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Mr. Shepherd: Have the Danish given away, as a result of a previous referendum, the right to take a decision on this treaty? Why is there not a referendum in Denmark on this treaty?

Mr. Cash: There certainly should be. The answer to that question is that the Government, the elite, in Denmark are not prepared to hold another referendum, just as, for example, there is a reluctance—

The Chairman: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that he is being led astray by his hon. Friend.

6 pm

Mr. Cash: There are many roads to the treaty of Nice, and my hon. Friend suggests one that I shall have to avoid, just for the moment. We shall have ample opportunity to consider it later.

Basically, my main proposition is that the smaller states will lose out, and the effect will be that they will be bulldozed, which is one of the reasons why they are so concerned. Indeed, their voting shares will decrease even in the absence of enlargement, which is one of the main reasons that Ireland voted against the treaty of Nice.

Rev. Ian Paisley: Will the hon. Gentleman take the time to mention the number of Members of the European Parliament, which will be affected by the change? Is he aware that, given the drastic cut in the number of Members for the south of Ireland, Northern Ireland, which has three Members, will not retain that number in future? Indeed, Northern Ireland might not even have one Member in the new Parliament.

Mr. Cash: I understand why the hon. Gentleman makes that point, but I must not be diverted down that path either. Suffice it to say that there has been a substantial change in the number of MEPs, and—surprise, surprise—it turns out that Germany has the most, although some may say that that it because of its population. That is all part of the real problem. Some may dispute this, but those countries dependent on Germany economically or politically, or in coalition with it—in the European Parliament, with the new co-decision procedure, or whatever—will vote with it, so we shall have a greater Germany, and in the words of Thomas Mann, will it be a European Germany, or a German Europe? I am confident, but concerned that it will be a German Europe. We need to face those questions in a responsible and, I hope, sensible and friendly manner, but we must point out that we do not like such things and we will not have them. That is my message on that key point.

It has been said that QMV will lead to a two-speed Europe. I wrote a paper for the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Hurd of Westwell, at the time of the Maastricht treaty. I shall not repeat any part of that paper, other than to say that it was published in 1993, in the appendix to a book called, "Visions of Europe", in which I gave my reasons for objecting to QMV. I said that the movement toward majority voting and a two-speed Europe would put us on the sidelines, whereas that was what we were accused of doing.

When we deal with the clauses relating to enhanced co-operation, I shall have a good deal more to say about the relationship between that and majority voting because

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that, in itself, creates an extremely deep black hole. As I said on Second Reading, those who have advocated variable geometry have made a very profound strategic mistake—in fact, a strategic mistake of such enormous proportions that it is incapable of being described. That monumental mistake in foreign policy is based on the idea that, if words such as "flexibility" and "subsidiarity" are used, the proposal means what it appears to say. "Through the Looking-Glass" and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" have a lot to say about such things.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sylvia Heal): Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is moving on to what will be a debate on a subsequent date.

Mr. Cash: It is a seamless treaty, and I can assure you, Mrs. Heal, that in this context enhanced co-operation cannot be treated separately. The Clerk of Public Bills, to whom I am not supposed to refer, knows well enough that QMV and enhanced co-operation go hand in hand. If I have to try to explain the inner workings and the entrails of the treaty, it is difficult, given the fact that we started out with the dilemma that I described at the beginning of my remarks, to separate the vast number of articles dealt with under amendment No. 1 and its incidental application to individual parts of the treaty as we proceed. If it were possible to disentangle this Heath Robinson business and produce a workable and sensible treaty, I wish we could do so. The problem is that the proposal has been deliberately devised as a mechanism for unbelievable complexity, which is completely beyond the man in the street, but thank God people see through it when they vote.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston): As I have a simple mind, I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would clarify something for me. He says that we are about to create a European Union dominated by a greater Germany, which was the great victor of Nice, but Germany's population is 82 million and its new vote is 29—the same as that of the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Earlier on, if I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he accepted that QMV was needed on certain occasions, and that smaller countries need to be equally represented. I should be grateful if he could tell me what weighting he would think it fair to apply. Could he explain why a country of 82 million people, which now has the same number of votes as a country with 57 million, is still seen as the victor? I simply do not understand the logical sequence of his argument.

