§ Lords amendments considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 5.1 pm
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
I know that such motions usually go through without discussion, but a terribly important issue is involved. If the Minister allows the list of amendments to go forward as they stand, it will make a nonsense of parliamentary debate and of aspects of our democracy.
Amendment No. 296, which deals with dog registration, if debated today, as seems likely, will create a parliamentary mess and a mess for our legislators. That will happen unless we can also consider the alternative European proposals that I have just received from Brussels contained in document A3–156/90. Hon. Members should be aware of those proposals. The fact that most hon. Members are unaware of them demonstrates the importance of the issue involved.
Amendment No. 296 calls for a British plan of registration, but the Government's amendments place obligations instead on local councils. It will be utterly worthless to discuss those proposals if they are overturned within the next 18 months by the new European plan which we know is on the way.
I shall endeavour to make a simple case for my plea so that I can get the mesage across to those who might disagree. What on earth is the point of my dog. Corry, having a mark placed on his left ear if the Common Market introduces a law next year that says he should have a mark on his right ear? What is the point of having a mark tattooed on his leg because we think it is important in Parliament if, as seems likely, the EC proposes a number and a nationality mark?
We must face up to this situation, which is not unique—such things will continue to happen. If hon. Members doubt that, they should consider what happened as a result of all the long discussions we had on the Merchant Shipping Bill. Hon. Members will recall that we had a British quota of fish and that we passed a law to say that they should be fished by British ships. We thought that that was the law, but the European Court in a flash said that the law was dead, because in its view it was contrary to the treaty of Rome, and that Spanish ships should be allowed to fish as well.
§ Mr. Taylor
Whether it is disgraceful, correct or all about looking forward to Europe, there is no point in us carrying on with a constitutional nonsense.
What stage have the European plans reached? The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection decided by 24 votes to nil, with one exemption, a proposal for dog registration schemes to prepare dogs and cats for 1992 and free movement. That decision was approved on 8 June 1990 and it will be considered——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I am finding it difficult to relate what the hon. Gentleman is saying to the motion before us. The motion deals purely with the order in which the Lords amendments should be taken. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to that.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am raising an extremely serious point. We must discuss the proposal, but why discuss amendment No. 296 today? That amendment should come at the end of our proceedings to enable hon. Members to obtain copies of the European document so that they are aware that we may well face another problem.
The European proposal was debated by the European Parliament on 19 November. From there it goes straight to the Commission, which is advised by the Parliament to prepare a directive. What is the point of hon. Members making up their minds on amendment No. 296 if they do not have a clue about what is in the other directive? Some people may say what does it matter and that we can take that into account in our debate. However, to say that the views of the European Parliament are as remote and as silly as the views contained in a motion passed by some rural women's institute is not true. Ministers and some Opposition Members have told us that the European Parliament has more teeth and more standing than that. We are aware of more than 100 amendments proposed by the European Parliament that have subsequently been accepted by the Commission.
What about the House rules? We should consider Standing Order No. 26, which deals with anticipation. It says that Mr. Speaker has the power to say that we should not discuss something today if we are going to discuss it soon.
Are there any inconsistencies between the British and European plans? I am afraid that they are huge. The European plan speaks of a tattoo mark on the animal's ear, another tattoo mark on a dog's thigh, a computer chip inserted in a dog's neck and a nationality certificate indicating the dog's or cat's nationality. [Laughter] This is a serious matter. How can we discuss amendment No. 296 today and go ahead with a British plan if, in a short time, we have a European plan which requires us to give every dog and cat in Britain a nationality certificate?
Another major problem arises over neutering. I know that Britain, by and large, has been neutral on the question of neutering, but the EEC proposals argue for a cheaper dog registration fee for neutered dogs. The idea is to try to encourage neutering.
The European plan would subsidise neutering and requires that every dog should have a national passport of a kind. No matter whether we think that that is good or bad, how can it be right for Parliament to discuss amendment No. 296 without the European information? This raises an important issue of principle. I am seeking to defend Parliament. Some of my colleagues and I are worried that we are being deliberately denied information.
On trade, for example, we know that we are shortly to have another discussion on European monetary union. What is Britain's trade with other countries? Until three months ago, we could ask that question and receive the information, but now the question is transferred to the Chancellor, who always says that one can find the information in the database. We cannot get that information.
