The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Commons Statement on the Maastricht Treaty (Danish Referendum) – 3 June 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement to the House of Commons on the 3rd June 1992 following the result of the Danish Referendum on the Maastricht Treaty.


The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the implications of the Danish referendum.

All 12 members of the European Community agreed and subsequently signed the treaty of Maastricht. The treaty amends the treaty of Rome, which can be changed only by unanimity. To come into effect, the Maastricht treaty needs to be ratified by all 12 member states. As the House knows, the Danish people voted against the treaty by a narrow majority yesterday. The Danish Government are now considering how to respond to that vote. One option is to resubmit the matter to a further referendum.

The Maastricht treaty began to build the kind of European Community that we wish to see. It introduced the concept of intergovernmental co-operation outside the treaty of Rome. It established the principle of subsidiarity rather than centralism. It established financial and other controls over the Commission.

The House has three times endorsed our policy. It did so before the final negotiation, and again after it. Following the general election, the House gave a Second Reading to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill by a large majority. The Government continue to believe that the deal that we secured at Maastricht is in the best interests of this country. In the expectation that Denmark will in due course be able to join them, our partners propose to complete the ratification procedures. We share that judgment, and intend to continue with the passage of the Bill.

It is clearly necessary, however, to consider further the legal and practical implications of the Danish referendum result before we can sensibly invite the House to proceed with the Bill’s Committee stage. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will make a business statement later this afternoon to change the business for this week. We shall, of course, consult widely with our European partners. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend a meeting of the Twelve in Oslo tomorrow. He will report to the House on his return.

The Maastricht treaty provided mechanisms for more broadly based development of the Community, and introduced procedures to reverse the trend towards centralism. These developments create a sound basis for co-operation, and open the way for the future enlargement of the Community. We hope that that enlargement will include the countries of the European Free Trade Association, and those of eastern and central Europe. The ratification and implementation of the treaty is in our national interest, and we shall continue during our presidency to work for the Community that we secured in that negotiation.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn): I thank the Prime Minister for responding to my request for a statement on the conditions arising from the result of the Danish referendum. I also welcome his agreement to postpone consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill.

May I ask the Prime Minister to make arrangements to present a thorough report to the House about the discussions and consultations on the full implications of the Danish decision before any further progress is made on the Bill? Does he not agree that such a report should be in written form rather than in the form of a ministerial statement, or a series of ministerial statements, which would not be adequate for the purpose of informing the House properly? Does he not also agree that the House should debate such a report before any further progress on the Bill is sought? Does the Prime Minister accept that such clarification is essential because it would not otherwise be possible to justify continued consideration of a Bill to ratify a treaty which the passage of events and the requirements of Community law might well render incapable of implementation? Does the Prime Minister concur with the view that, unless and until there is an agreement in the Community that is capable of being implemented by the whole Community, it would be somewhat unreal to debate an agreement which, for the time being, has been cast into doubt by the votes of the Danish people?

Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that, whatever occurs in the immediate discussions on the Maastricht treaty, the enlargement of the European Community is still important, that the European monetary system will continue, that the democratic deficit will remain in existence, that the single market will be completed on 31 December of this year and that the social dimension is far from being adequate? In view of all that, does the Prime Minister share my view that the conditions that gave rise to the treaty persist and that the need to achieve more accountable decision making, to improve social protection and to promote the co-ordination of economic policies therefore remains?

The Prime Minister: I can agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the development of the Community, both in the short and long term. I am grateful for his support for the postponement of the Committee stage until the present situation is a little clearer.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to consider and report upon the Bill. We shall examine that. We shall be discussing the matter with our European colleagues, and I shall consider in what form a report might be laid before the House before we return to the Committee stage of the Bill. I would, though, suggest that the best way of considering the prospects for a debate would be through the usual channels. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will have heard what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about that matter.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North): May I respectfully suggest to my right hon. Friend that the result of the Danish referendum merits neither triumphalism nor recrimination? However, it does place upon the British Government a responsibility to respond with the initiatives that will be at their disposal during their period as President of the European Community. May I suggest that there is increasing evidence that, in the context both of the Danish decision and of the British ambition for a wider European Community, we need further institutional reform–above all, reform that will enhance the role of intergovernmental co-operation to which my right hon. Friend referred in his statement–and, correspondingly, a contraction of the centralising consequences of the Rome treaty and the European Single Act and of the overriding and pervasive political authority of the European Court? It is a challenge to the statesmanship of the British Government in their European character to see that those matters are addressed.

