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Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : I could use the same arguments about sitting at the top table in the context of Scotland. The four countries that we are discussing have already achieved economic convergence with the European Union. But the Foreign Secretary talks about further enlargement. What kind of time scale is envisaged and what kind of criteria will be used for the emerging democracies ?
Mr. Hurd : Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey have applied, but we are not negotiating with them at present because it will be some time--they accept this--before they are qualified. Qualification means being political democracies--they are all political democracies--and it also means being economically qualified to take on the treaty's competition rules about state aids. It will take some time. I do not believe that the next stage of enlargement to full membership is likely to be completed in this century, but that is a matter for discussion. There has been no decision on timetables.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) : Will my right hon. Friend address the preamble to the question asked by the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) ? Does he not see how integration with the European Union is being used by the Scottish nationalists to destabilise the integrity of the United Kingdom, and that they are campaigning for an independent Scotland in the European Union ? Does he not see how our integration with the European Union gives credibility to those arguments ?
Mr. Hurd : I have been hearing those arguments for ever. They make no sense and I am amazed that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) should pay such attention to them. The idea that it makes sense for Scotland to detach itself from the United
Column 690Kingdom, and therefore from our membership of the EU, and the idea that it would be an easy or pain-free operation to then knock on the door in a completely new set of clothes and say, "This is little Scotland wanting to come in", is simply unreal. When that issue is explored before a Scottish audience, I find that the assembly argument disintegrates quite quickly. I hope that all of us who disagree with it and who wish to preserve the Union of this kingdom will not give the idea the kind of credence which, unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North seems to be bestowing on it.
Mr. Hurd : No. I want to get on. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) leaning forward in his seat, but I must get on because many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak. We are not yet at the point where the process is complete, because of the issue of referendums, which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North raised a few minutes ago. The Austrian people voted on membership a few weeks ago. They were submitted to the usual mishmash of views on and criticisms of Europe--some, alas, perfectly true and others mythical. Having been exposed to that for a number of weeks, a resounding majority voted in favour of membership. The last fling of the "no" campaign was the accusation that, in future, yoghurts would contain Spanish beetles as colouring matter, and that that was not a price that the Austrian people should pay for joining the Union. As a result of that clash of opinions, they voted in favour of membership. We were pleased to see that and pleased with the margin by which they did it. I cannot predict--obviously, it would be foolish to predict--the outcome of the remaining three referendums this autumn. Obviously, the Austrian result is hopeful and we hope that the Finns, the Swedes and the Norwegians will vote to join us. The accession negotiations were certainly not always plain sailing, as the House will remember. All the parties concerned had important interests : all the applicant countries had important interests to protect and it was not easy to find a balance between them. The outcome in the treaty was a good deal for the applicant countries, a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe as a whole. One of our many concerns, as we went into those negotiations, was a point that has already been touched on : the arrangements for how decisions should be taken--not the question of the national veto, which featured largely in the recent European elections in this country, because that was not at stake--in the provisions for qualified majority voting. We wanted to ensure that there would be a fundamental review of the QMV system in the 1996 intergovernmental conference. As the House knows, that was agreed. The conference will have to devise--it will not be easy--a formula which more closely reflects population levels in member countries but ensures that the rights of minorities are properly safeguarded.
During the discussions in the spring, we agreed finally on a legally binding arrangement, which requires the presidency and the Commission to take any initiative necessary to reach a solution supported by member states with at least 68 votes. We had a rough time on that. With the Spaniards, we pressed for stronger protection for minorities, whereas 10 member states resisted anything
Column 691other than the automatic uprating of the figures which had occurred on earlier enlargements. Experience next year, when--we hope--the arrangement comes into effect, and thereafter will show how it works out. I am reasonably confident that, in practice, the compromise that we accepted will justify itself.
Certainly, the clarifications which we attained at the same time on the Commission's social programme have already proved their worth. I am clear that we would have scored a dramatic own goal if we had disrupted the whole process of enlargement because of a disagreement over the figures for qualified majority voting.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford) : I should like to clarify the point that my right hon. Friend was making when he said that the arrangement was legally binding. He meant, of course, that it was legally binding in international law and not under the auspices of the European Court of Justice.
