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Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments, as the time limit applies.

I am reminded of the debates in the early 1970s, and one important speech by the late John Davies--his maiden speech shortly before he became a member of the Cabinet. He said that he had no sense of mandate about entry. There could have been no sense of mandate. That was partly because the Heath Government, when approaching the 1970 election, were well aware of the eloquent arguments that have been advanced in this debate by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). So the Heath Government played it very low profile. That may well lie at the heart of the difficulty. The matter was never faced fairly and squarely by the party which sought to be the Government to take us into the Community in the early 1970s.

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I was opposed to entry and spoke against it then, as I spoke against continued membership before the referendum. I did so because of the incompetence of bureaucracy and the waste of the common agricultural policy. That dominated expenditure by about 75 per cent.--a percentage near to the figure which applies today. That was in the 1970s, but I have to consider the situation for my constituents in 1991. In 1979, we were a great deal more properous in South Yorkshire than we are now. Britain was more prosperous. According to the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development, Britain was then the sixth wealthiest country in the world. In 1991, after 12 years largely dominated by the right hon. Member for Finchley, who inflicted such a long speech on the House this afternoon, we are not sixth : we have fallen below Belgium and Italy. I have watched the growth in prosperity of countries which were in front of us then and which have soared further ahead, so that the conditions and quality of life of the people there are so much greater than ours. Having led us into decline, the right hon. Member for Finchley is hardly qualified to give advice to the House or instructions to the Prime Minister.

Can my constituents afford Britain to seek to extricate itself from the Community? Can they afford Britain's failure to seize opportunities which will give us the prospect of economic growth and a degree of prosperity which has been largely thrown aside by the present Administration? That very real question looms large. I should also tell the House that for many years I have been heavily involved in the Council of Europe, so no one can say of me, as they do of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), that I am an anti-European. For a considerable time I described myself as an anti-market pro-European. I have also spent a great deal of time at the Western European Union. I wonder what the Government will do to secure the resources that the WEU will need and the skills that must be applied to ensure that it does not merely become a French preserve or subject to the diktats of Mr. Genscher, as seemed to be the case recently.

I want to see how Europe will react to the appalling needs in the east. One or two Members referred to the severe problem of nationalism. Among the many changes that have taken place since I entered the House in 1970 has been the growth of terror and the imposition of more and more security. The House should understand that the growth and flames of nationalism in Europe could dwarf the terrorism that we experience today in Britain and other parts of western Europe. That nationalism may run amok and engender balkanisation in Europe which would be exceedingly dangerous. Therefore, the rest of Europe must act with co-ordination and co-operation that has not yet been achieved.

If that is to be achieved, the European parliament must first make itself a great deal more efficient and competent than it was when it drove to despair members of a Council of Europe committee that I chaired who sought to co-operate. Secondly, it needs to attract attention. One of the great problems faced by the European Parliament is that the British media pay scarcely any attention to it. Indeed, political parties pay grossly inadequate attention to what goes on there.

If the European Parliament is not held to account, it will not behave accountably. It must have more attention if it is to exert proper influence on the Commissioners.

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Moreover, it should be prepared to speak out and it should be heard on important questions, such as RECHAR. That brings me to my final point, given the time limitation.

The Government have behaved outrageously in seeking to malign Commissioner Millan for doing his job properly and honestly. In so doing, they have deprived areas of appalling need, such as mine, of the very resources that are readily available and waiting for us. We have been denied them. That is a disgrace. Tory Members may say, "We can't sacrifice sovereignty." Let me finish with this point : how valuable was sovereignty from 1979 until now, in the days of the vast, docile majority enjoyed by this Government who have brought Britain to a greater decline than any Government this century? [ Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish.] Let me finish.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen knew, for example, that HMS Endurance was being withdrawn from the south Atlantic. That mistake cost £8 billion. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen applauded the grossly unnecessary conflict and cost of the coalfield dispute in 1984-85. That also cost £8 billion. There are scores of further examples of waste and wantonness, not least the poll tax. In the end, that may have cost the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) her job, but it will cost the British people £20 billion in grossly unnecessary administrative expenditure.

