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The Government stand indicted for their broken promises on not only the referendum, but the red lines and the charter. They also stand indicted on their claims for the success of the European Union—the European Union does not work. Indeed, just this morning we heard the Prime Minister praising our historic ties with India, which, generally speaking, are justified, particularly since democracy has taken root in that great country. However, is the European Union to dictate our economic relations with India? Why should we not develop our own special relationship with India, building on the best of the past and on economic co-operation, and promoting our common resource of
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the English language, as we could elsewhere in the Anglosphere world and the Commonwealth based on free trade and co-operation? Trade with other European nations is important and can contribute to that process, but it cannot do so with the European Union as a single legislative entity with legal personality, and certainly not with the current customs union.

If the holding of a referendum is so important—it is because of the fundamental change involved—it cannot be abandoned merely because the Labour Whips force the treaty on to the statute book. The Leader of the Opposition is right to say that we cannot allow matters to rest if, as is more than likely, a referendum is not won tonight or in Committee. He is right to concentrate on a referendum now and to vote directly against the Bill. He would also be right to commit to a post-ratification referendum in due course, as I urged in my recent early-day motion, which has the support of more than 40 colleagues from the Back Benches alone. That is because a vote born out of deceit on the issue of who governs must be put right. If this Parliament is to be trusted, the people must have their say and Members of Parliament must have the humility to realise that.

If the call for a referendum is defeated during the course of the Bill’s progress, a referendum in any event will have to be proposed in our manifesto and implemented under a Conservative Government, whether or not other member states have ratified. If France and the Netherlands, not to mention Ireland, Denmark or Harold Wilson in 1975, can with impunity reopen negotiations and reverse decisions already taken, as we have so many other times with other treaties over the centuries, so too can the United Kingdom under a new Conservative Government. We must argue for this in the country with passion and conviction.

This treaty is a European manoeuvre. It was concocted by the Eurocrats, by Germany and by France, and by the betrayal of this country by this Government. Some 70 per cent. of those who have recently been asked said that they wanted these merged treaties renegotiated into an association of member states. As Churchill said in Zurich in September 1946:

That is the line we should take.

I put it to the House that in Committee we must demonstrate how much we must leave out of the treaty, which merges the existing treaties, so that we can form a reasoned basis for proposing a proper renegotiation of each sphere of policy and principle contained in the existing treaties, and insist on trade and co-operation in Europe, but not European government. I am not speaking nationalism, but the national interest. Our involvement in global trade must not be determined by European government claiming falsely to speak with one voice.

Others have spoken—rightly—of foreign policy, the European presidency, the legal personality and over-regulation, as well as of the red lines and other vital matters, but I conclude with a plea for the supremacy of Parliament, upon which all other matters turn. In amendments to another Bill, whipped in both Houses recently, the Conservative party has already adopted
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my proposal to override the European Communities Act 1972 and therefore, above all, to require the United Kingdom judiciary to obey that latest law. The supremacy of Parliament, which, I point out to the Foreign Secretary, includes authorising a referendum—something that itself enhances parliamentary authority—must be affirmed in the text of the Bill, because the treaty seeks to infuse the European Union into our constitutional and legal framework, so as to leave little or nothing on which the voters can maintain freedom of choice in our democracy for which so many have fought and died. We must amend the Bill and erect a legislative redoubt that will ensure that the Bill and the treaty, if it were to pass into law, would guarantee the Bill of Rights and parliamentary supremacy, notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972.

8.30 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I will not even try to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash)—I could not—but if this debate is a foretaste of the 20 days to come, it is a very gloomy foretaste indeed. We have heard a couple of excellent speeches, from the Opposition Benches unfortunately. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) gave a brilliant speech and although our former Prime Minister is angling to become President of the European Union, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks still has prospects as president of the Oxford union—he could keep the flag flying there.

The former Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), made a fascinating speech. Euro-enthusiasts on the Labour Benches were saying, “I wish I could have given that speech”. It was honest and entertaining; I did not agree with much of it, but it was certainly effective.

However, most of the debate has not risen above arguing that if we pass the treaty it will advance motherhood, apple pie, animal welfare, the environment, child care, the NSPCC, bishops and the war on dandruff, and ensure the regular return of library books. Enthusiasts for the treaty say that anybody who is against it—as I am—automatically wants the destruction of Europe. I think the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy) said that, but it just ain’t true. We should not trade caricatures in that way.

My position is clear. I do not want the treaty because it would advance a European superstate, which I do not like. I want a referendum on the treaty as a matter of principle, because we are being asked to abdicate from the power given to us as MPs by the people—power to take decisions on their behalf. If the people want to do a thing, we take the decision. If we can no longer do so because the power has been transferred to Europe, that is no longer democracy; we are incapable and the institution of Parliament is weakened. That is the reason both for holding a referendum and for opposing the treaty.

