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I think that those on both sides of the House would accept that the contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) was the most
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humorous, and possibly one of the most thoughtful, particularly on the issue of Russia. A number of interventions were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson)—my very good friend—despite his current physical condition. On behalf of everyone in the Government, may I say that I hope that it is nothing trivial? He informs me that he fell, but an investigation is taking place into whether he was pushed.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Ask the Whips.

Mr. Murphy: I was my hon. Friend’s Whip in the past, so I know what happened.

A number of thoughtful contributions were made by Opposition Back Benchers, and not only on the Lisbon treaty. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) was passionate, but he was, on occasion, unnecessarily and gratuitously personally offensive. That is a choice for him, because he must design his own debating style.

The right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) was fair in his point about the need to find additional ways to scrutinise European legislation. As I have said before, I had the fantastic opportunity to serve on European Standing Committees A, B and C for 18 months, and there has to be a more effective way to scrutinise. It is not for the Government to design the process, but based on my experience of scrutinising European legislation, I think that there must be a better way.

We also heard from the hon. Members for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), for Harwich (Mr. Carswell) and for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), who spoke about a European neighbourhood policy. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham spoke about his views on Zimbabwe, which are held dearly, although occupants of all three Front Benches disagree strongly with his view on engagement with that country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda spoke with great clarity about the dynamic in Russian politics today, the fact that the democratic space there has shrunk and the opportunities for civic society and the freedom of the media have been curtailed in a way that many of us would have thought unimaginable a few years ago. We all celebrated the remarkable changes in Russia with the collapse of communism, but the trends that my hon. Friend mentioned are worrying, especially when one considers how important Russia is on issues of energy, international terrorism and non-proliferation. It is significant that we should do as much as we can in our relationship with Russia through the European Union, because 27 voices—albeit with different accents and at times in different languages—can be much more effective than one lone voice.

Mr. Francois: The Minister will know that the Opposition have given the Government strong support in the Litvinenko case. Can he reassure the House that the Government will continue to press the Russians on that important matter?

Mr. Murphy: I put on record the thanks of the Government for that strong cross-party support. It is an
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important aspect of our debates that, while retaining ferocious disagreement about several issues, we are at one on the strategic issues of national interest in respect of Russia. We will of course continue to press on the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Kosovo was mentioned by several right hon. and hon. Members. In the past, the international community has had good intentions on Kosovo, but that will not be enough in the next few weeks and months. When we reflect on what happened in the 1990s, we must say, “Never again.” In the autumn of 1993, the European Council was debating how to send aid to Bosnia, and how to distribute it for the brutal Balkan winter. By the time Europe had agreed to a package of measures, the snow had melted in Sarajevo and spring had arrived. That should never be repeated in international diplomacy.

Several other important issues are debated at European Councils and we need to work on them multilaterally and bilaterally with our European colleagues. Not least of those are the millennium development goals, climate change and our relationship with Iran, which the Foreign Secretary mentioned. However, I shall spend the limited time available to me on some of the comments on the Lisbon treaty.

As has often been the case in discussions on the issue, opposition to the treaty was fired by an anger about proposals that do not even appear in it. Perhaps that is just the nature of debate on European matters. I simply do not believe that the changes being proposed on foreign policy or the proposals for a high representative are the threat that is claimed. Those who oppose the changes paint

but I regard the changes

Those are not my words, but those of the right hon. Lord Howe, the former Conservative Foreign Secretary, speaking in another place just this week. He appreciates that the proposed changes help the United Kingdom.

Opposition Members suggested that our seat at the United Nations was in some way under threat as a consequence of the proposals in the reform treaty. It is ludicrous, and politically and intellectually incoherent, to draw that conclusion, even from the least charitable reading of the reform treaty.

Mr. Davidson: While my hon. Friend is on the subject of political and intellectual incoherence, may I ask him about the Liberals and their position? While I believe that the Minister is wrong, at least I recognise that he has an opinion. There are three Liberals present; how many opinions does he think that they have among them on whether there should be a referendum on the constitution?

Mr. Murphy: In the time available to me, that is not an issue in which I can get involved in great detail. The Liberal Democrats will continue to speak for themselves on the subject. Earlier, I had the opportunity to listen to the speech of their Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter).

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On the high representative, the point that I wish to make is that the modest changes to current procedures are a sensible improvement. A Conservative Back Bencher—I think that it was one of the Better Off Out gang—suggested that we would no longer be able to speak at the United Nations; our seat would be under threat. That ignores all recent history. As the Foreign Secretary said, during the German presidency of the EU, we spoke on eight separate occasions on which the EU representative also spoke. We also spoke at the UN during the Portuguese presidency. Javier Solana spoke at the UN on five separate occasions since 2002, and the UK spoke on each and every one of those occasions. It is important that there be a European Union effort, and that we exert our energy and influence on the international stage. Being able to speak at the United Nations is an important part of that, whether it be on Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Burma, the millennium development goals or other matters. The Conservative Opposition often seem to will the end—a more vocal, effective European policy on foreign issues—but strongly oppose the means.

On the points raised about the abandonment of the previous constitution, the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) rightly predicted that I would again announce this evening that the constitutional approach has been abandoned—indeed, he might have written this part of my speech. All 27 member states have agreed that the constitutional approach has been abandoned, as have many others. The ODS party, in government in the Czech Republic—the lone voice that the Conservative party claim as an ally in the European Union—has said that there is no constitution anymore. That is the Conservatives’ one voice of friendship in the European Union. The French Secretary of State has said so. The Conservative President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, has said so. The Danish Prime Minister, José Manuel Barroso, Lord Brittan, the Dutch Prime Minister, the Dutch Council of State, eminent professors of European law, the Italian Interior Minister, the Portuguese Prime Minister, the chairman of BP and many others have added their voice to the clear statement by all 27 Governments that the constitutional approach has been abandoned.

On the specific deal that the UK has, all countries have moved away from the previous constitution, but the UK has moved further away than any other member state. Again, that view is supported by José Manuel Barroso, who has said:

Giscard d’Estaing said:

The President of the European Parliament has said—

Mr. Cash: rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly :—

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The House divided: Ayes 276, Noes 17.
Division No. 26]
[9.59 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Farrelly, Paul
Farron, Tim
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Watson, Mr. Tom
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Wood, Mike
Wright, Mr. Anthony

Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Wayne David and
Mr. Dave Watts

Binley, Mr. Brian
Brady, Mr. Graham
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Farron, Tim
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Russell, Bob
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Spink, Bob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Wilshire and
Mr. Peter Bone
Question accordingly agreed to.
11 Dec 2007 : Column 269

11 Dec 2007 : Column 270





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Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I will put together motions 4 to 6.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Delegated Legislation Committees),

European Communities


Employment Agencies, Etc.

Question agreed to.

11 Dec 2007 : Column 271


Post Office Closures (Wirral)

10.13 pm

Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): I present a petition on behalf of more than 4,000 residents of Lower Heswall who signed it to mark their concern about the possible closure of their local post office. This is a well-used, important facility and an important element of a vibrant village community. The signatories hope that it will be allowed to continue to play its vital community role. The petition is from Mr. Brian Kewley, postmaster, and the customers of Lower Heswall post office.

The petition declares

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