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European Community (Developments)

4.59 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : I beg to move

That this House takes note of the White Paper, Developments in the European Community January-June 1989 (Cm. 801).

Once every six months the House has an opportunity for a wide-ranging debate on developments in the European Community. The document before us is the White Paper covering events during the Spanish Presidency in the first six months of this year.

Customarily, the House has used this occasion not just to discuss the achievements of the past, although they are considerable, but to look at the possibilities and prospects for the future. For that reason, the timing of the debate is spectacularly good. It would, of course, be unnatural in the course of it to say nothing about the past weeks' events on the Community's frontier.

Last week, in East Germany, we saw successively the resignation of the Politburo, the appointment of successors, the opening of its borders, and a commitment to political reform. There are times when we feel a sudden seismic movement in history, when almost the only certainty is that things can never again be the same. Last Thursday and Friday was such a time.

I arrived in Bonn late on Thursday night for routine discussions on Community matters with my German colleagues. I felt that I had been privileged to share those moving and momentous hours with my German colleagues. They know that we share their exhilaration at those dramatic changes, at this further proof that, as the Prime Minister said at the Guildhall on Monday,

"when people are free to choose, they choose freedom".

Of course my German colleagues and I talked about the dramas of the night. But although their hearts and minds must have been in Berlin, I was profoundly impressed that their response was to turn back to the more prosaic Community matters which I had gone there to discuss. That was perhaps symbolic of our joint commitment to the Community ; to our common conviction that the Community can rise to tomorrow's challenges only if it is united in its determination to make the Community succeed. One of those challenges will undoubtedly be the developments in East Germany. Community Heads of Government will have the chance to reflect on this at their meeting this Saturday. It must be clear to all that the issue for the time being is not reunification, but reform. It must be clear that our common objective must be the establishment of a genuine democracy, with free elections. It is a hazardous process ; and we must not risk its failure.

The Community must show that it is ready to extend the hand of friendship to the emerging democracies. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister foreshadowed that in her speech at Bruges last year, when she urged the Community never to forget those east of the iron curtain, cut off by it from their roots in European culture, freedom and identity.

If the iron curtain is indeed coming down, we in the west need to be imaginative and responsible in reacting to the new opportunities created for those behind it. We must be imaginative and responsible with cool heads and warm hearts, for we need to be alive to new risks, as well as new opportunities, for eastern Europe.

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We must ensure that we in the west hold firm to the policies and principles that have served us so well for so long. The Community must rise to this historic challenge. I have no doubt that it will, but in the same way that reform in East Germany, Poland and Hungary, will only endure if built soundly and steadily, we must ensure that the development of the Community, for development there will be, is both robust and measured. That overriding need is independent of developments in eastern Europe.

The later stages of the prescription for economic and monetary union set out in the Delors report do not cease to be bureaucratic and centralised simply because the Berlin wall has been breached. It has been said, and said rightly, that the European Community has been a beacon to peoples living under tyranny behind the iron curtain. What they have seen is a Community founded on freedom and building in prosperity. If that beacon is to shine as brightly in the future, we must resolve in unity to build surely and soundly. The White Paper reviews Community developments in the first six months of this year. It covers a wide range of activity, from the environment to trade policy, from the greenhouse effect to the GATT. It also covers the Community's relations with other European countries, and while eastern Europe justifiably holds our attention, let us not forget the six members of the European Free Trade Association.

I am sure that the House would want to pay tribute to the Spanish Presidency's achievements on the single market : 68 measures removing barriers to trade in the Community were agreed or adopted in the first half of the year. That is the best record of any presidency. Now more than half of the 1985 Commission White Paper measures have been agreed--an average of a measure every 10 days. As is now widely recognised throughout the Community, our role in those deliberations was central and influential.

The thrust of the single market is now liberal and deregulatory. Because we have argued our case reasonably and persuasively, and because it is a good case, we have won the arguments.

For almost two years, I attended the Internal Market Council, conducting negotiations for 1992. During that time I voted against a single market on only one occasion. That was not because progress was too fast, but because it was too slow. I am concerned that progress should be sustained. We earnestly hope that by the turn of the year, the French presidency will have achieved, as did the Spanish, a record number of agreements. We shall work hard to assist them. In June the European Council in madrid revised the single market priorities to reflect progress that had already been made. The new priorities included financial services, technical standards, transport and public purchasing. I think it lamentable that some of those priorities are moving so slowly.

