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If the Minister thinks that this is such a bad amendment, he should recall what I said in the previous debate about the impact on the secondary legislation that he mentioned. Those statutory
instruments can modify Acts of Parliament, exclude judicial review and address a whole range of other matters, including constitutional issues. If I were the Minister, I would be a bit careful about asserting that the use of the word instrument in this case is as unimportant as he is making it out to be, because it contains within it a Henry VIII clause-type arrangement.
The changes proposed will not make any changes of substance to existing legislation. If the treaty is ratified and we do not update the terminology of our legislation, there will be considerable legal confusion and uncertainty. Getting rid of the entirely sensible provisions in the clause will merely make life more complicated in a legal sense and create uncertainty. There are literally hundreds of Acts and statutory instruments that make reference to the European Communities, which would be affected by the amendment. If the amendment were accepted, technical changes would have to be made one by one. For example, the Potatoes Originating in Egypt (England) Regulations 2004 or the Food (Peanuts from China) (Emergency Control) (England) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 would have to be individually changed.
We can all take different views on such important matters, but to deny the legislative reality of the ratification of the treaty and the passing of the Bill by frustrating the workings of the House to ensure that individual changes had to be made to many hundreds of existing provisions, just two of which I cited for the Houses enjoyment, would not be a sensible way to progress. On that basis, while continuing to respect the motivation behind the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Stone, I invite the House to reject it if he wishes to press it to a Division.
Mr. Cash: I certainly will press the amendment to a Division, not least because, as the Minister just said, the provisions affect hundreds of enactments. It is all very well to say, It is just a matter of terminology; it is only a matter of words. But, almost by admission, the Minister has suggested that he does not know what impact the provision will have. I am totally unconvinced by his arguments for that reason. If he does not know why he is doing something, that is a good reason for us to challenge the basis on which it is done.
Those two Treaties shall have the same legal value. The Union shall replace and succeed the European Community.
The question that remains unanswered is what impact that will have. I believe that the clause will have constitutional implications. It merges the treaties. This is not just a matter of terminology, but a matter of substance and constitutional importance. Therefore, I am determined to press the amendment to a Division.
Mr. Jim Murphy: As I said earlier, clause 3 does two things. First, it makes technical changes to the terminology in UK law to reflect the Lisbon treaty. Secondly, it provides a power for a Secretary of State to make orders to amend primary or secondary legislation to reflect other technical changes in terminology or numbering that arise from the Lisbon treaty. The changes are technical and should be uncontroversial. Nevertheless, they are necessary.
The clause ensures continuity and consistency in new and existing domestic legislation. It also gives power to make similar technical changes by order, which will not mean a change of substance to existing UK legislation. There is no point in the suggested alternative approach of making consequential amendments in definitions to change EC to EU. If clause 3 were removed, we would be left with legal confusion about important legislation that refers to the European Communities, such as clause 24 of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002, which establishes in UK law the way in which elections to the European Parliament work in the UK. It sets the boundaries of electoral regions and determines how our voting system should work for those elections.
The schedule is standard and clearly sets out the nomenclature changes to the 1972 Act. The Bill is designed to amend the 1972 Act and, as Conservative Members know, it provides for changes to the horizontal Act for interpreting UK lawthe Interpretation Act 1978. Those changes obviously and clearly follow from the treaty.
Mr. Francois: I wish to argue to the contrary: that clause 3 should not stand part of the Bill. Our discussions on amendments Nos. 39, 55, 56 and 57 have shown that the clause tries to include in UK domestic law the changes in terminology that effect the virtual collapse of the EUs existing pillar system. As we all know, the EU is currently only an umbrella term for three distinct areas of activity, usually called pillars. The three pillars are: the European Communities, the main part of which is the European Community, which includes the single market and the common agricultural policy; the common foreign and security policy; and police, justice and home affairs.
Under the treaty, the existing pillars will be virtually abolished. The European Community has merged with the European Union into a single unitary legal personality, incorporating all activity undertaken under the EU treaties, although Euratom would admittedly remain separate, as was pointed out earlier. Police and criminal justice matters are also subsumed into the same institutional provisions and decision-making processes that applied in what was the European Community.
The common foreign and security policy, although remaining subject to distinct procedures, as was largely the case under the original EU constitution, is also brought under the same single EU legal personality. All this will have important effects on the respective rights of the member states and the EU to conclude agreements with third countries and will of course interact with the new provision on implied competence in the article on exclusive competence. The changes in terminology set out in the clause reflect those profound changes and give them legal force in domestic United Kingdom legislation. Among other things, the clause changes, almost automatically as it were, all references in UK law to any or all of the European Communities to the European Union.
As we heard in our discussion on amendment No. 39, changes in terminology might sound dull to the external observer, but they matterin fact, they matter quite a lot. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) pointed to examples of where changes in the references to the EU treaties made by United Kingdom laws could lead to substantive alterations in the effect of UK laws. He detailed, at some length, a number of examples that I do not intend to reprise again, but they will all be in Hansard. I reiterate that there is a particular concern where a current domestic law gives effect in the UK only to European Community obligations, but where, following a change in the terminology to European Union, it gives domestic effect to additional provisions, too.
As my right hon. Friend also highlighted, the Government seemed to be far more forthcoming about the sorts of changes that they were seeking in their Bill to ratify the original EU constitution, allowing at least some parliamentary scrutiny of those changes as part of the passage of that Bill. That leaves a burning question. Why have the Government been so coy about what the supposed terminological changes will entail in this Bill? Might the reason be that they are trying to hide the fact that some of the changes to UK law resulting from the Lisbon treaty are in fact important,
seeking, in effect, to park them behind the old façade of a tidying-up exercise, which they have sought to use all the way through, to disguise the important transfers of power being made from this House to the European Union?
Mr. Clappison: Does my hon. Friend agree that our suspicions that the process that he describes is in play are increased by the fact that it was what the German questionnaire specifically suggested the Government would do? Does he share my curiosity about why the Government refuse to publish their response to the German questionnaire?
Mr. Francois: My understanding is that the Government have had the German questionnaire for some considerable time. Even with all the problems in our postal service, I would have thought that they could have sent back something by now. One would also have expected them to be in a position to publish their response.
If we assume that the Government did not do that, however, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), who serves on the European Scrutiny Committee, has made an important point. When we were debating amendments, the Minister twice ducked his question about why the Governments response had not been published. Perhaps we can put the Minister on the spot in this slighter broader stand part debate and ask him why the response has not been published and when the Government propose to publish it. I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me about that question, which I am sure the Minister will now feel morally obliged to answer.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): I listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who made a very good speech, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) discussing their amendments, which dealt with questions that were never answered. Does my hon. Friend agree that the clause gets to the heart of the matter, because it is a trust me clause? The Government are essentially saying, Dont worry about all this stuff. Well tidy this up and get on with it in due course. You dont need to worry your pretty little heads any more about the European Union treaty. Well deal with it. Is there any reason at all why we should trust Governments on that, when we were given a constitutional guarantee at Maastricht that the pillar system would remain?
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friend makes a good point. He homes in on the issue of trust. The Government have broken their word so many times throughout this processon the referendum and on the promise that we would have 20 days debate and line-by-line scrutiny. Their word has been undermined so many times that for them to come to the Committee and say, as my right hon. Friend put it, Trust me, rings extremely hollow. His point is very well made.
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