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Mr. John Smith rose

Mrs. Browning rose

Mr. Ancram: I shall give way for the last time to my hon. Friend.

Mrs. Browning: Is not the real problem the fact that the Prime Minister has persuaded the United States that

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the proposal is totally benign in terms of NATO's command and control and planning? General Jean-Pierre Kelche, the French chief of staff, has said clearly that the annexe of the presidency report was deliberately worded to rule out any interpretation that would give NATO a decision-making priority. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister has spun the Americans a line that does not reflect what is in the treaty?

Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. My point, which is important, is that we have to deal with realities, and the reality is to be found in the document to which she refers. It makes it clear that the dangers of the rapid reaction force undermining relationships within NATO are considerable. We must take that into account.

Third Reading is not the time to consider at length the future of Europe and the lead-up to the intergovernmental conference in 2004, but the Bill and the Nice treaty prompt certain questions about it. It is our strong belief that the integrationist agenda is the wrong approach for a diverse, enlarged Europe. Indeed, it is precisely that approach that has slowed down enlargement.

We will issue positive and constructive proposals for the IGC and reject the old-fashioned bloc mentality within which the Government are fixed. Through the concept of a flexible Europe, we will pursue a Europe of deregulation and decentralisation and seek a Europe that will be best placed to prosper in an increasingly globalised world. We will challenge the Government to produce their own positive vision, to which the Minister referred but on which he did not enlarge. I reiterate the challenge that if the Nice treaty is ratified, a White Paper should be published on its effects.

In the aftermath of the Irish referendum, we will oppose the Bill. The time has come to stop being driven by officials in Brussels and to start listening to the people of Europe again. They want enlargement; so do we. They want decision making closer to them; so do we. They want a Europe that is relevant to their needs; so do we. What is important is that there is still time to achieve that, which is why I invite the House to join us in voting against Third Reading.

4.36 pm

Denzil Davies (Llanelli): My right hon. Friend the Minister dealt mainly with enlargement. and I do not criticism him for that. The Bill is, technically, the vehicle by which the provisions of the treaty of Nice will be incorporated into UK domestic law. Like most European treaties that we sometimes debate, the Nice treaty continues and accelerates the process of European integration and the transfer of power from the democracy of the House to the central institutions of the European Union.

Perhaps the Nice treaty is not as extensive as the treaty of Maastricht or the treaty of Amsterdam, but it continues the process that, over the past 30 years, has gradually denuded the democratic powers of all EU member states. We should not be surprised by that because that is what ever closer union means. The EU's powers are not conjured out of the ether somewhere in the sky; they come from the powers of the democratic member states of that union.

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If we consider the treaties, as European institutions and their staff sometimes do, the main loser is usually the House. The winner in this case is the European Parliament. The treaty of Nice gives it the power of veto, which adds insult to injury. As I mentioned to the Minister when the Bill was debated in Committee, the European Parliament is to be given the power of veto on some decisions that are made by the Council of Ministers. Although the power is not referred to as a veto—it is not the right type of word—"co-decision" is mentioned. We would be happy to have co-decision-making powers with the Council of Ministers, but the treaty removes those powers from the Government and the House.

Mr. David: Co-decision-making is not new. There is a modest extension of that power, but it has been in existence for a long time.

Denzil Davies: I did not say that it had not; I am merely relating my remarks to the treaty. My hon. Friend knows that it grants powers of veto to the European Parliament. It also removes powers of veto from this Parliament and affects the way in which the Government cast their votes in the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament gains powers of veto while this House loses powers of veto. The European Court of Justice does well out of the treaty, as does the Council of Ministers, in its newer form as a collegiate or collective body. Perhaps I can return to that point in a few minutes.

The national veto will be taken away in about 30 policy areas. As I argued in previous debates, the reason for the veto—or the unanimity rule, to give it another name—in many international and supranational bodies is to protect the democracy of the nation state. It is there to bridge the gap between decisions taken, more and more globally, in not only the European Union but other supranational bodies. However, that gap seems to be getting wider, which is a matter for real concern.

Mr. Bryant: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Denzil Davies: I will finish my argument.

The veto exists to bridge the gap between decisions taken globally, internationally or supranationally and the needs and requirements of accountability and local and national democracy. That is why most international or supranational institutions require the unanimity rule. In these days, when that gap is getting wider, surely it is a retrograde step to try to do away with the rule of unanimity.

Mr. Bryant: As far as I understand the matter, my right hon. Friend poses two philosophical opposites that are not in fact opposites at all. He says that the rule of unanimity must be preserved, but that unanimity is anti-democratic because it means that only a few can determine the arrangements for everybody, whereas democracy has always preserved the rights of the majority, pure and simple.

Denzil Davies: My argument is that when a nation state is represented in a supranational body, the rule of unanimity generally applies. I was merely saying that the reason for that is to keep a link between the democracy of the nation state and decisions taken globally that may

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be in the interests of more than one country. That is why it is preferable that there should be a rule of unanimity in those cases.

