Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP): Can we have a statement from the Government on when they will review the 1955 treaty on tax treatment

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that operates between the UK and Malawi, as the treaty operates to the considerable disadvantage of one of the poorest countries in the world?

Chris Grayling: I am not aware of the specific detail of that treaty, but I will ask the Foreign Office to ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets a proper response to the concerns that he has raised.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I am pleased to say that employment levels in Crawley are at a record high, with the jobless claimant count now at 1.5%. Of course there is always more that can be done and, one month today, I am holding an apprenticeship fair in Crawley civic hall. May we have a debate on the importance of further encouraging apprenticeships to help promote economic growth?

Chris Grayling: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he is doing locally on this matter. One of the most important parts of achieving our collective goal of 3 million apprenticeships in this Parliament is the work done by individual Members to encourage local employers to provide apprenticeship places. I commend him and other Members around the country for the work that they are doing in this regard. Apprenticeships are a central part of our future economic success.

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab): Yesterday, we heard from the Prime Minister that in-work benefits for EU migrants are a pull factor, but we cannot judge that to be the case as the information has repeatedly been withheld after freedom of information requests. Given that the Leader of the House is such a fan of FOI, will he request Ministers to put that information before this House alongside a statement?

Chris Grayling: We will be debating the renegotiation and the package that we have been offered, and statements will be made by the Prime Minister in this House once the renegotiation is complete. I have no doubt that all information required by Members will be there when those debates take place.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): Carlisle and Cumbria are starting to experience recruitment issues, and, in time, there could well be a skills shortage. In many respects, that is partly an indication of success, but that success will be further exacerbated by the potential large investment into Cumbria, which will raise issues about attracting the right people with the right skills into the county. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on those issues, and on what central Government can do to assist in creating the opportunities from which Cumbria can benefit?

Chris Grayling: The challenges to which my hon. Friend refers are a symbol of the success of this Government in generating real economic improvement in parts of the country that have, all too often, been left behind. In many respects, I am pleased to hear of the pressures that he describes, but clearly we have to react to them and help businesses in Cumbria to secure the skills it needs. That is why this Government’s programme to build apprenticeship numbers and other measures that we will take to improve our skills base are so important. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue.

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Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): November 2015 is the latest month for which we have A&E figures. The Royal Free recorded 1,592 patients not seen within four hours, and the North Middlesex a shocking 3,306 patients. Both hospitals are now supposed to serve the people of Enfield North, as the Government have closed the A&E at Chase Farm hospital. May we have an early debate on the Government’s mismanagement of the NHS, as the people in Enfield and across the country are being badly let down when they arrive at A&E in need of treatment?

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Lady will have an opportunity to raise her concerns on Tuesday when the Secretary of State for Health is in the Chamber. I simply say that, under this Government, the NHS is receiving more money than ever before and is treating more patients than ever before.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): As my right hon. Friend knows, I have been campaigning to save the hedgehog for several weeks now. On Monday, we have the hedgehog summit with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. Next week, I plan to launch a petition to make the hedgehog a protected species—I very much hope that everyone in this House will participate in it. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, if we get more than 100,000 signatures, we will be considered for having a further debate on this very important issue?

Chris Grayling: I have to congratulate my hon. Friend on his diligence on this matter; the hedgehog has a much better chance of survival with him around than might otherwise have been the case. If he secures 100,000 signatures on his petition, I am almost certain that the Petitions Committee will feel obliged to have a debate on it. Given how strongly he has pushed the issue in the House, I am sure that his request will also have universal support across the House.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): My constituent David Chamber has raised with me his not uncommon problem: he is a graduate unable to find graduate work. The Prime Minister has said that he does not want foreign graduates doing what he describes as menial labour. May we have an urgent debate on what help we can give our UK graduates to get graduate jobs, on which the student loan repayment system depends?

Chris Grayling: When I was employment Minister in 2010, and we had inherited unemployment levels almost twice as high as they are now, conversations with young people entering the job market were challenging. Today, the situation is very different—unemployment has come down by almost half and job opportunities for young people in this country are better than they have been for a very long time. Under Labour, things went badly wrong; this Government have sorted them out.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): My constituent Cordelia Law was left with a legal bill of nearly £3,000 after being threatened with a libel action by a developer whose planning application she commented on to her local council. May we have a debate on our libel laws? I

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would not endorse every comment that Cordelia Law made, but that type of reaction from developers could deter many other people from commenting on planning applications in which they have an interest.

Chris Grayling: Obviously, I cannot comment on the specific detail of that case, because I do not know enough about it, but it is always right and proper for those putting in planning applications to treat local communities with respect. If people feel that they have been let down by local authority processes, they can and do go to the ombudsman to seek a determination of maladministration. It sounds as if my hon. Friend is doing a fine job of representing his constituent anyway.

Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab): Civil society organisations have legitimate concerns about restrictions on their ability to challenge school admission arrangements. May we have a statement about the proposed ban on objections from these organisations so that we can better understand who will and will not be affected?

Chris Grayling: These things are, of course, predominantly for governing bodies and local authorities to decide, but the hon. Gentleman is free to raise this issue as an Adjournment debate and bring a Minister to the House to respond to his concern.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): People in the villages of Lincolnshire are desperate to get to Cleethorpes, where they will find excellent shopping and the finest fish and chips in the land. Unfortunately, however, the Cleethorpes economy could be set back due to cuts in rural bus services. May we have a debate about the funding of rural bus services, which clearly needs a rethink?

Chris Grayling: I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. That is a matter for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will come before the House on Monday. I encourage him to bring his point to the attention of the Ministers with the most direct responsibility for addressing these issues.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): Yesterday, the Bank of Scotland announced that it will close its Mount Florida branch in my constituency, which serves thousands of people in that community, King’s Park, Battlefield and slightly further afield. The bank has announced the closure without having done any community consultation at all; a lot of older people in particular will have to travel quite far to get to their local branch. May we have a debate on how the big banks are able to do such things without proper consultation with the community and to the detriment of local people?

Chris Grayling: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, that issue has been raised by a number of hon. Members in the past few weeks. If the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee were here, I would be saying that there is clearly a demand across the House for a debate on this subject, and I encourage the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) to make

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such a request. I should also say that the post office now offers many alternative banking services. I hope local communities will take advantage of the post office, to make sure that it can offer those services in their local communities.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): The Chair of the Backbench Business Committee has been called away on urgent business, so he has asked me to say that the Committee has scheduled every debate that has been requested. We are very much open for business as far as debates after the recess are concerned. As you will be aware, Mr Speaker, debating time in this Chamber and Westminster Hall is extremely precious, so I encourage Members to put applications in.

The Community Security Trust reported this week that the number of anti-Semitic incidents has fallen by a welcome 21%. However, before we all get complacent, that is the third highest level on record, and it follows the highest level ever recorded. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary responding to that report to make clear what action the Government will take to make sure that anti-Semitic incidents are not only treated seriously, but combated across this country?

Chris Grayling: I absolutely echo that point. I commend the work of the Community Security Trust. This is every bit as much of an issue as the events in Dewsbury last week, which were mentioned earlier. Anti-Semitic racist incitement in our society is utterly unacceptable, and so is incitement of race hatred against any group in our society. All of us in this House should stand against it when we discover it and see it. It is unacceptable and should never be tolerated.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House detect any difference between his view of the European convention on human rights—when he was Lord Chancellor, he said:

“We have a treaty right to withdraw…We would exercise that right. There is always a first time for everything”—

and that of the current Lord Chancellor, who said this week that the Government were

“not planning to derogate absolutely from any”

of the ECHR rights? Should we now expect any repeal of the Human Rights Act in this Parliament, or has that vanished with the rest of Leader of the House’s programme when he was at the Ministry of Justice?

Chris Grayling: I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but Government Members believe that the Human Rights Act should be replaced. Labour do not. The public support us. Labour are wrong, we are right.

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): Hundreds—probably more than 1,000—British nationals have taken the very brave decision to go and fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, joining the YPG and the foreign fighter forces of the Kurdish peshmerga. Those people include my constituent, Aiden Aslin, a former care worker from Newark. It is now Home Office and police policy to arrest these individuals under counter-terrorism legislation on their return to the UK. Even if, as is most likely, they are not charged, that will remain on their record, and constituents such as mine, who have taken an extremely brave decision—one could argue that it is foolhardy, but

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it is extremely brave—to fight with our allies, will not be able to, for example, enter the United States for the rest of their lives. What can my right hon. Friend do to raise this issue with the Home Secretary and the relevant authorities so that we adopt an appropriate policy towards these brave citizens of this country?

Chris Grayling: Of course, this issue has to be treated with great care. I will make sure my hon. Friend’s concerns are raised with the Home Secretary, who will be in the Chamber on Monday week taking questions. I encourage him to raise that point with her, but I will make sure she is aware of the concern he has raised.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to nag his colleagues in the Department for Transport? The very expensive public inquiry into the New Generation Transport trolleybus scheme in Leeds concluded in October 2014, but the report has been gathering dust in the DFT for about six months. Can we finally have a statement on the issue so that we can get an answer? I hope it will be a no, so that we can then progress with a genuinely modern scheme involving light rail and/or tram-train.

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I will make sure that it is raised with the Department today and ask it to write to him.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I recently met Noor Mukhtar, Pendle’s Member of the Youth Parliament, at Nelson and Colne College to discuss the UK Youth Parliament’s anti-racism and anti-discrimination campaign. Given recent Government initiatives on the issue, and the fact that the Prime Minister used his new year’s speech to talk about discrimination in Britain today, may we have a debate on this important issue?

Chris Grayling: Again, my hon. Friend makes an important point about the need to avoid discrimination and racist behaviour in our society, and I think the whole House would agree with that. On behalf of the House, could I—particularly a few days after you, Mr Speaker, hosted Members of the Youth Parliament in your state rooms to celebrate the achievements of some of those young people—pay tribute to all those involved in the Youth Parliament, who make a really important contribution to discussions between young people and parliamentarians around this country?

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): On Monday, I attended the Women Against State Pension Inequality debate in Westminster Hall. It is such a big issue, and the debate was so busy, that I had to sit in seats normally occupied by Tory MPs. The novelty quickly wore off as I had to watch colleagues point their fingers at Members on the Benches opposite. On a

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serious point, however, the Minister in that debate yet again hid behind the excuse of the deficit, so can we have a real debate about alternative measures we can put in place to end the injustice to women of the inequality of the state pension increase? We should bear it in mind that this Government recently allocated an extra £6 billion to Trident, with a £10 billion contingency—that is £16 billion right away that could be better spent.

Chris Grayling: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I always value the moments when we find ourselves sitting alongside the SNP, as it were, because they are all too rare. We talk about the deficit because it is true: over the past few years this country has had a major crisis in its public finances. We have made good progress in turning that around, but we have a way still to go. It has led to some difficult decisions. The pension issue is about equality. It is about ensuring that men and women have the same state retirement age, and it is also about our retirement age reflecting the good news that we are all living longer.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): May we have a debate on the impact of relaxing planning rules? Such a debate would give me the opportunity to raise the plight of Haughton Green in my constituency, where, in recent times, residents have seen a loss of their heritage with the bulldozing of the old rectory and have been deprived of a say over the future use of the Methodist church, and where there is likely to be extensive in-fill development, even though that will require the use of already congested medieval road infrastructure.

