Column 934That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.
That the Promoters of the London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill [ Lords ] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with ;
That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agent for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by him, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session ;
That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first time and shall be ordered to be read a second time ;
That, no Petitions against the Bill having been presented within the time limited in the last Session, no Petitioners shall be heard before any committee on the Bill save those who complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled up Bill or of any matter which arises during the progress of the Bill before the committee ; Ordered,
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session. --[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
That the Promoters of the London Local Authorities Bill [Lords] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with ;
That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the agent for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by him, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session ;
That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time and committed (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read and committed) ;
That all Petitions relating to the Bill presented in the last Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the present Session ; Ordered ,
That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the last Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business ;
That, in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words "under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)" were omitted ;
Column 935Ordered ,
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.-- [The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 7876/88, on Summer Time arrangements ; and supports the continuation of the existing arrangements for a further three years to enable the Government to consult and give careful consideration to future summer time arrangements.-- [Mr. Fallon.]
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do I assume that the motion has been moved and that because no hon. Member has risen to speak, and if I had not risen, there would have been no debate? I am not quite sure about the procedure at this stage. Perhaps you can enlighten us because I believe that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) wants to speak. I am not sure whether he can move his amendment.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : I apologise to the House. I have proposed the Question rather than put it. I have not thwarted anyone's hopes of participating in a debate. I should have told the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) and his hon. Friends. If the hon. Member for Southend, East is trying to catch my eye, I will call him.
but regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government to accept that the Directive falls under Article 100A ; and urges Her Majesty's Government to reconsider the issues raised by the European Scrutiny Committees of both Houses and the opinion of Mr. Speaker's Counsel as expressed in Annex B to the report of the Select Committee on European Legislation of this House before engaging in further discussions on the Directive.
I apologise for the fact that I am moving the amendment rather than one of my hon. Friends because, unfortunately, we have the impression nowadays, sadly, that European matters of significance are debated only very late at night. I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this can be a bit embarrassing. I am sure that we should all be aware that Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy Speaker always maintain their very good general relations with hon. Members despite our very late hours.
Basically we are debating a simple issue of principle which affects everyone in our country. Over the years summer time has caused major debates and disagreements in the House. It relates to human safety, the lives of children and adults and we all know that if we get the date wrong, that could result in a serious loss of life. To that extent the House has torn itself apart. I remember delegations from the north of Scotland and the north-east of England pleading with the House to move in a certain direction. We know, for example, that if we make summer time in a certain way, children in the north tend to go to school in the dark. Sadly those issues have dominated the House and caused enormous controversy.
We are worried because the European Community has put forward a directive, the object of which is basically to try to ensure that the decision on summer time will be made not by the United Kingdom Parliament but by the majority vote of the Council of Ministers.
Column 937I am delighted that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson), is here because he is one of the most conscientious attenders in the House. I am sure that he will be aware from our many previous discussions that, sadly, there is a whole range of issues on which the House does not make its own decisions and about which the European Community takes a decision by a majority vote. It is very sad that the average person in Britain is probably not fully aware that laws are being passed by the majority vote of the Council of Ministers and Parliament must simply abide by them.
That is only one part of a whole scene of shifting responsibility from national Parliaments to the EEC. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister expressed concern about that in her recent important speech in Bruges.
Sovereignty is slipping away in three ways. First, there has been a huge increase in the powers of the European Court of Justice. Only recently the Government were instructed by the European Court of Justice to levy VAT on hearing aids, spectacles and new commercial and industrial buildings. That is one sign of sovereignty going away.
Secondly, sovereignty has been slipping away through the powers used by the Commission. The Commission is simply the EEC's civil servants, but it has been taking more and more power. We have seen that recently in the ban imposed on the import of all apples into the EEC without consulting excellent Ministers like my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for their opinions.
Probably the most dangerous and worrying transfer of sovereignty has been through the Single European Act which, sadly, Parliament discussed on a guillotine very late on a Thursday night continuing through to Friday. As a result of that, decisions may be made in certain areas on laws to apply to all member states by a majority vote.
