“are of secondary importance compared with the radical extension of competition”.

The Health and Social Care Bill brings the NHS within the remit of competition law for the first time, and Monitor, the new economic regulator, will be instructed actively to promote competition under clause 52. Placing a statutory obligation on Monitor to enforce competition creates a situation in which commissioners will not be able to act in the best interests of their patients, for fear of a costly legal challenge lurking in the shadows.

The Government’s approach to Monitor demonstrates how ill thought out these plans are. In a clamour to roll back the state and win favour with the private health companies that have bankrolled their party, the Government’s plans to introduce competition into the NHS will work against the integrated networks needed to ensure that the long-term ill receive the services they need and are entitled to.

The most worrying aspect of this policy is that the Government have ignored expert criticism—or, indeed, criticism of any kind. The divide is pretty stark. On one side there is the BMA, A National Voice, the Royal College of Nursing, the Stroke Association, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Foundation Trust Network, the Royal Society of GPs, and, since the weekend, the Lib Dems. On the other side, there is the Secretary of State and the private health companies, who are bound to be rubbing their hands, waiting expectantly for their investment in him and his party to pay off.

5.54 pm

Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con): It is a great pleasure to speak after the great tour de force that we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell). He dispelled a huge number of the myths that the Opposition have been trying to put forward today and during our entire Committee proceedings on the Health and Social Care Bill—one would almost believe that they had not been in power for the past 13 years. It is clear that one of the main reasons why we need to reform the NHS is not just to build on what the previous Government have done in

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terms of using private sector providers, but to make sure that we put a lot of things right. We are cutting bureaucracy and putting more money into front-line care—that is one of the main purposes of the Bill.

Before I develop my arguments about bureaucracy, I wish to pick up on what my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) said in his intervention. He talked about the challenges of dealing with an ageing population. This country undoubtedly faces a big problem in providing health care as a result of many people living a lot longer, although that is a good thing. A lot of people have multiple medical comorbidities as they get older and they need to be looked after properly. The key financial challenge to the NHS is in ensuring that we look after our ageing population, and properly resource and fund their care, so when we cut bureaucracy and put more money into front-line patient care, that is what that is about.

When we talk about the need to ensure that the NHS has local health care and well-being boards—an NHS that is more responsive to local health care needs—it is a response to the fact that some parts of the country, such as, Eastbourne or my county of Suffolk, have an increasing older population, who need to be properly looked after in terms of funding. That is why it is so important that this Government have committed £1 billion to adult social care and are increasing that. It is also why we are putting an extra £10 billion into the NHS budget over the lifetime of this Parliament—the Labour party would not have done that.

On bureaucracy, it is worth reminding the Labour party of a few things it did when it was in power. Under Labour the number of managers in the NHS doubled. In 1999, there were 23,378 managers and senior managers in the NHS, but that figure had almost doubled by 2009, having increased to 42,509.

Owen Smith rose

Dr Poulter: The hon. Gentleman might wish to listen to this, but I will take his intervention.

Owen Smith: The hon. Gentleman has returned to this point about bureaucracy many times during our proceedings in the Public Bill Committee. Does he not share my concern about our shared ignorance as to how many managers and how much bureaucracy there will be under the new structure in the GP consortia and in the regional presence of the national commissioning board? Does he know what bureaucracy there will be under this Bill, because I do not?

Dr Poulter: What we do know—the hon. Gentleman would do well to listen to this—is that the NHS currently spends £4.5 billion on bureaucracy, and that could be better spent on patient care. Under the previous Labour Government PCT management costs doubled by more than £1 billion to £2.5 billion, and that money could be better spent on patient care. By scrapping PCTs, we will have more money to give to GPs to spend on patients and front-line care, and that can only be a good thing.

Labour Members would do well to listen to a few more of the statistics on NHS bureaucracy that I am about to read to them. Under Labour, the number of managers increased faster than the number of nurses in the NHS. How can that possibly be right? Managers

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were paid better than nurses in the NHS. In 2008-09, top managers in NHS trusts received a 7% pay rise whereas front-line nurses received a rise of less than 3%. The Labour party was obsessed with bureaucracy, management and top-down targets, and we would much rather see that money spent on patients and front-line patient care.

Grahame M. Morris: We have heard about the layers of bureaucracy that the coalition Government propose to take away, but what does the hon. Gentleman have to say about the additional layers that they are imposing through the exponential growth of Monitor, which will be the economic regulator? They are increasing its budget from £21 million a year to as much as £140 million a year. How many more thousands of people will it employ? How many lawyers? It will cost £600 million over the course of a Parliament.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We must have shorter interventions.

Dr Poulter: This is very much the point. Let us not forget that Monitor was introduced by the Labour party to regulate competition in foundations trusts, and the Government are looking at giving it a slightly increased role while also cutting £5 billion-worth of bureaucracy in the NHS, which has to be a good thing. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that that £5 billion would be much better spent on patients rather than on management and paper trails.

The core of the issue is that Government Members would like GPs to be placed at the heart of the commissioning process. Giving power to doctors and health care professionals is undoubtedly a good thing because the best advocates for patients are undoubtedly doctors and other health care professionals rather than faceless NHS bureaucrats. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer) is sitting next to me because far too often in Suffolk damaging decisions to remove vital cardiac and cancer care services from Ipswich hospital have been taken by the strategic health authority and the primary care trust, against the advice of front-line professionals. Community hospitals in my constituency in Hartismere have been closed despite GP advice that we need to look after older people and the growing older population. Putting GPs and health care professionals in charge of the new system will bring better joined-up thinking between primary and secondary care, which does not happen at the moment because GPs are often hindered in what they are trying to do and are unable to communicate effectively with the hospital doctors and trusts they need to talk to because of PCTs intervening in the process. Bureaucrats are getting in the way of good medical decisions and the Bill will deal with that problem.

I am aware that others want to speak in this debate so I shall not speak for much longer. I think that all Government Members must oppose the motion. The hypocrisy of the Labour party in its dealings with health care and the NHS has been ably exposed by my right hon. Friends the Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell) and the Secretary of State. Government Members want to cut bureaucracy and put money into front-line patient care and helping patients. We believe that GPs and health care professionals are the best people to do that. We want a patient-centred NHS that is locally responsive to local health care needs and that will properly address

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the fact that we have an ageing population. We want joined-up thinking between adult social care and the NHS, which did not happen under the previous Government. For all those reasons, I commend the health care reforms to the House, and I beg the Conservative party to oppose the motion.

6.2 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): Over Christmas, I found myself using the services of the Royal Hallamshire hospital in Sheffield for emergency eye surgery. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the staff there, who saved the sight in my left eye, which is, as hon. Members might imagine, important to me. That procedure was routine for those staff—something that they did day in, day out. The whole experience—the quick diagnosis, emergency admission, successful operation and supportive aftercare—brought home to me the importance of having a national health service that is not only free at the point of delivery but available equally to all and with the capacity to meet the health care needs of our people. Let me contrast it with the system in the United States, where the quality and speed of treatment depends on patients’ ability to pay. Incidentally, the American system costs the public purse more. I know that some Conservative parliamentarians look at that system with enthusiasm. Many of us will recall Daniel Hannan campaigning against President Obama’s health reforms and describing the NHS as a 60-year old mistake, so it is not surprising that the majority of people in this country do not trust this Government with the NHS. When Government Members talk about monopolies, the people of this country see a public service.

Christopher Pincher rose

Paul Blomfield: I will give way once and then make some progress.

Christopher Pincher: The hon. Gentleman talks about Government Members, but he might note that, other than those on the Front Bench, there are only 11 Members on the Opposition Benches for their Opposition day debate. On the Government side there are more than double that number. Does that not bear eloquent testimony to who really cares about the NHS?

Paul Blomfield: What bears eloquent testimony to who really cares about the NHS is our record. Before 1997, I remember patients being stacked up in hospital corridors in Sheffield every winter because the hospitals could not find beds. That situation has been transformed under Labour over the past 13 years.

The Prime Minister has tried hard to reassure the public that the NHS is safe in Tory hands, but he has failed. In January, a major survey of the British public demonstrated that only 27% of people back moves to allow profit-making companies to increase their role in the NHS. That reflects the way in which our people treasure the NHS and its values, and that is why the Government did not have the confidence to say at the general election what their real intention was: the deconstruction and privatisation of the NHS by stealth.

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It is not only the public whom the Prime Minister has failed to convince. The Secretary of State told us again today, as the Government have done many times during discourse on the issue, that we should trust doctors—those who understand the NHS.

Dr Poulter: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Paul Blomfield: I am afraid that I will not; I said that I would give way once and then make progress.

I hope that the Government will take their own advice and listen to doctors, because yesterday the doctors spoke clearly and powerfully with one voice, despite reports that we have seen that under the proposals, doctors could earn up to £300,000. At the first emergency conference of the British Medical Association in 19 years, they sent a clear message to the Government: “Think again.”

Five of Sheffield’s hospitals are in my constituency, and I want to focus on the consequences of ending the cap on private income earned by hospital trusts without providing any safeguards. As hospitals face squeezed budgets, they will inevitably look at every opportunity to enhance their income. At one level, they might see the chance of offering additional services such as en suite facilities to those who can afford to pay, but at another, more damaging level, we need to recognise that in Sheffield and across the country, patients are now being refused non-urgent elective surgery. There are increases in waiting times for knee and hip replacements, and for cataract, hernia and similar operations. Those are not operations for life-threatening problems, but they are hugely important for people’s quality of life. Access to that sort of surgery at the earliest point of need transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people under Labour. Those operations may not be life-critical, but delaying them condemns people to pain and immobility.

Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Paul Blomfield: No. I have said it once: I have given way, and will not give way again, because I want to make progress.

