Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): This debate is a disgrace. This is a massive work programme with huge implications for the British people and our own country, yet we have been given 90 minutes. I can now make only a few of the points I wanted to make because two of my colleagues rightly wish to join in.
The Minister told us that he was delighted that this was a small and compressed programme of just 23 measures. These measures are huge for the jobs, growth and investment area. There are proposals that will have a direct impact on the economies of the European Union. In the section on economic and monetary union, two new taxes are proposed—a common consolidated corporation tax and a financial transactions tax. The Minister did not even mention them: I believe that they will be opposing them for the United Kingdom. One would have thought that a couple of major European taxes might have been worth a mention.
Nobody has had a chance to discuss the energy union proposals, which will directly impact on the United Kingdom. It is put down as one measure, but it is a whole raft of measures. The one that is scored is a strategic framework, but the strategic framework will lead on to a massive programme of regulation and legislation. The Minister obliquely referred to the idea that we want to integrate the market. Why do we wish to integrate it? Why do we wish to integrate the United Kingdom’s rather different energy market—we are an island with access to a lot of its own energy—with the continent of Europe, which has a terrible geopolitical problem because it has made itself so dependent on Russian gas.
As if that was not enough, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) rightly said that migration and border controls—one of the leading issues in the run-up to the general election—is at the core of this work programme. That is exactly right.
I found rather surprising the Minister’s remarks about our legal opportunities for benefit reform. It seems to me that most of the proposals for solving our difficulties on benefits for migrants in the United Kingdom would be illegal under the current treaty. I have been going on about this for years and have recommended to Ministers that they put our benefits on a contributory basis and that they should be paid only if people have paid in for a specified number of years and/or have been in full-time education in the United Kingdom between the ages of five and 16, so that all British people would qualify, without it being discriminatory on grounds of country. If we did that, we could make the changes we want, but Ministers do not respond. They pretend that they can make these other changes, but they have not delivered them all and I think they will discover that a lot of them are illegal.
The economic programme should be much more urgent. I find it extraordinary that the Labour party can come here and show no anger or passion about the mass unemployment on the continent. If there were anything like 50% youth unemployment in Britain today or 25% general unemployment, Labour Members would be outraged and they would be here in their hundreds—not just three Members as now.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): rose—
Mr Redwood: I am sorry, but I do not have time. The hon. Gentleman wants to make his own speech.
Labour would be outraged, but because this is happening on the continent of Europe and is the result of the euro and economic union policies from which we have rightly opted out, they do not seem to care less. They just accept that it has to happen. I think this House should be deeply angry about the mass unemployment on the continent and deeply angry about the permanent recession that has hurt certain countries. We should be deeply angry about the shambles that is the euro, which is doing so much damage to prosperity, opportunity and life hopes. We have no time to discuss any of that because we have been given only 90 minutes.