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Column 663Community in their present form, and we should not extend them to other countries if we are not able to control the problem of dumping in the Community.
There are other larger issues such as agricultural products and gaining access to markets because many of the aspirant countries are large agricultural producers. Another issue is the freedom of movement of labour within the Community and the agreement areas. Outside those major issues, we have the possibility of creating trading opportunities for the various member states.
Whereas we must recognise that the agreements are between the European Union and countries individually, trade within the agreements will be between individual countries in the European Union and the individual countries of the agreements. It will not be trade between the European Union and a group of countries--individual countries in the European Union will have to do the trading. Of course, if countries do not take up the opportunity, we miss out yet again.
Typically, Britain is already lagging behind. In the circumstances, the Government do not have the additional leverage of overseas aid to correct the distortion of market forces. Indeed, we are falling rapidly behind other European Community nations in our level of trade with former communist countries. For example, Germany has almost ready access into those markets. Indeed, some of the markets have a large German speaking and ethnic German population. Last year, Germany exported $23.9 billion worth of goods into those countries. Britain exported $2.7 billion worth of goods --that is one tenth of what Germany exported. We are way behind France, which exports $4.7 billion worth of goods. Italy exports $6.4 billion worth of goods. Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) rose
Mr. Rogers : I will give way, but I shall finish my point first. Our exports to those countries are about equivalent to that of Holland, which has a population of about 15 million. Surely we will not be measured by that particular yardstick.
Mr. Jenkin : Would the hon. Gentleman like to comment on the fact that the Commission has reduced the PHARE programme, which is equivalent to the European Community's know-how fund ? The money appears to have been diverted through a new structural programme, predominantly under German influence. The Commission spent large chunks of that money in Sudetenland, where there are many German-speaking people, to promote trade in German goods. That does not quite bear out the denial to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and I wonder whether he could comment on that.
Would not it be better if we got the Commission back under control and spreading its money on a more objective basis, rather than letting it be hijacked by particular national interests ?
Mr. Rogers : The hon. Gentleman is a specialist in Europe, shall we say, or a specialist in being anti-Europe, so he would know more details about such little nuances.
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) rose
Mr. Rogers : I shall just answer this point. I do not think that anyone is foolish enough to believe that countries in
Column 664the European Community act in the Community's interests--they act in their own interests. There are no ifs or buts about that. That is by no means an anti-European Community or anti- European Union statement--it is the truth of the matter.
I remember some time ago--the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) will certainly remember this, because they were Members of the European Parliament at the same time as I was--that the external trade commissioners for the European Commission were always Frenchmen : Pisani and Cheysson
Mr. Rogers : No, it was long before Brittan. I did not realise that Brittan is French.
If one went anywhere in the world, one could see that a lot of European Community business went to France. The hon. Member for Hendon, South said-- in weaker terms than those used by Mr. Alan Clark, a previous Minister for Defence Procurement--that he did not particularly care to which countries we exported, as long as those exports provided British jobs. That is what the French are all about within the EC. The hon. Gentleman is practising the same principle here today.
Mr. Enright : Is not it true that continental companies, and especially German companies, keep much closer tabs on the various funds that are available ? That is because of the regionality as much as anything, and Governments are able to assist firms in instantly reaching those funds. That is quite contrary to something that I overheard today from one of those wretched mobile phones as I travelled from Doncaster to King's Cross. A business man was saying, "Well, we were doing all right in Czechoslovakia until the damned Foreign Office got in the way".
Mr. Rogers : That is very perceptive. I will press on. I was given the brief a short time ago, and I decided that I would speak only for a few moments.
Our volume of trade with eastern Europe is increasing more slowly than that of other European Community countries. We are not only behind other countries ; we are falling further behind them. That adds to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth. The Government do not help British industry in the matter and we are losing markets to other countries.
Even if we are noble about the matter, we must realise that increased trade with those countries is certainly the best form of long-term aid. We have heard today that the Foreign Office believes that the agreements create no problems for British industry. I think that the proof of the pudding might well be in the eating. I have read details of the negotiations that have taken place and I do not think that the Government have stood up for Britain, or batted for Britain, quite as much as they did in Saudi Arabia or Malaysia. Perhaps we had better bring back a new opening bat, although that would not be a proper description of the noble Lady, the previous right hon. Member for Finchley.
