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Mr. Milligan : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving the House a full account of the meeting. Could he also give us a full account of the meeting between his right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition and President Mitterrand who publicly expressed his concern about why the Labour party was not supporting the treaty?
Dr. Cunningham : The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I am not sure how he knows what Francois Mitterrand said to my right hon. and learned Friend. He repeatedly peddles that myth and I am sorry that I showed him the courtesy of giving way to him.
One of the lessons that we in Britain should have learned by now about developments in the Community is that to stand back, to remain apart and to join late inevitably leads to disadvantages for our country. We lose influence and we play no part in shaping events or institutions.
The record shows that Britain eventually signs up, but the Community has moved on. Britain is chasing the game and usually losing as a result. The Government have repeated this basic error again over the social chapter and the Maastricht process in general.
The political stance of the Conservative Government has everything to do with Conservative party politics and nothing to do with Britain's best interests or the well-being of the British people. Indeed, it is a betrayal of the British people.
Mr. Budgen : As the right hon. Gentleman knows, many Conservative Members wish to dissociate themselves from the allegation that the Labour party attacked the Bill. It is obvious that, throughout the proceedings, Opposition Front-Bench Members have given the most full-hearted support to the Government. All who support the Maastricht treaty should understand that they have, in a most courageous way, abandoned the traditional role of opposition and have given the Government the most slavish support that has ever been seen.
Dr. Cunningham : That was a wonderful piece of cheek, but there was not a word of truth in it. The truth is that we have tried over many weeks and in many ways to change and amend the Bill. We have had considerable success, as is set out in this schedule, which I am showing the hon. Gentleman. As he is some distance away from me, I have coloured it so that he can see the amendments that have been made to the Bill as a result of the debates and the pressure from those on the Opposition Front Bench. There is a graphic illustration of exactly how wrong the hon. Gentleman is in his assertion.
Column 399The Labour party has ensured that the Maastricht treaty has been properly and thoroughly debated, and largely at a sensible time of the day. We have not been involved in time wasting, filibustering or obstructionism. Our objectives were to try to get for Britain the social chapter of the treaty, reverse the opt out, obtain improvements to the Bill, in line with party policy objectives, that would not render the treaty unratifiable, which was never our policy, and ensure that a complex and hugely important treaty was given the proper and detailed scrutiny that it merited.
We have secured a vote on the social chapter, after Royal Assent but before ratification. We gained a valuable legal change, which, it is believed, may yet allow British workers to use the European Court of Justice to benefit from the social chapter. We defeated the Government's attempt to keep the new European Committee of the Regions as yet another home for their business and political friends. We passed amendments on the accountability of the Bank of England, on co-ordination of economic policies and ECOFIN, on requiring comparative assessment of the United Kingdom's economic performance and on convergence and the assessment of Government deficits. I do not exaggerate the importance of those gains--[ Hon. Members :-- "Oh!"] Well, they are a long way in advance of any gains that anyone else has made as a result of this long, drawn-out process. Given that those amendments were won in spite of the Government's twists and manoeuvres and the unpredictable performance of Ministers, and their various amendments, and that the House will now have the clear opportunity to vote on the issue of the social chapter, it would be obtuse of Opposition Members to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. If we defeated the Bill, the people of Britain and Europe as a whole would be denied the treaty and the social chapter.
I remind the House that every democratic socialist party in the Community, in or out of office, wishes to see the Maastricht treaty ratified. Every democratic socialist party in the applicant countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria wishes to see the treaty approved and has agreed to accept it as part of its application to join the Community. The citizens of all those 15 countries will enjoy the whole of the treaty. The result of the Danish referendum on Tuesday, which was warmly welcomed by the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, was organised and planned by the social democratic Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and his colleagues. A majority yes vote in Denmark would have been inconceivable if the social chapter had been excluded from the treaty for Denmark.
Mr. Marlow : The right hon. Gentleman is referring to the vote in Denmark. I understand that Her Majesty's Opposition are in favour of having a referendum on the trivia of proportional representation. Why are they not in favour of having a referendum on the immensity of European union?
