With the European Union Act 2011, this coalition Government have already made an historic change to how we handle EU matters in this country, with new powers for Parliament and a referendum lock, so that no future treaty change that transfers powers from the UK to the EU can happen without the express consent of the British people. The work that I am announcing today will help to inform decisions on Britain’s future path in Europe. It is not a consultation about disengaging or withdrawing from the EU. The coalition Government’s policy on Europe has not changed. We remain committed to our membership of the EU and to a strong and stable Europe. [Interruption.] I am smiling: I am amused by one of my hon. Friends behind me. I also believe that the EU’s future lies in continued variable geometry, in different layers of integration. Britain will choose not to take part in some layers, such as Schengen or the euro,

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but will continue to play a leading part in completing the single market, championing free trade and enlargement, as well as in foreign policy and new areas, such as the unitary patent, which benefits British business.

It is my view, as it is the Prime Minister’s, that in future we must take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation. That should involve less cost, less bureaucracy and less meddling in the issues that belong to nation states. This analytical exercise will help to inform political parties and the British public, as they consider how the United Kingdom’s democracy, prosperity and security are best advanced in Europe—and in the world at large —and what kind of Europe it should become.

12.31 pm

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his remarks today and for advance sight of the statement.

The Opposition have no objection to a proper, thorough and factual analysis of what the EU does and how it affects us in the United Kingdom, and we welcome the involvement of a wide range of external stakeholders in the exercise announced today. We are also clear, however, that we support a future for Britain within the EU. To cut ourselves off from a market of 500 million customers would imply not just that we had lost faith in Europe, but that we had lost faith in the ability of British companies to out-compete their European rivals. In an era of billion-person countries and trillion-pound economies, we need to find ways to amplify Britain’s voice on the world stage. Where we have shared goals—from climate change negotiations to tackling cross-border crime and human trafficking—working together in Europe makes global agreements more likely.

However, committed as we are to a future within Europe, we also recognise the need for reform of Europe. The Foreign Secretary made only passing reference today to the eurozone crisis, which is still afflicting Europe, so in many ways this was a curiously contextless and rather ahistorical statement, the announcement of which, I fear, owed more to enduring political problems than to immediate policy challenges. Let us remember that President Van Rompuy stated at the European Council just a couple of weeks ago that his plan was to

“submit to the December 2012 European Council detailed proposals for a stage-based process towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union”.

Given that that timetable is much shorter than the one the Foreign Secretary has set out today for full publication of the internal Government audit, will he confirm that the work initiated today will not be completed and so will not inform the Government’s negotiating position in the critical weeks and months ahead? Given the broad terms of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, will he take the opportunity of his reply to set out more clearly to the House what the Government’s specific negotiating objectives are in the crucial six months ahead?

Every Member of the House knows that it has not exactly been a great week for coalition unity. That is perhaps reflected in the strength of support from the Liberal Democrats Benches for the Foreign Secretary’s statement today—

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Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): Quality, not quantity.

Mr Alexander: I am glad to say that what is missing in quantity is indeed made up for by quality on the Liberal Democrat Benches. There are still some true and honourable Liberal Democrats, I am glad to acknowledge.

The statement we have just heard from the Foreign Secretary will do little to create a greater sense of consensus between the coalition parties, I fear—indeed, the project is not even under way yet and already cracks are emerging. The Foreign Secretary’s Liberal Democrat colleagues, including the Deputy Prime Minister’s advisers, have reportedly been claiming that the audit is a small, low-key affair and largely a technical exercise. The Foreign Secretary today makes grand claims about the scale and scope of the project, but the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), co-chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary committee on international affairs, has already said:

“The call for a long list of demands for unilateral repatriation and carve-outs is neither achievable nor desirable.”

Indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister is reported in the newspapers to have already warned that the review must not simply provide a turbulent backdrop to what is already a tense relationship between Britain and its EU partners. Given that the Deputy Prime Minister knows a thing or two about tense relationships, what assurances can the Foreign Secretary give his colleague today that that scenario will not come to pass?

The timing of today’s announcement seems to have more to do with managing the fallout from the recent weekend of referendum shambles than with promoting Britain’s national interest, because the splits on Europe are not just between the coalition partners, but within the Conservative party. The timing seems to reflect growing rumblings from those on the Conservative Benches, many of whom will see today’s announcement as merely another step on the ramp towards an inevitable EU referendum. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Right on cue, and from the Conservative Front Bench. Let me therefore take this opportunity to ask the Foreign Secretary an important question that the Prime Minister failed to answer when he returned from last month’s EU summit. If the Conservative party were to propose a referendum premised on a package of powers being repatriated—a list that would probably be drawn from the audit announced today—but the Foreign Secretary was unable to secure such an outcome in his negotiations with members of the EU, would he contemplate advocating withdrawal in a subsequent referendum? I invite him to desist from warning about defeatism and simply to answer the question.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister himself said recently that it is vital for our country

“that we get our relationship with Europe right.”

Much that determines that relationship could well be decided before the Government’s review is completed. The truth is that Britain urgently needs an effective Europe strategy, and an audit, although worth while, is not a substitute for a strategy.

Mr Hague: Stripping away one or two of the remarks about political parties, I think that amounted to a welcome for the announcement, as the right hon. Gentleman said that he had “no objection”. That is as

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near as we get to enthusiasm from Opposition Front Benchers on this subject, so I am grateful to him for what counts as a very strong welcome and I look forward to the Labour party submitting its evidence to the review in due course.

Given that the right hon. Gentleman got into party political matters, let me say that it is a pity that Labour never conducted such a review. It might have helped the Labour Government when they were handing over so many competences without understanding what they were doing, without subjecting them to proper scrutiny in this House and without having a referendum. We remember—[Interruption.] Opposition Members are talking about particular treaties, but it was in the Nice treaty that Labour gave up the veto, which ended up with our being implicated in eurozone bail-outs under qualified majority voting—something from which this Government have now extracted the United Kingdom. The Opposition will therefore benefit enormously—and could have benefited in the past—from this kind of analysis, and I am glad that they have no objection today to its being undertaken.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about our priorities in the coming months. They are, of course, to protect the integrity of the single market. There is much talk about banking union, for instance, although different countries and different commentators mean different things by the term. We will protect the integrity of the single market, but above all our priority is to support measures that will really bring growth to the EU. They include removing barriers to business and pursuing free trade agreements with countries such as Canada and Singapore. Much of that agenda was endorsed at the June European Council.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to ask other questions about the future, and to suggest that the timetables were somehow amiss, but he himself said in an article in The Guardian on 1 July that

“there are also those within the Labour party who have speculated about the possibility of a referendum… We should not decide now because the pressing priority…is…securing Britain’s interests and protecting the single market”.

That is exactly what I have been saying. He went on:

“And we cannot sensibly decide now because none of us can fully predict where Europe will be in a few months, never mind a few years.”

So he does not want to answer the questions that he has just been putting to me about the longer-term future. What we do know is that, whatever happens, we will be in a better position if we have undertaken this work. It should have been undertaken before. It will inform our negotiations, improve our discussions with our partners and allow the public to be engaged in the process. Perhaps it will also lead to Governments undertaking more successful negotiations than the one that he will remember from his time as Minister for Europe, when he gave away £7 billion of our rebate. There is much to learn if we are to avoid negotiations that are so memorably, comprehensively and disastrously unsuccessful as those.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): Naturally, we all welcome this initiative. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that it is not only about specific powers but about democratic power as a whole, and that that raises the question of the sovereignty of Parliament, and of the wording of the European Communities Act 1972

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and its impact on the daily lives of the people of this country? Does he also agree that it is essential to incorporate all those questions in the review, as well as on the necessity of holding a referendum as soon as one can possibly take place?

Mr Hague: It will be a wide-ranging review and I am expecting a substantial contribution to it from my hon. Friend, given his knowledge of and long-standing opinions on so many aspects of EU competences. We are not restricting what people can submit in their evidence or what subjects can be addressed. The review will involve the majority of Government Departments, and, of course, all the analysis of the competences taken together will prompt major questions about how democracy works and about the appropriate levels at which decisions should be made. It is not a review about a referendum. We passed legislation last year that deals with the circumstances in which referendums will be held, and it is for each political party to explain the circumstances in which they would hold a referendum. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have recently discussed that matter, as my hon. Friend knows.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement, but does he agree with this time line? In July 2009, he leads the Conservative party out of the family of centre right parties in Europe. In July 2012, the Prime Minister announces that he envisages a referendum, and the Foreign Secretary announces today that every green-ink EU obsessive may write to him with their ideas on what needs to be done—I hope that the Foreign Office has a big enough warehouse for all the mail. Does he agree that we will have a referendum in July 2015 or 2016, and that he will arrive at his long wished for moment, when Britain separates itself from the rest of Europe?

Mr Hague: When a letter in green ink arrives from an obsessive, I shall check to see whether it has come from Rotherham. I suspect that there is a fair chance that it will have done. The time line that I remember is not far off the right hon. Gentleman’s period as Minister for Europe. In 2004, the Labour Government promised a referendum on the European constitution. In 2005, they failed to hold it. In 2007, they signed the Lisbon treaty, which was very similar to that constitution, without holding a referendum. In 2008, they passed many competences away from this country without understanding what the consequences would be. Now, in 2012, we are ensuring that there will be a proper understanding of the issues. That process will no doubt be informative for the right hon. Gentleman as well.

Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD) rose—

Hon. Members: Hooray!

Mr Kennedy: Together at last.

This has been a memorable parliamentary week, and the Foreign Secretary is topping it off with a moment of history. He has made a statement on matters European that can, at one and the same time, be welcomed by the most arch-Eurosceptic as well as by those of us who are quite relaxed about being described as European federalists. I congratulate him on the squaring of that circle, and I wish him well in his endeavours.

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Is it significant that the word “repatriation” did not appear in the right hon. Gentleman’s statement today? Will he confirm that this calm, methodical, thorough review is going to be wisely led by civil servants and that it will not lead to policy prescriptions, which will be left to the wilder elements of individual political parties?

On behalf of all of us who argue for a more decentralised, transparent and democratic European future, I want to say with an element of affection and nostalgia that, today, my mind goes back to the general election in which he led his party and I led mine. He led his on a Save the Pound campaign. [Hon. Members: “We were right!”] He might have been right, but he resigned as leader the day after the general election. None the less, I knew then that, one day, he would come good on Europe. Today is that day, and it would be churlish of me to deny him his moment in the Mediterranean sun.

