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Mr. Cash: Has my hon. Friend also noted that subsection (1) inserts a definition of the EU into section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, referring to the European Union by reference to the treaty of Maastricht, which established it? I do not invite my hon. Friend to go too far, but he might understand why I am so opposed to the proposals. Regrettably, had other counsel prevailed at the time, we would not be in our current position, because it is the European Union that creates European government. It is the amendments that we are discussing that have caused so much constitutional difficulty.
Mr. Francois: I am prepared to make a small wager that my hon. Friend will make a speech of his own in this stand part debateI will not get odds on the wager, but I am prepared to make it. If he indeed makes a contribution, I suspect that he will develop that point at great length.
To return to the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) made, we can all agree that for the Government to come to the Committee and say, in effect, Trust us, will simply not wash.
Stewart Hosie: There is no doubt that the treaty is basically the constitution. As we have heard over the past few weeks, there are elements of the proposals that are definitely constitutional in nature, which is why we will back a referendum. However, I have yet to hear a single example of how anything in the clause or the terminological changes in the schedule would cause UK law to be usurped by EU law, and I would therefore be grateful to hear one.
Mr. Francois: I think that the hon. Gentleman was here in the earlier debate, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells gave quite an extensive list of when that would happenI see a number of heads nodding in the Chamber. Was the hon. Gentleman here then?
Mr. Francois: In that case, the hon. Gentleman will know that a list was given, and he can read it in Hansard if he wants to. I have already given one example of how the provisions can interact with the common foreign and security policy, so I hope that that satisfies him. However, if he wants more detail, the nice people in Hansard will print the debate out and he can read it over his breakfast in the morning.
Mr. Cash: The point that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) raised was answered by the Minister, who said that there were hundreds of Acts of Parliament that require changes. Therefore, it follows by definition that the Government themselves are admitting that the whole issue is replete with changes.
I think that we have, by now, made the point that a large number of changes would go through almost automatically if clause 3 were allowed to stand part of the Bill. As we have also heard, as a result of the clause as draftedwhich, unfortunately, we have been unable to amendmany changes to United Kingdom law would overwhelmingly go through under the negative resolution procedure. That would make it easier for the Government to put through that large number of changes than would be the case under the affirmative resolution procedure, and more difficult for Parliament to scrutinise them effectively.
Amendment No. 39 would have improved the Bill by compelling the Government to bring the orders before Parliament, so that we could examine whether the changes were as innocuous as the Government claimed. We have also discussed amendments Nos. 55, 56 and 57. They would have taken out subsection (6), which allows for a blanket change in the terminology of our domestic legislation without any specific discussion at all. This part of the Bill could make wide-ranging changes, yet, for the most part, the Government have not really explained the extent of the potential alterations. They have attempted to give the impression that clause 3 is a tidying-up exercise to keep things neat and tidy. They have not explained adequately the range and extent of the changes that could take place if clause 3 were to stand part of the Bill.
The clause sets out wide-ranging changes to the terminology of our domestic legislation. As we have seen, the Government will be given powers to make further orders under the clause by negative resolution. Those orders, as well as the blanket power given under clause 3 (6), could have wide-ranging effects on the obligations that our citizens are under, and they should therefore be scrutinised in greater detail by Parliament. Given that clause 3 would lead to such changes being made with very little scrutiny, I propose, in response to the Ministers comments, that clause 3 should not stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): It has given me great pleasure to be able to support the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) and some of his colleagues in the votes tonight, be they on the procedure motion, or on amendment No. 39. I disagree, however, with his position on clause 3 stand part. I do not believe that it is a stalking horse or that it contains all the risks that he outlined. I have looked at it, and it seems to be very much an issue of terminology qua terminology, rather than the behind-the-scenes creator of major constitutional change that he fears.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Maastricht treaty introduced the European Union and its pillar system. It is clear that that system is collapsing somewhat under Lisbon, although not quite as clear as he and some of his colleagues have suggested. That is particularly the case in respect of the UK. Justice and home affairs are being merged into pillar one for all member states, but that will not affect the UK in the same way, because of the UKs opt-ins. We debated this matter when we looked at justice and home affairs, and we really carried the day during that debate. An extraordinary aspect of the Lisbon treaty is the fact that the Government negotiated not only opt-ins for
new areas of justice and home affairs such as police and criminal justice co-operation, but new opt-ins for areas of justice and home affairs in respect of which powers had already been given away in previous treaties, particularly Maastricht and Rome.
