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Column 737these four EFTA countries to follow suit. The explanation is political. Finland had a special relationship with the former Soviet Union, Austria and Sweden were neutral, and Norway was the Scandinavian country furthest from Brussels and the European centres of power.
It is nevertheless good news that the four are likely to join the EU. As the Foreign Secretary said, Second Reading provides us with a good opportunity to debate the strategic direction of the European Union. Should it, for instance, take in more members ? If so, which ones ? Should widening take priority over deepening, or do both processes go hand in hand ? What does the accession of these countries say about popular support for the Union ? What can be done to further that support ? Those are all important questions. I believe that the EU's greatest task is to help to bring lasting stability, prosperity and democracy to the former Soviet bloc countries. That applies especially to the Visegrad four, but it does not exclude other countries such as Slovenia and the Baltic states. This is partly an argument about history and culture. I think it was Lady Thatcher who said that Warsaw, Budapest and Prague are European cities too. Partly, too, it is an argument about our self-interest. We do not want these countries failing on our borders. If they do fail, huge numbers of migrants will come to our countries--hence the self-interest.
There is also the sometimes forgotten fact that the establishment and underwriting of democracy has always been the European Union's underlying purpose. It was never just a free trade area. Had it been, Spain and Portugal could have joined much earlier. The European Union is above all a grouping of democratic countries, and it is primarily to help to provide a lasting basis for democracy that it is so crucial that the EU lay down a positive, clear timetable for the entry of the former communist countries.
As some hon. Members have said, if the task of enlargement to the east is accepted by existing members, there will be some implications. There is the issue of CAP reform. Euro-sceptics sometimes hopefully suggest that widening the EC somehow rules out deepening. That is not the case.
A European Union of 20 or even 25 members will inevitably have to change its operating rules if it is to work effectively. It will have to look at the number of Commissioners and how they are appointed, and at strengthening the presidency to facilitate business. There is already a problem about that. It will have to look at the transparency of the Community institutions, and will have to reappraise the weighting between big and small countries. My argument with the Government over the Ioannina compromise was not so much the issue as the fact that they chose to raise it at this inappropriate time. Above all, the EU must look at the greater use of majority voting. Anyone who does not see that as a serious issue is not facing the reality of the Union, because a Community of 16, let alone 20 or 25, cannot be run without a great deal more majority voting.
Those will all be vital questions for 1996, but even more important is the need to involve the peoples of Europe in the European Union. I hope that the EFTA countries will show in their referendums that they want to join the Union. The Maastricht referendum in France was narrowly won
Column 738but the result was uncertain, and two referendums were necessary in Denmark before the Maastricht treaty was supported.
Mr. Dykes : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a big difference between a compulsory referendum under constitutional arrangements and one that is an optional extra designed by a political leader which goes wrong for internal reasons ?
In an excellent recent speech on the Union which I advise hon. Members to read, my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) rightly said that it cannot be a grand design handed down from on high from Government to the governed, and that Europe must be argued for. [Interruption.] We do not always argue for it. We argued for it on entry, but we do not go on arguing for it. We must continue to argue for it, and when we do things will change.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield rightly argues not just for an increase in the powers of the European Parliament but for the involvement of national Parliaments in the process. We have failed to do that throughout the Union.
Mr. Spearing : I commented to myself rather than to the House that the argument has been going on for 15 years. Does that not show either that a mistake was made or that there are continuing doubts that have some validity ?
Mr. Radice : My hon. Friend has never accepted the result of the first referendum in 1975, so in a sense we are arguing on different levels. I am saying that we must make a case for what is done, that we must argue for the Maastricht treaty.
I was involved in both the French and Danish referendums. The problem was that they were ad hoc referendums, and were related mainly to national events. President Mitterrand decided to have one because he thought that it would strengthen his political position. They were held at different times, and had a knock-on effect. They were fought primarily on national lines and often accentuated party differences.
