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Commons Chamber

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

House of Commons

Tuesday 4 March 2008

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Train Operating Companies

1. Which train operating company has (a) the worst operational record and (b) the highest recorded level of passenger dissatisfaction in the latest period for which figures are available. (190972)

As hon. Members will be aware, First Great Western has been in breach of its franchise agreement. First Great Western also recorded the highest level of passenger dissatisfaction, as measured by the national passenger survey for autumn 2007.

It used to be called the Great Western Railway or even God’s Wonderful Railway, but now it is Worst Great Western. First Great Western has shortened trains, late trains, cancelled trains, terrible catering and terrible passenger information services, and it operates at the highest price per mile of any transport system in the western world. Surely it is time for the Government to re-examine why they gave it the franchise in the first place.

I agree that performance has been unacceptable for far too long. The package that I set out on 26 February was not just a technical statement about the franchise, because it will bring real benefits to passengers. It will double the compensation that passengers can claim when services are disrupted, allow the introduction of extra rolling stock and make available an extra 500,000 of the cheapest tickets—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomes it.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the slap of firm government, but I ask her to go even further and deal with that company. First Great Western has caused all of us who travel by train in that part of the world countless delays and cancellations, in addition to its behaviour, which has been even worse. The yellow card is welcome, but how can we make sure that a red card is issued if it does not reform itself?

First Great Western has been put on notice, and its performance must improve. That is why we have agreed with it a remedial plan, which will bring more capacity, more carriages and more drivers to put right the failures in the franchise. As a matter of contract, if the company breaches that remedial plan, it will be open to me to withdraw its franchise.

My constituents can travel directly from Tunbridge Wells to Gatwick airport in an hour, but that service would be withdrawn under proposals introduced by Southern. Is it the Secretary of State’s view that our roads and car parks are insufficiently congested, and that we should be getting passengers off the trains and into their cars when they go on holiday?

The hon. Gentleman is discussing the Southern franchise rather than First Great Western, but I am happy to take his question. It is true that there is a shortage of rolling stock on that particular route, which we are seeking to address, but the ultimate answer is investment in capacity. We are committed to an extra £10 billion of investment up to 2014, which will deliver 1,300 extra carriages and allow people to get on the train and travel in comfort.

I welcome the deal with First Great Western, which will bring much-needed investment into the franchise. The Minister with responsibility for rail has met First Great Western on numerous occasions in the past eighteen months and read the riot act every time. When I meet people from First Great Western and Network Rail in my constituency on Friday, what message can I give them from the Secretary of State that will convince them that we are serious this time, and that if they do not pull their socks up very quickly the franchise will be taken away?

First Great Western must get a grip, and Moir Lockhead, the First chief executive, has assured me that he will do everything he can to improve services for passengers. The remedial plan will ensure that it meets the terms of its franchise agreement; otherwise I will consider whether to withdraw the franchise. In addition, First Great Western has offered a package of direct benefits for passengers worth £29 million, including the doubling of compensation if trains are delayed or cancelled. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s constituents will appreciate that.

My right hon. Friend has given us old promises in this connection, but is she not likely to be challenged by the company in the courts? What action can she take to ensure that that does not happen?

No; I assure my hon. Friend that First Great Western accepts the need to act. It has implemented a remedial plan, which was agreed with my Department, to correct the failures in the franchise, which will be set out in law under the terms of the contract. If it fails to fulfil the terms of that contract and moves into breach, we would call that an event of default, in which case we would have the option of withdrawing the franchise.

Rail Capacity

During the preparation of the rail White Paper, the Government carried out assessments of the adequacy of the capacity of the rail network. The assessments drew on work carried out by the rail industry, and the outcome is published in the 2007 rail White Paper “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I associate myself with the concerns mentioned by many hon. Members in response to the last question about First Great Western. Assuming that First Great Western—or its successors—finally gets its act together and starts to deliver a decent rail service in areas such as my constituency, there will still be capacity constraints, particularly in respect of the problems addressed in the western package of Worle junction and Worle Parkway station. Will the Minister undertake to look at those proposals in a favourable light and, ideally, commit the Government to funding them as soon as possible?

The hon. Gentleman is right in that capacity remains the overwhelming challenge facing the railway industry today, unlike the situation under previous Governments, who faced the challenge of how to stop the decline in the number of people using the railways. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said a few moments ago, we have committed ourselves to arranging the procurement of 1,300 new carriages. Under the indicative proposals in the rolling stock plan, First Great Western is already going to receive more than 50 new carriages; that will be a major increase in the capacity available to passengers, including the hon. Gentleman’s constituents.

The chief executive of Network Rail predicts that capacity on inter-city routes will run out by 2015, yet the Government have told us that they are not going to make any decision on new high-speed rail lines until 2012. Given that it takes a decade to plan high-speed trains, why are the Government being so leisurely?

I am rarely accused of being leisurely. I have to tell my hon. Friend that in terms of predictions for growth on the railways, the figures in the 2007 rail White Paper, to which I have just referred, are robust. Network Rail has signed up to them in the past. There may well be a case for new high-speed lines—certainly for increased physical capacity—on many of our major railway routes at the beginning of the next decade, starting in 2020. However, I do not believe that such decisions should, or have to, be taken earlier than 2012, which year will see the publication of the high level output specification phase 2.

The Secretary of State will no doubt be as pleased as the rest of us that figures show that more and more people are choosing to use trains. However, given the Government’s decision to block extra carriages on the west coast main line, does she have a message for the thousands of people who regularly have to stand on that route, simply because they cannot get a seat?

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect in saying that the Government have attempted to block increased capacity on the west coast main line. The Government have told Virgin Trains that it will not be given an opportunity to re-bid for the franchise without any competitive tendering; otherwise the situation would not be competitive, so I hope that that will be supported by the whole House. However, we have said that we remain committed to extending the Pendolinos by two carriages at some point at the very beginning of the next franchise.

It is refreshing that the Government are prepared to spend so much money on extending capacity, but the reality is that the numbers of extra rolling stock and carriages are not high enough to deal with the problems in connection with the extra numbers of people wanting to use the system. We will have to take decisions rapidly about high-speed lines. Will the Minister not just accept that the issue is not for the next Parliament, but for this one?

What I do not accept is that high-speed lines are some kind of panacea, or that in committing ourselves to building such lines we will suddenly eradicate all the capacity challenges that we face. My hon. Friend is right, of course, that 1,300 carriages will go some way towards alleviating capacity pressures in the next five or six years. The Government will always intend, where possible, to increase the capacity available to passengers. However, let me remind my hon. Friend and the House that the 1,300 carriages are the biggest step change in capacity that the rail industry has seen for decades. They represent a level of financial commitment that no other party has seen fit to equal.

Does the Minister agree that a major constraint on the capacity of the rail network is the capacity of station car parks? Will he have urgent discussions with Network Rail and South West Trains with a view to increasing capacity on the Waterloo to Salisbury line, so that more people who want to travel by train off-peak can do so?

I do accept that when car park capacity is enhanced, more people use the railways; clearly, that is a way of facilitating higher demand. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that car parking facilities are a matter not for the Government but for local authorities, Network Rail and, occasionally, the train operating companies. Nevertheless, his point is well made. I would like more car park capacity to be made available throughout the country, including in his constituency.

Will my hon. Friend consider using the £14 million taken in fines from Network Rail to bring forward the purchase of new rolling stock, as set out in the 30-year plan? In particular, we should ensure that capacity exists in the manufacturing industry to deliver on time the rolling stock on which we have made a commitment to spend money.

That is an innovative idea from my hon. Friend. I can reassure him that the money needed to buy the 1,300 new carriages has been banked, as it were, and has been committed. We are not facing any kind of shortfall in respect of the 1,300 new carriages that we are committed to buy. He might be aware that the Office of Rail Regulation has embarked on a consultation about how the £14 million fine levied on Network Rail will be imposed—whether it will be a fine coming back to central Government, or whether it can be quantified as passenger benefits for those who suffered the most during the new year overruns.

How will it help rail capacity to take £14 million out of Network Rail’s budget? That fine, imposed on a public sector body, can only hit rail users. Would it not have been better to stop the £75,000 bonus to the chief executive, or the 18 per cent. pay rise for the directors?

The hon. Gentleman will be disappointed to be reminded once again that the Department for Transport has no say over whether the Office of Rail Regulation imposes a fine on Network Rail. That should be a matter for the independent rail regulator. The hon. Gentleman’s party has accused this Government on a number of occasions of micro-managing the railways, but again one of them is at the Dispatch Box telling us that that is exactly what we should do. The railways are better run by railway people, not Ministers.

Channel Tunnel

There are currently a significant number of paths available through the channel tunnel. The allocation of paths, and the precise number that have been unused, are matters for Eurotunnel.

Even if existing signalling could be upgraded, less than a quarter of the tunnel’s train capacity is currently used, and only a massive increase in rail freight traffic could close that gap. Would my hon. Friend accept that heavy investment in rail freight lines between the major economic regions of Britain and the tunnel is vital if we are to make use of the tunnel properly?

My hon. Friend has campaigned for a long time on this issue, and I know that his expertise is impressive. He will know that the Government intervened at the end of 2006 in order to create an open-access regime in the channel tunnel that allowed EWS and other operators to continue to run freight through it. He will also be aware that £200 million has been committed under the high level output specifications to develop the strategic freight network.

My hon. Friend will be aware that at the end of last year I announced £150 million in productivity transport innovation funding for gauge enhancement in the freight network. The 50 per cent. increase in freight tonnage carried on the British rail network shows that this Government are solidly behind the freight industry, but it must remain a commercial venture. Given that, it is in the best interest of the industry to make its own commercial decisions—with the full support of the Government, of course.

