|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge) : There was much to enjoy in the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). We have become used to courageous speeches from him over the years, but for him to accuse the Tories of being split over Europe is at once perfectly obvious and completely inappropriate. The one thing that has been clear this evening is that there is a wide divergence of views among both parties, which is extremely healthy. The Government have a stance to recommend to the House and to Conservative Members, but on this issue more than most hon. Members will hold their own views and their own counsel. It is hardly surprising that there are splits within the parties.
What is more interesting than the party split is that we have often heard hon. Members analyse the issue and I have often accepted nearly all of the analysis only to disagree with the conclusion. I have in mind especially the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the earlier speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). I found much of what they said extremely appealing. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and I have trodden the European boards together and have certainly agreed about Europe.
The difficulty is that my right hon. and hon. Friends seem to start from the position in which they would like to be. In politics one cannot speak from the position in which one would like to be--one is stuck with one's real position. For example, I wish that we were not in Europe. I believe that 20 years ago we missed the golden opportunity not to go into Europe. I should have liked us to build our contacts with Australasia. I should not have wanted us to be anti-Europe but to have recognised that it had a culture and communality of interest and that we could co-operate with it but not be part of it.
If that had been our attitude to Europe in those days, it would have meant among other things that our farming, which matters greatly to many hon. Members, especially on the Conservative Benches, would now be thriving. It would be able to produce as much food as we could consume and for our surplus foods we would be able to look to Australasia. It would have meant a transformation of the fortunes of the United Kingdom over the past 20 years. I should have liked to be in that position, but that is a pipe dream and an "if" of history. The fact is that we went into the Common Market and that is where we are now.
In some speeches--by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but mainly from the Government Benches--there have been references to "the dangers", almost as if the debate was taking place 20 years ago and we were talking of the dangers of going into Europe. Whether we like it or like it not, we must face the fact that we are in Europe. We must say to ourselves, "Given where we are tonight, what is the best route to take and what is in the best interests of our constituents?"
Column 383I do not know how many hon. Members have read the treaty of Rome. I confess that I read it only about three years ago. I was going to Paris to make a speech and officials thoughtfully provided me with a copy of the treaty. It was quite an easy read and a short one at that. I then had more sympathy than ever before with some of the federalist aspirations of our European partners.
Anyone who reads the treaty realises at once the dangers that it has for us and the interpretation that will be placed upon it by our European partners. It reflects no credit on some that, when the arguments of the 1970s were taking place, we were told, "You need not worry because there are no federalist dangers or implications in it." Anyone who had read the treaty would have realised that there would be dangers for us.
Where do we go from there? I can understand the position--curiously, it has not been voiced tonight--of someone who says, "I don't want to be in Europe. I want to get out of Europe. I think that there is a viable possibility of being able to close the door on this era of our history and leave Europe." I think that that is completely unrealistic. As I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, if I thought that there was a realistic, sane and sensible way, even now, in which we could pull out of Europe, it would be a drum that I would follow, but that route is not available to us.
Those who say that, however--if some of them crop up in the next 24 hours or so--are at least taking a position that is intellectually respectable. I do not know, but I suspect that when my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will sound that trumpet. He will say, "We should get out of Europe." Although I consider that to be a romantic view, I can see at once that it is attractive. It is completely unrealistic, but at least it is understandable.
I understand also the view of those such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). My hon. Friend has tremendous courage. He is prepared to stand before the House, to turn to the Conservative Benches and to say that he looks forward to a time when we have multi-member constituencies and proportional representation. He virtually genuflected the moment he even slightly criticised President Delors. That is the other side of the argument and it is logical as far as it goes.
I have difficulty in understanding the middle course. I do not understand how any of my hon. Friends can say, "Don't worry, dear boy. I am absolutely pro-European. I want to stay in Europe. My European credentials are fine but I don't accept the Maastricht deal. No, we must outlaw that. I am as good a European as the others but I am not going to go along with the Maastricht treaty."
What are my hon. Friends who say that trying to convey to the House? It is invidious to name names, even in terms of their constituencies, but are we supposed to believe that there is a body of opinion among Conservative Back -Bench Members that if they had been Ministers they could have gone to Maastricht and obtained a better deal than my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary?