The Foreign Office and Ministers must get the CBI, chambers of commerce and trade organisations involved, give them assistance and stress the importance of building up trade. We cannot sit back and watch imports and exports
Column 665between other EC countries and eastern Europe. If we are in the EC, we must get in there pitching to improve Britain's position and our access to eastern Europe.
We must make assistance more effective by supporting infrastructure developments, and that is why we welcome the technical and educational assistance to those countries. If there are to be free market economies and stable democracies in those countries, we must extend our trade into the ex -communist countries. It is in all our interests to create a stable climate in Europe. At the same time, it is certainly in our interests for the Foreign Office to be more forceful in increasing our exports to get British jobs.
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : I will try to obey your injunction to be brief, Madam Speaker, but I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) on his performance at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Opposition. I thought that the hon. Gentleman spoke just like a member of the 1922 Committee, in particular when he placed strictures upon the performance of the Foreign Office. Scratch a Tory and one finds a Foreign Office-phobe at any time.
I support my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister who introduced the statutory instruments. I should like to take advantage of the opportunity that he set again to discuss enlargement and to say that, particularly as a result of the decisions of the Copenhagen Council of June 1993, enlargement is at the centre of Community policy. It is a decision that will have the consequence of transforming the nature of the Community through a passage of time. To some extent, what we are debating this afternoon is what will be that passage of time and how uniform it will be. We do that particularly in the context of the prospective European elections in Britain.
I welcome the debate because it enables us, as a preliminary to the elections, to debate issues that will properly be taken to the hustings in June. I say "properly be taken to the hustings" because it will be important to identify in the elections not merely the divisions--divisions which are reflected in the House--but the areas of common concern.
I welcome the support expressed by the hon. Member for Rhondda for the draft instruments and the concept of enlargement. He was properly somewhat agnostic about the speed with which that enlargement might be achieved.
I thought that the hon. Member for Rhondda was wise to remind us of the difficulties that are inherent in the economic fusion of the applicant countries and the European Union. In this debate we necessarily confine ourselves to the terms of reference. The politics of enlargement come behind the economics. For example, there was not much delay on the part of Germany when it sought to assert its interest in Croatia. I do not make any criticism of the German behaviour. I am simply acting as the hon. Member for Rhondda said. He did not say it in quite those terms. He said that he was not here for all that Euro-fuzz but as an honest-to-God Front-Bencher given the job only a few hours or days ago. He could bring to the debate only his own robust, South Walesian common sense tempered by some experience at Strasbourg. I cannot think of a more magic and potent formula than that.
We know that the politics of central and eastern Europe are at their most challenging. I believe that the imperative today, whatever the uniformity of the eventual economic
Column 666arrangements, is to give political assurance to the countries of central Europe as they see the turmoil in Russia and some of the adjacent states still unresolved.
In those circumstances, when we come to our election year and we talk about enlargement, we talk about the politics, which must be imprecise. The economics are rather more tangible because they are contained in the statutory instruments that we are discussing today. We have to ask what is the general thrust of the policy. That is a crucial question for the European Union as a whole. Will the thrust to embrace nations with very different economic performance than our own be sustained or hindered by a commitment to a single currency, a European bank and converged economies ?
That is not some odd question from a member of the awkward squad below the Gangway. It is absolutely at the heart of the debate, whether those in authority wish it or not. I say that because the Copenhagen Council, referring to the applications for membership of the Community from the central European countries, said :
"Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions, guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy"
God help us--
"as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union."
That is the sort of ritual language with which we are all reasonably familiar. It is Euro-speak and the hon. Member for Rhondda must not rock his shoulders in mirth at my description, as he is now an eminent person with responsibilities sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. That is the challenging passage for him and for the Labour party, which is committed to economic and monetary union and to converged currencies.
The passage continues :
"Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union."
No one who listens to this debate or hears about the problems caused by the different backgrounds of member countries--such as agriculture, textiles and steel--can envisage any future for the Union other than one in which there is much elasticity in the relationships between the east and central European countries and ourselves. Economic and monetary union will merely make infinitely more difficult what, in any circumstances, will be a challenging economic proposition--namely, bringing those countries into our partnership. We merely have to consider the difficulties that were created by the entry of Portugal and Greece, which have substantially different economic standards from those of the core EC member states.
Mr. Jenkin : And eastern Germany.
