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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : I rise in my place to perform a rather unusual task and that is vigorously to defend our Prime Minister. This may be the first time and it is probably the last time that I shall do any such thing, but I feel that she has been grossly misunderstood and, indeed, misrepresented. How could a woman of her status not know what she is doing? In Europe I spend a great deal of my time explaining to people that it is not correct that our Prime Minister does not understand the implications of being a European. After all, as I point out, it was she who pushed through the Single European Act and voted for it. I did not vote for it, but the Prime Minister voted for it. Who put the Whips on the Conservative majority? I did not do that--the Prime Minister did it. Who was it who insisted that this should be pushed through in a very short time on a guillotined motion, against the feeling of most Members of this
Column 549Parliament that it needed to be debated in considerable detail? That was not I--it was the Prime Minister. I believe, therefore, that she is badly misunderstood when she is represented as not being a very good European.
All sorts of interesting things can happen, however. I am away from the House for two weeks with a Select Committee and return to find that the Common Market question has undergone an extraordinary sea change. Can this be the organisation of bureaucrats in which preferment is not by ability but only by nationality and which, I am told, is a hot-bed of Socialism? I really do not recognise it. Those of us who have had to do with it over a great many years are hardly likely to accept that description. What is important and should be confirmed time and again is that the present Conservative party has got itself into an extraordinary situation precisely because it has never been prepared to consider the way in which the House of Commons deals with European legislation.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) say that sovereignty was the arrangement whereby a group of nations got together to decide what they would do. It is an interesting use of the English language if not an accurate one. I believe that what we ought to be doing here is something rather different. The House of Commons has machinery which would enable it at every point to have an input into European legislation. It has a series of Select Committees which currently match individual subjects--Select Committees which occasionally, but not very often, look briefly at individual directives or regulations but never at the point at which they could have an influence on the decisions taken. If that is the situation, the Prime Minister could make a very simple, practical gesture to prove to us all not only that she is fully European but that she understands the implications for a democratic state of the changes incorporated in the Single European Act. She could come to the House before the summer recess, because she is a practical woman and likes to do things with rapidity and to take charge on her own, and say that in future she would like all the Select Committees to look at a very early stage at all suggestions emanating from the Commission.
It is the Commission, whether or not its members are described as bureaucrats, which can initiate legislation. Many European parliamentarians have the right to comment but not to decide, so it is not true that there is any kind of democratic control over what happens. To call the members of the Commission civil servants is a slight misnomer when so many of them are not only directly appointed by their own nation states but have it made very clear to them that the responsibility for decision-making purposes still resides in the Quai D'Orsay, in Bonn, in Madrid--wherever their own future lies. If hon. Members do not believe me, I can only say that they have not discussed this matter very frequently, as I have, with many European civil servants over the years.
Thomas More had one of his narrators in "Utopia" say that intelligent human beings who trusted one another had no need of treaties because if they trusted one another they would never do anything to injure one another's interests. If, on the other hand, they believed that they had to sign treaties because that degree of faith did not exist, that meant almost by implication that they were prepared to
Column 550break the treaties that they had signed. I paraphrase, but it is a lesson that all politicians would do well to remember. Thomas More learnt the hard way that politics is a singularly unkind and unrewarding job.
Let us therefore accept that we have the treaty and the machinery, and the House of Commons can, if it wishes, this month take back a simple power. If we do not at any point represent the interests of our constituents in many of the directives that are being passed, these debates will become longer and longer spaced out and the amount of detail going through will be less and less scrutinised by the Mother of Parliaments. I offer one simple solution. Let us have a Select Committee of the House of Commons with representatives of every party, the sole function of which is to consider at the very earliest stage the implications of directives and make it clear to Ministers what their attitude is. The Danish Parliament does this very efficiently with a committee which can be called together at great speed and can discuss individual items. We do not do that. Even in the other place European legislation is better scrutinised than in this House, and in some instances much more efficiently.
