Tuesday, 19th October 2010
Sir Richard Shepherd MP
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC
Lord Tebbit, a key figure in British public life, and the respected Parliamentarian, Richard Shepherd MP, flew the flag for democracy, freedom and the nation-state
Lord Tebbit was the Member of Parliament for Chingford and a vital part of the reform process carried out by the Thatcher governments. Lord Tebbit was a key fi gure in the battle against the Maastricht Treaty, and is an active opponent of EU federalism. He remains to this day an enduring standbearer of democracy and the nation-state.
Click here to read the full speech by Lord Tebbit
RICHARD SHEPHERD MP
Richard Shepherd is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Aldridge Brownhills. He has been a champion for more open and transparent government and is known and respected for the long campaign he fought for freedom of information. Richard Shepherd is also a campaigner against compulsory metrication.
He has had a distinguished Parliamentary career. Previously he has been a winner of both The Spectator's Award as Backbencher of the Year and Parliamentarian of the Year. Richard Shepherd was also a Maastricht Rebel and fought for a referendum on that Treaty. He lost the Whip in November 1994 after voting against the European Communities (Finance) Bill, but had it returned four months later.
Click here to read the full speech by Richard Shepherd MP
Speech by Lord Tebbit
I’ve been lucky that as I’ve got older I’ve been blessed with always finding something new to do. Not that long back I was invited to become a Daily Telegraph blogger. I often heard people say, ‘ah yes it’s that old blogger Tebbit isn’t it’ or something like that.
And I think what is interesting now is how this event about our national future is being conducted in the so called blogosphere. I find it quite difficult to get to grip with some of these ideas in my old age. I’m so old that I remember when newspapers used to report what had happened in Parliament, what a funny old idea. There’s no room for that now between the lifestyle comment and the parliamentary sketch writer and there are not many of those who are as good as Frank Johnson was. But nowhere do you find what actually happened in Parliament any longer reported.
I’m not sure whether that is altogether about the media or something about Parliament or something about society, but it is a very worrying development. And I wonder what the papers will make tomorrow of what happened in Parliament today, both houses, when the Government brought forward its defence review.
Now I think I should just say something about that. It was not the one which anyone concerned with the defence of the realm would have wanted to hear. But as surely as it was the weakness of the Soviet Union’s economy which brought about the collapse of the Walsall Pact and the end of the Cold War, then so the weakness of our economy and the decisions of Government to give priority to spending on the health service and overseas aid and of course on our contributions to our friends in Brussels. Priority over defence and the weakness of the economy that have driven the conclusions of the defence review.
It is not all bad but we will need a great deal of good luck if its effects are not cruelly disposed by events such for example as another Argentinean adventure in the Falklands. I doubt if we could now reverse an Argentinean invasion.
Aircraft carriers without aircraft are really not much more useful than a pub with no beer. And to say that we’re going to rely on our French and American friends for aircraft to put on them if needs be is a policy which could have only have been designed by those who are too young to remember Oran in 1940 or Suez in 1956.
However close we are to our allies, at the end of the day the only defence forces we can ultimately rely upon are those of our own.
We can only hope that our economy responds to Osborne’s medicine and that the delay which is now inherent in the Trident decision will allow it to be made at a time when the economy has improved so that we may make the right decision.
I suppose if the coalition is both lucky and smart some or other of those decisions could be changed but it is not often that we are both lucky and smart.
But I turn away from those events if I may for a moment. The last time I spoke to the Bruges Group was on the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s great speech. And I made the point in it then that nowhere in that speech did she use the words ‘better off out’. She acknowledged the need of a treaty to promote both open markets and mutual cooperation but she made clear that there were limits to the extent to which sovereign democratic states should, could or would go in giving up their rights to manage their own affairs.
That was then and it is now our position. It is supposed to be the position of the Conservative Party and of the coalition Government. We of course, the so called sceptics, would draw our lines in a rather different place to some of our friends, not least I think we would all say there is a point in the progress of the sausage of sovereignty through the salami slicer of Brussels where one is left itself more of a slice than a sausage.
