I must say that the issue has not been properly reported outside the House. I do not need to go into that again, as I have made the point on a number of occasions. Nobody really knows what the treaty is about, and that is partly because of its complexity, but, with great respect to some of my hon. Friends, it is also because we are told that we must not bang on about Europe. If I am to be accused of banging on about Europe, let me simply say this: I will not apologise, because if I am banging on about Europe, what I am really banging on aboutthose who are listening will
know what I meanis the freedom of our voters to make decisions in general elections. I am talking about their daily lives. I am dealing with the questions that arise of whether they should be sent to war, whether they should be killed in Afghanistan, and whether we should have a proper relationship with NATO. I am also dealing with issues of over-regulation.
There is scarcely any area where the European Union has not taken over. There are still one or two, but they are getting so minuscule that I ask myself what on earth we in the House think we are doing by allowing the Bill to be passed, and the treaty with it. Is Parliament to be reduced, by references to banging on, simply to a forum for platitudes and perceptions? No. We are talking about the daily lives of our constituents and we have an absolute obligationa dutyto go on about it. I would like anyone to challenge me on this question: by what right, and what duty, could anybody stop us saying what we need to say on behalf of our constituents?
Mr. Sheerman: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, while some of us perhaps do not have his degree of arrogance, we believe that we represent our constituents well? We believe that the bulk of our constituents do not like some aspects of Europe because they are complex, bureaucratic and have the drawbacks that one would expect there to be when 27 countries are trying to make something work, but the fact is that they have had 60 years of peace, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness because of the European Union.
Mr. Cash: I would be a good deal more impressed if I thought that the Labour party was prepared to keep its promises on the referendum. Having said that, the question of whether the system works is extremely important, and I want to come to it in a moment. We are not talking about theoretical abstractions, or the theology of sovereignty. We are concerned with practical questions to do with the daily lives of our constituents. That is the acid test.
On the question of whether we are anti-European, I have been accused in these debates of being a Europhobe, and I should like to say a few things about that. First, I think that I may be entitled to say that my father was killed in Normandy, fighting against tyranny in Europe. Secondly, I have three grandchildren, one of whom is half Greek, and one of whom is half Spanish. Two of my children were married in France, and I have one daughter-in-law who is Italian, and am about to have another who is half Czech.
Hugh Bayley: My father and my grandfather gave the best part of their youth fighting in the second world war and the first world war respectively. They had to go to war because we in Britain were unable to control the actions of other European countries. Surely to goodness one of the benefits of a European Union has been to heal the rift between France and Germanythe rift in Europewith the result that the hon. Gentlemans generation and mine have not had to fight a war in Europe, as our fathers and grandfathers had to.
Mr. Cash: I really do disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is an important point, and I recognise that many people in the House had family who were involved in the second world war, but I make the point from the vantage point of being accused of being a Europhobe. I am simply pointing out that the House of Commons was, as de Gaulle said in 1960 when he came here, at the foundation of why he was able to go back to a free France. Actually it is NATO, not the European Union, that preserves peace and security in Europe, and I also say this to the hon. Gentleman: look at what is happening in Kosovo. I have to put those points, because they are extremely important. We engaged in a war with Japan, but nobody could honestly say that the fact that we emerged victorious had anything to do with the European Union.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: My hon. Friend is making a passionate, sincere case on behalf of his constituents, as always. He will be as disappointed as I am by the insulting, infantile level of debate on the part of Labour Members who are trying to justify the decision to ram through the treaty over the past few weeks. Does he agree that we are witnessing an embedding of the estrangement of a plutocratic elite, who want to create a united states of Europe as a political entity, from the people to whom they are meant to be answerable, just as he and other Members are answerable to the people?
Mr. Cash: I agree with that 100 per cent. It is a very important point, which we have to re-emphasise. The reality is that the system does not work; that is another problem. As I say, this is not just a matter of theory. The system has not, does not, and will not work. The right hon. Member for Leicester, East mentioned the Lisbon agenda. I will not go right into that issue, but the Lisbon agenda is not working. We in the European Scrutiny Committee have been given documents that show why it had to be kick-started again, and why it is not working. Will Hutton, who was the rapporteur to the Lisbon agenda, came to our Committee and said that he did not think it was working properly. There are huge sums of money involved and it is not effective.
We are creating a compression chamber, and it will not work. Divisions are re-emerging in Europe. Old tensions are re-emerging. There is protectionism at the heart of French policies. There are problems between the European Union and Kosovo, whose Parliament is standing out against the European Union. There are enormous strikes in Germany, which are barely reported, and 19 per cent. unemployment in the eastern part of Germany. The Spanish economy is faltering. NATO is under threat. Russia is reawakening. The Hungarian referendum the other day demonstrates the fact that there is not enough money to pay for the wishes of the people in that country. Fledgling democracies will not be given the money that they were expecting and will start turning against the European Union as it is currently constructed.
We must get ahead of the curve. The dangerous Europe that is being created is not fit for the present world economy. We have massive illegal immigration. Democracy is being undermined. We are living in an overcentralised, over-regulated Europe.
Mr. Sheerman: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has had hours and hours over days and days to make speeches. This is the Third Reading of a Bill concerning the ratification of the treaty. I do not see that his present rant has anything to do with the ratification of the treaty.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): This is the Third Reading of a Bill that has very wide ramifications. If the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) were not in order, the Chair would have told him so.
Mr. MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman mentioned referendums a moment ago. Is not the reality that only the Irish people can stop Lisbon? Rather than a Europhile lobby discouraging the Irish people from voting no, should we, across the parties in the House, be telling the Irish people that if we had the choice, we would have voted no in both Scotland and England? Perhaps the Irish people can do us the favour that the Dutch people and the French people did with the constitution.
Mr. Cash: I would certainly encourage that, as I did in relation to the Nice treaty. There was a no vote, but the rules were changed so that those supporting the no position were outdone by the amount of money that was then made available to the yes vote. I hope the Irish vote the right way.
With regard to the Bill, the Government have been conducting an exercise in appeasement with the European Union. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who was on the Convention, has pointed out over and over againand he has the documents in the Chamberthe Government disagreed in the Convention but then appeased the rest of the European Union by going along with things that they did not agree with. He has made that case, and thereby performed a great service to the House of Commons and to the country.
It is essential that we have an association of nation states in order to be able to get out of the logjamthe impossible concrete construction that is being created. It will disintegrate, causing enormous trouble for the rest of Europe. A dangerous Europe is being created and it will crack like The Fall of the House of Usher. It is completely inflexible and it needs to be changed. It can be changed only by renegotiation. In the words of John of Gaunt,
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
With inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I always enjoy the speeches of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). He has been making largely the same case against Europe since the Maastricht treaty. I was not in the House then, but I heard similar speeches on the Amsterdam treaty, then on the Nice treaty. He is a man of integrity. He quoted John of Gaunt. I might quote the exchange between Hotspur and Glendower in Henry IV, when Glendower says:
I can call spirits from the vasty deep
But will they come when you do call for them?
From the depths of his opposition to Europe the hon. Gentleman has over all my 14 years in Parliamentno doubt longer in his casebeen sketching out the image of a Europe about to devour us, but of course it never happens. I gently and with some affection, as we are both interested in the subject, put to him that the treaty, if ratified tonight and then ratified in another place, will not so fundamentally alter our relationship with Europe. Europe, in the end, is organic; it is plastic; it is what we make it. He talked about a concrete straitjacket that was cracking like The Fall of the House of Usherhe was taking me down literary highways and byways where I could not follow him.
Mr. MacShane: Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, the House of Commons is democratically elected. I am fascinated to learn tonight that the Scottish National party seems to be throwing in its lot with the more nationalisticif I may put it like thatwing of the English Conservative party. That is a marriage made on the green Benches but it will end up in a funny place. I do not believe that if the main Opposition party wants to govern the country sitting on the Government Benches it can have any truck with the lurid nationalism that the hon. Gentleman has just expressed.
