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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 02:06 GMT 03:06 UK

UK Politics

Commons presses on with Amsterdam Treaty

Hereditary peers wanted "quota-hopping" sorted out before ratifying the treaty

The government has succeeded in reversing a Lords defeat that would have delayed British ratification of the EU's Amsterdam Treaty.

The Lords' amendment called for "legal protection" for UK fishermen against quota-hopping.

The vote was 330 for and 134 against the peers' decision, a government majority of 196.

[ image: Doug Henderson:
Doug Henderson: "amendment would have been stopped in its tracks"
Minister for Europe Doug Henderson insisted that the amendment would have been "stopped in its tracks" but for the votes of mostly Conservative, hereditary peers.

The European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which ratifies the Treaty, will now return to the Lords. Peers will have to decide whether to insist on their amendment and spark a clash with the government in the Commons.

Mr Henderson stressed the extent to which the Bill had been fully debated. MPs had spent 31 hours debating the measure, he said, while peers had spent more than 53 hours on the issue.

"This Bill has been subjected to exhaustive scrutiny and won support from all quarters," he said. He said "attempts to delay the Treaty" would "prevent progress to tackle unemployment and poverty within the EU".

[ image: Michael Howard:
Michael Howard: "government has broken one promise after another"
The Bill, enacting the Treaty signed in October 1997, including Britain's opt-in to the Social Chapter, has been branded by the Tories as a further move towards unnecessary integration.

During the debate, Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard accused the government of having "broken one promise after another".

He said the government was claiming it would re-negotiate the Common Fisheries Policy using its "good relationship with their European partners". But, he said, it had failed do so "despite the brave and bold words by the Prime Minister before the election".

[ image: Austin Mitchell - firmly opposed to the treaty]
Austin Mitchell - firmly opposed to the treaty
Labour backbencher Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) said: "The British fish industry has suffered for years because of this exchange of party political point scoring. Each side is doing nothing for the fishing industry."

He called the Amsterdam agreement a "pathetic, lame, limping Treaty", and castigated the deal done on quota-hopping a "Euro-con". He said the only course of action was to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy.

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