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Column 311We have seen, even from this debate, that we have now reached the point where scarcely any of the sceptics even argue that we should leave. They all accept that we should remain in the Community and, in those circumstances, we should do so in a way that enables us to take the fullest advantage of it.
We must face the real issues. They are totally concealed by over-simplified talk of the threat of a federal European super-state--yes or no? There is a huge range of theoretical and practical possibilities between the wholly independent--"sovereign" if one wishes--nation state and the wholly integrated federation of the United States or the Federal Republic of Germany. There are many different staging points on that spectrum. The question now is whether and, if so, where and how far we need to adjust the present position.
The real issues of importance are the quality and scope of the quasi- federal structure that already exists. The House must be grateful to the Prime Minister for the measured and comprehensive analysis that he has offered on all the issues that arise. The biggest existing shortcoming in the present Community is in relation to the need for more solid barriers to the enlargement of Community competence. On that subject, I agree with the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, and the present Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said that it was necessary to codify and ring-fence that part of the structure. It is right to resist ill-defined extensions of Community competence in social matters. It is right to resist extending Community competence that would threaten winning in the wrong way the "battle of Downing street", which we have won "in place of strife" on behalf of the Labour party--by reversing all our industrial legislation. The Prime Minister was right to assert the importance of subsidiarity, and the terms and the drafting of article 3B of the treaty are crucial. Equally, it is not unreasonable, when discussing the democratic deficit, to recognise that there is a case for a modest enhancement of the European Parliament's role--to introduce an additional element of democracy, without subtracting from the role of this House but by complementing it.
It is certainly not unreasonable to accept some development of the role of the Community in security and foreign policy. That would be a logical extension of the proposals put forward, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley reminded us, in 1985 by the United Kingdom for political co- operation, provided that we retain--the Prime Minister was clear about the definitional needs--the need for unanimity on the key provisions of whatever structure is designed. Likewise, on defence, the fundamental role of NATO must be preserved, but the central and developing role of the Western European Union as the European pillar for that part of our defence needs also to be developed.
Finally, it is sensible to develop the concept of a common citizenship in the Community. Some people are opposed even to that, in a narrow and unattractive way which I do not much like. A Community citizenship would be the most practical fulfilment of a dream enunciated by Sir Winston Churchill. It shows us how we should approach the matter. He said :
"We hope to see a Europe where men"--
and women, he might have added--
Column 312"of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and wherever they go in this wide domain will truly feel Here I am at home'."
Does not that set the right, far-ranging tone for this debate? Certainly the Prime Minister's speech did so clearly and impressively. It contrasted sharply with the narrow, over-simplified terms in which the debate is all too often conducted. Too often it is conducted in terms of unbridgeable opposites, false antitheses and exaggerated choices. I emphasise that it is not a choice between a mythical independent sovereign state and a mythical federal super-state, nor a choice between one market and one country. All too often, the sceptics, in language of beguiling simplicity, succeed in concealing the strictly practical middle way which alone can offer Britain a real future in Europe. That is the way to achieve and sustain a realistic prospect of influence and prosperity in the new Europe as it exists on our doorsteps, rather than as the sceptics still pretend it to be.
If we were to be led astray by the bogus dilemmas and narrow perspectives that have sometimes set the parameters of Britain's European debate in recent years, the achievements of the past 12 years would be set at zero. To avoid that calamity, we must ensure that the other European states do not move ahead without us--not now, not ever. We must remain determined--as I am sure the Prime Minister is--to lead from the inside, firmly committed to our European destiny, which we shall help to shape.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is so clearly determined to follow that path. It is well in line with the instincts of his predecessors. In the 1950s, Churchill set the ideals. In the 1960s, Macmillan took the initiative. In the 1970s, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup carried it through. In the 1980s, my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley achieved fundamental and far-reaching reforms. It is clear from the prospectus offered by the Prime Minister today that he is determined and well qualified to have a clearly directed and formidable impact on the Community in the 1990s.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary deserve the fullest possible support from the whole House, and I wish them well.
