HC Deb 10 July 1978 vol 953 cc1025-41
The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I should like, with permission, to report to the House on the meeting of the European Council in Bremen which I attended with my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on 6th and 7th July.

We were informed by the President of the Commission that the expected rate of growth in the Community countries this year, on present policies, would be lower than expected, and we agreed that increased growth is a crucial objective to improve employment prospects. As regards measures to combat youth unemployment, we called for decisions within the framework of the European Social Fund to come into force on 1st January 1979. All member States will take necessary measures to increase growth according to their own individual circumstances. But we agreed that countries with smaller inflation and balance of payments problems will do more to increase domestic demand.

We agreed that a zone of monetary stability in Europe was a highly desirable objective, as part of the concerted international action needed for economic recovery. The German and French Governments put forward for consideration a scheme for a European monetary system. A number of Heads of Government, including myself, wished to see the details fully worked out before entering into any commitment by our respective Governments. We therefore agreed that Finance Ministers should formulate guidelines for a possible scheme, taking as a starting point at their meeting on 24th July the Franco-German proposals. Officials would subsequently elaborate the necessary provisions by 31st October, and the final scheme would be in front of the meeting of the European Council on 4th and 5th December for decision and commitment.

This agreed timetable will permit the fuller preparation and consideration which is essential for a durable scheme. We can thus hope to avoid the errors of 1972 when the previous Government joined a similar scheme on 1st May but were forced to withdraw only seven weeks later, on 23rd June. However, the outlines of the Franco-German proposal contain some new features and the Government will play their full part in the forthcoming studies.

The Government have taken the view throughout these discussions that monetary arrangements are not enough by themselves to ensure a zone of monetary stability. Any new system must be one which will last and will take full account of the economic as well as monetary interests of each member of the Community. Therefore, in company with others, I pressed for parallel studies to be made of the action that is necessary to ensure a greater convergence in the economies of the member countries. especially in such matters as the commitments to growth and transfers of real resources. It was agreed to carry out such studies.

It will be necessary to judge how far all these matters have been satisfactorily arranged when we are called upon to take a final decision on such new proposals as the Finance Council may put forward.

There was a related discussion arising out of the need for a better use of resources in supporting Mediterranean agriculture. This led to an extensive discussion of the common agricultural policy as a whole which brought out the dissatisfaction felt by a number of member Governments with the present scale of agricultural expenditure and with the cost of financing surplus production. This was the most thorough and frank discussion of the defects of the common agricultural policy in which I have participated in the Community, and it revealed a great deal of support for our wish to see a more balanced distribution of the use of Community resources as a whole. The Commission was asked to come back with proposals to remedy this at the next European Council.

As regards energy, the Council adopted objectives for 1985 calling for the reduction of the Community's dependence on imported energy to 50 per cent. of its total requirements, including oil, and emphasised that other industrial countries should set themselves similar objectives.

The Council expressed its readiness to make progress with the developing countries on such matters as trade, commodity support, stabilisation of export earnings and assistance.

The Council discussed the situation in the Middle East and Lebanon and in Africa. It regretted the lack of progress towards a settlement in the Middle East, and reaffirmed the principles set out in the declaration issued by the Council in London on 29th June last year. The Council agreed on the necessity for early and peaceful independence for Namibia and Zimbabwe on the basis of negotiated and internationally acceptable solutions and expressed support for the efforts which Britain is making, with others, to this end.

This was a constructive meeting in which there was some hard talking because we were getting to grips with important problems. If, as a result, some new solutions can be agreed on the convergence of our economies, on a zone of monetary stability and on the transfer of resources inside the Community, including a better use of resources in the CAP, it could turn out to have been a historic occasion.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I put three points to the Prime Minister, two on the economic aspects of his statement and a third on another aspect? The right hon. Gentleman will recall that a short time ago he put up a five-point agenda to get us out of world recession, one of the main points of which was a currency stabilisation scheme. We have to determine precisely where the British interest lies and we must therefore look at the details of the present scheme and any strings which are attached to it, although it is a rather different scheme from that in 1972 to which the Prime Minister referred. But will the right hon. Gentleman agree, especially in view of his previous welcome for currency stabilisation schemes. that we are more likely to get out of the problem of world recession by co-operating with our partners than we are by standing aside from the scheme which they have put up?

