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Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is digging himself into a very deep hole. Is he suggesting that if the European army had been available at the outbreak of hostilities in Bosnia, the right thing to do would have been to send our troops and other troops into that very tense situation, to try to fight to a conclusion that might have produced a transitory peace, without American air cover and American heavy lift? I think that he would endanger our soldiers greatly with such a proposal.
Mr. Hendrick: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am not saying that we should have done that. I am saying that it would have been useful to have that option at the time. Moreover, what would have happened if the Americans had not become so involved in that conflict? We would not have had anywhere near the capability necessary to bring about peace. I was in Washington when the Serbs were beginning to lose the war in Bosnia and the Croatian troops were moving forward. I was fed information to the effect that many of the events of that time were occurring because Germany was secretly arming the Serbs, with America providing some of the resources for that armament. Bosnia is a perfect example of how we might in future use the proposed capability.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe suggest that the United States should have a veto over European operations in Europe. That suggestion is preposterous; it is a little like the European Union objecting to the use of American forces in Panama. Such a veto is simply inconceivable and does not bear thinking about. It is also quite strange to cite a veto as a spanner in the works of implementing and operating the Nice treaty.
Mr. Hendrick: The Government do not fear an American veto, but we must provide for circumstances in which some European states, particularly those in the European Union, wish to take action but the Americans, who are undoubtedly the most influential member of NATO, do not. That provision is outlined in the treaty. If we do not need it but it is there anyway, I do not know why the Opposition are opposed to it.
Roger Casale: Like my hon. Friend I was not around at the time of the Suez crisisapparently, unlike many Opposition Membersbut I am sure that my hon. Friend knows his history. Does he share my sense of irony at the mention of the Suez crisis by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), as the conclusion that the Conservative party under Harold Macmillan drew from the failure of Suez was that Britain could not act alone in the world? It therefore changed its policy on Europe and that led directly to Britain's first application, under a Conservative Prime Minister, to join the European Community.
I now turn to the idea of NATO choosing not to be engaged and the areas in which NATO may take action. The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe quoted a French general. Perhaps that was the only example that he could come up with of an issue on which the French and every other member state that signed up to the treaty were at some variance. Throughout the passage of the International Criminal Court Bill, senior British military personnel said that they felt uneasy about it. They are entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day the decisions are made by politicians with the advice of generals, but not necessarily with their agreement.
Mr. Howard: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way yet again. Does he really suppose that the person whom he describes rather dismissively as a French general and who is in fact the chief of the French defence staff would utter opinions on this topic without the approval and authority of the French Government whom he serves? I was not referring to some French general, but to the chief of the French defence staff.
Mr. Hendrick: When I hear the same statement from the French Government, it will have some credibility. In the same way, when British leaders of the armed forces express concerns about the operation of the International Criminal Court Bill we should take them seriously, but we should not take their words as being the words of the Government.
Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford): Thank you, Sir Alan, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this crucial debate concerning the future direction of Britain's relationship with the European Union. For decades, this place, the mother of Parliaments, has seen its powers eroded. The treaty that we are debating today would carry that process further. I believe that it is the duty of every hon. Member to ensure that the House continues its proud traditions and ways. No move to sideline or undermine it should be countenanced. The House must remain sovereign.
My journey to Parliament has been long and eventful. I held my first elected position in 1990, when I became a councillor in the Chase Cross ward of the London borough of Havering. I secured a Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrat party. The Conservative share of the vote was 21 per cent., and in 1998 I increased that to 88 per cent., making Chase Cross the safest Conservative ward in Greater London. It is appropriate to thank those colleagues alongside whom I served on Havering council for their support and encouragement over the past 11 years.
Some of my other forays into electoral politics have been less successful, although no less rewarding. In my first parliamentary campaign in 1992, I contested the constituency of Glasgow, Provan. Despite a 0.1 per cent. swing in my favour, I secured the lowest share of the vote of any Conservative candidate in Great Britain. In 1997, I fought the Thurrock constituency, which is slightly closer to home. A Labour majority there of 1,000 turned into one of 17,000.
At the last election, I am pleased to have fared rather better. A 9.2 per cent. swing in my favour meant that my result in Romford on 7 June represented the largest swing back to the Conservatives, and it was achieved with the party's 11th highest share of the vote.
For me, there can be no greater privilege and honour than to be elected to serve as the Member of Parliament for my home town of Romford. I should like to pay tribute to those who have preceded me. First and foremost, I thank Sir Michael Neubert, who served my constituency faithfully and assiduously between 1974 and 1997. The advice and friendship that I have received from Sir Michael and Lady Neubert over 20 years has been invaluable. Along with all the people of Romford, I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
I shall always remember Sir Michael for the robust support that he gave to Oldchurch hospital, and for the enormous amount of work he did to help people throughout my constituency. I joined the Conservative party at the age of 14. I never dreamed, as I campaigned for Sir Michael's re-election, that one day I might succeed him as the next Conservative Member of Parliament for Romford.
I should also like to thank my immediate predecessor, Mrs. Eileen Gordon, who served my constituency in the previous Parliament. She will be remembered for her commitment to campaigning for improved health services in Havering.
Many friends, organisations and colleagues, as well as my mother and father in particular, have contributed to my being able to stand before the House today. I also extend a special thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who provided me with many formative political experiences, including the directorship of Europe's pre-eminent public policy think tank, the European Foundation.
