Provisions Relating to European Assembly

European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 10th July 1986.

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Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down

In the light of pressure on time, and the fact that clause 3(4) goes to the root of the Bill and raises matters that can be debated on the question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, I do not propose to move amendment No. 46.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mrs. Chalker.]

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South 11:27 pm, 10th July 1986

As the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) said, the Bill arises from section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 which states: All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures from time to time provided for by or under the Treaties, as in accordance with the treaties are without further enactment to be given legal effect or used in the United Kingdom shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly; and the expression 'enforceable Community right' and similar expressions shall be read as referring to one to which this subsection applies. No part of any Act of this Parliament has had such a draconian force in law. The Single European Act, which will be incorporated as a treaty under the section of the law that I have just quoted, will change the constitution of this country—I fear, irrevocably—until a future Government change the Act upon which its foundation is based.

The Single European Act is, in effect, a European Bill. If it is to be understood thoroughly, it must be taken as a Bill and read with the treaty of Rome of which it is part. Together, they form the written constitution of the new political constellation of which we are part and to which we are drawn closer to the centre. But, having been drawn closer to the centre, we find that our powers to decide for ourselves what we do in the United Kingdom are consequently diminished.

I believe, as do some Conservative Members — the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) ——

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

One minute.

When a decision is made, by consent of the House or by Governments in an international forum getting together on matters related to a specific topic and agreeing of free will—not because it is linked with another issue —I would probably say, "Hear, hear. We must do that. We must go along with it." That it is the true path to international understanding. It is the true path to cooperation, without letting any of the powers of the House disappear or be prejudiced or undermined.

That is not what we have agreed to in respect of the Bill. In agreeing to the Single European Act, we have agreed to extend the scope and power of the European Community to legislate and to tax. Earlier we had a brief debate on the environment and technology. The debate on the environment centred on water and farmers. The Committee did not realise that the scope inherent in the vires of the European Economic Community will concern any aspect of the environment, especially that relating to the harmonised internal market. I forsee a spate of legislation before the House and the Scrutiny Committee.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I should prefer not to give way, because many hon. Members wish to speak. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye later.

It has been argued that the passage of the legislation will not change the balance of power in the institutions of the European Community. The Minister of State made that point. I was going to call her a right hon. Lady. She should he a right hon. Lady. She signed a treaty on this country's behalf without being a Privy Councillor. It was unfair to impose that act on the hon. Lady, because she was fresh in the job.

Parliament's ability to legislate on matters of law in the United Kingdom will be diminished, if only because the proportion of law that comes from Brussels rather than Westminster will increase, and the proportion of law that comes from Westminster will inevitably decrease. The legislation will not, therefore, be enacted by the Crown in Parliament. When people take law qualifications, they learn something of our constitution and are taught, so I am told, that the highest authority in the land is the Crown in Parliament. The three aspects of Parliament meet together on occasions—such as the happy occasion last week—Commons, Lords and monarch.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman corrects me. As I understand it, the Crown in Parliament has three parts. Legislation that does not pass through those three parts of Parliament and does not "originate" —I use that word specifically—in the Crown in Privy Council is not law passed by the Parliament and does not receive the Royal Assent.

So far, the Bill has been passed by one of the three. Almost inevitably, the power of the Crown in Parliament cannot help but be diminished. There will be an increase in the number of Acts of Parliament which Her Majesty is invited to sign, which come ab initio from Westminster and the House. Already we are beginning to he faced with Bills that we have to pass because of the decisions of the European Court and our obligations under the European Communities Act 1972. There will be an increase in the number of statutory instruments and in the amount of legislation coming direct from the European institutions, bypassing the Crown and Royal Assent. To that extent, the sovereignty of this House, the sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen and the sovereignty of the British people will be also diminished.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North 11:34 pm, 10th July 1986

Future generations, when they look back over the past few weeks, will be amazed at the prominence that has been given to events in South Africa as compared with the prominence given to the Single European Act and the Bill. That is not to say that events in South Africa are not complex, tragic and important. That is not to say that the Government — and indirectly this House — do not have some influence on the events in Southern Africa and that these events will not have some effect on the interests of our constituents. However, the Single European Act is a matter of high significance, of higher significance probably than any three major Bills passed through the House at any one time.

