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Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he is a member of a political party that has taken the major steps over the past 30 years to get to where we are today? Does he now suggest that his party has been wrong for the past 30 years and is he calling for withdrawal from Europe?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I am giving a specific example of an issue on which the hon. Gentleman's Government have been outvoted, and it should worry him. Instead of asking what I would have done if I were still in government, he should ask what is happening now when the Labour party is in control. Is he worried about the 50,000 people employed in the British art market? The change will not affect the big auction houses, of course. They already own assets in New York and will simply transfer their sales out of the EU to avoid the droit de suite or resale levy. As usual, it is the small peoplethe packers, the porters, the insurance agents and the transport agentswho will suffer and lose their jobs.
To be fair to the Government, as I try to be on occasion, they understood the danger and voted against the tax, but they were outvoted. Where was the influence in the EU? That is the danger of what is happening. We are undermining those areas of national life in our economy where we have a competitive advantage, not to the advantage of the rest of the EU butin that clear caseto the advantage of the art markets in Zurich, Tokyo and New York. They cannot believe their luck. They cannot believe that the EU would drive out of its jurisdiction an area of economic activity in which it has been so successful.
Moreover, ratification of the Nice treaty means that more matters will be subject to majority voting and that the problem will therefore get worse. Even where we agree with EU policies, more and more decisions are being taken at the level of the European Union and further from the people whom we represent. The Government talk a lot about devolution and about moving decision making down so that it can be more relevant to electors and our constituents. Progressively, however, more decisions are being taken by a higher tier of Government, even more remote from people's day-to-day lives.
The same is true of expenditure in Europe. Money is being spent ever further from individual taxpayers. It is transferred to Brussels automatically. No vote in this House is required, and no budgetary process takes place in this country to agree the annual tribute that we pay to Brussels. It all happens under the European Communities (Finance) Act 1995. There is nothing that the House or the Chancellor of the Exchequer can do about it. A sum of £20 million a day is automatically transferred to Brussels, some of which filters back to us as a result of the fraud and mismanagement that is inherent in the system.
The electors have rumbled that. They know what is going on. Member states and the Commission denied for years that fraud and mismanagement were a problem. Finally, the members of the Commission resigned over the matter, but then half of them returned to office and the system goes on as it always has.
The European Court of Auditors still refuses to pass the EU's annual expenditure accounts. If I were a director of a public company that did that, I would probably be in prison, but that is the system to which we belong.
The budget goes on getting bigger, so the problem does too. Neil Kinnock has been mentioned. I am sure that he is doing his best to clear up the mess, but no one thinks about turning off the tap so as to stop the problem arising in the first place. We are reinforcing failure, and the people whom we represent have seen through that.
My final point concerns an immediate example that I should like to share with the House. The European arrest warrant directive will be decided tomorrow or the next day in the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels. The warrant has received no scrutiny in this House. The relevant European Standing Committee met on Monday to consider it but broke up because the Minister arrived with the wrong documents.
When he opened the debate, the Minister said that one of his aims was to increase the involvement of national Parliaments. The treaty of Amsterdam, signed by the Government in 1997, makes that a requirement. It states that it wishes to encourage greater involvement of national Parliaments in the activities of the European Union. That is a mandated requirement by treaty law, but what is happening? The European arrest warrant directive is about to be agreed without any involvement of this House.
That is a very serious matter, as the directive proposes the forcible transfer of suspects from this country to other member states. If another member state lodges an arrest warrant, we would be obliged to hand over a suspect, even if the alleged offence was not a crime in this country. Even more remarkably, the alleged offence might not have to be committed in the country making the application, but in this country. As a result, we will hand over citizens to other criminal jurisdictions because of events in this country that do not infringe British law.
By any standards that is a remarkable development in British jurisprudence. It has not been debated in this House at all, but it is due to be decided tomorrow. It was debated in another place, where it caused much confusion. The Minister involved could not give many answers.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be impossible for a British Minister to accede to the decision in Brussels tomorrow, if the matter has not been debated in this House?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: It is certainly impossible politically and morally, but we wait on events. Points of order have been raised in this House and, I understand, in another place, but no assurances whatsoever have been given on the matter.
