Order. Before I take any points of order I have two announcements. First, I have concluded, after due reflection, that amendment No. 443 is not in order. Secondly, if Members have requested a separate Division on an amendment and I have decided to grant the request, I propose to announce my decision before the Committee begins the debate immediately preceding the separate Division. Thus, we are about to embark on a debate on amendment No. 18. When that debate is concluded I shall be prepared to permit a separate Division on amendment No. 28, before beginning the next debate, which is on amendment No. 29, on subsidiarity.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You will understand my disappointment on your ruling, but, of course, I accept it, and I accept that your rulings on all such matters are final.
I ask for your further guidance on a related matter: our ability to table amendments to clause 1(2), which would express approval for some parts of the Maastricht treaty, for the purposes of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978, but not of other parts. You will be aware that I have been delving into the debates in Hansard covering the time when the Act was passed. In the debate on 2 February 1978 the then Minister of State, now Lord Judd, said in response to questions from the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who was speaking from the Opposition Front Bench at the time and inquiring about the general point:
The other point, also properly raised by the hon. Gentleman, was whether Parliament could amend a Bill to authorise an increase in the Assembly's powers. Again, the answer is 'Yes.'
Parliament would not be able to alter the words of a treaty, but it could require the Government in some cases to ratify subject to a reservation."—[Official Report, 2 February 1978; Vol. 943, c. 834.]
In the light of that statement and of the recent House of Lords decision, which indicates that Ministers' explanations and statements at the Dispatch Box are to be taken as evidence of the meaning and intention of legislation, will you consider the matter further? I am not asking you to give further consideration to my amendment. I ask whether section 6 of the 1978 Act allows this House to express its approval of some parts of a treaty but not others, which is the inference to be drawn from the statement by the Minister of State in 1978.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I fully understand and accept that you do not give reasons for your judgments and decisions about whether an amendment is in order. If amendment No. 443 was technically defective—as I and some others think that it might well have been—may I assume that a decision on a similar amendment, which was not defective, would not be pre-empted by your decision today?
I repeat what I told the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald). I have to have something in writing before I can rule. Obviously, if it is a question of a minor technical matter, such as English, guidance will be given by the Clerks in the Public Bill Office.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I appreciate your remarks in relation to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), which was similar to the starred amendment tabled by the Opposition Front Bench. Clearly, we should all like to approach you to seek advice on how a similar ploy might be attempted again.
On the question of the admissibility of amendments broadly concerned with the social protocol, we have already mentioned that our ability to table them again and have them selected, as distinct from their being found to be in order, relates directly to your decision to allow another debate on the issues surrounding amendment No. 27.
I appreciate, Mr. Morris, that last Thursday you made it clear that you did not intend to take an early decision on the matter. May I ask your advice on where we stand in relation to further amendments that might relate to the part of the treaty that we have now passed, in terms of debating opportunity? That would help the Committee. I do not want to press you beyond the hint that you may have given in your statements last Thursday and on the previous Monday, but we should like to know whether amendments that might be deemed in order would have a reasonable chance of selection if you chose to allow further debate on the general subject.
It is not the practice of the Chair to consider starred amendments until they cease to be starred, so those on the Order Paper that are starred will be considered on Monday.
We are still some way off having to consider anything to do with amendment No. 27. As the hon. Gentleman will know, attempts are being made by hon. Members on both sides of the House to produce more amendments relating to this broad area. It would be wrong of me to make a judgment at this point on whether other amendments—or how many of them—may exist by that time. The nearer we get to it, the better my position will be to judge whether to accede to requests for a further debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Following the ruling of the Attorney-General on amendment No. 27 and its consequences, I think that there was a general view that hon. Members would like a vote on whether the United Kingdom should adhere to the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty. Are you not against that in principle?
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You did not mention in your statement my amendment No. 445, which is related to amendment No. 27, but which, it is proposed, should be included in the Bill as an exception from the provisions of the protocols. Am I to understand that you are still waiting to make a decision on that amendment, or do you agree that it is at order?
Amendments Nos. 441 and 442 both exclude the French and Portuguese protocols. Amendment No. 400, tabled by the Liberal Democrat party, excludes the United Kingdom's protocol in respect of the European central bank—and, of course, our opt-out—so it is similar to amendment No. 27.
Quite apart from the merits of my amendment, do you agree that it would be invidious to distinguish between it and others of a similar kind.
Further to an earlier point of order, Mr. Morris. You referred to the need to have a written amendment to consider before making a ruling. I invite you to consider amendment No. 448 in the context of an appeal for a renewed debate on the social chapter. With your indulgence, Mr. Morris, may I take the opportunity to put before you certain factors to do with the previous debate on the social chapter which in my submission are relevant to your decision on whether to allow another debate—
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You will be aware that the Government are likely to be anxious to secure procedural motions later today. Through unusual channels I understand that the Government are in negotiation with some of the minor parties. Before any vote is taken today—
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In what I can only describe as a characteristically courteous note from you that I received today, you informed me in response to my request that you do not intend to call new clause 26, which I have tabled, for a separate vote. The new clause enjoys immense support in Scotland, but that is not my point of order.
What criteria do you use, Mr. Morris, in determining whether to select or reject amendments and new clauses for votes?
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Among the many considerations that you have to bear in mind when deciding whether to call an amendment, do you pay any attention—you will probably tell me that this is not true—to political alliances and shifts of opinion in the House? Is it conceivable, now that we are moving up towards Newbury, that the Liberal party is shifting its ground and pushing a bit harder against Maastricht? The party does not really mean that, but it might try it. Will you pay attention to that over the next three months?
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In view of the changed domestic arrangements that we would be required to make, I wonder whether you have had any communication from the Government to the effect that, after moving the 10 o'clock motion next Thursday, they will intend to take the debate through the weekend?
Further to my earlier point of order, Mr. Morris. Do you agree that if amendment No. 27 were passed, it would be essential for the matters in question to be complemented by provisions in the Bill, so that it would be quite wrong not to consider selecting an amendment that translated the effects of amendment No. 27 into the Bill? Parliament would then have instructed the Government, by passing the amendment, that the social protocol should be excluded from the treaty and, hence, from the Bill.
With this, it will be convenient also to discuss the following: Amendment No. 33, in page 1, line 9, after 'II' insert
'(except Article 158 on page 44 of Cm 1934 relating to the appointment of the Commission).'.
Amendment No. 34, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'(with the proviso that the Government of the United Kingdom shall before the nomination of persons they intend to appoint as members of the Commission seek the approval of the House of Commons to the nomination of those persons).'.
Amendment No. 99, in page 1, line 9, after 'II'. insert'
(except Article 146 on page 43 of Cm 1934 which relates to the composition of the Council of Ministers)'.
Amendement No. 168, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'(except Article 8d on page 12 of Cm 1934)'.
Amendement No. 221, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 189c(a) on page 52 of Cm 1934'.
Amendement No. 222, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 189c(e) on page 52 of Cm 1934'.
Amendement No. 235, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 138b'.
Amendement No. 236, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 138e'.
Amendement No. 393, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 138(c) as referred to in Article G on page 42 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 394, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 147 as referred to in Article G on page 43 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 395, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 151 as referred to in Article G on page 43 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 396, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 159 as referred to in Article G on page 45 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 397, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 160 as referred to in Article G on page 45 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 398, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'except Article 175 as referred to in Article G on page 47 of Command Paper number 1934'.
Amendement No. 430, in page 1, line 9, after 'II', insert
'(except Article 157(2) on page 44 of Cm. 1934 relating to the independence of members of the Commission).'.
Amendement No. 19, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 10, Clause 2 on pages 60 and 61 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 21, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 9 on page 60 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 22, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 10 on page 60 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 23, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 20a on page 62 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 24, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 20b on page 62 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 25, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Article 20d on page 62 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 26, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Chapter V on page 65 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 136, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'except paragraph 3 of Article 21'.
Amendement No. 137, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'except Article 20d'.
Amendement No. 410, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Articles 7 to 17 on pages 60 to 62 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 413, in page 1, line 9, after 'III', insert
'(except Articles 20a to 24 on pages 62 to 63 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 141, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert
'except paragraph 3 of Article 108'.
Amendement No. 142, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert
'except Article 107d'.
Amendement No. 414, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert
'(except Articles 107 a-c on pages 69 and 70 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 417, in page 1, line 9, after 'IV', insert
'(except Articles 160 a-c on pages 74 to 76 of Cm 1934).'.
Amendement No. 55, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not Article 137 in Title II thereof'
Amendement No. 143, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not paragraph 3 of Article 21 in Title III thereof'.
Amendement No. 144, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not of the second paragraph of Article 24 in Title III thereof'.
Amendment No. 148, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not Article 107a in Title IV thereof.
Amendment No. 219, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not Article 189a(2) on page 50 of Cm 1934'.
Amendment No. 220, in page 1, line 10, after '1992', insert
'but not Article 189b on pages 51 and 52 of Cm 1934'.
Amendment No. 285, in page 1, line 14, leave out subsection (2).
Amendment No. 426, in page 1, line 17, at end add
'with the proviso that Article 138(3) is fully implemented in the United Kingdom before the fourth direct elections to the European Parliament.'.
New clause 21—Rejection of common position—
This amendment is designed only to allow a debate. It is of a probing nature, and it will not be pressed to a vote. The debate is about the institutions that drive and control the European Community, and it goes to the very heart of the Maastricht treaty and its ambition for an economic and monetary union in our continent, balanced by developed political institutions that will ensure that any such union will be responsible not to crude market forces or faceless bureaucrats and bankers but to the people of Europe.
The debate also provides us with vivid evidence of the Government's real failure at Maastricht in December 1991—their abject failure on behalf of the British people to see that by downgrading democracy, accountability and European decentralisation, just as they dismiss and degrade such things at home, they leave it to others to set the agenda and to mould the future decision-making structures of the European Community.
It was in that historic failure to see the central importance of democratic, responsive, open and accountable institutions that the Government sowed the seeds of the present corrosive conflict that lies at the heart of the Conservative party. It is a shambles. There is a rabble that is out of control. The members have not the slightest atom of knowledge of where they will go in Europe or anywhere else. The 1922 Committee will be having its weekly blood bath in just over half an hour's time. The committee was once seen widely in the political world as the praetorian guard of Tory internal discipline. Week by week, it resembles a badly scripted Marx Brothers comedy.
Was that my cue? The hon. Gentleman is having a spot of fun. Before he goes any further, will he confirm that there is a total identity of views between himself and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on this issue?
I had hoped that the shambles on the Government Benches would have concentrated my hon. Friend's mind. When I said that I was moving the amendment for debating purposes, I thought that my hon. Friend would join me. The Lobbies are, of course, open to anyone. If my hon. Friend feels like voting to remove from the treaty the provisions that allow citizens of Europe to petition the European Parliament, I am sure that he will find some good reason for doing so.
The Government preach openness, but at Maastricht they resisted any move to open up the law-making process that goes on behind closed doors in the Council of Ministers. They were content to leave power in the hands of ambassadors, who meet every day as members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the European Community. They, the representatives, are the real rulers of Europe.
The Government preach democracy over bureaucracy, but, at Maastricht, they resisted any new powers for the European Parliament to supervise the increasing lawmaking powers of the Commission and the Council. Long ago, such powers left national parliaments well behind those bodies. The Government preach flexibility and the taking of decisions at the level that is closest to the people, but at Maastricht they fought against any change to the influence and powers of the unelected Commission. It remained virtually unaffected and unreformed by the treaty, which was signed by Ministers at Maastricht December 1991.
The Conservative party and Ministers preach about consolidating and entrenching the powers of member states, but their attitude to any vote on the social chapter in the House of Commons shows only too well that their contempt for democratic institutions at the European level is matched by their contempt for any dissent by Parliament.
The right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Minister of State, is serving out his notice with patience and fortitude. He is wandering along the Corridors like some Flying Dutchman. It is ironic that he and others a re telling us that democracy is at the heart of the Government's crusade. They then tell us, in effect, that Parliament can say anything and do anything and that they will ignore us when Divisions take place. They may think that they can get away with that, but the British people will not let that happen.
The amendment would remove from the treaty the power of European citizens to petition the European Parliament on issues of concern. There is no reason why we would want to remove that power from the treaty. Perhaps the briefing room in Great College street will produce a brief for the hon. Gentleman on the Opposition's amendments next time round. I am sure that we shall welcome the hon. Gentleman when he has everything correct and proper.
The Opposition's posturing is designed only to take the opportunitity to try to present an impression that the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench have a role in these proceedings. The whole thing is nonsense and a caricature of the parliamentary process, but that is the burden of the argument that lies behind all the Opposition's amendments. The Opposition are posturing so that they might have first gabble at the microphone to assure us that the Labour party is still in existence. The truth and reality is that a proper discussion continues, but it is a sham and nonsense for those on the Opposition Front Bench to come to an arrangement to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Minister of State.
The hon. Gentleman would say that in any circumstance. He knows, perhaps more than most, that the only way in which we can have a debate of any sort —I am sure that he is not suggesting that we should avoid debate—is to table amendments that are in order. The only amendments that will be regarded as acceptable by the Chair are those that seek to delete parts of the treaty. That applies even to those parts of the treaty that we support. We are unable to debate the issues that are of concern to Parliament—the hon. Gentleman and I, as well as the wider world outside—without using the mechanism of amendments that seek to delete parts of the treaty. We are reflecting the reality of the procedures of the House of Commons, not posturing.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will appreciate that it is rather too easy nowadays to make fun of the disarray that is to be seen on the Conservative Benches. It is manifest to anyone. We have only to nod to the occasional Conservative Back-Bench Member in the Corridors, or even beyond them, to learn how deep is the discontent with the right hon. Member for Watford—which is pretty well a permanent tradition in the Tory party—and a much wider group of people, including the Prime Minister, whom Conservative Members voted in only two years ago.
Ministers are now coming out in the open; they are emerging from the closet; we are hearing confessions; there are admissions that the Maastricht strategy was wrong all the time. On Tuesday, in the Financial Times, the admirable Mr. Ivo Dawnay, who is soon to leave to become foreign editor of the Major-loving Sunday Telegraph, told a startled world that the Government have
set up a high-level committee to draw up a British blueprint for reforms to the European Community institutions.
It "reflects", he says,
Mr. Hurd's growing conviction that the controversy over the Maastricht treaty is in part the consequence of 'reactive' as opposed to 'active' diplomacy.
Now that the Foreign Secretary has got rid of the right hon. Member for Watford, he can afford to be honest about how the Government got it wrong.
If we continue to read the article, we come to the triumph of exaggerated delusion over bitter experience. It states:
Mr. Hurd concluded that by promoting a British vision of 'a more flexible and decentralised Community', the Conservative party would be able to reunite after the internal strife provoked by the treaty.
The final concession, mea culpa or ultimate self-condemnation comes in the final paragraph of this short but devastating article. It reads:
A senior official said that Britain had failed to articulate its vision of the Community early enough in the policy-making process, fuelling the impression that 'we are constantly being shifted by foreigners'.
I do not know whether that is a reference to the right hon. Member for Watford, whose foreign connections are well known and whose linguistic skills have been tested even in the European Parliament, but it suggests that there is a confession in writing that the Foreign Secretary admits that the entire strategy was wrong and that out of the closets of the Foreign Office will come the new solution, the new blueprint or the new vision that will unite the hon. Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) with those who sit on the Government Front Bench, who take the Euro-fanatical position. The problem facing the Government is that they are deeply centralising in Britain as they are in Europe.
