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Lord Merrivale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her Answer. However, if the Brussels Agreement is about the future status of Gibraltar, surely the people of that territory are entitled to an active involvement and participation in the talks, with a voice of their own, and not as a member of a British delegation?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the people of Gibraltar have an active involvement in any discussions. It simply would not be sensible to have technical talks--for instance, on local issues affecting Gibraltar--without the experts from Gibraltar present. It is more a presentational than a real matter. We will always have Gibraltar experts there but, as my noble friend well knows, the Spanish do not want a separate delegation. The Gibraltar representatives are there as part of the UK delegation.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is the Minister aware that we very much agree with the position that she has just enunciated? It is a sensitive situation, of which I have experience, as she will recall. There was a difficulty over this issue when the European aviation package was being negotiated in 1986. Is it not better to

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pursue the matter in the way that she has indicated, by quiet diplomacy, rather than engaging in megaphone diplomacy?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I think that the House knows that I believe in quiet diplomacy; it frequently achieves far more. Let me make absolutely clear that there is no question of the United Kingdom sidelining Gibraltar from any discussions. We have said--I repeat it again--that we very much hope that Peter Caruana, the Gibraltar Chief Minister, will attend Brussels meetings to put the Gibraltar point of view. If he cannot attend, the meeting will go ahead, but we believe that he should be there and he will have a full participative role in those meetings, as the noble Lord indicated that he should have.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the Government have said over and over again that there will be no change as regards Gibraltar without the consent of the people there?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right.

Lord Merrivale: My Lords, perhaps I may ask a second Question of my noble friend. In the process of decolonisation, is it not fair and honourable that a territory--Gibraltar--should have its own separate voice to express its wishes? What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking for the United Nations Fourth Committee to adopt this requirement in a resolution? I understand that there is to be a resolution on this matter regarding Gibraltar. Are the Government seeking the support of some of our European Union partners on this issue?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend tries to elevate this issue way beyond what is reasonable. We are working away quietly, as I said to his noble friend. We are working with the people of Gibraltar, through their Chief Minister and their experts. Our commitment in the declaration of 1994 makes it absolutely clear that we will honour the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the 1969 constitution. Trying to bring the United Nations into what is a European matter between the United Kingdom, which is still responsible for Gibraltar, and Spain would be to go right over the top.

EU: UK Right of Veto

2.50 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the Franco-German proposals for a more flexible Union tabled during the week beginning 14th October which include a proposal for the abolition of the United Kingdom's

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    right of veto, and whether they will now reiterate their intention to retain that right in all circumstances and to refuse to consider it as negotiable.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, copies of the Franco-German paper on flexibility have been placed in the Library of the House. As was made clear in A Partnership of Nations, the Government will oppose extension of qualified majority voting.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. In view of the fact that Her Majesty's Government wish to retain the right of veto and have indicated their willingness to pursue that aim, can we now be assured that they will act on their belief and, wherever necessary, exercise that right in the areas concerned, particularly those under Titles V and VI which concern foreign affairs and defence and home affairs? More particularly, since the French, the Germans, the Commission and a large part of the European Parliament want to abolish the UK abatement, will the Minister assure the House that she will resist that to the uttermost?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, not for the first time I can tell the noble Lord that we shall continue to have the UK abatement so long as there is a Conservative Government in office. He should be very mindful of that.

In relation to the very interesting subject of flexibility there are basic tenets. We have always said that flexibility must be agreeable to all and open to all. That means that flexibility must not undermine the single market. It also means that the obligations taken by a group which decides to go ahead of the others are entirely separate from and should not affect the acquis communautaire. It must also allow for permanent differentiation. When the noble Lord has read those words in Hansard and has thought about the matter, he will see that that means maintaining the veto.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, does the Minister really believe that the wisest way to encourage British influence with our partners in Europe is to adopt the posture suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, of continually vetoing almost everything?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No, my Lords, I was extremely careful in my reply to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. The point is that the paper is for discussion. It is quite interesting to read. It deals with the three pillars of the European Union in different ways. It is still open to discussion, and there may be further papers. I have underlined the basic principles. Those like the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, who study these matters will see that they represent the sensible approach for this country to take.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Nevertheless, my Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the publication of these proposals does not give one enormous faith in the Government's claim that the debate in Europe is moving our way?

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that really is not either a relevant or a helpful comment. It is much better to know what is in the minds of one's partners in order to prepare to tackle the issue properly. I would far rather know what the French and the Germans are thinking. That enables us, as it does so many other nations in the European Union, firmly to express our opposition to an exclusive hard core. We know full well that many others will join us in that. Therefore it is a rather good idea to have the papers published.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the Minister not concerned, as many of us are, that there is a very powerful axis developing between Germany and France which seeks to wrong foot and undermine the British Government's position on all these matters? Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will be strong enough and unwimpish, as they sometimes are, to stand up to that axis? Will she further give an assurance that under no circumstances will the British Government concede any further powers to any institution of the European Union, including the European Parliament and the European Commission?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord's points are very wide of the original Question. However, I assure him that the Government will stand firm on these matters and will do what is right for Britain. It is time that he asked his own Front Bench what they will do about these proposals.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Treaty of Rome was ideally designed for the six countries who were the original signatories and is quite unsuitable for 15 countries with 11 different languages and various different types of constitution? Should we not therefore welcome the apparent open-mindedness now being shown by France and Germany?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. What was designed for six cannot possibly work in the same way with 15, let alone with an enlarged European Union which we hope to see. It is right that there should be openness. There should be a debate. The Franco-German paper is welcome in another sense, too; namely, it is absolutely clear that flexibility should be open to all. That is exactly what has to happen with 15 nations; it would be the case to an even greater degree with a larger number.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the Foreign Office is completely au fait with the extent of the integration, formal and otherwise, of the policies of France and Germany which originated from the Elysee Treaty of 1963? Is she aware that they act in co-ordination before every Council meeting, that they have penetrated the whole European Commission machine and that these things are happening all the time?


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