even win a referendum whereas today we are probably somewhat further from an

Even win a referendum whereas today we are probably

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even win a referendum, whereas today we are probably somewhat further from an election and the current Prime Minister thinks that winning a referendum is beyond him. That is the truth of the matter. Several hon. Members rose — Mr. Hague: I shall give way first to the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) because he was the first to rise earlier. Mr. MacShane: If I am following the right hon. Gentleman’s logic correctly, he is saying that the treaty that we are debating now is the same as the old constitution, and that a pledge was given to have a referendum on that constitution, which must be honoured. Is he therefore saying that if we pass into law tonight the treaty that he avers is the same as the old constitution, the position of his party will be to have a referendum on that? We need to know; the nation needs to know. Mr. Hague: The right hon. Gentleman says that the nation needs to know. I am saying that a referendum should be held on this treaty; that is the clear implication of everything I am saying. As I have frequently explained, quite a lot of water has to pass under the bridge before there will be any possibility of moving on to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, to whom I should also have paid tribute for his many interventions in these debates, including the most memorable one, when he said that the Prime Minister had been wrong about the weight of European regulation—which means that we look forward to his interventions from the Back Benches for many years to come; we have all that to look forward to. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will spare us the lectures about constitutional practice. The promising of a referendum and then the refusal to give one are nothing to do with constitutional practice or Ministers weighing matters in the balance, but are everything to do with the sharp practice of Ministers focused solely on what they could or could not get away with. Thus they have found themselves not only denying a referendum when a commitment to hold one was given, but denying it for different reasons from those that they usually give in public. On any assessment of transparency and integrity in politics, their sequence of arguments has been about as low down the scale as it is possible to get. 11 Mar 2008 : Column 167
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Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to chide the Labour Government for the confusion they got themselves into, but does he accept that some Conservative Members have seen in both the constitution and the treaty positive benefits for the United Kingdom? Indeed, in many cases the treaty was rejected by the French because it was seen as too Anglo-Saxon. I also ask my right hon. Friend to accept my apologies for not staying through the whole debate, as I shall this evening be chairing a meeting of a vibrant but small body, the Conservative Group for Europe.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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