is not in the German interest. The Norwegians know and understand that only too well; the Austrians know and understand it; and so do the Finns from their relationship with Russia. I do not have time now to go into the Russo-German treaty, but I am sure that the Finns will be watching it with grave concern. The same is true of the Swedes. It would be easy for us to assume that this short Bill, which contains only a few lines, can be skated through today, dealt with in the odd point of order and regarded as having relatively little importance. I believe that it is more important than that and will prove to be much more important than many people have thought. Indeed, on the question of the relative currencies in Europe, The Daily Telegraph reported only a few days ago:"We, as a nation, have just remembered D-Day and all the lives that were lost because we didn't want anyone else saying what our country should do. Why did we bother if it was all going to be changed anyway?"
In an intervention on Monday on my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I pointed out that the Scandinavians have an obsession with the deutschmark—there is no question about that. That is part of the general problem and of the German question. The Germans themselves have to consider their relationship with those countries to ensure that we do not return to the problems of the 1930s. I do not need to detain the Committee for too long, but I must point out that those who believe that the treaty will be advantageous for the United Kingdom should bear in mind a number of issues. There are said to be four advantages in the accession of the new member countries. The first is that they are relatively rich and would be net contributors to the European Community. Secondly, they are Protestant countries and would thus shift the balance of power against the subsidy farmers of the Mediterranean or olive belt. Thirdly, like Britain, they are attached to their national sovereignty and would resist further centralisation in Brussels. Finally, and most important according to Government officials, enlargement is a necessary prelude to extending the European Community into eastern Europe. It is said that that expansion is in turn a moral obligation and the best guarantee against the follies of Euro-federalism as the united states of Europe would be too unwieldy once it included the eastern states. However, none of those arguments stands up to a moment's examination. While the four new applicants would all be net contributors to the European Community budget—"The Germans are at last in a position to dictate terms. They have no intention of rescuing the dollar, just as they had no intention of helping the pound when it was in trouble two years ago. The strength of the mark suits them well."
Only just, as my hon. Friend rightly says. I refer him to the trade statistics that I mentioned earlier, which are well worth reading. They include details of the massive deficits in favour of Germany.Those countries' contributions would not noticeably reduce the burden on Britain caused by the Euro-budget, which we shall be discussing in a few months' time. As most of the new entrants' money has already been marked for cohesion funds—a point that some of my colleagues might like to note—to subsidise Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Spain, the idea that the new entrants will tilt the balance against agricultural interests is even more extraordinary. All four of the applicant countries subsidise their farmers even more than the European Community subsidises its farmers through the common agricultural policy.
If we are being invited to vote for clause stand part on the basis that the four new countries will be net contributors to the Community budget, what should we do when we debate the European Community finance Bill, which will mean that we shall have to pay much more money into the Community budget than will be forthcoming from the contributions of the four applicants?
As ever, my hon. Friend asks a difficult question. At prayers today we said, "Lead us not into temptation", but the logic of my hon. Friend's argument is difficult to resist.As I said, all four of the applicant countries subsidise their farmers even more than the EC does. Between 1989 and 1991 the average farm subsidy was 48 per cent. in Austria, 57 per cent. in Sweden, 71 per cent. in Finland and 75 per cent. in Norway—compared with a mere 46 per cent. in the EC. How does that argument stack up? The Minister of State is now having a nice little joke with our distinguished Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I should be delighted if the Parliamentary Secretary would come to the Dispatch Box and try to deal with my question, because it is a bit of a problem. Indeed, the most contentious issue in the membership negotiations for each of those countries was Europe's insistence that they cut their farm subsidies and food prices, which are even more absurdly distorted than those in the EC. How successful were we? I should like an answer to that question. As for the Scandinavians' fiscal probity, Sweden's Government deficit last year was 14.7 per cent. of gross domestic product, and Finland's was a mere 9.1 per cent. Those figures compare with deficits of 8.2 per cent. in Britain and 9.7 per cent. in that profligate country, Italy. We should bear those facts in mind. I like to be fair in such matters, so I must admit that Norway does not have any deficit problems—[HON. MEMBERS: "They do not want to join."] No doubt Norway's lack of problems is due to its massive oil revenues, and I would not mind betting that some of the Norwegians have sussed out that joining is not such a big deal, so Norway may not join anyway. However, Norway shares a certain fiscal characteristic with all its neighbours in Scandinavia. Wait for it. The Government collect more than 50 per cent. of national income in taxes. My intervention in the Foreign Secretary's speech on Monday pointed out the contrast between our policies and theirs on the social chapter, environmental protection and all that goes with them. It is said that the Scandinavians are proudly independent and that they would help us to curb Euro-centralisation and harmonisation. However, I cannot agree with that either. As I have said, in almost every sphere in which Britain has fought against Brussels—social policy, trade union rights, consumer protection, environmental regulation—in the negotiations as well as in their domestic policies the Scandinavians have been on the side of more centralisation and regulation, not less. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I regard the attitude of Opposition Members to what I am saying as eloquent testimony to my argument. It is precisely because I disagree with them so much that I have reservations. Even on monetary policy the Scandinavians have signed up enthusiastically to a single currency for Europe. And, as I have already said, they have an obsession with the deutschmark—complete with 100 per cent. interest rates.
The deutschmark will be the single currency.
That is a thought, which I should like to share with my hon. Friends who are worried about the exchange rate mechanism. As Mr. Anatole Kaletsky has pointed out, compared with 100 per cent. interest rates, the Prime Minister's ERM policy could be described as something on the margin.It is clear why Labour wants the Scandinavian countries as comrades-in-arms, but why on earth should their membership be a top priority for us? At this point, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office throws its last argument into the arena. It says that enlargement is inherently desirable regardless of which countries are admitted because by widening Europe we shall prevent or at least delay any further deepening along federal lines. The Foreign Office advisers, who will urge the Prime Minister and others to back down on Europe, regard this as their intellectual trump card. But that argument is even more specious and certainly more unworthy—
It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
Committee report progress.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business),
That, at this day's sitting, the European Union (Accessions) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Patnick.]
Question agreed to.
Again considered in Committee.
Question again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
My hon. Friends may say that they have missed some of the argument. I assure you, Dame Janet, that I shall keep my argument as short as possible. I was on the point about the intellectual trump card of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am no more hostile to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office than I am to the aspirations of the Chancellery in Bonn. I regard what the Foreign Office has done as a perfectly understandable if mistaken policy. I do not say that in respect of this Bill because, although I have been critical about aspects of it, if there were a vote, I should vote for it. That is only because I believe that we must reorganise, under the 1996 conference, the whole of the Maastricht negotiations. The whole thing must be renegotiated. If we succeed in that objective and if the Prime Minister, the Foreign Office and the House are determined to ensure that we manage to renegotiate the Maastricht treaty, the four applicant countries will benefit from the fact that we shall have unravelled the legal framework that currently shackles and chains us down.The diplomats have misled themselves. Do they really think that they can gull the French, the Germans, the Belgians and the other federalists, or are they really trying to fool the Tory party into supporting the federalism that is secretly embedded in the continuation of Maastricht within the framework of this treaty? That is the key to understanding the arrangement. If the Community is to be widened, it must be a proper widening and not one that gives more power to Germany. After all, only the other day the Prime Minister turned down Mr. Jean-Luc Dehaene precisely for that reason. We are told that our right hon. Friend did not want Jean-Luc Dehaene to be imposed on us by the Germans. If that is the case, surely the corollary to that is that we ensure that we are not conned by the arrangements under the Maastricht treaty itself. This treaty of accession builds on that. I shall simply conclude—
My right hon. Friend says no. I must say that I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.This treaty is more important than it looks. It is more important than its size, because its content is the future of Europe. It treads a path through history. It treads a path to the borders of Russia; to anschluss in the 1930s. It treads a path throughout the entire European foreign policy of the past 200 years. I hope that those four countries, on an enlarged basis, will contribute to the European Union. That is why I shall not vote against the treaty, but only on the basis that this treaty, like the others, will be renegotiated in 1996.
The debate has had all the variety of a Second Reading with a great deal of the detail that we would expect in Committee. I shall endeavour to answer at least the main points that have been made. If I fail in that, I shall write to hon. Members who may have raised matters of particular detail.The clause is the heart of the Bill. It takes the treaty into United Kingdom law by the familiar means of using the European Communities Act 1972. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) began the debate in characteristic style by suggesting that the four EFTA states were deluding themselves about the advantages of entering. In saying that, he underestimated their political acumen and their ability to assess where their own interests lay. All those countries have vigorous democratic systems. The whole process of applying and joining the European Economic Area and now, we hope, the European Union has been accompanied by an extremely wide-ranging and vigorous public debate in those countries. Indeed, the result of the Austrian referendum showed that, at least in that country, the people there weighed up the advantages and disadvantages and came to the very clear conclusion that the future of their country lay in the European Union. My hon. Friend mentioned fish in particular and that issue was also raised by other hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), who is not in his place at present. My hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman and others questioned me about the balance of advantage and, in particular, they wanted an assurance that our own fishing industry was not put at any disadvantage by the accession treaty. I re-emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Second Reading that we have successfully reaffirmed the principle of relative stability as the foundation for the allocation of fishing opportunities between member states. That fact was conveyed to us with satisfaction by representatives of the fishing organisations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow is not present but I, too, noted the Foreign Secretary's phrase. Is that not typical Euro-mysticism? How can one assess relative stability? Who is to decide what is relative to something else? Looked at cynically, does it not simply mean that it is a flexible opportunity for change?