The Bill is about a movement of powers to European institutions. Many of us — despite what those who disagree with us would say—are keen to see European co-operation and to see Europe working together in various areas where it is appropriate for Europe to work together. We are even keen to see proper and effective European institutions. Those who take the opposite view to that ought to realise that harmonisation does not always bring about harmony.

Before we pass the Bill, perhaps we ought to consider the institutions that exist at present and consider how the powers are being used. The first institution that we ought to consider carefully is the Commission with its great powers for the initiation of policy and its increasing powers that we have discussed today. Everything starts from the Commission. Day in and day out, the Commission works on Community policy. The Commission, because of its position, because it is ever-present and because it has a sense of direction and favours European unity, has the ideas which will be fulfilled in the long run. However, the Commission is a bureaucracy. In this country, we wish to be ruled by democracy but increasingly, as we transfer these powers, we shall be ruled by a bureaucracy. I am a democrat and I wonder at times if we all are.

The next institution that bears close scrutiny is the European Court. As we discussed in the previous debate, the preamble and many other parts of the Bill will give greater powers to the European Court. The laws of this country and of our people will no longer, in these respects, be made by their elected representatives. The laws will be made by judges, not politicians, the people who would have to seek votes. But now the legal experts, judges in a foreign country, will make laws for British citizens. Of course, some people will say that a great part of the Bill is that it will enhance the status of the European Assembly and that that will give us more control over the European institutions. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe that when people voted in the last European Assembly elections, they voted according to how the people they elected would resolve the problems and serve the interests of the people of this country? If they did so, I believe that they were misled. They voted basically on the party label, Labour or Conservative.

The people who are elected to that institution are essentially federalists and they decide policy, not according to the interests of their constituents — may be they should — they decide policy on the basis of bringing together European unity and a federal Europe and above all, on the basis of increasing powers for the institution that they serve. We should be very wary of that in this Parliament.

We are giving powers to institutions that have had powers for some time. They have had powers over the CAP. Although my hon. Friend the Minister was frank if she had been more frank she would have told us that the institution, have not yet met with any degree of success over the CAP. She told us how much worse the problems would be if action had not been taken, but she did not tell us that this year's surpluses are worse than last year's, that last year's were worse than the year before that and that whatever brave proposals are to be put forward, next year's will be worse than they are this year.

What success is that, when each year the situation gets worse? These institutions have had power over the Community budget. We have debated budgetary discipline long and hard and have been given commitments on the subject, yet not one scintilla of budgetary discipline has been achieved. Even so, it is suggested that we hand over more powers.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

My hon. Friend may feel that the whole question of the powers of this House and whether we hand them to other institutions is a matter of levity. I wonder whether his constituents think that. Mine do not.

I have two questions for the Minister. First, we are to have an extension of majority voting. How can she justify a situation in which laws affecting the United Kingdom will be made in such a way that we and Germany will have 10 votes each, each of us having about 55 million citizens, yet seven small European countries—Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Greece, Portugal and Ireland—with fewer citizens in total than either the United Kingdom or Germany, will have 28 votes?

They will be able to stop happening that which we may want, but we shall not be able to stop happening that which they may want. We and Germany together, with twice their population and six times their economic power, will not be able to prevent that. How can a British Government agree to majority voting in those circumstances?

Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister believes that our power with the veto is of paramount importance, may we be assured that the veto is still secure?

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that assurance. Will she enlarge on that answer and explain how it is secure?

