|Previous Section||Home Page|
We should initiate change in the bureaucratic Commission. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), a former Prime Minister, was not concerned about the bureaucratic Commission.
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) : I take the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes about the presidency. The over-representation of small countries provides a built-in vote in favour of federalism. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that applies equally to the weight that they are given in the Council of Ministers and in the Parliament, and that equal representation and equal say, proportionate to size, are important?
Mr. Rees : That subject should surely be examined. The point that I was raising was the six-month presidency, when countries seem to be more determined to show their political virility than to find a way forward. I certainly have no objection to the smaller countries. I was talking about the six-month presidency, which raises problems.
Column 475Of course the European Parliament needs more powers, but we should watch it very carefully. Over the years I have noticed some excellent Euro-Members, many of whom have ended up in this place. The aim of many Labour Members of the European Parliament is to come here. The fact that only 30 per cent. of people vote in a European election demonstrates a lack of interest in Euro elections. All parties need to do something about that.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made clear his objection on foreign affairs, to the methods suggested in the treaty. Let us look at the practicalities and at the way in which the EC has behaved over Yugoslavia. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, (Mr. Amery), to whom I always defer because he played a major part in a southern Slav country, 40 or 50 years ago--
The Germans, with their long-term policy in favour of Croatia and Slovenia, had to have seven divisions in Yugoslavia to hold them down. I played a small part in the air war. Anybody who believes that Yugoslavia could be dealt with as Saddam Hussein's Iraq was dealt with had better look at the terrain. The Serbs, with whom the right hon. Gentleman was fighting, who were fighting in the mountains, held up seven German divisions. The Italians were involved in a divided-up Croatia. The EC was romancing when it talked about dealing with the Yugoslav problem. There is no way of dealing with that country unless one redraws the boundaries, and that would be a difficult task. It is not enough just to have a common foreign policy. A common foreign policy means nothing if it cannot be implemented.
On defence, if America is not involved, Germany or France will become the main nuclear power in Europe. It is important to remember that. There could not be a European defence force that was not a nuclear power. I would prefer America rather than France, Germany or ourselves to be the nuclear power. That raises other issues. The political side also relates to defence. The first time that I heard of Maastricht was on 12 May 1940, when the RAF was shot out of the sky and knocked on the ground. Fairey Battle squadrons went in to attack bridges over the canal at Maastricht. They were massacred. Politicians of all parties should realise how foolish they can be. Two young men won the Victoria cross at that time. They deserved the VC. The then politicians led them into battle without the right equipment and without a proper defence agreement.
Of course, there was a defence agreement with the French, but what it added up to was mere chat. If there is to be a defence agreement, it must be in terms of integration of weaponry, what the targets are, and the supply of equipment. The day after the Maastricht massacre, the French general commanding the arme e de l'air said, that he was sorry, but they were the wrong targets ; that was not where the Germans were. By the time they were located, the Germans were into France.
Column 476It is not enough to have a political policy, and it is not enough to have a defence policy just to give it a name. It will not happen that way. Therefore, we must watch matters very carefully. The decisions will be taken in the next Parliament, when I will not be here. Nor will 60, 70 or even more hon. Members when they lose their seats, plus another 100 or so who will retire. It is not the place of this House to take final decisions. It is up to the new Parliament to take final decisions. We are simply conducting a holding operation. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) advises me, as he always does, that a Bill amending the treaty will be before the House. It is important that we do not hand to our successors decisions made at the end of a dying Parliament ; we should leave them to take the decisions in future. We should take it easy and not be led by the nose by the Commission or by the Council of Foreign Ministers. Let us not always be looking for great change. Let us see how it goes. Important changes will also take place in economic affairs, but it is the next Parliament that will matter.
I have tried to end my speech before 7 o'clock, because many other right hon. and hon. Members want to contribute. I will finish by looking back-- which, at my age, I do far too often. I have taken my children to the battlefields of north-east France as a result of which their grandfather died because of the foolishness of politicians. We must judge the second world war differently, but let us make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes that so many politicians thoughout Europe made over the past 100 years. They made elementary mistakes for which young men died.