Dr. Cunningham : We debated that at length in the House, but if the hon. Gentleman wants me to summarise the position, I shall do so again. We also debated that at length as a matter of policy at our annual party conference and the proposition that we should support a referendum was overwhelmingly rejected, so our party policy, like that of the Government, was that we should proceed on the
Column 400parliamentary process of ratification. What is more--I remind the hon. Gentleman for what it is worth, although I do not suppose that he will take much notice--the British people had a referendum, thanks to a Labour Government in 1976, on the issue of membership of the Community. We know what the outcome was.
In Britain alone, the social chapter will not apply.
Several hon. Members rose--
In Britain alone, the social chapter will not apply, and that is why we cannot support the Bill. That is why, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the shadow Cabinet, I urge Labour Members to abstain in the vote. [Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary would not be smiling if I had urged them to vote against Third Reading. Some of our critics, among the Liberal Democrats as well as among those on the Conservative Benches, have argued that our position on the social chapter is a tactic, a device and that our decision to recommend abstention is aimed at exposing the deep, even vicious, divisions in the Conservative party. I am flattered to think that there are some who believe that we can bring Bill and Edwina together or that we can bring the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) back into the fold of the Prime Minister. I suspect that he has already had his "Dear John" letter from her. I do not think that there is anything that we can do, or would want to do, to overshadow those divisions.
As The Guardian put it rather indelicately, following the Foreign Secretary's speech on 5 May :
"Over the past six months, Her Majesty's Government has adopted more positions than are set out in the Kama Sutra. No wonder Mr. Hurd looked exhausted when he sat down."
The Financial Times described his performance as "an ignominious climbdown". We have no reason to apologise to the Government. We have been consistent throughout this long process. All the inconsistencies have come from those sitting on the Treasury Bench.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Kama Sutra is a great deal more interesting than Labour party policy documents. Given his full list of expressions of support for the treaty, would it not be sensible for him to support the Third Reading? He has also claimed credit for what was new clause 74, which concerned the principle of the social protocol, and a vote on that can come only when the Bill has become an Act. He should speed it on its way with his full support.
Dr. Cunningham : The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening. Perhaps I can remind him briefly of what I have said. Were those Government manoeuvres over many months, and was our response to them, merely a tactic? Are maternity benefits, equality for women and ethnic minority communities, maximum working hours regulations, annual holiday entitlements, rights for 3 million unemployed people, health and safety at work, protection of children and adults from employment exploitation and improved social and professional integration for people with disabilities all a tactic, or are they matters of principle and importance, which are being denied to the people of this country by the Government's pig-headed obstinacy on the matter of the social chapter?
I remind the Government of the point made in an intervention by one of my hon. Friends, that they promoted advertisements in Germany to try to persuade
Column 401German employers to contact the British consul in Du"sseldorf to find out how they could invest in Britain. The advertisements proclaimed that wages were lower in Britain, and that employment protection and social charges were significantly lower than in Germany. Is that the kind of image that the hon. Gentleman thinks should be portrayed abroad? Do the Government want us to endorse a sweatshop economy? There is no way in which we would endorse that kind of approach.
Before anyone says that the problems in the British economy were caused by the trade unions or by working people, I draw attention to the speech by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, whom I am glad to see in this place, as reported in The Daily Telegraph editorial yesterday. It stated :
"In a speech this week to the Tory Reform Group, Mr. Dorrell, one of the ablest young Ministers in the Government, widely tipped for Cabinet office, produced a sharp analysis of the 1980s boom, attributing it to the monetary indiscipline of the late Thatcher years. He described it as built on sand'".
That is his view of the economy that his right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Prime Minister were responsible for constructing. It was "built on sand", but the Government have the gall to tell us that to give protection to British people employed in the British economy is a threat to our country.
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney) : My right hon. Friend referred to matters of principle and consistency when speaking about the case, as he sees it, against a referendum. In the light of what happened yesterday, we are entitled to an explanation. After all, did not my right hon. Friend vote for a referendum in 1975 following which there was a referendum on accession to the Rome treaty? Did he not and did not my right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the party move a motion for a referendum on Welsh and Scottish devolution in February 1977, outlining the issue as being a matter of great constitutional importance on which the people had not had a chance to express their views?
How can he reconcile the position that he took in the debate in April, in which he not only advocated opposition to a referendum but voted against one, with his obvious acceptance yesterday of the case for a referendum on a matter of far less importance, proportional representation? Where is the consistency, where is the principle and where is the democratic accountability in all that?
