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to have lost 501 sheep to wolves between 2000 and 2004.
That is the way in which the moneyour moneyis wasted, and the European control system appears to be incapable of doing anything about it. The book from which I have quoted, which I hope Ministers, including Treasury Ministers, will read, shows that the funds are controlled by énarquesbrilliantly educated French civil servants whose role is to oppose all reform, all change and all adequate systems of auditing, because they would expose the embarrassments and corruption that go on. That is the benefit that we obtain from Europe.
My mother once told me that at the first election meeting that she ever attended, which was in Halifax just after the first world war, the Conservative candidate was obviously to a degree simple-minded. His mother spoke for him: his mother was a lady. She asked the electorate to be to his virtues very kind, to his faults a little blind. That is our position on Europe in the Labour party, apart from the fact that we are not a little blind but totally blind to its faults.
I consider it tragic that some of the finest minds in the country, including Foreign Ministers in the Labour Government, are involved in the development of second-rate excuses for third-rate policies imposed on us from Europe. A classic example was given earlier in connection with the referendum. Such tortuous reasoning is devoted to explaining that a constitution on which there could have been a referendum, because it involves a basic change in our democracy, is very different from a treaty which is not important although it contains exactly the same provisions, and that while it is possible to vote on one, there is no need to vote on the other. That kind of tautology cuts no ice with the British people. They regard us as fools for even listening to it. They want a referendum, but we are having to listen to a tortuous, Jesuitical explanation saying that they cannot have a referendum, because this is a treaty and not a constitution. I think that that is partly, indeed largely, responsible for the degree of alienation that we are facing. We are trying to sell a culture of lies to the people.
The classic argument about the referendum relates to what is happening in Ireland. The Irish did reject it, and we are now involved in shipping container-loads of blarney over to Ireland to persuade them to vote in favour of something that they have already rejected. As has been pointed out, there have been concessions, but if they are not in the treaty, they are not valid and cannot be sustained, and if they are in the treaty, we will have to re-pass it in this place. I am afraid that all this might well work, however. The Irish have been scared into thinking that if they vote no this time, they will be on their own and out of Europe, and that they will therefore not get all their agricultural subsidies, which will produce terror.
I remember my first visit to Brussels. It was in the early 80s, and I was with a party of Irish MPs. One of them was a member of Fianna Fail. We were in the back of a bus, and he had had a bit to drinkalthough not muchand he was enthusiastically singing the following
campaign song for us all the way around Brussels: Arise and follow Charlie. That was a reference to Charlie Haughey, and his rendition of the song was stirring. This time the electorate in Ireland need a slightly different theme song, however: Arise and follow Tony. In other words, if the Irish vote for the constitution, they will get Tony Blair as President. That would be a big inducement to them to turn out in their thousands or millions to vote for the constitution. I am afraid that our hope that we might get a vote in this country because the Irish have rejected the treaty will probably be vitiated, therefore, but that is just me being gloomy in my assessment.
I want to conclude not by being gloomy, however, but by saying that what we need in this European debate is neither the vacuous enthusiasm of the Liberal Democratsand, indeed, of those on the Labour Front Benchnor the negativity of UKIP, but just a degree of realism. Why cannot the Treasury do a cost-benefit analysis of the gains and losses of being outside Europe? Why do we not have that to put to the British people so that they know all about what is involvedwhat they are paying for, and what they are getting? We should provide that information, instead of debating abstractions such as Europe is wonderful for the environment or Europe is good for fisha manifest untruth that will cut no ice in Iceland. We should not indulge in such mythology and enthuse about a Europe that does not exist. We would get sensible decisions from people if we gave them sensible information, and if we ourselves had sensible information. It is the responsibility of Government to tell us what we really get from Europe, and the responsibility of the Treasury to do an accurate and full study of the costs and benefits of Europe. On that basis, we could take rational decisions, which is not the basis on which we can take them now.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): It is a pleasure and honour to participate in this debate. Having listened to the previous speakers, I find that I am probably in the unique position of rising to support my Front-Bench colleagues, rather than to speak against them. May I begin by welcoming the new Europe Minister to his place? It seems that the shelf life of a European Minister is about one year, so he might just make it to the next general election before he is rotated into another post, but he is most welcome, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say in response to the many questions that have been put in the debate.
Many of us come to such debates having dusted off the old speech we have used in previous years and say the same things about our position, either for or against Europe. Today, however, we are in a very different situation, and we are certainly in unique times. Let us just pause and think about some of the events that have taken place over the past couple of months. We have had an expenses scandal that has rocked the foundations of Parliament itself. We are enduring one of the worst economic downturns since the second world war. We have had record jumps in unemployment. We have had disastrous local election results for the governing party, to the point where it no longer represents any county in the country. We have also had calamitous EU election results for the ruling party, in which it got only about 16 per cent. of the vote. We have had the resignation of
11 Ministers, and The Guardiana left-wing newspaperhas called for the Prime Minister to go. Also, as revealed today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the Foreign Secretary has considered resigning. Each of those events is dramatic, but taken together they are unprecedented.