If we do not take that course, debates in the House of Commons about what it is to be European or what it is to react to the Single European Act will be so much hot air without the understanding that it is power that decides where Europe will go. It is not an intellectual argument. The French, the Germans and the Italians do not rely on intellectual persuasion. They rely on carefully constructed coalitions of views, the giving of one benefit to receive 10 in return. The British do not understand the rules, they have never learnt the game and they are being beaten into the ground. I offer one simple solution. Let us today send a message to the Prime Minister saying that we know that she is a European, that we are as European as she is and that we will support her if she simply brings back into our machinery all the legislation that is to be decided by majority votes and takes note of what the British say. Would not that be a remarkable innovation?
Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) : My grandparents were born when there was a British Empire and, had they so wanted, they could have governed that. My parents were born and lived their formative years at the time of the Battle of Britain. I have no doubt that for that generation the moment when the Anglo-Saxon world stood alone was the high point of their awareness of their Britishness.
For me--and this is where I nail my colours to the mast--the creation of Europe seems to be the most important task that my generation can undertake. I realise that other people have different ideals, but that is what brought me into politics and that is an ideal from which I will not resile. It is not a hopeless or far-fetched ideal ; it is a very practical one. After 10 years as one of the Prime Minister's foot soldiers in the European Parliament, I am aware of the pitfalls, the barbed-wire and all the difficulties involved.
The choice for the United Kingdom is quite clear : it is engagement or withdrawal. I do not believe that there is a halfway house. I do not believe in a second-class citizenship in Europe. I can imagine the Prime Minister's response if she were invited to captain the second eleven in
Column 551the European Community. We have to be part of the ongoing process of Europe or get out of the Community. There is no practical way between the two.
If there is no choice but to continue--and I do not believe that this Government, with its commitment to Britain's role in the world, could conceivably contemplate withdrawal, because our role in the world is so involved in our membership of the Community--we have to consider how to make the best of it. There are several guidelines that would help us in the coming months, when there will be important decisions to take.
First, we should use a rhetoric which is appropriate to the occasion. We are told constantly that there are people who agree with us. They do not declare it, but there is anecdotal evidence that there are people who agree fundamentally with what we say. We have to make it possible for them to declare that they agree with us. Sometimes we erect a wall of rhetoric which does not reflect our politics and makes it difficult for them to declare that they share our point of view. That is an important political fact about achieving our objectives.
Secondly, we should be careful about the erection of the Brussels bureaucracy into some kind of modern evil empire with Mr. Delors as the demon king. I simply do not believe that that is a plausible representation or that it helps our case. I should like to see the return of pragmatism to our debates in the Community ; I have always assumed it to be the great British virtue.
Thirdly, we must recognise that the single market is not and has never been a purely economic doctrine. It has always had implications for sovereignty, for all the reasons that are enshrined in the Single European Act ; it has always been a constitutional as well as an economic movement. Other people have the right to define 1992 in terms that suit their political conditioning, background and needs. I agree that the social charter is a mish-mash of half-baked ideas of doubtful legal status ; I agree that we should not eat at that table. Nor, however, should we deny that others may have political needs--for example, a social market tradition in their economies--that they will wish to put on the agenda.
I also believe that there is a close link between European Community processes and defence, and that involves Germany's role. Not the least of Europe's achievements has been the anchoring of Germany's fragile democracy in the western camp--
Mr. Curry : Democracy has been fragile throughout German history. A common subject for discussion in the European council chambers is "Can we trust the Germans?" I think that that is rather insulting to them, but I recognise that with the loosening of the reins in eastern Europe there are bound to be temptations. The best way in which we can ensure that Germany remains a fully fledged western partner and part of NATO is by not denying her the important alternative vision of the continued progress of Europe, which is a crucial element of our defence.
We must approach the Madrid summit--where we will consider the Delors report--with care and circumspection, but with a determination to engage in discussions. First, we must say that chapter 39, with its irrevocable commitment, must go. I do not think that it amounts to a row of beans : it is a typical document produced by civil
Column 552servants who are impatient with the politicians' delay in making decisions. It will not bind any politician. Politicians may sign such documents, but if the circumstances change they will not keep to the agreement. Chapter 39 might just as well go now as be disproved later.
Secondly, we should distinguish between economic and monetary union. There are links between them, of course, but they are not the same. There are plenty of examples of political organisations in which economic policy is to some degree independent of monetary union. I see no reason why the United Kingdom cannot sign up to stage one of the Delors report. It will involve joining the exchange rate mechanism, but there are arguments for that, although I recognise that there is hostility to it among my right hon. and hon. Friends. The argument can cut either way, and I am not sure that I would fight a religious war over it.
