Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement to the House of Commons on 14th December 1992 on the European Council in Edinburgh.
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major): With permission, I shall make a statement about the European Council in Edinburgh on 11 and 12 December. My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I represented the United Kingdom.
Let me first pay a warm tribute to the city of Edinburgh for its welcome, its first-rate organisation and the good-humoured way in which it accepted the necessary disruption of hosting such a big event.
On the agenda of the European Council were a series of interlocking issues : the economic situation in the Community and our proposed strategy for growth and jobs; the need to find a solution for Denmark’s problems following its first referendum; the financing of the Community until the end of the century; the need to remove the block on the opening of enlargement negotiations with Sweden, Finland and Austria; the issues of subsidiarity and openness; and the long-standing issue of the site of a number of Community institutions. Beyond the Community, there were pressing issues to discuss on Macedonia and on Yugoslavia more generally.
We reached the following agreements. First, the European Council agreed on the growth initiative put forward by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Community is on target to complete the single market– the world’s largest free trade area–by the end of the British presidency. We are continuing to work for an early general agreement on tariffs and trade settlement, and–in line with our own deregulation initiative–there was agreement on the need to reduce Community burdens on business.
The European Council agreed to establish a new lending facility within the European investment bank to finance infrastructure projects throughout the Community, especially in transport, energy and telecommunications. This investment will be worth up to £7 billion over the next two years. The Council also agreed to set up a new European investment fund to guarantee loans for investment in trans-European networks and to small and medium- sized enterprises. Those guarantees can support projects worth up to £17 billion. Additionally, member states agreed, following the pattern of our own autumn statement, to give priority to capital spending and encourage private investment; to keep the public sector wage bill under tight control ; and to cut subsidies and increase competition. We have all agreed to pursue the prudent policies that will control inflation and create the conditions for lower interest rates across Europe.
Overall, the initiative proposed by my right hon. Friend could support up to £24 billion-worth of projects. It will help to boost confidence, support new investment and encourage business to create jobs throughout the Community.
Secondly, we agreed a solution to the issues raised by the Danish Government following their referendum. The solution is binding in international law. It does not in any way change the Maastricht treaty or require a new round of ratification in member states. It provides an interpretation of the treaty which Prime Minister Schluter believes will enable him to hold a second referendum in Denmark in the spring. It has been welcomed by all seven parties that drafted the original Danish document.
Thirdly, we have achieved an agreement which freezes Community spending until 1995. Until then, there will be no increase in the expenditure ceiling. Thereafter, it allows a gradual increase up to 1999. The overall increase is far smaller over seven years than the increase over five years that was agreed in 1988. It is less than half that originally proposed by the Commission. Moreover, the special rebate for Britain, which brings back about £2 billion a year to this country, remains unchanged and is now guaranteed for the rest of the century. Even then it could not be changed without our agreement.
Fourthly, negotiations for entry into the Community will start straight away with Sweden, Finland and Austria, with Norway to follow shortly afterwards. Work will also start to prepare the Visegrad countries of eastern Europe for Community membership, an aim endorsed by the Council for the first time. That is a breakthrough in the attitude of our partners and prepares the way for a far wider Community, stretching across eastern Europe.
Fifthly, the Council agreed a package of measures to reverse centralisation. The Edinburgh statement makes it clear that national decisions should be the rule and Brussels action the exception. The Commission also produced two lists of measures : first, proposals which fail the subsidiarity test and will be dropped or changed ; and, secondly, a list of Community laws which the Commission believes must be simplified or abolished. Further proposals for reducing the burden of legislation will follow.
Sixthly, as we said we would do at Birmingham, we have put together a package of measures to open up the Community to scrutiny by the people of Europe. The Commission will consult more widely before making proposals. This will include the publication of Green Papers to allow an input by member states before formal proposals come forward.
Seventhly, on the sites of institutions, we have signed a decision confirming the sites and working arrangements for all the main Community institutions. This settles a problem that has bedevilled the Community for more than 30 years.
The number of Members of the European Parliament increases by 49 to 567, to reflect in particular the growth in the population of Germany from 61 million to nearly 80 million following unification. Under the arrangement, Britain, France and Italy will each have six more members of Parliament. Weighted voting in the Council of Ministers remains unchanged, with Britain, France, Italy and Germany retaining 10 votes each.
We needed to solve all those issues if the Community was to regain its confidence, but they were far from the only issues on our minds. Macedonia could be a tinderbox for a wider Balkan conflict. At the meeting, we were able to agree to unblock European Community and international economic assistance to Macedonia, which will help to provide stability in that country. We unreservedly backed the United Nations plan to put a battalion of soldiers in Macedonia to monitor the peace there. We gave our support to putting a similar United Nations force in Kosovo. In Bosnia, we have called for the Security Council to examine systematically the operation of the no- fly zone. We believe that the first step should be for the United Nations to draw up a report on violations of the zone.
I believe that the majority of people in this country want us to make a success of our membership of the European Community. That is not just a matter of idealism : it is a matter of hard- headed national self-interest. Anyone who looks objectively at what has been agreed under the British presidency, and at this European Council in particular, can take pride in Britain’s achievement.