The hon. Gentleman has referred, probably fairly, to discontent within the Foreign Office—I do not know whether it is true —and discontent within the Conservative party. For all we know, there may be discontent within the Labour party. Does he accept that the real discontent is among the people of Britain who find that the Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen are opposed to giving them the opportunity to decide the future of their sovereignty? Would not it help to resolve all the long, tedious arguments and all the complaints that are made about different areas if the hon. Gentleman and his party, which has always fought valiantly for people's rights, said that the people should decide the issue, not Members of Parliament?
I have heard that speech from the hon. Gentleman so often that I could probably deliver it better than he can. It comes ill from somebody who is part of a party that supported the poll tax during a long period when the people were crying out for some sort of salvation from the pain of that. Championing the voice of the people is not something one hears with great authenticity from the Conservative party.
We have been around these debates for a long time and Parliament is the right place in which to debate the matter. First, the British people would not have known of the Government's contempt for democracy and for democratic institutions had they not had the opportunity of witnessing the volte face occasioned by the competing legal judgments on amendment No. 27. Secondly, it will be in this Parliament—it would be inconceivable in a referendum—that the people and their representatives will have a voice on the social chapter and the social protocol of the Maastricht treaty. There is no way that a yes/no question in a referendum would permit the opportunity for a separate view to be taken on the social chapter. That is only one of the many arguments that can be deployed against a referendum. However, the Committee will come to that issue later.
A large consensus in the Committee in support of the Bill and the treaty remains a permanent feature of these prolonged debates. Is not the answer to the assertion of discontent the fact that, as the hon. Gentleman noted, the so-called chief pro-referendum anti-federal candidate in Bath got 117 votes and the candidate for the same grouping in my constituency at the last election got 49 votes? The real discontent of the British public is that we are obliged, involuntarily, to spend longer on these debates than we would do otherwise because of the objections of a small minority of anti-Maastricht Members from both sides of the Committee who are deliberately prolonging the debates by unnecessary filibustering, so preventing us from discussing—
In European debates one must always watch when someone intervenes in order to help. I know that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) had that intention in mind. I go along with certain elements of what he said and I accept that the Labour party conference took the view that the Maastricht treaty as a whole was better than any of the available alternatives, but I do not go along with everything else that he says. I believe, and I have believed since the beginning of the process, that Parliament has the right and the duty to scrutinise in some detail the crucial issues concerned with that.
Although there are other issues that should be being debated here—the economy is paramount among them —the reality is that Parliament must still take its time over something that will have a direct effect on our future and the future of many people in Europe. I do not denigrate those on either side of the House—I have no intention of falling out with them at this stage, certainly not at this stage in the evening—who have a different view. They are entitled to put it and at the end of the day the votes will dictate the pace.
A moment ago my hon. Friend mentioned in passing the Government's highly centralised nature. Does he agree that, even though the concept of federalism is nowhere to be found in the English text of the treaty, the process of federalisation will be given a huge impetus by its ratification? That may be perfectly acceptable to elected representatives in the 16 German lander, or the regional governments in Spain, but, given this Government's distorted view of federalism, it gives us cause for considerable concern.
That depends on what is meant by federalism. That is one of the great problems with such an emotive word. In the past, the word has confused rather than illuminated debate. For many of our continental partners, federalism means precisely the decentralisation of which my hon. Friend speaks; it means a separation of the powers. If that is the context within which it is debated and discussed, we would all go along with that. We have no interest in a unitary European state. We want no united states of Europe that is built on some sort of central power. I do not believe that the majority of people in Europe have any interest in anything like that either. Their cherishing of their individual national identities and institutions is as great as that of anybody in the House.
I should like to make progress.
Following on the point that my hon. Friend made, the problem for the Government is that they are a centralising Government. They are contemptuous of democracy and accountability. We have seen that in Britain with their attitude to local government. That is mirrored by their contempt for the European Parliament's need to act at a European level as well. The European Parliament needs to act in areas where law making has left national Parliaments and disappeared behind the closed doors of the Council of Ministers. We have decisions on laws which affect the British people in their intimate daily life. Laws which take supremacy over all national laws are increasingly made by qualified majority vote.
My hon. Friend said correctly a moment ago that, in continental language, federalism means a derogation of power to the component parts of whatever entity we are considering. But does not that postulate the existence of a central entity in the first place—a European super-state, the very European union which is described as being established in the opening words of the Maastricht treaty? Is not the reason, as my hon. Friend rightly says, that we are so often at cross-purposes when we discuss the term federalism that we persist in thinking that it is a matter of passing limited powers upwards, whereas our continental partners have already reached the point in their minds and in practice of establishing a European union from which limited powers will be devolved downwards? Is not the real point that the Maastricht treaty establishes not a federation but a union, a super-state, which has not yet been revealed in its full concept to the British people?
I strongly disagree with my hon. Friend. I completely dissociate myself from that concept. If one were to believe some of the rhetoric— [Interruption.] The Minister of State should not be sitting there shouting about united parties, especially since he is about to disappear from the Front Bench of his own disunited party.
As the hon. Gentleman sought to entertain the House for about 20 minutes pointing out what he perceived to be divisions inside the Conservative party, it is only fair to point out that a number of his right hon. and hon. Friends are also seeking to prevent the United Kingdom from ratifying the treaty. With regard to my own fate, I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest. I intend to support the Administration vigorously, whether it be from this Bench or other Benches.
That is what the right hon. Gentleman told Lady Thatcher when she was leader of the Conservative party.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who, on an issue of principle, resigned as a Front-Bench spokesman and returned to the Back Benches. There is disagreement about Maastricht in each of the political parties. But we are not the party of government; nor are we suffering from the same chasm as the party of government, which has led it to the paralysed condition in which it finds itself today.
I shall allow the Minister to intervene after I have dealt with the serious point that my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham made, although it is probably more relevant to the next debate on subsidiarity.
I do not believe that the other 11 Community countries intend to create a European super-state, from which they will derogate a few minor powers. There is nothing to suggest that any of them have an interest or desire so to do. They believe that power should be taken to the centre only where it makes sense and is relevant, and that the majority of powers and influence should be retained at national level. That is why the creation of these institutions is so important and why the power of, for instance, the European Parliament is so relevant.
The House believes in its own role. It believes in its own importance in scrutinising legislation, but we have reached a stage, from which even my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham cannot seek to go back, where decisions are increasingly taken by qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers. Decisions about laws that will affect British people are taken behind the closed doors of the Council of Ministers and are never scrutinised again by elected representatives of the people. The Maastricht treaty's provisions on the European Parliament seek to correct that.
I am grateful. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) dissociated himself from the views of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). Is not it revealing, even on the terms of intervention of the hon. Member for Dagenham, that the assumption is that the Maastricht treaty seeks to derogate European powers downwards? Hon. Members who voted for the Single European Act, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), do not recognise that the Maastricht treaty introduces decentralising powers into what could have become a more centralised structure. The treaty brings institutions closer to the people, which is what makes us so keen to get on and ratify it.
I am pleased to act as a vehicle for debate in the Conservative party. I do not dissociate myself from the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham, but I disagree with his interpretation of what is happening in Europe. From my experience of meeting people from various political parties, but mainly from the socialist and social democratic parties, I can say that it is not their intention to move in the direction that my hon. Friend suggests that we are inexorably taking. It is important that we strengthen existing European institutions to prevent the possibility of such a thing happening.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the interpretation of federalism in the Federal Republic of Germany is not centralised union or a super-state? It is inaccurate, therefore, to suggest that the European concept was based on a centralised European super-state. The concept of Europe is clearly different in various countries, but the German federal model, which owes much to the democratic changes that were made by British and other occupation forces after the second world war, is one of decentralisation without a centralised super-state.
Does my hon. Friend further agree that, unlike last year's Conservative party conference, the Labour party conference held a vote on whether to endorse the Maastricht treaty? It said that the treaty was the best obtainable measure, whereas the Conservative party uses a clapometer to gauge how many people applaud Norman Tebbit and how many—
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. His words are extremely wise on both counts. He and I have attended many European meetings, at which we did not spot the federalising, centralising obsession about which some hon. Members speak. He rightly states that the Labour party agreed its policy on Maastricht in a democratic vote at its conference. That represents our policy, and we consulted the people, which I am sure would appeal to the hon. Member for Southend, East.
At its last conference, the Labour party decided to oppose a referendum on the Maastricht treaty and that, apparently, is the position of its Front-Bench spokesmen, but we understand that the Leader of the Opposition has now said that Labour would like a referendum on proportional voting. Can he reconcile those two completely different positions?
I appreciate and respond instantly to your interpretation, Dame Janet.
I always welcome an intervention from the hon. Member for Stafford. I referred to him in the House Magazine this week, because the week before last I attended a Scottish Statutory Instruments Committee considering the Lanarkshire enterprise zone, believing that I had escaped the dreadful world of Maastricht. I was horrified to see the hon. Members for Stafford and for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) sitting on the other side of the Committee. I thought that they were being permanently mobilised around the House of Commons to scare me, but I realised that they had to attend as a punishment.
I described them as the Hale and Pace of the Maastricht debates, not as a simple point of abuse but because I recall the famous Hale and Pace sketch, which I am sure hon. Members will remember vividly, in which they were acting the part of two cooks testing a microwave. At one point, to the horror of the watching audience, they took a cat and said, "The microwave is extremely useful for cooking cats: all you do is open the door, put the cat in, close the door and turn on the microwave. Here is one that we prepared earlier", and this frazzled object was put up to the audience of children and animal lovers, who were horrified by the low taste of the sketch.
It seems that some Members on the other side of the argument continue to hold up the frazzled cat as an example of what would happen if Maastricht were ratified, just as they held up frazzled cats in the debate on the Single European Act—
I now appreciate, Dame Janet, that to choose the day when the occupant of the Chair is a former president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Animals—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cruelty".]—for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was perhaps not a master stroke of timing.
The hon. Member for Stafford was in favour of the proposal and did not produce the frazzled cat on that occasion. However, horror stories are endlessly put about; it would he better to concentrate on reality rather than the powers of imagination.
I know that my hon. Friend wants to intervene, but I must make progress. I am sure that he will find something to object to in the rest of my speech and I shall be glad to give way to him at that point.
The European Parliament is not popular in the House. It still does not command wide popularity in the country or the same voting enthusiasm as domestic parliamentary elections, but few people who watch Europe would doubt that the calibre of its membership has improved considerably and that its role and influence have increased and will inevitably become greater.
We dismiss, ignore or ridicule the European Parliament, its members and its powers at our peril. We must set about ensuring that the role of its Members is built into what we do here because the future of our country in Europe is not an issue on which we can afford to delude ourselves into thinking that our two institutions are separate, independent or distinct for the carrying out of the tasks before us.
I wish to ask the Minister of State to answer one question. Following the Maastricht decision, it was decided at Edinburgh to increase the number of European Parliament seats by six. The Government have still not said how the seats are to be created, although we have been told that a new Boundary Commission might have to be instituted for the purpose. That will require primary legislation. This afternoon, the Leader of the House was unable to answer my right hon. Friend the deputy leader of the Labour party, but I hope that the Minister of State, who is more intimately involved in these affairs, will be able to tell us when the urgent need—urgent for all political parties—will produce an answer as to when the primary legislation can be introduced.
If the hon. Gentleman were faced with a proposition that the six seats were to be treated as added member seats, similar to the German electoral system, in order to correct the lack of proportionality in elections to the European Parliament, how would he react?
The Government have already decided that the matter will be decided by a Boundary Commission and by an extension of the number of existing seats. The Labour party is currently engaged in a major study of electoral reform, and I do not want to pre-empt its findings. However, speaking personally, I believe that the worst way of introducing any type of electoral reform or proportional representation would be to say that the creation of six seats was to cause a major change to the British constitution merely because we did not have time to establish a Boundary Commission. There would be plenty of time if the Government would start now and then consider the future role for European Parliament seats when we are clear about what will happen.
The European Parliament gains some new arid significant powers under the Maastricht treaty. Of course, that is despite animated opposition from the Government to any extension in European Parliament powers. In December 1991 the Foreign Secretary said:
We are not persuaded by the case … for adding again to the powers of the European Parliament".
However, it has new powers. It gains a new power of veto. The negative assent procedure is the Euro-jargon method of dodging the difficult word "veto", but, in certain restricted, although important, aspects of law making, a veto is exactly what the European Parliament will have.
That means that the European Parliament now has a total of five co-decision powers to influence policy in the Council of Ministers. All are complicated and dense and virtually all are incomprehensible, even to the Members of the European Parliament. The Maastricht treaty provides it with a new influence over the appointment of the European Commission, its President and its programme. There is a new right of citizens to petition the European Parliament, and the creation of an ombudsman to allow individuals to have Community maladministration investigated.
However, these powers are in no way sufficient to fill what is fashionably called the "democratic deficit". They in no way properly reflect the fact that there is more qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers—and there is a big extension of qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers despite opposition from the Government.
In Glasgow in 1991 the Foreign Secretary made it clear that the Government were opposed to
significantly extended qualified majority voting".
However, there have been 61 new extensions of qualified majority voting in the treaty signed at Maastricht. Decisions on laws are now taken and implemented without
any further reference to the elected representatives of the people who will be affected by them. That has to be unacceptable and, at the 1996 intergovernmental conferences, the accountability of the Council to elected representatives must be high on the agenda.
The European Commission came out of the Maastricht process virtually unscathed. Despite the fact that it is unelected and has considerable power and influence, and despite the fact that there is growing concern at its monopoly on initiating legislation, its powers were scarcely trimmed and it was not made more accountable. In fact, having been given the new power to fix penalties for not complying with European Community laws and decisions, the Commission has been handed significant influence and control.
It will remain one of the ironies of contemporary European history that it was largely Lady Thatcher's enthusiasm for penalties and fines against Governments for non-compliance with Community laws which will now give the European Commission, which she so hated and loathed, the most remarkable new power to enforce Euro-policy.
Is not that an example of the greater central powers which my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) cited a moment ago? We already have a single market and a single Council determining what that market shall be. We have a prospective single currency, a prospective single bank and a commitment, if the Bill is passed, to a single foreign policy. How can my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) deny that that is the most extreme form of centralism?
It is centralism only if the other institutions do not have the proper balance to allow the will of the people to be heard. We are creating new institutions where we believe them to be appropriate at a European level. There is nothing wrong with that. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has a deep interest in environmental policies. I am sure that he will agree that national policies alone on airborne pollution make no sense in the modern world. Laws relating to pollution, and air pollution in particular, must be made at a European level. The decision has been taken—
The decisions were taken, and we are now considering how Community institutions can be sufficiently strengthened to ensure that the will of the people is expressed in relation to what powers we, as a nation or group of nations, choose to concede at a European level. That is why so much of my speech, which has already gone on too long, has been devoted to the powers of the European Parliament. We cannot say that decisions have been ceded to the European level and, at the same time, say that we shall not give added power to the European Parliament —although the House has already given them away.
My hon. Friend is obviously ready to transfer to the upper tier of new authority being created in Europe virtually all the major powers of self government, and he justifies that on the grounds that there they will be taken at a more appropriate level. He cites the environment. If we are serious about the environment, we should look for a solution not at the western European half-continental level, but at the global level. Does my hon. Friend advocate our becoming part of a world government, part of an expanded United Nations? What would he say, for example, to the proposition that we should be better defended by a huge European army or a combined European defence force? Would he be happy to hand over our powers of self defence to such a body? Would he not prefer such arrangements to come under NATO rather than being taken away from us to be decided by a supranational law-making body?
