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The Government want Europes nations to set a clearer and more consistent course for the European Union. The treaty will bring in a full-time president of the European Council, ending the six-monthly merry-go-round of the changing presidency, which has too often meant a lack of consistency and follow-through. The president will be appointed by Heads of Government and be accountable to Heads of Government, and it will continue to be the EUs national leaders, not the president of the Council, who takes final decisions.
The Government believe that security and prosperity within the EU demand more purposeful action beyond Europes borders. The answer is not to undermine the foreign policy prerogatives of nation statesand, as the Foreign Affairs Committee states very clearly, that is not the consequence of the Lisbon treaty. The treaty ensures that the decisions of the 27 EU nations, when we all agree, will be carried forward in a more coherent way by the appointment by member states of a single Commissioner, rather than two as at present.
The Government believe that national Parliaments should play a bigger role in European affairs, as I described earlier. In addition to the measures I described, for the first time national Parliaments will have a direct say in the EUs law-making procedures on a day-to-day basis. National Parliaments will now be able to challenge a proposal if, for example, they decide it affects an area they believe is a matter not for the EU but for individual member countries.
David Miliband: I shall give way to Members when I reach the end of this section, and I shall start with the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Government also believe that Europe needs to reform its voting system to take account of enlargement. The treaty finally does that. In future, population size as well as the number of states is important to decision making. That will raise the proportion of votes in UK hands from 8 to 12 per cent.
Furthermoreand to pick up on an earlier pointlet me set out the facts on qualified majority voting. Sixteen of the changes either do not apply to the UK or apply only if we agree, because they concern economic and monetary union, of which we are not a part, or justice and home affairs, on which we have the ability to opt in or out. [Interruption.] For as long as necessary: as I shall explain in detail, we will have the right to choose on all justice and home affairs measures.
Fourteen of the QMV changes are purely procedural; for example, they address how we appoint members of
the EUs Economic and Social Committee, or provisions relating to the effect of the past division of Germany. In 20 areas, the changes offer faster decision making where that is in the UKs interests, such as on energy liberalisation, where the chairmen of Centrica and the National Grid Company have said that the Lisbon treaty
will be a way of circumventing cases of protectionism;
deliver a stronger poverty focus and greater coherence in
development and humanitarian work;
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I thank the Foreign Secretary for doing so. Since he has dismissed the European Scrutiny Committee conclusion that the current treaty is substantially the same as the constitution, does he also dismiss the conclusion of the Foreign Affairs Committee published this morning
that there is no material difference between the provisions on foreign affairs in the Constitutional Treaty which the Government made subject to approval in a referendum and those in the Lisbon Treaty on which a referendum is being denied?
David Miliband: The Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee is present, so he will be able to confirm that it said that the treaty was not substantially different for those countries without the protocols and opt-outs that we have secured. The quotation that the right hon. Member for Wells has given is a totally partial representation of what that Committee concluded.
David Miliband: That was agreed by the right hon. Gentleman, who voted against a referendum on Maastricht as deputy Chief Whip at the time. The FAC says that the role of the high representative for the common foreign and security policy is a valuable contribution and it dismisses the allegations that we will lose our rights at the Security Council as nonsense. I say to all hon. Members that they should read what the FAC has said, rather than what it is alleged to have said.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab):
Does my right hon. Friend share my surprise that those who demand a referendum as a cover for their wish to
withdraw from the European Union never seem to mention the provisions in this treaty, which include provision for competences to be transferred back to member states from the EU and the introduction of a procedure for managing the withdrawal of a member state from the EU? Those are just the sorts of things one would expect those against UK membership of the EU to support.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Even though these are extremely serious matters, we should temper our language when we make contributions to the debate. I think that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw that particular remark.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I say to both sides of the House that hon. Members should treat each other with some courtesy and the House with respect? If one withdraws a remark, there is no need to qualify it after that.
Mr. Robathan: My point was that the Foreign Secretary and all the hon. Members sitting behind him must go back to their constituents at election time. They told their constituents at the previous election that they could have a vote on the constitution. This is the same as the constitutionblack is not whiteso how will they face their constituents? What will they say next time round?
