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Column 407The West German economy has been reconstructed since 1945. We have reconstructed only since 1979 and the implications were not seen until 1984 or 1985. We need time and space. With or without reunification the Germans should be thinking hard about the necessity of maintaining the democracy that is intherent in our Parliament and to ensure that we maintain our independence. A member of the French National Assembly told me in the House only last week that the rest of Europe looks to Westminster for democracy. We forget that at our peril.
We have fought for several decades to preserve our democracy. It is important that we sustain it into the future. We face a crucial decision which we will have to take sooner than we would like. We must take it some time in the next 18 months and it will have to be faced on 8 December. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has staked out the case for Britain which has been endorsed by the United Kingdom Parliament. We will not be rushed into federalism. That would involve serious dangers for us, for Europe as a whole and also for the democracy of people in western Europe and in eastern Europe. We must not let those people down.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : I want to refer to several of the points made by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). I found the whole slant of his observations negative, depressing and old-fashioned. Nothing makes me more weary than to be told how much better we are than everyone else and how everyone else looks up to us. Sadly, I am afraid that that is a profound illusion. The House of Commons is a very funny place. Last weekend saw the most glorious and marvellous affirmation of freedom since before the iron curtain dropped. There was so much joy along the Berlin wall and there was that fantastic street party on the Kurfurstendam. In the fact of all that, how do we react? There is little excitement. I hear that we must proceed slowly and have time and space. We must be very careful. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, said, "We must look with great care"; he then paused and said, "and reservation." That means that he is against it.
reinterpretation of my remarks. If the hon. Gentleman checks Hansard, he will find that I was referring to the emotion that is being generated for the early reunification of the two Germanies. That is where I said that care is needed. I was only echoing the common-sense views expressed by many West Germans, East Germans and people in the other capitals of Europe.
Sir Russell Johnston : I was not quoting the right hon. Gentleman out of context. I know that he believes that his view is common sense. He also believes that his opinion was cool and sensible. There is no doubt that these incredible events have dominated the debate, and I want to spend some time referring to them.
The hon. Member for Stafford referred to the speeches made by Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Chancellor Kohl. I found it a great comfort that Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the Liberal Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, while welcoming the changes in the DDR,
Column 408stressed that the Federal Republic of Germany remained committed to working towards European union. I was also very pleased that Chancellor Kohl said something very similar in Poland. He said that Germany unification, far from being incompatible with increasing the pace of European unification--to which several hon. Members who have spoken today are opposed--was necessary to its peaceful achievement. I agree with that.
We do not know how long the process will take. No one expected what has happened to happen with such speed. Any relationship which will evolve between the two German states must be firmly rooted in the context of European union. Tim Garton-Ash, the political editor of the Spectator, wrote last week :
"If Europe is just a single market, then a Germany of 80 million people, with a GNP twice that of Britain, will dominate it. If Europe is also a single polity, it will not."
That is right on the mark. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), quoted from an article by Sir Nicholas Henderson in the Evening Standard last night. Sir Nicholas Henderson's article deserves to be quoted a little more extensively than the hon. Member for Hamilton quoted it because Sir Nicholas refers to points about which hon. Members have expressed concern. As everyone has said, Sir Nicholas is a most experienced diplomat and a very wise man--and there are not many people about whom it may reasonably be said that they are wise. Sir Nicholas stated :
"Whatever form unification takes"--
notice that he accepts that it will happen--
"Bonn will surely want the newly-added territory to be fully incorporated into the European Community. This could cause difficulties for Austria, which is already in the waiting room of the Community"--
I doubt whether that is very serious ; I do not believe that the DDR can join before then--
"as well as other European countries. But the real problem that could arise would be over the size and weight of an enlarged Germany in the European Community.
A policy of promoting the concept of Europe on the basis of separate states rather than a closer union involving a greater sharing of decision-making would be likely to aggravate this problem."
We know exactly what he means by that. He is talking about the Prime Minister's view.
Mr. Cash : The hon. Gentleman has touched directly on the central theme of my speech. If one were to construct a paper constitution with the power and degree of the Germany economy on the scale that the hon. Gentleman has just described, does he believe that that would soon lead to that paper being discarded in favour of real political and economic power because those who pay the piper call the tune?
Sir Russell Johnston : No, I do not think that, and nor does Sir Nicholas Henderson. Sadly, the hon. Gentleman does not seem to accept a view within the Community that the evolution of a Community based on standards and policies is not related to national attitudes which are more and more out of date.
