Clause 1

Orders of the Day — European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:36 am on 27th June 1986.

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Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent 9:36 am, 27th June 1986

I rise to continue the debate that was curtailed last night. Before the Leader of the House departs, I should like to emphasise that I am not complaining about the Government's actions last night. That was a perfectly proper way to proceed, assuming that they did not thereby seek to deprive us of time that would otherwise have been available for debate. Knowing the Leader of the House as well as I do, I do not imagine for a moment that he wanted to curtail the time for debate. He has just said that he wishes to see the fullest and most proper debate on this matter.

I remember some of the full debates in which the right hon. Gentleman has been involved, and I do not suppose for a moment that he intends to invoke the strange procedure involved in moving the motion tabled for 2.30 pm. I am not saying that this has not been done before, and I have no doubt that there are precedents for most things in the House. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have some of his most skilful minions examining the precedents. However, it is not convenient for the general conduct of the business of the House that we should have to wait until 2.30 pm to know the Government's intentions on how we are to proceed.

To wait that length of time will cause inconvenience to Ministers and others. We know that this afternoon the Government will have the greatest difficulty in producing 100 Members without Ministers being in the House. How many ministerial appointments will have to be cancelled today if the Leader of the House insists on keeping the matter open until 2.30 pm?

The Leader of the House does not have to state the Government's intentions now. He can do that at 11 o'clock, or he could inform the Minister who is in charge of the Bill about the Government's general intentions. I hope that the Minister will have a say in the matter. I am sure that the hon. Lady could give the Government excellent advice on this as on other matters. I only wish the Government would take her advice more frequently.

I hope that the Leader of the House will not try to move the motion at 2.30 pm, as that would be an infringement of courtesy. Over the weekend I hope that he will consider the proposal that we made at the beginning of the debate before there was any lengthy discussion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) made the point yesterday, when the business statement was announced, that it was improper to have the Third Reading of the Bill taken late at night next week. We protested about that. If that was wrong at 3.30 yesterday afternoon, it is even more wrong now. Much larger debates have arisen over this subject than people had foretold. This has happened frequently in the history of this House. The House can adapt itself to that and I hope that the Leader of the House will consider these matters, rather than move the motion on the Order Paper at 2.30 pm, because if he were to do so it would be an improper use of such a power and could make our previous debates unsatisfactory.

I hope that by 11 o'clock this morning the Leader of the House will give us an opportunity to hear the Government's intentions.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Hon. Members may have a certain amount of sympathy with the Government wanting to extend the business beyond 2.30 pm today if they had not curtailed the business last night. However, having curtailed the business last night—

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman's point is not relevant to the debate.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

I understand the point expressed by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). However, I do not regard the Government's actions as ungenerous. Usually when the Government move to report progress at such an hour they are recognising that there has been so much debate that there must be another time for it to proceed. When such a motion is generally accepted by the House, it is understood that the Government will not come forward the following day and cut the time. If that was not understood, the hon. Member for Northampton, North would rightly have a grievance about losing the time for the debate.

Some of us thought that we could have debated the matter fully yesterday. However, we did not think that that would best serve the House. We assumed that the Government, having moved to report progress, would return and allow adequate time to discuss the matter. I have said enough now to emphasise how important I believe it is for the future decent conduct of this business for the Government to tell us that they will not try to abbreviate the debate at 2.30 pm and thereby deprive us of a proper opportunity to debate the matter.

It is only right that I should state immediately how much of a debt the Opposition and the House owe to the Minister of State for dealing with these matters. As we have read, she has had a strenuous week in other respects. The Government could not deal with this crisis or the South African crisis without calling on her services. She has performed her duties with great skill and courtesy throughout and I hope that her influence will be used to ensure that there is no abbreviation of the debate of which she has been the master—or should I say the mistress?

That compliment is genuine. All of us have appreciated the way in which the hon. Lady has dealt with the matter. After all, she was the only Government Minister to deal with the issue. It was extremely ungallant of the Government to leave her alone. Perhaps she insisted on being left alone, and I can understand that, knowing her companions at the Foreign Office as I do. Perhaps the hon. Lady said that if she was capable of dealing with Mr. Tambo, she was capable of dealing with the House of Commons. None the less, it was very ungallant of the Government to leave the hon. Lady to deal with this matter without any support or possibility of relief. I hope that she will not be left in the same situation today, even though the Opposition much prefer her to deal with these issues, rather than any other Minister of whom we can think.

Towards the end of our proceedings yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) made a remarkable speech. He established in greater detail than had been presented to the House before the estimate on trade grounds — and the estimate in relation to the "internal economy", in the words of the hon. Member for Northampton, North who moved the amendment, of the consequences of our entry into the Common Market in 1975. My hon. Friend described the consequences for our economy in manufacturing industry and employment. He especially referred to the effect upon different industries. All of us can remember how we were assured that entry into the Common Market was required to ensure that we sustained trade and employment. But the Government went even further than that and, along with others who campaigned for British entry into the Common Market, claimed not only that by entering the larger market would we protect our trade but that such a step was necessary to protect our employment.

10 am

The last 10 minutes of the speech made by my hon. Friend last night were devoted to emphasising how the Bill, if it were passed in these terms, could affect the future actions of a new Labour Government. He described what action would be available to a new Labour Government and how those actions might be impaired, or at any rate governed in some respect, by the measures that we take now. Everything that my hon. Friend said on that matter is of great importance. I am not asking my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to answer all the detailed matters, but I do ask that the leaders of the Labour party should consider carefully the list of items that he mentioned, some aspect of which others have taken up, and consider how we will deal with them.

It makes a difference whether the Bill is passed. That is one reason why we are opposing it. We think that that is a proper way to deal with it. It does not mean that the matter could never return in future, but if by some misadventure the Bill is passed, it is all the more beholden upon my right hon. Friends, not necessarily now, but in future weeks and months, to consider the complications and extra burdens that a new Labour Government would have to undertake and what releases we would have from the shackles which we shall fix upon ourselves if we pass the measure today. My hon. Friend's speech was of great importance in that regard, quite apart from his survey of what has happened over the past 11 years since we entered the Market.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is not the position even more serious than that? Is not the whole thrust of the debate on the internal market that the Government have stated unequivocally that they wish to see what they call "progress" and are throwing away a treaty veto in order to achieve it? Is it not the case that any legislation with which they agree and vote to accept will make citizens of the United Kingdom and the House subject to it, and that any future Government, who may not think that that is "progress" and who may wish to change it, will not be able to do so because of the treaty obligation? Does that not interfere with the freedom of the British people?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

It does. It is one of the intrinsic difficulties of membership of the EC that some of us who have opposed entry into it have always seen. It takes away from the House of Commons and the British people some of the rights which they have assumed to be theirs from the whole of their history and transfers the decisions elsewhere.

One of the complaints that we made earlier was that in future that transfer is to be made on a larger basis than it has been even over the past 10 or 11 years. One of the major aspects that govern the Bill, as well as partly governing the clause, is the abrogation of or injury to Britain's power to exercise a veto against actions which we think are injurious to us in some form or another. That touches on what my hon. Friend said.

I advise all hon. Members to study my hon. Friend's speech carefully. He listed the series of injuries done to Britain's trade and economy over the past 11 years. He is not claiming that all those injuries and inflictions that we have had to suffer were due to entry into the Common Market — of course not —but we were told that entry into the Common Market would be a safeguard against many of them. Instead of that, it has intensified them.

As the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) so often emphasises, it is strange that we should be proposing to enlarge those powers at the very moment when the institution shows every sign of being bankrupt. That would be a strange way to proceed. Even so, what is the answer to my hon. Friend's case? How is it that none of the undertakings, advantages and expectations for trade, industry and employment has been fulfilled?

In particular, I emphasise the undertaking which I remember most vividly in the referendum campaign. Posters appeared in my constituency, as they did in most others, advertising "Jobs for the boys in Europe". I think that it was the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) who said that only one boy got a job, and he was here yesterday — the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins). When the Government moved to report progress yesterday, they abolished his Adjournment debate. Perhaps that was the motive behind their abrupt action, or perhaps it was only a by—product. But "Jobs for the boys in Europe" was intended to have a quite different meaning. In my constituency those are not matters of flippancy, because jobs for the boys—the girls, too, I am glad to say—is the most urgent question of all.

That poster was a sign that if we went into the Common Market jobs would be provided for the boys and girls on a scale that would not otherwise be possible. That was perhaps the first full display of' the use of the kind of publicity methods that we have had in modern times. A few years later the Conservative party machine adopted similar methods in the 1979 election. Anyone who looks back at the publicity methods that were adopted during the referendum campaign will see—I am giving only one example — how the whole weight of modern publicity was brought to bear upon the British public to persuade them that if they went in they would have a range of protections, and that if they did not go in the disadvantages would be enormous. That case was presented with every power of publicity at the command of the great rich resources which those who campaigned for entry had at their disposal.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has just described the Community as bankrupt. Is that not perhaps the wrong word to use in the context of a budget that does not have a debt ratio, unlike those of the member states? For example, is he aware that the aggregate deficits of the member states exceed £100 billion, because they can raise debt? The Community budget does not have that power, so it is the only virtuous budget in Europe in that sense, because it has no debt ratio. That aggregate deficit of all the member states is probably about five times the size of the Community budget.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

If the hon. Gentleman's susceptibilities are injured by the word "bankrupt", I am happy to change it. Even the hon. Gentleman will agree that the economic and financial condition of the Common Market is pretty parlous. It is certainly not what would have been expected by those who thought that the Common Market was operating in the highly successful way that we were told at the time of the referendum. Many hopes have been disappointed.

In particular, the proposition that something successful would be done to deal with the appallingly wasteful, useless and ungenerous common agricultural policy has not been realised. So far from that happening, the CAP has got into deeper and deeper straits and we have present examples of how that has happened. The hon. Gentleman passionately believes in the Market and has put his case powerfully over this period, but even he would agree that the Common Market presents great new problems. This is a strange moment for us to be deciding to go in deeper still.

To return to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, why has that happened? One of the protections which some devised—it was not solely of British devising—to try to deal with the changes, which were an essential part of the campaign during the referendum, was that on every occasion emphasis was placed both on the power of veto, which was there under our provisions for entry, and on how the House of Commons could recover anything that we had forfeited if we so wished. Those matters were emphasised in every possible way precisely because the Government and those who backed entry believed that it was highly necessary to assure the British public that those rights would be retained. Other people had some understanding of this as well.

Sometimes I think that the Government ought to take some lessons from the French. The French discovered, perhaps a little earlier than we did, that the old treaty of Rome form of the Common Market held real dangers for national sovereignty and for the choice that they wanted to keep in their own hands. For that reason, following the pressure, or imagination—whatever we like to call it—of President de Gaulle the Luxembourg compromise was invented. It was invented by President de Gaulle for much the same reason as Voltaire said he had to reinvent God. The French are good at such contrivances, and at times they are necessary.

The French have lessons to teach us in these matters. All their philosophers are politicians, and most of their politicians are philosophers. They would never let the national interest of France lapse into the hands of mere lawyers, as we often do. Therefore, when there was a crisis in the Common Market which seemed to impair the right of the French Government to exercise their hold on affairs in the way that they thought was necessary, the Luxembourg compromise was invented. It had to be invented to protect what people thought was there before, but about which there had been great dispute.

Nobody knows better than the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) that there has always been a dispute about what is intended in the Market. Is it intended that it should proceed to economic and European union, to a federal state of some form? The hon. Gentleman supports that proposition, but when we went into the Common Market denials were made from every quarter that that was the intention.

The background to the Bill is that in some of the other countries many of the people who pressed for this kind of measure favour an advance to a form of European union and a much greater abrogation of national rights than we have previously accepted. At times the Prime Minister and other Ministers have taken sanctuary in the Luxembourg compromise. If they want to see it changed and to see a departure from all its protections of tradition and custom, they ought to have a proper debate in the country and generally about the advantages of that change. A major change like that should not be pushed through in some kind of disguise in a Bill of this nature, especially when the accumulated evidence of almost every economic prophecy about what would happen and what would be available to us if we went into the Market has been destroyed by practice.

Some of us used to think, and used to be so instructed at school, that Conservative Governments were pragmatic and liked to move step by step and not to take adventures in unknown courses. My Hon, Friend the Member for Walthamstow told the Committee yesterday of the injury that we have sustained under the system that has been inflicted on the British economy. I am not saying that the Common Market is the sole cause of the injury, but the Market did not provide any protection against it, though the claim made on its behalf was that it would do so. In the light of that experience, the Government have come forward with a Bill which makes it look as though we have not learnt a single lesson from all our experience and should proceed to give even greater powers to a new European Community.

We are told that there are some disputes between the Minister of State's Department and the Prime Minister. The hon. Lady shakes her head. The Prime Minister did not want the Bill either. She gave a number of undertakings to the House about her attitude on this matter. If the right hon. Lady had had the question taken out of its content and put to her at any time whether she wanted to depart from the Luxembourg compromise and to undermine the veto that had previously been exercised, I am sure that she would have told us about it on numerous occasions.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire 10:15 am, 27th June 1986

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If we take it that that is the case, can he speculate on what it is that has persuaded my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to change her mind and to allow herself and her Government to be persuaded to agree to this further step in European integration? It would be helpful to the Committee if we heard from the right hon. Gentleman on that matter.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

That is a question that should be addressed to the Minister of State. She is much more in the mind of the Prime Minister than I am. A short time ago I asked whether there was any difference between her and the Prime Minister on this subject, and she vehemently shook her head. I took that to mean that she was in absolute agreement with the Prime Minister on this matter. The hon. Lady will have to explain to the House why the Government have departed from the clear indications that the Prime Minister gave on this subject.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Clwyd North West

Whatever may be the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for this Single European Act as it stands, one thing is absolutely clear. It is that her passion throughout the affair is to achieve the completion of the internal market. The article which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to delete is the one above all which helps Britain to attain that objective.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). If I did not say so earlier, I should like to make it clear now that one of the reasons why some of us thought it was so unwise to go into the Common Market under the conditions that we were offered was that it combined, uniquely, two disadvantages for this country — a highly protectionist agricultural system and a free trade industrial system. Anything devised to suit Britain would have gone in the opposite direction, because we have lengthy industrial experience of what is necessary to sustain our industry, even at times of great world depression.

Usually we have had to resort to some form of protection for industry, but over the years we devised a system of agriculture that suited us admirably and could be carried through at some, although not very heavy, expense to the taxpayer. That expense was certainly not greater than the expense that has to be borne now. I do not think that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West accurately reflects the attitude of the Prime Minister on these matters. I presume that at some stage even she realised how dangerous it was to go into the Market with those two factors against us. They were bound to be against us and are the main reason for the appalling figures recited to the House yesterday. We went into an institution, an apparatus, an economic arrangement, which was contrary to the interests of this nation. The more that is illustrated, the more necessary it becomes to cling to the veto.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is not the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) mistaken about the internal market? Article 100 of the treaty of Rome is an adequate instrument for the completion of the internal market, but it requires unanimity, and that is a guarantee. The Bill destroys unanimity on the creation of the internal market. The hon. Gentleman agrees with me. Can my right hon. Friend, with his knowledge of history and of the House, tell me of any Bill being brought before the Parliament of the United Kingdom which the Government and all their supporters did not want to bring before the House? That undoubted fact, which my right hon. Friend has already adequately illustrated, shows the real political power of the European Community on the lines that we were talking about yesterday. The real power of the Community over the House is that it has required an unwilling Government to bring this wretched Bill before us.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

My hon. Friend has made some powerful additions to the argument that I am seeking to make. The Government did not want to introduce the Bill, or at any rate sections of the Government did not want to do so. The Minister of State says that she is in absolute agreement with the Prime Minister. Neither she nor the Prime Minister wanted to bring in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I am a little concerned, because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) is a powerful advocate. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to be misled or to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West, who is obviously concerned about the internal market. The Prime Minister has always been of the opinion that we must go ahead with the internal market. Despite that, she said that the Bill was unnecessary, so she was going to get what she wanted without the Bill. Despite, therefore, what my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West said, the Bill is irrelevant. The Prime Minister does not think that the Bill is necessary.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

I concur with the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps the Minister of State will read out the works of the Prime Minister. We shall then be able to judge whether they apply to this very different situation.

Until a few months ago the Government said that the Bill was unnecessary and that they did not want to go through all the travail, so they handed over the matter to the Foreign Secretary and said, "As you were able to get the original Bill through without anybody understanding it, why do you not produce this one?". Therefore, the Foreign Secretary drafted the Bill. We can see his fingermarks all over it. He is the most skilled draftsman that we know. He produced a Bill whose explanatory memorandum creates even more confusion. Usually an explanatory memorandum assists poor, benighted creatures like right hon. and hon. Members who cannot understand legal language, but in my opinion this is not the best and most explicit of explanatory memoranda.

The Foreign Secretary's speech made it clear that the Government want to minimise its impact, and some of us were deceived into thinking that it was a minor Bill, but the more we look at it, the more far-reaching it becomes. The Foreign Secretary introduced a Bill to alter the European Communities Act 1972. That Act took us into the Common Market and led to the application of different forms of law from those that had hitherto applied here. The first amendment to the Act was accompanied by EEC documents and the Government said that they would push it through, as though it were a trivial matter.