We have run into the nether reaches of the debate, which is when I always speak, so it is good that the Foreign Secretary is still in the Chamber listening to the arguments. The treaty takes us further towards a superstate. The Foreign Secretary told us that the treaty was not a constitution and that the seven years of travail, which I thought were about a constitution, were
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in fact about institutional reform. I do not believe that. Ninety per cent. of the treaty is the constitution that emerged from the long travails in which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) played such an important part. The treaty has not been changed by the red lines, because they were there before.

If European leaders such as Angela Merkel and Bertie Ahern tell us that the treaty is the same as the constitution, if Giscard d’Estaing tells us that it is the same as the constitution but cleverly disguised, if it looks like a constitution, smells like a constitution and reads like a constitution, as far as I am concerned it is a constitution. We do ourselves no good by saying that it is not a constitution but a completely different document—it is not.

It is said that diplomats are honest men sent abroad to lie for their country. Well, I do not want Foreign Secretaries to be honest men kept at home to tell untruths about the European Union. That is effectively what has been happening. I do not say “lies”; I say “untruths”. Perhaps I should call them Euro-truths, because that is about the same level of accuracy.

I looked pedantically at the “Shorter Oxford English Dictionary”. It is a very big volume; I nearly ruptured myself getting it down from the shelves. It says:

Whether we call it a treaty or a reheated Euro-dog’s dinner, the document has all those characteristics. It is therefore effectively a constitution.

It is no good telling us that black is white. We are already viewed with suspicion by the great mass of this country’s electorate, who think that politicians lie, who automatically distrust anything that comes from a Department and disbelieve it, and who tell us that they do not believe a word that we say. So it is no use telling us that black is white, when it manifestly is not. That does not encourage any respect for Europe, for the constitution or for the institutions of Government.

So let me apply the Paxman test—nothing to do with underpants. To paraphrase the Paxman test—I would apply it to many in the European Union—why is that untruthful person of uncertain parentage telling me what I believe is not true? I can answer that test: Europe is saying that this is not a constitution but a treaty, because in its view, a treaty does not need a referendum. Our Government are telling us that the treaty does not need a referendum, because they know that they would lose. It is as simple as that, and we must be honest about it.

I found the Liberal Democrat position absolutely extraordinary. The Liberal Democrats want a referendum on something entirely different from the constitution, but that just shows that their love for Europe is greater than their love for democracy. I have always thought that that was their view anyway, so it is no great revelation.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD) rose—

Mr. Mitchell: It would be honest to say that we do not want a referendum because we fear that we would lose. We should admit that, because in doing so, we would be saying that the constitution and the advance of European union is a construct of the elite that must be foisted on the people, who cannot be trusted to vote
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on it, to have a say on it or to give their views on it, and I do not want to have to say that to the people.

Kelvin Hopkins rose—

Mr. Mitchell: I would rather not give way, because I am inevitably grinding slowly to a conclusion.

It is true that I do not want to build a European superstate. In that superstate, we would be like Mrs. Rochester in “Jane Eyre”—the mad person in the attic—and why would we be in that situation? Because the people do not like it; because the people do not want it; because the people feel that they are not being consulted; and because the people feel that it is being imposed on them. If we pass the treaty without a referendum, we will encourage all those feelings.

8.37 pm

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) correctly identified one of the issues at the heart of the debate: whether the House is entitled to give away powers irrevocably, when those powers ultimately belong to the people whom we represent.

The other big problem is that the European Union is in something of a crisis. That was identified seven years ago, when the reform process was launched. Heads of Government, meeting at Laeken in 2001, recognised the very deep public disillusionment with the European Union and did not request but instructed the European Union to become more democratic, simpler and closer to its citizens. But as I know, because I was at the Convention on the Future of Europe, those instructions were ignored. Instead, the process fell victim to the iron determination of the European Union institutions not to give up their powers but to centralise them further at the expense of member states. I witnessed that; I predicted that it would fail, and it did, at the hands of the French and Dutch electorate. But instead of lessons being learned, the crimes were repeated.

