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10.30 pm

Some hon. Members will know that I have been here for the majority of every day’s debate on this Bill. This is my eighth day considering it, including the time spent on the business motion, which was thrilling. Looking at the aspects of the European Union brought into focus by the treaty, it has become apparent that quite a lot of Members in this House—they are mostly but not exclusively confined to the Conservative Benches—seem to see, given the tenor of what they say, a conspiracy by some of the other 26 member states to boss around the UK and tell us what to do. They seem to see the provisions in this treaty, and our relationship with other member states in the European Union and with the Union itself, as a one-way street. [ Interruption. ] Indeed, someone says from a sedentary position that it is.

I think that those Members are profoundly wrong. With regard to the single market, it is not just a question of nasty foreigners coming over here, selling their goods and services and blocking us out. The provisions in this treaty and elsewhere enable UK business to have better access to 26 other markets in the EU. It is a two-way street in that regard.

Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend talks about a two-way street. The fact is that we have a gigantic trade deficit with the rest of the European Union. We import everything from it, and it imports very little from us. It might take a bit of fish.

Rob Marris: Hyperbole does not help my hon. Friend’s case. Yes, there is a deficit, but to say that the EU imports nothing from us is quite frankly ridiculous, given the figures.

This is a two-way street, but the attitude I describe has become apparent not only with regard to the single market, to which my hon. Friend refers, but to energy. When we debated energy, the tenor of several Conservative Members’ contributions concerning emergency energy provisions was that those nasty foreigners would come here and nick our energy supplies. The idea that we might need help from other states with our energy supplies in the United Kingdom—perhaps because the interconnector went down—did not occur to them and they would not accept that possibility when it was pointed out by others and myself in that debate. It was all a one-way street.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the amendments concern the institutional arrangements. In that respect,
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we are talking about a one-way street, on the basis of the occupied field—the acquis. It cannot but be a one-way street.

Rob Marris: One of the key things we are discussing with regard to the amendments is competences—who does what. That brings to light our role in the European Union, whether we should be in it and what we should be doing.

It was clearly apparent when we discussed criminal measures that some Members felt that there was a one-way street. When I pointed out to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) that his constituents might get into difficulty with the criminal law in another member state and that minimum standards provided for under this treaty and the competences specified therein might therefore be a good thing for his constituents, the flavour of his reply was that his constituents would not be travelling to the continent and would never get into criminal trouble there.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The hon. Gentleman totally misrepresents my response. My point was this: why should I give up 100 per cent. of the powers to represent the interests of my constituents in my own country in exchange for a residual and hopeful right to influence some laws affecting those of my constituents who might travel to the continent? That is a very bad deal.

Rob Marris: That is a bad piece of hyperbole. Giving up 100 per cent. of rights on the one hand and possibly gaining some rights on the other is not the position. The right hon. Gentleman’s constituents are not being asked to give up 100 per cent. of their rights. Indeed, the treaty refers to minimum criminal standards in states throughout the European Union. That is helpful.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): On energy and the one-way street, is not it the case that there is no single energy policy for Europe and that the Germans and the French refuse to liberalise their energy markets, which means that energy security is a fantasy for most European partners?

Rob Marris: I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman will vote with the Government on the treaty because the single market provisions give the United Kingdom greater leverage, which is the two-way street, on liberalising energy markets—the very issue to which he refers.

Mr. Clappison: The hon. Gentleman makes his case with conviction, but will he face up to the fact that it is neither his constituents nor people in Greece or Germany who want to harmonise criminal law? That is being driven by the Commission and those who have a federal point of view about the European Union in looking for ever more matters to integrate. It is not driven by the people.

Rob Marris: The hon. Gentleman knows the treaty better than I do. The provisions on harmonisation—he used the word “harmonise”—do not relate to minimum criminal standards, which are a different part of the treaty. The treaty does not propose harmonising criminal law.


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Mr. Clappison rose—

Rob Marris: If the hon. Gentleman wants to point out the reference to me later, he may do so.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): I was not in the Chamber when the hon. Gentleman began speaking, but I have just been made aware of his comments about last week’s energy debate. On that occasion, we said that we objected to the European Union having the power to divert energy supplies from one country to another when it judged that it was a time of crisis. We did not say that it was a one-way trade. I specifically said that it was wrong for French gas reserves to be diverted to Britain, just as it would be wrong for British gas reserves to be diverted to France. In the light of that, I hope that he will withdraw his remarks.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The Committee must not be tempted to have another debate on energy, which we have already dealt with.

