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Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I put one question to him? He claimed that the European Commission and all those at Berlaymont are not the fanatical centralisers that Euro-sceptics imagine them to be. If that is the case, why do they resist so fiercely, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, even the slightest rolling back of the acquis communautaire?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I do not think that it is for me to respond to that point. However, if the noble Lord were to go to Berlaymont and speak to those who work there, he would find that the view which is held is mine rather than his. Furthermore, the noble Lord is referring to the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which was a child of the intergovernmental conference.
This is my first opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister on his performance at Amsterdam last June. By any standards, the British delegation came away from Amsterdam not only with a treaty which is reasonable in safeguarding British national interests but, importantly, having raised British standing in European eyes. The Prime Minister impressed our European partners with the fact that Britain wants to be at the heart of Europe and to be giving a lead rather than be seen to be negative, as has been the case so often in the past.
That is not to say that all that was aimed for at Amsterdam was delivered. It was not. The issues of enlargement and of institutional reform were deferred, or even possibly postponed. However, deferment on such topics is not unusual or even surprising. Reform and modernisation of power structures do not come easily, as we know only too well in these Houses. Recalling some of the contributions that have been made today by noble Lords who in some respects are pro-Europe but list the long catalogue of obstacles which have to be overcome--I refer particularly to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield--one wonders whether, even if we could define where we were going, we would ever get there. There is a long haul ahead of us. I believe that many people shout and scream too quickly their concerns about a project which is still a long way from being embraced.
There were some beneficial changes in the Amsterdam Treaty. Modest though some may seem to be, they are very important indeed for a significant number of our citizens. I refer specifically to the Government ending the opt-out from the social chapter, as it is loosely called. I first remind those who oppose the ending of the UK Maastricht opt-out that it was an explicit manifesto commitment--not only on the part of the Labour Party but also for the Liberal Democrats. If any question is raised about the extent to which there was a popular vote for ending that opt-out, the question should not be addressed purely on the basis of the Labour Party's vote; we should take into account also the votes cast for the Liberal Democrat Party. Taken together, they show a substantial majority voting in favour of what the Government did at Amsterdam.
The British people were wise not only to support the ending of that opt-out, but also to ignore the many scare stories that were engineered around not only the opt-out but the minimum wage which it was said would lead to possible job losses. We were told that difficulties would arise also from equal pay. Threats abounded about pensions being interfered with as a result of changes being made following the opt-out.
We must bear in mind not only the general election result but the fact that opinion polls show that our citizens want more social policy, not less. It is important that this change which the Government have introduced is recorded and welcomed--although I recognise that not all noble Lords would support that view.
I would argue that social policy is an integral part of the European internal market. It sets down minimum conditions to help to establish a level playing field. National measures can, of course, be introduced further to improve those conditions if individual countries choose to do so under subsidiarity.
Those of us who are in favour of European development and closer co-operation would not wish to engage in the beggar-my-neighbour spiral of competing on the basis of ever-decreasing levels of social protection. We want to compete on the basis of quality and value added. In my experience, that is achieved by having a well informed, well trained and fairly remunerated workforce--a workforce which one hopes will be in employment which is as safe and secure as is possible in the economic circumstances of the late 1990s.
I turn to the measures already agreed under the social chapter. The only one in operation so far is the European Works Councils Directive. Even before the election, dozens of British companies were setting up European works councils, including representatives of British workers. Can any of them really say that informing and consulting their workforces has made them uncompetitive, either before the election or subsequently?
We are expecting the Parental Leave Directive to come into force soon, then that on the reversal of the burden of proof in equal pay cases, and then that giving part-time workers some equivalent rights to their full-time colleagues. Again, that issue has aroused anxiety in some quarters, but those who believe in fairness and equity can only seek to see it put into place.
In the foreseeable future, there may be a directive extending some rights to workers on fixed-term contracts, and perhaps also on measures on providing information to, and consultation of, workers not only at the European level but also at the national level. I know that in some quarters the last item could be regarded as controversial, but we should not in this country be nervous about proposals for a basic right for workers to information and consultation. Why should two such simple principles be a burden on business when they are essential components of any good business or public or voluntary organisation?