At the time, the Government said that they would be very careful to ensure that only those laws requiring majority vote were actually transferred. That is why the excellent Select Committee on European Legislation has looked carefully at the way in which the Commission is seeking to extend article 100A which means extending majority voting to issues which should not normally go that way. For the first time in my experience as an hon. Member for many years, I was fascinated to see in the report of the Select Committee on European Legislation the actual guidance from Mr. Speaker's counsel who stated specifically and categorically that the summer time order should not fall under article 100A. If it had stayed under article 100A, we would still have the right to say no if we did not like it. We know that under this proposal the EEC is allowing the United Kingdom-- [Interruption.] I am delighted that a Scottish Member has arrived in the Chamber. The Scottish people feel very strongly about this issue. They passionately believe that Scottish lives are threatened. Not only has the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) arrived on the Scottish Nationalist Benches, but as always--and we take this for granted--my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) is present. He is protecting Scottish interests and looking after the interests of his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for
Column 938Tayside, North should be an example to all hon. Members, with the conscientious attention that he pays to the debates in this House. The Commission and the Council of Ministers have agreed that the United Kingdom can have three years during which it can basically go its own way on summer time. If we want to have a different date to end summer time, we can go our own way. Many of us are worried that because that is being done under article 100A, after the three years the EEC, by majority, can state what summer time will apply in Britain. Even if we did not like that, even if 650 hon. Members said that it was rubbish and put lives in danger, the new date would apply because of article 100A.
I appreciate that summer time is a very controversial issue which will divide hon. Members. I know that hon. Members from Scotland have very strong feelings because they know that their constituents feel desperately strongly about the dangers to children if we get summer time wrong. The papers presented to us from the EEC acknowledge that many lives could be put at risk if we get summer time wrong. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department promised in our last debate on this matter to look very carefully at the issue of the use of article 100A. I am now worried because it appears that the Government accept that article 100A is appropriate. How can anyone say that this issue involves freedom of trade or the internal market? Surely the fixing of summer time is a question for the Parliaments of each member state. Whether one is an enthusiast of the Common Market or a critic of it, there must be some issues on which national Parliaments must make up their own minds. I accept that some people would say that it would be more convenient if everyone in Europe had the same time. Of course it would, in the same way as that argument applies in the United States where there are wide variations in time. Even so, that does not upset the internal market.
Why on earth do the Government agree to article 100A? If they agree to it, do they not accept that there is a whole range of issues on which we can simply move to majority voting? We heard Mr. Jacques Delors say in Brussels recently that the time would come when 80 per cent. of our laws would be made in Brussels by majority vote. Mr. Delors was wrong. That time has come and that is obvious from the flood of Euro measures. We have considered three this week. If hon. Members took their jobs terribly seriously--as all hon. Members do--and studied this weekend the mass of papers for the debate on Monday night, they would be horrified to see what is proposed.
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield) : The hon. Gentleman will realise that many years ago we said that if we decided to join the Common Market this kind of thing would happen. Slowly but surely our rights are being taken away. We shall soon be told when we can get up and when we can go to bed. We are being told exactly what to do. Slowly but surely, the decisions that we have to make for the people of this nation are being taken away from us.
Column 939sovereign rights that have gone--the hon. Gentleman and I have been in the same Lobbies in opposing them--have been approved by the House of Commons. We must ask ourselves tonight whether more sovereignty is going than Parliament has agreed to.
In the Single European Act and in our own legislation we have defined what was included under article 100A. That is not just the view of some strange nut speaking from the Back Benches ; that was the crucial issue raised by the Scrutiny Committees of the House of Commons and the other place where wise people look at such matters with great care. They said that on this matter article 100A did not appear to be appropriate. We have the expert advice of Mr. Speaker's counsel that article 100A should not apply. Anybody who studies such matters would also say that article 100A was not appropriate. What worries me is that if this measure goes through we have no idea what the Council of Ministers will do in three, four or five years' time. What we do know is that the right to decide summer time has gone from the House of Commons and will be decided by the majority vote of the Council of Ministers.
That is even more worrying when we realise what is involved. It is not just a matter of whether we have an extra hour's sleep ; we are talking about real-life issues--the convenience of industry, the lives of children and what happens on our roads.
