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Lord Marsh: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. Does he seriously suggest that in those circumstances a situation may arise in which Britain is the only country in the world that is debarred from trading in Europe?
Lord Taverne: My Lords, the possibility of favoured nation treatment, with consequent tariff barriers, is a very likely consequence of our renouncing the European Union. The reorganisation of companies, as they have testified, will cause them great damage if suddenly we leave the European Union.
Further, the loss that we would suffer from the extra barriers imposed against us would be a growing one. Every day our economy becomes more and more integrated with the rest of the European Union. Since 1973 our exports to the European Union have grown twice as fast as those to the rest of the world. It is wholly unrealistic to believe that suddenly those exports can be switched elsewhere. It would take many years and the loss would be irrevocable. It is not surprising that the business community in general is not only strongly opposed to any suggestion that the United Kingdom should withdraw from the Union but is very keen that we should play, and positively committed to our playing, a constructive part within the Union.
The issue goes beyond economics. The noble Lord suggested that we could do very well outside the Union as a kind of Norway or Switzerland. With great respect to those countries, our role in history has been very different. In the past we have made a valuable contribution to the civilisation of the world. We can and should still play an important part. But what part could we play and what influence would we have if we were
A strange malady has struck the Conservative Party. Only six years ago it was still mainly pro-European. No doubt John Major meant it when he said that we must be at the heart of Europe. Since then a certain Euro-septicaemia (to quote Sir Nicholas Henderson's apt phrase) has infected the blood of that party, and that fatal infection is spreading. Already we are half-in and half-out of Europe, and all the time we become more marginalised. Feebly we wave about a policy of boycott because of our own tainted beef. Predictably and inevitably, we retreat, surrender and are humiliated. We lose not only further influence but respect.
Slowly by salami tactics the Europhobes acquire control of the Conservative Party. First, they commit us to a veto at the Inter-Governmental Conference because we oppose an extension of majority voting which the rest support. Next, we accept that others can go faster than us and consign our country to a second tier and second level of influence. Next, they gain a virtual commitment against Britain joining a single currency. Then the party attacks the institutions of the European Union, particularly the European Court of Justice--institutions that are essential to the single market programme. Now they want to tear up the Treaty of Accession altogether.
We should have nothing to do with this damaging and shameful Bill. We should not allow Euro-septicaemia to blind us to our true interests or to tarnish our reputation in the community of nations. I beg to move.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, in the past I have on occasions felt a little lonely in participating in debates on the European Community. In saying that I bear in mind that my own country, whose interests I endeavour to promote, also feels a little lonely from time to time and has been sustained in her loneliness by the spirit of her people. I do not believe that we should forget these matters. It seems impossible now to debate questions affecting the European Union without provoking almost instinctive emotions one way or the other. Occasionally when I get up to speak on this subject, which I have studied for some years, I feel that people's eyes glaze over--I do not blame them--and they say to themselves, "It's only old Bruce again. We can afford to ignore this".
I emphasise to the House, without wishing in any way to speak against any of its inhabitants, that we live in very perilous times. There is widespread poverty throughout the world, particularly in the less developed and undeveloped countries, the very existence of which prejudices the continued peace--or perhaps semi-peace--that we enjoy at present. When one considers the standard of life that even the artisan in a member state of the European Union enjoys compared with that of the teeming millions in
The situation in Russia and the associated states by no means gives us cause for complacency. We know well that there are nuclear and other arms piles outside the control of the Russian state apparatus. We also know that due to the entrepreneurial spirit within the European Union some of them find their way into the European Union for cash. That is hardly a stabilising thought. So, it is of the utmost importance that European countries--I include not just members of the EEC, but Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Poland and all the rest of them--arrive at an ever-increasing agreement among themselves for the conduct of their affairs.
In May it will be 50 years since I was a part author of a Labour pamphlet--first in the series Keep Left--with the approval of my right honourable friend Aneurin Bevan, which advocated the establishment, ultimately, of a federal Europe. The term is not new to me in the slightest. That was in 1947. So one is no stranger to the subject. What one said at the time--one did not consider the incorporation of Germany at that stage--was that a growing together, possibly ultimately culminating in a federal union of all those countries, would be necessary to preserve the peace of Europe. So, speaking for myself, I am no stranger to this European "get togetherness".
On 23rd November 1962, to be precise, I published a pamphlet on the subject which went into great detail as to the pros and cons of the Common Market. I hope that I did it without generating the emotions that appear to be ebbing and flowing over this most important question. One thing I did note, however, was Mr. Reginald Maudling's observation in 1959, when he studied the matter, that of course it would mean--if we joined the Common Market on the terms that he understood at that time--an erosion of national sovereignty. From that moment I began to think more about it. I have thought more since.