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney) : I shall not follow the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) very far, except to suggest that if he used the word "self-government" instead of the word "sovereignty", he might understand why that cannot be shared but can only be enjoyed along with others. The heart of the debate is the nature of the treaties before us. This is a moment of great importance and great choice for the British people. As I have listened to the contributions that have been made, I have noticed that there is a fundamental divide between those who have sufficient self-confidence in their own people and the ability of our nation to survive and prosper as a free democracy, and those who have abandoned and despaired of that prospect and are looking for a new way in which they will be absorbed within a vast European federation. I think I know where I stand on that issue, and I hope that every other hon. Member also knows where they stand.
Column 313I said that this is a moment of choice, and I wish to illustrate how strong is the commitment in the treaties that we are discussing to a federal union. I know that there are nuances of federalism, but article A of the treaty states :
"by this Treaty the High Contracting Parties established amongst themselves a Union this Treaty marks a new stage in a process leading gradually to a Union with a Federal goal".
That is the opening article of the treaty. One of the concluding articles-- article W.2--says :
"A conference of representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be convened in 1996 in the perspective of strengthening the Federal character of the Union".
The 200 or 300 pages of the treaties on economic, monetary and political union not only put to us all the propositions, but we are promised a further assault on what is left of our national independence in a new treaty and a new IGC, with the perspective of strengthening the federal character of the union. Those are clear words.
One of the great mistakes that we have made in the past, as the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) acknowledged, is that we do not always read the treaties closely enough. Unfortunately, the Single European Act was ambiguous and defective in several places. That is why the Commission has been able to construct all sorts of additional powers. It did so by interpreting, with the help of the Court, some parts of that treaty. The preamble to the treaty expressed in general terms the old rhetoric of Europe and of "ever closer union", which gave considerable force and drive to the new proposals that we are discussing.
I fear that we must watch with the utmost care the words actually used. I was pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary say yesterday before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister repeat again today, that they will not have the commitment to a federal Europe. I understand that to mean that they will not sign a treaty which contains, in articles W and A, a commitment to a federal Europe. That is an important step, which we should all welcome.
The right hon. Member for Finchley was right to say that we have to consider not only the words but the content of the treaties, which present us with a greater difficulty. There are three great sectors of our national life which are being affected by the economic, monetary and political union treaties, and with which we are all familiar. The first is progress towards economic union, monetary union, a single currency and a central bank--which is pretty major in itself. Secondly, the treaties seek to embrace the whole of foreign and security policy within a process that will be determined by majority voting--whether or not that will be within or outside the old treaties is yet to be determined. Thirdly, they seek to extend the control of European institutions over immigration and asylum issues in this country.
If one considers any federal Government in any other part of the world, one knows perfectly well where the key powers are located. For example, in the United States they are located with the federal Government in Washington. That Government inevitably have control over the currency, with one federal bank ; they are uniquely entitled to conduct foreign relations, defence and security business, and they decide who has the right to come and live in the United States and who does not.
Column 314Those are three crucial components of national sovereignty and independence. The treaties aim--we hope that they will not succeed--to transfer those powers from the keeping of the British Parliament and people to the grievously undemocratic authorities in the European Community.
Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport) : I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important to scour the treaties ; every hon. Member should read them. It is not good enough merely to look through the treaties to see whether they contain the words, "This is a federal treaty." We must consider what is contained in the treaties. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, when we read the treaty on political union, it is clear that it aims for a federal union? Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterand have said that, and all our 11 partners believe it to be so.
Mr. Shore : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. So many of our continental colleagues do not bother to disguise the fact. Almost exactly a year ago today, Mr. Andreotti made it absolutely plain in a speech to the European Assembly that, for the first time, there were federal proposals for monetary union and for a single currency to be transferred to the European authorities. Other European statesmen said the same thing. In order that we might not forget him and his great concerns, Mr. Delors reminded us in his address to the Assembly this morning that he wanted the treaties to have a character of a still more federal nature.
Mr. Budgen : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a further danger lies in the fact that the European Court is an openly political organisation in that it does not construe European law in a narrow way, as our judges do, but does so in the light of general policy objectives? As those objectives move, ratchet-like, towards a federal structure, the decisions of the European Court will inevitably be antipathetic to those of us who wish to perserve the rights of national parliaments.
Mr. Shore : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on the issue of where the rights of the federal part of the European constitution impinge on those of the nation state. If the court is the ultimate arbiter of where the line is to be drawn, it has a most important and dangerous political character.
