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Mr. Heffer rose
I must advise the House that it disfigures our proceedings to start every day with half an hour of points of order-- [Interruption.] Order. These are not matters of order. They are matters of disagreement across the Chamber. They are not matters on which I can give any opinion.
Mr. Heffer : My point is about the list, Mr. Speaker. You have a right in relation to that because you are the one person who can speak in our name. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) talked about the "panning" of the House. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I was not in favour of any of it, but if we are to have the panning of the Floor of the House, we should not allow that panning to go only as far as the Gangway because, if that is the case, none of us below the Gangway will ever be seen.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? Earlier this afternoon you told the House that it would be possible to have the Colin Wallace affair fully ventilated during the statement tomorrow. However, it is already clear from the exchanges in the House that not only the present Government but previous Governments over the past 20 years have been deceived and misled and that when they have come to the House to advise the House, they have misled the House.
How on earth can the House and the country believe that this whole affair can be fully ventilated by restricting our deliberations on it to a statement of one hour made by the Secretary of State for Defence, who is not completely responsible because the matter also concerns Northern Ireland? Surely we should have a full and detailed debate on this matter at the earliest opportunity, and it should be referred to a Select Committee of the House.
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) : I have received a letter from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces which tells me that the allegations that I raised in the House about the forging of CIA documents and about the use of Army officers to plant hoax bombs are now true. I understand that there is to be a statement tomorrow from the Secretary of State for Defence. That is not good enough. I raised this issue with the Prime Minister and I have received denials from the Prime Minister. I know from my own research that an entire dossier, listing every one of the allegations, was delivered to the Prime Minister on behalf of Colin Wallace in November 1984. The House will want to know why that--
Mr. Livingstone : I am trying to ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, that we have the Prime Minister here to answer our questions because she is the main beneficiary of this treason and she has been the main architect of the cover-up.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that on 6 May 1987 the Prime Minister made a statement to the House in which she denied categorically every one of the allegations that have now been confirmed in yesterday's answer by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. May I reinforce the points that have been made by the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) to the effect that the Prime Minister should be the person at the Dispatch Box answering questions on this subject? Would it be in order for you, Mr. Speaker, to use your good offices in a way that I am sure you could to ensure that the Prime Minister is here to address us specifically on that subject?
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Michael Shersby, supported by Mr. Barry Sheerman, Sir Bernard Braine, Sir John Wheeler, Mr. Steve Norris, Mr. Robert Maclennan, Mr. John Cartwright and Dr. John Blackburn, presented a Bill to repeal sections 79 and 80 of the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847 : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 2 March and to be printed. [Bill 65.]
That European Community Document No. 9934/89 relating to health rules for products of animal origin be referred to a Standing Committee on European Community Documents.-- [Mr. Lightbown.] Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Marshall : I have listened to the exchanges this afternoon and wish to say simply that Mr. Colin Wallace is my constituent. It is essential that we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Defence tomorrow. I believe that that is a step that we need to consider before we look at other matters. I wish to put that on the record, having been involved for the past seven and a half years in making representations on behalf of my constituent.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to impose restrictions, in respect of cars with engines of over 1000 cc, upon drivers for a period of 12 months after they have passed the test for the full driving licence ; and for connected purposes.
In the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in motoring. Improved living standards have ensured that there is a far wider car ownership. Instead of one car per family being the norm, it is now more likely that two or even three cars are owned by one family. Furthermore, advances in technology, design and engine power ensure that cars are far more sophisticated and powerful than they were then. The driving test has failed to keep pace with the times. Noticeably there is no provision in the driving test for motorway driving. There is also no written examination, which many might consider to be beneficial and an improvement. There is also a belief that, as in certain European countries, a number of hours of driving should be completed before drivers are eligible to take the test. In Great Britain, more than 28 million people have licences to drive motor cars. The figures for the latest available year, 1988, show that 1,039,000 people passed their driving test. Of those, 73 per cent. were aged between 17 and 25, 21 per cent. between 26 and 40, 5 per cent. between 41 and 60 and 0.3 per cent. over 60. In the same year, 184,000 motor car accidents involving personal injuries occurred. On top of those figures, one can add the 3,427 people who were killed in accidents involving lorries, motorcycles, and mobile and stationary objects.
