Treaty of Lisbon (No. 4)

Part of Deferred Division – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 6th February 2008.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner 3:49 pm, 6th February 2008

I am grateful to follow Mr. Clappison, who made a sound and strong speech.

We have heard some great names thrown around the Chamber, such as Mr. Giscard d'Estaing, President Sarkozy and Baroness Thatcher; indeed, we have even gone as far back as the rebate, which she negotiated after 1979. However, I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that it was Jim Callaghan who first raised the rebate when he was Prime Minister in 1978. It was not Lady Thatcher alone who secured it; rather, it was already a Government policy to get some rebate back.

There is a paradox in the Conservatives' policy on Europe. The one thing that they should support is the single market, because a free trade area is what they essentially believe in, yet they walk away from it. The hon. Member for Hertsmere touched on that when he talked about supranationality, but I should remind him that from 1957 the goal of the European Union, as it now is, has been ever closer union. The Union is a political space, an economic space and a geographic space—it is all three, together as one. Today we are debating the economic space proposed by the Lisbon treaty and the essence of the Common Market, or the single or internal market, as it is now called.

We have, rightly, been given quite some time to deal with the motion, to which the amendment standing in the name of Mr. Hague has been moved. We have heard interventions from the hon. Members for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) and for Hertsmere and my right hon. Friend Ms Hewitt, as well as a speech by Mr. Hammond. It is as well that we use this time to lay to rest the issue of the protocol—that is, the idea that we moved away from having undistorted competition in the new amending treaty.

It is a surprise that the Conservatives complained about the constitutional treaty—they say that it is not defunct, but what we are dealing with now—because the phrase "free and undistorted competition" was in fact contained in article 3 of the now defunct treaty. When the constitutional treaty was abandoned, so was that article. The protocol is indeed legally binding, as my right hon. Friend said last week, quoting the Law Society. The internal market, as set out in article 2 of the treaty on European Union, includes a system ensuring that competition is not distorted. We can go as far back as the European Coal and Steel Community or the treaty of Rome, whose essence was the idea that the great nation states of Europe would never fight again, because trade would prevent them.