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Clause 2 — Addition to list of treaties

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 30th January 2008.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:15 pm, 30th January 2008

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.