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House of Lords

Wednesday, 22nd February 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill

Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Smith, having been created Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill, of Gilmorehill in the District of the City of Glasgow, for life—Was, in her robes, introduced between the Lord McCluskey and the Lord Richard.

European Treaties: Mode of Publication

2.48 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether and, if so, on what date they propose to publish and make available their official version of the Treaty of Rome as amended by the Treaty of Maastricht properly consolidated.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, in line with normal practice we published the Maastricht Treaty as a Command Paper both following its signature by the UK and following its entry into force. But we have no plans to publish a text of the Treaty of Rome as amended by the Maastricht Treaty. Such a text is published by the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities and is available from HMSO.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that quite extraordinary reply. I have, of course, obtained a copy of the document to which she refers from which I observe that economic and monetary union is already in operation because the document is priced at 24 ecus which, at the current rate of exchange of 1.248 ecus to the pound, amounts to £18.91. Is it not a fact that the Government really are seeking to avoid making public that publication which relates to something they carried out with the passing of the Single European Act, which was consolidated with the Treaty of Rome, because they wish to avoid argument and legislation in this place? Is the Minister aware that many of us would propose to make amendments to some of the provisions of the consolidated treaty, and that it is most difficult procedurally to move amendments to a European document and to adopt its pagination and paragraphing? Will the Minister kindly explain why that extraordinary

22 Feb 1995 : Column 1112

decision was made, and will she seek to persuade her colleagues to conform in future to normal parliamentary practice?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I have always had a little sympathy with the noble Lord when he seeks to avoid unnecessary cost. Since the cost of such a publication could be well into five figures, I am not sure that to publish—just for the sake of publishing—the same text which I have here, perfectly easily contained in a handbag-size edition, is necessarily a good use of resources. I have never known the noble Lord to be lost when comparing texts, but I shall look at what he has said because he sometimes has good ideas.

Lord Peston: My Lords, between my noble friend and the Minister, I hope that I may be forgiven for being totally bewildered by whatever we are talking about. Can the Minister at least tell me whether the handout document is the official version, and whether "handout" means "handout"—

Noble Lords: Handbag!

Lord Peston: —and if so, can I have one please?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am quite certain that a noble Lord from the Opposition Front Bench would be able to get a copy at no cost to himself and keep it wherever he wants—in his pocket or his handbag. The texts would be the same, but I understand the point that is made, namely, that some cross-comparisons can be difficult. That is why I said that I would be prepared to consult with my colleagues on the matter.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, quite apart from the fact that there is enough paper flowing through this place as it is, does my noble friend agree that it would make a nice change if all of us were to concentrate for a while on the reasons which first led us to go into Europe and the reasons why we should stay there?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very important point. It is also important that we look at our future in Europe and ensure that we have a good basis for future co-operation, which is based not on theory, but on our good practice.

Lord Cockfield: My Lords, does my noble friend's statement mean that the document is now available in the Printed Paper Office because its predecessors never were? The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, has a sound point, although he perhaps does not make it with the clarity that might be desired.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, will be extremely grateful to my noble friend. I know that some HMSO publications have to be applied for through the PPO. This may be one such. If that is the case, I am sure that the office will take note and have some copies in reserve for noble Lords who wish to obtain them.

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon, My Lords, will the Government consider publishing the treaty in a form that everyone can understand? Is it not necessary for people in this country to know how our basic constitution has been undermined; how Parliament has ceased to be able to legislate over a wide and ever increasing range of matters; and how the House has ceased to be the highest court in the land and is now subordinate to another court sitting in a foreign capital? Finally, people will understand that we have apparently even lost the right to say who shall, and who shall not, enter this country.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I have listened with great care to the noble Lord for nearly three years in this House and for many years previously in another place. I do not believe that any further publication, or non-publication, would do anything to help his prejudices. Treaties must be in proper treaty language so that they are beyond legal doubt. What he said in the second or third part of his question is way outside the scope of the Question.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Maastricht Treaty is now quoted as being more authoritative than the original Treaty of Rome? If that is to continue to be the case, is it right that there should be two separate documents with neither showing how the other is amended as a consequence?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is not a question of being more authoritative; it is surely that it is more up to date. However, I note that some noble Lords, including my noble friend, may have a difficulty with these documents, which is why I answered the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, as I did in the first place.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is in fact only one version of the Treaty of Rome which demonstrates clearly our relentless drift towards federal union, and that is The Maastricht Treaty in Perspective as published by the British Data Management Foundation? I say that because it is the only document which sets out separately the original Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. Does my noble friend therefore agree that it might be very helpful for all Members of your Lordships' House who have not yet indulged in the pleasure of reading the Treaty of Rome if that document were available in the PPO? Will she also invite Ministers of the Crown, who, I deduce from a Written Question I tabled recently, may not yet have read the Treaty of Rome, to consult the version I have commended to your Lordships?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey My Lords, the one thing I shall never do is to add, in what I regard as an unnecessary way, to the costs of government. At the same time, I shall always fight for openness. That is why requests for the release of documents are considered so carefully. I do not believe that there is any need for the publication that my noble friend quotes.

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Falkland Islands: Oil and Gas Exploration

2.58 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are assisting the Administration of the Falkland Islands to benefit from plans to explore for oil and gas in the adjoining seas and from the production of any hydrocarbons that may result.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are in close contact with the Falkland Islands Government to provide advice on legislating for and running an exploration regime for hydrocarbons so that the Falkland Islands Government can benefit from any exploration and subsequent production while ensuring that the area remains attractive to potential investors.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reassuring and welcome reply. As there may be valuable reserves of oil and gas, although in deep water requiring expensive exploration, does she agree that the Falkland Islands and neighbouring countries could benefit if the necessary arrangements could be agreed with sensitivity?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that arrangements will be made with sensitivity. If oil is found in that area it should be of considerable benefit not just to the Falkland Islands but to their neighbours. I take the point that my noble friend makes.

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