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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : If Norway failed to accede, the treaty blocking minority would reduce from 27 to 26. That is clear from the arithmetic. It would not be open to the Government, or any other member state, to take a
Column 1089completely different view, which I believe my hon. Friend is inviting me to take, because the treaty refers to adjustments which are indispensable. That clearly refers to the technical and consequential adjustments that would flow naturally from the non- accession of one member state.
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) referred at length to defence and security matters. I will not follow him down all the paths that he mapped out. However, I agree with him that it is very important that the future evolution of a European security apparatus, particularly through the Western European Union, is fully compatible with the Atlantic alliance and NATO in particular. That is one reason why we hope that Norway will accede, because it is a long-standing member of NATO.
The fact that three of the EFTA states concerned are currently neutral shows that they are shifting in their attitudes to that concept. Many people in those countries believe that the traditional neutrality that they have followed has become out of date following the end of the cold war. They are seeking to integrate their foreign policies more in line with the common foreign and security policy which the Maastricht treaty set up for the first time.There is no obligation on those states to join WEU, but I hope and expect that in due course they will at least become associated with the treaty. In reply to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), I put it to him that the fact that the European Union can welcome into its membership countries with a wide diversity of security attitudes--three of them being neutral--is an example of that multi-track Europe which my hon. Friend seeks. That is achieved within the existing treaty. No amendments are necessary. That shows that the treaty of Rome as amended by Maastricht is highly tolerant to several different security systems. However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North about a point that he made. A similar point was made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy). This enlargement round is not, by itself, sufficient. We, too, regard it as one further step, but an important step, on the way to others which must include, in some way, the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Mr. Jenkin : Is not the real test of whether we are beginning to decentralise the Community not the multi-speed, multi-track aspects of the separate pillars--the pillars are apart from the main part of the Community --but whether we start to have multi-layer, multi-speed and multi-track in the central pillar, in the European Community itself, and cease to have to regard the acquis communautaire as inviolate, untouchable, sacrosanct and hitherto completely protected by subsidiarity ? The Edinburgh guidelines on subsidiarity specifically state that one cannot attack the acquis communautaire.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I shall not follow my hon. Friend too far down that road as it is essentially a point for other debates. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have made the point from the Dispatch Box that even within that central pillar of the Community there is already a variable geometry or multi-speed system. The provisions relating to monetary union allow for different timetables for different states. I would argue that, leaving aside how the Community or the Union may develop, we
Column 1090already have in it more than the seeds--we have the reality of some of the things that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North is seeking.
The hon. Members for Greenock and Port Glasgow and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) questioned me about whaling. I can assure both hon. Members that Norway did not seek and certainly did not receive any opt out or derogation from the provisions in existing EC law relating to whaling. The combined effect of the existing measures on whales and whaling amounts to a de facto ban on commercial whaling by member states in Community waters. Norway has agreed to and will be signing up to all the obligations and rules as they relate to whaling.
That brings me to an important point on which I think that I differ from the hon. Gentleman. He said that he did not want to see Norway join because of its whaling policy. I argue that all who seek an end to Norwegian whaling should welcome Norway into the European Union. The hon. Gentleman asked me what this country could do to try to protect whales more effectively from the Norwegians. The answer is, very little until Norway joins. Once it is subject to the rules, regulations and laws of the European Union, the whales will be safer. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will work for and welcome Norway's accession in due course.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : No derogation has been sought and the question does not arise. I must be candid with my hon. Friend--many of the rules and regulations have not been tested fully in the European Court. I think that it was the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow who said that the issue may go to the European Court, and he may be right. The position is not entirely clear. I am giving what I consider to be the clearest guidance that I can at this stage.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) : I am a Conservative Member with some doubt about the relevance of subsidiarity. Could the Norwegians claim that it was a matter that they should decide under subsidiarity because of its critical importance to the Norwegian economy ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : No, they cannot do that because they must and will sign up to the existing obligations and rules. Those rules cover whaling in directives such as the habitats directive--specifically aimed at whales and their protection.
The hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and others talked about salmon. Norway will be entitled to all the rights of membership, including trade access for fish products. Article 53 of the treaty provides for the Commission to monitor the effect of serious disturbance of fishing markets and to take appropriate
Column 1091action if necessary. Once Norway is a member, if dumping can be proved or the payment of state aids by the Norwegian Government can be shown, action can be taken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) discussed institutional reform. That is chiefly a matter for 1996, not this debate. But we share his view that there are too many Commissioners. There will be 21 if all four countries accede, which is too many. I do not know what they will all find to do. At the next intergovernmental conference I hope that we shall be able to find a way of reducing the number. I hope that it will not reduce my hon. Friend's enthusiasm to know that Mr. Delors shares his view. Mr. Delors wants a more effective, smaller Commission, whereas the maverick view might be to keep increasing the number of Commissioners so that they eventually collapse under the weight of their own expansion.
Certainly it is the view of the Government--I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford on this--that a pruning of the numbers would help us to achieve a more efficient, effective and responsive Commission. We shall work to that end in 1996. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) made several points which I shall not endeavour to answer as I tried to do so on Second Reading. However, I must take issue with one point that he made. He takes a most pessimistic view of the future development of German foreign policy. I do not share that view. In particular, he made the point--I regard it as an allegation--that Austria would become little more than a German satellite and could always be counted on to vote the German way. That is clearly wrong. In their referendum, the Austrian people did not vote 2 :1 for entry in order to achieve an anschluss. They wish to join the European Union precisely because they will be able to sit alongside their German neighbours in the Council of Ministers on the basis of equality. It is precisely to avoid domination by one powerful neighbour that they believe that their relationship with Germany is best pursued in the context of a wider union.
With those few remarks, I commend clause 1 to the Committee.
Ms Quin : I welcome clause 1. It is the main clause of the Bill and the main part of the ratification process of the treaty of accession. Just as we welcomed the Bill strongly on Second Reading, so we welcome clause 1. The Minister was correct in saying that as it was the main clause it allowed a wide debate and allowed many hon. Members who had perhaps wished to speak on Second Reading to make their points on this occasion.
My hon. Friends have made many valid points, particularly on fishing, on whaling--raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks)--and on the possible consequences for European security arrangements of the accessions that we are considering today.
We have heard a variety of speeches from Conservative Members. They were somewhat different from the speeches on Second Reading. Several hon. Members almost seemed to be against enlargement. Certainly, the hon. Members for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) and for Stafford (Mr. Cash) seemed to think that this enlargement would reinforce centralism within the European Union.
Column 1092Many of us feel that it would not. They talked about "unthinking centralism" and seemed to suggest that the applicant countries favoured it.
The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) talked about the commitment of the four countries, which we welcome, to high levels of social protection. He said that that was a direction that he and others did not like. I certainly do not believe that the four countries are in favour of unthinking centralism, and neither are we. It seems to me that many of the European Union countries already offer a decentralised model. I agree with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) about the belief in decentralisation here.
One thing that struck me in the debate was the great amount of suspicion which seems to exist among Conservative Members towards their own Foreign Office Ministers. [Interruption.] I am glad that they agree so strongly. It was particularly true of the remarks of the hon. Member for Stafford and perhaps even more striking in the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who said that he did not believe a word that the Foreign Secretary had said on fishing.
The Governments of the four countries believe strongly that it is in their interests to join the EU--including the people of Austria, as shown by their referendum result. Interestingly enough, they also feel that the terms of entry meet their concerns. Perhaps in that respect they are somewhat more fortunate than we were when we joined some 20 years ago. It is now up to the people of those countries where referendums have not yet been held to give their views. I hope that they will be encouraged by the support that most of us in the Committee have given to them tonight.
Mr. Spearing rose
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to. Question put accordingly and agreed to.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 10.30 pm
Sir Teddy Taylor : I wish to make one brief point which is of some significance, and I would appreciate the Minister's view on it. When we passed the Maastricht treaty, we were told that when we became citizens of the European Union we had certain entitlements given to us in relation to voting in European elections and in council elections.
