Treaty on European Union

Part of Orders of the Day — European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 4th March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 8:45 pm, 4th March 1993

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.