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Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I support the Bill. I am a strong advocate of both its form and its content. I represent one of the many areas in the United Kingdom that has benefited hugely from the positive outcomes of the European Union. I note that the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) is a resident and a representative of a similar area, and I do not understand the position that he takes.

We should concern ourselves with the attitude of the Opposition. I was intrigued by the contribution from the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes
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(Mr. Ancram). After telling us about Geronimo scalping the taxpayer for propaganda purposes, he made an extraordinary statement. He criticised the Government for not allowing enough time for discussion, debate and scrutiny, but in answer to an intervention from the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), he made it clear that in the unlikely eventuality of the Conservative party being returned at the next election, there would be no scrutiny of any sort. That leads to a great deal of confusion not only in the minds of right hon. and hon. Members, including Opposition Members, but outside.

In another intervention we heard that in the Scrutiny Committee the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) had legitimately asked whether the Bill could be used as the basis for a future referendum. I assume that implicit in that question is the belief among at least a section of the Conservative party that whatever is done as a result of the Bill will be undone at some future time. That underlines an almost visceral opposition to the European Union in any form that it might take.

I was equally taken by the exchange between the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe and the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory). The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that they go round the country and debate these matters, and I do not doubt the sincerity with which their opposing views are held. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he did not understand why they could never get to the basis of the argument. That is because of the difference in their visions of the future of Europe. They are so different that it is like trying to compare the vision of Michelangelo with that of Hieronymus Bosch. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe and the right hon. Member for Wells see the world from totally different perspectives, and that colours their outlook on everything to do with Europe and the EU.

Mr. Robert Jackson: And wider.

Mr. Kilfoyle: And far wider, as my hon. Friend suggests.

Those who oppose the Bill always fail to draw attention to the irreconcilable tail that is wagging the Conservative dog. They fail to say what they would put in place of a United Kingdom which, in their heart of hearts, they want out of Europe. Will we no longer be the bridge to America? Are we supposed to be a dwindling and irrelevant piece of real estate floating off the edge of Europe? Will we increasingly become a client of America, and will the notion of the United Kingdom as an American aircraft carrier hold true? All the Opposition's views are vague and indeterminate, but they stem from a visceral antagonism towards the European Union and things European.

I take great pride that on issues as disparate as the environment, Iraq—even allowing for my personal view on war against that country—arms trading with China, and the preference for diplomacy over military muscle in the case of Iran, I look to Europe for support, succour, help and common sense. That is not to deny Europe's failings and failures. I acknowledge them, but I also take on board the overwhelming advantages of the European position. I hope that we make expeditious progress on the Bill and that when we go to the country we can
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convince people of the good sense of such things as an improved presidency with greater continuity and objectivity. There are obvious benefits, as has been said, in not having two representatives to deal with foreign affairs. Preconceived notions are not endangered by the proposal that Javier Solana should be, for want of a better description, the first Foreign Minister under the constitution. Qualified majority voting on measures against criminal activity is also desirable. I just wish that the previous Government had introduced proposals on better co-operation with Europe, as that might have prevented leading criminals from being able to escape jurisdiction and being held to account before 1997.

5.41 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) (UUP): Once again, we have a thoroughly unsatisfactory procedure whereby a new 500-page constitution will be made part of our law in just five clauses. We can only debate those clauses and not the 500 pages. I repeat that it is thoroughly unsatisfactory that agreements made through the exercise of the treaty-making power deal with Europe as if it were a foreign country on the other side of the Pacific. That is not appropriate, and it is using the royal prerogative to change our constitution. That is quite unacceptable in this day and age, and I hope that the Government will reassess such matters in future.

There are clear differences of opinion on the construction of parts of the measure. It is no longer purely about consolidation. The Government argue that they are moving things back towards the nation state, but others regard it as yet another step in the long trail towards a federal state. When the original statement was made, I said that it does not matter what view the Government or others express because, at the end of the day, the European Court of Justice will decide these matters, and we know what its bias and approach are. After I made those comments, a Government supporter told me that I should not worry, because the Government had managed to remove the phrase "ever closer union" from the new treaty. Because they were no longer committing themselves to ever closer union, the European Court would cast a different eye on things. After finally getting hold of the text, I can confirm that "ever closer union" has gone, only to be replaced with the phrase "united ever more closely". If that does not make it clear that there is an absence of significant change, there is an express reference to continuity in the acquis communautaire. That continuity will be accompanied by continuity in the drift towards greater federalism in these provisions.

When we were presented with the treaty, I told the Government that they had missed a huge opportunity. What we really need in Europe is fundamental reform, but we do not have it in the treaty. There is a little tinkering around the edges, but that will not stop the progress towards a federated Europe. If the Government had plucked up the courage to veto the constitution, they could have started to argue for fundamental reforms, as they would no longer be trammelled by the report from the European Convention.

We need fundamental changes. Europe exists, and we will continue to be a part of it in one form or another. We need a democratic Europe, and the Europe we have
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is not democratic. For example, we have a situation in Europe where a group of unelected people have a total and absolute veto on legislation; that is another way of describing the European Commission's exclusive right of initiative. The only legislation that can be enacted is legislation proposed by the Commission, which in itself shows the absence of democracy.

I concur entirely with the comments of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) about the danger we are in when there is a gap between the people and those who make laws affecting them. That is why we need reforms to make European institutions more democratic and more democratically accountable.

I shall just touch briefly on economic matters, which is another area in which we need huge changes. How many years ago did the Union commit itself at Lisbon to making changes? Has it made any? Is Europe more competitive or productive? No. The economic failure of the European Union gets worse, and it is important to realise that we are dealing today with economic failure. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) was worried that a British no vote would lead to a Franco-German inner core. France and Germany are economic failures, and their failures are getting worse because of their failure to change their economies. The lower performance in those countries' economies dates from 1992 and it flows from Maastricht. The Minister may shake his head, but that is the case, and until major economic changes take place there, particularly with regard to the euro and the European Central Bank, the economic failure of Europe will get worse.

The Bill also provides for a referendum, and I welcome the fact that we will have a referendum, and that it will give whoever is in Government at that stage a second chance. I believe and hope that the people will reject the constitution, and flowing from that rejection will come an opportunity to look at the matter again. Europe cannot afford to treat the United Kingdom in the dismissive way it has treated Ireland and Denmark by telling people to go back and think again.

A rejection of the constitution will provoke the opportunity for some real changes in Europe, which are clearly needed. I hope very much that the British people will take that opportunity when it is presented to them. That is, of course, if the opportunity is presented; I still have a thought at the back of my mind that we might never see a referendum.

5.47 pm

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