§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
I beg to move,That this House condemns the action of Her Majesty's Government in framing its European Communities Bill with the intention of removing the possibility of substantial amendment; and considers this to be a gross breach of faith in the light of undertakings previously given that the Bill and the Treaties could be fully discussed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not selected the following Amendments: that in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof'regrets that the manner in which the European Communities Bill has been framed has had the effect of excluding from amendment and discussion many aspects affecting the extinction of Parliamentary sovereignty and also vital matters arising out of the Treaty of Accession';that in the name of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof'noting the total retreat from responsibility in all matters connected with the European Communities Bill on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, calls upon him to forgo his official salary';and that in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof'recognising that as a latecomer to the European Communities it was always impossible for Great Britain to amend substantially Treaties which had been drawn up between other countries and in force for several years, believes that the European Communities Bill is a satisfactory way of giving legislative effect to these Treaties; and, so that all parts of the Bill can be fully and wakefully discussed in a manner appropriate to their importance, calls on Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition Parties to agree to the abolition of all-night sittings by providing for automatic suspension of the House at midnight, as suggested in the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure (1966/67—House of Commons Paper 152), and further to agree forthwith a detailed and generous timetable for the Bill'
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Whilst I in no way challenge your selection, or non-selection, of Amendments, I hope you will allow that we on the Liberal Bench have not been pre-eminent in rais- 1042 ing points of order so far on the European Communities Bill, and, therefore, that you will be prepared to listen to a short submission on the matter.
The Amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself merely seeks to give effect to recommendations of Select Committees, recommendations that have had the full support of previous Speakers and many Leaders of the House of both parties. For years Select Committees have been trying to civilise our procedures with regard to the timetabling——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to continue. He is directing his statement to my selection of Amendments, and that is not questionable. No doubt what he has already said will be noted, but I cannot allow the matter to be debated.
§ Mr. Pardoe
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The difficulty is that if the matter is not discussed on the Liberal Amendment it cannot be discussed at all, and the guillotine, if it is ever brought into effect, will have to be brought into effect at a late stage of the Bill, for the reasons that we have experienced before. If a Liberal Amendment can never be selected, the House has become the creature of the two-party machines.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not accept that proposition. I cannot see any reason why the occupant of the Chair should rule out of order any reference which the hon. Gentleman might make to the matter in a speech. Should he catch the eye of the Chair, that would be in order, but I am not selecting the Amendment.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
May I raise with you a general point of order, Mr. Speaker? I do not challenge your Ruling in any way, but this is relevant to the matters my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) has raised. Those of us who do not represent the official Opposition were extremely pleased to see, whether we agreed with its terms or not, that the Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) to the Motion to approve the Defence White Paper the week before last was selected for debate. That marked a welcome departure, because it has appeared that 1043 no Amendment ever had a chance of being selected unless it emanated from the Opposititon Front Bench. The appearance was given that substantial minorities within the official Opposition and the Government side, as well as my right hon. and hon. Friends, are never called. Can you assure us, in view of last week's decision, without giving a general ruling, that that is not the case?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not in accordance with my recollection that only Amendments from the Front Benches have been accepted, but that can be investigated. I took the decision I did the other day upon the facts and arguments put before me then. Today I must take into account that the Motion is one of censure on the Government put down by the official Opposition, and I have not selected any Amendments.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
Is it not true that one reason why there were few Liberal points of order the other night is that no member of the Liberal Party was here?
§ Mr. Arthur Latham (Paddington, North)
On a point of order on quite a different matter, Mr. Speaker. It is right to raise this, since it concerns the Leader of the House, his honour and the word he gave the House at Business Question Time——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has missed his chance. It is too late now. I am dealing with the Motion of censure. I have indicated that I am not calling any of the Amendments. Mr. Shore.
§ Mr. Shore
I regret very much that it should be necessary to move this Motion of censure, because my right hon. Friends and I would much prefer to be debating today the substance of the treaties which the Government have signed and the meanings and implications of the legislation they have introduced rather than a Motion on their behaviour. But this Motion has arisen precisely because we have good reason to fear that we shall not be able to discuss the major matters relating to the Bill as extensively as we should and in the manner that we should. We had always 1044 believed that the proposals would be subject to detailed scrutiny, debate and amendment. It now appears that this essential process is to be very limited.
Let me put to the House the difficulties that face us. We are faced with a package of treaties, most of which we had not seen before their signature and publication a few weeks ago. They have not been debated in the House. We are told that we cannot amend the treaties since their negotiation and signature are matters for the Government using their prerogative power.
Next we are told that the Bill is not to approve the treaties but to do something different and less: to make such legislative changes as are necessary to meet the treaty obligations. That in itself means that the scope for debate, based on the Bill, will be substantially smaller than the matters covered by the treaties.
Thirdly, by an exercise of great, but perverse, ingenuity, the Bill has been telescoped and reduced to a mere 12 Clauses. Now, after last week's Rulings and debate, we find that even our ability to amend those 12 Clauses has been drastically curtailed, that while we are free to vote against each Clause we are unlikely to be able to amend them radically.
Anyone who has read the article on the centre page of The Times this morning will agree that the Government have a formidable case to answer. We find in effect that, not on a minor legislative matter, nor even a major one, but on this, the Bill of Bills, by common consent the most important that has ever come before Parliament in time of peace, we have less freedom to amend than we should have with the most insignificant piece of domestic legislation.
Of course, I understand why the Government wish to muzzle debate on the matter. They fear that if the House once begins to unpick the package and inspect its contents their precarious majority will finally disappear. They fear, too, that the preponderant but steady opinion of the people outside the House who do not want the treaties, and who have not chosen a European future, will be hardened and enraged by the detailed examination that amendment entails.
They know, too, from their treatment in Brussels and Paris over the past 18 months that if Parliament refuses to 1045 accept any part of the treaties their whole European venture will collapse. But while the Government have strong reasons for attempting to muzzle Parliament, it is a temptation they would have been wise to resist.
I begin by relating the Motion to last Wednesday's, when we debated on another Motion of censure the decision of the Chairman of Ways and Means to rule out our main Amendments. We stated our reasons then, but a subsidiary theme of many of the speeches was the relationship between the Chairman's exercise of his discretion and the framework of the Bill within which his discretion is inevitably confined.
Let me state the different areas of responsibility, as I understand them, of the Government, the authors of the Measure, and the Chairman. The Chairman is responsible for selecting Amendments—that is, for deciding, no doubt guided by "Erskine May", the learned Clerks and his own good sense, which are the most important Amendments to be called. But, as the Chairman himself was good enough to inform us, the main issue for him was one not of selection but of order. In his judgment, most of our Amendments fell not because of the ordinary process of sifting and selecting, but because they were out of order. The reason for this—I quote his words—wasthe nature of the Bill itself".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 268.]as defined in its Explanatory Memorandum. In the Chairman's view the Bill was not a Bill to approve the Treaty of Accession or any of the other treaties which the Government had accepted; it was only a Bill, as the Explanatory Memorandum says, to make the legislative changes to enable the United Kingdom to comply with the obligations entailed by membership of the various European Communities. The Bill is concerned only, as the Chairman put it in a very vivid phrase, with the nuts and bolts of adjustment to the treaties.
To anyone other than a constitutional lawyer or an expert on parliamentary procedure this might appear to be a fine distinction. But, even if we are not explicitly approving the treaties in this Bill, the treaties cannot be ratified until the Bill has been passed, and it is there- 1046 fore essential to the business of approval even if it does not constitute approval itself. Yet because it is held that we are not approving the treaties in the Bill we are denied the right to submit these most important matters to rigorous scrutiny and amendment.
If the Chairman is right about this—and in their speeches last Wednesday the Government clearly stated that they believe he is—what responsibility have the Government themselves for this decision? They are, after all, not only the authors of the treaties but the authors of the Bill. They must have given much thought to it and drawn upon the considerable resources of expertise available to them. It would be straining credulity to believe that in preparing this Bill no thought at all had been given to the question of parliamentary discussion and amendment. If the Bill had been prepared by the Leader of the House alone it would be possible to believe that the intentions were good even though the results were deplorable. But, as we know, it was prepared with the assistance of the Law Officers, and notably the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the hon. and learned Solicitor-General, and I do not believe for a moment that they did not weigh very carefully indeed the importance of each and every word in the Explanatory Memorandum and the Long Title of the Bill. It is these words that define the scope and purpose of the Bill it is these words that, on a conventional approach to precedents, put a fence around those matters which will be in order and at the same time exclude all those matters which will be outside; consequently it is these words that circumscribe the area of freedom of the Chair in taking Amendments.
In the Chairman's view he had no option in this matter. He said:Whether or not they should be in order is not a question for me. … I cannot in any way be held responsible for that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 275.]So what did the Government, in their meticulous drafting, intend? To say, as the Leader of the House said on 1st March:… the Government of course have no possible knowledge of what the selection of Amendments might be by the Chair."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 448.]1047 was, of course, to miss the point altogether, because it was not a matter of selection; it was, as we have already noted, a matter of order.
As for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he simply dodged the issue on the previous day when he said to the Chair, rising on a point of order, of which there were many that night:I do not, of course, rise to question your Ruling either on whether Amendments are in order or as to what Amendments should be selected. That is entirely a matter for you."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 282.]So we have here the Chair saying that he has no option, that it is not a matter for him, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the author and the chief architect of the Bill, saying that it is entirely a matter for the Chairman, not for him. There is a nice contradiction. So let me ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman now: Did he or did he not consider the effect of the Explanatory Memorandum and the Long Title on the Chairman's freedom to call Amendments?
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
If the right hon. Gentleman will read on in the point of order to which he has just referred he will see that I explained what the position was.
§ Mr. Shore
Of course we have read on, but I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman answered that question at all. I think there is a general relationship when Governments are considering Bills long before they are published and come before the House, and, indeed, there is a continuing process of advice and interchange of information. One of my hon. Friends drew to my attention this morning a publication called The Parliamentarian, which appears to be a perfectly respectable publication which deals with our affairs. Dealing with this matter of the selection of Amendments, it has this to say:The chairman, [of a committee] with the advice of the clerk and the draftsman, [of the Bill] will prepare himself carefully for each sitting …and, of course, it is the draftsmen of the Bill who are at the other end of Westminster, the Whitehall end, who will know precisely what it is that Ministers intend. So I cannot believe for a moment that the Government did not 1048 know and, therefore, did not intend the consequences of the framing of the Bill in the way it was done.
It might have been possible, just possible, to believe in the Government's innocence up to last Wednesday's debate, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attitude became all too clear in the course of his winding-up speech. Then he told us, and he was speaking specifically about Clause 2 of the Bill which by all agreement is the very heart of the matter:either we are for entry into the Communities or we are not. If we are for entry into the Communities, we have to accept Clause 2. The House can reject Clause 2. If it does, it prevents our fulfilling our obligations under the treaty and, in effect, prevents our ratification—It was at this point, as the House will recall, that he was asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) whether he was:implying, from what he had just said about Clause 2, that in his view Clause 2 is not amendable.I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not face that very frankly either. He said:I did not imply that at all".and then went on to say:It is not for me to say what Amendments are or are not in order…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 541.]Like other hon. Members—and I am sure that this is in fact the case—I have reflected on all this during the weekend and have studied very closely what has been said in these debates, and I must say that I have no doubt now that the Government intended that Clause 2 should not be amendable and that if they get their way we are to be made to swallow its poison in a single gulp.
The Prime Minister gave the game away, I think, on 17th February when he told us that the vast implications of Clause 2(1) could have been spelt out by re-enacting all the legislation that it touched. He said thatThis would have the effect that the whole of the legislation on each of these subjects could then be amended and dealt with again; but the one part which could not be dealt with would be the new part which comes in the Community law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1972 Vol. 831, c. 748.]In other words, it is unamendable.
1049 But the Prime Minister went still further. He even sought to justify this approach on the extraordinary and false grounds that the central issue raised by Clause 2—the ceding of parliamentary sovereignty to the European Communities—was something that had always been known and presumably, therefore, no longer deserved serious debate.
Even if true, this would be wholly unacceptable, but the fact is that while this constitutional issue has been the subject of back bench speeches over the years, and most notably by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and one or two others, it has never been seriously debated as a central issue in this House until a few weeks ago. In the 1961–63 negotiations it was the subject of a single ministerial speech, and that in the other place. In the 1967 debates it was totally overshadowed by the economic and foreign policy implications of membership. Here is news for the Solicitor-General: the White Paper, which Ministers have only now discovered, dealing with the legal and constitutional implications of membership did not see the light of day until three weeks after the debate on our application in 1967. It was not debated then and it has never been debated since.
Meanwhile, of course, the range and depth of Community law has enormously increased and now includes, since April, 1970, the right to impose taxes upon the peoples of the member States. Yet if the Prime Minister has his way, as I read his speech and the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, this great issue will not be exposed to a single Amendment.
It is at this point that I turn to the last part of our Motion of censure:a gross breath of faith in the light of undertakings previously given that the Bill and the Treaties could be fully discussed.There is no need for me to go over the whole ground; we all recall the speech of the Solicitor-General on 20th January. He went out of his way to deny claims by the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) that the legislation to implement the treaties allowed no scope for amendment by saying that the passage of the Bill was the right place to debate the impor- 1050 tant questions involved, including those of sovereignty.
But still more explicit were the words of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the debate on 22nd February, 1972, on the Money and Ways and Means Resolutions. He said:I am advised that if the House accepts the Resolutions it will be in order to discuss in Committee or on Report any Amendment to the financial Clauses of the Bill which does not actually increase the charges on the people or on public funds…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 1138.]I stress and emphasise the key phrases in that short statement—"I am advised", "in order", and "any Amendment". I do not think that a Minister could have been more explicit than that.
The charges which the Financial Secretary referred to appear in a number of Clauses, including Clause 2. Liabilities and obligations are referred to in subsection (1) and in subsection (3) there is mention of… the amounts required to meet any Community obligation to make payments to any of the Communities or member States.Is the Financial Secretary right or wrong? Can we or can we not amend the financial obligations in subsection (1) and subsection (3)? I see that there is no immediate desire on the Government Front Bench to answer this but no doubt there will be plenty of time to do so either in the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or in the speech of the Solicitor-General.
§ Mr. Rippon
The right hon. Gentleman will have noted that I replied specifically to that point at the end of the debate on the last censure Motion.
§ Mr. Shore
It requires only a "Yes" or "No". I shall listen to the right hon. and learned Gentleman again. If he is referring to what he said last time, I must tell him that it really did not answer the matter at all.
If we can amend Clause 2(3), as the Financial Secretary seemed to suggest, I do not see how right hon. Members opposite were able to advise the House and vote the way they did last Wednesday. If they are wrong, the House has been grievously misled. I believe that they are wrong. I believe that as a result of the Government's action in framing the Bill in the way they have, we have all 1051 been put in an intolerable position. Like other hon. Members, I noted the suggestion by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East in his letter to The Times last Friday, when he said:The Government could withdraw the Bill in its present form and re-present it … Or the Chair can … approach the precedents with discretion, thereby enabling Parliament to give this uniquely important Bill the full and critical scrutiny which it requires.Whatever the suggestions—and there are others which could be put forward—clearly a solution must be found. Meanwhile, I cannot believe that any Member of the House, not even among those who have put their names to the Amendment signed by the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), can fail to agree that the Government richly deserve the censure expressed in the Motion.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) has introduced the Motion as challenging the good faith of the Government. His speech was clear on that point, the terms of the Motion are so framed and there can be no doubt about the attitude that he and some of his right hon. and hon. Friends have adopted. It is an allegation which goes far beyond a difference of opinion on the merits of whether we should join the European Communities on the terms negotiated. It is an allegation which we on this side are entitled not only to repudiate but to resent. Neither the Motion nor the speech of the right hon. Gentleman bears the hallmark of a serious Opposition engaged in constructive probing of the Bill, which we all acknowledge to be of major importance, but I will endeavour again, as I tried to do last Wednesday, to deal with the charge of bad faith and I will leave it to the House to judge the good faith of the levellers of that charge.
Let us consider the facts. Last Wednesday, the Opposition sought to carry a Motion challenging the actions of the Chairman of Ways and Means. In moving that Motion, the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) said:… this Motion is not … a personal attack on the Chairman of Ways and Means …1052 adding that, on the contrary, it was a Motion for debating… the scope and contents of the European Communities Bill. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 434–5.]
and whether it had been the deliberate intention and purpose of the Government to draft the Bill so as to limit debate. Although I accepted, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) then said, that it was a Motion of censure on the Chair, I accepted that the House would wish me to deal with the allegations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, so in reply I went out of my way to repudiate in some detail the charges he had made. I stand by what I said then and by what I said on 20th January and on Second Reading, when we covered the same ground. This is the fourth speech I have made on the question of the nature of the Bill needed to make the legislative changes in our domestic law which will enable us to comply with our obligations entailed by membership of the European Communities.
The Government have said from the beginning that they would introduce a Bill to make whatever changes in our domestic law are necessary to enable us to ratify the treaties on the terms agreed. That is precisely what the Bill does. It starts from the treaties and the terms of our accession to them and makes all the changes—we went out of our way on Second Reading to emphasise this—that are necessary, now or in the immediate future, in the law of the United Kingdom upon our accession on the terms negotiated.
Given the background of the previous debates, this was an entirely reasonable and proper way of presenting Parliament with the issue embodied in the Bill, and I have the authority, which I also quoted on Wednesday, of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) for saying that it is an honest Bill. He does not like it. Some right hon. and hon. Members do not like it. It has been said that it puts thte issue before the country and Parliament too starkly. In my opinion, it puts it honestly and in the most straightforward way.
During the Second Reading debate it was open to any hon. Member to raise questions concerning any part of the 1053 Treaty of Accession or any of the other treaties and to argue that the terms should not be accepted. Many did. After a full debate, spread over three days to meet the wishes of hon. Members the House gave the Bill a Second Reading and thereby accepted the need to make the changes necessary for accession on the terms embodied in the treaty.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman now address himself to this question: did the Government know when they were drafting the Bill and giving instructions to the parliamentary draftsmen, as they must have done, that all the Amendments that have been ruled out by the Chair would be so ruled out on a point of order and not by virtue of selection?
§ Mr. Rippon
Of course we did not know that. All we knew was what we wanted to put in the Bill to give effect to the changes in law which must take place before we can ratify the treaty. What we have always made clear, and we went into this in great detail on Wednesday, is that what the House can always do is to oppose or reject the treaties but it cannot amend them. No one has ever suggested that. It may be that certain Amendments will be ruled to be in order. There is nothing to say that an Amendment will not be in order. It may be that the Government will have to oppose it because if a certain Amendment were carried it would go to the root of our obligations under the treaty and perhaps prevent us from ratifying it.
That is a different matter. That is why I was saying that if the House rejects some fundamental part of the Bill—and it still has the opportunity—Clause by Clause and on Third Reading—which would prevent us from fulfilling our obligations then it would be fundamental to the whole principle of the Bill which could not go forward and the Treaty be ratified.
§ Mr. Shore
I am not dealing with the question of selection but the question of order. Is the Chancellor really saying that when he and his right hon. Friends looked at the Long Title and the Explanatory Memorandum they did not consider what effect this would have on the possibilities of amendment? Is he saying that as a result of the Rulings 1054 given last week he was or was not surprised? Will he tell us whether he is satisfied or whether, to let the House discuss this matter properly and fully, he will think again about how he can break the mould and straitjacket which has been put around the House?
§ Mr. Rippon
It is obvious that the right hon. Gentleman does not pay any attention to these matters. He is not open to argument, he is opposed root and branch to the principle of the Bill and he is prepared to use every device to defeat it.
The Leader of the Opposition explained on 8th May, 1967, how we would, if we were successful in negotiations, have to accept certain Community obligations and how Community law would have direct application into this country. The Bill had to be framed in the light of those considerations. No one has any doubt about that. What we assumed, having put a Bill before the House which we think is in proper and reasonable form, was that the Chair would decide which Amendments were in order. That is not a matter for us. We know that after a Bill has been given a Second Reading the principles set out at page 507 of "Erskine May" dealing with what Amendments are then in order apply.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether we heard correctly what he said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson)? I thought he said that when he and his right hon. Friends gave instructions to the draftsmen they had no idea what would be ruled out of order. Is that what he said? If it is, does it mean that in drafting the Bill he did not know whether there would be a fairly wide right of amendment to the Bill or this almost non-existent right of amendment? Which did he think and did he care at all? Is not that the point that he has to answer?
§ Mr. Rippon
Clearly, I did not know the exact scope of the Amendments and which would be in order. What has never been in doubt is that once a Second Reading has been given to a Bill and the principle adopted, certain rules of order apply. What has also never been in doubt is that although a Bill to give effect to the modalities of a treaty may 1055 be amended it is not possible in that Bill to amend the treaty.
§ Mr. Rippon
I think I had better proceed a little further to deal with some of the charges that have been made.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask your guidance? As I understand it, the situation is that there is a censure Motion before the House, which suggests that in framing their Bill the Government had the intention of removing the possibility of substantial amendment. The Minister is now saying that they had no idea that the legislation would have have this effect. Is there not an easy method of dealing with the problem by withdrawing the Bill and altering it in such a way as would enable Amendments to be made?
§ Mr. Rippon
I spent the whole of my speech on Second Reading—it was described as being rather legalistic—explaining why the Bill took the structure and form that it did and what was involved.
That was what the House has accepted. No one has ever suggested that anyone could conceivably draft legislation which would enable the basic treaty to be amended. I entirely accept that this Bill differs from past Bills in one major respect, and that is because the treaties to which it relates differ fundamentally from earlier treaties. We have accepted that at the heart of the Community treaty is the principle enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition as long ago as May, 1967. that some of the provisions of the treaties are to have direct legal effect in member States and that the Community institutions are to have power within the limits of the treaties to issue instructions which would have direct legal effect.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
Would the Chancellor tell us where, in the Treaty of Rome or in any statement I have made, it is said that the legislation to give effect to the terms of entry, if they were satisfactory, was to be on such a basis that it would not go through the normal legislative process of this House which is what 1056 we insist on? Will he tell us where in the Treaty of Rome or in the statement of 1967 it is said that whatever Bill is brought before the House it would be virtually unamendable?
§ Mr. Rippon
No one has ever suggested that the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman might bring forward would not be in accordance with our customary constitutional practices. We have introduced a Bill which is entirely in accordance with such practices. We have emphasised from the outset, and the layout of the Bill makes this clear, that the major chance in our law to he effected by the Bill is to let in these Community provisions as a new source of law in the United Kingdom. That is the purpose of Clause 2(1).
That fundamental change cannot be made with qualifications on our part in respect of particular matters. The Community laws flow from the whole Community system to which we are admitted by the whole treaty package, and if we do not ratify the package we do not become a member of the Community. If we do not become a member of the Community the importation of directly applicable Community law as proposed by the Bill in Clause 2(1) cannot take effect. Parliament still has the right to accept or reject.
We come back to the fundamental point that legislation for implementing treaties obviously cannot alter the treaties themselves. There has never been any suggestion that such amendments could be accepted. We have said from the outset that the treaties and Community obligations must be taken as a whole. The question of what Amendments would be in order in Committee is not a matter for the Government.
We could not have foretold, with any confidence at any rate, what the ruling of the Chair would be with regard to the admissibility of such Amendments. Indeed, if one accepted the Opposition argument that the Chairman's Ruling had wrongly interpreted the rules of order, it would follow that the Government would have been prepared for such Amendments to be debated.