Some may say that that is silly and that the Common Market will always do the sensible thing. However, some take the view that it does not always do what is sensible, and I am among that number. But whether we think that or not, the crucial point is that Parliament is passing the power to decide to a group of Ministers. It would not be so bad if those Ministers considered every issue on its merits, but we all know from previous experience that if, for example, we want Holland's support on an agricultural matter and Holland wants our support on issues affecting health and safety, people say, "We will support you on this if you support us on that." That is an unsatisfactory form of democracy, but we cannot discuss that tonight because that decision was taken by Parliament a long time ago. In view of what was said when we last discussed this matter, and in view of the importance of the issue to people throughout Britain, are the Government willing to say that article 100A does not apply? If not, will they say why? If we agree to this, oher matters can be similarly decided upon.
The Government have said that we shall have a new thinking period of three years in which to decide which way we want to go. There are several options. We all know them. The crucial one is whether to stop summer time in September or October. I do not want to go into the rights and wrongs of this because those views have been expressed by hon. Members in Parliament time and again. The crucial issue is why we should allow an issue such as this to be decided by a majority vote of the Council of Ministers, about which we can do nothing. We have seen time and again recently that, irrespective of the views of the Government and Members of Parliament, if the Council of Ministers decides something by a majority, that is that and we have to implement it. Only a few weeks ago we had to pass an order abolishing origin marking. The right of people to know where something is made has gone, not because the Government wanted that, but because the Commission said that it was
Column 940wrong to discriminate between European goods. The Government took legal advice and were told that they should accept that ruling. I appreciate that the battle over the loss of sovereignty was, to some degree, decided when we passed the Single European Act. I opposed it, but the majority voted for it and that is settled. What worries me is that we are adding a crucial matter to what has already gone and that is tragic. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to think carefully about the amendments and about standing firm on this occasion. Even if they lose the battle--we appreciate that the change will be difficult to get through the Council--at least the British people will know that the Government are speaking up for Britain and for Parliament.
Hon Members on both sides of the House were greatly heartened by what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in Bruges. However, words are one thing, actions are another. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister on this occasion to stand up for parliamentary sovereignty and the rights of our people, and stand up against the threat to the lives of our children. Try to make sure that on this occasion we say that this matter should be decided by the United Kingdom Parliament, not by the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles) : I shall take only a couple of minutes, but it is regrettable that I should have to take even that time. The summer time issue should have been settled when we last rejected the experiment in the early 1970s. My predecessor in the House made his maiden speech in that debate and it is regrettable that we should still be discussing the same old issues.
My main objection is to the option to change winter time to British summer time and to have summer time plus one hour. That experiment was tried in the early 1970s and it failed. It was hugely unpopular in the north of Scotland, particularly in my constituency, where discontent was such that there was a grassroots movement to go on to our own time zone which we were also to call BST--British Stornaway time. I am sure that if the Government take up this option seriously, we shall see the same grassroots movement against it.
I draw the Minister's attention to the recent survey by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland as recently as the early summer of this year, in which it asked its various affiliated organisations their preferences on the various options being canvassed by the Government for the alteration of summer time. Of the 28 organisations that replied, 19 said that they preferred the status quo ; only two wanted British summer time during the winter. Those organisations that wish to retain the status quo had their bases in Scotland and their members in some way or other made most of their living off the land, whether through farming, forestry or even tourism. The two organisations which wanted a change were the Ramblers Association and the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Services, both of which have their headquarters in London. That is instructive.
The notion that the change suggested in the Government's list of options has anything to do with the need to develop a single market is preposterous. It is as preposterous as the notion that we must have a uniform sales tax across the EEC. The example of the United States
Column 941shows that it functions perfectly well with differential sales taxes in different states. Several different time zones also operate across that continent. There is no reason why we cannot do the same, even in the context of a united states of Europe and a movement towards greater European unification in respect of other matters. The application of a central European time from the most northern part of Europe down to the Mediterranean will not make any sense. At this early opportunity, I record my constituents' opposition, which is shared, I am sure, by most of the north of Scotland.
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : I support the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), because there is no question--I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will take this on board--that the view in Scotland is almost totally unanimous. I say "almost" because one usually finds that organisations that do not support the Scottish view have their roots and origins in London. Scottish-based organisations, and certainly my own constituents, have posed more questions to me on this subject than they have on the community charge, which gives an indication of their depth of feeling. Summer time has been an issue for many years, and whenever there have been proposals for experimentation, Scotland has wanted the status quo to continue. I hope that, during the three-year respite, the Government will have second thoughts about the way in which they deal with the directive and accept that it does not come under article 100A but is something on which they should take a stand. It is not the great issues that mostly affect people's attitudes but the small matters that impinge on their everyday lives. A change in British summer time will doubtless have an enormous impact on everyday life. The hon. Member for Western Isles, using the United States as an example, argued that it is nonsense to claim that such a change is necessary to make the market more efficient.
