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Mr. Secretary Clarke, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Tessa Jowell, Secretary Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears, presented a Bill to make provision for reducing and dealing with the abuse of alcohol; to make provision about real and imitation firearms, about ammunition and about knives and other weapons; to amend the Football Spectators Act 1989 and the Football (Disorder) Act 2000; to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and section 8 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998; to amend section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969; to amend the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 10].
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Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The position is more serious than my hon. Friend has described. In fact, the Foreign Secretary was insulting my hon. Friend by alleging that he voted for the treaty that created the new post of Foreign Minister. That was incorrect: it was done under the treaty of Amsterdam, which was introduced by the Labour party. Therefore, not only did the Foreign Secretary mislead the House, but he insulted an hon. Member. It is your duty, Mr. Speaker
Mr. Speaker: Order. I will not have that said. I was here when the Foreign Secretary spoke. Had he insulted any hon. Member, I would have told him to withdraw, but he did not. As I said, if there is a feeling that an inaccurate statement was made, drop the Foreign Secretary a note. I am sure that he will appreciate hearing from the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin).
All sorts of reasons have been proposed by all sorts of people for the French and Dutch rejections of the constitution. The general view of the European political elite seems to be that those who voted yes were voting for the constitution, whereas those who voted no were voting against something else. Certainly there were domestic considerations active in both France and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the results killed off the constitutionat least they would have in any rational world that respected democratic judgments. Yet the constitution's ghost continues to stalk the corridors of the Commission as the énarques of Brussels struggle to salvage something from the wreckage. That salvage
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operation is misguided and fails to heed what the people of France and the Netherlands are telling the European political elite.
Those present in France or the Netherlands for the referendums realised that the atmosphere in the streets represented more than just a simple no to a complex legal document: it marked a shift in public opinion, away from the idea of an elite-driven Europe to a Europe run in the interests of the people of Europe. In the Netherlands, that mood was bound up with concern about the impact of rapid social change within a country over a short period, and in France with concerns about the economy. What came across strongly in both countries was a common resentment about the euro, and that from their own political perspectives they are trapped in a straitjacket that is ill suited to their economic needs.
This wider shift in the mood of the public is not confined to France and the Netherlands. The pitchforks are being dusted down all over Europe. Perhaps we have reached what my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition called the end of inevitability. We were told that membership of the euro was inevitable. Does anyone still believe that? Do even the Liberal Democrats still believe that? We were told that we had to accept the constitution because it, too, was inevitable. Politically, nothing is inevitable unless we in this House and the people of this country accept it to be so.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, in talking about the euro, he was suggesting that many of the people who voted no to the constitution in France and the Netherlands were attempting to vote no to the euro? Otherwise, why did he bring up the issue of the euro?
Dr. Fox: I can only repeat it to the hon. Lady; I cannot understand it for her. As I think I said, there were a number of issues, both domesticallyrelating to economics and to immigration in both France and the Netherlandsand to the constitution as a whole. What I find odd is the idea that people who voted yes were voting purely on the constitution and that those who voted no were voting on anything but the constitution, which seems to be the interpretation put on the result by too many European politicians.
What do we mean by a Europe run in the interests of its people? Some may honourably believe that it is a paternalistic centralised state. I do not. I believe that a Europe run in the interests of the people would be one where national Governments co-operate where it is in their mutual interests to do so, but retain the freedom to act on their own where their national interest is at stake.
There are areas where sovereignty can be pooledfor example, environmental policy. The challenge of climate change is a global one, and the nations of Europe must work together with others. There is no point, for example, in every nation funding identical research into different
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sources of renewable energy. But there are many more areas where sovereignty should not and must not be pooled.
Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree, with the benefit of hindsight, that instead of going down the route of harmonisation, we should have had mutual recognition of goods and services? Does he agree that we should look again at the customs union and the terms under which we are bound by it?
Dr. Fox: I think that even Lady Thatcher would now have some considerable reservations about the form of the single market that we have. As my hon. Friend rightly says, when we decided in Europe to have a single market of harmonisation rather than a market of mutual recognition, as has been adopted in other trading blocs, that inevitably involved a body of legislation, much of which causes problems in our economic system. There is no point in running away from these issues. If we want to see a successful completion of a single market, we will have to examine what type of single market best serves the interests of the economies of Europe.
We must not be afraid of having a genuinely mature debate about Europe in the light of experience. When we do so, there are far too many worriesdare I say it, though the Chief Whip is not in his place?driven by party political unity worries, when what is required is a genuine debate about the United Kingdom as a whole.
Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab): Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he believes that Lady Thatcher should not have signed the Single European Act? Is he saying that if he could go back in time, and was a member of the Government at that time, he would not have signed the Act?
Dr. Fox: I was not even a Member of Parliament at that time, never mind a member of the Government. As I have said, I think that even Lady Thatcher would now say that the direction which the single market ultimately took was not the direction that the British Government sought at that time, and that many of the problems that came from the single market were not anticipated at the outset.
Let us have a rational debate. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that no mistakes were ever made by previous Conservative Governments in European policy, that is preposterous, because most Conservatives would recognise that mistakes were made. We are happy to take our responsibility for where mistakes in the direction of Europe occurred. I wonder whether the Minister will.
The current temptation for the European political elite is to pick over the corpse of the constitution like a latter-day Burke and Hare, extracting the parts of the constitution most dear to their vision in the hope that they can be smuggled through without anyone noticing. That must not be allowed to happen. If the Council of Ministers seeks to introduce any mechanism that takes power away from the people of Britain and gives it to Brussels, it should not be introduced without the British
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Government holding a referendum to give the people of this country their say. The House will remember that the Prime Minister told The Sun:
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