We are likely to experience a decline in inflation relatively soon, along with the price stability achieved by the continental countries--partly through stringent monetary policy, but also because of the link in the exchange rate mechanism. Ireland's inflation is running at 2.5 per cent. I feel that the case is, on balance, in favour of joining the ERM before long. For one thing, I feel that it is the least expensive means of reducing inflation : the commitment to fight it will be given an institutional form which will influence the market. Perceptions matter in this business. I also believe that the introduction of the pound will mean that the whole mechanism must be expanded and strengthened. That will take time, and will take priority over more weird and wonderful aspects of the Delors report, of which I share the suspicion voiced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell).
Joining the European monetary system would require a more formal structure of central bank co-operation, agreement on monetary targets and a strengthening of commitment to intervention. Conversely, however, strengthening the commitment may require a less practical use of that commitment.
I believe that the Government have brought about significant achievements in Europe : the fight against protectionism, the importance assigned to the link with the United States--which is crucial--the reform of finances and farm policy, and the drive for the single market. When the history of this period is written, I believe that people will identify the break-up of the Communist empire, the new relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States--and the new relationship between Europe and the United States that is bound to evolve--the development of the Pacific Rim economies and the unification of Europe. This is one of the most historic movements that have taken place in my generation, and I trust that the United Kingdom will play a full and constructive part in it.
Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan) : I thought that the most interesting part of the speech by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was his observation that there comes a point in the history of various parts of the world at which power moves from what he described as the old concentrations. He also made the fair point that it is entirely legitimate for people to pursue the national interest, and to view changing circumstances from a "national interest" perspective. There is certainly a recognition that power is moving from the old concentrations of the Union created in 1707 to the wider
Column 553union of the European Community, leading many--including myself--to argue that Scotland should be an independent member of the Community.
In the past few months, the response to that logical argument--in particular, from the Governor General of Scotland--has been that Scottish policy is vigorously championed inside the Community, but that the present apparatus operated by the British Government is adequate to locate Scotland's influence within the Community. As the White Paper shows, the reality is very different. It tabulates 32 meetings of the Council of Ministers, at only three of which the Scottish Office was represented--and those meetings were concerned only with fisheries. Fourteen informal meetings were held, at none of which Scottish Office Ministers were present. It seems that, apart from fisheries, there was no direct, distinct or unique Scottish interest in matters such as the environment, energy, insurance, banking, social Europe, health, technology, education and steel. The White Paper mentions the
"major ministerial speeches on Community topics"
to be found in annex C. Of the 49 speeches logged there, not one was made by a Scottish Minister. That illustrates the scale of Scottish silence and- -in my view--impotence, and our lack of influence on European policy.
I want to concentrate on two issues. The first is social Europe, and here I address myself to the Under-Secretary. It has been interesting to hear the different points of view about the legal basis of a veto on social Europe. Some hon. Members have said that it will be subject to a qualified majority, others that it will be subject to unanimity. The Minister of State has hedged and dodged a fair amount by saying that the Government have to see what is contained in the directive that will come before us before giving a positive and formal response. Surely the legal basis of the social charter should be clarified at an early date : it is an issue of genuine public concern and should be widely debated.
Many people, not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the European Community, regard social Europe as the other side of the coin, balanced equally with the free-market aspect of the Single European Act and the attempt to set up an internal market. In its report to the Council in December, the outgoing Commission makes that point very forcefully. But the British Government seem to view it as one-way traffic : everything that strengthens capital must be pushed forward. The free movement of capital puts it in a powerful position to exploit opportunities in the wider internal market, but also puts it in a powerful position to exploit the Labour party.
The British Government's scenario, as I understand it, involves no attempt to obtain an even or indeed a reasonable balance between capital and labour, especially in a Community with such a desperate level of economic development.
There will be a temptation on the part of capital to play one group of workers off against another group because of the different levels and standards of wages and conditions in different parts of the Community. Capital will attempt to force down wage rates and standards of health and safety. We have seen it already in the so-called free market United Kingdom economy, in the treatment of people who
Column 554used to be protected by wages councils and of young people aged 16 or 17 who are told to take youth training scheme places or get no money.
