Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 83, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 1, paragraph 6, inserted Article 3b TEU relating to the competences of the European Union; and
No. 277, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 27(c) adding a new sentence to Article 16 TEC (TFEU) on a new legal base for the European Union to establish the basic principles and conditions of service of general economic interest; and
No. 121, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 12, new Title and new Articles 2A to 2E TEC (TFEU) relating to categories and areas of European Union competence; and
No. 222, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 12, new Article 2B TEC (TFEU), paragraph 1(d), relating to the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy; and
No. 124, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 17, inserted Article 5a TEC (TFEU) relating to matters to be taken into account in defining and implementing European Union policies and activities; and
No. 131, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraphs 46 to 49, amendments to Articles 32, 36 and 37 TEC (TFEU) relating to agriculture and fisheries; and
No. 225, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding' insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 49(c) 3, amendment to Article 37 TEC (TFEU) relating to the adoption of measures on fixing prices, levies, aid and quantitative limitations and on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities; and
No. 38, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 150, inserted Article 176D TEC (TFEU), relating to administrative co-operation; and
No. 186, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 289, replacement Article 308 TEC (TFEU) relating to action within the framework of policies defined in the Treaties where the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers; and
No. 192, page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality; and
No. 31, page 1, line 13, after second 'to,' insert—
'(i) the categories and areas of EU competence; and
I am glad to have the opportunity to start the debate. It has already been covered to some extent by our discussions on the general principles. We now have the opportunity to consider the specific questions through amendments. Of course, that is what we should really have been doing all afternoon, but that battle has now been conceded as far as the Government are concerned.
The meeting in Laeken in December 2001 said, among many other things, that the question at issue was:
"A better division and definition of competence in the European Union".
The reality is that these arrangements are extending competence, despite what we heard from the Deputy Leader of the House in her winding-up speech, when she seemed to be suggesting that the treaty was simply a repetition of existing competences. That is not the case. I accuse the Government of a form of appeasement in relation to such questions. Despite their objections to those arrangements, which were expressed in the Convention and on a number of occasions, they have allowed the European Union to go ahead after all.
In reference to Mr. Hain, I suggested in an intervention on my right hon. Friend Mr. Hague that we needed a list of the provisions. I asked the Minister to give me a list of those matters where the European Union was being given new powers and to demonstrate the extent to which areas were left to our national Parliament and our voters. That is the key question. Of course, he could not answer it; he gave me a few examples, such as defence and foreign policy. However, in terms of the range of matters that are being taken over by the European Union under the treaty and the accumulated functions that have been generated by the secret negotiations, we in this Parliament are increasingly like the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat. Bit by bit, we are vanishing into a vacuum that is being enlarged by the EU.
The EU is centralising, and I believe that the effect of that, curiously and ironically, will be increased tensions in the EU. That is exactly the opposite of what it is seeking to achieve. It will claim that it is trying to introduce greater harmonisation, greater peace and greater stability as a result of the consolidating functions. I firmly believe that what is happening will generate more tension and less harmony as the member states jostle, through the general elections in their respective countries, to try to maintain the respect of their voters and their electorate, who will demand things that they cannot be given.
The one thing that the treaty does by centralising and by increasing the exclusive and shared competences is diminish the room within which the respective national Parliaments can legislate. The voters will come up against their Parliament's inability to respond to their wishes—the Parliaments will simply have to turn around and say, "We cannot legislate in this field because it has been handed over to the European Union, which, as we know, is remote, bureaucratic and undemocratic." When that happens, the tensions in the member states will tend to increase.
With the potential for problems with running the economy, an increasing possibility of higher unemployment, the failure of the Lisbon agenda and the difficulties of matching people's aspirations—which is inconsistent with the Laeken declaration's words about being closer to the citizen—a vacuum is being created. No one seems to realise that in the pursuit of those abstract ideologies, the seeds of the destruction of the EU are being sown. The people will not stand for it when things go wrong.
Another problem is that because the acquis is set in concrete and cannot really be amended except through a formula such as that which I shall develop tomorrow in relation to new clauses 8 and 9, which I understand have been selected, there is no way in which the powers can be repatriated unless individual member states are prepared to take unilateral action and to get it right after proper negotiation. I do not believe in unilateral action without discussion or negotiation.
The parliamentary channel is the only place where these matters are being discussed. I know that as I speak what I am saying is going out live on the parliamentary channel.
The hon. Gentleman says that they can all go to bed; if they wish to do so, let them.
It would not be a bad idea if those watching the parliamentary channel—as they listen, if not to me, then to others—were to express their views to the authorities, the media and the national newspapers, which are not covering what is going on in the House as it legislates, through the Government's iniquity, to deprive the people of this country of the right to express their views in general elections. That is what is happening, and it is extremely dangerous to our democracy.
Does my hon. Friend agree that when we hear this talk about being closer to citizens and about citizenship, it does not refer to the citizens of the nation state? The treaty compounds the ever-rolling forward programme of giving democratic legitimacy to the citizens' representation through the EU Parliament, thereby bypassing more of their representation through their national Parliaments.
I completely agree, and I strongly suggest that viewers of the parliamentary channel write to the BBC to ask that these debates be covered a bit more comprehensively. Similar letters should be sent to the national media, as people are able to hear what is being said tonight only if they tune in to the parliamentary channel. That is how I would get around the block that has been placed on our ability to be heard outside the House by the Government's handling of our timetabling and procedures.
May I offer the hon. Gentleman a practical example of how limited our national veto has become? He may think my example is trivial, although it is not trivial to me. I am referring to genetically modified organisms. The views expressed by this House, and by this Government, about whether to accept GMOs are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as all such decisions are taken in Europe. For many people, that is a total negation of their right to object to the introduction of GMOs. It is a perfect example of what he is talking about.
It certainly is. In fact, the breadth and depth of Europe's intrusion into the process of decision making that should take place in this House mean that the right to decide about ever more vital matters is being removed from voters. That is the message: whatever people think and do, they will be able to make no real difference to the decisions taken in Europe.
Moreover, I hope that no one will say in response that everything will be all right because the democratic deficit has been catered for in the Council of Ministers. The use of qualified majority voting and the removal of this House's legislative power through shared or exclusive competences mean that the people are being deprived of their right to be consulted in a meaningful way at general elections.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Does he agree that democratic legitimacy is improving and increasing? Directly elected Members of the European Parliament now have more say about what happens in the EU, as more matters become subject to co-decision. Also, we should accept the principle of subsidiarity. We have common interests in many matters, such as the environment or the single market, both of which apply across Europe. Surely it makes sense to reach common decisions about them.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is merely repeating the theory of subsidiarity. I attended a school very near Preston, where we were taught about subsidiarity as a theological concept. There is a hierarchy in religious matters that cannot be challenged, but the political environment is completely different. In secular matters, the accountability of the central authority should always be challenged. Nothing is ever set in concrete—unlike the acquis communautaire, which is the basis of the European legal system. Its supporters believe that it cannot be challenged, although I believe that this Parliament can reverse any decision, and that it must continue to do so.
The democratic deficit is not filled by generalisations such as those that Mr. Hendrick has put forward on behalf of the European Parliament. The system does not work like that, as the European Parliament does not have the necessary power. Moreover, it is implicit in the arrangements that we are discussing this evening that it will not be given that power. As a result, the treaty proposals are neither fish nor fowl, but a hybrid that cannot work. On the one hand, the treaty, by neutering MPs in this House, will take away direct parliamentary representation from the people of this country. On the other hand, however, the European Parliament will not be given the powers that it needs to make up for the loss.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. He is talking about co-decisions, but the European Parliament has powers in many areas. That number will grow once the treaty is ratified, with the result that the Council and the Commission will not be able to get proposals through without the support of the directly elected European Parliament. The hon. Gentleman says that the European Parliament has no power, but it was a consultative body in 1979. It is a co-legislative body now, and that is a tremendous step forward in democratic terms.
The problem is that it is all part of the process of greater integration, with more centralisation and less democracy. The European Parliament is involved in certain areas of co-decision, but that only serves to lock down and contain member states' national Parliaments. We are in the ridiculous situation of being invited to congratulate the EU on allowing national Parliaments to be involved. General elections take place on a national basis, but the process of making laws is being handed over to the undemocratic procedure that I have set out.
That is the system in which we are effectively imprisoned. I believe that we should have the guts to make sure that we remedy the problem but, in the absence of a "get out of jail" card such as I propose in new clauses 8 and 9, which we will debate tomorrow, we will not be able to repatriate effectively the powers that have been taken from us.
I do not want to go into detail now, as there will be ample opportunity tomorrow, but the real question has to do with how we can ensure that this Chamber is maintained as the centre of gravity of power in our legislative process. The danger is that that power will be exerted by external agencies such as the European Commission, or that it will be expressed through regulation that does not require legislation in this House. Another possibility is that legislative power in Europe will be expressed through directives, which means that we will be left to implement the legislation that is passed in our own fashion.
As I said in an intervention earlier on my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks, the word "competence" is a euphemism for power. Power is about authority, and governance. I used the word "appeasement" earlier in respect of the Government's policy, and it applies exactly to what they are doing. They have given in to the systems and fashions of the European Commission and the eurocracy in a way that is nothing short of appeasement.
The Government did not have to give in. I remember the former Prime Minister saying, "Let battle be joined!" I think that I had a little to do with his granting of a first referendum, as I had pointed out the constitutional nature of the repeal process that was taking place. The ESC has said that this treaty is substantially the same as the previous constitutional proposals, but the Government have given in at the first whiff of grapeshot and decided that we will not have a referendum on it.
There has been all sorts of farcical business from the Liberal Democrats today. I was here and I watched it all. They are pumping out press releases all over the media, but they are just absurd. They want a referendum in order to say yes—I have never heard such rubbish in all my life! They want a referendum because they are totally committed to the integration process.
I was tempted by the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Is he aware that in the context of Scottish independence, the Liberal party in Scotland opposes a referendum because it is not in favour of Scottish independence? That seems to sit uneasily with that party's attitude to the European Union.
I am always glad to hear from the First Minister. He has a remarkable facility for hitting the nail on the head. He is completely right: the Liberal Democrats look as ridiculous and as divided within their party as they are in their principles. They are a completely absurd bunch of opportunists, and that is all that there is to it.
I am glad to do so. I have a list of the newly defined shared competences as they are set out under the new regime—under the new rubric of the European Court of Justice, as extended into this new field. Although the Court has had primacy for some time, its power increases as its functions accumulate. Competence is power. It has not yet been mentioned today, but one of the things on which we need to focus is the asserted primacy of the European Court of Justice in relation to these new and accumulated functions, and the exclusion of national Parliaments, in particular our own, with respect to the shared and the exclusive competences.
Two things are operating in the same direction, but in a contrary manner: the increase by accumulation in power and judicial authority of the European Court of Justice, and the diminution in power of the national Parliaments, which are in direct proportion to one another. We fall straight between the two. Some of us may recall from our history books Dunning's motion that the power of the Crown
"has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished."
That is exactly what we should say about the European Union, the European Court of Justice and the manner in which the Government are treating this country.
The shared competences are as follows: the internal market; those aspects of social policy defined in the treaty; economic, social and territorial cohesion; agriculture and fisheries; environment; consumer protection; transport; trans-European networks; energy; area of freedom, security and justice; and common safety concerns in public health matters. Those accumulated functions are eating away at the body politic in this country. Furthermore, article 2A of the treaty says that member states can legislate in any area of the shared competences only to the extent that the European Union has not exercised its competence. That will invert subsidiarity. I must discuss subsidiarity, because it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Preston, who has now left his— [ Interruption. ] No, he has moved sideways. He is moving, crabwise, further and further towards the exit.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful analysis of how the European Union incrementally seeks more and more shared competences. Is it not also important to examine the areas in which it seeks to establish a bridgehead for future shared competences through future incremental change? One example is that, under the terms of the treaty—I understand that this is a new duty—if an independent nation state acts on its own account where the Union has decided not to act, the nation state nevertheless has the duty to consult the Union and other member states on any matter that might affect their interests. In practice, that could mean anything. It is a duty to consult on any subject where an independent nation state acts on its own.