There is a case for referendums, but they should be Europewide, and should take place simultaneously, on the same day across Europe, rather in the manner of European elections. That might avoid some of the purely domestic political issues that enter the debate. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnson) does not support referendums, but I think that we should look at the idea. Purely Europewide referendums could highlight European aspects of policy and would force politicians to argue for change and involve the people in that change. The problem is that politicians have sometimes not argued the case. The Government certainly did not argue the case for Maastricht, just for its opt-outs. That was hardly an argument for Maastricht, and the people were not involved. Britain must be involved in all these debates. It cannot be an effective member of the European Union, half in and half out, an occasional country member, an offshore island semi-detached from the continent. We must play a leading part in all the debates ahead. In that context, the
Column 739triumphalist tone that the Foreign Secretary occasionally allowed to creep into his speech was totally inappropriate to the facts. Under this Government, Britain is not taken seriously, as it ought to be, in European debates, and the reason is simple. Our partners are uncertain of our intentions and motives, and do not know whether the Government will be blown off course by a band of very determined rather skilful and in some respects quite able Euro-sceptics. The Government must make up their mind. It is about time that they said firmly to their rebels that we can achieve more together in Europe than we can alone, and that Britain will at last begin to play a positive part in the European Union and in the debate about its direction.
Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe) : I join in the warm welcome expressed by nearly all contributors to the debate for the proposal that the four new candidates should accede to the European Union. It is significant that the Governments of those countries have decided to apply, and I hope that their peoples will endorse that decision.
Those applications have been made despite the fact that the past two or three years have been difficult for the Union. We all know the reasons, and they are related not only to the economic recession but to the challenges of Bosnia and other foreign policy difficulties. Despite that, those countries clearly understand the benefits and advantages to their nations of membership of the European Union. I hope that the decision by those four Governments will send a message to those in this country, some of whom are in the House, who are misguided and muddle-headed about the concept of the European Union and about the advantages and benefits that membership offers this country.
There are two types of misapprehension--I use as kind a word as I can. A small minority cling to the idea that Britain should leave the European Union. There are not many people in that minority, but there are a few, and there are possibly one or two of them in the House. I hope that they will pause for thought and consider that, after such a long time, these four balanced, normal countries which we respect have decided that membership of the Union is in their national interests.
A rather larger minority is much more important, because it is much more difficult and has a damaging political impact. That minority constantly suggests--not often spelt out in concrete terms, but implied--that the answer is a free trade area. Hon. Members and others who hold that view must surely pause to think that those four nations who for years adhered to the European Free Trade Area and then to the European Economic Area have decided that that is not enough, that it is not the way to promote and develop their national interests. They have decided that the benefits and advantages, together with the challenges and difficulties of European Union membership, will deliver the goods for Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. As the majority of hon. Members well understand, what delivers the goods for the people of those nations is what will deliver the goods for the people in this country. That must be the message of the application for accession from those four countries.
Another point that I hope will be taken to heart is that each of those countries has a very strong and distinct
Column 740national identity ; a sense of its own nationhood. It is inconceivable that they would be misguided enough to sign up for some smudgy blur of a centralised united states of Europe. That is not their concept ; it is certainly not my concept or that of the great majority of hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. That, too, is a message that I hope the doubters and the sceptics take home. I hope that they will then finally drop their neuroses, some of which have been expressed in speeches tonight.
I deeply respect the views of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) on many matters. Indeed, I strongly share his views on NATO. However, I do not share his views on Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) trotted out the bogeymen. It appears that the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend have discovered that, lurking on the continent of Europe, there are people who are actually in favour of a centralised and united states of Europe. They seem to be terrorised by, and terrified of, that amazing discovery. They should have a little more confidence. I have confidence that we will achieve a union of the European Community that does not surrender to Mr. Bitterlich, who was cited by the right hon. Gentleman as evidence.
