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Mr. Baldry: I would be rather more inclined to give way to my hon. Friend to listen to what he has to say if he had been prepared to listen to what we had to say before he dashed to the television studios instantly to say that he was minded to vote against the Government next week. If he listens to what I have to say, I may be able to persuade him to change his mind. He may do so when he hears of the considerable advantages of membership of the EU and the leadership that we are taking within the Union to improve it. Britain attracts one third of all inward investment in Europe, which means millions of pounds of new investment from Japan, the United States, Korea and elsewhere. It is--[ Interruption .] My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) muttered, "What about jobs?" In 1993-94, there were about 400 inward investment decisions that created or safeguarded almost 100,000 jobs. Many of them were created in areas of high unemployment. That is a real choice for Britain.
Mr. Heald: Does my hon. Friend agree that the jobs position in Britain is so much better than in the rest of Europe because we do not have the huge costs bearing on our employers that have been imposed in other European countries? Does he agree also that it is vital as part of our membership of the Community that we do not give way and allow huge non-wage labour costs to be imposed on our industries?
Column 656Labour party would sign up to anything offered by Europe. We want to ensure that we have an EU that is in the best interests of the people of Europe. By our leadership, we are trying to persuade fellow member states in Europe that if they continue with uncompetitive practices, Europe will lose out as against the rest of the world. I have every confidence that our view will prevail.
Mr. Duncan: A moment ago, the hon. Member for Gateshead, East said that the Labour party would have opposed the opt-out on the single currency, but nonetheless would have given the House a choice to join it. Has my hon. Friend received any advice to suggest that one could have had an opt-out while keeping such a choice?
Mr. Baldry: No. My hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and the House know that the Labour party's position on the matter is untenable. We must ensure that the country understands fully that its position is untenable.
Ms Quin rose --
Mr. Baldry: We have heard quite enough from the hon. Lady. I would listen more intently to the Labour party were it not for the fact that it has changed its position on this issue no fewer than six times in the past few years. When I came to the House in 1983, the present leader of the Labour party stood for election with a manifesto committing Britain to withdraw from the European Community. That is the same person who now postures around the country, pretending to speak for middle England.
It serves our interests better to act together, rather than to act alone. Every child can remember Aesop's fable about the man breaking sticks. He is able to break one or perhaps two, but certainly not a bundle of 15 or 20. Membership of the European Union gives us much more clout in the eyes of our competitors and rivals. They want to know that Britain is in the main stream of European development. Inside Europe, we are pressing successfully for trade liberalisation, more deregulation and the elimination of major state aids and bureaucratic trade barriers which may discriminate against British firms. As a great European nation, Britain must be a participant, and not just a spectator, in matters affecting our freedom and prosperity. We must not break up the machinery of Europe, but make sure that the machinery works.
Of course it is for the House to decide what it wishes to do with the Bill. I suspect that the House will wish to take it no further. It offers electors a bogus choice, and I am sure that the people of Britain have far greater self-confidence in our ability as a nation to continue to influence and fashion Europe in a way that meets our needs and enables us all to gain the benefits which our membership of the European Union undoubtedly brings to us.
Ms Quin rose --
Mr. Baldry: I do not intend to give way to the hon. Lady again. When I first came into politics, I was fortunate enough to work for Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. Perhaps I ought to remind the House what her vision of Europe was, because it is as valid now as it was when we first came to office. She said:
Column 657"compared with the interests we have in common, the differences which divide us shrink into insignificance. They must not be allowed to rob us of the prize which could be won by more effective common action--a new upsurge of European vitality."
Quite rightly, my noble Friend set her face firmly against federalism, saying:
"I do not believe that the nation states in Europe will wither away."
She emphasised the particular importance of European co-operation and the defence of European values for the a wider world. She said: "The time has not yet come--I hope it never will--when the European Community turns inward upon itself. For Europe is the source of history's greatest endeavour, whereby the spirit of man, restless and ever ambitious, seeks always to renew itself by reaching outwards and upwards. The challenge for the next generation is to use the growing authority that will come from the greater unity of Europe to span the gaps between races and continents, between the rich and the poor, between the free and the unfree of the world . . . This is great work, and it cannot be carried out by timid minds".
