The right hon. Gentleman thinks that the CAP should be repatriated, so does he believe that every country in Europe should be free to do whatever it wants in terms of agricultural subsidies? Would not that be counter-productive for developing fair trade for poorer nations?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I shall return to fair trade at the end of my remarks. Meanwhile, I merely observe that there could be a common policy, but the funding could be repatriated. People in this country do not resent paying money to British farmers. I represent an agricultural constituency and I should also declare an interest in that I have a partnership farm, so I receive some CAP funding. The resentment is not that we pay for our own farmers but that we pay for everybody else's in Europe.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for not being in the Chamber for the beginning his speech. Like other members of the European Scrutiny Committee, we were unable to be here for the start of this important debate.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is time to look at repatriation of the common fisheries policy? Could he clarify the position of the Conservative party under its new leader? Does the CFP remain Conservative policy and will the Conservatives apologise for signing us up to it in the first place?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: One of the minor scandals of the European constitution is that it entrenched and formalised a common fisheries policy that is bad not just for fishermen but for fish. Occasionally, I visit Iceland where I have seen the advantages to all concerned of the concept of stewardship. Those who own and control their own waters tend to look after their fishery resources, but when there is a common policy everybody tries to get what they want. That is intensely bureaucratic, bad for the environment and bad for the livelihoods of our fishermen. Enormous changes are required, but all the changes that have been made were in the wrong direction. In the constitution, the Government tried to give whole CFP away.
I want to advance a wider truth and put a wider question. Why is the cornerstone of our foreign policythe EUsuch a nightmare to deal with for all Governments? When the Government go to the next European summit, all they can hope for is to avoid damage. They never go to summits with the hope of changing the world for the better; it is all about fighting a desperate battle to preserve what remains of our self-government, to stop too many advances on our criminal justice, foreign policy and defence. We are fighting a losing battle.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks said, the European constitution is already being implemented by the back door, by manipulating the existing treaty base in collusion with the European Court of Justice. He gave an example of how a recent court case will allow criminal justice matters to be spread right across member states, even if those member states' Governments disagree. The situation is in fact worse than that. The court case signals the fact that future environmental and other directives will require criminal penalties. Even if the directives are agreed by majority voting, as they will be, member states that vote
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against them will have those criminal penalties imposed in their domestic jurisdictions. There can be no clearer example of the way in which the House of Commons or another national Parliament will lose control of the most precious, basic and central power: imprisoning or fining citizens and electors.
It was explicit in the European constitution that the power was to be given away. The constitution was turned down by referendums in other member states, but exactly the same measure is being introduced by the back door by manipulating the existing treaty base. That matter should be on the agenda of the summit at the end of the week. We should defend British interests against the encroachment of an expansive jurisdiction. It tells us something about the entire process of the European Union that the best for which Ministers can hope is to avoid further damage.
With member states freed from the temporary and perhaps artificial unity of trying to create a European constitution, the real and deep-rooted differences in the European Union are becoming clearer. We have debated the budget this afternoon and I want to mention trade. We have had a year of making poverty history. The cause has mobilised enormous numbers of our constituents, who know that among the best things that we can do for the poorest countries of the world is to help them to get a bigger share of world trade. In fact, small increases in trade share do more good than a lot more aid.
The paradox is that this country does not have a trade policywe have given it away. Of the eight Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry, only one deals with trade, and he is shared with the Foreign Office. There is half a ministerial job in the DTI dealing with trade. We have simply disarmed. We have no expertise on trade. We have sub-contracted the whole thing to the European Commission and our ex-colleague, Peter Mandelson, who is not really a negotiator, but more an impresario who is trying to synthesise an agreed position between the French protectionist ideology and what is loosely called the Anglo-Saxon, or liberal trading, position of the United Kingdom. He is failing to reconcile our interests with those of the French, but the victims are the poor: the poor in our country who could do so much better if we could import things more cheaply and consumer prices could be brought down thereby and, most importantly, the poor and the poorest in the developing world.
Think what we could do if we were in charge of our own trade policy. We could import immediately goods and products that the developing world produces. There would not be competition with our farmers because we do not grow bananas and oranges in this country. We could import the goods from poor countries free from tariffs and protection, which would be to their advantage and ours. However, that is illegal. It is against treaty law because the European Union, to use its jargon, has an exclusive competence over trade policy. It is not only our interests that are being betrayed, but the interests of the poorest people in the world.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD):
The right hon. Gentleman speaks eloquently about the virtue of trade liberalisation as a way to help developing countries. Indeed, his party leader touched on the same theme earlier today. Will the right hon. Gentleman
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explain then why, when a French Trade Commissioner, who was the predecessor to the present Trade Commissioner, unveiled perhaps the most ambitious proposal on trade liberalisation for the benefit of developing countriesthe "Everything but Arms" initiative, which was designed to allow total duty-free trade of products from the 46 poorest countries in the worldConservative Members of the European Parliament resisted the measure on the ground that they wished to protect sugar farmers in this country? Rhetoric is easy, but when will the Conservative party put that rhetoric into practice?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I do not accept that. The Conservative party has a long and honourable record of fighting for free trade, as, I concede, did the old Liberal party. My family were all members of the Liberal party up to the second world war, partly because we were free traders. We were in manufacturing and we took on the landowners and feudal interests in these days. We fought to do away with the corn laws, and, indeed, we were helped by the ancestors of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). We fought together on the matter, so it is sad that the old Liberal party is unrecognisably represented in the Liberal Democrats of today. I do not accept the strictures of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg). I have always believed that free trade benefits the poor, especially. It is a scandal and a shame that we have no meanspolitical or legalto exert such influence in the wider world because we have given up powers to another jurisdiction.
Hugh Bayley: Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously think that we would be more likely to get a deal in the World Trade Organisation if each EU member state were represented by its own Trade Minister? By pooling the policy, France has to give a bit. For example, it had to make the concession of agreeing to the phasing out of export subsidies, but that would not have happened if France had been acting alone. The world trade negotiations would have been even more deadlocked than they are now.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: We have heard about the ambition of reforming the CAP for decades. The European Union is incapable of reformI know, because I tried to achieve it. National Governments can change, and a change of Government leads to a change in policy. No changes are possible in the European Union because it is a bureaucracy that is immune to reform. The CAP is the vestige, albeit an important one, of that immunity to reform.
I end my speech by making an observation about Britain's place in the world. The Government have not addressed the question of where we stand in the world. It is true that we are in part a European continental country and we play our role as such. However, General de Gaulle said more than 40 years ago that Britain is an insular, maritime country with instincts and traditions that differ profoundly from those of the continentals. That is a profound truth. Our global links, language, pattern of trade and legal system mean that we are not just a continental country. We have links with what
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de Gaulle called the maritime parts of the world, although I think that they would now be called global links. Technology, the unassailable position of the English language and what has been called the death of distance have strengthened those global links and the global pull in many ways. However, the European Unionespecially through the euro in the financial field and the European constitution in the political fieldwas and is an attempt to park us permanently in a continental situation. That defies our national character, along with our traditions, history and instincts. I believe that that is understood on the Opposition Benches. There is no inkling that the Foreign Secretary or the Government have even addressed these issues. These are the matters that they should be discussing in the coming days. They will be discussed by the Conservative party on its return to office.