|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Is it not clear that the European Community will have to make a choice between keeping the CAP and excluding central Europeans from the Community or reforming the CAP and bringing them in? Therefore, there should not be a difficulty about that. The logic of events will force the reform unless we are to become xenophobic little Europeans who detest and keep out fellow Europeans. Surely the Community will not do that.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I am not in favour of becoming a xenophobic little European. But the argument that I am making is precisely the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has been putting to me across the Floor of the House. I am saying that there is an inexorable logic connecting the need for a single currency and beyond that the need for qualified majority voting with bringing about reform of the common agricultural policy in order to bring about enlargement of the Community. That is my case. I fully recognise that that is a case which may falter and fail. I do not underestimate the difficulties in its way. But I feel profoundly that if it were to falter and fail, that would be a great loss for future generations in all the countries of Europe.
Therefore, there are major issues underlying this unanimous report of great importance and significance. I was impressed by a quotation from Chancellor Kohl which I heard the other day in a television programme. I well recognise that in the divided views on these matters in your Lordships' House and elsewhere lies the fear of Germany. Chancellor Kohl said--and I have not heard him say this before--"I am only the second Chancellor of a united Germany. The last one was Hitler and I am the second one after the Second World War. The difference between us is that Hitler wanted to put a German roof over Europe. I passionately want to put a European roof over Germany". That is the nature of the issue with which we are struggling here.
Therefore, as my noble friend Lord Hooson said in his final words, it is tremendously important to take a long view of these matters. We should not concentrate on and become too preoccupied with short-term political issues. In that regard, I very much agreed with what the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said in her extremely eloquent speech a few moments ago.
By successive solemn treaty obligations which the noble Baroness spelt out rather carefully, Britain is totally committed to membership of the European Union. The only question is whether we put our experience and influence at the service of that membership and at the service of making a Europe of which we shall be proud in the next century. I can only hope, as I have said many times from these Benches, that when the Prime Minster goes to Madrid on Friday he will this time make a serious effort truly to be at the
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, this has been an extremely wide-ranging debate. One common denominator has emerged; that is, the congratulations which have been offered to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and his colleagues on what has been a remarkable achievement. I join with noble Lords in that commendation.
My noble friend Lord Richard said at the beginning of the debate that he thought that perhaps there were too many commissioners, some without a real job. That is just like home, is it not? What sort of job does the Deputy Prime Minister have? Therefore, that is not confined to the European Union.
I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, was right when she said that, in effect, it is impossible to divorce the deliberations of the committee from the seismic changes which have taken place in Europe since 1989. I agree totally with that. There are the burgeoning but still, for the most part, impoverished democracies of eastern and central Europe. I shall turn to that in a moment. There is also a rising tide of a very unpleasant, chauvinist nationalism in too many countries. I shall also touch upon that later.
With respect, the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in drawing a parallel between the two problems of what I would call the old Yugoslavia and the dangers of federalism, as he put it, is to overlook the wider picture that has emerged over this century of bitterly competing national states going to war on two occasions, which involved enormous loss of life. Whatever one may say and whatever what may be one's criticism of the European Union, it is a real fact that the European Union has brought peace at least to the western part of Europe. That is not an unimportant factor when one looks at those issues.
There has been a great deal of discussion about qualified majority voting. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, sought to support the Government's quite remarkable assertion referred to at paragraph 9 of the response. They are sceptical about the argument that unanimity in an enlarged Europe would paralyse decision making. That is another issue to which I wish to turn, but I believe that that argument is fatuous.
Another point which I wish to take up, because it was raised by a number of your Lordships, is that of subsidiarity. We debated that at considerable length. I agree with the committee that that is not a concept which is justiciable. I should be very surprised if it were wise for the European Court of Justice to become immersed in deliberations about that issue. I believe it to be an issue that is mainly of political application. Therefore, I fundamentally disagree with the Government in that respect.