Indeed. I do not feel that I am exaggerating when I say that my hon. Friend's contributions to debates on the treaty, as well as to the European Scrutiny Committee, of which he recently became a member, are considerable. His analysis, given patiently day by day from the corner of the Chamber that he occupies, is a tribute to his perspicacity and tenacity. It is only persistence, tenacity and political will that will pull this country back to its rightful and deserved place. We in the Opposition—this is why I am so delighted as I look at my hon. Friend Mr. Francois, the shadow Minister for Europe—have managed so far to increase our sense of uniformity and unity on such central questions. They affect directly, utterly and completely the rights of the people whom we represent in our constituencies.
This is as great a battle as has ever been fought in the history of this country. There will be those who will try to deny that, but I say this: the repeal of the corn laws in 1846 was no different in kind, because it was about how power in this country was distributed between the rich and the poor. It is no different from the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867 or the Act giving women the right to vote in the early 20th century. This is about the status of this House.
I should like to draw my hon. Friend back, I hope not too rudely, to his amendments, and to the point about subsidiarity and how it will play out. We discovered back at Maastricht—it has not really changed—that the concept of subsidiarity is completely alien to how we view our democracy. When it was being sold to us by the then Prime Minister, John Major, as a real breakthrough, none of the other countries translated subsidiarity in the same way. It is a peculiar continental concept that says that where power rests with those at the top, they will give back what they like to those down below. In this country, power is supposed to rest with the people, and we are only meant to borrow it. That has made the difference in how that concept has been interpreted. When Labour Members make ludicrous arguments about subsidiarity, they should read the debates; then they would realise that subsidiarity has been used in exactly the same way, and it has done absolutely nothing to return a jot of power to the nation states or the people.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for taking me back to what I said earlier. He is absolutely right. Subsidiarity is a theological concept, and the European Court of Justice is effectively being given in the political field the kind of doctrine of infallibility that at present is given to the Vatican and the papacy. It cannot be challenged, because there is no appeal except repatriation within the Parliaments. That takes us back to the point that my right hon. Friend made: power must go back to the voter. Similar situations have occurred in the history of this country in which it became necessary, regrettably, for people to take direct action to regain that power. The tensions that the treaty will generate may well prove insurmountable in due course.
In the last intervention there was reference to the Maastricht treaty; the hon. Gentleman somehow omitted that treaty in his list of great battles of fundamental importance. Is that because he thinks that it is less significant than the Lisbon treaty, or does he agree with the denunciation that Mr. Duncan Smith made of the former Prime Minister, John Major, and of all those, including his Front-Bench colleagues, who voted for the Maastricht treaty?
The only reason why I did not mention Maastricht was modesty, if I may say so. I did not think that it was necessary for me to explain every detail, as I tabled 150 amendments to that treaty. The number of amendments that I have tabled to the Lisbon treaty is of the same order, or a little greater. That is why I find myself leading on this group of amendments. I happen to believe that the Maastricht treaty was one of the critical moments in our history. The BBC recognised that point in a debate that took place reasonably recently. The bottom line is that although Maastricht was enormously important, the treaty that we are considering is even more important; the accumulation of functions since Maastricht has merely demonstrated that we were right at the time. That accumulation is in line with the predictions that we made at the time; that is the point.
Article F of the treaty of European union says that
The Lisbon treaty, too, refers to a "respect" for
"regional and local self-government".
That is completely misleading. The Union approach has been to pursue a one-size-fits-all policy, with total disregard for national identities, so the extension of the competences actually works in exactly the reverse manner. Moreover, the treaty says that the Union "shall respect" nation states'
"essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security."
In fact, although national security remains the sole responsibility of each member state, the article does not include important state functions such as conducting a foreign and security policy. Police and judicial co-operation will cease to be intergovernmental, and will be placed under the Community method.
It is very likely that the Union will put forward measures that might jeopardise member states' national security measures. The evidence is contained in the Prüm treaty relating to the collection of personal data, which is being implemented into Union law, so there is a kind of convergence. National security is hugely important, but there are indications of an invasion of it by other means. If we agree to the amendment, we will revert to the status quo, and we will therefore get rid of the problem and retain national security at the heart of our arrangements. I shall give that matter further thought as the debate progresses.
The principle of sincere co-operation is not new. Article 11 of the treaty on European union states that
"The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity."
The treaty operates by reducing in every respect the power of our Parliament, and therefore the rights of our voters.
The position on subsidiarity is simply this: a series of laws are incorporated in the treaty, and the European institutions' attempt to put a gloss on the matter by suggesting that subsidiarity will resolve the problem and to give so-called power to national Parliaments is a complete con trick. That has not happened to any effect on any occasion that I can think of. Subsidiarity does not work, and there is no intention that it should. It is part and parcel of the artificiality of the arguments that they put forward to try to demonstrate that they are giving some credibility to national Parliaments.
I turn to competences and the European Court of Justice. As I say, competences are about power and law making. The ECJ is about the interpretation of that law. Let me quote the opinion of the Council legal service of
"It results from the case-law of the Court of Justice that primacy of EC law is a cornerstone principle of Community law. According to the Court"— please note that it is "According to the Court"—
"this principle is inherent to the specific nature of the European Community."
There follows mention of the Costa case of 1964, to which the Minister for Europe referred earlier.
The opinion of the Council legal service goes on to say that at that time
"there was no mention of primacy in the treaty. It is still the case today. The fact that the principle of primacy will not be included in the future treaty shall not in any way change the existence of the principle and the existing case-law of the Court of Justice."
The opinion continues:
"It follows . . . that the law stemming from the treaty, an independent source of law, could not, because of its special and original nature, be overridden by domestic legal provisions, however framed, without being deprived of its character as Community law and without the legal basis of the Community itself being called into question."
There is only one way to get past that judgment by the Council legal service, which is right in one sense only—that that is the assertion made by the European institutions within the framework of the competences that they have granted themselves and have been granted, foolishly, by member states. As that is the basis on which they operate, we cannot and must not allow our own Parliament to assume that what they say is right. We must insert a provision, which I will discuss tomorrow, about the preservation of the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament, having regard to the European Communities Act 1972.
I will not go further down that route this evening, however much I may be tempted to do so—which I am. Having resisted that temptation, I shall briefly refer to the other amendments that I tabled. I have already dealt with many of the matters in general terms; they include, for example, the fact that Community common policies will take precedence because of exclusive competences that are being granted; the problems that we have with respect to competition rules; the conservation of marine biological resources; and the common commercial policy. I mentioned yesterday the problems that arise in the context of the development of policy. These demonstrate the manner in which the Union will grab and maintain new areas of exclusive competence. These matters are dealt with under my amendment No. 121.
There is also the matter of the UK Parliament being required legally to submit to the Union if and when the Union acts first. That also arise under amendment No. 121. The United Kingdom would be required to conduct economic policy in the interests of the European Union under instruction of the Council—again, that is dealt with in amendment No. 121. The European Union seeks to direct policy for British industry, health, education, sport, culture, civil protection and tourism. That, too, is covered by amendment No. 121.
Then there is the issue of the European Court of Justice and its ruling—not its guidance and interpretation, but its ultimate jurisdiction over the right of the British people to make their choices in general elections. That is what is taken away by giving such enormous power to the European Court of Justice.
Mr. Mitchell will speak about fisheries policy. There are further issues such as the granting of aid, the common agricultural policy and so on. The bottom line is that we are giving in to the whole of the European Union without—
I hope my hon. Friend will not deny the House an exposition of his amendment No. 186, which seeks to remove something of a Henry VIII clause from the treaty. I have read amendment No. 186 and I have seen article 308, which it seeks to remove. I sensed that my hon. Friend was moving towards a peroration, which we do not want to miss, but before he delivers that with characteristic style, will he explain why he tabled amendment No. 186 and why he considers it important? I shall say something about it in my remarks, but it is his amendment.
Article 308 follows a line that goes back to the old article 235. It effectively grants a blank cheque, written by the UK and all the member states, in order to allow the Union to create its own powers beyond the treaties in order to pursue Union objectives, because it states:
"If action by the Union should prove necessary"— that is its judgment—
"within the framework of the policies defined by the Treaties"— that is in black and white—
"to attain one of the objectives set out in the Treaties", which is something that is a matter of interpretation, usually for the Court,
"and the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers"—
I ask the question: who is to decide what is necessary and what is not?—
"the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the European Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, shall adopt the appropriate measures."
I am not the slightest bit taken in by the word "unanimously" in this context, because the whole thing becomes a juridical exercise in which what is necessary, what judgments are to be applied and who is to make the decisions, are all matters that will be presented in order to get to the necessary objectives. The bottom line is that this provision will be used, and has already been used, even when the European treaty has not provided the necessary powers. The article has been misused because on several occasions it has been mentioned as the legal base for a proposal that has no connection with the words that were originally used but are no longer in there—
"the operation of the Common Market".
It has been way beyond that over and over again. This is effectively yet another example of a self-amending text. This is the manner in which it intrudes into areas that it would like to be able to grab, which it deems to be necessary, over which we have no control, save only through the European Court of Justice, and the spurious notion of unanimity in this context.
No, I will not give way. I have said before that if the hon. Gentleman's constituents had any idea of some of the things that he has been saying he would never be re-elected. He happens to be a good friend of mine in other contexts, but I simply say that he is the successor to Nick Budgen and Enoch Powell, and it astonishes me that he should sit there and say some of the things that he does.
The hon. Gentleman said "over which we have no control". The very part that he read from article 352 on page 195 of the consolidated text refers to the Council acting unanimously and obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. He then went on to say that that could be used for measures over which we had no control. We do have control; it is acting unanimously. I follow carefully what the hon. Gentleman says—he is very knowledgeable—but he must be careful about the way in which he uses such quotes.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Gentleman's injunction, because that is exactly what I did. I said that in the integrationist pursuit of the objectives set out, the unanimity will give way to the pursuit of those objectives, and that is the legal dynamic that is driving forward this integrationist process, which is at the heart of the problem. There is no tendency to repatriate or to think again; it is always towards more and more integration.
I simply conclude by saying that the provision will also apply to all third pillar matters on judicial and police co-operation, so that the Lisbon treaty will confirm the existing European Court of Justice encroachment into that area. This is a very important group of amendments. The extension of the competences is related to the power of the European Court, which deprives the British people of the opportunity to change their mind about matters that are incorporated in the treaties, and that is a good reason for our ensuring that we choose to vote on matters that are dealt with in the group.
Mr. Cash made a number of interesting remarks at the beginning of his contribution. He talked about the Cheshire cat and appeasement, and reminded me of some of the bonkers e-mails that I have received from people claiming that what we are discussing is all a popish or German plot to rebuild the holy Roman empire. He also reminded me of the "Carry On" films, in which Kenneth Williams exclaimed, "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!"
That seems to be the basis of what the hon. Gentleman, given what he has said, clearly believes is now the mainstream, united position of his party. That was confirmed by the interesting intervention from the former leader of his party, my constituency neighbour Mr. Duncan Smith. He pointed out that he and the hon. Gentleman were on the same side, fighting against the iniquities of the Maastricht treaty.
Despite the position that the hon. Gentleman has put forward, the reality is that the Lisbon treaty contains provisions that make the European Union more democratically accountable and more effective. He is a Europhobe, so I understand why he does not want the EU to be more effective; that is the consistent position of all those who oppose the EU and want it to fail. If it succeeds, support for it will grow, and if it fails, presumably things will be consistent with what he wants—ultimately, a withdrawal from the European Union. That is the real agenda that is increasingly being publicly exposed by this debate.
Is it not the case that the amendments are predicated on the supposed illegitimacy of the European Parliament? In fact, it has a great deal of legitimacy; it was John Major who said who and what he felt was illegitimate.