Dr. Cunningham : I answered that question when we debate the referendum and I am happy to answer it again. We had a referendum about membership of the Community. My right hon. Friend knows that, and he was a member of the Cabinet at the time. He was on the losing side in that argument. He has never accepted the decision of the British people in that referendum, and there is no evidence to suggest that if there were another one he would accept the decision this time. The decision has been taken.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that if during the period of a Labour Government there was a desire to test the will of the British people about a change in the system of electing Members of Parliament, the matter should be put to the people to see whether they wanted to change from first past the post to
Column 402any other system. That would be a new and fundamental proposition, and that is why my right hon. and learned Friend proposed it. I was speaking about the social chapter. It is to the credit of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) that he has said that it was an error to opt out of the social chapter. Of course the President of the Board of Trade takes the same view. In an article entitled "Time to get off the sidelines", in The Times in 1989, he said :
"Our absence can only permit the self-interest of other nations. We paid a heavy price when others designed the CAP. It would be unforgivable to repeat that mistake in industrial and financial policies. The same argument applies to the social charter." There we have it from the President of the Board of Trade, with all his candour. However, in his Budget statement on 16 March the Chancellor of the Exchequer said :
"this Government will never sign the social chapter."--[ Official Report, 16 March 1993 ; Vol. 221, c. 170.]
With which of his Cabinet colleagues does the Foreign Secretary agree? Does he agree with the President of the Board of Trade or with the Chancellor? Will he take this opportunity to endorse one or other of those statements? Does he back the Chancellor, and will he repeat the statement that the Government will never endorse the social chapter?
Mr. Hurd : The right hon. Gentleman quoted what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said in 1989. The situation has changed since then. I hold to the position that all of us on the Government Front Bench have consistently held for a long time.
Dr. Cunningham : That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The House is entitled to know whether the Foreign Secretary supports, or will repeat, the statement by the Chancellor that the Government will never endorse the social chapter. Will the Foreign Secretary repeat that commitment? The right hon. Gentleman has ducked it. It is quite obvious that he is not willing to endorse the Chancellor's statement.
During the long process of ratification, one matter that has clearly emerged in this country, as in others, is that there are deep public concerns about the European Community, about recession and the Community's failure to act in the face of 17 million unemployed. There is dissatisfaction about the lack of clarity and openness in the conduct of Community business.
People want more from the Community than just a business market. They want more democratic accountability and more policies for people. Europe is in danger of achieving the worst of all worlds, of being over-intrusive, on the one hand, while being unable or unwilling to act effectively and urgently, on the other. Sadly, the British presidency was an all-too- obvious example of the latter. Europe currently falls far short of the ambitious goals of article 2 of the treaty. That is why the Community must continue to change and expand. We should work positively for the admission of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria to an expanded Community. Europe needs a strategy for growth and employment. The Community can make a unique contribution to extending equality rights for women and for all members of ethnic communities. On environmental protection, the Community can be much more powerful than the sum of its separate member states.
Column 403The Bill guarantees none of those things and does not merit our support. The absence of the social chapter guarantees that. The Home Secretary said that he would search for consensus on development in the Community. It was an odd way to begin to search for consensus by deliberately deciding that Britain, alone in the Community, should opt out of the social chapter.
The Government do not deserve our support tonight. Their tawdry conduct of this business and their abuse of the House have, in some instances, demeaned the House of Commons. Above all, their miserable, negative, conservative view of Europe is one that we cannot share and will not endorse. That is why we will be staying out of the Lobby tonight.
Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup) : Today's debate is vital, which is why it will be watched closely by the leaders of the other member states of the Community, their parliamentarians, their business men and their professions. The United States and other countries will also be watching this debate.
The other countries have had a year during which they did not know what Britain would do about future developments in the Community. That has undermined their confidence, their preparedness to invest and their willingness to do business with us. Tonight is the time to settle the issue. That is why those countries will be watching and listening--
As a Back Bencher, I join those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have paid tribute to the work of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State during the year that the Maastricht discussions have been taking place in this House. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his consistency in what has been one of the most difficult years for any British Prime Minister since the second world war. I applaud the elegance and fluency of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the tireless patience--which most of us could not begin to emulate--of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. We should express our gratitude to them for what they have done, because it has been invaluable.