I leave it to the chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations to comment on that. He wrote to me and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 31 March to explain that
my hon. Friend and myself—"we were extremely appreciative of the efforts of'—
If the industry is happy with the outcome of the negotiations, that should be enough for the House of Commons. On Monday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that there were new opportunities for British fishermen. During the long and arduous negotiations we gained additional flexibility to fish western mackerel in each of the management areas concerned, including for the first time access to Norwegian waters for that stock. I can reassure the Committee that Spain has not gained any new access either to the North sea or to the waters of the west coast of Scotland and Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East talked about our gross contribution. That is more properly a matter for future legislation, when the House of Commons will have an opportunity to consider the EC finance Bill in the next Session. I reaffirm and re-emphasise that, for the purposes of the Bill before us, as a result of the accession of the four applicant states the United Kingdom's net contributions will be lower than they otherwise would have been."to safeguard successfully the…cod quota and the principle of relative stability. The satisfactory outcome to the succession negotiations…is very welcome indeed."
Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell the Committee what the savings will be from this Bill and what the costs would be from the EC finance Bill. Perhaps he could make a comparison in terms of the ratio of one to the other. I think that the Committee would be interested to know that at this stage.
I can repeat the figures that were given on Second Reading. During the first six years of accession our net contribution will be lower by about £350 million than it otherwise would have been. Thereafter there will be a net saving of about—it is only an estimate—£75 million a year. As for the other information that my hon. Friend wants, I must tell him that the Bill that we shall be considering in due course will refer to how our contributions will be affected by the Edinburgh conclusions on own resources that we and other member states will be paying into the budget between now and 1999.I have been asked what would happen if one or more member states failed to join. Provision is made for that in the treaty that is under consideration. There would, of course, have to be some consequential adjustments, especially to the qualified majority voting arrangements. That is foreseen in the treaty and it would not be necessary to have a renegotiation. The arithmetical alterations to the qualified majority voting figures would be limited to those technically necessary by the non-accession of one or more member states. That would be done by unanimity at a Council meeting held immediately after the relevant referendum. I can assure the Committee that the arithmetic is relatively uncontroversial and straightforward. There is a precedent because in 1972 Norway said no in a referendum and precisely the adjustments that I have described had to be made. That was done almost immediately and without controversy, and in time for the other member states to come in on the date specified in the treaty.
The treaty states that a qualified majority will require 64 votes. If Norway does not join, would it be the Government's view, and would the Government be unanimous with other Governments, that it would be indispensable to change that part of the treaty? If the Government did not agree, there would be no unanimity. Therefore, there could be no change and we would stick on 64. If we stuck on 64, a blocking minority of 24 would exist instead of 27. I think that that would be something that the Government would favour.
If Norway failed to accede, the treaty blocking minority would reduce from 27 to 26. That is clear from the arithmetic. It would not be open to the Government, or any other member state, to take a completely different view, which I believe my hon. Friend is inviting me to take, because the treaty refers to adjustments which are indispensable. That clearly refers to the technical and consequential adjustments that would flow naturally from the non-accession of one member state.10.15 pm The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) referred at length to defence and security matters. I will not follow him down all the paths that he mapped out. However, I agree with him that it is very important that the future evolution of a European security apparatus, particularly through the Western European Union, is fully compatible with the Atlantic alliance and NATO in particular. That is one reason why we hope that Norway will accede, because it is a long-standing member of NATO. The fact that three of the EFTA states concerned are currently neutral shows that they are shifting in their attitudes to that concept. Many people in those countries believe that the traditional neutrality that they have followed has become out of date following the end of the cold war. They are seeking to integrate their foreign policies more in line with the common foreign and security policy which the Maastricht treaty set up for the first time. There is no obligation on those states to join WEU, but I hope and expect that in due course they will at least become associated with the treaty. In reply to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), I put it to him that the fact that the European Union can welcome into its membership countries with a wide diversity of security attitudes—three of them being neutral—is an example of that multi-track Europe which my hon. Friend seeks. That is achieved within the existing treaty. No amendments are necessary. That shows that the treaty of Rome as amended by Maastricht is highly tolerant to several different security systems. However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North about a point that he made. A similar point was made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy). This enlargement round is not, by itself, sufficient. We, too, regard it as one further step, but an important step, on the way to others which must include, in some way, the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Is not the real test of whether we are beginning to decentralise the Community not the multi-speed, multi-track aspects of the separate pillars—the pillars are apart from the main part of the Community—but whether we start to have multi-layer, multi-speed and multi-track in the central pillar, in the European Community itself, and cease to have to regard the acquis communautaire as inviolate, untouchable, sacrosanct and hitherto completely protected by subsidiarity? The Edinburgh guidelines on subsidiarity specifically state that one cannot attack the acquis communautaire.
I shall not follow my hon. Friend too far down that road as it is essentially a point for other debates. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have made the point from the Dispatch Box that even within that central pillar of the Community there is already a variable geometry or multi-speed system. The provisions relating to monetary union allow for different timetables for different states. I would argue that, leaving aside how the Community or the Union may develop, we already have in it more than the seeds—we have the reality of some of the things that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North is seeking.The hon. Members for Greenock and Port Glasgow and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) questioned me about whaling. I can assure both hon. Members that Norway did not seek and certainly did not receive any opt out or derogation from the provisions in existing EC law relating to whaling. The combined effect of the existing measures on whales and whaling amounts to a de facto ban on commercial whaling by member states in Community waters. Norway has agreed to and will be signing up to all the obligations and rules as they relate to whaling.
Under the terms of the accession, at what point must the Norwegians cease whaling or find themselves in contravention of EU law?
When Norway joins the European Union—on 1 January next year, I hope.That brings me to an important point on which I think that I differ from the hon. Gentleman. He said that he did not want to see Norway join because of its whaling policy. I argue that all who seek an end to Norwegian whaling should welcome Norway into the European Union. The hon. Gentleman asked me what this country could do to try to protect whales more effectively from the Norwegians. The answer is, very little until Norway joins. Once it is subject to the rules, regulations and laws of the European Union, the whales will be safer. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will work for and welcome Norway's accession in due course.
Will my hon. Friend give us a clear and specific assurance—I know that he will—that, in the event of the Norwegians seeking derogation, the Government will stop it?
No derogation has been sought and the question does not arise. I must be candid with my hon. Friend—many of the rules and regulations have not been tested fully in the European Court. I think that it was the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow who said that the issue may go to the European Court, and he may be right. The position is not entirely clear. I am giving what I consider to be the clearest guidance that I can at this stage.
I am a Conservative Member with some doubt about the relevance of subsidiarity. Could the Norwegians claim that it was a matter that they should decide under subsidiarity because of its critical importance to the Norwegian economy?
No, they cannot do that because they must and will sign up to the existing obligations and rules. Those rules cover whaling in directives such as the habitats directive—specifically aimed at whales and their protection.The hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and others talked about salmon. Norway will be entitled to all the rights of membership, including trade access for fish products. Article 53 of the treaty provides for the Commission to monitor the effect of serious disturbance of fishing markets and to take appropriate action if necessary. Once Norway is a member, if dumping can be proved or the payment of state aids by the Norwegian Government can be shown, action can be taken. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) discussed institutional reform. That is chiefly a matter for 1996, not this debate. But we share his view that there are too many Commissioners. There will be 21 if all four countries accede, which is too many. I do not know what they will all find to do. At the next intergovernmental conference I hope that we shall be able to find a way of reducing the number. I hope that it will not reduce my hon. Friend's enthusiasm to know that Mr. Delors shares his view. Mr. Delors wants a more effective, smaller Commission, whereas the maverick view might be to keep increasing the number of Commissioners so that they eventually collapse under the weight of their own expansion. Certainly it is the view of the Government—I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford on this—that a pruning of the numbers would help us to achieve a more efficient, effective and responsive Commission. We shall work to that end in 1996. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) made several points which I shall not endeavour to answer as I tried to do so on Second Reading. However, I must take issue with one point that he made. He takes a most pessimistic view of the future development of German foreign policy. I do not share that view. In particular, he made the point—I regard it as an allegation—that Austria would become little more than a German satellite and could always be counted on to vote the German way. That is clearly wrong. In their referendum, the Austrian people did not vote 2:1 for entry in order to achieve an anschluss. They wish to join the European Union precisely because they will be able to sit alongside their German neighbours in the Council of Ministers on the basis of equality. It is precisely to avoid domination by one powerful neighbour that they believe that their relationship with Germany is best pursued in the context of a wider union. With those few remarks, I commend clause 1 to the Committee.
