Previous Section Index Home Page

Andrew Mackinlay: The hon. Gentleman’s point has some validity. That is why I shall look critically at the Government’s proposed planning legislation. I am all for expedition in planning decisions; I am not for cutting out the little man and woman who want to resist the big battalions that have access to this place, such as the British Airports Authority. I remember causing some levity in the Chamber a few years ago when I said that when BAA gets terminal 5 it will want a runway to match it, and then a new terminal to match the runway, and so it goes on; and of course it is true. The big battalions such as BAA are very influential, and get very angry about having to go through planning inquiries. I think that we should safeguard jealously the right of the small pressure group, the cussed, the bloody-minded and the awkward—of whom I hope I am one—to frustrate the big battalions.

That brings me to the question of the border police. Ever since I came to the House to represent a port constituency, I have argued that there should be a proper border police force. I did so long before that
6 Nov 2007 : Column 40
view was fashionable, and long before it was adopted by the principal Opposition party. Indeed, I remember one of the party’s many leaders opposing the idea when he was a Home Office Minister, although later he changed his mind.

Mr. Redwood: Have the Labour Whips told other Labour Members not to listen to the hon. Gentleman’s excellent speech, or do no Labour Members support the Queen’s Speech?

Andrew Mackinlay: To be candid, I did not hear the Queen’s Speech, because I find it somewhat unnerving and disquieting when people say certain things about the monarchical system and then rush to Buckingham Palace when they are invited there. What they say depends on their audience. I, however, am consistent: I believe in an elected Head of State.

But I digress. As I was saying, I represent a port constituency. The fact is that we need to have— [Interruption.] I want to develop my point about the border police, because I think it is important and should at least be put on the record. The case has now been accepted by the Government—

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could the monitors in the Palace be checked? I cannot believe that they are working properly, given that not a single Labour Member of Parliament is present other than the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). I cannot recall another occasion on which not a single Back-Bench Labour Member has been present other than the Member who is speaking. How on earth do the Government think they can sustain the debate until 10 pm when no one is here?

Mr. Speaker: The important thing is that the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) is here to listen to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay)—and, of course, I am here to chair the proceedings, so everything is fine.

Andrew Mackinlay: I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. I know that you know where Thurrock and Tilbury are, because you have been kind enough to visit my constituency a number of times.

I could get the Whips in here pretty quickly if I mentioned West Lothian, but I shall hold that in my strategic armoury—my box of weapons—for another time. I want to develop my point about the border police force. What we have not been told is how it will be funded. At present, the principal airports run by BAA are called designated airports, and the chief constables or police authorities where they are situated determine the level of policing and the bill that is presented to BAA. The position is perverse, in that the good council tax payers of Bedfordshire—whom I do not represent—must meet the full bill for the policing of Luton airport. Moreover, I believe that there is a disparity between the cost of police services for Cardiff and one or two other not insignificant airports, and the cost of such services for BAA airports.

Clearly some people have noticed that, and I think we need early disclosure of what will be the role and responsibility of the border police, not just in the
6 Nov 2007 : Column 41
seaports—which is extremely important to me—but in the airports. What will be their interface with the airports? Will they be in addition to or instead of the territorial police forces, and what will be the funding arrangements? There should be parity of police funding throughout the airports and a comparable tariff in the seaports, paid by the port authority or, perhaps, based on the number of container units going through each seaport. In any event, the funding regime needs to be discussed and disclosed at an early stage. BAA has shown that there is a disparity.

It comes back to the use of this place. Lord Stevens, for whom I have the highest regard, is a former commissioner of the Metropolitan police and a distinguished member of the other place. He is chairing the taskforce on the border police, but an invitation to a reception this week that I and other hon. Members received says that he is also now on the board of BAA. I think that there is a potential conflict of interest, and people do not see that. BAA is meeting an enormous policing bill at present and one of its directors is chairing the taskforce.

I remember that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) was the Home Secretary, some Home Secretaries ago, I went on to him about the question of border police. He arranged for me to meet the Home Office police adviser, a delightful man, but a man who was an ex-policeman—he was not from the British Transport police or the Ministry of Defence police; he was from one of the territorial constabularies. Of course, their whole culture is one of opposing specialised police forces. Therefore, we have this bias built into the Home Office in terms of its police advisers, and Lord Stevens, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan police, is a director of BAA and advising the Home Secretary.

