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Column 832candidates according to one set of boundaries rather than another, and why there are different rules for European elections--the registration will be different, allowing all kinds of "foreigners" to vote in European elections in this country--we shall be able to say that different arrangements will be made in future.
My second point, which relates wholly to this clutch of 18 articles plus a schedule, which the Minister did not have the time to go through in great detail, explains why I tabled an amendment to provide that the order should not be approved until the citizens of Gibraltar are represented in the European Parliament. I know that my amendment was not selected and I am not complaining about that. Far from it--I would never complain about the Chair. [Interruption.] I do not complain about the Chair and I would not do so. I introduced a Bill on this matter yesterday.
If hon. Members have read the orders, which run to at least 10,000 words, they will see that, by and large, all and sundry--citizens of the European Union--will be able to vote on 9 June. On one or two occasions, the Minister said that all citizens of the Union will be able to vote. However, that is not true. Citizens of the Union who live in south America, the West Indies or the Pacific, and are members of the French colonies, will be able to vote in the European elections. But citizens of the European Union who are members of the only mainland European colony belonging to this
country--Gibraltar--will not have a vote. That is not right, fair or democratic.
For years, we have shied away from handling this issue. But the House now has total responsibility for the 30,000 citizens of Gibraltar. That is not the electorate--it is the total population. We continue to deny those citizens a vote, yet they are citizens of the European Union under our legislation, and they are accepted as such by the European Parliament.
It is wrong that the boundaries that we are talking about were not drawn-- it could easily have been done--in such a way as to incorporate the 20,000 or so European Union citizens of Gibraltar who do not wish to be part of Spain and who will not be until it has been a democracy for 50 years or more. We could easily have given them a right to vote by absorbing them into one of the English constituencies. I accept completely what the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said. It is absolutely right that the cultural and geographical identity of people matters to the European Parliament.
We have a responsibility to the citizens of Gibraltar. If they live in this country on a semi-permanent basis, and if they were here last October, they will have a vote, as will everyone else who is a citizen of the European Union. Peers of the realm who live elsewhere will also have a vote under these and previous regulations, whether or not they are in this country. It is wrong that citizens of France--it is remarkable that the French will be the cause of this whole edifice collapsing if we do not submit to their extra demands--who are living in the colonies in south America, the West Indies, and the Pacific will have a vote in the European elections on 9 June.
We cannot shirk our responsibility to the citizens of Gibraltar. We are denying them that responsibility, and it is time that the House addressed the matter.
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Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : I shall say three brief things about the boundaries. Before doing so, I must declare a personal interest. I have put my name forward to be considered as a candidate to stand for the Conservative party in the new constituency of South Essex. It is possible that I may not be selected, for all sorts of reasons. However, if I am selected, it may at least give the people of that lovely part of the world the opportunity of having the referendum that they never had on the Maastricht treaty because of the shameful way in which Labour Members were not willing to allow the people to have their say on that vital issue.
The first issue that I want to put to the Minister is : does this matter? My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) rightly said that only 31 per cent. of the people bothered to vote, so why are we bothering with new things at all? Logically, we would ask why on earth, because the Germans are getting more seats and East Germany is being added to the Union, Britain should get more seats as well. It is very difficult to explain why we should have extra seats at all.
Another factor that we should bear in mind is that the great majority of people are not only not interested, but are hostile to the whole business. If hon. Members have looked at The European, they may have noticed that 53 per cent.--the highest figure ever--of all the people of Britain are now totally and completely opposed to the whole business of the EC ; they do not think that it is a good idea. In that case, why should we have new boundaries?
There is a special interest in south Essex. The people are concerned that while the Government wanted to give aid to south Essex because of its unemployment, unfortunately that was stopped by two Commissioners. Mr. Van Miert and Mr. Millan. The Government requested assisted area status and objective 2 status for south Essex. That was turned down by the two Commissioners simply because we sliced 2 per cent. from the application.
Can the Minister give any more assurance that the orders will come into effect? Has he been in touch with the French Government? It is important that people in, for example, Southend-on-Sea should know where they are going. If the new regulations are passed, they will be part of a new seat. However, if the regulations do not come into effect, they will belong to another seat. As Southend-on-Sea had the lowest recorded percentage voting of any constituency in England at the last European elections, it is important to explain to people whether all this is likely to happen.
People are getting more concerned about the way in which the French Government are disrupting so many worthwhile things for silly reasons. The GATT negotiations were held up for a long time simply because the French wanted even more cash for agriculture--and, of course, they got it. When we are spending £250 million a week on dumping and destroying food, it is silly that we agreed to give more money to the French for agriculture.
