People forget that in the final days of the negotiations conducted by Mr Heath, way back in 1971, he was worried that the talks were stumbling. In the final days, he handed control of our fishing industry to the European Commission with disastrous results for the port of Grimsby, which is close to my constituency, and for our entire fishing industry. I would argue that if we left the EU, it would be extraordinarily exciting to reclaim control of our fishing fleets and fishing industry, given that we are an island and that we sit surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in the

26 Feb 2016 : Column 618

world. Again, there has been virtually no intelligent, thorough and informed debate of how we could manufacture or create an alternative fishing policy.

Oliver Colvile: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Edward Leigh: Of course. I give way to somebody with far greater expertise in this area than me.

Oliver Colvile: The Plymouth marine laboratories were set up—I think in 1870—and they analyse whether we are overfishing our seas. If my hon. Friend wants, he could come and talk to them, but most certainly he might want to give them a ring.

Sir Edward Leigh: I would be delighted to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. Perhaps I could sail there in my boat from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, where it is moored. But obviously we are deeply serious about this, because the last 30 years have been a traumatic experience for our fishermen. It is a matter of immense importance. Again, we need an independent audit.

Mr Chope: Bearing in mind what my hon. Friend said about Ministers, is there not an issue with the fact that the fishing Minister, who has all this expertise and is keen that we should leave the EU, will not have the support of his civil servants in doing what needs to be done to ensure a strong and independent UK fishing industry after we leave?

Sir Edward Leigh: Exactly. It is extraordinary, given that we have this great industry and are a proud island race, and that much of our past and present is tied up in our fishing fleets, that the fishing Minister has already been put in purdah by his own civil servants and cannot talk about this subject at all. It beggars belief.

Apparently, the Government are not going to do any independent analysis over the next four months of what leaving the EU would mean for fishing. Presumably, at some stage or another, a Minister will make a claim—perhaps a fairly wild claim—and there will be no comeback, because the fishing Minister has been put in the corner, like a naughty boy with a dunce’s hat on his head, and told to keep silent. It is amazing. This is the most important decision we are going to make—yet silence.

In trying to answer the Minister for Europe, who asked, “Why don’t the leave people give an alternative vision?”, I have talked a bit about fishing and agriculture, but what about trade? I quoted Winston Peters, a former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of New Zealand—no slouch—who has talked in public about leaving behind the “betrayal” of 1973. Yes, we did betray them. We betrayed our friends in New Zealand and Australia, who, in two world wars, had come to our aid. He says there is the exciting prospect of recreating free trade between Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It is an exciting prospect. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley made a good point about the declining proportion of world trade taken by the sclerotic, over-regulated and overtaxed EU. There is another world out there—the world of the burgeoning growth of China and India.

I will go into more detail about the Government’s case in a moment, but I would be quite happy for them to say, “This is all just pie in the sky—a romantic

26 Feb 2016 : Column 619

illusion—and it’s not going to happen. You wouldn’t have any influence on the world trade body, because you’d just be one voice out of 130.” Well, we have very little voice at the moment, because we are one vote out of 28—at least we would be there on our own—but I accept that the Government can make these arguments. Given the importance of this issue, however, surely we want at least some independent analysis, so that the people, before they cast their votes, know what the realistic prospects are of a United Kingdom outside the EU being able to negotiate good trade deals with the rest of the world. But we have nothing.

That was my introduction, Madam Deputy Speaker. I now want to go into more detail about the history of this independent audit and analysis. People now argue—there is some lazy thinking on this—that way back in 1957 when the treaty of Rome was being signed, we were casual in our decision not to join it. A sort of myth has been created, particularly by my personal friend, Michael Heseltine, now Lord Heseltine, and others that this was an enormous wasted opportunity. Actually, people in government at the time were attempting a reasonable audit and analysis of what joining the treaty of Rome would mean. This debate has therefore been going on for a long time.

One cause of worry in 1957 was article 3 of the European Community treaty, which would

“eliminate…customs duties and quantitative restrictions on imports and exports”

between member states, establish a common tariff and “common commercial policy” and

“abolish obstacles to freedom of movement for persons, services and capital”.

When we were having these debates in 1957, the view taken by the then Conservative Government was that that was a risk too great and particularly, showing the importance of objective analysis, too great a risk to the Commonwealth.

My personal view is that that was a right conclusion. Unfortunately, during the 1950s and ’60s, there was a lack of confidence in our future as an independent nation. We should bear it in mind that we were dealing with a generation scarred by the second world war—I accept all the arguments about that. The hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), who is going to reply to this debate on behalf of the Labour party, spoke most movingly yesterday about the scars of two world wars, and I can understand how that was an influence on people at the time. As I said, there was a lack of confidence, not just about peace in Europe, but about our own nature and the resilience of our manufacturing and service industries. That led directly to Harold Macmillan’s failed bid to join the then European Economic Community.

As we know, of course, we eventually joined the European Economic Community. What then happened after we joined it? We were told at the time that it was going to be primarily a trading mechanism. The British people were never really made to understand and appreciate that under articles 2 and 3, it was much more than that. This was effectively the end of the sovereignty of this House. It was completely different from any other treaty that we had ever signed. Those arguments were made by

26 Feb 2016 : Column 620

Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Enoch Powell at the time. To its credit, Labour tested this in the referendum, and the British people decided to join.

Let me move on to the treaty of Nice. Although there had been a reasonably detailed debate, as I mentioned, in the mid-1950s about the benefits or otherwise of joining, this is where I believe the debates got rather weaker and there was less and less independent cost-benefit analysis of whether we should take this ever closer union further.

Article 3 of the treaty of Nice created an explicit common policy in fisheries, when it had previously been included under agriculture. An environmental policy was also created. Under the guise of strengthening competitive industry through the promotion of research and technological development, the EU acquired competence. The EU was authorised to establish and develop trans-European networks. I was here and I may be wrong, but although I certainly know that no independent analysis was done, I am not aware how much analysis of any kind was done on the costs and benefits of these very important matters that furthered the integration of Europe and our involvement in it. The treaty of Lisbon completed the process by making all remaining pillar three matters subject to EU justice-making procedure.

There was a steady increase in the area of EC and EU activity, and thus a steady increase in the number of pieces of legislation until the 1990s. Until we set up the Scrutiny Committee—which is now under the distinguished chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash)—there was very little analysis of the vast plethora of legislation that was pouring out.

In a paper published by the Robert Schuman Centre, Professor Carol Harlow, of the London School of Economics, noted:

“On the regulatory side, an average of 25 directives and 600 regulations per annum in the 1970s rose to 80 directives and 1.5 thousand regulations by the early 1990s”.

In a study of the evolution of European integration, EU academics Wolfgang Wessels and Andreas Maurer observed that the increase in legislation had been accompanied by an increase in the EU’s institutional structures and sub-structures. While all that was proceeding apace, there was virtually no debate in the House of Commons or, I suspect, within the Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and I were Ministers at the end of the Thatcher Government and in the Major Government. We remember going to the Council of Ministers, and we remember, as we sat there all night, a vast tide of more and more pieces of legislation which was subjected to very little, if any, independent analysis. Output peaked in 1986 with the single market legislative programme. It fell slightly after that, but it continues apace. Meanwhile, apart from the analysis conducted by the Scrutiny Committee, very little detailed analysis of what the directives involved mean for our country is available to Members of Parliament—if, indeed, they are interested, given the complexity of many of those directives.

David Morris: The figures that my hon. Friend is citing are truly frightening. Does he agree that there should be more Scrutiny Committees, and perhaps even a larger Scrutiny Committee whose members could operate a shift system when European regulation comes our way?

26 Feb 2016 : Column 621

Sir Edward Leigh: I agree with that entirely. If we were to remain in the EU, we would need—and this would require the sort of analysis that would arise from a measure such as this Bill—to create much more impressive, comprehensive structures in order to deal with the continuing tide of legislation. People who want to remain in the EU assume that it is a static organisation. We apparently have an opt-out from ever closer union, but the European Court of Justice does not refer to ever closer union because it does not need to. If we remain in the EU, this wave of legislation will go on and on and on.

Rulings by the European Court of Justice have also given rise to a number of amendments to United Kingdom laws. One of the most significant cases in this regard was the Factortame case, which concerned the UK’s obligation under EC law, and the terms of the 1985 Act of Accession whereby Spain joined the European Community, to allow Spanish fishermen to fish in UK waters within the prescribed EC quotas.

We need much more analysis, much more control, and a much more intelligent debate about what is going on, because most people in the House of Commons are blind to it. Naturally, as Members of Parliament, we are all much more interested in the great debates about assisted dying, gay marriage or hunting, or even about whether to stay in the EU or leave it, or whether to bomb Syria. We are much more concerned about those issues than about the detailed nitty-gritty of what is going on under our noses. However, it does not stop. It does not rest. The machine keeps grinding on, with very little control from Ministers and virtually no control from the House of Commons.

Let me now deal with the cost of EU membership.

Mr Chope: Before my hon. Friend does that, may I ask whether he recalls—this is an example of what he has just been talking about—that in October 2000, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who is now the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, assured the world that Europe’s new charter of fundamental rights would have no greater legal standing before EU judges than a copy of the Beano or The Sun?

Sir Edward Leigh: That sort of casual statement is quite worrying, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for telling us about it.

I was about to deal with the cost of EU membership. The following information is taken from various papers that I have been studying. The cost is set to be £3.1 billion higher over the next five years than forecast before the 2015 general election. This is not a static process, therefore. That change is due to a reassessment of the size of Britain’s economy relative to the rest of the EU, thus penalising the UK for its economic success. The bigger and more successful we get, the greater a magnet for migrants we become and the bigger the sub we have to pay, despite the fact that the deficit carries on much the same as it always has done.

Philip Davies: On that point, is it not ironic that the Prime Minister trumpets the fact that he has managed to get a cut in the EU budget but did not mention that as a part of that cut the UK’s contribution to the EU budget went up, not down?

26 Feb 2016 : Column 622

Sir Edward Leigh: I am astonished that in this great negotiating triumph no attempt has been made to address the issue of the rebate, and I will give a few details on that in a moment. This was considered to be one of the most important issues—such as when Mrs Thatcher secured the reduction—but no attempt has been made to deal with it.

For 2016 the UK will pay £9.5 billion. It was only expected to pay £8.2 billion. Everybody casually rolls off the figure of £9 billion now as if we always thought it would be £9 billion, but it was not always going to be £9 billion; it was going to be £8.2 billion. It has suddenly gone up and nobody in the Government or elsewhere complains about that to our partners. I remember that when my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and I were Ministers everybody talked about our “European partners”. This Government seem to have dropped that; they have dropped all the visionary case for Europe in terms of partnership and so forth. They all claim they are great Eurosceptics, but they do not tell us the casual little fact that we were expected to pay £8.2 billion and that has now gone up to £.9.5 billion. We are now estimated to pay just under £250 million per week for EU membership.