It is a commonplace that travellers in the Community pay extortionate fares to subsidise national air carriers who are protected from competition. The European Commission has a proposal to reform this. I hope that all 12 member states will give that proposal the same robust support that we do.

We must end the absurdity whereby empty lorries cross frontiers every day because protectionist regulations

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prevent them from picking up return loads. Again, the Commission has proposals for reform. We hope that they will advance swiftly. Telecommunications are among the most protected industries in the Community. It has been estimated that of £50 billion spent yearly on telecommunications in the Community, no less than £4 billion could be saved if there were liberalisation. The European Commission wants this ; we want this ; but some of our partners are blocking it. There has been good progress on frontiers. Many of the problems to which we pointed at the outset have now been widely understood, and solutions are being sought.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : For some time the Minister has been telling us how robust, vigorous and marvellous the Government are and I concede that that is so in the free market area that he has described. There is a social area as well, however, where the Government have been extremely curmudgeonly, one example being their recent failure to agree the markings on cigarette packets. In due course I hope that the hon. Gentleman will discuss those things.

Mr. Maude : I shall certainly come to those matters and I am sure that I shall deal with them to the hon. Gentleman's complete satisfaction.

I recollect that at the start of the discussions on frontiers it was suggested that because we identified problems in the proposals we were somehow being negative or obstructive. The reality, of course, is precisely the reverse. We all want it to be easier to cross frontiers. I am confident that that can be achieved. But no one would thank us if the price for that was a reduction in effective action against terrorism, drugs and crime.

Unless problems are identified realistically and early, it is quite impossible to devise solutions in good time. We are centrally involved in the search for such solutions, and I am confident that they can be found. So throughout the single market programme, it is we who want progress, it is we who want liberalisation, it is we who want integration. It can be seen that the Commission, in its admirable drive for progress, has no stauncher ally than us. Increasingly alarming has been the growing gap between agreement and implementation, between rhetoric and action. The Commission has properly taken that seriously. The figures show that our record is exemplary. The Commission will have our full-hearted support in requiring other member states to meet their obligations.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : Has my hon. Friend seen the report in the Financial Times a few days ago which completely misinterpreted the Commission's document on implementation to suggest that we were in breach on many occasions? That simply was not the case. Does he agree that the Financial Times should rectify that?

Mr. Maude : That should first be rectified by the Commission. When the figures and the report were published in the summer, I wrote immediately to the Commissioner responsible to point out that the figures on our record were wildly wrong. It is generally understood that our record is exemplary.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : Is my hon. Friend aware that that attitude has been displayed not only in the top brass? When I had the honour to serve on a Committee of the European Parliament, some of our colleagues from other countries could not understand why

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we persisted in dotting the i's and crossing the t's. We did it because we knew that we should implement the measures under discussion so we had to get them right. Others took them more lightheartedly because they had no intention of implementing them.

Mr. Maude : My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. She is absolutely right. We take a literal view of our obligations, which means that before we sign up to a dossier or proposal we want to make sure that it will work satisfactorily in practice. As a result, we sometimes take longer than other countries to approve proposals. It is easy for people to sign up to something if they have no intention of implementing it.

I have a theory that the strength of a Government's commitment to the Community can be judged in inverse proportion to the grandiloquence of its rhetoric. There can be no two-speed Europe, with some countries matching their deeds to their words, but with others lagging far behind. That is something with which the House has always concerned itself. The interventions of my hon. Friends bear that out.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : Does the Minister agree that the Department of the Environment's interpretation of the 1976 bathing water directive defined bathing beaches in such a way that no beach in the Principality of Wales could be considered a bathing beach? The United Kingdom was not in compliance with the directive. Is the Minister proud of that?

Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman raises a fascinating point. I cannot give him a detailed answer off the top of my head. Our record on cleanliness of beaches is extremely good, as is our record on water quality and the cleanliness of our rivers. We have nothing to be ashamed of.

Mr. Wardell : Will the Minister confirm that the figures produced by the water authority in north-east England showed that Seaton Carew centre had 3 million E. coli per millilitre of water? Is that the type of standard of which he is proud?

Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman leads me onto matters on which he appears to have detailed knowledge. I should want to scrutinise his suggestions carefully and subject them to proper analysis to see whether they are borne out by the facts. I am confident that our record on the matter is good and that we have no reason to be ashamed of it.

