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Mr. Spring: We warned at the time of the Nice treaty that it would have an application in terms of our law. That view was confirmed by the Commission at the time. I remind the Minister that I tabled a question about how the charter had been cited in the European Court of Justice and in the Advocate General's opinions or judge's decisions. The Minister replied:
I agree with the right hon. Member for Wells that we need a reverse gear as well as a forward gear. Indeed, part of the debate is about how we build that in to any new settlement to come out of the convention. In respect of the Irish referendum, he well knows that the Government of Ireland have asked for assurances about Irish neutrality in the event of the Nice treaty coming into force. They anticipate that the Seville Council will give those assurances, and I hope that that will enable the people of Ireland to vote yes in a second referendum. As strong pro-Europeans who have done very well out of their membership of the EU, they will not, I am sure, want to deny the benefits that they have had to other countries who wish to join.
The hon. Members for North Dorset (Mr. Walter), for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) and for Boston and Skegness (Mr. Simmonds) spoke with their usual conviction on European matters. I like the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), and he speaks with eloquence, but he gave his usual Scottish nationalist rant on Europe. He did not say anything about the substance of the issues; he just peddles the same old stuff. It was the usual whinge.
The hon. Gentleman was wrong on one thing. Well, he was wrong on virtually every point, but I only want to correct one thing that he said. Welsh representation in Brussels has not been closed down. The National Assembly for Wales has withdrawn from a private body with a few officers. It now wants to establish a proper office and representation, as the Scottish Executive have done. That is what has happened.
I am supportive of his views on child abduction. I think that the Catherine Meyer case is a disgrace. Like my hon. Friend, I agree with the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who has an honourable campaigning record on that matter. On enlargement, we think that all 10 countries will come in on time. They are making enormous progress. Bulgaria's progress in signing off 20 chapters has surpassed expectations and is impressive.
The Prime Minister's joint letter with the German Chancellor sets out about 10 to 15 separate ideas, but I suppose that that depends on how they are defined; perhaps there are 20 if we look at them differently. They are all on the table for Seville. We will have to see how the discussion goes. All but two of the ideas are fairly certain. So that is another British agenda that we expect to get adopted in Seville.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) made a convincing speech on the euro, reminding the House that it has been an incredible success. Portugal has benefited from it. My hon. Friend answered many of the points raised from a position of principle by my hon. Friends the Members for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) and for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson), although I do not disagree with them for doing that. My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) also successfully rebutted their arguments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South made an important point when he reminded the House that, as part of the enlargement accession process, the 10 countries that are expected to join in 2004 will be on an automatic ticket into the euro. After the anticipated Swedish referendum early next year and the subsequent Danish referendum, we could be the only country outside the single currency if the policies of the Tories' dogmatic opposition are followed. They need to bear that position of isolation in mind.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) made a series of points about European aid and development assistance. There are imperfections, as the Secretary of State for International Development has forcefully explained. However, I find a contradiction in the hon. Gentleman's position. This Government have increased overseas aid and development assistance by 40 per cent. in real terms.
Peter Hain: My hon. Friend adds another 5 per cent. Those increases are occurring after years of cuts by the Tories, who ratted on their obligations to the poor of the world. The European Union has its imperfections, and the Government are the first to criticise them, but in the World Trade Organisation it is the EU that has led the drive for a new trade round that will provide favourable terms of trade for the poor countries of the world, especially in Africa. I do not understand how the hon. Member for Billericay can argue his position.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston made a series of valid points. I pay tribute to his work as a country liaison Member with Hungary and to his work on enlargement, which is very valuable.
The issues that we are dealing with in Sevilleincluding asylum and immigration and Council reformthrow into sharp relief the difference between the Government's approach to Europe and the Opposition's approach. It is the difference between practical engagement to deliver what the British people want and a dogmatic anti-Europeanism that would mean turning our backs on European action even when it is clearly in our interest.
Let us take asylum and immigration. People throughout Europe want a fair deal for genuine refugees and, I remind the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, an anti-racist policy. This Government are delivering that. People want managed economic migration to fill gaps in our labour markets, and a tough approach to illegal immigration and the criminality behind much of it. A great deal of that is for national Governments to tackle domestically, but European action can and does add value.
A common asylum policy will ensure common minimum standards for the treatment of asylum seekers and will head off a self-defeating race to the bottom by member states seeking to make themselves the least attractive to asylum seekers, even the genuine ones. It will prevent asylum shopping and make those member states that asylum seekers first enter, or pass through, take responsibility for them, rather than allowing them to shovel the problem on to others.
Working together to strengthen weak points on the EU's external border will help to prevent problems like Sangatte from occurring down the line. It is not enough to wait until people are just across the channel. To be effective, we have to deal with the illegal movement of people earlier in the chain. We must use Europe's collective weight in our relations with third countries to tackle the root causes of mass migration at source and to encourage them to accept the return of failed asylum seekers.
All those actions contribute to results that the British people want. They all add value to domestic action. They are all being driven by this Government in Europe, in partnership with others. The Tories are against European competence in this area, preferring dogma to a practical response to people's concerns. Our Government operate a policy that maintains our own frontier controls but also engages with our European partners in dealing with
The Opposition say that they want a Europe of nation states. How do they go about achieving that? By peddling the myth of a superstate even though that is yesterday's news, and by saying that they will renegotiate the treaty to restore the veto and extensively repatriate powers to Britain. That is not practical politics. It does not have the remotest chance of being agreed. In the unlikely event that the Opposition ever got into a position to negotiate on this, what would they do when they failedmeekly accept defeat or withdraw from the EU? The latter is the real agenda among many of their Back Benchers.
We also want a Europe of nation states, but a very different one. We want a Europe in which nation states act nationally when their goals can best be achieved in that way, but work togethersometimes by co-operating, sometimes by pooling sovereigntywhen it is in their collective interest to do so. The other difference is that we are doing something about it. The Council reform process that will begin at Seville is designed to ensure that Heads of Governments are setting the agenda in Europe and that Ministers in those Governments are transparently and effectively delivering on that agenda. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool said, the agenda is being set not by bureaucrats but by politicians whom people elect to be in charge.
After Seville, we will be taking that and other aspects of the future of Europe agenda forward, in the convention and elsewhere. That will provide further opportunities to embed our vision of a Europe of nation states; first, by strengthening the arrangements for the presidency of the Council; secondly, by strengthening subsidiarity, the principle that Europe acts only where member states cannot adequately achieve a policy objective on their own; thirdly, by strengthening the role of national Parliaments in the European Union, perhaps by making them guardians of subsidiarity; and fourthly, by embedding more deeply the practice that when the EU needs to act, it does so as lightly as possible.