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With this, it will be convenient to take the following amendments:
No. 152, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
No. 205, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 147, inserted Article 176A TEC (TFEU), providing for an EU energy policy; and
No. 33, page 1, line 13, after second 'to,' insert—
'(i) European Union competence on energy; and
Amendment No. 204 would remove energy from the list of the European Union's shared competences as set out in the Lisbon treaty. The article on shared competences is, of course, taken practically verbatim from the EU constitution. It should also surprise no one that the way the article sets out shared competences was opposed by the Government when it was proposed. As the Government noted at the time in their amendment,
"energy is explicitly referred to here for the first time" as a shared competence. Yet it is clear that the current status of energy has not prevented the Commission from strongly and rightly pursuing market liberalisation in that area. The claim that the new energy provisions in the treaty are in any way needed for what has always been a cross-party view of the right place of energy policy in the EU—that it should primarily be there to ensure free energy markets—is in no way borne out by the evidence.
If the hon. Gentleman believes in a European single market and in European energy markets, why should that not be a shared competence? We are talking about a single market so there should be a single authority overseeing it.
The simple answer is that the powers already exist in the current treaty base to allow that market to operate. If the hon. Gentleman bears with me, I shall go on to illustrate that.
The Government's original amendment goes on to note that the text working is problematic in other ways. It is "exhaustive" rather than "illustrative", failing to make it clear that
"some of these policies...encompass both shared competence and supporting action".
The amendment also raised concerns about the article's failure to refer the listed competence to the details of the treaty later in the text. That was an important point—and the lawyers who were advising the Government when they were negotiating in the original convention on the EU constitution were awake and doing their job.
We agree with all the criticisms of the article that the Government made when they were arguing against the power. We also agree with another amendment tabled by the Government representative that was even more trenchant in its criticism, stating that
"shared competences should be a residual category. They should therefore not be listed explicitly."
Our amendment would, therefore, simply enact what was Government policy several years ago—a policy that was dropped without explanation and for no good reason. It would ensure that the status quo—whereby energy market liberalisation is proceeding, albeit not as fast as we would like—is maintained. It would ensure that the EU did not extend its powers to cover broader questions of energy policy that, in our view, should remain a matter for the member states.
The Government have told us in Committee after Committee in this House that the liberalisation of European energy markets is proceeding, but the French and the Germans are not obeying the rules, and why would a new treaty make them more likely to do so?
I will touch on that shortly. In the earlier debate, Opposition Members repeatedly challenged the Government to justify why they needed new powers to bring about energy market liberalisation when the Commission, which I am about to praise, has been making progress in this area—the competition directorate-general has worked very hard—under the powers available in the existing treaty base. Ministers wriggled and ducked and dived, but they never managed to give a convincing answer to that question, and we will find out whether we hear anything on it in the debate on this amendment. Thus far, they have failed to explain to the House why they need powers on energy in the Lisbon treaty to bring about liberalisation of that market, when the Commission itself believes that it already has sufficient powers, and, indeed, has recently issued new directives in that area.
I also want to say a few words about amendment No. 205, which would strike out the new article on energy. As has already been said, the Government could not in the past have been clearer in their opposition to it. As their reasoned objection at the time succinctly stated,
"this provision is unnecessary as all aspects of energy policy are effectively covered elsewhere in the Treaty" such as under the "single market" and the "environment".
That was the Government's argument.
This is a central fact in the debate. In their own words, the Government have admitted that the treaty adds nothing that we actually need. It brings no benefit at all. The Government were right then and are wrong now, and have yet to explain why they let this article go through in the negotiations, other than because they negotiated poorly. We do not need this to act together on the environment, an area where the European Union has an important role to play. The emissions trading scheme is far from perfect, but it is up and running, and we have not needed this treaty to do that or to reform it.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be making an argument that energy policy was present in the previous treaties and was being implemented in various ways. Was it then in fact, if not in name, a shared competence?
I understand that in energy market liberalisation the Commission has mainly relied on article 95 of the treaty establishing the European Community, which deals with competition and markets generally. I understand that it has been using that successfully to help to bring about energy market liberalisation, and that the competition directorate-general has been quite aggressive in that regard. We do not need the new powers in the Lisbon treaty to press forward energy market liberalisation.
We heard in the earlier part of the debate, but it bears repetition, that last September the European Commission launched the third legislative package on electricity and gas markets. Its package headline says that it will
"ensure that all European citizens can take advantage of the numerous benefits provided by a truly competitive energy market."
If the European Commission not only admits but boasts that it is able to achieve the goal of a truly competitive energy market in the EU—a goal that we firmly support—using only the EU's current treaties and powers, it is fatuous for Ministers to claim that this energy article is needed or that opposition to it or to the treaty as a whole shows any lack of support for or seriousness about a single market in energy. If people do not believe me, they should ring not Conservative headquarters but the European Commission and ask it.
Article 176A is a source of concern. In particular, it is not clear to what kind of legislation paragraph 1(b), on ensuring the security of energy supply, will lead. Ministers have not been clear about that either. That was touched on earlier, but again I do not think we achieved absolute clarity.
I may surprise the hon. Gentleman on this occasion by not reading out part of a document. The argument that I understand him to be making is one to which I referred earlier in the themed debate. He seems to be saying that the bit he seeks to remove via his amendment is redundant in the treaty. I am not sure that I agree with that argument, although I understand it. He then seems not to follow the logic of that. I think he was here when I mentioned looking through the telescope the wrong way. If the piece that he seeks to remove were included, would it put a brake on the liberalisation that the House generally agrees that we wish? I understand the argument about redundancy—as a lawyer, I perhaps like it—but looking at it in the round, one has to ask whether it is really a problem if the provision were included. He says that we can have liberalisation under existing treaties, agreements and so on—that might well be the case—but is it a problem if it is in this treaty anyway? Would there be a downside, apart from inelegant wording and redundancy?
The hon. Gentleman knows that I have a lot of time for him, and I have to tell him that there would be a problem. He ought to ask his own Front-Bench team about this, because they clearly thought there was a problem when they tried to oppose the measures so firmly in the first place. If there is no problem, why were the Government arguing to have these powers taken out of the treaty when it was first negotiated? Perhaps he would have a quiet word with the Minister in the Tea Room later.