Mr. Cash: The thing that is increasingly troubling me about the Liberals position on this is that, although they are prepared to make minor forays into supporting us on the less important amendments, they will not support us on clause stand part. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could deal with this point, because I get the impression that they are doing that because they want their election addresses to make it appear that they had opposed some aspects of the treaty. They want it to look as though they did not really want it, but that they went along with it because they are in favour of a federal Europe in principle.
Mr. Davey: That is quite extraordinary. The fact is that we all voted for the Bill on Second Reading. In my party, we are all pro-European, unlike the hon. Gentleman. It is no secret that we disagree with him on almost every aspect of European Union policy. That is not something that we attempt to hide.
Mr. Davey: Well[Hon. Members: Ah!] Whether they abstained because they were not here or because they deliberately did not like it [ Interruption. ] I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that I noticed quite a lot of his colleagues voting for the treaty, which was completely against his Front-Bench position, so he ought to be very careful when talking about which way different parties MPs voted on Second Reading.
There is a danger that I am going to be diverted from the issue. I just want to finish my point on justice and home affairs and the way that that relates to clause 3. I want to quote Michael Dougan, an academic at Liverpool university, who has talked about how the justice and home affairs issues will be changed under the Lisbon treaty. He has said:
The combined effect of those provisions would be that the UK participates in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice to a lesser degree under the Lisbon Treaty than it does under the existing treaties.
Observations such as those give the lie to some of the concerns that people, particularly those on the Conservative Benches, have raised. It is simply not the case that we would be giving away all the UKs powers in justice and home affairsquite the contrary.
Kelvin Hopkins: Like so many others of his view, the hon. Gentleman constantly refers to Europe, rather than to the European Union. He says that his party is pro-European. Well, I am very pro-Europe, but I am not in favour of the imposition of the European Union on the majority of the states of Europe. That is a serious distinction that he ought to bear in mind.
Mr. Davey: If the hon. Gentleman wants to imagine a Europe without the European Union, I am sure that he, and others around the House, will do so. I would suggest, however, that it would be a land of fantasy because he would not be able to build a Europe without the European Union.
My final point is on the way in which the common foreign and security policy relates to the pillar system. Although I do not seek to deny that the pillar system is collapsing, as envisaged under Maastricht, it is hard to deny that the common foreign and security policy remains intergovernmental. There is total unanimity on those issues. Indeed, we have debated the matter at length. Clause 2 of the Bill will add the Lisbon treaty to UK law. It will do so, however,
excluding any provision that relates to, or in so far as it relates to or could be applied in relation to, the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
I do not believe that clause 3 will present the problems that have been envisaged. It seems genuinely to be a tidying-up measure. If other colleagues wish to press the matter to a vote, we will therefore support its standing part of the Bill.
Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): I am arguing that clause 3 should not stand part of the Bill. I believe that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) said, the treaty would merge the separate pillars into a unified system and a unified entity. In so doing, it would hand more power over to remote EU officials. It would put power over consumer protection, criminal sanctions and judicial matters in the hands of remote and unaccountable EU officialdom. That process of aggrandising EU officialdom is deeply flawed.
Some honestly argue that we should pass these powers to remote officials and that doing so is a good thing, but I do not see how it can possibly be argued that handing more power to remote EU officials can be a good thing, given how badly those officials have exercised such powers as they already have. Before we could justify giving EU officials more power, we need to ask why such officials, who lack proper democratic accountability, have been so disastrous at managing such things as the common fisheries policy and so disastrous at regulating our economy, thereby subjecting our small businesses to so much additional regulation.
It is often suggested that the treaty somehow democratises the EU. For example, the idea has been put about that it will give some sort of right of initiative, which will somehow make EU institutions more democratically accountable. That is very far-fetched. Far from making the EU more democratic, it makes it a technocracy, in which decisions are in the hands of unaccountable officials. If people are so convinced that the treaty will improve the EU and make it so much more democratic, surely we should have a referendum on it and let the people decide.
We recently saw how private polling in referendums held in a number of constituencies showed an extraordinarily high number of ordinary people wanting a referendum and being very opposed to this treaty. It is
precisely because of provisions such as clause 3, which are about the aggrandisement of power among EU institutions, that people feel so alienated and hostile to the Bill. It strikes me as extraordinary that in many constituencies, more people should oppose the treaty in these referendums than bothered to vote in the last set of European elections.
