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EU Constitution (Referendum)

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

The Petition of Cllr. Alan Wood and residents of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and surrounding areas,

Declares that the Prime Minister has no mandate to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon and cites as firm evidence a professionally conducted ballot in the constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath asking residents the unambiguous question: ‘do you want a referendum on the EU Treaty of Lisbon, Yes or No?' to which the result was 81.6% in favour of a referendum, and that the result was accurate to + or - 7.8% at the 95% confidence level and that this result is remarkable considering that there was no pre-publicity and is yet another illustration of the people's concern about the breach of promises made at election times and the further and historically most significant erosion of the UK's parliamentary powers and democracy.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consult the people on this question of fundamental constitutional importance.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 27 February 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1206 .] [P000127]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Our membership of the EU has brought real benefits in jobs, peace and security. Through it, we belong to the world's biggest trading bloc. Half the UK's trade is now within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to our membership. The Union allows Member States to co-operate effectively in tackling issues like organised crime and climate change, which do not stop at national borders.

But Europe could achieve more if it was not operating under out-dated rules drawn up for a different world and an organisation with less than half the members it has now. The Lisbon Treaty updates the framework for cooperation and aims to help the European Union work more effectively for the people of this country and other EU member states.

The Lisbon Treaty is not a constitution—the Governments of the 27 EU Member States have agreed that “the Constitutional concept... has been abandoned”. Instead, the Lisbon Treaty follows the precedents of previous amending EU Treaties such as the Treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Furthermore, the UK has moved further away from the defunct constitution than anyone else because of the unique set of arrangements, or ‘red lines', which have been secured by the UK to protect our sovereignty.

No Government, Labour or Conservative, has ever held a referendum on an amending Treaty. Both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty were more significant than the Lisbon Treaty, but no referendum was held then. The UK Parliament is the proper place for debate and decision on the Lisbon Treaty. As with all Treaties, Parliament must be satisfied that it is in the national interest, before it can be implemented in national law.

On 5 March, the House of Commons voted on a referendum amendment to the Bill. The amendment was defeated by 311-248 (a majority of 63). The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords for further detailed scrutiny.

The Petition of residents of Castle Point and others supporting the Telegraph EU Petition,

Declares that the EU Reform Treaty will significantly affect the constitutional arrangements between the UK and EU, and affect the way Britain is governed, permanently removing powers from Parliament to Brussels, particularly through a European Head of State, an EU diplomatic corps and Foreign Minister, a common system of criminal justice and a European Public Prosecutor, the abolition of 40 vetoes, bestowing a legal personality, treaty making powers and therefore all the trappings of statehood on the EU, and reducing Britain's strength on the Council of Ministers by 30 per cent, and that all the main parties promised a referendum at the last general election and that those MPs who now renege on their election promise will be held to account when they seek to make further election promises.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consult the people before ratifying the Treaty.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 5 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1884 .] [P000140]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Our membership of the EU has brought real benefits in jobs, peace and security. Through it, we belong to the world's biggest trading bloc. Half the UK's trade is now within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to our membership. The Union allows Member States to co-operate effectively in tackling issues like organised crime and climate change which do not stop at national borders.

But Europe could achieve more if it was not operating under out-dated rules drawn up for a different world and an organisation with less than half the members it has now. The Lisbon Treaty is a good deal for the UK and a positive step for the EU—it will enable an EU of 27 or more nation states to respond effectively to the challenges of globalisation and to deliver on key issues like jobs, growth, security, the environment and foreign policy.

The Lisbon Treaty is not a constitution—the Governments of the 27 EU Member States have agreed that “the Constitutional concept... has been abandoned”. Instead, the Lisbon Treaty follows the precedents of previous amending EU Treaties such as the Treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Furthermore, the UK has moved further away from the defunct constitution than anyone else because of the unique set of arrangements, or ‘red lines', which have been secured by the UK to protect our sovereignty.

The Lisbon Treaty will lead to no transfer of power away from the UK on issues of fundamental importance to our sovereignty. Its impact will be less significant than the 1986 Single European Act (SEA) and the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht.

No Government, Labour or Conservative, has ever held a referendum on an amending Treaty. Both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty were more significant than the Lisbon Treaty, but no referendum was held then. The UK Parliament is the proper place for debate and decision on the Lisbon Treaty. As with all Treaties, Parliament must be satisfied that it is in the national interest, before it can be implemented in national law.

On 5 March, the House of Commons voted on a referendum amendment to the Bill. The amendment was defeated by 311-248 (a majority of 63). The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords for further detailed scrutiny.