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Clause 2 — Addition to list of treaties

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 30th January 2008.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 6:45 pm, 30th January 2008

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.