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There are other areas where Lisbon allows the EU for the first time to provide support and co-ordination in respect of member states own policies, but prevents the EU from leading. What areas will face that new EU onslaught, which will involve EU support for and co-operation with our own domestic policy? The answer is tourism and sport. That is what is so terrifying.
Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the additional provisions of the Lisbon treaty is that the EU institutions will become subject to the European convention on human rights? While Britain and many other member states are subject to that, the EU and its institutions are not, but under the Lisbon treaty they will be.
Mr. Davey: My hon. Friend is right, and that is another example why the Lisbon treaty is a good thing. The EU institutions should be subject to control, checks and accountability. Interestingly, Conservative Members do not like that.
To be fair to Conservative Members, however, the biggest misrepresentation of the Lisbon treaty has come from the misnamed Democracy Movementthe leaflet that it has been sending out contains so few facts that it should be entered for the Man Booker prize for fiction. The leaflet focuses on five areas in its attempt to alarm and mislead people. Its first charge is that Britains voting strength will be cut by a third. As I have said, our voting share will increase by almost 50 per cent. The Democracy Movement also says that the control of Brussels is being extended over our criminal justice system. There is no mention of the UK opt-insour ability to veto any extension of joint working to tackle crime, if we so chooseand there is no mention that co-operation on criminal justice is restricted to cross-border issues, such as beating international organised crime and tackling the international trade in drugs, guns and people, which one would have thought supporters of the Democracy Movement would favour.
Mr. MacShane: Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that all those words are in very small print, whereas the picture of myself is rather large and handsome? Many of my constituents in Rotherham have asked me how much it cost under the Commons communications allowance to distribute my picture all over my constituency.
The third charge made by the Democracy Movement in the leaflet is that Lisbon creates a president and a Foreign Minister for the EU. As our debates have shown, that is also untrue. The proposal that the existing presidency of the European Council should change from a six-month rotation to a more permanent two-and-a-half year position means that such a president will not be created and that there will be no president of the EU who is akin to a US President. As for the lie that a Foreign Minister is being created, the fact that the EU has no foreign policy on anything unless and until 27 real Foreign Ministers from all member states unanimously agree shows what nonsense that charge is.
The fourth myth is that the legal personality provision is a threat to sovereignty. Such a provision exists for the European Community and has done for years, just as it exists for many organisations, from golf clubs to the Universal Postal Union.
The Democracy Movements final argument to scare voters is on the so-called passerelle clauses and the provision for future treaty amendments. Once again, it does not mention the triple lock of the Council, the European Parliament and national Parliaments or the fact that under the proposals the UK can veto any proposed treaty amendment at any time. I, like the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, think that we could have gone further, but the Democracy Movement did not mention the triple lock.
Mr. Cash: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the Democracy Movement would be extremely glad to know that it is getting so much free publicity, but how can that matter possibly be applicable to this debate, particularly given that the stream of assertions being made does not relate to any political party? I am completely mystified as to what the hon. Gentleman thinks that he is up to.
Mr. Davey: What ought to be most shocking for the Democracy Movements supporters, who have supported a referendum on Britains membership of the European Union in the past, is that its leaflet makes no mention of the Liberal Democrats support for such a referendum and the fact that we have been opposed and gagged by the Conservative and Labour parties.
Once we strip away the myths about the treaty and examine its real benefits, there is no other credible position to take tonight than to vote for it. Of course, the Conservatives will vote against it, as we have heard, but their position raises interesting questions about their future European policy. As the Foreign Secretary has asked, what will they do once the Lisbon treaty is ratified? That question could dominate the 2009 European elections, by which time the Lisbon treaty will have been ratified. I cannot imagine the UK Independence party missing a trick; UKIP will harry every Conservative European parliamentary candidate, probably armed with white handkerchiefs, accusing the Conservatives of surrender.
We will not let matters rest.
Mr. Davey: I want to talk about what we will do following ratification and the process of this Bill. I am concerned for the Conservatives, because their position is not clear. It is important to examine that position.
Mr. Davey: I shall certainly relate my remarks to the Bill. I hope that the Conservatives will tell us what not letting matters rest actually means. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks warned about the euro when he was their commander-in-chief before the 2001 election, but I cannot imagine his saying, Ten days to save matters from resting.