Rob Marris: I am grateful for that guidance. Let me say briefly—we are not rehearsing last week’s debate—that my recollection of the treaty is that it refers not to diverting supplies, but to assistance.

Yesterday, we had a debate on international aid, and previously we had a debate on foreign policy. There is an overlap between those subjects, although they are separate, and that overlap was part of the debate. The idea that those nasty foreigners will tell us what to do on the international stage about aid or foreign policy is completely off the mark. To use the noun that I employed yesterday, the proposals mean “leverage” for the United Kingdom. To use an expression from the earlier debate on foreign policy, they can mean an each-way bet as opposed to a one-way street. If we are alone on an issue, the treaty will allow us to stand alone in terms of the competences, decision making and allocation of powers, because foreign policy has to be held in common and determined by unanimity. If we agree with the other member states, we have leverage.

When the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) about qualified majority voting and the blocking minority—I intervened subsequently—he presented the position negatively, as if it were always a question of how we could build a blocking minority—the unspoken sentiment in brackets being, “How can we stop those nasty foreigners doing things to the UK?” That is such a negative perspective. We should consider ways in which we can work with other member states when QMV covers the competence to build a coalition to get what we want for our country and our national interests in the European Union.

Mr. Harper: It was the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee who boasted about our increase in the share of the vote. He referred to a blocking minority, and the only Member who has talked about “nasty foreigners” is the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris).

Rob Marris: It should be quite clear to the hon. Gentleman and others that I am paraphrasing the flavour
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and tenor, as I see it, of many of the contributions of those on the Conservative Benches. I am not quoting and have never claimed to be quoting. However, we are talking not just about the blocking minority—that is what sprung into his mind—but about the increase in our voting power from 8.5 to 12 per cent. Sometimes—I hope in a minority of cases—that would be used to form a blocking minority, but I hope, too, that on most occasions it would be used constructively to build a coalition to get what we want in the world, in our national interest, through the European Union.

Kate Hoey: My hon. Friend has spent a lot of time going through the treaty. He is so positive about every angle of it, so why is he afraid of having a referendum, so that the people can give their views on it and share or perhaps not share his confidence?

Rob Marris: I am not going to get into a big debate on the referendum, because it is raised endlessly in this place. What I am trying to put forward is what I see as the many positives in the treaty, of which I have become more convinced as we proceed. Without wearing rose-tinted spectacles—of course there are problems with the European Union—[Hon. Members: “Whoah!”] Opposition Members exclaim as though that were a big deal. The European Union is an organisation encompassing, in round terms, 400 million people. Of course there will be problems with it. Do we walk away from those problems or do we stay in there and do what is in our country’s interest by increasing our influence on the continent and in the world?

In some ways, the European Union is one of the most successful international bodies in the world. [ Interruption. ] There is laughter from Opposition Members, some of whom really ought to know better, because they are of an age to. Until we had the European Union, we had centuries of war in western Europe; since then there have been no wars between major states in western Europe. Cause and effect may or may not be involved, but that is not something on which I would wish to take the gamble. To be a member of that club, we have to give up—yes, give up—certain powers, and in exchange we get other powers. That is to do with negotiations and building our influence in the world.

I shall give an example of where some other countries think that we are going broadly along the right lines: it relates to Mercosur in Latin America. Although Mercosur has a slower and much more difficult process, because of the relative poverty in Latin America and the disproportionate size of Brazil, it has a political project as well as an economic project. Those in Mercosur derive great knowledge and experience from the European Union and they think that we are doing a good thing. The fact that they hold that view does not necessarily mean that we are doing a good thing, but it shows that having the European Union is not an anomaly.

Members of the official Opposition should have a little more confidence in the European Union and a little more vision, because John Major was right when he lined up—initially with Denmark, but basically alone—to oppose deepening and propose widening. He
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was right, and he won. He built that coalition and he won. [ Interruption. ] Again, Opposition Members laugh, but membership of the European Union has almost doubled since he took that stance, and it is widening.