The Government’s plans mean that as we return to the days of long waiting lists, in will step the health insurance companies, perhaps with their links to new commissioning bodies, which will pitch to those who understandably want the assurance of prompt treatment when they need it. There would be a self-reinforcing cycle: more patients would go private to escape worsening NHS services, and NHS providers would then prioritise private patients, worsening services further. Before long, the NHS would be changed beyond recognition. Its founding principles of free and equal treatment for all who need it would be fundamentally undone. No wonder that the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners has attacked the plans as

“the end of the NHS as we currently know it”,

or that the Royal College of Midwives has said that

“this could accelerate the development of a two-tier service within foundation trusts, with resources directed towards developing private patient care service at the expense of NHS patients.”

Nadine Dorries: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Paul Blomfield: No, I will not. The Royal College of Nursing says that it

“cannot support the removal of the private income cap...Until foundation trusts can credibly demonstrate that private income is not at the expense of NHS patients”.

The proposals reveal the ideological heart of the Government and their vision for public services: a two-tier health system, with the best available for those who can afford it, and the NHS becoming a safety net for those who cannot. I was pleased that last Saturday, in the heart of my constituency, the Liberal Democrats found their voice and spoke out against the anti-state, anti-public-services faction that now leads their party. I say to Liberal Democrat Members, as the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) said, “This is our Bill”. This is our motion—support it today.

6.10 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), who I thought was going to give a thoughtful speech. The only comment on which I agreed with him was his congratulations to the hard-working, committed staff in the NHS. I am sure that all hon. Members would agree with that.

I have been disappointed by the debate, but perhaps not surprised. Labour Members’ opposition to the reforms proposed in the Health and Social Care Bill and the evidence presented in support of their motion are based on inaccuracies, incorrect assertions and assumptions, and myths about the destruction and privatisation of the national health service. The plans were clearly laid out in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos. Two thirds of the country is already covered by GP consortia, many of which are keen to crack on with the reforms so that they can improve the care that they are delivering for their patients.

All Government Members are totally committed to the ethos of the national health service. We are totally committed to a free, taxpayer-funded national health service. Most importantly of all, we are totally committed to continual improvement of patient care. The Health and Social Care Bill will achieve all those things, for the reasons set out by my hon. Friends—ageing populations, increasing costs of drugs and technology, and the increasing level of co-morbidities.

In all the debates about the future of the national health service, no Member of the House should forget the most important factor—the user of the service. Some people on the Opposition Benches seem to have forgotten the patient. The Bill moves patient care in exactly the right direction. The reforms are about high-quality care and value for money for the taxpayers. They transfer resources to front-line patient care by reducing bureaucracy and administration. They are about driving up the quality of patient care and improving patient experience and outcomes.

I have no wish to repeat the Second Reading debate on the Bill, but it is wrong to suggest that everything in the national health service is perfect, and that improvements cannot be made through reform. Putting clinicians in a position to lead commissioning and allowing patients to be involved in the decision-making process will drive improvements. Providing easily accessible patient-centric information to inform choice and raise quality standards will drive improvements in patient care.

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Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. Does he agree that it is rather tragic—nay, even worse—that we have heard Opposition Members having a go at the motives of both GPs and those who work in hospitals? Opposition Members think that they are driven by money, not by the quality of patient care and outcomes.

Mark Simmonds: I thank my hon. Friend for the point that she has forcefully made. A few—not all—on the Opposition Benches believe that GPs are in it for the money. No GP I have ever met, or with whom I have discussed patient care, is interested in money. They are there to improve the lives of the patients for whom they are responsible.

If we are to engage seriously with improving patient care, we must allow any willing provider to provide services, and allow the provider that is best for optimising patient outcomes in a regulated way to drive up standards. As my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) said, it is perplexing to hear the arguments that Labour Members have been coming out with today, and ever since Christmas. Is it right that substandard and mediocre services should be allowed to continue purely because they are provided by the state, even when the patient can get better care elsewhere at the same cost? That has to be wrong. What is important is the quality of patient care that is free at the point of delivery, not the delivery mechanism.

The shadow Secretary of State’s position is completely untenable. He must be squirming inside, because he is an intelligent man and a reformer. The Labour party introduced foundation trusts, payment by results, patient choice and private sector provision in the delivery of patient care, and it twice introduced GP commissioning. As recently as 2010, the Labour party manifesto stated:

“We will support an active role for the independent sector”—

that is in the Bill;

“Patients requiring elective care will have the right, in law, to choose from any provider”—

that is in the Bill;

“All hospitals will become Foundation Trusts”—

that is in the Bill;

“Foundation Trusts will be given the freedom to expand their…private services—.

that is in the Bill. Labour also claimed that it would

“ensure that family doctors have more power over their budgets.”

That is in the Bill. The Labour party should support the Bill, not castigate it on the basis of false promises.

The Government are absolutely right to push the Bill, which is on exactly the right lines. We need more investment in the NHS, less waste and more powers for doctors and nurses to be involved in commissioning and clinical decisions. We need to focus on results, create accountability and transparency, and facilitate innovation. The Bill preserves the best of the NHS—equality of access—and creates the architecture to drive and deliver excellence for all.

6.16 pm

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this important debate. Health is undoubtedly one of the most important areas of public policy, and

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one that the British people care about deeply. We on the Opposition Benches are very proud of our record on the NHS. It was Labour who created the NHS in 1947, and Labour who saved it from Tory destruction in 1997. Under the Labour Government there was significant real growth in the resources going into health care. NHS expenditure increased by more than two thirds over 13 years, with real-terms growth averaging around 5.5% per annum. Those high rates of investment led to improvements in hospital waiting times, life expectancy and health outcomes.

It is all too easy to forget what the NHS was like under the previous Tory Government. People waited for years for treatment such as hip replacements, and it was common for patients to spend hours in the cold corridors of old hospitals built in the 19th century while waiting for beds to become available. We changed that by building new hospitals and employing more doctors and nurses.

Henry Smith: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Angela Smith: I will give way once and no more, because I want other Members to have an opportunity to speak.

Henry Smith: I am interested to hear the tale of life in the NHS before the Labour Government and now, because under Labour my constituents lost hospital provision, including accident and emergency and maternity services. That was the Labour experience in Crawley.

Angela Smith: All I will say to the hon. Gentleman is that I worked in the NHS as one of the so-called bureaucrats in the Tory ’80s, and I remember having a patient crying to me over the phone, begging me to admit him so that he could have his eye taken out, because the Tory NHS was not providing the beds or the theatre space for such operations. We changed that by investing in the NHS so that life chances for many people could be improved. There is no doubt that there are people alive today who would not be so had that investment not been made.

Before the election, the Tories promised to protect the NHS with real-terms increases in spending. Let us get one thing straight: the 0.1% per annum increase that the coalition Government said they would provide does not equate to real increases in spending, because since then inflation rates have gone through the roof. There is no real-terms increase in spending, so one has to ask why the Government want to divert a further £2 billion from tight budgets into a top-down, ideologically driven reorganisation, especially when the coalition agreement specifically stated that the Government would not do that.

Furthermore, it is a reorganisation that no one wants—and that includes the Lib Dems, as we saw with last week’s vote in the great city of Sheffield. Just this week the BMA voted against the proposals, and many other health professionals think that they are dangerous and ill thought through. Without the support of anybody, it seems, the Government are intent on forcing through

“the biggest…upheaval in the health service, probably since its inception.”

Those are not my words but the words of Chris Ham, the chief executive of the King’s Fund.

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I have a fundamental disagreement with the Secretary of State’s view that competition and free markets will drive innovation in the NHS, and that profit will motivate performance. I do agree, however, with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston Upon Hull (East) (Karl Turner), when he says that the introduction of these reforms risks removing the N from NHS. No longer will we have a national service; instead, the system will be fragmented and the postcode lottery of service will become more and more prevalent.

The notion of “any willing provider” means that many NHS hospitals will be at a disadvantage compared with private providers, which will not have to provide a comprehensive service for complex problems. “Fine,” some might say, “if that brings costs down”—but what happens when hospitals and other treatment centres become insolvent and have to close down, leaving many areas of the country without adequate health care provision? Handing over £80 billion to GPs to commission services not only risks the important relationship between patient and doctor; it is extremely risky in itself, because of the lack of accountability.

If the plans are passed unaltered, GPs, through the quality premium bonus, will have a financial incentive to keep costs down and not to refer patients for diagnostic tests or treatment. As we found the last time the Tories tried to undertake such a scheme, they could also become unwilling to take on costly patients with chronic conditions. Those who need the most help could find it more and more difficult to get the treatment that they require.

Of deeper concern is the opaque nature of the consortiums. They will have to produce annual financial reports only for the national commissioning board, and they will not have to publish them. At the same time, every council in the country will have to publish every invoice over £500.

These health reforms have no mandate with the British people. They were in neither of the coalition parties’ manifestos, and even if NHS funding were not being cut, they would still run the clear risk of destabilising the service, because they hand over £80 billion of taxpayers’ money to private institutions, with insufficient safeguards in terms of accountability. The reforms are simply wrong. To allow any willing provider to deliver services risks the destruction of the NHS and a return to the dark days of the 1930s, when we had a two-tier system, with the state providing a minimum service and those who could afford to going private. That, too, would be plainly wrong, and something that the British people have consistently said they would not want.

It was pleasing to see the Lib Dem grass-roots vote against the policy last week, so I say to Lib Dem Members, “The ball is in your court. You can be on the right side of this argument, and your party can be on the right side of the British people, if you go through the Lobby tonight with us. The choice is yours. Flex your muscles and demonstrate that you are prepared to force the Government to revisit their plans by voting with Members on this side of the Chamber tonight.”

6.23 pm

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), who made a number of important

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points about the extent of the reorganisation, quoting Chris Ham of the King’s Fund. Indeed, a number of other authoritative sources point out that these reforms amount to the most significant reorganisation of the NHS since its inception 62 years ago. Therefore, we need to look with great care at the issues that arise as a result of this substantial change. We are talking about the public institution that the majority of people in this country hold most dear, so we have a great responsibility in this House to deal with these issues seriously.