The Prime Minister: As my right hon. Friend knows, to curb centralism and to move towards intergovernmental co-operation were two of the objectives that we set for ourselves in the Maastricht negotiations. We achieved those aims and, subsequently, we achieved the support of the House for what we did in those negotiations. At Maastricht I believe that Britain did help to turn Europe away from the direction of centralism. There is no doubt that that is the direction in which we must continue to move as we take over the presidency of the Community later this month. If we are to exercise the presidency in a way that delivers what is best for Europe, it is vital that we act with care and deliberation. The treaty has created the basis for co-operation in Europe. It has opened the way to the enlargement of Europe which for economic, social and political reasons is, I am sure, the right way for it to progress. We shall continue to work throughout our presidency for the kind of Europe that we have set out in these debates.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil): I greatly welcome– [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Ashdown: I greatly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. This is a decisive moment for Europe.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): No wonder we call him Captain Mainwaring.

Mr. Ashdown: The Prime Minister– [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. These are very serious matters. I hope that the House will come to order and hear what all hon. Members have to say.

Mr. Ashdown: The Prime Minister has given a clear lead to his party and has committed Britain to giving a clear lead to Europe during the presidency to ensure that Europe does not go into retreat. In both those matters, he will have the full support of this Bench. Does the Prime Minister accept that the Danish “No” vote results from trying to create a Europe too much for politicians and bureaucrats and too little for its citizens? Does he accept that after the House confirms the Maastricht process, as I hope it will, the British people are entitled to have their say in a referendum and that the cause of Europe has nothing to fear from that process?

The Prime Minister: We are entirely concerned to ensure that we create a Europe that respects the individuality of nation countries and individual citizens within the Community. It was precisely to meet those objectives that we fought so hard for the subsidiarity clauses and for those parts of the treaty that provide for greater control over the Commission by elected Members of the European Parliament. There was the British proposal to ensure that there is a European ombudsman to deal with those problems, which also meets the points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. We share those objectives and we think that they are achieved in the treaty that we have produced. That is why we shall continue to fight for the provisions of the treaty.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East): I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for getting the balance right and for making the obvious decision about the Committee because of the need for second thoughts, further thoughts and reconsideration of all the aspects. Can my right hon. Friend offer us the prospect of some firm statements by the Lisbon European summit at the end of June, which heralds the British presidency, so that we can have clear guidelines for the rest of the year on how the Maastricht treaty will prevail?

The Prime Minister: Upon the latter point, I prefer not to prejudge what might emerge at Lisbon. I hope that the way ahead for the Community after negotiation will be made clear by individual Governments in advance of the Lisbon summit, though no doubt these matters will be discussed there.

I inadvertently neglected to reply to the question of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) about a referendum. I am not in favour of a referendum in a parliamentary democracy, and I do not propose to put one before the British people.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney): Whatever else it was, the Danish referendum was a victory for democracy and a defeat for European bureaucracy and centralism. Will the Prime Minister look upon this event as a major opportunity, with Britain as President of the European Community, to attempt a substantial renegotiation of the Maastricht treaty with the objective of extending massively the area that falls under intergovernmental co-operation and reducing radically the area that comes under the supranational control of the European Community?