I was coming on to the role of democratic institutions. It is important that we recognise that the European Assembly, as was, has evolved since the late 1970s into not a Parliament in a full sense, but a Parliament with more powers than it had 30 years ago. We can raise questions about the legitimacy of that Parliament as long as the turnout at its elections is as low as it is. However, we will be on dangerous territory if we start arguing that too strongly, given that the turnout in our own general elections is as low as the high-50s in percentage terms, as opposed to the 75 or 80 per cent. of 30 or 40 years ago, and that turnout for our local government elections is as low as 25 or 30 per cent. That argument is not strong overall.
There are important changes in the Lisbon treaty. They are modest and incremental but enhance democratic practice. For example, the treaty will ensure that all European legislation is subject to a level of parliamentary scrutiny that exists in no other international organisation. NATO has a parliamentary assembly, of which I have been a member, but it is just an interesting talking shop. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has a parliamentary assembly; again, that is a talking shop, although it is not as interesting as the NATO one.
If my near neighbour does not mind my saying so, his are pointless comparisons. The institutions that he mentions do not have a body of law that exists alongside them. Please, let us stay on the real subject, which is the European Union looked at for itself—not in comparison with NATO, for God's sake.
In the United Nations system, there is, of course, no democratic parliamentary body of a global form. We have the parliamentary network for the World Bank. We have various parliamentary bodies, but they are not real parliaments. The European Parliament is a parliament that has real, and increasing, powers.
Under the terms of the Lisbon treaty, European legislation will be submitted for a process of dual approval, in equal terms, by the Council, which represents the member states and is composed of Ministers from the democratically elected Governments, who are accountable to their national Parliaments, and by the directly elected Members of the European Parliament, who come from the different political groupings and different countries. It is a dual process of accountability to directly elected Members of the European Parliament and to indirectly appointed Ministers who are indirectly accountable to their national Parliaments. The dilemma for those of us in national Parliaments has always been the inability to get to grips with the accountability of our Ministers when they have gone from our national Parliament to a supernatural body—I mean supranational— [ Interruption. ] It would be if the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green had his way; of course, those who live on other planets do believe the same thing.
There is a need for much greater accountability, and in many ways we are still grappling with that in our own Parliament. When the Foreign Affairs Committee or the European Scrutiny Committee considers these issues, we are frustrated about how Ministers can be properly accountable to this House in our scrutiny of European legislation and in respect of dealing with these matters when they go to meetings of the Council of Ministers. The situation is not satisfactory at present. The current arrangements do not work well, and we must find ways to improve them.
The directly elected European Parliament also has an important role. The prior scrutiny of national Parliaments must be reinforced by a change whereby we receive all European legislative proposals directly, in good time, so that we are able to discuss them with Ministers prior to the adoption of common European positions within the EU Council and not, as at the moment, in a rather inadequate way.
The hon. Gentleman is making another powerful speech in favour of centralisation of the European superstate. Just to make sure that I understand, may I ask whether is he saying that, because the European Parliament is being strengthened, it is all right to take more powers from the national Parliaments?
That is the complete opposite of what I am saying. At the moment, power rests with the Commission or the inadequately accountable Council of Ministers. The real question that we have as parliamentarians is how we can make the Commission and the Council of Ministers more accountable to Parliaments in the 27 member states and in the common European Parliament. It is not about centralisation or taking powers away from Parliaments; if anything, it is about taking power away from unelected bureaucrats and civil servants.
I appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman is expressing, but I do not know how he can take it seriously given the experience that he has had as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and that members of the European Scrutiny Committee have had, in trying to scrutinise the negotiations that led up to the treaty as regards our Government and those who were drawing up the constitutional provisions. What does that experience tell us about the real attitude in Europe towards scrutiny by national Parliaments?
What it tells us is that last year the German presidency took through a procedure for bringing the draft mandate before the intergovernmental conference, which, as the Foreign Affairs Committee said, was not sufficiently accountable to national Parliaments or to the European Parliament. That process was inadequate; it was not sufficiently transparent, and we said so in our report. That does not in any way negate my point, which concerns the need then, now and in the future for greater parliamentary accountability. The problem with Conservative Members' position is that they want greater parliamentary accountability in theory, but in practice they would remove one of the legs of that process: accountability of the European Parliament.
I would like to add to what my hon. Friend is saying. Directly elected Parliaments, whether we are talking about the House of Commons or the European Parliament, contain the representatives of the people who are closest to the people. In the European Union there is currently a move towards intergovernmentalism, away from powers residing with the Members of Parliament; it applies to Ministers, whether in the Council of Ministers or exercising their rights with commissioners to prevent them from having that power.
We also have to deal with what is happening in the Council of Ministers, as my hon. Friend says. First, there is a modest proposal for meeting in public, which will not make a great deal of difference in practice, but it will nevertheless allow national Parliaments and members of the public in all 27 member states to see how Governments work within the Council meetings.
Secondly, and more importantly, there is the change to qualified majority voting, which will mean a switch to a double-majority system of states and populations. A majority under that system will require a minimum of 55 per cent. of states, representing 65 per cent. of the population of the European Union. That system is much fairer and more beneficial to the United Kingdom. It means that Britain's share of votes will increase from 8.5 per cent. to 12 per cent., but presumably Conservative Members, when they vote against this treaty, will be against that, too. They are voting against an increased share of votes for our country, which seems a perverse logic, but then again, coming from the modern Conservative party, that does not surprise me.
What about the legal personality? Through qualified majority voting, we can be bound to international treaties that will not even come in front of this Parliament. Where is the accountability in that?
The current situation with regard to international treaties is that the Government sign the treaty, and after the event, Parliament is informed that the Government have signed the treaty. We do not have the system that some Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, have, where Parliament is involved in that process at an earlier stage. I am not sure what the hon. Lady is arguing. Is she happy with the current situation and just wishes to—
We are debating the Lisbon treaty, yes, but it has already been signed. If the hon. Lady is saying that the current situation is not satisfactory, I agree. It would be great if the Foreign Affairs Committee and other Select Committees were able to conduct prior scrutiny of international treaties, instead of there being a one-and-a-half-hour debate on a statutory instrument, or some other mechanism under which prior scrutiny does not happen. There are important proposals in the treaty that should be adopted and supported.
I referred to qualified majority voting, and I shall briefly move on to one or two other areas.
The annual budgetary procedure will require the Council and the European Parliament to approve all European Union expenditure, which changes the current arrangement, whereby agricultural spending, which has historically accounted for the majority of European Union spending, is ring-fenced and separate. Previously, there was the own resources spending addition and inadequacy in the European Community's dealing with the agricultural spend, but at last, for the first time, we have proper parliamentary accountability for that, which is important.
The Commission is and has been far more powerful than it will be. A new system of supervision by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will enable either institution to block decisions on delegated legislation to which they object. The treaty gives the European Parliament and the Council the right to revoke the delegation of powers. Again, it restricts the Commission's powers.
The President of the Commission will be elected on a proposal from the European Council but by the European Parliament, taking into account elections to it. That clearly means greater accountability in the choice of President, whoever that person may be.
As we know from our previous debates on the foreign policy aspects of the treaty, the high representative for foreign and security policy will be accountable to member states through the Council and, as a member of the Commission, subject to questioning and scrutiny in the European Parliament. Again, that means more accountability and scrutiny than currently exist.
How do we assess the overall consequences of the proposals? I referred at the beginning to two aspects: more democracy and greater effectiveness. The European Union will become more effective by adopting the Lisbon treaty. I accept that things that Governments, meeting in Council, decide through qualified majority voting will increase. However, in an organisation of 27, including some very small countries, one has to have a mechanism whereby decisions can be made so that the organisation is effective. If we do not do that, Luxembourg could, for example, stop moves to examine specific financial issues in the EU single market. Tobacco producers in Greece could lobby effectively to stop reform of the common agricultural policy. Some countries could prevent measures to increase co-operation on climate change, general environmental policy or energy policy simply because of some small national interest— [Interruption.] I refer to a small national interest that would be contrary to the interests of the larger states, including ours. [Interruption.]
If the amendment is accepted, the European Union could not act collectively and countries with populations of 60 million, such as the United Kingdom, France and Italy, or 80 million, such as Germany, could not work together to gain the support of the European Union, which could not move forward on economic issues.
There are safeguards for the foreign policy aspects of the treaty, which have been tackled elsewhere. They are dealt with on an entirely intergovernmental basis. Nevertheless, on the questions of the single market, energy, the environment, dealing with the big global challenges that we in Europe face and— [ Interruption. ] Of course, the Europhobes on the Conservative Benches are not interested in these questions. They simply believe that somehow we have to rerun the battle of Agincourt or somewhere else.
The First Deputy Chairman:
I ask all hon. Members to remember the common-sense way of debating. Let us have a bit of taste and decency. However, I am not considering extending any lists of unparliamentary language.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stone is so sensitive to the language that I use. I could have called him many other things, but I will not go down that route. I could have called him a pro-European. I could have called him—
The Lisbon treaty does not lead to the centralisation of power or the creation of a superstate, as has been alleged. In fact, it allows the European Union to operate more democratically and more effectively. The treaty allows the European Union to move away from the introspection and navel gazing of the past few years and start to focus on the real agenda, which includes business, efficiency and how to deal with the environment, climate change and the challenges of globalisation.
I am grateful to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee for giving way, despite the injunctions of others not to take an intervention. He seems to be arguing two contradictory things. At one point he told us that we should be proud that the UK's voting share was increasing, thereby making us more capable of creating a blocking minority. However, he then told us how appalling it was that things would be blocked and that it was important that the EU should become more efficient. Those two positions are opposites, but he has argued them in the same speech.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood, so I will repeat myself for his benefit. The move towards more qualified majority voting in those areas where it is necessary is in our national interest, because that is where we will be in the mainstream and able to secure the reforms that are needed in the European Union to deal with globalisation and the other challenges that we face. However, there are also important safeguards. In those areas where the process is not necessary, such as foreign and defence policy, we retain the entirely intergovernmental decision-making arrangements.
It is therefore necessary to support the treaty, because it is in our national interests. It gives us an increased share of the vote, reduces the size of the Commission, gets rid of inefficiencies and duplications, gets rid of the External Affairs Commissioner, and replaces two jobs with one in foreign policy. The treaty also means that the way the European Union institutions work is more accountable to both national Parliaments and the European Parliament.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the intervention by Mr. Harper precisely highlights the differences between the position that my hon. Friend and I hold, and that of many on the Conservative Benches? When we talk about voting and about the United Kingdom going up from 8.5 per cent. to 12 per cent., many Conservative Members immediately think that we are talking about a blocking minority. They take a wholly negative view of the European Union, rather than turning the issue round and asking whether the measure will make it easier for the United Kingdom to build a coalition of other member states under QMV on issues that are in the interests of our country. The EU is not a negative thing, although it is to the Conservatives; it is a positive thing.
I agree; my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The whole tenor of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Stone, who is no longer in his seat, was that it was "they" who were doing this to us, not that we were part of the European Union. We are part of it, and we must make a big impact within it. Our effectiveness will be judged by how we wish to contribute to the process, not by our opting out or withdrawing from it. The real agenda behind the amendments—and, no doubt, others to come—is that the Conservatives would rather not be part of the European Union; they want to say, in the words of the hon. Member for Stone, "No, no, no." It is unfortunate that we have not had the opportunity to put to the test the Liberal Democrat amendment that was not selected, because it would have been interesting to see whether the Conservatives voted for it. However, we shall not have that opportunity—today, at least.
I shall conclude—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] It is nice to be so popular. I shall conclude by saying that the essence of this debate—as with many others—is the fundamental choice of the way forward. The Conservative Front Bench has been captured by what was once an insurrectionist minority— [ Interruption. ] The former leader of the party, Mr. Duncan Smith is now waving his hands at the back. I remember the debates on Maastricht, and the debates in 1992 and 1993—
Perhaps surprisingly, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Cash, who is just coming back to his place, on one issue: I do not believe that we have enough time to debate all the amendments this evening. We have four groups in front of us, so hon. Members will be pleased to know that I intend to keep my remarks fairly short.
