to uphold our highest values of promoting human rights, economic liberalism, political freedom
very little matters more than a Conservative foreign policy unceasing in our efforts to make a better world.
However, last week there was a different and opposite message. The Leader of the Opposition explained to a German audience that liberal conservatism is the opposite of humanitarian interventionism. The word he used twice to describe how he believed Britain should engage on the great international issues is a familiar onethe word is sceptical. He knocked down a straw man about building utopias, but also sent a clear messagethat there would be not just isolation from Europe under the Leader of the Opposition, but introspection on the great causes facing the world. I hope that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks will reiterate his commitment to humanitarian intervention and to a vision of Britain that rejects the lazy cry, It has nothing to do with us, because in the modern world, it does.
Tonight at the Guildhall the Prime Minister sets out our agenda. Labour Members know that our shared
planet faces shared problems and needs shared solutionsin the UN, the Commonwealth and the European Union. When we joined the EU in the 1970s, there were six members. Now there are 27. Europe has changed for the better. It is the biggest single market in the world. It has decent social rights. It sets high environmental standards. It is a force for good on its troubled borders, although we have to ensure that the last piece of the Yugoslav jigsaw in Kosovo is properly settled. The European Union also needs serious reform.
This is the parliamentary Session in which we can end the institutional navel-gazing in respect of the European Union, and proceed with the drive for Europe to engage with global problems. The European reform treaty will amend the way in which Europe works. The weight of United Kingdom votes in the Council of Ministers will go up, not down, and I cannot believe that anyone in the House objects to that. The treaty also cements enlargement and paves the way for more in the future, including Turkey. I thought there was cross-party agreement on that.
The treaty will cut the number of Commissioners. Not only will there be nine fewer of them, but there will be nine fewer teams of officials supporting them, nine fewer official cars, and nine fewer expense accounts. Does anyone seriously object to that change? We will also replace the six-monthly merry-go-round of the changing presidency with a full-time chairman of the European Council, appointed by Heads of Government and accountable to them. Surely that is common sense.
Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): Will the Secretary of State say something about the European Union high representative for foreign affairs? Will he disown the comments of his colleague Lord Malloch-Brown, who said that the EU was heading for a single seat in the United Nations and that he hoped
it will happen as quickly as possible,
David Miliband: The United Nations is certainly not heading for a single European seat on the Security Council; it is heading for a continued United Kingdom seat and a continued French seat. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the reform treaty bolts down those commitments. I am sorry that he has signed an early-day motion not just calling for a referendum after ratification but rejecting the treatyrejecting fewer Commissioners, rejecting the reforms of the way in which the European Union works, and rejecting greater weight for United Kingdom votes.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary now answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands)? Does he agree with Lord Malloch-Brown?
David Miliband: I do not agree with any suggestion that the United Kingdom should give up its seat on the United Nations Security Council. More important, it is the policy of the Government not to give it up.
If someone in the UK is calling for a referendum, that is not because the text we have in front of us is a Constitution.
Since making the Charter legally binding and extending Community competence to JHA were two of the most important features of the original constitution, the deal struck by Tony Blair in June means thatfor better or worsemuch of its substance will simply not apply
Let me say more about what the treaty does not doabout the myths that are simply that, myths. First, the treaty contains an explicit, legally binding guarantee that the UKs existing labour and social legislation will be protected. A legally binding protocol states that
the Charter reaffirms the rights, freedoms and principles recognised in the Union and makes those rights more visible, but does not create new rights or principles.
The Charter does not extend the ability of the Court of Justice of the European Union... to find that the laws, regulations or... provisions... of the United Kingdom are inconsistent with... fundamental rights.
It is worth noting the CBIs statement in its lobby briefing that the commitments secured by the Government mean that it is time for us to move on to other big policy issues rather than becoming bogged down in this one.
Secondly, the treaty extends our existing right to opt into co-operation on visas, asylum and migration to cover co-operation in police and judicial processes. It is right for the UK to decide what is in our interests, and to opt in where we want to and not opt in where we do not.
Michael Connarty: Could the Foreign Secretary add something to the reply given by the Prime Minister when he returned from the Council meeting? I asked whether the Prime Minister could guarantee that any Bill that was presented would include clear provisions allowing the House to discuss, and voice its opinion on, where we should and where we should not opt into matters that would be ruled on by the European Court of Justice and the Commission, and would no longer be in the jurisdiction of the UK courts.
The new treaty creates rights for this Parliament for the first time in a range of areas. As for the so-called passerelle clausewhich the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks described as the ratchet clause, although it has a lock from every country and a lock from every Parliamentthe Prime Minister has said that he wants Parliament to have not just scrutiny powers, but decision-making powers to be used on the Floor of the House. If there are specifics in respect of the Prime Minister's reply or the specific
issue of JHA, I will be happy to go into them in detail. My hon. Friends Committee is no doubt looking at them.
There is a legal lock that says that unanimity will remain the rule for setting the common foreign and security policy. The treaty makes clear and stark the limits on European Court of Justice jurisdiction and it includes, for the first time, a guarantee that national security is the sole responsibility of the member states. Fourthly, we have a strengthened veto on social security.
Fifthly, and this was a concern not only of my hon. Friends Committee, but of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, there is no question of the treaty forcing Parliament to do anythingthe famous debate about the word shall. There is no requirement on this Parliament from any other body to decide how it does its business. That is a matter for this Parliament, but there are rights for this Parliament that we should use.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): How is what the Foreign Secretary has just been saying consistent with what is happening on the Galileo project? Has he seen today's devastating report from the Transport Committee, which shows that, on that project, this country is being outmanoeuvred and our veto is being circumvented by the European mafia who wish to impose that project on us at tremendous cost to the taxpayer?
