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Another “searching question”: the UK could not accept the paragraph and wanted it struck out. Having got nowhere with that argument, however, the Government instead proposed another amendment that suggested that the EU Foreign Minister could only make a request
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to speak on behalf of the EU. Overruled on that “searching question” as well, the Government simply gave in completely.

To be fair, the Foreign Affairs Committee has said that the provision allowing the EU high representative to speak at the UN Security Council would make little difference to current practice, and the Government of course have stated their agreement with that view. However, if they were confident that it made no difference to current practice, why was their initial hostility to the idea so emphatic and repeated? Presumably it is because they saw it as the thin end of a wedge.

Subsequently, of course, it has turned out that, while the Government have been resisting that wedge, the Prime Minister has appointed to the Foreign Office a Minister who is the wedge himself. The noble Lord Malloch-Brown said on 2 October 2006 that the European Commission would eventually represent the EU and the United Nations as the voice of all member states, adding:


That is not the Government’s policy, but it is the policy of one of their members. As Lord Malloch-Brown sees himself, to use his own words, as

and as the Prime Minister saw fit to make him the Minister with responsibility for UN reform, who knows where it might lead?

Mr. Cash: My right hon. Friend is giving a brilliant exposition of the position. Does he agree that the context is legal personality? In the case of trade, the mechanics of trading arrangements are effectively made over to the EU. That is exactly the intention behind the arrangements with regard to foreign policy and the high representative.

Mr. Hague: I think that that is the intention of many of the drafters of the constitution that has become the treaty. It may not be the intention of members of the Government, although it is certainly the intention of one.

That brings me to paragraph 3 of article 48 of the treaty, which allows the Council to move to qualified majority voting in any of the remaining areas covered by unanimity, including foreign policy. That means that the extension of QMV to foreign policy embodied in the treaty could be taken much further without any other treaty having to be negotiated or ratified. It is almost needless to say that that provision, too, was opposed by the Government. The right hon. Member for Rotherham, if I may mention him again, said:

but it turns out that that is now part of the treaty.

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Mr. MacShane: The right hon. Gentleman is extraordinarily kind. We have Rotherham connections. In an article in the Financial Times, the Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson said:

That is not true of the right hon. Gentleman in the House, although it is true of the Conservatives on the continent. Does he not agree that in the treaty, any move to the so-called passerelle depends, again, on unanimity? He is cherry-picking bits of the treaty but not reading them across. He is a great speaker, but a poor lawyer.

Mr. Hague: I am only pointing out that there are many aspects of the treaty to which the right hon. Gentleman was opposed. If I am picking cherries, they are cherries at which he took aim in the past and which he was happy to try to rip from the tree himself. He says that extension is subject to unanimity. Of course it is, and the Government have said that they will submit any such extension to a vote in Parliament, but the Foreign Affairs Committee drew attention to the inadequacy of that commitment, saying:

That is right because the only restraint on Governments of either party in the agreement of European treaties has been the need to pass primary legislation through Parliament. That must apply to the amendment of treaties, too, unless the rights of the House are to be reduced yet again, in this case by reducing debate on changes in the governance of Britain to a matter of a few hours, instead of requiring the passage of legislation through all stages.

Ms Gisela Stuart: Do I therefore take it that any future Conservative Government would commit themselves to introducing a requirement that future moves to QMV be subject to primary legislation?

Mr. Hague: Yes, absolutely, although I hope that the hon. Lady will join Conservative Members in the Lobby to try to insert such a provision in this Bill, so that it is not for a future Conservative Government to carry that out.

It will be apparent from what I have said that the treaty’s impact on foreign policy making is more substantial than the Government have conceded, and its potential impact dramatically so. I am conscious of the time, but let me give a final illustration of that—the creation of the new EU foreign policy fund under paragraph 47 of article 1 of the Lisbon treaty. The Government demanded that decisions about the fund should be taken by unanimity but, believe it or not, that was only a searching question. They capitulated, and such decisions will now be made by qualified majority voting, including decisions on what amounts will be contributed by member states. The matter links foreign policy with defence, as the new fund is seen by some to be the first step towards a common defence budget for the EU. My hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) will of course wish to refer to the defence provisions when he winds up the debate, but I want to make clear now our concern about the extent, nature and implication of those provisions.

