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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question as I found what he has just said extremely interesting. Is he suggesting the partial repatriation of the CAP to member states?
Lord Cockfield: My Lords, "partial repatriation" has all kinds of meanings. I am saying that the member states should be reimbursed for only 49 per cent. of the cost. The rest they would have to shoulder themselves. But that would apply to all Community expenditure.
It is important that we are hearing in our debates from people who have expertise within the institutions of the European Union. There have been complaints on a number of occasions that both this House and another place are not sufficiently involved in commenting on policies relating to the Union as a whole. I feel that a debate such as this, even on the limited nature of the legislation before us and the way we can influence it, is very important in providing us with an opportunity to talk about European Union policy more generally and about the implications of the Bill before us.
I was pleased that in opening the debate the noble Baroness the Minister referred to the developments following on from the Edinburgh package and the ensuing Councils of Ministers, particularly in relation to enlargement. We are now able, at the beginning of this new year, to welcome Sweden, Austria and Finland as full members of the Union. I am certain that their social and democratic traditions and their deep concern for the environment will be of benefit to all our debates on these policies within the Union.
The Minister also referred to the hopes and aspirations of central and eastern European states in relation to the Union. The lack of effectiveness of the CSCE, the organisation responsible for co-operation and security in Europe, in dealing with situations of security and stability within nation states in central and eastern Europe can only make the states there look more to the European Union as an area in which they can integrate in terms of security as well as in terms of economic and social policy.
The Minister also referred to the importance of the resources devoted to the CAP within the Union, a matter raised by a number of noble Lords. It is important to emphasise that the more the CAP is shifted away from the system of guaranteeing prices and into diversification, rural development and agri-environmental initiatives, the more that will directly benefit the Community as a whole and avoid the worse excesses of price support fraud. When policies are directly related to spending on end price support they are much more amenable to misuse than they are in the case of funding directly expended on projects related to enterprise, rural diversification or the integration of environmental and agricultural objectives.
In my short contribution I want to refer specifically to the language which is still being used in our European debates. It was used by a number of noble Lords this afternoon. I believe that I heard the Minister refer to the Danes as, "useful anti-federalist and decentralising allies within the Union". She also referred to making subsidiarity a firmer reality. A number of other noble Lords referred to the doctrine of subsidiarity.
In this House I stand as a European federalist and subsidiarist. I believe very firmly that government exists at different levels of co-operation and limited integration. There are certain functions which have to be carried outand probably more effectively as we
Within the rest of the European Union there is a greater understanding that federalism and subsidiarity are two aspects of the same process; that federalism is about powers being located at an international level, at member state, regional and at commune or community and municipality level, within a state. All these levels are interrelated and are all integrated with each other in terms of co-operation.
Our tradition in the United Kingdom is of a unitary state with decentralisation permitted only by the acts of the central state. Therefore, when the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, speaks about the democratic traditions of the United Kingdom I believe that there are a number of lessons which that tradition can learn from the European tradition of decentralism and autonomy. Therefore, in that sense the Prime Minister's stand against the European Union in terms of further integration compares with his similar stand against subsidiarity within the kingdom. It seems to me that the Conservative Party is in great danger of appearing at the next election in the guise of Britishor dare I sayEnglish nationalists. There may be others of that persuasion in other parts of the House. But as far as I am concerned we have to debate our political relations with the European mainland and, indeed, our relations within these islands, in terms of the most effective level of developing and using political powers.
Certain functions are best delivered at a European Union level and certain others are best delivered at the lowest micro-Community level. This Bill is about the European Union level of resources and the fair contribution towards those resources from the United Kingdom, and allowing the European Union to function effectively. The debate on subsidiarity and federalism will not go away. It will come back to haunt this House until we realise that subsidiarity and federalism are indeed synonyms and not antonyms.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, the fact that your Lordships' House cannot amend this Bill, it having been certified by Madam Speaker as a money Bill, does not detract, very much at any rate, from the great value of having this debate. Several of the speeches to which I had the privilege of listening earlier this afternoon have dealt most impressively and effectively with major issues that it is absolutely right to discuss and which can be very well discussed in your Lordships' House. Its influence has never been wholly dependent, or even mainly dependent, on its power to amend legislation: it has depended far more on the fact that your Lordships' House contains people of wide knowledge and experience on major public subjects and its debates have influenced opinion indirectly. In the long term that is far more effective than the right to amend a Bill, send it
On points of substance, I want to come back to the matter which I raised in a Question earlier this afternoon. Our expenditure on behalf of and towards the expenses of the Commission is excessive. It is depressing that at a time when we are restricting public expenditure very firmlyand very painfully in some directions as one or two of your Lordships have pointed out earlier this afternoonthe proposal in this Bill is to increase by up to 9 per cent. the contribution which this country has to pay to the European Commission. It appears that there is no similar attitude of restraint on expenditure in the Commission as there is, mercifully, in the British Government.
