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If all other member states of the European Union are going to be bound by the charter of fundamental rights and if the Government themselves believe that we do not have an opt-out, will the Prime Minister use this opportunity to clarify to the House what, in the words of the Minister for Europe,

The Prime Minister: I can clarify to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the protocol is legally binding in the UK. I would have thought that he, as a lawyer, could see that it is part of the treaty and is therefore legally binding. That is the position of the Government. I would have thought more of his comments if he had voted for a referendum in 1992, which he did not do.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Prime Minister referred to the enforced liberalisation of the energy
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market in Europe. That is very important because we have been trying to persuade the French to do this for a long time so that British companies may own French energy companies just as French energy companies own British ones. Is this not even more important as we face up to Russia and try to ensure our energy security into the future?

Will the Prime Minister welcome article 84 of the treaty, which is about intellectual property rights? We have been campaigning to try to ensure that, as the Gowers review said was necessary for the British economy, we have strong intellectual property rights across the whole of Europe, which will now come in thanks only to this treaty.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Both in intellectual property and in energy, we benefit from the action taken within the European Union. As far as energy liberalisation is concerned, I detected that one or two Conservative Members supported me when I said that qualified majority voting on energy liberalisation is in British interests. Let me read the letter from the chairman of Centrica and the chairman of National Grid to the Financial Times:

That is in the interests of the British economy and of British energy companies trying to sell in Europe, and in the interests of growth in the European economy as a whole.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does the Prime Minister accept that by refusing to hold a referendum he is putting not only himself on trial but Parliament itself? Does he not appreciate that 27 million people have been denied the opportunity of a referendum since 1975? Given the circumstances of deceit and the manner in which this treaty has been negotiated, as the European Scrutiny Committee has indicated, it is absolutely essential that we have a referendum. No wonder only 59 per cent. of people bother to vote at all. Does he not understand the responsibility upon him?

The Prime Minister: We have had many debates over the years, and I think that the hon. Gentleman will concede this: that if there had been a decision to recommend joining the euro, I was the first to argue that there should be a referendum— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has asked a question and now he will not hear the answer. He must be quiet and hear the answer. I know that it is very difficult for him, but he should try to hear it.

The Prime Minister: If we were making a decision on the old constitutional treaty, we would have had a referendum. The hon. Gentleman cited the European Scrutiny Committee. He must therefore accept that its Chairman has said, as I believe, that the treaty as negotiated for Britain has the protocols—the opt-outs and opt-ins, in certain respects—that make it a quite different treaty for Britain than it is for other countries in Europe. The hon. Gentleman should also accept that his real reason for having a referendum is, as he has said on a number of occasions, “We must withdraw from the European Union.” That is his true position.


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Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Prime Minister indicate what positive measures the treaty could deliver in addressing regional disparities in the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: The regional work of the European Union, including that of the European Economic and Social Committee, does a tremendous amount to try to deal with the question of inequalities. For example, over the last Parliament we succeeded in persuading the European Union that there should be regional venture capital funds and that we should be able to have regional investment that did not come up against state aid legislation so that the regions of our country could receive benefits from membership of the European Union. Of course, regional policy will move towards eastern Europe over future years, but benefits will still come to all the regions of the United Kingdom from membership of the European Union. We must not forget that 3 million jobs depend on the trade relationships that we have with Europe, and we should do nothing to put those at risk.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): May I put a direct question to the Prime Minister? Does he fervently believe in honesty, trust and honour? I want a direct answer to that. Would he indicate why, if this treaty-constitution and Europe are so good for this country, he is not prepared to put it to the people of this country in a referendum and ask them what they think rather than telling them what he thinks?

