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shall ask that the High Representative be invited to present the position of the Union
the Union has defined a position on a subject on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
The third area of concern is the self-amending nature of the treaty, another important provision that was re-introduced from the constitution. At present, the EU treaties can only be amended by an intergovernmental conference, which must then be ratified in each member state, by Parliament or by referendum. However, article 33(2) of the new treaty allows the Council to vote by unanimity to change any of the text of part 3 of the treaty on the functioning of the Union, which is basically all the detail of the treaties.
I could talk about the vetoes that have been abolished and the reduction in our ability to block EU legislation, but I will mention instead the single legal personality, which for the first time would allow the EU, rather than member states, to sign up to international agreements on foreign policy. I take the House back to the words of Tony Blair after the Amsterdam treaty:
Others wanted to give the European Union explicit legal personality across all pillars of the treaty. At our insistence, that was removed.
"contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union."
National Parliaments, unlike the European Parliament, were not creations of the treaties and their rights are not dependent on the treaties. Indeed, the new treaty proposes, for the first time, that national Parliaments be subservient to the Union. The new treaty still says that
National Parliaments contribute to the good functioning of the Union
The final and most important point concerns the charter of fundamental rights and the European Court of Justice. They will take from the UK Parliament a significant amount of our ability to govern ourselves, especially in areas of criminal justice and home affairs. On 18 June, Tony Blair told the Liaison Committee that the UK
will not accept a Treaty that allows the Charter of Fundamental Rights to change UK law in any way.
That was one of the red lines. The excellent report from the European Scrutiny Committeeof which I am proud to be a memberdescribed in clear detail how this red line has been crossed. The charter of fundamental rights applies to member states when implementing Union law.
Our report raised the question whether the UK would be bound by ECJ case law when the ECJ interprets the charter in relation to implementation and cases in other EU members statesand particularly cases where the same measure has been implemented in the UK. In other words, ECJ judgments would form part of the case law which the UK courts would be obliged to follow in this country so that EU law is applied consistently across the EU.
The Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), said of the protocol that Tony Blair and his successor as Prime Minister believe they have negotiated that
it will leak like a sieve.
The former Prime Minister said that the charter would not apply in the UK at all thanks to the protocol, but I am now certain that he was wrong. Moreover, the current Minister for Europe seems to agree. He said to the Committee on 2 October that the protocol
is a statement of how the Charter provisions will apply in the UK,
which is rather different from saying they would not apply at all. In practice, the European Scrutiny Committee pointed out in its excellent report of 2 October how the red line has been totally breached.
During the past two and half years that I have been a Member, the euro has been a neglected topic in this House. I wanted to compare the Governments handling of the treaty and the broken promises made to their commitments on the euro. I ask Members whether it is just me who thinks that the four red lines on the treaty are not unlike the five economic tests on the euro. They are lines and tests that are self-declared, self-policed andin my viewdestined to be broken. The commitment to the referendum on the treaty sounds not unlike the commitment to a referendum on the euro; the commitment was put in place to kick the issue into touch before a general electionin the case of the euro, the 2001 general election, and in the case of the treaty, the general election of 2005. I believe that the Government will ultimately renege on that commitment to hold a referendum on the euro in the coming years.
I might be the only Member who has read the Cabinet Office document Global Europe, which the Prime Minister launched in this House to great fanfare on 22 October. There is virtually nothing in it, so nobody has missed a great deal. It is like a Brodies Notes on how the European Union functions for one of the Governments very straightforward GCSEs. The only new ideas in it that the Prime Minister announced on 22 October sounded terribly familiar to me, so I checked and discovered that I had, indeed, heard most of them before. They were the same ideas as appeared
in a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), the Leader of the Opposition, in Brussels in March. I invite Members to draw comparisons. The Prime Minister told us last month that
the priority for the European Union must now be the global challenges that we face in relation to employment, prosperity, competitiveness, climate change and security. Todayin a document, Global Europe, published this afternoon and available to the House nowthe Government set out how we will advance those new priorities in the future.[ Official Report, 22 October 2007; Vol. 465, c. 19.]
The EU should be focusing on three things. First, the economic challenge of globalisation. Second, the environmental challenge of climate change. And third, the moral and security challenge of global poverty. What needs doing? Globalisation. Global warming. Global poverty. I think of these as the priorities of a 3G Europe.
