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Mr. Frank Field: Some Labour Members have been laughing at the right hon. Gentleman's saying that he would have voted in favour of a referendum on Maastricht. His embarrassment, if he has any, in changing his mindwhich the electorate might welcomeis surely no greater than the embarrassment of many of my colleagues, who said right up to the last moment that we should not have a referendum but will vote for one tonight.
Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but to save time I had not intended to rehearse points that we have made beforefor example, reminding the Foreign Secretary of the days when he was not only against membership of the then Common Market, but campaigned vigorously to keep Greece out of Europe. He has changed his mind, and we can change our minds.
when the treaty itself refers to "a Constitution for Europe", but so far I have received no answer. It is vital that there is no ambiguity in the question, and it must therefore be logical that it uses the same descriptive terminology as the treaty, namely: "A Treaty to establish a Constitution for Europe". Indeed, this week the Electoral Commission commented that it
It notes that the proposed question is a modification of the treaty title rather than the exact title. Its own model question, produced in October 2004, uses the correct name. If there is no significance, as I presume that the Foreign Secretary will eventually tell me when he replies, he will have no difficulty in accepting the amendment that I will table in Committee to achieve the
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same effect. It is interesting to note that the French question, which has been made public today, uses the precise title of the treaty by referring to the treaty that establishes a constitution for Europe. It would be sensible if our question did the same.
Turning now to the rest of the Bill, it will come as no surprise to the House that we vigorously oppose what is being proposed. We are against a constitution for Europe, and we are against this constitution for Europe. The Bill uses the existing machinery of the European Communities Act 1972 to give legal effect to the treaty under UK domestic law.
The Bill does not seek ratificationit seeks implementation. Even if its implementation depends on an affirmative vote in the referendum, it is nevertheless unacceptable to us, and we will vote accordingly in the Lobby tonight.
I find it difficult to believe what I am hearing. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is explaining what he is against, but I understand that he is in favour of a major renegotiation of our involvement in Europe. Can he name just one out of the 25 countries that is in favour of the position that he is advancing?
Mr. Ancram: The right hon. Gentleman will have to wait until I reach that part of my speech. I remember with affection the days when the right hon. Gentleman was not trying to ingratiate himself as much as he is at the moment, and when he and Iand Sir Malcolm Rifkindsigned a letter to The Scotsman calling for a free vote on the 1972 legislation. I am not certain that we would have that support and co-operation from him today.
I will come shortly to the reasons for our objections to the constitution and to the myths with which the Government have sought to surround it, but I want first to deal with several points arising from the Bill. It automatically extends the scope of directly effective EU law to the additional areas, such as criminal justice, that are covered by the constitution. In addition, the fundamental provisions of the constitution, including those relating to legal primacyto which we have long objectedwill be given legal effect within our law. There is also a major extension of the Government's power to legislate by statutory instrument. Ironically, that extension of bureaucratic power at the expense of Parliament is not mandated by the adoption of the constitution. It is simply a Whitehall power grab; it is gold-plating the constitution on a grand scale. That from the Foreign Secretary who told us a year ago:
I suggest that he looks again at the Bill in that context. Perhaps he has been too busy drafting pathetic attacks on our policy to notice what his own officials are doing. Far from dealing with gold-plating, the Bill is a new milestone in its onward march.
On top of that, parliamentary approval for constitutional changes in the EU, such as extending qualified majority voting still further, which until now has required primary legislation, will now only require an abbreviated procedure. Contrary to the Government's assurances, European Court of Justice decisions on the common foreign and security policy could have legal effect. We shall want to explore all those issues more deeply in Committee, but the Government's attempts to use time constraints to stifle proper debate may make that difficult.
The Bill is certainly not the inoffensive measure that the Government would have us believe. It sets out to create something that has not existed in this country that is of fundamental importance and creates a fundamental change. The Government know that, which is why they seek to hide it in a miasma of myths. I may have misjudged the Government in one respect. I had thought that their assertion that the real choice facing the British people is whether they want to be in or out of Europethe Foreign Secretary was rather less assertive about it today, but the Minister for Europe keeps returning to it on the radiowas pure propaganda. I am beginning to conclude that they have become the victims of their own spin and that they genuinely believe it. That could explain why they surrendered on so many matters on which they told us that they would stand firm. It would explain why they are so prepared to sell out our sovereignty and our rights of self-determination.
When will the Government realise that the successful countries in the EU are those that are prepared to fight their corners and stand up for the national interest? France would never have stood by and watched while the EU destroyed a basic national industry, as we have watched our fishing industry being destroyed. No wonder the Government's record on Europe is such a dismal litany of caving in.
Angus Robertson: A moment ago, the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the common fisheries policy. I have asked the question three or four times: will he take the opportunity to apologise on behalf of the Conservative party for signing up to it in the first place?
No wonder we are considering a Bill that asks us to sign away yet more of our sovereignty. We have a Government of the white flag and black propaganda. From the Government of the dodgy dossier, we got another dodgy dossier yesterday. It was based on false premises, coloured by false analysis and riddled with false conclusions, but then I read that Alastair Campbell is back. It was not about weapons of mass destruction but our EU policy. The Government use tactics of false myths, which we must expose again and again.
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The Government claim, incredibly, that the constitution means more power for member states. Former Italian Prime Minister Signor Lamberto Dini was much nearer the truth when he said that, under the constitution
I heard the Foreign Secretary on the radio this morning responding to a comment that I had made by saying that what we were experiencing now was not irreversible. I refer him to the remarks of the Prime Minister of France, Monsieur Raffarin, who said in October:
The Government claim that the constitution is essential to manage enlargement. Yet five years ago, the Prime Minister was arguing that it was not needed. Six years ago, the Foreign Secretary's predecessor went so far as to tell the House:
The charter of fundamental rights, which the Government promised would only ever be a political declaration, is now legally binding. The Prime Minister said that giving the EU a single legal personality would be damaging and boasted after Amsterdam that he had blocked it. Yet under the constitution, the EU gets a single legal personality.
At the convention that drafted the European constitution, the Government tried to strike out the new chapter on energy policy. They failed. They said that the creation of a European Foreign Minister would be "unacceptable", yet in article 128, there he is. In 1996, the Prime Minister promised, as Leader of the Opposition, that
In another desperate piece of spin, the Government invented the famous "red lines", which would not be surrendered. However, they broke them, too. They failed to stop the potential establishment of a European public prosecutor. They gave up our veto on criminal procedure law and some penalties and definitions of crime, and they gave up our veto over social security.
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Behind the myths, the reality is that the constitution represents both a strategic defeat and a defeat in detail for the Government. Their trouble is that they have no real vision for Europe, other than a vague one of integration and a desperate fear of being isolated.
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