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11 Mar 2008 : Column 159

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab) rose—

David Miliband: I will give way to my hon. Friend, but then I am going to make some progress.

Hugh Bayley: The Conservative party says that it supports the Government policy that aid should be targeted at poverty alleviation, and the treaty requires all 27 member states to follow that policy. If the Tories vote it down tonight, they will be voting against a policy that they tell the public that they support.

David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes exactly the right point. Conservative Members say that they want to will the ends of a constructive, engaged and forward-looking Europe, but at every opportunity—at Amsterdam, at Nice and now with the Lisbon treaty—they vote against it.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con) rose—

David Miliband: I am going to make some progress.

It is also worth explaining how the treaty will improve the accountability and transparency of EU business. A full-time Council president, appointed by the member states and answerable to them, will bring greater continuity and drive to delivering the agenda. Elected MEPs in the European Parliament have to approve EU legislation in more policy areas and, as was mentioned earlier, for the first time, national Parliaments get a direct say in making EU laws. If a majority of national Parliaments oppose a proposal and national Governments or MEPs agree, it falls.

Again for the first time, the treaty defines the EU’s competences, setting out where the EU can and cannot act and it underlines that the EU has only such competences as are expressly conferred on it by the member states through the treaties. Those are good things— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) says from a sedentary position that there is hardly any power left in the nation state, but I do not know where he has been in the past 10 years. Actually, on further reflection, I do know where he has been—going through the Division Lobby voting against the things that the Government wanted to do.

As I was saying, the measures I have described are good things and they are capped by the agreement at the last European Council that institutional reform would be put on ice “for the foreseeable future”. No wonder that 27 Governments and 26 Oppositions have united to say that the treaty represents a valuable step forward and, above all—

Mr. Stuart: Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

David Miliband: Well, I am in the middle of a sentence, so I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would at least let me finish it. The treaty represents a valuable step forward and, above all, a fair resting place for the institutional reform of the EU. The 26 Oppositions I mentioned excludes only one—the Conservative party opposite, stuck in the past and obsessed with myths about the EU.

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Mr. Stuart: The Foreign Secretary is speaking eloquently as usual, so can he explain why he has failed so spectacularly to convince the British people that pushing the treaty through the House is the appropriate way to move forward?

David Miliband: I think that it is at general elections that we convince the British people and Labour has a pretty good record on that— [Interruption.]

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must have calmness.

David Miliband: The Conservative party tried peddling its Europhobia at the 2001 general election, and we all know what happened then.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

David Miliband: No, I want to make this point, because— [ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Allow the Secretary of State to continue his speech. It does not appear that he is giving way.

David Miliband: I was coming to the obsession with the myths about the EU. Last week, we heard one that I thought had been buried for good. At Prime Minister’s questions, the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), announced that the treaty will bring in a united states of Europe. A united states of Europe means one country, one Government, one currency and every single country of the EU reduced to the status of a county council. Under no circumstances could that be a true description of the Lisbon treaty, which is why no one among the opponents of the treaty believes it—not even the Dutch Party for the Animals, with which the Conservative party is now allied on the issue.

If the right hon. Member for Witney really believes that the treaty means a united states of Europe, he is honour bound to recommend that we leave the EU if the treaty is ratified. I hope that when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks responds on behalf of the Opposition, he will either disown his leader’s comment or say how he can foresee living in such an EU, because many Labour Members have doubts about what the Conservative party’s real agenda is in respect of the EU.

Mr. Harper: I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way. I want to take him back to the point that he made a few moments ago, because he cannot be allowed to get away with it. At the last election, the Labour party put the issue on one side by pledging a referendum on a European constitution. The public believe, rightly, that the constitution is pretty much the same as the treaty. They have rumbled the Foreign Secretary and he cannot pretend that he has a democratic mandate to push these measures through.

David Miliband: We will test the democratic mandate at the next general election and see what the result is.

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The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks claims that the new high representative

That is the claim even though the European Scrutiny Committee has said that

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) claims that

but that runs directly against what the US State Department and NATO’s Secretary-General have said about the treaty. The NATO Secretary-General said that

Clearly, he has not met the hon. Member for Woodspring.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) speaks on energy for the Conservative party. This is what he said:

Michael Connarty: Rubbish!

David Miliband: My hon. Friend says that that is rubbish, and he is absolutely right. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton continued:

It is embarrassing that a serious political party that aspires to government should come up with such claptrap.

As for the issue of qualified majority voting, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks has talked about our national veto being “abolished in sixty areas”, but he glosses over the fact that 16 of the 51 changes do not apply to the UK or apply only if we agree, while 15 are purely procedural. Furthermore, 20 changes will speed up or unblock decision making in areas not just where we want progress, but where the Conservative party says that it wants progress too.

Mr. Jenkin: Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

David Miliband: I am going to bring my remarks to a conclusion.

This scaremongering from the Conservative party is not new. Listen to what was said in 2003:

the hon. Member for Stone is a good example—

Those words are not mine, but those of Lord Hurd.