The Prime Minister: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the provision for intergovernmental agreement is a new provision. It was obtained at British insistence and operates outside the treaty of Rome and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court. It was precisely because we wished to admit that fresh avenue of development within Europe that we fought for and obtained the provision in the agreement at Maastricht. There is always the possibility for developing that on future occasions. That is one of the fresh options for development of the Community that the Government find extremely attractive. However, I do not believe that a substantial renegotiation of the Maastricht treaty is a practical proposition at this time. We must wait and see what action the Danish Government take, but I still hope that the full provision of the Maastricht treaty will be carried forth into law.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing): Is not it paradoxical that some of those in the House who are opposed to the Maastricht treaty are in favour of a referendum, which is an alien idea and incompatible with our representative system of democracy? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if some other countries had followed the example he set in negotiating so skillfully the opt-out clause, we might not now be facing the present problems? Perhaps the way ahead lies in that direction. Should not we be reassured by the fact that my right hon. Friend is about to assume the presidency in what undoubtedly will be an extremely difficult period? His presidency should be warmly welcomed.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We certainly will seek to use our presidency to try to bring Europe together and to try to solve the difficult problem that lies immediately ahead of us. As for the referendum, my right hon. Friend is characteristically generous in using the word “paradoxical”.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley): Will the Prime Minister use his presidency to ensure that no pressure is applied to the Danish people to reverse their democratic decision? Does he realise that he has nothing whatever to fear from the widest consultation with the citizens of the four component parts of the United Kingdom on a common system of decentralisation of powers and in regard to relationships with any external institution?

The Prime Minister: I can certainly confirm that the decision in Denmark is for the Danes and I see no external pressure being put on them, but it is a matter for the Danes and for their Government to decide. As for decentralisation, the right hon. Gentleman will have heard what I had to say a few moments ago. That represents all that I have to say on that matter today.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford): In the light of my right hon. Friend’s insistence on decentralisation in Europe, with which we all agree in principle, how is it that there is in the common provisions in title I of the treaty an insistence that we comply as an obligation with the single institutional framework which implies centralisation together with those provisions that deal with the union, which imply that we will be citizens of a union with duties imposed on us, and as a result of which we shall be moving into a centralised Europe?

The Prime Minister: I do not agree with my hon. Friend, who, I believe, is wrong in almost every particular. I do not agree only in principle with the question of decentralisation; I agree in practice with decentralisation, and that is why among the institutional arrangements that we have produced is the intergovernmental agreement which is covered by the areas that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Is the Prime Minister aware that the real importance of the Danish referendum is, first, that the Danes recognise that people have rights in how they should be governed and, secondly, that they have exercised those rights against the transfer of power to people who are not elected–commissioners and bankers? Far from ruining European co-operation, when history comes to be written the Danes will be seen to have opened the way for a different sort of Europe, harmonising by consent in intergovernmental co-operation that could extend over the whole of Europe a commonwealth of Europe rather than a federation.

Will the Prime Minister recognise that, if one lives in a democracy, the only common currency that matters is the common currency of popular consent for the laws under which we are governed? On that basis, the Government are right to defer the legislation because, in my opinion, the Danes have struck a blow for the people of every country in Europe, not just their own.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman will know, as a distinguished Member of the House for many years, that common consent in this country is exercised through a parliamentary democracy and through the voices and words of Members of Parliament in this House. As for the sort of Europe to which the right hon. Gentleman referred–a decentralised Europe– I believe that the point that is central to the agreement secured at Maastricht is that Maastricht traced the pattern for the development of that sort of Europe. That is what lies behind the provisions for intergovernmental agreement rather than agreement only under the treaty of Rome, and that is what also lies behind a number of the other provisions, including subsidiarity. We have begun to build that sort of Europe.

Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the siren voices now suggesting that the timing of enlargement should be slowed because of our present reappraisal of the situation should be rejected? During his presidency, will he reassure the House that we shall move with all speed and not be delayed in any way in bringing the countries of central and eastern Europe into this alliance?

The Prime Minister: That would certainly be my intention. I believe that the more speedily we can move to enlargement, the healthier we shall find democracy across Europe and the more secure democracy will become in those eastern states that first become association members and then full members. It is, of course, a matter that will need to be agreed with all our Community partners, but the British position is quite clear : we favour enlargement, and we favour it sooner rather than later.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Looking forward to Edinburgh in December, may I ask the Prime Minister on what basis the Danes will attend? As one who, rightly or wrongly, voted for the Maastricht treaty, may I ask what the price of all this is in terms of European co-ordination on the environment, the rain forest, and the ozone layer? In terms of the environment, what do we have to pay for the Danish decision on Maastricht?