The majority of the 320 million people in the Community live in civilised economic countries, where market forces are subject to control. They have experienced economic and social success because of that. We cannot expect them to accept undiluted Thatcherism as the only consequence of the Single European Act and the internal market. If the British Government do not know it, others in Europe recognise that people are the biggest, most important and most valuable resource. Other countries will want to continue a "people first" policy, giving people respect and dignity and acknowledging their importance by ensuring that in the world of work, which is important to every individual, they have enshrined rights, the same as employers are given by the so-called deregulation and freedom of the open market. It is shameful and ultimately destructive for the United Kingdom Government to threaten a veto on the social charter. The second issue involves principle. The hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) put it well when he said that the British Government have to make up their mind whether it is engagement or withdrawal. I do not think that people and politicians in this state have ever made up their minds about whether they are part of the European Community. I know that, physically and legally, the answer is that we are a part of the Community, but I am asking the question in a political/economic sense.
The political arena is crucial. Attitudes, will power and a willingness to be constructive, to participate and to see other people as partners, not opponents, are vital. The United Kingdom seems to be part of the European Community, but not with the Community. Until that fundamental question is solved, we will continue to have girning, bickering, tackling and scrambling along, as the rest of Europe, which is used to consensus and partnership, makes significant progress. I do not think that there has ever been an honest answer from Government in the main areas of policy-making to that fundamental question.
The Single European Act was designed to produce momentum and to enable the European Community to hold its place in the new world order that is opening up. Any hon. Member who believes that a single country can stand by and watch the shift of economic and political power from the Atlantic to the Pacific and still survive without co-operation in Europe is living in cloud -cuckoo-land.
The important issue is what Europe does next. There will have to be further decisions on the kind of political and economic instruments needed to control the forces realised by the internal market. What kind of Europe will our children inherit in the 21st century? That is the crucial question. Instead of talking ridiculous and childish nonsense about whether cigarette packets should have the health warning on the side or on the front, we should put our energy into the bigger issues. Statesmanship and vision are required. I do not think that we will get them from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) or from the Prime Minister. They should be there, but they are not.
What we see from the Thatcher Government is a demeaning exercise in chauvinism stoked by parochialism. It makes many people ashamed to be associated with it. I
Column 555wish to dissociate my party from it and I hope that it will not be long before Scotland in its entirety is dissociated from it. 8.45 pm
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : I am strongly in favour of Europe, but I am equally vehement against federalism. This has been a momentous year in Europe, partly because of the Bruges speech. I do not think that enough attention has been paid to the important effect of that speech on the development of the European Community. There is no doubt that it has reset the agenda. It has done one other thing, too. The developments that have taken place in the House on the redefinition of our approach towards the scrutiny of legislation that comes to us from Europe will be emulated by other national Parliaments. We have already seen evidence of that in France, and I believe that it will happen in other member states.
During the debate we have heard about the use of the veto. One thing that has to be made clear is that the exercise of the veto and the ability to fall back on the unanimity provisions in the treaty are important in relation to VAT and to those parts of the social charter that are subject to the veto--there is a grey area there. The powers of the House through the scrutiny process and the exercise in the Council of Ministers of the powers accumulated by Ministers will be seen to be more valid because of the use of the veto than because of the Single European Act majority voting provisions.
That is not to say that, if the Single European Act were to be voted on again, I would vote differently from the way in which I voted originally. If our membership of the Community is to mean anything and if we are committed to the European Community, with the 300 or so legislative proposals that were outstanding, we could not have removed the logjam without a form of majority voting. I am concerned that there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the Community. My right hon. Friends the Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) talked about the importance of persuasion and about whether we should have something akin to a commonwealth of nations. We heard the same comment from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). It is important that the House should reflect on the fact that this is a legal order with a Court of Justice which has a tendency, if not an objective, towards political integration in Europe. There are those--I have come across them frequently and I do not criticise them for the honesty with which they hold their views--who genuinely believe that we should move towards a federally and politically integrated and united Europe. I disagree with them profoundly. The great empires that aspired to be constructed on the basis of legal arrangements all came to nothing. We need a flexible, mutual, reciprocating Europe of the kind that we now have, with the existing arrangements that were set up in the aftermath of the Single European Act.
