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Division No. 2


Alexander of Tunis, E.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annaly, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Attlee, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Bethell, L.
Biffen, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blatch, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Colwyn, L.
Cranborne, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dartmouth, E.
Denbigh, E.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Falmouth, V.
Feldman, L.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Gage, V.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of High Cross, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kintore, E.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Plumb, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B. [Teller.]
Rees, L.
Rennell, L.
Renwick, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Torrington, V.
Vivian, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Wynford, L.


Acton, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Avebury, L.
Berkeley, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Hamwee, B.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hylton, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Levy, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Nicol, B.
Norton, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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14 May 1998 : Column 1211

5.50 p.m.

Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 10:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Report on qualified majority voting

(". A Minister of the Crown shall lay before both Houses of Parliament an annual report on the action taken by Her Majesty's Government in accordance with paragraphs 6, 13, 26, 31 to 33, 44, 45, 52 to 55 and 57 of Article 2 of the Treaty signed at Amsterdam on 2nd October 1997 amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related Acts.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not intend to speak at length this evening on qualified majority voting. The Committee looked into this in considerable detail, particularly in relation to the constitutional implications. At that stage I outlined my view that certain agreed areas, such as the single market, would bring real benefits to the peoples of the member states.

There has been a clear need for majority voting to ensure that decisions are taken in a timely and effective way. That is not because there is virtue in majority voting per se; there is not. Between nation states, consensus is always preferable in principle, but sometimes majority voting has been necessary to provide effective and, above all, uniform implementation of a single set of rules for a common policy, the underlying objectives of which have already been agreed.

I believe that the case has been made for making it easier to override the objections of member states. The burden of proof is on those who advocate more majority voting to explain why it is needed. I indicated that I do not believe the Government have succeeded in making a case for the so-called sensible extension of QMV to which they agreed, which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, claimed would greatly benefit this country and the decision-making process both immediately and in anticipation of enlargement. He did not explain how, but at least we have the opportunity today to learn from him.

I turn briefly to the new power of co-decision granted to the European Parliament by the Treaty of Amsterdam which was only raised briefly in Committee. At that point I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty; he is quite right. The co-decision procedure was introduced in Maastricht and we do not object to it in principle. We recognise that it enables the European Parliament to exercise democracy directly within the European institutions. However, in practice, it also enables the European Parliament to exercise a veto over decisions of the Council.

We recognise also that in most areas co-decision has been extended to those areas where QMV will now apply in the treaty, so we are not objecting that co-decision alone constitutes a loss of sovereignty. We object to the extension of QMV and, by definition, the extension of the co-decision procedure on this occasion. The treaty extends the co-decision procedure to 23 areas in total--eight new provisions and 15 existing ones. Co-decision now applies broadly to where there is majority voting, so the European Parliament now has equal decision-making rights to those of European Ministers in all areas decided by QMV, which in fact amounts to most of the European Union's policy areas.

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That means that the European Parliament now has the power of veto and the ability to check the decision-making of the Council of Ministers in important areas such as social policy; employment and incentive measures; public health and transport policy. Parliament is now in a position to insist on modifying Council measures in accordance with its view in all those areas. Those are major new powers for the European Parliament, as is confirmed by an internal briefing note produced by the European Community on 7th July last, which stated;

    "The European Parliament made two major gains at the conference to become a genuine co-legislator and a full arm of the European legislature alongside the Council".

First, the co-decision procedure has been considerably extended, essentially along the lines of the principles suggested by the Commission in its report of July 1996 whereby any instrument of a legislative nature should be adopted under the co-decision procedure between the European Parliament and the Council. The co-decision procedure is nothing short of a veto over decisions of the Council of Ministers handed to the European Parliament, and the Government agreed to that veto in 23 new areas.

