§ 10.1 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)
I beg to move:That Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish, Mr. John Brewis, Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker, Mr. John E. B. Hill, Mr. S. James A. Hill, Mr. Russell Johnston, Mr. Peter Kirk. Mr. Tom Norman-ton, Mr John Peel, Mr. Rafton Pounder, Sir Brandon Rhys Williams, Mr. James Scott-Hopkins and Sir Derek Walker-Smith be designated Members of the European Parliament.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
On a point of order. May I ask you to rule on two points, Mr. Speaker?
First, the motion states that it relates to a body called the European Parliament. In the Treaty of Rome, to which we have acceded under the European Communities Act, the phrase is "the European Assembly", and that presumably will, if it is not now, become the law of the land on 1st January. It would obviously be inappropriate if someone could proceed to a court on 1st January or 2nd January and ask for an injunction preventing the Members mentioned in the motion from going to the European Assembly on the ground that they were not properly designated.
Secondly, that part of the treaty states that the members concerned shall be appointed by Parliament. There is a motion before us, and presumably one will be moved in another place. But it was held as long ago as 1911 that resolutions of both Houses are not actions of Parliament; they are simply actions of the Houses, as Parliament consists of three entities.
We may be advised that the original treaty, written in another language, did not say "Parliament", but it may be also that the Crown intends to deal with the motions in a new way. But as we are in the unusual situation where the House could perhaps act in an illegal way, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule whether the motion is in order? It may be that passing it would constitute an illegal action, something which the House is not accustomed to doing, as hitherto it has been totally sovereign. It would be inappropriate for any motion to be brought before the House now or after 1st January under the European 1254 Communities Act which would cause us to break the law.
§ Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to make four submissions in support of the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English).
First, there is no institution called "the European Parliament". The motion is, therefore, nonsensical.
Secondly, there is in existence an institution called "the European Assembly", mentioned in Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome, various articles of the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty, the Euratom Treaty and, most important of all for this purpose, Article 10 of the Treaty of Accession, set out in Cmnd. 4862, Part I. There is no reference in any of those pre-accession or accession treaties to "a European Parliament", although there are numerous references to "a European Assembly". Conversely, in the European Communities Act there is certainly no reference to "a European Parliament", and Sections 1 and 2 of that Act merely give legal force to the pre-accession and accession treaties and what they contain. I therefore submit that for that second reason the motion is out of order.
Thirdly, there was a motion of the European Assembly on 30th March 1962 asking that in future it be called a Parliament. I submit that that motion of the European Assembly in 1962 has no statutory force and, furthermore, no legal force in this country, and that, therefore, the motion is on that ground out of order.
Fourthly, under the terms of the motion before the House a certain amount of expenditure will be incurred. I have always understood as a new back bencher that no expenditure can be incurred by the House except in pursuit of statutory authority. I submit that there is no statutory authority for incurring expenditure on designating Members to go to an institution that technically and legally does not exist.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. About the use of "Parliament" and "Assembly", it is true that the 1255 legislation refers to it as "Assembly" but in March 1962 this body of European Members of Parliament unanimously resolved to bring its description in French and Italian into line with its description in the other two official languages—German and Dutch.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
In March 1962 it was unanimously resolved to bring the title in French and Italian into line with that in German and Dutch, and it became "Parlement" and so on. The translation of all four words in English in the official document is "Parliament".
Mr. Alain Poher, in proposing the motion, said that the reason for moving it was that to describe in Italian and French this body as an Assembly led to confusion between this body and the Assembly of the Council of Europe. It is correct, judging by the many speeches and comments I have heard over the last year in the House, that many people have confused the Assembly with the Parliament. It was for that express purpose that it became called a Parliament, and that is what it is called today. As late as 1967 there were still opportunities for confusion between the Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, and to go on confusing these two bodies by using the term "Assembly" renders no service to our business or to anybody else.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) gave me notice of his proposed points of order. I have therefore had an opportunity of considering them very carefully. They are not points of order. They are matters of substance. If hon. Members take this view, they must argue against the motion. I rule against the points of order.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I thought, Mr. Speaker, that the motion was being moved by the hon. Member for 1256 Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill) and that I could continue the debate.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
If there was any confusion, I apologise to the House if I had contributed to it, but I thought that the motion stood in the name of the Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household and had been moved by the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household. It was on that basis that I rose to speak. I did not wish to deprive the House of any advice that the Leader of the House might wish to give.
The points of order which have been raised are a further protest against the way in which the House is called upon by the Government to deal with this important question. The question of the relationship between the European Assembly or Parliament, whichever it may be properly called—I am sure that the proper name is "the Assembly"—and the House of Commons seems to be a matter of major importance and one which the House should have considered with extreme care before making a decision to enter the European Community. That is why some of us sought to raise the question during the discussions on the European Communities Bill. The Government made no provision in the Bill to deal with it, and it was only because the Opposition put down an amendment on 13th June that we were able to have a brief discussion on the matter on that night and on the following day. Unfortunately, owing to the combined operations of the Government and the Liberal Party we had to carry out that important discussion under the shadow of the guillotine, and we were not able, therefore, to have anything like the full discussion at that time which the House of Commons should have had if it was to give the matter adequate attention.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
Surely it would be more correct to say that the matter should have been considered before the application to join was made rather than during the debate after the application had been made.
§ Mr. Foot
Some of us thought and argued during the proceedings on the 1257 Bill that there could not be a more appropriate moment for discussing the relationship between the House of Commons and any new Assembly to which Members of Parliament were to be dispatched than the Bill which was supposed to deal precisely with the changes which would result for this country upon entry. Therefore, the Opposition, contrary to the Government, took the view that the matter should have been properly dealt with when the Bill was going through. We also said that it should be dealt with in a way as to enable the House to discuss the whole series of matters which are involved in this question, which have never been discussed in the House.
I propose to refer to some of these matters briefly. A further part of my complaint is that we should never have had a situation in which the sole discussion on the issue of the European Assembly and its relations with this House should be during time provided by the Government, as has been provided tonight with a limit of only two hours to deal with matters which, as I will indicate in a moment, we have never discussed and which affect the whole status, future and prestige of the House.
If we deal with such matters wantonly and flippantly we are not merely betraying ourselves; we are betraying something greater than ourselves. We are betraying our responsibilities as Members of Parliament. The way in which the Government have sought to get the House of Commons to treat this important question is derisory. We have complained from the Opposition side most bitterly at the way in which this matter is being debated at ten o'clock, again under a kind of guillotine, when many hon. Members who wish to discuss the matter will he deprived of the right to do so. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may not consider these matters important but perhaps they should listen for longer to hear of some of the implications involved for the House in what is proposed. Some of these difficulties might have been overcome if the Government had been prepared to accept the amendment which we proposed during the proceedings on the Bill. If implemented, it would have required the Government to secure the approval of the House for the composition and selection of people to be sent to the European Assembly.
1258 That was not what appears to have been the view of the Government. We were told during proceedings on the Bill that it would be impossible for anything to be slipped through. We were told by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster:but we in no sense contemplate dealing with a matter of this kind by announcing a delegation by a Written Answer. There is no possibility of the House of Commons being bypassed, without there being discussion and debate upon the composition of the delegation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June 1972; Vol. 838, c. 1515.]It may be said that this is what we are having now, but it is nothing like the full debate which is required of these complicated issues. Not only should we be discussing the actual selection of Members with which this motion is supposed to deal; we should also be discussing the whole nature of the assembly and the way in which any delegation to such a body should be formed and composed.