David Miliband: It is through the elections to this House that people will be able to decide their view on the different stances that different hon. Members take. One thing that we should be able to agree upon above all others is that if the European Union has contributed to anything over the past 50 or 60 years it is to the prevention of war in Europe. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will believe, on reflection, that the language and the imagery that he has conjured up are not worthy of him.
Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): History, if nothing else, teaches us of the importance of a united Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the position outlined by many hon. Members today betrays an isolationist position that risks damaging this country both politically and economically?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point about the priorities that should confront us. Those are not about institutional change but are about dealing with the major issues that the European Union should be addressing
David Miliband: I shall make some progress and then, as always, I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman in due course. His relationship with me goes back to his time as advocate for the milk industry, and I hope that he will be patient.
I want to deal with the four red lines that the Government insisted were at the heart of our negotiating approach. In respect of tax and social security, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who speaks for the Conservative party, admits that we have strengthened our veto power but now he says that it was never under threat.
The right hon. Gentleman alleges an extension of the role of the European Court of Justice on social legislation via the charter of rights, yet the treaty records existing rights rather than creating new ones. A new legally binding protocol guarantees that nothing in the charter extends the ability of any court to strike down UK law. Let us not forget that the Conservative party wants to rip apart Europes social legislation by taking away British peoples rights to annual holiday and making them second-class citizens in Europe by withdrawing from the social chapter.
In respect of the third red line, the Opposition say that our legal system is under threat because justice and home affairs co-operation will no longer be separate from other aspects of European Union activity. I say they should listen to Professor Alan Dashwood of Cambridge university, a leading professor of European law, who says that the provisions we have negotiated constitute a very solid safeguard.
For every item of justice and home affairs activity, existing or intended, we will have the right to opt in or to opt out. The treaty extends and strengthens our existing opt-in on visas, immigration, asylum and civil law to areas of criminal law and police co-operationfor example, combating international terrorism and organised crime.
The Opposition say they fear dilution of foreign policy power, but foreign policy will remain in a separate treaty, which reinforces its intergovernmental nature. The Foreign Affairs Committee agrees. Unanimity will remain the rule for setting policy. The Foreign Affairs Committee agrees.
An explicit treaty provision excludes ECJ jurisdiction over common foreign and security policy. The Foreign Affairs Committee agrees. The accusation that we will lose our seat on the UN Security Council is nonsense.
David Miliband: I promised that I would give way to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski). I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and then I shall of course defer to the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) who has long experience as a distinguished parliamentarian.
Daniel Kawczynski: I am extremely grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way. At the beginning of his speech, he referred to a small number of organisations that back the constitution, which included the bishops. I am rather surprised by that as there is no reference to our Christian faith in the constitution. Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern that in the whole document there is no reference to our Christian faith?
David Miliband: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the origins of the document and at its preamble he will see a reference to Europes heritage of all kinds, which different Members can interpret in different ways.
Chris Bryant: Is it not true that in a dangerous world, which is insecure for many people, it is more important that we have strong international institutions, not just worldwide but at European level? Is it not also true that there are now few areas where Britain can secure its foreign policy interests without co-operating with others, not least on what Russia has been doing to the British Council in the past few days or when we are trying to secure peace in the middle east?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend puts an important question. I was discussing issues about the middle east and Russia with the Hungarian Foreign Minister today. The European Union adds to our power to do precisely that.
Why is the Foreign Secretary so diffident? If opinion-forming groups and bodies, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the bishops, the professors he mentioned and all those other marvellous influential groups, are in favour of the treaty, why cannot the people have the chance to listen to those opinion formers and vote accordingly?
David Miliband: I am surprised to have to say this to the hon. Gentleman: the answer is because it is in the House that we make decisions about how to govern our country. It is in the House that we make the laws of our country and it is to the House that people elect us to make those difficult decisions, not to dodge them.
Mr. Cash: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Foreign Secretary has just referred to the fact that he does not want to grant us a referendum, but is it not the fact that we can have a referendum only if it is passed by Act of Parliament? In other words, it enhances parliamentary authority if we have the humility to give the people their say.
David Miliband: In respect of the structure and content of the treaty, I have set out how it is different. In consequence, the treaty has different consequences from those of the constitutional treaty that was discussed some years ago.
The myth that we are threatened with a European superstate is still nourished in the Conservative cul-de-sac. Certainly there are Continental idealists who bitterly regret that it has faded away, but faded it has, as has been clear since Maastricht.
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