When the hon. Lady started with, “I have in my hand”, I thought she was going to say, “a piece of paper”, and that we were going to be promised peace in our time, but, sadly, she offered party political disagreement instead. It was more like a battle than peace. All I would say is that the Government of the day were Labour. I accept that the incoming Government failed to challenge the use of article 122—they should have done that and it was a pity that they did not—but that was where we were: socialist extravagance spending our money and signing us up to bailing out the whole of Europe over and over again.
What did we get in place of that? We got a sound Conservative Government, with the help, for once—the worthwhile, marvellous and delightful help—of our Liberal Democrat coalition partners, who were robust enough, which some might say is most out of character, to support us in getting powers back from the European Union, which has almost never happened before. That is important because the whole basis on which the powers of the EU have been built—the acquis communautaire—has been one whereby it gets powers and never gives them away again. It is the doctrine of the occupied field that once Europe has taken over a policy area, it is in control of it and it never goes back to the nation state.
It is therefore a real triumph for the Government to have got this agreement on the treaty on the functioning of the European Union and that the article 122 mechanism has been cast to history. Although that is not being said officially—we do not have a signed document saying that article 122 will not be used—we have a very strong political agreement between all the Heads of Government and Heads of State, signed up to by the Commission, and, most importantly of all, a new mechanism.
The other good thing about the mechanism and the treaty approach that has brought it to us is that we have a proper parliamentary procedure to ratify it. It is so marvellous and commendable of this Government that they are taking parliamentary accountability and democracy seriously. They could have done it differently. They could have just bulldozed it through on a quiet Wednesday afternoon in a debate lasting an hour and a half or two hours, but they chose not to do that. They introduced a Bill that required a proper process and they actually allowed time for the debate—so much time that we may even finish early. That is another good argument for parliamentary scrutiny—time is not used up unnecessarily in the House of Commons; it is used for proper consideration of what the Government are doing.
This new Session’s resolution can therefore be: let us support this marvellous Government and let us support the Front Bench and Treasury Bench representatives as they go boldly forth. They stand up, show backbone and act like a lion—not, as somebody may have once said, like Bagpuss—against Europe. They make sure that the British position is put clearly and forcefully and that powers are returned home.
There is a great lesson for Her Majesty’s Government in this: when they show backbone, force and courage, not only do they receive rapturous support from Members on the bustling Back Benches, but they receive support from the country at large. As the Brussels directives are sent away and batted back home, so the opinion poll rating rises. I hope that the Government will learn from this and act on it in future.