I hope that the Minister of State is now convinced— she has heard the whole debate, which is more than can be said of any other Member or supporter of the Government—and that she will tell the Government that the House of Commons does not want the Bill. The more we examine it, the more we think the Prime Minister's judgment was correct and that she should have stuck to it even more solidly than she did originally. We do not want the Minister of State to be put in the undignified position of defending an indefensible Bill. Therefore, I ask her to go back to the Cabinet, where I hope she will have as much sway on this topic as she so obviously has on many others.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

The First Deputy Chairman:

Mr. Ron Leighton.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman moved the amendment. I should have thought that he would wait until the Minister had replied before he spoke again. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the selection of speakers is really a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I moved the amendment very briefly. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will want to reply fully to all the points that have been made. There are various points that I wish to make that I did not make originally, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would prefer to hear them before she replies to the debate.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The selection of speakers is a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

This debate on the internal market is the most important debate on the economic side of the argument. The political arguments are more important, but the internal market is the essence of the Bill. Therefore, it is right and proper that it should be thoroughly scrutinised.

The reason for moving away from unanimity and losing the veto is to obtain the completion of the internal market. Justification for the Bill lies in the push for the internal market, but I ask myself what the internal market has done for us. The most comprehensive answer to that question was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) last night. In a remarkable speech he gave a wealth of detail that demonstrated that the internal market has been disastrous for British trade. Therefore, we have to consider whether the extension of the internal market will do this country even more damage.

It is not much good listening to the advice of those who originally told us that if we joined the Common Market we would gain great benefits from it. They have been proved wrong. Now they want to compound the damage and push us even further and deeper into the Common Market.

On the philosophy of the internal market, we have to consider, as the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) did, the philosophy of free trade. Free trade has many advantages, but it is difficult to find any part of the world where there is perfect free trade.

Why are we so interested in the internal market instead of the international market? The United Kingdom has always looked at the whole world as its trading area. It has not adopted a parochial attitude and looked only at one part of one continent. Although we have been in the Common Market for all these years, only a minority of our trade is with the EEC. The greater part of our trade is still with the international market. If we believe that free trade is so advantageous and beneficial, why do we not look to free trade on a worldwide basis instead of erecting barriers like the common external tariff between ourselves and, for example, New Zealand?

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

The completion of the internal market could entail a further deepening of industry's great psychological disadvantage. When we had a Commonwealth, which was a kind of free market, with tariff preferences throughout it, our industry concentrated almost exclusively on the United Kingdom home market and the Commonwealth and neglected all other world markets.

We went into the Common Market because it was a much larger market and, unlike the Commonwealth, it was a growing market. We were told that prosperity in the Common Market was increasing, that growth rates were much higher than ours and that there would he great opportunities for British industry. However, Britain's entry did not change the psychology of British industry. It regarded this new market as the be-all-and-end-all of its production and marketing, whereas the Japanese and the Germans have always regarded the world as their oyster.

On the size of the home market, why is it that Japan, with a home market of just over 100 million people — which is less than half the size of the Community—can still knock spots off all Community industry when it comes to trading on world markets? Is not the lesson for us that it is not the size of the internal market that matters but the efficiency with which one conducts one's economy and industry?

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Japan is an extremely good example. It is an offshore island, but it does not have the advantage of the oil, gas and coal reserves that we possess. I do not believe that Japan has any natural energy resources, yet it takes a worldwide view. By economic means Japan is achieving what it could not achieve by military means. It conducts its trade worldwide. It does not believe that there should be an internal market. The belief that Britain should look towards a small internal market has handicapped British industry. Our world trade has been handicapped by the higher price of British food now we are in the EEC'.

To think philosophically about free trade, if that is what we need in the internal market and the EEC is the way to obtain it, the only major policy that the EEC has achieved is its common agricultural policy. Where is the free trade in the CAP? There is no free trade at all. It is the most awful, rigid, protectionist policy of all, and it is highly detrimental to the interests of this country.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) explained that ever since the repeal of the corn law it has been in our national interest to have world trade in food and not to look to an internal market. We are far better off importing our food from the prairie countries than from the internal market of western Europe. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow has said, concentration on the internal market has disrupted our trading arrangements. We have not gained.

10.30 am

It is all very well to have opinions, as there were in the referendum, but I am not interested in opinions. I am interested in the facts—empirical evidence. The evidence we have is of the great damage and injury that has been done.

Norway was in a similar position to the United Kingdom with regard to the referendum. Norway, Sweden and Austria, which are even smaller countries than Britain, have done extremely well. They did not have to agree to the harmonisation of all their domestic arrangements. They did not have to give up their self-government and sovereignty to achieve economic success. They did the opposite, and they are now extremely prosperous and successful.

We have not gained from the internal market. Do we really want to encourage it? Is it something that we want to push along? As has been explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), article 100 gives us the possibility of extending the internal market, but on a voluntary basis. The things that countries wish to do voluntarily, by co-operation, can be done under article 100. The Bill, through article 100A, makes it compulsory. The Government are under the fond illusion that they will get only the harmonisation that they want and think is helpful to them. But, under the majority of 45 requirement, other nations will have views which are in their national interest.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

My hon. Friend has lighted on a fundamental, philosophical and constitutional question. Article 100 permits genuine international co-operation which requires the assent and consent of every individual party of their own free will. Changing that to article 100A on the internal market means that even France and Germany combined, or Britain and Germany combined, cannot stop being compelled to do something against their will by a majority — perhaps all of the southern European states. Surely that can convert something which could be co-operative into a supranational authority.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

My hon. Friend has an awesome mastery of the details of such matters. I always bow to his superior knowledge on such matters. I am only too happy to confirm what he said. He was right when he said that I had put my finger on a deep, fundamental, philosophical point. That is a habit of mine. I agree with him.

We are internationalists. I am pro-European, pro-American, pro-South American, pro-Asian and pro-African. Perhaps I should define what an internationalist is. The word "inter" means between. Therefore, the word means between nations. It presupposes the existence of separate, different and distinct nations. It does not mean merging a recognisable entity into what I think Sir Winston Churchill called a sludgy amalgam. It means presupposing the existence of historic nations being democratically self-run, but co-operating together voluntarily. That is what we believe in.

We believe in co-operating, not just with a little group of nations in one part of one continent, whose citizens are of one race and colour. I do not know what Mr. Tambo thinks of them. It must look to him like a club for retired and redundant imperialists. Our co-operation must be worldwide. The internationalism of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) is circumscribed and parochial. He is obsessed by this little part of the world. He wants to merge our self-government into a puny organisation which is causing us so much grievance and economic damage. He would cut us off from the rest of the world and the rest of the continent. That is the opposite of internationalism. I think that he owes it to the Committee to justify himself.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

The hon. Gentleman is saying, "I love humanity, but do not ask me to get on with my next door neighbour."

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

That is not the case. The policy that we advocate will safeguard the Commonwealth. We take our hats off to the Minister for the work that she is doing. Unless we have a sane policy, we may damage links with the countries with which I want us to get on well.

We want internationalism and co-operation on a voluntary basis. We want self-governing countries to cooperate together. We do not want them merged into supranationalism. We do not want some bureaucratic body, which is unelected, unaswerable and unaccountable, somewhere overseas, handing down regulations and taking away democratic self-government from individual nations. That is a philosophical point.

I return to the question of the internal market and free trade. I listened carefully to what the right hon. Member for South Down said about Germany and the Prussian Zollverein. That was an exemplar of such an arrangement. This is not the first time that attempts have been made to unify western Europe to create an internal market. After all, we had the Holy Roman empire of Charlemagne. Napoleon had quite a good shot at doing it, but without great success. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the Third Reich. Whatever else Adolf Hitler did, he had a good shot at unifying Europe. For many years, it was unified.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I shall give way in a moment. All previous attempts at unnatural unification have not done well.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Clwyd North West

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is probably the first time in the history of nations that free nations have voluntarily come together to combine their strength without any external compulsion whatever?

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

That is not quite right. When the European Parliament elections were held, less than a quarter of the population of this country bothered to vote. I do not think that the shifting of the focus of loyalty of the peoples of Europe has gone to that supranational bureaucracy which the hon. Gentleman holds in such high regard. I do not believe that the people of Germany, France and Britain have transferred their loyalty from their own national Parliaments to a strange body which perambulates between Brussels and Strasbourg. I do not think that they ever will. The hon. Gentleman is part of a dwindling minority who thought that would happen. It has not happened, and it will not happen.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

Is not the dilemma that the Government are facing over the internal market a practical rather than a philosophical one? The Government believe in the Community and in co-operation between nation states in the Community. That is on the record from the Prime Minister and others over the years. There are a few federalists in the Cabinet, and the Foreign Office is full of them.

The fact is that it is unity not just by means of cooperation between nation states. The Zollverein, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) yesterday, showed that one can achieve political unity most easily, not by military conquest, not by religious unification, but by economic unification, which then leads, almost automatically, to political unification. Of course, Bismarck had to fight a few wars against Austria and France because they objected to the unification of Germany, but, leaving that aside, unification was completed without the need for military force. However, it was then needed to keep out Austria and to stop France attacking the new German nation.

It seems to me that the Prime Minister is in a dilemma. If she believes in unification of some sort by means of nation states, to go about it by creating a completely free internal market, a unified economic structure, will lead not to that sort of unity, hut to the sort that the Prime Minister professes she does not want—the unity of one European Government, some sort of federal Government.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I agree with my hon. Friend. The point is that after the second world war, the federalists in Europe tried to jump straight away to political unity. That foundered on the rearmament of Germany. Then the federalists decided to adopt the ploy of seeking to integrate the economies of western Europe. They thought, "If only we can integrate the economies, political union will follow willy-nilly." Therefore, the object of the economic union was not intrinsically to get the economic effects; it was a secret weapon, perforce to bring along the so-called political union. It was conceived as a three-stage rocket. First, economic union, secondly, monetary union, leading inexorably and inevitably to political union.

To use the vivid word of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), that was the phantasmagoric concept of the federalists. Incidentally, they have all died since—de Gasperi, Adenauer and even Spinelli. They have all gone. There are one or two troglodytes still stuck around on these Benches, but there are not many of them left now. That is because in this country we learned from empirical evidence. The British are pragmatic, and life will come through all those theoretical designs eventually. Life will assert itself.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Is not the hon. Gentleman barking up the wrong tree in talking about the possible dangerous consequences of a free internal market? That could be a good thing as long as we are not protectionist towards the rest of the world. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the existing rules and directives virtually guarantee free trade within the Common Market, but that it simply is not happening? The real fear that we should have is that another host of harmonisation directives, which will now come forward, will not solve the basic problem. That free trade is simply not happening, despite all the laws, guarantees and directives.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East 10:45 am, 27th June 1986

Exactly. The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on it. Where is the free trade? That brings us to the philosophical point raised by the right hon. Member for South Down. Free trade has many benefits, but where does it exist in this imperfect world?

The example of the Zollverein is instructive to us. The idea was to have internal tree trade, in the Prussian federation or whatever—

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I should like to develop this point. I have been trying to deal with the Zollverein for the past 10 minutes. I have been generous in giving way, but I shall do so after I have tried to draw some sort of conclusion from the lesson of the Zollverein.

The idea was that internal—not external—free trade would unify the German-speaking people. I do not want to criticise Bismarck. The hon. Member for Harrow, East, who is just leaving the Chamber, and I are members of the Anglo-German parliamentary association. We travel to Germany quite often. The Germans are looking for national heroes. They have been a bit short on the ground recently, in both East and West Germany. The hon. Gentleman and I went to East Germany and learned much. East Germany is making a national hero of Martin Luther. The East Germans are looking to all sorts of people in their past. The hon. Member for Harrow, East may leave now if he wishes. I just wanted him to hear that point.

I think that the exemplar that the Germans should go for is Bismarck. I think that he was the most successful German of all. He was the last German to win a war. In fact, he won three wars. He also anticipated Lloyd George in introducing elements of the welfare state. I am sure that the right hon. Member for South Down knows all about this, but I should like to jog his memory.

That free trade did not prevent Bismarck from nationalising the railways. He built the railways in Germany as a state-owned enterprise. There was no playing around with leaving to the entrepreneurs or market forces. I suppose that one reason why he built the railways was to transport the German army, but another was to help and build up the protected German steel industry in the Ruhr. The steel that was used to construct the railways came from the Ruhr. Bismarck did not import it, although he could have done so more cheaply from the United Kingdom in those days. It was a form of planning. The right hon. Member for South Down probably will not go along with that, but he knows that some of us in the Labour party take that view.

Most countries pursue their national interest. As has been said before, our national interest is in free trade in food. We do not have that. We have rigid protectionism. I am sorry to have to say this, but I suspect that there should be a limited amount of temporary protectionism to help our manufacturing industry, if we are to keep and develop it.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is it not important to emphasise what is not a philosophical point alone, but one of major political importance? With regard to a voluntary co-operative integrated market, there has been unanimity up to now, so it serves the purpose of the hon. Members for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). But the change in status now envisaged in the Bill, to which we referred earlier, from an agreed integrated market to one of centralised authority puts the philosophy of the Zollverein, enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), on a European scale and past a particular critical point. That is a matter not just of philosophical importance for the integrated market, because the political control of that integrated market is now, by treaty, outside the control of the House of Commons and with centralised political authority in Brussels.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Let me emphasise, if there were any doubt,—I think I speak for my hon. Friends—that I am in favour of the maximum amount of friendly relations with the countries of western Europe and with countries all over the world. We want a voluntary, not a compulsory, basis. We want to keep our domestic self-government.

When we look at the internal market, the relevant document is No. 7674, which is sometimes known as the Cockfield Green Paper. It starts off with the philosophy behind this approach. It then goes on to the details. I should like to make a brief comment on the philosophy and then look briefly at some of the details.

The very first paragraph states: Unifying this market (of 320 million) presupposes that member states will agree on the abolition of barriers of all kinds, harmonisation of rules, approximation of legislation and tax structures". Why should we agree to the approximation of legislation? Will that not hamper, harass and restrict what the House of Commons can do? Surely we should have freedom to decide what is best for this country. Why should we have approximation of tax structures? That will prevent a British Chancellor bringing in his own Budget. It is an absurd idea. Why should anyone agree to that?

Paragraph 4 states: The Treaty clearly envisaged from the outset the creation of a single integrated internal market free of restrictions on the movement of goods; the abolition of obstacles to the free movement of persons, services and capital; the institution of a system ensuring that the competition in the common market is not distorted; the approximation of laws … and the approximation of indirect taxation in the interest of the Common Market. Why should not this Parliament decide on indirect taxes in this country? Surely that should be the responsibility of the elected representatives of the British people. It should not be decided somewhere else. What is the point of coming here if we do not have power to decide our own direct and indirect taxation?

Article 100 of the treaty deals with the harmonisation so close to the Government's heart. It provides: The Council shall, acting unanimously"— that is the important point— on a proposal from the Commission issue directives for the approximation of such provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States as directly affect the establishment or functioning of the common market. So there is already provision to carry out harmonisation if it is thought right and practical and in everyone's interests. Article 100A, however, moves to the qualified majority. That is why we have the Bill, although the Prime Minister did not really want it. It is because the Council decided by a qualified majority. The mere fact that we have the Bill is a good example of how the system would operate.

I will deal with just one or two of the 300 detailed items that it is proposed should be harmonised. On page 23 the annex refers to harmonisation of income tax. Is that really necessary? Do we have to agree that income taxes throughout western Europe must be harmonised? The taxation of the British people is one of the greatest powers of the British Parliament. If that power were lost, the British people would be taxed in amounts and by methods not agreed by the House of Commons. Taxes would be levied on our people by institutions not elected by us or answerable to us. Is not that perhaps the greatest loss of power for this place? The history of this country and of the House of Commons has centred on the taxation of the British people. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent will recall what happened with the imposition of ship money. This goes back through the whole history of this country. If we lose the power to tax the British people, what power shall we have left?

Page 24 sets out a proposal on training in general medical practice. There are three stars against that proposal. Perhaps the Minister will get a note from her advisers so that she can explain what that means. I know that foreign doctors emigrating to the United States have to take a further medical examination. Most British doctors pass. I have nothing against Italian doctors, but I am told that only 50 per cent. of them pass and the others have to undergo further training. I hope that the Minister will explain the meaning of the proposal on page 24.

Page 28 contains a proposal to co-ordinate certain aspects of national laws regulating advertising on radio and television. There is a major debate in this country about how television should be financed, but that is a matter for us to decide. How can it be necessary, or even possible, to co-ordinate this throughout 12 countries, and what possible advantage could there be in trying to do so? Surely that should be thrown out as a petty and laughable proposition.

Time is pressing and we do not want long speeches, so I shall give no more detailed examples. I have shown how petty many of them are. When they are not petty, they are extremely dangerous, because they take away historic rights. It is our job to look after our people—no one else will do it—and it is for the Parliaments of other countries to look after their people. It is appalling that we should even consider giving up the tools and the powers that we have.

Finally, I wish to consider just one form of' harmonisation. When the right hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Rees) gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on harmonisation of taxes on alcohol, he said: I was engaged during several periods during the time I served in the Treasury on the relationship of the duties on wine and beer; there were infraction proceedings brought against the United Kingdom, and it was felt necessary to respond to pressure from the Commission. The charge was that we were over-severe in our duties on wine, not being to any considerable degree wine producers, and a bit too easy on the duties on beer, which was to discriminate against producers in other parts of the European Community. Now we met the case by holding steady, or raising by an infinitesimal amount, the duties on wine, and raising duties on beer fairly considerably, and the political case which was made against us on a variety of occasions was that we were taxing the working man's drink". If we do not produce wine and wish to place a certain excise duty on it—I have no strong views whether the duty should be high or low—why should our Parliament not decide that? Why should we be told by institutions outside this country what the excise duty on our people"s beverages should be?