I know that the Government Back Benches are full of talent. The amount of talent among ex-Ministers on our Back Benches is ferociously strong. I even exclude myself, however, when I say that I do not know of any colleague on the Back Benches, be he an ex-Minister or not, whom I could confidently have sent to Maastricht to get a better
Column 384deal than the one with which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister returned. I do not understand the position of those who say that they are pro-European but who imply by saying that they will oppose the Maastricht treaty that a better deal was available, which my right hon Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary did not get. Frankly, that argument will not stack up in the end. There are those who say that what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister obtained at Maastricht was an illusion, that there are still great federalist dangers, that there are still battles to be fought and that, at the next intergovernmental conference in 1996, the federalists will be out again. Of course they will, because there are some battles that can never finally be won. Surely in this House, of all places, we are used to that. Every time there is an election, we have to go out again and fight our political opponents and they have to fight us. We do not give up because there may be other battles to fight when we have to repel views with which we do not agree. Obviously, the federalists will be out again in 1996 and the same arguments will have to be won all over again. However, they have been won on this occasion, so why should it be any less likely that we will win again?
We should consider the context in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to Maastricht. It is obvious that a number of our European partners had become so thoroughly sick of the British that in a sense they did not even consider their own interests. It was sufficient for them to give the Brits a bloody nose. In a very short time, our Prime Minister went to Europe, made alliances, got on with some countries, made deals with some countries and actually got over to the Europeans the fact that, although their precious treaty of Rome might have pointed in a federalist direction, there were other possibilities as well.
What has come out of Maastricht is not simply a full stop on the advance towards federalism ; there has actually been an alternative vision, and of something that many of us thought we were going into Europe to do in the first place. It is not to move towards some final political union, not to become part of some wretched united states of Europe, but to have ever closer co-operation in our mutual interests. That is an alternative vision of Europe which we are now in a position to convey. It is surely a great deal more attractive that merely going to Europe and saying,"We don't want to play with you. We don't like your ideas or your vision. We have got nothing to say to you other than that we will not co-operate."
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), in a good and telling speech, said that it was his experience of the old co-opted European Parliament that we could not get anywhere in Europe with half measures. It simply does not work to stand on the European boundaries and howl that we do not want to play on their playground--they get on with the game without us. If we are not prepared to come out of Europe, we must stay and fight.
It is worth considering some of the things that have not been included in the Maastricht treaty. We will not be bound in foreign policy, home affairs, justice, defence, security and all the rest. All those will be dealt with by intergovernmental conferences. We know that the federalists in Europe will try, as they always do, to say that really those matters fall not under IGCs, but under an article of the treaty of Rome. That is the game that the
Column 385Europeans play. That is the sort of people they are. They want to bring those matters within their ambit, so they will try to argue that they come under the treaty of Rome.
That battle must be fought--it has been fought before and it will be fought again. However, the mere fact that the federalists will not ultimately go away does not mean that we have to give up the ghost and not be prepared to take the argument to them.
We now have an opportunity in Europe that we have never had before. I have contacts with business men in Belgium who have been saying to me for years, "Why don't you Brits really get into the Common Market and give us a lead?" Some small countries in Europe do not like what they see of German and French behaviour. Those small countries take pride in their sovereignty every bit as much as we take pride in ours. They have been looking for a major country that will give them a lead and play a constructive part in Europe, without trying to turn it into a federalist super-state.
A number of references have already rightly been made to the fact that Germany is in one heck of a state at the moment. A great many Germans are now saying to themselves, "Do we really want to give up the deutschmark just so that we can have the ecu instead?" Reference has also been made to the fact that France has its problems. If ever there was a time when Britain could put itself at the heart of Europe, take a lead and come up with an alternative vision which ultimately appeals to all, this is that opportunity. If we do not take it, we have no reason to believe that that opportunity will ever come again. It is all very well to flex one's patriotism over a few bottles of claret at the Carlton, but at the end of the day we must ask ourselves whether we can use Europe to our own advantage. The country expects better of us than posturing about where we would like to be. We have been given a unique opportunity by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.
As it is not realistic for us to leave the EC, we should take that opportunity and make a success of it. It is all very well to say that we wish that we had never joined--so do I, with all my heart--but we are in it, we cannot get out of it and we have a unique opportunity to make a success of it.
Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South) : It is about 10 weeks since my predecesssor, Merlyn Rees, made his final speech to the House. In that speech, as in a number of others, he combined the experiences of his upbringing in a south Wales mining villages with his work in his Leeds inner-city political base. He spoke of the effects of unemployment in each of those areas and, as he often did, he showed the concern and anger with which he always faced the deprivation and poverty which were the consequences of that unemployment.