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise these issues with Ministers on Monday. There is a balance to be found in making sure that we protect local environments and the character of local areas but also provide adequate housing for the next generation, because that is also important.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): You probably know, Mr Speaker, that children living in low emission zones have a 10% lower lung capacity than children living outside, partly because diesel emissions from cars cause pollution worse than that of many lorries, and Volkswagen has obviously been involved in emissions testing scandals. Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate on improving the cleanliness of the air in our city centres for the sake of our children’s health, including the possible restriction of diesel vehicles, given that 52,000 people die each year from diesel pollutants?

Chris Grayling: This matter is now attracting widespread concern. It is obviously important to ensure that we have proper air quality and that we look after public health. Ministers are taking the matter very seriously and investigating it carefully.

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Point of Order

11.52 am

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to go back to the issue of the Second Reading on 22 February of a Bill as yet unannounced. There is no Bill sitting waiting to be finished off in the House of Lords, as a Lords starter, and no Bill that has had a First Reading in this House, as yet, so the only possibility is that the Government fully intend next week, by the time we are back here next Thursday, to have the First Reading of a Commons starter Bill that will then have its Second Reading on 22 February. Would it not be grossly discourteous to this House for the Leader of the House, who knows perfectly well what that Bill is going to be, not to stand up and tell us exactly what it is going to be, because otherwise he will have published it by the time he is back here next week?

Mr Speaker: Does the Leader of the House wish to respond?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Grayling): Can I just say that the shadow Leader of the House is talking absolute nonsense?

Mr Speaker: Right. Pursuant to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, I can say only, at this stage, that I have no knowledge of the matter. I heard what the Leader of the House has said. I think it is a fair point to make to the House as a whole that it is not obligatory, but it is desirable, for words uttered to be genuinely meant. On one or two occasions in the past, I have come across language used such as “Second Reading of a Bill” which turns out really just to be a kind of holding statement, if you will, and what eventually transpires is something somewhat different—perhaps quite specifically not a Bill, and not a Second Reading of a Bill, but something else. On a serious note, in terms of the intelligibility of the proceedings of the House and the transparency with which we operate, I know that the Leader of the House will want to hold himself to a rather higher standard than that, and I am sure we can be assured of that.

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Personal Statement

11.54 am

Mr Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): In 2009, the House resolved that hon. Members should register all outside earnings within 28 days of their receipt, whether connected with their parliamentary duties or not.

For a prolonged period last year, I very much regret that I failed to comply with that rule in respect of my professional earnings as a barrister.

The House has a right to expect of its Members, particularly those on the Standards Committee, as I was, that they will uphold its rules to the fullest extent. For that reason, I have stepped down from the Standards Committee, and I hope that the House will accept my sincere and full-hearted apology for my failure to observe this important rule.

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for what he has said.

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Collapse of Kids Company

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee

Select Committee statement

Mr Speaker: We now come to the Select Committee statement. The Chair of the relevant Select Committee, Mr Bernard Jenkin, will speak for up to 10 minutes, during which, as those familiar with the procedure will realise and those who are not will now learn, no interventions may be taken. At the conclusion of his statement, I or whoever is in the Chair will call Members to put questions on the subject of the statement, and call Mr Bernard Jenkin to respond to these in turn. Members can expect to be called only once. Interventions should be questions and should be brief. Front Benchers may take part in questioning.

11.56 am

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to make this statement on our report entitled, “The collapse of Kids Company: lessons for charity trustees, professional firms, the Charity Commission, and Whitehall”.

We found that an extraordinary catalogue of failures of governance and control had taken place in the charity. It is obvious that many will feel blamed by our report. However, we very deliberately set about investigating the matter with a view to find lessons to be learned, not to find blame. Unless we can learn lessons, there will be an increased likelihood that such events will be repeated.

First, on the question of professional firms, the charity’s auditors repeated in every audit letter their concern that reserves in the charity were very low. The charity never acted on that advice. Instead, it was all too keen to trumpet the fact that it had received what it called a “clean audit” in every year of its existence. Under questioning, the auditor said that the charity had been living permanently “on a knife edge”. That sense of urgency was not communicated in formal advice to the charity. He also candidly admitted that the auditors should have notified the Charity Commission of their concerns about the charity, in accordance with the duty placed on auditors of charities under section 156 of the Charities Act 2011. That is a lesson that I hope all auditors will learn.

We also cross-examined Pannell Kerr Forster, which did an investigation into the governance and controls of the charity, on behalf of the Cabinet Office. We were concerned about how it evolved the remit of its report into being an investigation into governance controls rather than governance and controls. The report ended up being of rather limited value in the Cabinet Office, although it was read as what it was originally intended to be. That gives rise to the question of how the Government manage professional firms, as well as of how professional firms conduct themselves in respect of their responsibilities.

The charity also commissioned advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers, but it had so little time to produce anything in the run-up to the collapse of the charity that what it produced was of extremely little value. The Government took too much comfort from that

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report as well, and PwC should have been more candid and direct with the Government about how valuable its work could be to them.

The Charity Commission has a statutory duty to prevent, detect and tackle abuse and mismanagement in charities. It did not do so with Kids Company. Prior to 2015 the Charity Commission did not engage with Kids Company, because it received very few complaints. Why did so few people complain to the Charity Commission, given that this was, for a long period, a charity with a mixed reputation that excited a lot of public comment? In order to attract complaints, the Charity Commission should have a much higher profile as an avenue for complaints. It needs to be much more proactive in responding to concerns that are raised in public about a charity. In the case of high-risk charities with many employees and dependent beneficiaries, it should be equipped and funded to do more to provide scrutiny and, more importantly, advice and support to struggling trustees.

The Government need to reverse cuts to the Charity Commission to enable it to carry out its statutory function. We also recommend that the Charity Commission take new powers to hold hearings and to produce reports and recommendations about charities. It really should not fall to a Select Committee of the House to produce reports on the activities of individual charities. Kids Company received more than £42 million in grants from central Government across several Administrations, and it has not had to compete for a grant since 2013. Other charities have voiced bitter discontent at the unfairness of that. Government will need to work hard to restore faith in the grant-giving system of Whitehall.

Kids Company enjoyed unique, privileged and significant access to senior Ministers, and even to Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition, throughout successive Administrations. Some witnesses stated that they were intimidated by that high-profile support, and questions have been raised about whether it affected funding decisions; it certainly discouraged people from raising concerns. Government lacked any objective assessment of Kids Company’s activities and outcomes, and the effectiveness of its governance. Government must improve their capability so that they are less reliant on external reviews when making assessments about charities.

The civil service should be commended for resisting the hold that Kids Company seemed to have over so many others, but the advice of the civil service was, in the end, overridden. Ministers should not allow charity representatives to exploit their access to Government in a way that might be construed to be unethical. Ministers should not override, or risk creating the perception that they are overriding, official advice to hand over funding to charities on the basis of personal prejudice or political considerations. That raises questions about how conflicts of interest for Ministers are addressed in Government with respect to charity funding. The awarding of commercial contracts could never have been conducted on the same basis.

The real message of the report is about charity trustees. It is the same as the message in our report about charity funding last week, in which we found that trustees of some of the most famous charities in the country had failed to understand what was being done in their name. Both reports highlight the role of trustees of charities. The primary responsibility of trustees is the good governance

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and the maintenance of the reputation of their charities. The primary responsibility for Kids Company’s collapse rests with the charity trustees, who failed in their duty concerning the governance of the charity. I do not for a moment doubt the good faith of every trustee who served the charity, and I have evidence that some tried very hard to do the right thing. The only conclusion that anyone can reach is that either they did not know or understand the implications of what was going on in the charity, or they knew and failed to act.

The Charity Commission’s guidance requires trustees to

“make decisions solely in the charity’s interests. They should not allow themselves to be swayed by personal prejudices or dominant personalities.”

That seems to be exactly what happened in Kids Company, however, and it must be in danger of happening in every large charity that has been built up by a powerful and influential founder. The lesson is a universal one for all trustees. The trustee body of Kids Company did not have the necessary knowledge or experience of, for example, psychotherapy or youth services to be able to interrogate the operating model and safeguarding procedures.

In conclusion, it would be wrong to scapegoat any single individual for what occurred in the charity, but there are lessons that the House, the Government, the Charity Commission and professionals should draw from the situation. Most importantly, the Government need to understand what went wrong and how it can be rectified in future.

Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and the members of the Select Committee for this important report. It has shone a light on what is a very sorry saga for all concerned, not least the vulnerable children who turned to Kids Company in their hour of need. I also pay tribute to the thousands of volunteers and workers in the sector who do so much to support vulnerable young people, usually without the same levels of funding and freedom that Kids Company clearly enjoyed. It is a deep shame that so much good work is at risk of being tarnished by this unique, high-profile failure. Having read the report, particularly the evidence given to the Committee by the senior civil service, I want to ask the hon. Gentleman about the way in which grants were administered, and whether he feels anything has changed since his report.

The Government have just passed the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, which was supported by Labour, to beef up the Charity Commission’s regulation of the sector, particularly when it comes to trustees. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that the Government have learned their own lessons? For example, it is clear that rules applying to other charities did not apply to Kids Company. As he said, it had not had to compete for a grant from central Government since 2013. The Committee was told by a former Conservative Minister that Kids Company

“appeared to have a lower threshold of proof in order to get money from public funds”

and that its chief executive

“was almost the poster girl at the Big Society summit”.

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I ask the Minister whether the Government—both Ministers and civil servants—have actually acknowledged their role in this sorry saga, and whether they have taken any concrete steps to ensure that they are never complicit in such a tragedy again.

Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. Let me emphasise, as she did, that it is plain to see that there was much good work going on in the charity, and that has been lost; that many vulnerable young people were dependent on the charity, and they have been left forlorn and bereft; that many of the employees and volunteers were deeply committed to the charity’s work, and they feel deeply betrayed and let down by what has happened; and that this has caused a great deal of distress. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that there is already evidence of things being salvaged from Kids Company and of things being rebuilt in the sector. We wish every success to those who are going to fund and support those things, because there is a gap, which the charity was seeking to fill, in meeting the needs of our society.

Yes, we are recommending even more powers for the Charity Commission than those in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. We very much want the Charity Commission to recommend courses for charity trustees, so that they have somewhere to go to learn. The Institute of Directors runs courses for non-executive directors. Where is the equivalent for charity trustees, who have just as onerous a set of responsibilities? It is not the executives and the chief executive who are responsible for the conduct of a charity, but the trustees, who are jointly and severally liable, and it is not just the chairman who is responsible, but all the trustees.