Secondly, although we welcome the concept of a currency stabilisation scheme, will the Prime Minister agree that no such scheme either will work or could ever be a substitute for running our own economy in a sound financial way, and will he accept that one of the things which shocked the British people was the fact that we are now in the second division economically of European countries, and, since Britain was the victor in Europe, this comes very hard to the British people? However, that has nothing to do with currency stabilisation schemes. It is the result of the way in which the Government have run the British economy recently.

Thirdly, the Prime Minister referred to a number of foreign affairs matters. When he and his colleagues were all together, did they discuss the trials now taking place in the Soviet Union of Mr. Ginzburg and Mr. Shcharansky, and did they come to any concerted view upon them?

The Prime Minister

On the first question, I agree that the proposal which has been put up—I refer to the monetary arrangements—is rather different from that of 1972. It is a great pity, however, that the Opposition when they were in Government did not take the same precautions that we are taking now. I hope to learn from their mistakes in this matter. Of course it is better to co-operate than to stand aside. Indeed, I think that this is what I have been preaching over the past 12 months. We shall continue to examine these matters constructively. I am very ready to do anything which will strengthen our own currency and give it greater reserves, provided that our other interests are satisfied. We shall look at the scheme in that way. I think that that was fully understood by everybody.

On the second point, the right hon. Lady is echoing my own words, that none of these schemes can be a substitute for running our own economy properly. This is indeed what I have been trying to do, with no support from the Opposition, through the industrial strategy and through trying to overcome inflation. I must remind the right hon. Lady, when she talks about the deterioration in our situation, that inflation was much higher when she left office than it is now, and was going up and was forecast to go up over the next 12 months.

Therefore, I do not think that it comes very well from the right hon. Lady to talk about the way in which we have been running our economy recently. It is because of the way in which we have been running it recently that this country has more hope for the future that it ever had during the early years of the 1970s.

The trial of Mr. Shcharansky was not mentioned at the European Council of Ministers, but it is clear that if the Soviet Union goes ahead with the trial it will place a very severe test upon relations between it and other countries. It seems to bear some of the hallmarks of a return to the trials we knew in Stalinist days. That cannot but effect our relationships.

Mr. Jay

In studying the so-called currency stabilisation scheme, do we have to learn yet again that fixed exchange rates usually lead to unemployment? Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that we shall not accept any schemes resembling this until we have had a genuine reform of the common agriculture policy and a reasonable German contribution to the exchange costs of our forces in Germany?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend is not as accurate as usual when he says that fixed exchange rates lead to unemployment. That depends upon the nature of the economy one is running. As I keep on saying to the British people, what is at stake here is the nature of our productivity and our efficiency and whether we have inflation. That will determine the level of unemployment. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will not desert a view that he held for many years about the desirability of having less flexibility in exchange rates because of his dislike of the Common Market as a whole.

On the question of the CAP, I have made it quite clear over many months, and, indeed, over years—as has my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—that it is a matter which needs the most substantial reorganisation. What I think is now being seen by a number of members of the Community is that giving more help to the Mediterranean countries cannot be done by increasing the total budget. The agricultural budget is large enough, if indeed not too large. Therefore, if there is to be additional help for the Mediterranean countries it must come from a redistribution of resources between certain countries and the Mediterranean countries which might seek to benefit. The Commission has been asked to examine all that and to bring forward proposals in December.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Liberals very much welcome the major proposal of a parallel currency backed by a European monetary fund, which is part of the manifesto of European Liberal democrats? Despite the existence of certain economic Visigoths around the right hon. Gentleman, can he assure the House that it is the Government's hope and intention to see the details that he mentions worked out positively by the end of the year?

The Prime Minister

I hope to see anything which will lessen monetary instability, which I think has been part of the cause of the decline in international trade, though obviously not the whole cause. I have been one of the most fervent advocates of monetary stability.