Finally, I should like to say a few words about the employment title because the Amsterdam Treaty gives new prominence to employment. The promotion of a high level of employment is made one of the Union's objectives in Article B (TEU), and the promotion of competitiveness is added to the Community's tasks alongside the existing task of promoting a high level of employment. I do not see how anyone can rationally object to working towards,
Much of the employment title is already being put into practice, even before the treaty comes into force. The Special European Council on Employment held in Luxembourg last November agreed employment guidelines for member states. The main headings are, first, improving employability; secondly, developing entrepreneurship; thirdly, encouraging adaptability of businesses and their employees; and, fourthly, strengthening equal opportunity policies. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, referred to that point earlier.
Work on a national employment action plan is already under way here, with the TUC and the CBI co-operating particularly on issues of training, work experience, traineeships and the development of lifelong learning. The employment title is encouraging a practical approach so that the various member states can learn best employment practices from each other. Of course, it will not replace national employment policies--it is not designed to do so--but there is a European dimension which it rightly recognises. I believe that Britain can show the way.
Finally, on a broader and more general issue, I was born during the last war and since then I have had the happy experience of living in a country that has not been scarred by any European war. I thank God for that. I also thank the European movement for being principally responsible for delivering that. For those who ask us to think again about European partnership and co-operation in order to live and work together more closely, I ask them to pause before they embark upon a venture into the unknown. They are no clearer as to what the future holds for them than those of us who struggle to make a better Europe. I believe that the evidence of peace over the past 50 years is a strong testament in historical terms that we should not case aside lightly before we move in any other direction.
No one would deny that, like the Maastricht Treaty before it, this treaty has moved yet further into qualified majority voting and the abandonment of the national veto in more and more areas of decision. It is a manifestation of the growing power of the Commission and its institutions and the growing loss of national power. All the right noises are being made, and we have congratulated ourselves on putting subsidiarity high on the agenda, improving scrutiny and securing greater transparency and accountability in the operation of the institutions. The new Article 6-3 says that the Union shall respect the national identities of its member states. On subsidiarity Protocol 30(2) however requires that the application of the principle of subsidiarity,
Article 12 requires them to work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity and refrain from any act which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations.
What concerns me is that the assumption throughout seems to be that the Commission at the top decides what it will do and the nation states at the bottom are expected to conform. It is surely wholly unlikely that the interests of so many states can possibly coincide. This is particularly true in the case of structural cohesion funds. I do not find it reassuring that no fewer than seven directorates of the Commission, not just Directorate XVI responsible for regional policy and cohesion, are closely involved in the administration of the scheme and the funds. There is an immense proliferation of Community initiatives (CIs), Community support frameworks (CSFs), single programming documents (SPDs) and four different funds in the structural funds. The Committee of the Regions seems to be becoming even more powerful. There is now a new provision in Article 265 requiring the Committee of the Regions to be consulted by the Council and the Commission in appropriate cases,
The structural and cohesion funds and the whole infrastructure of directorates, committees and special funds will be a major issue when it comes to enlargement. Where is the money to come from? Is there effective national access to knowledge about projects, and how the money is spent? There is only too much evidence of expensive and often incompetent bureaucracy and an absence of machinery for accountability. I find nothing in the treaty to reassure me that national parliaments yet have adequate means to control what happens now. Without effective scrutiny, and time to intervene and argue before decisions are taken, and without effective access to information, things can only get worse not better.
At least we have a six-week scrutiny period, which is something. Satisfaction has been expressed that there is now an explicit proviso for transparency over the work of the committees which serve and advise the Commission. In 1995 the EU budget provided for a total of 333 committees established under the comitology procedure. It was estimated that 20,000 people served on them, quite apart from a legion of other special advisers and experts. The work of these committees, for instance when they concern scientific matters, is not open to peer review and their work forms the basis for important decisions. The existing Council decision
Under Article 207 the Council is to define the cases in which it is regarded as acting in its legislative capacity with a view to allowing greater access to documents while at the same time preserving the effectiveness of its decision-making process.
I am torn between some horror at the prospects of all the vast mountains of undigested paper, all translated into or out of some 15 languages, descending on the unfortunate Whitehall departments and Parliament and concern about the decisions being taken daily under the comitology system about which we know nothing. The system provides no accountability. If the Council decides to deal with an issue through a regulatory comitology committee it need never come near Parliament. Who decides whether something is a core issue or a technical matter?