These matters of general principle should have been discussed by the House. I believe that all those who took part in the abbreviated, guillotined discussion on 13th and 14th June would have understood from what was said by the then Chancellor of the Duchy that we would have had a full debate on this matter. All that we are being given is two hours. It is a scandalous way for the Government to treat the House on a matter of such major importance affecting the nature of this House.
Let me point to some of the facts which indicate this to be the case.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I was present, as were many other Members, during business questions last Thursday. Is it not the case that not the slightest opposition was raised by the Opposition then to the suggestion by the Government that this debate should take place at this hour and for this period of time? We well understand that there is some division of opinion on the benches opposite, but the hon. Member should not expect us to swallow the proposition that the House is now being confronted with something to which the Opposition have raised objection.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman is misinformed. I am sure that the Leader of 1259 the House or the Patronage Secretary will be eager to repudiate it because they know perfectly well that the Opposition have made consistent representations over several days saying that we believe there should be a debate at a different time of day, that there should be opportunity for all hon. Members who wish to do so to intervene. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be ready to confirm that, because if I wished I could go into all the matters that have been discussed through the usual channels. The hon. and learned Gentleman is on a mistaken point there.
Let me come to some of the anomalies which arise under the arrangements now being proposed. I turn first to the question which has been discussed in the newspapers, the position of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk), who is to lead the delegation. In what I am about to say I make no personal imputation against the hon. Gentleman. An important question of principle arises here, and I think the hon. Gentleman agrees with this, because I understand that it has been at his insistence that the information about how he is to be paid when he becomes leader of the delegation has been made public. There was a report in the Guardian, and I understand that it is accurate, in which it was said that the hon. Member is to have the difference between his salary as a Member of Parliament and his salary as a Minister made up by a payment from the Conservative Group for Europe which is an off-shoot of the privately-financed European Movement.
I do not know whether any hon. Member thinks this is an important question, but I would be extremely surprised if there were any Member who did not think that some issue of principle is involved, because if the House of Commons is now prepared to pass a motion designating Members of the House who should undertake duties outside this House but to say that the payment for those duties should come from some other body that would seem to me an entirely novel situation. I hope that the Government will rectify the matter. If it is felt that the hon. Member for Saffron Walden should receive a higher sum than an ordinary Member of Parliament for the 1260 duties he is to perform, the proper way to deal with it is not that the payment should be made by some outside body. That it should is a proposal which this House in the past would not have tolerated.
I repeat that I am not saying this out of any disrespect whatsoever to the hon. Gentleman. I am saying it out of respect for the dignity of this House. I trust that, the matter now having been brought into the open—I repeat that it was originally, as I understand it, at the instance of the hon. Gentleman himself that it was brought into the open; and he nods, and I am happy to acknowledge it—it makes it all the more necessary, in my opinion, that the House should rectify this matter.
If we were to let this pass without any comment, without any protest, we would then be in the position where it would be perfectly open to outside bodies to make up different figures of sums of money for Members of Parliament for duties to which they are assigned by this House. That would be something which I would have thought the whole House would have regarded as intolerable. I therefore invite the Government, if they wish to rectify the matter, to propose that the leader of the delegation should have payment approved by this House. It cannot be done by the methods which have so far been arranged. I would think this an uncontroversial proposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sponsored trade union Members."] An hon. Gentleman says "Sponsored trade union Members." He does not understand the position. It is not a question of sponsoring trade union Members. They are in the same position as many Members on the other side of the House who may receive money from other, different, bodies. It is a different matter when the House designates Members of the House to undertake other functions for the House and for us not to pay them. If any Member of the House should think it surprising that we should raise this question, I must say that that is an extraordinary state of affairs, and I would think that the standards of the House must have fallen very low indeed if anybody think that there is anything improper in what I have raised.
Let us turn to some of the other aspects of the matter. One of the problems 1261 about the whole question of sending Members from this House to another assembly—[Interruption.] One of the difficulties of sending Members of Parliament—[Interruption.] Does a Member of the Liberal Party want to intervene?
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Some of us are genuinely trying to listen to the hon. Gentleman's argument but the internal warfare in the Labour Party makes it most difficult for us to do so. If the hon. Gentleman, in the rest of what he has to say, could manage to unite the Labour Party, we could look forward to having a debate.
§ Mr. Foot
I think that comes rather ill from the right hon. Gentleman who guillotined our debates on this subject and who joined in a conspiracy with the Patronage Secretary to deprive us of our debates. I look forward to the occasion when the right hon. Gentleman can unite his party even on the Common Market. We know perfectly well about his candidate at Sutton and Cheam. [Interruption.] Rochdale? When John Bright's Rochdale is represented by a food-taxing, guillotine-supporting Liberal, the world is a very strange place.
As for Sutton and Cheam, so great have been the persuasive powers of the Leader of the Liberal Party that he could not even convert his new recruit to supporting the party's policy on the Common Market. [HON. MEMBERS: "Lincoln."] I am dealing with the Leader of the Liberal Party. We will deal with Lincoln when it comes and when every elector in Lincoln is on the register for the forthcoming election. It will be interesting to Labour voters and Labour supporters in Lincoln to see whoever supports Mr. Taverne in that constituency; they all come from the opposite side.
The record of the Leader of the Liberal Party on the question of denying free speech to others is such that it is surprising that he should be complaining. [Interruption.] He was a great supporter of the guillotine, he worked hard for it, and it was because of his support for the guillotine that the Bill went through unamended. Because of the support which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Conservative Government we now have to debate this important question 1262 after the Bill has gone through instead of before, which is the proper way to do it.
I come to some of the other anomalies inevitably involved in this proceeding. People say that if Parliaments in other countries can without difficulty agree to designate their delegates to go to the European Assembly, why should not it be just as easy for us. There are great differences between the way in which we conduct our affairs and the way in which other countries do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen should not despise the way in which we do things in this country. I will give some illustrations. Under a system of proportional representation, for example, it is much easier to send delegates to a European Assembly without severing the links between Members of Parliament and their individual constituencies. With a general list system, as in Holland, it is much easier for certain Members of Parliament to be allocated for duties in the European Assembly without severing traditional relationships in their own country. If, as in France, there is a system of proxy voting, it is much easier to allocate people to duties elsewhere.
We in this country pride ourselves—rightly, because it is one of the foundations of our democracy—on the intimacy of the relationship between the Member of Parliament and his constituency. Therefore, any proposal for sending Members of Parliament away from this House for 100 days in a parliamentary year is a matter of major consequence.
§ Mr. Foot
What I am trying to discuss is whether there are important questions of principle and practice involved in sending Members of Parliament away from this House for 100 days or a comparable period.
Hon. Gentlemen may think that it is a brilliant retort to say that that situation prevailed before 1967. I will give them the answer. In my belief, there was no proper discussion of that question in this 1263 House prior to 1967, just as there has been no proper discussion of it up to the present time. But, leaving aside the parties, this House of Commons would be all the more culpable in not carrying out a proper discussion now when the matter is more immediate and the decision is more before us.