Where there is a majority that can coolly and calmly endorse the stupidity and wanton irresponsibility of this Government and troop without question through the Lobby in support of that Government, can we justly claim that Parliament is acting with wisdom in its use of that sovereignty, to which this evening so many pretentious remarks have been addressed?

8.24 pm

Mr. David Howell (Guildford) : One can tell that there are some odd currents running in this debate when the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who was in splendid form, rejoices at the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) in his plans for a plebiscite or referendum to resolve these issues.

If a Back-Bench dimension has emerged from this afternoon's debate, in addition to the points made by the Leader of the Opposition and the excellent and comprehensive speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, it is that we should give maximum attention to what is happening in the other part of Europe. It is to remind the great policy-makers and the people lining up for the decisions at Maastricht, who seem so preoccupied, that, even since the original idea of intergovernmental conferences was conceived 18 months ago, the map of Europe has changed completely. Fundamentally new issues and priorities have emerged. New dangers have emerged. New requirements and priorities should perhaps have a higher place on the agenda than the undeniably important issues with which we have been concerned as we examine the minutiae of the Dutch draft treaty. What has happened is indeed sobering. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the enormous rumbling dangers now developing in eastern Europe. I do not just mean in the former Soviet Union, which is looking into the abyss of disintegration, hyperinflation and the rise of the major- generals, with all the dangers that that implies, as well as the growth, possibly, of new nuclear powers ; I mean also in the new democracies, about which we talk so happily--we assume that they have got rid of their

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Communist nomencklatura or, rather, that such people have gone into the background, changed and become capitalists-- which are swimming from being closed societies to open societies. They will not--at least not without the most enormous help and attention of western Europe. Those countries, which the previous generation fought the second world war to make free--an objective that was denied us in the moment of victory--now have the opportunity to reach the democratic shore from the shore of a closed tyranny. We seem to think that they will get there by themselves while we busy ourselves with the details of the Dutch draft treaty and other matters. That is not so. There is a great arc of instability right across southern and central Europe. Self-determination is running riot. Tiny groups and nationalities, albeit with splendid aspirations, are pitching their ambitions and expectations far too high. These are real threats to the comfortable, cosy, stability of western Europe and its separate nations. We drift at our peril into the pathetic view of the 1930s, that these are faraway countries of which we need know nothing.

In considering the issues at Maastricht, I ask the House at least to keep in mind that Europe may have greater priorities than those of resolving every detail of European political and monetary union at Maastricht. Nevertheless, those are the practical requirements on the table and we must address ourselves to them in this debate. I shall add my twopenceworth in the short time available.

I shall deal briefly with the monetary union problems and then at greater length with political union, about which we face serious and fundamental difficulties. I can deal more swiftly with European monetary union because, from listening to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, it is difficult to know what all the fuss is about. There will never be a single currency excluding all other currencies from Lisbon to Berlin, from Reggio Calabria to Glasgow. Nor would it make practical sense to attempt a monster bank, running a single pattern of short-term interest rates, not for 340 million people, but for 400 million or 420 million people as there will be then. The area it would cover might even run into the Ukraine--who knows? Such a development will not occur.

We will, however, have a common currency. The ecu will be widely used throughout Europe for international trade transactions, and even for paying salaries. It may be used by the Russians to replace their collapsing rouble --who knows? We want to be closely concerned with the monetary developments that lead up to it. I cannot agree with some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and others who say that we should veto the whole thing. The Prime Minister is right in saying that we have to be involved in these enormous monetary developments : the hardened ecu, the frozen basket ecu, or whatever, are coming.

We need have no fears about the single currency idea. It will not happen, so we need not be involved in it. The concerns of some Members on that subject are exaggerated. That is not so with regard to political union. On that, I have a different stance. Here we seem to have deep difficulties. It is often said that with great treaties the devil is in the detail, but in this case that is not so. In this case the devil is not in the detail but in the principle. As the

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right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said, the devil is right there in the preamble, in the opening words. That is why we find the issue so difficult.