To put the problem into perspective, overall, in 1988, 5,000 people were killed and more than 300,000 injured in road accidents of all types. In the under-25-year-old age group, there were almost 1,000 deaths and 60,000 injuries. If my mathematics are correct, in that single year nearly 500 of the constituents of every hon. Member were either killed or injured as a result of motor accidents.
The social cost of these horrific figures is in excess of £4 billion. I am reassured that the Department of Transport is extremely concerned about this and is constantly taking action to help to ensure that our roads are safer, with a plethora of positive initiatives and actions. However, my proposed Bill would add to the Department's initiatives and open the debate on what more can be done.
Part of the problem emanates from the fact that inexperienced drivers are given, as soon as they have passed their driving test, the same privileges and rights as someone who has held a licence for over 20 years and gained experience through driving over the years. That is a mistake. In theory, a 17-year-old can, on his 17th birthday, pass his driving test, leave the test centre and drive away in a Porsche or a series 7 BMW. This is crazy, because it is obvious that such a time scale gives nobody the experience or understanding of driving a car with such a high performance. If such a youth got into difficulties, he would not be able to cope. The first purpose of my Bill is to restrict all newly qualified drivers to driving cars of only 1,000 cc for the first 12 months after passing a test so that they can build up the required confidence and experience when driving. Secondly, my Bill would seek to make all newly qualified drivers, up to 12 months after passing their tests, drive with plates marked R for restricted or N for
Column 321novice--similar to plates used in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Other drivers would then be aware of their relative inexperience. I understand from press reports in the past few days that the Department of Transport is considering this proposal and introducing a P plate. I do not want to quibble with the Secretary of State for Transport about different letters of the alphabet. Any relevant letter should be used to attract the attention of other drivers. Thirdly, there has been a serious problem of boy racers showing off on joy rides. They pile their cars full of passengers and race up and down the roads. That has led to far too many accidents involving death and personal injury. The third part of my Bill would go some way towards alleviating that problem by restricting the number of passengers whom they can take in their cars to two, of whom one must be a fully qualified driver in his own right.
Fourthly, my Bill would effect something that I know my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic is considering as a matter of urgency--the banning of newly qualified drivers from sitting in cars with learner drivers, thereby allowing the learners to drive on the highway. They are not mature or experienced enough to take on such responsibilities.
The last two parts of my Bill include constructive ways of ending these tragedies and the activities of boy racers.
I do not pretend that my Bill will reach the statute book by the end of this Session, but I believe that, if it draws attention to the problems and raises the level of discussion so that people bring in new ideas to reduce the injuries and deaths on our roads and to produce an improvement on the past two decades, it will have been worth while. I commend it to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Simon Burns, Mr. David Porter, Mr. David Evans, Mr. Anthony Coombs, Mr. Jerry Hayes, Mr. William Hague, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Bob Dunn and Mr. Douglas French.
Mr. Simon Burns accordingly presented a Bill to impose restrictions, in respect of cars with engines of over 1000 cc, upon drivers for a period of 12 months after they have passed the test for the full driving licence ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 67.]
Orders of the Day
EC and Eastern Europe
[Relevant documents : European Community Documents Nos. 9090/89 on aid to Poland and Hungary, 10788/89 on medium-term financial assistance for Hungary, 9716/89 on economic aid to Hungary and Poland, 8879/89 on Commission indemnities to the European Investment Bank against losses under loans to Hungary and Poland, 9127/89 and the un-numbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 10th November 1989 on extension of the Generalised System of Preferences to Poland and Hungary and the un-numbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 10th November 1989 on levy reliefs on certain agricultural products.]
Mr. Speaker : We now come to the first of the Social and Liberal Democrat motions, that on the European Community and developments in eastern Europe. A considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members want to participate in this important debate, and I ask them all to keep their speeches brief in the interests of the whole House.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that a number of European Community documents are listed on the Order Paper. I understand that they have not been requested for this Opposition day, although they may well be convenient for it. I seek your assurance, Mr. Speaker--I hope that the Minister will respond to this point--that the Government are not attempting to use time allocated to the Opposition to put down what are essentially Government documents so that they can then say that they have been considered and there is no need to debate them in Government time. That would be an abuse of Opposition time.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understanit, it was not at the initiative of the Government that the documents were added to the motion for debate.