The Community has reached decisions on issues which many thought were insoluble. It has come together again as 12 member states with a common purpose. It has solved many of its intractable problems. It has prepared the way for enlargement. It has made itself more responsive to public opinion. It is tackling the most urgent problems within our own continent. It has taken concerted action, which will offer hope for growth and employment. Those are all substantial results–good for the European Community as a whole and good for this country–and I commend the outcome unreservedly to the House.
Mr. John Smith (Monklands, East): I thank the Prime Minister for his warm tribute to the city of Edinburgh and its first-rate organisation, which will be much appreciated by its Labour council– [Interruption.] I think that hon. Members should agree with the Prime Minister when he pays such a tribute. As a citizen of Edinburgh, I do so.
On the substance of the statement, may I say how much Labour Members welcomed the agreement made at the summit to commence enlargement negotiations at the beginning of 1993. Those negotiations will allow applications from Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway to be considered without delay. Enlargement will provide a new and healthy dynamic for the whole Community and the inclusion of European neighbours with such strong democratic traditions will be of great benefit to us all.
Does the Prime Minister accept that enlargement creates a necessary opportunity to reform Community institutions to make them more open, democratic and efficient? Will he say in a little more detail what specific action is proposed to help the Visegrad countries proceed with economic and political reform?
We also welcome the accommodation for Denmark. There has been a satisfactory recognition all round of the need to keep the Community together by meeting Danish concerns and responding to the national consensus proposals, in the construction of which Mr. Poul Rasmussen, the leader of the Danish Social Democratic party, played such a leading role.
The concern expressed at the summit about the deteriorating position in the former Yugoslavia is welcome, as is the emphatic denunciation of the barbaric treatment of Muslim women and other victims of brutal violence. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Community will never recognise states established by force and the despicable policy of ethnic cleansing?
As the mandatory sanctions agreed by the United Nations are apparently being breached on an unacceptable scale, was not that matter discussed at the summit? Is it not now clear that Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs must be denied the supplies and materials to allow them to wage war and that there must be the political will to achieve that objective? Will the Community insist that the autonomy of Kosovo is restored and human rights safeguarded there?
On subsidiarity, although we agree that there should be a proper balancing of Community and national responsibilities, would not the Government’s adhesion to the principle and the guidelines set out at the summit be more convincing if they were prepared to accept the principle of subsidiarity within the United Kingdom? Should not the Government accept the same logic at home and tackle the over-centralised nature of the British state, which is such a depressing feature of Conservative government?
May I say how much I welcome one aspect of the Commission’s review of all its proposals in the light of the subsidiarity principle. That is the conclusion reached at the end of the section 2 of annex 2 to part I of the conclusions, which states:
“Turning to social policy, the Commission considers that the group of directives based on Article 118a of the Treaty is too recent to warrant re-examination. Instead its priority will be to supplement them by implementing all the provisions of the Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers.”
Despite the deplorable neglect of social issues throughout the British presidency, and the foolish British opt-out, is not the social chapter alive and well and fully supported by all other member states? Given that one of the Danish negotiating achievements was that member states could insist on even higher levels of social provision, is there not some justified optimism that the forthcoming Danish presidency will correct the neglect of the British presidency?
Should not the economic measures be judged against the scale of the severe economic problems facing Europe, which are most acute in Britain? As The Times reminds us today, unemployment is rising twice as fast in Britain as in any other European Community country. Against a backdrop of barely 1 per cent. growth forecast for next year and with unemployment in the Community expected to rise above 11 per cent., should not the recovery of economic growth and the stimulation of employment have been crucial objectives of the summit? In that desperately serious context, the increase in facilities for the European investment bank and the establishment of the European investment fund–while welcome, as any improvements would be–fall far short of what is needed to get the European economy moving again.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the extra £6 billion for the whole Community will amount to less than 0.01 per cent. of total EC output, and that the highly optimistic forecast of £24 billion in new investment which might conceivably be generated is put sharply in focus by the Commission’s forecast that investment in the European Community will be £32 billion below normal levels next year? Given that, at the very best, there is likely to be an £8 billion investment gap, how can anyone believe that the economic challenge has been met?
Why will there be a delay of six months in putting into place the new facilities? Why were such initiatives not taken at the beginning of the presidency so that they could start now? How many jobs does the Prime Minister calculate will be created in the United Kingdom? Given the appalling prospect of sharply rising unemployment, why was there no proposal for an emergency employment programme right across the Community?
Finally, will not the people of the European Community regard action against unemployment as the most important test of the Community’s relevance to their lives? It remains a matter of concern and regret that that dimension has been so consistently downgraded throughout the whole of the British presidency.
The Prime Minister: With great good will, I have to say that that was a mealy-mouthed and nitpicking speech. For weeks, both at home and abroad, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) have been disparaging about the British presidency. Right across Europe today, the Heads of the Governments who deal with us have praised the outcome of the summit, but we have heard not a single word of retraction from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. One day, he will learn that opposition for its own sake is not opposition of any value. I am pleased that the right hon. and learned Gentleman welcomed enlargement, welcomed Denmark and welcomed the declarations, all of which he suspected we would not obtain at the summit.