It was Merlyn's caring approach which characterised not only his work in the constituency but much of his work in the House and--
Column 386and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell), but the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) should not bring refreshments into the Chamber.
Mr. Gunnell : Hon. Members will agree that Merlyn carried his caring approach even to the highest offices of state. That was one reason why he was held in such respect and why, even though he has long ceased to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he still carries with him the concerns of Northern Ireland and his knowledge of its people which was developed in those days.
Merlyn Rees served the Leeds, South constituency for 29 years, and for the last eight of those was also the Member of Parliament for the Morley area. He followed an equally distinguished predecessor in Hugh Gaitskell, who also had a long association with the constituency, in his case 26 years. But of those 26 years, the first eight were spent as a prospective parliamentary candidate because, although he was selected in 1937, he did not get to fight the seat until 1945. Following two such distinguished predecessors is a daunting task, but I have had the advantage of sitting with Merlyn in his surgeries which he took with Colleen, his wife. They brought to those surgeries and to the people of south Leeds whom they met that sense of caring which meant that for many people the very act of telling their problems was in itself cathartic. They knew that he had taken those problems on board and that he would do what he could to sort them out.
Merlyn was undaunted by any problem. I well remember the end of one surgery when a man came in somewhat breathless to complain that a herd of cattle had escaped from grazing land on a former opencast site into council house gardens. What to do?--find the owner?, telephone the housing department?, explain that the matter did not fall within a Member of Parliament's remit? Merlyn did none of those. Instead, he took us up there in his car and in 10 minutes the cattle were back in place. But, of course, he had a great advantage because, as he was Home Secretary, he was always followed by some plainclothesmen and some members of the West Yorkshire constabulary, so he had plenty of people on hand to make sure that the job was done efficiently.
Merlyn was one of the last members of the last Parliament to announce that he was standing down. The way that news was greeted showed the regard in which he was held in the constituency. He received one honour that even the House could not bestow on him. He was almost embarrassed when, last November, the Yorkshire Society named him Yorkshireman of the year. After that accolade, it is easy to see how Sachin Tendulkar managed to get past Yorkshire county cricket club's committee.
My constituency is in two parts. Morley and South Leeds are geographically adjacent, but not even a direct bus service connects them. It is a marriage by the Boundaries Commission. I have worked in the south Leeds area since 1975, and know well the people there. The area comprises part of the great industrial centre that built the city's economy. It is one of traditional industry. The world's oldest railway--the 1758 Middleton railway--is in my ward and constituency.
Column 387The housing and the tight communities that Richard Hoggart reminisced about have gone. Their place has been taken by new estates, some of which are themselves rapidly falling into decline. Morley is very different. An independent West Riding borough built on the traditional industries of textiles and mining that have long departed, reluctantly, in 1972, found itself forming part of Leeds. Even today, according to a local newspaper poll, 27 per cent. of Morley's residents want its independence from the city--but that is a minority.
Housing, employment, and planning issues are all of concern to the people of Morley, which faces the prospect of applications for opencasting. Its residents are concerned that the green belt that divides the two halves of my constituency is being eroded by further development. We hope that it will be limited--not least because the homes that are being built are not of the kind needed by many of my constituents. Mine is a constituency of change, and one having considerable needs.
My work as a local government representative in a number of offices has affected my thinking on Europe, and that is pertinent to tonight's debate. For the past 11 years, I have served as chairman of the Yorkshire and Humberside development association--one of the regional development bodies supported by the Department of Trade and Industry to attract inward investment from overseas.
My first few years in that office were frustrating, because few companies came to the region. In recent years, however, there have been a series of investors from Europe, the United States, and Japan--primarily because of the potential European market. It is clear that this country's success in attracting inward investment owes much to its involvement in the Community. Especially in an area such as mine, dominated by Labour-held constituencies, the support given by both major parties for the Community has made it that much easier to attract investment from Japanese and American companies, and we have seen a number of significant developments.
I must add, however, that I do not share the view expressed by some Conservative Members that overseas investors will be put off if the social chapter is accepted. I have worked actively with three Japanese companies that have invested in my area, and my impression is that they want to give their work forces a good deal. They may insist on single-union agreements, but within those agreements they are willing to give their work forces conditions that are often not granted by British companies.
