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7.30 pm

Let me briefly tell the hon. Gentleman that he was quite right in his analysis. However, the provisions do establish qualified majority voting, subject to a purported safeguard, but safeguards do not have a very good history in the European Union. The pillar structure of the European Union was supposed to be the ultimate safeguard, to keep foreign and security policy separate from what was then the rest of the Community and to keep the Commission out of foreign and security policy. What have we got today? If I have not been the victim of a conspiracy theory, as the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) would have it, we have got a member of the Commission not only chairing the Council of Ministers when it deliberates on foreign and security policy, but representing the Union’s foreign and security policy, dealing with third parties and negotiating. All that will be on a foreign and security policy that can be determined by qualified majority voting in some circumstances, subject to the provisions to which the hon. Gentleman referred, with the undoubted prospect of more qualified majority voting determining our foreign policy in future.

Mr. Duncan Smith: We know that we are not going to get on to the next set of amendments. Let me remind those who were not here during the debates on Maastricht—just to get this one clear, I was here and I opposed it—that the then Foreign Secretary, our former colleague Douglas Hurd, assured my hon. Friend and me that we would have the pillar system, a wonderful construct, and that it was set in concrete that it could never be affected by the Commission. My hon. Friend has just made the exact point that that has changed in the period since, so all the assurances given by Ministers are worthless when it comes to the European Union treaties.

Mr. Clappison: I am tempted to say that I went home to bed after hearing assurances such as that one, but the problem is that I did not go to bed during the Maastricht debates. However, those assurances were indeed given.

We talk about British interests, but what is the greatest interest for our constituents? They want a foreign policy that is determined in this country by their elected representatives, whom they can change if they disagree with the Government’s policy. That is something of which we are increasingly depriving our constituents for the future, and that is the most important British national interest of all.

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Mr. Redwood: It is now quite obvious that we will not be able to debate the second set of amendments, which is what we really wanted to debate. I had stepped out in case we got on to them, but with a vote that will not now be possible. Once again, it is extremely difficult for the House when important and weighty issues such as the defence of the country cannot be debated, because another important group of amendments on foreign policy still need to be disposed of.

Earlier in this debate, the Government’s position lacked clarity. It is quite possible for the Government to come to the House and say that they really think it better to have a common European foreign policy on all the main issues, rather than a British foreign policy. That is not a proposition with which I agree, but it is a perfectly respectable and understandable position. If that is the Government’s position, they will of course want Britain to make compromises and to work more with our partners. They will also want that common foreign policy to be expressed by a single president, high representative or Foreign Minister of Europe and they will want that policy to be represented around the table of the UN Security Council.

As the United Nations begins to understand that that is perhaps the way in which the Government wish to operate, other member states of the United Nations will ask, “Why should these people have three representatives around the table, when there is effectively only one country from the foreign policy point of view and when they’ve tried to get an extra seat by the back door?” The Americans, the Chinese or the Russians might ask, “Wouldn’t it be neater and more sensible to have just the one representative representing the common European policy, rather than the French and British view as well, which should be the same on these occasions?”

For those who wish to see the position clearly, the difference in House is quite simple. There are those who think that having most of this country’s major foreign affairs policy positions agreed with our partners by compromise is the right answer. There are others of us who think that, while we can do that on some things, there are enough differences between our country and the other member states that it is much better to keep things intergovernmental, not to assume that there is nearly always going to be a common foreign policy, not to put Britain under constant pressure not to be the odd voice out or to be different, and to allow the British Prime Minister and the British Foreign Secretary, on all those issues where we have a different view or we have an interest and the other member states do not have a strong interest, to be able to carry on doing what we have always done and to be a senior country in world affairs, because of our history and, most importantly, because ours is one of the few countries that systematically stands up for freedom, decent rights and democracy, and is prepared to back that up with the lives of its young men and women, and with the money of its taxpayers.

We make a large contribution in world affairs, along with our American allies, our French allies and some others who sit around the UN table.

Mr. Cash: Does my right hon. Friend agree, as I suspect that he would, that there is something utterly pathetic about the situation we have arrived at in this debate? The question whether our young men are to be
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sent off to war really should be debated. The question of how a common foreign and security policy is being developed is being ignored by the Committee thanks to the means that the Government have employed to frustrate debate—

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means: Order. We must return to the debate. I call Mr. Redwood.

Mr. Gummer: On a point of order, Mrs. Heal. Is this not a suitable moment for the Government to announce that they will introduce an extra day of consideration on which we may deal with the second part of the debate?

The First Deputy Chairman: That is not a point of order for the Chair. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman’s comments will have been heard.

