New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Will the right hon. Gentleman [Jack Straw] confirm that that requirement for unanimous endorsement for significant [European Union] changes applies to the Irish, who have just voted "No" to such a significant change?

[Mr Straw: Of course it does. The Nice treaty requires the endorsement of the 15 member states.]

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[Mr Straw: … I say to Conservative Members that I have the deepest sympathy for their predicament, because I spent 18 years in opposition.]

Dr Lewis: Well deserved.

[Mr Straw: Yes it was, because that was the verdict of the British people and we have to respect that.]

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Dr Lewis: Surely the right hon. Gentleman [Donald Anderson] is setting up an Aunt Sally because the aspect of Europe that featured in the Opposition's unsuccessful election campaign was that of joining the single currency. That was the focus, and the response was that there would be a referendum on the subject. The Government argued successfully that the referendum, not the election, would determine the outcome. He cannot have it both ways and claim that the outcome of the election shows that the electorate rejected the Opposition's policy of opposing the single currency.

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Dr Lewis: If the Secretary of State [Geoff Hoon] cannot give us a firm date for a firm order for the carriers, can he give us a firm date for a firm order for the Bowman system, in particular because Thales, which has nearly 15,000 employees in about 500 constituencies around the country, including mine, has made a strong bid?