In addition to the opening of the rail freight paths through the channel tunnel, when will the passenger paths that have now been freed up at Waterloo be opened, to ease congestion in the south-west?

The hon. Lady is correct; a number of passenger paths through the channel tunnel, and on High Speed 1, the channel tunnel rail link, remain unused. Having listened closely to the debates that took place recently on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill, she will know that it is my hope that open-access operators from Britain and Europe will apply to run freight and passenger services on vacant routes in order to increase the capacity running on the channel tunnel rail link, or High Speed 1.

Concessionary Bus Fares

4. What assessment she has made of the budgetary implications of the national concessionary bus fare scheme for local authorities. (190975)

We have allocated an additional £212 million to travel concession authorities from 1 April, on top of the £350 million allocated in 2006-07—enough to fund around an extra 200 million bus journeys across England. Our assessment of the likely cost impact of the new concession is based on generous assumptions about pass take-up, fares and increased patronage.

Is not the reality that the scheme has been underfunded nationally by at least £60 million? In Chesterfield alone it will cost a minimum of £1.3 million, and the Government have provided only £1 million. That leaves a small council such as Chesterfield borough council to find £300,000, which is the equivalent of a 7.5 per cent. increase in council tax. When will the Government stop forcing councils throughout the country to cut services and raise council tax to make up for Government underfunding of Government schemes?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. In 2006-07 Chesterfield local authority was already spending £1.3 million on concessionary fares. We are providing a 32 per cent. increase: on top of that, we are giving £416,000 extra. In his authority, 23,000 people will be eligible for concessionary fares under the new scheme, and it will provide them with the freedom to use their bus pass wherever they are in the country. He should be encouraging them to take up the pass, not scaremongering about the effect on other services.

Can we just ensure that local authorities are not left with a funding gap that has to be covered by a reduction in non-statutory services? Some authorities, such as mine in Nottingham, are having to consider closing swimming pools, leisure centres and libraries to pay for a transport service—which, ironically, pensioners would end up using to go in search of pools that were not open, libraries that were closed and leisure centres that no longer existed.

I assure my hon. Friend that the settlement is generous. As I said, two years ago, we put £350 million extra through the revenue support grant to fund the current concession. On top of that, from April, a further £212 million will go to funding concessionary fares. That is the equivalent of 200 million extra journeys. The proportion of journeys made outside local county areas is about 4 per cent. whereas the average increase in funding is 30 per cent. I emphasise that the settlement is generous.

The Minister says that few journeys are made outside county boundaries, but the Government news network release issued today advocates, for example, Broadstairs in Kent as an ideal destination for visitors from London. I am sure that Broadstairs would welcome those visitors, but my correspondence with Kent county council, Thanet district council and Canterbury city council shows genuine concern. Will the Minister make certain that resort destinations do not bear an unfair proportion of the burden of cost?

Yes, I can assure the hon. Gentleman on that count. The formula that we drew up for the specific grant—it is a specific grant, at the request of local authorities—was based on the number of tourist visits as well as eligible population data. For example, Thanet council will receive a 45 per cent. increase this year on top of what it spent in 2006-07 on concessionary fares. Again, that increase in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is much greater than average. In Thanet, 35,000 people over 60 will be eligible for the scheme, and I encourage him to advertise its benefits to his constituents. In total, 11 million people around the country will benefit. Hon. Members should welcome that scheme for older and disabled people.

Is the Minister aware that the pleasure that pensioners and the disabled in Hove and Portslade take in their bus passes is tempered by being harried and bullied by accusations that the bus pass is responsible for the cuts in the local authority budget announced last week? What measures will my right hon. Friend take to ensure that local authority mismanagement will not stop the implementation of the free bus pass scheme?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. In her area the increase is some 33 per cent. It is quite wrong to scaremonger among older and disabled people about services being withdrawn, when the settlement is in fact incredibly generous. I hope that she will encourage her constituents to take up the pass and use the new freedoms that go with it.

“A budget disaster”, “Financial meltdown” and “Our local authority is receiving inadequate compensation” are but three of the reactions of Labour and Conservative councils up and down the country to the introduction of the national concessionary bus scheme. The Government’s reaction this afternoon has shown their complacency. They must accept that the funding that they are providing for their scheme is inadequate. That funding is leading to councils either cutting services or increasing council tax. The Government happily claim credit for the scheme, yet they are allowing the local council tax payer to pick up the bill. When are they going to stop being complacent and provide proper funding for the introduction of their scheme?

Again, the increase in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency will be 31 per cent. of what was being spent in 2006-07. Let me emphasise that we consulted widely with local authorities on the funding formula for the scheme. We agreed to make a specific grant and we gave four options for how that grant should be distributed. The way in which we are distributing the grant is the one that the local authorities asked for. The hon. Gentleman might want to ask the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) whether he is proposing to cut concessionary fare funding in order to put forward his policies.

Swansea Station

5. How much she has allocated for capital spending at Swansea railway station over the next five years; and if she will make a statement. (190976)

Swansea was included in the industry’s initial list of candidate stations for the national stations improvement programme. An updated list of candidate stations will be published as part of the April 2008 refresh of Network Rail’s strategic business plan.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. He knows that I have been writing to him recently to make representations on the need for capital investment at Swansea railway station, which is, after all, the gateway to west Wales and an important mainline terminus. Can he assure me that he will do all he can to ensure that Swansea remains a candidate for those moneys, which, as the second city of Wales, it richly deserves?

My hon. Friend is right: she does indeed write to me frequently, on this issue and others—and correspondence from her is always welcome. She will be aware that one of the criteria for deciding which stations should be on the list of candidate stations is how successful Network Rail can expect to be in leveraging private sector money. I have no information about whether Swansea will remain on the list in April 2008, but she is doing exactly the right thing in making the case for Swansea, and I wish her every success in that.

I understand that the railway station concerned is some distance away from Wrexham—but perhaps the hon. Gentleman can try to ask his question.

Mr. Speaker, your knowledge of Wales is renowned across the land. I want to talk about capital investment in Welsh railway stations, if that is permissible. Capital investment in Welsh railway stations for disabled facilities has been made at Wrexham station, and I believe that Swansea railway station would also be eligible for such investment. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that sustaining such capital investment is essential to ensuring a functioning and improving railway service, and what position does he believe we would be in if we had a Government who no longer contributed to such investment?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenious question. Although Wrexham station has been allocated money under the Access for All programme, which has had a budget of £370 million over 10 years for improving accessibility at stations, my understanding—although I am prepared to be proved wrong on this—is that Swansea has so far not benefited from Access for All investment. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that unless we continued with a high level of investment in infrastructure, not only on the railways but at our stations, the record increase in patronage that we have seen over the past 10 years would, I fear, begin to take a downward turn.

Short Car Journeys

The Government have taken several steps to encourage people to make fewer short car journeys. We are providing record spending on buses and other local transport, and bus patronage is increasing. I announced a sixfold increase in funding for Cycling England, and in our sustainable travel towns people are choosing to travel differently, reducing car trips by more than 10 per cent. and increasing bus use by 16 per cent.

I thank the Secretary of State for her response—but in the past 10 years, according to figures provided by her Department, the number of journeys made on foot has fallen by 15 per cent. and the number of bike journeys has fallen by 14 per cent. How much further does she expect the number of such trips to fall as a result of the programme of 2,500 post office closures? Has she been able to assess how many extra short car journeys will need to be made as a result of that closure programme?

The key here is to encourage the local leadership in local councils to think through how people get around their towns and cities. Places such as the London borough of Sutton are looking at our sustainable travel towns initiatives and seeing the dramatic effect that they can have on cycling and walking. They are introducing personalised travel and information for people, so that they can change the nature of their car journeys. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that where the critical local infrastructure—the post office, the school, the local shops—is located matters enormously. That is why it is important for us to work with the Department for Communities and Local Government to look at the planning system, to ensure that people can get about easily on foot or by bike.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Tyne and Wear Metro system saves some 15 million short car journeys every year? It is now more than 20 years old, however, and it is beginning to creak and groan a bit. The business plan for the improvement of the Metro system was submitted to her Department in June last year, and discussions have been ongoing. Can she confirm that she will soon be in a position to make a statement on the reinvigoration of the Metro system, so that it can continue to provide an alternative to short car journeys?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his tenacity in raising the issue of the Metro. He is absolutely right to say that it matters enormously to people in Tyne and Wear and the surrounding areas, and it is important that we take any investment case seriously. The business case is with the Department, and I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Of course, where possible, people should be encouraged to take as few car journeys as possible. However, in many places, including my island constituency, that is almost impossible because of the rural nature of the area. Would the Minister consider supporting a proposal similar to one that this Government have supported for rural France involving the reduction of rural fuel duty by 3 per cent.? Last week the Scottish Government reduced ferry fares for the island constituencies. I wonder whether we might now have some good news from Westminster about taking positive steps to reduce fuel tax in rural areas, as the Government have agreed should happen in France.

To be honest, I found the hon. Gentleman’s argument slightly hard to follow, but if he is talking about taxation, that is clearly an issue for the Treasury. He is absolutely right, however, to say that access from rural communities to neighbouring towns and cities—and, indeed, to London and beyond this country—is hugely important. That is one of the reasons why it is not possible to say that all journeys will be able to be made by high-speed train or by road, for example; we need flights, too. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports our proposal—which will, of course, be subject to strict local environmental conditions being met—to expand capacity at Heathrow, so that we will be able to serve rural communities.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to discourage short car journeys is to improve the bus service? Will she join me in celebrating the achievements of the Mayor of London in recent years in improving London’s bus service, including through extensions to the freedom pass and discounts for low-income families? Does my right hon. Friend agree that a serious threat to that would be the 15 per cent. fare hike that would result from the Conservatives’ underfunded commitment to—[Interruption.]