Mr. Hurd : It is the subject of a decision of the Council and, as the German Foreign Minister confirmed at the time, it is legally binding under European law. There are two documents--a declaration and a decision. The declaration is not legally binding and the decision--in jargon terms, the Beschluss--is legally binding. Let me refer to the practical consequences of enlargement. Like us, Sweden, Austria and Norway will be net contributors to the Community budget. So they will share our interest in budget discipline and in value for money. Like us, they will want to ensure that Community funds are used efficiently. The fact that four relatively well-off countries will be coming into the European Union will reduce the amount that other countries, including Britain, will need to contribute to the budget. We expect our British contribution to be some £300 million sterling less over the first six years of accession than it would otherwise have been.
All four of those countries will, we believe, join us in arguing for a market-oriented, free-trading Europe, rather than the more protectionist "Fortress Europe" approach, which has its advocates in the EU. We steadily fight against that approach and we shall have allies in that argument.
Several hon. Members rose
In particular, the close ties that those four countries have with the countries in central and eastern Europe mean that, like us, they will want to see the benefits of the free market extended to the whole of Europe. I can give a practical example of that. Finland, Sweden and Norway already have free-trade agreements with the Baltic states--they are ahead of the European Union in that respect--but, because of accession, those trade arrangements with the Baltics will, from next year, extend to the whole of the European Union. That is a practical example of how the free-trade impulses of the new arrivals have already affected, for the better in our view, the trading arrangements of the rest of us.
We can also expect the four countries to support us in arguing for the vigorous application of subsidiarity throughout the Community. They have all applied to join the European Union because they believe, like us, that certain matters are best discussed at European level. But they all have strong traditions of democracy and
Column 692independence and do not want to see the Community act in areas where decisions could best be made at national level. Like us, they believe that the European Union should be a union of diverse nation states, each preserving its own traditions and its own identity. They take the view that their accession will add to that diversity.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Scandinavian countries have a strong position--it is one that he has not mentioned--on social policy, trade union rights, consumerism, the environment, a single currency and on many other matters, including an obsession with the deutschmark, in respect of which we have taken a directly contrary view ? Given our reservations about centralising and socialising tendencies in Brussels, we have sought to resist those tendencies, whereas the Scandinavian countries have an active policy of encouraging them.
Mr. Hurd : I have not yet mentioned those matters, because I gave way to my hon. Friend before I completed my speech. I wish now that I had let my hon. Friend make his own speech and that I had not given way to him. I shall touch on the matters to which he has referred as I continue, and I shall now continue.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) rose
Mr. Gill rose
Mr. Hurd : No, I shall not give way. I have had experience of several of my hon. Friends making their speeches in the middle of mine. Perhaps the House should have a clearer understanding of what I intend to mention before I am rebuked for not mentioning certain things. I can never resist my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), however, and before I conclude I shall give way to him, but not now.
The four countries that I have mentioned will take
Mr. Gill : Before my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) intervened, my right hon. Friend was talking about the need for the countries that are now proposing to join the European Union to preserve their own national identity. Is he aware of the remark that the German ambassador to Moscow is reported to have made to the effect that national sovereignty is becoming irrelevant and meaningless, but that for all that many still cling to it ? I accept that my right hon. Friend cannot be held responsible for what German diplomats say, but it is worth putting on record the fact that there are people in the German foreign department who apparently take a view that is contrary to that of my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Hurd : I feel sad for my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr.Gill) after his intervention. No, I am not responsible for what the German ambassador in Moscow says. I know what Chancellor Kohl says, and I have heard him say it more than once : he says that the old idea of a
Column 693united states of Europe is not worth pursuing and will not work. Germany does not have exactly the same views as us on the way in which Europe should proceed. However, the ideas that gradually nations in Europe will disappear, that gradually centralisation will assert itself until there is one Executive in Brussels and one Parliament in Strasbourg or Brussels, are finished. Those who used to advocate them are either silent or in a small minority. They certainly do not appear in the four applicant countries.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) rose
The four countries have proud Parliaments and strong traditions of legislative scrutiny. They will consider carefully the implications of proposed Community legislation before they vote on it. Once legislation is in place, we can expect them to be diligent in implementing and enforcing it.