The example which I quoted in the Question that I asked a little earlier today is a very illuminating one. No British Governmentand, let me hasten to say, not even a Labour Government, if we ever have onewould conceivably indulge in the complicated folly of the Commission's handling of the tobacco question. To spend £800 million, of which £100 million comes from the British contribution, on producing a commodity which is commonly accepted as harmful and dangerous to health so that the Commission then has to spend a number of millions of pounds in trying to educate people not to use it, is financial lunacy. There is really no justification whatever for that expenditure. The argument is used that one or two of the Community countries, particularly Greece and Spain, cannot produce anything else and therefore if they cannot sell tobacco, they would be unable to provide employment for their people.
I find it very difficult to accept that it is really the case that there are European countries which, if they are forbidden to produce a damaging commodity, will simply make their people unemployed. A country which is organised on that basis is obviously badly run. No doubt the same argument can be adduced as regards growing cannabis. If one were permitted to grow cannabis, I am sure that one could employ quite a large number of people because it would command a very considerable market. But no one has suggested that. Yet if one reads the most recent medical reports, it is increasingly clear that tobacco is probably more damaging to health than cannabis or indeed other drugs which are very properly prohibited.
Therefore I suggest that to ask the British taxpayer to find £100 million a year to finance the growing of tobacco is a really outrageous provision. It is utterly indefensible. I am sorry that the Government have not taken a much firmer line on it.
I should have thought that when discussing what financial contribution should be made by this country, we should look into the use that is to be made of our contribution. If we do look into that, the most obvious source of criticism relates to tobacco subsidies. But that is not the only one: it is well accepted that agricultural
When the net result is an increaseI think that it is of about 9 per cent. in this expenditureit is surely time for public opinion in this country to assert itself and for us to say that we object to being taxed in order to waste money in such a way and, in the case of tobacco, not only to waste that money, but to spend it harmfully. Therefore, I suggest that this House should indicate a very strong view about that increase in public expenditure.
While we are undoubtedly spending more and seeing a greater increase in our expenditure towards the Commission's expensesI have already referred to one or two examples at the same time we are restraining what on the whole is useful expenditure in many cases, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said in our own domestic expenditure. Surely the lesson of this debate and of the Bill is that we still need to go a good deal further in restraining the Commission's expenditure and the demands that are therefore made upon the economy of this country. I hope that that view will gain support in this countryI believe that it willand that we shall insist that if we are to economise at home, as I think that we should, we should also restrain the level of our expenditure in relation to the Commission.
I see no reason why there should be any increase in the financial provisions in this Bill over those in preceding measures. I see no reason why there should be an increase in that expenditure. I very much hope that the Government will adopt a firmer line than in the past in restraining such expenditure and in being concerned to protect British taxpayers not only from being severely mulcted but from having to provide money which is then used for useless purposes.
Lord Moran: My Lords, it is, I think, right that this Bill, which provides for an increased contribution by British taxpayers to the European Community budget, should primarily be a matter for the elected representatives in another place. The Bill has already been considered there with a certain amount of trauma. The Labour Party put down an amendment saying that it was unacceptable,
I have a good deal of sympathy with the thinking behind the Labour amendment, but the trouble is that even if the Government wanted toand the powerful speech by my noble friend Lord Benson in the debate on 31st October cast doubt upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer's effective will to do sothe Government are not able by themselves to reduce fraud and mismanagement in Europe or to reduce the cost of the CAPalthough I welcome what the Minister said about that problem this afternoon.
