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Second on the list is the Prime Ministers ludicrous statement at the time of last months summit that the Government would not support further European political integration in this Parliament or the next, having just agreed to a treaty that sets up a continuing process of political integration, specifically designed to gather pace in the coming years. That is why the treaty contains a ratchet clause: so that many surviving vetoes
can be abolished without any further treaty, and the positions of permanent president of the European Council and high representative in foreign affairs are designed to accrue more power as time goes on. Whether Ministers have secured their few negotiating objectives in that area is obscure. Their July White Paper said that the new president of the European Council cannot also hold the job of President of the Commission, yet nowhere in the text of the treaty is there anything to say that he cannot. There is already talk in Brussels of combining the two posts, so we would like to know whether the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary forgot about that objective, or whether they rolled over, as they have done in respect of so many other parts of the treaty.
Mr. Hague: I must give way to the former Minister for Europe, the author of the famous remark about The Beano.
Keith Vaz: I cannot understand why the shadow Foreign Secretary is against qualified majority voting, bearing in mind the fact that any analysis of the voting of the European Council shows that in the vast majority of cases Britain is on the winning side. What does he fear about extending QMV in certain areas?
Mr. Hague: I fear that the extension of qualified majority voting takes more and more decisions away from the peoplenot only the people of this country, but the people of the other countries of the European Unionby removing their veto, and that the progressive removal of decisions from national Parliaments and national Governments will ultimately create immense discontent with the functioning of the European Union across Europe. Our objection to that extension is therefore fairly fundamental.
Third and most prominent on the list of concealments is the Governments faltering pretence that the European treaty is not the constitution at all. In the summer recess, I tabled a written question to the Foreign Secretary, asking him to set out in full the similarities, differences, omissions and additions to the articles comprising the EU constitution and the new EU treaty. The European Scrutiny Committee produced a comparative table, and one might have thought that Foreign Office Ministers who wanted an open debate would do the same when asked to do so. Instead, the Foreign Secretary took well over a month to provide any answer at all, and then in effect refused to answer the questionthat was long after Parliament had come back, so the recess is not an excusesimply repeating instead the discredited mantra that the constitution concept is abandoned. That is an argument described by the European Scrutiny Committee as likely to be misleading. In the words of Giscard dEstaing on Saturday:
You wouldnt be honest to tell the British voters the substance of the text has changedbecause the substance has not changed.
Mr. Hague: We were bound to get an intervention from the hon. Member for Rotherham.
Mr. MacShane: Right hon. [Hon. Members: Oh!] The right hon. Gentleman was making a powerful case, as is his wont. He is obsessed with Europe. We remember that before the 2001 election he said that if people voted Labour, Britain would become a foreign land. I wonder if he still endorses that statement. Will he tell the House whether, with all his animadversions on the new treaty, it is now his policy that once the treaty is ratified in the House, it will be Conservative party policy to move to a referendum on it?
Mr. Hague: I am sorry not to have called the right hon. Gentleman right hon.; I did not realise that former Foreign Office Ministers stood on their dignity as much as the current ones.
Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that the best time for a referendum is now, so that the British people can have their promised say. If we did not succeed in forcing a referendum in this House, if we failed to win in another place, if all other EU member states implemented the treaty and if an election were held later in this Parliamentthat is a lot of ifswe would have a new treaty in force that lacked democratic legitimacy in this country and in our view gave the EU too much power over our national policies. That would not be acceptable to a Conservative Government and we would not let matters rest there; the right hon. Gentleman can be assured of that. In such circumstances [Interruption.] Does the Foreign Secretary wish to intervene?
The Governments defence relies on their four so-called red lines. We look forward to debating those in great detail when the Bill is presented, but it is already clear that the foreign policy red line is not even legally binding. The charter of fundamental rights red line has already been dismissed by one of the European Courts advocates-general, the criminal justice red line leaves national vetoes abolished and, as the Government have admitted, the tax red line was only ever a bit of a con and purely presentational. In such circumstances, the Governments abandonment of their manifesto commitment to a referendum is a breach of trust with the nation as serious as any that any of us have known in modern times.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): The right hon. Gentleman said we would not let matters rest there; does that mean that we would have a referendum in those circumstances or not?
