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Mr. Gallie: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook: No. I am dealing with bigger fish than the hon. Gentleman. I ask him to forgive me.

The Foreign Secretary expressed better than I could hope to do the difference in essence between the Government's foreign strategy and the Opposition's. As he said, in a way that I could not improve upon, the Government's aspiration is to stand alone while ours is to find partners. It is as well that the Government welcome isolation as a measure of their success. They have had plenty of experience of that over the past year. There was a spectacular example of splendid isolation on the highest-profile issue before the Commonwealth conference. Britain was a minority of one on French nuclear tests. The tests were condemned by the rest of the Commonwealth members. No doubt all of them are secret members of CND. The rest of the Commonwealth condemned the tests while we made a brave condemnation of the rest of the Commonwealth.

The Prime Minister described all the other Commonwealth leaders as factually incorrect, intellectually inconsistent and unbalanced. That is successful diplomacy in the Government's terms. It proved that they could stand alone. In fact, it demonstrated how isolated they were.

Those of us who care about the Commonwealth's future cannot fail to be alarmed by a British Prime Minister behaving not as the leader of the Commonwealth but as the odd one out. It was as if a Tory Back-Bench Member was heckling below the Gangway while the other members of the conference were making decisions.

In his Chatham house speech the Foreign Secretary described the Commonwealth as a priceless asset. He was right to do so. It is a valuable source of access and it is of great interest to Britain. It provides us with a partner in every continent. It brings together a third of the membership of the United Nations. But that will be an asset only so long as Britain treats it with respect and behaves as a leader, not a heckler. I say "Britain", but, of course, Britain was not really represented at the Commonwealth conference. What was represented there was the Conservative Government. They do not speak for the people of Britain on the issue of French nuclear tests. The last opinion poll found that 3 per cent. of the people of Britain agreed with the French nuclear tests--even less than the support for the Tory party. The other 97 per cent.

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cannot all be in CND. This is a Government who speak only for themselves but who damage international relations for the whole of the country.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting to the House that the world would be a safer place and that Britain would have been better represented had the Labour party under Michael Foot won the 1983 general election, with him as a leading unilateral disarmer?

Mr. Cook: I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that both Britain and the world would be a better place if Labour had been in power since 1983 instead of that lot there.

There is another dimension to the Government's isolation on this issue; there is another dimension to the eccentric role that they have taken over French nuclear tests. Referring to the Pacific in his Chatham house speech, the Foreign Secretary said:

That is right. The centre of gravity of the world economy and of world trade is shifting to the Pacific. By the first quarter of the next century, six out of the 10 largest economies will be in the Pacific, not around the Atlantic. Yet despite that insight, the Foreign Secretary is presiding over foreign policy on French tests at odds with every nation of the south Pacific. Australia and New Zealand are important players in the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation. As that trade association grows in economic significance, Australia and New Zealand will grow in significance to us as allies. This is not the moment in history to tell their leaders that they lack knowledge, intellect and balance. Of course, I have to say, it is hardly surprising to the House that the Government find themselves isolated among the countries at the other end of the Pacific when they cannot even live with the countries on the other side of the channel.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Michael Portillo) rose--

Mr. Cook: The right hon. Gentleman does not know how appropriate it is that he rises at this moment.

Mr. Portillo: The French President was advised by his experts and scientists that the French nuclear deterrent required to be tested. If the hon. Gentleman were in power and British scientists and experts advised him that the British nuclear deterrent required to be tested, would he be willing to test it or would he refuse to test it?

Mr. Cook: There is no contest here. I believe that the security of the world would be better served by a comprehensive test ban treaty than by each of the individual nuclear powers going around undermining it. The right hon. Gentleman sits in a Government who say that they are committed to a comprehensive test ban treaty. Will he tell us, if he were faced with that choice, what decision he would take? Is he telling us that they would rather carry out a test programme than go ahead with a comprehensive test ban treaty? If so, is that the view of his Foreign Secretary? That is something to which the House is entitled to have an answer. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has been asked a perfectly fair question: does he or does he not support a comprehensive

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test ban treaty, which is supposed to be the policy of his Cabinet? We know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman regards it as something different from collective discipline within the Cabinet, but we are entitled to know whether he believes in the commitment of his Government.

