Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to remind him of the rule in the Companion relating to those who speak in the gap.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the noble Lord was left off the List.

Lord Ashbourne: My Lords, the inscription on the Euro-birthday card is as follows:

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1412

    events which relate specifically to that event hereafter known as 'the event' of birth in as much as a specific time or instant of time shall be attributed to the event as previously determined in accordance with the regulations which refer to the event in question, being wholly or in part the event under discussion, to wit and pertaining to the non-specific event to which it has already been certified that contains a time reference appropriate to the yearly period which it is desirous to refer to as the event as specified".
I will not weary your Lordships further. It is this kind of thing that some of us find most offensive within the European Union. I believe that your Lordships would be assisted by having a practical example of what is being discussed.

5.18 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I should like to add my voice to those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Although my party and I cannot agree with the general thrust of what he wants to achieve, it is important and valuable to have a debate on a matter of such significance to the United Kingdom. I hope that there will be many more such debates. The more widely the public understand what is at stake, the more likely they are to support those who wish the United Kingdom to stay within the European Union.

I find one aspect of the noble Lord's Bill disturbing. The noble Lord has himself admitted that the second clause of his Bill is an almost classic example of what is sometimes referred to as a Henry VIII clause which seeks to achieve major objectives through statutory instruments. It is a profoundly unparliamentary and undemocratic way to bring about changes in legislation. This surprises me. As the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and other noble Lords are aware, some of us very strongly support the idea of holding a further referendum should there be any major change in the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union.

Those who, like myself, strongly supported the concept of a referendum in 1975 when we decided, by a substantial majority, to join the European Community, as it then was, would find it astonishing to undo that commitment by an Act of Parliament conducted largely through statutory instruments. That hardly seems to us to show trust and belief in the democratic method.

This has been an extensive debate. Some of it I have enjoyed greatly, and some of it--I shall talk about it in a few moments--I found rather shaming. Let me turn first to some of the points noble Lords have made. One point many noble Lords have made has been to the effect--it was expressed with great strength of feeling by the noble Lord, Lord Braybrooke--that basically Europe is conducted by bureaucrats, and in his view they would be better on a desert island. He was not even gracious enough to offer them a choice of eight records to take with them to the desert island, no doubt including Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" which would make a Eurobureaucrat on a desert island very happy for a very long time.

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1413

The truth of the matter is that the number of bureaucrats who conduct the high level administration of the EU is somewhat fewer than those who serve Birmingham City Council; and every directive has to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The European Commission, although it may initiate directives, has nothing whatever to do with deciding whether they go ahead or whether they do not.

Most of the directives to which noble Lords object have been approved and agreed to by the member of the Council of Ministers who comes from the UK. I must reiterate that that process is not one on which the Commission has the final word.

Many noble Lords have referred to the fact, as they described it, that sovereignty has been lost to us. They have indicated that this is the first that they have heard of it. Perhaps I may remind them of the obituary of our distinguished and noble colleague, the late Lord Rippon of Hexham, who again and again in 1972 on the occasion of the original legislation to enter the European Community made it absolutely plain that there were political objects in mind. Perhaps I may quote from yesterday's obituary in The Times:

    "On all these occasions he"--
Lord Rippon of Hexham--

    "displayed remarkable candour--particularly about the underlying political objectives of the Community, something that was subsequently to do his reputation no harm".
The Times referred to what Lord Rippon of Hexham said not in 1996 or in 1995 but in 1972 when the political objectives were made absolutely plain.

In addition, some noble Lords have discussed the impact of the EU on our economic well being. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, spoke to great effect on that matter. Let me therefore, for reasons of time, add only two more things. The first is that the trade between this country and its neighbours and colleagues in the European Union has increased nine times over since we entered the Community. That compares with a six times increase in our global trade; in other words, we have consistently traded more with the EU than with the rest of the world, and our proportionate balance of payments has moved into a better position with the EU than with the rest of the world. In 1995, the last year for which I have figures, the balance of trade deficit with the rest of Europe was £4 billion; the balance of trade deficit with the rest of the world was above £11 billion. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred, I thought in somewhat slighting terms, to the fact that in future, Toyota might go to Germany or France because of large-scale subsidies being paid to get them there. The implication of the noble Lord's words was that investors would abandon the United Kingdom for France or Germany because of the scale of the subsidies that they were paid. I have just checked and my understanding is that the amount of subsidy paid to the LG company by the United Kingdom government to go to South Wales, where its largest investment was opened only the day before yesterday, was no less than £200 million; that is, an estimated £30,000 per job. I do not think that that is necessarily wrong. I delight in the additional help to

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1414

the economy of Wales. But we really must not pretend to ourselves that in some odd way, our neighbours in Europe pay huge subsidies and we pay nothing at all.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will tell the House how much subsidy Toyota received to come to this country. I understand that it was none whatever.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I have been addressing myself to most recent events and not to those of some little while ago. I do not know how much Toyota was given to come to this country. However, I do know--and I have given the House the figures--precisely the amount paid to the most recent major investor.