The Prime Minister: I believe that trust is built in this country by defending and advancing the British national interest, which is what I shall continue to do. We had better be clear about the agenda of the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is a member of Better Off Out and it is pretty clear what he wants to achieve.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): When members of the European Scrutiny Committee, including me, looked at these issues, we raised legitimate concerns about the firmness of some of the red lines. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appropriate place for those to be debated and discussed is in this Chamber, by Members of Parliament elected to scrutinise such treaties? Will he confirm that there will be sufficient time for every Member of this House to participate in those discussions?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is a member of the Scrutiny Committee and I welcome the chance for us to debate in detail, on the Floor of the House of Commons, the protections that we have secured for the British national interest. It is interesting that most of the questions from the Conservatives today are not about the detail of the amending treaty at all. I welcome the debate that we will have in future months on this matter, and we will show, as we show the Committee with the questions it has asked of us, that we have secured the proper protections for Britain.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The Prime Minister knows that the common fisheries policy has been a disaster in Scotland. It has also been a serious impediment to Norway or Iceland ever joining the EU. Having chosen to disregard that red line issue for the Scottish
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Government, will the Prime Minister tell the House what advantages he foresees by enshrining the common fisheries policy as an exclusive treaty competence?

The Prime Minister: I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the treaty does not change the competence on fisheries.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The Prime Minister referred to the Maastricht treaty a number of times. Is not the difference between the Maastricht treaty and the Lisbon treaty that the Government at the time of the former did not promise a referendum, whereas this Government—my Government—did?

The Prime Minister: I say to my hon. Friend, for whom I have considerable respect, that if this were the old constitutional treaty, we would be having a referendum. The fact that we have secured major protections for the British national interest, while the constitutional concept has been abandoned, leads us to the conclusion that the best way of debating the matter is in detail on the Floor of this House, so that we can show people that we have protected the national interest.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) (Con): If the Prime Minister rejects the judgment of some leading European statesmen that this treaty represents 90 to 98 per cent. of the original constitution, what figure would he put on it?

The Prime Minister: I have just quoted Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who said that:

I could quote the President of the Commission, who said that there are “important differences” as far as this affects Britain. I could go on to quote the President of the European Parliament, who says exactly the same—that

The way in which the treaty affects Britain is different from the way it affects the other 26 countries. Again, I would think more of what the hon. Gentleman was saying if he had not voted against a referendum in 1992.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most compelling global issues that we face is climate change and the role of emissions trading? Europe is vital in dealing with that issue. Does he agree that a debate on the treaty would be a diversion from the real work that we should be doing with Europe and that, by calling into question this Government’s commitment to Europe, it would undermine our ability to shape that debate?

The Prime Minister: I hope that my hon. Friend will have the chance to read “Global Europe”, the document that has just been published by the Government, which seeks to set the agenda for future years. There is general agreement that the environment, and how Europe deals with climate change, is an important issue on which we will make very little progress without co-operation across
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Europe. I hope that Opposition Members realise that if we are to make progress on climate change, we need to work with our European partners. We are very happy to follow the agenda that we have set down, and I hope that my hon. Friend will join us in pressing our European colleagues to move faster on the matter.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the House will have full opportunity to debate the treaty, will he give a firm, unequivocal and binding commitment that that business will not be timetabled?

The Prime Minister: There will be a full chance to discuss all the issues in Parliament.

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend believe, like me, that the siren voices calling for a referendum are abdicating their responsibility as parliamentarians by trying to bypass the House’s decision-making powers?

The Prime Minister: There will be ample opportunity for the amending treaty to be debated in full in the Chamber of the House of Commons so that people can judge for themselves whether we have secured the proper protections. Although eight or nine countries proposed referendums for the old constitutional treaty, only one country in the European Union—Ireland, which is constitutionally obliged to hold referendums on many matters, including the treaty—will hold a referendum. All the other countries that previously proposed referendums will not have them.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Does the Prime Minister accept that the enlargement of the European Union was the biggest peaceful realignment of Europe since the decline of the western Roman empire? As it represented a major British triumph, will he conduct the debate in terms of the achievement of British objectives, and resist the temptation that so much of the press offer to regard our membership of the European Union as a continuation of world war two by other means?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Every part of the House supported the enlargement of the European Union.
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The reason for the new treaty is that we have to take into account the fact that there are 27 members of the European Union and the arrangements that were suitable for six, 12 or 15 are no longer appropriate when representatives of 27 countries are sitting round a table. Many of the changes in the treaty are directly to deal with that fact. I hope that we can say to countries in eastern Europe that we welcome their participation in the European Union and that we will do everything we can to integrate them into its workings. The treaty is very much part of that. On the protections for Britain, we can assure the British people that we have defended the British national interest in the way they expect us to do.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister understand that many pro-Europeans who do not believe that a referendum is appropriate for the treaty nevertheless believe that a time is coming when we will have to hold a referendum to reaffirm our membership of the European Union, and that that will help focus men’s minds, including those in the Conservative party and the press? It would be make-your-mind-up time and we would be able to go out to argue with them in favour of membership of the European Union. That would distinguish between those of us who see it as a force for good, reconciliation, commerce and politics and the flat earth society, which seems to dominate the Conservative party.

