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Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): It was a great day for Europe when the Poles did what the British Government should have doneblock the wretched document. Since this may be only a reprieve rather than the end of the constitution, will the Prime Minister elaborate on his claim that he secured all his objectives, even though most were not fully discussed? Will he assure us that if the text is retabled next year, it will not include any of the red line objections that the Government have announced so far? Will he therefore assure us that any future constitution will not contain any of the matters to which the British Government object?
The Prime Minister: Of course, because we have made it clear that those things that are red lines for us cannot be breached, which is precisely why we negotiated on that basis. Negotiations on such issues as tax, social security, foreign affairs and defence have been going on for many weeks. The truth of the matter is that there is nearly a consensus on those issues in favour of the British position, although we obviously must await the final negotiations.
Let me point out the complete irrationality of the position of the right hon. Gentleman and Conservative Members. He says that Poland did what Britain failed to do, but Britain would have refused to sign a treaty that said, for example, that there should be no unanimity on tax matters. The Polish objection was to one part of the treaty, but the whole negotiating position of the
I do not know when Conservative Members will learn from their experience. The last time they were in power, they did not stand up for this country's interests. Britain became a laughing stock in the European Union[Interruption.] I am afraid it did. When we got to the table in 1997, we had no influence. Why? Because as a result of divisions in the Conservative party, we took the same positions as the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) wants to take today. The idea that Poland or anywhere else will block the whole of the treaty over the years to come is a complete myth. That is why there are two alternatives: we either get on the pitch and play or shout from the stands: I know which I prefer.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I do not regard this weekend as a failure. We have an opportunity to address some of the imperfections of the Convention process in which, despite extremely hard work by the Government's representatives, we did not fully achieve what we wanted to achieve. Subsequent achievements, especially in relation to the passerelle clause, have not only removed the major reason for Conservative party opposition but introduced changes to give individual Parliaments the power of opposition that I could not have dreamt of achieving before. On that basis, I would have thought that the Conservatives would sign up to what is on the table. When the Prime Minister goes into the process of reconsideration and reflection over the next few months, he has a valuable opportunity to consider whether the mechanisms to enforce subsidiarity are strong enough or whether they should be improved.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. It was necessary to improve the original Convention text, on which we have been negotiating for the past few months. She rightly referred to the passerelle clause, for which the shadow Foreign Secretary laid down the test of whether we were we going to rid of it. He said just a few weeks ago:
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): There was obvious pleasure in Iraq and elsewhere when Paul Bremer announced the apprehending of Saddam Hussein. Will the Prime Minister take a bit of advice? It is better to refer to those who are suspected or accused
On the referendum on Europe, if people want a referendum, why can they not have one? Will the Prime Minister kindly arrange for a written statement to be made to answer the questions asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition? There were specific questions, but there were not specific answers.
The Prime Minister: The problem is that Conservative Members do not like the answers[Interruption.] Yes, that is absolutely correct. As for a referendum, as I have said repeatedly, if the draft constitution altered the fundamental nature of the relationship between the member state and the European Union, there would be a case for a referendum, but it does not and it will not. If we meet all the positions that we have set out, and I am confident we will, there will be even less of an argument for a referendum. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the House of Lords Select Committee, a cross-party Committee, that reported a few weeks ago and then reaffirmed its position, which is that, if anything, the draft treaty tilts the power towards member states. It makes it clear that the European Union, from then on, will have only the competencies that are conferred on it by the member state. The truth of the matter is that the Conservatives want a referendum not in order to have a "debate" on the European Union, but in order to say no, to get a no vote and to bring Europe to a halt so that they can pursue their real agenda, which is out not in.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): May I, as a long-standing pro-European, tell the Prime Minister that I do not share the Liberal leader's disappointment in the outcome? We can move forward in Europe only by agreement, not by bullying. Will my right hon. Friend explain to the Leader of the Opposition that discussions in Europe proceed by negotiationby give and take? Is it not far better that we are in there, with a Prime Minister and a Foreign Secretary arguing our case, rather than standing on the sidelines like Switzerland or Norway, complaining about decisions over which we have no control?
The Prime Minister: That is precisely why this country has always been at its best when playing its full part in Europe, which we must continue to do. Pretence patriotism says that the best way to defend this country's national interest is to retreat to the margins of Europe. It is not. It is perfectly obvious that we must be on the pitch playing. The classic example is European defence. Of course we could opt out of European defence, but it would not mean that European defence did not happen; it would simply mean that it happened without us. That would not be in the interests of Britain, Europe or NATO.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): The Prime Minister referred fleetingly in his statement to the accession of the island of Cyprus. Does he agree that the elections held in the occupied northern part of the island over the weekend demonstrated extremely clearly that the puppet regime has no mandate whatsoever? If he
The Prime Minister: It is important that we try to use the elections to move forward on the terms set out by the United Nations Secretary-General. I think that those form the proper basis on which we can find a solution for a united Cyprus, and they make the entire process much easier. That is what we will be working for. If we can achieve that, it is in no sense a barrier to accession, but undoubtedly it makes life much easier if we can have that unity. I hope very much, on the basis of the elections that took place at the weekend, that we are able to make progress.
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): As a member of the Labour party who, with Neil Kinnock, formulated the Labour policy that supported the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, who opposed Saddam Hussein long before he seized Kuwait, who has opposed Saddam Hussein since he was removed from Kuwait and who supported the means whereby he was captured over the weekend rather than opposing the means but snivellingly praising the end, may I ask my right hon. Friend, with that background, whether he will accept from me, and people like me, our utter opposition to the use of capital punishment against Saddam? I hope that he will be able to state the position of our Government on that.
The Prime Minister: I thank my right hon. Friend for his long and principled opposition to what Saddam Hussein stood for and did in Iraq. Of course this country remains opposed to the death penalty, but its use must be decided by the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people. Whatever our own tradition and position here and the position that we lobbied for at an international level, there is an important point of principle, which is that the special tribunal, correctly constituted, should be in the hands of the Iraqi people.