European Parliament (Direct Elections)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th March 1977.

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Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Southampton, Test 12:00 am, 25th March 1977

My hon. Friend is quite right. I would not go so far as to say that there is unanimity on the part of every political party or every country in the Community. If anyone believed that the French Gaullists, M. Chirac, or the French Communists or other political groups in France, or Denmark or elsewhere, were uniformly in favour of direct elections he would be mistaken, but those who are arguing passionately for direct elections do so on the basis that this is the way of expanding the power of the European Asembly. I am tempted to go into whether this is democratic, but that must be left for another speech.

The point of principle that I shall take up is a point made, unfortunately in my absence, by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) when he talked of what I had said in a pamphlet on this subject. He said that it was my view that direct elections could not be democratic because the British delegation would be in a minority. That is a statement of fact, but it would be a ridiculous argument. It would be akin to saying "I shall not join this game because I cannot guarantee that I shall win".

That is not my point. My point is that elections alone do not guarantee democracy. A minority can be democratically represented, even with direct elections, only if there exists a willingness on the part of that minority and a recognition that it has a sufficient community of interest, and a willingness, therefore, to have major decisions crucial to its interests decided not by itself but by a body in which it is in a minority. That is what has arisen from the current situation, and that is why direct elections alone cannot be equated with democracy.

Let me go back to the reasons for the hurry. There is a widespread feeling that the Community has somehow lost its way, that it is making painfully slow progress in some direction, and I would not disagree with that too strongly. There is, therefore, a feeling that somehow this modification, this sense of urgency, this possibility of achievement, must be reconstituted, and that is why we are presented with deadlines to meet and why there is a sense of urgency that doing something—anything—is better than doing nothing.