Mr. Redwood: Thank you for those wise words, Mrs. Heal.

Part of the argument on this group of amendments is whether there should be at the UN Security Council table a representative of the EU view. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the other UN member states would want that, unless that high representative or that president of the EU was backed by some effective European force. The whole point of the UN Security Council is the main powers—those countries that can use their diplomacy and influence with other countries—trying to form a common view that the General Assembly will accept. More importantly, the main powers form the most important part of any force that might have to be used by and in the name of the UN to enforce such a common strategy, if one or two other states in the world do not agree and force is unfortunately essential.

In this debate, we have not had enough clarity on the important issue of how on earth the EU could expect to be taken seriously in that seat without having such a force, which we are told would not exist as, we are told, there will be no common army. At the same time, I find it difficult to understand how we could avoid other UN member states making the perfectly reasonable point that, as we were moving towards that common position, and therefore the common use of our military forces, there should be only the one representative around the Security Council table.

There is a perfectly good solution to the problem whereby we will sometimes have a common policy and at other times not—that is, the current situation. If there is a common policy, we have France and Britain with seats. For some time, Germany has held a seat under the elected system. In relation to the position that they are adopting at the Security Council, those countries can pray in aid the additional strength that lots of other European countries agree with them. It is even better if we can join with a big country such as India.

There has been a lot of discussion about India. I happen to think that India is getting close to the point where it should have a seat on the UN Security Council. I hope that there will be discussions and negotiations, and if India wants to assume the responsibilities of a big world power—it is becoming a formidable economic power—I would be happy for Britain to see that take
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place. I am not happy to see this double banking and double-hatting through the EU, with all the muddle that that implies.

There needs to be a clear decision about whether these matters remain intergovernmental, in which case France and Britain would retain their seats, or whether we are in transit towards a world with a country called Europe that has a single foreign policy on all the things that matter. Then, of course, the balance of arguments would switch heavily and other UN member states would probably take a rather different view.

I hope that the Government will be more honest with the public and with Parliament about just how far the pressures will build for a common foreign policy under the Lisbon treaty as drafted. It is all very well for Ministers to say that the main decisions will remain subject to unanimity; that is true under the text that we are being asked to approve. But we all know what will happen: because the treaty also says that we have to show solidarity and loyalty and form common positions, there will be remorseless pressure on every major foreign policy issue to produce a common position. If it is not in Britain’s interest to agree with the rest, we will be put under pressure and made to feel bad until we agree.

There are four different types of issue. There are ones where we naturally agree with our leading allies in Europe, in which case we can have a common position. There are ones where we care a lot and they do not, where we should be able to do what we want. There are ones where they care a lot and we do not, where they should be able to do what they want without us stopping them, as long as they do not do it in the name of the European Union. Finally, there will be areas where we disagree; in those areas, Britain must retain her independence, and that is not compatible with having a president and a European seat on the Security Council.

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I am delighted to have the opportunity again to respond to a debate. We have heard a number of interesting speeches and interventions, particularly from my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and my hon. Friends the Members for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) and for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). We also had the opportunity to listen to the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), who will no doubt speak again later. As is his custom in the House, he argued his case entirely reasonably; I disagree with him, but it is a case that he makes with great thought and care.

We also heard speeches from several other right hon. and hon. Members, which I might respond to later, but I shall start with the comments made by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) about our general approach to common foreign and security policy. Our approach is that where we can find common cause and agree with our European allies and partners, it makes sense that we then articulate that as a common position. It makes absolutely clear sense that that should happen.

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Mr. Cash: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Murphy: In a little moment.

However, to argue as the right hon. Gentleman did that, when that happens, we should be bound to argue that position at the United Nations, instead of having the high representative as an alternative, turns the UK seat into a European seat at the United Nations, and we want nothing to do with that.

Mr. Redwood: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cash: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Murphy: Of course. I will take two brief interventions, then carry on.

Mr. Redwood: That is, of course, what the treaty says. I said something different. I said that where the UK thought that it was right to argue the European position, we would choose to do so.

Mr. Murphy: In the interests of time, I will give way to the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) and then respond to both interventions.

Mr. Cash: The Minister will know that under the provisions that are supposedly before us now, but which we will be unable to debate properly because of the disgraceful way in which this business has been handled, there is a provision that links the common position to article 51 of the United Nations treaty. The plain fact—the Minister knows it, the Prime Minister knows it, and the Foreign Secretary knows it—is that there is often no common position on matters such as Kosovo and Iraq. Such matters go to the very heart of whether or not we fight and our young men are sent out there. The Government will not even give the House the time to discuss those matters properly. It is a thorough disgrace.

