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Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committeethe hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty)and, indeed, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who very fairly quoted from the Committees work. He did not, however, quote from its conclusion:
We recommend that the UK Government should make clear to its EU partners that at present the case for moving criminal law matters from the third pillar has not been made. There is room for debate as to whether, in the future, it may be in the UKs interests to accept such a change. Members of our Committee hold different views as to whether it might ever be acceptable to agree to this. It is indisputable that such a change would be of great significance. The UK Government should not agree to any such proposal without full and specific parliamentary consideration of the issue.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): For me, the debate has been a rather nostalgic affair. I made my maiden speech in 1992, during the Committee stage of the Maastricht Bill, at about 1 am. I think that the House was rather emptier than it is at present.
I find it interesting that the arguments of those who supported the Government then were very similar to the arguments of those who support the Government tonight, while the arguments of those who supported the Opposition were similar, if not identical, to the arguments of those who support them tonight.
In the few moments left to me to sum up a truncated but, in my opinion, orderly and fascinating debate, I want to pull together some of the themes that featured in it. I am afraid that I shall not be able to pay the tribute that, had time allowed, I should have paid to the Home Secretarys speech. It deserved rather more analysis than I have time to give it, and even, perhaps, more than the House is prepared to hear.
What I will do is congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) on doing what the Home Secretary was either unwilling to do or incapable of doing: analysing the issues with which we must deal this evening and during the remaining days of the Bills Committee stage. Let me say in parenthesis that it is perhaps a surprise, and yet no surprise, that the Lord Chancellor has awarded silk to my hon. Friend. Although he will not take up the initials until March, his approach to the debate demonstrated why the award is so suitable, and why we all share in the delight at his success.
As I said, I do not have time to analyse the Home Secretarys speech and, unfortunately, nor do I have time to deal in depth with the speeches of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), of the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who is Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, and of many other Members. However, I should pause to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). He spoke on most nights during the Maastricht debate, although at rather greater length than he spoke tonight, but he was every bit as clear in his one-sentence contribution to todays debate as he was in his longer speeches on previous occasions. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) on his European Scrutiny Committees work on the Lisbon treaty and associated matters and on his speech this evening, which was a model of a Select Committee Chairmans speech on such an occasion.
There has been a parallel debate during our discussions. We all agree that good things can be achieved by international co-operation, but we differ on how to achieve those worthy aims. Some Liberal Democrats and the former Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon), and some of his Labour colleagues, believe that they should be achieved through greater co-operation within the structures of the EU. Many Conservative MembersI think particularly
of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory)believe that that co-operation should be achieved, if not more bilaterally, then at least with greater retention of independent power in Parliament, because otherwise what is the point of us? There is a perfectly legitimate distinction between the two philosophical standpoints, and I do not impugn the motives of the Government and nor do I claim that we have right entirely on our side, but I do say that the issues involved are of sufficient seriousness that we should have much longer to debate them. One of the problems we will face as we advance through our current proceedings is a growing perception of democratic irrelevance. It is all very well for the Home Secretary and her colleagues in the Government to return from Lisbon or whichever international conference they have attended and say that they have achieved something or other, but if the British public feel that they have played no part in thatif they feel that they have no leverage on the decisions taken on their behalftheir dissatisfaction with what has been achieved, whether for good or ill, will grow.
It was said in the weekend papers that this Government are now beyond satire; I suggest that they are also beyond parody, but they are not beyond the reachor the contemptof the British people, so I urge them to think extremely carefully before they push the British public further than they are prepared to go. It seems that what according to the Government is good for us is what we will get, and an element of condescension enters into Ministers thoughts as they present to Parliament and the public what they believe is good for us.
What the Government believe is good for the public is the wholesale transfer of the third pillar aspects of home affairs and justice into pillar one. Issues such as drug trafficking, terrorism and serious and organised crime, and Europol and Eurojust, which are currently subject to the third pillar so that decisions on them require unanimity among member states, will be elided into pillar one. As a result, national sovereignty and parliamentary scrutiny will increasingly be eroded.
The 27 November 2007 report of the Committee of the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk said it was concerned about the effectiveness of the UK opt-in arrangement on first pillar matters. The report noted that while it was clear that the UK was free to decide whether to opt in, it was less clear whether the UK had a right to opt out of a proposal should negotiations produce an unacceptable text. We have not yet received a decent answer to that troubling question. It is a key question, but the Home Secretary did not find time to grapple with it this evening.
The reform treaty will move the remainder of the third pillarpolice and judicial co-operation in criminal mattersto the first pillar with the consequence that qualified majority voting and co-decision will apply as the general rule to justice and home affairs. Legal migration policy will no longer be agreed via unanimity, but will be subject to QMV and what is nowadays called the ordinary legislative procedurethe new name for co-decision within the European Parliament. When matters move from the third to the first pillar, the powers of the Commission and the European Court of Justice are
considerably increased. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield rightly alighted upon that, as did other Members.
The public prosecutor, Eurojust, Europol and minimum standards in criminal proceedings might all be good things in themselves, but the process, the mechanism and the accountability system is as vital as the end result. Let us consider the safeguards that the Government have promised us: the emergency braking system. As far as I remember, emergency braking is applied during times of panic and is likely to lead to skidding and, beyond that, possibly fatalities. The reform treaty produces the alleged safeguard of the opt-in arrangements, which are available to us. The transitional provisions will be of deep concern to our public, yet the Government seem to be utterly reckless ofto disregard totallythe legitimate worries we express this evening.
