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Lord Henley: My Lords, obviously I would dismiss the idea if it were put forward by the noble Lord. There are, in fact, two papers published by ISIS. I have read the article to which I presume the noble Lord refers, which sets out three options. As the noble Lord quite rightly points out, the first of those options is very much the option which Her Majesty's Government pursue. For the reasons that I gave in my original Answer, we shall continue to pursue that option.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it might assist the House to put the Question into perspective if it knew that the ISIS organisation does not put forward proposals, but that those who write for it express their own private views? The private views on the subject of nuclear weapons of those who wrote these papers are fairly well known. Finally, the project is funded by an American organisation called the Ploughshares Fund, USA, the name of which I think sufficiently indicates its ideology.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I greatly welcome the noble Lord's very well informed contribution to the debate. As I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, the first of the options put forward is in fact the option that Her Majesty's Government pursue and will continue to pursue.
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is important to consider carefully the source of unsolicited briefing on defence matters? In the old days almost all briefing came, directly or indirectly, from the Russians. Then the CIA caught up and one had to watch that aspect, too. It so happens that I have read the article and investigated the background of ISIS. I find it completely honourable. I even looked at the grants given by the Ploughshares Fund, USA organisation and
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not sure that I can add much in answering the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, other than to repeat what I said in my original Answer: that we welcome all contributions to the debate.
Viscount Caldecote: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the British nuclear deterrent could be abolished in the twinkling of an eye, but that it would take 10 years or more to re-establish it, during which time world circumstances might change radically? Is it not sensible, therefore, to continue the nuclear deterrent at least for the time being?
Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. The nuclear deterrent has contributed a great deal to our security over the years. We are committed to securing an unconditional, indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, it would be naive to think that one could "disinvent" the nuclear deterrent overnight. Similarly, it would be unwise to remove our own nuclear deterrent unilaterally in the way that some suggest.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I support wholeheartedly what the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said about ISIS? It is a non-party organisation entirely devoted to informing your Lordships and Members of Parliament on questions of the day. It does not pretend to be a lobbying organisation.
Furthermore, perhaps I may support the views of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, on the Ploughshares Fund, USA. It is a charity which has been set up for certain purposes. I shall not read out the grants that have been given, but refer to King's College Centre for Defence Studies, and so on. Perhaps we may take it that it is not a pressure group in that sense.
Coming back to the Question, will the noble Lord confirm that there are three options? Will he confirm, too, that the Government are taking into consideration the three options rather than simply sticking to the line that they have announced time and again? Is there no flexibility in the Government's view?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord asked a number of questions. I can only say that I note what he put forward in the form of questions. I note, too, his introductory comments regarding the three different options. I made my response quite clear in answer to his noble friend Lord Jenkins. There were three options. The Government welcome the fact that the first is the option which Her Majesty's Government continue to pursue. We shall consider other options as we welcome debate in these matters; but we do not believe that those options are as worthy of consideration as the first option.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I believe that if anyone should consider opening his mind it is the noble Lord opposite. Her Majesty's Government have listened to the noble Lord on this subject for a great many years. Many of my colleagues have answered the noble Lord's questions. I do not believe that there is much more that we can add.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, some institutional questions, such as the number of commissioners and the arrangements for qualified majority voting, are already on the agenda for next year's IGC. Other items may be added.
As the President of the Commission has already instructed the member states of the Intergovernmental Conference about the conclusions to which the Commission requires them to come, does the noble Lord agree that perhaps the time has arrived when the member states themselves ought to consider the position of the Commission? Instead of the Commission being the master over the whole process, it might be well worth while for the Council to assert its authority and for the Commission to become its servant rather than its master.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the European Commission is not in a position to give instructions to the Council of Ministers. It is the Council of Ministers that takes decisions in the European Union. Under Article N of the Maastricht Treaty it is quite clear that the government of any member state or the Commission
The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, as regards what the noble Lord said, by what authority does the Commission have the audacity, without the consent of the Council of Ministers, to address itself in provocative terms to the sovereign nation of Canada?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, later today my noble friend Lord Howe will answer a Question on the matter and it will be more to your Lordships' benefit to address that question to him. There will then be a great deal more time in which the matter can be widely canvassed.
Lord Richard: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the history of the past 20 years in Europe might have been better had the relationship between the Commission and the member states been more along the lines indicated by my noble friend Lord Bruce? The idea that the Commission is the master of the Council of Ministers is a travesty to anyone who knows anything about the way in which it operates.
Leaving aside whether the Commission is master or servant, will the Government confirm that they do not see the Intergovernmental Conference as a kind of constitutional convention drafting a framework for future European co-operation, but rather they see itat least I thought they didas an opportunity for assessing the effects of Maastricht so far and of pointing out some of the difficulties which might arise in the relatively near future?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, described in general terms the Government's view about the IGC. After all, the Maastricht Treaty has only been working for about a year. These are early days and we must give the treaty time to bed down. We wish to see a thorough examination of the detail of how matters are working and where we can produce suggestions for improvement so that they work better not only for ourselves but for other member states. That is the approach that we shall adopt.
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