I must say to the right hon. Gentleman, since he has interrupted, that the Gracious Speech is likely to be rather less resonant on the continent than the exceedingly ungracious speech that he made to the party conference. It sounded depressing in its original English. It must have sounded frightful when translated into German. The Defence Secretary told his conference that he will

For 30 years, the key decisions on defence policy for Britain have been taken in Brussels, at the NATO headquarters. The vulgar "we stand alone" isolation of the Defence Secretary is in flat opposition to the real security interests of Britain--interests that for five decades have been served by collective defence based on the principle of international solidarity: that an attack on one is an attack on all. In the same way that our prosperity is best guaranteed by international trading agreements, the survival of our environment is best provided for by international agreements to rescue a world climate. The Defence Secretary's jingoism had had its day a hundred years ago; it is a positive menace in the modern world.

Yet, the week after that speech, the Defence Secretary described himself and the Foreign Secretary as being at one. On the day of the speech, the Prime Minister led the applause--the same Prime Minister whom I seem to remember, two years ago, casting some doubt on the parentage of the Defence Secretary.

In early July, when we last debated Europe, a war was going on the Tory party over Europe. Let me tell Conservative Members that it is a consistent part of our foreign policy to welcome peace wherever it breaks out. I acknowledge that there is currently a truce in the Tory party--a truce brought about by the surrender of the Prime Minister to the rebels. As the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) put it bluntly at the party conference, "We've won," or as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said rather more colourfully,

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have bought unity in their own party, but once again at the expense of Britain's isolation. The scale of that isolation is recorded in the minutes of the reflection group's preparation for next year's intergovernmental conference. The Minister of State--who has just left us--has demonstrated in the reflection group not only that he is not afraid to be isolated, but that isolation is a habit with him. According to the recorded positions taken in the reflection group, Britain is in a minority of one in regard to one in three decisions--not just in a minority, but in a minority of one.

Mr. Gallie: Will the hon. Gentleman not acknowledge that the Prime Minister stood alone in Europe at Maastricht when he secured the opt-outs on the social chapter and European Union? That was before the so-called rebels had had any effect on the Conservative Benches. Surely it demonstrates--[Interruption.] Opposition Members laugh, but they would certainly sell out Britain's interests in Europe. That is something that

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the Prime Minister is not prepared to do; nor is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman would do it, however.

Mr. Cook: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. After I have been speaking for 28 minutes, he has grasped my central point. The Prime Minister does indeed stand alone in Europe, alongside his Cabinet; but the issues on which they have chosen to stand alone are mystifying.

One of the issues on which the Minister of State has recorded his position as being in a minority of one is the question of whether the treaty should be amended to provide for a commitment to combating racism. Britain has a larger ethnic minority population than any other country in Europe. Surely it should be in Britain's interests to have a common European commitment, so that when the members of those ethnic minorities from Britain travel in Europe they are free from discrimination on the ground of race.

Similarly, the group is in a minority of one over the question of any extension of co-decision in the European Parliament. I recognise the source of that. I remember the slogan of the rebels: "No more powers to the Parliament". This, however, is an odd power against which to take a lonely stand. Co-decision-making does not facilitate European legislation; it gives the European Parliament another hurdle to put in the place of legislation--to test that legislation, but this time through a democratic process. Increased use of the co-decision procedure will give the European Parliament a useful veto over unnecessary or undesirable European laws. Surely the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) would agree that that is common sense. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not agree because the last sentence came from the leader of the Tory group in the European Parliament, and I agree with it.

The Foreign Secretary likes to accuse me, and presumably his leader of the Tory group, of having a federalist agenda. He persists with it however often I try to put him right, but I shall try once again. Labour does not support a federal European super-state. Labour is the party of devolution. We want to practise real subsidiarity and we want to hand power down to local people, not up to Brussels. Our vision is of independent member states coming together not to surrender national sovereignty, but to co-operate because they have common interests. We shall get a better deal for the people of Britain through co-operation than through competition.

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