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It should be totally unacceptable for any British Government to accept any treaty imposing such an obligation on us at the United Nations Security Council. It is patently obvious to everyonenot just Opposition Members; it was obvious to Ministers only a couple of years agothat this represents the thin end of the wedge in the move towards an EU seat on the Security Council. That is potentially very damaging to this countrys national interests, and it is astonishing that the Government did not seek to change the provision in this measure, the latest guise of the constitution. We therefore oppose it. Having said that, I shall gladly give way to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), whom I remember from the day on which I made my maiden speech in the House.
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the situation at the United Nations. If the European Union is represented by the Council of Ministers in a contribution to either the Security Council or the Assembly, there is absolutely nothing to prevent other members of the Security Council or other members of the Assembly from making an independent contribution. That is the current position, and it will not change.
Mr. Francois: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The key word in the treaty is shall. When a common position is agreed, the EU shall request that the high representative speak for it at the UN Security Council
Amendment No. 264 relates to the role and powers of the EUs high representative, which are identical to those of the Foreign Minister proposed in the original EU constitutiona point that the Foreign Secretary failed to address in his speech a few hours ago. I remind the House that the post was one of two crucial aspects of the treaty, along with the new EU president, that the former Foreign Secretarythe present Lord Chancelloridentified as essential to the last proposed treatys constitutionality, thus providing the need for a referendum. I told my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) that he had anticipated my making this
point; it is definitely a point that is worth reiterating. A senior member of this Governments Cabinet has said that if this provision were in the treaty, we would deserve a referendum. Well, it most certainly is, so what has happened to the referendum that we were promised? On that point, I shall gladly give way to the Liberal Democrats, who, as of today, have not got a clue whether they want a referendum or not.
Mr. Davey: Can the hon. Gentleman say what the Conservatives object to should the EU high representative make a presentation to the UN Security Council of a position that the UK Government have agreed to, and which in no way would prevent the UK representative at the Security Council from speaking and voting? What possible objection can the hon. Gentleman have to that?
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Is not the assumption of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) wrong when he says that the UK will have agreed to the position? Is it not a fact that, like it or not, the treaty provisions open the door for qualified majority voting under article 32 [Interruption.] Read it, anyone who does not believe me. It opens the door for QMV now and even more QMV in the future as a result of the special passerelle clause. That means that the EU would speak for this country on the Security Council, even if this country disagreed with the stated policy.
Mr. Francois: My hon. Friend, a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, brings considerable expertise to these matters. I would remind him, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) and, indeed, the whole House, that the Committee looked into these matters in detail and came to the conclusion that the red lines, including the foreign policy red line that the Government like to triumph, do not hold up. Indeed, the Labour Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), said on the Today programme that those lines would leak like a sieve.
Mr. Francois: I am spoilt for choice. I will give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), then to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and then to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) [Interruption.] At some point, I will speak briefly and allow some Back Benchers to speak in the debate.
Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that when a Foreign Minister walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then he is a duckand that in this particular context, it is the high representative who is doing it? Does my hon. Friend recall when Javier Solana said on Radio 4 that he was meeting Hamas at a very crucial momenton the back of existing arrangements that were not then authorised? Is that not the sort of evolving, dynamic and dangerous situation that my hon. Friend is identifying and is exactly what will happen in practice? It is not just a matter of drawing strict legal lines; it is a question of how the whole system will function in practice. That is the larger problem that we are concerned about.
Mr. Francois: I thank my hon. Friend for that observation. Everyone knows that he reads these documents in very considerable detail. I agree with him, so let us see whether I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal.
Mr. Gummer: I just ask my hon. Friend how can it possibly cause a difficulty if a spokesman for a common position of the European Union makes that position clearin present terms, it would relate to something for which we had voted because of unanimity, irrespective of what is true about the details in the futureand the British representative then makes his points? That seems to me to be an extremely good way of getting the same point said twice. I do not understand the difficulty with that.
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friend may know that there have been one or two occasions in this debate when the same point has been made twice, but I offer him the thought that if there is nothing to worry about, why did the Government oppose the change so adamantly in the negotiations in the Convention?
Mark Pritchard: I am not a conspiracy theorist and I want to be fair to the Government, but might not an unintended consequence of these measures be the de facto abandonment of the UKs permanent seat on the Security Council?
Mr. Francois: I am not claiming that it would lead to the abandonment of our seat, but I am saying that it could lead over time to the power vested in our seat being compromised because of the EUs role [Interruption.]
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: As the Governments speeches and amendments in the Convention are hard to come by, my hon. Friend may not be aware that it is a matter of record that at the time of the Convention the Government also said that the obligation to ask the Union Foreign Minister to speak
could in certain circumstances contradict the Security Councils Rule of Procedure.
They therefore wanted the obligation to be removed. Does my hon. Friend not think it very unwise to write into a treaty an obligation that would conflict with the standing orders of the United Nations? Is that not another reason for looking at the treaty requirements again, in the light of our more important, wider, global obligations?
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friend, who also serves on the European Scrutiny Committee, makes a valid point. It has already become apparent, after a few minutes of debate on the amendments, that this is a contentious issue.