The Prime Minister: The Danes will, of course, continue as full members of the Community. They have been full members and valuable partners within the Community, and will continue to be so in the future, as they have been in the past and are at present. Co-operation on the matters that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will also continue, precisely as at present. As for the future–the new areas covered by the Maastricht treaty–that will depend on how the matter eventually falls out, and what final decisions are taken by the Danish Government.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East): As the Prime Minister will face a rather more difficult but also a more hopeful and more flexible opportunity as President of the Council, will he tell the House whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government have agreed to extend Mr. Delors’ period in office by two and a half years–or is it totally untrue? If it is true, what would be the implications of such an extension?

Mr. Skinner: He would get a bigger pension.

The Prime Minister: On the first part of my hon. Friend’s question, on the presidency of the Community, nobody said that it would be easy at any stage, and I doubt whether it will be now. None the less, there is a great deal to be done, and we shall try to move in the direction in which we believe Europe should go over the next six months. No decision has yet been taken on the presidency of the European Commission, and any reports to the contrary are unfounded and premature.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North): Will the Prime Minister tell the House what the Government’s objectives will be when they carry out the urgent consultations with our European partners?

The Prime Minister: First, we need to examine all the details of the precise impact of the Danish electorate’s rejection of the Maastricht treaty. Some parts of the treaty do not need to be carried into domestic legislation–for example, the part on intergovernmental agreement. We first need to examine precisely what does and does not require to be taken into domestic legislation. We shall then wish to discuss with our partners in Europe precisely what mechanisms exist to carry the treaty fully into operation, and to discuss with the Danes how they now see the future. Clearly, that is the first matter, and a great deal of consultation will be necessary.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North): Would the Prime Minister care to put on the record today the fact that in doing as it did the Danish nation was exercising its democratic right, and that the Danes deserve to be accepted for what they did in a democracy? Does he also welcome the fact that the people of Denmark have surfaced in defence of what they believe, and that their vote was a vote against Maastricht and has to be accepted as such?

The Prime Minister has confirmed at the Dispatch Box today that he is against centralism in Europe. Does he not believe that, as France is to have a referendum–far be it from me to advocate following France–the people of this country should have the same opportunity for a referendum? Having imposed on the people of Northern Ireland the so-called alien system of referendum, why will he not impose it on the rest of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: I am pleased to follow such a prominent francophile as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The Danes were operating within their constitution, with its provision for a referendum. Provision for a referendum has long been in the French constitution, too. If I recall accurately, one of the provisions of the French constitution is that if a matter is put to the people in a referendum the result can override the will of the French Parliament. That is not a constitutional arrangement that we have ever accepted in this country, nor do I believe that it would be generally acceptable to the House of Commons, or in the interests of good government in this country.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon): The Prime Minister was generous in responding to the Leader of the Opposition by offering a debate and, perhaps, a report. Will he now be as generous to the leaders of the national parties in Wales and in Scotland and invite them to talks as they supported the principle of the Maastricht treaty? We now have an opportunity to discuss the Prime Minister’s interpretation of subsidiarity and to consider the way in which membership of the Committee of the Regions should be organised.

The Prime Minister: Matters such as the hon. Gentleman mentioned are best aired on the Floor of the House in the time made available by the House. I told the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that I would make available to the House the way forward as we saw it and what we saw as the implications of what has happened in the past few days. I also said that it was for the usual channels to consider whether there should be a debate. Personally, I am sympathetic to the request.

Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup): Is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister aware that he is absolutely right to affirm as he has done his determination to support the Maastricht treaty which he and the Foreign Secretary were responsible for negotiating? The House gave it a majority of 244–an overwhelming majority–and rejected the hostile views which have been put forward again this afternoon. That is a sufficient basis for my right hon. Friend to continue his work. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the suggestion, as I understood it, by the Leader of the Opposition that we should go no further in Committee until we see where other countries are going is really not tenable? [Hon. Members :– “Why?”] Because if every country did that, nobody would see where anybody had got to. The basic point is for us to press ahead.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is also right in saying that this is a matter primarily for the Danish Government and the Danish people? Will he also recall that, in the history of the Community, we have had difficulties at times? One example is when President de Gaulle left the chair empty for several months and withdrew French participation in the Community. The French now, of course, have come back again. Will my right hon. Friend also recall that, when President de Gaulle vetoed British entry into the Community, the five discussed having a Community of six with us and rejecting France? We have had such problems before and the Community has not only survived them but overwhelmed them, and has become increasingly successful. That will continue on this occasion.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he said. I see our role in the presidency as helping Denmark and not as condemning it in dealing with the difficulties that lie ahead. In my experience in the Community, one generally finds that all things are possible in due course.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the position of other countries. A number of other countries have made it clear that they intend to go ahead with ratification without, as far as can be seen from their preliminary statements, any delay. I agree with my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary and I believed that this was the right treaty when we negotiated it. The treaty itself has not changed, nor has my view of the treaty.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli): The Prime Minister is clearly proud of the intergovernmental and subsidiarity provisions of the Maastricht treaty. Will he use the opportunity of the presidency to extend those excellent provisions to the very heart of the treaty–economic and monetary union–so that we can reduce the power of the bank, of the Commission and of the court over economic and monetary matters?