And to my mind the surrender of a nation’s own currency and entering into a single currency pact by way of the Euro is pretty close if not beyond that point.
And the events of the last two years have demonstrated beyond any doubt that we who have constantly opposed entry into the Euro were absolutely and completely right.
I have heard none of the advocates of entry of three, four or five years ago putting their hands up and saying ‘we were wrong, how glad we are that we were defeated’.
You see it is still true that no currency can have more than one sovereign Chief Finance Minister or Chancellor. No currency can have divergent economic policies within its area. The economic problems of Greece, Spain and Ireland, like Ireland are of their own making but their imprisonment within the Euro is a major factor working against them in their efforts to recover. The Irish above all have acted decisively with great determination and quite extraordinary solidarity across all sections of society to return their pounds. But their recovery is being held back by their inability to allow their own currency to find its own value on the world’s markets.
As I said recently to an Irish friend, what a tragedy it is for Ireland that having gotten rid of us British you should now find you’re governed by Belgians.
Of course in terms of economics all these difficulties in Europe could be resolved by the institution of a single economic policy, a single tax system across the European euro area, a single welfare and security policy. That of course would be accompanied by a single central bank, a single treasury and a single government. And I would have to advise my friends in France that there would be a single pensionable age too.
But as we look at what is happening within the eurozone, it is a sort of slow motion political and economic car crash. There is no good news in that for the United Kingdom. There is no pleasure in seeing things go wrong for our friends on the continent and our only comfort derives from the fact that despite all the propaganda and the hype from the euro loons, the United Kingdom stayed out of monetary union.
And God bless Prime Minister Brown. I don’t know precisely what his motives were in not going in but by God he was right not to.
But none of this is going to deter the European Union from pursuing the ambition of the creation of a new European recovery. So the Conservative conference cheered loudly William Hague’s words on European policy and I quote him:
“The coalition has agreed that we will not agree to move more areas of power to the EU.”
He chose his words carefully. It was not a promise that no more powers would go to the EU but that no new areas of powers will do so. In Euro-speak that means that within the occupied field of course new powers would go but we would oppose the creation of new areas of common policy.
But the coalition has already given away more powers by opting into a directive giving foreign police forces powers over British subjects in that country. We didn’t have to do so. Having done so of course we now cannot opt out and nor can we resist changes by majority voting, even if they extend vastly the powers which are given to foreign police forces in our country. Nor it seems will we be able to do anything about European arrest warrants. What became of habeas corpus?
When a British citizen can be arrested on the say so of a Greek prosecutor or policeman, perhaps for having allegedly committed a crime in Greece which is not a crime in Britain and he can then be locked in a Greek jail for a couple of years or so while they look for evidence to bring against him. Now that’s not what was decided at Runnymede near thousand years ago.
Nor I think will Mr Hague’s words rob the EU of its powers, which were granted by the Lisbon Treaty to extend its powers over this country because that is not a new area of power. But what got the biggest cheer, and I think its worrying, was Mr Hague’s final assurance to the Tory Conference. I quote again:
“A sovereignty clause on EU law will place on the statute book this eternal truth, what a sovereign Parliament can do a sovereign Parliament can also undo.”
But what he said really worries me. You see I’ve always found it’s a general rule in life that if a man declares loudly that he is stone cold sober; the odds are that he’s drunk. And Parliament which is sovereign has no more need to legislate to declare that to be so than a sober man has to announce his sobriety.
Indeed by so doing it casts doubt on whether it is or it was sovereign to admit that there is a need to legislate, to assert that that is the case undermines the assertion itself and whoever slyly whispered into the ear of the Foreign Secretary must be well pleased with his work, after all all that is needed now is legislation by Parliament to assert that it is sovereign and then one day for a majority in Government to repeal that act and Parliament would be no longer sovereign and nothing could bring back its sovereignty.