Mr Hague: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for some parts of his question. I well remember that general election, in which, I have to say, I got a lot more votes than he did—but not so many that I did not want to resign the following day. I am grateful for his endorsement of the statement, following the ringing endorsement—“no objection”—from the Opposition. We now have the enthusiastic support even of the Euro-federalist members of the Liberal Democrats. This exercise will therefore begin with strong cross-party support.

I cannot confirm that the review will be led by civil servants, because it is the job of Ministers to lead in Government, but there will of course be many assiduous officials engaged in the process and answering to Ministers, through whom the Government are accountable to Parliament. I can confirm that it will be an analytical exercise. I would not join the right hon. Gentleman in describing those in political parties who will draw policy conclusions from it as the “wilder elements”, as those parties are an important part of the functioning of our democracy. I am sure that the exercise will inform the functioning of our democracy, for which the right hon. Gentleman is a great enthusiast.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): The Joint Ministerial Committee’s memorandum of understanding on EU policy states:

“Ministers and officials of the devolved administrations should be fully involved in discussions within the UK Government about the formulation of the UK’s policy position on all issues which touch on matters which fall within the responsibility of the devolved administrations.”

I want to ask the Foreign Secretary two questions. First, was there any discussion at all with the devolved Administrations on the formulation of this review policy? Secondly, does he really think it adequate that Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh should be invited to submit evidence to the review? Does that meet the terms of the MOU, which states that the devolved Administrations should be “fully involved” in discussions on policies in which we have competence? He mentioned agriculture, fisheries and the environment: many of those matters are devolved.

Mr Hague: They will of course be involved in determining policy. I stress again that this is a review to establish a proper understanding of the use of EU competences and the balance of those competences with the powers

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of the United Kingdom. It will then be a matter for the political parties or the devolved Administrations to draw their policy conclusions from it. They will be involved in the way that has been set out in the memorandum. The commitment to undertake this exercise is in the coalition agreement; it is part of what the coalition Government said they would do at the beginning. That agreement is not qualified by, and cannot be diluted by, consultations with the devolved Administrations; we are empowered to do this as a coalition. Of course the devolved Administrations will be involved in determining policy, and I look forward to the representations that they make as part of the review.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As the Foreign Secretary rightly says, Europe is changing, perhaps faster than we realise. Our relationship with Europe will change. In debating that, we must be well informed; there is no substitute in politics for being well briefed. Once the information has been analysed, however, what will be the process of drawing it together to reach a conclusion?

Mr Hague: As I explained in my statement, the results of this analysis will be published as we go along. There will be many opportunities for individual Departments to do that; then, during 2014, that work will be drawn together. It is then for us all—for Parliament as a whole, for the Government or for political parties—to draw their policy conclusions and base them on that. That process is up to Parliament, up to the Government at the time and up to political parties.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): It is important to be fully briefed, but there is plenty of expertise in government and elsewhere. Surely, this audit could be completed by the end of this year, not the end of 2014. That is why many of us are very sceptical about the motivation behind the Government’s timetable. At a time when so many crises face Europe and the world, is it not important to work out what our strategy should be on so many of those important issues, rather than simply having this interminable discussion motivated by political purposes?

Mr Hague: It is no good for the Opposition, who never proposed and have never undertaken such a review, now to say that it must all be done in the next few weeks, particularly when they had 13 years in government during which they could have undertaken any such exercise. When this is completed, it will of course be available for political parties to draw on in the next general election campaign and develop in whatever direction—including for the Labour party, if it manages to decide by then what policy it is going to pursue. This will not prevent us in any way from doing the work that we are doing now to protect our national interest. As I mentioned earlier, the Government have already been able to extract the United Kingdom from liability for eurozone bail-outs. We are already working hard, in consultation with the devolved Administrations, on the common fisheries policy and in trying to ensure that the exercise of competence under that policy is used much more at the national or regional level, since the common fisheries policy has been one of the most catastrophic

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and disastrous of the common policies of the European Union. We are already doing that work in any case; this review comes on top of that work and does not in any way conflict with it.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): I wish the Foreign Secretary well in trying to repatriate powers from the EU, but can he explain why he is so unwilling to commit to a referendum on our membership of the EU in the next Parliament, given that this would give us time to have an informed debate, allow the eurozone crisis to play out and fundamentally address the lack of public trust when people hear politicians making promises about matters European?

Mr Hague: Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for wishing me well on the exercise. This is not about a referendum; questions about a referendum are separate. I believe, however, that for any future public debates or a referendum of any kind about the European Union, this exercise will prove immensely useful—for the public, for Parliament and for all involved in the debate. As I say, my hon. Friend’s question is separate from what I have set out in the statement. My own view is that it is necessary to see how Europe develops, what happens during the eurozone crisis, what structure of Europe we are dealing with and what can be achieved to improve this country’s relationship with Europe before we decide on any such referendum.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Despite our political differences, I have been friends with the Foreign Secretary for over 30 years. In that time, I cannot remember him being a Euro-enthusiast—despite his support for Maastricht. He did say in 1999:

“The British people believe that Britain’s place lies firmly within the European Union”.

Is that still his view?

Mr Hague: I was about to call the hon. Gentleman my hon. Friend because we have known each other so long. Indeed, in our days in the Oxford Union, I do not recall him being much of a Euro-enthusiast either. We used to make common cause against the Liberal Democrats, but I am skating over that for obvious reasons today. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in his place at the beginning of my statement, but I did say right at the outset, “Membership of the EU is in the UK’s national interests.” I therefore think that he will find perfect consistency between that and what I said in 1999.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on embarking on this review. May I query use of the term “competence”, which has a particular legal meaning in European law, particularly regarding fisheries competence, which is now enshrined in the Lisbon treaty? Does he not share my enthusiasm for the direction in which reform of the CFP is heading—to all intents and purposes, to devolve power and decision making back to member states?

Mr Hague: I do very much, as I mentioned a few moments ago. The envisaged changes to the common fisheries policy do not amount, of course, to a change in competence—the competence remains with the European Union—but if all goes well, the member states will be

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accorded much more say in how the measures adopted by the EU are implemented. That, I think, will be immensely beneficial to fisheries policies. That illustrates how the use of competence can be changed. We could, of course, debate whether the competence of the EU in certain areas should exist at all, as well as how it should be exercised. I do not think that we have any problem in using that term, and what is happening in the fisheries policy provides a good example of what can be achieved.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): May I press the Foreign Secretary a little on the curious timing of this exercise? To many of us, 2014 sounds suspiciously close to the next general election. Is this not all about preparation for the Tory party manifesto for that election?

Mr Hague: The hon. Gentleman is welcome to use this for the Labour party manifesto, and it might make it a much better informed manifesto than previous ones. I do not see any downside to that. This is a democratic country in which election campaigns are meant to be properly and fully informed. There is no disadvantage to the nation in that happening. Moreover, I intend this to be, and it will be, the most comprehensive exercise ever undertaken in this or any country about the competences of the European Union; it is important that it is fully and comprehensively undertaken. As I have said, it is odd that Opposition Members, who never thought of the exercise, never proposed it and were never in favour of it until today, now want it done at greater speed.

Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): As someone present at the launch of the Save the Pound campaign on a wet Tuesday lunchtime at St Albans market—with sizeable public support, as it was market day—I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does he agree that it should be perfectly possible, alongside this review, to take account of the public’s views and the public demand for a referendum on this subject? The public can see that the power of the European Union is growing day by day, in the exercise of its powers under its existing competences, and that our national democracy and our national sovereignty are being eroded day by day.

Mr Hague: Certainly, public disillusionment with the European Union is the greatest that it has ever been. We should be clear about that. I remember my hon. Friend being there on the day we launched the campaign to save the pound; let us be thankful that it was successful. We had precious little help from the other side at that time. [Interruption.] I seem to remember that a certain Prime Minister—the one before the last one—was very keen on joining the euro, so it was important to put him off, which we helped to do. A referendum, however, is a separate question from this exercise. I am not saying that this review is the only thing that will happen in our policy on the European Union. Much else will be happening over the coming months. My attitude towards a referendum is as I expressed it earlier. Discussion about it and the debate within all the political parties about what should be proposed for the future will carry on at the same time as this review.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, but will he reflect on the fact that some years ago President Giscard d’Estaing himself—a wise European—said that the United

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Kingdom would need to negotiate for itself a special status in the European Union? I commend my right hon. Friend’s recognition of public opinion, but at least two thirds of public opinion favours a looser trade and co-operation relationship with the EU, rather than this disastrous process of integration. Will he shout from the rooftops that only a Conservative Government will deliver the renegotiation that British people want?

Mr Hague: Like my hon. Friend, I remember the statements of President Giscard d’Estaing. I am sure that my hon. Friend will make extensive contributions to the review, and I look forward to them. Although I shall of course be shouting from the rooftops about what a Conservative Government will do, I shall not be doing so from the Dispatch Box now, given that I represent a coalition Government as Foreign Secretary. However, I look forward to doing the shouting at the appropriate time.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): In view of the absurd statement this week by Mr Barroso that if we left the EU we would be reduced to the status of a Norway or a Switzerland, perhaps there should be a review of his competence. Incidentally, Norway and Switzerland have the second and fourth highest GDP per capita in the world. Life outside the EU can go on if countries enjoy full trading relations.

Mr Hague: I will not stray as widely from the statement as my hon. Friend has asked me to, but I urge him to submit his thoughts to the review. The review can give rise to policy conclusions, and he has given a strong hint of the conclusions that he might draw from it. I look forward to discussing that further in the future.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement about what will be a very important piece of work, especially since, as we all know, Europe will have to change dramatically following this dreadful eurozone crisis. Does he agree that the debate that follows will need to be conducted in a calm and rational way, given that, as he has said, Britain’s interests lie in full and wholehearted membership of the European Union?

Mr Hague: It is important for the debate about Europe to be well informed. Many Members on both sides of the House will cite instances in which European directives or EU competences are used in a way that is unnecessarily meddling or interfering at local or national level, but it is equally important to understand the importance of the single market to the economy of the United Kingdom. I hope that the review will draw out those issues and establish a huge amount of common ground, even among people whose opinions about the European Union differ, so that the debate can then focus on the genuine differences.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): At last! I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the statement and the Command Paper. By the end of this audit, we shall know exactly how the EU has bound its tentacles throughout Government. We shall also know the cost of our membership, and, through the work of the Fresh Start project—that is just a little advertisement—we shall know that we have options for change. Does the

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Foreign Secretary agree that all this will provide the British public with the information that they require to make a judgment on what any new relationship, post-eurozone crisis, should look like?

Mr Hague: I hope that the review will indeed provide that information. Not everyone will think that the right conclusion has been drawn, but it will make the biggest single contribution to the provision of information on which we can base policies in the future. I welcome the work that has already been done by, for instance, the Fresh Start group, of which my hon. Friend is a leading member, because that is exactly the kind of active, positive and constructive thinking about Europe that we need to see and that should feed into the review.

Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk) (Con): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the review. Can he confirm that it will examine the costs of EU regulation, not just in its own context but by comparison with the costs of regulation around the world? It worries me that the UK currently ranks 83rd in the World Economic Forum’s regulation league table.

Mr Hague: Of course the review will be able to examine that issue, and my hon. Friend, among others, will be able to make representations about it. Part of the argument about how competence is exercised, and about the level of government at which it should be exercised, relates to the costs that are involved, and it will therefore be wholly legitimate to consider such questions.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I welcome the review, but may I express my regret that it does not go far enough? My right hon. Friend is right about so many things, and indeed I was with him until the second sentence of his statement—[Laughter]—in which he said, “Membership of the EU is in the UK’s national interests.” I do not agree with that, and nor do an increasing number of my constituents. Rather than asking what is the balance of the relationship between Britain and our EU partners, should not the review ask whether the United Kingdom is better off in or better off out of the whole thing?

Mr Hague: I appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend was with me until the second sentence of my statement. However, given that in the first sentence I merely said that I was going to make a statement, I will not take that as a ringing endorsement.

Of course my hon. Friend has a strong view, which is different from mine, about membership of the European Union. However, I think that he will concede that reviews of this kind, which spell out in detail how competence is exercised and, in many instances, what the costs are, and which set out properly the facts of how it is exercised in a single market, in directives and in many other contexts, can at least ensure that any debates about that issue, now and in future, are better informed and take place on the basis of a common understanding of the facts that would otherwise be lacking.

George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement as a crucial first step towards Britain’s inevitable renegotiation

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of its membership of the EU. Does he expect the review also to examine the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and, in particular, its tendency to widen the scope of certain directives beyond the extent that national Governments originally envisaged?

Mr Hague: Yes, it is part of the history of EU competence that it has sometimes been extended, not by treaties and not by the decisions of nation states, but by rulings of the European Court of Justice, or by an expansive interpretation of the treaties by the European Commission. As we go through each of the issues, the way in which competences have developed in the past will be a legitimate factor in the assessment of how competence should be exercised in the future.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): Like many of my hon. Friends, I warmly welcome the statement. I am keen to see a fundamental realignment of the UK’s relationship with Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the prospect of a more multi-tier Europe should hold no fears for us, and, in that spirit, can he confirm that the UK will not be part of an EU banking union?

Mr Hague: We will not be part of an EU banking union. There are, of course, supervisory arrangements in respect of which we have common arrangements with the rest of the European Union, but the United Kingdom will certainly not become part of a full-scale banking union, participating in the provision of mutualised deposit guarantees. I hope that that, too, is common ground across British politics.

As for my hon. Friend’s question about a multi-tier Europe, I believe that the European Union, however it develops, will have to become more flexible. The unitary patent is an example of that, as is, in a different way, the fisheries policy as it develops. As the EU enlarges, as we hope it will, it is inevitable that it will become more flexible, and essential for it to do so.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I have no objection to the statement, but the Foreign Secretary is being a little coy. Is it not possible that the Conservative party will go into the next election promising a renegotiation and then a referendum, which will lead to a 100-seat Conservative majority followed by the renegotiation and then the referendum, in which the people will be able to choose whether to accept the renegotiation or pull out of the EU?

Mr Hague: I am glad my hon. Friend has no objection—which is quite rare when it comes to statements, so I also appreciate that endorsement. He is asking about a party issue, whereas I am speaking as the Foreign Secretary of the coalition Government today. I am sure we will profit in our party meetings from discussing the issues that he raises.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I welcome the statement, but will the audit include a cost-benefit analysis of our relationship with the EU, and will the Foreign Secretary make my constituents of Harlow incredibly happy by saying that it will look at immigration and that we will get back immigration as our area of competence, not the EU’s?

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Mr Hague: The review will, inevitably, look at costs in most of the areas that I have described, but that is a different exercise from trying to arrive at a single figure for cost and benefit. There are many aspects of our relationship with the EU to which it is difficult to attach a financial benefit or cost. In the work that I do in respect of a common policy towards sanctions on Iran or Syria, for example, it is beneficial to the UK that we act with our partners, but it is hard to attribute a financial benefit to that. So I do not think one can arrive at a single number, which my hon. Friend may be looking for, but it is, of course, possible within this analysis across many different policy areas to look at costs and benefits, and it is absolutely possible in the work the Home Office will do to look at migration responsibilities and issues, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is very keen to do so.

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I very much welcome the positioning of this review as an outward-facing exercise. My right hon. Friend states that the relationship between the EU and the member state is a subject of intense debate in many member states, so will he take every opportunity to bring like-minded member states with us in our bid to recast the balance of power, so that the competitiveness of Europe as a whole improves in relation to the growth markets in the world?

Mr Hague: We are, of course, already engaged in trying to persuade like-minded member states that we must do the essential things in respect of permitting growth to take place in the European economy. That includes doing everything we can to limit the further application of the working time directive, and it means that directives currently being debated—the pregnant workers directive and the posted workers directive—that are further unnecessary burdens on businesses must be resisted. So we are already engaged in that work, quite separately from this review and analysis.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): I welcome the statement. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, as we are pursuing a radical policy of localism in Britain, decentralising power to local government and local communities, that spirit of localism should also inform our thinking about our future relationship with the EU?

Mr Hague: Yes, I very much agree. I have mentioned the common fisheries policy and the decades-overdue changes that are now at least being contemplated, and that would lead to more local, regional or national decision-making. It is certainly my view that we need to go in that direction in more policy areas.

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con): The vast majority of my constituents rightly believe that we have given away too many powers to the EU, and they will never forgive the previous Government for signing us up to the European constitution without the promised referendum. I welcome the statement, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that the review will be very open and transparent and, importantly, that all evidence submitted will be made available to the public?

Mr Hague: I agree: it is my view as well that too many powers have been given to the EU. That has certainly happened—and it has happened notably in the past few

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years under the Lisbon treaty. I therefore think that my hon. Friend’s constituents are right about that. I can confirm that, unless there is some powerful—and at this stage, very unexpected—reason to the contrary, the evidence given will be publicly available.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): I welcome the statement—and, with due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), may I say that I actually rather liked all of it? I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary mentioned Guido Westerwelle, who, somewhat famously, said at the February 2010 Munich security conference that it was his aspiration to move towards a European army with full parliamentary control. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this review will look at the European security and defence policy and the so-called EU defence identity?

Mr Hague: Yes, the review will, and I shall welcome my hon. Friend’s contribution to the review—as I welcome his endorsement of this statement. My friend and colleague Guido Westerwelle and I have quite different views on such issues. He has talked about a European army. I do not believe that can ever be contemplated, and I will maintain quite a strong difference of view with some of my colleagues about that.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): The latest opinion poll recorded that 48% of people wanted to leave the EU and that only 31% wanted to stay in. The Foreign Secretary is in the minority therefore, but would it not be more sensible for him to take that view at the conclusion of his audit, rather than prejudging it before it starts?

Mr Hague: As I have said, hon. Members and political parties will be able to draw their policy conclusions from this review, and they will also, no doubt, take into account events that happen in the meantime. I am stating the policy of the coalition Government and pointing out that that has not changed, but in doing so, I do not prejudge the opinion that anybody could come to at the conclusion of this review.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Following on from the last question, if the findings of this review demonstrate that our membership of the EU is damaging the prosperity of UK citizens, does my right hon. Friend not agree that the right and logical thing to do will be to give the British people the option to leave the EU by holding a referendum?

Mr Hague: Again, my hon. Friend is, in line with his consistently held views, trying to take me on to a different and further debate. What I am setting out today is a process that will inform the wider debate. It might inform it in different directions, but it will help to ensure that the debate takes place on the basis of established facts, and I am sure that that will be beneficial for all.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): One of the many mistakes made by the last Labour Government was the blatant failure to control immigration from new entrant states to the EU. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the effect of immigration from new entrant states and UK immigration controls will be part of this review, as will the benefits and disbenefits of the policy pursued by the last Labour Government?

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Mr Hague: As I pointed out in an earlier reply, representations can be made on migration issues. The Home Secretary is keen to look at that area in this review, and I am confident it will be looked at. I look forward to such representations being made.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Last, but certainly not least, I call Chris Pincher.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I know my place.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this initiative, but does he agree that when the results of the audit are known, thanks to the supine posture struck by previous Governments, the British people will be shocked at the extent to which the EU involves itself unnecessarily in our affairs?

Mr Hague: Well, they might be shocked in some areas. I am trying not to prejudge the review, but I cannot exclude the possibility that they will be shocked by some of its findings. I am delighted that there has been such a warm welcome for the review from those who expect to be shocked, those who want to be shocked and those Opposition Members who never seem to have been shocked by the extent of the powers that they handed away.

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Business of the House

1.19 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week, which will be as follows:

Monday 16 July—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on health, followed by a debate on adult social care. These debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Tuesday 17 July—Debate on a motion relating to the Prime Minister’s adviser on Ministers’ interests, followed by a motion on the summer recess Adjournment, the format of which has been specified by the Backbench Business Committee. The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

The business for the week commencing 3 September will include:

Monday 3 September—Second Reading of the European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 4 September—Second Reading of the Small Charitable Donations Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution on the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill.

Wednesday 5 September—Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, the subject of which is to be announced.

Thursday 6 September—Debate on a motion relating to immigration, followed by debate on a motion relating to community hospitals. The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 7 September—Private Members’ Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business for Westminster Hall for 6 September will be:

Thursday 6 September—A debate on the UK’s energy supply, followed by a debate on building regulations applying to electrical and gas installation and repairs in dwellings.

As these are the last business questions before the summer recess, may I, as usual, thank the staff of the House for all their hard work, Mr Deputy Speaker? I hope that they have a good and well-deserved break before we return in September. I am sure that the whole House will also want to join me in wishing all participants in this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic games the best of luck, especially Team GB.

1.21 pm

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. May I echo his thanks to all the staff of the House for the way they have supported us this Session? May I also say to him that, following his written ministerial statement on the experiment with public reading stages, the Opposition will certainly be looking forward to the pilot?

As these are the last business questions before the Olympics, may I take this opportunity, as the Leader of the House has just done, to wish Team GB all the best? The whole country is behind them. However, given today’s urgent question on security, the problems with

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the M4 flyover and the continuing issues at Heathrow, could he assure us that the Government are confident that these troubles will be overcome before the opening ceremony?