More worrying is the effect that article 176A could have on the long-established Community doctrine of implied competence, to which reference has been made. It would not be advantageous to this country if the EU had effective sole competence to make agreements on energy supply with third countries—our energy relationship with Norway is a case in point. The principle of shared competence on energy, the new article specifically on energy and the legislation that would undoubtedly flow from that would tend to eat away at our right to conclude such agreements. At this point I gladly give way to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, not least because I remember that he was present when I made my maiden speech in this House.
And it was a very good speech. The hon. Gentleman referred to the importance of energy security. Does he agree with the unanimous view of the Foreign Affairs Committee in our report on Russia, published in November last year, that we should welcome the increasing moves towards diversification of energy sources by the European Union, and any measures that we take to strengthen a coherent and more robust collective EU approach towards Russia and how it tries to use energy as a political weapon?
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee asks whether we agreed with "any measures", and that is a question in principle. The answer in principle is that we do not agree with "any measures"; we are here to debate the detail of the treaty line by line. The Chairman attempts to inveigle me, but he will have to forgive me if I do not walk into his little trap. I will say, however, that I do agree with the conclusion of the Committee's other report that, on foreign affairs, the constitution and the Lisbon treaty were almost exactly the same.
The treaty's provisions on energy sum up much of what is wrong with the treaty as a whole. The provisions are unneeded and unwanted, and their presence is testimony to the Government's utter ineptitude at negotiating in the EU. The provisions offer no benefit to this country and neither we nor our European partners would be harmed by their rejection. They only have the potential to harm, and that is why we have tabled the amendment to reject them this evening.
I wish to make a few points about the importance of an EU-co-ordinated European energy approach. The realities of the coming decades will be such that energy will be one of the most important issues in international relations. It will be a global geopolitical issue.
I referred in my intervention a moment ago to the Foreign Affairs Committee's report on global security and Russia, which is relevant to this debate. In that report, we highlighted the fact that for many years to come, Russia will be dependent on European Union markets for its gas and oil. Russia will need to export that energy, and it will not be able to diversify sufficiently quickly in terms of exports to China and other parts of the world. Russia will depend on the currency that it will get from its sales to the European market.
At the same time, European member states have had different approaches to energy supply. We had the controversy over the pipeline to Germany under the Baltic sea, which caused great difficulties in the relations between the German Government and the Poles and Lithuanians. Another issue is the supply of gas from southern Europe. For all those reasons, the amendments do not take account of the realities that the European Union confronts. I am therefore not in favour of the amendments and I hope that we will support the treaty as it stands. It will take us forward to a more coherent and co-ordinated approach, both in the internal market of the European Union and, more importantly, to the issues of diversification and energy security in relation to the major energy producers in the world. That does not just mean Russia; it includes how we deal with north Africa, the Gulf and the countries in the Caspian area, which are all potential sources of energy supply for the EU. The UK is rather more advantaged than some countries: we have a long-term relationship with Norway, liquefied natural gas from Qatar is coming on stream, and we will have other sources of supply. Those in central and eastern Europe are more dependent on gas and oil from Russia.
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument correctly: because Germany and Poland disagreed on an energy matter, there should be a European competency that forces the European view, whatever it is, on to the nation states? Is that not an argument for a superstate?
No, that is a complete misrepresentation of what I said. My argument is that because there are divisions within the EU, Russia is able to pick off individual EU member states, bully smaller countries and even attempt to bully some larger ones. Some countries have gone along with that to some extent. It is deplorable that the Russian Government have bullied Estonia and Lithuania. They have even bullied the UK over matters unrelated to energy, such as the British Council and the murder of Mr. Litvinenko.
Energy is not only a green issue now; Stern showed that it is an economic issue as well. Now, because of climate change and the fact that it can also cause wars, energy is a security issue. That is why the EU acting with a shared competence on the matter is so important.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The EU united with a common voice can stand up to Russia and say that Russia's behaviour is unacceptable. Similarly, it can act in climate change and world trade negotiations and many other spheres much more effectively than the individual states alone could act. No matter how big a country—whether its population is 80 million, like that of Germany, or 60 million, like that of the UK, Italy and France—it cannot have the weight of the collective of 400 million or 500 million people. In a world where the economic focus is shifting to Asia, the only way that we as Europeans will be able to have an effective voice in this century, which will see the rise of countries such as India, China and Brazil alongside the existing US economy, is collectively, using our international networks and policies.
The hon. Gentleman's argument this evening is an argument for scrapping the borders around 27 countries and introducing the united states of Europe. That is exactly what we do not want.
It is good to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Michael, and rewarding to see the House of Commons at its best today. We have seen the cut and thrust of debate, with attempts to outwit and challenge Front Benchers made by Back Benchers—and that is only on the Conservative Benches. [ Interruption. ] I interpret the absence of Back Benchers from my party as meaning that they see no need to challenge me from behind—unlike the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, who suffered during the earlier debate.
The Conservative amendments are unnecessary, because they are based on the nonsense that we have heard from Conservative Members today—that the treaty opens the way for draconian EU action on energy, crushing national interests before it. Rather closer to the mark are the remarks of WWF, the Green Alliance and the Institute for European Environmental Policy, which praise the treaty, saying that
"It emphasises climate change and makes it easier to adopt greener energy policies."
Perhaps I can serve as a substitute for the Back Benchers that the hon. Gentleman does not have. Does he share my scintilla of doubt about why the Government oppose the measures that he is praising and they have put forward as a good thing?
That is not for me to answer. The hon. Gentleman should ask the Minister. [Interruption.] I have no idea why the Government would change their position on any measure. It is up to them to answer that.
The WWF, the Green Alliance and the Institute for European Environmental Policy called the changes in article 176 "momentous", not because it establishes the list of shared competences, but because it
"will empower the institutions to adopt Directives and Regulations not only for the sake of the internal energy market, but also to ensure security of supply and"— this is key for those organisations—
"to promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy."
Those groups are clarifying the fact that it is the policy direction contained in the treaty which is significant. It is important to identify energy as a shared competence. No great new powers are being conferred; there is just a new and clearer direction. WWF and the others are worried that the red lines that the Government have negotiated have conceded too much. Their statement goes on to say that the new energy article
"shall not affect a Member State's right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply...This limits the scope for ambitious EU initiatives on energy policy, including those with environmental goals...many measures that would be relevant from a sustainable development perspective are bound to affect the choice between different sources of energy; in fact that is their very purpose."