Mr. Murphy: To turn to the substance of the business before us this evening, the fact is that the position of president of the European Council already exists. The Maastricht treaty explicitly stated that the European Council is chaired by the Head of State or Head of Government of the country holding the Council presidency.

The hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) said, fairly, that language is important. He, or one of his hon. Friends, went on to talk about the de facto abandonment of the UK seat on the Security Council. That is complete and utter nonsense and the Opposition know it. The fact is that the full-time president will replace the current, ridiculous system of a rotating six-month presidency of the European Council. The twice-yearly rotation causes problems with continuity and reduces the effective time each presidency has to deliver the shared agenda. As I said earlier, in the Balkans we made a commitment to the people of Kosovo to stand by them, but in the period since then we have had, I think, no fewer than 17 presidencies, and despite the best intentions, momentum in the EU has ebbed and flowed throughout that period.

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7.45 pm

The hon. Member for Rayleigh was on very thin ice when he put forward his arguments about the thin end of the wedge and about trapdoors. He also argued that the president of the European Council would in some way be the equivalent of the President of the United States of America. That assertion does not stand up even to superficial examination. The US constitution vests executive powers in the President of the United States of America; the president of the European Council will have no such powers. The US President is the commander in chief of the US armed forces; there will be no such role for the president of the European Council. The US President can make treaties; there will be no such power for the president of the European Council. The US President can appoint Supreme Court judges and grant pardons; there will be no such power for the president of the European Council. The President of the US can veto Bills passed by Congress; there will be no legislative role for the president of the European Council. We must all be careful about the terminology that we use. To argue, as the hon. Gentleman did, that this measure was tantamount to the creation of an all-powerful president akin to the President of the United States of America showed a kind of Europhobia gone rampant on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Jenkin: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Murphy: I am sorry, but I must make some progress.

The full-time president will have an external representative role, as has already been discussed.

The issue of the high representative was covered by amendments Nos. 93 and 110. There has been a Commissioner responsible for external relations since 1958, the year after the original treaty was drawn up. The establishment of the high representative is an important reform that is being introduced by this treaty. The proposed new high representative will combine two existing roles: the EU high representative for the common foreign and security policy introduced at Amsterdam, and the position that was created more than 50 years ago. They will be appointed by national Governments in the European Council to conduct CFSP on their behalf.

Mr. Gummer: Will the Minister accept from me that it is essential that he give the House an undertaking that a discussion on the matters relating to defence will take place, even though those matters have not been able to be discussed during this debate? We all need to have that discussion.

Mr. Murphy: The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is a matter for the usual channels, in the context of the programme motion.

The treaty will pass the task of organising the co-ordination from the rotating presidency to the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. It will not change the nature or substance of that co-ordination. The treaty will also allow the high representative to present agreed EU petitions at the United Nations Security Council. I have already alluded to the fact that the German presidency spoke at the UN Security Council on eight separate occasions. Furthermore,
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the UK spoke not once, not twice but on each of those occasions. When Javier Solana spoke on, I think, five occasions since 2002, the United Kingdom spoke on each of those occasions. It is therefore clear that the high representative will be there in addition to the UK, France and any rotating member state of the European Union. They will not be there instead of us, or to replace or undermine us. The Foreign Affairs Committee made that point very clearly.

Mr. Jenkin: On a point of order, Mrs. Heal. It was clear that the Prime Minister promised line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill. We are now not going to reach either the second or the third group of amendments, so the whole question of the common foreign and defence policy will not be discussed at all. Is it in your power to enable a proper debate and line-by-line scrutiny to take place? The Government are presiding over an utter farce, so far as scrutiny is concerned.

The First Deputy Chairman: May I remind right hon. and hon. Members that the occupant of the Chair is bound by motions that have been passed by Members of the House?

Mr. Jenkin: Further to that point of order, Mrs. Heal. May I invite you to invite the Minister to make a statement about the future consideration of this Bill in order to have an opportunity to discuss the defence provisions of this treaty?

The First Deputy Chairman: That is not a point of order for the Chair, but a matter of debate. I have already said earlier this evening that the comments of right hon. Members have been heard and that there is always recourse to the usual business channels.

Mr. Murphy: Amendments Nos. 156 and 254 are designed to prevent the EU from concluding international agreements and they are nothing short of ludicrous—

Mark Pritchard: On a point of order, Mrs. Heal. Although international women’s day is a very important subject indeed, given the importance of security and foreign policy issues to the whole House and everyone in the country outside it, I submit that next week’s topical debate should be on foreign policy and security issues, not on—

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman is trying very hard, but I am holding fast to my ruling.

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