The Minister for Europe who has giggled his way through these debates in an

The minister for europe who has giggled his way

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The Minister for Europe, who has giggled his way through these debates in an amiable fashion, has let those great issues go slipping under the carpet. When it came to the very sovereignty of Parliament, what did he say? He said that Dicey was the classic expression of that. If the Minister does not know, the Clerks will tell him: in the third edition, and because of the Irish problems in the 19th century, Dicey came to the conclusion that a referendum might be a device by which to secure something in which we believe, or someone such as me believes—that is, the sovereignty of Parliament, which is the sovereignty of the people. That is why I shall vote against the treaty. 7.31 pm Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): I am pleased that the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) went into his philosophical mode. Sadly, the bitterness of some of his contributions has been overpowering, and it often overpowered him more than anyone else. The great problem is that the definition of a constitutional settlement can be grounded either in history or in the future. I used to teach A-level government and political systems and I studied the British constitution as a subject. I taught the subject when Lady Thatcher was in power. The conclusion of all who wrote then about the constitution was that a Prime Minister with a large majority was more powerful than an American President with a large majority from his or her own election because such a Prime Minister ran the Government like a presidency. Sadly, that process continued into the first phase of the Labour Government, when things were clearly run from the centre. The attractions of the British constitution, unwritten though it is, are not to me so glowing and wonderful; that moon that shines down may have blinded some 11 Mar 2008 : Column 216 Members to the fact that a powerful Prime Minister with a large majority and a strong whipping system is practically unstoppable and can make or break, destroy or change, a country for ever. At different times, people will judge that Lady Thatcher’s and Mr. Tony Blair’s terms of office had a measure of both tendencies, given what they did to the country that they led.
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It was interesting that the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) was squirming when there was talk of the British constitution, how wonderful it was and how we all had to represent one thing. Many people think that when people come here there is a unity of several countries as well as of several individual UK peoples—so we are, in a sense, a collective, just as the European Union is. Given its struggles, it appears that the Scottish National party is not too happy with the collective of which it is a member. At one time, that party’s slogan was “Independence in Europe”, which is interesting. I understand why individual things in the treaty might not be attractive to that party, but the fact is that it cannot see itself saying that it would support the essence of the treaty, whether there were a referendum or not.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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