A number of noble Lords have said over and over again that in their view, we should not suffer if we were to leave the single market. They point to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, now the World Trade Organisation, as a reason why we should not undergo any degree of discrimination were we to leave. If that were true, why did the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, determine, when she was Prime Minister, and I think rightly, that we should join the single European market? Why was she prepared to swallow something she disliked very much--qualified majority voting--to get us inside the single market instead of outside it? Do noble Lords suppose that the noble Baroness would have been prepared to pay that price for us to enter the single market had she not believed that there was any advantage?

It was clear what the advantage was. It was that we came within a single market where the laws of the Community itself press continually towards a level playing field. In the past few days alone, the market for telecommunications has opened up in a way that the head of British Telecom has indicated is of great benefit to his company. The market for electricity is being liberalised in a way which will benefit greatly some very competitive companies in the United Kingdom. That is all due to the single market and the single European law which operates within that market.

There are two other matters which I wish to mention briefly before I sit down. The first is the dreaded social chapter. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, the dreaded social chapter has absolutely nothing to do with the on-costs of Germany, France or Sweden or any other country in terms of the way in which they subsidise their welfare state. For example, we pay for the National Health Service directly out of income taxes and other direct taxes. France and Germany pay for it largely by an additional tax on labour. That has been true for years, long before the European Community came into existence. France, Germany and Italy paid for their welfare state out of on-costs on labour. That has nothing to do with the social chapter.

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1415

So far, the social chapter has done just three things. It has proposed that there should be consultation in large firms. It is very difficult to see what is so wicked about that. It has proposed that there should be parental leave, and many millions of people in the United Kingdom would welcome that opportunity; for example, to look after a sick child. And wickedness of wickedness, it is proposed that there should be a limit of 48 hours not on the number of hours that someone can work if he chooses to work more but it is said that employers should not be able to compel people to work for more than 48 hours if they do not wish to do so. For the life of me, I simply cannot see what is so wicked about that.

I turn to the last point that I want to make, but it is a very big point. Years ago, when the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, spoke in the debate in 1975 at the time of the accession of this country to the European Community, as it then was, she said:

    "I believe with a number of honourable Members who spoke yesterday that the paramount case for being in is the political case for peace and security".
She went on to say:

    "The Community opens windows on the world for us which since the war have been closing. It is already a strong and already a major influence in the world".--[Official Report, Commons, 8/4/75; col. 1022.]
I do not quote that passage in order to embarrass the noble Baroness. I have a great deal of respect for some of the things that she has done--not all of them, but some of them. However, she was absolutely right; the major purpose of the European Community, now the Union, was and is political.

It is beyond me to understand why in this House we do not recognise the amazing achievements of the past 50 years. We have peace in Europe; peace in a continent which has twice ripped our families apart. I believe that the Community has a great deal to do with peace in Europe. It is easy to say that it does not if you do not happen to have seen the effects of civil war in Europe.

I believe that the reasons for the fall of the Berlin Wall had a great deal to do with the way in which Europe showed that prosperity and freedom could live alongside one another; a proof which went across to communist countries and showed them that there was another and a better way. I believe that the European Community has everything to do with the fact that Germany has been able to unify peacefully. It has been a difficult unification, but not a single life has been lost in its achievement. Finally, I believe that the European Union offers the troubled peoples of eastern and central Europe the opportunity to live in a stable continent.

I shall conclude by commenting on the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford. He told us that in his view the only alliance that really mattered to this country was the alliance with the United States.

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1416

He said that that was the absolutely crucial alliance. But the strange thing is that the United States, where as some noble Lords know I spend a great deal of my time, is a passionate supporter of European integration. Perhaps I may quote the words of the former ambassador from the United States to the European Union. In only 1995, Mr. Stewart Eizenstat said:

    "We support the European integration movement wholeheartedly and in supporting it we have never been a passive bystander. We are an active champion of European integration".
Last year his words were echoed by President Clinton on his visit to Germany and this year his words are being echoed in the efforts to try to create a transatlantic agenda between the United States and the European Union. The United States is interested in an alliance with Europe, not just in an alliance with the United Kingdom.

