Rt Hon Lord Lilley

     I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I had not intended to do so, but I wish to set the Minister’s mind at rest. I can assure him that few, if any, Members who have reservations about this wish to block the treaty amendment incorporated in this motion. He rightly said that it is in our national interests that the eurozone should seek the maximum stability and be empowered to do so. He went on to say that we must therefore not impose any conditions in giving Europe permission to go ahead with this treaty change. That is a non sequitur. As long as we suggest reasonable and moderate conditions and concessions by way of repatriation of powers, there is surely no conceivable likelihood that Europe will forgo something of first order importance to it in order to prevent our having something that is of very minor importance to it. Would Europe seriously forgo establishing a stability mechanism for the euro in order to prevent our getting back powers over the working time directive? This is of second order importance to us, but of first order importance to Europe, so it provides an opportunity for us to seek concessions, and we should take that opportunity.

    The second reassurance I want to give the Minister is that we on the Government Benches want the coalition agreement to be implemented. We see in the measure an opportunity to carry forward that agreement, which commits the coalition to a review of all the powers and competences that have been given to the European Community. The only purpose of doing so is to see which of them should be returned to this country. Many suppose that the Liberal Democrats do not really want that to happen. I am sure that some do not, but one of the joys of coalition for me has been getting to know more Liberal Democrats, and I know that many of them are quite pragmatic about this. One very senior member of the coalition Government has told me that he believes that 30 or 40 of the measures that were transferred in the Lisbon treaty and others should be returned. The whole coalition Government, not least the Liberal Democrats, are committed to the principle of localism. They want to see government in this country when it is not appropriate for it to be transferred, or if it has been wrongly transferred to Brussels in the past. This is an opportunity to secure the return of those powers and I urge the House to take that opportunity.