Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman have a view about when the country should be allowed to decide whether we want to join an integrated, federal Europe? He appears to say that the treaties of Amsterdam, Maastricht and Nice do not require a referendum. Does he agree that the combination of the three treaties would constitute a good ground for a referendum? There is currently a drip, drip, drip or ratchet syndrome that will ultimately deprive people of choice.
Mr. Winterton: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Will he tell me, and the House, when the people have had a real chance to talk about the federal Europe into which we are steadily marching, day by day? The only issue on which the right hon. and learned Gentleman says we should have a referendum is the single currency. Is there not more to a federal Europe than a single currency?
Mr. Campbell: There is more to a federal Europe, as the hon. Gentleman defines it, than a single currency. If, for example, it was proposed that the decision to deploy British forces should be made in Brussels rather than here in the Chamber, that would certainly be an issue of fundamental constitutional importance that should be put to the British people.
When we had our debates about chinks of light, blank cheques and all the rest of it, I was at some pains to point out that the decision about the deployment of British troops should rest here, because it was our responsibility
Mr. Robert Jackson: Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would like to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that the case he put was argued extensively during the last general election, with not particularly desirable effects from the point of view of our party.
I do not believe that this is a fundamental constitutional change. The right hon. Member for Devizes referred to the, I think, 30 or 31 treaty articles. Four relate to areas in which the United Kingdom has opted out; 17 refer to portions of treaties dealing with appointments to, rules of procedure of and the human resources management of the European Parliament, its Committees and its Courts; and the other 10 extensions of qualified majority voting relate to such matters as anti-discrimination practice, priorities for structural funds and environmental measures. I do not consider those matters to be of fundamental constitutional importance.
There are occasions when qualified majority voting is actually in our interests. There are areas in which we should seek to extend it, not least the liberalisation of transport throughout the European Union. That would be entirely in our interests. We should approach each proposal on its merits, asking how it best serves our national interests. We should not approach them assuming that any extension of any kind is to be resisted because it is part of some drip, drip, drip or ratcheting up of the process.
The shadow Foreign Secretary suggested that there would be some inhibition on military action if there were a more fully formed common foreign and security policy. I have some difficulty grasping that point. I see nothing in any of the arrangements, actual or prospective, that would prevent the United Kingdom from saying, in particular circumstances, "We choose, because it is in our own interests, to ally ourselves with the United States"or, if a more historical parallel is desired, "We choose, because it is in our own interests, to expel the Argentinians from the Falklands."
There is no inhibition in the idea of a more integrated foreign and security policy. One might argue, indeed, that if any such inhibition exists it is to be found in the NATO treaty, which, in article 5, creates an obligation to go to the assistance of any other country that is attacked on the basis that an attack on one is conceived of as an attack on another. That is a giving upa pooling, if you likeof sovereignty. It has never affected us, and indeed there are thosein virtually all parts of the House, I believewho would argue that it has been entirely to our advantage, not least given that the article 5 decision made just a few weeks ago by NATO demonstrated the strength of the alliance.
It is also interesting that the queue for NATO membership, particularly by those countries that were formerly Warsaw pact members, is as long as, if not longer than, the queue of countries wanting to join the European Union.
Ms Stuart: Let us extend the right hon. and learned Gentleman's analogy of the NATO commitment. Although it is clear how to invoke article 5, it is not clear how long that article will remain open. The potential member states that are queueing up in much larger numbers to join NATO rather than the EU will become part of that existing obligation. As far as we can see, however, that obligation has been no deterrent.
Mr. Campbell: I accept that. The use of the word "deterrent", which the hon. Lady has introduced to the debate, points to the fact that NATO is an alliance that is based on nuclear weapons. New members are therefore signing up not only to an article 5 obligation but to an alliance that still as a fundamental part of its policy and doctrine has a reliance on nuclear weapons. If there were anxieties, one would expect them to be produced not only in relation to the responsibility to go to the aid of all other members, but in relation to the issue of the nuclear deterrent.
I think that the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) said words to the effect that this treaty is not the end. I hope that we shall shortly have from the Government a White Paper setting out their views on precisely what will happen and what position they will take at the 2004 intergovernmental conference. A White Paper on the future of Europe has been over-long delayed, and I think that we are entitled to expect the Government to produce a coherent vision for that.
Other Liberal Democrat Members and I believe that it is right to argue for a proper constitutional basis for the European Union, to establish clearly and unequivocally the nature of the powers and responsibilities of the European Union itself and of constituent Governments, and to establish the rights of individual citizens. I believe that setting out those points in the proper constitutional framework would go a very long way towards making the people of Europe understand more clearly the nature of the European Union.
Mr. Robert Jackson: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one of the desirable features, as a Government objective, of such a White Paper and eventually also of such a treaty would be to drop the phrase "ever closer union", which is in the preface to the Rome treaty and certainly produces damaging reactions of the type expressed by the hon. Member for Macclesfield?
Mr. Campbell: I have not often felt superfluous in the Chamber, but I am at risk of feeling so on this occasion. Perhaps it is time that Conservative Members established a working party on the future of Europe.
As the hon. Member for Wantage said, the disadvantage of the phrase "ever closer union" is its ambiguity. It means what anyone wants it to mean. That is why it is all the more necessary to have a constitutional framework for the European Union. If one wants, for example, to find where particular provisions lie, one has to consult a whole series of treaties. Measures may have been altered in some way, but that is never clear immediately on first reading. Some type of codification, as well as a careful delineation of the rights and responsibilities of the various levels of the European Union itself and of the Commission and the Council of Ministers, and delineation of the rights and responsibilities of individual citizens, would seem to offer a way forward out of the anxiety, which I do not believe is well founded, that we are engaged in a process of ratcheting up or of drip, drip, drip.