|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): We join the Prime Minister in welcoming the capture of Saddam Hussein. I congratulate fourth infantry division and others involved in that achievement. Those in the House who have always believed that the war was right in principle recognise that this momentous event is likely to hasten the day when we see a free and democratic Iraq.
Secretary Rumsfeld said this weekend that Saddam is being held by the Americans as a prisoner of war. Can the Prime Minister confirm that that is the case, and what restrictions does that place on such issues as the questioning of Saddam Hussein and his exposure to the media. Will the Prime Minister assure us that Saddam's trial will be fair, open and transparent? Will he take this opportunity to explain exactly how he expects that to be achieved? Will he also give assurances regarding the independence of any judicial process? Will he confirm that any trial is likely to take place in Iraq? Does he envisage its coming before or after the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people? What is the Government's view on the possibility that Saddam Hussein might, if convicted, face the death penalty?
The Prime Minister also reported on the weekend's other developments. He was said this morning to have looked far from grief-stricken at the way in which the European Union summit turned out. We are not grief-stricken either. However, this lack of grief owes nothing to the Prime Minister: it was the courage of the Polish Prime Minister, alongside Spain, in standing up for their principles that stopped the Prime Minister returning with an EU constitution.
From the beginning of this debate, the Government's position has been characterised by dissembling. Just three years ago, the Prime Minister informed us, in his Warsaw speech, that the British way for Europe was not for a
In the convention, Government representatives proposed 200 amendments, of which just 11 were accepted. Will the Prime Minister tell us what happened to the rest? Did he fight and lose, or did he just give up? His representative, the Leader of the House, tried to delete seven sub-clauses on asylum and immigration that would enable policy on those matters to be decided by a majority of other states. His amendment failed; did he fight and lose, or did he just give up? He tried to remove the title "Foreign Minister", saying that the proposal was unacceptable as it stood. He failed. Did he fight and lose, or did he just give up? He tried to remove the EU Foreign Minister's right to take our seat on the Security Council. He failed. Did he fight and lose, or did he just give up? So much for his claim three years ago that the intergovernmental conference would deal primarily with issues of subsidiarity. Indeed, the Belgian Prime Minister describes the constitution as the "capstone" of a "federal state."
Above all else, if he refuses to listen and the constitution is agreed, will he at least listen to the views of the people and call a referendum? Even the former Minister for Europe has now called for a referendum. After all, it is not as though the Government are hostile to the principle of referendums: we have already had 34 of them. Why is the Prime Minister so determined to stop the people of our country having a say on this vital issue? Is it not time for a Government who are willing to listen to people's views, who will stand up for what is right for Britain and for Europe, and who will end the years of dissembling and trust people enough to tell them the truth?
The Prime Minister: We all remember exactly what happened the last time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was in charge of European matters. He put through the Maastricht treaty without a referendum, and he voted for it. I shall come back to that in a moment.
On Iraq, the US Secretary of State is correct: Saddam Hussein will be treated with all the rights of a prisoner of war. The trial process should be determined by the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people. It should be left to them. Of course we must ensure that the process is proper, independent and fair, but I am sure that the Iraqis have the capability to achieve that. We and other countries will work with them to ensure that that is correct.
As for what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about Europe, the extraordinary thing is that he thought that it was a terrible humiliation to go there and get an agreement. Now there is no agreement, he thinks that it is a terrible humiliation not to have got one. Does he not understand that there is something increasingly absurd about his opportunism and opposition for opposition's sake? He is the person who said that there should not be an agreement. We come back without an agreement, and he attacks us for it.
Let us deal with some of the facts, not the myths. In respect of tax, social security, defence and foreign policy, we have made it clearand there is now a consensus for this in Europethat all those issues should remain by unanimity the province of the nation state. I shall quote to the right hon. and learned Gentleman from a member of his shadow Cabinet[Interruption.] I think that that is fair enough. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who is in his place, said a few months ago:
As for the charter of rights, we have made it clear that that should not have binding legal authority and that is precisely what we shall achieve in the course of the negotiation. National Parliaments are to be involved for the first time. That is subsidiarity in action.
The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman says no. Poland is against one aspecton voting weights. That does not touch significantlyas between Nice and what is proposed in the Conventionthe interests of this country. But Poland, were it not for that point, would be voting in favour of the constitution. That is why the absurdity of his position is this: he has said recently in interviews that he would seek to renegotiate the whole of the constitution even if it was ratified. Right. Let me put to him the point that I put to his predecessor and to the predecessor before that: name me one other country in favour of renegotiating the very principle of a European constitution. There is none[Interruption.]