Over the last 200 or 300 years we have produced some immensely important

Over the last 200 or 300 years we have produced some

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we have had to revise treaties from time to time. Over the last 200 or 300 years, we have produced some immensely important treaties, and because we do not believe that they have to be set in concrete—indeed, we believe that they must not be—we have mechanisms in our constitutional arrangements for changing them.
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In effect, the treaty encapsulated in the Bill and under the European Communities Act 1972 is set in concrete. It is meant to be in concrete, with the acquis communautaire and all those laws—the enormous tsunami invading our legal system and the principles of our constitutional Government and of the House of Commons—which superimpose on our system a Court of Justice with no right of appeal. Setting all those rules in concrete with no real renegotiation process is, in essence, undemocratic. Mr. MacShane: From the hon. Gentleman’s Jesuit education he will recall the tag, “Pacta sunt servanda”—treaties must be obeyed. I can give him one example of a treaty which, thank goodness, we have never sought to renegotiate, or allowed any other signatory to renegotiate—the treaty of Utrecht, which gives us sovereignty over Gibraltar. The hon. Gentleman should be careful; treaties need every signatory either to quit the treaty fully or to agree renegotiation. Treaties cannot be renegotiated unilaterally. Mr. Cash: I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, because I am not about to give a dissertation on the Vienna convention. We have been obliged to abrogate hosts of treaties by force of circumstance. If a treaty is turned into a legal entity—an entity incapable of being reversed, according to the assertions of the Court of Justice, which is given the right of overall jurisdiction—we are caught and trapped in the past. Mr. MacShane rose— Mr. Cash: I cannot give way to the right hon. Gentleman again, as other people want to speak. 11 Mar 2008 : Column 199 The point is that treaties have to be reversed from time to time, in whole or in part. The decision of Lord Denning, in McCarthy v. Smith, followed by Lord Diplock in Garland v. British Rail Engineering Ltd, clearly states the British Parliament’s continuing right: it is unassailable constitutional law. With respect to the European Communities Act 1972 and the European treaty that is part of the treaty of Lisbon—the treaty of Rome and following treaties are all amalgamated with consolidation and amendments in the treaty of Lisbon—the British Parliament has the continuing right to override those provisions in whole or in part. The crucial words are “or any provision in it”, meaning the treaty. As and when we decide that we want to renegotiate we have an unassailable right to do so as a matter of constitutional law and the case law that is at the very apex of our judicial system. It is essential for us to understand that point, which is why my new clause 9, supported by 47 Members, and the reasoned amendment that I tabled for today, supported by a new set of Members, are so important. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) say, in response to my intervention, that we
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  • Fall '08
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