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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 Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner 6:15 pm, 30th January 2008

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.