Civitas has debunked the Government claim that the EU makes each household better off by £3,300 per year. The Government can argue against Civitas and have an analysis of its case, but they do make that claim. It would be nice to have some analysis of where they get those figures from, but we have not been given that.

According to Open Europe, the top five costliest EU regulations enforced in the UK are: the UK renewable energy strategy, with a recurring cost of £4.7 billion a year; the capital requirements directive IV package, with a recurring cost of £4.6 billion a year; the working time directive, with a recurring cost of £4.2 billion a year. I appreciate that one of the cases made by the Labour party is that it rather likes the working time directive. That is a perfectly logical, good case to make, and I have no argument with them making it, but I would like to know—perhaps the Labour party, the Government and the people would like to know—whether this figure of a recurring cost of £4.2 billion a year is right.

The next cost in the list is the EU climate and energy package, with a recurring cost of £3.4 billion a year. I am quoting Open Europe, which may be wrong, but the Minister can debunk these arguments if he wishes. Then there is the temporary agency workers directive, with a recurring cost of £2.1 billion a year. These are not insignificant sums—£4.7 billion, £4.6 billion, £4.2 billion, £3.4 billion, £2.1 billion—but how much detailed analysis are the British people being given about any of this?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Is it not also ironic that the Labour party seems to be so enthusiastic for our membership of the EU, yet it comes to the House every month and asks that the Government do more to help the steel industry and the coal industry when it is the policies of the EU that are doing most to obliterate the steel and coal industries in the UK?

Sir Edward Leigh: I have mentioned Grimsby and fishing, but my constituency also abuts Scunthorpe. What about these poor people there? They are also going to be allowed to vote on 23 June, and are being encouraged to do so. They would rather like to know

26 Feb 2016 : Column 623

the detailed costs of what the EU means for their jobs and what the possible alternatives are. This is serious stuff for them—it is not just a debate in the House of Commons; it is about their whole way of life and their town.

Mr Chope: Does my hon. Friend share my view that if we had been independent, we would have been able to introduce our own anti-dumping measures against cheap Chinese steel imports and to do so within six weeks, whereas this has taken the EU years?

Sir Edward Leigh: It beggars belief that whole towns can be suffering a possible wipeout and yet we are apparently putty in the hands in the Chinese. We should have stopped this on day one, as it is so serious—this is steel we are talking about.

Mark Tami: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that in truth this is about the failure of this Government, who are more interested in cosying up to the Chinese than protecting the steel industry in this country?

Sir Edward Leigh: We are impotent; it is not a question of cosying up to the Chinese, as we have no control over this. Whether we like it or not, China will be the greatest, biggest and most important economy in the world within the next 10 or 20 years. Whatever the Minister’s views, the fact that we are part of the EU means that he could do nothing to defend Scunthorpe. I accept that the Government may argue that we get other advantages, perhaps in steel, but let us have an analysis of what it all means.

Open Europe is not some sort of purely ideological campaigning group; it produces fine studies, some of the most voluminous available, and it attempts in a reasonably intellectual way to work out what staying in and leaving the EU involves. Open Europe says that according to the UK Government impact assessments,

“these regulations also provide a total benefit of £58.6bn a year.”

Open Europe is trying to be fair. It goes on to say:

“However, £46bn of this benefit stems from just three items, which are vastly over-stated. For example, the stated benefit of the EU’s climate targets (£20.8bn) was dependent on a global deal to reduce carbon emissions that was never struck…Open Europe estimates that up to 95% of the benefits envisaged in the impact assessment have failed to materialise.”

Where is the Government’s response to that?

Open Europe continued by saying:

“Taking the regulations individually, the impact assessments show that Ministers signed off at least 26 of the top 100 EU-derived regulations, despite the IAs explicitly stating that the costs outweigh the estimated benefits. These regulations include the UK Temporary Agency Workers Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

A further 31 of the costliest EU-derived regulations have not been quantified. Between the over-stated benefits, the regulations that come with a net cost and the ones with unquantified benefits, it remains unclear how many of these EU-derived rules actually come with a net benefit in reality, showing that there is plenty of scope to cut regulatory cost to business and the public sector.”

I would echo that. I may be wrong and if the Government want to argue these points in detail, I, for one, would be delighted.

Open Europe went on to say:

“Although the cost of EU regulation too high in proportion to the benefits it generates, it is important to note that these rules

26 Feb 2016 : Column 624

can bring benefits including by facilitating trade across the single market, for example in the case of financial services”.

That is an argument in favour. I fully accept that and Open Europe accepts it, but we need a genuine impact assessment of the costs and benefits of all these regulations. Where does this leave us in the total picture? My view is—[Interruption.] I would be grateful if the Whip would not speak too loudly while I am speaking. She is not supposed to be heard, unlike me. She has the real power; I can just speak.

My contention is that people are worrying too much about this decision in terms of the impact on the economy. Again, there have been many studies on this, but I do not believe that the impact on the economy of whether we stay or leave will be as dramatic as has been made out. That is project fear—that we are all going to lose our jobs and so on. According to Open Europe,

“In a worst case scenario, where the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the rest of the EU”—

thereby having to fall back on the World Trade Organisation rules—

“and does not pursue a free trade agenda”—

fairly unlikely, I would have thought, but this is the worst case scenario—

“Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be 2.2% lower than if the UK had remained inside the EU.”

So 2.2% lower, which is quite significant, but I am not sure that we would all suddenly lose our jobs.

David Morris: The figure of 2.2% is near enough as much as the economy is expected to grow in the next 12 months. I am certain that if we leave the EU in the next few months, especially with an oil crisis on our doorstep, we could face financial catastrophe. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Sir Edward Leigh: This is the worst case scenario and I am being completely fair in putting it. I think it is unlikely.

Philip Davies: Will my hon. Friend give way briefly?

Sir Edward Leigh: Does not my hon. Friend want me to go on with the best case scenario? Then I will give way to him.

According to Open Europe,

“In a best case scenario, where the UK strikes a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, pursues very ambitious deregulation of its economy and opens up almost fully to trade with the rest of the world, UK GDP would be 1.6% higher than if it had stayed within the EU.

However, these are outliers. The more realistic range is between a 0.8% permanent loss to GDP in 2030 – where the UK strikes a comprehensive trade deal with the EU but does nothing else; and a 0.6% permanent gain in GDP in 2030 – where it pursues free trade with the rest of the world and deregulation, in addition to an EU FTA.”

These arguments about disaster and millions of jobs being lost are, I think, overstated, but I may be wrong. I keep making this point: the Government have vast resources, such as the National Audit Office and the Office for Budget Responsibility. We would like to know before we cast our vote.

Philip Davies: The Treasury now acknowledges that 3 million jobs depend on trading with the EU, not on being a member of the EU. If that is the case—I am sure there is a lot of truth in it—given our substantial

26 Feb 2016 : Column 625

trade deficit with the European Union, does that not mean, therefore, that about 5 million jobs in the EU are dependent on its trade with the UK?

Sir Edward Leigh: Yes, that is the point that was made time and again during the debate yesterday. I am not sure the Government have entirely answered it to my satisfaction.

The Government seem to argue that were we to vote to leave the EU, that would be such a catastrophic snub to our EU partners that there would be a degree of vengeance. I think that is a childlike view of how policy is created in Paris and Berlin. Many people in France—I take a bit of an interest in this—have argued for many years that it would not be an absurd state of affairs for Britain to leave the EU, for all sorts of reasons. However, the Government argue that a dramatic vengeance game would be initiated.

By the way, if our European partners acted in that way would we want to have anything to do with them? It is a ridiculous argument anyway. They would not behave in that way, because of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies)—because of our trade deficit with them, particularly with our German friends. They are intimately bound up with us in terms of trade and there is every incentive to conclude a reasonable deal.

Mr Chope: It is not just about the trade issue. The Baltic states, for example, are very dependent on our NATO presence in helping them to defend themselves against the Russian threat. They would never countenance the rest of the European Union taking it out on the UK, when the UK is doing so much to defend their interests.

Sir Edward Leigh: Perhaps I have banged on a bit too much about the economy, and should briefly touch on defence and security, as it is in my hon. Friend’s Bill and is a matter of acute concern. Apart from project fear, which is based on this false premise of a loss of millions of jobs—Lord Mandelson appears to have made that up on the back of a fag packet—which no one has ever quantified in any great detail, although we wait to hear what the Government say about that, there are all these arguments about security. David Owen, a former Labour Foreign Secretary, who has now come out in favour of leaving the EU, dealt with that matter and debunked it very well on his interview on the “Today” programme yesterday. He asked how the European Union has improved our security by creating, in an imperialist and expansionist way, a new trade association deal with Ukraine, which led directly to Russian fears of being encircled and to the annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. By the way, I do not countenance, approve or support in any way what Russia has done. The fact is that the EU gave President Putin that opportunity.

In a direct answer to my hon. Friend, is it really conceivable that, if the UK decided to leave the EU, our friends and allies in the Baltic states would want to throw us into some appalling doghouse and have nothing more to do with us when their freedom and security depends so much on us? We do have the strongest armed forces in the European Union. France and Britain are the only two countries that are capable of deploying world power. The Minister who is summing up this debate has considerable expertise in this matter because, as a Back Bencher, he spent years talking about it.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 626

Although I cannot speak for the French Government, I do regularly speak to people in France, and I can assure Members that France has no interest or desire in not continuing to co-operate in an ever closer way, in terms of an ever closer union of sovereign states, in military policy. This whole argument that, somehow, the peace and security of Europe would be endangered if we were to leave the EU does not hold water. I will not repeat all the arguments that have been made many times before about our peace and security depending not on remaining in the EU, but on NATO. That is not a point that can be directly summed up in any cost benefit analysis, but it needs to be articulated. We Eurosceptics are not nationalists. We love Europe; we love Europeans; we love European culture; and we want to have the closest possible relationship with our friends in France and Germany.

Let us go back to some of the detailed studies of the cost benefit analysis. I am very grateful to the Library of the House of Commons for this. In fact, we should pay tribute to it because it is one of the few bodies that has actually attempted, with its limited resources, to collate all these studies. The study by the Institute for Economic Affairs—Minford et al, 2005—“Should Britain leave the EU” estimates a range of 3.2% to -3.7% of GDP in ongoing costs. I have dealt with Open Europe. The 2014 study by Gianmarco Ottaviano “Brexit or Fixit? The Trade and Welfare Effects of Leaving the European Union”, the Centre for Economic Performance and the London School of Economics estimated the trade-related costs to the UK of leaving the EU as being in the range of 2.2% to 9.5% of GDP. That is their argument, but it would be nice for it to be tested. In the literature review for “Our Global Future”, the CBI—again, I am not citing people who are naturally friendly to my point of view, but we need to test the arguments—found that the net benefit arising from EU membership is somewhere in the region of 4% to 5% of UK GDP.

Philip Davies: Does my hon. Friend have the figures that the CBI gave for the great benefits that we would have received when it recommended that we join the euro?