One would think that the Prime Minister might get the message that he and his Government are unpopular and that it is time for a general election, but efforts by Labour Members to try to unseat him did not get anywhere; in fact, his weakness was put into context only by the weakness of the plot to oust himand so this discredited Government limp on for another year. In the recent elections Labour managed to poll only about 15 per cent.the last time it polled that sort of figure was in the days of Michael Footand came third behind the UK Independence party; the Labour Government were the first to allow the British National party a foothold in the European Union; and Labour was also beaten by the Scottish National party for the first time in a UK-wide election. The results were disastrous for Labour, so I have been amazed by some of its Front Benchers saying, Well ignore all that. Well ignore what the nation is saying and plod on in our own way. We believe that what we think is right is the way forward, and that the very people who voted us in are wrong. That shows how out of touch this Government are, and why we are in such need of a general election.
There are many reasons why Labour achieved such a dismal result, one of which relates to the Lisbon treatyor the reform treaty, to use its correct name. The public have never had their say on that treaty, which is so pivotal to todays debate and to our relationship with the European Union. Of course, the nation knows that we were promised a referendum in Labours 2005 manifesto, and that semantics are being relied on to say that we do not need to have one. Hon. Members may recall that on the very day the treaty was signed, 13 December 2007, the Prime Minister turned up after all the other leaders of the various countries had signed the document, popping in during the evening to try to avoid the cameras. That shows how embarrassed the Government and the Prime Minister are about this treaty, and why they are ignoring what the nation is trying to say today.
Another aspect of the Lisbon treaty that has been mentioned many times today is the pivotal position of Ireland, whose people voted against the treaty in their referendum. Not being content with that resultnot being content with democracy having its saythe EU has put pressure on Ireland to hold the referendum again. What does that say about the moral authority of, and democracy in, the European Union? What does that say about listening to the people and how they have voted? Of course sweeteners will be given to Ireland, and we will have to wait to see the outcome of any result, but it is sad indictment of the democratic standards that we try to uphold in this House and beyond that when we are not happy with a result, we then work on the situation until we get the result that we require. I plead with the Minister to recognise that there is a desire for the electoratethe stakeholders, who very much have an interest in thisfinally to have a say. Why not allow us to have the referendum that was promised in the manifesto?
Mr. Davidson: I seek to propose a question. The hon. Gentleman said that he is in full support of his Front-Bench team and a referendum on the European constitution/treaty. Can he clarify what the position of his Front-Bench team is on what they will do if the Conservatives win the election and the Irish and the rest of the European Union have already ratified the treaty? Will the Conservatives still be committed to a referendum, or can the Tories not be trusted on Europe?
Mr. Ellwood: The hon. Gentleman posed the same question to my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks at the beginning of this debate and he will get exactly the same answer now. The sooner we have a general election in this country, the sooner we can have that referendum too.
Mr. Ellwood: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow me to finish my sentence. If he is keen to have a referendum, as he implies, I encourage him to call on his colleagues on the Front Bench to hold a general election so we can have the referendum that we all want. We need a referendum because of the scale of the question.
Ms Gisela Stuart: At least the Irish have been given a second chance to have a say. The Dutch and the French, who also said no the first time, have lost the right to have a say. It is therefore imperative for the Conservatives to give a clear commitment that, whatever the circumstances, they would give the people a say. It would be really good to hear that right now.
Mr. Ellwood: The hon. Lady just glosses over the fact that the Irish are being given a second chance, as if they should somehow appreciate that. We have not even had a first chance. Why not give it to us? Let us have a general election, and then we will have the opportunity. I promise the hon. Lady that it will be in our manifesto, and it will be done very quickly.
Let us remind ourselves what would happen if the Lisbon treaty were fully ratified by this country. We would be signing up to an EU President, an EU Foreign Minister and a single legal personality for the EU, under a self-amending treaty, with national vetoes to be abolished in 60 key areas. It was interesting listening to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committeewho disrespectfully scuttled out of the Chamber 10 seconds after he had finished his speech. He talked about the European Union as a volunteer club, and many hon. Members would agree that that is exactly what it should be. We are volunteers in the club, and we have some general interests on which we come together, but there are ways in which we differ greatly from each other. Like the hon. Lady, I grew up in Europe[Hon. Members: We all did.] I meant that I grew up in various different places across Europe, rather than in one place, but I am grateful for the correction. The important point is that there are some wonderful differences as well as the things that bring us together.
The European Union is forcing us together and labelling us all the same. We are not all the same; we have some interesting differenceswe manage our economies in different ways, for oneand those are what we hope to
defend. One size fits all simply does not work. The consequence has already been seen when the EU tried to speak with a single voice about what should be done about the threat from Saddam Hussein. There was no unilateral agreement. The same happened with Bosnia. I served in Bosnia in the lead-up to the Dayton peace accord. That was an EU responsibility, and if I remember correctly, it was Lord Owen who walked away from the table. He was the EU representative, but he could not make progress. It had to be done by the Americans, and it was not until Richard Holbrooke came in that we could sign the accord and get things moving.