I dare say that if in 1967 General de Gaulle had agreed to the Labour Government's proposals and there had been a proposal to carry out full entry into the Common Market, some of us—certainly myself, from whatever place I occupied in this House—would have insisted on a proper, full discussion of this matter which we are discussing tonight before any Bill dealing with it was passed through this House. I should have said that all the more so if a Labour Government had ever attempted to do what this Government have done—to demand that we should push through the Bill without any discussion of the individual matters in the Treaty of Accession.
One of the extraordinary features of the way that this was done was that individual items in the Treaty of Accession had never been debated in the House. That was one reason why we protested so strongly. If we had debated the individual matters in the Treaty of Accession, we would have debated, among other things, the important clause, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) referred, which provides that the allocation or designation of Members of Parliament to be sent to the European Assembly must be done by the individual Parliaments. That clause in the Treaty of Accession would have been debated if we had had a debate on the treaty's individual items, but that was denied us. When it came to the European Communities Bill, again the debate was denied us.
Now we have only two hours to debate this matter. My answer to the question that was put to me—I put it not merely as spokesman for the Labour Party, although I do it as such, but for the whole House—is that the House might have been interested in what are likely to be the consequences of breaking up the established ideas about how Members of Parliament are to deal with these matters.
In years gone by it was the duty of Members of Parliament to attend this 1264 House of Commons. Only in comparatively recent times were the arrangements for enforcing that duty transferred to other places in this House. However, it was provided that it was the duty of Members to attend this House.
I recall that during the war, when proposals were made that Members should be allowed to go away from the House of Commons for lengthy periods, elaborate Bills, which were elaborately discussed, had to be passed through the House. Many hon. Members, some of them most distinguished, questioned the way in which it was done, because they jealously insisted that the first duty of a Member of Parliament must be to attend this House of Commons. Therefore, if we are to send Members to perform extensive duties in other assemblies a major question of principle is involved. Surely it can be understood that if a major question of principle is involved, it is wrong for this House to settle it in a two-hour debate at 10 o'clock. It should have been done in the Bill itself. That was the proper, honourable way to have done it.
Hon. Members have often talked about Edmund Burke and have said that it is Edmund Burke's principle that we are not delegates but representatives that is the foundation of the House of Commons. But Edmund Burke himself expressed this aspect of the matter very well when he said:It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him, their opinions high respect, their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions to theirs, and above all, ever and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own.A very fine definition of the duties—
§ Mr. Foot
I have already referred to the passages about a delegate and a representative, and I agree with them. I was only putting the other aspect of the matter. When Edmund Burke said this, he was underlining how essential it is for this House that the link between the individual Member and the constituency should be kept as close as possible.
1265 I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member who, if he reflected upon it, would not agree that if Members of Parliament are to be sent away for periods of 100 days or so this is bound to influence at least the kind of association and links that they have with their constituents. The relationship of the House collectively with constituents will at least be considerably altered.
I understand that many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, some of them in my own party, take the view, as they have every right to do, that this change is right because of developments in Europe, because of what they believe to be the economic possibilities. For whatever reason, many of them think that it is necessary that we should change the relationship of this House with our constituents. But what we say, what the Labour Party says, is that, if that alteration is to be made, the constituents themselves must have the right to say whether they want it made.
Therefore, what the Labour Party insists upon—the only party in the country that does insist upon it—is that this question of Britain's entry to the Common Market will never be settled until the people of this country have had the right to pass judgment upon it. That is the meaning of all the resolutions and arguments that we have had in the Labour Party over these matters.
The Liberal Party has abandoned this stand. It says "No, the people are to have no rights." The Conservative Party says "It is finished, or will be on 1st January." But we in the Labour Party say something different. The difference between the Labour Party and the other parties—and we have had to endure many attacks about having changed our minds and so on—is that we insist that, on a matter of such momentous consequence, only the British people can settle it. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"] At a General Election, according to the provisions of our Constitution and the general practice in this country. [Laughter.] The more hon. Members laugh at the proposition, the more the people outside will understand what the argument is about.
Therefore, we say that because this question cannot be settled until the British people have had the chance to give their full-hearted consent it would 1266 be wrong for us to give the impression to this country or the world that we are prepared to enter into all their institutions as if we were already members, as if the decision could never be revoked. We in the Labour Party say to the country "Yes, of course you have the right to revoke this decision." The Liberal Party may say "You must lump it, whatever the candidate for Sutton and Cheam says." The Tory Party may say "Oh, no; you have got to lump it because the last General Election was the only time when you had the chance and we told you then that you did not have to choose then." But the Labour Party is the only party which says that the people have the right to choose.
That is why we say that this business of trying to push through this decision as to how we are to send people to the European Assembly without a proper vote, a proper debate or adequate discussion of the general issues involved—there is a whole series of other issues involved in the relationship between our Parliament and the European Assembly—is typical of the way that we have been pushed into the Common Market generally. It has been shabby, shady and shoddy in the way it has been contrived. The Tory Party cheated the British people at the last General Election, and it is trying to deny them the right to choose at the next. We in the Labour Party say that only the people can settle this question.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has been the usual custom, has it not, for Mr. Speaker to announce whether or not he would select amendments? I rather expected what the answer would be, but on this occasion for some reason Mr. Speaker has not made known his decision. Am I to take it that I shall be able to move my amendments?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Perhaps I owe the hon. Member an apology for that. I ought to have made sure whether Mr. Speaker had announced that he did not intend to call upon the hon. Member to move his amendments—which is the truth. I am announcing that to the hon. Member now, and I apologise for the hon. Member's not having heard it sooner.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Langstone)
In my humble opinion it is always a privilege to speak after the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), not merely because he always raises subjects which are of great concern to the House as a whole, but because he does that in such a way that some of us on the Government side are at times carried a long way by his arguments and his conviction, and undoubtedly by the quality of what he has to say. On this issue he has come very near to what is and will become for the members of this delegation a central problem.
I rise to speak because possibly at this moment I am uniquely well placed to do so, having suffered, in a sense, the type of consequences of the divorce between a Member of Parliament and his constituency which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale thinks is likely to be a general consequence of service in the European Parliament.
I should like to make a few comments on this central matter. I do not believe that it is either necessary or inherent that service in European parliamentary bodies—whether in the Council of Europe, the Western European Union or the European Parliament—as is generally believed, will require approximately twice the amount of time and energy from any hon. Member as that given to the Council of Europe. I say that because it seems that here a fundamental distinction must be made by the House, namely, that any hon. Member serving on the Council of Europe or in the European Parliament will undoubtedly give a considerable amount of time away from this House. That is inevitable and unavoidable. He will from time to time, inevitably and unavoidably, not be able to be in his constituency when he would like to be there and when his constituents would like him to be there.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I would not dispute that. I am coming to that. But there is another aspect. Clearly this is an alternative duty which the House or, if the House would prefer it, the Government of the day or their party, has asked the hon. Member to do. Therefore, whether it be in Brussels or Strasbourg, at either the Council of Europe or the European 1268 Parliament, the hon. Member is performing an official alternative duty. It may be the view of some hon. Members on both sides of the House that this duty should not be performed at all. I respect that point of view. But any hon. Member who has volunteered to serve in Strasbourg cannot be faulted for not being here. I accept that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is sceptical about my argument. If he disagrees with me, is he saying that an hon. Member who accepts this obligation and discharges the duty for his party or for the Government, either at the European Parliament or at the Council of Europe is somehow at fault?