We must think hard. Just after the war, I taught in a grammar school, and one day the French assistante said to me, "This school will clap itself to death." I begin to believe that the House will clap itself to death one day. We think that we are so good and do everything absolutely correctly, but of course we do not. We sneer at the European Parliament, but it is time that we looked at Europe in other than a partisan way--"Ha ha, ha. Did you hear what happened? Did you hear what he said? Wasn't that funny?" We should look to the future, and if we make mistakes young men and women will die. I do not want my grandchildren to do what their grandfather did, or even marginally what I had to do.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate) : I agreed with much of what the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said at the beginning of his speech, but I did not go along with his closing remarks.
I want to make one comment about the referendum before dealing with the main subject of my speech. I won a marginal seat and have held it on five successive occasions. I believe that real democracy is allowing voters to decide in a general election and not in a referendum, which is a totally different thing, and one that is alien to my concept of democracy.
Column 477My party is a broad church, with room for many shades of opinion. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends--be they pro or anti-European fanatics--to remember that voters will not support a party that is riven by doubts or dissent. The voters will write off the Opposition, whose policies are now purely hypocritical and do not matter. I appeal to my right hon. and hon. Friends to realise that elections are lost by a party that is divided.
I turn to defence and security issues, and speak as the leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the Western European Union and to the Council of Europe. I much regretted the dismissive attitude taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who has clearly totally forgotten that the Western European Union was revitalised, added Spain and Portugal to its ranks, and produced the Hague platform--which provided for the WEU's nine members to defend their borders, with nuclear weapons if need be. It undertook out-of-area activities in respect of minesweeping in the Iran-Iraq war, and of the sanction stopping of ships during the Gulf war. My right hon. Friend cannot write off the WEU as simply and as simplistically as he did.
Recently, both the Franco-German and Italian-British defence proposals were presented, followed by the valuable NATO conclusions. Again, I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup in his comments on NATO, which were so childish as to be not worth considering.
I will inform the House of the conclusions of the parliamentary assembly of the Western European Union, which comprises elected members from the Parliaments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, and the United Kingdom. In December 1990, the parliamentary assembly
"adopted a position opposed to certain proposals for WEU to be integrated in the European Community, Its view was that, if implemented, these proposals would weaken the Atlantic Alliance and also Europe's ability to play a useful role on the world stage. The Assembly therefore recommended that the Council pursue the reactivation of WEU in order to allow Europe to play a more effective part in NATO."
That decision was carried overwhelmingly, with the support of all four of the political parties represented in the WEU.
Subsequently, the presidential committee, which runs the WEU between assemblies, decided to offer advice to both the Council of Ministers and the intergovernmental conference. I was given the task of preparing a document, which was adopted without opposition in March 1991 by all nine nations and all four political parties. I will quote from it, because it is important to do so in the context of the reasons that have been given for not giving the WEU control of defence.
"WEU could establish a link between a Europe in the process of unification and an Atlantic Alliance in the process of transformation and thus provide the vehicle for a stronger Europe to contribute more to joint security
WEU must be at one and the same time the means of allowing Europe to make its voice heard in a Euro-American dialogue"--
it must never be forgotten that Europe must always have an input into that dialogue--
"of which the Atlantic Alliance is the institutional framework and the instrument for making the most of the European contribution to the defence of the West
This contribution of Europe is the more essential in that the American military presence on the continent of Europe, reduced since the war in the Gulf, will remain below what it was in the past Defence policy should continue to be made in the organisations which assure collective defence, NATO,
Column 478and WEU. It should be a task of the European Council to reach conclusions on common foreign and security policy. These would serve as a guideline for co-operation within WEU on defence matters"- - not control, but guidelines.
