|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Ancram: I shall not give way. The result of the Government's policies has been drift and failure. Hon. Members should not take my word for it but listen to Derek Scott, the Prime Minister's trusted chief economic adviser for six years. [Interruption.] It is wonderful that someone who leaves Downing street becomes a subject of mockery after being regarded as a guru throughout the time spent there. He said:
"First, it opposed a written constitution and then it put forward its own draft, which was treated with contempt. Then there was all that nonsense about 'tidying up' and the need to produce a clear document that could be tucked in your pocket."
"The Government never saw the discussions on the constitution as an opportunity to stand back and think clearly about the appropriate political and economic framework to sustain the EU. There was no strategic thinking. The Government drifted into negotiating over specific details."
However, the most worrying aspects are in the detail of the constitution's effects. The charter of fundamental rights will lead to the European Court of Justice making decisions on matters from asylum law to employment law that are currently the province of elected Members of Parliament. As the president of the Court of Justice said, the constitution
In this country, we are currently debating which party has the best policies to deal with the problems of asylum and immigration. Under the constitution, that debate would be redundant. The relevant decisions would be taken not here but in Brussels. The constitution will vastly extend the EU's powers over our criminal justice.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's comments on the charter are simply untrue and he must know that. Article II-III-2 makes it clear that the
9 Feb 2005 : Column 1543
provisions of the charter can be justiciable only in respect of interpretation of Acts in relation to EU law. As the Attorney-General said, it acts as a constraint and a brake on the scope of what the EU can do, not an accelerator. Why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman perpetuate something that is incorrect?
Mr. Ancram: The man who will apply the constitutionthe president of the European Court of Justicesaid that the constitution would bring new areas and new subjects under the court's jurisdiction. He does not accept the Foreign Secretary's point of view. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about a brake, he should consult the opinion of Professor Sir David Edward, who said that the charter was not, in effect, a brake. We should discuss that in Committee because it goes to the heart of the Government's case.
Mr. Quentin Davies: My right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned asylum and immigration policy several times. I find some difficulty in following his argument and, indeed, the argument in the reasoned amendment, to which he put his name. As I read the document, the protocol on page 130 removes from the United Kingdom the application of the new provisions on asylum and immigration law. In other words, we are completely protected and allowed under the protocol to go on legislating about that for ourselves. In what way and why are provisions that explicitly do not apply to this country on asylum and immigration a reason for not acceding to the treaty?
Mr. Ancram: My hon. Friend must learn from experience. We learned in the past three weeks that the Government have already opted into several protocols, which have removed from the House the ability to legislate on that subject. The constitution makes that easier and more likely in future.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, David Edward is a distinguished Scottish lawyer, who is also a pretty ardent European since his time at The Hague. What exactly did he say? I suspect that the quotation was out of context.
Mr. Ancram: He spoke to the European Scrutiny Committee. If I may, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. I have the quotation in the bundle of papers and I believe that my recollection of Professor Edward's comment is accurate.
Despite protestations that foreign and security policy will not be harmonised, a new European Foreign Minister and diplomatic corps will appear under the constitution. There is even an extension of qualified majority voting in foreign affairs and the Foreign Minister, whatever the Foreign Secretary may say, would, in some circumstances, speak for us at the United Nations. In many other important areas of national interest, including energy policy, employment law and the entrenchment of the common fisheries policy, this constitution means that decisions will no longer be taken in this national Parliament but in the European Union's institutions. Above all, as Derek Scott says, this constitution would
"entrench Europe's failings and drag Britain down too. The constitution is a heady brew of bad politics and bad economics . . . its proponents are being disingenuous in their presentations to the British people."
Let us face it, the European Union is not performing as it should. If it had the same record as the United States on creating jobs, 28 million more people would be in work in the European Union today. It is time to take a fresh look, and rejection of this constitution would allow us to go back to the drawing board. The reality is that a European Union of 25and possibly moremember states can work only if it is generally recognised that different countries want different levels of integration. Why should we not let each country find the level of integration with which it feels comfortable? We need a new, imaginative structure for the European Union, and a flexible approach would ensure that we could create a made-to-measure Europe in which the institutional arrangements comfortably fitted national interests, rather than an off-the-peg Europe that is ill fitting and, as we now know, splitting at the seams.
The Foreign Secretary holds the bizarre view that it is a fantasy to call for the return of powers from the EU to Britain, but surely the real fantasy is to assert that everything that the EU does is best decided at European level and that everything that it has done in the past is now set in stone.
There is a growing belief across Europe that some things that the EU does would be better done at national level. I know that it embarrasses Labour Members, but I am going to quote Derek Scott once more.
Mr. Foulkes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You and my hon. Friends will recall that, in answer to my earlier question, the shadow Foreign Secretary specifically said that he would say which countries supported his line on fundamental renegotiation. He has not yet answered that question.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) knows that that is a matter of debate, and the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) has not yet concluded his speech.
"the point is there are alternatives to the EU constitution. Its proponents argue that returning competences is not on anyone's agenda beyond a narrow euro-sceptic fringe. This is patently not true . . . it should have been on the agenda of the Convention of the Future of Europe. If it was not, it was because the government was too gutless to put it there."
So the Government's argument that there is no alternative to the constitution, and that it is absurd to call for powers to be brought back to the nation state, is simply bunkum. We, like the Dutch, think that we are better off out of the social chapter, which is adding red tape to British business. And it is because we want our fisheries to thrive like Norway's rather than continue to endure an unsustainable plundering that we believe that national and local control should be restored to our fisheries. By rejecting this constitution, and through negotiation, we can develop a European Union that works better for Britain and better for itself.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|