I beg to move,
That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. SN 600/97 (C101), consolidated draft Treaty texts; 6946/97, on the strengthening of the surveillance and co-ordination of budgetary policies; 6947/97, on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure; 10867/96, on the legal framework for the introduction of the euro; 7766/97, on the Commission's recommendation for the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and the Community; 7767/97, on a progress report on the implementation of the 1996 broad economic policy guidelines; the draft Resolution on the European Council on the stability and growth pact; and the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by HM Treasury on 30th May on a draft resolution of the European Council on the establishment of an exchange rate mechanism in the third stage of economic and monetary union; and welcomes the determination of Her Majesty's Government to focus the agenda of the European Union on policies of direct benefit to the peoples of Europe through its initiatives on employment and competitiveness, and to obtain the best deal for Britain at the Amsterdam Summit through constructive negotiations in the Intergovernmental Conference.
It is now only six months since our last debate before a European summit, but it is, of course, not those six months but the past six weeks that have transformed the nature of today's debate. It was only five weeks ago that many Conservative Members, hoping to escape the wrath of the electorate, stood not as the party opposed to new Labour, but as the party opposed to Europe. I say many, but many more tried it than are able to take their seats with us here today. One of the great newspapers in our land, whose recent change of tone requires us to speak of it with respect and veneration, published on the eve of the election a list of all those Conservative candidates in its roll of honour in the battle of Britain against Europe. It published 308 Conservative candidates' names. Two hundred and thirty-four of them were rejected the next day by the British people.
I read today that the Conservative director of communications has let out the information that the former Prime Minister
pined during the campaign to take a more positive tone on Europe, but held back because he was afraid it would send the Euro-sceptics into orbit.
He must feel wry satisfaction that the electorate sent them into orbit much more satisfactorily than he ever did.
In the five weeks since then, the air has been heavy with the sound of pennies dropping. I am delighted to see the former Health Secretary with us today, supporting his favourite candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party. The former Health Secretary staked out his leadership bid before the general election by signalling that he was as Euro-sceptic as the rest of them. Yesterday, I read that he now supports the former Chancellor. The article appeared under the headline, "Forget Europe: back Clark".
I hope that the rules of the Tory leadership election allow me to mention one leadership candidate without naming them all.
The more intelligent Opposition Members have grasped the fact that they were too busy listening to their own prejudices to hear the voice of an electorate who wanted a Government who could deliver in Europe and speak with a single, clear voice in Europe. The new Labour Government are now doing that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, on his first meeting with the heads of the other European Governments, our Prime Minister said that he had learnt on the doorstep, as every candidate had, throughout the general election, of the visceral hostility of the British people to any further movement towards a Federal Europe?
The hon. Gentleman anticipates what I shall say later, because one of the things that those of us who have gone to Europe have learnt is that there is also a change of opinion in Europe. As it happens, when I first went to Europe, the first European politician I met was Lionel Jospin. In retrospect, that appears to have been a shrewd investment, because a Europe once dominated by the right is now dominated by the centre left. When we enter the Amsterdam summit, there will be nine Prime Ministers there from parties of the left and of the centre left.
I know that Conservative Members find the concept of a sister party strange; they have none, and none is queuing up to fill that role on the continent. The National Front of France is the only party on the continent that shares the Conservatives' opposition to the social chapter, repeated in today's amendment. Let me help them with that concept.
We do not share a programme with the parties of the left and of the centre left in Europe: we are different parties, in different countries, with different electorates. Unsurprisingly, therefore, we have different policies. However, we have shared values of fairness, democracy and opportunity. We have a common approach to international relations, based on co-operation rather than isolation. Above all, we have a common priority in recognising that at present, the No. 1 priority of the Governments of Europe must be to tackle the mass unemployment that has left 18 million out of work in Europe and 9 million in deep social exclusion.
Mr. Jospin has expressed a view today at ECOFIN, and the view expressed at ECOFIN on behalf of the Labour Government was a view put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At that meeting, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has emphasised that ECOFIN must now put growth and employment first, and his proposal—a five-point package to put jobs at the head of ECOFIN's agenda—has this afternoon been agreed by ECOFIN and will be included in the conclusions of the Amsterdam summit.
The past few weeks have changed the colour of Europe politically, which means that the new Labour Government have allies. That successful initiative also shows that new Labour can take the opportunity to provide leadership in Europe.
I welcome the fact that the former Prime Minister will respond to this debate. May I remind him that in the last election he authorised a newspaper advertisement that lampooned Chancellor Kohl and the present Prime Minister as a ventriloquist and his dummy? We understand now that it was drafted on the back of an envelope by the former Deputy Prime Minister and is therefore of a piece with many of the last Government's policies. It will not have escaped the former Prime Minister that, last Friday, the Prime Minister met Chancellor Kohl. None of the press reports of that meeting portrayed the Prime Minister of Great Britain as a puppet. On the contrary, they all said that he spoke with at least equal authority to Chancellor Kohl and possibly with a little more confidence that he will still be around in the long run. Even the German newspapers reported the Prime Minister of Great Britain as a rival to Chancellor Kohl for leadership of Europe.
That press advertisement demeaned not just the former Prime Minister's opponent in the general election but the leader of another major European country. It was one of the lowest points of the election campaign. It was all the more irresponsible because, we learn today, by then the former Prime Minister knew that the game was up and the election was lost. I do not invite him to apologise when he rises to speak from the Dispatch Box. To demand that he apologises would be confrontational and New Labour is not into confrontation. However, I should like to tempt him, in these his swan song days, at least to admit that he would have welcomed the opportunity to speak to Chancellor Kohl with at least the same authority, without constantly being undermined by the knowledge that it would provoke division on his Back Benches.
Another change occurred in the past few weeks within Europe. It was anticipated by the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir P. Tapsell) in his intervention. In the past five weeks, I have had bilateral meetings with every Foreign Minister of the other member states. I spent three days in talks with those Foreign Ministers and sat through the summit of Prime Ministers at Noordwijk.
I can report to the House that there is a deep hunger in Europe for an agenda that puts the institutions of Europe back in touch with the peoples of Europe. There is a growing impatience with an agenda dominated by tinkering with the structure of those institutions, which reflects the concerns of the top politicians of Europe rather than the people who elect them. That is why at Noordwijk my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister called for a people's Europe that addresses the worries and concerns of our electorates on jobs, the environment, crime and social exclusion.
I note that, at the weekend, the Esperanto society made another push for a single language understood by everyone throughout Europe. I am bound to say that it is a more formidable undertaking than creating a single currency. My immediate worry, however, is that the European Union is now spawning a jargon about institutions, which is understood by no one outside those institutions.
One of the matters for debate at Amsterdam is whether some of the confidences in pillar 3 should jump to pillar 1. At Noordwijk, one of the European leaders complained that he had just met a constituent who had been reading about that and wanted to know how the Prime Ministers of Europe went about pillar jumping at the summits. We are dealing with a series of topics that do not connect with the lives of our people and we are discussing them in terms that they cannot understand.
The European project, built around integration for its own sake, now has only a dwindling audience. More and more, the leaders of Europe judge proposals not by the test of whether they will deliver integration of our countries but on whether they will deliver real benefits to our countries. The Prime Minister caught that mood last week in Sweden, when he said of a single currency:
The first priority must be not to integrate the economies of Europe, but to strengthen the economies of Europe.
I know that the single currency was a source of grief to the former Prime Minister at the general election, when his wait-and-see policy was reinterpreted by 600 Conservative candidates as a say-what-you-like policy. I say that with some authority, as I read all 600 election addresses. I thought that the finest attempt to marry the private views of a candidate with the official line was that of David Shaw, formerly of Dover, who signalled the degree to which his mind was open on the single currency in the sentence:
I shall listen very carefully to all the arguments for and against a single currency. Then I shall vote against it.
After the gyrations that Conservative Members went through during the election to fudge their policy on the single currency, it takes a touch of nerve for them to table an amendment today that refers to "fudged criteria".
I assure the former Prime Minister that we have no intention of signing up if our final conclusion is that the criteria have been fudged. We reject the choice that is emerging between a soft euro, which is unworkable, and a hard euro, which is unpopular. We have made it clear that if Britain is to join the single currency, first, that currency must be credible and, secondly, it must win the consent of the people. That is why we will take our decision on the basis of a hard-headed assessment of economic reality and we will give the people a referendum, so that they will have the final veto on whether Britain will join.
At present, we do not know whether there will be a single currency to join in 1999. There is, indeed, an interesting debate in Europe. What is valuable about that debate, and what Britain can usefully help to further, is the gathering consensus that the prime objectives of economic policy should be growth, employment and competitiveness, and that the single currency must be judged on whether it will help or hinder those objectives.
The Foreign Secretary has given a helpful explanation of the Government's approach. Does he recognise that businesses are faced with practical decisions about when to make investments, depending on whether or not we are in the single currency? Can he tell us at what point the British Government will be able to say definitively when we would join and under what circumstances?
The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no secret. We must make a decision in time to apply by spring 1998 if we wish to be in that first wave. Therefore, as the hon. Gentleman can see, we must make a decision somewhere around the turn of the year or very early next year.
I was explaining why the Amsterdam summit comes at a creative moment in the history of the debate within Europe. New Labour goes to the Amsterdam summit in a constructive spirit of partnership, not the sterile spirit of oppositionalism, in which Conservative Members so often travel to Europe. Because of that, we will be listened to with respect. We have established Britain as one of the main players in Europe, no longer heckling from the sidelines. The Order Paper today makes it plain that Opposition Members are still firmly rooted on those sidelines. The amendment repeats their routine opposition to both the social chapter and the employment chapter.
Let us be clear about the matter. The British Government have resolved to opt into the social chapter because we believe that that is right for Britain. We did not do it, as some suggest, as some kind of concession to Chancellor Kohl. We did it for the British people, because the Government do not accept that the British people should have worse rights at work than people on the continent—often people on the continent who work for the same firms that employ people in Britain.
Will the Foreign Secretary concede that, with the Government's huge majority in Parliament, everything that he hopes will be delivered by the social chapter could have been passed by his Government? That would have been in the traditions of his party. Why does he want to abdicate responsibility for those matters to Europe?
As I said earlier, there has been a change of tone. We are no longer told that the social chapter will be damaging to Britain. The Conservatives, chastened by the experience of an electorate who want the social chapter, now suggest that we should do it ourselves. I shall return to the hon. Gentleman's comments later.
We need European legislation on some issues because we are dealing with companies that operate throughout Europe. That is why we need a European directive and European works councils. The only people who are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the social chapter are those Conservative Members of Parliament who told their electors that they would derive no benefits from the social chapter. Those Members of Parliament are free to join their former Conservative colleagues on the boards of the many British companies that have implemented the social chapter. Douglas Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary, is director of the NatWest bank.
I have answered the hon. Gentleman and I must continue my speech. If he listens, he may find it interesting. The NatWest bank has a European works council under the social chapter. Lord Howe is director of BICC plc, which has a European works council under the social chapter. [Interruption.] There are some objections to the examples that I am giving. What about Lord Tebbit—surely no one could query his scepticism about Europe. Yet while Lord Tebbit was a director of BT, it introduced a European works council under the social chapter.
Richard Needham, Sir Geoffrey Pattie and Lord Prior are directors of General Electric Company plc—between the three of them, they must have at least a blocking minority. However, while they served on the board of GEC, it implemented the social chapter and introduced a European works council. Why should we take the Conservatives seriously when they tell us in this place that the social chapter is bad for companies and for employment, but do not take those comments seriously when they sit in company boardrooms?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the consultation document that was released last week. It is aimed not at Governments but at the social partners. Because Britain is joining the social chapter, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses have the opportunity to express their views. Ministers will then give their views. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have the confidence to enter negotiations and express our views in order to achieve the desired outcome: fair rights for those in work and regulations that do not damage competitiveness.
The Opposition amendment also opposes the employment chapter. The employment chapter is a modest, sensible step, which requires the institutions of Europe to identify the employment consequences of any policy before adopting it. I am pleased to inform the House that, unlike the previous Administration, the new Labour Government have obtained an amendment to the first article of the employment chapter. It recognises the fact that, if we are to increase employment, we must improve employability and increase the flexibility of the labour market. Article 1 of the employment chapter now commits the European Union to promoting a skilled, trained and adaptable work force, and labour markets that are responsive to economic change.
Only a Conservative party that is wildly out of touch with popular opinion or the public's desperation about job insecurity could regard that modest objective as a threat to Britain's national interests. On the contrary, it meets one of the main concerns of the British people. That is why the new Labour Government will support it. Precisely because the Government are not shouting no to everything out of prejudice, we are listened to with respect when we do say no to issues that threaten Britain's national interests. This time, our fellow European leaders know that we really mean it. For that reason, we shall get a better deal at Amsterdam than the Conservatives could have done.
There are seven days of tough negotiations in front of us before the Amsterdam summit and there will be three days of hard bargaining at Amsterdam. I am confident that we have every opportunity of obtaining several objectives. The first is a legal basis beyond challenge in the European Court of Justice for Britain to maintain its external border controls, which the Conservative Government never secured in 18 years.
Secondly, we can secure measures that will create tougher provisions against fraud in other member states. I cheerfully concede that the proposals that we have tabled are based on qualified majority voting, for the simple reason that if every country had a veto, no country would ever suffer a penalty for fraud against the European budget. Will the former Prime Minister defend as a matter of principle the right of every country in Europe to retain a veto against penalties for allowing fraud in that country? Does he not recognise that the issue is a clear example of majority voting being in Britain's interests?
Thirdly, I believe that we can look forward with confidence to obtaining more votes for Britain and the larger countries from the Amsterdam summit. Enlargement could create the perverse outcome of the three largest nations, with a majority of the population of Europe, not having a blocking minority in the Council of Ministers. We have every reason to believe that we shall emerge from Amsterdam with an agreement that will give Britain greater weight in the Council of Ministers.
Finally, we are confident that we can emerge from Amsterdam with a text that will retain the national veto over issues of common foreign and security policy. We can return from Amsterdam not just having done a deal, not just having done a good deal for Britain, but having obtained a better deal for Britain than the previous Government could have hoped to achieve.
Our next debate on a forthcoming European summit will be six months from now, on the eve of the next British presidency of Europe, which starts in January. The main concern of that British presidency will be to get negotiations on the enlargement of Europe off to a flying start. One of the great ironies of the truculence of Conservative Members about Europe is that every other country in Europe is queuing up to get on a bus that Conservative Members often sound as though they want to get off. It is important to remember why other countries want to get in. They want to share in the prosperity that they can obtain from access to the largest single market in the world—larger than any in north America.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that one of the main reasons why so many countries are determined to try to get in reflects badly on the European Community, which has deliberately tried to block all access to trade for those countries for the past four or five years? That hard stick tactic has ensured that those countries have not had a chance to negotiate for reasonable and decent access, forcing them to come in regardless of the conditions.
The anxiety of those countries to enter the European Union goes back well beyond the past four or five years. I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point about the narrow negotiations on trade access, but he should be under no illusions. Even a more liberal approach to trade access would in no way have removed the anxiety of those countries to be a full part of the single market and participate in the decisions that shape that market. They want in because it is the largest single market in the world. That market is of great importance to Britain—a fact which the hon. Gentleman often overlooks.
Most of our exports go to the other member states of the European Union. Britain exports more to the Netherlands than it does to all the tiger economies of the far east. We export more to Denmark than we do to the whole of China. That is the scale of the European single market, and the countries of central Europe understand that full well even if Opposition Members do not. Secondly—
No. I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman and I have already said that I now wish to conclude my speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let me proceed.
The other reason why the countries of central Europe wish to join is that they want the stability that comes from the mutual confidence of membership of the European Union. We have learnt a paradox that would not have been understood by our grandfathers: if we dismantle barriers between us, if we allow the free movement of goods and if we make people free to travel and to work across those frontiers, we end up with much greater security than we ever had when we built and armed frontiers between us. Those are the reasons why those countries want to come in.
I assure my hon. Friend that we will, indeed, make proposals for greater scrutiny of European legislation by, particularly, the national Parliament of Britain. As my hon. Friend is aware, the House will shortly set up a Committee that will look at the procedures of the House. It will be our intention to submit to that Committee a paper outlining ways in which we can improve our scrutiny of European business. We can take no satisfaction from the fact that European business in the House is often regarded as a specialist area, which is shunted off into Committee Rooms upstairs and not adequately surveyed. If we want to do our task properly, we must improve our procedures for better scrutiny.
I have explained why the countries of central Europe want to be members of the European Union. It is, however, important that we also remember why we want them in. We want them in because Europe can never enjoy security if it is surrounded by a zone of poverty just outside its walls. We want them in because if we wish to provide a clean environment for our people, we must tackle the pollution and emissions from our neighbours. We want them in because if we want to make our country safe from crime, we need them to help and to co-operate in curbing organised crime which knows no borders and is integrating far faster across frontiers than the European Union ever will.
The reasons why those countries want to come in and the reasons why we want them in are the same reasons why Britain should want to be a prominent member of the European Union. Together with other member states, we can do much more for our people than we ever could standing alone. I see no sign of recognition of that in the amendment tabled by the former Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.
If new thinking is going on in the Conservative party in the wake of its defeat, it is hard to spot it on today's Order Paper. The amendment does not list a single positive opportunity that could be taken in Europe, but it comes up with a list of threats from Europe. That is the key difference that we see between ourselves and the Opposition. We see the European Union as an opportunity; they can only see it as a threat.
What I find most depressing about the Opposition's stance is what a tim'rous, nervous wee beastie is their version of nationalism—a Britain constantly in fear of the continentals coming up with something threatening and constantly clinging for comfort to a veto in case anyone proposes a change. I believe that the British people are a proud, self-confident, assertive people and that they deserve a Government who also have confidence—the confidence to offer leadership in Europe, to shape the agenda of Europe and to choose new directions for Europe. That is what the new Labour Government offer Britain and that is the spirit in which we shall go with confidence into the Amsterdam summit.
I beg to move, To leave out from "union" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
and warns Her Majesty's Government against signing up to the third stage of economic and monetary union based on fudged criteria and against proposals at the forthcoming Amsterdam summit which threaten British national interests, namely: surrendering the United Kingdom's veto in social policy, industry policy, environment policy and regional policy; signing the Social Chapter and supporting a new Treaty Chapter on Employment; and, instead, recommends that the Government adhere to the approach outlined in the White Paper 'A Partnership of Nations' (Cm 3181).
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his first substantial speech at the Dispatch Box. As our debates and discussions on the European Union develop, he will
find that I agree with much of what he has said. However, as he gains greater experience in negotiating with our European colleagues, he will realise that some elements of his speech represent a slightly more starry-eyed approach to the process than he will take when he has been negotiating in Europe for a brief time.
In a few days' time, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will go to Amsterdam to negotiate a treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom. They will certainly have a great deal of negotiating capital in their pockets, because they are new and our European colleagues are always prepared to give a certain amount of leeway to a new Government, from whichever country, and because they have already given away so much, as our European partners wished, that they are bound to be well received. Those who appear with their hands up and a white flag flying are always likely to be well received.
The substantive question is what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will obtain for the United Kingdom and for Europe as a result of the concessions that they have already signalled in advance of the commencement of serious negotiations. In many ways, the Amsterdam treaty is unnecessary. Very few people want it and it is likely to do more harm than good; none the less, the negotiations are extremely important.
Recently, the Prime Minister asked a question that I have asked on many occasions in the past few years: is the European Union going in the right direction? He answered that question: frankly, no. I agree. That is my answer too, as it has been on many occasions in the past. In some ways, but by no means all, not only is the Community not going in the right direction; it is actively going in the wrong direction. Amsterdam could correct that or worsen it. Some of the omens, but by no means all, are not good.
This afternoon, the Foreign Secretary gave us a partial guide to the Government's position. I appreciate that, on this occasion, there has not been time for the Government to produce the customary White Paper that precedes our debates on these matters. However, I hope that in his reply to the debate the Minister will confirm that the Government intend to revert to that practice in future.
Much of the significance of the Foreign Secretary's speech lay as much in what he did not say and what was not in his speech as in what he said. There is much in the broad stance of the Government with which I agree. That is hardly surprising, because much of it seems very familiar. Some of what the Prime Minister has said in recent days and the Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon I could have written myself. Indeed, time and again, as I flick through the speeches that I have made on the subject in the past few years, I find that I did write it. It is attractive, although perhaps somewhat surprising, to hear that echo from the present Government.
Let me touch on the proposals on which we can agree in principle with the Foreign Secretary, although there will be some caveats as to how they might be achieved and what the price might be.
The Foreign Secretary told the House that he would seek a legal basis to retain our border controls. That must be right, and he will have the support of the Opposition. However, it was not right for the Foreign Secretary—perhaps he was misreported—to hail that as the new Government's first European victory. He again indicated this afternoon that it was never achieved by the previous Conservative Government. I say to the Foreign Secretary with all friendliness that that is both a contentious and a premature claim.
The claim is contentious because the principle, which is all the Foreign Secretary has thus far obtained, was conceded by the Dutch presidency to the former Government in March. It is premature because the details, which will be vital in nailing down the agreement, have yet to be settled—as does whether there is a negotiating price to be paid for what our partners will see as a concession to the United Kingdom. I shall return to that point in a moment.
I agree without reservation with the Foreign Secretary when he refers to the need for job creation across Europe. There are 18 million unemployed people. I refer him to speech after speech that I made in the European Council on precisely that point. The Government's intention is plainly sensible. The Foreign Secretary will, however, find a vast difference between agreeing that in principle with our European partners and agreeing in detail with our European partners on how that job creation is to be brought about.
Many of our partners will not agree with the flexible markets to which the Prime Minister has rather latterly become converted. I am delighted that he has so converted and that he is going to tackle obstacles to job creation and labour market flexibility. Hallelujah to that, say we all. It is a breathtaking conversion to Conservative principles. It would perhaps be grudging to remind the Government of what they said in opposition; suffice it to say that our old policy in government on flexibility and open markets now seems to be the Government's new orthodoxy. They have shed all their past beliefs and oratory.
Whether the Government change their minds on the substance may be quite a different matter. How can the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister talk of labour market flexibility with a straight face when they propose to accept the working time directive, sign the social chapter and flirt with Europe's employment policies, which have led to three decades of job losses? Their ability to say such conflicting things at the same time will strike most people with astonishment.
The Government also propose, as does the Conservative party, enlargement of the Community. Again, that must be the right proposition. The EU as at present is incomplete in size. It cannot possibly be complete until we meet what I believe are our historic obligations to countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and indeed others. The sooner they can be brought in and we can extend the free-market sphere—which has its own security implications further eastward across Europe—to provide greater security for future generations than their fathers and grandfathers ever dreamed of, the better it will be for everyone. The Government will have our strong support in seeking to do that. Within 10 years, as the result of the agreements previously reached, the EU should have grown to 25 or 26 members as diverse in size and international interests as Germany, France and the United Kingdom on one hand, and perhaps Cyprus on the other.
To my mind, enlargement is far more important and relevant to the livelihoods of people in this country and across all of Europe and far more worth while than ambitious plans for more centralisation and communitisation, or for that matter the establishment of a single currency. It needs to be understood that enlargement will fundamentally change the very nature of the EU. It will require a flexibility in institutions, and in practice that does not exist at present.
Enlargement will compel root-and-branch reform not only of institutions, which will certainly be discussed in Amsterdam, but of some of the EU's practices—most obviously of all, the common agricultural policy. That would quite plainly be unaffordable were the EU to be extended in the way proposed. If we are serious in Europe about enlargement, we must be equally serious about a proper, fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy—although I must tell the Foreign Secretary that he will find huge resistance to that among a number of our EU partners.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary should make it clear in Amsterdam that they do not believe that the treaty and the proposals for enlargement can safely proceed unless we get a commitment from our European partners that they will be prepared for the upheavals that must follow enlargement if that enlargement is to be carried through successfully over the next few years.
What are our partners seeking at the Amsterdam summit? The President of the Commission, Mr. Santer, told us a few weeks ago. He confirmed that Amsterdam will be about further integration; about an end to the single-nation veto; about introducing an employment chapter based on European employment practices; and about increasing the power of the European Parliament, necessarily at the expense of national Parliaments. The summit will be about much else that is unpalatable, as well as changes that are plainly sensible.
The draft treaty also proposes a legal personality for the European Union—the Foreign Secretary did not mention that—which is a change that will move it towards becoming a state in its own right. The change will not establish a European state in its own right-I do not remotely begin to claim that—but it will be a step in that direction. I hope that the Government will oppose that idea. If they do not, the difficulties that arose following the Maastricht treaty—with the intention of having a European citizenship subsidiary to national citizenship—will be dwarfed by the difficulties that the Government will face if they accept the idea of a legal personality for the European Union. That is a thoroughly bad idea.
A legal personality for the European Union would be a bad idea for this country, but, as someone who wishes to see Europe succeed, I can tell the Foreign Secretary that it would be a bad idea for Europe also. The belief among the people of Europe—the citizenry—that the European Union is not working in their interests, as we had hoped it would work, will be magnified by the impression that they are moving closer to centralisation. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will firmly say no to that proposition, although I know the seductive terms in which it will be argued by so many of our European partners.
The draft treaty also proposes an extension of the role of the European Union in asylum and immigration policy. Our partners have long wished to see the free movement of persons, immigration and asylum put into the Community pillar. I am sorry if the Foreign Secretary regards that comment as an example of the Opposition's negative attitude, but the answer to that request must be no. We must not accept that proposal, in whole or in part, and I hope that the Minister who winds up will confirm that the Government will not do so.
I suspect that the Government will be asked to do a deal on immigration and asylum in return for the assurances in the treaty about border controls that the Foreign Secretary mentioned earlier. Again, we should firmly reject any such link. The issues are contentious, but they must be decided in the House if we are to carry the bulk of the British people with us in the decisions that may be taken on immigration or asylum. It would be utterly unacceptable to have those issues determined by qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers, and for disputes and appeals to be settled in the European Court of Justice.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the proposal to extend qualified majority voting in several areas. I see no proper case for that. I strongly oppose any material increase in qualified majority voting. There may be some tiddler areas in which that is worth while, but not many. Any significant extension of qualified majority voting can be made only at the expense of the authority of the British Government and of the House of Commons.
On that point, the Government have a clear policy of almost full surrender. They have conceded qualified majority voting in regional policy, social policy, environmental policy and industrial policy. They have conceded it without asking anything in return in the negotiations, and they have been offered nothing. No other Government have made such a unilateral concession. Even if the Government thought it was right to do that—I can see that they might—it was folly not to trade what they were prepared to give for what they wished to achieve in the negotiations. That would have been a much more credible and mature policy for our Government to follow, but they have not done so.
