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Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): It is unusual to have the opportunity to speak at this time when the House is debating a motion. I think that the opportunity should be taken for a number of brief reasons.
Column 764First, the emphasis tonight has been placed on people. That is absolutely right because Parliament--all of us--refer to the people for power, and that power is a trust. Tonight, in Dresden, they are talking about what happened in Coventry. Many people, both inside and outside the House, look to the treaties that we have been discussing-- [Interruption.] Perhaps those sitting in front of me will listen to my remarks, because I am addressing them especially.
There are many who look to the treaties as a means of ensuring that Dresden and Coventry do not ever happen again, and that people in all the nations of Europe and all parts of Europe live together in a degree of harmony. That is what all of us and all our constituents want.
The problem is that many think that the treaties that are before us, and on which there could be a referendum, are not the way forward. The treaties confine us in our choices. The choice of the people in future will be denied when it comes to a balance of private and public enterprise, the borrowing requirement or what Chancellors of the Exchequer can do. Narrow, nasty nationalism, both here and in other parts of the European continent, is likely to be fanned and inflamed rather than prevented. I believe that profoundly because of the constitutional analysis of the treaties.
It is unfortunate that there has not been sufficient information about any of the treaties which Conservative Members and their friends have passed without reference to the people. The treaties are with us because of an election during which the issues were not put to the people. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) and his successors had no general election mandate for the treaties. Any matters of this sort that we are called upon to deal with in future must be accompanied by absolutely full information. The Government have not even rewritten and republished the treaties that we are talking about. The so-called Maastricht treaty was a treaty on union. The treaty that preceded it, the Single European Act, and the original treaty of Rome form a uniform and entire volume. The Government have not printed it. They are suppressing information at almost every stage. Everyone who is in favour of the treaties wants them not to be understood.
Once they are understood, the chances of a peaceful and prosperous Europe that we all want to see--I helped to rebuild Hamburg after the war and the terrible fires there--will be much less good. There must be co-operation and no coercion. There must be consent, not coercion by political and economic forces, which is implicit in the treaties. The treaties must be examined in far greater detail than we have been able to do this evening or on previous occasions when they have been debated.
The House divided: Ayes 47, Noes 3.
Division No. 71] [10.00 pm
Column 764Alton, David
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Column 764Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Column 765Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Lynne, Ms Liz
Column 765Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Archy Kirkwood and Mr. Simon Hughes
Column 765Hicks, Robert
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Column 765Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Tony Marlow and Mr. Andrew Welsh
Column 765Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House believes that the popular assent of the people of the United Kingdom should be sought through a referendum before any substantial alteration of the present constitutional settlement between the European Union and its member states.
Mr. Charles Kennedy: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Despite the abstention of Labour and Conservative Front-Bench speakers, which one assumes was based on collusion for their own purposes, the House has unambiguously voted by a clear majority in favour of the motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). Would it be in order during tomorrow's business to have a statement from a Minister telling us how the Government intend to give effect to the recorded wishes of the House?
Mr. Streeter: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. As the Division was unwhipped, can we be sure that everyone has left the Aye Lobby? I am particularly concerned that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) might still be there, because they have not voted for their own motion. Could you look into that, Madam Speaker?
Madam Speaker: I do not look into the way in which hon. Members vote, but when I was a Whip I was what was called a sweeper and I ensured that everybody was swept out of the Lobby before the Doors were closed.
Mr. Skinner: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before this shambles is over, we should have it recorded that the person who moved the motion for the referendum, for which I voted, was not in the Lobby. When I went in I could not find the leader of the Liberal Democrat party at all.
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely it is contempt of the House for the leader of the Liberal Democrats not to be here for the declaration of the outcome of the Division. I do not know whether he was in the Aye Lobby because I was not in that one. The right hon. Gentleman was not here when we had an important vote on the future of the common fisheries policy. He certainly did not vote on that occasion.
Mr. Salmond: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. There was a serious point of order containing an allegation of collusion between the Labour and Tory parties. Seemingly it falls short of collusion to deny the House the right to vote on a motion. Is that the sort of matter on which you have powers to investigate--deliberate collusion between Labour and Tory Front-Bench spokesmen to deny the House a vote on this matter?
Madam Speaker: Internal politics or politics between one party and another is not a matter for me. When a Division is called, Members should be here to vote as they wish. I am not interested at all in inter-party warfare, inter-party rivalry or inter-party loving because we are now close to St. Valentine's day.
Mr. Marlow: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. We have just had a vote on a referendum and the House has voted by a far larger majority for that referendum than it did for the Maastricht treaty. Would it be in order to have a referendum on the Maastricht treaty?
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance. I am desperately concerned about Scottish affairs. The Scottish National party appears to be voting in two ways--its leader votes one way and its Whip another. That gives me cause for concern about the future of Scotland and the possibility of referendums on Scottish matters.
Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that that is not a point of order, but a point of view. It should be expressed on another occasion, not through an abuse of the House on a point of order.
Column 767and whether if, as I hope, one day there may have to be a referendum on Europe, you will encourage more than 6 per cent. of the population of this country to take part?
Madam Speaker: Referendums in this country have absolutely nothing to do with me. I am concerned only with ensuring that Divisions in this House are carried out properly and correctly, and this one was.
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Would it be in order to have a teach-in so that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) can understand the difference between being a teller and actually voting and, further, understand how being a teller can show the collusion between the Labour and Tory Front Benches, acting together to prevent a fair vote in the House?
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. As some hon. Members believe that it is highly significant that the House has just carried a vote by a majority of 44, which may require a statement from the Leader of the House, was not Friday's business also very significant in that the majority was four times larger for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Should not that also require a statement to the House?
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) questioned whether tellers counted in the vote. Can you confirm that the requirement to have 40 hon. Members present and voting means 36 hon. Members plus the tellers and that, in fact, those who are tellers count as having voted?
Mr. Don Foster (Bath): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. As you raised the point about sweeping, may I point out that I was sweeping in the Aye Lobby and I can assure you that no one was left in the Lobby? Those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who were referred to earlier were, in fact, absent with the permission of our Chief Whip--but, as was quite clear, their presence was not necessary as we had a very large majority without them.
That Mr. Robert B. Jones be discharged from the Liaison Committee.-- [Mr. Willetts.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Willetts.]