National Referendum on the European Union

Part of Backbench Business — [34th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 24th October 2011.

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Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset 6:22 pm, 24th October 2011

May I reassure hon. Members on both sides of the House that I shall be voting tonight not in response to a three-line Whip but in what I believe is the national interest?

I am saddened by some of the comments I have heard in the Chamber today. Since 1960, the Conservative party and Conservative Governments, whether it was Harold Macmillan, Alexander Douglas-Home, Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher or John Major, have always believed that our future was in Europe, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister follows in that tradition.

It was from the embers of the second world war—a Europe torn apart by Germany and Italy—which for many was the second terrible war in a generation after the great war, or the war to end all wars, that the idea of the European Community and European union was born. I believe that European unity was a cause to end all wars—on this continent at least. I campaigned hard in the 1975 referendum for a yes vote and I remember endless arguments with my late father-in-law who told me not to trust the Germans and certainly never to trust the Italians. He rang me up after the vote and said, “I thought I’d better tell you I voted in the referendum yesterday,” and I said, “Oh, yes,” expecting him to tell me that he had voted no. He said, “I voted yes—not for me and probably not for you but for my grandchildren.” His grandchildren are my children and they are grown up now; indeed, they are the same age as many of my colleagues in the House today.