I do; my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Every Londoner should know that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) is pledging a minimum 15 per cent. increase in bus fares. I must say to my hon. Friend and her colleagues that this is a very important election, which will have a real impact on millions of Londoners. The Mayor of London has a role on the world stage, whereas the hon. Member for Henley is, I think, more suited to a role in the circus.

Order. We had best be careful about the language we use, as it is unfair to attack an hon. Member of the House in that way.

In her answer, the Secretary of State touched on a very important topic. Will she make a start on short journeys by requesting her right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to make the short journey between Downing street and this House each Wednesday on foot?

The hon. Gentleman makes a cheap political point. I am sure that he travels on foot to all his meetings and that he would encourage every Member to do the same.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that cutting short car journeys requires an effective bus service? Will she explain just what powers her Department has given local authorities to ensure that services delivered on paper are actual and that Arriva and Stagecoach cannot cut services at the drop of a hat, and deny them to my constituents?

My hon. Friend has been assiduous in pushing the case of her constituents. Indeed, I believe that a Department for Transport official recently visited Stockton council and members of neighbouring councils to talk about how they can ensure a good quality bus service in their local areas. The Local Transport Bill, which is currently proceeding through the House of Lords and will shortly come to this place, sets in place a framework that will allow councils either to negotiate a voluntary partnership with bus operators, to implement a statutory partnership or—if they think they will have greater control and be able better to deliver on fares, punctuality and the type of routes they want served—a quality contract, so that they can commission the bus services that they think their communities need.


A scheme to improve the A12 interchange with the M25 is under construction and is expected to be completed in spring 2008. Future improvements to the A12 are dependent on these being prioritised for funding by the east of England from its regional funding allocation for major transport schemes, or from other sources.

I am grateful to the Minister for that response. Given that the Highways Agency has identified the need to widen the A12 to Chelmsford to a three-lane road in order to reduce congestion and accident rates, and given that the Minister for the East of England has said that the upgrading of this stretch of the A12 is “totally vital”, is it not incumbent on the Government, because this is a trunk road, to expedite this work by providing the funding?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct that this is a trunk road, but it is also a road of regional importance. Although the Minister for the East of England and the highways authority—and perhaps even myself, Mr. Speaker—are convinced of the need for a major upgrade, it is up to the hon. Gentleman to try to persuade the regional transport board for the east of England that it should prioritise that work. To date, unfortunately, it has not done so. Of course, during the refresh of the regional funding allocation throughout the country, including in the east of England, for the transport board to look again at its priorities and make its recommendations to the Government.

Is the Minister aware of the spate of serious accidents on the A12 and will he ensure that action is taken to reduce fatalities at some of the worst fatality blackspots?

Yes, I am aware of the less than satisfactory accident rate on the stretch of the A12 that the hon. Gentleman mentions. I have spoken to the Highways Agency about the issue and asked it to carry out a review of the mechanisms and plans for that stretch to see what it can do within its own budget to try to improve the road’s safety record. He is absolutely correct to draw this unsatisfactory situation to the attention of the House.

Cycling Safety

Since 2005-06, the Department for Transport has invested around £3.1 million on the development and delivery of cycle training. So far, funding has been provided to enable around 46,000 children to be trained to the Bikeability standard. In January, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a sixfold increase in the cycling budget to £140 million for Cycling England to invest in initiatives to encourage cycling, including enabling an extra 500,000 children to have Bikeability training by 2012.

Is the Minister aware that the mayor of Doncaster, Mayor Martin Winter, is formulating a bid for cycling demonstration town status? What impact would that have on cycling safety in Doncaster? Does the Minister agree that if the Conservative party had its way, cycling safety would be one of the first things to be cut under a Conservative Administration?

I advise my hon. Friend that in February Cycling England commenced a bidding process for 10 new cycle demonstration towns and a new cycle city, and has published the assessment criteria and application form, which are available on its website. Cycling England’s local authority advisory team is available to give help to any local authority of whatever political persuasion. The contact details are also available on the Cycling England website. The deadline for applications is 31 March, and I wish my hon. Friend’s friends the best of luck in their bidding.

One way to make cycling safer is to provide new cycle routes away from traffic. I recently saw a great example at Yeadon, near Leeds, that utilises an old railway track. Can the Minister act to protect those old rail corridors from developers, so that they can be made available for cyclists and, for that matter, pedestrians?

I have just advised the House of the sixfold increase—I am sure hon. Members were aware of it—in funding for Cycling England, which I am sure will be considering imaginative schemes to promote cycling more effectively. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has just advised me that there are other pots for which bids can be made. We will look to use all available routes to ensure that cycling is a safe activity, because it reduces congestion, is good for health and builds confidence. The Government want to ensure that we promote cycling as effectively as we can.

Vulnerable Passengers

9. If she will undertake a review of the extent to which public and community transport services meet the needs of vulnerable passengers. (190980)

Good public transport is key to reducing social exclusion. That is why £2.5 billion a year is invested by central Government and local government to support buses and community transport services.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Will she encourage local councils such as those in County Durham to use the measures in the Local Transport Bill to make greater use of community transport in their plans to improve bus services locally? Does she agree not only that that would improve access to public transport for isolated and vulnerable communities in my constituency, but that it could meet their needs more fully than standard commercial services?

My hon. Friend is a great advocate of public transport in her constituency and she is right to say that the Bill contains measures to help to improve community transport services. For example, it will allow community bus permits, which will enable payment for people who run community bus services. At the moment, there are certain restrictions on that, but the Bill will allow payment of community drivers in such circumstances. That is exactly the kind of service that could be a solution in rural areas and could be particularly applicable to vulnerable people who are perhaps isolated in such areas. It could be a good solution to some of the transport problems that they face.

Will the Minister give a commitment to the House today and perhaps even agree to meet with me and some representatives from Shropshire councils over the concessionary bus scheme? She will be aware that there is real concern among those on disability living allowance on the lower rate, carers who are travelling without those they are caring for and also those with mental health disorders who are socially excluded from the new scheme. Will she meet me to discuss those important issues?

I shall certainly agree to meet the hon. Gentleman. The criteria for qualification for the concessionary bus pass were laid down in the Transport Act 2000, and I am happy to send him the details of those. They cover a number of people with disabilities, and there is discretion for local authorities to extend the scheme if they wish to do so. I am more than happy to explain the details of that scheme to him.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

10. What estimate she has made of the effect of extending rail services on levels of greenhouse gas emissions from transport; and if she will make a statement. (190981)

The Department has estimated that the additional rail capacity required by the high-level output specification would result in a net increase in annual transport carbon dioxide emissions of around 102,000 tonnes by 2014. However, the crowding relief benefits of the investment are more than 70 times greater than the associated cost of additional carbon emissions.

Does my hon. Friend agree that later evening services allowing people to leave their cars at home can play a part in reducing carbon emissions? Does he understand my concern, and that of Staffordshire county council and the North Staffordshire community rail partnership, about the current and proposed times of last trains serving both Burton-on-Trent and Uttoxeter compared to the times of last trains serving towns of similar size? Currently the last train leaving Uttoxeter from Derby is the—

My hon. Friend’s point is valid, but as has been said from the Dispatch Box a number of times in the past, the Government are not in the business of carrying fresh air around the country. If only two or three people travel in a railway carriage late at night, that will result in a much bigger carbon footprint for each of them. There is a case for providing later services where there is a demand, but I hope my hon. Friend will accept that franchises are designed following extensive research and consultation with the prospective markets. If there is no market for late-night services, running extra services carrying very few people would do nothing to reduce the carbon imprint of the railway industry.

Electrified rail and light rail services produce lower carbon dioxide emissions than diesel services. What plans has the Minister to increase investment in electrification?

It is heartwarming to see the enthusiasm with which Liberal Democrats embrace new spending commitments, when they dismiss so easily the commitments that the Government have already made to investment in the railway infrastructure. We have made a deliberate and political decision that increasing capacity on the network must be our priority over the next six years. We will spend that £10 billion on, among other things, buying 1,300 new railway carriages. Although electrification will be considered on a case-by-case basis, we do not think it should be given the same priority as the purchasing of extra capacity.

Topical Questions

Today I set out my strategy for tackling congestion in our urban areas and on our motorways. I published a report exploring where hard-shoulder running and traffic management systems could bring most benefits, and set out proposals for preserving the benefits of new capacity.

The Heathrow consultation closed on 27 February, and the many thousands of responses are now being analysed. I expect to make a decision later this year. On 26 February, I laid a statement about the measures that we have secured from First Great Western to improve its service and deliver a package of direct benefits for passengers.

Given my right hon. Friend’s announcement today about motorway congestion, does she believe that the M4 in Wales would benefit from hard-shoulder running, and when does she expect to expand the programme?

I thank my hon. Friend for her interest. Today I published a map of the main motorway network across England, showing the most congested parts of the network and also the roads where it might be possible to open up the hard shoulder for extra capacity. I am sure that the M4 is one of those roads. Of course, the Welsh Assembly may wish to examine the proposals. Where trials have been held we have seen not only an improvement in journey times but, perhaps more important, much more predictable journey times and lower carbon emissions, and motorists using the M42 have welcomed having a managed motorway.

T2. In light of Bolton council’s unanimous decision to hold a referendum on the introduction of congestion charging in Manchester, will the Secretary of State now insist that the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities introduces a Greater Manchester-wide referendum before any decision is made on the introduction of congestion charging?