In the written evidence to the 1996 Committee on the Inter-Governmental Conference (HL Paper 88) there were disquieting references to the fact that the Commission had tended to abrogate to itself through closed committees of national experts the responsibility for detailed implementation of EU legislation. The intention may have been to simplify and speed up decision-making, but it ends up opaque and undemocratic. What are we to make of a system where the manual of operational procedure concerning complaints is published in French only and is so confidential that it is simply for internal use? Another example given in the evidence was food hygiene where,
A similar example was given in evidence before a House of Lords committee on enhancing parliamentary scrutiny of the third pillar (HL 25) where it was said that the memorandum of understanding on the legal interception of communication was not deemed to be an appropriate document for scrutiny and deposit and the agenda of the K4 Committee was deemed too confidential to be made available in advance to national parliaments. Incidentally, the same principle is not expected to apply in reverse.
In the declaration on the establishment of a policy planning and early warning unit under that new creation, the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the unit will produce policy option papers at the request of the Council or the Presidency or on its own initiative. The declaration says that,
One of the great secret weapons of the Commission is the proliferation of Brussels-speak. We have joint action, common positions, the Community method, flexibility and constructive abstention, which seems to be a new way of saying no. The power of the Parliament has been significantly increased by further application of the co-decision procedure which is also fairly arcane. "Common positions", incidentally, represents a further strengthening of Community powers in that,
However, if these policies are to be defined by for instance the new policy planning and early warning unit it will be interesting to see how many months after a crisis the common position will emerge, if it ever does.
Your Lordships will understand that I am far from reassured by the proliferation of new tasks and institutions, the slowly tightening bindweed in which we are entangled and the failure to address the serious institutional questions of how effectively to control a vast, unwieldy octopus and how to finance enlargement, although Agenda 2000 does begin to do this. Frankly, I find it difficult to understand those who can reconcile a drive towards devolution within the British Isles, where the people are in general homogenous, and towards unravelling the Union, with an apparent readiness to give more and more power to an unaccountable, non-elected series of central institutions which are far more alien in culture.
I can accept partnership but not a takeover bid. I think, too, with grief about the defence and other cuts which are still to come here at home while so much money is going, relatively unchecked, into the hungry bureaucratic maw of the Commission. Of course we get some of it back, and some of the ideas are good, but should it be spent on comitology and all its works?
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, this morning I reread the Second Reading debate on this Bill in another place. I was struck by the phrase, "modest but important" which was used repeatedly on both sides of the House. Many honourable Members went on to debate those modest but important aspects of the Bill. Today's debate has been different from that in the other place. It has been far more wide-ranging, and I welcome it for that reason.
I wish to concentrate on two aspects of the treaty which will contribute towards enlargement. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, described enlargement as being of the greatest possible significance. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, agreed with that view. I, too, believe that it is a tremendous challenge for the Government to move towards enlargement and, what is more important, to convince the British people of the importance of enlargement and the inevitable cost that will flow through it.
Irrespective of the argument for enlargement, those changes should be welcomed in their own right. They represent an advance in the democracy and accountability of the European institutions. They will advance the cause of enlargement. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, complained about lack of reform of the CAP and that the issue of the strategic funds was not addressed in the treaty. I would argue that it is only the realities of an imminent enlargement that will lead to reform of the CAP and the strategic funds. That, in itself, will be one of the benefits of enlargement.
I shall turn now to the common foreign and security policy aspect of the treaty. The treaty, as noble Lords will be aware, underlines the primacy of NATO as the cornerstone of the European allies' defence, which I welcome. My noble friend made it clear in his opening address that the treaty does not concede the principle of the integration of the WEU into the EU. That I also welcome.
As a recent delegate to the WEU, I was disturbed to hear some delegates using it as a forum for expressing anti-American sentiments, which I regard as wholly unhelpful. While I believe that Europe should pay its fair share for defence, and should be responsible for its own defence policy, I do not believe that there should be any damage to the NATO alliance between America and our European allies. Nevertheless, that raises the question of the WEU's role, and how it can contribute to greater European security and enhance conditions for enlargement.
My noble friend will be aware that there are many different categories of membership of the WEU. It is a complex institution. It has a limited operational capability. It is basically a talking shop with a moral authority. But far be it from a Member of the House of Lords to criticise an institution on that basis.