Sir Edward Leigh: We should have had more independent analysis of that. Conservative Members often criticise Gordon Brown, but we should never forget that he kept us out of the euro, against the wishes of his Prime Minister, Tony Blair. We were told that disaster would strike by some in the City of London, the CBI and so on, and they used precisely these arguments. Now the Prime Minister goes to the Dispatch Box and says as a great virtue that we are out of the euro, but we were told by all the powers of the establishment that not joining the euro would be a disaster, and many of the arguments used were exactly the same.

Mr Chope: Roger Bootle told the Treasury Committee On 27 October last year:

“A large number of supposedly very highly qualified people argued that there would be a mass exodus of the financial services industry if Britain were not in the euro. It did not happen. In fact, the reverse happened: it was the provincial continental financial centres that suffered, as business concentrated on London”.

Sir Edward Leigh: The Mayor of London and the Conservative mayoral candidate represent, or hope to represent, the powerhouse of the British economy.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 627

Presumably they deal with and talk to businesses in London every day, and significantly they have both decided that London would not be disadvantaged by leaving the EU.

I am not necessarily quoting people who are friends of mine, but in evidence to an inquiry by the Lords EU Committee into relaunching the single market on 27 July 2010, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills stated that

“EU countries trade twice as much with each other as they would do in the absence of the Single Market programme”,

That is based on the argument that increased trade with Europe since the early 1980s may be responsible for UK income per head being around 6% higher.

That is fair enough. We accept that we want to recreate the single market in some form. However, the Government immediately replied, “Well, I’m sorry but the rules of the EU are absolutely clear. If you want to be part of the single market, you have to accept free movement of people.” But that is not necessarily true. For example, it does not apply to Canada. As I understand it, Canada has created a good trade deal with the EU, but I am not aware that EU nationals are allowed to travel freely to Canada without a visa—I have some knowledge of this because my wife has a Canadian passport as she was born in Montreal.

The argument about what sort of access we would have in the single market is so crucial that we must have some independent analysis. Otherwise, we are making a decision based not on facts, but on prejudice. Those of us who argue from a Eurosceptic point of view are not in any way trying to convince the British people that they should make this choice in terms of nationalism, although many will, and that is their prerogative. We are arguing that there is a perfectly good, legitimate, intellectual, rational case for leaving the EU, but we want it to be tested by the Government.

I had better sit down as I have probably wearied you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to end with a study, which people here will not be aware of, commissioned by the Bertelsmann Stiftung of Munich—so this is not, as far as I am aware, some sort of UK Independence party front organisation, but a well-respected German institution. It is interesting that people around Europe—Stiftung in Germany and think-tanks elsewhere in Europe—are starting to take seriously the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU. They are also writing studies that could form part of the independent cost benefit analysis we want the Government to do.

In the second and third columns of its detailed analysis of what countries pay into and get out of the EU, the Stiftung demonstrates that Germany, the United Kingdom and France are the biggest absolute net contributors, paying in about 0.5% of their gross national income. Eleven of the 28 member states were net contributors in the 2013 budget, and the Stiftung gives various detailed figures for member states’ gross contributions. In terms of net contributions as a share of GNI, we always come second to Germany.

The Stiftung says:

“Because the United Kingdom benefits relatively little from CAP expenditures (for example, it received only €3.16 billion in 2013 compared to France’s €8.58 billion), Margaret Thatcher

26 Feb 2016 : Column 628

negotiated the introduction of a ‘UK rebate’ in 1984. At its core, this contains a refund of approximately 2/3 of the United Kingdom’s annual net contributions to the EU budget. For the years 2011-2013, the rebate averaged around €4.1 billion. A correction in how the rebate is calculated was introduced in 2008, which reduces the rebate depending on the costs of the EU expansion. According to forecasts by the UK’s economic and finance ministry…the rebate will hover around an average of €6 billion”.

The Stiftung provides various detailed figures and illustrates how the UK’s net contribution has risen. It says:

“One key element of the Brexit debate is that net payments have increased sharply since the global financial and economic crisis in 2008…If the United Kingdom exits the EU on January 1, 2018, this will change how the EU budget is financed”—

that must be the understatement of the year. It continues:

“According to estimates by the UK’s economic and finance ministry”—

Her Majesty’s Treasury—

“the United Kingdom will pay a net contribution of £8 billion for fiscal year April 2017-April 2018.”

These arguments are therefore being set out in detailed papers by think-tanks throughout Europe, but here—in the most important decision this country will make, in just four months’ time—the Government are apparently telling us that they do not believe there should be any independent cost benefit analysis of what that decision will mean for the United Kingdom. Shame on them!

1.7 pm

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): This is the first time I have intervened in the European debate, and hon. Members can rest assured that one thing I will not be talking about is the future of the hedgehog, or le hérisson, as I think it is called in French.

This is probably one of the biggest, most controversial issues we will deal with as a country, and I am acutely aware that a number of my hon. Friends take a completely different position from the one that I will espouse during my speech. I would also say that this issue—like the corn laws, free trade and imperial preference—is one of the big issues in British history. Of course, this, too, is a big trade issue, and we have to take that into account.

Over the last 15 years, as the parliamentary candidate for the Plymouth Sutton seat and, more recently, as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, I have always sought to take a rather pragmatic attitude to what our relationship with Europe should be; I do not start from the basis of a set view of how we should proceed. I very much support what the Prime Minister has been able to do in the way of bringing back reform. The big issue of Europe kicked off when Jacques Delors said how important it was that the single market was not just about money but employment regulations and stuff like that too. I want the UK to be in Europe but not run by Europe. Now that the Prime Minister has finished his negotiations and presented his new plan for Europe, I have decided that I will vote to remain in the EU in the referendum on 23 June. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have exactly the same influence as every single one of my constituents or, for that matter, anybody in the whole of the United Kingdom. I have one vote, no more and no less.

To my mind, Britain’s role in Europe is to maintain the balance of power, and that is utterly crucial. Over the

26 Feb 2016 : Column 629

course of history, when we have walked away from Europe, we have had to go back in and sweep up the whole mess. We have invested time, money and blood in that relationship with Europe, and now is not the time for us to wash our hands of our allies and turn back.

Mr Chope: What does my hon. Friend think about the interventions this week by Lord Owen and Lord Howard, both of whom take a similar view to his but seem to have reached a different conclusion?

Oliver Colvile: Well, that is the whole business of politics, isn’t it? My hon. Friend is right to raise these issues, but ultimately this is about the future of our country within Europe and whether we are led back into having wars and things like that. I very much want to avoid that. Believe you me, my heart is for coming out, but my head says that it is not a clever thing to do.

Last week, during the recess, I spent a few days with the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy in Norway doing a survival course. We ended up building a shelter and a fire, and then we had to go and kill a chicken and eat it. Needless to say, I did not get too involved in the killing of the chicken, because I think I would have found that incredibly difficult. I heard at first hand the Norwegians’ real concerns, shared by the Baltic states, about the whole business of Russia potentially invading their country and coming through the north and the Arctic in order to do so. That made me very concerned as well. I therefore believe that our national security should not be weakened at a time of global insecurity.

Philip Davies: I am intrigued by my hon. Friend’s view that everything in the EU is about peace and harmony. Has he seen the rise of the far-right parties across the EU in recent years, including the largest party in France, and the record amounts of barbed wire going up around the EU? It does not strike many people as being about peace and harmony but quite the reverse in many cases.

Oliver Colvile: I fully agree with my hon. Friend that that issue must be looked at and taken into account, and I do, but I am talking about my personal view. This is about trying to make sure that we can maintain peace within Europe. I recognise, though, that other people have significantly different views—some even more extreme than his position might end up being. I have a great deal of time for my hon. Friend.

The EU is far from perfect, but this is not the time to throw away the good progress that the Prime Minister has made in reforming it. I am pleased that we have managed to secure an opt-out from being dragged into an ever closer union with the other 27 member states. In the previous Parliament, he managed to secure a deal that would bring the EU’s budget down for the very first time, and we should most certainly welcome that. I am, however, keen for further reform of the EU, including bringing UK fishing waters back under UK control, for which I will certainly continue to campaign. That would significantly improve the conservation of our fisheries, which I am very happy to support.

I believe that the Prime Minister’s deal will go a long way to restoring British sovereignty and reducing migration to the UK. On future immigration, if we are going to put up the shutters—we do need to control it—I am

26 Feb 2016 : Column 630

concerned about what would happen to my local Derriford hospital. If we found ourselves without any nurses from abroad, that would be a significant issue.

Philip Davies: Does my hon. Friend not understand that controlling immigration means that we would be able to allow into the country those we want to allow in and that we could keep out those we want to keep out? If we leave the EU and his hospital needs some nurses from abroad, there would be nothing to prevent us from allowing them to come here. We just would not have to accept everybody from the EU who wants to come here.

Oliver Colvile: My hon. Friend has a point, but it is important that we acknowledge that this country needs people to come here to do those jobs.

Mr Chope: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Oliver Colvile: I am afraid not.

Businesses in Plymouth rely on the UK’s deep links. My constituency has a global reputation for marine science and engineering research. Representatives from the Plymouth marine laboratory and from maritime organisations have told me that it is important that we continue to have links to Europe. University students in my constituency also want to be able to travel abroad. I am afraid that I have doubts about what the alternative would be if we were to leave.

Babcock, which runs the dockyard in my constituency, signed a letter to The Financial Times, saying that it is very important that we stay in. One of the big boat manufacturers in my constituency explained to me a couple of weeks ago how difficult it is to sell boats to south America. The company has to pay a 15% premium and it is very concerned about what would happen in France and Greece if we left. They would want to protect their own businesses and boat-building industries. That is another reason that I find it difficult to deal with this whole debate.

Britain has a proud history of playing its part in Europe, and I want it to continue to play an important role in reforming Europe while also promoting its interests worldwide. The terms Europhile and Eurosceptic are thrown about quite a bit, but I am neither. I am not Euro-suicidal but a Euro-realist, and that is why I will be voting to remain in the EU.

1.18 pm

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): I thank the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who is not present but whose Bill this is, for giving us the opportunity to once again debate the merits or otherwise of the European Union.

I think we should have a cost-benefit analysis of this debate, given that right at the beginning—it has been going for some three hours—we were told that it was highly unlikely that the Bill would be taken any further, because that would require the referendum to be delayed. It is, therefore, a complete waste of everybody’s time and of taxpayers’ money.

Mr Chope: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Pat Glass: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell us how much this debate has cost the taxpayer.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 631

Mr Chope: May I ask the hon. Lady whether that is her best point?

Pat Glass: No, but I think it is worth saying. We have sat here for three hours, and we have heard Members talk for at least an hour about a Bill that they do not intend to take any further. As the Bill is about a cost-benefit analysis, perhaps we can have a cost-benefit analysis of this morning for the taxpayers of this country.

Oliver Colvile: My great grandfather was a rural vicar in Oxfordshire. He said that he did not mind his congregation looking at their watches; it was when they started shaking them that he became concerned. I feel that that is something we should take on board.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I assure you that I am beginning to look at my watch.