We shall shortly be discussing agriculture and——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am finding it increasingly difficult to relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the motion before us. He must stick to that motion.
§ Mr. Taylor
Should we discuss amendment No. 296 today, without all the necessary information? If the House choose to do so, fair enough, but what on earth is the point of discussing a dog registration scheme today when the whole thing could be swept aside by a European proposal, the details of which are not available to most hon. Members?
If you think this does not matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you should go to the Vote Office and say, "Can I please have a copy of the Euro-regulations?" Others have asked, but those regulations are not there.
This issue is fundamental to our democracy. Why on earth should we discuss amendment No. 296 when we cannot obtain the European plans? Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. I know that some hon. Members have made great play about food mountains. They should table a question on the Order Paper today and ask what is the current size of the food mountain. They will not receive the information because the Government have said that they will transfer it to the database.
If anything matters at all in the House, it is that hon. Members should be informed about issues that they are discussing. Some people say, "What the hell—what does it matter if we pass our British plans and then a Europlan is passed?" It matters that time is being taken up in the House of Commons debating something that could soon be overturned. We have already done that—the Merchant Shipping Bill is a clear example. I know that our splendid Transport Ministers put forward overwhelming arguments about why we should have that Bill. There was a great debate and we spent 18 hours on the subject, but then it was overturned by a Euro-decision.
I am desperately trying not to make a pro or anti speech—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but I am trying to say that there is a new democratic position. What is the point of us trying to pretend that it does not exist? One sensible way, of which we might hear from an Opposition Member, is that we could always send all our legal proposals to Mr. Delors. I know that he is a busy man, so perhaps we could send them to his secretary. We could say, "Here is what we have in mind to discuss—will it contradict any of your Euro-plans?" That would be one way of avoiding our problem.
The 1992 plan for dogs and cats is totally different from what we are to discuss tonight. I am also thinking of animal welfare. What is the point of me having to have a British mark placed on my dog when it will have to have a Euro-mark, with its nationality on it, if the Europlan comes through?
Hon. Members may say that the Euro-plan is nuts. They may say that the proposal is good and the British plan is grand. They may say that the British plan is nuts. But why should hon. Members go ahead tonight and debate a proposal on dog registration that can be fundamentally overturned by a European decision?
We must wake up to this. Even though the Government do not want us to have the information and have taken effective steps to ensure that we do not, even though we cannot go to the Vote Office to get the Euro-document, which is a scandal, we should realise that we are living in a different world and playing a different ball game. The 755 Government must not waste our time. There are still some things that Parliament can do and talk about. We should talk about those matters with the help of information.
This is a serious issue, so I make the following appeal to the Government: if they care about democracy, do not want us to waste our time in the House talking about something that may be completely overturned by a Euro-decision and do not want to cause harm to animals, could they not say that they will not propose the motion, but instead table a manuscript amendment to put amendment No. 296 at the end of our debate so that it is the last one we discuss? What would the Government lose? They would lose nothing at all: the debate would still take place.
The only difference would be that, between today and tomorrow, all Members could get a copy of the report, which was passed by 24 votes to nil, and would have the information. In addition, a Minister should come and make a statement to say just how near the Government believe the Euro-proposal to be.
Therefore, I ask the Government, and the Chief Whip, who sometimes gives advice although he never speaks: what would he lost by putting amendment No. 296 at the end? We should not discuss amendment No. 296 now. Under my proposal, no one would lose. We would merely have the debate tomorrow, not today. Does anyone lose in any way? It will not curtail the debate—we would still have it—and it will not meant that other things will not be discussed. It is simply a tiny change to show that we care a little about democracy.
I am sure this will not happen because the Minister is a decent guy, but if by any chance we go ahead and discuss dog registration tonight without knowing about the Euro-plans, we will not only be making a nonsense of Parliament, but insulting our constituents and being unfair to the dogs that we allege we are trying to protect.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Is this a point of order, or does the hon. Gentleman wish to speak in the debate?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps I should make it clear that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) was speaking to the motion and was not on a point of order. Does the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) wish to raise a point of order?
