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16 Jun 2009 : Column 246
8.22 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Listening to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) and his explanation of the reason for the necessity of the European Union after the last war, I wonder, as I often do, what my mother, who is now 90, thought on the day I was born—10 May 1940, when Hitler invaded the Lowlands at Maastricht, the Government fell and Churchill became Prime Minister. It must have been a momentous day for her. On 10 May 1941—one year later—the Germans dropped a bomb on the House of Commons. It seems as though something has been following me for a long time.

I wonder exactly what we think we are in Parliament. We need parliamentary reform enormously, and we must remember that approximately 75 per cent. of what happens in this place is engineered by the European Union. We went into it in 1972, and, I make no bones about it: I voted in 1975 for us to stay in. I have had serious doubts about it ever since, but at least I was prepared to give it a reasonable chance.

Mark Lazarowicz rose—

Mr. Cash: No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman—he talked enough rubbish previously.

In July 1990, before Baroness Thatcher was assassinated, we had a policy that seriously began to make sense. She said, “No, no, no” to the developments that had subsequently taken place. I was invited to No. 10 Downing street to a lunch with a fair number of Cabinet members, and she turned to me and asked, “What do you feel about Europe, Bill?” I replied, “The problem is, Prime Minister, that your task is more difficult than Churchill’s.” She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Churchill was faced with bombs and aircraft; you are faced with pieces of paper.” That has been the case ever since.

Today, our Parliament is a sham. We do not really legislate here—it is done out there, by majority voting, and particularly nowadays, by co-decision. As the leader of the Conservative party made clear in a good speech in November 2005 to the Centre for Policy Studies, we must draw back powers—repatriate them—to govern market legislation, employment legislation and so on. He said that it was imperative to regain competitiveness for this country and, to do that, we would repatriate those powers. He used the word, “repatriate”, not “discussion”, and not the words that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) used on Sunday, to which I felt obliged to reply. It took me six hours of negotiation with the BBC to be allowed a right of reply—it is all on e-mail and in telephone conversations.

The House is being dragged further and further away from its democratic origins. As I said to the Prime Minister when he made the statement on constitutional renewal, people fought and died to maintain our democracy and the link between the Member of Parliament, the Government and the constituency. That is what people voted for in the previous general election and preceding elections. They did not vote for us to be governed by majority vote, out there in Europe. They certainly did not vote for the Lisbon treaty.

Of course, a referendum would be authorised by Act of Parliament, so those strange people—bizarre eccentrics —who claim that a referendum is inconsistent with our
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parliamentary democracy simply do not understand what they are talking about. Referendums are authorised by Acts of Parliament. Why? Because Parliament decides that a matter is of such importance and so fundamental that it must be returned to the people. I give the Labour Government in 1975 credit for giving people that chance. So many millions of people today have not had that chance.

That is why I say, as I have said before—Conservative Front Benchers know my views; I wrote a letter to The Times last week about the subject—that we must have referendum, irrespective of the Irish vote. It is essential that people in this country have the right to decide matters that Parliament has completely bypassed. The Government have betrayed the people—that is why we must have a referendum. It is very simple. As I have said, much of that is to do with, for example, the increase in institutional power, which we are now supposed to regard as being of no consequence. However, the power of co-decision is the most lethal piece of institutional machinery that has been devised. It means that we will have virtually no power over vast ranges of activity.

Mr. Davidson: Let me clarify the hon. Gentleman’s position. As I understand it, he is saying that if the Conservatives are elected at the next election, and even if the Lisbon treaty has been ratified, he is in favour of holding a referendum. Does he believe that that is the policy of his Front-Bench team?

Mr. Cash: That is why I passed a note to my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague)—because I want to get to the bottom of the matter—and, indeed, why I made my response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe. I have great faith in my party doing the right thing, for the right reason and at the right time, but I shall have to wait and see.

That is part of the problem, so I will continue to pursue my objective in that respect, just as I will continue to pursue my objective of returning the supremacy of this Parliament to this Parliament, because it is not our Parliament; it is their Parliament—it belongs to the people. That is why they deserve a referendum and why they deserve a Parliament that functions effectively. That is also why I say that this Parliament is a sham—because the two conditions that I have described are not operating. We do not have the supremacy of Parliament, nor do we have a referendum, so—it has to be said—this Parliament is a sham.

In 1993, I wrote a piece entitled “A Brave New Europe”, which was a chapter in a book, in which I referred to the fact that

the fact that history repeats itself. I said that, at worst, we could return to racism and fascism. In The Times last week, I pointed out that I had made those remarks in 1993 about the rise of the far right. I also said then that the traditional conservatism in Europe was a

Look at the rise of the far right in Austria and Hungary, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Look at it—it is happening on the back of unemployment, immigration and the failure
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of the European Union. When the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith talks about all the achievements, I ask the question: what are these achievements, given the mess that we have got into with enlargement in the Balkans, which I mentioned earlier and which I have been concerned about in debates in the European Standing Committee?

