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4.41 p.m.

Lord Tordoff: My Lords, it takes a skilled parliamentarian to make a maiden speech which in part softens up the person who will respond to the speech immediately afterwards. The flattering remarks made by the noble Lord about the European Communities Select Committee in your Lordships' House did not go unnoticed.

We have listened to a remarkable maiden speech from a man of great ability and experience. The noble Lord has been in public life for a long time. He has held portfolios in relation to Northern Ireland, employment, energy and transport. However, for 10 years he chaired most admirably the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in another place. That is why those of us not only in this House but on your Lordships' Select Committees and sub-committees will welcome his presence and the contribution he will make to the debates in future to which we look forward with enormous relish.

The noble Lord follows in distinguished footsteps, as he did in another place, as Member of Parliament for Guildford, and now as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. He follows in the steps of Lord Nugent of Guildford, who was widely respected in this House, whose shoes he will find it difficult to fill. But he did so admirably in another place and I am sure that he will do so again in this House.

I intervene merely to draw attention to the Third Report of the Select Committee on the European Communities, Session 1997-98, published last week. I draw your Lordships' attention to one or two parts of the report. I hope that it has been of some use, as it obviously already has been to some of the speakers today.

Noble Lords will remember that in a Select Committee report on the IGC in 1995 we referred to enlargement as perhaps being the most important part, the driving force, of the IGC. We were directed in that by Professor Helen Wallace, now Lady Wallace of Saltaire. I believe that at that time the Select Committee felt strongly that enlargement should be the motor which drove the IGC.

I turn to the new report. It sets out extracts from our earlier report on the left-hand page; and extracts from the draft treaty on the right-hand page. The report quotes from the Select Committee's report that:

At the time we stated that it was an IGC too soon. That was largely dictated by the fact that the ratification of Maastricht came much later than anyone expected.

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However, there was provision in the Maastricht Treaty that the Amsterdam conference should take place when it did.

A number of people have referred to the fact that not much has come out in the wash. The documents to which I refer indicate that. In passing, I pay tribute to the staff of the committee office who worked hard to produce this document in a very short time in order that your Lordships could have it before today's debate.

On pages 8 and 9 of the report we stated in 1995 that,

    "Any system of presidencies must combine elements of continuity in essential tasks and elements of change, to ensure that all Member States participate as fully as possible in the management of the Union ... We acknowledge that something must be done, but we do not contemplate the prospect of team presidencies with great enthusiasm".

With 25 members, the presidency will come around only once every 12½ years. One wonders whether small states such as Cyprus and Estonia are capable of handling a presidency, with all the workload that goes with a modern presidency. As noble Lords will note on page 9 of the report, the outcome of the treaty is,

    "No change proposed in the Treaty".

That is disappointing.

We were worried about the size of the Commission. If one is to have only one commissioner from the major countries, one will still have a large number of commissioners. One wonders where the workload capable of their ability will be found. I think that the commissioners are already scratching a little as regards the portfolios. In the report we stated:

    "We consider that reducing the number of Commissioners to one per Member State would be a useful first step towards achieving a more efficient Commission. As the Union expands, however, the question of whether there is enough work to provide 20, or 25, or more Commissioners with worthwhile portfolios will again arise to an even greater extent".

That issue has been tackled. The outcome of the treaty is that,

    "the Conference ... agreed a 'Protocol on the institutions with the prospect of enlargement of the European Union', which effectively postpones the much more difficult and important question of the size of the Commission until enlargement begins to take place".

There are two protocols. The first states:

    "At the date of entry into force of the first enlargement of the Union ... the Commission shall comprise one national of each of the Member States, provided that"--

it is an important proviso, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, suggested--

    "by that date, the weighting of the votes in the Council has been modified, whether by reweighting of the votes or by dual majority, in a manner acceptable to all Member States, taking into account all relevant elements, notably compensating those Member States which give up the possibility of nominating a second member".

It seems to me that that could be a block on the way to progress. If I were seeking to join the Commission from eastern Europe, I should be worried about that provision of unanimity. I do not say that unanimity is wrong. But from the outside it will look a difficult hurdle for the Community to overcome.

Article 2 of the protocol states:

    "At least one year before the membership of the European Union exceeds twenty, a Conference of representatives of the governments

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    of Member States shall be convened in order to carry out a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Treaties on the composition and functioning of the institutions".

In accordance with that article, another IGC will therefore be needed before the current round of enlargement can proceed. There are already six applicant countries, and another IGC will have to take place before they are allowed in. Again, that is a mind-boggling thought--more for those who are attempting entry than for ourselves.

There is no doubt that the net result, as suggested already, is that many people will be disappointed with the outcome of Amsterdam in relation to enlargement. I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Luxembourg the week before last. Present were the chairmen of similar select committees from the chambers of almost all the countries of the European Union. Overwhelmingly the feeling was one of complete disappointment that an opportunity had been missed and that, in particular, institutional reform was a prerequisite to enlargement and had not been tackled, and in consequence, enlargement would be more difficult. The Dutch parliamentary member said that he thought this meant an end to enlargement. He put it as strongly as that. I am sure that that cannot be true; enlargement is a decision that people have already made in their hearts. Because of that, peculiarly, the pressure that ought to be there to unravel these problems has not been applied.