The Government’s handling of the House of Lords Reform Bill has descended into farce. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister lost control of his party and the Government abandoned the programme motion. Despite an explicit promise to me on Tuesday, the Leader of the House has failed to make a further announcement about how the Government intend to proceed. I hope that he will do so in his reply to me.

In his usual helpful way, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister must

“not cringe to the Tory dinosaurs now they have tasted blood.”

Last night at the 1922 committee the Prime Minister apparently gave a hint about how he wishes to proceed when, after hugging his beleaguered Chief Whip—we all agree with that and can add our sympathy to him—he said:

“We are not going to negotiate with Labour, they are the enemy and they can’t be trusted—we are going to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats”.

By all accounts, the Prime Minister’s unique perspective on the trustworthiness of Liberal Democrats did not go down terribly well in that room. It was then pointed out to him by a much more experienced member of the Conservative parliamentary party that:

“Labour is not the enemy; they are Her Majesty’s Opposition”.

May I gently suggest to the Leader of the House that, as the PM clearly does not have the votes on his own side to deliver House of Lords reform, we should proceed on the basis of genuine cross-party discussion and agreement?

At business questions last week, I asked the Leader of the House about Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers splitting Government time to enable them to differentiate themselves from one another. In reply, he said that, when it came to the House of Lords Reform Bill, there would be a

“seamless approach to the legislation from those who are opening and closing the debates”.—[Official Report, 5 July 2012; Vol. 547, c. 1071.]

It did not quite work out that way, did it? I see that the Government announced at the end of last month that they were launching a £14 million fund to help people through the process of divorce. It gives people who are splitting up advice on how to divorce amicably and avoid arguments. Could the Leader of the House say whether the Prime Minister and his deputy were the first in line to receive the advice?

Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister sent an e-mail to his dwindling band of party activists, and I have managed to obtain a copy. In it, he says of Tuesday’s Lords vote:

“This is a huge triumph for our party”.

I wonder what on earth a disaster would look like in the eyes of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Last night’s suggestion that replacing the remaining hereditary peers with directly elected Members is a substantive reform is absurd. We have been debating whether there should be a 100% elected or an 80% elected second Chamber; electing just 10% would not be

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a democratic reform. A 10% elected second Chamber would not be a compromise; it would be the Liberal Democrats running up the white flag.

What a shambles this has been: the Prime Minister has lost control of his party; the Liberal Democrats are in revolt; and Government Whips have taken to ordering rebel Tory Back Benchers off the premises. And it is not just Government Whips who have been bullying their own Back Benchers. We have got used to the Prime Minister losing his rag at the Dispatch Box, but on Tuesday night, in one of his Flashman moments, he had an angry altercation with one of his leading Back-Bench rebels. Would the Leader of the House make a suggestion to the Prime Minister: “Just calm down”?

Sir George Young: On the first question, we are determined that the Olympics will be a great success and that the issues that the hon. Lady referred to will be resolved in good time.

The hon. Lady conveniently glossed over the rebellion among the Labour Members, 26 of whom defied their Whip, so it is clear that the Conservative party is not the only party that has differences on this issue. In my business statement, I announced the business for the first week back, which did not include further progress on the Bill, but on the substantive issue that she raised, it was clear from the vote on Second Reading that a huge majority of the House want to get on with it, with majorities within each of the three major parties voting for reform. She said that we could trust the Labour party, but I have to say that the Labour party was willing the end but not willing the means. Saying before the programme motion was even tabled that Labour Members would vote against it shows a lack of commitment to getting the Bill on to the statute book.

It was equally clear on Tuesday that there was no consensus on the timetable for the Bill, which is why we did not make progress with the programme motion. What we want to do—I say this in response to what the hon. Lady has just said—is to reflect and to allow time for meaningful discussion, including with the Opposition and with other hon. Members, to build a consensus on the best way forward. As I said on Tuesday, we do intend to table a timetable motion for the Bill in the autumn, but, as the House would expect, we want those discussions to take place first before I can give the House any further information.

As for marital relations, I think that relationships within the coalition are much better than relationships within the previous Labour Government. I get on much better with my deputy than the previous Prime Minister got on with Tony Blair. I just say to the hon. Lady, in conclusion, that two parties are working together to put right the mess left behind by the Labour party, which still refused to admit that it got anything wrong.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Under the coalition Government, 10,000 more people suffering from cancer have received treatment as a result of the cancer drugs fund that we introduced. That would not have been possible had we followed the Labour party’s proposals to cut the national health service. May we have a debate on the benefits that the coalition Government have brought to the health service and the further improvements we can bring to cancer research?

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Sir George Young: I am glad to say to my hon. Friend that we can have a debate on the health service, because we will have one on Monday. The subject was chosen by the Opposition and that debate will give all my hon. Friends the opportunity to explain the extra resources we have made available to the NHS, resources that it would have been denied by Opposition Members, including the cancer drugs fund to which my hon. Friend just referred.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): May I return to a theme that was raised extensively during last week’s business questions, which is the review of children’s heart services? The Leader of the House will recall that Members on both sides of the House raised that important issue with him. The decision to end services at Leicester’s Glenfield hospital has been shattering news for families and patients in Glenfield. Already 28,000 people have signed a petition and 250 are signing it by the hour, but unfortunately time has not been found for a specific debate on the future of children’s heart services. I concede that there is an Opposition day debate on health, but given the cross-party support I am not sure whether that is the appropriate moment to discuss this. Will the Leader of the House find time for such a debate or impress on a Health Minister the importance of coming to the House to make a statement on the future of children’s heart services before the summer recess?

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I stress that a lot of Members are trying to catch my eye and we are already quite late into the day. I want to get everybody in, so if we can have short questions that will be very helpful and I am sure that we will get speedy answers. This is the last chance that Members will have to ask questions of the Leader of the House before the recess so I want to get everybody in.

Sir George Young: After the passionate representations made at business questions last Thursday, I raised the matter immediately with my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Health. There are Health questions on Tuesday and I am glad to say that the Backbench Business Committee has found time specifically for debate on children’s heart surgery in Leeds and on children’s heart surgery in Leicester during the pre-recess Adjournment debate on Tuesday. There will also be opportunities to raise the issue during the Opposition day debate on Monday. I hope that between now and the time the House goes into recess there will be three opportunities for the hon. Gentleman and others who share his concern to raise the matter with my hon. Friends in the Department.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): In view of the constitutional importance of the House of Lords Reform Bill, will the Leader of the House confirm that sufficient time will be provided in Committee of the whole House for every clause and every schedule to be debated?

Sir George Young: It is certainly our intention that there should be sufficient time to debate the House of Lords Reform Bill in Committee. Speaking from memory, I can tell my hon. Friend that 50 hours have already been devoted to the Bill by the Joint Committee. In

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addition to providing adequate time for consideration of the House of Lords Bill, it is also the Government’s intention to provide adequate time to debate the other Bills in the legislative programme.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): On the question of House of Lords reform, given that the Prime Minister has said that he does not trust the Opposition, how on earth can we have a constructive dialogue unless we recognise there must be mutual respect?

Sir George Young: I repeat what I said to the Opposition on Tuesday: we are very anxious to have a constructive dialogue with them about the programme motion, but despite repeated requests on the Floor of the House for them to tell us how many days they want in Committee, we did not get an answer. I repeat what I said to the hon. Gentleman when he intervened in my speech on Tuesday, which is that we are happy to enter into discussions with the Opposition, as I said a few moments ago, to find a way forward. As Leader of the House, I am conscious of the fact that a large majority in the House wants the Bill on the statute book and it is up to all those who want to see it there to work together to achieve that objective.

Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): The Government intend to introduce ambitious targets for the recycling of plastic packaging, which will impose financial obligations on UK manufacturers. However, local collection and sorting of plastic packaging is a long way off from being able to deliver those targets and there is little incentive for local councils to improve when they have weight-based recycling targets. May we have an urgent debate on how to establish a realistic road map for promoting recycling that takes account of the local reality and does not hold small and medium-sized enterprises financially responsible for delivering targets that are outside their control?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend raises an issue that is of concern to many local authorities, including my own. I shall raise the matter with my relevant colleagues, who are presumably those at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Communities and Local Government, to see whether we can find a way through and provide real incentives to recycle that do not impose unrealistic obligations on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made to sort out the mixed messages that are being sent by Ministers to Citizens Advice in Manchester? In June, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly),wrote to me to confirm that he was terminating the contract for the community legal advice centres that Citizens Advice runs in the city of Manchester six months early, so the money will run out next March. At the same time, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), who is the Minister for civil society, wrote to the same organisation to congratulate it in glowing terms for its achievements and saying specifically:

“We would like to see many more projects like yours”.

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Will the Leader of the House get those two Ministers together to sort out the message and, more importantly, to sort out some additional resources to ensure that the services can continue?

Sir George Young: Of course I will respond to the challenge laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, contact the two Ministers to whom he has referred and get a consistent response, hopefully so that that good organisation can continue to provide advice to the citizens in his constituency. I will raise the matter with the Lord Chancellor and the Minister for civil society in the Cabinet Office.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend congratulate our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his efforts, including a change in the law, to clear the demonstrators out of Parliament square so that it is available for all the visitors during the Olympics? When does the Leader of the House expect the remaining demonstrators to leave?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend was a keen supporter of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which prohibits the erection of tents on Parliament square. As he knows, many were removed relatively recently. Operational decisions on making further progress to clear the square are a matter for the Metropolitan police and I shall draw my hon. Friend’s remarks to the attention of the police to see whether any further action is needed.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): In previous years, the children who attended the international physics Olympiad were given funding. Last year, they won three silver and two bronze medals. Despite my letters to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, they have refused to restore funding. Will the Leader of the House look at how we can support our brilliant future physicists?

Sir George Young: I commend the achievements mentioned by the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz)—I stress the reference to Walsall, after last week—and will raise the issues she has raised with ministerial colleagues and will ask them to write to her.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): The Leader of the House will know how important local post offices are to many of our constituents around the country, especially in rural areas, and how welcome it is that the Government have made a commitment to having no post office closure programme. May we have an update from the Government on the new Post Office Local model, and particularly whether the Post Office is putting them into the right venues? The loss of services that come with the transition might not be appropriate in all cases.

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend is right that we have committed ourselves to no wholesale closures of post offices such as those that we saw in previous Parliaments. I will raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who will be at the Dispatch Box on the first Thursday after we come back. I will see whether I can get a response before then.

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Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): On Tuesday, we had a statement from the Department for Work and Pensions about the proposed closure of Remploy factories. The Minister did not give a list of those factories that were facing definite closure and nine were under possible commercial bids. My Bridgend Remploy factory thought that it had made a successful bid and that it was one of those whose bid for their own future was going forward. It is now subject to a commercial factory bid and has no idea who the bid is from or what the future holds. May we have an accurate and fully detailed statement from the DWP about what is happening, and can each Member who has an appropriate factory be notified before we rise for the recess of what is happening in their area to the people who are directly employed in their Remploy factories?

