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

There are certain ample resources with which to prepare the ground for direct elections and, no doubt, eventually to ease the way of those who wish to fight them.

The second reason for the great haste, however, is much more important. It is that we are on the verge of enlarging the Community substantially, a process which I strongly welcome. But within another year or so we shall be engaged in negotiations for the entry of Greece and Portugal. Those who wish to see a centralised federal structure in Europe recognise that the possibility of imprinting that pattern on the Community will be gravely weakened if that enlargement takes place or gets under way. In other words, the possibility of a supra-national element in the Community will be substantially delayed.

Those who favour such a structure therefore seek to achieve a fait accompli so that those who join the Community in the future must join an organisation with these centralised political institutions established. That is a close analogy to the way in which the common fisheries policy was rushed through in preparation for our membership so that we, too, were faced with a fait accompli in that sense. Therefore, it seems that the real explanation for the haste with which we are being urged to approach this matter is that it is important to those who want a federal Europe that the system should be in place before the Community is enlarged.

There is a third reason. It is that those who want a federal Europe are concerned that the efforts by national Parliaments, particularly by the Westminster Parlia- ment, to develop new procedures and conventions for controlling Ministers in Brussels will, if they are given the time and allowed to succeed, strip away the pretence that the only way of achieving democracy in the Community is by having direct elections.

The federalists are terrified that the national Parliaments, and this Parliament in particular, true to its traditions and history, will devise new means of pulling back the Executive to within its control, ever at the moment that the Executive escapes to Brussels. We are painfully proceeding towards that objective and it is in an attempt to abort that development that people are so concerned and keen to have direct elections by May 1978.

These are the reasons for the urgency with which we are asked to approach this problem.