A linked theme, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) and others referred is the position of the members of the former Warsaw pact, who desperately want to be accepted and acknowledged as democratic. I had the privilege of leading two teams of Council of Europe observers to elections in east Germany and, recently, Poland, and I have spoken to Bulgarians, Hungarians, and Czechs--the last two are now full members of the Council of Europe. They realise that their route to the Community can be opened only if their countries are practising real democracy in respect of human rights, and multi-party Parliaments--although I said to my Polish friends, "You can go a bit too far." More importantly, in the light of the events in Yugoslavia, whose guest membership of the Council of Europe is likely to be suspended, those countries must provide proper protection for minorities. The question of protecting minorities is one that will pose a real danger to Europe in the next five years. It is simplistic to say that one should recognise Slovenia or Croatia. If one did so now, that would unleash some of the most horrible massacres in the other states of what was Yugoslavia. However, I acknowledge the tragedy of not recognising those two states. I do not propose at this stage to try to provide an answer. I only say that it is the route of the Council of Europe that has been recognised by the Community as leading to Community membership itself. That cannot be bypassed, because one cannot have in Community membership countries that do not follow the concepts of democracy and human rights.
I address a final word to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. When they go to Maastricht, they will face difficult choices and tasks. They should remind their opposite numbers that their own parliamentarians--the French, Germans, and Italians--all subscribed to the view that the defence issue to which I referred should not be brought within the European Community. The Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries of France, Germany, Italy, the Benelux or wherever should be reminded that they will have to account to their own Parliament.
I advise the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South that the advantage of organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Western European Union is that they are composed of Members of their own national Parliaments who have roots inside democracies, and that those parliamentarians have spoken and have said no to the inclusion of defence in the competence of the European Community.
I hope that that will be of some help to my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is something on which they can rely and something that their colleagues in other countries will find difficult to deny. 7.9 pm
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North) : The European Community is one of the great success stories of the post-war world. As the Soviet Union collapses, the European Community, which is a union of free peoples, gathers strength. It is already a community of 12 members, and it could be a community of 20 by the beginning off the
Column 479next century. It is the world's greatest trading bloc and, with economic and monetary union, it could have the world's strongest currency. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out this afternoon, it increasingly takes a co-ordinated view of foreign policy issues. It is inconceivable that, by the end of the century, it will not also have a common defence identity.
Whatever we do, the nation states of Europe wil increasingly combine. They will do so of their own volition, which makes the analogy with the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia patently false. The form that that closer union takes will be sui generis. It will be partly federal and partly confederal, but whatever form it takes, go ahead it will, whether we like it or not.
The question for the nation and this House is whether we participate in the process of union or stand aside. I agree with the Prime Minister that we must be at the heart of Europe, working with our partners to build Europe's future. For too long, the British have been reluctant Europeans--for understandable reasons, because our strong sense of national identity has been shaped by our exceptional history. Unlike the other 11 members of the EC, Britain has not experienced serious military defeat, occupation, civil war or revolution for at least 200 years.
At the end of the war, as one of the victors, we still believed in the absolute viability of the independent nation state. Our parliamentary tradition and constitutional development and our system of law have set us apart from the continent. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that, because of our world empire, we looked outwards, across the Atlantic, rather than to the mainland of Europe.
However, since 1945, our past has proved a poor guide. In the post-war world, our power has been reduced. We are now no more and no less than a medium-sized European power. Sadly, a whole generation of political leaders --and even some of their successors today, if what we have heard in the past two days is right--have failed to face up to that fact. When our decline in influence and shift in interest argued strongly for participation in Europe, they remained ambivalent about those whom they thought of as "unreliable continentals". We have heard some of that from the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit).
As a consequence, Britain squandered crucial opportunities over the Schuman plan in 1950, over the common market in 1955 and 1957, and over British entry into the European monetary system in the late 1970s and 1980s. In the end, after allowing those proposals to go forward without us, we were forced to join after the terms had been fixed. It was a classic failure of political leadership. We must not make the same mistake again. Therefore, it is the Government's duty to explain why Britain has to be involved in the process of economic and political union which will be launched at Maastricht. Geographically, Britain is a group of islands off the mainland of Europe. Historically and culturally, it has always been linked to the continent. Strategically, what happens there has always been and is bound to be of vital interest to Britain. Economically, we cannot afford to be excluded from a group that includes most of our main trading partners, including our biggest partner of all, the Federal Republic of Germany.