In addition to matters directly relating to enlargement, there is the question of co-decision. I emphasise that the document that we produced does not deal with every aspect of the Amsterdam Treaty; it deals with those aspects of the treaty on which we commented two years ago. We stated then that we believed that the conference should seek to simplify the procedures before steps are taken to extend co-decision. This report states:

    "In particular, if the Community is serious about improving its efficiency, an increase in the use of co-decision is a step in the wrong direction".

However, as the noble Viscount said, there have been rather a lot of increases in co-decision. There are 10 in the new treaty provisions; on my count, there are 21 in existing treaty provisions.

The important point is that any extension of co-decision must involve, as we stated, some diminution in the role and influence of national parliaments. That is quite clear. It places more power in the hands of the European Parliament. That may be what we want; it may be the logical thing to do--I do not know. But let us face the fact that it diminishes the role of national parliaments. However, some progress has been made towards speeding up the system of co-decision, and it has been simplified.

There is also some good news to gladden the hearts of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Under the heading,

    "The Hierarchy of Norms and Comitology"--

which always sounds like something out of Tolkien--on page 40 of the report we state that,

    "we have in particular repeatedly called for more resources to be devoted to the politically unglamorous task of consolidation".

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I know that this point is of particular interest to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. The treaty states:

    "A Declaration annexed to the final Act affirms the importance of the quality of drafting of Community legislation and considers that the three institutions involved in adopting Community legislation should lay down guidelines on the quality of drafting. The Declaration also welcomes the inter-institutional agreement on an accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts and encourages all the institutions involved to make their best efforts to accelerate the codification of legislative texts".

I wish them luck! I am sure I am joined in that sentiment by both noble Lords.

Finally, the best news so far as we are concerned relates to the role of national parliaments. It was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. The treaty now has written into it the provision that documents, in their fully translated form, should be in the hands of governments six weeks before any decisions are taken in councils, except for emergencies. One wonders how many emergency situations will crop up. Nevertheless, it is good to have that provision in the treaty. If we are to do our job properly as national parliaments in scrutinising legislation that comes out of Brussels, it is essential. Both the committee in another place and the Select Committee of this House are to be congratulated on trying to have that included in the treaty. This Government and the previous government are also to be thanked and congratulated on pushing that point.

The report is very much a curate's egg--there are good bits and bad bits. We are saddened that the bad bits relate to almost the heart of our IGC report of two years ago. However, some progress has been made.

In a sense, this document is almost passe already. Agenda 2000 is in some ways far more important than the Amsterdam Treaty. The treaty will have to be ratified. But Amsterdam 2000 begins to look forward and set down some markers in relation to the subjects spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and many others: financing, the future, changes to the CAP--and, it is to be hoped, the institutional change that is essential if enlargement is to take place, as we all hope it will, on time.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, knows well how much the House is in his debt for the work that he and his committee do. We are grateful to him for the compact report that he has now produced.

I hope he will forgive me if I follow him no further down that road, but join him in extending a warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and congratulate my noble friend on the quality of his speech in every respect. Noble Lords have commented already on his 10 years' experience as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place. They did not draw attention to the fact that my noble friend took over from me many decades earlier the portfolio of editing the Bow Group journal Crossbow. One of the editorial objectives of that journal--which, I am happy to say, still survives--was a realistic appreciation of Britain's role in the world. We both find common

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ground in our approach to this subject today. I do not quite follow my noble friend in the complete re-ordering of priorities as between Europe and the Far East upon which he half embarked. I do follow him when he says that there is a substantial granary of wisdom in this House. I know that he will make a huge contribution to this House's very own grain mountain of wisdom.

There have been many different verdicts offered on the Treaty of Amsterdam. There were some very improbable acclamations. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, drew attention to the characteristically enthusiastic applause given to the treaty by the Lord Privy Seal. On the other hand, there were some denunciations of it of a dismissive or reckless kind. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, stopped just short of being dismissive.

I prefer a more modest judgment on the whole of this operation. I cite as a particularly interesting comment the third report of the International Advisory Council of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), normally an enthusiastic organisation. Its indefatigable director, Peter Ludlow, pays tribute in this report to:

    "the seeming modesty of both its agenda and its outcome".

He describes that as,

    "a positive rather than a negative feature".

I agree with that.

Rather surprisingly, Ian Davidson, the redoubtable correspondent on this subject at the Financial Times, puts the same point, though perhaps predictably with less enthusiasm, when he states:

    "the integrationist model of the European Union is approaching the limits of what is politically acceptable to the nation states".

That is a fair judgment and one that I welcome. If it was true as we moved from 12 to 15 member states, it will be truer still as we move from 15 to 20.

In other words, we are approaching this topic now with objectives that are a lot less grand than we had at one time, and with language a lot less high-flown. But the alarms and hazards are rather less menacing as well. That is not to underrate the process. The opportunities, the challenges and the potential still remain of urgent practical importance to this country. I will return to that in a moment.

If the treaty is no cause for acclamation, it is no place, either, for apprehensive panic or denunciation. I have in mind, with the greatest respect to my noble friend Lord Cranborne, the suggestion that the treaty contains positively dangerous provisions in respect of human rights which could be used to damage the United Kingdom.

I do not think that is a reality at all. If one looks at the text more closely, the likelihood of that clause being used against any existing member state is remote. It was specifically tailored to ensure that the newly acceding eastern and central European states fully understand in advance that democratic, law-abiding culture is an absolute and continuing requirement of European Union membership. It is exactly the kind of safeguard which I would have thought that Conservatives have long sought, and rightly sought, in those circumstances.