It is extremely interesting to note the advice of the right hon. and learned Member for Dover to the Commission and to those in power on how to bring about the harmonisation of indirect taxes. As putting value added tax on fish and chips had great political difficulties, he suggested a different way to implement these political decisions. He said: I think that the European Court may be the most likely engine of advance, in that if you can relate fiscal development to certain generally applicable principles"— principles which exist in the treaty, which says that there should be approximation of excise duties and indirect taxes — and if the Court demonstrates that it is prepared to hand down decisions against individual countries, individual governments, you may get a little movement in that way. I instance, since it was a decision against us, the wine-beer infraction proceedings. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is therefore saying, "I want to change indirect taxes. I find it politically sensitive, delicate and difficult, so I should like the European Court to help me by ordering me to make a change so that, when I appear before the House of Commons, I do not have to justify, convince and persuade — I can merely say that those political judges have handed down a decision which I am instructed to follow and there is nothing that I can do about it." In evidence, the right hon. and learned Gentleman added: There are perceptible pressures from that source, and if I were a member of the Commission I would be seeing how far one could advance matters by that route. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just left the Treasury, where lie found it difficult to tax British fish and chips, which is not very popular, especially with my constituents. He regards the European Court as the engine of progress. We do not want that. Indeed, it is intolerable. It is anti-British and runs entirely contrary to our philosophical approach and traditions. It is a disgrace. We should throw the whole thing out.

11 am

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. It may assist the House if I respond to the points that have been made with regard to the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

If the House has concluded consideration of the Committee stage of the Bill by 2.30 pm, no problem arises. A situation may also arise when, at 2.30 pm, it would be a reasonable expectation that the Committee stage of the Bill could he concluded reasonably soon after 2.30 pm without undue inconvenience to hon. and right hon. Members and the staff of the House. In those circumstances, it would be the intention to move the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If that were clearly not the case, however, the Government would wish to state their intentions, and I would therefore propose to do that at 2.30 pm.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. That is perhaps a slightly less clear expression of the Government's intentions than we normally get from the Leader of the House.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

It nevertheless sends a signal to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who arc taking part in this important debate and gives some idea of the Government's thinking. Most importantly, it gives some indication to the staff who will possibly be greatly inconvenienced by the House sitting beyond 2.30 pm.

It would be very helpful if vie had some idea from the right hon. Gentleman, even at this stage, of whether he intends to move progress. We are still dealing with the second batch of amendments. I agree that they are difficult and important ones, but there are no fewer than seven other groups of amendments to be considered, and there will be debates on clause stand part. I do not think that it is reasonable to expect it to be possible to envisage the termination of those debates anywhere near 2.30 pm or, indeed, for some considerable time afterwards. If the right hon. Gentleman addresses himself to that, does he not have to face the House with a decision about whether he will move progress at 2.30 pm, or shortly afterwards, or whether he will let the debate run on for a considerable time?

The First Deputy Chairman:

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to raise a matter further to the point of order?

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

This is a business statement, so assume—

The First Deputy Chairman:

No; it is a point of order.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My hon. Friend is in danger of getting like David Owen.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I very much resent the implications of my right hon. Friend's remark. This is a matter of major constitutional significance. The Government curtailed debate last evening and there are many groups of amendments yet to come. Many right hon. and hon. Members will wish to participate in some of our later debates and they naturally have commitments later this afternoon and this evening. We all know that that happens. As we have a constitutional Bill of such significance, importance and magnitude, and as the Government decided to curtail debate last night despite the fact that many of us wanted to continue, would it not be a constitutional outrage for the Government to try to continue debate of the Bill over the weekend?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. Would it not have been more sensible for the Leader of the House to have come to the Dispatch Box to tell the House that, as with last night, he and his friends have great difficulty in whipping up more than 100 Tory Members who are more or less slaves to the Common Market and will troop through the Lobby to close debates?

The purport of what the Leader of the House said—it needs spelling out—is that the Government will wait until they see whether they can get more than 100 Tory Members to troop faithfully through the Lobby to close a debate. If that happens, and the Government can put enough pressure on those Members to stay here long enough, the Government will battle on. The truth, however, is that there are not all that many Tory Members out of nearly 400 who are prepared to come to work on a Friday to back the Common Market to take us deeper into that mire. That is what the Leader of the House has had to say. He should have been more open and frank with you, Mr. Armstrong, and made the problem clear.

The right hon. Gentleman ought to say now that we will finish at 2.30 pm and that he will allocate another nine hours to make up for those which were lost last night, because the Government could not hold their troops here, so that we can debate the Bill properly, as befits its importance.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I sat through the whole of yesterday's debate, but I have not made a speech—I am waiting until we reach the next batch of amendments. Long speeches diminish the constitutional significance of the debate and prevent other arguments on other amendments from being made in a reasonable time. I wish that hon. Members would take account of the fact that others wish to speak.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. It is not really convenient to the House to have such matters dealt with on a point of order. The arrangement raises difficulties for the Chair and for the House as the method by which questions can be put to the Leader of the House is quite arbitrary.

I hope that in future, when the Leader of the House makes statements about business, he will make a statement so that the circumstances in which hon. Members ask questions are clear. We had a similar difficulty a few months ago. If we accept that this process is tolerable, we shall have it more and more. It constitutes a precedent, so future proposals about business will be made on points of order when nobody can be sure whether a question is in or out of order.

Presumably it is in order to ask the Leader of the House questions on a point of order. The Opposition Front Bench has done that, so, theoretically, Back Benchers can do the same as there could not be a distinction between the Front Bench and the Back Benches. Contrary to what has been said, I think that the right hon. Gentleman was his usual explicit and honest self.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He is learning the arts very late in life. Some of us wish him well in that because he is part of our balanced ticket and we want him to thrive in the new personage that he has taken on. He is learning these Machiavellian ways late in life. He must be very careful. I take what he said at face value; I do not mean that in a facetious sense. He was his usual explicit, honest self. Important matters have still to be discussed. It is impossible for us to finish our debates by 2.30 and I took the right hon. Gentleman's explicit, honest statement to mean that he had made up his mind that the Prime Minister's motion will not have to be moved at 2.30 and that therefore he will have to make a statement at about that time explaining when the rest of the Bill will be considered. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will learn the lesson and will make adequate time available for the completion of the Committee stage and, of course, for a proper Third Reading debate. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman sees the wisdom of that course. I am sure that if he did not he would jump to his feet and deny what I have said. I do not think that he will do that.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Further to the point of order. Mr. Armstrong. Will the Leader of the House make a further statement about what he regards as reasonable progress by 2.30? To help us further in our debates, will he explain the Government's intentions if satisfactory progress is not made by 2.30?

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. You will recollect that on several occasions Mr. Speaker has made it clear, not only to Back Benchers but to the Leader of the House, that he disapproves of controversial statements being made under the guise of points of order, thereby limiting the freedom of hon. Members to challenge them.

What happened this morning was a contempt of Mr. Speaker and of you, Mr. Armstrong. I ask you to consider that aspect. I am surprised that the Leader of the House chose to make his statement in that form. It was a business statement.

We are in an absurd position. The remarks by the Leader of the House do not bear analysis. He said that, having lost, on the Government's decision, nine hours of debate, we have less than three and a half hours to debate seven different issues.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

He did. He said that he expected to be able to conclude the Committee stage fairly soon after 2.30. He is saying that he expects us to complete seven debates in three and a half hours. If there were a vote on each issue, that would take one and three quarter hours of the three and a half hours, so for the seven debates we would he left with less than one and three quarter hours and only 15 minutes would be left for each of the seven debates. That is manifestly ludicrous and unattainable. It is grossly unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to leave the staff so uncertain about what is to happen to them later today.

The Leader of the House knows that the target that he has set can never be attained. He has a responsibility, if not to us because it could be said that it is our duty to be here on a Friday, then to those who support us in the Palace of Westminster. He must let them know exactly what is happening so that they can inform their families and make contingency arrangements.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down 11:15 am, 27th June 1986

Further to the point of order, because such it is, Mr. Armstrong. By custom, the House has permitted members of the Government to make statements in the guise of points of order. The House is being very unfair to the Leader of the House. At 9.30 this morning it was clear that hon. Members wanted some indication of whether we should be sitting beyond 2.30 this afternoon. That point has been clarified by the right hon. Gentleman's statement.

The right hon. Gentleman, who is an experienced parliamentarian, knows very well the chances of dealing with seven groups of amendments and three Questions on clause stand part between now and 2.30. He said that in the event of our not being in sight of completing the work the House will not be kept sitting too long after 2.30. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has, as he normally seeks to do, discharged his promise to the House and left us in no reasonable doubt about the arrangements which have to be made.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Further to the point of order, Mr. Armstrong. Is not the difficulty partly caused by confusing our normal procedures in the House, as the House, with our procedures in Committee? Assuming that the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) is correct—I share his view about the courtesy displayed by the Leader of the House—we should have some further indication of when the Committee might be sitting again.

Procedure-wise we are upstairs, although we are sitting downstairs. In Committee upstairs, points of order are raised about sitting again. Indeed, a Minister can convey to the Chair and the Committee on a point of order when the Committee will sit and when meal breaks will be taken. We are in a similar position.

I appreciate what I think the Leader of the House has told us. Would it be in order for him, as a leading member of the Committee, to say when the Committee might sit again, in the event of the Committee rising some time before tea-time today—I put it no more exactly than that?

If the Leader of the House wishes to change the advertised Third Reading in his business statement, a further business statement is required. I would expect such a statement to be made to the House next week. Would it be in order for the Leader of the House, before the day is out, to tell us when leave to sit again might be proposed?

The First Deputy Chairman:

I think that we might now proceed with the debate.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I shall be brief. When I introduced the debate, I asked a few questions. The Minister took note of them and will want to answer them fully. As the debate has proceeded a few more questions have occurred to me. They should be answered before we vote. I think it sensible to make my remarks before my hon. Friend the Minister gets to her feet.

I draw attention again to the point that was so ably illuminated by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) about article 28, which states: Any autonomous alteration or suspension of duties in the common customs tariff shall be decided by the Council acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is on the other side of the English Channel discussing with the Heads of other Community countries the question of trade with South Africa. We are all aware that the Prime Minister takes the view that tough economic sanctions against South Africa would be wrong in principle and counterproductive in practice. We are also aware that many individual Community countries might feel very differently, not only on the moral questions involved, but on the practical questions. We must also consider the question of advantage for one state against another. Certain forms of economic sanctions against South Africa might advantage France, Italy or perhaps Holland, but be of great disadvantage to the United Kingdom.

The article states: Any autonomous alteration in the common customs tariff shall be decided by the Council acting by a qualified majority". What is the common customs tariff? Is it a tariff around the Community which applies equally to all countries in the rest of the world, or could it he a tariff which the Community applies against a country, a group of countries or a region?

If that were the case, what could an "autonomous alteration" be? Could the Commission suggest that we should have a special tariff against South Africa, and could that be agreed by a qualified majority? If so, what is happening in The Hague could be rendered irrelevant. What the Prime Minister is trying manfully—perhaps I should say womanfully—to prevent happening could be forced on the United Kingdom. Opposition Members and I probably have different views on what my right hon. Friend is trying to do. I notice that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is not in heir place, but the Government Whip is scribbling away and I am sure that we shall have an answer to this important question. I do not intend to take up the time of the House with irrelevancies. I believe that this is a relevant matter.

New article 100A, referring back to freedom of movement within the Common Market and the approximation of the provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action, says: The Commission, in its proposals envisaged in paragraph I concerning health, safety, environmental protection and consumer protection, will take as a base a high level of protection. I read that extract quickly. Let me read the paragraph more slowly and leave bits out. I shall stick to one relevant part. I am not sure whether hon. Members are aware of the significance of the point that I am about to make. The article says: The Commission, in its proposals … concerning health". Health? When we joined the Common Market we were told that it was about free trade within the Community. Earlier this week the European Court gave judgments on social payments. No indication was given at the time of the referendum, during debates in the House or in the European Communities Act 1972, that social payments would be decided by a European institution.

In the House and in the Select Committee on European Legislation we have considered measures from the Community relating to environmental policy. There was nothing in the treaty about environmental policy, but those issues have been put forward by the Community and are being considered by it. Now we find in the Single European Act that environmental policy is a new part of the treaty.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

I do not mean to criticise, but perhaps some people were a little disingenuous in the early stages of the consideration of the 1972–73 legislation and did not consider the treaty in its full context or examine it with the care that it warranted. They should not be so surprised to find that these things are happening now. I do not disagree with many of the matters in the treaty, but people should not be as surprised as they have been.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

That is why it is so important that we debate the issues properly now and look at the Act line by line. Each group of amendments on this measure is more significant than four or five major Bills that are going through the House. We did not give adequate consideration to previous legislation, and it is vital that we examine proposed legislation properly. We must scrutinise it carefully and look at every line, every word, and every possible meaning of the words. If it not debated and amended now, it will be out of our grasp for ever. There will be nothing that we can do about it.

The treaty will allow the Commission to make proposals on health matters. The Community will be able to have a health policy. Does that mean that we will have a mountain of wheelchairs? Does it mean that we will have a saline drip lake? Does it mean that if someone manufactures thalidomide he will get a guaranteed price from the Community for as much thalidomide as he cares to produce? How will the health policy start and develop?

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. I am trying to relate the hon. Gentleman's comments to the amendments before us and I am having great difficulty in doing so. The hon. Gentleman must come back to the amendments.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Article 18, which sets out new article 100A, would be deleted by amendment No. 49. The article includes provision for the Commission to make proposals on health. It is there in black and white. The National Health Service is safe in the hands of the Conservative Government, but will it be safe in the hands of the Commission in Brussels? The power is there in black and white. There is no doubt about it. The Community, the Commission, and the European Assembly — with its enhanced powers—have the power to start providing a Community health service. Think of the bureaucracy, the muddle and the waste of money.

Will our Health Service be reduced to the low standards of other Community countries? Will harmonisation mean that we have to put up with the bureaucracy and extravagance that exist in other parts of the Community? The provision of health care in other Community countries is lower than in this country, yet those countries spend more on their health care. If we harmonise, will we harmonise their extravagance and waste? Do we want that?

The Community has a disastrous common agricultural policy. What will happen if it has a common health policy? Where will the money come from? Will the CAP get out of control, or will it become more extravagant? If we have a common health policy and a common agricultural policy, will we not be robbing the hospitals to pay the farmers?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) said, a number of matters were not discussed when we considered the European Communities Act. The public were not made aware of the powers that we were giving to the Community. They are here in black and white in a treaty signed by the Government. We are giving powers to the European Community over the health of our nation.

I am also worried about the preamble to the Single European Act. How significant is this preamble? What does it mean? What is its relevance? If disputes arise—an individual may wish to take a case to court because he believes that European law is not being applied in one country—will the preamble have any status or validity?

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would remember that that question arises on a later batch of amendments. It is becoming tedious to some hon. Members to have to wait to speak on matters that arise on later amendments. If everything is pushed up into earlier amendments, proper consideration will not be given to important issues at the relevant time. That often happens when there is a filibuster.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) is not present, but I wish to put on record the fact that it helps enormously if hon. Members speak to the right amendments at the right time, and do so briefly.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I am sorry that my hon. Friend has made those comments, at some length. It is not my intention to speak at length. I heard my hon. Friend the Minister of State say that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford was right. All these issues that we are debating are affected by the veto, the preamble and majority voting. It is irrelevant for the Minister to say that we shall be coming to those issues at a later stage. The veto is relevant to what we are discussing, as is the preamble. How can we take a vote on the amendment without knowing the relevance of the preamble and the veto to it? It is no good saying that we shall come to it later. We must know now, because we shall take a vote now, and if we do not have the information to take the vote, it is not a proper vote. These points have also to be addressed at this earlier stage.

11.30 am

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford made a point about the relevance of debating the preamble. We see that there is a hook in it on which the Community can hang its health policy. The preamble says: Determined to improve the economic and social situation by extending common policies and pursuing new objectives". The "social situation", "common policies" and "new objectives" show that the preamble will be ammunition for, or a weapon in the hands of, the European Court. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will reply to this point. First, we have the fact that the Commission and the Community can have a health policy, and now, from within the preamble, which is a matter of great moment when justice is considered in the Community, we have it reinforced. My hon. Friend should tell us about that.

Another point of some consequence involves a little mental arithmetic, which even at this time of the morning does us no harm. All these issues on the internal market and external tariffs will be decided by majority voting. The total number of votes within the Community for that vote is 76. We have 10 votes. Greece, Spain and Portugal between have 18 votes and with Italy they have 28 votes. That means that the Mediterranean countries can control, and decide on, any vote.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

The hon. Gentleman is making a good point about the fact that we now have to block three countries to obtain a qualified majority, but the assumption that the Mediterranean countries will always have the same interests in any matter is not necessarily the case, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree. Will he also accept that, on internal market matters, it may be that Spain and Portugal, the new members, will agree with Britain? I am not saying that that invalidates the case that the hon. Gentleman is making, but does he not agree that it is important not to spoil the case by implying that the Mediterranean countries will always gang up on us? We may have a coincidence of interest. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to spoil his good case by making a blanket attack on the Mediterranean countries.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I am certainly not making a blanket attack on the Mediterranean countries, but there may be circumstances in which they will gang up on us. It may be that there is a high level of protection against imports of fruit and foodstuffs grown in the Mediterranean countries. I am sure that, like myself, the hon. Gentleman has the interests of the United Kingdom consumer at heart. The north Europeans may wish to lower the tariff so that we can get the benefit of better and cheaper foodstuffs from outside the Community, but there may be a blocking minority. The qualified majority would be able to stop the rest of us from lowering such tariffs.