Pat Glass: That is helpful. As the hon. Gentleman has spoken about his great grandfather, I will talk about mine a little later. [Interruption.] Would the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) like to say something about my great grandfather? I will talk about him later, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to intervene then.

Oliver Colvile: I would like the hon. Lady to talk about her great grandfather.

Pat Glass: I will do so later.

We had a long debate on European affairs yesterday. I am sure we would all agree that it was an excellent debate, with many outstanding contributions. The debate has felt a little flat today, because we have returned to the usual suspects with the usual very narrow arguments. However, it gives me an opportunity to talk once again about the benefits of being a member of the European Union. I do not think—this is one of our criticisms of the Bill—that the benefits of being a member of the European Union can be narrowed down to simply an economic cost. The question is much bigger than that.

Labour, as hon. Members know, are united on this issue. We believe that Britain is stronger, safer and more prosperous as part of the European Union.

Philip Davies: Is that it?

Pat Glass: No; just a second. We are a proud nation, with almost half our exports going to European countries. Those exports were worth £227 billion last year to the UK economy. We receive, on average, £26.5 billion of investment every year from the EU. Jobs and businesses, large and small, depend on our trading with the EU. Future EU trade could create 790,000 more jobs by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, energy and tourism.

I will talk a little about my part of the country. The north-east is the only part of the country that has a trade surplus. Proportionately, we are the biggest exporting region in the country. We make things in my part of the world and we export them, largely to Europe. As I said yesterday, we make more cars in one city in the north-east in a month than that great car-building country, Italy, does in a whole year. I invite Conservative Members to go along to Teesport or the port of Tyne and see the lines of cars that are made in the north-east and exported to the European Union. In my region, 75% of our trade depends on being part of the European Union. Hundreds

26 Feb 2016 : Column 632

of thousands of jobs in the north-east are directly or indirectly linked to being part of the European Union. That is just one aspect of the benefits.

I will talk about the peace dividend later, but I want to talk a little about the fact that we live in a global world where we face issues such as international terrorism, international crime, war, migration and Russian expansionism. Listening to the debate today, I have not heard anything from Conservative Members that gives me any answers to the big questions facing us. It is not possible to reduce those huge issues to a cost-benefit analysis or an economic cost.

TTIP has been mentioned. I have to say that my blood runs cold at the thought of negotiating a TTIP arrangement outside the European Union. I am quite clear that our public services and our NHS need to be protected in any negotiations about TTIP. Having listened to the libertarians opposite, I am sure that that would not be the case.

David Morris: On negotiating TTIP within Europe, it is my understanding that that point is a non-issue, especially in relation to the NHS, as has been clarified many times during the past three years. Will the hon. Lady elaborate on that point?

Pat Glass: In such negotiations, it is clear that we are much more likely to get a TTIP agreement with red lines around our public services and the NHS as part of the European Union. If we were outside the European Union and negotiating such a treaty directly with the USA, I would not be so confident that that would be the priority of the current Government.

David Morris: For the record, does the Opposition agree that there will be protection for the NHS under TTIP within the European framework as it stands?

Pat Glass: We agree that if there is to be a TTIP agreement, it is much better to negotiate it with Britain as part of the European Union.

We have talked a lot about sovereignty in recent weeks. Many of us would agree that we have in various ways negotiated on our sovereignty in order to be part of something bigger. We have given up part of our sovereignty in defence to be part of organisations such as NATO, and we have done the same with the UN. On a personal level, when I married—I have been married for 30 years—I gave up some of my sovereignty over decisions that I would have made myself to be part of something that I accepted was bigger and better for both of us. The principle is very clear: in order to be part of something better, we sometimes have to give up things we want to hang on to. That is true of our sovereignty. I do not believe that this country has given away our sovereignty. It is very clear that whenever decisions are made in the European Union, they come back to and come under the sovereignty of this House.

On immigration, one of the huge strengths of this country—it has made us one of the strongest, richest, most powerful and greatest countries in the world—has been our ability, over centuries, to absorb and integrate millions of immigrants, migrants, people fleeing oppression and economic migrants. My family were economic refugees who came to this country during the Irish famine in the mid-19th century. Such people came to this country and

26 Feb 2016 : Column 633

worked hard for it. They brought up their children in this country, and paid their taxes. They fought for this country and, frankly, some of them died for this country. That is part of what makes this country the great country it is. To the idea that we can close the doors to people who will work in our NHS or our schools, I would say that that is part of what has kept this country rich. This country has got rich and stayed rich on immigration. We need to be very careful when talking about closing the doors to people, particularly those from the European Union.

Mr Chope: I do not think anyone has talked about closing the doors. We have talked about giving equal access on the basis of merit to foreigners regardless of whether they are from the EU or from outside the EU. For example, the hospital in my area tried to recruit nurses from the Philippines because they are well qualified for its needs, but it was unable to do so because priority has to be given to EU nurses.

Pat Glass: If we look at EU immigration, we can see that it is almost the same: 2.3 million people from the European Union are in Britain; and 2 million Brits live in the European Union. Many of them are working in and contributing to European countries and some of them, having worked hard all their lives, have retired and are now living in the European Union. We must be absolutely clear about what “out” would look like for those people. At the end of this debate, I want us to be very clear about that. We know what “in” looks like—we have had 41 years of what “in” looks like—but we absolutely no idea what “out” would look like for jobs and the economy, or for people from the EU working in this country and people from this country working in the EU.

Philip Davies: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Pat Glass: If the hon. Gentleman is going to tell us what “out” would look like, I will happily give way.

Philip Davies: I am rather interested in the Labour party’s views. I urge the hon. Lady to look up the meaning of net migration. Net migration means the number of people coming in after we have taken out the ones who have already left, and that figure is 325,000. Is her party happy with the net migration figures as they are? Is she not prepared to take any measures to reduce them?

Pat Glass: Once again, another opportunity to tell us what “out” would look like and we do not get it.

We had an excellent debate in the Chamber yesterday, a lot of which centred on the peace dividend. I have not heard anything about that from Conservative Members today. The first aim of the European Union was peace. It was created not as a project or a political union, but to ensure peace in western Europe after the ruins of 1945. We committed genocide on one another in western Europe every 30 years up until 1945. As I said in the Chamber yesterday, for me this is personal. It is not just about politics. I accept that the European Union is not the only reason why young men and women are not lying in graves outside Thiepval and Ypres today, unlike my great grandfather and his brother, two young men from this country aged 22 and 25 who died within six weeks of each other and are lying in unmarked graves in Belgium and France.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 634

Great though the loss was to my family, it pales into insignificance alongside the loss suffered by other families. Mrs Smith from Bishop Auckland, a town just over the hill from where I live, lost her husband and her five sons. How can we put an economic cost on that? At the end of the awful wars in western Europe, when we regularly turned our continent into a killing field, the victors and the vanquished said never again will we allow this to happen. I believe that by voting to remain in the European Union we will ensure that this never happens again to the young people of this country.

1.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Tobias Ellwood): If debating European affairs is your thing, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will have had a great week.

The starting gun to the core of what we are debating today began with the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech in January 2013. That was the first indication, by any Prime Minister, to say that he intended to take the opportunity to have a serious conversation with Europe; to say we are not content with our relationship with Europe, that we believe too many powers have been ceded to Brussels and that the EU is not transparent or competitive enough. That culminated in the Prime Minister last weekend debating with other Heads of State and Prime Ministers to establish the changes that he feels need to take place if Britain is to be justified in staying in the European Union.

The Prime Minister returned from those discussions on Saturday. On Monday, he made a statement, saying that his principal recommendation is to remain in the EU. He said, however, that it would not be for politicians but the people to decide on our long-term relationship with the EU. This generation gets to choose. As we now know, the referendum will take place on 23 June. If that was not enough, the issue was raised at Prime Minister’s questions, and there were the launches for the various in and out campaigns, with all their gusto and vim. Then, yesterday, we had a full day’s debate, in Government time, opened by the Foreign Secretary and closed by the Europe Minister. I agree about the repetition in some of our Europe debates—I remember many times just printing off my speech from my hard drive, with the bullet points ready to go, and coming here to give a similar exposé of my views on Europe—but, despite seeing the usual suspects committed to debating Europe, I think that today’s subject matter is different.

I disagree with the hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass). Although it is clear that, should the Bill get anywhere, the date of the referendum would have to shift, I believe the debate is useful. Every time we have a debate, in the House or elsewhere, on Europe, more details emerge and more questions arise, and that is healthy. We saw it in the debates leading up to the Scottish and alternative vote referendums. That is important because these are difficult matters for us to get our heads around—there are questions to be raised and challenges to be made. In fact, new questions have been posed today, on both sides of the argument, and, if it helps, I will try to answer some of them.

I agree that this place has not always been brilliant at understanding the EU at its heart. I recall writing a pamphlet in opposition entitled, “Upgrading UK Influence

26 Feb 2016 : Column 635

in the European Union”. I think there are only two copies left: the one I have in my hand, and the one proudly owned by my mother, who is the only other person I know who has definitely read it. I flicked through it to remind myself of my frustration that the country did not scrutinise enough of what was going on in Brussels—this was before 2010, when we were in opposition.

The pamphlet asked what Parliament could do to better understand what was happening in Brussels. We spend a lot of time in this place arguing and complaining about the results of legislation coming from Brussels, but how much time do we invest in understanding the mechanisms and processes in order that we might challenge or stop it coming through in the first place?

Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend recognise that we also need to send good-quality civil servants to Europe to argue our case properly?

Mr Ellwood: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I would argue that the civil servants we send there are among the best in the world. It is a huge privilege and honour to work in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, although many of the civil servants in Brussels come from other Departments.

I must say, however, that we are granted 12% of the jobs in the EU, in the various Commission roles and so forth, but, of late, we have not taken them, because there are language exams to be taken, and the language school in the Foreign Office was closed down. There were important top jobs to be had, but because our civil servants could not pass the two language courses required—one at a higher level, one at a more subsidiary level—we could not fill the very roles that would have allowed us the necessary influence in the EU, in the bowels of Brussels, to change, affect and advance legislation.

I am pleased to say that we are changing that—the language school is back in place and able to train civil servants to the correct levels—but when I wrote the pamphlet, before the 2010 election, we were filling only 3% to 4% of those jobs, meaning that 8% of the jobs to which Britain was entitled were going to other countries. One is supposed to relinquish one’s passport—metaphorically—when one becomes a civil servant in the EU, but of course one remains British at heart, or Italian or French, or whatever it is. It was a waste of an opportunity to scrutinise, understand and affect what was going on in the EU. I am pleased to say that the civil service situation has changed, and that we are now far more immersed in Brussels.

Let us look at some of the big ticket items that have been agreed—I shall come on to them in more detail later, if I may—such as the trade deal with Korea or the patent agreement that protects any invention. You might have a small invention that you have pocketed away, Mr Deputy Speaker, and not yet told us about, but you can be assured that you will be able to present it and it will be protected right across the European Union. It was British civil servants who were able to pilot this measure through, and it provides an example of the sort of work they are doing.