What I should like the House, including the Liberal Party, to accept, as I imagine and hope that that party does, is that monetary stability will not be achieved unless there is greater convergence between economies. That is the essential principle that we had to get into the original proposal. It was not there. The proposal seemed to me to be showing a substantial weakness because it was not there. That is what was got in at my insistence. It is something that we must consider between now and December. If we could get both those things, that could be of advantage to the United Kingdom as well as to Europe.

Mr. Roper

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the realism he brought to the discussions in Bremen. Can he assure the House that it is perfectly appropriate for the Government to maintain a reserve on the specific proposals until the discussions in the Council of Foreign Ministers have made quite clear how the proposals on a zone of monetary stability can be linked with specific proposals which lead to a convergence of European economies as a whole?

The Prime Minister

Two studies are to run in parallel. I hope that the proposals on both will be equally tangible when they appear. Then it will be for the Government to judge whether they are in Britain's interests. I hope that they will be, but we shall have to wait and see the details.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept meanwhile that it does not make it easier to control inflation in this country if he allows his exchange rate policy to increase the money supply unduly? Will talks on the general economic future of the Community include the present position in Africa and the difficulties that the Europeans and Japanese might experience if there were to be any interference with access to raw materials and minerals from that Continent?

The Prime Minister

I think that the exchange rate policy is well known. It is not proceeding unsatisfactorily. Sterling has been stable now for many months, and that is of assistance to our industrialists, who prefer a stable exchange rate. It has varied only within a very small ratio. Indeed, today it seems to be singularly strong, but I do not think that we should look at any one day, any one week or any one month. Over a period sterling is pretty stable, so it is having no adverse impact on monetary policy, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is well under control at present.

As regards discussions on Africa, there is growing concern about the consequences to employment in Europe if there were interruption of supplies from African countries, including, of course, South Africa. But these matters, which are commercial matters are not discussed in open council.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the intention behind the proposals not merely greater monetary stability but the creation of a common European currency as the first step towards full monetary and economic union, which in turn will lead inevitably to a Federal Europe, for which the people of this country have never voted? Therefore, will my right hon. Friend continue to refuse to give any commitment, even in principle, until the House has had a full opportunity to examine the details and vote on them?

The Prime Minister

There is no doubt that any increases in monetary stability can lead in due course to common European currencies and to the kind of situation that my right hon. Friend forecasts and indeed fears. I do not have such fears, because the British Parliament and the British people will always judge this matter against what they believe to be their proper interests in these matters. But I think that it would be a long way—many years—from having a greater zone of monetary stability to the common European currency that my right hon. Friend forecasts. Indeed, such a thing would be possible and sustainable—otherwise, no Government could possibly accept it or live with it—only if there were a convergence of European economies. If that happened and raised the standard of life of the British people. I should be the first to cheer.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

May I follow up the question of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and ask the Prime Minister to explain to me how it is that he has given assurances in answer to me and other hon. Members that there is no question of the Government's committing themselves to the principle of economic and monetary union? How does he square that with those words of his statement in which he talks about entering into a commitment by his Government? Is there not a betrayal of past assurances to the House here?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The hon. Lady should try to understand what she reads. What my statement says is A number of Heads of Government wished to see the details fully worked out before entering into any commitment by our respective Governments. That is no betrayal of principle at all. I am sure that this matter will be discussed by Parliament, probably on more than one occasion, before it comes into being.

But, with respect to some hon. Members, I hope that they will not enter into this matter with all their antennae quivering because of preconceived ideas, because of their dislike of our original decision. We must judge it, and they will be betraying their interests if they do not so judge it, against what is in the best interests of Britain, in raising employment, achieving stable monetary conditions and engendering a higher rate of growth.

Mr. Gould

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread relief, both inside and outside Parliament, that he was strong-minded enough to resist a proposal which would lock us into the present unsatisfactory situation, and would block off one of the last remaining escape routes from the dilemma posed for us by the obstructive attitude of creditor countries? Can he say what powers he will have stop this dangerous development if the damaging potential becomes even clearer over the next six months than it is now?