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But the clause is closely circumscribed. I differ on one point from my noble friend. For a breach of those conditions to be determined it needs, first of all, a decision by the Council acting by unanimity and endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the European Parliament. The risk of those provisions being used to force a member state such as ourselves to adopt economic or social policies which we oppose is, frankly, fanciful. The appearance of that fear suggests that there is still too much going on even in some parts of my own party to build up this picture of the Amsterdam Treaty as a threat to the survival of Britain as an independent nation state. The truth is that Amsterdam, as several speakers have already pointed out, is more modest institutionally than either the Single European Act or Maastricht.

The suggestion that we should have a referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty is not well judged. I was struck by the fact that the commendation of it by my noble friend Lord Cranborne was so tentative that it appeared to have escaped the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, altogether. I welcome that tentative quality. I regard the suggestion of a referendum in that context as less than courteous to the last Prime Minister, who correctly resisted a referendum on Maastricht. Moreover--and I detected this note in my noble friend's speech--for us to call now for a referendum on this modest treaty might, as my noble friend said, result in a win for the other side. That would not be very good for those in my own party who are apprehensive about further progress in a "European" direction. Nor would it be entirely good for my party itself. Hesitantly, I say that the sooner this particular idea moves off stage, the better for all of us, not least the Conservative Party. If the election result proves anything, it is that the electorate is much more likely to respect parties which display a realistic grasp of how Britain can make a continuing success of our membership of the European Union. That is what requires a rational appraisal of the Amsterdam Treaty.

I agree with those who suggest that, from our point of view, the most substantial fault is probably the endorsement of the social chapter. That is a proposition to which we have adhered for so long that it would be impossible for us to resile from it. I suggest that even that can be mitigated substantially. I think that the case for more flexible labour markets of the kind we want can and should be put forward, as my party has always done. It is probably more attractive if put forward not so much as an Anglo-Saxon/transatlantic prescription but as a European one. Our Dutch friends, for example, are already blazing the trail down that road. If we present the case in that way, it is more likely to be effective. It is important to recognise that the cure for Europe's worst present disease, unemployment, is more likely to be found through market-driven national labour market policies and we are entirely right to argue the case for those.

There are some pluses in Amsterdam, and they have been recognised. Frontier controls, immigration and asylum arrangements have been safeguarded on a continuing basis. There have been some useful simplifications in the European Parliament's

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decision-making procedures. The common foreign and security policy arrangements have been consolidated in a sensible fashion. There is no significant shift away from unanimity on objectives. Once again, Peter Ludlow's sensible conclusion is that to achieve an effective CFSP we

    "do not need another IGC to do the trick".

The truth is that there, as in so many other directions, what we really need is the mobilisation of collective European will. We need that above all when we address the agenda to which many noble Lords have drawn attention: the reform of the common agricultural policy and the changes in the EU's operating procedures and institutions. Both of those are necessary if enlargement is to come about.

My experience of the curious process of negotiating within the European Union is that important questions of that kind are only resolved when there is a combination of inescapable deadlines and of a resurgence of political will to tackle the problems. That happened at the time of Fontainebleau and the Single European Act. The budget was running out, the British problem had been impossibly long-lasting and we wanted a single market. All those things came together. I believe that we are now approaching a time when they must come together again in a future set of negotiations.

That leaves the last, unlisted item on the Amsterdam agenda: economic and monetary union. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, regaled us once again with what I might call his usual speech on that topic. I do not mean that in any demeaning fashion because he offers us much wisdom on that topic and I share much of his analysis. My anxiety as far as economic and monetary union is concerned is not because I am apprehensive of the objective--if we can achieve it, it is enormously important--but because it is unwise to believe that we can achieve it on the kind of auto-pilot constructed in treaty form five, six or seven years ago. It requires great sensitivity.

It is very important, as we handle that topic, for Britain to retain its ability to join the economic and monetary union when and if we wish, at a time of our own choosing. That was the position of the last government, it is the position of the present Government, and it is the right position. The manifesto on which our party fought the election committed us to that position and I believe it is the position to which we ought to adhere. EMU is too important a prospect, with implications so far-reaching for British business and British jobs, for us to rule in or out, for five years or 10 years or for ever, the right decisions on that, as a matter of principle.

That is the recognition offered by the CBI in its survey last week. An astonishing 92 per cent. of those canvassed were prepared to accept the legitimacy of joining the single currency when and if the conditions were right; only 6 per cent. were opposed to it in principle. That is why I was delighted to see an interesting article in that remarkable journal The House Magazine of 23rd June, written by the director of the

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Centre for Policy Studies, Tessa Keswick, in which from that organisation the view was clearly expressed that the new Tory leader

    "must ... leave the door open to joining at some future time ...".
It is further stated in the article that this is

    "no time for the Conservative Party to be alienating (our natural) supporters ... Under new leadership Conservatives must set out a more positive agenda for Conservative Europeans, and develop a new language with which to express it".
"Never say never" was the title of the article. My delight in being able to quote that passage from the director of the Centre for Policy Studies springs not only from the fact that the patron and founder of the centre is my noble friend Lady Thatcher but also that the chairman of the centre--who, unhappily, is not in the country today--is my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach. If its director is prepared to commend wisdom of that kind, then I hope it will commend itself to others within the Conservative Party as being the right approach to this problem.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I should like to join the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on a superb maiden speech. I particularly welcome his view that we need to reorder our priorities towards emerging markets and the Commonwealth. I also welcome, as I am sure the House does, his strictures on EMU. I look forward to his intervention in future debates, particularly on matters concerning Europe.

