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Portillo, Rt Hon Michael

Rathbone, Tim

Redwood, Rt Hon John

Renton, Rt Hon Tim

Richards, Rod

Riddick, Graham

Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm

Robathan, Andrew

Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn

Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)

Robinson, Mark (Somerton)

Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)

Ross, William (E Londonderry)

Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)

Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela

Ryder, Rt Hon Richard

Sackville, Tom

Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Sims, Roger

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)

Soames, Nicholas

Speed, Sir Keith

Spencer, Sir Derek

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)

Spring, Richard

Sproat, Iain

Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stephen, Michael

Stern, Michael

Stewart, Allan

Streeter, Gary

Sumberg, David

Sweeney, Walter

Sykes, John

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

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Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thomason, Roy

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)

Thornton, Sir Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)

Tredinnick, David

Trend, Michael

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Walden, George

Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

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Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Waterson, Nigel

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John

Whitney, Ray

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Sir Jerry

Willetts, David

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)

Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)

Wolfson, Mark

Yeo, Tim

Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Timothy Wood and Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.

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Question accordingly negatived.

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Bill reported without amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.-- [Mr. Heathcoat-Amory.]

11.33 pm

Mr. Shore: It would be absurd if we were to allow the Third Reading of this contentious and, in many ways, memorable Bill to be taken on the nod, and we have no intention of allowing that to happen.

The Bill will enter the annals of parliamentary history for several reasons. First, it has been a memorable Bill for the passions that it has excited, not least among Conservative Members. It has also been a very puzzling Bill because of the curious tactics employed by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in order to secure its passage. When people return to the Bill, as they will again and again, they will want to know why on earth the Government thought that it was necessary to get the measure through. They will ask, too, why amendments of a most reasonable kind were not accepted in Committee--why on earth the Prime Minister thought it was so worth while to get the Bill that he threatened electoral suicide and a general election, and why, in pursuit of the same cause, he was prepared to turn his elected majority Government into a minority Government. Those are truly amazing events, although we shall, over time, come to understand them a little better.

The Bill is about increasing the Community's own resources from 1.20 per cent. to 1.27 per cent. over a five-year period. That is an increase of about 5 per cent. in its total budgetary or tax yield. Five per cent. of about £60 billion, which is spent now, is a yield of about £3 billion over that period.

People will ask, why on earth was it necessary to have the Bill at all? What were the increased expenditures that it was designed to cover? We find, of course, that the principal item was the so-called cohesion fund in the Maastricht treaty, under which, in contradiction of an accepted regional policy, special funds were made available to Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland--not to particular regions in those countries but to the countries themselves.

We know why that pledge was made and those funds have been raised. It was not because of the particular needs of those countries--they would be covered properly by regional policy--but as a kind of general bribe to bring them along into the Euro-federal camp to get through the other far more dangerous and contentious parts of the Maastricht treaty. I have nothing but good will in my feelings towards the four countries concerned, but I do not think that it is right that they should be the recipients of a cohesion fund.

The House of Commons has a long tradition of careful scrutiny of finance, taxation and expenditure and has always insisted that grievances be remedied before it voted Supply. The Court of Auditors report, although we may argue about the precise amount, reveals waste, lack of financial control and fraud amounting to 10 per cent. of the Community budget or a sum equal to £6 billion. People will ask how the House could consider increasing the Community's finances by £3 billion when up to £6 billion could be saved if we had proper scrutiny and checks on the waste, the fraud and the other failings of

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the budgetary system. It is difficult to understand why no such amendments were approved, despite the fact that they were proposed. What argument carried the Bill through the House of Commons? I think that, above all, it was a false but important constitutional argument: that the Prime Minister felt that this had the status of a full treaty and that the agreement that he had entered into in Edinburgh in December 1992 was not the Prime Minister giving his consent, subject to the approval of Parliament, but his giving consent, as Ministers have in the past when signing a foreign treaty, by the use of prerogative power, which is seldom challenged in the House after it has been used. But this is not a treaty. How can we go on accepting that agreements arranged between Community countries should have the status of a full-blown treaty? That is absurd, and it is simply a means of ensuring that we lose democratic control. Agreements are being made all the time in the European Community-- agreements or "decisions". Are we to be told the same every time an agreement is made? The document is not called a treaty; it is called a decision--the decision of 31 October 1994. Are we to be told in future that all the decisions taken in the European Community have the status of treaties, and that those who have signed them feel so strongly and passionately about them that they are prepared to resign en bloc and force a general election if they do not get them through?

It is constitutionally improper that such threats should be made, and if those threats are effective, Parliament is reduced in power and influence in a totally unacceptable way. We shall constantly be threatened with the use of a treaty power, when we should be treating such agreements as if they were normal pieces of legislation. It is interesting that in the so- called decision of 31 October, after the usual prelude, with the long list of "whereas this" and "whereas that" that precedes Community doctrines, the articles of the decision are introduced by the following passage:

"Whereas the European Council provided that this Decision should take effect on 1 January 1995,


The Council "recommends". That is not the language of a treaty; it is the language of an ordinary decision, almost equivalent to a piece of domestic legislation.

The Bill is memorable for the reasons that I have given. It represents a major constitutional innovation, and in order to get it through the Government have behaved as no Government, in my recollection, have ever behaved. It has been introduced at a time when its purpose is clearly under dispute, and it coincides with a massive indictment of fraud and waste in the Community.

I hope that the House will never again allow a decision made within the Community to be given the status of a treaty, thus denying the House the right to object, to amend and to turn it out if need be. I hope that we shall all come to that resolution. Although I do not believe that I shall defeat the Bill on its Third Reading I shall certainly vote against it, and I shall do so with enthusiasm. 11.42 pm

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