[Relevant documents: Thirty-first report from the European Scrutiny Committee, HC219-xxx, Chapter1]
I inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of Sir William Cash.
I beg to move,
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 5080/15 and Addenda 1 to 4, a Commission Communication: Commission Work Programme 2015–A New Start; and supports the Government’s view that the most significant initiatives are those that focus on the strategic priorities set out by the European Council in June 2014 to promote jobs, growth and investment in the EU.
This is the fourth such debate in which I have taken part as Minister for Europe, but I think it is the first time I can say that the European Commission has sent a strong message that it intends to do things in a different fashion from how its work has been carried out in the past. The clear message from President Juncker and his team is that they want to focus on a smaller number of key priorities and that they wish to set limits on the degree to which the Commission, and the EU collectively, can interfere in matters that are often better handled at national or local level.
Of course, the test of that message will be what happens in practice; it is actions that will count, not words. However, I am encouraged by the creation of the powerful post of First Vice-President of the Commission, which gives Frans Timmermans, the former Dutch Foreign Minister, an overarching power to veto any proposals that do not meet the requirements of subsidiarity and proportionality. He is already making it clear that a key element of his responsibility is to say a firm no to fellow commissioners, to the European Parliament and to outside lobbyists and to focus only on those matters where the Commission judges that European action would genuinely give Europe added value that could not be achieved by other means.
I have spoken with Mr Timmermans a number of times in COSAC meetings with the chairmen of the 28 member states. On the question of national Parliaments, which is the key question in relation to subsidiarity—it is the question of what should be done best at the appropriate level—is not it the case that, for all the words about involving national Parliaments, we will not get much change out of Mr Timmermans, any of the Commissioners or the European institutions if we insist on national Parliaments at the expense of the European Parliament?
I do not want to pre-empt tomorrow’s debate on the European Union’s relations with national Parliaments and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. My hon. Friend is right to identify this as a challenging agenda and to indicate that the European Parliament, in particular, is likely to be resistant to the idea of a stronger voice for national Parliaments, but I think that he is too pessimistic in his assessment of Frans Timmermans. After all, it was during Mr Timmermans’s tenure as Foreign Minister of the Netherlands that the Dutch came forward with a number of specific proposals for strengthening the role of national Parliaments in holding EU decisions to account. I take heart from the fact that we have in this powerful role within the Commission somebody who has previously gone on the record to say that the guiding principle should be, “Europe where necessary, but national where possible”, and who has been very sympathetic to ideas for strengthening the role of national Parliaments.
The Commission has set out a clear intention to be more strategic and to act in a smaller number of areas where there is real added value for the EU. It has also said that it wants to demonstrate a particularly strong focus on jobs, growth and European competitiveness, which are objectives that the Government strongly support. The Commission has pledged to create a closer partnership with member state Governments and national Parliaments. We can see some evidence of the Commission’s approach by looking at some of the numbers in the work programme. The work programme includes just 23 legislative and non-legislative policy initiatives and—importantly— 80 measures proposed for either withdrawal or modification.
Does the Minister not note that most of the measures being withdrawn are either obsolete, having been superseded by a measure that has already gone through, or being withdrawn in favour of a more ambitious proposal? It is complete nonsense to say that the Commission is giving up power and wishes to do less. This is a massive work programme and the 80 measures are just a con trick.
I think that my right hon. Friend is being too pessimistic. As I said earlier, the test will be whether at the end of five years we can look back and say that the Commission has delivered in practice what its words indicated at the start of its tenure. I completely accept that there is a real problem with the Commission’s working culture, which, to be fair, like many national Government Departments, tends to judge success by the output of new law and new regulation, rather than the quality of what is actually done on a number of core priorities.
I was pleased to note that the Commission confirmed this weekend that 73 of the measures proposed for withdrawal have now been formally withdrawn. By comparison, the 2014 work programme proposed 29 new initiatives and prioritised a further 26 measures for adoption, and in 2010 there were some 300 new measures proposed. This work programme is focused on fewer measures, and on measures that will encourage growth and jobs, deepen the single market, conclude trade agreements and improve regulation, freeing up business from unnecessary regulatory burdens. The Government welcome that new focus.
I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend. Of the 73 proposals being withdrawn, 71 are either obsolete or have already been blocked by the Council. Of the 79 actions being withdrawn under REFIT, 58 are evaluations or studies, five are proposals to codify, two are proposals to simplify, one is a proposal for a simplified framework and two are proposals for an update or a review. There is only one that would reduce something, against 452 Commission proposals, less the 73 that are sitting on the table. He tells us that this is a great success for Europe. What would be failure?
Failure would be Europe failing to give priority to job creation, economic growth and competitiveness at a time when a horrifying number of people, particularly young people, are out of work in this continent and when European competitiveness is not only slipping behind that of the United States, but is at risk because of the global shift of economic power to Asia and Latin America. The answer to those economic challenges lies in Europe raising its game dramatically as far as competitiveness is concerned.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman most warmly on lasting the whole Parliament as Minister for Europe, which must be a first. I understand that he and the Government received this Commission work programme some time ago, so why has it take so long to get it to the Floor of the House? I might be wrong about that, so will he clarify when the Government first received it?
I can check the precise date and let the right hon. Gentleman know. There has been a delay, which I regret, because it has taken time to get collective agreement on this and on a number of other debates that the European Scrutiny Committee has referred. Originally, we considered having this debate in Committee, but, having discussed the issue with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House after he had given evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee, the Government decided to have a debate on the Floor of the House. I am just glad that we are having this debate relatively early in 2015.
I suspect that that is an invitation to say that the amendment that I and many other members of my Committee have tabled, which I hope the Minister will accept, deals with free movement—a massive issue that affects immigration. The fact that it has been not merely delayed, but stalled for more than a year must have been a coalition decision, but we have not been told who was behind it, so who was it?
As I told my hon. Friend when I last gave evidence to his Committee, the Government take decisions collectively and it would not be right for me to go into detail about internal Government communications. I will come to the issues raised by the amendment shortly, but first I want to say more about the importance of the proposed work on economic affairs and competitiveness.
The United Kingdom has long argued for ambitious trade deals. The ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and EU-Japan negotiations could benefit this country annually by more than £15 billion, so the comprehensive stocktake of trade policy proposed by the Commission is welcome.