That certainly is the most nonsensical argument anyone can produce. The finest markets operate worldwide. The Japanese would not work any more effectively and efficiently if they observed a different time zone. They operate under a very different time zone from ours, yet they manage to penetrate our markets successfully. It is ridiculous to suggest that a change in summer time will help the market place. It is instead an administrative notion, from bureaucrats who like everything nice and tidy and who want us all to be the same. It is time people realised that Scotland likes to be different. We enjoy being different, and we want to be different. There are good reasons why we are different, and those differences will be impinged upon by a change of the kind proposed.
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East) : The House will note the exceptional Scottish interest there is in this matter. That is not surprising when one remembers that Scotland was the place of the previous British summer time experiment, which was far from relished. The strength of feeling now being expressed results from that earlier experiment, which caused major problems for Scotland.
Column 942The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) pointed out that his predecessor, the right hon. Donald Stewart, used his maiden speech to emphasise his opposition to British standard time. Scotland's geography has not changed, and the arguments used then still hold true.
In the British Isles, the sun rises on a line roughly south-west to north- east. In the middle of December, it is 10.15 am before Scots begin to see a blink of daylight. That is why there were demands for the abolition of British standard time from a host of sources, including the National Federation of Building Trade Employers, worried about the consequences for the building industry ; the National Farmers Union, whose members faced special problems rising from the adoption of British standard time ; the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers ; the Union of Post Office Workers ; the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers Association, and others. Opposition was clearly expressed by a whole range of Scottish organisations. I am certain that if they were asked again, they would express a similar view.
Scotland's geographic realities mean that uniformity with more southerly European states will create major problems in rural areas for farmers, the construction industry and others. Scotland's lower temperatures will combine with the penalties imposed by extra hours of darkness to increase industry's costs and its energy and light requirements. It will place an extra stress on the population. I ask the Government to note the problems that women and children in rural areas will face if they are forced to walk great distances in darkness. The earlier objections to the proposals stand, but today we live in a very different society, posing even greater dangers to the individual.
I want to get over to the Government the message that Scotland would face many problems if such a change is made. It is not beyond the wit of humankind to take into account the geographic realities of Scotland's northern areas and to act accordingly. The Soviet Union and the United States have different time zones, and it should not be beyond the wit of the Community to devise a solution that will suit its members. The last experiment showed that a change will bring major problems for Scotland. There was desperate opposition to it, and nothing has changed since then. I hope that the Government, in all their dealings in this matter, will take account of Scotland's plea and the nature of the problems that a return to British standard time would create for it.
If the Government question whether there really is such opposition they have only to ask, for I am sure that they will receive exactly the same message. Scotland requires a time structure that suits its special needs, not one that is imposed for external reasons. 8.6 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I cannot be as brief or as wide ranging as some right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken for the reason that has already been given by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) : I am Chairman of the Select Committee on European Legislation, whose two lengthy reports on the subject I draw to the attention of the House.
I wish to address points of legal and constitutional significance. Important though the considerations are to which my hon. Friends and other hon. Members have
Column 943referred, ultimately it will be for its constitutional and legal aspects that this case will be remembered. Unfortunately, the proceedings of the House mean that the Minister did not open this debate. I suppose that that is the responsibility of those of us who did not take the opportunity to permit him to do so by drawing to your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the method that would make that possible. I regret to say that, but for a point of order, this matter could have gone through on the nod. However, the Minister will have one go and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) also has one go.
I want to clear the ground, and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong. We are discussing a number of points relating to summer time, but we are really discussing the EEC's fifth directive. As I understand it, if voluntary agreement is not reached by 1993 the consequence will be that we shall be dictated to not only as to GMT plus two, and when that finishes or changes, but also in respect of the voluntary arrangement for its start, and that those decisions will be made for us by the Council of Ministers by majority vote. Important though that is to all right hon. and hon. Members, it is a striking example of the way in which decisions--including the time at which we shall go to bed--are being made for our country by majority vote of the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, the Government are arranging a survey. When the Minister replies, no doubt he will tell the House something of the results which--surprise, surprise--might mean the Government presenting proposals fitting in with those of our European partners across the Channel. In that case there would be no need for that vote. I rather suspect that such an arrangement may emerge, although I do not wish to be too cynical. I am trying to clear the ground. As I have said, we are discussing the fifth directive, which the Select Committee considered of sufficient legal and political importance to be debated in the House.
