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Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend accept that the charter gives rise to a substantial problem? It is effectively a blank cheque for enormously increased taxation on the people of Europe, because the provisions of the social agenda, which are entrenched by the charter, will be enforced by the judicial activism of the court.

Mr. Spring: My hon. Friend is right to highlight the various dangers of the charter. If it is to serve as the basis of a written European constitution, the implications are very serious for a country such as ours, which has no written constitution.

The foundation of the European rapid reaction force had little to do with the ability of Europeans to carry out important defence-related roles, and everything to do with the process of political integration in the EU. We want, and have always argued for, enhanced pan-European defence co-operation; the Americans want greater burden sharing. The EU plays this game with the future of NATO at our peril. It will test the one organisation that has secured peace and stability in Europe for over 50 years. At Nice, we saw measures to allow European-level political parties to be funded, and for the EU to involve itself in individual countries' affairs merely on the basis of speculation about what may happen in future.

Setting aside enlargement, however important, what are the great issues facing the EU, and are the Government dealing with them? Did they highlight them at Nice?

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There can be little controversy about the projected demographic trends of the EU over the next 40 years, with declining birth rates. Can our welfare structures survive in the face of that? How do we generate the wealth to sustain an ever-growing ageing population?

The Prime Minister sought to address that at Lisbon; it was heady stuff. We heard much about benchmarking, the knowledge-based economy and the information society. Harold Wilson would have loved it; white heat had nothing on that Lisbon speech. Afterwards, the Prime Minister said:

A week later, Lionel Jospin rejected that change outright, reaffirming the European social model. We were told that change was a prerequisite for Europe's economic success, but the Prime Minister's speech was viewed by many as vacuous techno-babble, and was cast into the out-tray at Stockholm a year later. So much for the Prime Minister's influence in Europe.

At Nice, the outline for the 2004 IGC was set, mainly in response to European peoples' increasing disillusion with the EU. What have the Government done to address that democratic deficit? Last October, the Prime Minister made a speech in Warsaw about trying to achieve democratic accountability; at the heart of it was a proposal for a second chamber. It almost defies belief that that is the UK's main and substantial contribution to the comprehensive and lively debate about the future of the EU. Perhaps the Prime Minister was inspired by the fabled and huge success of his reform of the House of Lords. That is almost incredible, as he himself told us last week in the Chamber that he wanted no rival second Chamber to the Commons. He wants, however, to foist such a body on Europe; that is monumental irrelevance, and must be set against the genuine need for enhanced powers for national parliaments themselves.

Again at Nice, it was agreed that there should be work towards involving Europe's citizens in the European project. What have the Government done about that in Britain? We have had the taxpayer-funded "Your Britain, Your Europe" campaign, the most visible manifestation of which was the former Minister for Europe travelling around the country in a bus, visiting our towns and cities. One simply could not have written the script; the enterprise was farcical and embarrassing. On those bus trips, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) distributed items of literature paid for by the taxpayer. They included "Your Britain, Your Europe: Want to Know More?" which, under the heading, "The Treaty of Nice Explained", poses the question:

It answers:

Then we get two wonderful new Labour Aunt Sallies. The document states:

What a load of inaccurate and patronising drivel! Will the Foreign Secretary reconsider the campaign and its challenge to the intelligence of the British people? I urge him to end it forthwith.

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Nice was a failed opportunity. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham indicated, there can be no enlargement without reform of the common agricultural policy. This afternoon, there was an astonishing intervention by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South–West (Dr. Starkey), who signed the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Nice but was not familiar with its contents. No applicant country has closed the agriculture chapter.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, in the Opposition amendment, there is criticism of the Government for failing to address reform of the CAP? Last night, however, in our debate on the Berlin summit, which dealt with matters relating to the CAP, they did not even bother to table an amendment.

Mr. Spring: If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Berlin summit did anything radical about the funding of the common agricultural policy, he is completely ignorant of the actual situation.

The Prime Minister ducks and weaves whenever the matter of agriculture is raised. I truly hope that the Foreign Secretary will grasp the nettle and try to find a way forward with our European partners, which will both save the EU from bankruptcy and protect the larger-scale farms in this country.

Leading to the IGC from Nice, there is a lively and serious debate about the future of an enlarged EU. Every major European leader has presented a vision of what it should be. Only one sits on the sidelines, parroting "constructive engagement", but failing to come up with clear parameters and policies for the future. Sadly, that is the United Kingdom under Labour.

There is a terrible danger that the EU will become ossified in a time warp of thinking that was appropriate to the 1950s and 1960s. The idea that a "one size fits all" policy, based on a social agenda that is totally out of place in the globalised network that we inhabit, can possibly succeed defies all common sense.

