Mr. Campbell: I would read the provisions in the Convention proposals along with the principle upon which I have spent a little time addressing the House. Taking the two together, there is a right of withdrawal and, in my view, sovereignty is not irreversibly prejudiced.
We have discussed this topic on a number of occasions recently, to the extent that I cannot help but believe that a whole industry may grow up dedicated to an exegesis of the speeches made in this and previous debates. In my case, I hope that it will be found that there is little of academic interest as I intend, as far as I can, to say what I have said on at least three previous occasions in the past two or three months.
First, I believe, as does my party, that the United Kingdom should be at the heart of Europe. In that regard, I pray in aid the Prime Minister and his predecessor. I believe, notwithstanding the events of the weekend, that it is in the long-term interests of the UK to be a member of the single currency. I also believe that the current Convention proposals do indeed raise issues of constitutional significance in relation to the charter of fundamental rights, the passerelle clause and, indeed, the right to withdraw, about which we have just heard some exchanges.
It is my belief that, as a matter of principle, a referendum is necessary when a Government bring before the House proposals that involve a major shift in control, any transfer of significant powers from member
Mr. Tom Harris: The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the case for a referendum would be undeniable if the current draft made it past the IGC without amendment. Given that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has clearly stated the Government's red lines, if the Government were successful in preventing us from going over those red lines, would the Liberal Democrats agree that there is no case for a referendum?
Mr. Campbell: If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully, he would have observed that I chose the charter of fundamental rights, the passerelle clause and the right to withdraw, none of which, I understand, will be subject to Government objection. Indeed, when the Foreign Secretary introduced the White Paper just a few days ago, I said that I thought that the so-called red lines drawn by the Government were entirely right and apposite and that defence, foreign affairs, social security and our own resources should remain the exclusive responsibility of the House.
On this occasion, therefore, we shall support the motion, not because I wish to be part of some outer Europe or, indeed, to renegotiate in its entirety the European settlement, but because I want the United Kingdom's role in Europe to have the endorsement of the people of the United Kingdom. In particular, I want to re-energise the support of those generations who have no knowledge, even at second hand, of the carnage of the two world wars, which so disfigured Europe and which were an overwhelmingly powerful motive in the minds of those who began with the fledgling European Coal and Steel Community. I also want to inform better those who fail to understand the enormous political significance of enlargement, accomplished in 14 brief years since 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin wall and the subsequent collapse of the Warsaw pact.
Mr. Campbell: I shall wait to see what those changes amount to. I shall now refer to the charter of fundamental rights because the Government have been rather coy about that issue, and it might be helpful to the House to know precisely what is the meaning of the final paragraph of that section of the White Paper.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: On a point of information, the Government, who tabled more than 200 amendments to the draft constitution in the Convention, did not table an amendment to the passerelle clause, so, yet again, the Foreign Secretary is saying one thing here, but he did not follow it up with trying to amend the draft constitution when he had the opportunity to do so. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right in saying that, by implication, the Government have accepted that damaging part of the draft constitution.
It is essential that we have some stability in Europe. We had the treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Before that, we had the Single European Act. We had the treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 and the treaty of Nice in 2001. It is as though Europe has been living through a permanent cultural revolution. There really ought to be some stability both in the institutions and the arrangements that are made for the regulation of European Union activities.
The enlargement to which I referred a moment or two ago is, as the Foreign Secretary rightly says, the stimulus for the Convention and its proposals. It is technically true that we could have enlargement without a fresh treaty. It would be a pretty peculiar union if we did, however, and it would essentially be a recipe for sclerosis, obstructionism and, ultimately, instability. Furthermore, those who see conspiracy at every turnperhaps that has not been evident in this debate, although it features from time to time in the other placeshould ask themselves whether it is conceivable that Estonia, which endorsed the principle of EU membership at the weekend, having broken out of the bonds and the yoke of communism, would voluntarily enter a conspiracy that would have the effect of denying it the freedom that has been so hard won.
Is the draft perfect? Of course it is not. On subsidiarity and proportionality, it is too weak and requires strengthening. There ought to be a red card rather than a yellow card, if I may use the colloquialism of the time. On freedom of information, I still do not believe that the Convention proposals go far enough.
Mr. Bercow: Notwithstanding the Foreign Secretary's assurances about his future good intentions in relation to the passerelle clause, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think it significant that the Foreign Secretary made no such commitment to seek improvement in the subsidiarity and proportionality protocol, even though that protocol imposes no obligation whatever on the European Commission to scrap inappropriate legislative proposals?
At least some of the debate has centred on the White Paper. I hope that it will not be thought churlish if I say to the Government that it is a great pity that we have not had a full-scale debate on it in Government time. I detect a certain amount of coyness in the Government's position as reflected in the White Paper, as I think that only 12 pages out of 60 deal with detailed consideration of the text. That coyness is particularly evident in paragraph 103 on page 39, which I raised with the Foreign Secretary during his statement following the publication of the document. It states:
I confess to some difficulty understanding the Government's attitude to a referendum in general. There is no doubt that the process has gone beyond the tidying-up to which Ministers made reference earlier.