The process of scrutiny is better developed in the House than almost anywhere else in the Community. It is a process to which the Government are wholeheartedly committed. The Procedure Committee, and the Scrutiny Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), have studied its future development. We shall study with care and sympathy the Procedure Committee's forthcoming report.

Two weeks ago as part of the process of scrutiny, the House debated economic and monetary union. Our policy is based on what was agreed unanimously at the Madrid council. It is essential that the Community should adhere to those conclusions. One conclusion was that the Delors report was no more than a basis for further work, and that no intergovernmental conference to consider further changes beyond the first stage should be held without full and adequate preparation. In our debate earlier this month, it emerged with remarkable clarity that there was

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no support in the House for stages 2 and 3 of the Delors report. That has been noted elsewhere in the Community. Indeed, it accords with a growing concern elsewhere in the Community.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : In view of the overwhelming events of the past week and the impact that they are bound to have on the Federal Republic of Germany, has my hon. Friend had any feedback from the Germans that their view on stages 2 and 3 of the Delors report may be significantly different in a few weeks' time?

Mr. Maude : The Government of the Federal Republic have no clear view on the timing of the next stages. A lively debate is in progress within that Government and in public about what the next step should be and I shall deal with that in due course.

We strongly support the commitment to stage 1 of Delors and we strongly support further steps to be made beyond that. But we should be clear that stage 1 will result in far-reaching changes to the economy of Europe. We hope that it can be completed quickly. We shall certainly not hold it back. The right time for an intergovernmental conference to consider treaty changes is when there is a clear view emerging on what treaty changes are needed.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North) : Do not the Government have the problem that no one is listening to them, first, because we are not a member of the exchange rate mechanism so we have not completed stage 1 and, secondly, because their plan for competing currencies does not find favour in Europe. The Government are not in a position to influence other Governments?

Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman has observed these matters for so long that he has perhaps lost touch with what is happening. Other Governments are certainly listening to us and we have discussed in detail and depth our paper and approach to the Community. As people study our approach and as our arguments are understood, we make headway. The fact that we have not yet joined the exchange rate mechanism makes no difference.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : Is my hon. Friend aware that the president of the Bundesbank has already welcomed our initiative on competing currencies and agrees with much of what we have to say?

Mr. Maude : He went further. He gave a warm endorsement to our approach. That is to be welcomed. There is huge scope within the existing treaty for rapid and dramatic changes. Until we have begun to exhaust those possibilities, further changes would be recklessly premature. Our own paper, published two weeks ago, set out an alternative approach ; as my hon. Friend says, it was warmly endorsed by the president of the Bundesbank, and has attracted growing interest and support elsewhere. It will take progress substantially beyond that set out in stage 1 of Delors, and would, we argue, achieve the objectives of economic and monetary union. It need not be a slow process. We hope it could advance swiftly, but we must take the right decisions.

Economic and monetary union cannot be just a slogan : it would have to be made a practical reality, and we believe that our approach leads to that. Of course this will be discussed at the Strasbourg European Council, where

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there may also be discussion of the social dimension, with which my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment will deal at greater length when he winds up the debate.

We support the unanimous conclusion of the Madrid Council that the Community's top social priority should be job creation. We do not believe that the present draft of the social charter would achieve that. I stress that this is not only a United Kingdom view ; both UNICE, the Europewide employers' organisation, and the European round table have given robust support to our views.

UNICE has said :

"The charter should give more recognition to the vital need for Europe to remain competitive in a global and open trading system, since that is the only way to guarantee the creation of wealth and of jobs".

The Madrid Council also said that the principle of subsidiarity should apply--that what can be done at national level should be done there, not at Community level. It is not enough to pay lip service to that principle ; the substance of the text must reflect it--

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton) : That is what the charter says.

Mr. Maude : It may say it, but it does not do it. We should not just utter the word "subsidiarity" and assume that that is all that needs to be done. We must make sure that the proposals, directives and regulations emerging from the Community reflect the principle in practice, and that is what we shall seek to do.

Mr. Robertson : When the first draft of the charter came out, the Prime Minister said that it was Marxist in origin. We have now gone through several drafts watering down the original. Would the Minister say that the current draft is still of Marxist origin?

Mr. Maude : It is not a text that we could sign--it is wholly unacceptable. If implemented in a programme of proposals from the Commission it would put people out of work. The hon. Gentleman may want that, but we do not.