However, I hope that my right hon. Friends in return will spare a moment's thought for those of us who, in supporting their work, have refrained from intervening in the discussions and thereby taking up Government time. That attitude has not only helped to prevent our debates on Maastricht from being prolonged, but has prevented the disruption of the Government's other business that otherwise would have occurred. I hope that that will be acknowledged.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we who had for so long supported the Community and its continuing development are now out of date. He said the time for Community ideals was over and that nation states would be the answer to everything. I am afraid that I
Column 404regard my right hon. Friend as the one who is out of date. Basically, he is going back to the Hague conference and saying that everything can be done through co-operation.
The truth is that in the years after that conference the countries of Europe that had been wrecked--where people were living in holes in the ground--found that they could not get the action needed simply by saying, "We will co-operate." That is still true today and it is why the treaties of Paris and Rome were created. Those treaties require unanimity on certain matters, but majority voting on others. It is the provision for majority voting across a large area that enables action to be taken. It is essential that the Community takes the action described by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), both in dealing with this economically difficult time and in other areas.
Let us consider the actions of the Community over the six years from 1986 to 1992. It created the single market. I willingly join my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in paying the greatest possible tribute to the intellectual capacity of our leader at the time. It is not a characteristic that I had noticed before, but I accept it. By contrast, Britain has spent six years discussing whether there should be a fast rail link to meet the channel tunnel, and we are still discussing whether there should be and, if so, where it should be.
That is the difference between what has been happening in the Community-- and it has been so since 1950--and what has been and is happening in this country. As President Mitterrand so charmingly put it, we are far behind our colleagues in the European Community. That is why I am so sorry that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary puts such emphasis on the word "co- operation". It needs more than co-operation if we are to get decisions in the Community. All the other Community countries and their Governments realise that and they have always accepted it. The people--not just the Governments and the politicians--of all those other countries have become very suspicious of us because we continue to say, "We will co-operate, but we must not allow further development in the Community. We must extend the Community and become wider and wider, but must say nothing about becoming deeper and deeper."
Those people then say, "Ah, Britain wants to bring in other countries so that they can help it to break the fundamental nature of the Community." That is the heavy suspicion under which Britain suffers at the moment, and that must be put right. That is why I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to concentrate on the other aspects of the Community described in the treaty. I wish that the Opposition would vote for the treaty tonight. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and one or two other Ministers are out of date in harking back to what the Labour party did in 1950 when it was in power and the Community was born, what it did in 1961, and so on. That is history, and historians will deal with it. What is important is that at last the Labour party and the trade union movement have officially accepted our membership of the Community. That is basic to our country's welfare and our position in the Community.
I understand why the Opposition are not supporting the Bill tonight. They want to expose the grievous breaches in the ranks of the Conservative party. It is a political reason and I do not blame them for that. However, I believe that I am right in saying that the Labour party is
Column 405the only social democratic or labour party in the Community that has not voted in support of the Maastricht treaty.
Dr. John Cunningham : I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being generous to my party. He has certainly been more objective than his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. However, the truth is that the socialist and social democratic parties in the Community have voted for the whole of the treaty. We have not been given the opportunity to do that.
Sir Edward Heath : The right hon. Gentleman has made his point about the social chapter and he knows full well that there will be another debate on it after the Bill is passed. Therefore, surely he should say, "We have made our point, the House can now reach a decision and we intend to show that, like other social democratic and labour opposition parties in the Community, we will support the Maastricht treaty." I wish the right hon. Gentleman had said that.
Sir Edward Heath : But I said that it was every social and labour opposition party. That is going back to the attitude of the Labour party in 1950 which said, "If we do this, it will be an entirely Conservative Community." That was nonsense, and it was rapidly proved to be nonsense.
In the Community today we have Conservative Governments--the Germans have had a Conservative Government for years and there are other Conservative Governments--and socialist Governments. How can my hon. Friend, who has contributed so much to the House over the years, make an intervention of that kind? I am sorry.
When it comes to the social chapter, I would ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Government to move with extreme caution. I do not accept the figures that have been given by the Government or, in particular, by the Secretary of State for Employment on the consequences of the social chapter, and nor do the majority of people in the Community. Further than that, they do not see how we can reconcile our demand that there should be a level playing field with our opting out of the majority of arrangements that affect that playing field. It is just not logically a consistent position.