The three sectors in which the treaties seek to establish the competence of the European authorities are crucial to national sovereignty and national independence. I should like to think that foreign policy was as securely rescued from the grip of the European Community as the Prime Minister led us to believe this afternoon. However, the text contains some strong words. Article A.4 states : "The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity The Council shall ensure that these principles are complied with".
It continues to define in an interesting way what it calls "joint actions". It contains a declaration by the member states on the sectors in which joint action is to be taken as soon as the treaty comes into force. There is a list of sectors, including involvement in peacekeeping operations in the United Nations context, relations with the USSR and transatlantic relations.
Article C states :
"Whenever the Council decides on the principle of joint action it shall lay down the Union's general and specific
Column 315objectives the Council shall stipulate as a general rule that the detailed arrangements for carrying out joint action shall be adopted by a qualified majority".
Much will depend on the line and division drawn between the collective process of launching an initiative and the implementation that will be undertaken through joint action.
The division is not clear, and I fear that there will be a dangerous overlap of one process into the other. I fear that joint action will lead to many majority decisions being taken on foreign policy issues, which I do not believe that the House would consider it right to cede to the European community. I am glad that both Front-Bench teams show considerable accord that that is not in our interests and should not be pursued.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : Is it such a terrible thing for us to have a common European foreign policy as, for most of the past 45 years, our foreign policy has been in the grip of the United States, which I found regrettable? It cannot get any worse, can it?
Mr. Shore : Yes, it can, and I may have to disagree with my hon. Friend about that. I may also have to disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I have no doubt that a common European foreign policy would have led to total inaction in Europe on the Gulf war, which would have been wrong. I am glad that we did not have a common policy then. That illustrates the sorts of problems which will arise.
I believe that, even when people disagree about what should be done, they should retain the freedom of action to do what they believe is right. If it was the wish of the British Government not to intervene, it should have had the right not to intervene, not because of a majority vote in Europe, but because it made that decision for itself.
Mr. Shore : No, I shall not, at least for a little while. Another issue of major importance to the Government, but particularly to the Opposition, is the impact on economic powers and economic self-government of the measures proposed to take us into economic and monetary union. After all, many crucial powers of economic regulation have been abandoned in the interests of joining the European Community, such as control over trade, control over capital movements and control over many other things. I am not happy about all those abandonments, but that is the position.
What is left? What are the economic regulations that we can use to help guide the general course of the economy, to influence demand and to bear upon levels of unemployment? We have interest rates, mortgage rates, exchange rates, public spending and deficits. We know that deficits are justifiable in some years and are properly very large, and that in other years they do not make sense and should be non-existent. These judgments have to be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day. After all, such decisions go to the essence of his Budget judgments.
What do we find? An entire protocol is devoted to setting out what the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to do if the United Kingdom became a full member of an economic and monetary union. The protocol refers to excessive deficits and provides that our Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day shall never have a public service borrowing requirement--I am glad to see my right hon.
Column 316and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) in his place on the Opposition Front Bench--of more than 3 per cent. It seems that that is to be the limit.
That provision would not be merely a voice in the Chancellor's ear, as it were, because the Commission would have the right to make public its advice, which would be to the extreme embarrassment of my right hon. and learned Friend if he happened to be Chancellor. Matters would go further than that, because a system of penalties could be imposed upon a sovereign Government. The penalties would take the form of fines and the stopping of structural funds, for example. It would be as if a Conservative Minister were dealing with a rebellious local authority that a Conservative Government did not like and which they thought should be rate-capped. It would not be tolerable for any British Government to accept such a system. It would certainly be intolerable for any Labour Government, who would have a strong reason to intervene in the economy.
Mr. Shore : No. I must hasten to complete what I have to say. We hear about the accountability of the European central bank. It is said that that feature would make it acceptable, but how do we make a European central bank accountable to all the different Ministers of the European Community? I do not think that it is possible to do that, but it is written into the articles of the treaty that the bank shall be independent. Not only that, no one shall take instructions from outside the governing board of the bank. It seems that no one from outside shall seek to give instructions to the bank.
That is not acceptable. We shall find ourselves handcuffed and chained under economic and monetary union. No instruments of policy will be left for us to use. The present problem with the exchange rate mechanism is well known to the Treasury and, of course, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would like more freedom. At present, he would like to lower interest rates, but he is trapped within the bands of the exchange rate mechanism, for reasons of which we are aware.
