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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for what he said and for his recognition of the selflessness with which my right honourable friend has ensured that his primary task at Cannes, as always, is to try to make sure that he represented what he saw as the real interests of our country.
Lord Desai: My Lords, will the noble Viscount clarify a point about the single currency issue? It was reported in the newspapers that the proposal President Chirac made of having a committee of wise men was rejected. Reference was made to the European Commission itself. There is a point that may be missed in this respect and that is the tie-in between the completion of the single market and the establishment of a single currency. Although people have linked the two they have not made quite sure that all the subsidies in various industries are uniformly eliminated across Europe. Until that happens any single currency experiment would pose dangers. Was that point pushed by any party at the summit?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, as usual the noble Lord, Lord Desai, always asks the most difficult and reasonable questions. I have to admit to the noble Lord that I was not at Cannes myself. I had one or two other things on my mind at the time. However, I have seen nothing in the papers that I have read or any account from any of the officials or Ministers who were there to show that the specific point was raised. However, we are well seized, as he is, of the validity of the point that he makes. If I may make a general point, it is clear that the benefits of a single market are considerable for this country, whether we have a single currency or not. The noble Lord with his academic qualifications, which sadly I lack, will be more aware than I that it is not only tariff barriers and fiscal barriers but non-tariff barriers, some of them of an extreme sophistication, which will inhibit the single market. My right honourable friend is heavily seized of the importance of this and the importance of reducing them. He will, I think, continue to do everything he can to meet the desires of the noble Lord.
Viscount Cranborne: No, my Lords, I do not think it necessarily would. After all, the fastest area of growth or destination for exports of this country is outside the European Union. It is perfectly plain that the dramatic growth we are seeing, for instance, in the markets of south east Asia and the Far East, makes them extremely lucrative and successful destinations for British exports. There is no prospect whatever of our unifying the pound sterling with the yen or the renminbi. I would suggest that that will not inhibit the success of British exporters in the future any more than it has done in the past 12 months where our success has been dramatic and a direct consequence of the liberalisation and the supply side reforms that this Government have carried out over the past 16 years.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, did France specifically make up a part of the UK shortfall in EDF contributions, thereby making future payments by the fund more in favour of Francophone countries? Does the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal agree that the United Kingdom's long-term interests, from support in the United Nations to other long-term issues, are being eroded by not supporting more fully ACP multilateral development issues?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, it was not just France but also Germany and other countries. I should emphasise that the United Kingdom remains fully committed to ACP development and the overall value of our aid, bilateral and multilateral, remains the same.
Lord Gridley: My Lords, in all humility I support my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal this evening in what he has said. I consider that there was much more that was of greater importance than just the question of how we might have governed during these past few months, or even years. There is a question of honour and of how this country behaves when under certain difficulties. That issue arises in this case. What has fortified me over the whole of my life has been the inspiration that I have gained from the way in which this country has behaved in difficult situations. I had to suffer in a gaol in Singapore in the last war. I could not envisage how on earth we were going to get out of the situation that we were in until I saw Louis Mountbatten standing outside the gaol in splendid naval uniform.
A matter of honour is involved. The Government have been in difficulties for some months, perhaps even years. However, it is more important that we govern in our own way in this country. Greater issues have been at stake. I thank my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal for the way in which he has brought the matter before us this evening.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his kind words. Perhaps I may crave the indulgence of the House for a moment to say this to him. It is entirely appropriate to hear from my noble friend
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal aware that many noble Lords on this side of the Chamber will have taken great offence at his description in his closing remarks of my noble friend Lord Richard. When he accuses my noble friend of looking ridiculous, it seems to me that he should have been looking at his own party. Can nothing be more ridiculous than a leader of a party who resigns as leader of the partyeven though apparently he wishes to remain as leader of the partywhen he has no need to do so, and in advance of a vital and important conference? As a result of his actions, and of making himself look foolish, he has also made this country look foolish and sidelined at a vital conference which greatly affects this country.
Having delivered myself of that, perhaps I may ask the noble Viscount about the single currency and reference to the Commission of discussion on that issue. Can we be assured that we shall have a better, much deeper result from the Commission than its previous document, which was very shallow? Can we also be assured that those who urged us into the ERM with such disastrous consequences will have nothing to do with any discussion of the future of this country regarding EMU and the single currency?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for giving me an opportunity to clear up any belief that he may have had that I made an ad hominem attack on the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I hope that the party opposite and the noble Lord will accept, if doing so does not get him into bad odour with his party, that I have absolutely no feeling that the noble Lord Lord Richard is anything other than totally "unridiculous".
There is no question whatsoever, so far as I know, that my right honourable friend remains Prime Minister of this country. As such it is his clear task to carry out his duties as effectively as he can and it is perfectly clear that he has done so at Cannes.
As regards the results of any investigation by the Commission, I think that the noble Lord, above all, will accept the belief of my right honourable friend that it is for Parliament to take a view of those results; and it is
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords in the Statement, my noble friend referred to Europol, and the decision that citizens and member states should be able to seek redress through the courts of member states for any wrong done to them through Europol rather than at the European Court. Can my noble friend tell the House whether the United Kingdom was alone in persuading the other member states that that should be so; or, as was reported in at least one newspaper, was there support from the Scandinavian countries and France? I was not able to give my noble friend notice of that question and he may not, therefore, be able to reply. However, the matter is important, in particular in view of the assumption made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it was bound to become a European issue.
Europol comes under the third pillar of the Community, where inter-governmental arrangements are the order of the day and matters do not have to go through the European Commission. Therefore, whether there was support for the United Kingdom is important. I had hoped that the Statement would inform us, but it did not. I am sorry if I have caught out my noble friend.
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