I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to allow the electors of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the right to decide by way of referendum whether Great Britain should enter the European Economic Community.
I submit that legislation of this kind is necessary because without it the people of Britain, who have never been consulted on this important issue, will never be consulted. The three major political parties have all declared themselves to be in favour of this country joining the Common Market. It therefore follows that this question will never be an election issue and the people will have absolutely no chance of ever being able to express their views on it through the ballot box at a General Election.
The decision whether we should enter the Common Market is perhaps one of the most important and most irrevocable decisions which Parliament is ever likely to be called upon to make. It will, for good or ill, affect the future prosperity of Britain for the whole of her foreseeable future. It will have personal repercussions, good or bad, upon all our people. But, most important, it is a decision which, for good or ill, will result in Britain ceasing to be the completely sovereign State which she has hitherto been because she will be required to shed at least part of her independence.
The extent to which Britain would forfeit some of her sovereignty is a matter of dispute and will depend upon how the Community develops. But nobody can deny that in some respects she will cease to be a completely sovereign Power. For any Government to take this drastic and irrevocable step without allowing the people, either directly or indirectly, to express their views would be a negation of democracy.
Not only have the people never been consulted on this issue: they have never been properly informed about it. Although all three political parties—[Interruption.]
Although all three political parties are in agreement—perhaps because they are all in agreement—nobody has ever taken the trouble to explain to the people in detail why it is to their advantage to join the Common Market. Nobody has ever explained to them what the consequences would be and nobody has ever told them what would be the cost.
If, however, it should become the law, as I wish it to be, that entry into the Common Market must depend upon the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box, perhaps the interested parties, anxious to win votes, will take the trouble to explain to the people what is involved, so that the people can weigh the pros and cons and reach a considered judgment. What I propose is that negotiations should by all means proceed, but that when the argument is over, and we have got the best terms we can for entry, then, and before Parliament ratifies any agreement, the people should be asked to say whether, on those terms, we should join the Community.
It will, I suppose, be argued that it is not our way to decide major issues by referendum and that this is not the traditional way in which the country is governed. Everybody would agree that government by referendum is for special occasions only. This, however, is a special occasion. Parliament has seldom had to consider such a grave issue and has never before had to consider surrendering part of its sovereignty to another Power.
If we were a Parliament which had been elected at an election where this had been the principal issue, perhaps a referendum would be unnecessary, but there is no possibility of its ever being an election issue. When the question was whether sovereignty over Gibraltar should be with Britain or with Spain—
When the question was whether the sovereignty of Gibraltar should be with Britain or with Spain, we thought it right to let the people of Gibraltar express their views in a referendum. When discussing the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, the Government have repeatedly assured us that nothing will be done which is contrary to the wishes of the people of those islands. Surely, therefore, when reaching the all-important decision whether Britain should enter the Common Market, a question which involves, at least to some extent, the sovereignty over these islands, the wishes of our people ought also to be taken into account.
The issue can be put before the people in a simple and concise form. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It may be difficult to decide which answer to give, but in the end the answer must be "Yes" or "No". It is a unique situation which lends itself perfectly to a decision by way of referendum.
Surely, at least, we can give the question of the taking of a referendum an airing. Let it be debated upon the Second Reading of my Bill. Whatever view hon. Members may take about the wisdom of referenda generally, however, they will probably agree, when all the debate is over, that the question of the Common Market is such a special and unique question, and the decision so important and irrevocable, that it at least is something which ought properly to be decided by this means.
The people want to decide this matter—
The people are discussing it up and down the land every day. They want the opportunity to express their views. If they are to be deprived of that opportunity, they will resent the fact. For Parliament to tell those people that while they may have their views, they will not have any chance of expressing them and that this momentous decision will be taken by Members of Parliament alone, regardless of the opinions of the people, would be a piece of unforgivable arrogance.
By the Licensing Act, 1964—
I will be less than one more Minute, Mr. Speaker. I only want to remind the House that by the Licensing Act, 1964, we gave the people of Wales the right to decide by referendum whether their public houses should be open on Sundays. On this vastly more important issue, cannot we give the people of Britain the ordinary democratic right to decide upon their future, a right which will certainly be denied to them unless there is a referendum?
Unacquainted as I am with the procedure of the House, I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, whether what I am about to say is in order. Ordinarily, when a Motion of this kind is presented to the House, an opposition Member, from either side, can address the House, but only if he seeks to oppose the proposed Bill. I am not quite sure whether what I am about to say is in opposition to the hon. and learned Member's Bill.
I would not be presented with any difficulty in opposing the Motion, for this reason. The only reason I would oppose is because of the sharp practice engaged in by a certain hon. Member opposite—I describe him as an hon. Member, because that is the customary method of describing a Member of the House—who sought to monopolise the presentation of Bills under the Ten-Minute Rule. For that reason, I would be tempted to oppose the Bill.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I understand that there has been some objection on this side of the House because of the length of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Bruce Campbell) in presenting his case, and I believe that an interjection came from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), who, on one occasion, spoke for two hours in the House.
I am going to make a submissions to you, Mr. Speaker, showing how difficult it is to implement this proposal. I am all in favour of it, but I recognise how difficult it is to carry it into practice.
