Clause 6 — Parliamentary control of decisions

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 10:30 pm on 4th March 2008.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs) 10:30 pm, 4th March 2008

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton and I have not seen eye to eye throughout most of today's proceedings, but on these amendments we see absolutely eye to eye. He even said that I had underplayed the arguments in their favour. Amendment No. 20 is not a wrecking amendment, but something to ensure—whether one is in favour of the treaty, like the hon. Gentleman, or against it, as I am—that the provisions are subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny in future.

Stewart Hosie mentioned the necessity of primary legislation to provide the time to consult with the devolved Administrations. Having taken part in the Convention on the Future of Europe, Ms Stuart spoke with her enormous experience of these matters. She also cogently put the argument for the amendments.

I have already made it clear that amendment No. 20 is the particular one that I want to press to a Division because, as so many hon. Members have said, it most accurately accomplishes what Members across the House have spoken in favour of this evening. In the exercise of passerelles—the ratchet clauses, as we term them—the movement from unanimity to qualified majority voting could be of sufficiently immense importance to have to be considered exhaustively by the British Parliament.

The Minister said that the passerelles—plural—had first been introduced in the Single European Act 1986. However, on 6 February this year I asked the Foreign Secretary about the issue and it turned out that the 1986 Act had introduced

"one amending provision...This was article 130S, relating to environment policy."—[ Hansard, 6 February 2008; Vol. 471, c. 1166W.]

[ Interruption. ] It is no good the Minister arguing with the Foreign Secretary's reply.

What is envisaged in the treaty of Lisbon is a wholesale extension of the passerelle. It is the ability for the European Council almost across the board, except for defence, to— [ Interruption. ] It is no good Mr. Sheerman saying that he does not believe a word of it when he has not been present for the whole of the debate, or shouting out from a sedentary position when we have had a perfectly reasonable debate for the past two hours. This is the wholesale extension of the passerelle and therefore—

It being six hours after the commencement of proceedings in Committee, The Second Deputy Chairman put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Orders [28 January and 3 March].

Amendment negatived.

The Second Deputy Chairman then put the Question on an amendment selected for separate decision.

Amendment proposed: No. 20, page 3, line 21, leave out from 'given' to end of line 35 and insert 'by Act of Parliament'.— [Mr. Hague.]

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