In many respects, what is now happening represents the death knell for some of the powers of this House. It is a requiem on certain aspects of British sovereignty. The measure is nearly finished here, but the Leader of the House, when interviewed on radio last week and when asked about the future parliamentary programme, vouchsafed to the nation that if, in its discussion, a measure was truncated through the use of the guillotine in this place, it was vital that proper scrutiny occurred in the other place. We have before us a vital and underestimated by many people constitutional measure. The powers of the other place should be used to the utmost in this matter.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent 11:43 pm, 10th July 1986

The Government will live to regret — I hope even to be ashamed of—having introduced this measure. That sense of regret may come a good deal more speedily than some may think, for the Bill must go to another place and they have a special obligation there to examine constitutional measures, especially when such measures are guillotined here.

I should have thought that the other place —particularly as we have heard tonight that their Lordships have decided to intervene on a major Bill affecting the royal dockyards—would be encouraged to intervene on this measure.

When I say that the Government should be ashamed about that way in which they have proceeded with the Bill in this House, that is not meant as a reflection on the Minister. All who have listened to these proceedings will pay tribute to the patience and skill that she has shown in defending the situation. She has done that without assistance from any hon. Members, including those who have spoken from the Government Benches.

The hon. Lady has done extremely well, but in the course of doing that she has damned the Bill even more. In an effort to defend what the Government are seeking to achieve by the measure, she has had to try to persuade us that it does not really involve any change in the situation that went before, and that has been her case. Of course it is not true.

I am not saying that she is seeking to mislead the House, but the hon. Lady has misled herself in the way that she has presented the matter. Greater powers can be used by the European Court and invoked by the European Assembly. The methods used and the balance between institutions within the European organisation are altered.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Should the Bill be passed, those factors and developments will come into being. Then the people of this country will return to the House and ask why the House of Commons allowed such a measure to go through.

They will ask why the House of Commons allowed a European court to have such power in such circumstances, and allowed a European assembly to be transformed into a European parliament and given greater powers.

I do not believe that the hon. Lady has answered the charge why the House of Commons permitted greater powers over the imposition of taxation, which will be used later by a Government in this country. Those dangers face this country. People will look back to these debates and say that i1 is a disgrace that such a measure was forced through by a guillotine and forced through by a bovine majority that has not even been interested in the betrayal of the rights of the people of this country.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford 11:48 pm, 10th July 1986

I spoke on the interpretation of the Preamble in Committee, and I should like to say now that I am deeply concerned about the manner in which legislation is enacted in Europe, and which has to be implemented by the House by virtue of the European Communities Act.

I am not against the Act or the Bill, in principle, but I feel deeply and strongly, as a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation and having witnessed the manner in which legislation is passed to us, its effect on our commerce and industry. I take the Directive on Product Liability as an example. There are other directives in which I was involved before coming to the House where I have seen livelihoods affected. That was not due to a deliberate act by civil servants or indeed by Ministers, but because people were unaware of the effect of European legislation.

In this instance the directive, which related to radiation and the implementation of measures relating to radiation, livelihoods would have been taken from many people. But for the fact that a serious attempt was made to make sure that people were aware of the implications, their livelihoods would have been taken away. That can happen in many different ways. I ask the House, when considering the Bill and European legislation, to bear in mind that to have legislation passed with the consent of the electorate implies accountability.

Accountability to whom? I spoke earlier on the question of sovereignty, which for me means effective control. In this context, when we consider the manner in which legislation is produced in Europe and the fact that it must be enacted by this Parliament by virtue of the European Communities Act, there is accountability by Ministers in theory and largely in practice.

Much of the legislation goes on without being properly considered and it has a much greater effect upon the people of this country and our commerce and industry than is commonly recognised. I plead that it is essential to scrutinise that legislation effectively in the House, and that the terms of reference of the Select Committee on European Legislation are improved.

I finish by reminding the House of some legislation that was passed recently relating to the Chernobyl disaster.

It included as its legal basis the whole of the European treaty. In other words, there was no specific power to which the Foreign Office was able to point in determining the basis upon which that legislation was to be imposed upon the people of this country. If that is the basis upon which people proceed, I think that we have an open door to legislation of any description.

