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30 Jan 2008 : Column 417
6.15 pm

Martin Horwood: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for that clarification of the principle of subsidiarity, which still underlies this treaty as it did others.

Let me move on to the amendments. It is interesting to note that the amendments tabled by Back-Bench Conservatives are more or less indistinguishable in effect from those tabled by Front-Bench Conservatives. We feared that the Europhobes would press down on the Front Bench—but they seem to have captured it. [ Interruption. ] I shall come to the subject of whether amendments are necessary in a moment, but we agree with the thrust of the treaty— [ Interruption. ]

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. We cannot have continued interruptions from a sedentary position. It disrupts the debate and I cannot always hear what is going on.

Martin Horwood: As I was saying, the amendments tabled by those on the Conservative Front Bench are indistinguishable in their effect, and sometimes in their wording, from those tabled by those on the Back Benches. The Europhobia of some on the Conservative Back Benches has recaptured their Front-Bench spokesmen.

Amendment No. 204 is a sniper amendment, which would delete the word “energy” from the consolidated text of the amended Rome treaty. In that sense, it is close to amendment No. 33. The other two amendments, Nos. 152 and 205, are blunderbuss amendments that try to take out any reference to energy wherever they can find one. All the amendments are aimed at changing the historical position. Energy was in practice a shared competence, even if it was not defined as such. It might have been shared in a rather obscure and complicated way, but the sharing of roles between the European Economic Community, as it originally was, and the member states dates back to the origins of the organisation. There was the European Coal and Steel Community—coal, after all, is a source of energy—and the European Atomic Energy Community, regardless of whether we would have agreed with that. Through Maastricht and beyond, successive Conservative Governments supported the principle that the EU was sometimes the most appropriate level at which to act on energy, while at other times the member state would be the most appropriate level. The treaty clarifies and consolidates that.

If amendment No. 204 were to exclude energy from that consolidated and clarified list, that could be interpreted as removing energy from the list of shared competences in which it was previously included. That would not mean that we would simply go back to square one, as has been claimed, and the time before the Lisbon treaty. If we made the amendment and the treaty was passed, we would have gone back further, reversed the historical position and removed energy from the list of shared competences.

What implications would that have? Measures such as the renewables directive would no longer be possible. It would not be possible to have the fun that we, and the Conservative Front Benchers, had with the Government about their failure to meet their original aspiration of providing 20 per cent. of the electricity
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supply from renewable energy. Attempts to compare and contrast the Government’s policy on feed-in tariffs and renewable obligations would all have to take place domestically; we would not be able to use the European dimension in the argument, as energy would no longer be a European competence.

Clearly that would be nonsense in an age when we need cross-border co-operation to tackle climate change, and the consolidation and security of supply in energy markets. Those effects on the energy market need to operate across all 27 nations. It would be an utterly retrograde step to repatriate the whole of energy policy. In practice, of course, that cannot happen. A treaty amended in that way belongs in some fantasy land inhabited by those on the Conservative Front Bench, because these are basically wrecking amendments.

The amendments deal with that part of the Bill, as opposed to the treaty, that refers to the exclusion of common foreign and security policy. However, that element of the Bill is a little superfluous, as it merely restates the obvious—that a common foreign and security policy is not part of the treaty. In contrast, the things that the amendments would exclude are part of the treaty, and the legal result of accepting the amendments would be that the Bill would fail to ratify the Lisbon treaty.

Mr. Bone: Excellent!

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman says that that would be excellent, but I am not sure that his Front-Bench colleagues agree, as they are keeping a bit quiet. Accepting the amendments would amount to a rejection of the Lisbon treaty, and would leave no possibility that aspects of it could be renegotiated, as the Conservatives imagine.

The simpler and more honest path for the Conservatives would be to follow the recommendation from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) that we hold a referendum allowing us to say yes or no to the treaty after we have ratified it. We could honestly vote yes in such a referendum, but I presume that members of the Conservative Front Bench would campaign for a no vote in it—and so for our exit from the EU.

Mr. Evans: Let the people decide.

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman is right: we should let the people decide on such a matter, but to bring that about we should not use strange devices like the wrecking amendments before the House tonight.

The process that I have set out would be less painful, and it would also protect Members on the Conservative Front Bench from the sort of attacks by the Eurosceptic and the Europhile wings of their party to which they have been subjected this evening. That is why I recommend that approach to them, and why the amendments should be withdrawn.

Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): I begin by apologising to the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) for missing his opening remarks, but I shall read them in tomorrow’s Hansard with interest.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) made some comments about Russia’s relationship with the EU. In that connection, may I say that I appreciate the speech that the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) made when he wound up the earlier debate? It was both sensible and wise.

Russia is a major power. When we are talking about Gazprom, as various hon. Members have this afternoon, we are dealing with the interdependence of the EU and Russia in the energy market. It is an open market, in which buyers and sellers—producers and consumers—operate at arm’s length from each other, but the following facts should be borne in mind. For example, in 2003, 58 per cent. of Russian oil exports were to the EU, as were 88 per cent. of its total natural gas exports. In addition, 22 per cent. of total net EU oil imports in 2003 came from Russia, representing 16 per cent. of all European oil consumption—that is, by members states and others. Finally, 32 per cent. of Europe’s gas imports in 2003 came from Russia, representing 19 per cent. of total gas consumption by member states. Those figures show that we need to be a little cautious when we castigate Gazprom, and Russia’s relations with the EU as a whole.

Earlier, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton talked about what I call the Bavarian question. That is, if there is a shortage in Bavaria, will liquefied natural gas on its way to Milford Haven from Qatar be diverted to Bavaria? If that is the case, I assure the House that Gazprom will be there much quicker.

Mr. Brady: I am interested in the case that the hon. Gentleman has just made, but does he agree that, in current circumstances and on the evidence of the past couple of years, the most likely cause of a crisis in the supply of gas to Bavaria or elsewhere in continental Europe would be the fact that Gazprom had shut off the supply? Is that not why we should be concerned that supplies from this country might be diverted elsewhere?

Sir Stuart Bell: We must get away from seeing Gazprom as a huge bogey man or bear on the international gas and oil market. Gazprom is successful because it is a paying concern, and it has no interest in cutting off supplies to Bavaria, thereby cutting off receipts to the Russian budget. I remarked earlier that some 47 per cent. of the Russian budget comes from oil and gas exports to Europe and trade. In an interdependent world, it is not in Gazprom’s interest to cut off gas supplies to Bavaria. There is absolutely no reason for it to do so. There is a politicisation of the debate on Russian oil and gas that, in my view, is influenced and directed by the United States of America, to the detriment of the European Union and certainly to the detriment of our supply of oil and gas from Russia.

Rob Marris: Does my hon. Friend agree that the intervention of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) underlines Conservative Members’ difficulty understanding the nature of the European Union—namely, that it is a two-way street? If a gas shortage were looming in Birmingham because
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the LNG ship from Qatar had not arrived in Milford Haven, gas could be diverted from Bavaria to Birmingham.

Sir Stuart Bell: That is the essence of the interconnector. When my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South spoke of a common energy policy, the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) intervened to ask whether that would result in a united states of Europe. The essence of EU energy policy is that it is up to each member state to go its own way within a supranational EU framework.

I return to article 176A. It has been quoted many times today, but I make no apologies for repeating it:

that is, those in article 176A—

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South, that nuclear energy, which we debated earlier, was deliberately not included in the European Commission’s proposals, because it is up to each member state to decide for itself what it wishes to do on that issue. The point was made that France relies on it a lot and Austria not at all, and that Poland relies on coal. That is the diversity of the European Union; one of the themes of the EU is unity in diversity. We accept diversity and welcome it, and we allow each of the 27 member states to breathe and develop under a supranational umbrella.

Amendment No. 204 relates to article 2C, and would remove the phrase relating to energy. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) said, it is one of the Opposition’s wrecking amendments. Let us look at article 2C; what is it that the Opposition dislike about shared competence? Do they dislike the internal market, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South rightly pointed out, Lady Thatcher gave us in 1986? Are they opposed to social policy? Are they opposed to economic, social and territorial cohesion? Are they opposed to agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources, or the environment? Are they against consumer protection, transport, trans-European networks, the area of freedom, security and justice or common safety concerns in public health matters? All of those are defined in the treaty. Why on earth would one want to remove energy? Do we wish to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world? Do we wish there to be no electricity or petrol for our cars in 10 to 15 years’ time? What is it that we are trying to achieve?

Mr. Evans: Does Norway want to cut itself off from the rest of the world? Does Switzerland? That is a useless argument. The treaty is yet another building block in the united states of Europe. Clearly, we are not against working towards a better Europe, or indeed a better United Kingdom, but everything boils down to the fact that we have only ever had one vote on Europe, and that was in 1975. Is it not about time that we had another?

Sir Stuart Bell: I wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and pray that someone in a debate such as this will mention Norway. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman
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for doing so. I can assure him that Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are still part of the free trade area that was created many years ago, and they have been operating out of Switzerland from 1972. I invite the Opposition to tell me whether they would like us to go back to those days or to stay within the European Union.

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to come back to me on that, I shall be happy to hear him. He referred for the second time today to a united states of Europe. There is no one, but no one, who wishes a united states of Europe. If he has the time, he should read the Bruges speech of the Foreign Secretary in December. The hon. Gentleman will see that the Foreign Secretary said that categorically and clearly. No one seeks a united states of Europe. We seek a European Union that is united in its diversity, growing together.

6.30 pm

The Conservatives have a terrible fear that a united states of Europe will somehow happen. It has never happened since 1972. It would never have happened under Sir Edward Heath, it certainly would not have happened under the noble Lady Thatcher, it certainly would not have happened under John Major or Tony Blair, and it will not happen now. I urge the Opposition to let us have a serious debate on Europe. That would be fine. I would welcome it, but we will not get it as long as they have that pettifogging approach to the European Union and their great fear that the bogey man will eat us all up.

Article 2C deals with competences. What is wrong with energy being part of the shared competences? I can see nothing at all that would take energy out of that category. That brings us back to the points made by the hon. Member for Cheltenham. He is right; the amendment would completely wreck article 176A. I ask the Opposition what is wrong with a context that speaks about energy in a spirit of solidarity between member states. What is wrong with the principle of solidarity? No right hon. or hon. Member has been able to say that they dislike the principle of solidarity.

What is wrong with ensuring a functioning energy market throughout the European Union? What can be wrong with that? No response from the Opposition. What is wrong with energy security? Again, silence on the part of the Opposition.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): A gentle question: is it justiciable?

Sir Stuart Bell: The second dream that I have at 4 o’clock in the morning is that someone from the Opposition Benches will ask me a legal question. As a barrister at law and an international lawyer, I dream of such questions coming from the Opposition. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who knows that I admire him greatly, for putting that point. All of a sudden the Opposition become barristers, solicitors, lawyers, the European Court of Justice.

The topic was raised earlier. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton went back to 1972 on a justiciable issue. Every issue is justiciable. Why would it not be? What is wrong with something being justiciable? Where has the rule of law disappeared from the Conservative Benches? What happened to it? It disappeared, like
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most of the Conservatives’ ideology over the past few years. The answer is that everything is justiciable, and why should it not be?

Mr. Shepherd: That must mean that the judgment in such cases is beyond the call of the British people. That is an important element. The Court operates procedures that are not commonly understood by the British people. That is why we have argued for a referendum, as did the Government and the Liberal Democrats. It is an extraordinary position.

Sir Stuart Bell: Next time I will bring my wig and my gown, and we can have a proper debate on that issue. What the hon. Gentleman is saying goes to the very heart of his opposition to the European Union. He is saying that the British people do not want to go to the European Court of Justice. The British people have no inclination or desire to do that. It goes to the heart of his approach to the European Union that we want somehow to exclude the European Court of Justice in the interests of a British court. That is at the heart of what he says, but the Conservative party must make up its mind, because it will not be easy to continue saying, “We want to be in—but—”. Giscard d’Estaing has been mentioned many times today; in 1967, he said, “Yes, but—” in relation to the French Government. That is the view of the Conservatives on Europe. It is neither sufficient nor acceptable, and the British people will not let the party get away with it.

Mr. Shepherd: The words are used so loosely and beyond our understanding, as was so eloquently explained by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) yesterday. Language—the “spirit of solidarity”, for instance—is important; all such phrases have a single legal meaning and understanding in the European Court of Justice. When we talk about solidarity or working in a spirit of co-operation, we see them as a looser arrangement. What we are discussing is a legal imposition beyond the call of our people—that is all.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he will remember that at 5 minutes to 10 one evening, I compared his use of the English language to that of Edmund Burke. He reminds me of a phrase of Lyndon Johnson’s—that if we all had the same facts, we would all come to the same conclusion. That leads me on to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, a famous line of which is—

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. Perhaps we can now come back to the issue of energy.

Sir Stuart Bell: Sir Michael, the quote is perfectly relevant to the point made by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd):

That is the essence of the Conservative opposition to the energy section of the amended treaty.

I had got as far as energy security and energy supply, and I asked the Opposition whether they opposed that. I then asked them whether they opposed promoting energy efficiency and energy saving and the development
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of new and renewable forms of energy; I presume that they do not. I also asked them whether they opposed the interconnection of energy networks.

Those who follow energy policy, and certainly the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton, will know that at Zeebrugge there is a massive interconnection—the gas comes all the way from Russia. At Zeebrugge, some is sent further into Belgium and to Germany and France—and, of course, to the United Kingdom, but we should not talk too much about that, especially in front of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South.

What is wrong with interconnection? Why do we think that someone is going to pinch our gas? It is amazing. The treaty states:

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