These matters are never simple to decide—as the debate on 1st March indicated—and various precedents can be claimed from time to time on both sides 1057 of the House. That is not to say that the Bill cannot be amended in certain respects, in particular—as I have explained on numerous occasions—in regard to the modalities of carrying out our obligations.
I reject entirely the suggestion that the Government had any intention to gag Parliament in the proper performance of its function. We have presented Parliament with an honest and competent piece of legislation which clearly puts before Parliament the matters which it is Parliament's function to decide.
We can, of course, refuse to ratify the treaty as a whole; we can decline to accede to the Communities on 1st January, 1973, on the negotiated terms. What we cannot do—and this is perhaps what certain hon. Members opposite with their Amendments are trying to do—against political reality abroad and the clear decisions of the House at home, is to chop bits out of the treaty, and, if I read some of the Amendments aright, even to contest certain fundamental principles of Community membership.
What we are doing in the European Communities Bill is inviting Parliament to provide for the changes in our domestic law needed before the Government can proceed to ratify the treaty. Let there be no misunderstanding about this. Parliament is free to refuse this authority by rejecting the Bill as a whole or its essential Clauses.
There may be Amendments—I cannot say which will be in order or which it will be possible for the Government to accept—which go to the modalities of meeting our obligations, but clearly, it would be an insult to the intelligence of Parliament to invite it to approach the Bill on the basis that the treaty itself was amendable. That is not a question of draftsmanship but of common sense. There is no possibility, either, of withdrawing the Bill in order to put an opportunity of that kind before the House. If the Bill's shape is such that the treaty package must be taken or rejected as a whole, it does no more than reflect the political and legal facts of life.
Against that background I return to the charge that there has been a "gross breach of faith" on the part of the Government. It is important to isolate 1058 the precise nature of this charge, because the one fact it rests on is the ruling by the Chairman of Ways and Means that certain Amendments to the first Clause of the Bill were not in order. In consequence of that, there is a charge that undertakings previously given by the Government have been invalidated in some way by this ruling relating to certain Amendments to one Clause.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is again raising this point. He said earlier that the Government had no idea what the Ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means would he. Yet, when the Chairman gave a Ruling, the Government were absolutely certain that he was correct and voted against the Motion criticising the Chairman of Ways and Means. How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman justify that?
§ Mr. Rippon
We made it perfectly clear that these were not matters for the Government. The right hon. Member for Stepney only this afternoon quoted me as having said that. We said that these were matters which were within the prerogative of the Chair and that we should support the Chair in exercising its own judgment on these matters. That is quite a different matter.
Certainly there has been debate on the provisions of the treaty. This took place on Second Reading, and there will no doubt be debates on this subject which will take place by reference to the Clauses of the Bill. That was what was plainly contemplated in all the statements quoted by the right hon. Member for Stepney. He, like the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South referred to the observations of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in relation to the financial provisions of the Bill. The point made by the Financial Secretary was simply that the Financial Resolution then under discussion would not in itself prevent hon. Members from making objections or moving Amendments to the financial provisions at the appropriate stage of the progress of the Bill through Parliament. Nothing could have been clearer than that.
I dealt with what the Financial Secretary and the Solicitor-General had to say in the discussion last Wednesday. At no point was it suggested that there could 1059 be amendment to the treaty. Many Amendments have already been accepted, so some must clearly be in order. What has never been in doubt is that, provided that Amendments do not conflict with the principle that Parliament has made its decision on Second Reading, there is a wide opportunity for amendment and discussion on the modalities of how we fulfil our obligations.
§ Mr. Shore
I want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to help the House on this genuinely important and difficult matter. I quoted the words of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury who was very specific that he had been advised that any Amendment was in order. He used the words "advised" and "in order". I can only assume that before he made that statement to the House he had taken advice from those whose job it is to give such advice, and that he had been advised that it was in order for reasonable, sensible, Amendments to be selected. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must address himself to this question. What in fact has happened?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is what I am trying to do, and the right hon. Member for Stepney is twisting all the time—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—he is twisting what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said. He at no time said that any Amendment would be in order. No member of the Government could possibly say that. It would imply that frivolous Amendments would be in order. What he said was:Nothing in the Resolutions will prevent them from making those objections or moving Amendments to remove, curtail or impose conditions or restrictions upon these provisions at the appropriate stages of the Bill's progress through Parliament.In other words, he was giving a customary assurance to the House that the Money Resolution did not in any way curtail debate and that it was not more tightly drawn than the Bill. It was perfectly fair for him to say that, and no one was misled by what he said.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Although I entirely accept the context in which my right hon. and learned Friend has rightly placed the words of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, will he nevertheless agree 1060 that it was remarkable for the Financial Secretary to refer to the possibility of Amendments being in order which would amend, remove or curtail the essential financial provisions of the Bill which are essential to the treaty?
§ Mr. Rippon
The Financial Secretary said that there was nothing in the Resolutions which would prevent those Amendments being put forward. He was not prejudging what Amendments would or would not be held to be in order by the Chair.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted what the Financial Secretary of the Treasury said. He also said:… if the House accepts the Resolutions it will be in order …He does not say "because of the Resolutions"—. . to discuss in Committee or on Report any Amendment to the financial clauses of the Bill which does not actually increase the charges on the people or on public funds at present appearing in those Clauses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 1138.]Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or will he not, give an answer to what my right hon. Friend has said? The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that we cannot amend the treaties, although the House was, by the manipulations of the Government, prevented from knowing what was in the treaties before the Government signed them. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that nothing that any of us said in 1967 envisaged, for example, the general transfer of customs duties which have been at the disposal of the British Government for 700 years? We knew nothing about that in 1967, it was not considered, and the House cannot even consider the matter on an Amendment.
§ Mr. Rippon
Clearly it was so in 1970, when the right hon. Gentleman reaffirmed that the position of his Government had not changed. Many people in the House have some standing in this matter, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has very little. Now he is trying to twist what the Financial Secretary said. The Financial Secretary made it clear that he was making his comments in the context of enabling resolutions, and the right hon. Gentleman 1061 knows that perfectly well. He knows that my hon. Friend was dealing with the point whether our contribution to the budget is paid out of the Consolidated Fund or by way of Votes and matters of that kind. He was not suggesting that it would be open necessarily in the discussion of the Bill to challenge the terms negotiated. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, and he has never raised the point before.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider the matter in this way? Even if we were to accept the fact that reference to the Money Resolution governed the whole of the statement, is it not the case that the Financial Secretary's statement, referring to any Amendment, meant that the House would have available to it the opportunity to alter terms to which the House was asked to agree in relation to the part of the Treaty dealing with the financial Clauses? Therefore, if it were open for an Amendment of that nature to be put, then such Amendments could be put to the whole Bill.
If that is the case, the Financial Secretary's statement was wide open to the view that Amendments would be open to the House throughout the whole Bill. This is why we are saying the Financial Secretary misled the House. When originally I heard the reply to that debate, I must say that I was gratified with the Financial Secretary's statement—indeed, I accepted it and thanked the Financial Secretary. If the hon. Gentleman had had any objection to my interpretation of it he could have intervened then to put me right, but he did not do so. In other words, if what the Financial Secretary said applies to the financial parts of the Bill, it applies even more to the rest of the Bill. He was saying that we would have the opportunity of extensive amendment and that statement, in view of what has occurred since, grossly misleads the House.
§ Mr. Rippon
My hon. Friend was referring only to the Money Resolution, and that was a debate which took place following the vote on the Second Reading on the principle. Therefore, nobody has been misled into voting for the principle of the Bill by anything the Financial 1062 Secretary is alleged to have said. It is clear he gave to the House an honest statement of the position on the Money Resolution and the Ways and Means Resolution, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for acknowleding that.
Recognising the great importance of the negotiations and also that we would be working towards a package, I suggest that the Government have made, as the House knows, the most elaborate arrangements for reporting to the House at every stage, both on the individual issues as agreement was reached and on the package as it evolved.
Apart from the various statements and parliamentary Questions—not to mention the debate on the fisheries agreement in the Consolidated Fund debate in December—we spent 10 days debating the principle of entry. And so far this year we have devoted six days to considering the legislation necessary to enable us to ratify the Treaty of Accession by bringing our domestic law into harmony with our obligations.
Now that the House by giving a Second Reading to the Bill has reaffirmed the principle of entry into the Community on the terms negotiated, the opponents of the Bill are now resorting to what are basically procedural devices to obstruct progress. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] As was stated by the Chair during the long night last week, the Opposition are fully entitled to assert their rights, but equally the House as a whole is entitled to judge how to exercise those rights.
To table two successive censure Motions of a kind for which the Government have to provide parliamentary time may be claimed as a tactical success. But it is not particularly clever or edifying. I do not believe there is much cause for pride in spending nine hours on points of order as we did on Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday. The opponents of the Bill are standing here and saying, "We are the great defenders of our parliamentary democracy". But they ought to be careful not to make a mockery of the institutions they claim to defend.
§ Mr. Rippon
There comes a point when, on a Bill which has been given a Second Reading by the House, the assertion that "It shall not pass", comes very close to an assertion that the majority shall not prevail. I think a good many Members on all sides will have a good deal of sympathy with the views which have been expressed by members of the Liberal Party that all parts of the Bill should be fully and wakefully discussed in a manner appropriate to their importance.
Gladstone actually did say something on 20th February, 1882, which might be thought to be relevant. He was talking about obstruction and concluded a speech on the closure by saying:I trust, Sir, that this House will always continue to appreciate; I would almost say to worship, liberty of speech—that it will continue to tolerate, for the sake of liberty, the licence of speech which mocks and counterfeits liberty of speech; but that it will not carry, however large the fund of patience, that tolerance to such a point that it shall itself reach the grossest of all vices of a legislative body—the point at which it shall inflict upon the House of Commons incapacity to do its duty.From the outset the Government have sought to do their duty by carrying forward the negotiations and bringing matters before the House. First, they have done this in the spirit of the initial application; secondly, in accordance with constitutional law and parliamentary practice; and, thirdly, in accordance with the interests of British people. We are spending a good deal of time discussing procedural matters, and it is right that we should do so, but I hope that Members of this House and the public outside will not lose sight of the fundamental British interests in this matter because they are what underlie the purpose of the Bill.
It has been the view of the Labour Government, of the present Conservative Government and of the Liberal Party that it is in the British interest and Commonwealth interest and in the interest of the free world that we should proceed to the enlargement of the Community. I remember on 2nd May, 1967, when all this started, the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, said:… the Government's purpose derives, above all, from our recognition that Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and that we can—and indeed must—play our full part in it.He said that 1064… a Europe that fails to put forward its full economic strength will never have the political influence which I believe it could and should exert within the United Nations, within the Western Alliance, and as a means for effecting a lasting détente between East and West; and equally contributing in ever fuller measure to the solution of the world's North-South problem, to the needs of the developing world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 313–14.]Last week, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I attended a meeting of the Ten Foreign Ministers in Brussels at which we discussed the Summit meeting which it is proposed shall take place in the autumn and the nature of the agenda. That is what it is all about. Having had a successful negotiation, we were there looking at what we shall have to discuss in the autumn in terms of economic and monetary union, social progress and industrial and regional policies. We shall have to discuss the strengthening of the European institutions and political progress, and the development of responsibilities, not only the external relations and responsibilities of the Community to the rest of the world, but bringing in all our responsibilities in aid to the developing world. That is what this Bill is all about, and that is why the majority of hon. Members of this House want to accede to the Communities on the terms negotiated.
There are opponents to the Bill. They are a minority. I come back, therefore, to the terms of the Motion, which suggest that the Government have not acted in good faith. We can take a charitable view or we can take an uncharitable view of that. Either way, the Motion is totally unjustified. The charitable view is that it was conceived in ignorance of what the Bill and its relationship to the Treaty are all about. We have been over and over this in debates. For that reason, I find this ignorance difficult to believe.
I am sure that the House will recognise the Motion for what it is worth. It is not we, the Government, who are failing to fulfil undertakings that the Bill could be fully discussed. It is certain hon. Members opposite who are deliberately seeking to frustrate the serious and proper discussion of the Bill by this House and who are also seeking to frustrate the wishes of the majority of hon. Members that we should accede to the Communities.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, will he answer——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has sat down. I have called Mr. Pardoe.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
In theory, this debate is about the drafting of the Government's Bill. However, it is not in reality about the drafting of the Bill at all. It is simply another debate about the principle of our entry into the European Economic Community. Therefore, in view of the fact that the speech of the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) has gone slightly wider of the mark than the specific terms of the Motion, perhaps it might be advisable for me to say by way of introduction a few words about the attitude of the Liberal Party to this Motion and to the Bill.
The great majority of Members of this House and the great majority of thinking people in the country will know that the Liberal Party has had a long-standing commitment to our joining the European Economic Communities. There was never any question of our being in favour of joining on any terms, but we always recognised the limits of what would he negotiable.
We in this House have recorded our support for the terms which have been negotiated by the present Government. We did that on 28th October by a crashing majority. Then the question arose as to how we should legislate. We debated that on the Second Reading of the European Communities Bill. The Second Reading was carried on 17th February, though by not such a large majority. On that occasion, we in the Parliamentary Liberal Party were uttely consistent with our vote on 28th October, and we supported the Bill. There was a certain fracas afterwards, and some members of the Labour Party made their feelings well known, not entirely verbally.
Following the vote on 17th February, the Leader of the Opposition chose to 1066 rise and to say, referring to the Prime Minister:Since the right hon. Gentleman's whole majority is given him by the Liberals, despite Rhodesia … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 759.]The right hon. Gentleman was mathematically inaccurate, because, unless we had voted against the Government, the Government would still have had a majority. I suppose that the Leader of the Opposition might have had some idea that we could be persuaded to abstain, though I cannot think why. But why he thought that we should have voted against the principle that we have stood for for more than a generation, I know not. In fact, I believe that we took the only course open to us——
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
In order to get the record perfectly straight, the hon. Gentleman should say that one-sixth of the members of his party did not share the views that he has just been expressing. One of his colleagues voted against the Second Reading. It is not true to say that the Liberal Party was unanimous on the matter.
§ Mr. Pardoe
We are a free party, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was utterly consistent with his vote on 28th October, which cannot be said for some right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition benches who had reasons, which we did not, for standing on their heads——
§ Mr. Pardoe
I shall come to that point in a moment. I hope that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) can keep quiet during at least one speech, although I know that it is asking a great deal.
The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) referred to us as "a gutter party". I remind the right hon. Gentleman of Oscar Wilde's remark:We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.Many years ago, in their youth, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and his friends looked up at the stars. But it was twilight, and too early in the evening. They could not see them, and they have not looked since.
1067 The Leader of the Opposition charged us with voting as we did "despite Rhodesia". To me, that was a great irrelevance in the debate. I could not see what the right hon. Gentleman was getting at. However, his remark has been followed up by many of his friends in the country since. Why the right hon. Gentleman should think that we would entrust the safekeeping of the Rhodesian Africans to him rather than to anyone else, I do not altogether know. If the right hon. Gentleman had not withdrawn the threat of force which was made specific by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) when the Conservative Government were in power, we should not have had the present mess in Rhodesia and there would have been no U.D.I.
The Leader of the Opposition seems to have the strange idea that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I go down on our knees every night and pray for the return of a Government led by him. That is not strictly true. I dislike the Tory Party as much as anyone in this House, but I do not like the other ugly sister very much, either. If the Leader of the Opposition were offering me Cinderella, I might take a different attitude.
However it is not only on Rhodesia that we fail to be enamoured of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson). It is true that the Labour and Liberal Parties share many general principles, among them civil liberties and equality. But, if one looks at the practice of the Labour Party in office, one sees that on civil liberties the right hon. Gentleman's Government devalued the passport. As for equality, we can let the Fabian Society speak for us.
There is nothing that we like sufficiently about the prospect of the return of a Labour Government to make it right or necessary to ditch our longstanding European principles. We have no intention of doing so now or in the future.
Besides, what sort of Labour Government is it that we are asked to support in this Motion? Right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition benches would like our support in trying to bring down the Conservative Government. But what sort of Labour Government and whose Labour Government are we sup- 1068 posed to be helping? Are we supposed to be helping the right hon. Member for Huyton? We are not sure whether he believes in Europe or not. Are we being asked to support a party which accords with the principles of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)? Which European policy are we meant to be supporting, either on this Motion or on any other?
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
The hon. Gentleman is expounding very ably the views of his party on the subject of entry into the E.E.C. In terms of this Motion, will he explain to the House why it is that the Liberal Party has not attempted to table a single Amendment to the Bill? I can well understand people with the conscience and views of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) wishing to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. However, today we are not discussing the Second Reading. We are discussing the possibility of the Bill's amendment. I cannot understand any normally intelligent human being not wishing to table Amendments to a piece of legislation of this character.
§ Mr. Pardoe
The hon. Gentleman has raised a fair question. I do not think that Clause 1 is the appropriate point at which to put down substantial Amendments. One might wish to amend Clause 2, but, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, there is plenty of time. The Order Paper is not yet closed. There will be plenty of Liberal Amendments yet.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the debate on 17th February, defining his party's European policy, said:We on this side have made clear our outright rejection of those terms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February 1972; Vol. 831, c. 648.]Really? When? On 28th October when a large number of his right hon. and hon. Friends voted for the terms? Was that the occasion when they made their outright rejection clear?
For his further European policy the right hon. Gentleman referred us to a speech which he made in the debate on 28th October when again he utterly failed to define a consistent attitude to Europe.
So, on all these matters we feel that there is no reason for the Leader of the 1069 Opposition to suppose that we would wish to support him at the expense of ditching our European principles.
I turn now to the Bill and the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Stepney. The Opposition Motion suggests, first, that the Government intentionally framed the legislation to remove the possibility of substantial amendment.
I must say that, of all hon. Members, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has a most touching faith in the capacity of a Tory Government. I suspect that this derives from the forelock-touching and cap-doffing days which luckily we do not have in Cornwall—at least not in recent memory. I have no such deference in my attitude to the Conservative Party.
The Motion presupposes that the Government know exactly what they are doing in their legislation. I do not believe that they are so clever. I agree with the political correspondent of the Financial Times that, if they have got it right from their way of thinking—I am by no means convinced that they have—that was not necessarily by design. Indeed, looking at the way that the Government draft their legislation—whether it be the Northern Ireland Emergency Bill, the Industrial Relations Bill, which was supposed to stop strikes, or the Housing Finance Bill, which was supposed to enable the building of more houses and bring down the prices of houses—the only theory of government for a sane and hopeful man is that of a balance of mistakes. We have had this, on the whole, from different Governments over the last generation or so.
If the Opposition's attitude is taken at its face value—we have to accept their sincerity, even in this Motion, I suppose—they are saying that they are opposed to this particular form of legislation because the treaties cannot be amended. We always knew that we would not be able to amend treaties which had already been entered into in the past if we entered Europe as a latecomer.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly in view of his emphasis on consistency and what is said in the Amendment to which he is speaking, even though it has not been called. He says that he and his 1070 party regard the Bill as being in a satisfactory form to present to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman nods assent. That is the point on which he was immediately speaking. Will he tell us why the spokesman for the Liberal Party last week, in a debate on a Motion of censure on the Chairman of Ways and Means, said that it was not a satisfactory way of presenting the Bill? The hon. Gentleman has turned a very quick somersault indeed and has come to the aid of the Government swifter than we have ever seen him do before.
§ Mr. Pardoe
My hon. Friend did not say that. I have read his speech with some care and, indeed, I listened to it at the time. If he had said that, he could not possibly have voted the way that he did and been consistent. He is a consistent man.
We always knew that this indeed was part of the problem of going into Europe. Surely one reason why many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side and, indeed, on the Government side opposed going into Europe was that they would not be able to amend legislation which was, so to speak, being lumbered on them from the past, as we were latecomers to Europe. Indeed, we accepted that. To a large extent, that is the difference between the pro-Marketeers and the anti-Marketeers.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
The hon. Gentleman has said that one reason why some right hon. and hon. Members were against the merits of the matter was that they knew they could not amend anything. Is he not referring to amending after the treaties are ratified, not before that act has happened?
§ Mr. Pardoe
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen do not seem to realise that the Common Market has been a going concern for many years. Admittedly, if we had gone into Europe when the Liberal Party was trying to press Britain in and we were being shouted and screamed at by both the Labour and Conservative Parties for our views, we would have been in at the beginning and we could have taken part in the writing of the treaties and the legislation. We 1071 would have been parties to all the volumes of stuff which the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) carried into the Chamber and wants to have in the House for our debates. But, as we were not in then, there is not much that we can do about it now. That is the price we pay for late entry. Whose fault is it? It is certainly not the fault of the Liberal Party.
The Opposition say that the Bill could have been drafted in other ways. I do not doubt that at all. No doubt there are many different forms of Bill——
§ Mr. Pardoe
Perhaps I may develop my argument. No doubt there are many different forms of Bill which would give effect to the necessary legislation. What sort of Bill did the Labour Government have in mind? The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on 17th February, clearly said:As a Government, had we got the terms we sought from our applications, we never contemplated a Bill of either this form or this size. We made clear that consequential legislation would take up a whole parliamentary Session. We knew that that would have to be so. I was warned to expect a 1,000-Clause Bill—a phrase which was in common use, as indicating the scope and form of parliamentary action consequent on signing the treaty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 640.]I frankly do not believe that a Government led by the right hon. Gentleman could possibly have surrendered a whole parliamentary Session to one Bill. It is beyond the realms of belief. It is quite incredible.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again, because it enables the House to clear up the question of the views of the Liberal Party. The hon. Gentleman has just stated that he has known all along the scope and nature of the Bill and that, therefore, there cannot be any complaint against the Government on that score. However, as recently as 1st March, his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) said:Hon. Members who have quoted various statements made by the Solicitor-General, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are right to make a complaint that the House was1072misled as to the nature and scope of the debate which could take place on this legislation. I believe that wrongful assurances were given by Ministers to the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 472.]I think that, before the hon. Gentleman claims that he knew all about the nature and scope of the Bill, he should sort the matter out with his hon. Friend who said exactly the opposite only a few days ago.
§ Mr. Pardoe
The hon. Gentleman is not correct in his interpretation of what my hon. Friend said. There is a clear distinction between one's attitude to the Bill and one's attitude to the words used by Government spokesmen. I accept that there is an ambiguity in what some right hon. and hon. Members said, particularly the Solicitor-General, and that is what my hon. Friend was saying in that speech. He said that there was an ambiguity in what the Solicitor-General had said about Amendments. Neither my hon. Friend nor I ever had any doubts about the meaning of the Bill. When the Solicitor-General spoke, it did not mislead me. I know that it misled the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, but that is not difficult. I do not believe that anyone who had believed in the European cause as long as we had could possibly have misinterpreted those words. But I accept that they are open to misinterpretation, and some hon. Members—some willingly, some unwillingly—were misled.
Of course the debate is not specifically about the drafting of the Bill. It is about entry into Europe. It is one more step in the Labour Party's journey down the road towards outright opposition. It is one more step by the anti-Market members of the Labour Party towards hi-jacking their party in their own direction, and it is another subterfuge to disguise this fact from their hon. Friends.
I understand what they are doing. Behind the smokescreen of deep concern for parliamentary democracy, they hope to wreck the Bill. I do not blame them. If I were as passionately opposed to the Bill as they, I might be doing the same thing. Parliamentary procedures are perfectly legitimate. I do not want to be hypocritical and attack them on these grounds. They are entitled to use all the procedures they can find to delay this 1073 Bill. It is an enjoyable spectacle to see the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Powell) together in a great tour de force. They are prepared to oppose every stop and comma.