I have been through all that before with my right hon. Friend. In the days when we used to agree, when we stood side by side in the internal battles in the Labour party of those times, we stood on defence and on protecting the cause of NATO, to which this country long ago voluntarily ceded one of the most important elements of sovereignty. Now, as ever, if there were an attack on one of the nation states in NATO the armed forces of all the nation states would automatically and immediately be put under an integrated military command. That is the principle—a principle which my right hon. Friend stood by, and one which we safeguarded within the Labour party at that time.
I believe, and I believe that my party believes, that we should cede sovereignty only where appropriate and relevant. That is what we have done in the past. Where sovereignty has been ceded, whether previously or now, we must ensure that we have created the democratic institutions in the Community that will give the people of Europe the right to say what the new laws will be.
I intend to finish my speech shortly, so, however tempting it may be to have a generalised debate, I shall resist the temptation. I see that my speech has already outlasted three different occupants of the Chair, and that serves as a reminder for me.
The debate on the institutions of the European Community is not simply about remote organisations loosely referred to as, and sometimes seen as, "Brussels". The institutions, their strengths, their representativeness, their openness and their closeness to the people of Europe will determine, by and large, whether the successful system of western European co-operation, from which this generation has benefited so much, will be sustained and will survive the new pressures facing Europe and the world.
The Foreign Secretary was right when he told the Financial Times that we needed a British blueprint for European Community reform, and that this country has been too negative and reactive, and not nearly constructive and positive enough, in what we say and do. The right hon. Gentleman was also right to say that as a result
we are constantly being shifted by foreigners".
He is correct, even if his awakening to that fact is belated. The drawing up of that blueprint, that vision—the definition of British interests in Europe—must not be the business simply of the committee combining Foreign Office and Cabinet personnel that the Financial Times tells
us has been set up. That task, which is so crucial to the future of this country, must include other political parties, and the House and its Committees.
One of the clearest and most depressing failures of the British role in Europe—here, we are markedly different from other partner states—is the Government's unwillingness to reach a national consensus at least on the objectives of Britain in Europe. We must look positively not only at what can be achieved at the European level—the whole of the European level—but at what the price of failure would be.
Today we face economic turmoil unprecedented in modern times, with soaring unemployment, deepening recession, destructive economic competition and beggar-my-neighbour attitudes all combining to leave the whip hand with the bankers and speculators. We also face a growing political crisis, which derives partly from the recessionary pressures, with political instability, vicious nationalism and pernicious forms of racism on the march. Those are formidable and immediate dangers for our continent. If we are ever tempted to ignore those perils and problems, we risk something quite horrible happening.
We must not underestimate what is happening in our continent and to our people today. That is why it is crucial that the creation and reinforcement of robust, democratic, popular institutions for European unity should remain the collective objective of all who care about the future of our continent.
The speech by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) showed a complete lack of observation and interest in what is really going on in the Committee. He made no serious attempt to tackle the real questions which lie at the heart of the provisions that we are supposed to be considering.
The hon. Gentleman blithely and absurdly referred to European institutions as if they are just another piece of paper that does not matter much. He says that the amendments are only probing amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) intervened in the hon. Gentleman's speech to say that Labour Members were posturing, but the hon. Gentleman's speech was not so much posturing as imposturing—an attempt merely to probe a matter which goes to the heart of the democracy of the House and of the relationship between the people of this country and their Government. The hon. Member for Hamilton and many of his colleagues make no serious attempt to investigate the basis on which the charade of the Maastricht treaty and the Bill has been constructed, or the deception that lies at its heart.
What is really taking place is a deliberate attempt to drain away the real powers of the House. Attempts—albeit fairly modest—have been made to sustain the overall thrust of a move towards a unitary state, as the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said earlier: towards the creation of a European union and the construction of all the framework necessary to achieve that objective.
My hon. Friend has postured pretty effectively throughout the Committee's proceedings on the reasons why he felt able to support the Single European Act. Can he posture a little further and explain to the Committee precisely in which respects the group of amendments under consideration breaks new ground that was not broken by the Single European Act, which he supported?
The simple answer is, because this is a gravitational pull, which is moving the whole process from the basis of the Single European Act, which was a perfectly reasonable basis to start from, into a relationship which has been materially changed by the provisions on economic and monetary union, especially those connected with stage 2. The Minister understands that perfectly well, as he has been a party to it throughout.
The Minister appeared before the Select Committee on European Legislation the other day. As will be seen from the transcript of the Committee's proceedings, he went to considerable lengths to attempt to divert attention from the provisions of stage 2 on economic and monetary union. He did so because he knows that they are having a profound impact not only in their gravitational pull but in cutting the umbilical cord through the creation of a European Monetary Institute, which in turn will require the Governor of the Bank of England neither to seek nor to take instructions from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House, and thereby from the people of this country —the people who put us all into our positions as Members of Parliament, and put the Government into power. If the Minister does not think that those provisions go beyond gravitational pull and actually create a completely new dimension, I should like to know what his answer would be.
I should like my hon. Friend to address himself to the question that I put to him. As he now seems to be alleging that the Maastricht treaty is the greatest constitutional outrage, theft and deception in his political lifetime and in mine, and as he voted for the Single European Act, in respect of which there was a timetable motion, may I ask at what point it became apparent to him that the gravitational force to which he refers was pulling him in the wrong direction? Was it just after he voted for the Single European Act, or when he fought the last electionßž
I am always very glad to observe a Minister receiving a rebuke from the Chair. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has retained his sense of humour, which was evidenced by his question.
The Single European Act is quite different from these provisions. There is a huge difference between what is provided for in the Act that we passed in 1986 and the enormous changes resulting from this treaty's impact on our democratic rights—not only the rights of Parliament but the rights of the country as a whole.
The provisions with which we are dealing commence primarily with the European Parliament. Following what my right hon. Friend the Minister said a moment ago, I should like to make a point about the way in which the powers being granted by this treaty to the European Parliament dovetail with the arrangements under article 138a, which says:
Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union.
Contrary to what the Minister of State has just said—as if this were a matter of no interest or consequence to anybody—what we have here represents a complete change from the Single European Act. The fact that we are dealing with political parties at European level—something to be regarded as a factor for integration—is a completely new dimension.
Let us consider for a moment the status of the European People's party in the European Parliament. That party's constitution is unashamedly and avowedly federal. Its objective is a united states of Europe. It has no doubt that that is the direction in which it wants to go.
I am delighted to be able to respond to that point. Indeed, I was just about to give my reasons for wanting to have nothing to do with the EPP. In fact, I do not want my party to be directly associated with any such organisation. The avowed objective of the EPP is a federal and/or unitary Europe. Furthermore, it is tied to the Christian Democrats, which has many policies quite at variance with those upon which we, as Conservatives, expect to represent our constituents.
It caused me considerable concern to note that the application for membership of the European People's party—the letter that was written about a year and a half ago by the then chairman of the Conservative party, Christopher Patten, with the full consent of the Prime Minister—was couched in terms making it quite clear that a marriage was taking place. These vestal virgins had been taken to the altar, and had consummated a marriage with the European People's party. Surprise, surprise—the EPP's press release came out in the middle of our general election, lest anyone should notice what was going on.
Thus Conservative MEPs are in a rather difficult situation. They constitute a political party operating at European level. This is indeed important as a factor for integration into the union. They are pursuing a policy—apparently endorsed by the Government: something that I find it very difficult to understand and hope may yet be unravelled—that amounts to support not only for integration and European union, as described in article 138a, but for the whole concept of a united states of Europe. In fact, some of the documentation goes even further by saying that the European union would be a state with all the characteristics of sovereignty. I view these developments with considerable concern, and I regard the Minister's remarks of a few moments ago as quite extraordinary.
If the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) is right in suggesting that federalism is decentralising, would it be a good idea to substitute federal union for even closer union? I thought that we had spent a great deal of time trying to get rid of federalism and introduce even closer union. We seem to be in a muddle in this matter.
Indeed we are in a muddle—some less so than others. My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Bangemann said that we ought to face up to the fact that we were moving into a federal system. In every European capital, one finds a perfectly straightforward and honest position. People in European capitals, like people in the institutions of the European Communities, say that they want and intend to achieve a united states of Europe, with a federal and/or unitary system. At least they have the honesty to admit that that is what is going on. I cannot understand why people in this country do not say the same thing. There are, of course, exceptions, like myself, who have every intention of resisting this all the way down the line.
The hon. Gentleman is always courteous, and is normally very clear, even if one disagrees with what he says. He said a moment ago that he is against muddle. That being the case, will he please stop using the words "federal and/or unitary". He has now used them twice. A system could be federal or unitary, but not federal and unitary. The two concepts are fundamentally different.
As ever, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his gentle rebuke. However, I chose my words carefully. It is almost impossible to give a precise definition of any one federal system. The division of the functions, powers and duties that are transferred upwards and downwards, particularly having regard to the concept of subsidiarity—which we shall discuss later—creates the very confusion and contradiction to which I am referring. The problem was not created by me; it is inherent in the way in which the whole package has been put together.
It is interesting that the remarks of Martin Bangemann, a vice-president of the Commission, have not been the subject of any controversy outside Britain. None of his colleagues, and no one in Germany, has said that he is wrong. He is saying out loud what others, for obvious diplomatic reasons relating to Britain, are reluctant to say. We should therefore be grateful to Martin Bangemann for warning us about what is involved in this treaty, which is why many of us are quite determined to vote against it at every opportunity.
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. The resolution passed by the Bundestag uses the word "federal" as the basis on which it is intended that the Maastricht process should be construed. A similar position arises on the other aspects of the argument.
We are discussing the powers of the European Parliament. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the powers of that Parliament should be enhanced, diminished or left as they are? Is it not the case that the Members of the European Parliament, when given additional powers under the treaty, will not remain satisfied with those enhanced powers? They will want more and more, which makes good sense from their point of view.
I am sure that it makes good sense from their point of view. The real question is whether it makes good sense in terms of the European Community. I re-endorse my enthusiasm for the European Community as it stands. My concern is that the entire treaty is about improving —or, as the treaty puts it, enhancing—federalism throughout the Community. The treaty seeks to turn what is basically a trading arrangement combined with political co-operation, which I can accept, into an arrangement that is based on a massive increase in the transfer of governmental power. I do not believe that it is in the interests of the European Community to pretend that we can increase the powers of the European Parliament in the ways that are intended. That is practising a deception on the people of Europe.
We should be creating an enhanced power for the national Parliaments and improving the quality of scrutiny of European legislation in a way that truly reflects the relationship between the voters and the Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), who, like me, was a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation, knows that perfectly well. The Minister is accountable to the voters and to Members of Parliament as a whole, and thence to the Council of Ministers. To produce an increase in the powers of the European Parliament, which will not work, is practising a deception on the people of Europe. Indeed, such an increase will make even greater the problems that we shall face as Europe falls into greater turmoil, when economic and monetary union and all the other aspirations are seen to have collapsed.
The treaty is perpetrating a fraud on the people of Europe. There is a pretence that the increased powers will fill the democratic deficit; they will not.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a pantomime, which seeks to give the illusion that there is a democratic element in the treaty. The very word "Parliament" creates that illusion. The European Parliament has no legislative or other powers of any substance. The deceit of the institutional arrangement is to pretend that there is a democratic input into the European Community. Maastricht does not fulfil that function.
There is a role for Members of the European Parliament—I do not deny that—but that role has already been defined, in terms that keep it under some control. The problem is that, under the new arrangements in the treaty, the position will become significantly worse. The centralisation of the process of economic and monetary union is taking away from the voters the power to determine their monetary affairs. The decision-making on the raising of revenue and the dispensing of public expenditure, which will cascade all the way down from the decisions taken by the unelected, unaccountable bank, is directly contrary to the interests of the voters, who will not have the compensation of knowing that they will be properly represented in the European Parliament.
The voters in this country will be properly represented in this Parliament only if we ensure that the centralising arrangements, and economic and monetary union, do not come about. Once we can see that economic and monetary union is to take place, we shall put a lance through the heart of the democracy of this country and deprive the voters of the opportunity to exercise a meaningful choice when they freely elect the people who decide these matters in the House, as Ministers, on behalf of the electorate.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, not least because, for the first time in these debates, I almost agree with him. If the solution in terms of the centralising tendencies is to provide more democratic control over the institution, which is what the hon. Gentleman is saying, is it not right to enhance the powers of the European Parliament, working in conjunction with national parliamentarians? The solution is not to criticise the very modest changes proposed in the Maastricht treaty which would enhance the ability of the European Parliament to control the activities of the European Commission, but to work more closely with the democratic elements in the Community.
I gave evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure six years ago, when I said that I thought that there was a case for more contact between Members of the European Parliament and Members of this Parliament. That point was entirely without prejudice to what additional powers the European Parliament might get. Contact, yes; increased powers, no. The changes wrought by the treaty will create a completely new dimension.
The creation of the unelected and unaccountable bank poses a serious problem for the effectiveness of the individual voters of this country and for their freedom to exercise their choice. The institutional problems are also tied up with the question of subsidiarity.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the essence of democracy is accountability? Each Member of the European Parliament is to represent 500,000 people. If we eventually have a far wider Europe of some 35 countries, as some of us wish, each Member will have to represent 1 million electors. Can we believe that those who seek to represent 500,000 people can do so in full justification? Will they make themselves accountable?
I find it difficult to represent 70,000 people and to be accountable to that number. To be accountable to 500,000 people is a sheer impossibility. There is the added danger that, in seeking to represent that 500,000, one would tend to meet only those who had most influence and power in the constituency, and such people would be manifestly unrepresentative of the whole.
I very much agree with the sentiment expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body). When people come to see us at our surgeries, there is direct contact which is immensely important to our constituents. With the best will in the world, it is impossible for Members of the European Parliament to perform a similar function.
There is a further problem about scale, as my hon. Friend rightly said. The remoteness of people from Parliament will be a massive problem. It is utterly irresponsible of those who advocate the new arrangements to duck the question, not to take part in these debates and to attempt to obfuscate and to camouflage what is really going on. When the central banking arrangement for the whole of Europe comes into effect, it will affect the voters,, and there will have been no compensation, for good reasons, in terms of an increase in the powers of the European Parliament.
These powers, important though they are, would not go anything like far enough for those who advocate a federal system. Therefore, the democratic deficit would be increased, but the amount of power that would be centralised and the lack of decision making by the voter in general elections would be enhanced.
Is not the size argument really nonsense? As things stand, it is not possible in this country for one hon. Member to deal with a constituency of 70,000 people and the problems they have; it operates only if there is some devolved system and some other involvement. Similarly, on a wider level, it is possible to have a much larger constituency, because, again, there should be devolved organisation for representing them.
That argument is relevant, in this sense. If the hon. Gentleman claims some consistency in seeking proper accountability at the European and the Westminster level, he must also seek appropriate accountability of the agglomerations of power at Edinburgh and Cardiff. If he says no to that because of his unionist credentials, that casts some doubt over the general argument that he is making.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am talking here, very simply, about the direct relationship, the contact, between the voter, the member of the public, who has the right in a general election to make a choice, and his elected representatives in this Parliament. My argument is that our system, with its imperfections, is as good as anybody could devise over a period.
The reality, within the general framework of the European Community, is that in our Parliament, by comparison with the French, we debate and discuss these matters. I do not want to go into too much detail, but there are hon. Members who would not want us to debate these matters at all. But this has enormous impact on the people we represent and it would be gravely irresponsible of us —as I think it is of those hon. Members, if that is really the view that they take—to say that those people do not wish to discuss matters which go to the heart of the basis on which they choose their Members of Parliament.
We owe it to them to look at these matters and try to unravel all this verbiage, to see exactly what impact it will have upon them, and then to vote accordingly in the Division Lobbies if we disagree with the arrangements that this treaty and this Bill propose.