The Foreign Secretary was equivocal today—I was not sure precisely what he meant—but he has hinted in the past few days that he may be equivocal about maintaining unanimity on foreign policy. To concede that would be folly. Our policy on foreign affairs should be determined here, with the Foreign Secretary answerable to the House. Where we can work in concert with our partners, let us do so. Let us not have a narrow-minded nationalism that says, "We will not work with you." Of course not. Where we can agree, the collective voice of Europe is stronger. There are ways in which we can improve consensus-making within the EU to develop foreign policy, but to do so by QMV would be a substantial mistake for a big European country such as Britain.
The Government's justification for more QMV was partly set out by the Foreign Secretary earlier. Of course, there are some areas where an extension of QMV would be in the interests of this country, but the balance is very heavily tilted against us if we move towards an extension. That is why we should not do so. The Foreign Secretary explained his case in an interview on "The World at One" some time ago, in which he said:
Do we want to have Britain's interests in reforming the European Union vetoed say by Slovakia?
Why Slovakia, I do not know, but it will do as an illustration. He continued:
And if you want reform frankly in many cases you do have to have majority voting to stop one perhaps small nation obstructing progress".
But what if the country whose interests were threatened was this country? What if Britain's interests were at stake? The Prime Minister once said that he would never be isolated in Europe. He then said that he was only too happy to be isolated in Europe. But what if our interests were at stake? What view would the Foreign Secretary take then? As he will discover when he has experience of negotiating in Europe, the small nations do not tend to block progress, because their interests tend not to demand it. But he will find that the interests of the United Kingdom often do demand it, and to throw that away at the outset of his period as Foreign Secretary would be a grave mistake.
Does the Leader of the Opposition agree that it was Mrs. Thatcher who, at the time of the Single European Act and the creation of the single market, insisted on the extension of QMV so that the creation of the market could not be blocked by a single country? Are there not other areas where that can be done?
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and the prize there was worth the sacrifice—the development of the single market. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have praised that decision. But where is the comparative prize now for a further extension of QMV? There is none. If the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary could come back with something as valuable to this country as the single market—the extension of the biggest free market the world has ever seen—I would say, "Yes, by all means extend QMV." Nothing like that is on offer. What is on offer is this country surrendering more of our authority for the convenience of colleagues, with no comparative gain for the United Kingdom.
The Foreign Secretary has illuminated what he is about. He said:
The terrific potential for a Labour victory is that not only would you have a straight majority of Prime Ministers at the EU summit from socialist sister parties"—
a point he repeated today—
but you would also then have one of the key players in Europe on their side. With a Labour Government in Britain we could put together an alliance that would enable a different agenda at those EU summits.
Indeed, but that does not sound like what the Prime Minister has been saying to business men—it sounds nothing remotely like what the Prime Minister has been saying anywhere. What is the "new agenda" that the Foreign Secretary has in mind? To practise socialism abroad while talking conservatism at home? That sounds like an accurate description of what the Government have been doing for the past few weeks.
If that is the case, perhaps it explains why the Government would sign the social chapter and support an employment chapter that will be either pointless if policy is left in national hands—as the Foreign Secretary implied, and as it should be—or damaging if it admits Community employment practices to the United Kingdom. It is odd that, on every measurement one uses, unemployment in the United Kingdom is coming down, but is steady or rising in European countries that operate what is known as the European social model. Nor is that just a short-term phenomenon as a result of the economic cycle: if the Foreign Secretary cares to look over 25 years in the EU, he will find a relentless underlying rise in unemployment, disproportionate to that in comparable countries and in the United Kingdom.
The European Union—broadly collectively the same size as the United States—has created a quarter of the jobs created by the United States since 1950. Most of those jobs were created in the public sector and not the private sector, precisely because of policies that piled more costs on employers and discouraged employment. Against that background, signing the social chapter, aligned with the European social model, will open the door to further job destruction.
I genuinely understand why the Labour party—with its history and instincts—wishes to move in that direction, but it cannot say, "We are in favour of flexible markets," while moving in a direction that will strangle flexible markets and force people out of employment.
In referring to QMV, the Leader of the Opposition—I will get that right—has talked in terms of the British Labour Government "surrendering" to Europe. How does he believe the French and German Governments talk to their people? They, too, will be subject to QMV. It is a question not of surrender, but of sharing sovereignty in the belief that, if Europe is to progress, we cannot be subjected to what ancient Poland was subjected to at the time of the Liberum veto.
I will explain where there is a clear distinction. The whole tradition and manner of government in the United Kingdom, and our history throughout much of this century, are almost the polar opposite of those of continental Europe. Our traditions and instincts are different. What is commonplace for those in Europe is not remotely what has been seen traditionally to be in our interests. If QMV is conceded as the Government propose, what is common practice in Europe—from which we have always turned away—will be imposed from Europe on the United Kingdom. That is the distinction. The hon. Gentleman must understand that the traditions and instincts are not the same. That is why we should co-operate, but not be compelled by qualified majority votes.
Since the former Prime Minister is developing this matter as a major part of his speech, may I put to him the question that I asked during my speech and which there must be time to answer now? Would he really say to the House that he would insist that the new provisions on fraud should be decided by unanimity? Does he not recognise that, if they were, no one would ever suffer a penalty? If he accepts QMV in that area, will he concede that there are areas where qualified majority voting is in Britain's interests?
If the Foreign Secretary had been listening, he would have heard me say a few moments ago that there are areas where the extension of QMV is right, but that they are outweighed by the areas that would do damage to Britain.
On fraud, if the provisions were patently sensible, they would be agreed by consensus. They do not have to be imposed by QMV. When the right hon. Gentleman has had experience of negotiating within the EU, he will realise that consensus can be, and is, built on policies that are sensible, week by week. That is a distinction that he may not understand now, but which he will learn once he has spent a few months negotiating with our European partners.
The Labour party is well versed in telling us that much of the social chapter at present is only words and promises, and that is true. At the moment, only two directives have thus far appeared under the social chapter. But that is not the point, and nor is it what will happen in the future. The social chapter, once signed, opens the door to a flood of future legislation. The Government know that, the unions know that and the EU knows it. Mr. Gabaglio, the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, blurted out the truth in a clear fashion when he came to Britain. That is the reality. Mr. Gabaglio would like to go back to what he called, "Business as usual". I recall business as usual under Labour Governments—Employment Protection Acts that destroyed jobs, industrial policies that destroyed whole industries and regional policies that laid waste to the region. This month, what the Government will give away will give us those same disastrous policies of the 1970s, but they will be made in Brussels and imposed here by qualified majority vote. That is the reality.
Why do the Government claim that jobs are the bottom line in deciding whether they should join a single currency? Jobs do not seem to be an issue when embracing the European social model. The Government do not seem to care that that would damage jobs and competitiveness, although they surely know that it must. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary or one of his colleagues can reassure the House that, if there were a possibility of losing jobs as a result of signing the social chapter, Labour would rethink. Are jobs as important in signing that as they are in signing up to the single currency? Apparently not. Apparently, it does not matter if jobs are lost as a result of that policy.
Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether he regrets having signed the stability pact, in the light of what he has said about a single currency? In the circumstances, does he think that it would be highly desirable for the Government to repudiate that pact, in the light of the difficulties that it is causing in the rest of Europe?
It is good to see that the move from being a Government Back Bencher to an Opposition Back Bencher has not changed my hon. Friend. He is as difficult now as he was then. With great respect, he is as wrong now as he was then.
I must move on to the substantive points. Perhaps the Government could also settle a paradox for us. In case their policies on the social chapter worry the business community, their spin doctors have been busy reassuring the House that Labour will pick and choose European social policies; yet the Foreign Secretary knows that much of the social chapter is under qualified majority voting, where picking and choosing is out of the question. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can confirm that he understands that. He is obviously unsighted on that; perhaps his colleague will reply on that point at the end of the debate.
The only effective way to pick and choose is outside the social chapter, by producing legislation under the Government's own domestic agenda—heaven knows, they have a big enough majority. If they think that those policies are right, they should bring them to the House. If those policies work, they can claim the credit; if they do not, the House can repeal them in the interests of job creation and not be stuck with them because they have been imposed from outside. If the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister had no majority behind them, they could not do that. No doubt they could provide an early guillotine to ensure that they get the matter through the House—no doubt, it could be whisked through very speedily indeed if they chose to do so, but they would prefer not to and I think that we all know why.
There is another paradox at the core of the Government's European social policy—another example of their love affair with diametrically contradicting prose. On the one hand, we are told that European social legislation is vital for the workers of this country and that the new treaty chapter will help to create jobs. On the other hand, we—and, more especially, the business community—are assured that neither of those amount to a row of beans. They are symbolic gestures, so business leaders who are getting edgy need not worry. Which is it?
Both roads lead to disaster by different means. The first—more regulation—would hit prosperity and hurt jobs and the second would encourage the Europe of ever-increasing expectations that cannot be met. What then? An excuse for yet more European leaders to call for yet more European powers as a solution to all our ills.
The Foreign Secretary mocked the previous Government's policy on economic and monetary union in his speech seconds before restating it as his policy. Negotiate and decide, making up one's mind when one has the facts—all the buzz words. The right hon. Gentleman did not use them in that fashion, but that was exactly what he meant—wait and see what the facts and conditions are, make up one's mind at the time and do not be committed in advance. Can the right hon. Gentleman not make up his mind even now? The policy that he stated is the policy that he has been attacking month after month. It is breathtaking hypocrisy for the Government to talk to us, first, about the negotiate-and-decide policy and, secondly, about the unity of the party, to which I will return.
The fate of economic and monetary union will overshadow all the other discussions that the Foreign Secretary will have at Amsterdam. He referred to a change of tone in his party. I hope that we will hear such a change of tone as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) or the right hon. Members for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) speak.
The hon. Gentleman is just about to get it.
The single currency is approaching the point of decision and, perhaps, the point of crisis. The timetable is now unrealistic and the dangerous impact of dividing the Union into those in a single currency and those outside it is becoming daily more obvious. I have raised that matter repeatedly at European Councils and the speeches are a matter of record. The events of the past few weeks—what has happened in Germany and France and the changing circumstances across Europe—mean that economic and monetary union cannot safely proceed on 1 January 1999. Perhaps it can do so later—one can never say never, as has memorably been said—but it cannot on 1 January 1999.
If economic and monetary union goes ahead on that date, it will be not because the economic circumstances are right but because politicians throughout Europe have overcommitted themselves and cannot break away, even though the economic criteria that they set in the Maastricht treaty will not be met. On the information that has recently become available, the United Kingdom should certainly not enter in 1999. I am pleased to see the Foreign Secretary nodding assent to that.
Given the influence that the Foreign Secretary boasted of earlier, however, we should go further. First, in the interests of all of Europe—not just Britain and not just because of what some members of the Opposition might call Euro-scepticism in Britain—and because it would be a disaster if EMU went wrong, we should use the new-found influence of which the Foreign Secretary boasted to press for delay at Amsterdam. I am not asking him to press for cancellation. That will not happen. European monetary union is clearly in the interests of some of our European partners and they are not going to cancel it, so let us not have that pipe dream. Delay, however, we can most certainly press for and we should go further. We should make it clear that, if the other countries do not choose to delay, we will use the vote that we have against each and every country individually that seeks to enter such a single currency if their economies are not suitable to meet the Maastricht criteria and sustain them in later years.
I hope that the Prime Minister will indicate at Amsterdam—as I would have done had I been there—first, that we now believe that delay is in the interests of Europe, to avoid a disaster and, secondly, that if the Union chooses not to delay, we will vote against the entry of those countries that have not met the Maastricht criteria.
I fear two sorts of fudge as we approach the dates for economic and monetary union. The first is a fudge in which some of the larger European nations pretend that they have met the Maastricht criteria when they have done so only with creative accounting. The second is a different sort of fudge, in which the nations change the treaty commitment and weaken the criteria for a single currency so that not only France and Germany can enter, but perhaps Italy, Spain and other countries that desperately wish to be part of the single currency area when it is established.
If EMU takes place on weakened criteria, it will be economically fatal not merely to our European partners but to our interests and it should be opposed. The evidence is now available. The necessary economic criteria cannot be reached by 1999. At Amsterdam, I hope that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will seek to put a brake on economic and monetary union—not a cancellation, but a brake—because, if it proceeds in the wrong circumstances, it will damage our economic interests and cost us jobs. I delayed saying no until the British interest was clear. It is now clear. We should say no and the Prime Minister should do it at Amsterdam.
The Leader of the Opposition makes an important point about creative accounting, but surely it is an absurd proposition to say that, however close to or far from the Maastricht criteria our partner countries come—even if they are broadly in line—we should veto them. Surely that is what our American friends would call influencing people without making friends. What isolation and animosity the vetoing of partner countries would create in the European Union.
It is not a veto: the matter is determined by qualified majority voting. I did not mention the word veto: I said that we should cast our vote against those countries proceeding. [Interruption] It is no good the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) waving his arms; he should find out what he is talking about before standing up and saying it. I wish that he would change his oratory, because it is not a question of our trying to be beastly to the Europeans. If they proceed on the wrong criteria and things go wrong, there will be real and damaging economic effects on this country and throughout Europe.
I want Europe to succeed. I do not want much of the work of the past 30 years to be blown away by something that would make the collapse of the exchange rate mechanism look like a vicarage tea party, which is exactly what would happen if countries went into economic and monetary union and it collapsed. How many unemployed people does the hon. Member for Swansea, East want there to be in Europe? Is 18 million not enough for him? It is far too many for us, and I do not think that the risk is worth the potential reward.
A single currency may have rewards at the right time and in the right circumstances; but that is not now.
The Leader of the Opposition has said why he thinks that there should be delay, but can he clarify what the shadow Chancellor said this weekend and tell us whether, if monetary union were to go ahead and, in his party's view, it was in Britain's national interest to join, it would still be his party's policy to allow the British people a referendum on the issue?
I set out some time ago the view that I believed that it was right to have a referendum, and I have not shifted, nor do I expect to shift, from that view. It is a decision unlike any other. It may be decided that it is right to go in. Those circumstances could well exist in the future.
It is not a question only of positive advantages; there could be a negative case in which the disadvantages, in terms of employment and economic well-being, of staying out are compelling. We cannot overlook that possibility, and I never have. That is why I have always refused to rule out entry in principle. One cannot be certain that economic conditions will not be such that entering will be the least bad option.
If such a change is to come about, it is a change of such magnitude that, if it is to carry conviction, it must be endorsed in a referendum on a specific question, which is why the Cabinet that I had the privilege to lead decided on that policy some time ago.
I have dwelt on the negotiations at Amsterdam, so I have not developed the theme of the many advantages that exist from our membership of the European Union. In the absence of my having dwelt on those advantages on this occasion, let no one doubt that they exist and that we are infinitely better off in the European Union, for all the disagreements and squabbles that we occasionally have with our partners, than we would be in splendid isolation outside it.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was right to take this country into the European Union and I believe that the economic advantages that we have already reaped and that will be reaped in the future, unless we throw them away with foolish decisions, are huge.
We need to press to enlarge and decentralise the Union, to turn it into the economic powerhouse that it could, but has not yet, become. Its potential is almost beyond calculation if the right policies are there to follow the original dreams of the Community's founders.
Of course, we need to work with our partners to maximise Europe's influence around the world, but working with them does not mean having policies imposed on us by them, through qualified majority voting. We need to build on the opportunities that Europe has given us.
I profoundly disagree with some, not all, of the policies of the European Union. I echo again what the Prime Minister said the other day: is it going in the right direction? Frankly, no, but it is a force for good, economically and politically. We should use all our influence as a country to make it a success in the future.
That does not mean only co-operating; it means sometimes saying to our European partners, "We think this is wrong and we ought not to do it," because if we go ahead, and we prove to be right and it is indeed wrong, we could damage the whole European Union.
That is not Euro-scepticism, but a balanced judgment of what we believe is right to ensure that the European Union works. That is what I care about. I want it to work and I want us to play a proper role in it, but I do not want us to be placed in a position in which a more intrusive European Union overrides the instinctive wishes, habits and traditions of the United Kingdom in a way that many in this country have come to fear over recent years. The Prime Minister's remark is relevant in that regard as well.
In that spirit of wishing Europe to be a force for good economically and politically, we should use all our influence as a country to help to make it a success in a way that is appealing, and not unappetising, to the British instinct. In that spirit, I wish the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary well in the negotiations that they must undertake—I can certainly agree that they will be hard negotiations—and, for all our sakes, I hope that they will be wise in what they pursue and successful in what they achieve.
I welcome this debate, which takes place in entirely new circumstances. I got the feeling that those on both Front Benches were talking as Europeans. I, too, was born a European and will die a European. It is not really a national matter: we are discussing the future of our continent as we enter the new century. The implications of the decisions that we take are profound constitutionally, politically, economically and socially.
Our cause is not best advanced by talking as though it were a matter of conflict between one nation and another. The history of Europe in this century has been a history of conflict and war arising from nationalism. As I hope to show, if we take the wrong decisions, nationalism could be reawakened.
We have had two wars and the cold war. Fifty years ago, the Marshall plan was designed to strengthen the western European economies. The American ambassador was in the Palace of Westminster the other day and pointed out that the Marshall plan was part of the beginning of globalisation. He said that it was about the containment of communism. The European Economic Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were set up after the second world war to create a western Europe that would be able to perform again its function as a series of capitalist economies and to resist the onset of communism.
There are many people—I think that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who I am sure will be speaking later, is one—who look back at that history and say that we must build a political federation in western Europe to ensure that does not happen again. I understand that view, although I have never shared it, and the right hon. Gentleman, who as a young man went to Spain to visit those engaged in the Spanish civil war and who played a notable part in the war, is fully entitled to it.
I want to express some of my anxieties, which have been rather delicately touched on in the debate so far. First, the Europe that is on offer is a deflationary Europe. That is what the stability pact and the Maastricht criteria are all about. There has been much anxiety in local government about the standard spending assessment limiting the capacity of local authorities to spend, but I dread the day when the Chancellor comes to the House and says that a standard spending assessment has been made for Britain and that if we go beyond it we shall be fined under the provisions of the stability pact.
Unemployment in Europe, at 18 million or 20 million, is at an horrific level. It is all very well blaming the continental Governments' policies, but unemployment performs an essential function if we want to achieve what are called flexible labour markets. Without unemployment, wages cannot be brought down. Unemployment gets wages down. If wages are brought down, profits go up and imports are limited. In my opinion, the discipline of unemployment is an integral part of the policy being pursued in the European Community.
I am old enough to remember that Hitler came to power when there were 6 million unemployed in Germany. As a 10-year-old, I bought "Mein Kampf": I have it on my bookshelf still. The problem is beginning to re-emerge with Le Pen in France. With mass unemployment and despair, it is easy to find scapegoats: the Jews, the communists, the trade unionists. To read what was said by the Nazis before the war and consider how it is being echoed today must make people worry about what is in effect the reimposition of the gold standard in Europe in the name of economic stability. The social price is very high.
My second anxiety is that the whole business—to call it a legal personality is only a way of describing it—involves the transfer of power from the people to Governments. That is what it is about. There is a new political class in Europe that has been accumulating, in the name of the European Union, more and more power for itself. I sat on the Council of Ministers for four years. I was president of the Council of Energy Ministers. The laws in Europe are made by a Parliament that meets in secret. When I was made president, I wrote to all the member countries saying that as we were a Parliament that passed laws, we should have it open so that everyone could hear the debates. That was vetoed; they want to meet in secret. In secret, the negotiations and deals can be made more easily. If the press had been present, as Hansard is here, a very different perspective would have been seen.
I do not draw a direct parallel, but it has sometimes occurred to me that as communism required a party central committee and commissars, Europe has a central bank and Commissioners, Both have a certain distrust of the exercise of popular power because they pursue in the one case a communist philosophy, and in the other a very ideological free-market philosophy, that require the people to be kept at bay.
We are now discussing also something as important as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but these other constitutional changes that the Government are contemplating, which I wholly support, involve the transfer of power from London to Edinburgh and Cardiff at the very moment that we are also discussing the transfer of more essential powers from London to Frankfurt, Brussels and Strasbourg.
One reason why I am not in any way nationalist in my approach is that if the single currency goes ahead, power will be transferred to a central bank that will exercise all the levers of power in economic policy. It is no secret that I have some anxieties about the transfer of power to the Bank of England, but at least I have the comfort that the House of Commons can take it back again. In 1946, the Bank of England Act was passed by a majority in the House of Commons. After that, the Bank became subject to Treasury control. If it can go once, it can come back again; but hand power to Frankfurt and it cannot be retained.
If one thing is sacred for me, as I have said time and again, it is the power of the people by using a pencil on a piece of paper to remove those who made the economic policy that determined their lives. It never ceases to amaze me that people without a policeman in sight can take a pencil, put a cross on a piece of paper, pop it in a box and get rid of a Government: whether the last Government, the Callaghan Government, the Wilson Government or the Churchill Government. That is what democracy is about. Transfer the key decisions to people whom we do not elect and cannot remove and we abandon centuries of struggle by the common people to have some say in determining their future.
One last aspect was not touched on by the Foreign Secretary, but I must mention it: the lunacy of extending NATO into eastern Europe and rearming Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. If the history of this century shows one thing, it is that we do not need rearmament in central and eastern Europe. Think of the people we have rearmed at different times for different reasons. We armed Serbia because Tito was hostile to Stalin; look at the price that was paid in the break-up of Yugoslavia. It is beyond the range of common sense when Europe's problems are so enormous, and when we need jobs and health facilities, to launch an arms drive to re-equip the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians.
I mention that because under our constitution—happily, we are looking at it; I have been interested in constitutional reform for a very long time—the power to extend NATO was taken by royal prerogative. Parliament was never consulted because all foreign relations are dealt with by the prerogative of treaty making. To put it as quietly as I can, I am worried about a deflationary Europe, a centralised Europe, an anti-democratic Europe and a rearmed Europe. Those anxieties in no way relate to Euro-scepticism because if we get it wrong, it will affect every country, not just Britain. It will take away democracy from Germany, France, Italy and the rest.
One reason why this debate is important is that it comes during the aftermath of some important elections. The British general election saw a major landslide which, dare I say it without being confrontational, rejected the policies of the previous Government. I put it no stronger than that. It appeared that those policies did not find favour with the electorate. I do not know whether to describe the French elections as an "old Labour" victory because that might get me into trouble with Excalibur. Lionel Jospin won an election on the basis of creating 750,000 new jobs and a shorter working week. In every country in Europe, people want jobs, full employment—what is wrong with that as an objective rather than a bit of modernisation of skills and training?—a living wage, homes to live in, lifelong health care and education, dignity when they are old, and peace. That is the voice of Europe that we heard on 1 May and in the French election.
We should seek a Europe in which we co-operate without coercion. I have presented to the House twice before, and may again, a Bill that would make it possible for the 47 countries in our continent to co-operate. All the arguments about pollution and the dangers of fraud could be dealt with as well by co-operation as by coercion. It is the fear of failure that concerns me. If this scheme fails, the result will be a recrudescence of nationalism. It is already beginning. The Sun had a headline, "Up Yours Delors", a typical Murdoch insult. The problem was not Delors, whom I have known for a long time, or his nationality; it was that the system was wrong. How easy for some editor to turn that into hostility to Germany, France, Spain and Italy when their people suffer from the same problems as we do.
I believe, and I have said it so many times in the House that no one will be surprised, that this is a supremely democratic question. It is about whether the people of Britain, France, Germany and Spain are to be allowed, through their domestic democracies, to get rid of the people who control them. That is not possible within the framework of a politically driven federal Europe. It is not about economics; it is politically motivated. I understand and respect that. but I know it. If that ability were lost, I believe that we would have thrown away centuries of history.
I recognise that these issues divide everyone. It would be a mistake to suppose that the matter could be fitted neatly into party loyalties; the evidence shows that it cannot. When we vote on the matter in the House of Commons, there will, however one puts it, be a free vote. There will then be a free vote in the referendum on the matter. I beg the House not to see the matter, as it so often has in the past, as a choice between those who are pro or anti Europe. It is about democracy or dictatorship. I do not mean dictatorship in its more elaborate and terrifying forms but the right to govern ourselves.
Julius Caesar arrived in 55 BC with a single currency; we still use it. It took Boadicea, the original iron lady, to raise the men of Essex, known then as the Iceni, to fight the seventh legion to try to contain it. That is not the approach that we should take. We should try to ensure that the people of Europe control their own future. Mistakes will be made by any Government; if we cannot correct mistakes through the ballot box, we will have thrown away everything that matters, including all the ideas that have led to the creation of this House and of our democracy in Britain.
When the Prime Minister took over, he said that the time had come to make a fresh start in Europe. That gave me great encouragement. The Foreign Secretary gave the same indications soon after he took office. It gave me great encouragement because after 18 years the spirit in Europe between other countries and ourselves had deteriorated enormously. The feeling against us was immensely hostile. I thought that if we were now making a fresh start, we might overcome that.
I know full well that my own party has got to make a fresh start after the disastrous election result. If my party decides to go against Europe—to follow the tendencies of some of our friends—that will be the end of our party, certainly for a considerable period. I therefore hoped that my party would show that it now wanted to play a full part in Europe, which would be beneficial to all of us.
The great strength of the Six, when it first began in 1950, was that the major parties in all the countries agreed about the first European Coal and Steel Community, as it then was, and they worked together for it. All the members of the Six knew that the major parties in each country were working for the same end. That, alas, has never been the situation here.
When I made my maiden speech, I appealed to the then Labour Government at least to go into the talks on the Coal and Steel Community, but they refused. They said that it would be a nasty capitalist organisation. In that, I think that their judgment was in error. They also said that they could not take part in an organisation that might be against nationalisation. Again they were wrong; but they took no part and so we were outside—and remained thus for 22 wasted years. We suffered greatly from that, and we suffered when we got into the Community because of our earlier absence. That is what has always worried me about any future developments.
When he got to his conference, the Prime Minister said, "And we will set the agenda." That made me think seriously about what the members of other Governments of the Community would say when they heard the British Prime Minister declaring to a conference, "And we British will set the agenda." That immediately brings forth all the dislike and, at times, hatred of the British because of their claim that they are going to set the agenda.
The Union is a union in which we all play a part. We cannot expect to get our own way all the time and we cannot try to get our own way all the time. That is the secret of success. That is how its members have operated.
As for the speech of my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister, he will forgive me if I remind him—it is probably unnecessary to do so—that he once said that he wanted Britain to be at the very heart of Europe and that Maastricht was good for us, good for Europe and good for the world. There was a rather different tone in his speech today. That disappoints me because it shows that we have still not got the major parties in this country to agree about our membership of the European Union. That is the essential if we are to be successful and achieve many of our desires.