I accept the necessity for the utmost co-operation of all member states in Europe and those outside. The closer we get together, the more we arrive at common ground, sanctified, if necessary, by making treaties. The more that happens, the more secure Europe, and indeed the world, will be. Therefore I am not against the most extensive co-operation that can be agreed by its peoples, functioning within a democratic society, that can feasibly exist. I am bound to say--I am open to correction--that only a minority of states at present in the EEC have had more than 40 years' experience of
The way Europe has gone about this is the wrong way. The objective, within the ordinary limitations imposed by the UN Charter, the way towards a united Europe, capable of acting as an effective cultural, business, commercial, manufacturing and services entity, is not by diktat from above; it is not by the passing of statutes in Brussels or indeed anywhere else; it is by securing the active democratic consent of the people.
What we have done, or what we have been a party to, is to permit the state in which we now are, where all policy is dominated by institutions, not by people speaking through their own democratically elected representatives. The whole of the EEC structure is based upon the necessity for institutional power. It cares nothing about securing democratic consent. Even now of course it is spending £200 million, which arrived somewhat mysteriously in the European budget which we did not receive until it was too late to examine it, on propaganda from the European Commission trying to convince the population of Europe as a whole how wonderful the whole thing is.
What we should be seeking is approval from below--approval from the people whom we represent. Some of us, even in this House, have represented people from time to time. If I may say so, we may have achieved a certain legitimacy over the past six months or so. It seems therefore ironic that when another place possibly seeks to limit powers here, it is allowing powers to seep away every day in its ordinary business because of course the Commission churns out regulations.
Let us examine that Commission for a moment. The Commission is composed of non-elected people. It is accountable to no one, except on the basis of unanimity to the European Parliament, which is heavily dependent upon it. It is composed of appointed people. It is represented in every European Community organisation: it has representatives in with the Council of Ministers; it has representatives on the Economic and Social Councils; it has representatives on the Committee of the Regions; it even has representatives on the management committees and on the advisory committees. It has representatives everywhere. It even has its own embassies abroad, the money for which was found without budgetary authority. It spends money on that too. It is all-pervasive. It has the sole monopoly of originating proposals for legislation by either the Parliament or the Community. It has the sole right. No one else can propose anything. Therefore its grip grows and grows and grows.
The Commission has a flood--let no one tell me that it has not, because I examine it day after day, week after week--of paper coming out of Brussels, to a point where even the Scrutiny Committees of both Houses cannot possibly keep up with it. The Scrutiny Committee in the other place is way behind. There are hundreds and hundreds of proposals which it has not yet had time to consider. The Civil Service machine becomes clogged. The proposals often do not arrive for
When will we realise that the enactment of a flood of regulations and directives from on top, covering an ever-increasing field of competence, will not bring about the unity of Europe? It is a fact and it is already producing resentment.
Make no mistake about it. Europe and the Community has its own problems. Those were referred to in the course of the speech made by my right honourable friend in another place, Mr. Gordon Brown, when he spoke at a meeting in Bonn on 7th May last. He said:
There is the further cause of immediate instability to which I have referred already. Once again, that is because of specific proposals made by an unelected and unaccountable body; namely, the Commission. We are now faced with a formula which it incorporated in detail in the Maastricht Treaty, which was not read by our own Chancellor of the Exchequer. It laid down the various proportions of national debt and borrowing and defined deflationary policies. Once again, they were all laid down without elected authority in the beginning.
It is that which is giving rise already to unrest in Europe. That is so in France and Germany, and in Spain, we have a classic instance. So bothered are the Spanish by unemployment that they now draw the attention of the electorate away from Spain by demanding control of Gibraltar. That is a classic method of diverting public attention away from what is happening in one's own country.
Those are the matters on which we should ponder and ponder very carefully. What is happening is striking right at the root of any residual power which we might have not only in Europe but in the world. The Commission, with the support of France and Germany, is bent upon enforcing a system on Europe which has yet to command the support of its people.
I do not try to say that those who believe to the contrary are somehow below the salt. There is room for plenty of views about this. Therefore, I hope that among those who believe exactly the opposite, my words will still find favour in the sense that they are worthy of examination. In that sense, I would hope that the House will re-examine the position to see whether that is the best way of achieving the unity which we all desire. It should not be by enforcement from above but by obtaining the full, hearty support of people in the country, who, after all, are the people who are principally affected.
Lord Charteris of Amisfield: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long. Indeed, I intend to be as brief as the Bill. I am not equipped to judge whether the Bill as it is drafted would achieve the objects it sets out to achieve. But it is certain that if it became law, the results would be lengthy and complicated.
I suppose that it is unlikely that the Bill will become law because it is likely to be killed by the Dissolution of Parliament which cannot constitutionally be long delayed. Nevertheless, I consider it of great value to have it and I should like to give my warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on bringing the Bill before us.
