Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I seek leave to debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the legal and other action now to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in upholding the rule of law and protecting UK interests in respect of the nature and content of the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union. In my remarks I shall refer to it as “the treaty”.
This is not an EU treaty. The fifth draft was made available only immediately before the last European Council. It confers functions on EU institutions, including the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. The importance of this matter is that the treaty—a non-EU treaty—is between only 25 of the 27 EU member states, the Prime Minister having exercised the veto. However, the treaty makes use of certain institutions of the EU, in particular the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. The United Kingdom Government have expressed grave reservations about the legality of the arrangements, as demonstrated by the recent letter from the UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Jon Cunliffe, to the secretary-general of the European Council, which has been placed in the Library. Concerns expressed by pre-eminent lawyers about the treaty include concerns about breaches of European and other aspects of the rule of law, both in principle and by reference to specific articles of the treaty.
The urgency of the matter arises from the fact that there is a European Council meeting on Thursday 1 March, which the Prime Minister will attend. The question of the legality of the treaty and whether the Government intend to take the issue to the European Court of Justice is a matter of great urgency, given that other member states and their Parliaments, such as the Bundestag yesterday, are deciding the issues and the ratification of the treaty. In respect of the United Kingdom, there are legitimate concerns about the legality of the conferral under the treaty of those functions on the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, which are institutions of the EU.
The European Scrutiny Committee is taking evidence on the treaty. Last Thursday at business questions, the Leader of the House declined the request I made as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee to allow a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House. We are holding an inquiry into the treaty and its legality. The Foreign Secretary has twice declined the unanimous request of the European Scrutiny Committee to appear before the Committee in reasonable time, although the Minister for Europe did give evidence last Thursday.
It is essential that the United Kingdom Parliament, on behalf of the voters of the UK who are affected by the treaty proposals and the Government’s decision on the question of legality, debates this subject as a matter of urgency. My proposal is supported by many Members of Parliament. I suggest that the Attorney-General attend the debate. I would of course be grateful for the support of the House for my proposal for an emergency debate to be held before the European Council, which takes place on Thursday this week.
Members may sit at this stage. They are ahead of themselves, but we are grateful to them. They are not backward in coming forward.
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—namely, legal and other action now to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in upholding the rule of law and protecting United Kingdom interests in respect of the nature and content of the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union.
I have listened carefully to the application from the hon. Gentleman, and I am satisfied that the matter that he has raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Gentleman the leave of the House?
Application agreed to.
Members will be pleased to know that there is no requirement for me to count them, although I hope that I would be capable of so doing, as no objection has been voiced. The hon. Gentleman has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held tomorrow, Wednesday 29 February, as the first item of public business. It will last for three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the hon. Gentleman’s application.