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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

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Caroline Flint, a fast reader

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 31 March 2009 at 09:42 pm
This morning Iain Dale, the Conservative blogger, reproduced a handout from Mark Francois, the shadow Europe minister, which claimed that Caroline Flint, the actual Europe minister, said she had not read the Lisbon Treaty. 

That is not quite what she said yesterday in the European Standing Committee, if we check the minutes, but it's a reasonable paraphrase: 

Mr Francois: Given that the treaty is integral to the documents we are debating this afternoon, I am a little surprised at the continuing vagueness of the Minister’s answer. This is a really simple question: has the Minister read the elements of the Lisbon treaty that relate to defence?

Caroline Flint: I have read some of it but not all of it.

Mr Francois: What!

Caroline Flint: I have been briefed on some of it.

Mr Francois: That is an extraordinary answer. The Minister for Europe has not read all of the Lisbon treaty. That is an absolutely extraordinary revelation. It is a bit like the Irish Prime Minister saying that he had not read it before the referendum.

Today, in Foreign Office Questions, Francois returned to the scene of his triumph, only to discover that the enemy had seen him coming:

Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): Can the Minister for Europe redeem herself from yesterday’s incredible admission that she has not read the Lisbon treaty, and so does not know what Europe has to offer, by assuring us that the Government will work hard in the negotiations to protect the UK opt-out on the working time directive, which has as critical an effect on environmental employees as it does on many others across this country?

Caroline Flint: Yesterday, the hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had read the elements of the Lisbon treaty that relate to defence. I answered honestly that I had read some, but not all, of it, but I have now done so.