I think that there should be greater consultation with Members of Parliament, including those who represent seaports and airports, at an earlier stage. During the summer, I wrote to the Government asking whether I could have access to the people who were drawing up the Bill and I have not had a reply, which I think is damn discourteous, but it is not unusual.

Then there is the whole business of the European treaty. Those hon. Members who have a copy of the Gracious Speech before them may have noticed that the Queen said:

Words are important and I think that this will be the first occasion, if the Government really meant that when they were briefing the Queen on what to say this morning, that there will be a Bill that says that this House approves a treaty. All the other legislation hitherto, including the long and tortuous Maastricht legislation, was legislation not to approve a treaty but to give effect in English law to the consequences of a treaty that had already been ratified, which was done under royal prerogative. I wonder whether Her Majesty has got it wrong. I hope that it is not breaking any traditions to say that, but she did say—as we were told, Mr. Speaker got a copy to double check—that there will be legislation to enable Parliament to approve the European reform treaty. I hope that she and the Government are held to that commitment because it will be a parliamentary innovation. In any event, we
6 Nov 2007 : Column 42
have been told by the Prime Minister that we will have that, because he wants to strengthen the relationship between the Government, Parliament and people.

Mr. Swayne: Then there will be a necessity for two Bills: one to approve the treaty, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, and another to put the consequences into English law.

Andrew Mackinlay: That may be so. I just welcome the fact that we are going to have a strengthened relationship between Government, Parliament and people. We are told that that may be done by a variety of methods, including Select Committees. I hope that, in good time, before the next Parliament is elected at the next general election, we shall have put in place procedures to ensure that the membership of Select Committees and, more importantly, the appointment of the Chairmen will be far removed from the hand and influence of Ministers. Although people have made noises about that in the past, there has been no indication of any serious movement to this end. However, I hope that that is what is implied both in the Queen’s Speech and in what has been said inside and outside this place on other occasions recently.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman not see a certain irony in the fact that the proposal to strengthen the relationship between Government, Parliament and the people comes at the same time that the Prime Minister is resolutely refusing to allow the people to decide on one of the most important constitutional changes, namely, the EU treaty?

Andrew Mackinlay: I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman. I say that as someone who is unashamedly not just pro-European, but an enthusiast for the European Union, which I believe has been and is a force for good in terms of commerce, politics, the economy and conflict resolution and minimisation. I also believe that we have to take Parliament and people together. Successive Governments have failed to do that in relation to the EU and its development from the Community and the common market.

There is a case for a referendum on the reaffirmation of our membership of the EU. In my view, the time and the vehicle for that is not now and in respect of the treaty—an amending treaty, as were the others—but between now and say 2012. I am sure that my advice will not be taken unless the arithmetic of this place makes it inevitable. It would focus the minds of men and women, rather like a hanging. It would be make your mind up time. I say this not in a facetious, spiteful or taunting way, but the leader of the Conservative party in particular, as well as his Foreign Affairs spokesman, would then have to say that they supported the UK’s membership of the EU for the reasons that I have given: that it is, overall, a net force for good in the world and our membership is in the UK’s best interests.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): The hon. Gentleman says that the EU has been good for conflict resolution. That has never been the case in the Conservative party, and I suspect he will find the same in his own party. The constitutional treaty is 96 per cent. the same as the constitution, which was rejected
6 Nov 2007 : Column 43
by the French and the Dutch. Also, a referendum was part of the manifesto on which Labour and the Prime Minister fought the 2005 election. To say to the British people “We’ve changed our minds” is simply not good enough. The hon. Gentleman must agree with that.

Andrew Mackinlay: The hon. Member for Thurrock did not say that. I remember a Liberal Democrat Supply day when the Conservatives were in office and Paddy Ashdown was the leader. The issue discussed was so important to the House that the place was like the Mary Celeste: nobody was around. The Liberal Democrat motion was that there should be a referendum confirming our membership of the European Union. Like a stick of rock, if you cut me in half, I have “Labour” going right through me, but I sometimes recognise that other parties have a legitimate point of view. I can disclose to the House that there was a one-line Whip. Hardly any Conservative or Labour Members were about and the Liberals were here because they were promoting the debate. I was here as well.

