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the end of Britain as an independent nation-state.
[ Interruption. ] I detect from the hon. Member for Stone some support for that position. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who is not with us tonight, said that signing the treaty of Amsterdam
would mean the end of Britain as a nation state. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks famously said before the 2001 election that to vote for a pro-European Labour party again to be returned to power would mean that Britain would become a foreign land. That hyperbole does neither its Labour nor its Conservative articulators any good at all.
I want to deal briefly with three of the myths that have been perpetrated throughout this debateI mean the debate beyond the wide-ranging debate in the House in the past two months that has taken place more generally in recent years. The first myth is the notion of Europe as a behemotha giant devouring machine that is eradicating sovereignty and the power of this House of Commons. If one looks at the simple economic facts, 99 per cent. of all Europes incomeits gross national income, to use the technical phrasestays in the hands of its nation states. Of the 1 per cent. transferred to Brussels, 85 per cent. is immediately transferred to nation states in the form of agricultural subsidies. I share the criticisms of the common agricultural policy, but if we did not have the CAP, we would have a BAPa British agricultural policyand all the gentlemen who get the massive subsidies that they now do from Brussels would be making life hell, particularly for Conservative Members, who tend to represent more agricultural communities than my party does, by demanding massive agricultural subsidies. One seventh15 per cent.of 1 per cent. of that money stays with the Commission for it to do what it wants with it. I put it to the House that the notion that one can create a super-state or a federal monster, or that one can destroy the national sovereignty of the 27 member states of Europe with just one seventh of 1 per cent. of their money, does not make sense.
The second great myth is that Europe is dictating all the laws of this House. The shadow Foreign Secretary and I had an exchange during a previous debate, and he brought it up very gently and respectfully again today, quoting the Prime Minister against me, or perhaps me against the Prime Minister. Of course, all Prime Ministers at all times are infalliblethey cannot be wrong. I occasionally have a kind of old-fashioned interest in the truth. That has often got in the way of successful politics, which is probably why I am not a successful politician.
I asked the Library to freshen up its continuing study about the amount of legislation that we decide on in this Parliament that emanates from the European Union. I asked for the document to be sent to me last week after that exchange, but it is publicly available in the Library. It showed that so far this century approximately 10 per cent., at the highest point, of all the laws that we pass are to do with the European Union. Within that 10 per cent., 50 per cent. of trade rules to do with the single market stem from the European Union and 25 per cent. of environmental rules are to do with the European Union. I think that the Prime Minister used the word regulationsI do not want to gloss what he said; he did not talk about lawsand, yes, 50 per cent. of our regulations that are to do with the single market originate from the European Union, just as they must for every other country if we want the single market to work for them.
The Commission has 16,000 employeesfewer than the BBCand one seventh of 1 per cent. of Europes gross national income. The House of Commons is still
responsible for 90 per cent. of legislation, such as taxation, health spending, education, policing, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, sending people to prison, decisions on whether to go to war, and our main foreign policy alliances. All those matters are settled in this House, as they are in the Assemblée Nationale, the Bundestag, the Sejm, the Cortes and the other national Parliaments in other European countries.
The second great myth is that the new treaty is identical to the constitutional treaty. I have some knowledge of that matter as the Europe Minister responsible at the time. Conservative Members tend to pray in aid their experience of the Convention. They make interesting historical points, but the main recommendations of the Convention presided over by Giscard dEstaing were rejected by the intergovernmental conference that followed. The constitutional treaty that emerged from the process was, in turn, rejected by the voters of France and the Netherlands, and it was declared dead here, not so much by my party, but by Conservative Members. I remember well the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) saying, I am a doctor. I know death when I see it. This constitution is dead. The less original Opposition Members referred to the famous dead parrot of lore. We all agreed that the treaty was dead, but for the purposes of anti-European argument, it has to be brought back to life.
The pledge to have a referendum on which all parties agreed in their 2005 election manifestos related to that constitutional treaty, but it was killed barely a month after the election of the new Parliament, and those commitments died with it. At the end of each Session, any laws that have not been passed in this House die. Unless we are introducing a new constitutional innovation in the House that any pledge given in general terms on any issue has to be sustained throughout the eternity of successive Parliaments, I do not understand how Conservative Members can intellectually say that todays treaty is identical to the constitutional treaty that was killed, even if much of the anti-European press make that argument.
Mr. Harper: No, we never have. All we have said, as most European leaders have said, is that it is between 90 and 96 per cent. the samesimilar enough that the promise to have a referendum holds. That is what the right hon. Gentleman should be holding to.
Mr. MacShane: I accept that the hon. Gentleman, many other hon. Members and many members of the public believe that. We can argue about and rattle around on whether something can be 90 per cent. the same as something else or 90 per cent. the same DNAcan someone be 90 per cent. a virgin?but even as the hon. Gentleman says that the treaty is 90 per cent. the same he is saying that it is not the same.