I welcome clause 1. It is the main clause of the Bill and the main part of the ratification process of the treaty of accession. Just as we welcomed the Bill strongly on Second Reading, so we welcome clause 1. The Minister was correct in saying that as it was the main clause it allowed a wide debate and allowed many hon. Members who had perhaps wished to speak on Second Reading to make their points on this occasion.My hon. Friends have made many valid points, particularly on fishing, on whaling—raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks)—and on the possible consequences for European security arrangements of the accessions that we are considering today. We have heard a variety of speeches from Conservative Members. They were somewhat different from the speeches on Second Reading. Several hon. Members almost seemed to be against enlargement. Certainly, the hon. Members for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) and for Stafford (Mr. Cash) seemed to think that this enlargement would reinforce centralism within the European Union. Many of us feel that it would not. They talked about "unthinking centralism" and seemed to suggest that the applicant countries favoured it. The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) talked about the commitment of the four countries, which we welcome, to high levels of social protection. He said that that was a direction that he and others did not like. I certainly do not believe that the four countries are in favour of unthinking centralism, and neither are we. It seems to me that many of the European Union countries already offer a decentralised model. I agree with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) about the belief in decentralisation here. One thing that struck me in the debate was the great amount of suspicion which seems to exist among Conservative Members towards their own Foreign Office Ministers. [Interruption.] I am glad that they agree so strongly. It was particularly true of the remarks of the hon. Member for Stafford and perhaps even more striking in the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who said that he did not believe a word that the Foreign Secretary had said on fishing. The Governments of the four countries believe strongly that it is in their interests to join the EU—including the people of Austria, as shown by their referendum result. Interestingly enough, they also feel that the terms of entry meet their concerns. Perhaps in that respect they are somewhat more fortunate than we were when we joined some 20 years ago. It is now up to the people of those countries where referendums have not yet been held to give their views. I hope that they will be encouraged by the support that most of us in the Committee have given to them tonight.
I beg to move, That the Question be now put.
Let us have some democracy in this place.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question put accordingly and agreed to.
Clause I ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Powers Of European Parliament
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
I wish to make one brief point which is of some significance, and I would appreciate the Minister's view on it. When we passed the Maastricht treaty, we were told that when we became citizens of the European Union we had certain entitlements given to us in relation to voting in European elections and in council elections.Although I did not choose to become such a citizen, can the Minister say how article 13 on page 359 of the treaty conforms to that? The article provides that member states who find that 20 per cent. of their citizens are citizens not of their country but of other parts of the European Union can say that those people cannot vote unless they have resided in that country for five years and cannot stand for election unless they have resided there for ten years. That is set out in detail in article 13 of page 359. Can the Minister say why the Government accepted that and, in particular, whether it does not conflict totally with the assurances given in Maastricht on the rights of European citizens? My second point is also brief. As the treaty also excludes certain areas of Norway and Sweden from having representation in the European Parliament—the Minister kindly provided detailed written answers on 11 July on the matter—is that also in conflict with Maastricht? It seems to be almost a form of ethnic cleansing. If that applied in Britain, and we felt that 20 per cent. of our voters were French, German, Italian or from other parts of the Union, we could say that they would have to have had five years' residence. That seems to be an unusual clause which does not seem to have any relevance to the previous treaty. Why on earth was it put in the treaty at all?
First, may I apologise for a wholly out of order remark, Mr. Lofthouse? You may realise that a brief contribution at the end of the previous debate might have been of interest, particularly as the Minister rose when the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) and myself had indicated that we wished to speak. I will not pursue that matter because we are now debating clause 2.I wish to ask—why is the clause here? We are all, whether we like it or not, citizens of the European Union and we all have a vote for the European Parliament. If the powers of the European Parliament were being expanded by virtue of the treaty of accession, under the European Assembly Elections Act 1981, there must be permission for that in an Act of Parliament. I hope that the Minister can tell us why the clause is here. I was not aware that the treaty of accession, as distinct from the treaty of Union, enlarged the powers of the European Parliament, although of course it would enlarge its membership.
What I have to say is tolerably brief and could certainly be as easily contained in a debate on clause 1 as on clause 2. It does not require much elasticity to ensure that it can relate to clause 2. I want to talk about the principles of consent which are contained in the Bill. I want to do so in the context of a quite remarkable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). It will not be the first occasion when a parliamentary campaign is conducted with relentless concentration upon one central issue which it is believed will have growing dominance in the public perception of what is at stake.I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is in his place. He adds great intellectual distinction to our gatherings—a Greek planted among Romans—and he will confirm that Cicero warned again and again about the danger that Carthage posed for Rome. In that tradition, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford is claiming that we cannot understand the European Union, or the implications of this Bill, or the enlargement process described in it, without relating it all to German policy. Those who believe that enlargement will, as it were, modify the sharpness of Germany have got it wrong. Enlargement will merely serve to underline the German confrontation with the rest of Europe that will almost inevitably proceed from the collapse of Soviet power as Europe reverts to its more historic power structures. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford on the determination with which he pursues the argument. I happen to disagree with it; I would not want hon. Members to think that I share that view of Germany. I do say, however, that we cannot understand what is developing in Europe without trying to see it through the eyes of the major European power. That does not entail facile performances of the type that President Kennedy attempted when he went to Germany and said, "Ich bin ein Berliner". That was all very well for a word bite, but our perceptions and judgments must be a good deal more sustained than that. I welcome the clarity that my hon. Friend brings to these debates, although I also understand why the Minister did not immediately endorse his arguments. This is a debate that will remain with us. I look forward to more—perhaps briefer—contributions with the same degree of persistence by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford. To return to my theme of consent: clause 2 mentions the European Parliament, perhaps the institution most clearly linked to the idea of consent in all this. As we are being somewhat intellectual this evening, I should like to recall Shakespeare's comment that
The truth about the European Community is that it is a bosses' show, a bureaucrats' show, a politicians' show. It has never been a people's Europe, although I know the Liberal Democrats hope to develop that idea. Perhaps the most depressing feature of the recent European elections was the fact that so few people turned out to vote, and they do so in diminishing numbers at each election. Worse still, in almost every country the elections were fought on every subject under the sun—except the European Union. There is no basis for the EU in popular consent, which has been lacking even when a referendum has been used as a device to secure endorsement. The consequences of using that device have been relatively short lived. My observations arise not out of any hostility for the arrangements that we have in the European Union but out of the fact that what I have described is the truth. Any analysis rooted in realism must accept that. Some of my hon. Friends have begun to develop a dialectic that contrasts widening with deepening. Those who claim that deepening must parallel widening must be quite sure what they mean by deepening. They had better be quite clear as to what further commitments should be made and, above all, they have to be able to demonstrate that the powers that will be taken by Government do not have to take account of the very thin levels of popular support for the European Union across all its functions. I make that observation with no great foreboding or warning, except that if we are to have a debate about the balance between widening and deepening, let it be quite clear that unless and until we have clear, enduring evidence of popular affection for the European Union as a concept which commands loyalty and, above all, will support sacrifice—because government is about ordering priorities and the sacrifice that goes with ordering priorities—and if that mood and that commitment does not exist, whatever we advocate in respect of deepening has to take that severely into account or once more we shall embark upon a false trail which will end in disillusion."a monarch needs no unwilling subjects".
