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this. That should concern the Foreign Secretary, because that was the official line of the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor and Tony Blair hung on to office for several extra years—he was meant to be relaxed about it.

The Foreign Secretary has received the endorsement of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), the former Deputy Prime Minister, who says he is a “brilliant” man and a future leader of the Labour party. The right hon. Gentleman asked for the Foreign Secretary to be one of his junior Ministers. How the Foreign Secretary must regret that that did not happen, as all the right hon. Gentleman’s administrative skills would have rubbed off on him.

I raise that point only because I want to suggest where the Foreign Secretary should go on his tour of the country. I thought he might like to go—

Keith Vaz rose—

Mr. Hague: The right hon. Gentleman once had a roadshow. It did not get very far. It made two stops, conked out and was never heard of again.

The Foreign Secretary should go to Bury, Southampton and Nuneaton. He might call in at Crewe and Nantwich. He could take a trip down river to city hall. He will find the British view, which is that the country at large does not think that the Government have a very good idea of the British view and wants a different Government instead. If he really wants to be leader of the Labour party, he would do better to stand up for the British view that Lisbon should not be ratified and that European
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political integration has gone far enough. Instead of opposing in government the settled will of the British people, he should support the settled will of the British.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Hague: I give way to the champion of roadshows, the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz).

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the shadow Foreign Secretary for giving way a second time. Does he recall his roadshow, which was launched in 1999 on the back of a lorry? I think it lasted about a month.

Mr. Hague: It lasted, to my huge inconvenience, a lot more than a month and took me all over the country, including to places held at the time by the Labour party. I recommend that the Foreign Secretary do the same and I look forward to his embarking on it.

Now we face the position—

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

Mr. Hague: No, I really must continue. I have already been speaking for half an hour.

We face the position of ratification being decided in the other place—indeed, during this afternoon. It is out of the hands of the House. Of course, the casting votes down in the other place belong to the Liberal Democrats. That is why I have to say a word.

I have written twice—

Rob Marris: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hague: No, let me discuss this point. I have written twice to the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), asking for an explanation of the position taken by the Liberal Democrats in the other place, and in particular why they differ in almost every respect from the position taken by the Liberal Democrats here. I have yet to receive a reply. I am looking forward to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) setting those matters out in his speech.

Future students of our politics will be intrigued by some of these questions, such as why Liberal Democrat peers abstained on a vote on an in-out EU referendum when Liberal Democrat Members here were so angry at not getting such a vote that they stormed out of the House in great fury at the decision of Mr. Speaker. The Liberal Democrats said at the time that that was the “real debate” the country wanted, yet when the debate took place in the other place, they decided to abstain.

The Liberal Democrats also voted in this House to increase parliamentary control of what we call the ratchet clauses, yet in the other place the Liberal Democrats voted against increasing parliamentary control. Otherwise, the amendment would have been carried. In this House, an amendment on parliamentary scrutiny of the internal market was tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable). When an identical amendment was tabled in the other place, the Liberal Democrats voted against it.

Those future students will be intrigued to see that Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords voted against a referendum on a three-line Whip, although Liberal Democrats in this House were on a three-line Whip to abstain. Several leading Liberal Democrat Members had to resign over it. Those future students will also be intrigued as to whether it was worth having a Liberal
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Democrat leadership election or whether the Liberal Democrats should just have left the post vacant, because there is no sign of any decisiveness.

On Sunday, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that

but then the Liberal Democrats proposed to vote to ratify the treaty. It is the height of arrogance to disregard the Irish vote and ram the treaty through Parliament.

On Sunday, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton was quoted as saying that

Of course, if they win this afternoon’s vote in the House of Lords they will be able to proceed with the final stage of ratification and they will do so only on the back of Liberal Democrat votes.

We have previously discussed the sad journey of the cojones that were thrust into view by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam in his article of some time ago, and we concluded that they had been impaled on a distant fence. It now appears, after what the Liberal Democrats have been doing in the Commons and in the Lords, that those cojones have been separated from each other. This is the new agony in which the Liberal Democrats have been placed. No doubt everything will become clear in a few minutes.

Rob Marris: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who is being generous in giving way.

I get the impression that the right hon. Gentleman does not really like the treaty of Lisbon, that he is quite happy with the Irish decision and that he hopes that it will lead to the killing of the treaty. I think I have that right. Now, to take it on from there, will he tell us what he wants to happen? Is he content with the EU carrying on with the Nice treaty? Would he like to unpick that or would he like to have Nice plus, or very Nice, as it is sometimes called?

Mr. Hague: I shall conclude my speech, if I am able to get to the conclusion, with what I think the EU should focus on now. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his perceptiveness in realising, after all these debates, that I am opposed to the Lisbon treaty and am glad that the Irish have indeed rejected it.

I will come to that point, but before I do I should say that we share the view of the Czech Prime Minister that it would be wrong to consider the

after which the EU at least decided to drop the constitutional treaty in its original form. To do otherwise would send the clearest message that the views of small countries do not count in the EU and that when their voters object to a treaty the EU’s preferred answer is to bully them into voting again until they get the answer right.

Mr. Davidson rose—

Mr. Hague: Having praised the hon. Gentleman, I have to give way to him.


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Mr. Davidson: I want to raise the point relating to recognition of the views of small countries. I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the excellent early-day motion 1828, which quotes the Polish Prime Minister, who said that

Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that that demonstrates clear contempt for the Irish vote? Indeed, to show that it is not only right wingers who take that view, Axel Schäfer, leader of the SPD in the Bundestag, said that

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that that is not acceptable?

Mr. Hague: I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. Of course, those remarks are not in accordance with the position expressed by our own Government, who say that the result should be respected, even though they have not taken any action to respect it. We have heard a lot about respecting the Irish referendum result, although those comments are wholly in conflict with that.

