John Whittingdale – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP for Colchester South and Maldon, in the House of Commons on 6 July 1992.

It is with great pleasure that, in this my maiden speech, I follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), whose views I have long held in great regard. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friends the Members for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Hawksley) and for Milton Keynes, South-West (Mr. Legg) and the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen), all of whom made excellent maiden speeches and made my task considerably more difficult.

As this is the first time that I have spoken in the Chamber it is only right that my first act should be to pay tribute to my predecessor, Lord Wakeham. For 17 years John Wakeham represented, first, the constituency of Maldon and Rochford, and then my constituency of Colchester, South and Maldon. He did so with enormous distinction in a way that won him friends throughout the area. I have lost count of the number of people who have come up to me in the past year and told me that I have a hard act to follow. But I have never doubted that they were absolutely right.

In this place, John Wakeham was perhaps better known for his role in Government. He is one of that dwindling band who joined the Government in May 1979 and has remained a member of it ever since. In that time, he has held an enormous variety of positions, but he will be best remembered for his time as Chief Whip when he set a standard against which all his successors are likely to be judged. He once described himself as the Minister for stopping the Government doing silly things. It is a cause of great pleasure to my constituents and all Government supporters that he is still in the Cabinet and still fulfilling that role.

In 1984 John Wakeham suffered severe injuries in the bombing of the Grand hotel at Brighton, which also caused the death of his first wife. I am sure that no one in the House who witnessed it will forget the moment when a few months later he walked back into the Chamber unaided. I remember listening to that event on the radio, and in particular the reception that he was given by hon. Members. It was a tribute to his remarkable courage—a courage that he has displayed every day since that terrible event.

I should also like to mention some of my other predecessors. Before 1983, the Colchester part of my constituency was ably represented by Sir Antony Buck and, before him, by Lord Alport, to both of whom my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) paid deserved tribute. Previous Members of Parliament for Maldon include Brian Harrison, who now lives in Australia but is still a regular visitor to the district. It was also once represented by Tom Driberg, who will be remembered as one of the more colourful Members of Parliament. Earlier still the constituency was represented by Mr. Quintin Dick, who is said to have spent more than any other hon. Member on bribery at parliamentary elections. I shall not follow his example, even if we do receive increased allowances for our office expenses.

My constituency stretches from the southern part of Colchester to take in the whole of the Maldon district. It is an area rich in history. Colchester was the first Roman capital of England and is Britain’s oldest recorded town. At the end of the Dengie peninsula, at Bradwell, is the chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall—one of the first Christian churches in England. It is just a short distance from Bradwell power station—the first Magnox nuclear power station to be built in Britain.

Maldon itself was made a royal borough in 1171, and almost 200 years earlier was the subject of repeated assaults by invading Danes. The battle of Maldon in 991, in which the great Saxon leader Bryhtnoth was slain, inspired a famous Anglo-Saxon poem. Last year, the battle was re-enacted as part of the millennium celebrations. The House will be glad to learn that my constituents now regard the Danes in a much friendlier light.

The recession has hit my constituents hard. The Colchester Lathe Company has announced its intention to cease production, light industrial companies throughout Essex have shed labour, and retailers, small business men, and the construction industry continue to suffer from lack of demand.

Confidence among Essex business men remains low. I am frequently asked what are the Government doing to bring about an upturn. I have always replied that it is not in the Government’s power to conjure up recovery. Only business can create lasting jobs, and it is the Government’s duty to create the right climate in which enterprise can flourish.

Having spent almost three years as special adviser to three of my right hon. Friend’s predecessors as President of the Board of Trade, I read with interest his proposals to reorganise the Department of Trade and Industry. I welcome in particular his efforts to improve communications between that Department and industry and to reduce further the regulatory burdens on business.

However, the key to recovery lies more with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As I said, it is primarily for the Government to create the economic conditions in which recovery can take place. In the words of my right hon. Friend’s amendment, that can best be done by controlling public spending, reducing taxation, relieving business of burdens, and, above all, getting inflation down. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on his success in achieving that aim, and agree that nothing must be done to jeopardise the progress made so far. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will take the earliest possible opportunity to reduce interest rates again. With inflation falling, the real level of interest rates is actually rising, which is adding to the difficulties facing my constituents.

I hope also that when interest rates fall again, that will be reflected in the rates charged by banks to small business men. I am concerned that too often they tell me that, despite the nine reductions in interest rates, the interest on their loans has not fallen accordingly—or that they have had to pay more in other charges.

The other essential requirement for recovery is continued control of public expenditure. In that, I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West. It is understandable at a time of recession that the public sector borrowing requirement will increase. Although it is higher than I would like, I am reassured that it is less than the average under the last Government, and that it is this Government’s intention to restore it to balance in the medium term. That will not be easy. It will require my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, like Ulysses, to lash himself to the mast and to fill his colleagues’ ears with wax so that they do not succumb to the siren voices in favour of higher public spending.

If my right hon. Friend does that, and if the proportion of our gross domestic product taken by public expenditure can once again be reduced, allowing industry and the public to keep still more of the wealth that they create, then I am confident that, as the recovery gathers pace, the future for commerce and industry in my constituency and throughout the country will be bright.

Eric Pickles – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the then Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar, in the House of Commons on 5 June 1992.

thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to address the House for the first time. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). I have read many of his articles, always with pleasure. However, having reached the end of an article, I have often, regretfully, had to disagree with him.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Robert McCrindle, who served with great distinction the people of Brentwood and Ongar, and its predecessor constituencies, in the House. He was rightly regarded by his constituents with great affection. He spoke with great authority in many debates, particularly those on financial services and aviation. His first speech was typically a battle on behalf of his constituents with regard to compulsory purchase. His last speech was, again typically, a battle on behalf of Brentwood and Ongar. He told the Government in no uncertain terms that the people of Brentwood and Ongar do not want the M12, which is blighting my constituency. As you may know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Sir Robert did not enjoy the best of health during his last few years as a Member of Parliament. Therefore, I am sure that the whole House will be pleased to know that Sir Robert is now in very good health. I am confident that both he and his wife Myra will enjoy many happy and healthy years of retirement from politics.

Brentwood and Ongar is situated about 20 miles to the north-east of this House, in the county of Essex. Since my adoption of Essex, it has become clear to me that the people of the country are divided into two—those who come from Essex and those who wish they came from Essex. For a Yorkshireman to say that is true praise indeed.

My constituency straddles the two main conurbations of Abridge and West Horndon. It has played a curious and significant part in the nation’s history. According to Robert Graves, it was the scene where a singular battle over sovereignty was fought—not over the treaty of Rome but over the treaty of the Roman legions. It was the place where the Emperor Claudius met the ancient Britons. The residents of Brentwood and Ongar were the first to see elephants on these shores. Our association with elephants continued for 2,000 years. The East India Company decided to set up its training school for elephants in Brentwood. It was there that the first, second or even third sons of the landed gentry met those huge quadrupeds for the first time. Stories still abound among my constituents about these bewildered members of the aristocracy losing themselves in Brentwood and Ongar.

The site of that elephant training school is now the headquarters of Ford UK and Ford Europe. Many international and national companies are to be found in my constituency. Rhone Poulenc, a French pharmaceutical company, has based its research facility in Brentwood and Ongar. It is also the headquarters of Amstrad, the computer company which has done so much to ensure that ordinary people have the opportunity to own personal computers. While retaining its traditions, therefore, Brentwood and Ongar is a constituency which looks to the future. I am proud to represent it here.

About 80 per cent. of Brentwood and Ongar’s housing stock is now in owner-occupation. The two district councils are the largest providers of rented housing for the remaining 20 per cent. In Brentwood there has been a decline of about 3 per cent. a year in the public rented sector, largely as a result of right-to-buy. There have been more than 2,000 sales since the scheme began. That is a remarkable achievement.

Public housing was largely responsible for the forming of my own political views, contrary to the political tradition of my family. I was brought up on a council estate in the West Riding of Yorkshire where my parents ran a small corner shop. As I looked at the style and condition of the houses occupied by my friends and neighbours, my conviction grew that they deserved a better landlord. I served for many years on a local authority and do not want to paint all local authorities black, but, even when they are at their most benign, they do not make good landlords. They are cumbersome and bureaucratic. Pavements remain cracked for want of inspection; window frames remain unpainted for want of a form. Brave is a tenant who decides to take matters into his own hands. To me, there is no such thing as a golden age of public housing.

Any reasonable housing policy must be based on quality, diversity and choice. Above all, it must be based on what people want. People simply want to own their own homes. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders and a recent BBC survey, 77 per cent. of the population believe that to own their own homes is the ideal tenure. I have heard hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber argue that the British obsession with wanting to own one’s home is wrong. That message is particularly hard to swallow when it is given by people who come from families who are second, third or even fourth generation owner-occupiers. Perhaps my socialist ancestors would approve of what I think about those sentiments: what is good enough for the toffs is good enough for the workers. People have the right to own their own homes. We have an obligation to ensure that they can do so.

I welcome the Minister’s reference to the rents-to-mortgages scheme. I understand and fully appreciate that it will not have the same impact as right-to-buy, but it will enable people, just one or two steps down the housing ladder, to own their own homes. I expect more people thereby to achieve their goal of home ownership. Nevertheless, I recognise that, for reasons of mobility and disposable income, some people may not want to buy. To offer diversity and choice represents a great challenge to both the Government and local government. It is a reflection of the greater challenge that faces the Government, which is to ensure that choice, freedom and opportunity are taken further down the social and economic ladder.

I am especially pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the concept of empowerment, which is the key to tenants’ rights. We need to ensure that there are methods other than purchase by which tenants can exercise choice and enjoy freedom.

The more tenants are involved in the running of estates, the better those estates will be. And the more officials are removed from their air-conditioned towers and work and manage from estates, the better the estates will be. When I talk to housing officials, I sometimes feel that they regard estates as distant colonies—that there is a new form of colonialism, with the inspector going round once a month. If people have to drive past graffiti, cracked paving stones and holes in the road, those problems suddenly assume the importance that they should and suddenly the council gets round to doing something about them. I believe that the area management of estates is vital—just as important as the tenants charter.

I welcome the promise that, in the autumn, the right to repair will be improved, because at present the provisions are a little cumbersome and difficult to understand. Will my hon. Friend the Minister give his attention to, and perhaps also give us some further details on, the right of improvement? If people are to have the opportunity to use their own homes as their own homes, we must ensure that, when they decide to leave them, they are financially compensated for the improvements that they have made. If anything, the present right of improvement poses more difficulties than the right of repair and I should welcome a commitment to improve that right in the legislation.

I believe that council housing is now moving into a different age. Too much energy has been wasted on trying to find ways round regulations, on trying to prevent tenants from buying their own homes and on trying to stop housing action trusts coming into being. If just a quarter of that effort and vitality had been put into ensuring that tenants had a better deal and more opportunity to decide the way in which their homes, environment and estates were managed, the stock of public housing would be materially better than it is today.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1992 Queen’s Speech

queenelizabethii

Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 6 May 1992.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I look forward with great pleasure to receiving the State Visits of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei and Her Majesty the Raja Isteri in November, and His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic and Senhora Soares in 1993.

