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I am puzzled by the reasons for this statement. The publication of the first such White Paper on 20 April last year was merely announced in passing by the Prime Minister in a wider statement explaining his somersault on the referendum. No detailed explanation was given to Parliament. Why is this statement needed today, particularly as the Foreign Secretary had nothing new to say? Is not the reason that the Government are involved in a taxpayer-subsidised propaganda exercise to try to sell the new EU to the country in advance of the forthcoming referendum and general election?
Can he explain how, in the course of that stimulation, the general public are to become more closely and deeply involved in European affairs? This document, repleteextraordinarilywith five and a half pages of a glossary of Euro-speak, is in truth designed to lull the British people into a false sense of security.
One or two matters of detail arise out of this White Paper. Is there really a need for a "new European Gender Institute", referred to on page 14, in paragraph 37? What on earth is wrong with our Equal Opportunities Commission? Is this not yet another example of unnecessary European interference and empire building? Will not this new institute duplicate work to be carried out by yet another new European institution, the human rights agency, to which paragraph 63 refers?
While we are on that agency, why did the Commission, in its recent consultation paper, refer to it not as the human rights agency but as "the Fundamental Rights Agency"? What is the difference? Are the Government merely trying to hide the implications of the inclusion of the charter of fundamental rights, which they have tried so hard over the last few months to play down? Does not paragraph 51 confirm a further encroachment of the EU into areas of fundamental national jurisdiction, namely matters of criminal justice? Does not that fly in the face of previous Government promises that such matters would remain outside Community competence?
At paragraph 81, the Foreign Secretary refers to the work that he was doing in Iran. Why is his view of Iran so different from that expressed by the President of the United States in his State of the Union address last night? Has he taken into account, for instance, the reports in today's newspapers that Ukraine has in the past sold long-range missiles to Iran? While we are on the subject of Ukraine, why is the Foreign Secretary so lukewarm about Ukraine's attempts to open negotiations to become part of the European Union?
Page 11 makes much of the Lisbon agenda. We have long warned that that agenda could easily become all about failed targets and today we see with regret how right we were. Halfway through the 10-year programme, little has been achieved and, as the White Paper itself acknowledges, the prosperity and productivity gap in relation to the United States is widening. In the White Paper, the Government describe that as "falling short of expectations". In the "EUobserver" on 2 February, Wim Kok described the
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goal of the agenda as "a bridge too far". But was not Romano Prodi nearer the truth last October when he described it quite simply as "a big failure"? Yet the White Paper merely promises more of the same.
Is it not the case that the real engine of prosperity and growth is deregulation, competition and a genuinely free market? Is it not also the case that the social model acts as a break on that engine, and is that not why the EU is failing economically? Yet the White Paper offers a lot more talk and no action.
The Foreign Secretary knows well that the prospects for the EU in the coming year will remain uncertain until the outcome of the EU-wide process of ratification of the constitution is known. Yet now we hear that the Government intend to put off the referendum in this country until the latest possible date next year. Prolonging the uncertainty can only be bad for the EU. Why do the Government not have the courage of their convictions and hold the referendum now? Why do they not realise that this country will have no part in the constitution, and begin to build an EU that will work for its peoples rather than its elites?
Mr. Straw: The self-deprecating smile on the face of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as he mouthed his last point said it all. It was clear that not even he believes such nonsense. One reason why he does not believe it is that, as someone who throughout his political careeruntil he became deputy leader of the Conservative partywas an ardent supporter of Britain in Europe who not only voted for Maastricht but spoke up for it, he knows very well that Europe above all other issues has wrecked the Tory party and removed its prospects of power for well over a decade.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked why the statement was needed. I refer him to a statement I made early last year, when I told the House that in my judgment the British Government ought to be more accountable to the House for what they do in regard to European Union business. I made a series of proposals, one of which was regular publication of these White Papers and an oral statement to accompany those published annually. That is why I am here now, and I find it astonishing that he is running so scared of the facts about our record in Europe that he does not want the issue to be discussed.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the new gender institute. Of all the issues that he could have highlighted, he fixed on that one. I will tell him why the institute is needed. Even the Conservatives' policy for the European Union accepts the free movement of workers and of people. That means that in increasing numbers[Interruption.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about this, so I am trying to explain. In increasing numbers, British workers will be working abroad. If they happen to be women, they ought to be entitled to the same protection that they can enjoy here. I should have thought that that was commendable, not a matter for regret.
The same applies to the human rights agency. No, it will not duplicate the work of our own agencies. Indeed, we are far more advanced in terms of gender equality
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as we are in terms of race and religious relationsthan most, if not all, other European countries. However, it is of great value to our people abroad to be able to secure some minimal protection if they are subject to gender or racial discrimination.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about judicial co-operation and our signature to the Amsterdam treaty. The terms of that treaty were made very clear when the House debated it in 1997. I think that the Conservatives tried to make that and Nice the great election issue in 2001, and they got the answer that they deserved from the British electorate.
I will tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman why we need QMV on aspects of asylum and immigration policy. Back in the early 1990s, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) signed up to a convention that became Dublin I. It had to be agreed unanimously and it was crazy to sign it, because, although it did not come into force until 1997, it was binding and prevented us from maintaining our bilateral agreement with France to return asylum seekers and illegal immigrants who had travelled through France.
There is no point in the Leader of the Opposition weeping about that decision, which was his responsibility. I tried to get the convention changed, but it took a very long time, because one or two countries proposed vetoing that change. QMV allowed us to make the change, and we now have returns agreements, and the same is true of the Eurodac fingerprinting convention. If the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) wants better to control immigration and asylum into this country, he must understand that we need co-operation with our European partners, a level playing field and, above all, to be able to change the law in our favour, but he is setting his face against all those things.
The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes asked about our position on Iran. In case he has not noticed, the British Government and the British Parliament are responsible for our foreign policyI noted the implication of his remarks. Every single decision that France, Germany and the United Kingdom have made has been endorsed unanimously by the governing body of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on which the United States and others sit.
Finally and most absurdly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that progress on Lisbon has not been as good as it should have beenI am glad that he has read that section of the White Paperbut then said that the European Union should secure more liberalisation, greater deregulation, better competition and a genuinely free market. What on earth does he think that the Lisbon agenda is about, if not deregulation, greater competition and a genuinely free market? Some people in the European single market are behind the action, which is why we have worked hard and successfully to get a Commission that represents our vision of the future and that will actively pursue the Lisbon agenda, which did not happen under the previous Commission.
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