The concept of federation should be examined much more closely than hitherto, and with a good deal more sense of history. There are, I believe, 160 sovereign nations in the world of all sizes and shapes. Many of them are far weaker, less happy and less prosperous than the United Kingdom. I know of none, however, except the countries of the European Community, that are trying to construct federations. Most of them have become nations as a result of escapes from empires or imposed federations.
National feeling is not the great ogre and the great chauvinist horror that has been painted by some. Sometimes it is like that, but it is Janus-headed : on the other side of the coin it is one of the liberating forces for mankind. Let us be clear about that. There should be no shame about our commitment to our independence, to
Column 317self-government and to the democracy that we have, with all its imperfections. Our democracy is a damned sight better in this House than it is anywhere else in Europe.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : I had a little local difficulty in Committee Room 6 the other day when it came to my position on Europe. Nevertheless, it is a matter of intense importance to us all that we work together, as I said during the debate on the confidence motion last year, to establish a role for the British people over the next 10 or 15 years.
There is much in the motion with which I agree. I acknowledge in my amendment, which has been supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), that at this stage in the negotiations it is proper for the Government to preserve their position and not to disclose everything they will do. I accept that entirely. Having said that, however, I have to say that several matters have been omitted from the motion-- omissions that cause me some concern.
First, the motion does not reject the principle of monetary union, which lies at the heart of the debate. It raises in turn the principle of democracy and the manner in which we are able to represent the interests of the people who voted for us to be Members of this Parliament. It is not our Parliament, it is their Parliament. It is important that that point is made in the amendment.
Mr. Walden : I hope that my hon. Friend, when talking about economic and monetary union, will squarely confront the dilemma that faces him, me and every other Member of this place. Whatever our reservations about economic and monetary union, many of which I share with him, what happens to this country if other states adopt an economic and monetary union and a single currency, and the system works? What happens if that brings them trading, economic and military advantages from which we are excluded?
Either our position is that these people, these foreigners, are incompetent and cannot make the system work--that is one view--or it is that we shall be happy even if we are excluded from advantages because we are somehow inherently superior to them and do not mind being economically inferior. Unless the question is faced and answered, the House will not be facing what may be a real economic dilemma.
Mr. Cash : My hon. Friend has made an interesting intervention, but I think that he has not asked the real question. The first question that must be asked and answered is whether we are prepared to trade off the democracy that is inherent in the House for a system that will not necessarily deliver the benefits that my hon. Friend has mentioned. The two things are not mutually exclusive.
We can achieve price stability, surely, by our own efforts. We can work within the European Community to help that to happen, and that is why I voted for the Single European Act. That, however, has nothing to do with the matters that my hon. Friend has mentioned. When we examine the mechanics that have been set up by the proposed central bank, it is clear that unelected and
Column 318unaccountable bankers will be determining this country's economic policies and, therefore, those of my constituents and those of every other Member.
Under present arrangements, we can arrive at decisions for ourselves while we work within the European Community at the same time. There is no need for us to take this next step. Because I believe that that is the fundamental democratic right of the British people, I hope that we will reject the principle of monetary union.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : I hope that my hon. Friend will deal with political union, which means effectively the extinction of Great Britain, Britishness, British influence and all that we stand for. Can my hon. Friend explain why, when we have just seen the disintegration of the fallacy of a bogus supranational state at one end of Europe, it seems sensible to create one at the other end ?
Mr. Cash : I could not agree more with my hon. and learned Friend. Nothing is more absurd than for us to see what has happened in the USSR during the past six months and in Yugoslavia and eastern Europe and to observe that those people have fought for and obtained their freedom when we are being drawn, some would say by some kind of historical inevitability, in the opposite direction. That cannot make sense. Surely hon. Members on both sides of the House appreciate the inherent contradiction of that.
Mr. Tony Banks : How can the hon. Gentleman possibly make a useful comparison between the break-up of an empire under Stalinism in eastern Europe with the coming together of mature democracies in a voluntary process within the EC ?
Mr. Cash : The answer to the hon. Gentleman is simply that, if he looks at the new proposed constitution for the Union of Sovereign States, he will see that the one thing that it does is to make sure that it does not go down the route that I understand he would propose we go down now. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman considers that. Secondly, there is much talk about the vague word "subsidiarity". I think that it means whatever anyone wants it to mean. However, as I have said on previous occasions, quoting from Lewis Carroll, "The question is which is to be Master--that's all."