Sir Nicholas went on to state :
"It will surely be desirable for such a Germany to share as closely as possible in decision-making with its Community partners. Those who insist on emphasising the nation state should not be entitled to complain if one of the most powerful nation states were to act increasingly according to its own national interests."
Contrary to what the hon. Member for Stafford said, I do not agree that that will happen if the Federal Republic
Column 409is integrated. I do not quote opinions out of suspicion or fear of Germany. Many hon. Members have such fears. Democracy is firmly rooted in the Federal Republic. Contrary also to what the hon. Member for Stafford said, I believe it is now a more democratic country than Britain and its society is more open and less repressive and intolerant. Historical national suspicions linger darkly among us. I do not believe that the idealistic approach--I supposed I could be accused of being idealistic--to the development of a federal state in Europe will come about unless Europe includes a fair balance between historical states. One is seeking not to contain Germany but to recognise that if Britain, France or Germany were dominant, it would not be good for the whole. The Delors argument is for our benefit as well as his.
Mr. Janman : I have been listening with fascination to the hon. Gentleman's speech. In essence, is he saying that outside the federal Europe, in a framework which will continue as it is now, the German people are inherently superior to the other peoples of western Europe? Is he saying that a country with even 80 million people will automatically economically out-perform three nation states, including Italy, of 60 million people? Surely the hon. Gentleman's attitude is defeatist. We should be looking to Britain as a nation state and as an economy being able to compete with a country which,
pre-unification, had only a few million people and, with unification, is only a quarter or third larger.
Sir Russell Johnston : I do not regard the Germans as inherently superior any more than I regard us as inherently superior. The simple argument is about the political necessity of creating the European Community out of states which are of roughly equivalent size, and therefore which can--
Mr. Janman rose--
Sir Russell Johnston : I will not give way. Many hon. Members wish to speak. I am all in favour of giving way, but that is my answer. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister would probably agree with the hon. Gentleman, some powerful voices in the Cabinet do not, and they are increasingly expressing their view.
What is happening in eastern Europe is encouraging and exciting. We will not respond effectively if we stumble on our road to reconciliation. We must provide an opportunity for them to relate to something coherent. Therefore, the road ahead must be to accept that we are to be part of a supranational group which will be federal in some way. Within that group, we will not get everything our own way, but we will get a lot more than we would if we were outside it or if we spoil other countries' efforts to achieve it. We will be able to contribute to change.
The two great parties of this country are divided on this issue. I do not say that happily or even critically : it is a fact. There is a fear of commitment, almost like a child's fear of the dark. Supranational power is suspected as though it were a plot to undermine our standards. There was more than a hint of that in the speech by the hon. Member for Stafford. There is a fear that the fellows across the Channel will undermine our standards and impose unacceptable things on us in some way or another. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is a languorous chap
Column 410--decent, but very laid back. He was certainly very laid back today. He gave the impression of the superior Anglo-Saxon who thinks that all those fussy continentals are liable to be strange and misleading, and talked of Delors and Mitterrand as though they were a couple of recalcitrant political schoolboys. That is absurd.
Mr. Cash rose--
Sir Russell Johnston : I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. [Interruption.] I apologise to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who seldom intervenes in hon. Members' speeches!
Late on Monday night--not many hon. Members were present--we debated a Commission proposal for a European environmental agency which would try to get common statistical bases for evaluating pollution. It could become more than that. It was a short debate, but it epitomised certain attitudes. The Government were unwilling to accept that even the collection of information about pollution should be other than voluntary. That is rather like saying that criminals should normally voluntarily report their misdemeanours to the local police station. The Labour spokesman spoke vigorously in favour of a British environmental agency which must be independent of Government. When I asked him how, if one accepts that, one can logically reject a European agency independent of countries--I can see no
contradiction--he was silent.
One cannot reject it in logic, nor should one fight against an agency which, within the framework of the Commission, the Council and Parliament, would develop and regulate a policy. That is not bureaucracy ; it is protecting our environment together. The Prime Minister conjures up a wholly false picture of the Commission seeking to devise a negative plethora of regulations, whereas, by contrast, she and her Government seek to release enterprise and create jobs. One wonders how the Left of the Labour party, which always regarded the Common Market as a capitalist plot, now views this matter. The social charter is not negative. It is a search for a sensible balance between the release of private initiative and the protection of public well-being. Anybody who objects to the social charter should read John Kenneth Galbraith. I am ashamed that we should be isolated in that search. That is one of the things which the Liberal Democrats would say in the European Parliament if our distorted electoral system did not prevent us from going there.
