Treaty of Lisbon (No. 2) — (2nd Allotted Day)

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 30th January 2008.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Shadow Secretary of State 1:47 pm, 30th January 2008

That is a completely bogus somersault of an argument, which I do not accept. I shall come on to why what is in the treaty is, in my view, harmful, but it does not necessarily relate to the simple aspects of liberalisation.

Only last September, the Commission published the third tier of its liberalisation proposals. Let me confess openly that we agreed with what it said. There were two options on the table: they were, in fact, the EU's most aggressive proposals so far. If we require proof of their potential effectiveness, it is that they are vigorously opposed by the French and German Governments, neither of whom operate the liberal, free-flowing energy market that we operate in Britain.

The Government's claim that this will all help the progress of market liberalisation looks even more specious when we consider that one of the most fundamental clauses in the foundation treaty—that on competition, which calls for an internal market

"where competition is free and undistorted"

—has been deleted at the behest of Mr. Sarkozy. Far the most astonishing aspect of the whole process is the fact that our feeble ministerial negotiators have returned to the House waving a sheet of paper, flushed with triumph and boasting of a new era for Europe, but with one of the most crucial planks of competition policy axed by the French, thus leaving us vulnerable to the protectionist instincts of some of the EU's member states.

The Government's position would be comic if it were not so serious. The great paradox is that while they proclaim that these unnecessary articles on energy will drive liberalisation further, they have failed to prevent the removal of a clause that shores up one of the Union's greatest strengths since its inception: the dynamic and competitive internal market.

Let us turn to the treaty itself, and examine further exactly what it says about energy and what it might actually mean. As always with these labyrinthine manuscripts, the devil is in the detail. The House does not have a magnificent record when it comes to scrutiny of European legislation, and true to form the Government have not given us anything like enough time for informed debate, but we must make do with what we have.

The treaty establishes energy as a "shared competence". That is in the new articles 2A to 2E that the treaty of Lisbon inserts into the treaty of Rome. No such relationship currently exists between the Union and member states—there is merely a reference in the Rome treaty to "passing measures" on energy—so, for the sake of clarity, we should reiterate what we mean by "shared competence", lest there be any confusion about the extent to which this changes our relationship with Brussels in matters of energy.

Reference to areas under shared competence means that the EU and member states may both adopt legislation, but that member states have freedom to do so only to the extent that the EU has not. In practice, that means that in the eyes of the EU and its legal order it is European law, not the laws of individual member states, that will enjoy supremacy. The word "supremacy" itself may not be in the treaty, but the principle of superiority— [Interruption.] The Minister for Europe may well laugh. This is the deceit about which the whole country gets so angry: ministerial assurances, if that is what that chuckle meant, count for so little. In the end it is the words in the treaty that matter, not the scoffing of the Minister.

As I was saying, although the word "supremacy" may not be in the treaty, the principle of superiority shines through on every page of this document.