European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset 2:04 pm, 3rd June 2010

I welcome the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe to the Front Bench. I think that I speak for the whole House-or certainly for this side of the House-in saying that we now have a very strong team at the Foreign Office which will stand up for the United Kingdom's interest in Europe as well as the UK's interest in the wider world. It is with some sadness that I say I am speaking probably for the last time with you in the Chair, Sir Alan. We will miss you in that particular position, but I am sure that we will none the less see a lot of you around the House, which we look forward to in the future.

The Foreign Secretary spoke at some length about democracy and what could be described as a democratic deficit in European affairs, particularly in the European Union. I want to speak a little about what I see as a democratic deficit in common security and defence policy in the EU. There are a lot of good words on the role of national Parliaments in the Lisbon treaty, but there is little substance or structure on that subject. Sadly, one of the last dying acts of the previous Government-on the last day that this House sat before the general election was declared-was the announcement that they were signing the death warrant of an organisation called the Western European Union, and with it parliamentary scrutiny of European security and defence policy and common foreign and security policy.

Let me take a few moments to explain to colleagues what the Western European Union was, as it was the forerunner of the European Union. Its history dates back to 1948. The Brussels treaty was modified in 1954 to make the WEU an effective defence pact, and it participated in the early stages of the Balkans and Gulf wars. Then, 10 years ago, the European Union decided that it would transfer the functions of the WEU to the European Union, including the transfer of its military staff and its satellite centre, and the Western European Armaments Group effectively became the European Defence Agency. That is not what I want to talk about, however.

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