When I observed the emphasis that was placed in the motion on the superior European competence at the expense of the national competence that was to be prescribed under the motion, and when I looked at the question of economic and monetary union and asked myself where the main powers will be dealt with under the principle of subsidiarity, I concluded--I do not believe for a minute that any hon. Member would contradict me--that they will be dealt with at the top by the unelected and unaccountable bankers.
At the same time, that will strike at the heart of democracy and the rights of our constituents. That is why I object to it. There is an inherent deceit in the concept. I regret that that is a problem which permeates so much of this hall of mirrors that we experience in relation to the EC.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, because the Federal Republic of Germany has the Bundesbank, it is not a democratic country? That is the same argument.
Column 319Mr. Cash : The Bundesbank is nothing like as independent as it is made out to be. Articles 9 and 12 of the Basic Law make it perfectly clear that the Bundesbank has responsibility for currency stability, but subject to the overall political control of the German Government.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that sooner or later the European Court of Justice will have to offer a definition of the legal concept of subsidiarity?
Mr. Cash : The hon. Gentleman and I sit on the Select Committee on European Legislation, and we have discussed that matter on many occasions. All the matters which will be gathered together under the broad concept of subsidiarity will go to the court. That is why, in the speeches that we have heard today, some distinction has been drawn between those competencies which are to go to the Court of Justice and the others which the Government rightly want to keep out because they are pillars of co- operation which must be dealt with in terms of intergovernmental co- operation. The problem is that, once the European Court of Justice has been allowed to become involved in questions relating to budget deficit and so on, we shall have opened a Pandora's box of problems, because the court will not be able to make the right decisions.
Furthermore, the constitution which has been laid down for the European central bank will not make the decisions any easier to make. They will still be political decisions. However, the difference is that no one will know whom to blame ; no one will know how to get rid of them. The central bank is to have complete independence. If it makes decisions which are inherently wrong, what will happen? It is precisely because, over the past 300 years, the House has developed a concept of democratic accountability in relation to the redress of grievance, taxation, the economy and all that goes with it that we can fairly and properly represent the interests of our constituents. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) talked about the sovereignty of Parliament. That was an extraordinary way in which to put his arguments across. It is not the sovereignty of Parliament that matters ; it is the sovereignty of the individual who goes to the ballot box, has a free choice and makes his decision, for which people have fought and died. We do not have to apologise for that, nor do we need to be pessimistic and defeatist, economically or politically, about our ability to produce results which are in the interests of the British people. But at the same time we can work within the framework of the EC. I voted for the Single European Act. I was a founding member of Westminster for Europe in the 1970s. But I have always felt that it was essential to maintain a realistic and practical approach to its development.
That brings me to my next point--the European Parliament. I do not believe that it would be right to extend the powers of the European Parliament in principle in a way that would have the effect of taking away the responsibility of Ministers to answer questions in the House exclusively in relation to matters of competence which apply to the United Kingdom. That raises the question of what those competencies should be and takes me back to the point about subsidiarity. Once that enormous cavern of uncertainty has been opened up, we shall enter the grey hole which lies at the centre of the Government's motion. That is why I tabled
Column 320my amendment. I felt that it was necessary to try to address the question of what was left out of the motion in order to concentrate hon. Members' minds on what it is that we should be addressing.
Mr. Butterfill : Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that the question of subsidiarity is vital to our consideration of the matter and that it would be completely unsatisfactory if disputes of subsidiarity were referred to the European Court of Justice, particularly in view of its record? If subsidiarity were defined in the treaty, would it not be better for there to be another body to consider disputes regarding subsidiarity? My hon. Friend knows what I have in mind--it has been suggested in this place, by the French Gaullists and by the Irish--that we should have a separate body composed of members of member Governments and our Government to make such decisions rather than the Court of Justice.
Mr. Cash : I should be more inclined to go down my hon. Friend's route than the one proposed, because I see the most terrible difficulties emerging. What worries me when I hear people speaking, understandably, about the aims of the Community, and saying that we want peace, prosperity, stability, and all that goes with them, is that I believe that we are seeing the development of a policy that was devised in the 1950s for absolutely correct reasons at the time, in dealing with the aftermath of the second world war, and with the cold war, but which has been displaced by the bringing down of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany.