Mr. Enright : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the GATT negotiations failed in the end because Caribbean bananas were not protected?
Sir Teddy Taylor : It would not be in order for me to go into that, but I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The
Column 834filthy protectionism of the common agricultural policy forces up the price of food by £28 a week for the average family in Britain.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I must insist that we get back to the boundaries. I have insisted on that repeatedly this afternoon and I thought that hon. Members had got the message.
Sir Teddy Taylor : You are absolutely right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish that hon. Members would not raise such irrelevant points. The hon. Gentleman's argument is rubbish. It is bad for the third world and bad for the people of Europe. I shall be glad to give the hon. Gentleman an answer outside the House, but I cannot give it here. I ask the Minister to tell us what we will have to do on these new boundaries. I understand that the European Parliament has many buildings. It built a great building in Brussels at enormous cost, and it wants a new building in Strasbourg. It is now paying rentals of £24 million a year. Frankly, if we want these new constituencies, including South Essex, it seems that we will have to tell the French that they have lots of money to build lots of new buildings for this ridiculous Parliament. In voting for the new boundaries, we will have to decide what we want to do. Will we simply chuck out these extra six constituencies and tell the French that we will not agree to silly extra expenditure, or will we cave in, as we have done so often?
Hon. Members should bear in mind the cost of caving in to French blackmail. We did it over the GATT negotiations at great expense to the people of this country and Europe, and at great damage to the third world. It seems that if we agree to the new constituencies, we will do it only by having additional buildings which are an utter waste. Honestly, I think that our constituents are distressed about the waste, the fraud and the mismanagement of the EC.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Of course, the buildings are all related to these orders, which provide that MEPs can be elected in the first place. It is interesting to note that if agreement cannot be reached, as is the position at present, in what is called the European Union over where the Parliament will sit--one would have thought that agreement could easily be reached on that matter--what on earth is the possibility of reaching agreement on much more substantial matters? We are supposed to believe that the European Union is one--that it is all unanimous and the rest of it. There does not seem to be much evidence of that, even on the question of where MEPs will meet.
Sir Teddy Taylor : How right you were, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say that I could not go into this matter, because it is out of order. On the other hand, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the basic policies he will see that the flaw of the EC is that it cannot solve problems. All the new Members of the European Parliament whom we are sending over should bear it in mind that they are going to something where problems cannot be solved. An ideal example is the common agricultural policy, where reform after reform is talked about, but nothing happens.
My final point is that expenditure is at an all-time high, mountains are at an all-time high, and the gap between consumer prices and world prices is the highest ever recorded. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said to me that a sum of £28 a week extra per family--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is testing my patience now. I must insist that he, and hon. Members who make interventions, should stay within the terms of the debate on the boundaries.
Sir Teddy Taylor : How right you are, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been trying hard to stick to the regulations. Unfortunately, hon. Members can ask a direct question and if one does not answer, it gives the impression that one is ignoring them. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) attends European debates with great regularity, and I will be only too glad to speak to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) to clarify the matters.
My final point is important. Bearing in mind the fact that so few people bother to vote, is there any possibility that, before the regulations come into effect, a little pamphlet can be distributed which says exactly what the additional MEPs--and the existing ones--actually can do? In the progress of democracy, people can sometimes gain the impression that the European Parliament can do things which it cannot. Many people who study it carefully take the view that if it closed down tomorrow, nobody would notice apart from the taxi drivers in Strasbourg.
People ask whether anything can be done by the European Parliament about the export of live cattle--the answer is no. They ask whether the flood of legislation can be stopped--of course not, as it goes through by majority vote in the European Council.
Do we need the order at all? Why should we have extra seats just because Germany is getting more? Are we to cave in to French blackmail again, and what will that cost us? We are to send even more people to Strasbourg, Brussels or anywhere else, and the people of Britain are becoming more worried, concerned and perplexed about the EC. [Interruption.] That is particularly the case in places such as the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), where they take a special interest in public affairs. They want to know what is going to happen, and whether it would make any difference if there was not a European Parliament at all.
Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield) : I am delighted once again to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) in a debate on European matters. I wish him well in his efforts to become a candidate for the forthcoming European elections, and I am looking forward to seeing a copy of the election manifesto on which he will fight those elections. I am also looking forward to seeing how it will be possible for the Conservative party to have a manifesto that both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) will be comfortable with. No doubt that is a matter for the Conservative party.
