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Mr. Redwood: Like the Minister, I wish to see fraud and racism stamped out throughout the EU and beyond. Which are the countries that the Minister thinks will support fraud and racism that need to be overridden by the use of QMV? Surely we can negotiate on those matters by unanimity. Which countries are so awful?
The Government take a pragmatic view towards QMV based on calculating Britain's interests, as my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) said in his excellent speech. On structural funds post-2007, QMV may well assist in advancing that issue for areas such as Wales. QMV works for Britain; it built the single market on which more than 3 million British jobs and thousands of businesses depend. It is simply not true that Britain always loses out and others always win, as Conservative fantasy suggests. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston was right to say that in 1999 Britain was not outvoted on a single issue, but Germany was twice, France was three times and Italy was eight times.
We set out in advance the areas on which we would not agree to QMV. We said that we would not accept QMV in areas such as tax, social security, defence, border controls, treaty change or the Community budget. And nor did we. The UK veto remains on all of those issues.
We firmly and successfully defended our interests as we saw them. Of course, that works both ways. We could have accepted QMV on some issues at Nicesuch as on family law within article 65, which is the issue to which the hon. Member for Stone referredbut they were red line issues for other member states.
We have heard several times today that Nice extends QMV in 31 articles of the treaties. That is true, and there are good reasons for all those changes. However, the Committee should consider how many times the article on appointing common foreign and security policy special representatives will be used compared with the number of times the articles that the Conservatives agreed should move to QMV under the Single European Act have already been used. The Committee could also compare the significance of moving decisions on consumer protection to QMV, as the Conservatives did at Maastricht, compared to moving to QMV for decisions on the rules of procedure of the Court of Auditors, as we did at Nice.
Mr. Bercow: Closer to home, does the Minister for Europe not recognise that the loss of the veto has already resulted in the imposition on this country of the information and consultation directive? The right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) told the Trade and Industry Committee on 4 November 1998 that he would stop that directive. It is virulently opposed by the Federation of Small Businesses and will cost tens of thousands of small enterprises in this country dearly.
Peter Hain: That sounds like the scare stories put about before the 1997 general election, when we were told that the minimum wage would cause the loss of millions of jobs. Instead, 1 million new jobs were created under this Government. I went to the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg after the general electionat short notice, I might addand was able to negotiate a better deal on that information and consultation directive so that it will be introduced over seven years and will not apply to companies with fewer than 50 workers. It will have little impact, contrary to what the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) suggests.
The debate is not about numbers, but about British interests. It is a shortsighted view to oppose QMV in principle, as the Conservatives do, and every one of the 31 moves to QMV that we agreed at Nice will be in Britain's interests. It is in Britain's interests to have QMV for industrial policy to increase competition, as we decided at Nice. Our companies do very well out of the single market.
I could go on. The fact is that QMV works for Britain, which the Conservatives seem to have forgotten since they agreed to QMV in 42 articles or sub-articles under the Single European Act and Maastricht.
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): The Minister mentioned defending the national interest and the trade in services. I am pleased that he was not drawn into the game of playing one EU country off against another. My point is about the surrender of negotiating rights under QMV, in so far as that then transfers exclusive authority to negotiate on those issues to European Commissioners. The Minister will know that Pascal Lamy was keen to deny individual states the right to negotiate on trade in services
Peter Hain: I do not agree with my hon. Friend. Why do he and Opposition Members have so little confidence in Britain's ability to go to Europe and get a good deal? We have been consistently able to do that, but my hon. Friend, like Opposition Members, seems to suffer from an incredible inferiority complex about the strength of our arguments and our ability to win in Europe.
The position of the Government is crystal clear: when QMV is in Britain's interests we will agree to it, and when it is not in Britain's interests we will not agree to it. It is as simple as that. The QMV provisions of the Nice treaty fully reflect that principle. That is why we strongly support the treaty, and why we reject the amendments.
Mr. Cash: I must be very brief. The matters that have been discussed can be dealt with by renegotiation. It is essential that we solve the problem of QMV by rejecting it in all its aspects, except when it affects the people I described in my earlier speech. I am a member of the Child Abduction Committee, as set out in the Register of Members' Interests, and as such I am completely in favour of all the arguments put forward by my right hon. and hon. Friends about QMV, with the exception of amendment No. 233.
Mr. Spring: I agree with the Minister for Europe that we have heard several fine contributions tonight from both sides of the Committee. What has emerged clearly is how confused the Government are on QMV. They are schizoid. They say that the moves on QMV are hugely important and then, in the next breath, say that they are inconsequential. The Government cannot have it both ways. The real reason for that confusion is that the Government do not have a clear view of the architecture of Europe and the role of Britain in it. That is the heart of the problem.
Before Nice, the former Foreign Secretary talked to the Foreign Affairs Committee about the 50 items on the French presidency's list of potential extensions to QMV, and he substantially ruled them out. In practice at Nice,
Before the last IGC, Ministers repeatedly listed six areas in which they would refuse to extend QMVtreaty change, taxation, border controls, social security, defence and own resources. However, Labour's recent election manifesto mentioned only two issues in relation to retaining the vetotax and border controls. I tabled a written question specifically on that point and received a bland reply about the national interest. The increasing ambiguity on the subject is a hallmark of a Government who have no clear view on Britain's interests.
We keep hearing the parrot cry about constructive engagement in Europe, but the Government cannot name a single power that has been returned to this national Parliament as a result of their negotiating skills in the past four years.
The political integration process is going in one direction only. We want a modern, dynamic and successful EU that will incorporate all 27 or 28 countries. Qualified majority voting undermines that. Nice was not, in practice, about enlargement: its effect will be to slow down and damage enlargement.
We may well wish to press new clause 11 to a Division in due course, but the debate has made it clear that the Government have undertaken no fresh thinking about our relationship with Europe. The evidence for that is the way in which they have given up our veto on crucial matters.