I shall try briefly to answer one or two of the points that have been raised. I shall have to write to my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who raised a rather detailed point. One might say that he has taken out one of my stumps as I am not aware of the particular residency voting requirements in the clause to which he drew attention.In answer to my hon. Friend's other point, there are provisions for some of the states, particularly Norway and Finland, to decide later whether they wish to include particular areas in the franchise for the European Parliament. My hon. Friend may be referring in particular to the Aland islands, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy within Finland. The Finnish Government have not yet decided whether they should be directly represented in the European Parliament. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) asked what was the point of the clause. We are required to legislate through the House when the powers of the European Parliament are enhanced in any way. They are in one small and detailed respect: the European Parliament will have the power to vet and approve the credentials of Members of the European Parliament elected between now and the end of the year from the accession states, in the event that in the next few months any of those countries wish to elect people to sit in the European Parliament. After 1 January next year, their credentials will have to be approved and that power, small though it is, will pass to the European Parliament. In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), I cannot possibly satisfy him or give him an adequate answer, except that I entirely accept his point about the need to take the people with us. One of the lessons of Maastricht was that the political class in Europe got well ahead of the people that it represented. It behoves us all to try to create a Europe for people, not one to satisfy political vanities or bureaucratic convenience.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause 4
'Within 12 months of the ratification of the treaty the Secretary of State shall present to parliament a report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union, its agricultural policy and its fishing industry.'.—[Sir Teddy Taylor.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.This is the only amendment which has been selected out of five pages of amendments, not because the Chairman of Ways and Means has become mean, but because in every single piece of European legislation the Government are becoming more clever in having a short title which prevents any detailed discussion on almost anything. Only through the skills of our own researchers are we able to have one particular amendment discussed in new clause 4. The Government should be aware that it does not exactly help democracy when Members of Parliament are unable to discuss any aspect of policy in detail. While they are certainly very clever, conscientious and able, it does not exactly help democracy when we have a Bill which contains many important issues, but Parliament is unable to discuss them at all. My new clause is simple. It suggests:
I think that it is a very good idea for the Government to tell hon. Members a year later whether things have turned out as they predicted. Irrespective of their views on the EC, hon. Members will surely agree that almost every day we receive information revealing that last year's pledges and assurances have turned out to be a load of rubbish, and that the Government are not really in control. 10.45 pm It will be remembered that a Council was held in the lovely city of Edinburgh. Although they would be closing down plenty of military establishments the next day, causing much sadness among the military community, the Government agreed to give more cash to the EC, on one condition—that there were strict budgetary limits on spending. Hon. Members cheered, just as they cheered Mrs. Thatcher when we did same thing under the Single European Act. We said, "At last we have control. They cannot overspend by a penny." But we have already seen what has happened. We have seen a statement signed by the Paymaster General, which I obtained privately, and also one from Brussels, showing that, despite that pledge, our people will have to spend £1,000 million above the legal limit on agriculture in 1995 because the Commission says that that must be done. The Government say that it can be done if we spend reserve funds. The same applies to contributions to agricultural spending. We were given assurances that things were sorted out now—that the amount would not be much more. I have challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have with me the paper which states that in 1995 Britain will be paying an extra £2,000 million in its gross contribution. That means that every family living in every constituency, and all the poor Members of Parliament who have been assured that things are under control, will be spending an extra £3 a week. It is all very well for some hon. Members to laugh, but there are many poor families in Britain. Many people cannot make ends meet. It is no fun for them to be told, "Sadly, we have got it wrong. You will all have to pay an extra £3 a week." It may be fun for Members of Parliament, but it is not fun for people who are finding it difficult to pay gas, water and electricity bills—people who may be unemployed. It is wrong, evil and terrible that Members of Parliament are consistently being led up the garden path and not being told the truth. Why not make a gesture of reconciliation? I am only asking the Government to come back to us a year after the treaty's ratification and say how it has worked out. Fishermen are being told not to worry—everything will be all right. Our fishing industry will be slightly stronger, we are told, with with more opportunities; the Norwegian industry will be all right. The plain fact is, as the Minister knows—he is one of the few honest guys in this place—that we have already agreed that in 1996 restrictions on the Spaniards will be removed. We have seen what has happened to our fishing fleet in the north: the Spaniards have cleared it out and our North sea catches are down to less than a quarter of their former value. Foreign Office Ministers may walk out of the Chamber, but they know the facts. They know that the value of our catch has fallen by three quarters. People become unemployed and all we do is offer them cash. The Government say, "Do not worry about these countries joining; we are going to get more money. Britain will be £300 millon better off." The detailed Library papers, however, show that it is not quite as simple as that. Because we shall pay large amounts of compensation to these countries for several years in the form of transitional payments, no saving at all will be made, at least for the first four years. We are far from sure what will happen after that. I may be wrong, the Government may be wrong, but why not come back just once, in a year, and say how it worked out? The same applies to agriculture. We are told time and again that agriculture will get better and that expenditure will go down. Yet time and again the Government's assessments are shown to be inaccurate, to be lies and misunderstandings or to be a mistake by the Foreign Office. We cannot carry on like this. People are suffering. According to our Foreign Secretary, the average family in this country pays £28 a week extra on its food or taxes purely because of the CAP. Next year, they will be paying an extra £5 a week. That is not right. Auditors' reports are published showing fraud and extravagance, but they are never debated in the House. I am not asking the Government to accept all that I am saying or to say that we should leave the EC or encourage others to do so or even that we should spend less money. I am simply saying that, as a gesture of reconciliation, the Government could agree to approve a clause that asks them to come back in a year and tell us how things have worked out. I do not think that that is asking too much. The Government could agree to do that just once. They could say, "We thought certain things were going to happen and they all did. How right we were"; or perhaps, "Things did not quite work out as they should." That would be far better. My hon. Friend the Minister will probably say that we do not want to pass unnecessary legislation. We do not want to stick something into the Bill that we do not need. The Government will probably say, "Why bother about it anyway because hon. Members can ask questions?" My hon Friend the Minister is an honest chap in the Foreign Office and he knows that we cannot table questions. We cannot ask about our trade with the EC. We are told that the answers are contained in information in the Library. Sadly, the Library figures are not precise because there are many different ways of assessing them. The Government have now achieved a situation in which on many of the basic issues, such as contributions and spending on agriculture, Members can no longer ask questions; we have to go to the Library. Just once, I want to ask our friendly Foreign Office to come back in a year and provide some figures and let us have a look. We do not even need to have a debate, although I should prefer one. This is a sensible and helpful suggestion and what has happened in the past more than justifies the request. The new clause does not propose revolution. We are not proposing that everyone should stand on their head or that policy should change. We are simply asking for an auditor's report in one year to see how things have worked out. If the Opposition and the Government accept that, it will make us all happy. We will know that at least once we will have a proper auditor's report on what has happened, without having to listen to all the nonsense, misunderstandings and sometimes the blatant untruths that, unfortunately, we sometimes hear from the Foreign Office. Many hon. Members have tonight specified that the Foreign Office is the source of deliberate misunderstanding. That is wrong in a democracy."Within 12 months of the ratification of the treaty the Secretary of State shall present to parliament a report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union, its agricultural policy and its fishing industry."
I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) on at least having his new clause selected for debate. As he pointed out, he was the only person who managed to achieve that.I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will admit that the new clause is modest in its scope. The Opposition are not particularly enthusiastic about it, simply because it refers to only certain aspects in the treaty of accession and not others. There are many other matters in that treaty that could be looked at. For example, social matters form an important section of the treaty. Other issues include environmental matters, regional matters and matters relating to democracy and open government. There is the declaration by Sweden on open government which also forms part of the accession documents. The hon. Gentleman has made some valid points, particularly about the cost of agriculture for people on low incomes or who are living in poverty. However, if the hon. Gentleman is really concerned about poverty, he and his colleagues should speak out much more on the taxation system, the VAT rises and the deregulation employment policy of the Government, which have done a great deal to promote poverty in this country. Six-monthly reports are presented on developments in the European Union. Issues such as those referred to in the new clause can properly be raised in those reports and in Select Committees and European Scrutiny Committees. I am not certain or convinced that the new clause is necessary. As I said earlier, we do not like its selective nature. If a report were to be presented, we would much rather that it referred to all the issues raised in the accession treaty. The hon. Member for Southend, East has an obvious and repeated distrust of the Foreign Office, so I am not sure that he would believe what was in such a report.
In the debate on clause 1 stand part, I called my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) Mr. Valiant for Truth, and right hon. and hon. Members who heard his speech on the new clause will understand why. My hon. Friend and the supporters of the new clause are not asking anything extravagant or extraordinary of the Government. All we are asking is that their practice should match their rhetoric. We have often heard calls for open government and that the Government are custodians of the practice of open government.The hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) said that the new clause is modest and not comprehensive, which is true. It does not refer to the environment or social policy, but it does refer to the three key issues that impinge on people's livelihoods and welfare. The question of the European Union's finances is fundamental. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East referred to the notional saving of £300 million over six years in our net contribution, which was described by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his Second Reading speech, and the big increase in this country's gross contribution next year and probably thereafter. We want to see how that equation develops and whether we will achieve the savings that have been promised. One needs only to take a trip around the countryside and to see the fields of oilseed rape and acres of set-aside land full of weeds to wonder whether the costly extravagance of the agricultural policy is working and whether it is in the interests of our people. As for the fishing industry, as I mentioned in the debate on clause 1 stand part, whole communities are becoming derelict, which is a tragedy for many coastal villages throughout the land. We want to see whether policy is working out as the Government promised it would. The new clause makes a modest, simple request of the Government. In a year's time, we want them to give an account of themselves on the important matter of the workings of the European Union after the accession of the four applicant countries, if all four join.