The Prime Minister: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a presidency matter as such, but a matter that would need to be dealt with in an intergovernmental conference. None is planned; such conferences tend to be planned some time in advance. The right hon. Gentleman will also know that, because of our concern that the House could take a decision on those matters at an appropriate time, and in the economic circumstances that were clear at that time, we secured a provision to opt into that arrangement at a later date, if the House of Commons felt it right to do so.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North): Would my right hon. Friend suggest to Monsieur Napoleon Delors–who today, rather than showing humility, seems to be showing his customary arrogance–that, henceforth, 2 June should be a public holiday throughout Europe, to be known as the day of the people, the day of democracy or, even better, the day of the nation state?

The Prime Minister: I am not sure that I would put it in quite the way that my hon. Friend suggests to me–certainly not for this country. I cannot say what may happen in other countries, although I seem to believe that Hamlet said something like, “At least, I am sure it may be so in Denmark.”

Ms. Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): The Prime Minister will be aware that his statement will have done nothing to clear up the confusion that probably exists among thousands and millions of people in this country. Will he clarify the matter for me? As all 12 countries must agree to the treaty, and as one country has now agreed not to sign up to the treaty, are we not now faced with a completely new situation? What happens if France has a referendum and other countries have referendums and vote against? When do we decide that enough is enough and that we must start all over again?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady should not be too impatient. The decision in the Danish referendum was taken yesterday. We need to reflect and consult upon that and determine what decisions the Danish Government propose to make. It is in the light of that consultation and consideration that we can decide the way forward. The hon. Lady is perfectly correct, however, in saying that if, at the end of all those considerations, Denmark still cannot ratify the treaty, amendments to the treaty of Rome as such cannot be made. That is undoubtedly the case.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, owing to the agreement between all the political leaders in this country, there was no proper discussion either of the details or of the principles of Maastricht at the last general election? Does he agree that, if we are to avoid having a referendum, there must be full, adequate and proper discussion in the House of all the details of the Maastricht treaty, otherwise we shall be left with a people who do not know what has been signed up to and we shall have much the same misunderstanding as we have had about the Single European Act, which was so disgracefully guillotined?

The Prime Minister: As my hon. Friend knows, before my right hon. Friends and I went to Maastricht, there was a substantial debate in the House. There was a further debate on my return. It was a matter at issue at the general election and we have also had the Second Reading of the Bill. My hon. Friend expresses his enthusiasm for detailed and proper discussion. I believe that we shall be able to accommodate him when we move to the Committee stage of the Bill.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): As the Prime Minister is obviously a great supporter of parliamentary government, I am sure that he will learn from the Danish example that the Danish people were fully informed about the pros and cons of the agreement. Will he therefore consider issuing to the people of Britain, as a matter of urgency, copies of what is proposed in the Maastricht treaty so that, during the re-examination process, they may make their views known to hon. Members, who can then inform him of what the British people want?