Despite agreeing with the hon. Gentleman on the lack of time for our debate, I cannot support his amendments. I shall not repeat the points that I made in my earlier speech, but I believe that stating the competences of the EU that already exist is an eminently sensible move that will clarify the situation. We might disagree on whether shared competences on energy and other matters are a good thing, but I believe that they are. I will therefore not be able to support the amendment.
May we have some clarification on the position of a variety of representatives of the hon. Lady's party who represent coastal communities? Whether MPs or MSPs, in Orkney and Shetland, they are quite happy to traduce the common fisheries policy but, in this House, they are apparently in favour of it. What is the position of the Liberal Democrat party on this policy?
The hon. Gentleman anticipates me; I was about to come to marine biological resources, or fish, and to talk about his amendment No. 222. I hope that he will have a chance to put his points on that this evening. My hon. Friend Mr. Carmichael is not here at the moment, but I know that he—and, indeed, the relevant Members of the Scottish Parliament—share many of the hon. Gentleman's concerns about the common fisheries policy. Indeed, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent coastal constituencies—and landlocked constituencies such as mine—share the hon. Gentleman's concerns.
We have problems with the common fisheries policy, but the reason we cannot support amendment No. 222 is that, even if it were passed, it would not change the current position. The European Court of Justice ruled in 1979 on marine biological resources—so in effect the EU already has exclusive competence— saying that the
"power to adopt measures relating to the conservation of the resources of the sea has belonged 'fully and definitively' to the community".
Will the right hon. Gentleman first let me pursue the point further? There would be no change to the current situation, even if the amendment were passed. We want to see change because the current position is inadequate, so we will continue to argue for root and branch reform of the common fisheries policy. Decisions must be made locally, but fish move, so it is sensible to have some co-ordination of fish stocks at the European level. That is not to say that it is impossible to have much more devolved local decision making. I also welcome the new scheme, which means more control over cod stocks in Scotland through conservation credits, which provide a different way forward.
I happily accept the endorsement of the wonderful work of the Scottish Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead. May I ask the hon. Lady about Elspeth Attwooll, a distinguished Liberal MEP, who on
"considers that, within the context of the often exclusive competences of the EU which are detailed in the draft Constitution, the inclusion of the conservation of marine biological resources is anomalous and unjustified"?
When did the Liberal Democrats change their mind, and why?
The right hon. Gentleman quotes from a European Parliament document issued three years ago, but the Liberal Democrat position is incredibly clear. Exclusive competence is currently set out in EU legislation, and should recognise that, as I have already said, even if his amendment were passed tonight, nothing would change. This is pure political posturing by his party.
With that, Mrs. Heal, I would now like to let other Members speak, but I am afraid that I will not be able to support these amendments.
It is delightful to rise after Mr. Cash has roused the House to a sufficient crescendo of excitement to allow me to introduce my amendments, although they have already been denounced in a rather long speech by my hon. Friend Mike Gapes before I have had the chance to put my case before the Committee. It was effectively argued that to come out of the common fisheries policy is to come out of Europe. That is supposed to be what is really behind the amendment, but what nonsense my hon. Friend spoke.
I wish to speak to my amendment No. 225, which the cream of the Labour party support. It is designed not to withdraw from Europe, but to add to the exclusions from the treaty of Lisbon, which the Government have decided to accept on common foreign and security policy, the Council's powers on a proposal from the Commission to adopt
"measures on fixing prices, levies, aid and quantitative limitations and on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities".
The amendment would remove that provision from the treaty.
In other words, the amendment knocks down the basis and the worst parts of the common fisheries policy. Those worst parts are seen in the treaty powers on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities. In Europe, of course, they are fixed and allocated by quotas. The North sea and areas around the British coast comprise mixed fisheries where quotas inevitably lead to discards. If a vessel catches a fish that it has no quota for, it simply dumps it back in the sea. It effectively kills it, making no contribution to conservation. It is a ruinous system. The smaller the quotas become, the greater the discards become. It is an automatic process. My amendment would knock out that provision, thus eliminating the discards problem.
The amendment would also knock out the power to give aid. Although that power has not given much aid to the fishing industry in this country, it has given massive amounts, financed by our contributions, to countries such as Spain—enabling it to rebuild and re-equip a fleet that is already far too large, and to use it to fish our waters for our stocks and loot the grounds of developing nations—and Morocco, where the Community buys, with our money, quotas for the Spanish fleet to catch, usually smashing up local boats and ruining local stocks in the process.
The other powers that the amendment would remove have made the common fisheries policy undoubtedly the worst fisheries policy in the world. I can think of no fisheries policy that is worse than the common fisheries policy, which has decimated stocks all around the British coast, especially in the North sea. It should be struck out. It is amazing how few people want it. I have heard no one support it, apart from the occasional Liberal Democrat. We have just heard one speak in favour of it.
If the hon. Gentleman checks the record tomorrow, he will see that I was arguing for genuine reform of the common fisheries policy. It is nonsense to suggest that passing an amendment tonight would change the future of fishing in the European Union, but of course we should ensure that decisions are made more locally. A great deal of change is needed; I do not support the policy as it is now.
That raises the question of the Liberal Democrats' proposals for a referendum. Incidentally, if those proposals were applied to Scotland they would require a referendum not on devolution, but on the 1707 treaty of Union. The question to ask about the common fisheries policy is: does the Liberal Democratic party support it, as a whole, or does it not?
There is a word called yes and there is a word called no. Which would the hon. Lady use in this context? Will she tell us? Very well: she cannot tell us whether the Liberal Democrat party supports the common fisheries policy or not. In any event, very few people want it, and only those Liberal Democrats who say yes—which presumably includes the hon. Lady—support it.
All my hon. Friends regard the common fisheries policy as a disaster. They are all embarrassed by it, and they all want to change it. However, they tend to view it as part of the package. If you like Europe, you must like the common fisheries policy. Well, my amendment allows them to dissociate themselves from it and to say "We like Europe and we will accept the treaty, but we are going to exclude the common fisheries policy." That is the sensible thing to do. It gives us a real power to choose. It is not necessarily part of the package: it can be taken out, and it would be taken out by my amendment.
However, I tabled the amendment not just to knock out the faults in the treaty that I have enumerated, but to prevent the coping-stone of the words in the treaty from being incorporated in the arch of the common fisheries policy. I intended to prevent a rather messy, anomalous policy, which no one likes but everyone feels obliged to support for different reasons, from being a requirement of the treaty. If we ratify the treaty unamended, the common fisheries policy will remain as an essential policy, sanctified and upheld by the treaty, from which we cannot deviate. That policy should not be part of the structure. Indeed, it was only fiddled into the structure by means of a very devious approach. There was no fisheries policy in the treaty of Rome, the founding document of the European Union—it simply was not mentioned. That treaty provides for a common market in respect of trade in agricultural products including, it is stated, the products of fisheries, or fish. There is nothing about a policy of controlling catches, regulating quotas and providing aid for vessels, or about what species can or cannot be caught. All that is mentioned is internal trade in fish. That is how the arrangement rested from 1956 until 1970, which is a long time not to have a policy.
Then Britain entered negotiations to join the Common Market, as did Norway. Those nations had among the richest fishing grounds in the world, and certainly the two richest fishing grounds in the Common Market if they were to enter it. It was therefore thought necessary to cobble together a policy to get access to the fishing grounds of Britain and Norway. Negotiations started in June 1970, and they quickly resulted not in a policy, but in a statement that there should be equal access to a common resource. That was all that there was to the basis of the so-called common fisheries policy—just equal access. European vessels would have equal access to our fishing grounds and those of Norway, and to all our waters.
That was in fact a negotiating gambit, not a sine qua non, but Edward Heath took it to be compulsory. He thought that that proposal had to be accepted if he was going to get entry to the Common Market, and he was desperate to get entry because he had no other strategy. Therefore, he regarded fisheries in the way set out in the documents in Scotland. I ask Mr. Salmond to remind me of the phrase.
The quote the experienced hon. Gentleman is searching for comes from the civil service. I can paraphrase it fairly accurately. It said that in light of Britain's wider European interests, they—the Scottish fishermen—were expendable.
Expendable: that is what the fishing industry was in 1970. The shameful policy of equal access to a common resource was put together, regardless of the interests of fishing, and particularly those of the inshore fishermen who opposed the whole business—the distant-water fishermen were making rich catches in Iceland at the time, so they did not care much and were not bothered about European or British waters. Effectively, the interests of the British and Norwegian fishermen were expendable under this system. Therefore, without an attempt to renegotiate it and to say that it could not be part of the treaty, and without an attempt to say we must make other provisions when we extended our territorial limits, the Prime Minister at the time, Edward Heath, shamefully accepted the common fisheries policy. Geoffrey Rippon, then a Minister, told the House that these were just transitional arrangements that automatically ceased at the end of a fixed period. That is what he said. Lady Tweedsmuir in the Lords got it slightly wrong, because she assured the other place that the whole business would be renegotiated in 1892; but although she was 100 years out, she too indicated that it would be renegotiated. On the basis of that, we accepted the common fisheries policy and Ted Heath sold the fishing industry down the river, as the fishing industry saw it at the time and has seen it ever since. Norway did not accept that, and it stayed out for that very reason—it had no intention of being sold down the river.
As the common fisheries policy was not really a policy at all, it had subsequently to be written into the Maastricht treaty to give it a post hoc legal basis. That was done: an attempt was made to put it on a legal basis by writing it into the treaty. That was then taken further by Giscard D'Estaing's abortive constitution. The British Government had not had the guts or the gumption to challenge its legality. It is clear, however, that the Commission was worried about that legality, which is why it got the policy written into the Maastricht treaty and tried to write it in further in the constitution.
The constitution stated that it would give the Commission exclusive competence of
"the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy".
That was an historic first: it was the first time that fish were included in any constitution and it was the first time that marine biological resources, which presumably include seaweed, dolphins and presumably anything that goes into marine areas, were included as a crucial part or arch of a constitution. I suggested at the time that had the provision been written in some of the magnificent language of the American constitution, it would have said, "We, the marine biological resources and fish of the Union, regard these truths to be self-evident. We are a common resource and may be caught by any country. That is a basic right for us and for them."
The wording from the constitution has just been transferred into the treaty of Lisbon; it is almost identical. The Government tell us that it is a treaty and not a constitution. I believe them implicitly to be wrong, because it is de facto a constitution—it defines the way in which the European Union will work. Writing provisions into the treaty is more effective than entrenching them in a constitution, because a constitution with entrenched rights will need some way to dig those rights in and ensure that they cannot suddenly be reversed by a small majority in the House of Commons. That does not need to be done with a treaty because once provisions are in a treaty they are entrenched for ever. They can be modified or removed only by another treaty, which must have the support of 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 or 33 member states—however many are in the Union at the time. That approach is more effective than constitutional entrenchment, and it is the one that we are taking if we allow the current words to remain in the treaty of Lisbon.
Well, there are things to do north of the border. So many towns in England are clamouring to join us—it is unbelievable.
The view of the Heath Government in 1971 was that fishing was expendable. Does the hon. Gentleman think that remains the view of those on the Treasury Bench?
I think that the occupants of the Treasury Bench find it difficult to defend the interests of the British fishing industry, because each time a fisheries Minister goes to a negotiation in December, the Government have other fish to fry. They might want a concession on this or to move forward on that, and the fishing industry is always expendable. It is always the area where the Government can make concessions and improve relations with Europe to secure a gain in another direction. That is the sort of process that goes on. Fishing is never regarded as a front-line interest and something to be defended. [Interruption.] Fishing is an important industry that makes a contribution to the national economy, so it is irresponsible of hon. Members to giggle at the mention of fishing as being important. They presumably support the inclusion of fish in the constitution and they then laugh at them—the poor fish. That is a cruel approach to take to a vital national resource.