Column 480I believe that the Government understand those inescapable facts. They know perfectly well that we cannot afford to be left out. They know that, if Britain is really to remain at the heart of Europe, we must sign--if not at Maastricht, then soon after. The Government should tell the House the truth about that. They should stop pretending that they are in a position--that the country is in a position--to refuse to sign the treaties. They should stop portraying themselves as doughty defenders of a Britain that is besieged by marauding continentals. That was always the portrait that was painted by the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and I am afraid that that is occasionally true of the present Prime Minister also. That may go down well with some Euro-sceptics among Conservative Members, but it infuriates our partners and reduces our influence in the Community, as I know only too well.
Equally vitally, the Government are failing to make a positive case for European integration. Listening to the Prime Minister, one gets little idea that a single European currency would end transaction costs for business and tourists ; eliminate exchange rate instability ; provide a stable environment for growth and be the most powerful currency in the world. One certainly would not understand that the real choice was between de facto membership of a deutschmark zone in which we would have no influence and membership of a single currency system in which we would have a stake.
Above all, the Government have failed to point out that the doctrine of sovereignty, so frequently espoused by the right hon. Member for Finchley, is totally out of date. The British concept of parliamentary sovereignty is basically a hangover from Tudor despotism, with little relevance today. It fails to comprehend the weakness of the House of Commons when the Government have a majority. It fails to guarantee civil rights, as our lamentable record at the European Court of Human Rights shows. It underwrites the British state, which is the most centralised in the whole of the European Community.
Equally important, it does not correspond to the facts of the modern world. For over 40 years, we have shared sovereignty in NATO, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) rightly pointed out. For the past 20 years, developments in the capital and financial markets have drastically reduced our autonomy in economic management. Since we joined the EC in 1973, we have lost sovereignty in the areas of trade and agriculture. Later, with the Single European Act and British membership of the exchange rate mechanism--the right hon. Member for Finchley took us into that--our sovereignty was further eroded.
For a medium-sized power such as Britain, the best way to maximise our influence is to pool sovereignty by combining with others. Most European nations understand that, which is why they want to be active members of the European Community. The fact is that there is no alternative to working with our partners in the EC. That point has been reinforced in this debate by the total failure of the Euro-sceptics to come forward with any positive idea about Britain's role. We have not heard a single word. They have made interesting and occasionally convincing criticisms, but they have totally failed to suggest an alternative future for this country.
I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the positive case that they have made on behalf of the Labour party, especially for common environmental policies and
Column 481for minimum social standards as proposed by the social charter, which has been agreed by 11 other countries. My right hon. and hon. Friends have also rightly emphasised that, if one intends to make Community institutions more accountable, one must increase the powers of the European Parliament. They are right to say that.
Labour's positive agenda opens up the prospect for the first time since we joined the Community in 1973 of Britain participating constructively in the European Community. That is the only way of securing the future of the British people.
Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford) : I shall not take up the argument of the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) ; it would be unwise to do so. This is a strange debate because, although the motions on the Order Paper tabled by both the Government and the official Opposition parties are long on words, they are short on relevance to the vital questions raised by the draft treaties which will be discussed at Maastricht.
The real issue was put in possibly the best speech that I have heard in this place by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) last night. The question that he put is the right question : are the British people to be governed by those who are accountable to them, or those who are unaccountable or accountable to others? That question is not on the Order Paper. That is why tonight's vote will be interesting but irrelevant.
In a short speech, I shall not attempt to make again the points made so tellingly by others, not least my right hon. Friends the Members for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), the right hon. Members for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash).
In his speech, the Prime Minister set out the weak position from which he negotiates on economic and monetary union. He told us that he would not accept a treaty that was not in Britain's interest. I am sure that that is so, but he also reminded us that, if he vetoed the draft treaty, the 11 other member states would go outside the treaty of Rome and sign a currency agreement of their own, leaving us out. Bonne chance, say I, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury. But the Prime Minister has declared that that would be unacceptably damaging to us.
Indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), in a speech right out of the defeatist book which is kept at the Foreign Office, seemed to declare that a nation with its own currency could not survive in the days of the ecu. Tell that to the marines, and especially the Japanese marines. If the Prime Minister is convinced that we cannot be excluded from the single currency, he cannot afford not to sign the treaty. If that is so, he is not negotiating but pleading for terms.
The Prime Minister says that signing the treaty is merely taking an option on the right to join. But the option has two costs. First, whether in or out, we would bear the cost of supporting the economies which had been made non-viable by the single currency. That is the price of regional aid or structural spending. Secondly, we should have made a moral commitment to the single currency.
Column 482Why pass enabling legislation to do what most Members of the House and most voters do not want to do? Why get engaged if we do not truly intend to marry? I remind the House that couples in the intimate atmosphere of engagement sometimes find that pregnancy arises and the shotgun marriage follows.
Leaving aside the issue of sovereignty--not of the House but of the people to self-government--the devil of the single currency is not merely that the economies of the Community are simply not convergent and would be prevented from converging by a single currency, but that they are not all at the same point in their economic cycles. The exchange rate mechanism is a voluntary prototype for a single currency. That is why, when the French economy was screaming for lower interest rates, President Mitterrand increased them the other day. The German economy and the Bundesbank--independent, I am told-- are screaming for higher interest rates. But interest rates are not raised. It would be madness indeed if the ERM was allowed to force an interest rate rise in Britain.
I suspect that there is a deal, spoken or unspoken, which further undermines the Prime Minister's negotiating position. I think Chancellor Kohl has indicated that he knows the risk to the Government's chances of re -election if interest rates have to be raised in Britain. He may have said that there will be no increase in German rates before Maastricht--indeed, hopefully, so long as the treaty is signed, not before our general election. "That, John," says Helmut, "is what European solidarity is about."
But what chance of help if the Prime Minister vetoes the treaty? After all, thinks Helmut, if interest rates rise, perhaps Labour will come in, which is a soft touch not only on the single currency but on political union. [Interruption.] I am glad that the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) follows the joke. It is the only thing that he has followed so far in the debate.
There is only one way for the Prime Minister to strengthen his hand. He should legislate now for a referendum to be held once the negotiations at Maastricht are complete. It should put simple yes or no questions on whether the European monetary treaty--and, if there is one, the political treaty--should be accepted. He should say, "It is not me you must persuade, Helmut, but the British people. In Britain it is they who are sovereign."
In the final minutes available to me, I turn to the proposals for political union. On that matter I stand where my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) stood on 24 May 1971. He said :
"There are certain administrative arrangements which are handled by the Commission and which are clearly defined in the Treaty of Rome, and they cannot go beyond their powers. But our view is that it is the Council of Ministers, representing member countries, who must take the decisions."
He went on to emphasise the importance of the national veto and said :
"When I urged that there should be democratic control, I had in mind that Ministers are the representatives of their Governments and they are the ones who take the decisions. They are responsible to their own democracies."--[ Official Report, 24 May 1971 ; Vol. 818, c. 43-44.]
Amen to that, say I. I have not changed my mind, even if my right hon. Friend has changed his.
A week or so ago I heard--others may have done so, too--Lord Cockfield assert that
"the British people had no moral right and probably no legal right"
to resist the demands of a federal Europe. We can argue about what "federal" means, but Chancellor Kohl knows
Column 483that he is head of a federal state. All the important issues, such as the economy, foreign affairs, defence, immigration and social affairs, are dealt with in Bonn. The rest is left to the provinces. In a federal Europe, that would be the pattern. With England, Scotland, Wales and Ulster seen as provinces like Saxony or Aquitaine, what role would there be for the Government or Parliament of the United Kingdom ?
Not only must federalism be stopped in its tracks. The treaty of Rome should be amended to uphold the union of nation state and exclude a federal destiny. In the words of Winston Churchill, who has been much quoted already in the debate :
"We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are interested and associated but not absorbed and should European statesmen address us in the words which were used of old-- Shall we speak for thee to the king or captain of the host ?'--we should reply, Nay sir, for we dwell among our own people'".
