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 John Gummer John Gummer Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

During all these debates we have been very concerned with the question of to what extent British sovereignty is affected by the passage of the Bill. I do not attach much weight to the argument just advanced by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), whose plot theory of politics comes so naturally from his personality. The hon. Gentleman asserts that there was a plot between the Government and the Press about a mythical Bill which was to have been brought forward but which was not brought forward. There is no truth in that. It has never been suggested by anybody who knew. Yet the innuendo is made again and again.

The real question is to what extent our sovereignty will be affected by the passage of the Bill. The argument has changed slightly. The argument was that we should lose our sovereignty if we passed the Bill because we could not reverse the Bill. Now the argument is that hon. Members opposite will fight again and again, that this is only the beginning of the argument. So the beginning of the argument evidently takes place on the Third Reading of the Bill.

It is difficult to see that both arguments can hold. Our sovereignty is either affected because this is the final Bill after which no alteration can be made, or it is affected by the fact that the Bill brings into British life attitudes and systems so different from anything that we have had before that we cannot accept it.

No one in the House now believes that the Bill is irreversible. There are few people in the House who do not accept that we have carefully discussed the Bill Clause after Clause. Many rightly believe that the changes which we are making are major changes to the way in which the nation will be run. Those changes enhance our sovereignty, increase our power and contribute to the strength of the people of Britain rather than decrease it. If we vote against the Third Reading, we are saying to the people of Britain that we will opt out of all those chances which we would have had once again to play a proper part in the world in which we live.

The arguments which we have heard tonight have continued to be the same arguments of conservatism, that we must not make this change because the change is too big to make. That argument comes sadly from people who are to be heard arguing for change, demanding improvements and forcing through alterations in the way in which we run our society. Yet we have heard from those people a continued demand to rest as we are.

Tonight we decide whether it is time for Britain to say "We have no chance to compete against our neighbours in Europe within the Common Market because our sovereignty will so easily be taken away from us". Do we believe, as we have heard tonight, that the French will be so powerful that they will over-run us at every point? It is curious that we should say that. During the discussions on France's entry into the European Economic Community precisely the same sort of arguments were used by the French. M. Debré said that it was to dig France's grave to join the Common Market. One of the distinguished French Secretaries of State said: The Treaty strips France of her personality, deprives her of her rightful place and means the end of a way of life which, as the country will see when it returns to its senses, is being sacrificed for a mirage. That is what Frenchmen said at the time of France's entry. However, France has learned during her participation that the EEC is a community of sovereign States, and, far from losing her sovereignty, she has gained much more by sharing it with her neighbours. Tonight we are voting to say that we, too, will share our sovereignty, and in that sharing we will contribute to the society which we wish to build.