The EU’s greatest achievement—the single market—is still very far from complete, so we are pleased that the Commission plans to push liberalisation in sectors that could boost GDP the most, such as construction and professional services. We want EU legislation to enable the dynamic development of the future economy by supporting and not hindering a continent-wide digital single market. If that is done right, in a way that encourages the growth of online trade—both retail and business to business—it could generate €250 billion over the lifetime of this Commission.
We also support the Commission’s vision of a well-regulated and integrated capital markets union of all 28 member states that maximises the benefits of capital markets and non-bank financing for the real economy. Lord Hill’s recent Green Paper on the subject spelled out the approach he plans to take, and the Government will, of course, engage with his team as the policy is developed further.
We welcome the fact that the Commission intends to consider a range of approaches, and not just legislation, to develop Europe’s capital markets, and that much of that will be delivered through member state and industry action, rather than through EU-level law or regulation.
Will the Minister comment on the investment programme, which is said to be significant? How much of it is a spending commitment by the European institutions from their levies on member states, and how much will be done by gearing and leverage through guarantees and loans?
If I get the chance, I will give my right hon. Friend the exact figures at the end of the debate, but only a relatively small amount of the European fund for strategic investments—the so-called Juncker package—is derived from reallocating parts of the existing EU budget. The majority of the proposed €315 billion for the EFSI relies very much on private sector input on the basis of gearing.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be reassured to know that when I visited the European Investment Bank recently to discuss its approach to the programme, it was very firm in saying that it took very seriously its responsibility to its shareholders—the member states—and that it would exercise its responsibilities as a bank, that there would be due diligence, that it was not prepared simply to wave projects through on the basis that any sector or country deserved a particular slice, and that it would look at the real economic benefit that each proposal for capital investment offered to Europe as well as to the member state.
One of the sectors that we think could benefit from the EFSI is energy, where there is a need for work on interconnectors that would not only make more possible a genuine single internal market in European energy, but meet the strategic objective of trying to reduce European energy dependence on Russia. We think that the Commission communication on energy union is an important step towards not only strengthening Europe’s energy security, but decarbonising our economies and deepening the internal energy market.
On trying to reduce dependency on Russia, how does President Juncker’s recent proposal for a European army to stop President Putin in his tracks fit into the work programme?
In fairness to President Juncker, with whom I do not agree on that point, it is not a secret that he has held that view for a long time and I suspect it is held by pretty much every leading politician in Luxembourg. [Interruption.] That is the reality. A small European country would see an obvious benefit to its national interest from that sort of greater European action. The British Government do not share the view that a European army would be helpful or necessary. We believe that NATO is and should remain the centrepiece of our collective defence and security arrangements.
Were there to be any move towards establishing greater European military integration, it would first require consensus among member states, because such matters cannot be determined by a qualified majority vote under the treaty. Moreover, as I am sure my hon. Friend will recall, in passing the European Union Act 2011, this House required that there would have to be both an Act of Parliament and a referendum of the British people before any British Prime Minister could give consent to a proposal for the establishment of an EU army or armed forces in some hypothetical future.
Of course, if we were no longer members of the European Union by that time, we would not need to give consent because we would not be in the position to do so.
We can argue about all sorts of improbable hypotheticals, but the key point is that, while President Juncker was expressing a view that he has made no secret of holding in the past, this is not a live issue for debate around the table in Brussels at the moment. In fact, both President Juncker and others who have spoken in support of a European army or defence force have said that they see it as being a very long-term objective.
Turning to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend and a number of other members of the European Scrutiny Committee, the Government recognise public concerns about immigration from other member states and the need for the Commission to do much more to address the abuse of free movement rights and the problems to which it gives rise. That is why this Government have gone further than any previous Administration to try to tackle the problems associated with free movement both domestically and at the European level.
We have acted domestically to tackle abuse and ensure that the rules governing access to our welfare system and public services are as robust as possible. Only today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has laid regulations in Parliament to ensure that EU jobseekers have no access whatsoever to universal credit.
At European level, we secured language in last June’s European Council conclusions on the need for the Commission to support member states in combating the misuse of free movement. We continue to work both with member states and the Commission to reform EU social security co-ordination rules so that they better reflect current migration patterns and the divergent, diverse nature of member states’ welfare systems, while ensuring that member states can maintain effective control of their own welfare systems. Welfare provision is of course set down in the treaty as belonging to the competence of member states, rather than that of European institutions.
We welcome the proposal in the work programme on the labour mobility package—it covers several such items—which will assist us in carrying forward our ideas. However, we are very clear that there is much more to do, as my right honourable Friend the Prime Minister made clear in his speech on 28 November. I therefore have no problem in welcoming the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), which will be agreed to at the end of the debate.
I commend my right hon. Friend’s wisdom in accepting the well thought through amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). In relation to the debate on free movement, will Her Majesty’s Government reconsider their stance on Switzerland? If we are serious about renegotiation, it seems to me that we must take a sympathetic view of its effort to get out of the principle of free movement. If that is one of the four fundamental principles applied to Switzerland, which is not even a member state, how can we have a thorough renegotiation?
The challenge the Swiss Government face is that they have entered into a series of bilateral agreements with the European Union linking a number of different elements together. For example, in the Swiss bilateral treaties with the EU, access to some of the EU’s single market provisions is explicitly linked to accepting the principle of freedom of movement. At the moment, it is written into that package of bilateral treaties that if one is revoked or renounced, all of the agreements will fall by a certain deadline. That is the challenge the Swiss Government face following the referendum early last year. We remain in close touch with Switzerland, a friendly country, and we hope that we can find a satisfactory way forward.
If my hon. Friend will allow me, I am conscious that the debate is time limited, and I want to let other Members speak.
Before I conclude, I want to refer to the question of regulation. During his hearing in the European Parliament, Vice-President Timmermans pledged to conduct a review of pending legislation, which was completed in late 2014; to launch a revised inter-institutional agreement on better law-making in spring 2015; and to conduct a review of better regulation by October 2015.
We are continuing to work with other member states to implement the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s business taskforce on EU regulation—the introduction of EU burden reduction targets, even greater use of lighter regimes and exemptions for small and medium-sized enterprises and micro-enterprises, and greater independence and powers for the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board.
Thirteen of the 30 recommendations of the Prime Minister’s taskforce have been fully implemented at European level, and progress is being made on others. The Commission has set out its intention to review, recast, merge or replace some 79 EU Acts as part of its Refit programme. We have long pushed for EU legislation to minimise unnecessary costs to business, particularly SMEs, and it is positive to see that reflected in the work programme and what appears to be a reinvigorated approach by the Commission to better regulation.