Sir George Young: As the hon. Lady said, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), who has responsibility for disability, came to the House to make a statement on Tuesday and answered questions for a substantial time. I do not know whether the hon. Lady was able to get in on that exchange and ask that question, but I shall certainly raise the question of the future of the Remploy factory in Bridgend with my hon. Friend and will ask her to write to the hon. Lady so that we have some clarity on which avenue that factory is going down.

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): The Leader of the House referred to the Government’s intention to table a time allocation motion on the House of Lords Reform Bill. Can he confirm that that will be tabled during the September sittings?

Sir George Young: The precise wording that I think I used on Tuesday was “in the autumn”. I have announced the business for the first week back. We are sitting for two and a half weeks in September, and I would very much hope that by the time we rise for the conference recess I will be able to give the House further information about our proposals for the Bill.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): One of the particular pleasures that I have had since being elected in 2010 is to welcome parties of schoolchildren to this place from my constituency, and many hundreds of them have benefited from that. One unintended consequence of the decisions taken last night could well be that those opportunities are curtailed somewhat, particularly for parties having to travel many miles to get here. Will the Leader of the House use his best endeavours to try to maximise the opportunities for such school parties in future?

Sir George Young: This refers to a debate that took place yesterday when the Deputy Leader of the House mentioned that specific consequence. The House has made a clear decision when to sit on Tuesday, but we will look at the consequences for tours and see whether we can find some way through to make sure that those who want to visit the House are able to do so.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): The 2010 Browne report recommended that an efficient national scheme be set up through the student finance system to encourage

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past graduates to contribute to university endowment funds. May we have a debate on this subject and the progress on that?

Sir George Young: I cannot promise an early debate before the House rises, but my hon. Friend makes an important point. I can only suggest that when the House returns in September he applies for a debate in Westminster Hall, so that he can pursue this particular avenue and deal with it at greater length.

Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman has been here even longer than I have, and I have been here long enough. Will he draw on his considerable experience of this House to confirm that where a clear majority of the House supports a Bill in principle, it is perfectly possible to make good and measured progress even if there is not a timetable resolution, simply by that majority closing a debate on a particular topic when it has had due attention and moving on to the next matter? Can we kill the myth that a timetable resolution is essential for progress on a Bill?

Sir George Young: That was not the conclusion drawn by the Labour Government, who introduced timetable motions on all the constitutional measures in the recent Parliament. There is a real risk if we go down the route suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—who I am sorry is standing down at the next election—of having protracted debates on individual subjects each of which needs to be guillotined. My own view is that it is much better if, in principle, one can seek agreement on an overall amount of time and then plan the debate for the Bill in conjunction with the time that is needed for all the other Bills. I am slightly reluctant to go down the route that the right hon. Gentleman has just invited me to go down.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the debate on Tuesday on the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests? The motion now has, or will by tomorrow morning, no fewer than 18 signatures from Chairs of Select Committees, and includes support from people such as the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and our right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames). I have good indications and hope that Her Majesty’s Official Opposition are also sympathetic to the motion. Will the Government be seeking to block the motion and will the Leader of the House say which Minister will be leading for the Government?

Sir George Young: I am glad that we have found time to debate this important issue, which was displaced when we had the debate on the banking inquiry last Thursday. This was a step that the Opposition were not prepared to take in government, so I take their current support with just a pinch of salt. I cannot tell my hon. Friend who will be responding to the debate, and he will have to wait for the reply from a Minister to find out the Government’s reaction to the proposition that he has put before the House.

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Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): In the written ministerial statement today on wild animals in circuses, the Government talk as though they are proposing a ban, but it is clear that they are considering a licensing regime. That is not what the many, many Members who turned out for the debate a year ago were led to believe when the Government promised them a ban in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing defeat. May we have an urgent statement on it?

Sir George Young: My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made it clear that we are proceeding with changes to the licensing system in the short term, but we are committed to legislating in the longer term. If the hon. Lady looks at the written ministerial statement, there is a clear reference to draft legislation.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): The almost complete absence of Liberal Democrats from their Benches today suggests that most of them may already have abandoned the marital home, but despite that massive handicap, may we have a debate on a votable motion in Government time on the future of the nuclear deterrent? Members from both sides of the House would very much like an opportunity to express their views on such an important matter, because we have not had a chance to do so since 2007.

Sir George Young: I understand my hon. Friend’s interest. He will know that the Minister for the Armed Forces is undertaking a review, which I think was the subject of an exchange at recent Defence questions. A good opportunity to have a debate on that issue will be when that review is completed.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The Leader of the House will know that many young people will be leaving schools, colleges and universities this summer, and many will be in danger of joining an already large number—almost 1 million—of unemployed young people. He knows that I have asked for greater attention, imagination and leadership on this issue for a long time. Has he considered the call that I have heard outside this place for the Duchess of Cambridge to have a particular role looking at and leading on the issue of young people who need our help this summer?

Sir George Young: I will certainly ensure that the Palace is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. He will know that in the last quarter, youth unemployment was down by 29,000, and I hope very much that we can maintain that downward trend. He will also know that there are a range of initiatives on apprenticeships, the youth contract and the Work programme, which we hope will further reduce the rate of youth unemployment.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I know how much the Leader of the House hates programme motions because on constitutional matters when in opposition he always voted against them. May I make a suggestion that will be helpful to him, the Chief Whip and Parliament? The problem on Tuesday night was not caused by the programme motion; it was because there was not a business of the House committee. If there had been such a committee, with members who were not part of the Executive or the shadow Executive, it would have

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made time available. Surely in September we should bring in a business of the House committee, and that would solve all the right hon. Gentleman’s problems on programme motions.

Sir George Young: I am not sure that my hon. Friend has got that one absolutely right. The Wright Committee recommendations make it absolutely clear that the Government have an entitlement to get their business through. My hon. Friend’s suggestion is that the Government’s business should be subjected to a regime that might put at risk the likelihood of the Government getting their Bills through. It was always envisaged that the House would set up a Backbench Business Committee, which we have done, but it was always recognised that the Government should be entitled to get their business through.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I will certainly be trying to speak in Monday’s health debate, but I am dismayed that the Leader of the House has not given any notice that the Secretary of State for Health intends to come to the House, because he has issued a written statement today about appointing an administrator for my local healthcare trust. He has met the Conservative Members of Bromley and one of the Conservative Members of Bexley who are affected by the decision all together, but he did not meet the Labour Member who covers a Bexley seat, nor the Labour Members in the borough of Greenwich. That is clear and blatant politicising of the decision. I hope that the Leader of the House will take that back and make it clear that not only is the House unhappy with the Health Secretary’s behaviour, but that it is not appropriate for him to avoid coming to that Dispatch Box having put out blatant misinformation from his Department about the performance of that trust.

Sir George Young: The Secretary of State has put the House in the picture by making a written ministerial statement, which is a perfectly appropriate means of communicating Government initiatives. There is a health debate on Monday, where the hon. Gentleman may be able to raise this. I think the issue of meeting Members of Parliament was raised at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, and I will do as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said and make further inquiries to see whether meetings can now take place that have not taken place so far.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): I shall be travelling to Rwanda this weekend to join Project Umubano, the Conservative party’s social action project. May we have a debate on how such projects are an excellent way for volunteers to appreciate international development issues?

Sir George Young: I welcome my hon. Friend’s initiative and know that he has been to Rwanda before. As we speak, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is on his way there, and I commend the work being done by those volunteers who are helping to transfer skills in medicine, law, business and a range of other areas. There was an opportunity to develop this yesterday at International Development questions. My hon. Friend will know that we are sticking to our promise on aid because it is the right thing to do and because it helps our own security and prosperity.

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John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): In his big red file, does the Leader of the House have a copy of every one of the 28 written ministerial statements tabled today, including the one confirming that the Government are cutting funding for further education courses for older students, which will mean that those over 24 will have to pay up to £4,000 a year at a time when they are worried about jobs, debt and how to pay the bills? It has been tabled, with the regulations, just three days before the summer recess, preventing this House from properly challenging this big change. Will he make time for a debate on the change in this Chamber?

Sir George Young: There is an Opposition day on Monday, when the Opposition could have chosen this subject for debate. I have looked through the written ministerial statements. I saw one from the same Minister, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, about extending loans to students aged over 24, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will welcome.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): May we have a statement from the Health Secretary on regional pay, given the decision by 20 NHS trusts in the south-west to walk away from the national pay agreement, “Agenda for Change”, which thousands of NHS staff in Exeter and the wider south-west feel will lead to a further erosion of their pay and conditions, not least because the Liberal Democrats have been boasting recently that they blocked Conservative plans for regional pay?

Sir George Young: There is a health debate on Monday, when the right hon. Gentleman will be able to raise the matter.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): This morning I attended the Federation of Wholesale Distributors conference and had the chance to be reminded how important the industry is in supplying millions of people across the country through the retail network. Like retail, it is primarily made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, the very businesses that the Government are focused on for delivering job growth and economic growth and that have provided the half a million extra jobs we have seen since the coalition came to power. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in the autumn, in Government time, on the work the Government are doing to encourage SMEs and secure further job growth?

Sir George Young: I will spend the summer recess looking forward to that debate, when we can explain what we have done: cutting corporation tax, ensuring access to finance, scrapping regulations, setting up 24 new enterprise zones and a range of other measures to promote employment and growth in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on the anti-Christian behaviour and bias of the Charity Commission? A constituent has contacted me because the commission has revoked the charitable status of a trust that is part of the Brethren Christian Church, which does a lot of good work for charity. This is an extremely important test case because it has widespread implications for all Christian charitable trusts. Does the Leader of the House not agree that Christian groups

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that are serving the community have the right to charitable status and should not be subject to politically correct bias?

Sir George Young: I am sure that the Charity Commission is not anti-Christian. I do not think that the organisation to which my hon. Friend refers has ever been registered as a charity, so it is not quite true to say that that status has been revoked. The application has been turned down because it was not clear whether there was enough social engagement with the community to meet the public interest criteria. As I understand it, that decision has now gone to appeal at the first tier, which I think is probably the right way to resolve it.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Dairy farmers in my constituency were so concerned about the current and future potential cuts to the price of milk before 1 August that they travelled the 220 miles to London yesterday, with many hundreds of others, to complain about the potential loss of £50,000 from their incomes. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), is having meetings this week about the consultation on contracts, but can the Leader of the House indicate whether we will have a written or oral statement on the matter before the House rises and, if not, what mechanism is in place to ensure feedback to those farmers before the price cut deadline of 1 August?

