European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Europe) 5:28 pm, 3rd June 2010

I see the hon. Gentleman nodding. He thinks that everything bad that has ever happened is basically down to the European Union, the Labour Government or, for all I know, me personally.

There were also important contributions that were actually about Europe. In particular, Mr Walter referred to the issues relating to the Western European Union, in which he has played a significant part. I hope that the new Minister for Europe will be able to answer some of those questions, particularly about what his plans are for making sure there is a replacement, so that the important job of scrutinising European foreign and defence policy is not just assumed by the European Parliament. That would not be the right place for that to be done.

My hon. Friend Michael Connarty, who I hope is not only the past Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, but the future Chairman, made some important points about how we conduct scrutiny in the House. I have always thought that we have not done it very well and, during my time as a Minister, I tried to improve that. I hope that the Minister will be able to say whether he will table a new scrutiny reserve resolution for that Committee as soon as possible. That was very much in the pipeline before the general election and I hope it can be arranged as soon as possible.

I celebrate the presence of my hon. Friend Ms Stuart in the Chamber. Even if she can sometimes slightly irritate me, I am delighted she is here. The doughtiness of her campaign in her constituency stood her in good stead in the general election and, even though we sometimes disagree with her, I am sure that we all accept that the doughtiness of her argument is well put. She made some important points this afternoon about the euro and the genuine crisis in Europe, as did my hon. Friend Kelvin Hopkins. However, he did say something rather odd about Argentina's economy, which I would suggest is nowhere near as prosperous as he seems to think.

The speeches of Mr Cash speak for themselves and I cannot add to them. He put his Front Benchers on the spot a bit about whether there should be a referendum, which was an important point also well made by my hon. Friend John Mann. One of the most controversial European issues--it certainly has been over the past six months in British politics, although it is rarely expressed in public--is that of migration within the European Union, and I do not understand why accession treaties should not, under the logic being advanced by the new Government, be subject to a referendum as well. It is one of the issues that will most materially affect member states.

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