Overall, the work programme shows encouraging signs that the Commission wishes to take the EU in what we consider to be the right direction, at least on the economic priorities. It is important to judge the Commission by what it now does in practice. In our view that means implementing the work programme in a way that respects the principle of “Europe where necessary, but national wherever possible”, reduces the burden of European regulation on business and eliminates barriers to growth, and supports increased competitiveness, trade and the completion of the single market. If that is the outcome, it will demonstrate important progress in the Government’s EU reform agenda.
During the past five years, we have already secured the first ever reduction of the EU’s budget; significant reform of the common fisheries policy, including a ban on discards; the launch of talks on an ambitious transatlantic trade deal; and important protections for non-eurozone countries in respect of banking union. Just five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the first work programme of a new Commission, which would want to demonstrate its ambition, to contain just 23 priority initiatives. That is evidence that this country’s messages are being heard and acted on.
We launched this debate, and today there is growing consensus across Europe in favour of reform. We will continue to work energetically to ensure that the EU becomes more competitive and democratically accountable, deepens the single market to enable free movement of services and capital, and tackles abuse of the principle of free movement. I commend the motion to the House.
This is the first of two debates on the European Union over a couple of days—a double-header, as it were. It is a bit like Davis cup tennis, the only difference being that those involved are playing exciting, edge-of-the-seat tennis, and we are discussing the work programme of the European Commission.
As the Minister was speaking, I was struck, as I have been before, by how often such debates are taking place inside the Conservative party rather than more widely. It seems to me that the debate inside the Conservative party has governed much of our positioning in recent years, but not to our national advantage.
Is the right hon. Gentleman effectively saying to UKIP in his constituency that he does not regard the free movement of people and immigration as of any interest to his constituents?
I do not believe that that is what I said. I am interested in the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, because I thought that the issue for him was principally parliamentary sovereignty, rather than the free movement of people. Perhaps he has shifted his position, and I should stand corrected.
The Minister outlined the position on the numbers in the measures. I noted the scepticism with which the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) greeted the numbers. I do not propose to go over that ground as the Minister has done so, but on the face of it the Commission is proposing a narrower, more focused programme—under 10 headings and 23 specific measures —than it has in the past.
At the top of the Commission’s agenda is something we would all welcome—an emphasis on growth and jobs. In a continent still struggling to recover from the financial crisis, it is right to have such an emphasis and focus on the very high level of youth unemployment, on doing what is right on the big issues, and on less interference in and over-regulation of issues that do not need it.
In his speech in London last week, Mr Timmermans, the vice-president of the Commission, said:
“It is incredibly important that we follow through on limiting the initiatives we take to those areas where EU action is urgent and needed. For too long we worked on the premise of doing things because they were nice to do; I want to work on the premise that we do it because we need to do it, because Member States can’t do it by themselves alone. There needs to be added value of acting on a European scale.”
I very much welcome that emphasis from Commissioner Timmermans, and I hope that it is followed through in reality as well as in the written plan.
As the right hon. Gentleman is such a fan of all this interference, will he say which of the 23 measures will actually reduce the shocking levels of youth unemployment, which are the curse of Europe thanks to the idiotic policies of this Union?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for painting me as a fan of all the measures before I have even spoken about them. One measure that could help to create jobs would be a properly negotiated free trade agreement between the EU and the United States. That has the potential to help our exporters and create jobs.
I gently say to my right hon. Friend that there is a range of views in our party, as well as in the Conservative party, but I shall not dwell on that.
I heard Mr Timmermans speaking in Rome fairly recently, and to hear him one would have thought there were no problems at all. He was speaking in Italy, where unemployment is at horrendous levels—not as horrendous as in Spain or Greece, but still horrendous. He said that countries could not act on their own. The reason they cannot act on their own is that they are cemented into the euro and have no control over their exchange rates or interest rates. If they had control over macro-economic policy, they might be able to act on their own, but they cannot do so at the moment.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Certainly in the speech that I heard last Thursday, the commissioner was not saying that there were no problems at all. He acknowledged many of the problems and said that he was determined to take a different approach in responding to them from that taken in the past. It is perfectly fair for Members to say, “We’ll see how that works out. Let’s see if he’s serious about what he says.” However, that certainly is what he says, and that is reflected in the work programme.
There has been legitimate frustration about over-regulation in the past. If the Commission is serious about weeding out proposals that are not going to go anywhere, that have been lying on the table for years without prospect of agreement or that have been bypassed by events, we should welcome that. I welcome the emphasis on growth and jobs and on regulation in the work programme.
The other measure on growth and jobs, to which the Minister referred, is the Juncker package of investment. As the right hon. Member for Wokingham said, it is a combination of real new money and the encouragement of private sector investment and loan guarantees. If the Minister has a chance to respond to the debate, will he say what bids this Government have made for any proportion of that money? What investment projects have been brought forward and where are they in the country?
Specifically, will the Minister say how that proposal is to be organised in England? There has been concern among local authorities and local enterprise partnerships that they are not permitted to put in bids and that they all have to go through Whitehall. In an environment in which we are discussing devolution to various parts of the country, it is important that areas in England get a fair crack of the whip in terms of submitting bids to this fund for their projects. I hope he will say something about that.
The Minister said that the work of the UK’s commissioner, Lord Hill, on the capital markets union was important. It has long been said that SMEs are too reliant on bank finance and that we need to encourage more forms of finance. What input can this country, with its expertise in financial services, have in those proposals and in the development of the capital markets union, not only from a Government point of view but from a private sector industry point of view? Nowhere in Europe is better placed than the UK to contribute to ideas on financial innovation and financial services.
Of course, some of the work programme does not apply to us. There are measures that apply only to the eurozone. It is important that countries outside the eurozone, such as the UK, continue to play a full part in the EU.
If the Minister responds to the debate, will he update the House on progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? In the question and answer session that followed Commissioner Timmermans’ speech last week, he was asked about TTIP. He said that if it was to be done, it would have to be done by the end of this year. He did not spell this out explicitly, but I think he meant that after that, the timetable of the American presidential election would make it more difficult to negotiate an agreement. Is it the Government’s view that if TTIP is to be done, it has to be done this year? If it is, what input are we having to ensure that that happens, provided that the important concerns about public services and investor-state dispute settlement procedures are worked through and considered properly?
