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Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the imminence of the Falkirk, West by-election next week, have you received any notification that any Minister will make a statement to the House on the tearing up of the Independent Television

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Commission code of conduct on the balance of political coverage, given that the Prime Minister will be allowed a one-hour propaganda slot tomorrow evening that is not being afforded to the leaders of any other political parties?

Mr. Speaker: The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no.


Armed Forces

Mr. Secretary Hoon, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Cook, Mr. Secretary Straw, Mr. John Spellar and Dr. Lewis Moonie, presented a Bill to continue the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957; to make further provision in relation to the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence Police; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 4].

Children's Commissioner for Wales

Mr. Secretary Murphy, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Paul Boateng, Mr. David Lock and Mr. David Hanson, presented a Bill to make further provision about the Children's Commissioner for Wales: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 3].

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Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Fourth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [6 December],

Question again proposed.

Foreign Affairs and Defence

4.46 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): The foreign affairs and defence debate on the Queen's Speech provides an opportunity for the House to review the totality of our foreign policy. I will turn to wider matters shortly, but the House would expect me to begin my speech with the summit at Nice which we concluded at 5 o'clock this morning, so it is still fresh in my mind.

Judging from the questions put to the Prime Minister, I anticipate that Opposition Members will want me to discuss what has happened with majority voting, but, before I do so, I shall deal with an issue that they sadly neglected in asking questions of the Prime Minister. Indeed, I did not hear a single Opposition Member congratulate the Prime Minister on the fact that we have returned from the European Council with more votes for Britain in the Council of Ministers. That was never achieved in the handbag-swinging era of European diplomacy that they pursued.

Before the European Council, Britain had double the votes of Belgium; we now have two-and-a-half times its votes. We had two-and-a-half times the votes of Sweden; we now have three times its votes. We had three times the votes of Denmark; we now have four times its votes--and we have done all that while keeping parity with the four larger countries.

I do not honestly know why Opposition Members do not welcome the fact that Britain is now stronger in Europe. I thought that they always complained that we were pushed around in Europe. Surely they would welcome above all else the fact that we now have more strength in Europe than we had before. It may be that during their period in office, with every successive enlargement, Britain's share of the vote shrank. This will be the first time that Britain has been able to look forward to enlargement knowing that its share of the vote has gone up and will remain constant when 27 countries have become members.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): The right hon. Gentleman says that the share of the vote has gone up, but it has gone down as a percentage.

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman is flatly wrong. It is impossible for us to have got greater multiple of other

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people's votes and for our percentage to have declined. On the ratio of our share of votes to our share of population, at the end of 27 countries' becoming members of the European Union, that ratio will be identical to what it is now, despite the addition of 12 countries. For every year between now and then our share of that ratio will be higher than it is now. This is the first time since Britain joined the European Community that our vote has gone up. Of course, that will mean that when we take majority votes, our votes will count for a lot. Even so, we set out in advance--[Interruption.] I really do not know why the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) has difficulty following that proposition; it is an elementary piece of arithmetic that should be within the grasp of those on the Opposition Front Bench. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we set out in advance the red lines where we would not accept majority voting because the issues are so central to the characteristic of a member state.

We would not accept majority voting on tax or social security matters. For weeks, the media have promised that we were bound to be turned over on tax and social security because we were isolated, and the Opposition were praying that we would be turned over. When I arrived at the airport this morning, I was given a transcript of the interview of the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) on "Today" this morning. In it, he dismissed the fact that we had retained unanimity on taxation and social security on the ground that it was never under threat. Jim Naughtie asked:

were wrong? The right hon. Gentleman replied:

The right hon. Gentleman could wander into the Library to look up all the speeches listed under the heading "Maude, F." He will find a speech that he made on 8 July in which he warned of old-fashioned ideological battles in front of us, including those on the

He should not now pretend that Conservative Members did not warn that the veto was at risk or that we would give it away. I fully understand why, when they discovered that the Government had done what they warned we would not do, they gave up their line of attack. There was no point continuing with it. However, the right hon. Gentleman should not pretend that he did not say what he did, or claim that he did not warn that the Government would do something that we have not done.

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham) rose--

Mr. Cook: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is about to congratulate us on keeping the veto on tax and social security.

Mr. Maude: Does the Foreign Secretary remember saying that the veto was non-negotiable? Is it not a bit rich for him to come back and claim a great negotiating triumph for something that was not a matter of negotiation, but simply a matter of decision?

Mr. Cook: The right hon. Gentleman is correct in that we have been clear, consistent and firm on this issue ever since we published our White Paper in February.

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However, if he really imagines that everyone else at Nice sat down and looked at the words of Robin Cook and decided, "Well, we had better not talk about that," he does not understand how the European Union works. For the record, let me tell him and the House that when we went to see President Chirac and Lionel Jospin at the famous bilaterals in the course of Friday night, the only issue on which President Chirac wanted to press us was giving up our veto on tax.

If there is any more doubt about the fact that the veto was negotiated and discussed at the Nice meeting, the right hon. Gentleman should examine the words of the Swedish Prime Minister who said that the Prime Minister of Britain had put up--I use the Swedish Prime Minister's word--a "brilliant" case for retaining unanimity on tax matters.

I confess to the House that we were isolated on the issue of social security. All other 14 nation states were willing to move to majority voting at least on aspects of social security. We stood alone, but we held our line and we have come back with no majority voting on those issues on which we set out our red lines.

Perhaps I was unusually hopeful, but I was encouraged to read the editorial in The Sun on Saturday after our success on defence. The Sun said that if we retained our veto on tax and social security, the Prime Minister was on course for a hugely successful summit. I should perhaps not have been surprised to find this morning that The Sun did not measure the summit's outcome by its own benchmark, but, once it has had time to reflect on the fact that our red lines remain intact, I look forward to a more glowing editorial in tomorrow's newspaper, congratulating us on a hugely successful summit. I do not expect the right hon. Member for Horsham to say that when he speaks.

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