We must accept that there has been a policy of moving by stealth towards a politically united Europe. That is openly admitted by people in the Community. They make no secret of it. The situation has been blown open largely by the Bruges speech and by a handful of people who have campaigned to bring it into the open.
There remains a strong sense of dirigism in the Community, and my great concern, of equal proportion to
Column 556my concern about sovereignty, is the tendency within the dirigiste system for a move towards autocracy. I would not be worried about that if I genuinely thought that there was a means of filling the democratic vacuum--we hear much about the democratic deficit ; I prefer to call it the democratic vacuum--that exists.
There are two alternatives. One is to move step by step towards--as the vice-president of the European Parliament put it--a single government for a sovereign people of Europe, which is the European Parliament. I would regard moving towards that goal as being fatal to Europe, let alone to this country and to my constituents. The second is to reinforce the democratic process in this House and persuade people--to borrow some words used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley at the end of his remarks--to bring back to the Parliaments of Europe, which are directly elected by their constituents, the task of representing them, thereby ensuring that we return to a range and horizon of democracy which fits in with the huge area of legislation and activity that has been absorbed into the European Community. I firmly believe that the remoteness that the European Community would experience as a result of going down a quasi federal path would result in contact with the people being lost. It would not be long before democracy disintegrated. It is an irony that at a time when there are centrist tendencies in the system that we are experiencing, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other countries are going centrifugal, not centrist. There are those in the United States who would like to see their arrangements changed because of an over-influence by states which interferes with the speed with which trade must be conducted.
I agree with the Prime Minister in her policies towards Europe. The Bruges speech was the major turning point of the European Community this year, not merely for Britain but for Europe as a whole. We will continue to have independent sovereign states, but we must look at the precision of the legal treaty base of the Community. At the same time, we must look at the powers and democratic traditions of this and other European countries.
Democracy in this country, with two world wars behind us and 300 years of tradition, is worth preserving. It must be admitted that some member states have only recently had revolutions or experienced totalitarianism, so that their democracies are shallow and need time to develop. If we in the Mother of Parliaments maintain the degree of democracy that is required in this House and persuade the other member states to look hard at our determination to ensure that democracy survives here, Europe will be a more democratic place for all the people of Britain, and of Europe generally, to inhabit. 8.55 pm
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : When I first came to this House 15 years ago I heard much the same arguments being adduced about Europe as I have heard today. I have listened with interest, as always, to what has been said, remembering that we are looking back not only at the last six months, which are covered by the report, but from where we are now to where we were all those years ago. There seems now to be a role reversal between the two main parties, at least on the surface, compared with the position when I first came to this place. I wonder why that role reversal has come about if not because some newer
Column 557hon. Members have come to understand the consequences which face us if we proceed down the road that we have followed for the past 15 years.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) told a story about getting on a train and being able to get off here and there and said that there was no timetable for the journey. But there was a destination, as there is in the matter that we are discussing, and in this case the destination was mapped out long ago. It is that destination that has always troubled me. While other parties have to some extent shifted their ground, the Ulster Unionist party has not shifted its position one iota on this. [Interruption.] Conservative Members might find their party in a happier position on the matter today if they had not been so busy shifting their ground in recent months.
The Single European Act was sold to this House as the vehicle which could deliver to the population of Britain a single open market--a sort of western Europe wide open market for our products. If that was all that it was supposed to do, and if people believed that, then I confess that many Members of Parliament were either wilfully or willingly deceived, for not everyone who was putting that idea forward had only that idea in mind. There was a long-term destination before those who put up the Single European Act and all that went before it. In other words, the creators of that Act went far beyond a single market. I believe that they sought a united states of Europe, a single government, a single currency and a single policy for that government, acting as any government must. The Act was largely a smokescreen to hide the real intentions, for those concerned were talking about a market rather than about the constitutional and political implications.
The whole matter goes far beyond the scrutiny aspect to which reference has been made. The fact that there is now the necessity for scrutiny shows how much power we have given away and the many areas over which we no longer exercise real authority--or, as others have put it, sovereignty--in the governance of this nation.