Of course, I join the right hon. Member for Copeland in deploring the British consul's advertisement in Dusseldorf. It is deplorable. I understand that it was certainly not put in with the approval of the Secretary of
Column 406State for Employment or, I doubt, with the approval of the Foreign Office or the Government. But to advertise in Germany that we can provide sweated labour, that and, the quicker workers come here the better, is unworthy of this country. I hope, therefore, that that will be made clear.
We heard just now about Germany and its difficulties, but its difficulties are not because it created a high level of wages. We ourselves fought the election on high wages, high productivity and low cost, and that should be the objective of every economy. That is what the Germans achieved. What have their difficulties come from today? Not from what brought about their previous achievements but from the fact that they have taken responsibility for 18 million people with a standard of living on only one fifth of their own which they are determined to bring up as quickly as possible to that of western Germany. That is what has provided the problems for them. We can all agree--they agree themselves--that the Germans underestimated the problem. Those of us who have been across eastern Germany knew what the situation was, how appalling it was and what a major task it would be. Now they find that, because of that situation, 80 per cent. of all the investment in eastern Germany has to come from the Government because private enterprise is not prepared to try to put the situation right.
For taking responsibility for 18 million people, the Germans deserve credit, not to be laughed at. What have we done, what have other countries done, comparable with that? We have taken 4,000 refugees, I think, and they have taken 18 million people. Who is prepared to take over Poland and say, "We will look after you and put you right"? Who is prepared to take over Bulgaria and say, "We will look after you and put you right"? Nobody. That is why we must treat what the Germans have done with great respect. Therefore, I ask the Foreign Secretary to treat the question of the soarity and so on, the whole point of the Community is to do more and more together because in that way better results can be achieved. We should not spend all our time looking around for things on which we can say that we should have a special arrangement to contract out.
Let us look at the things that we can make a success of. We have heard them listed today--jobs and all the other things that are required. That is where the emphasis should be. As long as we are seen to be a country that is emphasising wider and wider and more and more responsibilities, not going deeper and deeper in order to cope with them, we are suspect.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : My right hon. Friend has made great play of the historical context in which the European Community has moved. Will he now take this opportunity, in what he has described as an historic debate, to repudiate that part of the White Paper that he presented to Parliament in 1970 which said that we would not give up the veto, that we would retain our essential sovereignty and that this country would never become part of a federation of provinces or countries? During the past few months he has repeatedly accused others of misleading. Will he be good enough to put the record straight by repudiating that White Paper?
Sir Edward Heath : I shall do absolutely nothing of the sort. What the hon. Gentleman has done is to distort what other people have done before him. I heard the hon. Gentleman on television, I think that it was two nights ago, saying that the French referendum really was lost, not won, by the Government.
Sir Edward Heath : I heard the hon. Gentleman. He said that if the French had another referendum they would lose it. Then he said that the referendum in--[ Hon. Members :-- "Denmark."]--yes, it was Denmark-- was bogus because the second result was different from the first one. That does not stand examination. The Foreign Secretary made a rather critical remark about Members such as the hon. Gentleman--my hon. Friends--who went across to Denmark and interfered. I wish that he would not be critical of them. [ Hon. Members :-- "What were you doing?" [I was invited by the Conservative party. I was invited by the former Prime Minister, so I went. The plain fact is--every day will confirm this--
Sir Edward Heath : Of course they helped us. They helped us enormously. The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the way in which he behaved was an enormous help to the yes campaign, and so was Lord Tebbit.
In conclusion, I want to deal with the economic side of things because I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reply to the debate. Here again we have a crucial point. I should like my right hon. Friend tonight to tell the House exactly what happened over the devaluation of sterling. All the Europeans know. All the banks know. They talk to us about it and tell us what really happened. I think that the Chancellor should tell the House, quite openly and frankly, the details of what happened in that ghastly period.
When offered a devaluation, working with other countries, it was refused, it was turned down. That may have been because just before that the Prime Minister had said that we would have the strongest currency in the Community and the best economy in the Community. I understand the Chancellor's embarrassment if he then felt that he could not accept the proposal. But all the rest know what really happened. Then, when it came to black Wednesday, we had no friends in the Community at all. That goes to the crux of the matter. If we are to be successful, we must have friends in this world today.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here quite long enough to know that interventions that have not been accepted by the hon. Member who has the Floor are not in order.
Sir Edward Heath : If we had had friends, we would not have been in the position in which we found ourselves. The French have not had a black Wednesday because they had friends who supported them. We have not got them. That is the plain fact.
