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9.18 pm

Mr. John Baron (Billericay): There can be little doubt that this treaty is mainly about political and economic integration and not about enlargement. If hon. Members need proof of that, they have only to look at the circumstances surrounding the Irish referendum. As we all know, before that referendum, it was widely claimed by Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament and European Union members themselves that ratification

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of the treaty was an essential precondition for enlargement of the European Union. However, when the Irish voted no, the EU itself changed its tune. Romano Prodi, President of the Commission, told the Irish Times:

Had the European Union been genuinely preparing itself for enlargement, it would have put the common agricultural policy—is the biggest obstacle to enlargement—on the agenda at Nice, but it was not on the agenda. It is therefore clear that the treaty is not about enlargement, but about further creating a framework to achieve full political and economic union.

By way of illustration, I bring to the attention of the House article 157 of the treaty, which deals with industrial policy, a matter that the treaty commits to co-determination and which was previously subject to a national veto. Article 157 says that the Community and the member states shall ensure that their actions shall be aimed at

Essentially, that article is a charter for industrial meddlers that will cost us dear. Such vague words will provide limitless scope for Governments and the EU to intervene in industry. Now that article 157 is subject to co-determination, that potential will be more easily realised.

The Prime Minister of France, Lionel Jospin, for example, has already called for a "Community industrial policy", and it seems likely that he and the others who advocate such intervention will stand a better chance of achieving their goal, courtesy of article 157. Removing the national veto in that area is likely to be expensive in terms of reduced industrial efficiency and the increased red tape and taxes required to implement any EU economic restructuring that the article will now permit.

History has shown time and again the dynamic relationship between low taxes and prosperity. Governments stand a far better chance of creating wealth for the benefit of all their citizens if they stand back and allow businesses to breathe and thrive, not smother them with bureaucracy, red tape and taxes. However, article 157 will open the door and encourage those who argue that we should have a Community industrial policy. Such an approach can only stifle enterprise and prosperity in the long term.

Despite the Prime Minister's claims to the contrary, the treaty will take Europe closer to political and economic integration, as illustrated by article 157. It is interesting to note that other EU leaders have at least been honest enough to acknowledge that fact. Indeed, Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister, has said that Nice



The Conservatives' approach to the EU is one of friendly co-operation, not centralisation. The treaty is about not enlargement but further integration. For that reason, I oppose its ratification.

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9.22 pm

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley): I support the Bill because of the benefits that my constituents have had from the European Union and the further benefits that they will gain from an enlarged Union. My area of Sheffield in south Yorkshire currently receives objective 1 help of some £711 million to help it recover from some of the devastation caused in the 18 years of Conservative government.

The area also benefits from the jobs that arise from exports to the EU. Some 315,000 jobs are thought to depend on our ability to export to the EU, and some 63 per cent. of goods exported from Yorkshire and Humberside go to the EU. What other benefits might there be for areas such as ours? My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) described the problems caused by the differing benefits that accrue to areas in Britain through membership of the EU.

Membership of an enlarged EU is important not only for large companies but for small and medium-sized enterprises. Some 30 per cent. of Yorkshire and Humberside SMEs have trading links with other EU states and that would continue and expand with an enlarged EU. Inward investment is also important; over the past 10 years it has brought some £11 billion to the region.

We have also heard people talk disparagingly about EU social legislation. That surprises me, because health and safety at work are extremely important. In my brief time as an MP, two casework issues have arisen in which we have looked to the European regulations. One concerns asbestos and a constituent of mine who unfortunately died from related diseases. With his widow, I have been looking at how European regulations might be of benefit.

The second matter is the issue of the working time directive, which some Opposition Members have so disparaged this afternoon. On Monday, some bus drivers from my constituency came to lobby me. They believe that the fact that they are not subject to the working time directive means that they drive for more hours than they should. They think that that is dangerous, and that passengers are put at risk. They sorely need to be covered by the directive.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Miliband), who said that things have not changed since the Conservative party elected its new leader. I detected a puzzling change emerging in this debate, in that the shadow Foreign Secretary at the start of the debate raised issues that were different from those raised at earlier stages of the Bill's progress through the House. What was that about? Do the Opposition want enlargement, but not in the way set out in the treaty? Do they want a positive vision of Europe? I wondered whether the Opposition were developing a new slogan—"In Europe, but not of Europe"—and I am considerably puzzled.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Munn: No, I am very short of time.