To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), our understanding of these matters is important. When I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary

26 Feb 2016 : Column 636

to the Minister for Europe, I remember organising cross-party visits for Members of Parliament to make the trip to Brussels so that they could learn about the EU, meet civil servants and understand how the European Parliament and various parts of the Commission work. Most of them were so delighted to get back on the Eurostar at the end of the day that they never wanted to see Brussels again, such was the scale of the bureaucracy. That highlights a challenge, but it perhaps also reflects the absence of a determination to say that we should be turning the situation around. We should not simply turn our backs on it and accept everything that happens; we should try to enhance British influence over what happens in Europe.

That is exactly what our Prime Minister has done in working with our allies and trying to effect change for the better. There are many countries, many Prime Ministers and many statesmen who agree with our free market liberal views on how the European Union should be conducted. They agree with us that it has become too politically empowered and not sufficiently transparent, and that although it is the largest single market in the world, it is becoming overburdened with red tape and bureaucracy. From a social perspective, furthermore, it is the most costly area in the world. Some 50% of social services in the world are found on our own doorstep in the European Union. That means that we are uncompetitive in comparison with other places in the longer term, which is exactly what the Prime Minister was trying to determine in his negotiations at the weekend. He explained what he returned with in his statement on Monday.

I am pleased that we have had yet another opportunity this week to debate these matters, and I am sure it will not be the last time. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch for stepping in for our hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who was originally going to articulate his views on the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has done so with the same gusto that he has always shown in previous debates on the European Union. It is a matter of record and knowledge that he is my parliamentary Dorset neighbour, and I look forward to him donning one of the amazing ties that the leave campaign is promoting and going on the campaign trail in Dorset in the run-up to 23 June.

We heard contributions from other Members, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who articulated important questions about the merits of the European Union which need to be answered by those who want to remain in the EU. That is important for the public, many of whom are yet to make up their minds on the merits or otherwise of continuing our membership of the European Union.

The speech of the day was, I thought, given by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh)—not simply because of its length, but its quality as well. He made some erudite points, and I thought he was extremely honest about what the British nation might expect from the leave campaign when it comes to articulating what it would mean if we did leave. He was honest in raising some question marks over what might happen to the common fisheries policy and the common agricultural policy. Many people support these policies now, so it is important for them to understand the

26 Feb 2016 : Column 637

consequences of leaving. It was very honest of him to pose those questions, and the nation must hear the answers in a proper debate.

The “Project Fear” label has crept into the discussion many times. We want to win the arguments because people have decided on the merits—the whys and wherefores—of both sides, rather than because they were unclear about the position, or because one side had decided to scaremonger. What worries me is that this might descend into something like an American presidential election campaign, in which the negative overshadows the positives and the educated points of view.

My hon. Friend also raised a number of specific questions, and I shall come to those later.

I am pleased to say that that my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) managed to get hedgehogs into yet another debate, although he was not intending to talk about a subject for which he has become famous. He also made the point that this is one of the biggest debates that we will ever have, and that it is therefore right for us to devote time and energy to looking at all the details.

I am saddened that more Members have not taken the time to join us on a Friday. I do not know where the Scottish nationalists are, but at least the Labour Front Benchers have made it, and I am pleased about that. In any event, I am sure that Members will have further opportunities to debate these matters in due course.

As I said earlier, we had a full and wide-ranging debate on Europe yesterday, opened by the Foreign Secretary. One speech that was pivotal, and stood out, was the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames). It was a powerful oration, not least because my right hon. Friend mentioned his grandfather. As Members will know, his grandfather, looking at the mess of Europe, was concerned about how countries could integrate to the point at which they were no longer independent but interdependent, and would therefore never go down the road towards war again.

Sir Edward Leigh: May I take up that point about history, for the sake of the record? In his own very good speech, my right hon. Friend did indeed refer to his grandfather’s speech. Winston Churchill was always a robust defender of European unity, but he made it absolutely clear that what he foresaw was continental European unity. No one has ever been able to find any quotation from Winston Churchill suggesting that Britain should join a European union.

Mr Ellwood: My hon. Friend has made my point for me. What I think our right hon. Friend was trying to articulate was, “Please do not try to second-guess what would be the view of someone who is not alive today and able to understand the issues of today.” He made the point, very powerfully, that it was disingenuous to try to judge in that way. He was frustrated that people had taken the famous Zurich speech—of which we are now in the 70th anniversary year, and in which Churchill talked of a continental Europe—out of context, and had reinterpreted it in order to make their own points. In fact, it has already been used by both sides in the debate leading up to 23 June. Similarly, people have said of Margaret Thatcher, “I am sure that, if she were alive today, she would say this, that and the other.”

26 Feb 2016 : Column 638

I think it unhelpful to lean on great statesmen who are not here today, because today’s circumstances are very different.

It is, however, worth reminding ourselves that from the devastation of war-torn Europe has emerged a union of 28 nations, which are living in peace now, and which have also lived through a ragged period of dealing with the growth and subsequent demise of communism. We have become part of the biggest and most powerful single market in the world, and it is important for us to remember that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough also gives me licence to touch on how this is playing out in other European capitals. Things can be quite parochial in the Chamber, and sometimes the things that we say here do not reach much further, but we are being watched, registered and monitored in other capitals across the world as we have this debate. I have to say from my role as Foreign Minister responsible for the middle east, north Africa and south-east Asia that there is some puzzlement about this debate, as Britain has a legacy of being at the forefront of decision making—being a P5 UN Security Council member, a leading member of the Commonwealth and playing such a pivotal role in NATO, and given that in every international organisation from the World Trade Organisation to the International Monetary Fund to the World Bank, Britain is at the forefront.

Other countries hesitate and look at us to see which direction Britain is looking in, knowing that we have a powerful, strong and important relationship with the US, that we have experience, and that we have an interest in, and understanding of, much of the world around us, yet they also look at us and see that we might want to opt out of one of the largest organisations in the world. The Prime Minister also articulated that point on Monday.

We do not make any reference to the fact that the UK could survive outside the EU. We are a great and powerful nation—the fifth biggest trading nation in the world. The question is the degree of that success. That is what we need to debate up until 23 June. Are we better off out and making decisions separately, or are we more powerful as part of this organisation and collectively exerting more influence from inside? That is pivotal in the debate we will have in the next three months.

Much has also been made about the security concerns and whether Britain’s security status and competence would rise or fall were we to leave the EU. When the starting gun was fired, and the debate opened up and people declared their position, some comments were made about the Paris attacks, saying that they would be more likely to take place in the UK if we were outside the EU. I think those comments were disingenuous; I will not go further than that. We need to have a sensible and measured discussion about security. I certainly do not agree with that sentiment at all, and I urge those on both sides of the argument to be very cautious about making flippant comments and scaremongering. We are of course subject to the pressures of the media and the sensationalism they seem to encourage so that they have soundbites for the evening news or the Twittersphere, but our allies are looking at this and it does not bode well for Britain if we scaremonger in this way.

However, we are living in a very dangerous and complex world, one that is far more complex today than it was a couple of decades ago. The consequences of the

26 Feb 2016 : Column 639

Arab spring are still with us, we have an emboldened President Putin—far more unpredictable than ever before—and we have the growing concern of extremism. When the Bali bomb went off in 2002 there were just over 20 listed extremist groups—listed groups of terror. Today there are over 50. These are registered, listed groups recognised by us as organisations of terror. That means that at the moment we are not winning the battle to contain them. Daesh is obviously the biggest, and it is a franchise; other organisations, such as Boko Haram, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, are joining forces and gaining a franchise from Daesh. We need to think about how we collectively defeat that, and there is a question about the role of the EU in dealing with that.

Much has been said about the role of NATO—it was mentioned today. It is, of course, the cornerstone of our security endeavours, and we also have our strong relationship with the United States, but along with the growth of the European Union comes soft power. These things complement each other, and one does not replace the other. In certain areas where other countries are wanting to pursue a European-style army, we have made it clear that we would not support that, and neither would many other countries. Everybody has recognised that from a kinetic perspective NATO is the cornerstone of our security, but soft power comes with the ability to provide political leverage in introducing sanctions, and it is the work of the European Union that started the ball rolling in getting sanctions built up against Iran. Those sanctions eventually forced Iran to curtail its nuclear programme, come to the table and agree a long-term solution which denies the Iranians the ability to build a nuclear bomb. EU sanctions and EU discussions led to the P5+1 talks, which involved other countries such as China, Russia and the United States. That gives us an indication of the role the EU can play, and the counter-piracy operations off Somalia are another great example of this work, which can complement what NATO is doing.

We also need to consider the bilateral operations that work underneath the umbrella of the European Union, for example, the Border Force capabilities in Calais. One could argue that if we step out of the European Union, we could negotiate these things one by one, but carrying out bilateral talks with a number of countries is a lot more complex. The question is: would such an approach be as efficient as going to a single organisation—Interpol, Frontex or the European border forces—and at these meetings having a say not just in bilateral arrangements, such as those we have with France, but collectively? Internationally, what is the European Union’s view on the situation in Libya, with the movement of refugees and with the criminal gangs exhorting funds from refugees who wish to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean? My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) posed the question as to the impact of extremist parties in Europe, as it could be argued that that has been a consequence of the movement of refugees. But the only way we are going to sort that is by dealing with the problem at source—by addressing what is happening in Syria. Again, I would argue that the EU can put far greater emphasis and might into providing a challenge and looking for solutions by working collectively, not

26 Feb 2016 : Column 640

only on managing the refugee crisis, but on addressing the challenges at source in order to mitigate what is going on.

Philip Davies: Everyone would agree that the Minister is making a balanced and good speech, but I am surprised that he seems to be talking down the ability of the mighty Foreign Office, of which he is a part. Is he really saying that if, after we had left the EU, the UK and the EU thought that sanctions should be imposed on Iran, the Foreign Office would have no mechanism for discussing that with the European Union, and coming to that decision and agreement? Is he saying that those discussions can take place only from within the EU? Since when has the Foreign Office been so pathetically powerless around the world?

Mr Ellwood: My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that his description of the Foreign Office is not one I agree with—

Philip Davies: It is your description—

Mr Ellwood: It is not my description. Provocatively, my hon. Friend is putting words in my mouth. We can step back from this particular issue to all the other issues, saying that in each case Britain would have the ability—in fact, we would have the obligation—outside the EU to step up and do all that work as well, whether it be on sanctions on Iran or any other relationships. The question is: on our own, can we exert greater leverage on a country such as Iran, which continues to have a proxy influence in Bahrain, Damascus and Syria, Baghdad and Iraq, and Yemen and Sana’a, or would we have more leverage and power by leading from within the EU? That applies right across the board.

Mr Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which he is responding to the debate. May I ask him about the Syrian refugees? I think our Prime Minister and our Government have the right idea in saying, “Let’s take the refugees from the area of the theatre, rather than encouraging them to make the dangerous journey to Europe.” Why does my hon. Friend think the European Union has not been prepared to listen and respond positively to that common-sense approach from our Government?

