First Day

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 6:58 pm on 7th November 1990.

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Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford 6:58 pm, 7th November 1990

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) on their speeches, which represented a pleasant episode of a kind that does not happen often in the House. They lived up to the speeches that I have heard over many years. Neither the right hon. Member for Ayr nor the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes is in his place, but my remarks are meant most sincerely.

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox), and especially so on this occasion, because I agreed with most of his remarks, particularly in respect of Europe. That topic, and to a lesser extent the Gulf crisis have monopolised today's debate, so I shall not dwell too much on either subject tonight.

I do not claim for one moment to be a expert on Europe or the Gulf, but the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), for all his expertise and experience as a former Foreign Secretary, must acknowledge that we are in Europe as the result of a national referendum. While we must continue to negotiate the best terms for Britain, I am sure that the 11 other members of the Community will not allow this country to bring progress to a standstill—and I am equally convinced that no one in this country wants progress to be halted.

I opposed Britain's entry into the Common Market, but I accept that, as we are now a member, we must be realistic and get the best out of it that we can for this country. How that is to be done is another question. However, I hope that the Prime Minister will get off her high horse. We all know about her personality, and no doubt she meant it the other day when she said "No, no, no" to surrendering British sovereignty, but she must realise that someone else could be leading the negotiations in the not too distant future, when it could be a different ball game. I do not argue with the constructive advice given by the right hon. Member for Devonport, but now that we are in the Common Market, we must take a more positive attitude and secure the best possible deal for Britain.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spoke persuasively, as he often does, but I have never heard him or any other right hon. or hon. Member who shares his views explain satisfactorily what will happen if the negotiations and diplomacy over the Gulf crisis fail. I am sure that no one in this country really wants war. It is a prospect too dreadful to think about, and everything possible must be done to prevent war. However, what is to be done if diplomacy fails? Are we to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in Kuwait, saying, "We have done everything that we can, and we must not start a war," or are we to remove him by force·