|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Logically, the new constitutional treaty is one that the Conservatives should support. As the noble Lord Heseltine has said[Interruption.] I note the mocking laughter with which the name of Lord Heseltine is now treated by Conservative Members in the House. I have my arguments with Lord Heseltine, but I would say on his behalf that he was a damned sight more successful at winning elections for the Conservative party than the current rabble have been, so it would be wise for the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) to bear his record in mind. Lord Heseltine rightly said that
9 Sept 2004 : Column 890
"any Conservative Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan would have signed"
The Conservatives say that they want a Europe of nations, not a superstate. So do we, and that is what the treaty sets out. They say that they want a more flexible Europe and again that is in the treaty, without being in the existing arrangements. They say that they want more efficient and effective European institutions. That is what the treaty will deliver. They are unhappy with having negotiated Maastricht a decade ago and now they are opposing a treaty that in many ways reforms the EU of Maastricht for the better. What the Conservatives cannot bring themselves to engage with are the issues or serious debate about Britain's future within the EU. The Conservative party is being forced ever further into more and more extreme positions that would marginalise and weaken this country's influence.
The European elections painted a dismal picture of a Leader of the Opposition desperate to pander to those who would betray our national interests by taking Britain out of the EU, but if that campaign teaches the Conservative party anything, it is that the hard-line rejectionists can never be appeased.
Mr. Straw: We are going into the referendum campaign in order to win, so our policy is to gain a yes vote, and I very strongly believe that we will gain it. If there is a no vote, it is perfectly obvious what the circumstances will beand the existing treaties will apply. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman should apply himself to is why the existing ramshackle treaties, which give European nation states less power than the new treaty, will somehow be beneficial for Britain.
Now that the final text of the draft treaty is agreed, Parliament and the British people can debate it on the basis of facts, not the myths and scare stories of the party opposite. [Interruption.] In Parliament and to the British people, who will have the final say on its ratification in a referendum, the Government will make their case on the basis of the result that we have achievednot by some stroke of chance, but because the Government have put Britain at the heart of European decision-making and shaped the debate in our favour.
Engagement in Europe pays. It was by engaging with our partners that the Government delivered what we set out to do with the new constitution. It was by building alliances and winning the arguments that we got the right choice for the new European Commission PresidentJosé Manuel Barroso, who has the stature, drive and global outlook to drive through reform in the EUand with our former right hon. Friend Peter Mandelson, we have an outstanding British appointment who has now acquired the key trade portfolio. [Interruption.] That will benefit this country and the EU as a whole.
9 Sept 2004 : Column 891
We will need the same engagement in the months ahead as we work to push through economic reform, to complete the single market in services and to build the EU's capacity to act globally against the threats from conflict, proliferation and terrorism. Britain cannot afford to retreat to the sidelines, as the Conservative party would have us do. The Government will continue to engage in Europe to shape the debate and get the right results for Britain, and we will continue to make the case for this new treaty on the basis of fact, not myth. It is a treaty that sets out our kind of Europe, an effective, flexible and reforming EU of nations in which Britain is more prosperous and more secure.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I think that it was Sir Winston Churchill who once wrote a note alongside the text of his speech saying, "Argument weak; must shout." The last five minutes of the Foreign Secretary's speech fits very well into that category. I am delighted and relieved, however, to see him here today after the poisonous briefings against him that we have seen in the newspapers. We were all concerned that there might have been a career move on his part, so we are all pleased that he is in his place today.
I begin by associating myself with the remarks that the Foreign Secretary made about the terrorist incident in Jakarta. We join him in sending our condolences and sympathies to those who were injured.
Sir Teddy Taylor: My right hon. and learned Friend is courteous, as always. I want to make a serious point. Is it not absolutely disgraceful that the Foreign Secretary gave a speech that was full of propaganda, but failed to make one reference to the appointment of a new European Foreign Minister as one of the fundamental parts of the new treaty? That will affect this and other countries. It is a matter of real significance and massive cost, yet he did not make a single reference to it in his speech. Would it not be better if we talked about the real issues instead of exchanging propaganda?
Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken the words out of my mouth. I was going to refer to the fact that the Foreign Secretary spends more time attacking what he thinks is our policy but is not, rather than explaining his own policy. I asked him what would happen if the people of this country voted no, and he said that we would simply go back to the existing treaties. If he had bothered to read his own White Paper, he would see that it states on page 11 that, in those circumstances,
"the Union would obviously be faced with a considerable political crisis. The member states have agreed that . . . there would need to be further European Council discussion."
We want to know what that discussion will be about. Once again, the right hon. Gentleman, who always talks in terms of black and whitethat we are either in or out of Europehas to face up to his own words in his own White Paper. I hope that before the debate is over, the Minister for Europe will offer us some explanation.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollock) (Lab/Co-op): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the statement in the White Paper means that if the constitution is rejected, as I hope it will be, there will be no question of losing British jobs associated with trade in the EU or the even greater number of EU jobs associated with trade with Britain, because there would be no adverse economic impact resulting from the rejection of the constitution?
Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and, funnily enough, that was the position adopted by his own Government when the constitution seemed to have run into the buffers last December. We were then suddenly told that it was not necessary and that we could manage without it. The hon. Gentleman therefore makes a valid and valuable point.
Unlike the Foreign Secretary, most hon. Members have not had much time to study the White Paper in detail. It was certainly not available in Portcullis House until 11.30 this morning. I will want to read it in greater detail before dealing analytically with all the points in it. At first glance, it carries assertions that are at best questionable and in some cases plain wrong. I will come on to those points in due course. Once again, it mixes fact with spin, though I suppose that that is not surprising from the present Government.
I shall give an example of how extraordinary this document is. On page 27, it describes the energy chapter as "a good outcome". The truth is that the Government tried at the Convention to delete the whole of that chapter, but failed. If this defeat is a good outcome, what on earth is a bad one?
To my surprise, the White Paper deals with the question of a European constitution. I welcome that, and am delighted that the Government are at last prepared to accept that that is what we are talking about. There have been months of studious attempts to avoid the C-word. The document has been called a constitutional treaty, a tidying-up exercise, and a consolidation of existing treaties. All along, we have said that we could not have a proper debate on the matter until it was accepted that this was a constitution for the EU. That is what this document is, what it now says that it is, and what the Government now admit that it is. We are talking about a constitution of primacy and integration, and of a political entity in its own right.
Article I-5a says, not that European law shall have primacy over the law of member states, but that the constitutionthis documentshall have that primacy. What is remarkable about the Government's attitude is that nowhere else in Europe are people, let alone
9 Sept 2004 : Column 893
politicians, in such denial about the fact that this constitution is a hugely important part of the European integration process.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|