HC Deb 27 January 2004 vol 417 cc157-8
12. Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con)

What the status is of the United Kingdom's red lines in the current intergovernmental conference on the proposed constitution for Europe. [150698]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

My right hon. Friend said to the House immediately after the European Council in December last year that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed … If it"— the intergovernmental conference— proceeds on the basis outlined by Prime Minister Berlusconi, tax, EU finance, social security and criminal law will all remain in the province of the nation state".—[Official Report, 15 December 2003; Vol. 415, c. 1320.]

Mr. Brazier

Will the Minister reconsider his rather complacent answer in the light of the draft provisions on asylum, which refer to the uniform status of asylum for nationals of third countries, valid throughout the Union and to an absence of internal border controls, even for foreigners and non-EU citizens? Does the Minister really want our asylum policy handed over to the European Union? Will he reconsider his answer?

Mr. MacShane

I hesitate to acknowledge that my answer was complacent, given that I was quoting the Prime Minister. As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, our border controls will remain in place, but it is important to co-operate on the question of asylum. The singular achievement of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his opposite number, the French Interior Minister Mr. Sarkozy, in shutting down Sangatte is exactly the way forward. This side of the House believes in co-operation with our European partners, as opposed to the policy of isolation and detaching Britain from the EU which is pursued by the Conservatives.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD)

I welcome the Government's reassurance that taxation and social security remain areas of national competence, but can the Minister confirm that energy resources and their taxation are red-line matters?

Mr. MacShane

Had the hon. Gentleman been present at debates in the House or the IGC Standing Committee, he would have heard the assurances that he seeks. Hon. Members from both sides of the House raised those issues and they were dealt with successfully. As of the middle of December, satisfaction was expressed that the energy issues had been adequately dealt with.

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