On 4th June during the debate on the IGC, before the negotiations began, I made four major recommendations to Her Majesty's Government as to what they should do at Amsterdam. First, I believed that they should negotiate a major reform of the CAP. I believed that they should try to obtain the abandonment of the common fisheries policy and return fishing waters to our old jurisdiction. I also advised that they should cut the European Commission down to size and should not extend further powers to the European Parliament. I am sad that they adopted none of those particular policies and, indeed, even more sad that they did exactly the reverse.

My noble friend Lord Barnett, who is not in the Chamber at the moment, referred to my nodding in support of the notion of blowing Europe out of the water. I can assure him that I was not doing anything of the kind. It is not my policy, nor anybody else's policy, to blow Europe out of the water. I was welcoming his support for the position on economic and monetary union that I and others, especially my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington, have taken since the Maastricht Treaty. Indeed, we tried to amend the Maastricht Treaty to take into account the points of view that he supported.

But I must criticise the manner in which vital questions are decided at intergovernmental conferences. Great matters which affect our way of life, our laws, our institutions and our Parliament are decided--final

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decisions--apparently in a couple of days, at breakneck speed, with heads of government having to run from one meeting to another to keep up with events. I do not believe that that is a sensible way to conduct our affairs. Often, decisions are made in the early hours of the morning, when many, if not all, of the participants, have had a good dinner and perhaps imbibed a skinful of alcohol. The whole business is thoroughly undemocratic. There is no involvement by the people whose lives are affected by those decisions. The phrase "a people's Europe" is, in fact, a hollow mockery. A top European people's Europe is the reality.

I should like to ask my noble friend who will wind up the debate whether the treaty will be ready for signing in October. There seems to be some doubt as to whether all the problems of that hurried treaty will be ironed out by October. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give me a reply to that important question. I also ask him to tell us when the treaty is likely to come before Parliament for ratification. Will all the treaty revisions be subject to agreement or amendment by Parliament? Those questions are important. I hope that my noble friend will be able to answer them.

Turning to border controls, the Government claimed a great victory over that negotiation. Can my noble friend say exactly what is the position? Are we to keep control of our borders indefinitely--I repeat, indefinitely? The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister in 1985, thought that she had settled that matter for all time. Clearly, in the light of experience, she had not settled it for all time. I should like my noble friend to tell me the difference between what Lady Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister, thought she had obtained and what the Government have now obtained or think they have obtained.

The new protocol entrenches subsidiarity in the new treaty. That might sound all right, except that some of us do not accept the principle of subsidiarity because it means that one is subsidiary. But does not it also entrench the acquis communautaire? And does not that mean that powers once ceded to the European Union cannot be regained by the individual member nations? Again, I hope that my noble friend will reassure me that that is not the case.

I turn to foreign and security policy. There has clearly been some movement toward the European Union having a greater role in foreign policy and indeed in defence. In my view, that is a further turn of the ratchet of further integration. The Commission is determined to play a greater role in foreign relations. There is a new emphasis on--to use the European terminology--"consistence of external relations as a whole". That, in plain English, means a common foreign policy. The Secretary General of the Council of Ministers apparently becomes the "High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy". My God! Gilbert would have had great fun with that particular title. In other words, he will become a foreign secretary general.

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How can all that be reconciled with the principle that British foreign policy exists only to further the British interest? The British interest under this system will become subsidiary to the whole interest of the European Union. Again, I should like my noble friend--if he can and if he has time--to comment on that.

On defence, reference is made to the progressive framing of a common defence policy and to closer relations with the Western European Union, with possible integration of the WEU into the European Union. Those moves will delight the federalists, who seem to prosper whatever the political colour of the British Government.

Can my noble friend also tell me what happened over the common fisheries policy, which has not been mentioned so far this afternoon--or perhaps I missed any reference to it. That issue is important. Perhaps I may quote from the Fishermen's Association Limited, which is an important body. With regard to the treaty, it headlines its comments:

    "Blair returns home with an empty net".
It goes on to say:

    "British quotas might have to land 50 per cent. of their catches in British ports, or spend so many days a year in British ports. This would not remove a single 'quota hopper' from the British register, but at least it could be presented as ensuring 'greater economic benefits' for Britain and as a disincentive to any new quota hoppers.

    Astonishingly, however, it then turned out that these conditions have been written into British fishing licences since 1989 ... In short, there was nothing new about Mr. Blair's great 'concession'. It has been in place for eight years, and furthermore has proved in practice wholly unworkable, because it is impossible to monitor precisely what every fishing boat is up to".
That is a serious matter for the fishing industry. Again, I should like my noble friend to tell me exactly what was achieved and what will be different after the IGC from what obtained before the IGC. This House is entitled to have an answer to that.

We have already heard that qualified majority voting has been extended to 16 new areas. Although those areas are said at present to be only minor extensions, past experience tells us that, in fact, it means further incursions into what Douglas Hurd described as the "nooks and crannies of national life". Perhaps we could have some further clarification as to exactly what that extension of QMV will mean.

Finally, there is the European Parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, pointed out, the powers of the European Parliament have been considerably strengthened. Co-decision has now been extended to all measures other than those articles relating to European Monetary Union. That extends co-decision to another 23 areas. There is also the power, which neither this Parliament nor any other national parliament has, to veto the appointment of future presidents of the Commission. That is a considerable power, let us make no mistake about it. So, we shall find that the European Parliament will be able to over-rule a nominee of the British Government and the British Parliament will have no say over that matter at all.