Although I did not choose to become such a citizen, can the Minister say how article 13 on page 359 of the treaty conforms to that ? The article provides that member states
Column 1093who find that 20 per cent. of their citizens are citizens not of their country but of other parts of the European Union can say that those people cannot vote unless they have resided in that country for five years and cannot stand for election unless they have resided there for ten years. That is set out in detail in article 13 of page 359. Can the Minister say why the Government accepted that and, in particular, whether it does not conflict totally with the assurances given in Maastricht on the rights of European citizens ?
My second point is also brief. As the treaty also excludes certain areas of Norway and Sweden from having representation in the European Parliament-- the Minister kindly provided detailed written answers on 11 July on the matter--is that also in conflict with Maastricht ? It seems to be almost a form of ethnic cleansing. If that applied in Britain, and we felt that 20 per cent. of our voters were French, German, Italian or from other parts of the Union, we could say that they would have to have had five years' residence. That seems to be an unusual clause which does not seem to have any relevance to the previous treaty. Why on earth was it put in the treaty at all ?
Mr. Spearing : First, may I apologise for a wholly out of order remark, Mr. Lofthouse ? You may realise that a brief contribution at the end of the previous debate might have been of interest, particularly as the Minister rose when the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) and myself had indicated that we wished to speak. I will not pursue that matter because we are now debating clause 2.
I wish to ask--why is the clause here ? We are all, whether we like it or not, citizens of the European Union and we all have a vote for the European Parliament. If the powers of the European Parliament were being expanded by virtue of the treaty of accession, under the European Assembly Elections Act 1981, there must be permission for that in an Act of Parliament.
I hope that the Minister can tell us why the clause is here. I was not aware that the treaty of accession, as distinct from the treaty of Union, enlarged the powers of the European Parliament, although of course it would enlarge its membership.
Mr. Biffen : What I have to say is tolerably brief and could certainly be as easily contained in a debate on clause 1 as on clause 2. It does not require much elasticity to ensure that it can relate to clause 2. I want to talk about the principles of consent which are contained in the Bill. I want to do so in the context of a quite remarkable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). It will not be the first occasion when a parliamentary campaign is conducted with relentless concentration upon one central issue which it is believed will have growing dominance in the public perception of what is at stake.
I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is in his place. He adds great intellectual distinction to our gatherings--a Greek planted among Romans--and he will confirm that Cicero warned again and again about the danger that Carthage posed for Rome. In that tradition, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford is claiming that we cannot understand the European Union, or the implications of this Bill, or the enlargement process described in it, without relating it all to German policy. Those who believe that enlargement will, as it were, modify the sharpness of Germany have got it wrong.
Column 1094Enlargement will merely serve to underline the German confrontation with the rest of Europe that will almost inevitably proceed from the collapse of Soviet power as Europe reverts to its more historic power structures.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford on the determination with which he pursues the argument. I happen to disagree with it ; I would not want hon. Members to think that I share that view of Germany. I do say, however, that we cannot understand what is developing in Europe without trying to see it through the eyes of the major European power. That does not entail facile performances of the type that President Kennedy attempted when he went to Germany and said, "Ich bin ein Berliner". That was all very well for a word bite, but our perceptions and judgments must be a good deal more sustained than that.
I welcome the clarity that my hon. Friend brings to these debates, although I also understand why the Minister did not immediately endorse his arguments. This is a debate that will remain with us. I look forward to more--perhaps briefer--contributions with the same degree of persistence by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford. To return to my theme of consent : clause 2 mentions the European Parliament, perhaps the institution most clearly linked to the idea of consent in all this. As we are being somewhat intellectual this evening, I should like to recall Shakespeare's comment that "a monarch needs no unwilling subjects".
The truth about the European Community is that it is a bosses' show, a bureaucrats' show, a politicians' show. It has never been a people's Europe, although I know the Liberal Democrats hope to develop that idea.