We live in a globalised world. We may not wish to; we may wish that it were different. Many of the speeches that we have heard today were based upon the desire to turn the world back to another time which no longer exists. In that globalised world, we should not insult some of our partners, as we have done, by saying how little they understand democracy and how little they understand parliaments. It is for us to assist and help our neighbours in Europe to create a stable continent in a stable and peaceful world. I believe that that is our mission; not the mission of a second-rate country but a mission to which we should all be called with everything that we have. I hope only that those who believe in this vision, as I believe that for a long time many of those in the Labour Party did, will come with us tonight and vote against the Second Reading. I hope that the same will apply to those on the Conservative and Cross Benches who see this vision.

5.35 p.m.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, this has been an extraordinary debate--extraordinary because 38 speakers must be a near record for your Lordships' House on a Friday, and because of the extraordinary discontent which many noble Lords have shown with Europe. Are we really representative of the great British public, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, suggested? While thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for introducing the Bill, I must say that I find it dangerous and backward-looking. I say backward-looking because it would put our economy into reverse by diminishing the value of the single market and dangerous because it will affect our culture and diversity. I seek to defend them both from within, not from without. I share the concern expressed by my noble friend Lord Whitty about the inconsistencies and the rewriting of British history that we have witnessed today.

Many noble Lords who have spoken assume that our economy and our culture can be separate. In 1997 that is impossible. Trade intrudes on all aspects of our life

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1417

and culture. It affects the lives of everyone, not only those in business and industry but also those in all other walks of life--in education, medicine, the arts, the professions and the public service. Indeed, it affects everything from the air that we breathe to the lives that we live.

Noble Lords who support the Bill want to pick and choose our relationships with an extraordinary presumption that others will agree to that--an a la carte kind of relationship, as the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, called it. Cherry picking is only possible with the agreement of others and it is dangerous to assume that the others will agree. How much more constructive is the shared vision of which the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, spoke.

The cherry picking contained in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will only encourage opportunistic and short-term business activity. It will deter long-term serious investment and a commitment to progress. We shall return to goods being stopped at frontiers to pay duties, products having to comply with different laws and services not being subject to competition. That is what it means to be a "stand alone", as many noble Lords wish. Is this what the noble Lord seeks to encourage--a kind of stand-alone, Albanian pyramid scheme economy such as we have recently been hearing about? Far more attractive are the advantages of the single market about which my noble friend Lady Ramsay spoke.

The hostility of many speakers supporting the noble Lord's Bill towards our relations with Europe is making it more difficult to complete the single market and secure the benefits. In doing this, they are helping to undermine the very culture which they are seeking to preserve. The single market is the biggest trade commitment that we have. Since 1991, Europe has become our home market and that is why we have interdependence not the dependence, or loss of sovereignty, about which many noble Lords complain. Parliament still rules. The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, reminded us that this is a voluntary arrangement. Incidentally, now that I have mentioned the noble Earl, perhaps I may congratulate him on his maiden speech--that is, if it was indeed his maiden speech.

As a result of the single market more jobs exist, inflation is lower and gross domestic product is higher; indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, gave us the details. Most companies, whether in manufacturing or services, directly or indirectly have customers, suppliers, agents, representatives, warehouses, distributors, investors and all kinds of business partners throughout Europe. Many noble Lords want to end this or want companies to renegotiate such relationships. There is no economic case for it. Those relationships are developing and changing by the minute, and it is right that that should be so. There are also the relationships being developed by young people about which the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, spoke. Those relationships are

31 Jan 1997 : Column 1418

developing because, generally, business and society feel that there is an agreed framework. That agreed basis makes the single market possible. But this Bill will undermine that agreed basis. Business cannot develop relationships if countries can pick and choose the rules on which those relationships are based. It is just impossible.

The noble Lord, Lord Moran, spoke of friction. This Bill will make that worse, not better. Rule one for a successful economy is stability. We could throw away years of work and the competitive value built up during that time. This Bill would mean our withdrawal from the single market. There are those who believe that completion of the single market is dependent on a single currency. A decision whether or not to enter into a single currency on 1st January 1999 is a political decision which can be made only when all the facts are known and the European Council has reported.

The political decision of the United Kingdom must be determined by the national economic interest. The prize is reduced transaction costs and currency stability. Many exporters wish we had currency stability at the moment. Should there be a positive decision in relation to the single currency, Labour will put this to the people of the United Kingdom through a referendum.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page