We want the Charity Commission to have the power to hold legally privileged hearings, like those of a statutory inquiry, so that it can hear and receive evidence that cannot be impugned in the courts. That would mean that people with concerns about charities could go to the Charity Commission without the fear of losing their job, of reprisals or of being traduced in the press. The Charity Commission would be able to hold proper hearings and people could speak to it without fear or favour, as they do before Select Committees.

The hon. Lady raised the question about conflicts of interests that Ministers did not quite understand and that the system has not quite grasped. If the senior executive of a charity appears on a public platform with someone who then becomes the Prime Minister or is photographed in the Cabinet room with the Prime Minister at the launch of a Government initiative, they have a mutual interest, and that was not reflected in the way decisions were made in this case.

If the political interests or the financial interests of the charity become aligned with the political interests of certain Ministers, those Ministers should recuse themselves from those decisions, as they would in any commercial arrangement. There is going to be a new arrangement. We are going to require the Government to think about this very seriously and possibly even amend the ministerial code accordingly.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): As my hon. Friend has said, the ultimate responsibility for the failure of Kids Company lay with the board of trustees. Does my hon. Friend agree that, among the many lessons to be

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learned from this sorry episode, the board of trustees should include members with appropriate qualifications for the sort of charity they are operating, and in addition that the board of trustees should be regularly refreshed? In the case of Kids Company, the chairman had been in that role for many years. That, I would suggest, led him to become far too close to the chief executive, and ultimately to be dominated by her.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question, and I am grateful to him and all members of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, who were all so fully engaged with this inquiry, which made our report so much more valuable. My right hon. Friend is right about the appropriate skills that trustee bodies need. Very often people think they need business skills, whatever those are, or accounting skills or some kind of technical skills. Actually, they need other skills. They need skills in the sector in which the charity operates. As I pointed out in my opening remarks, there was nobody with psychotherapy experience, and the charity was a psychotherapeutic charity. There was nobody with youth sector experience, and this was a charity in the youth sector.

Boards of trustees also need people who are able to hold the right kind of conversations, who are fearless about hearing what needs to be heard, and who are capable of confronting people if necessary, but with kindness and understanding, in order that the truth reaches the charity trustees and the messages are heard. This charity prided itself on being open and consensual. I am afraid the evidence is that it was precisely the opposite. There were many people in the charity who were fearful of those who wanted to suppress the truth because the truth was so difficult to deal with. The truth was very difficult for individuals to deal with, and if there is no truth, there will be no enlightenment and no judgment. There is no substitute for charity trustees exercising broad and enlightened common sense and judgment. It is not just about sets of skills.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The answers have been very thorough, but they need to be a little shorter.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I pay tribute to the Chairman of the Committee. The inquiry was quite a harrowing experience for all of us and he handled a difficult situation extremely well. Will he comment a little further on the role of journalists and the media in the inquiry? Incredibly detailed work was done by Miles Goslett, for example, and The Spectator was willing to publish when no one else was prepared to do so. That journalist had to go round all the media, which did not want to know because of some of the issues that have been referred to. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the role of media in such investigative journalism and the role of freedom of information are even more important now?

Mr Jenkin: I agree with everything the hon. Lady says. There were journalists who tried to get things published, but the editors and the publications that might have carried those messages were also scared of confronting

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what appeared to be a very powerful charity with very great influence leading to the heart of Government. There is a message there.

There is a message, too, for the Charity Commission. Even when things were published, why were those journalists not invited to the Charity Commission, and why did it not say, “Tell us what you think is going on here, because we probably ought to know”? I hope journalists will feel a sense of obligation, not necessarily to reveal their sources or anything like that, but where they think a big charity is in serious trouble, to offer their advice to the Charity Commission. It would be a public-spirited thing to do. They would do that in respect of a serious risk to national security; they should do so for the security of the charitable sector as well.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I join my colleague, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), in paying tribute to our Chairman, who led the inquiry, and to the staff of our Select Committee, who did some very valuable work in the course of the inquiry. The last tranche of Government money, £3 million, was given to facilitate restructuring, but I was surprised to see in the television programme aired on BBC 1 last night the impression given that the management and the chief executive had other ideas about how that money was going to be spent. Do we know whether the £2 million balance of the unspent £3 million that was given has been recovered by the Government? Will there be any further investigations into that money passing to Kids Company virtually 24 hours before it shut down, or is this report the end of the matter?

Mr Jenkin: That last question is very interesting. There is an ongoing investigation by the official receiver, which should be able to tell us what happened to that money and if any money is due to be returned to the Government. I am not a legal expert, but I think that once the Government handed over the money, it belonged to the charity. It no longer belonged to the Government and, although the Government might be a creditor, they will probably have to queue up behind other creditors. I very much hope that the Government might accept that the employees who lost their employment very abruptly are entitled to some measure of recompense, perhaps out of those funds. The answer is that I do not know. What was evident from that programme last night was how the restructuring was resisted to the very end. I am not sure whether that was known to the Minister who signed the letter of direction.

I, too, would like to pay tribute to the staff of the Committee. They do not usually like their name up in lights—it is not the tradition of the House service—but we are very fortunate in our Committee. We have very good staff.

Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP): Having watched the BBC documentary last night and seen the founder of Kids Company laugh about breaking the law and be dismissive of a vast amount of UK taxpayers’ money which was handed out so freely by both Labour and Conservative Governments, it is clear that lessons have to be learned. One of the lessons that we failed to learn in the past was that brash, bright, colourful, flamboyant characters who are favoured by senior politicians should be open to the same scrutiny as the many conscientious

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hard-working individuals who work tirelessly for a charity with only the best of intentions. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the report should be only an opening salvo and must be followed up?

Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. Yes, this is an opening salvo—both reports are opening salvos—about governance. The question of governance extends beyond charities to how the whole of Whitehall is governed—all the public bodies and the civil service, and how we govern the contractual exchanges between the public and the private sectors from Whitehall. Governance is not just about compliance and box-ticking. Governance is about the exercise of judgment by the people who are accountable for what occurs, and I hope that fellow Select Committee Chairs and I will pursue the matter of governance across the whole of the public sector and the parts of the private sector that are funded by the public sector.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I commend my hon. Friend and his Committee for his report and for his statement to the House today. On pages 47 to 49 of his excellent report he is excoriating in his criticism of the two Ministers who signed off the direction in June 2015 to give Kids Company £3 million, against the advice of the permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office. One of those Ministers, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was good enough to give evidence to the Committee and has shown courtesy to the House by being here today. The other, the Paymaster General, does not appear to have given evidence to my hon. Friend’s Committee and is not in the House today. In his report, the Chairman writes:

“In neither his letter of direction nor his oral evidence has Mr Letwin provided convincing justification for his and Mr Hancock’s decision to ignore the comprehensive advice of senior officials . . . This grant should not have been authorised contrary to advice.”

In the Government’s response to his Committee’s report, can we expect a ministerial apology from both Ministers involved and a clear explanation of how the £2 million which is still missing will be found?

Mr Jenkin: I have heard everything that my hon. Friend has said. The report speaks for itself. I hope very much that the Government will give a full and clear explanation in response to the report. I am sure that they will. I have never doubted the integrity of the two Ministers who signed the letter of direction at all. We must wait for the Government’s response. In the end, I am not responsible for the Government’s response.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): May I add the name of Harriet Sergeant to that of Miles Goslett as she, too, exposed this fraud? This was British journalism at its very best and the report shows our Select Committees at their very best in the way that it exposes the waste, extravagance and delusions of this sad episode, which robbed far better charities of vital funds to help children in distress.

Is it not vital that the conduct of the Ministers who ignored the advice and wrote the letter of direction is considered by the adviser on Ministers’ interests? Is it not crucial that we get to the nub of this terrible waste? The buck stops with the Prime Minister. We should

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have broken the taboo that exists—I would like the Chairman to make this suggestion. As this charity was linked in every way with the big society stunt that was being run by the Prime Minister at the time, the person who should have given evidence to us was the Prime Minister.

This matter will not be put to rest until the Prime Minister explains why he set up what was virtually a slush fund, by getting funds moved from the Department for Education, where Ministers might have stopped this, to the Cabinet Office, from where the money was going out. That was wrong, it was damaging to many of the children who were allegedly being helped by Kids Company and it was very damaging to those charities that could prove the worth of what they were doing through statements and evidence, which Kids Company never did. Should we not look forward to this never happening again and to moneys being moved out of the Cabinet Office’s control?

Mr Jenkin: It is in the nature of politics that some people will always be readier to pin the blame and extract some action as a result. I hope that I am conducting the Committee in a way that all its members support. I think that we get so much more from witnesses and that our reports have more authority if we do not try to pin blame on individuals, but the House will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

The hon. Gentleman touched on the important issue of why youth funding was moved from the Department for Education to the Cabinet Office. We really did not get an explanation of that, except for a denial that it had anything to do with wanting to be able to continue funding Kids Company, which the Department for Education had clearly become reluctant to do. One of our conclusions is that Departments should be responsible for allocating funding to outside bodies, rather than the Cabinet Office, because it is, by its nature, too close to the political centre of power in Government and a suspicion can be created, at the least, that decisions are being influenced.

We made a recommendation about the LIBOR fund, which was set up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to support military charities. It is clearly a very worthwhile initiative, but any possibility that it could be construed as a fund under the personal control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be very clearly checked.

Mr Speaker: Somewhat tighter answers would be appreciated. They are way too long.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for his statement and his Committee for the work it has done in preparing the report. Does the Committee plan to review the extent to which the valuable and important recommendations in its report are complied with and carried out?

Mr Jenkin: We always make sure that our recommendations are followed up and the Government have to give a very clear response to them.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I commend the hon. Gentleman and his Committee for this very good report. He is absolutely right that a focus on governance is vital. The Public Accounts

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Committee is very clear that we will follow governance and accountability in respect of taxpayers’ money wherever they lead. In the evidence that we heard from senior civil servants about the use of ministerial directions, there was clearly a reluctance on the part of permanent secretaries to call for a ministerial direction because of the relationship that they had with their Secretaries of State. Has he had any thoughts about undertaking further work with his Committee on the use of ministerial directions and whether that system is working well in Whitehall?

Mr Jenkin: There has been controversy about the role of ministerial directions. The former Minister for the Cabinet Office, who was responsible for civil service policy, urged permanent secretaries to ask for ministerial directions to facilitate the making of decisions. That was understandable because he felt frustrated that, as he saw it, decisions were being blocked. On the other hand, senior civil servants pride themselves on having a good relationship of trust and understanding with their Ministers and are therefore reluctant to reach for the requirement for formal direction. They would far rather have a relationship with their Ministers that is based on a shared understanding of the concerns about a particular issue. I am bound to say that I rather side with civil servants on that one. If we had a system that was run just on instructions, it would be impossible for civil servants to give their best advice to Ministers. That is the system that Northcote-Trevelyan set up and that we should attempt to sustain.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I apologise to hon. Members and to you, Mr Speaker, that I have only just arrived in the Chamber. I was speaking to a group of schoolchildren from my constituency in the education centre and I could not miss that.