It is the matter of the greatest possible importance that we ensure that sovereignty does, indeed, remain in this House, that we have effective accountability and that Ministers are fully aware of what is done in thier name by bureaucrats and civil servants who go across to Europe in the working groups and legislate on our behalf. It is essential to maintain the democracy of this House and its sovereignty and to ensure that we do know that the legislation done in our name is known to have been done on behalf of the people of this country. If there is a gap between legislation and the electorate of the kind that I have seen developing in Europe with a volume of legislation of this complexity, I believe that Europe itself will disintegrate because it will be seen to be undemocratic and bureaucratic in the extreme.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber 11:50 pm, 10th July 1986

I welcome the Third Reading of the Bill. I repeat the view that I have expressed throughout the progress of it, that the changes it introduces are limited and sensible. I consider that the various examples that we have been given by anti-Community Members of terrible consequences being imposed upon us through majority voting are just plain nonsense. Again and again, whether we were discussing tax harmonisation, pollution or regional development, we were told that somehow or other, and apparently completely irrespective of political colour, these foreigners — aliens was the word much used, I thought rather offensively by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing)—would get it wrong and impose unacceptable policies upon the country, not to mention what foreign judges might do.

I find this approach quite untenable; and the suggestion by some who produced this approach—that they were not really against the Community at all, but wanted to improve the Community—was totally incredible.

I felt that the Minister, with respect to her, was sometimes less robust in defending the Bill than she could have been. I suppose if one is a reasonable person, which she is, there is always a certain disposition to seek some kind of accord with critics, even if they are evidently intractable and unconvertible as is the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor). However, it sometimes leads one to claim that changes that one proposes do not actually make much difference at all. It is certainly my hope that the Bill will make some difference; likewise, this is the belief of nearly all other member Governments. The major difference should be a greater capacity to arrive at decisions without undue delay, far less some of the indefensible procrastinations that we have seen in the past.

Taken in conjuction with the more effective operation of the Court and the modest increases in powers of the Commission and the Parliament, this will achieve greater integration advance what I believe in, the historical welding together of the old European states and nations, and increase understanding and appreciation of our mutual dependence. As I have said before in many arguments with the hon. Member for Walthamstow ((Mr. Deakins), this will lead to a style of government in Western Europe that one can call federal quasi-federal, devolved union or whatever word one likes to use, but it means that there are a lot of things that we can do better together — oil pollution control, fishery conservation, fair competition, regional development, economic coordination and political co-operation.

This is all good. I do not believe that it reduces the rights of our citizens; I think that it enhances them, and I applaud it.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley 11:53 pm, 10th July 1986

As we come to the end of the very sorry saga of the Bill, it is appropriate to remind the House that the Government originally did not want the proposals now included in the Bill and in the Single European Act. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) insisted on major reservations in Dooge, which have subsequently been abandoned. The Prime Minister petulantly opposed the inter-governmental conference, but the Government were forced into a humiliating reverse. They had reluctantly to accept some fundamental changes that they opposed to get concessions on the internal market. In an attempt to hide their embarrassment, they first tried to slip the Bill through with the minimum scrutiny and discussion. When they were rumbled by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and we started to give the Bill careful scrutiny, the Government ruthlessly wielded one of the most drastic guillotines ever.

The Bill represents the first major transfer of sovereignty from Westminster to Strasbourg and Brussels, involves increased pressure to harmonise VAT, means the establishment of a new European Court of Justice, gives additional competences to the European Community, changes the name of the Assembly to Parliament, and means a move towards greater economic and social cohesion — in other words greater European union. These are major issues that should have been considered in detail by the House. Many vital questions remain unanswered on the internal market, the effects, on employment, on insurance, procurement and company law. Many matters have not been discussed by the House. There are many implications of which the House, let alone the country, remains unaware.