I support the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). Apart from the intervention that I made earlier, this is the first time that I have spoken in the debate. My hon. Friend said that the new clause is modest in its intent and objectives. That was confirmed by the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin), who spoke for the Opposition. It is extraordinary, however, that Back Benchers have been able to debate only one amendment or new clause on a matter that I believe is of constitutional importance.In an intervention in an earlier debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) highlighted the lack of interest in Europe—in the European Community or the European Union—displayed by the people of this country. He said that the interest in and support for the European Community or European Union was in fact diminishing. I believe that the House has an important role to play, and I deeply regret the fact that it is unable to make a more meaningful contribution to debates such as this on behalf of the people whom we are here to represent. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has made that point many times. 11 pm The objectives behind the new clause are very limited. If the House does not allow its Members to represent the deep concerns of the people of this country about matters of constitutional importance such as this Bill, those people will wreak their vengeance on the political parties that have allowed the Bill to be passed in their name. I do not think that it is unreasonable for my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), to ask the Government and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who has displayed an understanding and realism greater than those of any other Minister at the Foreign Office, to give a sympathetic response to the new clause. Is it wrong to ask a Minister to come back to the House in 12 months' time to give an account of how the Bill has affected this country in three important areas of activity—finance, agriculture and fishing? I accept what the hon. Member for Gateshead, East said in her brief contribution. Many of us would have wished the new clause to go even wider. If the House is to play a meaningful role in the governance of this country—in the United Kingdom and within the European Union—surely it is not too much to ask the Government to report to the House on whether what they said during the passage of the Bill was accurate and, if it was not, to provide an accurate report on precisely what has happened and to outline its actual impact. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East mentioned the cost to the people of this country of the European Community. I believe that he talked of a figure of £28 a week for each family. Is it not right that the United Kingdom Parliament should be able to judge what the Government have done and represent the interests of the people? If not, why are we debating the Bill at this time of night? [Interruption.] I am happy to hear a response from hon. Members who are not even within the limits of the Chamber. It is extraordinary that we should be able to debate only one modest new clause tabled in respect of a measure of such great constitutional importance. I believe fervently in Parliament and in the role of its Back Benchers—I have been practising it for 23 years without a break. I suggest to the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East has made a very modest request of the Government. I do not think that the Government are being honest with the House and with the people of this country unless they are prepared to report back to the House in 12 months' time to justify the policies that they have urged the House, and especially their colleagues, to adopt. I have been brief and direct. I believe that, yet again, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, like my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and for Ruislip-Northwood, has done the people of this country a great service. My hon. Friends will go down in the history of this place as honest, direct and honourable. I ask the Government to do the same.
I, too, intend to be brief, Mr. Lofthouse. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) for introducing the new clause, and I am especially concerned that we should have an early report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union.One of the most important aspects is European monetary union. As we all know, that will be very expensive indeed, as countries in southern Europe are bought off through cohesion. The four applicant countries are in the penumbra of the Hun, so they will be in favour of European monetary union. Their joining the Community will make it more likely to go forward. Therefore, if we are to influence the debate on European monetary union, it is most important for the Government to make their position crystal clear at an early stage, through the report. We know the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that a European state without a single currency is unthinkable. We know the views of the Secretary of State for the Environment—"Not tonight, Josephine. We do not know what the circumstances are; we do not know where we shall be, or what our attitude will be." Monetary union will take place by stealth. The real question, the question to which we all need the answer, is: what are the Prime Minister's views? One could say that over the past few weeks my right hon. Friend has made a fresh start, and his fortunes are improving. Perhaps by making his position clear in the report on European monetary union he could add momentum to that recovery. It would be useful to revisit my right hon. Friend's article in The Economist of 25 September 1993, in which he said that the nation state was here to stay. Is that compatible with monetary union? He also said that the people find the centralising vision of Europe alarming. Is that compatible with monetary union? He said that decision making should come closer to the people, not further away. Those issues could be reported on in the annual report. The Prime Minister said in that article that economic and monetary union was a rain dance—something for the witch doctors. That is all sensible and encouraging stuff. But why not go further, especially as the four applicant countries will probably be hell-bent on monetary union? Let us make our position clear soon. Let us build on my right hon. Friend's success at Corfu, especially in the light of his views as expressed in the article in The Economist. A real friend might say to my right hon. Friend, "John, you're on a roll. You're doing well. Cash in; take it further. The party in the country, the party in Parliament, and above all the people, want a European policy with which they can be at ease, a policy that they understand, and one that suits the United Kingdom. You've got it; go for it." Of course we all know what a single currency would mean. It would not be a convenience for commerce or a bonanza for business. It would mean massive transfer payments. Those could be set out bit by bit in the report—
Order. As is not uncommon, the hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide of the new clause. Will he get back to it?
I have nearly come to the end of my remarks, Mr. Lofthouse.I am saying that the Prime Minister, by bringing forward the report, could make his position with regard to monetary union crystal clear to the country. It is not a convenience for commerce or a bonanza for business. It means—these are items that could be set out in the report—a massive transfer of funds from the United Kingdom to the southern European countries. It means single interest rates and a single economy. It means harmonisation and a high rate of taxes. It means a single bank and it means inevitably that instead of being a nation state, instead of being the United Kingdom, we should become a mere province of a single, centralised European state. The decision making would be not closer but further from the people. There would be an expensive rain dance of an unrepresentative and unaccountable Government—the witch doctors of the European elite. That would bring forward a storm of resentment and ungovernability which would wash away not only the Treasury's policy and the agricultural policy, which would be reported on, but some of the aspects of European co-operation of which we are all in favour. It could be said in the report that the British people cannot afford European monetary union and do not want European monetary union. From his statements, it is clear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not want European monetary union. If the heart and mind of the Prime Minister and the hearts and minds of the people of the United Kingdom take the same view on this vital issue of policy—this vital issue of identity—does it do any harm for the Prime Minister to make that clear now? Does it do any harm for him to say, "I will never accept the single currency and I will never accept the single European state"? The two are a distinction without a difference.
I want to be helpful to my hon. Friends because I think that the provision of information to the House is important. National Parliaments should be more involved in European legislation and developments in Europe than they have been. However, the information sought in the new clause is generally available in other ways. During the passage of the Bill, we have tried to set out the implications of accession—in documentary form as well. On 29 March, we sent to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs a fairly detailed account of the negotiations at that point.In addition, my hon. Friends have overlooked the elaborate scrutiny system that already exists in the House. All important documents coming from the European institutions are deposited with the Select Committee on European Legislation and are available for scrutiny and debate. Indeed, I gave evidence to that Committee yesterday. Developments in the European Union are reported in six-monthly White Papers and Ministers frequently make statements on their return from Council meetings. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) in particular mentioned finance. It is true that the EC budget will have to be adjusted to take account of the states that accede, but that, too, will be the subject of scrutiny and debate. The documents will be deposited in the normal way, I hope before the end of this year.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the sheer scale of this? The EU proposes to provide 200 million ecu in the first year for Norway alone. It is estimated that the cost of agricultural support is 2 billion ecu. Where is that extra 1.8 billion ecu to be found?
As has frequently been made clear, agricultural support in the four countries is extremely high. One of the advantages of bringing the countries into the European Union is that it will reduce the degree of agricultural protection in Europe. Bringing them into the Union will be a net gain in terms of the reduction in agricultural protection. The overall flow of funds is to our advantage. I repeat the point that, although the common agricultural policy will remain expensive in those states, they are more than paying their own way—not only in the long term, but even during the transitional period before their systems align fully with existing policies.The point on which I must end is that we should not legislate unless we absolutely have to. That is the principle, after all, which underlies our deregulation efforts. Given that all the information will be made available under normal proceedings, I must invite the Committee to reject the new clause.
Question put and negatived.
Bill reported, without amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Committee was surprised that the Government Front-Bench spokesmen, or one part of their team, took steps to prevent the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) from contributing to an earlier debate. However, with his characteristic ingenuity and his knowledge of the rules of the House, he was able to speak.On Third Reading, the Bill being about the Community and accession to it, I, too, would like to use the opportunity that the Standing Orders provide to make some brief remarks. The Bill is to permit the applicants, if they so wish, to join the Community—this Union which prides itself on its democratic tradition and its democratic opportunity, but which nevertheless is at something of a turning point due to the increasing dominance of one of its member states. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) referred a short time ago to what happened in Europe 50 years ago. Through the sacrifice of his father 50 years ago today, people like myself were spared the attacks of certain weapons in London. Those of us who survived that period were determined that after that war Europe would be a place where such a war could not happen again. The Bill and the Community that we are offering to our Scandinavian neighbours is founded on treaties which cannot—and, I fear, will not—provide that sense of security, of democracy, of co-operation that we all sought 50 years ago. The reason is that, instead of encouraging co-operation, the Community's treaties encourage competition. Instead of going about things in an open way, they encourage package bargaining and secret negotiation. That is why our friends in Germany, in seeking to keep the freedom of their lands, are advocating a federal structure which some Conservative Members and others in this country rightly fear so much. In other words, the Bill will enable our Scandinavian neighbours, if they so wish, to accede to a Community whose constitution and whose treaties are flawed because they do not serve the purposes for which they are advertised and cannot bear the fruit for which they are constantly praised and, one hopes, expected to produce. I do not think that they can achieve those objectives. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North, myself and others have not thought this because of antagonism towards our friends in Europe. It is the opposite of that. We want to ensure that friendship is founded on real democracy, real freedom and real open government, but we fear that these treaties will not ensure that. I hope that our Scandinavian friends, having been given the opportunity to choose whether to stand aside and to co-operate outside the alleged Community and the alleged Union, will opt to do so. It will be to their advantage and to the advantage of all countries in Europe if they choose not to accede at this stage. It will also be to the advantage of the House, the quality of politics in this land and the citizens of the United Kingdom.