We must adopt an approach that recognises fully that others may have desires that are different from our own. We must accept them and not say, "No, we British must do our utmost to stop this." Let me recall our attempts to get our own way. Our attempt to change the voting power procedure failed disastrously. We were isolated, just left alone and all the more disliked for it. There have been other examples where we have pressed alone for change and did not get our way. The result, to put it quite bluntly, was that we were humiliated. People then took far less notice of us than they had done. That is a lesson for the current Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary about the way in which they should conduct business in the European Union.
I enjoyed, as always, the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). Today, he gave his usual speech, but with one addition—his comments about the Bank of England. I share his regrets about the position of the bank, but not about the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced a new organisation.
When we negotiated to join the Community finally, and were successful, we wanted and expected the Bank of England to become the central bank for the entire Community. Why did that not happen? Because of the record of the City since then, the record of the bank since then and the fact that people just did not trust the British. Figures produced in the press yesterday show that we have the next to lowest rate of trust of all the countries of the Community. They just do not trust us and therefore the first task of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary is to get that trust restored. That means working with our partners as a union. There is no other way of getting that trust.
We have heard a great deal about the single currency. I do not want to spend a lot of time dealing with it, but I believe that it would be quite wrong to write it off at this stage. That would be absolutely wrong because the French and the Germans are determined to go ahead with it and so are some other countries in the Union. We have heard about the incident in Germany, but the Finance Minister got a vote of confidence with a majority. The President of France and its new Prime Minister have both declared their intention to have a single currency. The French Prime Minister wants it in a different form, but they are determined to have it.
What is happening here? We are completely ignoring the advice and wishes of our industry. It horrifies me that our party above all should ignore industry. The majority of people in the Confederation of British Industry want a single currency. That is true of industry generally, but not so much of small traders, who operate internally and are not affected greatly by it.
My right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister is right to emphasise the dangers if the single currency does not work properly. Naturally, that is so. The dangers are for us in this country as well, however, if it goes well and we are not in it. Then, the speculators will work against us and they will be successful, as they were on black Wednesday. That is the frightening side of it.
It is rather interesting to look at some of the figures for Germany. I find that the word fudge is now being used in the negotiations. That is obviously just a cover for those who never want a single currency, or even the European Union.
The present figures on gold show that the total reserves in Germany are worth $8.80 billion. In the United Kingdom they stand at $5.48 billion. Germany has almost twice the level of reserves as us. One must then consider the price that is set for gold. The total valuation for our gold is $297.8 per troy ounce. The German figure is $92.4. So, the German price is a third of our rate. Why is it a fudge for the Germans then to say that, in the circumstances, they are entitled to raise the figure at which they rate their gold reserves? They are perfectly entitled to do so. How those figures are used is a matter for the Germans to sort out between the central bank and the Government. Calling that a fudge and, similarly, criticising the French is making us untrustworthy to the rest of the Union.
Industry wants a single currency, and if we do not go in when it is created we shall be in the situation we faced when the European Coal and Steel Community was set up. We shall have no part in its development while we are outside the single currency and, whether we like it or not, we shall have to accept what exists when we go in and will not be able to alter it. That is the great danger of saying, "Put it off."
My right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister knows my views on the social chapter. We were absolutely wrong to oppose it, and we are still opposing it in the amendment. Wages councils were introduced by Churchill in 1909 and they existed under every form of Government—Liberal, coalition, Labour, Conservative, national, wartime, Labour, Conservative. Only in the last three years have they been abolished. Could it be said that they were responsible for unemployment? Not at all.
I remind my right hon. Friend that when I left office in 1974, unemployment was 580,000. Contrast that with unemployment in the 1980s and 1990s. What is the point of abolishing wages councils, which prevent the exploitation of labour? Such exploitation is going on now. Let us make no mistake about it: as a result of there being no wages councils, there is exploitation, particularly of the young. That is deplorable, and we cannot be surprised that our colleagues in the European Union do not like it at all.
I come now to the issue of tax. Of course, people asked questions on Europe during the general election. I had them from our business men, who are operating perfectly well in the EU under its regulations. They say, "Why cannot we have them at home?" That is the voice of industry. Business men are horrified and say, "We are suffering in the other EU countries because of what is being said and done in Britain. Cannot you stop that?" That is what industry is finding, and it has said what it wants us to do instead of pressing ahead with other measures.
My last point is about enlargement. We have constantly emphasised that we want it and we also say that we want a change in agricultural policy. That is also said by the Government. What is the wonderful agricultural policy to which we want to move? Labour has always opposed European agricultural policy. We accepted it and our farmers do extremely well from it. What will be put in its place? Are we to go back to subsidies so that there will be a market price and the Government will provide a subsidy? I do not support such a policy and I do not think that at the moment my party could support it.
The question of an agricultural policy becomes acute when we consider the issue of enlargement. It has been said that we should take in the former Soviet territories to the east. My right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister has constantly emphasised, "Wider still and wider," to which the rest reply, "We want deeper still and deeper." What is the justification for the wider option and what are the dangers?
The economies of those former Soviet territories are nothing like those of the countries that are in the Union. I have been to Bulgaria and Romania and to other such countries and I have seen their standard of living. It is well below ours and that of people in the rest of the Union. They have vast spheres of agriculture and wages are one fifth of ours. What will happen if those countries become full members and can export to EU countries? What will happen to our economies? It makes absolutely no sense to say, "Take them in, wider still and wider."
What we must do and what the European Union has always done as a community is to say, "We want to help you and you will be associated with us." We should work out the terms of association for each country so that they suit its requirements and should then make finance and expertise available. Gradually, they would come up to the general level of the rest of the Union. We did that with Spain, Portugal and Greece, which was an associate member for 21 years. Turkey has been an associate member for 42 years and is still not a full member because the rest do not think that the problems of Turkey with its religious divisions can be assimilated into the Union.
It is sensible to say to all the territories of the former Soviet Union, "We will help you. You will be associated and as you develop and match the rest of us you will become a full member." That would make sense to everybody, but, as it is, the other members of the Union see us emphasising, "Wider still and wider," to avoid the obligations that will be discussed at the conference. That is their view of us and nobody denies it.
Those are the Union's present problems. I desperately wish that both major parties were supporting full, heartfelt membership of the European Union because that is what the Union wants. I hope that we get it.
I have participated in these debates for some years and have always been rather dismayed by the way in which they seem to be dominated by the zealots on each side to whom media attention is directed. Those people seem to believe that, despite our long membership, everything about the European Union is absolutely wicked. In this debate, we have not yet heard a speech in that vein, but I was at a Yorkshire business conference on Friday and was horrified by the speech by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on this subject.
Over the years, I have become a convert. I listened to the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and remembered the long-distant days of the referendum on the common market when I was on his side. I have spent some years in the House and some years pondering the question, and I have thought again about Britain's interest in Europe and the world and what we want out of Europe. As a result, I have had a significant and radical change of mind. In that respect, I am like other hon. Members. There is nothing shameful about learning and admitting, after mature reflection, that one was wrong. When I was younger, I was wrong about Europe and it is a great pleasure to follow the speech by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), the Father of the House, who has been right on Europe for a long time.
I wish that we could take a little of the passion out of the debate and look at the central issue—that of getting back to basics and asking what is in it for our constituents. We are sent here to represent them, and I know that mine want to see a world in which there is peace and prosperity. I am something of an historian, although not a very good one, and I realise that as the great conflagrations of war recede, people become complacent about what establishes and preserves peace. There has been peace in Europe for more than 55 years, but, in the lifetime of many hon. Members, a European nation was strafing and bombing this Parliament, and European countries were strafing and bombing each other. We should be humble and think about what we have achieved over those 55 years of a peaceful Europe. The EU has played a significant part in keeping the peace in Europe and we should never underrate that. We have also had a relatively prosperous Europe and our constituents want that prosperity to be ensured for the future and for their children.
We live in a changing world. Those of us who take seriously the globalisation of the economy and of competition realise that we cannot maintain our competitive edge and provide the employment and the living standards that our constituents require if we are outside a powerful grouping in Europe. There can be no doubt about that when we look at the competition. Everyone talks about south-east Asia and the emerging Chinese economy, but I still look at the vigorous economy of the United States. One does not have to relax for long to allow a successful American business to take away one's market. All over the world, there are regional groupings that are extremely powerful and enormously competitive. We must be part of a European grouping that can identify the ways in which we can beat off outside competition and the values that we must pursue in order to modernise our economy and remain competitive. We have learnt many of those lessons from our European partners.
Like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I have spoken to many business people who compete in the international environment. They have a fairly uniform view. They do not have a uniform view on the common currency, but they are predominantly in favour of economic and monetary union. The strongest view that emerges is that, if we are to compete successfully, we must do nothing to destroy the European Union and everything to strengthen it. Our greatest problem is that we can get that wrong.
I am a pragmatist and one of the things I liked about the introductory speech by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was that it smacked of what I admire about today's Labour party and the spirit with which it was imbued during the election campaign. It is a spirit that I have come to admire in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—a spirit of radical pragmatism. Radicalism goes back to basics and asks, what is the problem? Why do we have a taxation system? Why do we have a welfare state? It does not say that we have always had certain policies—one way of dealing with the economy, the welfare state or taxation—but asks instead, what do we want to achieve?
It is refreshing when a Government can be honest enough to say that what we want out of a taxation system is the prosperity of our nation—the successful wealth creation on which we all depend. What we want is to achieve a welfare state that delivers to the disabled, the sick and the elderly what they need and should be able to expect in a civilised society. We do not want any welfare state in Europe to be one that pays a pittance—a measly welfare payment—to people who hate the Government who give the payment and hate themselves for taking it.
What I admire most about the new approach on the Government Benches is that we turn that same radical pragmatism to Europe and ask, what do we want out of it? Of course, we want peace and prosperity, but we also want more—to be sure that we establish a democratic framework for Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield spoke about losing democracy, but democracy is not like that—it is a far more finely balanced animal. I worry about the framework of Europe, as would any intelligent person, and I want to change much of it, but that is not to say that it is wrong. As a good democrat, I believe that Europe is too Executive-driven—there is far too much power in the hands of the Council of Ministers that is not publicly scrutinised and far too much in the hands of the Commission. There is far too little power in the hands of Members of the European Parliament. We must ensure that that increases. I hope that in Amsterdam positive strides are made towards giving the European Parliament codetermination and enabling organic growth in its power. That must happen.
At another level, we in the domestic Parliaments must start recognising that we are part of Europe and should participate in it. In the years that I have been a Member of Parliament, one of the things about this House that have depressed me most is the number of hon. Members who have never actually visited the institutions of Europe. They criticise, they become zealots about Europe and have great passions on the subject, but they never get involved in it or come to understand it. It is wrong to live in a modern Europe without trying to go to the institutions and talk to other European domestic parliamentarians. It is wrong not to try to do what politicians do best—plot, plan, gossip and organise.
That is the natural role of politicians, but we as domestic parliamentarians and legislators are prevented from fulfilling that role because we have no access.
The Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis), knows that we have had a long tussle over that issue. He does not believe that domestic parliamentarians should have access to colleagues across Europe; he does not think it important in a democracy and he often slapped me down from the Despatch Box when I suggested that we should have access. Indeed, I remember my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), now the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, saying that he felt a junket coming on when I said that we should at least have access to Brussels and Strasbourg.
A few days ago, I read a newspaper article that said that there were so many Labour Back Benchers that we should be given more opportunity to join the Royal Air Force, the Navy and the Army. I have nothing against such schemes and I know colleagues who have benefited greatly from learning how modern defence forces operate; but if we got our priorities right we would make sure that Members of Parliament, both new and not-so-new, learnt about Europe—its institutions and how they work, how the Commission operates, what happens in Strasbourg and so on.
Most colleagues do not even know how many European Union institutions there are or where they are based.
Indeed, there should be a physical concentration.
The truth is that in this House there is an appalling level of ignorance about Europe. Some of us on the Labour Benches ran a campaign for more physical access. New Members may not know that as Members of Parliament they can get one trip a year to a European institution. If one goes to Brussels, one cannot return there or go to Strasbourg or to any other European institution for another year. In a European democracy, that is appalling and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who will be replying to the debate, will agree that Members of Parliament should be given access to European institutions.
To those who say that they feel a junket coming on, I say that those Members of Parliament who do not take an active role in knowing what the Commission does and what is available from the huge range of European policies and budgets to help their constituents are neglecting their duty. The benefits will come to their constituents and to the regions and sub-regions only if they know the system and how to work within it. It is appalling that many colleagues on both sides of the House are not aware of that. It was deeply embarrassing that when, two or three times, I met the previous Leader of the House, Tony Newton, and said, "We badly need more access", the answer was, "I am sorry, but a vast percentage of colleagues do not use the one trip that they are given." That is another indictment of the House.
We need physical access to our colleagues in Europe, starting with proper access to Brussels and Strasbourg. Let us give strong leadership in Amsterdam, urging that a centre be established in Brussels for domestic parliamentarians. Most of the business that we are interested in goes on there, but perhaps we also need such a centre in Strasbourg.
When domestic parliamentarians arrive in Brussels, they should not be forced to beg to use someone's telephone or try to gain access to the European Parliament; they should have a centre to go to. There they could be briefed; there could be meeting rooms and simultaneous translation facilities. If one wanted to hold a crucial meeting on energy policy, education policy or employment policy—on any of the subjects to which hon. Members have alluded—one could meet colleagues and do what comes naturally to parliamentarians—plot, plan and organise.
A greater flow of information is needed. In a technological age, an information age, surely we should have proper communication throughout Europe among the domestic politicians and parliamentarians of the Fifteen. I should have thought that it would be easily done on the net or the web. For less sophisticated Members, why not publish an old-fashioned newsletter, readily available fortnightly or monthly? It could improve communication among the 15 European states and give information about what was happening in the European Parliament.
Today's debate is important because I can feel and hear a different spirit about. Of course, we shall enter European debates, in the Council of Ministers and elsewhere, with our national interest at the forefront, but it makes one hell of a difference if, when our Prime Minister comes in, people look at him and say, "Here is a person who actually believes in the concept and vision of what Europe can achieve for our people in terms of employment and in terms of facing our increasingly competitive future."
I can feel and hear that difference in the attitude of colleagues throughout Europe. They have realised that, although Britain in the European Union is not a pushover—it will fight its corner for every bit of national interest—it starts from the basic principle that the European Union is the type of organisation that will best protect the people of Britain during the next 10, 50 or 100 years.
We must put behind us the days of the old, little nation state. Surely, in one of these debates on Europe, someone will draw attention to the fact that the nation state has not produced everything that we want in terms of the civilised life and, indeed, has given us much of the misery, poverty and unhappiness that we have experienced in the past 100 or 200 years.
I believe in a Government who are fully committed to, and who believe in, Europe. I hope that the Government and this Parliament will believe in full participation of all Members of the House in a positive Europe.
In his opening speech, the Foreign Secretary said that the Government saw Europe as an opportunity, not a threat. From the Liberal Benches, I welcome that positive approach. I believe that, ultimately, the Government will be judged on their ability to deliver.
At the moment, it is not surprising that there are certain contradictions: conciliation is followed by telling Europeans what to do. I believe that someone was reported as saying that Tony Blair occasionally sounded like Mrs. Thatcher, telling them how he was going to sort out Europe. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government's clear indication that they intend to proceed in Europe by constructive negotiation and as participating members seeking to advance our interests by negotiation and by being constructive, will yield better results than the 18 years of confrontation that have pushed us to the margins of decision making in Europe.
By contrast, the Leader of the Opposition, the former Prime Minister, appeared confused and contradictory in his speech this afternoon. I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that in that speech there was a lack of commitment to Europe and a continuing feeling that the Leader of the Opposition must somehow address the two irreconcilable wings of his party. One would have thought that the consequence of the general election might have liberated him from that stress and enabled him to tell us exactly what he thought about this issue, but I regret to say to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that I think the chapter of Europe is not yet closed as far as the Conservative party is concerned.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made a speech that we have heard him make many times. Although he certainly does not polarise things in a national sense, he is in danger of doing so in an ideological sense. It is understandable.
The right hon. Member says that, by definition, the European Union is deflationary. I think that by "deflationary" he means that its members have set themselves the object of living within their means and operating budgetary discipline, recognising that one cannot spend money that one does not have and that it is impossible to borrow one's way out of recession indefinitely.
There is room for flexibility in such an approach, but it is not a question of a commitment to stability; it is a question of a commitment to sustainability, to achieve the climate that will secure long-term employment and prosperity by giving people confidence in the economic institutions that we are trying to create. In that context, most of my remarks, as Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, will be about progress towards monetary union. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) will address some of the wider issues.
Before I discuss monetary union, I would say that, as a lifelong Liberal and now Liberal Democrat, and admitted supporter of home rule for Scotland and the progress of the European Union, I have never understood why people find those things contradictory. Those who believe that we need to achieve a co-operative Europe that involves all the peoples of Europe must also be aware of the need to conduct decision making at the appropriate level. If people are to relate to a wider Europe, it is important that their own institutions are close to them, so that people may directly shape and influence them, too. That is my simple definition of subsidiarity.
No one is calling for a European super-state. The only people who are calling for, or threatening us with, a European super-state are those who wish to destroy the European Union by creating a bogey that does not exist, so that they can frighten people into opposing the constructive idea of a Europe that is seeking to build institutions to enable us to avoid conflict and achieve progress on a variety of fronts—which cannot be achieved unless institutions are genuinely open and accountable.
To return to the issue of monetary union and to indicate to the Government that we shall support their motion, which is basically innocuous, and not the Opposition amendment, which simply expresses the deep divisions and difficulties in the Conservative party, let me say that it is important to set out some of the key issues that have arisen as a consequence of developments in France, Germany and other EU nations in the context of monetary union.
I wholly reject the Leader of the Opposition's analysis that he can determine now that monetary union at the beginning of 1999 is no longer a viable proposition. That is questionable and he is not entitled to make that assumption. It has been made only because of the convenience that it provides for his party.
The Liberal Democrats take the clear view that membership of a soundly constructed and fully converged monetary union in Europe would greatly benefit the British economy. It would reduce transaction costs for both individuals and companies, encourage trade by reducing exchange rate volatility, and help to secure low interest rates and low inflation. Ultimately, those achievements would boost jobs and incomes in the United Kingdom.
Those are real prizes to be won. In many ways, this country has as much, if not more, to gain than almost any other member of the European Union, not least because in post-war times we have not secured a credible record of stability on exchange rates, inflation rates and inflation. That is one reason why we have been unable to create the climate of sustained investment and growth that we all wish to achieve.
When I intervened on the Leader of the Opposition, I noticed that I struck a spark. Having spoken of the dangers of joining on time, he told the House even more passionately of the dangers of being left outside if monetary union went ahead and worked. We should not lose sight of that. If this country permanently rules out membership, we risk losing foreign direct investment and the City of London risks losing financial interest to other European centres, notably Frankfurt. Had the previous British Government taken a more positive attitude towards monetary union, the European Monetary Institute and the European central bank might have been located in London, not Frankfurt. If monetary union is successful, the fact that the Conservative Government sold out the opportunity for London to be the pre-eminent financial and monetary centre for the whole of an enlarged European Union will go down as one of their greatest betrayals.
We shall therefore certainly lose if we are excluded. We shall also suffer from potentially damaging exchange rate instability, affecting trade with some of our biggest markets. On Black Wednesday, when Britain was forced out of the exchange rate mechanism, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was reported to be singing in the bath because he was freed from that constraint. Somehow or other, that was supposed to liberate a whole new economic revival. Ironically, three or so years later the exchange rate is exactly where it was the day we were driven out of the ERM. Such volatility makes it extremely difficult for businesses to plan. The removal of that factor would be one of the greatest prizes that monetary union could deliver. It simply would not be a risk that any business would have to analyse.
No. It shows why the Conservative Government mishandled entry to the ERM in the first place. In many speeches in the House before entry to the ERM, it was pointed out that it was in our interest to go in at the right rate. Instead of going in at the right rate, however, we went in at a politically convenient time—the day before a Conservative party conference—to secure a headline about a reduced interest rate, and we paid a heavy price for that political opportunism. As a matter of detail, one reason why the Liberal Democrats called for operational independence for the Bank of England was so that such decisions would not be taken in that way. That was not in the Labour party manifesto, but it is now in the Government's programme.
We should not underestimate the difficulties of achieving monetary union, or the enormous prize that is there to be won. We have always recognised that it is a major project which will not be achieved simply and easily. We said that we would attach conditions to underwriting its success and to British participation. A referendum of the British people on joining monetary union, should it be determined that we should go ahead, is sensible not just to secure democratic assent, although, by definition, that is the prime reason for such a referendum, but for securing market acceptability that the decision is real and unlikely to be reversed at short notice. The trouble is that Britain's posturing in Europe has damaged us so much that people do not believe that a decision taken on one day will not necessarily be reversed in the near future. The great advantage of a referendum is that it secures the decision by giving the British people and the Government consent for the act.
I was therefore somewhat surprised and disappointed that at the weekend the shadow Chancellor appeared to back away from the Conservative party's commitment to hold a referendum. For the reasons stated, we believe that such a referendum is desirable and in the best interests of democracy and long-term security of the decision. Once the Conservative leadership election is over, we may get some clarification from whoever emerges on whether it remains Conservative party policy.
We accept that the convergence criteria must mean what they say. The trouble is that few people know what the treaty says. It allows for a restricted degree of flexibility, in terms of both the criteria and the timing. The criteria should be applied within the terms of the treaty. It is extraordinary that the Leader of the Opposition has decided that he knows better than anyone else what the outcome will be in 12 months' time. At least the Foreign Secretary acknowledged that, although the decision is coming closer all the time, it cannot be clearly assessed at this stage.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup pointed out that, whether or not we agree that the timing of the German proposal for revaluing its bullion was entirely felicitous, German gold is worth a hell of a lot more than ours. It therefore comes a little ill from us to lecture Germany about how securely founded the German economy is to sustain strong monetary union.
We would therefore not support monetary union that was clearly in fundamental breach of the convergence criteria. I hope and believe that nobody would contemplate that. We should make it clear to our partners in Europe that the criteria should be properly addressed by those who will join and those who aspire to join. If those criteria are met, if the decision goes ahead, and if Britain meets the criteria, it will certainly be in Britain's interest to be in on the ground floor. That is why it is also important to have a clear understanding of the stability pact. It is no good having a set of criteria that determine who qualifies then allowing countries to go their own way. There must be continuing disciplines to ensure good, sound economic management. They should not preclude Governments' rights to set their own tax or spending levels. They should prevent them from borrowing excessively, which is a good external discipline, but should allow countries to pursue their own policies, provided that they are within those broad economic criteria.
Having achieved the disciplines of convergence, it is essential that nations stick to the criteria. It is also essential that sovereign nations retain maximum flexibility over domestic fiscal policy, which means that there must be maximum fiscal subsidiarity. It is not necessary for the terms of monetary union to tell us how we should run our tax-and-spend policies. Countries with lower debt burdens in relation to gross domestic product should be allowed more flexibility over their annual deficits than countries such as Belgium, which have unacceptably high debt-to-GDP ratios. I hope that the Government will promote flexibility that takes account, at the point of departure, of where people started from.
There is flexibility on timing within the convergence criteria. We have always said that it is more important to get monetary union right than to get it on time. If it is not possible to meet the criteria—at this stage there is no evidence to suggest that it is not possible, but there are some obvious difficulties and concerns—a short delay would be preferable to seriously breaching the criteria or losing the entire project.
We Liberal Democrats will be working with our political allies in the other member states in the European Union to achieve a framework for monetary union that will be credible and viable, and which we could recommend that the United Kingdom should join.
It remains the Liberal Democrat view that Britain should be active in the great projects of Europe, that monetary union is one of the great projects of Europe and that we should still consider the possibility of joining on the ground floor. We should do our utmost to ensure that, whether or not we join on day one, everything that Britain does is designed to ensure the success of monetary union and our ultimate participation.
We welcome the Government's departure from a confrontational approach that has so long damaged Britain's interests. It is time to try a constructive approach. We are certain that that is entirely compatible with developing and protecting this nation's legitimate sovereign interests.
Before I call the next speaker, may I say that a large number of hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. They are much more likely to be successful if other hon. Members will make their contributions reasonably short.
I shall be as brief as possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The meeting at the end of this week in Amsterdam was called mainly to approve the text of the draft treaty that has come to be known as Maastricht 2—the intergovernmental conference treaty. The Heads of Government have some unfinished business arising from Maastricht 1 and the stability pact. They must also approve in particular a draft instrument giving legal authority to the so-called stability pact—a somewhat bizarre and Orwellian description, if I may say so. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) may have preferred to call it a sustainability pact, but to describe it as a growth and stability pact in Europe in the present circumstances is bizarre.
With regard to Maastricht 2, I approve and applaud the stance taken by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Government, in particular—this was not mentioned today, although it is set out clearly in our manifesto—the determination to maintain a veto over defence and to ensure that defence remains within NATO, the determination to maintain a veto in effect over foreign policy, and the determination to maintain the right of the United Kingdom Government to decide on immigration matters and, as the Prime Minister has said, to protect our borders. There will be no qualified majority on those issues.
By asserting those rights and powers, the Government are asserting the primacy of the nation state in those matters. They are making it clear that the governance—an inelegant but sometimes rather useful word—of defence, foreign policy, borders and immigration is to be left in the hands of a democratically elected Government and Parliament. To some people, it is an assertion of that somewhat old-fashioned and much-derided concept of sovereignty. When we defend those aspects, as I am sure my right hon. Friends do vigorously, we are defending the old-fashioned concept of sovereignty.
That is in stark contrast to what the Government are expected to do in regard to the single currency—that is, to sign the draft instrument that authorises and establishes the stability pact. I do not criticise the Government for that, as I shall make clear. The House well knows that the stability pact is required so that we can, in effect, enshrine into the treaty the 3 per cent. limit on Government borrowing, which is contained in the Maastricht treaty and is an entry requirement.
Subject to the exceptions, if a country breaches the 3 per cent. limit, there is a power under the stability pact to impose fines on that country from the centre. As I understand it from the documents, those fines will be scattered around and distributed among the good boys of the members of the single currency. That is clearly an incentive for the others to fine the recalcitrant member. As I am told and as I read in the newspapers, a deficit will have to be well below 3 per cent. normally to ensure that a Government do not transgress. In future, deficits will have to be 1 or 2 per cent. at the most.
The stability pact, together with the 3 per cent. entry requirement, the 60 per cent. debt question and the transfer of monetary policy and the control of inflation to the European central bank, are all to be enshrined and entrenched in a treaty, which can be changed only with the consent of all the members of the European Union. That means that, to a substantial extent, the economic governance of Britain and of all the states of the EU will no longer be democratically based.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned our sister parties in Europe and the values of democracy that we in the Labour party share with them. In the governance of economic matters, most of the powers of the various Governments of Europe will be placed with unelected, undemocratic institutions operating beyond the frontiers of the state and beyond the borders of Britain or any of the other countries. That is what will happen if we join the single currency.
