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50 per cent. He did not vote on the European Economic Area Act, and I do not observe his presence today. That is a great pity. Those of us who are true Europeans, and who want the arrangements to work properly, wish to be present--as, indeed, my hon. Friends and I are today.

Having its own elections does not make a country a democracy. As I pointed out in a pamphlet that I wrote for the Bow Group in 1990, if we want to bring in those who have fought communism, have been at the sharp end and know what it is all about, we must give them the opportunity not only to have a free democracy but to engage in the kind of trading in their seminal industries that will enable them to match the theoretical democracy that they are being offered with a practical ability to deliver it, in terms of increased well-being for their people.

Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) : I agree with my hon. Friend about the poor attendance in the House. Is it not particularly notable that, while Conservative attendance is quite significant, the Opposition Benches are virtually bare ?

Mr. Cash : That demonstrates the extent of the Opposition's enthusiasm. As we are in the close season for European elections, I am more than happy to add to the Government's firepower in attacking Labour Members and Liberal Democrats for their weak-kneed, third-rate, impoverished view of Europe's future. It is exemplified by the fact that, apart from Opposition Front Benchers and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), no one is present to speak up for those two parties. At least a reasonable number of Euro-realists, who are committed to Europe, are present on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Rogers : Whatever Opposition Members lack in numbers, we more than make up for in quality. Part of the reason for the lack of numbers is probably the fact that many of my comrades--comrades, indeed!--heard that the hon. Gentleman was going to make a speech.

Mr. Cash : I am always delighted to respond to the hon. Gentleman, but he cannot get away with cheap tricks like that. The fact is that no one is sitting behind him, probably because no one agrees with him.

There is another problem : the difficulty that we now face in regard to the kind of Europe that the agreements add up to, in conjunction with the European Economic Area Act, the Maastricht treaty, the Single European Act and the treaty of Paris. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North is right. During the debate on the confidence motion, in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I called for a renegotiation of the treaty. It is perfectly apparent that it is not working and it is clear that, when added to the agreements, the acquis

communautaire--which lies at the heart of the treaty--will be a millstone around the necks of the newly emergent democracies, with incalculable consequences for peace and stability throughout Europe as a whole.

Scratch some of the recently fascist countries in western Europe, look at the civil disorder, at the mistakes that we have made in terms of our policy on the recognition of Croatia and Bosnia, at the extent of the commercial and political instability that is being generated and at the geopolitical landscape. Consider the present concern about what is happening in Kosovo and Macedonia, in relation to the Greeks and the Turks. Trace that through the Balkans, with today's critical problem over air strikes--which I


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happen to think necessary, but that is another point--continue into the old Russias, with Mr. Zhirinovsky and the current uncertainty and tension.

Finally, consider the instability that will follow in the countries mentioned in the motions if the monetary union described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North collapses like the ERM and drops like a stone. What kind of Europe will that invoke ? It will invoke civil disorder and all the uncertainties contained in the agreements. I am certain in my own mind, and from what I have picked up from friends in the countries involved, that they are by no means embraced enthusiastically by people there. They know that they constitute no more than a half-hearted and rather selfish measure. It is precisely because we have not been sufficiently forthcoming that we are tending to destabilise those countries.

Furthermore, if the EMU proposals indeed collapse, there will be chaos throughout Europe, which would only be worsened if the Parliaments of Europe have been emasculated by the reimposition of the totalitarianism from which those countries have only recently escaped. Hon. Members should please bear that in mind and consider the consequences of not allowing those countries to be let in. They have a great future if they are given an opportunity to enjoy proper free trade and proper democracy.

Confusion exists in the European Community, the so-called union, between nationalism and federalism. It will not be resolved by such half-hearted measures, welcome as they are for the time being. As Ian Davidson stated in the Financial Times on 16 February : "it seems unlikely that members will renegotiate the Maastricht treaty, and certainly not in the middle of negotiations with the Efta candidates."

The treaty will also not be renegotiated while the proposals involving other states adjacent to the European Community are under discussion.