I want to say a few words in support of the Chair. This was a difficult report to achieve consensus on and he did a very good job of getting us as close to consensus as was possible. I caught the tail-end of what my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) was saying and I sympathise with a lot of what he said. I also heard my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. The National Audit Office ought to have a stronger look at all of this, particularly at where Ministers are instructing civil servants on matters of funding in this way. I hope that this sort of thing will never happen again and that this report will go some way towards mending fences for the future. That being said, I think that this is the tip of the iceberg and that the story will continue. There is probably a lot more that we have not reported on.

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Mr Speaker: I feel sure that the House will agree that the Chamber’s loss was the school students’ gain.

Mr Jenkin: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support and for his work on the Committee. The one point that I will pick up on is his comment that this must never happen again. I can tell you for certain, Mr Speaker, that it will happen again. The question is whether we have a system in place that allows us, each time it happens, to learn, rectify and prepare for the future to make sure that it happens less and less often. That is what our recommendations are really about.

Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and his Committee on bringing forward this report. Many points have been made about the governance of the Charity Commission and I welcome the specific recommendation that he mentioned, but what role should the Care Quality Commission have played in inspecting some of the services that Kids Company claimed to be providing? There seems to have been a gap there. It might have helped to identify the fact that the numbers did not stack up. Will he join me in congratulating the director of social services at Southwark Council, David Quirke-Thornton, who stepped in to make sure that vulnerable young people received support quickly when Kids Company collapsed?

Mr Jenkin: I am certainly very grateful to David Quirke-Thornton. There are still discussions to be had between statutory social services and the charitable youth sector about what gaps in provision exist. Those would be productive discussions.

The question of inspection that the hon. Gentleman raises is a very important one. Ofsted did go into parts of Kids Company, but the senior executives of the charity did not find that very welcome. If social services are inspected, perhaps there is a case for inspecting charities of this nature, particularly if they are in receipt of public funds and if they have caring and safeguarding responsibilities. The private sector is investigated in that way—boarding schools and so on—and charities should be treated in the same way.

Mr Speaker: Notwithstanding what I said earlier about the prolixity of some of the answers and the relatively slow progress, the hon. Gentleman has received, and warmly deserves, the appreciation of the House for bringing before us this very important report on behalf of his Committee. It is a practical expression of his decades-long commitment to this House, its integrity, and its centrality in the affairs of the country, and he deserves our thanks.

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Backbench Business

Parliamentary Sovereignty and EU Renegotiations

[Relevant Documents: Fourteenth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, on UK Government’s renegotiation of EU membership: Parliamentary sovereignty and scrutiny, HC 458.]

Mr Speaker: To move the motion I call not a baron, but the Baron in the House.

12.30 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): As ever, you have been very generous, Mr Speaker.

I beg to move,

That this House believes in the importance of Parliamentary sovereignty; and calls for the Government’s EU renegotiations to encompass Parliament’s ability, by itself, to stop any unwanted legislation, taxes or regulation.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting this debate, and Members on both sides of the House who supported the application for it.

There can be no greater issue for this Parliament to debate and defend than the country’s sovereignty, as that goes to the heart of everything we do. Without it, we cannot truly have the final say on a host of issues, including the primacy of our laws, the integrity of our borders and the extent of burdensome regulation. As our EU renegotiations proceed, however, it appears that little effort is being made to truly restore parliamentary sovereignty. It is not a priority, which I suggest is a great opportunity missed.

We have a golden opportunity to pitch for fundamental change in our relationship with the EU for the benefit of both parties, as the Prime Minister promised in his Bloomberg speech, but we are missing it while No. 10 tinkers at the edges. Without consulting his parliamentary party, in my view the Prime Minister is sidestepping the issue completely by arguing for temporary measures, and measures that require us to club together with other Parliaments, in the vain hope of stopping the EU. That is not restoring parliamentary sovereignty. If we as a Parliament and a country cannot on our own stop any unwanted EU taxes, directives or laws, then it is clear that if we vote to stay in, we vote to stay on the conveyor belt towards ever closer union, as laid out in the EU’s founding treaty. Parliament will become nothing more than just a council chamber of Europe.

To those who say that the UK already accepts a certain pooling or loss of sovereignty when joining other international organisations, I say that only the EU can force us to take in economic migrants despite the strain on our infrastructure, override our laws, and foist burdensome regulation on our companies, despite the vast majority not even trading with the EU.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on raising this important issue, and I agree with everything he has been saying. The great 19th-century constitutionalist, Walter Bagehot, divided politics into the “effective” and “decorative” parts of

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the constitution. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this place must be the effective part of our constitution, not just a decoration?

Mr Baron: I completely agree, and that is why I suggest that the issue of sovereignty goes to the core of our relationship with the EU. If we do not take the opportunity to address it now, it could be lost for a generation.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I wonder whether all those years ago Enoch Powell was right, and that we have been dodging this issue ever since 1972. The question he posed was that if we join the EU, this Chamber and democratically elected House loses its sovereignty. Now an historic moment is approaching, and the British people have to make that choice. Will they reclaim that sovereignty or not?

Mr Baron: I can only repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins)—I completely agree, and that is why this debate is important. It is not easy to say some of these words, but I regret that there has been a lack of consultation on the proposals in this renegotiation. Better engagement, certainly with the parliamentary party, and perhaps with Parliament generally, given that we are representatives, would have been useful.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): Would the hon. Gentleman include in that statement of regret the complete failure to consult with the national Parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during the process?

Mr Baron: What I regret is the lack of wide consultation generally with regard to renegotiation. When many of us were campaigning in the last Parliament for a referendum in this one, it was in the hope that we would have a meaningful debate prior to the renegotiation, and then a meaningful debate afterwards as we headed towards a referendum.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Baron: Let me make a little progress, and then I will take further interventions. I am also conscious of the time.

Let us be clear about the so-called “red card”. We appear to have a system that has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese—so much so that it is more like a lottery ticket that has been through the wash. The question is: is it valid? The idea is that we club together and form a majority with other national Parliaments to stop unwanted EU taxes and laws, but that would not enable our Parliament, by itself, to reject anything that it did not want. This would be an extension of the ineffectual “yellow card'” system currently in operation, but with an even higher threshold.

Lord Hague once referred in this Chamber to the system then in operation, which was similar to what is now being proposed:

“Given the difficulty of Oppositions winning a vote in their Parliaments, the odds against doing so in 14 countries around Europe with different parliamentary recesses—lasting up to 10 weeks in our own case—are such that even if the European Commission proposed the slaughter of the first-born it would be difficult to achieve such a remarkable conjunction of parliamentary votes.”—[Official Report, 21 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 1262.]

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The “lottery ticket” system will not work. It would be like a football referee getting out his fraction of a red card, only then to consult with 14 other officials before deciding what to do, by which time the game is over. If we are serious about regaining control of our borders and fisheries, and about having the ability to set our own trade deals and the power to set our own business regulation, sovereignty must be restored to Parliament. It is quite simple. Everything else is a cop-out, a sell-out, a lottery ticket fraud. Let us be honest about the washed-out lottery ticket.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I am glad that I did not interrupt my hon. Friend in the midst of that wonderful metaphor. One of the real problems with the mentality of those who subscribe to the EU project is that instead of being honest enough to say “no” to those of us who want our sovereignty back, they put forward devious and deceptive and pretences to say yes, when in reality they know it means no.

Mr Baron: I can only agree with my right hon. Friend. Having said that, the Minister for Europe is nothing but a courteous and able Minister, and I am delighted that he is in his place. I would not want him to be under the illusion that we are suggesting that of him, but there has been a tendency to act out a charade, when actually we have been on the conveyor belt of ever closer union. We need greater honesty in this debate.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): My hon. Friend has raised the issue of sovereignty, and the draft decision document published this week by the European Union contains a section called “Sovereignty”. If ever there was a misnamed section of a document, it is this—perhaps my hon. Friend will come on to that. The one thing that this document does not return to the United Kingdom Parliament is sovereignty over the laws that are made for this country. Indeed, it promises a “red card”, which is no more than an extremely cumbersome method of qualified majority voting in the European Union.

Mr Baron: I cannot but agree with my hon. Friend.

Sir Edward Leigh: Does anybody want to disagree?

Mr Baron: There will be people who want to disagree—don’t worry.

I will just turn, if I may, to the immigration emergency brake, which again is questionable. I speak here with a tinge of sadness, because I think the Government have framed this part of the debate in the wrong manner. Let us first of all be clear that the emergency brake access to in-work benefits will last only four years, with the EU, not Britain, judging whether the emergency brake is declared. Not even here do we have control. It is also unclear what happens after the period expires. In addition, access to benefits would gradually be increased, meaning it is moot how much of a deterrent to immigration a brake would actually be.

My sadness—I have said this many times in this place —is that I believe the Government are wrong to couch the debate in these terms. It feeds into a negative narrative about immigrants. It ignores the fact that almost all—the vast majority—immigrants from the EU come to Britain to work hard. They are not looking for benefits. It ignores the fact that large-scale EU immigration cannot be stopped, in all truthfulness, while we adhere to the

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EU’s founding principle of freedom of movement, particularly as the rise in the national living wage picks up speed. Let us have real honesty about this debate. I am fed up with listening to politicians focus on benefits and play to the gallery. It is absolutely wrong to do so. It feeds a negative narrative. The vast majority of immigrants —let us make this absolutely clear—come here to work hard and we should acknowledge that fact, so let us have clarity about the emergency brake. After all, it can only be used by the EU backseat driver, and we all know how dangerous that can be.

There are massive holes in the two key planks of the Government’s renegotiations. Is that important? For some, it will not be. I say it is important, because while the general view may be that we are standing still while inside the EU, we are in fact standing still on a conveyor belt towards ever closer union. Let us be absolutely clear about that. Indeed, the lesson of the eurozone crisis is that the EU usually finds a way of achieving what it wants, ever closer union, even at the expense of violating its commitments. As Mr Juncker once said,

“when it becomes serious, you have to lie”.

Those are the words of the President of the European Commission.

The EU is developing all the trappings of a nation state: a currency, a body of law and a diplomatic service. It makes no secret of its ambitions or its determination to succeed, even if this results in a democratic deficit with its own peoples. We only have to hear what has been said by some of the key people in the EU. Mr Juncker has made his position very clear:

“if it’s a ‘yes’, we say ‘on we go’; and if it’s a ‘no’, we say ‘we will continue.’”

Angela Merkel has made her wishes clear:

“we want more Europe, and stronger powers to intervene”.

Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, has been particularly blunt:

“the UK belongs to the EU”.

Mr Barroso, the former President of the Commission, has cast light on the EU’s integration process:

“they must go on voting, until they get it right”.

