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Mr. Duncan Smith: He cannot vote against it.

Mr. Radice: Exactly. That is why I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say it.

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): He did not say it.

Mr. Radice: I thought that he did. I thought that he said that monetary union should be raised at Amsterdam

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and that it was the most important issue to be considered there. Is the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) saying that he wrote the speech?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. Only one hon. Member can address the House at a time.

Mr. Radice: Regardless of whatever the former Prime Minister said exactly and whenever he wanted Britain to vote against a single currency, he said that he believed that Britain should vote against a single currency.

Mr. Duncan Smith: I think that, in fact, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that the matter should be raised, but that, when others qualify, Britain should vote under qualified majority against their joining if the criteria are fudged.

Mr. Radice: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification, although it still means that there is an intention to vote against the project, which makes my essential point.

We should keep open the option of Britain joining a single currency--after a referendum, of course--if we believe it to be in our interests. Contrary to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli believes, I believe, as he knows, that there are strong arguments for a single currency. I also believe that it would be greatly disadvantageous for us to stay out of a single currency if one went ahead. On that point, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, who is absolutely right to believe that.

I congratulate the Government on their excellent start. I wish them every success and luck in Amsterdam and urge them to keep up the good work.

7 pm

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): The debate has been like many previous debates on Europe--notable for the Euro-sceptical speeches of Government Members. That is an interesting feature, which is already developing under the new Government.

I congratulate the Government on the creation of a new atmosphere between the United Kingdom and other members of the European Union--although I know that some Opposition Members may criticise that. The Government have got off on the right foot in relations between the continent and the UK.

I was, therefore, interested to note that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said that one of the problems in the House was our lack of knowledge of European institutions. He accused most hon. Members of not knowing how many EU institutions there were and, even if they knew how many there were, of not knowing where they met. I think that the problem is deeper than that.

I do not dismiss hon. Members' knowledge of the EU. In fact, I think that they are very well informed. Some hon. Members present served with me in the European Parliament between 1979 and 1989. Some of the best-informed members of European institutions were those from the UK--both Labour and Conservative. They made more contributions to the work of the European

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Parliament than many other Members from other nations. Yet--I say this as an Ulsterman and I think that the Welsh and the Scots would probably confirm it--there was a problem with the attitude of continental Members of the European Parliament towards English MEPs. Labour MEPs were always disliked in Strasbourg. That is hard to say, but it is true.

Mrs. Clwyd indicated assent.

Mr. Taylor: I see one former Labour MEP nodding in agreement. Worse still, Conservative MEPs were despised.

Mrs. Clwyd: Hear, hear.

Mr. Taylor: Yes, they were. The Ulstermen, the Scots and the Welsh were always liked. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will understand from your background, there is a cultural problem in relations between the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe, which we must understand. That is why I praise the Government for the steps that they have taken in the past few weeks to try to improve relations between this Parliament and EU institutions.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield also criticised his right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and said that democracy was not at risk. I come down on the side of the right hon. Gentleman when we discuss issues such as the single currency.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The right hon. Gentleman said that the relationship is warmer and better, and congratulated the Government on achieving that already. I remind him that, in 1991, he was probably tempted to say almost exactly the same thing about the then new Prime Minister and his relationship with Europe. The five subsequent years demonstrated that the special cultural differences and changes made such a position almost impossible.

Mr. Taylor: Originally, I was going to make that comment, but I decided to remove it from my speech. Time will tell. I want simply to place on the record the fact that, at this stage, one month since the Government took office, they have started off on the right foot in relations between the UK and the EU.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, for example, rightly saying at ECOFIN that the most important issue is the provision of more jobs in the United Kingdom and across Europe. When I first entered the European Parliament, only 12 million people were unemployed. Yet 20 years later, the figure is 50 per cent. higher. That is the "success" of European policy: a total failure--driving more and more people out of jobs. The Chancellor says that he has five means of recommending how we bring about the provision of new jobs in the EU, but we have not yet seen the detail of those five programmes. We do not know what they really are or how they will be funded.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield is criticised for saying that democracy is at risk, but, of course, it is at risk. A central bank in Frankfurt will control interest rates and a discipline will be applied to all member nations. We will, of course, be left the right to raise taxes, as has been said, but our total public expenditure will be restricted.