Perhaps the most depressing feature of the recent European elections was the fact that so few people turned out to vote, and they do so in diminishing numbers at each election. Worse still, in almost every country the elections were fought on every subject under the sun--except the European Union. There is no basis for the EU in popular consent, which has been lacking even when a referendum has been used as a device to secure endorsement. The consequences of using that device have been relatively short lived.
My observations arise not out of any hostility for the arrangements that we have in the European Union but out of the fact that what I have described is the truth. Any analysis rooted in realism must accept that. Some of my hon. Friends have begun to develop a dialectic that contrasts widening with deepening. Those who claim that deepening must parallel widening must be quite sure what they mean by deepening. They had better be quite clear as to what further commitments should be made and, above all, they have to be able to demonstrate that the powers that will be taken by Government do not have to take account of the very thin levels of popular support for the European Union across all its functions.
I make that observation with no great foreboding or warning, except that if we are to have a debate about the balance between widening and deepening, let it be quite clear that unless and until we have clear, enduring evidence of popular affection for the European Union as a concept which commands loyalty and, above all, will support sacrifice--because government is about ordering priorities and the sacrifice that goes with ordering priorities--and if that mood and that commitment does not exist, whatever
Column 1095we advocate in respect of deepening has to take that severely into account or once more we shall embark upon a false trail which will end in disillusion.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I shall try briefly to answer one or two of the points that have been raised. I shall have to write to my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who raised a rather detailed point. One might say that he has taken out one of my stumps as I am not aware of the particular residency voting requirements in the clause to which he drew attention.
In answer to my hon. Friend's other point, there are provisions for some of the states, particularly Norway and Finland, to decide later whether they wish to include particular areas in the franchise for the European Parliament. My hon. Friend may be referring in particular to the Aland islands, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy within Finland. The Finnish Government have not yet decided whether they should be directly represented in the European Parliament.
The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) asked what was the point of the clause. We are required to legislate through the House when the powers of the European Parliament are enhanced in any way. They are in one small and detailed respect : the European Parliament will have the power to vet and approve the credentials of Members of the European Parliament elected between now and the end of the year from the accession states, in the event that in the next few months any of those countries wish to elect people to sit in the European Parliament. After 1 January next year, their credentials will have to be approved and that power, small though it is, will pass to the European Parliament.
In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), I cannot possibly satisfy him or give him an adequate answer, except that I entirely accept his point about the need to take the people with us. One of the lessons of Maastricht was that the political class in Europe got well ahead of the people that it represented. It behoves us all to try to create a Europe for people, not one to satisfy political vanities or bureaucratic convenience. Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Within 12 months of the ratification of the treaty the Secretary of State shall present to parliament a report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union, its agricultural policy and its fishing industry.'.-- [Sir Teddy Taylor.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
This is the only amendment which has been selected out of five pages of amendments, not because the Chairman of Ways and Means has become mean, but because in every single piece of European legislation the Government are becoming more clever in having a short title which
Column 1096prevents any detailed discussion on almost anything. Only through the skills of our own researchers are we able to have one particular amendment discussed in new clause 4.
The Government should be aware that it does not exactly help democracy when Members of Parliament are unable to discuss any aspect of policy in detail. While they are certainly very clever, conscientious and able, it does not exactly help democracy when we have a Bill which contains many important issues, but Parliament is unable to discuss them at all.
My new clause is simple. It suggests :
"Within 12 months of the ratification of the treaty the Secretary of State shall present to parliament a report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union, its agricultural policy and its fishing industry."
I think that it is a very good idea for the Government to tell hon. Members a year later whether things have turned out as they predicted. Irrespective of their views on the EC, hon. Members will surely agree that almost every day we receive information revealing that last year's pledges and assurances have turned out to be a load of rubbish, and that the Government are not really in control. 10.45 pm
It will be remembered that a Council was held in the lovely city of Edinburgh. Although they would be closing down plenty of military establishments the next day, causing much sadness among the military community, the Government agreed to give more cash to the EC, on one condition--that there were strict budgetary limits on spending. Hon. Members cheered, just as they cheered Mrs. Thatcher when we did same thing under the Single European Act. We said, "At last we have control. They cannot overspend by a penny." But we have already seen what has happened. We have seen a statement signed by the Paymaster General, which I obtained privately, and also one from Brussels, showing that, despite that pledge, our people will have to spend £1, 000 million above the legal limit on agriculture in 1995 because the Commission says that that must be done. The Government say that it can be done if we spend reserve funds.