I look forward to my forthcoming visit to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, and to my visits to Malta later this month, France and Canada in June and Germany in October.

My Government attach the highest importance to national security. They will continue to give full support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and will work with our allies to adapt it to changing risks. They will aim to develop the Western European Union as a means of strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance and the defence component of the European Union. The United Kingdom’s armed forces are being restructured to reflect these changes. Britain’s minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained.

My Government will work for a comprehensive and verifiable ban on chemical weapons, to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and to encourage greater international responsibility in conventional arms transfers. They will help the Russian Federation in the task of dismantling surplus nuclear weapons.

My Government will work to strengthen the United Nations. They will require full Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions. They will work for a peaceful settlement in Yugoslavia. They will support moves to bring lasting peace to the middle east.

They will lay before Parliament the treaty of Maastricht and introduce a Bill to implement it.

My Government look forward to welcoming the European Council at our palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh towards the end of the United Kingdom’s Presidency of the Community in December. During the Presidency, my Government will attach particular priority to enlargement of the Community and completion of the single market. They will promote sound finance and budgetary discipline. With our Community partners they will continue to strive for a successful conclusion to the GATT trade negotiations, and to press for changes in the common agricultural policy.

My Government will encourage Community agreements with central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and will support democratic reform there.

They will maintain the fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

They will energetically pursue policies to combat the trafficking and misuse of drugs.

My Government will play an active part in the Commonwealth. They will support efforts to build a democratic society in South Africa.

My Government will maintain a substantial aid programme to reduce poverty in developing countries. Its objectives will include promoting good government, sensible economic policies and respect for human rights. They will continue to press creditor countries for a further reduction in the official debt of the poorest countries.

The United Kingdom will work for a successful outcome to the United Nations conference on environment and development.

My Government will continue to administer Hong Kong justly and efficiently, in the interests of its people, and to co-operate with China on the basis of the Sino-British joint declaration to promote the political and economic development of the territory.

Members of the House of Commons,

Estimates for the public service will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will pursue, within the framework of the exchange rate mechanism, firm financial policies designed to achieve price stability and maintain the conditions necessary for sustained growth. They will set policy in the medium term to ensure that the United Kingdom meets the convergence criteria set out in the Maastricht treaty. They will reduce the share of national income taken by the public sector and balance the budget over the medium term, reducing taxes when it is prudent to do so. They will promote market mechanisms and incentives and improve the working of the economy. To help business, legislation will be introduced to amend the non-domestic rate transitional arrangements.

A Bill will be introduced to improve further the law on industrial relations.

My Government will pursue vigorously their programme of privatisation. Legislation will be introduced to return British Coal to the private sector.

My Government are committed to increasing the role of the railways in meeting the country’s transport needs. Legislation will be introduced to enable the private sector to operate rail services.

My Government will give priority to improving public services through the Citizen’s Charter which will be at the centre of decision-making. Steps will be taken to apply charter principles throughout the public service.

My Government will continue to work to raise standards at all levels of education, to promote vocational training for young people and adults, and to improve teacher training. A Bill will be introduced to extend choice and diversity in education.

Action will be taken to combat crime and promote law and order.

A Bill will be presented to enable applications for asylum in the United Kingdom to be determined quickly and effectively.

Legislation will be presented to facilitate the work of the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions.

My Government will work to enhance the quality of life provided by our nation’s cultural and sporting heritage. A Bill will be introduced to establish a national lottery to raise money for good causes.

My Government will continue to improve the quality of the national health service and community care and their responsiveness to patients’ needs.

My Government will work both at home and abroad to protect the environment. They will ensure that the environment remains a key issue in all policy-making and will continue to publish annual reports.

Measures will be introduced to enhance the rights of local authority tenants in England and Wales and in Scotland, to establish an urban regeneration agency, and to enable leaseholders either to acquire the freehold or to extend the lease.

My Government will continue to improve and modernise the social security system with sustained emphasis on those groups with the greatest need. Legislation will be introduced to maintain an additional rebate for holders of personal pensions aged 30 or over.

Legislation will be introduced to promote improvements in agricultural marketing.

A Bill will be presented to promote the Welsh language.

For Scotland, legislation will be introduced to amend the laws relating to bankruptcy and early release of prisoners.

In Northern Ireland, my Government will continue their efforts to eliminate terrorism through resolute enforcement of the law, combined with progressive economic, social and political policies. They, will promote the re-establishment of stable institutions of government, within a framework of positive relations with the Republic of Ireland.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Iain Duncan Smith – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

ids2000

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Iain Duncan Smith in the House of Commons on 20 May 1992.

I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election. As this is my maiden speech, I ask the House to bear with me if I make a series of mistakes.
Earlier, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) reminded the House of the great honour that our electorate bestow upon us in permitting us to represent their views and interests in a sovereign Parliament. I may point out that Chingford is officially part of Greater London, not Essex. Having heard the recent results in Basildon, I am sad that it is not part of Essex.

The majority of the people who live in Chingford have striven for a long time to buy their own properties, take care of their own lives, and make the most that they can—to hand on to future generations—from hard work and the sweat of their own brows. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will immediately recognise those as key principles that have supported conservatism, and which my party promoted during the whole of the 1980s. Chingford represents those interests, and we represent Chingford’s interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) mentioned that there is a factory producing Mr. Kipling cakes in his constituency. I cannot boast of such a place, but we do have the London Rubber Company in the middle of my constituency. That company is heavily linked to today’s debate. The House may recall the little problem that existed with the Italian regulations, on the size or width of certain items that London Rubber produces—so it has a keen interest in what goes on here.

Few constituencies are so associated with a particular individual as Chingford. I refer of course to my predecessor, Norman Tebbit. Some may remember only the “Spitting Image” vision of a leather jacket, studs, and chains—but I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will keep in mind the image of a man of incisive wit, telling rebukes, and most of all, reforming zeal.

If it were only for his political achievements, Norman would be remembered as one of the most important figures in British political history—but he is remembered for much more than that. The House owes him a great debt. On that terrible night in Brighton, the lives of Norman, Margaret, and their family were devastatingly and treacherously changed for the worst—yet at no time has Norman or Margaret complained, and they consistently serve as a great inspiration to me and many others.

It is not overstating the case to say that Norman brought great honour to the House. I know that all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in wishing him great happiness in the future, in all that he does.

So often in the past when Europe has been debated, there has been a knee-jerk level to the debates. It is said that there are those who are pro-Europe—the Europhiles—and those who are anti-Europe—the Euro-sceptics. If the issue is always polarised in that way, it will be impossible to have a rational debate. The question is rather, whether we want to interrogate certain aspects and regulations or not, the public have a right to know the detail, and it is important that we examine the detail of the treaty and put it before them. I will attempt to do that this evening.

Let me begin by congratulating my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor on their great negotiating skills, which have produced the treaty that is now before us. Their achievements in securing our exclusion from the social chapter protocol, and in reserving Parliament’s right to decide whether to enter currency union, are greatly appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

As I read the treaty, however, I must confess to a growing disquiet. My chief worry is that, despite the Government’s considerable successes, we remain locked into what I see as a continuing progression towards a European super-state. I consider that neither necessary nor desirable.

Maastricht—following, as it does, from the Single European Act and the treaty of Rome—embodies that movement; perhaps it is proceeding at a slower rate in this context, but it is a movement none the less. Let me explain—echoing what was said earlier by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)—that my reasons for believing that are based fundamentally on the ethos that exists in the institutions that the Community now contains. I refer chiefly to the European Commission and the European Court.

In my view, successive Governments have failed fully to understand the way in which the Commission seeks constantly to advance its competence. In so doing, it will be supported by the European Court. The Commission is not just a bureaucratic body, as so many people seem to think; it has substantial law-making powers—very excutive powers. Beyond those powers, it exists as much to propose legislation to the Council of Ministers. Through its performance of both those roles, constant pressure will continue to extend the process of European integration.

All too often, press and politicians talk about Delors as though he were an expletive. His role is quite clear to him; I believe that it is our understanding of that role that is unclear. Obviously, the European institutions hold the key to the concern that I feel over Maastricht—the Single European Act and, originally, the treaty of Rome.

The European Court of Justice has the role of interpreting and applying Community law. Through the interpretation that it gives the treaties within the Community, it can and does fundamentally affect the balance between nation states and the Community. The Court, through its judgments, cannot be considered neutral by any means: it is part of those key institutions that consider it their duty constantly to push forward the concept of the Community, ultimately at the expense of the nation state.

An example of that is provided by a judgment in a case brought by the Netherlands against the high authority. The power of the Court was defined by the Court as the ultima ratio enabling the Community interest enshrined in the Treaty to prevail over inertia and resistance of member states. Many other judgments also illustrate the point.

The history of the European Court clearly shows, time and again, that it will be far from impartial, invariably finding in favour of what it perceives as the interest of the Community. Furthermore, the difference between the tradition of common law that exists in this country and the tradition of Continental law—based, as it is, so fundamentally on the code Napoleon—means, essentially, that the European Court will regularly fall back on the preambles to treaties, and will use them to interpret points, as it sees them, within the spirit of the agreement—the members. Every treaty that we have ever signed has given the Court greater scope to interpret.

The preamble to the treaty of Rome raises general provisions urging member states to attain ever closer union with general objectives. To most common law lawyers, that might appear fairly general on the surface. However, it is a major signpost in continental law. The preamble to the Single European Act is full of references to the states implementing a union. Article I clearly refers to progress towards European unity—a major signpost for the European Court.

Here we seem constantly to have disregarded the general wording of the preambles to the treaties. Under common law, they are not part of any agreement, but in the code Napoleon and continental law, they form a major part of any agreement. The treaty on European union sets out no less clearly in its preamble that defence, foreign policy, economic and social policies and the free movement of people are all set to converge in ways which on the surface may appear rather general but which will be critical to the functioning of the treaty. Therefore, across a full range of matters the Maastricht treaty extends further the areas to which Community law applies.

Given the natural desire to the Community institutions constantly to push forward with closer ties and greater compliance, it is natural that they will seek to find areas that are open to extensive secondary legislation affecting our national life that have not yet been affected.

That can be clearly seen in the proposals for a 48-hour working week. We never perceived under the Single European Act that that would necessarily be the case, but the Community—in the shape of the Commission, ultimately supported by the European court—pushes for that extra bit to be brought to the Commission, under majority voting. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is doing all she can to sort this out, and I wish her the very best of luck. However, I remain a touch pessimistic about the outcome.

Both sides of the House have made much of subsidiarity, probably because most people do not have a clue what the heck it means. I suspect that some hon. Members on both sides of the House also fall into that category. It is the devolving of power to a lower level, as perceived by the treaty—that of nation states. As a means of trying to retain control over our national identity, it should be given some approval, but if we look back we see that it is a two-edged sword. It very much cuts both ways.

Originally it was a papal concept. That concept was about power that could flow downwards to the constituent parts of the papal dominion. The key factor was that that power had to be given, as judged by the central authority. In line with that, if we come forward to Maastricht again, we see that it could imply that anything that cannot be justified at national level should, therefore, be taken to the European level. That is the other edge of the cutting sword: that the Community could easily turn round and say, “Justify the fact that you have the right to retain control over that area; otherwise, we shall take it under our powers and competence.” It therefore follows that the European Court would ultimately find in favour of the Community. That is part of its ethos.