The reason we do not enter the exchange rate mechanism is not because there is no right time, as we are always being told, but because there is a gut refusal to face up to the fact that the only way forward for us is to accept that our future is within a supranational Europe and to do our best to make it work. There is no difference of view between those on the two Front Benches about whether to join the EMS, which is both a matter of practical value and symbolic importance.
I shall briefly mention the developments in eastern Europe. I have been wanting to say the following for some time and I now have the opportunity : there is one present Member and one former Member of this House whom I would like to be here now. The present Member is the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond), whom I have heard on my car radio in the deep watches of
Column 411the night telling me on DDR radio about the excellence of the Honecker regime. He could come along and admit that he was utterly wrong. The other chap is a former Member of Parliament, Mr. Robert Maxwell, who once called Mr. Honecker "the father of the nation". He might use the Daily Mirror to say much the same thing. Those people defended the indefensible when it was easy to do so. If Egon Krenz can admit fault, they should also.
What happened in Berlin last weekend was wonderful. However, the problem of shifting economies with subsidised, state-imposed pricing towards liberal, econo-mic systems against a background of economic confusion is enormously difficult. For example, one third of the DDR budget--as I found when I was there last April--goes towards maintaining food and rent prices based on 1949 prices and transport prices based on pre-war prices, not to mention a series of other impossible arrangements. That means that it will be difficult to transfer from that position, which applies to all Eastern bloc countries. The transition must be managed gradually and we must help.
I was sorry that the Minister who introduced this debate said nothing specific on this matter. Perhaps the Minister who winds up will do better. At the summit in Paris this weekend the Community should try to put together a package of credit, and technological and managerial assistance, to help with proposals related to joint ventures and food assistance-- particularly to Poland--which they can put to Presidents Bush and Gorbachev when they meet early next year. It is too soon to talk of associate status for eastern European countries within the European Community, but I hope that the Government are alive to the useful role that the Council of Europe can play in providing a bridge between East and West for information and contact.
I could speak at much greater length and I apologise to Conservative Members ; perhaps I have been a bit self-indulgent because there are not many Members present.
I shall conclude by making two points. First, the huge changes in the East which we so enormously welcome will not be confirmed and advanced by the European Community hesitating to seek to weld itself closer together. That suggestion, which was contained in the Prime Minister's Mansion house speech, was wrong. Secondly, we in Britain must finally face up to the fact that our future lies not in clinging to illusory sovereignty, but in committing ourselves wholeheartedly to work with other countries of similar sizes and shared cultures and experiences in the European Community, which will be some kind of federal solution. Let us stop pretending that we can do everything ourselves and are cleverer than everyone else. The future lies in working with others in Europe.
Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central) : There can be no doubt that recent events in eastern Europe will dramatically change the lives, not only of the people living in the countries directly involved, but, to a considerable extent, the rest of us who live in Europe and even beyond. While I am delighted at the prospect of freedom and democracy spreading eastwards, I urge the greatest possible caution in the period ahead which could well usher in a time of great instability.
Column 412I shall briefly consider what is happening and point to an existing stable framework which might be used to enable the changes taking place to proceed in the safest and most orderly way. As a member of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union, I believe that these two organisations are uniquely placed to play a key role in the changing pattern of Europe. I shall explain why later. However, before doing so I shall consider three aspects of the changes now occurring : why they are happening, what uncertainties they will usher in and how we should react.
The first question we must ask is not why the East German people have streamed through the Berlin wall or why democracy is being returned to Poland and Hungary, but why the authorities have allowed it to happen instead of rolling out the tanks, Chinese fashion, as they might have done years ago to quell what was happening. All this must have been sanctioned by Moscow, and again we must ask why. The high level of military spending in Russia may well place an intolerable burden on its ramshackle economy. There is no doubt that its power is being eroded and its involvement with Afghanistan showed it the folly of following military excursions, and also cost a great deal. There may now exist in Russia a general and genuine desire to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the world. That may be true but, if so, we must again ask why tanks, aircraft and submarines are still being built at a steady and alarming rate.
