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Lord Carter: Yes, my Lords. A full list of all products is available through a number of publications. In the case of OPs, 13 evaluation documents are available; and there is full information on 80 or more pesticides, of which about 30 are OPs.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, can the Minister answer a conundrum which occurs to many of us? Since he mentioned the word "precaution", and since the

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ministry has banned beef on the bone as "a precaution", why, with far better evidence, have OPs not been banned?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I believe I have already answered that question. The approach to the approval of pesticides and veterinary and human medicines is already precautionary. The expert scientific committee reviews data to ensure that the balance between risks and benefits is correctly drawn. At the moment the committee's view is that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea of a ban or a moratorium.

European Communities (Amendment) Bill

3.10 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

It gives me particular pleasure to introduce the Second Reading debate of the Bill which will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Treaty of Amsterdam. With your Lordships' indulgence, I should perhaps explain that about three years ago my right honourable friend, now the Prime Minister, asked me to establish a committee chaired by him to consider the Labour Party's approach to the impending Amsterdam negotiations. I can modestly say that we were largely successful in establishing a united and coherent position in the Labour Party; I can certainly claim that we were more successful than were the then government.

In the event, the Labour Government took over on the eve of the final formal stages of negotiation. On day two of the Labour Government I accompanied my right honourable friend Robin Cook across the threshold of the Foreign Office for the first time in government to discuss with officials the state of play and how we should deal with negotiations. On the basis of that meeting my colleague Doug Henderson was able the following Monday to set out clearly the incoming Government's position for the benefit of our European partners, signifying to them a welcome, new, constructive but nevertheless clear and firm UK position as regards those negotiations. I do not claim too much for that preparation. There remained plenty of work for my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to do at Amsterdam, but I like to think that they were working on a sound basis. On 20th May I indicated to the House that I should be covering European questions. I have since then dealt with many European issues in your Lordships' House, but none has given me greater pride than the pride I feel in introducing this Bill.

The Bill comes to us after detailed scrutiny in another place. It was examined over a full five days in Committee; over 100 amendments were discussed there. The detailed attention which the Bill received is noteworthy, but we should also note the overwhelming majority by which the Bill was passed there.

The treaty has also received the attention of your Lordships' House. I replied to a full and stimulating debate on the subject on 28th July, in which many noble

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Lords made very effective speeches. Your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities produced a comprehensive report on the outcome of the intergovernmental conference. That was followed on 31st July by a detailed report from the Select Committee on the enhancement arrangements for scrutiny of the so-called third pillar. Since then the committee has also taken evidence from my colleague, Doug Henderson, Minister for Europe. I am therefore keenly aware that this is a treaty with which many noble Lords are already familiar and in which there is a great deal of interest in this House, as evidenced by the large number of noble Lords who have expressed a wish to speak today.

I should like to take the opportunity of Second Reading to set the treaty in the wider context of the new Government's approach to Britain's role in the European Union. In May last year the new Labour Government said that they saw the European Union as an opportunity, not a threat. For too long the United Kingdom had lost influence in Europe. This Government are clear that the best interests of the country lie in a full, positive and constructive engagement with our European partners.

At Amsterdam my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary showed their great commitment and negotiating skill, which was much respected by their fellow leaders. They also showed that the new Labour Government could do business in Europe, to the benefit of both British interests and the European Union as a whole.

In the Committee stage in another place the Opposition asserted that some aspects of the treaty represented a threat to the interests of this country. I have no doubt that we shall hear that again today. However, I do not believe that the assertion will stand up to serious examination in this House. I have followed closely the debate on the treaty. It has been called many things, some of them complimentary, many of them rather less so, but the description which has been used more often than any is that it is a "modest" treaty. I am struck by that description, but I think a more appropriate one would be that it is a "consolidating" treaty.

It is true that in many respects the treaty is more modest than its two most recent predecessors, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. It lacks the dominant, eye-catching, overarching themes of the single market and the single currency. But in many respects these comparisons are misplaced. We should not start from the assumption that every European treaty must necessarily involve a great leap forward. Indeed, the consolidating nature of this treaty catches very well the mood of public opinion, both within this country and the European Union as a whole. The peoples of Europe were not looking for grandiose new constructs or visionary new projects. In so far as they understood the process at all, they were looking for a sensible rationalisation to increase the efficiency and democracy of European institutions, to make them more understandable and in touch with the citizens of Europe and to provide a basis on which we can move forward to tackle the challenges of the next century.