Dr Solana confirmed that he has spoken at the Security Council in his current capacity, always following an invitation to do so by EU Security Council members. We conclude that the Lisbon Treaty provision for the new High Representative to speak at the EU Security Council will make little difference to current practice. It will not undermine the position of the UK in the United Nations system nor the UKs representation and role as a Permanent Member of the Security Council.
I thank the Chairman of the Committee for that. I also thank him for the Committees report, which stated that in foreign policy areas the treaty of Lisbon was almost exactly the same as the original constitution, and pointed out that we had been promised a referendum on the first and not on the second. I read the report in some detail, and I am grateful to the Committee for its work, but I have already responded to the hon. Gentlemans point several times, not least when it was put to me by my right hon. Friends.
However, I thank the Committee for the report, because it provided us with some great quotations with which to embarrass the Government.
Mr. Duncan Smith: In fact, the intervention by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) has helped my hon. Friend. If he thinks about it carefully, he will realise that what the treaty has done is formalise practice that was not necessarily formal or acceptable before. The hon. Gentlemans intervention makes the point about progression in the European Union. What happens is that the EU takes a bit more, the next treaty formalises the position, and it moves on. That is exactly what has happened here.
Mr. Francois: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. A key part of the argument is the question What is the direction of travel? Where is this all going?, and I think it is fairly clear to the House what the direction of travel is.
If parliamentary scrutiny is to mean anything, it is vital for the role and powers of the new institutions to be subject to the examination and judgment of the House. We have already heardand the relevant cross-party Committees have reportedhow at every turn Ministers have sought to minimise scrutiny of the treaty, and it is not right that the House should allow Ministers to continue to do so in the future. If Ministers mean any of what they say about allowing the legislature to hold the Executive to account, they should support new clause 3.
The new clause would also force Ministers to do something that they have been extremely reluctant to do, and set out in detail how the treaty compares with the constitution. That is something that the Foreign Affairs Committee and the European Scrutiny Committeeboth Labour-dominated and both with Labour Chairmenhave felt able to do, and there is no reason why the Foreign Office should not be able to do the same. That would provide the basis for an honest and detailed debate, which is more than we are being allowed in the House owing to the rigged methodology that the Government have imposed on us.
Mike Gapes: I was unable to take part in the earlier debate because I was chairing a Select Committee meeting and we had an important report to agree. Therefore, while discussing the terms of the amendments, I shall take the opportunity to make some points that I would have made earlier.
In the European Unions dealings with other countries and its foreign policy, it is represented by a so-called troika: a representative of the presidency; the high representative for the common foreign and security policy, who is currently Mr. Solana; and the European Commissioner for External Relations, Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner. The arrangement is wasteful, confusing for our foreign partners and inefficient. The present system also contains the absurd rotation of the presidency every six months. That undermines both the European
Unions ability to pursue consistent priorities and positions, and the ability of the individuals involved to build the long-term relationships with other countries necessary for effective diplomacy.
The Lisbon treaty will address both those problems. It will do so first by having the high representative take over the job of the European Commissioner for External Relationsthat post will be abolishedleaving both functions united in a single person and reducing the number of people involved in European Union foreign policy making. It will do so secondly by abolishing the rotating presidency in favour of, potentially, a five-year postit will be a two-and-a-half year post that can be renewedof president of the European Council. That is the body comprising the Heads of State or Heads of Government.
The Lisbon treaty will therefore streamline and stabilise the EUs external representation and make the Union a much easier and more coherent partner for foreign countries to deal with and have a relationship with. That is long overdue, necessary and, in a European Union of 27 countries, essential if we are to have effective coherence in our role in the world.
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): In a way, the hon. Gentleman is making the point for my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), because he is saying that the EUs external position is not coherent, and that the changes in the treaty will make it more coherent and easier to represent the EUs view to the outside world. In effect, a position will be built over timeexactly the point that my hon. Friend madethat will become the view of the EU around the world and will undermine our independent foreign policy.
Mike Gapes: The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. Let me give an example. The German presidency decided to give great emphasis in its presidency document to work in central Asia. That was not the position in the previous presidency and it was not continued afterwards. The Portuguese presidency has taken up something in the British presidencys remitthe priority of Africabut there was a gap inbetween. We thus need the coherence of the longer-term approach, which is more efficient and more effective. The six-monthly rotation includes the small countries that have very small diplomatic representations. Slovenia has only one embassy in Africa and it uses the French diplomatic service, as it must, for many of its functions as part of its presidency of the European Union. That is absurd.
Mark Lazarowicz: Unlike me, some Members of this House are somewhat Francophobic. They are opposing a proposal that gets away from the current situation, whereby, as my hon. Friend points out, Slovenia is very much dependent on support from France.
Leaving that point aside, does my hon. Friend agree that the proposal for a coherent five-year term should help Britains national interest, because it would allow Britain, with its presence in the European institutions in Brussels, its connections and its influence, to have an ongoing relationship with the presidency? By contrast, under the present arrangement, every six months Britain has to build a relationship with whichever country and individual happens to assume the presidency.
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