!-- consent -->
Further to Andrew Bridgen’s speech, which I noted earlier, there were four more maiden speeches which addressed the European issue in last Thursday’s debate.
Mark Garnier, who gained Wyre Forest from the Independent MP Richard Taylor, said he ”could be persuaded“ of the case for coming out of Europe:
“I was keen to speak in this debate on Europe because I feel that we can learn many positive things from our European partners, including lessons from Sweden on school provision. I am frequently asked where I stand on the issue of Europe, and my answer is that I am neither a Europhile nor a Europhobe, but a Euro-realist: I feel that we are where we are on Europe. As someone newly elected to Parliament, I deplore the creeping nature of legislation that comes not from this place but from Brussels. I welcome the coalition's proposed referendum lock, and I will always stand firm against joining the euro.
“When I consider whether we should be in or out of Europe, my first instinct is to examine how it will affect the people of Wyre Forest, and whether my constituency would be better off if we came out of Europe. I remain open-minded and could be persuaded otherwise, but my instinct is that Wyre Forest's economy stands a far better chance in the future if we stay in Europe, taking advantage of the trading opportunities available, which we talked about earlier.”
Julian Sturdy, who won the newly drawn York Outer constituency addressed the Commons for the first time on his 39th birthday. Noting that his father, Robert, is a serving Conservative MEP, he lambasted the previous Labour Government for breaking its pledge ot hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty:
“The previous Administration's decision to deny the people of this country such a vote was, frankly, a devastating blow to those who care passionately about the sovereignty of this House. Indeed, I feel the decision not to fulfil the promise of a referendum further damaged public trust in our politics and politicians. I therefore welcome the new Government's determination to improve political accountability, openness and transparency. Europe has always been a contentious issue and I am sure that will continue to be the case here in Westminster. However, I can assure the House that, back in York Outer, a sizeable majority of my constituents seem to share my concerns about the recent transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels. To put it simply, I firmly believe that we cannot allow any further erosion of powers from this Parliament without allowing the public to directly express their will on such important constitutional amendments.
“As such, I welcome the European Union Bill that was set out in the Queen's Speech last week. The Prime Minister is right to ensure that the people of this country are granted a referendum before any future treaties that hand over powers to the European Union are approved by Government. The Government should seek to be a proactive, positive and friendly partner in Europe, particularly when it comes to promoting British business and trade. In other key areas, too, the EU has the potential to be a force for good as we tackle global poverty and the rise in global competitiveness, and get to grips with global climate change.
“Britain should play a full role in ensuring that the EU's voice is heard loud and clear on an increasingly diverse global stage. However, we will not be able to play such a role unless the boundaries and limitations of the EU are clearly drawn. The public need to believe in the worth of the EU and, in my view, that will happen only when we strengthen and protect further our own democracy here in Westminster.”
Gareth Johnson, who gained Dartford, clearly set out his feelings about European integration:
“I agree not only that Britain can benefit from its membership of the European Union, but that Europe benefits from Britain's membership of the union. We should resist unnecessary interference from the European Union, which should not seek to interfere with every facet of our lives. We need individuals to have greater freedoms over their lives and for this House to have the freedom to operate without further subservience to the European Union.”
“My constituency is also the home of Ebbsfleet International train station, which lies on the new high-speed rail line between London and Paris. These increased transportation links – rather than increased political links – with the European Union represent the direction in which I believe we should be moving.”
Finally, Simon Kirby, who gained Brighton Kemptown, noted his constituency’s proximity to mainland Europe, but the suspicions of his constituents about it:
“Brighton Kemptown, as we know, is very close to Europe, and I have to tell the House that in 1514 the French invaded the town of Brighton at the time and razed it to the ground. I am not surprised that even 500 years later, many of my constituents are still suspicious of our relationship with Europe… My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) mentioned the Domesday Book; Brighton appears in it, and there is a fantastic Norman church in the village of Ovingdean. I have mentioned the French invaders, so we will move on.”