The hon. Member for Gordon spoke about taxation. In theory, taxation will remain in the hands of the nation state, but buried in the papers before us is a request for the Heads of Government to consider signing common guidelines on taxation. I have obtained those guidelines, which are contained in a resolution made on 13 May 1997 by the European Parliament. They are set out clearly, with the aid of the Commission.
The guidelines end by stating, in one of those marvellous phrases that we get from Europe, that taxation is an example of the excess of subsidiarity, which is therefore to be whittled away. The nation state has and will still have an excess of subsidiarity, at least in theory, once we have enshrined everything else in the Maastricht treaty.
There are those who believe, or who pretend to believe, that the decision to join a single currency is merely a matter of economics—just a matter for the counting house. We have heard that again today. A single currency, apparently, is nothing more than an addendum to the single market. That may be the view of the European elite, but the peoples of the old nation states of Europe know differently. They know that the issues go to the heart of democratic government and economic governance.
The fact that the European elite are determined to take economic government out of the hands of elected Governments and entrench it in a treaty shows how out of touch they have become. They want to do that at a time when one of the real problems in Europe is the alienation of people from politics and the political classes. At such a time, the European elite in France and Germany want to take democratic power out of the people's hands. They want to do that at a time when Europe faces terrible problems.
In the next few years, France and Germany will have to adapt—as Britain has—to global competition. They will have to re-examine their social security systems and their labour markets, which will create considerable upheaval. France and Germany will need to apply every scintilla of democracy at their disposal if they are to solve those problems. At the same time, the European political classes want to eliminate democracy. There will be no safety valve. Democracy will not be allowed to solve the problems: they will be resolved by banks, treaties and the convergence criteria.
I do not expect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not to sign the legal instrument at Amsterdam. It has been agreed and it will be signed. Ironically, perhaps he will watch Mr. Jospin out of the corner of one eye to see what he is doing. Mr. Jospin told the French electorate that he does not like the stability pact because it is not flexible enough. However, I guarantee that Mr. Jospin will sign the stability pact because he is a paid-up member of the French political elite. That elite body will not give up merely because the people have decided something different in an election. It takes more than that to make the French political elite change their grand historical designs.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will look at poor Chancellor Kohl out of the corner of his other eye. Chancellor Kohl is a decent and a good man, but he will sign anything.will He certainly sign the stability pact. He still feels the lash of the Bundesbank on his back. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) attempted to criticise the German bank for revaluing its gold. The bank and the German Government were entitled to do that if gold was low on the balance sheet. I am no accountant, but I found it strange that the bank had to pay a dividend from that revaluation—when it had no cash to do so—to the German Government within one year to enable them to reduce their borrowing and deficit below 3 per cent. That is the real problem.
Chancellor Kohl is caught in a vice, and he will sign anything—despite the fact that the German people are overwhelmingly hostile to the idea of giving up a currency that has secured stability and security for Germany for almost 50 years and swapping it for a currency that has never been tried or traded and over which they will have little control. Kohl, Chirac and Jospin will sign the stability pact because they are locked into the project and they cannot go back.
I do not wish to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman, but does he realise that this debate is about removing the scrutiny reserve that was imposed last December by the Select Committee on European Legislation? The effect would be to release the Government to sign the stability pact.
Those matters have been debated already. The reality is that the Government will sign the instrument for the stability pact in Amsterdam at the weekend. I am trying to explain the potential consequences of that action.
We like to use the phrase, "Think the unthinkable." Perhaps the time has come to think the unthinkable about the single currency project. We cannot expect the French and German political establishments to think the unthinkable: they are incapable of any rational thought when it comes to the single currency. Who knows? Perhaps funny old Britain, with its centuries of global experience, should start thinking the unthinkable. We talk about the global economy and the global market, but no European country has the historical global experience of Britain.
Britain has an intuitive feeling for finance and commerce. The Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Gordon, said that the central bank should be based in London—for a moment I thought that he was a little Englander. Britain's financial intuition has not always coincided with financial thinking on the continent—and we have often been proved more correct on such matters. Britain also has a healthy distrust for corporatism and for all the undemocratic institutions that follow it. Perhaps funny old Britain should start thinking the unthinkable—and perhaps the Foreign Secretary should begin that thought process on the ministerial aeroplane as he returns from Amsterdam.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) in the debate. I hope that I do not cause him undue embarrassment when I say that I found his views on Europe distinctly more realistic than those expressed by the Foreign Secretary in opening the debate.
Conservative Members have expressed two alternative views as to the merits or otherwise of surrendering our opt-out from the social chapter. I addressed that subject in some detail in my speech on the Loyal Address, so I shall not repeat those points now. However, it is instructive to consider what has occurred in the intervening three weeks.
The Social Affairs Commissioner, Mr. Flynn, has proposed that the threshold for the works council directive—which is currently set at 1,000 employees—should be reduced to 50 employees. That would bring within the ambit of the existing works council directive virtually every business in this country. Mr. Flynn has also proposed imposing additional, legally binding requirements on companies, forcing them to consult before anyone is made redundant. Only last week, agreement was reached with continental trade unions regarding a whole raft of new contractual rights for those in part-time and temporary employment. That is the main subject of one of the next directives to be produced under the social chapter: the so-called atypical work directive. I believe that it will have some very real implications for labour market flexibility in those areas.
I think that the key issue is not the desirability or otherwise of those rights. We can debate the issues on the Floor of the House and consider whether those rights affect employers' willingness to hire people, and thereby impact directly on jobs. The central issue is whether legislation in this key area will remain at Westminster under our national control, or whether the legislative initiative will be surrendered to Europe. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that, although he has reservations about giving extra power to the Bank of England, at least that power derives from domestic legislation that may be revoked if the Government decide that it is wrong.
The same is true of the social chapter. If the Labour party wishes to use its huge parliamentary majority to introduce more rights for British workers that compare with those of workers on the continent, it has the means to do so nationally. That does not require the surrender of our opt-out from the social chapter. I was struck by the comments of the Prime Minister on his first foray into Europe when he attended the meeting at Noordwijk. The Reuters extract of his remarks about the social chapter states:
Mr. Blair … declared … that the Social Chapter … must not be used in order to introduce new legislation that could affect competitiveness and which could end up placing additional burdens on employment.
The Prime Minister seemed to regret the surrender of the opt-out from the social chapter before he had made the concession. If the Government are really concerned not to affect the competitiveness of our country or place additional burdens on employment, the last thing that they should do is surrender our opt-out from the social chapter, which, as has already been pointed out, is largely subject to qualified majority voting, not unanimity. We are surrendering not only our opt-out, but our veto. It is probably too late to change, but I believe that that is a thoroughly bad policy for which Britain will pay in jobs. If the Government do a U-turn and abandon that policy at Amsterdam, they will be lauded by the Conservatives.
I should like to refer to some very important aspects of the new treaty. The first is the extension of qualified majority voting. As I said during the debate on the Loyal Address, the Commission has always had a major extension of QMV on its agenda for the intergovernmental conference. It published a paper in February proposing that 18 new areas of policy should be subject to QMV. It is of great concern to all Conservatives that that agenda seems to have remained largely intact. In addition, the paper proposes four new treaty competencies to be subject to QMV rather than unanimity, covering some wide areas of policy.
I agree with the comments of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the move away from unanimity. I accept that the Conservative Government made some moves on that, but the key argument is about where power lies. Further moves towards qualified majority voting would be irreversible. It is almost inconceivable that there would be a subsequent treaty amendment to reverse the process and return those powers. The Government are contemplating ending for all time our ability to say no to legislative proposals in wide areas of policy. I earnestly hope that in Amsterdam the Government will not surrender our existing rights of veto in key areas, including the environment and industrial policy. The long-term consequences for this country of moving to QMV on those and many other policy areas would be damaging.
I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary did not refer to subsidiarity, on which the British Government secured an important concession at Maastricht. It is vital that that concession is made more secure at Amsterdam. In particular, it must be made justiciable. When the Commission takes powers to itself or initiates legislation that could perfectly well be dealt with by national Governments, individual member states must be able to argue to the European Court of Justice that the Commission has exceeded its powers and gain a judgment that would take those powers back to member states.
The previous Conservative Government tabled proposals to that effect. It is of concern that those proposals have been severely watered down in the draft protocol on subsidiarity. The protocol is inadequate. I hope that the Minister will give us a clear assurance that he will reject the draft treaty's proposals on subsidiarity and will go back to those tabled by the previous Conservative Government.
I do not take the view that everything about the European Court of Justice is bad—indeed, quite the contrary. It is an important protection for this country. We have a good record of operating European Union legislation rigorously and fairly—a record which is not shared by all our European partners. If we are to have the ability to ensure that EU legislation is enforced fairly and rigorously throughout the EU, we must be able to go to the European Court if we believe that others have cheated at the expense of this country.
The European Court of Justice has one significant defect. Like other supreme courts in parliamentary democracies, its judgments have the immediate effect of law. However, unlike any other supreme court in the parliamentary democracies of Europe or north America, its judgments are impossible to modify. A judgment that is out of line with what the Council of Ministers wants cannot be modified unless a treaty amendment is passed unanimously—treaty amendments require unanimity—at an intergovernmental conference.
The previous Conservative Government did some important work on that, publishing proposals for changes and coming forward with a new procedure to enable the Council of Ministers to meet after a European Court judgment and produce a treaty amendment rapidly by qualified majority voting, to bring the legislation back into line with the majority view. Sadly, the treaty before us today makes no reference to those proposals. I hope that the Minister will assure us that the new British Government will adhere to those proposals, because they are essential to continued confidence in the operation of the European Court of Justice. We cannot have a supreme court with a law-making capacity whose decisions are impossible to modify.
The Foreign Secretary also scarcely mentioned the European Parliament. No doubt there are different views in the House on how much further the powers of the European Parliament should be extended, but I hope that we can agree on a common starting point: that the provisions in the draft treaty are the biggest single extension of the powers of the European Parliament since the creation of the European Economic Community. I believe that that is a fair statement of fact. It has long been on the agenda of those who want to move towards a federal Europe to bring about significant transfers of legislative powers from national Parliaments to the European Parliament. We are well aware, from our experience of dealing with European legislation, of how negligible our power is in this House.
The new treaty is beginning to follow the same process in relation to the Council of Ministers. As I hope all hon. Members understand, reducing or even emasculating the powers of the Council of Ministers is another indirect way in which to emasculate the powers of national Parliaments to which national Ministers are accountable.
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head in disagreement. I simply point, therefore, to the relevant section of the treaty text. I invite any and every hon. Member who has not read it already to look at pages 111 and 113, where there is a complete list of areas that, for the first time, will become subject to the co-decision process. The co-decision process is the critical process of expanding the authority and powers of the European Parliament at the expense of the Council of Ministers. A total of 23 separate areas of policy are, for the first time, to be made subject to the co-decision process. They include employment, social policy, transport, the internal market and structural funds.
The previous Conservative Government were entirely right to say that if Europe was to continue to be a partnership of nation states as opposed to a federal Europe, there was no further case for any material extension of the powers of the European Parliament. In the draft treaty, we most certainly have such an extension. Again, I ask the Minister to make clear to us the new Government's policy in that critical area.
I now come to the most crucial area of all—the boundaries of the competencies of the European Union and its institutions in relation to those of national Parliaments. I put it to the House—I hope, again, that I am speaking purely factually—that the draft treaty proposes extensions of the role of the European Union's institutions in virtually every area of policy and takes us into areas of policy that have not been included before.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly drew attention to the proposal for a new legal persona for the European Union in international affairs, making it capable of being a treaty signatory and giving it, in legal terms, almost the same locus and status as nation states. There are far-reaching proposals to extend the involvement of the European Union in foreign affairs and there are to be new involvements in defence. Immigration, human rights and non-discrimination are being brought in, as are a whole range of domestic policy areas. It is even proposed to extend the role of the European Union in culture, believe it or not. Those are far-reaching extensions of the competencies of the European Union.
We may debate whether the extension of the EU's powers in that way is desirable. I hope, however, that we can end the debate—having heard the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), I am not sure that we can—on what is the basic thrust or the basic goal of the EU. Let us forget the ridiculous term super-state; that can mean anything to anyone. The choice is simply between a partnership of nations and a federal state. Some hon. Members on both sides felt that we got to the fork in that road at Maastricht. I did not take that view because I believed that at the point of Maastricht, we were still on the road of being a partnership of nation states. Five years on, however, as a result of the way in which the EU has moved and of this draft treaty, I am in no doubt about where we are. This treaty takes Europe—we can debate whether this is right or not—irreversibly into a federal structure.
This is the point where the former Labour Opposition's rhetoric and the reality collide. I listened with great care to what the present Prime Minister said during the election and to what was said in the Labour party's manifesto. Labour made it clear that it was opposed to Britain being taken into a federal Europe. The point I put to Ministers in the last few days before they go to Amsterdam is that if they really mean what they say—that they are opposed to Britain becoming part of a federal Europe—they have only one policy option in Amsterdam next week, which is to say no to this treaty.
The last part of the speech by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) was very exaggerated. I have also read the draft treaty and I have not found in it what he has described. We may or may not want a federal Europe—I personally do not—but a proposal for a federal Europe is not contained in the draft treaty. Inflated language and gross exaggeration do not help the House's perusal of the matter.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on his speech; it was very positive and extremely encouraging. The speech by the Leader of the Opposition was in two parts. There was the bit in which he was still trying to lead his party when he talked about the policy of surrender, which we would apparently come forward with at the Amsterdam summit. He grossly exaggerated, as did the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling, the issue of qualified majority voting and what is involved at Amsterdam. On the other hand, he also spoke as a former Prime Minister about Britain being at the very heart of Europe, which I always find an attractive idea.
The problem for the former Prime Minister was that he was let down by hon. Members of his own party; I can see some of them here. I do not say that they did not act for highly principled reasons, but I believe that they certainly let him down. We have a new situation in this Parliament because the Labour Government are in the enviable position of having the overwhelming support of Parliament for their positive approach to Europe. In the previous Parliament, the Euro-sceptic faction had an influence out of all proportion to its numerical strength because of the previous Government's small majority and because of their weakness. In the end, that was what brought down that Government.
This Government, however, have the support of their vast majority—a majority elected on a positive European manifesto. Unlike the Conservative party, we did not all write different manifestos; one or two of us may have done, but very few did. In addition, our vast majority is buttressed by almost 50 pro-European Liberal Democrat Members and by the pro-European group in the Tory party. That group is bigger than was expected at the time of the election.
Partly because of the landslide, the proportion of pro-European Conservatives who remain is quite large. I can understand why, for tactical reasons, they may not want to put their heads above the parapet in this debate. We hope to hear from them later, depending on what happens in the coming election for the leadership of the Conservative party.
The big advantage for this Government is that, in pursuing their new, more constructive approach, they know that they do not have to look over their shoulder all the time. I think that the Government have made an excellent start. We had immediate visits to our partners by the Foreign Secretary. We had the signal that we intended to sign up to the social chapter which was a symbol of our new approach.
Frankly, that is the way to begin. We cannot start by bargaining; if we believe in something, we have to signal that we are prepared to do it. We have also signalled our support for a new employment chapter and that will show that we intend to be a positive member of the European Union.
For me, what is so refreshing about the Government is that they have abandoned the language of hyperbole and hysteria—we heard a bit of that just now and no doubt we shall hear more from Opposition Members—and have started to present the problems as they really are.
We can now see that the intergovernmental conference is not about the battle of Britain or the end of the nation state as we know it, as we heard so often from Conservative Members, but is a sober discussion of practical issues that are important for Britain and Europe. For example, as Mrs. Thatcher well understood, in certain matters it makes sense for Britain and the European Union to proceed by majority voting. She understood that in order to create a single market, one country cannot be allowed to impede progress. That is why she agreed to it. When I put that point to the Leader of the Opposition, he accepted it immediately because it was true.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, that also applies to fraud, research and development, and environmental matters where it would be in Britain's interest not to have a veto but to proceed by majority voting. When we talk about our veto, we sometimes forget that our veto is also somebody else's veto and that other countries can veto British policy. We have to understand that a bit better if we are to have a sensible debate about European affairs.
On the other hand, it is true that there are vital national issues such as taxation, foreign policy and, above all, defence. We certainly need a veto when it comes to sending our young men to die, and it is essential to preserve that veto. It is a matter of balance and it has to be considered soberly, carefully and from a pragmatic point of view without the hysteria that we have experienced in the past.
Of course, there are tricky problems to be faced at Amsterdam, including the weighting of voting to achieve a balance between small and large countries. I am sure that a solution will be found, but it is clearly a difficult matter between the states.
Border controls and immigration present problems, but, in my view, the other countries respect the fact that, for the moment, the United Kingdom—and, necessarily, Ireland—occupies a special position.
There is also the relationship between the Western European Union and the European Union to consider. Again, I believe that an acceptable compromise will be reached.
An acceptable agreement that is good for Britain and for Europe can be reached at Amsterdam because we do not have deep divisions between the countries that cannot be overcome. All member states, including the United Kingdom at last, want to reach agreement at Amsterdam. If, by some mischance, the Conservatives had won the election, such an agreement would have included the Conservative Government, for all their propaganda before the election.
We are likely to reach agreement at Amsterdam or soon after, and that will be in Britain's interests. That will be good for the country because it will help us to win over British public opinion after all these years of Euro-sceptic propaganda in the newspapers. It will show that a more co-operative and constructive attitude by the British pays dividends for British national interests as well as for European interests. That is extremely important.
With our presidency approaching at the beginning of 1998, it is important that Britain seizes the initiative. I agree with right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), the Father of the House, that it is not a matter of setting the agenda in the sense of ignoring other countries' interests, but it is important that we try to influence it. That is perfectly acceptable for a major European country such as Britain.
We are right to say that we need to complete the single market, because that is very much in Britain's interests. We are right to talk about the reform of the common agricultural policy. I do not share the view that it is the most perfect instrument devised by men or women. It certainly needs reforming.
We are also right to talk about enlargement. It is important that the former Soviet countries, particularly those on the borders of the European Union, have a real opportunity to join the European Union. We cannot keep them out if they want to join and if they are prepared to accept the rules, as I believe they are. Of course, there will be a transition period, but it is an important objective that we should set for the European Union and I am glad that the Government are in favour of it.
The previous Government were so weak and divided—particularly after the first Danish referendum and the Maastricht vote—that they could only react negatively to proposals by other European countries. We heard echoes of that in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition. It is important that we make positive proposals and I welcome especially the Chancellor's proposal on employment which he is tabling today, or has tabled, at the ECOFIN meeting.
The history of the EU shows that countries that take a positive position are far more likely to get their way. If hon. Members doubt that, they should consider the example of Mrs. Thatcher. She believed that it was important to complete the single market. Her Government took a positive position on that issue and, as a result, we were able to get our way with the support of other countries. We had to make compromises on other issues, but that is the way in which the European Union should proceed. We need a positive agenda of our own.
Finally, let me say a word about the single currency. I shall not indulge in debate with my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). We do that often enough and I am certain that we shall do so again. Clearly, events in France and Germany have raised questions about the timetable and the way in which monetary union is being established.
It would be easy for us to indulge in a characteristic bout of schadenfreude. I often think that that German word was invented especially for the British, as we spend most of our time indulging in it. We would be foolish indeed, because it is not in our interests for there to be instability of any kind in Europe, particularly monetary instability.
We are certainly entitled to insist on effective criteria because it is in our interests to have economic and monetary union that actually works, but, at the moment, we should be sympathetic and perhaps not say too much. If other countries want to go ahead, we should not try to stop it.
I disagree strongly with the Leader of the Opposition who was entirely wrong when he said that we should vote against monetary union at Amsterdam. That would be a stupid thing to do. If he were Prime Minister now, he would not be advocating it. It is much easier to say that as Leader of the Opposition.
I thought that he did. I thought that he said that monetary union should be raised at Amsterdam and that it was the most important issue to be considered there. Is the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) saying that he wrote the speech?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification, although it still means that there is an intention to vote against the project, which makes my essential point.
We should keep open the option of Britain joining a single currency—after a referendum, of course—if we believe it to be in our interests. Contrary to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli believes, I believe, as he knows, that there are strong arguments for a single currency. I also believe that it would be greatly disadvantageous for us to stay out of a single currency if one went ahead. On that point, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, who is absolutely right to believe that.
I congratulate the Government on their excellent start. I wish them every success and luck in Amsterdam and urge them to keep up the good work.
The debate has been like many previous debates on Europe—notable for the Euro-sceptical speeches of Government Members. That is an interesting feature, which is already developing under the new Government.
I congratulate the Government on the creation of a new atmosphere between the United Kingdom and other members of the European Union—although I know that some Opposition Members may criticise that. The Government have got off on the right foot in relations between the continent and the UK.
I was, therefore, interested to note that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said that one of the problems in the House was our lack of knowledge of European institutions. He accused most hon. Members of not knowing how many EU institutions there were and, even if they knew how many there were, of not knowing where they met. I think that the problem is deeper than that.
I do not dismiss hon. Members' knowledge of the EU. In fact, I think that they are very well informed. Some hon. Members present served with me in the European Parliament between 1979 and 1989. Some of the best-informed members of European institutions were those from the UK—both Labour and Conservative. They made more contributions to the work of the European Parliament than many other Members from other nations. Yet—I say this as an Ulsterman and I think that the Welsh and the Scots would probably confirm it—there was a problem with the attitude of continental Members of the European Parliament towards English MEPs. Labour MEPs were always disliked in Strasbourg. That is hard to say, but it is true.
Yes, they were. The Ulstermen, the Scots and the Welsh were always liked. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will understand from your background, there is a cultural problem in relations between the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe, which we must understand. That is why I praise the Government for the steps that they have taken in the past few weeks to try to improve relations between this Parliament and EU institutions.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield also criticised his right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and said that democracy was not at risk. I come down on the side of the right hon. Gentleman when we discuss issues such as the single currency.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the relationship is warmer and better, and congratulated the Government on achieving that already. I remind him that, in 1991, he was probably tempted to say almost exactly the same thing about the then new Prime Minister and his relationship with Europe. The five subsequent years demonstrated that the special cultural differences and changes made such a position almost impossible.
Originally, I was going to make that comment, but I decided to remove it from my speech. Time will tell. I want simply to place on the record the fact that, at this stage, one month since the Government took office, they have started off on the right foot in relations between the UK and the EU.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, for example, rightly saying at ECOFIN that the most important issue is the provision of more jobs in the United Kingdom and across Europe. When I first entered the European Parliament, only 12 million people were unemployed. Yet 20 years later, the figure is 50 per cent. higher. That is the "success" of European policy: a total failure—driving more and more people out of jobs. The Chancellor says that he has five means of recommending how we bring about the provision of new jobs in the EU, but we have not yet seen the detail of those five programmes. We do not know what they really are or how they will be funded.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield is criticised for saying that democracy is at risk, but, of course, it is at risk. A central bank in Frankfurt will control interest rates and a discipline will be applied to all member nations. We will, of course, be left the right to raise taxes, as has been said, but our total public expenditure will be restricted. That will mean that the people of the United Kingdom will no longer be able to set financial policy in this country through the UK's democratic system. They will be controlled from outside.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield was right in his definition of democracy. The people have a right to make a decision and, if they do not like that decision, they have a right to reverse it later. If we set up a European bank and a single currency, however, decisions will be made in Frankfurt which the people of the United Kingdom, regardless of whether they vote Labour, Conservative or even Ulster Unionist, will not have the right to change.
Has the right hon. Gentleman not noticed a slight contradiction in his argument'? He is developing it very well in relation to the difficulties that arise from the various provisions of the treaties, such as unemployment, but does not he recognise that the troubles in France, Germany and all other countries come from the clamp of the Maastricht criteria? That is precisely why those of us who took such exception to the arrangements for the single currency agree with him on the one hand, but, on the other, disagree with him when he does not draw the right conclusions.
I have no doubt that the criteria imposed by the Maastricht treaty have created the conditions that apply in Germany, which has massive unemployment of almost 5 million people. They have also caused the situation in France, which led to a change of Government. That is why I say that I applaud what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to do.
Exactly. I want to hear the detail of how such provisions will be financed because I believe that there is a contradiction in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's policies. We must wait for those details to emerge.
The Ulster Unionists support the enlargement of the European Union. The Council of Europe already has many members with a common approach to human rights, individual rights and cultural activities. The Council debates foreign policy, creating a common theme throughout a wider number of nations than are members of the European Union. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that, as we extend the European Union, we wish to welcome as quickly as possible countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
However, I differed with the right hon. Gentleman when he mentioned the small island of Cyprus. Much as I should like to see Cyprus become a member of the European Union, the last thing we want to do is to bring Cyprus into the EU before it has settled its internal affairs. We do not want to inherit the problems of Cyprus, because we have enough already.
The Foreign Secretary made an excellent speech in opening the debate. It was a skilful speech and I welcomed its underlying tone. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) may laugh, but when he reads the speech he will find that the underlying tone was somewhat sceptical. That scepticism may emerge in greater detail in the months ahead. The Government have stressed the importance of Europe to the people and I shall finish with two points that affect people's lives, on which I would like some replies from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this evening.
The first issue is the continuing ban on British beef exports to the European Union. The certified herd scheme has been before the Commission for several months. Some of us met Commissioner Fischler some three months ago in Brussels, following the submission of the scheme. He said that it was a good scheme and that Northern Ireland complied with most of the terms of the Florence agreement.
I welcomed the previous Government's submission of the certified herd scheme. I have a copy of the letter from the then Minister that accompanied the submission; one paragraph was devoted entirely to the problems of Northern Ireland. Since then, Commissioner Fischler has said that Northern Ireland complies in all respects with the European Union's requirements. I wish to know what progress the Government have made since then in regaining access for Northern Ireland's beef to the export market in the European Union.
The second issue is one on which the Conservative Government laid great stress, but I am sorry to say that the Labour Government seem not to have taken it as seriously—quota hopping and the damage that it is doing to the fishing industry. That problem has not yet been mentioned in the debate, which surprises me. The Laessen report recommended a further 40 per cent. reduction in the British fishing fleet—I should say, the United Kingdom fishing fleet, because the terms are sometimes misunderstood. Such a reduction would be disastrous for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, especially because of the impact of quota hopping on the United Kingdom fishing industry.
For example, 46 per cent. of the United Kingdom quota for hake and 44 per cent. of our quota for plaice is already taken up by foreign quota hoppers. In other words, almost half of those two stocks are taken up by non-UK vessels. That is a serious problem which the Government must address.
