Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am very grateful for the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the generality of what was achieved at Essen. The noble Baroness said that dullness could be a good thing. If she means by that what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, identified as a workmanlike performance building on what has already been achieved, I agree with her. These are matters of considerable importance. It is as well that we make sure that we have foundations in place before erecting substantial structures above the ground which, if built on poor foundations, might all too easily collapse. Therefore, I take what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness said as general approval for what may be seen as a somewhat dull performance.

However, I take a somewhat different view from the noble Lord, Lord Richard, with the greatest reluctance, in relation to the contrast which he affected to draw between the communiqué and the Statement which I have just read out. It is worth pointing out to the noble Lord that virtually all of the themes which only three or fours years ago were seen as purely British preoccupations now appear, from what was agreed at Essen, to be in the very mainstream of European thinking or, to coin a phrase, at the heart of Europe—liberalisation; freeing up markets; reforming welfare systems; and above all (and I say this with the greatest respect to the noble Lord) reducing the cost of jobs.

Essen fully recognised that fighting unemployment means making labour markets work effectively. Indeed, the Council called for more work in areas such as improved vocational education. Even though the noble Lord, Lord Richard, did not recognise that, I am extremely grateful for the kind remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on the subject. It is a matter to which I referred during the course of the debate on the humble Address a few days ago.

As regards Northern Ireland, I am delighted that both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness welcomed the promise of money. I am able to give the noble Lord the reassurance he seeks. The funding agreed will be genuinely additional money from Community funds and genuinely additional money in terms of Government

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1106

spending. It is in addition to current government budgets for Northern Ireland. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

So far as concerns the noble Lord's remarks about the Baltic states, I believe that we can conclude from the proceedings at Essen that the Baltic states have taken a step on the road towards membership. Both he and the noble Baroness referred to the importance of looking at the Union's institutional arrangements in the light of the substantial increase in the number of members which the negotiations foresee. Those are not only the three members from EFTA but also a possible six members from Central and Eastern Europe. If the Baltic states are to join those countries in the Union, clearly the dangers to which the noble Baroness drew attention should be at the forefront of our minds. I certainly do not dissent when she makes that point.

There was an expectation, which in the event was not realised, that Bosnia might easily elbow out all other matters, however important, during the course of the Essen conversations. That did not happen, and that was right. Nevertheless, Bosnia occupied a great deal of attention, and rightly so. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked whether pressure on the Serbs—both the Belgrade Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs—would be kept up. The answer is clearly yes. The noble Lord will be aware that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his French opposite number, M. Juppé, have been at the forefront of the pressure on Mr. Milosevic. Indeed, in the Statement which she repeated in your Lordships' House last week, my noble friend Lady Chalker drew attention to a glimpse of hope from the delegation of Bosnian Serbs from their so-called capital, Pale. That gave some hope that cracks are beginning to appear there. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to pin too much hope on those developments.

We should remember what the UNPROFOR forces were sent to Bosnia to achieve. Initially their only objective was to deliver humanitarian aid. I certainly welcome the remarks of the noble Baroness drawing attention to the remarkable job which the UNPROFOR forces have achieved in delivering aid, and, as she so rightly said, saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the process. However, I believe that your Lordships would wish me to underline the fact that the safety of our own troops is nevertheless paramount. If it becomes impossible for us to continue to carry out the task which the United Nations has given the UNPROFOR forces, then it will be up to those providing those forces to decide whether they can continue to do that job. At the moment the judgment is that the job is still doable, or substantially so, and we are all too aware of the possible consequences of withdrawal. However, I can assure your Lordships that contingency plans are in place in case withdrawal becomes necessary.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned fraud. All I add to what she said is that this conference has been a considerable breakthrough from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government. It is a question in which I know that many Members of your Lordships' House—I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, sitting in his place—have taken a considerable interest and, if I may say so, rightly too.

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1107

The noble Baroness asked me what specific initiatives the United Kingdom managed to secure. I put the issue in that way quite deliberately in view of our own position on the matter.

We have seen several United Kingdom initiatives coming to fruition. In particular, the Essen conference called on the Court of Auditors fully to exercise powers that we ensured were put in place at Maastricht. It also called for the anti-fraud proposal on criminal aspects of fraud to be agreed by June next year. We secured all our objectives; and I can assure your Lordships that there will be no retreat in this battle. I am delighted to say that everyone at Essen was committed to ensuring that full use was made of the Treaty provisions. I believe that your Lordships will ensure that I and my noble friend will keep your Lordships fully informed on this important matter in the weeks and months to come.

The only other matter on which I wish to comment, with your Lordships' permission, is that of subsidiarity, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I am well aware that federalism can mean different things to different nations, in particular in western Europe. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that we have taken a substantial step towards achieving a high degree of unanimity in the course of the Essen conversations for our own objective for a co-operative Europe of nations rather than the united states of Europe, which so many of us in this country have feared for so long.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, it seems clear from the Statement that the meeting was a considerable achievement, not to say triumph, by our own Prime Minister, who seems to have achieved a good many important national objectives. I know that my noble friend will understand when I say that to many of us the fact that the Prime Minister has had that success is a very cheering and encouraging factor on which we would wish, very respectfully, to express our congratulations to him and to the Government.

I have only a few brief questions to ask. First, is it not a matter of great congratulation that £240 million has been obtained to help the position in Northern Ireland? That is a considerable achievement and will do a great deal of good.

My noble friend was less precise regarding new members of the Community. Apart from the three which are now definitely joining, and Norway which we hope will do so sooner or later, what are the other states under consideration? He referred, I believe, to half a dozen. It would be interesting to know what are those states, obviously without my noble friend committing himself. That seems to me fairly important.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, sought to rebuke my noble friend, for not referring to M. Delors. As M. Delors is going, it is probably tactful not to say what one thinks of him. I think that on this subject silence is golden.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for what he said, in particular for reminding me that I did not respond to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about M. Delors. I believe that we can all agree with the noble Lord that M. Delors has shown consistency, single-mindedness and determination

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1108

during the tenure of his presidency, and that M. Delors is a Christian gentleman. We have had our differences with him in the way in which we saw the European Community developing, but we certainly wish him well in what appears to be a well-earned retirement—that is, if he does not change his mind.

I should like to point out that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister signed the communiqué to which the noble Lord referred. Since the noble Lord will have read the communiqué, he will know that all the European Union leaders subscribed to the thanks which the communiqué expressed to M. Delors for his year as President of the Commission.

I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for his analysis of the achievements of our right honourable friend. For reasons best known to the yellow press, my right honourable friend has had something of a difficult time in public prints lately. I only hope that they will give honour where honour is due. My right honourable friend's very remarkable capacity to negotiate under the most difficult conditions has been evidenced time and again during his premiership, whether in Northern Ireland, Maastricht or in other European fora. It is entirely appropriate for my noble friend and myself to pay tribute to that skill and perhaps to speculate that another Prime Minister would not have brought home the bacon in quite the same way. My noble friend is perfectly right: in particular the Northern Ireland financing is a considerable achievement.

My noble friend asked what other states are in view. There are the six associate members known as the CEE. That is, the Visegrad Four, plus Bulgaria and Romania. On top of that, there is discussion for Malta and Cyprus to be part of the next round of negotiations. I understand that that status, which was agreed at the Corfu Summit, was confirmed. I hope that that answers my noble friend.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page