My time is up. The British public will, however, probably have a further 18 months or two years to reach the conclusion that I have already arrived at as to the worthiness of this Government to continue in office. If they needed any further evidence about their unsuitability for government, tonight is the night that they will have found it.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the debate, which has been interesting and wide ranging. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) asked several specific points, particularly in his role as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. I confirm to him that we believe that the current arrangements in respect of Frontex will continue as part of the Lisbon treaty and that the June timetable for Europol is appropriate and is still on track.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) made his maiden contribution in his new role; we are all delighted to see him in that post, and his speech was thoughtful and well considered. He asked a number of specific points that I am sure we will continue to discuss throughout the progress of the Bill. He asked about parliamentary scrutiny: we believe that that is essential in respect of this matter and the wider European agenda, which is why clauses 5 and 6, which are not of themselves necessary to ratify the treaty, have been included in the Bill to ensure that there is a stronger power for Parliament to consider and ratify various moves across the EU. They are in place to enshrine the power of Parliament. I also note that the Leader of the House has announced 7 February as the day on which we will have the opportunity to consider motions reforming scrutiny of EU legislation, and this issue will be discussed then. I know that he is deeply involved in those conversations with his hon. Friends.
We also heard an interesting contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee. He talked in great detail and enormous knowledge about the specifics in the treaty and the Bill. A brief contribution was made by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash)perhaps mercifully. We also heard from the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) and the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal
(Mr. Gummer). Telling and regular interventions were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris). We are all delighted that he takes such a close interest in this process, and in all the other processes and procedures of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt) has been in her place throughout the debate. She made a number of telling and entirely appropriate observations and criticisms of the Oppositions approach to the Bill.
A relatively brief contribution was made by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), who retains the status of being in a minority on the Opposition Front-Bench team as a pro-European Conservative. He spoke with fond memories of his debut, and maiden speech, during the Maastricht debate. In his role then, he was obviously a member of the Conservative Group for Europe. I do not know whether he still is a member of the CGE [Interruption.] It is dangerous to disagree with a sedentary intervention from my Chief Whip, but it has not been abolished. More tellingly, it has actually joined the Coalition for the Reform Treaty.
We are living in a world where EU co-operation is key to seizing the opportunities, and tackling the threats, of globalisation. On Second Reading, I spoke of the opportunities of globalisation, but, as hon. Members have mentioned, there is also a darker side of globalisation: crime, terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling and fraud. The list goes on, and hon. Members have referred to it.
Although citizens can reap the benefits of globalisation, terrorists and organised criminal gangs are also exploiting its tools to carry out ever more lethal operations. The internet is transforming lives for the better, but it is also a recruiting ground for terrorists and a hiding place for child sex offenders. Global financial markets and the free flow of capital are, of course, vital to increasing prosperity, but finance is also at the heart of terrorism and crime. That point was made by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal. Terrorists and criminals can exploit the global financial system to move money more easily and hide funds in phoney assets.
The Government fundamentally respect national boundaries and borders, but it is clear that criminals and terrorists do not. That is why EU co-operation at this level is so vital. It is only by working with our European partners that we can better combat organised crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, that we can bring criminals to justice and that we can ensure rights and legal certainty for all EU citizens. The European arrest warrant helps in that regard. Exchanging criminal records, which is a new measure, will help to ensure that offenders are not given unduly lenient sentences because the courts did not know of a previous conviction. EU co-operation through Eurojust and Europol is helping to break online child sex abuse networks and human trafficking rings, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk said.
Of course, the Opposition see this new framework of action and co-operation as a threat. We see the EU as a way to make Britain stronger and more secure. A lack of co-ordinated action is the threat to the United Kingdom, rather than some phoney threat resulting
from a belief in a conspiracy to destroy the nation statean argument that exercised many Conservative Members.
The UK has always been clear that EU co-operation must be in our national interest. That is why in each and every instanceon new proposals on JHA, on amending measures, on transitional measures and on Schengen-building measureswe negotiated the relevant opt-out and opt-in, and we did so in our national interest. We have ensured the right to choose across the board whether to participate in this co-operation. The Home Secretary has alluded to the fact that the Lisbon treaty is the next step in JHAthe Foreign Secretary has also spoken about that. By moving to a system where qualified majority voting and co-decision are the norm, the treaty will unblock decision making, which is crucial.
Opposition Members claimed that the Bill and this treaty will create a Napoleonic legal system in the UK. That is surely a new entry in the hierarchy of hysteria in Conservative Euroscepticism, because the treaty does nothing of the sort. The Conservative approach would not only prevent the ratification of the treaty; it would make it impossible in principle to participate in any of the 82 measures in pillar three post-ratification. Those matters include the following: combating serious crime; the European arrest warrant; action on racism and xenophobia; combating terrorism; and combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
These minimum penalties and minimum standards are in our national interest, and the Conservatives approach this evening has been a triumph of the ideology of isolationism over what is in our national interests. I commend the Government motion to the House.
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