Clause 6 — Parliamentary control of decisions

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 4th March 2008.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 4:46 pm, 4th March 2008

Indeed, Sir Alan. I shall observe in response only that the European Union has altered out of all recognition since the 1975 referendum. I am not in favour of continuous or frequent referendums. Only when the rules of politics alter do we need to consult the people—I take that from the writings of Tom Paine. He observed that Governments must not make constitutions because they would be writing their own rules. The rules must be approved by the people and politicians can then fight it out, promoting or opposing policies within those rules. That framework is rightly the subject of occasional referendums, and it is about time that we had a referendum on the European treaty.

The people are trying to say something. In these frequent no votes and judgments they are expressing dissatisfaction with the process of European integration. That was picked up in the Laeken declaration of December 2001, when Heads of Government recognised a need for profound reform. In that declaration they proposed not a constitutional treaty but rather a reformed mechanism to bring the European Union "closer to its citizens", to simplify the treaties, to stop the European Union interfering in the minutiae of national life and, above all, to make the process more democratic.

The EU has reached a different conclusion—certainly at the top. Its conclusion is to say no to reform and no to asking the people ever again. It certainly does not want to ask the people of the United Kingdom. Democracy is too chancy and too uncertain in its outcome for the EU, but the process of European integration must proceed by other means. That has relevance to the clause and the amendments. The Lisbon treaty thus includes a self-amending process to obviate the need for future intergovernmental conferences and referendums. That process is the passerelle clauses.

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