This debate about the work programme reminds us of the way in which we debate these things. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) asked when the Government received the programme. It always strikes me that we debate these things after they have been adopted. Parliament’s method of scrutinising European affairs is not the subject for tonight, but this debate reminds me that these things can be overtaken by events.
There is reference in the work programme to security issues. Like the Minister, I do not agree with Mr Juncker’s suggestion for a European army. However, I do believe that the issue of security is becoming more, not less, relevant, to our European relations. One need only look at the situation in Ukraine. Since the work programme was published, we have had the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, which were a terrible reminder of the common threat we face from extremism. It is therefore important when debating the programme to realise that whatever was written last year has to keep up with the changing nature of events. When he sums up, will the Minister say a few words about what action is being taken on collective security, not of the kind that Mr Juncker referred to with the European army, but in terms of sanctions against the aggression that we have seen in Ukraine?
The work programme refers to migration—that is, migration from outwith the European Union into the European Union. Last week, I met Ministers in Rome. This Minister will be aware that migration is an issue of huge concern for the Government of Italy, given the steady flow of boats from the desperate situation in Libya. The Italian Government feel, with some justification, that they are dealing with a situation that affects all of Europe. We have seen the end of the Mare Nostrum programme and the adoption of the Triton programme. That does not resolve the intense humanitarian crisis nor the political problem in Libya, where there is no Government of any coherence.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about illegal migration. Obviously, one of the priorities in the Commission’s programme is migration. Some 3,200 people died in the Mediterranean last year, but a quarter of a million people crossed from north Africa into the EU, so this is a serious issue. Getting a common policy to stop the people traffickers exploiting migrants ought to be at the top of the EU’s agenda.
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. The Italian Foreign Minister told me that of the estimated 270,000 illegal migrants who landed in the EU last year, 170,000 landed in Italy. This cannot be a problem for just one member state, because it is broader than that. I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s views on our Government’s input in dealing with both the consequences and causes of this problem.
Concerns have been raised about what is not in the programme. The Minister wrote to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee about the air quality package and the circular economy package. Concerns about that have been raised by Members of the European Parliament as well. A number of Select Committee Chairs have written to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee on the matter. It is therefore clear that there is a lot in the work programme that will concern the House.
Before I end, I want to turn to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and his colleagues on the European Scrutiny Committee. It asks that the Government ask the Commission to develop policies relating to the free movement of citizens. That is something that the Labour party has put forward, and before Christmas my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) produced proposals that related to how free movement interacts with access to benefits and public goods. We would like the Commission to work with member states on that, because access to benefits and public goods is not an issue just for the UK but for other member states. We saw that in the recent European Court judgment on the Dano case, which was initiated in Germany and affected a lady who it was judged did not have the right to access social security benefits. We have an interplay between a founding principle of the European Union and social security systems that are national in nature, and it is right that we discuss work in that area with the Commission.
When the right hon. Gentleman said that Italy should not be expected to handle the problem of migrants to Italy on its own, is he recommending burden sharing? Is he saying that other member states should take a share of those migrants through a common policy?
It has already been agreed that Triton will be a European programme and not just an Italian one—the right hon. Gentleman is a little behind the pace if he thinks that is a new departure, because it has already been agreed. The question is about the resources given to the programme and whether it is capable of meeting the task it faces. I remind him of the terrible figure given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East of the number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean over the past couple of years.
I have already given way to the right hon. Gentleman.
In conclusion, I believe that this work programme is a step forward from previous ones. It is closer to British priorities and reflects much of what we want to see, although we do not endorse everything in it and some of it does not apply to us. Like all such programmes, it is only a plan on paper and it will remain to be seen whether the Commission delivers as it has promised. It is certainly urgent that it does deliver to meet real and urgent priorities, and ensure that the European Union works in the interests of its citizens over the next five years. Whatever the plan says on paper, that is ultimately how it will be judged.
I beg to move amendment (a), at end add
‘; and urges the Government to encourage the Commission to develop policies during 2015 relating to the free movement of EU citizens.’
It is truly shocking that it took more than a year for the Government to bring forward a debate on the free movement of EU citizens, given that the document in question was recommended as long ago as January 2014 regarding a matter of enormous significance that was discussed on 5 December 2013 in the Justice and Home Affairs Council. This issue goes right to the heart of the immigration question, which in turn lies at the heart of the European question as it applies to the United Kingdom, and it is a matter of intense political and controversial debate. It is inconceivable that this matter should have been so shockingly delayed, and that led the European Scrutiny Committee to ask the Leader of the House to give evidence and be cross-examined on why these important matters, including free movement as well as things such as the EU budget and the charter of fundamental rights, are outstanding. We were told by the Minister and the Leader of the House that they could not disclose how that decision had been arrived at because it was a matter of collective Government responsibility. The Committee is glad that by tabling the amendment it has forced the Minister to welcome it.
I wonder if I might add to what my hon. Friend is saying. Although the Minister and the Leader of the House said that they could not possibly tell us who was blocking the provision, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the First Secretary of State and the Minister for Europe all intimated that they were very much in favour of having the debate, and wished that it could be brought forward as a matter of urgency although forces beyond their control prevented it.
My hon. Friend is right in every respect and we have all the transcripts to prove it, including from various Secretaries of State. It is effectively an example of decisions being taken behind closed doors in smoke-free rooms. Those are the new modernising methods of government. I disapprove of them and so does my Committee, as shown by the fact that we tabled this amendment.
Let us move on and accept that we are now able to debate free movement; I particularly want to concentrate on EU migration and benefits in that context. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on 18 November, which was 10 days before he made his speech at JCB in Staffordshire on the question of free movement, and I drew attention to the fact that I believed we were faced with a real problem. However much we might want to make certain changes, unless we were prepared to dig in and make this Parliament supreme on matters of such vital national interest, we would not get the necessary changes because some of them required treaty change and others required overriding the charter of fundamental rights. Although the Prime Minister accepted in questions after his speech that some of those matters would require treaty change, in reality that is not on offer in any substantial way from the other member states.
The principle of free movement is embedded in the ideology and principles of the other member states, and particularly the European institutions and European Commission, despite how that may affect us as a small island with a greatly increasing population and pressures on social housing and education—the list is endless. Unlike other member states such as France, Germany and Spain that have large land masses and can absorb many more people, we simply cannot do so. It is therefore a matter of vital national interest—quite apart from questions that I will mention in a moment about abuse of the system—that has led us to a position where we have desperately wanted to put our foot down. Some of us believe that we should override European legislation and the charter of fundamental rights by using the “notwithstanding” formula—that is notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972, which is past legislation as I have said many times before—so that we can ensure that our Supreme Court obeys the laws of this Parliament which is elected by our voters in general elections.