The veto is, frankly, incompatible with the European goal of ever closer union. The veto has to go, because ever closer union can be achieved and advanced ultimately only at the expense of the democracy of the nation state. In the 30 or so policy areas in which the veto will disappear, the British electorate may in future have laws imposed on them that have been passed by the votes of Governments whom they have not elected. The votes of the British Government, whom they have elected, will be overruled by the votes of Governments whom they have not elected and, in some cases, by the votes of Governments whom they would perhaps never elect. I do not want to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who made some remarks about Mr. Berlusconi. However, the democratically elected Governments of other countries may one day be able to pass laws for the electorate of Britain who have not elected those Governments.

I do not know whether any Scottish lawyers are present who could tell us whether that is a novel constitutional principle. I do not remember it being in Dicey's "Law of the Constitution" when I read it many years ago. It may have happened before, but it seems to me to be a change. If we do away with the veto and move towards qualified majority voting, Governments who have not been elected by the British people may pass laws for the British people.

Mr. Hendrick: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way when he was about to finish speaking. He made the point that the European Parliament was gaining powers of co-decision or, in his terms, veto, and was making decisions. He says that Governments of other nations are making European laws. Does he accept that the European Parliament is directly elected by the peoples of Europe, and that if they have a part in that decision making it is not purely and simply other Governments who are passing those laws?

Denzil Davies: Of course the European Parliament sometimes agrees laws for the whole of Europe, but I was referring to the nation state and the democracy of our nation state. If a proposition is made in the Council of Ministers and is carried by the votes of Governments other than the British Government, who vote against the proposition, and a law is made as a result of that vote, that law will be imposed on the British electorate, who will not have elected the people who actually passed that law. I do not know whether that is a novel constitutional principle; perhaps we can return to that issue at another time.

I do not know where it will lead us, but I consider it ironic that when the veto is abolished, power shifts in a curious way from the nation state to the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers was always intended to be the body that represented the democracy of the nation state, but over the past few years it has become a sort of collective or collegiate body. The other institutions of the European Union have criticised the development of the Council of Ministers into a collegiate body with a personality of its own. That has been revealed in the

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attempts to bypass other institutions in the so-called pillars—the second and third pillars affected by the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties.

I think that the motives behind that development were good: Ministers and Governments felt that there was a democratic deficit in the EU and they wanted to redress that in some way, by increasing the powers, profile and bureaucracy of the Council of Ministers. However, in doing so they have made it into a collegiate body with a personality of its own.

Every time the veto is taken away and replaced with qualified majority voting, the Council of Ministers is backed further into the position of being unable to defend the democracy of the member state. Ultimately, even within the Council of Ministers, the veto is not compatible with current developments, because it cannot be allowed in a union in which constant progress has to be made towards an ever closer union.

We are told that the veto is to go in 30 policy areas. The Government argue that its loss does not matter in some cases because the policy areas involved are trivial, and in other cases it is not in the national interest to keep the veto. I have three points to make about that.

First, many of the areas so affected are not trivial. We discussed that in the Committee of the whole House, but I shall list some of those areas now. The rules on EU structural funds are not a trivial matter, nor is economic and social cohesion outside the structural funds. Implementation of agreed foreign policy, joint actions and common positions is not a trivial matter, nor is trade in services or intellectual property rights. The issue of who is to negotiate for the Community with, for example, the World Trade Organisation, is not trivial. The appointment of the head of foreign policy—its supremo—is not a trivial matter, nor is external representation of economic and monetary union. The implementation of rules on visas, issues relating to asylum, refugees and illegal immigration, and measures of co-operation in justice and home affairs are not trivial matters.

Secondly, even if those matters are currently perceived to be trivial, or even if worrying too much about the veto is not currently perceived to be in the national interest, circumstances change. Let me give an example. During debate on the Maastricht treaty, some of us tried to discuss whether it was possible for a member state, once it had subscribed to monetary union and signed up to the single currency, to finance a war. Those who spent a lot of time on the treaty will remember that it prohibits the printing of money, or words to that effect. In future, the situation may change. In the case of the Maastricht treaty, would this country not be able to finance a war if other countries in the monetary union did not wish to participate in it? That is one factor. Circumstances change, and policy areas that the Minister and the Government dismiss as trivial or not in the national interest could change. Once the power of the veto is entrenched in the acquis communautaire, that is the end of the matter; it cannot be retrieved or changed. However, states will come back and ask for more—next time, it will be taxation, social security or defence. The veto is not compatible with ever closer union.

The veto is also done away with in the proposal for enhanced co-operation. The French have a much better phrase for enhanced co-operation, which they translate as the "avant-garde". It was established by the Amsterdam

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treaty, which proposed that countries outside the potential inner core should have a veto. However, that did not satisfy France and Germany, which wanted to go ahead and establish the avant-garde, so, after only a few years, the veto on enhanced co-operation has gone and, subject to the conditions of the treaty, several countries can now go ahead.

The avant-garde policy has been well described by European statesmen. Mr. Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, gave a speech on 12 May 2000 at Humboldt university in Berlin, in which he said:

I assume that Mr. Fischer was referring to the avant-garde—

A month later, Jacques Delors put it much more concisely, as one would expect. On 17 June, he told a French newspaper:

That is what will happen; that will be the result of losing the veto even on the establishment of enhanced co-operation.

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