The then Labour Chief Whip, Derek Foster, heard that I was going to support the motion. I told him that I was, as it was a good idea that would get us over a problem. He looked me in the eye and said “Mackinlay, there will be no promotion for you.” I said “Come off it, I never supposed that there would be. But if that is the price, so be it.” For me, that was a seminal moment in my time in the House.

Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): I am still slightly confused about the hon. Gentleman’s position on the treaty. At Foreign Office questions on 9 October, he appeared to support a referendum on the treaty. Is that still the case?

Andrew Mackinlay: I have yet to make up my mind. The hon. Gentleman’s question relates to the question from the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), which was a very good one. If the Leader of the Conservative party were by some miracle made Prime Minister this weekend, held a referendum to confirm the treaty and that referendum was then defeated, what would happen? There would be paralysis for a little while in the European Union and an awful lot of bad blood. Things would be said, but eventually, grudgingly, there would be some form of renegotiation. I suspect—I cannot prove it—that there would be some extra opt-outs and a fig leaf here and there. Prime Minister Cameron would come back and say, “I’ve done well.” Harold Wilson once said—his words were a bit bogus, looking back—“We’ve had a fundamental renegotiation of our terms of Common Market entry,” and Prime Minister Cameron would say the same thing. He would say, “Haven’t I done well?”, and many people on his side would say, “Yes, you have, but you’ve got to put the new treaty to a referendum.” He would reply, “Come off it. I’ve done well; I’ve negotiated. I cannot do that”. Of course, the purists would say that there would have to be a referendum.

I invite the House to consider how illogical and absurd this situation is. We could go on having referendum after referendum on a treaty, which is not the way forward. The way forward is to get this treaty,
6 Nov 2007 : Column 44
which was intended to deal with the running of the European Union, out of the way, and then to have a reaffirmation referendum in a couple of years’ time. Of course, the proposal in question was part of Labour’s manifesto. Alas, my fingerprints are not on that manifesto, and I do not recall ever putting such a proposal in my personal manifesto. However, I recognise that the point being made is a legitimate one, and I and others will need to reflect on it in the coming weeks.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that we Conservatives are doing our bit for non-adversarial politics by helping him to deal with the fact that he and one other Back Bencher are the only Government Back-Bench representatives present for this debate. His argument against a referendum on the treaty seems to be that, if it went the “wrong” way, the pro-European treaty people would keep coming back with new treaties for more and more referendums, but that, if it went the “right” way, that would be the end of the matter. Surely there is a certain imbalance in the acceptance or rejection of the result of the people’s verdict in this matter.

Andrew Mackinlay: Perhaps because of my inadequacy in describing the situation, the hon. Gentleman has missed the point that I was trying to make. Let me excite him by inviting him to daydream that the current Leader of the Opposition is transposed into the role of Prime Minister, and that, as I said, he fulfils his commitment to holding a referendum on the treaty. If the treaty was rejected, what would happen? Things could not simply be left up in the air. After a period, there would be some further negotiations, and Prime Minister Cameron would come back waving a bit of paper, saying, “I succeeded.” However, many of his colleagues would say, “No, you haven’t. You’ve got to put that new agreement to a referendum.” That process could go on and on. The way to deal with this logically is to resolve this treaty and then have a vote reaffirming the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, enshrining in statute that such a vote will take place in the next four to five years.

I got on to this track because of the intervention of my good friend the hon. Member for East Antrim, whose presence reminds me of one other aspect of the Queen’s Speech that I want to trespass on: our citizenship legislation. He has a privilege that does not extend to me. He is a citizen of the United Kingdom and has exercised his rights in that regard, but he could, if he so wished, be a citizen of the Irish Republic. [ Interruption. ] I emphasise the word “could”. That option is open to him because he was born in Ireland. The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) put forward a proposition that I have some sympathy for, and which I want to raise in the citizenship debate. Those born in the Irish Republic after 1949 cannot be British citizens, but those born in Northern Ireland can be citizens of the Irish Republic. I think that that is wrong.