Why it is important that we should have the Bill and the value in it is that many people in this country are perplexed and troubled about our position in respect of Europe. The more serious discussion there is about it, the better. I hope that today's debate will serve to clarify my mind at any rate and I hope also that of many other people.
When we had the referendum on joining Europe, I voted in favour of doing so. But many people who did the same as I did feel now that they are getting something which they did not bargain for then. I feel a great deal of sympathy with the shrewd, industrious, Pakistani shopkeeper who has a corner shop near where I live in London. It is the sort of shop which appears to be open 24 hours a day and where you will be sold with the greatest courtesy one orange at 11.50 p.m. on Christmas eve. Your Lordships will know the sort of thing that I mean. I asked that gentleman what he thought about the European Community and how he thought it affected Britain, his adopted country. His reply was concise and picturesque. He said, "When we joined, we all had high hopes but it is a flop".
I believe that many people in this country share that view. But of course, it is not a flop. If it were a flop, it would not matter. But it is not. It is something which is of great significance and which is changing our history, and a great many people do not like that.
When we had that referendum, we were assured that we should not lose our sovereignty but merely that we should share it. I am afraid that it does not feel like that. It feels as though our sovereignty is slowly but irrevocably being comprehended or taken over by the tentacles of that great bureaucratic octopus that sits in Brussels and which I fear we do not seem able adequately to control.
Therefore, it seems the course which is being followed now must lead inevitably to a federal Europe. I do not believe that we are ready for that and it is so contrary to our history that I am not sure that we ever shall be. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will help me to see the truth of this matter and I ask three questions. First, are we heading inevitably towards a federal Europe and, if we are, is that the wish of Her Majesty's Government? Secondly, what real advantages do we obtain from our present position in Europe? Finally, what would be the results if this Bill became law and we had to renegotiate our position?
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, one of the things that always characterises the interventions of my noble friend Lord Pearson in the European debate is the unfailing courtesy and good manners with which he expresses his view. I found his speech this morning refreshingly free of xenophobic assertions. I should like to think that that is the tone in which these matters will be discussed in our party from now on.
Before I make one or two general remarks about the state of play, I should like to make a technical point about the Bill. My noble friend touched on Clause 2 of the Bill and, quite rightly, mentioned that it is a draconian Henry VIII provision. Of course, my noble friend is as opposed to that as I am in our constitution. But sometimes such clauses in difficult circumstances have to be tolerated.
However, before my noble friend's Bill becomes law, there is one problem that must be addressed. Much of the legislation that implements European Community law in this country is delegated not primary. It is authorised by directives whose authority will fall away once this Bill is passed. Therefore, with great respect to my noble friend, what is needed here is a clause which preserves the content of that delegated legislation for the moment, until such time as Parliament has had a good chance to look at it. Otherwise, whole swathes of economic and social activity in this country will be unregulated by law--for example, the field of agriculture. No doubt we will wish to change some of the agricultural rules; but we would certainly want to do so in an orderly manner. If the Bill is to become law, it will need some careful scrutiny in that and other respects.
I was also much struck by the fact that there is no mention of a referendum in my noble friend's Bill. I am rather pleased about that. I think that there is a real danger that the attraction of referenda is beginning to erode representative government in this country. Indeed, technically, it is now possible for the nation to sit in front of television sets every evening and vote on parliamentary Bills. Why not? But I think that that would be an extremely dangerous path to follow. It is the job of political representatives to shape public opinion. Public opinion is often wrong. Where would we have been, for example, in 1981 if my noble friend Lady Thatcher had listened to what the general public were saying about her Budget, which dramatically changed the economic fortunes of this country? Where would this nation have been in 1938 if Mr. Winston Churchill had listened to public opinion about Munich? It is the job of political representatives to shape the nation's opinion. I believe that my noble friend's decision not to mention a referendum in his Bill is a positive blow for representative government.
I turn now to the next point that I should like to make on the Bill. Here, I am afraid, I shall differ from my noble friend and I apologise to him for that fact in advance. He mentioned, much later in his speech, our loss of sovereignty to Europe. But if we have lost sovereignty to Europe, he would not have been able to introduce this Bill--because we would no longer have
The effect of being members of the European Community is that, while the Bill is in force, we have delegated certain powers of British government, in our national interest, to supra-national institutions which sit on the Continent. We are free at any time, in the space of a day if necessary, to take ourselves out of all of this if we wish to do so. That is what this Parliament of ours is here for. If we do not pass my noble friend's Bill this month, next month, this year or next year, we can still do so in 10 years' time because we still retain that freedom. Therefore, when we use the word "sovereignty", we must be very careful not to deceive the general public to whom we have a duty; namely, to let them know that they always have the option of coming out at that moment in time when they believe that it is no longer in the national interest to be in there. I see that the noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.
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