The same applies to contributions to agricultural spending. We were given assurances that things were sorted out now--that the amount would not be much more. I have challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have with me the paper which states that in 1995 Britain will be paying an extra £2,000 million in its gross contribution. That means that every family living in every constituency, and all the poor Members of Parliament who have been assured that things are under control, will be spending an extra £3 a week.
It is all very well for some hon. Members to laugh, but there are many poor families in Britain. Many people cannot make ends meet. It is no fun for them to be told, "Sadly, we have got it wrong. You will all have to pay an extra £3 a week." It may be fun for Members of Parliament, but it is not fun for people who are finding it difficult to pay gas, water and electricity bills--people who may be unemployed. It is wrong, evil and terrible that Members of Parliament are consistently being led up the garden path and not being told the truth. Why not make a gesture of reconciliation ? I am only asking the Government to come back to us a year after the treaty's ratification and say how it has worked out.
Fishermen are being told not to worry--everything will be all right. Our fishing industry will be slightly stronger, we are told, with with more opportunities ; the Norwegian
Column 1097industry will be all right. The plain fact is, as the Minister knows--he is one of the few honest guys in this place-- that we have already agreed that in 1996 restrictions on the Spaniards will be removed. We have seen what has happened to our fishing fleet in the north : the Spaniards have cleared it out and our North sea catches are down to less than a quarter of their former value. Foreign Office Ministers may walk out of the Chamber, but they know the facts. They know that the value of our catch has fallen by three quarters. People become unemployed and all we do is offer them cash.
The Government say, "Do not worry about these countries joining ; we are going to get more money. Britain will be £300 millon better off." The detailed Library papers, however, show that it is not quite as simple as that. Because we shall pay large amounts of compensation to these countries for several years in the form of transitional payments, no saving at all will be made, at least for the first four years. We are far from sure what will happen after that. I may be wrong, the Government may be wrong, but why not come back just once, in a year, and say how it worked out ?
The same applies to agriculture. We are told time and again that agriculture will get better and that expenditure will go down. Yet time and again the Government's assessments are shown to be inaccurate, to be lies and misunderstandings or to be a mistake by the Foreign Office.
We cannot carry on like this. People are suffering. According to our Foreign Secretary, the average family in this country pays £28 a week extra on its food or taxes purely because of the CAP. Next year, they will be paying an extra £5 a week. That is not right. Auditors' reports are published showing fraud and extravagance, but they are never debated in the House. I am not asking the Government to accept all that I am saying or to say that we should leave the EC or encourage others to do so or even that we should spend less money. I am simply saying that, as a gesture of reconciliation, the Government could agree to approve a clause that asks them to come back in a year and tell us how things have worked out. I do not think that that is asking too much. The Government could agree to do that just once. They could say, "We thought certain things were going to happen and they all did. How right we were" ; or perhaps, "Things did not quite work out as they should." That would be far better. My hon. Friend the Minister will probably say that we do not want to pass unnecessary legislation. We do not want to stick something into the Bill that we do not need. The Government will probably say, "Why bother about it anyway because hon. Members can ask questions ?" My hon Friend the Minister is an honest chap in the Foreign Office and he knows that we cannot table questions. We cannot ask about our trade with the EC. We are told that the answers are contained in information in the Library. Sadly, the Library figures are not precise because there are many different ways of assessing them. The Government have now achieved a situation in which on many of the basic issues, such as contributions and spending on agriculture, Members can no longer ask questions ; we have to go to the Library. Just once, I want to ask our friendly Foreign Office to come back in a year and provide some figures and let us have a look. We do not even need to have a debate,
Column 1098although I should prefer one. This is a sensible and helpful suggestion and what has happened in the past more than justifies the request.