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil) : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) for raising that important issue. It would indeed amount to contempt of this House, or at least contempt of the procedures of the House, if this debate were to be used for a discussion of European Community documents. I shall look into the question of who asked that these items be put on the Order Paper, but my understanding is that it certainly was not my party or, indeed, any of the other Opposition parties.
I beg to move,
Column 323That this House welcomes recent progress towards liberal democracy in the countries of eastern and central Europe ; endorses progress towards the political and economic integration of the European Community ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government urgently to recognise that this country's future depends on Britain playing a full and wholehearted role in the development of the new democratic Europe.
I am bound, at the start, to say that I am somewhat surprised that the Government have not been able to find sufficient agreement--in the Conservative party, I presume--to put down an amendment to this motion, even though many parts of it are entirely contrary to what we understand to be Government policy. Indeed, I hear that there is a possibility that the Government will not even seek to vote against it--again, presumably on the grounds that they cannot find any agreement about their policy on these vital matters. I hope, in case the Government should argue that their policies are in accordance with the motion, to demonstrate that the facts speak entirely to the contrary.
This motion is designed to encompass two factors. The first factor concerns the developments in eastern Europe ; the second, and essential, factor is Britain's relationship to the new developments in western Europe--the movement towards closer economic, monetary, political and social integration. Hon. Members will not be fulfilling the terms of the motion-- certainly not its terms--or its spirit if they merely use this debate as a chance to expatiate grand visions about eastern Europe. Those have to be set in a context, and that context is our approach to Europe itself.
We on the Liberal Democrat Bench make no apologies for bringing to this, the oldest and, many believe, the most introverted of the democratic parliaments of Europe the issue of the new democratic Europe that is now emerging before our very eyes. Naturally, people will be concerned to discuss their view and their vision of Europe, but I want at the outset to establish that this is a matter of the deepest practical importance to every citizen of this country. It is not just a matter for visions ; it is a matter of practical politics.
On the environmental front, we know only too well that the European dimension is what has forced this Government to face up to the problems that now confront us as a part of Europe and, on the question of emission controls, has led the way in creating a cleaner atmosphere, often actually obstructed by this Government. On North sea pollution, it is the same story.
The Berlaymont in Brussels has exposed this Government's failure--in the case of water, for instance--to take the necessary action to create a cleaner environment. We know also that it is through concerted European action that we shall begin to tackle the huge environmental problems with which Europe as a whole will be confronted as a result of the moves in eastern Europe and the extraordinary levels of pollution that have to be coped with there. We know too that, when it comes to the liberties of the individual, time and again it is the European Court that has had to be resorted to to defend the rights of British citizens, for whose protection our courts were too feeble, and for whom the lack of a Bill of Rights has meant an inadequate framewpork to secure civil liberties. When it come to business, we know that small businesses and enterprises are, day by day, paying the price of high interest rates, because this Government have failed to address the advantages to Britain that would accrue
Column 324from joining the European exchange rate mechanism of the EMS. We know that it is Brussels, and will increasingly be Brussels, that will tackle the issue of creating a free market--tackling monopolies and, indeed, exposing Government subsidies. Finally, we know that--crucially, in relation to 1992--it will be this country's ability to sink or swim in the open markets of Europe that will determine whether our nation and its industry and its economic base prosper or decline in the years to come.
We believe that Britain must join in the march towards European unity, towards closer economic, social and political integration, because that is the only way to ensure the long-term future of Britain's best interests. The failure of the Tory party and the Labour party to come to terms with the new Europe that is now emerging marks them both as parties of the past rather than parties of the future. The attitude of both parties is marked by confusion and division because they are equally uncertain about how to address the new moves in western Europe and how those will relate to the new moves in eastern Europe. They are equally split on that crucial issue.
This weekend, in what I can only describe as a masterpiece of euphemism, the Foreign Secretary tried to describe the split in the Conservative party as
"honest and friendly disagreements about details of our policy." Was it "honest and friendly disagreement" about details of policy that caused the Chancellor of the Exchequer to resign on the issue of the exchange rate mechanism and the European monetary system? Was it "honest and friendly disagreement" that caused the former Foreign Secretary to be sacked because his views were dangerously pro-European and ran counter to the Prime Minister's personal antipathy towards all things European--or, as she would see it, all things foreign? Is it "honest and friendly disagreement" that has now led to a state of almost open war between the Prime Minister and Conservative Members of the European Parliament?