The standard of management in those Japanese companies is an example to many of the indigenous firms in my region, and is accepted as such. Employees of such companies as Pioneer--which has recently settled in Wakefield--or Citizen, in Scunthorpe, say that they value their jobs and are proud to have them. I do not believe that accepting the social chapter would mean turning away companies that continue to be interested in investing in this country. Even now, a number of companies are visiting our region, and we hope for additional investment.
Some have suggested that the south bank of the Humber should be separated from the north bank, and that Humberside should be split up. That would do nothing for the economy of the region. The companies that we consulted made it clear that what interested them about the Yorkshire and Humberside region was the through route to Europe through the European ports : they are
Column 388locating on or near the motorway sites, so that they can not only make direct use of the traffic through to the rest of the United Kingdom market but ensure that they have direct access to northern Europe. That is a very important link.
I have been involved with the Assembly of European Regions ; indeed, as leader of West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, I was the only English person present when it was formed. Since then, I have acted as an adviser to the assembly, and have been the only English person present at bureau meetings. I have seen the organisation involve regions not only from within the Community but from eastern Europe : they are part of it. I have seen it develop on the strength of the German la"nder and the Italian and Spanish regions, and I have seen it press for a senate of the regions. The Maastricht proposal for a Committee of the Regions is a not dissimilar idea. With 184 members, it is unlikely to be such an effective committee, but it would nevertheless constitute the first official recognition of the significance of regions.
Much has been said today about the principle of subsidiarity. When that principle is applied, although the 24 United Kingdom representatives will no doubt have been nominated by the United Kingdom Government, it will be important for them to be acceptable and to represent their regions. Yorkshire and Humberside must have two representatives, and the nominees must be elected within the regions concerned. They must have a proper democratic remit in those regions. The idea that Scotland and Wales--whose representatives attended the recent conference of the Assembly of European Regions in Mannheim--could be represented by Members of Parliament who are not elected from the regions strikes most of the European countries with which we are associated as unthinkable. If we go down that route, we shall certainly not be fulfilling the principle of subsidiarity. Thirdly, I have been involved in the North of England Regional Consortium, of which I have been the chairman since it started. We have argued the northern case--for example, for links to the channel tunnel. The Government must ensure that any benefits that come from the single market, and any economic benefits that they believe will come from the signing of this treaty, are benefits for the nation as a whole, not just for the south-east. For eight years, we have been fighting for proper links with the channel tunnel for the three northern regions, and I am still dissatisfied with British Rail's proposals.
Because of the rules laid down by the House under section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, those proposals would not give my constituency even a second-class service, because it is in West Yorkshire. Market forces alone will not provide links to the north. If there are benefits from membership of the Community--what I have said shows that I think there are--they must be shared by the nation as a whole. That is the Government's responsibility, and as matters proceed, they must attend to that responsibility.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) : It is a great privilege for me to take part in the debate, for two reasons. The first is that this is obviously an important debate, but the second is that my road to Westminster has been a long and bumpy one. Having failed in two safe Labour seats--Swansea, West in 1987 and Pontypridd in 1989--I used my
Column 389considerable experience to lose the 13th safest Conservative seat in 1991, in Ribble Valley. Three new Evanses entered the House at this election, and I am proud to say that I am the only one to represent a valley constituency.
Ribble Valley became famous last year for the sporting political event of the by-election. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Michael Carr, the former Member of Parliament for Ribble Valley, who looked as surprised on the night of 7 March that he had won as I looked shocked that I had lost. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that he was an asset to Ribble Valley as Member of Parliament. He was well-liked and respected in the House, and he won the respect of his constituents.
Michael Carr succeeded David Waddington, now known as Lord Waddington of Read. Lord Waddington won two by-elections. First, he won Nelson and Colne after the sad death of the great orator Sydney Silverman. Secondly, he won the by-election in Clitheroe after the death of David Walder.
Described in "Roth's Parliamentary Profiles" as
"a no-nonsense Lancastrian barrister and a Euro-sceptic", David went on to hold various offices such as Home Secretary and Chief Whip before his elevation to the other place. Colin Hughes of The Independent described him as
"a realistic, right-wing cynic about his opponents",
while Ian Aitken of The Guardian wrote :
"As Chief Whip, he presided over what is widely acknowledged to have been the most aggressive whipping operation in years." I have a tough act to follow, but I shall try. I am sure that the House will wish David Waddington well in his appointment as governor of Bermuda and I am sure that many old friends are renewing their acquaintance with David and Jilly even as I speak.