By joining us, they will increase their own international standing and influence and ours. Norway, of course, is an old friend and an old ally in NATO. The accession of the four countries to the European Union should not affect the strong Atlantic ties in Norway. The other three countries have a long tradition of neutrality. They have said, however, that they will take their full part in shaping common foreign and security policies. Whether they decide to join the Western European Union, which they can do but do not have to do, is a matter for them. They might prefer the status of observer, as have Denmark and Ireland. That is a good example of the multitrack Europe of which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have spoken recently.
All four states, in their different ways, are outward looking with strong records of contributing to peacekeeping and generous aid programmes. Of course, we shall not always agree with the new members on all subjects. I have usefully been reminded that they may be tempted to support measures under the social chapter that we reject. I suppose that that is possible.
I must say, however, that the tide of opinion in Europe--and elsewhere, but especially in Europe--is now blatantly beginning to flow strongly in favour of competitiveness and against
over-regulation. If the four countries were to join in supporting measures under the social chapter, we should be even more grateful for the opt-out that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister obtained at Maastricht, which would protect us in Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford would not be well advised to start opposing extension or enlargement of membership of the European Union because we shall not always agree with the views of those who join us. There will be matters on which we differ occasionally, but having worked with my colleagues in the four applicant countries at the various meetings that they have attended in advance of enlargement, I do not doubt for a moment that the blend of enthusiasm and common sense that they bring to our discussions will strengthen the quality of the decisions that we take.
Column 694--whether the £300 million that he has said we might gain because of the proposed arrangement was estimated after or before the information that we received on Friday from the Treasury, which is in the Vote Office : namely, that our gross contribution in 1995 will increase by £2,000 million, which is £3 per week per family, and that agriculture expenditure will break through the legal barriers despite all the pledges and optimism, which I am sure my right hon. Friend entered into and displayed genuinely after the Edinburgh summit ?
Mr. Hurd : I am writing to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the general point about our contribution. I was asked about the matter only the other day in that Select Committee and I promised to produce figures, which I have set out in a letter to my right hon. Friend.
I was talking in the context of the Bill. The figure that I gave was the amount by which our contribution would be less than it would have been if the new states--[ Interruption. ] That was the point that I was making in terms of the Bill. I was saying that our contribution would be substantially less by the figure I gave--£300 million over six years-- because of enlargement.
There are other practical benefits. First, our agriculture exporters will benefit from the opening of the previously highly protected agriculture markets of the four applicant countries. Our fishermen will have new opportunities in Norwegian waters from 1997 onwards. Those who manufacture alcoholic drinks--I hope that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) will listen to this--will benefit from the opening of Nordic markets and the dismantling of state monopolies. Our hauliers will benefit from increased access to the crucial Austrian market following agreement that our quota for terminating traffic will increase. Our oil industry--especially the offshore supplies industry--will benefit from Norwegian acceptance of the European Union rules. That should mean new contracts and new jobs. Many of those points will be of particular interest to Scottish Members.
I have no doubt that British business in the different sectors that I have mentioned will benefit--perhaps not hugely, but
significantly--from enlargement. The significance of the arrangement goes wider than that, however. The accession of the four countries, with their strong democratic traditions, their prosperous economies, their international outlook and their commitment to an efficient and effective common-sense European Union, is a substantial step towards the outward- looking Europe that most people in Europe seek. It is a step towards dismantling the divisions of Europe, which belong to the cold-war era and which are out of date.
The enlargement will point the way towards closer links with the countries of central and eastern Europe and, indeed, their eventual accession to the European Union. We have believed very strongly, including those who have
Column 695been doubtful in the past about the course which the European Community--now the European Union--was taking, that it must be right for the European Union to keep its doors open to those who wish to join ; that half Europe could not call itself the whole of Europe ; and that where countries qualified, they should be allowed to enter. Without any doubt, the four countries qualify. They are mature, established democracies. Indeed, it is patronising even to question that point. These countries have given Europe and the world many lessons in democracy and solid good sense. Having passed through intellectual changes as the world has changed around them, and as their security and economies are now on a different basis, they see that their future lies in full membership of the European Union. We should welcome that, not because we will agree with them on every subject because of course we will not, but because the voices and interests that they bring and the contribution they will make to the future of the European Union will, I am sure, be abundantly worth while. I commend the Bill to the House.