The huge losses from fraud, largely resulting from the CAP, about which the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, spoke with clarity and force in his thought-provoking speech, were estimated by the Court of Auditors to be some £6 billion or around a tenth of total Community expenditure. They were described in the 1989 report of your Lordships' Select Committee as "a public scandal". The Select Committee has submitted four reports on the problem. The latest, published last July and debated in this House on 31st October, was produced by some very distinguished Members of your Lordships' House who could not by any stretch of the imagination be accused collectively of being prejudiced against Europe. A number of those noble Lords are present this afternoon. The Select Committee concluded that the Community,
The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who speaks as an ex-Commissioner, argued just now that the Court of Auditors and your Lordships' Select Committee have got it all wrong and that it is the member states, not the Commission, which are responsible. On that issue, your Lordships' Select Committee said in paragraph 44 of its report:
I do not begin to be competent to judge who is right, but I am inclined to think that the Select Committee's arguments are persuasive. It argued that the only thing likely to change the present state of affairs would be,
I too was particularly struck by those words. But it results in a situation where our Government, while cutting or holding down so many aspects of our domestic expenditure, like that for the Armed Forces or public service pay, are nevertheless asking Parliament to agree to steadily increasing contributions to the Community to be spent in ways on which Parliament has no say, whether it is a huge subsidy to tobacco growers, about which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, inquired earlier this afternoon and spoke persuasively just now, or money for North Africa and the Middle East as part of a Mediterranean programme. It appears that in 1990-1993 actual spending by the Community increased by 19 per cent. each year, a clear reflection of the spending culture. The Edinburgh European Council, the conclusions of which gave rise to the Bill before us, envisaged increases in the cohesion fund of 73 per cent. by 1999 and of 39 per cent. in the structural fund by the same date.
A fair distribution of the burden of Community expenditure, with which all member states could feel comfortable, would be by far the best recipe for the Community's stable future. But, as we know, the formula for deciding contributions results in a wholly unfair and unreasonable distribution of contributions and receipts, which works out particularly badly for this country. We are the eighth richest country but pay the second largest contribution, making a net payment in 1993, according to the Court of Auditors' report, of £2.4 billion.
The big gainersthe large net recipientsare Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal. There is no chance of them voting for a change in the arrangements. As has already been pointed out today, over and above that we have the costs of the CAP, estimated to cost every British household between £20 and £28 per week. The abatement negotiated at Fontainebleau in 1984 by Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, is an immense benefit to the United Kingdom but it is only a mitigation of a fundamentally unsatisfactory and unsound state of affairs. Since 1973 the United Kingdom's cumulative net contribution amounts to almost £22 billion. Perhaps this is what the Secretary of State for Wales had in mind when he said in a speech on Friday:
This enormous burden on our taxpayers might be acceptable if we obtained solid gains from our membership. But do we? Mr. Lamont said that as a former Chancellor he could not pinpoint a single concrete economic advantage that unambiguously came to this country because of our membership of the European Union. Ministers claim that the tide is flowing
Whatever the value of a seat at the table may be, day after day we read in our newspapers of Britain being humiliated and outvoted, often by 11 to one. Does anyone believe that it is right or reasonable for the huge and largely unsupervised Spanish fishing fleet to be allowed to fish in the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea where fish stocks are already depleted and our own fishermen face increasing difficulties? Yet, as usual, we were voted down.
Compared with the French and Italians, we seem all too often to be singularly unsuccessful negotiators. That is perhaps because we are, not unreasonably, reluctant to resort to blackmail, like the Italians and the Spanish, or to flout the rules. Why is it that the French can illegally subsidise Air France and get away with it? Nineteen times out of 20 we seem to come out of meetings with another failure damaging to British interests.
None of this escapes the British public. That is why they are becoming more and more Euro-sceptic. The three principal parties are increasingly finding that the Euro-enthusiasm embraced hitherto by the leadership of all three is not fully shared by their rank and file in the country. To me, this is the root of the matter. All three political parties have embraced the concept of an ever closer European union, the end result of which, as envisaged by the Maastricht Treaty, must be a single currency and a United States of Europe. They have so far resisted the proposal that the people of this country should be consulted.