A very few people in the Irish Republic would like to deem themselves British. Given the whole theme and purpose of parity of treatment is now the vogue in relation to Ireland, that should be acknowledged by the
6 Nov 2007 : Column 45
Irish Republic and we should enshrine it in our legislation too. I have noticed how a lot of people like to be given knighthoods and honours by the Queen, and some of them come from the Irish Republic and some of them wrongly describe themselves as “Sir” when their title is just honorary. Some of them are quite rich; some of them sing perhaps. When it comes to patronage, power and titles, they would give their right arms to be British. I do not go along with titles, honours and so on, but that illustrates the absurdity of the situation. If, as increasingly happens, someone is given a title or honour and was born in the Irish Republic after 1949, it is an honorary title. I understand that they do not get the full works in terms of the rubric of the award being given to them.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): Will the hon. Gentleman also please acknowledge, which I do not think has been done of the Floor of the House, that there is another distinction for citizens of the Irish Republic? Like Commonwealth members, they are entitled to serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces. Regrettably, in current operations, an Irish Republic citizen was killed on operations, fighting for the British Army, and we saw the spectacle of a full British military funeral in Dublin. Although the loss of any member of the armed forces is regrettable, it was nevertheless noticeable that the Irish Government and the Irish people turned out in considerable numbers to respect the death of that very brave young man in his service for this country.

Andrew Mackinlay: Yes, of course. I recognise that absolutely. I did not want to go down this road, but I fully acknowledge both what the hon. Gentleman says and the generosity of the people of the Irish Republic in that case and the change of attitude that prevails in the Irish Republic, demonstrated by the refurbishment of the wonderful memorial at Islandbridge, supported and funded by the Government of the Irish Republic and the recognition of the sacrifice, particularly at this time, made by Irish men and women who served in the British armed forces in the two world wars, all of whom were volunteers. I do not want to trespass too much into that, but I want to make it absolutely clear how the Irish Republic is now approaching these issues and its generosity of spirit.

On the other question of citizenship, I asked a parliamentary question to find out how many voters on the United Kingdom electoral roll are Commonwealth citizens, and I could not be told. This goes back to 1948 and 1949. At the time of the declaration of the Irish Republic, the Attlee Government rightly decided that it would be impractical, unfair, unnecessarily offensive and an administrative nightmare to stop citizens of the new Irish Republic being on the electoral register. I think that we all agree that that was extremely sensible. Then India came into the Commonwealth as a republic. After a small amount of immigration, it was decided that Commonwealth citizens should be able to vote in the United Kingdom and to stand for Parliament. Indeed, they have done so, and as we heard earlier today, they have been distinguished Members of Parliament. In considering citizenship laws, while always encouraging and facilitating dual membership, perhaps we should extend United Kingdom citizenship to people who are here lawfully and have been here for
6 Nov 2007 : Column 46
many decades—some of them were born here—but who are Commonwealth citizens. Thereafter we could have an electoral roll, as we go through the decades, that is made up of United Kingdom citizens. That would be sensible.

Mr. Hands: I have been listening very carefully to the hon. Gentleman’s argument, but can he tell us exactly what problem he is trying to correct by saying that all those Commonwealth citizens should become UK citizens? Can he tell what the difficulty is?

Andrew Mackinlay: There is no difficulty; I do not want to be misunderstood on that point. However, I invite people to consider the fact that there are not many other countries in the world in which a high proportion of people on the electoral roll are not, strictly speaking, citizens. There is nothing wrong with that, but if people pause and think about it, it probably is a good idea to change the situation. In any event, the Government could not tell me how many people on the electoral roll were in that category.

For clarity’s sake, and to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, let me say that I am not in any way suggesting that people who currently vote should be precluded from doing so. I am not suggesting that anyone should lose citizenship of a Commonwealth country of which they are justifiably proud. I am just saying that as we are to have a citizenship review, there is a powerful case for saying that such people should be given British citizenship within a certain period. Thereafter, that would be part of the package that we work with—part of the citizenship package for Commonwealth citizens who come here. There is a degree of logic to that, and I invite the House to reflect on that point. I emphasise the fact that I do not want to take away any existing rights or citizenships; those should endure. I am just conscious of the fact that a review is under way, although the Queen’s Speech was regrettably rather barren on detail.

I now come to my final point. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has embarked, to some extent at my prompting, on a review of our overseas territories. I think that the House has abdicated its responsibilities to the few thousand people peppered around the globe in the very small, residual, United Kingdom territories. People say, “Well, they have their own legislative councils.” Indeed they do, but their Parliament is this Parliament. If our country goes to war, the people of Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Falkland Islands do not sit it out; they are committed by the actions taken by our Government and Parliament.

Next Section Index Home Page