Mr. Biffen : Yes, my hon. Friend is ever helpful and encouraging and I accept that reinforcement.
Because enlargement of the Community is so important for both it and all the peoples within it, enlargement will obviously be central to the debate in this country in June at the European elections. We are entitled to discuss how we envisage that that objective will be pursued.
Furthermore, it is impossible to consider the exhilarating challenge of enlargement without realising that it will take a long time and that the objective will adjust with time. Enlargement will therefore be at the heart of those aspects of the Maastricht treaty that will be
Column 667renegotiated in 1996. The June election campaign will be incomplete unless our political leaders make clear statements about how they view prospects for enlargement and renegotiation.
I have shamelessly sought to widen the debate to more philosophical considerations than the relatively narrow platform provided by the statutory instruments. However, if we are to have a successful Community it must be based not only on a relaxed relationship between the nation states of Europe, but on the peoples of Europe being led to understand the objectives of the political elites of those countries that fashion the relationships. That opportunity will come in this country in June, at the European elections. A forewarning of what might be a legitimate agenda does not come one moment too soon.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : As so often during the past thirty one and a half years, I agree with many of the insights of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). He is absolutely right about the importance of the subject under discussion. I am therefore a little shamefaced about turning to a subject that I must concede is not the most important aspect of the matter--the problems associated with the transfer of ecclesiastical art and valuable objects from Czechoslovakia to the art markets of western Europe, about which I have set down a marker.
It would be a great irony if, having suffered a decade of the Nazis and four decades of the communists, and having maintained much of the traditional heritage of the eastern European countries, now that those countries are opening up, the imperatives of the market were to wreak havoc on the art treasures of eastern Europe. Neither the Nazis nor the communists succeeded in doing that.
The House will forgive me if I tell colleagues a true little story. Two years ago, the all-party heritage group, which is extremely well led by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), went to Czechoslovakia. That organisation, in case anyone jumps to conclusions, does not organise freebies. We pay a full and proper amount for ourselves and for our wives, although we get an exceeding number of privileges in being received by the experts in the country to which we go. When we went to Czechoslovakia, we also had the privilege of going to the private apartments of President Havel. The all-party heritage group is known to a number of hon. Members. On the eighth day of our visit, based in Prague, we went to northern Bohemia. On the way up there, as we passed through a small town, a number of us at the back of the bus said, "Hey. We must stop here. That looks like a fascinating church." The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South acceded, somewhat reluctantly, because he is a great disciplinarian, to that request from the back of the bus. We stopped at the church. Out we got and went into it. It was full of the most beautiful objects in marble and wood.
After looking around for some 10 minutes, it was then discovered that those of us who had gone into the church were locked inside. There was no way that we could get out. Imagine the scene. A number of distinguished Members of this House and a number of distinguished Members of the Upper House, such as Lord Crathorne,
Column 668who is joint secretary of the group, together with our wives, were locked firmly in a church with no visible means of getting out. An elderly priest eventually appeared and produced his keys. When it was realised that we were the parliamentary delegation to Czechoslovakia, everyone was full of apologies at having such distinguished souls, some of whom were very meek, like me, but others, like my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), were less meek on the subject, locked in the church.
That elderly priest then explained in halting English what it was all about. He was full of excuses and said that had he known who we were, he would not have locked us in, but that people had had such bad experiences in so many of the country churches in that part of the country that they were doing what they could to protect what remained of their heritage. So many objects had been just snaffled, whipped and taken away. It was pure common-or-garden theft of holy relics.
The German army, many of whom were Roman Catholics, did not, it was said, quite like to steal such objects. Many of the Russian soldiers, who may have had feelings about icons in their countries, demurred from taking other people's religious art. The elderly priest explained to us that those who thought that they could make money in the art markets of Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London had far less inhibitions than those in the Nazi armies or the Soviet armies. In a sense, it was a poignant moment. But it highlights--I hope, poignantly--the fact that it is a tremendous financial temptation either simply to take objects or to reach a pitiful bargain in which the money exchanged bears no relation to the value of the objects in the western art markets.
When we returned, I raised the matter immediately with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and received a concerned response, as I had from the ambassador. I then discovered that the Prime Minister was going to Czechoslovakia. I saw him personally before he went and said that, although it was probably not the main content of his discussions with President Havel, would he nevertheless mention it to those quarters in Prague who might be concerned. The Prime Minister kept his word. On his return, he said that he had asked the ambassador to look at the matter on an on-going basis.