When the election comes—it is only a matter of 60 days or so—this issue will be at the centre of gravity in that election, and we will be asked whether we will take the necessary steps in line with what voters insist on. I am afraid the answer to that question is that there will be no treaty change or overriding of the charter, and when I have asked Ministers and the Prime Minister whether they will use the “notwithstanding” formula, I have been told no.
On the narrower point of benefits, the Minister gave us encouraging news that we have control of our benefits system, as that is a reserved matter under the treaties. Does my hon. Friend recollect that on several occasions Ministers have been unable to change our benefits system in the way the British public want because of European legal blockages?
That is completely right. People think—in elements of the BBC and elsewhere, I suspect—that this is somehow a matter of policy, and that by using the right words one can change the effect of European law. No, we cannot. We have to pass legislation. There has to be a majority in this House to override European laws and regulations. It is, ultimately and tragically, a legal framework rather than just simply a question of policy based on the wishes of voters, as expressed by their representatives in Parliament. This has only fairly recently begun to gain traction with some people in the public arena, but not sufficiently, I am afraid, to achieve the kind of impartial analysis I believe is needed, for example in the BBC. Without going into this now, I have invited—in fact, I have effectively forced—the director-general and the editor-in-chief of the BBC to appear before my Committee to explain this problem in the kind of language that ordinary people can understand. That will take place on Wednesday afternoon at 2.30 pm, for those who want to take note.
The Prime Minister’s speech had a lot in it, which demonstrated the extent to which he wants to try to resolve many of these questions. That is undeniable, but the question we have to address, and to which I now turn, is the extent to which it would require treaty change or otherwise—that is the acid test.
My first general remark is that the package includes only one proposal that directly limits or imposes a quota on the number of EU migrants. This would relate to future accessions and so could be part of normal negotiations. However, to impose a direct limit on migration from existing member states would certainly require treaty change.
My second general comment is that many of the relevant treaty obligations have already been interpreted in this context by the European Court of Justice. The Court plays a huge, vital and exceptional role, and cannot be appealed against. It has already interpreted these matters as providing limitation on the action that member states can take in this area. Indeed, the recent case of Dano, which is frequently referred to—the Foreign Secretary referred to it on “The Andrew Marr Show” only this weekend—demonstrates that the Court can change its approach.
However, some of the judgments mentioned are long-standing, well-entrenched and engage charter rights. Any change along the lines suggested by the Prime Minister would therefore not be sufficiently strong, to the extent that they rely on the Court of Justice changing its established jurisprudence. That is why we want the Commission to take account of these points—these are the issues. The European Commission is the legal guardian of the treaties. The point I am making in this speech is that, in order to change the law to ensure that we can actually deal properly with the problems that come from free movement, we have to persuade the Commission, in its work programme, to take account of such relevant questions. It could be inferred from what the Prime Minister had to say that he accepted that some treaty change would be required—and in fact, when he was asked questions, he accepted that towards the end—but there are a number of real problems, and I will now turn to them.
The first problem that the European Commission will have to consider in its work programme is a stronger power to refuse entry and to deport criminals. The free movement directive, which the European Commission has to enforce, requires decisions to be taken on a case-by-case basis on the grounds permissible by the treaty. That provision reflects Court of Justice jurisprudence extending across a wide range of treaty rights, including the freedom to travel to other member states to receive services, which is highly relevant to the work programme. It is likely that any significant stronger action will require treaty change, particularly if it detracts from the requirement derived from the principle of proportionality to look at each individual case.
Secondly, I believe a ban on re-entry for those who have abused EU rights may be possible, as this falls within the public policy exception to the treaty right of free movement. However, there are again questions of proportionality.
Is this not all pie in the sky? There is no way in which the Commission or other member states will agree to these fundamental changes. Is that not why we need to go back to basics and have a free trade organisation without the free movement of people, just as we have free trade agreements with other countries without having to take in all their people as a right, without any control over them? Would it not be better to work towards, for example, visa waiver systems?
I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says. In fact, if I may say so, I have said it many times in the past myself. However, we have to be able to identify the problems that have been presented by making assertions that we want this and we want that, in order to demonstrate the fact that it cannot be done before we move to the next step, which is of the kind that he and I would want: to address this on a realistic footing and to say to the European Commission, the European institutions and the Government that these proposals are simply not going to stack up because they are not going to happen. There is no chance of a treaty change as far as I can see—my hon. Friend and other hon. Members in the Chamber obviously agree—that will result in getting rid of the dangers presented to the United Kingdom as a result of imagining we will be able to do things, when in practice we know perfectly well it is not going to happen because we will not get the treaty change.
There is also the problem of access to tax credits, housing benefits and social housing for four years. The law of the Court of Justice indicates that an attempt to do this would be contrary to the treaty rights of free movement insofar as the limits on benefit extend to benefits for jobseekers linked to labour market participation and benefits to those who are classified as workers. Such persons are entitled to equal treatment as a treaty right. There is another problem. These things are not going to go away. My hon. Friend is completely right, as I have said so often, not to allow ourselves to be induced to believe that because we say something it will happen, particularly when we are dealing with the acquis communautaire and the rules and regulations that are imposed, which we voluntarily accepted in this House under the 1972 Act. We are the only country of the 28 member states that has the right, because of our constitutional arrangements—we do not have a written constitution—to make changes and override that legislation if we so wish to do. We can do it. The question is: have we got the political will in relation to matters of vital national interest?
Any restriction on access to social housing would likely be regarded as discrimination on the grounds of nationality. Thus, that too would be contrary to the treaty. There is then the question of removal if jobseekers do not find a job in six months. The law of the European Court of Justice overrides even this Parliament, by our voluntary agreement, but we can unwind it if we wish to do so by using the notwithstanding formula to override it and pass a law in this place. If jobseekers do not find a job in six months and are faced with removal, we could legislate. Under sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act, however, Court of Justice law prevents it, on the grounds that it interferes with the treaty right of free movement—insofar as a jobseeker can demonstrate that he or she is continuing to seek work and has a genuine chance of being engaged. Thus—again—treaty change is likely to be necessary.