To resolve the problems that remain, we must renegotiate the treaty of Rome and the treaty of Paris--to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford referred. The difficulties over the treaty of Paris were revealed by the fining of British Steel and the sale of Rover. We must also renegotiate the Single European Act--which is not working properly and needs internal reform--the Maastricht treaty, the arrangements that are under discussion today and the European economic area. Unless we do that, we shall consign the future of Europe to deep uncertainty and potential chaos.

5.1 pm

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : I was interested in the ding- dong about the steel industry between my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers). The hon. Member for Rhondda has forgotten that, in the early 1980s, the steel industry received £1 million of subsidy each day. There is no long-term future for employment if subsidy is given on that scale. It is much better to have a steel industry that is the most efficient in western Europe because that is the only guarantee of long-term employment.

In discussing the orders and the future, we should consider employment not only in the steel industry but in the steel-using industries, and the benefits for consumers. The benefits for employment in the steel and steel- using industries and the benefits for consumers will result from


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having an open market and by encouraging imports from countries in central Europe. We should remember that central Europe has received an appalling economic legacy from communism. Industry in central Europe was heavily overmanned, was greatly dependent on intra- COMECON trade and suffered from heavy under-investment and its production was environmentally most unfriendly. The economies of central Europe were distorted by unsustainable subsidies-- [Interruption.] I should have thought that most hon. Members would agree that the German Government's subsidies were unwise and unsustainable. Their policy on the former East Germany has caused it and other countries in the European Community great economic difficulties. Even former Italian Governments found their subsidy levels were unsustainable. The Italian electorate decided that such Governments were unelectable, even if they were easily bribeable while in power.

The economic inheritance that was given to the democratic Governments of central Europe coincided with the belief that democracy would lead to an early and quick improvement in living standards. Those unfortunate countries have had to suffer a crisis of rising expectation, with their people expecting living standards to improve dramatically. The reality is that they have suffered substantial inflation, economic stagnation and heavy increases in unemployment. It was for those reasons that the former communists were able to win an election in Lithuania. That is why there is a danger that other former communists will regain power, admittedly under different names, in Hungary and Romania. That underlines the need for the European Community to do everything that it can to help those countries.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster) : I agree with my hon. Friend. He probably saw the reports in today's newspapers that both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have had to reverse their demilitarisation policy and are trying to resuscitate their arms industries. Obviously, it is not in the interests of western Europe that that should happen. I hope that, by opening the door to proper non-military trade, we shall help both countries in their struggle to establish democracy and proper trading links with western Europe.

Mr. Marshall : My hon. Friend is right. The complaint that many of us have is that the European Community's trade with central Europe has not been open enough. The EC is all too eager to listen to the voice of the hon. Member for Rhondda when it deals with steel. It is unduly restrictive on fruit imports. It is more willing to export subsidised agricultural goods than to import from countries.

Mr. Rogers : They grow our own peaches in the Rhondda.

Mr. Marshall : They do lots of rotten things in the Rhondda, including electing the hon. Member. I apologise--we former Europeans should stick together.

The European Community forgets that it is in Europe's interests that democracy should continue to flourish in the countries of central Europe, otherwise there is a risk that they will return to dictatorship. The impact of that will extend far beyond those countries. We should have been more willing to show them the hand of friendship, to trade and invest with them. After the orders are implemented, I hope that we shall adopt a more positive role.


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I welcome the fact that the know-how fund, which the hon. Member for Rhondda was willing to ridicule, has been warmly welcomed by the countries of central Europe. I also hope that our generosity will extend further and that soon we shall reach an agreement with the people of Albania, who have suffered more under communism than the people of any other country. The legacy handed down to the democrats of Albania has probably been the worst received by any democratic Government since the last war.

I commend the proposals and I shall have much pleasure in voting for them if the Opposition are foolish enough to press the motion to a Division.

5.7 pm

Mr. Rogers : With the leave of the House, I should like to make a few more remarks.

I did not refer to the know-how fund, so perhaps the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) should consult his hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) mentioned that there were only a few Opposition Members present. Conservative Members who have spoken sounded like a couple of ferrets in a sack as they squabbled among themselves and screeched away. The hon. Member for Stafford could only whine continually. We had a year of that during the Maastricht debate last year.

