Grandees are just dinosaurs, snarls Tory right

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Tory Euro-sceptics yesterday snapped back at Sir Edward Heath and the authors of yesterday's letter to The Independent calling for Britain to show greater commitment to Europe, with the former Chancellor, Norman Lamont, dismissing them as "dinosaurs, not grandees".

While Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Conservative Party chairman Brian Mawhinney, insisted that the door must - and would - remain open to British participation in a single currency, the Labour leader Tony Blair said the Government was paralysed by the Tory warfare.

Mr Lamont said: "The reality is that Britain will not join a single currency under a Conservative government." As for The Independent letter-writers, he added: "They have lost the argument. They are dinosaurs, not grandees."

Sir Edward unleashed a further broadside last night, condemning the "dangerously out of date little Englanders" who wanted to return Europe to the past. Delivering a lecture celebrating the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's speech in Zurich in which he called for a united states of Europe, Mr Heath also criticised some members of the Cabinet, saying they had yet to learn from Churchill's message.

Mr Clarke emphasises his position in an interview in the Daily Telegraph today, saying that it would be "complete folly'' to close off now Britain's options to join a single currency. "The sensible thing is for us to make an informed choice at the sensible time, which will be after the elections.''

The former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said neither he nor the Cabinet would be bullied into submission on the single currency question.

But the confidence of Mr Lamont and other Thatcherite Euro-sceptics is being underlined by the reality on the ground - with the highly- organised right-wing working to ensure that another Conservative government could not muster a majority for single currency in the next Parliament.

Sir George Gardiner and John Townend, leaders of the backbench 92 Group, are writing to all Tory parliamentary candidates asking them whether, in their personal election addresses, they would pledge themselves against entry into the single currency. If they got a majority, they say, "whatever equivocations were in our national manifesto, there would be no chance what so ever that a Conservative Cabinet could ever recommend joining".

Mr Blair said in a speech in London last night that while distinguished Tories were trying to halt the "mad rush" of the Tories out of Europe, the party lacked leadership and the Government was paralysed.

Beyond the political debate, the work of the European Union grinds on. But the noise of Conservative conflict yesterday drowned out a charge by the Lords Committee on the European Communities thatministers were deliberately over-riding democratic checks on Brussels legislation.

Delivering Lord Cranborne, Leader of the Lords, a list of 30 Brussels proposals that had been passed to Parliament so late as to make scrutiny "virtually impossible", the committee chairman Lord Tordoff said the reality flew in the face of the Maastricht treaty declaration on parliamentary scrutiny: "The reality is that it is sometimes precluded by the late deposit of documents and the wish of ministers in the Council to agree to proposals without the opportunity for national parliaments to exercise their proper democratic function."

But the day's political agenda was dominated by The Independent letter. Mr Hurd told BBC radio that pro-Europeans who until now had been afraid of "rocking the boat" would no longer stay silent.

The letter triggered a counter-barrage, however, from the sceptics, with John Redwood saying in another letter to The Independent that rigid EU policies were destroying jobs. Sir Teddy Taylor and other former "whipless" Tory backbenchers called for a referendum to ask the voters "whether they wish to continue with Euro-integration, to seek to abandon it, or to endeavour to secure a separate relationship with the EU".

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said last night: "A Government with an agenda of narrow nationalism will condemn its people to isolation in the world ... Today's rebuke from the grand old men of the Tory party reveals the deep division within the Tory party over European policy."

Letters, page 17