We have not come to a natural resting point in the unfolding progress towards a united states of Europe. We have come to a Y fork in the road. We have built the single market. Contrary to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), Britain led the way there, as a pioneer, but now we have come to the point where there are fundamentally different views about which way Europe should go.

Should it go towards a united states of Europe, with a strong congress at the centre and a strong executive, or should we stick to the confederal view? Do we believe the doctrine of "acquis communautaire", which means that there will be an inevitable progress towards the Community institutions growing more powerful--a one-way ratchet to greater power at the centre--or do we accept that a great confederation of nation states, with the nations delegating power to central Community institutions for specific tasks, is the right way forward? That is a fundamental divide. We are all required to stand up and be counted, to say which way we should go.

Those who would like to see a united states of Europe call in aid the founding fathers--Jean Monnet, Walter Hallstein and such people. We are told that they were all in favour of a united states of Europe, that it is all a great process, and that only spoilsports and isolationists are against it. That is not so. Jean Monnet believed that the Community should not arrogate to itself the airs and graces of a nation state; it should not try to rival the nation states. Jean Monnet and Hallstein warned against the fancy and cavalier use of the word "federal", because they knew the difficulties that it would cause.

I share the concerns of those who talk about the drift to the centre--the awful centralism which belongs to the 19th rather than the 21st century. I share the views of those who say that political reform is needed. We need a political treaty, but it should circumscribe, limit and identify the central powers of the central Community institutions, as James Madison and others wanted in the original United States of America. But that was taken away by Abraham Lincoln and by the civil war.

The sort of subsidiarity that we want delegates functions to the centre from the nation states. There may be a wider range of functions. There may be new functions, and perhaps we should take away some of the old ones. If more environmental functions are to be handled by the Community institutions, perhaps we should consider repatriating some of the functions connected with agriculture and the rural economy--the Community has not made too good a fist of those. Let us look at the idea in terms of limited power at the centre, to be reviewed and revised from time to time in the proper confederal spirit.

Over the past decade, we led the process of building the internal market. We have been the most assiduous in accepting the regulations and directives. In Brussels, we were the most forceful on all the committees in pressing for the internal market. We pushed ahead with what we saw as the kind of Europe that we wanted--the great open market, accessible to the new nations, the EFTA nations, the new democracies, as soon as possible. That was our ideal and our dream. It remains a fine dream, and a

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tremendous vision of Europe. It is not the same as the vision of the centralists, of those who want to build up a stronger executive at the centre and a stronger Parliament.

When I say that the devil is not in the detail, that is what I mean. We can argue about the little movements one way or the other, but the spirit in which we do so, the broad approach and the principle on which we go to Maastricht will determine whether we have a Europe that is free and good-- the kind of Europe for which we fought--or a Europe that is centralised, old-fashioned, paralysed, and inward-looking and that will ultimately betray itself.

8.36 pm

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : I suppose that this has been a great parliamentary occasion, but I find it extremely disappointing and in a sense unreal. There has been hardly any mention yet from either side of the House of the economic consequences of our failing to be in Europe looking after the interests of British industry, especially manufacturing industry. With great respect to all the complexities of the political points that have been made, I was brought up to believe that political progress and economic prosperity had to go hand in hand, and that concept has been missing from the debate. Too many Aunt Sallies have been raised, not least by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who made a magnificent speech--magnificient in its humour but also in its irrelevance. We have got to get back to earth.

The Prime Minister gave us a disappointing start. There was no vision at all in his speech. I was tempted to quote my favourite text from the Bible :

"Where there is no vision the people perish."

If that is the sort of leadership that we shall have in Europe, the people will perish.

The right hon. Member for Finchley gave an extraordinary speech. It was a charade, a caricature of herself. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) raised that great Aunt Sally that we could not have entered the Gulf war had we been totally in Europe. I was under the impression that the Gulf war was authorised by the United Nations, and that France and Italy sent forces to support the enterprise. So why was that ridiculous Aunt Sally suggested?

As the chairman of the Labour Movement for Europe, I find the most galling event of the debate the fact that the Foreign Secretary intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to say that, if my right hon. Friend had had his way, we would not have been in Europe in the first place. May I remind the Foreign Secretary that, had it not been for 69 of my right hon. and hon. Friends who voted for the then Government despite a three-line Whip, the Government would not have been in Europe either?