I shall be incredibly brief. We are in favour, apparently, of bringing these countries into the European Community because Europe is moving our way, because they will agree with us and because they will help us to move Europe our way. Apparently they will help us to reform the institutions of Europe.I have a suggestion for the Government. Money is power, and the less money the institutions of the European Community have, the less power they have—so do not bring forward the European Community finance Bill. Our finances have changed and Europe's finances have changed. There is massive fraud. We know that £300 million is being wasted on the European Parliament. We are taxing our elderly people to pay for their heating and we cannot afford it. Let us cut off the supply of money and add that to the alliance that we shall have with the four new countries of the European Community. Let us beat some sense into the heads of the bureaucrats of Brussels.
On Second Reading, the Opposition warmly welcomed the Bill and the accession treaty. Today's debates have not changed our minds. There have been many contributions and it seems that, especially among Conservative Members, the penny has dropped. There seems to be an understanding that the countries joining the European Union have European policies and domestic policies which have a great deal in common with Labour and rather less in common with the Government's views. That makes us, the Opposition, even keener about enlargement.The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) said that we risk not always taking the peoples of Europe with us in many of the matters that are discussed in the European Union and decided upon. He talked of the danger of a democratic gap between the European institutions and the people. It is important for us to demystify Europe and to make it relevant. We believe that the four new countries will help us to do that. Their commitment to open government—as a reality and not just rhetoric—is welcome. The four applicant countries will bring considerable economic, social and environmental assets to the European Union, and they will help to make it more democratic. We welcome that, and we welcome them. We are pleased that the Bill is having its Third Reading.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
I beg to move,
That, in the opinion of this House, the following provisions should have effect—
Part A. Office costs allowance
(1) The limit on the office costs allowance— (a) for any quarter in the year beginning with 1st April 1994, should be the amount obtained by increasing the limit for a quarter in the immediately preceding year by 2.3 per cent; and (b) for any quarter in any subsequent year, should be the amount obtained by increasing the limit for a quarter in the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the retail prices index for March in that immediately preceding year has increased compared with the retail prices index for the previous March. (2) The limit on the office costs allowance in relation to Mr. David Blunkett should be 2.57 times that determined in accordance with paragraph (1) of this Part of this Resolution. (3) Any limit determined in accordance with this Part of this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound. (4) In this Part of this Resolution—
- "quarter" means a period of three months beginning with 1st April, 1st July, 1st October or 1st January;
- "year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April
(5) The references in paragraph (1)(b) of this Part of this Resolution to the retail prices index are references to the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Central Statistical Office; but if that index is not published for a month which is relevant for the purposes of this Part of this Resolution, those references in that paragraph shall be construed as references to any index or index figure published in place of that index.
Part B. Supplementary London allowance
(1) The annual rate of the supplementary London allowance— (a) for the period of three months beginning with 1st January 1994, should be the amount obtained by increasing the annual rate at which the allowance was paid immediately before that period by 1.5 per cent; (b) for the year beginning with 1st April 1994, should be the amount obtained by increasing the annual rate determined in accordance with sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph by 0.4 per cent; and (c) for any subsequent year, should be the amount obtained by increasing the rate for the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the retail prices index for March in that immediately preceding year has increased compared with the retail prices index for the previous March. (2) Any rate determined in accordance with this Part of this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound. (3) In this Part of this Resolution—
- "the supplementary London allowance" means the allowance payable in accordance with paragraph (1) of the Resolution of 20th December 1971 relating to Parliamentary expenses;
- "year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April.
(4) The references in paragraph (1)(c) of this Part of this Resolution to the retail prices index are references to the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Central Statistical Office; but if that index is not published for a month which is relevant for the purposes of this Part of this Resolution, those references in that paragraph shall be construed as references to any index or index figure published in place of that index.
Part C. Additional costs allowance
(1) The annual limit on the additional costs allowance—
(a) for the year beginning with 1st April 1993, should be the amount obtained by increasing the relevant limit by 1 per cent; (b) for the year beginning with 1st April 1994, should be the amount obtained by increasing the annual limit determined in accordance with sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph by 1.81 per cent; and (c) for any subsequent year, should be the amount obtained by increasing the limit for the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the retail prices index for March in that immediately preceding year has increased compared with the retail prices index for the previous March.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a) of this Part of this Resolution the relevant limit is the amount equal to 144 times the Class A(i) London rate for a night's subsistence which took effect in the Civil Service on 1st August 1992.
(3) Any limit determined in accordance with this Part of this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound.
(4) In this Part of this Resolution—"the additional costs allowance" means the allowance payable in accordance with paragraph (2) of the Resolution of 20th December 1971 relating to Parliamentary expenses;"year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April.
(5) The references in paragraph (1)(c) of this Part of this Resolution to the retail prices index are references to the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Central Statistical Office; but if that index is not published for a month which is relevant for the purposes of this Part of this Resolution, those references in that paragraph shall be construed as references to any index or index figure published in place of that index.
Part D. Car mileage allowance
(1) Paragraph (1) of the Resolution of 20th July 1984 relating to the car mileage allowance should have effect—
(a) in relation to journeys commenced in the year beginning with 1st April 1994, as if the rates per mile shown in the Table were the rates obtained by increasing each of the rates at which the allowance was previously paid by 2.3 per cent; and (b) in relation to journeys commenced in any subsequent year, as if the rates per mile shown in the Table were the rates obtained by increasing each of the rates for the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the retail prices index for March in that immediately preceding year has increased compared with the retail prices index for the previous March.
(2) Any rate per mile determined in accordance with this Part of this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest tenth of a penny.
(3) In this Part of this Resolution "year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April.
(4) The references in paragraph (1)(b) of this Part of this Resolution to the retail prices index are references to the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Central Statistical Office; but if that index is not published for a month which is relevant for the purposes of this Part of this Resolution, those references in that paragraph shall be construed as references to any index or index figure published in place of that index.
Part E. Winding-up allowance
(1) The following provisions of this Part of this Resolution should have effect with respect to Members of this House who cease to be Members after 31st March 1994.
(2) Provision should be made under arrangements approved by the Speaker for an allowance to be made in respect of the expenses which, after a person has ceased to be a Member, are still required to be incurred in connection with his Parliamentary duties.
(3) The limit on that allowance should be four-thirds of the amount which, for the year in which that person ceases to be a Member, is the limit for that Member on the office costs allowance for a quarter in that year.
(4) The allowance should be paid to the person who has ceased to be a Member or, if he has died, to his personal representatives or a person nominated by him or selected under the arrangements approved by the Speaker.
(5) Any limit determined in accordance with this Part of this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound.
(6) In this Part of this Resolution—"quarter" means a period of three months beginning with 1st April, 1st July, 1st October or 1st January;"year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April.
Part F. Recall of House during a recess
(1) The following provisions of this Part of this Resolution should have effect with respect to any occasion on which, during a recess, this House is recalled before the expected end of the recess.
(2) Members who attend the House during the recall should be reimbursed in respect of such extra costs which are wholly and exclusively attributable to the recall as are necessarily incurred by them in connection with travelling—
(a) from any place to London; and (b) during any further recess immediately following the recall, from London to any place (provided that the purpose is to fulfil, before the expected end of that further recess, plans which were in existence before the recall).
(3) For the purposes of this part of this Resolution—
(a) "recess" means not only a period when Parliament stands prorogued to a specified date but also any period when this House stands adjourned to a specified date, and the references to the expected end of a recess are references to that specified date; (b) "reimbursement", in the case of a Member, means the payment to the Member of the amount of the extra costs concerned and the payment to the Inland Revenue, on account of the income tax liability of the Member, of the difference between that amount and such a sum as, after deduction of tax at the marginal rate applicable to the Member, is equal to that amount; and (c) "extra costs", in the case of a Member means costs in respect of which the Member cannot be reimbursed otherwise than by virtue of this Part of this Resolution.
