Tories challenged over block on MEPs

THE Conservative Party was yesterday challenged to say whether it would allow federalist MEPs to stand in next summer's European elections, writes Donald Macintyre.

Jack Cunningham, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, sought to exploit Tory divisions in the wake of a weekend hint by Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that MEPs risked being deselected unless they stuck to a firm line of opposition to European integration.

His move came after Labour MEPS published a list of 24 Conservative MEPS who had voted in favour of an amendment seeking the 'transformation of the Community into a genuine union of federal type'. The total number of Tory MEPS is 32.

In a letter to Sir Norman Fowler, the Conservative Party chairman, Mr Cunningham asked who would decide on whether a sitting MEP or new candidate was acceptable.

Senior Conservative sources said last night that the motion referred to had been passed in July 1990 by an overwhelming majority of MEPs, with the significant exception of the extreme right-wing grouping led by Jean- Marie Le Pen, and referred to the existing structure. The Tory view in the European Parliament is that the real divide in the Parliament is not about federalism but over whether in future the Community should go in a more centralised direction, as they claim the socialists want.