Conservative Members were worried about removing descriptions of unrestricted competition, but in one sense Stern has told us to intervene in the market and influence it in a way that helps the planet and the future economy, so that proposal is not surprising.
I support the red lines. They are important provisions and should remain, but the environmental organisations' concerns illustrate how far from reality the position of Conservative Front Benchers is, and how unnecessary the amendments are.
Given that the words and provisions of the treaty do matter, especially as we are discussing them in Committee, is the hon. Gentleman not concerned that article 176 would give the EU power to prevent Gazprom from buying energy providers in the EU?
There is a common misunderstanding on the Conservative Benches that shared competences mean European competences. Shared competences are clearly defined in the treaty: they are shared between the European Union and the member states. There is nothing in the treaty that suggests to me that they will be used against the interests of member states.
The Second Deputy Chairman:
Order. If hon. Members are attempting to give way, it would be helpful if they indicated clearly—yes or no. Then the Chair will know what to do. Is the hon. Gentleman giving way?
On the shared competences, member states can continue to legislate in those areas if the EU decides not to, but if it decides that it wants to, we cannot. That is in essence what a shared competence means. Does the hon. Gentleman understand that?
The situation with qualified majority voting is not fundamentally changing— [Interruption.] There is, in effect, a shared competence now. All the treaty does is to define clearly which are the shared competences, and to make that a clearer forum for policy making. That is what the green organisations are praising, and that is the advantage of the treaty. There is not the massive shift of power that the hon. Gentleman seems to fear.
May I add to the hon. Gentleman's response to Mr. Francois? The point is surely that new article 3b of the Lisbon treaty, on page 13, says:
"Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States".
In other words, the shared competence means that member states will act as they choose, and the Union will act only if it is required to do so because national action will not achieve the agreed objectives.
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for that clarification of the principle of subsidiarity, which still underlies this treaty as it did others.
Let me move on to the amendments. It is interesting to note that the amendments tabled by Back-Bench Conservatives are more or less indistinguishable in effect from those tabled by Front-Bench Conservatives. We feared that the Europhobes would press down on the Front Bench—but they seem to have captured it. [ Interruption. ] I shall come to the subject of whether amendments are necessary in a moment, but we agree with the thrust of the treaty— [ Interruption. ]
As I was saying, the amendments tabled by those on the Conservative Front Bench are indistinguishable in their effect, and sometimes in their wording, from those tabled by those on the Back Benches. The Europhobia of some on the Conservative Back Benches has recaptured their Front-Bench spokesmen.
Amendment No. 204 is a sniper amendment, which would delete the word "energy" from the consolidated text of the amended Rome treaty. In that sense, it is close to amendment No. 33. The other two amendments, Nos. 152 and 205, are blunderbuss amendments that try to take out any reference to energy wherever they can find one. All the amendments are aimed at changing the historical position. Energy was in practice a shared competence, even if it was not defined as such. It might have been shared in a rather obscure and complicated way, but the sharing of roles between the European Economic Community, as it originally was, and the member states dates back to the origins of the organisation. There was the European Coal and Steel Community—coal, after all, is a source of energy—and the European Atomic Energy Community, regardless of whether we would have agreed with that. Through Maastricht and beyond, successive Conservative Governments supported the principle that the EU was sometimes the most appropriate level at which to act on energy, while at other times the member state would be the most appropriate level. The treaty clarifies and consolidates that.
If amendment No. 204 were to exclude energy from that consolidated and clarified list, that could be interpreted as removing energy from the list of shared competences in which it was previously included. That would not mean that we would simply go back to square one, as has been claimed, and the time before the Lisbon treaty. If we made the amendment and the treaty was passed, we would have gone back further, reversed the historical position and removed energy from the list of shared competences.
What implications would that have? Measures such as the renewables directive would no longer be possible. It would not be possible to have the fun that we, and the Conservative Front Benchers, had with the Government about their failure to meet their original aspiration of providing 20 per cent. of the electricity supply from renewable energy. Attempts to compare and contrast the Government's policy on feed-in tariffs and renewable obligations would all have to take place domestically; we would not be able to use the European dimension in the argument, as energy would no longer be a European competence.
Clearly that would be nonsense in an age when we need cross-border co-operation to tackle climate change, and the consolidation and security of supply in energy markets. Those effects on the energy market need to operate across all 27 nations. It would be an utterly retrograde step to repatriate the whole of energy policy. In practice, of course, that cannot happen. A treaty amended in that way belongs in some fantasy land inhabited by those on the Conservative Front Bench, because these are basically wrecking amendments.
The amendments deal with that part of the Bill, as opposed to the treaty, that refers to the exclusion of common foreign and security policy. However, that element of the Bill is a little superfluous, as it merely restates the obvious—that a common foreign and security policy is not part of the treaty. In contrast, the things that the amendments would exclude are part of the treaty, and the legal result of accepting the amendments would be that the Bill would fail to ratify the Lisbon treaty.
The hon. Gentleman says that that would be excellent, but I am not sure that his Front-Bench colleagues agree, as they are keeping a bit quiet. Accepting the amendments would amount to a rejection of the Lisbon treaty, and would leave no possibility that aspects of it could be renegotiated, as the Conservatives imagine.
The simpler and more honest path for the Conservatives would be to follow the recommendation from my hon. Friend Mr. Clegg that we hold a referendum allowing us to say yes or no to the treaty after we have ratified it. We could honestly vote yes in such a referendum, but I presume that members of the Conservative Front Bench would campaign for a no vote in it—and so for our exit from the EU.
The hon. Gentleman is right: we should let the people decide on such a matter, but to bring that about we should not use strange devices like the wrecking amendments before the House tonight.
The process that I have set out would be less painful, and it would also protect Members on the Conservative Front Bench from the sort of attacks by the Eurosceptic and the Europhile wings of their party to which they have been subjected this evening. That is why I recommend that approach to them, and why the amendments should be withdrawn.
I begin by apologising to Mr. Francois for missing his opening remarks, but I shall read them in tomorrow's Hansard with interest.
My hon. Friend Mike Gapes made some comments about Russia's relationship with the EU. In that connection, may I say that I appreciate the speech that Charles Hendry made when he wound up the earlier debate? It was both sensible and wise.