The new clause does not propose revolution. We are not proposing that everyone should stand on their head or that policy should change. We are simply asking for an auditor's report in one year to see how things have worked out. If the Opposition and the Government accept that, it will make us all happy. We will know that at least once we will have a proper auditor's report on what has happened, without having to listen to all the nonsense, misunderstandings and sometimes the blatant untruths that, unfortunately, we sometimes hear from the Foreign Office. Many hon. Members have tonight specified that the Foreign Office is the source of deliberate misunderstanding. That is wrong in a democracy.
Ms Quin : I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) on at least having his new clause selected for debate. As he pointed out, he was the only person who managed to achieve that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will admit that the new clause is modest in its scope. The Opposition are not particularly enthusiastic about it, simply because it refers to only certain aspects in the treaty of accession and not others. There are many other matters in that treaty that could be looked at. For example, social matters form an important section of the treaty. Other issues include environmental matters, regional matters and matters relating to democracy and open government. There is the declaration by Sweden on open government which also forms part of the accession documents. The hon. Gentleman has made some valid points, particularly about the cost of agriculture for people on low incomes or who are living in poverty. However, if the hon. Gentleman is really concerned about poverty, he and his colleagues should speak out much more on the taxation system, the VAT rises and the deregulation employment policy of the Government, which have done a great deal to promote poverty in this country.
Six-monthly reports are presented on developments in the European Union. Issues such as those referred to in the new clause can properly be raised in those reports and in Select Committees and European Scrutiny Committees. I am not certain or convinced that the new clause is necessary. As I said earlier, we do not like its selective nature. If a report were to be presented, we would much rather that it referred to all the issues raised in the accession treaty. The hon. Member for Southend, East has an obvious and repeated distrust of the Foreign Office, so I am not sure that he would believe what was in such a report.
Mr. Wilkinson : In the debate on clause 1 stand part, I called my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) Mr. Valiant for Truth, and right hon. and hon. Members who heard his speech on the new clause will understand why. My hon. Friend and the supporters of the new clause are not asking anything extravagant or extraordinary of the Government. All we are asking is that their practice should match their rhetoric. We have often heard calls for open government and that the Government are custodians of the practice of open government.
The hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) said that the new clause is modest and not comprehensive,
Column 1099which is true. It does not refer to the environment or social policy, but it does refer to the three key issues that impinge on people's livelihoods and welfare.
The question of the European Union's finances is fundamental. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East referred to the notional saving of £300 million over six years in our net contribution, which was described by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his Second Reading speech, and the big increase in this country's gross contribution next year and probably thereafter. We want to see how that equation develops and whether we will achieve the savings that have been promised.
One needs only to take a trip around the countryside and to see the fields of oilseed rape and acres of set-aside land full of weeds to wonder whether the costly extravagance of the agricultural policy is working and whether it is in the interests of our people. As for the fishing industry, as I mentioned in the debate on clause 1 stand part, whole communities are becoming derelict, which is a tragedy for many coastal villages throughout the land. We want to see whether policy is working out as the Government promised it would. The new clause makes a modest, simple request of the Government. In a year's time, we want them to give an account of themselves on the important matter of the workings of the European Union after the accession of the four applicant countries, if all four join.
Mr. Winterton : I support the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). Apart from the intervention that I made earlier, this is the first time that I have spoken in the debate. My hon. Friend said that the new clause is modest in its intent and objectives. That was confirmed by the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin), who spoke for the Opposition. It is extraordinary, however, that Back Benchers have been able to debate only one amendment or new clause on a matter that I believe is of constitutional importance.
In an intervention in an earlier debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) highlighted the lack of interest in Europe--in the European Community or the European Union--displayed by the people of this country. He said that the interest in and support for the European Community or European Union was in fact diminishing. I believe that the House has an important role to play, and I deeply regret the fact that it is unable to make a more meaningful contribution to debates such as this on behalf of the people whom we are here to represent. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has made that point many times.
