BUSINESS QUESTION – EU CONSTITUTION – 19 July 2007

[Mr Bernard Jenkin: May I point out that there is little parliamentary time between now and the intergovernmental conference in October that will agree the text of the new EU reform treaty? So far, the Government have been singularly unable to explain what is substantially different between the new treaty and the old constitution, for which they granted a referendum. Will she therefore guarantee that there will be a full day's debate on the subject before Ministers depart for the conference?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): There usually is a statement around the time of intergovernmental conferences. However, I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the treaty makes it clear that the constitutional concept has been abandoned.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Following on from that excellent question from my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Bernard Jenkin), may we have an urgent statement on the adequacy of the French and German translation service supplied to No. 10 Downing Street? Giscard d'Estaing has said that the changes to the amending treaty are “more cosmetic than real” and that the “treaty remains largely unaltered”, while Chancellor Merkel has said that the

“substance of the constitution is preserved”.

Clearly, the Prime Minister cannot have been furnished with those transcripts, as it would be inconceivable that he would go back on his promise to hold a referendum on changing the constitution of Europe.

[Ms Harman: There is no going back on any such promise. Obviously, repeating existing treaties and drawing them all together means that a lot of the substance remains unchanged.]