Mr Ellwood: I am not sure that is quite correct. Federica Mogherini, who leads on these matters for the European Union, is very much in alignment with that view. We discussed these things in Rome recently when we looked at Syrian and Iraq matters. My hon. Friend is right to say that there are a number of challenges—first, the genuine Syrian refugees caught up in the region. We should pay tribute to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries, for the massive burden that they have taken on. We have chosen to support those refugees who are most vulnerable. The challenge that has come across Europe comes not just from Syrians. Mixed in with them are Afghans and others from Africa, taking advantage of the patterns of migratory flow. We have said that if we open our doors to them, we are likely to encourage more. That is why we have been very firm.

The consequence is that thousands are still coming in across Europe every day and we need a solution to deal with that. If my hon. Friend visits Greece now, he will

26 Feb 2016 : Column 641

see the scale of the challenge there. On beaches that should be for holidaymakers, there are migrant camps and individuals everywhere, some in transit and some having put up a temporary home. EU countries are affected by that, which is why collectively we need a better solution.

Central to that is solving the problem so that people do not feel they want to turn their back on their country, thereby making it all the weaker. Many of the people who can make it and are making it to Europe are the ones with mobile phones, the ones who are fed and have a family. I do not doubt that they are going through an horrific time, but many of them are educated and if they depart from Syria, they deny it the doctors, nurses and engineers that will be needed once the guns fall silent and the country starts to rebuild itself.

Sir Edward Leigh: May I say that the Minister is replying to the debate extremely well? It just shows that sometimes there is an advantage in having to wait a bit before one gets on to the Front Bench because one understands this place better.

May I ask my hon. Friend a serious question about the refugees from Syria? I put this point to the Prime Minister and I am not sure I got an adequate reply. I want the Minister to try and deal with it. I am not so worried about east European migrants to this country because they work hard and integrate. I am extremely worried about the millions pouring in from the middle east, including Syria. I said to the Prime Minister that Merkel’s million would all have a right to come here once they get passports. The Prime Minister said that only 2% of people coming into Germany get passports.

The Minister cannot give me an answer now, but will the Foreign Office do some more work on this? Based on history, I think a much higher proportion of those pouring into Germany now will get passports. I would like the Foreign Office to keep an eye on this because those people have a right to come here and it is an important issue.

Mr Ellwood: The first thing that has to be acknowledged is that the normal processes in place across Europe for dealing with refugees applying for status are going to be tested, because of the scale of the migration that we are dealing with. Under Germany’s current rules, they would have to wait a number of years—eight years, I think, but I stand to be corrected—before they can gain a passport. If they have a criminal record, they will not get a passport. So there is automatically a delay in the process of securing a passport. The German analysis is that in such a time frame, many will hope to return home or to remain in Germany. We need to keep the problem in context. If they are in Germany, have a German passport and receive benefits there, why would they want to come to the UK? These are big questions, but they are for further down the line. They should not be ducked. The scale of what we are dealing with is unprecedented since the movement of populations after the second world war.

I should just mention that much of the focus of the Syria conference that took place in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre was on some of those questions as well. We raised an unprecedented amount of money—$11 billion was pledged in one day—from the international

26 Feb 2016 : Column 642

community. I spoke at one of the non-governmental organisation conferences, and much of the energy was focused on how the European Union deals with such challenges. If I am honest, the EU could be regarded as a fair weather organisation: when economies are doing well, that is all fine and good, but when something such as Ukraine comes up, that is when the mechanics of bringing countries together to achieve consensus has yet to be tested. That is where the European Union is having to learn far faster than NATO, which, from a security perspective, had the machinery in place to be able to react to these events on a more regular basis. None the less, my hon. Friend raises an important point.

I just want to talk a little about the consequences of exit, which is what this Bill is all about. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, we would have to delay the referendum. There is a trigger notice in article 50, which would prompt negotiation. A country cannot simply walk out of the European Union, nor can it tear up its membership card as one can do, presumably, with a political party. It needs to apply to leave, and in the good old European Union way there is a process to be followed. That process can last up to two years. It also requires the support of the 27 members, and that can take time. With all this, there is a question for those who are advocating departure: if the process were to last more than 24 months, what happens to businesses and where do they fit in? What will happen to deals, negotiations and reputations? How does the City of London continue to attract business if there is a question mark over the departure date—and that is before we have even considered what we might be entering into.

Michael Howard’s comments were referred to this morning. He talked about renegotiating to get back in. So, let us say that a country manages to get out of the EU in two years, it then might have to begin negotiations to get back in again. It took Switzerland eight years to consolidate its deal. That is time consuming. Arguably, the process can be faster. We are a far bigger country than Switzerland or Norway, so the process could be expedited. Again, there will be delays. There is a question mark over where we actually stand and what our relationship is.

It is just worth mentioning article 49, which does not get as much press as article 50 in the European treaty. It says:

“Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union.”

Article 49 is all about what a country does to regain its membership. It says:

“The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application.”

All the national Parliaments then have a debate and discussion about a future British application.

“The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the consent of the European Parliament”.

So the country needs unanimous support. If one country were to say to us, “No, you can’t come back in on those terms” then we are stuck. Also, anybody who knows the European Parliament knows that it has myriad views.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 643

It goes one to say that the European Parliament

“shall act by a majority of its component members…The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State.”

I could go on, but I think that the message is clear. There are an awful lot of hurdles to clear to complete the process. It is not a simple process.

Mr Chope: My hon. Friend seems almost pleased to paint such a grim and complex scenario, but does he accept that that is only one possible scenario? Can he tell us what contingency plans the Government are making at the moment so that, leaving the European Union after the vote on 23 June, could be much more straightforward and that there will not be all the problems that he is talking about?

Mr Ellwood: We will have to wait until 24 June to see whether what that crystal ball says is correct. I am not painting a scenario; it is in article 49 of the Lisbon treaty. That is what we must honour and what we signed up for. We do not have a choice in that matter—that is how it is.

Mr Chope: Does my hon. Friend accept that, under international law, it is open to any country that is party to a treaty to denounce that treaty? We could choose to denounce the treaty, repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and not do anything else.

Mr Ellwood: I will contemplate and reflect on what my hon. Friend has said, but my immediate reply is that we must honour the international law to which we have signed up. A nation must first consider article 50—that is about departure and getting out, which I always said is not an easy process—and then article 49, which states how we can get back into the treaty.

Let us pause for a second and think of the countries that are queuing up to join the EU. I was involved a little in encouraging Bosnia to meet the necessary requirements to be accepted into the European Union, and there is also Serbia and other countries. There is a long list of countries that want to become members of the European Union, or have some kind of status—it does not have to be full membership; it could be something similar to the arrangements of Norway or Switzerland. One argument could be that Britain has to get into line—

Mr Chope indicated dissent.

Mr Ellwood: My hon. Friend shakes his head. I hope that were that horrible scenario ever to take place, recognition would be given to Britain’s place in Europe, but other countries could quite rightly say, “Hang on a minute We have dedicated teams looking at us. Why should Britain jump the gun?”

Sir Edward Leigh: Why is the Minister spending so much time arguing about a process for how we will get back in the European Union when we will have just left it? I am confused.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 644

Mr Ellwood: Because as I understand, the heart of the argument from the leave campaign recognises that some aspects of the European Union are welcome, such as the single market and some aspects of the security situation, and that there would be a desire for re-entry so that we could have that relationship. [Interruption.] What I heard on the radio this morning is that we would renegotiate aspects of our relationship with the European Union—I have heard that again and again. If my hon. Friends are saying, “No, we will have no truck with the European Union whatsoever”, that is a new direction of travel that I have not heard before, so I am grateful that the debate has clarified what the leave campaign has been after for all this time.

Philip Davies: Is the Minister aware that many countries have free trade agreements with the European Union without being members of it, an example being the agreement that America is seeking to make at the moment? The future for the United Kingdom is to have free trade with the European Union from outside it, in the way that many other big countries do. Does the Minister understand that?

Mr Ellwood: I will heed the advice and encouragement, because other issues have been raised that we must also touch on. Let me be clear: there is a fair bit of bureaucracy to be gone through, but even securing a free trade agreement with the European Union would require a process to be followed and would not happen overnight.

Mr Chope: The Minister says that we would need a free trade agreement, but does he accept that when we leave the European Union, the default position will be the World Trade Organisation rules that ensure free trade?

Mr Ellwood: Let me come on to free trade, because those issues were raised in the debate and perhaps I can answer my hon. Friend’s point. The European Union is our main trading partner and, as has been said, that trade is worth more than £500 million a year. That is half our total trade in goods and services. However, we can still trade with the rest of the world as well, and the EU has free trade agreements with more than 50 countries—that is alongside the 28 countries in the single market. Around 45% of Britain’s exports are designed for the single market itself, while 56% go to the single market and to countries the EU has freed trade deals with. [Interruption.] I will give way to somebody if they would like to give me a break so that I can clear my throat.

Oliver Colvile: Could not failing to go through the right procedures end up delaying our exit from the EU because the issue would need to go the various courts? It is a bit like when a planning application goes wrong and someone is not happy with the process.

Mr Ellwood: I am grateful for that intervention—from a number of angles—and my hon. Friend makes an important point.

We have dealt with the delays, so I will move on to TTIP’s impact on the health service, which hon. Members raised. Many hon. Members have received emails on this subject questioning what the situation is. I should make it clear that TTIP poses no threat to the NHS

26 Feb 2016 : Column 645

whatever. It cannot force the UK to privatise public services, and any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible and, indeed, false. The Prime Minister, the European Commission and the US Government have made that clear. The NHS—indeed, public services—will not be privatised through the trade deal, nor will the deal open NHS services to further competition or make irreversible any decisions on the provision of NHS services that are taken by the UK Government. I hope that that makes the position clear in answer to the many emails many of us have had on this issue—in fact, there might even be a 38 Degrees campaign on this.

Mr Chope: I hear the assertion the Minister makes from the Dispatch Box, but it seems to be totally at odds with the opinion of leading counsel with which we have been circulated.

Mr Ellwood: That is why these debates are helpful. I can only make clear what the Government’s position is. I can also ask the Minister for Europe to place a letter in the Library to set out in more detail what the consequences would be. Given the number of emails, there is clearly huge interest in this matter across the country, so I am pleased to have this opportunity to address it.

Guidance to the civil service was mentioned. The example was given of the Fishing Minister’s dilemma in being unable to participate fully in the debate on the European Union. Of course, he can participate fully, but to clarify—the Prime Minister also responded on this issue at Prime Minister’s Question Time—the Government have a clear position, which is to recommend to the country that people vote to remain members of a reformed European Union.

Quite exceptionally, Ministers are being allowed to depart from the normal rules on collective responsibility, in order to dissent from the official Government position on the referendum question. However, the civil service exists—we cannot get away from that—and it is there to support the Government of the day and the policy agreed by the Government of the day. The letter published by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and subsequently extended by formal guidance from the Cabinet Secretary to civil servants, does no more than give effect to that.

