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The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, what is the point of having an article like that when a police force can do that perfectly well without a treaty? If the Metropolitan police wishes to co-operate with the French Surete, that can be done without having a treaty if it is in the interests of both national governments.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, we are not talking here about bilateral co-operation with the Surete. We are talking about co-operation between the new Europol operation and national police forces. Therefore, a treaty base is needed for the operation of that European police office.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, before my noble friend leaves that matter, and I am obliged to him for dealing with it, I am concerned that foreign police forces could be operating in this country not only
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I repeat that we are not talking here about bilateral co-operation between the British and other police forces which operates in a number of respects with, one must say, varying degrees of transparency, and has done for many decades. Here we are talking about the operation of the new Europol set-up with national police forces. In those situations, it will be able to operate only in support of, and therefore with the knowledge of, the national police authorities.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am sorry to pursue this, but it really is an important point. I understand the point which the Minister makes. However, many people feel that it could be the beginning of a federal police force. I should like the Minister's assurance that that is not so and I should be delighted if he can give it.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, clearly, this treaty does not create a federal police force. Any such move could be achieved only with unanimity, as with all other areas of the third pillar. However, it provides the legal base for the development of the European police office which will act in support of police forces. Therefore, we are not talking about an operational police force but a supportive police office.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the difference is fairly obvious. A national police force acting to combat a particular crime or suspected crime can call on the resources of Europol in terms of information, technical support and personnel in order to tackle that crime which may, more often than not these days, have a trans-national implication. But it is the national police force which calls on that support system. The national police force is the operational police force. I hope that is clear to noble Lords and if it is not, I can provide more detail in writing.
I must move on to the common and foreign security policy. I find rather illogical the criticism of the Amsterdam Treaty by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. He argues that, because Europe has failed to have a common policy in relation to Bosnia and Algeria, we should not try elsewhere. The CFSP is strengthened by Amsterdam in several ways, including the creation of a High Representative and new decision-making processes which were queried by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park. The treaty establishes the possibility of developing common strategies which will set out policies where member states have important interests in common and also more flexible decision-making arrangements to enable the EU to respond more quickly to international developments.
Because there is no existing EU policy on the Iraq crisis, the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, and others argued that that supposedly demonstrates the inherent weakness of the CFSP. However, others such as the Shadow Foreign Secretary in the Committee stage of the Bill in another place argued almost the exact opposite; namely, that the creation of common strategies implemented by QMV could lead to a situation in which the UK was forced to follow any new policy--for example, on Iraq--with which we disagreed. Both arguments are misguided. The strength of the CFSP comes from the will of member states to act together by consensus. That will cannot be artificially created through institutional mechanisms. That is why Her Majesty's Government have ensured that under the treaty no member state can be obliged to act or not to act in foreign or security affairs against its will. Common strategies are agreed by unanimity.
QMV is only used to implement agreed policies and even there we would use the emergency brake to block any attempt to use QMV to extend or otherwise change the policy set by a common strategy. Therefore, to answer the specific point of the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, we could not get into a situation where we were prevented from taking further action--for example, in Iraq--because we would not have agreed to an action which prevented us from doing so. QMV decisions to implement common strategies are subject to the emergency brake and we would, if necessary, use it in those circumstances.
There are many other issues which have been raised. I agree with my noble friend Lord Brooke on the social chapter and, indeed, I agree with spokespeople from the Liberal Benches in relation to the human rights and the non-discrimination chapters. However, at this hour I do not intend to go into the issues raised by a number of noble Lords in relation to the single currency, as the Amsterdam Treaty does not alter any provisions on that front.
I should make it clear that I disagree with some of the historic and constitutional analyses of my noble friend Lord Shore. However, I agree that we should tell the truth about Europe. The truth in relation to this treaty and in relation to developments over many years has two sides. On the one hand, Europe is still clearly an association of free and individual states. That is why we have a treaty before us and not a constitution. On the other hand, there are at the same time widening and deepening areas not only of co-operation between those member states but also of some pooling of sovereignty. I shall not go into the conceptual difficulty that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, had in that respect; but, even there when we move into new areas of pooling of sovereignty they are subject to unanimity in relation to the treaty and they are also subject to ratification by each individual member state severally before they come into effect. Therefore, we are well short of a federal state and dramatically short of a unitary state. Indeed, I agree with
I hope I have shown that the Treaty of Amsterdam is a treaty which is modest, consolidating and important--whatever you like to call it--and which deserves the support of all who value Britain's place in the European Union. I recognise that there are some who cannot, and will not, share that analysis but I do not believe that this treaty is a threat to the continuation of Britain as a nation state. Nor do I believe that it is a threat to competitiveness or jobs. Nor do I believe that it will isolate Britain in Europe. It is a treaty which could have been negotiated only by a Government who are determined to play a positive and constructive role in Europe. The fact that this Government were able to achieve their negotiating aims--or most of them--at Amsterdam is a persuasive argument for our policy of engaging constructively in Europe in Britain's interest.
There may be other points on which I shall write to noble Lords, but I wish to end with what the next stage of the European project will bring, which is the whole issue of enlargement. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to that. The next few weeks will see the start of the process of enlargement. There will be the European conference on 12th March. The accession negotiations will start on 30th March. We hope that we shall bring into that process not only the five plus one front runners but also the other five applicant states. The aim of this process is a big one. The treaty may be modest but the follow-on to the treaty is immense. It is to bring to the whole of Europe a new era of peace, democracy, security and prosperity and to ensure that Europe is capable of facing the economic, environmental and political challenges of the next century.
I am glad that many noble Lords from all sides of the House have broadly supported this treaty. I am even more glad that they have broadly supported the move into the enlargement negotiations and all that that entails. I very much look forward to the continuation of such co-operation on all sides. I hope that we shall return to some of these subjects in the Committee stage. For the moment I urge your Lordships to support the Second Reading of this Bill.