In 1993, I talked about immigration coming from the east. I spoke about the fact that we were facing

in those days—“up to 20 countries,” and about the difficulties of not bringing those countries into a democratic environment. Indeed, what we have brought them into is an undemocratic environment. That is part of the problem. I asked what would happen if they were to be flooded with new immigrants. That is part of the difficulty with the way in which the European Union functions these days.

Finally, in arguing for an association of nation states—a position that I have maintained ever since—I said that I had written a paper in 1991, at the invitation of the then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, when I was chairman of the Conservative Back-Bench European affairs committee, having been chosen by a substantial majority of Conservative party MPs in a secret ballot. I was asked to write the paper for the Conservative manifesto committee and warned, as I wrote in “A Brave New Europe”, that the direction in which we were going

That is exactly what has happened. Indeed, I would go further. The most recent opinion polls show that 88 per cent. want a referendum, while 72 per cent. of the British people believe that we should break the rules of the European Union if it is in our national interest to do so and 68 per cent. do not want the euro. In answer to the question, “Does Europe listen to you?”, 71 per cent. said no. That is the reality that we are faced with on a whole raft of matters, including the bullying of the Irish people.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I am sorry that I have come late to this debate, but I have been on a Standing Committee. Given the party political breakdown of those views, does the hon. Gentleman accept that, if anything, the Labour party view would be even more against Europe? However, that is the problem with our party: it is completely at odds with its base of support.

Mr. Cash: That may well be the case in the country at large, but it is certainly not the case in this Parliament, as far as the Whips are concerned. That is part of the reason we are living in a parliamentary sham; that is part of the problem.

On the question of UKIP, the deputy leader of that party stood against me at the last general election, and he lost his deposit. There is a lesson to be learned there:
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if we put forward policies that are genuinely in the interests of our electorate and they know what those policies are, they will vote for us. That is exactly what has happened: my majority has tripled since 1997. I am simply making the point, in common with several of my Conservative colleagues, that people will vote for those of us who have consistently pursued a policy of looking after our constituents and the country by arguing the case, not for a completely absurd, negative view of Europe but for trying to make Europe work properly. That is the whole point.

In order to make Europe work properly, we have to have an association of nation states. If hon. Members read the speeches of Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, they will see that he speaks exactly the same language. I have done many conferences with him, and we talk the same language for the same reasons. We want a Europe that works; we do not want a European Government. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) said the other day, we want trade and co-operation. I must have said that a thousand times. We also want British laws for British judges. That was my comment, which I made to the Prime Minister on 10 November last year, and which was picked up by UKIP.

If we had a policy that genuinely argued for the kind of Europe that we ought to have, I know that we would win the next general election by a landslide. We would see the end of the BNP argument on the Europe front. I have already argued against racism—I was arguing against it back in 1993—but the plain fact is that people have not been listening. We have argued our case, and I have put myself on the line over this matter. My constituents—in Stafford up to 1997, and subsequently in Stone—have backed me all the time, and so has my local association, although I can tell the House that there have been attempts periodically to destabilise my position. During the critical time of the debates on Maastricht, Mr. Ted Bowers got up at the end of my speech to the annual general meeting and said, “Mr. Cash, remember the words of Churchill: your first duty is to your country; your second duty is to your constituents; in the third instance, your duty is to your party’s policy and programme.” Anyone who adheres to that is doing the right thing for their constituents and for their party, because, as Disraeli said, the Conservative party is a national party or it is nothing. He did not mean nationalistic; he meant national. We must have a programme involving an association of nation states that can and does work, and that is what people want.

When we look at the comparisons between ourselves and the eurozone, we see that, time and again, we have done better: on inflation, on employment and on a whole raft of measures. As we move towards the summit that is coming up in a few days, the bottom line is that it is time for the Government to stand up for this country and to stand against the ridiculous sell-out on City regulatory matters. They must stand up for this country, because if they do not, this place will remain a sham. We need to stand up for our parliamentary democracy, because it is the electorate’s democracy, not ours.

8.38 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I strongly agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson) about
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the recent European election results. It is as plain as a pikestaff that the two parties that did well were the two Eurosceptic parties, and that the two that did badly were the Euro-sycophant parties. That includes the Liberals, who are kind of Euro-daft. The vote went very much against Europe in those elections, and if we ignore that very obvious decision, we are not listening to the people.