Russia is a major power. When we are talking about Gazprom, as various hon. Members have this afternoon, we are dealing with the interdependence of the EU and Russia in the energy market. It is an open market, in which buyers and sellers—producers and consumers—operate at arm's length from each other, but the following facts should be borne in mind. For example, in 2003, 58 per cent. of Russian oil exports were to the EU, as were 88 per cent. of its total natural gas exports. In addition, 22 per cent. of total net EU oil imports in 2003 came from Russia, representing 16 per cent. of all European oil consumption—that is, by members states and others. Finally, 32 per cent. of Europe's gas imports in 2003 came from Russia, representing 19 per cent. of total gas consumption by member states. Those figures show that we need to be a little cautious when we castigate Gazprom, and Russia's relations with the EU as a whole.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton talked about what I call the Bavarian question. That is, if there is a shortage in Bavaria, will liquefied natural gas on its way to Milford Haven from Qatar be diverted to Bavaria? If that is the case, I assure the House that Gazprom will be there much quicker.
I am interested in the case that the hon. Gentleman has just made, but does he agree that, in current circumstances and on the evidence of the past couple of years, the most likely cause of a crisis in the supply of gas to Bavaria or elsewhere in continental Europe would be the fact that Gazprom had shut off the supply? Is that not why we should be concerned that supplies from this country might be diverted elsewhere?
We must get away from seeing Gazprom as a huge bogey man or bear on the international gas and oil market. Gazprom is successful because it is a paying concern, and it has no interest in cutting off supplies to Bavaria, thereby cutting off receipts to the Russian budget. I remarked earlier that some 47 per cent. of the Russian budget comes from oil and gas exports to Europe and trade. In an interdependent world, it is not in Gazprom's interest to cut off gas supplies to Bavaria. There is absolutely no reason for it to do so. There is a politicisation of the debate on Russian oil and gas that, in my view, is influenced and directed by the United States of America, to the detriment of the European Union and certainly to the detriment of our supply of oil and gas from Russia.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the intervention of Mr. Brady underlines Conservative Members' difficulty understanding the nature of the European Union—namely, that it is a two-way street? If a gas shortage were looming in Birmingham because the LNG ship from Qatar had not arrived in Milford Haven, gas could be diverted from Bavaria to Birmingham.
That is the essence of the interconnector. When my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South spoke of a common energy policy, Mr. Evans intervened to ask whether that would result in a united states of Europe. The essence of EU energy policy is that it is up to each member state to go its own way within a supranational EU framework.
I return to article 176A. It has been quoted many times today, but I make no apologies for repeating it:
"Such measures"— that is, those in article 176A—
"shall not affect a Member State's right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply".
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South, that nuclear energy, which we debated earlier, was deliberately not included in the European Commission's proposals, because it is up to each member state to decide for itself what it wishes to do on that issue. The point was made that France relies on it a lot and Austria not at all, and that Poland relies on coal. That is the diversity of the European Union; one of the themes of the EU is unity in diversity. We accept diversity and welcome it, and we allow each of the 27 member states to breathe and develop under a supranational umbrella.
Amendment No. 204 relates to article 2C, and would remove the phrase relating to energy. As Martin Horwood said, it is one of the Opposition's wrecking amendments. Let us look at article 2C; what is it that the Opposition dislike about shared competence? Do they dislike the internal market, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South rightly pointed out, Lady Thatcher gave us in 1986? Are they opposed to social policy? Are they opposed to economic, social and territorial cohesion? Are they opposed to agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources, or the environment? Are they against consumer protection, transport, trans-European networks, the area of freedom, security and justice or common safety concerns in public health matters? All of those are defined in the treaty. Why on earth would one want to remove energy? Do we wish to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world? Do we wish there to be no electricity or petrol for our cars in 10 to 15 years' time? What is it that we are trying to achieve?
Does Norway want to cut itself off from the rest of the world? Does Switzerland? That is a useless argument. The treaty is yet another building block in the united states of Europe. Clearly, we are not against working towards a better Europe, or indeed a better United Kingdom, but everything boils down to the fact that we have only ever had one vote on Europe, and that was in 1975. Is it not about time that we had another?
I wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning and pray that someone in a debate such as this will mention Norway. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for doing so. I can assure him that Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are still part of the free trade area that was created many years ago, and they have been operating out of Switzerland from 1972. I invite the Opposition to tell me whether they would like us to go back to those days or to stay within the European Union.
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to come back to me on that, I shall be happy to hear him. He referred for the second time today to a united states of Europe. There is no one, but no one, who wishes a united states of Europe. If he has the time, he should read the Bruges speech of the Foreign Secretary in December. The hon. Gentleman will see that the Foreign Secretary said that categorically and clearly. No one seeks a united states of Europe. We seek a European Union that is united in its diversity, growing together.
The Conservatives have a terrible fear that a united states of Europe will somehow happen. It has never happened since 1972. It would never have happened under Sir Edward Heath, it certainly would not have happened under the noble Lady Thatcher, it certainly would not have happened under John Major or Tony Blair, and it will not happen now. I urge the Opposition to let us have a serious debate on Europe. That would be fine. I would welcome it, but we will not get it as long as they have that pettifogging approach to the European Union and their great fear that the bogey man will eat us all up.
Article 2C deals with competences. What is wrong with energy being part of the shared competences? I can see nothing at all that would take energy out of that category. That brings us back to the points made by the hon. Member for Cheltenham. He is right; the amendment would completely wreck article 176A. I ask the Opposition what is wrong with a context that speaks about energy in a spirit of solidarity between member states. What is wrong with the principle of solidarity? No right hon. or hon. Member has been able to say that they dislike the principle of solidarity.
What is wrong with ensuring a functioning energy market throughout the European Union? What can be wrong with that? No response from the Opposition. What is wrong with energy security? Again, silence on the part of the Opposition.
The second dream that I have at 4 o'clock in the morning is that someone from the Opposition Benches will ask me a legal question. As a barrister at law and an international lawyer, I dream of such questions coming from the Opposition. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who knows that I admire him greatly, for putting that point. All of a sudden the Opposition become barristers, solicitors, lawyers, the European Court of Justice.
The topic was raised earlier. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton went back to 1972 on a justiciable issue. Every issue is justiciable. Why would it not be? What is wrong with something being justiciable? Where has the rule of law disappeared from the Conservative Benches? What happened to it? It disappeared, like most of the Conservatives' ideology over the past few years. The answer is that everything is justiciable, and why should it not be?
That must mean that the judgment in such cases is beyond the call of the British people. That is an important element. The Court operates procedures that are not commonly understood by the British people. That is why we have argued for a referendum, as did the Government and the Liberal Democrats. It is an extraordinary position.