I urge my hon. Friend not to move on too fast, but to come back to the word "federal" for a moment. I seem to remember that the dropping of the dreaded F-word was a considerable negotiating triumph, and I suspect that that is so. We now hear from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) that federalism is a decentralising concept. If there are those two opposing ideas, can my hon. Friend put his mind to why the Liberals should be voting in the same Lobby as some of our colleagues?
There are many mysteries attached to the basis upon which the Liberal Democrats will go into various Lobbies. We will discover, perhaps today or on Monday, exactly what they decide to do about a very sensitive amendment which is about to be debated. I sincerely hope that they will do what they honestly believe to be the right thing for their constituents, which is what these provisions are ultimately all about.
I am sure that my hon. Friend has noted, as I have, that the coalition between the Government Front Bench Members and the Liberal party on a federal Europe has now gone so far that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) is wearing a blue tie.
Even at this distance, I can see the European stars gleaming forth at me from that tie. I must say that, very fine tie though it is, it is not one that-I shall be wearing in the immediate future.
Before my hon. Friend moves on from the relationship between a Member of this House and his constituents, is it not true that at the moment, in most areas of our responsibility, if we find a problem in our constituencies we can bring it to the attention of the appropriate Minister in the House and, if our case is just and urgent, we can get something done about it quickly? If we are sufficiently diligent, energetic and forceful, we can. Is there not a glaring case of one Ministry where that does not apply—the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in connection with which most of the powers have been given away to the European Community?
I must say that the sense of powerlessness which is reflected quite often in the behaviour of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food amply supports the point that my hon. Friend has made. One of the great defects of this treaty is the failure to reform the common agricultural policy and all that goes with it. There was an opportunity; had we really been negotiating effectively, I believe that we would have regarded that as one of the most important things to get right, because of the point that my hon. Friend has made and because of the effects that this has upon good and honest British farmers.
Is not the fact that many of these issues, because of previous legislation, are partly decided in the European Community an extremely good reason for hon. Members who wish to assist their constituents to work very closely indeed with MEPs? That is the most effective way of putting pressure on the Executive and keeping an eye on what is going on in the Community. My hon. Friend is extremely lucky, because he is particularly powerful, having a very close relationship with the leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament and also with the vice-president of the European People's party, Christopher Prout.
I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point, because I have just been taking a few pot shots at the European People's party. I do not think that its aspirations to a united states of Europe fit terribly easily with the aspirations of the voters of the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, I do not believe for one minute that there is any reason for not having a reasonable, proper and mutual relationship between MEPs and hon. Members, provided that they can genuinely claim to be in the same party. Having said that, the relationship should be one of contact, not of an increase in the powers of the Members of the European Parliament along the lines set out in this treaty and this Bill, which are all movements towards, as the treaty says, a treaty on European union. I wish people would face the fact that what the treaty says is more important than some of the attempts to camouflage it.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way. He knows full well that Sir Christopher Prout not only would welcome more regular contact with him, but is not a supporter of a federal Europe. It is quite wrong and disingenuous of him to put it on the record that he is when he is not.
I will not ascribe views to individuals, but some difficulty is created by the marriage to which I referred, and which the European People's party and our own Members of the European Parliament have mentioned in a press release, in which they talk about a marriage between them being consummated during our general election, when the European People's party is quite clearly in favour of, and has the specific objective of, a united states of Europe. It is in its statutes.
The hon. Gentleman will know that I have not made any specific reference to the views of an individual. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) is pressing that point.
I am talking about the relationship between the European People's party and the Conservative party. That institutional question goes to the heart of article 138a which says:
Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union.
The European People's party is manifestly a political party at European level, which is important as a factor for integration within the union because it espouses a united states of Europe. Nothing could be clearer than that.
I wish, as always, to be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman in his dialogue with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). Surely there is a big difference between two members being members of the same long-established party and someone who makes a conscious decision to join another party which, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) said, has federalism as a clear objective.
I am bound to agree with the hon. Gentleman, because it is a deliberate change of direction. I cannot understand it. It causes me, and, indeed, many other people, considerable concern.
In an article in The Daily Telegraph shortly after the consummation of this marriage, Lord Bethell, who is a member of the European Parliament, set out in an honest way the difficulties which were inherent in that significant shift of position.
Nevertheless, it is an important matter and it goes to the heart of article 138a, considering the importance of the Conservative party to the people in the United Kingdom and those of us who, in terms of this treaty, would regard our position as firmly based on the principles of Conservatism and of the Tory party. In standing up for our constitutional arrangements and for the voters, we do not want to see these powers shifted in the direction to which the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber referred.
Voters will continue to insist on their right, not out of any theoretical, theological or even constitutional approach but simply because the basis on which we are elected represents a practical footing on which we can serve our constituents. When our constituents make decisions, the decisions are truly theirs, as reflected through Members of Parliament in this House and Ministers who form the Government. That will be taken away under stage 2 of economic and monetary union.
Stage 2 will come into effect on 1 January 1994. If the treaty is ratified, it is barely nine months until the provisions take effect. It is precisely for those reasons, and many others, that I object so strongly to the provisions of the treaty.
Does my hon. Friend believe that those on both Front Benches appreciate the full impact of the treaty's provisions? Having recently returned from Denmark, I know that the understanding of the Danish people of the impact of the Maastricht treaty is extremely different from our perception of its impact in the United Kingdom. Does my hon. Friend believe that those on the Front Benches realise the dramatic constitutional changes which will result from this amendment?
From the way in which the debate has been conducted, I have the gravest doubts whether that point is fully appreciated and understood. I would go further and say that the idea of our handing over those powers—the right of decision and the freedom of choice of our voters —to other arrangements would create a completely new dimension, which would break down the basis on which our democratic system operates.
It is a snare and a delusion that the transfer of powers could, in the context of the European Parliament, be conducted by such remote-controlled methods as having people from the 12 member states—it is intended to increase the number of member states possibly to 20 or 35 —sitting in chambers, all with completely different languages and not being able to debate matters as we do in the House but by reading out almost set speeches, and thus provide the democratic cohesive force for the people of Europe.
The whole system would collapse—not only would monetary union collapse, but the democratic system would not bear it. It would not be a proper democratic system. It would be a camouflage, it would be cosmetic and it would be an invitation to authoritarianism, partly because the powers would be conferred on unelected bankers, partly because the monetary union would collapse and partly because there would be no sufficient democratic system to sustain decisions. It would be an invitation to a form of fascism.
The hon. Gentleman's arguments would have much more validity and credibility if he did not belong to and support a Government who are in the process of privatising government in the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) talked about accountability of this Parliament to the constituents outside and the possibility of constituents coming here with complaints, yet they entirely support the process of privatising government in the United Kingdom. For example, all hon. Members know that one cannot go directly to the Secretary of State for Social Security with problems: one must go to one of the agencies which have been set up. At least my hon. Friends are defending the powers of this Parliament from a non-hypocritical base.
I shall take the hon. Gentleman back a little. Far be it from me to intervene in Staffordshire squabbles. Will not the hon. Gentleman have a little difficulty next year in the European elections because, having criticised the European People's party so forcibly, his party is in the process of agreeing to a joint manifesto with the European People's party, and because Conservative candidates will stand on that manifesto? How will the hon. Gentleman vote in support of those candidates?
The hon. Gentleman is raising a problem which is not of my making. I am merely pointing out the increasing contradictions of this continuing process, as I have done in the past two or three years in private meetings, party meetings upstairs and, indeed, on the Floor of the House. I have the greatest difficulty in understanding how the matter will be resolved, because at the bottom line there is a fundamental contradiction.
At the party conference, the Prime Minister said that we would not have a federal Europe—over our dead bodies, as it were. At the same time, we have an arrangement under which Conservative Members of the European Parliament will join the European People's party. Politics is full of strange chemistries and I have no doubt that somebody will try to resolve them. I simply regard the matter as extremely unfortunate and regrettable. I sincerely hope that the process, which has gone too far already, will be reversed.
Could the hon. Gentleman perhaps explain why the Conservative party spent so much time trying to join the European People's party and why the former Member for Bath was so determined to sign up to an organisation which, in its policy statements, committed its member parties to work for the federal Europe which the hon. Member for Stafford so detests? Could the hon. Gentleman give us his views on that matter?
My hon. Friend correctly says that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the party conference that we would enter a federal Europe over his dead body. Is it possible that my right hon. Friend's speech writer was misinformed when he wrote the speech? I understand that the Prime Minister also said at the party conference:
Immigration? Immigration policy is specifically excluded under the Maastricht Treaty.
Title VI says that immigration policy can be a European policy
on the initiative of any Member State or of the Commission".
The treaty says under article K that the Commission should be associated with immigration policy. So my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was misled at least once or twice by the speech writer who wrote his speech for the party conference.
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North reminds me of the constitutional adage, "The King can do no wrong," so we must assume that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been sadly misled by his advisers on this matter. But that also applies to the legal basis on which we have been proceeding with the treaty. The division of powers among the Parliament, the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Court of Auditors, all of which are matters within this grouping of amendments, depends on the legal and constitutional nature of the attributes which will be given to the various treaty articles, not merely as a matter of opinion but as a matter of law.
We are creating a legal framework. The European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction in the matters that we are discussing. There will be a new judocracy. Decisions will be taken by political judges. We shall undoubtedly deal with the European Court of Justice in a further group of amendments. On their own admission, the Government got their legal advice badly wrong in respect of the social chapter and the constitutional implications of amendment No. 27—whether it would wreck the treaty. As I have said repeatedly, and written on several occasions, the basis on which the treaty has been devised and sold to the British electorate is based on completely wrong legal advice.
The Maastricht treaty is a centralising measure and nothing else. It is apparent to people throughout Europe that it is a centralising treaty. They want it to be a centralising treaty. Yet we continually hear from those who wish the treaty to be ratified that it is not. They will say so until the moment comes when the final page of the treaty and the debates are closed—if that ever happens —but then we shall be told that of course the treaty had the consequences which we predicted. There will be no way of preventing those consequences.
I see the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) nodding his head. He knows that what I say is true. He has a distinctive contribution to make to our debates, because he knows and understands the current thinking in Europe probably better than anyone else in the House. I have listened to his interesting speeches with great care because he can tell us a great deal about what is really going on. He knows, as I do, that the treaty is a centralising measure to create a European union.
Many people do not want us to say a word. They want us to keep quiet. They want us to say nothing to the people of Britain. Yet we shall say what we have to say, because we are telling the truth about the treaty.
My hon. Friend said a few moments ago that Volker Rühe had canvassed in the constituency of my former right hon. Friend who sadly lost his seat at the last election. He also said that the treaty had been sold to the British people under a particular prospectus. Does he believe that there is any connection between the sad loss of the Bath seat by the Conservative party and the fact that the gentleman to whom my hon. Friend referred canvassed for our former right hon. Friend?
Far be it for me to imagine for a moment that that might have been the case. However, there appears to be some connection. I am sure that it was based on friendship and hope, rather than any comity of political interests.
My hon. Friend knows, as I know., that the anti-market candidate in Bath obtained about 140 votes. That answers the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton).
Does my hon. Friend accept that his misleading claim that the treaty is a centralising measure is a fig leaf for the fact that he voted for the Single European Act, which was, in many senses, a centralising measure, and which introduced qualified majority voting? The Maastricht treaty restrains those powers. The treaty of European union underlines that the treaty of Rome is no longer simply a pillar around which European union is built: there are intergovernmental pillars too. My hon. Friend has got it all wrong.
I am always delighted to take an intervention from my hon. Friend. He and I debate these matters in the House and in public meetings both within and outside the House. Clearly, we arrive at different conclusions. However, I wish that at least on one occasion my hon. Friend would be good enough to explain how the creation of a central bank for the whole of Europe, with all the powers set out, does not centralise. When he can answer that question—
I hope that his speech will address that question. It is impossible to prove that a central bank for the whole of Europe such as that devised under the Maastricht treaty is not a centralising bank, and therefore that the treaty is not a centralising measure. I have the greatest difficulty in understanding my hon. Friend's point, but I am perfectly prepared to listen to his argument later.
My hon. Friend's emphasis on the centralising nature of the treaty is sound. Under article 3b, once it is discovered that a matter is within the exclusive competence of the Community, it will not be possible to consider subsidiarity. So subsidiarity as a means of destroying centralisation will operate in a minute sector.
I agree with my hon. Friend. There is a double deception in the concept, first, that the treaty is not a centralising measure, and, secondly, that we can fall back on subsidiarity. As my hon. Friend will recall, one of the prime tenets of subsidiarity and one of its so-called attractions is that it will bring decisions closer to the citizen. Nothing could possibly take powers further from the citizen—his most important power is his right to vote —than to transfer the power to make decisions on monetary matters, which is accumulated in aggregate among the voters in a general election, and hand them over to unelected, unaccountable bankers. The whole thing is not only a contradiction but a fraud. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), for that and many other reasons.
May I say with all the sincerity that I can bring to bear that we forgive my hon. Friend for voting for the Single European Act. I remember the circumstances. We were told that the Act was all to do with the single market and nothing else. Now we are told that that was when we sold the pass and gave away the power. The Government told us one thing then and tell us another thing now. Now they tell us that Maastricht is not a centralising treaty. Do we believe them?
My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) says that he caught me on a raw nerve. If the day comes that people think they have caught me on a raw nerve on this subject, it will be a day to remember. It is not going to happen. I have no problem with the Single European Act. The Maastricht treaty is primarily about government; the Single European Act is primarily about trading relations.
The qualified majority voting and trading arrangements which are within the Single European Act were necessary, in my judgment, for freeing trading relations within Europe. I have no difficulty with that, in principle, in law or in practice. Unfortunately, the Single European Act and the single market have been in need of considerable improvement. Unfortunately, the opportunity was not taken in the run-up to the Maastricht treaty to create a level playing field and get rid of the wrinkles that exist. I am glad that the Select Committee on Trade and Industry is looking into this, and I hope that its report will be well worth reading.
We know how difficult it is for people outside the Committee to understand what we are talking about. I am deeply concerned about some very simple things which are being missed or confused, deliberately or accidentally. My hon. Friend is touching on one now. The common market, the single European Act, is one issue, mostly to do with trade. What we are talking about now is European union and political union. It is an entirely different matter. Sometimes Ministers at the Dispatch Box will say that Members of this House are in favour of the Maastricht treaty or that they want to come out of Europe altogether. The truth is that the views of most people in this country lie exactly between those two extremes. They want a common market, and they want nothing to do with the Maastricht treaty.
I could not agree more. There has been a significant smear campaign on the basis that some of us who want this country to be taken out of the single market. I find that extraordinary, because we all know that the arrangements, the treaty obligations, between the 12 member states lock us and the other member states into an arrangement under the Single European Act, which amended the treaty of Rome, from which the other member states cannot legally withdraw.
Therefore, without our agreement, we would continue to remain in the single market and it is a complete and utter disgrace that some people go around—I do not know who they are, but we hear about them—suggesting that those of us who do not want the Maastricht treaty to go through could in some way damage the prospects of British business by our being forced out of the single market. That is untrue and unsustainable. I see that the Minister of State is bobbing up and down, and I am more than delighted to give way, as ever.
In order to help my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), just in case any misapprehension is allowed to take root that the Single European Act was simply about the common market, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) who supported it will confirm, will he not, among the many other political objectives and achievements of the Single European Act is that it was there that European political co-operation, the beginning of what we now call the common foreign security policy, was set up. That is an achievement which our right hon. and noble Friend Lady Thatcher claimed as her own, in this very Chamber.
Indeed. I am glad to be able to confirm that I entirely agree; while my right hon. Friend was out of the Chamber I referred to that point. The point he makes—that the Single Act provides for a degree of political co-operation—is a provision to which I did not object at the time. My concern is that this treaty takes the whole situation to a completely different dimension.