The great advantage of having a fixed date for the European elections of 9 June--a date well known for a considerable time--should be certainty for the electorate. The electors should know not only the date of the election but the geographical boundary of the constituency in which they live. They should also know the candidates from whom they can choose and the number of MEPs who will represent the United Kingdom. However, even if the House agrees the order, none of those issues will be resolved.
There is a temptation--I regret that the hon. Member for Southend, East succumbed to it--to blame the French, and
Column 836the French Government, for the present uncertainty. That assertion needs to be examined a little more closely, because the British Government are not without blame in the matter.
The issues affecting the forthcoming elections should have been resolved at the Edinburgh summit during the British presidency in December 1992. It was decided at that summit that Germany would have an extra 18 seats and that France, Italy and the United Kingdom would each have an extra six seats. In addition, however, the Government went along with the French Government's demand that Strasbourg should be recognised as a meeting place for the European Parliament in perpetuity. The British Government agreed to that demand, and that has caused the present difficulties and uncertainties.
The Prime Minister came back from the Edinburgh summit and told the House that he was entirely happy with the negotiations and with the results of the summit. In so doing, he overlooked two crucial aspects of what was decided there. He overlooked the fact that the European Parliament had consistently voted for Brussels as a meeting place. The Parliament was often led by Conservative MEPs on the issue, and they had argued strongly that Brussels should be the single meeting place for the Parliament.
Clearly, there are MEPs who support Strasbourg as a meeting place, but the majority do not ; they want to meet in a single city. In so doing, the majority have accepted that there should be a new European Parliament building in Brussels. That building now operates, but on a limited basis. During 1994, it is likely that only eight half-day meetings of the full European Parliament in Brussels. The Prime Minister also overlooked the fact that the existing chamber in Strasbourg is simply not large enough to accommodate the extra MEPs who will be elected. Those extra MEPs will come as a result not so much of the Edinburgh agreement as of the enlargement which is in prospect. That idea has been strongly supported by the Government. The Government have supported the idea of Strasbourg as a permanent meeting place for the European Parliament. The proposals for the boundary changes are affected by the decisions of the French national assembly and the French Government to make life difficult for the other member states in terms of ratifying the proposals. It is right that we should ask what the Government's position is.
I asked the Minister earlier about this matter, and I appreciate his difficulties. He is a Home Office Minister, rather than a Foreign Office Minister, and I quite understand that he is reluctant to stray too far from his departmental portfolio. The Government agreed that the European Parliament should continue to meet in Strasbourg, but we heard nothing from the Minister as to where the money should come from to make that commitment a reality.
I am sure that every Conservative Member would say that the uncertainty about the present boundaries is the responsibility of the British Government, and they should sort out which boundaries will be in place by 9 June. The reality is that the British Government have gone along with the arrangement of having Strasbourg recognised as a seat of the European Parliament, and they have done so without recognising that there will be a cost.
Conservative Members have consistently criticised the European Parliament for having a number of buildings
Column 837from which to operate, and they are right to do so. That is not of the making of the European Parliament, which would be delighted to hold meetings in the new building in Brussels. The truth is that the British Government--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. This is all very interesting, but can we hear something about the boundaries?
Mr. Hoon : I will certainly stay in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Even if we pass the proposals tonight, the British electorate will not know in which constituencies they will vote on 9 June. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) gave an illustration by referring to his European constituency. If I may, I will give a similar example in my area. The European constituency of Derbyshire and Ashfield will be divided into three different sections if we pass the order. A series of new constituencies will be created across the east midlands, and the electorate will expect to know who the candidates are. The political parties are selecting the candidates in preparation for the elections. There will be an extra constituency in the east midlands as a result of the order. At some stage, the political parties will have to select new candidates for the six extra seats across the United Kingdom. That is under way. The political parties' processes for choosing candidates are an important part of our democratic process.
The political parties undertake considerable organisation in selecting candidates. I assume that is the case for the Conservative party. I know that it is for the Labour party. I assume that the same is true for the Liberal Democrats and other parties represented in the House. It will cause astonishing confusion among the electorate if the parties undertake the selection process only to find a few weeks before 9 June that, as a result of the difficulties with the French Government's attitude to the elections, we have to revert to the existing arrangement and the new boundaries cannot be put in place. The Government will seek to blame that on the French. It is important that the record is set straight about the French Government. The British Government not only went along with the agreement at the time of the Edinburgh summit but positively endorsed the arrangement and urged it on other member states of the European Community. That is a relevant matter, with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that other issues relating to the constituencies are of greater concern to right hon. and hon. Members. However, who is to pay for any new building for the European Parliament is a matter that the Government cannot avoid.