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I have been trying to say that the House of Commons ought to have examined the wide-ranging implications of sending Members away before the measure was rushed through. Unfortunately, the matter was rushed through and discussed afterwards.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I would agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that this subject might have been discussed more extensively.
There is the distinction between serving in this House and the alternative presented to a Member who is either away or here, and who cannot be in two places at once. In the constituency of the hon. Member the matter is of a much more marginal character; the situation in respect of service in the Council of Europe or the European Parliament is marginal.
An hon. Member of great political skill who serves in Parliament, Brussels and Strasbourg can no doubt present himself in his constituency as performing an identical service to that which he would perform if he were here all the time. That would largely depend on his personal political skill. But there is one important point to take into consideration. Whether or not the hon. Member follows that course, his political vulnerability undoubtedly will be greatly increased. That political vulnerability may arise from the fact that his political opponents in his constituency may present his absence as, in a sense, a political deficiency requiring a change of party. So-called political friends—the distinction in some cases is an interesting one 1269 —may present his absence from his constituency as something which suggests that he should be replaced by his own party as the candidate for that party in an election.
I make this plea. We shall undoubtedly send a delegation to the European Parliament. At the moment there rests on the leaders of the Government and Liberal parties, who are asking their members to accept this service in Brussels or Strasbourg, whether they volunteer or not, the obligation to say "This is a duty which we are asking you to perform." I do not see that either of the leaders of the parties now committed to this course can escape this clear obligation. Their duty is a clear one. The leaders are asking their members to perform the duty. They are well aware that it creates the situation of political vulnerability. The premises to my argument being indisputable, the obligation is clear.
The matter does not end there. There are other aspects, but it would take me a long time to go into them and many other hon. and right hon. Members may still wish to speak. I make a plea to the House to give some understanding and support to those who are volunteering for this service in Europe, which many of us believe to be important. I make a plea to those in the constituencies. I am no longer involved, in any sense. Those hon. Members serving in Brussels are performing a service alternative to that performed in this House. If they are so serving I make the plea that they be given the wholehearted political support of their parties, irrespective of what parties they may be.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
The hon. Member for Portsmouth, Lang-stone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) has referred to the time and energy expended by Members of Parliament who will be attending the European Parliament or who have attended the Council of Europe Assembly. It is clear that the sooner we get direct elections for the European Parliament the better—
§ Sir G. de Freitas
Then people will know exactly what they are doing and who they are choosing and we will not 1270 have this undesirable system of nomination. What are we to do until we get direct elections? Nominate. One of the reasons why I have argued in favour of my Party sending observers is that I want those observers to study this Parliament and to see whether the European Parliament spends too long over its business, whether it really needs all these days for sessions and whether it needs all these committee meetings. We would be in a better position to judge that if we had observers.
This is why I have tabled the motion on the Order Paper which reads:That it is expedient that ten Members be designated in addition to those already designated members of the European Parliament to serve as members of that Parliament purely in the capacity of observers.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
My hon. Friend reminds me that it was defeated by the Parliamentary Labour Party. That is true. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Party has announced that there were 68 votes for and 127 against. It was decisively defeated. Just over one-third of those present voted in favour and I hope that in the course of the coming year things will change and that next year we may be able to send observers.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
Let me develop my argument. I will come to the point about expense in a moment because it is at the heart of it. Even if we decided to send observers as late as November 1973 that would be in time for them to be there in 1974. The January sessions are really not the most important, because that is when the commission's programme of work is presented. It is in February and March that it is really considered by the European Parliament.
Members of the Socialist group in the European Parliament which whom I have discussed this say that the plan for sending observers is workable. It is not acceptable because nothing less than full membership is acceptable to them. But by having our observers present at the European Parliament even though they would be unable to participate because of the self-denial involved in going as observers, they would make the Socialist group the largest group and this would 1271 entitle the Socialist members to five out of the 12 chairmen of committees instead of three which they will get when the members of the Conservative groups are inflated by the presence of the British Conservatives without balancing numbers from the Labour Party.
§ Mr. English
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will accept that whatever party is involved it would be increased by a larger number if the House adopted the alternative proposal of sending a delegation of 36, composed entirely of members of the governing party.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I would have thought that the answer to that was obvious. That would be contrary if not to the law then to the spirit of selection for this Parliament.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We ought to allow the right hon. Gentleman to develop his argument without undue interruption, however unpalatable his remarks may be to some. Hon. Members would no doubt wish to have the same attention paid to their speeches as I would like to see paid to the right hon. Gentleman's.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
Our Socialist friends—[Interruption.] Whatever they may call themselves—[Interruption.] Let us call them Socialists. We should use the word they use in that Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not Parliament".] Hon. Members may have missed the earlier part of the debate when we discovered that in 1962 they passed a resolution calling themselves the European Parliament. But it is important to them that there should be larger numbers of chairmen because they hope that in the next few years there will be increased powers passed by Ministers to the European Parliament. They would prefer, as indeed I would and I hope my hon. Friends would, that there were more socialist chairmen in office during this particularly important period. That is why they would prefer us there.
1272 Anything less than making hon. Members members of the European Parliament and then getting them to act as observers would be very expensive. So, too, would any idea of sending some delegates to the Council of Europe to work with the Socialist group or other people at the Parliament, because the Socialist group of the European Parliament does not meet in Strasbourg during the Assembly sessions for the reason that the Assembly of the Council of Europe occupies the very building in which the European Parliament sits.
I am suggesting that they should be members of the European Parliament who would undertake to act merely as observers. They would be financed by the Foreign Office or the Parliamentary Overseas Office. They would be ordinary Members of the European Parliament going to Strasbourg. They would not be privately financed. I am against that. They would be financed in the same as Members who took a full part in the Parliament.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
They would be financed in the same way as hon. Members who took a full part in the affairs—
§ Sir G. de Freitas
The officers of the Socialist group have also pointed out the tremendous difficulty that there is in anything less than full membership, because they would never meet the Labour Members of Parliament unless they were there during the session of the European Parliament. In any event, they are not in the frame of mind to put themselves out unduly to meet our delegates because they regard us as having let them down in not taking our place and making the Socialist group the largest group.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order. Rightly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you pointed out that Mr. Speaker was not calling my amendment. But my right hon. Friend has been speaking for 10 minutes on another motion which is due to be taken later. His amendment is down for another day. If he gets another chance, will he be able to deal with the motion which will come up tomorrow? Is it in order for my right hon. Friend to 1273 deal with a matter which is not before the House and which is coming up tomorrow? I have tabled an amendment to his amendment. Will I be able to debate my amendment to his amendment which is not yet on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I should not like to answer hypothetical questions. If the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members would allow the right hon. Gentleman to continue his speech without so much interruption we would all get a better hearing.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
My point of order is that there is a motion on the Order Paper tonight which we are discussing, but there is another motion which is not yet on the Order Paper for today and which is due to come up tomorrow. My right hon. Friend has an amendment to that motion, and so have I. That motion may or may not come up tomorrow. I suggest that it is not in order to discuss it in anticipation because it is not on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Nothing that the hon. Gentleman has said so far is out of order either in respect of tomorrow's business or today's.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I have only a few more points to make. It is very difficult to achieve a logical sequence because I have had so many interruptions. However, I make no complaints.
