Examination of witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 10 JANUARY 2001
VAZ and MR
40. It might be appropriate to mention that
the University of Florence is the European University Institute
at Chiusi outside Florence which prepared the work for the Commission.
(Mr Bevan) Yes.
Mr Casale: If we can just get on the record
that that is correct.
41. Could I ask one question about competency.
I am sure, Minister, you would accept, you used the word before
yourselffar be it from me to put words in your mouththey
were your words
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
42. You constantly call for renegotiation of
(Mr Vaz) That is slightly different.
43. Well, it is not actually. You claim that
there would not be a super state. My belief is that we are moving
towards one inexorably for this reason: that in relation to its
competencies, which is as between the European Union and Member
States, Chris Patten has called for a clearer delineation between
them. The basic Treaty from the University of Florence, which
is headed up by the former legal adviser, Dr Ehlermann, who I
have met in the past, would have submitted back in 1985, he was
telling me, in those days that it wanted a federal constitution.
The reason why I am concerned is that however much one may be
prepared to accept, as you know I do, the idea of greater co-operation
and, indeed, also, particularly in the context of trade, there
is a world of difference between the division of competence between
those areas of activity in relation to understanding between countries
on the one hand and a legal framework which provides for European
government on the other. Many of the discussions which have taken
place since Feira on defence and foreign policy and, indeed, in
relation to Nice itself, for those who like yourself have been
deeply embroiled in this, know perfectly well that there is a
division of opinion between those who want a European government
and those who want to have a looser form of co-operation. Now,
my simple question is this: are you prepared, on behalf of the
Government, to say that you would repudiate the idea of a European
government? Although I am not expecting you to give me the answer
I would like, would you be prepared to renegotiate these Treaties,
as I have constantly demanded of the Prime Minister, not merely
this Treaty but the whole Treaty of the European Union, to exclude
a European government, which I think you are going to have to
admit you do not want?
(Mr Vaz) We do not want a European government. We
are not a federalist government. We have made this absolutely
clear. I think you are only asking me the question because you
have allowed me to say the answer again to you as I have said
on so many occasions. We have not signed up to the federalist
agenda. We believe in a Europe of nation states as does President
Chirac, as, indeed, does Mr Prodi. How do I know this? Well, I
went to Birmingham to hear Mr Prodi's speech when he spoke to
the CBI and he made it quite clear that he was proud of himself,
his culturehe was Italianand the state of Italy
and that was not going to change, he was not in favour of a European
super state. This is an invention, it is a fiction, you simply
cannot have this in the system that we have. I am very happy to
repudiate any notion that this Government is in favour of a super
state of any kind. The Prime Minister has said that and I am happy
to repeat it.
44. A moment ago you listed some of the things
you thought the people of Britain thought about Europe, including
the very great benefits they got from being in Europe. I was just
racking my brains what they might be, these benefits?
(Mr Vaz) I was about to prepare my longest speech.
What Europe provides me with, Mr Steen, you know the answer, I
do not know why you are asking me this question, is international
peace and security, financial success for our country. Eight of
our top ten trading partners are in the European Union. 700,000
British businesses, including businesses in your constituency,
are currently based in the European Union. About three million
jobs depend on our presence as a Member of the European Union.
A magnet for international investment. The Japanese, the Americans
invest in Britain because they know this is a springboard to Europe.
All these are factors that you know about. At a local level I
have been to see a cyber cafe in Leeds where European Social Fund
money is going in to providing training for young inner city people.
I have been to see other projects in different parts of the country.
You may say "Well, we are putting money in, should we not
get money back", of course you do. If you join any organisation,
if you are a country like ours with the fourth biggest economy
in the world, you have to make a contribution. We are getting
money back and it is being spent for the benefit of our people.
45. I will let my constituents know that.
(Mr Vaz) Please. I am happy to come to your constituency
if you would like me to.
Mr Marshall: Final question, Jenny.
46. Last question from me. I want to raise the
issue of the thinking that is now being considered on the role
of national parliaments in the European architecture. I wonder
if you could tell us what the current Government thinking is on
this very important issue, particularly in relation to the proposed
Second Chamber for the European Parliament?
(Mr Vaz) Just to start by saying to Mr Steen I have
actually been to Wolverhampton to visit Ms Jones' constituency
and saw a number of children at St Edmonds School in her patch
that had formed links with schools in Italy and other parts of
Europe. That is another benefit that we have from being members.
I think that the idea of a Second Chamber is an exciting one.
(Mr Vaz) It is an idea that has been put forward by
others. Of course, the Prime Minister mentioned it on 6 October
in Warsaw. I think that there is a tremendous role for our Parliament,
for individual parliamentarians and for committees of this kind
to be part of that great debate. What we want to do is strengthen
the relationship between British people and the European Union.
That has got to be done through this place because this is where
sovereignty lies in the end. I think anything that you can do
to contribute to that debate will be warmly welcomed by your Government.
48. Can I just follow up on that. At the end
of the month the Committee is going to Sweden, they have just
taken over the Presidency.
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
49. Ideally what progress would you like to
see the Swedish Presidency make on this issue?
(Mr Vaz) I have had some useful discussions with Mr
Danielsson, who is the Minister, State Secretary for Europe, and
I hope that you will have an opportunity of seeing him and, indeed,
Anna Lindh has been in close communication with Robin Cook. The
Swedes, they are only nine days into their Presidency, I think
that these are ideas that the Swedes will want to discuss with
other colleagues in order to move the agenda forward. I think
that will be very helpful.
50. Could I thank you, Mr Vaz, for answering
our questions so frankly and being prepared to rebut some of the
wilder allegations which have been put to you over the 90 minutes.
I am sure the grocers of this country too will be thankful for
your presence here. If any Member can think of any other leading
grocery chain that we have left out for the official record.
(Mr Vaz) Morrisons.
Mr Marshall: Can I thank you on behalf of the
Committee. It has been a pleasure. I am sure we have learnt a
great deal and the information, which we will eventually publish,
will I hope advance the knowledge that people have and also advance
the kind of agenda you were putting forward in response to Mr
Steen's penultimate question. On behalf of the Committee can I
thank you again. Before I close the Committee can I just remind
the Members of this Committee that we have the normal scrutiny
committee in private after this meeting has finished.