"By their deeds shalt thou know them"
Christopher Gill was a leader in the House of Commons in the fight against the EU's Maastricht Treaty. His book, Whips' Nightmare, details the arm-twisting, threats, and inducements that were used by Mr Major's government to force the Maastricht though the House. Mr Gill is a first-class analyst of the political scene. We have just received his account, previously published in 'Independence', of how MPs voted on the EU's new constitution, the Lisbon Treaty. It is a scathing account.
“BY THEIR DEEDS SHALT THOU KNOW THEM”
On Wednesday 5th March 2008 the eyes of the nation were upon the House of Commons, for this was the day upon which we would learn whether or not our elected representatives would honour their election pledges.
As is well known, all 3 main political parties had pledged in their General Election manifestoes that, should they be returned to power, they would give the people of this country the opportunity to deliver their own verdict on the EU Constitution. Indeed, barring only a few, every one of the MPs elected in 2005 had specifically endorsed this pledge. By this device the question of ‘Europe’ was effectively airbrushed out of the General Election campaign and votes were cast to elect a new Parliament and a new Government, safe in the knowledge that we would all get our chance to have our say on the vexed ‘European’ question at a later stage.
As time went by the promise to hold a referendum made by Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in April 2004 became an albatross around the Labour Party’s neck, not least when, first of all the French and then the Dutch, rejected the EU Constitution in their own referenda. So what to do?
What the EU had to do then, of course, (because it never ever takes “NO” for an answer), was to go back to the drawing board to repackage the Constitution and to misrepresent it as something entirely different. The result was the Lisbon Treaty, 294 pages of gobbledegook that was made available to our Parliamentarians shortly before Christmas. That it is gobbledegook is confirmed by the Belgian Foreign Minister who is on record as saying, “The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable… The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear.”
The comedian who appeared on Question Time with Nigel Farage on March 6th was not joking when he said that he’d tried to read the Lisbon Treaty but had had to give up after 3 pages!
Pity then, for once, our Parliamentarians who over the Christmas period were faced with having to decipher what these 294 pages of amendments to the original EU Treaties i.e. the “Treaty Establishing the European Community” (TEC) and the “Treaty on European Union” (TEU) actually meant.
Not until 1145 on the very day on which, at 10 pm, they cast their votes on the Second Reading of the Bill to ratify the Treaty was the 328 page “Consolidated Texts of the EU Treaties as Amended by the Treaty of Lisbon” (Cm 7310) and the 28 page “A Comparative Table of the Current EC & EU Treaties as Amended by the Treaty of Lisbon” (Cm 7311) made available to MPs. The wonder of it is that, in spite of not having been allowed any time at all to study these dense and detailed texts, our elected representatives were prepared to dutifully troop through the Lobbies on 21st January and vote by a majority of 362 to 224 to give the Bill its Second Reading.
Space does not permit me to detail the travesty of democracy which passed for ‘detailed scrutiny’ of this Bill. The Government had originally said that there would be 30 days of debate, which then became 20 and, in the event, was whittled down to a mere 6 hours on each of 12 days.
On the 11th allotted day came the debate on the Amendment to make the Treaty of Lisbon subject to the approval of the electorate, as expressed in a national referendum. The calculation was that if the 63 Liberal Democrat MPs committed themselves to voting with the 193 Conservative MPs then there might just be enough Labour rebels to carry the day. In the event, the Liberal Democrats, in their own inimitable style, were Whipped to abstain and the result was 248 votes in favour of a referendum and 311 against; but it is what happened later that evening that is so revealing.
Immediately following the votes on the Referendum, Bill Cash, the Conservative MP for Stone, moved New Clause 9 that “Notwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in the Act shall affect or be construed by any court in the United Kingdom as affecting the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament”.
It beggars belief that the sum total of MPs prepared to back that motion was 50 viz. 41 Conservatives (includes 2 Tellers), 6 Democratic Unionists, 2 Independents and 1 Liberal Democrat. Unbelievably, or perhaps not so incredibly given the pusillanimous state of Cameron’s Conservatives, the Conservative Whips were positively discouraging their flock from supporting a motion to confirm the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Either the modern Conservative Party, as a matter of principle or policy, no longer supports the supremacy of Parliament or, of equal concern, it accepts that the pass has already been sold by dint of the previous EU Treaties (TEC & TEU). Whichever way, one thing is now clear beyond a shadow of doubt – no longer can the Conservative Party even pretend to be upholding the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament. Its cover is blown.
All in all March 5th was a hugely significant day. It was the day upon which the credibility of the Liberal Democrat Party was shot to pieces. It was the day upon which an increasingly fascist Labour Government closed its ears to the voice of the people (more Labour MPs voted against the supremacy of Parliament than against a Referendum) and it was the day upon which it was demonstrated beyond a peradventure that the loyalty of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is to a seat of power located beyond these shores.
A plague on all their houses – the only hope for those of us who believe in Freedom and Democracy is the UK Independence Party, pledged as it is to restore the supremacy of Parliament which, as is now abundantly clear, can only be done by leaving the corrupt, sclerotic and pathologically totalitarian European Union.