Irrespective of this illusion that we are now going to create new pillars outside the treaty of Rome—which, as 1 have said in previous debates, do not touch the substance of the matter—that we would be locked into European guidelines and joint action plans and things like that which will deny us the control over our own affairs that we at present enjoy and which I think we should keep—I am happy to give way to the Minister again.
The general point I am trying to establish, as a help to my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central, is that it is simply an illusion to pretend that the Single European Act was only about the single market. It was about a great deal more than that; I have simply cited European political co-operation as one area. My hon. Friend is right to point out that it was inevitable, when such a huge amount of qualified majority voting was allowed under the Single European Act, that we should seek, and have successfully achieved in a number of areas such as transport and training, to claw back a simple majority and push it up to qualified majority voting. Admirable though the Single European Act was, we have discovered some defects in it, on which we have sought to improve in the Maastricht treaty.
I do not think my right hon. Friend has managed to do anything of the kind. What we have experienced is concessions dressed up as negotiations. The reality is that, although the single market, as my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk. Central (Mr. Lord) said, is at the heart of the Single European Act, there are a number of peripheral matters and some increased political co-operation which I was prepared to go along with. However, there was nothing of the kind in this treaty.
The Minister will know that title II of the Single European Act, which deals—in brackets, I may add—with the words "economic and monetary union", is based on co-operation. These powers are carefully constrained. Were they not, and if the Minister were correct in his argument, there would be no need for this treaty and for this Bill. If they did everything that the Minister is now claiming for the Single European Act, we would have no need of this treaty. Then we would really be wasting our time.
Some of us in this Chamber did not vote for the Single European Act even at that time, but we were then promised that it would mean, 1 think the term was, thousands of jobs for the United Kingdom. We now hear from our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, if we do not sign the Maastricht treaty, we shall lose thousands of jobs. Can my hon. Friend or any other Member quote any jobs which will be lost if we do not ratify the treaty? I do not know of any.
The one thing that would worry me, and does worry me, about signing this treaty is that the political union that is being created is a powerful motive force towards protectionism. If anybody, including the Minister for Industry who is about to pop up, imagines that the idea that we would be able to sustain the harm that would come from the protectionism of a fortress Europe, given the present state of mind in the United States and elsewhere—if those tariff barriers were put up against us and if we were to remember, as we should, that we are running a deficit of £15 billion a year with the European Community—and if, in addition to that loss, we were to find ourselves hemmed in by that Maastricht-type community, with all the protectionism that many of us fear, we would lose all that external and global trading which would decimate the very areas which are most prosperous in our manufacturing and other industries.
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) about jobs that might be lost. It is quite clear that the great success that Britain has had in attracting inward investment, particularly from Japan and the United States, is substantially attributable to companies from those countries wishing to locate in Britain because we are part of the single market and play a central role in the way that market operates and develops. I find it strange that my hon. Friend seems willing to ignore the almost universal view of industry that signing the Maastricht treaty would be a major advantage to industry and employment.
I find the Minister's intervention most interesting. Only recently, a senior diplomat from one of the largest Commonwealth countries told me that he was concerned about protectionism and the dangers to his country's investments in the United Kingdom, and vice versa, of our going down that route. However, perhaps I should return to the institutions and get away from the implications of the powers of the single market.
Was it not grossly insulting to our European partners for the Minister to make those remarks? We are and wish to remain part of the single market, and our European partners have treaty obligations with regard to the single market. If we do not sign the Maastricht treaty, how can the single market be taken from us? If I can move on to another point that was mentioned by my right hon. Friend—
Not this time. I think that you, Mr. Lofthouse, would appreciate it if, for a short time, we had fewer interventions.
I wish to examine the nature of the Commission. The idea that the European Commission is simply a bureaucratic body stuffed with civil servants is a gross misrepresentation. It is grossly over-represented by bureaucratic officials, but the Commissioners are all politicians, not merely civil servants.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I apologise for intervening so frequently in his speech, but the Committee will be interested to pursue this point. He continues to believe that the Single European Act was a good treaty, we could stand by it and it would serve our interests. He owes it to the House and the country, as he is advocating non-ratification of this treaty, to tell us whether he has discussed the prospect of sitting on the Single European Act with other member states, with people he can name or with our right hon. and noble Friend Lord Tebbit? If he is putting forward an alternative strategy for our country, he has an obligation to the Committee to tell us what it is.
On a point of order, Mr. Lofthouse. Some of us are finding it rather tiresome to have the debate focused on the irrelevancies of the Single European Act when the subject of the debate is clearly the institutions and the effect of the Maastricht treaty upon them.
It is most important that we should concentrate upon the institutional powers, but the Minister has a total obsession with the Single European Act, and he continually refers back to it. However, we are patient, and we have a good sense of humour. As the Minister is about to retire from his present post, he will soon have other things to occupy him, so we can put up with him, at any rate for the time being.
The Commission is not simply a bureaucratic body, because the Commissioners are politicians. We have already seen the difficulties encountered by Mr. Ray MacSharry and Mr. Jacques Delors and other Commissioners when they put their national interests ahead of their commitment to the European Commission.
I understand that we are now to increase considerably the powers of the European Commission. The Minister and others claim that we are cutting back on those powers, but that is not my impression. The Commission's right of initiative is in no way altered under the treaty. The idea that the Commission will somehow exercise less power under the new arrangements than under the Single European Act is a complete illusion.
A few moments ago, the hon. Gentleman urged us to be patient. As one of his more patient listeners here tonight, may I ask when he will come to the heart of the matter, which is the distribution of political power among the institutions and parliaments of the European Community? Any enhancement of the power of the European Parliament must to some extent lead to a diminution in the power exercised by other institutions, and perhaps national parliaments.
In that case, he has not been listening carefully.
The powers of the national parliament should not simply have been relegated to a protocol, an annex or an agreement at the back of the treaty. They should have been at its centre if the treaty were to have any self-respect whatsoever. The powers of national parliaments in relation to the European Community needed to be increased, not reduced. The encouragement that our Government were supposed to give other member states to increase the scrutiny and quality of European legislation by means of proper investigation by elected representatives of the people should have been a prime objective in filling the democratic deficit contained in the treaty.
The treaty is authoritarian, undemocratic and socialist in most of its characteristics. There is something fundamentally wrong with the basis on which the treaty was negotiated and the point made by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) is entirely valid. The object of the treaty is not to increase democracy in Europe. Far from it: it is to create an impression that democracy will be increased. But there is not real determination to increase the powers of national parliaments within the European Community.
If there had been a real commitment to it, all member states would have been required to scrutinise the legislation properly in the way in which we do in Britain, even if we do so somewhat imperfectly. In France, it is done by decree, and in many member states there is no serious attempt to investigate it. That system is a travesty for Europe, let alone for the United Kingdom.
I agree with the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow. For many years we have both been members of the Select Committee on European Legislation and know that other member states are somewhat less effective in their scrutiny of such legislation, even allowing for the fact that we could doubtless improve our efforts.
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), who is also a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation, has mentioned the Danish Parliament, and I agree that the Folketing is a first-class Parliament. The Westminster and Danish Parliaments are at the end of the queue for ratification because we are both determined to scrutinise the legislation properly, even though hon. Members on both sides of the House wish that we would not do so. They are trying to deny the people of this country the opportunity of a debate, because they are not participating in it.
The hon. Gentleman was not in the House in 1972 when the original European Communities Bill was enacted. Those who were will recollect that many of us tried to amend that Bill to provide the sort of safeguards that have not been provided. The amendment was defeated by the then Conservative Government.
The hon. Gentleman merely reaffirms the disgraceful way in which the Danish people have been treated. Their constitution allowed a referendum, which clearly should have dispatched the matter, but certain people were not prepared to accept the result, so they will have to have another. Dubious and questionable opt-outs are being scrutinised by lawyers throughout Europe, not least in Denmark.
It is a bit thick for the hon. Gentleman to say that it was disgraceful that the referendum result was not accepted, as his stand is a rejection of the referendum result in this country.
I am having great difficulty in understanding what the hon. Gentleman is saying—perhaps I had better pass on to another subject. He seems to think that we have had a referendum on the treaty. I would advocate such a referendum. Perhaps he was giving me an inkling of what he would really like. If we had a referendum on mere trading arrangements in 1975, I am sure that he would agree that we should have one on the Maastricht arrangements. I am indebted to him for his remarks.
The oft-repeated assertion that the referendum was held on trading arrangements simply does not stand examination. One only has to consider the publicity posted through letterboxes during the referendum, the White Paper and all the debates to realise that that suggestion does not stand examination.
The 1970 White Paper is the strangest joke to have been perpetrated on the people of this country. It is extraordinary to suggest that that White Paper was not riddled with deception. At the time, we were assured that there would be no erosion of national sovereignty, no federation and no loss of a veto. Even the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) must understand, from studying the provisions in the White Paper, that what we face now is diametrically opposed to what was contained in it. If I were him, I would not call on the White Paper to aid my arguments.
Is not that the issue that is causing all the confusion? My hon. Friend was making a point about the referendum, but that was held on the European Economic Community—the common market. The people of this country voted for a common market, and that is what they understand. They did not vote for anything else, which is Why—
Although my hon. Friend's argument is important and reasonable, because of the difference between the arrangements that we entered into between 1970 and 1975 and those in the treaty, the key point about this part of the Bill is that European institutions would be granted increased powers which would cover all aspects of government, whereas in the 1975 referendum we voted primarily on trading arrangements.
Another aspect of the question of institutional powers is the degree of independence of the Commission. Throughout Europe, institutional arrangements are moving towards more power for unelected and unaccountable officials, who will determine questions that should be determined by the people of the respective countries. That is one reason why there is so much anxiety about the Maastricht treaty and the way in which those powers have been growing. Unelected and unaccountable bankers, Commission officials and members of the Court of Justice are included in the provisions. Some Members wish to ignore that but the treaty significantly increases the powers of the Court of Justice, the Commission and the other bureaucratic institutions.
There is no question of the powers of the European Parliament filling the democratic deficit that is being created, and there is no doubt that the powers of bankers and the Court of Justice are increasing. Some hon. Members are dealing with such issues, but there is no evidence that Ministers and many other hon. Members appreciate the extent to which they are handing over the running of this country to people who have not been elected and will not be accountable—people who do not necessarily have any interest in the way in which we are governed.
The hon. Gentleman is trying to create the illusion that there will be no constraints on the shift in power from member states to the Community. He has not mentioned article 3b and the way in which powers will be constrained. I refer him to the words:
The Community shall act within the limits of the powers conferred".
The text also makes it clear that the onus of proof that powers should be removed from member states is on those who would remove them—not the other way around. That represents an important restriction on the ability to shift powers, and the hon. Gentleman has not referred to it at all.
The results that the hon. Gentleman hopes for from subsidiarity will not be forthcoming. By definition, subsidiarity assumes centralisation; otherwise, there would be nothing to which it could apply. It is a cosmetic exercise: it is a con trick. It is an attempt to give the impression that there will be a greater diffusion of powers to lower levels, whereas in practice the real concession is to the centralising tendencies of the unelected Commission, Court of Justice and bankers. There will be far less opportunity for subsidiarity to take effect than the hon. Gentleman would like. From all the areas in which exclusive competence has been granted under the treaty to these institutions and bodies, subsidiarity is automatically excluded, so there is little to which it can be meaningfully attached.
People are running around trying to tear up, for the time being, several European directives, but they are not changing the powers being granted under this treaty—a treaty which will greatly increase the powers both of the institutions and of the Community itself.
I regard this group of amendments as yet another reason for my decision, already taken, that I do not want us to ratify this treaty, which is centralising, undemocratic, authoritarian and socialist in all its main characteristics.
1 have wondered at times during this two and a half hour debate whether we have focused clearly enough on the question of the institutions. I shall try to be brief and to the point.
Against the background of a treaty of a federal character, which is what this treaty is, it is inevitable that the institutions set up under the Rome treaty and subsequent treaties and under the treaty of union should be strengthened. The powers of the union, the powers of the quasi-state, are expressed, after all, in its institutions. The institutions which most clearly reflect the federal character of the treaty are the European Parliament and the Commission.
I turn first, however, to the Council of Ministers. Both it and its powers are certainly affected by what is contained in the Maastricht treaty. Virtually the only safeguard that the nation state has against encroachment by Community powers under the Rome treaty is the unanimity rule—that is to say, the rule under which the agreement of all Ministers representing member states has to be obtained before a directive becomes law and before policy is implemented.
The trouble is that the unanimity rule is being weakened all the time—first, and unfortunately, under the Single European Act. I shall not go into a great debate about that, but under it the rule was removed from a whole range of areas, especially those affecting the creation of a single market.
The Maastricht treaty removes the unanimity rule from areas of policy to which it used to apply—and from all the areas listed under article 3, for which new competence is handed over to the European Community.
I respect my hon. Friend's knowledge of the treaties, but I think that he will find that, apart from the famous Gaullist Luxembourg compromise, the treaty of Rome contains far more articles requiring the unanimity rule than articles requiring qualified majority voting. We need not argue too long about that, however. The important thing is to note the new areas of Community competence.
First there are the old ones: agriculture, fisheries, transport, common commercial policy, free movement of goods, persons and services. Then there are the new areas: economic and social cohesion, environment policy, research and technology development, development of trans-European networks, health protection, contribution to education and training, policy in the sphere of development co-operation, contribution to the strengthening of consumer protection, and energy, civil protection and tourism measures. Nearly all these are new policy areas brought under the qualified majority voting procedures as developed under articles 189b and 189c of the Maastricht treaty.
It follows that the ability of a Minister on the Council of Ministers to veto developments, given the new arid wider areas of treaty competence, has been removed. Ministers can no longer veto or demand unanimity. Wherever qualified majority voting is agreed, the powers of national Parliaments to hold Ministers to account are virtually abandoned, because Ministers can always turn up and say, "I did my best but I was outvoted by a qualified majority vote; I could not stick to the position which I know my own Parliament wanted me to retain."
As we are to deal separately in another debate with economic and monetary union and with all three stages thereof, I need not do more than mention the qualified majority voting in economic and monetary union, which is also enshrined in the treaty. That union covers matters of great importance.
I want to mention the powers of the Commission and also to focus mainly on the European Parliament. The powers of the Commission are also extended to all the new competences established under the Maastricht amendments to the Rome treaty. The Commission retains its powers as sole initiator of policy and its responsibility for enforcement. In one area, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) mentioned, under stage 3 of economic and monetary union the Commission is given powers of a formidable kind. They are powers to propose fines and penalties for member states when it is held that they are in breach of treaty obligations. That will lead to an interesting shift in the power relations between the Commission and the Council of Ministers.
The most important changes, however, are in the powers and procedures of the European Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton began referring to the right of petition and the establishment of the office of ombudsman. Those are trivial powers, and I do not believe the European Parliament needs the Maastricht treaty to establish such rights and offices. Indeed, petition rights are already in force, so I thought it rather odd to concentrate on the most trivial of all the increased powers given to the European Parliament.
The more important aspects of the European Parliament's powers are the procedures under articles 189b and 189c of the treaty. Under article 189b, the so-called co-decision procedure greatly elevates the powers of the European Parliament in relation to the Council of Ministers and to the Commission. Henceforth, under article 189b—this includes those matters which are to be resolved by the procedures set out in the article—the European Parliament will have the right to reject a Council proposal, whether it is a majority, a qualified majority or a unanimous decision. The Parliament will have the right to reject the proposal outright by means of a majority vote of its Members. After all procedures have been exhausted, the European Parliament still possesses the right—on Third Reading, as it were—to vote down a Council proposal.