For example, both sides of the House—I mean, both Front Benches, with hon. and right hon. exceptions—are agreed on this subject of British entry into the Common Market. They have been in loving embrace for some time. In fact, as I remarked on a previous occasion, when it comes to the two Front Benches and a matter of this sort, an issue of this kind, one "cannot tell Stork from butter". That really is the case. The two Front Benches would oppose the referendum and would prevent its implementation.
Besides, there are the various polls undertaken by various newspapers in the country. When they initiate these polls what are the questions which they ask? The sort of question addressed to a lady, an elderly or a very young lady, a young man or old man, at the door, is, "Are you in favour of Britain entering the Common Market?" Well, they do not know what it is about. Some old ladies think that it is something to do with the nearby supermarket. That is how they understand it, but that is the sort of question which is addressed to them.
This is the difficulty about a referendum of this kind: what kind of question will be asked? "Are you in favour of entry into the Common Market?" That is the interrogation addressed to somebody on the street—near an employment exchange perhaps, and there are far too many going to employment exchanges to look for work at present—and there will be far more if we enter the Common Market, because there will be unlimited irrational entering into this country of foreign labour, for that is one of the main provisions of the Treaty of Rome.
I do not want to enter into the merits of the case. It just occurs to me that these are matters of some concern to the people of this country. Consider the polls. These are the kinds of questions which are asked. It is very difficult to answer them.
The best way to deal with the matter is by a referendum. I agree that it is very difficult to decide what is to be the nature of the questions to be addressed to the people, to the electors, but what is the alternative? The alternative is for the Government, our Government, the Labour Government, or another Government, although another Government is improbable for a very long time, so it is for this Government to go to the electors. Excuse the political allusion. I could not refrain from mentioning it. They appeal to the country upon a lengthy programme considered by a previous Labour Party conference.
Of course, they do not take any notice of what Labour Party conferences say, but, at any rate, they generally take note of what they say, and make submissions to the electorate, but they are all jumbled up—for example, the question whether we should enter the Common Market, whether we should continue with the prices and incomes policy, or whether we should proceed with the Redcliffe-Maud Report. A variety of considerations is presented to the electors, and they cannot make up their minds what they are going to vote for.
If it happens that the Tory Party should be in power, what kind of questions would it submit to the electors alternatively? The kind of question the Tories would ask would be—the record of the Government, instead of a policy of their own, for they have not a policy, anyhow. That is the sort of submission they would make to the electors.
I am presenting some of the difficulties and I am proving how difficult it is to implement the referendum proposal, but there are advantages in this proposal. I am bound to say this, that much as I doubt whether it is possible to implement it effectively, if the hon. Gentleman divides the House I am going into the Lobby with him.
Order. As I suspected, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has argued himself into the position where he is entirely in favour of the Motion and is out of order.
When I rule on order I do not take into consideration whether it is Conservative Supply time, or Liberal time, or Government time. The rule is, one speech for, one speech against. The speech against, for some strange reason, became a speech for; but that is no business of mine.
|Division No. 31.]||AYES||[4.7 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)|
|Baxter, William||Bullus, Sir Eric||Farr, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Cordle, John||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Costain, A. P.||Fry, Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Goodhart, Philip|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Goodhew, Victor|
|Body, Richard||Drayson, G. B.||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Booth, Albert||English, Michael||Gurden, Harold|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hobden, Dennis||Manuel, Archie||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Marten, Neil||Waddington, David|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Mawby, Ray||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wall, Patrick|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W, Ham, N.)||Russell, Sir Ronald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lewis, Run (Carlisle)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Mr. Edward M. Taylor and|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)||Mr. Bruce Campbell.|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Abse, Leo||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Neal, Harold|
|Albu, Austen||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Ford, Ben||(tram, Albert E.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Forrester, John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Fowler, Gerry||Oswald, Thomas|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Garrett, W. E.||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Ginsburg, David||Pardoe, John|
|Bagler, Cordon A. T.||Golding, John||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Barnes, Michael||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Barnett, Joel||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Bence, Cyril||Gregory, Arnold||Pentland, Norman|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gresham Cooke, R.||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Binns, John||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bishop, E, S.||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Boyden, James||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Bradley, Tom||Hannan, William||Pym, Francis|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Randall, Harry|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Haseldine, Norman||Rankin, John|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|BuChanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hooley, Frank||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Howie, W.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hunter, Adam||Royle, Anthony|
|Conlan, Bernard||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Cronin, John||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Ednyted Hudson (Conway)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (stretford)||Jopling, Michael||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kenyon, Clifford||Thornton, Ernest|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Latham, Arthur||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lawson, George||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Dell, Edmund||Lee, John (Reading)||Wallace, George|
|Dempsey James||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lubbock, Eric||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Dickens, James||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, John||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Driberg, Tom||MacColl, James||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Eadie, Alex||McGuire, Michael||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Eden, Sir John||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ellis, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Winstanley, Dr. M, P.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Woof, Robert|
|Eyre, Reginald||Mapp, Charles||Worsley, Marcus|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marks, Kenneth|
|Fernyhough, E.||Millan, Bruce||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Finch, Harold||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Mr. Eric S. Heffer and|
|Filch, Alan (Wigan)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Mr. Stanley Henig.|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|