The Government must make friends in the Community. Every time that we say, "Now we will turn this Community into what we want," we lose friends ; we do not make friends. The Government and the Foreign Secretary must realise that. Every time that we say that we will turn the Community into what we want, the others say, "We are not a colony of the British ; we are a Community. We want them to help us to create the Community that we want."
I beseech the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and members of the Government not to make commitments about the ERM. If I may say so, our friends in the Government have got enough troubles already with the commitments that they have made on which they are now having to back. As far as the country's financial arrangements are concerned, I have said before that Governments never used to commit themselves to a lowest or highest rate of taxation. They said, "We can use these as weapons in any given economic situation." That is the situation today in respect of the currency in Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that the single market is absolutely basic and that it was the Government's great achievement. Very well--but one cannot point to a single market in the world that has more than one currency. The United States has a single currency. There are enormous differences between the states. Who is to say that Arkansas is in the same situation as California or New York State?
If we do not have a single currency, the single market will be chipped at the edges, and then it will crack and disappear, because the other trading countries will say, "You're cheating--and if you're cheating on your currencies, then we must cheat as well." That will destroy the single market. That must be faced, for a single currency is logical and can be brought about perfectly well in a comparatively short time.
Every time that we say that we cannot do that--worst of all, that we cannot do it in the lifetime of this Parliament--the other member states ask, "Are you part of our Community or not?" Those are the facts of Community life with which we must deal. I support the Government's action. I am sorry that it has gone on so long. I wish them every success.
The reason for the Northern Ireland referendum was that we closed its Parliament, so there was no other way of learning the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland. There is no Parliament for Scotland or for Wales, so the referendum was a way of testing opinion. We do have a Parliament, which has already taken a decision.
If the House of Lords is urged to overthrow that decision, we shall have a major constitutional crisis. The House of Lords knows perfectly well that it has never taken any part in electoral arrangements or electoral law. If it is to be urged to do that now, that House will be going back nearly a century and will produce a constitutional crisis--and we can well do without that. I trust in the common sense of the House of Lords and that it will not have anything to do with motions to secure a referendum or anything like that. Having progressed the Bill quickly through the House of Lords, I hope that the Government will really put it into effect.
Column 409We are the last in the line, which is not the place that I like my country to be in. I doubt whether the House does either.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was, as ever, direct and consistent. He said that we need not more co-operation but more than co -operation--the capacity to make decisions--and that decisions could not be made simply on the basis of unanimity. I agree entirely. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks about honesty and openness in respect of black Wednesday were salutary and we look forward to hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's response. As the Foreign Secretary said, it has been a long process. Occasionally, it has been a wearisome process and certainly fraught at times. There have been moments of mystery, such as when the Attorney-General, like a high priest coming down from on high--but looking surprisingly normal, nevetheless--interpreted the holy writ of the law with unfathomable confidence. I thought that, as the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, the Foreign Secretary was perhaps a little less confident when he offered his legal interpretation. In fact, the Foreign Secretary looked downright embarrassed. Still, both succeeded equally admirably in being unfathomable.
Good speeches were made in all parts of the House. I may disagree with the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), but I neither dispute nor deprecate his passionate sincerity. Nor do I cavil at the forthright consistency of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), with whom I have been locking horns for 15 to 20 years. I have never believed that a good way of persuading those with whom one disagrees is to shout at them or abuse them. That is the last thing that will succeed. Why should I cast aspersions against the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore)? He has been saying the same thing for 20 years. That may mean that he is not learning very well, but he is certainly entitled to his views. I do not complain about the Euro-sceptics.
Sometimes, good things happen to one. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has temporarily disappeared. I do not complain even about him too much, except that I wish sometimes that he would moderate his decibel level, because he is rather wearying otherwise. I compliment also the Minister of State, who has also vanished temporarily, and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson)--both of whom were articulate and patient throughout a long Committee stage and both of whom, I believe, are privately well ahead of their respective parties in their views on the European Community. I will say something about the way in which it was done, if I may use that term. We should have had a timetable at the beginning, which would have made matters much more straightforward, easier and fairer. In fact, there was a timetable, because there were closures and suspensions of the 10 o'clock rule. Labour would not play. It was not prepared to facilitate the Bill's procedural advance, so we had to do so-- and we did. That was not always easy for