I am always very glad to observe a Minister receiving a rebuke from the Chair. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has retained his sense of humour, which was evidenced by his question.
The Single European Act is quite different from these provisions. There is a huge difference between what is provided for in the Act that we passed in 1986 and the enormous changes resulting from this treaty's impact on our democratic rights—not only the rights of Parliament but the rights of the country as a whole.
The provisions with which we are dealing commence primarily with the European Parliament. Following what my right hon. Friend the Minister said a moment ago, I should like to make a point about the way in which the powers being granted by this treaty to the European Parliament dovetail with the arrangements under article 138a, which says:
Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union.
Contrary to what the Minister of State has just said—as if this were a matter of no interest or consequence to anybody—what we have here represents a complete change from the Single European Act. The fact that we are dealing with political parties at European level—something to be regarded as a factor for integration—is a completely new dimension.
Let us consider for a moment the status of the European People's party in the European Parliament. That party's constitution is unashamedly and avowedly federal. Its objective is a united states of Europe. It has no doubt that that is the direction in which it wants to go.