|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham): I congratulate the hon. Members who have made their maiden speech in this debate. I refer in particular to the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns)as a veteran of many sermons, I commend him to go back to his former colleagues and tell them about the merits of the 10-minute rule from which we have benefited tonight.
Before I address the Bill before us, let me pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Peter Lloyd. He served Fareham as its Member of Parliament for more than 22 years. He is widely respected in the constituency for his decency and his unceasing diligence on behalf of his constituents. At a time when politicians are only too eager to criticise this Department or that agency in the media to raise their own profiles, Sir Peter preferred his work for his constituents to speak for itself rather than use it to promote himself.
In the House, in spite of serving as a Whip, Peter demonstrated independence of spirit. In the previous Parliament, following his interest in home affairswhich developed when he was a Minister of State at the Home Officehe was very involved in the rehabilitation of young offenders and, just before Dissolution, completed a report on the work of prison visitorssubjects of great importance in the justice system that perhaps rub against the grain of current concerns.
Peter told me that, when he was a new Member in 1979, he was admonished for being far too much of a Eurosceptica caution that those of us newly elected to sit on the Conservative Benches are unlikely to receive as we progress in our careers.
Peter and his wife, Hilary, have given my wife and me tremendous support. They have offered wise counsel based on great experience, and their advice has been readily accepted by us both. I echo the words of so many people in the House and in the constituency when I say that he is a hard act to follow.
I cannot let this opportunity pass without saying a little about my constituency. Fareham sits between Portsmouth and Southampton on the south Hampshire coast. Part of its eastern boundary is Portsmouth harbour and to the west are the Solent and the Hamble. In his guide to the buildings of England, Pevsner highlights the impact that its location has had on Fareham. He said:
The constituency is formed of strong, local communities each with its own very clear identity. I have mentioned one already, Portchester, but there are others too, including Titchfield, Warsash and Fareham itself.
The constituency has grown rapidly in recent years. The west of the constituency, where I have the pleasure of living, once consisted of strawberry fields and nurseries but it is now home to about a third of my constituents. Rapid development here and on the other side of the motorway in Whiteley, part of which is also in my constituency, has caused great strains on the local infrastructure. Roads are congested and children cannot attend the nearest school. The Government's policy of imposing housing quotas on this area is making the situation worse, as is their demand that the density of new housing developments should be increased. More housing means more car journeys, more children for already overcrowded schools and fewer green fields. This madness cannot be allowed to continue.
Fareham has a diverse business base. Although many of the strawberry fields and nurseries have been built on, there is still a thriving horticulture industry. It is a great pleasure when in the constituency to buy strawberries picked in the fields around Titchfield. However, Fareham also acts as host to high-tech businesses, particularly in the information technology and defence sectors.
Although it is outside my constituency, many of my constituents work for Vosper Thornycroft, which has an excellent reputation for building warships. It is currently bidding to build a type 45 destroyer alongside BAE Systems Marine so that the work is shared between the two companies. However, BAE Systems Marine has also submitted a unsolicited bid to build the entire programme and, if successful, that would create a monopoly. I therefore ask the Government to think very carefully about accepting that bid, because I cannot believe that it is right for there to be a monopoly supplier of destroyers to the Royal Navy. No competition would mean poor value for money for taxpayers.
Local businesses also benefit from good internet connection links because Fareham hosts the Merlin teleport, which through a satellite links it and the rest of Britain with the world in fractions of a second.
With such an array of businesses, it is not surprising that Fareham enjoys a low rate of unemployment, making recruitment an issue for both business and the vital public services that we need to serve such a growing constituency.
During the election campaign, many of my constituents expressed concern about the development of the European Union. They see it taking more and more powers away from national Governments, moving away from being simply a common market for goods and services. They sense that is becoming distant and remote and beyond their control. However, their concern does not mean that they are insular or little Englanders. For many, their service in the Navy means that their horizons are not limited to Europe, let alone to the United Kingdom's shores. They have a global and international perspective on life.
My constituents do not see Britain's role as simply being part of an increasingly introspective and insular European Union, but they see Britain as part of a network of nations, using our historical links and current trading patterns as a guide to how we should develop our relations with other nation states in the future. I share their perspective and their concerns.
There is little in the treaty of Nice to allay my constituents' fears. The treaty is said to be about enlargement and, indeed, it claims to make certain provisions about that, but it fails to tackle key issues such as reform of the common agricultural policy. However, the treaty is principally about deepening the European Union. It extends qualified majority voting to many more articles of the treaty and it facilitates easier co-operation between member states in certain areas of policy. The deepening of the European Union rather than enlargement causes my constituents most concern. They support the enlargement of the EU, which is long overdue, but they object to the deepening of the EU.
The concern about deepening is not restricted to the people of this country. The referendum in Ireland demonstrated that; the treaty was rejected because the development of the EU has gone too far. Let us not forget either the Danish referendum. In spite of a concerted campaign by the business and political establishment, the Danish people stood up and said no to a single currency.
If the European Union is to enjoy the support of the people of its members states, it must develop in line with their aspirations. The Commission and member states cannot simply dismiss the result of the Irish referendum and ask the Irish people to vote time and time again until they get the right answer. That approach will cause dissent and alienation and undermine the EU. The demonstrations that we saw at Gothenburg could become the norm if the EU continues to develop at a faster pace than is acceptable to its people. Let us develop the EU in line with the aspirations of its people, who elect us, rather than in line with the aspirations of the political elite who seem to rule in Brussels.