If that split in the Conservative party were confined to the nasty element- -one might even say the Chingford element--of the Conservative party, I might be able to understand the Foreign Secretary's complacency in this matter. Of course, that is not the case, because the split runs right into the heart of the Conservative party, right into the Cabinet. We saw that clearly in the most eloquent and powerful resignation speech by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Of course, Members on the Opposition Front Bench are no different. The difference between the hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), who speaks on Treasury matters for the Labour party in Europe, and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) is as wide as the differences between Nos. 10 and 11 Downing street in the era when the Prime Minister was going through so much difficulty with the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer. The splits in both the Labour and Conservative parties have robbed Britain of a coherent policy on Europe. They are robbing this country of an influence on the development of European events and will rob it of the opportunities to benefit from the tremendous chances that are now opening up in Europe.
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) : It is easy to be consistent if one is totally naive, and easy for a party to be united in total naivety. Given an institution that has inflicted so much damage on the real economy of this
Column 325country, there is bound to be division in major parties about whether to go further and faster or whether to hold back. That is realism.
Mr. Ashdown : The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Labour party, and therefore knows the real meaning of splits and naivety because they seem to have been almost a characteristic of his party over the past five or six years. The hon. Gentleman says that I am being naive and that what I am saying has nothing to do with real politics. We hear, do we not, that there are three reasons why the Conservative party and the Labour party regard it as important that Britain should stay in a minority of one out of 12 in Europe? First, there is the question of sovereignty. They are attached to an old-fashioned idea of the unitary sovereignty of the nation state. Neither of them realises the essential importance in the age in which we are moving of the concept of pooled sovereignty.
At least we are told that sovereignty is the reason. When one looks deeper, one wonders how on earth those parties can hold that position. In defence-- nothing can be more crucial in terms of sovereignty--we have become quite accustomed over the past 40 years to the concepts of pooled sovereignty. We have also become accustomed to the idea that, by combining with other nations in NATO, Britain will have a better defence. We have become used to the idea that that is the very basis of the multilateralism that the Prime Minister consistently tells us is so important--not that that removes from her the capacity to be in a minority, even in NATO, on issues such as the modernisation of nuclear weapons.
For some time we have had pooled decision-making in foreign affairs. Yet in no way does that stop the Prime Minister from being isolated from our European partners from time to time on questions such as the way in which we should deal with South Africa. The heart of the case advanced by the Labour and Tory parties seems to be that the single issue of economic sovereignty is the area where we may not in any way diminish the extraordinary sovereignty held by this nation and House over economic affairs. To what, then, would they wish us to return--to the sovereignty that the Labour party enjoyed in the 1970s when it had to go cap in hand to the IMF to bail it out, or the sovereignty that the Conservative party currently enjoys when it goes cap in hand daily to the speculators of the money markets to ensure that its economic policies can stand?
Is that the kind of sovereignty about which they are talking? Or is it the economic sovereignty which, in the 1960s and 1970s, made us prey to every small tremor of decision by what were then known as the gnomes of Zurich? Or is it the kind of sovereignty that the British Government enjoyed last October when, instead of observing the gnomes of Zurich, we had to stand on the edge of our chairs to await the decision of the faceless men of the Bundesbank? What an extraordinary degree of economic sovereignty is that.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I am fascinated by much of what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I wish to recall to him the history of his party. He must have read about the great conflict between Lloyd George and others.
Column 326Great divisions occurred in the Liberal party because of the reality of political power and the need to make decisions. Those who have had to make decisions know that decision making is not always a simple matter. One is faced with a series of choices. Sometimes one makes the right choice, sometimes the wrong one, but either way one must make a decision. The reality of power rests precisely on that point. Much as I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman says, it is about time that the Liberals lived in the real world instead of in some fantasy world.
Mr. Ashdown : The hon. Gentleman makes his point with characteristic pungency. Four times in the last 40 years Britain has been invited to make a real choice on Europe, and three times, whether under Labour or Tory Governments, the wrong choice was made. This country has suffered greatly as a result of those wrong choices. The hon. Gentleman cannot argue that that is naivety, or that we were living in some stratospheric world in which those choices did not matter.