Sir George Young: There will be a debate specifically on the dairy industry in the pre-recess Adjournment debate on Tuesday, which I hope will be an opportunity to bring the House up to date. I know that many hon. Members met their dairy farmers yesterday to listen to their concerns. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made available £5 million to help certain farmers and that we are doing all we can to promote a voluntary agreement that will provide greater transparency and improve contractual arrangements between purchasers and dairy farmers.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): The Office of the Rail Regulator is currently carrying out a review of access charges for freight traffic moving on to the network, which are potentially very damaging for businesses that transport heavy bulk loads in and out of Immingham port in my constituency. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on the matter from the Secretary of State for Transport?

Sir George Young: I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the concern my hon. Friend has just expressed. It is very important that we develop the railway network in such a way that it is possible to move freight from road to rail and that the interests of freight operators are not ignored when we look at track access charges.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Bullying in the workplace is apparently on the increase. On Tuesday night I witnessed a very red-faced and angry Prime Minister sticking his fingers in the face of the hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire

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(Jesse Norman), who, reportedly, was then removed and marched off the estate by the Prime Minister’s henchmen. May we please have an urgent debate on bullying in this place and the Prime Minister’s anger management issues?

Sir George Young: I honestly think that there are better business questions that can be put to the Leader of the House than recycled gossip and tittle-tattle.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): Jaguar Land Rover has recently announced that it intends to create 4,500 new jobs over the next five years and is investing £500 million in a new engine plant in the Black Country enterprise zone. May we have a debate on the success of that enterprise zone in supporting a successful automotive industry in the west midlands?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend reinforces a request for a debate made a few moments ago, which I would very much welcome, although I cannot promise one before we rise for the recess. We need to give business in the UK all possible support, removing regulatory barriers to growth and promoting the excellent record of the motor industry—we are now a net exporter of cars, rather than a net importer. It is absolutely crucial that we stick to our fiscal consolidation targets, which have provided the right framework for this success.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): Although this morning’s written ministerial statement on aviation strategy from the Department for Transport is welcome, the House was expecting a second written statement and a consultation on capacity in the south-east and the status of a hub airport. That absence is regarded by business organisations and the TUC as harming British competitiveness and the British economy. Can we expect to have the statement in September, or will it be delayed a third time? We are two years into the coalition but still have not had a strategy.

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman will have seen the written ministerial statement on aviation policy, which makes it clear that we intend to publish a call for evidence on maintaining our international connectivity in the medium and longer term. We remain committed to adopting the final aviation policy framework by next spring, so there will be the second phase to which he refers in due course.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Has the Leader of the House noticed that Members from Britain’s supposedly third major political party, with a few honourable exceptions, appear week after week to be absent from this Chamber on Thursdays? Is it official Government policy to give the Liberal Democrats a disproportionate leave of absence, or could the national interest, which the rest of us discuss, perhaps be made more interesting and important to attract greater attendance from the junior coalition partner?

Sir George Young: I am not sure that that is a useful subject for a future debate, but, if my hon. Friend looks at the record in the Division Lobbies, he will see that our coalition partners have been present—on some occasions in even greater proportions than some members of my own great party.

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Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): On Tuesday, a piece appeared in The Guardian about the difficulty that my disabled constituent Ray Bellisario has had accessing buses in his permissible wheelchair, often when going to and from hospital. Despite repeated letters on the issue to the disabilities Minister, Maria Miller, over the past 18 months, he had received no reply. Miraculously, however, a letter appeared in The Guardian from Maria Miller—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We should not use personal names. If we refer to a “Minister”, that will be fine.

Seema Malhotra: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Miraculously, however, a letter appeared today from the Minister for disabled people, suggesting concern at Mr Bellisario’s plight. A citizen in a wheelchair should not have to take or to threaten legal action to get a response. May we have an urgent debate about the needs of people with disabilities when accessing public services, including transport, and the Government’s effectiveness in addressing those issues.

Sir George Young: I am grateful to the hon. Lady and have seen that article in The Guardian. As she says, my hon. Friend the Minister for disabilities takes the issue seriously and is intervening. It is important that those in wheelchairs have access to public transport, and I will ask my hon. Friend to write to the hon. Lady.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) in pressing the Leader of the House on the appalling decision by the charity commissioners to revoke charitable status from the churches called Gospel halls of the Plymouth Brethren on the ground that they do not admit non-members to their holy communion, although they do admit non-members to all services, bible readings and all the rest? These people are a small and completely harmless Christian community. For almost 200 years we have proclaimed in this Chamber the right to religious freedom. This is a vital and important issue, and we should proclaim it.

Sir George Young: Further to the original question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), I must say that it has been decided not to enter one of the Brethren halls on the register of charities because the legal basis for the registration of that organisation as a charity is not clear, and the question, as I said a moment ago, was whether the trust met the public benefit requirement, given the limited social engagement of the followers of the Brethren in the wider community. That decision has been challenged by way of an appeal to the first tier tribunal, and that is probably the right way to let it proceed.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Since the Rio+20 conference, the Environmental Audit Committee has been trying to get the Deputy Prime Minister to appear before it to report on the summit, at which he led the UK delegation. He has not yet found time to do so, but, given that his responsibilities for legislation might be a little lighter in the immediate future, will the Leader of the House ask the Deputy

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Prime Minister to ensure that he appears before the Committee to report on the conference and on how the UK takes forward the issues raised at it?

Sir George Young: As I have been reminded, the Deputy Prime Minister made a statement to the House and is regularly accountable to the House at the Dispatch Box. It has been a convention, among all Governments, that they decide which Minister to put before a particular Select Committee. There have always been attempts to get Treasury Ministers to appear before individual Committees, but Governments of all persuasions have resisted that and put up the appropriate Secretary of State.

Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): As a Co-operative Member, it has come to my attention that funding for fan-owned rugby league clubs appears to be under threat. Will the Leader of the House please contact the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a view to releasing a statement after the recess in order to alleviate those concerns?

Sir George Young: I will raise the hon. Gentleman’s concern with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman, rather than wait until we return after the recess.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): May I wish the Leader of the House a pleasant summer recess and ask that, when we return, we have a debate about privatisation? Recent events have convinced me that, sometimes, private concerns can do a more effective job than Government concerns, not least because more Conservative Back Benchers voted against the House of Lords Reform Bill’s Second Reading on Tuesday than voted in favour. May we have a debate about privatising the Government Whips Office—in the interests of public efficiency?

Sir George Young: I think the Government Whips Office is already privatised: it is run by people who have a commitment to enterprise, individuality, private sector growth and the rest. Rather than looking just at Back Benchers, it would be fairer if the hon. Gentleman looked at the votes of the Conservative party as a whole, where he would see that a majority voted for the Bill’s Second Reading.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): A caravan holiday park business, Tingdene, has continuously, deliberately and in a bullying fashion targeted Hazelgrove caravan owners association in my constituency, because the association has stood up for caravan owners’ consumer rights. May we therefore have a debate to discuss broadening the proposed new residential park home legislation to include holiday caravan parks?

Sir George Young: I think I am right in saying that one of the successful bidders in the ballot for private Members’ Bills made park homes their chosen subject. I very much hope that that Bill makes progress, because we all have constituents who have difficulties with some owners of park home sites, and I very much hope also that if the Bill is not currently configured in a way that

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meets the needs of the hon. Gentleman, there will be a sensible discussion as it proceeds through the House, and that any necessary amendments might be made.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): The Office of Rail Regulation’s proposal to introduce a specific tax on the movement of coal and iron ore was referred to by the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers). Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on the measure’s likely impact, if it goes ahead, on the UK economy and on UK energy prices?

Sir George Young: I repeat what I said a few moments ago, and as a former Secretary of State for Transport I am very keen that, wherever possible, we move freight from road to rail. I would be very concerned if unnecessary barriers were put in the way of that transfer. I will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and ask that any letter she sends to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) be sent to the hon. Gentleman as well.

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Point of Order

2.6 pm

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I clarify for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House my question during business questions? The organisation that I spoke about, the trust that owned the hall, did have charitable status, which the Charity Commission revoked on the ground that the organisation had no public benefit and, therefore, no right to be classed as a charity. I urge my right hon. Friend to look again at the issue. I am happy to write to him with the details, because I do think that it is an unfair case of bias against that organisation.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): We cannot carry on the debate, but I am sure that Government Front Benchers have heard that point, and that correspondence can be sent accordingly.

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Court of Justice of the European Union

[Relevant document: The Ninth Report of Session 2010-12, from the European Scrutiny Committee, Court of Justice of the European Union: amendments to the Statute and Rules of Procedure, HC 86-ix.]

2.7 pm

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

That this House takes note of the draft Regulation 2011/0901A(COD) of the European Parliament and of the Council (amending the Protocol on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and Annex 1 thereto) and draft Regulation 2011/0902(COD) (relating to temporary Judges of the European Union Civil Service Tribunal) and, in accordance with section 10 of the European Union Act 2011, approves Her Majesty’s Government’s intention to support the adoption of draft Regulations 2011/0901A(COD) and 2011/0902(COD) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

The debate covers two draft regulations that reform the Court of Justice of the European Union with the aim of improving its efficiency. The European Scrutiny Committee has described the two regulations as

“a modest but useful package of reforms”,

and the Government endorse that verdict.

This is also the first time that the House has had the opportunity to debate such draft regulations under the new provisions of section 10(1)(d) and 10(1)(e) of the European Union Act 2011. Section 10 covers a small number of articles in the European Union treaties, and its provisions require each House of Parliament to approve a motion on the draft measure concerned before the Government are able, on behalf of the United Kingdom, to vote in support of the measure in Brussels.

As hon. Members on both sides will know, the role of the European Court of Justice is to ensure that European Union law is observed. It is a key role, and it is only right and proper that Parliament should oversee the Government’s approach to any reforms to that important European institution.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that implicit in what he says is the rule of European Union law, but is he also aware that the European Scrutiny Committee, in its report on the recent fiscal compact, made it clear that it did not regard European Union law as having been fulfilled, and that the Government themselves still retain their own position of reserving their views on the legality of the compact? What are the Government doing about that?

Mr Lidington: I know, not least from my own 90-minute evidence session in front of my hon. Friend’s Committee, how strongly he and other members of the Committee feel about that subject. However, it would be moving beyond the terms of this afternoon’s debate if I responded in detail about the Government’s approach to fiscal union and their decision to reserve their position on the use of the institutions for the implementation of the fiscal compact. Ministers have corresponded about that with the Committee and I am sure that there will be other opportunities for us to go into that matter.

Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Does that not go to the root of the matter? We are told that the regulation is justified by the growth in the work load of the European Court of Justice. Assuming that there has

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been no change in the litigiousness of members of the European Union, and taking into account EU expansion as well, should we not be given pause for thought that it is the increasing jurisdiction of the ECJ over member countries that lies behind the issue? It is highly material that we should look at the prospective growth of that jurisdiction through the expansion to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) referred.

Mr Lidington: It is true that every time the competence of the European institutions is enlarged through treaty amendments, the potential case load of the European Court of Justice is also enlarged. However, as I shall come to demonstrate, the reason for these particular reforms is largely to do with an increase in the case load as a result of litigation by private parties, particularly on single market matters. The case load that the reforms are intended to address certainly does not arise out of the negotiation of the fiscal compact by 25 member states last year.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con) rose—

Mr Lidington: I will give way to my hon. Friend, and then I shall make progress.

Mr Nuttall: My right hon. Friend makes a good point in saying that the ECJ’s increasing work load is often owing to disputes between private organisations. In the past, those disputes would often have been resolved here in London, as a result of contracts providing for the determination to be under English law. Therefore is not the work of European judges replacing the work of British judges?

Mr Lidington: Under successive Governments, the United Kingdom has supported the principle that we should be part of a single European market with a set of common regulations and legal provisions, because Conservative and Labour Governments alike, and now the coalition Government, have taken the view, backed by British industry for the overwhelming part, that that is to the economic advantage of British businesses—both manufacturers and service providers—the United Kingdom economy and the prosperity of our people.

Let us look at the justification for the package of measures before us. The House of Lords European Union Committee set out in its report of March 2011 how the work load of the Court had increased substantially in recent years. Between 2007 and 2011, new cases at the European Court of Justice increased by 18%. In paragraph 44 of its report, the Committee noted that

“We believe that the expansion of the CJ’s jurisdiction into the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, coupled with the increase of EU membership to 27 States, will have an impact on the CJ’s ability to manage its workload. We predict another crisis of workload soon.”

What has also happened is that the number of cases going to the ECJ on appeal has increased significantly in recent years. For example, in 2008 just seven cases relating to competition law went on appeal to the ECJ; in 2011, the total had risen to 52 such cases. Given the Court’s key role as the arbiter of the single market and the advantage that the United Kingdom’s business community derives from the single market, dealing with the problem of delays and the overload of the Court is in the United Kingdom’s national interest.

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Mr Clappison rose—

Mr Lidington: I will give way once more and then I will move on to the details of the reforms.

Mr Clappison: My right hon. Friend has been generous in giving way. He made the same point—that the Court was of benefit to British businesses because of the enforcement of the single market—in the memorandum supplied to the European Scrutiny Committee. However, in my researches I have not been able to find any such case involving a British company, although there may be such cases.

Will my right hon. Friend write to me giving chapter and verse of cases involving British companies that have involved the European Court of Justice and the single market? There is the suspicion that the European Court of Justice, as with many other things to do with the European Union, is using the single market as a justification for its intrusion into decision making in areas that have nothing to do with the single market.

Mr Lidington: I will happily write to my hon. Friend, but I point out to him that just because a case does not involve a British company as one of the parties does not mean that the case is insignificant to British business interests. There might well be a case involving parties from other member states the outcome of which made a considerable difference to the opportunities available to United Kingdom companies.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The Minister is making a powerful case that the interests of UK business are best served when we have an efficient and properly resourced system of law. There is also the fact that many of the judgments have been delayed, which is to the great detriment of British interests as far as business is concerned.

Mr Lidington: We can debate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr Clappison) does so robustly, whether the European Court of Justice should enjoy such widespread jurisdiction. However, what we are talking about is how we should address the problems in the system as it currently exists under treaty—the backlogs and delays, both at first instance and appeal. A system of courts in which justice is denied simply because the system is unable to cope with its work load is not in anybody’s interests.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Will the Minister give way on that very point?

Mr Lidington: Of course I will give way to my hon. Friend, although I will be anxious to make progress thereafter.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: My right hon. Friend is exceptionally generous, as usual. However, I am not entirely sure that his last point is right. It could be in people’s interests for the Court to be bunged up. If one takes the view that the European Court of Justice is increasingly extending its powers into areas where it ought not interfere, anything that stops it doing that is all to the good.

Mr Lidington: A court of law and legal system should serve the interests of parties to that legal system. I go back to the old English adage that justice delayed is

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justice denied; my hon. Friend will be familiar with that and no doubt champion it as a matter of principle. I would argue that that principle should apply on a European level as well as on a United Kingdom or English level.

The reforms that we are discussing involve, first, the creation of a vice-president to assist the president of the Court in their role of managing litigation and overseeing the business of the Court. The vice-president will be appointed from among existing judges; an additional judge will not be required.

Secondly, there is to be an increase in the number of judges sitting in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice, which generally handles the most sensitive cases. That is to allow broader participation by ECJ judges in general in Grand Chamber cases. It should increase the wider expertise of the Court and ensure greater consistency in how cases are handled. Thirdly, the reforms propose a reduction in the number of presidents of five-judge chambers who have to sit in the Grand Chamber at the same time. That will allow the chamber presidents more time to administer their separate chambers, each of which handles a substantial case load that should, as a consequence of this reform, be enabled to progress more quickly.

The reforms also include the power to appoint up to three temporary judges to the civil service tribunal, which is the employment tribunal for European Union officials. The problem with the tribunal at the moment is that it has only seven judges, which means that if even one judge is absent for a lengthy period, perhaps because of illness, cases can be delayed. Appointing temporary judges will prevent those delays from occurring. The temporary judges will be appointed from a panel of former judges of the European Court and will be paid only for the days that they actually work; they will not be on a long-term retainer or salary.

Finally, there is a key reform to the lower court, the General Court, which has a substantial backlog of cases. As is proposed for the ECJ—the upper tier—a vice-president will be created for the General Court, again from among the existing judges, to assist the president in managing litigation.

The Government have been active in negotiating the details of these reforms, and I am glad to say that because of our efforts two potential reforms about which we had concerns that we explained to the European Scrutiny Committee have now been removed. One of those was the proposal to remove the 10-day so-called period of grace granted to litigants to submit pleadings to the ECJ over and above the standard deadline period. We and other member states argued that removing the period of grace would harm our ability to submit pleadings and damage our national interest. We have protected the period of grace and ensured that not only the Government but, importantly, British businesses that may be party to ECJ cases have the maximum possible time to submit pleadings to the Court.

The other potential reform was the addition of 12 judges at the General Court. The Council has concluded that that reform requires further consideration and should be reserved for a later date. The rationale for the proposal was, again, the substantial backlog of cases—currently more than 1,300—at the General Court. It was also, in our view, very important that the reform was got right. We wanted to ensure that the arrangements for appointing

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any new judges are fit for purpose and that any increase in the number of judges should be consistent with the requirement for minimal spending in the current economic climate. We argued that any increase in the number of judges should go hand in hand with a programme of efficiency savings in the ECJ’s budget. The removal of the reform from the package at this stage is in line with our interests, but we may return to it at a future date.

Roger Williams: Was there a suggestion that specialist chambers be set up to deal with particular issues? Has the case for that not yet been made?

Mr Lidington: The idea of specialist chambers is indeed another proposal that came up in the course of negotiations.

All member states have now accepted that there will need to be further consideration of what could be done further to improve the efficiency of the Court in the longer term. A new group has been set up among officials representing the 27 member states to discuss and recommend potential reforms and, in particular, to address the backlog at the General Court. The group’s remit will include an examination of the potential increase in the number of judges and the way in which such judges might be appointed. I can assure Members that the Government will be an active participant in the group, and we shall argue that any reforms should be based soundly on concrete evidence. We will also finalise our policy on the appointment of any additional judges in the context of the broader discussion about the search for efficiency and reduced spending in the ECJ and in European Union institutions as a whole. It goes without saying that the Government will ensure that the House and, in particular, the Chairman and members of the European Scrutiny Committee, are kept briefed on developments.

At present, the reforms on the table are modest, but they support the Government’s objectives of trying to increase the efficiency of the European Court of Justice and pave the way for more significant reforms to the General Court at a later stage. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

2.24 pm

Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): I welcome the opportunity to discuss the revised rules of procedure for the European Court of Justice. The Minister said that the Government are happy with what he calls a modest package of reforms that should improve the functionality of the Court without incurring any significant costs. We are pretty much in agreement with his analysis of the revised rules of procedure. We hope that the changes will make the ECJ’s procedure more efficient, and we appreciate that the Court itself was keen for the reforms to be agreed before the partial renewal of judges in October.

As the Minister outlined, there has been an increase in the Court’s work load, so the reforms are necessary. In its report, the European Scrutiny Committee noted the increased work load and said that it is due to the development of European Union law in new areas and the increase in the number of member states. As the Minister said, in the past year the number of new cases referred to the ECJ from national courts has increased,

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as has the number of commercial disputes, tax disputes and intellectual property cases. We are concerned that the backlog of cases is gradually continuing to grow.

It is clear that an enlarged Court requires more streamlined rules. We therefore welcome some of the changes proposed, in particular the removal of the requirement to read the report of the judge-rapporteur at the hearing, and the modifications of the composition of the Grand Chamber to ensure greater consistency. We also welcome the proposal to allow a member state bringing proceedings against another member state to use its own language, rather than that of the defending state. It is, however, questionable whether the reforms go far enough. It is to be hoped that procedural reforms will eliminate some of the delays, but structural reforms might be necessary.

In his letter to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, the Minister says that a friends of the presidency group will be established to examine wider potential reforms to the Court, including the proposal to increase the number of judges. I listened attentively to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am not clear about the Government’s position on the proposal to increase the number of judges in the General Court, and I would welcome clarification of that when he winds up. The proposal was controversial and was dropped by the Danish presidency in order to expedite the reforms we are discussing today.

The motion refers to the appointment of temporary judges to the EU civil service tribunal. Seven judges serve on that tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between the European Union and its civil servants. The proposal is that temporary judges be appointed in the event that one of the judges must take an extended leave of absence. That administrative change to cover absence seems sensible.

The Opposition agree with the Minister that the rule changes are modest and welcome. We hope that they will streamline the decision making of the ECJ, as we want no further increase in the backlog of cases. The Court is the arbiter between member states and is key to the effective functioning of the single market, so we also agree with the Government that improving the functionality of the Court will be good for British business operating in the EU. Hopefully, it will prevent delays in the enforcement of single market legislation.

Both the European Court of Justice and the General Court have proven effective in enforcing competition rules and in ruling against protectionism. It is vital that they continue to do so do so in future. It is important to British business, consumers and workers that both Courts perform their duties as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. That is why we support the motion.