I query the hon. Lady’s final point on the purpose of today’s debate. If the intention was to alienate those who broadly share her and the shadow Secretary of State’s analysis of the Bill, then adopting the device of today’s debate was probably the best way of doing so, so I congratulate them on that. Following the debate in our conference in Saturday, I would say that if Labour Members have a significant interest in the future of the NHS, the most appropriate thing to do would be to try to form a coalition of the people who share concerns about the Bill. Many of the institutions that she and others quoted—the King’s Fund, the BMA, the GMC, the royal colleges and many others—share concerns on the basis of a very objective and dispassionate point of view and could make a significant contribution. That is how we should be doing it, not by using—I am sorry to describe it thus—the playground politics of an Opposition day debate as a means of advancing the issue.

Angela Smith: Is the hon. Gentleman indicating that he would be prepared to talk to Labour Front Benchers on meaningful ways of taking this debate forward?

Andrew George: I am prepared to talk to anyone who wants to engage constructively in improving the Bill to ensure that it achieves its stated intentions, because I do not think that it will, given the nature of the reorganisation proposed in it. The reason I will not be joining the hon. Lady and her colleagues in the Lobby to support the motion is that it is tactically wrong at this stage to engage in such antics. This issue is a great deal too important to be turned into a party political playground game.

I am pleased that the Secretary of State said today that he is prepared to listen and engage. We need to explore every opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with him, involving all the stakeholders I mentioned, and, indeed, those in the Labour party who want so to engage, to find a way through and to ensure that the genuine concerns about the impact of the Bill are properly scrutinised. Yes, they are being scrutinised in the Bill Committee, but before we get to Report stage in this House, it is important that we create a coalition of the bodies that share these concerns. Rather than inviting them to go out on to Parliament square and wave their placards and so on, it would make a lot of sense to encourage them to engage in greater constructive dialogue than we have succeeded in achieving so far.

Mr Dorrell: Does my hon. Friend agree that the case he is making is reinforced by the fact that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already moved two amendments to the Bill dealing with the cherry-picking issue and—this was mentioned by the Prime Minister today—price competition. The amendments have been tabled to ensure that the Bill addresses concerns expressed by the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends.

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Andrew George: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Indeed, that is a very encouraging indication of the fact that the Secretary of State is prepared to listen. As far as I am concerned, however, he is not prepared to go far enough in reassuring me on those points, because taking the word “maximum” out of the clauses relating to price competition and the role of Monitor, the market regulator, is still insufficient. We have not got time to debate that today.

There are several issues, through which I shall canter in the few moments I have left, about the Bill’s objectives and what we want to achieve. First, we want to drive patient choice and innovation. I do not think that anyone would disagree with that, but we do not need to demolish the core—or at least the institutional architecture—of the NHS and PCTs, and alienate the majority of clinicians against achieving such innovation and patient choice.

Again, I think we all agree that giving power to communities and patients is highly desirable. However, although GPs will be given responsibility for commissioning services through the consortia, I do not think that they are particularly asking for that. Having spoken to many of them and listened to the national debate, I believe that they are reluctant, or at best resigned to taking on those roles, feeling that they have to follow that course.

If we want decentralisation, why will we end up with the ludicrous centralisation of commissioning NHS dentistry and dispensing? Indeed, every contract for a GP surgery will be centrally commissioned from an NHS commissioning board in Leeds. That is absurd. It does not even achieve what it is claimed that the Bill wants—decentralisation.

Many attempts have been made to argue that the Bill will cut bureaucracy and managers. I am not sure that that will happen. A big focus of today’s debate is the impact of competition, which will be unleashed. Once the private sector has its foot in the door, the genie will be out of the bottle. It is clear that everything, including designated services, in my view, will be open to contest. Although it is claimed that the Bill will result in fewer managers, I think that it is a dream come true for litigators, lawyers and management consultants.

John Pugh: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Andrew George: I am afraid that I do not have time.

The idea that the Bill will drive integration and social care is more wishful thinking because there will be less coterminosity between commissioning boards and local authorities under the Government’s proposals for an increased number of commissioning bodies than we have now.

Much rethinking needs to be done, and I hope that Government Front Benchers are listening.

6.32 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): In the devastation that followed the second world war, this country had the courage and the vision to realise the dream of a health service available to all in times of need. If the Government’s plans go ahead, that dream will die. [Interruption.] Yes, it will. It is not simply that the reorganisation represents a broken promise, which it does, or that it is costly, although it is, but that it strikes

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at the very foundations of the NHS. Indeed, if it goes ahead, there will no longer be a national health service, but a vast postcode lottery, with treatment depending on where people live.

Henry Smith: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Jones: I am sorry—I have not got time. [Interruption.] Other Members are waiting to speak and I will not give way.

The market, not the patient will be king. That is being done under the cloak of localism—the Government’s current buzz word. Remove the cloak and we will see the realities: an NHS driven by the market, run by a vast, unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy, with accountability to Parliament greatly reduced.

The Government plan to give all commissioning to GPs. They conveniently ignore the fact that if GPs wanted to be managers, they would have taken MBAs rather than medical degrees. They will bring in other companies—mostly private—to do the managing.

Nadine Dorries: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Jones: I have said no. The hon. Lady was not even here for the beginning of the debate.

It is not sufficient for the Government to ensure that private companies determine our health care; they will also introduce EU competition law into the NHS. That means that the private health companies that are currently hovering over the NHS like a bunch of vultures will threaten legal action if services are not put out to tender. They will then cherry-pick the services in which they can make the most money—they do not want to do geriatric care, paediatrics or A and E. That will fatally wound and undermine local hospitals and some, no doubt, will go to the wall. It is no surprise that the Health and Social Care Bill includes detailed insolvency provisions.

Some hospitals will bring in more private patients to fill the gap, because the Bill lifts the cap on private patients. We will therefore have the absurd situation of private companies making decisions on health care, and of NHS staff and facilities being used not for those most in need, but for those with the ability to pay. There is a word for that and it is not often used in this House: it is quite simply immoral. It is also indefensible.

At the same time, these plans will undermine our ability to deal with long-term conditions. Progress has been made on conditions such as stroke through co-operation, not competition. It has been made through stroke networks, by sharing expertise and by reconfiguring services to get the best deal. All the expertise in primary care trusts on delivering those services will be swept away.

Ben Gummer rose—

Helen Jones: I have made my view clear, so the hon. Gentleman is wasting his time. The expertise will be swept away, and the plethora of GP commissioning consortia will have no strategic overview of these services.

There has always been a democratic deficit in the NHS, but the Bill will increase it vastly. It will give £75 billion to £80 billion to unaccountable consortia. It will remove from the Secretary of State the requirement to secure the provision of services. I say to Government

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Members: when the services go, do not come here to complain because the Secretary of State will not be responsible any more. The NHS commissioning board will be appointed by the Secretary of State and he will be able to dismiss its members at will. It will have no independence. Monitor will not have a single elected member.

The Bill does not give power to patients, and it does not empower health service staff. Kingsley Manning of Tribal summed it up cleverly as a Bill to denationalise the NHS. It is not supported by doctors, and it is not supported by patients. I say to the Liberal Democrats that if they go through the Lobby tonight in support of this reorganisation, people out there will not forget and they will not forgive.

6.37 pm

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab): This debate is about one of the most important issues facing this House and this country: the future of our NHS. It has been an excellent and at times lively discussion, with important contributions from all parts of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) spoke with great passion about his recent experience of using the NHS and the importance of the NHS for his constituents. My hon. Friends the Members for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) and for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) gave compelling speeches about their concerns over what is really in the Health and Social Care Bill, including the implications of removing certain duties from the Secretary of State and of introducing competition law explicitly in the NHS for the first time. The hon. Members for Southport (John Pugh) and for St Ives (Andrew George) raised important and serious issues with regard to the Bill, including the implications of centralising services such as dentistry, pharmacy and primary care. It is far from clear how a national body will know what primary care services need to be commissioned in my constituency. They also expressed concerns about the dangers in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones), whom I am proud to be following, raised the importance of the threats to the “national” in the national health service and concerns about patients with long-term and chronic conditions, of whom we know there are an increasing number in the NHS.

The debate has shown that, as on so many occasions with this Government, it is not their rhetoric but the reality that counts. They promised in their manifesto an end to top-down reorganisations, but instead they are forcing the NHS through the biggest reorganisation of its life. As the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell) has said many times, although unfortunately not in the House today, they are doing that at a time when the NHS faces its toughest ever period of funding, when jobs are already being cut and when, far from what the Secretary of State told the House earlier, waiting times are starting to rise.

The Government also say that they want clinicians to lead changes in the NHS, but their Health and Social Care Bill fails to guarantee even that GPs will be running consortia, let alone that hospital doctors, nurses or other NHS staff, who are so crucial to improving the

16 Mar 2011 : Column 412

quality of care, will be involved. As eight of the country’s leading patient charities said in a letter to

The Times

last month:

“The reforms will place £80 billion of the NHS budget into the hands of GPs, but plans to make GP consortia accountable to the public are far too weak.”

There is no requirement to have elected representatives on GP consortia, as the coalition agreement promised for primary care trusts. The new health and well-being boards will have no power to require GP consortia to do anything, and local councils’ scrutiny committees will actually lose some of their powers to refer decisions to the independent reconfiguration panel in the case of services not on the safe list of designated services.

At the heart of the Bill are proposals to change the NHS fundamentally that the Secretary of State simply does not want to talk about: his plans to run the NHS along the same lines as the gas and electricity companies.

Nicky Morgan: I know that the hon. Lady is a hard-working fellow Leicestershire MP, but I disagree with her. Is not the fundamental principle of the Bill, as we have discussed in the Public Bill Committee, that what constituents want is an NHS free at the point of need and the delivery of services, and funded by taxpayers? Which part of the Bill changes that fundamental principle?

Liz Kendall: What patients want is their views and voices to be heard. As the hon. Lady well knows, eight of the country’s leading patient charities, including the Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma UK and Diabetes UK, have said that the patient and public voice is not strong enough under the Bill, and they have demanded changes. I respectfully ask that she look at their comments and act on their views.