In two key respects, the new treaty is fundamentally different. It is much shorter in length, but we can leave that argument to one side. It does not contain references to Beethovens Ode to Joy or to the
Council of Europe flag, designed in 1954, which was adopted as the European flag, but the most important difference is that it leaves all the other treaties in place. The constitutional treaty rolled all of the existing treaties into one giant document. It was a re-founding moment for the whole of the Common Market and the European Union. The Lisbon treaty leaves all existing treaties in place. Unless we have a new doctrine that says that we must have referendums on any significant international treaty, it is not right to pray in aid a pledge given on a document that was killed in June 2005 by the Dutch and the French.
The third great myth is that Britain should look to different areas of the world because Europe is passé, and that our future lies on the other side of the Atlantic, or in engaging with our global partners in the shape of the rising powers of China and India. Yet we export more to the Netherlands than we do to China; Switzerland invests more in the UK than all of the Asian powers put together. We want a powerful relationship with the United States, but I note that last year European growth was higher than that of America; inflation was lower and productivity was higher. In dollar terms, the UK now has higher GDP per capita than the United States.
Thanks to British leadership, going right back to Margaret Thatcher and the Single European Act, John Major and the Maastricht treaty and Tony Blair with the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, we have created a Europe that is a lot more confident. It could be better; growth could be strongerof course it couldbut let us recognise that Europe today serves British interests very well. Between 800,000 and a million of our citizens live in Spain, but they are not treated as unwelcome immigrants, as anyone who speaks with a foreign accent in Britain is treated by some sections of the press, or by some in our political system.
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for pointing out some of the economic successes of Europe. He will also be aware that the Eurosceptics tried to suggest that the introduction of the euro by eurozone countries was going to be a disasterthat it would collapse and would not work. He will be aware that the euro is increasingly becoming a currency of choice for states throughout the world, and for funds and investors in Europe and beyond.
Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend is right. As a rough rule of thumb, the nightmares predicted about Britains engagement in Europe since the first great conference in The Hague in 1948 to set up the Council of Europe, which led to the Coal and Steel Community and the treaty of RomeI read some of them from the remarks of Hugh Gaitskell and Clem Attleehave never come to pass.
We are seeing a sea change in the approach of the United States. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks complained that there was not adequate discussion on the defence clauses of the treaty. He had a legitimate complaint. He could, however, have shortened his speech on foreign policy and let in some of his hon. Friends who wanted to talk on defence, but
he has been delighting us with more comic turns than I have seen since the disappearance of Les Dawson as a working mens club comedian. The right hon. Gentleman has a great future treading the boards in the north if he ever chooses to give up his current isolationist politics.
Mr. Clappison: The right hon. Gentleman is making a passionate speech, but there has been no scrutiny at all of the important clauses in the treaty that make important changes to our defence commitments because the Government allowed so little time for detailed scrutiny. We did not even manage to reach the defence provisions.
Mr. MacShane: I laid out three myths, but if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, this is a fourth one: that somehow everything that happens in the House of Commons is entirely dictated by the Government. Opposition Members tabled amendments, and were able to divide up their time as they wish. The shadow defence spokesman could have led in that debate, had the Front-Bench team so decided.
Let us look now at what the United States is doing and saying. From trips to Washington as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I believe that we are witnessing an important change in American strategic thinking. The go-it-alone ideas expressed by Donald Rumsfeldperhaps sometimes brutally when he was Secretary of Defenceand some others who are loosely called neo-conservatives are now perceived by the State Department, the Pentagon and, I believe, the White House, to be redundant. America needs to rebuild its partnership with Europe and we, as Europeans, need to rebuild our partnership with America.
Victoria Nuland, the American ambassador to NATO a Republican appointee and very high representative of the United States, who does not say anything that is not cleared at the highest levelsaid recently in Paris that she wanted a stronger EU, able to act independently. The American decision to give a major US air force contract to Airbus, which is important for British jobs and British industry, signals an American desire to work more closely with Europe and accept the sort of thinking that the former Prime Minister set out in the St. Malo declaration of 1998 about building more coherence around European defence. I welcome that. The security challenges of the world are too serious to be handled exclusively by the United Statesor even exclusively by the United States and Britain.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend also believe that burden sharing, which is one of the concerns of those of us who take an interest in defence, especially in Afghanistan, could be overcome by the permanent structured co-operation provisions in the Lisbon treaty? Many commentators believe that it will be difficult to make that work.
Let me disappoint and reassure my hon. Friend at the same time. No institutional framework can replace or command the national will of sovereign nation states to send their young men and women to put themselves in harms way, or the national will of nation states to recognise or refuse to recognise
Kosovo. That must be understood. The notion that, as a result of the treaty, President Sarkozy or Chancellor Merkel will substantially change their actions as the democratically elected heads of the Governments of France and of Germany, or that what the Bundestag allows Chancellor Merkel to do or what President Sarkozy chooses to do about rejoining NATO will be affected, is wrong. In pure theory, one can claim anything about any treaty, but that does not reflect what happens on the ground.
We have heard some enjoyable speeches. I have enjoyed the contributions of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty). I commend him, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, for reading into the record extracts from the treaty, especially on social rights and other matters that far too many members of my party and political family do not realise are in the text.