On the specific questions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked, the summit has enhanced the trade measures for the Visegrad countries to help to prepare them for the Community. As for recognising states established by force, I can give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the assurance that he seeks : we shall not recognise any state established in that fashion.
The issue of breaching sanctions was discussed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, who considered the actions that need to be taken to strengthen the sanctions procedure. We shall consider that afresh. On the matter of subsidiarity, I am surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is still unable to draw the distinction between subsidiarity, which produces something down from international to national Governments, and devolution, which removes it from national Governments and gives it to regional governments. He will know that there is far more administrative devolution in this country than there ever was during the time of any Government in which he served. He must also wait for the proposals that we shall have early in the new year.
As for the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s remarks on expenditure, he is now alone among the socialist leaders of the Community in apparently believing that fiscal measures of a Keynesian variety–with large revenue expenditure–are the right way to deal with the problem. Every other socialist leader wants to meet the Maastricht criteria ; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about Europe, but votes against it, speaks against it and acts against it.
On economic measures–
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): A total failure.
The Prime Minister: I am glad to hear that the opposition to Europe of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) carries the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) with him. I hope that the whole country will note that the position of the hon. Gentleman is similar to that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
On economic measures, the proposals advanced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor were warmly welcomed by all the Heads of Government. They will support up to £24 billion-worth of projects, and they will be capital projects, quite apart from the enhanced moneys from the structural and cohesion funds which will also be used for capital projects. There is no doubt among the Heads of the Community : they believe that this is the right package ; it is only those who nitpick here who seek to criticise it.
Mr. Michael Alison (Selby): Does my right hon. Friend recognise what many of his friends and colleagues in every part of the House will recognise–that his extraordinary mastery and grasp of the complex European Community features at the Edinburgh summit as well as his mastery of the volatile intergovernmental aspects of the summit unmistakably demonstrate that the Maastricht treaty is the creature, not the coercer, of sovereign Heads of State and as such deserves a fair wind from all part of the House?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend’s last point is entirely right. If some of the right hon. and hon. Members among the Opposition who believe that there will be a European central state had sat in the European Council and heard the debate, it would have removed that fear from their minds for good and all. If they understood the Community better, they might oppose it less.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber): I congratulate the Prime Minister on a positive outcome to the Edinburgh summit, consolidating progress towards European union. Will he assure me in respect of the interim Danish solution that he certainly does not favour a two-tier solution for the Community? In respect of subsidiarity, is he aware that we welcome the clear statement that, in matters of Community law, the International Court of Justice will be the arbiter?
Finally, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the first time I have heard him distinguish between subsidiarity and devolution? That distinction was certainly not clear to the 25,000 people who demonstrated in Edinburgh for a Scottish parliament.
The Prime Minister: It was entirely clear among the Heads of State at Birmingham, and it was discussed and made public at that time. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s general welcome. Underpinning all our discussions at Edinburgh was the belief that the Community should continue to go ahead as 12–not as 11, 10 or any other number–until such time as it was enlarged.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right about the agreement with Denmark. It is a binding legal agreement between Governments, but if necessary the arbiter will be the International Court of Justice.
Mr. David Howell (Guildford): Will my right hon. Friend accept that he has fully earned the tributes that the rest of Europe have paid him for his skill and success at Edinburgh? He has opened the way for Europe to develop in a better and more decentralised direction, which is wholly in the interests of this nation. When my right hon. Friend speaks of new guidance and procedures to limit the powers of Brussels to interfere in our affairs, will he assure us about the way in which this and other nation states and the House of Commons will be able to decide what is subsidiary and which powers lie with us? That is preferable to these matters being decided on a judge-and-jury basis by Community institutions in Brussels.
The Prime Minister: The definition of subsidiarity itself lies in article 3b of the Maastricht treaty, and it is on that basis that the judgment will be made as to whether or not individual matters are subsidiary. We are seeking to prepare a series of lists. The first were published at Edinburgh last week. There will be a continuous stream of them. What is subsidiarity will remain continually under review in the House and in Europe. My right hon. Friend is entirely right about the sort of Europe that we want to develop–a wider, more responsive and decentralised Europe.
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney): The Prime Minister knows the difference between presentational and substantive success, and between the applause of European leaders and that of his own people. On the question of Denmark, the Prime Minister asserted that the arrangement was legally binding. If it is, surely there must have been an amendment to the treaty. If there was, it must be ratified before it becomes effective. As to subsidiarity, if the Prime Minister wants to convince us that there is both the will and the intention to transfer power to national parliaments, surely he will have to do something more than present a list of trivia through the Commission and to evade such substantive matters as the return of the common agricultural policy to the peoples and Governments of the member states.