The fundamental issues at the heart of the Bill are turning Monitor, which is currently responsible for foundation trusts, into a powerful new economic regulator to promote competition across the NHS, and enshrining UK and EU competition law into primary legislation on the NHS for the first time. That is not my view but the view of David Bennett, the new chairman of Monitor, expressed in his evidence to the Public Bill Committee. The Government are explicitly modelling the NHS on the gas, electricity, railway and telecoms industries. Government Members who are shaking their heads or looking blank should read the explanatory notes to the Bill, which make that absolutely clear.

Grahame M. Morris: May I point out that yesterday, in an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall about the future of the blood services contract, the Under-Secretary of State said in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop) that EU competition rules would apply?

Liz Kendall: The Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), also said yesterday, in the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, that EU competition law would apply, and gave me some assurances that that would somehow not change anything. When I asked whether the Government had taken legal advice on that, he admitted that they had. I asked him then to publish that advice so that hon. Members did not have to take my word for it, and I

16 Mar 2011 : Column 413

shall do so again. Will he publish that advice so that hon. Members can see whether GP-commissioning consortia and providers will be subject to EU competition law? Sadly, it appears that he will not do so.

Dr Poulter: If the hon. Lady is so concerned about competition and markets, why did the previous Government introduce Monitor, and why were they happy to pay the private sector 11% more than the NHS to provide NHS services?

Liz Kendall: I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that Monitor was established as part of the regulation of foundation trusts. Removing that responsibility will mean that there will be no outside checks and balances on those trusts as there are now. Government Members should think seriously about that.

Our health and our NHS are not the same as gas, electricity or the railway. That the Secretary of State believes that they are shows how dangerously out of touch he is. What is the likely result? GPs will be forced to put local services out to tender even if they are delivering good quality care that patients choose and like; hospitals and community services will be pitted against one another when they should work together in patients’ interests; care, which as many hon. Members have said is vital as our population ages and there is an increase in long-term conditions, will become more and not less fragmented; the financial stability of local hospitals will be put at risk, and they will have no ability to manage the consequences of choice and competition in the system; and the whole system will be tied up in the costs of red tape, as GPs and hospitals employ an army of lawyers and accountants to sign contracts and fight the threat of legal challenge, huge fines and the potential of being sued. Let us also be clear that the Bill gives Monitor the same functions as the Office of Fair Trading, so it can fine organisations up to 10% of their turnover.

The more we see of the Bill, the more the truth becomes clear. The Secretary of State says that he wants clinicians to be more involved, and “no decision about me without me” for patients, but when the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the British Medical Association or anyone else tells him that he should stop, think again and halt his reckless NHS plans, he refuses to listen. When the Alzheimer’s Society, the Stroke Association and Rethink tell him that his proposals will not give patients a stronger voice and improve public accountability, he simply tells them that they are wrong. When health experts such as the King’s Fund warn that driving competition in every part of the NHS will make it more difficult to commission the services that best serve patients’ interests, he simply puts his fingers in his ears and walks away. What makes this Secretary of State think that he is right when professional bodies and patient groups know that he is wrong?

Doctors and nurses do not support the Government’s plan, patients do not want it, some Conservative Back Benchers and members of the Cabinet do not like it, and the Liberal Democrats hate it. They had the sense last Saturday to see what the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) called the potential catastrophe as far as the future of the NHS is concerned, and to ask for

16 Mar 2011 : Column 414

amendments to the Bill. I hope they have the sense to join us in the Lobby tonight. I commend the motion to the House.

6.48 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): I start by thanking the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) for attending the Liberal Democrat conference last Saturday. Unfortunately, no one knew who he was when he arrived. Had he been more clearly identified, I am sure he would have received a very warm welcome from delegates, because he was welcome, as was the registration fee he paid. He will know that I gave my Liberal Democrat colleagues a guarantee on Saturday that, along with other members of this Government, we will listen to every word that Liberal Democrats said at that event.

I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) when he said that it was important that we should drop the rhetoric and listen. However, I am not absolutely certain—if I can say this gently to him—whether his contribution entirely measured up to his own statement. Dialogue, yes, but dialogue is not diatribe. Let me also tell him that had the amendment in the name of Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members been selected, I would have urged hon. Members to vote for it, because it sums up the Government’s approach. We are listening to concerns and seeking to strengthen and improve the Bill, and we will continue to do so.

However, that is not what Labour is about. Labour’s purpose is very clear indeed. Those on the Labour Front Bench let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago when the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) said in Committee that

“many of our amendments seek to undermine the Bill entirely and in every way possible”.––[Official Report, Health and Social Care Public Bill Committee, 3 March 2011; c. 448.]

That is not about improving the Bill; that is about trashing it. Sometimes it seems like we are debating two entirely different Health and Social Care Bills. One is the Bill currently in Committee—the real Bill. The other is the phantom Bill that has been conjured up by Labour Members—a hall of mirrors constructed by the Labour party and the unions that bears no resemblance to the real Bill, and is a gross distortion of so many of its provisions. Let me deal with some of the myths that have been peddled in today’s debate.

First, let me address the charge of privatisation. I thought that the

“ideological battle over using private and third sector providers”

was “over,” and that

“What matters to the public is not who provides but how well a service is provided.”

That is not just my view; that is the view of the Labour Business Secretary from 2008, the former Member for Barrow and Furness. He was a long-standing Health Minister who took that view then and, I suspect, holds it today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell) was absolutely right: the involvement of the private sector is not new to the NHS. Indeed, involving the private sector was certainly not new to the last Government. Labour imposed private sector treatment centres on the NHS, guaranteed the private sector higher prices and, through all that, institutionalised cherry-picking in the NHS. Indeed, it is a scandal that in none of the

16 Mar 2011 : Column 415

Opposition speeches was there any sense of an apology for the £250 million spent on the private sector for doing absolutely nothing.

Instead of loading the dice in favour of the private sector, which is what Labour did, we are correcting the balance, creating a fair playing field for the full range of providers—something that Labour said in its manifesto it would do, but which it is running away from in opposition. We have tabled amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to put beyond doubt the fact that there will not be price competition, but there will be quality competition, to ensure that, unlike Labour, we will not see differential prices set on the grounds of ownership. Under our plans there will be less competition on price than there is now and more competition on quality.

Angela Smith: Shirley Williams described the level playing field to which the hon. Gentleman refers as “lousy”. How would he respond to that?

Paul Burstow: I am looking forward to further dialogue with my noble Friend to ensure that we deliver the important improvements to the NHS that will ensure that unlike Labour, which cherry-picked and set up contracts with the private sector that undermined the NHS, we deliver a level playing field that delivers good quality care, chosen by patients not politicians.

The debate has shown that we continue to share an enduring commitment across the House to the notion that the NHS must be based on need and free at the point of use. That is what the Bill entrenches and what it will secure. Our plans are all about offering more choice to patients, more accountability for the public and more autonomy for front-line professionals. It is easy for the Opposition to attempt to caricature and distort those policies, but they are based on our belief that we need an NHS that is not about looking up to Whitehall for its lead, but about looking out to its communities and ensuring that it delivers the quality services that make a difference to our constituents.

The purpose of the motion is very clear. It is nothing to do with listening; it is all about scaremongering, opportunism and grandstanding, and the House should throw it out. We will continue to listen and to improve the Bill, but we will not do it by listening to Labour Members, who have no interest in making the NHS better and who would have cut it, had they had the opportunity to do so in government.

Question put .

The House divided:

Ayes 224, Noes 305.

Division No. 233]

[6.55 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Crockart, Mike

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr David Hamilton and

Graham Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Hunter and

Jeremy Wright

Question accordingly negatived.

16 Mar 2011 : Column 416

16 Mar 2011 : Column 417

16 Mar 2011 : Column 418

16 Mar 2011 : Column 419

16 Mar 2011 : Column 420

Owen Smith (Pontypridd) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair at the conclusion of the Opposition day debate, but the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), used barely half his allotted time in winding up, as he was clearly short of arguments to defend his position on the important subject under discussion. That left many of us who have plenty to say on the subject short of time to speak. Will you work through the usual channels, Mr Deputy Speaker, to make sure that in future either Ministers use all their time or Back Benchers are given more time to speak?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): How long the Minister wishes to speak for is not a matter for the Chair. The Minister spoke, the debate came to an end, and a vote was taken.

Business without Debate

Protection of Freedoms Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the Order of 1 March 2011 (Protection of Freedoms Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraph 2 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 17 May 2011.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.

16 Mar 2011 : Column 421

European Union (Amendment) Act 2008

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): The amendment has not been selected.

7.11 pm

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): I beg to move,

That this House takes note of draft European Council decision EUCO 33/10 (to amend Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union with regard to a stability mechanism for Member States whose currency is the euro) and, in accordance with section 6 of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, approves Her Majesty’s Government’s intention to support the adoption of draft European Council decision EUCO 33/10.

Under the terms of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, the House should approve this motion on the proposed change to the European treaties so that the Prime Minister can then support the adoption of the draft European Council decision to amend article 136 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union at the European Council scheduled for 24 and 25 March. It is my belief that agreement to this, which is about the narrow change brought forward to enable the countries that use the euro as their currency to establish a permanent stability mechanism from 2013 onwards, is profoundly in the interests of the United Kingdom.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this is the first time that the passerelle mechanism—in other words, a fast-track treaty amendment without an intergovernmental conference—is being used? Is this the first time that such a passerelle clause has been brought before the House?

Mr Lidington: We can debate whether or not it is a passerelle. It is certainly the first time that the provisions under the Lisbon treaty for a simplified revision procedure, rather than the full-scale procedure to which my hon. Friend alluded, has been employed.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): Can we be absolutely clear what we are doing here? It used to take months, even years, to change a European treaty. Tonight, we are going to debate this motion for 90 minutes and then the Government will go to the European Council and agree to that change in the treaty. That is correct, is it not, because the next time this comes back for scrutiny it will be a fait accompli?

Mr Lidington: No, I do not share my hon. Friend’s analysis of the procedures that lie ahead of us, and I think he underestimates the further opportunities there will be for the House to consider this proposed treaty amendment. I will come on to that in a little more detail later.