The objectives behind the new clause are very limited. If the House does not allow its Members to represent the deep concerns of the people of this country about matters of constitutional importance such as this Bill, those people will wreak their vengeance on the political parties that have allowed the Bill to be passed in their name.
I do not think that it is unreasonable for my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip- Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), to ask the Government and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who has
Column 1100displayed an understanding and realism greater than those of any other Minister at the Foreign Office, to give a sympathetic response to the new clause. Is it wrong to ask a Minister to come back to the House in 12 months' time to give an account of how the Bill has affected this country in three important areas of activity-- finance, agriculture and fishing ?
I accept what the hon. Member for Gateshead, East said in her brief contribution. Many of us would have wished the new clause to go even wider. If the House is to play a meaningful role in the governance of this country --in the United Kingdom and within the European Union--surely it is not too much to ask the Government to report to the House on whether what they said during the passage of the Bill was accurate and, if it was not, to provide an accurate report on precisely what has happened and to outline its actual impact. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East mentioned the cost to the people of this country of the European Community. I believe that he talked of a figure of £28 a week for each family. Is it not right that the United Kingdom Parliament should be able to judge what the Government have done and represent the interests of the people ? If not, why are we debating the Bill at this time of night ? [Interruption.] I am happy to hear a response from hon. Members who are not even within the limits of the Chamber. It is extraordinary that we should be able to debate only one modest new clause tabled in respect of a measure of such great constitutional importance. I believe fervently in Parliament and in the role of its Back Benchers--I have been practising it for 23 years without a break. I suggest to the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East has made a very modest request of the Government. I do not think that the Government are being honest with the House and with the people of this country unless they are prepared to report back to the House in 12 months' time to justify the policies that they have urged the House, and especially their colleagues, to adopt.
I have been brief and direct. I believe that, yet again, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, like my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and for Ruislip-Northwood, has done the people of this country a great service. My hon. Friends will go down in the history of this place as honest, direct and honourable. I ask the Government to do the same.
Mr. Marlow : I, too, intend to be brief, Mr. Lofthouse. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) for introducing the new clause, and I am especially concerned that we should have an early report on the implications of the treaty for the finances of the European Union.
One of the most important aspects is European monetary union. As we all know, that will be very expensive indeed, as countries in southern Europe are bought off through cohesion. The four applicant countries are in the penumbra of the Hun, so they will be in favour of European monetary union. Their joining the Community will make it more likely to go forward. Therefore, if we are to influence the debate on European monetary union, it is most important for the Government to make their position crystal clear at an early stage, through the report.
We know the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer--that a European state without a single currency is
Column 1101unthinkable. We know the views of the Secretary of State for the Environment--"Not tonight, Josephine. We do not know what the circumstances are ; we do not know where we shall be, or what our attitude will be." Monetary union will take place by stealth. The real question, the question to which we all need the answer, is : what are the Prime Minister's views ? One could say that over the past few weeks my right hon. Friend has made a fresh start, and his fortunes are improving. Perhaps by making his position clear in the report on European monetary union he could add momentum to that recovery.
It would be useful to revisit my right hon. Friend's article in The Economist of 25 September 1993, in which he said that the nation state was here to stay. Is that compatible with monetary union ? He also said that the people find the centralising vision of Europe alarming. Is that compatible with monetary union ? He said that decision making should come closer to the people, not further away. Those issues could be reported on in the annual report.
The Prime Minister said in that article that economic and monetary union was a rain dance--something for the witch doctors. That is all sensible and encouraging stuff. But why not go further, especially as the four applicant countries will probably be hell-bent on monetary union ? Let us make our position clear soon. Let us build on my right hon. Friend's success at Corfu, especially in the light of his views as expressed in the article in The Economist .
A real friend might say to my right hon. Friend, "John, you're on a roll. You're doing well. Cash in ; take it further. The party in the country, the party in Parliament, and above all the people, want a European policy with which they can be at ease, a policy that they understand, and one that suits the United Kingdom. You've got it ; go for it."
Of course we all know what a single currency would mean. It would not be a convenience for commerce or a bonanza for business. It would mean massive transfer payments. Those could be set out bit by bit in the report