Sir Edward Leigh: On that point, when will purdah begin?

Mr Ellwood: I am coming to that shortly, when I will go into the details of the timetable, but I just wanted to clarify the position, because it may be raised again in relation to other Ministers who have different views as well.

Philip Davies: The Government’s view seems to be that we should stay in the European Union. I presume that even they would concede that being a member of the EU is disadvantageous in some ways, although their view overall is that it is better for us to remain. If their view on fishing, for example, is that it may be to our disadvantage to be in the EU, and the Fishing Minister wanted to use the Government machinery to come up with something better, would he be allowed to do so, or are we in the ridiculous situation where every Minister has to pretend—whether it is true or not—that every aspect of EU membership is in our interests?

26 Feb 2016 : Column 646

Mr Ellwood: The Prime Minister returned from the European Council having managed to secure the changes necessary for him and the Government to confirm the position that a reformed European Union is in the interests of British membership. From that perspective, there is a collective responsibility to support it. The reason for the change is the unique situation of having the vote. It is absolutely the case that individual Ministers can dissent, but people cannot pick and mix—they cannot take out a slice and say, “I don’t agree with that”, because that would make a mockery of participation and involvement in the European Union.

I was going to wait until the part of my speech dealing in detail with the timetable before I answered the question on purdah, but because of the lack of time, I am pleased to confirm that it will begin 28 days before the vote. I hope that helps my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough.

Several hon. Members have discussed VAT on sanitary goods. In our view, EU member states should have the flexibility to apply a zero rate of VAT to sanitary products. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has written to the European Commission and other member states setting out the Government’s view that EU member states should have full discretion over the rate of VAT they should apply. The Financial Secretary has been informed by the Commission that its action plan may put forward options to allow member states greater flexibility in the application of the reduced and zero rates of VAT. I am sure that he will make more statements on this in due course.

We have touched on the trade deficit, which is an important issue. The Office for National Statistics’ “Pink Book” with data for 2015 and 2014 confirms that UK total exports to the 28 nations of the EU were £229 billion, and UK imports from the 28 states were £291 billion. The UK’s trade deficit with the EU 28 was therefore £62 billion. However, it would be disingenuous to use that figure on its own because of the difference between goods and services, of which hon. Members will be aware. We are far stronger in the services aspect. With the reforms that are coming through, that is where the single market is likely to grow in future, and where we are likely to be in surplus rather than in deficit. It is very important to recognise the opportunities for Britain in remaining in the European Union as a result of that.

Passports have been mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley talked about what happens when an individual from the European Union enters our borders and has their passport swiped. There is a watchlist system used by Home Office staff for the purposes of border and national security, and the detection and prevention of crime. During business as usual, 100% of passengers arriving in the UK have their identity documents scanned against the watchlist, so somebody on it will be identified and can be detained if need be. The Government’s strategic objective to enhance border security and militate against organised criminality and terrorism risks has led to a requirement to check arriving passengers against the Schengen information system at the border. This is another great example of “what if?” If we were to depart from the European Union, would we have to renegotiate ourselves back into the ability to use SIS II, as it is called?

26 Feb 2016 : Column 647

Philip Davies: Will the Minister confirm that, contrary to the assertions made in yesterday’s debate, when somebody comes into the UK from the European Union their entire criminal record does not flash up before the Border Force, and we do not then cart them off to kick them out of the country on that basis? Will he confirm that that was a wholly false assertion?

Mr Ellwood: I was not privy to the exact point in the debate when that comment was made, but I will ask the relevant Home Office Minister to write to my hon. Friend to clarify exactly what does happen. I am now mildly curious to find out those details myself.

Pat Glass: That is really interesting and I wonder whether that happens. It sounds like a damned good idea, doesn’t it?

Mr Ellwood: I feel an element of consensus breaking out in the Chamber, which is a rare thing.

As I bring my introductory remarks to a close, may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch on promoting the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, who has been an astute advocate of debating these matters in more detail? The issue of Europe is not only topical, but of the utmost importance. It received a full day’s parliamentary debate yesterday and we will have further debates leading up to 23 June.

The British public made it clear that they were not happy with the status quo, and the Prime Minister sought to address that, so last November he wrote to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, setting out in detail the four areas in which he sought change to the European Union, namely economic governance, competence, sovereignty and immigration. At the February European Council he achieved a deal covering each of those areas.

As the Prime Minister has said, we said that we would get Britain out of ever closer union and give national Parliaments the power to work together to block unwanted EU laws. The deal we have delivered means that we will never become part of a European Union superstate.

We said that we would make Europe more competitive, and we have delivered that in this deal as well, with commitments to cut red tape, in particular for small businesses. That means we can create more jobs and security for working people in Britain.

We said that we would protect Britain as the eurozone continues to integrate. We have delivered that in this deal, which means that British taxpayers will never be required to bail out the eurozone and that British businesses can never be discriminated against because we are not part of the euro.

We said that we would put an end to the “something for nothing” welfare culture for EU migrants so that we can control immigration from Europe, and we have delivered on that as well. EU migrants can no longer claim full in-work benefits for four years, which some people said would be impossible to achieve, and child benefit will no longer be sent overseas to Europe at UK rates. We have already delivered our commitments to require EU migrants to leave Britain after six months if they have not found work and have no genuine prospect of finding a job, and to stop EU migrants being able to claim universal credit while looking for work.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 648

This is a legally binding and irreversible deal that delivers for Britain. It means that we will never join the euro, never join a European army and never be part of the Schengen borderless zone.

Soon the people of Britain will have their say on the UK’s membership of the EU. The Prime Minister has announced that he intends to hold the referendum on Thursday 23 June, and that must now be agreed by both Houses of Parliament. We have already published information on the outcome of the Government’s negotiations on the UK’s membership of the EU, as required by the European Union Referendum Act 2015. In time, we will publish information on the rights and obligations resulting from the UK’s membership of the EU, as well as examples of countries that are not members of the EU but have other arrangements with it.

This will be a once-in-a-generation moment to shape the future of our country. Ultimately, it will be for the British people to decide, but the Government have made it clear that we support continued membership of a reformed European Union. I want to set out in more detail the Government’s thinking on renegotiation, but first I will explain some of the benefits—I am sure that Back Benchers will appreciate this—of our membership of the EU.

The Government’s long-term economic plan is delivering economic security for families and businesses, underpinned by sound public finances, by investing in the UK’s future, addressing the productivity challenge and rebalancing the economy towards trade and investment. With turbulence in the global economy, membership of the EU supports that plan by giving British businesses access to the free trade single market and dozens of trade deals across the world. The Government’s deal keeps the EU moving firmly in the right direction. It hardwires competitiveness into the decision making of the EU and commits the EU to pursuing more trade deals with non-EU countries. We contribute a huge amount and get a huge amount in return. We cannot be a force for good in a reformed Europe if we are not at the heart of what is going on. We are a major player—

2.30 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No.11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 4 March.

Business without Debate

Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

Convicted Prisoners Voting Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 649

UK Borders Control Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

Crown Tenancies Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

Working Time Directive (Limitation) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March.

Automatic Electoral Registration (No. 2) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 11 March.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 650

Planning Rules

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

2.31 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker. My apologies for the fact that this debate means that you, the Minister and I will have to spend the last half hour of this parliamentary week together.

I want to talk briefly about some of the planning issues that are impacting on a particular part of my constituency, Haughton Green. For the benefit of the Minister, I will explain that Haughton Green is an urban village. Had he visited the place 60 years ago, he would have found open countryside separating Denton and Haughton Green. That has gradually been filled up, mainly by the creation of a Manchester City Council overspill estate in the late 1950s and 1960s, to the point where there is very little open space separating Denton and Haughton Green, although Haughton Green still classes itself as a village and is proud of its historical identity as a village.

The plan-led system has, in part, protected places such as Haughton Green, but Haughton Green now feels under siege. I first became involved in planning issues in the mid-1990s, when I was successfully elected as a member of Tameside Council representing the Denton West ward. Back then, there was a controversial proposal to build a business park on some open space between Denton and Gorton called Kingswater Park. It was so controversial that the application was called in by two Secretaries of State: the noble Lord Heseltine in 1990 and the noble Lord Prescott in 1998. Ultimately, the planning application never saw the light of day, thankfully.

Let me set the scene in respect of how the people of Haughton Green feel badly let down by the planning system. That started in 2008 with the application for the demolition of the old rectory. The Minister probably will not appreciate that the old rectory is part of a collection of significant Victorian architecture across Denton. It was part of a collection of quirky and unique buildings designed by James Medland and Henry Taylor, who were two of the most important architects at work in the Manchester area during that period. We are very fortunate to have a number of Medland and Taylor buildings in Denton. They were responsible for the grade I listed church of St Anne in Haughton, the grade II* listed rectory of St Anne in Haughton, the grade II* listed extension to St Lawrence’s church in Denton and the grade II listed St Mary the Virgin church in Haughton Green.

Sadly, the old rectory of St Mary the Virgin church in Haughton Green never made it on to the register of listed buildings. English Heritage initially decided not to recommend the building for listing, but—as result of representations by the Denton Local History Society and local residents, led by my friend Margaret Smethurst, and the Manchester Victorian Society—the Department for Culture, Media and Sport asked English Heritage to look again at its recommendation. Sadly, English Heritage refused to reconsider the building for listing, citing the many changes that had been made to the internal and external structure over the years. However, I believe that

26 Feb 2016 : Column 651

enough original features were left to warrant listing the building in its own right, and certainly to do so as part of the collection of Medland and Taylor buildings in and around Denton.

The application for the redevelopment of the old rectory site was passed by Tameside Council, and the application to demolish the old rectory was approved on 30 June 2009. We now have the blight of a derelict site in Meadow Lane, the most beautiful of locations in Haughton Green, because the site has never been brought forward for redevelopment. As a result, we have a lost some pretty significant local architecture.

Local residents, not wanting to lose any more of the unique heritage of the Meadow Lane area, the historic core of the old village of Haughton Green, applied for the grant of conservation area status. The Minister will not know that everybody who goes down Meadow Lane appreciates its beauty and historical character, particularly in the urban area of Denton. Tameside Council was very sympathetic to its becoming a conservation area, but at the time it had what I can only describe as a pretty useless conservation officer. Unless a property was a Cotswolds, chocolate box cottage that had not been in any way altered throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, let alone the 21st century, she came up with every reason why it could not be protected or listed. She pretty much blocked the Meadow Lane area becoming a conservation area.

All has not been lost, however, because Tameside Council found a way around that. It is in the process of consulting local residents about designating the area under a supplementary planning document. I hope that that will offer some residents a say in how the Meadow Lane area, the historic core of Haughton Green, is permitted to develop in future, not least because we still have the blight or eyesore of a big gaping hole where the old rectory once stood. I will work with local residents to make sure that Tameside Council gets that SPD right for the people who live in Haughton Green.

