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Mr. Cash: Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, in the two instances in which there has been a second referendum, the outrageous situation emerged in which the rules were changed in respect of financing, advertising and the rest of it? In the case of the Irish referendum, that occurred on 24 December when most good Irishmen were in the pubs.

Mr. Davidson: I certainly hope that the Government in this country would have sufficient integrity not to seek to change the rules for a second referendum should we get to that stage. That would be outrageous. We would need to pay attention to how much both sides spent and we would have to consider whether the allegedly impartial information provided by the Electoral Commission and others was, in fact, impartial. None the less, the pattern of the referendum should not then be changed.

I want to raise with the Minister the issue of how people will express their views. I want to avoid a situation in which the European elections or the general election are seen as referendums on the European constitution. Issues relating to Europe—as we know

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from the Conservative party—can split parties. A substantial minority of Labour Members favour a referendum and would wish to oppose the constitution as it is currently put forward in such a referendum. People should not have to choose in such a way given that there are two cross-cutting cleavages and we have the opportunity to park the European issue in a referendum so that a decision can be made on it separately from the European or general elections.

Lest the Minister be in any doubt about the scale of pubic opinion in his party, I tell him that opinion polls conducted among the major trade unions affiliated to the Labour party show that 81 per cent. of Unison members polled, 78 per cent. of Amicus members, 88 per cent. of Transport and General Workers Union members and 80 per cent. of GMB members favour a referendum. It is clear that those who speak up on the matter are not necessarily in the majority, but as the Minister knows, expressing dissent from the Government's view on anything is not necessarily a career-enhancing move. Several people would prefer to wait until a later stage before expressing their view. All that the minority of Labour Members have is the people, the arguments and the capitalist press, and that combination managed to cause a fair amount of damage on the question of the euro. I notice that those who were on the losing side—the Government side—during the euro debate are exactly the same people who are against a referendum and in favour of ramming through the creation of a European superstate.

In the debate that we are having tonight, and the one that will go on, I hope that people will not revert to citing the smears and distortions that we often hear from spinmeisters in the Government, especially the accusation that those of us who are against the Government proposal to ram through the measure without a referendum are simply little Englanders. I might be little, but I plead not guilty to the other charge. A number of us are linking up with "Democracy International", which is a multinational campaign to try to achieve referendums throughout the European Union. I hope that the Government recognise that the argument for referendums on such an important issue is widespread throughout the European Union, and that they appreciate that those of us who argue for referendums in this country and elsewhere in the European Union are doing so in the spirit of internationalism.

I also hope that the Government will refrain from arguing that those of us who are in favour of a referendum and against the new constitution are automatically in favour of withdrawing from the European Union. To the best of my knowledge, no Labour Member who argues in favour of a referendum is in favour of withdrawing from the European Union. Repeating that accusation, even though it is repeatedly denied, is a deliberate attempt to distort the terms of the debate. The Minister is not a stupid man. Indeed, he is a bright man and, on occasions, a pleasant man. He has bought me libations on several occasions—perhaps too seldom to recall them all just now. I hope that he will intervene on his perhaps less fastidious colleagues to ensure that that accusation is not repeated.

I have touched on the question of what will happen if the constitution is rejected. That will be a problem not only for us, but for Europe. If the constitution is rejected

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by several European states, the problem will be much more collective than would otherwise have been the case.

I regret the opportunistic way in which what happened in Madrid and elsewhere is advanced as an argument in favour of the accretion of more powers at the centre. How can we possibly trust those in the European Union who are incapable of stopping thieves and vagabonds robbing the common agricultural policy blind to police against terror in the EU? It is clear that before there is any further accretion of powers to the EU, it must put its own house in order. The British Government have made insufficient efforts to reform the way in which the EU operates, to increase the financial probity of the schemes it runs, or to examine the value for money obtained, for example, in foreign aid programmes. Before we give the EU more money to spend, we should ensure that it uses the powers and assets that it has better.

We must remember that we in Parliament have power as a result of the votes of the people. The referendum is important. At a time when there is severe dislocation between those who govern and those who are governed, we have an opportunity to give the people a choice. We should do so.

6.1 pm

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The constitution is the most important measure that I have faced in my 20 years as a Member of Parliament, and which the House has faced since this country entered the European Economic Community in 1973. However, the Prime Minister's sole preoccupation is to get it through quickly.

