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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I find that a disappointing Answer to what was intended to be a helpful Question? Is he further aware that the reason why we are having such a huge argumentand there has been such a huge argument over the past fortnight in the Conservative Partyis that the benefits of membership are not self-evident? Therefore, would it not be wise, as any business would do, to undertake an analysis of the cost and benefit of our membership of the European Union so that not only the Government but the country as a whole can make a decision and a judgment as to whether our membership is in the country's interests and whether it is in our interests to continue to be a member of the European Union?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is trying, as always, to be helpful, but I think that he will accept that conducting such an exercise would be fraught with pretty major problems. It would rely very much on hypothetical assumptions about the level of domestic UK spending in the absence of contributions to and receipts from the Community budget; on the
Lord Cockfield: My Lords, is not the Question meaningless as one cannot sever the single market from membership of the European Union? Would it not be just as sensible to ask for a cost/benefit analysis of the head if it were severed from the bodya state of affairs that the individual concerned would find most regrettable?
Lord Henley: My Lords, being a kind person, I would not want to follow my noble friend in saying that the Question was totally meaningless. I was trying to say that, even if it was meaningful, it would be jolly difficult to calculate the matter in the way in which the noble Lord suggested.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that neither he nor his Government can get away indefinitely with vague generalities about the effects of our membership of the European Community? Is he further aware that it is possible, at a fraction of the sum which the Government spend annually on employing consultants, to get the correct statistical material upon which reasonable judgments can be made? Is the Minister also aware that if he will not do that now, he will be compelled to do so sooner or later because this is something in which the British public as a whole, not merely statisticians, are vitally interested?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord accuses me and the rest of the Government of uttering vague generalities. I thought that I was quite specific in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, when I explained the difficulties of conducting such an exercise. I then added that there were various political and other advantages which could not be quantified in the manner which the noble Lord suggested. I do not think that I can take the noble Lord further than the Answer that I gave.
Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble and learned friend is absolutely correct. That was the point that I was trying to make but at slightly greater length. My noble and learned friend makes the point with greater succinctness.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, why does the Minister think that it is so difficult to separate the single market from the political union? ASEAN and NAFTA are both very successful single markets; they do not have a political union. Without wishing to argue the merits, I cannot understand why the two cannot be separated.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the fact is that we are members of the European Union. If the noble Lord is suggesting that we should withdraw from the Union but remain part of the European Economic Area, what he is
Lord Monson: My Lords, is the Minister not aware that over the past year public support for membership of the European Union has fallen from 66 per cent. right down to 35 per cent. in Austria and from 52 per cent. down to 32 per cent. in Sweden? Does not that indicate that the peoples of Europe, as opposed to their establishments, are coming round to the view that membership of the European Union brings more disadvantages than benefits?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord should be wary, as I think that the party opposite is now wary, of reading too much into opinion polls. The simple fact is that those countries decided to join the Community after referenda, and they decided to join by a majority.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, but if all these matters are so hypothetical and if it is so difficult to make an assessment of them, how can my noble friend be so absolutely sure of in which direction the balance lies?
Lord Henley: My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, I believeI think that a great many others also believethat the advantages of membership are self-evident. I accept that my noble friend does not share my view on such matters, but I could list a whole range of advantages that we gain from membership of the Community in terms of trade and in terms of the EU acting as a trade negotiator and giving us greater influence in the world, as well as all the inward investment that has come to this country as a result of our membership. I could go on.
Lord Eatwell: My Lords, would the Minister care to reconsider his rejection of my noble friend's suggestion? Surely it might be useful to introduce some notion of scale into the debate; for example, in a cost/benefit analysis one could compare our annual contribution to the European Commission, which runs at an average about £1 billion per year, with the £14 billion of taxpayers' money which was wasted by the Tory Government on the poll tax in a single year. One could compare, could one not, the hypothetical costs which might be imposed on the UK Government by a Commission which directly controls at most 2 per cent. of UK GDP with the very real damage that was inflicted on the UK economy by the Tory Government, who control 45 per cent. of UK GDP?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I note with interest the Opposition Front Bench support for conducting such a cost/benefit analysis, which, as I explained, is severely impractical. There is no way in which one could do it with any relevance. As regards the main points of the noble Lord's question, I fail to see what they have to do with the Question on the Order Paper and I have no intention of even attempting to answer them.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in his answer to my noble friend Lord Cockfield it might have been helpful if he had suggested that he read the Question before intervening? The Question is whether there should be a cost/benefit analysis split between our benefits from the Union and our access to the market. Does my noble friend further agree that the benefits, which he takes as self-evident, come to this country because of low labour costs and good labour relations, because of low inflation, because we speak English, because we have access to the market, and scarcely at all because of our ruinous membership of the Union?
Lord Henley: My Lords, as I pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, we not only have access to the market but, through our membership of the Union, we have the ability to influence how that market develops. That is the important point.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be appropriate for me to give the House a very brief outline of what the Barony of Farnham case involved. The petitioner, Lord Farnham, is the holder of a distinguished Irish peerage. His grandfather was elected to represent the Peers of Ireland in your Lordships' House under the provisions of the Act of Union with Ireland 1800. Such Peers were elected for life and many of them continued to attend this House after the passing in 1922 of the legislation which set up the Irish Free State. However, there were no further elections of Irish Peers after 1922 so that their number dwindled with the passing of the years. In 1966 Lord Antrim and a number of other Irish Peers petitioned this House asking that elections should once again be held. That petition was referred to the Committee for Privileges, which reached the conclusion that the effect of the 1922 legislation had been to dismantle the electoral structure set up by the Act of Union and that no further elections could be made without further legislation. There the matter rested until Lord Farnham's petition. It was his contention that the continuation of the issuing of writs of summons to attend your Lordships' House after the passing of the 1922 legislation, together with the findings of the Committee for Privileges in 1966, meant that a barony by writ had been created in the person of his grandfather (the 11th Baron) to which he, the 12th Baron, was the rightful heir. That, very briefly, was the case which was argued before the committee.
We were assisted greatly by the Attorney-General and by counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Jonathan Fisher. I should also like to record the gratitude of the committee for the written material submitted by Mr. John Lofthouse, junior counsel for the Crown. Mr. Lofthouse is, of course, an acknowledged expert in the arcane field of peerage law, and his valuable and fascinating memoranda helped the committee to understand the issues raised in this petition.
As always in peerage cases, the Committee for Privileges relies heavily on the assistance of the Lords of Appeal. On this occasion the committee was immensely indebted to the noble and learned Lords, Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Mustill and Lord Lloyd of Berwick. With their assistance, we found ourselves able to reach the unanimous conclusion which is embodied in the committee's report. We concluded that, in spite of Mr. Fisher's eloquence, the case had not been made out for the creation of a barony by writ. The noble and learned Lords, Lord Keith and Lord Jauncey, have provided the legal reasons for the committee's decision and those opinions are included in the printed minutes of proceedings.
Finally, I should like to add a personal word, although I believe that what I am about to say reflects the views of members of the committee. Although the petitioner, Lord Farnham, will no doubt have been understandably disappointed by our decision, I believe that it will be of some comfort to him to know that he performed a significant service, not only on behalf of his family but also on behalf of other members of the Irish peerage, the history of whose families is similar to that of his own. By ensuring that his petition was considered by your Lordships' House, Lord Farnham will, if your Lordships pass this Motion this afternoon, have enabled the matter to be settled once and for all and the uncertainty ended. That is a valuable service. I suspect that Lord Farnham would never have forgiven himself had he allowed the matter to go by default. I ask your Lordships to agree to the report of the Committee for Privileges. I beg to move.
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