The Soviet Union's intentions may be totally benign. It is quite reasonable to suppose that it is now prepared to try democracy and capitalism, but the result of the recent actions has been to introduce into Europe the greatest note of uncertainty for 40 years. More potential damage has been done to the western Alliance and NATO by the knocking down of the Berlin wall than Russia's massive armaments programme ever achieved. If the intention was to create uncertainty and a weakening of its opposition, these recent changes could be the most effective offensive Russia has so far launched, without the need so much as to lift a rifle.
As a result of these actions, uncertainty abounds for many good reasons. We do not know the reasoning behind these changes at the highest level. The outcome of the move towards democracy and freedom in the East is still unknown. We do not know why President Gorbachev surfaced in the Soviet Union, what support he currently enjoys and, more important, how long he will remain in office. The role of the European Community in all this is uncertain. There is a very real possibility of the unification of Germany. Most important of all, there is the effect of all this on the Warsaw Pact, NATO and our indispensable American allies.
Tonight is not the time to go into detailed debates about exactly what will happen over the weeks and months ahead. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) talked about what hon. Members from both sides of the House wanted to see in Germany. It is not a matter of what any of us want, but of what will happen. If, as many people believe and expect, Germany is reunified--perhaps sooner rather than later--it will clearly be important for that country to be stitched comfortably and happily into the fabric of Europe.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, how should the United Kingdom respond? Our response should take advantage of all that is happening in order to improve the
Column 413freedom, democracy, safety and stability of Europe as a whole, without in the slightest way reducing--except by negotiation and verification--the West's defensive position and watchfulness. What is necessary is a framework, flexible enough to allow beneficial changes to take place but firm enough to provide the stability needed in times of change and perhaps also able to act as a benchmark against which to measure change and judge exactly what adaptations to the existing framework, which has kept the peace for 40 years, are most likely to lead to a more co-operative and secure Europe. I believe that in conjunction with other organisations the Council of Europe and the Western European Union have key roles to play in these matters.
The Council of Europe, uniquely, embraces every democracy in Europe and in a unique breakthrough earlier this year granted Russia, Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia guest status. Those countries now join us at our parliamentary assemblies in Strasbourg and no longer simply observe our proceedings but, in fact, participate in our debates in the Assembly and will increasingly be involved in all aspects of the Council of Europe's work. The House will, I am sure, recall that it was to the Council of Europe that President Gorbachev chose to come earlier this year to make his historic speech about our "common European home".
So, a working forum already exists which will enable discussions to take place between East and West on all these issues in the widest possible European context--a forum in which, as West Germany is already a member, the future of East Germany could most naturally be debated.
The other organisation that surely has a crucial part to play is the Western European Union, which is currently being enlarged to embrace Spain and Portugal and which has in recent years been reactivated and is playing an ever-increasing part in European defence.
It has been suggested that as West Germany is already part of the European Community, East Germany can simply join as well. It is, however, a common market, not a defensive organisation, and while this move may be helpful in many ways, it is clearly not a complete or even adequate answer. The Western European Union, however, which has both West Germany and France as members, and which is entirely concerned with defence, is the obvious organisation to discuss the future position of eastern Germany in military terms.
The fact that the USSR is now able to enter into debates at the Council of Europe must be a help in the whole process, and it is for these reasons that I believe that both the Council of Europe and the Western European Union have vital parts to play in these rapidly changing times.
May I just enter a note of caution on placing too much emphasis on the personality and motives of any particular leader or trying to wish ourselves into a happier, freer Europe, which may still be quite a long way away? In matters of defence, the heart must never be allowed to rule the head. I have already said that none of us knows exactly what reasons lie behind the present situation and it would, in my view, be fatal to build, shape, or even alter, however slightly, our defence policy on the basis of what we guess may or may not be in the minds of other nations' leaders--in Russia or elsewhere. It is rather like expecting the
Column 414Politburo to agree to disband the Warsaw pact simply because they have come to a unanimous conclusion that our Prime Minister is "a good egg". Our defensive disposition must be totally unchanged by recent events until we see how matters develop. Provided our guard is kept firmly up, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Finally, while the full effects of recent events are unfolding and to ensure that constructive dialogue continues, I very much hope that both the Council of Europe and the Western European Union will be given the maximum encouragement by all Governments concerned to play their part. 7.22 pm
Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on developments in the European Community between January and June this year when a total of 410 European documents were deposited in Parliament. It is important to take part in this debate for no less a reason than that many of my constituents seem to believe that 1992 is to be the celebration year of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and do not seem to realise that 1992 has some important implications for the European scene.
