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11 Mar 2008 : Column 153

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

David Miliband: I was about to come to my hon. Friend, but I am happy to give way.

Ian Lucas: I was simply going to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he agrees that one of the most enlightening parts of the debate is that the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) clearly leads for the Conservative party on these matters?

David Miliband: In the spirit of good cheer, I do not want to insult the shadow Foreign Secretary, but I assure my hon. Friend that I will deal with the striking similarities between the hon. Member for Stone and Conservative Front Benchers in due course.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) have shown the value of reading the treaty, and they made a series of telling speeches and interventions. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), who chairs the European Scrutiny Committee—they are both in their places, as they have been throughout our proceedings—have informed our debates with their genuine expertise.

I hope that the House will allow me to mention my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, who has shown a wider audience what many of us always knew—namely, that he has patience and humour as well as keen intelligence and deep political skills. My only fear is that he may have talked himself out of the Foreign Office before he gets to go abroad and meet some foreigners. I hope that I am wrong.

Last week, we debated how to pass the treaty into law. Today, we are debating whether to do so. The central question is whether it is a good treaty for the UK and for Europe. The Government and every mainstream political party in Europe believe that the answer is yes, because the reforms make sense. The treaty reforms the foundations of the EU, which have developed since 1958, and the reforms will allow us to move on to the agenda of prosperity, development and climate change, which we all agree is the essence of the EU’s role.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): One question has not been answered in our lengthy debate. Where is the mandate for the Government to take the Bill through without seeking the consent of the British people in any form whatsoever?

David Miliband: We debated that at length last week. The House gave its answer by a majority of 63 on that question.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Part of the mandate derives from the fact that there have been 44 Divisions so far on the Bill and the average majority has been 170, which is rather different from what happened when the Maastricht treaty was considered. We have had a two thirds majority on nearly every Division.


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David Miliband: My hon. Friend has regularly contributed to the debate, and he makes a good point.

We set out our arguments in favour of the treaty in Committee, but let me summarise them in three main points. First, the treaty creates clear, coherent objectives for EU activity in Europe and globally. We share those objectives and have played a leading role in shaping them.

Secondly, the Lisbon treaty streamlines the institutions and decision-making processes of the EU, so that it can better deliver on the matters that we all agree should be handled at European level.

Thirdly, it makes the EU more accountable to member states and national Parliaments.

I have set out many times the treaty’s contents, from bigger voting weight for the UK to opt-ins on justice and home affairs. Today, I want to make another attempt to convince the Conservative party that it cannot say that it wants a Europe that delivers on open markets, climate change, development, counter-terrorism and post-conflict reconstruction, and at the same time not only oppose the Bill but say that it is the end of Britain as we know it.

Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm again that, if the treaty is carried and ratified by Europe, we will not have a European constitution? Some people still do not get that.

David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, as she did in her speech last week. We are considering an amending treaty, which amends, for the fifth time, the institutions of the EU to make the EU work better.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): The Foreign Secretary repeats that the treaty will streamline, improve and achieve wonderful things. However, the EU has failed to deliver the Lisbon agenda on competitiveness; its accounts have not been signed off for the past 13 years; and we cannot automatically deport foreign criminals, because of the free movement of people. There are legion problems that the treaty does not tackle; on the contrary, it will make them worse.

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes a good case for getting on with reforming the EU’s institutions. He also makes the case for tackling the genuine problems of delivery in the EU.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary has mentioned opt-ins on justice and home affairs. The three major issues are the opt-ins on justice and home affairs, the yellow and orange cards and the operation of the passerelle clauses, if the Government should ever move from veto to qualified majority voting. Will my right hon. Friend indicate the framework in which those arrangements will be discussed and determined by the Government in this House before he finishes his speech?

David Miliband: I will certainly address those three issues. The Government face a challenge, because in the end it is for Parliament to decide its own procedures.
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There is a balance to be struck between how much the Government want to dictate and how much Parliament should decide.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

David Miliband: Let me make some progress. I shall be happy to return to the hon. Gentleman later.

Let me start with the single market. Hon. Members on both sides of the House want to see an effective and open market. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks has made much of the alleged deletion of the reference to undistorted competition from the list of EU activities. In doing so, he has ignored the new, binding protocol on competition, which confirms that the

He has ignored, too, all the other continuing treaty references to competition, including articles 4, 27, 34, 87 to 89, 96, 98, 105 and 137 in the EC treaty, and the fact that the treaty’s powers on competition remain as strong as ever. He has also ignored the views of the Law Society, the head of the Commission legal service and other distinguished experts that the legal position remains unchanged. In the words of the Law Society:

The Opposition say that they want the single market to work better, and the Lisbon treaty will further that agenda. It will provide a new legal base for the creation of a single EU patent, so that UK companies can have one patent, rather than 27 separate ones, to protect their ideas and inventions across Europe. The treaty will enable the creation of a European research area—a single market in knowledge to make it easier for researchers to take their talents to other countries. The treaty will also allow easier recognition across Europe of professional qualifications, so that professionals can work more freely across borders.

Mr. Cash: The Foreign Secretary just said that we need the treaty because it will enable us to make further reforms. At the same time, however, I am sure that he will acknowledge that we cannot achieve those reforms if, as my reasoned amendment, which has not been selected, points out, the Bill does not protect our Parliament’s enactments from being struck down by the European Court of Justice and the UK courts. That is what inhibits reform.

David Miliband: I will come to that point directly, because it is important. A similar amendment tabled by the hon. Gentleman was selected last week. It challenged the basis of UK participation in the European Union since 1973, which is that on matters of European competence, European law should have primacy. To argue otherwise is to argue that we should be able to join a club, but not abide by the rules. I will show him in this debate that, contrary to the allegation that we have been led into a European project that no one ever warned about, there was absolute clarity all the way through the debates in the 1970s, from Geoffrey Rippon to Geoffrey Howe, whom I shall quote later, and other former hon. Members—


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Mr. Cash: It is not surprising!

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman may say that, but they were members of a Conservative Government articulating Conservative Government policy at the time, so the point does not redound to his benefit.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Foreign Secretary understand the unease felt by some Labour Members about the further threat of health services being liberalised? What additional protections are there to ensure that the very basis of the national health service will not be undermined by matters being referred to the ECJ?

David Miliband: I will address the division of competences across the EU, but I assure my hon. Friend not only that nothing in the treaty would allow interference in our national health service, but that it strengthens the UK’s position in deciding on our health provision.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): If the Foreign Secretary is so proud of the text, why did the Government table 295 amendments to an almost identical earlier text, of which only 33 were successful, most of which dealt with comparatively trivial matters? The answer to the question that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) raised is that the Government opposed interference in health matters at the time, albeit without success. Can the Foreign Secretary explain why he is now defending a text that he previously rejected?

David Miliband: We tabled amendments on justice and home affairs, for example, precisely to ensure that our rights to choose on justice and home affairs— [Interruption.] There were not 295 amendments in respect of the health service. A lot of amendments were, rightly, tabled because it was important to secure our position. Let me take the justice and home affairs issue; in a way, it brings out better than any—

Mr. Drew: What about health?

David Miliband: I have answered the question on health. I assure my hon. Friend that this treaty text confirms a stronger UK position for deciding on our own health services than existed previously.

The Opposition say that they want sensible co-operation on justice and home affairs issues and who could deny our need for that, given that the European arrest warrant brought the 21/7 bomber to justice? There is no doubt that when it comes to tackling terrorism and organised crime, EU action to improve the exchange of information can play an important role.