Next time I will bring my wig and my gown, and we can have a proper debate on that issue. What the hon. Gentleman is saying goes to the very heart of his opposition to the European Union. He is saying that the British people do not want to go to the European Court of Justice. The British people have no inclination or desire to do that. It goes to the heart of his approach to the European Union that we want somehow to exclude the European Court of Justice in the interests of a British court. That is at the heart of what he says, but the Conservative party must make up its mind, because it will not be easy to continue saying, "We want to be in—but—". Giscard d'Estaing has been mentioned many times today; in 1967, he said, "Yes, but—" in relation to the French Government. That is the view of the Conservatives on Europe. It is neither sufficient nor acceptable, and the British people will not let the party get away with it.
The words are used so loosely and beyond our understanding, as was so eloquently explained by Chris Huhne yesterday. Language—the "spirit of solidarity", for instance—is important; all such phrases have a single legal meaning and understanding in the European Court of Justice. When we talk about solidarity or working in a spirit of co-operation, we see them as a looser arrangement. What we are discussing is a legal imposition beyond the call of our people—that is all.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he will remember that at 5 minutes to 10 one evening, I compared his use of the English language to that of Edmund Burke. He reminds me of a phrase of Lyndon Johnson's—that if we all had the same facts, we would all come to the same conclusion. That leads me on to Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar", a famous line of which is—
"But men may construe things after their fashion,
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves."
That is the essence of the Conservative opposition to the energy section of the amended treaty.
I had got as far as energy security and energy supply, and I asked the Opposition whether they opposed that. I then asked them whether they opposed promoting energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy; I presume that they do not. I also asked them whether they opposed the interconnection of energy networks.
Those who follow energy policy, and certainly the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton, will know that at Zeebrugge there is a massive interconnection—the gas comes all the way from Russia. At Zeebrugge, some is sent further into Belgium and to Germany and France—and, of course, to the United Kingdom, but we should not talk too much about that, especially in front of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South.
What is wrong with interconnection? Why do we think that someone is going to pinch our gas? It is amazing. The treaty states:
"Without prejudice to the application of other provisions of the Treaties, the European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall establish the measures necessary to achieve the objectives in paragraph 1."
What is wrong with a supranational umbrella that tries to give directions to the member states of the European Union—as far down as Bulgaria and Romania, by the way? [Interruption.] I have a feeling that my hon. Friend might agree with me on that. We need a common energy policy. I agree with my hon. Friend; of course it would be better for there to be harmony in our approach to all the suppliers. What is wrong with that? I cannot imagine.
Is my hon. Friend not concerned that the Germans have been doing quiet deals with the Russians to make sure that the pipelines come across Germany, so that at least they have their hands on the taps? Those countries take a nationalistic view of things and look after themselves. I do not want to promote nationalism between different countries, but let us be realistic. If we want secure energy supplies, we have to take command of that ourselves as a nation state.
My hon. Friend knows full well that the German border is close to Russia, with Poland in between. As one who has spent some time reading about the downfall of Berlin in 1945, I think that the Germans would be happy to have gas supplies from Russia, and that Russia would be happy to receive their euros in exchange. I assure my hon. Friend that we have full security of supply from Norway, Qatar and Algeria, apart from our own North sea oil coming on stream. There is no problem with our security of supply at the moment, but, as I said in an earlier speech, we must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. We must prepare for a day when a difficulty with supply may be caused by disruption, prices or outside events. Conflict in some part of the world may affect our energy supply. My right hon. Friend Ms Hewitt mentioned various particularly unstable parts of the world that supply us with energy.
We have already dealt with the provision in article 176A on determining the conditions for exploiting energy resources. I imagine that that would cause no difficulty to the Opposition, and that there would be no difficulty over the provision that states:
"By way of derogation from paragraph 2, the Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, shall unanimously and after consulting the European Parliament, establish the measures referred to therein".
So what is the problem with competence? What is the problem with solidarity? What is the problem with article 176A? Why, as the hon. Member for Cheltenham asked, were these wrecking amendments tabled? The answer is, of course—and there were murmurs from the Opposition Back Benches to this effect—that it was part of the process of wrecking the amending treaty. The artful dodger of politics is trying to undermine the treaty by undermining energy. If the day were to come when we had a Conservative Government with the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton in charge of energy policy, the hon. Gentleman would be living with this. It would be in his bible. He would be carrying it around with his pocket wherever he went.
The Committee should take account of the fact that these are wrecking amendments which have no real significance in the great scheme of things. They reflect again the opposition to the European Union in all its shapes and forms that has developed through Mr. Cash—I gave him credit for it earlier—and the closing in on themselves of the Britons whom we used to called little Englanders. Once the Conservative party moves away from that and we engage in a genuine debate on the future of Europe, the Conservatives will be the better for it, the Government will be the better for it, and so will the country.
I bring the Committee's attention to my interests as declared in the Register. However, I shall draw on neither my experience as director of an oil company nor my experience as an oil analyst in the City, but on my experience as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the lead-up to the single market. At that time, I urged Britain to take the opportunity that we would be offered by the liberalisation that the single market would bring about. I argued that the common market had given a particular advantage to Germany, whose relative strength was in manufactures, and that the common agricultural policy had given a particular advantage to the French, who had great strength in agriculture. It was our turn now, I suggested: we had a relative strength in services and the privatised utilities, and the liberalising measures in the single market should help us to fulfil that.
Admittedly, in the ensuing 15 years progress has been rather slower than I hoped then, but—along with, I think, the whole of my party—I still believe in the liberalisation of energy markets in Europe. We have no objection to the liberalising provisions that are in the existing treaties and are, to a degree, mirrored in this treaty. We see no point in changing them, and we see no gain in reaffirming or altering them. If we were to stick with existing treaties, we would have all the liberalisation that we would have if we proceeded with this treaty. However, this treaty goes further than that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, while we may have that liberalising agenda—over which some of us have nothing but fears—the French have made it absolutely clear that they will not liberalise their energy markets? That is why they have been so successful.
I agree. The one change that this treaty makes is to reduce the liberalisation, not through the clauses that we are currently debating but through the change secured by the French President which removed the pre-eminence of competition policy from the preamble of the original treaties. This treaty lessens the liberalising force that we would have if we stuck with the status quo.
