Similarly more than half the groups of amendments selected for debate during

Similarly more than half the groups of amendments

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Similarly, more than half the groups of amendments selected for debate during the Committee stage—15 groups out of 29—were never even reached. I have here a leaked copy of the Government’s briefing for tonight’s debate. It states: “Tory claims that we have not allowed enough time for debate are wrong...315 amendments” were “tabled including 279 by the Opposition”. Amendments may have been tabled, and some may have been selected—but they were not debated, because the debates were rigged to prevent that. The detailed amendments on borders, visas, asylum, migration, defence, the free movement of workers, freedom of association, personal data and social policy were never even debated at all. That is why Mr. Simon Carr of The Independent , who has followed this issue closely, said of the whole process: “It’s been a shabby affair. Low, dishonest and shabby.” He then went on to argue—[Hon. Members: “Where is he?”] Simon Carr has been in the Press Gallery more often than some Members I see now in the Chamber. He added: “This treaty strategy is Gordon Brown’s personal creation, this is his specified treatment of Parliament, and visible to all is his definition of politics as cynicism in action.” Despite all the protestations about allowing ample time for debate and facilitating line- by-line scrutiny, when it actually came to it, the debate was deliberately rigged to make that almost impossible. The Government just could not abandon their control-freak tendencies and had to restrict debate on the treaty—an important point, which I sincerely hope will not be missed in the other place. Crucially, as the Bill goes to the other place, it still carries within it, in clause 6, provisions to implement article 48(6) of the treaty—the new “simplified revision procedure”. That is the ratchet clause, which means that in future individual vetoes could be surrendered for ever, after only a brief debate on a simple Commons motion. On Second Reading, we said that we would table amendments during the Committee
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stage to strengthen parliamentary control over that procedure, so that giving up any veto could not be done through a simple motion, but only via a specific Act of Parliament. Although our amendment No. 20 to that effect was not successful, on the night it did enjoy support from Members of virtually all parties in the House, including Labour, the Scottish nationalists, Plaid Cymru, the Democratic Unionist party, ably represented tonight by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson)—and even, on that occasion, the Liberal Democrats. I hope that the other place will consider the content of the amendment especially carefully. Perhaps it will be minded to implement the amendment, particularly given that it would not wreck the treaty itself, but would strengthen control over how the ratchet clause might be used in future.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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