If things do not change, the UK is captive on a journey to who knows where. Looking into voting at the EU’s Council of Ministers, academics based at the London School of Economics—there has been very little research on this—have shown that, in recent years, Britain has voted against the majority far more often and been on the losing side more than any other member state. It is not as though it is even getting better within the internal structures of the EU. The British people never signed up to this and it is therefore right that they are finally having their say in a referendum. Do the British Government truly believe that they can muster sufficient votes to stop this inexorable vote towards ever closer union? That is one of the key questions Ministers should try to answer today.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman mentions various eminent and well known persons in the EU. Is not one thing that binds them all together in relation to this debate the fact that they are not elected? We in this Parliament had no say in who they are and we cannot get rid of them. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) mentioned Enoch Powell. Tony Benn said that if we cannot get rid of the people in an institution, it is not democratic.

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Mr Baron: I very much agree with the hon. Lady. There is a democratic deficit in the EU. It is no coincidence that the European Parliament, after the most recent elections, is probably the most Eurosceptic European Parliament in the EU’s history. There is a connection there and the EU needs to recognise that it needs to put that democratic deficit right.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that even elected people do not get thrown out? We cannot get rid of Dan Hannan, for example, because he is No. 1 of 10 or 11 Members of the European Parliament.

Mr Baron: There are many flaws in the system. The peoples of Europe—although one can generalise too much in this respect—are asking more and more questions as the system fails to deliver, in particular on the economic front. Mass unemployment is causing great hardship in many countries and the EU is failing to deliver.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP) rose

Mr Baron: I think I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to intervene once already. No? In that case, please do.

Sammy Wilson: The hon. Gentleman is being very generous in giving way. He is hitting the most important point here. Does he accept that this is not just an academic debate about sovereignty? This is an issue that goes to the very core of social cohesion. If people feel they cannot change those who make decisions, we will have all kinds of trouble and tensions on our streets. That is the core of the issue. Democratic institutions are important for the wellbeing of society.

Mr Baron: I completely agree and that is very well put. It is terribly important that there is an element of democratic accountability. If there is not, we will alienate sections of society and issues such as unemployment will not be properly addressed. How are people going to voice their opinion without moving to the extremes of the political divide, and feeding that extremism because they do not feel they can be democratically represented within the existing structures?

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree there is a practical side to the issue of sovereignty, too? As a member of the EU, we have lost our sovereign ability to negotiate friendly or free trade agreements with major economies around the world. It would be in this country’s interests to have a friendly trading agreement with the big economies, such as America, China and Japan. We cannot do that, however, because we have lost our seat at the World Trade Organisation and our membership of the EU forbids us from making such negotiations.

Mr Baron: That is absolutely right. It is a question of sovereignty, at the end of the day. If we cannot take our seat at the WTO and negotiate our own trade deals, indirectly that is a loss of sovereignty. There is no doubt about that. I am conscious that time is ticking on, so I will make some progress if colleagues will forgive me.

The Prime Minister misses the importance of parliamentary sovereignty in the EU debate. That is a mistake No. 10 is in danger of making when it focuses too heavily on Project Fear issues, such as immigration and jobs. We all know it is the loss of parliamentary

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sovereignty that really lies at the heart of our uneasy relationship with the EU, and which has rankled since we first joined in the 1970s. Over the course of the referendum campaign, I do not believe Project Fear will bite. Ever-increasing numbers of big businesses, including the likes of JCB, Toyota, and Unilever, make it clear that they will not pull out in the event of a Brexit. Indeed, a recent Barclays report suggested a Brexit would be beneficial to the UK. Jobs are linked to our trade with Europe, not to our membership of the EU. Given that our vast trade deficit is in the EU’s favour, it would want to sign a trade agreement in the event of a Brexit.

Furthermore, even if the EU wanted to get awkward, it could not. Falling global tariffs since the 1970s mean that both the UK and EU are bound by the WTO’s “most favoured nation” tariffs—the USA’s average being under 3%. One can easily lose 3% in a currency swing in a week. Many smaller countries outside the EU easily trade with it. Does the “in” camp think the public believe we could not do likewise?

What excites voters’ imagination is the ability to restore sovereignty to our ancient Parliament. I rather suspect the Prime Minister knows this, and that consequently he is holding something in reserve—we are hearing something about a sovereignty Bill, for example—but details are scant. If it is true, however, does it not acknowledge that the “washed-out lottery ticket” and the EU “backseat driver brake” are not fit for purpose? Will the Minister supply the House with more details?

In conclusion, there has never been a better time to renegotiate our relationship with the EU, and nor are we ever likely to be in a stronger position to win meaningful concessions. I therefore urge the Prime Minister, at this critical stage, to return to the renegotiations and seek nothing less than a true restoration of parliamentary sovereignty. Let us step back for one brief moment. If the EU did not exist today, would we really invent it? I cannot understand why this and other Governments have acquiesced in this charade. I can only surmise it is because it is easier not to correct it and to do nothing, than to put it right and take action. But inaction is costing this country dear, not just by way of our £10 billion a year net contribution, but in terms of our sovereignty and responsibility to the people of this country.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. On account of the number of hon. Members who wish to contribute, I am afraid we must start with a six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

12.51 pm

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) on his excellent speech.

I want to address those of my Labour colleagues who mistakenly remain in favour of staying in the EU. The hon. Gentleman talked about being told, “No”, but we have some opt-outs, which is good, because they have saved us some of the pain of being a member of the EU. I think, in particular, of the opt-out from the euro. Had we been a member, we would have been destroyed by the crisis in 2008. The fact that we could depreciate by

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30% protected our economy, to an extent, from that terrible experience. Other countries in southern Europe had much greater difficulties and are still suffering. Currency flexibility, which means that countries and economies can adjust to appropriate parities with other economies, is fundamental to a successful world economy, let alone national or European economies.

Mr Jenkin: Is not one of the more ridiculous parts of the document published yesterday the idea that we need the EU to recognise more than one currency in the EU? Given that Sweden voted in a referendum to stay out of the euro, when it did not have an opt-out, as was negotiated in the Maastricht treaty for the UK, is it not clear that if a country has its own currency, the EU cannot take it away, and that we do not need a treaty change or anything to tell us we can have the pound?

Kelvin Hopkins: I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. I have had the pleasure of being a member of the European Scrutiny Committee for some years now, and in that capacity I meet representatives from other Parliaments. Swedish Parliament representatives tell me that support for joining the euro is at 11% in Sweden, so I do not think it will be joining any time soon. We heard from the Czechs recently. As soon as anyone suggests they might join the euro, they basically say, “Never”. One or two countries that joined the euro now think it was not such a good idea and might like to withdraw if they could. It is true that there are several currencies in the EU: several countries retain their own currency. Some years ago, I met Polish representatives, and I said, “Whatever you do, don’t join the euro, if you want to run your economy successfully, because you would be pinioned, and it would not be good for Poland.” I do not think my advice mattered; nevertheless that country has not joined the euro, and I see no prospect of its doing so in the near future.

I want to talk about other opt-outs. I have long campaigned in the House on the bizarre and nonsensical common fisheries policy. Thousands, if not millions, of tonnes of fish are being destroyed by being dumped back into the sea dead, and fish stocks have been savagely cut. The only way forward is for countries to be responsible for their own fish stocks, along traditional lines, to husband their own resources and to fish in their own seas, as the Norwegians do.

Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) (SNP): Is it not a pity that the Government have missed the opportunity of treaty change around the CFP, which has been an absolute disaster for the Scottish fishing community?

Kelvin Hopkins: Indeed. I raised the matter when a former representative from UKRep spoke to the Committee a few years ago. I said, as I had suggested to the coalition Government, “What would happen if we gave notice that in five years we would withdraw from the CFP, restore the 200-mile and 50% limits and start to manage fish stocks properly, in the interests of our own fishing industry, monitoring every boat and catch sensibly, as happens in Norway?” He said, “You’d be expelled from the EU,”, so there is no possibility of that happening.

If the Government put that in their negotiations, however, they might be a bit more persuasive. I have a list of things I would have in the negotiations—sadly,

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the Government have not followed it—and getting rid of the CFP is one of them. We have the largest fishing grounds and used to have the most successful fishing industry in the EU, but it has been devastated by overfishing and the appalling discarding of bycatches. The point is that, if we made a real change, we would apparently be thrown out, so the substantial changes I want would not be acceptable.

Even yesterday, people were talking about the common agricultural policy—another nonsensical policy that has cost us dear—under which we make massive net contributions to the EU. Every country ought to manage its own agriculture. Some, like the Norwegians, would choose to subsidise it for strategic reasons, as would be perfectly acceptable. We could do the same and choose either the current subsidy regime or a different pattern of subsidies. Each country should do its own thing. One of the nonsenses is that some countries are paid not to grow food. I was in Lithuania a couple of years ago with the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee. It used to be self-sufficient in food, but now thousands of acres are lying fallow because it is paid not to grow food. That is nonsense, and it is all to do with the CAP.

Sammy Wilson: The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. In Northern Ireland, a big issue is what would happen to farming subsidies were we to leave the EU, but is not the point that farming subsidies are better tailored to the needs of individual countries than is a common policy that often fails to meet the needs of farmers in our countries?

Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If we withdrew, we could eliminate the net loss of our contribution to the budget—some say £19 billion, others £14 billion, but either way it is in the billions—and still subsidise regional and other policies, and tailor them to our national and regional needs.

I turn now to the sham of so-called “social Europe”. It is used as a lever to persuade social democratic and socialist parties to say yes to the European Union, but when it comes to the crunch—this would not necessarily impress Conservative Members and certainly not Labour Members, I hope—the EU always finds in favour of employers. Free movement is not about being benign; it is about bidding down wages, ensuring that wages are kept down and profits kept high. It is part of the neo-liberal package of measures that is being driven by the European Union.

In the case of Greece and other southern European countries that have had bail-outs, one of the conditions for bail-out is to put a brake on collective bargaining: “You’ve got to calm down your employees, especially in the public sector. We’re not going to give you the bail-out unless you cut back on collective bargaining.” That is hardly “social Europe”. What about the rights supposedly involved in the charter of fundamental rights? Then, of course, another condition of bail-out is forced privatisations, and we have seen fire sales of public assets in these countries. All these things have damaged social welfare in those countries.

The biggest problem of all has been mass unemployment, falling national output and falling living standards. Greece provides the most extreme example, but other countries have suffered, too. Greece has seen its living

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standards cut by 25%, and its unemployment is at 25%—50% among young people. Across southern Europe as a whole, youth unemployment stands at 40%. It is nonsense—it does not work economically. The idea that is all about “social Europe” and that it is beneficial to workers is, I think, complete nonsense and simply not true.

Kate Hoey: Does my hon. Friend agree that what he has said is predominantly why—

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman’s time is up—a point that I had not spotted. I am being more courteous than I need to be, but it seems discourteous to deprive the hon. Lady. Would she like to finish blurting out what she wanted to say?

Kate Hoey: I am saying that my hon. Friend provides a reason why the trade union movement and trade unionists across the country are catching on to this more and more. Is this not why trade unionists are speaking out and beginning to join and get involved in the campaign to leave?

Kelvin Hopkins: Yes.

Mr Speaker: Excellent. I was about to say that a single -sentence answer would suffice, but the hon. Gentleman has provided a one-word sentence—magnificent!