It is precisely because I believe that some of the policies adumbrated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), for example, are based on the thinking of the 1950s and 1960s but are not relevant to what is happening in the 1990s, that I become so worried. I look around the world and see tremendous instability and uncertainty, such as in Yugoslavia and the USSR, and ask myself what will happen if the central bank starts to lay down rules that some of those countries cannot obey.
What will happen if the policies included in all the treaties were implemented by majority voting? Mr. Chevenement told my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 4 January--I read this in The Economist --
"If there was majority voting in relation to these matters, there will be no Gulf war."
The consequence of that would have been such that it is doubtful that the Americans would have been able to embark on that conflict on their own.
The new arrangement that we are being encouraged to adopt will create not stability and prosperity, but tension and instability, because, if one tries to compress together people of different cultures and languages, has a European Parliament that will be largely a neuter, and does not have that basic democratic line between a Member of Parliament and his constituents, a Minister on the Government Front Bench who is answerable to Members of Parliament, and thereafter the Council of Ministers, I guarantee that we will end up with a system which is undemocratic, and which will create confusion followed by instability and tension--when it is exactly the opposite of that for which I would hope, from all the developments in eastern Europe and the USSR over the past two years.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Column 321Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Order. I remind the House that speeches between now and 10 minutes to 9 o'clock must be limited to 10 minutes.
Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : I agree with some of the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) about the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe). I am convinced that he could have made that speech five or even 10 years ago, because it wholly ignored the convulsive context in which we are making decisions today about our future in the European Community.
For 45 years, Europe has enjoyed a peace of sorts--a peace based not on the European Community, or even on nuclear deterrence and nuclear power, but on the crude partitioning of Europe and the post-war settlement created by Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill. That was the basis of post-war peace. That post-war arrangement succeeded because it addressed itself to the two fundamental issues that caused war before. It prevented territorial changes and divided Europe so that some form of balance-of-power relationship and a sphere of influence were created.
Peace was paid for at a heavy price--at the price of freedom for the peoples of Hungary in 1956, and of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and of hundreds of thousands behind the Berlin wall in the 1960s and thereafter. Within the past two years, we have seen before our very eyes the dissolution and destruction of that post-war settlement and the emergence of new problems. It would be enough of a challenge to devise a new European order to replace the post-war settlement, but this year we are witnessing also the dissolution of nuclear super-power. Measured against those challenges, the treaties, drafts, and constitutional changes proposed by Ministers of the Twelve are at best all irrelevant, and at worst obstacles in the way of finding solutions to the real European problems that now confront us. The remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East did not once address those aspects.
We now face a major new European order. Those of us who are sceptical about the way that we should progress with the proposed treaties are not narrow- minded Europeans. The narrow-minded Europeans are those who are looking to create institutional ossification, in the form of institutions of the kind that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s.
I remind the House that the Common Market was created by the visions of Jean Monnet and others, but was rooted in the cold war. It created a number of institutions in a cold-war Europe, and I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not mention until the last few minutes of his speech the Community's role in addressing the problems that confront Europe today. It is amazing that, at a time when we are watching the constitutions of eastern and western Europe crumble, together with state-centred, non- pluralistic systems of politics and economics, we should be seeking to create--as the treaties will, if they are unamended--a more centralist, less pluralistic, economic and political system for the Community's 12 member states.
That--as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made clear in the illustration that he gave from the treaty--is at the heart of the problem. At the very moment when we are seeing,
Column 322rightly, the abandonment of constitutions that incorporate phoney, immutable laws, such as the dictatorship of the proletariat, the treaties seek to create half-baked economic maxims of their own. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney said, what place is there in a treaty or in a constitution for Europe that tries to create relationships between the diverse cultures and characters of even the 12 countries that comprise the present Community for such half- baked examples of economic theory as that which would dictate that public borrowing should not exceed 3 per cent. of gross domestic product? That is just as nonsensical a maxim to write into a constitution as that which imposed the dictatorship of the proletariat in the past in the countries of eastern Europe. Irrespective of the practical arguments, clause after clause of the European monetary union draft articles seek to impose a rigid form of economic behaviour. There is nothing pluralist or democratic about centralist nonsense such as that to be found in article 106 : "Where exercising the powers and carrying out the tasks and duties conferred upon them neither the ECB, nor a national central bank shall seek or take instructions"
from any democratically elected body, Government, nation, or combinations thereof. Is that the right basis for a pluralistic, democratic Community and society? It is the very reverse. It is the constitution of a potential corporate state, however democratically based it might be. I will not support any treaties that come before the House that include provisions of that kind.
