Minister `left no choice' but to stand aside on principle

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This is the full text of the letter sent to the Prime Minister by Charles Wardle:

"Dear Prime Minister,

"Following my recent discussion with Douglas Hurd and my earlier exchanges with you, it is clear that there is a fundamental difference of opinion between us about the need to put the derogation from Article 7a openly on the forthcoming IGC [intergovernmental conference] agenda.

"Under these circumstances I think it best that I stand aside as a minister. I do so with great reluctance, but my estimation of the importance of this issue leaves me no choice. I have always been in favour of a Europe in which we can compete and trade without hindrance, but I cannot stand by while our quality of life is jeopardised by a provision in the treaty which we have failed to tackle.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working as part of your ministerial team, first at the Home Office and . . . at the Department of Trade and Industry. As you know, I support your leadership of the party and remain fully committed to government policy in all other respects.

"I have no doubt that we can win the next general election convincingly and I shall continue to work wholeheartedly for that goal. As I have said to you previously, the resolution of uncertainties about Article 7a will provide us with a clear-cut opportunity to reassure the electorate that we have British interests firmly at heart.

"Yours ever, Charles"

This is the text of John Major's reply to Mr Wardle:

"Dear Charles,

"Thank you for your letter about your decision to resign from the Government.

"As you know, the Government are absolutely clear that the right to maintain immigration controls at points of entry should be maintained.

"We believe this is an essential safeguard, not only against illegal immigration, but also to combat transnational crime and terrorism. Entry control makes sense for Britain, as an island state, and we have no intention of giving it up. I therefore see no difference between us on the principles of this matter.

"As far as interpretations of Article 7(a) of the treaty are concerned, I have considered very carefully with Cabinet colleagues what course would most effectively protect this country's interests. I appreciate that you have not been party to these discussions.

"However, we have a clear view of the way ahead, and of the steps which will be most effective. As I have told Parliament, we shall fight to ensure that the position established by Margaret Thatcher when she signed the Single European Act in 1985, and consistently upheld by the Government since then, remains.

"This may, as you suggest, become a matter for the forthcoming IGC. However, there are a number of developments in train which could affect the position before the IGC opens. There is no need at this stage to commit ourselves to a particular course of action at next year's IGC before all the relevant information is known.

"I am sorry that you think it necessary to resign where there is no disagreement between us on the Government's objectives or fundamental policy, but in the circumstances I naturally accept your resignation.

"I am grateful for your service to the Government at the Home Office and in the DTI, and for your strong support on other issues.

"Yours ever, John"