Major acclaims subsidiarity: Government campaign to sell Maastricht to the people

Click to follow
THE GOVERNMENT is planning a public relations campaign to win the approval of the British people for ratification of the Maastricht treaty writes Colin Brown.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, has ruled out a leaflet drop to every household because it would be like a referendum, which the Government is determined to resist. Ministerial sources said it was likely to take the form of a booklet that the public would be able to buy at newsagents'. That may be supported by advertising. Although it will be presented as a factual explanation of the treaty, it is certain to underline the benefits, including the limitations on the centralising powers of the European Commission.

The decision to go out and sell the treaty to the public over the heads of dissident Tory MPs underlines the degree to which John Major is committed to ensuring it is ratified. His supporters were delighted by the news. One said: 'This is what we have been waiting for. It is about time.'

But opponents also welcomed the campaign, in the belief that more people would turn against the treaty if they realised the dangers. The last time the Government felt the need to issue explanatory leaflets was over its changes to the NHS, on which it was savagely attacked by Labour.

Tory dissidents are planning to intensify their campaign at the party conference. Ministers believe the critics will be supported there by Baroness Thatcher, who is expected to attack the treaty in her maiden speech in the Lords today.

The Foreign Secretary had expected a barrage of criticism during Foreign Office questions in the Commons yesterday. But one dissident said: 'We are holding our fire. We've got plenty of time.' Mr Hurd may face more opposition today in a debate on the British presidency.