That remains my view today.
I repeat that the question on the Order Paper tonight is irrelevant to the question before the House and the country. We might be asked just as well to vote on any three pages picked at random out of "Alice in Wonderland" as on the motions before the House tonight. How can one vote in such circumstances ? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently came out of his negotiations with, among others, our French partners, and, in his diplomatic way, observed that, like Waterloo, it had been hard pounding. I yield to no one in my admiration for the great Iron Duke himself, but my favourite general of the Napoleonic wars was General Kutuzov. I shall follow his example.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I have disagreed with the political views of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) on many occasions, but he has just highlighted what might be called self-government and he rightly pointed out-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Spearing : The right hon. Gentleman said that the self- government of this country is in peril and, while I disagree with his domestic politics, he is right to point that out. My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has a vision of an international society, but the treaty before us--including the treaty of Rome--is not an international treaty. That is why many Opposition Members have consistently and persistently been against it.
The right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) has said that he was attracted to the treaty of Rome because he thought that it would provide the vehicle to achieve the objectives that he, my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North and those of us who want a co-operating, international western Europe seek. However, the right hon. Member for Blaby did not say that tonight, because he now realises that it is not a treaty of that sort. Although the right hon. Member for Chingford agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr.
Column 484Heath) way back in 1972, 1973 and 1974, he has also come to the same conclusion. Some of us, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) came to that conclusion a long time ago.
The right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has at last realised that perhaps she, too, made some mistakes when she was a member of the Government led by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. I intervened to ask him what mandate he had, but I should have asked what electoral mandate. Of course, he did not have one ; nor did the right hon. Member for Finchley have a mandate for the Single European Act ; and nor does the Prime Minister have an electoral mandate to agree what may come out of Maastricht--he has not even got a parliamentary mandate yet. That is why, either in this Parliament or, more probably, in the next, the machinery for giving legal effect to any treaty that may come about will be a Bill which will have to be passed by the House.
The right hon. Member for Finchley is not the only person to have erred on the subject--I shall come to the Prime Minister in a moment. I am glad that the right hon. Lady is here, because no one would deny that she at least has courage, but I doubt whether she has the instinct for parliamentary government, which some of us believe in. She went to Madrid where the principle of the Delors report was up for discussion.
It is not a matter of memory, but a matter of record, that there was no debate on the Delors report before that summit. There had been a debate some time before on the general subject of a single currency, but not on the report. Yet, when she was confronted with a political situation not unlike that confronting the present Prime Minister--to take the least worst solution--she agreed to the principle of economic and monetary union. The question was, by what means and when? The principle was agreed by the right hon. Lady before any mandate had been given by the House, let alone the electorate.
If the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup is right, that is the way in which European union works. It does not allow genuine negotiations, but provides a choice between the least worst solutions for leaders of all parties and all Governments. It provides a pattern of coercion and not of co-operation.
Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Finchley drew our attention to the scope and powers of the Community. She said :
"It is not the case, as is sometimes alleged, that the Single European Act introduced qualified majority voting in the Community--it was already in the treaty of Rome. As my right hon. Friend said, the Act extended it in certain limited areas for the express and sole purpose of completing the common or single market".--[ Official Report, 20 November 1991 ; Vol. 199, c. 292.]
I wish that were true. However, as the right hon. Lady knows, or ought to know now, qualified majority voting could operate not in "limited" but in huge and undefined areas under articles 8A and 100A of the treaty. That is very relevant, because it gave away some of the powers of the House. Either the right hon. Member for Finchley knew that that was the case when she drove the Single European Act through the House on a three-line Whip or she did not. If she knew, she did not tell us and if she did not know, someone misled her. The result is that the single market now operates over a huge and almost undefined area.