My noble friend will also know that Russia has aspirations to join the WEU in some way. Russia's aspirations should be met. Our government should use their influence in the WEU Council of Ministers to encourage Russian membership in some form. Russia is still sore at the prospect of NATO expansion. It is just about the only thing on which Russian politicians can agree. They are looking for a forum in which to express their defence concerns. The WEU could offer them that forum.
The WEU is in its second childhood. Its first childhood was after the Second World War when it was born. Its second childhood is now, following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Like any child, it is looking for direction and a role in life. The Amsterdam Treaty has clearly defined what it is not; namely, it is not to be the defence arm of the EU. However, it does not define what it is to be for. If it is to be a taking shop, it needs to
I have sought to concentrate upon aspects of the treaty which will affect and enhance the potential enlargement of the EU. I have spoken briefly about QMV and the CFSP. However, if we are serious about enlargement, we need to utilise all the institutions of which we are a member to ensure that enlargement can occur. I have talked about the WEU. The Council of Europe also has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that human rights are properly observed and understood by aspirant countries. That was a point made obliquely by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and I support her in that.
The Government need to form a strategic view of how they will utilise the various institutions to work towards the goal of enlargement. They have more than one string to their bow. It is regrettable that the institution of the EU itself is only talked about when we discuss the potential for enlargement of the EU. There are other institutions available working towards that end.
My noble friend Lord Brooke spoke movingly of the achievements of the European institutions in maintaining peace and prosperity over the past 50 years. We have a moral imperative and obligation to extend that peace and prosperity to the countries of the former Soviet Union. I welcome the treaty--for what it has achieved and for what it promises. I wish my noble friend well as he pilots it through the House.
Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: My Lords, I shall start by paying a personal tribute to my right honourable friend Enoch Powell, in particular, for his contribution to the European debate. I recognise that he was one of those great Englishmen who have enlightened our history by speaking what they see to be the truth, without fear or favour. That passion for speaking out was accompanied by an equal passion for logic and a formidable intellectual capacity. He persuaded me, against my previous inclinations, to vote against our membership of the Common Market. He will be remembered long after many of those who outranked him have been forgotten.
Now that we are debating yet another treaty to carry forward the political union, which Enoch Powell always said would follow, I am astonished that the question he asked in 1970--whether we can and will enter into a political union that deals with the major matters of political life affecting the daily lives of people in this country--still remains substantially unanswered.
Today, the question is wrapped up in the anxieties expressed by those of us on this side of the debate who keep denying the possibility of sharing sovereignty. In the debate on the Maastricht Treaty, the view that the processes of European integration were inherent in our signing the Treaty of Rome was honestly and directly spelt out in particular by my noble friend Lord Cockfield. But in that debate, even he said that his only regret was that he lost the argument with the Commission that we ought to complete the economic agenda and leave the political agenda for a future generation. Here we are taking just such a further step.
To my recollection, in every major political debate, there is a minority which is vehemently in favour of the measure and a minority which is similarly opposed to it. The opinion of the majority lies somewhere in the middle and it could be said to be pragmatic. Again in the debate on the Maastricht Treaty, I read the speech of my noble friend Lord Carrington in which he made the distinction in attitudes between the conceptualists and the pragmatists. His final view was that in his judgment much that is in the treaty will not happen. That opinion, coming from such a distinguished Member of our House, coupled with the opt-outs from the treaty, did much, I dare say, to sway the uncommitted middle view.
Nevertheless, the political agenda which lies at the root of the dispute which most of us have with Europe has not gone away. It must now be the conclusion that in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty the conceptualists won. The opt-out from the social chapter has gone and monetary union looms. The game of grandmother's footsteps continues. The Treaty of Amsterdam is a further step. It is a smaller step than the conceptualists would have liked and it is presented as being of little significance to keep the pragmatists on side. Its true significance will be further revealed in Committee which--and I apologise to the House--unfortunately, I regret that I shall be unable to attend.
Since the election, the preparation for absorbing the United Kingdom into a European framework has been running at a furious pace in many respects. The Government have accepted the social chapter. They are keeping the country on track to join the monetary union as soon as may be. We urgently need to apply the tests necessary to answer the Powell question; that our membership provides a necessary democratic legitimacy to deal with the major matters of political life affecting the daily lives of the people.
