Well today has been the first day of the five days allotted for the Consideration of the European Union Bill on the floor of the House. This means that whereas normally a Bill is considered at the Committee stage by just a few MP’s in a small Committee room upstairs on the Committee Corridor because the EU Bill is of such constitutional importance it is being considered by a Committee of the whole House.
Today Clause 18 of the Bill and the amendments put down to the clause both By Mr Bill Cash (the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee) and an amendment put down by the Labour Party were being considered. At 10pm there were two votes one on one of the amendments put down by Mr Cash which I voted for and one by the Labour Party which I voted against. Both attempts to amend the clause were defeated by large margins. If I have time tomorrow I will expand on the detail of clause 18 in the meantime and if I don’t it will all be there in Hansard! at www.parliament.uk
The purpose of clause 18 was meant to be to restate the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. However the clause made no mention of the term Parliamentary Sovereignty and the amendment number 41 tabled in the name of Mr William Cash (and others) simply added the following words to the Clause;
‘The sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament in relation to EU law is hereby reaffirmed’
To me it is astonishing that we should even be having to make such a statement and it is a sad indictment of the present position that only a small minority of Members of Parliament were prepared to support the inclusion of such a statement.
The EU Bill has been attracting a considerable amount of press comment over the past few days. I thought it might be helpful to readers if I explained why as an ardent Eurosceptic I voted in favour of this Bill which some have criticised as not being sufficiently robust.
I agree the Bill is not sufficiently robust. There are so many get out clauses and exemptions that personally I doubt it will do very much towards helping to stop the European Project juggernaut from moving towards its declared aim of ever closer union. So why did I vote for it at second reading?
Firstly because although I believe that too many powers have passed to the European Union already at least this Bill does not pass any more over.
Secondly, I think most middle of the road euro-sceptic voters will believe the Government line that somehow by passing this Bill we will be keeping the EU in check. Understandably, I think they would be rather puzzled had I voted against a Bill which is being promoted as a Eurosceptic measure.
Thirdly, by helping to ensure the Bill passed its Second Reading in the Commons it means that it will have five days on the floor of the House where it can be examined in detail and I propose to vote in favour of any amendments that will have the effect of toughening up the Bill. Having said that, personally I doubt there is much chance of any either being accepted by the Government or the Government being defeated on any. I have read much of the analysis written over recent days and the one point I think they have missed is that many of the Conservative MP’s who have voted with their instinct are not so keen to do so if it means going through the lobby at the same time as the Labour Party. Personally, if I am voting what I believe to be the right way I do not care who else is voting the same way. I realise that many Opposition Members will be voting for entirely different reason
Fourthly, and in my opinion most important of all, I think this Bill may well actually hasten the day when the British public get their chance to vote on our membership of the European Union and ensure that a majority vote against our continuing membership. My reasoning is that most people are intrinsically Eurosceptic. Our membership of the European Union costs us money. It means we are subjected to yet more rules, more regulation and more red tape. Because this Bill is being promoted as a means of stopping any further transfer of powers I believe the scepticism of the public will be considerably increased once they realise that despite all the hype because of the get-outs and exemptions gradually more and more powers will be transferred to Brussels without them being given a say.