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6.45 pm

Mr. Shepherd: Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that he is behaving like Mr. Gradgrind? Such detailed questions are outrageous. The thrust of the treaty is surely to consolidate a European state. It is therefore outrageous to discuss the mere detail, as he is doing. We should accept the intent, which is clear to most of us. The treaty drives towards the consolidation of a state in which the United Kingdom is a subordinate constituent.

Denzil Davies: That has been my view ever since the European Communities Act 1972. I do not want digress and be out of order, but being a Celt, I could smell an Act of Union in 1972. The English are not very good at smelling Acts of Union, because they have never had such Acts imposed on them, but that is coming. That was the hon. Gentleman's point, I think.

The detail of the single currency is important, and I hope that the Minister will explain why we have new article 123(4) and what the old one was, as it is not in my copy of the treaty establishing the European Community.

Finally, there is another extremely important amendment in paragraph 5 at the bottom of page 17. It deals with GATT—the general agreement on tariffs and trade—trade in services, intellectual property, the Uruguay round and all that went with it, and the surprising decision of the European Court of Justice in favour of the competence of the nation state. That must be one of the few cases in which that political court came down in favour of the nation state against the Commission, which was particularly angry at the time. Now, that is being overturned. The competence of the nation state is being taken away. Whether that could have been called a veto, I do not know.

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): In case I cannot deal in my reply with all the details that my right hon. Friend raises, I shall write to him. He may wish to know that there was a mistake in the Command Paper containing the treaty of Nice. Two footnotes were later corrected. I want to be sure that he has that correction.

Denzil Davies: I do not, although I studied the footnotes carefully. Perhaps I should not refer to the footnotes in the treaty establishing the European Community, as that might confuse the Foreign Office even more. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the intervention. It is my fault that I did not understand a word that he said, but I am sure that he will deal with the matter at greater length when he winds up. If not, no doubt he will, like all Ministers, resort to a letter. I am sure that I shall get a learned letter, which will be placed in the Library.

The trade in services negotiation will be difficult and important. There are fundamental views on all sides about it. I am sorry that the Government have given up the competence of the member state—of this member state, which is my concern. Whatever view one takes of the agreement on trade in services, the effect of multinational companies and so on, I am sorry that my Government have given up their competence on that and handed it over

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to qualified majority voting. This is not a trivial veto on a matter such as the registrar of the European Court. Who cares who the registrar is? That, apparently, is the Foreign Office view, but I do not agree with it.

The veto is extremely important, as it goes to the heart of trade in services and its effect on this country and others. Of course, the French have protected their culture and have obtained a derogation. Where negotiation deals with French culture, they have got a veto, but the Brits gave that right up. Perhaps we are not as interested in culture as the French. I am sorry that we have given up the veto, which is not trivial or minor. Will my hon. Friend the Minister explain, in what might be a rather lengthy reply, the rationale behind giving up the power of the House in a matter that is as important as international trade in services?

I think that I had better stop there. I am sure that I could speak about many other aspects of the treaty, but I have made a few points with which I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will deal.

Mr. Redwood: I have made my declaration in the Register of Members' Interests.

I follow the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies), who has done the Committee a great service by pointing out a problem that I, too, have discovered. I thought that I had come to the Chamber well prepared for this detailed debate in Committee. I brought the treaty with me, but when I tried to pursue the amendments and the Government's proposals in the documentation, I encountered exactly the same problems that he faced. I shall not repeat what he said about them, but I hope that the Minister will deal with them. We appear to be amending and introducing legislation for a treaty under the heading of articles that bear no relation to the documentation that is available to hon. Members for this debate. I shall proceed on the basis that the Government should know what they are doing and in the light of the other documentation that I have read, even though it is not within the correct frame of reference for this debate.

I want to return to the main issue with which the amendments deal—the question of how much qualified majority voting is desirable—and to consider whether it would be better to join my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) in saying that we do not want any of the proposed extensions of qualified majority voting, or whether the Government have a point. Their argument is that, because modest powers over trade and commerce were surrendered to qualified majority voting under a previous Conservative Government, it is clear that we must surrender a range of other powers, some of which are more serious, dealing with a range of other matters that are in no way connected with the single market or trading. Similarly, one could suggest that, if one drink makes someone happy and shows that they are clubbable, that person should get stoned out of their mind by drinking everything that they can lay their hands on. According to the Government, they would have no problems whatever with a hangover or a headache.

Although it is the official Conservative case that a few drinks of qualified majority voting are all right, but a lot would make one completely drunk, I take the view, having negotiated under QMV, that it should be a

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prohibited substance. I do not believe that, even in our new inclusive spirit, we should seek to remove it from the list of prohibited substances, because it is closer to a hard drug than anything else that might be up for review.

Mr. Bercow: Does my right hon. Friend agree that qualified majority voting is infinitely more damaging to health than cannabis?

Mr. Redwood: I think, Mrs. Heal, that I am being drawn wide of the subject of the debate.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): I would be interested to hear my right hon. Friend's view on one specific increase in qualified majority voting—the one that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) mentioned in relation to child abduction. Does he agree that such a move would be a step too far? Should the issue be covered by multilateral and bilateral negotiations, or was my hon. Friend the Member for Stone right to table his amendment?

Mr. Redwood: I usually find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) on European matters, but I fear that I cannot follow him on that specific issue. His usual cogent arguments against qualified majority voting relate to issues on which we wish to develop international agreement as well as to those on which we do not want to develop any such agreement. He should bear in mind the fact that if the leading continental countries are against his proposal, they can block it under qualified majority voting. If they favour it, however, he can obtain what he seeks by negotiation with the veto in place. The veto is an important guarantee even in that respect, as it can prevent this country from being forced into doing things with which he would not agree.

Mr. Cash: As my right hon. Friend and I are going to disagree—we can agree to disagree—I must remind him that when the Maastricht treaty was considered, there were many matters on which we voted differently. I leave that as a matter of record.

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is right. He might like to remember my record on qualified majority voting. I was the chief policy adviser to Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven when she was negotiating the Single European Act as Prime Minister. My advice was that we should not surrender the powers in perpetuity, but make the surrender extremely limited for the specific purpose of the few directives needed—as we saw it—for the single market, and let the powers revert. Unfortunately, the Baroness did not accept my advice on that occasion, although she did so on many others. I did my best to prevent surrender of the powers, as I thought that that was wrong then.

On the Maastricht treaty, my hon. Friend will know that mine was one of the few voices—often the only voice—in the Cabinet to say that it was wrong to surrender the powers. After I resigned from the Government, I was able to make my view public. I can assure him that I never agreed to the proposals in the Cabinet Committee, but I obviously could not make that known to the general public until I had resigned. Perhaps I fought on too long, but I felt that somebody in that Cabinet had to put the case against QMV and other measures that I thought were leading too fast towards European integration.

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