The Prime Minister: It is not for me to comment on the motives of millions of Danes who cast their votes in the referendum yesterday. They may well have had a whole series of differing motives for casting their votes as they did. The hon. Lady suggests that we advance the details of what is in the treaty to people in this country. I believe that we have one of the most extensive parliamentary and media reporting systems of any nation in Europe. We have also spent far more time debating the matter– both before and after the agreement in Maastricht–than any other European nation.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher): Had my right hon. Friend noted that among those who voted no in Denmark yesterday were those urged to do so both by those who thought that the Maastricht treaty would over-centralise Europe and by those who thought that it did not go far enough? On that basis, will my right hon. Friend not draw too many conclusions but instead press ahead, as he has said he will, to ensure, before the November leaders’ meeting in Edinburgh, that the basis of the Maastricht treaty is the basis of agreement within the European Community? We can then ensure that we safeguard the principles that he negotiated last year–in particular, those that restrain the existing treaty of Rome, such as the Court of Auditors and increased powers of scrutiny of the European Parliament.

The Prime Minister: I believe that my hon. Friend is right. I had noticed the point that he drew to the attention of the House and it was largely for that reason that I indicated that it was not for me to comment on individual Danish motives. Clearly, many separate motives would have been at work in the decisions that individual Danes took.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): In these days of democratic, open government, with lots of information, will the Prime Minister explain why every household in Denmark received more objective and partisan detail about the advantages and disadvantages of the treaty than was received from Her Majesty’s Government by any Member of the House? On his comments about intergovernmental co-operation, does he agree that such co-operation need not depend on a single currency or, bearing in mind the history and development of our eastern neighbours in Europe, on a single market?

The Prime Minister: A single market is attractive to increase the flow of free trade and it is in the interests of the consumer in minimising the price levels that would otherwise apply. That issue has been discussed in this Parliament and throughout the European Community, largely, it must be said, at British instigation over recent years.

On the hon. Gentleman’s initial point, I believe that a great deal of documentation has already been made available. I believe that people are well aware of the substantive issues.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham): Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have never been a critic of the Government’s European policy, and I pay tribute to his achievements in modulating the Maastricht treaty? Nor do I share the extravagant fears of some of my colleagues about sovereignty. However, it must be said that the Maastricht treaty was never wanted by this Government, this House or this country. The Maastricht treaty makes the best of a bad job. There is no enthusiasm in the country, nor, I detect, even in the Government, for the treaty because the Government seem rightly more proud of their amendments than of the treaty. So well have the Government done that misgivings are developing in Germany over European monetary union and in France over the political implications of the treaty.

Therefore, I would recommend to my right hon. Friend, if I may, that he uses the presidency to promote in future, as he has promoted in the past, a dilution of the unrealistically federalistic aspects of the agreement and that he should bear in mind the motto that the Maastricht treaty was what back-burners were invented for.

The Prime Minister: If one went down the route that might inevitably follow what my hon. Friend has said and perhaps reopened an intergovernmental conference, I fear that we would go right back to the arguments about a centralist Europe that we spent so much time at Maastricht seeking to rebut. There is a great deal in the treaty that we have sought in this country for some years : the recognition of intergovernmental co-operation; subsidiarity; the reinforced rule of law; co-operation on justice and home affairs; improved foreign policy co- ordination without circumscribing this country’s freedom in foreign policy; and stronger budget disciplines. All those are matters upon which the House has previously expressed a view and urged the Government to seek greater clarity in European policy to achieve it. We have achieved it in the treaty.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): Given that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will never again be able to say that a small nation of approximately 5 million people cannot possibly have a major influence on the development of the European Community, will the Prime Minister seriously take on board the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), that the democratic nationalist parties elected to this House are willing to meet the Government to discuss the principles of subsidiarity and the extension of the European Community? Given that we supported the Prime Minister in the Maastricht accord, surely he should consider that because the usual channels ignore us.

The Prime Minister: No one in the Government would ever suggest that the nation of which the hon. Lady is a representative has no influence in these isles or beyond. Indeed, it fills a large number of seats in my Cabinet at present, and will no doubt do so in future. The way for the hon. Lady and for the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones) to make the points about which they are so concerned is in the series of debates and ample time that will be made available to debate those issues. Those representations can be made, and it is always open for other representations to be made direct to Ministers.

Sir Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is one vital British national interest–the proper completion of the single market by the end of this year? In all his negotiations in the weeks ahead, will he bear in mind that the enforcement provisions are badly needed if that policy is to succeed and we are to be able to achieve a proper and effective single market throughout Europe?