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Although the argument of the Conservative party is not new, it is dangerous and deluded. The treaty means greater voting weight for the UK, a smaller Commission and additional powers for national Parliaments, yet the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks says that there is not a single thing in the treaty that he can bring himself support.

It is one thing not to support our policies, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he is afraid of supporting policies that he says are his own. He says jobs, poverty and the environment should be prioritised by the EU, but he opposed the last two treaties that got us to this point, and he now opposes this treaty to take progress further.

Mr. Jenkin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Miliband: No, I am going to conclude.

Mr. Jenkin: It is on defence.

David Miliband: No.

The truth is that the Conservative party has drifted so far towards the fringes of the better off out brigade that the hon. Member for Stone can happily declare that they have achieved an increase in

Not half!

Mr. Cash indicated assent.

David Miliband: I am pleased to see the hon. Gentleman nod. He has moved from the fringes of his party to the centre. The truth did indeed come out last Wednesday when 37 Tory MPs—

Mr. Cash: Forty seven.

David Miliband: Excellent. So 47 Conservative MPs— in other words, one quarter of the modern Conservative party—supported the hon. Gentleman in voting for an amendment that aimed to reverse 50 years of cross-party support for the EU. The amendment claimed to assert the right of Parliament over European law. In fact, it would have made “a nonsense of the necessity for Community law to have the same effect in every member state if the UK, any more than any other member state, could choose by national law to override what it did not like.” [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Opposition Members can say “Ah!”, but those were the words of Sir Geoffrey Howe at the Committee stage of the Bill that legislated for Britain’s entry into the EU. People cannot join a club and write their own rules.

What was the position of the official Opposition last week? In the face of an amendment that would have endangered British jobs and British interests, after all the huffing and puffing about courage and convictions, and after all the attacks on the fence-sitting of the Liberal Democrats, they took the tough, principled and forward-looking decision to give Conservative Members a three-line Whip on an abstention that would have set back our national interests by 40 years. They talk about wanting to be constructive in Europe; in fact, they would wreck the national interest.

11 Mar 2008 : Column 163

The truth is that successive Governments have faced a choice: whether to retreat from the world or to engage with the problems and opportunities beyond our borders. It is this Government’s view that we must continue to look outward and to try to shape the world, building alliances to tackle the global problems that we face. That is why we are committed to playing a full role in Europe, driving the European Union’s agenda and making a positive difference to the British people. That is what this treaty is about. That is why I commend the Bill to the House.

4.17 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I begin on a note of agreement with the Foreign Secretary. Given that there are so many disagreements, it is a happy note on which to start. He paid many warm tributes to those of us who have taken part in the debates over the past couple of months. He was very generous to me—if being called antediluvian is a form of generosity; I suppose in Parliament we are grateful for small compliments. Indeed, he has shown himself to be a vigorous debater throughout all our proceedings, and one of the brightest members of the Cabinet, as he is known to be, although in the current state of the Government that may not be such an extraordinary accolade.

I certainly pay tribute to the Minister for Europe who, as the Foreign Secretary said, has always performed with great patience and humour, and will probably now become the portable lightning conductor for the Government and move from one Department to another. I also pay tribute to many Labour Members. The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) has been quoted by all of us in almost every speech we have given. The hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson) vied with me to persecute the Liberal Democrats and call for a referendum. The right hon. Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt) spoke many times, only to meet in the final hours the tragic news that Peter Mandelson may be offered a second term.

An extraordinary number—84—of my right hon. and hon. Friends have taken part in these proceedings. When one of them has spoken 210 times—it feels to those of us who often talk to him in the No Lobby like 310 times—that is a considerable debating contribution. I join the Secretary of State in the camaraderie that has infused those of us who have participated in the debate. I thought that he was going to propose an annual reunion at one stage, but perhaps we will not go that far.

The Opposition’s case on the Bill’s Third Reading is simple: its effect is to ratify a treaty that is overwhelmingly the same in its content as the rejected EU constitution. Its scrutiny by the House has not been as extensive or as detailed as it should have been, or indeed as was promised. Amendments supported by Members in all parts of the House that would have made improvements to the future scrutiny of changes to our relations with the European Union have been rejected. Above all, it continues to be the case that the Bill would come into force without ever being submitted for the consent of the British people in either a general election or a referendum. For all those reasons, we shall have no hesitation in voting against Third Reading tonight.

11 Mar 2008 : Column 164

We have, of course, had many exchanges across the Floor of the House about whether the Lisbon treaty, on which a referendum is being denied, is essentially the same as the EU constitution on which a referendum was promised in the House. Mr. Giscard d’Estaing has probably been quoted more often in this Parliament during the last couple of months than he has been in the French Parliament in the last couple of decades. His well-known view that

is shared overwhelmingly by the Governments and institutions of the European Union other than our own.

The resolution of the European Parliament on the matter welcomed

The Slovenian Prime Minister, who currently holds the European Union presidency, said that in the new treaty, the EU was given

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