Mr. Cash: That is simple—the treaties and the concept of political union are hopelessly illogical. The problem is that the anomalies that arise cannot be got rid of without having total political union, which is the objective. The problem is a simple one for me; I simply say that we must renegotiate the treaties and take them back at least to the Single European Act, so that we do not go down the route of political union. Yes, Germany has certainly increased in power. The day that the Berlin wall came down—

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is now wandering very wide of the amendment.

Mr. Cash: I am afraid that I have been diverted by the eloquence of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), which is difficult to resist.

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Having said that, I shall now speak to amendment No. 233, which I tabled, and which deals with child abduction. I am jumping into that amendment, but I want to deal with other amendments, and I shall do so as quickly as I possibly can. Child abduction is a horrifying business, so much so that, notwithstanding the fact that I wish to see the EU framework renegotiated, it warrants the application of QMV to that aspect of family law that deals with it.

Many hon. Members will know that the wife of our ambassador to the United States, Lady Meyer, has children who were taken from her by her husband. They have not been returned to her, primarily because the German courts will not allow it. Indeed, the problem seems to be peculiar to the German jurisdiction. I have not the time to go into every detail, but Germany and Austria are primarily involved because their laws effectively prohibit the return of children who have been abducted by their natural parents in the EU.

The number of cases of abduction has increased every year. According to the Belgian Ministry of Justice, 221 children were abducted from Belgium in 1998, and 562 in 2000. In France, a fourfold increase in abductions was recorded between 1997 and today. That is pretty horrendous stuff. As far as I am aware, none of the parents—who are mostly American and French, but some are British—has been able to regain access to their children if they are held in Germany. I shall send the Minister details of two particularly difficult cases.

In one case, the gentleman concerned has managed to see his children for only a few hours since he finally traced them seven years ago. In another, an Australian lady is unable to get her daughter back from Germany although the German father died last October. She has seen her for only a few hours in the presence of the social services youth authority, the Jugendamnt, and the grandparents are suing for custody.

A Franco-American father, Maurice Elfeke, recently went to Germany when he heard that his children's name was going to be changed without his consent. They were abducted two years ago and since then he has had no contact whatsoever. He was arrested last week and put in jail because he sprayed his mother-in-law's garden with black paint. He is now on hunger strike in jail and several parents will meet in Berlin on 14 July for a hunger strike demonstration. Lady Meyer saw her sons for 10 minutes outside a court room in 2000, has no access rights and has managed to see them for 25 hours in total.

A Franco-German commission has been established, but it has produced no results. A US-German Commission was established last year at the behest of President Clinton. The proposed reforms have been backed by Hillary Clinton and, most recently, Colin Powell. Although the initiatives have not resolved a single case, the main problem is the lack of enforcement of orders in Germany, Austria and, I believe, Sweden.

The French have produced proposals for the recognition and enforcement of actions and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children has been set up to protect children. The problem is serious. The ICMEC is preparing a written paper, which I can supply to the Minister, and in early September the European Commission will present the draft regulation. The main problem is that although justice and home affairs have

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moved to the first pillar, unanimity is still required in family law. We have the European Court of Justice and I hope that the Committee will understand why, in such exceptional circumstances, it is essential to change the law in the interests of those children and their parents. The Prime Minister's wife is also deeply engaged in the problem. She understands it and gives full support to those who advocate change.

This is not the first time that I have taken a slightly unusual view. As a realist, I put the interests of those children and their parents ahead of any other concerns. It might be best to change The Hague convention. Failing that, we need to change the qualified majority vote. I intend to press the amendment to a vote. I want to know what the Government are going to do about those children and their parents. There is enough time before we finish our deliberations on Wednesday for the Minister to give my concerns careful consideration.

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