We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

I cannot agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Norman Lamont) said about parliamentary sovereignty, but he made one of the most brilliant and wittiest maiden speeches that I have heard for a long time, and I am sure that he will make many other contributions with which we shall be in complete agreement. I liked my hon. Friend's comment about entering the Common Market being a marriage of convenience. We are indeed paying a large dowry to France.

I shall not detain the House for as long as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) did. I propose to put just two questions which seem pertinent.

The Bill, without amendment, has come to us for its Third Reading. What will be its cost? First, in terms of parliamentary sovereignty? A great flood of directly applicable legislation will have to go through without parliamentary approval. Secondly, directives in large numbers, many of which were passed a long time ago by the Commission or by the Council of Ministers but have not yet been implemented by the countries of the Six, will be brought into law in this country without parliamentary scrutiny. Just because we have a scrupulous regard for our treaty obligations, we shall bring into operations directives which are not law in the Six.

The Solicitor-General said that the House had fully weighed the legislative consequences. There has been a great deal of talk by lawyers on both sides of the House about the legislative consequences, and the matter has been aired, but where I feel there has been a failure is in not having fully weighed the parliamentary consequences.

It is a matter of deep regret that at this late stage we find the House completely unprepared to devise methods and procedures for parliamentary scrutiny or for facing the whole problem of Britain in the Common Market or for dealing with subordinate legislation.

These are three quite different problems, and we have not begun to think of how we are going to tackle them. The only mistake made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was that he said that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had set up an ad hoc committee. I wish he had. We had a promise of an ad hoc committee, but I gather that the idea has become blocked in the usual channels, so that after eight months' delay it remains unfulfilled and stagnant.

The right hon. Member for Cheetham is always amusing, and he treats these matters in a light-hearted way. He said that he was keen on parliamentary surveillance. I wish that on one of his infrequent visits to the House he would tell us exactly how he believes we should tackle these problems if we are to do our duty to our constituents. All the other countries have worked out how to deal with them, but we have had no help from the right hon. Gentleman.

The Government have given a placid assurance that all will be well by the exercise of the veto and through talks at the top table, but to me that is unadulterated, arrogant conceit, as is the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that he will re-negotiate the treaty in spite of the fact that Dr. Mansholt says it is impossible. I believe that those statements are either meaningless or will cause great division in the unity of Europe should we join.

Let me turn to the cost in £ sterling. The right hon. Member for Cheetham is able to prove anything—the fixed rate becomes a movable rate, the floating rate becomes pegged, it does not matter about the balance of payments. Let us consider this in detail. In the White Paper published by the present Government, the cost in 1977 of our Community contribution was put at £300 million. No estimate was given of the total cost. In the White Paper "Economic Consequences", published by the previous Government, the total cost was put at between £100 million and £1,100 million. Splitting the difference, one gets a figure of £500 million.

What is the cost today? On 8th June the Chief Secretary told us that these figures were at constant prices and took no account of inflation. In addition, the agriculture budget is rising by 6½ per cent. a year, and the effect of floating the £ has been to put an extra 8 per cent. on those figures.

What does all this add up to? The right hon. Member for Cheetham says that it does not matter; but he is expressing the views of international financiers and lawyers. I want to express the clear views of my constituents, the ordinary people of England. They want to know what it will cost. Will it, as many people say, amount to £1,000 million on our balance of payments, with an agriculture contribution of £450 million in 1977? I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will give us tonight a fairly firm estimate of what this amounts to.

There is another cost. To my mind, the whole process of entry has added to the inflationary problems of today. Many of the inflationary elements—decimalisation, metrication, VAT, the price of food—can be ascribed to the decision to join the Common Market. There is a general belief that if we go in life will be very much more expensive and that those living on fixed incomes will be the greatest sufferers. That is the view of the ordinary man.

Let me quote the view of an American economist. Professor Cooper, who has been studying the matter. He put it in rather more analytical language: For Britain, this would require a relative, though not necessarily an absolute, decline in real wages. If it were to occur, such a shift would be in addition to the decline in real wages resulting from adoption of the common agricultural policy. If labour were unwilling to accept the relative decline, the outcome might be a period of industrial unrest and high unemployment in Britain, as British firms were increasingly to serve the British market from outside Britain. After all the propaganda that we have had from the European Movement about "£7 a week more in your wage packet if we go into Europe", and so on, it is interesting to learn the view of a distinguished economist.

Those who vote for the Bill tonight will never be forgiven by the British people who believe that they are to have placed on their shoulders a burden which they should not have to bear.