I inform the House that Madam Speaker has not selected the amendment.
In case anticipation has been aroused by the length and apparent weight of the motion, I should say at the outset that it represents no major or strategic change. I hope, conversely, that it does not create too much disappointment, either.The first four parts of the motion replace uprating mechanisms that for various reasons have ceased to work with one that does work and can be expected to continue to work. The fifth part meets a problem that has arisen because of the greater contractual commitments that Members these days are finding it necessary to enter into. It is merely designed to ensure that those commitments can be met if a Member dies or ceases to be a Member for any other reason. The sixth part corrects an anomaly which has hitherto meant that, if Parliament is recalled during a recess, Ministers can receive help with the expenses incurred but Members cannot. I hasten to add that the correction takes the form of extending help to Members and not taking it away from Ministers.
Will Members be reimbursed retrospectively for being called back? I was called back from Australia just over a year ago. That was hugely expensive.
I am afraid that it is not retrospective, and I cannot hold out hopes of anything other than sympathy to the hon. Gentleman this evening.I will deal first briefly with the four existing allowances uprating mechanisms that have failed. The main one is, of course, the office costs allowance. That was formerly increased with effect from each April by reference to the pay of senior secretaries in the civil service. However, in the same way as the move to new civil service pay arrangements broke the old automatic linkage for Members' pay, which we replaced last year, so this one too is breaking down and needs to be replaced. The additional costs allowance, to help with the problem of Members needing accommodation in two locations, was formerly uprated in August by reference to civil service overnight subsistence rates. With greater delegation to individual Departments, that too has ceased to be viable. The position in regard to its near relation, the London supplement, is a little more complicated. Essentially, however, it is that it used to be linked to the inner London weighting paid to civil servants. That is being replaced by a recruitment and retention allowance paid at the discretion of individual Departments—which, once again, makes it unusable as an uprating mechanism. Lastly, the motor mileage allowance used to be tied, in a very specific and detailed way, to a schedule of motoring costs which is no longer available in a form which can be operated within the terms of the underlying resolution of the House. Here too, therefore, we need a new uprating mechanism. Against that background, we spent some time considering the possibility of devising what might be called fancy new mechanisms which could be presented as in some way cleverly and specifically related to each of those different purposes. We concluded that all of them would be vulnerable to endless argument, and probably in due course once again be overtaken by change comparable with what has caused the present problem. We therefore decided that far and away the simplest, most straightforward and most sensible solution was to link them all to the retail prices index. That also has what I, and I suspect the House, regard as the inestimable advantage of being the most durable solution—that is, the one most likely to remain workable on an automatic basis, and thus to avoid the need for the House to have to keep passing new resolutions. That is what the first four parts of this resolution do: they provide for all four allowances to be uprated with effect from April 1994 by reference to the RPI, and henceforth to be uprated with effect from each succeeding April by reference to the RPI. The only reason for the slight variation in the actual percentage increases from April 1994 is that we have also taken the opportunity to make another sensible simplification, which is to end the variations of uprating date and to put everything on to an April to March basis. Thus, the office costs and motor mileage allowances rise by 2.3 per cent., which is the RPI increase from April 1993 to April 1994. The London supplement rises by 1.9 per cent., which represents 1.5 per cent. due from January 1994 in respect of an earlier increase in the civil service inner London weighting, plus 0.4 per cent. for the RPI increase in the three months from January. The additional costs allowance rises by a little more—2.8 per cent.—but only, I emphasise, because that relates not to 12 months but to a 20-month period since its last uprating in August 1992.
I should like my right hon. Friend to clarify a point relating to the office costs allowance with particular reference to the amount that we pay our secretaries or research assistants. In essence, is the increase being limited to 2.3 per cent.? If that is the case, it is lower than the increase being granted to the civil service, and that would be very unfair to our secretaries, who do a great deal of work and who often have to work very long hours. Is my understanding correct?
I have explained, I hope fairly clearly—although I am moving fairly rapidly because I sense that it is probably the wish of the House that I should do that—that we have used the RPI as the most sensible and straightforward mechanism.The office costs allowance, which was substantially increased a couple of years ago, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will recall, embraces several other costs, such as equipment costs and others, which are not salary costs these days and which hon. Members meet. I judge that that mechanism remains the most sensible solution overall.
My right hon. Friend based his argument about the increase in the allowances on the basis that they were originally fair. However, the additional London living allowance is based on the average number of sittings days of the House multiplied by the allowance given to a civil servant for one night in London.How is it possible for any hon. Member to rent a flat or have any living accommodation on the basis of such a calculation? Is my right hon. Friend seriously suggesting that there was any fairness in that calculation in the first place? Will he confirm that all the allowances are paid against proven costs, as costs, to hon. Members, and there is no question of them being a benefit?
That is certainly the case, and I was going to say later that it is absolutely clear that allowances are generally paid against claims that the expenses have been wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance and pursuit of parliamentary duties.On my hon. Friend's first point, it will ultimately be a matter for the judgment of the House, but I judged that some attempt to look strategically at this or any other allowance now would not have been the most sensible thing to do. I thought that it would be better to establish a sensible uprating mechanism. In the process of what I am proposing, we have moved away from the position whereby the uprating depended on overnight subsistence costs, which in turn related partly to hotel charges. One reason why the additional costs allowance rose very little for a couple of years was the effect of the recession on hotel charges, which rose very little. The move to an RPI indexing system will at least ensure that my hon. Friend will receive a more sensible deal than he would otherwise have done. I can sum up this part of my speech in two sentences. The purpose is simply to allow the limits on claims for expenses necessarily incurred by hon. Members in fulfilling their duties to be updated for inflation, and to ensure that they are annually updated in future. None of the increases, looked at on an annual basis, exceeds 2.3 per cent. I turn now to the fifth leg of the resolution, which involves the winding-up allowance. That is the amount, currently a maximum of one sixth of the office costs allowance, which is intended to enable Members—or their executors where the issue unhappily arises as a result of death—to clear up their obligations after leaving the House. It has become clear that this amount is now inadequate in the light of, for example, prevailing contracts of employment with staff and the periods of notice which are often required in relation to the increasing amount of equipment that Members have. Having taken advice from the Fees Office, I now propose that the allowance should be set at a maximum of one third of the annual office costs allowance, although Members will see that, for technical reasons connected with the way that the basic allowance is defined, the motion is drafted in terms of four thirds of the quarterly allowance. In addition, the motion widens the scope of costs that can be covered from purely secretarial to all necessary costs. I emphasise, of course, that, in common with the OCA, and indeed others, the new figure is a ceiling to which legitimate costs can be claimed, and not in any way an entitlement. Finally, I come to part F of the resolution, which introduces a new allowance to cover the necessary expenses of Members returning to Westminster in the event of a recall of Parliament during a recess—not, I should say, that we are planning one. [Interruption.] We are planning a recess. As I said earlier, the present position is that Ministers faced with a recall can have their expenses covered by their Departments, but no such protection is available to other Members. The motion proposes that Members faced by a recall during a recess should be covered for all costs
which includes, assuming that time and plans make it reasonable, the expenses also of travelling to resume a holiday. This is not, of course, an allowance we would expect to be activated very often, but I think it a reasonable safeguard to introduce for Members who need or wish to attend the House in the event of a recall, and I hope hon. Members will agree with me. Indeed, I need hardly say that I hope they will agree with, and support, the resolution as a whole. I believe it to be reasonable, realistic and restrained, and I commend it to the House."wholly and exclusively attributable to the recall",
We are considering the recommendations in the shadow of recent events. We all recall what happened two years ago, when we took a decision, by a majority of the House, to increase the allowances paid by a large sum. That decision was unpopular outside the House, and the decisions that we take tonight will be seen in the twilight of the events that have taken place in the past three or four days. There is a great deal of cynicism about our status here. Most of it is unjustified, but we have to bear it in mind.We heard tonight from the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for the Liberal Democrats that an offer in excess of £10,000 was made to a Member of this House for secretly carrying out a small duty of booking rooms. That is the type of information that will be presented in the press tomorrow along with the recommendations that we make tonight. I believe that the recommendations are prudent and sensible. We could put into our recommendations, if not tonight then on a future occasion, the same conditions that we lay down for other people who live off public money—those who live on income support. Those people have their ceiling of income support, as we have our recommended ceiling, which we have agreed. If they receive income in excess of that amount, of even a fiver a week, that amount is deducted pound for pound from their income support. In order to defend our position, if income comes into our pockets for doing parliamentary duties, we should consider deducting that amount pound for pound from the amount that we receive. When we took the decision to increase our allowances two years ago, 53 hon. Members opposed the increase. Those awkward 53 Members had substantial outside interests, which I believe brought them in a great deal of money. They opposed the increase, and I presume that they do not take the full allowance now. I believe that we are equal as Back-Bench Members of Parliament. We have agreed on a certain amount, and that should be the ceiling.