The one point on which I differ from the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who otherwise made a very helpful speech, is his suggestion that there is a third option. I believe there may be 30 or 40 options. That is the excitement and challenge of developing and building the European Union. That challenge faces us all. I wish that the carping and the negativism would now stop, so that, in the months and years ahead, we can all--whatever party we belong to, or if we belong to none--try to work out the shape of the European Union and the British approach to the intergovernmental conference in 1996. I am usually regarded as an optimist, but it would be optimism of a high order to believe that we could develop a national cross-party consensus towards the IGC. However, there is a broad agreement on the sort of relationship with our European partners that we want to develop. I also believe that the instinct felt by me and many others in this House is shared by many on the continent.
That is the challenge ; that is the excitement. I hope that we can hold our debates without negativism and carping, and that we can join our 11 existing and four new partners in constructing a European Union that can get over the difficulties and meet the challenges from the rest of the word that we must surely face.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) about facing the challenges in the world. However, I am not sure that the encomiums of the treaty and the assumptions behind competing economic blocs meet that case. If there is to be a new world order and community in which tensions and economic competition do not develop into armed conflict, as they have in the past, we must do something better than the treaty before us. Despite the depleted numbers in the Chamber at this stage of the debate, I sense that a new tone has been struck. There is an unusual axis between Hartlepool and Shropshire. Indeed, branches of that axis may even extend as far as Harrow. I join those who have extolled some of the thoughts behind the speech of my hon. Friend the
Column 741Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson). I do not think that he and I will agree, but I hope that the House agrees that some of my thoughts on enlargement are at least worthy of consideration.
The half-agreement that, uncharacteristically, appears to have broken out across the House between what are sometimes called in the press the well- known suspects at either extreme of the argument is due to the fact that those hon. Members have the ability objectively to analyse the observable facts. Even if they disagree on the direction from which we have come or should go, at least they can analyse the facts objectively.
I want to deal largely with the Nordic states. Austria, for obvious cultural, linguistic and historical reasons, is rather separate. I have not listened to every speech tonight, but I do not think that anyone has mentioned the existence of the Nordic Union. It is an existing, genuine, international organisation that has not been paid the attention that it is due. How many countries would give up the idea of a national airline ? Scandinavian Air Services is an example of that.
Iceland is a member of the Nordic Union, but is not joining the EU. There has been the north Atlantic extension of Denmark into the Faroes. The Scandinavian countries look to the Baltic countries, with which their historic links are great. They have long-standing trade and cultural agreements. If they join the Union, there will be a greater and more rigid frontier between our friends in Scandinavia and our friends in the Baltic. That would not necessarily be wise. Again, objective observation shows that all those countries have had a specific and important history which will not sit well with the way in which the treaties are currently operated. Sweden is a former imperial power whose upper House of Parliament of landowners voted itself out of existence in the early 19th century. It did not even remain an advisory body. Norway became a new nation only this century, having been part of a greater union--"union" having been a dirty word in Norway. Should it virtually give up being essentially its own state in the same century in which it achieved independence ?
Mr. Spearing : Indeed : some of our hon. Friends may make the same comment about our northern member of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend will probably have the facts at his fingertips later. The political fact that I emphasise was probably correct.
Denmark--a remarkable nation--has commonality with the others but is distinct. There is the old joke about the Schleswig-Holstein question, but it is no joke in Denmark--a country about the size of a Land in Germany that, through collective effort, produced an enormous social and agricultural revolution 100 years ago, largely through co-operative enterprise, not competition, that transformed that country's landscape.
When I spoke to Danish officials on a visit by Select Committee members not long ago, they had to admit that, in acceding to the European single agricultural policy and its development, they are risking the development of
Column 742Denmark's own agricultural industry, created over the centuries. Finland has every reason to be suspicious, because it has knowledge of large economic and political blocs on its frontier.