The hon. Lady deserves credit, and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) was, unusually, a little discourteous and ungenerous. She deserves credit for one thing, her diligence and stamina in piloting the Bill through single-handed —"Timless" on most occasions. We have seen some amazingly skilful footwork. I know from an unusually reliable source that is the usual phrase for a Foreign Office leak—that, like the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens), that well-known the danseur extraordinaire, that the Minister is fond of dancing — not modern dancing, but dances such as the conga and hokeycokey. However, if she tries to divert attention from the Government's twists and turns in the Bill, and its importance, by launching into the usual sad, tired, tattered attack against the Opposition, she will do herself no credit.

No doubt, the Minister will also try to claim that the changes negotiated at Luxembourg will be good for Britain. Conservative Members should remember Fontainebleau. We were told that the agreement reached there would be good for Britain. The same claims were made then as are being made now—a great victory, a permanent solution. The reality was the opposite. No financial discipline — our contribution has become greater. We hve seen the 1·4 per cent. VAT reached, and no doubt we shall see it breached, and agriculture spending is spiralling. If that is a good deal for Britain, the English language has lost its meaning.

The Minister may also be tempted to praise the success of the Community in certain matters of concern such as vehicle standards or health. However, even if we concede that there have been some minor advances on such matters, at what expense have they been achieved in concessions and in the horse trading in the European Parliament?

The Minister may also claim that the Government have not wavered in their commitment to the European Community, and that the habit of co-operation on foreign policy is entrenched in the European Community. The reality is entirely the opposite. We were out of step in withdrawing from UNESCO, when we cravenly left when President Reagan said jump.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

Whas has that got to do with the Bill?

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

The hon. Lady must listen—she will have an opportunity to reply to the debate. We were told that in the Single European Act, to which she put her name, there was agreement about co-operation on foreign policy. Far from working together, the United Kingdom has been out of step. We stand alone within the Community over the raid on Libya. The Foreign Ministers of the Community were deceived by the British Foreign Secretary about that raid. We are now at loggerheads with the Community over how to deal with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

I predict that the Minister will try to take some credit for what she will describe as a great achievement—the so-called £4 billion rebate. Under the 1974–1979 Labour Government Britain's net contribution to the Community was £380 million a year. Under this Conservative Government, between 1980 and 1986 it has been over £800 million a year. In 1984–85 it amounted to £936 million and in 1987–88 the net amount that we shall pay will be £1·2 billion.

If the Single European Act is the result of what the Prime Minister described as "batting for Britain" we, like the England cricket team, need not only a change of captain but a change of team. I ask my hon. Friends to take this opportunity to vote once more on Third Reading against the Bill, and I give a pledge on behalf of the Opposition that we shall continue the fight against the Bill just as vigorously in the other place.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey 12:01 am, 10th July 1986

There have been nearly 40 hours of debate on the changes to the European Community treaties that will be brought about by the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. At each stage I have tried to respond to the questions that were put to me by hon. Members. I shall do so again now, if I can. If that is not possible, I shall respond in writing.

The House has to take its decision on the Bill as a whole. It was right to go through it in detail and to weigh up the implications of these changes, but we should concentrate on the material facts. However, many hon. Members have not been trying to assess the material facts, or even the implications. They returned to the 1972 debates and the 1975 referendum debates and questioned our membership of the European Community. It is right to be critical when things go wrong. However, we took the decision to enter the Community, and as one of the leading partners in the Community we should be concentrating on current issues, not fighting the battles of years ago.

I wondered for a moment why the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) referred to the hokey-cokey and then I realised that he had a copy of some, though not all, of my notes. Whether he dances the eightsome reel with joy, or whether somebody else dances another dance, there is one thing at which he and his party are more expert than any other party in the House—their European hokey-cokey. The right foot of some Opposition Members goes in while the left foot of other Opposition Members wants to take them out. In that sense, it is the most perfect description of the Opposition's attitude towards European legislation.

In previous debates, 1 recalled again and again the decisions made by a Labour Government — the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) was a member of that Government, and must stand by the decisions that he made then—which were the foundations of the steps that we have taken over the years to reach this first amendment of the treaty of Rome.