Our priorities and energies must be directed at finding solutions to the broader, new European order, which is absolutely essential given the drastic changes that have occurred in central and eastern Europe. We must bring within the fold of the Twelve Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, whose freedoms were destroyed by the cold war. We must incorporate them in a direct working relationship, and give the fullest possible support to their liberty and democracy.
The treaties will do nothing to help that process. They will merely entrench the division of Europe rather than widening it. I believe that the only way to bolster the relationship between central European states and the Twelve is to reach out, politically at first and then economically, and thus bring the two groups together. Unless we do that, we shall not see a new European order that will provide peace and collective security by devising institutions and relationships to prevent conflicts such as the one in Yugoslavia, and others that may emerge on our television screens. Instead, we shall return to the old European order that led to tensions and territorial disputes, and to the great powers--and other powers--fishing in waters that did not belong to them.
At this stage in the history of Europe, it is especially important not to ossify the existing relationship of the Twelve in the form of new treaties. We should reach out to a broader Europe. That, I believe, will bring us all peace and prosperity in the 1990s. 7.10 pm
Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking) : Sadly, the Leader of the Opposition has not matured sufficiently to avoid the schoolboy technique of answering an awkward question with an insult, and then using the row that that provokes as an excuse for not giving way to further interventions. That was a bad start to a speech that did not get much better.
Column 323The most fervent admirers of Brussels would, I think, find it difficult to describe the Commission as anything other than its own worst enemy. The Sunday Times has rehearsed some of the more familar reasons--for instance, the definition of the carrot as a fruit, enabling it to be brought within the terms of some obscure directive ; a Greek Commissioner's abuse of the Commission's competence in health and safety, in an attempt to restrict Sunday working hours ; the extraordinary antics of an Italian Commissioner in regard to environmental matters ; and the long-running and more deep-seated farce of the common agricultural policy.
None of those examples is a great advertisement for the Commission and its works, and it is not surprising that many of our constituents consequently regard Brussels as, in a sense, the headquarters of a hostile power. I therefore welcome the aim of the negotiations--to make the Commission liable to inspection, invigilation and close scrutiny on the part of the European Parliament. That can only be for the good, and it is long overdue.
None the less, it is not the central issue. I have no difficulty in supporting the Government's motion, which effectively sets out the other issues that must be given greater priority. I am sure that the Government and the Prime Minister have taken the right attitude on the question of a common foreign policy : it is idle to suppose that such policy can be formed other than by consensus, and it was a great waste of time to air the subject at all. The same applies to defence policy. It would clearly be impossible for Her Majesty's forces to be asked to risk their lives in support of a military venture that the House did not support.
Policies on immigration and asylum are integral to national identity. They must be determined by the House, and the Government were right to insist on that in their motion. Some Opposition Members may well see the Maastricht negotiations as an opportunity to try and introduce socialism into the country by the back door--no doubt they will disclaim any such motives, but it occurs to me as a possibility--and I am equally sure that Conservative Members are right to resist such an intrusion into our democratic process.
Existing Community organs and agreements must be made to work better. That applies especially to competition policy. I do not know whether all hon. Members are familiar with some of the vagaries of European practice. Under Dutch company law, for instance, a company that is threatened with a takeover can clone its own shares, enabling the directors to double their voting rights. I do not believe that that is consistent with 1992--any more than I believe that the ability of the French to invoke the intere t national at the drop of a hat is consistent with the level playing field that we all seek to achieve. I hope, and believe, that we shall continue to make swift progress on those points.
I find it encouraging that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been able to secure an amendment to article 171, under which it will be possible for defaulting states to be taken to court, prosecuted and fined if they fail to conform to the directives by which they should be bound. I hope that the Commission and the courts will not hesitate ; there are too many laggards under the arrangements that are supposed to exist in our so- called common system.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rightly attached importance to the interests of European