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Mr. John Smith: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the decision taken at last year's 46th plenary session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin? It voted unanimously to support the creation of a European rapid reaction force and a European security and defence policy precisely because it would enhance NATO capability.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I disagree. The Bill will not add one soldier or one pound coin to the European Union's defence budgets or capability. There are profound misgivings about what is happening, which I share, throughout the American Administration.
We must consider the intentions and motivations behind the changes in the treaty. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman balance his rather rosy view of what he hopes will happen with what the French Government have in mind for the powers and structural changes that will occur after the Nice treaty is implemented.
I am convinced that the European Union is equipping itself with the attributes and powers of a state. That is the essence of the treaty changes. However, most people whom we represent do not want that. If we continue down that path, it will lead at best to apathy and disillusionment, which we are already witnessing, and at worst to alienation, resentment and perhaps an eventual reassertion of self-government in unpredictable circumstances. The House would therefore be doing its democratic duty if it rejected the Bill.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Listening to the debate, it seems that some hon. Members are developing a mentality of "Stop the worldI want to get off." They do not recognise that the world has changed. I make no bones about the fact that in the early 1970s I took part in the campaign to keep Britain out of the European Common Market, as it was at the time. I also make no bones about my position on our defence policy before the rapid changes of the 1980s. The world has changed, and serious political parties also need to change and recognise what is happening.
I listened carefully to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). I agreed with everything that he said, except for one thinghe did not recognise that there has recently been a discernible change among the tabloid newspapers. Although it is not my usual bedtime reading, I commend to hon. Members the News of the World of 14 October this year, which ran an article about the euro under the headline, "It's easy money". It did not go the whole hog and say that the euro is a good thingfar from it. In the context of British holidaymakers going to European destinations, it said:
We learned a little this evening about the parentage of the grandmother of the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and discovered that the right hon. and learned Member for NorthEast Fife also has a European grandmother. Although one was from Italy and one from Glasgow, they are nevertheless Europeans. Indeed, they might soon find out that they are related.
The debate is wide ranging and hon. Members have given interesting perspectives on the realities of European affairs. However, on a more serious note, one or two hon. Members referred to events on 11 September. I want to illustrate why the EU should consider the Nice treaty in the light of some benefits that could accrue from actions that have been taken by our European partners with other allies.
We have opened the door to enlargement and a bigger single market. That will bring Britain huge benefits, including greater security, more prosperity and more jobs. There are important lessons to learn from terrorist attacks. My right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the special European Council meeting on 21 September, at which European leaders agreed new measures, including many UK ideas aimed at combating terrorism. However, he did not mention changes to increase aviation security within Europe. If we consider what happened on 11 September and the distances that some of the planes travelled, it is
I know that that is a difficult idea to contemplate, but I put it to hon. Members in all seriousness. There has been lengthy speculation about what leaders of free nations would have to do if they faced such an attack. European countries are so small that the distances travelled in north America are the equivalent of crossing the airspace of several European nations. If that does not justify increased defence co-operation, I do not know what does.
Dr. Julian Lewis: The hon. Gentleman is making a typically fair-minded and thoughtful speech. However, in the event of a terrible decision having to be taken to shoot down an airliner, which I think is what he is getting at, surely that could be taken only through the medium of NATO. Such a decision would be taken at that level if it is not taken unilaterally. I cannot envisage a European military capability making a difference in the way that he suggests.
Mr. Miller: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and if such an awful event did occur, I would expect the decision to act to be taken at the highest level in this country and in the country where the airspace was crossed. However, we are talking about seconds and minutes of travelling time between countries. It takes just a few minutes to travel across Luxembourg, Belgium and a bit of France to get here. There are clear benefits in having close co-operation on such matters.
European Transport Ministers have made progress on some aviation issues, including classification of weapons, training of crew, checking and monitoring of hold luggage and protection of cockpit access. Those are important matters that demonstrate the need for a common approach to European aviation security, which hon. Members will recognise if, like me, they frequently hop from Heathrow to Brussels en route to another European destination.
Angus Robertson: Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by giving a clear example of NATO's inability to fulfil the role that he suggests. Several days ago, Austria's air force was scrambled because a Turkish plane, which could not verify its course, was flying in Austrian airspace, and it was not clear whether it would continue to Germany or Italy. As the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) is aware, Austria is not a member of NATO, so the co-operation that the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) is proposing could happen only in a European context, and not in a NATO one.
Mr. John Smith: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point about future European security and military response. However, I must point out that the Nice treaty makes no provision for that because a terrorist attack
Mr. Miller: I accept my hon. Friend's point and bow to his greater knowledge of NATO. I was merely speculating about the need for closer co-operation between European defence forces because of the events of 11 September.
I come now to issues in the treaty that seem to cause extraordinary objections, such as qualified majority voting. I bow to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. HeathcoatAmory) and his expertise in the art market. I have never found myself to be a significant player in the market, but I know what I like, as they say. I am not certain when this country signed up to the QMV to which he referred. I suspect that it was during a period of Conservative government. On the changes to QMV to which he referred, I have yet to hear an argument from any Member of this House, in any of our debates, about anything except headlines. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) listed the changes to QMV, but at no point has anyone put forward a sustainable argument to show how the changes could be damaging in a particular treaty example. Such hollow opposition from Conservative Members weakens the logic of their case.
Mr. Spring: We object to the extension of QMV on principle, but I shall give the hon. Gentleman an example. Article 100 deals with measures in the event of severe difficulties in the supply of certain products as well as community financial assistance to member states in severe difficulties. The hon. Gentleman may know that there is something called North sea oil. We do not know, because we do not have an interpretation of the Bill, what would happen if there were difficulties in supplying energy. Could the European Union have access to North sea oil on the basis of QMV? What has happened with fisheries should clearly demonstrate the need for nations to protect their assets, and that is simply one of many examples from the Nice treaty that are not ultimately in our national interest.
Mr. Miller: The hon. Gentleman is simply taking article 100 and speculating on "what happens if", with no solid evidence that what he says is the case. I have heard no sustainable argument linking the issues of long-term energy policy to article 100. I understand the hon. Gentleman's fear, which may be worth exploring, but it is not being explored in a rational way in this debate.
If the hon. Gentleman expects the British public to swing towards his side of the argument, I suggest that he consider article 137(1)(k), for example, which might be included in the list of principal objections. I understand that there might be an ideological difference between our two parties about modernisation of social protection systems, provisions relating to health and safety at work, and so on. Some of the more esoteric examples that are being given, however, do not wash with me and certainly do not wash with the British public, as we discovered in the recent general election.