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Mr. Giles Radice (North Durham): Does the Leader of the Opposition agree that it was Mrs. Thatcher who, at the time of the Single European Act and the creation of the single market, insisted on the extension of QMV so that the creation of the market could not be blocked by a single country? Are there not other areas where that can be done?

Mr. Major: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and the prize there was worth the sacrifice--the development of the single market. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have praised that decision. But where is the comparative prize now for a further extension of QMV? There is none. If the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary could come back with something as valuable to this country as the single market--the extension of the biggest free market the world has ever seen--I would say, "Yes, by all means extend QMV." Nothing like that is on offer. What is on offer is this country surrendering more of our authority for the convenience of colleagues, with no comparative gain for the United Kingdom.

The Foreign Secretary has illuminated what he is about. He said:

a point he repeated today--

    "but you would also then have one of the key players in Europe on their side. With a Labour Government in Britain we could put together an alliance that would enable a different agenda at those EU summits."

Mr. Robin Cook: Very sensible.

Mr. Major: Indeed, but that does not sound like what the Prime Minister has been saying to business men--it sounds nothing remotely like what the Prime Minister has been saying anywhere. What is the "new agenda" that the Foreign Secretary has in mind? To practise socialism abroad while talking conservatism at home? That sounds like an accurate description of what the Government have been doing for the past few weeks.

If that is the case, perhaps it explains why the Government would sign the social chapter and support an employment chapter that will be either pointless if policy is left in national hands--as the Foreign Secretary implied, and as it should be--or damaging if it admits Community employment practices to the United Kingdom. It is odd that, on every measurement one uses,

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unemployment in the United Kingdom is coming down, but is steady or rising in European countries that operate what is known as the European social model. Nor is that just a short-term phenomenon as a result of the economic cycle: if the Foreign Secretary cares to look over 25 years in the EU, he will find a relentless underlying rise in unemployment, disproportionate to that in comparable countries and in the United Kingdom.

The European Union--broadly collectively the same size as the United States--has created a quarter of the jobs created by the United States since 1950. Most of those jobs were created in the public sector and not the private sector, precisely because of policies that piled more costs on employers and discouraged employment. Against that background, signing the social chapter, aligned with the European social model, will open the door to further job destruction.

I genuinely understand why the Labour party--with its history and instincts--wishes to move in that direction, but it cannot say, "We are in favour of flexible markets," while moving in a direction that will strangle flexible markets and force people out of employment.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): In referring to QMV, the Leader of the Opposition--I will get that right--has talked in terms of the British Labour Government "surrendering" to Europe. How does he believe the French and German Governments talk to their people? They, too, will be subject to QMV. It is a question not of surrender, but of sharing sovereignty in the belief that, if Europe is to progress, we cannot be subjected to what ancient Poland was subjected to at the time of the Liberum veto.

Mr. Major: I will explain where there is a clear distinction. The whole tradition and manner of government in the United Kingdom, and our history throughout much of this century, are almost the polar opposite of those of continental Europe. Our traditions and instincts are different. What is commonplace for those in Europe is not remotely what has been seen traditionally to be in our interests. If QMV is conceded as the Government propose, what is common practice in Europe--from which we have always turned away--will be imposed from Europe on the United Kingdom. That is the distinction. The hon. Gentleman must understand that the traditions and instincts are not the same. That is why we should co-operate, but not be compelled by qualified majority votes.

Mr. Robin Cook: Since the former Prime Minister is developing this matter as a major part of his speech, may I put to him the question that I asked during my speech and which there must be time to answer now? Would he really say to the House that he would insist that the new provisions on fraud should be decided by unanimity? Does he not recognise that, if they were, no one would ever suffer a penalty? If he accepts QMV in that area, will he concede that there are areas where qualified majority voting is in Britain's interests?

Mr. Major: If the Foreign Secretary had been listening, he would have heard me say a few moments ago that there are areas where the extension of QMV is right, but that they are outweighed by the areas that would do damage to Britain.

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On fraud, if the provisions were patently sensible, they would be agreed by consensus. They do not have to be imposed by QMV. When the right hon. Gentleman has had experience of negotiating within the EU, he will realise that consensus can be, and is, built on policies that are sensible, week by week. That is a distinction that he may not understand now, but which he will learn once he has spent a few months negotiating with our European partners.

