|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Huw Irranca-Davies : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that some of the most successful clubs have stuck to their core principles and rules of membership and have not diluted them? When ties are loosened to any great extent there is no club any more.
Mr. Johnson: The word "core" is important. It is precisely because we want to stick to the core competencies and exclude the excrescences that have built up over the past few years that our case is so powerful. We want to avoid the constant centralising and federalising tendency, which is why we oppose prima facie some of the stuff that is emanating from the Giscard Convention.
Mr. Love : The hon. Gentleman is talking about the rules, but does he not remember that it was the Conservatives who passed the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty, which established the very rules
Mr. Johnson: I have already paid generous tribute to my party for being the inspiration behind the Single European Act. As for the Maastricht treaty, the point has been well made by several hon. Members that it was the Conservative party that decided to have a referendum on the treaty by calling for a referendum on the euro. The Government have yet to decide whether, owing to the Prime Minister's timorousness on the subject, they have the guts to call such a referendum. However, I believe that holding a referendum on the constitution would be a good thing if it were presented to the British people in the form that is currently before us. The proposal for an elected European President is a considerable constitutional advance according to the definitions. Interestingly, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) committed his party to a referendum. I believe that the proposal was a sufficient constitutional advance to trigger Liberal Democrat support for a referendum, and I very much look forward to seeing the right hon. and Learned Gentleman on the barricades.
Mr. Menzies Campbell: Which barricades did the hon. Gentleman have in mindHenley or St. Andrews?
Mr. Johnson: The referendum campaign will go round the country, and I am sure that we can share a platform in many places.
The incorporation of the European convention on human rights is another trigger, and will have a huge impact on our judicial system. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) spoke eloquently about the Criminal Justice Bill and handing over a lot of crucial decision making to institutions in Brussels. The constitution goes too far. If we had a referendum on it and the people rejected it, it would not be a disaster. People who are in favour of the constitution cannot assert that it is in any way essential, as it has no function and does not advance enlargement one bit. It is intended purely to centralise more power in Brussels, and it would be a great thing if it were revisited and more of an effort made to turn it into a proper vehicle for subsidiarity. I therefore hope that there will be a referendum. The Minister must realise that, if the Government fail to call one, there will be an independent referendum. It is likely that, out of the great mass of popular wrath at not being consulted on the issue for so long, there will arise a referendum. I very much hope that the Labour Government will have the guts to abide by the verdict of that referendum when it happens.
Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart): Hon. Members are rarely given the opportunity to discuss Europe and its many facets, and this is the first opportunity that I have taken to discuss an issue that is extremely important to my constituents, as it is to those of every hon. Member. It is refreshing not to have to focus obsessively on the single currency, although I understand why many hon. Members have chosen to mention it in passing. Any debate on the euro tends to
Few would cavil at the idea of enlarging the EU. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson)whose speech I thoroughly enjoyedwas extremely critical of those hon. Members who oppose enlargement, but I have not yet heard any Member, even the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), oppose the principle of enlarging the EU.
Mr. Hopkins: My hon. Friend may be interested to know that, for the very reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), one of enlargement's strongest opponents was Sir Edward Heath, a former leader of the Conservative party.
Mr. Harris: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that useful information. Interestingly, he mentions someone who is no longer a Member, but who, I am sure, would have taken part in the debate today if he were.
The former Prime Minister, John Major, mentioned on a number of occasions the importance of widening the EU, but not deepening it. In 1995, the then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said:
Last October, even the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) said:
Even if the draft constitution discussed by the House rejects all forms of federalismif it does not mention federalism but reinforces the nation state's rights to sovereigntythe Conservatives will still call for a referendum and for it to be opposed. It is unreasonable and unrealistic simultaneously to support EU enlargement and oppose the constitution that will enable enlargement to work.
I tell the House unequivocally that, if I believed that the new European constitution would make this country subject to a federal Europe so that we were completely
Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale): I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has great trust in the Prime Minister, but why does he not have the same trust in the electorate of Cathcart, and, indeed, of the rest of the UK, to make a remarkably simple judgment on whether the proposed constitution is in their interests?
Mr. Harris: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, as it brings me on to an issue mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). Why are the Government saying no to a referendum now when they do not know what the final form of words in the constitution will be? The reason is simply that the Government have insisted from the outset that the UK's sovereignty must not be compromised in the new constitution. It seems an odd negotiating stance to say at the outset, "Here is what we will not stand for. Here are the red lines. If we lose that, we will have a referendum." It is a ridiculous stance. We know already that the new constitution for Europe will not compromise the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. What it will do is put in place new arrangements to allow a 25-member EU to function properly. Because it does not take away any of the authority of this House, there is no need to put it to the people, any more than there was a need to put the Maastricht treaty or the Nice treaty to the British people.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): Does my hon. Friend find it remarkable that eight of the 10 applicant countries that are largely responsible for the Convention on the Future of Europe meeting as it has done, are not only anxious but desperate to get into the EU on the terms that they are being offered, having only a short time ago exited from what was arguably a superstate under which they were oppressed? Does he agree that if they had a perception that they were about to re-enter an oppressive superstate, they would have made that point known in the negotiations by now?