Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Inglewood: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Cannes Summit

4.2 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the European Council in Cannes. The Statement is as follows:

28 Jun 1995 : Column 770

28 Jun 1995 : Column 771

    "At Cannes, the Commission was instructed to complete its two-year review of subsidiarity applied to existing legislation in time for consideration at Madrid in December.

    "The prospect of further enlargement was highlighted by the meeting yesterday between the 15 members of the Council and the Heads of Government of 11 prospective member states. They will benefit from the programmes agreed for help to central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

    "The Council decided that the next European Development Fund would provide 13.3 billion ecu, or about £11 billion, to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

    "The United Kingdom also provides high quality bilateral aid to many of these countries. I want to ensure that multilateral contributions do not swallow up our bilateral aid.

    "Our contribution to the eighth European Development Fund—worth 1.63 billion ecu, or about £1.35 billion, over five years from the year 2000—will be very substantial. But we are taking a smaller share than under the seventh European Development Fund, and as a result placing less pressure on our bilateral programme.

    "On the former Yugoslavia, the new European Union mediator, Mr. Carl Bildt, reported on his first visit to the region. We asked him to concentrate urgently on ways of reopening talks with all the parties on the basis of the Contact Group plan, and to continue efforts to secure recognition of Bosnia by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

    "During the Council my right honourable friend and I met the Irish Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for bilateral talks. We commissioned a joint report on how the paramilitaries could decommission weapons and explosives. The Taoiseach and I will discuss this report in due course.

    "We can take considerable satisfaction in this summit. On economic issues, in the fight against cross-border crime, on Community fraud, in the emphasis on enlargement, in the sensible balance reached in the allocation of external funds, and in the support given to Mr. Bildt's diplomatic efforts over Bosnia, the Council has followed courses which we advocated. On other areas of vital national interest we have influenced the debate while retaining our own rights of decision.

    "I would not pretend these results were invariably easy to secure. But, as this Council again showed, the debate within Europe has evolved significantly in our direction over recent years. I am confident we can carry this evolution a great deal further by robust advocacy, by patient negotiations, and by standing by our belief in a common-sense Europe.

    "I have made clear that I believe that the way forward for Europe is as a Europe of nation states built upon co-operation. Key decisions affecting this nation must be taken in this House.

28 Jun 1995 : Column 772

    "My guiding principle is to do what I believe is in our national interest: to argue for Britain's interests in Europe and to build a Europe which carries the trust of the British people. That I will continue to do.

    "I should like to add one further point. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has devoted 43 years to unbroken public service—as a diplomat, a politician and a Minister. This was the 16th European Council he has attended as Foreign Secretary. His huge contribution to foreign policy co-ordination between European governments was recognised at the summit in a moving tribute by his colleagues. His contribution to our relations outside Europe has been equally important. At this summit, as throughout the past five-and-a-half years, his deep knowledge and calm authority have earned great credit for this country. My right honourable friend has justly earned respect on all sides of the House, and I believe that we owe him our thanks".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating in this House the Statement made by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place.

I should like to begin with the last point that he made. I too would like to pay some tribute to his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. He has been a distinguished public servant for years. He has represented this country in many fora. He has had to advocate many policies. I have always felt that he was rather more of a diplomat than a politician, which having regard to this Government's record is perhaps a not inconsiderable compliment from this side of the House. He has done his duty extremely well. We have not agreed with him on every occasion, but we respect him for his abilities.

What are we to make of this summit? Yet again I have a complaint to make at the outset. I beg noble Lords who are interested in these matters to read the presidency conclusions and not merely to read the gloss put upon them by one of the participants. That is especially important when that participant is a candidate for the leadership of his party and his Statement is perhaps more of a personal manifesto than an accurate reflection of what went on at the summit over the weekend. I shall quote two paragraphs from the conclusions in a moment to see whether the House agrees with me.

The summit itself was a rather inconsequential, not to say boring one. It resulted in a somewhat impenetrable and lengthy communiqué, a great deal of which deals with the relations between the European Union and the Mediterranean. Perhaps the most significant practical result was the agreement reached in the margins with the Irish Government over the decommissioning of IRA arms. For that we are extremely grateful.

I am interested to see that the Prime Minister has so far managed to avoid the fate suffered by his predecessor when she attended a summit in France. She lasted two days after her return; he has at least until next Tuesday.

The Prime Minister is fortunate in his colleagues in Europe. They showed forbearance and understanding. It is somewhat shaming that they felt that he needed it. For

28 Jun 1995 : Column 773

Britain to be represented at a European summit by a Prime Minister who had voluntarily placed his position at risk and by a Foreign Secretary who had just resigned meant that our voice was hardly at its strongest and our contributions were hardly the most effective.

I want to put three specific questions to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. First, will he confirm that after the reductions in our contribution to the EDF the contribution of Germany will be somewhere in the region of 3 billion ecu, that of France 3.12 billion ecu, of Italy 1.6 billion ecu and the United Kingdom 1.6 billion ecu? In other words, from being one of the major contributors, our contribution has fallen in comparison with that of Germany and France.

Secondly, in relation to the Rapid Reaction Force, for which the summit expressed support, I ask the Leader of the House what exactly its role will be. How is it envisaged that it will be used, against whom, for what purposes, in what circumstances and, most important, who will give it its orders? We have asked for answers to those questions before but we have not had them.

Thirdly, I wish to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a specific question on the communiqué. I hope that he has a copy. Page 7 of the communiqué, subscribed to by the Prime Minister at the summit, reads thus:

    "The European Council [of which he is a member] restates its firm resolve to prepare the transition to the single currency by 1 January 1999 at the latest in strict accordance with the convergence criteria, timetable, protocols and procedures laid down in the Treaty".

Later, in another paragraph, which the Prime Minister accepted, it states:

    "the European Council would like work on preparing for introduction of the single currency to continue unabated ... It requests the Council to define, in consultation with [the Commission and the European Monetary Institute] ... a reference scenario guaranteeing full compliance with the Treaty, this being a precondition for the irreversibility necessary at the start of the third stage, with a view to reporting back to the Madrid European Council".

Later it

    "calls on the Council to continue with all the necessary discussions and to report back to its Madrid meeting so that it can decide on a scenario for introducing the single currency".

Is it the policy of the Government, and is it the policy of Mr. Major as a candidate for the leadership of his party, that he has a firm resolve to prepare for transition to the single currency by 1st January 1999? We are entitled to ask that question. We are entitled to have a clear answer from the Government as to what their position is.

Finally, I say this to the other side of the House. For Heaven's sake, get your election over quickly. The present state of limbo and transition is doing the country absolutely no good whatever. I speak as one who is as patriotic as any other Member of this House, but I have to say that the spectacle that we saw at the summit over the weekend was frankly demeaning for a power like Great Britain.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page