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Orders of the Day — European Assembly Elections Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1977.

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Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone 12:00 am, 7th July 1977

As the French say, the game has not yet been played. We shall see who is first at Mr. Speaker's Table at one minute past 10 o'clock tonight. As I have said before, wisdom does not reside in any one particular group of hon. Members, and I welcome the news that the right hon. Gentleman has just given me.

This provision means that the French have, by legislation, excluded any addition to the powers of a future European Assembly. There is no such provision in our Bill.

Why have the French done this? The right hon. Member for Knutsford did not give us the true facts. We must ask ourselves why the Prime Minister of France introduced this particular additional article into the Bill. He did it because a count had been taken in the French Assembly on the day before the Bill was introduced—not on the day before the vote was taken, but before introduction. The President of the Republic called a special council of Ministers at which he took the Chair. At that meeting it was decided that in view of the decision of the Constitutional Council of France—the Council of State—and in the light of the absence of a majority in the French Parliament for direct elections, this provision must be put in. How on earth can the right hon. Gentleman justify his statement that there have been no parliamentary difficulties in any other country of the EEC over this legislation?

Even after the French Prime Minister had introduced this provision into the Bill a majority in the French Parliament still said that they would vote against direct elections. Under their semi-authoritarian constitution the President then said that if there was no majority in Parliament to pass the legislation, the Bill would not be put to it. That is how democracy works on this business in the French Assembly.