I want to focus on the new powers, and above all, the new references to security of energy supply. That is to be a shared competence, and has been pointed out, we can legislate only in so far as the European Community chooses not to. Decision making will primarily operate through qualified majority voting, and therefore we will have no veto, except in certain circumstances to which I shall refer later.
I thank my constituency neighbour for giving way. He is talking about security of energy supply, and there has been much emphasis on the need for us to develop a degree of independence in energy in the longer term. His party—perhaps he himself—privatised our energy sector. Much of it was sold off to foreign companies, so not only do we not have the supplies, but we do not have control of the supplies because they are in the hands of foreign companies. Would it not have been sensible to keep those companies in public ownership in Britain?
I am happy to reply to that point because I have some experience relating to it. If a foreign-controlled company acts against the interests of this country, we can intervene and take control of it. I was probably the last Minister in this House ever to nationalise anything—I nationalised all the companies owned by the Iraqis when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991. We retain such powers over companies operating in our country, but would cede some of them to European institutions under this measure. It will give the EU competence to control, plan, influence or ration the supply of energy. That is what it is all about.
For the Liberal party, Steve Webb complained that we in the Conservative party were worrying our little heads unnecessarily, thinking up remote and unpleasant possibilities of what might happen to this country. But thinking about security requires one to think about unpleasant things that may happen. It is a bit rich for the Liberal party, having castigated the Financial Services Authority for not thinking about the remote possibility that Northern Rock might go under, and that there might be a run on a bank, which had not happened for the previous 140 years, to castigate us for thinking about what might go wrong in the sphere of energy. In the past, we have seen the Suez crisis, the OPEC embargo, the Iranian embargo and the Russian interruption of supplies to Ukraine. We know that energy can be used for political means, and can cause insecurity of supply. In such circumstances, it is important to know how to respond, and to have the powers to do so. Such issues are important, and we have to think about what might happen if we transfer authority for such decisions to the mechanism of qualified majority voting, and about how that would affect this country.
One of my hon. Friends said that we are all in it together, so it is worth pooling our sovereignty, or at least sharing risks, with other countries because we would then all be able to help each other. Logically, it is only worth a country sharing risks with others, and sharing its energy supplies, if those countries face fewer risks than it does, or have more energy supplies. In any other circumstance, one is simply exposing oneself to other countries' risks, and may be sharing one's energy resources with them without gaining anything in return.
My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point, but member states do not need to be in the European Union to achieve that end. One reason that wind power is so successful in Denmark is that it has an arrangement with Norway giving it access to Norway's hydro-power when the wind is not blowing in Denmark, and the same is true the other way round. Norway is not in the EU and Denmark is, so the Lisbon treaty is not needed to effect such arrangements.
That is true and my hon. Friend makes a good point. However, I was trying to focus on interruption in supply that is politically conceived or perhaps caused by a natural disaster, and whether we should retain our independent power to respond to that emergency or transfer it to collective decision making in the European Community, as the treaty of Lisbon requires.
I shall do so in a moment after making a little further progress, when the right hon. Lady, as a fellow former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, may realise that my arguments require no qualification by her.
We in this country have the biggest reserve of oil and gas in Europe. We would therefore share something positive with countries that face risks but do not have the same resources to share with us in the event of our needing their help. We have also diversified slightly more than other countries, especially in opening up to achieve 20 per cent. of our gas supplies from Qatar. That will relieve at least some of our dependence on future gas supplies from Russia and central Asia. I do not therefore understand the logical case for us, in our specific circumstances of being the principal oil and gas producer, to share risks and supplies with other countries.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that the potential of the then Common Market to take over our oil was one of the key issues of the 1975 referendum? Those in favour of joining gave copious assurances that it would never happen. Yet the treaty explicitly provides for that.
I confess that I had forgotten that, although I participated in the referendum. I campaigned ardently for a yes vote, having been persuaded to overcome any reservations by the attractive young lady who ran the Britain in Europe movement, and whom I subsequently married. I must therefore declare the further interest that I have done well out of Europe.
It has changed considerably—about Europe, though I hope not about me.
The right hon. Member for Leicester, West presented the argument that our reserves are declining and we are therefore losing the advantage that I described. They are, indeed, declining, but we will still have more domestic supply than any other country in Europe for a long time. My arguments will therefore continue to prevail for a long time over those that the right hon. Lady advanced.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and fellow former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for giving way. I have followed his argument with great care, but he simply misrepresents the Lisbon treaty. He talks about our being required, in an emergency, to hand over our supplies. As Mr. Clarke pointed out some time ago, the relevant article simply provides that, in the case of a severe interruption in supply in some part of the European Union, the Commission may present a proposal and the Council of Ministers—comprising member states' Governments, including the UK Government—may decide to do something about it. If agreement is not reached, action can be taken or not taken, unilaterally or bilaterally.
The hon. Gentleman is right.
It has been suggested that the treaty contains protections, where QMV will not apply. Article 176A states:
"Such measures shall not affect a Member State's right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources".
It refers to the "conditions for exploiting", not the allocation of energy resources. That means the licensing terms under which a member state's energy resources will be exploited, the method of allocating licences and so on. The treaty specifically does not state that QMV will not apply to decisions about the allocation of supply. Such decisions will continue to be made by qualified majority voting. Therefore, if circumstances arose similar to when Ted Heath tried to divert supplies away from the rest of Europe, which we had joined only two years earlier, to this country—he could not do so, because British law prevented him and he was not prepared to introduce new laws in the House; the French Government of course did override commercial law and diverted resources—we would not retain the right to allocate our own supplies of energy as we saw fit. That could include sharing them with our neighbours, if that was right and proper and we thought it a generous and helpful thing to do, as well as keeping them if we thought that our needs were greater.
All decisions about the control of reserves and resources in a federal system are contentious—we are of course talking about a quasi-federal system. We do not have to look at Iraq, whose constitutional development is held up by an inability to make decisions about the allocation of responsibilities between the federal components and the central Government, nor do we have to look at the difficulties in Nigeria to see the same thing. We can look closer to home. Within the United Kingdom, considerable pressures for devolution arose simply over who owns the oil. The question of who has power over energy resources is therefore a contentious one. Do we imagine that if that power is transferred from this place to European institutions, they will not want to use it to the advantage of the whole community, rather than allowing us to retain it and use those resources exclusively as we see fit?
