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Andrew Selous: I agree, and were we to repatriate fishing policy to the UK, as we should dothat is also the policy of the Scottish National partyit would continue to be important to take into account issues such as the sustainability of stocks. However, to give a specific example, haddock in Scottish waters is bracketed with other fish that are threatened to a much greater degree. The UK might be able to differentiate between species in a way that some of the rulings by the European Union have not done in recent months.
I am also greatly concerned that it appears that the UK Parliament is about to lose its authority over asylum policy. Originally, that was one of the Government's red lines, because they wished to retain control over it, but that is no longer the case. People on both sides of the political debate agree that our asylum system is far from perfect, but they agree that it is right that those who seek asylum in the European Union should do so in the first country they come to. Many people will remember the hijacked plane that overflew 12 EU countries before it landed in the UK at Stansted. That example makes my point powerfully. Imperfect as our current asylum policies and procedures are, the British people at least know that the ultimate responsibility and accountability for them lie with Ministers who can be questioned directly by the representatives of the British people in the House.
Those points may seem a little highbrow to many people, but I shall give the House a specific example of the effect of EU directives and regulations in my constituency. To the north of Leighton Buzzard the old Linslade road has a number of bridges, one of which has been strengthened, at a cost to Bedfordshire county council of £150,000 so that it can carry 40-tonnes lorries. That is all well and good and perfectly sensible; we need bridges to carry lorries to support trade and commerce. What could be wrong with that? A European directive required that the bridge be strengthened.
There is a problem, however. Not 100 yd down the road is a bridge owned by British Waterways. It has a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes and British Waterways has informed me that it has no requirement to strengthen the bridge and no intention of doing so. Furthermore, when the parish council of Heath and Reach, the adjacent village, found out that £150,000 of the county council's money had been spent strengthening a bridge, under the direct requirements of an EU directive, while the council had been trying to set up traffic-calming measures for years and years yet had been told by the county council that no money was available, local people were intensely irritated. I am sure that all hon. Members can understand that. Such incidents do the EU no favours.
I am not someone who brings up every example of European idiocies to muddy and blacken the name of the European Union, but where things go wrong and something is obviously not sensible, we need to give serious consideration to the wasting of British taxpayers' money at the insistence of the EU.
I question the notion that secular humanism is the sensible, moderate, acceptable default position for all our institutions and public bodies. I want to make a small plea for tolerant, loving Christianity, as people of all faiths in this country would probably feel far more comfortable with that than with some type of secular humanist regime. I do not think that Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or people of any other faith are worried by the fact that the established Church of this country is Christian, nor by the fact that there are Christian prayers before every sitting of Parliament. I hope that the Government will take up that matter and that they will not be offended. I do not believe that it will cause offence to people of any other faith or of no faith at all.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): For my sins, I have followed the process of drafting the European constitutional treaty for some time. I have read very carefully the 2001 Laeken declaration. I have followed the deliberations of the Convention on the Future of Europe. I have been closely following what has been discussed so far at the IGC, and the parliamentary scrutiny in the House has been very effective indeed so far. Credit has to be given to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) on their active participation in the Standing Committee that both Houses have established to scrutinise the whole deliberation process.
Thanks, too, should be given to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe for their participation in the Standing Committee on the Intergovernmental Conference. That has certainly increased the knowledge of at least a minority of hon. Members about what on earth has been going on in those deliberations. However, it is sad that so few Members of both Houses have attended both those Standing Committees. Frankly, there is no excuse for that because their meetings have been open to all Members. We are constantly told that Opposition Members place such great emphasis on scrutinising things European, but they did not make the effort to play their part in those Committee's deliberations. Unfortunately, the rhetoric does not match the reality.
Andrew Selous: I wonder how the hon. Gentleman would respond to the point that I made in my own contribution: perhaps many hon. Members are not attending those scrutiny Committees because they feel that they will have no real opportunity to contribute to the debate, to get answers, which are not forthcomingwe heard about that earlierand to influence and change the regulations before them. If hon. Members feel that their time will not be productively spent in that way, perhaps that is the reason why they are not turning up.
Mr. David: I was referring to the Standing Committees that have been following the deliberations of the bodies to which I have referred. The hon. Gentleman is referring to the work of the European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am a member. That Select Committee is not open to all hon. Members. Nevertheless, we are pursuing an active programme of work not only to contribute to the wider debate on the future of Europe, but to scrutinise the legislation that comes to the House from the EU.
Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be better if the European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am also a member, were able to meet in public and that the Standing Orders should be changed to enable that to happen?
Mr. David: Speaking personally, I agree, but I want to address later in my contribution how the work of Committees needs to be considered very carefully if agreement is reached on the European constitutional treaty. I hope that that agreement will be reached, and it is important not to believe that we have somehow to put our national interest to one side to secure it. Our national interest has been protected and enhanced so far by the GovernmentI am sure that that will continue to happen in the deliberations this weekendbut reaching an agreement with our partners is also in Britain's national interest because Europe is at a crucial point in its development.
Next year, we will see the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 member states. Although enlargement has happened in the pastit is part of Europe's natural evolutionwe have never seen an enlargement of such size and significance before. We would be extremely foolish if we believed that the current arrangements inside the EU could simply be transmuted into a situation where we would still work effectively with 10 more members. Such would not be the case. We need an agreement on the treaty, so that we can move forward to make the EU work more effectively, and those of us who are pro-Europeans certainly want that to happen.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Like my hon. Friend, I have attended many sittings of the IGC Standing Committee. At the last one, I drew attention to the fact that even the Foreign Secretary had said that it was possible that the constitution will not be approved. He seemed fairly relaxed about that, according to the quotationI am afraid that I was not present when he made that comment. There is also the possibility that a