Why is not some credit given to the European Parliament? I believe that credit is due in that respect. Simply to write it off as a useless body is to defy fact. Noble Lords who feel obliged to do that, do so by way of a sort of knee-jerk reaction: anything to do with the Parliament must be wrong. I see that my noble friend wishes to intervene.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am much obliged. When my noble friend reads my speech in Hansard tomorrow I believe that he will find that I did not criticise the European Parliament because it was a useless body, but because it was an over-ambitious body.
Lord Clinton-Davis: Yes, my Lords, I did say that. I do not actually agree with my noble friend who went on to attack the European Court of Justice, which is the guardian of the treaty. He said that he did not like some of the decisions that had been made and that mirrors the Government's point of view. But what about decisions that are made by our own courts that the Government or my noble friend do not like? Are we to contract out of them?
I have to point out that at about the time of the Edinburgh Summit an idea was being floated by the Government that the European Court of Justice should have its decisions reviewed by the Council of Ministers in retrospect by a qualified majority vote, of all things--what they dislike most of all. I am glad to say that that idea seems to have been, as Dorothy Parker once put it, not lightly tossed aside but hurled with great force out of the window. I believe that it would be very wrong to react in such a way to decisions simply because one does not like them.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, spoke, rightly, about a lack of compliance with European Community law and enforcement. That is a point that I have made many times in this House. Clearly it is something that is important if we are to give respect to the rule of law. Whether the relatively new powers given under Maastricht to the European Court of Justice will provide that basis, only time will tell. I have my doubts, but we will have to wait and see.
There was some discussion led by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for whom we all have great regard, about team presidencies of which he doubted the wisdom. However, the noble Lord said something that I found a little odd. He said that the rotating presidency was the honest broker when differences emerged. I can say with
The noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, referred to matters over which there is no difference of opinion. However, when referring to the democratic deficit, he said that co-operation between members of the European Parliament and national Parliaments was deficient. I very much agree. But is it all one way? The noble Lord will know that in the German Parliament, members of the European Parliament sit in committee, without a vote, alongside their brethren. That adds mightily to the support which is given in carrying out important and relevant inquiries. I have certainly been invigilated and interrogated in that way. I thought that the contribution made by members of the European Parliament with considerable expertise was very important. I do not see why we should not do so here, and not treat them as pariahs.
My noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington said something with which I wholly agree. That is, perhaps, unusual but it is true. I believe it is the message of Maastricht that policies imposed from the top do not succeed. In my view, people were taken for granted during the whole course of the Maastricht debate. People want more information; they do not want to be taken for granted. However, when they get more information it does not follow that they will side with my noble friend. I believe that that is something to which all the institutions in the Community should give prompt attention.
A point was made by my noble friend about limiting the number of proposals. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, also dealt with that point. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said that the lack of transparency in the Council defeats effective law making. I totally agree with that view. Of course, that point was taken up in the report and I believe that the sub-committee was right to do so. It is offensive that Ministers should say one thing in the Council and something else outside--usually the very opposite. That is not good.
My noble friend Lord Barnett dealt with a point regarding qualified majority voting which is all important; namely, that vetoes do not just go the way of Britain. Indeed, other countries, including small countries, also have the power of veto. The Government introduced or extended qualified majority voting in the Single European Act and later in the Maastricht Treaty.
There was unanimity over environmental issues at the time of the Single European Act. That was the first time that we had an environmental chapter in the treaty and I played some part in the process. But, in addition, the doctrine of subsidiarity was introduced not solely at the behest of the Government. The Commission played a big part in introducing it. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, seems to think that that is untrue. However, I was the Commissioner for the environment so I know what was going on. I do not see anything wrong, but I differ about the meaning or definition of subsidiarity when it comes to environmental matters.
The real test should not be repatriating environmental policies to a centralised government here or anywhere else; it should be how do we best protect the environment of 370 million people? Whether it is done at Union level, by government, or locally should really be the question that is posed. I give way to the noble Lord.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page