My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) has given a consummate performance, in which he really summed up the arguments well. There is only time to give a few headlines. The first hero of this debate is, of course, our Prime Minister because, but for him, there would not be a debate. Even our heroine, Margaret Thatcher, never gave us a full referendum on Europe, so we should thank our current Prime Minister profusely for giving the British people the chance to make this historic decision. It will be a most interesting debate, and I will make one or two points about it. Read the rest of this entry »
House of Commons, 7 September 2015, after 11:00 pm
Sir Edward Leigh: I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and his new clause 11, but the House will be relieved to hear that I shall do so rather more briefly. There is a quote by Sir Winston Churchill in the No Lobby, which says that he wants to spend the first million years in heaven painting. As much as I love my hon. Friend, I fear that I might spend the first million years in purgatory listening to his speeches.
Sir William Cash: Shame. You might learn something.
Sir Edward Leigh: My hon. Friend has identified an important point. The Minister will remember that I made precisely this point in my amendment 53 in Committee, before our summer break.
Although there has been a lot of fire and emotion and a vote tonight about purdah, the question of spending by both sides is probably more important. Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor, has written a number of articles about it. It is incredibly important when we have the referendum that we get a sense of closure. At the end of this, whatever the result, people should feel that it has been broadly fair. Otherwise, we might reap the whirlwind. We should remember what happened after the Scottish referendum. If the yes campaign should win, we do not want to create a sense of unfairness for the other side.
I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has taken seriously the points I have put to him. In our earlier debates, the way he put it was that there should be a “broad equality” of forces, but we fear that that simply will not happen. Although there are sensible, firm and clear limits on how much public money will be available to the no and yes campaigns—say, £600,000 or something on each side—and that is completely fair, the party establishment of the main political parties, the Conservative party, the Labour party, the Liberal party, and the SNP, will almost certainly campaign to stay in Europe. Their ability to spend will be based on the votes that they got, with the Conservative party allowed to spend £5 million, the Labour party £4 million, the UK Independence party only £3 million—they will be the only people on the other side—and the Liberal Democrats £2 million. We could reach a situation in which the yes campaign is spending up to £17 million and the no campaign only £8 million.
That has already happened once before. In 1975, the no side was outspent 10:1, which simply cannot be fair. When I put those points to my hon. Friend the Minister in the past, he said that although he accepted that morally and logically there was force in my arguments, that was not in our tradition, as we do not have limits for general elections. I am sure that he will make the same argument again tonight. However, a general election is somewhat different. Separate political parties all have their own position that they are putting forward, rather than ganging up, in a sense, on one side of the argument. There is no sense of unfairness at the end of the process, or a sense that one important political point of view has been massively outspent by the other side.
Although I accept that the Minister will make those arguments, I hope he will feel that there is some sort of moral force in what we have said. For instance, the official yes side in the AV referendum spent £3.436 million and the official no side spent £2.995 million. There was a broad equality in what the yes campaign and no campaign were spending on the AV referendum, was there not? I think we all felt it was a fair referendum. The arguments were put, there was a clear decision and people accepted it. Surely we do not want to be in the situation that has arisen with so many other referendums in Europe, in which there is a sense that the political establishment—the European establishment—has a massive imbalance of resources on its side when it comes to spending. That creates a sense after the referendum that it has somehow been unfair.
Our sole UKIP Member is not present for this important debate, but we do not want to create a situation like the one that existed after the Scottish referendum, do we? There was suddenly a great surge in support for the SNP, and we would not want to recreate that position. [Hon. Members: “Why not?”] There will not be a surge in support for the SNP after this referendum; there might be a surge in support for somebody else, which SNP Members might not welcome.
I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will try to convince us that the Government do want a broad equality of resources during the campaign, so that we can feel that the yes and no campaigns have put their points of view fairly, that the public have listened to their arguments and that a fair decision has been made.
We have had a very thorough-going debate on the European Union (Referendum) Bill. The bill seeks to give voters a say over the relationship this country has with Europe and specifically over our membership of the European Union. We in the Conservative Party are now committed to giving people that referendum, which would be our first on the subject since 1975. The other parties are saying they are in favour of a referendum if any more significant transfers of power from Britain to Brussels occur, though they never do define what they mean by significant.
