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2 Dec 2002 : Column 696continued
Decisions must be taken at the most appropriate level in Europe. We welcome the absence from the draft document of the previous refrain of Xever closer union", which sits uneasily with that principle. In passing, we reject, as the Government motion puts it,
The balance between the different parts of the different policies has shifted over the years. We need a clear statement in the new treaty. We support the idea proposed at the convention of an early warning system based on national Parliaments and the European Parliament. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston said, we should not shirk our responsibilities in Parliament and simply blame everything on Brussels, in time-honoured fashion.
Mr. Bryant: The hon. Gentleman has spoken at some length about subsidiarity. I am sure that he knows that the original concept derives from Catholic teaching, and a 19th century papal encyclical. To which definition of subsidiarity does he subscribe? Does he believe that the Committee of the Regions should play a more important role in the new Europe?
Mr. Moore: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us of the origins of the concept, although I hope that they are not especially relevant to the debate. The appropriate level for decision making and scrutiny should be determined according to the subject. For example, education should be tackled in individual countries. In the past few years we have accepted the principle that decisions about education should be ceded to Wales and Scotland, and we hope that that will happen in the English regions, too.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: I speak as the Chairman of the Procedure Committee. Does the hon. Gentleman support me and many other hon. Members from all parties who believe that the House deals with European secondary legislation in the most despicable way? We need much more effective scrutiny of such legislation, and the ability to amend itand to reject it if hon. Members decide to do that.
Mr. Moore: I do not want to disappoint, surprise or upset the hon. Gentleman, but I agree with him. It is entirely fair that the House should take more responsibility and be better at scrutinising. There is a desperate need for improved scrutiny at all levels in the European Union. For example, the Council of Ministers could meet in public, and the President of the Commission could ensure that his state of the union address was subjected to detailed scrutiny and put to the vote in the European Parliament. It is also important to endorse the principle of freedom of information in the European Union
There is common agreement that Europe is at a critical point, and there is much speculation about where we will end up, not least about the United Kingdom's destination. We desperately need the blueprint to which the Minister said that he was not currently working. We need a White Paper and a commitment to further debate in the House. If we are to achieve reform, the people of Europe must be taken along with it. We must begin that process here.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok): I support the Government's stated position of supporting a Union of sovereign member states and their rejection of the alternative of a federal superstate. When I listen to some of the Government's supporters, however, I wonder whether I support the Government's position more than the Government do. On some matters, we slide increasingly towards a federal superstate.
I have never been an expert on Euro-jargon and I do not want to approach the debate in that fashion. I want to consider democracy, because Europe is the greatest example of a disconnection between politicians and the public. For some time, debates in Europe and on Europe's development have been elite-driven, top down and marked by apathy and almost hopelessness among the population. That disconnection is dangerous for democracy, because if people feel that they cannot affect the decisions that have an impact on their lives they will look for non-democratic solutions.
Mr. Davidson: It is more than that. I do not see Europeanism as just internationalism. Indeed, in many regards it is the very antithesis of it, because it draws in the wealthy while putting up barriers against the rest of the world, particularly in relation to the operation of the common agricultural policy and the way in which it deliberately penalises the third world. I want to reject the drive towards Europeanism that we often see coming from some of the zealots in politics. I also want to reject the anti-Europeanismwhich is often just Xlittle Englandism"that we hear from some Conservative Members. As in so many things, therefore, I find myself in the centre, speaking with the moderate's voice of reason, and seeking a third way. As a supporter of New Europe, and of saying yes to Europe and no to the euro, I seem to be in an ideal position to lead us forward in the name of moderation.
We need to consider not only the jargon that many of my colleagues have used, for understandable reasons, up to now; Europe needs to be translated for people in terms of its practical impact. No matter what we say about constitutions, structures and the like, people in this country do not and will not understand why France can defend its farmers while we cannot defend our fishermen. Until Europe starts to work for people in this country in a way that they can comprehend, there will continue to be a disconnection. The need for a poet was mentioned earlier. I fear that many people might consider William McGonagall the most appropriate. For hon. Members who are puzzled by that reference, a trip to the Library might be advisable.
I seek clarification from the Government on a number of points. We need to boil some of this down to basics. I am not clear whether any proposed constitution would stop the drive towards ever-closer union that was incorporated in the treaty of Rome, and which has been reiterated in subsequent treaties, or whether such a constitution would make it clear that the objective of European linkages was no longer, inevitably or irrevocably, ever-closer union. If ever-closer union remains the text, people will see that consistent centralisation is in progress. We need to be clear about that.
There is no doubt that we are in the process of creating a European superstate. We already have the flag, the anthem, the drive towards an army, the move towards a president, the propaganda division, the drive towards centralisation and, indeed, the rights of initiative. I see the rights of initiative as a drive towards ever-closer union. When mention is made of the need for the Commission to have political independence, it is not clear whether that independence would be in the best traditions of our civil servicedealing with matters in a non-partisan fashionor whether it would involve the Commission as an actor in its own right. If the Commission is to be the civil service of the Union, political independence has to mean civil service-type independence, rather than an independence that would allow the Commission to act in its own right, with its own drive and direction.
We also need to be clearer about harmonisation. I heard with interest and some happiness the indication of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales that he is not aware of any French or German aspiration to harmonise taxes. I cannot help but think that he is perhaps ill informed on that matter, but if that is his view, it is the best understanding he has at the moment.
We must be clear about whether we are prepared to harmonise taxesin the first instance, corporation tax and valued added tax. I can understand why people want that as part of the creation of a single market, and its logical extension is, of course, harmonisation of personal and property taxesthe harmonisation of almost all taxes. I am not clear about whether the Government remain wedded to their view that there should be no move in that direction or whether they will carry their view in the discussions on the convention.
The single market needs to be reined back in some areas, particularly where it impinges on issues such as health, which are restricted to or remain with national Parliaments but where the single market may have influence. I have always believed in high taxes on tobacco as a health issue, yet the single market undermines this country's policy of putting high taxes on tobacco for health reasons, as people can import cheap tobacco from the rest of the EUthere is an allowance. We must state that there are areas into which the single market will not move and that the assumption must not automatically be that the single market will prevail in clashes with other policy areas.
I am a supporter of modernisation and there are a number of areas in which the Government must look for substantial EU modernisation before they say that they are prepared to move forward. I can think of three examples that would be immensely popular in this country. First, we need modernisation of budgets so that we can reduce the fraud, corruption and waste that the Court of Auditors consistently reports on. I cannot see why we wish to cede further powers to or move forward with an EU that is incapable of running its own financial affairs. That is an overdue and essential element of modernisation to which any Government who say that they favour modernisation in principle must stick.
The second example is the common agricultural policy. I cannot understand why a Government who are wedded to the concept of modernisation have been prepared to accept the almost total absence of progress on modernising the CAP, which not only taxes poor people in my constituency and every other area by raising food prices to inappropriate levels but ruins agriculture in and the economies of many third-world countries. I always regarded the dumping of CAP surpluses as an obscenity at a time when much of the world was starving, yet the Government have been
My final point is on political language. A number of my colleagues disagree with me on a variety of issues, but I believe that debates ought to take place in a comradely fashion. To me, being described as an enemy by people on my own side with whom I disagree is entirely inappropriate. Saying that the