Mr. Marlow : Whether the charter is Marxist or not is irrelevant at this stage, but if it were passed would it not give more power to central bureaucratic institutions?

Mr. Maude : If, as we expect, a programme of action from the Commission leading to legislative proposals followed behind it, there would certainly be legislation at Community level which could more properly be dealt with at national level.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he has been giving way a great deal-- [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) says that I should not intervene, but he has already done so several times. As, on all the evidence, the premier capitalist economy of Europe--West Germany--is wildly more successful than any other economy, including that of the United Kingdom, and seems happy with the social charter, why are we so panic- stricken about it?

Mr. Maude : Perhaps unknowingly my hon. Friend has put his finger on the point. West Germany has a high level of protection and regulation, so it may not be averse to less prosperous parts of the Community having to shoulder the same amount of regulation, thereby removing the competitive advantage that they may have. We are

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concerned that less prosperous parts of the Community might be denied the advantages of the lower costs which might improve their economic standing. That is reflected in our view and in that expressed by UNICE and the European round table.

Mr. Dykes : These matters must be of great concern to all hon. Members. Are we living in the real world or are we indulging in the rhetoric that my hon. Friend has denounced? If Germany is protectionist, bureaucratic, subsidised and inefficient, can we have a bit of that here? How come it is so prosperous?

Mr. Maude : I did not say that Germany was inefficient ; I said that employers and industrialists there work with a high level of regulation to which they have become accustomed and with which they can cope. But if anyone seriously thinks that the economy of Portugal will be helped by having German levels of regulation imposed on it from Brussels, he is wrong --

Mr. Robertson : Why do they support the social charter?

Mr. Maude : The Portuguese are becoming extremely anxious about what is contained in that programme and in the action programme following it up. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) should take the trouble--he has not done so--to talk to his Socialist colleagues in Portugal, whereupon he will find that their view is very different from his. They take seriously the process of job creation and the need to protect jobs-- clearly, the hon. Gentleman does not.

Mrs. Gorman : Is it not true that the productivity of German workers in much higher than that of those in this country? For example, Ford workers in Germany are 50 per cent. more productive than Ford workers here, and because of that the Germans can carry such an enormous burden of social legislation as is incorporated in the charter.

Mr. Maude : Each country and economy in Europe has developed a system of social legislation appropriate to itself. There is no reason to suppose that uniform social regulations imposed from Brussels will help anyone. The Germans may have come to live satisfactorily with their system. It works there, but that does not mean that it would work here or in Portugal or Greece. We shall strongly resist its imposition here.

In our determination to carry forward the process of internal integration of the Community, it is essential, perhaps especially at the moment, to keep our eyes on the Community's relations with those beyond its frontiers. We are very clear that Europe after 1992 must not be closed, or be seen to be closed, to the world outside. We have argued long and hard, and with formidable success, against fortress Europe. It is essential that the Community gives full effect to the principles of liberal trade beyond its frontiers that it has now firmly espoused. In particular, we are very glad that real discussions are now taking place with the member countries of the European Free Trade Association.

The Commission is due to report to the Council later this month, and there will be an EC-EFTA ministerial meeting on 19 December, which could well open the way for detailed negotiations during 1990. The prospect of a wider single market of all 18 countries is a stimulating one. Of course, the negotiations will raise difficult issues, but

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difficult issues can be resolved with good will and determination. We firmly believe that a greatly enhanced EC-EFTA relationship is both in our interest and in the interest of the Community. This is a cause which we have promoted, and we wish it well.

I started by talking a little of events in eastern Europe. The present tide of events has been long awaited and fervently hoped for, and it is essential that we do all in our power to sustain the process of change. At all levels, I believe, the response has been generous and imaginative.

For ourselves, we have set up know-how funds for both Poland and for Hungary. These will be worth significant sums, focused on specific projects crucial to successful reform. They range from programmes on parliamentary democracy to agricultural reform. We are now looking at ways of increasing our support.

At Community level, the response has also been excellent. Apart from immediate food aid in Poland, worth £70 million, longer-term support is being provided by a substantial package of trade liberalisation measures. This means an end to all discriminatory quantitative restrictions on Polish and Hungarian imports from the beginning of next year. Providing a market for competitive goods is the best stimulus to economic reform.