Free trade does not need the same Government, the same law or even the same currency. We had references earlier, in effect, to statements such as, "Poor little Britain," "Poor little England," "Poor little United Kingdom" and "What can we do on our own?" I wonder how anybody elected to this House could think so little of the capabilities of the people whom they govern. I have greater confidence than that in the people of this country.
Although I was very young at the end of the last war, I think back to the condition of Europe, and particularly of Japan, at that time. Now we have only to walk through our streets and to look in the windows of our shops to see them stuffed with high quality products produced by the economic miracles of Japan and Germany, to name but two countries. This country has within it the ability to do far better on its own than it has hitherto. I have confidence in this country, and I am glad that my hon. Friends and I have always taken a jaundiced view of the EEC in all its forms. I am glad to see that other hon. Members--some, unexpectedly, Conservative Members-- are coming round to the view that we have always held.
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Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : This has been a thoughtful and interesting debate, and one in which the opening speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) was not echoed by most of the other speakers from the Labour party. That shows the deep divisions on this matter that exist in the Labour party. It is trying to grope towards a new view of Europe, and a more positive suggestion, although I believe that it did not join in the collective declaration of building Socialism in Europe, which was made by the other Socialist parties represented in the European Parliament.
Mr. Dykes : That is a good way of explaining it. I meant that many Labour party members both here and in the European Parliament argued against that very idea. There have been changes within the other parties as well. However, the Liberals are entitled to say that, over the years, they have been consistent in their general enthusiasm for Europe. We remain, however, not only, as is self-evident, the governing party, but the party with the classic enthusiasm for Europe. That has been shown in today's debate with, perhaps, one or two exceptions, though not many.
There is a realisation that we must go forward as a Conservative party and a Conservative Government in developing the European Community. There is a tremendous enthusiasm for that, as shown in the Prime Minister's so-called Bruges speech. One sees in it a tremendously profound enthusiasm for the European Community. Some members of the press, and perhaps some members of the Conservative party, have misunderstood that. Quite logically and understandably, it is when we come to the details that we find different arguments being advanced. That is not a weakness or a problem. We also have arguments about aspects of domestic policy in the Conservative party before policies are finally formulated. We hope that people will rally round when the policies are finally agreed and presented by way of legislation. Could that not provide the same basis for our approach to the proposals on how the Community is being developed? I am known to be enthusiastic about the development of the European Community and recent constitutional changes to try to accelerate that, because the Community was developing in such a hesitant and faltering way. However, I would not accept such an absurd idea that we should approve of everything suggested by, for example, the Commission by way of new policies or everything that comes out of the Council of Ministers and different portfolio Councils on various complicated matters. That would be crazy and would not lead to a genuine Community.
It would equally be a weakness if members of the Conservative party began to have what some members of the press have recently described as fatal second thoughts about the Community. I do not think that will happen. It is merely a temporary pause and nothing more than a blip on the radar screen. Why such doubts have suddenly arisen remain a mystery.
Like, I am sure, other hon. Members, I receive many letters on this subject, which has become a major debate.
Column 559It is regrettable that the House always return to the first principles involving why we joined. As far as I know, no other national Parliament does that. Even the Spanish, who joined fairly recently, now get on with their membership of the Community. I recently had a very telling letter from someone living in Oxford. After commenting on a letter which I had had published in a newspaper, the writer said :
"In common with many others I am most anxious lest the UK marginalises itself in the Europe of the future. The P.M. has said our destiny is in Europe'--but geographically we are on the edge--therefore we have to be especially positive in policy discussion--
"if we are to play a leading role."
That is not merely because we are geographically on the edge. More importantly, we joined much later than the original members, which produced its own built-in disadvantage which still exists. It is not a weakness to see the point of view of others in the Community. That is, I suppose, the definition of the word "community". From our travels in other member states, we know that they still have suspicions, which unfortunately have been renewed recently, about our membership because of the various utterances made from time to time. That is a pity.
I notice that our latest intellectual party document about politics called "Talking Politics", which all Conservative Members use religiously, said on 11 May :
"Europe : the Conservative approach. The single market is a Conservative invention, making the Community a real common market at last."