I reinforce the point made by the hon. Member for Wycombe, that each of those countries has a distinctive reason for the best sort of nationalism. The problem for some of us on this side of the House is that some of those with whom we occasionally have constitutional quarrels are not as keen on the best sort of nationalism. Unfortunately, no word in the English language expresses what is legitimate in being proud of one's community, in the sense that one is proud of one's own town. Nationalism has a nasty ring about it, for obvious reasons. There is a word gap that colours our own thinking.
Each of those countries, particularly because of their rigorous national environment, has developed over the past thousand years its own form of community life. Forest, lake, water and sea have meant that those countries and their communities of relatively small towns, villages and scattered settlements have produced public enterprise, public ownership, forms of public support and taxation that have grown through the centuries and are now extremely strong. There is a democratic collectivism, market management and support of public markets to an extent, perhaps, that is not found elsewhere in mainland Europe.
The impact on those qualities not only of the single market but of bankers at present is of concern in all those countries. Bankers in this country have a status rather greater than they deserve. I understand from Scandinavian friends that bankers in most Scandinavian countries do not have a high reputation at present. In toto, the grain of political and social life of the Nordic applicants is, in fundamentals, contrary to a great deal of the fundamentals found within the treaties. There is much talk these days about "our vision for Europe." Anyone who wants to get off the hook talks about "our vision for Europe", "my vision for Europe" or "my party's vision for Europe". There is no question of vision--it is there in the treaties. One cannot get away from them, and they are decided in black and white.
The comment was made that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and others of us on this side of the House are backward. Fifty years ago, we in London knew what was going on, with the flying bombs, V1s and V2s. Members of my generation were determined that, as a result of that war, we would see something different. That is why many of us are pro-United Nations, pro-international and pro-Commonwealth. Until the altercation of the past 20 years, we would have been called pro- European.
The trouble is that these days, European does not mean the totality of Europe or co-operating nations. It means pro-treaty, which is very different. I put it to people in this country that to achieve the sort of Europe that my generation wanted after the war, we have--to use a British Rail phrase--the wrong sort of treaty. That is growing clearer even to some people who were the most vociferous supporters of Britain entering the Common Market in 1972. I fear that it will become clearer and clearer to the citizens of the applicant states as time goes by.
That is not clear to the Government. Today, the Foreign Secretary claimed that centralism had been checked. I agree with hon. Members in all parts of the House who say that that is not correct. Having signed a treaty that accelerates centralism, the Government claim that it has
Column 743been checked. They say that the federalists are on the retreat. There is a lack of knowledge in the House as to the difference between a federal constitution and a confederal constitution-- the worst civil war in the English-speaking world was over the distinction between the two, and a unitary constitution.
The treaties are neither confederal nor federal, but are unitary, because of the unitary nature of the European Parliament, Council, Court and Commission. Above all, there is no separation of powers. Arguments about subsidiarity, on which I shall not enlarge now, show that all too well. The mud, fluff, seminars and conferences about subsidiarity show that there is no proper division of powers, which is the hallmark of a genuine confederation or federation. I share the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool. I am glad to know that he is worried about the quality of scrutiny--and scrutiny does not mean control but only ability to see. That is not awfully easy, either. The Select Committee on European Legislation is in constant correspondence with Ministers about the inability even of that Committee to see certain documents--and the House does things rather better than many Parliaments in the Community.
The Swedes have a strong and democratic procedure called the remiss, which is like an extended Green Paper. Before any law or change at almost any level in any organisation can be enacted, having been suggested by a committee or party leader, it must go all the way down to the lowest democratic level, and then comes back again. Only at that stage is the equivalent of a Bill printed.
