Mr. Connarty: I think that my right hon. Friend is wrong. He mentioned direct taxation; perhaps he meant indirect taxation. There are serious discussions about indirect taxation, but I have not heard of any attempt to harmonise direct taxation across the EU. If he can give me examples other than a paper from the Commission which may or may not turn into something useful for the discussion, I would accept his point. However, I have not heard of any treaty or Act relating to the EU that says that we would not be able to use our veto on direct taxation.
Denzil Davies: I was referring to direct taxation. The so-called "paper" is a legal document that was sent by the Commission to the Council of Ministers and Mr. Solana. It is not just a paper, but a proposal on taxation for the next few years. My hon. Friend may agree with its proposals, but he should not denigrate an extremely important document that has to be addressed by the members of the Council because it has been sent to their higher representatives.
Mr. Connarty: I take my right hon. Friend's point. I am sure that when I read the document I will treat it more seriously than I have just done. I hope that we can agree to differ; the case has not been proven by my right hon. Friend's speech or intervention.
Article 1, paragraph 13, which would be removed by the amendments, is not binding on any group other than those who wish to be involved. Under paragraph 13, it is clear that no cost arising from co-operation will be borne by any countries other than those who participate, which seems like a good deal. If someone wants to go ahead, look at certain topics, work out a structure and demonstrate the advantages of a scheme that others may wish to join, that seems sensible. Paragraph 14, which would also be removed by the amendments, makes it clear that everything should be consistent with EU policy. The intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli comes in here: is there any capacity to do something that would be contrary to the many provisions listed in the treaty, including the fundamental conditions of entry to the EU? There will be quite a substantial debate on that.
Amendment No. 56 would remove article 2, paragraph 1, which says that, to commence co-operation, the Commission has to submit the matter for discussion to the European Parliament which, clearly, would air many questions and problems and would possibly suggest other routes. The matter would then have to go to the Council and would have to be approved by QMV, which seems sensible. In some policy areas it is necessary to have the assent of the European Parliament before matters can proceed. I happen to have some faith in the double belt and braces approach.
Mr. Connarty: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is a signatory to the new clauses. If they were agreed to, a report would have to be placed before Parliament. That would relate to anything that was ever done about the effects of co-operation and does not relate to anything that I have ever seen during the nine years that I have been in the House of Commons. No attempt has been made to assess the result of a proposed policy, but it is then demanded that an affirmative resolution should be passed by both Houses. We are faced with obstructive nonsense that adds nothing to the debate and therefore should be rejected. In the same way, the conspiracy theories of the hon. Member for Stone should be rejected. We are faced with attempts to obstruct the process of sensible co-operation between nation states that want to build an economic and political union of which we want to be part.
Mr. Spring: The hon. Gentleman is expressing a fascinating view of what Parliament is for. Is he saying that Parliament should not consider something as important as the issue before us? If he thinks that parliamentary scrutiny and consideration are somehow obstruction, that says something about an attitude of mind that explains precisely why the EU is so rapidly disconnecting with the peoples of Europe.
Mr. Connarty: The idea that the EU is disconnecting with the peoples of Europe is not borne out by any of the surveys. I believe that the EU is becoming more and more embedded in the processes whereby we make our wealth and people get their work. I believe also that it is an area in which we might learn some lessons on social, employment and other relationships that were not enhanced by the previous Government, of which the hon. Gentleman was probably a member.
The hon. Gentleman's ignorance is compounded by the fact that he makes a point and then turns to talk to a Member who is sitting behind him; that tells us much about his attitude to Parliament. My simple point is that the new clauses are obstructive. They have nothing to do with anything that the last Government ever used. No reports were made on speculative legislation that might relate to the EU and might be determined by resolutions of the House of Commons, although Labour Members asked for that on several occasions.
Mr. Hendrick: Does my hon. Friend agree that if the recommendations of the Conservative party are implemented, and other EU member states implemented them as well, in the sense that individual nation state Parliaments could amend treaties, there would be potential in an enlarged European Union of 28 member states to have 28 different versions of a treaty, none of which would be workable and none of which could be resolved? Is it not better to have a treaty that has been negotiated and can be passed by Parliament?
Mr. Spring: I am grateful again to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The entire point is that the veto was given up on this issue. The issue would never have arisen had the veto been maintained. The responsibility of this Parliament is to try to preserve the national interest on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom. I am horrified that the hon. Gentleman does not understand that.
Mr. Connarty: That false horror is not too difficult to see through. The Opposition are trying to score points when they have nothing of substance to say. I am happy to reject the amendments and new clauses. I hope that the House of Commons will see through the obsession of the hon. Member for Stone. I know that he holds his view with great sincerity, but it is an obsession. We are faced with the paucity of the Opposition's proposals.
Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman skips over the fact that there are new arrangements for voting powers. We have the double majority voting in the European Parliament. For reasons that I cannot go into now but which I dealt with when discussing a previous group of amendments, the arrangements will have a serious adverse impact on the influence of the United Kingdom in matters affecting European law and politics. The bottom line is that it is absurd for the hon. Gentleman to talk about people being obsessive or having conspiracy theories. We are demonstrating that the effects of the treaty that the Government have brought before the House of Commons must be exposed. The hon. Gentleman seems to object to the democratic process. It is weird. In addition, a guillotine motion has been opposed so that we cannot discuss matters in the depth that is required.
Mr. Connarty: I am not debating the guillotine motion. I sat through the hon. Gentleman's contribution to the debate, I listened to earlier contributions and I am making a contribution. I am rejecting his analysis, his conspiracy theories and his worries. We are dealing with essential parts of the framework that is required to allow the EU to go forward. We should not hold back and be the last in line. If others think that they can take us forward in different areas of policy, or if the UK thinks that it can take others forward, that should be allowed through co-operation. If that is attractive to others, they can join in. There is no compulsion. The clauses are excellent and should not be removed from the treaty.
The treaty does much to kill the notion that we are developing a European superstatea lumbering superstate. Member states may wish to co-operate on different issues and different topics, for which the treaty provides a great deal of flexibility. The treaty also kills the idea of a core set of nation states, because any eight of a possible 28 EU member states could take action on any specific project. The notion of a conspiracy involving France, Germany and Italy in every enhanced co-operation agreement has also been killed.
The process could be used in the fight against organised crime, including drugs, which is an international industry or business. Crime is an international business. An excellent mechanism is being proposed to allow EU members collectively to take action and to co-operate. Europol shares information on crime, including drug trafficking. An enhanced co-operation agreement would be able to use Europol to share information and to take action against drugs and other forms of cross-border crime.