Of course there are issues of trust, issues of manifesto pledges broken, issues of red lines being red herrings, red lines being breached and so on. But it is not just the process that concerns me. What is proposed are fundamental changes to our national sovereignty and the weakening of our role as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. We will have two foreign services, one of them UK, the other EU, and the latter will inevitably gain at the expense of the former The new EU President will, when the role is combined with the president of the EU Council, be an all-powerful Executive figure who, crucially, is unelected. Most of all, this Parliament and the UK courts will lose significant powers to the ECJ in relation to the interpretation of our laws in many important areas.
As was said at Laeken at the start of this EU constitution process, we desperately need more democracy in the EU. Yet this treaty offers less democracy, not more. Moreover, I do not believe that this Parliament has the right to bind its successors to the surrender of all those powers.
Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak following so many interesting speeches on Afghanistan, such as those of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn). Like many other Members, yesterday I attended a Remembrance service where we remembered a member of my local Territorial regimentthe London regimentwho died in Afghanistan. I shall write to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on a number of issues that the regiment raised with me.
Like the previous speaker, the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), I shall concentrate my comments on one subject, although in my case it will be what was referred to in the last part of the Gracious Speech: the commitment to a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine. I am a strong supporter of
a two-state solution, and I welcome the Foreign Secretarys restatement of his total commitment to that. He and his predecessors should be commended for getting the Americans to support that solution and for getting it back on the international agenda. However, I must say that I am extremely pessimistic not only about the outcome of the conference in Annapolis but about the prospects of a two-state solution in the foreseeable future.
I deplore the tendency to split people into two campspro-Israeli and pro-Palestinianas though they were mutually exclusive. I regard myself as as much a friend of the Israelis as of the Palestinians, and it is as a friend of the Israelis that I say that the essential first step towards a settlementthe pre-condition of the success of any talksis the relatively simple and straightforward measure that can be taken now of stopping expanding settlements on the west bank. Many people in our country believe that the Israelis have already done thator at least have agreed to do thatas part of the road map, but having visited the west bank in September I can assure the House that the bulldozers and cranes are still busy building new houses in Maale Adumim to the east of Jerusalem and many other settlements in the west bank. We are not talking here about just outposts that the Israelis accept are illegal; we are talking about a huge new town of 30,000 inhabitants being built, and since the road map 3,500 houses have been built midway between Jerusalem and Jericho along the narrow waist of the west bank, effectively cutting it in two.
I put that to a senior official of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry. He made no attempt to deny that settlements are still being built. He justified it by saying that the commitment to a settlement freeze in the road map is at the end of phase one and he said:
we have not got there yet.
I put it to him that nothing was more certain to ratchet up the tension and deepen the hatred felt by many Palestinians towards the occupying power than seeing the continuous expansion of settlements and watching them encroach on more Palestinian land every day. I found his answer deeply depressing. He said that calling a halt to the expansion of settlements could be seen as a victory for terrorism, and the Israeli Government would not do anything that could be seen as a victory for terrorism. I think that the truth is the reverse, and I should be interested to know whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agrees with me and will make the point to the Israeli Government that the policy that does most to strengthen the extremists and weaken the moderates among Palestinian politicians is the continued expansion of the settlements. How can moderate Palestinians claim that the ceasefire and the peace process are working if every day more and more Palestinian land is built on?
I liken the Israeli position to that of somebody who stands on somebody elses toes and says that they will get off only when that person stops screaming. The official Israeli line is that the settlements are what they call a resolvable issue, and that they are not what the Palestinians care most about.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the settlements, the so-called security wall or barrier, which is cutting its way not so much through Israeli land or down the green line as through large
swathes of Palestinian land, is also a major barrier to the peace process? In addition, the hundreds of checkpoints around the west bank are slicing up the Palestinian economy in a way that is making Palestine as a viable state less and less likely.
Martin Linton: Indeed, the settlements and the closures are closely interlinked. Contrary to the opinion of many in this country, there is not only the wall that separates the west bank from Israeli but many internal walls within the west bank. In fact, there are far more walls and fences within the west bank. I put that point to Dr. Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, who said that the settlements are the central problemindeed, he went so far as to say that they created Hamas in the first place. I think he is likely to be right, not only because he is a Palestinian politician and should know but because that is the answer that we get from all Palestinians. They blame the breakdown of talks on the increasing number and size of settlements and on the closely connected matter of closures.
