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One view is that, with the treaty of Nice, we are going one step further towards undermining representative democracy. We used to talk about the military-industrial complex; we now talk about the corporate-bureaucratic complex of the EU. We should open up such a debate,
Sir Teddy Taylor: I hope that this will not be regarded as offensive, but I want to tell the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and his two colleagues that I have a huge regard for what they are doing. They know very well the problems they will have in supporting democracy and referendums, probably against their party's wishes. They will be faced with all kinds of problems. They will get no credit from anyone, and hardly anyone will pat them on the back because, by and large, the general public have not a clue what the treaty of Nice is. They know that what they are doing is absolutely right. Many hon. Members presented with such a choice would simply not bother to do anything because they would have all kinds of troubles if they did. They would not get on to Select Committees or get promoted, and they would probably be undermined in their constituencies.
It is easy to keep quiet and do nothing, and the majority of people take that view, but the right hon. Gentleman and his two colleagues are not going that way; they know that it is vital to stand firm. As someone who has been in trouble and who knows how important the issues are, I have a high regard for them. When the time comes and they face their maker or look back on history, they will know that they have done the right thing for the right reasons. In all sincerity, I have the highest regard for them.
What about a referendum? Opposition parties usually like referendums, but Governments do not, unless they think that they will win them. Basically, there should be a referendum if the power entrusted to us by the people might be given away irreversibly. We as an institution should manage that power and look after it. If people entrust us with money, power or anything else and we decide to give it away irreversibly so that it can never come back, they should be entitled to a referendum. I wish that both the main parties could reach an agreement so that if we might irreversibly hand away the power entrusted to us by the people, the people would be given the right to say yes or no. That should apply throughout the whole EU, but of course it does not.
Although some hon. Members may laugh, as they always do in European debates, they should accept the simple point that with every European treaty that we have passed, including the treaty of Rome and the Single European ActI have voted against them allthe Government have said that it was different, that it represented a step forward and that it was good. Those then on the Conservative Front Bench told me time and again that the Single European Act did not involve handing over power to majority voting, that it was simply intended to encourage free trade, that it would help Britain and our industries and jobs and that I was trying to frustrate such help. It was obvious from the treaty that, in fact, it would involve handing over masses of democratic power, but we were told not to worry. The general public were not worried at all and, of course, they were blatantly misled.
As Labour Members know, receiving one of those ridiculous objective 2 grants is rather like winning the cup final. A colleague spoke about them in the Adjournment debate last night. Some colleagues will probably know that, for reasons that I do not understand, my constituency is the only one in the whole of Essex to get objective 2 money. We applied for grants for only three out of our six wards, but it was decided that five wards should receive funds, so we got more than we asked for. Vast sums will pour into the constituency, and everyone is very happy. When I look around at the unusual projects that such grants are spent on, however, I wonder whether they are a good thing. People in other constituencies are upset and think that the decisions are unfair because there are European rules on unemployment, and my constituency does not have a terribly high unemployment rate. My constituents and those of many Labour Members think that objective 2 is wonderful because money is pouring in to be spent on exciting projects. Our high street will get new lamp posts and trees, which is fantastic.
Hon. Members should ask themselves what will happen to all those grants when, under the Nice treaty, the membership of the EU is extended. How many Labour Members' constituencies are receiving objective 1 or 2 funding? The plain fact is that in 2006 we will start over, and I believe that there will be hardly any objective 1 or 2 funding for the United Kingdom because, inevitably, all that money will go to eastern Europe. I challenge the Government to prove me wrong.
I turn now to the ridiculous common agricultural policy, which everyone knows is the biggest protection racket ever devised. It wastes a vast amount of money. Farmers thought that it was wonderful at first because they got higher prices and guarantees. In the same way, fishermen thought that the EU was wonderful until everything went wrong. What on earth will happen to the CAP when we extend EU membership? Romania and Poland have the potential to grow enough food for the whole of Europe. At present, we spend most of the money from the policy on dumping or destroying food. It will be a nightmare when EU membership is extended, and eastern Europe is covered by the CAP. The Government have said, as did the previous Government, that there can be no extension of membership unless there is fundamental reform of the CAP, but that reform has not happenedindeed, it cannot happenas hon. Members are well aware.
GM foods have been mentioned. We can do something about that problem. If, for example, children in my constituency grow two heads and we can conclusively prove that GM foods are to blame, we can impose certain restrictions on them for three months subject to the approval of the European Commission. However, the basic freedom that we had has gone.
I could go on for a long time because there are 17 other matters that I could mention, but my basic point is that the treaty of Nice is very significant. Like all the previous treaties, it represents a massive surrender of power. It means that 90 per cent. of the decisions in the European Union will be taken by majority vote. If we are worried about immigration controls and asylum seekers, we must
It may be that all that is for the benefit of mankind, but the people should be told about the treaty. Every time there is a treaty, we are told not to worry because it is not as bad as the last one, and represents a step forward. We must remember that when we hand over the people's power and things go wrong, the people get nasty. They are not worried now because, by and large, they do not have a clue what is in the treaty. When they ask about it they are told not to worry, and only a few people will tell them that it is bad. When democracy goes wrong and people feel that they have been betrayed and sold out, everyone will have a nasty time.
That is why it is right to let the people decide. At least then, if it goes wrong, we can say, "You voted for it." Of course, we might have to say, "You didn't bother to vote for itonly 50 per cent. of you bothered to vote." However, we should at least give them the chance to vote. We must remember that the power is not ours; it belongs to the people, and we are meant to be managing it. If we hand over that power without giving them the chance to decide, we are not only cheating but undermining the whole principle of democracy.
That is why I hope that hon. Members will vote tonight for a referendum. I presume that not many of them will, but if we do not, we will be making a terrible mistake. I say again in all sincerity that I know that Labour Members who vote for a referendum will be doing something unpopular that will get them into trouble, but they will be doing the right thing. True democrats will some day cheer them and say that they were right.
As the Committee knows, I am a new Member. I received a telephone call yesterday to ask whether I would write a short article for The House magazine about my first impressions. I have many first impressions, but those that are relevant to the debate concern scrutiny. In various debates over the past 10 days, we have heard much about the importance of Members of Parliament scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account. I take the matter seriously, and I believe that the people of Sheffield, Heeley elected me to do that job.
However, with regard to some of the new clauses before us, I find it difficult to take seriously the contention that the Opposition are interested in scrutiny and in holding the Government to account. New clause 37 has the names of six hon. Members against it. New clause 12 has the names of four hon. Members against it. I cannot count 10 Members of the official Opposition in the Chamber.
I also find it difficult to take seriously the calls for a referendum. As has been said, the Conservatives do not have a history of holding referendums on such matters. Why now? We have heard various explanations. We have heard that it is time for the people to have their say, that we should respect the views of the British people, that remorseless political integration is under way and that powers should be returned to Parliament. Opposition Members seem to be saying that they do not want to be in the European Union. If that is what they believe, they should say so. In their current search for a leader,
My constituents receive objective 1 funding, and I do not share the fears of the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). We are not proud to live in an area that is among the poorest in Europe. We are extremely concerned about that. I hope that objective 1 money will do what it is intended to dohelp to lift the people of my constituency and the surrounding area out of that situation, so that when the money comes to an end, as it is programmed to do, we will not feel the loss.