Timid minds will not be found on the Government Benches, because we share Baroness Thatcher's vision that
"we are the European party in the British Parliament and among the British people; and we want to co-operate wholeheartedly with our partners in this joint venture."
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow): Despite her favourable mention of me in that vividly written book of hers, I cannot support the Bill of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). I oppose clause 1(1)(3) for the reasons so vividly outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). While there was more than a hint of desperation in the language used by the Minister--perhaps he has forebodings about next Wednesday--I agree with his criticism of the two questions that the hon. Lady would like to ask in her referendum. Clause 1(2)(b) is simply not in the gift of Her Majesty's Government, whichever party is in power. Having said that, I offer my sincere compliments to the hon. Member for Billericay for initiating the debate. I entered the House with the Minister in 1983. It has been my experience that European Community debates in the House have always attracted the presence of fewer than 30 right hon. and hon. Members. But that was until the Maastricht affair. As the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) would say, there are some very well-kent faces here. I can remember the historic moment when the European Court of Justice ruled against Her Majesty's Government on a recently enacted Act of Parliament. I refer to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. The hon. Member for Southend, East and I were here. I spoke from the Dispatch Box in those days. On that evening there were fewer than 24 hon. Members in the House. It was the first time that the European Court of Justice--in that case, the President sitting on his own at an afternoon session of the ECJ--had advised the Government that they would have to suspend a certain section in an Act. The relevant section related to Spanish ownership of British trawlers. That was what it came down to.
Column 658Some of us told the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the Bill was going through the House that it would be challenged by the European Commission in the European Court of Justice because in EC law it discriminated against non-British persons who owned or part-owned United Kingdom registered fishing vessels.
So the hon. Member for Billericay deserves our compliments. Only a small band of us in the past 10 years or so have taken part in debates on European Community and now European Union matters. In my experience, in that period of 11 or 12 years, the debates have always been dominated--if I may say so in, I hope, a fair-minded way--by those who are hostile to the European Community and hence deeply critical of its institutions. Those in favour of the Community and its institutions have been noticeable either by their absence from such debates or by their unwillingness to offer criticisms of the Union's institutions. I believe that they have let their side down. The best advocacy, as I am sure that the late Nicky Fairbairn would have said, is to be as toughly critical of what one seeks to defend as of what one seeks to promote. Those who are in favour of the EU should be its toughest critics. Hon. Members on both sides of the House fail in that regard.
Sir Teddy Taylor: I compliment the hon. Gentleman on his sincerity and commitment to these debates, but after the merchant shipping decision and the case that will go to the court on Monday and abolish all our border controls, does it not worry him that, while he can complain, shout and scream, our democratic Parliament can do nothing about it, nor can we do anything in the councils of Europe?
Dr. Godman: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's compliments on my sincerity. Whatever one may say about him and his hostility to the Union, he is fair-minded and utterly sincere. I would describe him as passionate on such matters.
To be utterly honest, as I hope that I always am, I have mixed feelings about the European Court of Justice. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I come from a fishing family who were directly affected by that decision on merchant shipping. On the other hand, on 6 April the European Court of Justice will begin hearings on a test case that involves this Government's squalid refusal to pay invalidity benefit to women aged between 60 and 65. I am referring to the case of Mrs. Rosie Graham.
I have organised in Scotland, and helped to organise in Northern Ireland, take-up campaigns on behalf of women between those ages whose invalidity benefit has been taken away from them. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that more than 3,000 women came forward in Northern Ireland, with an even greater number in Scotland. I have experience of the European Court of Justice, therefore, and said in another debate in which the hon. Member for Southend, East participated that it was taking on the powers of a supreme court over the 15 nations--I speak as an ex-shipwright, not as an ex- lawyer. It is a formidable decision-making body, and some of its decisions have eased the burdens of many people on low incomes throughout the 12 member states. I welcome some of its decisions, therefore, although not others.