The Prime Minister: Sometimes, I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to be convinced about changing attitudes within Europe. As to his point about trivia, it is precisely trivial laws– although this might cover others as well–that have caused so much frustration, anger and annoyance throughout the European Community for so many years. This is a legally binding, intergovernmental agreement. It is binding in international law. That was the clear and unequivocal advice of Council legal services, accepted by the European Council–but it does not change the substantive nature of the treaty itself.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford): Given that my right hon. Friend has negotiated an opt-out for the British in respect of a single currency and a central bank, why is it that the Danes are allowed to ratify when they choose to do so–namely, now–whereas the United Kingdom must wait several years ?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend asks an intriguing question. The arrangements that we have on the single currency, whereby we decide whether or not we join it in 1996–are arrangements that we judged to be right for this country. We also have a special provision not to take part in the social chapter. We have made provisions that we think are right for our country; Denmark sought provisions that it believes are right for that country–and the Community has accommodated both of us.
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North): If the Edinburgh summit has genuinely succeeded in putting Europe back together, as the Prime Minister said–and as many of us hoped–is not the reason that all 12 Community members were prepared to compromise? It is not so much a triumph for Britain and the Prime Minister–more a success for the European Community.
The Prime Minister: I am happy to confirm that it is a success for the European Community. Everyone has compromised, and I am delighted to have played a part in bringing them to that compromise.
Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham): Is not one of the most encouraging features of the agreement the fact that European Community leaders were determined to dispense with constitutional gobbledegook and to make it possible for the conditions for the Danes to succeed? Is it now possible that European Community leaders will take the measures necessary to open their borders, so that the east European countries can trade freely with the Community and in time take their full part as Community members?
The Prime Minister: I agree strongly with my hon. Friend on that point. We made progress on that at Edinburgh over the past few days. We have agreed to enhance the special trade agreements with east European countries. In addition, we have for the first time agreed that the Visegrad countries will in due course become full members of the Community. We have held that out as a potential prospect in the future. This is the first time that we have ever stated unequivocally that when the east European countries are ready, the European Community will be open to them. That means that we will have the opportunity–although admittedly some years ahead–of moving the Community’s boundaries much further across eastern Europe. In terms of security, trade and prosperity, that is a remarkable move forward.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): I congratulate the Prime Minister on what was undoubtedly a very effective and efficient chairmanship of the summit. I also thank him for his kind words about the capital city of Edinburgh–a city with two parliament buildings but no parliament of its own.
Does the Prime Minister recognise that, given that the Spanish and Danish questions dominated the summit, he has finally given the lie to the idea propounded by his party that small nations cannot affect the direction or the development of Europe? Having said in his statement that national decisions should be the rule rather than the exception, how can he continue to deny the right of the peoples of Scotland and Wales to have their own parliaments? The demand for that right was clearly demonstrated by the 25,000 people who were on the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday–people kept outside their own buildings.
The Prime Minister: Many may think that a rather contrary view was expressed by rather more people on 9 April.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her opening remarks. I think that both large and small nations must be treated with great care, and ascribed great importance, in the Community; Spain, I think, would regard itself as rather a large nation.
Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing): Once again, my right hon. Friend has demonstrated–as he did at Maastricht–that his tough but flexible approach to negotiation is the best way of defending British interests. I welcome the success of his presidency and, in particular, the proposals for enlargement of the Community.
Is it envisaged that the new members of the Community will subscribe to the common agricultural policy, which–in the context of an enlarged Community- -is an increasingly anachronistic arrangement?
The Prime Minister: They will, of course, subscribe to the general principles of the common agricultural policy ; they will have to negotiate on specific points, as this country did when it became a member of the Community many years ago.
I welcome enlargement–not only for the reasons that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have already given but because each of the Nordic applicants for Community membership will be a net contributor to the Community budget. That, in due course, will ease the position for all the other contributors.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe): What discussions did the Prime Minister have in Edinburgh with other European leaders about GATT? More especially, how did he get on with the French?
The Prime Minister: GATT is on course, as a result of decisions that we made at the Birmingham summit some time ago. The Council recognised the fundamental importance of GATT to the world economy. Negotiations are continuing : agreement has been reached between the United States and the Community, and the negotiations are now concentrating on other matters at Geneva. The Commission, which negotiates for the Community, is negotiating in a hard and constructive manner. The aim is a political understanding before the end of the year.
Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues, not only on what they achieved in Edinburgh but on their achievements during a difficult six months of the British presidency.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome, extremely small increase in European Community financing between now and 1999–it amounts to significantly less than one tenth of 1 per cent.–compares very favourably with the one-third increase that was agreed in 1988? Is it not a tribute to the co-operation and far-sightedness of all the participating nations at Edinburgh?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is entirely right about the realism shown by nation states in the Edinburgh negotiations. It was, I think, generally realised that, in the present economic climate, it was not appropriate to increase expenditure by a substantial amount, even over the coming years. It was for that reason particularly that the summit agreed a two-year freeze in the ceiling before any increase in the contributions is effective.
At present, the United Kingdom’s net contribution is about £2 billion a year. It would be £4 billion but for the rebate, which remains and– lest there be any doubt–is extended to cover the fresh areas of expenditure that were agreed at Maastricht. In the case of the cohesion fund, for example, that means that we would pay only 5 per cent. of the total cost.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East): Given that the solution to the Danish problem appears to be based on an interpretation of the treaty, can the Prime Minister tell the House and the country to which interpretation of the treaty the Government and the country are being asked to sign up–the Danish interpretation or that apparently accepted as definitive by the rest of the Community?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the clarification agreement signed in respect of Denmark and the Danes’ opt-out provision on the single currency. The face of the treaty remains as it was ; there has been no change in that.
