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Mr. Straw: No, it is not. It will ensure greater power in the hands of member states against the overbearing power of the Commission. I believed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be in favour of it. The president will have no decision-making power. It is striking that only two groups are against the proposalthe Conservative party and the European Commission. That underlines the incoherence of the Conservative party's position. The proposal means that member states will remove power from the Commission. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should consider its merits instead of dismissing it in the pursuit of a myth about a European superstate.
Another claim that the peddlers of the superstate myth make is that the draft treaty massively extends majority voting. Let us consider the reality. The Single European Act of 1986 introduced majority voting for almost all matters to do with the single market. As Lord Heseltine told radio listeners last Saturday, that measure was
Mr. Ian Taylor: The Foreign Secretary is right that the Single European Act was the most significant step forward. It was agreed under a Conservative Government and, incidentally, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who voted for it. Before that Act was passed, was not it subject to scrutiny in the House of Commons? Is not that the best way in which to consider the detail of any constitutional treaty that might emerge after Dublin?
Mr. Straw: Let me make it clear that I am committed to the maximum scrutiny for any constitutional treaty. I say to hon. Members who may be worried about that that they do not have to look into the crystal ball, because they can examine the record. I have been complimented by hon. Members of all parties on the amount of scrutiny of the draft that has already been achieved. I only regret that the shadow Foreign Secretary has not bothered to turn up to one sitting of the Committee that considers the intergovernmental conference report.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Will the Foreign Secretary acknowledge that many of us do not accept the doom-laden hyperbole, as he put it, and are sceptical of those fair-weather friends of referendums who allowed referendums on nothing while in government and now want referendums on everything in opposition? Nevertheless, we feel strongly that when there is a significant change to the relationship between the European Union and the people of this country, it should be with the informed consent of the people of this country, not simply through a vote in this House or in the Council of Ministers?
Mr. Frank Field: I am grateful that my right hon. Friend says that he believes in as much detailed discussion as possible. Can he tell us how many times the Cabinet has considered this draft treaty in detail? Was it a Cabinet decision that we should not have a referendum?
Mr. Straw: We have considered it endlessly. The draft White Paper was crawled over by my right hon. Friends, on which I insisted, and I was responsible with officials for drafting it. I spent a large part of what was otherwise classified as a summer holiday working through its detailed text, as I regarded it as an extremely important document, and I also made sure that each of my Cabinet colleagues, who had responsibility for areas in it, knew exactly what they were signing up to. It has therefore been a Cabinet decision. I invite my right hon. Friend to come alongI cannot recall his assiduous attendance at various Committees and debates on the Floor of the House, but I look forward to itto further considerations.
Let me make some more progress. After the Single European Act, we had Maastricht. The shadow Foreign Secretary always tries to forget about Maastricht, and we know why. The Maastricht treaty introduced majority voting to fundamental areas of policy making: the Union's broad guidelines on economic policy; its excessive deficits procedure; education; public health; consumer protection; trans-European networks; overseas aid; and the implementation of decisions within the common foreign and security policy. This was a treaty that John Major proclaimed as
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is adept at switching his position backwards and forwards. We have debated this issue a number of times. I recallI am sure that he has forgottenthat back on 11 December 2002, I asked him to refresh the House's memory about whether he had voted on the Maastricht treaty itself and on the issue of a referendum? At column 307, I said:
Mr. Straw: No. It is important that the right hon. and learned Gentleman learn a bit from this. Finally, when I produced the voting list, which has his name on it, he owned up and pleaded guilty to having voted against a referendum on Maastricht. By God, it was difficult to get him to own up to the truth. The truth is that he has always been a closet pro-European. The reason he is so unconvincing today is that neither his heart nor his brain is in the task that he is having to undertake.
Mr. Ancram: The Foreign Secretary has accused me of being a closet pro-European. I wonder what he is. Let us look at his election addressnot from 1983, when we know he had to be loyal, but from 1979. We were told:
Mr. Straw: No, but it was my position then. I have been very straightforward about this. Moreover, I do not suffer from amnesia. I am perfectly willing and ready, and always have been, to explain the position that I took. After all, it was entirely public. I was active in the no campaign in 1975.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman needs to think about the position into which he is trying to push the Conservative party. He was appalling, even by his own standards, when answering questions put by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe
We know what the Conservative party's policy is in respect of this draft treaty, but let us say that for some reason it did not become European law. That is perfectly possible, although I do not know what the odds are. Let us say that we were left with the existing treatiesthe treaty of Rome, the Single European Act, Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Would the Conservatives accept them or not? Most of what they are objecting to today is not in the new constitutional treaty. Most of the provisions to which they object so violently were negotiated by them in 1972.