I heard on the radio over the weekend that the Government hope to resolve the matter in the next 10 days. I should like a progress report this evening that would be good news for the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom.
Some of the speeches in this debate have looked back over the past 22 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) mentioned the fact that he had changed his attitude since the referendum in 1975. I confess to the House that I have changed my attitude, too, and I had very good reasons for doing so. In 1975, it was just conceivable, because of the nature of our manufacturing base, that Britain could operate outside the then European Community. Since then, during the Thatcher-Lawson years, our manufacturing base has been decimated.
Two other factors have arisen. Europe has changed. When we talk about the European Union, we no longer mean only six countries, but many more. The traditions of those additional countries often have much in common with the British Labour movement, and Sweden is one example. A social dimension has also been introduced. Many of us argued in 1975 that we were being asked to become part of a bankers' Europe. Nobody can argue that now, because—since Jacques Delors and the social chapter—the European Union has undoubtedly acquired a social dimension and one that has been accepted by the Labour Government.
The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) mentioned the dangers to democracy that he sees. I remind the House that democracy is not as age-old in this country as we would like to think. It is true that we have had parliamentary government for nearly 1,000 years, but it is only 165 years since the first Reform Bill was passed. All that did was give one man in 40 the right to vote. It is only in this century that working men have all had the vote on an equal basis, and women have had that right only since the 1929 election. As recently as 1945, most women did not have the right to vote in local elections because of the householder franchise. In 1948, the university seats and the business vote were abolished. We should not talk as if we have been a democracy for centuries, because we have not.
If there is a democratic deficit in Europe, the answer is not to ignore Europe but to make up the deficit. I do not share the fears that have been expressed by some hon. Members today that the European Parliament will usurp Westminster's powers. However, it is right that the European Parliament, meeting as it does in public, should be able to control the executive machinery of the European Union which meets in camera.
A breath of fresh air is blowing through our continent today. It was generated by the decisive decision of the British people on 1 May to reject a party whose leadership refused to disavow the bigots and the extreme chauvinists in its ranks. New Members are lucky indeed because they do not have to listen to the bigotry and the racialism that oozed from the mouths of David Evans and Tony Marlow. The British people turned their backs on such candidates, including the Tory candidate in Edgbaston who attacked the Labour candidate—now, I am glad to say, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart)—because of her Germanic roots. The Tory Government whipped up hatred against Europeans in general, and Germans in particular.
We remember the writings of Nicholas Ridley, and some of the speeches of Lord Tebbit. We remember also that one of the Conservative party's leadership contenders embarked on such a tirade. During this Parliament, no Minister will be heard at his party conference making fun of foreigners, as the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) once did. Those days have gone. Although there may be differences among Labour Members, these are based on politics and economics and are not borne out of racism and bigotry.
The Tory Euro-sceptics talked about protecting British sovereignty, and the interests of the people. We believe the most important people to be working people, and that is why the Government have taken early action to fulfil our manifesto commitment to sign up to the social chapter and to recognise that British workers—whether full time or part time—should not be treated as second-class European citizens.
Likewise, the Government are right to put the scourge of unemployment at the top of their European agenda. The convergence criteria for the single currency cannot be properly attainable with a background of 80 million unemployed people in the EU. As the people of France have come to understand, attempting to reach the target of 3 per cent. of GDP borrowing requirement by slashing jobs and welfare is not the way to endear the concept of European unity to the mass of people. In rejecting the Gaullists, the French people decided that there had to be a better way.
I believe that if there is a single currency, we should enter it as and when we are in a position to attain the 3 per cent. target, backed by fuller employment. When those who are now unemployed become employed, they will no longer be a financial burden on the state and will pay taxes. That will help to sustain the 3 per cent. limit without damaging the social infrastructure.
I do not believe for one minute that, if the rest of Europe—certainly the core countries of the EU—accepts a single currency, it will be possible for Britain to remain aloof. For Britain to persist with the pound sterling while Germany, France, Italy and perhaps others operate a single currency would invite speculators on a large scale and would make business highly costly for the British business man, compared with his European counterparts. If Britain is to compete on an equal footing with our counterparts in the rest of Europe, there has to be acceptance sooner or later of Britain's entry to a single currency.
One aspect that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not mention today is human rights, but he should be congratulated on putting that at the top of his foreign policy agenda. When we talk about human rights and foreign policy, we tend to think of countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and—perhaps—Turkey, and a good reason why Turkey's application to join the EU should not be considered is that country's human rights record. There are other human rights problems within the boundaries of Europe and I wish to express some caution about the enlargement of the EU.
I fully support Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary being accepted into the EU as early as possible. In many respects, Hungary could fit in neatly tomorrow morning. Unlike the right hon. Member for Strangford, I would not allow Turkey a veto over Cyprus's application. However, we should be careful about the applications that will come from the Baltic states. This is a cautionary note that I would like to add to the debate. In Latvia, 46 per cent. of the population are Russian. Of the 1.5 million people who live in Estonia, one third are Russian. These people are being denied their human rights. Many of them have lived there for 50 years or more, but one third of the population are unlikely ever to be other than non-citizens because they—the Russian speakers—are unlikely ever to meet the linguistic requirements for Estonian citizenship.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary undoubtedly will have difficult decisions to make in Amsterdam, but the manner in which he, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have embarked on the European journey with the Labour Government is in stark contrast to the way in which the former Prime Minister led the Conservative Government. He said that he was ready to be at the heart of Europe, but his Back Benchers were at his heart and he lost heart. Because of that, he lost the election. I wish my right hon. Friends good luck in Amsterdam, and I feel sure that they will act on behalf of all the British people and that the decisions to which they come will be true to the Labour party's internationalist traditions.
It has been intriguing listening to the schizophrenic socialist party's windmills of the mind, because there are only a few days to go before the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary go to Amsterdam. It is clear from today's speeches that they do not understand what the treaty says. There is a famous analogy; they have not read the Amsterdam treaty as one of our distinguished leadership candidates is reputed not to have read the Maastricht treaty.
The problem goes back to the Prime Minister's statement, as Leader of the Opposition, on 5 April 1995, when he made the most monumental misjudgment about the future of Europe. In a speech at Chatham House, he said that the other member states were not making strides towards a federal Europe. As I understand it from some diplomatic notes that have been leaked to me, in return for the resolution of the quota hopping issue he will give a series of concessions on the Amsterdam treaty, completely ignoring the federal character of what is being created—a federal character clearly described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) in an excellent speech. My right hon. Friend was, of course, criticised by Opposition Members as usual—I do not hold that against them. On balance, I agree that a deep, federal shift will take place in Amsterdam, although I depart a little from my right hon. Friend's judgment that the Maastricht treaty did not have the same effect.
In a nutshell, the real distinction between the Single European Act, which I always supported although I would like reforms to get rid of unfair subsidies, and the Maastricht treaty is that under the former there was a reaffirmation of the principle of majority voting that was already there for agriculture, industry and various other things. As I have said before, the critical point is that the Maastricht treaty was about European government whereas the Single European Act was about political co-operation and trading relationships. There is a world of difference between the two.
On the Amsterdam treaty, the idea that the European Union should be given a legal personality is a massive step in the direction of a federal Europe. It is pointless continuing to recite the mantra that we are not, to all intents and purposes, in a federal arrangement. I am more interested in identifying the functions that are being transferred as the constitutional criteria for determining the movement towards European government than in the general expression, federal or otherwise. The functions that are transferred will determine whether we reduce our democratic control over the Government of this country through this House and the accountability of that Government to the House.
I take grave exception to the legal personality and enhanced powers of the European Court of Justice, particularly the extension of its powers to cover criminal law, which we have been assured over and over again could not and would not happen. Furthermore, the chapter regarding fundamental rights and freedoms contains the most horrendous provisions which, if approved, would give the court the power to adjudicate on alleged breaches of fundamental rights that will be entrenched in our legislation through the Maastricht treaty. Any breach of those rights will be visited with sanctions against the member states in question. The House has not had much of an opportunity to consider all these questions. In the time available today, hon. Members cannot touch on them in the depth that they require.
I strongly criticise the Prime Minister for utterly failing—for the first time, as far as I know since the founding Act was passed—to make a statement to the House after the Noordwijk summit and the Russia-NATO summit. For many reasons that I do not want to recite today, we have made fair accusations against the Government for their failure to treat this House with proper respect. This is yet another example. The Prime Minister's failure to make statements to the House on fundamental European matters is outrageous. The inexperienced Minister who is sitting on the Front Bench for the first time suggested that it is not a contempt of the House for the Prime Minister to refuse to come to the House to tell us about the Noordwijk summit and the Russia-NATO treaty; he is merely demonstrating his junior capacity and his inexperience.
For all the reasons that I have given, I firmly believe that we should veto the treaty in its entirety. Furthermore, unless, as I pointed out in an amendment that stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), there is renegotiation of monetary union by placing the single currency on the agenda for the intergovernmental conference, we should veto not merely the treaty but the entire conference. That would be in the interests not merely of the United Kingdom, but of Europe as a whole.
As we heard in the good speech by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) and in my interventions on the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition, the stability pact is at the heart of European politics this very day.
As I pointed out, the Government—through the arrangements that they formulated for this debate—are treating the House with contempt for the following reason: only a few months ago, the Select Committee on European Legislation tabled an unprecedented motion, criticising the previous Government. Despite the Committee's insistence, the Government ignored its request that a matter as important as the stability pact should be taken on the Floor of the House. I criticised the previous Prime Minister for that. Indeed, about 150 hon. Members on both sides of the House took the same point of view.
Among all the other papers that we are considering today is that same stability pact. The single currency, which is the most crucial question facing Europe, is buried in lines of verbiage about the various documents that we are supposed to be considering. If the Prime Minister were here, I would challenge him—indeed, I challenge the Ministers on the Front Bench—to tell us why the Government propose to allow the stability pact to go through without the full and proper debate required by the Select Committee on European Legislation. That sort of contempt is not merely a matter of disrespect, it is fundamentally undemocratic. It means that hon. Members are not being given the opportunity to form a proper judgment about what is going on in the name of this country.
The stability pact is about the creation of a hard core, which is what the Germans want. It is based on an attempt to ensure that they have their kind of Europe. The Leader of the Opposition called for delay on the single currency—I would call for rejection—because it would lead to a Europe that lacks equilibrium and has a new centre of gravity. As I have argued on many occasions, if we allow the measure to get through it will lead to an increasingly German Europe.
The Germans themselves are now critical of that prospect. I visited Germany recently and met many leading German figures. I had a meeting with Hans Tietmeyer in the Bundesbank not so long ago. From that conversation, I predicted what has now happened. The Bundesbank has taken exception to what the German Government are doing and the most recent figures suggest that as many as 60 per cent. of the German people do not want the single currency on those terms.
Professor Wilhelm Nolling has said that he will take the matter to the constitutional court in Germany, and Professor Wilhelm Hankel of Frankfurt has emphasised that to revalue the gold reserves and cash in a profit—a decision tied up with the ridiculous policy of the single currency and stability pact—is equivalent to printing money.
That is bringing Germany and Chancellor Kohl into disrepute and, as Professor Hankel points out, from the point of view of stability policy, it is as questionable as allowing the monetisation of debt, which the Maastricht treaty forbids for good reason. That is why the matter is being taken so incredibly seriously in Germany. I whole-heartedly endorse and encourage those Germans who are taking a position against their Government, who are putting the obsession with political union ahead of common sense and the interests of stability in Germany, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
Senior German figures, such as Gerhard Schröder and Herbert Hax, Kohl's chief economic adviser, have called for a delay to economic and monetary union. I would much rather renegotiate everything, which Amsterdam provides us with the opportunity to do. Failure to do so will be an act of folly and a dereliction of responsibility, as the previous Prime Minister said.
I made an intervention concerning the stability pact during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I strongly criticised the pact and will continue to do so. He said that I was wrong; I stand to be judged on that in due course. I suspect that he supported it because, as I know from a reply that the Prime Minister gave me the other day, it was not only a political agreement, endorsed by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer and backed up at Dublin by the Leader of the Opposition, but became a final agreement and is now being implemented by the former Opposition.
The pact is in my opinion a fundamental mistake; it creates a hard core and we will be deeply damaged by it regardless of whether we are in or out of monetary union. If the hard core is a weak euro, we will be damaged by the lack of growth; if we are on the outside, it will be better not to have had it at all. That was the basis of my objections to the Maastricht treaty in the first place and it is why I shall certainly abstain on the Opposition motion this evening.
If I was wrong about the exchange rate mechanism in my objections to it as it developed, I am glad to have been wrong. It was a vicious and bad policy, based on our 1992 manifesto, that led us into all sorts of difficulties and contributed massively, in my judgment, to our loss in the general election, because the public sector borrowing requirement went up to £50 billion and we imposed taxes such as value added tax on fuel.
I do not believe that I was precisely wrong, to put it mildly, with respect to the political obsession of Chancellor Kohl in driving for a federal Europe. I criticised the "heart of Europe" speech for good reasons, and would do so again. I am glad to note that the Leader of the Opposition has been good enough candidly to acknowledge that the exchange rate mechanism was a political mistake and to consider again the implications of the "heart of Europe" speech in an interview with Professor Anthony Selden.
The wait-and-see policy was always flawed. It remains flawed in the hands of the new Government. Is it a good idea to have a policy of wait and see as unemployment rockets and growth plummets? Is it good policy to wait and see, with all the uncertainty that that involves?
The Government do not have the guts to consider what is going on—the riots and disorder in France and Germany and the youth unemployment. The Prime Minister goes on about relieving youth unemployment with a so-called five-point plan, when the very policies that arise from the Maastricht treaty have generated youth unemployment of 28 per cent. in France and 33 per cent. in Spain.
Not one thing that I have heard today from the Foreign Secretary, nor all the glitzy presentation from the Prime Minister since the Government came into office, has given me the slightest confidence that they have the faintest idea how to run a European policy. That is why I and my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green tabled amendment (c), which says that we have absolutely no confidence in Her Majesty's Government in relation to European affairs or in their capacity to negotiate.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spoke about the central bank. He is completely right to say that it is anathema to our democracy. It is ultimately an unaccountable arrangement under which the bank governors are not allowed by law, subject to the European Court of Justice, to seek or take instructions from the member states. If they are not allowed to do that, nobody controls them and they are completely unaccountable.
When things go wrong, there will be a tremendous problem, because, on the one hand, there is the possibility of the breach of law and, on the other, the impossibility of bringing anyone to account. At the very same time, this Parliament and others will be emasculated. There will be no safety valve, and that will be the breeding ground for serious disorder, leading possibly even to a more extreme form of fascism or authoritarianism throughout Europe.
That is avoidable by avoiding the full implications of the treaty. That is the danger that we face, which is why I say that all the single currency arrangements should be renegotiated at Amsterdam. They are the breeding ground for unemployment, cowardice and disorder, which will follow as surely as night follows day.
The problem with flexibility is best encapsulated by the disaster of monetary union and the manner in which it was described in the flexibility paper in the appalling Amsterdam treaty. In the notes, the European Commission says that economic and monetary union is the best form of flexibility yet devised.
If monetary union, which has been an unmitigated failure and the centre of so much controversy and despair throughout Europe, is to be regarded as the best form of flexibility, why on earth do not this wretched Government abandon a treaty that has flexibility right at its heart? It is all very well for the Minister with responsibility for Europe, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), to laugh; if he persists in the policy that is being pursued at Amsterdam, the laugh will be on the other side of his face.
I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate.
To use an expression little used nowadays, I come from an ordinary working-class background, where it is not the norm to go into public life, let alone become a Member of Parliament. It is therefore with deep humility, but also with pride—for myself, for my family and for the community of Harlow that nurtured me—that I make my maiden speech.
It is customary to pay tribute to one's predecessors, which I am more than happy to do. Hon. Members new and old will have their memories of my predecessor, Jerry Hayes. I say with some admiration, and certainly with respect, that he was a politician who never shrank from an opportunity to use the media to expose his views to public scrutiny. In the context of this debate on Europe, he came from what I would call the sensible wing of the Conservative party. He rightly understood that Britain had no future outside the European Union, certainly not a prosperous one. I also learnt during the general election campaign that he was a dedicated constituency representative who earned enormous respect for his local work.
I also pay tribute to Stan Newens, who represented Harlow for 15 years. Many hon. Members know that Stan represents London, Central in the European Parliament, but he still lives in Harlow and is remembered with respect and fondness by constituents. Even if one disagrees with Stan, it is impossible not to respect the sincerity and passion of his convictions and the way in which he puts them forward.
Harlow's modern history started with the decision of the Labour Government in 1946 to create a new town there. The decision was popular and welcomed by the majority of local people. It gave rise over the following decades to opportunities for thousands of people where previously there had been none. Families moved, as mine did in the 1960s, from rundown and overcrowded accommodation in London to the green spaces, the lower-density, higher-quality housing, and the excellent comprehensive schools and community facilities offered by Harlow. It was planned and designed as a group of neighbourhood communities separated by pleasant green wedges. The stress on the concept of community and neighbourhood has continued to the present day. Harlow council is a pioneer of successful and pragmatic devolution of power and responsibility to neighbourhood forums and committees.
Harlow has also given rise to magnificent sporting opportunities and facilities. To this day, it boasts the largest youth recreational football league in Europe. Among the products of that excellent system is the current England football coach, Glenn Hoddle, who was a classroom contemporary of mine. I and other Harlow residents will always be happy to be associated with Glenn's achievements, but that is even more true after recent results. I am sure that next summer he and the England team will prove the accuracy of Labour's iron rule of football, that it is only under Labour Governments that England win the World cup. That is the last neo-nationalist comment that I will make in this debate.
Harlow has led the way in innovative social and community facilities: the first all-purpose health centre in 1955; one of the first holiday play schemes in the early 1960s; and one of the earliest after-school care schemes in 1979. I am pleased that the importance of those initiatives is recognised in the new Government's programme. Harlow has lost much of its traditional manufacturing industry. However, that industry is being replaced and Harlow is becoming a centre for scientific research and development. Major international companies such as SmithKline Beecham, Northern Telecom, and Merck, Sharp and Dohme and are centralising their research activities there. Local people welcome that.
I am proud to represent my constituency and I recognise the start in life that Harlow gave me. It is home to a proud working-class community. People support each other and believe in shared community life and facilities. They also aspire to get on in life and to do better for their children. I fully admit that those were the people who my party lost contact with in the 1980s: defence industry workers, council house purchasers and small business people. Labour has come home to them, and they have certainly come home to Labour. I assure hon. Members that we do not intend to lose contact again.
I understand that it is traditional to make a maiden speech on a non-controversial subject. I have therefore chosen Europe. I say that not because I have taken leave of my senses but because I believe that, over time, Europe will and must become a less controversial subject. It is too important to play party politics with. The future of Britain has never been so much at stake as it is now. I say that with particular reference to the Euro-sceptics both inside and outside the Conservative party. They try to reduce every debate to a dogmatic, obsessive tirade against Europe and all things European. They are the King Canutes of British politics. For them, the general election was a watershed. They attempted to play upon ignorance—to use the fact that people do not fully understand how the institutions of Europe work—to create prejudice and fear, and so set Britain apart from Europe. They failed in that enterprise on a massive, unprecedented scale.
I strongly believe in a deepening and growing European Union; a Europe that I am certain will, in time, develop a single currency. Of course, there must be debates and negotiations about start dates, timetables and the convergence criteria, but the idea that Britain could remain outside a single currency for a long time without enormous damage to our economy is fool's gold.
I was interested by the comment of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) that there may be circumstances in the future where it is in Britain's interests to join a single currency. I believe that he was sincere, but I do not believe that he, or any of his potential successors, could deliver the Conservative party to support such a proposition. In a party with pretensions to the national interest, that is to be regretted.
I also believe in a Europe in which, at long last, Britain has signed up to the social chapter so that, at a very basic level, our people can enjoy the same minimum standards of employment as exist elsewhere in Europe. I believe in a Europe where qualified majority voting has been extended to prevent other countries from unacceptably vetoing things that are important to us and our communities. I believe that all those measures are in Britain's interest; certainly they are in the interests of my constituents. Let me give an example of how that is already happening.
Harlow's innovative approach to training and job creation in the past year alone has brought in almost £1 million of European funds. My constituents gain real benefit from the opportunities that constructive partnership in the European Union brings. In essence, that is what the debate is about. To believe in one's country and people does not mean blindly beating the path to isolation. We have to have confidence in our country, its people, its institutions and what they stand for, and to recognise that sometimes we can achieve more for our people in combination with other nations than we can alone. That was reinforced by the general election result. Europe is our future. Our task as politicians is to make Europe succeed for all our people, to open up its institutions and to make them accessible. It is a task that I, as a new Member, will relish.
I know that I am profoundly privileged to make my maiden speech in this House. Many of us here, and many, many not so fortunate, have dreamt of the moment, perhaps for decades. I have faced an additional problem, as some of my colleagues have enjoyed pointing out. "You are going to have say something nice about George," they chortle. It must be admitted that Sir George Gardiner did not end his Conservative party career in a blaze of glory. I had the difficulty of representing the Conservative cause in Reigate against someone who had represented it for 25 year as a senior, and distinctive, Member of this House. I believe that, on cool reflection, he will regret the manner of his passing from his party, as many of his friends in the Conservative party in Reigate regretted deeply the impossible strain that he placed on loyalties divided between man and party.
Sir George was a resolute battler for the causes he believed in, and although many of us questioned his judgment at the end, no one could question the resolve with which he steered his chosen course. That quality served my constituents well for more than two decades. None did him more credit than his championing of the Tadworth Court children's hospital, now the Children's Trust, Tadworth. In 1982 it faced closure due to reorganisation at Great Ormond Street. Sir George and my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) led the campaign that saved it by both raising money and changing the policy of the Department of Health. I hope that it is a cause which Sir George feels he can continue to support in my constituency.
Further to that, in the primary duty of those of us sent here, no one complained and, indeed, Sir George had a fine reputation for the way in which he looked after the concerns of his individual constituents. That is a record which I can only hope to match in the time that I have the privilege to represent Reigate in the House.
Reigate is a constituency with a long parliamentary history which began as long ago as 1295 when it sent two Members to Edward I's Model Parliament at Westminster. It is said that parliamentary representation in the 14th century was regarded by boroughs such as Reigate not as a privilege but as an irksome duty, and one to be evaded whenever possible. A borough that returned Members had to find the money to pay their wages and was thus subject to a higher rate of taxation than the county. There is a lesson in that for today. If I may depart briefly from the subject of the European Union, I hope that the people of Scotland appreciate that the taxation accompanied by any Parliament can indeed become irksome. I cannot believe that the people of Scotland expect the people of England to pay for their Parliament. That would be guaranteed to be a greater cause of irritation than it was for my constituents six centuries ago.
Previous representatives of the Reigate constituency have included Charles Howard, the Lord High Admiral of the Fleet that defeated the Armada. That is not meant to be clue as to my intentions tomorrow. They also included the modestly named Julius Caesar.
Today, the constituency consists of most of the borough of Reigate and Banstead. It runs from Banstead in the north to the village of Salfords in the south. I would like to ask the boundary commissioners to have some pity on Banstead, which they have moved on every single occasion that they have had the opportunity, from one parliamentary constituency to the next. I hope that they will allow it to rest for a few decades to come in the borough in which it exists.
Chipstead is one of the most desirable parts of my constituency. My parents were lucky enough to find an Army hiring there in the 1950s. Today, Michael Reeve is one of my constituents who is fortunate enough to live in that lovely village. Unfortunately, he cannot enjoy Chipstead today or for an indefinite period because he is currently being detained in Antwerp prison by the Belgian authorities in disturbing circumstances.
Mr. Reeve has been involved in a massive reinsurance fraud. He protests his innocence. He claims that his company was the unwitting agent for two companies that were properly audited and incorporated under Belgian law, but which now seem to have been the product of organised crime.
Mr. Reeve commissioned his own private investigation and has made the report available to the Belgian authorities. His home and office have been searched by those authorities. He has twice surrendered himself voluntarily for questioning by the Belgian authorities. In the first instance, his reward was to spend Christmas and the new year in prison. When he returned in April, having been assured by his own lawyer that there were no grounds for his re-arrest, he was re-arrested and has been incarcerated since 28 April.
That spectacular fraud may take up to three years to come to trial, so why is Mr. Reeve in prison? He will not reoffend. The case is known to the whole insurance industry; no one will do business with him and his
company is going into liquidation. He cannot interfere with the evidence as his home and office have already been searched. Those are the grounds on which he is formally being held, but, in an unwise moment of candour, the judge of instruction, Mrs. Van Hoeylandt, told Mr. Reeve's lawyer that he was in prison because
he was still not telling the truth.
That is clearly an outrageous use of detention to coerce a subject of investigation.
Mr. Reeve's appeal process, which has failed in Belgium, has uncovered another dubious attribute of the Belgian criminal justice system. There is a data link between the prosecuting authorities and the Appeal Court. The court's judgment was identical to the electronic text of the Attorney General's submission. That is clearly a breach of equal rights for the prosecution and the defence.
Mr. Reeve's detention is, of course, having the precise opposite effect to that desired by the investigators. Here is a man who was co-operating with the authorities, but who is now silent in prison because he refuses to be coerced. His only legal recourse is to the European Court of Human Rights.
That case and the condition of the justice systems across the European Union are of concern to all of us in the House. In the negotiations that have led up to the Amsterdam intergovernmental conference, proposals were put forward for inclusion in the treaty that would have allowed Belgian police officers to cross international frontiers to arrest the citizens of other nations in the European Union. Although those proposals were killed off in negotiations by the previous Government, and I trust that the Minister can confirm that they remain dead, the Government should be under no illusion as to the agenda that some of our European partners are working towards.
The village of Chipstead, to which I hope Mr. Reeve will shortly be able to return, is far from the only attractive and desirable part of my constituency. Reigate is part of London's green belt and the issues related to protecting the environment and sustaining my constituents' quality of life will dominate whatever period I have the privilege of representing the constituency.
Protecting the quality of life of all of our citizens should remain the responsibility of this Parliament. However, as our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary prepare to go to Amsterdam, that responsibility is another of the policy areas that they have said that they intend to give away. They wish to make environmental policy across the European Union subject to qualified majority voting.
I hope that Ministers understand the potential consequences of extending qualified majority voting to article 130s of the Maastricht treaty. That will mean harmonisation of the planning process across the European Union. With an environment as rich as that of Reigate, that is not a power I believe that the United Kingdom should be surrendering. It could also mean the final surrendering of control of our energy policy. In the past 18 years, we have made the supply of energy much cheaper due to the increasing operation of the free market.
To quote from article 130s, I fear that we are about to agree to qualified majority voting on
measures significantly affecting a member state's choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply.
