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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I hesitate to query such an expert historian as my noble friend Lord Skidelsky, but can he tell the House when a war was last started by a free democratic nation, such as are the nations of Europe today, and not by some rather more dictatorial regime?
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, my noble friend will know that historians argue interminably about the causes of war and about who is responsible for starting any particular war. However, I would say that the international system before 1914, which was certainly liberal by the standards of that day, failed to stop the most destructive war in modern history. Although there may be some reason to suppose that we should do better today, the existence of the political invention, the European Union, makes that much more likely.
I wish to conclude by paying tribute to the Prime Minister, who has handled this difficult issue extremely well. The issue is difficult both politically and intellectually. He has not damaged our negotiating flexibility by threats or fulminations but has fought our corner with courtesy, moderation, reasonableness and tenacity. I believe that that spirit permeates the White Paper and it will have growing influence on the European debate. For that reason, I am happy to speak in its support.
Lord McNally: My Lords, it is less than 12 weeks since I made my maiden speech. Therefore, your Lordships can imagine that I was green with envy when I heard the dazzling performance of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. As she is not in her place, I can only put on record, and hope that she will write to me, the only matter that I did not follow completely. I understand how she knows that Harrods and Fortnum & Mason will be interested in her langoustines but how does she know that the Bunny Club will be a market for them? I hope that I do not too greatly damage the credentials of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, by saying that his explanation of subsidiarity was most welcome on these Benches. I hope that he will spend some time trying to explain to those on his Front Bench exactly what subsidiarity means. He seems to grasp that but the Government do not.
I remind the noble Lord of that only because I sometimes recollect an old Polish joke. A Pole drew a squiggly line and his friend asked what it was. He said, "That is the party line". Then he drew a straight line and when asked what that was he said, "Those are the deviationists". I can well understand why the noble Lord, Lord Richard, tweaked the Government's tail as regards their present difficulties. However, having listened to some of today's contributions from his Back-Benchers, I believe that the noble Lord may need help from his friends if he is to carry the day for his own Euro-enthusiasm.
Of course, trying to hold together a split party is not an entirely dishonourable act. I suspect that the Prime Minister may well keep the memoirs of Harold Wilson as bedside reading. The truth is that the document which we are considering today, which is very skilfully written, is nevertheless addressed not to Britain's needs and priorities in relation to Europe but to the Government's needs and priorities in terms of their own unity. If fighting a battle at the bottom of the hill where two maps join is the worst form of warfare, then I suspect that having negotiations conducted in the last year of a Parliament by a lame-duck government is the worst form of diplomacy.
Today, my noble friend Lord Ezra dealt with the economy, my noble friend Lord Lester with the European Court and my noble friend Lord Taverne with sovereignty. They have tried to cover the various items which the White Paper covers. Because time is short, I wish to concentrate on the second pillar--foreign policy and security. It is interesting that the White Paper says that the CFSP is strongly in this country's national interest and has long been a government priority. It then goes on to say:
In what I hope is a non-partisan way, I say to the Minister and the Government that I hope that they will give priority to the second pillar. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Kennet, Lord Chalfont, and others referred to that. The nature of today's debate has left the second pillar somewhat
Within the White Paper there is a great deal with which people of all parties can agree: the welcome strengthening of the secretariat; the idea of a single foreign policy spokesman, although I note the comments that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, made on that; and the need to look at the relationship between the European Union and the WEU. A great deal of positive work can and should be done. Britain, with its role in the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth, the Union itself, NATO and the WEU is, if not uniquely qualified, extremely well qualified to take a leadership role. Even amidst some of the other matters which are taking place surrounding the IGC, there is a need and an opportunity here for Britain to take initiatives.
One well understands from the Prime Minister that there is no possibility of a "Bothamesque" innings in the run-up to the general election. He will have to play a very straight bat on many of those issues. But I believe that in relation to the second pillar, there is scope and the need for Britain to take a lead and to give it priority. Indeed, by doing that, we may help to ameliorate our image of always being on the outside, which has been referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and others.