It may even be a good thing for us to let this matter go on for ever. If the debates go on for long enough, no doubt the strains within the Parliamentary Labour Party will explode the whole thing wide open and we may get around to that re-alignment of sane and radical forces in this country which we have been advocating for so long.
How will things work out in the end? One of the laws of this House is that, on the whole, Governments get their legislation——
§ Mr. Pardoe
The right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head and is no doubt thinking of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill. He had experience of that retreat by the Labour Government. But this is not a similar Bill. This Government are far more determined on this legislation than the Labour Government were on the House of Lords legislation. In the end, the Government will introduce a guillotine. I fear that they will introduce it later rather than earlier, and I would prefer to see it earlier——
§ Mr. Pardoe
I would prefer to see it earlier, and I am in very good company. Select Committees have, ever since 1931, been recommending early timetable Motions for major Bills in this House, and they have been recommending them with the unanimous support of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party.
Mr. Herbert Bowden, as he then was, when Lord President of the Council, was asked by the Select Committee on Procedure on 20th July, 1966, whether he would support a timetable Motion automatically in the early stages. He agreed. He said:It would work something like this. After the Second Reading of the Bill, if the Government of the day felt it desirable, it would move that this Bill be referred to a business committee, and that business committee—not1074the business committee under Standing Order No. 43, but rather a different one—would take the Bill away, and within a matter of a few days would report to the House their views as to a timetable for the Bill. … I have always had the impression … that it would work.In its summary, the Select Committee recommended that this procedure should be adopted.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make it plain that what Mr. Bowden, as he then was, was recommending and what the Select Committee was recommending, was some system of voluntary timetabling of Bills. This would be a very good occasion when there might be talks between the two sides on some such system. But that is absolutely different from what the hon. Gentleman himself has suggested—a compulsory guillotine—which, as he knows, would mean that large parts of a constitutional Bill would go through without debate, which the country does not want.
§ Mr. Pardoe
I have read the right hon. Gentleman's contributions on this point over a long period. I recognise that what the Select Committee was advocating was a voluntary timetable, but many hon. Members recognised that, if it were impossible to get a voluntary timetable, as it would be on contentious Bills, the Government would have to introduce a timetable Motion themselves. The Select Committee said that it would be better to have it earlier rather than later. It would be madness to go through this Bill as we did the Industrial Relations Bill, when we spent an enormous amount of the time available——
§ Mr. Pardoe
We in the Liberal Party have recently had plenty of practice in withstanding the jeers, and worse, of the Parliamentary Labour Party. We have all the time in the world.
When time ran out on the Industrial Relations Bill, vote after vote went on 1075 without debate all through the night. At that time, I made it clear that we were not going to stay up—[Interruption.] On one occasion, at four o'clock in the morning, I was the only member of my party on this bench. I was challenged and I said then that I was the only member of my party whom the country would think was totally insane for being here at that time, and that the country believed that we were "crackers" for staying up late.
On that same date in 1966, Mr. Herbert Bowden said:I am sure of one thing, if I may say so, and that is that the public never understand why it is necessary for us to sit right through the night.Of course they do not, and neither do I. If we cannot come to a civilised arrangement on this Bill, it will be no sort of parliamentary democracy.
The battle is not between Government and Opposition but between pro-Marketeers and anti-Marketeers. Nor is it a battle about the substance of the legislation but about the time available.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I am sorry that I have not been here for the whole of the hon. Member's speech, but I have been in a Standing Committee. This is really a battle between the people and the Executive is it not?
§ Mr. Pardoe
The hon. Member is of course much closer to the people than most members of his party, and he would know about their feelings. I believe that it is a battle between the pro-Marketeers and the anti-Marketeers in this House. We believe in the sovereignty and the supremacy of Parliament, and this is where the debate is taking place.
The anti-Marketeers hope that, by taking up a prodigious amount of time on procedure and filling the Order Paper with hundreds of Amendments, they can defeat the Bill and end our European adventure. They are encouraged in this by the belief that the Liberal Party will never vote for a timetable Motion. I must disabuse them of this. We invented the timetable Motion and we are perfectly prepared for it to be used, because we do not consider this Bill the Government's legislation. In the sense that we are in the European camp, it is our legislation, and we intend to get our legisla- 1076 tion. We are prepared to use the parliamentary procedures to do it, just as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is entitled to use those procedures to try to stop us doing it.
We would prefer an early timetable now rather than the guillotine later. Either way, we intend to ensure that this legislation is obtained. I warn the Parliamentary Labour Party in general and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in particular that it is no good their continuing to work on the theory that they can prolong this for ever so that the Government will not get their legislation. We intend to ensure that the Bill is passed and that we get into Europe.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
One can understand the domestic interest of the Liberal Party in its recent and less recent voting habits and its pursuit of the Laputan occupation of trying to render consistent the position taken up by the separate hon. Members of that party. This exercise took the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) a long way from the Motion; and the ill success of his one encounter with the terms of the Motion indicated that he was perhaps wise to steer well clear of it.
There is no doubt from the terms of the Motion not merely that it is a Motion of censure but that, on the face of it, it accuses the Government of ill faith in this matter. I have in the preceding debates stated time and again that I do not believe that, whatever may be the predicament in which the House finds itself, this is the result of any misleading of the House or ill faith on the part of the Government. Indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in an important section of his speech this afternoon, seemed to give the quietus to any such suggestion; for he not only pointed out that the Government had expected that it would be open to the House to reject individual Clauses of the Bill—even though that rejection might put the House in conflict with the terms of the Treaty of Accession—but also that, from the Government's point of view, they envisaged the possibility of the House being able to carry Amendments which would, in their effect, be contradictory to the Treaty.
1077 He of course repeated—this is common ground—that this House cannot directly amend the Treaty. That is too obvious to need so frequently restating. But I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend once again showed that, whatever the difficulties we find ourselves in, they are not difficulties which have been deliberately contrived by the Government. In fact, I believe it is not only the House as a House, but the Government themselves who are victims of the predicament in which we stand.
Consequently, irrevocably committed though I personally am to do everything in my power to prevent the accession of this country to the European Community, I could not possibly support a statement in which I do not believe, which attributes ill faith to the Government.
That does not alter—whatever may be the motivation and route by which we got there—the difficulty of the position in which we all of us find ourselves—namely, that this House is apparently at present prevented from considering in due parliamentary fashion either the terms or the consequences of accession.
I agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy that this is not really a procedural debate. It is only in form that these debates are on procedure. In reality, they are on substance. They are—I use my right hon. and learned Friend's phrase—concerned with "political realities", as he acknowledged when, towards the end of his speech, he rehearsed a number of great matters which are consequential to British membership of the Community and said, "That is what this Bill is all about".
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend; and it is because the Bill in reality is not about the nuts and bolts but about the great matters of the terms and the consequences, that the House is in a quandary, from which it and the Government must find a means of extricating themselves.
I look briefly at these two subjects to which we find ourselves estopped from giving due parliamentary consideration. First, the terms. They are, for practical purposes, transitional terms. Nevertheless, both at the General Election and since, I think on the part of all hon. Members, great importance has been 1078 attached to them, both in their own judgment and in their relations and interchanges with the electorate. We now have those terms set out in due and precise form in the Treaty of Accession and in the detailed protocols attached to it.
One thing I believe cannot be asserted. It is that this House considered those terms in the course of debating the principle—as it is called—in the 10-day debate of July and October. The House does not consider matters of that kind by wrapping them up in general debates, where successive contributions relate to different matters. It is part—indeed, the purpose—of our procedure that it enables the House to take things one by one; to take packages apart and look at the contents separately. Indeed, it would have been impossible for the House in July and October to consider terms which then had not been finally formulated.
Thus, the heart of the matter is that it is only somehow at this stage—and presumably, therefore, in connection with the Bill; call it an enabling Bill if one pleases—that the House is in a position separately to consider those aspects of the terms which it regards as of importance; and for many hon. Members it is on the individual items of those terms that their agreement or otherwise to what the Bill makes possible depends.
Amendments, therefore, or any other modality—this is becoming an "in" word in these debates—which enables the House to be seized separately of the major elements of the terms of entry is necessary to due parliamentary consideration of them.
I come to the consequences of entry. Once again, it is not seriously possible to say that because a Second Reading was given to the Bill the House has accepted, without qualification or condition, all the circumstances and consequences which flow from membership of the Community.
We do not treat any other Bill which comes before the House in this way. That is not how hon. Members opposite are treating the Housing (Finance) Bill. Nor, when this party was in opposition did we treat on that basis major Measures introduced by the Socialist Administration. We did not say at the conclusion of a Second Reading debate, "There are no longer any important matters that we 1079 can discuss. We are restricted to the nuts and bolts".
Throughout every major Bill, on the Floor of the House or in Committee upstairs, we probe all the matters which can possibly be relevant; and that means probing the large as well as the small, the principles as well as the details. It is part of the paradox of our predicament today that on this Bill, which is so much more important and far-reaching in its consequences than almost any other piece of legislation that can be conceived, we are told that the important matters which are involved cannot be discussed in the normal parliamentary way by being isolated in terms of debate, amendment and division.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Would my right hon. Friend agree that, on an ordinary Bill, wrecking Amendments are ruled out of order?
§ Mr. Powell
What is quite certain is that on an ordinary Bill, major points of principle, points which would substantially modify its operation and even, in some cases, alter its purport—I remember this happening with the first Race Relations Bill of 1965, which was altered in its entire scope in Committee—are admissible during the subsequent stages of the Bill. So we have this essential paradox, that in the one Measure to come before the House of which the result is to be that the House will no longer be able to control the whole law, the whole taxation and the whole policy of this country, we are told at the outset, "All the important matters have been removed already from your consideration."
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
May I assure my right hon. Friend that the argument he is deploying arouses response in the minds of a number of people who are very strong supporters of the Bill? We feel that these matters should be very fully discussed in the House and we sympathise with those for whom the procedural situation has caused a difficulty. But is it not a fact that there is now an atmosphere in this House that is preventing a reasonable accommodation? Would it not be possible, therefore, to get away from this conflict à outrance between those who are trying to wreck the Bill at all costs and those who are trying to get the Bill 1080 through at all costs? If we did that, could we not have an agreed timetable, when there could be very full discussion of the important issues involved in the Bill?
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend might be surprised to know that before I end my brief speech I intend to suggest that some means of bringing all these larger matters into debate and discussion is an interest not of any individual section of the House but, as he said, of all sections, and not least of the Administration. But what seems to me clear is that one cannot use to this House—at any rate, yet—the word "must". One cannot say to the House, "Such and such a thing is in an unratified treaty, and therefore the House must pass this and must not discuss that."
The House of Commons today, whatever it may be if this legislation passes, is still sovereign. The House of Commons today can still debate what it chooses to debate, irrespective of what may have been done by the Executive and may have been done elsewhere. At this stage it is vital that the House should exert its sovereignty. I want to say two things particularly to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. The first is this: the House of Commons will assuredly find a way to debate these matters. Some-how this paradox will be resolved.
§ Mr. Powell
I wish to make only a brief speech, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.
Somehow, the great matters will find their way on to the Floor of the House and will be debated and thrashed out before assent is given to the ratification of the Treaty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said in his speech last week, the House should be specially jealous of its procedure, as it is, in a sense, part of our unwritten constitution. But it is also true that the procedure of the House has great flexibility. We are not the servants of our procedure; we are the masters of our procedure. It exists to enable us to do what we need to do and to do it in the most effective way. Therefore, whatever happens to the Motion tonight—I have said that it is one which, because 1081 of its terms, I cannot support—the fact remains that it is not only intolerable but impossible that the House of Commons should part with, or that the Bill should remove from it, its own sovereignty, without the opportunity, in detail and in parliamentary fashion, to debate the terms and conditions under which it is to do so and the consequences of that act—to survey them at length and at leisure and, what is more, to make such alterations and attach such conditions as it may think fit, whatever the subsequent consequences. That is the first reflection I commend to my right hon. Friends.
The second and last reflection is this. It is at least as much in the interests of the Government as of anyone else that these matters, which are the real matters, should be fully debated here; that there should be no question of the House having been, however unintentionally, cheated of the opportunity to debate not only the nuts and bolts but the major matters, the great things which, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, the Bill is about, and to debate them in the way in which alone we can debate them—with the possibility, at any rate, of reaching an adverse decision.
From the beginning, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others have made plain what is an undeniable fact; that is, that this act of State cannot conceivably take place without the full hearted consent of this House and of the people. There is little sign so far of the full-hearted consent of the House—[Interruption.] I do not know whether 7–5 is what my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) regards as full-hearted consent. I do not know whether he regards the procedures in which we are now engaged as evidence of full-hearted consent of the House of Commons to the Measure which is before it.
§ Mr. Pardoe
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to estimate what the consent of this House would be in the ratio mentioned if there were no Whips on either side?
§ Mr. Powell
I can certainly contrast it with what might fairly have been called full-hearted consent in 1967, when the initiation of negotiations had a majority of 420. If we are quantifying what might fairly be regarded as full-hearted consent, 1082 it might be said that right hon. Gentlemen opposite had that consent to the initiation of negotiations.
More important—we all recognise this—is that it is the consent of people out of doors which is essential, and that there is no sign as yet of their full-hearted consent being available. If things continue so, the time will come when the Government will have to recognise this, and will have to say to Europe that the condition which they themselves asserted was indispensable to ratification of the Treaty—the evident consent of the British people—is not fulfilled. When that time comes, the Government will need the backing and the evidence of thorough debate in this House—not "nuts and bolts", not procedural debates, but the evidence that the people of this country have been told through Parliament the real implications of British entry and that there has been the opportunity in this House of the terms being properly debated and the consequences of entry being properly examined. It is only against the background of that kind of parliamentary debate in the coming months that the Government will be able, not with loss of strength but with gain of honour, to recognise that the people of this country have refused to them that condition which they indispensably needed for bringing Britain into the European Community.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I am convinced that it is right for this country to enter Europe, but I agree with a great deal of his criticism of the Government's stance over the Bill. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is wrong if he thinks that the only opposition to the style and format of the Bill comes from those who are dedicated opponents of entry into Europe. The Bill is a grave mistake which is bound to reflect upon the appeal of Europe to the British community, and it is on that basis that I take a stand against it. I take a stand on two grounds, one of which has been expatiated upon by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and I need deal with it only briefly.
When the Prime Minister was questioned last year about the way in which we should make our decision about 1083 Europe he stood on the ground, which I support, that the decision about a major constitutional question of this kind is for the House of Commons and not for a referendum. I deplore any change in our constitutional practice which suggests a referendum to deal with any subject, though on this of all subjects I can see there were grounds for argument. If the decision is to be made by the House of Commons it has to be made after a free, full inquiry into all the merits of the case. Only then can our people believe that the matter has been fully and vigorously debated.
If it had been known that this was not to be a party issue, and that there were to be no Whips on either side, the legislation would not have come before us in this form. It would, instead, have been a full expression of all the changes that were required to English law as a result of entry into the Community. This way has been adopted because the Government were fearful of their vote at various stages of the Bill's progression through the House. All I can say is that they have to reply upon the integrity of those who believe in Europe. If it had been necessary, I am certain that they would not have failed on any major issue in the Bill as, indeed, they have not failed to this moment.
By dealing with the matter in this way the Government have explicitly shown the nation that some of the major issues cannot be explored in detail. It is not enough for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to say that the House can vote against Clause 2 when it discusses the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", if it wishes to disagree with any of the issues involved in entry into Europe. That is not the way we deal with any other major issue. It is not enough for Liberal hon. Members to say that the Labour Party would not have introduced a 1,000-Clause Bill because it would have blocked legislation for a Session. The Transport Bill was not far off 1,000 Clauses neither was the Iron and Steel Bill. They both had to go through the machinery of the House in detail, and the Government had to be questioned about the implications of every important issue involved in them. That is our way, and that is what we should have done with this Bill in order 1084 that our people could feel that the whole issue had been vigorously explored.
Mr. Hugh Dyked (Harrow, East)
§ Mr. Lyon
I cannot give way. I want to make a short speech.
I wish to deal with the point that the Bill can only be explored in depth in a general debate. There may be many hon. Members who, in deciding whether it was desirable to go into Europe, had reservations about some of the details. Of course, the Government are in a difficulty in meeting that kind of approach. The House cannot change the law of the European Community. It cannot change the Treaty of Rome, and it cannot change the Treaty of Accession. All it can do is follow its constitutional right to change the legislation that comes before it. When the Government want to accede to a treaty which they have signed they have to decide whether they have sufficient of the domestic legislation before they can responsibly do so. The legal position is that they can re-negotiate with the Community if necessary. We know as a matter of practical politics that they would not and could not do that. This was a carefully negotiated package—a series of compromises achieved over a long period—and it would be practically impossible for them to re-negotiate on anything but the most minute detail.
The Government would therefore have to resist stoutly any Amendments in principle, but that is not unusual. The Government have come to adopt the practice of making legislation after consulting everyone except the House of Commons. They see the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. and make agreements about what ought to be done, and then they introduce the legislation. If an hon. Member criticises what is done, particularly if he criticises behind the scenes, he is told: "We cannot go back on this because we have made an agreement with the interested parties". That is a frequent answer to any criticism of the detail of a Bill and that would have been the Government's answer in this case. They would have had to rely on a majority in support of the basic principles of the Treaty. We understand that and that is what they could and should have done in order to show the people the issues had been explored.
1085 There is one other reason why we should have had a Bill in detail. To those who are affected by the changes in legislation these are matters of considerable importance. They want to know how they are affected. The average constituent does not go through the detail of HANSARD to seek out the little bits of the law that affect him. He gets the general flavour of how his interests are affected by reports of our debates in the Press. If he wants to find out more about it, and if he has the means, he can see a lawyer. How is the lawyer to advise him about changes in this Bill?
Let us take something as simple and ordinary as the minimum age for driving and the limitation on drivers' hours. We have maximum periods for driving and minimum ages for driving in English law. Apparently they are changed by Community law. In Schedule 4, paragraph 9 there are changes in the penalties which may be exacted upon drivers who are under the minimum age or have driven for more than the maximum period. But it does not say what the minimum age is and it does not say what the maximum period of hours on the road is. It simply says that where they are in violation of a Community obligation there shall be such and such a provision as to penalty. That is an appalling way to legislate.
Of course, it is true that we can go to one of those 41 volumes of Community legislation provided to all hon Members. But how many of us have read them? I cannot pretend that I have read every word.
§ Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
The relevant trade associations and trade unions are looking very closely at all the regulations and are advising their members accordingly.
§ Mr. Lyon
That is not enough. If lawyers have to advise people about the maximum periods for which they can drive and the minimum age at which they can obtain a licence they want to able to look at the relevant legislation. With experience in Europe, we shall get used to the idea of going to Community legislation. But the Government accept in Clause 2(2) that in future we shall amend our domestic legislation by delegated legislation of the House, so that the 1086 ordinary municipal lawyer can go to the delegated legislation to find out what changes there are. That is not to be the case for past legislation. The lawyer will find that he has to go back to the European Community law if he needs to find the basis of the change.
§ Mr. Powell
I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Only the future changes in response to directives will be implemented by Statutory Instruments of the Government. Where the future legislation of the Community is directly acting, that will always be in volumes like those below the Gangway.
§ Mr. Lyon
The right hon. Gentleman is right. I made a slip—an important slip, I accept. The fact is that many of the directives of the Commission and a good deal of the Community legislation are now being brought into our domestic law by the back door, and it is not good enough. The result must be that when the citizen comes up against just such a situation where the law relating to his interests has been changed without his knowledge—without his being able easily to discover how the change came about and how it affects his interests—he will feel the depth of frustration that a number of hon. Members have felt in trying to change the Bill.
It is that frustration that worries me most of all. I want us to go into Europe with full-hearted consent, with a desire by our people to make the European Community of Ten work. I want our people to feel not a sense of frustration but a sense that they are embarked upon something positive for our future—something which will be fruitful. They will not get that by the means provided in the Bill. I regret that for reasons of squalid party manoeuvre the Government ever embarked on a Bill of this kind.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover)
I was moved by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) when he persuasively suggested that the Government could depend for the passage of the Bill on the integrity of those who voted in principle for entry in October, until I recalled that they depended on the integrity of those very people on the Second Reading of the Bill, and their majority sank to eight. 1087 That is a commentary on parliamentary life today.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that there should be scheduled to the Bill all the regulations the Community has so far promulgated—all the 41 volumes that some of us obtained from the Vote Office. But even if that had been done I doubt whether, on constitutitonal precedent, it would have been open to the House to amend the regulations.
The hon. Gentleman's attack on the form of the Bill, like the attack by many other right hon. and hon. Members today and in last week's debate, seems to depend on a fundamental misconception of the constitutional position, which is authoritatively stated by Lord Atkin on behalf of the Privy Council in the well-known case of Attorney-General of Canada v. Attorney-General of Ontario. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) cited it, as did The Times in one of its leading articles today. But The Times and the hon. Gentleman—no doubt unwittingly—failed to cite the relevant passage from Lord Atkin's opinion, and I hope that the House will not think me unduly legalistic if I cite that brief passage. It is crucial to the understanding of today's debate and even last Wednesday's debate. He said:Within the British Empire there is a well-established rule that the making of a treaty is an executive act, while the performance of its obligations, if they entail alteration of the existing domestic law, requires legislative action. Unlike some other countries, the stipulations of a treaty duly ratified do not within the Empire, by virtue of the treaty alone, have the force of law.It follows that constitutional precedent does not require the Government to submit the Treaty of Accession to the Common Market to this House for ratification.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones), in a coruscating speech last week, was on the point of suggesting that the Bill was a Bill to ratify the Treaty, but then, being a good lawyer, he felt unable to go quite so far, but dressed his observations up in this way, saying, "It is semantic nonsense not to describe this as a Bill to approve the Treaty of Accession". Semantic nonsense or not, the burden of his attack and of the attacks 1088 of his right hon. and hon. Friends is that it should be a Bill to ratify the Treaty. As Lord Atkin and every respectable constitutional precedent have established, that is not a prerequisite demanded of the House.
We see in the precedents that no such obligation is imposed on the Government. The Act of Union with Scotland or the Act of Union with Ireland may be referred to, but neither of them was an Act to ratify a treaty. They were Acts to set up a unitary State where two separate States had previously existed. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) always refers wistfully to the Bill of 1,000 Clauses that his Government would have introduced. I ask him to look at those two Acts of Union, which went far further than the Bill, because they set up a unitary State. Both are shorter than the Bill with which we are confronted.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman also aware that in both Parliament claimed the right—and Amendments were accepted—to alter, cancel and vary every single paragraph of the treaty?
§ Mr. Rees
I am well aware of that but, as I have tried to demonstrate—perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman did not grasp my point—they were asked to set up a unitary State, not to adjust the law of our country to the obligations accepted under a treaty.
I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman will also refer to the Bill to implement the Irish so-called Treaty of 1922. I was jostling with him in the Library to acquire the HANSARD for those years also.
§ Mr. Paget
The opening words of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act are:The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of passing.How that differs from this, I do not know.
§ Mr. Rees
The debate is rapidly degenerating into a dialogue between the hon. and learned Gentleman and me. The hon. and learned Gentleman is too good a lawyer not to know that the Irish Free State had no separate independent 1089 constitutional existence at that time. It is in the strictest sense a misuse of language to refer to that as a Bill to implement a treaty. The very point was raised, and the Attorney-General of the day, Sir Gordon Hewart, was asked if the agreement could be regarded as a treaty as there was then no independent State in existence with which the British Government could negotiate. So again that Bill is no real precedent for this Bill.