The Swedes will have a bad shock when it comes to the EEC. I have continual fears for the quality of democracy in such countries, which so many of us admire. When I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who is not in his place now, he did not have an answer. I asked whether accession to the treaties would tend at least to diminish the quality of democracy in the applicant countries--and certainly their satisfaction with and confidence in their own Parliaments. We all know how much the Nordic states have contributed to world understanding. We can all think of names from recent
history--Bernadotte, Trigve Lie, Dag Hammarskjold, Olav Palme and now Mrs. Brundtland. One thinks also of Brandt : although that distinguished gentleman was from Germany, he had Scandinavian connections. The commission to which he gave his name and which is continued in some respects by Mrs. Brundtland is indicative of that. We know of the part that those nations have played in humanitarian enterprises throughout the world--in the United Nations. A common foreign and security policy ? Are they signing up to that. "Oh," say some of my hon. Friends and other people, "we could do so much more together." That is the sort of trite phrase that we hear so often. Of course we can, if we are united and if we believe in the cement of free co-operation, and not in coercion through constant negotiation, which is the hallmark of the European Community. Unfortunately, we have some examples before us. We all know that the tragedy of Croatia was partly due to a hurried, and perhaps ill-considered, recognition by the European Union--it was nearly a union by that time--
Column 744brought about by political forces that we understand. How many organisations do we know of that cannot move because of internal politics ?
The middle east is another great problem that has exercised the House for years. Did the European Union greatly accelerate the middle east problem to its solution ? No. Norway greatly accelerated that process. Would it have been in a position to do so if it had been a member of the European Community from 1972 ? The thesis cannot be proved, but in all probability it would not.
The common currency is liable to undermine the ability of those fine communities in Scandinavia to operate their form of constitution and democracy, and may well undermine their way of life in the fields, forests, fjords and veldts. The enlightened analysis that is beginning to appear in this House ought to be available to the people of those fine nations before they decide in their referendums. 8.41 pm
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : As Front-Bench spokesmen are inclined to say, I think that we have had a good debate. We heard my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary saying that he is winning his arguments in Europe--I am not sure whether he also said, "again". We also heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) saying that we are all speaking as sceptics.
That made me very happy, until I read some parts of the treaty. Even in the preamble we find that the signatories are
"DETERMINED in the spirit of those Treaties to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe on the foundations already laid".
So, although I am grateful to learn that my right hon. Friends are in good heart, I wish that some of that could be conveyed to the treaty's draftsmen.
I am sorry that the treaty is not a fraction more contentious. Then some of us could have the uplifting, not to say novel, experience of wandering through the same Lobby as many of our colleagues when voting on European business.
The Bill is merely one page and seems reasonably uncontentious, but, for those who care to read it, it is based on a 389-page treaty, in which there is quite a lot of meat.
Many people say that, at the time, the Single European Act was thought merely to be an Act to enable the completion of the single market. The real relevance of qualified majority voting was perhaps realised only at a later stage. In other words, there was a sting in the tail, and I wonder whether this single page Bill has a sting in its tail, such as qualified majority voting.
I tend to view all such matters according to a speech that Disraeli once made when he advised all Conservative Governments to maintain the constitution, to uplift and uphold the conditions of the people and adequately to defend the country. I shall skip the part about adequately defending the country, on the basis that Mr. Deputy Speaker might rule me out of order and it might tempt the Whip on duty to reach for his pencil. As regards the advice to uphold the conditions of the people, the billions of pounds paid to cohesion funds, to build roads across Spanish deserts or Italian ravines, might better be spent on the national health service, education or even on reducing the public sector borrowing requirement. On the question of maintaining the constitution, may I offer one example-- article 44, which, in the main, is gobbledegook. It begins :
Column 745"The share of Community fishing opportunities for stocks which are regulated by a catch limit, to be allocated to Norway, shall be fixed as follows, by species and by zone".
Many pages of zones and references follow and there are 20 explanatory notes at the bottom of the page. Having thought about the article at the weekend--not fully understanding how one can have a percentage of 88,543(13)(19), but never mind that--Norway seems to have got a very favourable deal. I am not sure, as a result, what right the British fishing industry--assuming that we still have one--will have to fish in Norwegian waters.