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Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, pointed out, as the powers of the European Parliament grow, so the powers of Westminster will be diminished. That process will be exacerbated by devolution. Of course, we all now know--because the Prime Minister told us--that the European Parliament is to be elected by PR in 1999, with no consultation with either House of Parliament as far as I am aware, although there has been consultation with his new-found coalition partners, Mr. Ashdown and the Liberal Democrats. Presumably PR for the European Parliament will have to be agreed by both Houses of Parliament. Since that, as far as I can find out, was not a specific manifesto commitment, presumably the House of Lords will not be threatened with imminent destruction or emasculation if it wants to do something about it.

I fear I cannot welcome the new treaty. It may be a small ratchet; it may be a bigger ratchet than we think. Nevertheless, it is a further ratchet towards further integration within Europe and a further step to what the Germans so often like to describe as a country called Europe.

5.23 p.m.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, I join in congratulating most warmly my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford on his excellent maiden speech. Many Members who come to this House will be extremely jealous when they realise the kind of maiden speech that can be made, as exemplified by my noble friend today. We look forward to hearing many more speeches from him on many of the issues facing this House today.

The draft Amsterdam Treaty, the text of which has been considered for nearly two years, turns out to be a very disappointing document. It is disappointing for those who expected more and disappointing for those who wanted a reaffirmation of the status quo rather than an advance towards closer integration of the European Union. In fact, one might say that nobody is totally satisfied by the document.

While the text of the treaty is apparently brief, it is followed by 10 protocols, all of which are legally binding, and by 46 declarations which are not legally binding but which nevertheless have an important effect on decisions of member states. It seems that the general feeling of some member states concerning the treaty is that it has not led to closer integration and that is to be regretted. But for other member states--indeed, for all member states--it has failed to lay down institutional provisions needed to facilitate enlargement of the Community and, consequently, a further IGC will be needed before any enlargement can take place. That is regretted on all sides. It seems to be some form of--dare I say it?--incompetence that the heads of state at a meeting in Amsterdam failed to reach any sort of agreement. Whether or not that was on purpose, I do not know.

If applications for membership from only five countries are submitted--making an eventual total of

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20 member states--it is understood that comparatively minor constitutional changes would be required, such as the retention of 20 commissioners, with one commissioner per member state. That is one issue that for some time the former Prime Minister--I do not know about the present Government--agreed would be acceptable to the United Kingdom; that is, that we should have only one rather than two commissioners. It has also been said that six countries may apply, in which case a further IGC will be necessary in the not-too-distant future.

Noble Lords on both sides of the House touched on many issues with regard to the content of the treaty and I should like to refer to just three. The first and most important is that the institution most affected by the treaty is the European Parliament. Its main procedures have been cut down to three. There were previously around 20 different procedures concerning the adoption of decisions. To the 15 matters already in place which require co-decision, eight new areas have been added, making 23 in all.

The co-decision process has been modified and simplified so that the process should take less time passing through parliament. But it will require considerably better attendance and concentration on the matters in hand if the European Parliament, with its 626 members--there has never been a case when all members have attended the parliament--is to justify its new role in taking an equal part with the Council in adopting legislative measures. Those measures, voted by the maximum 626 members of the European Parliament, are to apply to something like 400 million citizens of the European Union. The legislative powers are important and it will be essential for the European Parliament to recognise its considerable responsibilities by having a high proportion of members in the plenary to take part in the voting process.

One further task has been allotted to the European Parliament; that is, the agreement by the parliament to the nomination of the president of the Commission. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It may appear to be of relative unimportance but we have only to recall the nomination of President Santer following the withdrawal of the name of M. Dehaene to recognise that the issue is not always straightforward and can be of importance both to this country and other member states should the name of a first chosen or selected candidate not be acceptable to the majority. It is important that that specific prize should be allotted to the European Parliament and we in our turn must be sure that our members know how we wish the vote to be taken.

The second issue is the agreement by the present Government to accept the provisions of the social chapter which will now become part of the treaty. That is to be much regretted. It may well be that the Government will also regret that step when Commissioner Flynn, responsible for social policy, produces new proposals for draft directives which can be adopted by qualified majority voting. He has in fact already declared one or two changes to existing statutes

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which would have a detrimental effect on the workforce of this country. Following the Government's acceptance of the social policy, we shall see the Commissioner proposing more changes in relation to these statutes. The Government will regret the decision and the British people will suffer as a consequence of it. The freedom which has been available to British companies resulting in a marked decline in unemployment and a flourishing economy could be lost and we could see a rise once again in unemployment and a decline in the country's economy.

A further change to be regretted is the switch of articles on asylum and immigration to the part of the treaty which now comes under the European Community and will no longer be subject to decisions on an intergovernmental basis in the third pillar. It is at least to be welcomed that the United Kingdom as well as Ireland will not be obliged to adopt any of the measures falling under the new title in relation to asylum and immigration. However, it is possible for the United Kingdom to opt in to all or any of these measures individually. The position is not quite so clear as it might first appear, since some action has already been decided under Title 3 and those would presumably be binding on the United Kingdom because they would have been taken by unanimous vote. It could be possible that with the recent increase in asylum applications to the United Kingdom and a correspondingly comparative decline in the number of applicants to enter and remain in other member states--this issue was raised when we were debating the question of asylum a few months ago--the United Kingdom should take further measures to ensure that only genuine asylum seekers are admitted and not those who turn out to be in search only of higher financial reward rather than protection against some form of state persecution.