Then of course Parliament would no longer be sovereign and the European Union will have won as poor John Major thought he had done at Maastricht, game, set and match.
Our task is to make sure that Parliament understands the dangers of going down that route. We have that battle upon the stage. We have the other battle on a broader front outside of Parliament on getting people to realise how much of their lives is now governed by courts and laws which they are incapable of influencing themselves.
I wonder how we can do it. I think we have to be careful that we do not bore the British public by some of the more esoteric arguments. I think we have to be clear that at a time when public expenditure is the big news of the day that we put some of our arguments in terms of public expenditure.
There are not two areas of public expenditure, the health service and overseas aid which are sacrosanct and ring fenced, there are three. The European Union expenditure is the third.
But for that we could afford the aeroplanes to put on our aircraft carriers.
And we should reach people who are worried about our health service by explaining to them what the European legislation is doing to our health service. Before long we will not be able to give the training to our young surgeons which would enable them to qualify. Even worse, it looks as though we will be forced under European law not to discriminate against doctors coming in to replace our young doctors and to qualify in their place and leave some of our young doctors forever outside.
I think we have to look very carefully at how we explain to people the effects upon their lives of European law. That sounds harsh because there is no point in having a European referendum unless it is one which we can win.
And that’s what we have to do and I’m glad that all of you here this evening have shown by your coming here that you are determined to help in getting it done.
Speech by Richard Shepherd MP
Barry has always been a good man. As you can see who could give a welcome like that and not be anything but good.
Barry was himself one of the single fighters during the Maastricht debates that we had in the House of Commons and so his contribution should not be forgotten.
And here and I’ve just seen him, he was here a moment ago anyway, Sir Teddy Taylor. There’s another one, there he is at the back, also who we owe an enormous debt of respect for the way in which he did hours of work.
And I see we’ve also got Sir Philip Goodhart here and I just want to mention Sir Philip because he was instrumental in saving the 1922 Committee. And he is of course the historian of the 1922 Committee and when there was an attempt, I regret to say, by the Leader of the Conservative Party to effectively abolish it by introducing frontbenchers into it, Government members, into it, he gave his advice and wisdom to those who were fighting against this. And my sole contribution to that was to offer to pay as little as possible for the best possible counsel’s opinion but other than that I had no role in this great thing.
So what I’m really saying is that when Barry says British or anyone like that, it’s not just us, it’s the people looking at this work.
And I see here a remarkable lady too, Lady Forth who is Eric Forth’s widow. And we all knew Eric Forth and nothing, nothing would get past his view if he did not approve of it. And of course he gave the greatest inconvenience to New Labour in its early days of ‘things can only get better’.
So I’m very honoured to have even been asked to come here because as you may well know, people like me are rather like – I’m just going to address this issue – but you’ve all seen the state opening of Parliament, we wont see another one for many, many, many months because the coalition has decided that one was quite sufficient and we wont need another one until 2012, or breaches, or changes.
But anyway when you saw the great royal carriage go past and all the horses and all the men with their splendid uniforms, there was one little person courtesy of Westminster City Council who followed behind with a shovel and a cup and in a sense I felt that I was going to be the man that followed a very great man on the platform, Norman and we all know Norman and this is the bottom line, a benchmark, the anger of what many of us feel was conservatism.
I don’t really what to talk about but over the past weeks I have become very mindful that I am supposedly a supporter of a coalition. Does that come as a shock to you? But what struck me is the more debates we have where Ministers can’t answer, they turn around and face the Conservatives and say, well its part of the coalition agreement, its part of the coalition agreement and this is when you ask quite reasonable questions.
Now I am reminded and I look around thankfully to this group, I know you’re all well versed and know everything that I ever knew growing up, but I’m mindful of Nebuchadnezzar the King made an image of gold, whose height was four score cubits and the breadth thereof. It’s the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And if you remember this false image, the tribe of Israel, the Hebrews were now imprisoned as slaves in Babylon. And this image of gold what is it? I found out what it is, it’s the coalition agreement.
