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European Union Bill

Part of Safe Standing (Football Stadia) – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 7th December 2010.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 4:48 pm, 7th December 2010

My hon. Friend raises a very important subject-a rather large subject, unfortunately, for those watching the length of speeches today, because I want to answer his question properly. Let us be clear that in the context of the Bill, it is any proposal to give up our freedom not to participate in justice and home affairs decisions that would be subject to a referendum. That would be from where we are starting-the extension of the power of the EU. But it is also important to be clear that the justice and home affairs ratchet clauses, as I call them, covered in the Bill amend the treaties by allowing for an expansion of what can be done within existing areas of EU competence. They are clearly passerelle clauses. We said in the coalition programme for government-that is our reference document here-that the use of any passerelle clause would require primary legislation, so that is also the case.

The opt-ins, which are a different category, are a very important subject, but they are not for this Bill. Given that there are strict time limits applying to the UK's decision to exercise an opt-in, which is within three months of the receipt of a proposal-