As the Committee will know, a conciliation committee is to be established, with equal numbers from the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, to negotiate differences between the two bodies when amendments have been proposed and not accepted. This represents a substantial shift of power in favour of the European Parliament.
Extension of powers will not stop there. It is interesting and significant to read paragraph 8 of article 189b, which states:
The scope of the procedure under this Article may be widened, in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article N(2) of the Treaty on European Union, on the basis of a report to be submitted to the Council by the Commission by 1996 at the latest.
There we have it. By "1996 at the latest" there will be brought forward to the Council a proposal for changing or developing further the procedure of co-decision. Undoubtedly, the Council will be in favour of enhancing the powers of the Parliament.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that in practice the powers of the European Parliament to which he refers, because they are negative, are extremely difficult to exercise? If the European Parliament rejects a legislative proposal, that is the abandonment of, probably, many years of legislative effort. The existing powers to reject legislation have seldom been exercised.
The European Parliament has the power to stymie the Council of Ministers. I think that I agree with my hon. Friend because I believe that this will be an unsatisfactory procedure. I am not in the least surprised, therefore, that provisions are already in place to allow for further amendment and development, which I think will be along the way that I have suggested—increased power for the European Parliament.
Given the importance of the new procedure for co-decision under article 189b, and taking account of the long periods—three months and an additional six weeks—allowed for reaching agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, I and others have tabled new clause 21, to which I draw the attention of the Committee. It requires that a report shall be made to the United Kingdom Parliament whenever a common position agreed by the Council of Ministers has been rejected by the European Parliament but is still within the negotiating frame. The new clause will give the House of Commons a decent opportunity to question and challenge Ministers on their policy and on the new policy that they intend to adopt in the light of a veto, or the threat of a veto, by the European Parliament.
I ask my right hon. Friend a question from the pro-European position. Given his experience as a distinguished Secretary of State for the Environment—one of the successful ones of the past two decades—does he accept that there is an argument for having a European-based policy on pollution which can be enforced? We know from the east German experience that pollution knows no frontiers.
The strongest case is the environmental one, but I put it to my hon. Friend that there is an entirely unthought-through division, as it were, of responsibilities for environmental matters now in the hands of the Community which should reside in the United Kingdom. We must decide whether we are to have more roads running through the United Kingdom. Similarly, we must determine our policy towards flora and fauna and the protection of them. That is our responsibility, and we should exercise it. Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to do so. We should not hand over such powers to a European body.
On the other hand, there must be some shared responsibilities—for example, the regulation of shipping in the channel. I suspect, however, that most of the environmental matters that my hon. Friend and I are concerned about are not for determination by the Community. That is because they are international matters. We must reach out and make major decisions and agreements on the ozone layer and other issues that concern us as citizens of the United Kingdom, of western Europe and of the world. We have a responsibility, and that should influence us. The idea that all these matters should be crammed into or transferred to a European body is nonsensical.
I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, who is touching on something that is of importance to the Committee and, indeed, to the House of Commons. He is talking about how the House of Commons will scrutinise and undertake its level of responsibility in all matters European. The right hon. Gentleman will know that it is rare for an element of procedure to be included in an Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman's argument surprises me because he knows that appropriate Standing Committees have been established, which are doing their work. The House of Commons may wish to improve on those Committees as it gains experience. I would be surprised to see a piece of legislation—an Act of Parliament which is essentially a European Act of Parliament to do with Europe—dictating the procedures of the House of Commons. That which the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting may be sensible—indeed, it is the proper route for the House of Commons to take—but it does not need to be told to follow it in an Act of Parliament. I would contend that such a measure would slightly inhibit the House of Commons.
The Minister is advancing an argument similar to the one that he adduced earlier when he said that he did not understand why any Act or any intervention should be introduced or made to take place which bore on our procedures, even if it meant the simple requirements of an annual report and a debate. I do not agree. The accountability of Ministers when operating in a European context should be made plain at an early stage. I agree that much can be done by implementing the procedures of the House of Commons, and those procedures should be clear in our minds at that early stage.
No, I shall be rigorous.
I have quoted from articles 189b and c, which are important, but I want to look further ahead. Anyone who has followed the debates and resolutions of the European Parliament can have no doubt about its ambitions for the structure of the European union which it so tirelessly advocates.
In a resolution passed on 7 April 1992—after the Maastricht treaty had been signed in Maastricht—the European Parliament gave its verdict on the treaty in one of the enormously lengthy resolutions that it passes and clearly foreshadowed its future course of action. The task, as it put it, was to
transform the network of relations between the peoples and member countries into a European Union on a Federal basis, based on a draft constitution drawn up by the European Parliament in co-operation with the National Parliaments.
The resolution was approved by a clear majority of the European Parliament, to which the Institutional Affairs Committee, as it is called, reported.
My right hon. Friend draws attention to the recent resolution on the intentions of the European Parliament. However, since 1979 when the directly-elected Parliament came into existence, there have been similar resolutions on a number of occasions, the most famous of which resulted in the adoption of the Spinelli report in the early 1980s, which set out a blueprint for European federalism and is the basis of the Single European Act and the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. There is no doubt at all about the intentions. Whether one agrees with them is another matter.
It is important that we do know what the intentions are. Federalism is not the recessive part of the European movement, but the dominant part. Federalism is openly espoused on the continent of Europe in virtually every country and it has the backing and blessing of most governmental leaders of the member countries of the EC.
The resolution continued—I quote again because it is important—as follows:
to begin already preparations for a new revision of the Treaties which would aim to eliminate the shortcomings of the Treaty of Maastricht.
No time is to be wasted. Maastricht has not yet been ratified. Finally, it instructs its Institutions Committee
to complete its preparation of a draft constitution for the European Union.
That was in April 1992 and the European Parliament has moved on since then. The main work has been done by its so-called Institutions Committee and its report on "Structure and Strategy" for European union was agreed by the European Parliament as recently as 20 January this year. Once again, I think that the House should be given some information on the content of that document.
My right hon. Friend will know, because we were at the same meeting a few weeks ago with members of the institutions committee of the European Parliament, that that was the aspiration. As my right hon. Friend said earlier, that had clearly been the aspiration for many years. Nevertheless, it is clear that a change in the treaty will require an inter-governmental conference and a process in 1996 or 1997.
Yes, we know that. I am simply making the intention plain to the House—the fact that it has the support of the majority of the European Parliament, the fact that the same federal thrust is backed by the Heads of Government of most of the countries of the EC, and that it is perfectly plain to everyone except the Government and their supporters that that is the real intention. All the people who are serious about federalism in Europe and want it do not deny that for a moment. That is true of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston). He is a federalist, recognises federalism when he sees it and does not try to hide the consequences of what we are doing. I much respect his position, but I have no respect at all for those who pretend and dare not face the British people and the House with the real purposes that they have in mind.
The First Deputy Chairman:
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that that is not a point of order for me. It is a matter for the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) whether he gives way.
I want to develop some of the main points contained in the document on "Structure and Strategy" for European union. It is of interest to the House to know the following. With regard to the Council of Ministers, the document says:
its development into a second legislative chamber in the sense of a genuine chamber of states and alongside the European Parliament must be accelerated, with it becoming a standing body of the Union, its meetings on legislative matters held in public and taking majority decisions and co-decisions and on an equal footing with the European Parliament.
Those words are particularly important. So the Council becomes a second legislative chamber.
With regard to the Commission, the document says:
"it must hold Executive power in the European Union and as such must manage the Union's affairs on the basis of the European Union's Laws"—
and so on. There is no question about the Commission. Its powers are there. It is to be the executive and the authority.
With regard to the European Parliament itself, the document says:
it must collaborate with the Council on the basis of equal rights and powers in all spheres in which the European Union has legislative competence and with respect to all decisions concerning revenue and expenditure.
Further, and most significantly, it must have
considerably enhanced control over Foreign and Security policy …it should be given the right of assent with respect to all fundamental common foreign and security policy
decisions, in conclusion of international treaties and all decisions adopted unanimously by the Council in the framework of the European union.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) reminded me that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently took evidence from five members of the European Parliament representing the institutions committee of the European Parliament. It became clear from our exchanges that they were envisaging a federal constitution for the European union, modelled closely on the federal German state with the nation state occupying the role of the German Lander, with the European Parliament fulfilling the role of the Bundestag and representatives of the nation state serving in an upper chamber similar to the Bundesrat. That is the very shape and outline not merely of a constitution but of a familiar federal structure. That is quite interesting. As I say, that was the MEPs' strongly supported view.
We had some exchanges earlier—I shall not go far into the subject—on subsidiarity and people misunderstanding what is meant by federalism. There is no misunderstanding of what is meant here. It is similar to the German or American systems which we know all about. There is a national assembly, in the case of the Americans, and there is the Bundestag in the case of Germany. Those are the sovereign parliamentary bodies. In both cases, in the Senate and the Bundesrat, there are representatives of the 51 or so states and the different Lander. It is a familiar picture.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that comparison falls short of the essential components? He has mentioned the Bundestag, the Bundesrat and the Lander, but there is no Bundesregierung—no central government entity. The sovereign member states represented in the right hon. Gentleman's equivalent of the Bundesrat or the upper house, a legislative and policy-forming body, are the sovereign member Governments working freely and voluntarily together in agreed treaty structures, but they remain essentially sovereign member Governments.
The only thing missing from the picture is the government. That is the thing that we have not located. We have the two houses. We have the federal distribution of power, and there is no misunderstanding about what federalism is—the transfer of major strategic powers to the new level of government and central institutions such as banks. The missing link is the government. It is clear that the European Parliament and its members who are considering the matter are still uncertain whether the Commission will remain the executive of the new state and whether the President of the Commission is to be drawn, like the German Federal Chancellor, from the European Parliament—that is certainly one road which some members of the institutions committee strongly advocate —or whether he should be elected directly like an American president. The missing component in the federal structure is the government itself and the authority that the presidency derives either from direct election or from the merging, being one of the members of the majority party in the European Parliament.
That is how the majority of MEPs see the future. They have at least one coercive weapon, the use of which is actively being discussed now: they have the right of approval or veto on new member states seeking to join the EC. The European Parliament is saying that enlargement, which it knows certain countries, including the United Kingdom, are keen on, even of the EFTA applicant countries, will not be allowed unless the federal constitution of the union that it is drawing up, or something close to it, is adopted.
No, not for the moment.
All that is made clear in the report of the Institutional Affairs Committee, to which I previously referred, in which it called for
an inter-governmental conference to be convened before 1996 and before any decisions are taken on enlargement and to be given a brief to start this process with the involvement of the European Parliament, on the basis of the draft Constitution of the Union in such a way as to ensure that the Union can absorb other European States while strengthening its cohesion, its ability to take decisions and its democratic legitimacy.
I am not pursuing ghosts or phantoms. I have a little more respect for the European Parliament than the right hon. Gentleman. I occasionally listen to what it says and read the resolutions that it passes. I reject many out of hand, but this report was prepared by the Institutional Affairs Committee and approved recently by a majority in the European Parliament. In addition, we know that the treaty allows for a new intergovernmental conference by 1996. Under article 189b it has already taken on board the fact that the arrangements agreed at that conference will not be sufficient and will have to be developed further. The Minister cannot say that these are ghosts. That will not do. It is time that he spent a little more time thinking about what is going on in Europe instead of telling us a lot of rubbish about how he saved the day for Britain with his clauses on subsidiarity and his two pillars to the treaty.
Does not the European Parliament have one overriding objective—to acquire more power? Whatever powers it has it will use to acquire more power, and if we give it more power under the treaty it will be in a stronger position to gain even more power.
It works slightly differently. We are persuaded to agree to an increase in the competence of the Community by which we lose control over our policies, especially those decided by qualified majority voting. We then say that our Ministers are no longer responsible to our Parliament, at which point the European Parliament says: "There is a democratic deficit, which we should be looking after." That is part of the process of transferring power and the ambitions of the European Parliament. I do not blame it for having such ambitions, which are understandable. Indeed, it would be soul-destroying to be a member of the European Parliament unless one wished to see the emergence of a federal state in western Europe controlled largely by the European Parliament.
I am a little concerned that, in describing the Institutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, my right hon. Friend is unintentionally misleading hon. Members. For many years, the Institutional Affairs Committee has proposed a series of blueprints—the Spinelli report, which has been mentioned already, was an example—but what resulted in practice was far short of the blueprint that my right hon. Friend describes. Perhaps, to some extent, he needs to put in context what has happened.
My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but he must see the Maastricht process in the context of the profound historical developments which have made the thrust to federalism the dominant factor in the Community. The two Germanys have joined together, and the united Germany wishes to enmesh itself in the rest of western Europe. The French, out of fear of a united Germany, are all too anxious to place cords and restraints on Germany, and therefore are prepared to abandon their "Europe des patries" position and advocate federalism in a way which seemed inconceivable three years ago. Against that background, we must judge the movements and initiatives of the European Parliament.
The European Parliament plans to prevent enlargement of the Community by refusing to sanction a further treaty which admits new members. The Institutional Affairs Committee specifically says that it
disagrees with the view expressed in the conclusions of the Lisbon European Councils of 27 June 1992 that enlargement of the Union to include those EFTA states wishing to accede should be completed without further institutional reforms.
The European Parliament has rejected that. The Lisbon conference recommendation or assertion that it would proceed with enlargement before institutional reform is now explicitly rejected by the Institutional Affairs Committee.
If Maastricht extends qualified majority voting, and thereby the authority of the Council of Ministers, is the federalist dream of some MEPs really on the cards? This is very important to someone such as me who is opposed to Maastricht but who supports a federal Europe. I might be backing the wrong side. Perhaps I should support Maastricht to realise that federalist dream.
I do not know how best to advise my hon. Friend. I think that he has more reason to be pleased with the Maastricht treaty than I have. The thrust towards a federal union certainly is in the Maastricht treaty.
I have asked myself the question, as others must: why not have a federal western Europe? If matters currently in the control of our Parliament are being transferred to European institutions, why not give additional power to the European Parliament? I am aware that it has many institutional problems, but does it have the same capacity to develop, change and exercise control and democratic accountability as hon. Members? I rather think not, but —this is the important point—hon. Members are prepared to abide by majority decisions because we all represent the same political community. The community of the United Kingdom gives legitimacy and authority to the laws that are made and passed in Parliament. We accept that that is part of the implicit contract. We are British citizens, and we accept the legitimacy of the laws that are democratically made under due process in our Parliament.
The lie at the heart of the European community is that it is a political community of the same kind when it is riot: we are close, we are allies, we are friends, but we are not part of the same citizenship and involvement that we have and believe in. Because that is the lie at the heart of the Community, Britain should never give up to a majority in the European Parliament the powers that we now exercise in our own Parliament.
The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) has made some important points. He has argued that there is a major tendency towards a federal Europe. That tendency is undoubtedly present in Europe. There should be no doubt or difference between us about that thrust, especially in the European Parliament.
However, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reflect on the fact that the Maastricht treaty undoubtedly cuts back some of the excessive majority powers given under the Single European Act. That fact is illustrated in many of the clusters of amendments that we have considered and in the clauses themselves.
The treaty establishes two separate arms of the union —that on foreign affairs and defence policy and that on home affairs, justice and immigration matters. Those arms are not subject to the Commission. They are separate and they are the instruments of national parliaments and the Councils of Ministers. What is so remarkable about the Maastricht treaty is that, in spite of the federal tendencies, whose existence cannot be doubted, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues fought back. The Government have begun to push the European Community in the opposite direction, a direction of which I think the right hon. Gentleman would approve. They have enabled parliaments to reassert and reinforce their power over the Community and the Council of Ministers and, indeed, to join together in understanding the European union.