Other changes in the draft treaty all point to the undeniable pressure from some member states towards an eventual federal system of some kind. There is no specific mention of that in the text but there is an indication that every added part appearing in the draft treaty is a step towards a European federal system. If that is what we want, that is what will be found in the treaty; if you do not want it, this is a treaty which we must oppose. We must ensure that amendments of some kind are made. That is possible because the treaty will not be adopted until October. There are measures which can be adopted to prevent certain steps being taken.

It is perfectly possible to be in favour of close co-operation with other European Union member states and acting together in selected areas. But pressure and coercion and the withdrawal of powers from national parliaments may well not lead to the continuation of parliamentary government which we have enjoyed in this country for so many decades. The drift of European legislation is towards the removal of powers from national parliaments and a concentration on European Union institutions. We have heard examples of that in today's debate. The effect of that movement, together with the proposed removal of legislative power from Parliament to a Scottish parliament and some power to

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a Welsh assembly, is some explanation of the already evident decline in the importance being attached to our own Parliament by the present Government.

5.34 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I welcome the debate and I thank the Lord Privy Seal, who is not in his place, for introducing it. It would have been disgraceful if he had not. I joined your Lordships' House in September of last year. Between September and May there were far too few debates in the House on the subject of European union and security. I welcome the Lord Privy Seal's assurance that there will be regular debates on this subject.

Today's debate follows an intergovernmental conference. Perhaps before the next intergovernmental conference we may have another debate. All who read their history know that this House was a great counsel. Noble Lords on all sides of the House have something to offer in guiding Her Majesty's Government on how far they can go and how much further they might go when they take part in intergovernmental conferences. I thank the Lord Privy Seal for his courtesy and lack of pomposity and for the way he conducts his office. This is the first time I have taken part in a debate which he has initiated. I know that your Lordships wish him well as Leader of the House.

It is a privilege and pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on his maiden speech. I first met him in Fermanagh in 1972. I was then a very junior member of Her Majesty's Army and he was Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office. In the preceding few weeks there had been a number of vile and brutal murders of gallant and distinguished members of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The then Minister of State, the Member for Guildford, came down to meet the families, friends and colleagues of those who had been murdered. The families, friends and colleagues were deeply unhappy and disturbed and were considerably upset with Her Majesty's Government. I watched with interest how the then Minister of State dealt with those bereaved people. He did so with courtesy and reassurance. It was an interesting operation. I salute him for the way in which he handled that difficult portfolio. We were all disappointed when he left the government--exit stage left--in 1983. It is my opinion, which I expect some of your Lordships will share, that the government were less effective after he had gone.

In February this year I had the honour to be host at a reception given in honour of the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ilves. I presented to the Estonian Ambassador a list of the personnel invited to the reception. He looked at the list. I said, "Is there anyone else you might like me to invite?" He said, "One person, the chairman of your Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, the MP for Guildford, whom we all greatly respect". I know of the noble Lord's interest in bringing the eastern and central Europeans into the Union and I know that what he says in the House will not only be listened to here but certainly throughout eastern Europe. We look forward to hearing from him in the future.

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Is the Amsterdam Treaty a watershed; is it an advance; or is it, as it is claimed, a new and positive agenda, a fresh and constructive approach to Europe? I do not believe it is a watershed but I believe it is an advance. The word "borders" has been bandied across the House a great deal. The right honourable Member for Sedgefield thinks it is a great advance that he has somehow established our borders. Perhaps I may suggest--and I do so with reluctance--that the great Russian people, whom the eastern Europeans, in particular the Baltic states, refer to as "our eastern neighbours" when they are being polite, is at the moment an international mafia.

There is traffic in all sorts of illegal substances. I mention the traffic in human beings, alcohol and drugs which is pouring across the borders, and black marketeering. Perhaps those statesmen at Amsterdam were only looking at the borders of western Europe. I suggest that, like ostriches, their heads were in the sand. They should have lifted up their eyes and looked at far broader horizons, because until we sort out the borders of eastern Europe and help those who at the moment cannot help themselves to police their borders, whatever we do about the borders within western Europe, that illegal traffic is going to cross the borders.

I shall confine myself to the enlargement issue because, as I have indicated before, and I shall do so again, I have an interest to declare. When this House is not sitting I live and work in the Baltic states.

The Prime Minister has said that not as much progress was made on enlargement as should have taken place. I agree and ask why? The Prime Minister's statement was repeated by the Lord Privy Seal. The Prime Minister said that we shall play "a leading role" in those negotiations in December, particularly during our presidency. A leading role? Surely, the president must play the leading role. Surely, this Government, with an enormous majority in another place, will wish to have the leading role.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said that he worries that a country the size of Estonia would possibly not be able to carry out the duties of the presidency for six months. Perhaps the noble Lord--my noble friend from this side of the House originally and now, of course, a neutral figure in the House--is not aware of the gifts of some of the leaders in eastern Europe and in particular my noble friend--and I use that term deliberately--President Lennart Meri. I understand that great gentleman statesman. He is a writer and an orator in five different languages who can put some of us to shame in the way that he handles our mother tongue. I am sure that a gentleman who was considered for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations could indeed wipe the board when it comes to holding the presidency of the European Union, if he does so.