Michael Fabricant: Oh, come on.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. The hon. Lady has indicated that she is not taking an intervention.

Ms Munn: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

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I researched the Conservative position, and discovered that Iain Duncan Smith—I beg your pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am still relatively new to the job and meant to say "the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green"—told a magazine called Fast Forward that

We have heard that argument today, but I am puzzled because the Conservative position on Europe would more appropriately be called "rewind". Certainly, that is the button on the video machine that I would press if I were looking at Europe from the Conservative viewpoint.

We have also heard that the treaty is not about enlargement. As a new Member, I am still finding my way around. I have been told that the House of Commons Library is first rate, and that it is the place to find out about anything. I picked up a document there entitled "The Treaty of Nice and the Future of Europe Debate", which I was sure would be useful. It states:

I am therefore left in a dilemma: do I believe the House of Commons Library, or Conservative Members?

There may be problems with enlargement, and some hon. Members have identified them, but I believe that its effect will be positive overall. It will give Britain, as a leading country in the EU, a stronger role in the world. We have heard in the debate already how we have benefited from that status in connection with the terrorism that the world is having to face at present.

Successful enlargement will create new opportunities for Britain. I am convinced that it will benefit my constituents, and the people of Britain as a whole.

9.29 pm

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): I congratulate all right hon. and hon. Members who have participated in the debate. We have had a lively but good humoured debate, with a range of opinions expressed.

Only last month the Minister for Europe made a speech in Strasbourg, much of which I entirely agreed with. Speech making twice in a day is clearly becoming the right hon. Gentleman's forte. He said how much he welcomed the need

The same point was made so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). Yet the Government, by signing up to Nice, are doing precisely the reverse. Far from reconnecting Europe's citizens with EU institutions, the treaty has provoked yet more disappointment, disillusion and disconnection with the European Union, and not only in Ireland—a point made so tellingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning).

In the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, and in a major speech by the Foreign Secretary on 27 July, constant reference was made to the fact that the EU exists for its

17 Oct 2001 : Column 1263

citizens and not for the political elite. The trouble is that it is like a doctor diagnosing the problems of a patient and then declining to prescribe the medicine that would cure the problem.

Europe is at a crossroads. The necessary and wholly desirable enlargement of the Union provides an extraordinary opportunity to build a modern, outward- looking and flexible Europe that will endure and be acceptable to its citizens. That point was made very effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson).

Much of what the Government agreed at Nice, despite all the rhetoric, achieved exactly the reverse. An opportunity was clearly and tragically missed. It was a catalogue of bad preparation, backtracking and incompetence on a grand scale which sped on the process of political integration and further alienated people from the Union.

Let us examine some of the misjudgments and mistakes that the Government made at Nice. Before Nice, the former—and late lamented—Foreign Secretary talked to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs about the 50 items on the French presidency's list of potential extensions to qualified majority voting. He substantially ruled them out. So what happened in practice? Our Government accepted the majority of the items on that list in one form or another, wholly or in part. This is the same Foreign Secretary who told us that the so-called Amsterdam treaty leftovers probably did not require a new formal treaty to pave the way for enlargement. Indeed, a simpler treaty of accession arrangement would have sufficed.

On QMV, however, the Government cannot have it both ways. They say that these items are unimportant or technical and ask what the fuss is about. In the next breath, they say that those items are vital for the functioning of the Union. They cannot have it both ways. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) was right to say that the importance of a number of the issues dealing with QMV cannot be overlooked.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) was quite right about the devastating effect of the levy on the resale of works of art. I agree entirely with him about the devastating effect that it will have on the London art market. I also agree that the Prime Minister's speech at Lisbon about economic reform has rapidly run into the sands.

The reason the Government postured—as they did in advance on QMV and then gave in—is because they have no view and no vision of what an enlarged European Union should look like. A lively and legitimate debate is taking place across Europe about what the architecture of the EU should be. Only our Government have thus far declined to participate in any meaningful way. Their only specific recommendation to bridge the democratic-deficit divide was the Prime Minister's ill conceived call for a second Chamber of the European Parliament—inspired, no doubt, by his brilliant reforms of the House of Lords.

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