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West): I wish to draw further attention to the truly remarkable agreement about Denmark, whereby the treaty is to be amended in a manner that is legally enforceable but does not give rise to any necessity for further ratification in Europe. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if the House votes to amend the treaty in any manner, he will ensure that that vote gives rise to an amendment that is legally enforceable but does not require ratification around Europe?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend’s assumption that the treaty is legally binding and that the face of the treaty is not changed is entirely correct. I myself do not anticipate that there will be amendments to the treaty during its passage through the House.
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): My question is to the Prime Minister as Prime Minister, not as outgoing President of the European Community. Is he aware that, by denying the British people the right that the Danes, the Irish and the French have enjoyed–to determine the matter for themselves– and by drafting the European Communities (Amendment) Bill in such a way that the House of Commons has no right to call for a referendum, he is running against the flow of democratic development in this country, which, for many years, has been from the centre down to the people and has prepared us for a Europe run by the edicts of a junta of European Heads of State which will be the means by which laws are enforced in future? That represents a direct betrayal of democracy and will not work without the consent that is essential if any European co-operation is to succeed.
The Prime Minister: With great respect, the right hon. Gentleman is talking colossal nonsense. On the most important matters for this country there is unanimity and, without unanimity, there is no agreement. We have no tradition of referendums in this country. We have had a referendum on Europe–in which the right hon. Gentleman played a significant part–the purpose of which was not to determine the issue but to cure the splits in the then Labour Government.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton): Does my right hon. Friend accept that most people believe that, without his leadership at Edinburgh, the summit would not have been a success and that, because of that, he deserves immense congratulations? Will he now try to ensure that all his Ministers go out to explain to the British people what Maastricht is all about? Too many people still do not understand the treaty, and it would be useful if Ministers pushed the thing forward as quickly as possible. Will my right hon. Friend also try to ensure that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill goes forward as quickly as possible, as many people are sick to death of hearing about it over and over again and would be delighted if the House could get on with dealing with other matters rather than spending too much time on the Bill?
The Prime Minister: I am pleased that my hon. Friend looks forward to discussing the Bill. He is certainly correct in saying that it is all too easy to misrepresent the Bill–often in statements that are a grotesque parody of what is in it and of what it means–rather than dealing with its realities, which are very much in the hard-headed economic and commercial self-interest of this country.
Mr. Skinner: Is the Prime Minister aware that what he has said today, and what was achieved at the Edinburgh conference, has nothing in it to help pensioners who will be starving this winter and who need heat and more money in their pockets? Is he aware that he has brought nothing back for the unemployed–4 million of them–or for all those kids who need proper schools or for the homeless? All he has done is to fall in line, like a patsy should, with the Franco-German axis and take 100 million quid of British taxpayers’ money to achieve some so-called “success”.
The Prime Minister: I do not know how long the hon. Gentleman rehearsed that point, but it was time wasted. I thought that the dinosaur was dead–clearly not.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he engendered a spirit of co-operation, of compromise and of working together at the conference, which was an outstanding achievement. Bearing in mind the fact that the public have often not been given enough information about the Community, the treaty and future developments, on which I think the anti-Europeans are right, what are the plans in detail for making the Council of Ministers more open? Will my right hon. Friend use his role in the troika to work to make it more open, not in the formation of policy–which would be a lot to ask–but in legislation?
The Prime Minister: We have agreed at the meeting in Edinburgh that we will make the Council of Ministers more open up to and including the extent that certain sessions of it will be open to television.
Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli): On several occasions, the Prime Minister has told the House that the decisions on the Danish opt-out, being an agreement between 12 Heads of State or Government, is binding in international law ; we accept that. However, as the primary law of the Maastricht treaty and the primary law of the treaty of Rome is European Community law, will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that the decision is also binding in European Community law?
The Prime Minister: No. This is an intergovernmental decision. It is binding between Governments. It is judicable not at the European Court of Justice but at the International Court at The Hague.
Mrs. Judith Chaplin (Newbury): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his achievement at Edinburgh, particularly on the emphasis on the importance of subsidiarity. Does he agree that, too often, hostility to petty over-regulation from Brussels has detracted from the genuine benefits to business and consumers of the completion of the single market–benefits which we shall increasingly see from the end of this year?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend on that point. She is right to draw attention to the fact that the British presidency has now completed the single market. Fifty measures have been concluded during the British presidency. The single market will be open for business from 1 January. That will increase trade, increase prosperity and, yes, increase jobs.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Albeit this is not a very elevated question, I have given the Prime Minister notice of it. What do I say to constituents in Bathgate or Fauldhouse–to people not living in the city of Edinburgh who in no way benefited from what was a national occasion–who think that, through their poll tax, they have had a quite disproportionate payment to make? What were the expenses? What is the Prime Minister going to say to British Telecom, which put on a shame-making performance for us all, by using Meadowbank and not allowing incoming calls for distinguished foreign journalists? Many of our guests were extremely angry.
