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If action by the Union should prove necessary, within the framework of the policies defined in the Treaties to attain one of the objectives set out in the Treaties, and the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers, the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European parliament, shall adopt the appropriate measures.
That wording gives rise to an important question, which I know my hon. Friend the Member for Stone will appreciate: who decides whether the action should prove necessary? At best, this wording is, like much of the treaty, ambiguous; at worst, the provision could give the EU a mechanism for legislating outwith the normal channels of legislation. It should not therefore have a place in the treaty.
Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree, as I explained earlier in some detail, that this is the most pernicious extension of the powers and competences? For the reasons that he has given and I explained, it allows an extension of powers without a treaty and it enhances the powers of the European Court of Justice in respect of accumulated functions under this treaty and these competences. With the leave of the Committee and the Chair, as a result of the pernicious nature of those provisions, I would like to press amendment No. 186, not amendment No. 82, to the vote.
Mr. Francois: I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. He is quite right about the pernicious nature of replacement article 308. I think that he has indicated to the Chair that he would like to withdraw amendment No. 82 and press amendment No. 186.
Amendments Nos. 222, 225 and 131 deal with marine biological resources and fishing policy. They would improve the treaty by removing the damaging further extension of the EUs powers into marine policy. For instance, the SNPs amendment No. 222 would improve the treaty by striking out from the list of exclusive competences marine and biological resources. We heard a number of very good speeches on that particular topic, not least from the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who combined serious points with humour. If I may say so, we heard a passionate speech from the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson). We do not always agree with everything that his party stands for, as he knows, but he made a passionate and convincing speech on this matter tonight, on which I congratulate him. We also heard a very good speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin), who provided a great deal of detail, not least because he happens to be an expert in this subject.
The Minister was assailed from all sides of the House about fishing policy. The House does not
support the Governments policy and I look forward to hearing the Ministers attempt to defend it against the criticisms that have been made by Conservative Members, Labour Members and, indeed, by Scottish National party Members. In fact, his policy was so bad that it was also criticised by the Liberal Democrats. That is the kind of problem in which the Minister found himself.
Amendment No. 186 seeks to remove an ambiguous and dangerous provision, and would therefore improve the treaty. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone will press it to a vote. Amendment No. 222 seeks to remove a dangerous and unnecessary entrenchment of the EUs competence over marine and biological resources, which could hamper the United Kingdoms ability to manage its own conservation and marine policies. I hope that we shall be given a chance to vote on both those amendments, in defiance of the Government.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): We have had a good debate. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) displayed great passion, if on occasion a lack of precisionalthough that is a matter of judgment for the hon. Gentlemanin his 43-minute speech, but I had the feeling that I had heard it before. I had, in fact, and I am certain that I shall hear it again tomorrow and next week. The hon. Gentleman reflected on the possibility of a conspiracy between the Government and the BBC, which he said did not report his words. I had assumed that the BBC ran so many repeats nowadays that his speeches were a staple of Friday night coverage.
The hon. Gentleman also claimed that there was a united position in the Conservative party. I think we all accept that he has remained absolutely consistent, apart from what he considers to have been the momentary aberration of voting for the Single European Act, on which he has since recanted. He has stayed in exactly the same place, and his party has galloped rightwards towards him. It is now the only centre-right party in the European Union that opposes the treaty. [Interruption.] I hear a Conservative Member ask What about the Czechs and the ODS? The fact is that the Czech Republic and the ODSthe Civic Democratic partyare in the Government of the Czech Republic, and they support the treaty and intend to ratify it.
I mentioned a lack of precision on the part of the hon. Member for Stone. There was also hyperbole and overstatement. He described the debate on the treaty asI think I quote him accuratelyas great a battle as has been fought in the history of this country.
Mr. Murphy: That was a ludicrous and ill-founded assertion. It is an insult to so many who have given so much for so long in important and genuine battles, in which many friends and families of Members in all parts of the House have been involved over many decades.
We shall have an opportunity to consider some of these matters again tomorrow, but let me say
this to the Minister. The debate on the Bill and the treaty is about the question of whether the voters of this country will be able to govern themselves. It is about the supremacy of this Parliament, and about the engrossment of the European Union and the European Court of Justice. That is why I say that it is such an important matter.
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman made a similar point about the Maastricht treaty, the treaty of Amsterdam and the treaty of Nice, and this evening he is wrong about a European treaty for the fourth time.
We also heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), the informed Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He spoke in great detail of the increasing power and influence of the United Kingdom as a result of the introduction of double majority voting. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) spoke with experience and passion about fishing issues, to which I shall return shortly, while the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) reflected his background as a Member of the European Parliament.
I believe that, apart from the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) and me, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) has spent more time in the Chamber than any other parliamentarian in any party. His considered reflection
Mr. Francois: The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was also alone in supporting the Government, with the exception of the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Ilford, South, and the hon. Member for Preston.
Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.