However, I believe that in the long run one can govern only by consent and that to press on with the present arrangements, in which this Bill plays its own small part, without the consent of the people of this country, can end only in disaster. So, while welcoming what the Prime Minister is reported to have said in an interview yesterday as far as it wentI continue to believe that any major step towards a United States of Europe, and indeed any major internal constitutional change too, must be put to the people by an honestly worded referendum. Representative government may suit professional politicians but it is manifestly no longer working as a true representation of popular will. If we believe in democracy we must trust and consult the people.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, as regards this topic, we live in an atmosphere of increasing farce. It is difficult to take today's proceedings seriously. We are toldand I am sure that the advice is correctthat we may not amend, still less reject, a Bill that has been certified as a money Bill.
What is the rationale of that limitation on ourselves? It is that matters affecting the public pursethe taxation of the individual citizen to fill the public purseare solely for his elected representatives. The argument is powerful. However, on this occasion we are asked to sanction a payment that has not been asked for or suggested by our elected representatives but has been imposed on this country by the decisions of an institution, or set of institutions, in which Britain has only, and can inevitably have only, a minority voice. Therefore, because we are not representative we may not tax the British people. However, others, who are still less representative because most are not even liege subjects of Her Majesty, may add to the burdens upon our people. That is one element of farce.
I shall be a little more serious and answer one of the arguments put forward by my noble friend the Minister, reiterating what has been heard from other quarters. It is that we are under an obligation to say, "Jolly good thing" because the payment we are considering is one to which the Prime Minister gave his word at the Edinburgh conference and it is not for us to humiliate a British Prime Minister by casting doubt on the validity of his undertaking. The question that I wish to put briefly to your Lordships is whether it was an undertaking he was entitled to give.
I return to the Parliament rolls, which make much more interesting reading than the babble which comes from the Commission in its various documents. They are in Norman French. Since my Norman French is not perfect and many of your Lordships are relatively unacquainted with the language, I shall read the relative extract in English. It relates to a resolution of Parliament in 1366. Your Lordships will remember that at that time the House of Commons did not have a separate existence and, therefore, the resolution was of Lords and Commons sitting together. It states:
In other words, it must be for Parliament originally to decide whether or not money is to be paid abroad. It is not for the ExecutiveKing John in those days, John Major now to pledge the country's credit. I believe that that precedent stands.
Of course, it is arguable that the Treaty of Rome and the Pope of Rome are not identical. It is arguable that King John and John Major are very different people, in spite of their weakness for charters. Nevertheless it seems to me that we have here an important constitutional precedent which is more serious than some of the arguments adduced seem to suggest.
The financial aspects of the Edinburgh conference dealt with what are called own resources. On the face of it, own resources are another absurdity. The Commission has no own resources. What is meant is that the Community has such resources as it raises from the member states. Of course, that is true of national governments. When noble Lords ask for more expenditure on this or that, a Minister is almost certain to say that the Government have no money and that the money would be the taxpayers' money. He will ask, "Do you still wish to see that done?" Therefore, when we talk about own resources, we are being fairly mealy mouthed. We are beginning to say that here is something in the nature of a government.
One could go further. I shall not talk about fraud because I am moving an amendment tomorrow to deal with that aspect. The whole question arises from the fact that the money raised is transferred under the structural fund and the cohesion fund, and also through the CAP, from one country to another and from one country's taxpayers to another country's government or subordinate governments, whichever it may be.
That is perfectly normal within a country, within a nation. We do not ask that there should be a direct correlation between the raising of public funds and its expenditure in each individual county or city. We take it that the British people are one people. There may be some dissent in that regard in Wales, but at the moment the dissenter is not in his place. Generally speaking, we assume that we are one people. That happens in federal governments as well as unitary governments.
Let us take Germany, the most considerable example in Europe of a federal system. We find that its constitution goes into great detail as to the way in which money is both raised and allocated in order to make sure that those Lander, those provinces, which are wealthier and therefore pay more tax, subsidise other provinces which are poorer and pay less. That is regarded as an essential part of the federal system, as it is, indeed, of any federal system.
In principle, I see no difference between saying that the citizens of Baden-Wurttemberg, because they are wealthier, should subsidise the citizens of Schleswig-Holstein or now, in particular, some of the East German Lander, and saying that a country should be treated as a whole and that therefore, we are treating Europe as though it had reached already a federal system. The whole of that argument makes no sense unless it is accepted from the beginning that we are in fact doing what is normally done within a federation.
