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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting a trifle carried away. Perhaps he ought to come back specifically to the Second Reading of the Bill before the House.

Mr. Luff: Your intervention is well timed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because my notes lead me naturally back to that subject anyway.

Today, at Prime Minister's questions, the Prime Minister also accused my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition of being a member of Conservatives

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Against a Federal Europe—CAFE. In fact, that organisation ceased to exist two years ago, so it would be a little tricky for him still to be a member. All these assertions are just plain wrong, but it is clear that the Prime Minister believes them. He means well—he means well on the issue of European integration—but Mr. Toad meant well. The Prime Minister is becoming the Mr. Toad of British politics, rushing from one new enthusiasm to the next and dismissing all those who raise perfectly legitimate objections.

Because our party has serious doubts about the constitutional implications flowing from the Convention in relation to enlargement, the Prime Minister has persuaded himself—possibly quite genuinely—that we are against enlargement itself. We are not. The national interest, and the European interest, demand that these views should be expressed, because serious issues flow from the constitution, and I do not believe that they are necessary to facilitate enlargement.

Mr. David: Does the hon. Gentleman dissociate himself from the comments made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) last year, when he said clearly to the House that the Conservative party would oppose enlargement unless a reform of the common agricultural policy had taken place first?

Mr. Luff: I do not recall my right hon. Friend ever having said anything of the kind. Of course, reform of the common agricultural policy is a much more important idea than this wretched constitutional Convention, in terms of achieving effective enlargement. I certainly think that the Government could have done a lot more to reform the common agricultural policy. How much better it would have been if their energies had been spent in that direction.

My main purpose today is to correct the Prime Minister and persuade him that scepticism about the constitutional implications of enlargement is not opposition to enlargement itself. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary pay tribute to the last Conservative Government for their work on enlargement. He is indeed an honest and honourable man, and he rightly paid tribute to John Major and Lord Hurd. However, the first glimmering of an idea that the Conservatives would call for enlargement came from the noble Baroness Thatcher. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) quoted her remarks in his opening speech, but they bear repetition. In that famous Bruges speech, she said:

And so they are.

In a fine speech in 1991, only a year or so after the Berlin wall tumbled, John Major spoke of eastern Europe's release from communism:

Towards the end of the speech, he said:

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Interestingly, his next remarks are an example of the Conservative party's pragmatic concern to ensure that enlargement works in everyone's interests:

That came from a party that supposedly opposed enlargement of the European Union.

A group of colleagues from my parliamentary intake of 1992, three of whom are now in the shadow Cabinet, the "standard bearers", wrote the following in a 1991 pamphlet:

They went on to say:

The Conservative party's track record is absolutely clear, but as always, just because we believe in something passionately, that does not mean that we should not ask questions about the mechanism by which it is achieved. When the Nice treaty was agreed, the Conservative party officially said:

That is enough quotations from the Conservative party's history. [Hon. Members: "More!"] I am torn, as I have many more quotations, but I think that I shall leave them to one side and make the other points that I wish to make in the short time that remains.

As the hon. Member for West Ham made clear, it is no secret that we saw enlargement partly as enabling a wider, but not deeper, European Union. I think that there is nothing wrong with that, as I believe that a wider Europe is the right approach. However, we also felt passionately that enlargement was about fulfilling the great goal of spreading democracy around Europe, just as we did in respect of Spain, Portugal and Greece. It is now the turn of central Europe. It is time to restore the countries of central Europe—rather than eastern Europe, to which they are sometimes described as belonging—to their full place in the European family.

I was interested by the reaction of some of the foreign press to the signing of the treaty on 16 April. The way in which different countries have responded to the threat or prospect of enlargement is fascinating. Belgium's De Standaard believes that enlargement has "lost its lustre" after eastern European newcomers, by siding with Washington in respect of Iraq,

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I am afraid that there can be no neo-colonial attitude to the new EU members. They deserve to be treated as the fully grown, mature, democratic states that they are. Such neo-colonialism from Belgium is simply not acceptable.

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung echoed that theme, warning that it will be increasingly difficult to provide an enlarged EU with a sense of direction after the current EU's failure to back France and Germany in what the daily calls

That is a fascinating reflection of German opinion.

In the applicant countries, there was generally a sense of triumph. The Lithuanian paper Verslo Zinios, hailed an

while an editorial in Kauno Diena proclaimed that

Mr. Spring: It is all the doing of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks).

Mr. Luff: Indeed. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his part in achieving that fine comment in the Lithuanian press.

Interestingly, in Slovakia, Pravda took a slightly more careful view. It asked

Today's EU, it said,

We should be alive to the fact that Slovakia has been presented with a rather difficult position. Either it comes in on the terms that we set for it, or it does not. That has important implications. We should be sensitive to the fact that, although such countries may have accepted the acquis communautaire—the regulatory framework that they will embrace as part of membership—that does not mean that all of them are enthusiastic about it.

Mr. Lazarowicz : They may not all be enthusiastic, but 93 per cent. of Slovakians voted in favour of joining the EU. Does that not suggest that the Convention that the hon. Gentleman fears so much, of which those countries know they will have to become part, is something that they find much more acceptable than he does?

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