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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris): Order.

9 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), who made some important points about

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enlargement. Clearly, if the European Union is to be enlarged, the present institutions--including the structural funds--will have to be looked at with great care. We cannot have a parliament with a thousand members, nor can we necessarily have Commissioners from every country. It would be sensible if, at the forthcoming intergovernmental conference, proper priority attention could be devoted to that, as I believe enlargement to be a far more important issue than the single currency.

I wholly and completely support the Government's line on the single currency, and I do so unashamedly and without reservation. It would be ludicrous for one of the major nations of the EU not to be deeply involved in the negotiations that are directed towards the evolution of a single currency. My personal preference is for a common currency, at least to start with. The Prime Minister's advocacy of the hard ecu some years ago had a great deal to commend it, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to devote some attention to this point when he replies to the debate. The whole idea of the hard ecu has been far too quickly abandoned. It would have been much more sensible to work first with a common currency before moving towards a single currency.

I repeat that it is palpably absurd not to be involved in the negotiations, and I deeply deplore and profoundly regret the way in which so many of my colleagues in the Conservative party frankly bayed at the Chancellor yesterday. It was an unprecedented experience, to which many hon. Members from all parties have referred. I felt not only ashamed, but deeply depressed. I still feel deeply depressed, because I was proud--and I am proud--to belong to a party that took our nation into the European Community, as it then was. I had my reservations in the early days, but I strongly supported my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) in his courageous decision.

If I can, in a brief speech, encapsulate it in one sentence, I supported my right hon. Friend's decision for this reason: if I am asked what my identity is--although I have Scottish roots--I say that I am English; if I am asked what my nationality is, I say that I am British; but my continent, my culture and my civilisation are European. We are part of the great tradition of western Christendom in Europe, and for us to cut ourselves off in any way would be quite absurd. I wish that all my colleagues who have their reservations would have the courage and the honesty that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont)--indeed, my oldest friend in the House--showed yesterday when he faced up to the possibility of his views perhaps leading him to conclude that withdrawal was the right course. I believe that he is profoundly wrong, but at least he faced up to that issue.

Many of the so-called Euro-sceptics on the Conservative Benches are Europhobes masquerading as Euro-sceptics. To be honestly sceptical is in many ways to adopt a sensible pose, but to undermine, at every touch and turn, one's Government's attempts to fight for one's country's interests is wrong. It is also tearing apart a party that has always looked beyond these shores.

I hope that Opposition Members will forgive me for making this plea to my right hon. and hon. Friends. I would say to them, "Remember your roots." Remember

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what the Conservative party is and what it has stood for. Remember that the Conservative party is a national party or it is nothing, but, as Disraeli said in his great speech at Crystal Palace in 1872, I believe, the three great aims of the Tory party were to maintain the institutions of the country, to uphold the empire of England and to elevate the condition of the people. Of course, times have moved on, but he saw this country as part of a great community: the great community of which we are part today is Europe, and that does not involve any negation or surrender of sovereignty in the ultimate sense at all.

In the next century, which will be dominated by China as the greatest and most populous power, with the nations of the Pacific rim controlling economic power to a great degree, if we do not form part of a wider, cohesive and coherent Europe, we shall be selling the pass for future generations. We shall not be honest to those who come after us: we shall be inward looking, introspective and self-destructive. We have to be part--and a constructive part--of our continent, and that is what this is all about. For our party to put itself on the sidelines in these great debates is a political tragedy.

I remember the time when almost all the opposition to Europe came from the other side of the House. I welcome the conversion and the frank and honest answer to my intervention from the shadow Foreign Secretary this afternoon. Yes, he admitted that he had changed his mind. I believe that the change has gone too far and that the ready acceptance of the social chapter and all the other things that are so frequently recited, mantra-like, in this Chamber would do us little good. There are also, of course, deep divisions on the Opposition side of the House.

I welcome the consensus on the general acceptance of Europe, but I want to see the Conservative party in the driving seat. If and when the political pendulum ultimately swings and we find ourselves on the other side of the House at some stage, I still want us to be a coherent and a united party--a party that accepts its European destiny. These have been sad days for the Conservative party, but it is not too late for us to unite behind a policy which, after all, gives nothing away. All it says is that we want to be there, negotiating for our country when these great decisions are taken. That seems to be a sensible policy--a robust policy which not only can but should unite people in all parts of the country and all parts of the House.

It is sad that our Prime Minister, who is an exceptionally skilful negotiator, is going to Dublin tomorrow, together with our right hon. and learned Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, without the vociferously united backing of Conservative Members and, indeed, of Opposition Members too.

Mr. Mackinlay: He has mine.

Sir Patrick Cormack: I am delighted to hear that.