The Conservative Party suffered a devastating defeat at the last general election. One of the main complaints was that it was arrogant and remote from the aspirations of the people. Is that not the same thing as failing to deal with the major matters affecting the daily lives of the people? I could give plenty of instances when edicts from the European Commission and regulations passed to implement them were regarded in just such a light.
Under the auspices of the "people's party", we are having to re-invent the semblances of democracy. The slogan itself seems to recognise the gulf which is appearing. The Bill incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights has just been through your Lordships' House. The conceptualists would regard that as progress and the pragmatists as inevitable. Whichever view one takes, it incorporates an alien system into British law. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor regards it as a jewel of a Bill. In my own private vocabulary, it is a barrack room lawyer's Bill. It enables individuals to challenge the state for perceived injustices not through a political process but through the courts.
The key to our success as a nation was a system which put a government into power by democratic election to deliver prosperity and peace by whatever democratic means they choose with the rights of the people guarded by English common law, based on common sense. We should not so carelessly have abandoned it.
In much of Europe the demonstrable benefits of membership are difficult to find, riven as it is by unemployment and growing discontent. Political unification is being pushed ahead with monetary union as its linchpin before growing national self-interest leads to disintegration. The political reunification of Europe is being constructed on its failures rather than its successes. If we cannot accept Powell's view of Europe or answer his question, let us at least take the opinion of my noble friend Lord Cockfield and leave it to a future generation to complete the process, built on Europe's economic success, if that should turn out to be the outcome.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell. I was moved by his charitable remarks about the late John Enoch Powell. I have always been wary of those who take up extremist positions. I have always listened with interest, fascination and concern to the speeches of the late Mr. Powell. As regards Europe, I believe that he advocated not splendid isolation but dangerous isolation.
Although the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is not in his seat--I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, in his place--I am grateful to him for introducing the Bill. I wish it a speedy passage through Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, like his colleague the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will be aware that I have asked a number of probing questions about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is my belief that at the time of our presidency of the European Union it is understaffed and overworked. I welcomed the interjection of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, will tell his colleagues in another place that there is a need in this House not only for a Minister for Europe but also for a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for central and eastern Europe so that in future a Motion such as that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, will be unnecessary. I believe that a Minister of State
I always listen with respect to the speeches of Members of the Official Opposition and I listen with care. However, I could not help noting that they are deeply divided on the question of Europe. I am only too pleased that they are not in power now during our presidency of Europe from 1st January to 30th June. What would our 14 colleagues and the aspirant nations make of their policy towards Europe?
Like the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, I wish to deal with the issues of the institutions and also the enlargement process--bringing in the first wave of the five-plus-one nations into our European Union, and the negotiations start, of course, on 31st March.
First, on the institutions, I agreed with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, said about the institutions. He said that the presidency could possibly be held by one of the minority states and, indeed, always held by one of the minority states. We should not have a hard and fast rule. Sometimes there will be a head of state with the vision to lead. Why should we not go with that president rather than alphabetical order? Let the European Union institutions be as flexible as possible. I hope that the British Government, during their presidency, will reinforce that principle throughout their deliberations.
Secondly, I turn to the enlargement process. In nine days' time, the president and delegation of the smallest state in population and in size of the present five-plus-one will arrive in this country, in London. He is President Meri, the President of Estonia, and I declare an interest as Secretary of the British-Estonian all-party parliamentary group.
In 1991, the then foreign minister of the provisional government of Estonia, because that government had not been officially recognised by the United Nations and other institutions, arrived in Britain. I learnt subsequently that there was a lot of toing and froing within the Foreign Office as to whether that statesman should be welcomed at an official level. It was Mr. Douglas Hogg, the then Minister of State, who met him.
How different it is, seven years on. The president will be received by Her Majesty the Queen. He will meet the Prime Minister. He will no doubt, with his distinguished delegation, meet officials from the Foreign Office. He will come to this House and be entertained by the British-Estonian parliamentary group. He will go to the City of London where the Lord Mayor will entertain him. He will make speeches. He is a formidable orator, writer and statesman. He speaks five or six languages fluently.
I shall be listening very carefully to what he says and I hope Her Majesty's Government will listen too because if Estonia joins the European Union in course of time, the European Union in Europe--not so much in Scandinavia, because Finland is a member of the European Union--will have a border with the Russian Federation. In my opinion, that changes everything.