1.2 pm

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) on introducing this debate so well.

I have to say that this has been a very long journey—30 years, I suppose, in all. I do not want to speak about the technicalities of negotiation; we will deal with that when the Foreign Secretary appears in front of the European Scrutiny Committee on 10 February. I had the opportunity to say a few words yesterday in reply to the Prime Minister’s statement, but today I simply want to indicate what I really feel about this question and explain why I am so utterly and completely determined to maintain the sovereignty of this United Kingdom Parliament.

It is really very simple. We are elected by the voters in our constituencies. We come here, and have done for many centuries, to represent their grievances and their interests, to fight for their prosperity and to support them in adversity. The reason why this House has to remain sovereign is that it simply cannot be subordinated to decisions taken by other people. This is about this country and it is about our electors. This is what people fought and died for.

As I mentioned yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred in his Bloomberg speech to our “national Parliament” as the “root of our democracy”, but I would also mention that in our history, this Parliament has been steeped in the blood of, and nourished by, civil war. When your great predecessor, Mr Speaker—

Peter Grant: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir William Cash: Certainly not at this moment.

I was about to say that Speaker Lenthall, in defiance of prospective tyranny, refused to accept armed aggression by the monarchy. Pym, Hampden, ship money—this

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was all about sovereignty and defending the rights of the people from unnecessary and oppressive taxation, which was being imposed on them without parliamentary authority. Through subsequent centuries, we saw the repeal of the Corn laws, and parliamentary reform through the 1867 Act to ensure that the working man was entitled to take part in this democracy; and after that, through to the 1930s when we had to take account of the mood of appeasement.

With respect to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Europe, I take the view that in completely different circumstances what has happened in these negotiations in terms of parliamentary sovereignty can be seen when the die is clearly cast and we now have an opportunity for the first time since 1975 to make a decision on behalf of the British people. That is why we need to have regard to the massive failures of the European Union and to its dysfunctionality—whether it be in respect of economics, immigration, defence or a range of matters that are absolutely essential to our sovereignty.

All those issues have, within the framework of the European Union, been made subject to criticism. We are told that we would be more secure if we stayed in the European Union and that we would preserve the sovereignty of our electors who put us in place to make the decisions and make the laws that should govern them. Would we really be more secure in a completely dysfunctional, insecure, unstable Europe? No, of course not.

The issues now before us in Europe are actually to do with sovereignty. If we lose this sovereignty, we betray the people. That is the point I am making. Yes, there are certain advantages to co-operation and trade, for example, and I agree 100% with that. I have always argued for that, but what I will not argue for is for the people who vote us to this Chamber of this Parliament to be subordinated so that we are put in the second tier of a two-tier Europe, which will be largely governed, as I have said previously, by the dominant country in the eurozone—Germany.

Mr Jenkin: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most worrying sentences in the document published this week relates to what will occur if the eurozone seeks to deepen its integration? This sentence reads:

“member states whose currency is not the euro shall not impede the implementation of legal acts directly linked to the functioning of the euro area and shall refrain from measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the economic and monetary union.”

Given that there is going to be a new treaty and we do not know how it is going to affect us, is this not in effect giving up our veto?

Sir William Cash: It is. We were promised that in 1972. Our membership of the European Union is entirely dependent on the same Act that was passed in 1972. It was a voluntary decision based on certain assumptions. The 1971 White Paper, which preceded that debate, said that we would never give up the veto, and went on to say that to do so would be against our vital national interests and would endanger the very fabric of the European Community itself. They knew which way it could go. They knew they had to keep the veto, but it has been taken away from us progressively by successive Governments. If we cut through all the appearances, this is a sham. That is the problem and this is the real issue.

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Sir Edward Leigh: My hon. Friend is so right to raise the debate above mere technicalities. He will remember that at his school he was told that the blood of the martyrs is the seed corn of his church. Is not the blood of all those parliamentarians who died in defence in this House the seed corn of our liberties?

Sir William Cash: I agree 100% with my hon. Friend. This is not about technicalities. It is about freedom of choice—freedom of choice at the ballot box for people to have their own laws that can be challenged accountably —not by proportional representation, not by the European Parliament, not by COREPER getting together in unsmoke -filled rooms to hatch deals on behalf of the people who are actually being affected in their daily lives. That is the problem. We have wordsmiths, and we have people running around in big chauffeur-driven cars making decisions—unelected bureaucrats—just as Monnet and Schuman intended in the first place.

We have reached the point of no return. We have to say no: we have to leave. That is the position. I do not need to say any more. As far as I am concerned, this is about the liberties of this country. It is about the liberties of our people. That is why I say that we must leave the European Union.

Let me end by quoting from G. K. Chesterton and John Gower:

“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,

For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.”

1.10 pm

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I shall be very brief, because I know that many Conservative Members wish to speak. I am disappointed that so few of my own colleagues are here, wishing to defend the European Union and to speak against the sovereignty of this Parliament, but they are not here, so I shall say a few words.

Actually, what I really want to do—because we are talking about Parliament, and about great parliamentarians —is quote some of the things that were said in the House by one of the greatest parliamentarians, sadly now dead, the right hon. Tony Benn. They follow on from what was said by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash)—and I agreed with every word of it. This is not about technicalities and “wordsmiths”, as the hon. Gentleman put it, and it is not about bureaucrats. It is about, fundamentally, our belief in our country, and our belief in our country’s ability to run itself.

Let me first quote from a letter that Tony Benn wrote to his Bristol constituents on 29 December 1974. I am not sure whether you had been born yet, Mr Speaker, but I think you probably had been. Tony Benn wrote:

“Britain’s continuing membership of the Community would mean the end of Britain as a completely self-governing nation and the end of our democratically elected Parliament as the supreme law making body in the United Kingdom.”

So he was showing some foresight back in 1974. The following year, he made a speech during a meeting at which the Cabinet was discussing the Labour view on how Members should vote in the 1975 “leaving” referendum. As we know, the party was very split at the time. He said:

“We have confused the real issue of parliamentary democracy, for already there has been a fundamental change. The power of electors over their law-makers has gone, the power of MPs over

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Ministers has gone, the role of Ministers has changed. The real case for entry has never been spelled out, which is that there should be a fully federal Europe in which we become a province. It hasn’t been spelled out because people would never accept it. We are at the moment on a federal escalator, moving as we talk, going towards a federal objective we do not wish to reach. In practice, Britain will be governed by a European coalition government that we cannot change, dedicated to a capitalist or market economy theology. This policy is to be sold to us by projecting an unjustified optimism about the Community, and an unjustified pessimism about the United Kingdom, designed to frighten us in. Jim”

—I think that he meant Jim Callaghan—

“quoted Benjamin Franklin, so let me do the same: ‘He who would give up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserves neither safety nor liberty.’ The Common Market will break up the UK because there will be no valid argument against an independent Scotland, with its own Ministers and Commissioner, enjoying Common Market membership. We shall be choosing between the unity of the UK and the unity of the EEC. It will impose appalling strains on the Labour movement...I believe that we want independence and democratic self-government, and I hope the Cabinet in due course will think again.”

On 13 March 1989, he told the House of Commons:

“It would be inconceivable for the House to adjourn for Easter without recording the fact that last Friday the High Court disallowed an Act which was passed by this House and the House of Lords and received Royal Assent—the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. The High Court referred the case to the European Court…I want to make it clear to the House that we are absolutely impotent unless we repeal section 2 of the European Communities Act. It is no good talking about being a good European. We are all good Europeans; that is a matter of geography and not a matter of sentiment.

Are the arrangements under which we are governed such that we have broken the link between the electorate and the laws under which they are governed?

I am an old parliamentary hand—perhaps I have been here too long—“

He was here for a lot longer after that!

“but I was brought up to believe, and I still believe, that when people vote in an election they must be entitled to know that the party for which they vote, if it has a majority, will be able to enact laws under which they will be governed. That is no longer true. Any party elected, whether it is the Conservative party or the Labour party, can no longer say to the electorate, ‘Vote for me and if I have a majority I shall pass that law’, because if that law is contrary to Common Market law, British judges will apply Community law.”—[Official Report, 13 March 1989; Vol. 149, c. 56-8.]

That was very, very apt all those years ago, and it is even more apt today, which is why I absolutely believe that this House must be sovereign. The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed to take account of any of that. When we are given the referendum, the people will finally have a chance to say no to this undemocratic, anti-democratic system—a system that is opposed to the democracy that we want in this country.

1.15 pm

Mr Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): On this day of all days, let me commence by striking—I hope—a note of humility. The truth is that I do not know whether the conclusion I have reached is right or wrong. I think that the problem we face in questioning our consciences in relation to whether or not our country should take this historic step to depart from the European Union is almost too big for a single individual to compute. All the potential economic consequences, and all the other consequences for our social and other fabric, are of a complexity by which individuals, and even Members of Parliament, would rightly feel daunted.

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Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Cox: Not just now.

I think that the Prime Minister was right—completely right—when he said to the House this week, “Do what is in your heart.” We can never be sure, if we leave the European Union, that the economic consequences of doing so will play in one way or another, but we can have faith that they will, and, speaking for myself, I have that faith. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, “What do we believe is right? What is important to us, as Members of Parliament and as representatives of our country and our constituents?”

That is why I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) struck the right note. For a long time I have remained silent on this issue, trying to wrestle with the rights and wrongs of it, and waiting until we have seen the final version of the proposals to be made by the Prime Minister. The draft decision was published by the Commission the day before yesterday; I have read it, and I have to say that I do not believe that it is a sham. I believe that it represents the best that the Prime Minister could do within the parameters that he had set himself. I think that there is much useful stuff there. If it is worked on, and if detail is provided and is sufficiently substantial and well drafted, no doubt it will provide some modest measure of satisfaction, and some ring-fencing for us in a thoroughly, fundamentally unsatisfactory position. However, I do not believe that it amounts to the rewriting of the DNA of this organisation which I believe the country is crying out for.

For that reason, I have concluded—and this is the first time that I have said so—that I shall be obliged to vote to leave the European Union. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, I believe that it is a question of freedom: the freedom of this country to be true to itself, and to follow the policies that the House and its Executive believe are the best policies, fitted and suited for the interests of this nation: not diluted, not representing an accommodation of, and a constant adjustment to, the competing interests of 29 member states, but following the path that this nation sets and that is right for this nation’s interests. For 40 years we have shifted, adjusted and felt uneasy in our skins at the compromises we have had to make as a consequence of our adherence to the Union.

I say to our partners in the European Union that this is not an act of hostility. It is a rebirth of our country in its full independence and its full freedom, to enable us to set our commercial policies, to be decisive and clear and give a lead to the international community in foreign policy, to set our own defence policy in the way we judge to be in the best interests of those we represent, to enable us to have clear lines of democratic accountability and to fulfil the spirit and genius of our own nation.

I say to this House and to those who listen outside: let us trust in the genius of our own people. Before 1974, did this country do so badly? Were we not leaders in the development of human rights? Did we not have 400 years of peaceful political evolution? This country does not have to be afraid of resuming its own independent self-governance. We can offer more to the world by that means than by being a muted voice in a big organisation with whose objectives and outcomes we do not feel at ease.