David Miliband: I am afraid that I have not read the report of the Transport Committee, but I look forward [Interruption.] It was on the Today programme, but we try not to make policy on the basis of that programme. I am happy to look into the issue that the hon. Gentleman raised.
In each and every area where we promised to secure our red lines, they have been secured. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I defy the Opposition to come up with one area in which the red lines have not been secured: the opt-in on every aspect of JHA, the independence on the common foreign and security policy, the veto in respect of social security. The Opposition do not have any argument. They have a series of myths.
Clearly the right hon. Gentleman has not read the report of the European Scrutiny Committee, which looked at the red lines in great
detail. The Chairman of the Committee, who is here now, said that one of the red lines, that on justice and home affairs, will leak like a sieve. The right hon. Gentleman needs to start reading the reports published by our Committee and to examine the issues, because all his red lines are severely frayed and the one on justice and home affairs has been practically erased.
David Miliband: I have read that report; I just have not read the report of the Transport Committee. As the hon. Gentleman should know from the very long discussion that we had about this, we have the right to opt in to every single areathose aspects of the existing third pillar and those aspects of the first pillar and any amended aspects on justice and home affairson the basis of what is right for the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is not right to suggest otherwise. As we go through further debate in the House, we will be able to see that.
In many areas, the treaty constitutes less change than previous treaties. On the Single European Act 1986, with its blueprint for the single market, the treaty of Maastricht in 1992, with the famous EMU, or economic and monetary union, and the less significant treaties of Amsterdam in 1997 and Nice, we never held a referendum to approve changes to the functioning of European institutions. Here is why:
Only in a country with a strong Parliament is there genuine representative democracy; only with a strong Parliament is government genuinely accountable; only with a strong Parliament is political decision making both robust and sensitive, and only with a strong Parliament do the people of that country have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
There is something else that the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks for the Opposition, said. In a book that deserves wider sales, entitled Speaking with convictionnot to be confused with another Conservative central office publication Dealing with convictions by Jonathan Aitken and Lord Archer
Democratic accountability is under threatparadoxicallyfrom the Governments regular use of referendums.
That is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the threat to the United Kingdom constitution does not come from Brussels. It comes from precisely the referendum that he is now advocating. The man demanding a referendum today, the man who says that only a referendum can save the nation state, the man who says that a referendum is necessary to restore faith in politics and the man who said in his party conference speech that he wanted a referendum on every transfer
of competence, however small, turns out to be the same man who, in 1992, voted against a referendum on Maastricht and who said in 1998 that the greatest threat to our democracy was the use of referendums. It is not speaking with conviction; it is bathing in opportunism that the right hon. Gentleman is guilty of.
The Opposition can run away from their principles, but they cannot run from their record and I look forward to the debates on the Bill to show just how hollow and contradictory their position is today.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I agree entirely with the Foreign Secretarys remarks about the referendum and strengthening Parliament, but will he explain why the previous Prime Minister, who I always thought had held those views, committed himself and his party to a referendum on this subject? Will the right hon. Gentleman say in terms that never again will such an arrangement be entered into with Rupert Murdoch or anybody else by any Labour Prime Minister?
David Miliband: The former Prime Minister, if I quote him correctly, said before the general election that the importance of the referendum on the treaty was not because of its constitutional status, but because he wanted to clear the air. [Interruption.] Hon. Members can go back and look at the quotation from Hansard. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to say that referendums should be used only for shifts in the fundamental balance of constitutional powerI think he would accept that the euro, for example, should be the basis for a referendumI certainly agree with him. This treaty does not match that standard.
In 10 years, Britain has gone from the impotence of the beef ban in the European Union to leadership on energy and climate change; from cheapskate pariah in international development to acknowledged leader; from marginal actor in the great global debates to central player. Now is not the time for Britain to retreat from the world. In the EU, in the UN, in the Commonwealth and in our relationship with the US, our voice is strong and our message clear. As long as this Government are in office, so it will continue to be so.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): Mr. Speaker, may I begin by echoing what the Foreign Secretary said about the dedication, often bravery, and sometimes loss of life of people working in government service? May I also give him firm support for what he has said about recent developments in Pakistan? It is right that the international community should demand elections to be held on schedule, the separation of the presidency from the command of the army, the release of political detainees and an early end to emergency rule.
It is obviously welcome that President Musharraf has taken one or two steps in the right direction in recent days, although elections held by 9 January will lack credibility unless opposition activists are out of jail and able to speak freely well before that date. We hope, as the right hon. Gentleman hopes, that todays Commonwealth meeting and the forthcoming Commonwealth conference will add to the pressure on the Government of Pakistan to make this possible.
It will be no surprise to the Foreign Secretary that I agree with the tone and general direction of much of what he had to say, although one would never have thought that it was the speech of someone who thought we talked too much about Europe. Like him, we recognise that these are important days for the long-stalled middle east peace process. We support, as he does, the vision set out in the road map of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, both at peace, both prosperous and neither threatening the others security. The conference in Annapolis later this month is the best opportunity in years to relaunch negotiations on a final settlement and we trust the Government will use British standing and relationships to the full to urge the fullest possible support of, and attendance at, the conference.
We await with interest the Prime Ministers speech on international affairs this evening. The Foreign Secretary will forgive my hon. Friends and me for waiting to see whether all the varied comments of Lord Malloch-Brown have been incorporated into the text. The noble Lord has described himself, modestly of course, as the