Now let us move on to the Bill to implement the Ottawa Convention in 1932, because again I can see the authorities all reposing at the hon. Gentleman's feet. That Bill is a much closer precedent and, indeed, provides a very respectable precedent for the Government's action in this particular case. Admittedly there are scheduled to the Bill the various agreements reached at Ottawa. It was held that they were scheduled for convenience only, and indeed the Chairman of Ways and Means was pressed on this point and said he would not admit Amendments to those Schedules. So even had the terms negotiated by my right hon. and learned Friend been scheduled and attached to this Bill, I submit that the Chairman of Ways and Means would not have been right to have permitted Amendments to those Schedules. The Bill amending the Ottawa Convention provides the most respectable precedent for what the Government are doing today.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has said that it may be that our rules are defective in this respect because they do not permit of proper debate on all the details of the agreements negotiated in Brussels. As I understood his very cogent and, as always, most lucid speech, that was the conclusion he reached, and he said he hoped some means would be found of enabling the House to debate all the details of the agreements reached in Brussels. If our rules are defective, should they be amended so as to permit this House to get involved in the detailed process of negotiation? That is something that the House has never claimed it should do. We should consider carefully the practical consequences of such involvement. Let us take it in the context of this very agreement.
1090 My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would no doubt have begun the process of negotiating a tentative treaty. Then he would have returned to this House and that Bill would have been produced, scheduling the treaty, and the House would have been asked to debate and amend that Bill in great detail. Supposing the Government had not been able to carry the substantial Clauses of that Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend would have had to return to Brussels and negotiate a second treaty. Then he would have had to come back to this House and submit yet another Bill. And so the process would have gone on ad infinitum.
That is why our ancestors, in their wisdom, decided that the treaty-making process was a prerogative of the Crown. We may regret this, but we can see the practical basis for it. Both the formation and the ratification of treaties is the prerogative of the Crown and so of the Executive. In any event, in this case, we have approved the principle of entry, and approved the principle of the legislative changes necessary to adjust our law to the obligations which we hope the Government will assume when ratifying the treaty. It is now our duty merely to consider whether the legislative changes proposed would give it effect in the most suitable way, and I cannot see that anything more is either desirable or necessary.
Much play has been made, in the course of the various debates on this issue about the authority of Parliament. I hope that I, as a relative newcomer, am as jealous of the authority and prerogative of Parliament as any Member of this House. I do not think, however, that it assists to claim for Parliament prerogatives that it has never so far claimed or possessed, particularly when such claims are clearly advanced to frustrate the expressed will of the majority. Nor, indeed, do I think that the authority and prestige of Parliament will be maintained if we support such a course. The authority and prestige of Parliament can just as surely be destroyed by specious constitutional claims, by the abuse of its procedure and by the failure to follow its rules as it may be by violence on the Floor of this House.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
The hon. Gentleman has been kind 1091 enough to indicate that I may put a question to him on this point. Is he contending that in so far as proposals in treaties amend our law Parliament is powerless to amend any of those proposals or to reject them if need be? Is that the doctrine for Parliament that he is propounding?
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) said quite modestly that he was speaking as a very new Member but that we are all none the less to accept that he is as jealous of the reputation of this House as any other hon. Member, and he did not try to make a virtue of the fact that he has not been in the House a long time. But that did not entitle him to mis-state the facts of the debates which have been held so far. There has been no obstruction of the House, and the hon. and learned Gentleman must be very careful before he implies that the Chair has been allowing obstruction to take place. The Chair is on record as saying again and again at every stage in the debates so far, against points raised by his hon. Friends in equal ignorance, that what has happened is in agreement with the rules and the Standing Orders of the House and its Committees. Therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot plead either long or recent membership in making misstatements of that kind.
What has been seen so far is a serious desire of many hon. and right hon. Members to protect the rights of the House of Commons. That is the position, and this is shown today, for instance, in the special article on the turnover page in The Times this morning where, at the 1092 end of the article, the author asserts that this indeed has been a very serious kind of battle, because if the House of Commons were to accept the Government's interpretation of these proceedings it would mean a serious diminishing of the House of Commons in relation to the Executive.
I submit that there can be no more serious matter as far as Members of this House are concerned than to watch over the power relationship between the Executive and the legislature. This is the point to which I wish to address myself.
This Motion deals with two very limited points, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) addressed himself the other day to these matters. I hope that if he wishes to speak and is called we may have further observations from him on this matter, because he at least has debated this matter as it should be debated, trying to defend the attitude of his Administration instead of being evasive. Such debate is useful and necessary.
I would advance the following proposition, which forms the basis of these debates: that the sense of the constitution is the basis of our procedure and that all our procedure must be judged against the sense of the constitution; that no procedure is eternal but that procedure is subject to review against the background of the sense of the constitution. What we are saying today—in my submission with complete justification—is that the Government are acting in a way that is doing injury to the sense of the constitution and, in practice, preventing the people from observing their Members of Parliament at work trying to amend the most serious portions of the legislation the Government have put before the House of Commons. That is the true position and there is nothing in this which has anything to do, even remotely, with the opposition in principle to a particular policy. These things are genuinely separate.
Supposing that the last Conservative Government, in which the present Prime Minister was the equivalent of Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, in putting forward, for example, the Resale Prices Bill, had said to the House, "Because the House has voted by a 1093 majority of 112 for the Bill, it is within the sense of the British constitution that hon. Members should not be able to move Amendments to exempt from its operation certain industries." Everyone of us would immediately have said that the Government were bending the constitution. But, of course, they did no such thing.
What alarms me most in showing that we are already far advanced on the slippery slope of bending the constitution is the continued reiteration by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—not the Financial Secretary, who was not guilty of this at any time—that of course we can reject the Clauses or the Bill. He says that as if it had ever been questioned as a reasonable argument in this of all Parliaments that one is in full possession of the constitutional power of the House of Commons in its traditional form to reject Clauses or reject a Bill. That is propagandistic nonsense, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman should remove from his thesis. He has increased our suspicions by using that kind of argument.
But there is a genuine case which has to be met. It was much advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Northwich—much more so than by anyone on the Treasury Bench so far. The Prime Minister has not recently taken part in these debates, and we do not know what his case would be. But the serious case we have to meet is that, given we have involved here a treaty, which involves other parties, and given that the other parties are not just one power but a group of powers who have agreed in the past on certain policies and regulations, how is the agreed constitutional claim of the House of Commons, which no one has contested—that the Clauses of the Bill which are to fall, in some cases heavily, upon the shoulders of individual citizens of the United Kingdom and which will fall in such a way as to change important legislation that has been operative hitherto, that the House must be able to amend and pass judgment in detail on these new obligations, to be combined with the doctrine held at the same time that a treaty in itself is not subject to amendment within the powers of the House?
Again, the answer is different from that given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. My answer is that, given that 1094 these are the claims for the rights and powers of the House of Commons, there is only one possible solution which is both practical and does not offend against the sense of the constitution. It is to treat every part of the Bill which introduces these new obligations upon our citizens, either individually or as groups, in Clauses that must be made amendable in the process of legislation to this House. The constitutional obligation on the Government, if one accepts that submission, is to draft the Bill in such a way as to make this possible.
What we are discussing today is the conduct of the Government. I interrupted the right hon. and learned Gentleman to ask him what instructions he had given to the Parliamentary draftsmen. I submit that it is the function of the Government, if they accept my proposition as good constitutional sense, so to draft the Bill that such Amendments become possible. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who is not here at present, made a useful point when he said that we must try to get away, for the purpose of past legislation, from à outrance, as he put it—he introduced the French language, I did not. If one accepts the spirit of that observation, the only way is for the Government to find a way of making the Bill in such a form that its major portions become subject to amendment.
The Government should either withdraw the Bill and after a short interval reintroduce it in this form, or, as a first step, give an undertaking today that they are prepared to reconsider the form of the Bill. I say this in response to the point made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford. But if they do not do this, it is clear that they have drafted the Bill so that its major portions are not subject to amendment. This brings in the Solicitor-General's assurance. Whatever view one takes about his assurance, and however, limited that assurance is held to have been, it is obvious that if it applied to the Resolution we were then discussing it is bound to apply to other portions of the Bill. Obviously, if the House binds citizens of the United Kingdom to certain policies and regulations that have already been decided, without a review of those policies and regulations in detail, it is abandoning legislative power not only for the future but for the past as well.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
Would my hon. Friend accept that this is the first Bill within his knowledge which changes the detailed law of this country without there being express words to that effect in the Bill?
§ Mr. Mendelson
Absolutely. I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray). I hope that we shall be hearing from him in the debate. To my knowledge, no Bill has previously been put forward in Parliament which might invalidate past legislation without the House of Commons being given an opportunity to pronounce upon that. The importance of that can easily be seen because otherwise not only would the principle of "no taxation without representation" become inoperative; equally inoperative would be the principle that there cannot be any binding obligations upon the citizens of the United Kingdom unless their Parliament has agreed to such changes in operation.
This is of great importance at the present time and it will be of even greater importance in the future. We are being asked to accept commitments for the future. The Government argue that of course Parliament has nothing to worry about because, before any decisions are made, either by the Commission or by the Council of Ministers in the future, the Government themselves agree that ways and means should be found to make it possible for the House to give an opinion of such future legislation in the Community applying to citizens of the United Kingdom before our Ministers take up an attitude in the Council of Ministers. If that is their view, surely it destroys their argument for putting the Bill to the House in this form? It is not my job now to examine whether the precise proposals being made by the Government are the right ones, but if they say that there is a case to be met for the future, surely they must admit that there is a case to be met for the past and for the immediate present?
I cannot see how, without offending against the sense of the British constitution, the Government can answer the charge that by introducing a Bill which makes it impossible to amend the incidence of the law upon individuals, or groups of citizens, they are not living up 1096 to their proclaimed intentions for the future.
The only way in which this genuine and serious dilemma can be resolved, and the accusations of propaganda, violent talk and obstruction that we heard about earlier disposed of, is by the Government saying tonight that they accept that there is a real problem and are prepared to reconsider the form of the Bill. They should say that they are prepared to discuss such an arrangement, and not have it laid down for them by someone else.
If the Government do not give any such indication, but go on, as the Leader of the House and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster have done, brazening their way through these debates, our suspicions will be confirmed, and we shall do right to censure them in order to show the country that they are bending the constitution and offending against the spirit of the procedures of the House of Commons.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
I doubt whether any fair-minded observer of the procedures and debates in the House of Commons over the last eight days would agree with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) when he says that there has been no obstruction in the course which the Opposition have taken with regard to the European Communities legislation. Not only has there been obstruction, but there has been an attempt to delay our procedure and our proceedings on the European Communities Bill, first, by 11 hours of points of order, then by an attempt to censure the Chairman of Ways and Means, and now by an attempt to censure the Government—all founded on two complete fallacies about this legislation and the legal basis of what the House is doing.
On the second matter I find myself in complete agreement with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) who, as so often happens in debate, made many of the points about the constitutional position which I, not surprisingly, perhaps, had come prepared to make. I find myself in complete agreement with him, and the position that he set out is beyond argument.
1097 My hon. and learned Friend said that the present constitutional position which makes the signature and ratification of treaties a prerogative act, whereas changes in our law have to have the sanction of Parliament, was by a decision of our ancestors. I join issue with my hon. and learned Friend because, in my view, it is the result of the long processes of the history of our country. That that is so there can be no doubt at all, but it is something which is not always understood abroad.
In November I was in Vienna at the European Conference on Human Rights, and I heard an eminent judge of the Common Market Court express surprise that by adhering to treaties, signing them or ratifying them, the people of this country did not, under their own laws at home, become bound by them, and I took him on one side and tried to explain the constitutional position in this country.
My hon. and learned Friend quoted from Lord Atkin giving the opinion of the Privy Council in the classic case of Attorney-General for Canada v. Attorney-General for Ontario, and I should like to make one brief quotation from that case myself. My hon. and learned Friend cited a passage before the one quoted in the interesting article in The Times this morning. I propose to quote a passage immediately following it:Parliament, no doubt, as the Chief Justice points out, has a constitutional control over the executive: but it cannot be disputed that the creation of the obligations undertaken in treaties and the assent to their form and quality are the function of the executive alone. Once they are created, while they bind the State as against the other contracting parties, Parliament may refuse to perform them and so leave the State in default.If Parliament were to refuse to pass any part of this legislation, if it were to make Amendments to the European Communities Bill which were wrecking Amendments so that it went behind the treaty into which Her Majesty's Government have entered, the Government would be in default. On the Bill which the Government have presented to Parliament, it is still within the power of Parliament to do that. The complaint on the other side of the House is that because of the form of the Bill, the Chairman of Ways and Means, whom the Opposition censured last week for his selection of Amendments, was obliged to rule as he did and thereby exclude dis- 1098 cussion of Amendments designed to change the substance of the treaty into which we have entered.
There is a contradiction between the two Motions of censure. If the foundation of last week's Motion of censure was correct—and the House judged that it was not—then the foundation of today's Motion is incorrect. There is a basic fallacy. Last week it was as if, irritated by the timetable of a train, the passegers set out to shoot the engine-driver who had nothing to do with the time-tabling of the train. Today they are seeking to shoot the editors of Bradshaw.
§ Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood the purpose of last week's censure Motion. It was not that the Bill was couched in such a way that the Chair, in the person of the Chairman of Ways and Means, had no choice but to do as it did. We criticised the right hon. Gentleman for the exercise of his discretion.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I was submitting, which is that if the Opposition are right in criticising the Government today, they were wrong in criticising the Chairman of Ways and Means last week, and vice versa.
The position, surely, is that if the Chairman of Ways and Means was right—as I submit he was—and it is not open to the House in this legislation to making Amendments which are wrecking Amendments, that would be so whether the Government had introduced a one-Clause Bill, a 10-Clause Bill, a 100-Clause Bill or a 1,000-Clause Bill, because the principle on which Amendments would have been selected would have been the same, however long the Bill, and failure to appreciate that is the basic fallacy of nearly all the speeches from the other side of the House this afternoon.
Let us for a moment consider what would have happened if this had been a 1,000-Clause Bill, a Bill introducing regulation after regulation to which Government had acceded—as accede they must—in acceding to the European Communities. The Chairman of Ways and Means would have been obliged to apply precisely the same criteria to Amendments to each Clause as were applied in considering the Amendments to this 1099 legislation. What we have avoided by not having a 1,000-Clause Bill is 1,000 "Clause stand part" debates.
There is nothing that could be said in a thousand debates on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" that cannot be said in debates on the same Question with the Bill as it stands. No ruling of the Chair can exclude debates on "Clause stand part", and it is a well-known rule of the House that while there cannot be a positive wrecking Amendment there is no objection to a negative wrecking amendment—something which leaves out a Clause even though that may wreck the Bill.
The truth of the matter is that hon. Gentlemen opposite are seeking by their point of order the other night and these Motions of censure and by the substance of the charge they bring against the Government today to go back on the overwhelming vote of this House last October when we decided in principle to accede to the Treaty of Rome.
I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite and on this side of the House that perhaps no more important Bill has ever come before the House, certainly not for many years, perhaps since the Act of Union with Scotland. Important as it is, there has been no Bill for which greater time has been allowed. There were two days in January last year, four days in July, six days in October——
§ Mr. Grieve
Not on the Bill but on the principle of accession. Everyone ought to have known, if they had done their homework, that by acceding to the Treaty of Rome they were accepting the regulations and that that was implicit in our doing so, as the Leader of the Opposition said in a speech as long ago as 1967 since when he has been charged, not alone by the Liberal Party, with standing on his head.
Everyone knows that we had three days of debate on Second Reading, and no doubt we shall have long and interesting debates—if they are not made merely the cause of further acts of obstruction—upon each Clause and particularly upon the Question that Clause 2 stand part of the Bill. The truth is that hon. Members opposite who are against our adhesion to the European Community 1100 would be more properly engaged in censuring not the Chair for its choice of Amendments, not the Government for the form of the Bill but their own colleagues who are in favour of adhering to the Treaty of Rome and Parliament itself for having made the decision.
Once the decision has been made then whether this was a long or a short Bill the principle concerning Amendments would have been the same and the constitutional principle which rules this debate with regard to the distinction between treaty-making powers and legislation affecting our law would have been the same.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray
The hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned several times the possibility of unlimited debates on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". On which such debate does he suggest we should discuss the directly enforceable provisions of Article 12 of the Treaty, Article 85, Article 212 or Article 177?
§ Mr. Grieve
The word "unlimited" was not mine but that which the hon. and learned Gentleman seeks to put into my mouth. Heaven forbid that the debate should be unlimited. I trust that there are those who will see to it that it will not be. I share the views of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) that the time may come when our debates will have to be limited in the interests of getting this vital piece of legislation through in the national interest——
§ Mr. Stainton
There is a real point here. My hon. and learned Friend is making much of debates that Clauses should stand part of the Bill, but the precedent in Committee is that the Chair is quite entitled to accept a Motion for the Closure after about an hour and a half of debate.
§ Mr. Grieve
I should like to see the scene in Committee if the Chair tried to do that after an hour and a half of debate on the Question that Clause 2 should stand part of the Bill. I think that my hon. Friend, approaching this matter with common sense, will see, while I am not seeking to act as a prophet and say how long we shall debate these various Clauses—we shall have a long and important debate.
1101 For those reasons I suggest that this Motion of censure is completely misconceived. Those among us who said that as a late-comer to the European Community it was always impossible for Great Britain substantially to amend treaties which had been drawn up between other countries and enforced over several years are right, and the sooner we get on with the business of passing this legislation the better.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I will not deal with the legal aspects raised by the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve). These have been amply dealt with. Nor do I need to touch on the point about the outrage being done to the House and its procedures as this was amply covered by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). On many occasions in this House when questions have been put about the effect on our national life and economy as a result of entry into the Common Market assurances have been given that all of these things would be fully thrashed out before the Treaty of Accession was signed and ratified.
The Chancellor of the Duchy prefaces his remarks—and this is a habit common to the Treasury Bench—by saying, "Let me make it absolutely clear." There then follows a statement which is nothing but waffle, evasion and smoke-screen. This has been the trend throughout these debates. Because of the narrowness of the vote in this House, it is more than ever essential that the whole matter be debated and subjected to the most rigorous examination. This is what will show the people whether we should enter the E.E.C. If we do not do this the country will be railroaded into joining. In his recent broadcast the Prime Minister said that the Government are just a group of people elected to do what the majority of us wants to see done. The majority of us do not want to go into the Common Market. This is bringing democracy as well as the House of Commons into disrepute.
I turn now to deal with the status of Scotland under the Treaty of Union which has been brushed aside on previous occasions. Article XVIII says:… no alteration be made in Laws which concern private right, except for evident utility of the subjects within Scotland.1102 Lawyers might have an answer to that but I have not yet heard it. It is essential that the Lord Advocate or the English Law Officers should come to the House to tell us why that should not stand. There was nothing in the treaty which allowed further expansion of the two countries which became the United Kingdom. The Government owe it to the House to make it quite clear how they can proceed with entry to the E.E.C. despite the Treaty of Union.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
Another important point on which the hon. Member might agree is that the Acts of Union were fully debated in both Parliaments and again in the joint Parliament and subject to amendment on every section, including the treaties.
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, the hon. Member is absolutely right on that point. Because of the opposition in the country and the narrow division in the House, it is all the more essential that the Clauses and the implications should be fully and frankly debated and rigorously examined before the Government proceed.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Sir John Foster (Northwich)
The subject of the censure Motion is much narrower than was suggested by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart). The Motion starts by criticising the framing of the Bill. I emphasise what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), that, however long, the Bill which sought to make the legislation of this country comply with the treaties which had been signed——
§ Sir J. Foster
I did not say "ratified"—would have been in the same form and subject to the same rules of order. We can start from there.
If we are criticising the Government, we have to criticise them in the sense in which the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) did. He gave us his conception of the constitutiton. I do not agree with it, but let us assume that he is right. He then said that, if the rules of order prevented the proper discussion of the Bill, the Bill should have been framed in a different way. Had that been done, the Bill would not have been a Bill to make the legislation of this 1103 country comply with the Treaty of Rome; it would have been quite a different Bill.
I do not think that the hon. Member for Penistone will accept it, but logically he should not vote in favour of the censure Motion. He is censuring the Government for not changing the entire procedure of legislation to enforce treaties. He is saying that the Government should have seen that the normal legislation procedure for enforcing a treaty was not the right way and should have brought in a different Bill——
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I go much further than that. I have followed the history of the preparation of this legislation. At one time the Government considered introducing two Bills, one Bill allowing this country to adhere to the treaty, and another Bill containing many Clauses and so drafted that Amendments could be moved. On the advice of the Solicitor-General, the Government abandoned that plan and introduced this Bill.
§ Sir J. Foster
I am at issue with the hon. Gentleman. It is not possible to do what he says. To be logical he should censure the Government for not looking ahead and deciding to introduce a different Bill. That is not a ground for censuring the Government.
Much of the criticism of the Bill has been based on a distinction between discussion and amendment. That is a false distinction within the framework of the Bill. If we were to amend any part of the Bill which is essential to the treaty, the treaty falls, so the effect would be exactly as if we knocked out a Clause.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) said that all the details of the Treaty of Rome, and all the regulations and directives under it, should have been included in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, that is unrealistic. It would mean that 42 volumes would have to be set out in different Clauses in the Bill. That is impossible and unrealistic, and it would take nine or ten years to discuss such a Bill.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, the only method by which we can discuss the way the legislation impinges on the individual in this country is to do so on the Question, "That the Clause stand 1104 part of the Bill." If Amendments were to be carried, the effect would be that we should not go into the Community. The same objective can be achieved by discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." There has been a good deal of confusion between discussion by amendment and discussion generally, but this is not a real distinction.
It has been said that we have never before been faced with procedure whereby individual Amendments cannot be discussed. They cannot be discussed because the treaty-making power involves the Executive in coming to a detailed agreement on thousands of subjects, and there is no method by which those thousands of subjects can be individually discussed.
§ Sir J. Foster
I must not give way. I was chided for giving way 12 times in my last speech, and I do not want to be chided again. I did so deliberately on that occasion because I thought the Motion of censure was so misconceived that a general debate was right. On this occasion I want to make a connected argument and do not wish to be led into side issues or to have to repeat what I am saying on a particular point when challenged by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The hon. Member for York is suggesting something that is unrealistic and impossible within the rules of order. I cannot see any way of embodying 42 volumes into separate Clauses and coming to any sensible result.
When the House agreed to accede to the Treaty of Rome it agreed to accept the legislation of the Treaty of Rome and it agreed that if the legislation of the Treaty of Rome was in any way changed we should not go into the Community. Because we were late-comers we had to take a big swallow. I was in favour of our entry into the Community on the first opportunity, and we are now reaping the disadvantages of not having entered then.
Secondly, the Government are being censured for framing the Bill in the way 1105 they have; but there is no other way of framing the Bill.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
If that is so, why in June and July of last year did the Chancellor of the Duchy give a definite pledge and promise to me and to the House that that would be done?
§ Sir J. Foster
I am leaving the Government to defend themselves on pledges. I thought my right hon. and learned Friend did so very well.
I have always maintained in speeches here, and on the radio four or five weeks before I knew what the Bill would contain, that any Amendments which sought to alter the treaty would be wrecking Amendments and therefore out of order. This leads me to an interjection made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray). On any treaties which have sought to amend the law of England in detail the discussion has always been on Statutory Rules and Orders. There would be no difficulty here in having a succession of Statutory Rules and Orders. We could have just as lengthy a discussion and just as few or as many Amendments on one Clause as on 12 or 1,000 Clauses. We could have had three months or even six months on a one-Clause Bill.
