|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Robert Jackson: With reference to the debate sparked off by Foreign Minister Fischer's remarks, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House about the letter that Mr. Fischer received from the French Foreign Minister explaining precisely why his proposals for a federal Europe were mistaken?
Denzil Davies: I am not party to Mr. Fischer's correspondenceI was merely quoting from an interesting and open speech. At least he was honest, which is more than can be said, unfortunately, for many British politicians in relation to the EU. Mr. Fischer's interesting views may not have been German Government policy, but, as I tried to show, they were echoed by Jacques Delors, a distinguished President of the Commission and a clear thinker.
The pressure is now on. The veto has gone. The pressure will be, in Jacques Delors's words, to create a federation of the avant-garde. Given the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for such matters, Britain will have to be part of that, will it not?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister will be in there with the Foreign Office, punching our weight, or punching above our weightI am not sure; I stand to be corrected. Punching above our weight all the time must get a little tiring. We will certainly be in there, punching our weight as part of the federation of the avant-garde. That will mean more integration still.
The train rolls on, discarding national vetoes and national democracies as it goes along. The next pressure will come from joining the inner core. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said, the Government will easily win the vote this evening, but before the ink is dry on the Royal Assent, work will beginit probably has begunon the next treaty. Happily or unhappily, before 2004 we will be debating the next legislation incorporating the
Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I do not propose to delay the House over-long, as I confess that I do not have anything very new to say about the Bill. As some of the contributions so far have suggested, albeit that they were couched in elegant and even intellectual language, there is not much more to be said by many others, either. The speech of the shadow Foreign Secretary echoed some of the elegant contributions made by the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) during the various stages of the Bill's progress.
As we know, we are having the Third Reading today, after the summer recess, although it could quite easily have been held before the summer recess. However, an internal decision had to be taken in the Conservative party, and there were those who thought that the nature of that decision might determine their attitude this evening. That, as we now know, is not the case.
So far in the debate, we have traversed some pretty old ground. We heard from the shadow Foreign Secretarywho is no longer in his place, but who explained to me that he had another pressing engagementthat he had an Italian grandmother, which made him European. Well, I have a Glaswegian grandmother, which still makes me European. We should recognise that our Europeanism is determined not by the exotic nature of our relations, but rather by the fact that we are firmly embedded in the European tradition. In particular, the Scots law to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is, of course, a European legal system based on Roman Dutch law. Large parts of our life are firmly embedded in Europe, and the sooner we recognise that, the better.
The shadow Foreign Secretary was at pains to suggest that President Bush, whose perspicacity, maturity and sound common sense have been generally commended in the House in recent debates, had somehow been the subject of an exercise in duplicity by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways: President George W. Bush cannot be a great leader and at the same time a dupe of the British Prime Minister. The two are wholly incompatible. As was pointed out in an intervention, at NATO, where one might think that there would be real anxiety about anything that might undermine its effectiveness, there is no such apprehension as has now and previously been expressed from the Conservative Benches.
I should like to make one point about the rapid reaction force, returning to comments that I addressed to the Minister following an intervention by the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith). If we have a poor rapid reaction force, and the headline goals are not achieved and capability does not become an important part of what is done, we will damage NATO. A successful rapid reaction force will most certainly strengthen NATO.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's earlier point, may I briefly defend my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) in his absence? He pointed out reports that President Bush had said that Mr. Blair had assured him that the European defence effort
Mr. Campbell: We know that things have moved on since then. As I understand it, there is now general acceptance that operational and strategic planning responsibilities must remain within NATO. It would make no sense to duplicate them. I have frequently referred in the House to NATO's right of first refusal, which is, as I understand matters, generally accepted. It is important to reflect in our discussion the fact that debate outside has moved on.
Mr. Chidgey: I should like to reinforce the points that my right hon. and learned Friend makes. The messages are coming loud, clear and strong from Brussels and the people who make these decisions that NATO will have first refusal and that planning, strategic and contingency elements will remain with it. That is the situation and it is agreed. Does he agree that the issue that must be addressed is the shortfall in capability in respect of NATO and the rapid reaction force, which is clear in the light of current circumstances?
Mr. John Smith: I entirely agree with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I did not intend to seduce my right hon. Friend the Minister at allfar from it. I agree that the bottom line in this debate is military capability. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, following the events of 11 September, the likelihood of generating the political will among our NATO allies in Europe to develop such capability could be much greater?
We are considering a framework treatyan expression used by the Minister. Throughout the Bill's passage, we have consistently argued that the legislation should be enacted and the treaty ratified as soon as possible. Without the reforms that the treaty sets out in relation to the size and shape of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council of Ministers and modest extensions of qualified majority voting, it is difficult to envisage a European Union, perhaps comprising as many as 28 states, that could efficiently and effectively come to agreement.
Although it is technically true that the European Union could be enlarged without the treaty, it is difficult to envisage the timetable for that enlargement. I should not like to be the British Minister who went to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and said, "By the way, we're not going to ratify the Nice treaty. We've got an alternative set of arrangements, including an instant IGC, which we may be able to conjure up", like a magician at a children's Christmas party. I should not like to try to answer the subsequent question: "When do you think we might gain admission? What is your target date in these new circumstances?"
We already have a target date, and I hope that we meet it. Such dates sometimes slip, but the advantage of a target is that it gives people something at which to aim. The notion that we could find an alternative way of dealing with the alterations that are fundamental to enlargement does not stand up to scrutiny. If we enlarge the European Union under current circumstances, every country would have two Commissioners, and a minority of the population could overrule the majority. Decision making would become sclerotic, and it would not be long before the EU became unmanageable.
There is an interesting philosophical underpinning to the debate. I am sorry that the new shadow Attorney-General is not present because he is always an adornment to such discussions. He produced a pamphlet earlier this year. It was not setalthough it may have been typesetin stone. He arguedI thought rather persuasivelythat although he supported a Community, he opposed a European Union. That fault line runs through the Conservative and Unionist party. Some distinguished Conservative Membersfor example, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson)favour a Union. However, the mood in the Conservative party has moved back towards a Community.
It is difficult to envisage the current Conservative party supporting the Single European Act and consenting to its being driven through the House of Commons on a three-line Whip. It is difficult to envisage it supporting the Maastricht Bill; indeed, the current Conservative leader was diametrically opposed to it. The fault line shows a change of view. I believe that Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my opinion." A change
The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) did not mention holding a referendum on the treaty, although that appeared to be Conservative party policy for a long time. A referendum should never be used simply as an act of party politics; it should be held when a genuine constitutional issue is at stake. Such issues are not at stake in the Bill. It would be different if we sought to join the single European currency. In that case, economic, political and constitutional issues remain to be determined. We should not therefore join the single currency without the endorsement of the people of the United Kingdom.