Those right hon. and hon. Members who visited Ribble Valley during the by- election will know what a beautiful constituency it is. Three quarters of my constituency is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty and there are many stunningly beautiful villages. It incorporates the forest of Bowland, with marvellous views from all quarters. My constituency also includes the leafy suburban district of Fulwood.
Furthermore, it has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the United Kingdom. Indeed, it has the lowest level of unemployment in England. However, I am not complacent. I am deeply concerned about any of my constituents who do not have jobs. Therefore, I am anxious that the European fighter aircraft project should go ahead. It is a joint project between this country, Germany, Italy and Spain. A lot of jobs in the north- west rely upon the EFA project going into full production.
To turn from one sort of European union to another, there have been speeches from those with strong views on Europe--from Euro-sceptics, Europhiles, Europhobes and Euro-pragmatists. I have been all of those at different times. I am sure that each and every one of us gets upset when Europe seems to meddle with trivial things, and at times it disappoints us.
The European Community has a population of 344 million. With the enlargement of the Community to take in some of the EFTA countries, it could rise to about 370 million. That demonstrates how important a trading bloc it is. The Maastricht treaty will help towards its
Column 390enlargement, through its structure and development. That will benefit those countries of eastern Europe that are also looking towards joining the European Community.
There is, however, no monopoly of vision among those who seek a united states of Europe. Those of us who back Britain being at the centre of Europe but not being consumed by Brussels have a vision, too. We want Europe to act together on those issues where it can be most effective, such as the environment. Global problems need global solutions. As for third- world aid, the European Community provides 42 per cent. of all third world aid. Forty per cent. of the third world aid that we contribute is now channelled through organisations such as the European Community. Last year, the United Kingdom gave £330 million to the European Community's aid budget.
We must work more closely together if we are to achieve stability and peace throughout the world. That is being achieved through the intergovernmental conferences. They provide a valid route that lies outside the Commission's competence. I welcome also the clear statements that have been made : on federalism--"No" ; and on subsidiarity--"Yes." The a la carte provision of the pillared structure of the treaty, and the protocols over European monetary union and the social chapter strengthen our position without weakening our sovereignty.
Yes, we have to watch for encroachment. The working time directive has already been mentioned. We must fight strongly against its introduction by means of the health and safety directive. If it had been included in the social chapter, we could have decided not to opt into that directive. If we go ahead with it, it will cost the United Kingdom £3 billion.
The directive should not be introduced by means of qualified majority voting. If ever there were a case, this is a case for subsidiarity. We have been working steadfastly over the past 14 years to roll back the frontiers of socialism and we do not want to see it reintroduced through the back door, or through any open window that it can possibly find.
We have an excellent record when it comes to implementing Community law. I welcome the fact that the European Court of Justice will be able to fine members of the European Community which, on the face of it, seem to be communautaire but in reality are rather less when implementing Community law.
The future for all of us is exciting--working in unison, but making sure that this country stands up for areas where we can best implement domestic policies. I refer to matters such as zero-rated VAT ; the right for us to determine our taxation policy ; border controls to stamp out illegal immigrants, drug smuggling and fraud ; and the preservation of unanimous voting in matters that most concern us.
The Maastricht treaty is imaginative in style and structure and it will take us to the next review stage in 1996, when, yet again, we shall look at further enlarging the Community, but not with greater Community encroachment.
Column 391taken part in numerous European Community debates in the House, but this debate is an exceedingly civilised affair. In part, that might be because of the numerous maiden speeches to which we have willingly listened. I must inform the hon. Gentleman and my new hon. Friends that such debates are not always so civilised and even-tempered as this. I hope to maintain that decorum during my intervention. I begin by asking the Minister a question on article 198a, which concerns the Committee of the Regions. As a Scotsman, I appeal to him seriously to consider ensuring that the United Kingdom contingent on the Committee of the Regions is made up of local and regional Scottish representatives. Regional and local authority
representatives could play an important part on that advisory committee. That is an eminently reasonable request which the Government could accept with something approaching equanimity. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said--I agree with him--that Scots hold the Community in high regard. One or two unkind colleagues suggested that that is because of the money that has come to Scotland by way of the regional and social funds, but that is not wholly the case. In many respects we have a high regard for the Community, but there is a certain ambivalence of view. Many of us in Scotland hold to the view that we live in a highly centralised, multinational state which appears to be having imposed upon it with the implementation of the treaty a deeply centralised, multinational European state. There is a fear among Scots that political decision making has slipped from Scotland and, to a large extent, is slipping from the House of Commons.