Rob Marris: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will, in a sense, invert his comments. In the unlikely event that the Conservatives get their way tonight, it would be the end of the Lisbon treaty. The United Kingdom and the other 26 member states would have no Lisbon treaty, and there would have to be either a renegotiation or the status quo ante. The Conservative party cannot provide any evidence to suggest that if we were to kybosh the Lisbon treaty tonight, we could get a better deal, yet it says that the status quo ante is unacceptable. Does he agree that that is a hollow position and that the House should not follow it tonight?
Mr. Davey: I agree absolutely. We have had debates about a referendum, but let us imagine what would happen if the country were to vote no in a referendum. What would a fantasy Conservative Government do in that situation? They would doubtless sit down with parties that think like they doSinn Fein, the Dutch Party for the Animals and the Italian Northern Leagueto hammer out an alternative vision and put it to European Governments. They would then try to work out whether they could hammer out a renegotiated settlement, but other Ministers and Governments in Europe would look on that approach with disdain. A policy of renegotiation would unsettle British business, the City and investment, and it would make a future Conservative Government a laughing stock not only in Europes capitals, but in Washington, Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing.
What is the real meaning of not let matters rest. I believe it to mean that the Conservatives will let matters rest, keep quiet and hope that no one has noticed. That is almost certainly what they will do. I confidently predict that after this Bill goes through the House, the Conservatives will abandon their commitment to a treaty referendum as soon as they think it safe to do so, just as they did over the Amsterdam and Nice treatiesso much for their principles and pledges.
The truth on Europe is that there are three Conservative partiesthe party of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the party of the hon. Member for Stone and somewhere keeping their heads down the massed ranks of the party of the right hon. Member for Witney. The policy of not letting matters rest is about the only thing on which they agree.
The Liberal Democrats will not let matters rest, but, unlike the Conservatives, we have moved on and have a clear future policy, which is to give the people a vote on whether Britain should remain in the EU based on the treaties, including the Lisbon treaty.
Mr. Davey: You will be pleased to learn that I am about to finish, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] I am not surprised that Conservative Members are glad that I am about to finish, because we have been giving them as good as we get. Liberal Democrats believe that the European Union has been, is and will be of huge benefit to this country and to our world. In voting for the Bill tonight, we are ready to take on all comers in the cause of defending Britains national interestbeing in Europe.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey). I could say that I agreed with everything he said and just sit down, but I have been waiting to participate in these debates for some time and I am pleased to be able to contribute on Third Reading.
I want to begin by paying tribute to the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe for their work over the past three weeks. I served in the latter post in the early part of the Administration, so I know how difficult it is to ensure that enough time is available to do the serious job that my hon. Friend must do of going to Europe to build up relationships with our partners in the EU and beyond. The last three weeks must have played havoc with his diary, but he has been here, he has been assiduous and he has answered all the points that have been raised. We all ought to thank him for what he has done.
We should also thank the Foreign Secretary, who has been placed in a similar position. He has just left the Chamber to talk to the shadow Foreign Secretary, but he, too, has been present during these debates. When the House thinks of the huge number of current international issues that are important to our interests, my right hon. Friends participation in these debates over the past three weeks has been extremely welcome. I thank both Ministers for what they have done.
The shadow Foreign Secretary has just left the Chamber, but the Liberal Democrats shadow Foreign Secretary raised a number of points about Conservative party policy. I have to say that, a few months ago, I was very much in favour of having a referendum on whether we should be in or out of Europe. I went on record as saying so last summer. I was in favour of an all-singing, all-dancing referendum on our membership of the European Union because I was fed up with the drip, drip of Euroscepticism. I felt that it was the only way in which we could properly explore the issue of being in the European Union. Then I met and spoke to the Foreign Secretary, who convinced me that [Laughter.] It was not in a darkened corner, it was a proper discussion. I was concerned and felt that we as a Government were in danger of losing our moral high ground on European issues. I felt that the only way to re-energise us was to have an all-singing, all-dancing referendum.
Mr. Cash: Will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the fact that he played a good part in the European reform forum discussions, and is on record as having said that the EU needs reform? There was enormous agreement on the basic principles among those on all sides of that debate. Will he be a little more careful about what he says about Euroscepticism? We are not anti-European, we are actually pro-European.
