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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, perhaps fortunately I am not responsible to your Lordships' House for the proceedings and procedures of other parliamentary assemblies within the European Union. Therefore, I must ask your Lordships to draw your own conclusions from my noble friend's remarks. However, it is extremely fortunate, above all, that your Lordships are in a position to examine closely and with authoritative detail the directives that are sent our way from Brussels, and indeed that we are able to give these matters the degree of parliamentary scrutiny which perhaps, dare I say it, is a matter of some pride and self-congratulation for this place.
With regard to the general point made by my noble friend, I note with keen approval the frequent allusions of my right honourable friend Mr. Douglas Hurd, during his most distinguished tenure as Foreign Secretary, to his objective of building a Europe of nations.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I should like to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, a moment ago. In discussing the agenda for the IGC, the Reflection Group unanimously made clear that it was not in favour of a superstate.
Reverting to the point made by the Prime Minister about economic and monetary union, can the Minister confirm that, however many states go in at the outset, under Maastricht if all those states--or even a minority of those states--meet the criteria, there will be a single currency? Perhaps he would confirm that for us.
Secondly, the Minister raised the issue of whether a Labour Government would automatically go into a single currency by 1999. I cannot speak for a future Labour Government. But will the Minister make quite clear that the Prime Minister has not ruled out--at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not ruled out--that they would possibly join a single currency (which I gather is now called a European currency for a number of reasons) and might well join a single currency by 1999, if we meet the criteria, as now seems extremely likely? Will he confirm that?
Perhaps the Minister will also answer another question. He may know that only the Members of your Lordships' House are discussing the important issue raised by the Prime Minister; namely, the issue of the ins and outs. That is to say, if there is to be a single currency, what will be the consequences for countries, like the United Kingdom, if they do or do not join? There would be consequences, as I am sure the Minister is aware. The all-party Select Committee which I have the honour to chair is looking at precisely that question which the Prime Minister raised. It is a vital question. Would the noble Lord the Leader of the House be willing to come and give evidence to that Select Committee, or would he persuade the Prime Minister to come and give evidence to it? I am sure that all the members of the committee would be delighted to hear from them.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am sure that if a number of members of the European Union qualify under the Maastricht criteria and decide to proceed with a single currency, it is possible that the single currency will happen. As the noble Lord knows--none better--unless that transition is accomplished with care, there could be some very serious consequences for both those who join and those who do not join, which could do a great disservice to the idea of an economically prosperous and stable Europe. We do not differ about that.
The noble Lord asked whether my right honourable friend has ruled out a single currency. I point out to him--again he knows far better than I do--that no parliament can bind its successor. That is axiomatic in our parliamentary proceedings. It is perfectly sensible for my right honourable friend and the Government as a whole to keep their options open. It would have been extremely foolish for any government to have said, "We shall opt out of the single currency no matter what happens", if only for the obvious negotiating reason that, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, nobody would take us as seriously as they do in the councils of Europe. They would not do so if it were not clear that we are vitally interested and are taking a central part in the negotiations, particularly of the kind of matters that the noble Lord mentioned and what he called the ins and outs.
With regard to giving evidence to his committee, it would be very unwise for any Leader of your Lordships' House to dream of saying no to such an invitation, although I suspect that there may be people more technically qualified than I who are able to answer the questions of his committee with the assurance that he would expect of Members of the Government. Nevertheless, if the noble Lord invites me, certainly I shall not have the nerve to refuse. So far as concerns my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, I shall of course transmit his kind invitation in principle. No doubt my noble friend will answer any particular invitation with his usual empressement and courtesy.
Lord Shaw of Northstead: My Lords, it has been said that the Prime Minister was in a lonely position at Madrid. Is it not a fact that leaders who are giving a lead often find themselves in a lonely position? The crux
Perhaps I may ask my noble friend a question relating to the IGC. I understand that it is to start on 29th March. Will it be of limited duration or a continuing conference? I have in mind that Italy's presidency will finalise in June. It is sometimes unfortunate that at the end of a presidency there is felt a need to produce a final statement when conditions are not always right for that final statement. It would be better, in my view, to allow the conference to be ongoing rather than seek to bring it to an end at a specific time.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his remarks in relation to the qualities of leadership being shown by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I wholly concur with what he said. It is worth underlining the changed nature of the discussions being conducted in European forums, substantially as a result of the practical questions which my right honourable friends and ministerial colleagues ask. With regard to the duration of the IGC, it is fair to say that we can be pretty sure that it will last rather longer than the expected end of the Italian presidency. It will probably spill over into 1997.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is not in his place. I feel sure that the whole House would not wish to endorse his remarks that if one is isolated, one is essentially wrong. There have been many times in our island's history when we have dissented from most of the countries of Europe and indeed other countries as well. Those with some experience of these matters in the 1930s will not be unaware that we have been known to be right. Therefore, to argue about this matter on the basis that we must be wrong because we are isolated is a lot of nonsense. It is unworthy of any intellectual appreciation with which one would normally credit the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead.
What seems to have escaped the noble Viscount opposite and, because of the pressures of time, has not yet been picked up by my noble friend on the Front Bench, is the fact that the whole of the proceedings in Madrid were dominated by the German Government. There can be no doubt about that. Anyone who saw the press reports knows perfectly well that it was Herr Kohl who laid down how the proceedings should go. He embarked upon a unique criticism of the President of the Commission and generally thought that the world--and in particular the United Kingdom--would have to do exactly what it was told or else. That is hardly the way in which international conferences ought to be conducted.
I am bound to draw to the attention of the noble Viscount and remind the House as a whole, though Members are probably aware of it, that on 22nd January 1963 the treaty of Elysee was entered into between Germany and France. It bound the two countries together to consult and determine their position before any matters were raised before the European Economic
I was surprised that in the recent budget negotiations, whether or not qualified majority voting was applied, Her Majesty's Government voted £41 million to the Commission in order to popularise throughout Europe the whole question of the single currency. It is surprising also that £5 million of British taxpayers' money is to be devoted to propagating a cause by the Commission when the Government and the Opposition are not clear whether they want to enter it.
I hope that those matters can be clarified. They are of great importance. When one reads through the communique one finds--I am bound to say that I agree with my noble friend on the Front Bench, a unique occurrence--that the Government assented by supporting the document (there is no question of majority voting) that binds them hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, in the absence of dissent from the noble Lord representing Labour interests, we have no indication that it would have dissented either.
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