I submit that the censure Motion is misconceived because the Government needed to frame the Bill in the ordinary way in which treaty legislation is brought into force. I submit that it was clear before the Bill was framed that, whatever form it took, it would be subject to the rules of procedure and that Amendments which sought to change the legislation would be ruled out of order. It did not surprise me a bit, because one is not surprised when something one thinks will happen does happen.
I thought that the hon. Member for Penistone, was not his usual ebullient self; he maintained a very tight legal argument. He began by saying that the constitution meant on an important matter like this that one had to debate every item. He added that if the rules of order prevented it, Parliament should get together and devise something to allow this to be done. This was also suggested by several other hon. Members.
I answer that suggestion by saying that I do not think it will happen because 1106 the same result will be obtained by debates on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". I do not agree with the leading article in The Timestoday that, because Parliament is not able to discuss the details on amendment, therefore the position of Parliament vis-à-vis the Executive has been weakened. That is a non sequitur, and it was also a non sequitur on the part of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. It does not help to discuss on amendment individual points when one knows that, if the Amendment is carried, the whole of the treaty falls and the whole Bill falls.
I do not think that is a legitimate point to say that Parliament has been stifled and that the rights of democracy are not being allowed. The right to discuss an Amendment is only where the Bill can be swung one way or the other and still remain a Bill. In this case, the knocking out of a Clause or the adoption of an Amendment which seeks to change the legislation will have exactly the same effect.
§ Mr. Powell
Is my hon. and learned Friend arguing that debates on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" ought not to be admissible on a Bill of this kind?
§ Sir J. Foster
No. I am only arguing that the admissibility of argument on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", fulfils exactly the same function as debates on Amendments which, if carried, would mean the end of the Bill. I know that my right hon. Friend has argued that Parliament has the right to discuss in detail. I agree with that, but he went beyond that with a non sequitur. He said the only way to get a full and free discussion is by the method of amendment, and the same point is made in The Times leading article. I am not convinced by it since it does not seem to me to follow.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite want a full discussion, but then go on to say, "But we cannot have a full discussion unless we have the right of amendment." As I see it that does not follow. It is easy to deceive people with this argument. They read The Times and say, "This is terrible. Parliament is being stifled and the rights of the people are being denied. Why are they being denied? It is because 1107 the Bill cannot be amended in Parliament." One must answer that by saying that if the Bill is amended, that is the end of the Bill.
For these reasons, I feel that hon. Gentlemen opposite have an intellectually honest argument in saying that there should he opportunities to discuss every single bit of the 42 volumes, though I do not think that is realistic because it would take 10 years. However, their argument is not intellectually right when they say they cannot discuss this Bill, that Parliament has lost its sovereignty, and that the Executive is getting more powerful just because they do not have the right of amendment.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Paget (Northampton)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster), who is a very old friend of mine, will not feel that I am patronising him if I say that I thought he was much better last week than he has been today. Last week he was assisted by more interventions. Today, he seemed to be drifting a little loosely in the air and his balloon was punctured by his right hon. Friend.
The argument which achieved the most clarity was that contained in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Rees) and, since it achieved that clarity, it is perhaps the easier to refute because one has something to aim at.
There has been much confusion of mind on the question of treaties and Parliament's position in relation to them. As I understand it, the treaty-making power belongs to the Queen in council—that is, the Government. The legislative power belongs to the Queen in Parliament—that is, in practice, those of us here in Parliament. Those two powers are kept rigidly separate and are not allowed to impinge on each other. The Government can make any treaty they like. With the possible exception of the cession of territories, they require no parliamentary ratification at all. But, equally, they cannot use that treaty-making power to inhibit the legislative function of Parliament. This is what people do not seem to have realised. Once the Government go to Parliament and say either, "Make new laws so that we can implement our 1108 treaty" or, "Make this treaty part of our law", then because we are asked to legislate, we can change, we can refuse, or we can amend as we choose.
The hon. and learned Gentleman sought to draw a distinction between a treaty with a sovereign State and an agreement or treaty, as it has been called, with a State which had yet to come into being, or an agreement with any other body. There is no distinction whatever. The paragraph in the eighteenth edition of "Erskine May" which deals with this matter, on page 511, does so under the heading "Bills to confirm agreements." The agreement can be with one country, with a number of countries, with a country coming into being, with the T.U.C., or with the Church Council. Indeed, one of the leading authorities concerned an Act that was passed by this House to give powers to the Church Council and its constitution, pointing out that since the constitution was simply included for reference purposes the House could not amend the constitution. It could only amend the legislative powers to be given to it.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Since the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to my argument and to my reference to the Bill in 1922 to give effect to the so-called treaty with the so-called Irish Government, perhaps he will explain this matter, or enlarge upon it. As I understand it, the Bill in 1922 was necessary to give a constitution to the southern part of Ireland, which was then still subject to the sovereignty of this Parliament and to our Sovereign. In other words, it inevitably involved a legislative enactment here. That was the point of distinction that I was seeking to make, and that is why the hon. and learned Gentleman should not use that Act as a precedent for this Bill.
§ Mr. Paget
It would not have mattered whether it had been with the Church Council or the inchoate Government. If it involved the cessation of Ireland, it could have been done by treaty. If the hon. and learned Gentleman refers to Dicey, he will find that the prerogative powers of the King include the power to cede Kent to a European nation without reference to Parliament. That is the extent to which this distinction is drawn. I am not suggesting that it would happen, but it is clear that we here are concerned 1109 simply with an agreement entered into by the Government. It does not matter who it is. That agreement in no way inhibits the rights of Parliament to legislate.
There are two methods which Governments can adopt when they wish for legislative action in order to perform agreements into which they have entered. Again I emphasise the word "agreements"; it does not matter whether they are treaties, or whether they are agreements with bodies like the T.U.C. or the Confederation of British Industries. The word is "agreements".
First, the Government can set out the legislative changes that they want. For example, the Ottawa Agreements were to impose certain tariffs. The Bill set out a number of paragraphs, including those tariffs. Then it put the agreements into a Schedule. Parliament could not alter that Schedule because the agreements were not made part of our law; they were simply there for reference.
In the course of the Committee stage of the Ottawa Agreements Bill. Sir Herbert Samuel raised a question of an Instruction and said:This Bill embodies a series of Agreements or Treaties scheduled to the Bill, together with a number of Clauses imposing taxation and making other legislative provisions … Is Parliament, then, free to make Amendments in the Clauses which would render those Clauses inconsistent with the terms of the Schedules?After a considerable amount of argument, the answer from the Chairman was that it was. In the course of his remarks, he said:Hon. Members will notice that Parliament is not asked by this Bill to adopt the Agreements or to sanction the Agreements. Parliament is invited, in the terms used in the Agreements, 'to pass certain legislation in fulfilment of these Agreements'. … There are of course many precedents for legislation in which agreements are scheduled to a Bill and not necessarily adopted by that Bill. They are scheduled merely for purposes of convenience, as is the case here."—[OFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1932; Vol. 269, c. 1330–2.]It was clear that Parliament, by dealing with the legislative Clauses, was either altering the period of the tariffs or the amount of the tariffs. Although those Amendments were in breach of the Clauses to the Agreements, those were Amendments which were accepted and which were entitled to be made. But that is not really the position here.
1110 Here, the other course is adopted. The Government are not merely making the legislative changes and then scheduling the Clauses. What is being done here is to take an agreement and make it part of our law. That is what was done in the case of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill which began:(1) The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act.That is almost exactly what happens in Clause 2 of this Bill, which says that the treaties are, without further enactment, to be given legal effect as law. That seems to be precisely the same method as that adopted in the Irish case. It makes those treaties, by reference, part of our law. It is true that the Government have not put them in a Schedule. They simply refer to them en bloc. I do not think that that has ever happened before. But whether there is a Schedule there or merely a reference to 42 volumes, the translation of which I do not think has been at any point agreed or given official form, the principle is the same. They are made part of the law of England.
I do not understand all the talk that we have had about their being approved by this Bill. How more heartily one approves a treaty than by making it part of the law, I cannot conceive. "Approve" is a word which happens to have been used in some authority. I think that it was the Ottawa case to which I referred. But it means no more than that it is made part of our law by Parliament; it is taken from the treaty and brought into legislation. In the process of bringing it into legislation, at all points it is amendable.
If one refers to the Irish Treaty, which seems to be the right one, one finds that an Amendment was moved to the first Clause by Sir Frederick Banbury. He wanted to exclude Article 44 of the Treaty. That Article said:The Oireachtas may create subordinate Legislatures with such powers as may be decided by law.The Attorney-General, the father of the present Lord Chancellor, said:I want to say at once, if I may, to the Committee that it would be impossible for His Majesty's Government to accept any Amendment which altered the Constitution1111as passed by the Irish Parliament. The reason why it is impossible to accept an Amendment which alters the Constitution is because our obligation is to pass, before the 6th December, the Constitution as passed by the Irish Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1922; Vol. 159, c. 539.]That was a perfectly good argument for rejecting the Amendment, but it did not make it out of order, nor did it make another 20 or 30 similar Amendments out of order, all of which Parliament discussed.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
I suggest that a quite different and more exact use of the word "approval" will be found in the 1919 statutes. That volume contains two Measures, one to approve the Treaty of Versailles and the other to approve the Anglo-French Alliance, both of which give a more exact and proper use of the word.
§ Mr. Paget
If they approve more effectively than the Irish Acts, which opened with words to the effect that the Act should have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act, I shall be surprised. How can Parliament approve more heartily than that? I can see the argument that mere approval is not sufficient to make it part of our law; that it is something less. But it is not conceivable that it is something more. This is approval and approval plus. We do not make things part of our law of which at least the majority of us do not approve. That is the whole point.
Therefore, I feel that we are landed with a wrong decision taken by the Chairman of Ways and Means. It is not his fault, because he has to take the advice of his Clerks. Our procedure is wrong We have to take one of the most vital decisions with which this House will ever be faced, and, by a decision taken without argument behind the scenes by two gentlemen who advise the Clerk of the House, we are precluded from discussing in detail the various proposals which are being put before the House.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful and happy that the hon. and learned Gentleman should give way to me, because I consider him an old friend, although he sits on the opposite side of the House. Does he agree that if what he has just said is right, and that he is right in submitting that the Chair was wrong last week, it 1112 would be quite wrong for him to support this Motion of censure on the Government today?
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. and learned Gentleman, as so often happens, is just one sentence in front of me. I was about to come to that point. The Motion states:That this House condemns the action of Her Majesty's Government in framing its European Communities Bill with the intention of removing the possibility of substantial amendment.I must express my difference from the Motion. I do not think that the Government framed the Bill in that way at all. I think that they were every bit as surprised as I was. I do not suggest that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was particularly surprised, because he was so muddled about the whole thing that he just did not seem to gather what the issue was. However, I am certain that the Solicitor-General was every bit as astonished by the decision as I was—and as was every other lawyer with whom I have discussed the matter. I except the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees).
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is coming very near to criticising the decision of the Chair again. That should not be done, except in passing reference.
§ Mr. Paget
I respectfully agree that I was coming very near to criticising the decision of the Chair. However, this is where we are in a mess.
Whilst I cannot support the first part of the Motion, because I do not think that it is so—I say this very much to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—I think that the Government are deserving of censure for seizing upon that which they know to be an error to deny us the right to consider in detail all the agreements which have been made. After all, we did not know the terms of the fisheries agreement; we did not know the precise terms of the New Zealand agreements, or of the sugar agreements. It came as a great surprise to New Zealand that the unanimity rule worked in the opposite manner to that which they had thought.
1113 We are denied the opportunity of dealing with all these great and vitally important matters, not because the Solicitor-General intended to deny us that opportunity but because, having found by chance that this interpretation could be put upon the matter, he seized upon that mistake to frustrate Parliament. That is irresponsible and bad government, and it is a very wrong thing to do. As such I certainly believe that the Government are deserving of censure.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I will not comment on what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said in his legal argument because he has put it so clearly. I think that he has put forward an unanswerable case.
I want to look at the matter from the point of view of Parliament. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have put down an Amendment to the Motion which I think the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, on his own argument, could support.
§ Sir Robin Turton
We do not believe that the Government have been guilty of any breach of faith, gross or otherwise; we believe that they have been guilty of a certain amount of disregard of parliamentary responsibility. This is the worrying thing for Parliament.
I should like to go back to where, for me at any rate, it all began. That was when the Chairman of Ways and Means, addressing the House on these Amendments, said:… all of the more important Amendments—have been omitted not in virtue of my power of selection but because they are out of order and could not be called in any circumstances. The reason for this is the nature of the Bill itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 268.]I have never heard any Chairman have to say that before. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, I am sure that the Chairman is right in his Ruling. As drafted, the Bill excludes proper discussion. This is the problem to which both sides of the House must address themselves.
What are the Amendments which we feel ought to be discussed? I reiterate what the hon. and learned Gentleman 1114 said. We are very disquieted about the protocols dealing with New Zealand produce and the Caribbean and such matters as what will happen about the movement of capital. These are matters which Parliament and the country want to know about.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) said that the Amendments are out of order on the Clauses but that they are in order on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". My hon. and learned Friend is a very distinguished international lawyer, but he does not understand the procedure of the House of Commons. If an Amendment is out of order on a Clause, a fortiori it is out of order on Clause stand part. Therefore, he is saying that he is quite happy that Parliament should be denied any discussion of these matters.
I disagree with both my party and Government on the merits of the Bill, but I do not think that I fall out with them in a desire that Parliament should have a full and free discussion of these matters. If the Government persist in maintaining the position that, owing to the Long Title of the Bill, discussion is to be truncated, restricted, and confined to the lesser points, and that the larger points about which Parliament and the country want to be reassured are out of order, then the whole proceedings of Parliament will be frustrated. As a result, we shall get the undignified result of hon. Members occupying time on small, trivial points day and night. This is not the aim of Parliament. My main reason for opposing entry is the belief that the powers of Parliament and the protection of the citizen by Parliament will in consequence be greatly diminished.
It will be a sad day if the last act that this sovereign Parliament takes is clouded by the fact that the Government have unwittingly and inadvertently drafted their Bill so that there cannot be a proper discussion upon it. I therefore appeal to the Government to think clearly and again on this matter.
I hope that there will be no filibustering or inordinate discussion on this Bill. I can assure the Government that, so far as my one vote counts, that vote will be given against any unnecessary prolongation of debate, but I cannot see why they cannot take the Bill back and so draft 1115 the Long Title that all these details of protocols and negotiation can be discussed adequately.
There was a great deal of common sense in one part of the speech of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). If ever there was a case for a voluntary agreement freely entered into by both sides—a Government generous in the offer of time, an Opposition responsible in their demands—it is this Bill. It would be for the dignity of Parliament if the Government would offer to confer with those who oppose the Bill and try to get an agreed programme for the Committee stage, so that all these vital matters for Parliament and the country are adequately discussed.
Holding those views, and believing that Parliament is very much on trial, I can assure the Government—I think I speak also for my right hon. and hon. Friends on this—that I will have no hesitation in voting against the Motion of confidence and for the Government. We believe that the Government have only by inadvertence, and not by come into this position.
§ Mr. Turton
We will not support this Motion of censure against the Government because we believe that what they have done is by inadvertence and not by ill-will.
For the Government's own future prestige, they should think carefully about the very difficult position we face as a result of the correct Ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means. They should try to find ways to secure an adequate discussion of these great matters. With all the legal authorities against them, and with the country deeply suspicious that the Bill is being steamrollered through, they will lose the confidence of the country if they do not take the steps that I have suggested.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that he did not regard the Government's act as any evidence of bad faith on their part. My hon. and learned Friend the Member 1116 for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said much the same thing, that he did not think that the Government had deliberately done this. The Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) has made the same point.
I do not know that the Solicitor-General is quite as naive as they are suggesting. For almost a whole year, I sat opposite the hon. and learned Gentleman in debate after debate on the Industrial Relations Bill, and I did not find him naive in any way. I found him, though sometimes a dull speaker, a very clever lawyer who knew precisely what the Government's intentions were. When we are asked to believe that the same hon. and learned Gentleman—who is really the architect of this Bill—is so naive that he does not understand the effect of the Bill, I cannot accept it, and I do not think that anyone who thinks seriously about the matter will accept it either.
The Motion is right to talk of a "gross breach of faith" in the light of previous undertakings. I believe that the Government gave those undertakings knowing full well that the Chairman of Ways and Means had no alternative but to rule as he did. We had a debate on that Ruling, and the decision of the House has been made. The Chairman was put in an impossible position, and the responsibility rests not with him but with the Government, who knew what they were doing.
We have been misled. The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) who spoke for the Liberals in that debate, made this absolutely clear:What we ought to be debating today, if we have to take a day off to discuss the procedure on this legislation, is the Government's competence in the handling of the legislation. Hon. Members who have quoted various statements made by the Solicitor-General, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are right to make a complaint that the House was misled as to the nature and scope of the debate which could take place on this legislation."—[OFICIAL REPORT, 1st March 1972; Vol. 832, c. 472.]That is my indictment of this Government. The hon. Member was right. The House was misled, and deliberately misled.
The Father of the House commented on this. If we had a free and open debate on all the issues involved, on the Floor of the House, if we explained precisely what was involved in our entry 1117 of the Common Market on the terms to which the Government have agreed, the country, which is already hostile, would become increasingly hostile and there would be no question of our entering on these terms. No one is arguing that we can amend the Treaty of Accession. I have not heard anyone on this side say that.
We have had drawn to our attention the extremely interesting article in today's Times. The writer, Mr. T. J. O. Hickey, after pointing out that nobody is arguing that we can amend the Treaty of Accession, says:The procedural dispute that has arisen is not over the right of the House of Commons to reject all or part of the legislation that fulfilment of the terms of the Brussels Treaty requires. No one contests that right. The dispute is about whether and to what extent the House can vary the terms of that legislation by amendment of the Bill.Later he goes on:Yet it now emerges that the scope for amendment of the European Communities Bill is, in relation to the full import of E.E.C. membership on domestic law, drastically curtailed.It cannot be said that those who now complain ought to have foreseen that when the time came amendments seeking to vary the effect of the terms negotiated on domestic law would be out of order. It is certainly beyond the competence of Parliament to amend the terms of a treaty. But there does not appear to be authority for holding that it is beyond the competence of Parliament to vary the provisions of legislation required to give effect to a treaty, even if the variation is incompatible with the treaty.That is the essence of the argument. If, by amending the Bill in a substantial way, ratification of the treaty cannot go ahead, then the result will be renegotiating the terms. What is wrong with that? The treaty was agreed not by us, because it was not within our province to do that. Cannot we therefore tell the Government, "Withdraw the Bill, renegotiate and return with a new Bill?"
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said that we might be able to agree on a timetable. I would not be against that procedure, but with a very different Bill from this one. The Chairman of Ways and Means has ruled a number of our Amendments out of order. Any agreed timetable would have to allow us to discuss many of the matters which those Amendments would have raised. Again, therefore, for there to be an agreed timetable on that basis, 1118 the Government would have to withdraw the Bill and bring in another which we could discuss in detail.
§ Sir Robin Turton
The hon. Gentleman will recollect my saying that I hoped the Government would take the Bill back so that we could have as wide a discussion as possible. I went on to say that the hon. Member for Cornwall. North (Mr. Pardoe) was right in urging a voluntary timetable which would allow a sufficiently generous time for discussion.
§ Mr. Heffer
I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, because we were members of the Select Committee which discussed these issues. Indeed, on that occasion I put forward a revolutionary proposal that the House of Commons should meet at 8 o'clock in the morning, like any other factory, but I was told that it would be impossible for, among other people, Ministers to start at that hour.
Some interesting suggestions were made on that Select Committee. The idea of a voluntary timetable was put forward. Nobody is arguing that we should not have a voluntary timetable. I am simply saying that to have one on this Bill would be totally unacceptable to many of my hon. Friends. After all, we could not even discuss many of the issues which are considered by the nation to be vital in relation to the Treaty of Accession.
I come to the hon. Members of the Liberal Party——
§ Mr. Heffer
At least the hon. Member for Cornwall, North is in his place. He talked about the consistency of the Liberal Party. I am reminded of the statement of the late Sir Winston Churchill, who began his political life as a Liberal Party——
§ Mr. Heffer
Let us not split hairs. He became a Liberal and later went back to the Tories.
He was making a speech in the House on one occasion and was challenged by an hon. Member who said. "You are not being consistent". Sir Winston rejoined, in effect, "There is no point in being consistently wrong". The hon. Member for Cornwall, North should 1119 remember that when he boasts about the consistency of the Liberal Party.
In my view, he and his hon. Friends have been consistently wrong on this issue. I go further and say that it will be a sad day when hon. Members of the Liberal Party abandon their radical past and consistently urge the introduction of the guillotine on legislation the principle of which they support. What a scandalous position for the Liberals to take. I understood that they claimed to represent minority opinion; the right of everybody to have the fullest and freest discussion before decisions were taken in their name.
I cannot understand how the hon. Member for Cornwall, North can boast about his party being the first to introduce the guillotine. A voluntary time table is like voluntary industrial relations. By all means let us have what is voluntary. We should all, including the Liberals, be against compulsion.
§ Mr. Pardoe
The hon. Gentleman is talking as though the Labour Party never introduced a timetable or guillotine Motion. I was only today reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of two speeches made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) in which he advocated the introduction of the guillotine. I am simply arguing in favour of the introduction of a timetable Motion at an early stage rather than late in the day, and I of course mean a timetable which allows the detail of the Bill to be discussed. Sufficient time must, therefore, be allocated.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am not denying that the Labour Party introduced the guillotine when we were in power. But we are only at the very earliest stages of this legislation. Normally the guillotine is introduced only if voluntary agreement cannot be obtained.
In any event, we are dealing here with a totally different sort of Bill. This is the most fundamental Measure ever to come before us. It will change the whole character of society. This is accepted by pro- and anti-Marketeers alike. But before we have even got off the ground, so to speak, the hon. Gentleman wants to see the guillotine introduced.
§ Mr. Heffer
It is clear that the radical thinking of the Liberal Party has long since come to an end.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
Is my hon. Friend aware that although the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) desires the important issues raised by the Bill to be discussed in detail, he will support the Government in the Lobby tonight irrespective of the allocation of time?
§ Mr. Heffer
I agree that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) is totally consistent in the sense that when it appears that there is an opportunity of defeating the Government, at that very moment—on this issue as on many others—the Liberals come to the Government's rescue. They ought not to pretend that they are seriously in opposition to the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. A great many hon. Members still wish to speak in the debate, which is not about the Liberal Party. May we leave this subject now?
§ Mr. Pardoe
If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) had been here—perhaps he was—during the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), he would have heard him say that if the Government were ever in danger of being defeated on the principle of the Bill, the Labour Marketeers would have come to their rescue. The hon. Member for Walton cannot accuse us of saving the Government.
§ Mr. Heffer
I heard the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), but I also heard him make an extremely interesting speech in the sense that he said that although he was in favour of entry to the E.E.C., he was not in favour of the way it was being done or of the Bill as it stands. Even the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who is equally a supporter of entry into the Community, indicated in an intervention that he also was unhappy about the Bill.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman—I know not whether he is the Duke or the Duchy of Lancaster; whatever it is—who speaks for the Government on the 1121 question of the E.E.C. said that the Motion put down by my right hon. and hon. Friends, if one took a charitable view of it, was conceived in ignorance. I put that in relation to the Bill. If one took a charitable view of the Bill, one could say that that was conceived in ignorance. But I do not think that the Bill was conceived in ignorance.