The Labour party is well versed in telling us that much of the social chapter at present is only words and promises, and that is true. At the moment, only two directives have thus far appeared under the social chapter. But that is not the point, and nor is it what will happen in the future. The social chapter, once signed, opens the door to a flood of future legislation. The Government know that, the unions know that and the EU knows it. Mr. Gabaglio, the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, blurted out the truth in a clear fashion when he came to Britain. That is the reality. Mr. Gabaglio would like to go back to what he called, "Business as usual". I recall business as usual under Labour Governments--Employment Protection Acts that destroyed jobs, industrial policies that destroyed whole industries and regional policies that laid waste to the region. This month, what the Government will give away will give us those same disastrous policies of the 1970s, but they will be made in Brussels and imposed here by qualified majority vote. That is the reality.

Why do the Government claim that jobs are the bottom line in deciding whether they should join a single currency? Jobs do not seem to be an issue when embracing the European social model. The Government do not seem to care that that would damage jobs and competitiveness, although they surely know that it must. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary or one of his colleagues can reassure the House that, if there were a possibility of losing jobs as a result of signing the social chapter, Labour would rethink. Are jobs as important in signing that as they are in signing up to the single currency? Apparently not. Apparently, it does not matter if jobs are lost as a result of that policy.

Mr. Cash: Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether he regrets having signed the stability pact, in the light of what he has said about a single currency? In the circumstances, does he think that it would be highly desirable for the Government to repudiate that pact, in the light of the difficulties that it is causing in the rest of Europe?

Mr. Major: It is good to see that the move from being a Government Back Bencher to an Opposition Back Bencher has not changed my hon. Friend. He is as difficult now as he was then. With great respect, he is as wrong now as he was then.

I must move on to the substantive points. Perhaps the Government could also settle a paradox for us. In case their policies on the social chapter worry the business community, their spin doctors have been busy reassuring the House that Labour will pick and choose European social policies; yet the Foreign Secretary knows that much of the social chapter is under qualified majority voting, where picking and choosing is out of the question. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can confirm that he

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understands that. He is obviously unsighted on that; perhaps his colleague will reply on that point at the end of the debate.

The only effective way to pick and choose is outside the social chapter, by producing legislation under the Government's own domestic agenda--heaven knows, they have a big enough majority. If they think that those policies are right, they should bring them to the House. If those policies work, they can claim the credit; if they do not, the House can repeal them in the interests of job creation and not be stuck with them because they have been imposed from outside. If the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister had no majority behind them, they could not do that. No doubt they could provide an early guillotine to ensure that they get the matter through the House--no doubt, it could be whisked through very speedily indeed if they chose to do so, but they would prefer not to and I think that we all know why.

There is another paradox at the core of the Government's European social policy--another example of their love affair with diametrically contradicting prose. On the one hand, we are told that European social legislation is vital for the workers of this country and that the new treaty chapter will help to create jobs. On the other hand, we--and, more especially, the business community--are assured that neither of those amount to a row of beans. They are symbolic gestures, so business leaders who are getting edgy need not worry. Which is it?

Both roads lead to disaster by different means. The first--more regulation--would hit prosperity and hurt jobs and the second would encourage the Europe of ever-increasing expectations that cannot be met. What then? An excuse for yet more European leaders to call for yet more European powers as a solution to all our ills.

The Foreign Secretary mocked the previous Government's policy on economic and monetary union in his speech seconds before restating it as his policy. Negotiate and decide, making up one's mind when one has the facts--all the buzz words. The right hon. Gentleman did not use them in that fashion, but that was exactly what he meant--wait and see what the facts and conditions are, make up one's mind at the time and do not be committed in advance. Can the right hon. Gentleman not make up his mind even now? The policy that he stated is the policy that he has been attacking month after month. It is breathtaking hypocrisy for the Government to talk to us, first, about the negotiate-and-decide policy and, secondly, about the unity of the party, to which I will return.

The fate of economic and monetary union will overshadow all the other discussions that the Foreign Secretary will have at Amsterdam. He referred to a change of tone in his party. I hope that we will hear such a change of tone as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) or the right hon. Members for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) speak.

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