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : How did the right hon. Gentleman vote on Second Reading of the European Communities Act?

Mr. Howell : I am sorry, but I did not catch what the right hon. Gentleman said, and as I have only 10 minutes, I hope that he will excuse me.

There are many fundamental questions of great importance that we are not tackling. Are we in Europe or are we not? According to most of the hon. Members who have spoken today, either we are not in Europe or we should not be in Europe--and that includes Members who will vote for the Government motion. Those are ludicrous

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propositions. Did we sign the Single European Act or did we not? Did the former Prime Minister know what she was doing?

Another question that arises from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield concerns the European Parliament. Are we saying that the electors, to whom we pay such lip service because they vote for us to come here, are removed to another planet when they vote for Members of the European Parliament? That is an extraordinary proposition. That is why I believe that the European Parliament will be given more powers.

I am worried about the situation in Europe. British industry--I have consulted the CBI, the engineering employers and the Birmingham chamber of commerce--knows perfectly well that our industrial future has to lie in one of the great trading blocs of the world--with the United States, with Japan, or with the European monetary system. Now 52 per cent. of our exports go to Europe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield may want to change things, but despite all the criticisms that have been made, no one has said where we will be economically if we do not play our full part in Europe and sign the treaty. That question has been knocked all around the Chamber and we must answer it.

The West Midlands Engineering Employers Association put it in a nutshell when it said :

"We cannot hope to influence the future of Europe if we keep saying no or standing on the touchline. We must get involved in the game." The social charter is the real reason for all the hesitation and doubts expressed by Conservative Members. That charter will compel the Government to accord to British people the same rights as those that will be enjoyed by the people of Europe and which the Christian Democrats--they have turned out to be even more left-wing than the Social Democrats--the traditional friends of the Conservative party, want to implement.

The attitude adopted by the Secretary of State for Employment is nauseating. He is nauseating on the subject of the minimum wage, the limit on hours to be worked, maternity leave and pensions.

Mr. Tony Banks : He is just nauseating.

Mr. Denis Howell : Yes, that is true.

What impression does the Secretary of State for Employment create in Europe as he argues passionately that British employers cannot afford to give 14 weeks maternity leave to women working in British industry? He argues that British industry will collapse if it has to give more than 12 weeks maternity leave. If that is the state of British industry, perhaps it is time that we came out of Europe. All the right hon. and learned Gentleman is doing is promoting a sweat-shop, poverty-ridden economy for our country. His attitude is a disgrace.

The Community is right to say that we should not work more than 48 hours, but the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment are seeking to defend sweat-shop conditions. I have been president of a trade association for many years, and I know that excessive hours of overtime, when constantly worked, are a great evil. However, the Government are seeking to defend them. We are told that we cannot have a minimum wage because that would destroy our industry and the economy. France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Luxembourg have such a minimum wage, as does the

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United States. Belgium, Greece, Denmark, Italy and Germany have created an acceptable minimum wage through negotiation. What on earth does British industry mean when it says that it cannot afford to pay, for example, £3.40 an hour? That is the sum recommended by my union, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. Its recommendation met with the overwhelming support of our people according to a recent MORI poll. We can be efficient in industry and at the same time afford to pay wages above the poverty line. What about the scandal of pensions? I have no doubt that the European Commission and the dreaded Jacques Delors will soon say that the pensions paid in this country are a disgrace. Our pensioners are being cheated every week by the Government's decision to break the link between pensions and earnings. As a result, a single pensioner is cheated out of £17.65 a week and a married couple are cheated out of £27. The Conservative party may be proud of that, but I am sure that, in future, the Commission and the European Parliament will ensure that the link between pensions and earnings is hallowed in the United Kingdom. After all, that link has been kept in most other European countries.

The scandal about our pensions is another reason why the Government do not want to embrace the social charter, but that should be the reason for giving it overwhelming support. It is another reason why we should sign the treaty, which is in the economic interests of our manufacturing community. It will create jobs, not lose them. We should support the social charter, because it will bring social justice to the ordinary people of Britain.