The Labour Government played games with our membership of the Community, telling people that they would renegotiate our terms of entry, when all that they did was to renegotiate the terms of their election manifesto. The Conservative Government have not wavered and will not waver. In our 1983 manifesto, we were convinced, as we are today, that the development of the Community is vital to Britain. It is vital to cement not only a lasting peace in Europe but to end centuries of hostility. We said that we had come to office determined to make a success of British membership of the Community, and that is what we have been doing. The Bill is a further step in that direction.

Unlike the steps attempted half-heartedly by Labour Governments, this Government, under this Prime Minister, secured a lasting agreement worth more than £1,000 million to Britain this year alone. The Government have taken major steps to agricultural reform, with price reductions of nearly 1·5 per cent. three years ago increasing to more than 7 per cent. in real terms for cereals this year. Those steps are part of the process of improving the Community of which we are full and living partners.

The Government have also secured agreement that agriculture must be tackled as an international problem in the GAIT, in OECD and through discussion with major producers, but we do not deny the importance of structural funds, including FEOGA guidance, which we have been debating in the Bill. That is another important element in what we seek to do.

The Government have played their part in securing the democratic future of Spain and Portugal through membership of the Community. Anyone who takes that for granted should reflect for a moment on how our interests would be affected if there were Communist Governments in Madrid or Lisbon.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is within the rules of order for any hon. Member speaking on the Third Reading of a Bill to mention matters that are not within the Bill?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Third Reading is confined to matters that are within the Bill, but the Minister was in order. There is reference to the newer members of the Community.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I was about to say that European political co-operation is part of the Single European Act. Only with wider membership of the Community can European political co-operation, which is important to us, come within our grasp. The hon. Member for Walthamstow is right to say that it is not mentioned in the Bill, but since the Bill implements the Single European Act—

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

Since the Bill implements parts of the Single European Act, it is covered.

As a result of the Bill, the Government will take decisions, whether on animal health or on research and development, that benefit not only Britain but the entire internal market.

This is where we come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). Through qualified majority voting we shall succeed in bringing about sensible decisions which will not be blocked by a single member state. Such decisions have been blocked in the past, often by nations not even interested in the matter in question. We want changes in the internal market because we want to open up the possibilities for new enterprise and new work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. North is anxious about the blocking minority. We went through all that during the debate on one of the amendments. We have sought to make progress and have enshrined in the Bill the progress that we have sought and the issues upon which we have sought it, that is, qualified majority voting for the completion of the internal market, with proper safeguards in the areas of human, animal and plant health, and in the areas of fiscal changes, the movement of people, and the rights and interests of employees.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I shall come to the veto in a moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is worried that small nations might combine against us. We have now reached a degree of agreement on these issues with everybody pushing forward to bring an end to the barriers that divide Europe, where such barriers can sensibly be removed. This is the right way to go. If I thought for one moment that any of the fears in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North were real, I would have told him so. I do not believe those fears are justified. He and the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) asked about the veto. Where important interests are at stake, discussion must be continued until unanimous agreement is reached. That is exactly what we mean by the Luxembourg compromise and that is why we shall—

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

That does not apply specifically to the articles that relate to the completion of the unified market. By definition, the veto power cannot apply to them because unanimity rules have been replaced by majority voting.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The unanimity rule has been replaced by qualified majority voting, but as we said in the detailed debates on the Bill, qualified majority voting has been agreed for those issues where we wish to make progress and where it is in Britain's interest to make progress. It is right to make progress, but we still have the right on other issues to exercise the veto where it is in the interests of Britain to do so.

When we joined the Community we accepted a treaty that was negotiated by others. In this Bill, we are asking the House to accept amendments to the treaty negotiated by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister in British interests. She announced that treaty to the House on 5 December and when it was worked out, my right hon. Friend realised that not only were its provisions in the interests of Britain, but they would safeguard all the things that we have worked for since the Milan summit.

The amendments to the treaty of Rome contained in the Single European Act and effected by this Bill are not major changes in treaties. They do not have the constitutional implications that were inherent in the terms of our original accession to the Community. They are changes that will enable Britain to realise more fully the benefits of our membership. It is to the benefit of Britain to speed up the completion of the internal market and that will be helped by the Bill.