My hon. Friend made a fairly bold statement. He said that the Maastricht treaty cut back on the existing powers of European institutions. Perhaps he could give some examples. He then said that the great success of the pillars was that the Commission was not involved in foreign and defence policies or in home affairs policies. However, if he reads the treaty again, he will see that the Commission has the rights of proposal in all areas of policy and that it should be fully associated with all areas of policy. It is stated that the European Parliament shall be fully associated with the pillars, not only with the existing treaty. I get down on my knees and beg my hon. Friend to read the treaty again, because I am sure that he has not fully understood its implications.
I shall not be tempted down that path, because it would distract me from the speech that I wish to make. However, I shall respond to my hon. Friend's comments about the pillars. The pillars are established separately from the treaty of Rome. They are separate from agricultural matters and other sectors in the treaty. The Commission does not have the sole right to institute legislation or make proposals. I acknowledge that there is a separate secretariat to it in the Council of Ministers, so the Commission does not provide the civil service for those pillars, but my hon. Friend must accept that the pillars are established separately.
The point at which I am driving is that, contrary to what the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney says, the establishment of the pillars shows a move away from the federal Europe that he so fears.
I did not want to interrupt my hon. Friend when he was rightly admonishing the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) for making such a negative and old-fashioned speech. However, my hon. Friend said that the Maastricht treaty would rein in the majority voting syndrome in the Single European Act. Is that correct? The majority voting proposals in the Single European Act applied only to the first segment of the legislative component, the single market. In that context, during the negotiations between Governments, the British Government were arguing enthusiastically for the acceptance of majority voting. Indeed, they were persuading other Governments to accept it. In that sense, Maastricht builds on the majority voting in other aspects, rather than reducing it from that one component in the Single European Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is right to say that majority voting was introduced to get the single market established, and it succeeded. He and I are both members of the Select Committee on European Legislation, so we know that majority voting has been extended by various means to cover matters that we had not anticipated. It is apparent from the treaty of Maastricht that the Prime Minister and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), have reined it in and redefined it in several places. I have not rehearsed the exact instances and I shall not consider them in detail now, but the Minister of State has outlined them for the Committee many times during our debates on several clusters of amendments.
I want to deal with political parties.
With reference to foreign policy, article J.5(3) states:
The Commission shall be fully associated in these tasks.
With reference to justice and human affairs, article K.4(2) states:
The Commission shall be fully associated with the work of the areas referred to in this Title.
It seems that the Commission has not been squeezed out because it has exhaustive powers.
The Commission is in a very different position vis-a-vis the two pillars of foreign affairs and security and home affairs and justice. The pillars, as we have called them, are closely associated, but they do not have the sole power of initiation.
My hon. Friend has just said that the Commission is fully associated with the European political co-operation established in the Single European Act. It is useful to member states, but, as has been said, the Commission does not enjoy the sole right of initiative in intergovernmental activities, which it does enjoy in areas of its own exclusive competence.
On reflection, does my hon. Friend not agree that in the areas where the Commission or the institutions have competence, they still have as much competence as they had before? In some areas of existing policy there is more majority voting, so the European institutions have greater competence than before, and in the so-called pillars—areas in which the European institutions had no competence in the past—those institutions now have some degree of competence. Therefore, Community institutions have increased their competence in every area.
The association with such matters—especially foreign affairs—merely reflects what the Commission has been doing for some time. The Commission was present at European Council meetings. It had something to say and its opinion was requested. Indeed, the President of the Commission was often invited to submit papers on those issues to the Council.
It is correct to say that the Commission is fully associated with European political co-operation. As the Committee will be aware, it is not infrequent in European political co-operation—it will no doubt be frequent in the common foreign and security policy—for decisions to be taken, for example, on association agreements which have a trading element, where there is Commission competence.
Many hon. Members take a great interest in the issue of interior justice. Community states already meet under something loosely called the Trevi process, which the Commission attends. One of the reasons we believe that it is a step forward in European co-operation on matters of interior justice to put it into the union treaty and make it an intergovernmental activity is that it now defines the Commission's role. If my hon. Friend considers these matters carefully he may be a little disturbed at the way in which the Trevi process has been developing and may be relieved, as I am, that we now have it within the union treaty and properly defined as an intergovernmental activity.
I shall now move on and begin what I would like to say on the issue that arises on the group of amendments and the development of Europe-wide parties. I want to draw the Committee's attention to the declarations at the back of the Maastricht treaty. They may be at the back, but, as we who have sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and considered the Single European Act have long recognised, they are important, because the preambles and the declarations set out objectives and inform the Court of Justice how to interpret the treaty.
I want to draw the attention of the Committee, and especially that of those who are worried about the federal tendency of the Community, to the declarations dealing with the conference of parliaments. The Foreign Office's booklet, "Europe after Maastricht", points out on page 18, paragraph 128:
Thirty-three declarations are appended to the Treaty on European Union. These are not part of the Treaty but constitute a political commitment and form part of the context of the Treaty for the purposes of its interpretation including the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance as agreements between member states on the interpretation of the Treaty article concerned. These include
the declaration on the conference of parliaments. I remind the House that the declaration on the conference of parliaments
invites the European Parliament and national parliaments to meet as necessary as a Conference of the Parliaments
The Conference will be consulted on the main features of the European Union, without prejudice to the powers of the European Parliament or the rights of national parliaments.
The President of the European Council and the President of the Commission will report to each session of the conference of parliaments on the state of the union. The immediately preceding declaration on the role of national parliaments in the European union invites the parliaments to become more involved with the activities of the European union. It says that, to that end, the exchange of information between national parliaments and the European Parliament should be stepped up—and the document continues in that vein.
As Europe evolves, we should control it, direct it and play our part in it. I suggest that we did that for the first time in the negotiation of the Maastricht treaty, in which we played a central role. Thus, we got much of what we wanted to see into the treaty, including a move away from the federal tendency of many of the other parts of Europe. We did that by negotiating right there at the centre.
The hon. Gentleman puts his case well, but he cannot get away from the fundamental dilemma. The whole Maastricht treaty, the resolutions passed recently by the European Parliament—my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) mentioned them—the Spinelli report and other previous resolutions all embody a tendency towards a federal Europe. There is no doubt about that. The Prime Minister negotiated in Maastricht on the basis of gatecrashing a party by going in backwards to give the impression that he was coming out—as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) once described it. The Prime Minister did that because he had to satisfy certain elements in his party. Now he has the dilemma of having to argue that the proposals are non-federal, although in fact they are federal. That is the dilemma which faces the Conservative party. At least my hon. Friends' position is honest. They have always been honest about their attitude to the European Community, which is more than the Government are at the moment.
The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney has always been a consistent opponent of the European Community. He has consistently argued against it, and still does, not dispassionately but passionately. We must respect him for his views, and I know that he will respect the views of others both on his side of the Committee, and on ours who have the opposite opinion.
It might have been inferred from what the hon. Gentleman said. So far as I am aware—the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—the Labour party's view on the broad issue is that their Front-Bench spokesmen, like the Government, are against what we in Britain would call a federal Europe.
Many of us—including Labour Front-Bench spokesmen, the Government, and the vast majority of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and even, I believe, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—have in common the desire to stay in Europe. That has been said on several occasions. If that is the case, we must develop Europe in a way that we believe is democratic and accountable, and which reflects the ideas and views of our constituents, and enables them to inform the decisions taken in Europe. We must build on the idea of the European Parliament and the national parliaments meeting together.
I suggest that that should not happen in the same way as when we first met in Rome. That brings me back to the question of Europe-wide parties. At the assize in Rome the representatives of national parliaments were broken up. The European Parliament took over the running of things, putting a motion to the assize, which was passed, that made us all sit in so-called Europe-wide parties, thus completely undermining the power of national parties.
I was also a member of that historic assize of the national parliaments and the European Parliament, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want to mislead the House. Contrary to the false assertions, the assize was well organised by the Italian authorities, arid I remember that a solid majority of the members of the British delegation voted for the resolution whereby everybody sat in party groups.
They talk about assize in Rome, and that is where we were. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East was a member of that assize and he is right to say that a majority of the British delegation voted for the resolution, led by the Labour party but opposed by several people, including myself and, I believe, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford. Yes, we were a minority, but we believed that national parliaments should stick together, because that is what they were there for—to represent their parliaments and the national ideas, thoughts, culture and traditions of their countries. In my view, it was wrong to break us up in that fashion.
It is important that we should begin to develop the way in which national parliaments work together. We should first look after the majority voting system enshrined in the Single European Act and in the Maastricht treaty, because under majority voting it is possible for decisions to be made which Britain—including, possibly, both parties representing Britain—totally opposes. Yet those decisions would be imposed upon us by a majority vote. In those circumstances it seems necessary—
I shall give way in a moment, but I shall make my point first.
It is necessary for the national parliaments to meet together to find out what the others are thinking, and why they think in that way. They can then inform the Council of Ministers—their Ministers—and insist that their Ministers vote to reflect the way in which the parliaments and people are thinking. We should then have a direct link into the considerations in the Council of Ministers, under the new pillars and, I venture to suggest, in the European Council.
I, too, was at the assize in Rome, and I profoundly and basically disagree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has just said. I should point out modestly that the United Kingdom was represented not by two parties but by three. In this country there is a pluralism which is matched abroad and which the hon. Gentleman should recognise. It was easy—certainly for me—to sit with other people of similar political persuasion, even if they were of different nationalities.
I quite understand the hon. Gentleman's ease of assocation with others in the European Communities who feel and think as he does. There are many more such people in Europe than there are in Britain. The hon. Gentleman felt so comfortable because he is a federalist. My argument is that we can move away from what I regard as thoroughly destructive federal practices—destructive of national parliaments, destructive of national pride and destructive of cultures. We must let the European Communities breathe. Each country must be able to develop and to take a pride in its own history. Some federalist melange is opposed by me and most of my colleagues, including members of the Government.
We must develop the idea that national parliaments should meet together, say, twice a year separately from the European Parliament and then, for a third time, with the European Parliament to exchange ideas. It is essential that we begin to develop this sort of institutional practice if we are truly to have a Europe with some control over the executive bodies—the Commission and now, crucially, the Council. The Maastricht treaty does not say how the Council is to be made accountable. In our case, the Head of Government reports to the House of Commons and is subject to questioning. But that is not universal practice in Europe. Policy decisions that have not been debated by national parliaments or between national parliamentarians are not understood by the peoples of the various countries. Those concerned race ahead with ideas that are simply not understood by the people of Britain.
However, that does not apply only to the people of Britain. To realise that, one has only to look at the result of the referendum in France, where roughly 50 per cent. of people said that they did not want the Maastricht treaty. Why do they not want it? Because they have not been consulted about it, and they are not familiar with the issues involved. It is therefore essential that we develop Europe-wide parties so that there may be political discussions. National parliaments must meet together regularly. The lessons that the privileged members of the Select Committee on European Legislation have learnt must be extended.
In that way we should begin to make up for the undoubted democratic deficit in the Community. We should be able to bring Europe together and achieve deeper understanding. We should achieve more democracy and accountability. By achieving acceptability, we should enshrine the principle of consent to which the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney referred. The right hon. Gentleman said that the British community is to some extent homogeneous. People in this country lean towards different parties, but they remain one people. We discuss things and then accept majority decisions. That is not a universal practice. It takes place only if the consent of the people to be governed has been obtained through discussion in pubs, lounges and sitting-rooms and through debate in the press. That is what we must reproduce in Europe.
No. I am just completing my remarks. We must get on and proceed to a vote so that this treaty may be ratified.
We must look forward to a situation in which we can build on the Maastricht treaty, which marks the beginning of the path away from federalism and towards a Europe of nations co-operating for their common benefit, not trying to rule or suppress each other.
I hope that you, Mr. Morris, and the Committee will bear with me, as I am losing my voice following a visit to Brussels. I might criticise a number of things about that visit, but I cannot claim that it is responsible for my loss of voice. I understand that several other hon. Members are similarly afflicted.
I am particularly keen to speak about this aspect of the treaty. To me, one of the most amazing things to emerge from the visit to Brussels and its institutions was the openness and clarity with which people there see the treaty and understand what they are entering into.
I was struck by a couple of comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who talked about decisions that we would still be able to make after signing the Maastricht treaty. He said that we would be able to choose what powers to transfer to a European level. He said that we ought to have the right to decide what degree of sovereignty to cede, and that we should cede only where necessary and desirable. But that is not how the European Commission and the European Parliament see the situation. The question of ceding will be determined the other way round. Issues of subsidiarity will come from the centre—from Brussels and the European Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to tell us what are the opinions of European parliamentarians and of Commission officials,. and no doubt he intends to do so. I am sure that he will wish to remind the Committee that neither the European Parliament nor the Commission is a signatory to the Maastricht treaty. Signing the treaty is a matter for member states. The two institutions that the hon. Gentleman is about to quote extensively are perfectly entitled to their opinions, but decisions are taken by member states and by the Council of Ministers. I think that I see the way in which the hon. Gentleman's speech is developing, which is why I am reminding the Committee of the situation.
The decision will be made by the House of Commons as a potential signatory to the treaty, but it may well be the last useful decision that the House is invited to make, as unmaking it will be impossible. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I want hon. Members to understand the importance of our role in making that decision.
My right hon. Friend is being a little naive if he thinks that institutions of the Community—the Commission and the Court of Justice—will not have power to use this treaty, or that they do not have their own agenda. If my right hon. Friend is not persuaded by that fact, will the hon. Gentleman remind him that Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand both have an interpretation of the treaty totally different from that of Her Majesty's Government? They believe that it is a federal treaty, for a federal Europe.
These are points that I hope to develop. They accord with my interpretation of what we are entering into, and of the agenda on which other people are already working, on a European scale.
The two-day, all-party delegation in Brussels met a number of people, ranging from the Director General of the Commission to the Commission's legal and economic advisers, and to senior Commissioners. Let me mention some things that were put to us candidly and openly.
The presumption in Europe is that economic sovereignty will already have been ceded to the European central bank. There is no question of national Governments' retaining powers and responsibilities other than those dictated by the European central bank.
One of the most telling points that came out of our session with the economic advisers was that they conceded that the only lever on the economy that would remain in the hands of national Governments would be the choice of using either mass unemployment or taxation as regulators of the economy. All other levers would have been taken centrally into the unaccountable and unelected European central bank. Anyone who does not understand that point occupies a different world from the one that I occupy, and is taking part in a different debate.
The question of subsidiarity also arose. It is an interesting notion, on which many hon. Members have spent a considerable time.
Order. The amendments that we are debating deal with the institutions—the Council, the Commission and the Parliament. The hon. Gentleman cannot run through the other matters, such as subsidiarity, that he may have discussed in Brussels. Please will he return to the subject of the institutions?
I was trying to make a point about the European Court of Justice and about whether the question of subsidiarity was justiciable. The assumption by the advisers was that the court would be unlikely to make a judgment which was in conflict with the consensus among the rest of the European states.
There were mixed messages for the House on the Commission's ability to apply the social chapter. The first message was that the Commission said clearly that it heard the debate going on in the House, but did not believe that the Commission's ability to apply the social chapter depended on whether Britain accepted it. The Commission's officers believed that it had, in article 118, all the powers necessary to develop a unified European social policy.
I have followed up the hon. Gentleman's discussions with that Commission official, and I suspect that there may have been a misunderstanding. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misinterpret what that official said. The official was saying that the Community, through the Single European Act, already has a social dimension. The United Kingdom supports that social dimension and has a better record of implementing the directives that flow from it than any other country in the Community has.