Kelvin Hopkins: Many of us supported widening because we thought that it was a way of avoiding deepening, but the treaty is about deepening, not widening.

Rob Marris: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that there is some deepening in the treaty, but had John Major not taken the position that I have described, there would have been either a bust-up of the European Union or a whole lot more deepening.

Earlier today, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) talked about constitutional tinkering. I think that “tinkering” was the noun that he used— [Interruption.] It may in fact be a gerund I am told. It describes a constant process within a dynamic institution that has expanded greatly in recent years. Many in the House would wish to see it continue to expand. When an organisation expands, it sometimes involves not simply a quantitative change but a qualitative change. With that qualitative change, we need what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as tinkering. We need to change things, and while the treaty perhaps does not get everything to do with the distribution of competences and powers right, it goes a long way towards sorting things out.

10.45 pm

I shall close—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] There will be more later. I shall close by pointing out that, as some hon. Members know, I spent a lot of my professional life in negotiations. When people negotiate with partners, they often have ongoing relationships, as I did when I was acting for the victims of industrial injuries; I had them with insurance companies, for example, which would come in on one case and then on another the next week. When people have ongoing relationships in negotiations, there has to be give and take. It cannot be a one-way street—take, take, take—which is what the official Opposition seem not to understand about negotiations.

Mr. Francois: I begin my response to this group of amendments by briefly making a point about timing. We have debated important issues such as competences and marine biological resources. Unfortunately, however, yet again, because of the Government’s business motion, we shall not touch on three other groups of important amendments on the operation of the institutions, on the European Union constitutional and treaty revision issues and on legislative and decision making procedures. Yet again, the Government’s business motion has hampered the line-by-line scrutiny of the treaty that we were promised in lieu of a referendum. That needs to be put on the record again tonight.

I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick), who is no longer with us, citing the treaty’s relationship with the UK abatement as an argument for the treaty. Let me remind the House that, as a result of the Government’s miraculous negotiating skills on the abatement—the rebate—they gave
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away £7 billion of British taxpayers’ money and got absolutely nothing in return. If that is one of the strongest arguments in favour of the Lisbon treaty, it is no wonder that the public overwhelmingly want a vote on it.

I shall now turn to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), whom I congratulate on being selected to lead the group tonight. He started by speaking to amendment No. 82, which seeks to remove replacement article 3A. He knows that I have a slight reservation about the proposal, because it would also remove article 3A(2), which relates to national security. In fairness, he touched on that point in his speech.

I have a slight reservation about that, but I am much more comfortable about my hon. Friend’s amendment No. 121, which seeks to strike out from the treaty the innovations brought into the categories and areas of Union competence. The amendment would improve the treaty by striking out the innovations to the list of the EU’s areas of exclusive competence—in other words, the areas in which the EU alone is allowed to legislate—as well as to the list of shared competences, or areas in which the EU, in effect, has first refusal to legislate. The list of exclusive competences has been extended to include areas that would damage the UK’s ability to legislate, such as competition policy—the subject of an earlier debate—and marine biological resources, under the common fisheries policy. That is the subject of specific amendments that I shall refer to briefly in a moment.

Amendment No. 121 would also improve the treaty by striking out from the list of shared competences additions that were opposed by the Government, such as space, trans-European networks and consumer protection. It would also affect fundamentally the nature of the way in which the shared competences are listed in the treaty. It was the Government themselves, in their arguments on the Convention, who made this obvious observation:

They were the views of Her Majesty’s Government, and we agree with them. To list the categories in this way is, as the Government recognised, bad enough, but as they recognised equally correctly, the way they have been set out is not a restatement of the current position but an enlargement of the EU’s powers.

Amendment No. 121 would also strike out new article 2A, which attempts to set out the rules for the way in which competences are decided. On that point, the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) said of the European Convention, when he was the Minister for Europe:

The caveats that were asked for were not given, yet the rules were not taken out of the constitution and have reappeared in the Lisbon treaty as a result. That is another example of the Government’s triumphant negotiating position with regard to Lisbon.


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I should like to say a few words on amendment No. 186, also proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. The amendment is designed to remove a new replacement article 308, which gives the EU the power to legislate in the following way:


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