§ Mr. John McWilliam (Blaydon)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that you called me to speak on the substantive motion. It would be deplorable if an hon. Member was allowed to barge in on a point of order.
It seems that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) has a point. One of the problems that we shall come to later——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I thought that the hon. Member for Bradford, South was rising on a point of order, but it now appears that he wishes to contribute to the debate. I called the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) first, so he should speak first, and then I shall call the hon. Member for Bradford, South.
§ Mr. McWilliam
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not delay the House long, but the hon. Member for Southend, East has a real point. In the face of the Single European Act, under which the determination of the issue will not be a matter for majority, veto or the House—except in a secondary sense—it seems difficult to go on to debate an amendment which, if carried tonight, will entail considerable costs for local authorities when they are strapped for money. According to the hon. Member for Southend, East, that cost will be otiose and the money will be spent on things for which Europe is not asking and not spent on things for which Europe is asking.
It seemed that the hon. Member for Southend, East made a reasonable request and that we should at least delay the debate until tomorow when we have had time to see the document and make up our own minds about whether we are prepared to waste local government money in this way before we vote. I hope that the business managers of the House and the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, who moved the motion, will at least listen to the reason behind the motion, which is not pro or anti, but which tries to react to the realities that face us. It seems to be a fundamental point that in any debate in the House we should have in front of us all the relevant documentation. It is quite clear that we do not have that. I believe that the reasonable request of the hon. Member for Southend, East should be met.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) will realise that there was no attempt to intrude in the debate. On several occasions, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy Speaker said that the motion should be adhered to and the debate was going a little bit wide, so I thought I would begin on a point of order, but I am happy to speak on the motion.
The basis of the questioning of the motion is that amendment No. 296 should be deferred because of the dog registration scheme proposed in the Common Market Assembly. I believe, and have long believed, that the House should be prepared to stand up for its legislation and pass legislation on the basis that it applies in the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government should be prepared to resist any legislation emanating from the Commission because the Assembly is not a Parliament. It calls itself a Parliament, and until the Single European Act, the Government called it an Assembly, but the Government now claim that they will stand apart from the Common Market on the issue of monetary union, a common currency and a central bank.
The Government put through the Single European Act on a three-line Whip. That Single European Act changed the title of the assembly to Parliament, but the reality has not changed, which is that it is a consultative assembly with no legislative powers. It has been tarted up a bit since——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am finding it difficult to relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the motion, which 757 involves purely the order in which we should debate the Lords amendments. The hon. Gentleman must stick to that.
§ Mr. Cryer
The proposal was that a section of the business should be deferred to the end of our debate because of a report being produced by the EC Assembly. I am pointing out that that report does not at present have the position of legislation and so does not represent a clash with the Government's view. [Interruption.] However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), who is now a Euro-fanatic, murmured from a sedentary position, it will, which is the issue that I want to address because it is relevant to the motion.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that if this Euro legislation—which we detest—is passed, we shall have to buy dog collars in mark-dominated Euro currencies? Will it affect the royal corgis? We do not know where all this will end. My hon. Friend is right to say that the amendment should be moved to the end of the proposed order for debate.
§ Mr. Cryer
My hon. Friend has raised issues that are rather broad of the motion.
The EEC Assembly will discuss the report, which will then go to the Commission and the Council of Ministers—and this initiative was probably taken as a result of their attitude—and Commissioners appointed to £100,000 a year jobs plus tax-free expenses will produce a directive. It is at that stage that the Government can say, "Our legislation is adequate. We spent a great deal of money introducing it in the United Kingdom and we shall resist any suggestions from the EEC that the scheme should be altered."
§ Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)
Surely the whole point is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) said, the effect on the animals. What is the point of passing legislation today that will mean animals being pierced with lead, if we then have to undo the legislation because of a Europea directive?
§ Mr. Cryer
The Government should resist the EEC directive, and they well know that it is possible to do that. Indeed, it is possible to resist a directive for many years. The Government have ignored, delayed or resisted directives for more than 10 years. They implement some parts of directives by statutory instrument—the usual procedure—but leave other parts lying in desuetude. They are never brought into operation.