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Mr. Davey: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way; he is being very generous. Can he point to any common foreign and security policy proposals in the treaty that the Conservatives support, or are they against every single one?

Mr. Hague: We think that there is no need for a treaty, particularly when it comes to foreign policy, as I pointed out earlier. The European Council should concentrate on making foreign policy work more effectively, not on changing the rules. The fact that we are against the treaty is clearly the foundation of our position.

Article 1, paragraph 49, of the Lisbon treaty states:

It goes on to establish a new, mutual defence commitment quite separate from that of the NATO alliance. Mr. Deputy Speaker, by now you may not be surprised to hear that the Government opposed all those provisions, with the right hon. Member for Neath arguing:

It is serious enough to sign a treaty on common defence and a mutual defence commitment in an organisation that does not have the means to fulfil such a commitment, but it is more serious still to sign a treaty that could change the nature of the western alliance without sufficient national debate or forethought. The French Defence Minister has been perfectly frank about that; he said on 19 July last year that the new treaty


The reinforced co-operation to which he refers is the “permanent structured cooperation” referred to in the treaty, designed to allow an inner core of EU members interested in taking forward military integration to do so without the rest.

Yet again, the Government initially opposed structured co-operation, saying that they could not accept the proposal and that it would undermine the inclusive, flexible model of European security and defence policy. Their reasons for being against it were good ones, since permanent structured co-operation would leave those European countries not included in it with even less incentive to improve their military capabilities. By creating what some would see as a European pillar of NATO, structured co-operation could change the nature of the NATO alliance in a way that, in the longer term, would weaken its essential transatlantic character.

Added to that is the introduction of qualified majority voting on the statute, seat and operational rules of the European Defence Agency, an institution already established but on a shaky legal basis—the basis that we discussed earlier. Article 2 of the relevant protocol requires participating member states to co-operate to

and to achieve

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among other things. It is surely part of our role as a nation to make our own decisions on our security needs and defence equipment, and to work in co-operation with European allies, the United States or others as we see fit. If such decisions begin to be circumscribed by the introduction of QMV into the affairs of the European Defence Agency, which will be headed by the EU high representative, who is also a member of the European Commission, there may one day be important consequences, including once again for transatlantic co-operation.

The eventual consequences of such changes will not become apparent until after the treaty has been ratified. The Government appear to be saying as little as possible about British participation in structured defence co-operation until after the treaty has been passed. They have done nothing to inform the nation of the consequences of the changes, or their future intentions. However, we are not talking about small matters. If there is a case for approaching something as vital as the defence of the nation in a different way, that case should be made openly and honestly. The former French Foreign Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has said:

Romano Prodi has said something similar, yet there has been no such frank assessment from the Government of that or any other aspect of the treaty.

The French Government have said that European defence will be one of the priorities of their forthcoming presidency, so will the Foreign Secretary—or the Minister for Europe, when he winds up the debate—come clean on whether it is the Government’s policy to participate in permanent structured co-operation on European defence? They should make that clear before Parliament passes the treaty.

Mr. Ellwood: Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a difference between peacekeeping and war fighting, and that we heard it confirmed by the Foreign Secretary today that there is unlikely to be any agreement in the European Union on a European force that would be able to undertake either?

Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend is probably right about that. He made that point earlier in the debate to good effect.

Let me summarise the position. The provisions of the Lisbon treaty on foreign, security and defence policy are therefore not difficult to characterise. They are, by common agreement across the House, more substantial than the Government have acknowledged. Although they are described as limited in their implications, even a short analysis suggests that their future implications could be far-reaching. For that reason, they have been, almost without exception, opposed by Ministers during the negotiations on the treaty, and for the same reasons they are opposed by the Opposition today.

Yet the Government have at every opportunity tried to keep Parliament and the public in the dark about the treaty in general, and its provisions on foreign policy and defence in particular. They negotiated in secret. They have tried to cover up the importance of those provisions. Now they are delaying the crucial decisions about how they will work in practice until it is too late for MPs and voters to have any say on the matter at all.