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I shall not attempt to address now the technicalities of this issue or the economic rights and wrongs. I shall conclude on a note of freedom with the words of John Milton himself:

“Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam.”

When he spoke those words, he spoke in defence of freedom and truth. Let us believe in the genius of our country.

1.22 pm

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): I have had to remind myself what motion we are debating today because it strikes me that if it had been phrased to say what most of its sponsors want it to say—namely, that this House could not care less what the Prime Minister achieves because we are voting to get out anyway—I am not convinced that anyone, with the possible exception of the last speaker, the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox), would have said anything different.

I would never have thought that, almost exactly nine months after becoming a new Member of Parliament, I would be giving a lesson in English parliamentary history to one of the most esteemed and experienced parliamentarians to grace this Chamber, the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). However, this Parliament did not witness the English civil war, because it did not exist at that time. One of its predecessors, the Parliament of England, most certainly did, but at best this Parliament has existed since 1707. Some would argue that the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is less than 100 years old. I say that not to knock the pride of those who justifiably believe that the previous Parliament of England delivered a lot and was a trend setter for democracy in many parts of the world, but if you have a strong hand to play, you damage it by overplaying it. I fear that some of those on the Conservative Benches are overplaying the significance of the history of previous Parliaments that have met not in this exact building but close by.

Sir William Cash: I would simply say that when Scotland joined us in the Union, it was in order to combine our fight for freedom. Indeed, the Scots fought with us in all the great battles including Waterloo and the Somme and right the way through the second world war. It is that freedom that we fought for together.

Peter Grant: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. The Poles, the French, the Hungarians and many others also fought alongside us.

What actually happened in 1706-07 was that the two Parliaments were combined; it was not a takeover of one Parliament by another. I entirely respect the clear pride and positive English nationalism that we have heard from some Conservative Members today. That is a positive thing; as long as nationalism is based on pride in and love for one’s country it is always to be welcomed. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stone on his pride in declaring that “we are the people of England”, but we are not the people of England; we are the people of Scotland. We are the sovereign people of Scotland, in whom sovereignty over our nation is and always will be vested. For Scotland, sovereignty does not reside in this

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place, and it does not reside in those of us who have been sent to serve in this place. It resides for ever in those who have sent us to serve here.

I am genuinely interested in the concept that the institution of Parliament is ultimately sovereign, even over the people. Perhaps someone who speaks later can tell me who decided that that should be the case, and who gave them the right to decide that. I suspect the answer will be that it was the people who agreed that Parliament should be sovereign, in which case it is the people who retain the right to change that decision.

Sammy Wilson: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this debate is not about the sovereignty of this place but about the sovereignty of the people who elect us to this place? Therefore, if we become pawns, the sovereignty of the people he is talking about—the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales—is diminished.

Peter Grant: I have a lot of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s comment, but I have to draw his attention to the wording of the motion. It does not mention the sovereignty of the people; it talks about the “importance of parliamentary sovereignty”—[Hon. Members: “They are the same thing.”] The two are most definitely not the same thing. If Parliament is sovereign, does it have the legal and constitutional right to pass any legislation, however morally repugnant it might be, with the people’s only recourse being to wait five years and then vote for different Members of Parliament? That is not a version of parliamentary sovereignty that I recognise, and it is not a version of parliamentary sovereignty that the people of Scotland recognise or will ever be prepared to accept.

Mr Jenkin: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Peter Grant: No, I need to make some progress and the hon. Gentleman made a lot of interventions earlier this afternoon.

I want to look at the second part of the motion, which goes to the nub of the EU membership debate. We have heard the term “ever closer union” being repeated as though it was some kind of threat and we were going to be swallowed up by a big two-headed monster, probably in Germany but possibly in Brussels. I urge Members to look at the wording of the preamble to the European treaties to see what the term was originally intended to mean. The exact wording varies from time to time, but we are talking about ever closer union between the peoples of Europe so that decisions can be taken as close as possible to the people.

I want to ask those Conservative Members, and some on the Opposition Benches, who are determined to argue against the concept of ever closer union: are we really saying that we want to drive the peoples of Europe further apart at a time when we are facing the greatest humanitarian crisis in our history, which nobody believes can be addressed by individual nations acting on their own? Are we really saying that we are against the concept of ever closer union between the peoples of Europe? I also draw Members’ attention to the fact that my use of the word “peoples”—plural—is not some kind of mistake written by Alexander the Meerkat. I am using it deliberately to recognise the diversity of cultures, faiths and beliefs among the peoples of Europe.

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Are Members against the idea that decisions should be taken as close to the people as possible? I believe that the term “ever closer union” can still be turned into one of the greatest assertions of the rights of the peoples of Europe that we have ever seen. However, I willingly accept that it is a vision that has not been followed by the institutions of the European Union. Those institutions have failed, and continue to fail, to fulfil the vision that was set out in the original treaties. I would much rather we continued to be part of the European Union so that that vision can be delivered, because I find it not only welcoming but exciting. Just imagine living in a Europe in which monolithic power-mad Eurocrats, whether in Brussels or closer to home, were no longer able to ride roughshod over the will of the people. I remind the House that there was a Prime Minister not long ago who chose to ride roughshod over the will of the people, when the immovable object that was the late Margaret Thatcher met the irresistible force that was the will of the people of Scotland over the imposition of the poll tax. Within two years, that immovable object had been moved. The irresistible force that is the sovereign will of the people of Scotland is still there and will be there forever.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I assure the hon. Gentleman that the one thing the irresistible force would not be able to compete against would be an irresistible force from Brussels—he would never get his way, ever again.

Peter Grant: Nobody knows; during the independence referendum, when people asked why I was still happy for Scotland to be in Europe, I said it was because we have never had a chance to be a part of the European Union with a voice. Questions were asked about fishing earlier, and I can tell hon. Members that Luxembourg gets a vote on fishing policy whereas Scotland does not. Scotland’s fisheries Minister was not allowed to be part of the UK delegation; an unelected Lord who knew nothing about fishing was sent, instead of possibly the most respected fisheries Minister—one who is actually respected by fishermen. My constituency has a bigger coastline than Luxembourg, yet Luxembourg gets a vote on fishing policy and nobody in Scotland does. These are the kinds of areas where we need to see reforms.

I long to see the day when the dream of Europe, as originally set out, is realised, when the peoples of Europe are genuinely brought closer together—not the institutions, the civil servants or the Governments, but the peoples of Europe—and when decisions are taken closer to the people than they are now. I long to see a Europe where

“Man to Man, the world o’er, Shall brothers be for a’ that.”

1.30 pm

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I thank the Backbench Business Committee for recommending this important debate. In 2013, the Prime Minister set out the future of Europe in his Bloomberg speech. He acknowledged that the status quo was no longer working for us, so he promised us change, reform and even a new treaty. Having received the draft negotiation earlier this week, I ask myself, “Where are these grand promises of fundamental reform?” There are none; there is not a single clear-cut promise of any treaty change. The Prime Minister said that the European Union cannot progress

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with “more of the same”, but so far that is all I have heard. It has been more of the same complex rules, restricting and burdening us; more of the same inability to change; more of the same foreign domination that we have not asked for and that we do not want. The European Union is its own biggest threat. How many times will we be promised a more competitive environment? How many times have we been told that red tape will be cut and the single market strengthened? We have yet to see real proposals and we have yet to see proper results—enough, is enough.

I am interested in Mr Tusk’s definition of sovereignty, because the proposals can hardly be called “sovereign”; nor do they let power flow back to this Parliament. Instead, we could receive a “red card”—a red card that can be used only when a group of national Parliaments decide to stop a legislative proposal. A majority of 55% of member states is to constitute a red card, whereas my majority would be 100% of the United Kingdom.

What about this “emergency brake”? It is an emergency that needs to be objectively justified. Whereas it is jolly good that the Commission tells us that the UK would qualify to pull this brake, it is outrageous that the final word lies not with us, but with other member states. We may not, says the EU, have to pursue an “ever closer union”. When the UK is neither allowed to pull its own brake, nor to decide its own emergency, that is when I feel that the ever closer union is still very much upon us.

The Prime Minister described an updated European Union as flexible, adaptable and more open. I can only see a supposedly updated European Union that is inflexible, unadaptable, and blocked. The Prime Minister did warn us, saying:

“You will not always get what you want”,

but it is becoming clearer by the day that with the European Union you never get what you want. If the European Union really wants us to stay, would it not have offered us more? The European Union has sucked up our sovereignty, and trampled all over our ancient rights and freedoms. Are we simply going to carry on with this relationship we have with the EU, when the EU so obviously does not want to change? Is not the only solution just to say “Leave” to this whole spectacle? This renegotiation is a spectacle; it is too much noise, too much of a farce and much too little substance.

Stephen Gethins rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am sorry, but the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) has completed his speech. I call Sir Gerald Howarth.

1.35 pm

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): May I say what a great pleasure it is to take part in this vital debate? I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) on securing it, and may I pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, for being in the Chair for this important debate, because I know that you take these matters extremely seriously? As for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox), his speech was a tour de force and I feel every ounce of the passion that he feels about this subject.

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This is not a new issue; this has been going on for well over half a century. When the then Lord Privy Seal, Edward Heath, sought advice from the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir, he was given advice in December 1960 in respect of our potential membership of the Common Market, as it was then called. Lord Kilmuir stated:

“I have no doubt that if we do sign the Treaty, we shall suffer some loss of sovereignty, but before attempting to define or evaluate that loss I wish to make one general observation. At the end of the day, the issue whether or not to join the European Economic Community must be decided on broad political grounds”.

He continued:

“Adherence to the Treaty of Rome would, in my opinion, affect our sovereignty in three ways: Parliament would be required to surrender some of its functions to the organs of the Community; The Crown would be called on to transfer part of its treaty-making power to those organs; Our courts of law would sacrifice some degree of independence by becoming subordinate in certain respects to the European Court of Justice.”

Lord Kilmuir could not have been clearer, but in 1975, when people were asked to vote on these matters, this issue of the loss of sovereignty was played down by Ted Heath and his Government at the time. Some of us foresaw the dangers. We saw that the EEC had a president, a flag, an anthem and a court. In 1986, 45 of us voted against the Single European Act. I am the only Conservative who voted against it left in the House, but there are two who did so on the Opposition Benches: the Leader of the Opposition; and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). I quite accept that I am in rather questionable company, but we did have one thing in common: we believed in our country—in those times, at any rate.

Mr Jenkin: We still do.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I still do, as my hon. Friend says.