Speaking for the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) saidobviously the quote will have to be checked in Hansard tomorrow, but I took a noteWe want to be in the European Union, but not with this treaty. I think I got him right in saying that. That of course is the eternal problem: everybody can dream of their perfect European Union. Many of our continental partners consider the Lisbon treaty to be written and made in Britain. They regard the present Commission as over-liberalising, over-Anglo Saxon, over-free trade. The European Union that they might wish formore social, more environmental, more supranationalis not reflected in the treaty at all.
I invite hon. Members to read the foreign pressI might have suggested that they consult their sister parties in Europe, but we know that that is not on the agenda of the Conservative partyand they will find all the arguments going in a different direction. I must
gently say toI am tempted to call him my hon. Friend the Member for Stonemy honourable debating partner that every treaty implies the coming together and the sharing of some sovereignty between its signatory nations. If not, there would be no point in treaties.
Once they have been negotiated, signed and ratified, treaties exist until one of two things happen: either all the signatories agree to rewrite the treaty, or a party to that treaty, a ratifying member, simply quits. We have the sovereign power in the House of Commons. We do not need article 49 in the new treaty, which I find rather ill-written, in that it permits nations to leave the European Union. We can leave the European Union tomorrow by a vote of this House of Commons. France can leave the European Union tomorrow, so can Poland, so can Sweden, by a vote of their sovereign Parliaments. The real problem is that what the Conservatives want is not on offer. It is not on offer from the World Trade Organisation treaty, from our Spanish friends in the treaty of Utrecht, or from my left-wing friends in the North Atlantic treatythe treaty that set up NATO. Treaties are about sharing some sovereignty for a greater good.
Mr. Jackson: I thank the right hon. Gentleman and pay tribute to the sincerity with which he holds his views, although I believe that he is more or less totally wrong in most of them. He makes a point about treaties. Will he explain how, for instance, the strategic arms limitation treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s led to a transfer of power from each to the other? They engaged in that treaty for their mutual benefit, which is what sovereign countries do and what treaties are aboutthey are not necessarily about the transfer of sovereign power.
Mr. MacShane: That treaty said to the Pentagon and to the bosses of the red army, You cant do that which youve been doing up to nowthat is, continue building up their armed strength. It was a massive interference in the sovereign right of both nations to continue in that area. All treaties are like that.
Mr. MacShane: The hon. Gentleman, like all Scottish nationalist Members during these debates since I have been in the House, has focused on the problem of fisheries. They have a point, but that was a concession made in 1972 that cannot be brought back without 26 other member states agreeing to it. However, we cannot unilaterally say that, for example, we do not want Ryanjet to land here because it is in competition with our national airline.
The hon. Member for Stone, who you rightly did not call to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, saidI hope that I am not doing any injustice to his argumentthat it was somehow treasonable to vote for the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon. Well, I hope that I am not a traitor to myself, my country, my party, my constituency or any of the other areas that he listed. Much of this rather lurid language does not help; it neither heats up nor illuminates.
Im not very keen on the Common Market. After all, we beat Germany, and we beat Italy and we saved France, Belgium and Holland. I never see why we should go crawling to them.
That from a man who is a hero for many of us on my side of the House, but it is, frankly, a ghastly point of view. Alternatively, going to the heart of the point made by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil), here is Churchill speaking in this House in June 1950:
we are prepared to consider, and if convinced to accept, the abrogation of national sovereignty.
national sovereignty is not inviolable, and...it may be
diminished for the sake of all the men in all the lands finding their way home together.[ Official Report, 27 June 1950; Vol. 476, c. 2159.]
Mr. Sheerman: Does my right hon. Friend agree that, compared with the period that Churchill and Attlee lived through, with the instability, the wars and the ghastly things that happened in Europe, during our lifetimes we have been much more successful, across parties, in helping to construct, by modifying Europe, building on it and changing ityes, with different treatiesa Europe of peace and prosperity where people can pursue happiness?
Mr. MacShane: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have spent 14 years debating these issuesmy maiden speech was on Europeand the more that I do so, the less I sense that I am absolutely 100 per cent. confident in everything I say. Some modesty and brevity is useful, and I will try to apply that lesson tonight.