Let us be clear about what the treaty chapter on justice and home affairs does. It will improve decision making because there is a move to qualified majority voting, and that will prevent one country from blocking an agreement—as happened recently, for example, in respect of allowing member states to transfer foreign national prisoners back to their home member state. The treaty will help make progress in areas of benefit to the UK—not just by combating
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international crime and terrorism, nor just by ensuring greater legal certainty, but by ensuring that at every stage the United Kingdom is not forced to participate in anything that we do not want to participate in.

Since 1999, we have opted into 42 immigration or asylum measures and 15 civil law measures—the so-called pillar 1—when that has been in our national interests. But we have not opted into 75 immigration or asylum measures and three civil law measures, because we decided that they were not in our interests. The treaty provides the flexibility to ensure that when something is not in our interests, we will be able to stand back. Measure by measure, we retain the right to choose. As the European Scrutiny Committee concluded, it was

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con) rose—

David Miliband: I am happy to give way on that point.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: The Foreign Secretary is entitled to say that in justice and home affairs, the Government can demonstrate flexibility—essentially, by working la carte with Europe on that matter. Does he not draw the conclusion that that might be the basis on which, across a whole spectrum of EU policy, the United Kingdom could be comfortable in its EU membership in years to come, even if some member states wished to go much further towards integration?

David Miliband: I do not think that la carte is the right approach when it comes to the single market, for example; I do not think that we can opt into some sectors and not others. However, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that there should be provision for enhanced co-operation in certain areas rather than others, as is being proposed in the treaty in respect of defence, that is sensible.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Before my right hon. Friend moves off criminal matters, may I remind him of article 82, paragraph 2 of the consolidated texts? It refers to minimum rules on co-operation in the criminal justice system and goes on to say:

Is that not precisely what we want—so that our citizens, who may encounter criminal justice systems in any of the other 26 member states, have some minimum protection?

David Miliband: I do not know how that article slipped my mind; my hon. Friend has made an important point.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Just now, the Foreign Secretary said that we had opted into 42 immigration and asylum measures, but had
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retained a choice. Will he confirm that when we have opted in, we do not retain a choice? We can never opt out; it is a one-way option with no chance of opting out in the light of experience.

David Miliband: Mr. Speaker, unless—

Mr. Lilley: Yes or no?

David Miliband: It is not as simple as that. The right hon. Gentleman is right in that if the measure was not changed we could not opt out. However, as soon as the measure was amended, we would have the right to look at whether we wanted to opt into it.

On foreign policy, the Opposition have supported the Government’s actions in the western Balkans. As we have seen in the Balkans, Lebanon and Chad, the EU can play a role in promoting security and stability in neighbouring countries. It is not an alternative to UK foreign policy, but a means—and an important one—for its implementation.

As I said on 19 February, although the treaty will not change the fundamental nature of common foreign and security policy co-operation, it will enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and coherence of current arrangements. It will do so first by making the European Council—made up of the member states of the EU—responsible for setting the EU’s strategic priorities for all external action; secondly, by strengthening the coherence of the EU’s external action through a high representative, appointed by and accountable to member states, who replaces the current high representative and the Commissioner for External Affairs; and, thirdly, by bringing together existing Commission and Council officials, together with member state secondees, into a single External Action Service. All of that will bring real benefits.

On development, Europe is the world's biggest aid donor, providing more than 55 per cent. of total aid to more than 160 countries, and the Lisbon treaty will help ensure that, for the first time, that money is allocated in line with UK development policy. It makes it clear that EU development aid must have

It will legally enshrine the principles of “impartiality”, “non-discrimination” and “neutrality” for the deployment of humanitarian aid. That will help ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered on the basis of need, not on the basis of politics or of geography.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend believe that it would be particularly apposite if the House were to pass this Bill today, which is the 60th anniversary of the murder by defenestration of the democratic Czechoslovakian Prime Minister, Jan Masaryk, by the communist regime? Supporting the Bill today would be a symbol of the new Europe and the new European Union in which we are all united.

David Miliband: My hon. Friend draws an important link to the past. I did not know that, but I am very happy to agree that it would be apposite to act today as my hon. Friend suggests.


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