Treaty on European Union

Part of Orders of the Day — European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 4th March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells , Hertford and Stortford 8:15 pm, 4th March 1993

I shall now move on and begin what I would like to say on the issue that arises on the group of amendments and the development of Europe-wide parties. I want to draw the Committee's attention to the declarations at the back of the Maastricht treaty. They may be at the back, but, as we who have sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and considered the Single European Act have long recognised, they are important, because the preambles and the declarations set out objectives and inform the Court of Justice how to interpret the treaty.

I want to draw the attention of the Committee, and especially that of those who are worried about the federal tendency of the Community, to the declarations dealing with the conference of parliaments. The Foreign Office's booklet, "Europe after Maastricht", points out on page 18, paragraph 128: Thirty-three declarations are appended to the Treaty on European Union. These are not part of the Treaty but constitute a political commitment and form part of the context of the Treaty for the purposes of its interpretation including the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance as agreements between member states on the interpretation of the Treaty article concerned. These include the declaration on the conference of parliaments. I remind the House that the declaration on the conference of parliaments invites the European Parliament and national parliaments to meet as necessary as a Conference of the Parliaments or assize.

The Conference will be consulted on the main features of the European Union, without prejudice to the powers of the European Parliament or the rights of national parliaments. The President of the European Council and the President of the Commission will report to each session of the conference of parliaments on the state of the union. The immediately preceding declaration on the role of national parliaments in the European union invites the parliaments to become more involved with the activities of the European union. It says that, to that end, the exchange of information between national parliaments and the European Parliament should be stepped up—and the document continues in that vein.

As Europe evolves, we should control it, direct it and play our part in it. I suggest that we did that for the first time in the negotiation of the Maastricht treaty, in which we played a central role. Thus, we got much of what we wanted to see into the treaty, including a move away from the federal tendency of many of the other parts of Europe. We did that by negotiating right there at the centre.