We have already experienced the power of the European Court of Justice--for example, with regard to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 which, within 12 months of its implementation, was changed ; or rather, a section of it was suspended by an interim decision taken by the president of that court, sitting one afternoon in late 1989. We were deeply disappointed by that decision because we had agreed with the Government that that measure was particularly important for the interests of our fishermen and fishing communities. However, the President of the European Court of Justice knocked out a recently enacted Act of Parliament because he decided that it was incompatible with the treaty of Rome. That was an example of a European Community institution exercising its power.
The centralising process that now has a momentum of its own could be halted or slowed down through the rigorous and vigorous application of article 3b of the treaty, which refers to subsidiarity. Earlier today, I challenged the Prime Minister on his interpretation of subsidiarity. I said that it seems that where he and the Government are concerned, subsidiarity as defined in article 3b involves the allocation of competencies between central institutions of the European Community and the Westminster Government.
With the growing centralisation of strategic decision making, we should be devolving decision making to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, if the demand exists, to the regions of England. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that the Roman Catholic Church first gave the classical formulation of subsidiarity. In 1931, Pope Pius XI said :
Column 392"It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies." I am a Presbyterian, not a Roman Catholic, but I believe that that part of the encyclical could be quoted against certain elements of the treaty if we do not have rigorous implementation of article 3b. Subsidiarity should be concerned with the allocation of competencies among the central institutions of the European Community, national Parliaments and legislatures, and regional governments--as will be the case with the la"nder in Germany and regional government in Spain. That continental definition of subsidiarity should be brought into the English language and applied to our domestic political affairs. I see nothing wrong with that interpretation of subsidiarity, but I see dangers with what appears to be the Prime Minister's position, which is too narrow and rigid.
I asked the Prime Minister earlier how his stocktaking of the governance of Scotland could be encompassed by his narrow interpretation of subsidiarity. There is sharp incompatibility--unless he is offering Scotland a cosmetic exercise or a placebo designed to ensure that the Scots continue their remarkable adherence to civil obedience in relation to the governance of our country.
I hope that the Prime Minister and his Ministers will rethink their interpretation of article 3b and let us have a continental European interpretation of it. If we do not, I do not see how we can hope to apply any braking action on the growing centralisation of decision making here in London, in Brussels, and in Luxembourg at the European Court of Justice.
We do not control the decision making of Ministers and we cannot much influence the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers. In the last Parliament, I was a member of the Select Committee on European Community legislation and, indeed, of European Community Standing Committee B. Despite what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said, I do not believe that the House effects much restraint over the central institutions of the European Community. I know that the Government have been defeated a couple of times in Standing Committees A and B, but that does not add up to much. With the change in the Standing Order governing the modus operandi of the Committees which was introduced by the then Leader of the House, the Government can comfortably ignore those defeats when a report is made to the House following the deliberations of those Committees.
We have to aim for a partnership on the implementation of subsidiarity so that the House retains some effective restraint on the decision making of the central institutions to which I refer. Decision making at local level should be developed. For Scotland, it should be in a Scottish Parliament or Scottish assembly.
I have a couple of other points to make. I promise to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Economic and monetary convergence, a single currency and a central bank are also important elements of the centralising process. If the European central bank is to be located in the United Kingdom, it ought to be sited in Edinburgh and not London. It would go down well with the Scots if it were sited, say, in George street in Edinburgh rather than in the City of London.
Column 393Another important dimension of the treaty is the development of a social Europe--the harmonisation of welfare and health provisions. Linked to that is the important concept of economic and social cohesion. It is right and proper that the rich nations should give financial support to the more impoverished nations of the Community. We shall certainly have to do something along those lines when certain eastern and central European nations join the Community--if they are allowed to do so by certain neighbours of ours in the Community.
The provisions for a common foreign and security policy have profound implications for NATO. The preamble to the treaty says that anything said in it
"shall not be prejudicial to the obligations that member states have towards the North Atlantic Treaty."
