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The EU was never democratic; it had always been a project run by an elite, which in turn justified its existence by results...To save the EU, one must rethink the whole integration process...the EU has long since broken down...The malfunctioning Brussels institutions are now out of control...Whats required is less a heroic feat of engineering than a new principle of constructiondemocracy instead of elitism...A design for a new Europe is needed now.
As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have said much the same myself over many years, as have many of my colleagues.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has not always agreed with me on these matters. I have been constant, but not in pursuit of any vainglorious aim. This issue is too big for anybody to attribute to
themselves any particular prophetic ability. So many people said at the time that they were right and we were wrong, but through being very clear and consistent, things have ultimately moved increasingly in the right direction.
Mr. Hoon: I cannot resist commenting on the hon. Gentlemans own consistency. He says that things are moving in the right direction. What is clearly moving his way is the entire bulk of the Conservative party. In former days when we debated these issues, he was very much in a minority on the Conservative Benchesone of a handful of people. I will not use the expression that the former Prime Minister used to describe them, but it was not at all complimentary. Nowadays, Conservative Front Benchers support his position. He is in the mainstream of Conservative party thinking, and I congratulate him on that.
Mr. Cash: I accept that compliment. However, the essence of Conservatism is building organically upon change in a realistic, practical and pragmatic fashion. For example, Disraeli had to take a position on the policies of the mid-19th century and he helped, with John Bright from the other side of the House, to promote democracy in the late 19th century. Those who resisted that point of view 25 years earlier came around to it. The same applies to the appeasement policies of the 1930s, home rule and tariff reform. The bottom line is that we make changes and the European issue is an example of that.
I shall conclude with a quote from the excellent book that I cited earlier. It states:
Electorates must be made aware that withdrawal from the EU is not an act of aggression or a betrayal of the European Idea but a simple political and economic necessity.
I have never specifically advocated withdrawal. However, if the Government, leaders of other member states and the European Commission are not prepared to face up to the challenge of being realistic, exercising the political will to save Europe and sorting out the boundaries between co-operation and European Governmentand to do something about it tomorrow, when the summit takes place, thus changing the nature of the European Unionthey will betray Europe and this country.
The Government have an opportunity to save democracy and ensure that we move into the 21st century with economic competitiveness to answer the challenges of the new globalised world. The failure of the Lisbon agenda gives them a reason to do so; otherwise, they merely whistle in the wind. It is the moment of truth. They can do it. I do not believe that they will but, when they fail, it will be their responsibility and the people of this country will turn against them and turn them out of office. Just as those in favour of the constitution failed in France and Holland, so the Government would have failed in this country had the question of the future of Europe been put in a referendum, as it should have been many years ago.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
Some hon. Members complained that others made the same speeches in debates on European affairs. We now have
the ultimate solution to the problem: we can read the book. We do not even have to participate in the debate. Even better for the Minister for Europe as he gets on his RAF plane tomorrow morning and heads off with the Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) could record tapes for my right hon. Friends to enable them to listen to the contents of the magnificent book on their way to the European summit.
I hope that my contribution will be as brief as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley), because others wish to speak. The shadow Foreign Secretary said that 95 per cent. of the speeches were the sameand as has been the case since he was made shadow Foreign Secretary, 95 per cent. of his speech consisted of jokes about Ministers. I admit that the jokes were funny and had hon. Members rolling in the aisles. I am sorry that you missed it, Mr. Deputy Speakerbut perhaps you watched it on the monitors. The jokes were funny but the speech contained no substance.
First, the right hon. Gentleman complained that the Minister for Europe had made a speech about Europe earlier today. He then complained that the Government, including the Minister for Europe, had shown no leadership. He ended his speech by saying that he agreed with several points that the Minister for Europe made in his earlier speech. I am sorry that I have not seen a copy of that speech, because it sounds like just the kind of speech that a Minister for Europe should be making.
I wish my right hon. Friend well in his first European summit since becoming Minister for Europe, and I know that he will do a splendid job, as will the Foreign Secretary. They are a pretty powerful team. I know that when they go to the European summit they will be batting for Britain, as all Ministers, no matter from which political party they come, have done over the past 20 yearsalthough I am sure that the Minister, being a football fanatic, will ensure that there will be a television screen on the margins of the summit so that he can watch England versus Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow. Sadly, Derby County have not made it to the World cup this year.
I want my right hon. Friend to consider three points at the summit. The first, of course, relates to enlargement. Britain is rightly seen as the champion of enlargement. Since 1997 we have consistently supported the enlargement of the European Union that has brought so many benefits to this country. The recent Ernst and Young report on the result of the latest wave of enlargement and the arrival of the 10 new countries showed that it had benefited the economy of this country by £300 million. It is therefore no surprise that we continue to press the case for enlargement.
I would like the Minister to come back from the summit and give us firm assurances about Bulgaria and Romania. I realise that there are problems about the admission of those two countries, but they have gone way down the line as far as the opening and closing of the various chapters are concerned. They were told that they might be admitted on 1 January 2007, although there might now be a slippage to 2008; we are told that the decision is to be put back to October 2006. It would be helpful for those two countries, and for us, if we had
a firm timetable by the time the summit ended. It is also important that the Government stick to the commitment that they made earlier this year that there would be an indication by August this year on the most important aspect of enlargement as far as Romania and Bulgaria were concernedpeoples freedom of movement.