I commend especially the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and the right hon. Members for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who have done the best debating from behind their Front Bench. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who is not in his place, punctured the windy bombast of the shadow Foreign Secretarys claims that the new president of the EU or the high representative would be omnipotent and infallible and dictate to the world. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, who knows of what he speaks as a former Foreign Secretaryand I do not believe that he opposes the pro-referendum rhetoric of his partyeffectively told the shadow Foreign Secretary, Stop talking through your backside. This is utter nonsense. I hope that someone will put together a compendium of those speeches, because they represent common sense in the Conservative party.
When Britain joined the EU, my party opposed that. Several young Labour Members of Parliament, including John Smith, Lord Radice and Lord Hattersley, defied the Labour party and voted for Europe. They kept the idea of Europe alive as serious politics in the Labour party and, when the time came, after the lunacy of the 1983 election manifesto, enough Labour Members of Parliament were ready to make the case for Europe. We see none of that in the Conservative party. Never, in the Conservative partys history, have such isolationist prejudices been given free rein, with hardly a check, especially from younger Members. If no young Conservative Members are prepared to speak for Europe, that proves to me that they are wholly unfit to govern this country in the foreseeable future.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Obviously many hon. Members are still seeking to catch my eye, and speeches so far have been lengthy. Unless colleagues can shorten their speeches a little, many of them will be disappointed.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con):
I hope to be brief. I am not trying to get into the Luvvies column in Private Eye, unlike the right hon.
Members for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) and for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane).
I oppose Third Reading, first for procedural reasons. The imposition of a tailor-made guillotine that limited, in theory, each days debate on clause 2the heart and guts of the Billto one and a half hours, which had to be amended to allow a little more time, defeated the purpose of providing the measure with legitimacy in the country and the Chamber. My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary detailed that to some extent.
On day one, we did not debate borders, visas, asylum and migrationor judicial co-operation in civil matters, which was the third grouping for that day. On day two, we did not debate difficulties in the supply of certain products, meaning energy. On day three, we had only an hour and a half to consider the charter of fundamental rights. Not all Members who were present could speak, and the subject of personal data was simply not discussed. On day four, the internal market and common commercial policy took up the allocated three hoursan amendment to the original guillotine. Not all hon. Members who wished to speak got in. Social policies, free movement of workers and establishment were not debated. Intellectual property and economic and monetary policy were not discussed.
On day five, the external representation of the EUthe foreign service, or whatever one chooses to call ittook up the three hours. Not everyone could speak and the common security and defence policy, let alone other aspects of that policy, was therefore not debated. On day six, which was about aid and development, competence and policy took up the two hours so that the subject that mattered to the world outsideaid operationswas not debated. Incidentally, we got two hours instead of the hour and a half that was initially allocated.
On day seven, which was about competences of the EU and its institutions, relationships with member states took up the three hours allocated. Let us remember that the Government graciously altered their guillotine to provide another hour and a half so that the debate had three hours rather than an hour and a half, but what was not debated? The operation of the institutions, the EU constitutional and treaty revision issues and legislative and decision-making procedures three whole groupingswere not discussed. It is impossible.
On day eight, the topic was the effect on Parliamentthat is what I was really interested inand it took up the allocated two hours. Again, the Government had graciously extended their guillotine to allow us an extra 60 minutes. However, we still could not discuss in that extra time Competences: remaining issues or climate change.
The custom-made guillotine, introduced in the name of the Labour Chief Whipthe undertaker, as I think of himand the Foreign Secretary as the leader on the matter, is brutal. However, the other person who signed the motion, of whom we have not seen a whit, is supposedly the Leader of the House. Where is she? Where has she been? She did not introduce the guillotine and did not attest that, on the balance of arguments, it was an appropriate way to consider what is a constitutional change if not in the European scene,
then to our constitution. We have signally failed to measure the provisions against what we have and what is held out for us.
New Labours impertinence and the self-serving disdain in which it holds anyone who does not share its opinion almost disqualifies it from representative government. People have different views and there is no perfect way in this world, but most of us respect and recognise the purposes of the House. What are they? Has the treaty shifted the balance of power and decision away from us to other institutions? This is not a question of vanity; it concerns the power of the British people to hold to account those who make their laws. What has happened since the originating treaty, during the time I have been in Parliament, has been the constant slicing away at the concept that politicians, instead of a bureaucratic elite, should determine what is right for the people who send us here.
I wonder about the ridiculous right hon. Member for Leicester, East. He toured the country when he was Minister for Europe and was the only person in the country who could find only two Eurosceptics, so we know what an open mind he has. One, I recall, was called Kevin. That is how low and absurd some of the personalities of our European debate have now become.
The right hon. Member for Leicester, West referred to people who spoke in these debates previously. One of them was Peter Shore, whom I want to quote because he spoke on things that matter. He represented a great traditionI am not knocking the Labour tradition at alland argued in a debate on a Bill that I introduced and which was the last Bill on which Mrs. Thatcher voted in the House. The Bill, which he supported, addressed two major points about referendums, the first of which was their role. I mention referendums because our amendment in that connection was defeated in the debate on the current Bill. It is for that reason I cannot support this Billthat among a number of reasons, in fact.
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