I hope that the Minister can assure me that that is not the case.
Equally, the case for extending QMV to aspects of industrial, regional and social policy has not been made. It is the product of scratching around to find some seemingly innocuous concession to justify the warm embrace that Ministers have received from their colleagues in Europe. The potential consequences of those concessions are not innocuous. In industrial policy, we could find ourselves subject to the failed interventionist industrial policies of the 1960s and 1970s. There surely can be no case for exposing the United Kingdom to their possible return.
I served as a special adviser in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during most of the run-up to the intergovernmental conference. I now find myself on the Opposition Benches and I cannot help feeling rather like this century's distinguished naval occupant of Reigate Priory, who followed in the footsteps of the victor over the Armada. Admiral, the Earl Beatty, retired to Reigate priory in 1927. Two days after leaving the Admiralty, he wrote to a friend:
It is all over and I have left my office. My work with His Majesty's Navy has come to an end, and now I am at a loose end. This Geneva conference has kept me busy up to the last thing and I do not know what the outcome will be but I am afraid that a compromising spirit will prevail among our representatives, and they will be manoeuvred into accepting something which they shouldn't.
I sincerely hope that our new Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, in their desire to enjoy the warm embrace of our partners in Europe, are not manoeuvred into accepting something that they should not at Amsterdam.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) and my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) on their excellent maiden speeches. They displayed their dedication and sincerity concerning their constituents. I look forward to hearing more from them.
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for permitting me to make my maiden speech during this important debate. It is a subject of critical importance to my constituents. At the outset, I should like to say that I fully support the Government's commitment to full participation in Europe. That commitment, combined with our domestic policies, will be of great benefit to my constituents.
I am privileged to have been elected to represent the Riverside constituency, which is renowned for its campaigning characters. My immediate predecessor, Bob Parry, was well respected in the House and in Liverpool and beyond, and I thank him for his dedication to Riverside. Bessie Braddock is still remembered, loved and revered as a champion of the people in part of my constituency. Eleanor Rathbone was elected for my constituency in 1928. She was a suffragette and one of those who began the campaign for family allowances. Her legacy is of great benefit to the whole country.
My constituency draws great strength from its diversity and its many communities. As a Labour and Co-operative Member, I applaud the community-based regeneration that has been carried out by, for example, the Eldonians in Granby, Toxteth and Dingle. Much of that has been supported by European funding. Riverside is a major area of Irish settlement with all the richness of culture that that has brought us. It has two cathedrals, and I applaud the work of the late Archbishop Warlock and Bishop David Sheppard in bringing communities together. It also has the Liverpool mosque and the historic Princes road synagogue.
Riverside is rich in arts. It has the Royal Liverpool philharmonic orchestra, theatres and the Liverpool institute of performing arts, which was so splendidly opened by Sir Paul McCartney a short time ago, and Liverpool is now the headquarters of the North-West film commission. All those features have great economic potential.
Of course, Liverpool has two excellent football teams, and they dominate the city. It is not possible to mention football in Liverpool without being aware of the shadow of Hillsborough. I shall continue the campaign until the truth of what happened is out and people know what really occurred on that dreadful day.
The economy of my constituency faces great difficulties. Long-term unemployment started when the transatlantic trade began to decline. It has the second highest level of unemployment in the country with over 27 per cent. male and more than 19.8 per cent. overall. Riverside ranks as one of the poorest areas in Europe and qualifies for objective 1 EU funding because its unemployment is 70 per cent. above the European average while its GDP is 77 per cent. below it. That is why about £630 million has been allocated by Europe for regeneration in the area. That money will generate £1.5 billion to regenerate the economy.
European assistance is critical. It was EU economic assistance and regeneration that started to target support, to intervene, to forge partnerships with the private sector and to lever in resources to consider needs and develop opportunities. That money has been used for investment and training, and has involved communities and been used to devise strategies. It has given birth to the innovative Merseyside special investment fund which has involved hard work with small and medium-sized businesses to develop the real regeneration in the economy, which is business.
I am pleased that the Government's new policy will build on what European funding has started to achieve in Riverside. Our policy for a north-west region development agency will give us the means to use those European funds even better. It will provide a focus and develop strategies to link that funding to private and public-sector funding in a better way than before. The new Ministry that has been created by the Government will enable transport, environment, training and job creation issues to be looked at as a whole to make maximum use of that vital European funding.
We have reached a critical point on European funding. The enlargement of Europe is on the agenda and that means that there is a question mark over the future of objective 1 funding for Liverpool. Although that money is already having an impact on Riverside, there is still much work to do. I am confident that the Government's attitude of full participation in Europe and stressing the importance of employment in all European policies will ensure that Merseyside in general and Riverside in particular will continue to benefit from objective 1 funding after the reassessment that is already in progress.
There is commitment in Riverside, and Merseyside local authorities, together with business, already have a European office in Brussels as part of a north-west presence and are working hard in Europe to bring funding here. That is important and I am confident that our Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe will work hard for Riverside to ensure that it continues to get that funding.
When I stood for the constituency, I had the honour to be proposed by Margaret Simey, who is now in her 90s, and who campaigned with Eleanor Rathbone for women's suffrage. She has campaigned for social reform, has been a Liverpool councillor and chaired Merseyside policy authority in the troubled 1980s. When she supported my candidature, she spoke about her passion for justice. I share that passion, and that means that I will work for Riverside to build strong communities and to develop a strong society. That means developing our economy and ending social exclusion. The only way that we can do that is to build a strong local economy and a strong region and link them to Europe through national policies. That is the only way to secure economic regeneration and social justice.
I am pleased to deliver my maiden speech in this important debate on the future of our country and our continent. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) and the hon. Members for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) and for Liverpool, Riverside (Ms Ellman) on their maiden speeches. They delivered excellent speeches and I am sure that we shall hear more from them.
I should like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Nicholas Baker. In view of the hurly-burly of the general election, many hon. Members may be forgiven for being unaware of the sad death of Nicholas Baker one week before the election. Although Parliament had been dissolved, I understand that, technically, he died while in the service of the House. Nicholas was elected in 1979 and was a most assiduous and diligent constituency representative. I got to know him 15 years ago, when he was the parliamentary vice-chairman of the Conservative party's foreign affairs forum. I was at that time deputy chairman of that organisation. He maintained a close interest in the forum and in foreign affairs in general right up until his death. In fact, just two months before his death, he published a pamphlet on Britain and the third world, under the auspices of the Conservative political centre.
Nicholas served in government as a parliamentary private secretary, as a well-respected whip and latterly, before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, as Immigration Minister at the Home Office. Sadly, his multiple sclerosis was overtaken by the onset of cancer and, in the end, his passing was a blessed relief both to Nicholas—an intensely religious man—and to his devoted wife Carol. I am sure that the whole House sends Lady Baker and Nicholas's two children the warmest good wishes for the future.
Nicholas Baker bequeathed me a constituency that must rank among the most beautiful in the country. The little Hovis delivery boy wheeling his bicycle up the hill on our television screens has a misleading Yorkshire accent, for that is Gold hill in Shaftesbury, the ancient Saxon market town in the northern part of my constituency of North Dorset. Although my constituency has traditionally based its economy on agriculture, which is still important today—the market at Sturminster Newton is the largest calf market in England—North Dorset's economic base is as modern as any in Britain.
Our largest private sector employer, Cobham plc at Wimborne Minster, is a major aerospace contractor. It is currently undertaking a significant part of the rebuilding of the Royal Air Force's Nimrod fleet and constructing the Phoenix battlefield reconnaissance aircraft for the Army; and it is a world leader in fuelling and refuelling systems for military aircraft. At Blandford Forum, my largest public sector employer is the rapidly expanding headquarters of the Royal Corps of Signals—the Army's computer department, at the leading edge of modern warfare.
It is the prosperity and security of Britain's engagement with our European partners that create the economic framework for all that activity. As the Prime Minister goes to Amsterdam, he asks us in this debate to take note of many and various documents; but the message he must take from the House is that Britain is a proud and independent nation which has much to contribute and much to gain from the European Union, but that it totally rejects the concept of a centralised European super-state, a European Government or a European nation. The sort of federal solution that we created in Canada, Australia and India would be neither relevant nor beneficial in modern Europe.
Lest I am accused of shifting from long-held and positive views on Britain's role in Europe and adopting a Euro-sceptic stance, let me tell the House that I believe that there is more that unites Conservative Members on the basic principles of our European engagement than might occasionally divide us on the detail. I cannot say as much of those on the Government Benches, for, as the Prime Minister goes to Amsterdam, I fear that the prosperity of my constituency, of the people of this country and of the whole of Europe is threatened.
Our prosperity is threatened by a resurgence of dirigiste, old socialist ideology in the form of the Government's commitment to the social chapter, the proposed Amsterdam employment chapter and the whole concept of adopting the European social model in our employment practices—labour market practices which have led to uncompetitiveness in continental Europe, to ever-increasing unemployment and to a 35 per cent. increase in business failures in Germany in the past two years. One cannot wonder that inward investment in Britain has grown and unemployment fallen when one compares, for example, employers' non-wage costs: for every £100 of direct wage costs in Germany, the employer has to add £31 of social costs; in Britain that additional sum averages less than half that figure, at only £15.
Speaking to fellow socialists in Sweden last week, the Prime Minister said:
The role of Government is not old style state intervention or heaping regulations on employers. The new way is about education, skills, new technology, developing small businesses and equipping people to survive in a completely different set of economic conditions.
Many Conservative Members could find comfort in that statement, but we immediately part company with the Government on the draft Amsterdam treaty, which
proposes to incorporate protocol 14 of the Maastricht treaty—the social chapter—in the treaty itself, thereby ending Britain's opt-out. That move is supported by the Government and was an election pledge, repeated today by the Foreign Secretary. We cannot envisage what employment benefit would accrue to the United Kingdom from the new employment chapter. It would create an employment committee in Brussels to consult the social partners; and it would create incentive measures, funded by the Community budget, to provide financial assistance to the unemployed—it all sounds to me like old Europe, old Labour.
The basis of Britain's success in Europe is the very competitive nature of the single market. A rigid framework of employment laws imposed right across the continent would destroy that competitive spirit, both here and elsewhere. If the Prime Minister truly believes what he said in Malmo, he can agree to neither the social chapter nor the employment chapter.
I congratulate the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) on his maiden speech. It was a thoughtful speech; generous toward his predecessor and combative in relation to the issues before the House. I am sure that it will not be the last such contribution that we hear from the hon. Gentleman and I wish him well in his enjoyment of many years on the Opposition Benches.
I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on announcing, well in advance of the summit this weekend, that they will be going to Amsterdam in order to set a new agenda for Europe. I am especially pleased that they have already spelt out that that agenda must be based on at least two of the four big issues that must be addressed: first, that in future the attention of Europe must be focused on jobs; and, second, that we cannot fiddle our way to a stable or secure future for Europe. Hon. Members may know that in the past I have got into certain difficulties for having voiced such suggestions, so I hope that I shall be allowed to enjoy this moment—long may it last.
I also want to savour the moment surrounding another event. For the past nine months, I have been privileged to be the president of the United Kingdom marches against unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion in Europe and I want to put on record the words of credit and praise that are due to the marchers. Two legs of the marches took place in Britain—two of 18 legs that are taking place across the whole of Europe, involving marchers from 30 different countries. For me, it was the first pro-European, pan-European expression of an agenda for the future—an agenda in which the rights of ordinary working people are central.
I may well be the only non-ministerial Member of the House who will be in Amsterdam next week. I shall attend the alternative summit, and it is worth noting the issues that it will seek to address.
The agenda, worked out by workers in different parts of Europe, has not been constrained by the narrowness of divides based on nationality, religion, age, gender or geography. It has been based on a desire for a European future in which jobs in one country are not stolen from the workers of another. I hope that the leaders of our countries at the European summit will hear and heed the words that are being expressed in those European marches.
The marchers have rightly drawn our attention to the sense that we are fiddling our way towards a European future. Several hon. Members have already drawn attention to events in France and Germany. It is worth placing on the record some of the amazing contortions that Europe has been going through to try to squeeze within the convergence criteria demanded by the Maastricht treaty. It is not only that Germany has sought to revalue its gold and foreign currency reserves. I believe that it was right for the Bundesbank to challenge that, but it is unfair to single out Germany, because Belgium has done the same. In fact, Belgium did it first and then sold the reserves, on the principle, "If we are to pool our common reserves of gold and foreign currencies, it is best to spend ours first and then share everyone else's."
Italy has come up with by far the most imaginative scam. Italians know that their debt is twice the limit demanded by the treaty of Maastricht, so they have come up with the idea of a European solidarity tax—a 10 per cent. tax increase for next year. Knowing that it would cause contention among their people, politicians reassured them by saying, "But the year after, you can have it all back, because we need to meet the debt qualification for one year only, so we shall levy the tax this year and give it back to you the year after."
If the Italians are really clever, they will not bother to collect the tax in the first place; it will be a paper transaction. At the end of the first year, they will say, "We shall levy the tax at 10 per cent. and give it back next year. It will be bureaucratic to collect and hand back, so why not call it quits?" It is a marvellous scam, but it does not address their underlying economic weaknesses.
France did it differently. The Government of the day decided to take a hefty £4.6 billion scoop out of the pension fund for France Telecom. It is a nice little scoop for a Government in difficulty, but not much fun for a worker in France Telecom who is looking forward to the protection and security that that pension fund should give.
Such fiddles are going on across the European landscape, and it is dishonest to suggest that they are an expression of pro-European sentiment. It is an Arthur Daley Europeanism. We are being invited to try to turn the clock back on the mileage of our debt, to put retreads on the level of the deficit on our tyres or to try to superglue the leaking exhaust of failed and divisive monetarist policies which the Maastricht treaty demands of us.
There is a better agenda to be found in a European future, but not by pursuing the Maastricht convergence criteria, which can and will only divide us all from one another. To go down that path is unworthy of the present and unroadworthy for the future.
There is a new convergence. I hope that, when our leaders go to Amsterdam, they will have the sense to understand that the European convergence worth grasping is the convergence of people—the human convergence on Amsterdam, which will be the first pan-European expression of hope about the shape of a people's Europe; a Europe in which we can all find a place.
That convergence, however, needs clarity on public expectations about the shape of a people's Europe. When we use the words "a flexible labour force for the future", we should remember that flexibility can come in many forms. It can come in terms of being multi-skilled, or in terms of a common desire to hold ourselves to greater account to the public we serve or to the environment we work in; but a flexible future is not the same as a future in which workers are disposable.
When we use the word "competitiveness," we need to be clear in our minds that the competition that will unite Europe is competition to raise the quality of life for us all, not one that reduces the quantity of pay for the poor. All sorts of societies have set out to raise common standards, to raise the entitlements of pensioners and to improve the infrastructure of public transport services. That is a form of competition from which we all stand to benefit; it is not competition that drives people to the bottom of the barrel.
This is the shape of a people's Europe. I am pleased that the leaders of the Labour party and of the Labour Government are saying that we must establish an agenda for a people's Europe and perhaps think the unthinkable. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said that we were all being encouraged to think the unthinkable; I hope that we are, because perhaps we should now address the hitherto unthinkable question of what we would do if we were to find that the unthinkable meant abandoning the unworkable.
If the single currency is to be deflationary and divisive, what shape would a pro-European agenda to succeed it take? It must be based on two remaining core principles in which I believe that we can find work and welfare for all. We should reshape European policies around two simple propositions. First, our economic policies for the next century must inevitably be shaped around the priorities of sustainability—not exploitation of the present at the cost of the future, but the sustainability of life cycles, life styles and the environment in which we live. Second, we must be willing to decide that protection of that environment takes precedence over the dogmatic, obsessive belief in the free market.
If we are to grasp the opportunities that exist within those two towering principles, it is important that we listen to the voices giving expression to them, of every one of the workers who come from different parts of Europe—each describing the destruction of their life style, community and landscape by a free market obsessed simply with consuming the present and discarding those surplus to its requirements.
As the leaders gather in Amsterdam next weekend, I hope that each one will take time, when they are talking about a people's Europe, to come out and listen to the people who have walked hundreds—in some cases, thousands—of miles to that summit to tell them what shape society should take and what place the people of Europe want in it.
The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) said that his constituency was the most beautiful in the country. I must ask him, politely, to amend the official record to make reference, possibly, to England; I shall go on to make my remarks about my constituency.
North Tayside was established by the boundary commission in 1983 and is, without word of a lie, the most beautiful seat in Scotland, from the ruggedness of the Rannoch moor to the agricultural abundance of Strathmore.
If the House will excuse the crude terminology, we produce the three Bs in North Tayside: beef, berries and booze—beef from the prime Aberdeen Angus herds, berries from the traditional berry areas around Blairgowrie and east Perthshire, and booze from several distilleries, including the smallest in the world at Edradour near Pitlochry. It is a privilege to represent the area, and I warmly thank the electorate for providing me with the opportunity to do so.
At different times, most of my constituency has been represented by colleagues from the Scottish National party. Mr. Douglas Crawford represented Perth and East Perthshire in the 1970s, and my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mr. Welsh) has represented the eastern parts of my constituency. I am, however, the first SNP Member to represent highland Perthshire, previously represented by the late Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In the political history of the area, many of the Members of Parliament were leaders of the feudal structure, including the late Duchess of Atholl and, of course, Sir Alec.
Circumstances have changed, however, and at the election on 1 May the people really spoke. My immediate predecessor, Mr. Bill Walker, spoke in the House on many issues, not least the development of Europe, the subject of tonight's debate. Although we differ on that and many other issues, I pay tribute to his years of public service and wish him well.
The debate is welcome as it provides an opportunity for the House, after an important change of Government, to debate our relationship with the European Union and the issues connected with the future of the Union. Over the past 25 years, our relationship with Europe has changed from a passing interest to a position where many of the key policy areas, such as agriculture, which is vital to my constituency, are influenced more by the conduct of debate in the European institutions than they are by debate in this institution. While that process may be lamented by some, it should be recalled that it arose by voluntary agreement and collaboration among a number of member states. The common interest has been driven by a desire to move from the politics of hostility to the politics of dialogue and agreement.
It is fair to say that the approach has commanded public, although not unanimous, consent. The people recognise the advantages of collaboration in their shared interests with other people's interests. It is essential, however, that public consent to the development of the European Union is maintained, and there are grave concerns about that.
There are obviously diverging views in the United Kingdom on the importance of the European Union and how it should develop. I do not intend to devote the remainder of my speech to examining all the fault lines in Europe—I am sure that that will preoccupy members of the official Opposition over the next 24 hours and probably for some time beyond. Rather, I wish to concentrate on the fault line that has developed in the diverging interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom over European policy.
The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) referred specifically to agriculture and fishing. I wish to follow him closely on those issues. Much has been said about the beef crisis, the ineptitude of the announcements that were made and the failure to take swift action to arrest the problem. I wish to concentrate, however, on the previous Government's inability to secure a regional or zonal lifting of the European beef ban as a first step towards lifting the ban throughout the United Kingdom. That failure was recorded against a background of the European Union's willingness to consider such a move if only the British Government had requested it.
The root of the previous Government's failure lay in their unwillingness to confront the deficiencies of the English dairy herd, where there is a much greater incidence of BSE, and allow other herds, such as those from Scotland or Northern Ireland, to escape from the ban to a quality-assured environment.
Here we see the fault line of the policy. In the Government's European actions, Scotland's needs are being ignored. I hope that the new Government will warmly embrace the concept of a zonal lifting of the beef ban and deliver a solution to the crisis in the Scottish beef industry as an immediate priority. As an aside, I urge the Government to tread carefully before dishing out idle threats about beef wars and import bans. No one is more concerned than I am about low-quality beef imports into the UK, but last week the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food sounded remarkably like his predecessor in some of his dire threats—a record I am sure the current Minister would not wish to equal.
The previous Government also betrayed our fishing communities, repeatedly trading away the industry's interests in Europe in pursuit of other priorities. I scarcely need tell the House about the depth of the quota hopping crisis, which sees a quarter of UK tonnage under flags of convenience and more than 40 per cent. of certain quotas lost to Scotland and the UK.
The solution must come through a treaty amendment; tinkering at the edges with regulations will not be good enough. Yet the fishing industry is not even mentioned in the consolidated draft treaty. We need an assurance from the Government that they will insist on the accession of a suitable protocol, agreed with the industry, to ensure that we can bring to a halt the loss of quota and tonnage from the Scottish fleet. A Scottish Government would put that issue at the top of their agenda. Will the UK Government do the same?
The solution to those diverging interests is for Scotland to opt for the natural state of independence, with a direct voice for our country as a sovereign nation in Europe. That would give Scotland an equal and effective voice in European discussions, enabling us to assert our case and put our arguments on a par with every other state. Accountability for the articulation of Scotland's natural and national interests will be maintained by Scotland's democratic Parliament.
We need only look at small nations such as Ireland and Denmark, which, by using their influence in Europe wisely, are contributing positively to the development of Europe and the international community, and delivering economic prosperity and social progress to their people at home. The model of the small nation in Europe is positive for Scotland.
The Government are advancing proposals to change the constitutional arrangements for Scotland and it would be churlish of me not to concede that their proposals will be considered by the House sooner than the House will consider a demand from Scotland to proceed to independence.
I urge the Government to use the opportunity to include within that legislation a direct voice for Scotland in Europe—not quiet observer status but real teeth to allow a Scottish Parliament to influence the decisions of Europe in the best interests of Scotland and her people. In his address to the Scottish Grand Committee on 13 January this year, the present Foreign Secretary admitted that representatives of a devolved Scottish Parliament would have only observer status. I urge the Government to strengthen that weak proposal.
May I conclude by setting out some of the key points on which the Government should reflect in preparation for the intergovernmental conference? As the European Union wrestles with the controversy and uncertainty of economic and monetary union, a partnership must be created between convergence and cohesion in pursuit of further voluntary and effective collaboration. The Maastricht treaty did not deliver that partnership. It set out an agenda for convergence, but paid no attention to the consequences of meeting the convergence criteria. If economic and monetary union is to take its course—it looks in a perilous condition at present—it must not be at the expense of employment, or public confidence in the project will continue to erode.
We must ensure that, in the next stage of the process of European collaboration, the issue of public consent is to the fore. Too many ill-informed contributions to the European debate have been made. They feed public anxiety, but do not satisfy the public's appetite for information.
If the Government and their European partners can learn any lessons from the past five years, they should conclude that the model of British relations with Europe or the British debate on the future of Europe is not a model to be followed. Instead, the Government and their European partners should concentrate on establishing a partnership between economic convergence and social cohesion, and rebuilding public confidence in the process of European development.
Like most hon. Members, I have sat here for almost five and a quarter hours. I was formerly a Member of the European Parliament. I had the privilege of being there between 1979 and 1984. An interesting aspect of the European Parliament was that we knew when we were speaking, whether we were speaking and for how long. That important facility enabled us all to plan our lives much better than we can under the present arrangements in the House of Commons. If anybody spoke longer than their allotted time, the time was taken off the other member of their political group, so it was a good restraint on us to keep our comments within a certain time. I should like to see many other facilities in the European Parliament translated to this place. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to go to the European Parliament before coming to this House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), said that he had changed his mind. Like me, he campaigned in 1975 against membership of the European Union and then changed his mind. I, too, changed my mind. I went in on an anti-EC ticket, but changed my mind two and a half years later. I am not ashamed of saying that. It is important to have the right to change one's mind when circumstances show the error of one's ways. I wish that more politicians would change their minds more often. We would have better politics if, every so often, people stood up and said, "I'm sorry, but I have changed my mind."
I congratulate the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) on his maiden speech. He advanced some interesting ideas, some of which I agreed with and some of which I did not. One of the stoutest campaigners in the European Parliament on behalf of Scottish fishermen was a member of his party, Winifred Ewing, who made a valuable contribution to the debates.
I changed my mind because I recognised the importance of working with people from other nationalities for common interests. When we first went to the European Parliament as a small Labour group of 17 MEPs in 1979, we were extremely unpopular. We were unpopular with our socialist friends because they were disappointed that so few of us had been elected to the European Parliament. We became unpopular also because the majority of our group were opposed to membership of the European Union.
It is interesting, however, that when people of different nationalities work together from day to day, they rub corners off one another. They have to co-exist. I would advise my right hon. Friends not to go to the European Union and lecture the other member countries. They deeply resent that, particularly if one suggests that one has a better solution for the people of the EU than have other countries. Most of the other countries are after the same solutions as we are.
After all, the European Union was set up initially because countries had fought one another in two world wars. It was an attempt to co-operate for the peace and security of Europe. That is one of the main reasons why I support enlargement of the EU and more powers for the European Parliament. MEPs are elected Members, as we are, and we cannot tell elected Members that they may not have powers to do the things for which they were elected. The European Parliament cannot be expected to run a race and achieve its goals if it is hobbled.
When I was a Member of that Parliament, I thought that it might take 20 years for the European Parliament to acquire the powers that we have. I now realise that that timetable was unrealistic and that it could take 50 years to achieve the powers that that Parliament should have.
I am glad that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have gone to Europe with a different attitude from that of the previous Government. It is interesting to see how strongly they have been welcomed by other leaders of the EU, who realise that we want to co-operate with them, that we do not want constant conflict, that we do not look down on them and that we see them as equal partners with us in the EU.
The Amsterdam conference has a limited agenda. I do not know what people are huffing and puffing about when they suggest that it will change the course of history. I hope that the leadership of my party will provide the vision that was missing in the previous representation from this country. The approach was grudging, confrontational and not conducive to good working relationships with other countries. I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the rest of the team will have an entirely different attitude.
Some changes are necessary. There must be a reform of the common agricultural policy and a crackdown on fraud. Something must be done about the massive number of unemployed in Europe. I remember being at the European Parliament in 1982 with Barbara Castle, when we wore black sashes because the then Employment Secretary, now Lord Tebbit, came to the European Parliament and made a speech which we thought was totally insensitive to the needs of the unemployed in Europe. As I recall, we wore sashes with the words "8 million unemployed". Since then, of course, matters have become far worse. Only by co-operation with the other countries of Europe will we be able to tackle the problem.
I find all the talk of sovereignty nonsensical. Bernard Crick said some time ago that sovereignty was an idea dreamt up by those who wanted to retain power for themselves, to frighten the smaller nations into believing that London knew best, and that anyone who put a foot out of step was in danger of doing damage. I think that sovereignty is an outdated, 18th century Whig concept and that it is time that we moved into the real world.
Member countries should take steps to ensure that the European Parliament has one seat. It is ridiculous that the Parliament hops from place to place, and that many of the institutions are based in yet another country—Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Brussels. It is costly, there is no need for it, and it is up to the member Governments to reach a decision on a single place of work for the EC.