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): I congratulate the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on his maiden speech, and Fareham on its new representative, because he made a powerful invocation of the constituency's needs and problems. A debate that I expected to be a Cook's tour of Europe has turned out, in five maiden speeches, to be a very charming Cook's tour of several interesting constituencies in this country. I congratulate all who made those excellent speeches. It has been a pleasure to sit here and listen to them.
As I sat here, I mused about whether it would be possible for me to share the naive but utterly enduring enthusiasm for Europe that characterises my party. I wondered whether my inability to do so might be the barrier between me and the long overdue promotion that I have been waiting for. As I sat by the telephone in the days after the election, waiting for the call from Downing street, I thought that when the Prime Minister offered me the post that I most covetedParliamentary Under- Secretary in the ministry of fisheriesI would in gratitude issue a statement saying, "Tony, perhaps the Nice treaty isn't so bad after all." I felt that it would be a bold move to put myself in line with the mood of the party. I have to tell the House that the call did not come, and this is a lousy treaty. It is time to tell the truth and to abandon the hopes of promotion which have kept me going until now. I am even wearing a Euro-tie because I thought that I had better wear something cheap and trashy to celebrate my conversion.
It is infuriating that a messy treaty is being rushed through the House at such speed. We do not even have a copy of the treaty on European Union as it will read when fully amended, although I asked for one at the end of the previous Session and the then Foreign Secretary refused. We cannot tell what shape that treaty will take once the amendments arising from the Nice treaty have been made. I have been trying to find out. I have here my copy of the treaty of Amsterdam, which consolidates the amended treaties to date.
The table of equivalences told me that article 7 is article F.1, not F.0. I turned to article F.1 and found that it is a provision for penalising EU states that have been naughty, such as Austria. The new paragraph suspends the states' voting rights on the Council, but it does not tell us which Council. Is it the European Council or the Council of Ministers? I ended up as puzzled as I began.
We are going to have to debate the Bill quickly, finalising its passage next week, without having a full copy of the amended treaty or being able to understand it. Each article of the Nice treaty is a huge container packed with clauses that make amendments. Article 1 amends 23 articles in earlier treaties. It cannot be possible even to understand it. This is a messy way of implementing a messy treaty arrived at by messy procedures.
European Council meetings are rather like the "Big Brother" house in reverse. Everyone is crammed together in the big Europe house and kept up, well fed, all night. There is a bidding frenzy because they have all come along with demands and offers, and they are pressured by the Commission into botching something together. As the Prime Minister said, it is a stupid way to make decisions. It is infuriating for him because he has a managerial mind and this is chaos.
The small states rebel against the pressureI note that they were led in this case by Belgium and Portugaland say, "We are not having this. We demand more." They are told to think again. People are voted out of the "Big Brother" house. By contrast, they are forced to stay in the big Europe house and accept whatever emerges from the shambles. At the end, whatever has been agreed is written up, and then rewritten over several weeks, to tell the countries what they should have agreed if they had been compos mentis at the time, instead of exhausted and half-asleep. It is folly. We cannot, in that fashion, build a workable democratic structure or a pristine constitution that people will accept. We could not even build a garden shed in that fashion, let alone a European superstructure.
Those methods are also inherently undemocratic. People do not understand them. The small states are steamrollered and bullied by the bigger states. It is a pointless and messy procedure. Each time pressure is applied, less is gained. Amsterdam is pathetic compared with previous treaties, and the Nice treaty is pathetic compared with Amsterdam. The next agreement will be made in 2004.
The whole process, including the Nice treaty, is based on a lie. Europe is a culture of half-truths that have corrupted our politics. Damage has to be portrayed as gain; failure has to be portrayed as success, and at every Council meeting everyone is a winner. They all go back to their countries saying, "Game, set and match to us." It cannot all be true.
The biggest half-truth is this treaty. We have been told several times tonight, as we are continually being told by the Commission and everyone else concerned, that this process is about enlargement, but it is not. It is about strengthening the central institutions and weakening the nation states and the power and control of Parliament. We have rushed through the process in the hope of facilitating enlargement, and we have surrendered vetoes that we should never have given up. They are negotiating counters that we should not abandon. They would enable us to stop this rush towards enhanced co-operation, in which the richer states will get together to dominate and shape Europe according to their wishes. That is unsatisfactory to every participant; it is incomprehensible to the public; and it has nothing to do with enlargement.
Enlargement comprises two key issues. The first is the common agricultural policy, which is unreformed. We cannot apply it to Poland, for example, because Poland has more farmers than the rest of Europe combined. How can Poland be included in the CAP without the scheme going bankrupt? Yet how can it be deprived of the CAP's benefits and still be a full member?
Germany is already restive about paying for Europe. We too pay over the odds. Our net contribution is £4 billion, which is the second highest after Germany's. No one else will increase their contribution. Nothing has been decided. Instead, we are fiddling with structures and with the powers of the Commission and the Council of Ministers. That, we are told, is all that will be done to prepare for enlargement.
We are now being asked to bully Ireland, but Denmark was not bullied. We held up proceedings on the Bill on Maastricht for some time while a deal was worked out with the Danes. The Irish, however, have to lump it and vote again. The process is a shambles and the outcome is a treaty that I cannot support. This mess has nothing to do with enlargement, which I support. We are living in a Europe that no one particularly wants, according to processes that no one understands and by methods that have been rejected as totally unacceptable by the people in the only country which has consulted its people.