Clause 6 — Parliamentary control of decisions
Orders of the Day
William Hague (Shadow Foreign Secretary, Foreign Affairs; Richmond (Yorks), Conservative)
I had not considered that point, which the hon. Gentleman makes powerfully. One need consider such matters for only 10 or 15 minutes to see how strong the case is and how innumerable are the points that can be made to show why we need primary legislation in this event.
I have given an example of what could happen in the area of foreign policy, but that is not the only provision for far-reaching change built into the treaty and explicitly provided for in the Bill. Talk of moving from a special legislative procedure to an ordinary legislative procedure may sound dry and technical, but that jargon disguises—deliberately, one suspects—provisions that would have profound effects on the way in which this country is governed and policed. The ratchet clause would allow the Government to agree on a mere motion of the House and a mere motion of the other place an end to national vetoes, with the sole right to proposed legislation belonging to the Commission, on various measures ranging from visas to passports, residence permits, family law, co-operation between police, customs and every other law enforcement agency and even, in article 89 on the treaty on the functioning of the EU, what rights police forces have to operate in other countries.
The notion that a quick debate and a snap vote at a time of the Government's choosing should suffice for scrutiny or comprise adequate debate on such matters is risible. There can be no grounds to trust Government's word that they would never sign up to any of those things. Time and again they have made promises that they would not hand over powers to Europe, particularly on justice and home affairs, and time and again they have done exactly that, not least through the treaty. They said that
"we restate our agreement to justice and home affairs remaining outside Community competence"—[ Hansard, 16 December 1996; Vol. 287, c. 617.]
They said that just before they agreed that those powers should be within Community competence.
The Government agreed to put asylum and immigration under Community competence within months of coming to office at the Amsterdam negotiations, and the rest of it comes under Community competence in the treaty. They said:
"We will insist that unanimity remain for...key areas of criminal procedural law".
in their White Paper on the constitution, shortly before they gave up our vetoes on criminal procedure in the constitution—provisions that are reproduced word for word in article 82 of the treaty.