Orders of the Day — Maastricht

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:39 pm on 19th December 1991.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 7:39 pm, 19th December 1991

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) will be glad to hear that I do not intend to follow him. I will comment only that I find some divergence between his claim that he is worried about his country, and his advocacy of totally surrendering its sovereignty to Europe.

Yesterday, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party, gave the House a potted history of the bad deeds of England and the United Kingdom in the history of Ireland. Speaking to the hon. Gentleman outside the House, I told him that I regretted that he had not started at the beginning.

The beginning of England's interference in Ireland, if one may call it that, began at the invitation of Pope Adrian, who gave Ireland to the English monarch Henry II at the price of Peter's pence, telling the King to bring the church of St. Patrick into line with the Church of Rome. I regret that the hon. Member for Foyle, who is not in his place, did not start at the beginning. As an Ulster Protestant and planter, I have no apology to make for the presence of the Protestant people in the island of Ireland, or for Britain within Ireland. The most peaceful years in Ireland were those lived under the authority of the United Kingdom Parliament.

Right hon. and hon. Members should take a look at the European Parliament and European Committees, and ask whether they would like to commit their future to that Parliament. I invite them to read the resolutions that were tabled and debated in the European Parliament during the Gulf crisis, and to note the outcome. Resolution after resolution was carried but then thrown out on a consequential vote, yet we are asked to give away our future to the institutions of Europe.

Everyone has something to say about Maastricht, but Jacques Delors has the most to say about it. He claims that the blueprint drawn up by his ad hoc group and tabled at the start of the discussions has taken a great step forward. One Labour Member said that we ought to be careful that gradualism was not pushed by Jacques Delors and his friends in such a way as to release the pressure on any of the brakes that were applied at Maastricht. From the documents before us, it appears that the basis of that gradualism has already been written into the treaty.

The House had a great debate on the social chapter. The rights of the working classes should be defended, and the House ought to legislate in their defence. This is where such legislation should be enacted. We should not hand over that responsibility to some European institution, and let it legislate for better conditions for the working classes of this country.

The House has a record second to none compared with Europe in respect of the battles that it has fought and won in deciding the best way forward for working class people. Powers are given in the treaty to our 11 European partners to use the institutions, procedures, and mechanisms of the treaty to carry forward their own social policies. We were told at the time that they had a treaty outside the Maastricht treaty. When one reads the small print, one discovers the concealed powers that lie beneath its surface.

We are all concerned about national security, but the treaty makes it clear in article D that the common foreign and security policy shall include all questions related to the security of the European Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence. The platform has been built for further developments along those lines. That article also states: The Union requests the Western European Union, which is an integral part of the development of the European Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications. That gradual process and vision of a federal Europe is clearly set out.

I was struck by Chancellor Kohl's remarks that the people of Europe must decide whether they want a European Germany or a German Europe. That kind of language should set alarm bells ringing in the ears of the whole of Europe. Yesterday, Chancellor Kohl returned home to celebrate the fact that he had led the Council of Ministers by the nose, in gaining recognition for Croatia. The platform for implementing Jacques Delors' directive is to be found already in the treaty.

As to foreign affairs, I am sure that we all feel concern about the majority voting system. If we had asked for a firm decision from Europe during the Gulf crisis, we would not have received one. I have for years been a member of the European Parliament's political committee, and when I attended one of its weekly meetings during the Gulf crisis, I witnessed nothing but confusion and attacks on those who were fighting to give freedom to the disputed territories. There was nothing but criticism of the allied forces' actions, yet today we are asked at least to say that the treaty is all right.

I admire the Prime Minister's achievements, but he was fighting a losing battle because the Single European Act had already been passed—and thus it leaves no room for any Prime Minister to get something good out of Europe. Perhaps now that the brakes have been put on and warning voices have been raised Europe will proceed a little more slowly. However, if any right hon. or hon. Members believe that Europe has changed course, they have another think coming. They will soon see by Europe's actions what it intends to do in future.

I appreciate the spirit and passion displayed by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). As he said, we are being asked today to kill the spirit of our nation, and to say to its people, "Your nationalism, sovereignty, and status as a nation have ended: we will give you a new future which does not take into consideration your glorious past."