Keith Vaz: I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman, whose beliefs on Europe are sincere, is so much in favour of the reform of the EU, because that is precisely what the Lisbon treaty will do. It will help the reform process in a most important way.
I was convinced by the Foreign Secretary, who said that a much better course of action than having a referendum was to be able to come to the Floor of the House day after day and debate the crucial matters that will affect the future of Europe and of this country. Having listened to the debates in the past three weeks, I must say that he was absolutely right. I know what would have happened in a referendum campaign: it would have been totally hijacked, not just by those who do not support the basis of our membership of the EU but by the Eurosceptic media, which would have destroyed the nature of the referendum campaign.
I am glad that I was convinced by the Foreign Secretary and that we have had three splendid weeks to discuss the relevant issues. Where else would I have heard the early life history of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), a woman whom I have known for 25 years? There have been times when I have thought that she was genetically modified, because she has been such a perfect Minister and Member of Parliament. Then I heard about her previous life and found that she is just as human as the rest of us. It was great to hear about her early career. She, too, has been assiduous in these debates. In response to a couple of Opposition Members, if she is to be our next European Commissioner, I say hooray for that. She would be an absolutely perfect person for the job, although she would be missed greatly in Leicester, West, and of course there is no vacancy.
Keith Vaz: Absolutely. My right hon. Friend and I both know that to be the case. I am pleased that there is no vacancy, that she is still here and that we will meet each other on Friday when we go back to Leicester.
Why is the Lisbon treaty important? It is because we cannot have the rules and regulations for a Europe of 15 for a Europe of 27. That is absolutely impossible. The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton is right that Opposition Members call for referendums on every treaty. It is their mantra. They wanted a referendum on Nice, even though that would have blocked the enlargement of the EU, which has been essential to the success of the European project.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con):
I am sorry to break up the right hon. Gentlemans love-in with his constituency neighbour, the right hon. Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt). I am sure that he would
not want the House to infer from his comments that when he told the voters of Leicester, East, in May 2005 that a referendum was very important to decide our European destiny, they were intelligent enough to understand the issues involved, but that two and a half years on, they are too stupid and would be too influenced by the wicked print and broadcast media, and that he is therefore reneging on the solemn promise that he made to his electors in May 2005.
Keith Vaz: I did not say that to the electors. What was proposed then was a referendum on the constitution. What the House is discussing is not a constitution but a treaty, and it contains the very reforms that the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) correctly said that I spoke about when I addressed his forum as Minister for Europe. It is essential that a dynamic institution such as the EU should develop. Its enlargement means that there must be changes to how it operates, to make it more efficient and effective. That is why we have the treaty.
Mr. Harper: Given the Foreign Secretarys clearly masterful powers of persuasionwe know that it is difficult to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to change coursewhy does he think the Foreign Secretary has not been able to persuade the British public that the constitution and the Lisbon treaty are different? About 90 per cent. of them think that they are broadly the same.
Keith Vaz: That is an important point. The Foreign Secretary has probably not been able to convince the tabloids that there is a difference between the constitution and the treaty, but I think that he has convinced the British people. The problem that we have in the debate about Europe is the tabloids. The Daily Mail, The Sun and the other tabloid newspapers, apart from the Daily Mirror, are absolutely against anything European. It is therefore vital that we have a debate with the British people, as we have been able to.
Mr. MacNeil: Maybe the right hon. Gentleman gives too much credence to the power of the tabloids. He should think back to May 2007 when, without the support of any newspaper, the Scottish National party won the election in Scotland.
Keith Vaz: That is very helpful. I hope that, if there is a debate, we will have the support of the SNPs spin doctors. Perhaps they will be able to assist. For the time being, we have a treaty that will make a real difference to how the EU operates. I shall give two examples of that, the first of which relates to justice and home affairs.
I had the privilege of being at the initial Tampere negotiations, which took place in Finland under the Finnish presidency in 1999. When we began the Tampere process, which became the Hague 2 process, we decided that the only way that we could combat major crime problems such as serious organised crime and human trafficking was to co-operate with our European partners. That co-operation is essential. Without co-operation through organisations such as Europol and Eurojust, we will never be able to deal with the people who perpetrate organised crime or with the real problems of immigration.
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