Can my hon. Friend the Minister tell me whether, if British fishing companies purchase Norwegian companies after article 35 has expired three years from the date of accession, they can bypass article 44, having regard to the judgment in the Factortame case ? I think that my hon. Friend would refer me to annexes 11 and 12, but there is a problem because if my hon. Friend tells me that the Norwegians have found a way and have a derogation to get round the Factortame case, may we please have one for our fishing industry ? Equally, if the Norwegians have not found a way around the Factortame case, surely we ought to let the Norwegian public know about that before they vote in the forthcoming referendum.
A number of constitutional issues are involved, but in view of the time I shall not dwell on any more. Another issue worries me, however. There is no money resolution attached to the Bill. I wonder why the business managers of the House have not found such a resolution necessary. I wonder whether they do the House a disservice by not providing one. How can we know that no money resolution is necessary ? If money is required for new purposes, surely the treaty would be void unless we have a money resolution, according to the rules of this House.
I take as my text a House of Commons Library research paper. I shall not read it but intend to make extensive use of the notes. It states that
"Spending covered by headings 3 to 6 of the financial perspective was not touched on in the enlargement negotiations. A new financial perspective setting out the spending projections and own resource ceilings for the years ahead has not yet been agreed. Adjusting the ceilings for the different headings of the budget is likely to generate much debate. For example, it is not clear what increase, if any, there should be in the administrative budget."
Potentially, new money might be required for new members. Yet the explanatory memorandum to the Bill states :
"The Bill, however, will have no direct financial consequences in the UK."
I wonder if that is so.
How will our contribution be judged ? In terms of increased gross national product, the inclusion of the four EFTA states represents an increase of about 8 per cent., whereas in terms of the number of countries, their inclusion will represent an increase of 33 per cent. The Library brief continues :
"It is unknown which of these increases, if either, will be used as the basis to justify an increase in administrative spending . . . the UK has a clear interest in restricting any increase"
in spending on external action since it is
"outside the Fontainebleu . . . system."
If that is the case, I wonder whether we can rely on the statement in the explanatory memorandum that
"The Bill, however, will have no direct financial consequences." The emphasis seems to me to be on the word "direct".
Column 746I am reasonably happy about the Bill-- certainly happier than I have been about any previous European legislation- -because it deals primarily with the question of accession. Some of us believe that, in general, widening is good--notwithstanding what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen)-- while deepening, if we ever establish what it is, is not.
I would vote for the treaty, on the assumption that it is mainly about enlargement. According to the 398 pages of the treaty, however, under revised qualified majority voting we are ensuring more power for the centre and the substitution of bureaucracy for democracy. I am prepared to vote for the treaty because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister secured what I hope will prove an immensely valuable--indeed, epoch-making--triumph at Corfu, and therefore deserves our support.
During the forthcoming weeks and months, of course, many of us will wish to judge both my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Office on whether all the business in Corfu is purely temporary rhetoric--given treaties such as this, devoted to ever-closer union, we must have some misgivings about it-- or whether Corfu signals a real determination to stand up for British interests. Along with most of the men and women on the street, in the pub and in the shops, I fervently hope that the latter is the case.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) : Like others who have spoken, I welcome the accession of the new member states : two republics and two kingdoms with republican tinges will add to the democratic orientation of Europe.
The problem of neo-fascism is now raising its head. I was disappointed at the way in which the Foreign Secretary gave the brush-off to widespread concern in Europe about the entry into the Italian Government of supporters of neo-fascism--open supporters of Mussolini and anti-semitism. It is clear that we must have diplomatic relations with the Italian Government, but Opposition Members are dismayed that the Foreign Secretary will not join those in other European countries in expressing at least some concern about those developments.
We look forward to the arrival of Nordic and Austrian Members of the European Parliament and their quota of officials in Brussels. They will get something of a shock, of course, when they discover the immense secrecy which surrounds the Council of Ministers. I do not know how many hon. Members are aware that every Swedish citizen has the right to see every letter to, and from, the Swedish Prime Minister's office ; I cannot imagine No. 10 Downing street wanting Lord Archer's billets-doux spread all over the newspapers, but I commend that policy of freedom of information to my hon. and good Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), whose occupancy will begin in a year or two.