If provisions are entrenched in the way that I have described, we would be lumbered for ever with a common fisheries policy that is not working. It has not protected the stocks and it has ruined the British fishing industry, because that industry has never been allowed to rebuild behind its own waters, which should be behind the 200-mile or median line. Every other country has managed to do that. I look at the prosperous industries that have been built up in New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, the United States and Canada. Those are examples of fishing industries that have been rebuilt behind limits, because only nation states have an interest in conserving their own stock to hand on to the next generation of fishermen. They do not want just to loot them as an expendable resource—
No, I merely wished to say that although my hon. Friend has given examples from around the world, and he is much more knowledgeable about them than I am, to suggest that the Canadian industry has been rebuilt behind national boundaries is complete and utter nonsense. I say that as a Canadian citizen. The cod stocks in the Grand Banks collapsed about 15 years ago. They have not been rebuilt and now the west coast salmon industry is about to collapse.
The Canadian fishing industry is making as much money out of catching shellfish—including crabs and lobsters—as it was out of catching fish. My hon. Friend must not attribute the consequences of climate change to a lack of national control over fishing resources—
At the beginning of my hon. Friend's contribution, he said that his amendments were ones that people who supported the treaty and the European Union could vote for, because they would repatriate powers relating to the common fisheries policy, if we thought that that was important. As a pro-European who is broadly in favour of the treaty, I am somewhat tempted by his argument. I am also aware that were that to happen we would need to renegotiate the treaty to ensure that that clause was included when we approve the treaty, which may happen next year. How confident is my hon. Friend that other member states would go along with that?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support, although I am doubtful about his querulous fears about what would ensue if my amendments were passed. They would just delete the common fisheries policy. We would be saying that that was no longer a central policy of the European Union, no longer part of the constitution and no longer an issue that has to be dictated from Brussels. We would be saying that we could replace it with either a national policy, which I would prefer, or with agreements between the coastal states that actually fish in the waters concerned, rather than allowing a whole host of vessels in from areas that have no interest in those waters except catching the fish and getting it home as quickly as possible.
The amendments would open the way to change, and should therefore have wider support. Certainly the common fisheries policy has prevented the British fishing industry from rebuilding in the way in which it would logically have done after it lost Iceland's waters—by concentrating on our own territorial waters and rebuilding fishing there. At the moment we cannot do that because our waters are open to access by other vessels. Only the nation state has the interest in its own territorial waters, but we could come to agreements with other states on exchanges of catches or quotas. The point is that we would decide our own policy, instead of having it imposed by agreements from Brussels that involve other nations with no interest in fishing or in our fishing stocks. That would also contribute to a more sensible common fisheries policy.
We all want to see the European Union widened. I want to see it become wider and shallower, not wider and deeper. It would be desirable, for example, to bring in countries such as Iceland and Norway. We could never bring those countries into the European Union at the moment because fishing is crucial to them—far more crucial than it is to us. They cannot allow access to their fishing grounds on the scale that would be required by the Common Market and by Europe. That stopped the Norwegians from entering in 1972 and stopped them from adhering in a subsequent referendum. It certainly keeps out Iceland. There can be no way of broadening Europe by bringing in those nations as long as we keep the common fisheries policy, because that would mean that every country would want access to those nations' fishing resources. They would be insane to allow that.
Let me conclude by pointing out that the policy has not worked and is not working. It is time for us to end it, and amendment No. 225 provides us with the opportunity to do so. I hope for a vote, although of course that is at your discretion, Mrs. Heal. My tellers are ready, my troops are armed and I think that the amendment is a rather better way of dealing with the issue than amendment No. 222. I hope that we can have a vote on it.
I rise to support amendment No. 222. Ministers and bureaucrats in Brussels may well argue that the treaty is merely putting into words what is happening in practice. Indeed, we heard that from the Deputy Leader of the House when she summed up earlier. In previous written answers about the constitution, Ministers have stated:
"Existing Community competence over marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy derives from article 102 of the UK treaty of accession."—[ Hansard, 2 March 2005; Vol. 431, c. 1159W.]
No other treaty is this explicit, however, about taking away member states' powers over their marine environment and biological resources. It is certainly not that clear or explicit in article 102 of the accession treaty, which states:
"the Council, acting on a proposal from the Commission, shall determine conditions for fishing with a view to ensuring protection of the fishing grounds and conservation of the biological resources of the sea."
I recognise that the legal arguments on the extent to which the article divides responsibility for fisheries between Europe and the UK have been raging for years. However, instead of taking the opportunity to clarify the arrangements and set clear red lines, enshrined in a treaty, the Government have stood back and are letting it slip away. Action to defend British interests could have been taken earlier, because the dangers had been recognised by the European Parliament, scientists and Labour MPs. Even the Government expressed concern over exclusive competence.
When pressed in the European Scrutiny Committee by Angus Robertson on whether the UK Government were happy to see marine resources as an exclusive competence of the EU, the former Minister, Mr. Hain, stated:
"No, we are looking at this."
Perhaps his mum wrote that bit; I do not know. Brussels tried to take more powers from the nation state in the marine strategy directive. During the European Standing Committee debate on that subject two years ago, the former Minister responsible, Mr. Bradshaw, said:
"One thing that we are worried about, as I have said, is that the draft directive appears to be a power grab by the Commission in terms of competences and what could or could not be done. That is completely unacceptable."—[ Official Report, European Standing Committee,
In the Lisbon Treaty, however, the Government are prepared to hand over, perhaps once and for all, exclusive competence over our marine biological resources. That is widely regarded as unnecessary and will not bring benefits to our marine environment.
The European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries has dismissed the proposed power grab, voting against it, stating:
"within the context of the other exclusive competencies of the EU which are detailed in the draft Constitution, the inclusion of the conservation of marine biological resources is anomalous and unjustified."
I think that the quotation given earlier was the same, and it is very helpful. The committee expressed further concern
"at the attribution of exclusive competence for the 'conservation of marine biological resources' under Article 12 of the 'constitutional treaty'...since it will tend to marginalise the competence of national and regional authorities which have in the past succeeded in preserving resources which are now under threat and whose protection is sought."
We also hear Ministers talk about taking a science-based approach to the marine environment, but that can have no credibility when they ignore the Royal Society of Edinburgh's recommendation that
"Ministers should reconsider their position over the EU exclusive competence for the conservation of marine biological resources, with a view to getting this deleted from the proposed EU constitution so that the principle of subsidiarity may apply to fisheries, as it does to other matters."
The same report also recommended that Ministers should endeavour
"to have the existing 12-mile limits made permanent instead of being subject to renewal every ten years."
That is something that the Lisbon treaty would put in jeopardy.
Mr. Mitchell chairs Labour's Euro-Safeguards campaign. In an article in his weblog, he notes the change from common fisheries policy to "exclusive competence" over the
"marine biological resources of the sea".
He goes on:
"We are told that most of the Constitution is already in earlier treaties. Much isn't and it also builds new powers on the back of earlier provisions...These and many other major changes are being presented as tinkering and 'tidying up', too unimportant for Parliament to discuss. This legislative confidence trick is unworthy of a government which should listen to the views of Parliament and people and allow full and free debate in Parliament before any referendum or surrender of parliamentary sovereignty or British laws and freedom. You can't win wholehearted consent by confidence tricks, half truths and closing down debate."
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I have read his articles in The House Magazine, and I hope that I have not got him in trouble with Tommy the Whip or his wife—whoever he is more frightened of. However, I liked what he said earlier, and I apologise if I have got him into a pickle. He is right to say that we should co-operate with our European partners in improving the overall health of the marine environment and fish stocks, when possible—but the provisions in the treaty, left unamended and in their entirety, go much further.
When the Environment Secretary was asked in a written question what the effect of the proposed change would be, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Jonathan Shaw, decided to defer the answer to a later date. If there is to be no change, or if the proposed changes were merely "tidying-up" exercises, why are Ministers unable to respond to what is essentially a straightforward question?
We need clarification of the responsibilities of the nation state and the European Union. The provisions in the treaty do not do that; instead, they potentially leave the door open to further powers being slowly sucked away from Britain by directives, regulations, European judges, and stealth.
One of the biggest problems with the EU and the CFP has been discarding, as the hon. Member for Great Grimsby noted earlier. Under the strict total allowable catch regime, it is estimated that between 40 and 60 per cent. of fish caught are thrown back into the sea, dead. Discard rates for the UK fisheries are high. The discard rate for North sea cod caught by English and Welsh vessels in the North sea stood at 43.8 per cent. in the last three months of 2006. Between April and June 2006, 42.2 per cent. of west of Scotland haddock was discarded by Scottish vessels. In total, 62.7 per cent. of west of Scotland saithe and 83.5 per cent. of west of Scotland whiting were discarded by Scottish vessels between July and September 2006. That means that a total of 246.3 tonnes of fish were discarded, but only 48.6 tonnes were landed—or that about 5 tonnes of fish were discarded for every tonne landed. That cannot go on.
Such data are collected and sent to the Commission by this country, but other countries, notably France and Spain, do not provide the necessary information. Moreover, the European Commission does not appear to be taking action against those countries, and its discard atlas appears to have been kicked into the long grass.
So what is the point of the EU wanting to give itself "exclusive competence" over
"the conservation of marine biological resources under the Common Fisheries Policy" when it is not taking adequate responsibility for its existing powers and authority? Europe has got to get to grips with tackling discarding: under this treaty, that position will not change, and it could be made worse.
Nor will this treaty guarantee greater fairness for our fishermen. For example, we have seen the Commission penalise British crews for over-fishing herring and mackerel, and subsequently they have had to "pay back" the extra fish over five years. Yet the French over-fished bluefin tuna—which is an endangered species—by 40 per cent. in 2005 and by 30 per cent. in 2006, and the Commission did nothing except waive EU penalties and negotiate an international amnesty.
That is not providing adequate protection to marine biological resources. The opportunity to improve the management of fish stocks and the marine environment has been wasted. More powers will go to Brussels; it is enshrined in the treaty. The Government have ignored the Opposition, Labour MPs, the European Parliament and scientists. Our marine environment is not in safe hands. The provisions will do nothing to improve the situation. Therefore, we should accept the amendment.
I oppose amendment No. 82, as it is certainly clear from many speeches made by Opposition Members that the role of this amendment and indeed many others is to block the competences introduced by the Lisbon treaty. Today the President of the European Parliament starts his official visit to the United Kingdom. As a former MEP and someone who is proud of this Parliament, I take great exception to many of the comments made by Opposition Members regarding the legitimacy of the directly elected European Parliament in both its current and its proposed form, which would include many improvements made by the Lisbon treaty.
At the moment, the European Parliament has 785 directly elected Members. That figure will be made more manageable for a European Union of 27 member states by being reduced to 751. Limitations will be made at the bottom end—no country will have fewer than six MEPs—as well as at the top end: no member state will have more than 96. That will make the European Parliament much more effective than it is and, given the other changes, which I shall mention shortly, much more legitimate in the eyes of the European peoples.
I thank my neighbour from Ribble Valley for that contribution. I will be having lunch with Hans-Gert Pöttering tomorrow. Although many of the things that were in the constitutional treaty are in the reform treaty, a good deal are not.
Well, they say that the DNA of certain species is very similar to that of human beings, but that does not make those species human.
The UK will gain one extra MEP, making a total of 73. Although we currently have 78, that number would have fallen under the terms of the Nice treaty to 72. In terms of representation in the European Parliament, Britain will have more under the new treaty than it would have had otherwise. That is a gain and a good achievement for the United Kingdom.
To bring about the extra legitimacy warranted by the European Parliament, the new treaty will extend democratic accountability by making co-decision the standard legislative procedure; it has been renamed the ordinary legislative procedure. Co-decision, which will give the European Parliament the same power in certain competences as the Council, was introduced by the Maastricht treaty with the support of many official Opposition Members and of Mrs. Thatcher. I wonder what Mrs. Thatcher would think if she were in the Chamber today, given the contributions of many Opposition Members.
No, I will not give way again. The hon. Gentleman has only just arrived at this debate, and many of us have been here for hours.
