EU (Approvals) Bill clears first Commons hurdle


MPs have given the European Union (Approvals) Bill a second reading despite opposition from a group of mainly Conservative MPs.

The House voted by 366 to 30 in favour of the bill, which puts into UK law two new European Council regulations, on 13 January 2014.

The bill will create an archive for documents and papers of all European Union institutions excluding the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice.

It will also provide for the continuation of the "Europe for Citizens" programme to 2020, which encourages public engagement with European integration, providing a budget to support town-twinning, commemorative events and policy research.

Mr Vaizey said there had been some "crucial improvements" to the programme with more effort put into monitoring and evaluating the performance of funded projects.

He welcomed that funding for commemoration events had increased from 4% to 20% of the £185m budget "because 2014 is the year we begin our commemorations of the Great War".

Labour's shadow culture minister Helen Goodman said the programme could help "counterbalance" Education Secretary Michael Gove's controversial remarks that "left-wing academics" were using TV programme such as Blackadder "to feed myths" about World War One.

Conservative Mr Rees-Mogg questioned why the government had not used its veto to block measures he claimed would create an ever-closer union, and accused David Cameron of breaking a promise given to the British people 12 months ago.

He said of the bill: "It is against what the Conservative Party stands for and it ought to be against coalition policy."

Similar concerns were raised by eurosceptic and Tory MP Bill Cash, who claimed it would allow the EU to hand out grants for "propaganda" in favour of closer political union.

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, president of the independent UK pressure group European Movement, said Europe had turned into a literary farce.

Speaking in "a personal capacity" on behalf of the European Movement, he said the organisation had "suffered under the era of the Blair government, through the launch of something called Britain and Europe. And Britain and Europe, as we all know, wasn't so much a case of Waiting For Godot, it was a case of waiting for Gordon".

Later analysis of the division showed that 22 Conservatives and 7 Labour MPs voted against the bill. Tory Jesse Norman voted for and against the government, regarded as an abstention.

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