First, however, I want to make it clear why the Government believe that agreement to this treaty change is in the interests of this country. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear to the House in his statement following the European Council held in December last year, no one should doubt that stability in the eurozone is in the interests of the United Kingdom. Nearly half our trade is with the eurozone, and London is Europe’s international financial centre. It is precisely because of this interrelationship that the UK’s financial

16 Mar 2011 : Column 422

institutions and companies, both big and small, have huge exposure to the banks and businesses based throughout the eurozone. Worsening stability, let alone a further and prolonged economic and financial crisis, would pose a real threat to the UK economy and to jobs and prosperity in this country.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): Would it not be more appropriate for an intergovernmental agreement to be reached among the member states of the eurozone, rather than have some change to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union?

Mr Lidington: It would have been possible for the member states of the eurozone to have come to such an intergovernmental agreement, but they chose not to do so. In addition, a number of the other member states which have not joined the euro but aspire to do so and which have an obligation in their accession treaties to do so in due course would prefer any necessary treaty change to be agreed by 27 states, rather than dealt with on an intergovernmental basis alone.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): Given that this vote will have to be unanimous and we therefore have veto, is this not an ideal opportunity at least to try to extract concessions from the EU? We could take such an approach on, for example, the working time agreement, in line with the coalition agreement.

Mr Lidington: As I hope to demonstrate to my hon. Friend’s satisfaction later in my speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister secured an extremely good bargain for this country when he took part in the negotiations that produced this amendment. First, however, I wish to deal with the points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) and for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin).

This kind of motion has not been debated in this place before and should the European Union Bill, which this House agreed without Division on Third Reading last week, become law, we will not have this particular procedure here in the future. I want to give a firm assurance to the House that, in particular because of the provisions in that Bill, this evening is only the first opportunity for the House to have its say on the proposed treaty change; a second opportunity will be provided through the process of ratification.

I have to say to the House that the previous Government left this country with a system of both popular and parliamentary control over treaty change that was grossly inadequate. Under the inherited arrangements, this motion would have been all that was required by way of parliamentary approval, at least in terms of an affirmative resolution. If the European Union Bill were not to become law, a motion of this type leading to the adoption of a proposal for treaty change would, on ratification, still have to come back to Parliament and be laid before both Houses, but it would then be for Parliament to pray against the provision which had been laid before the House. Obviously the usual problems are involved in terms of what amounts to a negative resolution procedure in giving effect to an understandable desire for full and effective parliamentary scrutiny. However, as I have said, the Government, through the new legislation that we are taking through Parliament at the moment,

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want to provide a much stronger assurance for the future that this particular proposal and any others that might conceivably come forward will be given much greater and more rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Let us be clear about what will change if that Bill becomes an Act, as I am sure it will in due course. Is it the case that the sort of debate we are able to have tonight will not be possible in future because we will have post-decision debates, in that decisions will have already been taken before that Act, as it will be then, kicks in?

Mr Lidington: I hope that I can give my hon. Friend the reassurance he seeks. First, I will make a bit of progress and describe how the provisions in the European Union Bill will bite on this measure and any future measures that are modelled on it.

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): A very important question has just been asked by a Back Bencher and the Minister has made no attempt to respond to it. Would it not be technically possible to have the new procedures introduced by the European Union Bill as well as the current procedures? One is post and the other is pre.

Mr Lidington: I had better invite the hon. Gentleman to read the Hansard record of thedebates on the European Union Bill in which he took part—both in Committee and on Report. If he does read them, he will see that the Government introduced an amendment precisely to make explicit the requirement for this proposed treaty change to be subject to more rigorous parliamentary scrutiny than would have been permitted if the current statutory procedures under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 had been allowed to stand and to suffice. I hope that he was not asleep when we debated that amendment. If he examines Hansard, he will find that we have covered that point in some detail.

The previous Government left the country with a system of control that was grossly inadequate. Section 6 of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 requires that when a draft decision under the simplified revision procedure—under article 48(6) of the treaty on European Union—is proposed, a Minister must introduce a motion and have it passed by both Houses without amendment before the Prime Minister can signal his agreement to its adoption at a subsequent European Council. That is the point in the decision-making process that we have reached tonight.

There is an option, under the 2008 Act, for the Government of the day to insert a disapplication provision into this type of motion. Such a provision would enable the Government to agree to subsequent amendments to the draft decision to amend the treaty without having to come back to the House for approval. The options were put before me by my officials and I was absolutely clear from the moment I read the papers that to introduce a disapplication provision of that kind would be completely unacceptable and would give Parliament absurdly little control over such an important matter. For that reason, there is no such provision in the motion.

Let me make it clear: if the House approves the motion, it is authorising the Prime Minister to agree to this draft decision—this text alone—at the European

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Council. Should there be any suggestion of amending the draft decision at the European Council—there is no such suggestion from any quarter at present—the Prime Minister could not legally agree to it at the European Council without first coming back to this House and the other place for additional approval after a further debate. The draft decision that is referred to in the motion will be the version that is agreed at the Council and there can be no other version of the treaty change without the further approval of the House in a debate such as this.

The European Scrutiny Committee has rightly assessed the draft decision as politically important and has recommended it for debate on the Floor of the House. We are scrutinising the draft decision, as the Committee has requested, and debating whether the Prime Minister may signal his support for its adoption at the Council on 24 and 25 March.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): My right hon. Friend is going through all the procedures and the technical side of things, but, as he knows, that is not really what the treaty is about. I hope he will agree that it represents a huge change in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Anyone who cares to look back at what those of us who have argued this case before have said, and to look in particular at The Economist this week, will know that the treaty is a hybrid one that is being devised, driven and pressed forward by Germany and those countries that wish to acquiesce in Germany’s dictated terms. Does he agree?

Mr Lidington: No, I am afraid I do not agree with my hon. Friend on that point. As I have said, it is in the interests of the United Kingdom for there to be stability in the eurozone. To some extent, the measures that the eurozone countries are now taking are a response to the kind of critique that he and other Members of this House made 10 or 11 years ago when the euro was first created. They—I was very much in this camp—argued that it would cause huge difficulties to create a currency union involving a single interest rate and single monetary policy that did not have some way of reconciling very different rates of growth, inflation and unemployment in the countries in that single currency area.

I want to finish on the procedural points and then move on to the content. If the draft decision is adopted by the European Council, all 27 member states will have to approve the treaty change and ratify it in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements before the decision enters into force. The treaty amendment cannot come into effect until we—and everybody else—ratify the adopted decision.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have already given an assurance at this Dispatch Box that this and every other future treaty change will be considered in accordance with the terms of the European Union Bill, once that enters into force. That Bill will require Ministers to lay a statement before Parliament within two months of the commencement of part 1 of the Bill, explaining whether the treaty change would fall within clause 4 of the Bill—namely, whether it would involve a transfer of competence or power from the United Kingdom to the European Union.

The treaty change will then have to be ratified by primary legislation—a full Act of Parliament—before the United Kingdom is able to say formally that it has

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completed the ratification process, so even when we get to that stage, the final version, agreed by all 27 Heads of Government, has to come back to Parliament for ratification and will be debated in all the stages of primary legislation. Tonight is therefore not the only opportunity that my hon. Friends will have to debate the measure.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): Surely the key point about this debate is that we have a veto, and that gives us a lever? Most people in this country feel that EU integration has already gone far too far. Is it not the case that the Minister’s refusal to use that lever can only mean that our relationship with the EU will, sooner or later, have to be resolved through an in/out referendum?

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con) rose—

Mr Lidington: I will reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), but first I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone).

Mr Bone: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; he is being exceptionally generous, as always. Will some European countries use a referendum to ratify a change to a treaty?

Mr Lidington: It is obviously for those countries and their legal and constitutional systems to say how they will go about ratification, but when the proposal was discussed at General Affairs and External Relations Council meetings, at which I represented the United Kingdom, there was great concern among the member states that have provision for referendums in their constitutional arrangements to ensure that the agreed wording was such that it made it possible for them to ratify without triggering a referendum. I can remember Ministers from a couple of countries making those points very firmly. The president of the European Council, the Commission and the German Government who, it is no secret, had been promoting the need for a treaty change, accepted that. The language that we have is narrow in its scope and provides only for provisions affecting the countries that have the euro as their currency. It is for Ireland, the Netherlands and other countries to decide whether they need a referendum. My understanding is that those Governments think that that is not required.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) rose—

Mr Lidington: It will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood to know that I disagree with him about the need for an in/out referendum. We debated that at some length the other day in proceedings on the European Union Bill. The Government believe that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom to remain an active and positive player in the European Union. That does not mean that we like everything it does or everything about the way the current arrangements have been established, but we believe that it is in the interests of our country to engage, campaign and fight for our interests within the European Union and not to turn our backs on it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Lidington: I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), then I shall make progress.

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Robert Halfon: As the veto has been mentioned, perhaps it could be waved in front of the EU countries that are so against implementing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Mr Lidington: My hon. Friend makes an important argument, which is probably somewhat outside the scope of the treaty change that we are debating today, but it will have been noted by those he wished to hear his comments.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): We have touched on whether or not the Minister thinks our membership of the EU is a good thing, but we should ask the people whether they believe we should be in Europe. That is a question which, I am sorry to say, he has not answered.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): The Prime Minister did.

Mr Lidington: The Prime Minister made it clear in answer to questions last week that he believes it is in the United Kingdom’s interest to remain part of Europe. One of the things that my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) needs to say, in the hypothetical choice she advocates, is what the United Kingdom should leave the European Union in order to join. I will not stray beyond the confines of the motion this evening; I merely pose that question to my hon. Friend.

I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh); then I will make progress and not give way for a while.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Minister argues that we should be part of the process, but is there not a logical absurdity in what he is saying? When the real decisions were taken, our Prime Minister was kicked out. We are like a cork bobbing in their wake. We have no real power over the eurozone. That is why many people now think the time has come for a referendum on whether to stay in or get out.