There is an even more significant aspect, and that is that we have a population of about 55 million. We have 10 votes. Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal have an aggregate population that is less than that of the United Kingdom. Equally, it is less than the population of the Federal Republic of Germany. Between them, those countries have 28 votes.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not into proportional representation.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

No, I am not.

Those countries have the ability to block Germany and us, and in many ways, separately as well as together, we are much more important economically to the Community than many of the other countries individually, even on a size-for-size basis. Together, let alone individually, West Germany and the United Kingdom do not have the ability to block. Each Irish citizen has five times the voting power of each British citizen. Heaven knows, but each citizen in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has 50 times the voting power of each one of our constituents.

On Friday it is my habit, provided that there is no business in the House in the afternoon or evening, to take my advice bureau and to go out with a few of my friends to knock on doors, find out how people feel, and perhaps go into a few pubs or clubs in Northampton to speak to the people. I invite my hon. Friend the Minister, one evening before too long, before the Bill becomes an Act, to come with me on one of those sessions and knock on doors and go round the pubs and clubs in Northampton. She can then briefly explain to the people of Northampton how she can justify, as I am sure she can, for she is eloquent, a transfer of power to the European Community that is such that the people of Ireland have five times as much voting power as they have, and how seven small countries with a lower aggregate population than ourselves have three times as much power when it comes to voting.

How can my hon. Friend justify the surrender of power from this House to institutions in the Community, knowing that the small countries of the Community will have 28 votes between them and that they have a vested interest in European unity rather than in working together within Europe? They want to move towards a federal Europe. I understand that my hon. Friend is not in favour of a federal Europe. We know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is adamantly against a federal Europe, and we are grateful for that. We know that the overwhelming majority of British people are against a federal Europe, but the voting figures that we have make it almost inevitable that, drip by drip, slowly, day by day, we will mover closer towards a federal Europe. That is what the voting figures mean.

If my hon. Friend the Minister believes that that is not the case, perhaps she will agree to my request and come to visit the robust citizens of Northampton and explain to them how what is there in black and white is not black and white at all but a fable, untrue, and will not have the effect that I have suggested. I am sure that it will take all my hon. Friend's considerable eloquence to put that case. 1 look forward to her accepting that invitation.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I was going to make a further protest about parliamentary time, but in view of what the Leader of the House has had to say, or not say, I shall wait a little longer. I am tempted, although I might not do it, to move a closure myself to see whether the Government have 100 Members here. My guess is that we would be able to make it abundantly clear that what the Leader of the House has had to say is all "kid and cod 'em".

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I agree with my hon. Friend.

There have been several references to the Prime Minister's role, but I think that a few people have got it wrong. Several times, from both sides of the House, the Prime Minister has been spoken of as somehow being against the Common Market really in her heart. I do not believe that. This is the same woman who marched, with the ex-Tory Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), into the Lobby against the Labour party 36 times. We had longer debates then than we are having on this issue. Several days were set aside almost every week and the whole process went on for months before we passed the European Communities Act.

I do not accept the idea that the Prime Minister is going to the Common Market battling away for the people of Britain. She does a pretty good propaganda job getting that message across, but it is untrue. She is content to see people such as the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) fronting, as she has been doing last night and today. The right hon. Lady does not mind the hon. Member for Wallasey doing the dirty work while she is giving the impression to the BBC and the ITV that she is battling for Britain in the Common Market. She has the Common Market blood in her veins, just as much as the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who lined his pockets at the expense of the Common Market, the ex-leader of the SDP, who could not even stay here last night for his Adjournment debate. The Speaker had given—

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the amendments and he should not make allegations against any other Member.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Following what has been said about the Prime Minister and her attachment to the Common Market, and following the speech made by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I think I am allowed to comment on the Prime Minister's relationship with the Common Market and all the gallivanting round Europe that she does. Every time she steps on that plane she spends taxpayers' money, yet she complains that Derbyshire county council does not have enough money for this, that and the other and accuses it of spending too much on home helps and social services. She loves to get on that plane and gallivant off to Europe, spending taxpayers' money. That is relevant to the debate.

When the British people hear the words "Common Market" they cringe. It is common all right. It has cost us a small fortune and the Prime Minister is as much up to the neck in it as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup who dragged Britain in. It is right for me to make a passing comment about another pro-Marketeer who has the Common Market in his blood, the right hon. Member for Hillhead because people like him who were in the Labour party walked into the Lobby with Tory Members to start this tawdry, rotten process.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Clwyd North West

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is a practised parliamentarian and knows that he can allude to all sorts of matters, but he must relate his remarks to the amendments.

The First Deputy Chairman:

The hon. Gentleman is not doing that and I am listening carefully—[Interruption.] Order. I am in an extremely tolerant mood, but the hon. Gentleman must deal with the amendments under consideration.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

One of the amendments seeks to delete article 15. Article 15 is in the legislation because people such as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, the Prime Minister and the ex-leader of the SDP joined together to take Britain into the Community and to sign article 15 with all the other obnoxious articles.

The right hon. Member for Hillhead should be present today. Where is he? He could not even turn up last night to take part in the Adjournment debate which the Speaker had allocated to him. Earlier in the day the leader of the SDP, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), complained that he could not ask a second supplementary question, yet his mate did not turn up for a debate when he got one. The right hon. Member for Hillhead had been allocated, not merely a question, but half an hour's debate. What hypocrisy.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

No, I am not giving way. Well, go on then, if you want.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a referendum took place under the auspices of the Labour Government in 1975 which settled many questions to which the hon. Gentleman has referred? Does he accept that many hon. Members would entirely repudiate his wholly unwarranted attacks on the Prime Minister?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Tory Members like to bathe in glory by telling their constituents that the Prime Minister is battling in Europe for the British people, when all the time she is agreeing to this new extension of the Common Market and to get Britain deeper and deeper into it. I am not conned by all that silly nonsense, even if the hon. Gentleman is. He is one of the few Tory slaves who has turned up this morning because the Whips told him to do so. Last night the Whips were running round all the pubs and bars in the House trying to get Tory Members to stay.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Will the hon. Gentleman sit down? He made a personal allegation against me, Mr. Armstrong, and I wish to reply to it, if I may.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Is the hon. Gentleman raising a point of order because, if so, that is what he should say.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

The hon. Gentleman made a personal allegation against me, Mr. Armstrong. Although the hon. Gentleman has only just arrived in the Chamber today, I sat here all of yesterday. I am here entirely of my own volition and certainly not because the Whips have asked me to attend. I entirely repudiate what the hon. Gentleman says, and I ask him to retract it.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The Committee would be helped if we could get on with the important amendments under consideration.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I was present last night and I saw the hon. Gentleman trying to raise a point of order then. He should attend that class which I have told the Speaker to set up for the right hon. Member for Devonport. It will enable them to raise points of order, to speak when they cannot raise a point of order and to raise a point of order and speak at the same time. They need a few lessons. I thought that the hon. Gentleman had more sense than to want to join a class with the right hon. Member for Devonport. The hon. Gentleman was present all last night and listened to goodness knows how many points of order and interventions, and he has heard a further 20 points of order this morning, yet he still has not got the drift and does not know how to do it.

The Prime Minister tries to kid the British people that she is not in favour. She is not here to vote today and she was not present yesterday. She is leaving it to the Minister to do all the dirty work. That is why the Government are in trouble today and why they cannot move the closure. All the time that I have been speaking and when my hon. Friends were speaking earlier I expected a Tory Whip to come along with the full authority of his office and stop the debate.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 11:45 am, 27th June 1986

The hon. Gentleman wishes that the Whip would close the debate? But he is on our side. He probably has the same idea as me and knows that the Government cannot close the debate because they do not have 100 hon. Members present. That would blow the gaff and we would deal with the matter another day.

When we were debating why the treaty of Rome was being extended, I heard the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) say that it was because of back-door deals. I think I heard him say that it was a kind of quid pro quo for the Hillsborough agreement and the Anglo-Irish treaty. That is the sort of thing that happens in the Common Market. Leaders get together and ask, "What do you want then?", and one says, "I would like to have majority voting because the veto does not fit in with the Common Market." When the right hon. Member for Hillhead was President—at that time he was called Roy Jenkins — he wanted majority voting. All Common Market people want majority voting because they want to arrogate power to themselves. They do not care from whom they take that power. Because it is difficult to sell majority voting in Britain, especially to our Parliament, the leaders say, "Well, I tell you what, Prime Minister, we could perhaps deliver something else. We could help with the Irish". That is how matters are dealt with.

That is what leaders will be doing now when they are supposed to be talking about sanctions against South Africa. I will bet diamonds that they do not talk about sanctions alone. They will haggle and barter. The millions of black people in South Africa may well be furthest from the minds of the people in The Hague, who will be concocting some sinister deal. Then in another 12 months we shall be debating some issue and an hon. Member will ask where it has come from. It may well have come from The Hague.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

My hon. Friend's point is made in rather different language by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the National Audit Office report entitled, "Achievements and Costs of the Common Agricultural Policy in the United Kingdom." Paragraph 8 states: the practice has evolved of the Council adopting by general consensus an overall package of decisions, which each Member State considers is on balance likely to be more favourable (or less unfavourable) to its interests than any other which might be negotiated. Does that not prove my hon. Friend's point?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I have not read the document to which my hon. Friend has referred. My hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) and for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) have read all these documents and they study the fine print. I simply listen to them when they make formidable speeches and that allows me to get the drift of what is happening. However, I believe that I have expressed the case better than the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The Government are twisting the issue; they are bluffing and conning. They are telling the public that they have a clever way of putting matters up for discussion without informing them about the subject. The people in the Common Market are expert at doing that. That is why that principle came from the belly of the wets who sit on the alliance Benches. The Social Democrats are the original Common Marketeering types why try to bluff their way through politics and avoid the class conflict in society. We might all wish lo remove class conflict, but we cannot. We have to say yes or no on occasion. We should not fudge and mudge. The Common Market is the apex of fudging and mudging.

That fudging and mudging is exemplified in the documents which my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow reads. We are supposed to be discussing amendments Nos. 5 and 6 and article 15 and all the other points that have been raised. I have examined today's Order Paper. The Leader of the House continually tells us that there is not sufficient parliamentary time to debate certain matters. There are more than 1,000 early-day motions in the back of the Order Paper, some of which have been signed by more than 150 Members of Parliament. These are important issues. For instance, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) has raised an important issue which deserves debate—nuclear power—and he wants to discuss ionisation and other important matters.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I see that the hon. Gentleman has got the point and now knows how to raise a point of order.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover is stretching my tolerance. I cannot see that early-day motions are relevant. Which amendment is he referring to?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

You are very patient, Mr. Armstrong. I will tell you why I am making the point about limited parliamentary time. This new treaty will give the opportunity to the clever Dicks in the Common Market Assembly to discuss nuclear power in Britain while Parliament is refused the opportunity to debate it. That is why it is an affront to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North, because he cannot discuss the dangers of nuclear power in the light of the disaster in the Soviet Union. It is an affront to my hon. Friend that he should be told week after week that he cannot discuss nuclear power because of this tinpot debate about the Common Market which will take several days to conclude.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the unique qualities of this House, which he and I both love dearly, is the system whereby the Opposition have an absolute allocation of time? Does he agree that, if this subject is so dear to his heart and to his hon. Friends, they can use an Opposition day to deal with it? That facility, as he may well know, is not available in the continental political system and is unique to this House. It will remain with us and will be available to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We always come up against that point in the parliamentary Labour party. I would not dodge that point for one moment. However, by giving more power to the Common Market, we give it more chance to debate nuclear power and the ability to make a decision over our heads. We might have difficulty in persuading my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) to use half a Supply day to debate nuclear power, but that does not alter the fact that, under the conditions in the Bill, we will give the European Assembly the power to do the job for us. We should be doing that job in this House.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Is not the hon. Gentleman making a poor point? I fully support the amendments, but does he not accept that, if we transfer our power to the European Assembly—as we are doing—the Assembly will have less time to debate matters such as nuclear power and we will have more time?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I think that the hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten what he reminded the House about on many other occasions. The Common Market Assembly does not deal with matters in the way that we deal with them. It has ways and means, even without a debate, lo start a procedure which could result in some harmonisation. Before we knew where we are, we might be subject to some form of nuclear power edict which had arisen not from a major debate in the Common Market but because some clever bureaucrats had put their heads together and imposed it upon us. If the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) wants to travel down that road, he can do so.

Last Saturday, the Bolsover Labour party asked me what I would be considering in Parliament this week. I said that there were many interesting subjects for debate and that, no doubt, South Africa would be an important issue. I said that towards the end of the week we would be debating the Common Market. They asked me, "Why are you debating that, Dennis?" I told them that some idiots in the Conservative party had decided that the Common Market had been such a complete failure that they wanted to give it even more powers. That is roughly what we are doing.

The Common Market has failed. Anybody who understands anything about the Common Market realises that it has not worked. We may argue until the cows come home as to whether we went into the Market early enough. But that is not important any more. The important point is, what is happening to the Market now? The Common Market is bankrupt and has been for some considerable time. Here we are today telling the people of Britain that we will give more powers to an organisation which has not got two ha'pennies to rub together. If the Common Market had been a coal mine, the Government would have shut it. The Market is bankrupt, and it is not making any money. While every coal mine has some reserve of coal, the Common Market has nothing.

I can imagine a conversation taking place between the Prime Minister and the Treasury. It would go something like this: "The Common Market has no money, Prime Minister", and the right hon. Lady would say, "I have told you, if it has no money, shut it." The Chancellor of the Exchequer would say, "It is not a coal mine or a pit. It is the Common Market", and the Prime Minister would reply, "Save it".

The Common Market is all part of that contradictory economy which the Prime Minister holds dear to her heart. The idea is that, if a pit does not make money, it must close down. If the steel industry does not make money, it should be closed. Similarly, if the railways do not make money, they should be closed and all the people thrown out of work. However, when we come to this Bill on the Common Market, backed up by the Common Market party—the alliance — the Government use a different set of standards and ask how they can bail it out. They decide to use taxpayers' money to give it a fresh lease of life.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

Is not the logic of the completion of the internal market that there will be more closures in the basic industries, because the forces drawing industry and investment to the centre will be enhanced by the freedom of capital movement, freedom of investment, freedom of labour and freedom of services? The peripheral regions in this country will need more Government support — which they will not receive from this Government but which they would hopefully receive from a Government of a different party — to counteract the impact of the internal market.

I believe that the Prime Minister—and I hope that I do not do her an injustice—does not care about the regions of this country. Only the Labour party cares about the regions. That is why, in these amendments, we are vigorously opposing the completion of the internal market which will make a great difference to the people we represent.

12 noon

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My hon. Friend made similar comments in his speech last night, and he is right. When I go back to my constituency in the north Midlands I will meet the Whitwell miners and their families and it has just been announced that their pit is to be closed. Another 700 or 800 will join the dole queue. When I compare that with what is happening in the Common Market with all the bureaucratic machinery, there is no need to go much further.

My hon. Friend is right. He remembers, with me, that when we went into the Common Market without the vote of the British people—we only had that afterwards— there was a lot of talk about economies of scale. To be honest, I was not sure at that time what economies of scale were. However, I heard the ex-leader of the Social Democratic party talking about it one day and I thought, "I had better listen to what this lot is all about." Apparently, economies of scale meant that Britain's coal industry would reign supreme. Why? Because we were a coal-mining nation with 300 or 400 years of coal beneath our feet and we would be able to expand our coal industry because we had more than the rest of the Common Market put together. We would be selling tonnes and tonnes of coal to the Common Market and it would be selling us some of its manufactured and other goods in order to balance the books.

For one half second—only a half second—I thought that it was just conceivable that there might be something in these economies of scale. But what happens? Is the Common Market buying our coal? As my hon. Friend says, not only are they not buying our coal but we have finished up with a manufactured trade deficit—correct me if I am wrong—of about £8,000 million.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

Twelve thousand million pounds.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

There, it has gone up. There is a £12,000 million deficit with the Common Market on manufactured goods. Yet those people have the temerity to come along, now that they have got us into this sludge, into this mess, into this mire, and say "Let us tell the British people that the only way to get out of it is to stop in the betting shop and back and back until all the money has gone." What a crazy thing to do.

Any sensible politician, or anybody in any walk of life, who runs into a hole would say, "Well, I must cut my losses." That is what the gambler does in the betting shop. He does not go in the next day, the next day and the next day, if he has any sense, because he knows that the bookie will win in the end. He cuts his losses. We are not cutting our losses today.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

If one finds oneself in a hole, is not the sensible thing to do to stop the digging?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

If a person is looking for coal, he keeps digging.

What I am trying to say is that this is madness; it is lunacy. If only the British people were given a chance to hear what is happening. The trouble is that they are not told. They are given the impression that everything in the garden is lovely. They are not told the truth about it. For instance, every day the headlines should say that there is a £12,000 million manufactured goods trade deficit. It ought to be slapped in front of the British people continually.

I only hope that the next Labour Government will not go any further down this yellow brick road. It might as well be said. We are all together on these Benches today, just as we were last night, and probably will be until the debate has finished. But now, in the expectation of a Labour Government, we must tell those sloppy people who believe in this road to nowhere in the Common Market that we are going no further. We must overturn any decisions that are carried. We must have none of this business of the Leader of the Labour party standing at the Dispatch Box saying, "I do not like the mess, but I cannot undo it." We must find the ways and means of undoing it in accordance with our conference policy.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Several of my hon. Friends have been trying to find out what the Labour party's policy is. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of conference policy. Will he tell the House what that policy is and how sure he is that it will become Labour party policy?

