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Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1972.

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The Solictor-General:

I appreciate that that allegation has been made, but the fact is that it is not an allegation that can be sustained. The Government have included the legislative provisions necessary to give effect to ratification of the treaty, and in the context of these proposals the House has debated almost every aspect of them at great length. There are other matters in the context of parliamentary control which my right hon. and learned Friend has sought to raise on more than one occasion during our debates and to which he will refer again if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye at the end of the debate.

But the only reason for expecting a different size and kind of Bill must have been if it could be shown that this Bill failed to make the changes that were needed in our domestic law. That is what the Bill had to do. This was the approach precisely foreshadowed in paragraph 23 of the 1967 White Paper. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, in the debate on Second Reading, referring to this Bill: We have taken care to bring before the House the major matters which require amendment in an Act of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 285.] On 18th May my right hon. and learned Friend gave to the House details of the legislative changes needed for entry or immediately afterwards which were not directly covered by the Bill and for which we envisaged the Clause 2(2) power of subordinate legislation being used. Against the many measures provided for in the Bill, the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) acknowledged that this list was relatively short.

I repeat what I said on Second Reading: Hon. Members opposite have had some time now in which to examine the volumes of Community legislation and to point out to us, as no doubt they can, changes in statute law which we have failed to make and which we ought to make. If they can come along with that kind of point we will look at it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 657.] Hon. Members have not, in fact, been able to draw our attention to a single point of that kind. Very few of the Amendments tabled have been directed to that end. But we have debated a great many Amendments; more than 200 altogether. As my right hon. and learned Friend told the House on 14th June: We have debated all the Amendments and dealt with them on their merits… So far I have had to advise that the Amendments were either unnecessary or bad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1972; Vol. 838, c. 1598.] My right hon. Friend the Lord President said later on the same day—we had then reached Clause 3—that if we were convinced that an Amendment did not have to be rejected on the grounds that it was unnecessary or bad we would treat it in the normal way.

It is useful in that context to give the House some idea of the scale of our debates and proceedings in Committee up to this point. Proceedings in Committee debates have extended over 22 days, or just over 173 hours. Of the 487 Amendments and new Clauses tabled, 204 were selected for consideration. We have had altogether 63 separate debates. In addition, we have spent on the Bill three days on Second Reading, one on the financial Resolutions, three on censure and timetable Motions, and one today on Third Reading. A total of 30 days on the Floor of the House has been spent on the Bill.