Therefore, I propose some measure of reform which I believe we must undertake if we are to make sure that the sort of Europe that we want to see is the one that goes through and that we can control. First, I propose that we should repeal sections 1 and 2 of the European Community Act 1972 and replace them with clear statements about this Parliament’s supremacy over all European Community activities that affect the relationship between this House and the courts—and, in fact, all other constitutional matters.

Secondly, we should set about reforming the Commission, starting with the European Court. We should position a constitutional court over the Community, I stress, to take an impartial position on questions which affect the competence of nation states.

Thirdly, the Commission should be slimmed down, losing many of its existing portfolios. We should get rid of the position of the President and make the Commission more of a non-executive body. Those moderate suggestions are offered, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with some deference to your position.

Most of all, we must therefore seek to refocus the Community as one of a group of nation states determined to seek co-operation on a defined but limited number of areas. That would greatly assist the inclusion of other states, which is proposed and with which I thoroughly agree, while keeping the flow of trade as free as possible through co-operation not coercion.

From successive treaties, we have seen a growing erosion of the powers of the House to legislate, not to be overruled by the European Court. Much has been made about the exclusion of the word “federalism”. Having read the treaty time and again, I have to say that, even if we exclude it, the obvious signs are there for all to see—that is, that that is the inevitable march. After all, a bite from a rottweiler hurts just as much even if we insist on calling it a pekinese.

We are asked to support the Government. There is no doubt in my mind of the Government’s intentions, and those I support. However, the problem is that far too much trust is expected of us in this House to be vested in the institutions in the Community. I do not believe that, if we notice how the general tendency is to move towards greater integration, that trust will be well placed.

It has been ably pointed out several times that we have seen the Government and previous Governments fight rearguard actions to prevent the growing power of the Commission from encroaching. Those rearguard actions have been fought in the knowledge that we have signed up to something which has given the Commission powers to get in and take control of certain aspects of our lives.

The treaty is therefore somewhat out of date. It reflects, sadly, concerns from the past which are no longer relevant. I hope that, if we consider the problems and changes that are going on in the Community, hon. Members will agree with me. The treaty keeps the door open to a federalist, centralist and uncompetitive Europe which is clearly moving us in the wrong direction from the rest of the world.

I am not by any means anti-European. After all, Europe is a geographical expression. Therefore, being in the centre of Europe or supporting Europe is neither here nor there. The key is a European Community of nations trading and co-operating through sovereign Parliaments. There is no other time but now. I have talked to many hon. Members who have said, “Don’t worry, this matter will ultimately collapse; things will change and we will not have the problems.”

If now is not the time to put the line in the sand and say, “Thus far and no further,” when are we to say that? This matter has caused me great concern and problems early in the Parliament, but I hope in the next 24 hours to show where my true attitudes lie.

Alan Duncan – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Alan Duncan on 2 June 1992.

I am obliged to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to utter my first words in the House.
I am pleased to speak in the same debate as my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), whom I have watched for many years with great respect. Even though he has momentarily left the Chamber, I am also glad to follow my constituency neighbour, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who I am pleased to see so happily installed in his new job. I congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) on his maiden speech, and I look forward to sparring with him across the Chamber on many future occasions.

Rutland and Melton is an oasis of traditional England between the M1 and the A1. It is surrounded by towns such as Leicester, Nottingham, Grantham—perhaps not so much a town as a shrine—Stamford and Corby. The agricultural interest remains important and, although it may not please some hon. Members, hunting remains not only popular, but a living force for the interests of conservation.

The constituency also has light industry. Indeed, if one owns a pet, the chances are that one will have fed it with a brand name from Europe’s largest canning factory in Melton Mowbray. The constituency also includes Syston and Thurmaston on the edge of Leicester, and the spectacular vale of Belvoir.

Perhaps the constituency is best known for containing the valiant county of Rutland. I took a look at the history books, one of which says: although Rutland had a distinct status in the Anglo-Saxon period, its rise to the status of shire and the dignity of a sheriff was the product of a confused process in the twelfth century”. That same book states that the 1974 local reforms removed elements of disorder on the map, such as the foolish county of Rutland. I say of that author, the more fool him.

Those local government reforms created a hateful mix of the urban and the rural. They trampled over traditional boundaries and ignored community identities. Feeling in Rutland still runs very high indeed and most people want the return of unitary status for the county. And why not? If the cost is not punitive, they should be entitled to the status for which they are asking. I am pleased to say that, thanks to legislation passed by my party, including the Local Government Act 1992, and with the Royal Commission just starting its work, Rutland is given a chance. I implore hon. Members to take Rutland’s case seriously and not to dismiss it as a quixotic campaign or to disqualify Rutland simply on the grounds of its size.

I take up the cudgels for Rutland and Melton behind a line of distinguished parlimentarians. For a long time, Rutland was represented by Sir Kenneth Lewis. He still lives in the constituency, and I sometimes think that he has as many friends as there are people in the county. He is a popular figure, always ready with some fatherly advice and a good yarn to tell.

But for 18 years Melton, and then Rutland and Melton, were served by Michael Latham. From a personal point of view, I could not have been more fortunate in the person I shadowed for two years as prospective candidate. All in the area talk of the diligent and conscientious manner in which Michael Latham handled constituency problems. He entered the House with a particular expertise in housing, and Ministers came to value his advice. He developed a reputation for being independent-minded. He was not one to seek office at all costs.

His religious views, and his opinions on the state of Israel particularly, are well known, and it is appropriate that he should have moved on from here to run the Council of Christians and Jews. Contrary to reports, I do not believe that he intends to take holy orders. I hope that that will mean that Michael will not be entirely lost to politics in the years ahead. I am sure that hon. Members join me in wishing him and his wife Caroline every good fortune.

My purpose in speaking today is to welcome the measures in the Finance Bill. The measure marks the continuation of the economic progress that we have made since 1979. Indeed, the determination to tackle economic collapse spurred me above all to enter political activity in the first place.

Particularly welcome are the inheritance tax proposals. They are based on the belief that the successful accumulation of wealth should be allowed to be passed on. Why—as it appears many Opposition Members would have it—should every generation be required to go back to square one, based on some misplaced understanding of what equality of ‘opportunity involves? The Bill will benefit family farms and family businesses, and I welcome the measures so well defended by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend).

Any Bill designed to alter the rules of taxation inevitably provokes a litany of special pleading, and it is the unenviable task of the Chancellor and his team to distinguish naked self-interest from a good case. In his original Budget statement, the Chancellor referred to surplus advanced corporation tax—to some, perhaps, a rather abtruse matter. Some companies are taxed in the United Kingdom on estimates of their earnings overseas. Indeed, they are overtaxed, but they are stuck with the position.

The effect is to reduce the research and development that such companies would carry out in this country, and it works against their wishing to set up their headquarters in the United Kingdom. That was not intended to flow from the imputation tax system that developed in the 1970s, and I hope that the Chancellor will reconsider in the years ahead the effects of the measure.

The Bill contains many welcome measures affecting the operation of VAT, especially the removal of fiscal frontier controls. But there remain some simple, practical difficulties in the administration of VAT that should be addressed particularly as no cost would be involved.

I could cite the example of a haulage contractor based in Melton Mowbray who pays VAT on his fuel purchases in other EC member countries. As a business, he is entitled to reclaim it, but he does not get it back, as least not for months and sometimes even years. We decent Brits repay overseas claimants quickly, but that efficiency is not reciprocated. So again, our comparative sense of fair play works more to the benefit of our competitors than to that of our exporting businesses. I urge the Revenue to take a good look at the fair working of the refunding of VAT elsewhere in the Community.

I hope that the Finance Bill is but a prelude to our addressing certain long-term objectives for the economy. Some of the nastier consequences of the recession flow from the extent to which the fortunes of businesses and individuals are critically affected by changes in interest rates. We have a structural problem, in part a cultural one. Far too much of our investment funding in based on debt rather than on equity. It should become one of the major challenges of this Parliament to address the question of how to shift investment from debt to equity, because part of the problem arises from the simple fact that debt servicing is tax-deductible, while the cost of equity servicing is not.

Hand in hand with that is the objective of overseeing recovery without massive house price inflation. As many of my hon. Friends know, wary though I am of taking further steps towards monetary union, I believe that the ERM might yet prove a blessing, in that its effect will be to iron out the peaks and troughs which in the past have been damagingly extreme.

I am all for people owning their homes, but we do better to persuade them not to look on their houses as a tax-free source of easy riches on which they can regularly draw. I would rather we promoted a savings culture in which individuals increasingly had a genuine stake in the economy, and the key to that is pensions.

At present, our pensions rules are unfathomable. A personal pension attaching unequivocally to the person who has invested in it will lead to private capital accumulation in areas other than housing. Why cannot employees in the public sector pay their contributions into private schemes? We should take a long-term view, for the time has come when people should be allowed to do that.

By tackling such structural deficiencies in the economy, we could provoke a major change in the economic fortunes of individuals. I share the Chancellor’s vision of a capital-owning democracy. I hope that we can see an economy in which individuals increasingly build their own stake in it. I hope that we can promote a savings culture out of which dependency on the state will be reduced and self-reliance increased. If, to set the tone, a strict settlement of our public expenditure commitments is demanded, the Chancellor and his team will have vigorous support in their efforts from this quarter.

Geoff Hoon – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Geoff Hoon on 20 May 1992.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) on his maiden speech. I hope that he will take it as a compliment when I say that he looked and sounded as though he had been here for years. I am sure that he will soon be fitted with his own leather jacket.

Perhaps I have the easiest task of any new hon. Member in paying proper tribute to my predecessor. Frank Haynes was popular in all parts of the House because of his genuine friendliness and good humour, his commitment to a range of good causes—from local hospitals to the fortunes of Sutton Town football club. He was popular with political friends and opponents alike.

Had I needed any convincing of that, it was confirmed recently when, with characteristic generosity, he agreed to help me to show a constituency school party round the Palace of Westminster. He has a formidable reputation as a tour guide and the Kirkby Woodhouse school party was not disappointed. As we made our way round the Palace it was clear that we were in the presence of a star. Wherever we went we met people who would stop and congratulate Frank and wish him well for the future. Everyone from police officers to Members of the House of Lords had a good word for him.

Frank’s popularity is reflected in the constituency of Ashfield. There cannot be an organisation, group, club or society of which Frank is not a member or which he has not helped in some way over the years. I say that with some confidence as, since my election, representatives from them have all written to me asking me to carry on the traditions that Frank established. Frank’s talent and obvious popularity are based on the sheer force of his personality and the sheer volume of his voice.

Frank had one quality that I believe has not been given proper attention: his considerable political skills which have perhaps been overlooked. He won Ashfield after arguably one of the worst by-elections in Labour party history. He held Ashfield for the Labour party in some extraordinarily difficult circumstances in Nottingham. He was greatly assisted in that by the wisdom and experience of his agents, Clarrie Booler and Bryan Denham.