The Bill was framed precisely in the way it is framed in order to void the fullest possible discussion of the issues involved. Most of the responsibility for that falls heavily on the shoulders of the Solicitor-General, who is the sort of eminence grise of the Tory Party on legislation and who is a very dangerous man for British democracy in that he is undermining British democracy. He did a disservice to our country over the Industrial Relations Act, and he is doing an even greater disservice to this country in relation to the Bill.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I am sure that we all enjoyed the duel between the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). It is a great pleasure to see the hon. Member for Walton picking on someone his own size. I do not wish to follow him in the interesting points he was making, although I may return to what was said by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North.
I shall be brief. Unfortunately, the Amendment standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends has not been selected. I should have spoken at some length had it been selected. But at least it served one useful purpose: it brought the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition into the Chamber for a moment or two. He was present when the debate began. I have a recollection of him sleeping during the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). I was not surprised at that. There was a certain familiarity about it. And why should one not take the chance to catch up on lost sleep if one is Leader of the Opposition?
Unfortunately, I have not heard all the speeches. Other things take place in other parts of the building, and I have been away from the Chamber in Committee for two hours. I regret parti- 1122 cularly not having heard the interesting arguments of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North. I also regret not hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), not so much because I enjoy his speeches but because I know that my presence in the Chamber does not bring out the best in him. When I listen to the hon. Member for Penistone, my hope is to bring out the worst in him, because it is so instructive for the rest of us.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is not in the Chamber, and I particularly regret not having heard his speech. But I have seen the speech that he made at the week-end, in which he appears to have been overcome by some terrible vision of the Thames running black with printers' ink. Indeed, he was so carried away by this as to compare the situation in which the House of Commons finds itself with that in which this country found itself in 1940—a sort of Battle of Britain analogy. I can see what may have brought this to my right hon. Friend's mind. If we cast our minds back to the night of all the points of order, the night of the long wind, we would readily conclude that never in the history of parliamentary conflict have so many points of order been raised at such length by so few.
Apart from that, in this as in many other things, I find that the minority opinions which my right hon. Friend expresses, and which he is perfectly entitled to express, have become very much those of an isolated and shrinking minority. I do not believe that he has the title to speak for the whole House of Commons in saying that the Bill shall not pass or, indeed, that he has authority and title to claim to speak for the whole country on this matter. I believe that there are majorities which are closer to the truth of these things and that they are represented more adequately on these benches by other of my hon. Friends.
Like so much of the prose which emanates from the benches opposite, the Opposition Motion is hasty, bogus and wrong. We should not necessarily be surprised at that. But there is curious paradox in the present situation of the Opposition. They appear to be arguing one or other of two propositions: either 1123 they are complaining against the Government because my right hon. Friends have handled the matter of legislating for Britain's entry into the Common Market much more competently than they, the Opposition, would have done had they still been in power, or they are resorting to every possible trick and device in the parliamentary rule book in order to oppose the Bill but are not going so far as honestly to admit this.
If those two proposition are the alternatives—as I believe they are—there is a good deal of attraction in the first. Hon. Members who have spent a year or two in this House and who recall vividly what happened under the previous Administration can well imagine that if that late and unlamented Government had had the task of legislating for Britain's entry into the Common Market, they would have made the most frightful rhubarb of it. Can anyone imagine the kind of Bill that might have been cast up by the shadow Cabinet, as it now is, when they were responsible for this country's affairs? Can anyone imagine the kind of procedural snarl up that the House would have got itself into if the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) had still been leading us? What ghastly disciplinary problems would have confronted the Government if the present Opposition Chief Whip had been charged with the duty of trying to get hon. Members to vote for a Bill on this matter?
It does no good for the toothless crocodiles on the benches opposite to complain about this, though it is generous of them to draw attention to it. It is a fact that they could not and would not have handled this matter as competently as have my right hon. Friends.
But I fear that the alternative proposition is the true one. This Motion and some of the Motions which have preceded it amount to a demonstration of parliamentary witlessness, a sustained and deliberate attempt to abuse the procedures of the House to frustrate the rights of the majority of hon. Members.
It does the House no good as an institution. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West were here I would say to him that this really is a life and death matter for the House of Commons. It is one where we genuinely face a test of the authority that 1124 has developed over the years and by tradition in the way in which we conduct our affairs. It may be, as time passes, that the nature and extent of the peril to parliamentary institutions will become clearer to hon. Members opposite and as it does I hope and believe their enthusiasm for this campaign may diminish.
There is in fact only one intellectually honest and honourable Motion that the Opposition could pursue. They could have pursued it at the outset, and they should have done so. If they do not like the fact that this Bill is a Bill, and that the rules of order are as they are, and that certain inevitable consequences flow from the rules of order as they are set out in Erskine May, their purpose from the outset should have been to seek to change the rules of order so that the objects which they seek might have been achieved without the House disobeying its own instructions.
But, of course, there has been no attempt to do so. No Motion has been formulated to this end, because the Tribune group does not work that way. If such a Motion had been put down, debated and defeated, then, by the rules of the House, the result would have bound us all. There could have been none of this protest, none of this sham and none of these devices. It would have been manifestly clear that the resorts to which hon. Members opposite have turned in order to obstruct the legislation were contrary to the agreed rules of order.
I am not seeking to put fresh ideas in the minds of hon. Members opposite, but they might have been able to stand before us with more conviction and some with more honesty if they had adopted this course from the outset. As they have not we have every right to vote down their Motion of censure tonight.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) because I believe his speech was a tissue of nothings, and I hope I will convince him that even if he thinks I am wrong then I am at least sincere and I have not been deliberately blocking business for no end at all. I should be glad if the hon. Member would pay some attention to this, because we are talking about a very serious House of Commons matter.
1125 The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) said that the Government had got into this situation through some inadvertence. If he really believes that, the charge that he has against the Government in his Amendment is very serious indeed. This is a very important Bill. The three speakers who preceded him from the Government side of the House were lawyers—the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees), the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) and the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster).
I wish to take up the case by the hon. and learned Member for Northwich, because he went to the heart of the matter but came up with the wrong answer. He said there was no distinction between having a discussion and having a discussion on an Amendment. He said that length could be achieved by a discussion on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", but length is not the only criterion for the quality and nature of debate.
The three lawyers rested their cases, as lawyers will, on case law and on something which is written. But our constitution is unwritten. As many have said, if there is any protection in this House it is in its procedure. When I was involved in points of order last week—and I hope the hon. Member for Woking is listening because I am serious in what I am saying—it was not to obstruct in terms of time but to ensure that the procedures of this House are carried out in the proper way. The procedures of the House guarantee the liberty of the people. They ensure that we can discuss and probe and the people of Britain can see what the Government are doing. They are vital. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster opened this debate he referred to the custom of the House in respect of the Motion and the reason why it was tabled. During his remarks he said that we had the opportunity to discuss the treaties on Second Reading and that many matters were discussed then.
But Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you have said, this is not a Bill to approve the Treaty of Accession or any of the other treaties which are basic to membership of the Communities. So, we should have a very clear understanding at the end 1126 of the debate of what the Bill actually includes. If this is the state the Government have got themselves into no doubt there is suspicion in the country because the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster says that it is about the treaties, and that the House has had a chance to discuss them on Second Reading, but we have a Ruling from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is not that sort of Bill. This is a very serious situation for the House to get itself into. We rely not on violence or force but on thought and argument and constitutional procedures and that sort of thing about which the Government say they are very concerned in other respects.
The Government are now talking on industrial matters where a year or so ago they were boasting that they would use other means. Nobody denies the majority has the right to govern. But we all know that it must justify its actions and proposals and, stage by stage, carry the majority along with the arguments.
The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) has said, in common with many of his hon. Friends, that the principle has been agreed and therefore it is all over. But let us take that one step further. Suppose he said, "We have a majority and we can do what we like. The Government was formed by the majority vote and therefore why have any talk at all? "Once he goes back to Second Reading and says it is all over he must go back to the election, or further than that.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
The hon. Member has quoted me out of context. I said the other night that the House had the opportunity to approve in principle entry into the Communities, and now it has the chance to debate it in detail. All I was saying was that it should be debated in detail and that the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", gave ample opportunity for this to happen. I said that the tedious repetition of many inconsequential points of order was doing no service to the House, which I admire and the traditions of which I uphold as strongly as the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am glad the hon. Member for Cannock has said that. I would go with him some way in what he has said, but I hope to convince him now that the traditions of the House 1127 are not being maintained by the way the Government clearly wish to proceed with the Bill.
We cannot deal with it merely on Questions that the Clauses should stand part of the Bill, because arguments depend on detailed procedures. At the time of the Industrial Relations Bill there was a very important breaking of the convention of the constitution that there should be an attempt at some sort of agreement on a timetable. There was no agreement, the convention was broken and there was some disorder. The convention of the constitution is so important, because it means we trust each other and there is a certain amount of faith. If the convention is broken that faith disappears. I submit that the sort of argument we could have on "Clause stand part" is not the sort of argument we can properly have in the House and never have.
I am very glad the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has returned to the Chamber. He, among others, has constantly used the phrase, "If the terms are right." Conservative Members who want the Bill are not arguing the merits. If they believe the terms are right, the onus is upon them to demonstrate that they are. How is that to be done? Parliament has no power, and no Committee has power, unless it has power to reverse a decision; no group of people has power unless it has power to negative anything. That is the key to some of the procedural arguments. To have power to negative, one must have power to propose changes. The argument is about whether those changes are in order.
I should be out of order if I went into the details of the points made about the rulings of the Chair. But I must point out that it is on the Long Title, not the Explanatory Memorandum, that we base Amendments.
Great play has been made of the many days spent in discussing the issue, but what matters is not the length of debate but the way in which the arguments have been focussed. In debate in the House it is not possible to focus on a particular point because one hon. Member is concerned with one issue and another is concerned with a different issue. Members may speak only once. It is only in Committee that we can take up the important points. It is as though we see 1128 an issue as a whole in daylight in the House and in Committee we focus a beam of light on the important part. We can have a dialogue, we can speak several times. The issue is talked over until it is clear, and then we vote. In that way the Opposition tests, scrutinises and focusses on the important parts of any legislation. It is like using a laser beam or X-ray as compared with the light of day. That is essential if we are to understand what the legislation is about. But it is just the sort of thing the Government have said cannot happen with the European Communities Bill. "Let us deal with it all under Clause stand part", they say. But the Clause stand part debate on either Clause 1 or Clause 2 would be just as vast as any of the debates in principle we have already had. Even if it lasted two or three days it would be impossible to deal with the issues as they must be dealt with. Moreover, in such debates the custom is that Members speak only once, so the whole procedure would be different.
Amendments moved in Committee have many different purposes. The Committee may wish to define what is meant by a particular phrase, so there is a procedural Amendment to delete it so that it may be discussed. The Amendment is then, by leave, withdrawn. That focusses the issue. There are some Amendments on which the implications of a Measure are examined. Many Amendments are to discover the kind of means we wish to achieve the ends. It is only by such Amendments that the real issues can come out. It is the Opposition's right, prerogative and constitutional duty to choose them, to focus and to get right to the point. Even if the merits of a Measure are agreed and approved by a majority, at the end of the day, everyone knows what he is voting about. That cannot happen if we proceed on the lines the Government propose.
§ Mr. Cormack
The hon. Gentleman's Administration—he was not in the House at the time—accepted that if we entered the Common Market we had to accept its legislation. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) made that abundantly clear many times. We cannot have the legislation à la carte; we go in, or we do not. Every time there is a debate on the Question, "That the 1129 Clause stand part of the Bill", to be followed by a Division, there can be a lengthy, detailed discussion. If the Opposition feel that we should not enter the Common Market, they have a chance to reverse the decision. Surely, that is democracy?
§ Mr. Spearing
I do not agree that that is democracy. The sort of procedure the hon. Gentleman outlines is a bludgeon by power of voting. While I agree that in a democracy the power of the vote is very important, the power to question, to have a dialogue and to examine the real meaning of an issue is just as important.
We are dealing with matters of taxation; budgetary provision; the importance of the Iron and Steel Community; the movement of capital; the movement of people; the overseas territories—there are treaties to do with Greece, Israel and Morocco; Community institutions; and four or five aspects of agriculture. There are the subjects of perhaps 20 debates there. On the great issue of the Common Market there should have been at least 50 or 60 relatively small debates lasting a few hours, each focussing attention on a different aspect. We have been unable to have them, except perhaps for the Supply Day debate on fisheries. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will have to admit that under the procedure adopted we cannot have such debates, and that the matters he has discussed in Brussels cannot be subjected to the sort of scrutiny the House should give them.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that when he opened the debate he said we had had the chance to discuss the treaties and ask questions about them on Second Reading? I drew attention earlier in my speech to the fact that the Chairman's Ruling was that this is not a Bill to approve the Treaty of Accession or any of the other treaties basic to membership of the Community. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman withdraw his earlier remarks? If he holds to them, does not he agree that they are incompatible with the Ruling that he upheld by his vote last Wednesday evening? I find it most surprising that he refuses to intervene. I have given him every opportunity. I hope the House notes this apparent inconsistency. If it 1130 is not an inconsistency, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not chosen to tell us why it is not.
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northwich will agree, when he reads these words in HANSARD, that they do away with his argument. If the Government do not accept that we should have the sort of debate I have outlined, which can take place only on the kinds of Amendments we want to table, it must mean that they are not confident that some of these matters will stand up to detailed scrutiny, or perhaps they are not confident of carrying the vote at each stage.
What is said here goes out to the general public. It is only by a genuine debate, not a set-piece debate of the kind that some of the younger Members are rather fed up with, that the country as a whole has a feeling that the Commons is in touch. It is by proper Committee debates on some of the subjects I have mentioned, which is the real basis of our democracy, that the country as a whole will know what the issues are. Do not the Government want that sort of debate to take place? Clearly, they will not have it on the Bill, and therefore the country will not be given an opportunity to understand its real implications.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I look back to the debates on the nationalised industries in the five years after the war and the undertakings we were given then. A great deal of power has been removed from the House. We have one day's debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, but the ordinary Member has no ability to cross-examine those who now manage the great nationalised industries.
§ Mr. Spearing
I do not think that parallel is correct. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern, but it is within the power of the House at any time to change the rules on scrutiny of the nationalised industries or even, if it wishes, to denationalise. But that is not part of the kind of treaty we are entering into.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The hon. Gentleman can go to the European Parliament and discuss all these things, as many of us go to Strasbourg, and will be able to 1131 return and discuss them here in the circumstances my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has outlined.
§ Mr. Spearing
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman has never said a truer word. But perhaps he was not here for the earlier part of my speech when I pointed out that the fundamental of political power was the right to negative and reserve, and as far as I know the European Parliament has not got those powers, nor has the right hon. Gentleman opposite tried to negotiate for those powers as part of the Treaty of Accession as he ought to have if he believed in proper discussion. That is one of the points of our case and I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for pointing this out.
There has been a lot of concern expressed recently by hon. Gentlemen about law and order and the power of this House. I have tried to show why in the last few days I and many of my hon. Friends, not agreeing with what the Government are doing procedurally, have done our best to show that this procedure is a sham and that they are trying to gag the House and stop it scrutinising, which is the essence of democracy, in this particular matter above all others.
A very important speech was reported in The Guardian of 28th February, in which the speaker said:Today, we live in a free and democratic country. We expect sensible men and women, left to themselves, to come to sensible decisions. But we expect them to do it peacefully—not by force.And sensible men and women will come together and talk, and do it in a sensible manner, and one of the sensible things about this House is the Committee stage and the debates we have. That statement was by the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister is now denying this House—either inadvertently, as his hon. Friend says, or deliberately—a sensible way of dealing with this particular matter, in spite of the fact that when he was elected Prime Minister he said in his foreword to" A Better Tomorrow" these very words:It means dealing honestly and openly with the House of Commons, with the press and with the public.1132 We know what this means as far as the public is concerned and now we know what the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends mean by dealing openly and honestly with the House of Commons—cutting out the Committee stage, which is the heart of the democratic process.
It is for that reason and for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman has not accepted my invitation to rise and explain the apparent incompatibility, that I am very pleased to vote for this Motion today.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I have followed with interest what the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) has just said. I think that from time to time he lost sight of what this debate is about. It is supposed to be a censure Motion. Of course, not a jot or tittle of evidence has been adduced during the course of the debate in support of this extraordinary proposition that the sinister Solicitor-General deliberately framed the Bill in a particular way, knowing that a particular Chairman of Ways and Means would interpret the laws of order in this House in a particular way, to inhibit debate.
Nobody, of course, has stood up and justified that quite preposterous proposition. Therefore, one asks oneself why in fact the Motion before the House was framed in this particular way, and the answer is perfectly obvious. Unless it had been framed as a censure Motion the Government would not have been required to afford time for it to be debated, and this censure Motion now before the House is part and parcel of the disruptive tactics pursued by the Opposition over the past week or so.
I think everybody in this House agrees that there ought to be reasonable discussion of the Bill, and there is no reason to suspect that there will not be reasonable discussion of the Bill. If one goes back to the time afforded by the Government in July to debating the White Paper, if one goes back to the six days afforded in October for debating the principle of entry, it really is quite unreasonable of anybody in this House to suggest that the Government are unwilling to allow proper time for debate and discussion.
But of course the tactics pursued by the Opposition during the past week have 1133 little, if anything, to do with any desire for rational discussion of these matters. The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) said in the course of his speech earlier today:We would much prefer to be discussing the substance of this matter.That patently deserved a loud "Ha! ha!", because no Opposition has shown a more marked reluctance to discuss the merits of any Measure than this Opposition has shown to discuss the merits of this Measure. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) was being very disingenuous when, in the course of his speech, he actually went so far as to say that there had been no obstruction at all during the course of last Wednesday night.
I do not know whether he draws any distinction between obstruction and time-wasting, but it will be within the knowledge of most Members of this House that time and time again during the course of last Wednesday night and the early hours of Thursday morning the Chairman of Ways and Means had to draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that various hon. Members were wasting the time of the Committee, and that it was the duty of the Committee to get down to business and carry out what was the clear instruction of the House when the rule had been suspended. It may be that the hon. Member for Penistone—who I am sorry to see is not here at this juncture—draws some distinction between obstruction and time-wasting, but I would think that it was patently obvious to anybody present in the course of last Wednesday night and the early hours of Thursday morning that the Opposition were trying to make a monkey of our procedures and doing all they possibly could to bring the House into disrepute.
As has been said very often, the object of the Bill is quite plain; it is to make such changes in our domestic law as are necessary to enable us to fulfil the obligations which we have now undertaken by signing the treaty. The first question one has to ask is why should a Government be expected to introduce a Bill of 112 Clauses to carry out that purpose if a Bill of 12 Clauses will do. That is a question which has not yet——
§ Mr. Waddington
Why not one, says the right hon. Member for Stepney from a sedentary position. There is no substance in the point made by the right hon. Member for Stepney, but there was a great deal of sense in the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), who said during the course of the debate that even if the Bill had been so constructed as to include every existing regulation of the Community, if the Chair's Ruling the other night was right, then by the same token the Chair would have had to rule out of order any Amendment which tried to negative any one of those separate regulations. It does not matter a halfpenny whether the Bill contains one, 12 or 112 Clauses. The fact is that this House, having willed the end, must now will the means. Having last October accepted in principle entry into the E.E.C. the House must now pass a Bill, be it long or short, which will so alter our domestic law that we can carry out the obligations we have promised to undertake by signing the Treaty.
A number of hon. Members opposite want to wreck the Bill and there is no discredit in that. But it is discreditable for hon. Members opposite to pretend that they are being denied the right to discuss Amendments while accepting the principle of entry into the E.E.C. when of course they have not the slightest desire to debate Amendments of that nature. It is plainly dishonest of them to say that they want the opportunity to discuss joining the E.E.C. at greater length than they have had the opportunity of discussing the matter so far, and at greater length than they will have the opportunity of discussing the matter when the Committee stage really gets under way, when so far they have shown no inclination to indulge in any rational discussion.
It becomes daily more obvious that the Opposition are up to precisely the same tricks they were up to during the passage of the Industrial Relations Act. All they wanted to do then was waste a lot of time so that the Government would have to introduce a guillotine and they would be able to complain that certain matters had not been discussed at all. They are hoping to do precisely the same again. If they have been rumbled, it serves them right.
1135 That is the only contribution I wish to make tonight except to point out that I am glad that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) is back in the Chamber. I took the point he made, but he, like so many hon. Members opposite, did not get within a mile of supporting the terms of the Motion. In a most cogent speech, he said that he wished the Bill had been framed in a different way and that the Government were wrong in not introducing a longer Bill. But he did not subscribe to the ridiculous notion that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General had cooked up the Bill for the precise purpose of inhibiting discussion. But that is what the Motion says he did. It is ridiculous and should be laughed out of court.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I have never heard such unadulterated tripe—if that is a parliamentary expression—as the ridiculous suggestion put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) that because in the Second Reading debate a principle was carried, thereafter the Opposition must not attempt to amend or alter or bring about any improvement in the Bill. What has the whole history of Parliament been about in that case? Are we to take it that when the next Labour Government introduce a Bill to nationalise an industry, and carry it on Second Reading, they can say to the Opposition, "You have had it. There will be no more discussion and no Amendments."
The right hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) suggested that the Government did not deliberately try to thwart the will of Parliament and prevent us from putting down these Amendments. I am convinced that they did; indeed, I am convinced that they planned this course of action as far back June and July last year. I have some written evidence to support that contention. I have letters from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary leading me to believe that this was all planned last June. There are also Questions and answers which can be looked up. For example, there were Written Answers to me on 15th June— 1136. they appear in columns 71 and 72 of HANSARD of that date.
I had been trying for 12 months to obtain particulars of the various rules, regulations and directives by putting down hundreds of Questions. It took me almost 12 months to get them all. Strangely enough, it was not until after the Government had signed the Treaty of Accession that the pile of documents was produced to hon. Members. We thus had the situation in which hon. Members opposite, supported by some of my hon. Friends, accepted the principle of entry without having seen the documents, let alone having read or understood them. I asked many members of the Cabinet whether they had seen the documents, and it was clear that they had not.
Let me get back to the letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. When he answered my Questions, I claimed that he had evaded the point that I was making, which was that I foresaw the difficulty with which we are now confronted, namely, that if the Government tried to implement Article 189 of the Treaty they would try to prevent us from debating or amending any of the regulations. I tabled Questions on this matter, but the point at issue was evaded, and I therefore wrote to the Chancellor.
In his reply dated 7th July, 1971, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:Under Article 189, regulations and decisions are binding in their entirety; and consequently the House of Commons, in taking any action in respect of a regulation or a decision, would have to refrain from anything inconsistent with it. For the implementation of most directives, domestic legislation is necessary and this would be made in accordance with our usual constitutional procedures; it would be open to the House of Commons to amend or alter the legislation which the Government of the day presented …Now we find that we are not able to make any amendments, because the Bill has been drawn in such a way as to prevent that.
What has happened is that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Government have started to implement the Treaty of Rome and the Treaty of Accession before the House has accepted them. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rightly said when you presided over our debate as Chairman of Ways and Means, the Bill is not designed to provide for accession or to authorise the Treaty of 1137 Accession. My Question of 15th June made that clear.