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Amsterdam represented not only a consolidation but also an end to what I call "institutionitis", the obsession with institutions which affects Eurocrats, politicians and commentators alike. I hope that we can now move on to deal with the issues which concern our citizens--jobs, environment, crime and human rights--and to concentrate on the historic task which we are now beginning with the UK presidency of the European Union: the successful launch of a European currency; and enlargement--the reunification of Europe after the bitter divisions of the Cold War.

For Britain, Amsterdam also represents the normalisation of our relationship with our partners in Europe and the beginning of constructive engagement. For Europe as a whole the treaty substantially, though not entirely, provides the basis on which we can start that process of enlargement. Under the British presidency we shall launch the European conference on 12th March and the enlargement negotiations at the end of next month, a process which will consolidate peace, democracy and security in a wider Europe. It is an historic opportunity and an obligation which we shall fulfil.

That is the context. I hope that in this debate we can also discuss the detail of the treaty on its merits. Looking at the list of speakers, I recognise that it may be a forlorn plea, but I hope we can do so without starting from the assumption that every provision, no matter how minor or benign, and no matter what its evident advantages, must somehow contain some snare simply because it is in a European treaty, supposedly thrust on us by Brussels and a conspiracy of foreigners.

I am the first to recognise that the Treaty of Amsterdam is not a perfect text in every way. I do not wish to grind your Lordships down with a detailed presentation on every sub-paragraph, though I am confident that much of the detail of the treaty will receive proper and full attention in later stages in this House. However, I should like to draw to your Lordships' attention in broader terms some of the practical advantages which the treaty represents for both Britain and Europe. I hope to show that the changes are neither quite as modest as some suggest nor as dangerous as some claim.

First, the treaty begins to address the concerns of the citizens of Europe--for example, the widespread concern about crime. In the field of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, the treaty sets out clear objectives for the Union and makes available to the Council new instruments which will improve decision-making and effective co-operation. International criminals--the drug barons and international terrorists--are increasingly agile in pursuing their nefarious trade across international borders. The Union must develop the means to combat them. The treaty marks a step forward in this respect.

The treaty also introduces new provisions on openness and transparency in the Union so that the interested citizen can find out what is being done in his name. It has long been a valid criticism in this House and elsewhere that Europe operates with too much secrecy. Amsterdam begins to set that balance right.

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There are also improvements which address citizens' concerns--the environmental dimension, consumer protection and anti-fraud provisions. They offer important and significant steps towards addressing genuine, popular concerns throughout the Union and should be welcomed in this House.

Secondly, the treaty reinforces the rights of the citizen in Europe. For example, it introduces a new legal basis for the Council to adopt anti-discrimination measures, and we support that. It is a welcome provision, but one which has already been misunderstood in this House. Let me explain therefore that the article does not have direct effect; it provides a legal basis for future action by the Council at European level.

The United Kingdom is relatively fortunate to have quite a good story to tell in respect of our anti-discrimination legislation; not all member states are in such a strong position. If we wish to raise standards, not least so that our citizens--particularly those from ethnic minorities--can enjoy the same levels of protection when they travel, work and study in Europe as they do here, we will need legislation at European level. I add however that Article 6a is subject to the important safeguard of unanimous decision making, so that we will be able to shape and influence legislation in a way which is sensitive to our national circumstances.

The treaty also strengthens the human rights provisions. Here again there has been a good deal of scare-mongering. Some have seen and profess to see it as a covert threat to the United Kingdom; that is, that the Council may adopt sanctions against the United Kingdom because it was deemed to be in serious and persistent violation of human rights. That is an improbable scenario to say the least. I can state categorically that as long as this Government are in power--I believe that the same would apply to all parties represented in this House and this Parliament--the United Kingdom will not be in breach of fundamental human rights and it is inconceivable that the 14 other member states would deem us to be so.