Mr. Cash : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Rogers : I shall give way, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not whine any further.

Mr. Cash : The hon. Gentleman does not like much in the way of criticism. Many of us complimented him on the fact that he is now a member of the Labour Front-Bench team ; I hope that he will improve on his performance today.

Mr. Rogers : I know that I have not made much of an impact, but I have been a member of the Labour Front-Bench team for many years, so the congratulations are a little slow. Two years ago, after a few years of shadowing Mr. Alan Clark, the former Minister of State for Defence Procurement, I was relieved of that job and joined the foreign affairs team. My brief does not cover Europe. The hon. Gentleman, with his single- minded obsession about that subject, probably did not notice that I have participated in debates on America, the far east, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but not particularly in those on the European Community. I am afraid that my sights are set a little broader than his very narrow vision of what the world ought to be.

In one way, that is what the agreements are all about--the fact that in Europe it is now necessary to bring into the general family of democracies the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe. It is not just a matter of simple trade, although I have sounded warnings in saying that we have to consider possible dumping. I do not know whether that has been covered in the agreements sufficiently or in the negotiation, or any restrictive legislation attached to it. We have to be aware of the problems of agricultural products coming in. We saw the problems with Spain and Portugal's entry ; there was a distortion of the Mediterranean agricultural products and huge sums of money were required to buy their entry into Europe. We do not want to have to do that again with the agricultural products of eastern Europe.


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Outside that, the main reason for the agreements--the preamble sets it out--is to bring these countries into our family of democracies to extend the hand of friendship, to start setting up political dialogues, to move towards political structures where we can be compatible and can work together. If that means more than simply renegotiating Maastricht and repeating it like some refugee from Hari Krishna, there is more to it than those simple phrases that are continually muttered by the hon. Member for Stafford. We are moving towards something that is large and politically significant. I want to give the Minister as much time as possible, so I shall stop there. We shall not divide the House on the issue, because we believe that it is important that the orders are passed. I just wish that the Minister's hon. Friends would give it some type of welcome instead of continually whining.

5.11 pm

Mr. Douglas Hogg : With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) drew attention to the fact that there were hardly any Labour Back Benchers present during the debate, and he was right to do so. The reason why he was right to draw attention to that fact was that the debate could have been taken upstairs, but the Labour party insisted that it be taken on the Floor of the House. It is, I think, a sign of the gravity that Labour Members attach to the matter that, on his own admission, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), who spoke for the Opposition from the Front Bench, had picked up a brief but a few minutes prior to having spoken. The only Opposition Member who spoke in substance was the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and I will turn to his contribution in a moment. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), a Front-Bench spokesman, hopped up, trying to intervene in my speech. She then walked out and has not been here since.

What has happened is an abuse, because the matter could have been taken upstairs--the Labour party had no interest in it. There is, at the moment, but one Labour Back Bencher in the Chamber ; the rest have played no part whatever in the debate. That is an abuse and the House needs to know that fact.

I now turn to what I understand to be the remarks of the hon. Member for Rhondda. [Interruption.] We have a second Labour Back Bencher here. I welcome the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden). He is going as well--no, he is not. He is sitting down. He is very welcome.

The hon. Member for Rhondda made two points--at least, I suppose that they were points. First, he grumbled about the dumping procedure. The hon. Gentleman would do well to look at the agreement. I commend article 30 with respect to dumping, because he will see that the general agreement on tariffs and trade-type safeguards prevail in those circumstances. The hon. Gentleman also embarked on a fairly extensive diatribe, criticising British industry and commerce in central and eastern Europe, wailing that we were not doing very well, to use the word that he likes to adopt.

Mr. Rogers : Whining.