If Members are full members of the European Parliament they are financed in the ordinary way. Furthermore, being full members of the European Parliament, these observers would get access to all the committee documents and could attend committees. Otherwise, if they go merely as tourists they have no better information than those who just sit in the gallery.
I have campaigned and been elected to Parliament at eight elections, and in every one I have made Europe one of the planks in my platform. At not one of these elections have I been out of step with my party's policy. This is of great significance. The French have a proverb to the effect that those who are not present are always in the wrong. We have not got that proverb. I often wonder why we have not. I like to think that one of the reasons is that we are not people who sit on the sidelines. I greatly hope that, even if it is merely as observers, we will 1274 be in the European Parliament in 1974 as a result of a vote taken in the Parliamentary Labour Party next November.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Brief and too brief though this debate is—and I myself do not intend to detain the House long—it has certainly revealed how profound are the implications of the designation of Members of the House to serve in the European Assembly. That, in turn, is an illustration of the fact that however one approaches the question of British membership of the European Community one finds it to be a matter which goes to the very nature of our institutions, the sovereignty of the House, and the independence of the British people.
When one looks at it first upon the Order Paper the motion appears to be of a very familiar kind. One imagines that one has seen hundreds like it before. It is only on closer examination that it is discovered to be new and unique. Every Session we pass motions which look like this, designating a series of hon. Members. But we designate them to the service of the House. We give them a task which they are to perform in obedience to the House; and when they have completed it, and in some cases before they have completed it, they are to report back to the House, whose servants for that purpose they are.
In form we appear to be doing much the same tonight. In reality we are doing something entirely different. The hon. Members who will form part of the European Assembly will perhaps not exercise much power, but we cannot conduct this discussion on the assumption that they will be doing nothing there, that they will be exercising no power and no influence. I do not think that any hon. Member, whatever his views may be of the European Community, thinks that the presence there of hon. Members and hon. Friends will be without some effect, some influence, some—may I even say it?—authority.
To whom are those hon. Members to be responsible for the way in which they exercise that authority? We know the answer to that question in all the other motions of this kind that we pass, because, whatever conclusions Select Committees, Standing Committees, Committees of Privilege and all the other 1275 committees for all the other tasks to which hon. Members are designated, may reach, those conclusions come back to the House. They are censurable here; they are ratifiable here; it is here that the final decision upon them, if one is required, is taken.
But that will not be so in this case. The hon. Members will not come back here for the approval or disapproval of whatever votes they have cast, whatever influence they have exerted, whatever scale it be into which they have thrown their weight as between the alternatives that may come before that assembly.
Therefore, we are presented here once again with something new, with something which is not compatible with the sovereignty of this House, with something which is not compatible with the principle of responsibility which goes from top to bottom in our democracy. The right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) knows—neither of us has made any secret of his views—that I do not often find myself in agreement with his conclusions, and I did not tonight; but with one point of his argument I was entirely in agreement. That was when he said that it was not satisfactory that the members of the European Assembly, if it was to exercise any power, should have no source from which they derived that power, no one, no place, no assembly, no electorate to whom they were responsible.
My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) and all my other hon. Friends mentioned in the motion will not take it as any slur that I cast upon them when I say that from the point of view of British institutions they will be literally irresponsible in performing the work to which we are designating them. They will not be responsible to this House. This House is not delegating them. This House has no knowledge of the concept of delegating its power; it cannot do that; it does not do that. Nor are they responsible to the electorate.
After all, even as to the Council of Ministers, though much has been said about the difference between sole responsibility and collective responsibility on the part of the Executive, still, when the Executive takes a decision in the Council of Ministers, they must sit on that Front Bench before and after, they must render 1276 account in this House and so, indirectly, to the electorate. But here there is no account rendered, no responsibility discharged.
So in this matter, which might at first appear to be superficial, but which I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) showed the House was in reality profound, we are once again confronted with the fact that membership of the Community means a constitutional revolution for this country, and that it means for this House a divesting of sovereignty which we as a single House of Commons do not have the right to accomplish.
It is for that reason that those who say that in the last resort the British people must decide speak not for one party or for one side but for all.
§ 11.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Lang-stone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) have correctly stated the position—that none of the Members mentioned in the motion has been elected or appointed by the House on a democratic basis. They are blue-eyed boys selected by the Whips—Members who will be permanently absent for an untold period—100 or 150 days. In addition, they do not represent the House, and have no representation of their electorate. As the hon. Gentleman said, he has been continuously absent, and may lose his seat because of that.
What has not been said is that the hon. Members concerned will be drawing about £20 a day tax-free expenses. Some of them are drawing such expenses in addition to the £750 a year tax-free allowance on their salaries, and some of them would be better off not representing their constituents in this House but serving in the Assembly in Europe. Many of them would prefer to do that, because it is in their financial interest to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Oh, yes. If they had to pay for the travel out of their own pockets many of them would not rush to volunteer for the job. I have been a Member of Parliament long enough to know that if there is a free trip to the other side of Westminster with no plums involved anyone can go. There is never any difficulty in getting a place on the list. 1277 If it is a trip round the world, however, with an additional £50 or £60 a day tax-free expenses, people queue up to go. Strangely enough it is always the same dozen or so from both sides who are selected for these beanfeasts.
That is one of the reasons why I object. I object, too, because the Assembly is not a Parliament in the strict sense of the word. Also, there is not one trade unionist in the list of hon. Members selected. The Prime Minister is preventing trade unionists from earning £30 a week because of the freeze, but he says that hon. Members with perhaps two or three sources of income can be given £40 or £50 a day tax-free expenses in addition. If Government Members are honest and sincere in their belief in the prices and incomes policy they should show how democratic and patriotic they are. They should say, "We have a number of other incomes and we do not wish to draw £20 a day tax free from the European Assembly, £20 a day tax free when attending Strasbourg, £20 a day when attending WEU and perhaps another £10 a day if we go on to a select committee."
The truth is that none of these people need do more than put their noses through the door at these meetings. They do not need to attend once they have put in an appearance. The list consists of 13 names. There will be six names from the House of Lords. Will those noble Lords draw the £20 a day in addition to their £8.50 tax-free expenses from the House of Lords?
When we discuss prices and incomes we should discuss the question raised by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West whether these people can do two jobs, or even three jobs, at the same time. They cannot be in two or three places at once. The first name on the motion is that of an hon. and gallant Member who is not here. He is a director of a number of large companies. I assume that he draws fees from those companies. Suppose that there is an annual board meeting, a three-line Whip in the House of Commons, and important business in the European Assembly—which comes first? [An HON. MEMBER: "The three-line whip."] Does it? I am not so sure. It is a point that I want to get clear.
1278 What happens when an hon. and legal Gentleman has an important case in court, in which he is getting perhaps hundreds of pounds a day in refresher fees? Does he say that he will forgo those high legal fees in order to attend the European Parliament? I have seen it all in the years gone by. My experience has been that, three-line whip or no three-line whip, the usual channels work and if a prominent Queen's Counsel opposite is earning hundreds of pounds a day on a case, a prominent Queen's Counsel on this side will pair with him to enable them both to get their legal fees.
We know what goes on in this House, but we do not know what goes on at the European Parliament. We shall not know whether these right hon. and hon. Members are there or not, whether they are attending or not. They may go out there; they may put their noses in the door and sign on the dotted line, although one gathers that they do not have to sign on; but we shall not know whether they have complied with their commitment.