When our Prime Minister goes to any international council with bipartisan support, as we have seen with Northern Ireland and other issues, that strengthens not only his position but his resolve. I hope that it is not too late for this great party of ours to give the Prime Minister and the Government the support that they truly deserve, and for the Government and the Cabinet to adopt a far

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more united posture than in recent weeks and to stop leaks and divisive briefings, which have done nothing for the name of British democracy.

9.9 pm

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham): To me, the most chilling remarks in this debate came from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), when he spoke of his dream of a federal united states of Europe. He once dominated a large political empire at the Greater London council. Now he seems to want the power to lie in Brussels or Strasbourg. It is worth asking why he wants it to be anywhere but in the Palace of Westminster.

I would answer the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) by saying that both the main parties are coalitions of opinion and always have been. Either we must have coalitions within great political parties or we must have coalitions between them. I believe that it is better to have a coalition within them, and that is how it has normally been.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) referred to the 1975 referendum under the last Labour Government on whether Britain should stay in the European Common Market--I believe that that is how most people thought of it at the time: they thought that it was mainly economic.

Since then, Mr. Delors said, "We are not in business, but in politics." I have been amazed that so many right hon. and hon. Members in this debate have viewed the question of the European currency not as a matter of principle but merely as a balance of economic advantages and disadvantages. Beyond doubt, it is a matter of principle. Whether our country is governed from outside is a constitutional question, and the European currency would undoubtedly affect that.

To illustrate, probably the biggest continuous political issue in the United Kingdom since the second world war has been how to steer the best course between inflation and unemployment. A single European currency means a single European bank and hence a single European rate of interest. A single currency would therefore drastically curtail Britain's control over interest rates, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Lindsey (Sir P. Tapsell) said in an excellent speech yesterday, are particularly important for us because owner-occupation of houses affects so much higher a proportion of people in this country than in continental countries, where a larger proportion of people live in rented houses and flats. Interest rates are hugely important to many of our householders, and the power to control them would pass to unelected foreign bank managers with their own agenda, not answerable to us and, so it seems, hardly answerable to anyone.

All through human history, peoples have cherished their freedom from being ruled from another country. The United States, India, Ireland or--at the time of the second world war--France and Russia, are but a few examples of countries that have been occupied or have been part of an empire controlled from another country. That is why the currency question is not a Mrs. Beeton matter--a mere question of management--but a Joan of Arc issue: an issue of principle.

Sovereignty can mean different things, but basically it has one of two meanings: either it means us being controlled by others or it means others being controlled

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by us. I do not mind at all whether we have any power over countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, but I mind very much indeed whether they have a share in governing us. I am totally against pooling our government with other countries. Our relationship with the European Union should be much more like that of Norway, which has a common market in industrial goods and financial services with the European Union, without the agricultural policy, the fisheries policy or any of the political overtones.

Many right hon. and hon. Members have used words such as "Europhobic". The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Radice) referred to "Europhobic ideologues" and xenophobia. The hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) talked of the anti-Europeans. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) spoke of people who do not like foreigners. The right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) referred to anti-Europeans. It is wrong for hon. Members to use such language. I for one have friends in most European countries, probably more so than most people. This is not about whom people like or dislike: it is a question of who rules.

Constitutions must reflect the public will, whether they are political unions or federations. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said that the European Union was unique, but there are all sorts of federations and unions between countries, provinces and states. Other federations and unions around the world have been crumbling: the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia. In the Commonwealth, there were problems with the Federation of the West Indies and the Central African Federation. There have been provincial problems in Quebec, Kashmir, Nigeria and many other places. Their constitutions, as with the internal constitutions of countries, must reflect the public will, or centrifugal forces will pull them apart.

I doubt whether British people will continue to accept all the European Court rulings. In the debate on Maastricht on 18 December 1991, almost five years ago, I said:

I believe that that has begun to happen and that we have not seen the last of it. I continued:

    "In the end, I believe that one party or another"--

probably mine--

    "will secure a majority in the House on the platform of flouting the European Community, its institutions and its courts. We shall then have a constitutional crisis, and it will be a question of who the army and the police obey. I would rather have a smaller constitutional crisis now than a big one later on."--[Official Report, 18 December 1991; Vol. 201, c. 384.]

Nothing has happened in this debate to change any of the views that I have consistently held over 25 years.

Just over 25 years ago, in a debate on the principle of whether this country should join the European Common Market on 28 October 1971, the House resolved by 356 votes to 244

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    Thirty-nine Conservative and Unionist Members of Parliament voted against. Seven are still in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) was one and I am another. Of the other five, one is an Ulster Unionist. That was the view that I held then, and I have held it consistently.

The issue dogged the Parliament of 1970 to 1974 and I am afraid that it has dogged this one, too. There are, rightly, broad ranges of views within both parties, which is only to be expected. Whether or not one is in favour of closer European union is not a matter of party political doctrine. What makes one basically Conservative or basically Labour is one's view on a broad range of economic and other issues such as law and order, the monarchy and defence.

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