Co-decision will not be extended everywhere. As many Members have pointed out, the key policy areas requiring national control and national Government—typically foreign and defence policy—will remain in national hands. In addition, co-decision will not affect the ability of the Commission, acting with member states in the Council, to provide protection from threats to animal or human health. I am confident that co-decision will not block common agricultural policy reform and common fisheries policy reform, despite the many comments that we have heard, particularly from nationalists and from one or two Labour Members.
Overall, the treaty will expand member states' influence by giving them greater say over all parts of the EU budget. When I served in the European Parliament, we had no control whatever over agricultural spending, but the Lisbon treaty will introduce that innovation.
My hon. Friend spoke about having more control over the budget. Is there anything in this treaty-cum-constitution that will in any way lead to the European Union having its accounts signed off properly?
There is nothing to stop those accounts being signed off properly now. It is just that the will to sign them off is not there among the auditors responsible.
As a chartered accountant, I declare an interest. The suggestion that an accountant would sign off accounts when they knew them to be fraudulent is quite preposterous.
I am sure that many Government members and MEPs would say that, in a good many cases, the reason why accounts are not signed off is not fraud but because the level of detail and the care with which many of the budget lines are spent.
The Lisbon treaty will mean that all EU legislation will be subject to a level of parliamentary scrutiny not seen before. I have visited a number of legislatures in the European Union, and apart from the Danish legislature—the Folketing—the European Scrutiny Committee here in the House of Commons is probably one of the best means of providing that scrutiny. Under the Lisbon treaty, the Commission will give us sight of proposed legislation for national Parliaments, the European Parliament and the Council long before our Ministers go to Europe and do deals, contrary to what happened in the past. I am a former member of the European Scrutiny Committee, and there have been times when I have questioned members of my Government on the stance and positions that they took. The introduction of the new procedures will allow national parliamentarians to do that with much more ease, as they will be aware of proposed legislation much earlier.
Democratic control and the exercise of delegated legislation powers by the Commission will be reinforced through a new system of supervision by the European Parliament and the Council. That will enable either of them to block decisions on delegated legislation. That cannot happen at the moment. The Commission can, through delegated legislation, take many decisions that cannot be stopped by the Council or the European Parliament. The treaty will change that situation for the first time.
MEPs will be given separate votes to approve the President of the European Commission and the college of Commissioners. The European Council, in nominating a Commission president, must strongly take into account the position of the European Parliament, which is a directly elected body.
On reform, after the 2009 European elections there will be a new MEPs' statute. The statute will reform salaries, providing a standard base across the Union. The standard MEP's salary across Europe will not affect the UK tax system. That will ensure that UK MEPs' net salaries remain equivalent to UK MPs' salaries. The question is whether the new budgetary procedure will enhance Parliament's say on spending. Will it block the budget review? Will it put the UK's rebate at risk? The treaty will expand member states' influence by giving them a greater say on all parts of the budget. Again, that is a move away from intergovernmentalism to give member states more say, as their Parliaments will be able to speak out much more loudly on the budget. It will also enhance member states' say on the overall size of the EU annual budget.
The distinction will be removed between compulsory expenditure—I have already mentioned agricultural spending—and other areas of expenditure over which the European Parliament has the final say and which is the larger and increasing share of total EU expenditure— for example, expenditure in relation to structural funds, from which my region has benefited greatly. The ceilings on EU expenditure are set by the seven-year financial perspectives. Those multi-annual financial frameworks will continue to be decided strictly by unanimity in the Council.
The Council, not just the European Parliament, will take decisions on all subjects covered by the budget review. There can be no changes to the UK's budget abatement without the UK's agreement. The Lisbon treaty will not change that.
We have gone from being a European Parliament that was composed initially of appointed Members on a purely consultative basis to a modern electronic Parliament which, as a result of the treaty, is a legislature that can flex its muscles and which, in many more areas, carries weight equal to that of the Council. We are seeing the development of a Parliament that Europe can be proud of.
I am proud to be a Member of the House, and I was proud to be a Member of the European Parliament. Having both those Parliaments working well and parliamentarians working hard for the constituents whom they represent is important in bringing power and law-making closer to the people. I see the treaty as a genuine development which moves away from intergovernmentalism and gives the people of Europe more say over the things that affect them.
I am delighted to speak to amendment No. 222 in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and to signal that if we have the opportunity we will press it to a Division. We are delighted to have received indications of support from across the House, not least from the official Opposition.
I shall speak in a moment about the matter of concern, the exclusive competence of the European Union in relation to marine and biological resources, which has already been raised, but by way of introduction I should like to make a point that is very important to me. I take part in the debate not as a Eurosceptic, but as somebody who supports the European Union. I believe that it is an important institution. In a time of extraordinary change on our continent, it is vital that we live in peace, with security, open borders, open markets and hope for so many, in particular for the new nations of central and eastern Europe. Independence in Europe is the norm for most nations. It is the preferred model to share sovereignty where that is essential, but retain important decision-making powers at home for vital areas.
I speak as a friend of the European Union to point out that when there are gross failings, they need to be addressed. The greatest failure of the European Union is the common fisheries policy. That is not just a Scottish issue. We heard an impassioned contribution from Mr. Mitchell. The policy impacts on the English fleet, the Northern Irish fleet and the Scottish fleet. We on the Scottish National party Benches appreciate that the anger about the policy is felt in all coastal communities.
Amendment No. 222 gets to the root of the problem, which is the exclusive competence that is ascribed to the CFP in the treaty. It is exactly the same wording as was to be found in the draft constitution. There has not been a single change.
It should be obvious why this matter is of such importance to Scottish nationalist Members, Scotland being one of the great maritime nations of Europe with over 11,000 km of coastline and 70 per cent. of its population living within 10 km of the sea.
Nations such as Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and others may have had intermittent maritime histories, but they certainly have none now, and the notion that their Agriculture Ministers—they do not even have Fisheries Ministers—turn up at Council of Ministers meetings and have more say over the Scottish fishing industry than my right hon. Friend Mr. Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, who has responsibilities for fishing in Scotland, shows what nonsense the CFP is.
I return to the importance of this industry. I may have misinterpreted the laughter earlier, but this is a serious issue for coastal communities. It is about the existence of towns, jobs, their lifeblood, just as it was for those towns that suffered during the miners' strike when people were faced with the closure of their pits and were looking into the black hole of their future. It needs to be understood in urban centres that that is why the CFP is such a controversial policy, and one that needs to be addressed.
More than 5,000 fishermen are employed around the coast of Scotland, and for every job at sea there are an estimated five more fisheries-dependent jobs onshore. In 2006, £390 million-worth of fish was landed in Scotland, two thirds of the UK total, and Scotland accounts for 70 per cent. of all fish landings into the UK. Ironically, when the Council of Ministers discusses these fisheries, the UK Minister who represents only 30 per cent. of the industry has the lead role over the Scottish Minister who represents 70 per cent. of the industry—another anomalous situation that is unsustainable.
The UK Government are happy to have that situation based on case law enshrined in the treaty, and they would have accepted it as the status quo in the previous draft constitution. That is completely unacceptable. I note with interest that recently the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation maintained that fish stocks are best managed not through intergovernmental organisations such as the EU, but through exercising national jurisdiction over natural resources, and further warned that at an international level, governance arrangements are inadequate and do not result in effective management of fisheries.
Amelioration is possible. My friend who represents the same constituency as me in the Scottish Parliament, Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Minister, has worked hard to seek changes within the present set-up. It is a tremendous improvement on the previous regime, as was recognised by the European Parliament, which adopted a report that praised the SNP Scottish Government for implementing sensible measures to conserve fish stocks and encouraged other member states to follow the Scottish scheme. Therefore it is possible to make improvements, but we need a quantum leap in approach to this policy, not the smaller managerial steps that are possible with the CFP as constituted.
The UK Government support a policy that allows literally millions of perfectly edible healthy fish to be thrown overboard, and that is outrageous—not that we have heard anything from those on the Treasury Bench about how advantageous it is. Throughout all these days of debate in this House, not once has anybody from the Treasury Bench got up to say how great a policy it is. Of course they cannot—it is indefensible.
Before the hon. Gentleman finishes, will he comment on the loss of not only the stocks that are thrown back, but our sovereignty over the whole of our fishing stocks? They used to provide important nutritious meals to poorer people in this country, but their relative price has changed so much that they are now not on the menu.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point, which underlines the fact that this unsustainable policy needs to be addressed seriously. Yet nothing seems to have been done.
The relative positions of the fishing industries in neighbouring countries have been mentioned a number of times in interventions and speeches. Why are the fisheries of Norway, Iceland and the Faroe islands infinitely more successful and sustainable than the situation within the EU? If the CFP was such a good thing, surely the Norwegians, the Icelanders and the Faroese would be queuing up to join because of that. Not in a month of Sundays will they do so, because they know that that would mean the end for their fishing industries.
Has the hon. Gentleman considered the question of salmon fishing in tidal waters, for example? Although the issue may seem to be outside the territorial boundaries of a particular part of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, is it not possible that Scottish salmon fishing could be at risk under the proposals?
I was trying to make a point about the fisheries industries in neighbouring countries. Why in the past 10 to 15 years, during which extraordinary pain has been felt among the fishing fleets of the United Kingdom, have we seen an increase in the power and tonnage of the fishing fleets of those other countries? We are told that fish do not respect borders. That is very interesting—of course they do not. Why, then, are the fisheries policies of those neighbouring countries infinitely more successful than those within the European Union?
In preparing for this debate, I looked at some interesting correspondence that I received a few short years ago from the Prime Minister of the Faroes. He wrote:
"You are certainly correct in your assessment of the Faroese position on membership of the EU in relation to the Common Fisheries Policy. Indeed fisheries are of such overwhelming importance to our entire nation that membership of the European Union was unanimously rejected by the Faroese Parliament in 1974, and has not been on the political agenda since."
If the people of Norway, Iceland and the Faroes wanted to join the European Union, I would like the idea that they could. However, unfortunately the UK Government have signed up to a treaty enshrining fisheries as an exclusive competence, and that will make it impossible for those neighbouring nations ever to join. That is a travesty.
Let us consider how the issue has progressed. I would like to point out certain important realities for the record. The Scottish National party's position on this point, and others, has been consistent through the whole process of first the draft constitution and now the treaty. My friend Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, former MEP, was the only democratically elected member on the Convention that drew up the constitution. He raised the problems with the draft as it was emerging. The problems were reiterated in the Standing Committee on the Convention on the Future of Europe debates that brought together Members from the House of Commons and those from the other place. They were raised repeatedly. They were raised in the European Scrutiny Committee and in meetings that my right hon. Friend Mr. Salmond and I had with the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Straw.
The UK Government have known that the issue is a red-line one for the Scottish Government. Despite that, they have ignored it from day one. The consequences are that the treaty is unacceptable. As a pro-European, I could live with 95 per cent. of the treaty as it stands. However, because this issue has been pointed out from day one and because the UK Government could have sought an amendment but did nothing, the treaty has been made completely and utterly unacceptable.
The hon. Gentleman started off by telling us what a good European he is, but he will have noticed throughout his remarks, which are very impassioned and some of which I do not disagree with—I am not sure that if I represented a coastal community I would be keen on the common fisheries policy either—that all his friends in the Chamber are very strongly not friends of the European Union; indeed, they are very bad enemies of the European Union. The bottom line is that he cannot have it both ways—he cannot have the amendment and the treaty.
The hon. Gentleman does not have the benefit of eyes in the back of his head, which would enable him to see his colleagues on the Labour Benches agreeing with our criticisms of the common fisheries policy. That applies not only to Labour Members in this House but to socialists in the European Parliament, not least in the Fisheries Committee, where there was a vote of 23 to zero—there were four abstentions but no votes against—saying that exclusive competence over fisheries is a bad thing. That is exactly what the SNP amendment would expunge.