It is tempting to explore the many subjects referred to in the documents, many of which are extremely important, such as the reference to the change in the blood alcohol level that will be brought forward in new directives on the breathalyser test. That is an important matter because in this country we still have the spectre of as many as 1,000 drivers a year being involved in fatal accidents while in excess of the legal alcohol limit. The document refers also to the problem of water pollution that is caused by nitrates and to the difficulty of harmonising tyre depth treads, on which we were unique in opposing the European Commission's proposals. There is also the matter of the lorry weight derogations.
When one reads these documents, it is important to do so carefully to find out what the Government are saying about what is happening. A classic example is the position regarding heavy lorries. Paragraph 1.16 on page 6 points out :
"the United Kingdom's existing derogation from the Community weights and dimensions for 5 and 6 axled vehicles should continue until 31 December 1998."
Paragraph 7.13 on page 20 states :
"derogations should end on 31 December 1998."
Those two paragraphs say exactly the same thing. The second paragraph clearly points to the fact that by the end of December 1998 there will be 44-tonne lorries on British roads and, by then, the weight maximum will probably be 50 tonnes. Without careful reading, it is difficult to deduce what the Government are allowed to derogate and what they are not. One must read such documents closely.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the derogation won by my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Transport was substantially better than that originally proposed by the European Commission and that he should be talking about 40-tonne lorries, not 44-tonne lorries?
Mr. Wardell : Yes, I accept that the former Secretary of State for Transport won that derogation, but I should have preferred him to do better and to ensure that such lorries will not be allowed on Britain's roads until the
Column 415bridges in this country can accommodate the loads that those lorries will impose on them. I am extremely concerned that we ensure that when that derogation becomes invalid or is completed at the end of 1998, resources should be made available to ensure that that will not pose a major threat to our existing infrastructure.
I listened carefully to the Minister and to what he said about how well we are performing relative to other European Community countries in our compliance with various directives and regulations. In the intervention that he kindly allowed me to make, I referred to environmental pollution and pointed out that the way in which the Department of the Environment deliberately avoided implementing the bathing water directive of 1976 was something of which the Government should be ashamed.
The Government defined a "bathing beach" by the numbers of people using the beaches, in such a way that not one single beach in Wales could be classified as a bathing beach. The Government then said that that directive therefore did not apply to any beach in the Principality. That has meant that raw sewage is still poured into the sea from about 120 short sea outfalls. We need to accept that such things are happening. It is a pity that the Department of the Environment was not big enough--I do not mean in size, but in its moral attitude and stance--to admit that that was a deliberate way to avoid and evade that important directive.
I am concerned about the way in which the House deals with European legislation. The Select Committee on European Legislation said in its report that an inquiry is taking place into the way that legislation arises. Paragraph 15.4 of the Select Committee report states : "In two cases the Council adopted a common position on a proposal before the debate recommended by the Select Committee could be arranged."
A Minister may go to the Council of Ministers and make a decision, but there is not enough time for the House to debate the issue. I find it completely unacceptable that the House is denied the opportunity to debate matters of concern.
I hesitate to say this as I may be incorrect, but I imagine that very few right hon. and hon. Members know that every hon. Member is automatically a member of the Standing Committee on European Community Documents and has the right to attend its meetings. That ignorance is a great shame, because, although hon. Members cannot vote, it would be an interesting spectacle to see most of us turning up to one of the debates and to discover what contribution we could make.
It is a great disadvantage to the people of Wales that no Welsh Office Minister, including the Secretary of State,has ever been to a meeting of the Council of Ministers. I find it incredible that the way countries vote in the Council of Ministers is not recorded. It is high time that the way in which Ministers vote is made known, so that we understand the exact position of each country.
I can think of two examples which illustrate the inadequacy of current procedures, and both involve industries which are important to the United Kingdom--steel and aluminium. The beverage container directive of some years ago would have dealt a major blow to the only three plants in Britain that manufactured tin plate which were located in south Wales. Sadly, their number has now declined to two--in Trostre and in Ebbw Vale. They would have been decimated if the directive had been implemented in its original form. However, the director of
Column 416British Steel's tin plate division telephoned me a few days before the Standing Committee met. He knew nothing about the directive that was being considered in the House, and he had no opportunity to discuss it with right hon. and hon. Members.