I have also to thank the former Member for Ilford, North, Vivien Bendall, for whom I worked for more than 10 years as a parliamentary researcher. No less deserving of thanks are my fellow members of the International Young Democrat Union, of which I am proud to be chairman, not least because the chairman of the union's parent body, the International Democrat Union, is my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the Leader of the Opposition. My work in the IYDU has taken me to almost every country in Europe and to every continent and has been invaluable in helping me build knowledge of international affairs, especially those of Europe.
I also express my immense gratitude to Baroness Thatcher. Her leadership and courage as Prime Minister were my rallying call to the Conservative cause. During her visit to Romford two days prior to the general electionthe last of her campaign tourshe rightly received a rapturous reception.
Lastly in this section of my speech, I want to challenge the reports found in the popular press that Spike, my Staffordshire bull terrier, was the real victor of Romford. While I freely admit, Sir Alan, that Spike was a prominent member of my campaign team and that his dogged determination to demonstrate the bulldog spirit proved popular in my constituency, may I reassure you that Spike has no immediate plans to take his seat on these Benches?
I would now like to describe the historic market town of Romforda place that I am proud to call my birthplace, my home and my constituency. Although it falls within the boundaries of Greater London, being situated in the London borough of Havering, Romford is by its history and geography very much part of the county of Essex. Many families moved to the town from east London in the aftermath of the second world war, and to this day Romford retains close ties with the areas from which they originated. The regular commuter trains passing through the town long ago replaced the horse-drawn carriages for which Romford was for centuries a main stopping-off point.
Romford is today a major office and retail centre for Essex and north-east London and boasts one of the largest and best open-air markets in the countrya market now in its eighth century and very much the beating heart of the town. More than a century after the market first began to trade, the church of St. Edward the Confessor was built in the centre of the market. That is where the present
King Edward the Confessor is the first notable person to have had a connection with Romford, occupying the royal palace at Havering-Atte-Bower, a picturesque village steeped in history situated at the most northerly tip of my constituency. High above the town of Romford, Havering-Atte-Bower overlooks Essex to the east, the River Thames and Kent to the south and Dagenham and London to the west. To the south of Havering village lie the suburbs of Chase Cross, Rise Park, Mawneys and Collier Row, which at one time housed the agricultural suppliers of vegetables and dairy produce and, as the community of north Romford, is now the home to more than a third of my constituents.
Rush Green, the place of my birth, lies to the west of the constituency, along with the London road, the home of Romford's famous greyhound stadium, and the Brooklands area, once the home of Romford football club. I hope that one day in the not-too-distant future Romford will again proudly compete with the greatest clubs in our national game. Today, Romford FC has a Member of Parliament who will fight its corner.
Marshall's Park, where I have lived all my life, lies just north of the town centre. It is also home to my school, which has the same name. Nearby is the garden suburb of Gidea Park, an estate designed by famous architects from the early 20th century. Squirrels Heath and Heath Park comprise the area of the town that borders Hornchurch, a small part of whichArdleigh Green and Nelmesfalls within the boundaries of the Romford constituency.
The people who live in these areas are deeply patriotic. Last year, for example, when the local Labour council refused to fly the Union flag from the town hall, virtually all the market traders displayed the flag on their stalls in protest. With my support, their successful protest became a symbol of Romford's determination not to turn its back on a sense of national pride. It is that same sense of determination that I bring with me to Parliament.
I want to outline some of the issues that I will emphasise and campaign on during my time in Parliamentissues that were brought up time and again by the voters of Romford during my campaign. We live in the most free and stable democracy in the world, yet our freedom and our democracy are challenged by a relentless slide into a European political union.
The task of redefining Britain's relationship with Europe and thereby re-establishing self-government for our nation is the most fundamental question of our time. Over the past 30 years, successive British Governments have subjected their citizens to a form of higher law, a law determined not simply beyond our shores but beyond our democratic ability to decide. The betrayal of our historic institutions and processes can and must stop. In particular, we must never give away control of our currency.
The treaty of Nice is no exception to the continuing demise of our nation's ability to govern itself. To ratify this treaty would mean yet another attack on our democracy and on our freedom as a nation. The proposed loss of a further 43 vetoes is evidence of that.
I am very enthusiastic about trading links formed and greater co-operation championed with the countries of eastern Europe. My international work on behalf of the Conservative party has brought me into close contact with so many eastern European countries. I know that they want a dynamic, free-trading relationship with Britain and, indeed, the rest of Europe. However, I am concerned that the treaty will do more to damage than to strengthen their economies. It makes no sense, for example, that a treaty proclaiming to be about enlargement to the east fails to make a single provision for reforming the common agricultural policy when eastern European economies are predominantly agricultural. It is clear that this treaty is about deepening as well as enlarging the European Union. However, Europe needs an open, flexible and outward- looking relationship, not ever deeper centralisation of power.
One of the other things that motivated me and, I am sure, many others, to enter politics is the desire to reverse a shameful paradox. Those who have contributed most to our societythe elderlyare among its poorest and most badly treated members. After they have spent their lives working, caring and even fighting for our country, far too many pensioners suffer the daily indignities of low incomes, substandard accommodation and hospital waiting lists. The closure of old people's homes is becoming an all-too-regular occurrence, with several in my borough threatened. I condemn Havering's Labour administration for this heartless and short-sighted policy. Taken together with Labour's shameful disregard and failure to deliver on the health service, with particular reference to Oldchurch hospital in my constituency, it is our old folk who have suffered most.
I also want to help to reinject substance back into what it means to be British. I do not mean a Britishness narrowly defined, but one wide enough to encompass all the people of this great nation. I have arrived in this place because of my beliefs: a belief in our nation and a belief in freedom. With the continued advice and friendship of so many who have helped me during the 35 years of my life, I look forward to serving Romford, Parliament and my country.