European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 4:52 pm, 3rd June 2010

I congratulate Gareth Johnson on his excellent maiden speech, and all the other hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today. I particularly welcome the fact that we have had four superb speeches from new women Members on the Labour Benches. That demonstrates the fact that, although it is still happening too slowly, the more representative the parliamentary Labour party becomes, the more effective we will be. As an Opposition, we will be far more effective as a result of their contributions and those of others that we shall hear. That was ably demonstrated during the debate.

I also note that, during the past three hours since the Front-Bench speeches, the notional quorum of 40 has not been reached in the House. There are no specific business votes today, but this situation will need to be challenged-perhaps not today, but in the next few weeks. It is neither fair nor reasonable that we should have a coalition Government with only half the coalition present. I apologise if there are Members whom I do not recognise because they are new, but I do not spot any Liberals here. I have spotted some documents that have arrived, however: the Liberal party, in government for the first time in 80 years, is represented here today by a pile of papers. For the past two hours, there have been no Liberals present in the Chamber. They have a responsibility, when in government, to be here to listen and to argue their case.

I commend the Minister for Europe, and welcome him to his job. I believe that he has been present throughout the debate. That is appropriate Front-Bench activity for any party, but where is his Liberal deputy, or any Liberal? Not so long ago, the Liberals would have crawled across broken glass to attend a debate on Europe to show their enthusiasm for the European Union. Perhaps that explains their reluctance in this new coalition, when Members such as Mr Cash can congratulate them on their speeches on Europe and tell them how far they have moved in three weeks.

This fragile coalition will, I predict, be still more fragile on the issue of Europe in times to come. One thing I can assure the Liberals of is that they are going to have to provide, as a coalition Government, sufficient Members at any one time-or they will be challenged, whatever day and whatever time of day it is. That is particularly so when the new Government want to reduce the number of Members-by 65, I believe. Well, that is a legitimate debating point and we will no doubt vote on it at some stage in the future, but if we are going to reduce the number of Members, we have to have those who are Members here in the Chamber in the first place. That is the first duty of Government. We, of course, have less onerous duties in terms of- [Interruption.] Oh, I see that a Liberal is belatedly emerging, which gives me the opportunity to reinforce my point, and the Liberals will be particularly keen to understand and contemplate it, given their role in the coalition.

It seems to me that politicians across the world and within Europe, however it is defined, are not addressing the two biggest issues in the world. The first is population. It is not sustainable for the world population to continue to increase in the way it has. Politicians across the world, including in Europe and in this House, have virtually nothing to say on that key issue. The second issue that goes alongside the growth of population and exacerbates it is the problem of migration.

Peoples have always migrated, but when the number of people migrating and the volumes and speed of migration are increasing as fast as they are today, conflict will emerge in all parts of the world. Some of those conflicts will be based on resources, some on climate, some on wars-in fact, some will create wars-and some on economic migration, but conflict is fundamental. Given the size of the world population, it seems to me that the levels and speed of migration are not sustainable. A quarter of the world's countries have had food riots in the past 18 months. Many of the mass migrations outside the European Union in recent years have led to major conflict, leading to multiple deaths because of war.

One of the dilemmas and problems that this coalition will have to face over the EU is that although the Prime Minister makes great play of how tough he is on immigration, on all occasions when he refers to immigration, he means immigration from outside the EU. Thus doctors from India cannot get into this country, even when our hospitals want them, because the Government-it was the same under the Labour Government-are "toughening their stance" on immigration. As I say, that means immigration from outside the EU.

Earlier today, however, we heard a leading Liberal, Simon Hughes, when he had bothered to attend, say that the new coalition was potentially in favour of Turkey acceding to the European Union. We have also heard the new Foreign Secretary outlining how there will be no referendums on accession. He was prepared to name Croatia, but how many more countries are there? With accession, of course, comes free movement of labour. The Maastricht treaty, as voted through by the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues in 1992, created the format, using the treaty of Rome as its basis, but going much further on the free movement of labour.

We have heard speech after speech, including those from the Eurosceptics on the Conservative Benches, saying unequivocally that what they want is more flexibility-in other words, a cheap labour pool for business. That is what flexibility is about for them. For a power worker at Staythorpe power station or for a worker at the East Lindsey oil refinery, or at many other places, as new migrants have come in, the agencies have squeezed wage levels and reduced the opportunities for jobs. In my area, the agencies recruit in Polish from Poland and then employ those people in factories on a casual basis, day by day. The fact that workers in my constituency and surrounding constituencies cannot compete with those wage levels is causing fundamental problems which this dishonest coalition is refusing to address.

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