The first Member on the motion is a director of five companies. Can he give his full time to them? Can he give all this work and effort and still keep within the Government's prices and incomes policy? In the list—I am quoting from the Order Paper—is Sir Derek Walker-Smith, who is a prominent Q.C. I am pleased to see a prominent anti-Marketeer in the list. But if there happens to be some silly, inocuous thing in the European Parliament at the same time as he has an important case in the High Court in London, what will he do? Surely he will do that which I expect him to do and say, "I will not worry about going to the European Parliament; I am going to stay here and deal with this case in court.".
I know of no right hon. or hon. Member on this list who gives wholly and solely all his time and endeavours to this Parliament, let alone the European Parliament, and therefore I strongly object to the list. I wonder how they were put on it? Were they elected, or selected, or appointed? Did the Whips ask for names? Were names put into a hat and drawn out? Did the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West get an invitation to go?
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes? Very good! I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman had the honesty and decency—and, I think, the wisdom—to refuse. I would like to know whether any other right hon. and hon. Members opposite had the same privilege. I doubt it. How can one say that this is a democratic procedure? How can one say that these people will democratically represent this Parliament? Of course one cannot. They are just a chosen few with a few extra names to make up the weight and to make the list look a little more impressive. But the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West did not accept and I am glad that he did not.
§ Mr. Powell
I had better clear up the misapprehension of the hon. Gentleman. The word I used was, "Guess." In relation to whether an invitation was addressed to me or anyone else. I have given the hon. Gentleman no information.
§ Mr. Lewis
Then I will not use the right hon. Gentleman as an example. But I am sure that there are a number of other right hon. and hon. Members opposite who, I guess, never received an invitation. I have not the direct knowledge but I would guess that there was not a democratic vote to see that those going were truly elected. I imagine that what happened was that the Whips made sure that they got the right number of the right people in the majority on the list, and then said, "We will add one or two others, knowing that they will be in the minority", and one or two others may or may not have accepted.
Therefore, I hope that we on this side of the House will see to it that we have nothing at all to do with this till, as the Prime Minister has said, we get the full-hearted consent of both Parliament and people. Once we have the full-hearted consent of Parliament and people the hon. Member does not have to worry about losing his seat or his nomination; he does not even have to explain he is spending his time in Europe and neglecting his duty here, for he will be able to say that as he was democratically elected to do the job he is carrying out his pledge to the electorate. He will have nothing to worry about. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael 1280 Foot) would be able to do the same and he would have nothing to worry about.
I hope that we on this side will have nothing to do with this undemocratic so-called European Parliament which is no European Parliament at all.
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I hope the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail, for I have not the expertise that he has on the trips he spoke about. I have no recollection of having been on any sponsored delegation in the 13 years I have been a Member of the House. He, having been to Kenya as recently as last spring on a CPA delegation, obviously has much more experience than I have of these things.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Perhaps when the right hon. Gentleman has been here for 28 years he, too, may go to Kenya.
§ Mr. Thorpe
It may well be that if I stay as long as the hon. Member I shall, and if I go on one in 28 years I shall be grateful.
My main object in speaking is to cross swords with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). His speech reminded me very much of the occasion when the British permanent delegate at the United Nations came across the notes which the Russian delegate there had left in his place and found at one stage a not saying "Weak point. Shout."
There was one point on which I wholeheartedly agree with the hon Member. [Interruption.] An attack on me by the Tribune group has no effect on me whatsoever.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick) rose—
§ Mr. Thorpe
No. I cannot give way at the moment. I will give way to the hon. Member shortly, but I am going to develop my argument first.
Where I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is that he finds himself, as is usual on these occasions, in coalition with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in deploring the fact that there has not been an opportunity for more detailed discussion of this matter. I will tell him 1281 why. On 10th May 1967, by 488 votes to 62, the Labour Government got the consent of the House to negotiate for entry into the Common Market, subject to reservations contained in the White Paper, which I have here. As I shall show in a moment, the hon. Gentleman has the credit of having voted against it. Therefore, bearing in mind the official Labour view at the moment, he is a convert to the principle of going in generally. It was not until the Tory Government reapplied to join that the Labour Party started to delay and to have second thoughts, and we had to wait until 1971, with increasing delay, to find out what the position was and finally it was in April or May 1971 that the Leader of the Opposition announced that his view would be known by July 1971. Not even Judas Iscariot put a time limit on his desertion.
We went on afterwards to the suggestion that there should be a Select Committee to consider the appointment of Members of Parliament to the European Parliament, to discuss what is known as the Stewart plan—whether the House should be numerically increased to that there should be exclusively European Members of Parliament with limited rights—whether there should be an elective process, and what methods of payment there should be. There was opportunity for such discussion. But no; first, the Labour Party had to wait until conference had decided. Then we had to wait until the Royal Assent had been given to the Bill. Then the discussions were postponed, strangely enough, until after the two by-elections at Uxbridge and Sutton and Cheam—and what benefit that bestowed I do not know. It was not until 13th December—an unfortunate numeral in the calendar—that the Labour Party, less than a fortnight before we go into Europe, finally made up its mind. That is why we are in this position today, and why we have not had a Select Committee. That is where the fault lies for the delay.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
The right hon. Gentleman could have made progress on these matters if he had voted on our amendment to the effect that we would be prepared to consider the appointment of a Select Committee to examine all these matters if these questions could be written into the Bill. If the right hon. Gentle- 1282 man had been prepared to vote with us on that occasion these matters could have been properly discussed months ago. It is his conspiracy with the Tories that has prevented the House debating these matters.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman's power of logic is defective at this hour of the night. In law it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate in the Bill these matters which are for discussion between the parties—[Interruption.] I wish that the Tribune group would belt up.
§ Mr. Thorpe
What the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is saying is that unless matters relating to the European Parliament could have been contained in an amendment to the European Communities Bill it would have been totally impossible for the House to discuss them. I have never heard such a ridiculous proposition at any stage in the debate.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
If the right hon. Gentleman had done us the courtesy to attend the debate when these matters were discussed, on the only opportunity we had, he would have discovered that we protested most strongly against the idea that this should be settled through the usual channels. The assertion the right hon. Gentleman has made against me is absolutely false. If he wants to discuss this matter, it is a pity that he did not discuss it during the short time which he allowed under the guillotined arrangements.
§ Mr. Thorpe
In the view of certain hon. Gentlemen it was not wasted—for them it was manna from heaven—but for some of us it was a complete waste of parliamentary time. We accepted the invitation to sit on the Select Committee. If a Select Committee is such a bad forum for such discussion why has the Labour Party now agreed to sit on another Select Committee to examine the procedure for the legislation and regulations coming from the Community?
1283 It is particularly unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition, in addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party, said that the issue of Strasbourg was the last hurdle that the Labour Party would have to surmount. The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to Europe is that whenever he has seen a hurdle he has tried to go round it to the right—or more usually to the left—so that he will not run the risk of landing in the water. The discussion this evening rather disproves what he said about this being the last dying kick in the Labour Party's internal argument.
I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale on what he said about the position of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk). I should like him to receive a salary which is a proper charge on public funds, as is the £31,000 which is paid to the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Whips in both Houses to enable the Opposition to function. If such a measure is introduced we shall support it.