2.28 pm

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): The report of the European Scrutiny Committee has been referred to by the Minister.

I will start by setting out the importance of the proposed reforms and putting them in context. As a practitioner of law over an extended period, I know that the volume of law has been increasing exponentially, particularly since we became a member of the European Union—or the European Community as it was then—in 1972. I do not think that anybody can put an accurate

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figure on the number of pages or statutes that have been effected in this House under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972; suffice it to say that it is monumental.

The European Court of Justice is being reformed because of its vast work load. That is the problem. We discussed the extension of EU competences a little earlier with the Foreign Secretary. Those competences impact on the daily lives of people not only in the United Kingdom, but across the European Union, and the excessive legislation strangles small and medium-sized businesses. That is all part and parcel of a much deeper problem than the surface question whether the Court needs a few more judges. The Court may need more judges, but that is because of the increase in its work load.

I will refer very briefly, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the ancient history of codification. No less a person than Justinian had to decide whether the state could cope with the vast increase in law that had taken place. Eventually, he decided to reduce the volume of law from a monumental 3 million lines of legislation to 150,000 lines. His example demonstrates that it can be done.

The problem is work load and the volume of law. It is perfectly clear from the various papers that have been supplied to us that the length of proceedings, which now averages 17 months, also presents serious problems. The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, based in Hamburg, has stated that the European Courts are under pressure because of their work load and that the greatest problem facing EU judges is the dramatic rise in the number of cases. The number of preliminary ruling cases increased from one in 1961 to 385 in 2010; and the number of cases at all three EU Courts had risen to 1,406 by 2010. Mr Rösler, who conducted the study, stated:

“That’s the highest level in the history of the EU Court of Justice.”

He went on to say that

“the EU Court of Justice has the biggest workload of any international court”.

The more law there is, the greater the work load. Mr Rösler believes that the EU’s geographical expansion is just one reason why EU judges face an excessive work load.

There is also the question whether we are having reform or a facelift. Mr Rösler states that reform is the only way out of the predicament, and his call is backed by the EU judges. In a very unusual public statement, the president of the Court, Vassilios Skouris, highlighted the Court’s excessive work load. He called for 12 new judges to be appointed to the European General Court. That has become a matter of dispute, as the Minister said. The question is what is being done. Mr Rösler mentioned the effect of having 12 more judges—I understand that that has stalled because the actual number has not yet been decided—saying:

“The expansion of the Court is urgently needed, but does not resolve the multi-faceted issues.”

In a statement I think some Members may regard as highly controversial, Mr Rösler says that a system of judicial federalism needs to be developed between member states and the European Courts. That is the direction in which all this is going. Above all, he says, the aim

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should be structural reform that establishes a new European judicial architecture. He says that would require the Court of Justice to specialise in relevant areas.

Mr Rösler goes even further, saying that the EU judiciary must open itself up to its citizens so that they can call upon the Court of Justice directly. It has already been accepted that the Court’s work load is absolutely enormous and arises from the vast increase in the amount of legislation affecting the daily lives of all the people in the EU, including people in the UK. Now, distinguished professors and others who are highly influential are suggesting that the whole process should be opened up to individual litigants. The idea is simply extraordinary.

Mr Rösler regards new, codified European legislation on conflict of laws and procedural law, which he says will significantly facilitate the enforcement of law before foreign courts and the EU Court of Justice, as a worthwhile long-term objective. There is almost no limit to the ambitions of those engaged in European jurisprudence. The problem is that the more law there is, the greater the distraction from the real problems facing Europe as a whole, which I do not need to go into today because they are well understood by the House.

We ought also to think about how to streamline the Court’s procedures and maximise its productivity through strategic changes to its personnel. That goes to the heart of the impact of European law. The European Court of Justice lies at the heart of part of the problem that the Foreign Secretary addressed in his statement earlier, and it ought to be put on his agenda.

The background to the debate is also influenced by the qualifications of the individual members of the Court. The Court is manned by people who, I have no doubt, could be regarded as generally proficient in law, as they are professors and celebrated advocates; the problem is that the members are not drawn from judges alone. That needs to be seriously considered. In the UK, it is unimaginable that members of a senior court at such a level would not be drawn from the senior judiciary. That in itself may be one reason why the European Court’s work load has increased so greatly in recent years.

The Court of Justice is currently composed of 27 judges and eight advocates-general, who are appointed by common accord of the member states after consultation with a panel that is responsible for giving an opinion on prospective candidates’ suitability to perform the duties involved. I personally believe that the system needs to be tightened up, so that only those with judicial experience are members of the court, rather than it being merely a question of their suitability.

I would be grateful if the Minister addressed the fact that the great majority of evidence received as the measure was being conceived recommended an increase in the number of judges of the General Court as the best solution to the work load problems. Why did that aspect of the negotiations stall, and what is the Government’s policy on increasing the capacity of the General Court?

I say that without reference to my other remarks, because the increase in the work load is the consequence of the vast increase in the functions and competences that have streamed like a tsunami to the European Union. I opposed the Lisbon treaty in opposition. I proposed

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amendment after amendment, greatly supported by the current Foreign Secretary, and opposed every provision in the treaty, but the House ended up implementing it because it accepted that ratification had taken place. I did not agree with that, and despite the fact that we were given a cast-iron guarantee of a referendum, we did not have one.

I have some questions for the Minister. What is the expected cost of the amendments to the statute and the appointment of temporary judges to the civil service tribunal, and does he regard that as good value for money? How much will it cost to establish the office of the vice-president of the Court of Justice, and how will the office benefit a litigant? How much will it cost to establish the office of the vice-president of the General Court, which was previously known as the Court of First Instance, and how will that benefit a litigant? How will altering the composition of the Grand Chamber benefit a litigant? Do any of the reforms introduced by the amendments save money? If so, how much?

Some influential voices, such as former Advocate-General Jacobs, who will be well known to those who take an interest in these matters, and current Advocate-General Sharpston—both UK appointees—believe there is little scope for reducing the time taken to litigate cases before the Court of Justice through further procedural reform. The Minister might well ask himself why and consider it carefully. The reasons, it is said, include the Court’s translation obligations, the reliance on written procedure and the privileged status of member states to intervene. Does the Minister regard the views of former UK Advocate-General Jacobs and current Advocate-General Sharpston as correct?

I accept the apology the Minister makes in his letter to me of 11 July, which hon. Members have in front of them. There was uncertainty about what was contained in the provisions. I am grateful that he has made it clear that, on taking legal advice, the matter had to be rectified. The letter states that the

“appointment of temporary judges to the Civil Service Tribunal…at the CJEU also fell within Section 10 of the Act”.

The Government believe that the reform will be beneficial, as the Minister has said, and the European Scrutiny Committee takes the view, given the general comments I have made, that this is a modest but useful package of reforms. Well, it is a modest but useful package of reforms which takes account of the overarching volume of legislation that has generated the work load. Some hon. Members desire not merely to repatriate powers, but to reduce the volume of legislation as Justinian was able to do. That was at the end of the Roman empire—the fall, not just the decline. In that context, it might be observed that the last act of the Romans before the Visigoths and the others moved in on Rome was to try desperately to reduce the volume of legislation. Such action is now well overdue.

In our conclusions, having thanked the Minister for inviting us to comment, we express our regret at the lack of time given to us to do so. Indeed, our report was only published today, so for practical purposes we have all been put under a great deal of time constraint. Having said that, the real question seems to be: by how much can we reduce the amount of law that is leading to the excessive work load and to more judges, which in turn means increased costs? What practical impact will this have on litigants? I trust that he will not encourage the

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idea of personal litigation of the type recommended by the gentleman I quoted earlier. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer some of those questions as best he can, difficult though that might be.

2.45 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I begin by thanking the Minister, because it is down to his initiative that we can have this debate under the European Union Act 2011, which was a major improvement in our procedures to enable anything altering the structures of the Court to come before Parliament and to be the subject of a proper debate and motion. That is all to the good and increases the power of the House in relationship to the EU.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the European Court of Justice is not a proper, honest, decent court, like our courts are. I remind the House that these are the judges who ruled to their own benefit against that legal maxim that a judge should never be a judge in this own cause. They ruled to increase their own pay, and we should always remember what an improper and rotten court it is. We are dealing here with a small package of measures that will make it a more efficient, if no less improper, court by enabling it to attend to some of its business faster.

There is a wonderful paragraph from the helpful Library document. It is a quote from the Max Planck Institute, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) cited, about what the European Court is up to:

“Whether it is buying a car, going on holiday or taking out an instalment loan, few aspects of our everyday lives are conceivable today without reference to European Union law. Countless directives and regulations, which set out the rights of consumers and entrepreneurs, apply not only in international legal undertakings, but also in domestic legal transactions. Which party has the law on its side is increasingly dependent on the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which ensures the implementation of European law within the EU.”

That is a rotten state of affairs.

There were great debates in the 18th century in this House on the motion:

“That the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”

In every debate on the EU, we should remind ourselves that the power of the EU has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. That is why I challenged my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe over whether it was a good thing to make the European Court more efficient. In response, he challenged me with a proposition that I would normally accept, because he quoted an ancient British maxim—one probably invented in Somerset, where all good things come from—and it is true that justice delayed is justice denied. But the key word is “justice”, and the European Court of Justice might have that word in its title, but it is not its essence. Its essence is as a political entity. It is seeking to increase the power of a federal European state and turn the EU into a functioning country. That is why the House should be cautious about doing anything that makes it more powerful, because it is fundamentally hostile to us.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I have much sympathy with the latter part of the hon. Gentleman’s speech in particular. Would it not be a good idea to test

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the water somewhat by seeking to repatriate some powers—some power, even—to Britain, to see what the reaction of the European Union would be? There is much talk of repatriation, but let us take back just one simple power: I would start with the common fisheries policy, as he might know.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is so wise in these matters. We ought to be looking at the inefficiencies in the European Court of Justice and saying, “Could these matters be decided in our own courts?” Is there a way in which, instead of saying, “Give them more power; give them more money; and give them more judges,” we can say, “Let these laws be determined in our country.”?

It is interesting, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone said, that one of the reasons for the increase in the European Court of Justice’s work load is that our courts are sending it judgments for preliminary approval and guidance on what European law says. Would it not be better to repatriate that? Indeed, when we are in the process of negotiating on the European Court and how to make it more efficient, this is surely the opportunity to do so.

Mr Cash: On the preliminary reference procedure, Mr Rösler says:

“The judges in Luxembourg constitute a supranational court beyond national jurisdiction, dealing with an incredibly diverse range of issues that no national judge is faced with”.

He goes on to say that