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : It is a genuine pleasure to welcome the prospect of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden joining us as members of the European Union. Labour has long campaigned for their admission to the European Union. We made that commitment a long time ago and presented it to our conference in a policy statement last year. We reiterated our support for that goal in our European election manifesto which, as the House will recall, was massively endorsed by the people of this country on 9 June when we had a resounding victory, won the largest share of the vote and the greatest number of seats and made the most gains.
The Foreign Secretary did not find an opportunity to mention the European elections in his 35-minute speech and I am not surprised about that. He looked like a relieved man when he was eventually able to resume his seat having rediscovered the fault lines in his party. The Foreign Secretary talked about earthquakes at the beginning of his speech. The biggest earthquake for the Foreign Secretary and his right hon. and hon. Friends was the result on 9 June--the worst performance by the Conservative party in any national election this century. Whatever else the Foreign Secretary can claim for his party's policies on Europe, he certainly cannot claim the endorsement of the people of this country.
That great victory for our policies, and those election results, give Labour a strong voice for Britain in Europe. We are the largest group in the European Parliament, with 62 Members. Our colleague Pauline Green has been elected overwhelmingly as leader of the socialist group, which is the most influential group in the Parliament. We hope that our friend and colleague Klaus Ha"nsch of the German SPD will soon be elected President of the Parliament. He has our wholehearted support.
We shall give all that power-- [Interruption.] I am sure that I have the endorsement of the overwhelming majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We shall continue to use that power and influence in the European Parliament in support of our friends in Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden and we continue to work in the party of European socialists, of which I have the honour of being vice-president, to that end. There is emphatic support in that organisation for the four applicant countries. Austrian,
Column 696Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish social democrats are members of the party of European socialists. We have worked closely with them from the outset on their applications and we continue to do so. We welcome four friends and countries with strong traditions of good government, and of strong social democratic government in many cases. Those countries regularly elect social democratic parties to govern their affairs. We welcome them also because at least three of them will be net contributors to the European Union budget. All four countries have good records on economic, social and environmental policy and all four are strong supporters of the social chapter. If their applications are successfully endorsed by their electorates, 15 out of 16 member states will strongly support a social dimension for the European Union. That is something that we, too, strongly endorse and which, I regret to say, further increases the isolation of the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues in their mulish objections to policies which, despite their standing on the touchline in a petulant way, the other members of the European Union are determined to see through.
Dr. Cunningham : The Foreign Secretary spoke a moment too soon. He should read the newspapers. A report of a meeting this weekend under the new German presidency, chaired by Norbert Blu"m, should be drawn to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Norbert Blu"m makes it absolutely clear that, during the German presidency, they intend to press ahead with the development and deepening of the social dimension of the European Union.
That is the trouble with Bonn, of course. We used to be told in briefings from 10 Downing street that Helmut and John were chums. It now looks more like, "Auf Wiedersehen Helmut, bon giorno, Silvio", despite the latter gentleman's tendency to work with neo-fascists in Italy. I say to the Foreign Secretary, as I have said before in this House and elsewhere, that the Opposition want to make it absolutely clear that we want nothing to do with emerging fascism in Europe, whether inside the European Union or outside it. It is about time the Foreign Secretary made his own position, and that of his party, clear on that subject.
Mr. Hurd : There is a coalition in Italy which hosted the recent summit. There were several Ministers there, some from one party and some from another. All were freely and democratically elected, and all were elected on a particular programme which I do not think contains any elements of fascism. Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously saying that a Labour Government would not work with that Italian Government ? I cannot believe that that is the case. No other Government in Europe are taking that view. Is that a view that the right hon. Gentleman would urge upon us ? It makes no sense at all.
Dr. Cunningham : The Foreign Secretary is wriggling. He is avoiding the question and obfuscating the issue. I did not say that we would not work with an Italian Government. I said that we would not work with neo- fascists if they were part of one.