Mr. Hogg : Whining is the word that the hon. Gentleman adopts. Whining certainly suits him. What a


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pity that on that occasion he was not correct. It is perfectly true that the French and the Germans have done better, but it is equally true that if one contrasts 1993 with 1992 in the case of the four countries with which we are concerned, he will find that British exports increased by 40 per cent. Instead of whining, he might do well to bring those matters to the attention of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) made an important contribution. I entirely agree with the substantive parts of what he had to say. I welcome, as he does, the process of enlargement. Yes, there are difficulties inherent in the economic fusion. Yes, it will transform the nature of the European Union. The point that, I suspect, Opposition Members who are present have not appreciated is that the enlargement of the European Union will work with the Government's, and not the Labour party's, perception of what the European Union should be like. Let us consider the identity of the countries that wish to join the European Union and bear in mind their history during the past 50 years. Countries that have had their sovereignty taken away from them by force are not likely willingly to surrender more of their sovereignty than they must to the centralising tendencies of the European Union. If one asks where the Labour party stands on the centralising tendencies of the European Union, one finds that the party is in favour of it, so I suspect that it will find that its new allies--our allies--will be of scant assistance to it.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow--I am sorry that he was shut in a church-- made a very serious contribution, to which I do not have a complete answer, let me hasten to say. Essentially, what he described is a plague that we suffer from here. I regret to say that my local church in Lincolnshire was recently broken into and artefacts were stolen. That happens throughout the United Kingdom. It is especially worrying in the Czech Republic because of the great richness of artefacts there.

I can give one answer that is of some relevance. If the hon. Member for Linlithgow looks at article 97 of the agreement, he will see that it contains provisions for co-operation on the conservation of historical sites. That obviously could extend to addressing the type of problem about which he has spoken to the House.

The hon. Gentleman also raised several questions which, frankly, touch more on the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and, indeed, of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department than on my Department. I hope that he will forgive me if I draw his remarks to their attention, because I feel sure that they will wish to respond to what he said.

Mr. Dalyell : Contact with Interpol may be the only practical way of making an impact on that problem.

Mr. Hogg : Indeed, the contact with Interpol is what caused me to refer to the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary might be the proper appropriate Minister to respond to the hon. Gentleman's comments.


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My hon. Friends the Members for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) concentrated on the merits of free trade, and I entirely agree with them. I am bound to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford was wholly right when he commended the strategic requirement of restructuring of the industries, especially of the steel industry. I thought that again we heard the traditional and true voice of Labour from the hon. Member for Rhondda when he suggested that it was wrong to restructure British Steel in the early 1980s. Yet, as we were rightly reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South, the subsidies were running at £1 million a day. I heard the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) say, "It is peanuts." It is not peanuts. It is the type of thing that would bankrupt

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Hogg : I will not give way. I shall not give way because I have only one minute. I heard the hon. Gentleman say that it was peanuts. He may not have liked to be heard. I am not surprised at that because he was saying to the House that the whole policy of restructuring was wrong, and that the taxpayer should have continued to subsidise an industry that everyone else knew was bankrupt and inefficient, and is now one of the most

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- -- put the Question, pursuant to Order [25 February].

Question agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Bulgaria) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker-- then put the Questions necessary to dispose of the other motions to be decided at that hour.

Resolved,

That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Czech Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved. Resolved,

That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Slovak Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved. Resolved,

That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and Romania) Order 1994, which was laid before the House on 7th February, be approved.-- [Mr. Douglas Hogg.]


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Representation of the People

5.19 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : I beg to move,

That the draft Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 17th February, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following motions :

That the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1994, which were laid before this House on 17th February, be approved.

That the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1994, which were laid before this House on 17th February, be approved.

That the draft Local Elections (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 17th February, be approved.

Mr. Lloyd : The first order increases the limits on candidates' election expenses at parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom and at local government elections in Great Britain to take account of inflation. The existing limits were set in March 1992. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has power to vary the maxima where, in his view, there has been a change in the value of money and it seems reasonable to increase these limits to take account of the change.

The main political parties and the local authority associations have been consulted about the proposal to increase the limits. The Conservative party, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have all indicated their support for an increase to take account of inflation. The aim is to have the increases in place in good time for the local government elections in May and also for the outstanding parliamentary by-elections.

The draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1994 perform two different functions. First, they increase the limits on candidates' election expenses at European parliamentary elections to take account of inflation. The existing limits have not changed since the previous European parliamentary general election in 1989. Secondly, they apply for the purposes of European parliamentary elections in England and Wales an amendment made by the Education Act 1993 about the use of grant- maintained schools as polling stations. That amendment was made to ensure that returning officers continued to have the right to use, free of charge, rooms in grant-maintained schools once responsibility for funding such schools passed to new funding authorities.

The draft European Parliamentary Elections (Northern

Ireland)(Amendment) Regulations 1994 increase the limits on candidates' election expenses at European parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland, while the draft Local Elections (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 increases the limits at local elections in Northern Ireland. These increases correspond to the increases in Great Britain. I hope that the House will approve all four orders.

5.22 pm

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : The four orders propose to raise the maximum limit of candidates' election expenses. They are very modest measures but,


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whatever our views on the precise level of the limit, I hope that the whole House will agree that the principle of limiting expenditure on elections is fundamental and central to our democracy. Without it, we could move rapidly towards the excesses of the system in the United States where it appears that one has almost to be a millionaire before one can afford to run for office. That is true not only nationally but locally and in state elections. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Ilsley) reminds me that, even in union elections, money talks.

In the United States, Ross Perot, a billionaire, entered the presidential contest because he felt that it was appropriate and, in Italy at the moment, there is a similar development with Berlusconi. I hope that this evening we are not encouraging such a phenomenon in British politics.

Of course, the principle of limits on expenditure applies only to local expenses. The local limits that we are debating contrast strongly with the free-for-all that exists at the national level. Local limits are, rightly, rigorously enforced and respected but national expenses are limitless and constitute a democratic deficit in the United Kingdom.

Political campaigning by individual candidates, as opposed to national party political machines, is an essential element in any healthy democratic system. Getting it right locally is all the more important today when the national political system is showing serious signs of ill health. There is undoubtedly, and rightly, a deep public cynicism about politics and politicians in general and of the House of Commons in particular.

The idea of democracy as a system of government by the people, for the people and of the people is an increasingly laughable characterisation of the over centralised, unaccountable and Executive-dominated system that passes for a democracy in this country. Labour has a wider democratic agenda to tackle the problem, but I shall not go into detail now because I know that you would bring me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the orders highlight another issue.

All too often, contemporary political debate in this country is conducted through intermediaries, be they journalists, television reporters or assorted media pundits, but I do not blame them for that. We--in this place and at other political levels--are responsible for the fact that the importance of the relationship between candidates for office and their prospective electors has become an increasingly marginal relationship in the conduct of politics. We believe that strengthening the local link and the local dialogue, as the orders do, is vital if we are to close the ever widening divide between politicians and the public. It is, therefore, more important than ever that those who are standing for public office as elected representatives have adequate resources during local election campaigns to project themselves locally as individuals and to publicise their own distinctive views and those of their party to the particular constituency electorates that they seek to represent. Candidates' election expenses at the parliamentary and European level are, in the main, geared entirely towards precisely that. We believe, that in most respects, the current system of limiting a candidate's expenses is reasonable although hardly generous. In these days of direct mail, glossy literature and telephone canvassing, hon. Members may


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feel that keeping down their expenses is rather like a boxer trying to make the weight limit--something that you may appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In 1992, my own limit was £6,900 or thereabouts. It draws gasps of astonishment from people who campaign in other circles, such as those in pressure groups trying to mount a local or national campaign, those running a business or marketing particular products, and especially those from abroad. My American acquaintances in particular are staggered when they hear that there are such low limits on the amount that individual candidates can expend locally.

We believe that the local limits on election expenses should be uprated annually in line with inflation. Had the March 1986 expenses been linked to inflation, an additional £700 at today's prices would have been available to a parliamentary candidate in a borough constituency. The Minister mentioned linking these limits to inflation or catching up with inflation and, if he is listening, I ask him to comment on the possibility of a permanent link with inflation so that orders such as this are not necessary on an occasional basis and the amount that we can spend locally ratchet up with the retail prices index.

