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3 Feb 2003 : Column 93—continued

Lembit Öpik: As a matter of record, does the Minister accept that there are particular circumstances in Northern Ireland, quite closely related to the troubles and divisions within the community, that mean that, for practical reasons, it probably is necessary to have a minimum of three MEPs there?

Yvette Cooper: I recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, but it is probably right to have a minimum of three MEPs in any region; it is difficult to see how a result could be properly proportionate if the number fell below three in any region.

The nationalist parties need to recognise another issue. They are trying to set this up as an opportunist issue—them versus the rest of England, them versus the rest of the United Kingdom. That is not what this is about. They are arguing to maintain the status quo: to maintain the number of MEPs that they have. A number of states are acceding to the European Union. Everyone has argued across Europe that it is important that they should be given representation in the European Parliament; everyone else accepts that. Everyone accepts that, overall, in order to achieve that, and so that we do not have a massive explosion in the size of European Parliament, all member states should see a reduction in their MEPs as a result—except Scottish National Members, who believe that Scotland should have special treatment within the United Kingdom.

Annabelle Ewing: Does the Minister feel that it is fair that Scotland and Wales should suffer a disproportionate reduction? That has been the crux of the debate.

Yvette Cooper: It is important that the distribution should be fair across the United Kingdom. That is why we have asked the Electoral Commission to come up with a recommendation as to what the distribution should be. The Bill provides for the commission to do that. If hon. Members think that the commission needs to take particular things into account, they should talk to the commission. The commission will make the recommendation about what the fair distribution should be, but the nationalist parties are not arguing for a fair distribution. They are not arguing for the people of Scotland and Wales to be treated fairly alongside everyone else. They are arguing for their votes to count

3 Feb 2003 : Column 94

for more. That is unacceptable when we consider people living in the UK as a whole. It is right that people should be fairly represented in the European Parliament. This Bill provides for that fair representation. Their amendments do not.

Mr. Heath: With the leave of the House, we have certainly had a lively debate on this group of amendments. I listened with care to what the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) said over rather a long time in support of his amendments. Seductive though his arguments may be to a casual listener, they depend on one factor only: his interpretation of Scotland and Wales as being member states. They are not member states. The United Kingdom is the member state, of which the nations of Scotland and Wales are a part.

Angus Robertson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on a point of clarification?

Mr. Heath: There is no such thing as a point of clarification in this place. We are not in a debating chamber in a school debate. The hon. Gentleman's position is perfectly proper as the position to be adopted by a nationalist party that wants Scotland to be separate from the United Kingdom. I accept that. I am a little surprised that it is entered into by Plaid Cymru Members. I thought that their position had changed over recent years and that they did not wish to secede from the United Kingdom, but that is a proper position. What they cannot possibly argue is that the words in clause 2(4)(b),

are unfair to any part of the UK in themselves. The hon. Gentleman is proposing to give an unfair advantage to Scotland and Wales at the expense of the regions of England. As a Somerset MP, I am unable to accept that proposition.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Heath: We have had untold interventions and it is time—

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heath: All right. Once.

Mr. Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman, for whom I have great regard, has missed the point with regard to what the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) was saying. The whole point at issue is that if there is to be a reduction, it should be across the board and fair. The proposed reduction is not going to be across the board and fair, according to the research from the House of Commons Library. It has nothing to do with nation states. It is to do with the number of people in a population. We are saying that we should maintain that representation pro tem, whatever the future of those states.

Mr. Heath: I reciprocate in my regard for the hon. Gentleman. We have worked together over a number of

3 Feb 2003 : Column 95

years, but he is wrong. It is not possible to interpret the phrase that I read out from the Bill as being unfair to any part of the United Kingdom, other than in the sense that, were Wales and Scotland to be separate member states, they would be treated differently. That is a difference that we shall have to accept, but I ask him to look at the internal logic of his argument because it has some deficiencies.

Lembit Öpik: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Heath: Well, all right.

Lembit Öpik: It does not matter that much.

Mr. Heath: Go on.

Lembit Öpik: I apologise for, rather ironically, annoying my hon. Friend. I wonder whether he, having listened to the interventions from the nationalists, agrees with me about the reality of the debate about their amendments. If one believes in independence for Wales and for Scotland, it is appropriate to change to higher representation for those countries. However, if one believes, as I do, that we are part of the United Kingdom, it is necessary to have fair and equitable distribution. Otherwise, the north-east and the south-west of England could equally argue that, for economic and other reasons, they, too, are special cases for greater representation.

Mr. Heath: If my hon. Friend is going to tender his apologies ironically, I shall accept them quizzically. However, I believe that his point is correct.

On amendment No. 1, I think that the hon. Lady almost accepted the logic of my argument. She agreed that it bears examination, so she has some sympathy with it, but she then went so far as to say that we could not go below the threshold of three, because that would destroy proportionality. I agree, but going below the threshold of four also destroys proportionality, given this ridiculous closed-list system and the d'Hondt arithmetic progression, which the previous Home Secretary chose to adopt for European elections. That is why, to pursue the interests of proportionality and proper representation across the United Kingdom, I must press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 43, Noes 424.

Division No. 73
[8:26 pm


Allan, Richard
Barrett, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Bruce, Malcolm
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Carmichael, Alistair
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Moore, Michael
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Öpik, Lembit
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bob Russell and
Tom Brake


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Arbuthnot, rh James
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Barnes, Harry
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunt, Crispin
Borrow, David
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browning, Mrs Angela
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burns, Simon
Burt, Alistair
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Cameron, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cash, William
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Collins, Tim
Connarty, Michael
Conway, Derek
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curry, rh David
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Flook, Adrian
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foulkes, rh George
Francois, Mark
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Edward
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Grieve, Dominic
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gummer, rh John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hammond, Philip
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lammy, David
Lansley, Andrew
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Leigh, Edward
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, rh Oliver
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Linton, Martin
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, rh Ian
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Malins, Humfrey
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Maples, John
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Moss, Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Owen
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickles, Eric
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Randall, John
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Redwood, rh John
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sayeed, Jonathan
Sedgemore, Brian
Selous, Andrew
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Squire, Rachel
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Streeter, Gary
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Tredinnick, David
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walter, Robert
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Wilshire, David
Winnick, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Dan Norris and
Mr. Jim Murphy

Question accordingly negatived.

3 Feb 2003 : Column 99

3 Feb 2003 : Column 99

3 Feb 2003 : Column 99

Amendment proposed: No.3, in page 2, line 29, at end insert—

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