8.44 pm

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt), I am a member of the youngest age group in the House. Like my hon. Friend, I want to concentrate on the future rather than the past 20 years. The arguments that were current in 1973 about our membership of the Community have been rehearsed over and over again today in the same vein.

The important thing that we must do is look ahead 20 years to the time when those of us who are, I hope, still active in politics will be asked difficult questions. We will be asked why the House diverted its attention towards those sceptics who persuaded us to shy away from an agreement at Maastricht. We will be asked why we did not see the importance of the emerging European bloc on our doorstep. We will be asked why, given the evidence of the time, when EFTA and the east European countries were queueing up to join the tighter Community that was being proposed, we allowed ourselves to be left outside. People will ask why, given the importance of the single market to our high-volume, low-cost producers and the importance of our country--as a member of the Community--to the companies of the United States and Japan who have invested so heavily with us, we did not grab with both hands the opportunities that the Maastricht summit offered to fashion the Community to our advantage in the future. Surely people will ask us why, in 1991, we did not recognise young people's aspirations to travel and work abroad. They will want to know why we did not appreciate the inconvenience and stupidity of having to change

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currency constantly as one moved from country to country in the Community. Given the history of European developments in the past 20 years, those people will also want to know why we did not learn from Britain's earlier mistake. They will want to know why we did not join the Community at its inception and fashion the very fabric of it to our advantage. We now have the opportunity to do that.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) that other countries are offering to help us to use their sovereignty in a way that will benefit us in the future. It is no coincidence or mistake that it was the Conservative party that applied to take Britain into the Community, and which took Britain in. It is no coincidence that it was a Conservative Government under my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) who signed the Single European Act and joined the exchange rate mechanism. It is not a mistake that all that happened as a result of Conservative policy, because the Conservative party has consistently been dedicated to raising the living standards and the material prosperity of our people. That is why we have consistently adopted a pro-European stance.

We are following the commitment that we gave in 1973 to ever closer union, so why are we now beginning to get cold feet? Surely the House appreciates that some problems go beyond national frontiers, particularly those affecting pollution and international trade. Our ability to negotiate a better deal for our people can only be strengthened by ever greater co- operation with other countries. Young people look forward to co-operation, and aspire to building something good for the future. They are not looking back at what happened in the past.

A question that has still not been answered at any point during the debate was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) : what happens if the other countries go ahead without us ? No one has given a satisfactory answer to that. We have heard some fine arguments about sovereignty, but sovereignty falls into two categories. First, there is legal sovereignty--the legal right to do as we please. Secondly, there is real sovereignty--the real ability to do as we wish. That is what the argument is really about. I hope that this debate will be about the valuable contribution that Britain can make to the European community, rather than a sterile argument about whether the king's prerogatives will be taken over by the Government and given away in the face of the people. Britain has one last chance to ensure that it is part of the considerations in the emerging power block. It has a chance to influence that power bloc, democratise its institutions, correct the many faults in the present European community institutions, bring the new financial centre to London, and ensure that the bloc is a benign institution, shouldering world problems and finding aid and defence solutions to them.

The biggest mistake that we have made so far is the one that critics of the European Community so often turn against us--the fact that we were absent when the common agricultural policy was established. For all those who sit on European committees, the CAP is the main criticism that we have of the Community's work. The way in which some of the subsidies work is ludicrous, but had we been there at the beginning, we might have been able to reform

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it so that it could work to our advantage. It is interesting that Britain and Denmark--the two most recent members-- have been in the forefront of its reform.

Under the Administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, Britain regained her pre-eminence in world affairs. However, we have a long and enduring experience of wider responsibility in the world. We have taken on UN commitments to Kuwait and initiated efforts on behalf of the Kurds. Even now, a former Member of this House leads the European peace efforts in Yugoslavia, a conflict into which the European Community has been drawn because of its geographical position and economic strength. As yet, it does not have the power to solve it.