The real danger not covered in the orders is the fact that the role of local campaigning on the basis of a rough parity of party funds is fatally flawed because of the huge differences allowed at national level. The Labour party's Plant committee on electoral systems recently examined the problem and concluded :

"Whilst the principle that wealthy candidates should not have undue advantages by access to greater funds still, in the main, applies at local level, it has become meaningless in terms of national expenditure.

Accompanied by a substantial increase by outside bodies in the promotion or rejection of a political party or its views, the concept of equality between parties is being steadily eroded."

As in so many things, the Conservatives are isolated on this matter. Of the parties present in the House this evening, only the Conservative party is opposed to national limits on expenditure. Surely the notion of political equality is absolutely fundamental to a democratic system.

More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle noted :

"The first and most truly so-called variety of democracy is that which is based on the principle of equality."

People may be unequal in the marketplace, much as some of us may regret that, but at the ballot box, they should be equal. We should do everything in the House to ensure that they stand as equals when they cast their vote.

The increase in expenditure at European elections is most welcome. I believe that every penny of that expenditure will be extremely helpful to Conservative candidates, who will need to explain the commitments in the European People's party manifesto. One commitment--I quote one of many possibilities--is

"to move resolutely forward in furthering the process of European unification and integration."

No doubt many of the Conservative Members who have now vacated the Chamber will take great interest in that and in explaining to potential Conservative voters the possibility of a European defence force, a European immigration policy and a European constitution. No doubt the hon. Members who have left the Chamber are, at this very moment, rushing out to the electorate to notify them of those policy developments under the European People's party manifesto.


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Perhaps we shall remember the orders going through the House this evening for the reason that this could be the last occasion on which the European parliamentary elections are fought on a

first-past-the-post basis, which requires these limits. We shall have to consider new ways in which to devise expenditure limits for the next round of European elections after the elections in June. Another concern about the orders is their failure to address the problems, again identified by the Labour party's Plant commission, of overspending the limits and their enforcement at local level. The commission said :

"We consider it grossly unfair that an agent at constituency level, often a voluntary member of the party, is subject to legal control, and liable to a possible prison sentence for breaching the law, whilst a national party and outside bodies can freely spend and influence the electors, technically on a national basis, but in reality giving support for candidates of one political party." That is wrong. There should be even-handedness in the way in which people are treated at national level, just as there is at local level. What is good for an individual, volunteer local party agent--the majority of us have such agents--should be good enough for a named person who should take responsibility for the legal implications of raising money and spending money at national level, if limits are breached. I state again for the record that Labour will legislate for national maximum spending limits, backed by legal sanctions, to ensure even-handedness.

We believe that the orders are a seriously missed opportunity to eliminate the anachronism of the differential in election expenses between candidates for borough constituencies and candidates for county constituencies. That, of course, applies to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland elections and not to the European elections. The orders make that disparity greater. There is an increase in the expenses per elector in county constituency elections of 6.1 per cent.--from 4.9p per elector to 5.2p per elector. There is an increase of only 5.4 per cent. in the amount allocated per head to the electors in a borough constituency--from 3.7p to 3.9p per elector. The arguments that might once have justified that disparity have long since passed and it would be sensible for that disparity now to be removed. Again, I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on whether he feels that that matter should now be the subject of a serious review so that we can equalise the amounts that are given to borough constituency elections and to county constituency elections. The orders are also faulty in that they fail to take account of the many new developments in election techniques. Those techniques are familiar to most of us and may be more familiar to those who have fought marginal seats. None the less, should the exemption of various capital items from the definition of expenses be considered ? Those items might include the election headquarters, computers, printing machinery and telephone equipment. That would ensure that the maximum permitted election expenses are limited to items that are specifically directed at the elector, such as literature, the direct promotion of candidates, canvassing, direct mail and, perhaps, poster and press advertising.

Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether he would be receptive to such a change in the definition of election expenses. Perhaps he will clarify and pinpoint the services for which the money pays. It is important that we state that Labour has argued since 1929 that there should be a fundamental review of the whole way in which we fund political parties. The subject


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