The European arrest warrant will be the subject of primary legislation. A Bill is promised for early next year. Another startling development of recent days is that under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, which is still being considered, it need not come before the House for primary legislation but could be dealt with by secondary legislation. That is unamendable, and where it is debated is at the discretion of the Government. It can be debated upstairs in Committee, and whatever its members may say or think, any motion that the Committee passes can be overridden and the matter can go through forthwith, without debate in the Chamber. That is what secondary legislation means.
The entire issue of criminal sanctions for British people and our ancient judicial protection, built up over centuries, can all be changed in future by secondary legislation. Yet the Minister says that he wants to improve the involvement of national Parliaments. That is another example of all words and no action. Grand declarations and high-sounding assurances mean nothing.
Unless we can close the gap between words and deeds, the disillusionment felt by our constituents will become uncontrollable. Will the Government, for once, give us the unvarnished information so that we can debate these matters? Above all, they must stop fooling themselves and trying to fool others about what is really happening in the European Union.
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): These European affairs debates are an opportunity for the House to discuss the forthcoming European Council. The right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) has just spoken for 27 minutes and, to paraphrase him, it was all words and no content. It was the same speech that he gave six months ago or 12 months ago. We can imagine him sitting in Wells with a blanket around him and his hot cup of cocoa, reading his Pink Books. It is time that Conservative Members realised the importance of European debates. Only one Conservative Member is left now on the Back Benches, which shows how enthusiastic they are about Europe.
I pay tribute to the work that the Government are doing on Europe. It is because of the work done by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe that the Prime Minister has been able to take such an important lead in world affairs. Europe is behind us and behind the alliance in our coalition against terrorism because of our positive engagement in Europe over the past four and a half years.
I have a few points for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, and I hope that he will take them with him when he goes to Laeken. We have been talking about enlargement for a number of years, and are getting to the stage when the applicant countries need a firm date for entry. I used to favour the idea of small groups of countries joining separately over the next few years, but I think that the mood has changed and that most European countriesalthough I do not know the Government's position on the big bang principleprobably favour the entry of a large number of countries, perhaps the majority of those applying.
I realise that some countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, probably have not reached the stage that others have reached. Turkey, of course, has only recently been confirmed as a candidate country because of the lead taken by the Prime Minister. However, I think that the other countries expect to see real progress.
Without a firm date for entry, we will be sending a negative message to the countries of eastern Europe. They have worked hard on the negotiation process and public opinion is with them at the moment, but if we send a message that they must wait even longer, people in countries whose Governments strongly support entry into the European Union will feel that they have been left out.
It is most important that we are firm on enlargement, that we continue our leadership role and ensure that we put the argument strongly, because there is a feeling in some EU countries that we could waitthat perhaps we could just let in Poland and a couple of other countries and that the rest can follow. However, the mood is for change, so I hope that the Minister will go with a firm commitment to do something about setting a date for the applicant countries.
The right hon. Member for Wells and the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring), who is no longer in his place, talked of the need for positive engagement. The right hon. Gentleman wondered what had happened to Britain in Europe. To divert him from his constant reading of Pink Books, I shall send him a book that Mr. Simon Buckby sent to me recently: "The Case for the Euro". I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to read it. I know that the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) is keen to read such literature.
It is important that hon. Members realise that the Government have been putting the positive case for the euro. The Government support the euro; we believe that membership of the European Union is extremely important. That is why the chairman of the Labour party so recently said that membership of the single currency needed to be put before the British people as soon as possible.
However, the fact remains that the five economic tests laid down by the Chancellor have still not been met. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Alan Howarth) will find himself in a minority in the Labour party on that point. The vast majority of members of the Labour party and of the public are in favour of a strong relationship with Europe and, from conversations and meetings that I have held over several years, I believe that the vast majority of the British people want to join the euro, but the arguments being put by the hysterical tabloid press have distorted the case. If we are to win a referendum, we must put our argumentsexactly as the Government have been doing.
I should point out to my right hon. Friend, however, that we are not yet ready for that referendum because those tests have not been met. We need to follow proper constitutional arrangements before we reach the referendum. Conditions must be assessed and they must be in the interests of this country. The matter must then go to the Cabinet; if the Cabinet agrees it, it must come to Parliament and thenand only thenwill it go to the British people. All the British people will then have an opportunity to discuss it. There will be a wide-ranging debate and the hon. Member for Stone and the other horsemen of the Apocalypse who are not in the Chamber todaythe hon. Members for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) and for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) have suddenly been promoted and are thus silent on this issuewill also have an opportunity to put their views.