Then there is the requirement for a job offer before entry—the same case law points to the requirement for treaty change on that account, too. Then there is the further restriction on the entry of non-EU family members. The rights of family members to enter with someone who has rights as an EU worker are set out explicitly in the free movement directive and could in principle be adjusted by amendment to the directive, but limits to wholesale change are set by the requirements not to undermine the essence of the treaty right of free movement and to respect human rights.
As I mentioned in my lead letter in yesterday’s The Sunday Telegraph, there is also the problem of human rights issues in respect of the deportation of terrorists, who can also insist on the right to family life under the present arrangements. We have to get real about this. We have to change it. So far, the Court has taken a consistently firm approach in favour of ensuring family life where these matters arise in the context of free movement, and it is likely to continue to do so—with huge implications for the number of people who can enter.
Finally, there is the question of whether there should be no child benefit for non-resident children. The requirement to pay child benefit for children in another member state is currently in the social security co-ordination regulations. It is theoretically possible to amend the regulations to end these payments, but it would raise the serious question of indirect discrimination on nationality grounds—again contrary to treaty free movement rights— and the same would apply to the proposal to limit child benefit paid abroad to that paid in the child’s country of residence.
I do not mean to criticise for the sake of it. I have tried to present the House with a proper examination and legal analysis of the problems, which would not have been the case had we not been able to debate the amendment, and it is now on the record that these are serious problems that cannot simply be washed away with fine words and which in most cases will require treaty change. When I wrote to the Prime Minister 10 days before his speech, I asked if he would be good enough to seek the advice of the Attorney-General and Government lawyers on the questions I raised. I trust that the House, the Minister and the Prime Minister will listen, and that we will take the steps necessary to deal with the vexed issue of immigration in a manner that overrides the treaties and the charter, as and when it is in our vital national interest to do so.
Several hon. Members
Order. We have four Back-Bench speakers and we need to finish at 10-past 8. In addition, I am sure the Minister would like a couple of minutes.
I will be as brief as possible, Mr Deputy Speaker.
As ever, it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who has always spoken with authority on European matters and whom I congratulate on his persistence in getting these issues debated in the House. We do not know quite how long the delay has been since the Commission decided to have its work programme—
The work programme was published on 17 December, the explanatory memorandum was laid before Parliament on 14 January, the European Scrutiny Committee referred it for debate on 28 January and we are debating it on 9 March. It is not as long a delay as there has, I am afraid, been with some others.
I am most grateful to the Minister. It might not seem long to him, but, picking up on a point made by the shadow Minister, it is good to have these matters debated in the House as quickly as possible. If Parliament is to have any influence on the Commission, it is good to have them before us as quickly as possible.
I support the right hon. Gentleman’s comments entirely. The Commission work programme is the equivalent of the Queen’s Speech, and it is inconceivable that the House would wait nearly three months before debating the Gracious Speech and then allow only 90 minutes to do so.
Indeed. As the hon. Gentleman says, there is the time issue. Several right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak—even if they are the usual suspects—and to give these issues our proper attention, we need longer than 90 minutes. I know how much you enjoy these European debates, Mr Deputy Speaker.
May I again congratulate the Minister for Europe on lasting five years? To get a five-year sentence under the criminal law, one has either to have been trading in firearms or to have been guilty of violent disorder. I do not know what he did right, but he is obviously the Prime Minister’s blue-eyed boy, because he has kept him tethered to the Dispatch Box as Minister for Europe. I would love to see how many stamps he has in his passport—but it is the EU so there will be no stamps. Anyway, well done to him for surviving so many of these debates.
I want to concentrate on one aspect of the five headline points in the Commission programme—migration. The hon. Member for Stone talked about legal migration and the issues confronting the British electorate—issues that we need to discuss—but I want to concentrate on illegal migration. On a recent visit to Calais, the Home Affairs Committee accepted the point made by the Mayor of Calais that once illegal migrants get there, they can see the UK and it is therefore already too late. Even the fence, like that used to surround and separate G8 leaders from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), though robust, has been blown down twice. It is too late, once the illegal migrants get to Calais; this issue needs to be dealt with by the EU and the Commission at the point of departure from north Africa.
As my right hon. Friend the shadow Minister said, the Italians are bearing the brunt of this problem. More than 250,000 people travel cross the Mediterranean every year; 3,200 have died—those are the ones we know about; and the Mare Nostrum initiative has been stopped because Frontex simply cannot deal with the problem. It is not just Italy, though. In the past five years, the Committee has also visited the border between Greece and Turkey. We know what pressure the Greeks are under, because of their economic situation, and people are flooding into Turkey from Iraq and Syria, despite the efforts of the Turkish Government. Once they arrive in Greece, they are kept in detention for up to three to four months, before being released on the border between Greece and Turkey. They end up in Athens, but their destination of choice is the UK and western Europe.
Illegal migration is the No. 1 issue facing the EU, and although it is recognised as such in the Commission’s programme, under the heading “Towards a New Policy on Migration”, actually we do not hear enough from the Commission and Ministers about this critical issue. It requires a new deal with the countries of north Africa, particularly in respect of how the Egyptians, Libyans, Algerians, and to a lesser extent the Moroccans and Tunisians, deal with the people traffickers, who take up to €10,000 each from each migrant on the boat and then leave them, sometimes without a captain, in the hope that the Italian Government will send ships to save them, which does not always happen. So although it is not necessarily on the conscience of people sitting in this House, it is certainly on the conscience of the Commission, if it has one.
Dealing with illegal migration requires an EU approach; it is not just a matter for the United Kingdom. As I have said, once the migrants have reached Calais, it is far too late. I would be keen to know from the Minister today, and from his successor—unless the Minister’s party wins the election and the Prime Minister is persuaded that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to do another five years—what is happening in the EU with illegal migration, because it is a huge problem that needs to be resolved.
Before the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee finishes, will he clarify his view on burden sharing? Does he really think that if these migrants land in Italy, they stay in Italy—or is not the reality that once they get there, they will try to travel to other countries?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and this is not helped by the fact that the Italians, because they do not want to deal with this problem themselves, give people travel documents so that they can travel on their own to other parts of the EU. That is why we cannot simply leave it to Italy; we need to sort it out. I am not talking about burden sharing in the sense that we all say that we are going to take a similar number of people, because I am not sure that that is what the British people want. What it requires is a robust approach to a Mediterranean crisis—and it is a crisis and it does need to be resolved.
