Mr. Straw: If I believed that my hon. Friend's supposition was correct and that we were moving further towards European integration, I would accept the burden of his argument. However, if he examines the draft treaty and the likely amendments, I do not believe that it is possible to argue that it takes us towards European integration.
Mr. Jenkin: The President of France wants to eclipse NATO and establish an autonomous foreign and defence policy in Europe. The Foreign Secretary told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that he wanted NATO to remain pre-eminent in European security. Where is that written in the European constitution?
Mr. Straw: I shall happily turn up the reference. Conservative Members display much defeatism, as if they have no idea that a European Union of 25 members contains many more active supporters of NATO than people who do not want to be involved in it or its Defence and Security Committee.
Mr. Straw: I do not believe that it is right and I disagree with President Prodi, as I am entitled to do. I agree with the burden of the hon. Gentleman's comments. Although it is obvious that countries that have not joined the euro cannot be members of the euro group, I resist the idea that they lose influence over every aspect of EU policy. That is palpably not the case. I spoke earlier of my good friend, the late Anna Lindh. Sweden could exercise considerable influence in Europe's councils, and not only on my subjects of justice, home affairs and economic policy, because of the strength of its case and the allies that it was able build up. I believe that we can do that, too.
Let me deal with some of the specific objections raised by the right hon. Member for Devizes. He recently said that the draft treaty would lead to the creation of a "political union" because it was based on plans for a five-year presidency; that it would impose legally binding rights on all European citizens; that it would make European laws superior to national lawshe added today, "for the first time"and that it would lead to the creation of a fully fledged diplomatic service.
In voicing his concerns about the creation of a political union, the right hon. Gentleman is fighting the battles of the past, because that term does not appear anywhere in the current draft. Nor, indeed, has it appeared in any of the European Union's constitutional treaties dating back to the 1957 treaty of Rome. But it was through Maastrichtthe treaty for which he voted and on which he spoke so eloquentlythat the European Community decided to turn itself into the European Union and to create the concept of European citizenship. Even on the most malign reading of the new treaty, all that it does in that respect is to replicate Maastricht's language. A fair reading of it, however, shows that the overall balance tilts more positively towards the member states.
It is worth recalling that the right hon. Gentleman gave the Bill to ratify Maastricht his resolute support when it passed through the House more than a decade ago. Furthermore, at that stage, he was not a pressed man but a Back Bencher. He therefore volunteered to do so out of a sense of conviction. In telling the House at the time that he feared the drastic consequences of rejection, he said,
Mr. Straw: I am perfectly happy to deal with that point; I have done so in the past. What we have not heard from the right hon. Gentleman[Hon. Members: "Deal with it!"] Yes, I supported a manifesto that proposed that we should withdraw from the European Union, and we got the answer that we deserved at that election. I also supported a manifesto at the last election that spelled out our negotiating mandate for the inter-governmental conference, and did not promise a referendum. It did, however, say that we would stand up for Britain. Our policies in that manifesto were supported, and we are implementing them.
I shall go on quoting what the right hon. Gentleman said at the time of Maastricht, because he has never stood up and said that what he was saying then was wrong. The truth is that, on any analysis, he knows that Maastricht represented a more significant change to the powers of the Union and its institutions than does the current draft treaty. Maastricht enshrined commitments to a single European currency and to a common foreign and security policy. It also introduced many new treaty provisions, subject to qualified majority voting. Yet, despite the contents of Maastricht, the right hon. Gentleman opposed calls from within his own party for a referendum. He voted against such a referendum, as did the right hon. Member for Wokingham.
By contrast, the draft constitutional treaty drawn up by the Convention is much less far-reaching. Indeed, the House of Lords European Union Committee has recognised that the text seeks to strengthen the role of member nations. It states explicitly for the first time that competences not conferred on the Union by member states remain with them. Article 1.5.1 of the draft specifies that the
Mr. Straw: As a matter of fact, I cannot. That does not mean that the view of the European Union Committee in the House of Lords is wrong. It produced many more reports scrutinising different parts of the text than did the equivalent Committee in this place. It is uncomfortable for the hon. Gentleman, because the facts are getting in the way of his prejudices, but the reason it came to that view is that within the draft constitution, in an article and a protocol, there is provision by which national Parliaments, including this House and the House of Lords, will for the first time be able to play an effective role in studying draft legislation
Mr. Straw: I do not believe that it is minor, because if a third of national Parliaments decide that they do not like a proposed draft law on the basis that it offends principles of subsidiarity, they will refer it back to the Commission.
Mr. Straw: That is not true. That is linked with the necessity for there to be at least 60 per cent.by populationof votes in favour of a proposal, so if a third of national Parliaments object to a draft law it is likely to be revised or rejected.