Thirdly, in relation to one of the other major concerns of citizens--jobs and working life--I am proud to say that the treaty fulfils the long-standing commitment of the Labour Party to end the damaging opt-out of the social chapter. It will allow British workers to enjoy the same rights and protection in the workplace as their continental counterparts. A lot of nonsense has been talked about the social chapter and I do not aspire to convince the Opposition of the error of their ways today. I know that the social opt-out provided perhaps a convenient and desperate last rallying point for the Conservative Party to try to unite around in opposition to the treaty as a whole. But they failed to provide any evidence that the social chapter will somehow put at risk hundreds of thousands of British jobs.

We set out in our manifesto the objective of incorporation of the social chapter. In that election the vast majority of the British public agreed with us.

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Similarly, the inclusion of the new employment chapter is also a significant gain. The treaty states that the co-ordinated strategy for employment which it envisages should focus on,

    "promoting a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce and labour markets responsive to economic change".

There again we see British wording and British priorities reflected on the European stage, and that is welcome.

This Government do not believe that there is any contradiction between modernising labour markets and providing decent minimum standards for workers, or indeed respecting the position of the trade unions as social partners; quite the reverse. Modernisation requires the active involvement of workers and the constructive engagement of trade unions at all levels. The social chapter and the employment chapter reflect that.

Fourthly, on a different level, we have strengthened the mechanisms and procedures of the common foreign and security policy, building on the Maastricht Treaty. The importance and necessity of that was stressed by speaker after speaker in the debate in this House a few days ago introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. Amsterdam also clarifies the security provisions of the treaty. It underlines the primacy of NATO as the cornerstone of the European allies' defence. Again, I hope that that can be welcomed across this House.

It has been alleged that the treaty concedes the principles of the integration of the Western European Union into the European Union and thereby turns the EU into a military organisation. That is categorically not the case. It is undeniably true that some of our partners would wish it were so. Those aspirations were advanced at Maastricht and again at Amsterdam. But at our instigation and at our insistence the Amsterdam treaty makes it quite explicit that the integration of the WEU into the European Union could only take place if the European Council so decided, by unanimity, and subject also to the ratification of each member state--another welcome safeguard and a welcome clarification.

The positive closer relationship between the EU and the WEU reflected in the treaty will help to deal with the problems of crisis reaction--the so called Petersberg tasks--where European co-ordination is so vital and has rather too frequently been sadly lacking.

Fifthly, I turn to the vexed problem of border controls. The treaty provides, for the first time, explicit and incontrovertible legal security for this country to maintain its system of border controls. We achieved that in the context of a solution which also recognises the legitimate aspirations of our continental partners with different geographical circumstances and different forms of administration to operate collectively a different system. I know that there are those who claimed that the Conservative government had already negotiated that. But, frankly, we found no trace of any such agreements in the various drafts of the treaty we inherited. It was part of the package negotiated by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister at the summit itself. That is set out in a

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protocol to the treaty which, as your Lordships know, carries the same legal force as the treaty itself. I hope it will be welcomed by all Members of this House.

Let me now turn to the institutional provisions of the treaty. I do not intend to dwell unduly on those provisions. I recognise that neither the official Opposition nor the Euro-sceptic tendency will agree with us on some of these issues. For instance, this Government see real advantages in a sensible extension of qualified majority voting. An extension of majority voting removes the ability of one country to block measures which may be in the interest of this country and the Union as a whole; for example, in the fight against fraud.

The Government accept also that the question of extending majority voting raises important questions of accountability. We therefore make no apology whatever about our support--indeed our strong advocacy--for the treaty's extension of the powers of the European Parliament, a co-decision with the Council. That is important in terms of democratic legitimacy and we believe that the changes in the powers of the European Parliament are welcome. They represent an advance in democracy and accountability of all the European institutions.

On the agenda for Amsterdam were also other questions of reform of the institutions--of the Commission and of the re-weighting of votes in the Council. In that area I am markedly upbeat. As I said in the July debate, I regret the fact that Amsterdam did not make as much progress in those areas as we would have liked. We did not reach final agreement. But at least we secured a firm commitment to address those questions in good time for the enlargement process.

