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European Union

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

11. What steps he is taking to ensure that Government Departments co-ordinate Government policy on the European Union. (108594)

I am just checking to see that the press are in the Gallery.

I regularly discuss policy relating to Europe with ministerial colleagues. Detailed departmental policy relating to the European Union is decided collectively by Cabinet and its committees. For example, I chaired recent Cabinet committee discussions about the future of the European emissions trading scheme. As a result of those discussions, we agreed a set of proposals that were submitted to the European Commission. The House will be aware that the Commission recently confirmed that the UK is the only member state to produce an acceptable cap on carbon emissions for the next stage of the emissions trading scheme. It was a tough decision, but it demonstrated the Government’s commitment to tackling climate change and the importance of bringing Departments together to discuss difficult political issues and make a decision.

With the advent of the German presidency of the European Union, and Chancellor Merkel’s commitment to a revived constitutional treaty, albeit in compressed form, will the Deputy Prime Minister give the House an undertaking that if there is a transfer of more powers and competences, and any further loss of UK sovereignty as a result of a compressed or mini treaty, the UK will have an opportunity to express its view in a national referendum?

It was agreed after the last referendums that there would be discussions, and that the German presidency would introduce proposals after those discussions. We have always made it clear that a referendum would be required, whatever the conclusions of those discussions.

Is it not important to take a positive and engaged approach to the European Union so that we do not just talk about climate change but introduce serious proposals for change through an emissions trading scheme and a post-Kyoto agreement?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, the statement by the Commission to which I referred made it clear that Britain and Sweden were the only two countries that met their Kyoto targets. On the emissions trading scheme, we were the only country to make a proposal that was acceptable to the Commission. Yet again, that shows that Britain is ahead on most of the climate change proposals.