I am criticising neither the Government nor the police but it might be for the convenience of the House if I stated the latest position. It is set out by the Under-Secretary of State at the Department of National Heritage in a letter to me dated 25 February. It said : "During the debate, on 14 February, on the draft Statutory Instrument to implement the EC Directive on the return of cultural objects, you drew attention to the problem of thefts from the Czech Republic, Russia and elsewhere ; and I undertook to look at previous papers on this subject. You also enquired where the question of monetary thresholds came into the problem of the theft of cultural objects. I have now had an opportunity to consider these points. I fully appreciate your concern about the growing problem of arts thefts in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The previous papers on this subject make sad reading. As a criminal matter, the subject is essentially one for Michael Howard as Home Secretary ; but, as you know, Tim Renton, when he was Minister for the Arts requested the cooperation of the London art trade in helping to identify the missing objects should they appear on the market here."
First, what is the latest stage of the request to the London art trade ? Secondly, I am told by people in the art
Column 669trade that, in most cases, experts know jolly well what is likely to have been taken, especially when it comes from Russian orthodox and Czechoslovakian or Polish churches. It is not too difficult to identify what is likely to have come from those sources because of the nature of the art, so identification is not the major problem. The major problem is what to do once identification has taken place. The Minister's letter went on :
"I understand that the Metropolitan Art and Antique Squad are also working closely with their counterparts in the Czech Republic (and other Eastern European countries) to try to give assistance in countering the problem."
I did not mention the name of the place where distinguished colleagues of ours were incarcerated in the church because no one wants to give away place names and make matters worse. I am, however, prepared to tell anyone interested after the debate.
There should be some kind of register so that the British and European authorities can invite the Czechs and Russians to register what has gone missing and what worries them.
The Minister went on :
"I think that there may be some misunderstanding about the EC Directive. This provides a mechanism for one Member State to request the return from another Member State of a cultural object, which falls within the scope of the Directive, and which has been unlawfully removed from the requesting State on or after 1 January 1993. The Directive is essentially aimed at objects which have been illegally exported. The European Union does not have competence in criminal matters (i.e. art thefts), although a stolen object could fall within the scope of the Directive if it had also been exported in contravention of the requesting State's export laws."
I am told that things would have been much easier had Britain been a signatory to UNESCO. The Minister may reply to me in his speech or, if he prefers, by letter, but I should like to know whether that is true. Would being a signatory add more legal clout to any action to protect the heritage of eastern Europe ?
The Under-Secretary ended :
"as you know, co-operation via Interpol already provides a means for recovery of a stolen item regardless of monetary value." I know better than to make detailed inquiries into how Interpol goes about its business, and it would not be desirable in this case that I or any other hon. Member should be told about that. But I do ask for a clear assurance that the Government are in active touch with Interpol on this matter and are making real efforts to do something about it.
Although this is a difficult issue, the stakes are extremely high-- including, first, the cultural heritage of eastern Europe ; and secondly, more importantly, the self-esteem of the people of eastern Europe and their deep regard for their relations with the west. In Czechoslovakia and Russia people of influence are deeply upset by the fact that, after they have tried for much better relations with the west, part of the result of those better relations is the depredation of their own cultural heritage.
The House has kindly given me time and attention to submit this--admittedly narrow--aspect of a much wider and important measure. I do hope, however, that right hon. and hon. Members will come to regard the matter in the same sustained way as some of us have already tried to do over past months.
Column 6704.37 pm
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford) : I am aware of the time and I shall try to keep my remarks brief.
I welcome the Minister's comments about the inclusion of the four countries in the agreements, but I should like to make a few points about some of the detail, which is important--the more so in the light of the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen).
The debate gives us an opportunity to look back in on the Community. That can sometimes be difficult ; it is rather like looking through a glass darkly. We often see in only from the outside, so important matters can be missed by those who give their full support to everything that the Community does, without proper scrutiny or without determination to find out why.
One of the greatest difficulties that we face is the fact that the Community is obsessed with political ideals, to do with the single currency and so on, instead of with free markets and the sort of competitiveness embodied in the measures. The trade agreements give us the chance to stop and look again at what Britain's purpose in the Community has always been.