In 1979, Frank replaced the current hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith), who might like to know that he still has at least one supporter in Ashfield. In the dying days of the general election campaign, I knocked on the door of the house of an elderly lady, who kindly invited me in and asked why I had taken so long to get round to see her. Like any candidate anxious to win votes and influence people, I politely explained that it was a big constituency and it took a little time to get around. “Tim Smith,” she said, “called on everyone.” In my candidate’s mode, I still more politely pointed out that there were 75,000 electors in Ashfield and I could not see how he could have met them all. “Of course he did,” she said, “regularly.”

My candidate’s charm school smile was wearing a little thin by the time she asked me what I had to say for myself. I launched into the two-minute version of the Labour party manifesto, trying to steer the conversation in the direction of her voting intentions. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said. “I have already voted by post.” I now know what is the political equivalent of the blind man in a dark room looking for a dark cat. It is a Labour candidate canvassing a Tory lady who has already voted by post.

In making my preparations for this speech, I realised that the last three people to represent Ashfield now belong to three different political parties. David Marquand left Ashfield for a career in the European Commission. By contrast, I shall be leaving the European Parliament to concentrate on the constituency of Ashfield. He made his maiden speech in 1966, when he was able to state that mining was the linchpin of the economy of Ashfield. He went on to say, however: the coal mining industry of Nottinghamshire faces a grave crisis of confidence.”—[Official Report, 5 May 1966; Vol. 727, c. 1965] He argued that it was urgently necessary to work out a comprehensive fuel programme in order to be able to assure the miners of the east midlands about their future for a long time to come.

These words have echoed down the years. There has been a massive reduction in the number of local collieries. I expect to represent Ashfield when its last colliery closes. That will be a sad day for the local community and it presents a bleak prospect for young people, who will also face difficulties finding work in Ashfield’s other great industry, the textile trade.

From 1955, Ashfield was represented by Will Warbey. He had first been elected to the House to represent Luton in 1945. On 23 August 1945, in his maiden speech, he used words which are of particular relevance to today’s debate: absolute national sovereignty is now an out-dated factor in international affairs. He quoted the right hon. Member for Woodford, Winston Churchill, who had talked of the mixing of the nations, and went on: I believe there is a great opportunity in the future for nation States to get more mixed together, especially in their economic functions. We have a particularly excellent opportunity in the case of those nations in the north and west of Europe, and I include our own, which, I am glad to say, have now very largely a common political outlook, and which are intending to pursue similar policies of planning for full employment and for raising standards of living. We can get together and plan very largely in common in order to achieve those objectives.”—[Official Report, 23 August 1945; Vol. 413, c. 898] That was what the House was discussing in August 1945, and in essence it is what this debate should be about.

The Members meeting in Parliament in 1945 were determined to end the divisions of Europe based on the extreme nationalism that had caused two catastrophic world wars. Like many others in a similar situation, my father volunteered to fight in the second world war on his 18th birthday. When he came to Strasbourg shortly after my election to the European Parliament, he said how much better what I was doing was than what he and millions of others had had to do in the second world war.

We now have to build on the European foundations established by previous generations. Although the Maastricht treaty is a far from perfect addition to the European building, it contains much that will contribute to the mixing of nations. Others have already criticised Britain’s opt-out on economic and monetary union and on the social chapter. Since I am still a member of the European Parliament I want to concentrate my remarks on the institutional aspects of the treaty and to express my regret at the timid steps taken towards real democracy in the decision-making processes of the European Community.

Too often we have heard Ministers complain about decisions taken in Brussels as if they had played no part in the process or had no responsibility for the failure to hold the European Commission properly to account. The same Ministers were responsible for the intergovernmental negotiations that led to the treaty. If Brussels is to blame, so are the Ministers who have failed to reform the treaty to control the Commission and to make it answerable to those who have been directly elected to represent the people of Europe. Those representatives sit in national Parliaments and in the European Parliament.

Members of all the Parliaments of Europe should be working together more closely to improve the democracy of the European Community. We could start by considering how to improve the working relationship between Members of this House and British Members of the European Parliament. There remains an uneasy tension between those two democratically elected institutions which, in a European context, should be following a common purpose—the proposing, amending and approving of European legislation as well as holding the European Executive to account.

The uneasy relationship exists in spite of the fact that in the present House of Commons, 62 hon. Members have experience of one or more of the European institutions. Thirty of my new colleagues have been members of the European Parliament, directly elected or appointed like our Speaker, and 32 have been members of the Council of Europe.

The uneasy relationship allows the European Commission—the least democratic of the Community’s institutions—to assert a disproportionate influence over legislation. During the debate on the Single European Act, it was suggested in Britain that the treaty changes then being debated marked a final shift of power from Westminster to the European Parliament.

In practice, the European Commission has significantly increased its power over legislation because of its ability to determine which amendments to propose during the various stages of the legislative process. In effect, it has been able to play off the European Parliament against the Council of Ministers, telling the Council that the European Parliament would not accept certain amendments and, in turn, telling the Parliament that it could not propose Parliament’s amendments to the Council because they would be rejected. As a result, the Commission’s policy line has been strengthened at the expense of the democratically elected Parliament and Council.

Certain measures in the Maastricht treaty will undoubtedly tilt the institutional balance slightly in the direction of the European Parliament. It will do little, however, to make the European Commission subject to democratic control. Similarly, the decisions of the Council of Ministers, meeting in secret, are rarely subject to democratic scrutiny. The Maastricht treaty will do little to improve the ability of elected Members of national Parliaments to oversee the activities of Ministers meeting in council.

Much of the debate so far has concentrated on criticisms of the present operation of the European Community. I share some of the criticisms, but I disagree strongly about the appropriate solutions. If the European Community overrides democracy, the solution is to make it more democratic.

I am grateful for the House’s attention.

John Denham – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by John Denham on 20 May 1992.

While offering you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my congratulations on your new post, may I also thank you for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this historic debate? Looking around the Chamber, I suspect that I will set a record as the new Labour Member to have sat the longest time in one sitting before making a maiden speech. I only hope that, by the end of it, no one will feel that few have sat for so long to say so little.

We have heard some good maiden speeches tonight. I was especially interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan), who represents the constituency next door to mine. Last week, he wrote to the Boundary Commission suggesting that the ward of Woolston in Southampton be transferred from the Eastleigh constituency to my constituency. It is an extremely strongly Labour-voting ward. Whilst the transfer would therefore have the deplorable effect of ensuring that the hon. Member for Eastleigh remains the Member for that constituency for as long as his party selects him to do so, it would also have the admirable effect of achieving the same result for me in my constituency. That seems to provide a basis for a long-lasting partnership between the two of us.

I am interested in election results. My majority might be described as wafer-thin. I replace the only person to break Labour’s line of electoral successes in the constituency since the second world war. Chris Chope was above all a conviction Thatcherite politician. When he told the press that he cried when Margaret Thatcher lost the leadership of the Conservative party, he restated his political position in a memorable way. He also confounded some of us by finally revealing the issue on which he could show such deep human emotion.

It is debatable whether Chris Chope’s resolve to drive a six-lane motorway deep through a beautiful Hampshire down finally cost him his seat, but the determination with which he set about the task was certainly typical of him. I do not want to seem ungenerous. In the constituency, Chris Chope will be thanked by many hundreds of families for his work on the Housing Defects Act 1984. There are many pre-cast reinforced concrete homes in the constituency. Secondly, although a member of the Tory Right, he never attempted to play what is euphemistically known as the race card in my constituency. By refusing to use poison for political advantage he contributed to the fact that, although racism is definitely serious and present in the constituency, it is by no means as bad as it is in many other multiracial parts of the country.

Thirdly, from the moment that Chris Chope entered the House to the moment he left it he was a politician who stood up consistently and forthrightly for the values in which he believed. As far as I know, he never tried to shift with the tides of changing public opinion. That is probably what he would most like me to say about his time in the House.

While waiting to make my maiden speech, I could hardly say that I felt at home, but at times I felt a sense of deja vu. As far as I can remember, my first involvement in a national political campaign was during the referendum on Europe. I voted no, but as time went by, as transnational companies came to dominate our economy more than ever before, as the financial system was deregulated more than we had ever thought possible in the 1970s, and as our economy became more integrated with that of Europe, as Europe became real and inevitable, there were times when I wondered what had happened to the ghost of the “no” campaign of the 1970s. Had it, like a traditional ghost, been doomed to wander the corridors and rooms of a venerable palace? Sitting here tonight, while my eyes closed occasionally and while I listened to the voices around me, I could hear the ghosts of that campaign. I believe that such ghosts are better exorcised than reincarnated.

I represent a large part of the great city of Southampton. There are few cities in this country which have been so shaped by the world at large and which have done so much to shape the world at large. My city’s history is international, cosmopolitan, ambitious and courageous. The banks of the Rivers Itchen and Test, which flow through and past my constituency, have over the centuries been invaded, raided and bombed. Troops have left the port of Southampton to go to many conflicts—English archers to Agincourt and allied troops to the Normandy beaches among them.

In its time, the Saxon port of Hamwic was a rival to Viking York in the wealth and extent of its trade links, even then reaching deep into the heart of modern Russia. The Pilgrim Fathers left from Southampton—not Plymouth, as Plymouth’s tourist board sometimes claims—on their historic voyage to America.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the development of the modern port once again put Southampton at the heart of an international network of trade and of people. From the Huguenot weavers onwards, people have come to my city from all parts of the world and all parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to make Southampton the place that it is today. Because of that history, the international world and the European world hold few fears for Southampton today. It is a great European city and will grow as a great European city. A city council report, which was debated today while I was here, stated: Southampton must stand for quality, equality and opportunity as a leading cosmopolitan city in Europe. If any right hon. or hon. Members are at a loose end in the recess next week. I invite them to Southampton and to the international trade fair which opens next week. Visitors will be struck by the commitment, vision, participation and strong partnerships for success in Europe which exist in the city.

After all, what is the significance of hundreds of schoolchildren and older students participating in educational exchanges, or of pensioners attending the recent European pensioners’ parliament in Strasbourg? What is the significance of a chamber of commerce forging strong links with other chambers of commerce in Rouen, Le Havre, Barcelona and elsewhere, or of trade unions regularly meeting their colleagues in Germany, France and Spain?

What is the significance of traffic engineers collaborating with colleagues in Greece and Germany on the problems of urban congestion, or of the university, the institute of higher education and the technical college with literally hundreds of academic and training links? What is the significance of a city council whose ties with Le Havre and Rems-Muir-Kreiss are not tea parties but the real basis of economic collaboration and of co-operation in training, research and culture?

I suggest that the significance is that Europe, in a city such as Southampton, is not an abstract entity to be dissected in an academic way as some hon. Members have done today. Instead, it is a living reality. All the links that I have mentioned, and many others, are part of a real commitment on the part of the city to make Europe work.

My city has a breadth of vision of Europe. It is a vision that includes the understanding that Europe, above all, must be for people. Those of us who live in a great European city, one that is already organically tied to Europe in every part of its daily economic life, know that economic success is only half the challenge.

