HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc615-6
5. Mr. Trimble

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has to change the procedures related to the ratification of treaties.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

We have no plans to change our procedures for ratifying treaties to which we are signatories.

Mr. Trimble

I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is no longer realistic to regard the other member states of the European Union as foreign countries and that, as a consequence, it is no longer realistic to regard agreements entered into—such as any that might arise out of the intergovernmental conference in 1996—as foreign treaties with which the House need take little concern. Would it not therefore be sensible, well in advance of 1996, to amend our procedures for the ratification of fundamental agreements with other member states so that they can be thoroughly discussed in the House before, during and after any such conference? That would ensure that the House is not asked again to deal with fundamental constitutional matters on a take-it-or-leave-it basis and forced to act as a rubber stamp.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I do not think that I accept the hon. Gentleman's reasoning. Any future treaty of similar importance to the Maastricht treaty will be brought before the House before the country ratifies it.

Mr. Marlow

Given that a single currency would mean taxation decided centrally and a unified single European state, can my hon. Friend ensure that if any such treaty were brought forward on the basis of a single currency, the ratification process would be such that that treaty could not be ratified in the United Kingdom? Even better, could he make sure that there is no ambiguity in the minds of the British people after the election results last week? They do not want a single currency and the Government should not want a single currency.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The Government's position is clearly set out in the Maastricht treaty and its protocols. My hon. Friend should have been pleased, and I believe is satisfied, with the opt-out from the requirements of stage 3 achieved by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Foulkes

Is not it true that the Maastricht treaty, which the Government forced through on a three-line whip, and the Single European Act, which they forced through on a three-line whip and a guillotine, are the two most centralising treaties since the treaty of Rome, and that for the Government to pretend that they are not in favour of centralisation within the European Union is hypocrisy which brings this parliamentary democracy into disrepute?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

No. The centralising tendency in the European Union, although supported by the Opposition parties, was checked in the Maastricht treaty which, for example, enshrined the subsidiarity principle in treaty law for the first time.

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