Although I welcome the agreements, recognising that they are based on our original intention to open up the Community to wider markets, it is also clear that when the provisions come to be written, self-interest comes increasingly to the fore--short-term political interest and short-term goals. That avoids long-term, serious considerations such as those on which I believe that our Government have been set but from which they have been distracted in the course of the negotiations.
I am particularly interested in a letter to the Financial Times of 2 June, in which the Czech minister for industry and trade, Vladimir Dlouhy, said :
"Economic recovery is simply stifled if fair trading access is not assured, for trading is really the only long term effective aid." He is right. The key is to open up our markets and ensure that both we and eastern Europe improve our abilities as a result.
When we look at the documents, we find that the two key sectors are industry and the common agricultural policy. I shall deal first with the common agricultural policy. The debate gives us the opportunity to look at it again and to try to understand what has gone so badly wrong. The system takes up fully £46 billion--more than half the Community budget. Only 40 per cent. of that ends up in the hands of farmers ; nearly £28 billion goes in administration support matters and, dare I say it, a vast amount of growing corruption. The Commission has finally seen fit to put in the right people to sort that out, but corruption is part of the system and goes right to the bottom.
We can no longer carry on with a system of agricultural support that ensures that the very people at whom it is aimed see least of it. The absurdities are demonstrated time and again. Each family pays something like £1,000 extra every year as a result of that intervention at the supermarkets and shops, where they pay higher prices as a result of the shoring up of that inefficient policy. We see clearly how self-interest, support for the CAP and the determination to keep it as it is has meant that we have shut our markets to the eastern Europeans to a far greater degree than we should have done.
Column 671We should be opening our market to those countries and saying that we welcome all of their agricultural produce and their processed agricultural produce. We should ask them to come and show us exactly how far we have departed from proper free trading principles. We have not done that. We have allowed self-interest to dictate that we shut areas of the market. I made the point earlier to my right hon. Friend that, even after 10 years, areas are still excluded. No mention has been made of those.
Let us look again at steel and coal. Recently, in the debate on steel, we saw a fascinating exchange in which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry went to the Dispatch Box to defend the absurd practice that has been going on in the Community for so long and that has resulted in failure to open the market and to get rid of subsidies. I notice that the document is carefully worded so that we end up helping to protect those heavily subsidised industries in Germany and Spain, those 60,000 jobs that everybody is scared of getting rid of, when Britain has set about that task without fear or favour. Poland has shed more than 70,000 in its steel industry, yet we still wish to help the Germans, Spanish and others protect themselves from what is justifiable free trade with eastern Europe, which would help to lower the costs of our manufacturing industry and make us competitive world wide.
Mr. Rogers : Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the Conservative Government took us down this road and were hellbent on destroying the British steel industry in the early 1980s ? That was a conscious policy of the British Government.
Mr. Duncan Smith : I am grateful for that intervention, because it gives me an opportunity to declare again how much I supported my Government's drive to make our industry efficient throughout the whole of the 1980s. It is now one of the most efficient in the world. I am saying not that we should have shored it up but that we should now ensure that the others play the same game. We could then expand our industry as a result of our competitiveness. That is what the purpose of the eastern European deal should be about : letting them come in and compete.
Mr. Rogers : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?
Mr. Duncan Smith : I am conscious of the time and should like to press on.
Mr. Rogers : It is only a small point. The hon. Gentleman and the Conservative party, in the so-called strive for efficiency and streamlining, are quite prepared to sacrifice tens of thousands of workers and their jobs, with no foreseeable possibility of the other countries in Europe coming into line with us. It will be 20 years before they do that.
Mr. Duncan Smith : The hon. Gentleman clearly thinks that it is 20 years. If we are both right, we should do something about it. The point is that, by restructuring the steel industry in Britain, we have shown the way to the rest of Europe. It is high time that the rest of Europe did the same and stopped playing games with their 60, 000 jobs. Such an agreement as this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Mr. Jenkin : Is it not a fact that, during the 1980s, we increased our steel exports to the European Community
Column 672and elsewhere from a mere few hundred million pounds-worth to well over £2 billion per annum ? That is the reward for getting one's steel industry into a fit condition. That is how one keeps permanent jobs in the UK. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister said, even the products listed in the agreement for the phasing out of the tariff barriers are to be phased out according to sensitivity. Does not that allow every Community country to put an obstacle in the way of the falling tariff barriers so that they are likely to remain there for a good deal longer than the 10 years according to the agreement ?