Mr. Hague: It means what it says. It means exactly what I said earlier. Let us remember that this Government promised a referendum; all political parties in this House promised a referendum before the ratification of the treaty. I shall give way for a helpful intervention from my right hon. and learned Friend.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke:
My right hon. Friend has just given a helpful new statement of Opposition party policy, although it came to a rather vague conclusion. It seems to me that the alternatives are as follows: the repudiation of a treaty that this country has ratified; an attempt to renegotiate or reopen that treaty; a parliamentary process of some kind; or a referendum. May I ask whether the leadership of the Conservative party has yet taken its thoughts further down that road
and decided which of those options it might be veering towards? In the past, we have always accepted treaty obligations accepted by previous Governments whenever we have taken office.
Mr. Hague: I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that there will be no veering in any direction. I assure him that if all the things that I have listed happened, there would be wide consultation in the Conservative party as we decided how to proceed.
Even from their own point of view, it is a huge mistake by Ministers not to support a referendum, because a treaty passed without a referendum will not enjoy democratic legitimacy or acceptance in this country. That is the background against which we would have to set our future policy; let me make that very clear today.
Not having a referendum is a breach of trust with the nation, based not on principle but a cynical calculation that the Government will be able to get away with treating the people of this country as fools. The Government ought to be in favour of a referendum, for without being approved in one form or another it will never enjoy democratic legitimacy in this country. Whatever ones view on European affairs, it would be better for the fate of this important treaty to be determined in a referendum, just as the only right and honourable course for Ministers who so categorically promised a referendum is to permit one to be held. When Ministers vote against a referendum they will be voting against the implementation of their own manifesto. We, and like-minded people in other parties, will be voting for their promise to be kept. The readiness and determination of the Government to break that promise, and the absence of any commitment to a referendum in the Gracious Speech, is a sufficient reason on its own to vote against it.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind all right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 12-minute time limit on Back-Bench speeches.
Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I should like to talk about two peace processes to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary referred: first, in the middle east; and, secondly, in Sri Lankaperhaps the worlds forgotten conflict. I want to tell the House how our own country can help in those processes by referring to what we did during the Northern Ireland peace processthe similarities can be helpful. On more than one occasion over the past hour or two, we have pondered how our country can help as members of the Security Council of the United Nations, members of the European Union, or whatever. It strikes me that our experiences in bringing peace to our own country can help considerably.
Every peace process is unique, but our peace process in Northern Ireland was helped by experiences in South Africa. Twenty years ago, no one would have said that today we would have solved the Northern Ireland problem. In that part of our country, 3,500
people had perished and many tens of thousands had been injured, but today the problem is solved, to all intents and purposes, although of course there are political difficulties that must be overcome. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to look back over a number of years and apply some of the principles and experiences to Sri Lanka and the middle east. First, there was and is, happily, a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland in this country. That does not always apply to peace processes in other countries, but it is a lesson that can be learned by them. Secondly, the involvement of the United States of America and the European Union was critical to our success in Northern Ireland. Thirdly, people wanted peacethey had basically had enough and realised that no one was going to win the conflict. When the Good Friday agreement was eventually signed, subsequent agreements worked on the basis of that one. Constitutional issues were resolved, power-sharing emerged, there was the necessary parity of esteem on all sides, and policing, human rights and equality issues were addressed. Those lessons can be learned elsewhere.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I am interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about Northern Ireland. Does he think that if our Government, or his, had insisted that Sinn Fein-IRA recognised the legal jurisdiction of Britain over Northern Ireland, the talks would ever have succeeded?
Mr. Murphy: I have dealt with the answer to that, but I know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to. It was important that Northern Irelands constitutional legality, so to speak, was eventually based on the principle of consent, and that after the referendum the Irish Government agreed to change their claim on Northern Ireland. Again, those areas can be looked at by comparison.
About a year ago, I visited Sri Lanka, at the invitation of its President, to examine its peace process. I saw a country that was very much affected by its relationship with our country. Norway was doing its best, in a rather thankless task, to bring people together, and there was some hope of success. However, only a week ago, the political leader of the LTTEthe Tamil Tigerswas killed in the capital in the north of Sri Lanka. That in itself might make it more difficult to achieve success. It was interesting to read recently that the President of Sri Lanka had said that the present conflict cannot be solved by military means. It would be a good start if all sides in Sri Lanka realised that. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be able to raise the matter of this forgotten conflict, in which 70,000 people have died, with his colleagues at the Commonwealth conference. All of us will be interested to hear tonight, and during tomorrows Adjournment debate, what our Government will suggest at the Commonwealth conference and at the United Nations.