In addition, the Council has approved a package worth about £200 million next year covering support for agricultural reform, environmental measures and management training in both Hungary and Poland. That signals that we stand four square with the peoples of eastern Europe in their determination to achieve reform that endures.

People of my generation in eastern Europe have never known freedom or tasted the prosperity that for us is routine. Now at long last across Europe tyranny is retreating and a new freedom is dawning. Those who have known only the cold repression of totalitarian regimes will need our help. We must not fail them.

5.29 pm

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton) : Precious few people around last Wednesday, when this subject was slated for discussion, could have imagined what the succeeding seven days would produce. As the Minister has rightly said, these seven days have seen a political earthquake in Europe, and its tremors will inevitably dominate the European Community, the wider continent and our future in a way undreamed of last week. In this debate we may be considering events and a White Paper that cover the first half of 1989, but these events include the germs of the situation that we see in graphic form today.

How western Europe rises to the remarkable new challenges in the next few months, which will determine what continent we shall inhabit for generations to come, is of crucial importance. This week, when we talk about Europe we no longer speak about western Europe. The whole focus has shifted and when Community leaders meet this Saturday and again in three weeks' time, they will no longer simply be involved in the internal affairs of the 12 European Community nations. They have to be conscious of, and concerned with, those other members of a European family who want to rejoin and to act with us, and who will sorely need us as well.

We must share the emotion and the sheer joy that was written all over the faces in Berlin last weekend, of a people free at last for the first time since 1933--free from tyranny,

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fear and oppression. We must ensure that, never again, will they disappear behind walls, fences or barriers. Nobody who ever saw that Berlin wall, with the death strips, the shrapnel guns, the dogs, the watch towers and the floodlights could have been unaffected watching the pictures of last weekend, as the obscenity that was the boundary between East and West finally broke under the pressure of the people. Last week was a turning point in all our lives.

What is now in question is nothing less than the whole architecture of Europe and, along with that, understandable uncertainties and concerns. Undeniably, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help, or hinder, the evolution of a stable new European order. That task will demand genuine vision and imagination and the ambition to seize the moment, like the leap of imagination that produced the Marshall plan that helped post-war Europe to recover its democratic vitality or the Bretton Woods settlement, which saved the world's economic system.

What concerns us in this debate is what role Britain will play in this historic process. The first guiding principle must be that Europe will not encourage or reinforce the drive to democracy in Europe by looking constantly inwards at itself. This is precisely the time to look at what sort of European framework will be relevant, in two, five, 10 or 20 years' time, and to start along the road towards it.

In saying that, we do not in any way accept the Prime Minister's idea of some dead stop in the pace of European co-operation, to have a leisurely look around. Nor do we accept that our only role in helping the eastern European states is, at variable speeds, to complete a political and economic union, the nature of which is still not agreed or even designed. Instead, we say that we must seriously and urgently look at the breathtaking opportunity before us to embrace a truly wider Community and take the necessary steps while the opportunity is still with us.

Some will say that this is what the Prime Minister was referring to when she spoke in the House yesterday about her dream of a democratic Europe stretching to the Chinese border, but is that the case? As she talked about this greater, wider Europe, this week she sent a Minister to Brussels to block cancer warnings on cigarette packets. As she defends national sovereignty in economic and monetary decisions, her Chancellor had just 25 minutes of British sovereignty between the Bundesbank's decision to raise interest rates and our requirement to follow it.

On Monday night, as she said at the Lord Mayor's banquet : "We must stretch out the hand of co-operation and develop new forms of association with the emerging democracies of eastern Europe", her Government had given no welcome even to the application already on the table, from Austria. As she underlines the truth that only economic success will guarantee the existence of pluralistic democracies emerging in eastern Europe, the British funds to Poland and Hungary amount to a meagre £25 million to each country, spread over five crucial and decisive years. What a contrast with the £450 million-worth of aid voted by the American Congress to Poland last night.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : Does the hon. Gentleman recall that at the Paris summit, the British Prime Minister took

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the initiative, which was agreed to by others at the summit, that the European Commission should co-ordinate aid programmes to, initially, Poland and Hungary? Was this not a fine British initiative, as a result of which the Commission is co-ordinating aid from 24 different nations?