The Prime Minister

The present scheme standing by itself is not satisfactory. I made that clear, although there was some pressure for me to go along for the sake of agreement. If we could get some of the redistribution of resources that I would welcome—

Mr. Skinner


The Prime Minister

Of course it is "if". My hon. Friend is not the only one who has done a little negotiation in his time. As I was saying, if we could get some of the redistribution of resources, it would be certainly worth our while to examine it and see. But at the end of the day, as my hon. Friend himself has made clear, we shall have to take a decision whether we re-enter the snake or do not re-enter the snake, whatever name it is given. I shall look at it on that basis. I shall not make the mistake made by the Conservative Government, who did not work out the scheme properly and did not get the conditions they wanted. We should all of us at least try to learn from their mistakes.

Mr. Amery

I fully appreciate the need for giving careful study to the German-French proposals, but is the Prime Minister aware that we have paid a very high price for our refusal under successive Governments to join the coal and steel pool, for failing to join the European Defence Community, and for not getting into the Common Market earlier? Is he further aware that, although there may be obvious difficulties in the scheme at the moment, even if travelling with the convoy means a rough passage for a bit, it may be very much more uncomfortable and lonelier not to be in a convoy at all?

The Prime Minister

There are varying views whether we paid a high price in these matters—the right hon. Gentleman has some knowledge of them. But I am bound to remind him of what he has obviously forgotten—that between 1st May 1972 and 23rd June 1972 it cost us $2 billion in seven weeks. That was much too high a price to pay for joining a scheme that was clearly unsuitable. We must have regard to the costs of this scheme and the benefits that will accrue. It is no use joining a convoy if, after seven weeks, one has to jump overboard without a lifebelt.

Mr. Spearing

Will my right hon. Friend expand a little on the question of decision? Is it not a fact that the European Council is not a formal council? Will this scheme be promoted as a draft regulation by the Commission and subject to the procedures of this House prior to the meeting in December? My right hon. Friend says that it would promote stability, but even if that were true, would it not do so at the expense of the authority of Her Majesty's Government to order our own internal finances as they wished?

The Prime Minister

I cannot answer my hon. Friend's first question whether it would be a regulation. No one has got down to that kind of discussion yet. He asked whether it would remove some powers from us. The answer is "Yes"; all these matters remove powers from us. When we joined NATO, we removed some powers from ourselves but it was the general view of the House, continued for a quarter of a century, that in removing these powers we increased our security. That is surely the test that one needs to apply to this sort of proposal. If it meant lessening powers in order to increase prosperity, the House would have to take a decision whether it wished to remain poor and independent or whether it was willing to sacrifice some powers and be more prosperous.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

There is another statement to follow. I propose to allow four more questions from each side of the House, which will be a very good run indeed.

Mr. Nelson

I welcome the Prime Minister's statement, but will he accept that many of us see it as a first and welcome move towards full monetary union in Europe and the establishment of a common currency? The Prime Minister referred to the precondition of economies in Europe moving together before such a currency could be established. In this country we have areas of different economic performance, yet we have one currency. Why is it not possible within the European context also to have one common currency for different economies and countries of differing performances?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman hits on the correct point. We can sustain one currency in this country only because there are substantial resource transfers between varying parts of the United Kingdom, from which Scotland and Wales have benefited considerably, as Northern Ireland will in due course. The same condition must apply over a larger geographical area. This is why, before giving a reply to this particular monetary proposal, I have made it an essential condition that I should know what is to happen in the matter of monetary resources. The hon. Gentleman has summed up my stand on this question admirably.

Mr. MacFarquhar

While one knows that one has to wait for the detailed working out by officials and Finance Ministers, could my right hon. Friend say here and now whether Chancellor Schmidt, whose country would have to bear the biggest burden of resource transfer, at least indicated in principle that he was willing to increase West Germany's contribution to regional and social funds and also to European growth?

The Prime Minister

No one was asked to give any answers in principle at the weekend, so I cannot say what Chancellor Schmidt's view would be on that. Whether the amount of resources would be increased is a matter that will have to be found out when we embark on the studies. What could well take place without any increase of resources would be a greater diversion from the common agricultural policy cost to the social fund. That could take place without any addition, although I would like to see an addition. Chancellor Schmidt is being attacked in Germany for his proposal in this matter because there are people there who believe that it would be disadvantageous to Germany and advantageous to other countries. So perhaps all of us had better stand back, see how the scheme develops and then look how far we can each get our advantage or disadvantage from it.