We shall be back to the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries where we have within Europe a free trade area, a union and a common currency. I refer of course to the Hanseatic League. Anybody who has lived in an Hanseatic port as I have done for the past five years--and it could be argued that London was such a port--can look at the buildings of the Middle Ages, the churches and the works of art and can realise that that was founded on a free trade area with a common currency called gold and silver. Why are we frightened of a single market and a common monetary currency called EMU? It has been tried before and was successful.
We are rightly worried about minorities, the minority problems in central and eastern Europe. Occasionally I have had the honour to entertain Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. They come to this House and look around. I see them off at Victoria Station or take them to Gatwick. I say to them, "What surprised you most about our nation?" Invariably they refer to one fact and they say, "You have so many coloured people in your nation and you all live in harmony. We would like to follow that example". I say to them, "You are absolutely right. There are more minority ethnic community citizens in Britain, 3 million, double the number of citizens of the population of a country like Estonia".
When they come to join the Union, there will be a number of criteria to be met. When His Excellency, President Meri, arrives on 25th/26th, I hope that Ministers, and not only from the Foreign Office, will ask him what difficulties his nation will have to meet before it can satisfy the criteria to join the Union. I hope then that all 15 nations of the European Union will be able to assist the second group of nations, which are not in the first group, to start negotiations on 31st March, to make it easier for them. I hope that the period between the first group and the second group will not be over-prolonged. That is my hope because after the First World War, the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and German Empires dissolved. At that point in time, we had the opportunity to create a Europe at peace and in harmony with itself. We missed that opportunity. That opportunity has arisen again with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I beg
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, is a bit iffy on the subject of whether EMU will work. Try telling that to Philip Snowden, Stafford Cripps, Norman Lamont and one or two others. He is also technically wrong, because there were tariffs on Baltic amber and Polish wheat exports throughout the Hanseatic League, and on spars and pitch for the navy of Charles II. Therefore, I think he was wrong on that one as he was, although I may be being a bit beastly to him, on the proposals in relation to the presidency. They are not in the treaty and therefore, they seem to be slightly irrelevant.
My father died in 1971 and when I came to your Lordships' House, when I was 30 or so, I decided to make my maiden speech on the accession treaties to Europe. I was sat on heavily by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who was then Leader of the House, and the very nice chap whose name I cannot remember who was Government Chief Whip at the time. I was sat on and not allowed to make that speech. My maiden speech was going to say that I foresaw the possibility of a recreation of a western Roman empire and that I foresaw that it would involve the politicisation of a federal Europe. At that stage, I welcomed it.
I have done a little tripping towards Damascus since then. It does not stop me being a fellow European, because I am a European. My culture is European; and my love of European history is deep and, I suspect and hope, quite knowledgeable. While I have now reversed my views, it strikes me that, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, who made an excellent maiden speech today, I have done so not because I am anti-European but because it seems to me that Europe is going diametrically in the wrong direction.
There was a Bishop sitting on the opposite Benches earlier today. I was going to tell him that the Amsterdam Treaty reminds me irresistibly of the words of the General Confession. As he was a Bishop, I was going to take him gently through The Book of Common Prayer, which says:
The modern Church of England is unsound on The Book of Common Prayer, but that seems to me to be exactly what the Amsterdam Treaty has done. It has concentrated on the minutiae of bureaucratic government and has not attacked the fundamental weaknesses of the policies of Europe.
Europe at present has, I suggest, three seriously bad policies which take up most of its budget. No one in his right mind would defend the CAP. I get lots of money from it; indeed, I am delighted to receive the cheque. However, having put the cheque in the bank, I can still say that I should not have had that money. I am sufficiently hypocritical to take the cheque, yet still argue against being given it.
Europe has a fisheries policy, but even the Namibians run a better policy than we do. It also has a social policy which is doing nothing at all except great big things like draining the Missolonghi marshes, cutting down Spanish oak trees and sticking European stars all over bridges in Scotland. In other words, it spends its money on silly things. Surely Europe should be about travelling without let or hindrance; buying or selling widgets without let or hindrance; and being friends and having a concert of Europe. It is the concert of Europe which is so important. When we start saying that there should be a common foreign policy, of course it will not work if Mr. Poos gets up and says,"Now is the moment of Europe". This was done over Bosnia and the whole thing imploded. It took decisive action by the Americans to bring progress.
