Mr Francois I hear what the hon Gentleman says but the moral of the story is Be

Mr francois i hear what the hon gentleman says but

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controlled by the Government and, I hope, by the House. Mr. Francois: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but the moral of the story is, “Be very careful what you say on the “Today” programme, in case it comes back to bite you.” 11 Mar 2008 : Column 243 I would also like to pay tribute to a number of stalwarts on the Conservative Benches who have held the Government to account night after night. Of course I must mention my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), but I also include my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), my hon. Friends the Members for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) and for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper), and others who have been in the House so frequently to press the Government on what they are trying to do. I must also pay tribute to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who has played such a frequent part in our proceedings that at one point I started to believe that he had been elected to the House. So that we do not leave him out of this Third Reading debate, I should like to remind the House of what he said so candidly in Le Monde about the similarity between the original EU constitution and what is now the treaty of Lisbon. He predicted: “Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly”. I am particularly indebted to the former President, as that is an excellent summary of the Government’s whole strategy on this benighted Bill. In lieu of the referendum that they solemnly promised in their manifesto, the Government promised the House detailed line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill and the treaty —but having done that, they deliberately set out to make that practically impossible. To begin with, they briefed the media that there would be 20 days of debate in the Commons, then restricted the debate to 14 days instead. Although they like to compare that to the time allocated to debate the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, they somehow always forget to mention that the Maastricht treaty was debated for 29 days in the House of Commons—more than double the time allocated to the debate on this treaty. And as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who has also spoken powerfully, pointed out again and again, at the time of Maastricht, the parliamentary day was often much longer than it is now.
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The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy) indicated dissent. Mr. Francois: The Minister does not have to take my word for it; he can ask my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, who I am sure will remind him. Just in case the days that did remain might be used to their disadvantage, the Government then invented a new way to debate treaties of this nature, with special “themed” debates, designed to restrict the time available at the end of each day for detailed scrutiny of specific amendments. Under to that methodology, clause 4 was debated for fewer than 15 minutes and clause 5 was never debated in detail at all.
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