I have constituents who ask questions about Europe. Pensioners ask whether there will be a European future for them or whether they will always be the most shabbily treated pensioners in Europe. Parents ask whether their children have a European children’s future or whether they will always have less chance of child care and nursery education than children in most other European countries. Young people ask whether they will have a European future here or on the continent without the quality of education and training that other young Europeans enjoy.

Those who ask those questions do not do so because they do not want to be part of Europe. They want to be full partners in Europe in every way, in a Europe for people and not in a Europe with 11 players and the United Kingdom on the substitutes’ bench. In Southampton there is participation, commitment, vision and partnership.

Yesterday, the director of the chamber of commerce wrote to me as follows: A significant ingredient in our future economic development is the close partnership existing between the Chamber and the City Council. It is a Labour city council that is at the heart of Southampton’s European drive. It is not doing everything and controlling everything, but it is shaping, guiding, focusing, supporting, providing an infrastructure, opening up the waterfront, investing in science parks and providing services which are at the core of a successful united effort in Europe. As I have said, it is a Labour city council.

I must contrast the mood and achievement in Southampton with much of what I have heard in the House and with the Government’s record. The Government’s commitment is shallow. The bottom line is that nothing shall be done to promote Britain’s interests in Europe which can possibly conflict with the interests of the Conservative party in Britain.

There is narrow participation in a Europe for business perhaps, but not for a Europe for people. There is myopic vision in which the options seem to be, “Take it if you like it; leave it if you don’t.” There is no understanding of grasping Europe and using it as the opportunity that it really is. There has been a rejection of partnership. The Government have turned their back on the proper role of elected government at local, national, regional and European levels in shaping a Europe for all their people.

There is not time to dwell on the details of the many Divisions which lie ahead, tomorrow and in the coming weeks, and it might not be proper to do so in a maiden speech. I know, however, that the message which goes from the House must be that what Southampton is doing is right. Any message going from the House which questions what a city like Southampton is doing to be a great European city will be a great and bitter disappointment to the thousands of my constituents who are building a new Europe and a great European city.

Alan Milburn – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Alan Milburn in the House of Commons on 11th May 1992.

It is with a great sense of pride that I rise to make my maiden speech—in, appropriately enough, a debate about the future of British Rail. As hon. Members will know, the railways and the town of Darlington, which I am proud to represent, are virtually synonymous. Darlington, however, has another reputation, of which hon. Members are probably aware: its reputation as a barometer marginal seat.

It is my pleasure to say a word or two about my predecessors. My immediate predecessor, Michael Fallon, was a man of impeccably right-wing views. Indeed, he remained a devoted follower of Mrs. Thatcher even when that fell somewhat out of fashion on the Conservative Benches. He was, none the less, a hard-working Member of Parliament who rose to junior ministerial rank, and I wish him well in his new career outside Parliament.

I also pay tribute to my two immediate Labour predecessors, Ossie O’Brien and Ted Fletcher. Ossie had the misfortune to serve in the House for only six weeks after his splendid victory in the 1983 by-election; Ted, by contrast, sat for nearly 19 years, often bucking the national trend by dint of his diligence and personal popularity in the town of Darlington. Like those hon. Members, I will always put Darlington’s interests first, and will do my utmost to maintain their record of service to the town’s residents.

As hon. Members will know, Darlington gave birth to the railways, and so helped to spawn the first industrial revolution. Happily, that spirit of engineering enterprise and skill remains alive today in the string of top international companies for which Darlington is home: Cummins, Bowaters, Torringtons, Rothmans, and Cleveland Structural Engineering, to name but a few. One of those companies, Cleveland Structural Engineering, beat off international competition last week to win the contract to build the Tsing Ma bridge in Hong Kong. The bridge will be the largest structure of its kind in the world, and, like the Sydney harbour bridge, the Tyne bridge and the Humber bridge, it will be built in my constituency. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in congratulating both the work force and the management of CSE on their well-earned success. Whenever I have visited the Yarm road factory, I have been immensely impressed by the skills and commitment that I have seen there; now, they have obtained their just reward.

Although I am delighted by Cleveland’s success, after hearing the Gracious Speech I am less optimistic about the future for British industry as a whole. The speech was virtually silent about the economy, which remains in such dire straits. That the word “unemployment” did not even earn a mention is an insult to the 4,740 people in the Darlington district who remain without work. The recession has already cost 1,300 manufacturing jobs in my constituency, but all the major forecasts suggest that unemployment is set to go on rising.

Last year’s record fall in industrial investment risks plunging the country into a repeat of the economic mistakes of the mid-1980s—capacity failing to meet demand, thus forcing up imports and prices and lea ding inevitably to a Government-engineered slowdown. Companies such as CSE deserve better than that. They should be able to rely on the same support as is available to their foreign competitors from their home Governments: measures to stimulate investment in training, transport and technology. Yet here, in the middle of the longest recession since the war, we have the spectacle of the Durham training and enterprise council being forced to cut adult training by more than 20 per cent. in Darlington because its budget has been squeezed dry once again. It is a scandal that those offering youth training will have to provide more for less. Funding for non-endorsed training weeks has fallen from £31 to £28. What was training on the cheap is rapidly becoming training for a pittance.

These cheap and nasty cuts are pouring Darlington’s future down the drain. I fear that, without a change in policy, Darlington’s very real potential for economic take-off will be grounded, even before it has started. That would be a tragedy because, as Cleveland’s success amply shows, we have much to be proud of in the town of Darlington. The town is ideally placed to be at the core of a new industrial revolution that will bring more high-quality, high-skilled, high-tech, and high-paid employment.

Darlington’s fortunes, however, depend upon the Government removing the ideological blinkers that so restrict their vision and rethinking their hostility to manufacturing and their indifference to the north. The Government’s preoccupation with the privatisation of the railways is, classically, a triumph of ideological hope over the experience of those countries who owe their fast, efficient and safe railway systems to Government policies on planning and investment. The dictum that the market, and nothing but the market, can bring prosperity to areas like the north has proved disastrously wrong. After 13 years, unemployment is higher, the number of people in work lower and the gap between the rich and the poor ever wider.

Last week I listened with great interest to the Prime Minister’s promise to open up the powers of Government to public scrutiny. I hope that he will go one stage further and devolve power out from Whitehall to the regions and nations of our land. If the Prime Minister is serious about breaking down concentrations of unaccountable power, he will begin by reversing that process of creeping centralisation that has so characterised Conservative party policies since 1979. The north not only needs restoration of regional policy and proper investment in our transport infrastructure to allow us to compete against better placed regions and nations at the core of the single European market, but we need the right to determine our own future through a new structure of regional government that will take power from the centre.

Any process of devolution should include giving towns such as Darlington the right to run all their own services. In 1974, Darlington lost its county borough status because of the last Conservative reorganisation of local government. Ministers now have an oppportunity to put matters right by returning to the people of Darlington the powers that are rightfully theirs. I am looking not for any special favours for Darlington, but for policies that will rightly reward the vigour, loyalty and skill of its people. Too many of my constituents have paid the price for the records that the Government have set in the town in recent years—record bankruptcies, record mortgage repossessions and record hospital waiting lists.

I fear that the policies in the Gracious Speech mean yet more of the same. Darlington deserves a new spirit that forsakes the short term, the quick fix, the “me at the expense of the rest”—a spirit that says that all of us rely on common services because we are all part of the same community.

For those of us who grew up in the north-east, the past few years have seen a loss of that sense of community which used to characterise life there. When the Conservative party declared that there was no such thing as society, it acknowledged that, by its policies, people had been cut adrift from their communities, and as community has been denied so hope has been smothered. Hope can return to the communities of the north-east, but it needs policies that put talents to use rather than allow them to go to waste; policies that will reduce crime by putting sufficient police officers on our streets. It means policies that will restore pride by cleaning up our environment. It means tackling the obscenity of homelessness and investing in our hospitals and schools. It means, above all, giving regions such as the north-east and towns such as Darlington the chance to compete. It will be my privilige to fight for those policies in the House, I hope for many years to come. I shall do so in order to benefit the whole community of Darlington.

Peter Mandelson – 1992 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Peter Mandelson in the House of Commons on 14th May 1992.

It is my pleasure to commend my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker) on an excellent maiden speech. He demonstrated tremendous experience and knowledge, qualities that will enable him to make many more valued contributions to the House in the future. I only hope that I am able to acquit myself as ably as he has done.

In representing Hartlepool, I have the honour of succeeding Ted Leadbitter, who was as popular in the House as he was admired in his constituency. Ted Leadbitter was first elected in 1964. Supported by his wife Irene and his indomitable agent, Mrs. Elsie Reed, he lost no time in demonstrating his diligence and, equally, his independence.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who was Postmaster-General at the time, describes in his ministerial diaries for 10 February 1965—when the Labour Government had a majority of only three—how a new hon. Member, Ted Leadbitter from West Hartlepool, had written to complain about a telegraph pole being put up in front of a constituent’s home. Refusing to be fobbed off with some bureaucratic response, the MP of three months’ standing rang up my right hon. Friend’s office with the message: Mr. Leadbitter regards the Postmaster-General’s reply as so rude and evasive that he does not propose to come to the House or to accept the Labour whip until the answer is withdrawn and the pole is removed. The pole was duly removed. I am sure that hon. Members can agree that in such important matters—to parody Edmund Burke—I, too, should be a representative of my constituents, not a delegate of my party. I can reassure the Whips, however, that I am not aware—at present at any rate—of any misplaced telephone poles in Hartlepool.

Ted Leadbitter’s predecessor, the first Labour Member to be elected for the constituency, in 1945, was David Jones. A man who knew poverty and unemployment at first hand, Mr. Jones dedicated himself to freeing his constituents from the appalling social conditions of the time, “the evil days”, as he called them, of ill-health, poor housing and insecurity in old age. David Jones’ memory is particularly special to me because he was a friend of my grandfather when he was a Member of this House, and he spoke for David Jones at several elections.

When they took their seats, my predecessors took pride in representing the two Hartlepools. While I represent only one in name, I am conscious of the fierce community loyalties in both Hartlepool and West Hartlepool. Even before the two Hartlepools were each denied their own borough status, music hall references celebrated the local demand for home rule. In the review of local government to which the Conservative party is committed, the minimum that would be acceptable to current residents is the restoration of full unitary authority status to Hartlepool. I shall continue the work of my predecessor in supporting that change.

Hartlepool’s great strength is that it rightly sees itself as a community, with shared needs, strongly felt local loyalties and a sense of common purpose and civic pride. That pride is especially strong now. Our football team, Hartlepool United, is at its highest ever league position in the history of the club; the West Hartlepool Rugby Football Club has gained promotion this season to national division one; and first-class cricket has arrived in the town, with the selection of the town’s club as a venue for Durham county cricket.

However, there are serious challenges to be faced by my town. Fifty years ago, Hartlepool, like other towns, even with its social problems, was at least more industrially secure because of the success of its shipyards, engineering, steel-making and manufacturing. The task of the coming decade, as we approach the 21st century, is to transform a now industrially poorer and less confident Hartlepool into the thriving industrial community of the future that it can become. That is why the people of Hartlepool are now embarking on an era of change. They do so in the knowledge that it is not possible for any community or town—or, indeed, political party—to try to recreate the future in the image of the past.