It is important this evening that we hear from the Government the justification for those new powers. Can the noble Lord tell us what impact it will have on the role of the national parliaments and how we will benefit from any weakening of the powers of the British Parliament? Can he assure the House that, with that massive extension of co-decision taken together with the European Parliament's new powers to approve the nomination of the President of the Commission, we are not in danger of weakening the direct link between member states and European decision-making as qualified majority voting replaces unanimity, as the European Parliament is able to veto more and more and as we lose the ability to secure our own choice of Commissioner--an issue we have just covered extensively under the previous amendment?

It is against that background that in 1997 the Conservative manifesto contained a pledge,

    "to defend the rights of national parliaments and oppose more powers being given to the European Parliament at the expense of national parliaments".

Can the noble Lord also guarantee that the European Parliament will not use the co-decision procedure to enhance its status at the expense of the substance of legislation? The Prime Minister concluded his remarks to the House on his return from Amsterdam with the statement,

    "We said that we would ... make [Amsterdam] more relevant to the concerns of the peoples of Europe, and we did".--[Official Report, Commons, 18/6/97; col. 316.]

I have difficulty with that. Can the Minister tell the House how Europe can be more relevant to the peoples of Europe when they have less say because their veto has been taken away; when they have less control because more power has gone to the European Parliament at the expense of national parliaments, and when they have less say because more power has gone to unaccountable judges in Brussels?

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It is important to examine the role in which this Parliament appears by some who have argued the case to have become less than a beneficiary of these new powers; indeed, it is strongly argued that the European Parliament has become the beneficiary of these new powers. Does it deserve the 23 areas of veto and its new powers over the appointment of the President of the Commission? What will be the effect of the European Parliament having those new powers?

We are considering that against the recognition that the European Parliament is a young institution which already plays a significant role in the European legislative process. But it is not a parliament in any Westminster sense of law-making. Indeed, its democratic credentials, which again were debated at some length on the previous amendment are, one can argue, tenuous. A voter in the United Kingdom--or even all the voters in the United Kingdom--have reasonably little influence on the composition of the whole parliament or its policies.

When one reflects on the turnout in the European parliamentary elections--well known to everyone here--the results are interesting. In many cases, the turnout is hardly surprising since many Members of the European Parliament failed to turn up to the sessions of that parliament. A few years ago, the Sunday Times--as noble Lords will recall--investigated the evidence that MEPs were not compelled to appear for plenary sessions. The survey found that a French Conservative failed to register at all; a French Socialist and an Italian were present for only one day out of 58; two more Italians (a Christian Democrat and a Socialist priest and journalist) attended twice.

The article went on to say that,

    "Many of the absent members may be ill, some may be dead. But the Parliament's administration was unable this weekend to produce a list of those who have died since the last election in 1989".

It is not wholly surprising that there has not been overwhelming support for the impact of the European Parliament. What hope can we have--perhaps the Minister can assist on this--that the situation will be improved after the forthcoming elections?

Moreover, the Government themselves have clearly had a less than favourable opinion of their own MEPs, who have had a track record of pushing a radical socialist agenda in Europe, which is very different from the one propounded by New Labour. Since June 1994 these MEPs have established patterns of playing what are undoubtedly irresponsible party politics in Europe, voting for intrusive, bureaucratic and extremist policies, earning epithets of "infantile" and "incompetent" from the Prime Minister himself. Having taken positions substantially to the left of the New Labour leadership in the UK, Labour MEPs have proved to be a large and painful thorn in the side of the Prime Minister's attempts when as Opposition leader he was seeking to modernise the Labour Party at home. Their behaviour in Brussels and Strasbourg has marked them out as advocates of the high spending and interventionist policies of old Labour.

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Indeed, the words of David Martin, the former leader of the Labour MEPs, sum up their views neatly:

    "A socialist superstate is exactly what we do want to create".