Mr Lidington: My hon. Friend, uncharacteristically, underestimates the influence of our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. When we look at how he has managed to assemble and lead a coalition of countries committed to greater budgetary discipline—something that would not have happened without his initiative—and when we look at the work that he is leading at a European level on the need for growth, competitiveness and deregulation, we can see that the influence of the Prime Minister and of the United Kingdom is being felt. I would encourage—

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con) rose

Mr Lidington: I am not giving way further.

I would encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough to visit more EU member countries and talk to representatives of their Governments, and I think he will find that our right hon. Friend has in 10 brief months attained considerable respect and a high standing among the partner countries with which he deals and negotiates.

Let me turn to the proposed treaty change and how it came about. It originates from the need for a permanent mechanism to be established by the member states of the euro area to safeguard the financial stability of the

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euro area as a whole. As the House knows, in May last year the EU established two emergency instruments to respond to financial crises—the European financial stability facility and the European financial stability mechanism. Many hon. Members have expressed their unhappiness at the EFSM arrangements, to which, because of a decision taken in the dying days of the previous Government, this country is a party. That unhappiness is wholly shared by this Government. It is yet another mess that we have inherited and must seek to clean up.

Against that backdrop and the continued uncertainty in the financial markets, the members of the European Council agreed last December to amend article 136 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union to provide that member states of the eurozone may establish a permanent stability mechanism. That will provide a necessary means for dealing with cases that pose a risk to the financial stability of the euro area as a whole, something that is important to us given the extent of our trade and other economic connections with the eurozone even though we are outside it and intend to remain so.

The proposed amendment contained in the draft decision adds the following paragraph to article 136:

“The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality.”

By providing for eurozone members to establish a permanent mechanism, the European Council is making absolutely clear the responsibilities of all members of the euro area to each other and to the overall stability of the euro area. The proposed new paragraph will be added to treaty provisions that apply—I stress this point—only to member states whose currency is the euro. It does not apply to non-euro area member states and cannot confer any obligations upon them. We believe that financial problems within the euro area should be resolved primarily by euro area members.

The details of how the ESM will operate are being discussed in Brussels. In accordance with the conclusions of the December European Council, member states whose currency is not the euro can be involved on a voluntary basis in finalising work on what will be an intergovernmental arrangement to set up the ESM under the authority given by this proposed amendment to the treaties. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is responsible for overseeing UK input to those discussions.

I want to stress that while we are involved on a voluntary basis in the design of the mechanism—it is in our interests to be so—we cannot and will not be part of the mechanism. In fact, we could not be part of the ESM unless the UK first joined the euro area, and as the whole House is already aware, the Government have declared their intention not to join or to prepare to join the euro. Furthermore, under the terms of the European Union Bill, if any future Government were so foolish as to wish to do so, they could join only with parliamentary approval by Act of Parliament and the consent of the British people in a referendum.

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Mr Baron: Will my right hon. Friend return to the power of the veto that we have? I accept that the matter will come back to this place and that we will discuss it again, but surely we should now be trying to extract concessions in return for not using our veto. I ask him again, because he uncharacteristically did not address the point last time, whether we could be using our veto to extract concessions on the working time agreement—an aim that was, after all, in the coalition agreement.

Mr Lidington: On the working time directive, I completely share my hon. Friend’s objectives. Work is going on involving, in particular, my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Health. We judge that the appropriate time to seek to give effect to the objectives set out in the coalition programme for government will be when the Commission comes forward with its own proposals to change the terms of the working time directive, which we expect will be some time in the next 12 months. That is the moment that will give us the opportunity to do this. However those changes to the working time directive might be given effect, there will have to be a legislative procedure involving not only the Council of Ministers but the European Parliament. It is at that time that we will need to deal with the matter.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Does the Minister agree that the stability mechanism is a test of our willingness to engage positively with Europe and to act responsibly, using the existing procedures of the House and those laid down in the European Union Bill? After all, we have no interest in further weakness or instability in the eurozone; it is positively in Britain’s interest to engage responsibly with the process, rather than to talk of vetoes or of extracting concessions on issues quite unrelated to the stability mechanism.

Mr Lidington: My hon. Friend makes good points. It is in our interests that the euro succeeds. Many in the House still doubt whether that is possible, but I can say only that, in discussions with my counterparts throughout the European Union, I recognise that those countries that have chosen the euro as their currency retain an incredibly powerful political commitment to the project, and I simply do not think it realistic to talk about shaking them from that and trying somehow to bring about some eurozone Gotterdammerung in the near future. The converse would be true: that sort of outcome—the disintegration of the eurozone—would cause enormous damage to jobs and to prosperity in the United Kingdom, precisely because of the interrelationship between the economy of this country and the economies of our chief trading partners.

Mr Jenkin: Will my right hon. Friend allow me?

Mr Lidington: No, I am not giving way again at the moment.

A number of my hon. Friends were also keen to be reassured that the proposed treaty change does not and will not transfer any competence or power from the United Kingdom to the European Union, and I want to reassure them now. As I have mentioned, the treaty change involves an amendment to one of the provisions that applies only to member states whose currency is the euro, not to others. Therefore, we cannot be part of the ESM without joining the euro itself.

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The change is also being undertaken using article 48(6) of the treaty of the European Union, which explicitly states in its provisions that it

“shall not increase the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties”.

All member states are agreed on that point and stated so, in terms, in paragraph 6 of the recitals to the draft decision. The opinion of the European Commission, dated 22 February, reaffirms that the proposed treaty change does not affect the competences conferred upon the Union.

Some hon. Members have questioned whether the Government should be required to hold a referendum even when the United Kingdom is not directly affected, and this starts to address the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) made in an intervention. As I highlighted earlier, the European Union Bill, after our seven days of debate on it, will ensure that any treaty changes constituting a transfer of competence or power from this country to Brussels will be subject to a referendum. But this treaty change will enable no such thing, and it does not make sense to try to insist on a referendum on agreements that concern only other member states. It makes sense no more than it would have made sense for Germany to hold a referendum on the recent defence treaty between the United Kingdom and France.

The treaty change under discussion is in our national interests, but on top of that, to come to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) made, the Prime Minster during the course of the negotiations achieved two further important objectives. First, as the conclusions of the December European Council and, more importantly, the preamble—the recitals, as they are known—to the draft decision itself confirm, once the ESM is established to safeguard the stability of the euro area, article 122(2), on which basis the European financial stability mechanism was established, will no longer be used for such purposes. Therefore, our liability—bequeathed by the previous Government—for helping to bail out the euro area through EU borrowing backed by the EU budget, under the EFSM, will cease. That was an important achievement for British interests.

Mr Cash: As my right hon. Friend will know, according to Reuters and many other news agencies Portugal is on the brink of needing a bail-out because its economy is imploding. Does he accept that, as this debate continues, we will be exposed under the EFSM to the tune of up to whatever is the proportion that we should contribute under the proposals until 2013, and that we should have insisted that that was repealed and revoked when the other arrangement was entered into? That is the concession that we should have got, and the Government did not even seek to achieve it.

Mr Lidington: We inherited from our predecessors a legislative measure that was brought in under an existing competence and treaty base and that was, from that time, legally binding. My hon. Friend will understand that I am not going to be drawn into speculating about the position of other individual member states. My understanding, on the basis of the most recent information that I have, is that no other member state has been asking the EU authorities for additional financial help.

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As the Prime Minister has made clear many times in this House, securing a tight and disciplined budget for the future is the highest priority for the European Union. At the last European Council meeting, Britain led an alliance of member states to unprecedented success in limiting the 2011 EU budget increase to 2.91%—a very marked improvement on our predecessors’ performance in the previous year. Crucially, in moving forwards, working alongside key partners such as France, Germany, Netherlands and Finland, we are committed to a real-terms freeze in the EU budget in the new perspective, which we expect to run from 2014 to 2020, and we have written collectively to the President of the European Commission setting out our position.

Mr David: The Minister claims that a great victory was achieved by our Prime Minister with regard to the 2.91% increase. Will he confirm to the House, however, that just a few months earlier he was opposing that?

Mr Lidington: That is no secret. It is a matter of public record that we would have preferred a complete freeze on the 2011 budget, and we voted for that in the Council of Ministers. I regret that we were one country short of achieving the blocking minority. [ Interruption. ] That kind of protest from the shadow Minister is rank double standards. The Labour Government not only conceded increases in the annual budget that went way ahead of anything like 2.91% but, even more significantly, negotiated an agreement on the current multi-annual financial framework in which they agreed to give up a significant slice of this country’s hard-won rebate from the EU budget in return for no more than a half-promise of a review of agricultural policy, and they did not even manage to get that at the end of the day. We know that they were dysfunctional. According to the memoirs of the then Prime Minister’s chief of staff, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer could so little stand the sight of one another that they refused even to share the figures that they were using in parallel negotiations about an EU budget, the settlement of which was absolutely central to the interests of the United Kingdom. Having let down this country so badly in the past, it ill behoves the Labour spokesman to come and lecture us this evening.

Should this House not approve the motion unamended, I have to say to my hon. Friends that the consequences could be serious and damaging for Britain. The Prime Minster would not be able to signal support for the draft decision in March, and since the decision cannot be adopted without unanimity, it would fall. That would mean, for example, that this country would remain, for the indefinite future, indirectly liable for eurozone bail-outs through the EFSM since there would be no ESM to replace it.

Mr Nuttall: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Lidington: I will give way for a last time before completing my remarks so that other hon. Members can make their speeches.

Mr Nuttall: Have we not missed an opportunity to include a specific provision to exclude the EFSM under article 122 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union to prevent it from being misused, as it was previously? The article specifies providing financial

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assistance in the case of “natural disasters” or “exceptional occurrences”. We should have spelt it out—it was our opportunity to do that.

Mr Lidington: Article 122(2) was interpreted by the then Governments of all 27 member states as capable of being used as a proper legal basis for the EFSM and we inherited that binding measure.

Martin Horwood: Article 122 mentions

“natural disaster or exceptional circumstances”,

and the position certainly merits the word “exceptional”.