Column 659Let us not fool ourselves. That court will go from strength to strength in terms of case law. I sincerely hope that the Government are yet again defeated on the non-payment of invalidity benefit to women aged between 60 and 65. I hope that they will expeditiously pay that money and all arrears to those women if the case goes against them. In fairness to the Government, they have a good record of compliance with directives and with decisions of the court. One reason why I am so tough a critic of the European Union is that there are those who dodge the column where directives and decisions of the European Court of Justice are concerned. I refer with, I hope, no hint of ethnocentricity to some of the Mediterranean countries. I have been tempted to think momentarily that we would be better off without them, but that really would be ethnocentric. I wish that their Governments would behave as well as the Danish and the Dutch and, indeed, this Government, in complying with the directives. I would welcome a referendum on the European Union, but it has to be at an appropriate moment. I do not support referendums on a yearly basis, but the people of the United Kingdom should be given the opportunity to pronounce judgment on what might prove to be radical constitutional change following the IGC. May I remind some Conservative Members when they talk about our country that this is the Parliament of a multinational state that is undergoing constitutional change, whether some hon. Members like it or not. As I said, if Northern Ireland is given an assembly it will surely mark the beginning of the restructuring of the United Kingdom. Such a decision would gladden the hearts of secessionists and devolutionists throughout the United Kingdom. It would certainly gladden the hearts of many of my constituents in Scotland if an assembly were set up across the water. I said "assembly", but I should have said a legislature without tax- raising powers. The framework document, which everyone here will have read, refers to a legislature. If one were set up following a referendum in Northern Ireland, it would strengthen the peaceable resolution of secessionists and devolutionists elsewhere, particularly in Scotland.
Numerous institutions within the European Union cause considerable concern. I have long been a critic of the common fisheries policy. If the hon. Member for Billericay were successful today and we moved, heaven forbid, to a referendum on Europe, we might have such a wide-ranging debate that we could discuss with our constituents issues like the common fisheries policy. This may not be the moment to discuss it, but that policy needs to be changed dramatically to emphasise the regional management of fisheries and tougher policing of foreign vessels that fish within our territorial waters. We could also debate the role, functions and powers of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. When critics on either side of the House refer to decisions taken in Brussels, they mean decisions taken by the supreme decision-making body, the Council of Ministers, which meets in secret. Those Ministers have formidable powers and a British Minister is one of 15 major decision makers in all spheres of activity, on whom no constraints whatever are placed. It has been suggested that the constraints placed on a Danish Minister are much more powerful than those placed on a UK Minister. Strictly speaking, that is not true. Danish Members of Parliament are not in a much
Column 660stronger position than UK Members of Parliament in terms of scrutinising European Union legislation and constraining ministerial decision making in Brussels.
May I return to the intervention by the hon. Member for Southend, East? Somehow, we must seek means by which domestic Parliaments can put a democratic check on decisions made by those 15 Ministers at European Council meetings. Inevitably, that means that greater power will have to be given to the European Parliament.
Whether hon. Members like it or not, power is seeping away from domestic Parliaments, and it is obvious that Members of the European Parliament will continue to chafe at the restraints placed on them. Members of the European Parliament, whether Conservative, Labour or whatever, want greater powers vis-a-vis the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. Whether hon. Members in this House welcome that or not, it is how things will progress in the next few years. We are witnessing creeping integration. I agree with the hon. Member for Southend, East that it might be better to have a federal system than the current mess where the European Parliament is a talking shop and this House of Commons is increasingly constrained by decisions taken by European institutions, for example, the European Court of Justice, the Commission and the Council of Ministers. Major changes are taking place over which we have no control, so, in the end, the federalist approach might be the best bet.
Ms Quin: As I said in my speech, I am worried about seepage of powers. I criticised the Government's strategy of opt-outs, but explained that it is the Labour party's view that, as a country, we have the right to decide whether to join a single currency. That option is available to countries whether they have negotiated opt-outs of the kind negotiated by the Government or not.
Dr. Godman: I support what my hon. Friend says about the social chapter. During a debate last year, I predicted that multinationals with satellite subsidiaries in Scotland or England will increasingly find it easier to conform to some of the rules and regulations emanating from the European Union than to stand out against them. I said many months ago that it does not make sense in terms of good industrial relations and good employer-employee relations to deny advances made elsewhere to employees in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. That is another type of development that will take place whether we are in or out of Europe.