I don’t know if any of you have had an opportunity to go through this in any detail, you’ll need a strong stomach in many respects. And what does it amount to? It amounts to Ministers, when they can’t answer a question, saying ‘but this is a coalition agreement’.
And so I’m happy I thought with the idea of a coalition. Predicated in the early pages of this is the great challenge that faces this nation, a structural deficit. How do you reduce it? This is a concentration of all the energies of great parties coming together and trying to get us out of a hole. And we’ll know a little bit more about that on Wednesday.
But in the meantime what are we landed with? What is keeping Parliament busy? And we come to the current legislative landscape. You may wish to change politics; you may remember that Mr Clegg made a great impact on the nation in those ridiculous debates between Mr Brown, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg. And he suddenly turned around in the very first one and said ‘you see it’s the same old politics’. The nation rises up in applause, his poll ratings go up, he eclipses Labour in the polls, the Conservative Party becomes terrified, this is an element that they hadn’t encountered.
Well I can tell you after having sat there for five months its still the same old politics.
We have the guillotine employed, they must get their programme through. They pushed back the Queen’s speech to as I say 2011 now. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be one in November 2010 but their busy coalition programme for Government is the thing that we should work on.
And this is what I’m trying to get a grip on and I guess many Conservatives are too. What does it mean, the fundamental issues that face us, shall we spend time now on trying to reduce the numbers of Members of Parliament to 500. We only discover what something means, as we all now from the European debates, long after the argument has been made and you mustn’t allow time for the public to digest what it is we’re setting about, that’s terribly important.
So does this sound right that we should have a referendum on AV. Wasn’t it my election address, and on Maastricht where I said nothing could get me to vote for any of the contentions in Maastricht unless there was a referendum. That was my bottom line on the whole thing but of course by then, after Margaret’s speech at Bruges and the work that was done during that year on Maastricht, the nation’s opinion had begun to change very importantly and therefore we couldn’t have a referendum could we?
Oh yes we could, the bright new leader of the Conservative Party made a cast iron guarantee, nothing less, absolutely cast iron. He seduced those old fogies on the right by his enthusiasm for repatriating competition law, just one minor issue. And then there came a hurried little meeting convened not long before the election when he summoned, as is happening now increasingly, by email the Party to attend, not the 22, the Party, a Parliamentary Party.
And in the midst of this he said – he had only five minutes to stay for us because he had to get to the television cameras and announce it to the nation – he said that it couldn’t happen anymore because do you know what had happened? It had been endorsed by all the other nations of Europe. That was the argument; we had a little thorn, in all aspects actually, called Mr Cash. He is persistent, he produced a little memo.
But what did that nice Mr Wilson, wasn’t there a treaty in place when he offered a referendum?
I’m old enough, I’ll confess this now, to remember that referendum, I’m old enough to remember that I voted yes in that referendum, I’m old enough to remember that my friend Teddy Taylor said ‘but you haven’t read it’, because I was a member of the Party. ‘Oh’ said I, ‘but it’s about retraining, it’s about opening borders, it’s about competitiveness’ that would help Britain get through our uncompetitive background, that’s why I did it, can you imagine?
And experience taught me that it is sometimes worth listening to people that read things. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it at the end because I would have learned something from Teddy then.
And I went into the Commons and I was speaking in front of a former Chairman of the Conservative Party here, the Conservative Party remember, who would not have approved of my approach to the European Union. I said there’s no point in my voting on anything on this matter because it doesn’t make any difference. That was the line of the Whip circa 1979, Section 2 of the European Communities Act.
Wisdom I care to call it but prejudice as well led me to understand that this wasn’t right. And so when I’m in front of something called the coalition, our programme for Government, and I search through for their European statement on it, all these pages there – lots of it is from other matters and that we should tax the people to death to save the planet and energy charges and all the rest of it – of course that’s the meat of current politics but when it comes to Europe there’s nobody, that’s the truth of the matter.