Mr Lidington: We can debate whether that interpretation of article 122 was justified. However, the reality is that the mechanism had been established. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) to consider not only the fact that we inherited something that was legally binding, but that, if there had been some renunciation by the European Union of a mechanism, which, for all its imperfections, had given a measure of reassurance to the markets, there could well have been adverse consequences for eurozone countries, which would have had adverse consequences for United Kingdom companies and financial institutions with exposure and investments in those eurozone member states.

If we refuse to agree to the draft decision, the effect on our trading partners in the eurozone would not be helpful. I do not wish to speculate too much, but it is safe to assume that the markets would not view favourably a failure by the EU to establish a permanent support mechanism, especially when all 27 Heads of State had publicly set themselves a timetable that would conclude at the March European Council. The consequences for many economies that are already under pressure could be severe. The knock-on effect on the prospects for jobs, investment, growth and prosperity in the UK would also be severe.

I therefore believe that the case for approving the motion without amendment is clear. By supporting the adoption of this treaty change, the UK will support the members of the eurozone to establish a permanent mechanism, and thereby make clear the responsibilities of all members of the eurozone to each other and to the overall stability of the euro area.

We will ensure through our agreement that our current indirect liability for eurozone bail-outs ends in 2013, and because the mechanism is established using the treaty provisions specific to members of the euro area, it does not apply to us or other non-euro-area member states and cannot confer any obligations or duties on them. We will not be part of the ESM, and the treaty change does not therefore involve a transfer of competence or power from the UK to the EU. However, as I said earlier, I can pledge to the House that hon. Members will have the opportunity to scrutinise the decision in still greater detail, as the EU Bill requires parliamentary approval by primary legislation before the UK can ratify the measure.

7.54 pm

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): There is no doubt that it is in Britain’s national interest to do everything we can to ensure that the eurozone is stable and prosperous. It was therefore right for the European

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financial stabilisation mechanism, the EFSM, and the European financial stabilisation facility, the EFSF, to be created last May. In those extraordinary and dangerous circumstances, it was necessary to take swift action. More than 40% of Britain’s exports go to the eurozone. If this country is to secure a strong economic recovery, exports to the eurozone must play a vital role.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I thank the shadow Minister for giving way. I wonder if he is correct. The history of economic crises shows that the countries that devalue and default first are often the first to recover. By sticking with the euro, Europe has therefore made a mistake and lengthened the period of distress for Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the other economies.

Mr David: It is for other European Union member states to decide whether they wish to be part of the eurozone, and there is no doubting their commitment to it.

When the dust had settled after the fraught days in May 2010, moves were made to establish a more permanent stabilisation mechanism, facilitated by a treaty change to provide a stronger legal base. That mechanism will come into force after 2013 and will replace the EFSM and the EFSF.

I find the procedure before us rather strange, to say the least. When or if the European Union Bill, which is currently in the other place, reaches the statute book, there will be a change to the relevant constitutional procedure, as the Minister explained, and the procedure that we are using this evening will no longer apply. Instead, we will have what is essentially a post-decision procedure. Treaty changes will require a statement to be laid before Parliament on whether the decision falls within clause 4 of that Bill. I understand that the treaty change to establish the European stabilisation mechanism would not fall within clause 4, so would not trigger a referendum. However, it would require an Act of Parliament. The Government have said on at least three occasions, and have confirmed this evening, that they would seek the support of the House, using the procedures of the European Union Bill, by introducing primary legislation. As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said:

“The mechanism is not a transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels, so it does not require a referendum, but it will require primary legislation, which will be introduced in due course.”—[Official Report, European Committee B, 1 February 2011; c. 12.]

Given that commitment, I wondered why the Government were putting forward this motion at this time. The reason, of course, lies in section 6 of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, which requires that when a decision under article 48(6) of the treaty on European Union is proposed, a Minister must introduce a motion and have it passed by both Houses of Parliament without amendment. That must happen before the Prime Minister can give his agreement to the adoption of a draft decision at the European Council. In other words, for the Prime Minister to be able to give Britain’s support to this draft proposal at the European Council meeting at the end of next week, it is necessary to secure the approval of Parliament.

I want to make a point about procedure. I welcome what the Minister said earlier on this matter, and I hope

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that the Prime Minister will adhere to that if there is even the smallest change to the proposed amendment. I hope that that is truly a cast-iron commitment.

Mr Jenkin: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the European Union Bill will set aside the procedure set out in the 2008 Act, and that there will no longer be a requirement to bring draft Council decisions before this House before they are made? I think that he should invite the Minister to intervene on him to clarify whether that is the case.

Mr David: I would indeed welcome clarification on that subject. Indeed, I intervened on the Minister earlier and received no clarification. It is my understanding that the new procedure will supersede the procedure that we are using this evening, and that the procedure will be post-decision rather than pre-decision. I invite the Minister to clarify that.

Mr Lidington: I am happy to provide clarification. The present decision is unique, in that it is being handled under the 2008 arrangements but will also become subject to the arrangements in the European Union Bill—assuming that it becomes law. The Bill, which we debated for seven days, will extinguish the 2008 arrangements, but it will ensure that after the adoption of the decision, in order for ratification to take place, the text agreed by Heads of State and Government at their final adoption meeting must go through all stages of primary legislation in both Houses.

Mr David: I thank the Minister for that clarification, but although there might be extensive post-decision debate, after the implementation of the Bill we will no longer be in a position effectively to give the Prime Minister a mandate. That is a step backwards and a negation of democracy.

Matthew Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has just said that he believes it is an error not to have a mandate, but did the previous Government have a mandate when they signed up to the EFSM after losing an election?

Mr David: I have already referred to that point. The former Chancellor and Government were facing exceptional circumstances, and my guess is that if the current Government had taken over the reins at that point, they would have done exactly the same thing.

Mr Lidington: The idea that the new system that will be introduced in the Bill is somehow weaker than the current one is laughable. An Act of Parliament is a much tougher form of scrutiny and accountability than a single vote before the initial decision is taken. Under the 2008 Act there would be no need for primary legislation before ratification took place. Furthermore, in extinguishing the 2008 provisions the Bill will extinguish the possibility of a disapplication procedure, which exists under the 2008 Act and would allow the Government of the day, by means of a motion such as the one before us this evening, to decide that its Head of Government could agree a change to a text without ever coming back to Parliament to give it a further opportunity to comment.

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Mr David: I hear what the Minister says, but it does not alter the fact that we will no longer be in a position effectively to give the Prime Minister a mandate. Effectively, he will be able to do what he wants and have it retrospectively approved.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I thank the shadow Minister for giving way a second time. It is very generous of him.

Tonight’s debate came about initially because of a suggestion by the European Scrutiny Committee, which could continue to recommend draft decisions for debate in the House before the Prime Minister went off to negotiate, and then we could have a Bill later. I do not really think we have lost anything.

Mr David: I think that statement was really made for the Minister’s benefit, and it would be useful to have his response to it.

Mr Lidington: What my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) said is absolutely true.

Mr David: I am glad that for once there is unanimity on the Conservative Benches.

I have two concerns that I should like to dwell upon related to the broader situation in which we find ourselves. The first is the fact that the countries of the eurozone have apparently established a new decision-making structure. The reasons they have done that are perfectly understandable, but it is worrying that the Government do not acknowledge that decisions taken by the eurozone countries could have profound implications for the UK. Take, for example, the issue of the single market. The development and completion of the market is of critical importance to Britain, but we have to be aware that there could be a temptation for the eurozone countries to see the single market in eurozone terms only.

In fairness, the conclusions of the Heads of State and Government of the euro area summit last week state that the new pact for competitiveness and convergence will respect the integrity of the single market in the euro area and the EU as a whole, and the involvement of the European Commission in the work of the euro area group should be a safeguard.

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that eurozone members propose to break up the single market, which is established by treaty of all member states, and to impose borders, restrictions or differences between the rules that apply in eurozone countries and those that apply in the rest of the single market? If he is not, his point falls.

Mr David: I am not making that point at all, and with respect, the right hon. Gentleman has not listened carefully to what I said. The statement issued by eurozone countries makes it clear that they will acknowledge, respect and uphold the integrity of the single market. I am simply making the point that the development of the single European market is a key issue. It should be one of Britain’s priorities—it would be, if we had a proactive Government—to ensure that the single market continues to develop. My concern is that in future the eurozone countries, which are perhaps more tight-knit than the rest of the EU, could be tempted to extend the single market provision among themselves rather than applying it to other member states.

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Matthew Hancock: Is the hon. Gentleman therefore suggesting that the Labour party position is that the UK should be a part of the European stability mechanism, and therefore tied into bailing out eurozone countries, or does he agree with the Government’s proposal that the European stability mechanism should be for eurozone countries only?

Mr David: If the hon. Gentleman bears with me, I will tell him what I propose.

One sure way to prevent the single market from developing in a way that does not work to Britain’s advantage is for Britain to be involved in the current discussions. It is important for us to have an appropriate involvement in eurozone summits. I understand that countries such as Poland and Sweden, and even the Czech Republic, which has absolutely no intention of ever joining the single currency, have already indicated that they wish to be involved in those discussions. In contrast, Britain has made it clear—so I am told—that it does not want to be involved in any way whatever. I suggest that that is potentially harmful to Britain’s national interest, and therefore urge the Government not to close the door on our eurozone partners.

The second issue is another important and profound one. I have reservations about the economic and political assumptions that underpin this treaty change and the ESM. Let me be clear that the eurozone countries are correct in agreeing a permanent crisis mechanism. To that extent the treaty change is understandable, but my concern is that the ESM is part of a wider economic approach that is completely insufficient to address Europe’s deep-seated economic problems. Austerity, rapid economic retrenchment policies and fiscal consolidation will not of themselves create the kind of growth that the eurozone desperately needs. If all EU countries cut back at the same time, growth is likely to be sluggish at best. The hardest hit countries could find themselves facing stagnation, or even another recession. The risk is low economic growth and high long-term unemployment, with the poorest member states being hit hardest.

Of course, Europe has a 2020 strategy, which is supposed to be a 10-year strategy for jobs and

“smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.

