Parliament and Politics: Maastricht treaty: Heath tells Major to push forward with ratification: Prime Minister urged to take lead

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Indy Politics
SIR EDWARD HEATH called on John Major to give a determined lead to Europe by pushing ahead with British ratification of the Maastricht treaty after the French referendum.

The former Conservative prime minister, in a BBC radio interview, put himself at the head of the pro-Maastricht Tory MPs, who are anxious to see Mr Major reassert his authority over his Thatcherite critics when he opens the Commons emergency debate on Thursday.

One Tory backbencher said: 'Mr Major has always had this hang-up that they were the Thatcherites who put him into office. He was beginning to get over it. But now he's gone quiet again. He really does need to show a lead.'

Sir Edward, a supporter of Mr Major's approach to Europe in the past, rebuked the Prime Minister for saying that Britain would wait for the Danes to resolve their own position before resuming progress on the Maastricht treaty.

'What I want to see the Prime Minister do is now push ahead with determination. Britain is president of the community until the end of the year. He is in the chair. It is his job to push ahead.

'He can't say we have to wait and see what Denmark wants. The fact is, if the rest of the countries confirm Maastricht, that will influence the attitude of Denmark itself. It's up to Denmark to decide what they want to do, not us.'

Welcoming Mr Major's decision to call a European summit in early October, Sir Edward went on: 'That's all right. But it depends what he does at the summit. If he just sits there and says, 'What do you want?' that's useless.

'What I want from him is firm presidential leadership, which Britain ought to be giving. He himself said, 'I want Britain to be at the centre of Europe'. Well, we're not now, after these events of last week. What Britain has to do now is give leadership to the whole community.

'I would say that we are now going to get on with Maastricht.'

Peter Temple-Morris, vice-chairman of the Tory backbench European affairs committee, a supporter of the treaty, said it was unrealistic to expect Mr Major to rush the Maastricht Bill back to the Commons. The number of Tory doubters had increased.

However, Mr Temple-Morris supported Sir Edward's call for ratification of the treaty. It was needed to stop the development of a two-tier Europe, with the French and Germans establishing a single European currency and Britain in the 'second division'.

But Lord Tebbit, a trenchant critic of the Maastricht treaty, warned Mr Major against risking a 'bloody nose' at the hands of his own supporters at the annual Conservative conference in Brighton in a fortnight's time.

Lord Tebbit said: 'I think it would be very foolish of the Government having just had a bloody nose on the world's currency markets to risk getting a bloody nose at the Conservative Party conference or in the House of Commons later this year.'

Speaking on BBC radio's The World at One, Lord Tebbit said if a two-tier Europe developed then Britain - outside monetary union - would be 'in the first tier - the tier of independent states, where people govern themselves.

'If the French and the Germans want to create a united republic of France and Germany and if the franc is to go and the French are to use the mark and the national assembly is to go and they are to be governed by the Bundestag, well, that's a matter for them.'