This debate is a disgrace. This is a massive work programme with huge implications for the British people and our own country, yet we have been given 90 minutes. I can now make only a few of the points I wanted to make because two of my colleagues rightly wish to join in.
The Minister told us that he was delighted that this was a small and compressed programme of just 23 measures. These measures are huge for the jobs, growth and investment area. There are proposals that will have a direct impact on the economies of the European Union. In the section on economic and monetary union, two new taxes are proposed—a common consolidated corporation tax and a financial transactions tax. The Minister did not even mention them: I believe that they will be opposing them for the United Kingdom. One would have thought that a couple of major European taxes might have been worth a mention.
Nobody has had a chance to discuss the energy union proposals, which will directly impact on the United Kingdom. It is put down as one measure, but it is a whole raft of measures. The one that is scored is a strategic framework, but the strategic framework will lead on to a massive programme of regulation and legislation. The Minister obliquely referred to the idea that we want to integrate the market. Why do we wish to integrate it? Why do we wish to integrate the United Kingdom’s rather different energy market—we are an island with access to a lot of its own energy—with the continent of Europe, which has a terrible geopolitical problem because it has made itself so dependent on Russian gas.
As if that was not enough, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) rightly said that migration and border controls—one of the leading issues in the run-up to the general election—is at the core of this work programme. That is exactly right.
I found rather surprising the Minister’s remarks about our legal opportunities for benefit reform. It seems to me that most of the proposals for solving our difficulties on benefits for migrants in the United Kingdom would be illegal under the current treaty. I have been going on about this for years and have recommended to Ministers that they put our benefits on a contributory basis and that they should be paid only if people have paid in for a specified number of years and/or have been in full-time education in the United Kingdom between the ages of five and 16, so that all British people would qualify, without it being discriminatory on grounds of country. If we did that, we could make the changes we want, but Ministers do not respond. They pretend that they can make these other changes, but they have not delivered them all and I think they will discover that a lot of them are illegal.
The economic programme should be much more urgent. I find it extraordinary that the Labour party can come here and show no anger or passion about the mass unemployment on the continent. If there were anything like 50% youth unemployment in Britain today or 25% general unemployment, Labour Members would be outraged and they would be here in their hundreds—not just three Members as now.
I am sorry, but I do not have time. The hon. Gentleman wants to make his own speech.
Labour would be outraged, but because this is happening on the continent of Europe and is the result of the euro and economic union policies from which we have rightly opted out, they do not seem to care less. They just accept that it has to happen. I think this House should be deeply angry about the mass unemployment on the continent and deeply angry about the permanent recession that has hurt certain countries. We should be deeply angry about the shambles that is the euro, which is doing so much damage to prosperity, opportunity and life hopes. We have no time to discuss any of that because we have been given only 90 minutes.
I shall curtail much of what I was going to say. I had a lot to say, and I greatly agree with the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) about the crisis in the eurozone. I personally feel very angry as do many people in those countries. The so-called socialist party has disappeared in Greece to be replaced by Syriza, while Podemos is now in the lead in Spain. Working people are getting very angry about the appalling state of their economies and the impact on their people.
Let me speak briefly about the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am pleased to be a member. I support the amendment, and I am pleased that the Minister intends to accept it, although I hope this is not going to take the place of a proper full debate on free movement and some declaration of what Government policy will be on free movement and what they are going to do about it. It matters greatly to our constituents.
I spent some six hours knocking on doors in my constituency on Saturday and Sunday, and the issue that cropped up the most was immigration and free movement. We cannot run away from it. We have to reach a position. If we want to say that free movement is fine and we are not going to do anything about it, then we should say that, although I think it will bring about a degree of anger from people. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee that this matter has not been taken seriously. He mentioned Frontex, which is an administrative and policy organisation; it does not have a border force.
What we really need is a European border force to help out countries such as Greece—a relatively impoverished country, with a big land border with Turkey—and Italy, with its enormous sea border and islands close to the north African coast. If we are serious about the problem, those areas have to be helped by a border force that is European in scope. When we visited Frontex in Warsaw some two or three years ago, it could not say that free movement was a shibboleth that it could not talk about, but that is what it hinted at in its speech. I think we have to take these issues more seriously.
As the right hon. Member for Wokingham said, unemployment in some of the euro countries is quite appalling. If we had Spanish levels of unemployment in Britain, we would have 7.5 million unemployed instead of about 1.9 million. Ireland has overcome its unemployment problem by exporting 300,000 people. That is the pro rata equivalent of 4.5 million Britons leaving. Just imagine if we had 7.5 million unemployed and 4.5 million emigrating to find work. That is the situation that faces these European countries and no one should gloss over the fact that this is all the result of forcing a single currency on these countries, which then prove unable to adjust to it.
After the crisis, we in Britain devalued and depreciated sterling by 27% against the euro and by 31% against the dollar. That was a major factor in helping us to avoid some of the extreme stresses that happened elsewhere. Even in Europe, we are seeing a country such as Switzerland pegging its currency to the euro for a little while, but when the peg was taken away, the currency appreciated by 30% overnight. There are great distortions in currency values right across Europe.
Denmark has pegged its currency to the euro and it is taking desperate measures to try to hold its currency down. I do not call it the euro; I call it, privately, the deutschmark because that it what it really is. Other countries are effectively pegging their currencies to the deutschmark. Desperate steps have been taken to hold it down. We are in trouble now—the Government are right that this is a problem for Britain—because the euro is depreciating pretty rapidly against sterling, which will cause serious problems for our economy, too. All these problems are caused by the foolhardiness of imposing a single currency on different economies, which should be able to flex their currencies, choose their own interest rates and create demand in their own economies so that they can give jobs to their people.
Let me begin by talking about the way in which we have arrived at this debate, and also about the amendment that has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and all the other members of the European Scrutiny Committee who were present at Wednesday’s meeting. It is highly unusual for a Select Committee to table a cross-party amendment on a subject that was recommended for debate nearly 14 months ago.
The Government should bear it in mind that no Government are in office for ever. They should bear it in mind that the great protection of our liberties is the House’s entitlement to debate what it wishes to debate, and that they should treat that entitlement properly and respectfully by allowing such debates to take place. They should also bear it in mind that delaying deliberately, for 14 months, a debate on the free movement of people—a subject which, as we heard from the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), is being discussed on every doorstep in the country—shows a contempt for the House of Commons that constitutes a grave error.