The Prime Minister: I have made inquiries about the hon. Gentleman’s latter point. We have no knowledge of the particular incident to which he refers, but we will investigate it and I shall write to him at the end of the investigation. As for the hon. Gentleman’s first point, the police costs of £2.6 million will of course be covered in the normal way–51 per cent. by central Government and the remaining 49 per cent. by the local authorities. What the hon. Gentleman might have missed in his question is a significant cash benefit that actually went to many people in Edinburgh as a result of holding the European Council there. It is difficult to put a precise figure on it, but estimates that I have seen are around £10 million to £11 million.
Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on weaving their way so successfully through the intricacies of the Edinburgh summit. Does my right hon. Friend think that, provided that Denmark and the House ratify the Maastricht treaty reasonably quickly, the dangers of a two-speed Europe have receded–a two-speed Europe that would be deeply damaging to inward investment in this country, British industry and British jobs?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is right, in that the dangers of that happening have receded. He is also right in saying that we must do all we can to prevent it from coming about at any stage in the future. We certainly shall.
Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool): Will the Prime Minister clarify the financing of the welcome new cohesion fund? Will he confirm that the money made available for that fund will not in any way draw money away from the Community’s structural fund, which is used for investment in essential projects in Britain’s regions? Could the cohesion fund be used in the future to benefit not only Europe’s poorer countries but its poorer regions, including England’s northern region, which has yet to be aligned with the rest of Britain, let alone the rest of the European Community?
The Prime Minister: On the latter point, it is the structural fund that deals with regions ; the cohesion fund specifically deals with the four least prosperous countries in the Community. I can confirm that the cohesion fund in no way draws resources away from the structural fund, both of which were increased in the future financing agreement that we made.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the horse-trading that went on at Edinburgh to achieve the results of the conference, the Danes have been granted their opt-outs, the Germans will get 18 new MEPs and the Spanish will get a handout through the cohesion fund, without which they would have held up the agreement? Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that neither he nor the House has the moral right to grant that money without first consulting the British people about the massive increase in taxation that they will face, which will be necessary to pay for that money?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend cannot have looked at the figures with any great care. The effect on the United Kingdom’s net contribution to the European Community will be less than 0.1 per cent., and it will not even reach that dizzy figure until 1999. In return for that, our abatement, which is worth £2 billion a year, has been reconfirmed to the end of the century. We will also be eligible for structural funds and we will receive net advantages from the cohesion fund. On balance, my hon. Friend may consider it rather a good deal.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): I welcome the progress made at Edinburgh and I hope that the Maastricht Bill will move forward rapidly to the statute book, so that we can get on with dealing with issues such as unemployment and the economic problems that face us. Can the Prime Minister clarify the position regarding the six additional MEPs? Is there one each for Wales and Scotland? What progress has been made in relation to the Committee of the Regions? Can he clarify whether the new Green Papers, to which he referred, will not just be considered by the Governments of each member state but, in line with the subsidiarity principle, may be discussed at a lower level, including that of regional and local government?
The Prime Minister: On the Green Papers, the Commission has offered to send them to Select Committees of the House and other interested bodies, so there will be wide consultation. The Committee of the Regions was not discussed at the Edinburgh summit, but we are still determining how the composition of that Committee may be finally decided upon. The provision of six extra MEPs will mean that fresh boundaries are set across England, Scotland and Wales, which will be a matter for the Boundary Commission, not the Government.
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster): Does my right hon. Friend accept that he greatly deserves the tributes that he is getting from all parts of the House on the outcome of the Edinburgh summit, which is in Britain’s and Europe’s best interests? May I ask him to utilise the great support that he has on this issue to press on with the Maastricht Bill to get it through the House sooner rather than later?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that advice. The Bill will be returning to the House shortly after we return from the Christmas recess.
Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): Will the Prime Minister guarantee that welfare benefits and welfare services will not be cut as a result of the agreement that we got at Edinburgh?
The Prime Minister: There will be no increase either next year or the year after in Britain’s net contribution to the European Community ; nor will there be an increase from any other nation state over the next two years–that is the period covered by our press statement. The answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes–I can give him the confirmation for which he asks.
Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel): Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the most significant things he said to the House was on enlargement, particularly as it affects the countries of central and eastern Europe? Does he further accept that, for many parliamentarians in those countries, that opportunity, which I believe is now firmly in place, is one of great significance? Will my right hon. Friend assure us that that matter will be looked at with the greatest possible urgency?
The Prime Minister: I most certainly can give that assurance. When I visited the Visegrad countries earlier this year, it was clear that the opportunity to enter the Community would be a lifeline of hope for them at a time when they face real economic difficulties. They will be delighted that that is now certain in due course and not just an option that may be considered.
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East): Will not yet another superhumanly brilliant, stunningly successful triumph and great victory leave most people in Europe unmoved because it does not address any of their concerns, the main one of which is the 17 million people who are unemployed across the Community? That was caused mainly by the exchange rate mechanism, which was stage 1 of monetary union.