We considered at an earlier stage some examples to support this argument--the Clause 4 fiasco and the Labour MEP suspensions. There are, as noble Lords on both sides of the House know, many such examples. I think it would be wrong to rehearse them again today, but I believe the point I made was a strong one. No doubt the Minister, in his usual courteous way, will also comment on that very point.

In conclusion, I should like to know how the Amsterdam Treaty achieves the objectives which the Government said it would by the extension of QMV. Let us be clear about exactly what Amsterdam does. First, it creates a significant transfer of decision making from the member states of the European Union to the European Parliament. While the power of the member states is weakened by extending QMV in 15 new areas, plus five areas included in the social chapter, the power of the European Parliament is increased, giving it a veto in 23 new areas. Secondly, as I have already demonstrated, Amsterdam allows the Commission to become politicised. The president is now nominated by the European Parliament, individual Commissioners are subject to approval by the president and the Commission is to work under the political guidance of the president. In short, the European Parliament is able to influence the political agenda of the entire European Union.

Taken together, it is clear that these changes are a considerable alteration of the balance of power between Brussels and member states and between the Council of Ministers and Parliament. The power exercised in the European Union is, and should be, a delicate balance between national parliaments, national governments, the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. If the Government have agreed to extensions of power to the European Parliament, which the Commission says they have, will the Minister tell us from whom that additional power has been taken? Has it been taken from the Commission? No, it has been taken from national governments and national parliaments; and I would argue, in this instance, for nothing in return. Therefore, I look forward to hearing why. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, on this amendment we reach a major distinction between the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Benches with regard to the role of the European Parliament. Indeed, if there is a direct conflict between accepting the idea of democratic control over the European Community--I use the word "community" advisedly as part of the Union and not the whole of it--then the role of the European Parliament is central to that. There is no direct way in which the specifically European legislation under the Community can become fully accountable to a single national parliament. However, as is clear from later amendments, it is the view of the Liberal Democrat Benches that there is no zero sum gain, that both the national parliaments and the European parliaments can

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have greater strength and power of scrutiny over the Acts of European legislation, and that there is no necessary conflict between them.

I am pleased to see that Her Majesty's Government have taken steps to strengthen the powers of national parliaments to scrutinise European legislation and have not seen that as being in conflict with the strengthening of the decision-making powers of the European Parliament. Strengthening the power of the European Parliament does not subtract from the powers of national parliaments over Community legislation--that is to say, legislation initiated by the Commission and agreed to by the Council of Ministers. What it does is to limit the powers of the Council and the Commission by making them both responsive to a parliamentary institution. I therefore believe that there is a strong case for saying--my colleagues on these Benches share this view--that the processes of decision making in the European Community part of the European Union should be made much more transparent, much more simple and much more well known and for that to happen we will need to strengthen the role of the European Parliament.

Let me pause for one moment to set out what Amsterdam fundamentally did. It reduced the processes of decision making from a confusing shambles of many, many such processes basically to three. Those three were assent, to a convention or a treaty; consultation, which applies where the matter lies largely outside the remit of the European Parliament; and co-decision making, where in effect the parliament exercises a veto. There are still one or two areas where the complicated process of the so-called co-operative procedures still obtains; and the sooner those turn into the co-decision procedure the better for everyone.

I cannot see how any argument can be made for maintaining the extraordinarily complex and confusing structure of decision making that existed before Amsterdam. Having said that, it is also right and proper that the European Parliament should exercise a veto in the areas where no other veto by a parliament effectively exists. I find it extremely strange that those noble Lords who have advocated democracy all the way through these long debates do not seem to perceive that the elected European Parliament is itself a democratic institution.

I fully share the criticisms that some have made. For example, I fully share the criticism made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, of some individual members of the European Parliament who see fit to be absent from parliament for periods of time and who appear to think they have a right to sit in parliament and to give us the benefit of their views without effectively representing their constituents. I have to say that that is not unique to the European Parliament. Would that it were so. It is not a good reason for not making the European Parliament as effective a democratic institution as possible.

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