|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 421The project is not an example of fraud, but it will generate enough money for someone to do quite well. We do not want to see the Commission financing that sort of project, even if, like my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), we are very much in favour of the Union.
My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) talked about certain schemes which did not do the Union any good. I suggest that the project is a bad use of public money. That sort of thing can be stopped only if the Chamber uses its power to vote money--just as it does on voting Supply to the Crown, or on voting, as we did last night, on measures which will make money for the Government. Unless and until we get a grip on the European Community's finances, there will be trouble ahead for the Chamber, the Government and, above all, the people of this country. 11 pm
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I open by answering a point raised by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), although he does not seem to be in his place. He is probably back in the Library trying to find his book. I did not give an undertaking that the book on European agriculture was available. I said that I understood that it was in the Library. I had been told such by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If it is not in the Library, I apologise, and I shall make sure that it is placed there at the earliest possible moment. I repeat that it is not the intention of the British Government to suppress the book. It appears to be a useful contribution to the issue of reform of the common agricultural policy, which has been led by the Government and by Britain. Although I sympathise with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), I cannot accept his new clause 11. It is potentially extremely wide. The House will accept that already a huge quantity of documents is submitted to the House and is available for parliamentary scrutiny. Earlier in the evening, I quoted the figure of 673 explanatory memorandums submitted to the House in 1994 alone, of which 59 applied to budgetary issues. So Ministers who go to Council meetings and negotiate on behalf of the British Government already provide the House with a great deal of information. The Scrutiny Committee sifts through those explanatory memoranda and recommends some for debate.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): This is an important point. This morning in one of the European Committees the House was asked to examine four major directives on the training of marine employees, safety at sea and pollution. We made it clear that it was not in the interests of the House of Commons that such major pieces of legislation, which will have the effect of law in this country if they are passed, should be allowed to go through in one block sitting without proper examination or any opportunity for the House of Commons to vote against any amended resolution brought to the Floor of the House.
It is all very well the Minister saying that more than 600 memoranda have been looked at. If that is the sort of scrutiny they receive from the House of Commons,
Column 422neither the Government nor the House should be satisfied that we are monitoring what is happening in the Community.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: It is up to the House to order its scrutiny proceedings in order to give proper attention to the memoranda put before it. I emphasise that the Select Committee, not the Government, decides which shall be recommended for debate. I assure the hon. Lady that, when a draft directive or regulation is submitted to the Government, it is in turn provided to the Scrutiny Committee by way of an explanatory memorandum before final decision, and often before any decisions are taken in discussions in Council meetings in Brussels or elsewhere.
So the Government are most anxious to supply the House with all necessary information, although it has been observed in the debate that the very quantity of explanatory memoranda means that they do not individually receive the attention that they deserve. I have already made the suggestion that we should consolidate some of the information into an annual report, which could perhaps receive more concerted attention from the House as a whole.
The effect of new clause 11 would be to mandate Ministers at each stage of every negotiation in Council meetings. That is simply not realistic. A negotiator must be able to speak for those he represents. Obviously, during negotiations positions have to shift; opening bids retreat or advance; and objectives are secured by giving concessions elsewhere. If, at every point in the negotiations, reference had to be made back to the House and another resolution passed before they could proceed, they clearly could not proceed in any realistic sense of the term.
Any hon. Member who has negotiated in any forum will appreciate that it is unwise for a Government to reveal their negotiating position in full before exchanges take place. I think that the House accepts that it is consistent with our scrutiny proceedings that Ministers should go to Council meetings with the knowledge of where the House stands on important issues, but free to negotiate the best deal possible.
One should not forget that the negotiations are international discussions, and it behoves Ministers and officials negotiating for this country to get the best possible deal. They are conscious of the need to keep the House of Commons informed, but that position would be undermined by new clause 11, and I recommend that the House reject it.
I believe that it might be desirable--the Minister thinks it undesirable-- for Ministers to be bound by decisions of this House in scrutiny debates, because all the things he mentioned will be a consequence. The resolution required by new clause 11 relates to the Council decision of 31 October, which concerns finance and the voting of money. I suggest that that changes the position.
Column 423Inadvertently or otherwise, the Paymaster General has been most frank in revealing the nature of the constraints that would be applied by the House and that he and any Minister would be placed under. He used the words "advance", "retreat", "negotiating positions", "concessions" and "concessions elsewhere". I hope that he means elsewhere in a regulation, but I am afraid that he means elsewhere in other matters of policy.
Since the negotiations take place in secret, who is to know what minority interest in this country--employment in one hon. Member's constituency, or capital appreciation somewhere else--has been sacrificed. Hon. Members and the people of this country would be unaware of that.
The Minister could come back and say, "I've done the best for the United Kingdom." The reason why any Government--including one whom I supported strongly, who said virtually the same--would say that is because the nature of the constitution of the European Union makes it thus. It mixes up the important matter of legislation, which we do openly and in public in this House, with negotiation, which is a matter of policy formulation between sovereign states. In their reply to the new clause, the Government admitted that mix, which is poisonous to the spirit of democracy, if not to its actuality. The hour is late, Mr. Lofthouse, and the Government in their wonderful democratic way, having allocated two days to debate the matter, appear to want to press on. I do not want to give them too much, but by refusing the new clause, with its deep, underlying constitutional principles, they have revealed the fix they are in, the fix that any Government would be in, and the nature of the treaties to which successive Governments have adhered and advocated to the House. Given the opportunity, I would negative the new clause, then we can perhaps move on to the next business.
Question put , That the clause be read a Second time:--
The Committee divided : Ayes 50, Noes 312.
Division No. 15] [23.10 pm
Column 423Adams, Mrs Irene
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Campbell-Savours, D N
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Donohoe, Brian H
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Column 423Gordon, Mildred
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Paisley, The Reverend Ian
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Column 424Rowlands, Ted
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Column 424Spellar, John
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Tellers for the Ayes: Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody and Mr. Austin Mitchell.
Column 424Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Valley)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Bright, Sir Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John