In explaining that which I knew, namely, the power of the House if we were to go into the Community, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:If Parliament approves an Instrument of Accession to the European Communities its power in relation to acts of the Council and Commission will be exercised in the light of this article."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1971; Vol. 819, c. 71.]In other words, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was explaining that approval of the Article of Accession, or of the Treaty of Accession, would have to be given by Parliament—and I emphasise this—and not the Government.
The Government have signed the Treaty of Accession, but I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell the House when the Article of Accession was laid before Parliament. When did Parliament agree to Article 189, upon which the Bill is framed, and which bars us from discussing or amending the relevant legislation? I cannot remember any Article of Accession being laid before the House. I cannot remember the House debating and agreeing to such an Article.
Some of my hon. Friends who are in favour of this country's going into the European Community should realise that we are bound by Article 189, which debars us from discussing any of the rules and regulations of the Communities. That is the position before we go in. What will things be like after we go in? Once we are in, there will be no argument about whether Mr. Deputy Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means was right. We shall not be able to debate whether the Government were right. What will happen is that the Chancellor will go to Brussels, meet the Council of Ministers and agree about something. He will then return to the House and tell us that he has agreed it, and we will not be able to do anything about it. We may discuss it, but we cannot alter or reject it.
That is why we have tabled this Motion. The Government have not reached this position by accident; they have done this deliberately, because they are under the control of Brussels. They want to show their friends in Brussels how good they are—how they are already implementing Article 189, saying, "Look, before we 1138 have entered the Market we are implementing the general rules and regulations and directive of Brussels." I thought that the Chancellor might have made a mistake in his letter so I wrote again and had it confirmed a week later by his Parliamentary Secretary. We know that this is a deliberate attempt by the Government from as far back as last July to prevent this House having the right or opportunity of debating or amending anything.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister to talk about violence and to tell people to do things democractically without taking the law into their own hands. He should remember that it was he who said that we would only negotiate, nothing more, nothing less. He pledged that only the wholehearted consent of the people and Parliament would take us into the Market; he promised that we would have adequate time for debate. His Government are preventing us from doing this. If this is the way he behaves he should not be surprised if the trade unionists say, "You have not allowed our elected representatives adequate discussion. "The Government told the miners that they must not strike without a democratic vote, which they had.
This is a dangerous precedent. If my dockworkers begin to complain about some of the rules and regulations which will control their wages and conditions, and taxation, and ask me to take it up in Parliament I will have to say that I am not allowed to do anything about it. They may say that they will come out on strike and I will not be able to tell them that they should not do so because we have freely and democratically agreed to join the Common Market. We have done nothing freely or democratically. I warn the right hon. Gentleman of the solid, overwhelming majority among the trade unions and Labour movement against this move. I am not concerned about the few who got here on false tickets and who forget their promises to the people. The Labour and trade union movement will not be dictated to.
They will not accept the situation, because the Prime Minister has reneged. I warn the Government that they have not seen anything yet. The organised workers will make their voice heard and I advise this Parliament to listen to them. The voice of the people says, 1139 "No to the E.E.C." The will of the people will prevail.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), as always, has made his position perfectly clear. There is no mistaking that he objects root and branch to the proposal to join the Community and, like many of his hon. Friends, will use any occasion to maintain his opposition. Many of the points that he has raised have been answered in earlier speeches which he may have missed.
We are having so many censure Motions this Session that they are like leaves in the wind, but at least the Motion today, unlike the Motion last Wednesday, is aimed at the right target. I was astonished to find that the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones), in opening the debate on the previous censure Motion, made no mention of the Bill's having had a Second Reading. That fact necessarily and properly limited the scope of the Committee stage and necessarily restricted the scope of Amendments that can be in order.
The purpose of the Bill is to establish the method by which the United Kingdom will adapt its domestic law to comply with the agreed terms of entry. Throughout the long series of arguments in our debates there has been, unavoidably, a mixture of political and legal considerations and powers. Many speakers today have made their points as though this was purely a negotiation between two parties. But this is not a bilateral treaty; it is an agreement which has been reached as a result of multilateral negotiations—indeed, multi-dimensional negotiations when one considers the separate position of the Community and Commission.
We therefore have six other countries watching the performance of this Parliament in dealing with the Bill which the Government have put forward. If this Parliament goes out of its way to appear obstructive or to derogate from the agreement it will have a political effect in seeming to call in question the good will of Britain in fulfilling the terms of the agreement. If Parliament rejects parts of the Bill it rejects the basis on which the treaty has been concluded, but it does not invalidate the treaty. It simply means 1140 that we have failed to make our municipal laws in conformity with the treaty. That is a duty that in international law is expected of any Government adhering to or making a treaty, and it is well established in Lord McNair's book "The Law of Treaties", at page 100.
In this we must distinguish between those parts of the Bill which deal with requirements and obligations having direct effect on the member countries—not only on Britain but on other applicants and existing member States—and those parts which have an indirect effect. In so far as we fail in any particular to comply with the parts having a direct effect, either in the accrued legislation or in future, we are in default of our treaty obligations.
There is a good deal of scope for amendment in the ways in which this country proceeds to achieve the results required indirectly, where in the manner of procedure or achievement it is left to the individual country to choose the means. Under that heading there is clearly scope for amendment of the Bill simply because of the change in procedure, whether it be in the method of voting or in paying the financial sums that are due.
In the end we have to reject or accept the Bill in its totality. If we do not, we are in breach of our agreement. Many Amendments have been ruled out of order, but these matters may be discussed. Many Members have said that discussion is no good and that we should be dealing with detailed and specific matters. Therefore, it is clear that a heavy burden will be placed on the Committee on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The essence of the matter is that it is a balanced judgment for each individual Member and for Parliament as a whole. We must tot up the pros and cons and then come down on one side or the other. We must do that individually and, where there is not scope for amendment, Parliament must do the same. I would not wish there to be a whole series of separate debates, though I hope that we can arrange an orderly discussion.
§ Mr. Spearing
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is only possible to add up those pros and cons after a succession of specific debates, and that in 1141 the normal course of events Clause 2(1) on its own is worth about ten major Bills?
§ Mr. Hill
It is probably much more convenient to have a series of debates, but a great deal must be considered on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill,"where that is the only opportunity for so doing. I hope that that can be arranged. I do not think it requires a change of procedure. What could be arrived at through the usual channels is an arrangement to identify the topics which hon. Members want to discuss and then take them in an orderly manner. I have put forward this suggestion in the hope that this points to a sensible and useful solution. We do much the same thing on the Consolidated Fund Bill and it works fairly well.
Much of our discussion and criticism of the items in the total package, if relevant, properly relate to the time after joining. For example, there are many parts of the common agricultural policy which I would like to see changed. I cannot change them from outside, but the criticisms I would like to make would be relevant from inside because these discussions are always going on. This House, through whatever procedures the ad hoc committee may suggest, will be able to channel those criticisms in a way where they will have most chance of being effective. To undertake those matters this side of the completion of the Bill is, strictly speaking, irrelevant.
I have one further reason for wishing the House not to spend too much of its time in purely dilatory procedures. We have substantially less than a year before we are due to accede to the treaty. It is very important that this country should get itself into a good posture for making a start to the transition period. The more that Parliament appears to waste time, the less sense of urgency do people outside Parliament have. It behoves us to set an example, to discuss these great matters relevantly, but to realise that in so doing we shall encourage those in industry, in business and in the trade unions who have to take decisions affected by the prospect of joining to go ahead and to get ready for entry. This is being done by all sorts of bodies, from the farmers' unions and various trade associations onwards. They are getting down to the job in a practical sense. I 1142 suggest that that is the proper rôle for Parliament, and that is why I regard the Motion as not only irrelevant but completely unjustified.
§ Mr. Fell
I have been following my hon. Friend's argument carefully, and I understand what he is saying. But is not it a fact that, despite the enormous weight of push behind getting us in, all of this is simply going over the heads of the British people? The British people are not taking to heart what my hon. Friend is saying. That is the problem which faces us.
§ Mr. Hill
I accept that the nation is by no means united about wanting to go into Europe. One has to balance all the pros and cons. It is natural that the nation as a whole will produce a great many people who are against it. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will consider the trend in opinion, which seems to be moving steadily in favour of joining——
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. John E. B. Hill) suggested that the way that we should solve the dilemmas facing the House is to have some sort of timetable for dealing with our later discussions. That topic has occurred frequently during the debate, and perhaps I might say a few words about it at the beginning of my remarks, though possibly I shall return to it later.
It is a matter which has to be considered seriously by the House. It is natural that hon. Members, faced with awkward dilemmas over procedure and with a Bill which has been introduced 1143 and seems to be deadlocked, should propose some form of timetable as a solution. But I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate immediately that a timetable would not deal with the major problems that we have been discussing in this debate and in the previous debates that we have had in preparation for the discussion on the Committee stage of the Bill. I say that for the very obvious reason that a timetable in itself would not alter the matters which would be available for discussion and those which would be ruled by the Chair to be out of order.
A timetable by itself would have no effect whatsoever on the form of the Amendments which could be selected or considered in order by the Chair. Presumably we would merely have an allocation of certain periods of time to discuss those Amendments which have been considered by the Chair as proper according to the nature of the Bill.
The Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Sir Robin Turton), spoke on this aspect of the matter. He has more experience of these questions than anybody else. He has also had more experience in recommending to the House how it should deal with these various questions. Of course, we should take account of what the right hon. Gentleman has to propose to us; but I put it to him, as I put it to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South that a timetable in itself would not permit him to put to the House all the various questions which he might wish to discuss. I refer to questions about fisheries and other matters which he feels to be most objectionable. I do not say that the question of fisheries is the matter which he regards as most objectionable. No doubt it is the interference with the supremacy of Parliament itself which the right hon. Gentleman regards as most objectionable. However, I hope that he will accept at once that a timetable by itself will do nothing to improve the situation from his point of view.
§ Sir Robin Turton
I made two requests of the Government—first, that they should withdraw the Bill and make the Long Title such that we could discuss all the important questions and, secondly, that in exchange a voluntary timetable should be agreed by responsible people on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Foot
I entirely agree that the proper, constructive way for the Government to deal with the dilemma now facing the House of Commons—I will try to illustrate this further during my remarks—is to withdraw the Bill, as the Father of the House has suggested, and introduce a new Bill which would be fully debatable and amendable.
If that course were recommended by the Government I am sure that it would appeal to both sides of the House. If we could secure the result that we could have debates on all these major questions I should agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Two processes are necessary—not merely the timetable recommended by the Liberal Party, but the combination of the withdrawal of the Bill and the presentation of a new Bill in a form which, indeed, seemed to be suggested by the Chairman of Ways and Means in his remarks last week when he said that if the Bill had been introduced in a different form, we could have put down Amendments upon these matters. I agree that that is the way to solve the problem. That is the course which the Government ought to be taking. It is, indeed, upon that course which the Government might have embarked last week.
Some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have spoken as though we on this side of the House have been solely obstructive in this matter. That is not the fact; that is not the question at all. When we heard the announcement of the Ruling by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the first proposition which I made from this side of the House was not to deonunce the Chairman of Ways and Means—or the Government, for that matter—but to suggest that there should be conversations about the announcement which had been made. I considered it to be of such importance that we could not proceed without such discussions, and I think that that could have been responded to by the Government last Tuesday. If they had responded we may have been able to work towards the remedy which the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton suggested. I have put our position about the timetable in its proper context.
I suggest that nothing could be more futile than the Liberal Party's proposition that we should have a timetable and, it suggests, perhaps a guillotine on 1145 the Bill as it stands, because this week it says—although it did not say it last week—that the Bill as it stands is satisfactory. It is proposing a timetable on the present Bill—that is, with all the great matters excluded from debate, or attempted to be excluded. That is an extraordinary proposition to come from the Liberal Party. Still, I suppose that if one has thrown the tradition of cheap food out of one window and the supremacy of Parliament out of another there is no harm in throwing free speech out of a third. That seems to be the attitude of the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Pardoe
If the hon. Gentleman is trying to imply that the Liberal Party is intent on stifling free speech, why did he support no fewer than five guillotine Motions by the Labour Party when it was in Government?
§ Mr. Foot
I was not trying to imply that the Liberal Party was trying to suppress free speech: I was making the direct accusation.
As for the other suggestion, as any one can see who looks into the history of the House, of course I have supported a number of guillotine Motions and have opposed a number of others. But I can think of no Bill which has ever been introduced into the House of Commons which less deserves a guillotine than this one. I should have thought that the Liberal Party would have been eager to support that view. But it says, "We agree with the principle of the Bill, therefore we may be in favour of a guillotine". That is an odd principle, it is not? It should be in favour of opposing the guillotine, even though it happens to be in favour of a Bill. That is Liberal doctrine——
§ Mr. Foot
There might be worse places to learn. Anyway, so long as the hon. Member learns somewhere, I do not care where he starts.
I do not think that the Chancellor of the Duchy appreciated entirely the force of the arguments in many quarters about the Treaty powers. This is one of the matters which we have debated, and it relates to the article in The Times today, to which several references have been made. The Chancellor of the Duchy 1146 might have dealt with that topic a little more fully. He was saying last week that his position about the Bill is that everything has been absolutely clear that everyone has known exactly throughout what the position was, and that there was no room for doubt, dubiety or ambiguity.
That is his case. When there were some interruptions last week, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:In effect, that is what the Chairman of Ways and Means said yesterday"—he claimed that he had been saying the same thing as the Chairman had been saying all through—It is perfectly clear, and all this is really rather bogus."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 450.]that is, anyone raising doubts about it.
I thought that it was rather strange that he should say that everything about the Bill was perfectly clear just after we had heard the speech of the Leader of the House. One can hardly include him in the great company of those who thought that the Bill was perfectly clear. If that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman was saying we must attribute that to the generous side of his nature. The Leader of the House quite clearly did not understand the Bill—and I am not blaming him. It is an extremely difficult proposition to understand.
That brines me to the article in The Times. Lawyers may differ about matters—as we all know and as we are likely to discover all the more clearly over the months and years to come in these debates—but no one can dismiss out of hand what was said by Mr. Hickey in that article. To quote one passage:But if at that point"—that is, the point which we have almost reached, of the Committee stage—the form of the legislation or the procedural rules of the House or both preclude the House from inspecting and (if it wishes) rejecting or varying the effect of the terms on domestic law separately and in detail—if Parliament cannot unpack the negotiated parcel, if at the end of the trail the legislation is presented on an all or nothing basis—then there are grounds for complaint.The right hon. and learned Gentleman may disagree with that view, but he cannot say that everything is clear when that is the view taken by many legal authorities in this country and when these debates have interested The Times to 1147 inquire of its legal authorities what is the position and then to produce a reply which is 100 per cent. on our side.
If one considers the debates that we have had in recent weeks and months on these issues one sees that instead of the authority of The Times coming down on the side of the Government, it has come down 100 per cent.—one might say 500 per cent.—on our side. In other words, there is not a single word of comfort for the Government's case in this article, the last paragraph of which says:It is apparent that the power to vary the provisions of domestic legislation required to give effect to a treaty in a way that is inconsistent with the terms of the treaty gives Parliament a more flexible—and therefore a more formidable—check on the treaty making discretion of the Executive than its undoubted power simply to refuse assent to such legislation. Abridgment of the first power would perceptibly alter the constitutional balance between Parliament and Government.I do not say that every hon. Member, particularly every hon. and learned Member, will agree with that whole proposition, but in the face of such an article nobody can say that we have been arguing about trivialities—about matters that do not count or that can be dismissed by the Chancellor of the Duchy as ones which need not be taken seriously.
The real question that we are debating today is why we have reached the predicament described by the writer in The Times. Is it by accident or design that we have reached this position? Is it because the Government intended this situation to be arrived at, or have we reached this destination inadvertently? That is a difficult question for the Government to answer because, either way, they are in some trouble. In considering whether we have reached this stage by accident or design, let us first examine, partly on the basis of what the Chancellor of the Duchy said earlier, what precisely is the predicament.
In Committee on the most important constitutional Bill that this country has had to face at least since 1945—some say for much longer—we are not able to discuss and vote on the great matters that are included in this legislation; the "great things" as the right hon. and learned Gentleman called them, or the" great matters" as the right hon. Mem- 1148 ber for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) described them. These matters have been deliberately and specifically excluded from the votes than we shall be casting in Committee.
§ Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it will not be possible to vote at the end of the various Clause stand part debates?
§ Mr. Foot
I am not suggesting that, and if the hon. Gentleman will listen he will note that I am dealing with the whole issue.
We are not able to vote individually on many of the items—indeed, on practically all—which were included in the agreement reached between the British Prime Minister and the French Prime Minister and between the British Prime Minister and the other Ministers, or all of the Ministers, of the Six. Almost all of those items are excluded from individual votes by us in Committee, yet those items include—I am only repeating what hon. Members have said; I do so because it is such a vital matter—a whole range of matters dealing with taxation, a whole range of matters dealing with food prices. and a whole range of matters dealing with the policies that affect great industries such as coal and steel. One only has to mention the subjects to see that these are the stuff of British politics, and have been, not merely for years, but for centuries almost. We have been arguing about matters of taxation, food prices, coal and steel, and how these industries should be conducted, to give a few examples.
Individual votes on all those questions included in the treaties are specifically excluded from what we shall be able to settle by our votes in Committee. We may be able—as was said by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) and others—to throw out whole sections or the whole Bill by voting against them on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill ", on Clause 1, Clause 2 or some of the others. That is perfectly correct. But we would be denied the right to vote individually on all those major items I have listed in their broadest terms. That is the predicament in which the House is placed.
The question that arises about the government is whether that situation has 1149 been reached deliberately or whether we have attained it by accident. I confess that I thought—some of my hon. Friends have reproved me in the debate on this account—in my charitable way, that the Government had given us pledges that we would be able to debate all these questions. When I remembered what was said by the Solicitor-General—it has all been quoted—and when I remembered the replies of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, quoted by his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West in the earlier debate, and when I remembered the statements of the Financial Secretary, quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), in my innocent way I believed that the Government might be speaking the truth and that, therefore, we would be able to debate all these questions. So I was genuinely surprised when the Chairman of Ways and Means gave his Ruling, despite the indications that some of us had received earlier when we went to the Table Office, and despite the warnings, perhaps, that we had received. I was still surprised at that statement because of the terms in which it was made. It was so all-embracing. The House may remember that it was the first time that the phrase "nuts and bolts Bill" had ever been used. It was the first time that we had been told that all the questions of the Treaty of Accession were to be excluded from voting. So I was surprised.
It may be a monstrous charge against me that my innocence should have even persisted for a few minutes longer, but I was surprised also that the Government did not make a reasonable response to that situation. They could have done so without loss of face. They could have said, "Yes, we have heard the Ruling and we understand that the Ruling presents genuine problems for the House of Commons. Therefore, we shall suspend our proceedings until discussion can take place about these matters." That was the proposition. That was the possibility available to them on Tuesday when we raised the matter. But instead of saying that, the Government leapt in and said, "Oh no, this is just a vindication of everything we have been saying before." In other words, it was like the 13th stroke of the clock; it cast a doubt upon what had gone before.
1150 To be absolutely fair, I must say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman whose name appears on the back of the Bill, and very properly—the Attorney—General's name does not appear there; I am not surprised about that—that the Solicitor-General speaks to the House in the most winning manner. Everyone knows how skilful he can be in presenting a case. He reminds me somewhat of an 18th century lawyer of whom it was said that he was prepared to sacrifice a part of the British constitution, and if necessary the whole, in order to preserve the remainder. That seems to be the attitude of the Solicitor-General.
The Solicitor-General has a very great and well-justified reputation throughout this Administration. We all know how much the Government rely upon him. Whenever they are in trouble or in a tight corner the cry goes up: "Send for Geoffrey. "Everybody knows that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] Nobody has any doubt which one they will send for. He could wriggle out of anything. He could make Houdini look like a positive arthritic.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has a lot to answer for in this Bill. His claim is that he has been telling us all through the period of discussion on the Bill, that he has been making it plain to his colleagues and the House and that therefore he was not surprised about what happened when the announcement was made about which Amendments would be in order. He does not fall back on the accident theory. He cannot say that it was not done on purpose. I am sure that he vetted all the statements—even his own—which have been made to the House on this subject. The question that the Solicitor-General has to answer is whether he thinks that he was his usual clear self when he told the House of Commons what the position would be when we reached the Committee stage of the Bill.
He would have been in a very different position, and so would the House, if he had spoken as clearly as the Chairman of Ways and Means. Why did he not do so? Why did he not say so during the Second Reading debate, or a hit earlier? We had several debates on the matter, including a special debate—a "benefit match" for the Solicitor-General—on the Treaty of Accession. 1151 He said, "We do not need to discuss things. This is a bit of a bogus debate but I would not mind coming along and giving my services free on this occasion". But he could have used that occasion to warn the House that when it reached Committee he did not want any hon. Member to be under any doubts about the situation. He could have said: "I am paid to be here and I want everybody to know that this will be a nuts and bolts Bill and that the Treaty of Accession and the individual items of the Treaty of Accession and the other treaties will be excluded from the debates and the votes in Committee".
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said that, the position would have been absolutely clear. The Chairman of Ways and Means would have been relieved of all the anxieties that we had last week when we moved the Motion we did because we thought it was his decision. But after the announcement had been made by the Chairman of Ways and Means the Solicitor-General took his bow and said: "Of course, this is the Bill that I have sought to introduce all along".
I say to him that if it was a "nuts and bolts" Bill that he had decided to introduce last January or last June, whenever he started work on the Bill, he should have said so. If he had told us that he would be acquitted now of any accusation of bad faith. But since he did not make any such explanation to the House his is the heaviest responsibility for the difficulties in which the House is now placed. If this were an ordinary Bill it would be bad enough that the House of Commons had been misled in such information by its leading legal spokesman on the Government side. But it is an extraordinary Bill. If it were an extraordinary Bill that commanded the support of people in the country, perhaps there would be an excuse for a "nuts and bolts" Bill, although many of us would contest the proposition. But it is not such a Bill.
It is the national background to the debates here that gives them their significance in British history, even though they are procedural debates. The Prime Minister claims that he has the consent 1152 of the people for what he is doing, but he must know that that claim is false. The Government claim that they have a mandate for the Bill, but they must know that that claim cannot be sustained. It is this lie at the centre of our affairs that is poisoning Parliament and will poison democratic institutions in this country if we do not seek the proper remedy.
That is the background to these events. That is why some of us say we are not prepared to allow a Bill for which the Government have no mandate, for which they claim the consent of the people when they know that that claim is false. We are not prepared to let such a Bill pass through the House by procedures devised by the Government's leading legal authorities not to assist the House but to deceive it. Therefore, we shall fight it at every stage.
There are some Conservative Members—and apparently some Liberal Members. though I hope that they will think better of it—who say that the House must not become too engulfed in procedural questions, that it must not devote too much of its time, late at night if it is forced to, on these matters. The history of this country would be very strange if that is what some of our forebears had thought. Most of the history of Parliament would have to be rewritten if it were to exclude those people who fought procedural battles.
So let no hon. Members talk to one another in those terms. What we are debating, whichever side we may take, is a question that will affect for generations the lives and liberties of the people who live in this country. We say, and I believe there are many Conservative Members who believe it too, that the only people who can settle the matter—it cannot be settled by vote of the Liberal Party, in Committee or even on Second Reading—are the British people, when the issue is put fairly and squarely to them. That is the only court with the right to settle the question. When we fight in this House we shall be fighting for the right of the British people to settle the matter.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has made a characteristically formidable speech. No one 1153 could doubt his claim to be regarded as a consistent upholder, or more or less consistent upholder, of the rights of Parliament. So I am, and I shall explain in my speech exactly why I say that.