In the 1990s, we approach a new world in which the old cold war of the two super-powers has given way to three emerging super-power economic blocs : North America, South-East Asia and Europe. Some issues can be tackled only at a European level. They include the control of inflation and the provision of sound economies, because we have such interrelated and interacting economies. They also include the control of environmental pollution, and we could benefit greatly through co-operating further on defence and foreign policy. Britain could have much more clout with the combined power of our neighbours than as an individual country. I believe that the British people look forward to greater development within the Community because they want the material benefits that that may bring. Naturally, they are worried that the Queen's head may disappear from our currency, but if we had economic and monetary union, as we have with Scotland, nothing would stop us providing different notes, even with a different name, provided that they had fixed values that were easily exchangeable.

Although people are concerned about the democratic deficit, their biggest worry is that they will not have the power to remove unelected bureaucrats in Europe. Therefore, they need the democratic powers and the rights of the European Parliament to be developed to ensure that those who are elected can be called to account. I do not approach this question thinking only about how we shall hand ancient privileges over to foreigners. Like many people who promote the European Community in this country, I promote it because I see enormous financial, economic and environmental advantages for our country. It is essential, therefore, that the Prime Minister should sign an agreement in Maastricht. I strongly urge him to do so, if he can reach a sensible and reasonable compromise. I do not for one minute believe that we shall hand over everything that this country has ever stood for in terms of its independence. Rather, I see the process as continuing way into the future--a process in which Britain must play a leading and important part.

8.57 pm

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East) : As a good European, I attended a conference of Anglo-German parliamentarians earlier this year in Germany. A British Conservative MP--a great

Euro-enthusiast--addressed the conference on what he called "the British problem". He explained the British problem to the Germans by saying that the British people had been lied to--they had not been told the truth about what used to be called the Common Market and is now called the European Community. He said that there was no full-hearted consent originally and that the 1972 White Paper presented by the right hon.

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Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) explained that essential sovereignty would not be eroded. He said that in 1975 we had a referendum in which it was suggested that it was an economic and trade rather than a political matter.

He referred to the fact that the Government of the day distributed a manifesto to every household in the land. It said, first, that no decision could be taken in Brussels without the consent of a British Minister who would be answerable to the British Parliament--in other words, no political union. Secondly, it said that there had been a threat of economic and monetary union which threatened to bring unemployment, but that that had been removed and therefore people could vote in the referendum knowing that there would be no economic or monetary union.

It was suggested sotto voce that that could be a matter for our grandchildren. It is not a matter for our grandchildren or even our children, but it is to be decided in a fortnight's time. We are now told that, having been lied to over the years, the British people now have the prospect of political union, and they react against it and shy away. That is because they were told that it would not happen. A Conservative Member explained to our German colleagues that that was the reason for the "British problem".

At each stage of the story, Britain has been the odd man out. Why is it always the odd man out? It is because our system is one of parliamentary self-government, which is incompatible with the European Community system. We have been asked to give that up and to go over to the European Community system, with the European Court and majority voting--the shoe is pinching all the time. The Commission make us do things that we do not want to do and stops us doing what we want to.

Our former colleague, Sir Leon Brittan, is a far more powerful man now than when he was a Cabinet Minister and now tells us what we can do with Rover. Value added tax has been put on spectacles and surgical boots, which we would never have dreamed of doing. I heard it being suggested to the Minister that we should reduce value added tax in relation to the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She said that the European Community would not allow us to do so. The Community even tells us through which fields we are to put our roads. All that is resented by Parliament and our people. The current proposition is that we should go further. As Mr. Delors explained--my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and others will be interested in this--the suggestion is that 80 per cent. of our economic, social and political affairs should be decided in Brussels. Who wants that? [ Hon. Members :-- "We do."] Who wants that apart from a few wildly unrepresentative fanatics? The British people do not want it.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) : How does my hon. Friend know that?

Mr. Leighton : The public opinion polls showed that three quarters of the British people do not want it.

We have had discussion about the word "federal". I know it is a word that can mean various things, but we must ask why some continental politicians refer to the word "federal" at every opportunity. It is because they want a super-state. The British people have not been told

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the truth about that. Some people say that "federalism" means devolving power downwards to the people, which sounds good. They are trying to kid us again.