I do not wish to delay the House much longer but, as somebody who, as I mentioned earlier, came into the debate in student politics in the early 1960s and as somebody who has remained committed and involved with the European debate for 30 years, I find extraordinary the belief underlying some of the comments from the Europhobes or Eurosceptics that they are the only ones who are patriots and realists. I listened to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. I am very fond of him. He once reminded me that you never forget your first Speaker. For me, he was my only Speaker. But I must tell the noble Viscount that I remember much more clearly the number of times I was not called than the times I was called. That may be a burden which all Speakers must carry.
However, I cannot go along with the language and tenor of the noble Viscount's argument any more than I can go along with the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Bruce of Donington, and Lord Stoddart of Swindon. They talked about a Europe which I do not recognise--a Europe of enemies and conspirators. I worked with Europeans during those 30 years and I do not recognise the Europe of their fantasies.
They talk about the need to consult the British people. The British people were consulted in a referendum in 1975. But of course they say that was a cheat; that it was false; that it was not the right question or the right answer. In 1983, the Labour Party fought an election on withdrawal without a referendum and was soundly beaten. It is often forgotten that one of the reasons for the Prime Minister delaying the 1992 general election was so that every candidate and every elector would know in advance the full Maastricht package. And still that did not help.
I suspect that, in some shape or form, we shall have to consult the British people again on this. We have had indications from both Front Benches on that. In many ways, I feel like one of those old gunfighters in B-movies who does not really want to do it but he gets down the guns and clamps them on again. If that is what the Europhobes and the Eurosceptics, or the realists, want, I suspect that we shall take them on again in taking this case to the British people.
But the Europe that we shall take to the British people is much closer to the Europe described by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas; mainly, a Europe of the regions. I do a lot of speaking around the regions about European issues. The debate which has been taking place today in this House would be entirely alien to those people, because their debates are much more practical and are about direct co-operation with sister regions in Europe and, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, reminded us, the operation of Europe at the three levels--the level of national sovereignty, the level of the European Union, but also, increasingly, the level of local government.
Those are the issues. At some time in the future I am sure that I shall do battle with noble Lords, although I doubt whether I could deal with them quite as laconically lethally as did the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield.
A great deal of history has been quoted at us today. One of the images which stays in my mind is that of the great Low cartoon of the British Tommy, sweat and grime covered, holding the laurel wreath of victory and saying, "Here, don't lose it again". In great contrast to the first World War, since 1945 we can say we did not lose that peace which was so hard and bitterly won. We set an example to the world of how former enemies could work and co-operate together. The Europe that I am quite happy to take to the British people is a Europe of peace and prosperity and a Europe willing to work for that peace and prosperity in a wider world.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, since it is my privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord McNally, perhaps it falls to me to point out to him that he has just perpetrated one of the classic Euro myths of the age which is to suggest that the British people were offered a referendum on our membership of the European Union. We were not. We were offered a referendum on our continued membership of the European Common Market and we were assured by all concerned that no loss of our sovereignty was involved.
I might also tell the noble Lord that he seems to assume that those who favour European integration are the good friends of Europe. I must tell the noble Lord that many of us on the other side of the debate regard ourselves as better friends of Europe because we wish to prevent Europe from continuing to go down the disastrous path upon which it is set.
When I saw that my noble friend, if I may refer to him as that, Lord Tonypandy, was due to speak, I had a sort of feeling that he was likely to say everything that I wanted to say, to say it much more eloquently and
My first question is about our old friend subsidiarity, as set out by Article 3b of the Maastricht Treaty, upon which the Government placed so much reliance at the time of our debates on the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. The White Paper repeats on page 11 the old self-deception that:
Until we get clear answers to these fundamental questions, I am afraid that some of us will continue to regard subsidiarity as the sham that we always said it was. If my noble friend wishes to disagree with this, can she say where the balance of power now lies in the conflict between subsidiarity and the acquis communautaire? In other words, if my noble friend is going to repeat that subsidiarity is working in the way that we want it to work, as she has already indicated in her opening remarks, can she tell us of progress towards the repeal of 25 per cent. of all Community legislation which we were promised by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister nearly two years ago? If my noble friend claims that subsidiarity is working in our favour, can she at least say how that squares with the acquis communautaire, or the doctrine of the occupied field, which holds that, once the Community has devoured an area of national sovereignty, it can never be required to give it up? Here again, one has to ask: how many of our partners would agree with the Government's interpretation of this dilemma? I would be most interested to hear my noble friend's reply.
