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Roger Casale: After some of the interventions by Opposition Members, the right hon. Gentleman's

11 Jul 2001 : Column 847

argument seemed to take a more frivolous turn. I am not sure whether we have now returned to serious debate. There is a difference between what he and Opposition Front Benchers seem to want. Those on the Front Bench would like to rule out in principle any further extensions of QMV in future, but he would like to end all the qualified majority voting procedures that already exist, too. How does he propose to negotiate with our partner states an end to all the qualified majority voting procedures that currently exist in the European Union? How would he achieve that?

Mr. Redwood: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has leapt to conclusions that my comments did not justify. I explained that I had in the past consistently opposed extensions of qualified majority voting, but I fully support the Conservative Front Bench position, which is to say no to the further surrenders in the treaty. Furthermore, I support my Front-Bench colleagues in saying that we should get powers back over a wide range of matters, including agriculture and fisheries, in respect of which the surrender has gone too far.

I accept that there has to be a renegotiation and that we will not get all the powers back, but if we do not ask for some of them back, we will not get any. I object strongly to what the Government are doing, not only because they fail to try to get powers back when we are clearly at a disadvantage after surrenders by Governments of all persuasions, but because they then frivolously give away the powers under discussion without understanding how that undermines their position and that of future Governments. They do not understand how their actions are undermining the position of United Kingdom voters and our democracy, or how they will come back to haunt this country in future.

Labour Members suggest that the measures are needed for enlargement, but that is one of the most misleading points that has been made in this debate. We know that the Irish people wisely voted against the whole treaty. It is difficult to see why we must rush through this discussion on qualified majority voting, when they have said that it is not important for enlargement, and they do not want it to be foisted upon them in larger measure, so they have vetoed it and other important parts of the treaty.

7 pm

When the Danish voted no in the original referendum on the Maastricht treaty and the single currency, mine was a lager. I am now more attracted to stout. It is good that two smaller European countries have shown their independence and a democratic will that can be expressed in referendums. I wish that the Government would give us a referendum on QMV and the Nice treaty, which has fundamental constitutional implications. I do not understand why they need to rush the Bill through when the Irish people have said no, and there is no immediate prospect of reversing their decision. The British Government believe that in the case of a no vote, they should keep balloting, in the hope that people will vote yes through exhaustion. That does not augur well for any referendum for which they may provide.

Government amendments to the treaty and the Bill are required to allow us to renegotiate the common agricultural policy. That issue is not being solved and it is crucial for member states and applicant members.

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The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is going wide of the amendment by referring to that subject.

Mr. Redwood: I was trying to put QMV in context. It is at the heart of the amendments that I support.

More QMV will lead directly to more Community activism, orchestrated by the European Commission. A European government already exists; it is unelected and powerful. The measure that we are considering manifests that government's wish to gain more and more power over the aspects of our lives that are detailed in the documents we are discussing. Those aspects range widely from product markets through discrimination to control over political parties. A powerful executive Government might take such powers in a democracy, with voters' approval—but they should not be given to an unelected, undemocratic government, which usually meets behind closed doors and is not subject to the same scrutiny and exposure as a proper democratic regime.

Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend is right. One does not need to look into the crystal ball when one can read the book. Does he realise that there was a dramatic extension of QMV in the treaty of Amsterdam? Since its ratification, 4,995 European Union directives, regulations and decisions have had an impact on this country. That precisely illustrates my right hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Redwood: I knew the general point, but I am grateful for my hon. Friend's repertoire of statistics, which illustrates it with great clarity and precision.

Enlarging the Community does not require a super-active or hyperactive government, which generates more and more laws. Indeed, that makes enlargement more difficult. If more regulations and laws are imposed not only on richer members, but on poorer states at a different level of economic development, they may not be able to catch up with such intrusive government and expensive regulation. More power for the Commission to legislate through QMV is the last thing an enlarged Community needs.

We are told that the Community will come to a halt without qualified majority powers—but if, as a legislature, it slows down, that is not bad news; it is good news. We have too many laws. Some are generated by our Government, but at least they can be democratically removed when people believe that the position has become insufferable. If we allow QMV to advance ever more strongly, we cannot control the massive volume of law from Brussels. That will be damaging to applicant members. The poorer the country, the more damaging it will be; it will create an impenetrable barrier for poor countries.

Roger Casale: The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to renegotiate the treaties on the European Union. Which other Governments of member states would like a European Union in which the veto was restored and powers were repatriated? What would the right hon. Gentleman offer in return? Does he believe that his negotiating stance is such that he could achieve something for nothing?

Mr. Redwood: That is a little wide of the debate, but I have set the facts out elsewhere. Baroness Thatcher

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was 11:1 down when she sought repayment of our colossal contributions. That did not daunt her, and her negotiating skills were sufficient to gain unanimity in favour of a rebate for us. We need such a negotiating power, and a Conservative Administration could provide it. We would offer our partners many things, such as our presence, our trade and our good will. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the fact that they sell us far more than we sell them. They have every interest in our remaining part of the trading club; there is no reason for us to join their common government.

Jim Knight (South Dorset): Which of the five candidates for the Tory leadership has the negotiating skill of Baroness Thatcher and could achieve the aims that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined?

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. That is very wide of the discussion.

Mr. Redwood: I thank you, Mrs. Heal, for respecting the secrecy of the ballot.

We have been told that the Government are committed, as the previous Administration claimed to be, to subsidiarity. We are also told that subsidiarity flourishes and is alive. It is difficult to understand how it can develop or flourish when so much extra QMV is to be introduced. That is a contradiction. If we lose our veto over more subjects, more will be decided in Brussels. More decisions will be made against our will. Far from letting power percolate back to member states and their democratically elected Parliaments, the Bill constitutes a massive extension of state power at the European level by the unelected government of the Commission, aided and abetted by the absentee Ministers who occasionally attend lunches in Brussels and rubber-stamp the Commission's plans.

The democratically elected constituent parts of the European government cannot even propose a draft law or regulation. The Commissioners of the unelected government in Brussels have to do all the drafting. The British Government are incapable of setting an agenda, negotiating in favour of a British position and changing the Brussels agenda. The current British style of negotiation is to ring the Commission, discover its agenda, rush out a press release stating that that is what they would like, and return claiming triumph when they have run up the white flag yet again. As QMV increases, that will be increasingly true.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): My right hon. Friend is making a thoughtful speech. Not only is it true that the British Government are incapable of drafting a directive or regulation that could be adopted by Brussels, but more importantly, Members of Parliament are incapable of stopping any draft regulation or directive. The sole power of our European Standing Committees is to refuse to "take note" of something—and the Question is then put on the Floor of the House and automatically nodded through even if we have voted in favour of not taking note.

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