Europe should be less like line dancing and more like rock and roll. We all want to dance to the same tune, but we do not want to dance all lined up with arms linked; we want to do our individual thing in the same room, enjoying ourselves as neighbours. Labour Members claim that the Conservatives want to run away from the European Union, but that is wrong. We want to change the European Union to make it work for the benefit of Europe. It was designed to provide a platform for free trade. It was also designed, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) said, to prevent conflict, but it has now gone beyond that and is taking powers away from sovereign nations to run Europe as a whole. That is where we say enough is enough, and that is why we say that powers should be handed back.
We had an opportunity to vote on this issue in March 2008, and I am proud to say that I voted against the Lisbon treaty and in favour of a referendum. Sadly, we will not get one from this Government, and they are running away from what the nation wants.
It was interesting to hear the comments of the Liberal Democrat spokesman. Rather than trying to justify why his party scored an abysmal 13 per cent. in the recent elections, he chose to attack the Conservatives. He did not even touch on what Labour had to say. That reflects the writing on the wall about where things are going with the movement of power in this country.
I believe that a voluntary club is the idea on which we need to focus, and that that is what a Conservative Government would bring about. At the moment 27 countries containing 490 million people are in the EU. As has been mentioned, Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia, along with other countries, want to join. Indeed, 10 years down the road we are very likely to see other countries, such as Albania, Bosnia andmoving forwardUkraine and Turkey, becoming members. Will it be possible to get all those people round the table to agree some of the key policy issues on international foreign policy? No, it will not.
The worry is that that will lead to stagnation. Decisions will not be made, and we will end up trying to run Europe as a whole. That will mean that we will lose the individuality that is so critical in allowing countries to flourish as they have, while being united closely enough to avoid the wars that were the original reason why the Union was put together in the first place.
Much comment has also been made on what will happens with the European Peoples party. People need to understand how the European groups operate in order to comprehend fully why many parties sign up to them. They get funding: that is the bottom line. They get large sums of money. If a party breaks away from those groupsfrom the EPP, the party of European
Socialists, or the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europeit loses an awful lot of funding. That is one reason why many other parties are not thinking of jumping ship right now, or are cautious about it. They want to ensure that the Conservatives are forming a group that will move forward. We are proving that that is the case.
I am sure that announcements will be made in the not- too-distant future about how we will set up a group that will say, We want the European Union to work, but we do not want to cede powers substantially. We want to honour the nations individually, too.
Mr. Ellwood: The hon. Gentleman repeated all the jokes that we heard from the Foreign Secretary, and they were not funny the first time. He needs to wait and see the groups full complement. He will see how powerful it will become and how much of a stronger voice it will be in the EU.
I am running out of time, but I want to reiterate the point that I made in an intervention on the Foreign Secretary to do with the problems of the relationship between NATO and the EU. As I have mentioned, I visited NATO recently, and I was astonished to learn that there is no formal agreement whatever. The two operations in Brussels do not talk to each other formally, because in NATO Turkey refuses to talk to the EU, and in the EU Cyprus refuses to talk to NATO. We cannot have such powerful organisations using such large sums and dealing with matters as serious as security not only in Europe but in the middle east and beyond, if those organisations cannot operate sensibly. As a consequence, the responsibilities of the two organisations are starting to overlap. Mission creep is taking place. Security, humanitarian aid and so on are all things that NATO does extremely well already, but the EU is now doing exactly the same sort of things. There needs to be better co-operation, so that they decide who is doing what. At the moment, that is not the case.
NATO has huge experience in peacekeeping and stabilisation operations, monitoring EU elections and so on. Why are we deciding to repeat all that, using very much the same people but in a different guise under the EU? Let us understand what the EU can do; it can do certain things wellbut Bosnia is one example of where it did not work, and Iraq is another.
We need to recognise that there are limits to what large international institutions can achieve. The Galileo project has been mentioned, and what an astonishing waste of money that is. It merely replicates something that already exists, and I do not understand why we do not hear more objections from Labour Members. When it was put to a vote not long ago, they were whipped into approving huge sums of money for a system that will probably never fly. There is one satellite up there now, but there are supposed to be 24. The system is about five years out of date, and it is simply not going to work.
I have been dismayed by what I have heard today. The elections gave us in Parliament an excellent opportunity to listen to the electorate and understand what people want. It is clear that people want to put a halt to
wandering any further into the relationship with the EU. They want to make the EU work, but only up to a certain point, and that is exactly where the Conservative party wishes to place itself. I remind the House of the EUs original objectives. If we were to review them now, and understand what we can do with the EU, we would march forward to a better tune and in a better direction than the one that we are going in now.
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