When things change and another party is in government, that party too will notice that it is possible to ignore the Standing Orders of the House. That party too will notice that it is easy to clamp down on discussion in what ought to be a hotbed of democracy, and our freedoms will ebb away.
The Government ought to be ashamed of themselves for their delay, and the Ministers who claimed to be so much in favour of the debate when they appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee—or on the Floor of the House during questions to the Leader of the House—ought to recognise that they are powerful figures. When the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Minister for Europe and the First Secretary of State all want a debate, it is extraordinary that we do not get that debate. Who is the mystery figure, hidden somewhere in the corridors of Whitehall, who vetoes debates?
Is it our right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg) who vetoed the debate, or is it simply some mystery in the machine? Is it some faceless bureaucrat, some poor fellow sitting patiently in the officials’ Box?
Or is it my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, who now wishes to intervene?
It certainly is not the hon. Member for Cheltenham, or indeed, I suspect, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). The purpose of my intervention, however, is to take a rare opportunity to agree with the hon. Gentleman. I, too, think that debate on European matters in this place should not be subject to undue delay, and that European scrutiny that is scrunched into two short periods after a long delay is utterly inadequate when it comes to what the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) rightly described as a European equivalent of the Queen’s Speech. We should take a fresh look at all this in the next Parliament. Nevertheless, I should like the hon. Gentleman to substantiate any other allegations that he makes about individual Members.
I am grateful for that helpful intervention. I was only speculating that the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam—my friend—was responsible. In fact, I think that that is unlikely; I think that the person in question is more deeply hidden in the machinery than such an easy target as the Deputy Prime Minister.
This topic is of fundamental importance. According to press reports that have appeared over the past few days, 187,370 Romanians and Bulgarians were given national insurance numbers in 2014 alone. In other words, more than 200,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria have been given national insurance numbers during the period in which we have been waiting for this debate. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. According to a report from Oxford university, the population has risen by 565,000 in three years, and two thirds of those people are from European Union countries. In London alone, the population of EU member state nationals has risen by 161,000, from 711,000 to 872,000, during those three years.
The Government shy away from debates on this subject, thinking that if they do not talk about it, the nation will not notice; but the nation has noticed. I see that the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) is present. His entire party is making hay with the subject, because other politicians, including the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden)—other major political figures—are shying away from it. They believe that if they keep quiet, no one will notice. However, this is an issue of great importance to our constituents, who are worried about the sheer number of people who are entering the country because of free movement.
The Government are not setting out the groundwork for the renegotiation properly. At the December 2014 Council, they agreed to the following words, which appeared in the Council’s conclusions in relation to Switzerland:
“considers that the free movement of persons is a fundamental pillar of EU policy, and that the internal market and its four freedoms are indivisible.”
That seems to me to be a pretty bold statement, especially in connection with what we have heard about the Prime Minister’s speech on immigration being sent to Mrs Merkel for approval before being delivered. It seems that our policy on immigration must have the stamp of approval from Berlin, but we must be so committed to the European ideal that we view the free movement of people as unchallengeable. If we think that in regard to Switzerland, how can we renegotiate ourselves?
When I raised that question with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe earlier, he said that Switzerland had tied itself into a number of treaty arrangements, and that if it removed itself from one of them, it might find itself being removed from all of them. Surely that is exactly what we are trying to do in a renegotiation: surely we are trying to remove ourselves from some of the treaties to which we have agreed, but not from all of them. Perhaps the Government think that that is an equally disgraceful approach, but if it is sauce for the Swiss goose, surely it is sauce for the British gander. It cannot be right for the Government to take such a strong pro-European line in this regard. It shows a lack of sincerity in their approach to renegotiation—and if they renegotiate with a lack of sincerity, the British people are far more likely to vote to leave the EU, and the Government will get precisely the result that they do not want.
Time is short, and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have asked for the Minister for Europe to be given a couple of minutes in which to wind up the debate. It is illustrative of how little time we have been allowed that a debate on the equivalent of a much longer Queen’s Speech and the free movement of people has been so truncated because of the Government’s failure to deliver on their promises. However, I want to make one more comment, in support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood). The financial transaction tax and the uniform corporation tax base represent a fundamental effort to take sovereignty from this country in fiscal matters, and patriate it to a European state. The fact that we have been given only 90 minutes in which to debate a matter of such importance is pretty poor according to the Government’s standard.
With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker
I am grateful to all Members who have spoken. Let me begin by dealing with the point with which my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) ended his speech, and which was touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood). The United Kingdom does not intend to participate in the two tax measures to which they referred, although we take an active role in discussions as those issues evolve, in order to ensure that we can resist a design which, even if such measures were taken forward by enhanced co-operation, might have an inimical impact on the interests of this country. Of course, if either measure came forward through the EU process to a decision by the Council or the Commission, it would be subject to scrutiny in the usual way, and Treasury Ministers would, I am sure, give evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee if asked to do so.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham also asked about the Juncker initiative. It involves the reallocation of €16 billion from other headings in the EU budget, and €8 billion from European Investment Bank resources. That sum of €24 billion is intended to allow for leveraging from other sources to produce the total of €315 billion that is being discussed.
A number of Members, notably the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), spoke of the challenge posed by migration across the Mediterranean from Africa. The Government are very active through, for example, the Khartoum process, which involves EU states working with countries in the Horn of Africa, through our support for the three EU common security and defence policy missions which are intended to stabilise Somalia, and through our support for a comprehensive EU approach to the Sahel region. If we bring about more stable governance and some hope of a job and an economic future for the people in those countries, there will be less opportunity for the people traffickers, because there will be less desperation among the people. That needs to be part of this process, along with co-operation on criminal justice to disrupt the people traffickers and prevent them from going about their nefarious trade.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) asked about bids from this country under the EFSI. The EFSI is still formally to be established. We have drawn up a provisional long list based—
One and a half hours having elapsed since commencement of proceedings on the motion, the Deputy Speaker put the Question (Standing Order No. 16(1)), That the amendment be made.
Question agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 5080/15 and Addenda 1 to 4, a Commission Communication: Commission Work Programme 2015–A New Start; and supports the Government’s view that the most significant initiatives are those that focus on the strategic priorities set out by the European Council in June 2014 to promote jobs, growth and investment in the EU; and urges the Government to encourage the Commission to develop policies during 2015 relating to the free movement of EU citizens.