For the first time, in the general election, the Labour party in Hartlepool received more than 50 per cent. of the popular vote. It was a vote to embrace change but it is still change for the same purpose now as it was 50 years ago: to use the power of the community, acting together, to improve the individual circumstances of all. Central to that process is a modern economic policy; new ways of revitalising industry; innovative solutions to the problems created by social change; and sustaining economic growth in ways that are friendly to the environment.

My aim is to see new opportunities created for my constituents so that the confidence and optimism experienced in former times can be enjoyed once again by old and young alike. New opportunities do not mean opt-out schools and opt-out hospitals. When the services of thousands of patients opt out and the local hospital ceases to feel like the local community hospital, when thousands opt out of schools and the local schools cease to be like local community schools, the foundation on which the community is based is being removed.

What is true for our public services is also true, although in a different way, for industry. We cannot rebuild the industrial strength of our nation when manufacturing investment fell by 13 per cent. last year and is still falling now. When apprenticeships are axed and young school leavers fail to find training places, when firms are denied the chance to adapt to new skills and technology, we are eliminating the means by which depleted communities can become strong again.

The local training and enterprise council has seen a 20 per cent. Government cut in its training budget this year. At a time of rising unemployment, is that any way to restore industrial strength to our country? The result of that short-termism is both to deprive our young people of the opportunity that they need to get on in life and to deprive the nation of talent and ability of its people, which is critical to its future success.

When the Conservative party changed its leader and softened its rhetoric, the promise was of a classless society, a nation at ease with itself and opportunity for all. But what hope is there for the young person without a job due to the recession, without training due to cuts in funding, and without benefit due to the actions of a Social Security Minister who is now Prime Minister?

What opportunity is there for the thousands in my constituency and the millions in this country, struggling in poverty and living on the margins of our society? What ease is there in the mind of anyone, in or out of work, if our industrial base, and, therefore, our economic future, lies untended and in neglect?

In truth, there cannot be hope, or opportunity or ease unless we all accept our responsibility to help create them and, in doing so, realise that this benefits us all. Yet when we examine the Government’s economic policy we find that urgency and responsibility absent. In large part, that is because the Government cannot break free from their past. The days of reliance on some invisible hand of the market are as discredited as those of centralised planning and the command economy. We need a new partnership between the public sector, the business community and the Government, based not on dogma but on co-operation to secure objectives in the interests of the economy as a whole. The principle of co-operation is more relevant than ever, even if we must look to different ways and new methods to fulfill that principle.

Let me stress that the townspeople whom I represent are looking for neither handouts nor subsidies from Government. They have never deluded themselves that the man in Whitehall knows best. In the absence of a Government willing to back the scale of investment in new skills and technology which we need in Hartlepool, the town has not sat back. Over the past decade, the local authority has worked tirelessly to bring in new employment, in both the service and industrial sectors. Indeed, even with the drastically reduced help available from central Government, the partnership between public and private sector has achieved much.

The new marina, being built with the backing of Teesside development corporation and the borough council, is a symbol of the town’s efforts at recovery, even if it has not brought the employment that many hoped for. It has, however, helped to draw to the town the new Imperial War Museum located in the north, and I hope that that exciting project will receive the Government’s full support. The marina will also enable the town to play host to the Round Britain yacht race this summer.

Hartlepool has made a powerful bid for the Department of the Environment’s city challenge programme, and if it is successful, as I earnestly hope it will be, it will further help to transform the appearance and economic potential of Hartlepool’s central locations.

All those initiatives show how willing we and similar communities are to work with any opportunities opened up to us. But imagine how much more successful the industrious people of Hartlepool would be with a Government committed to re-skilling the work force and actively supporting our local industrial effort. That co-operation is needed now.

Hartlepool and the whole of the north face immense competitive challenges: the savage nature of the current recession; the creation this year of the single European market; and the completion, in a few years, of the channel tunnel. If we fail to invest now, we cannot meet those future challenges.

In rhetoric, the Government accept that case. But they should also realise that to will the ends without willing the means is, as Tawney said, akin to inviting unwelcome guests to dinner in the certain knowledge that circumstances will prevent them from being able to attend. What Hartlepool and the north-east desperately need is not another cynical invitation to share in the nation’s fortune, only to find that no place is set for it at the table. In the 1990s we need a decade of regeneration—in industry, our public services and our social cohesion. We can achieve that, but only if we recognise the size of the task to be done and the utter necessity of working together as a nation to achieve it.

Those values of partnership, co-operation and social justice represent all that is best in the Labour party, as true today as ever. It will be my privilege to advance those values on behalf of my constituents and my party throughout my time in this House.

Margaret Thatcher – 1992 Speech on the European Community

margaretthatcher

Below is the text of the speech made by Margaret Thatcher at The Hague on 15th May 1992.

INTRODUCTION

Mr Chairman,

We are fortunate to be meeting in the Hague, a beautiful city kept beautiful by a country which values its architectural heritage.

Goethe described architecture as ‘frozen music’.

And in a city like this it is not hard to imagine the grand symphonic melodies and subtle chamber music harmonies that might be released if we could defrost the Town Hall, the great urban squares, or some of the smaller side-streets.

Because it is a public art with which we all have to live, architecture tells us a lot about ourselves, about our idea of God, about our relationship with our fellow-men, about our vision of Man’s destiny.

The great medieval cathedrals gave us an exalted spiritual view of Man’s place in a universe governed by an all-loving and all-seeing Creator.

The Age of Reason pictured civilised man in a neat geometrically ordered landscape dotted with neo-classical structures at regular intervals — with no more than one small folly to each estate.

The revival of Religion and Moral Seriousness under Queen Victoria saw also a Gothic Revival that again pointed man’s eyes heavenwards.

And in our own day, the vision of New European Man walking purposefully towards the Common Agricultural Policy was exquisitely realized in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

What music would Goethe hear if he could look upon the Berlaymont, perhaps while acting as an advisor to the Commissioner responsible for developing a policy for European culture (which has languished so long without one)?

Surely the music would be something atonal and very long, perhaps performed by an orchestra including vacuum cleaners, scrubbing boards, and taxi-horns, with Songs of Harmonisation sung by a mixed choir from the Paris School of Deconstructionism.

And what a climax of discord and disharmony!

For the Berlaymont — its halls lined with cancer-causing asbestos — is to be pulled down.

We might say of such architecture that it is modern in conception, but uncomfortable to live in, and likely to fall down in a few years.

But is it even modern in conception?

It was once.

But look at the architecture of the last fifty years — look, in particular, at the architecture that went beyond the modern to the futuristic.

It was certainly a very dramatic architecture but the one thing it no longer expresses is the Future.

What it expresses is yesterday’s vision of the future — one captured by the poet John Betjeman in 1945:

“I have a vision of the future, chum.

The workers’ flats, in fields of soya beans,

Tower up like silver pencils, score on score.”

But the Berlaymont school of architecture is a convenient symbol for the political architecture of the European Community.

For it too is infused with the spirit of “yesterday’s future.”

Mr Chairman, the European Community we have today was created in very different circumstances to deal with very different problems.

It was built upon very different assumptions about where the world was heading.

And it embodied political ideas and economic theories that in the light of recent history we have to question.

Today I want to do exactly that. In particular, I shall try to answer three questions.

First, how can we best deal with the imbalance in Europe created by the re-unification and revival of Germany?

Second, how can we reform European institutions so that they accommodate the diversity of post-Communist Europe and be truly democratic?

Third, how can we ensure that the new Europe contributes to — rather than undermines — the world’s economic prosperity and political stability?

Our answers to these questions can no longer be bound by the conventional collectivist wisdom of the 1940’s and 50’s.

That is yesterday’s future.

We must draw on the ideas of liberty, democracy, free markets and nation-hood that have swept the world in the last decade.

THE BEGINNING OF THE COMMUNITY

The European Community which we now have was set up for circumstances that were quite different from those of to-day.

It was Winston Churchill who, with characteristic magnanimity in 1946, with his Zurich speech, argued that Germany should be rehabilitated through what he called ‘European Union’ as ‘an association between France and Germany’ which would ‘assume direction’.

This could not be done overnight, and it took American leadership.

In 1947, after travelling through Europe in that terrible winter, when everything froze over, George C. Marshall , the then Secretary of State, promoted the idea of American help.

Marshall Aid was administered by institutions set up ad hoc.

The initial impetus was for European recovery.

It owed much to simple American good-heartedness.

It owed something to commercial calculation — the prosperity of Europe, in free-trade conditions, would also be the prosperity of America.

But the main thing was the threat from Stalin .

Eastern Europe had shown how demoralized peoples could not resist cunningly executed Communist take-overs, and Marshall Aid was intended to set western Europe back on its feet.

It was a prodigious success. Who, in 1945, would have guessed that defeated and ruined Germany would, by 1951, be exporting more than the British?

But we have found, again and again, that institutions devised for one set of problems become obstacles to solving the next set — even that they become problems in their own right. The Common Agricultural Policy is one such.

As originally devised, it had a modest aim that was not unreasonable.

Over-numerous peasant farmers had been unable to earn a decent living between the wars, and in those days subsidy and regulation were the conventional wisdom.

We in Great Britain had not suffered nearly as badly as our continental neighbours, because we had, even in 1900, almost no peasants: nonetheless we had, in the 1930’s, a Milk Marketing Board which was supposed to control prices, and therefore had the precise function of not marketing milk — instead, pouring it down mine-shafts and regulating various cheeses out of existence.

Yet we all know that the CAP, is now an expensive headache, and one quite likely to derail the Uruguay Round.

Because of agricultural protection we stop food-imports from the poorer countries.

They themselves are nowadays vehement supporters of market-principles: it is from the Cairns Group of developing countries that you hear demands for free trade.

Yet in the industrialized part of the world, the tax-payer and the consumer stump up $270 billion in subsidies and higher costs; and the World Bank has calculated that, if the tariff and other barriers were cut by half, then the poorer countries would gain at once, in exports, $50 billion.

In case you might think that these sentiments are somehow anti-European, I should say that they come from an editorial in the economic section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 4 May.

Here we have a prime example of yesterday’s solutions, becoming to-morrow’s problems.

You could extend this through the European institutions as a whole.

They were meant to solve post-war problems, and did so in many ways extremely well.

Western Europe did unite against the Soviet threat, and, with Anglo-American precepts, became free and very prosperous.

That prosperity, denied to the peoples of eastern Europe and Russia, in the end caused demoralization among their rulers, and revolt from below. We are now in a quite different set of circumstances, with the Cold War over.

Looking at European institutions today, I am reminded of a remark made about political parties in the French Third Republic.

Some of them had names which reflected radical republican origins from the 1870’s, but years later they had become conservative.

These radical names, ran the remark, were like the light reaching Earth from stars that were long extinct.

Equally with the end of the Cold War we have to look again at the shape of Europe and its institutions.

THE GERMAN QUESTION

Mr Chairman, let me turn first to the new situation created by the re-unification of Germany.

And let me say that if I were a German today, I would be proud — proud but also worried.

I would be proud of the magnificent achievement of rebuilding my country, entrenching democracy and assuming the undoubtedly preponderant position in Europe. But I would also be worried about the European Community and its direction.