I want to pick up on a point that was made earlier to the Foreign Secretary by one of my hon. Friends, which is that respecting the result should mean not only dropping, or at least suspending, ratification here, but ceasing preparatory work on implementing the treaty, because to carry on with that would be disrespectful to Irish voters. It should mean ending the work on the European external action service, including on which Commission departments are to be transferred to the service, how the Commission’s directorates-general relate to it and so on. It should mean ensuring that the Fundamental Rights Agency works on the basis that the charter of fundamental rights is still only a political declaration and not legally binding. It should mean that preparations for the establishment of the new permanent post of President of the Council are stopped, which should at least save some money. It should mean that all legislative proposals are strictly based on current treaty provisions. We could have much firmer guarantees from the Government on those points than anything we have heard so far in the debate.

There is so much for the EU to do. The Foreign Secretary rightly spoke about a broader agenda, and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) asked what the agenda of the EU should be. I think that the EU could quite happily drop the treaty and get on with the job in hand of getting the EU to deliver on the proper priorities of global warming, global competitiveness, global poverty and, as the Foreign Secretary rightly mentioned, the millennium development goals.

There is much to do on global warming, such as putting a real price on carbon to get the emissions trading scheme working properly. On global poverty, we should do the one thing that would do most to empower the poorest people in the world and reach a successful conclusion on the Doha trade round, or we should sort out the severe failures in EU aid programmes caused by bureaucracy and administrative shortcomings. On global competitiveness, we need to keep working at the nuts and bolts of success: the timely transposition of internal
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market directives, the completion of public procurement rules and the need to ensure the free movement of goods by mutual recognition of standards.

Those are not glamorous or far-reaching political institutional projects, but they are indispensable to success, including success in the full liberalisation of EU energy markets and improving the valuable but compromised services directive. The EU should be leading the fight in the world to ensure that we do not heed the sirens calling for protectionism—voices that Lisbon would make it harder for the European Court of Justice to ignore by downgrading the importance of undistorted competition in the treaties.

The Government should be urging such an agenda at this week’s summit and on the forthcoming French presidency. It is such an agenda that the people of this country want to stand for. It is a tragedy that we do not have a Government who are prepared to speak for Britain, to say, “Forget these institutional changes,” and to adopt the agenda of which I have just spoken. The Government’s approach is to muddle along, never challenging a conventional wisdom or a prevailing orthodoxy, striking a brave posture for The Sun or The Sunday Times and then shuffling off to Brussels to betray anything that they said that they would stand for.

There is also the possible fiasco—I call it that for the moment, because I await further responses from the Government—shown by the Iranian sanctions on Monday. The Government do not even have the excuse that their approach with other European nations is, when the Prime Minister comes out to speak, competent, efficient or effective. His Administration have had an undistinguished role in European affairs over the past year, conniving in every attempt to frustrate the people of Europe’s having their say—from breaking the commitment to a referendum in Britain to helping to bully other countries, such as Portugal, into not having one either. The Government have been caught out and exposed by one country, which has rightly consulted its own people.

Faced with the logical choice between abandoning the treaty and saying so and conniving in some way in getting the Irish to vote again, the Government are going along with what is necessary for the latter while denying that they are doing so rather than showing the merest sign of courage. It is a miserable spectacle which only adds to the sins of a now discredited Government. I believe that it will elevate our politics and our country when these Ministers are removed from office by the very British people whom they have been determined to ignore.

2.12 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): It is always a pleasure to listen to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), even though I have heard many of the things that he said before. However, that does not mean that they are not still amusing.

I wish to begin by saying a few things about the reasons the Irish voted as they did. The commentator Tony Kinsella wrote an interesting piece the other day—he is a strong advocate of the Lisbon treaty—in which he referred to the Irish people retreating under their comfort blanket. He referred to the impact of globalisation, migration and other changes in the world—issues that were not specifically part of the Lisbon treaty.


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For whatever reason, Ireland has voted and has rejected ratification of the treaty. Personally, I regret that because I believe that some important proposals in the Lisbon treaty would have made the EU’s international presence and action more effective and would have been of benefit to member states—particularly to some of the larger member states, including us—and to co-operation with other international organisations.

In the report published by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in January, we said that the foreign policy changes in the treaty had

without in any way undermining the intergovernmental nature of common foreign and security policy or the UK’s position in the United Nations. Given that, I suggest that as part of the process of considering the options following the Irish vote the Government should ensure that consideration is given to whether any elements of the Lisbon treaty’s foreign policy provisions could be put into effect by means other than treaty change, as long as that is done completely transparently and with full explanation to the public of the benefits of those relevant steps. It might be that those elements are few or that it will not be possible to do that, and I shall come on to the implications of that.

More important than the actual implementation of changes is something else that we said in our report. We concluded that the Government were

It is really important that we do not get back into several interminable years of obsessive institutionalism, but instead talk about how the EU collectively can work more effectively in practice.

There are several cases where the EU has taken a coherent and effective position or has chosen not to do so for reasons that are entirely unconnected with its formal structures and are entirely to do with the political positions adopted by member states rather than the institutional framework. For example, both the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary referred to what we are doing with regard to Iran. The EU effort, led by High Representative Solana and operating with the EU3—or the EU3 plus 3, as it is now called—is defined according to the current treaty provisions and has been effective. That will continue regardless of whether the Lisbon treaty is ratified.

Russia has also been mentioned. The EU took 18 months to agree a common view on the opening up of the new partnership and co-operation agreement discussions with the Russians. Individual member states—Poland, Lithuania and our country—had serious issues about relations with Russia and were able to stop effective EU progress. That will continue under the existing treaties.


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