It is also to the benefit of Britain to have a clearly defined Community programme for research and development. The changes negotiated at Luxembourg mean a good deal for Britain. If the changes agreed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have not aroused a great debate across the country, it is not because few people know about them. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has explained them, so has my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and so have I. Those who oppose the changes have written about them copiously. The reason that there has, in the Opposition's terms, been no great debate in the country about these sensible amendments to the treaty, is because the great debate is over. The British people—

It being one hour after commencement of proceedings on the motion MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [1st July], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 43.

Division No. 253][12.14 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardChope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Amess, DavidCoombs, Simon
Ancram, MichaelCope, John
Arnold, TomCorrie, John
Ashby, DavidCranborne, Viscount
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Crouch, David
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Currie, Mrs Edwina
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Dorrell, Stephen
Baldry, TonyDunn, Robert
Batiste, SpencerDurant, Tony
Bellingham, HenryDykes, Hugh
Benyon, WilliamEggar, Tim
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnFallon, Michael
Blackburn, JohnFavell, Anthony
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterFenner, Mrs Peggy
Boscawen, Hon RobertFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bottomley, PeterForman, Nigel
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bright, GrahamFraser, Peter (Angus East)
Brinton, TimFreeman, Roger
Bryan, Sir PaulGale, Roger
Buck, Sir AntonyGalley, Roy
Burt, AlistairGardiner, George (Reigate)
Butcher, JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
Butterfill, JohnGoodhart, Sir Philip
Cash, WilliamGregory, Conal
Chalker, Mrs LyndaGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Chapman, SydneyGrylls, Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John SRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Renton, Tim
Hanley, JeremyRhodes James, Robert
Hargreaves, KennethRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'tolk SW)Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hayes, J.Roe, Mrs Marion
Hayward, RobertRowe, Andrew
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidRumbold, Mrs Angela
Hickmet, RichardSayeed, Jonathan
Hind, KennethShelton, William (Streatham)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Holt, RichardSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)Speed, Keith
Howells, GeraintSpencer, Derek
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Hunter, AndrewStanbrook, Ivor
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasStern, Michael
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickStewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyTemple-Morris, Peter
Johnston, Sir RussellTerlezki, Stefan
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Robert (Herts W)Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelThurnham, Peter
Knowles, MichaelTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Knox, DavidTracey, Richard
Latham, MichaelTrippier, David
Lawler, GeoffreyTwinn, Dr Ian
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkVaughan, Sir Gerard
Lester, JimWakeham, Rt Hon John
Lilley, PeterWalden, George
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Waller, Gary
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
McCurley, Mrs AnnaWarren, Kenneth
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Watts, John
Malone, GeraldWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Mather, CarolWheeler, John
Maude, Hon FrancisWhitfield, John
Meyer, Sir AnthonyWilkinson, John
Moynihan, Hon C.Wolfson, Mark
Nicholls, PatrickWood, Timothy
Oppenheim, PhillipYeo, Tim
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Sir John (Harrow W)Tellers for the Ayes:
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Mr. Tim Sainsbury and
Portillo, MichaelMr. Michael Neubert.
Powell, William (Corby)
NOES
Budgen, NickPatchett, Terry
Canavan, DennisPike, Peter
Clay, RobertPowell, Rt Hon J. E.
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Cohen, HarryPrescott, John
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Proctor, K. Harvey
Corbyn, JeremyRaynsford, Nick
Crowther, StanRedmond, Martin
Deakins, EricRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir EdwardRobertson, George
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelShore, Rt Hon Peter
Foster, DerekSkinner, Dennis
Foulkes, GeorgeSmith, C.(lsl'ton S & Fbury)
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSpearing, Nigel
Haynes, FrankTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Welsh, Michael
Leighton, RonaldWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Loyden, EdwardTellers for the Noes:
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Mr. John McWilliam and
Marlow, AntonyMr. Don Dixon.
Nellist, David

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.