Yesterday I wanted to speak about the role and new powers of the European Parliament under the proposals of the Lisbon Treaty. Owing to the governmentâ€™s unfair restricted timetable for consideration of the EU bill, it took the House until 10.25 pm to consider Clause 3 properly. That left just nine minutes before the government insisted the House stopped work for the evening to discuss the 40 areas of government where the European Parliament will receive enhanced co-decision powers â€“ and it meant only the Minister and the Shadow Spokesman could speak before the government autocratically prevented more debate. Itâ€™s not the line by line scrutiny we were promised. Clause 5 and the Schedules fared even worse than Clause 4, receiving no attention at all and passing the House without debate or vote. No wonder people think Parliament is doing a bad job, and are fed up with the way this government runs politics.
This week we draw to a close of the proceedings on the European Union (Amendment) Bill.
Bill Cash and I have tabled four new clauses to reassert the supremacy of Parliament, which is being brought into doubt by the extent of the power given away in this Treaty, on top of the other five Treaties which predate it.
I would like to thank Bill for his assiduous attention to the issue and for drafting the new clauses.
Our new clauses state:
New Clause 6
â€œNotwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in the new Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of December 7th 2000, as adapted at Strasbourg on December 12th 2007, shall be binding in any legal proceedings in the UK, and shall not form part of the law applicable in any part of the UKâ€
New Clause 7
â€œNotwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in Articles 68 to 89 of the Treaty (justice and home affairs) on the Functioning of the European Union shall be binding in any legal proceedings in the UK and shall not form part of the law applicable in any part of the UKâ€
New Clause 8
â€œNotwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in this Act shall affect or be construed by any court in the UK as affecting Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689â€
New Clause 9
â€œNotwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in this Act shall affect or be construed by any court in the UK as affecting the supremacy of Parliamentâ€
New Clause 6 seeks to prevent the European Charter of Fundamental Rights overriding Parliamentâ€™s decisions and interpretations of the public mood. As the government has sought to reassure us the Charter will not prevent democratic decision making in the UK, they should welcome this clarification.
New Clause 7 seeks to preserve the so-called red line on criminal justice and home affairs matters which the government says it has kept by allowing us an opt in strategy towards these measures. This formulation is stronger as it disapplies EU attempts to modify our law without our consent.
New Clause 8 reiterates Clause IX of the Bill of Rights, which states: â€œThat the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliamentâ€. There is a fear that some debates in Parliament can now be overruled, or some speeches could be prosecuted in European courts without this express protection.
New Clause 9 is the most comprehensive. It reasserts Parliamentary sovereignty, on the basis that Parliament has granted the EU certain powers within the UK, so Parliament can modify or repatriate those powers at a later date if it wishes.
We believe all of these are necessary, and if passed they would go a long way to reassure people that we can be in charge of our own affairs again if we need to be.
My worry is that the government will seek to prevent these big issues being debated, by restricting time. They will doubtless urge all their MPs to vote against them if we do reach them, giving the lie to their many promises that we have kept our right to self government and have preserved all our red lines. Lisbon is about another large transfer of power to the EU. These new clauses are about keeping a democracy in the UK. I urge my colleagues to vote for them if we are given the chance.