In the debate, I intervened to point out that it is clear that we want to be able to control our own borders, fishing, agriculture, and courts, and we want to stop small businesses being hit by ever more regulation. I kept goading the Labour members opposite, trying to find out if they would support even just the idea of giving voters a referendum on membership. From every Labour MP I asked, the answer I received was a model of evasion, avoiding the question and dodging the issue. “Of course, we are in favour of a referendum in principle…” But if we in Parliament do not translate principles into practice, we risk further deepening of the divide between the government and the people. Read the rest of this entry »
Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh called yesterday for a real-term cut in the amount the UK contributes to the EU.
In his speech to the House of Commons, he said:
“The figures we are talking about are truly enormous. In the three options—the EU proposal, a real-terms freeze and a cash freeze—we are talking about commitments of £990 billion, £885 billion and £771 billion.
“We were created to guard the nation’s finances and look after the interests of our own taxpayers. Why cannot the House of Commons, on this great occasion, make a stand on behalf of the UK taxpayers? Why can we not say to our taxpayers that we stand with them? We are having to make appallingly difficult decisions about the police, the armed forces, education and health. All we are saying is that there should be a real freeze in the EU. This is not just about EU civil servants, 40% of whom earn more than £70,000 a year.
“The House of Commons now has a chance to take a stand and we should put principle before partisan politics.”
Edward Leigh MP, who has campaigned for the sanctity of life during his years in Parliament, has secured agreement for Euthanasia to be effectively illegal across Europe.
Speaking two weeks ago in the House of Commons Mr. Leigh said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that, if we allow assisted dying, it will eventually become encouraged exit.
“One of the witnesses to the Falconer inquiry said: ‘I think we can only go for terminal illness at the moment, so this doesn’t actually apply to the people who are probably about to go into care homes. But, you know, baby steps’. That is a chilling statement.
“To us, this is a moral issue. We believe that the body is simply the mirror of the soul, and however old, crippled or useless someone might seem to society – our society seems to be dominated by the worship of youth and beauty – they are of immense value to society and should be sustained by society to the very end of their lives.”
Mr. Leigh, who is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, supported an amendment to a declaration that will have legal implications in the 47 member states, the Strasbourg-based organisation announced that such practices “must always be prohibited”. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, joined with 110 of his parliamentary colleagues in voting for the motion calling for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on Monday 24 October. The majority of the MPs supporting the motion made a demonstration of independence by voting against the instructions of their own Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat party whips. Mr Leigh, who has represented Gainsborough in Parliament since 1983, is a public supporter of the People’s Pledge campaign arguing that Britain’s relationship with the EU should be put to a vote. Read the rest of this entry »
I am now supporting the People’s Pledge. This campaign represents a noble effort to bring what both coalition parties favoured before the election – a referendum on Europe. A great number of British people are disillusioned with the political system and my support for this referendum, I hope, will reassure my constituents that they are getting what they voted for. The surge of support that this referendum has enjoyed in its first 48 hours is a testimony to the British will. We, the elected representatives, have a moral obligation to support you. I am pleased to commit my support for an in/out referendum.
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Edward Leigh MP raised the subject of Iraq’s persecuted Christian minority in a speech to the Council of Europe on 27 January 2011. Mr Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough was speaking in his capacity as a British delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Representing the European Democrats Group, Mr Leigh pointed out that “while there is pressure on Christians throughout the Middle East and there have been some serious incidents – notably, of course, the tragic incident in Egypt – the real problem lies in Iraq.” Read the rest of this entry »
The following is the text of the speech deliver by Edward Leigh MP to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, assembled at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, 27 January 2011:
Mr President, it is a great pleasure to be asked to speak to this motion on behalf of the European Democrat Group. We very much share the sentiments expressed by other speakers on the rights of men and women to live their faith in peace. Read the rest of this entry »
It is pleasing to see such busy shops during the Christmas sales. Our recovery will be driven by a freer financial environment.
The wealth of virtually every developed society in history has depended on a free interaction between market supply and public demand. It is amazing, therefore, to see this basic balance ignored by educated politicians whose egos and ideology stand in the way of progress. Read the rest of this entry »
I care passionately about waste, which is why I am very alarmed by the influence of the European Union. For sixteen years in a row, the European budget has not been accurately accounted for. This means that part of our contribution to the European Union (which is higher than any member state apart from Germany), is being lost. During these tough times, people are quite rightly concerned that we are raising our contribution to the EU when we are cutting nearly everything else. Read the rest of this entry »