Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mrs. Browning: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Peter Hain: I gave way to many Opposition Members in my opening speech, much to my regret, and I am pressed for time.

Michael Fabricant: The Minister has 12 minutes in which to finish his speech.

Peter Hain: Yes, but in 12 minutes I have to reply to a long debate.

We know what the modern Conservative party really thinks about Europe. Lord Skidelsky, who has just quit the Conservative party, said:

That is the new Conservative party.

The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) was absolutely apoplectic at the end of her speech when she said that there will be no such thing as a United Kingdom any more—but as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke) said, does she really think that the French are less French by being in the EU, or that the Germans are less German or the Spanish less Spanish? Does she really think that they have less pride, less national identity or less patriotism than we do in Britain? Of course they do not.

The hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) asked a rhetorical question in the context of European issues: who governs Britain? Well, the answer is that Labour governs Britain.

The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spent much time talking about the Irish referendum. It is worth recalling that when the Conservatives were in office and

17 Oct 2001 : Column 1268

he was a Minister and the Danes voted against the Maastricht treaty that the Conservatives introduced to the House, the Tories did not tear up the treaty or withdraw the Bill. On the contrary, the Conservative Government worked assiduously to produce assurances for the Danes that allowed for a second positive referendum in Denmark and for the Maastricht treaty to be ratified unamended. That is what happened under a Conservative Government.

I invite the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on the Conservative Benches to cut the cant about their position on enlargement. By their vote against the Bill, they are seeking to sabotage enlargement of the EU. The way in which they glory in the result of the Irish referendum is rather distasteful. It is as though they want everyone to vote against the Bill on the Nice treaty and to wreck enlargement as a result.

My hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) made valid points about disengagement and disconnection in the modern EU. To his credit, the hon. Member for West Suffolk made those points as well. The Government and the whole House—pro-Europeans especially—need to pay heed to the result of the Irish referendum and, particularly, to the central slogan of the "No" campaign, which was, "If you don't know, vote no." That imposes a special obligation on the EU's leadership to come up with reforms and new ways of working to close the gap between the leaders and the led, which is far too wide at present.

I commend the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson) on the elegance, eloquence and logic of his case in support of the Bill and enlargement of the EU. In joining us in the Aye Lobby, he will put the reunification of Europe above his party obligations. I commend him on that.

I welcome the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) and for Wimbledon (Roger Casale). I endorse the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) in his excellent speech. He pointed out that, in becoming involved in the EU, we are not giving up our sovereignty, but pooling it to make us stronger in the way that we do as members of NATO, the Security Council of the United Nations and other international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.

In another excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) made it absolutely clear that the issue is not the US versus Europe. Indeed, the transatlantic alliance between the US and Britain has been especially important over the past month. It needs to strengthen.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin) made an important point about the battle against terrorism that has followed the awful events of 11 September. She pointed out that, if we did not have in place EU structures such as the Justice and Home Affairs Council and the EU's other mechanisms to take on the threat of terrorism, we would find it much more difficult to confront and beat that threat.

In an excellent tour de force, my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) described as absolutely ludicrous Conservative arguments on European security and defence policy. He tore them apart.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Miliband) made an important argument about the common agricultural policy, which answered the point

17 Oct 2001 : Column 1269

raised by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton. He said that enlargement will force reform of the CAP, because the current policy—which desperately needs reform in any case—will not be sustainable after enlargement. However, we must not block enlargement by seeking to make CAP reform a condition of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn) explained how important enlargement will be for businesses, especially small businesses, in her constituency. That is an important case for it.

Enlargement represents an historic opportunity to end the cold war division of Europe and reunite our continent. A bigger EU will be stronger and safer. Today we can only fight terrorism, crime, drugs and pollution through joint action across the continent. The Nice treaty is essential to open the door to enlargement, the goal of successive British Governments. It removes all remaining institutional obstacles.

The Nice treaty has met its primary objective, but it has also advanced other key British interests. Our first priority was to get more voting strength for the UK, and we got it. The treaty increases the relative weight of Britain's vote in the Council of Ministers for the first time. Who could disagree with that? Perhaps only a party that does not care about our weight inside the EU because most of its members want to be outside it.

I am pleased that the leader of the Conservative party has joined us. Perhaps he can explain how he put his name to a 1996 Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Stone, which called for withdrawal from the EU. Why does he not explain his position? I see that the pound signs have suddenly reappeared, but the real agenda under his leadership is withdrawal from the EU.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) raised a series of questions about qualified majority voting. In the treaty negotiations we retained unanimity where it was necessary and extended QMV when it was in Britain's interests. The Opposition should have no difficulty with that. They agreed to move from unanimity to QMV and gave away the veto, as they now call it, in the Single European Act under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and in the Maastricht treaty under John Major. They did that on some fundamental articles, including the general single market legislation and on almost all environment provisions.

As the Opposition are not against QMV in principle, why do they oppose it in the Nice treaty on such measures as the appointment of EU special representatives on foreign policy? Unanimity could clearly hold up important work that those envoys do or allow one member state to hold out against the best candidate for the job. Why do they hold out against QMV for the salary and pension of the Registrar of the Court of First Instance? Where is the earth-shattering national importance—the threat to our sovereignty—of the British veto on that issue? Would the Opposition really have the British people trooping off to the polls for a referendum on that vital constitutional issue, but not for the euro?

QMV will make it easier to introduce changes to the rules of procedure of the European Court of Justice to improve efficiency so that justice will no longer be delayed or denied to British companies seeking redress. The Opposition used to be the party of business—but no

17 Oct 2001 : Column 1270

longer apparently. They opposed QMV on financial regulations on probity, which will be introduced by the treaty. It will now be easier to carry out reforms to tighten up financial management, which I thought concerned the Conservatives.

Once again, I welcome the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) to the Front Bench. People constantly say to me that we should give him time and more credit for his appointment as leader of his party. I am a generous man, but how can we give him credit when he has given us Cash? The answer is because he is leading an anti-European crusade with a Front Bench—there they are, grinning away—full of anti-Europeans and Eurosceptics who want to take us out of Europe.

The Opposition do not want European enlargement or the advantages of having peace, prosperity, stability and jobs. They do not want to benefit from protection of the environment, food safety measures or streets that are made safer from the danger of drugs. They do not want protection from the threat of terrorism, which will be repelled much more effectively by an enlarged EU that brings in all the candidate states to join us in our fight against terrorism. The Opposition argue against that—

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 392, Noes 158.

Next Section

IndexHome Page