I urge hon. Members to read the words in the treaty closely. When they do, they are bound to conclude that we should pass the amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend Mr. Francois and, when we get to them, the amendments standing in the name of my hon. Friend Mr. Cash, and thereby ensure that we do not transfer powers over energy resources, which we have in greater abundance than anyone else in Europe.
First, I apologise to the hon. Member for Rayleigh for not supporting him this evening. He was very warm about my speech yesterday, but unfortunately I would describe amendment No. 204 as unnecessary and amendment No. 205 as mischievous, and certainly not constructive.
The reality is that nothing will really change. That point was well made by the Liberal Front-Bench spokesman. There is already a shared competence, as the Opposition motion that we debated earlier stated. All the provisions that are now in the treaty and that were proposed in the constitution were already in parts of other treaties that we had signed and which were operating. That is the truth. There is no real change; the proposals simply formalise and clarify the current arrangements.
In effect, there is already shared competence in energy matters. The term is often used to describe areas of law making where the exercise of EU competence does not exclude the exercise of a member state's legislative powers. That has been the arrangement in energy markets for some time. We have already been co-operating and benefiting from solidarity—the fact that we mention the word does not make the position different.
The speech that Mr. Lilley gave was entirely wrong, because he left out the end of article 176, which says that the choice is allowed not only between different energy resources, but over the general structure of a nation's energy market and energy supply, which means that we will indeed continue to control our energy resources.
That was the great controversy during the Convention, when there was a proposal—I spoke against it in the House—that would have prevented us as a nation from doing a bilateral deal with Norway. As the chair of the all-party British offshore oil and gas industry group, I was helping the then Minister, Brian Wilson, to negotiate a deal with the Norwegians on the Ormen Lange pipeline, to bring 20 per cent. of this country's gas supplies from Norway. That would have been prevented, had the original proposal in the Convention gone through.
I have only one minute left, so I cannot.
We drove that proposal out and now we have the arrangement that I have described. The Ormen Lange pipeline was launched on
Our worry was that an attempt would be made to take the matter further than we were willing to allow, as often happens in negotiations with the EU Commission. Now, however, we have a shared competence named in the treaty. It is also limited in the treaty and it should be supported. The amendment is therefore unnecessary, because it would do nothing except reverse the situation. If we were to decide not to have shared competence, would we do this alone? Would the UK withdraw and somehow run an energy market on its own? That is not possible, acceptable or sensible.
I am delighted to respond to the debate on the amendments. It was led—pretty gracefully, I thought—by Mr. Francois in his typical fashion. We have also heard—perhaps less enjoyably, but none the less interestingly—about the 4 am dreams of my hon. Friend Sir Stuart Bell, and we have been told how Mr. Lilley was seduced, no less, into voting for membership of the European Community back then. I believe that that is what he was implying.
We also heard from my hon. Friend Rob Marris and my right hon. Friend Ms Hewitt. They are becoming a formidable double act, if they do not mind my saying so. In a series of telling interventions, they got to the core of the choices facing the House tonight. We also heard from the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, my hon. Friend Mike Gapes, who put the debate into a wider, international context. He referred to the unanimous conclusions of the Select Committee on these matters. Paragraph 162 of its report of
"We recommend that the Government...continue to encourage its EU partners to take a robust and united approach to dealing with Moscow, in the energy field and beyond."
That is the unanimous conclusion of all members, of all parties, of the Select Committee, including Mr. Heathcoat-Amory. It therefore seems to be accepted across the House that there is a need for a concerted effort and a united approach on energy policy, not only in Russia but in the wider international sphere.
We also heard from my hon. Friend Michael Connarty, who brought great wisdom and experience to the debate on the amendment. He talked about the changing nature of the debate, the negotiations on sovereignty and other matters relating to energy policy. He clearly articulated that, under the old arrangements, he campaigned against and would have voted against proposals such as those before us this evening. He said, however, that, because of the changes that we have secured on determining our own energy mix, retaining control of energy resources and ensuring that taxation remains an issue of unanimity, the proposals now have his enthusiastic endorsement.
I have sat here in the Committee for two days, but I have been unable to speak because of the short length of time allowed for the debates. Will the Minister take this on board and do something about altering next week's business, so that we can have more time to discuss these matters in Committee than is allowed for under this funny motion business?
That is not an issue for the debate on the amendments but, as I said earlier in the week during our debate on the business motion, we intend to continue to be flexible when we can. It is important that the hon. Gentleman be given the opportunity to articulate his belief that Britain would be better off out of Europe altogether. That is an argument that deserves to have a greater airing in the House, so that we can debate it in greater detail.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The point that my hon. Friend Mr. Bone just made, to which the Minister replied, is very important. Perhaps we misunderstood, but I thought we had clearly been given to understand that flexibility would be shown and that there would be a change in relation to all the days allotted for these debates, yet we found that the time allocation today was four and a half hours and one and a half hours. We might have misunderstood the position, but it seems clear that the Minister has no intention of changing the timetable. I hope that I am wrong, in the interests of conciliation. We really must have some kind of response to the point that my hon. Friend has raised, in relation to every single day.
That is not a point of order for the Chair and it is certainly outside the scope of our debate on the amendments currently before the House. The hon. Gentleman will know that there may be other means, arranged by the business managers, whereby that matter could be discussed.
These amendments would exclude the provisions in the Lisbon treaty that define the competence on energy from having any effect in UK law. The Lisbon treaty includes energy in the list of areas of shared competences. Since Maastricht, the EU has had competence over energy, which is what enables the EU to enter into agreements with other countries—for example, the treaty establishing the energy community, which expands the EU single market in energy to the states of south-east Europe.
Article 2C of the Lisbon treaty defines the Union's competences, including energy as a shared competence, which the lead amendment is designed to remove. The treaty explicitly states that competences not conferred on the EU remain with member states, so it provides greater clarity than before.
Article 176, the target of some of the amendments, sets out the EU's competence for energy. Removing that article would prevent the UK from implementing any actions agreed under the new legal base. The whole purpose of setting out the EU's competence in energy is to clarify for the first time that the EU can do so and make it easier for it to do so. The appearance of a separate energy article in the Lisbon treaty reflects the growing importance of EU action to help to achieve the UK's energy and climate change priorities. This new article will help to ensure that policies on energy markets, energy security and energy efficiency are coherent and mutually reinforcing. That is vital in order successfully to drive the transition to a high-growth, low-carbon economy in Europe. This dedicated legal base helps to achieve that for the first time.