Mr. Hordern

As one of the main objectives of these proposals is that of European economic integration, would not this purpose equally well be served in the meantime, before any agreement is reached, by allowing free convertability of European countries, particularly of sterling? Is it not also a remarkable commentary on the prospects for this country that the Prime Minister should see that under a Labour Government all he is really concerned with is quibbling about resources which should be transferred from richer European countries to Great Britain?

The Prime Minister

That is a very unfair way of putting it. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have been concerned, both through their attack on inflation and through the 38 sector working parties, to try to improve the performance of British industry, which lies at the key to this situation. It is not sufficient to say that I am concerned only with the transfer of resources. Even if I were, I would he bound to say that it is a great pity that the Conservative Government were not sufficiently concerned before they lost $2 billion in seven weeks in 1972. That arose because there was a lack of convergence in the economies of the Community then.

Mr. Watkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his opening words mean that the high aspirations of the Copenhagen summit in terms of economic growth have now been abandoned? Can he say what this will mean for unemployment in Europe next year? Are the Continentals prepared to approach the problem of unemployment as a structural one and support the sort of measures that are being taken in this country to protect jobs?

The Prime Minister

It is true that the expected rate of growth in Europe as a whole will lead, unless it is remedied, to higher unemployment in Europe as a whole during 1979. This is a factor that those present had to take into account, and that is why it is, in my view, essential that at the Bonn conference next weekend there should be undertakings to increase the rate of growth by those countries which are in a position to do it as quickly as possible I should like to remind my hon. Friend that I said specifically that there was agreement that increased growth is a crucial objective in improving employment prospects. No one dissented from that view. I take it, therefore, that it applies to everybody As for the structural nature of unemployment, there are differences of view between members of the Community as to how this should be met, but so far I have not seen any better proposals than those which the Government have undertaken. They have resulted in considerable aid to companies and firms which have been in some distress, and have resulted in keeping in employment some 400,000 people.

Mr. Tapsell

By how many percentage points does the right hon. Gentleman expect the rate of inflation in Britain over the next 12 months to exceed that in the Federal Republic of Germany?

The Prime Minister

It will depend on a number of factors, including the level of inflation—[Interruption.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. It will depend on a number of factors, including the strength of sterling. That is what I wished to say. I apologise to the House for a slip of the tongue. It will depend on several factors, including the strength of sterling, the price of imported commodities and a number of factors of that sort. A great part of the very low rate of inflation in Germany—the lowest in the world. I should think, at the present time—is due to the strength of the deutschmark. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will tell hon. Gentlemen that it is because the Germans are so successful in exporting. It is because they are able to have a big balance of payments surplus. I continually impress all these things on the Opposition. I have no doubt that one day they will agree with me that they are true.

Dr. Bray

Did my right hon. Friend have any discussion with his colleagues about the circumstances in which and the frequency with which exchange rates might be adjusted under the new scheme to take account of differing rates of inflation?

The Prime Minister

Yes, there was some preliminary discussion about that. It was pointed out that at the present time there are facilities in the snake. Indeed, many adjustments in rates have been made over a weekend when it has been thought necessary to do so. But there was no detailed discussion. It will be a matter for the Finance Ministers to consider in preparing the scheme.

Sir Anthony Boyle

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of our friends overseas, and also those who voted "Yes" in the referendum, will view with gloom the Prime Minister's negative reaction to the proposals concerning European monetary reform?

If other Heads of Government managed to do their homework and to provide positive reaction to the proposals put forward, will the Prime Minister explain why he was not able to do the same?

The Prime Minister

It is a matter of opinion whether it will be viewed with gloom, but there is really no case for the ridiculous euphoria with which the Conservative Government entered in a lighthearted manner into a scheme from which they had to retreat with ignominy in less than two months. I do not propose to repeat that mistake, even though the hon. Gentleman invites me to do so. I do not know what homework was needed in order to produce that piece of paper. I do not think that much was needed. It is a question where our political and economic interests lie. Ours do not happen always to lie in the same direction as those of the other countries. Some of them are getting very great benefit out of the common agricultural policy and do not want it to be touched at all. We are not.