That is an important statement of principle. It clarifies that the EU has only those powers that the member states give it through treaties, and that everything else remains with member states. It sets out the relationship between the EU and member states, making it clear that powers are given to the EU by member states, not the other way around. It makes it clear that member states are the masters of the treaties, as the German constitutional court has put it.
The duty of sincere co-operation that is reflected herewhich has excited some Opposition Membersis not new. Britain signed up to that when we joined the European Community, and it is also reflected in the Maastricht treaty.
On the amendments on the categories of competences, the text gives greater clarity than before on what the EU can and cannot do. The treaty also reinforces more than any previous treaty the limits of EU competence, and competences not conferred on the EU remain with member states. The Law Society of
England and Walesnot some foreign threat, or part of any great conspiracysays in its report on the treaty of January this year that:
EU law can only be made in those areas in which all EU countries, including the UK, have agreed that it is appropriate for action to be taken at European level.
There are five areas in which the UK and other countries have agreed that the EU alone may pass new laws. None of these is new to the Treaty of Lisbon.
Amendment No. 121 seeks to remove the codification of competences in the treaty. That is a denial of the reality, for the categorisation contained in the Lisbon treaty is not new. It is my strong view that as the treaty has been agreed, the allocation of competences is no longer a one-way street. Just because in the past something was better regulated by the EU than by nation states is not to say that things must remain the same for the next 20, 30 or 40 years, and the treaty makes that clear.
Amendment No. 222, tabled by the hon. Member for Moray, attacks the inclusion in the treaty of a specific reference to the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy being defined as an exclusive EU competence. However, it is an exclusive EU competence, as we knew when we joined the EU. The treaty only confirms that. The Lisbon treaty makes no changes to the extent of the competence at European level on fisheries. Community competence over fisheries is shared, except for conservation measures, which have been exclusive since the UKs treaty of accession. That was confirmed by a European Court of Justice ruling in 1981.
Mr. Salmond: As the Minister has said, it rests on court decisionsbefore 1981, specifically on the Kramer case of 1976. In other words, it is secondary community law. The Minister is acceding to putting it into a constitutional treatyto consolidating it into a constitutional treaty, as the draft constitution did before it. Why at no stage of any negotiationssuch as in the draft constitution or now in the constitutional treatydid the UK Government lift a finger to take it out, despite the many concerns and reservations that were expressed?
Mr. Murphy: What is absolutely clear is that article 3(d) of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union only has exclusive competence in respect of the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy. It is important that we have an international approach to conservation so we can work together and co-operate. Article 4(d) of the consolidated treaty on the functioning of the European Union stipulates that there shall be a shared competence on
agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources.
More widely, there is a need for continued improvement to the common fisheries policy. Such issues continued to be debated, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby. In the past year, there has been a reduction in the discards of high value fish, such as cod, and a new cod avoidance programme, involving the industry, has been introduced in Scotland. Scientists
and fishermen are working together, and Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermens Federation is involved in ensuring that those conversations take place.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): As the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) pointed out, the Fishermens Association Ltd has written to all Scottish Members. Will the Minister comment on the statement that this
is the best chance we have to abandon the disastrous CFP? [Interruption.]
Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr. Brown) is right to raise this issue. The hon. Member for Moray heckles the UK Fisheries Minister from a sedentary position, and of course there is a need for further improvement of the common fisheries policyno one denies that. He is disappointed that Scottish Executive Ministers are just part of a delegation, but that is, and should remain, the position as long as Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. As someone who is a Unionist and who does not believe in the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, I can say that that is the correct approach.
Amendment No. 124 was tabled by the hon. Member for Stone. It attacks the principle that the EU should take into account social objectives when legislating, which is contained in paragraph 17 of article 2 of the Lisbon treatys provisions on competences. To what in that provision does he and, I assume, his Front-Bench team take such great offence? It states that account must be taken of
the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health..
He and his Front-Bench team seek to remove that provision from the treaty. In opposing amendment No. 124, we make it absolutely clear that we want nothing to do with the agenda that would remove those guarantees of social protection for workers and citizens of our country.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving me a few minutes to reply to some of those points. First, much of this discussion is based on the Lisbon agenda, which is a failed project that demonstrates that the European Union has aspirations, but does not work. I described these competences as an aggrandisement of powers, including not only an invasion of the legislative supremacy of this House, but an increase in the powers of the European Court of Justice. They are being pursued tenaciously, and in an iniquitous manner, against the background of the Government in many instances having reached the decision at the Convention that they did not want the powers in the first place. A complete contradiction lies at the heart of
the Governments position. One of the most pernicious aspects of all this is the extension of the powers and competences of the ECJ without a corresponding new treaty to increase the competences of the European Union under article 308.
Therefore I wish to press amendment No. 186, not amendment No. 82, to a Division. Amendment No. 186 deals with that pernicious extension and it was endorsed, I am glad to say, by my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), the shadow Minister for Europe, who has just made an excellent speech. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 82.
It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings, The Chairman put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Questions on Amendments selected for separate decision, pursuant to Order [28 January and this day].
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