Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Parliamentary Sovereignty

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 22nd January 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 2:45 pm, 22nd January 1988

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) knows that, once again, he is seeking to mislead us. Yesterday, for example, we had an agreement on a frigate, a common frigate. Britain made it abundantly clear that if it did not like the way things were going it still had the power not to accept that frigate. There is no compulsory power under NATO rules, and the new frigate is a perfect example of that. My hon. Friend, in common with my hon. Friend for Skipton and Ripon, should look at the facts.

The huge losses in our power to decide cannot be justified, but it could be argued that there was a case for surrender if there were compensating benefits. Where are they? Before we joined the Common Market, Britain had always enjoyed a favourable balance of trade in manufactures with that group of European countries. Indeed, that had been the case every year since the time of Napoleon. Ever since we joined the Common Market we have had a deficit, and last year it was £11,000 million. In a nutshell, for every £2 of goods we sent to the Common Market we imported £3 of goods and the net effect was the loss of a million jobs. The basic reason for that is our loss of competitiveness. We have lost our traditional advantage of access to cheap food that a previous Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, fought so hard to achieve.

According to the Common Market's consumer unit, the average British family spends an extra £13 a week on food as a direct result of the CAP. That figure is increasing as the gap between Common Market and world food prices grows.

We have heard much about rebates and refunds, but our contributions are at an all-time high. When the Government completed their first full year in office, our net contribution was £117 million. This year, after all refunds and rebates, the estimate in the public expenditure White Paper that has just been published is £1,400 million, and that all-time record may be an underestimate.

As Conservative Members walked into the Chamber they may have been handed a letter from a Minister giving details of the public expenditure White Paper. There are pages and pages about increases in public spending since 1979—up to 73 per cent. for employment and training—but, sadly, not a word about EEC contributions, in which the increase has been infinitely greater.

Looking to the future, we see a further erosion of sovereignty with the Single European Act, which will provide for laws to be imposed on the United Kingdom by majority vote. Yesterday, we discussed a tightening of the law on firearms. I found that rather sad and funny, as the Common Market is currently considering a directive, which will he decided by a majority vote, that will require Britain to allow Europeans to carry and possess any weapons they choose, as long as they have a certificate from their own countries, whether they be the Republic of Ireland, Greece or Sicily.

What worries me most is the Government's policy, particularly the Foreign Office's policy, of looking at Europe through rose-coloured spectacles. It produces figures to show a massive rise in exports without mentioning that most of it stems from the increase in the size of the Community and ignoring the fact that our share in the Original Six's market for manufactured goods has scarcely changed since we joined the Community; it was 6 per cent., but it is now 7 per cent.