Let me conclude by suggesting what Her Majesty's Government must do before they assume the presidency. Again, I shall confine myself to enlargement. First, I wish to see the right honourable gentleman the Member for Livingston in another place and also the Minister for Europe, the honourable gentleman for

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Newcastle North, touring the six capitals or inviting the Ministers here so that they can exchange views on how the enlargement process is to be carried out.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not expect too much from those six European states because they have just come through a terrible 50 years of oppression and of course they cannot put everything right in one day, six years or a decade. I was too young, but let us remember that two years before I was born General Marshall introduced the Marshall Plan. Regardless of where we sit in this House I believe that we are all enormously in the debt of General Marshall and Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, who took up that ball and ran with it.

There is no Marshall Plan, so what can we do? We must explore ways of assisting those six nations which aspire to join the European Union. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, wisely reminded us, we must not neglect the others because that would be a recipe for sliding back into the anarchy and totalitarianism that we saw in the 1930s when some of those nations went the wrong way and forgot their democratic paths.

I wish the Government well and I thank them for what they have achieved so far at Amsterdam. I look forward--and we shall press them from this side of the House--to their keeping us informed of the way ahead.

5.46 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on his maiden speech. He should be aware that there are younger Members in this House as well as in another place. As one of the younger Members of this House, I shall certainly go out of my way to listen to his future contributions.

I intend to speak briefly on how local government has gained from the Amsterdam Treaty. Local government looked to the IGC to recognise local and regional authorities as genuine partners in the European decision-making process. I believe that this treaty has recognised that by extending a range of areas where the Committee of the Regions will be consulted. Those areas include new EU competence in promoting employment, social matters, public health, environment, vocational training and transport. These are at the very heart of local government.

The relationship with the European Parliament should also improve now that it has been given the right to consult the Committee of the Regions, where previously only the Commission or the Council of Ministers had that right. A number of other small measures have been taken which will enhance the status of the Committee of the Regions which will in turn enhance the voice of local government.

Local government's aim of extending protection against discrimination--particularly racial discrimination--has been achieved in this new treaty. Equality between men and women has been reinforced under Article 119 of the treaty and the needs of disabled people are recognised in a declaration which

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accompanies the treaty. All those developments are wholly in tune with the aims and aspirations of local government today.

A further development from the perspective of local government is that the treaty recognises that subsidiarity is not just a matter between the Union and national governments; it includes an opaque reference to sub-national government. The protocol reads:

    "For community action to be justified both aspects of the subsidiarity principle shall be met: the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by Member States' action in the framework of their national constitutional system and can therefore be better achieved by action on the part of the Community".
Although the language is obscure, it is a recognition that a "Member State" is not just central government, but all levels of authority according to the constitutional law and traditions of that state. In addition, the Commission will produce an annual report on subsidiarity and submit it to the Committee of the Regions as well as to the Council and the Parliament.

The new treaty makes promoting a high level of employment an objective of the EU. I believe that that is a most significant development within the treaty. From a local government perspective the Committee of the Regions will be consulted on national employment policies, thus recognising the importance of employment for local government. The Committee of the Regions will also be consulted on the funding programme designed to promote high levels of employment.

I have mentioned the enhanced role, as I see it, for the Committee of the Regions, extending protection against discrimination, extending the subsidiarity principle and promoting high levels of employment. All of those areas meet local government's aspirations and enhance local government's role within the European Union.

Many special interests have lobbied the IGC and their efforts have been rewarded by declarations which give recognition but have no legal force. By contrast, local government has been remarkably successful in pressing its interests on the IGC.

The Treaty of Amsterdam is not a second Maastricht Treaty--where the Maastricht Treaty innovates, the Treaty of Amsterdam consolidates. Many noble Lords have welcomed the treaty for that reason alone. In conclusion, I too welcome the treaty and congratulate the Government on the successful conclusion of their negotiations.

5.50 p.m.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, never having been part of the usual channels, I am not altogether clear as to the principles upon which the speakers' list is compiled and whether it is wholly accidental that the youngest Member to speak in this debate should be followed by the oldest. I say that because the speech to which we have just listened seemed to me to encapsulate almost everything that I have to complain about in respect of the European Union: endless phrases of goodwill; principles that everyone recognises; consultation here, there, and everywhere; but in the end, nothing happens.

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It is, after all, now nearly half a century since the European Union was launched. One would have expected achievements on the ground and improvements in the position of the peoples of Europe. They have been rare and do not at the moment appear to be multiplying. For me, it is not so much a matter of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on what everyone knew would be an important maiden speech; it is a matter of expressing my pleasure that we now have in your Lordships' House someone who shares with me (although at a higher level of achievement) a belief in Europe and in the importance of European nations co-operating for their common good, without being mesmerised by the accidental conflation between that ideal and the so-called "European Union", the former European Community, a group comprising a relatively small number of European countries which came together for particular purposes--understandable and perhaps noble purposes at the time--but which established a set of institutions and a method of thinking which does not now meet the needs of the kind of Europe about which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was talking. That is a Europe which at present comprises all the countries from Lisbon to the River Bug and--if the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, will permit me to say this--if there is in the end a solution to Russia's internal problems, the European Union may be as de Gaulle would have had it, a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Unless we can incorporate all the skills, achievements, talents and resources of that continent, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is correct in saying that our place in the world, which is of great and essential importance, cannot be sustained.