I come now to where we have to put the matter into perspective and to what the hon. Gentleman did not tell us about the Labour Party's intended actions in regard to Strasbourg. As I see it, the official Labour line today is that Labour is in favour of joining the Community in principle, but not on the present terms, which, the Labour Party says, must be renegotiated.
That, of course, is a position rather different from that of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who in the "Great Debate" voted in May 1967 in the minority of 62 against the 488 who agreed that we should negotiate. I am sure that, as he is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench today, he takes the official Labour line and is in favour in principle of joining the Community subject to renegotiating only the terms. Were that not the case, he would not be sitting on the Opposition Front Bench of course. To that extent his is a welcome conversion. He was not prepared to support the Labour Government in principle on joining in 1967, but he is prepared to give his support to a Tory Government for joining. It is a welcome conversion.
The same welcome cannot be given to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. 1284 Shore). As he is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench he must likewise be presumed to be in favour of joining in principle while disagreeing with the details; but that is no different from the position he occupied in May 1967 when he voted for the application that the Labour Government made. We have always known that he was an enthusiastic European, for he would otherwise have resigned from the Opposition Front Bench, or from the Labour Government Front Bench. He has been consistent.
I wonder whether this position—and it is from this position that the Labour Party's stance on Strasbourg is taken—represents the view of the Labour Party? I suggest that it does not. I suggest that at least 69 members of the Opposition are in favour of not only entry, such as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, but of the terms as negotiated. That is why they voted as they did on 28th October 1971 and thereafter. The rest are not only against the terms as negotiated, but against the whole principle anyway. We therefore have this extraordinary compromise in which the unfortunate right hon. Member for Stepney and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale are trying to keep together two opposing wings of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why he is so insistent on the British people's not being allowed to settle the matter? If he had followed carefully what I have said and what the Labour Party has said he would know that the Labour Party's insistence means that this will be an issue at the next General Election. Why does he, as a Liberal, insist that the British people should not be allowed to settle the issue?
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Member may remember an exchange that he and I had earlier in the debates on Europe, during what I hope I may with respect describe as one of his less successful comebacks. I then asked him whether he would point to a phrase, or paragraph, or sentence, in the Labour Manifesto of 1970 to indicate that before the Labour Party went into Europe, having negotiated terms which in its opinion were favourable, there would be a referendum, or that the issue would be otherwise submitted to the British electorate. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 1285 Opposition expressly denied that a referendum was the right way in which to settle the matter.
My position under Labour and Tory Governments has been perfectly consistent ever since I first fought an election in 1955—that we should apply to join—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) would keep quiet for a moment I could answer his hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman must not shout down his colleague when that colleague is getting a reply to an intelligent question; is this not the Scottish Grand Committee.
I have always made my position and that of my party, perfectly plain. I have done so at times when I have had Labour and Tory candidates against me—candidatcs bitterly opposed to going into Europe. I have said that I think it right for this country to apply to join and to negotiate to do so and I have said that I would vote for entry if I thought that the terms were right. That is the position on which I have been returned at every election.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale defiles the memory of Edmund Burke by talking of those who are in common cause together in unison with their electors. How does he square that with the fact that 69 Labour Members of Parliament who, in October 1971, voted for the terms as negotiated, were almost all dragooned on 7th February 1972 into standing on their heads and voting against Second Reading? [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask them."] I have asked them. One is standing as the candidate for Lincoln, and I hope that he is elected to Parliament.
Therefore, what is the position? First, we have as an Independent Labour candidate—
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the hon. Gentleman still has channels of communication with the former hon. and learned Member for Lincoln, I suggest that he will find that he is standing as Independent Labour candidate.
1286 We have the position that a Labour Government applied to join the Community in 1967 under a Leader who is not prepared to allow a free vote, accepts the lowest common denominator on this issue as the only unifying force in his party, and has not only turned against the Community of which he was in favour, but has taken month after month to decide what he will do about Strasbourg. He has not said that the Labour Party will boycott it entirely. It will defer the issue for one year and then have another look. Members of the Labour Party are not saying that their fellow Socialists and Social Democrats are not worth talking to. No. An advisory committee might be set up, but the Labour Party will not take part in the European Parliament. Not because it is opposed to Europe in principle. No. It is in favour of it in principle, but not in detail. Not because it is opposed to the European Parliament as a whole. No. It is ineffective and, at any rate, the decision will not be taken for a year.
What a lot of humbug it is that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, whom we now know is in favour in principle of joining Europe—just like his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney—should now bring out this issue, which was never an issue by the Labour Party at the last election. If the issue of the Common Market is put to the electors at the next election the answer will be the same for the anti-Market candidates as it has been at Rochdale, Sutton and Cheam, and Uxbridge. If that outcome satisfies the hon. Gentleman, I assure him it more than satisfies me.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
I think that I am allowed eight-and-a-half minutes if I am to give the Leader of the House the proper amount of time which he requires to wind up the debate.
With the solitary exception of that rather jocular, yet arrogant, contribution by the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), the Leader of the Liberal Party, which could only have been made by somebody who had been persistently absent throughout the whole of the debates on the European Communities Bill, I think that everyone would agree that the speeches tonight have demonstrated the truth of the opening contention by my hon. Friend the 1287 Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) that this matter ought to have been debated during the proceedings on the Bill or at some other stage during our deliberations and that in any event we should have had a great deal longer than the two hours we have been allowed tonight.
I say that partly because there are important issues involved in whether we should go to the European Parliament. There are also problems of the kind which the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) mentioned, which are of considerable importance not only to him but, as others will find, to many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should have liked to hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite—and particularly from the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk)—how they saw their task, what kind of problems they foresaw, and what kind of approach they will make. I should have liked to hear them responding to the problems that my hon. Friend mentioned in his speech. But there is no question that we have done ourselves a quite unnecessary injury in closing this debate at 12 o'clock. It could have gone on, to the benefit of all of us, because we have a great deal to learn about the whole of this complicated question.
My own view about this question of attendance or membership at Strasbourg is very simple. I honestly do not think that I or any other hon. Gentleman has the right, having been elected by our own constituents, to attend another assembly. I might go as a delegate, but I do not think that I have the right to give up 120 parliamentary days when I know that not only have my constituents not been asked about it but that the majority sentiment in the country is against it. Those who exercise this right in defiance of the sentiment of their own people will perhaps be surprised before very long.
For me, a very important consideration in weighing up my attitude towards the Strasbourg Assembly—it is a consideration that I know operates very strongly among many of my hon. Friends as well—is whether or not, if we were to go there, we should be able to defend the interests of our own country, which in our view have already been seriously jeopardised 1288 by the treaties and regulations which we have entered into.
Our view on this matter is that where we can defend those intereists—I am speaking now for the Opposition—we shall defend them. That is why we shall take very seriously, and will be very diligent in, the Select Committee which we hope will soon be set up to look at the procedures of this House in relation to what goes on in, and what comes out of, Brussels. We shall keep a close watch on Ministers and we shall find ways of calling them to account.
I can best illustrate my point by reminding the House that no fewer than 3,000 instruments and Acts, great and small, came out of Brussels and Paris during last year-3,000 "Euro-laws", minor and major. The vast majority came straight from Brussels in the form of Commission regulations, and hundreds came out of the Commission, working through the Council of Ministers. But not one of these Euro-laws, however great or small it may be, was approved by the Assembly in Strasbourg. If anyone imagines that this is a matter which will be quickly or easily changed I do not think that he has faced the reality of the problems or the situation which that Assembly confronts.
