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I have been listening carefully to what Conservative Front Benchers have been saying over many months. They want a lighter Europe, but precisely which powers would they repatriate, other than fisheries? I still have not received an answer.
Mr. Brady: I have been giving the answer repeatedly for several months. Before the election we said clearly that we want to bring back the social chapter and the control over our asylum and immigration system that the Government gave away. We want to take back control of aspects of overseas aid and we want to take control of fishing. However, the most important thing is the point of principle: establishing flexibility so that powers can go back to member states and not flow only in one direction, not always adding to the acquis communautaire.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) say in his opening speech that we were talking about the single market. Is that one of the elements that we should consider changing? Some of us want to change it.
Mr. Brady: The hon. Gentleman is right. We have been very clear and consistent. We believe that Europe is over-regulated. There are too many directives and too much legislation, which is getting in the way of British business. Incidentally, that view is shared by the Chancellor, of whom the Minister for Europe is of course a well-known acolyte.
We should make it clear that if a few other countries really want more integration, we have no desire to stop them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon said. For the rest of us, the goal is a single market that really works, with less legislation and less regulation. Britain does not want a two-speed Europe. That implies that we are all heading for damnation, but some more quickly than others. We want a looser, more flexible and more outward-looking Europe that can compete in a vibrant world economy. If France wants a new law on temporary workers that forces more jobs to relocate in India, France can have it. We want to move in the opposite direction and the British presidency should be setting out a real programme of deregulation. It is not good enough to embark on yet another relaunch of the Lisbon agenda for economic reform while Europe's share of world trade continues to slide. At a time when voters all over Europe are saying that they want more control over their lives, a British presidency
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should be making a radical case for Europe to do less; to consider which powers can be returned to member states, bringing decisions closer to the people once more.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary may be feeling a little bruised. After all, they signed the constitution. They told us that it was essential. I believe that they had even grown quite attached to it. They said that there was no plan B. Now, just weeks after the general election, the very cornerstone of Labour's foreign policy has been shot to pieces. They should, however, look on the bright side. Their European policy was limp, myopic and outdated. Now they need a new policy that is more optimistic and really focused on the twin challenges of restoring democratic control to the peoples of Europe and freeing business to face the real challenges that lie ahead. They should not be too proud to do the right thing just because the Conservatives got there first.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Barry Gardiner): This has been an interesting debate; the House has ranged effortlessly from the treaty of Westphalia to the questionable mortality of parrots. It has been one of about 16 debates since the intergovernmental conference of October 2003 that have dealt wholly or in large part with the EU constitutional treaty.
New Members have made excellent maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) made a startling admission in his maiden speech. He said that he had applied to speak in this debate without knowing what the motion was to be. Let me simply assure him: the Whips have been taking notes, but in future not only will they expect him to speak when he does not know what the motion is, but they will frequently ask him to vote when he does not know what the motion is. The hon. Gentleman paid fitting tribute to his predecessors, Airey Neave and Robert Jackson, and showed an excellent line of self-deprecatory humour. On today's performance, I shall always expect to enjoy listening to his speeches in the Chamberand of course I shall be delighted should he choose to follow Robert Jackson to this side of the House in due course.
The new hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne) explained that his forebears, who lived in Ludlow, were well connected. He disappointed the House by explaining that this was through the discovery of electric shock therapy. He did promise that it had played no part in his election campaign, but if he would like to speak to me in the Tea Room later I will happily give him a list of those of his colleagues who might benefit from a quick dose. He spoke knowledgeably of his constituency and its people's concerns, and I wish him well in representing them in the Chamber.
Although by no manner of means a new Member, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) made an extremely interesting and thoughtful speech. Recognising the fear of globalisation, he spoke of the dichotomy between a protective social economic model and the so-called Anglo-Saxon liberalising model of Europe. He even refrained from pointing out that both the Angles and the Saxons originally came from Germany, which I thought was quite restrained of him. Significantly though, he highlighted the twin dangers of
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fragmentation and forced integration, by contrast with a flexible Europe with greater democracy at its core. I think many Labour Members felt that this was the speech that Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen should have made, and I hope it does not prove fatal to him when I say that I shall certainly re-read it and I hope that others in his own party do so, too.
With the French and Dutch no votes, Europe is clearly at a crucial juncture and we need to adapt our ways of thinking. As the Prime Minister said, it is a time for reflection. The constitutional treaty was constructed by 25 nation states; it is not for any one nation to declare it dead. No one would seek to pretend, though, that the treaty is not in serious difficulties, and a considered and judicious response demands that we discuss the way ahead with our European colleagues. The Government's position is clear: a treaty will be ratified in the UK only after a referendum. But even the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) must recognise the logic of saying that there will be a referendum only if there is a treaty left to ratify.
Dr. Fox: Now that the Minister has had time to reflect throughout the day, will he answer the question that we have repeatedly asked: what will the Government's position be? Will they ask the other member Governments to go ahead with the ratification procedure, or do the British Government want to see ratification end?
Barry Gardiner: It is important, in any discussions with our European colleagues, for us to let those who have listened to the voices of their own people make their judgment first. We will then join them in the debate.
Barry Gardiner: I want to make a bit of progress. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the winding-up speeches have been curtailed to allow as many Members as possible to speak, and I need to respond to the points that have been made.
The Opposition's position, by contrast, is that there must be a referendum on a treaty that they have unequivocally pronounced to be deceased. I hate to kick a man when he is downI have always regarded it as a rather nasty spectaclebut nasty is one thing and pointless is another. If the treaty is the cadaver that the Opposition claim it to be, the only possible reason for insisting on a referendum would be a wish to dance on its grave. That is not just nasty; it is a waste of time.
During our earlier exchanges, Opposition Members were frequently asked to recall various facts that it was inconvenient for them to recall, such as whether they had failed to call for a referendum on Maastricht or the Single European Act. But perhaps the most interesting collective memory failure on their part concerned their response when Denmark failed to ratify the Maastricht treaty. Their stated position at the time was that we must wait and see. The then Conservative Government delayed Third Reading of the Bill as a direct result of the Danish no, so let them not now deny the sense in waiting a mere eight days until the European Council.
A week from today, we shall meet to debate the European Council. Is the Minister really
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saying that the British Government are not prepared to tell the House or the British people what their position will be, and whether or not they will press for the treaty to be declared dead?
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