The second example is this year's hazardous waste directive, which proposes a bizarre definition of waste. For example, material which is a by-product from nickel or aluminium plants is regarded as waste, when it is a valuable commodity elsewhere in the industry. The Aluminium Federation did not know that that important draft directive was being considered in the House.
I hope that there will be major reforms in the way in which directives are dealt with following the Select Committee on European Legislation's report and recommendations. Some 410 documents have been deposited in the House. Few of them have seen the light of day for detailed consideration and that worries me greatly.
I find it infuriating to witness the Prime Minister remaining obdurate in her isolation against the proposed social charter for human rights. The Prime Minister said at the Madrid summit on 27 June this year :
"The Council's conclusions on this subject recognise that the highest priority is to create the conditions for more jobs. The Government do not believe that the Community's proposed social charter would help to achieve this aim. Indeed, we believe that imposing extra burdens on industry would make the Community less competitive."
That seems like a voice from the past--more in line with the Ottoman empire in decline. It is the voice of a state in disarray. That is an anachronistic and moribund view. It offers us the bizarre spectacle of Britain as the poor man of Europe, deeply worried that Greece, Portugal and Spain are keen to implement the social charter to ensure that the increased competition generated by the single market does not drag down wages and working conditions to the lowest common denominator.
I do not go along with the Prime Minister's philosophy. I would rather take a different view--that of the report drawn up on behalf of the EC Committee on Social Affairs and Employment on the social dimension of the internal market, on 23 February this year, which shows why we need the social charter. It says :
"The completion of the internal market should not be used, therefore, to undermine established social standards in the Member States by reference to job losses as a result of excessive wage levels by comparison with those in Member States. The social framework of the internal market should not be left to market decisions, but must be regulated at Community level. In the field of the health and safety of workers in particular it is essential that national provisions should be harmonized. Product-related provisions must therefore be harmonized at the highest possible level to ensure that a worker is not at greater risk merely because he is operating a machine for which the safety standard differs from that operated by his colleague. Within workplaces, non-product-related labour protection can be regulated on the basis of the highest possible minimum standards. Countries with higher levels of labour protection should not be allowed to reduce them."
I apologise for the length of that quotation, but it makes my point.
The social charter offers the citizens of post-1992 Europe the prospect of social improvements, especially in living and working conditions, social protection, education and training.
When the summit meeting of the European Council takes place on 8 and 9 December, Opposition Members will hope that there is a unanimous decision to adopt the
Column 417charter. There is no longer any merit in striving for political machismo by flexing one's muscles in a minority of one.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) referred to the Select Committee on Procedure and to an examination of the scrutiny procedures of the House. I agreed with many of the points he made, but as a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation, I should emphasise that paragraph 15(2) on page 33 of the White Paper states :
"the Lord President said that the European Legislation Committee did a very good job and he did not see any need to make many changes to the basic system, but thought that the way European legislation was handled in the House could be improved".
Recently there have been a couple of press leaks which suggest that, in about three weeks, the Select Committee on Procedure will produce what appear to be extremely interesting and admirable suggestions. As a member of the EC Scrutiny Committee--perhaps I can engage the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)--I hope that those suggestions will not fundamentally change the way in which that Committee functions.
The European Legislation Committee acts as a sifting mechanism. I do not say that to defend, in any way, a vested interest--far from it. The sifting and advisory directional functions of that Committee--it could suggest to other Select Committees that they might consider investigating a particular area--represents a welcome matrix. I shall give way to my hon. Friend without, I hope, incurring your displeasure, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Dykes : I am grateful. That is a vindication of the thing of which all hon. Members should be proud--the fact that we have the strongest scrutiny procedures of the member states. The Minister said that earlier. That scrutiny is a good and a bad thing. It is good because it shows, once again, that the House is addicted to careful and meticulous scrutiny of national governmental and Community decisions. We notice, however, that an enormous quantity of national public spending goes through here late at night and is voted upon without many people paying much attention. We cannot, however, do everything perfectly.
The bad effect of such scrutiny is that it engenders
over-preoccupation and anxiety. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) was right when he said there was an anxiety about leaping into the dark. Although we joined the Community in 1973, it is still seen by some as a perilous and dangerous institution. The reaction provoked by such scrutiny may be, "You be careful what those foreigners are up to, George, or we will