Mr. Ron Thomas

Will my right hon. Friend agree that exchange rates are not simply determined by rates of growth in countries but more often than not by massive flows of speculative funds? Will he agree that the only way, therefore, in which the kind of policy suggested could be sustained is by economic and monetary union, and by the British people having to give up the right to determine their own economic future? Given that the European Common Market countries are certainly bankrupt in terms of ideas to deal with unemployment, can my right hon. Friend tell us why we are moving in this direction?

The Prime Minister

I go part of the way with my hon. Friend. I think that in the short run exchange rates can be very much influenced by speculative flows, as indeed was the case in the autumn of 1976, when sterling was depressed far below its real exchange value. That is the case, therefore, for examining a scheme of this sort, to see whether, by putting sufficient reserves behind a central fund, it will he possible to prevent the machinations of the speculators. I am sure that my hon. Friend would be in favour of that. It might mean giving up some control, but we would have to judge, at the end of the day, whether it was worth giving up the control in order the better to protect our currency, provided that the other conditions that I have enumerated are also fulfilled.

Mr. Heath

The Prime Minister has been working himself into a frenzy about the events of the spring and summer of 1972. I remind him that at that time Britain was not a member of the Community. What happened was that Britain was forced off an existing parity by speculation against sterling, in exactly the same way, as the Prime Minister recalled, as in 1976—and, indeed, as happened at the time when he devalued the pound. None of the events, therefore, of those three periods bears any relationship to the scheme which was put forward to the Prime Minister at the recent meeting.

Is the Prime Minister not aware that the whole difference between the present occasion and previous occasions is that the proposed scheme gives a backing to all currencies in order to avoid their being pushed off their parities or unduly depreciated by speculation against those currencies? It is, in fact, a scheme which I put to the German Chancellor in May 1973.

Is the Prime Minister not aware that the importance of this initiative—[Interruption.] I know that Labour Members below the Gangway do not like a progressive scheme of this kind. Is the Prime Minister not aware that the importance of this scheme is that the present German Chancellor has been prepared to commit high German reserves in order to get stability in European currencies, and that the scheme ought therefore to be welcomed?

May I ask the Prime Minister not to give the impression that he is trying to avoid the scheme on principle by insisting on unlimited discussion on detail?

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. Gentleman's memory fails him. There are, of course, members of the snake now who are not members of the Community, and who are in exactly the same position as that of Britain in 1972, when we entered the snake. It was not a question whether we were a member of the Community. It was a fact that we entered the snake at a rate of $2.61 and had to emerge seven weeks later at $2.45, having lost $2 billion. That is something that is not worth repeating.

This scheme is not an exact parallel to previous schemes. That is why I think we ought to look at it. There is a proposal to put behind it not just German reserves but also British reserves and the reserves of all Community countries. That would make a useful fund, although it would not add the equivalent of $50 billion, which I have seen stated, because some of this would be a mere transfer of reserves and not the creation of a new fund.

I draw the 1972 parallel only because yesterday the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) was pretending on the radio that this was something very new, and that if only we had handled our affairs properly over the last four years we would be able to go along with it. I thought that it was worth while drawing the historical parallel, and pointing out that the Conservatives tried it and failed and that we ought to do something a little different and a little better.

Mr. English

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Quite unintentionally, out of the kindness of your heart, after announcing that you would call only four questioners, you allowed a Conservative Privy Councillor to choose to be the last questioner. May I suggest, Sir, that in future you should choose the order of questioners yourself?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I extended a courtesy to a former Prime Minister. I shall do the same for the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) when he is of that rank.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Notwithstanding that slighting reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), perhaps you will explain to me and to a lot of other Government supporters why it was necessary to have a statement made on this matter by the existing Prime Minister and then at the very end to allow another statement to be made by a former Prime Minister—the one who used to come with all the sunshine stories about the Common Market, the one who dragged in the British people, and the one who is now trying to make excuses? Is it not time that you gave opportunities to those Government supporters who will fight to the bitter end against the Common Market, in the way that you yourself used to do?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I have to tell the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that he needs to change his ways in addressing me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Speaker of this House is not here to be bullied by anyone, and the hon. Member for Bolsover had better bear that in mind.