To use the jargon, federalism means extending the competence of the Euro- institutions to defence, foreign, immigration and asylum, social, and economic policies--the bread and butter issues of our politics are to be removed from this Parliament and transferred to Brussels. The power is not being devolved downwards, but up to the centre. That is the truth which the people of this country must face. If that is what one or two of my extremist fanatical friends and the people of this country want, so be it, but, that will destroy our democracy. How does one define a democracy? The more I think about it, the more I believe that it is a political unit in which the minority accept the verdict. If the Conservative party wins a general election, I am upset and I don't like it, but I am willing to accept the result because I accept the verdict of the people. I think to myself that I can serve in opposition, make my case and perhaps win the next election, so I accept the result. However, if decisions are to be made in Brussels by alien institutions whose representatives are not elected by us and by people who we cannot remove, and those decisions damage my constituents, am I supposed to accept that? I do not think that we shall.

With my colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), in mind, I say that such a process will break up the United Kingdom. If the decisions are all to be made in Brussels, why should the Scots send Members of Parliament to Westminster? It would be a waste of their time to come down here, because the decisions will not be taken here, but in Brussels. The process constitutes a national threat because it will break up the United Kingdom.

Economic matters including interest and exchange rates, monetary and fiscal policy, budgetary policy, are all at the heart of Government and all are to be decided by a central bank, which will be the most important institution. The treaty states that Governments will undertake not to seek to influence the central bank. It states that they will even undertake not to influence their national central banks, which means rule by bankers. I did not become a Labour Member of Parliament to hand over all power to bankers. Clem Attlee nationalised the Bank of England because he did not think that we should have rule by central bankers.

The other idea is that we should have a single currency. If there is a single currency and economies get out of line, they cannot be adjusted by movements of the exchange rate, which is the normal way--so what happens? Countries will become blighted and depressed regions, with mass unemployment. I did not become a Labour Member of Parliament or the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment to work for policies that would lead to chronic mass unemployment. Why should we agree to anything of that sort?

If we have a Labour Government after the next general election--obviously that is the result that I want--they will need the tools to do the job. That Administration will need to control interest rates, exchange rates and budgetary policy. If we go along with the present approach we shall have unilateral economic disarmament and many crucial

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matters will be decided elsewhere. If so, what is the point of having this Parliament? What is the point of having the Labour party? What is the point of having elections? These matters-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), who is making expansive gestures, may be in favour of the consequences that I have described, but I do not think that the British people share her view.

All the evidence is that the British people think that we have handed over enough power to Brussels already. The British people do not want new treaties that will hand over the power that remains. It would be dangerous to foist upon the British people that which is being proposed, and the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South has no right to do so. None of us has a mandate to abandon the powers of Parliament, which are the powers of the people. We are the custodians of the rights and powers of the people, and we must hand them on to our successors.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Leighton : No. I do not have time to give way.

I resent the bullying to which we are subjected. We are told, "We are forced to have this whether we want it or not." There is all this talk about a train--"The train is going, we don't know where it is going to, but we must get on. If we do not board it, we shall be punished. There is no choice. We can't use our intelligence or our free will. If we do that, we shall be punished."

How will we be punished? At present, we pay into the budget £2.4 billion more than we obtain from it. Will we be told, "We won't accept your contributions to the budget"? Is that being suggested? A huge trade deficit has been foisted upon us, so will we be told, "We won't trade with you. We won't let you buy our goods"? Under the common agricultural policy, we have to pay higher prices for our food. Will we be told, "We won't let you buy our food"?

We have the right and the power to make our own choices and to act on our own free will. We must have, of course, the closest possible relations with the other European countries, but these must be based on a different model. We want an association of self-governing countries who co-operate for the common good. We now have the chance to bring in the countries of Eastern Europe, but our response to the collapse of communism has been completely inadequate. We have been presented with a great opportunity but we shall not be able to take advantage of it by means of economic and monetary union.