I conclude my comments by saying that in the two or three short years that I have been an MP, I have noticed how the alienation and contempt of voters for the entire Westminster political process is growing. It is difficult for Members, if they are honest, to overlook or ignore the fact that politicians are increasingly held in contempt. The political process is more and more detached from the people it is meant to serve.
There are two reasons for that. The first is the immediate reason that about 90 per cent. of hon. Members in this Chamber promised the electorate a referendum on this treaty, so it looks as if we have reneged on that promise [Interruption.]I am saying that it looks as if the majority of MPs has collectively reneged on it. More profoundly, as the House has handed away its decision-making powers and as we have given EU officials more and more responsibility over decisions that affect everyday life, people have increasingly come to see the occupants of this House as parasitical. It matters not, they think, who they vote for, because the key decisions that affect their lives are taken by remote officialdom.
If we wish to restore peoples trust in politics and their belief that by voting for us they can materially improve public services, their lives and the country as a whole, we must restore decision-making powers to this House. The clause does not do that; it moves power upwards rather than downwards, pushing power in the wrong direction. That is why we should oppose the clause and the Bill.
Mr. Lilley: There are three reasons why the clause should not be allowed to stand part of the Bill. The first relates to the importance of the clause. My right hon. and hon. Friends have demonstrated that it will have a more substantive impact than first meets the eye. In many respects, the impact may be indirect, but Conservative Members have spelled out at length why the consequences will be quite substantial.
I accept, however, that the clause is manifestly less important than many of the clauses that relate to issues that the House has not debated at all. We spent a whole day debating carbon trading, but only six words of the existing European Union treaties were being changed. Now we have just a part of today to debate this particular clause, which has a multiple of that number of words and probably far greater ramifications. The clause is also manifestly less important than all the treaty provisions relating to immigration, border controls and asylum, which we have not debated at all.
We should not let this clause stand part unless and until we have debated at length, properly and fully those other issues, under other clauses, which have so far passed undebated, and which the Minister intends shall not be debated at all. Precisely because this issue is less important than others, we should not let it get on to the statute book until those more important issues are debated, or we are given a promise that they will be debated.
Secondly, the clause should not stand part because of its opacity. At the very least, it is difficult to understand what it is about and what its impact will be. That is not just because it is necessarily difficult and complex, but because it and the whole structure of the treaty and the Bill are deliberately opaque. Our European partners decided to make the treaty opaque because it had to look different from the constitution, which had been rejected by the electors in France and Holland. Therefore, they deliberately opted for a procedure that would make it difficult for ordinary people, on immediate perusal of such clauses, to understand what is going on. That made it possible for them to say that the treaty is different from the constitution.
Under the law of this country and other countries in Europe, there were two possible routes to implement the constitution. The first was to say, Let us sweep away the existing treaties and replace them with the constitution, incorporating all the powers of the existing treaties plus several others. That was the original approach adoptedclear-cut and obvious. It was so obvious to the people of France and Holland that they decided that they did not want it, and rejected it.
The Government then went along with their partners, who said, in terms, Let us achieve the same result through an opaque approach. Instead of saying that we will replace the existing laws with the constitution, let us change the existing treaties clause by clause, bit by bit and word by word until we arrive at a form of words that is exactly equivalent to the constitution. The Government have adopted that route. That is the reason for clause 3, and the pages and pages of changes that it will enact, through its annexes or appendixes.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best argument that the Liberal Democrats could seem to muster was that they could not see anything wrong with the clause? They could not say anything positive about it either. We happen to think that some problems might be lurking within it. Given that there is nothing positive to be said about it, does he agree that we should have a precautionary approach and vote against it?
Mr. Lilley: My hon. Friend anticipates my third reason for rejecting the clausethat it is open-ended. It gives the Government power to make changes that they have not yet recognised will be necessary, but that they recognise may be necessary. They do not understand the full ramifications and implications of the clause. That is why it contains subsections that provide the Government with an open-ended power to change the wording of any legislation, as they see fit, to bring it into conformity with the treaty. We should not give them open-ended powers to do things that they cannot tell us about now, in this House, if necessary in a lengthy clause or amendment.
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