What is the need for the Economic and Social Committee? I know that I may be offending many people who may have placed Members on the committee, and some of my friends may sit on that committee, but what necessity is there for the Economic and Social Committee, which costs member countries £18 million a year and merely minors the work of the European Parliament? I could understand the need for it when there was no directly elected Parliament, but it seems a pointless beast now, when there is an elected Parliament. I ask our Government and the Governments of other member countries to consider whether that institution is any longer necessary.
It was a great privilege for me to serve in the European Parliament. I believe strongly in the European Union. I want to see it develop, but it is making slow progress. When the time is right, I want us to join the European monetary union. That must be the next step in the development of the EU. Again, I say that countries that fought one another in two major wars have now worked together for a long period in peace and stability. I believe that the European Union contributes to that.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech on my third attempt—I have probably clocked up about 17 hours in the Chamber waiting to be called. I appreciated the comments of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I hope that someone, somewhere was listening.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, the last Member of Parliament for the constituency of Richmond and Barnes, who I understand was a well-loved Member of the House. He was a friendly, honest man who had a great sense of humour. I believe that he was also an excellent mimic. He gave distinguished service as a Minister in various portfolios—Northern Ireland, Defence and the Foreign Office—and as chairman of the Conservative party. I was somewhat puzzled that he did not mention his last post in his address during the election campaign. He served his constituents very well and I hope to equal his performance. In short, I was sad to defeat him in the election—although I am very glad that I did. To use his words, I am sure that he views it as an exhibition of high spirits on the part of the electorate.
The constituency of Richmond Park is a new one, comprising most of the old Richmond and Barnes constituency plus five wards of Kingston. It is part of Greater London—I will not tell hon. Members how beautiful it is, because we are all bored with beautiful constituencies—where the countryside comes to town. Kingston and Richmond have much in common. As well as the River Thames, both areas have very royal connections. Saxon kings were crowned in the centre of Kingston, the Tudor monarchs lived in Richmond, and Elizabeth I died in Richmond palace, close to Richmond green. The remnants of that palace can still be seen today. The Hanoverian kings lived, played and reared children around Kew green, where I live. Perhaps eclipsing all the great monarchs of the past, my constituency is also the home of Sir James Goldsmith—the founder of the Referendum party, who did so much to help the Conservatives in the run-up to the last election.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have worked as a doctor in the health service for 30 years, so you would expect me to mention the NHS in my maiden speech. My concerns for my constituents centre on the fate of Queen Mary's hospital in Roehampton. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) made an excellent speech on the subject on Friday morning, so I shall not go into detail now. However, I stress that Queen Mary's in the Richmond Park constituency is losing most of its services and that Kingston hospital is showing signs that it simply cannot cope with the extra patients. I urge the Minister of State, Department of Health to undertake a review of London hospitals as a matter of urgency. We were promised the terms of that review last week, but they have not materialised. If decisions are not made urgently, lives will be lost next winter.
The most pressing problem facing Richmond Park concerns the environment. Richmond upon Thames has a very good record in that area, having achieved the last Government's target for recycling two years ago—five years ahead of schedule. We already collect 25 per cent. of household waste. However, the problems of noise and air pollution transcend borough and national boundaries. The closure of Hammersmith bridge has added significantly to our problems, and the lack of a strategic London authority is slowing down decisions about repairing the bridge.
Another major concern in Richmond Park—which poses probably the greatest threat to our environment—is the proposed fifth terminal at Heathrow airport. The airport is a great polluter in Richmond Park, causing both noise and traffic pollution. The previous Government's aviation policy was an appalling combination of
protection for privatised monopolies at the expense of the environment. The imagery of the second world war was conjured up time and again when we were told that Frankfurt would become the air travellers' hub of Europe if terminal 5 did not go ahead. When terminal 4 was approved, the inspector told the public inquiry:
Terminal 4 should be the last major expansion at Heathrow".
That was the first condition for the approval of terminal 4.
The then Under-Secretary of State for Trade, Norman Tebbit, assured everyone that the Government would not permit the construction of a fifth terminal and that the cap on flights would be enforced. That has not happened and the number of flights has increased by 50 per cent. The people of Richmond Park have no faith in capping and I urge the Government to make clear their intention to honour the undertaking that terminal 4 would be the last major expansion at the airport, which the previous Member for Brentford and Isleworth described as "the neighbour from hell".
When the Deputy Prime Minister was shadow Secretary of State for Transport, he said, in The Observer of 7 February 1993, that the then Government's aviation policy was "absurd". On their policy of expansion at Heathrow, he said:
There will ultimately be more flights over the most congested airway in Europe, at great cost to the environment and to congestion around Heathrow.
As the Deputy Prime Minister said then, now is the time to think afresh. If he needs reminding, I ask Labour Members to ask him whether he would like to have dinner at my house in Richmond Park. A lounge suit will do—we do not always dress for dinner in Richmond. He could stay the night and enjoy the noise and air pollution that we have to suffer day in, day out, week in, week out. I moved there 25 years ago, which is a long time to learn about aircraft movement.
I urge the Government to work with our European partners at Amsterdam. In aviation, competition, verging on conflict, is accepted. Must we inflict more and more suffering on the people of my constituency just to stop France and Germany winning the air transport war? Environmental damage is of international concern and I urge the Government to put it high on the agenda at Amsterdam.
In conclusion, I place on record my constituents' determination to fight the threat of terminal 5 at Heathrow, which is a big environmental disaster for our area. If the House thinks that Swampy said it all, you ain't seen nothing yet.
I am not sure about the protocol of one maiden speaker complimenting another, but I should like to compliment the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) on her maiden speech. As a student of history, I found her description of the history of her constituency fascinating. Many of us have visited it because of its historical links. I am sure that we all agree that it is beautiful.
I noted with interest the hon. Lady's comments on pollution and noise from aeroplanes. We are trying to expand Blackpool airport. We want the best mix of more airport traffic and the minimum of pollution.
I am grateful to be called to make my maiden speech in such an important debate which covers so many complex areas. I feel very privileged to be the first Member of Parliament for the new constituency of Blackpool, North and Fleetwood. I am grateful to the electorate for allowing me to represent them.
Although my constituency has substantially redrawn boundaries, I should like to say a few words about Harold Elletson, the previous Member for Blackpool, North. He built a reputation in the House as an expert on eastern Europe and Russia. He is a fluent Russian speaker and brought his expert knowledge to bear on the often complex issues raised by the fall of the iron curtain and the disintegration of the Russian empire. We disagreed on many other topics, but I acknowledge his expertise in certain areas of foreign policy and I certainly cannot compete with him when it comes to speaking Russian.
Maiden speeches are an opportunity to describe one's constituency. I am sure that the Blackpool part of my constituency needs little introduction. Hon. Members will have visited it to attend conferences, if not on holiday. Blackpool is the nation's favourite holiday resort, offering a wide variety of choices for visitors. It has large, internationally known hotels along the north shore and many smaller, family-run hotels and guest houses behind the promenade, offering their famous friendly service. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will acknowledge the importance of the tourism industry to this country and that he will, perhaps, in discussions with his European colleagues look at integrating a European tourism strategy with the strategy for this country. I encourage as many hon. Members as possible to come and enjoy Blackpool's wonderful facilities.
My constituency stretches from Blackpool's north pier and follows the coast beyond the boundary of Blackpool to Thornton Cleveleys. Here, visitors find a quiet residential area with a bustling centre which attracts coachloads of visitors to its thriving shops. The more adventurous visitor may, however, stay on the tram from Blackpool as it completes its journey all the way to Fleetwood.
Fleetwood has a fascinating history. It takes its name from Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood whose dream it was in the early 19th century to establish a commercial port and holiday resort on his land adjoining Morecambe bay. Sir Peter modelled his new town of Fleetwood on another purpose-built seaside resort, St. Leonards on Sea near Hastings, and commissioned a renowned London architect, Decimus Burton, to design the town. He was determined that Fleetwood would be a splendid place to attract his friends from London and visitors from all over the country. He even built a new railway to link London Euston to the North Euston station in Fleetwood. Some of the original buildings still exist, although not the railway station. In 1847, Queen Victoria visited Fleetwood and many of the streets in the town were named after members of the royal family in honour of the visit.
Although the area that I represent is best known for tourism, many of my constituents work for three large local employers—the civil service, British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace, which was mentioned earlier in the debate. We all acknowledge the importance of the Eurofighter project to the local economy not only of Blackpool, North and Fleetwood but of the whole of Lancashire.
It is because of Fleetwood's role as a fishing port that I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate on Europe. To most of the people of Fleetwood, Europe means one issue—fishing quotas and the regulations that govern the lives of those who work in what is, unfortunately, a dramatically reduced fishing industry. I therefore welcome this debate and the motion, which refers to
the determination of Her Majesty's Government to focus the agenda of the European Union on policies of direct benefit to the peoples of Europe through its initiatives on employment and competitiveness".
I ask the Foreign Secretary not to lose sight of the importance of the fishing industry to my constituents and to other fishing ports around these shores when he has discussions with his European colleagues on the general initiatives on employment. I understand that fishing is not specifically on the agenda for the forthcoming summit, but it is clearly vital to those who are interested in Europe as well as in protecting their own fishing industries.
Beyond doubt, in recent years our fishermen have faced severe and increasing difficulties in striving to operate viably and legitimately under the European common fisheries policy. Urgent solutions are required if our industry is to survive, and we should address especially the issue of quota hopping, which was mentioned earlier. Some 26 per cent. of the quota allocated by Brussels to British fishermen is caught by quota hoppers. Fleetwood has a wonderful museum outlining its fascinating past and celebrating its role as a fishing port. The trawler Jacinta is moored and preserved as a museum piece. It would be dreadful, however, if our children lived in a world where the fishing fleet existed only in museums and in history books. I share my right hon. Friends' belief in strong leadership in Europe that focuses on employment and competitiveness so that Fleetwood has a future as well as a past.
I congratulate the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) and for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) on their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood lived up to her name. Both hon. Members will fulfil their aspirations and match the reputations of the previous Members for those constituencies.
The Foreign Secretary made great play of quoting policies of direct benefit to the peoples of Europe, particularly initiatives on employment and competitiveness. Perhaps the Government should reconsider the fact that their proposed windfall tax was designed to help young people in particular. I gather that they intend to use the proceeds to help the 250,000 young people who are out of work. They may be interested to know that fewer than 200,000 young people stand to benefit. The Government should accept that, by introducing a minimum wage, they will put 250,000 young people out of work, so they will need to introduce the windfall tax to compensate them.
The Foreign Secretary said that the concept of sister parties was unknown to the Conservatives. I remind the Government that we pioneered the concept of sister parties within the European Union, not least through our membership of the European Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Union.
I wish also to bring to the Government's attention the fact that the French centre-right Government's failure to return to power was not due to their preparations for economic and monetary union; it was because they were implementing an austerity package and pursuing the same Thatcherite policies that we pursued since 1979, and that are now embraced by the Government—low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and privatisation of national industries.
By signing up to the social chapter, we would lose us our right to choose. The director general of the Confederation of British Industry said:
If you sign up to the Social Chapter you can't actually be sure that you will have your way, because some directives will be covered by qualified majority voting. There is however a way to pick and choose and that is available for the Labour Party if it wants to have it as its policy. The way to pick and choose is actually not to sign up to the Social Chapter".
I invite the Government, therefore, not to sign up to the social chapter but to continue the opt-out negotiated by the previous Government.
The Foreign Secretary referred to his "modest" objective of signing up to an additional employment chapter. That is not a modest objective. I am fearful as to its consequences and how it would be interpreted: for instance, notably, the working time directive and health and safety provisions would inevitably have unhappy consequences for the United Kingdom.
May I seek in my humble capacity as a new Member to give the Cabinet some advice on which policies need to be reformed before we proceed to enlarge the European Union, as the Foreign Secretary intends? Principally, reform of the common agricultural policy should have regard not just to environmental guidelines but to rural development policy. I invite the Government to inform us tonight whether they intend to follow that course.
A number of Labour Members have spoken about the objective 1 benefits which the European social fund and the European regional development fund bring to their constituencies. Obviously, such assistance is dependent on additional government funding. Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury inform us whether he intends to continue with that additional funding in the foreseeable future and to what extent he envisages radical reform of the European social fund and the European regional development fund and, in particular, discontinuation of the cohesion policy, which seems to be relevant only to the Mediterranean countries?
I invite the Government to revise the timetable for economic and monetary union, recognising the fact that no member state other than Luxembourg will be in a position to join by 1 January 1999. I invite them also to sign up to the fact that the best European social and employment practice is that achieved under the previous Government, and that should form the basis of any social and employment chapter.
On behalf of those of us who continue to have the pleasure of serving in the European Parliament, I invite the Government to consider that there should be less rivalry and more of a partnership between the House and the European Parliament. I should like to voice my reservations about the proposals in the Government motion and I beg the House to accept the Opposition amendment.
I should start with an apology on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. There are compelling reasons why he cannot be present for the winding-up speeches. I know that Government Front Benchers understand, as I hope does the rest of the House.
This has been an important and interesting debate. To use the words of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), I, too, speak as a European. I found that I agreed with much of what he said, and I shall return to that. It is traditional in European debates that I embarrass my namesake, the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), by complimenting his speeches. He made a particularly penetrating speech in this debate.
A number of formidable speeches and seven very confident maiden speeches were made. I am sure that if I said that I agreed with the speeches of the hon. Members for Harlow (Mr. Rammell), for Liverpool, Riverside (Ms Ellman), for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney), for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) and for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble), I would damage their careers irrevocably, so I shall say simply that they variously gave confident, generous, amusing, articulate, earnest, and across the board, brave speeches. The European Union is an intimidating subject on which to make one's maiden speech. Since I did something similar a decade ago, I know just how they feel.
Two Conservative Members made maiden speeches in the debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) for paying a very nice tribute to Sir Nicholas Baker, who was in the Whips Office with me some years ago. He was a very good friend who, as my hon. Friend said, passed away during the election campaign. My hon. Friend gave a very clear, simple, insightful and thoughtful speech on the damage that the rigid framework of law would do to competitiveness in this country, a matter to which I shall return.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) is a friend from his previous capacity as a special adviser at the Foreign Office. He has crafted more of my words than I care to admit. He did a rather better job of delivering his words in his maiden speech than I sometimes did on his behalf. He gave a confident, erudite, expert and incisive speech, in which he did two notable things. First, he raised the treatment of his constituent, Mr. Reeve, by the Belgian police and judicial system. I hope that the Government will take that on board and act to help his constituent. I feel that natural justice demands that. Secondly, he made some insightful points about some of the detailed effects of the extension of qualified majority voting, especially in the environmental area. That needs a little more thought than has been given to it so far.
Of the formidable speeches, the one that stands out most in my mind was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley). He made a number of points to which I hope the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will be able to respond. He picked up a number of the points that will come up in negotiations in Amsterdam, particularly the need to make subsidiarity justiciable—a point that we drove home when we were in government. I hope that the new Government will continue to do so.
My right hon. Friend explained clearly the conundrum of the European Court of Justice—the supreme court—whose judgments can never be reversed. We had come up with fairly modest proposals for dealing with that, of which I have seen little since the change of Government. I should like to hear what will be done.
My right hon. Friend raised general fears about the massive extension of powers of the European Parliament through co-decision and the implications that that has for this Parliament's powers. He also dealt with the general question of extension of competence of the European Union, which also affects our national sovereignty.
Two other matters that were raised specifically require replies. One was the legal personality of the court, which was raised by my right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who was significantly concerned about it.
The final issue that I hope the Chief Secretary will cover is quota hopping, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) in her maiden speech, by the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and others.
Several hon. Members raised the most immediate issue facing the Union—the single currency. We face a stark and simple truth. We can see it and almost every economic commentator can see it, so why cannot the Government see the simple truth about the single currency? That truth is that economic and monetary union cannot start safely on 1 January 1999. A monetary union based on fudged criteria between countries whose economies show little genuine economic convergence would be the most disastrous economic mistake that Europe has made for many decades. I may tell—I nearly said my hon. Friend—my friend the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Radice) that that is not just the Euro-sceptics' view: it is shared by many eminent people with impeccable European credentials, who are greatly concerned about the future of the European structure. On that basis, we should treat the issue seriously.
For many months, the Conservatives have pointed out that there is little chance of sufficient convergence for EMU to start on time. We were the first to call for delay. Matters have now moved on and we have made a clear assessment of the events of the past few weeks. After the fiasco of the revaluation of the German gold reserves and the upheaval of the French elections, the only sensible conclusion is that monetary union cannot start safely on 1 January 1999.
I took especial note of the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) when he said that the German revaluation was technically correct. However, as the Bundesbank itself pointed out, it was a single-year adjustment and convergence is supposed to be a permanent condition. Whichever way one looks at the revaluation, it is a case of creative accounting.
Monetary union matters to Britain. More than half of our trade in goods is with the European Union. Britain has a strong interest in a thriving European economy. British exporters will not be queuing up to thank their elected representatives if we fail to warn our European partners of the dangers of a monetary union based on fudged or inappropriate criteria. That is why we should send the clearest possible message that 1 January 1999 is no longer an option. It is all the more astonishing, therefore, that the Government continue to keep the 1 January 1999 option open. I hope that in the Government's eagerness to cosy up to their new friends in Europe, they do not allow their judgment of the situation to be clouded.
When the Bundesbank exposed the German Government's plans for revaluation of the gold reserves as a fudge too far, we took its side. Where were the Government at that crucial moment? When the French elections put a further spoke in the wheel, we made it clear that the start date could no longer be safely achieved. Where were the Government? The Government claim that they will offer strong leadership. On this issue, above all others, they must start to do so. The Government should make it clear that they will oppose any country that tries to enter EMU with figures based on creative accounting.
I shall turn now to the questions raised by Amsterdam. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned several areas in which we agree with the Government's aims and objectives. For example, he spoke eloquently of the importance of enlargement and the attendant reforms that we both believe to be necessary. Because I have limited time, I will focus on the areas that divide the Government and the Opposition. I am sure that that will be a relief for the Foreign Secretary.
The Prime Minister waltzed into Europe after the election, smiling and hailing a new era. A week ago in Noordwijk, he said:
We will be in the middle of Europe
as a strong player playing for a
radical shift in Europe's horizons".
At the weekend, in Malmo, he said that Europe "must modernise or die". New Labour, old slogans. What do those slogans mean? Will the Prime Minister try to prove to the Europeans that the European social model has failed? Will he persuade them overnight to lift the burdens that have damaged European industry so much in the past few years? Sadly, all the optimistic rhetoric is matched only by a gloomy reality. So far, the Government's commitments seem to be to end the British veto on industrial, regional and environmental policy and to sign up to the social chapter and the employment chapter. Their rhetoric says one thing; their actions say another.
It should come as no surprise that European socialist leaders have rejoiced at Labour's victory. Today, we are witnessing a new dawn of socialism across Europe, as the Foreign Secretary was the first to admit. Writing in the New Statesmanon 6 September 1996, he said that a Labour Government would mean that, for the first time, there would be a socialist majority at the European Council, This would enable a socialist agenda to be pushed through, and he pretty much repeated that statement today. This new agenda is just the sort that many European leaders have been dreaming of—no wonder they threw a welcome party for Labour in Noordwijk last month. Now the French socialists have joined their ranks. Good news for socialists; bad news for prosperity.
Labour will sign the social chapter and is willing to give up the veto, but the incoherence of its position is demonstrated by the fact that it argues already with the social chapter's provisions. It is unsurprising that Commission officials are frustrated. They say, "If you pledge to sign the social chapter, you accept its measures," and they are right. We say, "Do not sign the social chapter and you will not have its measures forced upon you." We cannot have it both ways.
We need to keep the veto. In the words of one commentator, "You cannot throw away your umbrella and hope it does not rain." My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition negotiated our opt-out because it was in Britain's interests to do so. It may not have made us particularly popular in the eyes of some of our neighbours, but it was the right thing for Britain. We have reaped the vast rewards of flexibility and openness. We are not interested in saying, "We will play ball," and then complaining when the game gets too rough. That does not make sense.
We were told last month when the Prime Minister met European leaders in Holland that we could expect no new measures beyond those covered by majority voting within the social chapter. This month, we learnt of new measures just days after the Prime Minister's assurance. Last week, plans were revealed that businesses employing as few as 50 people must set up works councils to consult employees on company policy. In other words, there will be a massive extension of the already controversial works council directive, brought in under the social chapter. If implemented, the new proposals will sit heavily on the shoulders of small and medium-sized firms which already struggle with enough red tape.
How did the new Government react to the news? A Downing street spokesman confirmed that the Prime Minister would reject the proposal.
If this does not fit in with job creation and business success we will not have it",
he said. That is all very reassuring, but inaccurate if one is acquainted with the reality. Labour is fully aware that much of the social chapter operates under qualified majority voting, but it is aware that once it signs up to it, its ability to pick and choose will be severely limited.
What is more, Labour knows full well that the European works council directive—which Commissioner Flynn now proposes to extend—was adopted under qualified majority voting, which means no Labour veto. The only way to prevent these proposals is by forming a blocking minority. Since most of the countries of Europe other than ourselves and Ireland already face the burden of similar legislation, I can see very little chance of defeating the proposal. Even if—in a fit of sympathy for a new Government—they were allowed to drop it this year, it will, like all other Commission proposals, be back on the table to be re-submitted next year and the year after that until it is written in the stone of European labour law. The measure will not be the last. We will see regulation after regulation destroying jobs in Britain, as has occurred in Europe.
Labour has long attempted to reassure nervous business men that the entrails of the social chapter are negotiable. The new Prime Minister was the first to spawn this line at the CBI conference in 1995. He said of the social chapter:
Each piece of legislation will be judged on its merits. I have no intention whatever of agreeing to anything and everything that emerges from the EU. Proposals are just that: proposals. And they will be examined, with you, on their merit".
At the time, he was warned. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) quoted the response given by the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, Mr. Adair Turner, but it bears repetition. He said:
If you sign up to the Social Chapter you can't actually be sure that you will have your way, because some directives will be covered by qualified majority voting. There is however a way to
pick and choose and that is available for the Labour Party if it wants to have it as its policy. The way to pick and choose is actually not to sign up to the Social Chapter".
I offer the Government a piece of advice that has been given by a number of Opposition Members. It is not too late for them to change their mind. A U-turn is a small sacrifice to pay for the sake of jobs and prosperity. If jobs mean so much to the Government—I certainly believe them when they say that they do—they will do the honourable thing. The best way to pick and choose is not to sign. Outside the social chapter, they can pick and choose to their heart's content.
Earlier, someone shouted across the Chamber, "The majority." With its majority, the Labour party can carry any new law it wants. If it wishes, it can implement every piece of law in the social chapter through this Parliament. What the Government propose, however, is to take that right away from Parliament for ever—a point made cogently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling and implicitly by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, in his comments on the importance of the rights of Parliament and our national decisions in our national democracies.
The social chapter is not the sole case. Every risk that applies to the social chapter also applies to giving up the veto on industrial and regional policies. It looks as though the hard-won Conservative prosperity of the 1990s is set to be buried by a new socialist agenda of red tape and regulation. In the 1970s, Labour's disastrous economic record consisted of employment protection Acts that destroyed jobs, industrial policies that destroyed industries and regional policies that laid waste Britain's industrial regions. At least in 1979 this Parliament could sweep away the disastrous policies of the socialist 1970s. No future British Parliament could unilaterally correct the consequences of giving up our sovereignty in this way.
What the Government propose to give away in Amsterdam will give us the catastrophic policies of the 1970s, but made irreversibly in Brussels. Of course, that is the Prime Minister's pay-off to the unions, as the head of the European Trades Union Congress and, indeed, the head of the British TUC have now effectively admitted. Finally, we are about to discover the true meaning of new Labour—Conservative words and socialist consequences.
The contrast between Conservative and Labour on Europe is stark and sobering. We have a clear, modern vision of Europe as a partnership of nations with Britain co-operating closely with its continental neighbours, but firmly saying no to being part of the drive towards a European state. All Conservatives, without exception, share that strong determination to preserve our independence.
Labour, by contrast, is incoherent and muddled. One day, the Prime Minister swears that he will never be isolated in Europe, the next he says that he is proud to be isolated. One day, the Prime Minister pledges to be a friend of the EU by abandoning the national veto in numerous areas, the next he or his Ministers are threatening to use it. One day, he says that the proposals on the social chapter would benefit Britain, the next he is trying to reassure business men that he will oppose such proposals, omitting to admit that he could be outvoted.
Labour does not have a policy on Europe. It has a posture on Europe—a posture that changes from audience to audience. The sad truth is that Labour has bought a season ticket on the line of least resistance. It is a season ticket whose price will be paid by the people of Britain—a price that will be extremely high.
Conservative Governments have won the British budget rebate, the single currency opt-out and other brief victories by being tough, effective negotiators. By contrast, Labour is inexperienced and sometimes naive. The Prime Minister will go to Amsterdam alone among all the European Heads of Government in having already announced to the world the national surrenders that he intends to make without even a promise of anything in return.
Within six weeks of a general election victory, Labour has already proclaimed six surrenders: four surrenders of veto, submission to the social chapter and a European Union jurisdiction on employment. Once combined, those commitments will create an ever-open door for Brussels-driven labour law and over-regulation.
That is what the unions want and what has done most of the damage to jobs in Europe. It is a European employment time bomb, and it is only a matter of time before it goes off. The damage to British jobs and prosperity will be irrevocable; the damage to Britain's ability to compete will be permanent and savage; and the damage to Britain's sovereignty and standing will be for ever. No British Government should do that lightly.
That was pretty desperate stuff. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) certainly came out of his Euro-closet tonight; he will be in some difficulties if the next leader of his party is the shadow Chancellor. That may be the first and last speech that we hear from him on this subject.
I shall return to what the right hon. Gentleman said shortly, but, first, I should like to refer to the numerous maiden speeches made this evening. The first was from my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell), who spoke generously of his predecessor and of Stan Newens and made the important point that our party has returned to power after re-engaging itself with those natural supporters with whom it lost touch in the 1970s and 1980s. That has some relevance for Europe. It is important that Europe is re-engaged with the people whom the European institutions are supposed to serve.
The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) spoke with some feeling about what a difficult act his predecessor was to follow. His predecessor is one of the few people in the country who would probably crawl to get here for a debate such as this—but he spoke well of him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Ms Ellman) spoke about the increasing problem of social exclusion in Liverpool and in many such areas, where it is important that we act and are seen to act, in terms of both domestic and European policy.
The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) spoke movingly of Sir Nicholas Baker; all those who knew or came into contact with him were extremely sorry and sad to learn of his death just before the election. He was a man of great integrity, who spoke his mind. Our thoughts are with his family.