The House will be aware of what the deutschmark did in East Germany, as it then was. Is it thought that Romania and Bulgaria will be able to enter the European Community on that basis? We are keeping the countries of eastern Europe out of the EC by removing the political barrier and erecting an economic barrier.

I agree with those who have said that we do not have the power to embark on such a huge constitutional change without consulting the people. The rights of Parliament are the rights of the people, and the people must be consulted. That process having taken place, the people must decide. If all the parties are split, if even the Campaign Group in the Labour party is split, how are the people to be consulted? There is only one way to do that,

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and that is by means of a plebiscite. By that means we shall be able to put the issue before the British people and let them decide. Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. It will be evident to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that there are many who wish to speak in the debate today and tomorrow. The Chair can no longer impose a limit of 10 minutes on speeches, but I hope that those who are called to speak will feel that it is appropriate to volunteer no more than 10 minutes in their speeches.

9.8 pm

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport) : I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), because I agree with virtually every single word that he has just said. This is probably the first time that that has happened but, if the debate continues long enough, and I think that it will go on for some time yet, it will certainly not be the last. Like the hon. Gentleman, I believe that Britain now stands at a crossroads. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said that we are now at the Rubicon, and I believe that we are.

For a long time now I have been labouring under the delusion that the EC is about free trade. I voted yes.

Mr. Devlin indicated dissent.

Mr. Favell : My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) shakes his head. He probably rumbled long ago that the EC is not just about free trade and that it is what it is now apparently about-- setting up a federal state. I am glad that today's debate has taken the wraps off so that we can all see what the EC is set for. As Chancellor Kohl said throughout last year, the EC is about creating a united states of Europe. He has said all along that Germany wants the political unification of Europe and that for him German reunification and European unity are two sides of the same coin.

Until recently, even the leaders in The Times said that surely the Germans, French, Spanish, Italians, Danes, Dutch and so on would not give up their independence ; surely they are not prepared to turn themselves into some kind of European super-state. But now it is clear for all to see. Mr. Delors has said so today.

This is a federal treaty. Mr. Delors seems to tell my right hon Friend the Prime Minister, just as he did my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who made a marvellous speech today, that what he says goes. In fact, he rejoiced when my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley went, because she failed to recognise that the EC was all about the setting up of a federal state. He made no secret of it. Soon after my right hon. Friend went, Mr. Delors said that our present Prime Minister had better be careful or the rug might be pulled from under him. It is clear for all to see.

I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-East that this ultimate step should not be made without the wholehearted consent of the British people. That is a phrase that we have heard before, but this time it refers to the wholehearted consent of the British people to Britain no longer being a self-governing country as we understand it. Majority voting on foreign affairs, security, immigration, health, education, culture leading to a single federal

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state. After 900 years of independent history, that step should not and cannot be made without the wholehearted consent expressed by plebiscite of the British people.

Because I have made no secret of the fact that I am in favour of a referendum--indeed, I have pushed for it--some have suggested that I do not have faith in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There is no better man to negotiate. I do not expect the hon. Member for Newham, North-East to agree, but there is no better man than he to negotiate. But much as I like, respect and admire him, I do not believe that one man should decide the nation's fate forever. That is what will happen if Conservative Members say that we trust the Prime Minister to sign or not sign as he decides when he goes to Maastricht, on 9 and 10 December. Not even Henry VIII would have made such a decision without the people behind him. That is why there must be a referendum.

When the Prime Minister returns from Maastricht, he must put the package to the people and let the people decide. That is what the Danes intend to do and that has taken the heat out of the argument there. The Danish people will have that right. There is no earthly reason why the British people also should not have it. I believe that the British people would say no. The people who are most vehemently opposed to a referendum are those federalists who fear that the British people would say no. They fear the answer. I do not fear the answer--and even if the British people said yes, I would abide by their decision. At least they will have been asked first. It is our duty to do that. We have no mandate to give away the government of this country to others. Some people may have rumbled some years ago what the Community was about, but I did not. I know now, but many people outside the House did not know either. I believe that there should be a referendum. We have been failing the people who elected us, we have no mandate to give away the government of this country, and I will now give other right hon. and hon. Members an opportunity to speak.

9.15 pm

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