I appreciate the Minister's difficulty. He represents the Home Office, which has no specific responsibility for Europe. Nevertheless, the matter affects the electorate and the House should take note of it.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : I rise to sum up the debate for the Opposition. We welcome the orders, delayed as they are and besmirched as they are by the usual examples of Government incompetence. The Government failed to send them to the Scrutiny Committee in the proper manner and to allow the usual processes to take place ; that is par for the course these days.
I particularly welcome the order relating to Wales because it confers on Wales one additional seat, giving us
Column 838five altogether. That reflects the rise in the Welsh population in the past 10 years. Wales was under-represented under the previous distribution of seats. We had only four seats. We shall be slightly over-represented when we have five seats because we cannot have four and a half seats--it has to be one or the other.
As the Welsh population is continuing to grow rapidly, it is likely that the over-representation will be put right. In percentage terms, the Welsh population is increasing more rapidly than that of England. By the year 2001, when the next review will take place, we shall certainly fully occupy that seat--if I can put it that way--in terms of average size. In the past 10 years, Welsh Euro-constituencies were slightly larger on average than those in England. So we are moving from under representation to slight over -representation for a temporary period simply because Wales is regarded as indivisible for the purpose of Euro-elections. That is why we welcome the debate.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) : I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's argument. Obviously, the integrity of Wales is important to him ; otherwise, he would presumably be prepared to accept that part of England could have gone with one of the new seats. Will he deal with the fact that, because the orders for Wales and England are taken separately, it is not possible to apply the quota in the same way in different parts of the United Kingdom? Wales has been given a different quota to that for England, and because Cornwall has been included in England for this purpose we are being unfairly treated while Wales is being generously treated. Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on that inequality?
Mr. Morgan : Cornwall is a special case. The people of Cornwall are our Celtic cousins. Cornwall is the only non-Anglo-Saxon county in England. As a result, we feel a strong, almost uncle-nephew relationship with Cornwall. The Cornish are certainly not Welsh, but nor are they Anglo-Saxon English. We have a great deal of sympathy with Cornwall. However, we do not think that the ideas that have been floated tonight for a Cornwall and Gibraltar, West seat or some link between Cornwall and the tail end of a Welsh seat are practical. The hon. Gentleman must solve the problem within the confines of Cornwall being regarded as part of England, if not Anglo- Saxon England. It is not a problem with which I can deal.
Wales takes an interest in Europe that most of the Conservative Members who have spoken--in summing up the debate, one has to refer to them--have not been able to show. A definite anti-European theme came through in the speeches of most of the Back-Bench Conservatives who took part in the debate. It is difficult to sum up the debate without some reference to the points that they have made.
Their attitude is in complete contrast to the attitude that we in Wales have to Europe. We are anxious to promote the Wales in Europe theme, because it is important to us. We have built up links with other regions of Europe, including Catalonia, Rho ne-Alpes, Lombardy and Baden-Wu"rttemberg. They are our strong neighbours and they can teach us a lot about industry. Those are the areas with which we want to link up by having the extra seat in the European Parliament. We have some sympathy with the occasional point that is made by the anti-Europe Conservative Members. There is an excessive proliferation of European bodies. We have the European Parliament, the new Committee of the
Column 839Regions and the Economic and Social Committee. In the end, something will have to be done to sort out that excessive proliferation.
We welcome the recognition of the fact that the population of Wales is growing. The additional population is not primarily in industrial south Wales, which people think of as the most typically Welsh area. It is in the two counties of Clwyd and Dyfed which are growing more rapidly as a result of the life style there and retirement migration. That is why the additional seat is the Mid and West Wales seat. It has been taken from the four previous seats.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) compared it to parts of Cornwall. The new Welsh constituency has a population of only 401, 000. However, it is an extensive seat because the population is much more sparse than in Cornwall. The constituency will stretch from south of Milford Haven to the Llanrwst area, within about 20 miles of the north Wales coast. It will include two whole counties plus one additional sparsely populated area in the county of Gwynedd. It is an awkward constituency, but we look forward to fighting and winning it, to give us five out of five seats, when the new boundaries are accepted.
The third order deals with the registration of overseas voters. In the 1992 election, overseas voters had their first opportunity to participate in Westminster elections. The Conservatives in Wales have taken the principle much further. They do not merely allow overseas voters to participate in Welsh elections ; they encourage them to become chairmen of our quangos. We have David Rowe-Beddoe, the chairman of Conservatives Abroad
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I do not want to hear anything whatever about quangos. I want to hear something about the boundaries of the European parliamentary constituencies.