As Bill Wiggin said, the Royal Society of Edinburgh has sought to encourage us to delete exclusive competences—and not just the Royal Society of Edinburgh, august as it is. All hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies were contacted over the weekend by the Fishermen's Association Ltd, which said:
"We urge you to stand up in the national interest for our fishing industry and fishing communities.
It then asks hon. Members to support the SNP amendment.
The common fisheries policy is a failed policy. Discards are obscene. The idea that communities are horse-traded in the middle of the night at annual Brussels negotiations is completely unacceptable. The UK Government have failed to address the issue and failed to listen to the Scottish Government. For them, fishing is still expendable. A Conservative Government made a mistake in the early 1970s that a Labour Government are repeating now. That is why we will seek to press the amendment to the vote. Members of all parties in this House stood on manifesto or policy commitments to let the people decide on the treaty, and that is what should happen. The SNP has supported a referendum from day one, not least because of the disastrous common fisheries policy.
If the hon. Gentleman had been here from the start, he would know that there are about 12 amendments before us, only two of which deal with fisheries, so there are other things to talk about.
Nevertheless, what I would say about fisheries is that it is clear that the current policy is not working. It is clear to my constituents, I think, that part of the reason why it is not working is the presence of foreign vessels in UK waters, which, as far as I know, bought quotas from UK fishermen. It is also clear that when the United Kingdom discusses the common fisheries policy in the European Union, it is often the case, as is reported, that the UK is asking for higher quotas than the EU thinks are applicable to preserve fish stocks in UK waters. That suggests to me that fish might be better off with the European Union, because stocks continue to decline in UK waters.
The treaty will help to improve scrutiny of European Union legislation in this place. We need to go further in our scrutiny of legislation from the EU that may be implemented in domestic law. I am pleased to hear that the Government are making progress in that regard, and I hope that further progress can be made. I served on a Committee scrutinising European legislation—I cannot remember which one. The Minister was on it; he may remember; he was a very able Whip then. We served on Committee A or B for about two years, which conducted ex post facto scrutiny, and it was always an all-or-nothing affair. We need to improve decision making in this House, as the representative of this country in terms of the European Union.
Some hon. Members will know that I have been here for the majority of every day's debate on this Bill. This is my eighth day considering it, including the time spent on the business motion, which was thrilling. Looking at the aspects of the European Union brought into focus by the treaty, it has become apparent that quite a lot of Members in this House—they are mostly but not exclusively confined to the Conservative Benches—seem to see, given the tenor of what they say, a conspiracy by some of the other 26 member states to boss around the UK and tell us what to do. They seem to see the provisions in this treaty, and our relationship with other member states in the European Union and with the Union itself, as a one-way street. [ Interruption. ] Indeed, someone says from a sedentary position that it is.
I think that those Members are profoundly wrong. With regard to the single market, it is not just a question of nasty foreigners coming over here, selling their goods and services and blocking us out. The provisions in this treaty and elsewhere enable UK business to have better access to 26 other markets in the EU. It is a two-way street in that regard.
Hyperbole does not help my hon. Friend's case. Yes, there is a deficit, but to say that the EU imports nothing from us is quite frankly ridiculous, given the figures.
This is a two-way street, but the attitude I describe has become apparent not only with regard to the single market, to which my hon. Friend refers, but to energy. When we debated energy, the tenor of several Conservative Members' contributions concerning emergency energy provisions was that those nasty foreigners would come here and nick our energy supplies. The idea that we might need help from other states with our energy supplies in the United Kingdom—perhaps because the interconnector went down—did not occur to them and they would not accept that possibility when it was pointed out by others and myself in that debate. It was all a one-way street.
The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the amendments concern the institutional arrangements. In that respect, we are talking about a one-way street, on the basis of the occupied field—the acquis. It cannot but be a one-way street.
One of the key things we are discussing with regard to the amendments is competences—who does what. That brings to light our role in the European Union, whether we should be in it and what we should be doing.
It was clearly apparent when we discussed criminal measures that some Members felt that there was a one-way street. When I pointed out to Mr. Heathcoat-Amory that his constituents might get into difficulty with the criminal law in another member state and that minimum standards provided for under this treaty and the competences specified therein might therefore be a good thing for his constituents, the flavour of his reply was that his constituents would not be travelling to the continent and would never get into criminal trouble there.
The hon. Gentleman totally misrepresents my response. My point was this: why should I give up 100 per cent. of the powers to represent the interests of my constituents in my own country in exchange for a residual and hopeful right to influence some laws affecting those of my constituents who might travel to the continent? That is a very bad deal.
That is a bad piece of hyperbole. Giving up 100 per cent. of rights on the one hand and possibly gaining some rights on the other is not the position. The right hon. Gentleman's constituents are not being asked to give up 100 per cent. of their rights. Indeed, the treaty refers to minimum criminal standards in states throughout the European Union. That is helpful.
On energy and the one-way street, is not it the case that there is no single energy policy for Europe and that the Germans and the French refuse to liberalise their energy markets, which means that energy security is a fantasy for most European partners?
I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman will vote with the Government on the treaty because the single market provisions give the United Kingdom greater leverage, which is the two-way street, on liberalising energy markets—the very issue to which he refers.
The hon. Gentleman makes his case with conviction, but will he face up to the fact that it is neither his constituents nor people in Greece or Germany who want to harmonise criminal law? That is being driven by the Commission and those who have a federal point of view about the European Union in looking for ever more matters to integrate. It is not driven by the people.
The hon. Gentleman knows the treaty better than I do. The provisions on harmonisation—he used the word "harmonise"—do not relate to minimum criminal standards, which are a different part of the treaty. The treaty does not propose harmonising criminal law.
I was not in the Chamber when the hon. Gentleman began speaking, but I have just been made aware of his comments about last week's energy debate. On that occasion, we said that we objected to the European Union having the power to divert energy supplies from one country to another when it judged that it was a time of crisis. We did not say that it was a one-way trade. I specifically said that it was wrong for French gas reserves to be diverted to Britain, just as it would be wrong for British gas reserves to be diverted to France. In the light of that, I hope that he will withdraw his remarks.
I am grateful for that guidance. Let me say briefly—we are not rehearsing last week's debate—that my recollection of the treaty is that it refers not to diverting supplies, but to assistance.
Yesterday, we had a debate on international aid, and previously we had a debate on foreign policy. There is an overlap between those subjects, although they are separate, and that overlap was part of the debate. The idea that those nasty foreigners will tell us what to do on the international stage about aid or foreign policy is completely off the mark. To use the noun that I employed yesterday, the proposals mean "leverage" for the United Kingdom. To use an expression from the earlier debate on foreign policy, they can mean an each-way bet as opposed to a one-way street. If we are alone on an issue, the treaty will allow us to stand alone in terms of the competences, decision making and allocation of powers, because foreign policy has to be held in common and determined by unanimity. If we agree with the other member states, we have leverage.
When Mr. Harper intervened on my hon. Friend Mike Gapes about qualified majority voting and the blocking minority—I intervened subsequently—he presented the position negatively, as if it were always a question of how we could build a blocking minority—the unspoken sentiment in brackets being, "How can we stop those nasty foreigners doing things to the UK?" That is such a negative perspective. We should consider ways in which we can work with other member states when QMV covers the competence to build a coalition to get what we want for our country and our national interests in the European Union.
It should be quite clear to the hon. Gentleman and others that I am paraphrasing the flavour and tenor, as I see it, of many of the contributions of those on the Conservative Benches. I am not quoting and have never claimed to be quoting. However, we are talking not just about the blocking minority—that is what sprung into his mind—but about the increase in our voting power from 8.5 to 12 per cent. Sometimes—I hope in a minority of cases—that would be used to form a blocking minority, but I hope, too, that on most occasions it would be used constructively to build a coalition to get what we want in the world, in our national interest, through the European Union.
My hon. Friend has spent a lot of time going through the treaty. He is so positive about every angle of it, so why is he afraid of having a referendum, so that the people can give their views on it and share or perhaps not share his confidence?
I am not going to get into a big debate on the referendum, because it is raised endlessly in this place. What I am trying to put forward is what I see as the many positives in the treaty, of which I have become more convinced as we proceed. Without wearing rose-tinted spectacles—of course there are problems with the European Union—[Hon. Members: "Whoah!"] Opposition Members exclaim as though that were a big deal. The European Union is an organisation encompassing, in round terms, 400 million people. Of course there will be problems with it. Do we walk away from those problems or do we stay in there and do what is in our country's interest by increasing our influence on the continent and in the world?
In some ways, the European Union is one of the most successful international bodies in the world. [ Interruption. ] There is laughter from Opposition Members, some of whom really ought to know better, because they are of an age to. Until we had the European Union, we had centuries of war in western Europe; since then there have been no wars between major states in western Europe. Cause and effect may or may not be involved, but that is not something on which I would wish to take the gamble. To be a member of that club, we have to give up—yes, give up—certain powers, and in exchange we get other powers. That is to do with negotiations and building our influence in the world.
I shall give an example of where some other countries think that we are going broadly along the right lines: it relates to Mercosur in Latin America. Although Mercosur has a slower and much more difficult process, because of the relative poverty in Latin America and the disproportionate size of Brazil, it has a political project as well as an economic project. Those in Mercosur derive great knowledge and experience from the European Union and they think that we are doing a good thing. The fact that they hold that view does not necessarily mean that we are doing a good thing, but it shows that having the European Union is not an anomaly.
Members of the official Opposition should have a little more confidence in the European Union and a little more vision, because John Major was right when he lined up—initially with Denmark, but basically alone—to oppose deepening and propose widening. He was right, and he won. He built that coalition and he won. [ Interruption. ] Again, Opposition Members laugh, but membership of the European Union has almost doubled since he took that stance, and it is widening.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that there is some deepening in the treaty, but had John Major not taken the position that I have described, there would have been either a bust-up of the European Union or a whole lot more deepening.
Earlier today, Mr. Hague talked about constitutional tinkering. I think that "tinkering" was the noun that he used— [Interruption.] It may in fact be a gerund I am told. It describes a constant process within a dynamic institution that has expanded greatly in recent years. Many in the House would wish to see it continue to expand. When an organisation expands, it sometimes involves not simply a quantitative change but a qualitative change. With that qualitative change, we need what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as tinkering. We need to change things, and while the treaty perhaps does not get everything to do with the distribution of competences and powers right, it goes a long way towards sorting things out.
I shall close—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] There will be more later. I shall close by pointing out that, as some hon. Members know, I spent a lot of my professional life in negotiations. When people negotiate with partners, they often have ongoing relationships, as I did when I was acting for the victims of industrial injuries; I had them with insurance companies, for example, which would come in on one case and then on another the next week. When people have ongoing relationships in negotiations, there has to be give and take. It cannot be a one-way street—take, take, take—which is what the official Opposition seem not to understand about negotiations.
I begin my response to this group of amendments by briefly making a point about timing. We have debated important issues such as competences and marine biological resources. Unfortunately, however, yet again, because of the Government's business motion, we shall not touch on three other groups of important amendments on the operation of the institutions, on the European Union constitutional and treaty revision issues and on legislative and decision making procedures. Yet again, the Government's business motion has hampered the line-by-line scrutiny of the treaty that we were promised in lieu of a referendum. That needs to be put on the record again tonight.
I was amazed to hear Mr. Hendrick, who is no longer with us, citing the treaty's relationship with the UK abatement as an argument for the treaty. Let me remind the House that, as a result of the Government's miraculous negotiating skills on the abatement—the rebate—they gave away £7 billion of British taxpayers' money and got absolutely nothing in return. If that is one of the strongest arguments in favour of the Lisbon treaty, it is no wonder that the public overwhelmingly want a vote on it.
I shall now turn to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Mr. Cash, whom I congratulate on being selected to lead the group tonight. He started by speaking to amendment No. 82, which seeks to remove replacement article 3A. He knows that I have a slight reservation about the proposal, because it would also remove article 3A(2), which relates to national security. In fairness, he touched on that point in his speech.
