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
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
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.
Iíve been lucky that as Iíve got older Iíve 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, Ďah yes itís that old
blogger Tebbit isnít ití 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. Iím so
old that I remember when newspapers used to report what had happened in
Parliament, what a funny old idea. Thereís 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.
Iím 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 Unionís 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
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
Aircraft carriers without aircraft are really not much more useful than a pub
with no beer. And to say that weíre 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 Osborneís 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
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
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 Thatcherís great
speech. And I made the point in it then that nowhere in that speech did she
use the words Ďbetter off outí. 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 nationís own currency and entering into a
single currency pact by way of the Euro is pretty close if not beyond that
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
I have heard none of the advocates of entry of three, four or five years ago
putting their hands up and saying Ďwe were wrong, how glad we are that we were
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 worldís 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 youíre governed by
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 donít 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 Hagueís words on European policy and I quote
ďThe coalition has agreed that we will not agree to move
more areas of power to the EU.Ē
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 didnít 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 thatís
not what was decided at Runnymede near thousand years ago.
Nor I think will Mr Hagueís 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 Hagueís final assurance to the Tory Conference. I quote
ďA 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.Ē
But what he said really worries me. You see Iíve always found itís a
general rule in life that if a man declares loudly that he is stone cold
sober; the odds are that heís 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
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
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 thatís what we have to do and Iím glad that all of you here this evening
have shown by your coming here that you are determined to help in getting it
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
And here and Iíve just seen him, he was here a moment ago anyway,
Sir Teddy Taylor. Thereís 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 weíve 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 counselís opinion but other than that I had no role in this great
So what Iím really saying is that when Barry says British or anyone like that,
itís not just us, itís the people looking at this work.
And I see here a remarkable lady too, Lady Forth who is Eric Forthís 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 Ďthings can only get betterí.
So Iím very honoured to have even been asked to come here because as you may
well know, people like me are rather like Ė Iím just going to address this
issue Ė but youíve 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,
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 donít 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
canít 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 youíre
all well versed and know everything that I ever knew growing up, but Iím
mindful of Nebuchadnezzar the King made an image of gold, whose height was
four score cubits and the breadth thereof. Itís 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, itís the coalition agreement.
I donít know if any of you have had an opportunity to go through this in any
detail, youíll need a strong stomach in many respects. And what does it amount
to? It amounts to Ministers, when they canít answer a question, saying Ďbut
this is a coalition agreementí.
And so Iím 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 weíll 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 Ďyou see itís the same
old politicsí. 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 hadnít encountered.
Well I can tell you after having sat there for five months its still the same
We have the guillotine employed, they must get their programme through. They
pushed back the Queenís speech to as I say 2011 now. Thereís no reason why
there shouldnít be one in November 2010 but their busy coalition programme for
Government is the thing that we should work on.
And this is what Iím 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 mustnít allow time for
the public to digest what it is weíre setting about, thatís terribly
So does this sound right that we should have a referendum on AV. Wasnít 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 Margaretís
speech at Bruges and the work that was done during that year on Maastricht,
the nationís opinion had begun to change very importantly and therefore we
couldnít 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 Ė he had only five minutes to stay for us
because he had to get to the television cameras and announce it to the nation
Ė he said that it couldnít 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, wasnít there a treaty in place when he
offered a referendum?
Iím old enough, Iíll confess this now, to remember that referendum, Iím old
enough to remember that I voted yes in that referendum, Iím old enough to
remember that my friend Teddy Taylor said Ďbut you havenít read ití, because I
was a member of the Party. ĎOhí said I, Ďbut itís about retraining, itís about
opening borders, itís about competitivenessí that would help Britain get
through our uncompetitive background, thatís why I did it, can you imagine?
And experience taught me that it is sometimes worth listening to people that
read things. Itís not always easy but itís 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 thereís no point in my voting on anything on this matter because it
doesnít 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
wasnít right. And so when Iím 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 Ė 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 Ė of course thatís the meat of current politics but when it
comes to Europe thereís nobody, thatís 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 doesnít 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. Thatís what unnerved them. Why wouldnít 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 Iíve heard that
before, you have and weíre 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 Ė as
we now politely call it Ė 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? Youíve heard the defence, or
may have heard, of what weíre 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
Membersí Bill for a referendum on Maastricht. The House dissolved two weeks
later for the 1992 General Election, so itís 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. Itís declaration 17 of the People Services of the European Union; itís
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 Ė and its puts in
brackets (Costa/ENEL 15 July 1964, Case 6/641) Ė 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 Iíd 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. Thatís how theyíre
trying to put this circle of chains around us.
Now Peter Shore in that last debate that Mrs Thatcher attended stood up and
said, Ďwhat weíre 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 awayí. 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.
Founder President: The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of
Kesteven, LG, OM, FRS President: The Rt Hon. the Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH,
PC Vice-President: The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg Director: Robert Oulds MA, Head of
Research: Dr Helen Szamuely, Washington D.C.
Representative: John O'Sullivan CBE Founder Chairman: Lord Harris of High Cross,
Former Chairmen: Dr Brian Hindley, Dr Martin Holmes &
Professor Kenneth Minogue