And last week, and I think Norman will give you a much more crusading approach to getting through that debate, it was instructive. 43 Conservatives revolted. Now that doesn’t sound a large number in a Parliament but when you think of the size of the coalition, all those that are beholden to it, all those that are duly a part of this, all the Whips in pocket and the opposition front bench, you are looking actually at a majority of three in the House of Commons not the whole 21. That’s what unnerved them. Why wouldn’t they answer the blandishments, after all Mr Cameron has promised us a break no less of any further European integration by means of a referendum. But I’ve heard that before, you have and we’re now in the midst of very difficult negotiations on yet again increasing our contributions to this organisation.
I just think, as did 43 members of the Conservative Party, free members of the Conservative Party, that it might have been helpful to any form of negotiation that a threat was hanging over the European Union that a referendum will be held in England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland on the Lisbon – as we now politely call it – Treaty. Would that not strengthen the position?
Oh no it would jeopardise our chances as the coalition thinks of working with them and winning them over. Why would you win over people who are beneficiaries of our now huge net contributions? You’ve heard the defence, or may have heard, of what we’re doing to our own defence. None of that need happen if it were not for our contributions to the European Union.
So there it is, all set out, I care to think letters of gold, an image of gold. The truth is this country has struggled long to assert its independence from the world and one of the greatest speeches I ever heard in the House of Commons was by Peter Shaw and it was on the 28 January 1992, the last time that Margaret Thatcher attended the Commons and voted. It was on the Private Members’ Bill for a referendum on Maastricht. The House dissolved two weeks later for the 1992 General Election, so it’s the last vote and it was her way of saying that this needed an expression by the people, not by the same old politics, the cosy elite that form and coalesce around it.
So I just wanted to end with one little reference to what will govern us from now on. It’s declaration 17 of the People Services of the European Union; it’s a declaration concerning primacy; it is annexed to the Lisbon Treaty. The conference records that in accordance with several case laws at the Hall of Justice of the European Union the treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the treaties have primacy over the law of Member States under the conditions laid down by the said case law.
The conference has also decided to attach as an annex to this final Act the opinion of the Council legal service on the primacy of EC law as set out in 11197/07 (JUR 260), opinion of the Council People Service of the 22 June 2007.
It results from the case law of the Court of Justice, the primacy of EC law is a cornerstone principle of community law. According to the Court this principle is inherent to the specific nature of the European Community. At the time of the first judgement of this established case law – and its puts in brackets (Costa/ENEL 15 July 1964, Case 6/641) – there was no mention of primacy in the treaty.
It is still the case today, the fact that the principle of primacy will not be included in the future treaty, shall not in any way change the existence of the principle and the existing case law of the Court of Justice. And they add a little footnote: it follows that the laws stemming from the treaty, an independent source of law could not, because of its special and original nature, be overwritten by domestic legal provisions however framed without being deprived of its character as community law and without the legal basis of the community itself being called into question.
Well I’d love it to be called into question but the fact remains our judges recognising the supremacy of Parliament nevertheless have the Act, the European Communities Act and they will read that opinion and append it to the treaty and that will be the basis of their judgement now. That’s how they’re trying to put this circle of chains around us.
Now Peter Shore in that last debate that Mrs Thatcher attended stood up and said, ‘what we’re discussing would have been inconceivable to a generation of Britain, but the most prized expression of nationhood that we had struggled to maintain, our freedom and our independence in the world, should be a matter to give away’. And I was moved deeply by that because when one looks at it, the history of this country, the people, the Normans, the Vikings, all of them, this is not a likely at all.
And I know this, that with the new intake who are not A-listers who feel they owe no loyalty to Mr Cameron in person or my image of gold, my Nebuchadnezzar fiction, they owe no loyalty to that, march into lobbies and that is what in the end will come.
Thank you very much.