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) must not be tempted down that road. It would be completely out of order.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) has asked an important question, Mr. Armstrong. In the course of the few more minutes that I have to speak I might get round to explaining, en passant I have done that twice. It was good the first time, was it not, but there were more people there then.

People in the Labour party and elsewhere said that they hoped that I would oppose this extension of power. I said that I would. They were concerned about some of the things that they were promised in 1973. They said to me, -Dennis, what has happened to all those wonderful pension plans for our old-age pensioners? Why haven't we got them?" All those people like Shirley Poppins and the rest who took us down the yellow brick road said that one of the attractions of the Common Market was better pensions. They said that our people had the worst pensions in Europe. What happens? The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who missed his Adjournment debate last night — that was delightful. Even Mr. Armstrong knows it. He is laughing. But where are those pensions?

Photo of Mr Donald Dixon Mr Donald Dixon , Jarrow

Does my hon. Friend think that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) will have his pension reduced because he was not interested in the Common Market? He was not prepared to sit here and listen to the debate so that he could have his Adjournment debate afterwards.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We know what happened. I was just coming on to the fact that all the old people in Britain did not get their increased pension but he got his. We shall have to send in a memorandum, or whatever they do in the Common Market. They have a special way of doing it in 15 different languages. We shall explain that he has not done his job. He could not even stay during the Common Market debate. That really is a crime for a Common Marketeer. One could understand the right hon. Gentleman missing his Adjournment debate, after, say, a debate on the Welsh economy, since he is a Scottish Member of Parliament, but not to be present when we are debating his beloved Common Market really is a crime. He ran away and then missed his opportunity to speak for half-an-hour when the leader of the Social Democratic party had been saying earlier that it was not fair that he could not get a supplementary in.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman is making passing reference, but we really must get to the amendments before the Committee.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Yes, I am drawing to a close, but the pension is an internal matter.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I hesitate to intervene, Mr. Armstrong, but is it not a fact that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) virtually ran the internal market for some six years?

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was referring to the absence of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) on a certain occasion in the House—indeed, he has done it more than once—and that has nothing to do with the internal market.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My hon. Friend has made a fair point. Such people should be here to defend the Common Market instead of leaving that to some of the second-raters, and there are not many of them. They were the champions of Europe—or rather, the Common Market, because it is not all Europe. They were going to save Britain from the continuing problem with the pound. I do not know whether anyone else remembers, but I remember that when we went into the Common Market we were told that there would be no problem ever again with the pound. What happens? Every time the right hon. Gentleman speaks now they want to get us into the European monetary system and some other entrapment within the Common Market.

What it really means is that the Marketeers have backed the wrong horse. The British people have been conned. We have mass unemployment, which is caused partly by the Common Market and partly by the Government's actions. We have all these people without jobs. We have not got those wonderful pensions for our pensioners.

We have not abolished standing charges and on an international theme we have not even fed the Third world. I remember the debates when countless people said that the Common Market, together with Britain, would be able to feed the improverished millions in Africa and in central and south America. I am talking about little kids with matchstick legs. It was said that they would be properly fed if Britain went into the Common Market.

We have had the appalling experience of seeing that this much vaunted Common Market cannot even deliver on an international humanitarian basis. It has failed in every respect. That is why we should say over and over again that we will not give extended power to that bunch in Europe. That is why I will vote for these amendments and fight and fight until we get out of this sorry mess.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

After what I can only describe as one of the most appalling abdications of parliamentary responsibility that I have listened to during my 16 years in Parliament, I shall try, in accordance with your wishes, Mr. Armstrong, to come back to the amendments.

Before I do so, may I draw to the attention of the Committee the fact that while some right hon. and hon. Members are indulging in utter irrelevancies, on the continent politicians of all persuasions are celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the man who was often described as the architect of the concept of a united Europe — not a confederal or a federal Europe, but a united Europe. I am speaking about Maurice Schuman, and I should like to quote two sentences of his. He said: Europe will not be built in a day, nor as part of some overall design. It will be built through practical achievements that first create a sense of common purpose.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

So that the Committee can get the precise flavour of what the late Maurice Schuman said, perhaps you, Mr. Armstrong, will allow my hon. Friend to give it to us in French?

The First Deputy Chairman:

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not allowed.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) for that helpful intervention, but I shall not strain the Official Reporters by quoting it in other than the official language of this Parliament.

Some right hon. and hon. Members are straining at a gnat in arguing the merits or demerits of the clauses, under the subterfuge of proposing amendments to delete the clauses. Constitutionally the Bill is of minimal significance. The fundamental issue was settled long ago, when Parliament passed by a massive majority, which represented the views on both sides of the House of Commons, the European Communities Act 1972.

The political issue on which the Committee should concentrate its time and thought is how we can be the more effective in influencing future development in the Community. Europe, and by that I mean the continent of Europe, will develop with or without a blueprint or a design, and with or without Britain's membership. The logic of that leads me to believe that the developments will be much more acceptable to Britain and British politicians on both sides if Britain influences events from within European institutions.

The contributions to this debate this morning and last night have implied that Britain should never have joined the European Community. Those views are sterile and damaging. We are in, and we will remain in. That is the declaration made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the position from which I, and I believe the Committee, should view the matter before us.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside 12:15 pm, 27th June 1986

At the start of his speech my hon. Friend commented on the abdication of parliamentary responsibility. His suggestion was that it was an abdication of responsibility to make speeches in Committee on matters that worried hon. Members. I thought that the comments earlier in the debate implied that there was an abdication of responsibility in the context of the internal market. Whisky, insurance and banking are important to Scotland. It was said that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who represents a Scottish constituency, but who appears to know very little about Scotland, did not even trouble to stay here to say anything at all about these important matters.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I shall not pursue the argument about whether views would have been expressed constructively had the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead, (Mr. Jenkins) been here. That is not the substance of this debate, and I am sure that you, Mr. Armstrong, will be the first to agree with that.

I want to hear Britain's voice and her views coming through as constructive and positive. I want to see us improving the decision-taking procedures in such areas as —these include a number of matters in the amendment that we are debating — the opening of the Market for goods and services and, out of respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), the products of his glorious country, especially its liquid products. I want to see the decision-taking mechanism in the Community improved to enable the Third world to develop its ability to feed itself. I also want to see the establishment of much greater stability in currency. I want Britain to join the ERM of the EMS, and so does 90 per cent. of British industry. Fortunately, a large number of my hon. Friends and a few Opposition Members also want to see that.

The Bill is a minnow and falls far short of what is necessary. However, on the basis that half a loaf is better than no bread I shall support its progress in the Lobby and reject every one of the amendments, which could and should have been comprehensively debated in the Chamber had there not been such an appalling abdication of parliamentary responsibility and time wasting through dealing with total and utter irrelevancies. After the passing of the Bill I shall continue to try to influence further developments in and through the European Parliament, where debates are on really important issues and where speeches are much more forward looking than some of the speeches that I have heard from some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

The hon. Gentleman has made some assertions, but may I remind him that the Bill is not about whether we stay in or come out of the Common Market? It is about whether this Parliament provides more power to institutions of the Common Market. The hon. Gentleman thinks that that is too little, but does he agree that clause 3 (4) provides for greater control of the internal market by the European Assembly? That is because, under the requirements of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978, when greater power is given by this Parliament to that Assembly, express permission must be given. Does he agree that to that extent this is a constitutional issue and that the proposal is that power should pass from this House to the Assembly, because the Act says so, and so do the Government?

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Bill has constitutional implications. That fact is recognised by the usual channels and by the way in which the debate is being conducted on the Floor of the House rather than upstairs. The role of the European Parliament is constantly being ignored. The presence in that institution of representatives who are elected by the same electorate as the electorate who return hon. Members to this House has also been ignored. The perspective that is evident in the hon. Gentleman's argument inhibits the more effective representation of British views and interests in the European Parliament.

The Bill is a minnow; it does not go far enough. There is all the difference in the world between the objectives for which Maurice Schuman and many continental Socialists strived for so long and what the hon. Gentleman seeks. They strove for a united Europe, or a Europe that is united. There is all the difference in the world between a Europe that is united and a united states of Europe. One is a concept. The other is a legalistic constitutional lawyer's representation of it. As the Bill does not contain many of the points that it should contain, I am content to pursue the ultimate objective of a united Europe, or unity in Europe, by using the channels that are open to each and every hon. Member. My main accusation against Britain in Europe is that we are failing effectively to use the opportunities that were presented to us in the 1972 and in the 1979 Acts, all of which are open to us, with or without the Bill. On the basis that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all, I support the Bill and reject the amendments.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

My hon. Friend is dealing with very broad issues. Does he agree that the free internal market is virtually guaranteed now by previous decisions of the Common Market and the many regulations? The free internal market is not operating because of the actions of national Governments. Does my hon. Friend not accept that to flood this country and others with another host of harmonising directives will not solve the problem? The free internal market is not operating, not because of a shortage of directives, but because member states are not implementing the free internal market?

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

Our Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, presented a constructive view of our goal and how we should achieve it. His perspective of the manner in which that objective should be achieved is very different from that which applied in the 25 years before the presentation of this paper. He has set 1992 as the date by which the Common Market, in the commercial sense of that term, should become a reality. However, we are still dragging our feet at national member state level because of the inadequacies and inherent defects of the decision-taking mechanism of the European Community. We should be ill-advised to ignore these points. We are only eight years away from the deadline that was set by Lord Cockfield and the Commission, representing all 12 member states. The Bill is necessary to ensure that the decision-taking process right across the board, but more particularly in the commercial field, can be implemented. I am confident that it will be.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I am confident, on the basis of my involvement in one institution of the Community, that it will be possible. Without the Bill, I see no possibility of meeting the 1992 deadline.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I think that the hon. Gentleman referred to his involvement in the European Assembly. I assume that he is a Member of the Assembly. Should he not have declared an interest during his speech?

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. That is a matter for the hon. Member, not for me.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I abide by your decision, Mr. Armstrong, on that point of order, but the Official Report will show that I was nominated by this House to represent the House when Britain joined the European Community 13 years ago. All right hon. and hon. Members have been well aware of my connection, and I am sure that there is no procedural or constitutional reason for me to waste time declaring that interest, although some hon. Members may wish that to happen.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I apologise for delaying the Committee, but my clear understanding is that there has been a ruling from the Chair on previous occasions that any hon. Member who has an interest, whether or not it is in the Register of Members' Interests, should declare it. If the hon. Member, whether or not he has been nominated, and for however long he has been a Member of the European Assembly, has an interest, he should declare it.

The First Deputy Chairman:

I can only repeat what I said before, that whether an hon. Member declares a particular interest is a matter for him.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. No hon. Member of this House who has been elected to another legislature has to declare that interest. That is a matter for the electorate.

The First Deputy Chairman:

Yes. That is why no impropriety has occurred this morning.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) referred to the European Assembly as a legislature. Is it a legislature?

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

It will be, if this Bill is passed.

The First Deputy Chairman:

That matter has been debated at length since we first began these proceedings.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber is the official spokesman on foreign affairs for the Liberal party, but he may not have been correct when he said that the European Assembly is a legislature.

The First Deputy Chairman:

It is a matter for debate, and it has been debated at length. It is not a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I happily accept that it is another Parliament and not a legislature.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, the Liberal party's official spokesman, made a significant error regarding foreign policy. However, it is not uncharacteristic of the Liberal party, even its official spokesman, to make errors. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) explained to the Committee that, in his view, the Bill does not go far enough. He described it as a mouse of a Bill.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

My hon. Friend has moved from animals to fish. It is a matter of deep concern to my hon. Friends and my hon. Friend the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle, who is a Member of the European Assembly, criticised those who sit on the Treasury Bench. My hon. Friend said that we have not gone far enough. Can my hon. Friend tell the Committee and can he persuade me—that is quite a task—that I should be complaining, not that the Bill goes too far, but that it does not go far enough? How far does my hon. Friend want it to go?

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I am tempted to rise to that bait. I am sure, Mr. Armstrong, that, having caught your eye, you would be most unwilling to see me, as other hon. Members have done so far, proceed on a matter that is completely irrelevant or additional to the direct point of debate, which is an amendment. I think that, during whatever time you are willing to allocate to me, you would wish me to concentrate on the amendment.

12.30 pm

I want to see the mechanism of decision taking improved and, above all, to include the opportunity for the directly elected representatives of the British people to make a positive input into that process of decision taking.. I have interpreted and analysed the Single European Act. I have no doubt that the way in which it is applied will reduce the "power" of the European Parliament in an area which this Parliament never had, or seems to be oblivious to the importance of having—the power over spending. We talk of the Budget. The Budget is a vital and fundamental issue to the House of Commons. The House of Commons came into being as the means by which taxation could be imposed on the people.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

On a point of order, Mr. Walker. For the past 15 minutes my hon. Friend has not once referred to the internal market. That is what we are meant to be debating.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I have not heard anything that has been out of order since I have been in the Chair.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I thought that I had made two, if not three, references to the development of the internal market when I spoke of the plan, the policy and the strategy to be deployed, which was spelt out clearly by Lord Cockfield, who made absolutely clear what the problem was. He made it abundantly clear, as he saw it, how we should achieve that objective. I believe that the Bill is defective in many respects. However, that issue, at least, which is covered by the amendment—I shall vote against it — is covered in the Bill. Without the proposals getting on to our statute book, the measures and the objectives spelt out by Lord Cockfield will be virtually impossible to achieve. They will be difficult enough to achieve even if the Bill is enacted. I believe that that is relevant to the matter that we are debating—the amendment.

We are straining at a gnat when we think that European political developments will be entirely dependent upon and exclusively influenced by legislative means. They will not. They never will be. They will be influenced by the involvement of politicians, business men and all sectors of society, where there is a strong, clear objective and goal to work towards, who contribute through every channel, whether it is legislative or not. That is why I say that I am critical of the Bill, but more critical of those who strain at the gnat of irrelevant alternatives.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

On the question of the internal market, which is what we are talking about, will the hon. Gentleman tell the House, from his extensive experience of the House, and I gather, by inference, his continuing elected membership of the European Assembly, whether he favours continued control of the internal market by unanimous agreement of Ministers, and therefore by agreement of nation states unanimously and in cooperation? Or does he favour the proposal in the Bill, and in the amendment that we are discussing, whereby a centralised authority of Council or Parliament decides by majority? Does the hon. Gentleman favour that authority in central European political institutions, or by agreement among national Parliaments?

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

I do not see the schizophrenia on this subject. I do not see that it is an either-or situation.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

No. As I see it—I think that I have said it three times already and perhaps strained the patience of the Committee in doing so — the Bill will contribute towards the achievement of the objective that we all want. Anyone who wishes to see the economy of Britain better established, healthier, and more competitive must want to see the abolition of all the man-made non-tariff barriers that proliferate. There were two ways in which that was attempted. One was by one item after another, achieving what was called the harmonisation process.

However, I go back to the proposal that Lord Cockfield spelt out so clearly. It is a much more pragmatic way. I should have thought that that in itself would endear it to the views of a British parliamentary institution. But it is not an end in itself. It is not the only channel that has to be pursued. We have to bear in mind that this is a limited Bill. It makes possible a few steps forward in—

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Order. This is a filibuster.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

—the right direction. Above all, it leaves the main challenge to right hon. and hon. Members of the House, elected as we are by our constituents, and our fellow political parliamentarians elected by the same electorate—

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

—to the European Parliament. It is no different.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

That is the way in which I would urge —[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I am trying hard to follow the line of the hon. Gentleman's argument. [Interruption.] It is difficult when I have to do so against a continuous background of sedentary noises. If I have a chance to listen to the hon. Gentleman, I might be able to decide whether he is in order.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

Thank you, Mr. Walker.

I think that logically and coherently I have come to the end of the main points that I wanted to make by way of contribution to the debate. I enter the caveat that this is a minnow of a Bill—whether we call it a minnow or a mouse does not matter. Anyone listening to the objections to it would—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. The hon. Gentleman is addressing himself in general terms to the Bill rather than to the specific amendments before the Committee. I hope that he will now direct his remarks to the amendments.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

In that case, I shall conclude with a final reference to the importance and the means of achieving a common market for all British industrial and other products and services. Throughout all the years that I have been privileged to serve as a nominated and now as an elected Member of the European Parliament it has been absolutely clear that pursuing the techniques that have been in operation since the European Community was formed will be counter-productive and thus an enormous waste of time and expectations. The method now proposed by Lord Cockfield will be the better served by the passing of the Bill and the rejection of the amendment on which we have been attempting, at least, to concentrate our attention.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I shall not delay the House long—

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

The hon. Gentleman has a cheek to say that. The whole debate began with an hour and a quarter from him and he is inclined to detain the House for a fair length of time. I do not generally do so. Therefore, he is in no position to criticise.

The House owes a debt to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton). Serving in two Parliaments is a considerable exercise and his efforts to achieve the advancement of his constituents in Westminster and in Strasbourg are extremely praiseworthy. It should also be recognised that the internal market is a subject on which he has concentrated a great deal of time and effort.

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who spoke immediately before the hon. Member for Cheadle, spoke extremely forcefully. Certain Members, such as the hon. Member for Bolsover and the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), have fought against the Community every inch of the way—against our joining it, against our remaining in it and now against attempts to make it function better and to make its supranational agencies and market more effective. Whether they are Right-wing, as many of them are, or Left-wing, as many of them are, they are in happy agreement to tolerate periodic bouts of Governments whom they despise rather than surrender the Buggins' turn chance of an absolute guarantee of government at some stage which our first-past-the-post system uniquely offers.

