European Communities (Amendment) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 11th July 2001.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:50 pm, 11th July 2001

As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am naturally very well behaved, but just occasionally I need a prod from you and I am always exceptionally grateful to you for it. I shall not be tempted down the path of unvirtuous behaviour by the hon. Gentleman.

The people of Ireland have made an important decision, and we should treat it with respect. There is a real argument as to whether it is constitutionally proper for the House to proceed with consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill at all. I subscribe to the view, which has also been enunciated by my hon. Friend Mr. Cash, that we should not consider this measure at this time. It is disrespectful to the people of Ireland and a violation of the principles that govern consideration of these matters. If one country chooses positively not to ratify the treaty, the ratification procedure should not proceed. Eminent lawyers are of that opinion, as well as many politicians.

If we are to proceed, however, let me be characteristically generous-spirited and accept that there is an argument for proceeding, although it is not an argument that I accept. Surely Labour Members can see that there is at least as strong an argument for proceeding more cautiously, for allowing more time, for recognising the case for greater reflection and for acknowledging—and thereby paying tribute to—the fact that hon. Members might wish to table more amendments as the debate proceeds.