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David Winnick: I welcome what my right hon. Friend has just said, but does it not emphasise that the wretched existence that Palestinians have had to endure for years on end should stop? Unfortunately, despite all the promises about road maps and the rest, the United States in particular simply refuses to take the necessary action and take Israel to task. Unless the United States takes that line, the wretched existence and humiliation that Palestinian men, women and children suffer every day will simply continue. We should demand more than words.
Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but I am not in any doubt about the American Government's commitment to pursuing the road map. They expect, as we do, movement by the Israeli Government and by the Palestinian Authority regarding the continued operations of terrorists from their territory.
In Africa, too, we are helping to lay the foundations for lasting stability, which means promoting good governance and democracy, as African leaders themselves recognised in the NEPADNew Partnership for Africa's Developmentinitiative launched in partnership with the G8, which will be followed up at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the end of next week. We have important assets with which we can achieve our foreign policy goals: permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council and membership of more international organisations than any other country except France; excellent armed forces; a widely
The Government's foreign policy rests on two pillarsour relationship with the United States and our membership of the European Union. It is false to argue, as people sometimes do, that we have to choose one or the other. Our future security and prosperity depend on both working together to pursue our common interests. Our membership of the European Union is essential for our security and prosperity. More than 3 million British jobs in over 800,000 British companies depend on it; almost 60 per cent. of our exports are to the rest of the EU; and EU co-operation is vital if we are to tackle cross-border issues such as the environment, illegal immigration and organised crime.
Given all that, I find it quite bizarre that the Conservative partythe party that took us into Europe in 1973, helped to create the single market in the 1980s and signed the Maastricht treaty in 1992, created the concept of EU citizenship and a common foreign and security policy and extended qualified majority voting to 30 new policy areasshould now argue that Britain should turn its back on Europe. I am the first to accept that the EU is not perfect, which is why we are at the forefront of calls for reform, but we can deliver only by active engagement with our partners. Isolation and withdrawal will result only in marginalisation.
The expansion of the EU in May will be an historic milestone of which we in Britain can feel justifiably proud. After allI know that this point will be uppermost in the mind of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)it was our Prime Minister who led the calls for enlargement to take place before next year's European elections, and that is now being achieved.
Mr. Forth: On that very point, will the Secretary of State confirm that if the proposed EU constitution is not proceeded withas a result, I hope, of our Government's actionsan enlarged EU will be capable of functioning perfectly well under the Nice treaty?
Mr. Straw: I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman asked that question. He will recall that I spelt out the Government's position at paragraphs 26, 36 and 107 of our White Paper, and in a major debate on the White Paper on 9 September 2003, and what I said is as true today as it was then. I said:
Enlargement will create a market of 500 million consumersby far the largest single market in the worldbut, of course, it will represent something more than that. It will represent the triumph of democracy and human rights in Europe, and the affirmation of a common European destiny.
Romania and Bulgaria should soon also be ready to join the EU, and in due course I hope that Turkey will do so too, but for enlargement to operate effectively there must be a change in the way in which the EU works.
I present my apologies to the House, Mr. Speaker, because I have to leave before the close of the debate to fly to Naples for a further two-day session of the IGC. I am particularly distressed about that because I shall miss the winding-up speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), and I should like to add my congratulations to those that he has already received on his long-overdue promotion to the Front Bench. May I say, without a word of hyperbole, that faced with the choice of two days in Naples talking about the finer detail of the Convention text and listening to the hon. Gentleman's speeches, I would go for the latter any day.
Even more important than that, I am having to miss, I think for the first time in 24 years, the annual dinner of Blackburn Labour party. [Hon. Members: "Shame."] It is a terrible shame, and good comrades in the party will miss my pre-Christmas speech.
Tomorrow and Saturday, we shall be considering the current proposals from the presidency in respect of part, but not all, of the text. The document has been made public and I should stress that the text itself makes it clear that this is not a final document. It says that
Mr. Cash: I am not in the slightest bit concerned about what happened on that occasion, and I am very happy to be here on the Back Benches. Having said that, the Foreign Secretary may recall that around 16 September we had an altercation on the question of the supremacy, as he put it, of international treaties over
Mr. Straw: I have always acknowledged that Parliament is supreme, and I have written to the hon. Gentleman, as I have written to his colleague, the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), about the issue. He needs to understand that, if we sign up to international treaties, they take precedence in our domestic law, and, where necessary, we have to have domestic legislation in order to implement them, which we expect of our partners. What on earth is the point of signing up to an international treaty with another country, only to find that that other country has not incorporated the treaty's obligations into their own domestic law where that is necessary? If Parliament were to pass an Act of Parliament renouncing the Convention, and if the Convention became the new treaty of the EU, the Act would have to be observedbut let us all be clear that the consequences of that would be to renounce our membership of the EU.
Happily, one of the many benefits of the draft constitution before the IGC was written with the hon. Gentleman in mind. For the first time, we have ensuredsomething that the Conservative Government never providedthat there is proper provision for a member state to withdraw from the EU. The issue is not whether it can be done, but whether it is right and proper and in this country's interests. I speak for a united Labour party in saying that that would be against Britain's interests. Yet again, the hon. Gentleman's remarks and his brutal removal from the Opposition Front Bench illustrate how divided the Conservative party still is on Europe.