Mr. Morgan : We are dealing with three orders. The third order relates not to boundaries but to the registration of overseas voters, to enable them to vote in the European parliamentary elections for United Kingdom constituencies. That is why the position of Mr. David Rowe-Beddoe, as the chairman of Conservatives Abroad in Monte Carlo, is relevant.
For the first time, the European Parliament, with the new constituency boundaries, will be able to remedy part of the democratic deficit. European Members of Parliament will have a voice in choosing the chairman of the European Commission--which is a Euro-quango, in a way. I see a parallel which I want to put to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are remedying the democratic deficit in the giant Euro-quango in the same way as we would like to remedy the democratic deficit with respect to the proliferation of quangos in Wales.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. That is all very interesting, but let us now talk about the boundaries of the European parliamentary constituencies.
Mr. Morgan : We have heard a great deal about how the bigger European Parliament needs to be incorporated in a bigger building at a cost of £200 million. The extra European Members of Parliament--we shall have one in Wales--would not have anywhere to sit if they could not go to the building in Strasbourg. The Labour party accepts
Column 840that, if there is to be a bigger Parliament, the logical consequence must be followed right through. That is unlike the attitude that has been displayed by the Conservatives. They are going to take part in the election, but one is never sure whether they are enthusiastic about it. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) said that we do not want the additional six seats. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) said that he did not give a damn whether it was 81 or 87. The Labour party thinks it important to have the additional six seats.
I can well imagine that, if the Germans had said that they wanted all the additional seats in the European Parliament, the Conservatives would have complained about the Germans grabbing all the sun beds and European seats. That would have been seen as not right, as well.
The Labour party does not share that hypocritical attitude. Either the Conservatives want to be part of Europe, in which case they should take part in all the boundary changes and the debate tonight in an enthusiastic way--as we are doing--or they do not. They are completely hypocritical about it. We read in The Guardian only last Saturday of the extraordinary visit to the new European Parliament building by members of the Commons- Lords hockey team. The article said :
"Some MPs turned up with young relatives or assistants including a tall blonde in her mid-twenties who was clad in jodphurs"--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. We have had quite sufficient about that. Let us get back to the European boundaries.
Mr. Morgan : It was a terribly brief point about being clad in jodphurs, riding boots and hacking jacket.
I have heard about riding roughshod over Europe, but that is ridiculous. Hon. Members who took part in that visit to the European Parliament took public money, yet all they do tonight is criticise its existence. Either they--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is trying my patience. Please get back to the European boundaries.
Mr. Cash : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have observed that hon. Members on the Front Benches have spoken at incredible length and that you have had to reprimand them--certainly the Opposition-- for going away from the subject matter. Do you not believe that it would have been far better to allow some Back Benchers to get into the debate?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I have no control over the length of speeches, but I am perfectly able to control the debate.
Mr. Morgan : The Labour party believes that the additional six seats are important because the European Parliament elections will be important. We regard it as important to fight the elections on the new boundaries with the minimum of delay, in spite of the delay that was caused by the Government's incompetence. We regard the debate tonight as important to approve the orders. We cannot thus far work out whether the Government will fight the whole campaign on "back to basics" while the European Peoples party will fight it on the basis of some other manifesto--"Vorsprung durch technik". Perhaps the Government will try to merge the two slogans into "Vorsprung durch back to basics".
We do not know whether the Government want to be part of Europe and whether their Back Benchers will be
Column 841willing to co-operate with the EPP. They take the money from the EPP but do not want to participate with it in its manifesto. The Labour party has an agreement in fighting the 87 seats. Certainly in terms of Wales, we will win all five of the seats.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I am sorry that some of my hon. Friends have not been able to speak, as I would have liked to hear them.
I will use the few minutes that are left to me to comment on some of the points that have been raised. I shall start with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen). I was grateful for his tribute to the members of the two boundary committees. They did an excellent job. They did it--as he implied slightly less generously to the Government--in a considerably shorter time than they and we would have liked, but they did it well and fairly.
In organising the new seats, we have taken about the same time as the Labour Government took in 1978. Although I said that earlier, it is worth repeating for the record. Exactly the same pressures were on us as were on them. The timetable for the constituency changes and the problems that we are facing are nothing to do with any action in the compass of the British Government, but because France has yet to ratify. One hopes that it will.