Late last night, the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) made a considerable speech. I wish to refer to two aspects that I do not fully understand. I said that I did not understand why in the final analysis the hon. Gentleman would prefer — he was quite definite about this — to live in a country with a Conservative Prime Minister for as long as it takes, with all the economic and other policies with which he disagrees, rather than allow a large number of issues to be determined by an elected Parliament — or Government, if you like — covering a wider area and led, for the purposes of the argument, by a German Socialist. The hon. Gentleman would have none of that. He said that it was the dreaded federalist approach, as though it were a disease which would contaminate people. He also said that people were not told in the 1975 referendum that this was what it was all about. That is not true. I clearly recall taking part in a debate in Inverness during the referendum campaign with my friend Hans Nord, a Dutch Liberal, and saying that, although I was a Liberal, if I had to choose between a German Socialist called Helmut Schmidt and a British Socialist called Wedgwood Benn, give me Helmut Schmidt every time. Why? Because I am interested not in a person's nationality, but in his political objectives and policies. That is what the debate should be about.

The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate)—I do not blame him for not being here—went on about the national interest. There is no abstract definition of the national interest. It is defined by the Government of the day, and the present Government did not obtain the support of the majority of the voting population. Their definition of the national interest is often fiercely disputed by the Opposition parties.

12.45 pm

Political direction ought to be pre-eminent. As the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) said, the European Community came into existence for political reasons, but the motor was economic. There was much that the middle-sized powers in Europe could do more effectively in concert when measuring up to the leading economies of the United States and Japan, not to mention the USSR and the Asian powers. We will not be able to compete with advanced technologies in the United States and Japan unless we can generate activity in our market, which is larger than that of the United States and considerably larger than that of Japan, which is 120 million, not 100 million as the hon. Member for Walthamstow said.

Managing such an approach, which enables democratic choice to be afforded to the people concerned, necessitates structures of government which we can call federal. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who has made several interventions, read out almost like a litany the Prime Minister's statement to the effect that she would not have anything to do with federalism. Doing that is wrong and does not face up to reality. I do not care what word is used, but we are discussing something like federalism. It is atavistic not to face up to that fact.

I am puzzled by our method of dealing with the Bill. I hasten to add that this is no criticism of the Chair. We are in a Committee of the whole House debating amendments which everybody knows the Government cannot accept. The constitutional theory is that, if it wishes, Parliament can reject the Government's proposition and put the whole lot back in the melting pot. That ignores reality, however, which is the discipline of party Government, the Whips, the power of patronage and the fact that the Government are committed to honouring an international agreement into which they have solemnly entered. They will not default, and the Minister will not accept any amendment.

There does not seem to be much practical sense in this, therefore. I do not deny the importance of a constitutional backstop when there is real opposition — that is a fundamental part of parliamentary government—but for all the ringing declarations from the few diehards here, there is no real opposition in the country to our continuing in the Community. People are interested in making the Community work better and improving its democracy.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

Surely the purpose of debating amendments is to expose issues and to discuss. The name "Parliament" means that we are a talking shop. We have developed a lot, but the Chamber is a centre where we can talk. The national press has not taken an interest since 4.45 pm yesterday, which is a sad reflection on the media, but this is a place where arguments can be exposed, even if we know that the Government will win in the end.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I do not dissent from much of what the hon. Member for Walthamstow says. It is evident that the European Community is not high on the political Richter scale with press.

If we are serious about making a constructive contribution to the process of making the European Community work better, it is sensible to have more narrowly focused debates regularly, rather than a succession of general debates in which everyone repeatedly says the same thing.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I am listening patiently, hut I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks have much to do with the internal market. We must return to the amendment.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I am grateful to you for your patience, Mr. Walker. It need be stretched no further because I have finished.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

The European Council at Milan in June 1985 reaffirmed the Community's commitment to achieve a single market for goods and services by 1992. It identified special priorities: first, to remove physical and technical barriers to the movement of goods, secondly, a free market in financial services; thirdly, a free market for transport and related matters; fourthly, the liberalisation of capital movements; and, fifthly, the full freedom of establishment for the professions. Are those the priorities of certain member states — of France and of Germany? Are those the priorities of a gang of European countries set to try and defeat Britain in one way or another? Not in the slightest. They are the United Kingdom's own priorities. The Bill seeks to succeed on those five priorities.

There is disagreement among member states, and I have no doubt that similar debates are taking place in those countries. Certain diehards on the Left and Right —united in their extremism if in nothing else—are trying to destroy the United Kingdom's interests.

I believe wholeheartedly that the Bill is right and that the proposed amendments are wrong—particularly the one which we are discussing.

Progress has been made on problems caused by differing national standards for goods and in many other areas. Agreement on common technical and safety standards means that United Kingdom exports conforming to them will have the right, for a change, of automatic access throughout the Community. Perhaps Opposition Members and some of my hon. Friends are against United Kingdom exporters being given the right to a fair market for goods of supreme quality in the Community.

Fifteen measures laying down agreed Community standards for industrial products were adopted in October 1984. The United Kingdom put forward an initiative designed to oblige member states to accept in their domestic markets goods which meet the required technical and safety standards of goods from other member states. I wonder why right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are against achieving that fair market for goods of the highest quality produced in this country. The initiative has now been agreed by member states, thanks to the United Kingdom. Provisions have been built in to ensure that there is no reduction in health and safety standards.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Earlier my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) suggested that anyone who was opposed to the Bill, as it applies to the internal market, was an extremist. My hon. Friend could not have been present when I made my speech last night. I said that, under article 100, it should be possible, if the will were there, for products and services in which I have a constituency and Scottish interest — whisky, banking and insurance—to develop in the market. They have not developed when, under article 100, they could and should have developed. My hon. Friend does a disservice to the Committee and to hon. Members by suggesting that people with that view are extremists.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I apologise if I implied that my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) was an extremist.

Earlier, I mentioned the extreme views against the Common Market regularly expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The United Kingdom has taken the lead in efforts to reach common standards for linking computers and telecommunications networks. That is what the internal market is all about. We are trying to open, in a way which I always believed was symbolised by the Common Market, a proper and free market for the highest standards of goods and services provided by British industry. I cannot understand why Opposition Members are so opposed to the increased sales and more jobs that the Bill will help to create.

The Bill will also help, particularly in the internal market, in the simplification of frontier controls on goods traffic. The existing bureaucracy is diametrically opposed to the interests of British exporters. The single administrative document is intended to replace the various national import, export and transit forms currently used in trade between member states. Full implementation will take place on 1 January 1988, and I hope that it will be a substantial step towards achieving the aims that I thought I was supporting when I voted in the 1975 referendum for our continued membership of the Common Market. There will be one form, not many.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

I intervene to show that I am still alive and kicking after all these hours of debate. The hon. Gentleman is giving us a clear exposition of the benefits of the internal market, but may I direct his attention to the new article 100A in the Single European Act? It says: The Commission, in its proposals envisaged in paragraph 1 concerning health, safety, environmental protection and consumer protection, will take as a base a high level of protection. May we take it that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that as well?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I agree with protecting our national interests and sharing our national interests with those of other countries to improve our market. I see no reason why there should not be a bit of give and take, and I believe that that will be achieved by the Act. I do not believe that we shall have any loss of sovereignty if, in exchange, we gain part of the sovereignty of 11 other nations.

We need a liberalisation of road haulage. I cannot understand why Opposition Members should oppose that aim. The first priority must be to end road haulage quotas.

The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) asked on a point of order earlier that an hon. Member should declare his interest. I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Bradford, West has not declared his own interest. I see from the Register of Members' Interests that he is sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union and that his constituency party receives £600 per annum and financial support at general elections, reflecting an agreement between the TGWU and the Labour party.

Surely the hon. Gentleman should declare his interest in the extra funding and the more jobs that will flow to his members from the internal market. I remind him that the deregulation of coaches in this country six years ago has produced 50 per cent. more passengers, a 40 per cent. reduction in fares and a 20 per cent. increase in the number of services. Exactly that sort of deregulation is envisaged in the Act for road haulage and other transport services throughout Europe. The hon. Gentleman should declare his interest, because he will be profiting from the Bill.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

If I had contributed to the debate I would have declared my interest, as is my habit. On this occasion, I am one of those rare parliamentary animals who choose to listen to a debate. I have been here for a long time and if I contribute to the debate I shall declare my interest.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I am glad to have reminded him. I hope that we shall hear from him in due course—perhaps on another day.

We also need a more liberal regime for air services in Europe. Again, Britain has shown the lead on an internal market in air services. Britain and the Netherlands made a bilateral agreement last year which has resulted in cheaper excursion fares and a wider choice of routes for travellers. That has resulted in an increase of 16 per cent. in the number of passengers using services between Britain and the Netherlands. In the first year there were 70,000 more passengers and 10 new services. That is the sort of growth that liberalisation, deregulation and a common market can achieve.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

My hon. Friend is correct. The liberalisation of the routes between Holland and the United Kingdom has proved advantageous to the internal market. For example, my daughter found that it was cheaper to fly from Scotland to London and then on to Amsterdam and from there to Los Angeles than to fly from anywhere in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend should bear in mind exactly what we mean by opening up markets, because experience has shown that when we open up our markets we do not enjoy the benefits of other markets opening up, for many different reasons.

1 pm

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that the opening of markets in Europe is the first step towards liberalisation of air transport throughout the world. There has been far too much trouble in this sector for many years. Today, we are discussing only the European market. An agreement signed only last year between Britain and West Germany means that we are now free to operate services between any points in the United Kingdom and Germany. Further agreements have been signed with Luxembourg and Belgium. The Common Market is meant to achieve such co-operation. The Bill is a further step forward to the liberalisation of this and many other sectors.

I should like to see a genuine common market in services. At the moment, we do not have that, and that is not the Common Market for which I voted. It is absurd that businesses in the other member states cannot shop around in Europe or the United Kingdom for their insurance cover, but British businesses can. The lack of competition that results from protection of markets simply means higher costs for European businesses. It is no wonder that right hon. and hon. Members say that the Common Market has failed, and it is understandable that with such restrictions it has not succeeded. That is why the Bill is before the House.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I shall give way to my hon. Friend, but I make it clear that this is the last time that I do so.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Does my hon. Friend accept that existing directives guarantee freedom in almost every sector—for example, insurance and air fares? Does he agree that what is needed is a way to ensure that the free market operates with the existing directives instead of saddling industries here and abroad with a whole parcel of new harmonising directives? Is not the problem that the existing directives are not being carried out?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I would normally bow to my hon. Friend's excellent judgment, but it is precisely because existing directives have been proved to be ineffective that we need the Bill and must take this brave new step forward to create the common market that I believed we were introducing when we joined.

We need a more competitive climate in many sectors, particularly industry and business. The priorities are greater vigilance in preventing protectionist use of state aid and making sure that the requirements of Community law do not impose unreasonable burdens on smaller enterprises. We need growth for smaller enterprises, and the Bill will help to derestrict many of the pressures against it. We also need to create the framework for greater collaboration between companies and member states. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said, our industries will never flourish to the extent that they should, and we shall not create employment to the extent that we could, nor compete effectively with the United States and Japan, without the completion of a genuine common market.

So far, most matters concerning the internal market have been subject to unanimity voting, but now qualified majority voting should apply. As this will include a policy for sea and air transport and the right to provide services freely in other member states and an agreement on common standards of industrial products, which is the key to export growth, I must support it. Unanimity will still be required for all decisions on taxation. Some of the recent lies and rumours about the effect on taxation, such as VAT on food and so on, are the arguments of the desperate. It is not in the interest of the House or of the people whom right hon. and hon. Members claim to represent to exaggerate the effect of the Bill and of the Common Market.

Unanimity is still required for taxation and for measures relating to the free movement of persons and the rights and interests of employees. Therefore, the Bill will create a more common market. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the Bill is an important step towards enabling the United Kingdom to realise more fully the benefits of our membership of the EC.

Much of the criticism of hon. Members about the failure of the Common Market has been that it has not been a common market, as it needs to be if it is to succeed. The legislation takes us one step further towards a successful Common Market. Perhaps that is why right hon. and hon. Members on both sides are opposing the measure tooth and nail. The simple reason is, perhaps, that they do not want to see the Common Market succeed and would rather see Britain isolated and losing its trade. I remind the Committee that 48 per cent. of our exports go to the Common Market. Perhaps hon. Members would like us to lose our exports, which would mean lost jobs, lost confidence and lost position and authority in the world. The Bill will help to create the Common Market that we need for Britain to succeed in future.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I am slightly surprised to be on my feet after some seven hours and 20 odd minutes of debate, during all of which I have managed to be present except for 25 minutes.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) was extremely gallant towards me this morning, but I must advise him that he may kill me with his kindness. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) gave a comic turn which had little to do with the future of the United Kingdom or with creating opportunities for people in new industries, which is what the internal market is about. We may have had a good laugh, but it did not compare with the invitation which I shall consider most carefully from my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). I must tell him that when I am not in the House, I regularly knock on doors in my constituency and the one thing that my constituents say to me is, "You wanted the Common Market. We voted significantly for it in the referendum. Get on with it and bring it up to date." That is exactly what is wanted.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

No. I cannot give my hon. Friend an answer, because I have not asked my husband yet, so he will have to be patient. [Interruption.] I do not think that there can be any issue related to my private life, and I shall not discuss it from the Dispatch Box.

During our debate a point that has recurred relates to the position of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. After the many months of intergovernmental conferences she said to the House: In my statement in this House following the last European Council in June"— that was in Milan— I made it clear that we would have been ready then to take the steps necessary to complete the internal market, to improve decision taking, to formalise foreign policy cooperation and to improve procedures for consultation with the European Assembly.Those objectives are now embodied in the conclusions of the Luxembourg European Council together with some tidying up of the treaty to reflect the Community's development.I believe that the conclusions on completing the Common Market and reducing the burden of regulations will be of long-term benefit to British firms selling their goods and services in the European Community. Together with the arrangements to reduce the scale of Britain's budgetary contribution agreed last year, they will be an important step towards enabling this country to realise more fully the benefits of our membership of the European Community." —[Official Report, 5 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 430.] Let us have no further quibbling about where the Prime Minister stands. That is where she stands and stays on this matter.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Prime Minister made her position absolutely clear on 2 July 1985, when she said: I thought that our proposals, which would not have required treaty amendment, would be better. It is important that the internal market be completed, …keeping the unanimity rule."—[Official Report, 2 July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 189.] Was that not the clearest statement that could have been made on the matter?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her compliment. I wonder whether she knows something that I do not, but I must tell her that I have not yet been knighted.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I am sure that it will not be long before you are, Mr. Walker, since you possess great patience.

I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Southend. East (Mr. Taylor) that one of the reasons why the country is so fortunate to have my right hon. Friend as Prime Minister is that she learns very fast. My right hon. Friend realised that it would be better for the country, given the agreement which the other nations were prepared to make through the intergovernmental conferences, if we enshrined the progress that we had made in this Bill. That is why the Bill is before the House today. I should have to carry out a great deal of research to discover whether my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East still says today what he said many years ago. However, he should give credit where credit is due.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I have already given way. I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North that I cannot answer his question.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Minister a different question. My hon. Friend said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had learnt something. From whom has she learnt, and what has she learnt? Did my hon. Friend the Minister teach my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, or did she learn at the same time as the Prime Minister?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I would never be so presumptuous as to believe that I could teach the Prime Minister anything. Obviously my hon. Friend believes that he can. Unfortunately, he does not appear to have succeeded. He should learn from reading the speeches, rather than from my taking up the time of the Committee at the Dispatch Box explaining every dot and comma to him.

The debate about the internal market has at times been interesting, and at times even stimulating. It has been a long debate, which has delved into every nook and cranny, both within the imagination and some way beyond.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I have hardly begun to deal with the internal market. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to do so before he intervenes. I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have given way twice and I am trying, for the convenience of the Committee, to make progress.

I was asked to describe the internal market. I can tell right hon. and hon. Members that the market is defined as an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the treaty.

One of the advantages of the new provisions, which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North asked about in his first speech, is an explicit commitment to remove unnecessary barriers in the market by 1992. There will also be the possibility of faster decisions on internal market matters, being made through the introduction of the qualified majority, with correspondingly reduced opportunities for one or two member states to hold up necessary measures which do not affect them.

A third advantage is that there will be a maintenance of unanimity in areas of special sensitivity to the United Kingdom, unanimity in taxation, in the free movement of individuals and in the rights and interests of employees.

A fourth advantage is that the safeguards which we have negotiated through the intergovernmental conferences in the internal market allow us to maintain high national standards of health and safety if these would be underlined by lower common standards adopted against our wishes by a qualified majority, subject of course, as at present, to the possibility of challenge before the European Court of Justice.

A fifth advantage is that the internal market provides firm ground for the maintenance of national measures to control immigration from Third world countries and to combat terrorism, crime, and the illicit traffic in drugs, art and antiques.

Other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), asked about the impact of the internal market on this country. That perfectly fair question was asked many moons ago. I have already said that there are costs of existing barriers to trade. In fact, £6,000 million is wasted. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hamilton would not want to deny his constituents cheaper air fares on a European scale. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr Walker) made that point when he intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley).

Does the hon. Member for Hamilton deny that there have been benefits, in particular between Britain and Holland, in the opening up of 10 new air routes, in the reduction of the fares and in the increased percentage of passengers travelling? That has all been good for business. That, too, has brought about increased job opportunities for those who work in those increased services.