The official may have been misunderstood in this sense. He was saying not that other actions that the other 11 may wish to take outside the social dimension could not take place, but that the United Kingdom would not be affected by them. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not want to misinterpret the senior official with whom he spoke.
It is only fair to say that, if there was a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation, the senior official was pretty consistent about ensuring that we misinterpeted the point. He was pressed on the point several times, and he repeated his comments—much to the consternation of a number of Conservative Members who were part of the delegation. I simply make that point.
My next point is a cautionary one for Opposition Members who are enthusiasts for the treaty. The official's qualification was that, if the financial resources were not there, within the remit defined by the central bank, it did not matter what social policy framework there was, because money would not be produced out of thin air by Governments who had no legal right to direct the bank to release the necessary resources. I suspect that there is not much comfort for any hon. Member in that point.
The officials then took us through the role of the Commission in terms of the regulatory framework. This is precisely the point that was made earlier. The Commission clearly has its own agenda for a rolling regulatory framework. It was described in positive terms in many ways, and I could understand that. We were told that the Commission had a bureaucracy that was very different from the bureaucracy that we encounter in the House of Commons. It is: it is more open and more accessible. The whole delegation was able to get answers far more forthright than those that we get in the House.
The officials also said that they employed bright people to come up with bright ideas, and that those bright people then drafted bright regulations to implement them. We were told that those people's zeal sometimes made them act in ways about which more senior officials might not feel entirely happy.
They cited the example of a set of proposals for European regulations on zoos. The zeal was such that the proposals had come to the point of requiring the owners of zoos to specify which routes out of the zoo they thought the animals would take in the event of a break-out. The proposal was described in the Commission as being about whether the animals would shop at Sainsbury or Tesco.
The real question is not whether the Commission should stop employing bright and zealous people, but the extent to which they are held accountable to a democratic process.
That is one line of argument. My difficulty—I have a number of close friends in the European Parliament—is that I regard that Parliament, as it is structured, as a Mickey Mouse institution. I need to be convinced that the European Parliament could function democratically so that it could hold the Commission to account and be accountable to its domestic electorates. I raise that point as a legitimate reservation.
I am disturbed by what the hon. Gentleman says, but not because I am worried about his phantasmagorical description of the so-called "excessive" ambitions of the Commission. That is what the Commission is there for. It is for the member Governments to vote on the legislation that the Commission proposes.
In what form is the hon. Gentleman reporting to the Committee on these matters? Does he propose just to leave his own words on the record today? Will there be a report of the meeting? Will the Commission issue its own report? Will the hon. Gentleman place a copy of the official proceedings of the meeting in the Library? If he does not, we are relying solely on his hearsay and rather hyperbolic description of a meeting, with which others might not agree.
I invite the hon. Gentleman to check my comments against the experiences of Conservative Members who were also part of that delegation. I shall be happy to hear the hon. Gentleman's judgment about the accuracy of my comments, based on their comments. He will have to live with my interpretation of how that tour went for the time being.
I will not.
The Commission came over clearly as saying that there was a crisis of confidence in the Commission. The crisis of confidence had been caused precisely because institutions such as the House of Commons were not simply rubber-stamping the treaty. The crisis of confidence was not caused by feeling the need fundamentally to review the Commission's role and its lack of political accountability, but by the feeling that it was treading water until the treaty was signed. I again caution the Committee against failure to understand that what we face is not a crisis of confidence, but a pause in the regulatory momentum. That cautionary message should not be lost on the Committee.
Is not the proof of the excellent points that the hon. Gentleman makes so fairly and accurately in the treaty itself? There may be a genuine desire to give powers to the European Parliament, but all that can be given are cosmetic powers. That is abundantly clear, because the structure of the EC is such that there is no way in which real powers could be given to the European Parliament unless we started all over again and had a European Government. Is not the proof of what the hon. Gentleman says simply in the wording of the treaty, of which article 107a is a perfect example? It gives Parliament simply the power to suggest legislation to the Commission.
Nothing that came out of my visit to the Parliament and the Commission surprised me: it is there in the treaty, writ large for those who wish to read and understand it.
We need to understand how far into the agenda of forward thinking in a centralised planning context the rest of Europe and certainly the Commission already are. I picked up one of the documents produced in the European Parliament by the research directorate. I was not charged, it was gratis; it may be the last free thing we get. The document has to do with the prospects for a foreign and security policy for the European union after Maastricht.
The preface says:
The treaty of European union, however imperfect it may be, lays the cornerstone for the development of a European federal state and of a European Constitution.
Below that, it says:
credit is due to the Heads of State and Government of the Member States …for having succeeded in Maastricht in reconciling clearly divergent interests and constitutional traditions in the field of foreign and security policy and hammering out a compromise package which opens up new prospects for a common foreign and security policy.
So the presumptions of the Parliament are very clear that there is a role that will fall into its lap and into the lap either of the Commission, or of the Council of Ministers, which will carry this through.
The hon. Gentleman is seriously misleading the Committee. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is accidentally and forgiveably misleading the Committee by mistake.
Will he not agree that he has just cited an obscure document giving the opinions of some of the members of the research department of the European Parliament? It is not even a policy document, and it may never make any progress. The European Parliament is full of documents like that. Indeed, we have documents in the House which are not policy documents or governmental decisions. That will not be the sacred text of the future. What about the plurality of ideas and different views on the development of Europe that come from all sources in the Community, including Britain?
I am not suggesting that this is already the agenda that we shall be writing our name to; I am saying that, if this is not the direction in which we are heading, there has to be written into the treaty a whole series of democratic checks and constraints which are not there at the moment, and which have to address the fact that this is the direction in which contemporary thinking is going. I say this to inform the Committee, rather than to mislead. I do not believe that I am misleading the Committee. If I am doing so inadvertently, I am sure that I am not the first to have done so.
Would the hon. Gentleman care to speculate why it was that, at the last meeting in the negotiations before agreement at Maastricht, the President of the European Parliament told the member states that the Parliament was so unhappy with the shape of the treaty that had emerged that he seriously doubted whether it would be prepared to support it? So when the hon. Gentleman reads out the perfectly legitimate wishes of the European Parliament, he must not imply to the Committee that the member states have met, or will meet, those wishes.
There is a gap between what people's wishes are and what mechanisms the House would have for addressing those policy proposals and changes if that is the direction in which they go. I am simply saying that, before we sign our names to this treaty, we must ask ourselves what checks and controls we would have, so that we could say no to this sort of development once we had signed the Maastricht treaty.
I believe that the presumptions of the Commission and of the European Parliament—and perhaps of the Council of Ministers too, although I have not visited its members —are that we would be moving towards a much more centralised bureaucracy, which will determine the shape of Europe.
The other point that came out of each of the sessions during this visit was in connection with European monetary union. The Commission's assumptions about the role of the bank were all to the effect that European monetary union was a deferred inevitability. The notion of the opt-out was described as the legitimate choice of a passenger choosing to bail out of an aircraft at 10,000 feet without a parachute. Of course we would have that choice, but the question is whether at the time we would believe that only a fool would squander the existing position and take the risk of not taking the next step. That is very similar to the message that we are being given now.
I simply convey to the Committee that these were the messages that were coming back to me as part of that argument.
The hon. Gentleman asked what checks the House would have if moves take place in the direction that he is concerned about. What will happen is that there will be another intergovernmental conference and another treaty, which will be brought to the House, and the House will be told that, as with the Maastricht treaty, we have to take the whole treaty and nothing but the treaty.
Th at is a very fair point. It raises for me a huge set of questions about what we are signing up to. Nothing dented my perception that the nature of the beast was that the institutions are unelected, unaccountable and undeterred in their forward planning by the debate taking place in the Committee and in the House. The presumption is that this is a minor distraction which has to be entertained before the real business of centralised planning can take place in a European context.
I am not wholeheartedly opposed to that. If I believed that this was planning for a socialist Europe, I would be in favour of it. But it is not a socialist Europe. In that sense, I differ from my colleagues on the other side of the Committee. I see the terms of this treaty as signing us up to a set of arrangements in which the primary function of the institutions in Europe will be to respond to the interests of European capital. The terms of reference of the European bank make the subservient role of nation states very clear.
It would be a huge millstone around the neck of an incoming Labour Government to attempt to buck the rulings of the central bank about borrowing limits, interest rates and debt ratios. If we were faced with the institutional rules and framework to which we are signing up, how would we adjust the economy to deliver a socialist programme? The question which must be addressed, by those on the Opposition Front Bench as much as by those on the Government Front Bench, relates to how they wish to run the economy. We are signing up to a millstone for a socialist Government, rather than some back entrance to a socialist utopia.
In terms of the enhanced role proposed for the European Parliament, hon. Members who doubt the extent to which powers will be given to the European Parliament are absolutely right. A facade democracy would be constructed. The democracy would have no power. It would struggle itself to be accountable, or to have any significant influence in the key decisions which would be made behind closed doors in European institutions. What would be the role of hon. Members with regard to the institutions and the framework which we are setting up?
One of the saddest things I must say to the Committee is that we have sold the pass in terms of our responsibilities to the electorate, and in terms of the institutions of Europe. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book forewarning people about the consequences of signing up to the Single European Act and its implications for industry and race relations in Britain and Europe. One of the most frustrating things is that, when I tried to find out what was going on, in terms of international negotiations in which the United Kingdom was involved at a European or intergovernmental level, I was not able to find out anything.
The House of Commons has ceded large tranches of democratic decision-making powers to Ministers, and Ministers have trotted off to take their decisions behind closed doors in Europe. The House has betrayed its democratic responsibilities and the British people. It is no good bleating that we see European institutions looming even larger and saying, "But we never knew." It was written large in the Single European Act for everyone to see. We did not have to wait for Maastricht to know what sort of writing was on the wall.
I went to Brussels with a specific local agenda. I wanted to know from Sir Leon Brittan what action the Commission would take to halt the dumping of Chinese bicycles in Britain. The issue has been raised on the Floor of the House, and I have tried to raise it with the Department of Trade and Industry. Sir Leon Brittan told me—the answer was clear—that it has been handed to Europe. The decision will be made in Europe. Britain is powerless. The Department of Trade and Industry has, it seems, already opted out—and handed its responsibility over to Europe. All I was able to get from the Commissioner were comments similar to those made by the Prime Minister this afternoon, which was basically: "It wasn't me," and, "I wasn't there."
When I saw Sir Leon Brittan, I hoped that the Commissioner responsible for foreign relations and trade would be able to say, "This is the line that we are taking in Europe on anti-dumping policies." What did we get? We got a "maybe". It was clear that hon. Members from both sides of the House, who were pressing the Commissioner hard on this issue, had no leverage at all. The decision may or may not be made, but it will be whimsical, unaccountable and unchallengeable.
I came away saying to colleagues on both sides of the House what I now say to the Committee: how would a British Parliament defend its industry in such circumstances? How would the House defend jobs in Raleigh in my constituency or the cycle industry in Britain as a whole? If it wanted to halt the dumping of bikes in the United Kingdom but found that the decisions had been handed over to a European level, what would it do? The powers to intervene, economically, in our national self-interest will career away at a rate which we will only ever live to regret.
My hostility to the treaty is that the framework given to political and administrative institutions does not say that the remit is to re-create full employment in Europe. It says that everything will be subject to the interests of price stability. At best, we will see only jobless growth in Europe; a growth focused entirely on money interests. That is what institutions such as the European Parliament, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the European bank will be required to deliver.
It is sad that it has taken until now for the Committee to realise how much we have sold out the interests of British people. We will not be forgiven for surrendering ourselves to such a shabby deal from which the people of Britain and people in Europe will gain nothing.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) made an interesting speech and the Committee listened with great care. I hope that he will not think that I address him in any spirit of condescension when I say that many speeches with a similar context have been made over many years, and many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would disagree with his conclusions.
I share the hon. Gentleman's pessimism about the awful and depressing era of high unemployment which all member states, including Britain, are experiencing. [Interruption.] As I am referring to the hon. Gentleman's speech, perhaps he will listen. Unemployment is a depressing reality and many policy measures must be taken to overcome it. One means or another must be used both by member states and by the institutions of the European Community, but we cannot reach that conclusion for ever and say that unemployment is a result of our membership of the Community and the way in which its institutions work.
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the way in which the Community functions. He grossly exaggerated the powers, of the Commission. The Commission's delegated powers, for example, in international trade negotiations have given increased strength to the individual member states and to the collectivity. The examples of that are so numerous that I shall not weary the House by going through them. It is much better for the Commission to represent the whole Community. It has initiated remarkably successful anti-dumping actions against imports which enter member states, including Britain, at an undervalued price. The hon. Gentleman was worried about the single example of dumping of bicycles. That is his local interest and I deeply respect him for raising it.
It is absurd to say that the system under which the European Community works is deficient or that we have surrendered our powers to it, except by the normal process of delegated legislation. We support the majority of decisions reached by the United Nations Security Council or the other mechanisms of the United Nations. Action is taken as a result of those decisions. For example, peacekeeping forces are sent out. We do not say that we have lost powers as a result of that. We signed a treaty which gave us additional strength with our countries. As a result of that action, treaty-based decision making takes place and is reported back to Parliament. That is the process.
You might say that Parliament should have another bite of the cherry and force the Government to change their mind on the treaty. You might say that the institutions of the EC are not working as we expected. But that would be manifestly absurd. When I said "you", Mr. Morris, I was speaking in the general, broad sense. I apologise.
The European enthusiasts in this place regard the Maastricht treaty as an extremely mild document which creates a well-balanced relationship between the institutions of the EC. It is much less profound—the hon. Member for Nottingham, South was right about this—than the Single European Act with its implications for the future. That is probably so, but we did not have the perturbations and hysteria from the "antis" on the Single European Act that we have had on the Maastricht treaty. That in itself leads one to some interesting political conclusions.
The relationship between all the EC institutions as they are established to work in the future will be extremely satisfactory. The Commission will have the enhanced powers which come from those parts of the Maastricht treaty in which integration has been increased. Majority voting decisions of the Council of Ministers will presumably tend to accept principal Commission regulations and directives—mainly directives. Sometimes the United Kingdom will be in a minority. Sometimes it will be in a majority. Sometimes there will be no vote. The Council of Ministers will think that something is such a good idea that it will allow it to go ahead.
The role and power of all the institutions is enhanced by the treaty. That is perhaps an unusual achievement. There will be a much greater degree of co-operation, but most Community activity will remain intergovernmental. I cannot understand why the anti-Maastricht—I must not say anti-European because I know that it produces a protest—colleagues on this side of the House and on the Opposition Benches are so worried. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made a terribly old-fashioned speech. We have heard all that before.
I do not believe that I am. The first part of my speech may have sounded old fashioned, but I am coming to the new bits. We have all repeated ourselves in these debates over the years but so much of the weight, incidence and proportionality of operating in the Maastricht treaty is so intergovernmental that, as has been said already, enthusiastic and active members of the European Parliament and some senior Commission officials have complained bitterly that they feel let down that the original intention of the solemn declaration on European union in June 1983 has been massively diluted as a result of these prolonged intergovernmental negotiations.
I know that my hon. Friend has very strong views, but if he takes that view, will he please look at page 91 of the treaty as one of 17 examples I could give him? He will see the economic powers of the central bank. Far from being intergovernmental, no government, no Member of Parliament, no person is allowed to make representations. They are in charge, these civil servants appointed for eight years at a time. If my hon. Friend believes that there is some kind of intergovernmental or democratic control, will he read the treaty and accept that in running economic policy, despite the view of the Foreign Office which has a lot of nonsense in its documents, it says specifically that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the French Government, the German Government, none of them is even allowed to make representations to the central bank. How is that intergovernmental?