The regulations about candidates and voters from EEC countries are complicated. The directive of December 1993 contained details that we were neither expecting nor looking for, so there was a great deal of new work to take on board. The hon. Gentleman wondered whether we would ever have a truncated view again. We certainly will not under the 1993 legislation, because that was one off, as careful reading of it will show.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) hoped that there would be no more reviews of European boundaries. He was talking about proportional representation. We shall certainly have one new review of Euro constituency boundaries. As soon as the parliamentary boundaries are completed there will have to be a new review of all the European seats. Full inquiries on that will be held in the normal way.
Mr. Allen : If the French do not ratify the proposals, which now appears likely, how late can the Minister leave it before he informs people that they must fight the European elections on the old boundaries, not the new?
Mr. Lloyd : I do not accept that the French are unlikely to ratify-- rather the contrary. That remains finally for them and not for me. I think that the final time comes some time in April ; otherwise, there would be--I use the term again--massive inconvenience for those fighting the elections here.
Mr. Jenkin : Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to repudiate the comments made by the hon. Member for Perry Barr, who said that we will not have an alien voting system inflicted on this country by the institutions of the European Community? I reiterate what my right hon. Friend said in a meeting last year :
"I do not see that uniformity means adopting a system of proportional representation, and I have yet to see a good case as to the merits of the different states adopting the same procedure." Will we continue to veto any proposals that do not match our culture in this country?
Mr. Lloyd : What my hon. Friend has just read out is certainly my view. We will of course engage in any discussions on this subject that come up in the Council of Ministers. But it would take a lot to convince me and my colleagues that any other form of election would be an improvement on first past the post.
Mr. Enright : Will the Minister give way?
Mr. Lloyd : I will not give way, because I have only about four minutes left and I want to make a couple of other points. If there is any time left, the hon. Gentleman shall have it.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North said that he was not looking to proportional representation for these elections. He was absolutely right. I hope that he will invest his thoughts in that piece of good sense when we come back to these questions later.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) was unable to make all of his points, as I would have been interested to hear them.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) talked about PR. He thought that, if there was proportional representation for this election, it would save time. It most certainly would not. We would have to decide on the system and who drew up the list. Would it be a United Kingdom list or a regional list? Or would it be one of the separate countries that make up the United Kingdom? There is a huge amount of discussion to be had there. It is not a missed chance at all.
The hon. Gentleman wanted a separate seat for Cornwall. Many other counties would like a conterminous seat--I know that Norfolk would--but the rule is that constituencies should have, as far as possible, equal numbers of electors.
The committees were able to take in special geographical considerations, but those do not apply to Cornwall. The problem with Cornwall having a seat of its own is that its population is too small. No brief was given to the committee. All the criteria that it should have taken into account were included in the legislation. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Highlands and Islands. That is a different matter, because the geographical considerations that do not apply to Cornwall apply in their case.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) also spoke about PR. I have mentioned that, so he will excuse me if I do not go over his remarks.
I have considerable sympathy with what the hon. Member for Perry Barr said about Gibraltar. I cannot deal with that matter in this debate. I am afraid that a decision was taken within the Community which was made part of the European Community Act on direct elections of 1976 and there is no way that we can change it without the agreement of all the other members of the Community. I know that my colleagues at the Foreign Office are extremely concerned about that matter, sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman said and certainly sympathise with the feelings of the citizens of Gibraltar. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) asked whether all this mattered. In the sense of whether it matters if there are 651 Members of this House rather than 640 or 655, no it does not. However, the change reflects rather more accurately than the previous arrangements the various sizes of electorates in European countries, and that is the logic and sense behind it.
Column 843My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East also asked whether I had been in touch with the French Government. I am flattered that he should think that I might help by doing so, but that matter lies with the Foreign Office and I am not able to intervene.
My hon. Friend also wanted to know what the job of a Member of the European Parliament entails. He is applying for a Euro-seat, and I wish him the best of luck. When he has been there a little while, perhaps he will come here with all the authority of a MEP and tell us the answer to his question.
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) referred to the positioning of the European Parliament and to where it should meet. There are three sites. The British Government regret the inconvenience and expense and would like a sensible resolution, but they know that the matter will be resolved only through unanimity--as the hon. Gentleman knows--and they do not expect that in the near future, although they will work for it.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) replied for the Opposition. I am glad that he is pleased that Wales got an extra seat--
It being two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- put the Question, pursuant to Order [11 February].
The House divided : Ayes 368, Noes 71.
Division No. 124] [5.51 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, David (Boothferry)