I have a slight reservation about that, but I am much more comfortable about my hon. Friend's amendment No. 121, which seeks to strike out from the treaty the innovations brought into the categories and areas of Union competence. The amendment would improve the treaty by striking out the innovations to the list of the EU's areas of exclusive competence—in other words, the areas in which the EU alone is allowed to legislate—as well as to the list of shared competences, or areas in which the EU, in effect, has first refusal to legislate. The list of exclusive competences has been extended to include areas that would damage the UK's ability to legislate, such as competition policy—the subject of an earlier debate—and marine biological resources, under the common fisheries policy. That is the subject of specific amendments that I shall refer to briefly in a moment.
Amendment No. 121 would also improve the treaty by striking out from the list of shared competences additions that were opposed by the Government, such as space, trans-European networks and consumer protection. It would also affect fundamentally the nature of the way in which the shared competences are listed in the treaty. It was the Government themselves, in their arguments on the Convention, who made this obvious observation:
"Shared competences should be a residual category. They should therefore not be listed explicitly. To have an 'indicative list' of some shared competences is the worst of both worlds."
They were the views of Her Majesty's Government, and we agree with them. To list the categories in this way is, as the Government recognised, bad enough, but as they recognised equally correctly, the way they have been set out is not a restatement of the current position but an enlargement of the EU's powers.
Amendment No. 121 would also strike out new article 2A, which attempts to set out the rules for the way in which competences are decided. On that point, Mr. Hain said of the European Convention, when he was the Minister for Europe:
"This is an attempt to codify the existing case law and illustrates that to do so may result in oversimplification. So best left for case law. All the caveats that would be required to make this accurate would also make it far too complex for a constitution".
The caveats that were asked for were not given, yet the rules were not taken out of the constitution and have reappeared in the Lisbon treaty as a result. That is another example of the Government's triumphant negotiating position with regard to Lisbon.
I should like to say a few words on amendment No. 186, also proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. The amendment is designed to remove a new replacement article 308, which gives the EU the power to legislate in the following way:
"If action by the Union should prove necessary, within the framework of the policies defined in the Treaties to attain one of the objectives set out in the Treaties, and the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers, the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European parliament, shall adopt the appropriate measures".
That wording gives rise to an important question, which I know my hon. Friend the Member for Stone will appreciate: who decides whether the action should prove necessary? At best, this wording is, like much of the treaty, ambiguous; at worst, the provision could give the EU a mechanism for legislating outwith the normal channels of legislation. It should not therefore have a place in the treaty.
Does my hon. Friend agree, as I explained earlier in some detail, that this is the most pernicious extension of the powers and competences? For the reasons that he has given and I explained, it allows an extension of powers without a treaty and it enhances the powers of the European Court of Justice in respect of accumulated functions under this treaty and these competences. With the leave of the Committee and the Chair, as a result of the pernicious nature of those provisions, I would like to press amendment No. 186, not amendment No. 82, to the vote.
If that pleases the Chair, Conservative Members would be delighted to follow my hon. Friend into the Lobby to try to take this pernicious clause out of the treaty.
Amendments Nos. 222, 225 and 131 deal with marine biological resources and fishing policy. They would improve the treaty by removing the damaging further extension of the EU's powers into marine policy. For instance, the SNP's amendment No. 222 would improve the treaty by striking out from the list of exclusive competences marine and biological resources. We heard a number of very good speeches on that particular topic, not least from Mr. Mitchell, who combined serious points with humour. If I may say so, we heard a passionate speech from Angus Robertson. We do not always agree with everything that his party stands for, as he knows, but he made a passionate and convincing speech on this matter tonight, on which I congratulate him. We also heard a very good speech from my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin, who provided a great deal of detail, not least because he happens to be an expert in this subject.
The Minister was assailed from all sides of the House about fishing policy. The House does not support the Government's policy and I look forward to hearing the Minister's attempt to defend it against the criticisms that have been made by Conservative Members, Labour Members and, indeed, by Scottish National party Members. In fact, his policy was so bad that it was also criticised by the Liberal Democrats. That is the kind of problem in which the Minister found himself.
Amendment No. 186 seeks to remove an ambiguous and dangerous provision, and would therefore improve the treaty. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone will press it to a vote. Amendment No. 222 seeks to remove a dangerous and unnecessary entrenchment of the EU's competence over marine and biological resources, which could hamper the United Kingdom's ability to manage its own conservation and marine policies. I hope that we shall be given a chance to vote on both those amendments, in defiance of the Government.
We have had a good debate. Mr. Cash displayed great passion, if on occasion a lack of precision—although that is a matter of judgment for the hon. Gentleman—in his 43-minute speech, but I had the feeling that I had heard it before. I had, in fact, and I am certain that I shall hear it again tomorrow and next week. The hon. Gentleman reflected on the possibility of a conspiracy between the Government and the BBC, which he said did not report his words. I had assumed that the BBC ran so many repeats nowadays that his speeches were a staple of Friday night coverage.
The hon. Gentleman also claimed that there was a united position in the Conservative party. I think we all accept that he has remained absolutely consistent, apart from what he considers to have been the momentary aberration of voting for the Single European Act, on which he has since recanted. He has stayed in exactly the same place, and his party has galloped rightwards towards him. It is now the only centre-right party in the European Union that opposes the treaty. [Interruption.] I hear a Conservative Member ask "What about the Czechs and the ODS?" The fact is that the Czech Republic and the ODS—the Civic Democratic party—are in the Government of the Czech Republic, and they support the treaty and intend to ratify it.
I mentioned a lack of precision on the part of the hon. Member for Stone. There was also hyperbole and overstatement. He described the debate on the treaty as—I think I quote him accurately—"as great a battle as has been fought in the history of this country".
That was a ludicrous and ill-founded assertion. It is an insult to so many who have given so much for so long in important and genuine battles, in which many friends and families of Members in all parts of the House have been involved over many decades.
We shall have an opportunity to consider some of these matters again tomorrow, but let me say this to the Minister. The debate on the Bill and the treaty is about the question of whether the voters of this country will be able to govern themselves. It is about the supremacy of this Parliament, and about the engrossment of the European Union and the European Court of Justice. That is why I say that it is such an important matter.
The hon. Gentleman made a similar point about the Maastricht treaty, the treaty of Amsterdam and the treaty of Nice, and this evening he is wrong about a European treaty for the fourth time.
We also heard from my hon. Friend Mike Gapes, the informed Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He spoke in great detail of the increasing power and influence of the United Kingdom as a result of the introduction of double majority voting. My hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell and Angus Robertson spoke with experience and passion about fishing issues, to which I shall return shortly, while the speech of my hon. Friend Mr. Hendrick reflected his background as a Member of the European Parliament.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was also alone in supporting the Government, with the exception of the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Ilford, South, and the hon. Member for Preston.
One of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Stone attacks an important principle by seeking to remove the following provision in article 3b of the treaty on European Union:
"Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States."
That is an important statement of principle. It clarifies that the EU has only those powers that the member states give it through treaties, and that everything else remains with member states. It sets out the relationship between the EU and member states, making it clear that powers are given to the EU by member states, not the other way around. It makes it clear that member states are the masters of the treaties, as the German constitutional court has put it.
The duty of sincere co-operation that is reflected here—which has excited some Opposition Members—is not new. Britain signed up to that when we joined the European Community, and it is also reflected in the Maastricht treaty.
On the amendments on the categories of competences, the text gives greater clarity than before on what the EU can and cannot do. The treaty also reinforces more than any previous treaty the limits of EU competence, and competences not conferred on the EU remain with member states. The Law Society of England and Wales—not some foreign threat, or part of any great conspiracy—says in its report on the treaty of January this year that:
"EU law can only be made in those areas in which all EU countries, including the UK, have agreed that it is appropriate for action to be taken at European level."
It also states:
Amendment No. 121 seeks to remove the codification of competences in the treaty. That is a denial of the reality, for the categorisation contained in the Lisbon treaty is not new. It is my strong view that as the treaty has been agreed, the allocation of competences is no longer a one-way street. Just because in the past something was better regulated by the EU than by nation states is not to say that things must remain the same for the next 20, 30 or 40 years, and the treaty makes that clear.
Amendment No. 222, tabled by the hon. Member for Moray, attacks the inclusion in the treaty of a specific reference to the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy being defined as an exclusive EU competence. However, it is an exclusive EU competence, as we knew when we joined the EU. The treaty only confirms that. The Lisbon treaty makes no changes to the extent of the competence at European level on fisheries. Community competence over fisheries is shared, except for conservation measures, which have been exclusive since the UK's treaty of accession. That was confirmed by a European Court of Justice ruling in 1981.
As the Minister has said, it rests on court decisions—before 1981, specifically on the Kramer case of 1976. In other words, it is secondary community law. The Minister is acceding to putting it into a constitutional treaty—to consolidating it into a constitutional treaty, as the draft constitution did before it. Why at no stage of any negotiations—such as in the draft constitution or now in the constitutional treaty—did the UK Government lift a finger to take it out, despite the many concerns and reservations that were expressed?
What is absolutely clear is that article 3(d) of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union only has exclusive competence in respect of the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy. It is important that we have an international approach to conservation so we can work together and co-operate. Article 4(d) of the consolidated treaty on the functioning of the European Union stipulates that there shall be a "shared competence" on
"agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources".
It is important that that is put on the record.
More widely, there is a need for continued improvement to the common fisheries policy. Such issues continued to be debated, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby. In the past year, there has been a reduction in the discards of high value fish, such as cod, and a new cod avoidance programme, involving the industry, has been introduced in Scotland. Scientists and fishermen are working together, and Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation is involved in ensuring that those conversations take place.
I believe that 41 Council meetings have taken place since devolution, and the Scottish Fisheries Minister has been involved in each one of those gatherings of fishing Ministers.
My hon. Friend Mr. Brown is right to raise this issue. The hon. Member for Moray heckles the UK Fisheries Minister from a sedentary position, and of course there is a need for further improvement of the common fisheries policy—no one denies that. He is disappointed that Scottish Executive Ministers are just part of a delegation, but that is, and should remain, the position as long as Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. As someone who is a Unionist and who does not believe in the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, I can say that that is the correct approach.
Amendment No. 124 was tabled by the hon. Member for Stone. It attacks the principle that the EU should take into account social objectives when legislating, which is contained in paragraph 17 of article 2 of the Lisbon treaty's provisions on competences. To what in that provision does he and, I assume, his Front-Bench team take such great offence? It states that account must be taken of
"the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health.".
He and his Front-Bench team seek to remove that provision from the treaty. In opposing amendment No. 124, we make it absolutely clear that we want nothing to do with the agenda that would remove those guarantees of social protection for workers and citizens of our country.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving me a few minutes to reply to some of those points. First, much of this discussion is based on the Lisbon agenda, which is a failed project that demonstrates that the European Union has aspirations, but does not work. I described these competences as an aggrandisement of powers, including not only an invasion of the legislative supremacy of this House, but an increase in the powers of the European Court of Justice. They are being pursued tenaciously, and in an iniquitous manner, against the background of the Government in many instances having reached the decision at the Convention that they did not want the powers in the first place. A complete contradiction lies at the heart of the Government's position. One of the most pernicious aspects of all this is the extension of the powers and competences of the ECJ without a corresponding new treaty to increase the competences of the European Union under article 308.
Therefore I wish to press amendment No. 186, not amendment No. 82, to a Division. Amendment No. 186 deals with that pernicious extension and it was endorsed, I am glad to say, by my hon. Friend Mr. Francois, the shadow Minister for Europe, who has just made an excellent speech. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 82.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings, The Chairman put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Questions on Amendments selected for separate decision, pursuant to Order [
Amendment proposed: No. 222, in page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
(ii) '.— [Angus Robertson.]
Question accordingly negatived.
Amendment proposed: No. 186, in page 1, line 12, after 'excluding', insert—
'(i) Article 2, paragraph 289, replacement Article 308 TEC (TFEU) relating to action within the framework of policies defined in the Treaties where the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers; and
(ii)'.— [Mr. Cash.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 154, Noes 300.