Two reports—one from the European Scrutiny Committee and the other from the Foreign Affairs Committee—describe well how the German presidency was not told to draft a treaty last year; it was actually told to produce a report for further discussion. However, it exceeded those instructions, which were given at the previous European summit, and drew up a draft treaty, the text of which was shown to member states only on 19 June, two days before the start of the European summit that approved the treaty. Since then, no change or amendment of any sort has been possible. We had only that two-day window in which to try to influence the result and measure the text against the instructions, which were to ensure simplicity and democracy.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office—that once-great Department—meekly assented to that compressed timetable, although it was completely unnecessary to do so, as we had a veto over the whole process. The scandal is that simultaneously, there were repeated assurances that the public would be brought alongside, consulted and engaged. The presidency conclusions of last June say:

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How can we have permanent dialogue with the European Union when it produces a draft treaty only 48 hours before it is agreed? It is a totally two-faced procedure, and it is a scandal that the House and the Government went along with it. Of course, the reason is obvious: the Government never had the slightest intention of consulting the people. That was done in France and Holland, which said no, and the Government are not going to make that mistake.

This is the last treaty on which any public vote will be possible, because it now becomes self-amending. Never again will it be brought before the intergovernmental conference, and never again will it be put to a referendum. That is why the treaty is incomprehensible. The position is not, “The treaty’s complicated, so we can’t ask the people”; the treaty is complicated because the European Union knew that it had been relieved of the obligation to simplify it for our voters and our electorate. That is why it resorted to the old process of drawing up legal texts by politicians and lawyers for other politicians and lawyers.

If one reads the text of the treaty, as I had to, one can see that we are talking about an entirely unreformed European Union. It remains one of the most old-fashioned organisations in the world—centralised, harmonised, and obsessed with standardisation and over-regulation. It is completely out-manoeuvred by the rest of the world. For example, no other group of countries on earth has followed the European Union in becoming a customs union. Instead, they have all gone down the route of free trade agreements, which achieve the same circulation of goods and people, without binding member states to a trade policy about which they can do nothing, and which prevents them from helping the poorest countries on earth through bilateral agreements.

The EU is entirely an old-fashioned structure, unreformed in every respect. Another example of that is its budgetary policy. The European Union budget is a byword for waste and inefficiency. In the Convention on the Future of Europe, amendments were tabled to try to reform the budget. I tabled some, but I got no help whatever from the Government representative, the then Europe Minister, the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who clearly had trouble with money even in those days. Since then, and for the 13th year, the European Union accounts have been rejected by the auditors. Only last week we saw the pitiful spectacle of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury raising our contribution to £5 billion a year, net. We have no idea how that money is spent.

More policies and powers are being loaded on to the creaking edifice. Criminal justice is just one example, and it goes to the core of what Parliament does in defining penalties and punishments on behalf of the people whom we represent. The treaty marches right into that territory: the red lines that are supposed to protect it are entirely insecure, as is shown by the Select Committee report. The key point is that the treaty is irreversible: if a future Government want to try to retrieve those powers, or if they want a different policy on criminal justice, immigration, asylum and policing, that will be impossible, as we will have exported those powers irreversibly.

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A change of Government will therefore mean nothing. Democracy will die, because people will not vote. Why should they vote at a general election for a party that promises to change our immigration or criminal justice policies, when it is impossible for it to do so? There is only solution—to ask the people. Ultimately, it is not our powers that we are discussing but the powers of the people we represent. We cannot give away those powers without their consent. We promised to consult them in national referendums, and the very least that Parliament can do is keep its promises.

8.45 pm

Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) defined the debate perfectly, when he said it was about not only whether we support the Lisbon treaty but whether we should have a referendum on that question. Those are the two issues before us, and the referendum is of much more importance than the Lisbon treaty, because more than 600 right hon. and hon. Members stood in the last election on manifestos promising to hold a referendum. I fully recognise that a small number of Members, such as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), have made their views robustly clear to the electorate. I absolve the right hon. and learned Gentleman of any commitment to vote for a referendum, because he was honest with the people who elected him. If we do not hold a referendum, however, there are more than 600 right hon. and hon. Members to whom the same does not apply.

We must remember that debate on what was then called the constitutional treaty was expunged from the 2005 general election campaign, because every party said that it would hold the debate when there was a referendum. I cannot remember a single major discussion on the television about the subject. That is the most important issue, because it is about honesty and integrity, and about democracy in the House.

In the time I am allowed, I shall quickly go through the issues. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that this was a change treaty, but he is more or less on his own in saying so. If one met most of the Presidents and Prime Ministers of European states, the people who drafted the constitution, or Select Committee members, one would find that they all said that there was no real difference between the Lisbon treaty and the original proposals in the constitution. I would even ask the Whips, because they tried to persuade me to vote in support of Second Reading on the basis that such a measure appeared in our manifesto. The only treaty in the manifesto was the constitutional treaty, which, wearing another hat, they say has changed. The Government are confused on the issue, as are the Opposition.

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