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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 Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 6:45 pm, 30th January 2008

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.