We are talking about the office costs allowance, which is the expense of running an office. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the money that he receives from the trade union, which goes for running his office in the constituency, should be deducted from his allowance? If hon. Members receive money to run the parliamentary office from other sources, the hon. Gentleman has a point. Most Labour Members receive large amounts of money from the unions to run their offices.
I must explain to the hon. Gentleman that I and many other hon. Members receive not a penny from a trade union or any other organisation. I believe that the 14 per cent. of Labour Members who receive sums of money from trade unions and commercial bodies should act in exactly the same way as the 85 per cent. of Conservative Members who receive such pay.If the amount that the House decided was appropriate for the office costs allowance was applied to everyone, the House could take a more realistic decision on what the office costs allowance should be. Some Members voted for a low office costs allowance when they realised that vast amounts of other funds would come into their office to do exactly the same job that all the rest of us do. We have to look at the matter with some realism, and recall the decision that we took two years ago. The many Members who opposed the increase two years ago should consider the amount of money that comes into them. We must restore respect to the House, which we all love. It is the centre of our lives. We regret the comments that are being made about the House and Members of the House. We have to say that any money that comes in to us, wherever it comes from, whether it is for making speeches or acting in the long term for a company, should be set against our allowance. As has been said, there is little difference between someone being paid a set amount to ask a single question, and someone being paid a substantial amount to act on behalf of a certain company over a period of years. There is another point, which has probably been made. We have had a debate on the pensions industry and a debate on the Trade Marks Bill in the Chamber in recent months. In both debates, only one Conservative Member spoke who did not have a financial interest in the subject. Those hon. Members were speaking not on behalf of their constituents or their party, but on behalf of companies outside. Neither a trade union party nor a Transport and General Workers party stood at the election. There was not a Legal and General party—or an Ian Greer party—standing at the general election. People voted for the Labour and Conservative parties. We have degraded our own democracy, and we have prostituted it. We have become so used to the atmosphere of soft corruption in the House that Members are shocked when they hear that what they are doing is wrong, and deeply wrong.
I do not intend to follow what the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) said. My inclination is to say that any Member of Parliament who feels that his allowances are too high does not have to claim them. Anybody who feels that he is paid too much can pay it back to the Chancellor, who would be delighted to receive it.My comments will be confined to the car mileage allowance. I say to the Leader of the House, with respect, that I believe that the car mileage allowance is rather different from other allowances. It was historically fixed to a scale of mileage allowances proposed by the Royal Automobile Club, but we know that that scale of allowances has long since disappeared. The problem has been how we are to peg the car allowance to a more realistic figure. The fact that the original figure upon which we now base the allowance is years out of date does not give me the utmost confidence that we have the right formula. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that, perhaps unlike other allowances, the amount of money that is required to run a car could well rise, and, if the Chancellor keeps to what he said in the previous Budget statement, it will rise considerably faster than the cost of living. Therefore, we shall progressively find that, unless some other things happen, Members will be increasingly expected to provide more out of their other taxed income to use on the car on parliamentary business. The only way that that can be avoided is to ensure that, when the Inland Revenue comes to the point of deciding whether any of the car allowance should be taxed, it should take into account what the cost is, and raise the amount that it allows before tax applies. The present system for those who are now roughly paying the full amount of tax on the mileage allowance is such that, in many cases, Members are literally at break-even point. Certainly there is no question of their making any additional income from the car allowance. That makes it more important that we are careful in that respect. If we accept my right hon. Friend's recommendations tonight, does he not agree that a message should be imparted to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue that the figure that they accept before tax is due on the mileage allowance is also altered to take into account not just the rise in cost of living but the actual rise in the cost of running a car while on parliamentary business?
I congratulate the Leader of the House on his report to the House. It is never the right time to talk about allowances or salaries. I know full well that, despite the interventions from one or two Members, what has been done tonight shall be seen in the press as being a payment to the Member, not a payment relating to costs incurred.
The hon. Member nods his head, and he made a similar point a little earlier.I know that that will happen. We are rightly bringing some relief to our hard-worked secretaries and research assistants, who are absolutely necessary for us to run our offices. It is pleasing to hear tonight that, in future, there will be an automatic allowance based on the retail prices index. Speaking as a Back Bencher, and not in my position as chair of the parliamentary Labour party, I should like to ask that thought be given in future to ensuring that that allowance is not part of a Member's allowance, and that secretaries and research assistants are paid as though they were in the civil service. That would not prevent Members from choosing their own research assistants or secretaries, but it would mean that they were paid the right salaries, based on a civil service grade. It might also offer them career prospects. I believe that, if a Member dies or retires, his staff should be kept on if possible. New Members arriving after an election could then select staff with experience. These people would also be available to help out Members whose secretaries were ill or on holiday—a better system altogether. It would be good to have a House personnel officer to advise us on these matters. What I propose would also remove the uncertainties surrounding what research assistants and secretaries should be paid; they would be paid against a definite grade. Perhaps the employer's element of our assistants' national insurance contributions could be paid, too. That would remove from Members the difficult choices of how much they can afford to pay in salary increases for their hard-worked staff, or whether to spend the money on office equipment. That too would afford us some relief. The rest of the proposals are correct, in my submission. The change to the supplementary London allowance will help Members with London constituencies. I agree also with what has been said about the additional costs that may be associated with the car mileage allowance. It is right, furthermore, to equate Members with Ministers when it comes to reimbursement for the costs involved in a recall of Parliament during the recess. I know from conversations with the Leader of the House that one of the difficulties has been finding a civil service grade to which to attach these figures. Now we are to base them on the retail prices index, so we shall not have to go through the whole process again. That is welcome. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. I know that it has not been easy to achieve what he has done—there is never a right time, as I said—but the proposals in respect of the office costs allowance will, I hope, benefit our staff.
Can the Leader of the House assure us that the car mileage allowance policy is consistent with Government policies on reducing car use, and compatible with the idea of using the smallest, most fuel-efficient cars that are commensurate with our duties?
I ask the Leader of the House to reconsider the position of staff who are off sick or on maternity leave. Our current allowances do not adequately cover this problem. I recognise the difficulties, but increasingly Members' allowances are fully committed, and that can put Members whose staff are off sick or on maternity leave under pressure.I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman cannot give me a commitment tonight, but I ask him for an assurance that he will review an arrangement which has been in place now for a number of years, and which should be updated.
Other hon. Members have raised with me the same point as the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) has just mentioned, and I am looking into it. I am sorry that I have not managed to find a solution to put before the House tonight.I have taken note of other hon. Members' points. I have to say to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) that I view his points with a little less sympathy than some of the others that were put to me. I shall certainly ensure that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) is drawn to the attention of those to whom it was directed, and I would say to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that I am a member of the Government, so I regard what I have suggested as being consistent with Government policy.
Question put and agreed to.
I beg to move,
That this House approves the proposals in paragraph 18 of the Second Report from the Select Committee on Members' Interests (House of Commons Paper No. 353).
Madam Speaker wishes me to announce that she has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie).
This is now the sixth speech I have made on House of Commons issues since Monday and I shall try to keep this one reasonably crisp and brief.I can be brief because the purpose of the resolution is simply to implement recommendations from the Select Committee on Members' Interests, whose Chairman will no doubt seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to set out in more detail the Committee's proposals and the reasons for them. The House will probably need little reminding of the background. In March 1992, the Committee produced a major report on the registration and declaration of Members' interests. That report was debated on the Adjournment in June 1992 and formally approved by resolution of the House in June last year. Most of the changes, which were substantial, have proved acceptable and appear to have worked without difficulty. That cannot, however, be said to have been the case in relation to the new requirement that Members who are members of Lloyd's should not only register that fact, but also list their syndicate numbers for the current year and their membership of any syndicates which remain unclosed. This requirement has led to difficulty well known to the House and complaints from a number of Members who argued strongly that those requirements went beyond what was reasonable compared with what is required in other fields and exposed them to intrusive, inaccurate and damaging speculation about the details of their financial affairs. The Committee, therefore, and in my view rightly, decided to carry out a further inquiry and to make another report to the House. It is the recommendations of that report for further changes, having examined those complaints, that are the subject of this motion. Essentially, the Committee has accepted that the requirements introduced last year have indeed inadvertently upset the balance between the accepted need for disclosure and the accepted need for hon. Members and their families to a proper degree of personal privacy. Its recommendations seek to restore what it believes to be reasonable balance while still going beyond the requirements of earlier years, and at the same time to take account of new developments in the Lloyd's market, in particular the introduction of what are known as members' agent pooling arrangements—MAPA—which on their own would clearly have necessitated some reconsideration. My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), the Chairman of the Committee, and his Committee performed a valuable service to the House in being willing to look again at what is appropriate in this difficult area and what they have proposed deserves the support of the House.