I have no doubt that there are those on some Benches who would say that that is very good and that we should reach that point as soon as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, and I are in absolute agreement. I am not a Euro-sceptic; I am anti. Although
For more than 30 years, governments have argued that they were resisting moves towards federalism and that they were concerned with a wider, looser and more outward-looking Europe. But they have never been able to convince some of us who follow such matters in detailI have been studying the subject since I worked for the Council of Europe, long before we entered the Communitythat they have fully examined what is implied or that they have explained to the British people what it is they are being asked to do. It seems to me that this small Bill is simply another example of that.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, said that we could do better out of it financially if we were rather betterI shall not use the words he did, which were pejorativeat hard bargaining. Perhaps I may go back to the Member of another place who signed my first passport. That was in the days when we had proper British blue passports, not this burgundy nonsense. I refer to the late Sir Austen Chamberlain. It was said of him that he always played the game and always lost. Our problem is that he has been emulated by too many of his successors.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am sure that we all found the noble Lord's speech to be of great interest and, indeed, to be educative in many senses. The only thing that I would say to the noble Lord is that King John had his Charter thrust upon him, whereas John Major thrust his charters upon us.
Bearing in mind the manner in which this Bill was dealt with in the House of Commons, I believe, despite what some people have said, that it is right and proper that the House of Lords should be able to debate the issues in a calm atmosphere which is free from threats against Conservative supporters. Indeed, that has happened so far. Today's debate has been a very good one. It has been erudite and I believe that all of us have learnt something. Moreover, many of us are contributing to such an important debate. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition on ensuring that the rights of this House are upheld. They have been upheld today. I hope that they will be upheld similarly in the future.
Although the Bill is a money Bill, it raises issues involving the expenditure and control of money as well as the continuing rights of the House of Commons to control supply and its power to refuse to do so, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, just explained to us, without risking dissolution. If the Government were to say to the
Something seems to happen to government Ministers, including the Prime Minister, when dealing with matters European or the European Community. They seem to lose all sense of reality. Indeed, some sort of madness seems to overcome them which drives them to take actions and to make statements that, in a normal domestic sense, they would not dream of taking or making. How on earth can we explain, other than as an attack of madness, a government which put their own continuance and the continuance of the Conservative Party at risk for what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says is a small sumnamely, £75 million in 1995-96, rising to no more £250 million by the end of the century?
However, the Government went even further and deprived themselves of a majority in the House of Commons by carrying out their threat of expelling those Conservatives who failed to support them in the Lobbies. Thus, like any dictatorship, Her Majesty's Government threatened properly elected MPs with political death. Let us make no mistake about it: that is what it was. If there had been a dissolution of Parliament, most Tory MPs would have been defeated. That would have been political death. Further, having threatened them, they carried out the sentence immediately without any right of appeal. It was summary execution, so to speak.
We now seem to be in a position where, if the Crown says that it has committed money without parliamentary approval to an international or regional body, then Parliament must raise taxation to cover it or be dissolved. If that is not loss of parliamentary sovereignty, I do not know what is.
I really wonder whether the Government know exactly what is going on over the EC. The Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, whom I likeand, indeed, whom the whole House lovestalked about Edinburgh. She said that Edinburgh was about a package, including subsidiarity. In that connection, I was particularly struck by a Question asked in the House of Commons on 16th December 1994 by Mr. Llew Smith:
Yet, we hear Ministers talking about subsidiarity. That really says it all, does it not? Under subsidiarity, how on earth can we get powers back that we have lost if the Government do not know what powers they have lost
I feel sure that the education service, the NHS or community care would love to have that small net cost of £75 million, rising to £250 million, added to their overstretched budgets. But, however much the sum is, it will simply be a further chunk of British taxpayers' money poured down the bottomless pit of the CAP community fraud and spent on extravagant and unnecessary projects in certain EC countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, said that the Euro-sceptics were exploiting waste and fraud. I always thought that it was the mafia and criminals who were exploiting waste and fraud and that we were all, whether Euro-fanatics or Euro-sceptics, on the same side in wanting to do away with fraud as far as possible throughout the Community. I hope that the noble Lord will think about that and that he will not accuse people who are a little sceptical about Europe of exploiting European issues, and issues of import, to make their arguments. They do not need that sort of thing. Those arguments are with us anyway. I see that the noble Lord wishes to respond. I give way.
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