We have made our position clear in respect of the growth of right-wing extremism right across the European Union--in France, in Germany and, for that matter, here in London. We are implacably opposed to those people at
Column 697every level. That is one reason why, in the face of the growth of fascism, xenophobia and racial intolerance in Europe, we have been calling for the designation of a Commissioner to deal with racial equality in Europe. It is also a reason why we shall continue to press for legislation on racial equality in the European Union.
Mr. Hurd : The right hon. Gentleman is moving off into total generalities. Is he advising Her Majesty's Government to boycott and have no dealings with the present Italian Government with their present composition ?
Several hon. Members rose
We were talking about the Secretary of State's unfounded sedentary intervention that no progress will be made on social agenda policies in Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman's statement is a flat contradiction of all the evidence, including the most recent from the German presidency. The social dimension in Europe will continue to become more significant whether the right hon. Gentleman and his friends like it or not. If they want to continue to put their heads in the sand on this issue, let them do so, but they are not fooling the House or the people of Britain. They are fooling no one by trying to argue that the rest of Europe is coming round to their way of thinking. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support that vacuous assertion.
Mr. Budgen : If one Government were negotiating with another Government, could the right hon. Gentleman please explain the practicalities of how it would be possible for the British Government to say to the Italian Government, "We are prepared to talk to one Minister, but we are not prepared to talk to another" ? How could that be done ?
Dr. Cunningham : Quite easily, because we would make it clear that we would not be willing to participate in discussions with fascists. It is as simple and straightforward as that. It is interesting to note that right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches apparently feel quite comfortable with the idea of sitting down and working with fascists. They seem quite relaxed about that, but they should think about past failures. The Foreign Secretary gave a little history lesson at the outset of his speech, but he seems to have forgotten past failures to confront fascism.
The European Union has changed and is continuing to change. The Opposition want that process to continue. This is the fourth wave of enlargement to which we look forward. If all four applicants are successful, one of the world's largest trading areas, with an estimated output of almost $7,000 billion, will be created. The accession treaty agreed in March 1994, and signed by Heads of State and Government in Corfu, would become, for British
Column 698constitutional purposes, one of the Community treaties, as defined in the section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. The Bill will amend that Act to take account of the accession treaty and make the necessary changes in United Kingdom law.
As with the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Bill is-- potentially, at least--amendable, but any amendment incompatible with the accession treaty could prevent United Kingdom ratification of the proposal. Such amendments will therefore not have the support of the Opposition. We do not wish to take any action that would impede the Bill's safe and swift passage. The Opposition, at least, want to ensure that we do nothing to prevent Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden from becoming members of the European Union. We will do nothing that might jeopardise the referendums that will have to take place in three of those four countries. We applaud the huge success of Chancellor Vranitzky's campaign for a yes vote in the Austrian referendum and we hope that that success will be repeated in the other three applicant countries.
Sir Teddy Taylor : To avoid confusion in the referendums, was not the right hon. Gentleman a bit unfair to the Conservative Government in what he said about the social chapter ? Has it not been made abundantly clear by the German presidency and by officials of the Commission that almost all of the social chapter will go through under laws related to health and safety in the Single European Act and the treaty of Rome ? There will not be any problem about that and we shall all have to abide by those horrible social chapter laws whether we like it or not.
Dr. Cunningham : I agree in large measure with the hon. Gentleman. If anyone has any doubts about the intention of the German presidency, I refer him to David Gardner's report from Dortmund, which appeared on the front page of this morning's edition of the Financial Times .
The Austrian Chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, has stressed that Austria's application has been determined by the importance of finding common answers to the economic, social, political and ecological issues that face us all. He cited the safeguarding of Europe's competitiveness in world markets as the foremost challenge of the future. We endorse his views. Europe faces common problems such as the securing of jobs, the prevention of unemployment, the prevention of ecological disasters--which, of course, recognise no boundaries--and the political and economic stabilisation of eastern Europe. We also face the common problem posed by the migration of displaced people as a result of tragedies such as that suffered in the former Yugoslavia. Those common, shared problems demand shared solutions and a common approach.
The arguments about joining the Union differ in the four applicant countries, although the respective social democratic parties share those Austrian objectives. The Finnish President has called the European Union
"The central factor in strengthening the security of our continent."
