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Lord Whitty: Fascinated as I was by my noble friend's speech, I did notice the time. I fear that I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. Speakers are expected to keep within 15 minutes, and therefore it would be appropriate for my noble friend to draw his remarks to a close.
Lord Shore of Stepney: I have no objection to that at all, and of course I apologise to the Committee. I have not kept my eye on the Clock. I had rather kept it on what to me is the fundamental importance of the commitment that my country is entering into, which has not been properly debated either in the other Chamber or yet in this Chamber.
Lord Tebbit: Before I commence my remarks, I think that I might observe that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was not in his place during the somewhat lengthy Statement, and, if I may say so, the extraordinarily lengthy questions which were asked by the Front Benches after the Statement. He might have a look at that and question whether he was a little over the top in what he said in relation to speeches which concern this country's foreign and defence policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, may not like to hear these things; he may be bored by these things. But it is important that in at least one Chamber in this Parliament we discuss these things. I am sorry if the noble Lord is bored.
Earl Russell: It is generally recognised that ministerial Statements, especially if covering a wide range of material, cannot be as restricted as ordinary speeches. It is also generally recognised in this place that if one has a point to make one should be able to make it in 15 minutes.
I take the points which the noble Lord, Lord Shore, made. Some of them of course had been made, to some extent, during our discussions on the Maastricht Treaty. In particular, I raised the issue of the extent to which it would be binding upon our delegation in the Security Council to uphold a common position which had been reached within the EU. I did not receive an adequate answer from the last government on that matter. Perhaps, having had some time to reflect upon it, Ministers may try again, Ministers of this Government, to see whether they can say whether the British delegate in the Security Council would be in breach of our treaty commitments if he took a line which was not compatible with that of the common foreign policy of the European Union.
Let us be clear about this matter. It is all very well to think that this will be an unchanging world. At some stage, a common foreign policy view may be achieved within the Council of Ministers. However, events then move on and, indeed, governments move on. It might mean that a government would be elected here who would take a precisely different view on that policy. We have been near to it at times in the past. Had a Labour Government been elected at one time they would have pursued a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. That
If they could not change that foreign policy, would they be condemned to the utter absurdity of having our delegation at the United Nations upholding a view which was not the view of the Administration of this country?
What are the restraints upon that? On what occasions will the presidency not represent the Union? Where will it not represent the Union? With such words in this treaty, how long will it be before other members of the United Nations question just how many representatives the European Union should have at the United Nations? If there is but one policy and if we are to be in a quasi-state, and certainly the European Union is a quasi-state already, why should the European Union have so many delegates at the UN, let alone having two in the Security Council?
There are other countries which are not so represented, countries far larger than the European Union; for example, India. I believe that were I speaking for the Indian people I would question why India, a nation of 1 billion people, should have but one delegate at the United Nations and the European Union, which is committing itself to having a common foreign policy, should have 15 or so? Why? We are surely making a fundamental error in going down that road.
Does that apply to NATO? Is the position which the British Government take at NATO to be influenced by the views of countries which are not members of NATO? It may not be that many years before there is a qualified majority within the European Union of countries which are not members of NATO. Are we then to be bound to put forward in NATO the views of the European Union?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am sorry to challenge that but the noble Lord was talking about the need to establish the truth. Of the 15 member states of the European Union, 11 are currently members of NATO. Of those which are at present negotiating membership three are also about to join NATO. When precisely does the noble Lord expect there to be a majority of states which are not members of NATO?
Lord Tebbit: The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, seems to regard the European Union as being a very short-term affair. These treaties are intended to be permanent. Who can know those things? We can say what is the position
Again, it is not inconceivable that there should be a change of government not only in this Kingdom but among other member states. Are we to be saddled then with the spectacle of countries forming their foreign policy in relation to a common position with which they do not agree? How does a country escape from that position?
I shall not incur the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, by speaking too long. But I leave him with that challenge. Will he describe how it would be open to an incoming British Government who do not agree with the policy which had been formed by the European Union--indeed, a government who may have been elected having campaigned on the fact that they did not agree with that policy--to reverse the European Union's policy? I beg the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, not to say that it can be done by powerful argument. We know that it is not always powerful argument but is very often self-interest which prevails in the European Union. How would that be reversed?
If it could not be reversed, what sanctions would be brought against a sovereign government of a sovereign state embarking upon a foreign policy which had been endorsed by the electorate but which was not the policy of the European Union? How would it be changed?
Lord Bruce of Donington: I have two very short questions to put to the Minister. To some degree, they are associated with the remarks which have fallen already from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.
Under the Treaty of Amsterdam, which we are invited to ratify, Article J.5 says that the Council shall adopt common positions. The Council, of course, means the Council of Ministers. In that paragraph, there are six mentions of the European Council which was formed originally under Article D. All the remaining references to the Council refer to the European Council of Ministers. The European Council meets, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, only twice a year, or thereabouts, and the Council of Ministers meets at very short intervals. There are several Council of Ministers' meetings every month. In fact, most of our representatives on the Council of Ministers spend a sizeable portion of their time on aeroplanes to and from Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Brussels or wherever it may be.
Article J.5 states that the Council shall adopt common positions. Matters of note have covered the period of the British presidency, in particular the situation in Iraq. That has already been mentioned by several noble Lords. Your Lordships will agree that it has presented great problems for the whole of humanity and for practically every country in the world. Among those countries I generously include the members of the European Community. They have been concerned--or should have been concerned--too.
When did the Council of Ministers meet to determine a common position? If a common position is to be determined, who is responsible for bringing forward proposals for consideration by the Council of Ministers under the terms of the original treaty, which is all pervasive covering all the treaties which have since been concluded? The Commission is required to produce proposals; the Council of Ministers can initiate nothing. That is implicit and explicit in the Treaty of Rome.
When was a common position determined? What proposals did the Commission put forward during the Iraq crisis for a common position to be determined? I am in the recollection of the House as indicating a long time ago--and I am quite sure that your Lordships realise it--that the attitude of the Commission during the recent crisis was one of deafening silence. It had no recommendations or proposals to put before anyone.
I now invite your Lordships to consider the position of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, who throughout the period occupies the presidency. Let us consider Article J.8 of the Amsterdam Treaty which states:
What happened during the crisis fortnight in regard to the presidency? What kind of mandate has my right honourable friend the Prime Minister been given? What kind of assistance has he been offered by any member state? I have already referred to the position of France. That needs no further elaboration because it was dealt with by my noble friend Lord Shore. However, I will call to mind the position of Belgium, which may have been forgotten. During the Falklands War, despite the fact that it was a member of the Community, as were we, it declined even to supply us with ammunition for the war.
Those matters must be faced and I am sorry that they must be discussed with a Labour Government in office. It takes Ministers a considerable amount of time to read through all the documents which must be read by someone or other during the course of their duties. It is a duty of civil servants--the English bureaucracy let alone
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