§ The Solicitor-General
I cannot expect the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to be regarded by the House as particularly representative of his party in claiming to be a consistent upholder of the rights of free speech and Parliament—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was listened to in silence throughout his speech. Surely the same treatment will be given to the Solicitor-General.
§ The Solicitor-General
Several hon. Members opposite are pronouncing judgment on my speech before they have heard it. This is characteristic of the way they listen to most speeches.
I come back to the point I was making and will give one example of the rôle of the party opposite in relation to the rights of this House. I ask the hon. Members to cast their minds back to the Supplies and Services Act of 1947—a one-Clause Bill which was seeking the assumption by legislative action of totalitarian powers. How did hon. Members still in this House, members of the party opposite, react to that? The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) as he now is, who was subsequently a Chairman of the Labour Party, described that Bill as an inspiration to the country. The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) said this about that Bill—I know it was a quarter of a century ago, but it still reveals the truth of the posture of the party opposite:The economic integration of Europe is the only solution for this country's livelihood and that of France as well.and he went on:I look forward to a Bill of this kind for Europe—a European Bill of a European Government planning the resources of Europe on a Socialist basis …"—[OFFICI A L REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1825.]So much for the consistency which hon. Members opposite have shown in upholding the rights and traditions of this House.
1154 I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton), the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) repudiating the first part of the Opposition's Motion and accepting without question the good faith and integrity of the Government. On the other hand, I was not in the least surprised by the virulence of the attack launched upon my integrity and my good faith and that of the Government by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I must say that when one is accused by the hon. Member for Walton of deliberately misleading the House it does almost more than anything else to confirm my judgment, and I hope that of all Members of the House, of the integrity and good faith with which we have approached this task.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would the hon. Gentleman now explain precisely what he means, because the implication in his remarks was in fact that I had no integrity. Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am not dealing with implications I am dealing with the direct expression of an explicit charge levelled at me by the hon. Member for Walton. He accused me and the Government of lack of integrity in this matter and of deliberately misleading the House. I repudiate that accusation absolutely and do it with all the more confidence because it was levelled by the hon. Member for Walton.
In answer to the questions I have been asked, the Bill was formed in accordance with constitutional conventions which have now been outlined to the House many times and stressed by my hon. and learned Friends the Members for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) and Northwich (Sir J. Foster). It is for the Crown to make and ratify the Treaty of Accession. It is for Parliament, if it pleases, between these two exercises of Crown Prerogative to make the necessary consequential changes in United Kingdom law to enable the Crown to proceed to ratification. The intention of the Government in introducing the Bill is to provide for those legislative changes which will enable the United Kingdom 1155 to comply with the obligations of Community membership and so allow the Crown to proceed to ratification. It is with that single, entirely constitutional intention that the Bill is framed.
The nature of the Bill, of course, depends upon the nature of the exercise upon which we have been involved now for some 10 years. The shape of the Bill and the limitations upon the scope of debate so far as they arise follow naturally—and I will analyse them in a moment—from the very nature of treaty-making. When the Government negotiate a treaty with one or more other States, the result has inevitably to be seen at the end of the negotiations as a whole. This applies to a small treaty just as much as it does to a large and complex set of connected treaty documents such as we have here.
The whole of the treaty arrangements must be seen as a package. It is not open—and this has been clear from the outset of this undertaking—to any one of the States concerned to pick and choose which of the treaty provisions it will subsequently accept. Still less is it open to Parliament to pick and choose in that way. As I have explained, Parliament's rôle is concerned with the enactment of the necessary changes in the law and not with the approval of the treaty provisions as such.
Of course—and this is at the centre of parliamentary strength—it may refuse to make the necessary changes in the law, in which case the Government cannot ratify the treaty. But that is a different matter from Parliament itself amending the treaty provisions. All this has been well known and until recently accepted without question in connection with this Bill and with the treaties. The treaties are a fact, the result of years of continuous negotiation under successive Governments. They are as such unamendable by Parliament, which does not mean that the Bill itself is unamendable. The Bill reflects the treaties, including their special features—especially, as has been well known, the direct internal applicability of Community law, present and future. To exclude from the Bill the implementation of any one portion of the treaties, any single aspect of Community law, could only have one result—that the 1156 treaties would not be implemented at all. Everyone has appreciated that from the outset.
§ Mr. English
One accepts that, in a purely technical sense, one cannot amend a treaty which is in being and signed, but would the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that in international law one can attach a reservation of any sort to one's ratification, excepting in one set of circumstances—when the treaty says that one may not ratify with reservations? Would he explain to the House where in this treaty is any such provision?
§ The Solicitor-General
I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman on that point. It is not open to States which have negotiated a complex package of treaty measures to attach random reservations in that kind of way. It would lead to an anarchic situation. There is no possible provision, nor was one envisaged, in this treaty for reservations to be attached in this way. If the Bill did not reflect the treaties as they stand, it would be legally pointless, for the central provisions of the Bill would be legally meaningless if they do not enable us to enter the Communities.
They would be politically pointless as well. The hon. Member for Walton was one of many who said, "Let us amend the Bill here and there and send the Crown back to renegotiate." The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) explained exactly why, politically, that would not be possible. He explained that the outcome of the negotiations was a carefully calculated and negotiated package and that the Bill would be pointless if it were to be amended on the hypothesis that the treaties are amendable or subject to reservations.
The Accession Treaty is the result of long hard bargaining between 10 countries, and if the Bill's shape is such that the treaty package has to be taken or rejected as a whole, it does no more than reflect the political and legal facts of life as they have been well known to this House for many years. This is why, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained on Second Reading, so much care has been taken by successive Governments to secure proper consultation with Parliament throughout the whole process. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) took pains 1157 in his book to point out that the Division in support of the original application of 10th May, 1967, was… most certainly the biggest majority on a major issue since the development of the modern system of party political alignments more than a century before.Well and good. The application was well and truly got off the ground in that way. But from then on, throughout the negotiations, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has come back to the House on many occasions to explain precisely where we have got to. Even before the Government's White Paper last July, and the debate last October, Parliament had had unique and unusual opportunities to debate many aspects of the negotiations step by step.
When we came to the debate last October, the only major issues outstanding in the negotiations were the Channel Islands and fisheries. They were settled in negotiation in November and December. On 13th December the House was given a full report of the outcome of the negotiations on fisheries. There was a discussion then during which hon. Members had every opportunity to make their points and seek clarification. There was further opportunity on 15th December, in the course of the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and before Christmas the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition indicated his wish for a further debate on fisheries on a Supply Day before signature of the Treaty. The Government would have been happy to acquiesce in that arrangement, but in the event the Opposition chose, instead, to devote most of the time to procedural questions. It was the choice of the Opposition. Indeed, when referring to that debate not long ago, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale referred to it as though it were a rather incidental affair. I think he said that it gave me the opportunity of a trial run.
The truth is that throughout the Parliamentary consideration of these negotiations, as my right hon. and learned Friend said on 20th January,… we all accept the unique character of the Treaty … It is for this reason that the procedure adopted by the Government for informing and consulting Parliament and obtaining the approval of Parliament for the principle at stake has indeed been unique."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January. 1972; Vol. 829, c. 704.]1158 The fact that we were negotiating a package was an additional and very important reason for consulting Parliament fully and frequently, which we did, and that was followed by the Second Reading debate. By that point in time we had secured approval of the principle of entry, with all that that involved; approval of the terms negotiated, and approval of the legislative changes in Britain to facilitate enlargement of the Communities by the accession of the United Kingdom.
Some questions have been asked about the different ways in which the Bill might have been formulated. Several hon. Members have asked why we did not schedule the treaties to the Bill. Some have suggested that we defied convention and demonstrated our intention to curtail debate by not scheduling the treaties to the Bill. Let me give four reasons why that criticism is misconceived.
First, there is no conventional or constitutional requirement that the treaties should be scheduled in that way. The right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) conceded that on 1st March. There are many important precedents for not scheduling treaties—the United Nations Act, 1946, the E.F.T.A. Act, 1960, almost all the peace treaty Acts, and so on. It is well precedented.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones
As the Solicitor-General has been good enough to refer to me, would he explain to the House why the Treaty of Accession has not been scheduled to the Bill, whereas in a Bill which went through the House last Thursday—a comparatively minor Measure, the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Bill—Part IImakes provision with a view to the accession by the United Kingdom to the United Nations Convention of 1956 on the recovery abroad of maintenance."?That Bill sets out in detail all the changes in our law which flow from that accession. The Communities Bill does nothing of the kind. Why is that?
§ The Solicitor-General
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has anticipated my next point, and I shall deal with it now.
The second reason for rejecting the idea of scheduling the treaties is a practical 1159 one—practical for the convenience of the House, and practical for the convenience of legal practitioners and citizens in this country. Whether to schedule a treaty to a Bill is determined largely by how best provisions affecting changes in the law of the country can be made available to the people concerned. In many cases it is convenient for the relevant new part of United Kingdom law to be made available in that way. In others it is not so convenient and other methods are adopted. The European Free Trade Area Act did not proceed in that way. It proceeded by using regulations and other powers made under other Acts and provided for in that Act.
The reason why the matter was handled this way was clearly foreshadowed by the Government of which the right hon. and learned Member was a member. I do not want to weary the House with these matters yet again and I need not trouble the right hon. and learned Gentleman with the White Paper. I will trouble him with the exposition that I gave in the Second Reading debate, and what was said by Lord Gardiner.
It was made clear in that debate that the way in which the treaties, the regulations and the whole Community law would be made available would be by their publication in the form in which they have been published, for them to be available to the public in that way. It has never been suggested that the treaties, or any part of them, would be scheduled to the Bill. The way that we are proceeding has always been foreseen as appropriate in connection with our accession to the Community. If we look at what was said in the passage that I quoted in the Second Reading debate it can be clearly noted that not one word was ever uttered in the White Paper—which the right hon. and learned Gentleman brandishes—or by any member of the then Government, to suggest that the treaties would be scheduled or any part of Community law would be scheduled.
Not a word was uttered to suggest that Parliament would be free to pick and choose between this piece and that piece of the treaties finally negotiated. As I explained when I referred the House to these quotations, our approach is and has been entirely consistent and this has always been foreseen as inevitable and 1160 right. It is for the same reason that the Bill does not spell out the requirements of Community law in detail. Some hon. Members have suggested that today. It has been suggested by the right hon. and learned Member and the Leader of the Opposition that we should somehow have spelled out in detail in the Bill what existing provisions of directly applicable Community law would apply by virtue of Clause 2 (1).
§ The Solicitor-General
The right hon. and learned Member nods his head. That course was expressly rejected by the Lord Chancellor in the Government of which he was a member. Lord Gardiner said of implementing legislation:This legislation would include an enactment applying as law in the United Kingdom so much of the provisions of the Treaties and of the instruments made under them as then had direct internal effect as law within the Member States and providing that future instruments similarly took effect as law here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 8th May 1967; Vol. 282, c. 1202.]It is there for the right hon. and learned Member to read and we can come back and see how far the Government of which he was a member was acquainted with this.
Even at this stage it seems to be thought that by adopting a course spelling these things out one by one we would make the Bill susceptible to the kind of Amendments which would make reservations about particular matters—Amendments which would require us to re-open the terms which have been negotiated. Again that shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the treaties and Community law.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. and learned Member is spelling out with great patience and erudition the mechanical techniques which the Government have adopted to railroad this legislation through the House. [Interruption.] With great respect to the rude noises opposite, I say quite seriously, not wishing to make a narrow party point, that I reject the charges made against this side of the House, that some of us have been inconsistent in our implacable opposition to this proposal. The only thing that would make sense of the thesis that the hon. and learned Gentleman is putting before the House would be if he had a mandate 1161 from the people who sent us here to carry out their wishes. If that mandate is missing, all the mechanical explanations the hon. and learned Gentleman is now giving to the House mean nothing.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman did not have an opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and make his speech at an appropriate stage in the debate instead of doing so now.
I turn to the points raised about the adequacy of the debate that we have permitted upon the Bill. I cannot accept the suggestion contained in the Amendment which stands in the names of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and others that the Bill in many aspects affects the extinction of parliamentary sovereignty. The aspects which most concern them and the House are clearly set out for specific discussion in Clause 1(2), the Communities' power to make treaties; in Clause 2(1), the Communities' power to make law; in Clause 2(3), the Communities' power to make taxes; and in Clause 3(1), the power of the European Court to interpret the law. All those matters have already been specifically identified and emphasised by my right hon. Friends and others during the Second Reading debate. That was the importance of that debate and of that vote. Hereafter—and I say this in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West —the House will be able to probe the "nuts and bolts", to use his phrase, large as well as small.
It has been suggested, and is still suggested, that the deliberate intention of the Government was to stifle and gag parliamentary discussion—or, in the phrase of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale—to exclude discussion. Is it not odd, therefore, that already in relation to Clause 1, which is no more than a definition Clause, 14 Amendments have already been selected as within the rules of order of the House? Moreover, so far as the selection of Amendments has gone—and I emphasise it is only in relation to Clause 1—it is clear that the aspect of sovereignty which was referred to in that Clause, namely, the Community's power to make treaties, will not only be discussible but will also be the subject of more than one Amendment already selected.
1162 It may be that our parliamentary form in relation to treaties does not always allow amendment, but, as the Amendments already selected illustrate, the right of debate and the right of vote on all those matters are provided for so far as they can be in the context of the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain to the House why he did not say on 20th January, in the Second Reading debate and on all the other available occasions that all we would have is a "nuts and bolts" Bill? Why did he not spell that out if he wanted to be candid to the country and the House of Commons?
§ The Solicitor-General
One matter that has always been made clear is that the Bill would contain all those matters in respect of which the law of the United Kingdom would have to be changed. It would not have been possible, even if it were proper, to frame the Bill in such a way as to allow Parliament to debate outside the areas where United Kingdom law was being changed. It is only within the context of United Kingdom law that the Bill can operate, and the question of changes arising in the United Kingdom law can be debated in that context.
The answers to the questions put in relation to my undertakings are entirely clear. On 20th January during the whole of my speech I was concerned to emphasise that approval by Parliament of the appropriate legislation was a necessary middle step to our accession to the Communities, and I explained that accession was dependent upon ratification consequent upon passing the necessary legislation. It was in the context of the Second Reading debate that was still to come that I went on to say:The Treaties in isolation are not as suitable for scrutiny by the House as the treaties in conjunction with legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th January, 1972; Vol. 829, c. 796.]They are to be taken and stated alongside each other.
It is that which gives the meaning to the passage quoted, though not today, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. Because the passage of this legislation is necessary, that would be the time to debate the important questions, including those of 1163 sovereignty, to see how far the Government are carrying out intentions foreshadowed in the 1967 White Paper. That is the appropriate method and the appropriate time to enable Parliament to consider, approve and implement the consequences of the Treaty. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you not say it could not be amended?"] I am coming to that. I said not one word in that passage to suggest that there was or could be any scope for amendment of those necessary consequences of the treaties, still less of the treaties themselves.
Reference has been made to the passage in which I sought to answer the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich, that legislation designed to implement a treaty was in all circumstances incapable of amendment. The House will remember his saying that. I explained that he was wrong to argueas a matter of principle that the legislation implement implement a treaty allows no scope for amendment…I was there indicating my view that it was quite wrong to argue that all legislation to implement a treaty was incapable of any amendment. I was not, and could not have been, pre-judging the decision of the Chair on the admissibility of any given Amendment to any given Clause of this or any other Bill. Still less was I undertaking that each and every Amendment which might in due course be tabled was likely to be acceptable or even within the rules of order. It would have been quite impossible for me to do so and I gave no such undertaking.
I said also that legislation implementing other treaties in the pasthas been capable of amendment, dependent upon the way in which the Government of the day chooses to implement the treaty obligations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1972; Vol. 829, c. 794.]And that again is manifestly true, in the context of this Bill along with others. Once again I cannot pre-empt the right and duty of the Chair to rule on Amendments that have yet to be called or tabled. But it is, I should have thought, self-evident that where and in so far as a treaty allows signatory states an option as to the method in which they secure the 1164 necessary legislative consequences of the treaty, then those consequences can be implemented through the customary legislative processes of each country.
On points of that kind—as opposed to many other aspects of the treaty—then, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said on Second Reading:…there can always be more than one way of finding the right form of legislative words to meet our needs, to meet the obligations…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 643.]But in acknowledging that, which is the limit of what the Government have ever acknowledged. I am certainly not acknowledging, still less undertaking, that there can be any amendment of the treaty provisions themselves or of the essential legislative consequences of those.
No member of the Government has ever given any undertaking to that effect. And I repudiate absolutely the charge that there has been any breach of faith whatsoever.
If there is any Member of this House who should be required to answer a charge of breach of faith in the context of Europe it is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He himself at the very outset explained on 2nd May:It is for all these reasons that we intend to pursue our application for membership with all the vigour and determination at our cornmand."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 314.]Then, six days later, he repeated:These applications will be made from strength, in a spirit of resolve."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1096.]Where has that resolve gone? Where has that determination gone? Where has that vigour gone? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where has Harold gone?"] The one epitaph that cannot be written on the right hon. Gentleman's career is that Harold kept faith with Europe. It is he who has committed the grossest breach of faith of all and on that basis this censure Motion deserves to be rejected.
That this House condemns the action of Her Majesty's Government in framing its European Communities Bill with the intention of removing the possibility of substantial amendment; and considers this to be a gross breach of faith
in the light of undertakings previously given that the Bill and the Treaties could be fully discussed:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 270, Noes 317.1169
|Division No. 70.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Fisher,Mrs.Doris (B'ham,Ladywood)||Mackle, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Foley, Maurice||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Ashley, Jack||Foot, Michael||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Ashton, Joe||Ford, Ben||Marks, Kenneth|
|Atkinson, Norman||Forrester, John||Marquand, David|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Marsden, F.|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Freeson, Reginald||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Garrett, W. E.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Baxter, William||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Beaney, Alan||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Meacher, Michael|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Gourlay, Harry||Mendelson, John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bishop, E. S.||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Millan, Bruce|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Milne, Edward|
|Booth, Albert||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Molloy, William|
|Bradley, Tom||Hamling, William||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hardy, Peter||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Moyle, Roland|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hattersley, Roy||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Murray, Ronald King|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cant, R. B.||Hilton, W. S.||Ogden, Eric|
|Carmichael, Neil||Horam, John||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Carter, Ray (Birmcngh'm, Northfield)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Huckfield, Leslie||Oram, Bert|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Orme, Stanley|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hunter, Adam||Padley, Walter|
|Concannon, J. D.||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)||Paget, R. T.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Janner, Greville||Palmer, Arthur|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Cronin, John||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||John, Brynmor||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Pendry, Tom|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Pentland, Norman|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones,Rt.Hn Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Prescott, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Judd, Frank||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Kelley Richard||Probert, Arthur|
|Deakins, Eric||Kerr, Russell||Rankin, John|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Kinnock, Neil||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lambie David||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lamond, James||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dempsey, James||Latham, Arthur||Richard, Ivor|
|Doig, Peter||Leadbitter, Ted||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Roberts, Rt.Hn. Goronwy(Caernarvon)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Leonard, Dick||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lestor, Miss Joan||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Roper, John|
|Dunn, James A.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lipton, Marcus||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lomas, Kenneth||Sandelson, Neville|
|Edelman, Maurice||Loughlin, Charles||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Short,Rt.Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Ellis, Tom||McBride, Neil||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton.N.E.)|
|English, Michael||McCann, John||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Fred||McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ewing, Henry||McElhone, Frank||Sillars, James|
|Faulds, Andrew||McGuire, Michael||Silverman, Julius|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Mackenzie, Gregor||Skinner, Dennis|
|Small, William||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Tinn, James||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Spearing, Nigel||Tomney, Frank||Whitlock, William|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Torney, Tom||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Stallard, A. W.||Tuck, Raphael||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Urwin, T. W.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Varley, Eric G.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wainwright, Edwin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Strang, Gavin||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wallace, George||Woof, Robert|
|Swain, Thomas||Watkins, David|
|Taverne, Dick||Weitzman, David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)||Wellbeloved, James||Mr. Joseph Harper and Mr. John Golding|
|Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Wells, William (Waisall, N.)|
|Adley, Robert||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Hiley, Joseph|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dean, Paul||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dixon, Piers||Holland, Philip|
|Astor, John||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hordern, Peter|
|Awdry, Daniel||Drayson, G. B.||Hornby, Richard|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hornsby-Smith.Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Dykes, Hugh||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Balniel, Lord||Eden, Sir John||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Batsford, Brian||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hunt, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Emery, Peter||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bennett Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Farr, John||James, David|
|Benyon, W.||Fell, Anthony||Jenkins, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Jessel, Toby|
|Fidler, Michael||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Blaker, Peter||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jopling, Michael|
|Body, Richard||Fookes, Miss Janet||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Boscawen, Robert||Fortescue, Tim||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Foster, Sir John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fowler, Norman||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fox, Marcus||Kimball, Marcus|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Braine, Bernard||Fry, Peter||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Bray, Ronald||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gardner, Edward||Kirk, Peter|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Gibson-Watt, David||Kitson, Timothy|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Knox, David|
|Bryan, Paul||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Lambton, Lord|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lane, David|
|Buck, Antony||Goodhart, Philip||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Goodhew, Victor||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Burden, F. A.||Gorst, John||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gower, Raymond||Lewis. Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G. (Moray&Nairn)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gray, Hamish||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Green, Alan||Longden, Gilbert|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grieve, Percy||Loveridge, John|
|Channon, Paul||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Luce, R. N.|
|Chapman, Sydney||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Grylls, Michael||MacArthur, Ian|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gummer, Selwyn||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gurden, Harold||McLaren, Martin|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Clegg, Walter||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Cooke, Robert||Hannam, John (Exeter)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Coombs, Derek||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Maddan, Martin|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Madel, David|
|Cordle, John||Haselhurst, Alan||Maginnis, John E.|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Hastings, Stephen||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Cormack, Patrick||Havers, Michael||Marten, Neil|
|Costain, A. P.||Hawkins, Paul||Mather, Carol|
|Critchley, Julian||Hay, John||Maude, Angus|
|Crouch, David||Hayhoe, Barney||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Crowder, F. P.||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mawby, Ray|
|Curran, Charles||Heseltine, Michael||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Hicks, Robert||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rawlinson, Rt, Hn. Sir Peter||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Redmond, Robert||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W)||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Temple, John M.|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Moate, Roger||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Molyneaux, James||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Money, Ernie||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Ridsdale, Julian||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Monro, Hector||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Tilney, John|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|More, Jasper||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Trew, Peter|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear Adm.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Morrison, Charles||Rost, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mudd, David||Royle, Anthony||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Murton, Oscar||Russell, Sir Ronald||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Waddington, David|
|Neave, Airey||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Scott, Nicholas||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Scott-Hopkins, James||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Normanton, Tom||Sharpies, Richard||Wall, Patrick|
|Nott, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Walters, Dennis|
|Onslow, Cranley||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Simeons, Charles||Warren, Kenneth|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sinclair, Sir George||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Osborn, John||Skeet, T. H. H.||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Soref, Harold||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Speed, Keith||Wilkinson, John|
|Pardoe, John||Spence, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Sproat, Iain||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Percival, Ian||Stainton, Keith||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Stanbrook, Ivor||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stokes, John||Younger, Hn. George|
|Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Sutcliffe, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Reginald Eyre and Mr. Bernard Weatherill|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Raison, Timothy||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.