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That will mean that the people of the United Kingdom will no longer be able to set financial policy in this country through the UK's democratic system. They will be controlled from outside.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield was right in his definition of democracy. The people have a right to make a decision and, if they do not like that decision, they have a right to reverse it later. If we set up a European bank and a single currency, however, decisions will be made in Frankfurt which the people of the United Kingdom, regardless of whether they vote Labour, Conservative or even Ulster Unionist, will not have the right to change.

Mr. Cash: Has the right hon. Gentleman not noticed a slight contradiction in his argument? He is developing it very well in relation to the difficulties that arise from the various provisions of the treaties, such as unemployment, but does not he recognise that the troubles in France, Germany and all other countries come from the clamp of the Maastricht criteria? That is precisely why those of us who took such exception to the arrangements for the single currency agree with him on the one hand, but, on the other, disagree with him when he does not draw the right conclusions.

Mr. Taylor: I have no doubt that the criteria imposed by the Maastricht treaty have created the conditions that apply in Germany, which has massive unemployment of almost 5 million people. They have also caused the situation in France, which led to a change of Government. That is why I say that I applaud what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to do.

Mr. Cash: But he cannot do it.

Mr. Taylor: Exactly. I want to hear the detail of how such provisions will be financed because I believe that there is a contradiction in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's policies. We must wait for those details to emerge.

The Ulster Unionists support the enlargement of the European Union. The Council of Europe already has many members with a common approach to human rights, individual rights and cultural activities. The Council debates foreign policy, creating a common theme throughout a wider number of nations than are members of the European Union. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that, as we extend the European Union, we wish to welcome as quickly as possible countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

However, I differed with the right hon. Gentleman when he mentioned the small island of Cyprus. Much as I should like to see Cyprus become a member of the European Union, the last thing we want to do is to bring Cyprus into the EU before it has settled its internal affairs. We do not want to inherit the problems of Cyprus, because we have enough already.

The Foreign Secretary made an excellent speech in opening the debate. It was a skilful speech and I welcomed its underlying tone. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) may laugh, but when he reads the speech he will find that the underlying tone was somewhat sceptical. That scepticism may emerge in greater detail in the months ahead. The Government have stressed the importance of Europe to the people and I shall finish with

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two points that affect people's lives, on which I would like some replies from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this evening.

The first issue is the continuing ban on British beef exports to the European Union. The certified herd scheme has been before the Commission for several months. Some of us met Commissioner Fischler some three months ago in Brussels, following the submission of the scheme. He said that it was a good scheme and that Northern Ireland complied with most of the terms of the Florence agreement.

I welcomed the previous Government's submission of the certified herd scheme. I have a copy of the letter from the then Minister that accompanied the submission; one paragraph was devoted entirely to the problems of Northern Ireland. Since then, Commissioner Fischler has said that Northern Ireland complies in all respects with the European Union's requirements. I wish to know what progress the Government have made since then in regaining access for Northern Ireland's beef to the export market in the European Union.

The second issue is one on which the Conservative Government laid great stress, but I am sorry to say that the Labour Government seem not to have taken it as seriously--quota hopping and the damage that it is doing to the fishing industry. That problem has not yet been mentioned in the debate, which surprises me. The Laessen report recommended a further 40 per cent. reduction in the British fishing fleet--I should say, the United Kingdom fishing fleet, because the terms are sometimes misunderstood. Such a reduction would be disastrous for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, especially because of the impact of quota hopping on the United Kingdom fishing industry.

For example, 46 per cent. of the United Kingdom quota for hake and 44 per cent. of our quota for plaice is already taken up by foreign quota hoppers. In other words, almost half of those two stocks are taken up by non-UK vessels. That is a serious problem which the Government must address.

I heard on the radio over the weekend that the Government hope to resolve the matter in the next 10 days. I should like a progress report this evening that would be good news for the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom.

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