Ruth Kelly: The hon. Gentleman refers to a bid that is currently before my Department for extra investment in public transport in Greater Manchester. As a consequence, an offer to introduce an element of congestion charging around Manchester city centre has been made. No bid has yet been agreed and it will be for the local authorities in Greater Manchester to decide how to consult on that package if and when it is agreed. One of the tests that the authorities have set themselves is a public acceptability test, so as well as delivering on combating congestion in urban areas, which is very important, they will also have to decide how they want to take the consultation forward. (190963)

T3. Last week I raised the problem of protesters climbing on top of a flight from Manchester at Heathrow airport as I was walking by the gantry. What have the Government done after my demand for an investigation? What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that security at our airports is up to the highest quality and standards? (190964)

TranSec is responsible within the Department for security for all our transport modes. An investigation into the incident is going on and we will learn the lessons from it. We take the highest level of precautions to make sure that the travelling public are protected as best as possible. There are spot-checks at airports, ports and other transport areas. Every endeavour is made to make sure that stunts like those we saw last week both at Heathrow and here do not happen. However, we have to be extra vigilant against determined extremists; we can never be absolutely sure that we can defeat them.

Do the Government still support the statement of December 2006 by the then Transport Minister, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), that a national road pricing scheme would be introduced by the middle of the next decade?

My priority is to focus on the congestion experienced by today’s motorists. It is right that there will be a debate, and I am sure that the hon. Lady, who has already expressed her views on the issue, does not want to see any form of road pricing now or in future. We are committed to examining the technology to see whether we can address people’s real concerns about privacy, enforcement and how fair a national road pricing scheme would be. But I am clear that we need to focus on congestion now, opening up the hard shoulder for extra car traffic where we can, managing motorway speeds to encourage a smoother flow and locking in the benefits through car-sharing lanes or toll lanes where that makes sense.

Why will the right hon. Lady not just admit that Labour’s flagship national road pricing scheme is now dead in the water? Does her announcement today mean that the planned widening schemes for the M1, M6 and M62 are now being permanently shelved? Does the announcement also mean that the Government are highly unlikely to press ahead with any motorway widening in the future? Will the revenue from the new tolls that she wants to be introduced be spent on transport, or will it go back into the Treasury pot?

The hon. Lady asks me whether the policy is dead in the water; I would offer her a motoring analogy instead. I would describe it as a nifty overtaking manoeuvre to get past stationary traffic ahead. The debate about national road pricing has become increasingly sterile, with enthusiasts thinking that road pricing is the answer to all their problems and with people on the other side saying, “Over my dead body.” I am focusing on today’s problems faced by ordinary motorists. Virtually all the capacity that could be delivered by motorway widening could in theory be delivered by hard-shoulder running. That will not be possible in every part of the motorway network, partly for technical reasons and partly for engineering reasons. Today we published a map showing where it might make sense. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady asks about the M25 and the M6. The M25 is a quite long way down the procurement process on sections 1 and 3. We will go ahead with conventional widening, which will take place where it makes sense on the motorway. I am determined robustly to test the other sections of the M25 against the alternative proposition of hard-shoulder running.[Official Report, 18 March 2008, Vol. 473, c. 5MC.]

T5. I welcome the planned investment in our railways, which is essential if we are to encourage more people to use rail, rather than road, and thus cut our carbon emissions, but what guarantees can Ministers give that works planned for the next six years will actually be completed, particularly in light of the comments we have heard from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman about robbing Peter to pay Paul? (190966)

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of that investment, and under this Government there has been record investment in the railways. As a consequence, there has been a 40 per cent. increase in the number of people using our railways and more than 1 billion passenger journeys made every year. That level of investment will continue under this Government. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to say what on earth would happen to it under any other Government.

What action will the Secretary of State take in light of the Civil Aviation Authority recommendation to the Competition Commission that there is insufficient airspace around London and the south-east to accommodate any further growth in traffic that would result from a third runway at Heathrow? Can she confirm that there will be no further runway at Heathrow without the expressed support of the CAA and National Air Traffic Services, or is she prepared to override those concerns and put passengers at risk?

The CAA has examined our White Paper proposals and believes that the necessary airspace capacity can be provided safely. Airspace change proposals will be subject to the rigorous requirements of the CAA’s change process in terms of development, consultation, approval and implementation. We do not recognise the description the hon. Gentleman has just given.

T4. Why have Wellingborough rail commuters seen the price of their tickets increase at more than twice the rate of inflation, when at the same time the frequency of trains has been cut, overcrowding has increased and seat reservations have been withdrawn? (190965)

The hon. Gentleman knows that this Government’s fares regulation policy is that, overall, regulated fares should not rise by more than the rate of inflation plus 1 per cent. For the most recent increases, that was equivalent to £4.8 per cent. per year over a basket of fares. If he is suggesting that the Government should extend regulation to cover all fares, perhaps he should speak to his Front-Bench colleagues and decide whether that incredibly large spending commitment would be supported by them. In the meantime, however, we will continue to regulate the most widely used fares, and we will continue to invest at historically high levels in the railway industry. The hon. Gentleman clearly does not support that; that is a matter for him and his constituents.

T8. I warmly welcome the 1,300 additional rail carriages to which the Minister referred earlier, but is he aware that only three of them are currently earmarked for East Midlands Trains? Will he revisit the data and the predictions that that decision was based on, and will he ensure that this very successful main line gets what is necessary to meet the demands of the franchise and the needs of the customers? (190969)

I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns, but as I said earlier, I do not believe that Ministers are best placed to make operational decisions about what railways need; those decisions should be made by railway professionals. In putting together the indicative rolling stock plan that was published a short time ago, we listened to the requests and the expert opinions of the railway industry itself. The 1,300 new carriages—they are all new carriages, which will be delivered and running on the rail network by March 2015—are not the end of the story. I fully expect—I am optimistic about this—that the train operating companies will procure a significantly higher amount than 1,300 in that period, and it might well be the case that the east Midlands receives extra carriages. However, that will be a matter for the train operating and rolling stock companies.

T6. Will the Secretary of State explain why we should ever again believe anything that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency says, following its having told the Public Accounts Committee that 38 per cent. of motorcyclists were evading paying their excise tax only to then revise that figure dramatically downwards to 6 per cent.? (190967)

The Department accepts the difficulties that the 2000 survey results caused, and an apology has been sent to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee along with an explanation as to how the anomaly occurred. The straightforward explanation is that the DVLA moved, with the Department, from collecting data manually to using automatic number plate recognition cameras. The different methodology led to significantly lower revised figures, but they were more accurate. Because of the disparity, manual checks were made—this involved 1.6 million cases—and the offending number plates were checked again to ensure accuracy. In fact, the loss to the Exchequer was much smaller than reported, which ought to have been a good news story for law-abiding taxpayers, but because we had to spend time explaining an anomaly and making the apology, it was not the good story that it ought to have been for the Department.

T7. Does the Secretary of State accept that London’s congestion charge is not working, because the number of vehicles has increased, speeds have decreased and Londoners are paying more taxes? Will she review the Greater London Authority Act 1999 in order to impose a duty on the Mayor to speed up traffic? Such an approach would contrast with the anti-car posturing of the present incumbent, who will be leaving soon. (190968)

No, I do not agree. The congestion charge is groundbreaking and we are visited by delegations from across Europe. Indeed, only this past week a delegation from the United States paid me a visit to explore how the scheme has been implemented in London. Traffic levels have decreased, bus patronage has increased and fares have been frozen by the Mayor, who is doing a great job for this city.

T9. Has my right hon. Friend received any representations to take London’s bendy buses off the road, replace them with Routemaster buses and put 1,700 bus conductors on the buses? Has she had an opportunity to cost those proposals? Does she agree that before people make statements on the radio, they should cost their proposals carefully, otherwise they will not be making policy statements, but staging political stunts? When does she suspect the old Etonians opposite— (190970)

My hon. Friend has made his point with passion and extremely well. I have received a representation, as I believe have Londoners, that that policy would cost them only £8 million—I understand that the correct figure is closer to £108 million. The proposal would force up London bus fares by about 15 per cent.

Point of Order

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We had an announcement from the Transport Secretary this morning about using hard shoulders to provide extra motorway capacity. That statement was preceded by a piece in today’s edition of The Guardian, which quoted her at some length, a piece in The Sunday Times, which also referred to the policy, and an external briefing of organisations outside this House over the weekend. You have continually said to this House that Ministers should make statements in this House before speaking to newspapers and external bodies. That approach has clearly not been followed in this case. May I respectfully ask what action you intend to take on this matter?

It has always been my policy to encourage Ministers—in fact, insist that Ministers make statements to this House. I shall look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises and get back to him.

Autumn Bank Holiday

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to introduce a bank holiday in the Autumn.

We are about to enter what I always call the bank holiday season—Easter is coming up, followed by the May bank holiday and Whitsun. This year, we get the added bonus of Easter and a spring break. This time of year is crowded in terms of public holidays. Most of us take our family holidays in summer—in July and August—so, in a way, the August bank holiday finishes the public holidays until Christmas. The period in between is a long time without a public holiday. This time of year is wonderful, because it is springtime and the evenings are getting lighter, but after August bank holiday it gets darker, the weather is probably worsening and it is no wonder that the average British worker looks frazzled and miserable come the beginning of December.

This country used to have far more public holidays, as there were local fairs and festivals. In fact, in the 1820s the Bank of England took 33 public holidays a year. But then came the 1830s and it was nose to the grindstone time. Public holidays were cut to just four a year.

We have made progress since, and we now have eight public holidays a year—in England anyway—with the last one being introduced in 1978, under a Labour Government of course. This Government have done well in introducing a minimum annual holiday entitlement, which I am sure everybody welcomes, but we have not done so well with public holidays.

We seem to have spent all our time debating Europe recently, so I thought I would look at European public holidays. It turns out that most European countries are far better than Britain in this regard: Italy gets 16 days, Iceland gets 15, and Spain and Portugal get 14 each. However, countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal also have all sorts of festivals, ferias and local saints’ days, so they are way ahead of us when it comes to having time away from work. It makes our measly eight days look even meaner.