The Prime Minister: I rather fancy that the 17 million people who are unemployed may notice the proposed £24 billion package; there is surely a relationship between the two, as the hon. Gentleman should realise.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the specific successes that were achieved under his skilful presidency at Edinburgh. Does he agree, however, that the main achievement of the summit, which should continue to be emphasised constantly, was to strengthen the move that he began at Maastricht last year from federalism and centralisation towards a broader, more flexible Europe of nations, which would be more acceptable to the peoples of not only this country but most of Europe?
The Prime Minister: Yes, that is entirely right. It is important to bring the European Community a good deal nearer to the people who elect its members and who ultimately pay for the expenditure that it incurs. [Interruption.] That has been sought for many years but, far from being impossible, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) mutters, we are now doing it.
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East): Is the Prime Minister aware that claims of success at Edinburgh will cut no ice with the vast majority of Scots, who will never share his southern and suburban sense of Scotland as a mere appendage of Greater England? Does he realise that the only lasting European settlement will be one founded on democracy and the national right to self-determination and that, although he may have been successful in shutting out Scottish democracy at Edinburgh, Scottish democracy will prevail by winning a Scottish parliament and shutting out for ever the minority and undemocratic Government whom he has imposed on our country for the past 14 years?
The Prime Minister: What upsets the hon. Gentleman is that his ideals and his party have been a minority for too long. That is his problem.
Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston): As a result of the summit, are the French Government now willing to change their mind about the GATT negotiations?
The Prime Minister: They gave no indication either way at the summit, but they certainly made no attempt to prevent the GATT procedure from continuing at Geneva.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): The Prime Minister has asserted in a number of answers that the nature of the treaty on European union will not be affected by the declaration on Denmark. If so, why must the declaration be in the form of a legally binding international treaty? Is not the European Council in danger of setting itself up as a Caesars’ collective that can not only require legislation for the whole Community but change treaties under discussion without ratification by Parliaments or assemblies of the people that they represent? Does that not show that the European Community and union, far from being people’s organisations, are a means for top people to impose their will on others?
The Prime Minister: Precisely not. The hon. Gentleman began with a fallacy and moved on from there. What was agreed was an intergovernmental binding decision, not a treaty. There is a clear distinction between the two.
Sir George Gardiner (Reigate): Is my right hon. Friend correct in saying that, even after the Edinburgh meeting, there is still no legal definition of the concept of subsidiarity that will stand up to test in the European Court?
The Prime Minister: No, my hon. Friend is not correct about that. The legal definition of subsidiarity is in article 3b of the Maastricht treaty.
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles): Surely the Government have all the evidence they need of Serbian violations of the air exclusion zone over Bosnia, of which there have been more than 200. Surely the urgent need is not for yet another report but for United Nations action to enforce its exclusion zone.
The Prime Minister: The declaration that was made at the Edinburgh summit made it clear that the United Nations should now look closely at the situation–at the number of violations–and decide how to proceed. That is what the United Nations will now do.
Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East): Is not one of the most significant achievements at Edinburgh the fact that uncertainty has been removed for the foreseeable future and that we can now see a positive way forward? In that context, should not the decision to proceed with enlargement be welcomed, especially by those who wish to see a change in the character of the Community, which is wholly consistent with the Government’s views?
The Prime Minister: I entirely agree with that. I think that it does, over time, change the character of the Community. Equally relevantly, I think that extending the borders of the Community is not only right economically, in terms of extending free trade areas; I believe that it will be seen over the years to be right in security and other political terms as well. I am bound to say that had Yugoslavia, for example, become a member of the Community 30 years ago, I very much doubt that the present difficulties would exist.
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East): Why are the Government so pusillanimous about intervention against Serbia? Is it not clear that arrangements will have to be made to stop Serbian aggression by taking out Serbian guns and by keeping their planes out of the air? Is it not essential that the Bosnian Muslims should be allowed to get arms and ammunition with which to defend themselves against Serbian massacres?
The Prime Minister: I do not think that I can share the analysis or the conclusions that the hon. Gentleman makes. We are seeking, not least as a result of the London conference on Yugoslavia which was launched under our presidency, a negotiated political settlement to the present difficulties. That does seem to be the right way forward, allied with the no-fly zone which we have imposed, and also with the substantial amount of humanitarian aid. British troops are there delivering humanitarian aid. The hon. Gentleman may know that, far from being a soft option, those soldiers undergo grave risks–indeed, they were attacked by mortars today. It is right for them to be there, but we should acknowledge the danger they face in delivering that humanitarian aid.
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East): My right hon. Friend has shown that the most effective way of achieving change is negotiation from within. Does he agree that the most important factor in terms of recovery–not only our recovery from recession but Europe’s recovery from its problems–will be the two lists of directives and regulations which he described in his statement and which are to be dropped, reviewed or abolished? Will he undertake that for every European directive or regulation that is abolished, we shall not only abolish the relevant legislation in this country but match it by abolishing another home-grown regulation, thereby giving British business the best opportunity for recovery?