The new article also strikes the right balance in preserving the rights of member states to control their own energy resources. We sought safeguards, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk mentioned, and achieved them. New article 176A—old article 147—states:
"Such measures shall not affect a Member State's right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply".
The point about QMV in energy is that the new article should make it easier to deliver the effective EU energy-efficiency policies that we all seek to achieve. My hon. Friend Kelvin Hopkins spoke earlier about the fact that France and Italy have not yet achieved liberalisation of their energy markets, yet 20 million of our own citizens enjoy the services of French and German energy companies. The challenge, of course, and the imponderable question, is this: if we were to remove EU competence for energy, how could we achieve that type of market access and liberalisation of the market seen in France and Germany, which all political parties claim to want to achieve?
With the greatest respect, the Minister did not answer yes or no to a very plain yes or no question from my right hon. Friend Mr. Lilley, so let me try putting it in a different way. The Minister cites paragraph 2 of article 176A, but will he assure the House that under no circumstances could the European Union vote by qualified majority voting on the allocation of a member state's energy resources? Will he give us that assurance?
"without prejudice to Article 175(2)(c)."
That takes us back to the arrangements for the approximation of laws and the internal market. Therefore, the Minister ought to be more explicit in his explanation, because he is fundamentally misconstruing the position.
I would never seek to do such a thing, either implicitly or explicitly, in the hon. Gentleman's presence. It is clear that nothing in the treaty affects the allocation of energy reserves or stocks. The new article does, however, strike the right balance in preserving the rights of member states. The Opposition have said that they support the principle of EU co-operation on energy, but removing all EU competence over energy, as amendment No. 33 would, would prevent the UK from giving effect to any agreement we reach with EU partners.
The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden talked about the inclusion in a legally binding protocol of undistorted competition. President Sarkozy has acknowledged that that is symbolic rather than substance and— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rayleigh might scoff at President Sarkozy; that is his business, not mine. I do not know whether he would also scoff at the Law Society's guide to the Lisbon treaty, published only yesterday, which states of the protocol on competition:
"This does not change the current legal position."
That is made clear by no less a body than the Law Society—of the United Kingdom, not of France.
Mr. Evans asked why we could not be just like Norway or Switzerland—and, if he was to complete the list, like Liechtenstein, which is the third great nation in that triumvirate. Norway is not in the EU; some Opposition Members realise that, and it is what they celebrate about the country. However, it still has to apply all EU energy acquis in full. So if we were to follow the hon. Gentleman's suggestion of being like Norway, we would have—lock, stock and barrel—every EU energy policy, but with no influence over or say in the policy.
Opposition Members have sought to criticise the principle of solidarity. That principle was first established in article 2 of the Maastricht treaty.
The hon. Gentleman is fair enough to acknowledge that. Many Conservative Members now repudiate that treaty and wish they had not voted for it, judging by their comments this evening. Many Members of the Labour party and of other Opposition parties recognise, however, that solidarity in energy policy is important. The Conservative Opposition castigate that solidarity, but it is celebrated on the Labour Benches because it is crucial. As article 176 of the Lisbon treaty states, when there is a terrorist attack or a natural or man-made disaster, such solidarity is a part of Community feeling, a part of human civilisation and a part of internationalism. It is a key aspect of the concept of solidarity that we stand by those who experience terrorist attack or natural or man-made disaster. Labour Members believe in the principle of solidarity; in times of danger or disaster, we are stronger together and weaker if isolated.
Of course we believe in a generalised sense of solidarity. The Minister gave a good description of that; as his illustrations made clear, it is to do with sympathy and common humanity. What we are discussing now, however, is a legal system. That is the distinction.
What I am talking about is structured solidarity that ensures that the EU can provide support at a time of terrorist attack or man-made or natural disaster. The fact is that we can also benefit from this EU solidarity and, in principle, we support it.
If the Minister wants a concrete example of the expression of solidarity, he has only to look to what happened in Gloucestershire last summer. The floods resulted in an application to the European solidarity fund. It was supported by local Conservative Members as well as others. That kind of practical application would be prevented if the concept of solidarity were removed from these treaties.
The hon. Gentleman is right.
The Opposition amendment invites the House to believe that every Government in Europe, left and right, cheered on by every Opposition in Europe apart from this one, have knowingly and voluntarily entered into a European conspiracy within a fiendish French plot that will bring gas rationing and shortages to Birmingham. That is clearly not the case, and I ask the House to reject the amendments that have been tabled.
I have three minutes in which to speak, so may I briefly make a point about time? We have only one and half hours to debate amendments because of the Government's business motion. Again, a number of hon. Members rose to their feet at the conclusion of the allocated time as they had not been able to speak. We did not manage to reach the second group of amendments, so we cannot vote on amendment No. 142. That is a shame, because I was minded to support it and to ask my hon. Friends to do the same. Again, the promise of line-by-line scrutiny has not been adhered to.
The Liberal Democrat spokesman, Martin Horwood, said that he did not always agree with our Back Benchers. We might not have agreed with the Liberal Democrat Back Benchers, had any of them bothered to turn up for the debate. He said that he did not agree with our amendments. We might not have agreed with his amendments, had the Liberals bothered to table any on this subject. The only amendment they keep trying to table, which has been repeatedly ruled out of order, is one on an in/out referendum. They do so because they are fundamentally split on what to do about a referendum on the EU constitution.
Let me turn to the Government's position. Our amendment is largely based on their original negotiating position. The powers that we are attempting to remove from the treaty are exactly the same ones they attempted to oppose and then gave in on. Their own amendment tabled by the Minister's predecessor stated:
"This provision is unnecessary as all aspects of energy policy are effectively covered elsewhere in the Treaty e.g. single market, environment. In addition, we have detailed concerns on the text, which we consider may have the unintended effect of changing the boundaries of EU competence and the types of measure which will be subject to unanimity."
As the Government were too weak to insist on that, we are attempting to do what they should have done in the first place. That is the basis of our position. They accuse us of exaggerating, when all we are trying to do is to keep them honest in the first place. On that basis, and because the Minister has failed to answer the question all the way through, we are not satisfied, so I seek to test the will of the Committee on amendment No. 204.
Question accordingly negatived.
It being more than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings in the Committee, The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means left the Chair to report progress and ask leave to sit again, pursuant to Order [this day.]
To report progress and ask leave to sit again.— [Mr. Khan.]
Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.