1.15 pm

Does the hon. Gentleman also think that it makes it easier to sell fares and, indeed, goods in Europe by stopping those opportunities, which will be further opened by the qualified majority voting on air transport? I cannot understand how, with his mainly sensible opinions, he can possibly have said some of the things that he did. But perhaps he, too, has learnt in the intervening hours.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has more faith in our financial services than he illustrated previously. If he thinks that they are unable to cope, I have news for him. He should tell that to the countries which fear competition from London. Why are the Opposition, alone among European parties, blind to the interests of ordinary working people who want the freedom and opportunities that the Common Market will bring? I think his answer is that, having talked long about reform while the Labour party was in government but having achieved nothing, it cannot now bring itself to support the Government in championing the cause of prosperity and jobs in Europe. I am sorry if that is the case. I hope he will say that it is not.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

We are the party which champions the cause of the unemployed and puts it at the top of the agenda. We do not start erecting the grand rhetorical fences on which the Minister daily sits. If she wants to use air fares as the great example of the benefits that the internal market will bring us, she must remember that the European Court of Justice announced only two weeks ago that under existing regulations the air fare cartels are illegal. So the EC does not need any more powers to bring the air fares down. It can do that under the existing powers.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The hon. Gentleman is right, but we need to liberalise still further. He heard my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes say so. I was not talking simply of air fares. I was giving an example of where liberalisation has led to something better — a position which has brought about new industry, new opportunities and thereby new jobs.

There are many reasons for making the internal market our top priority. I have already mentioned that the costs to Britain and to others of not having a complete internal market, which were explained so clearly by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on 23 April, are against the interests of the British people. Having those barriers costs the Community £7,000 million a year. Who pays the sum in the end? It is the consumer who pays.

It cannot be in our interests to have either air fares kept artificially high or for our shipping to be denied access to the coastal trade of other member states. The cost is loaded back on to the consumer. It cannot be in our interests for our insurance and financial services, which are among the most competitive in Europe, to be denied access to the growing market. That denies the consumer choice and, therefore, the best value for money that we seek to achieve for all consumers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), who sadly is not with us today, asked whether obligations would be placed on other member states for the removal of barriers to trade. The principal change, as my hon. Friend recognized, was the introduction of qualified majority voting, but the treaty also sets the date of 31 December 1992 for the completion of the internal market.

We have never claimed that those changes will automatically break down all barriers to trade, but they create a much greater opportunity for doing so than we have had before. That is why we need to go further than using simply those possibilities under the original treaty of Rome. Hon. Members should not underestimate the political impact of these changes that were agreed by all 12 Heads of Government. The Common Market, thanks to the efforts of this Government, has put the removal of barriers to trade and industry and thereby to jobs to the top of the Community agenda. We are making a concerted effort to speed up decision taking in this and other areas so that all countries may receive the benefits.

The hon. Member for Hamilton had a little bit of fun at the expense of my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General. The hon. Gentleman criticised the Paymaster General for not having worked out details of employment growth in the 1990s. The title of the document is "Strategy for Employment Growth into the 1990s". That paper was produced by the Irish, Italian and British Governments and has been submitted to the other EEC countries, which, together with the three initiators, will fill in the detail. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman was in error in describing it as lacking in detail.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Paymaster General had described much of the agenda of the Council of Ministers on the subject of social affairs as piffle. In his heart of hearts the hon. Gentleman knows full well that specialist bodies sometimes get bogged down on issues that are less than relevant to the greatest social problem facing Europe — that of unemployment. I have seen the newspaper cutting to which the hon. Gentleman referred. When such a body gets bogged down, some of the things that it does may appear trifling, and I know that the hon. Member for Hamilton thinks that some parts of the last seven hours have been trifling.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

The hon. Lady has chosen to comment on the speech that I made some seven hours ago. I made justified criticism of the Paymaster General. The cutting is from The Guardian and is headed: Clarke denounces EEC debate as `piffle'.The Guardian correspondent, Mr. Derek Brown, who is an eminent Common Market correspondent, reporting from Luxembourg, said: Mr. Clarke acknowledged that the paper was long on strategic aims and short on detailed proposals. He made a virtue of its imprecision saying it was meant to entice people into discussion. Britain already has almost 4 million people unemployed. Does the Minister not think that this is a time for more detailed decision and less enticement into discussion?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General has already worked out the details that are needed for Britain, but when working with 11 partners it is right that we should discuss the content of something that we wish to do together. That must be discussed in detail with them, and that is why my right hon. and learned Friend awaits the filling in of the details.

In his speech, the hon. Member for Hamilton totally forgot the role of the European social fund, from which Britain has benefited substantially. In the last four years Britain has been allocated more than £1,200 million from the social fund, and our youth training scheme in particular has benefited from that fund.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

As a Conservative, can my hon. Friend tell the Committee what benefit she finds in sending money to the European Community so that it can allocate the cash for policies which we in Britain could allocate ourselves?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

A great deal of benefit has come from combining with our European neighbours. I have worked in all three of the Government Departments that deal with the European question, and I know that many good ideas came from overseas. We have managed to put them into effect in legislation during the last seven years, and that has helped many people. That is especially true in the social field which has been helped by the European development fund. By its investment the fund has helped many out-of-date industries to become new industries.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is not in the Chamber, but that doughty fighter, the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins), has been here throughout the debate. Both hon. Gentlemen asked about the rolling action programme on the internal market. The Committee knows that the Dutch, British and Belgian Governments, who hold the presidency of the Council in succession, are working closely together to make progress on the internal market agenda of the Community. The action programme which was placed in the Library is a presidency document and not a Commission proposal. The action programme is based on the proposals in the Commission's White Paper, to which reference has been made. That programme has been considered by the Scrutiny Committee. There has, therefore, been scrutiny —perhaps not so much as hon. Members would like—of that programme.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

The Scrutiny Committee may have looked at some or conceivably all of the proposals, but does the Minister agree that the proposal relating to the presidency was not available to any hon. Member and that it has not come before the Scrutiny Committee? Will she bear that matter in mind in future discussions about the role of the Scrutiny Committee?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I think the hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to realise that if he wants any paper that has been published he has only to ask for it and I shall make sure that he gets it.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

But it was not published.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

At that time it had not been published, but as soon as it was placed in the Library of the House of Commons the hon. Gentleman knows that, as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, he would have had access to it.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I know the point that the hon. Gentleman wants to pursue.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am conscious of the need to allow the Scrutiny Committee to examine papers. He also knows that I intend to give him as much information as possible. It is important that there should be a good Scrutiny Committee, not only in this House, but in the other place. I am not seeking to stop scrutiny, but I believe that scrutiny should be managed a little more effectively and efficiently than has hitherto been the case.

My hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North and for Southend, East asked about the common external tariff and the impact of majority voting on the ability of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany to protect our interests. There is no reason to fear that extension of majority voting under article 28 will lead either to more protectionist tariffs or to unduly liberal ones. Any fundamental changes in external trade policy, including the common external tariff, are a matter for decision under article 113, which already provides for majority voting. Article 28 is used for a much more limited purpose — to decide on temporary alterations or suspensions of the tariff for particular products to meet changing market conditions. Over 1,000 suspensions are made each year, usually to help European firms by enabling them to export at reduced or zero tariffs those raw materials or components that are not readily available within the European market.

It is true that more majority voting could in theory mean a majority forcing a temporary alteration on one member state, but under article 28—and I see no reason for it to change—what usually happens is that one or more member states seek temporary changes because this would be of benefit to their firms and to the Community as a whole. We shall benefit in such cases from the extension of majority voting, because it will no longer be possible for one member state unreasonably to block a tariff suspension that we want. That is completely beneficial, and I hope that my hon. Friend will take it in the spirit in which it is meant.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Surely the Minister must recognise that from time to time Britain will lose. We cannot gain all the time. Majority voting means that sometimes we, too, will have to give up something.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The hon. Gentleman knows that from time to time life has its benefits and its disadvantages. He also knows that there are sufficient like-minded people in all 12 member states who are benefiting from the internal market to make it a success in the direction in which the 12 Heads of Government have already decided they want to go.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

Mr. Walker, I have been very patient. I believe that, after seven hours and 20-odd minutes of debate, I should be allowed to get through my speech for the convenience of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) heard the Minister say that she is not prepared to give way. He must not persist.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 1:30 pm, 27th June 1986

On a point of order, Mr. Walker. I am sorry to interrupt the debate, but I wish to raise a matter of great importance to one of my constituents. I refer to the guidelines of the Home Office about the rights of Members of Parliament to stop removals of relatives and friends of constituents. It is an urgent matter, otherwise I would not have interrupted the debate. I have just spoken to the Home Office on the telephone. Under the arrangements—[Interruption.] The matter has nothing to do with the hon. Lady the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but it is a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I remind the right hon. Member that the House is in Committee. The matter that he has raised has no relevance to the proceedings of the Committee.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I am sorry to have inconvenienced the Committee in such a way, but the matter can only be settled this afternoon. I ask the Chair to assist.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

As Chairman of the Committee, there is no way that I can deal with the matter. It is not relevant to the proceedings of this Committee.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I apologise, Mr. Walker. I would not have dreamt of intervening in the proceedings of the Committee if it were not a matter—[Interruption.] I am glad to hear that hon. Members do not care about human rights. I apologise for the intervention. I hope that you understand, Mr. Walker, that I would not have raised it in this way were it not a matter of great urgency. I should be grateful for your advice on how I can communicate with Mr. Speaker. Obviously, because the House is in Committee, he is the authority to whom I should appeal. I wish to communicate with him publicly, so that the treatment and misbehaviour of the Home Office regarding one of my constituents can be known.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I am afraid that I cannot help the right hon. Member. The House is in Committee. I am sitting in my capacity as Chairman of Ways and Means, and Chairman of the Committee. The only advice that I can offer the right hon. Member is that he should inform the Speaker's Office of the matter that he has brought before the Committee.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I was about to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Walthamstow when there was that most interesting diversion. I can assure the right hon Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that hon. Members are determined to have an interest in human rights, but not in the middle of a debate on the internal market, especially when the House is in Committee.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow knows, before I start, that we will not agree. Let us accept that we both have a point of view. The hon. Gentleman believes that he is right. He has been waging war since long before l972, when he made a valiant effort against the Bill. The hon. Gentleman does not like the Common Market. He wishes that he could persuade his Front Bench to get this country out of the Common Market, but he has not yet succeeded in doing so.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The party is a varied organisation, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) knows. However, at this moment, I am more concerned with the hon. Member for Walthamstow, if the hon. Member for Bolsover will forgive me. I am not an economist. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Walthamstow is one either. I shall not bandy figures with him. I have been through them carefully. It seems to me that the striking changes in industrial employment are symptoms of the fundamental changes in the structure of British industry that have taken place over the past 15 years as new technology has been introduced and as the patterns of international trade have shifted.

The hon. Gentleman admitted that our exporters have already greatly enlarged their share of the European market. Our deficit in manufactures has grown because our imports have grown faster than our exports. I do not seek to dispute that matter. However, we must remember that the British market has, traditionally, been an open one. The markets in Europe which our exporters must tackle are very different. Those markets have been riddled with the non-tariff harriers to British exports described so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East. Completing the internal market means breaking down those barriers to trade, and it means making the European markets more accessible to our exporters, not just in theory, but in practice. That is why the Government attach so much importance to the internal market.

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East will let me know about his problem with buses doing the last leg of journeys that start in London and go through Southend airport. My late father had the privilege and pleasure of being one of the chairmen during its development. I shall try to help my hon. Friend, but I suspect that what has happened is that it is the harrier within the internal German market that is stopping him from having the bus that he needs to continue the journey which the company he mentioned set up. I shall look into that with my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

I do not agree with what the Minister says, but I understand it. I sympathise with that point of view. The hon. Lady is' saying that our market has been open and the other markets have been relatively closed. I understand that, but it has always been said that it is possible for a German industrialist to come to Britain to meet half a dozen people in the retail trade — the big chain stores — and cover 80 per cent. of the British market. What is there in the completion of the internal market that will reverse that process, so that British industrialists going to Germany can see half a dozen people and cover 80 per cent. of the retail market in Germany?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I sincerely hope that some of the barriers to cross-border trade that our industrialists come up against—the numerous forms that are required by some European countries — will be reduced. Those are the things that are costing the Common Market £6,000 million a year in barriers that we do not need to have. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.

I could go on at some length about the EEC deficit in manufactures, but I shall not do so. We have to face the fact that improving our balance of trade in manufactures can be done only by improving competitiveness, lowering unit costs, reducing unnecessary burdens on industry and creating the conditions in which inventiveness and flair can prosper. That is exactly what this Government have been doing, and that is exactly what we want to go on doing, but at a faster rate with the completion of the internal market, which will help us, too, by breaking down other states' barriers to trade, which the hon. Member for Walthamstow spoke about.

My hon. Friends the Member for Southend, East and for Faversham also asked about the freedom of insurance services. There has been some progress. There is freedom of establishment in insurance. It is thanks to European Community directives that our insurers can set up companies in other Community countries, but they cannot sell their services direct from Britain. That is what is impeding important parts of the British insurance industry, such as Lloyd's, from furthering their markets abroad.

A German citizen or company is prohibited by German law from buying insurance on the London market. That is a major barrier to trade which the draft non-life insurance directive is intended to abolish. Progress on it has been blocked for the past few years, but we hope that, with the European Court's decision in cases now before it, we shall get the draft directive moving again and that the introduction of majority voting will make it easier for us to get it swiftly adopted.

Several other hon. Members spoke about inner German trade. As my hon. Friends know, the protocol to the treaty of Rome provides that trade between East Germany and the Federal Republic of Germany is treated as internal trade. That has been there since 1972. Article 3 of the protocol also contains provisions designed to contain conflict between the operation of the protocol and the principles of the Common Market. The Federal Republic of Germany takes steps to ensure that goods from the German Democratic Republic are not marketed in such a way that they can be confused with goods from the Federal Republic. That has been going on and will continue to go on. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade have made considerable efforts with the Commission on the problem areas that I know my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East has. He has a constituency problem over dried eggs. We are continuing to make representations to the Commission.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North was concerned about raspberry pulp dumping. My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has asked the Commission to negotiate special arrangements to prevent that.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I am aware of the efforts that various Ministers have made, but to my knowledge those efforts have been going on for five years. It should he possible to prevent the dumping under existing directives, but that has not happened, and I am not sure that anything in the Bill will alter the situation.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

If the problem is of such moment, and I agree with my hon. Friend that it is, we shall have support from our partner countries in the internal market to stop such dumping as has been occurring.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East asked about cross-frontier broadcasting. The Commission's proposal has been and still is being discussed by member states. Britain wants the abolition of existing trade barriers that could prevent the export of our programmes, which are among the best in the world, but at present there is no agreement among member states that a binding directive would be appropriate, let alone that the substantive comment should be as now proposed by the Commission. We shall continue to discuss this to achieve a situation which will benefit British industry and British broadcasting.

Several hon. Members referred to qualified majority voting. Anyone who considers the figures, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North did in his second speech, will realise that if we move from a qualified majority of 45 out of 63 to a qualified majority of 54 out of 76 there is no change in the balance of voting and the majority remains at 71 per cent. My hon. Friend said that a blocking minority of 23 might stop us going forward, but it will be less easy to achieve than the present figure of 19. Moreover, there are occasions on which we may favour the use of a blocking minority. The extent to which it is used, however, will be very judiciously judged, because, although it may be right in some cases, there are plenty of other cases in which it would not be right. We believe that qualified majority voting is right only on certain issues, because some countries have sought to block sensible moves in the Community and in the internal market on aspects in which they are not involved in trade. Because unanimity was required, such blocking has impeded the completion of the internal market.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I do not think that my hon. Friend has answered the substantive point, which is that an accumulation of small countries with a total population less than that of the United Kingdom can operate a blocking minority, whereas the United Kingdom and Germany together cannot do so. How can that be right?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

Many more countries have joined the United Kingdom and Germany in most of the debates. That is part of the Community co-operation that goes on most of the time.

Many hon. Members have asked complex legal questions and I shall write to each and every one of them. I assure the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), however, that the word "autonomous" in article 16 of the Single European Act represents no change. It has simply been carried over from article 28 of the treaty of Rome.

As for article 100A, the right hon. Member for South Down asked about the meaning of "shall". It is necessary because it empowers the Council to take measures within the terms laid down in the article, but it depends on the context whether it imposes a duty to act. The extent of that duty depends on the articles concerned, but I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman.

1.45 pm

I shall also write to others who raised similar legal issues. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North mentioned South Africa in regard to special action taken by the Community in trade with other countries. Such action is taken under article 113, not article 28. We already provide for decisions by qualified majority in the general provision covering the Community's common commercial policy.

I could not have followed a better speech than that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes. I congratulate him warmly on it. He has realised what the facts are and I can endorse everything that he said. Progress with the internal market is vital for the United Kingdom's trade and industry. I must mention for a third time the £6 billion cost that barriers to trade inflict on consumers in Europe. We want to get rid of them and to stop the wastage. I therefore urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the amendment.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

My hon. Friend has set out many of the advantages of the measures before us, but I do not think that she has dealt in proper detail with many of the problems that could arise. We have heard of the benefits, but not of the disadvantages.