I salute the struggle undertaken by the Financial Times and The Guardian to obtain details of the voting of the Council of Ministers--the release of which was blocked by our own Government, with others. I hope that the arrival of new Ministers from the four acceding states will help to dampen that British disease of secrecy and to shape a more democratic and open Europe.
As a materialist, I am grateful for the fact that--as the explanatory memorandum of the Bill makes clear--there will be no cost to our country. According to the latest Eurostat figures, Britain has for the first time moved into
Column 747the bottom half of the league table of economic wealth in the European Union, expressed in terms of per capita gross domestic product ; we are below the average for the 12 European member states, and we shall be even further into the second division--along with Greece, Portugal and Spain--when Sweden, Austria and Norway join the Union.
Perhaps the Spanish question had something to do with the fact that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), went to Spain recently--or rather not to Spain, but to Catalonia : we are being very particular about nations tonight-- where he made a speech in which he criticised the values of the European Union as expressed by most of its member states. He was kind enough to send me a copy of that speech in the original Spanish, and it was most illuminating. Nowhere in it are the words "European Union" or "European Community" to be found ; the vision of Europe--the only term used in the speech--expressed by the Government through the Chief Secretary in Barcelona was a vision of a simple free trade area, with no barriers to the exchange of goods and services.
We all know that the Chief Secretary has a major vision of the future--or perhaps I should say a post-Major vision--in which the values and necessities that have led the acceding countries to join the European Union are not considered. I await with interest his thematic speech on national sovereignty, in which he must distance himself still further from the Government's position on Europe if he is to be true to the course on which he has embarked.
I do not know whether the Chief Secretary went to see a bull fight during his stay in Barcelona, but I am assured by my many Spanish friends that Britain will be a truly European country only when bull fights are allowed in Hyde park. I am sure that no House of Commons of which I would wish to be a member would permit such a thing ; for the humble Spanish business man who wants to export his sport to Britain, however, to ban bull fighting is to interfere with his right to trade.
I have no problems with British sovereignty when it comes to banning bull fighting, but I understand that British farmers are not happy with the sovereignty of the German Parliament when it comes to banning British beef. I also understand that British airline companies were not happy when the French sovereign Parliament and Government wanted to ban flights to Orly, and that British ferry operators are not happy about the Spanish Government's current refusal to run a service between Spain and north Africa. Certainly, steel workers in my constituency of Rotherham are not happy about the sovereign Parliament-backed decision of the Italian Government to maintain subsidies for steel plants in Italy, thus damaging the competitive market that steel producers rightly demand in Europe. I remain a great believer in the sovereignty of free peoples and nations in deciding their destiny, and their right to join like-minded nations in common projects--NATO, the Nordic Union mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) or, indeed, the European Union itself. Conservative Euro-sceptics, however, should be careful before making the Chief Secretary to the Treasury their standard bearer. He is not at all interested in the sovereignty of the British people in Parliament ; he is interested only in the sovereignty of the global capitalist market. If every last British citizen were employed by a foreign firm, if every economic decision affecting the United Kingdom were taken in the United
Column 748States of America or Japan, if English land were sold to stage Spanish bull fights at a profit, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury would not care because for him neither the nation nor its citizens count for aught against his beloved global market.
The Chief Secretary's position is coherent. It involves the new totalitarianism of the market, in which all human values are replaced by money values. His argument is not about British sovereignty or protecting the nations that make up the United Kingdom, a subject on which many Conservative Members spoke so eloquently during debates on the Maastricht treaty and today.