As has frequently been pointed out this evening, we have seen the disaster in Europe over the Gulf. I have grave doubts about the Anglo-American policy. That is not because I think that Iraq is lovely; I do not. It is just that I am not sure whether the policy will work. Equally, we have been down the social chapter road before. I was reading a book only yesterday on the Austro-Hungarian empire. Joseph II introduced compulsory education and unified tariffs, and indeed he introduced some quite enlightened social legislation. However, that did not make Austria prosper. The only way that we can make Europe prosper is by removing any barriers to the buying and selling of widgets, and that includes silly things like the CAP. Unless we do so, we shall not allow the east European countries in. If we have a barrier on the Oder or on the Elbe, what will happen is that those people will not be able to sell their goods because a tariff war will begin just like that instigated by Joseph II in 1770 or 1780. Unless we expand towards the East, it will not prosper and it will not grow rich. If it grows rich, it will grow fat and idle and there will not be social upset. We must help them get rich. Unless we do so, our own security will be threatened.
I sat on a Committee of your Lordships' House which studied what would happen if the east European countries came into the European Union and what would be the effect on the CAP. The unanimous view of that committee was that either we had the east Europeans in or we had the CAP. No one has contradicted that committee's findings. We must expand towards the East; we must stop worrying about the minutiae; and we must go back in foreign affairs to the concept of those great Europeans, Metternich, Castlereagh and Talleyrand, who managed a system of congresses for 30 years and kept the peace of Europe. That is how it must be done and not by bureaucratic means and falsely holding things together. The Treaty of Amsterdam is like the General Confession: it has left undone those things which it ought to have done and it has done those things which it ought not to have done. I have a feeling that there is no health in it.
Lord Gray: My Lords, unlike my noble friend Lord Onslow, I did have the opportunity to speak at the time of our accession to the Common Market. I spoke and voted against it. I did so then because of my fears for the future and nothing that has happened since has allayed them. The failure to hold a Maastricht referendum haunts us now. It is ironic that the Maastricht pill was sweetened with the sugar of subsidiarity--a doctrine which has never delivered anything and which, as my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford reminded us, will be virtually swept away in practice by Amsterdam.
If at Maastricht we crossed the bridge from association to integration, Amsterdam merely emphasises that; indeed, it not only emphasises that, it also takes us a league or two further. I do not believe that I recognised the Minister's description of Maastricht as a "modest treaty". I think that that is what he said, but no doubt he will correct me if I am wrong. Amsterdam, by building on the existing competencies and adding to them moves us nearer to a centralised European state. The objective of creating a European state has long since been on the agendas of Eurocrats and Europhile politicians. But the stark reality of this has never been openly brought to the attention of the British electorate by successive British governments or, as the noble Lord, Lord Shore of Stepney, put it, by British political leaders. Hence my observation that we are haunted by the failure to hold a Maastricht referendum with campaigning that would have brought the issue to the fore.
Of course the electorate know the possibility of a Euro state exists; but those who have predicted its inevitability have usually, in the various contexts of their predictions, been labelled rebels. We who legislate must study the treaties, but knowledge and understanding of the myriad detailed ways federation is advanced are hardly in the public domain, buried as they are in the tangled skein of treaties unfamiliar to the public. Amsterdam has constitutional implications which make me admit that I favour defying convention and refusing this Bill a Second Reading. But in the extreme unlikelihood of such a dramatic outcome, I put it to this House and to Her Majesty's Government that this time round we should have a referendum, not a referendum on specific treaty provisions or even on its generality but one which simply puts the question, "Do you want a single European super state governed from Brussels?" Widespread unease exists and people deserve to be asked.
It may be that neither we nor some other nations want a super state; but national governments are inexorably negotiating the framework. We are promised a single currency referendum but despite its significance as a central element in a Euro state, it can still be presented in terms that will ignore my fundamental question. What is more, perhaps the intending participants of monetary union will not be able to fudge the criteria to get it off the ground. Even if it does, there exists a view that it will fail. Therefore we may never get that referendum
We are promised a long and intensive Committee stage which is only proper not just because of the important detail to be examined but because of the guillotine in another place. In the course of today's debate we have heard of many items inviting close scrutiny. I shall not rehearse a list; but clearly the powers and role of the European Court, and its relation with national courts, need to be discussed in detail, as does extension of qualified majority voting and the threat to the national veto by the back door through potential abuse of the human rights article.