Since 1978, working life has changed beyond all recognition. If anybody has time to watch “Ashes to Ashes” or “Life on Mars”, the vast difference in working life and attitudes is obvious. We are working much longer hours, and people spend much longer travelling to and from work. Most would say they feel that their work-life balance has been affected. Our public holidays have not kept pace with modern working life.

Is there support for a new public holiday? The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the TUC have called for an autumn holiday that they wish to call a community day. The Downing street website shows 500,000 people backing a new public holiday for veterans, similar to Veterans day in the US. Thomas Cook also wants a public holiday in the autumn, and 500,000 people have backed its petition. Even the Prime Minister has talked about having a British day.

So there is a lot of support for a new public holiday in the autumn, but—as always—there is opposition. There are the misery-guts who want to keep us at work and never let us break free. The CBI is one such organisation: it claims that another public holiday would mean less productivity. However, I would hit back by asking whether, if it thinks that one extra day would have such a dramatic impact, it intends to campaign for the abolition of weekends. That would cast aside its argument about the impact of one more public holiday.

Indeed, a new public holiday would have economic benefits for the country. My constituency relies on travel and tourism, and a new public holiday would extend the holiday season there. At the moment, it tends to end in September. People in temporary jobs would work for longer and it would bring economic benefits to many of our seaside resorts. Restaurants, the leisure industry and the retail sector would all benefit from more public holidays. A less frazzled work force would also be more productive, not less. Breaks from work reduce stress because people can recharge their batteries. They would help with work-life balance, as people could spend time with their family and friends. People could also spend time volunteering or, as the modern jargon has it, celebrating our civic values.

I have not specified an exact date for the holiday. Most people, when asked, favour a Monday in October for an additional break. The principle that we need more public holidays is now accepted, so I propose that we have a national consultation on when in the autumn the new public holiday should be.

From a sedentary position, my hon. Friend calls for Trafalgar day. That suggestion was certainly put forward on my website, too.

As I say, modern life often leaves us feeling under pressure and unable to wind down. Well-placed public holidays can punctuate the year to give us better work-life balance, and that would be good for everybody in this country.

I gave notice earlier that I intended to speak against the motion. [Interruption.] Somebody describes me as a miserable soul; I am not a miserable soul, but if I am I share that honour with the noble Lord Jones of Birmingham, who spoke out against this proposal in the other place as recently as a fortnight ago.

I am disappointed at the way in which the Bill has been put forward by the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac). If she were proposing to scrap the May day bank holiday and replace it with one in the autumn, I might have been able to go along with that. Her suggestion of Trafalgar day on 21 October, if it were instead of May day, would find favour with quite a lot of people.

Even better would have been if the hon. Lady had said that instead of the May day bank holiday we would have a referendum day bank holiday, when it would be possible for the people to have a referendum on any issue they regarded as important at that time. They would then be able to hold us, as elected representatives, to account.

In my view, bank holidays should be used to mark special days of religious observance or national celebration. They should not be used effectively to provide bread and circuses to a populace that is increasingly disillusioned with this cynical Government. The prospect of an extra day off work at someone else’s expense may seem superficially attractive and popular, but the minimum number of days’ holiday under the working time regulations has already increased from 20 to 28 under this Government.

The notorious Warwick agreement, agreed by the Labour party national policy forum in July 2004, made as one of the concessions to the unions an announcement that public holidays would in future not count towards the minimum holiday allowance under working time rules. The consequence of the hon. Lady’s proposal would therefore be significant additional cost to the public and the private sectors.

I submit that the hon. Lady’s proposal would be against the national interest and would damage the economy. It would also damage the environment, which is a subject dear to my heart. We all know what happens at bank holiday weekends: the traffic clogs up, congestion is rife and people sit in queues of traffic that burn fossil fuels and create CO2 emissions. That would be exacerbated if we were to have yet another bank holiday weekend.

I also submit that bank holidays smack of collectivism and central control. They militate against individual freedom and flexibility. Most people, if they were given a choice between taking a holiday on a bank holiday set by the state or at a time of their own choosing, chosen in consultation with their family, would choose the latter.

Let us also think about the victims of bank holidays, such as people who are dependent on benefits. They want to gain access to public services such as health, welfare or social services. I have constituents who cannot get through to the various helplines for public departments even with the existing number of working days. Why should we want to reduce the number of working days so that it is made even more difficult for my constituents to make contact with Government Departments?

A second group of potential victims of the hon. Lady’s proposal would be those who found themselves caught up in the traffic problems on those weekends. The third victim would be the national economy. Lord Jones of Birmingham put a figure on the cost, saying that every extra bank holiday would cost £2.5 billion. I can think of better ways of spending £2.5 billion, and I make one suggestion—give us a referendum!

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Shona McIsaac, Mr. David Amess, Gordon Banks, Mr. Ian Cawsey, Mr. Martyn Jones, Dr. Stephen Ladyman, Rob Marris, Mr. Gordon Marsden, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Mr. Adrian Sanders, Lynda Waltho and Derek Wyatt.

Autumn Bank Holiday

Shona McIsaac accordingly presented a Bill to introduce a bank holiday in the Autumn: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 7 March, and to be printed [Bill 82].

Orders of the Day

European Union (Amendment) Bill

Order read for the House again resolving itself into a Committee.

I have selected the motion for an instruction on the European Union (Amendment) Bill, in the name of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg). Notice of the instruction is item 59 on page 1238 of today’s Order Paper.

I beg to move,

That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the European Union (Amendment) Bill that it have power to make provision in the Bill for the holding of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union.

I am probably not the only Member of the House who is pleased not to have to make points of order on this instruction, but instead to debate it. I guess that you, Mr. Speaker, are also pleased that I am not making points of order.

The purpose of the instruction could not be clearer: it is to put it beyond reasonable doubt that the amendments to the Bill that include a call for a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union are selectable for debate tomorrow.

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as most people in the House what my view is on the European Union. I believe that we should leave it. He is not arguing about the great principle of staying in or leaving the European Union, because he does not want that referendum at all. This instruction is just a weasel tactic to get out of the promise that he made to the electorate at the last general election to hold a referendum on the European treaty. Nobody who shares my opinion will be fooled by this rather disgraceful tactic.

The hon. Gentleman could not be more wrong. Let him debate that matter tomorrow. I and my colleagues believe that our amendments on a referendum are already in order and selectable, but we recognise that not everyone in the House is yet of that opinion. That is why we have sought, from the first day of the Committee’s proceedings, to give the House the opportunity to help the Chair and clarify that such amendments are indeed within the scope of the Bill.

I shall give way in a moment.

Let us be clear what the instruction is not about. It is not about the substantial point of a referendum. It is solely about enabling a debate on an in-out referendum—a debate that could occur tomorrow.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I may be getting very old and my hearing may be going as well as everything else, but did I actually hear the hon. Gentleman say that he was seeking to help the Chair? Is he instructing the Chair?

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that he and his party stood on a manifesto commitment to have a referendum on the constitution, which is exactly the same as the Lisbon treaty? Will he show some integrity and vote for that referendum tomorrow?

If the hon. Gentleman had attended all our debates, he would know that we do not believe that the constitutional treaty is the same as the Lisbon treaty. There are many arguments we can have about that, and no doubt we will have them tomorrow. If the hon. Gentleman votes for our instruction, we can have that debate, but if he votes against it he will prevent it from taking place

I want to make some progress, so I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman later.

Hon. Members may disagree with the Liberal Democrats’ proposition, and they may disagree with the proposal for a referendum. They may disagree with the Question that we wish to put, because it was proposed by the Liberal Democrats—I am afraid that one sometimes hears that opinion from others in the House. However, all such people—all our opponents—can and should vote for the instruction, because to deny debate on an in-out referendum in the context of the Bill would be undemocratic. To restrict tomorrow’s debate to only one referendum Question would limit the freedom of the House of Commons. To vote against the ideas of a significant number of MPs, and to prevent those ideas even being debated, would be to gag those Members of Parliament. The House should be the champion of freedom of speech, so we look to Members on both sides of the House to defend freedom of speech.

With the hon. Gentleman’s in-out referendum now, would it be in, with or without the Lisbon treaty arrangements? What arrangements would be available if people wanted to vote “out”? Has he negotiated any?

If the right hon. Gentleman looks at our amendments, he will see that they are absolutely clear. They have been tabled for some days, and we have made it clear that the in-out referendum would take place after the ratification of the treaty. I know that some hon. Members, like the right hon. Gentleman, do not share our view, but we should have that debate tomorrow on the substance of the issue. By passing the instruction, we would facilitate that debate. Denying the instruction would deny some Members the chance to vote on what they believe they put before the electorate at the election. I simply cannot believe that the Government, the Conservative Opposition or, indeed, MPs from any other party wish to curb open debate in the House.

The Liberal policy on the referendum is apparently encapsulated in early-day motion 1083, which was tabled in the name of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party. It says that a referendum

“will force off the fence those political parties that seek to obscure from the public their true policy towards Europe”.

I have sought to add the words “including the Liberal Democrat party” to the EDM through my amendment. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the EDM is a bogus, vacuous attempt to obscure what the Liberal Democrat policies towards Europe really are? They are very different at the local level from what they are in Parliament.

Absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman should vote for the instruction, so that he can challenge us in debate tomorrow. What is he afraid of? [Interruption.] We have one convert, and I hope that we will have more. Will they vote for democratic debate in the House of Commons?

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify a simple point? When the constitutional treaty, as he said, was around and his party members looked at it, they said that it transferred more powers than this measure. Why, at that stage, did they go for a referendum on the constitutional treaty, and not an in-out referendum, if it transferred more powers? Why have they suddenly come to this measure now?