My heart was lifted up during the game of musical chairs that constitutes the appointment of the Minister for Europe these days. I thought that the party, having gone through all the available Euro-sycophants, might have turned to me, as a man with sensible, moderate views on Europe. So I sat there all weekend, but the phone did not ring. I have to confess that I was very disappointed.

The result of the election is a clear signpost to the Government. We cannot say that whatever the people think about Europe is wrong or that whatever is damaging to Europe is wrong. We simply cannot say that to the people, because of the kind of frustrations that led, for instance, to the increase in the British National party vote.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Unfortunately, a BNP county councillor was elected in North-West Leicestershire, in the heart of the constituency, and the vote continues to build. I share, endorse and applaud my hon. Friend’s views on Europe in general terms, but may I correct him in one respect? Although UKIP is certainly Eurosceptic and benefited from being so, the BNP is much more than Eurosceptic; it is xenophobic, which is much worse and much more significant.

Mr. Mitchell: I am not defending the BNP; I am trying to explain the nature of the vote. What will happen when people come to us and ask why the Government cannot do more to help industry and all we can reply is, “Aid to industry cannot be allowed in Europe,” or if the Government’s reaction to proposals for retrospective business rate payments in the docks, which will cause closures and unemployment, is that they cannot stop them because aid to industry will be struck down in Europe? What about when people say they want something done about immigration or labour conditions or that they want British jobs for British workers at the oil refineries on south Humberside and all we can reply is, “Sorry, we cannot help you; Europe stops us from doing anything”? That speaks of the kind of futility and discontent that leads to an increase in the BNP vote.

We all know the old joke about how many MPs it takes to change a light bulb. Nowadays, the answer is not 646, but 785—the number of MEPs required to change a lightbulb, because it is something that we in this Parliament seem unable to do. That cannot be good for democracy, and it is certainly true that the EU is not good for the economy. We are now moving towards cuts, stringency and austerity—a period in which there will be an onslaught on Government spending probably from both main parties, although it will, of course, be more massive from the Conservative side.

Let us look at the burdens imposed on us by Europe, which have increased for two reasons: the first is our former Prime Minister’s agreement to give up a substantial
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chunk of the rebate in order to bring about reforms in the common agricultural policy, which everybody knows we will not get and we cannot get in any case until 2013; and, secondly, payments to Europe are increasing because of devaluation. Those payments have to be made in euros across the exchanges, so every time the pound goes down, the payments increase.

Our net contribution, excluding the £2 billion or so we contribute to projects such as Galileo, which is about providing a satellite guidance system that people have to pay for, unlike the American one that we get for free, is now about £6 billion a year. That is spent across the exchanges, and it increases to £7 billion and a bit because of devaluation, while the £2 billion increases to £2 billion and a bit, so we are ultimately talking about £9 billion and a bigger bit before we have even started. That contribution does not include the costs of the common agricultural policy, which the OECD calculates as having a real resource cost of £15 billion for our economy, or the common fisheries policy, which was much praised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), but which costs about £3 billion a year in fish that are not caught by British vessels but are taken to Europe and sold there, without any contribution to processing jobs in Britain. Then there is the cost of regulations, which is calculated at about £28 billion.

Finally, there is the cost in lost growth because Europe drives with the brakes on the economy. The non-European world economies grew over the last 10 years, before the recession, at 3.8 per cent. a year, while Europe’s economy, including ours, grew at 2.6 per cent. a year. Why? Europe believes in deflationary economic management, which means that we lose about 0.5 per cent. of our gross domestic product annually. That is a cumulative process, so we are losing about £7 billion a year in growth that we would have had if we had not been forced to make these contributions and join this club.

That is damaging the British economy. We are carrying a considerable burden—the second greatest in Europe—and we cannot afford to carry it at a time when the Government are going to launch themselves into cuts in budgets of all kinds. Why should we make such a massive contribution to Europe and across the exchanges at such a time?

Last night, in the Public Accounts Committee, we agreed a report on financial management of the European Union. That might be considered quite a comic issue, and the report is pretty hostile and critical. I do not want to quote from it because it has not been published yet, but I must point out that for 14 successive years the European Court of Auditors has refused to agree to the European accounts. There is enormous scope for fraud and fiddles in the two biggest funds, the cohesion and common agricultural policy funds. Between them, they hand out 80 per cent. of Europe’s expenditure. Eleven per cent. of spending on the cohesion funds is irregular, while between 2 and 5 per cent. of spending on the common fisheries policy is irregular. That leads to massive deficits.

According to a fascinating book by Marta Andreasen, a former auditor to Europe, in 2003

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area payments—based on an inaccurate assessment of the area of those farms which, if correct, would have doubled the size of Luxembourg. We are told that

and he was paid—

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