I cannot see how the development of a foreign and security policy can allow for the continuation of NATO as we know it. The one must supersede the other.
There is a growing body of opinion in America that the defence of Europe should be left to the nations of Europe. Gore Vidal recently made that point in a typically brilliant essay, and the view is certainly gaining ground in America. Canada is pulling out of NATO. I believe that in the near future America will reduce its forces in continental Europe to an absolute minimum. That is one of the implications of the common foreign and security policy. One day, the European Community will have to deal with the implications of a foreign and security policy based on the premise that Europe will have to be defended by the forces of European countries.
I believe in a group of sovereign and nation states co-operating for their mutual advantage, principally through the means of a single market, regulated as little as possible. That is very different from integration, federalism or union. Silly me--I had thought that that was party policy, but unfortunately there has been some turning of the tide. However, having listened to some of the speeches, I wonder how much the tide has turned.
The most important aspect is subsidiarity--we are all agreed that that is vital. So, let us read the treaty. On page 5 it states that their various Majesties
"Resolved to mark a new stage in the process of European integration".
Over the page, it states :
"This treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union The union shall be served by a single institutional framework".
Judging by those quotes--and there are plenty of others--the prospect of subsidiarity is looking a bit sick, long before we get to article 3b. With thoughts like that, after two happy years in the Ministry of Defence, I succumbed to friendly fire. I suppose that I should be grateful to the press. Half an hour after my resignation, they promoted me from Parliamentary Private Secretary to Parliamentary Secretary, doubtless on the theory that the higher the post that one holds, the further and faster one can fall.
The Maastricht treaty is a great success. I know it, because everybody says it. Sometimes I wonder if that is because the words mean whatever one wishes them to mean. To the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr.
Column 394Ashdown)--the Liberal Benches are not packed --the treaty is a decisive, irrevocable step towards integration and unity. That is what he would say, whatever the agreement.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, far more perceptively, that it was game, set and match and that he recommends the treaty for ever closer union, and he is a very skilled negotiator. I was also pleased that, in the debates on 18 and 19 December 1990, following an intervention from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), he could say that he would have sympathy for a "looser association" or "a commonwealth". That is in the record.
The right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) also made a speech on 18 December. He stumbled on the truth. Initially he described the treaty as "historic". Then he complained about the opt-outs that have been negotiated because we were standing still. Having changed his mind six or seven times on the business, standing still is not a bad idea or one could feel fairly giddy.
So nearly everybody is apparently pleased with the Maastricht agreement. It is a great victory--the press tell us so. Everybody tells me that it is a great victory. The question is, is it a great victory like Dunkirk, or is it a damage limitation exercise? So many in the party have said to me, "Don't worry about this, the EC will disintegrate, it will collapse. It is like those plants that grow up so tall, but, in the autumn, collapse under their own weight." I do not believe that that is the official policy, but, with the new open government, we shall soon see.
The Bill guarantees ever closer union. What it does not guarantee is our ability to enlarge the Community, which is what we need most. I well remember the referendum on staying in the EC. Apparently a referendum on going into the EC would not have been acceptable, but one on staying in the EC was. I remember the then chairman of the British Leyland motor corporation, Lord Stokes, saying that a much larger market would be extremely useful. He said that he would be able to sell his cars to the 300 million people of Europe. My word, he was going to sell some cars--the Austin, the Morris, the Riley, the MG and the Wolseley. We all remember the spirited campaign of the Beaverbrook newspapers.
The whole thing grew until it came to the Single European Act 1986. I have been here for five years, and colleague after colleague has said to me, "If ever I had to use my own judgment, that is the Act against which I should have voted." The only time I saw Mrs. Thatcher discomfited by questioning was when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asked at one Prime Minister's Question Time whether she was proud that she had forced through the Single European Act. It would have been so easy for her to say yes, but she did not.
On Friday, Mrs. Thatcher made a marvellous speech in the Hague. I would advise anyone to take careful note of her comparison between current developments in Europe and the Habsburg empire. It was so bureaucratic that, by the end of its life, one person in four worked for the Government. No doubt similar rules applied in the federal system of the USSR.
What is the cost effect of the increasing bureaucracy of the EC? How is that effecting our ability to increase our share of world trade? What effect is it having on the EC share of world trade? I hope that we will get the answers by tomorrow night.