We believe that it amounts to the same thing. If the right hon. Gentleman had listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the then Leader of our party, he would know that he said that at the time.

The Government say that through their business motions they wish to promote debate. Ministers have told us that they are keen to find innovative ways to enable the House to debate all aspects of the Bill, and to make our debates more accessible to the public, and we have used a 19th century procedure to help the Government to achieve that. The general public simply do not understand why an elected Member of Parliament should not be allowed to debate and vote on the Question. They want the Government of the day to ensure that such a debate is held.

I recollect that very amendment to the Gracious Speech, because I supported it and voted for it. We have had that debate, and the only way to get a referendum for the people is to vote for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty tomorrow.

I was grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support on 14 November, when he and five other Conservative Members voted with the Liberal Democrats, but that was before the Lisbon treaty was signed. Furthermore, our amendment was not contingent on the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, which is the point of our amendment today.

Turning to the Conservative position, Conservative Members have said in Committee and on many other occasions that they want to promote more open debate and that they do not like guillotines, programme motions and knives. Well, here is a test for them: they should vote for this instruction and for the House to have as many options as possible tomorrow in order to promote an open and wide debate. If they do not do so, we will not be able to take their protestations on future procedural motions in all sincerity, and, more importantly, the country will not be able to take their commitment to freedom of speech seriously.

In response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), the hon. Gentleman said that an in-out referendum would amount to the same thing as a referendum on the constitutional treaty. In that case, he should vote for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty on the basis that it amounts to the same thing as an in-out referendum?

The message is clearly not getting through, which is yet another reason why we should have the debate tomorrow, when we can explain it to again and again to make it absolutely clear. For the hon. Gentleman’s sake, I shall repeat some of the basic arguments. For a start, the constitutional treaty, unlike the Lisbon treaty, contains the treaty of Rome, the treaty of Maastricht, the Single European Act, the treaty of Nice and the treaty of Amsterdam, so a vote on that document would be a vote on all the rules and the whole EU constitution.

In 2006, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said that the constitutional treaty was a constitution, not simply a treaty, and as such would have revolutionised the European Union. He was right, which is why there was a case for a referendum. The nearest question with which this House can provide the people of Britain is an in-out referendum, which is nearest to the manifesto promises on which most hon. Members stood.

If there had been a vote on the constitution, it would have been a vote against a rulebook. How can one remain a member of a club when one has rejected its rules? It would have been an in-out referendum.

Indeed. Both the Prime Minister and the then leader of the Liberal Democrats talked in exactly those terms. In the spirit of upholding parliamentary democracy, I appeal to the other parties to back our instruction today.

If we are committed to democracy, we can disagree with the rulebook while remaining committed to the overall organisation. When France and Holland said no, their positions were regarded as completely democratic and nobody said that they should leave, which is why we should have a referendum on this particular rulebook. The hon. Gentleman’s proposition is undemocratic blackmail.

The hon. Lady is entitled to her view, but I ask her to back our instruction to allow us to have a full debate tomorrow. Why is she afraid of having a debate? Indeed, what are the other parties afraid of today, and why are they trying to curb debate in the House of Commons?

If the other parties in this House are not prepared to vote for this instruction and to have the debate tomorrow, one must question their motives. [Interruption.]

It will appear to people outside the House that the other parties are afraid of open, public debate. They are afraid of facing the question and will not allow the amendment to be put. Some people might say that they are split down the middle on the issue. I am looking forward to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies in this debate; we want to know why they are frightened of open, public debate—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not giving way, Mr. Cash—[Hon. Members: “He’s frit!”] Whatever his reasons, he is not giving way.

Mr. Speaker, I am genuinely grateful to you for calling this instruction today. You have done this House a great service—

I shall obey your instruction totally, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that all Members will now do the House and the country a service. I hope that they will vote for this instruction—for freedom of speech and democracy.

A little while ago, a good friend and colleague came up to me and said, “Andrew, we don’t need to spend too much time on this motion—do we?” I had to say that we did. I am speaking, and I intend to vote for the instruction. I want to explain to the House why.

First, in my own defence I should say that I have been consistent. The last time the House had a debate and vote on this issue, I was in the Division Lobby voting for it and there was not a single Labour Member in the No Lobby voting against it. That was some time ago, but the principle of having a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union has not altered. This instruction would enable such a referendum.

Secondly, I believe that the referendum is the way forward. We have had countless hours of debate on the question of whether the Lisbon treaty is the same as the constitution. Clearly, there is great division on that issue in this House and elsewhere. However, it would be in the interests of good governance, of the current Government and of any future Government in the next quarter of a century if the matter were put to bed and resolved.

It would be cathartic if between now and, say, 2012 it was enshrined in statute that there should be a referendum to reaffirm our membership of the European Union—a political vehicle that has been very good for this country. It has been a vehicle for conflict resolution and conflict minimisation, and it has been politically, economically, and commercially good.

I am prepared and keen to go out and argue for the European Union; the trouble is that the traffic has all been one way. There have been stories about straight bananas and other absurd things; rather than each one of us having to go out to evangelise and argue the case for Europe, stating how positive it has been and what the consequences would be for every constituent were there ever a day on which we withdrew.

I do not say this arrogantly, but I think that the referendum would be won; Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Members would put in all their energies because they would know that it would be good for Britain. Therefore, the case would be overwhelmingly put. [Interruption.] The members of the flat earth society and all those who have peddled the most God-almighty nonsense about the issue would be quashed. The traffic has been one way, so it is now time that we said this.

In response to a couple of interventions that I have made on the Prime Minister, I have noticed that he has not totally dismissed the idea. He may well be waiting to see what happens tomorrow. However, whatever happens tomorrow, I hope that he will see that committing us by statute to a referendum between now and 2012 would be good for democracy and good for reaffirming Britain’s membership of the European Union. I believe that it would satisfy many constituents who want that opportunity.

It is time that everyone reflected on the fact that the instruction for the House in Committee to consider an amendment along these lines tomorrow is sensible. It would be fair to everyone. It would help many of us who have a dilemma as to whether the Lisbon treaty is the same as the European constitution—there will be arguments about that for ever and a day.

While I have the House’s attention, I would like to point out that in the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs I have tried to move amendments to the effect that we should have such a referendum—it is in the minutes. I have asked for a referendum at every stage. I ask Members to pause and reflect on the matter, particularly those on the Treasury Bench, because it would be good for this Labour Government to do such a thing. I hope that Ministers will think about it over the next 24 hours. Even if the instruction is not passed, a signal from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Europe that we are thinking about it would help us all in the constitutional dilemma presented by the Lisbon treaty.

I am delighted and surprised in equal measure to have the opportunity to debate our instruction today—[Hon. Members: “Your instruction?] The instruction. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) in his place again. I am delighted to see so many of his hon. and right hon. Friends in their places, too. Last week, most of them only walked in so that they could walk out again. They have stayed a little longer today, and I hope that they will stay for the rest of my remarks. I said on 28 January that we would be flexible about the business motion, and we have been, on no fewer than seven occasions. I do not wish to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I am going to have to by objecting to his instruction. I shall set out briefly three short reasons why.

First, the House has already come to a view on these matters. On 14 November 2007 the House declared its intention, and it came to a decision very clearly when it voted by 68 votes to 464 against the proposal put forward by the Liberal Democrats. That position is already the settled will of the House.

Secondly, and equally importantly, we have never had a debate on an in-or-out amendment of the nature proposed by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends on any amending treaty. We did not have an amendment or debate of that nature on the Single European Act, Maastricht, Nice or Amsterdam, and we are not convinced that there is anything different in the nature of the Lisbon treaty that means that we should break that established European precedent.

Thirdly, and finally, the Bill is about the merits of the Lisbon treaty, not whether we should or should not be in the European Union. Some commentators—unfairly, I am sure—have said that this instruction is not so much about the inner detail of the Lisbon treaty, but about the inner dynamic of the Liberal Democrat party.

On the basis of those three considered but brief assessments I encourage the House to reject the instruction.

The Minister has spoken briefly, and I will attempt to do the same. In a way, this gives rise to a happy and rare occasion during these debates: an occasion when I can support some of the things that the Minister has said.

The weaknesses of the instruction are self-evident. The first was mentioned by the Minister: it is unnecessary. The House considered a motion on an in-or-out referendum, as it has been termed, at the end of debates on the Queen’s Speech. An amendment was moved by the Liberal Democrats solely on that subject, to the exclusion of any consideration of education, health, foreign policy or taxation. They moved it solely on that subject in a House that they have just said is afraid of debating the matter, and the amendment was rejected, as the Minister set out, by a vote of 464 to 68.

It seems unlikely that, in the passage of three months in an identical House of Commons, a majority of 400 will be overturned tomorrow. All Opposition parties have Opposition days available to us on which to table any motions that we wish. It is therefore unnecessary to insert the instruction into our Committee proceedings, still less to do that as a deliberate distraction from what is genuinely at stake with the Lisbon treaty.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) said that the motion’s purpose could not be clearer. I agree—its purpose is to try to paper over the deep divisions in one party between those who want to fulfil their manifesto pledge and those who wish to break it. I have never heard such a clear parliamentary equivalent of a cry for help. The Liberal Democrats are waving at us but we are not sure whether they are waving or drowning.

The pledge on which all Liberal Democrats stood at the election could not have been clearer, but I shall read it out in case they need reminding:

“We are therefore clear in our support for the constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s interest—but ratification must be subject to a referendum of the British people.”

Their manifesto did not pledge a referendum on membership of the European Union or anything about voting for a treaty identical in all but name to the European constitution without consulting the voters.