I must now revert to important and detailed constitutional matters which may be difficult to describe and even more difficult to understand. But the example that I shall give may reveal not only to the British public but to hon. Members the extent to which majority voting will replace our own legislation, not just on summer time but in a sphere as yet undefined.
I believe, as I said in a speech the other day, that when the House passed the Single European Act and authorised the insertion in the treaty of Rome of article 100A, no one--including myself--understood the implication. If anyone did, we were not told. Certainly no one told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I was then a Member, and no Minister mentioned the implication with which I shall deal tonight. Either they did not know or they were concealing it from the House. I am one of those with a charitable turn of mind who believes that they did not know.
I am not suggesting that the Minister will venture tonight into those lofty areas of politics and constitution, although as a lawyer he will probably understand their importance. It was because he understood such matters that, when they were raised in a debate on 28 April by the hon. Member for Southend, East and myself, he doubted whether the use of article 100A would be appropriate. That, at least, was my interpretation of what he said. Since then we have corresponded with the Home Secretary. I should like to quote some of that rather lengthy correspondence in a moment, as it is very significant.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : I do not want the hon. Gentleman to misunderstand my stance at the last debate, and I am sure that he did not intend to do so. I chose my words very carefully. What I said was :
"I do not propose to express a concluded view on the issue, if only because I do not think that I am competent to do so."
I went on to say :
"I am not irrevocably persuaded that article 100A applies to the directive. Clearly, that matter requires further consideration. I most certainly do not concede that the directive is intra vires article 100A."--[ Official Report, 28 April 1988 ; c. 617.]
Mr. Spearing : I wholeheartedly concur, and I am grateful to the Minister for putting that on the record. I think that I referred to "doubt", and it is fair to say that there was doubt across the Floor of the House about the suitability of the article in relation to summer time.
I must now go into the details of the written constitution under which the House now operates, which will, I am afraid, take some time. Article 8A of the treaty of Rome, on which article 100A hangs, states :
"The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty." To that extent it defines the internal market. Article 100A, to which it gave life, is much longer, but the important paragraph for our purposes reads thus :
"The Council shall in co-operation with the European Parliament and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee, adopt the measures for the approximation of the provisions laid down by law, regulations or adminstrative action in Member States which have as their object the establishment and functioning of the internal market."
The important word there is "functioning". Any law or regulation in a member state that impinges on the functioning, or
non-functioning, of the internal market comes within the ambit of article 100A, or would at least appear to. I should mention that article 100A is subject to majority voting, whereas article 100--the original article in the treaty--speaks of
"the establishment and functioning of the common market." That article was subject to unanimity. There is, of course, a difference between the functioning of the Common Market and that of the internal market, and they are governed by slightly different articles.
Mr. Speaker's counsel drew the attention of the Select Committee in Report HC43 No. 15 to the use of article 100A in respect of what was then the fourth directive, which, as I have said, we discussed on 28 April. Mr. Speaker's counsel, who advises Mr. Speaker on legal matters, told the Committee--and we thought it important enough to note his advice in annex B --that the Government, who are responsible to the House, should not have been content with the choice of article 100A for the directive in question. In being so content--as I shall illustrate by quoting from a letter from the Home Secretary--they are making the directive subject to majority voting ; if it had remained under article 100 it would have been subject to unanimity. It is an important choice for any Government to have to make. The Council of Ministers can, if it wishes, challenge the basis of a regulation chosen by the Commission. The Commission is much more powerful than some hon. Members who have made speeches recently : it alone can produce draft laws and regulations. Any one of the 600-odd hon. Members in the House can
Column 945present private Members' Bills, but the Prime Minister herself cannot put a draft proposal before the Council of Ministers. The Commission is the eye of the needle. Moreover, it not only puts forward the law but cites the article of the treaty of Rome--which is our written constitution--on which it is based. If it is based on an article that requires unanimity, that gives every nation a veto. On the other hand, if article 100A is cited, a qualified majority of 23 votes is required to stop or block it. The United Kingdom and West Germany have only 10 each. Even two major states are not sufficient on their own to block a proposal under article 100A.