Those who support the European Union the strongest, those who are its keenest advocates, should be its toughest-minded critics. Some of them have sought to smooth over the inadequacies of the European institutions or the unrestrained power that some of them exercise. By doing so and by being so weak-kneed in their assessment of the European Union, they have betrayed their own cause.
Although I do not necessarily agree with those people who are mistakenly labelled Europhobes, I have a great deal of sympathy for them because at least they are tough critics of the European Union. That is what is needed before we can even talk about its expansion and about extending the mechanisms of integration. We need that scepticism in our approach to the European Union, particularly on the issue of subsidiarity.
Column 661If the House and, I hope, one day, a Scottish Parliament, is to have any decisive decision-making powers, that will come about only through a democratic interpretation of article 3b of the Maastricht treaty, which relates to subsidiarity. That article is subject to an entirely different interpretation in other countries, particularly the Federal Republic of Germany.
The supporters of the European Union should start to voice criticisms of it because others will then listen to them more sympathetically.
The debate has been dominated by experts on European matters and by lawyers and, perhaps even more formidably, by lawyers who are also experts in European matters. I refer especially to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who falls very clearly into that bracket. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions, and agree with him that a clear divide between the two parties is essential, and preferable to a referendum.
I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), who instigated the debate. Her opening remarks covered many of the issues that are a worry to British people. I recall that she mentioned fishing and the common agricultural policy, which are both areas of great concern.
I worry about a referendum. My postbag is full of requests for a referendum on hanging, not a referendum on Europe. I know that that matter has been discussed earlier. Although we may stand here and discuss the fact that one is a constitutional matter and the other is not, I am not convinced that that argument holds any water in the country.
Mr. Heald: Does my hon. Friend agree that the benefits of a referendum are, first, that it enables one to discover what public opinion is on an issue that is not necessarily presented to the general public in a general election; and, secondly, that it gives the opportunity of invigorating our politics by allowing the general public to become involved in the debate in a much more obvious way?
Mrs. Knight: Those are two of the fundamental arguments in favour of a referendum--arguments that cannot be ignored. There are equal arguments against a referendum, such as that concerning the question that is asked. The problem of the question that is asked is a significant reason why I am worried about the Bill. The question, with all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay, is extraordinarily vague. One cannot envisage a circumstance in which one might ask a vague question, whereas one can envisage a circumstance in which one might ask a precise question. It is the generality of the clause that worries me most.
Column 662I am also worried about whether a referendum will be helpful in the run-up to the 1996 intergovernmental conference. In my opinion, the most important aspect of the run-up to the 1996 conference is that we should have our own agenda.
Mrs. Knight: I will say to my hon. Friend that the notes that I have are in my hand and have been here since 9.30 this morning. I am under the impression that the debate does finish at 2.30 pm. If I am wrong about that, someone will no doubt tell me. Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will inform me if I speak for too long or, indeed, stand up or sit down at the wrong moment. I hope that that answers the question. The argument that I wished to make was that we must devote most attention to--
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. What the hon. Lady wishes to do is entirely for her, but she must understand the procedures of the House and not just stand up and ask permission to do things. If she does not know the Standing Orders of the House, it is high time that she learnt them.
Mrs. Gorman rose in her place and claimed to move , That the Question be now put.
The House divided: Ayes 24, Noes 2.
Division No. 85] [2.29 pm
Column 662Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Body, Sir Richard
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Godman, Dr Norman A
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Column 662Mackinlay, Andrew
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Christopher Gill and Mr. Roger Knapman
Column 662Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Column 662Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Alan Duncan and Mr. Gary Streeter
Column 662It appearing on the report of the Division that fewer than forty members had taken part in the Division, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- declared that the Question was not decided.
It being after half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed on Monday 27 February.
Order for Second Reading read.
Second Reading deferred till Friday 14 July.
Order for Second Reading read.
Second Reading deferred till Friday 3 March.
Order for Second Reading read.
Second Reading deferred till Friday 17 March.
Order for Second Reading read.
Second Reading deferred till Friday 3 March.