It is a real pleasure to speak in favour of this Bill, because it is surprisingly important. The more we have debated it, the more clear its importance has become. It is important because it saves the British taxpayer risking substantial amounts of money. When the treaty was agreed, I was disappointed that we had not asked for more, because Her Majesty’s Government had a strong negotiating position and might have been able to start the process of renegotiation and ask why we did not have a more à la carte Europe, to use a French term, if I may, Mr Deputy Speaker, against the preferred guidance of “Erskine May” that one should stick to English.
The Government have achieved something considerable by appearing to be very modest. We have seen the clawback of powers from Europe for almost the first time. Under article 122 of the Lisbon treaty, we had opened ourselves up to substantial and potentially unlimited liabilities for the failures of the eurozone. Once it was accepted that article 122 could be used for emergency bail-outs and the regulation was not challenged, it was conceivable that further regulations could be introduced and that, although each one would have been subject to challenge individually, once the first was accepted, there could have been a continuous chain of bail-outs, resulting in billions and billions of pounds’ worth of liabilities for us.
If I may make a cheap party political point—there is an occasion for such a thing—it is worth noting that it was the previous Labour Government who signed us up, during their dying days, to this almost unlimited liability.