Jacob Rees-Mogg: "We know Her Majesty’s Government’s true pro-European colours"
There was a vote in Parliament earlier this week on the rather prosaic EU (Approvals) Bill. It was one of those tediously pieces of legislation which essentially hands the EU something on the nod (usually funds) - in this case, some £18million of UK taxpayers' money to fund a little propaganda outfit known as the Europe Citizens Programme. Its aim is to “encourage democratic and civic participation of citizens at Union level, by developing citizens’ understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering at Union level”.
Just so we're clear.
During the debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg made one one of the most devastating interventions of modern times; at once unmasking the Government's essential pro-EU policy, and essentially exposing the Prime Minister as a hypocrite. This from Hansard (Column 688):
Jacob Rees-Mogg: This is a dreadful Bill of which Her Majesty’s Government should be deeply ashamed. They should hang their head in shame at having done it. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, or the Department of entertainments, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) called it, has agreed to something that directly contradicts what the Prime Minister said a year ago. We have a Prime Minister, a leader of Her Majesty’s Government, who says one thing and a Department for Culture, Media and Sport that brings forward a Bill to do exactly the reverse. The Prime Minister said he was against ever closer union; the money that we are discussing will be spent on promoting ever closer union.It is a wonder to hear Scripture quoted in the House of Commons - and the Authorised Version, at that: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The Commons, in its wisdom, is to contradict the Prime Minister. Does that show the proper control that the Government should have of their legislative programme, if Bills are introduced that make the Prime Minister’s words look like wormwood? Is that how the Government wish to treat the British people? Can we have trust in our politicians in this nation if the Prime Minister says one thing and his Ministers bring forth Bills saying another? Are we to feel that there is any movement in the Government’s policy towards reducing ever closer union when their Bills say the reverse and when the words, which are cheap, say one thing but the Acts of Parliament say another—and say that which the British people are opposed to? We have a review of competences to see whether there is the right balance, yet we increase the competences without having any review at all.
We have, by unanimity, agreed to spend money on promoting the ideal of the European Union, and we have had no apology for it and no defence of it other than the Minister saying that he does not much like it but he does not think it is a grand scheme and it might cheer up his mates in eastern Europe.
Mrs Main: Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the Minister has just admitted that the Bill is a message to the European Union and its citizens, not a message to the British public about our intentions?
Jacob Rees-Mogg: I give way to my hon. Friend the Minister.
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Mr Vaizey: I am not sure that my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) represented my views entirely as I would have them represented. After all, I read out quotations supporting the programme from four British organisations that have as much right as anyone else to say that they represent the views of the British people, including the national Holocaust Centre.
Jacob Rees-Mogg: They are four British institutions that have had to take the European shilling and sign up to promoting closer European integration to get access to money—institutions that are meant to be under British charity law and politically independent, except when it comes to Europe, when they get handouts to be biased in what they say.
Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the Minister is right that the sums are modest and the grants may well go to organisations of merit that the UK would fund anyway without the need to be given our own money back, the programme will undermine us powerfully as we go to our constituencies to try to persuade our electorate that we are sincere about getting powers back to Britain and putting them to the public in a referendum?
Jacob Rees-Mogg: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Bill is cretaceous—
Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): Cretaceous?
Jacob Rees-Mogg: Yes, as in “from Crete”, and we know the reputation—
Sir Peter Bottomley: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know that we occasionally allow words from other languages in the Chamber, but I am not sure whether that one should be allowed.
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I must admit, I did not catch the word that was said, so we will proceed.
Jacob Rees-Mogg: My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) will find the word in the “Oxford English Dictionary” if he has a chance to look at it later.
The point is that the programme will absolutely destroy trust and we know that trust in politics is at a low. A recent survey showed that trust in the EU was at an all-time low since the survey was started in 2001. If politicians go around legislating in direct contradiction of what they have said, the British public will take them for untrustworthy.
Graham Stringer: The hon. Gentleman is almost invariably precise on this subject, and I usually agree with him, but he said that the money would be used to promote the ideal of the European Union. In fact, it will be used to promote myths about it, one of which is that the EU, not NATO, has delivered peace in Europe over the past 60 or 70 years.
Jacob Rees-Mogg: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I apologise for understating my opposition to this Bill. That is not an error I shall repeat.
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The Bill is a desperate disappointment. When I was first elected, I was told by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills that Governments would promise things. They would give guarantees, undertakings and reassurances about how Eurosceptic they were, and I, as a young and naive new Member, would believe them and put trust in the leadership of the party to speak as it did, just as my hon. Friend found when he first came here. He said that as time went by I would find that those promises turned out to be as ashes and dust, and that although the Government were willing to say, to play, and to sing the Eurosceptic tune, they would actually be dancing the pro-European dance. In this Bill, that dance has been taken to a further degree. It would win “Strictly Come Dancing” for its skill in dancing to the pro-European tune. It is a great betrayal of trust.
This is not about the amount of money involved, which is small; it is the principle of proposing and advancing the citizenship of Europe—a citizenship that is odious to most subjects of Her Majesty. It is something we never asked for, never wanted, and that most of us would reject, and we object to our taxes being taken to pay for it.
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
We know Her Majesty’s Government’s true pro-European colours from this particular fruit.
Chris Heaton-Harris: I am not sure how I can follow that really.
Sir Peter Bottomley: Just agree with it.
We can but wait.
His Grace would like to thank Mr Rees-Mogg for his intelligent, eloquent and forthright intervention in this debate. An £18million pro-EU propaganda fund will do wonders for the forthcoming referendum (whenever it be). It is heartening to note that on this matter Mr Rees-Mogg takes his whip from neither the Conservative Party nor his Holy Mother.