Therefore, when we come to consider the meeting at Amsterdam, although many have expressed pleasure that this or that was achieved while others have expressed disappointment, particularly on the issue of enlargement, my point is that enlargement in the sense in which that word was used prior to Amsterdam is an illusion. You cannot enlarge the European Union with its structures, habits of thought, commitments (financial and other) to a larger number of countries. It is simply the realisation of that fact--not the admission of it--that has meant that people went to Amsterdam to reorganise the European Union so as to enable new members to enter, but failed to do so and will in all probability fail if they try again.

It is not simply, as some say, that the agricultural system or the structural funds need to be changed or that here and there things could be done with regard to the methods of voting or the number of Commissioners. Those points are irrelevant compared to the central fact that we have a different Europe and a Europe which, looking at the European Union, is entitled to ask, "What have those structures done for Europe so far?"

Perhaps I may take one or two minor examples. There is some splendid language in the Amsterdam Treaty. Not all of it is splendid, but some of it is alright; it is more or less intelligible if you take the trouble. There is splendid language about the freedom of movement between member states, including their dependencies. What has the European Union done to stop the persecution of the inhabitants of Gibraltar and the

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prevention of the right of movement of the inhabitants of Gibraltar? I have no connection with Gibraltar; I have never even been there, but it seems to me on the face of it that, if people are entitled to move freely within the European Union, the inhabitants of Gibraltar have as much claim to that right as any other people.

Perhaps I may take another example. We are confronted, as one of the possible candidates for the so-called "enlargement", with the Republic of Cyprus. The position between the two communities in Cyprus has been a tragic one which has involved this country, as a former sovereign power, in continuing expenditure of men and treasure. The international community at large has been involved. Over all these years, what has the so-called "European Union" done to bring about a solution to the problem of Cyprus? If it cannot manage Cyprus, how can it manage the vast areas of conflict and of potential conflict in central and eastern Europe? Whenever you put this body, the European Union, up against the test of something happening, it does not happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, referred to what might be regarded as the material problem of fish stocks. The European Union has not solved the problem of the conservation of an important natural resource which has led in the past to centuries of conflict and to differences between countries on the shores of the North Sea and the English Channel. The European Union has done nothing about it. It says that it will do something about it, but it comes up with solutions which, in fact, do nothing about it.

All right, the European Union has one achievement. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, is not in his place, but normally one says that the European Union has achieved a single market between its member countries. It is not a complete single market, but it is getting on for a single market and that is, of course, an important achievement. It is to the economic benefit of the inhabitants of these countries. But was it really necessary in order to make it possible without tariff or other burdens to sell something in Frankfurt that was made in Birmingham or to sell something in Edinburgh that was made in Lyon? Was it necessary to have a commission, a council of ministers, a parliament and endless documentation which, according to a newspaper report, is so detailed that members of our farming community commit suicide when faced with the task of filling up the forms? Was it necessary to have all of this? Could not a group of countries have negotiated free trade between themselves without such huge apparatus?

Amsterdam is simply another step. I do not entirely share the apprehension of my noble friend Lord Cranborne that Amsterdam marks an important twist in the ratchet towards integration, although I have no doubt that there are governments on the Continent and members of the Commission who would like that to be the case. I believe it illustrates that, unless we can free ourselves from the belief or superstition that "European Union" equals a united, prosperous and progressive Europe, we will get no further. The sadness is that a change of government in this respect at any rate has

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made no improvement. Having listened to the language used by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal, we have not even begun to grasp what we are up against.

6.1 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the Motion on the Order Paper makes it very easy to take an acquiescent attitude to the whole debate. One is invited to note the conclusions. I hereby give notice that I have noted them. That is really all that is required of me. I assume that in due course there will be a debate on the draft treaty illuminated by 626 pages of text which are circulated with it, including all the preparatory documentation. The difficulty is that in one way or another all of these papers place responsibilities on governments, member states or--in some rare instances--the Commission itself and the other institutions. When one analyses them--it takes a prodigious time to do so--all they do is give governments powers to do certain things concerning their own citizens. Of course, the people themselves are not involved in any way; they are not consulted in advance. They give powers, such as they are, to their own parliaments, but they are not consulted about the contents of various measures that may be to their advantage or otherwise. The whole matter is rather inconclusive.

Over the years my noble friend Lord Stoddart, myself and others have pointed out that we are dealing here with institutions and the powers to be given to them. Institutions have no feelings whatever; they are inanimate bodies. They are a concept conjured up by some mortals--indeed, even politicians--to convey a general trend of thought as to what they would like to do in certain circumstances. As far as concerns the Commission, the people have no relevance whatever; it is the institutions that matter. As far as concerns the European Parliament people are not involved. The College of Questors meets regularly at the beginning of each session to decide what the allowances will be during the next year. I am informed on reliable authority (the system was not in operation when I was there) that there is an upward tendency in the remuneration of members of the European Parliament, some of whom are rarely there. It is believed that average attendance is about 100. If one includes committees it is another 200. However, the rest of the attendances are rather perfunctory, particularly among the Belgian MEPs who have other political responsibilities closer at hand. Those are the realities.

It is also very puzzling for me, my noble friend Lord Stoddart and others to determine whether and to what extent the coalition of opinion between the Opposition and the Government, or the then government and the former opposition, now holds. We already know the views of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whose committee's report was published. Of the 18 members of the Select Committee three were members of the government party. That is hardly representative of Parliament as a whole. I give way to the noble Lord immediately.

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