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I returned last week from Bucharest, where I had been with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Many of the Romanian Ministers to whom we spoke highlighted very honestly their lack of readiness to join in January. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman shares those concerns, and I hope that he will continue to seek assurances from the Minister on this matter. I do not think that Romanias entry on 1 January is as clear-cut as we once thought.
Keith Vaz: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention.
In the end, this will be up to the Commissioner for Enlargement when he presents his report. But whatever happens, we need to know about it. We do not want a repeat of the fiasco that took place before the last enlargement, when we did not have a position on whether workers from the 10 new countries would have the right to work here, or whether they would have to register. That was followed by hysteria from the Conservatives, who said that all those people would come into this country, take our jobs and our homes and cause misery for the people of Britain. Of course that turned out to be perfectly unfounded. Let us have a clear timetable, so that there can be no hysteria from the Conservatives about what we are going to decide on freedom of movement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) mentioned Turkey and Cyprus, and I too am concerned about the progress of those negotiations. They have just started, and I know how hard my right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary worked to get Turkey to start those negotiations, and about the drama at the airport as the Turkish Foreign Minister arrived. I am disappointed with what has happened; we need to ensure that if Cyprus and Turkey are going to continue their long-standing dispute, the EU will act as an honest broker to try to sort out the problems. It would be terrible if, now that we have worked so hard to get Turkey to this stage, there were further delay. Obviously I understand the concerns of the Cypriot people as well.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the fact that unemployment is now at a four-year high? If that trend continues, it might lead in coming months and years to tensions when those who seek a manufacturing job who might not have considered doing so previously find that people from other European countries are in those jobs? That is a serious point, and we should consider it in relation to the prospect of other migrants coming into the country.
Keith Vaz: It is a point, but I urge the hon. Gentleman to read the Ernst and Young report, which examines specifically the arrival of Poles, Hungarians and others from EU countries and finds that they have been a benefit to our economy. If there is new evidence, that will have to be considered. Enlargement has benefited us, however, to the tune of £300 million. In addition, other countries, having seen what Britain did, have decided to do the same. The French have agreed to open their categories so that people from the states that joined in 2004 will be able to work in France too. Obviously, we will need to keep all of that under consideration. As for Bulgaria and Romania, we should have a clear timetable and a clear decision from the Government so that we know where we stand on the issue of freedom of movement for those from the new member states.
On the constitution, I do not object to a period of further reflection. There are still major problems with the constitution. If we had put it to the British people, I, too, believe that they would have rejected it, as the Government did not do enough work prior to any possible referendum to explain to the British people what the constitution was about. I also defer to the knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who both represented the House on the Committee that considered the constitution. When such Members, who represent this House, scrutinise what is happening in Europe and come back here to talk about their concerns, we should listen. They would be the first to say that they raised those concerns long before the conclusion of the discussions, and many of us did not listen to or hear what they had to say. Let us reflect again, but let us debate precisely what we want from what is left of the constitution.
Let us not, however, leave Europe unable to move forward on crucial issues. There is a difference between a constitution and a rule book. We cannot run Europe according to the rules for a Europe of six or 15. We must consider the European Union as a Europe of 25and, in 2007 or 2008, of 27. We really must change. Who do we have to thank for extending qualified majority voting and making sure Europe operated in a much more efficient way? We thank the Conservative Government who held office before 1979, who extended QMV more than any other Government in history. If we consider the results of QMV, we will find that we have been on the winning side on QMV votes on a much larger scale than any of the other big countries. The last time I looked at the figures, 90 per cent. of the times that we voted according to QMV, we won. Therefore, saying that QMV was in some way bad for Britain is wrong, because both Conservative and Labour Ministers used QMV to push through our agenda.
The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) raised the issue of the Tampere agenda, which of course has been renamed Hague 2, which dealt specifically with justice and home affairs. As we face a Europe-wide terrorism threat, it is vital that we should work with our European partners to combat international crime. The European arrest warrant, which has come into force, has been extremely important in enabling us to combat fraud. It is equally
important that we should find justice and home affairs institutions that ensure that we can work together with our European partners to combat crime. What are we so afraid of in dealing with European allies and supporters who wish to combat crime?
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): I am grateful to the former Minister for Europe for giving way. I agree that we should co-operate with our partners to fight crime and terrorism, but will he be clear about whether he advocates giving up the veto in these areas and opening them to qualified majority voting, which we oppose?
Keith Vaz: The Foreign Secretary has said that she will look into this whole area, as we are obliged to do, having taken part in the entire Tampere process, which started during the last Finnish presidency in 1999. We must look at that process and see whether it is in our interests. The Government will propose it if it is in our interest to combat crime by moving forward in that way. In making such a decision, I do not want to substitute my view for that of the Foreign Secretary and her experts. However, when that decision is made, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) should have the sincerity to say that it has been done in the interests of this country and of our police and intelligence services, in accordance with how they wish to combat crime.