Column 485My hon. Friends ask why that is so and the answer is simple. The single market is defined in the treaty as an area "without internal frontiers". It is not merely a question of lorries being able to go through borders, of barriers coming up and barbed wire boundaries on the map being expunged ; it is a question of a legal boundary. There may be extenuating circumstances. Perhaps the enthusiasm of the right hon. Member for Finchley for market economics led her to say, "Yes, let's have the single market," because she wanted to bring the benefits of market forces to the benighted tribes on the other side of the channel and to drive market economics through. In so doing, she predicated a single market authority and a single Government. As the right hon. Member for Blaby said, a single currency means a single economic policy, which means a single Chancellor of the Exchequer and a single Government. We might end up with government of bankers, by bankers and for bankers. The only way round the problem is a supranational state, which is what the treaty will bring in if we are not careful.
I give no one cause to believe that I am not an internationalist. The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North greatly attracted me in some ways. However, the constitution of the European Community--in the treaty of Rome and the treaty before us--is incapable of providing us with what we seek. It is for that reason that I can have none of the treaty before us today.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I also took part in the vote in the House in 1972. It comes ill from the lips of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) to say that he had a mandate to do what he did. I remember the cursing and threats--I saw one hon. Member being hammered over the head with an Order Paper. There was certainly no democracy in the House when it took that vital vote to go into Europe. Every hon. Member who took part in the debate knows that perfectly well.
Sovereignty of the House has been mentioned, but what is that? It is the sovereignty of the people. People give this House sovereignty, and if we do not have the people behind us, we have no sovereignty. We have witnessed the collapse of a great federal empire in the east, an empire which had a single currency and controlled and regimented its inhabitants. It failed because the people were not consulted and were not behind it. It was brought down by people power.
We are now told that we should go down that road. Jacques Delors, with his beckoning hands, is saying, "You must all come down this road." I have the privilege of sitting both in Strasbourg and in this House. I took part yesterday in the debate in Strasbourg. I have often wondered what was the motivation of the people of Europe in wishing to build another super-state. Super-states have been dangerous to the peace of the world. They never brought peace. They brought trouble in their wake.
I got from the Library at Strasbourg a copy of the poster that I am holding up. It is interesting, because it depicts the future of Europe. The picture in the centre is a copy of a painting by a great Belgian painter-- [Interruption.] It may be coloured orange, but it is yellow in the centre. It is the tower of Babel. In other words, they
Column 486have chosen to depict the new Europe as the tower of Babel. We are well aware of the European circle of stars, with five pointed stars, one point facing heaven. Hon. Members will note that the poster tries to square thecircle--
Rev. Ian Paisley : I have discovered after 45 years of preaching that eye-gate is far more effective than ear-gate. In this poster, the stars are turned upside down. It is wonderful the way in which they turn things upside down and seek to square the circle. We are told that that is the direction we must take.
I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. He painted a wonderful picture, but I wondered what he was talking about. I recall him telling the people of Britain that, if they voted for Europe, two things would happen--first that we would solve our unemployment problem and, secondly, that we would retain the veto. We have not solved our unemployment problem. The right hon. Gentleman said that he brought unemployment down. I remember when we called him Mr. Million, unemployment having risen at that time to over a million.
I remember the great things that the right hon. Gentleman said would happen as a result of our joining the Common Market, and I was amazed. In fact, our membership has weakened the economy of the United Kingdom. Food prices are higher and there is a deteriorating balance of trade in manufactured goods with the EC, with the consequent loss of many jobs, especially in manufacturing. There is an adverse effect on United Kingdom exports to non- EC countries. Britain has suffered in its trading activities, and the cost of the CAP has been extravagant, to say the least.
The precious money that we pour into the Common Market budget would be better disbursed, by whatever Government are in power, in this country. Think of the £2,769 million that was paid by this country in 1978 to finance the CAP. That was equal to the cost of building more than 100 much- neeeded NHS hospitals, and 14 times more than the amount spent on all the textbooks in all United Kingdom secondary schools. We have heard in the House today details of a false balance.
I am not opposed to co-operation among the nations of Europe, but the time has come to realise that the future for the European nations lies in co- operation rather than incorporation. It lies in unity and not in uniformity, in national sovereignty and not in international submergence. It should be a federation of nations, a family of nations, and not a federation of nations.