The instruction is not a way of giving people their say, as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton put it, but of denying people their say by letting some Members off the hook of deciding whether to stick to their manifesto commitment or abandon it. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) punctured beautifully the Liberal Democrats’ discredited central argument. If, as they claim, a referendum on the EU constitution is substantially equivalent to a referendum on EU membership, France and the Netherlands would no longer be members of the EU.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Liberal Democrats do not even want a referendum on in-or-out? I would like nothing better than an in-or-out referendum, but, however the Liberal Democrats vote today, it has no relevance to the way in which they should vote tomorrow. Does my right hon. Friend agree that they should still honour the promise that they made at the last election and vote for a referendum on the treaty?

I absolutely agree. The full absurdity of the Liberal Democrat leadership’s position is that it wants a referendum on the possible use of one clause in the treaty, which provides for withdrawal from the European Union. Liberal Democrats do not support the use of that clause, yet they want to deny the British people any say on the hundreds of other clauses in the treaty, the use of which they support. They confidently expect them to be used.

The instruction is patently a fig leaf to cover their embarrassment at their attempt to renege on their manifesto commitment. It is pretty small fig leaf over a pretty huge embarrassment. It does not deserve the support of the House because it is a distraction from the genuine issue before us.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would not be sensible to promote a referendum to stay in without including an assertion of the House’s legislative supremacy to ensure that we could legislate about the way in which we govern ourselves?

My hon. Friend moves on to the terms of a referendum, which is beyond the scope of our debate on the instruction.

Let me conclude with the words of a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. Five days ago, the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) wrote to a constituent that

“after much thought and consideration I have not been persuaded that the overall effect of the treaty is sufficiently different from the EU Constitution which was proposed prior to the last election. I am mindful of the promise I made at the last election which was to support a referendum on the Constitution. I will not use semantics to wriggle out of a promise so, unless something unforeseen happens, I intend to support the call for a referendum.”

What a pity that not all her colleagues are not prepared to

“use semantics to wriggle out of a promise.”

The House should reject the instruction.

I want to make three brief points. First, I was filled with horror at the prospect of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) being alone in the same Division Lobby as the Liberal Democrats, and for that reason I have decided to join him.

Secondly, I have sat through much of the debate over the past few weeks and have listened with growing alarm to the Conservative arguments that have been deployed. The exchange that just took place between the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) and the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) illustrates my point perfectly, because the right hon. Gentleman evaded the question that was put to him.

The truth, which has become increasingly apparent over the past few weeks, is that the fault line that has run through the Conservative party since the time of the corn laws is as apparent today as it ever was. The truth is that the Conservatives are the ones who are hopelessly divided. What many of them would really like is to come out of the European Union. For once in my life, I think that the Liberal Democrats are right. Let us test the Conservatives on that principle, because the reality is that they are playing semantics on this occasion, not the Liberal Democrats.

There is a smell of fear over this Chamber this afternoon. We know perfectly well what this is about. I am disappointed that the right hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) is going to join the Liberals—I actually vote in the Division Lobby. [Laughter.] I am glad that is clear.

I voted in the notorious Division last November. I believe in referendums as a general proposition. In fact, I moved for a referendum on Maastricht, as some hon. Members present will recall. To try to get support for that, I went to see the then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown, who gave his support. The Liberal Democrats would have voted for a referendum on Maastricht. I use that example because Maastricht was a treaty.

There is a fear hanging over the House, because each of our parties—those on the Liberal Democrat Benches are not alone in this; the parties include the Conservatives and Labour, as well as the Liberal Democrats—promised a vote on the treaty in their election manifesto. We have now heard all the semantics and the attempts to say, “This isn’t the same, it’s slightly different” or “Its composition is this or that”, but when the public look—and as we have seen in the 19 hours given to clause 2—they see that the transference of power goes on.

When the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) said that there was one-way traffic, I woke up. “Ah, yes! I’ve heard that expression before”, I thought, but normally it is a one-way ratchet. No, the hon. Gentleman has got the traffic direction wrong. He was complaining that other people in this country argue about his proposition—about the divinity of Europe or otherwise.

The issue is controversial: people do criticise the treaties; they do believe that they knock the sovereignty of Parliament; and they do believe that they undermine the relationship between a Member of Parliament and his constituents and between the Government who make the laws and the population of Britain. People do believe that, but the ratchet—the one-way traffic—has been the ever-increasing power of the European Community, now Union. That is what the central issue has always been. However, the promise that the three parties made is what Parliament is all about—the greatest trust of all.

When we stood in front of our electorate and said that there would be a referendum on the treaty, it caused panic.

The hon. Gentleman must forgive me—I quite understand the difficulty of his position. That is why—[Hon. Members: “Give way!”] I am going to finish my sentence, at least. That is why we have seen a construct today. It is a change from the storm in the Commons. Perhaps we will end up on the roof next. But whatever else we do, we know what the Liberal Democrats are about. They made a promise, and they now wish to resile from it—that is as plain as anything—but they still think that the public are fools, and that they will not understand the distinctions involved in what they are doing.

The truth lies in what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) and by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart)—

They said that, if this were a vote on—[Hon. Members: “Give way!”] I have the floor, if the House will forgive me for a moment. I should like to finish a sentence, or two, or three. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston pointed out, a vote on a treaty would not be about whether we were in or out. I remember the immediately previous leader of the Liberal Democrats standing in Westminster Hall saying that if Britain voted against the constitution in a referendum, it would mean that we had to leave the European Union. He was wrong on that, as France and the Netherlands demonstrated. The House cannot elide the two propositions as though they were one. They are distinct. That is what this proposal is about. It is to deceive the public out there.

While I am finishing this very lengthy sentence, I am also looking at the Government, no less. The Government of my country also promised a referendum on this treaty, and I have watched them trying to resile from that proposition as well. When I go into the Lobby today, it will be to damn—I think that that is a parliamentary term, Mr. Speaker—the Liberal Democrats for their phoney attempt to cover over their own divisions. Now I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was also extremely grateful that he joined us in the Lobby on this issue in November precisely for the reason that he gave earlier in his speech. I am surprised that he does not recognise that Maastricht was a far more significant treaty than this one. It is precisely because the British people were not consulted—again and again, under the Conservative Administration, over the Maastricht treaty, the Single European Act and all the other changes to the European Union—that we need an in/out referendum. And that is precisely why the Conservatives are so divided.

I can only hope that the hon. Gentleman’s electors out there heard his shouting. They will hear his words. What we stand for is what we undertake to the electors who send us here. Everyone knows that this treaty further disconnects the people of this country from their Government and their representatives in the making of law. It is fundamental to the rule of law that, when we vote, we accept the rule of law because consent has been given by the people. Once we break the link between the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law, we are in the kind of really big trouble that we find ourselves in today.

To hear that smug attestation from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) is not helpful. It is not helpful to his own cause. That is the point. He is saying, “We must have a referendum, on our terms, that we think we can win.” But what he is telling his electorate is that he has resiled from an undertaking that he gave them. I do not accept this referral, and I shall vote against it.

I have some sympathy with the Liberal position—[Hon. Members: “Surely not.] It is not only because I have a natural sympathy with beleaguered minorities who find themselves in a hole of their own making—not least because I have often found myself in that position. I am unhappy about the Liberal proposition because it poses the question of in/out against the question of yes/no, as though people could decide on only one of them. I would be inclined to vote for an in/out referendum if the Liberals were prepared to support the idea that I and others could have the opportunity to vote on a yes/no referendum. I would vote yes to remain in, but vote no to the treaty. Under the Liberal proposals, as I understand them, there would be a referendum only on in/out.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in his interpretation of this debate. If the instruction is given, tomorrow the House of Commons of the United Kingdom will have the opportunity to decide whether there should be a referendum just on the Lisbon treaty or on the wider range of issues—or, in theory, both. If the hon. Gentleman votes no today, that option tomorrow will be precluded.

I will give the hon. Gentleman the answer. We have made it clear that our preferred option is to vote for the referendum on the package—the whole issue of whether we are in Europe or not. That would be a vote in Committee, which we would hope to win, but we cannot even try to win it if the House will not allow us to have that vote. That is what the instruction is about.

Do I take it that the Liberal position is to have a vote on in or out, but vote against someone like myself having the opportunity to vote to remain in and against the treaty—

I wish to clarify the implications of accepting the instruction, because I am anxious if I vote for the Liberal proposition that I will be less likely to be successful in a motion that I would like to propose on yes or no. If the Liberals give me an undertaking that they will vote for a yes/no referendum on the treaty, I will vote with them on in/out. If not, I have to assume that they are guilty of hypocrisy.

I will be very brief. It seems to me that this is an extraordinary example of sanctimonious chicanery. [Interruption.] What we had last week—[Interruption.]

I would certainly not wish to be a president of any club that that gentleman could join. [Hon. Members: “Ooh!] Last week, we saw an attempt by this shower to bully the Chair. Because they did not succeed in bullying the Chair, we now have this motion before us this afternoon. It comes side by side—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson)—with something that I have never known in all my time in the House: a three-line Whip to abstain. Frankly, the Liberal Democrats ought to be ashamed of themselves. They gave promises to their constituents, on which they are indeed resiling. Other Members have done the same, but for sheer two-faced effrontery, the third-rate biscuit is won by the Liberal Democrats.

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the motion be made:—

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[10th allotted day]

(Clauses 6 and 7, and any selected amendments to clause 8 other than those making commencement contingent on a referendum.)

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair.]

Clause 6

Parliamentary control of decisions

I beg to move amendment No. 48, page 2, line 39, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

‘(1A) A Minister of the Crown shall vote against or otherwise reject a proposed decision in the European Council or the Council to be taken by unanimity that would or could create obligations on the United Kingdom, unless Parliamentary approval for the decision has been given in accordance with this section.