I am proud of the ideas that we are developing with the single market. However, the idea is not that no other member state is keen on the idea of a single market. That is why it has been developed, because it is a common Community decision. Therefore, we must be careful to listen to our fellow member nations and bodies politic in the different countries, and members of the European Parliament representing other national delegations.
I am sorry to have to make such a heretical suggestion, which I know is risky as we work more and more with foreigners, but we must also listen more to Commission officials. There are British officials in the Commission who have plenty of ideas about the future development of the European Community. We cannot say that we have a monopoly of ideas and that the Commission officials are to deal with only the mercantilist, commercial single market and nothing else, and that there is no such thing as social policy.
The premier capitalist economy of Europe, Germany, is unfortunately much more successful than we are, although I hope that we shall one day catch up with them. Even Right-wing German business men regard the concepts of social policy as perfectly legitimate instruments of Government policy and decision-making.
Column 560packages of ideas reflecting their historical traditions, proclivities and particular political majorities. I hope that we will not enter the scenario of dictating what political majorities the other member states should have. Some of my colleagues do seem to have been tempted recently to suggest that.
Mr. Maude : These are very proper matters for the German Government to have in mind. All we are saying is that we do not believe that we should have German ideas about social policy planted on us. It should be for this House to decide that.
Mr. Dykes : I entirely accept that. That is why my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary is a communautarian. I have always believed that, and I know that he has a tremendous enthusiasm for the single market. I want him to be in the frame of mind of accepting other ideas as well. The Community is about give and take. We should not say that we refuse to accept the idea of country X, for whatever mysterious or self-evident reason. I do not think that that will arise.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) used to be very anti-EEC when he was a Labour Member, but has now changed. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) and I have a continuing dialogue about these matters. The hon. Member for Govan and others have said that we should have more self-confidence in this country. The Government need more self-confidence vis-a-vis the rest of the Community. Why are our Government so nervous about the European Community? This Parliament too needs more confidence about the European Community.
I totally reject the idea that scrutiny will not be effective in the future, under the guidance and tutelage of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). Those procedures will become much better. This Parliament will link up with European Parliaments and--why not?--with the other national Parliaments as well. Then we will fall within the true definition of a Community where there is give and take. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said, it is not only national self-interest superimposed on a developing supranational structure, although that is the main motive driving force. We look after the nation's interests and therefore, we hope, the interests of our citizens and voters. However, it is not only that. There is also the idealism of the Community-- the common desire to build a modern. prosperous and social Europe. I do not think that the social charter will be a problem, and the Government need not appear hysterical about it. I hope that I have used the wrong adjective. I believe that there will be give and take and that in the end the matter will be agreed around the negotiating table at Madrid, or later, in the relevant Council. Individual states will compromise ; they can develop their own ideas and not be dictated to by others.
However, if we--fatally--keep repeating week in and week out that we are opposed to a collective view on all aspects of policy in the Community, we shall make ourselves more and more marginal, to use the word in the letter that I quoted, even though we have been a member for 16 years. That would be humiliating, and I refuse to accept it. Such a result would be unnecessary and would make us look utterly foolish in Brussels and Strasbourg. Whatever the election result on 15 June, we shall need to
Column 561work with our colleagues in the European Parliament on collective scrutiny so that we can influence Government policy.
I always enjoy the highly theoretical but sincere speeches made by the hon. Member for Newham, South who, like the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), described the wonderful, mystical ballot-box relationship between the people and this sacred sovereign Parliament. It would be nice if that theory were right, but in practice we know how the system works : the usual channels, the Whips clamping on the whip, ossified majorities in this place and a voting system which allows Governments to rule without restraint or limitation on the basis of a minority vote of the total electorate. All systems have their imperfections--but also take advantage of the fabulous opportunities which were described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery).