The German taxpayer pays dearly for its place in Europe.

Britain and Germany have a strong joint interest in ensuring that the other Community countries pay their fair share of the cost — and control the Community’s spending more enthusiastically — without leaving us to carry so much of the burden.

Germany is well-equipped to encourage such fiscal prudence. Indeed I would trust the Bundesbank more than any other European Central Bank to keep down inflation — because the Germans have none too distant memories of the total chaos and political extremism which hyper-inflation brings.

The Germans are therefore right to be increasingly worried about the terms they agreed for economic and monetary union.

Were I a German, I would prefer the Bundesbank to provide our modern equivalent of the gold standard rather than any committee of European bankers.

But there is an understandable reluctance on the part of Bonn to defend its views and interests so straightforwardly.

For years the Germans have been led to believe by their neighbours that their respectability depends on their subordinating their national interest to the joint decisions in the Community.

It is better that that pretence be stopped.

A reuinited Germany can’t and won’t subordinate its national interests in economic or in foreign policy to those of the Community indefinitely.

And sometimes Germany will be right, when the rest are wrong, as it was over the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia.

Indeed, if the Federal Republic had led the way in recognising these countries earlier, Serbian aggression might have been deterred and much bloodshed prevented.

Whether rightly or wrongly exercised, however, Germany’s new pre-eminence is a fact.

We will all be better off if we recognise that modern democratic Germany has come of age.

Nevertheless Germany’s power is a problem — as much for the Germans as for the rest of Europe.

Germany is too large to be just another player in the European game, but not large enough to establish unquestioned supremacy over its neighbours.

And the history of Europe since 1870 has largely been concerned with finding the right structure to contain Germany.

It has been Germany’s immediate neighbours, the French, who have seen this most clearly.

Both Briand in 1929 and Schuman after the Second World War proposed structures of economic union to achieve this.

Briand’s proposal was made just at the moment when the rise of the Nazis made such a visionary scheme impossible and it failed. But Schuman’s vision of a European Community was realised because of an almost unique constellation of favourable circumstances.

The Soviet threat made European co-operation imperative.

Germany was itself divided.

Other Western nations sought German participation in the defence of Western Europe.

West Germany needed the respectability that NATO and the Community could give.

And American presence in, and leadership of, Europe reduced the fears of Germany’s neighbours.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and reunion of Germany, the entire position has changed.

A new Europe of some 30 states has come into being, the problem of German power has again surfaced and statesmen have been scrambling to produce a solution to it.

At first France hoped that the post-War Franco-German partnership with France as the senior partner would continue. Chancellor Kohl ‘s separate and successful negotiations with Mr Gorbachev quickly showed this to be an illusion.

The next response of France and other European countries was to seek to tie down the German Gulliver within the joint decision-making of the European Community. Again, however, this quickly proved to be an illusion.

Germany’s preponderance within the Community is such that no major decision can really be taken against German wishes.

In these circumstance, the Community augments German power rather than containing it.

Let me illustrate this point with two examples where I agree with the German position.

The first, as I have mentioned, was the German decision to recognise Croatia and Slovenia which compelled the rest of Europe to follow suit.

The second, is the refusal of the Bundesbank to pursue imprudent financial policies at the urging of some of the countries of the G7.

However much I may sympathise with these policies, the blunt fact is that Germany has followed its own interests rather than the advice of its neighbours who have then been compelled to adjust their own stance.

THE BALANCE OF POWER

What follows from this is that German power will be best accommodated in a looser Europe in which individual nation-states retain their freedom of action.

If Germany or any other power then pursues a policy to which other countries object, it will automatically invite a coalition against itself.

And the resulting solution will reflect the relative weight of the adversaries.

A common foreign policy, however, is liable to express the interests of the largest single actor.

And a serious dispute between EC member states locked into a common foreign policy would precipitate a crisis affecting everything covered by the Community.

The general paradox here is that attempts at co-operation that are too ambitious are likely to create conflict.

We will have more harmonious relationships between the states of Europe if they continue to have room to make their own decisions and to follow their own interests — as happened in the Gulf War.

But it would be idle to deny that such a balance of power — for that is what I have been describing — has sometimes broken down and led to war. And Europe on its own, however organised, will still find the question of German power insoluble.

Europe has really enjoyed stability only since America became a European power.

The third response therefore is to keep an American presence in Europe.

American power is so substantial that it dwarfs the power of any other single European country.

It reassured the rest of Europe in the face of Soviet power until yesterday; and it provides similar comfort against the rise of Germany today — as the Germans themselves appreciate.

Why aren’t we worried about the abuse of American power? It is difficult to be anxious about a power so little inclined to throw its weight around that our principal worry is that American troops will go home.

And there’s the rub.

There is pressure isolationist opinion in the USA to withdraw from Europe.

It is both provoked and encouraged by similar thinking in the Community which is protectionist in economics and “little European” in strategy.

In trade, in the GATT negotiations, in NATO’s restructuring, we need to pursue policies that will persuade America to remain a European power.

EUROPE FREE AND DEMOCRATIC

If America is required to keep Europe secure, what is required to keep Europe free and democratic?

When the founders of the European Community drew up the Treaty of Rome, they incorporated features from two quite different economic traditions.

From Liberalism they took free trade, free markets and competition.

From Socialism (in guises as various as Social Catholicism and Corporatism) they took regulation and intervention.

And for thirty years — up to the signing of the Single European Act — these two traditions were in a state of perpetual but unacknowledged tension.

Now — with the Commission exploiting the Single European Act to accumulate powers of greater direction and regulation — Europe is reaching the point at which it must choose between these two approaches.

Is it to be a tightly-regulated, centralised bureaucratic federal state, imposing uniform standards throughout the Continent?

Or is it to be a loose-knit decentralised free-market Europe of sovereign states, based upon competition between different national systems of tax and regulation within a free trade area?

M. Delors at least seems to be quite clear.

Before the ink is even dry on the Maastricht Treaty, the President of the European Commission, who has always been admirably frank about his ambitions, is seeking more money and more powers for the Commission which would become the Executive of the Community, in other words a European Government.

And this initative comes on top of a Treaty that met the Commission’s demand for a “single institutional structure” for the Community.

So there is no doubt what the President of the Commission is aiming at — it is a tightly centralised European federal state.

Nor is there any mystery about the urgency with which he presses the Federalist cause.

Even though he may wish to defer the “enlargement” of the Community with the accession of Eastern Europe, he realises it is impossible.

A half-Europe imposed by Soviet tyrany was one thing; a half-Europe imposed by Brussels would be a moral catastrophe depriving the Community of its European legitimacy.

The Commission knows it will have to admit new members in the next few decades.

But it hopes to construct a centralised European super-state in advance — and irrevocably — so that the new members will have to apply for entry on federalist terms.

This is not so much constructing a common European home — as a Common European Prison.

And it’s just not on.

Imagine a European Community of 30 nations, ranging in their economic productivity from Germany to Ukraine, and in their political stability from Britain to Poland,

– all governed from Brussels;

– all enforcing the same conditions at work;

– all having the same worker rights as the German Unions;

– all subject to the same interest rates, monetary, fiscal and economic policies;

– all agreeing on a common Foreign and defence policy;

– and all accepting the authority of an Executive and a remote foreign Parliament over “80&% of economic and social legislation”.

Mr Chairman, such a body is an even more utopian enterprise than the Tower of Babel.

For at least the builders of Babel all spoke the same language when they began.

They were, you might say, communautaire.

Mr Chairman, the thinking behind the Commission’s proposals is essentially the thinking of “yesterday’s tomorrow”.

It was how the best minds of Europe saw the future in the ruins after the Second World War.

But they made a central intellectual mistake.

They assumed that the model for future government was that of a centralised bureaucracy that would collect information upwards, make decisions at the top, and then issue orders downwards.

And what seemed the wisdom of the ages in 1945 was in fact a primitive fallacy.

Hierarchical bureaucracy may be a suitable method of organising a small business that is exposed to fierce external competition — but it is a recipe for stagnation and inefficiency in almost every other context.

It can collect and use only a fraction of the information that the market picks up, and acts upon minute by minute — and so it gets it wrong.

The top cannot be sure that its orders are carried out by the bottom.

And the organisation as a whole has no feedback that would indicate whether it is performing well or badly.

Such flaws might be of minor importance in a monastery where, after all, the wishes of the monks are not the criteria of success.

In a Government, however, they produce the economic chaos and alienation we saw under communism.

Yet it is precisely this model of remote, centralised, bureaucratic organisation that the European Commission and its federalist supporters seek to impose on a Community which they acknowledge may soon contain many more countries of widely differing levels of political and economic development, and speaking more than fifteen languages.

“C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la politique.”

The larger Europe grows, the more diverse must be the forms of co-operation it requires. Instead of a centralised bureaucracy, the model should be a market — not only a market of individuals and companies, but also a market in which the players are governments.

Thus governments would compete with each other for foreign investments, top management and high earners through lower taxes and less regulation.

Such a market would impose a fiscal discipline on governments because they would not want to drive away expertise and business.

It would also help to establish which fiscal and regulatory policies produced the best overall economic results.

No wonder socialists don’t like it.

To make such a market work, of course, national governments must retain most of their existing powers in social and economic affairs.

Since these governments are closer and accountable to their voters — it is doubly desirable that we should keep power at the national level.

THE ROLE OF THE COMMISSION

Mr Chairman, in 1996, when the arrangements agreed at Maastricht are due to be reviewed, and probably a good deal earlier, the Community should move in exactly the opposite direction to that proposed by the President of the Commission.

A Community of sovereign states committed to voluntary co-operation, a lightly regulated free market and international free trade does not need a Commission in its present form.

The government of the Community — to the extent that this term is appropriate — is the Council of Ministers, consisting of representatives of democratically elected national governments.

The work of the Commission should cease to be legislative in any sense.

It should be an administrative body, like any professional civil service, and it should not initiate policy, but rather carry it out.

In doing this it should be subject to the scrutiny of the European Parliament acting on the model of Commons Select Committees.

In that way, whatever collective policies or regulations are required would emerge from deliberation between democratic governments accountable to their national parliaments rather than being imposed by a bureaucracy with its own agenda.

CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE

But need this always be done in the same “single institutional structure”?

New problems arise all the time. Will these always require the same level and type of co-operation in the same institutions?

I doubt it.

We need a greater flexibility than the structures of the European Community have allowed until very recently.

A single institutional structure of its nature tends to place too much power in the central authorities.

It is a good thing that a Common Foreign Policy will continue to be carried on under a Separate Treaty and will neither be subject to the European Court nor permit the Commission to fire off initiatives at will.

If “Europe” moves into new areas, it must do so under separate treaties which clearly define the powers which have been surrendered.

And why need every new European initiative require the participation of all members of the Community?

It will sometimes be the case — especially after enlargement that only some Community members will want to move forward to another stage of integration.

Here I pay tribute to John Major ‘s achievement in persuading the other 11 Community Heads of Government that they could move ahead to a Social Chapter but not within the treaty and without Britain’s participation.

It sets a vital precedent.

For an enlarged Community can only function if we build in flexibility of that kind.