Our failure to join Europe is one of the fundamental reasons for the underlying economic weakness of this nation. Heaven forbid--if the hon. Member for Walton is talking about real politics--that Britain should, for the fourth time, make the wrong choice and be left behind, because I do not believe that our economy, industry and society could tolerate another wrong choice on Europe.
Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North) : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in foreign affairs it is highly desirable that we in this country have a bipartisan approach? He rightly points out that there is a spectrum of opinion on both sides of the House, and no doubt he believes that his party sits fair and square in the middle of politics--or at least that claim might be made. Does he think that it would be preferable to bridge the gap between the parties rather than try to extend it even more? Will he in the rest of his speech be suggesting how we can have a bipartisan approach?
Mr. Ashdown : The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about bipartisan approaches. I agree that they are to be commended, except when a bipartisan approach is, as in this case, wrong. The hon. Gentleman is also wrong to suggest that we are in the middle of the Conservative and Labour parties. We are not : we are out ahead of them, where we have been consistently for the last 40 years on Europe. What my party and its predecessors have said about Europe has become reality. We are talking of a political agenda which we currently occupy, but I predict that the Labour and Conservative parties will have to move to it in the coming year or two, or Britain will pay an ever higher price in the future.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) : I want to make it absolutely clear that the policy that the right hon. Gentleman is attempting to criticise in no way represents the reality of Labour party policy. As he speaks with the support of about 4 per cent. of the electorate, I wonder whether he can confirm that he also speaks with the support of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Sir C. Smith) who, on a number of previous occasions, has disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman.
Column 327(Mr. Foulkes) cannot even get many of his Back Benchers to go along with the Labour party's incredibly flimsy line on the exchange rate mechanism.
Sir Cyril Smith (Rochdale) : I have been sitting here, listening quietly and behaving myself, which I always do. Suddenly, I hear that I disagree with everything that my right hon. Friend the leader of my party has said, and that I have done so on numerous occasions. I challenge the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to produce any statement or speech that I have ever made in which I have disagreed with my party's stance on Europe. I have disagreed with my party on many other matters, but that is not what the hon. Gentleman alleged. He said that I disagreed with my party's stance on Europe, European affairs and the European monetary system. That is not true. I agree with every word that my leader has said today.
Mr. Ashdown : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his clearly expressed support. If the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley had the slightest drop of integrity, he would withdraw his accusation. However, no doubt I and the House will have to wait in vain for that.
The second objection of the Labour and Conservative parties relates to the creation of a European super-state. I agree that that is a danger, but it is my view and that of every other member state that we must struggle towards a new political distribution of power. Part of that is the concept of pooled sovereignty in Europe, but the other and most essential part is the passing of power back to our communities, and the establishment of Parliaments in Wales and in Scotland is an essential part of that distribution of power. Of all the European nations, West Germany is the most devolved. It has no difficulties with the idea of pooling some of its sovereignty at European level. Why should we?
The third objection of the two main parties is that they do not want to give power to the Eurocrats in Brussels. Again, if that were a reality rather than a myth, I would agree with it. I want the establishment of an accountable bureaucracy at the Berlaymont in Brussels. How do we do that? We do it not through the Council of Ministers, but through strengthening the powers of the European Parliament and making it accountable to our elected representatives in Europe. With extraordinary, breathtaking contradiction, both the Labour and Tory parties say that they are afraid of being part of the European Eurocracy and opposed to increasing the powers of the European Parliament.
It was with a lifting heart that I read in paragraph 10 of the Socialist manifesto the wonderful words, with which I could not disagree :
"The more important the Community becomes, the stronger the European Parliament will be. The continuation of Europe must not be left in the hands of the bureaucrats and Ministers alone : it must be a people's Europe."
Amen to that. However, there is a footnote :
"The British Labour Party disagrees and does not accept paragraph 10."
I hope that, when the spokesman for the Labour party in due course catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be good enough to explain to the House why the Labour party wants to keep power in the secret Council of Ministers, with the bureaucrats in Brussels, and not hand it out to the citizens of Europe as a whole.
The importance of addressing the question now being put on economic and monetary union and the Delors