The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend; he is right. Some difficult decisions still have to be taken to ensure a free and fair single market across Europe by the end of this year. That is the objective that the Community has set itself, and it is one that I hope that it will be able to achieve during the British presidency.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West): Does the Prime Minister agree that the main lesson to be learnt from Denmark is that the sovereignty of the people is far superior to the phoney sovereignty claimed by any over-centralised institution, including this place? Does he also agree that the nations of Europe, including the people of Scotland, want the maximum self-determination consistent with maximum co-operation between all the nations of Europe, on as equal a basis as possible? Why not have a referendum on that?

The Prime Minister: On the question of a referendum, I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before that we are a parliamentary democracy and I believe that it serves our interests to operate as one. The extension of co-operation is one of the great themes set out in the Maastricht treaty, and so I look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s support on those matters in the Division Lobby later.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the derailment of Maastricht is not a problem; it is an opportunity? Does he further agree that British public opinion has never changed on Europe? Our people have always been in favour of a Europe-wide free trading area. They have never been in favour of the gradual and surreptitious building of a European state. Does he agree that, if we defer consideration of the Maastricht treaty for a considerable time, we shall strengthen his negotiating hand, and, with his presidency, perhaps build a Europe at ease with itself?

The Prime Minister: As my right hon. Friend rightly says, the people of this country have consistently voted to make a success of our membership of the Community and in recent months we have repeatedly set out our vision of the development of the European Community. It is too early to determine precisely how events will continue. A great deal of consultation and consideration will need to take place in this country and with our partners abroad.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): Why can we not have a referendum in this country? Is the Prime Minister uncertain of his position when arguing in a referendum? It is wrong to say that referendums are alien to this country. They are unusual, but not alien : we had a referendum in 1975. If it is right for other parliamentary democracies such as Denmark, France and Ireland to have a referendum, why cannot the British people have one?

The Prime Minister: On the hon. Gentleman’s 1975 illustration, as I recall, the Conservative party voted against a referendum in 1975. It was introduced only to cover up divisions in the Cabinet of the day. No such divisions exist in my Cabinet.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirm that the no vote in Denmark is binding upon the Danish Government, and that if one country of the Community fails to ratify the Maastricht treaty before the end of this year the treaty collapses? If he is prepared to confirm those facts, will he give the House an assurance that we shall start all over again and renegotiate along the lines of the excellent suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher)?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is partly correct on the facts, but not wholly. He is certainly correct in saying that, if one country fails to ratify the treaty, the amendments to the treaty of Rome cannot be made; they can be made only by unanimity. He is not correct in saying that ratification has to be by the end of the year. That is not necessary.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney): From the various answers given by the right hon. Gentleman, may we take it that it is the Government’s intention, after a period of postponement and consultation, to return to the House with the same treaty and the same Bill and to try to implement it?

The Prime Minister: We propose to negotiate with our partners and others. On the basis of that negotiation, we will bring back the treaty to the House at Committee stage, yes.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South): Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us who greatly admire what he has done and support his stand nevertheless feel that the biggest single impediment to achieving what he wishes to achieve is the continued presence of the present President of the Commission?

The Prime Minister: I note with interest what my hon. Friend has to say on the matter.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Is the Prime Minister aware that all of us who believe strongly that this country has already lost enough sovereignty are very grateful to the people of Denmark for their decision yesterday? The Prime Minister constantly reiterates that there was a substantial majority in favour on Second Reading, but is he aware that that was on a whipped vote? Bearing in mind the comments of some of his hon. Friends today, is he aware that there is no basic enthusiasm for the treaty among the British people or among a large number of hon. Members, possibly a majority? Therefore, in view of what the Prime Minister says about democracy and why we should not have a referendum, the next time that the treaty comes before us, would it not be right for arrangements to be made on both sides of the House for a free vote?

The Prime Minister: I think that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of the debates that we had on that matter prior to the general election and of the debates that we have had subsequently to it. Before I went to Maastricht, no one was in any doubt about the negotiating stance that I would take in Maastricht. It was placed before this House, it was debated in this House, and it was approved by this House. Similarly, when I returned from Maastricht, I laid the agreement before people. It was discussed, it was debated, and it was approved. It was the policy of the Government in the general election, and the British people were not whipped in the decision that they took on that occasion.