Mr. Robertson : That was a commendable initiative and the Commission is to be congratulated on the efficiency with which it is carrying out its task. Sometimes the Government, who spend much of their time and energy attacking the Commission, forget that the Commission can act. It is using principally Japanese funds to disperse food aid to Poland. I am referring here to bilateral aid. The Minister did not mention £5 million--the small change of a Government Department--being given over five years as bilateral aid to reconstruct the economies of Poland and Hungary and to underpin the democratic system.

Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman should know, and if he does not know, then he should find out, that the know-how fund is not there to reconstruct economies. It is there to provide know-how in a whole range of sectors such as developing elections and political democracy, and banking.

Mr. Robertson : Of course it cannot reconstruct an economy, but what are the Government giving to reconstruct the Polish economy? I know how much the know-how fund is giving, and I also know what it is being given for. I have been asked by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be a member of the advisory board on the Polish know-how fund, which meets tomorrow. I am also aware of the limitations of £5 million, given the nature of the Polish crisis and how much needs to be done. The American Congress had the generosity to recognise that, with the amount that it voted last night. I hope that we shall hear no more triumph from the Government over the tiny amount of money being given to Poland.

As the Prime Minister draws grand designs on the map and in the air, her approach to European co-operation in reality is nit-picking, carping and mean-spirited. We are repeatedly marginalised and ignored. The veto on the social charter, which has already been watered down and weakened in key areas in the attempt to get consensus in Europe--a consensus that embraces all the countries that the Minister this evening arrogantly said that he is defending--will leave Britain isolated, and exposed, yet again, as a spoiler in the Strasbourg summit in December. It is again stark evidence of the denial to the British people of the reasonable employment standards that they might expect from the completion of the single market.

Mr. Marlow : I agree very much with the imaginative first part of the hon. Gentleman's speech about the changes in Europe--the whole of Europe rather than parts of Europe. Why is it that the social charter is necessary?

Mr. Robertson : The hon. Gentleman has rocked me by saying that he agrees with the first part of my speech. I must now ask myself what was wrong with it. The social charter is necessary. If we are to have an internal market affecting the interest of employers and of capital, then it is eminently reasonable--all our colleagues in Europe agree, whether they are Left-wing or Right-wing--that the level playingfield must include some justice for those who are

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employed. That is why the charter was instituted and why 11 out of the 12 countries in the Community agree with it and none of them agrees with us.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Tim Eggar) : Do the hon. Gentleman and his party support everything in the current draft of the social charter?

Mr. Robertson : No. We think it is too weak. We think that the partners in Europe have weakened it too much in a vain attempt to get the negative and reactionary elements of the Government to climb on board in what they believe to be in the general interests of completing the internal market.

Mr. Dykes : Does the hon. Gentleman further agree that the social charter provisions, in whatever language, are an equal component in the preamble of the Single European Act just as the internal market is? They are not inferior to the single market.

Mr. Robertson : I agree totally. The Prime Minister accepted the Single European Act with all the commitments in the preamble, just as she accepted the Stuttgart declaration, which made many of the same points. The social charter is a direct and logical lineage with those commitments.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robertson : We believe that the hon. Gentleman is a stalking horse and a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party, so how can I not give way to him?

Sir Anthony Meyer : Could we not have a serious point? By stripping away what he sees as objections to the Prime Minister's attitude in these matters, the hon. Gentleman is hinting at his party's policy. When he was speaking positively on what his party's policy would be, he stopped short of saying how far he and his party were prepared to go in accepting a limitation on the right of Britain, or any other country, to exercise their veto on decisions which he would maintain--and I would agree--are in the interests of the Community.

Mr. Robertson : The hon. Gentleman and I have attended many of these debates before. I am sorry if he regards my comments on his candidature against the Prime Minister as anything other than serious. We have made our position clear. We would use the veto constructively and our intention would be to establish a consensus in Europe. The Government's problem is that they are not interested in consensus even when other Governments are willing--as they have shown under the social charter negotiations--to make substantial concessions towards them. I thought that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) and I stood side by side on that. Presumably that would be one of his central planks if--in the unlikely event--he was to be the challenger to the Prime Ministership. He may persuade her to convince him not to stand. She may change her mind.

As the Prime Minister sends this week's Chancellor of the Exchequer to Brussels to sell the hand-made competing currency idea cobbled together quickly by the last Chancellor, the Chancellor knows that his idea can work --if it works at all--only to the advantage of the strongest currency in the Community--the deutschmark. It will work only if we are full members of the exchange rate

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