I make two further points in conclusion. First, ever since my time at the Foreign Office I have advocated that there should be a Minister for Europe at Cabinet level, with a department of European affairs supporting that Minister. The Foreign Office mandarins are wonderful and I pay tribute to themthe people who used to work for me at the Foreign Office were among the finest civil servants in the galaxy; they were top-quality, first-class diplomatsso I will have no problem if we have one diplomatic service for Europe. I do not think we will ever get such a service, but if we do, I am willing to bet anyone in this House that the civil servants will all be British, because they are the best in Europe. However, the problem is that the Foreign Office is very concerned about structure. Let me give an example by telling an anecdote.
The day after I became Minister for Europe, the then Foreign Secretary took me to lunch and asked whether I would expand my portfolio. He wanted to give me responsibility for entry clearance, as well as Europe. I agreed to take on entry clearance, even though it was a very large portfolio to add to Europe, and many people thought that I was mad to do so. The Foreign Secretary said, Because your portfolio is so big, Im afraid youre going to have to give up Russia. Russia is so huge, as part of the Europe portfolio, that it will have to go to another Minister; otherwise youll have more than 50 per cent. of all those portfolios. So I agreed to give up Russia.
When I got back to my officea wonderful office, which is now occupied by the current Minister for Europe, and I wonder nostalgically whether I might have left some of my papers in his deskthe then permanent secretary, who is now in the other place, came to see me. He said, You cant give up Russia in exchange for entry clearance, because Russia is part of
Europe in terms of the way in which the Foreign Office command is organised, so to take it out of Europe would require a complete reorganisation of the civil servants in the Foreign Office.
Such language was possibly used to dissuade our modernising Prime Minister from doing what he should do, which is to create a ministry of European affairs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston said, that is the position in a number of other European countries. They have dedicated Ministers for European affairs and a dedicated Foreign Secretary, and there is enough work to enable all the Foreign Office Ministers to get on and do all that they have to do.
If we take such a step, that will allow a Minister to come to the Dispatch Box regularly to be scrutinised by the European Scrutiny Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton, East (Mr. Hood), so that we can ensure that there is a proper dialogue between Brussels, the United Kingdom and the British people about what is happening in Europe. The Conservative party is of course opposed to that step, because it would give Europe a profile in the British Government that Conservatives do not want it to have. They want to scrutinise more, but they do not want a Ministry for European affairs, although that would mean more scrutiny.
I fully support what the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee said about this House moving on, about ensuring that we scrutinise properly what is happening in Europe, and about papers arriving in time for his Committee members to read, rather than the day before, or even on the day itself; indeed, they sometimes arrive even while he is deliberating.
Mark Pritchard: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Keith Vaz: I will not, as I have nearly finished.
I turn to my final point. I heard on Radio Leicester this morning that the Minister for Europe is going to start a quest in England and Wales to make the European Union more interesting. I fully support my right hon. Friend in that proposal; it is a great idea. As well as going to mainland Europe, he ought to spend time going around this country [Interruption.] No, not just Derbyshire. He should go around making the British people more interested in this great concept. I tried, and sadly failed, to do that when I was Minister for Europe, but I know that my right hon. Friend will succeed.
The British people know the benefits of Europe, as demonstrated by the World cup competition, in which friendly European nations play football against each otherit is Germany versus Poland tonightand that is one way in which we can explain how important those international relations are. I wish my right hon. Friend enormous success, but he cannot succeed if Members of Parliament are not prepared to help him. We have a role to play in explaining to our constituents the benefits of Europe and Britains successes in Europe. Unless we remain fully engaged with Europe, we cannot remain a successful nation.
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con):
Bearing it in mind that the test of a free society is how
decently it treats its minorities, I hope that I am not about to put that too much to the test in relation to my Front-Bench colleagues and the Whips. It is a pleasure to make what is for me a rare speech on European matters, and I have enjoyed the debate this afternoon. I take the point made by other hon. Members that the atmosphere is not dissimilar to that of an end-of-term Adjournment debate, and there are some familiar faces who have taken part in all of those.
I share strongly with the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) the opinion that Europe is much too important a subject to be left to a handful of aficionados who either take an interest in the matter outside the Chamber, as I do, or take part in our debates. I suggest to the Minister for Europe that one way to deal with that might be to have this debate on a motion that we could divide the House on, with a free vote. There are precious few free votes in this House. The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor), my successor in that constituency, introduced a 10-minute Bill earlier designed to engage people more in political affairs, but we could achieve that by having many more free votes. We all know what our postbags are like on free votes, especially when the issue is in doubt and Members can say what they think and influence policy by doing so. I am not saying what the motion should be and I have no idea what the result would be, but it would fill the House and the Galleries and create the interest that we want.
Mr. Davidson: I would welcome a free vote on British entry to the euro and on the constitution, because it would of course be extended to Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries. I am certain that in those circumstances it would be clear that those of us who oppose the constitution and the euro are in a substantial majority on this side of the House.
Alistair Burt: As soon as I suggest the idea of a free vote, ideas and suggestions about possible votes emerge. However, I digress so let me move on.
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