How can such sovereignty be protected ? I turn to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South and that faced by the proud Nordic nations. They have decided that their sovereignty can best be enhanced through co-operation with the other nations of Europe. Austria, which more than any other state in 20th century Europe knows what it means to lose her sovereignty, has decided both through parliamentary debate and through a referendum that the best protection for Austrian values and prosperity lies in full partnership with the rest of Europe.
Unlike the British people, countries such as Austria and Finland have experienced the full raging of communist, capitalist and fascist totalitarianism in the 20th century. The new intolerance of the uncontrolled, unaccountable and unregulated market is in full flow across the world. Day by day, unemployment lines grow, civil wars break out and our streets are less safe to walk in. That shows the new totalitarianism of money power over human and democratic values.
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : Will the hon. Gentleman explain in his analysis why the least regulated markets throughout the world have the highest level of employment ? One has only to consider countries such as the United States of America or those in the far east to realise that.
Mr. MacShane : I shall return to that subject and cite Switzerland, where I worked for many years, which has maintained full employment and which is the most regulated country in Europe. As they say in Switzerland, if it is not forbidden, it is compulsory.
The new European Union must succeed in defeating the new totalitarianism of money power if we are to create a world that is both economically efficient and spiritually and socially rewarding. I welcome the accession of the four new members to the European Union because they will strengthen the human and democratic values of Europe. While working with the grain of the market, they will not blindly worship Mammon, the God of the new, all- powerful market totalitarians.
Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) : I am grateful for the opportunity to make a speech in what has been a fairly wide-ranging debate. I hope that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) will forgive me if I do not follow his interesting but idiosyncratic analysis of the way in which European and modern world economies are developing.
Column 749I gladly welcome the likely accession to the European Union of Austria, Sweden, Norway and Finland for the reasons given by hon. Members, from whichever party--those countries' European cultural and democratic traditions and their participation in the economic and security structures that have developed in our continent since the last war. The Bill and the treaty are at best no more than an interim measure, a halfway house towards the new constitutional structure that we shall need in a wider and more diverse European Union and that we are perhaps midway to creating.
The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) alluded to some of the decision-making difficulties that were bound to arise with the widening of the European Community. The hon. Member for Rotherham said that he welcomed the fact that there would be new Members of the European Parliament from new member states and that new quotas of officials from Scandinavian countries and Austria would be arriving at their Brussels offices for the first time. A considerable proportion of those officials will be made up of the numerous translators who will be needed to cope with the additions to the list of official working languages that will be used in the European Community. Commissioners from the new member states will be appointed to a college of Commissioners which, even after the reforms introduced under the Maastricht treaty, is struggling pretty hard to find a worthwhile job for each member of the college.
Most important is the fact that, with the enlargement of the Community-- with the four potential new members now, with the likely accession of the four Visegrad countries in the next five or 10 years and with the possible inclusion of other new member states in southern and eastern Europe thereafter--there will be a real problem over the decision-making process within the European Union. We saw that point illustrated in the debates-- the Council of Ministers had to arrive at an acceptable formula for qualified majority voting. The hon. Member for Durham, North mentioned the problem of trying to strike the right balance between the right of small member states to be properly represented when the Community makes decisions and the right of the large nations, representing the largest share of the population of the Community, to have their influence fairly expressed.
In a Union in which unanimity will still be required for many important decisions, it will become increasingly difficult to take effective decisions and to manage business if we stick to the present allocation of competences as laid down by the existing treaties and to the present system for voting within the Council of Ministers. In the future, it will be easy for one small state to block the decision of, perhaps, the 19 or 24 other member states that form the majority. We have seen that difficulty arising already over, for example, the Greek blockade of Macedonia in defiance of the express wishes of the other member states of the Union. There is a risk that we shall end up either with a Community that is incapable of taking any decisions or with a Community whose policies are determined by the lowest common denominator of what might be agreed.
The constitutional problem could be tackled in various ways. One coherent, logical approach is the federal approach. Although I do not agree with the arguments put forward by Commissioner Delors, one must accept that his