Mr. Duncan Smith : My hon. Friend makes his point well and backs up all the points that I have made. I fully agree with him.
Let me move on for the benefit of hon. Members and my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench. I noticed the other day, when reading through documents from the European Community, a report commissioned by DG 16 on the competitive market of Europe, which analysed the benefits and problems that would come to the European Community. The report comes to terms with that and decides that huge benefits are to be drawn from opening the market to eastern Europe immediately. In so doing, one would have thought that the Commission would follow suit and publish it with much publicity, but the Commission changed the head of DG 16 and the man who was put in his place was none other than an ex-cabinet colleague of Mr. Delors. Clearly it does not suit his purpose to have its report, because the cohesion group of countries, which so much supports many of his policies, would not like it. Nor, perhaps, would some of the French farmers, so the Commission has sat on the report.
Hon. Members would be forgiven for not knowing of the report's existence, because it was deliberately excluded from their view. That applies also to the report that is now being published on the CAP ; it, too, is being sat on by the Commission because it does not like what is in it. Rotten practice leads to rotten trading. We must ensure that we get rid of that concept. In many respects, while I do not doubt my Government's intentions on those matters, the problem with an agreement such as this is that it leads not to free trade but to managed trade. That is the clear purpose of the agreement, not so much opening up and saying, "Let us take on the best you have. Let us work together to get a free and proper market" but rather, "Let us ensure that we take only the products that frankly we cannot make ourselves ; or exclude your elements of trade that we do not like because they affect our vested self-interest."
I am intrigued as to how political input has been used to change all of that. Hon. Members have referred to the money for the PHARE programme. There is no question but that £115 million of that was diverted out of the budget at the end of the year, has been stuck into some form of structural fund and is now being used to support programmes directed from Germany in Silesia and Sudetenland. The purpose of that is clearly that it supports political positioning in Germany and other countries. Demand-led money, like our know-how fund, which I think is excellent, is the purpose of the PHARE programme and leads to better investment than anything dictated from one of the nations inside the European Community.
The key point is that we want a free market. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to press the Commission and other member states not to fear what is out there but rather to see it as a challenge and to restructure the whole of the
Column 673Commission and our Community so that we meet the challenge as a free-trading group of countries rather than as a group of self-protected self-interest countries that would seek to close the market to those who would help us to compete.
There is no doubt that we need the trade and influence of those countries. If we stick exactly to what is in the agreements, we shall do no more than help those protected interests in the Community and we must ensure that we go further. If that means changing the Community, the common agricultural policy and our industrial policy, so be it : that is what we need to do. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has said, if it means renegotiating the Maastricht treaty--as I believe that it does--that is what we must undertake.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : I followed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) with enormous interest --as, indeed, I followed his speech the other day. I find myself in complete agreement with the sentiments that he expressed today, and with those expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith).
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North said that monetary union was at the heart of the debate, which of course it is. Let me elaborate on that point by examining what the proposals for economic and monetary union actually mean, as applied to the countries mentioned in the motions.
The preamble and explanatory notes to the agreements, and the main text, refer to
"an appropriate framework for political dialogue"
and the improvement of democracy in the states involved. We all want the agreements to take effect--not with faint praise or faint application, but so that they can enhance the economic opportunities available and free trade and freedom of choice can exist together. What, in the medium to longer term, does economic and monetary union imply for those countries ? Far from continuing to improve the prospects for democracy--of which I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North would approve--it will actually prevent democracy from burgeoning. It will mean eventually handing over the running of the countries' economies to unelected, unaccountable bankers ; it will mean giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
A selfish streak run through the proposals--as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford pointed out--in that they do not go far enough and, indeed, are positively exclusive of certain activities. Incidentally, those are frequently the most important activities in the countries concerned. In addition, the countries will be prevented from being able to develop their democratic and free-trading relationships with the rest of Europe.
I support the proposals, however, as I supported the European Economic Area Act 1993. I note--as I noted then--the absence of enthusiasm, shown by non- attendance in the Chamber, of some hon. Members who go around criticising those of us who would prefer to be described as Euro-realists. I recall that one of the notable absentees on a three-line Whip was my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who had the nerve to attack me on television yesterday--much to my amusement and pleasure, I may say. Whenever he attacks me, I regard my stock as having gone up by about