The stated aim of the strategy is to help Europe to deliver structural reforms and to recover from the crisis. However, although it is full of good intentions, the strategy plays second fiddle to Council and the Commission plans for deep economic retrenchment. It is clear that throughout most of Europe economic recovery is far from strong, and there is little evidence that private sector job growth will be fast enough to compensate for the huge number of jobs lost in the public sector. My concern is that the political and economic philosophy underpinning the treaty change and the ESM will make economic recovery in the eurozone both fragile and uncertain. As I said at the beginning of my speech, that is not in Britain’s best national interests.

These are important and serious reservations, and I hope that our concerns will be listened to carefully. Europe, including Britain, needs a coherent, well-thought-out growth strategy. Without that, the treaty change will fail to deliver the stability and prosperity that we all want.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. The debate will finish at 8.41 pm, so there is slightly over half an hour left. There will be no wind-up, so the allotted time is for Back Benchers. However, there is no time limit on speeches, so if Members could please show discipline and restraint, more people will get in.

8.10 pm

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): The essence of this debate is not just the technicalities, which we heard about at great length from the Minister, but something far more fundamental—the political landscape of Europe. The Minister knows it and the Foreign Office knows it. To give an example, there was a massive row between Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Kenny about the terms of European economic governance only a few days ago. Furthermore, as was said this week in The Economist:

“Mrs Merkel has struck a Faustian bargain with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.”

He knows that France is losing influence, and as one senior EU official commented:

“France needs Germany to disguise its weakness, and Germany needs France to disguise its strength”.

The fact is that we have the strength to prevent this hybrid treaty arrangement, which presents Germany with a predominant role. We have great sympathy for Germany’s predicament, given that it contributes so much to the European Union and is having to pay out so much. I have fairly regular meetings with German politicians, who tell me that if their country had the opportunity, it would almost certainly go back to the Deutschmark. There is a serious crisis in Europe, but the response is about the nature of a treaty, something in which this Government are acquiescing—it is not far short of appeasement.

The plain fact is that this is a serious moment for the future of Europe. This is a new, unprecedented situation, and it is accompanied by other proposals, which, as I understand it, will also be considered on 24 and 25 March, namely the proposals for the euro pact, which has otherwise been known as the competitiveness pact. However, nobody really knows exactly what the ingredients of it are, any more than they knew about the ingredients of the proposal that we are discussing this evening in its earlier stages. Indeed, I had to use an urgent question to extract from the Government the fact that it was even being made. That is the manner in which Europe works: by secrecy and behind closed doors. Indeed, there are already signs of committees meeting, and we are discovering—through leaks and otherwise—the manner in which they are going forward.

One element in all this is that, as my hon. Friends have rightly said, it would have to be determined by unanimity, so we would have the leverage to stop this juggernaut moving forward. I described it the other day as being like an aircraft carrier in comparison with a rowing boat, but we in Britain will not be regarded as a rowing boat by any means. If such arrangements were being made co-operatively by a voluntary association of nation states, I would be the first to say, “This is fine”, but they are not. They are being dealt with in the context of a legal treaty. We are parties to it, which is why clause 4 of the European Union Bill is such a disgrace. I say this with great respect for my right hon. Friend the Minister, but he talks about how we would

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be under no legal obligation and how there would be no transfer of powers or competences, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether the United Kingdom is affected. That is the point that I put to the Prime Minister repeatedly, and he cannot answer it. The fact is that the arrangements in question do affect the United Kingdom. They are matters of foreign policy; they are not just constitutional questions relating to sovereignty, competence and powers.

Martin Horwood: I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that I am missing the Cheltenham festival to be in Parliament this week, which I do not mention flippantly. The festival is enormously important to my constituency economically, and it depends enormously on Irish euros to make it succeed. If in the long run the outcome of the stability mechanism adds some discipline and rigour to eurozone economies such as Ireland, can he not see that that would be of enormous benefit to the festival, to Cheltenham and to the whole of the UK, and should we not do everything in our power to facilitate it?

Mr Cash: I was one of the first—in fact, I think I suggested that we should help Ireland through the bilateral Bill that we eventually produced. However, the Irish are now being put under pressure, at the dictation of Germany in particular, to reduce their corporation tax. That will not do much for the Cheltenham gold cup.

There is a serious problem, because the Government are effectively obscuring the nature of this measure by giving the impression that it is all about institutions. It is about realpolitik. In the days of Bismarck, the German states were brought together in a customs union. That was done for understandable reasons; I do not want that to be misunderstood. However, there is now a problem for Europe. Our problem is that, in the 43 minutes that the Minister spent addressing the House, he did not deal with the politics of this matter at all. That is most unfortunate. In every serious commentary on this issue, including those in the Financial Times, the real question is whether Germany is becoming increasingly predominant, and whether that is intentional or whether it is happening by accident and Germany is making the most of it.

Germany is making the most of the financial crisis to get a greater degree of political control, and the question of whether we can influence that by entering into an arrangement of this kind—which affects us even though we are technically excluded from it—is a serious foreign policy matter for the innermost parts of the Foreign Office. It is also a matter for this House. I believe profoundly that these issues, including the euro pact itself, are not being properly disclosed. The Minister might know what is going on, but we do not. We are not being told. We do not know what the strict conditionality affecting the other member states in the eurozone will be under article 138 as amended. The plain fact is that in that conditionality a crisis lurks. If over-severe conditions are imposed, we will have another crisis in Europe.

This is a bad treaty proposal. The leverage comes now, when we have the opportunity to say no. The Government propose that this will be dealt with in a Bill, but that will be far too late. The Government are acquiescing in this, and I regard that as a form of appeasement to the modern problems of Europe in the

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form of a predominant Germany, which is not in the interests of Europe, not in the interests of the United Kingdom, and not in the interests of Germany itself.

8.18 pm

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I actually agree with some of what the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash) said: a lot of this does turn on Germany. We are told that the eurozone is a disaster zone, economically, but we can now see that Germany is succeeding rather well in the eurozone according to all the indices that matter: growth, falling unemployment and exports. I agree that Germany is playing its hand. I am worried about the German position on intervening in Libya, but that is the price we pay for—

Martin Horwood: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr MacShane: Very briefly. I want to take up only two or three minutes.

Martin Horwood: I hope that, while endorsing the words of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), the right hon. Gentleman will dissociate himself from the hon. Gentleman’s use of the term “appeasement” in connection with Germany. It was profoundly distasteful and quite inappropriate to this debate.

Mr MacShane: I thought the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) made an important intervention earlier this week about the Saudi invasion and occupation of Bahrain, but that is another point. I am sorry, but the hon. Member for Stone has put his finger on a very profound point, although I would not use the term “appeasement”.

I have affection for the Minister for Europe, who was like Horatio defending the bridge, fighting all by himself “for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods”, as the Tuscan hordes—the Eurosceptic hordes—bore down on him and tried to thrust him to one side in order to bring to bear their vision of what Britain should be like. This is a very serious development. The Government have used article 48(6) of the treaty of the European Union—the famous passerelle clause, which was not meant to be used.

We are agreed that part of the problem is connected with the budget freeze, about which the Minister spoke so passionately and proudly, but in exchange the President of France is going to get an absolute block on any common agricultural policy reform. Right hon. and hon. Members should have no illusions about that; if any part of Europe is frozen, it all tends to start freezing. In the agreed statement, although the new mechanism applies only to eurozone or euro-using members, it fully engages Britain. As the key statement we are debating tonight states:

“The Heads of State or Government of the euro area”—

that is not us—

“and the EU institutions have made it clear… that they stand ready to do whatever is required to ensure the stability of the euro area as a whole. The euro is and will remain a central part of European integration. In particular, the Heads called for determined action in the following areas”,

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which were specified. The Heads of the European institutions speak for us. That means the President of the European Council. We appointed him, as we appointed the President of the European Parliament. Our MEPs elected him. I am afraid that this is not simply a matter solely and exclusively for the eurozone. Frankly, this might be a comfort blanket that my dear friend Horatio is trying to throw over the noisy bedsteads of the Tuscans behind him, but the fact is that this will commit Britain to take part in decisions that involve us as a nation.

When I said in a debate last week that the Prime Minister, after discussing the Libyan crisis on Friday, would be asked to leave the room, the hon. Member for Stone intervened, as some Members might remember, and read out a press release saying that the British Prime Minister would take part in these decisions on the architecture of economic governance of Europe as a whole. The hon. Member for Stone might care to recall that, last Friday, as soon as the Libyan discussions were over—they ended, frankly, in nothing, with bits of paper being waved around—the serious decisions of the European Council started and lasted all through Friday afternoon, Friday evening and Saturday. The Irish Prime Minister, the new one of the newly elected Government, went home, not achieving what the Irish people had voted for, but we were absent. This is what the Deputy Prime Minister rightly calls the “empty chair” policy of the present Government, which greatly worries me.

We will pass this legislation tonight, but I accept what the hon. Member for Stone said—this is a matter of high importance. I worry that we are slowly isolating ourselves from the main thrust of decision making in Europe. I think the Minister is putting up a firm defence. The Prime Minister, however, at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, dismissed the intervention of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone)—I do not mean that unkindly, as I thought it was one of the nicest interventions ever. The hon. Gentleman appealed to the Prime Minister for an in-or-out referendum, but the Prime Minister effectively said on behalf of the British nation state that we are not leaving and that we are not going to a have a referendum, as we are part of Europe.

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

Mr MacShane: I have quoted the hon. Gentleman, so I suppose I should.

Mr Bone: I would like to correct the record. The Prime Minister gave his view on how he would vote in an in/out referendum, but he did not rule out either way whether we would have a referendum. He left that entirely open.

Mr MacShane: Yes, and I am going to win the lottery on Saturday! I think the Prime Minister was very clear that we are not going to have an in-or-out referendum and that we are staying in the EU. If we are to stay in the EU, it is better to work co-operatively and effectively in it. Unfortunately, the Government do not accept the consequences of their full membership of the EU. They are pretending—here we find that dear Horatio has been waving a wooden sword—that the measure before

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us somehow excludes Britain from future responsibilities. It does not; it will not: the European Union issue will go on and on for the rest of this Parliament.