My hon. Friend is right: according to the United Nations, the total number of settlements in the west bank is now 149, and the number of checkpoints, road gates, roadblocks, restricted roads, trenches, earth mounds and flying checkpoints is 553. There are checkpoints not just as people go in or out of the west bankthere are only eight of thosebut internal roadblocks, built to accommodate and defend the settlements. They also have the effect of encircling every Palestinian town and city with a ring of roadblocks that have strangled almost all the life out of the Palestinian economy.
The situation in the west bank is nothing like as bad as that in Gaza, which I also visited along with colleagues from both sides of the House. I believe that we were the first group of MPs to visit Gaza since the Hamas takeover and the release from captivity of Alan Johnston. We did so with the help of the UN and the Welfare Association (UK). We visited an industrial estate where almost every factory was closed. The borders are closed to everything except food and medicine, which has meant not just that 80,000 Gazans have lost their jobs in Israeli factories, but that all the Gazan factories have closed because they cannot get supplies or fulfil their orders. As a consequence, 80 per cent. of the population of Gaza are now unemployed and 80 per cent. live below the poverty line. Perhaps most dangerous of all, 20,000 students come out of the Gazan education system each year without a single job to go to. As a business man told us:
We live in a pressure-cooker situation and if the pressure isnt relieved soon, its going to blow up.
Although Gaza has the worst problems in the occupied territories, and Hebron probably has the greatest tension, with the city centre having been turned into a ghost town to protect the Jewish settlement, to my mind the northern part of the west bank is the key to any settlement. If a Palestinian state is to be viable, it must be viable there. Of course, life goes on for most people in such cities as Nablus. It is still possible to get to and from work, although people may have to wait anything from half an hour to an hour at a roadblock. It is still possible to get to hospital, although in some cases the journey is a lot longer: from one village, an average of 45 minutes has
been added to the journey to hospital. But although individuals can survive in the west bank, life is being slowly strangled out of the economy. Nablus has always been a great commercial centre, but the roadblocks, fences and checkpoints are slowly killing the economy. That applies even more to such cities and towns as Qalqilya, which is surrounded on three sides by the wall, which of course Palestinians cannot pass.
Before I am accused of being an extremist, I should say that Palestinians who support terrorist organisations are extremely misguided and are acting against their own interests. However, if the Israelis go on expanding the settlements, they must expect that terrorists will get more recruits. I claim no originality in that view, because everything that I am saying is being said by Israelis as well as by Palestinians. Brigadier-General Ilan Paz of the Israeli defence force says:
After seven years in which people are not able to move freely in and out of their home towns, after so much distress has built up, so much humiliation, depression and hopelessness, not only are these interior checkpoints inhuman, but they also create an atmosphere that can actually cause terror, not prevent it.
I oppose terrorism, but I predict that if the Palestinian towns are encircled and their economies are strangled, as is happening in the west bank, and if they are besieged and effectively imprisoned and impoverished, as is happening in Gaza, people will lash out in any way they can and the situation can only get worse. Again, that is being said by Israelis and not just by outsiders. Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Israeli security services, recently said:
People say that Palestinians behave like madmen. It is not madness but a bottomless despair.
I agree with him on another point that he makes: if one wants to preserve the Jewish and the democratic character of Israel, the only way to do so in the long term will be to create a Palestinian state. Expanding settlements is not only against the law, the Geneva convention and any number of United Nations resolutions, but it is against Israels self-interest.
Some cynics even now say that Israel does not want peace, it wants Palestine. It already has 78 per cent. of the land of historical Palestine, but as a result of the wall, military zones and the creation of military-only areas in the Jordan valley, it will have 88 per cent., leaving only 12 per cent. of the original historical Palestine for the Palestinians. One can only forgive Palestinians for thinking that the Israelis secret agenda is to take the whole of Palestine and to allow the Palestinian population to be dispersed or disfranchised or disempowered in small enclaves.
I am not a cynic, and I take the Israeli Government at their word when they say that they want peace and a two-state solution, but I end with two questions. The first was put to us by a Palestinian neurologist. He asked:
If you are serious about a two-state solution, is not the first thing to do to call a halt to the expansion of settlements?
I add a question of my own. Is it not time that the UK Government lent their support to the United Nations using the powers in chapter VII of its charter to enforce the will of the vast majority of its members that there should be an end to the expansion of settlements in the west bank?
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