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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in Committee, I was accused of being tetchy for pointing out that procedures in this House allow matters to be debated at unlimited length and as often as any noble Lord likes. I can give no assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will not bring forward a similar amendment if he needs or wishes to on Third Reading.
I believe that my noble friend Lord Hughes was right when he made it clear that the amendment is unnecessary. It is also patently apparent to all of us who have an open mind on these matters that it will be damaging. I urge the House to reject it.
Lord Renton: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may presume to correct him. It is a fixed rule of this House that we cannot raise matters on Third Reading which have been fully debated either in Committee or on Report.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, was rightly cautious. He did not fall into the trap of trying to give me a lecture from a newcomer as to what we can and cannot do in this House. I shall decide in a few minutes whether to take the step necessary to prevent me bringing this matter back on Third Reading.
We have had an interesting debate. I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I am glad that he thanked me for my kindness on the day the report was published. However, I know the convention is that Ministers do not respond to Select Committee reports in detail. I appreciate some of the points made about the report and I understand that the Government will present to the House of Commons their own fuller report in response to the Select Committee.
I thought that the noble Lord was on slightly weak ground when he said that the Select Committee's report was a sort of compromise between the Europhiles like Giles Radice and the Europhobes like Teddy Taylor. I should have thought that that was the strength of paragraph 40: that despite the wide range of opinions in the Select Committee, it was able to reach that conclusion. It is now two or three weeks since I read the report, but if my recollection is right, in the proceedings of the committee where it decides to agree or disagree with amendments tabled by various members, no amendments were tabled to paragraph 40. It was agreed and nobody attempted to vote against it. That is my memory. I do not have the report at the moment and I cannot check that. However, if I am wrong, I am sure that the noble Lord will correct me.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall not ask the noble Lord to go further and tell me what the amendment was. However, I do not believe that it was to strike out the whole paragraph or to strike out particularly pro or anti-European sentiments.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer extol the virtues of the euro. Therefore, I am slightly puzzled as to why they, as a government, are not beginning the steps to enter it. After all, we meet more of the convergence criteria than most of the 11 who have been allowed to join. It seems to me that if the Government really believe what they keep on telling us, they should be prepared to put it to the test. The fact that they do not makes me wonder whether they are as confident about the advantages of the euro or about their ability to sell it either to Parliament or to the British people. But that is another issue.
This amendment refers to the year 2003. I explained why I chose that date. It has to do with the five years mentioned in the Treasury Select Committee report. By that time, we should have a fairly clear view of how the project is working out and whether it is succeeding. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, hopes it will succeed but he indicated just a slight tremor of doubt when he spoke. That is quite legitimate. He feels that we should put our minds to making a success of it. I have made clear on a number of occasions that it would seem to me not in Britain's interests, now that it has started, that it should fail because we should be caught up in the resulting economic disturbance, which would not be good for our economy.
The point about 2003 is that it accords with what the Select Committee said. I have put down a proper date. If I had known that that would be the sticking point for many noble Lords, I may have made it slightly vaguer and suggested that it should be within five years, or something like that. That tempts me to bring back the matter at the next stage with that as the change which would be well within the rules of order.
In an intervention, my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Renton thought that we should be able to tell long before 2003 how successful the project was. They may or may not be right. However, as I explained, the year 2003 was chosen by myself and my noble friends on the basis of the five-year period suggested by the Treasury Select Committee.
The choice of Mr. Duisenberg and the subsequent choice, if that is what it is to be, of Jean-Claude Trichet is an indication that perhaps the euro will be a firm currency. Indeed, Mr. Duisenberg's evidence to the European Parliamentary Committee last week would certainly encourage one to think that it will be a strong currency.
However, I must say to my noble friend Lord Howell that there is no guarantee that Mr. Trichet will be the next president of the European Central Bank. The Statement, which was given by the Prime Minister and repeated here, said:
But in an intervening exchange, when the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, asked whether he had heard correctly that the Statement said that the next president would be French, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said:
On re-reading the Statement, I do not believe that to be correct. It is quite clear that a Frenchman is to be nominated. If something happens to Mr. Trichet, if he falls under the proverbial bus, it will be another Frenchman.
Indeed, Mr. Duisenberg said in his evidence last week that he found slightly absurd the leader's promise to guarantee his vacant job to France. He said that the summit deal to hold his job for a French national amounted to a breach of the Maastricht Treaty because it contained no references to specific nationality as a credential for the post. Therefore my noble friend Lord Howell should not be so reliant on those two gentlemen holding those posts for the next 12 or 16 years because the Statement does not exactly say that. There is certainly a way out on the part of the French Government.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, talked about enlargement. Just to show that I listen and agree with her occasionally, I agreed absolutely with what she said about enlargement. Indeed, it is rather a pity that as much energy has not been put into enlargement as has been put into the creation of the euro. In the long march of history, it may have served Europe better had more energy been put into enlargement rather than the creation of the euro.
Therefore, I still believe that this is a difficult issue for us. I do not wish to delay the House further on this matter. As I have suggested, the amendment accords clearly with the Select Committee's findings. The House of Commons should be allowed to discuss those findings before the Bill becomes law. If this amendment were passed, then the House of Commons would be able to consider the issue in the light of the report by the Treasury Select Committee.
I was undecided, but having been given a lecture from the Liberal Democrat Benches that I should not bring this matter back at the next stage, I shall make sure that I cannot do so by asking the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.