I respect those—we have heard some of them speak in this short debate—who argue for a highly integrated Europe with a single structure, a new legal order, a permanent President, a Foreign Minister and extensive new powers over immigration, criminal justice and the economies of member states. I do not agree with them, but I can at least debate with them. I have no respect whatever for those who deny the epic importance of what the House is now considering—who refer to it as "a tidying-up exercise". The cure for that is simply to read the constitution in its draft form.

The draft constitution defines and limits the powers of member states probably better and more extensively than those of the European institutions. It is just as much a written constitution for this country as it is for Europe, and we in this country have not had a written constitution since Cromwell briefly introduced one following the civil war. There is a massive transfer upwards of powers to the new Union. That fact is inescapable—it is written on almost every page of the draft.

We have again debated the primacy clause today, and the Government have again claimed that article 10 simply repeats what is in treaty law. It does not do that. There is nothing in existing European treaties about the primacy of the European Court of Justice or of those treaties over national laws. It is a convention that has been established in the case law of the European Court of Justice that where directives and regulations conflict with national laws, those directives and regulations shall prevail, but on those foundations the draft constitution

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erects an unqualified assertion of the primacy of the constitution and all the laws flowing from it over the laws of member states.

Mr. Hendrick: If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, the draft is some sort of integrationist plot, will he tell me why the Conservative party is happy for there to be a President of the European Commission and a President of the European Parliament, yet, in terms of the Heads of Government, unhappy for there to be a President of the Council?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Oh yes, we are creating a Europe of presidents all right. I can add to that. There will be a president of the European Court of Justice, a president of the European Central Bank, a permanent President of the Council, a President of the Commission and a President of the European Parliament. It is a presidents' plot, if it is a plot at all. It is not a people's Europe that we are developing—it is a politicians Europe with jobs for more politicians. If that is the Europe that the hon. Gentleman wants, he has it in the draft.

The point that I was making, which has not been contradicted from those on the Government Front Bench, is that the primacy clause, article 10, will extend far further than anything in the existing treaties. It will implement the same primacy over the intergovernmental pillars—that is, justice and home affairs, and the common foreign and security policy—for the first time. It is not just the laws of the new Union that will have primacy, but the constitution itself—that is, the obligations in the constitution—the solidarity obligation on member states and the entire EU charter of fundamental rights. That takes up the whole of part II of the constitution. The charter of fundamental rights—all of it—will therefore have primacy over the laws of member states.

In his remarks, the Foreign Secretary claimed that there was a House of Lords report that showed that there is a shift from the Commission to member states. It would have been less disingenuous of him if he had not told us that that report came out long before the end of the Convention—before the Convention even defined or debated the powers of the Commission. So if anyone is peddling myths in this debate, it is the Foreign Secretary.

It has been asserted that the constitution will be simpler than the treaties. It is, in fact, longer than the treaties that it replaces. It has been claimed that it will bring clarity to the division of power between member states and the new Union, but most policy areas will be shared. There is no other constitution in the world that defines all the policies to be shared. What is the definition of sharing? When the Union legislates, member states will have to leave that area of policy entirely to the new Union. I hope that none of us have to share a flat with someone whose definition of sharing is that when they move into the flat, we have to move out. That is the definition written in the draft constitution and it is not under review. It is not a red line issue for the Government.

Criminal justice, perhaps, gives us the best overall example of what is at stake. There are 21 completely new articles covering justice and home affairs in the draft

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constitution. They cover the definition of serious crimes and the penalties that will attach to them in general areas such as corruption, computer crime and organised crime. All that will be harmonised and decided by the Union by majority voting. The same is true of criminal procedures, rules of evidence and the rights of the accused. All these things will be decided by majority voting.

The Minister for Europe tabled an amendment in the Convention disagreeing with that in unequivocal terms. I give him credit for that, at least. He said that it is essential that the relevant article is rejected in its present form and made subject to unanimity if it survives. Why, then, do the Government now say that they have so-called wriggle room in respect of the criminal justice procedures? Those go to the heart of what the House is about. We have just had a Criminal Justice Bill going through the House that attempted to define and, in some cases, limit court proceedings and the rights of the accused. It is the essence of democracy that such matters are debated here where we are answerable to our constituents and ultimately to an electorate. All that goes upwards to the new Union.


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