The Prime Minister: I believe that that is a very worthy ambition indeed, and I have charged my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs with making himself the most unpopular member of the Government by destroying directives that are beloved of individual Departments. I hope and expect him to do that speedily. The subsidiarity lists released at Edinburgh are, of course, not final lists–they are but preliminary lists, and more will follow.
Mr. Lew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): Does the Prime Minister accept that his refusal to hold a referendum on the treaty shows that he is treating the views of the electorate with disdain and saying that their views are not important? Does he also accept that his refusal to hold a referendum shows that he recognises that there is no support for the treaty outside the House?
The Prime Minister: My views on the referendum mean no such thing as described by the hon. Gentleman. I believe that, as a parliamentary democracy, we should adhere to the traditions of a parliamentary democracy. That is what I was elected to do here, and I thought that was what the hon. Gentleman was elected for as well.
Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South): Given that the increase in the budget will amount to one first-class stamp per family in the United Kingdom in two years’ time and that all the new entrants to the Community are likely to be net contributors, can we not press forward with the enlargement of the Community as quickly as possible and, putting the recent past behind us, get the treaty ratified in the House as quickly as possible, even if it means staying up all night, every night for a couple of weeks to do so?
The Prime Minister: I hear what my hon. Friend says about ratification. On getting new entrants into the Community, during our presidency, we have virtually completed the dossiers that will enable negotiations with the Nordic countries to begin very speedily. I very much hope that at least three of them, and possibly four, will join the Community by the beginning of 1995.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington): The Prime Minister confidently announced a number of economic initiatives. In the light of Edinburgh, can he now confidently predict a reduction in unemployment over the next 12 months? If he cannot give that guarantee, surely Edinburgh has failed the real test set by the public outside who want a reduction in unemployment. Why was the European emergency programme for jobs not on the agenda?
The Prime Minister: It is not all that long ago that the hon. Gentleman asked me similar questions and asked me to tell him when inflation would be reduced. He will know that it is now down to 3 per cent., and he might occasionally voice his congratulations to the Government on that matter. No Government have ever given estimates on unemployment, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well. Of course our policy is geared to bringing down unemployment and to creating permanent jobs, but we cannot do that without low inflation and without the lower interest rates that we now have. We have set the framework for job creation and we must now ensure, not least by removing many of the burdens on business, that business will expand, grow, invest and create jobs. That is what this summit was about.
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North): My right hon. Friend’s negotiating skills have shown remarkable results. Will he use those negotiating skills to look carefully into the situation in Scotland, where the summit took place? Some 74 per cent. of Scots did not support the Conservative party at the general election. My right hon. Friend has heard some of the comments from the Opposition Benches today, and he has seen the demonstration and heard the speeches made in Scotland. Does he recognise that, if we continue to bypass Parliament and to give powers to Europe, the Scots may end up breaking up the union that really matters–the Union of the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: I believe that there is widespread appreciation across the whole of the United Kingdom about the importance of the Union. It is not just a question of the Union being important for Scotland, although I believe it is : the Union is equally important to England. Scotland’s contribution to the United Kingdom is vital both within the United Kingdom and for the United Kingdom within Europe. There should be no doubt that it is a two-way process.
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North): Does the Prime Minister agree with his Foreign Secretary who said last week before the summit that, whatever the outcome of the summit, the Government would claim that it was what they had always intended? Given that the summit failed entirely to deal properly with unemployment, with social policy and with subsidiarity, is it not the case that the Prime Minister’s self-congratulatory glow about his statement today is nothing more than over-egging the pudding?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman would do well to look at what his right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the Labour party and his hon. Friends were predicting about the summit. When he has looked at their predictions and when he then sees what happens, he will notice a sharp difference between their predictions of failure and the outcome on a whole range of subjects.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent): The Prime Minister has clearly enjoyed his visit to one of the great nations of the United Kingdom. Was he able to form a judgment that the partial pooling of sovereignty which took place almost 300 years ago has brought about rather better results for both partners in the United Kingdom than did the endless warfare that preceded it?
The Prime Minister: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. His remarks chime neatly with the point I made a moment ago about the importance of the Union both to England and to Scotland.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): At the Edinburgh summit, what discussions did the Prime Minister have on the growing feeling that Europe is becoming a fortress against those fleeing from oppression and intolerance in other parts of the world? What discussions took place on the passage of the Asylum Bill in this country and the change in the German constitution to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Germany, which are widely seen by the Nazi right throughout Europe as victories that they have achieved? Does not the Prime Minister think that it is important to recognise that Europe has a major role to play in accepting and welcoming victims of oppression from wherever they come, rather than slamming the door in their faces?
The Prime Minister: Far from being a fortress, the Heads of Government at the Edinburgh summit agreed over time to open the boundaries of the Community to bring new nations into the Community. There can be no better way of showing that Europe is not a fortress. As to the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about right-wing extremism which has occurred in a number of countries in Europe, there is great concern about that among all Heads of Government– none more so than Chancellor Kohl, who has denounced it very roundly and taken action against it.
Several Hon. Members rose
Madam Speaker: Order. We must now move to the next statement.