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Bill Cash MP
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Bill Cash – European economic government will apply to United Kingdom

Bill Cash asked the following urgent question on European Economic Governance in the House of Commons on 27 October 2010:
 
Bill Cash: "I have an urgent question for the Prime Minister, which is being answered in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to what negotiating position the Government intend to adopt on the conclusion of the taskforce on strengthening economic governance in the European Union that was presented to the European Council on 21 October with the claim that the endorsement-" [ Interruption. ]
 
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, replied: "I am very grateful for the opportunity to update the House on the conclusion of the taskforce on strengthening the economic governance of the European Union, and to report on the UK's position on the taskforce. In particular, I wish to restate that the UK is exempt from the current and future sanctions regime.
Heads of State and Heads of Government commissioned the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to produce a report on EU economic governance and report back to the October Economic Council. Mr Van Rompuy chaired a taskforce meeting consisting of EU Finance Ministers, and the Chancellor represented the UK on the taskforce. The report has been agreed by the taskforce, and the European Council is expected to endorse it tomorrow. Copies of the report, along with the Chancellor's submission to the taskforce, have been placed in the Library of the House this morning.
The report concludes that the EU should take steps to reinforce fiscal discipline and that the euro area in particular must face tougher surveillance of its fiscal policies, with sanctions for non-compliance with the pact where appropriate. It also recommends measures to improve EU-level co-ordination of macro-economic policies. That will ensure that any harmful macro-economic imbalances between member states can be identified and corrective action taken. Finally, the report notes that there should be a permanent crisis resolution mechanism for the euro area. The UK supports its conclusions.
A strong and stable euro area is firmly in the UK's own economic interests, given the high level of UK exports to those countries and our close economic ties. In the years before the crisis, fiscal discipline was absent, and not just in states in the eurozone. High levels of debt have exacerbated the problems that some member states face during the economic downturn. The taskforce recommends that there should be greater focus on member states' public debt levels in future, and the Government agree with that approach.
I am pleased to note that the report explicitly states that sanctions cannot be applied to the UK under the stability and growth pact. Domestic fiscal frameworks play a crucial role in ensuring that member states act responsibly. EU surveillance is useful, but as the House knows, national Parliaments and national institutions must hold Governments to account for their economic and budgetary policies.
Let us be absolutely clear: yes, we want to see a strong and stable eurozone. That is in our interests just as much as those of our neighbours. The UK has led the way on economic governance. Multi-year budgets and independent statistics and forecasting have already been introduced, and we have a clear fiscal mandate to eliminate our structural deficit. We are leading the eurozone, and our high standards have already received international endorsement. We will examine any proposals to help the eurozone overcome its problems.
However, as the Prime Minister has just said, we will not agree to any changes to EU treaties that move more powers from this country to the EU. The UK's exemption from the sanctions proposal will be explicit, and there will be no shift of sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels. The report makes that clear, agreeing that
"strengthened enforcement measures need to be implemented for all EU Member States, except the UK as a consequence of Protocol 15 of the Treaty".
While we are looking at problems in the EU, I should like to say that we have serious concerns about the proposed size of the 2011 EU budget. I was shocked to see that on the day of the spending review, the vast majority of Labour MEPs voted against a freeze in the EU budget. When countries across Europe are taking tough decisions to put their public finances in order, it would be wrong-unjust, even-to have a 6% rise in next year's EU budget, as has been suggested. We cannot accept that and will fight it hard. We are protecting British interests in the EU and doing what is right for our country and our people, and the Prime Minister will update the House next week."
 
Bill Cash replied: "I am most grateful. Unfortunately, the explanation that we have just heard from the Minister does not answer all the questions that arise in this matter. In particular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was on the taskforce, and the Council's recommendation is that these moves should strengthen economic governance
"in the EU and the euro area",
in other words not excluding the UK,
"and can be implemented within the existing Treaties."
I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing, as I suggested, that he should place in the Library a copy of the taskforce report and the Chancellor's submission to the taskforce on 9 July, so that everybody can read them.
The point remains that the six regulations and directives that the European Scrutiny Committee will consider this afternoon are still on the table. Mr Van Rompuy indicated yesterday at a meeting of COSAC-the chairmen of European scrutiny committees-which I attended, that there are uncertainties about the legal position. I think I am getting his words correct and that he said that the situation did not totally respect all the traditional rules of the European Union. Mr Van Rompuy also called for agreement because, he said, people are our citizens and not just voters.
Given that there are now six legislative proposals-it is claimed that they are based on the existing treaty, but we cannot assume that they are-and that the ESC will consider them today, and that they appear to carry forward in part the Van Rompuy recommendations, what requires a new treaty?
The treaty will affect the UK and our sovereign Parliament in respect of its control over UK fiscal policy, tax and economic governance, including the question of the rebate. We are glad to hear that the Government reject the increase proposed by the European Parliament, but will the Minister reply to this simple question: will the Government veto the treaty, and if not, will they guarantee that, in accordance with the wishes of the voters in the United Kingdom, we have a referendum on that issue?
 
Mark Hoban replied: "I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising those points. May I just advise him that the final meeting of the taskforce took place on 18 October? I attended that taskforce, as did my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. We ensured that the language in the taskforce report guaranteed that sanctions would not apply to the UK. Paragraph 18 of the taskforce report refers
"to the specific situation of the UK in relation to Protocol 15 of the Treaties."
In addition, paragraph 4 states that the measures set out in the taskforce report can be implemented through
"EU secondary legislation...within the existing legal framework of the European Union",
so nothing in the report requires a treaty change. I am aware that France and Germany have suggested that there may be treaty changes, but we have yet to see the details of such proposals, which would be made to the European Council at the weekend."
 

Click here to read the full transcript in Hansard.

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