Noble Lords will be anxious to listen to the "big guns" and therefore I shall close. If any noble Lord feels that I have overstated my views on the possibility or prospect of a European super state I suggest, if he or she has not already done so, that they should read the European Parliament's welcome of Amsterdam set out in its resolution on the treaty.
I think that many will agree that the treaty is a curate's egg. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is correct in saying that it has done a number of things that it should not have done and that it has not done a number of things that it should have done. One has to remember that the negotiations for the treaty were conducted primarily by the former Conservative Government and that a number of the faults in the treaty are retained from the particularly obstructive and obscurantist position taken by the Conservative Government until 1st May, leaving those involved in the negotiations with a tremendous rush in order to conclude it and get on with the important and serious business of the European Union. I hope that we all agree that that is enlargement and the restructuring of Europe.
The treaty has achieved less than it should have done. However, I read it through again yesterday. We may discover in five or 10 years' time that it is a little like the Single European Act. At the time everyone on all sides said how disappointing that legislation was and how little it achieved but discovered five to 10 years later that it had moved the European Community further forward in a number of useful ways.
The British Conservative Government pursued flexibility as a source of opting out when they wanted. Others, sadly, pursued flexibility as a principle by which they could shut out the awkward British. To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that is one of the reasons why the flexibility clauses in the treaty are so immensely confused.
The treaty did not sort out subsidiarity. I regret that. It did not unlock institutional reform. It made only limited progress on a common and foreign security policy; and made potentially large steps forward in justice and home affairs, asylum and refugees, border controls and police co-operation. The shadow of the divisions within the
How should the House now consider the Bill? We could and should examine the weaknesses within the treaty, consider the difficulties of implementation and challenge the Government to make clear what they understand the implications of commitments made may be. Some of us will wish to press them on justice and home affairs. One of the most appalling aspects of the late night negotiations was the signing into the treaty of an acquis under Schengen which had not yet been fully agreed. It has taken a further six months to sort out the contents. The negotiations, I understand, are still under way as to exactly which part goes where between the European Community treaty and the continuing third pillar.
This House is a revising Chamber which should bring the expertise of its Members to bear on legislation in progress. There are those who have suggested that we should be, and act as, a tribune of the people. I suggest that this House is not best equipped for that, let alone to claim that we speak for the people of England better than another place.
There have been two kinds of speeches in the debate. Some noble Lords addressed the treaty and its implications. There were some good speeches. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones. Both were extremely helpful, constructive and detailed. And there have been those who claimed to speak the truth that feebler men deny--the self-claimed honest bloke. Their speeches were almost uniformly longer. I conducted an informal timing process. All those over 15 minutes were familiar speeches on familiar themes. One speech took 20 minutes. There was no sense of a changing Britain, let alone a changing world. Those speeches could have been made in 1988, 1978 or 1968--and some were. They could have been made in 1958. As a student I remember reading Sir Derek Walker-Smith making exactly the same points, and making the same honest mistake as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, made in referring to English law as British law.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, suggested that in the 1997 election only a minority of the British electorate voted for parties which supported the treaty. That is not the case. If one adds together those who voted for the new Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, it was a clear majority. But if one adds together those who voted for the Conservatives and Referendum Party--it was a well financed Referendum Party campaign--the figure is a great deal smaller. I well remember going around Somerset during the election campaign and noting that there were as many Referendum Party posters in many villages as Conservative posters and thinking that the Referendum Party would do extremely well. It must have received at least one vote for every poster that it had on display! It was not a resounding victory for those
Let us remember just how much Britain has changed over the past 30 years. The British economy, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, who spoke about the need to maintain sovereignty, and the electricity industry as a particular example, is not quite so British as it used to be. I read in my copy of the Financial Times that takeovers between French and American companies go on within the British electricity industry these days, contrary to the idea that we still have an independent economic policy. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, whom I am sorry not to see in the Chamber today, wrote in the New Statesman of, "the independence of economic policy we know", which rather neglects the extent to which Mrs Thatcher's Government depended on persuading foreign companies to invest in Britain as a vehicle for British economic generation. The deliberate abandonment of British economic sovereignty was, after all, one of the principles on which the Thatcher Government operated.
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