The EEC has now become the European Union, and it has a currency, a Parliament, a high representative and a defence identity, designed of course to undermine NATO. What are those things? They are all the attributes of a sovereign nation state, and we deceive ourselves if we imagine that this process has now somehow come to a halt, been frozen in aspic and will remain ever thus—it will not. The direction of travel is clear. We do not have to prove this to the people, because they can see the direction of travel since 1975 and how this organisation, which we were told was going to be a common market in goods and services, has grown to become so much more—and it intends to continue. As several hon. Members have said, we must look at what is happening in the eurozone, with this absurd deceit that there can be a single currency without a single monetary institution operating a single monetary policy. This process will continue, and the British people must be warned that if they vote to stay in this organisation, they will not be voting for the status quo; they will be voting for further integration and further change.

In his excellent speech at Bloomberg, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it absolutely clear that he believed in maximising parliamentary sovereignty, and he said it again yesterday. The proposals contained in the Tusk arrangements, as my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay pointed out, are absolutely absurd. We have to get another 15 or so other Parliaments to agree. That is not the restoration of sovereignty to this Parliament, but basically a cop out.

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I salute the European Scrutiny Committee, the illustrious Chairman and members of which are here in this Chamber today, for the work it has done in pointing out the exact situation. Its December report, “Reforming the European Scrutiny System in the House of Commons”, said that

“the existing Article 4(2) of the Treaty on European Union, which requires that the EU ‘shall respect the essential state functions’ of its member states, and that this means respecting the democracy of the member states.”

Accordingly, the Committee’s report recommended that

“there should be a mechanism whereby the House of Commons can decide that a particular legislative proposal should not apply to the UK.”

That seems to be the sensible way in which to go, and I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not accept the recommendations of that Committee. There is a way forward. There is plenty of evidence to show that these arrangements that the Prime Minister has put in place are not legally binding. We need to restore sovereignty to this Parliament. The British people have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do that.

I close with the words of Sir Walter Scott, the great poet from the Scottish borders from where I draw so much of my own blood.

“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!”

And I want it back!

1.41 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): What is parliamentary sovereignty? It is the power and the ability of this elected House to carry out the wishes of the British people. Sovereignty of Parliament is actually the sovereignty—or the power—of the British people. Bit by bit, over the past 40 years, successive Governments have handed over the power of this House, and therefore the power of the British people, to the European Union.

Of course it was not always the European Union. Back in 1973, and when people voted in 1975, it was the common market, the European Economic Community. It then dropped the middle E, so that it became the European Community. It gradually attracted all the attributes of a state as it moved towards its goal of becoming a united states of Europe, with its own Parliament, its own flag, its own anthem, its own court, and its own foreign service.

We do not have to be Einstein to work out where the EU is going. It is heading in that direction, and in doing so it means that, in so many areas, the European Union, and not this Parliament, is sovereign. This loss of sovereignty from this Parliament is at the heart of my opposition to our membership of the European Union.

Handing over powers to the European Union means handing over the powers of my constituents in Bury North and of the British people. Why is that important? Well, it is important for this reason: when my constituents come to me and ask for help, they expect this Parliament to have the power and the ability to be able to sort out their problem. In so many areas, that is no longer the case. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that the power has been handed over to Brussels.

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Sir William Cash: As my hon. Friend knows, a very good example is the ports regulation. The industry, the employers, the unions, the Government and the Opposition did want not it to happen, yet we were powerless to do anything about it. The regulation will become a European regulation and imposed on this Parliament, unless we can obstruct it, as we have done so far.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is an excellent example of where this House no longer has the ability to control its own affairs. In passing, I pay tribute to the great work that my hon. Friend and his Committee have done in drawing to the attention of this House and therefore the British people the enormous number of rules and regulations that come out of Brussels and that have to be enforced by this Parliament.

As I was saying, our constituents come to us expecting that we will be able to help them. When they find out that we cannot do so, what does that result in? It results in their having a lack of confidence and faith in MPs and the political process. That is evidenced by a reduced turnout in elections. People think, “Well, why bother? These people have no power anymore.” That is why we have seen a fall in the turnout. It also means that there is a lack of engagement in the political process, because people lose faith and confidence in the whole democratic process, and that is dangerous. Societies break down once democracy breaks down, which is why it is so important that the people of this country seize this golden opportunity—this is their one opportunity—in the forthcoming referendum to take back the powers. They should do so for the sake not of us in this House, but of themselves, because if they do not like what we are doing, they can get rid of us and appoint someone else in whom they have faith. This is where we have common cause with those on the left of British politics. We might disagree with them—they want a socialist system, which is an honourable position, but I prefer a capitalist system and I will stand up and defend that—but we both can agree on democracy and on the fact that the power lies with our constituents. If my constituents do not want me, they can replace me with someone else, and we all stand on that basis.

This is a golden opportunity. I hope that this debate will show the British people that this is the one chance probably in their lifetime to get back their powers. I do not believe that this renegotiation has changed in any meaningful way the sovereignty of this House. It will not give us back any powers. We do not have time to examine these documents in detail, but I have looked at them and I am sure that they do not give us back any more powers, which is why I hope, in my heart of hearts, that the British people will ask themselves from where they want to be governed—from here in Westminster or by the foreign powers in Brussels.

1.48 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): If the British people miss this unique opportunity to reject the undemocratic EU superstate project, it will be the fault of people such as me—not me as I am today, but me as I was in 1975 when I had the chance to vote to withdraw from the then EEC and I wasted it. Why did I waste that chance? Well, it was very simple: I was intimidated by the establishment. My instincts were to vote to leave, but all around me, in Oxford—in that home of lost causes—the great and the good were saying that it was

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beyond question that the prosperity of the United Kingdom depended on remaining in the EEC. I thought, “What do I know about it?” After all, in those days, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) pointed out, it was only about an economic community. It was not about my pet subject of the defence and security of the United Kingdom. How that has changed, now that it is—and now that we know where we are heading.

When the time comes for me to advise my constituents about what I think they should do, I will give them six good reasons to leave the EU. First, I will tell them that every year the United Kingdom pays £20 billion to this organisation and gets less than half of it back. Secondly, I will tell them, as we have heard today, that the EU wants ever closer political union and that we cannot opt out of that while remaining within the European Union. So-called “associate membership”—the trick they are waiting to give us at the final stage of the great concessionary charade in which we are currently engaged—would make no difference at all. It might even diminish our own powers still further.

Thirdly, I will tell my constituents that the European Union wants a single European population with no borders between EU countries, so that we cannot restrict immigration into the United Kingdom. Fourthly, I will tell them that the EU wants to develop its single European currency into a single European economy controlled from Brussels. Fifthly, I will tell them that the EU wants a single European army, a single European foreign policy—that did a lot of good for the Ukraine, didn’t it?—and a single European justice system, all outside UK Government control. Finally, I shall tell my constituents that all of that is designed to create a single country called Europe under a single European Government, thus finally taking away the power of the British people to govern ourselves.

In his excellent opening speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) gave a long list of statements made by European bigwigs. As he pointed out, some of them did actually stumble across the truth; when they do, however, they usually pick themselves up, brush themselves down and carry on as if nothing had happened, as Churchill once said of a lesser British politician.

One occasion when a European Union bigwig told the truth was on 31 December 1998, the new year’s eve before the introduction of the single European currency. I happened to be up, waiting to see the new year celebrations on television, and on to my screen came the visage of Romano Prodi, who, as we all know, was then the President of the Commission—or, as these people always like to call themselves, the “President of Europe”. He was asked a simple question about the European single currency: “It’s a political project, isn’t it?” Now, remember: this was the single currency that had been sold to people over and over again as being vital for their economic prosperity. So that was what they asked him. And because it was too late for anyone to do anything about it, he told the truth, and he told the truth in an entirely cynical way when he replied, “It is an entirely political project.”

So we know what they are trying to do, and what we have to achieve is to make sure that people, when they come to make their decision, are not intimidated by the

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great and the good on economic grounds, when the real aim is political, and they should reject the EU by voting to leave.

1.54 pm

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) on securing this very important debate. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty is the central pillar of the British constitution. In modern history, it flows from the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It is the very fountainhead of our freedoms and democracy in this country, and I believe that every Member of this House should seek to defend it.

I have been concerned about parliamentary sovereignty since 1972; I was a very unfortunate, sad youth. I remember the debate about accession to what was then the European Economic Community, and being told by Edward Heath that we would not be losing our sovereignty, merely sharing it. I felt at the time that that was a nonsensical proposition. Sovereignty cannot realistically be shared; it can either be preserved or surrendered. So in 1975, unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), I voted against remaining in the European Union. My view has not changed since.

My view is that we have ceded—temporarily, I hope—our sovereignty to the supranational entity now known as the European Union. I believe that that sovereignty can be recovered, and that it is not completely lost. But the concern is that the unremitting accretion of power to the European Union, which the EU is clearly intent on pursuing if the Five Presidents report is anything to go by, carries with it the danger that at some stage our parliamentary sovereignty will indeed be extinguished. No one in the House, from the Prime Minister down, should be prepared to accept that.

The Prime Minister said in his Bloomberg speech:

“There is not, in my view, a single European demos. It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.”

That is certainly the case in the United Kingdom. But we must look at the draft decision that the Prime Minister unveiled to the House yesterday. The question is whether that would, if agreed, be sufficient to restore the sovereignty of the United Kingdom that has been ceded to the EU. I have huge concerns that it would not.

In the first place, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) pointed out in his Committee’s report, the legal force of a decision, which is a political agreement of Heads of Government and Heads of State, is open to debate. The draft decision details the various areas of provisional agreement struck between the British Government and the President of the Council. Other hon. Members have referred to freedom of movement and of benefits, and I do not propose to repeat their arguments. However, I would like to refer to what the draft decision says about sovereignty.

The significance of the repeated references in the European treaties to the creation of an “ever closer union” is played down considerably. The decision declares that the words should not be used to support an expansive interpretation of the competences of the EU or of the power of its institutions; instead it suggests that the words are intended simply to signal that the European Union’s aim is to promote trust and understanding among the peoples of Europe.

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Sir William Cash: Does my right hon. Friend agree that even if the expression “ever closer union” is taken out in respect of the United Kingdom, that will not change one word of any of the existing treaties or laws? We will continue to remain subject to those laws and treaties.

Mr Jones: My hon. Friend is entirely right. In fact, the decision acknowledges that the competence conferred by member states on the Union can be modified only by a revision of the treaties following the agreement of all member states. Although the commitment to ever closer union is stated to be symbolic, the reality is that competences have been transferred from the sovereign nations of Europe—Britain included—to the EU and its institutions. The extent of that transfer is very great indeed, as other hon. Members have pointed out.

The institutions of the EU have become ever more powerful. So powerful are they that even the proposal to limit benefits to EU migrants and the new rules on child benefit, set out in the draft decision itself, would, it seems, be vulnerable even if agreed by all Heads of Government and Heads of State. Today’s newspapers report that Members of the European Parliament will have the right to veto all the proposed reforms, including the so-called emergency brake.

Mr Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that if we are unable to secure substantive reform now, when the Union’s second largest member, and its fifth largest economy, is threatening to walk away, the chances of our ever getting substantive change that we can be comfortable with are nil?

Mr Jones: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. That is the direction of travel that the European Union is hellbent on pursuing.

A document circulated in the European Parliament asserts: