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Lord Beloff: My Lords, one can hardly open a newspaper nowadays without seeing an advertisement from the Nolan Commission on standards in public life inviting one to suggest evidence. At this late hour, when people's ears have been assailed from various quarters by good and bad news and views, I thought that I might as well use the occasion to give my evidence, as it were, in public. It seems to me that if one looked for a measure of standards in public life the most important would be truthfulness. Everything pales beside the necessity for those in public life to tell the truth as they see it. By this standard the Nolan Commission will have a task well outside the petty peccadilloes which led to its being set up.
It is my view--I do not think noble Lords who have heard me before will be surprised--that the two principal political parties in this country and the successive governments they have manned for the past quarter of a century have engaged, I am not sure whether wholly consciously, in misleading the British electorate--Parliament and, through Parliament, the electorate--as to the nature of what has been going on in continental Europe. They have constantly reiterated, ever since they brought this country into what we used to call the Common Market, the fact that there is a British view as to the way in which Europe might be organised in peace both politically and economically; that this view was prevailing, and would prevail; and that we could dismiss from our minds any alternative.
So we were told from the very beginning that the common agricultural policy, which was regarded as inimical to our interests and those of the third world, would undoubtedly be revised. Twenty-five years on the common agricultural policy is still with us, still distorts the patterns of production and consumption of foodstuffs and, as we have been reminded, still gives unparalleled opportunities for fraud. We have been told equally that there was of course some democratic deficit and that there was too little popular parliamentary control but that all of that would be put right by the European Parliament when we agreed to direct elections to that assembly.
I should not like to upset my noble friend Lady Rawlings, whose maiden speech--as indeed in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Blaker--we listened to with rapt attention and admiration, but I must point out that she is making a delicate transition from a simulacrum of a parliament to a real parliament and I hope that she comes to enjoy her new role.
From time to time one thinks about the European Parliament. The report of the Court of Auditors has been referred to several times in the course of this debate. It was actually presented to the European Parliament by its author. Those of us who saw the clip on television news will have realised that practically no one was
When I think of the European Parliament, it reminds me chiefly of that body of people who occupied our thoughts a great deal during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill in the last Session. I believe that they are known as New Age travellers. There they are, this shabby caravan, going from Brussels to Luxembourg, from Luxembourg to Strasbourg, from Strasbourg back to Luxembourg, back to Brussels, and of course at the same time receiving sustenance from the public purse, I hasten to say, on a more lavish scale than the DSS provides for the unfortunate New Age travellers. Why do they do that? We all know why, just as we know why totally unnecessary and lavish new buildings are being put up for them. It is part of the continual bargains which the Government of France extracts from the European communities.
My complaint about Her Majesty's Government, and indeed about their predecessors under the noble Lords, Lord Wilson and Lord Callaghan, is that they are not very good at extracting what Britain requires because they have not learnt the art of diplomacy in this new environment. But that is perhaps a secondary matter.
Much more important is the consistent denial that what has been happening has been the absorption of the United Kingdom as the junior province in a federal government. I know that the Minister and I do not agree on this subject. If the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, had had the advantage of attending the classes on federalism that I taught for many years in the University of Oxford in company with the late authority on that subject, Sir Kenneth Wheare, she would know that there is only one definition of "federalism", and it is a definition which the European communities in part fulfilled from the very beginning and which they intend to fulfil totally after the intergovernmental conference in 1996.
It is not that anything has been concealed from Her Majesty's Government. Other politicians from other countries in the Community are totally open about their aims. Indeed, some of them are open in English. After all, Mr. Flynn, the Commissioner who deals with social matters and the Social Chapter, is an Irishman and speaks quite passable English. He has repeatedly said in public and aloud that it does not matter whether Britain has an opt-out because there is no regulation which the Commission may wish to pass--quite apart from the Social Chapter--for which it could not find some article in the treaties to give it those powers, and it has every intention of proceeding along those lines.
Even more important, since, after all, although it gets a good deal out of the communities, Ireland does not put much into them--that is natural enough because it is a small and poor country which is without any government at the moment--is the position of Germany. It has been translated into English--my German is not all that good--but I do not know whether Ministers have
So, one asks oneself: what is it about our Ministers that make them convinced that they are bringing the Union round to their point of view when everyone else who speaks on these matters takes a different view? Surely it cannot be that those of us who know that all this is going on are unique. There is something within Whitehall which seems to obstruct the communication of information from outside, particularly from foreigners. Having heard the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Bridges and Lord Wright of Richmond, we know where the obstacle lies. The Foreign Office has been taken over by the advocates of appeasement to a much greater extent than in the 1930s. By "appeasement" I refer to the view that Britain has no possibility of exerting an independent role in the world; that its role will be confined to being a good little boy in Europe, and the wider issues of the economy, upon which I shall not touch, but which the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth---
Lord Bridges: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I find his use of the word "appeasement" a little excessive, particularly in the context in which he used it. If we have made errors of judgment, we have done so honestly. We are not appeasers.
Lord Beloff: I am sorry. In that case, there is another difference of opinion about the English language in the House which we shall have to argue on another occasion. "Appeasement" was used in the 1920s by those who wished to achieve a peaceful settlement at the time of Locarno, for instance. It is an honourable word. It means that you think that you cannot resist some external force which is too great and therefore you recommend getting the best deal possible.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Let me say to him here and now--I hope that I do not have to repeat this in a future debate--that policy in the Foreign Office is made by the Foreign Secretary and his Ministers. There is no question of appeasement; there is no question of a united states of Europe; there is a will by the British Government to work with our partners in Europe; to correct what is wrong in the European Union--my noble friend will know that I have never shrunk from saying that--and to try to pursue a European policy that will protect Europe in the future, including bringing membership to the countries of Eastern Europe in a way that we have been unable to do before. That has nothing to do with appeasement; it has everything to do with good common sense and being good Europeans.
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