As the Foreign Secretary said, that represents a major change in that country's stance.
In Sweden, where we hope that our great friend and colleague Ingvar Carlsson will soon return to power as the head of a Social Democratic Labour Government--the general election comes before the referendum-- concern has been expressed that its high standards of social and environmental protection will be weakened as a result of
Column 699membership of the European Union. The Swedes do not share the Foreign Secretary's view of the future of the European Union. They want to see increasingly high standards of social provision and environmental protection imposed. They also share the Opposition's view about the unnecessarily secretive nature of decision taking in the Council of Ministers and in the Commission. The social democrats in Sweden, under whose leadership the original application was made, voted at their party congress on 19 June in favour of recommending that their colleagues should back the application for membership of the Union in the forthcoming referendum.
Mr. Spearing : We all admire the social provision in Sweden to which my right hon. Friend referred and the support given to it by our friend, who we hope will soon be Prime Minister of Sweden. The Union and the Community do not prohibit the adoption of higher standards than those applied in the Union being written into a member state's national law, if that country so wishes. Would that not automatically put that country at an economic disadvantage in trade in the single market ? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that should be borne in mind ?
Competition and productivity have far more to do with per capita investment, plant and equipment, education, training and skills than with employment protection or hourly rates of pay. The idea that we can compete with our major competitors in Europe, the Pacific rim, Japan or the United States on the basis of poverty pay--the thesis advanced by the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues--is one that we reject totally. It is not supported by any economic, industrial or social evidence. The right hon. Gentleman knows that.
Great concerns have been expressed in Norway about membership of the European Union, but I hope that the decision of our colleagues in the social democratic party to recommend that their supporters should vote yes in the referendum will eventually lead to all four applicant countries receiving the endorsement of their populations so that they can take their place in the expanded Union in 1995.
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : The right hon. Gentleman sets great store by those referendums. Last year we were not allowed a referendum because, we were told, it would weaken our system of parliamentary democracy. Has the right hon. Gentleman any evidence that parliamentary democracy has been weakened in Denmark, Norway or other countries that have held referendums ?
Dr. Cunningham : The hon. Gentleman has a short memory. Britain had a referendum in 1975, provided for by the then Labour Government. I am not in the least defensive about referendums. The whole country decided, in a once-and-for-all referendum in 1975, about Britain's membership of the then European Community. In reality, however, those once-and-for-all decisions are never accepted by those who do not win the argument and who therefore want yet more referendums.
Column 700European Union. He favours the hokey-kokey approach to membership of the European Union--in, out, in, out, shake it all about. In his speech, the Foreign Secretary mentioned consistency. The Tory party manifesto says :
"The Conservative Party has remained steadfast on Europe". It is interesting to examine that claim in this context. Incidentally, during the European election campaign I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman about that matter, but he never replied to my letter and nor did the Prime Minister.
In answer to a question in this House, the Foreign Secretary said that it would be a disaster not only for this country but for Greece, where he had discussed the matter, for Portugal and Spain and for many other countries, if there were a two-speed Europe. Yet we are told that the right hon. Gentleman is the architect of a multi-speed, multi-layered, multi-track Europe.
In November 1990, the Prime Minister said :
"I don't want a two speed Europe. I think a two speed Europe is unequivocally bad for Europe."
At the conclusion of the European summit in Birmingham, after the British presidency, the Prime Minister said :
"No fast track, no slow track, no one left behind, that was a constant theme"
at the Birmingham summit.
During the European election campaign, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister referred to :
"a sensible approach, varying when it needs to, multi-track, multi-speed, multi-layered. It is a Conservative idea".
How dare the Foreign Secretary conclude that hon. Members have such short memories and that the people of this country forget so quickly the promises and commitments solemnly given in the House of Commons and at European summits about their approach to the European Union ? In a desperate attempt to cling on to votes at any price, the Foreign Secretary abandoned all his long-held principles on Europe, whereas I never have. I therefore claim to have shown constant support for the European Union. The right hon. Gentleman used to be able to make such a claim, but he abandoned it for political expediency during last month's elections.