That brings me to the devolution agenda. As the Minister will know, I have raised this several times because I have real concerns about how the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has gone about the initial, so-called public, consultation for its spatial framework. I and my constituents feel that we have been locked out of the process. The GMCA had a call for sites and identified those that were suitable for new housing development across the whole of Greater Manchester. Significantly, however, a very substantial number of infill sites have been identified in and around Haughton Green.

The deadline for public consultation was 11 January. Sadly, I only found out about that not because I was contacted as a Member of Parliament—I was not—but because I noticed that I had retweeted something on Twitter that I thought was linked to health devolution in Greater Manchester. It turned out to relate to this planning process. When I saw it I just about had enough time to put in my own comments. After the consultation deadline passed on 14 January, I raised in business questions whether we could have a debate on the approach of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in respect of its flawed public consultation.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 652

I would argue that nobody is against future development. Greater Manchester needs it as much as anywhere. However, there has to be sufficient public buy-in and there has to be a sensible release of sites across Greater Manchester. Whole swathes of sites are suitable for housing development. Some of the sites in the Haughton Green area may be suitable for the future housing development needs of the people in Haughton Green. The wodge of paper I have here are all the sites that have been identified by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as being suitable for future housing development. These differ in sizes from one extreme, the school playing fields of the former Two Trees secondary school, which have been identified as being suitable for 237 new homes, right the way down to small sites such as a patch of land on Keats Avenue, which has been identified as being suitable for six new homes. In total, in Haughton Green alone, these sites would amount to 423 new homes. I say to the Minister that that is fine, but we need the infrastructure to be able to cope with that. We need to ensure that Haughton Green can cope with the additional new properties.

I urge the Minister to familiarise himself with the “Manchester A-Z”. He will see that Haughton Green is in a cul-de-sac. It is at the end of two country lanes that are now urban roads: Two Trees Lane and Mill Lane. They are the only ways in and out of the entirety of Haughton Green, including the massive Manchester overspill estate that was built in the 1960s. Already, those two lanes are log-jammed at peak times. I urge him to think very carefully about how we pay for the infrastructure if we are going to use all these infill development sites. None of the developers for those individual sites is going to say that they will pay for a new access route into Haughton Green, with the massive capital cost that that would incur. It is reasonableness by degrees, but if we put all the developments together, it is fairly certain that the existing road infrastructure into and out of Haughton Green will not be able to cope. It is struggling as it is. If we are going to use these sites—and I have issues with a number of the sites proposed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority—we need to think about how we do so without generating traffic chaos.

The Haughton Green Methodist chapel is a very early example of a Methodist chapel. It opened in 1810 and is the oldest place of worship in the village. In 1791—I do not know if things have changed that much—the authorities agreed that the district of Denton and Haughton was one of the most uncivilised parts of England. A Wesleyan society was established and the church remained in use from 1810 to 2010. It then moved across the road to the newly refurbished Sunday school building, and this is where the Methodist church still meets to this day.

The old Methodist chapel was built by a speculative developer who did nothing with the old historic building, much to the frustration of local residents, and it quickly fell into dereliction and the churchyard became overgrown. It was put up for auction last year and bought by new owners. As the Minister and other Members will appreciate, when a building goes up for auction, the rumour mill starts as people wonder what is happening, and some of those rumours led to local concern.

For that reason, a month or so ago, I, together with councillors Claire Reid and Mike Fowler, and George Newton, a local community activist, met the new owners

26 Feb 2016 : Column 653

in my constituency office. They confirmed that some of the rumours were correct and that they intended to convert the building to a community centre and a new place of worship. As the Minister will appreciate, that is acceptable for a class D1 property—it was a place of worship and will still be a place of worship—and so no planning permission is required.

I want to drill down into the community centre side of the issue. Nearby, we have the Haughton Green centre, the Oasis centre, the Green Park centre, Haughton Green Methodist church, St Mary’s church and St John Fisher Catholic church, all of which have community rooms, buildings and facilities. There is no need for another community centre in Haughton Green, unless it is for a community that does not currently reside in Haughton Green, and that is where there are concerns. It has been confirmed that the Methodist church is to become an Islamic community centre and place of worship.

I have no interest in extending some of the views expressed by some of my constituents, but there is a large degree of concern, because it potentially means lots of people coming to Haughton Green to use a community building that is not for the community of Haughton Green. I will briefly detail the ward profile: Denton South has a population of 11,230; 98.2% is white; 77.7% is Christian; and 0.5% is Muslim. As sure as anything, the people using the community centre and place of worship will be coming from outside.

The church is on Two Trees lane—one of the two lanes I told the Minister were already gridlocked. If the Methodists were coming to Haughton Green, in the year 2016, they would almost certainly not get planning permission for a Methodist church on Two Trees lane without parking facilities. There is obvious frustration and concern among local residents about traffic, but local councillors are working to see whether traffic regulation orders can be put in place. There is also a concern about the graves. The council will almost certainly not permit the new owners to remove the graves from the churchyard. Furthermore, the new owners have put in a new mezzanine floor, suggesting it will be used by an awful lot of people. I have contacted the county fire officer to see whether fire safety regulations can invoke the need for a planning application.

I have raised those three issues, because, put together, they have left the people of Haughton Green feeling locked out of decisions about how their village is developing. Given the relaxation of planning rules and regulations, I fear this will become a growing problem across every constituency. Unless residents can buy into the planning system, unless their voice counts and unless their vision for their community matters, I fear that the disconnect between politicians and the public will just widen. That is why I urge the Minister to listen to the concerns of the people of Haughton Green. I will do my bit to ensure that their views, their voice and their concerns are raised at every appropriate level from local government right up to the Minister. If we believe in localism, we need to make sure that local people have a say in how their towns and villages develop in the future.

2.50 pm

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): I congratulate the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) on securing the debate.

26 Feb 2016 : Column 654

I want to pay tribute to his clear and energetic campaigning on behalf of his residents. As we have seen here today, he is fully committed not just to urban regeneration but to ensuring that we see the right kind of environment and community for his residents—something we all want to see right across the country. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that for reasons of propriety, as the Minister for Housing and Planning, I cannot comment on particular planning proposals or draft local plan documents. I am nevertheless happy to respond in general terms to the issues that the hon. Gentleman has aired today. I hope to suggest some possible ways forward for his constituents.

Having listened to what the hon. Gentleman has said, it seems to me that his concerns relate more to policy, both local and national, than to rules. This Government’s expectations of the planning system are set out in the national planning policy framework. It is an important document and one of its important objectives is to promote the highest standards of architecture and design as well to ensure that the historical environment is allowed to play its part in place-making.

This is not just a matter of ensuring that conservation areas and buildings listed for their architectural and historical interest are safe. The character and distinctiveness of our villages, towns and cities are often dependent on townscape features that are not designated as heritage assets, as the hon. Gentleman outlined very well. Buildings, for instance, have clearly accrued over time and tell us about our history; they have varied texture and human-scale design; and they avoid the “sameness” that in reality spoil too many of the town centres and developments that we have seen over the last few years.

Local authorities, of course, must ensure that appropriate roads and other hard infrastructure are there to support the developments they approve, but green infrastructure matters, as well. Trees and open spaces, whether or not protected by designation, play a vital role in place-making and promote public health. New infill development that shows care and respect to a town or village’s character and context can not only raise the spirits, but help to attract visitors and businesses and increase property values. The framework also makes it clear that local authorities should prioritise suitable brownfield land wherever practicable.

Whatever the development planned, it is best to make sure that the community is involved early on and is clear about its ability to get involved. Local residents have three main opportunities to have their say about future development: plan-making, neighbourhood planning and directly through planning applications. I shall touch on those in turn in the next few minutes.

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council is in the early stages of scoping a supplementary planning document for the area. The council has already engaged planning and design consultants to lead early community engagement. I think that is a good thing, but we need to make sure that that engagement goes forward. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will urge his constituents to contribute their views through the plan-making process.

One of this Government’s ambitions in determinations for localism is to make sure that local people feel empowered and if possible take the lead on the approach to designs adopted in their area. If there is concern that buildings have not been listed for their architectural or historical interest, and that they are vulnerable, a community

26 Feb 2016 : Column 655

can use its local plan to create a local list of heritage buildings so that their merit is not ignored. Local people can also investigate a new design toolkit, which has been launched by the Prince’s Foundation and is entitled “Beauty-In-My-Back-Yard”. I commend it as something for the hon. Gentleman and his constituents to have a look at as providing a possible basis for dialogue with Tameside council and developers.

As the hon. Gentleman rightly outlined, there is the wider context of the Greater Manchester spatial framework. The 10 authorities of Greater Manchester have a long and successful history of working together to drive economic growth. The devolution deal provides further opportunities for that. At the local level, each individual authority will have to sign up and be accountable in the local area. Each authority must consult and involve the local area so that local people will have a say over development in their areas. I encourage all the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Haughton Green to take part in the consultation, and I hope that they will consider engaging in neighbourhood planning as well, because that would be a massive step forward.

Andrew Gwynne: I agree with everything that the Minister has said so far, but local people need to know that a consultation is taking place. That is the problem that we had with the call for sites.

Brandon Lewis: That is a good point. It is important for local authorities to work hard to engage their local communities. However, neighbourhood planning allows people to have a direct say in the development of their areas. Not only can they work on the design of the plan, but every resident in the neighbourhood has a vote in a referendum. I am pleased that, so far, 88% of people have voted “yes” in neighbourhood planning referendums. If people are interested and involved, they will have confidence in the process and get behind it.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned parks and similar areas. We feel that people should be encouraged and empowered to have a say in what happens to assets of

26 Feb 2016 : Column 656

that kind. The community right to bid allows pieces of land, and buildings such as churches, to be listed as assets of community value when that is appropriate. I should be happy to give the hon. Gentleman further details of the listing process, which is extremely straightforward and simple, and can prove very successful in protecting assets. It is necessary to ensure that the right assets are protected, and the community is best placed to do that. We need a localised, flexible and reformed planning system that is driven by communities, and enables them to make decisions that are right for their areas. The people who know best are the people who live in those areas, and that is what neighbourhood planning, and assets of community value, are all about.

The people of Haughton Green, like those elsewhere, have statutory opportunities to comment and criticise when a local plan is revised, when a spatial plan is developed, and every time a planning application is made. Even if land is allocated for development in the spatial framework or local plan, a particular planning application can still be refused permission in response to evidence and well-argued objections. That brings me back to something that the hon. Gentleman has heard me say at the Dispatch Box a few times before. We want more homes to be built, but we also want them to be the right homes, in the appropriate places and for all tenures.

There are many opportunities for local people to have their hopes and concerns reflected in our modern, reformed planning system, especially if they have volunteered to work on a neighbourhood plan that is brought to a successful conclusion and adopted following a local referendum, and there are many ways in which to secure well-loved and useful local buildings and protect them from unnecessary loss. I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents will take those opportunities on board, have confidence in their ability to use them, and enjoy success in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

2.58 pm

House adjourned.