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If the treaty is ratified, only the passage of months and years will inform us whether the assurances of the Foreign Secretary today were to be relied upon, but I suspect that the judgment of time on Ministers, whose complacent advocacy of these proposals has replaced their virulent opposition to them in the recent past, will be very harsh indeed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I should remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a limit of seven minutes on Back-Bench speeches, which operates from now.

2.42 pm

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who demonstrated again today his ability to present a bad case well and with humour. We all listened carefully to what he said, but ultimately the case was not proven.

I begin with an act of apostasy. I am pleased to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) is present. In 1975 I campaigned as part of the Huyton Says No campaign, which advocated coming out of the Common Market, as it was then. I arrived in the House in 1986, just after the single European market had been created. The Act had just gone through Parliament. Had I been able to vote on it, I would have voted against it. During the debates on the Maastricht treaty, for the most part I voted against the treaty, mainly on the grounds that it excluded the social chapter. I thought it was wrong to go along with all the treaty’s provisions without including the social chapter. However—this is the act of apostasy—I am now minded to support the Government on the Lisbon treaty, and I shall give some of the reasons for that.

The first is that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks and others on the Opposition Benches make a great deal about the similarities between the content of the treaty and the content of what was the constitution. I have no doubt that a large amount of the text was duplicated, but they repeatedly neglect to spell out the difference between a treaty and a constitution. Those are entirely different. A treaty is essentially a formal written agreement between sovereign states, whereas a constitution is a fundamental law—one that determines the fundamental political principles of a Government and the relationship between the branches of Government and individuals. The Lisbon document cannot be a constitution because it does not relate to a specific state. A treaty is an entirely different thing.

The right hon. Gentleman chose his words carefully when he spoke about the Community foreign and security policy. He said that some see it as a retreat from the protection of that under the pillar of the past, but no pillar has collapsed. The Opposition keep repeating their arguments as though they were true, but the truth is different. The right hon. Gentleman and those on the Opposition Benches may not do that deliberately. They probably genuinely believe their arguments, but they have convinced themselves of something that is not so.

The right hon. Gentleman made great play of the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, but the holder of that position will not be a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. My right hon.
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Friend the Foreign Secretary made that clear in his opening speech. Such an office is another fear that is being paraded around which does not exist in reality. It is strongly the case that common foreign and security policy remains the responsibility of member states.

I shall deal briefly with qualified majority voting. With a European Union of 27 member states, the use of QMV is necessary in order to make quicker decisions. Nobody disagrees with that. I do not see that any change that is about to take place in that is a bad thing. It simply reflects changes—

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman thinks that no one disagrees with that. Is he aware of the ICM poll which shows that 80 per cent. of British people feel that Britain should retain total control of its defence policy, and only 15 per cent. think the EU should be allowed to dabble in that? Does he think those people are deluded or just stupid?

Mr. Howarth: If I have time, I intend to speak about what we can learn from opinion polls.

I welcome the eventual introduction of double majority voting by 2014, which is based on population size and will be much fairer.

I shall deal briefly with the topic that the hon. Gentleman raised. Opinion polls tell us a great deal. An interesting poll was commissioned by The Sun and carried out by MORI in September. The poll showed that a majority of people were unhappy about the treaty. Over 40 per cent. of the population were opposed to Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. But when one analyses the breakdown by age ranges, those under 55 are less Eurosceptic, and the lower the age range, the less Eurosceptic they prove and the more enthusiastic Europeans they become. The Conservatives have some public support for their position, but they are playing to a segment of the population that is growing older, and younger members of the population do not agree with them at all.

The Conservatives need to think about that— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) says that that is rubbish. It is not. If he examines the polls, that is exactly what they show.

My final point— [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman should not be disturbed by barracking from a sedentary position.

Mr. Howarth: It is always a pleasure to be disturbed by the hon. Member for Macclesfield.

My final point is that what those polls demonstrate is that instead of this debate, which for the most part has been exaggerated and prone to hyperbole, not least on the part of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, the debate that we ought to have is the one that the Liberal Democrats suggest. We need a national debate about whether we want to stay in Europe. I think we do. Once we have concluded that debate, the sort of argument taking place in the House will not need to take place on a regular basis.

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