The hon. Member for North Dorset said that his constituency was the most beautiful in Britain, as did the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney). When the rain eases off in North Tayside and I am able to see it, I can corroborate his evidence, as it is indeed a beautiful constituency. He, too, spoke well of his predecessor, Bill Walker, whom we shall miss for various reasons.
We shall also miss Jeremy Hanley, of whom the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) spoke with some affection. While he was chairman of the Conservative party, we all regarded him with a great deal of affection; we were sorry when he moved on.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble), who wants an airport, unlike the hon. Member for Richmond Park, spoke of the importance of the fishing industry, as did the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor). Making progress on quota hopping, in particular, is a matter to which the Government attach great importance.
Right hon. and hon. Members will have seen that the House is approving a number of documents to end the formal parliamentary scrutiny procedure. The scrutiny procedure now ends and the Government can make progress not only on the intergovernmental conference, the broad economic guidelines and the assessment of the 1996 guidelines, but on the three proposals relating to economic and monetary union, the stability and growth pact, the legal framework of the euro and the new exchange rate mechanism.
The stability pact was referred to by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). It is important to say a word about European monetary union. The speech of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden had a flavour of sour grapes towards everything to do with Europe. That is part of the problem of the Conservative party at the moment.
Very few Conservatives can talk about Europe without a whiff of dislike and distrust of everything European. It is no wonder that they made so little progress with our European partners. They seem blinded by prejudice, to the extent that we now hear that Helmut Kohl is a socialist. He and many others may find that difficult to believe.
It is not so long since the Leader of the Opposition had to break off the general election campaign to appeal for unity in his party. His appeal was based on the proposition that the party should not tie his hands before he went to negotiate on monetary union, yet tonight the Conservatives tell us that we should do just that and rule out the possibility of monetary union in 1999. Many Conservatives, perhaps the majority, believe that it should be ruled out completely.
The Euro-scepticism is there for all to see. No wonder the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) looks with distaste at some of those sitting next to him. As he said, if Conservatives wish to exclude themselves not only from Europe but from elsewhere, they are going about it the right way. That is a matter for them.
We believe that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom that we should keep our options open on the single currency. It is essential that there is sustainable convergence among the economies that take part. We need a national debate on the economic tests to be applied. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set them out: jobs, investment, the impact on financial services, the need for flexibility, and the impact on business cycles. Those factors must be considered against the background of the first and foremost question: what is in this country's national interest? Is it in this country's interest to join a single currency or is it not? My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others have said that it is highly unlikely that Britain will join in the first wave, but to exclude the possibility of joining, which is at the heart of what the Conservative party believes, is not only bad for Britain's interests but is to take a blinkered view of the future.
The Treasury and other Departments are engaged in studies of numerous matters, including those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. When the Government have to come to a view, those discussions will take place in the House and in the country.
No, I have dealt with the point. The hon. Gentleman and most Conservative Members are not interested one jot in such considerations because they have already set themselves against anything to do with Europe and, in particular, with the single currency.
No, I have dealt with that point. The problem for Conservative Members, and the problem that the shadow Chancellor would face if he were elected leader of the Conservative party, is that there is a phalange of Tory Members who have a visceral dislike of everything to do with Europe. That is one of the many reasons that they were rejected by the electorate only a few weeks ago.
I want to deal briefly with the stability and growth pact. It follows that if there is to be a single currency, it is important that it should be underpinned by a pact. One of the pact's objectives is the maintenance of high and stable levels of growth and unemployment. It is committed to stability. Economic stability is one of the Government's primary objectives because only with economic stability can we get the long-term, sustainable growth that Britain needs.
The sanctions under the excessive deficits regulation could not apply to Britain; they can apply only to member states who participate in the single currency. Whether we do that is a matter still to be considered. I want to draw attention to one other regulation because it was mentioned by many people, particularly in the City of London, before the general election: the legal framework for the euro. It is important, whether we join or not, that British institutions, such as the London international financial futures and options exchange, LIFFE, can denominate sterling contracts in euros so that we can maintain London's pre-eminent position not only in Europe but in the world. The broad economic guidelines that are also before the House again emphasise the need for growth and jobs, to which I shall refer shortly.
New Members who have spoken tonight will come to realise, should they ever participate in a debate on Europe again, that some things never change. Indeed, there were many echoes of the Maastricht debate—some of the speeches seemed exactly the same as those made five years ago.
The hon. Gentleman is no exception as he is the leader of the reunion of the Euro-sceptics.
I believe that the starting point of any sensible consideration of the issue must be a practical and pragmatic approach to Europe. The question we must ask ourselves about the single currency or any other policy on Europe is what is in the country's national interest. The reason that we co-operate with the rest of Europe and share sovereignty in certain cases is that it is in our interests to do so.
We live in a global economy and it is no longer possible for any country to go it alone economically. Although I appreciate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield said tonight, as he has done on many occasions in the past, he must accept surely that as we live in a global economy, co-operation between nations, whether in Europe or anywhere else, must continue and grow. That is extremely important.
The Foreign Secretary said that if Britain decides to join the first wave the evaluation will take place next spring. If the Government decide not to go ahead, does the Chief Secretary appreciate that business needs to know how long a lead time it will be given to make the necessary investment? Can he undertake that the Government will say what minimum lead time they will give for a positive decision?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right that business and others need time to plan. The Government will carry out an evaluation as to whether the Cabinet will recommend joining the single currency, so our decision will become known at that time. Business will then know its own precise position. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that business is aware of the general discussions taking place, although the Government's view will be made known subsequently.
It is important to co-operate when it is in our interest to do so. It is in our interests that the single market should be expanded and made a reality, for example, in telecommunications and the financial services industry. Britain excels in those sectors by competing on quality and excellence. During our presidency, we intend to push to make that market work.
The social chapter is another example of something that is not just in the interests of those directly affected by it but in the interests of British firms. We must sign up to it because those firms are already affected by it. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to many large firms that deal with the social chapter day in, day out. They want a British Government who are not only committed to the ideal behind the social chapter but argue against proposals that would affect the competitiveness of Europe and those companies in particular. We intend to do that.
The Leader of the Opposition asked some questions about whether qualified majority voting would apply to aspects of the social chapter. As I am sure he is well aware, it does in relation to health and safety, working conditions and information to and consultation with workers, but it does not in terms of social security, trade union rights and other areas. We have always made it clear—before, during and now after the election—that we will do nothing that adversely affects the competitive position of British firms.
As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear today at the ECOFIN meeting, it is important that Europe recognises that, in years to come, competition will not just be between the traditional markets of America, Japan and so on, but with emerging economies that have developed in a way that we could not have imagined in the past few years.
In a moment.
It is important that Britain and Europe remain competitive against the world. I will do the right hon. and learned Gentleman perhaps a favour as he is clearly out to impress those who sit behind him before they go to the polls tomorrow.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that if the Government sign the social chapter they can argue against measures which would imperil the competitiveness of British business and plead with our partners not to imperil it, but they cannot do anything to stop them because they will be agreed by qualified majority voting. The only way to stop that is not to join the social chapter.
I wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman every success tomorrow morning. He must accept, however, that people elected a Government to stick up for British interests, firms and individuals. We intend to do that by signing the social chapter. In other areas, it is clearly not in Britain's interest to entertain qualified majority voting. Those areas are taxation, defence and foreign policy. On issues such as fraud, increasing co-operation is clearly important.
The difference between the Government and the Conservative party, the denuded Opposition, is that the climate of opinion has changed, not just in this country but in Europe. People do not expect a British Government simply to agree with what is proposed in Europe. They are looking for a Government who are prepared to argue their corner and to be genuine partners with others in the European Union. That is why my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary have laid so much weight on re-engaging the European institutions with the people that they are there to serve.
For many people, the sometimes arcane debates about institutions and changes mean absolutely nothing. They want policies that the European Union can facilitate and which will benefit them and provide opportunities for jobs and sustainable economic growth.
We have the opportunity to set out our agenda for growth, not as my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said, an opportunity to lecture our European partners; we must show a positive lead and emphasise the importance of employability as well as employment. We must import employability, help flexibility and have an adaptable labour force. Those matters are fundamental because, in a world where capital is increasingly mobile, the skills, training and motivation of the work force here and in Europe will mark us out as a place in which to invest.
No I will not, because the hon. Gentleman has not been here for most of the evening.
Unlike the defeated Conservative party, we recognise that while the role of Government is different from what it was in the past, we still have the key role of helping to equip individuals and companies for the future. We need to build skills and invest in infrastructure, and we must help small businesses and create the right, stable, economic basis to encourage sustainable long-term growth.
I will not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.
The modern market economy is based on knowledge and ideas, technology, creativity and adaptability. Those are what the Government and all modern Governments ought to provide, and it is the job of the European Union to foster the climate for that creation. That is the way to tackle high unemployment in Europe and the obstacles to job creation, and it will encourage employability and therefore employment. Europe must cut unnecessary bureaucracy for small firms and build to completion a single market. It must promote welfare to work opportunities and initiatives, as we are doing.
The people want a Government who are committed to serving their interests not just in Europe but throughout the world in the context of crime prevention, the environment and employment.
If the hon. Lady does not mind, I will not.
The Conservative party has learned nothing from its defeat. It seems to be increasingly determined to march out into the wilderness. It has nothing to say to the country and it certainly has nothing to say to Europe. That may be a matter of regret to the body politic, but I do not think that it is regretted by many people. By contrast, we are prepared to play a positive role in Europe. We take a practical and pragmatic approach to Europe and its institutions because it is fundamental to re-engage Europe with the people that it is supposed to represent. People must feel the real benefit of being part of the European Union. The Government have already started on that process and we are committed to that in a way that the Conservative party could never be because it is paralysed by its own divisions.
The Government will play a full part in a Europe of employment and opportunity. That is the role which people wanted their Government to play when they elected the new Labour Government on 1 May. They wanted change in Britain and we have already shown how we will deliver that change. People also wanted a change in attitude to Europe. The country believed that the carping and complaining by Conservative Members were selling out the country's interests. They said that they had had enough of that and that they wanted a change.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we have already started to make a change. There is a changing attitude in Europe. There are changing opinions in Europe. We intend to build on that and to show the lead for which this country has been crying out for years.
(seated and covered): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Since we returned following the general election, and the rewiring has been carried out, a number of the Division Bells no longer function. Along the Committee Corridor North, there are now no audible Bells at all, and, unless the televisions are switched to one particular channel, there is no audible sign that a Division is taking place. I am sure that you will be concerned about that, Madam Speaker.
|Division No. 21]||[10 pm|
|Amess, David||Duncan, Alan|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Duncan Smith, Iain|
|Arbuthnot, James||Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Evans, Nigel|
|Baldry, Tony||Faber, David|
|Bercow, John||Fabricant, Michael|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Fallon, Michael|
|Blunt, Crispin||Flight, Howard|
|Boswell, Tim||Forth, Eric|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Fox, Dr Liam|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Fraser, Christopher|
|Brady, Graham||Gale, Roger|
|Brazier, Julian||Garnier, Edward|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Gibb, Nick|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Gill, Christopher|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Gillan, Mrs Cheryl|
|Burns, Simon||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Butterfill, John||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Gray, James|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Green, Damian|
|Chope, Christopher||Greenway, John|
|Clappison, James||Grieve, Dominic|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Gummer, Rt Hon John|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Hague, Rt Hon William|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hawkins, Nick|
|Collins, Tim||Hayes, John|
|Colvin, Michael||Heald, Oliver|
|Cran, James||Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Davies, Quentin||Horam, John|
|(Grantham & Stamford)||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Day, Stephen||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Hunter, Andrew|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)||Ruffley, David|
|Johnson Smith,||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Key, Robert||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Kirkbride, Miss Julie||Soames, Nicholas|
|Laing, Mrs Eleanor||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Lansley, Andrew||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Leigh, Edward||Spring, Richard|
|Letwin, Oliver||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Steen, Anthony|
|Lidington, David||Streeter, Gary|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Swayne, Desmond|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Syms, Robert|
|Loughton, Tim||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Luff, Peter||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|McIntosh, Miss Anne||Temple—Morris, Peter|
|MacKay, Andrew||Townend, John|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Tredinnick, David|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Trend, Michael|
|Madel, Sir David||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Malins, Humfrey||Viggers, Peter|
|Maples, John||Wardle, Charles|
|Maude, Rt Hon Francis||Waterson, Nigel|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|May, Mrs Theresa||Whittingdale, John|
|Merchant, Piers||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Moss, Malcolm||Wilkinson, John|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wiletts, David|
|Norman, Archie||Wilshire, David|
|Ottaway, Richard||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Page, Richard||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Paice, James||Woodward, Shaun|
|Paterson, Owen||Yeo, Tim|
|Pickles, Eric||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Robathan, Andrew||Mr. Bowen Wells and|
|Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)||Mr. Peter Ainsworth.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Boateng, Paul|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Borrow, David|
|Ainger, Nick||Bradley, Keith (Withington)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)|
|Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)||Bradshaw, Ben|
|Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)||Brand, Dr Peter|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Breed, Colin|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Brinton, Mrs Helen|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, Rt Hon Nick|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||(Newcastle E & Wallsend)|
|Baker, Norman||Brown, Russell (Dumfries)|
|Banks, Tony||Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)|
|Barnes, Harry||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Barron, Kevin||Buck, Ms Karen|
|Bayley, Hugh||Burden, Richard|
|Beard, Nigel||Burgon, Colin|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Burnett, John|
|Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)||Butler, Christine|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Byers, Stephen|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Benton, Joe||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Berry, Roger||Canavan, Dennis|
|Best, Harold||Cann, Jamie|
|Betts, Clive||Caplin, Ivor|
|Blackman, Mrs Liz||Casale, Roger|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Caton, Martin|
|Blizzard, Robert||Cawsey, Ian|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Foster, Michael John (Worcester)|
|Clapham, Michael||Foulkes, George|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Fyfe, Maria|
|Clark, Dr Lynda||Galbraith, Sam|
|(Edinburgh Pentlands)||Galloway, George|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Gapes, Mike|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Gardiner, Barry|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Gerrard, Neil|
|Clelland, David||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Coaker, Vernon||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Godsiff, Roger|
|Cohen, Harry||Goggins, Paul|
|Coleman, Iain||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|(Hammersmith & Fulham)||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Colman, Anthony (Putney)||Graham, Thomas|
|Connarty, Michael||Grant, Bernie|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Cooper, Ms Yvette||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Corbett, Robin||Grocott, Bruce|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Grogan, John|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Gunnell, John|
|Cotter, Brian||Hain, Peter|
|Cousins, Jim||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Cranston, Ross||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Crausby, David||Hancock, Mike|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hanson, David|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Harvey, Nick|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Curtis—Thomas, Ms Clare||Heath, David (Somerton)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Darvill, Keith||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Heppell, John|
|Davidson, Ian||Hesford, Stephen|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Hill, Keith|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Dawson, Hilton||Hoey, Kate|
|Dean, Ms Janet||Home Robertson, John|
|Denham, John||Hood, Jimmy|
|Dewar, Rt Hon Donald||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Dismore, Andrew||Hope, Philip|
|Dobbin, Jim||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Doran, Frank||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Dowd, Jim||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Drew, David||Hughes, Ms Beverley|
|Drown, Ms Julia||(Stretford & Urmston)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Edwards, Huw||Hurst, Alan|
|Efford, Clive||Hutton, John|
|Ellman, Ms Louise||Iddon, Brian|
|Ennis, Jeff||Illsley, Eric|
|Etherington, Bill||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Jamieson, David|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Johnson, Alan (Hull W)|
|Fisher, Mark||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark)|
|Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Flint, Ms Caroline||Jones, Ms Jenny|
|Flynn, Paul||(Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Follett, Ms Barbara||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham)||Naysmith, Dr Doug|
|Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)||Norris, Dan|
|Kemp, Fraser||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||O'Brien, William (Normanton)|
|Khabra, Piara S||Olner, Bill|
|Kidney, David||O'Neill, Martin|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Opik, Lembit|
|King, Andy (Rugby)||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)||Osborne, Mrs Sandra|
|Kingham, Tessa||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Pearson, Ian|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Pendry, Tom|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Pickthall, Colin|
|Laxton, Bob||Pike, Peter L|
|Lepper, David||Plaskitt, James|
|Leslie, Christopher||Pollard, Kerry|
|Levitt, Tom||Pond, Chris|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Pope, Greg|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Pound, Stephen|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Linton, Martin||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Livingstone, Ken||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Lock, David||Purchase, Ken|
|Love, Andy||Quinn, Lawrie|
|McAllion, John||Radice, Giles|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Rammell, Bill|
|McCabe, Stephen||Rapson, Syd|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Raynsford, Nick|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|McDonagh, Ms Siobhain||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Macdonald, Calum||Rendel, David|
|McDonnell, John||Robertson, Rt Hon George|
|McFall, John||(Hamilton S)|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)|
|Mclsaac, Ms Shona||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|McKenna, Ms Rosemary||Rogers, Allan|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Rooker, Jeff|
|McMaster, Gordon||Rooney, Terry|
|McNulty, Tony||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|MacShane, Denis||Rowlands, Ted|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Roy, Frank|
|McWalter, Tony||Ruane, Chris|
|McWilliam, John||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Mallaber, Ms Judy||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Mandelson, Peter||Salter, Martin|
|Marek, Dr John||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Sawford, Phil|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|Martlew, Eric||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Maxton, John||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Meale, Alan||Singh, Marsha|
|Merron, Ms Gillian||Skinner, Dennis|
|Michael, Alun||Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)|
|Milbum, Alan||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Miller, Andrew||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Mitchell, Austin||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Soley, Clive|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Morley, Elliot||Spellar, John|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Mountford, Ms Kali||Stevenson, George|
|Mudie, George||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Mullin, Chris||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Stott, Roger||Tyler, Paul|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Vaz, Keith|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Stringer, Graham||Wareing, Robert N|
|Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)||Watts, David|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||White, Brian|
|Swinney, John||Whitehead, Alan|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)||Williams, Dr Alan W|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)||(E Carmarthen)|
|Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Taylor, Matthew||Willis, Phil|
|(Truro & St Austell)||Wills, Michael|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Winnick, David|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Timms, Stephen||Wise, Audrey|
|Tipping, Paddy||Wood, Mike|
|Todd, Mark||Woolas, Phil|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Touhig, Don||Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Trickett, Jon||Wyatt, Derek|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)||Mr. Jon Owen Jones and|
|Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)||Janet Anderson.|
|Division No. 22]||[10.18 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Brown, Russell (Dumfries)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)|
|Ainger, Nick||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Buck, Ms Karen|
|Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)||Burden, Richard|
|Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)||Burgon, Colin|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Burnett, John|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Butler, Christine|
|Ashton, Joe||Byers, Stephen|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)|
|Baker, Norman||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Banks, Tony||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Barnes, Harry||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Barron, Kevin||Canavan, Dennis|
|Bayley, Hugh||Cann, Jamie|
|Beard, Nigel||Caplin, Ivor|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Casale, Roger|
|Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)||Caton, Martin|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Cawsey, Ian|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Chaytor, David|
|Benton, Joe||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clapham, Michael|
|Berry, Roger||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Best, Harold||Clark, Dr Lynda|
|Betts, Clive||(Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Blackman, Mrs Liz||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Blizzard, Robert||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Boateng, Paul||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Borrow, David||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Clelland, David|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Coaker, Vernon|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Cohen, Harry|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick||Coleman, Iain|
|(Newcastle E & Wallsend)||(Hammersmith & Fulham)|
|Colman, Anthony (Putney)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Connarty, Michael||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Grogan, John|
|Cooper, Ms Yvette||Gunnell, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Hain, Peter|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Cotter, Brian||Hancock, Mike|
|Cousins, Jim||Hanson, David|
|Cranston, Ross||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Crausby, David||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Harvey, Nick|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Healey, John|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Heath, David (Somerton)|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|(Copeland)||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Curtis—Thomas, Ms Clare||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Heppell, John|
|Darvill, Keith||Hesford, Stephen|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Hill, Keith|
|Davidson, Ian||Hinchliffe, David|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Hoey, Kate|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Home Robertson, John|
|Dawson, Hilton||Hood, Jimmy|
|Dean, Ms Janet||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Denham, John||Hope, Philip|
|Dismore, Andrew||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Dobbin, Jim||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Doran, Frank||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Dowd, Jim||Hughes, Ms Beverley|
|Drew, David||(Stretford &Urmston)|
|Drown, Ms Julia||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)||Hurst, Alan|
|Edwards, Huw||Hutton, John|
|Efford, Clive||Iddon, Brian|
|Ellman, Ms Louise||Illsley, Eric|
|Ennis, Jeff||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)|
|Etherington, Bill||Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Jamieson, David|
|Feam, Ronnie||Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Johnson, Alan (Hull W)|
|Fisher, Mark||Johnson, Ms Melanie|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Flint, Ms Caroline||Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark)|
|Flynn, Paul||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Follett, Ms Barbara||Jones, Ms Jenny|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||(Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Foster, Michael John (Worcester)||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Foulkes, George||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Fyfe, Maria||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd'S)|
|Galbraith, Sam||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Galloway, George||Jowell, Ms Tessa|
|Gapes, Mike||Keen, Alan (Feltham)|
|Gardiner, Barry||Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Kemp, Fraser|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Khabra, Piara S|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Kidney, David|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||King, Andy (Rugby)|
|Godsiff, Roger||King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Goggins, Paul||Kingham, Tessa|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Graham, Thomas||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Grant, Bernie||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)||Laxton, Bob|
|Lepper, David||Pond, Chris|
|Leslie, Christopher||Pope, Greg|
|Levitt, Tom||Pound, Stephen|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Linton, Martin||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Livingstone, Ken||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Purchase, Ken|
|Lock, David||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Love, Andy||Radice, Giles|
|McAllion, John||Rammell, Bill|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Rapson, Syd|
|McCabe, Stephen||Raynsford, Nick|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|McDonagh, Ms Siobhain||Rendel, David|
|Macdonald, Calum||Robertson, Rt Hon George|
|McDonnell, John||(Hamilton S)|
|McFall, John||Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Mclsaac, Ms Shona||Rogers, Allan|
|McKenna, Ms Rosemary||Rooker, Jeff|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Rooney, Terry|
|McMaster, Gordon||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McNulty, Tony||Rowlands, Ted|
|MacShane, Denis||Roy, Frank|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Ruane, Chris|
|McWalter, Tony||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|McWilliam, John||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Mandelson, Peter||Salter, Martin|
|Marek, Dr John||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Sawford, Phil|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|Martlew, Eric||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Maxton, John||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Meale, Alan||Singh, Marsha|
|Merron, Ms Gillian||Skinner, Dennis|
|Michael, Alun||Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)|
|Milburn, Alan||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Miller, Andrew||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Mitchell, Austin||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Soley, Clive|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Morley, Elliot||Spellar, John|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Mountford, Ms Kali||Stevenson, George|
|Mudie, George||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Mullin, Chris||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Stott, Roger|
|Norris, Dan||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Stringer, Graham|
|Olner, Bill||Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Opik, Lembit||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||(Dewsbury)|
|Osborne, Mrs Sandra||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Pearson, Ian||Taylor, Matthew|
|Pendry, Tom||(Truro & St Austell)|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Pike, Peter L||Timms, Stephen|
|Plaskitt, James||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pollard, Kerry||Todd, Mark|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny||(Swansea W)|
|Touhig, Don||Williams, Dr Alan W|
|Trickett, Jon||(E Carmarthen)|
|Truswell, Paul||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Wills, Michael|
|Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)||Winnick, David|
|Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)||Wise, Audrey|
|Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)||Wood, Mike|
|Tyler, Paul||Woolas, Phil|
|Vaz, Keith||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Ward, Ms Claire||Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Wareing, Robert N||Wyatt, Derek|
|White, Brian||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Whitehead, Alan||Mr. Jon Owen Jones and Janet Anderson.|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Amess, David||Flight Howard|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Forth, Eric|
|Arbuthnot, James||Fox, Dr Liam|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Fraser, Christopher|
|Baldry, Tony||Gale, Roger|
|Bercow, John||Garnier, Edward|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Gibb, Nick|
|Blunt, Crispin||Gill, Christopher|
|Boswell, Tim||Gillan, Mrs Cheryl|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Brady, Graham||Gray, James|
|Brazier, Julian||Green, Damian|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Greenway, John|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Grieve, Dominic|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Gummer, Rt Hon John|
|Bums, Simon||Hague, Rt Hon William|
|Butterfill, John||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Cash, William||Hammond, Philip|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Hawkins, Nick|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Hayes, John|
|Chope, Christopher||Heald, Oliver|
|Clappison, James||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Collins, Tim||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunter, Andrew|
|Cran, James||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)|
|Davies, Quentin||Johnson Smith,|
|(Grantham & Stamford)||Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Day, Stephen||Key, Robert|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Duncan, Alan||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Evans, Nigel||Lansley, Andrew|
|Faber, David||Leigh, Edward|
|Fabricant, Michael||Letwin, Oliver|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Lidington, David||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Soames, Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Loughton, Tim||Spring, Richard|
|Luff, Peter||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Steen, Anthony|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Streeter, Gary|
|McIntosh, Miss Anne||Swayne, Desmond|
|MacKay, Andrew||Syms, Robert|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Madel, Sir David||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maples, John||Townend, John|
|Maude, Rt Hon Francis||Tredinnick, David|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Trend, Michael|
|May, Mrs Theresa||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Merchant, Piers||Viggers, Peter|
|Moss, Malcolm||Walter, Robert|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wardle, Charles|
|Norman, Archie||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Ottaway, Richard||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Paice, James||Wilkinson, John|
|Paterson, Owen||Willetts, David|
|Pickles, Eric||Wilshire, David|
|Prior, David||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Robathan, Andrew||Woodward, Shaun|
|Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)||Yeo, Tim|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Ruffley, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|St Aubyn, Nick||Mr. Bowen Wells and Mr. Peter Ainsworth.|
That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. SN 600/97 (C101), consolidated draft Treaty texts; 6946/97, on the strengthening of the surveillance and co-ordination of budgetary policies; 6947/97, on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure; 10867/96, on the legal framework for the introduction of the euro; 7766/97, on the Commission's recommendation for the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and the Community; 7767/97, on a progress report on the implementation of the 1996 broad economic policy guidelines; the draft Resolution on the European Council on the stability and growth pact; and the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by HM Treasury on 30th May on a draft resolution of the European Council on the establishment of an exchange rate mechanism in the third stage of economic and monetary union; and welcomes the determination of Her Majesty's Government to focus the agenda of the European Union on policies of direct benefit to the peoples of Europe through its initiatives on employment and competitiveness, and to obtain the best deal for Britain at the Amsterdam Summit through constructive negotiations in the Intergovernmental Conference.