(1B) A Minister of the Crown shall vote against or otherwise reject a proposed decision in the European Council or the Council in an area made subject to qualified majority voting by the Treaty of Lisbon, and which would or could create obligations on the United Kingdom, unless Parliamentary approval for the decision has been given in accordance with this section.

(1C) Any decision adopted by the European Council or the Council by unanimity, or in an area made subject to qualified majority voting by the Treaty of Lisbon, shall not create an enforceable European Union right, European Union obligation or an object of the European Union for the purposes of section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 if Parliamentary approval was not given for a Minister of the Crown to support that decision in accordance with this section.

(1D) This section shall apply notwithstanding section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972.

(1E) In this section, “the European Council” means that European Union institution founded on Article 15 of the Treaty on European Union, and “the Council” means that European Union institution founded on Article 16 of the Treaty on European Union.’.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 286, page 2, line 39, at beginning insert—

‘(A1) The Prime Minister may not attend a meeting of the European Council without having laid before Parliament a statement on their negotiating mandate and receiving Parliamentary approval in accordance with this section.

(A2) A Minister of the Crown may not attend a meeting of any configuration of the Council (within the meaning of Article 9C of the Treaty on European Union) without having laid before Parliament a statement on their negotiating mandate and receiving Parliamentary approval in accordance with this section.

(A3) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support any legislative measure under any article of the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that relates to the internal market, if it applies to, or could be applied in relation to, any of the following, unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section:

(a) health services provided by any NHS body,

(b) the statutory system of public education,

(c) social housing,

(d) postal services,

(e) public transport.

(A4) A Minister of the Crown may not vote either in favour of or against or otherwise support or oppose any legislative measure under Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section.

(A5) A Minister of the Crown may not authorise any person to represent the United Kingdom at a meeting of the special committee to assist the Commission in negotiating agreements with international organisations or third countries established in Article 188C of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union without having laid before Parliament a statement on their negotiating mandate; and where any person represents the United Kingdom at such a meeting, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a statement on the matters discussed at the meeting, the positions taken by all persons representing the United Kingdom and the outcomes of the meeting, within 30 days of the meeting taking place.’.

No. 47, page 2, line 39, leave out ‘may not vote in favour of or otherwise support’ and insert ‘shall vote against or otherwise reject’.

No. 18, page 2, line 40, leave out from ‘following’ to end of line 41.

No. 42, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) The provision of Article 82(2)(d) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that permits the addition of new aspects of criminal procedure to those which may be the subject of directives decided by qualified majority voting.’.

No. 43, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) The provision of Article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that permits the addition of new areas of crime which may be the subject of directives decided by qualified majority voting.’.

No. 44, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) The provision of Article 86(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that permits the creation of a European Public Prosecutor.’.

No. 45, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) The provision of Article 86(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that permits the extension of the powers of the European Public Prosecutor.’.

No. 46, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) The provision of Article 42(2) of the Treaty on the European Union that permits the establishment of a common European Union defence.’.

No. 49, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not commit the United Kingdom to new obligations, or alter the obligations of the United Kingdom, under the following provisions unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section—

(a) Article 3 of the Protocol on the Position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, permitting a notification of the wish to take part in the adoption of an act under the EU’s area of freedom, security and justice,

(b) Article 4 of the Protocol on the Position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, permitting a notification of the wish to accept an act under the European Union’s area of freedom, security and justice,

(c) Article 329 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, permitting a request to take part in enhanced cooperation,

(d) Article 46 of the Treaty on European Union, permitting a notification of the intention to participate in permanent structured co-operation, and

(e) Article 10(5) of the Protocol on Transitional Provisions, permitting a notification of the wish to participate in police and criminal justice measures with full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.’.

No. 66, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support a decision under any article of the Treaty on European Union or Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that relates to, or in so far as it relates to or could be applied in relation to, the provision of healthcare services by an NHS body unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section.’.

No. 283, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support a decision under any article of the Treaty on European Union or Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that sets a target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the European Union if it appears to him that the target is not compatible with preventing global average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section.

(1B) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support a decision under any article of the Treaty on European Union or Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that sets a target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the European Union unless international aviation and shipping are included in the target, unless Parliamentary approval has been granted in accordance with this section.’.

No. 284, page 3, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support a decision under any article of the Treaty on European Union or Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that relates to, or in so far as it relates to or could be applied in relation to, the liberalisation of postal services unless Parliamentary approval has been given in accordance with this section.’.

No. 67, page 3, line 43, at end insert ‘, and

(c) “NHS body” means—

(i) a Strategic Health Authority;

(ii) a Special Health Authority;

(iii) a Local Health Board;

(iv) a Primary Care Trust;

(v) an NHS trust; or

(vi) an NHS foundation trust.’.

No. 287, page 3, line 43, at end insert—

‘(c) “NHS body” means—

(i) a strategic health authority;

(ii) a special health authority;

(iii) a local health board;

(iv) a primary care trust;

(v) an NHS trust; or

(vi) an NHS foundation trust.

(d) “The statutory system of public education” has the meaning defined by the Education Act 1996 (c. 56).

(e) “Social housing” means the provision of accommodation for rent by a local housing authority (within the meaning of section 1 of the Housing Act 1985 (c. 68)), a registered provider of social housing, a county council, or a person controlled by a local housing authority or country council.

(f) “Postal services” means the service of conveying postal packets (within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000 (c. 26)) from one place to another by post, the incidental services of receiving, collecting, sorting and delivering such packets and any other service which relates to any of those services and is provided in conjunction with any of them.

(g) “Public transport” means any of the following—

(i) “railway services” as defined by the Railways Act 1993 (c. 43);

(ii) “bus services” as defined by the Transport Act 2000 (c. 38); or

(iii) any service provided by Transport for London.’.

It is a relief to return to the Bill after that excursion into the Liberal Democrats’ embarrassment, because there are substantial clauses ahead of us and a great many amendments to consider.

I have tabled other amendments in the group as well as the lead amendment, and I shall begin by describing their purpose. They cover the so-called passerelle clauses in the treaty. Passerelle means “bridge” or “gangplank” in French; it is, perhaps, an appropriate term, given the one-way nature of this treaty. The clauses allow alterations to the treaty with no intergovernmental conference and, most importantly, no referendum.

The European Union has learned over the past decade or so that it is always dangerous to ask people what they think, as they often vote no. We remember Denmark voting no to the Maastricht treaty and Ireland voting no to the Nice treaty. In both cases, they were not taken as final verdicts. No votes never are: when people vote no, they are considered only to be interim or provisional expressions of opinion. There is a lack of symmetry here: when people vote yes, that is taken to be a ringing endorsement of the European project, but when they vote no, they are asked to try again and try a little harder. In those two cases, those countries did change their minds in subsequent years, and those treaties proceeded.

My right hon. Friend mentioned that when countries vote no in referendums, they are often asked to try again. Will he reflect on the fact that that is precisely what has just happened in this House? Last November, the House made a clear decision not to have a referendum on whether to be in or out of Europe; the majority was 400. The Liberal Democrats have chosen to ask the House again, and it has come up with almost exactly the same answer.

Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but I am at present having some difficulty in seeing these amendments reflected in the opening words of the speech of the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), and certainly in the remarks of the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper). May I direct the right hon. Gentleman to the terms of the amendment and the group?

I will, of course, observe your strictures, Sir Alan, but it is necessary to dwell briefly on the question of referendums because, as I shall demonstrate, the passerelle procedure is an alternative. Therefore, it is relevant briefly to remind ourselves of the history of referendums. I have mentioned the Danish and Irish referendums that were not taken as final, and the same applies to the French and Dutch rejections of the constitutional treaty. In those cases, the electorates were never asked again. They will not be invited to vote on the equivalent treaty of Lisbon.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that the only nationwide referendum in this country was held in the 1970s, following Mr. Benn’s campaigning, when an overwhelming majority supported our membership of the European Union? The Eurosceptic element in our political class seems never to have accepted that result and indeed had pointedly ignored it within about two years of the event.

Order. That is certainly taking us outside the scope of the amendments and getting us ever closer to tomorrow’s debate, which we should not seek to anticipate. The right hon. Member for Wells said that he was providing some background. I hope that it will be somewhat closer to the amendments than the one he has painted so far.

Indeed, Sir Alan. I shall observe in response only that the European Union has altered out of all recognition since the 1975 referendum. I am not in favour of continuous or frequent referendums. Only when the rules of politics alter do we need to consult the people—I take that from the writings of Tom Paine. He observed that Governments must not make constitutions because they would be writing their own rules. The rules must be approved by the people and politicians can then fight it out, promoting or opposing policies within those rules. That framework is rightly the subject of occasional referendums, and it is about time that we had a referendum on the European treaty.

The people are trying to say something. In these frequent no votes and judgments they are expressing dissatisfaction with the process of European integration. That was picked up in the Laeken declaration of December 2001, when Heads of Government recognised a need for profound reform. In that declaration they proposed not a constitutional treaty but rather a reformed mechanism to bring the European Union “closer to its citizens”, to simplify the treaties, to stop the European Union interfering in the minutiae of national life and, above all, to make the process more democratic.

The EU has reached a different conclusion—certainly at the top. Its conclusion is to say no to reform and no to asking the people ever again. It certainly does not want to ask the people of the United Kingdom. Democracy is too chancy and too uncertain in its outcome for the EU, but the process of European integration must proceed by other means. That has relevance to the clause and the amendments. The Lisbon treaty thus includes a self-amending process to obviate the need for future intergovernmental conferences and referendums. That process is the passerelle clauses.

Does not my right hon. Friend’s amendment touch on the problem? Are not the passerelle clauses a recipe for continuous incremental change in the EU on a case-by-case basis away from the spotlight of IGCs and well away from the spotlight of a referendum? Do not the supporters of those provisions have to dispel the suspicion that they are accelerators in the process of European integration on a case-by-case basis?