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East) : This has been a fascinating debate--it is going on in the country, too. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who we all know is a sincere and enthusiastic supporter of the Common Market, must be rather a disappointed man this evening. Things have gone so far that he is reduced to being engaged in controversy with the Government and Conservative Front Bench spokesmen, which shows the split that has developed in his party. At one time, the hon. Member for Harrow, East, like others in this country, must have thought that the Common Market issue was settled, but it clearly is not. It has now reached the forefront of British politics and caused a major split in the Conservative party. That does not surprise me greatly--I always thought that it would happen. I merely wondered why it took quite so long to do so. The basic truth is that we are faced with a major dilemma, and by "we" I mean every Member in all of the many corners of opinion on the Common Market in this House--the issue does not divide neatly into two sides. This dilemma takes the form of the incompatibility of the EEC with our parliamentary system. The Community is incompatible with the democratic parliamentary self-government of this country. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) always diverts my attention by shaking his head right under my nose at what I say--he has done so for years--but whatever he thinks, to the extent that the Common Market develops, if it does, and to the extent that it succeeds in its own terms, our Parliament becomes more and more redundant. That is the fact with which we shall all have to cope. We can only have one or the other : British parliamentary democracy or the treaty of Rome. I suspect that no one ponders these matters more than you, Mr. Speaker.
Some people say that the answer is proper scrutiny. I am all in favour of as much scrutiny as we can effect, and I pay tribute to my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). However, even under his chairmanship of the Scrutiny Committee, satisfactory scrutiny is not possible, for a number of reasons.
Column 562First, there is so much of this legislation ; secondly, there is the timing of the tortuous process. A third reason was adduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who said that Ministers go to the Common Market under prerogative powers-- treaty-making powers--and act in the name of the Crown, not that of Parliament. When that question was asked, I rose on a point of order, the only time in 10 years that I have done so. I felt strongly about this, because the Minister refused to answer my right hon. Friend's question. She could not answer the question whether Ministers act with prerogative powers and are thus beyond the powers of the House. She is fudging the issue. We can have as much scrutiny as we like, but if we send our Ministers under article 100A, and there is majority voting, even if we are capable of instructing our Ministers they may be outvoted.
The Prime Minister sent the Secretary of State for Health on a humiliating trip recently. It concerned the wording on cigarette packets, and the Minister told the EEC to keep its nose out, because this was a matter for the House of Commons. The EEC told him to get lost. So even if there is unanimity in this House and we send a Minister off to Brussels convinced of our opinions, it will make no difference because the powers have been lost under the Single European Act.
The shoe is beginning to pinch. The sovereignty of Parliament is not a reactionary idea : it is the British way of doing things. I hope that people will not mock that way, which has come out of our history and is not a party-political issue. Parliament is sovereign ; there are no restraints on it--that is the constitutional doctrine. We are not bound by past generations. Each new generation can do its own thing in its own way. That is the British genius and it has served us extremely well.
The Common Market imposes restrictions, inhibitions and restraints on us and tells us what to do. As that happens more frequently, it inevitably causes friction and tension. The EEC keeps extending its competence--it is sometimes called creeping competence. We have not paid much attention to the six-month report, but I shall refer to it out of deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson)--I know that he reads these documents every night before he goes to bed. The report informs us that the Scrutiny Committee considered 415 documents and recommended 48 for debate in the House
Mr. Spearing rose --
Mr. Leighton : I do not want to offend my hon. Friend, but I hope to allow another Conservative Member to speak before the debate ends--I even hope that he may agree with some of what I have said. No one can deny that debating these issues late at night is unsatisfactory. It is a farce and a sham, and hon. Members know that, which is why they do not bother to turn up.
The Council of Ministers is a legislature that meets in secret. Whatever it decides is then translated willy-nilly into our law. Every time that happens that is subverting and derogating from our Parliament and not just from one side of the House. If there is a political development, perhaps we will change sides and we will have some say in Government. It is the nation's Parliament that is being derogated from.
Column 563The Single European Act destroys the pledges that were given in the referendum, when the Government issued a paper that said that no new policy or law could be inflicted on Britain without the assent of a British Minister accountable to the House. That pledge has been destroyed, because that Minister can now be outvoted. I see that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) is present. That process in the EEC will not only destroy our parliamentary self-government, but will fragment the United Kingdom. Why should the Scots bother to send Members of Parliament to Westminster if decisions are taken not here but in Brussels? The Scots are likely to think that it is a waste of time sending Members of Parliament here, and that will damage the unity of the country.
The incompatibility must be resolved. It is now coming to the boil. We have not heard the end of the story. Some of us have taken an interest in the matter, and I hope that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) when he carried out his research found that I was one of the 10 noble Members who voted on Third Reading--