I returned from the middle east last week, having gone there to talk about Northern Ireland. Despite the great effort that had been made by people in Palestine and in Israel, I was struck and disappointed not quite by a sense of hopelessness, but by a scepticism about what might happen in Annapolis later this year. I assume that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary
will go to Annapolis, and I hope that when he and the Government address the issues they will put some hope into the process. That is what seems to be most lacking.
I am confident that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert are deeply sincere in wanting to ensure success, not only in the United States but afterwards. I also notice that both are beset by difficulties and obstacles in their own countries. On the left, so to speak, Hamas is denouncing what might occur in Annapolis, and extreme right wingers in Israel are doing precisely the same and are suggesting that not an inch should be given. There are tremendous parallels with what occurred over 15 or 20 years in Northern Ireland, as my right hon. Friend knows. It is to the credit of President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert that they are standing firm, and it is in our interest to ensure that we support them as best we can in their firmness of purpose.
My right hon. Friend identified issues that are very important to the achievement of success: a two-state solution, security for everybody in the region and the need to deal with Jerusalem, refugees, borders and the economy. Tony Blair is in the region at the moment, dealing very effectively with precisely those latter issues. The issues should be addressed at Annapolis. It should not be simply a vague collection of good intentions that emerges from those negotiations. Instead, there should be a hard look at the issues that need to be resolved.
The other thing that the Government are anxious to deal with is the question of other countries from the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and Syria, participating in the conference. I ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East to continue their efforts to ensure that Syria, in particular, attends. If those countries do not come to the negotiating table, the process will be very difficult.
Many of these processes could be helped if the United Nations was capable of solving them. Reform of the UN, certainly in how it deals with peacekeeping initiatives, is very important.
I wish my right hon. Friend and all those involved in the talks in Annapolis well. Throughout the House, no matter what our personal or political views are, we believe that the solution to the problems in the middle east is dear to the British people because of our huge involvement in the middle east for so many years.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): It is a real privilege and pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). Throughout the House, we recognise his expertise on the matters he touched on and the unique perspective that his vital work and success in Northern Ireland allows him to bring to such debates. I am sure that his comments on Sri Lanka, the middle east and other issues will strike a chord throughout the Chamber.
As others have noted, Remembrance day gave us an opportunity, as Members of Parliament, to join our local communities in paying tribute to those who gave their lives on behalf of our country. When I joined the commemorations in Melrose in my constituency, I was
struck, as ever, by the dignity of the veterans on parade and the presence of so many young people from local organisations and with their families. Some were there to see their grandparents honour their comrades or to remember those who have fallen in more recent times. We were reminded today of the professionalism, bravery and commitment of all who serve in the name of Her Majesty and our country in our armed forces and, as the Foreign Secretary and shadow Foreign Secretary acknowledged, in the Foreign Office and other Departments, too.
At Chatham House earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary made a brisk start to his new role when he collapsed the number of Foreign and Commonwealth Office priorities from 10 to three. Few of us would challenge the need to focus, or quibble with the three that he chose. We can all agree that tackling the causes and consequences of extremism, radicalism and conflict, establishing sustainable responses to climate change and building an effective European Union are central to Britains role in the world. We can also agree that the trends in globalisation that present those challenges to us are gathering pace. Responding to them is no longer simply a matter of foreign policy, but requires proper integration with all our domestic policies. We also agree with the Foreign Secretary that influence and power around the world are changing out of all recognition. That reinforces the need for individual countries such as ours not to try any longer to deal with problems alone. Isolation from the phenomena of globalisation is not possible, and isolating ourselves from others as we attempt to confront those phenomena is also not possible, although that does not stop others trying on occasion.
Our aim, surely, in our international policies is to make the world better not only for us in this country but for countless millions of others, too. Our foreign policy has to start with our national interests, but it must be more than that. It must remain fundamental to our values as a country that we accept our responsibilities to others to promote human rights and development, to tackle humanitarian and environmental disasters, to alleviate poverty and to reduce the risk of conflict. Much of that may be common ground, but we do not always find that the policy responses achieve that level of agreement.
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