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Mr. Miller: No, I cannot because of the time. The debate that is taking place within Europe concerns not a desire to destroy cultural heritage, but a desire to create a vehicle that benefits its nation states within an increasingly globalised economy.
The tenor of the remarks of those who are against the euro merely exacerbates the problems that we face. As has already been said, it seems inevitable that a eurozone will stretch across Europe. The fanciful belief exists that we could isolate ourselves from it, but such a mechanism would be impossible to sustain as major currency zones become stronger. It would be interesting to hear parliamentary debates in a couple of generations' timealthough none of us will be able to hear themon the next phases in the evolution of currency structures.
On the sad day of 11 September, I was in Tallinn, meeting colleagues from across Europe to discuss a parliamentary information technology project. We were stunned by the unfolding news, but there was a tremendous spirit of comradeship. We recognised that developments in Europe, at least, are taking us forward, strengthening the political basis on which we operate, and driving away some of the terrible history of Europe. That is an important dimension, but in expanding Europe and wholeheartedly welcoming new member countries as quickly as possible, we need not turn our backs on our transatlantic relationship, or our relationship with the rest of the Commonwealth. To do so would not be the way forward. We need to embrace, and indeed strengthen, all aspects of those older relationships as far as possible.
There will be vigorous competition, as our current relationship with the United States demonstrates. In respect of matters such as steel, America is perhaps adopting an unreasonable position. It is clear that we can envisage a better working relationship with our European partners that seeks to avoid such problems.
In the longer term, as the globalisation of the economy continues, structures will need to change. The current expansion programme in Europe, which is supported by Labour and the Liberal DemocratsI am never too sure about the Conservatives' positionwill present us with some significant problems. It would be foolish to disregard the significance of the CAP, which must be resolved. However, that must not be used to block expansion. It is clear from my discussions with aspirant member countries that they understand that the CAP must be reformed. Similarly, discussion has taken place about immigration and crime.
It was fascinating to hear one contribution from a Conservative Member that supported the notion of cross-border co-operation to fight crime. As I remember, the Conservatives voted against measures intended to bring that co-operation about.
The complexity of the issues is no excuse for preventing expansion or ducking the issue of the currency. That complexity, however, underlines the need for change in some of Europe's institutions. That is why I am strongly in favour of the reform agenda promoted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is important that we carry people with us by improving transparency and accountability, while at the same time taking the logical approachwhich reflects the nature of Europeof protecting the national Parliaments as the sovereign bodies within a Europe of nation states.
I am keen to see that happen, and that is the principled position on which the British electorate want us to go forward. It is not inward looking. It would protect the great institutions we have at the same time as embracing all the benefits of expansion and taking account of the increasing globalisation of the economy. I know that the argument will continue, butas other hon. Members have saidwe must present it in a mature way to the British people in the months to come. We have to debate some incredibly important issues, not least of which is the recognition that the nirvana that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North seeks is impossible, given the nature of the present economic structures of the planet.
Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale): I thank those hon. Members who have truncated their remarks to allow me to contribute to the debate. The right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) suggested that this was a decisive moment in European affairs, and it is appropriate that we are having this debate today.
The future of Europe is not only being discussed at an international level. Contrary to other remarks made tonight, I find that it is regularly the subject of strong views in my postbag, and at surgeries and markets, pubs and meetings across Galloway. It is taken as read by both sides in the debate that the EU needs to be perceived as relevant to our daily lives. The turnout at the last European election suggests that that is a real problem, with the average man in the street not motivated to vote in European polls.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) mentioned the democratic crisis, but that crisis is all the more surprising given the pace of change in European affairs. Europe is changing. It has become much more significant in terms of the way in which it affects our daily lives. But the United Kingdom is changinghas changedtoo. I do not believe that the manner in which we interact with Europe has changed to reflect the devolution settlements with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fact that it has not changed has only served to increase lack of interest in a European institution that continues to be viewed as disconnected from the domestic political scene.
A specific aspect of that distancing concerns me today. In 1999, devolution created a Scottish Parliament with executive powers over a substantial list of policy areas. The settled will of the Scots gave responsibility for education policyalong with health, law and order and many other policiesto a Scottish ministerial team in the Scottish Parliament. Although my party and I were the sole dissenting voices, we accept the decision, and I now believe that the Government must be persuaded to proceed on the basis of its implicationsand those implications include our dealings with Europe.
Currently, United Kingdom delegations to EU decision-making bodies and working groups are formed in Whitehall, irrespective of the policy being made in Scotland. I understand that Ministers and officials from the Scottish Executive are often invited to join such delegations, but in this instance "often" is surely not good enough. I feel that when Europe is discussing devolved matters the devolved Administrations should be involved in the UK team as of right.
To date, the Government's record has been patchy to say the least. It has not been lost on the Scottish public that the party which delivered devolution for Scotland seems once more reluctant to recognise its implications fully. The Government will insist that they have consulted the Administrations regularly[Interruption.] I urge Ministers to wait for my conclusions.
The current arrangement whereby a party shares power in Holyrood while holding it in Westminster cannot be expected to last for ever. Indeed, a change at both ends is long overdue. The only practical solution is for the Scottish Executive to be involved, as of right, in the UK group contributing to European policy debate on devolved issues.
While advocating a stronger voice for Scotland within the parameters of the United Kingdom, I abhor the notion of "a Europe of the regions". That soundbite is the objective of many, simply because it subsumes the very nation states to which we belong. I have little doubt that the regional government agenda of the present Administration is intended to further the plan within the UK in preparation for a greater future role for the regions in Europe.
That is the Government's agenda. It is not mine or that of the official Opposition. In the Europe of the future, the nation state can and must remain supreme. Only through the continuance of the nation state as the building block of Europe can we recognise the imbalances that may have developed, and seek redress in years to come. Anything else will lead to a lack of clarity and create national resentment.
In Scotland, for example, we have continued to suffer significant losses in our most vulnerable communities through the malfunctioning of the common fisheries policy. As Members will know, that is causing resentment. The CFP highlights the great divergence that is often experienced between good intentions and the reality of EU political interference. Scotland accounts for more than 70 per cent. of the UK fishing fleet, and has experienced a similar proportion of the devastation following falling fish stocks. The CFP's ambition is
As a result of the politics of failure in Brussels, more than 50 per cent. of CFP support has gone to one nationSpainwhile 1.1 billion euro of financial support per annum has failed to preserve stocks. That is the kind of politically driven madness that gives the European Union such a poor reputation for delivering for its members through such programmes.
I recently returned from a visit to Denmark, another country that has suffered greatly from structural changes in fishing. During my visit, I was made very much aware of the Danes' eagerness to progress reform in the crucial areas where the EU at present is failing. I wish the country well when it accedes to the presidency in July, and urge it to deal with the real issues that stand in the way of Europe delivering for its member states.
That task is to become even more onerous with the onset of enlargement, which the Danes are desperate to have moved to the top of the agenda. I am happy for it to be there, as enlargement will nail once and for all the mirage of a one-speed Europe. Before and after expansion, flexibility should be our watchword, allowing each nation to reap the benefits of free trade without being bound up by the political agenda.
In short, the EU has the power to add massively to our economic well-being. It has done so in the past, and will do so again. If flexibility remains at the forefront of our debate on the future of Europe, I for one will be its strongest advocate, as I will for Scotland's place at the UK's table in Brussels.