We on the Conservative Benches want an enlarged EU that will meet the problem of alienation and disconnection and the demographic challenges of enlargement and of a globally competitive marketplace. Just as we were right about Nice, by contrast with a Government whose thinking is now frozen in time, we are now looking to the future. Our view is of a modern, outward-looking and democratically supported EU which Britain can help to shape.

By contrast, at Nice, yet another opportunity—[Interruption.] Labour Members do not like to hear this because they know that they have lost the argument. They know that their attitudes towards the EU are totally inappropriate in a modern world and an enlarged Community. At Nice, that was manifest.

The Government failed at Nice to raise all the crucial and important issues relevant to the survival and prosperity of the EU. We want a European Community that will be prosperous and outward-going. All that was passed up at Nice by this Government, whose thinking is outmoded and irrelevant to the real needs of the people of Europe, and of the people of Britain in particular.

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9.32 pm

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): I begin by thanking the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) for graciously welcoming me to my post. He gave a very accomplished response to the debate. I am glad that he is improving his education by reading excellent Foreign Office leaflets. I hope that he continues to do so.

This has been an extremely thoughtful debate on Europe. Indeed, it has probably been the highest quality debate that I have heard since becoming a Member 10 years ago. It has been unrecognisable compared with the general tone of such debates in this House over that period. What has distinguished it for me has been the fact that there have been five times as many Labour speakers as Conservative contributors—and the debate has been five times the better for it.

It is invidious to select a number of the best speeches, but perhaps I could refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who both spoke very interestingly. Their speeches will repay reading in the context of the future reform programme of the EU leading up to the intergovernmental conference in 2004. My hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) and for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) made extremely interesting speeches, too.

We heard excellent maiden speeches to which I want to pay fulsome tribute. The hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) made her constituency sound almost as attractive as Neath. I very much welcomed her victory when I saw it come up on the television screen on the night, although Nick St. Aubyn was a very valued Member of the House. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Wait for it—he might come back to the House to replace some of the less valued hon. Members whom I see staring at me.

We heard a very good speech from the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid), another Liberal replacement in the House. Listening to the tour of his constituency, I was reminded of all the malt whiskies from that part of Scotland which are so excellent to taste. He replaced a Liberal stalwart, Ray Michie, who was held in great affection in the House.

The hon. Members for Boston and Skegness (Mr. Simmonds) and for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) paid fine tributes to their predecessors. Along with the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), they showed remarkable confidence in their maiden speeches and will no doubt prove formidable adversaries for the Government in years to come.

Another who showed remarkable confidence was my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns), who brought an excellent touch of pulpit oratory to the House, and in doing so paid a well-received tribute to his predecessor, Norman Godman, who was an excellent and diligent member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. My hon. Friend spoke about the importance of companies in a constituency such as his being able to export to Europe. He argued convincingly that there were enormous benefits from enlargement for constituencies such as his and the companies in them, deriving from the extra trade and opportunity that would come from up to 200 million more people coming into the European Union. That is one of the aspects of the Nice treaty that we commend to the House.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) made an eloquent maiden speech, especially about the industrial tradition which is at the root of his constituency and from which his predecessor, Lawrence Cunliffe, sprang. He was a valued Member and is much missed on the Labour Benches.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh has a dispute with my boss, the Foreign Secretary, about where the spinning ferry was invented—[Hon. Members: "Spinning jenny."] I am sorry; I was thinking of Argyll and Bute for a moment. I am sure that the dispute will be resolved peacefully outside the Chamber.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) has made a valuable contribution during his time in the House, especially on renewable energy matters, for which we had a common enthusiasm when I was in my previous Government post. However, he is hopelessly confused in his desire for nationalism—independence for Wales and Scotland—in a united Europe. He does not want a united Europe where nations of Britain such as Scotland and Wales can become prominent regions with a serious voice in Europe, for which the existing arrangements provide. He wants to fragment Europe into little nationalistic enclaves, which would defeat the purpose of enlargement and be parochial and dangerous.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) spoke with his usual authority, derived from years of experience and expertise in foreign affairs. We enjoyed his speech.

I always enjoy the speeches of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) even though I never agree with him. It is interesting that he omitted to repeat the words that he used in 1998, which go to the heart of Conservative opposition to the treaty and their flawed position on Europe. The hon. Gentleman stated in 1998:

That is the hidden agenda of the Conservative position—at least, the Conservative position that the hon. Gentleman advocates and which was put forward in the last general election and roundly defeated

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