Let me illustrate the point by reading one quotation from Vedel, a report which has at least some authority in this matter. It refers on page 37 to what I think is the underlying problem about the assembly:The treaties do not reproduce at Community level the distinction generally made by national constitutions between the legislature and the executive. According to the original constitution of the Community, the Council is its legislature. We could not substitute the Parliament for the Council in this role without attacking the very roots of the Treaty.So Vedel puts the point plainly and clearly. All that he is able to suggest—not because the Assembly is filled or not filled with men who wish it to be different, but because it is caught in the grip of the treaty—is that it cannot do other than, at best, hope to achieve a small measure of co-legislation, of co-decision-making, with the other institutions of the Community. It can have that measure of decision-making only if the Council of Ministers agrees unanimously to give it that small measure of power for which the Vedel Report asks.
1289 That is why, in the view of many of my hon. Friends and myself, if we were to support going to Strasbourg under these conditions not only would we not be defending the interests of our fellow countrymen but we would be lending our names and the weight that we have with our supporters in helping to deceive the British people into the belief that what they have undoubtedly lost in terms of the democratic authority vested in this House is being in some way made good by some accretion of democratic power at the European level.
That is not so. The people of this country have a right to know that. Until the people of this country have decided on the matter we should stay here.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Prior
—and many of the arguments used during the summer have been repeated tonight, when the debate deals with the delegation to the European Parliament. Many of us had hoped that despite its opposition to the EEC, the Labour Party would, in the end, have decided to participate in a delegation. Many of the Labour Party's Social Democratic colleagues in Europe had looked forward to its participation. Many here had hoped that the Opposition's doubts about the Common Market would have made them all the more determined to participate in one of its principal democratic institutions.
§ Mr. Prior
I believe that their voice would have been of great value.
The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), I thought, made a very strong case for the Labour Party's going to Strasbourg, in order to play a part in putting right some of the things which he believes are wrong with that Parliament at present. That would have been the statesmanlike decision for the Opposition. But their decision has gone otherwise. It is a pity, not only for the Opposition but for the House as a whole; indeed, for the country, too.
1290 Nevertheless, this has been an interesting debate, in which we have heard somewhat surprising speeches from the Opposition side of the House, bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has been quoted as saying a week ago that they were jumping the last hurdle towards full party unity. Wasthere not some talk upstairs about last week's decision being the last dying kick in the Labour Party's struggle?
§ Mr. Prior
When these matters were debated during the passage of the European Communities legislation, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) made a particular point of his demand that the precise list of hon. Members who are to be sent to the European Parliament should be subject to decision by the House of Commons. That is precisely what has happened, and one wonders why the hon. Member is making such a fuss tonight.
§ Mr. Prior
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale should have complained that I provided insufficient time for the debate tonight. I am not aware of any particular desire on the Government side of the House or on the Liberal benches to have further time for debating the Conservative and Liberal delegations. I had thought that two hours was sufficient, in all the circumstances, for the Labour Party to explain why it had decided to send no delegation.
The hon. Member has made much of hon. Members going to the European Parliament being a matter of principle. What is the principle that persuades the Opposition not to go now, when they would have gone in 1967 and may go next October? I do not understand.
The House will appreciate that a decision on the delegation to the European Parliament has to be taken this week. Had the Opposition taken that decision earlier than last Wednesday I would, of course, have done my best to meet their wishes for a longer debate earlier in the day. In the circumstances, I think that they have no cause for complaint at what has happened.
1291 Perhaps it is also right to recall the main line of the arguments of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale during the earlier discussions last June. He was very insistent about the rights of Parliament. He wanted Parliament to make the decision about representation in the European Assembly. He was scornful about the usual channels. He wanted Parliament to decide. How does he square that view with the fact that last week, in a Committee room, a minority of members of his own party decided by only 132 votes that there would be no Labour participation? When it comes to the crunch it is not Parliament which decides but the minority of the minority.
The hon. Gentleman has made much tonight of the whip and the guillotine during the passage of the Bill. He will remember that on 8th May 1967 he said:Some say that we should go in with heads high; some say that we must not crawl in; and some say that we must not stumble in. I say that we must not be 'whipped' into the Common Market. I certainly do not propose to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1123.]That was a strange turn of events—that the only party to be "whipped" on the Common Market in October 1971 was the Labour Party.
Reference has been made during the course of the debate to the financial position of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk). I have noted the views of the leader of the Liberal Party. I believe that in due course what he has said would command a great deal of support in all parts of the House. My hon. Friend, who has given up a ministerial job to take on this new task—I am certain that hon. Members on both sides, if they are fair, will wish him well in the duty that he is to perform—will receive the help of the British Council for the European Movement. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale tried to elevate this matter to one of high principle.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I am Deputy Chairman of the European Movement. This is the first I have ever heard of it.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)
I am the Joint Treasurer of the European Movement. There is a section of the European Movement known as the Conservative Group for Europe. That section is 1292 responsible for making the arrangements that could have been entered into.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North) rose—
§ Mr. Prior
The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have tried to elevate this into a matter of high principle. I do not accept that view.
I see nothing improper in this arrangement. There is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that public funds are being used to supplement my hon. Friends' incomes.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Jay rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman does not intend to give way. Hon. and right hon. Members must not persist.
§ Mr. Prior
It does not mean that at all and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not pursue what is not true. This debate has exposed, if nothing else, the deep divisions within the party opposite about the European issue. I am disappointed that they have decided not to play a full part in the work of the European Parliament. One day they will look back and regret the opportunities that they will have missed during 1973.
I agree with an editorial in The Guardian that the issue will not go away and that Labour's bones will be gnawed by it until it recognises that Britain is in Europe to stay.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) said that all hon. Members are answerable to their constituents. Of course they are and will be. All of my hon. Friends who will go 1293 to Europe will have to stand at the next election and be answerable to their constituents then. By going to Europe they will be representing their constituents. They will, in addition, be making a lasting contribution to the peace and prosperity of Europe, including our own country. We have reason to be grateful to them, and so will their constituents. We welcome the opportunity for British participation in the Parliament because it will enable Members of this House to gain first-hand experience of the workings of a vital Community institution. They will have a direct hand in the processes and functioning of the Community, especially as regards consultations between the Commission and Parliament.
Members of the Westminster Parliament will be present and able to press the views of this House at a time when the development of the power of the European Parliament is imminent.
We regret the decision of hon. Members opposite—
§ Mr. Prior
Then I will say it again. We regret the decision of hon. Members opposite, especially since they evidently have strong views on many issues which will be the concern of the European Parliament. It is inconsistent to talk of the need for greater and more effective democratic control in Community affairs and yet to boycott the Community institutions which could develop that control.
The debate has shown that the divisions between the two sides of the House are as great as ever. The only other issue that has been disclosed is that the divisions within the Labour Party remain as great as ever. I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to pass this Motion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That Colonel Sir Tufton Bearnish, Mr. John Brewis, Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker, Mr. John E. B. Hill, Mr. S. James A. Hill, Mr. Russell Johnston, Mr. Peter Kirk, Mr. Tom Norman-ton, Mr. John Peel, Mr. Rafton Pounder, Sir Brandon Rhys Williams. Mr. James Scott-Hopkins and Sir Derek Walker-Smith be designated Members of the European Parliament