We should aim at a multi-track Europe in which ad hoc groups of different states — such as the Schengen Group — forge varying levels of co-operation and integration on a case-by-case basis.

Such a structure would lack graph paper neatness.

But it would accommodate the diversity of post-Communist Europe.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Supporters of federalism argue, no doubt sincerely, that we can accommodate this diversity by giving more powers to the European Parliament.

But democracy requires more than that.

To have a genuine European democracy — you would need a Europe-wide public opinion based on a single language; Europe-wide political parties with a common programme understood similarly in all member-states; a Europe-wide political debate in which political and economic concepts and words had the same agreed meaning everywhere.

We would be in the same position as the unwielding Habsburg Empire’s Parliament.

THE HABSBURG PARLIAMENT

That parliament was a notorious failure.

There were dozens of political parties, and nearly a dozen peoples were represented — Germans, Italians, Czechs, Poles and so on.

For the government to get anything through — for instance, in 1889 a modest increase in the number of conscripts — took ages, as all the various interests had to be propitiated.

When one or other was not satisfied, its spokesmen resorted to obstruction — lengthy speeches in Russian, banging of desk-lids, throwing of ink-wells and on one occasion the blowing of a cavalry trumpet by the Professor of Jurisprudence at the German University of Prague.

Measures could not be passed, and budgets could only be produced by decree.

The longest-lasting prime minister, Count Taaffe , remarked that his highest ambition in politics was the achievement of supportable dissatisfaction on all sides — not a bad description of what the European Community risks becoming.

And because of the irresponsibility of parliaments, the Habsburg Monarchy could really only be ruled by bureaucrats.

It took twenty-five signatures for a tax-payment to be validated; one in four people in employment worked for the state in some form or another, even in 1914, and so many resources went to all of this that not much was left for defence: even, the military bands had to be cut back, Radetzky March and all.

Of course it was a tremendous period in cultural terms both in Vienna and in Budapest.

We in England have done mightily well by the emigration, often forced, to our shores of so many talented people from Central Europe.

But the fact is that they had to leave their native lands because political life became impossible.

This example could be multiplied again and again.

Belgium and Holland, which have so much in common, split apart in 1831.

Sweden and Norway, which have even more in common, split apart in 1905.

It does seem simply to be a straight-forward rule in modern times that countries which contain two languages, even if they are very similar, must in the end divide, unless the one language absorbs the other.

It would be agreeable to think that we could all go back to the world of the Middle Ages, when the educated classes spoke Latin, and the rulers communicated in grunts.

But we cannot.

Unless we are dealing with international co-operation and alliances, freely entered-into, we create artificial structures which become the problem that they were meant to address.

The League of Nations when the Second World War broke out, resolved to ignore the fact and to discuss, instead, the standardization of level-crossings.

A FEDERAL EUROPE

Mr Chairman, I am sometimes tempted to think that the new Europe which the Commission and Euro-federalists are creating is equally ill-equipped to satisfy the needs of its members and the wishes of their peoples.

It is, indeed, a Europe which combines all the most striking failures of our age.

– The day of the artificially constructed megastate has gone. So the Euro-federalists are now desperately scurrying to build one.

– The Swedish style welfare state has failed — even in Sweden. So the Euro-statists press ahead with their Social Chapter.

– Large scale immigration has in France and Germany already encouraged the growth of extremist parties. So the the European Commission is pressing us to remove frontier controls.

If the European Community proceeds in the direction which the majority of Member State Governments and the Commission seem to want they will create a structure which brings insecurity, unemployment, national resentment and ethnic conflict.

Insecurity — because Europe’s protectionism will strain and possibly sever that link with the United States on which the security of the continent ultimately depends.

Unemployment — because the pursuit of policies of regulation will increase costs, and price European workers out of jobs.

National resentment — because a single currency and a single centralised economic policy, which will come with it, will leave the electorate of a country angry and powerless to change its conditions .

Ethnic conflict — because not only will the wealthy European countries be faced with waves of immigration from the South and from the East.

Also within Europe itself, the effect of a single currency and regulation of wages and social costs will have one of two consequences.

Either there will have to be a massive transfer of money from one country to another, which will not in practice be affordable.

Or there there will be massive migration from the less successful to the more successful countries.

Yet if the future we are being offered contains so very many risks and so few real benefits, why it may be asked is it proving all but irresistible ?

The answer is simple.

It is that in almost every European country there has been a refusal to debate the issues which really matter.

And little can matter more than whether the ancient, historic nations of Europe are to have their political institutions and their very identities transformed by stealth into something neither wished nor understood by their electorates.

Yet so much is it the touchstone of respectability to accept this ever closer union, now interpreted as a federal destiny, that to question is to invite affected disbelief or even ridicule.

This silent understanding — this Euro-snobbism — between politicians, bureaucracies, academics, journalists and businessmen is destructive of honest debate.

So John Major deserves high praise for ensuring at Maastricht that we would not have either a Single Currency or the absurd provisions of the Social Chapter forced upon us: our industry, workforce, and national prosperity will benefit as a result.

Indeed, as long as we in Britain now firmly control our spending and reduce our deficit, we will be poised to surge ahead in Europe.

For our taxes are low: our inflation is down: our debt is manageable: our reduced regulations are favourable to business.

We take comfort from the fact that both our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary have spoken out sharply against the forces of bureaucracy and federalism.

THE CHOICE

Our choice is clear: Either we exercise democratic control of Europe through co-operation between national governments and parliaments which have legitimacy, experience and closeness to the people.

Or, we transfer decisions to a remote multi-lingual parliament, accountable to no real European public opinion and thus increasingly subordinate to a powerful bureaucracy.

No amount of misleading language about pooling sovereignty can change that.

EUROPE AND THE WIDER WORLD

Mr Chairman, in world affairs for most of this century Europe has offered problems, not solutions. The founders of the European Community were consciously trying to change that.

Democracy and prosperity in Europe were to be an example to other peoples in other continents.

Sometimes this view took an over-ambitious turn with talk of Europe as a third force brokering between two superpowers of East and West.

This approach was always based upon a disastrous illusion — that Western Europe could at some future date dispense with the military defence offered by the United States.

Now that the forces of Communism have retreated and the threat which Soviet tanks and missiles levelled at the heart of Europe has gone, there is a risk that the old tendency towards de-coupling Europe from the United States may again emerge.

This is something against which Europeans themselves must guard — and of which the United States must be aware.

This risk could become reality in several ways.

TRADE

First, there is the question of trade.

It is a terrible indictment of the complacency which characterises the modern post-Cold War world that we have allowed the present GATT round to be stalled for so long.

Free trade is the greatest force for prosperity and peaceful cooperation.

It does no good to the Western alliance when Europe and the United States come to regard each other as hostile interests. In practice, whatever the theory may be, economic disputes do sour political relations.

Agricultural subsidies and tarriffs lie at the heart of the dispute which will not go away unless we in Europe decide that the Common Agricultural Policy has to be fundamentally changed.

That will go far to determine what kind of Europe we are building.

For, as I have said before, I would like to see the European Community — embracing include the former Communist countries to its East — agree to develop an Atlantic free trade area with the United States.

That would be a means of pressing for more open multi-lateral trade throughout the world.

Europe must seek to move the world away from competing regional trade blocs — not promote them.

In such a trading arrangement, Britain would have a vital role bridging that Atlantic divide — just as Germany should provide Europe with a bridge to the East and to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

EASTERN EUROPE

Secondly, we must modify and modernise our defence.

The dangers on Europe’s Eastern border have receded.

But let us not forget that on the credibility of NATO’s military strength all our wider objectives depend — reassurance for the post-communist countries, stability in Europe, trans-Atlantic political co-operation.

Communism may have been vanquished.

But all too often the Communists themselves have not.

The chameleon qualities of the comrades have never been more clearly demonstrated than in their emergence as democratic socialists and varieties of nationalist in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

From the powerful positions they retain in the bureaucracy, security apparatus and the armed forces, from their places in not-really-privatised enterprises, they are able to obstruct, undermine and plunder.

The systems of proportional representation which so many of these countries have adopted have allowed these tactics to succeed all the more, leading to weak governments and a bewildering multiplicity of parties.

All this risks bringing democracy into discredit.

If Eastern European countries which retain some links with a pre-communist past, and have some sort of middle class on which to draw, falter on the path to reform, how will the leaders of the countries of the former Soviet Union dare to proceed further upon it?

We can help by allowing them free access to our markets.

I am delighted that Association agreements have been signed between the European Community and several of these countries.

I would like speedy action to include the others in similar arrangement.

But, ten years is too long to wait before the restrictions on trade are removed.

And I would like to see these countries offered full membership of the European Community rapidly.

Above all we must offer these countries greater security.

Russian troops are still stationed on Polish territory.

Moreover, it is understandable that the central and eastern European countries are alarmed at what conflict in the old USSR and the old Yugoslavia may portend.

Although I recognise that the North Atlantic Cooperation Council has been formed with a view to this, I still feel that the European ex-Communist countries are entitled to that greater degree of reassurance which a separate closer relationship with NATO would bring.

SECURITY

But, Mr Chairman, most of the threats to Europe’s and the West’s interests no longer come from this Continent.

I believe — and I have been urging this on NATO members since 1990 — that the American and Europeans ought to be able to deploy our forces under NATO outside the area for which the present North Atlantic Treaty allows.

It is impossible to know where the danger may next come.

But two considerations should make us alive to real risks to our security.

First, the break up of the Soviet Union has led to large numbers of advanced weapons becoming available to would-be purchasers at knock-down prices: it would be foolish to imagine that these will not, some of them, fall into the worst possible hands.

Second, Europe cannot ignore its dependence for oil on the Middle East.

Saddam Hussein is still in power.

Fundamentalism is as strong as ever.

Old scores are still unsettled. We must beware.

And we must widen our ability to defend our interests and be prepared to act when necessary.

THE COMMUNITY’S WIDER ROLE

Finally, the European Community must come to recognise its place in what is called the new world order.

The ending of the Cold War has meant that the international institutions created in the post-War years — the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT — can work much more effectively. This means that the role for the Community is inevitably circumscribed.

Within Europe, a wider role for NATO and the CSCE should also be reflected in more modest ambitions for the Community’s diplomacy.

In Yugoslavia, the Community has shown itself incapable of dealing effectively with security questions.

Outside Europe, GATT with its mandate to reduce trade barriers should be the body that establishes the rules of the game in trade.

The Community must learn to live within those rules.

All in all, the Community must be prepared to fit in with the new internationalism, not supplant it.

CONCLUSION

Mr Chairman, I end as I began with architecture.

The Hague is a splendid capital, and how much we should admire the Dutch for keeping it together so well, as they have done with so many other of their towns.

The Mauritshuis is a testimony to the genius which they showed.

It was here, and in Amsterdam that so much of the modern world was invented in the long Dutch fight for freedom.

Dutch architecture, here and in Amsterdam, has its own unmistakable elegance and durability — it was copied all around the north-European world, from Wick in northern Scotland to Tallinn in Estonia.

Some architecture does last. Other architecture does not.

Let us make sure that we build a Europe as splendid and lasting as the Mauritshuis rather than one as shabby and ephemeral as the Berlaymont.