The Prime Minister wants to resist the Common Market onslaught for a common currency, a completely irresponsible central bank and all the rest of the paraphernalia of federalism that is being peddled around the Common Market. Are the Government supporting her attitude? The deputy Prime Minister appeared to be deliberately undermining her, in what I thought to be a disgraceful fashion, when he appeared on the Walden programme. It was a complete breach of Cabinet unity and collective responsibility——
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
We cannot resist the directive, although we can vote against it. However, as it is in preparation for 1992, it can be decided on a majority vote. The Common Market can and probably will pass directives laying down things that must happen to our dogs, such as the necessity for dog passports. The hon. Gentleman must accept that, whether we like it or not, if the EEC says that a dog must have a passport or a computer chip we must comply. Hon. Members should be aware of what is involved before we debate the issue tonight.
§ Mr. Cryer
One problem is that other member states apply EEC directives in a leisurely and selective manner to suit their circumstances. The Government have a new-found air of independence, and I suggest that they take the same attitude that they are taking towards a central bank and monetary union. Directives are pouring out of the Common Market. I am in favour of a dog registration scheme. The proposals that we shall debate later tonight are useful and important. Local authorities need some certainty, and the Government should not allow Parliament to be sabotaged by a collection of appointed Commissioners and through majority voting in the Council of Ministers. We must be prepared to retain the sovereignty of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Southend, East said that we cannot resist. It has always been an important negotiating weapon that Britain is prepared to say that we have a continuing right to withdraw from the Common Market and that we shall never forgo it. If we use that power, some of the Commissioners—who are, as Henry VIII described his barons, over-mighty subjects—will realise that we are serious. By all means, let us work with other countries, not only in Europe but throughout the world. The Opposition are international socialists and we look rather wider than the narrow confines of a handful of states in western Europe. We are not prepared to accept the dictates of the Commission.
I look forward to a Government statement that will help us to examine the business motion. We must be certain that our work in Parliament today will not be wasted in the way suggested by the hon. Member for Southend, East.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
This is a tremendously important issue. Not many of us have the privilege of having in our possession documents from those who are our masters. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said that Parliament should resist the directive and fight, but they are the masters——
§ Mr. Skinner
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that when those in the Common Market read his words, they will think that the Conservative party has caved in? People such as Leon Brittan will be laughing like a drain. The hon. Gentleman should understand that alliances and treaties 759 in Europe do not last for centuries. Some people think that alliances such as the Common Market go on for ever. They should read the history books——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) were to respond to that intervention, he would be out of order.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
I shall not respond to the intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Every hon. Member should realise that, once something becomes Common Market law, if individual countries do not obey they can be taken to the judicial court and be forced to enforced the law. Those of us who are pro-Common Market by nature are trying to explain that if we surrender our rights, as we are being asked to do, we do not know where it will all end. Dog registration is a comparatively minor issue, but the principle is not.
The European Member of Parliament for Highlands and Islands—the Common Market calls her Mrs. Ewing because it is easier to remember—tabled a motion under rule 63 of the EEC's rules on procedure. As we might imagine, the ladies and gentlemen in Brussels refer to that document as (B9/0390/89), and for five pages they go on and on about dogs. We are meant to debate an amendment tonight for five, six or seven hours, and then to pass needless legislation. In due course, we shall be told what to do by our betters in the European bureaucracy. Does any hon. Member realise that the bureaucrats on the Commission intend to remove all barriers not just to trade—in which they constantly interfere—but to the free movement of dogs between member states?
I agree that the Common Market is a powerful institution, but why should it he allowed to decide what is good for our country? Why should it be allowed to determine when rabies has been extinguished in Europe or in the world? Is this country and this Parliament left with nothing to decide? Is the Common Market to decide what we do with our dogs and cats? Why should it be allowed to dictate to us in that way?
§ Mr. Dicks
Perhaps my hon. Friend is doing the Minister an injustice. Perhaps he will be able tell the House clearly that he has taken our points on board and that we will all have an opportunity to read the document. My hon. Friend should not be too unfair to the Minister, who I am sure will make the documents available, and will not make any statements tonight that could in any way impinge on the EEC directive.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will enlighten us in the near future. None of us wants to be difficult or to stand in the way of progress, and nor do we want to stand in the way of this country, France, Germany or the other member states deciding the issue for themselves and how they shall treat their pets. Britain has managed perfectly well, generation after generation, to decide what is good for its dogs and cats.