Finally, I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the treaty also contains a new protocol on the role of national parliaments. I am pleased to pay tribute once again to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and his committee who have long sought for a longer period of scrutiny by national parliaments of European legislation. We now have a minimum six-week period for consultation. That is an important improvement, but we also intend to ensure that it is respected.

Your Lordships will know that this Government are committed to more effective, more comprehensive scrutiny here at Westminster of European legislation. My right honourable friend the President of the Council submitted a memorandum to the modernisation committee in another place setting out the Government's proposals. The Government look forward to taking those matters further in consultation with both Houses. In particular, we would welcome the contribution of your Lordships' Select Committee in that process.

The treaty of Amsterdam may well have been described as modest. However, I hope that I have shown some of the important achievements which it represents for this country and for Europe. At Amsterdam we achieved explicit legal security for our border controls and protected our essential interests on immigration, asylum and visa policies; we agreed a limited extension of qualified majority voting in those areas where it will be in our interests while maintaining at the same time

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unanimity in key areas; we agreed measures which will improve the effectiveness of the common foreign and security policy; and, above all, we endorsed a new focus for the institutions of the Union on issues which really concern the citizens of Europe--on employment, on social policy, on the environment, on combating discrimination and on fighting fraud.

This may not be the stuff of heroic deeds and high oratory. The treaty is neither the looming menace portrayed by the Euro-sceptics nor is it the triumph of the European ideal envisaged by some Euro-fanatics. It is a practical consolidating treaty on the basis of which we can now move forward. Perhaps I may pick up the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, who I do not think is in his place today, in the July debate on the treaty. He said:

    "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".--[Official Report, 28/7/97; col. 37.]

Those, I submit, are exactly the right terms in which to describe this treaty. On that, I am in complete agreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Whitty.)

3.31 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, today we start the process of assessing the action which the Government took on behalf of the British people in Amsterdam last June and judging whether the Government's rhetoric of success after the summit is in proportion to what was negotiated at it. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, as a Government Whip, has won widespread respect in this House for his command of many subjects for which he has responsibility. He has now added well honed Foreign Office rhetoric to his armoury. I know that he will accept our congratulations on his opening speech as genuine and that he will not regard the widespread concern throughout the House that no Foreign Office Minister is at the Dispatch Box today as being in any way a personal attack on his ability. It is not.

However, I have to say that the decision made by the Foreign Secretary that this far-reaching constitutional legislation does not warrant Foreign Office ministerial accountability is a discourtesy to the House. It is the only Foreign Office legislation to come before the House during this lengthy first Session but apparently it is insufficient to warrant Foreign Office ministerial accountability here. This constitutional legislation is of such magnitude that it warrants a nationwide referendum in Denmark and consumes the time of the constitutional court in Germany. But it is not important enough to trouble our Foreign Office Ministers. The Government claim to be putting the United Kingdom at the heart of Europe. They currently hold the key role as president of the European Union. How on earth will our European colleagues judge the Prime Minister and the Government when they see Robin Cook seeking the introduction of the legislation

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into the Upper House without deeming it important enough to warrant the presence of a Foreign Office Minister, either during Second Reading or at the Committee stage?

These words are spoken more in sorrow than in anger. They obviously cause some amusement to colleagues elsewhere in the House. I say to them that when they look around the House and see the quality of many fine former ambassadors, former Foreign Secretaries and experts in foreign affairs in a House which has become a focal point, not for laughter but for detailed consideration and revision of European policy, they should then contrast the reputation we have long held internationally with today's Foreign Office decision not to ensure that the ministry is accountable to the House on matters of far reaching constitutional importance.

However, irrespective of how strongly my colleagues and I may feel about the Government's treatment of your Lordships' House today, it is my duty to impress upon the House the failings of this measure. I can assure the House that they are as great as the cursory treatment to which we have been subjected. This is no simple consolidating treaty. As a result, it is my intention during the progress of the Bill to examine in a constructive and measured way a treaty which is seriously flawed; to scrutinise the details contained within the legislation; to question the Minister, when, as I sincerely hope, she comes to the House; and to explore fully the effects of the Bill's provisions and the implications of the transfer of power which the treaty provides.

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