Ms Hewitt I am afraid that the hon Gentleman is wrong I did not say that I said

Ms hewitt i am afraid that the hon gentleman is wrong

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Ms Hewitt: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is wrong; I did not say that. I said that I had supported a referendum on the constitution, but that, for all the reasons given both inside and outside the House, I do not support a referendum on this treaty. I believe that the hon. Gentleman recently said that the campaign in favour of a referendum, in which he was so prominent, “failed to rouse anything more than a minor public interest in the impact that this treaty will have...The effective opposition to this treaty does not look good”. If the hon. Gentleman did say that, he was certainly right. Despite his efforts and those of the rest of the Conservative party, including its Front Benchers, and despite the concerted day-in, day-out efforts of Telegraph Group newspapers and others, the number of signatories to the petition calling for a referendum on the treaty has been
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woefully low—considerably lower than the number on the petition for a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, in which the hon. Gentleman was also involved. Mr. Cash: We got more than 500,000 signatures on the petition for a Maastricht referendum. A great deal of the problem with this petition has been that these debates and the arguments have not been fully reported by the media, including the BBC— [Interruption.] That is absolutely true. There has been a lot of talk in here, but very little of it has been reported outside. 11 Mar 2008 : Column 182 Ms Hewitt: That is a pretty desperate argument, given that for months on end Telegraph Group newspapers have misreported what has been going on in the European Union; that is also true of many other newspapers. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the fact that when The Sun published pages of anti-European diatribe during last year’s Labour party conference, its readership fell dramatically. Mr. Chaytor: Is not the real issue the fact that after 12 days of debate on the treaty, the official Opposition have not been able to explain how the reduction in the number of Commissioners, the changes to the rotating presidency or any other of the organisational changes are in any way constitutional issues more important than the decision to promote the single currency, establish the single market or join the European Union in the first place? That is why there are so few signatures on the petition; that is why the Conservative party has lost the argument. Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I listened to the concluding remarks of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, I felt that they were the comments of someone who knows that he has lost not only the vote in this House but the argument as well. The reality is that the British Conservative party is now more isolated and isolationist than it has ever been. That is not what the British people want.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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