Amendment No. 25 deals with articles on immigration and asylum policy, which are extremely opaque; there are many arguments against them but time does not permit me to develop them. Amendment No. 26 deals with the representation of the EU at international level on
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monetary union, which again is determined by QMV. Amendment No. 27 deals with special measures for the introduction of the euro, but I shall leave it and other amendments in the group for consideration in writing by the Minister. There are many amendments on matters amounting to an abrogation of the powers of the House.
I shall return briefly to my opening remarks about not being able to see the wood for the trees. I have various objections to many aspects of the clause. Child abduction has to be dealt with; we must remedy the position of not being able to see the wood for the trees; in a nutshell, we must renegotiate the treaties. Until we do so, we shall continue to go in the wrong direction in the Europe Union.
Denzil Davies (Llanelli):
I shall be brief. Our debate has been a kind of Second ReadingI do not criticise it for thaton qualified majority voting. I have a few points that I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will deal with in his reply. First, I want to make sure that I have the right treaties with me. I have been looking at some of them, but I cannot find certain things that perhaps I should be able to find.
Amendment No. 1, the lead amendment, seeks to exclude article 2, paragraphs 2, 3, 5, 9 and others from the Bill. Looking at article 2, paragraph 2this is no criticism of anybody, it is just meI see that it relates to enhanced co-operation. It also states:
"Article 11 shall be replaced by the following Articles 11 and 11a".
As I understand it, article 11 is article 11 of the treaty establishing the European Community. It is cited on page 3 of the treaty of Nice, which says that it is in treaty series No. 29 (1996) Cm 3151.
I went to the Vote Office and asked for Cm 3151, whichagain I am not making any criticismcontains the treaty on European Union. That treaty is not terribly relevant to our discussion, as it does not create the rights and obligations that may impinge on domestic law. Cm 3151 also contains, conveniently, the treaty establishing the European Community; again, that is perfectly all right. That treaty is amended by the treaty of Nice; I hope that hon. Members can follow me. Article 11 of the treaty establishing the European Community is, as I understand it, being replaced by new articles 11 and 11a of the treaty of Nice. Fine; I looked up page 51 of the treaty establishing the European Community and found article 11.
Until that point, I was deliriously happy; at least I had got that far. I found that the original article 11 is about enabling
"governments to carry out . . . obligations with regard to customs duties".
I looked at the top of the page, which is headed "Part Three: Community Policies". The new article 11, however, has nothing to do with customs duties; it is about enhanced co-operation and various other matters. Well, fine. Looking at page 51 of the treaty establishing the European Community, I found the heading "Community Policies" and thought, "Well, that is all right too." Title I under that heading is "Free movement of goods". I am not sure what that has got to do with enhanced co-operation or, indeed, all the other matters
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that are being amended or repealed. I am not going to complicate matters further but, looking further ahead in the treaty, I found the same problem again.
I only want to ask the Minister, "Is it me?" I am prepared to accept that it is; perhaps over the past few years I have not followed certain treaties as closely as I should. Now that we are in a world of transparency for the EU, we are going to have a committee like the rather ridiculous tax rewrite Committee for Finance Bills. Apparently, we are now going to have an EU treaties rewrite committee. I do not particularly want to serve on that committee, and I am sure that it will take a long time to establish. However, I should like to know where I can find the article 11 that is being replaced by new articles 11 and 11a; the original article 11 is not in my copy of the treaty establishing the European Community. It may be in someone else's, but the Vote Office does not seem to have it. I do not know which copy the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working from; I am not suggesting that it has a secret treaty, but perhaps it is working from different drafts.
The treaty is in different languages, but presumably the problem is still in the French version and every other version. Where do I find the article 11 that is being replaced by new articles 11 and 11a in the treaty of Nice? Or is article 11 in the treaty establishing the European Community, which has nothing to do with the new articles, being replaced? The Bill is important, so I hope that we will know which treaties we are talking about when we insert them in the European Communities Act 1972.
I want to ask a few brief questions about the substance of some new articles that are incorporated by the treaty of Nice. Paragraph 5if it is a paragraphon page 16 says:
"Article 100 shall be replaced by the following".
I have not had the energy to check whether article 100 in the treaty of Nice is completely different from article 100 in the treaty establishing the European Community, or only a little different; I do not know whether the problem that applies to article 11 applies to it. However, we will let that go. Article 100 deals with paying money out or providing financial assistance to member states with difficulties caused by natural disasters. It refers to a member state
"threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters"
I think that we probably understand what is meant by natural disasters
"or exceptional occurrences beyond its control".
I do not know what is meant by "exceptional occurrences". Perhaps the Minister will give us, if not a definitionthat may be asking too much of such a wide phrasean example of exceptional occurrences that are beyond a state's control. I am sure that they exist and, no doubt, were discussed.
The problem with incorporating treaties in statutory legislationin effect, that is what we are doingis that we do not have many definitions. Hardly ever do we find definitions in the treaty of Nice or in any of the other treaties, as one would expect in a statute, yet we are incorporating the treaty into the statute law of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I understand how curious the provisions seem. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is,
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at least potentially, a clear conflict between the provision for qualified majority voting in respect of what are opaquely described as "exceptional occurrences", and the general European prohibition on state aids?
I assume that the prohibition on state aids was a prohibition on aid from the stateits own Governmentto an entity within that state. The treaty of Nice deals with supranational aid from the centre to the state, I suppose. Perhaps that is because there is a prohibition on state aids, but I am not sure.
The measure goes on to state that
"the Council, acting by a qualified majority . . . may grant, under certain conditions, Community financial assistance".
May we be told what those conditions are? The person who drafted that must have had some idea of the kind of conditions that were meant; otherwise the word "certain" would, presumably, not have been inserted. It probably limits the relevant conditions, in the mind of the draftsman. What conditions would be imposed on the member state by the centralised bodythe Council of Ministers or the Commissionin granting such aid?
At the top of page 17 of the treaty of Nice, sub-paragraph (7) states:
"Article 123(4) shall be replaced".
I had a sneak preview of the original article 123(4) in my copy of the treaty establishing the European Community. I do not know what is stated in the Foreign Office copy, but in my copy that paragraph has nothing to do with what is contained in the amendment to the treaty. It has nothing to do with that extremely important article, which deals with the third stage. I remember something about the third stage from years ago, when we discussed the treaty of Maastricht. No doubt the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) remembers it well.
The beginnings of flexibility.
I am not sure about flexibility. The third stage is not very flexible in respect of the amendment.
What is being replaced by sub-paragraph (7)? It is certainly not replacing what I have in my copy, but it may be replacing what the Foreign Office has in its copy. Why is the change necessary now? Is the new article 123(4) substantially different from that which it replaces?
The article deals with unanimity and the fixed rate at which a member state's currency is translated into ecus. I thought that the ecu had gone, but apparently we still have ecus, at least in the paragraph to which I refer. It states that
"the ECU shall be substituted for these currencies"
that is, the member states' currencies. The fixed rate becomes the rate for the ecu, as I understand it.
The article continues:
"This measure shall by itself not modify the external value of the ECU."
I have no idea what that means. I hope that we will be told. We are incorporating the new article, which refers to fixing rates irrevocably. Would that apply if and when the United Kingdom joins the single currency? Will new article 123(4) then be applicable to us? I should have thought so. It refers to fixing the rate and converting that rate into ecus. What happens to the preceding two years
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and the need for sterling to float? I do not understand. I hope that the Minister can tell us whether the article will affect us.