If my hon. Friend is listening, I wonder whether she could confirm that economic sanctions could be taken against South Africa by majority voting now. I think she said that that was possible. Perhaps she could nod if it is.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

My hon. Friend seems to be rather muddled on this issue. Any decisions will be taken by the Heads of State in the European Council working together in political co-operation. In that regard, we are not covered by article 113. As I said a few moments ago, if decisions are taken on the basis of the Community's common commercial policy, they will be taken under article 113, as already happens. There is no difference whatever.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I thank my hon. Friend. I think she is saying that the intention is that it should be done through the Council of Ministers, with the Prime Minister there, on the basis of unanimity, but that later, if not now, it would be perfectly possible, on the basis of a recommendation from the Commission, for economic action to be taken against South Africa on the strength of majority voting even in existing circumstances.

I asked my hon. Friend whether she could deal with paragraph 3 of article 100A regarding the Commission making proposals about health. That is an important hook which could be used for introducing a wide range of policies concerning health and safety. We need to know what the Community's competence could be before we make a decision.

In what my hon. Friend called my second speech, I asked her whether she could let us know, before we voted on this group of amendments, the constitutional power of the preamble and what effect it will have in the European Court of Justice. I also asked whether she could let the House know how effective the veto would be in the political realities which would arise from the changes that the Bill would introduce and about the enhanced status that the European Court might or might not have from the preamble.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

I have no intention of detaining the Committee, but the Minister said twice that this debate had lasted for seven hours. If left on the record unchallenged, that assertion would give a misleading impression of events. Perhaps I may draw attention to the fact that, at any time after I sat down at approximately 12.10 am last night, when the debate had been going for three and a half hours, it would have been in order for a member of the Government or a Whip to try to catch the Chair's eye to move a closure motion. When I sat clown, the Government Whip moved that we report progress, we went home and came back this morning.

When I arrived this morning, I was confidently expecting the first speech to be the closing remarks by the Minister, who did not have time last night because she was cut short. I expected that we would then proceed to a vote on the amendment.

At any time during today's debate it would have been possible for the Government Whip to seek to catch your eye, Mr. Walker, and seek permission to move the closure. That was not done. The debate has continued for twice as long as it might have done. That is the responsibility, not of right hon. and hon. Members who took part in the debate, but of the Government, who are in charge of the business.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 84.

Division No. 236][1.50 pm
AYES
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Moate, RogerTellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Mr. Dennis Skinner and
Walker, Bill (T'side N)Mr. Max Madden.
NOES
Amess, DavidGreenway, Harry
Ashby, DavidGround, Patrick
Ashdown, PaddyGummer, Rt Hon John S
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Baldry, TonyHampson, Dr Keith
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnHanley, Jeremy
Boscawen, Hon RobertHargreaves, Kenneth
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hayes, J.
Burt, AlistairHayward, Robert
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, WilliamHind, Kenneth
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Cope, JohnJohnston, Sir Russell
Cormack, PatrickJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Couchman, JamesJones, Robert (Herts W)
Dunn, RobertLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Eggar, TimLang, Ian
Eyre, Sir ReginaldLatham, Michael
Fallon, MichaelLawler, Geoffrey
Favell, AnthonyLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Forth, EricLester, Jim
Freeman, RogerMalone, Gerald
Galley, RoyMayhew, Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, TristanMerchant, Piers
Montgomery, Sir FergusThorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Moynihan, Hon C.Tracey, Richard
Normanton, TomTwinn, Dr Ian
Page, Sir John (Harrow W)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanViggers, Peter
Rhodes James, RobertWakeham, Rt Hon John
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWaller, Gary
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shelton, William (Streatham)Warren, Kenneth
Silvester, FredWatts, John
Spencer, DerekWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Stanbrook, IvorWolfson, Mark
Stern, MichaelWood, Timothy
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Thomas, Rt Hon PeterTellers for the Noes:
Thompson, Donald (Calder V)Mr. Peter Lloyd and
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)Mr. Tony Durant.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a point of order, Mr. Walker. The Leader of the House is to make a statement in 28 minutes' time, and as, for this major constitutional issue, the Government have been able to bring in only 84 hon. Members, which is about 20 per cent. of Conservative Members, do you think that the Leader of the House might wish to withdraw the Bill when he makes his statement?

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 13, after `Communities)', insert 'but not Article 17 thereof'. We are now discussing tax harmonisation, a matter that must interest every citizen in the land, for, as the old saying has it, like the poor, taxes are always with us. At first sight, it may seem reasonable for the Bill to commit every member state to harmonisation of indirect taxes as far as necessary to complete the internal market. There is immense keenness within the Community on taxation. We had a directive to that effect in 1985, and this morning there is a remarkable piece in the Financial Times to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee. The article, written by Quentin Peel from The Hague, says: The European Commission yesterday warned member states of the EEC that plans to remove all barriers to trade within the Community were falling well behind schedule. The article went on to make a strongly worded criticism of the Council of Ministers and said that the Dutch, who at present hold the Presidency of the Commission, singled out three areas for emphasis. The first was the need to agree on tax harmonisation, described as an essential prerequisite for completion of the internal market. There is immense impetus and drive behind the proposal to harmonise taxes among member states.

As hon. Members walk up and down Whitehall, one can overhear the anodyne assurances and soothing phrases, "There's nothing in this, old boy. Just a technical affair designed to ensure there are no obstacles to British exports." Such statements are invariably made by those who have never run a business in their life and who know little about practical matters. Whether imports into the United Kingdom would be facilitated is not mentioned. Indeed, while we have much talk about harmonisation of taxes, we hear too little talk about the real obstacle to trade in the Common Market—non-fiscal barriers.

Amendment No. 7 calls for the United Kingdom to be excluded from this harmonisation process. I shall try to say why right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that it should be excluded. The great advantage of these Committee debates is that they give an opportunity to question the Government and, I hope, for the Government to give clear answers. In that context, I can perhaps best proceed by putting some questions to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Are the Government content that the freedom of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to levy taxes as he wishes should be removed? The answer must be yes or no. I presume that the answer is yes, otherwise we would not be discussing the measure. How does that square with what was said so clearly in the debates at the time of the referendum, which was that there would be no derogation from the United Kingdom's sovereignty? I remember that being said on many occasions by those who advocated our signature of the treaty of Rome. The number of occasions on which that was written in propaganda material is easily within the recollection of the House. There follows from that a question for the House: is the House content that the Commission, as opposed to the elected representatives of the British people, should decide tax levels in the United Kingdom?

Let us consider the taxation levels of the 12 member states. We have a most efficient Library staff in the House, who have been good enough to find the figures for me. They say that several European Community countries have a multiple VAT rate structure, and gave me the level of standard rates prevailing in various countries. In three countries, the standard rate is lower than in the United Kingdom: Spain has 12 per cent., Luxembourg has 12 per cent., and Germany has 14 per cent. However, seven countries have standard rates higher than ours, and some by an appreciable margin. Denmark has 22 per cent., Ireland 23 per cent., the Netherlands 19 per cent. and France 18·6 per cent. It is not simply a matter of the standard rate in the majority of the Community countries being higher than that in the United Kingdom. There are some extraordinarily high rates beyond that. For instance, in Belgium the highest rate is 33 per cent., in France 33·33 per cent. and in Italy no less than 38 per cent.

To explain these points in simple language, the majority of Commission countries have a higher standard rate for VAT than the United Kingdom. Most have multiple rates, which we do not, and a number have top rates which I believe that the majority of the British people would regard as extremely high.

May we have a categoric assurance that VAT rates will not be raised as a consequence of this Bill being enacted? I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make a careful note of that question and give us a clear reply. Many of us are very anxious about this matter. I have already remarked that there is sensitivity among our fellow citizens in the United Kingdom about tax rates. An increase in VAT rates would undoubtedly mean a sharp rise in the cost of living, and that would be an intolerable burden for many people.

We heard earlier that the United Kingdom's contribution to the common finances of the Community is currently inadequate and that a larger slice of the VAT revenue raised in this country is required. It is inevitable that in such circumstances some of us are suspicious that it is likely that VAT rates will be raised in this country. I hope that I shall have a clear answer to that point.

I should mow like to consider the range of taxation. In this country We have traditional exemptions from VAT. We have a zero rate and we have grown accustomed to food, fuel and educational material being tax free. The House will remember the great political battles that we had over some aspects of that. There was a great battle over the question whether books and children's shoes should carry VAT. We have all taken the view that there will always be good social reasons why some commodities should be exempt from indirect taxation. It is fair to say that the House would agree that it is essential that we should retain the zero rate of taxation.

An excellent House of Commons background paper is available in the Library which states: One weakness in the argument to retain zero-rates is that virtually all other countries in the Community levy VAT on reading matter. The paper states that other countries levy VAT on commodities currently untaxed in the United Kingdom. The paper continues to give the rates currently in force.

My next remarks might horrify the Committee and create great anxiety in the country. The report shows that in Ireland there is a 23 per cent. rate on newsprint. In Denmark there is a 22 per cent. rate on books. However, these countries are not exceptional. In Belgium books are taxed at 6 per cent., in France at 7 per cent., in Germany at 7 per cent., in Luxembourg at 6 per cent. and in the Netherlands at 5 per cent. Taxation on items which we would consider proper to exempt from tax is commonplace in the Community.

That is not all. It is not only books that are involved. Every other Euro state levies VAT at rates ranging between 6 per cent. and 22 per cent. on gas. What would the British citizen think if he had to pay VAT on his gas bill? Every other Euro state, except the Irish Republic, charges VAT on electricity. Again rates vary between 6 per cent. and 22 per cent. Every other Euro state except Ireland levies VAT on food, if you please, and the rates vary between 3 per cent. in Italy and 22 per cent. in Denmark.

Those are the facts; that is what everyone else does. What does harmonisation mean for us?

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton 2:15 pm, 27th June 1986

Does my right hon. Friend realise that we do not need this legislation because Britain is already before the European Court for infraction proceedings for having failed to put VAT on building work in the industrial and commercial sector?

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend as I am coming to that point in just a second and want to develop it.

I hope that. I have said enough in this short address to show that the United Kingdom is the odd country out in the Community. The logic is not that the other countries of the Community will harmonise with us but that we shall harmonise with them. That is where all the pressure will be. There will not be pressure on them to adopt our zero rates. The pressure will be on us to tax gas and electricity, the commodity which my hon. Friend mentioned, newspapers, books and even food.

May we please have a categoric assurance from the Minister that if we pass the Bill the zero rate will remain valid in the United Kingdom and that we shall not tax items which are currently exempt?

I now come to my hon. Friend's point which I want to develop. The House should be aware of a written answer given by the Minister of State, Treasury on 4 March 1986. It says: The EC Commission has applied to the European Court of Justice for a declaration against the United Kingdom that the zero rating of certain goods and services is incompatible with the sixth VAT directive, as not being for clearly defined social reasons"— there is an impertinence surely— or for the benefit of the final consumer"— another impertinence, the Committee may think. The Government do not accept this contention"— so far so good— and will defend the issue before the European Court"— again, good, the Committee may think.

It is unlikely that the case will be heard at the earliest before the end of the year."—[Official Report, 4 March 1986; Vol. 93, c. 94.] My hon. Friend did a great service to the Community by drawing attention to this matter and in noting one commodity that is affected. It is not only the commodity to which he drew attention in his necessarily short intervention—the catalogue is really quite long. Let me give the Committee some of the items.

The Commission's challenge covers a wide range of supplies of goods and services — feeding stuffs, seeds, live animals yielding food for consumption—what will the farmers say to that? — sewerage services, water —apparently the Common Market wants to tax water—new services, fuel and power, to which I have already adverted, construction and buildings, to which my lion. Friend referred—what will people say when they have to pay VAT on their new house?—protective clothing and footwear—a tax on safety. What idiocy this is.

This is not the first time that the United Kingdom has been challenged on these matters. The EEC Commission first wrote to the United Kingdom on this issue in October 1981. So we have been under pressure for some time. This is not just a single aberration of an act on the Commission's part. It has been trying to destroy our zero rate for five years. The Customs and Excise notice says: Should the Commission's case be upheld in the European Court, in whole or in respect of individual items, the United Kingdom would be obliged to tax the supplies in question at a positive rate.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

My right hon. Friend has said that the Customs and Excise people would be obliged to do something, but Parliament can be obliged to do nothing. Parliament is sovereign and can make its own decisions on these issues.

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

I have the greatest admiration for the judgment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) in normal circumstances, but on this matter he is entirely wrong. If the European Court of Justice finds against us, the Government will be obliged to abide by the judgment of the court. There is no doubt whatever about that. That is why I asked the Minister if the Government were content that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would no longer have the right on his own to decide the levels of taxation in Britain. I went on to put a second question. I asked if Parliament was content to have its right to decide these matters taken away, because up to now it is in Parliament that such decisions are ultimately taken.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I understand what my right hon. Friend is saying and I understood him earlier. The Government might be required, and the Government can propose and put measures before the House of Commons, but the House is entitled to vote against the measures. Where do we stand then?

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

With his unerring instinct my hon. Friend puts his finger on the precise point. The House of Commons will become impotent if we pass this legislation. That is why a number of us are keen to see that the facts are more widely advertised. This legislation is a wedge. It may be thought of as a thin wedge, but it is a wedge and before many years have gone by the small crack that it opens will become a chasm and enfin—if I may use a single word of French because I do not want to try the Committee's patience any further—we shall be relegated to the status of some sort of subordinate authority of lower grade, say, than a county council.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is it not notable that even the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) was not aware of enforceable Community rights under the European Communities Act 1972? Will the right hon. Gentleman go a stage further and ask the Minister whether the sixth directive of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks and which applies irrespective of anything contained in new article 99 — because it is legislation that is already taking effect—has within it not only the power of the Commission to take the British Government to court, as it is doing, but the right to send letters to our Chancellor of the Exchequer threatening infraction proceedings? It has probably done the same thing in respect of VAT on building repairs which some time ago was a most unpopular measure brought in by the Chancellor. If those things are correct, should there not be a full statement in reply to this debate about the extent to which sixth directive letters have been received by the Government and their reaction since 1978?

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

It may be a surprise to you, Mr. Walker, and to the Committee, but alas I am not privy to the Chancellor's in-tray and I have not seen any of his correspondence. I am unable to give the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) a direct answer to his questions, but the logic of what he says is impeccable. The Commission is able and will increasingly be in a position, if we pass the Bill, to give instructions to the Chancellor and to other Ministers.

I agree entirely with the wise and appropriate suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that it would be right for the Minister, when replying to the debate — presumably on another day — to tell us whether her understanding of the situation is the same as his. As the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said, my hon. Friend the Minister has listened to the debate with great courtesy. She has a duty to the Committee, to the House of Commons and to the nation to answer clearly and without equivocation. One of the main reasons why Back Benchers have initiated this series of debates is to try to ensure that our countrymen and countrywomen are better informed about the realities and therefore more competent to judge the matter. When they are better informed, I believe that they will share the reservations that many of us have tried to express over the years.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the superb way in which he is putting before the Committee this enormous danger. Action under the sixth directive places an obligation on the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to charge VAT on gas, food, electricity and water. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the danger of the new article 99 is that it imposes a further obligation to harmonise by 1992? My right hon. Friend was right when he said that the position is serious now, but the imposition of VAT on essential items for the British people will make it very much worse.

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I am grateful to him for underlining the point. When people are aware of what may happen, I am convinced that there will be an immense storm of protest. During the last few years hon. Members will have received a plethora of letters from gas and electricity consumers. People are very sensitive about these charges. The thought that VAT will be added to their gas and electricity bills, at rates as high as 20 or 30 per cent., will fill them with horror. Very few people can afford the extra money. It is said that the payment of VAT is the price of entry into the European Community, but there is a limit to the price that any of us can afford and that this House of Commons should tolerate.

If a commitment to harmonisation is included in the Bill, who will decide if it is to be implemented? I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to answer that question. I presume that the European Court will decide. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister of State confirmed this in a reply that she gave on 17 June at column 867. She said, in effect, that the European Court, on an application from the Commission, could determine whether Britain had harmonised VAT sufficiently. Is that her considered opinion? What worries so many of us is the thought that the veto, about which we have heard so much and upon which we have counted for so long, would be absolutely valueless.

As long ago as 1981 the Commission considered taking us to court for not levying VAT on gas used in business or commercial premises, but it appears from the best information that it is possible to obtain that it delayed taking action, pending the introduction of the Single European Act. Now that we have the Single European Act and now that we have been taken to court, will my hon. Friend confirm that the veto, upon which we have relied so much, is meaningless?

Let us suppose that the Commission asks the European Court to adjudicate. Let us further suppose that the court decides against us. What freedom of action would my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer then have? It seems to me that he would have no freedom of any sort. Therefore, the Bill proposes a further derogation of sovereignty. As such, it is utterly repugnant and unacceptable to me. I hope that the Committee will also find it unacceptable. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North made a fine speech. All hon. Members admire his constancy and the strength with which he has advocated the European cause. He has chided all hon. Members indirectly for perhaps not paying more attention to the need to control expenditure.

It being half-past Two o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.

Ordered,That at the sitting on Wednesday 2nd July, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Orders No. 3 (Exempted business) and No. 4 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c. (negative procedure)), if proceedings on the Motions in the name of Mr. Secretary Fowler relating to Social Security and on the Motions in the name of Mr. Neil Kinnock relating to Housing (S.I., 1986, No. 1009) and to Social Security (S.I., 1986, No. 1010 and S.I., 1986, No. 101 I) have not previously been disposed of, Mr. Speaker shall at Seven o'clock put any Question necessary to dispose of any Motion which may already have been moved and shall then put forthwith the Question on such of the remaining Motions as may then he moved.—[Mr. Malone.]