I would have known nothing of all this had it not been for the generosity of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), who has served as a bastion in defending British interests. I did not know that five pages of rubbish from the Common Market existed and 760 that they were to be the subject of a motion. Why should we waste our time if, whatever we decide tonight after hours of firm debate, and having listened to the views of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—whether or not we agree with them—we are then told that we must anyway abide by a directive?
We are used to Bills returning to this House from another place with a message that Her Majesty the Queen has acceded to them and commands our presence in attending to that law. But we may now expect to come through the door into this Chamber not the Queen's representative but Jacques Delors's representative, saying "By the way, this is what jolly Jacques says that you must do." If that is so, let us not waste time in debate, but instead all go and have a good dinner until we know what the Common Market wants. However, we may think it right to defend our country and our rights to decide matters affecting our cats and dogs, and not wait for Jacques Delors to come through the door.
Too many people in this House and in the country are willing to sell us out and to sell us short. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, I shall have no part in it.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) made important points concerning the competence of the House and the availability of relevant documents that could inform our debate. When I was elected to the House in 1979, I thought of it as a sovereign House of Commons because it represented a sovereign people. However, we see increasingly that this House cannot make decisions. We may protest and pass Acts of Parliament, but my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East cited the case that demonstrated that this House is not competent on a whole range of issues. I refer to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. I have always understood that when Parliament passes a law, it gainsays those previously enacted. We now have a House of Lords that is dancing on the head of a pin trying to justify the supremacy of a preceding Act of Parliament, demonstrating that a 1972 Act of Parliament takes precedence over subsequent legislation.
Today, we are being asked to address ourselves to an issue in which none of us doubts the Common Market has competence. I know that the Government do not want: to pass legislation that conflicts with the views of the Community or the Commission. We went through the performance of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, when we tailored it to meet what we thought were the Commission's requirements and those of European law. As it happened, we found otherwise.
The most startling new development in our constitutional history is the Law Lords, in recognising where power lies—as they traditionally have done—trying to make judgments to accommodate the view of the European Court. That is increasingly happening.
Today, in an area in which the Community clearly has competence under the 1972 Act and under subsequent legislation, such as the Single European Act and that concerning majority voting, this House is having imposed upon it, through our own Law Lords, subordination to the European Court. The Government could avoid the dilemma by proceeding with their own reckonings and allowing the House time to consider the matters that are to come before it shortly.
761 I support my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East in that respect, and if it comes to a vote, I shall certainly vote in favour of his proposition.
§ The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)
The purpose of the motion is to decide whether amendment No. 296 should be taken sooner rather than later. Hon. Members suggested that it should be taken today, and I personally hope that that will be the case. The House has not yet made up its mind whether it will accept the views of another place. The motions on the Order Paper make it clear that the Government seek to overturn the Lords amendment and to propose amendments in lieu of them.
I moved the motion because, were we fortunate enough to put the debate on the record, in Hansard, it would then at least be courteous to another place to consider the arguments that were advanced. If the amendments—I emphasise the word "if'—are overturned, what then would be the point of the ordering motion? I was interested to hear the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) and of other hon. Members, but they were referring to a proposal which has been debated in the European Parliament and gone no further than that. Were it to get any further, it would have to be considered by others, not least by the Council of Ministers. Whether or not I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, the outcome is a matter for conjecture or hypothesis and is not a matter of fact.
You may agree with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the views aired in this debate could have been aired when the question of dog licences was previously debated in this House. I have no doubt that hon. Members will try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at a later stage.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Unusually, I support the Minister, and think that we should get on and vote. If it takes as long for the 11 other nations of the European Community to resolve a matter that it has already taken the British Parliament two years to resolve—I refer to the question whether we should introduce a dog registration scheme—the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) need have no worries. It may take a proportionately longer time—or at least 24 years—for the European Community to determine the matter. We have taken two years to reach the point of deciding on a logical replacement for the abolished sheep dog licence scheme. The sooner that we can get on and establish that replacement, the better. If we can establish one tonight and defeat the Government in the process, even better still.
§ Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)
I am in a dilemma. My hon. Friend the Minister made it clear that the Government intend to overturn the amendments that have come from another place. We are entitled to know whether the Government want to overturn those amendments because they are against dog registration for ever. If the Government are saying only that they oppose such a measure but will have to accept it in accordance with the European guideline, that is a very different argument.
Those hon. Members who happen to take this matter seriously believe that we should not put ourselves in a ridiculous situation. I accept that, because of the Single European Act, the Government are in great difficulty. My 762 credentials are that I was one of 11 Conservative Members to vote against the Single European Act on Third Reading. This issue illustrates the sort of difficulty that the Government will get themselves into. Perhaps it might be better if my hon. Friend the Minister made his and the Government's position clear on registration. If he is suggesting to the House that the Lords amendment should be overruled, we shall expect him and the Government to fight hard against some of the extreme legislation that emanates from the European Parliament.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
My hon. Friend the Minister is well aware that I have always supported the principle of dog registration, and I shall do so in the Lobby tonight. Before we move on from this short debate, one allegation has been made which will clearly be picked up by the popular press if it is not refuted immediately and it will cause alarm. I should like to give way to my hon. Friend the Minister so that he can assure the House that under no circumstances would the Government agree to any European directive or legislation which would weaken our control against rabies. I look to my hon. Friend for an answer.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
I am a firm opponent of dog registration. I take seriously the argument made about debating this matter when only three hon. Members on this side of the House have read what the European Community is suggesting. The Government's policy and my own on dog registration is that we think that registration is simply bureaucratic nonsense. However, the European Community is trying to say that it has serious problems with rabies and other infectious diseases in the rest of the European Community—in at least 10 of the other 11 nations. Therefore, it is asking for permanent identification on the animal to tie in with its inoculation records.
We cannot properly debate this issue when most hon. Members have not considered that part of the argument and therefore whether, in a few years' time, the European Community will say that it cannot allow our special regulations for keeping rabies out of Britain because we attempted to overturn its regulations for dealing with that disease; that is its regulations on the vaccination of dogs against rabies and allowing vaccinated dogs with identification marks into the United Kingdom.
Without seeing this document or understanding what the European Community is driving at, we do not have the necessary information to come to a proper decision.
§ Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)
I am somewhat disappointed by some of my hon. Friends' arguments and I hope that they will take my hon. Friend the Minister's advice. Like one or two other hon. Members I, sadly, felt obliged to join the Opposition when they declined the invitation of the Patronage Secretary to vote for the Single European Act, precisely because of the majority vote that that Act provided. It staggers me to listen to a debate among my hon. Friends who also defied that three-line Whip to vote against the Act, but are now saying that we should postpone what we are doing until we find out what the Europeans are playing at. Surely that is contrary to what we are driving at. I hope that the House 763 will get on with the debate tonight and tomorrow, get it out of the way and not give a damn about what the European Parliament is doing. But if the Government are stupid enough to get themselves on the hook, in six or 12 months' time they will be wriggling and perhaps will not receive much support from Members on their own Benches.
The tenor of the debate—that we should stop what we are doing tonight to enable the Europeans to crack on with it——
Mr. Mc William
I am worried that local authorities will be required to spend money that they do not have. The legislation will be funded by the poll tax, which will be otiose because it will be overtaken by other legislation that we know is coming but, because the document is not available in the Vote Office, most hon. Members do not know exactly what is happening. It is important that we put this debate in context. The only way that we can do so is to read about what is intended and thus avoid spending money needlessly.
§ Mr. Conway
The hon. Gentleman is right to take these matters seriously. He and I have long experience of local government. I believe that many local councils are itching for an opportunity to bang up the poll tax and would probably use this measure as just another reason, so I cannot accept his arguments.
I hope that the House will reject this attempt by their unelected Lordships to impose yet another tax on our constituents. Some hon. Members who have spoken are quite wrong. The sooner that we get this measure through and put the views of the House on the record, and thus defy what overpaid and underworked Europeans are trying to do, the better.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Lords Amendments to the Environmental Protection Bill be considered in the following order, namely, Nos. 1 to 173, 296, 299 and 436, 174 and 295, 297, 298 and 300 to 435.