Hon. Members may say that it all sounds a bit legal and complicated so far, but so what? If article 100A is chosen for the summer time directive there may be a few chunterings from a few hon. Members, but what does it matter? It matters very much, because if the Commission is able to cite article 100A for this directive, what will they not be able to cite it for? We are not talking just about the length of daylight, the number of hours in GMT plus or minus or the date on which it should finish. Strange though it may seem in an unexpectedly early debate in an almost empty Chamber, we are really talking about the powers of the EEC to pre-empt the legislative authority of the House.
I have said on radio and in speeches that we do not know the perimeters to that power. I do not think that the Government know, either. I certainly do not think that the Home Office knows. The Select Committee has embarked on a study of the choice of treaty base after the Single European Act comes into force. We have taken evidence--in HC 178--iv and v--from Government spokesmen, including evidence from Home Office spokesmen. The report is not yet complete and I do not intend to quote from it, but the witnesses appeared to be somewhat at variance with one another. We are still conducting that inquiry, so I shall not pursue the matter. It is still, as it were, sub judice. However, the Home Office spokesmen gave evidence as to why the Home Office thinks that article 100A is suitable in this instance. We are to take evidence from other witnesses before we publish our report.
In the meantime, the Government are steaming on and using that article, despite the fact that in the original report on the matter--HC 43-xv--we questioned its use. After the debate on 28 April to which the Minister referred I wrote to the Home Secretary and asked him why, in the fifth directive--the one with which we are dealing--the Government accepted article 100A in their explanatory memorandum and why they also accepted it in the Council of Ministers. I also asked the Home Secretary to explain why, after the doubts that had been expressed on various occasions about the use of article 100A, the Government went ahead with it.
In our next report that was published last week--HC 43 xxxviii--we published the correspondence that I have had with the Home Secretary on the topic. I shall read to the House the last part of our report so as to put the matter into context. On page 6 we say :
"The Committee's concern about this point arises from the inference to be drawn from the arguments used by the Home Office, namely that, if any perceived internal market element found recourse to Article 100A, only political considerations
Column 946restrict the scope of Community action under this Article in areas not specifically excluded. The Legal Adviser points out that this could have implications for national competence and, more significantly, draw the outline of a massive area in which Member States' freedom of action may be inhibited pending Community action. Furthermore, acceptance of this approach in one case may have implications for the Government's position regarding other proposals. The Committee therefore intends to pursue this question in the context of its current studies on choice of Treaty base.
The Committee demonstrates above that this proposal raises important legal questions. It considers that important political questions are also raised and recommends further consideration by the House on the occasion of a debate on Summer Time Arrangements." That is this debate.
I revert to the original note of Mr. Speaker's counsel and to the reasons why he doubts whether this regulation ought to come under article 100A. The point is fairly clear.
Summer time does not affect the physical movement of goods or the movement of telephonic communications. The establishment of the internal market depends upon the breaking down of physical and legal barriers. We have to ask what physical or legal barriers are impeded by different time zone arrangements. I put it to the House that there is little evidence of that. "Ah," say those in favour, "yes, there is. Business men, speaking from one side of the Channel to the other, or from one time zone to another, are inconvenienced by different time zones. Therefore," say those who are in favour of using article 100A, "there are commercial and market elements that justify the use of 100A." They say that it is justified, even if the British people believe that matters such as agriculture and daylight are important, apart from the importance of this House deciding for itself what should be done. It is a constitutional issue.
Whether one consideration justifies the use of article 100A over all other considerations is a moot point. We debated that matter on 28 April. After that debate there was the Home Office's decision and the fifth directive. The Home Office said that it was content that article 100A should be used, but it did not tell the House at that time. We found out by looking at the explanatory memorandum, where we saw that article 100A had been accepted and that the Home Office had not objected to its inclusion. Therefore, we shall have to accept a majority decision in due course.
I want to take the House one stage further. If the Home Office believes that that is acceptable, which other Government Departments will accept article 100A when only elements of commerce or the market are involved instead of commerce and the market being absolutely overwhelming or dominant?