While on the vexed question of interpretation of the treaty, I see that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has just signed up to the Presidency Conclusions of the Council in Turin on 29th March, which declared that the IGC has,
The second area where I have been pressing my noble friend on the Front Bench for sensible answers is the eventual enlargement of the Community, to which the White Paper pays the usual lip service. But can I ask my noble friend if the Government are any clearer in their own mind as to whether enlargement of the Community will necessarily lead to its deepening or increasing the power of the centre, particularly of the Commission and of the Court, as many of us continue to fear? Can my noble friend say how many of our partners agree with the Government on this one, too?
Whatever the answer to that question may turn out to be, the prospect of enlargement appears to be ever more of a mirage, and an unkind mirage at that to our new eastern European friends. I say this because, as the White Paper admits on page 3, reform of the common agricultural policy and of the Structural Funds is necessary before any of those friends can be admitted. However, such reform seems at best unlikely. If my noble friend thinks that I am wrong, can she say why she is confident that the necessary qualified majority vote will be achieved which could give rise to the CAP reforms that the Government deem necessary to achieve enlargement? In other words, can my noble friend say which countries the Government consider will vote with us for the necessary reforms without which enlargement will not take place?
While on the subject of the qualified majority vote, I was disappointed to see that the White Paper does not spell out perhaps the Government's main difficulty with the present system, which will require unanimity before it can be changed. There is indeed a helpful table on page 13 of the White Paper, which sets out the qualified majority votes of each member state. The paper is also right to point out that the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy with over two-thirds of the EU's population, will only have 10 votes each, or 40 votes out of a total of 87 votes. One might just mention that Germany and ourselves are the principal paymasters of the Communities, but perhaps this is not the moment to dwell upon such anti-social, politically incorrect and anti-communautaire points.
Be that as it may, the difficulty which does not appear to be spelt out in the White Paper is that 26 votes constitute a blocking minority; and 62 votes are required to carry a vote. Thus countries with only 26 votes between them can prohibit change to existing policies, and block new policies in areas such as the single market, agriculture, transport, external trade relations, most decisions on environmental matters and also on research and development.
I recommend the table on page 13 of the White Paper so that one can see exactly how these votes fall. These are the votes up against which the Government find themselves when they bravely say that they will press for this or that change to the common agricultural policy, or any directive or policy in any of the other areas that I have mentioned. It is against the blocking minority of only 26 votes that I put the question to my noble friend the Minister about her confidence that the CAP can indeed be amended as necessary to permit widening.
I put the same question to my noble friend who was on the Front Bench during our debate on 18th March last on the fruit and vegetable regime. This absurd Community policy, as your Lordships may recall, distributes some £112,000 million annually, principally to France, Greece, Italy and Spain so that they may grow largely unwanted fruit and vegetables. I do not know whether my noble friend on the Front Bench was joking during that debate when he estimated that if all the unwanted nectarines grown in Greece each year were to be put into articulated lorries, those lorries would stretch around the entire coastline of the British isles. This seems such an extraordinary statistic that I wonder whether my noble friend on the Front Bench today could confirm it. Could she also confirm my understanding that the nectarines are in fact buried in a valley in Thessaloniki causing a severe environmental hazard?
This is the sort of bog into which we have stepped by our participation in the Treaty of Rome, but the point is that we are unlikely to be able to change the fruit and vegetable regime because the four recipient countries have 33 votes between them--comfortably more than the 26 votes required to block any change to the policy. Some areas are worse. To change the common fisheries policy for instance would, alas, require unanimity in the Council of Ministers which makes its revision almost impossible to contemplate unless, of course, we were to leave the Treaty of Rome and extricate ourselves from the bog to which I have referred.
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