The Prime Minister: When the debate is held in the House of Commons on the amending treaty, people will come to the view that our membership of the European Union is in the national interest. They will see the number of jobs that comes from our membership, the contacts in business from which we benefit and the scope for our making progress on the environment, and they will realise that, when the common foreign and security policy works, with Europe working together in unanimity, that can often make a huge difference in the conduct of foreign affairs. As we have that debate, I hope that people will see that our membership of the European Union benefits Britain.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker: Order.


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Points of Order

4.33 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have given notice of this point of order to the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Dawn Primarolo). The Independent today quotes an official setting out details of the evidence that the right hon. Lady will give in response to questions to be put to her by the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Wednesday this week. Surely Ministers’ evidence to Select Committees should not be set out in advance of their receiving the questions from the Committees. How can the Science and Technology Committee function if Ministers treat us, Parliament and the public with such discourtesy? Will you look into the matter and, if necessary, ask the Minister to come before the House to explain her position?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman gave me notice of the point of order.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: Let me answer the previous point of order. I gather that the Department’s written evidence to the Committee, which has been published, has already indicated the Minister’s view on the issue. The hon. Gentleman will, in any event, have a chance to question the Minister on Wednesday in the Committee.

Mr. Cash: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During altercations with the Prime Minister just now, I understand that it was not appropriate for me to ask the question that I would now like to put to you as a point of order. However, the Prime Minister made certain assertions about what I have said in the House. I should like to put it on record that I request chapter and verse from him. I think, Mr. Speaker, that you will find that his assertions were not accurate.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is awfully good at pursuing the argument through points of order. I will not rise to the bait.


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Serious Crime Bill [Lords] [Ways and Means]

4.35 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): I beg to move,

The resolution is necessary because if the House chooses to accept the amendments tabled in the name of the Home Secretary, the Bill will include provision for recovering the costs of authorised monitors from those organisations that have been involved in serious crime. The resolution is a financial provision that is minimal in terms of the amounts of money involved as a whole. We anticipate roughly 30 orders to be made each year. The vast majority of such orders will be against individuals, with only a small number anticipated each year for use against organisations. Of that small number, we do not think that the inclusion of an authorised monitor will be appropriate in many cases. The overall number of such orders will therefore be minimal, but they could be useful where used.

Monitors take forward the Government’s commitment to approaching the regulation of business in an intelligent, risk-based fashion. It is not useful or an encouragement to economic growth to engage in blanket regulation of the business sector, where that is avoidable. However, where organisations are involved in serious crime—for example, where they are being used as tools for money laundering or fraud—we must act to intervene in a targeted and specific manner. That is why the Bill provides that serious crime prevention orders can be used against organisations. That will give law enforcement a flexible means of preventing continued involvement in serious crime by the organisation.

Any regulation comes with a cost to it, which is precisely why we want to avoid spreading the burden of that regulation too widely. Monitors will be able to provide a useful service, in ensuring that the other terms of an order are being complied with. For example, an expert in corporate governance will be able to—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the Minister, but we are actually on the ways and means resolution. Is that what the Minister is speaking to?

Mr. Coaker: It is, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to outline why the costs that are implicit in the Bill are relevant and appropriate.

Any regulation comes with a cost to it, which is precisely why we want to avoid spreading the burden of that regulation too widely. Monitors will be able to provide a useful service to ensure that the other terms of an order are being complied with. For example, an expert in corporate governance will be able to make an assessment of whether a requirement to put in place appropriate systems in a company to ensure that it is not used for serious criminal purposes has been complied with. That is expertise that law enforcement might well not have.


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