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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I join the Minister in congratulating the noble Lords, Lord Bruce of Donington and Lord Tebbit. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shore, whom we were delighted to see in the Chamber although he has been unable to stay until this point. I also congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and others on the degree of commitment and conviction that they have shown throughout this long series of debates. Like many others in the House, I do not share their views. However, I pay tribute to the persistence and determination with which they make their views heard, and the way in which they have helped us to improve many of the scrutiny aspects of the Bill.
I also pay warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. In a moment or two I shall refer to one or two other colleagues. The speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, in these debates have been knowledgeable, impressive and conscientious. I pay particular tribute to the mastery with which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has balanced on the difficult tightrope over the chasm opened up by his right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition a couple of days ago. That lies fully in the great tradition of athletic leading figures in the Conservative Party.
I pay tribute to three Members of the Conservative Benches who have made a notable contribution to this debate, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, the noble Lord, Lord Renton--to whom we always listen with great and careful attention--and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, whose interventions have been extremely enlightening. We appreciate greatly the extraordinary grace and patience which Ministers have brought to these long debates. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, have all listened to the debate, have taken careful note of what is said and have replied to virtually every point that has been raised. That is very much to their credit and very much to the credit of the Government they serve. I thank them for that because it has not always been easy for them to balance that with all their other responsibilities.
Finally, although I agree with the Minister that this is not the kind of treaty which will result in champagne corks popping all over London this evening, or for that matter great demonstrations in the streets, it is a useful and helpful further advance in consolidating democracy and accountability within the European Union. The Government can take due credit for having finally steered this difficult ship to its port. I thank them once again.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to congratulate all Members who have participated in this debate. It only goes to show that in our collective capacity we are capable of examining a Bill and its implications in far greater detail and with a good deal more expertise than is frequently exhibited in another place. Whether the contributions have come from hereditary Members of this House, or those who, like myself, occupy a rather less permanent tenancy of position, I think we have preserved a sense of humour. That is a rare commodity in these times, and one that some of us from time to time make an endeavour to contribute. In thanking your Lordships, perhaps I may add that in 10 years' time, long after I am gone, I shall be proved right.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, unfortunately I was in America last week. I have not been able to participate as fully in our debates on this treaty as on the Treaty of Maastricht when I believe I was present at every stage and on every day. My thoughts are very much along the lines of those of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, regarding the expertise and good humour that has been shown on all sides of the controversy. I remain, of course, firmly "ag'in it", and nothing will reconcile me to it.
There is only one matter on which I remain slightly unsure of the position of the noble Baroness the Minister. I was not sure a moment ago whether, in reference to the waters of the Conservative Party, she said that they were "frothy", or "grotty". I should be most grateful if she would clear up that small point.
This particular Bill is unique in one aspect in the annals of discussion on European treaties. I believe that the defeat on fishing quotas was the first time ever that the Government had suffered a defeat in this Chamber on a European treaty. So our discussion has been in some degree unique. I hope, of course, that if we debate more treaties, we shall have more defeats. I can only regret that when I moved an amendment and very reluctantly dared to vote against my Government, it appears that the Opposition were even more reluctant to defeat the Government. That is a great pity because the House of Commons could have had a good discussion on some of the institutional matters. As my noble friend Lord Bruce said, we have done the job that the House of Commons should have done, but unfortunately were not able to do.
In future, I hope that the Government will not guillotine constitutional Bills in the House of Commons--or, at least if they do, give the other place adequate time to examine the legislation properly as it should be in the elected Chamber.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I make no secret of the fact that I believe that this is a much more serious Bill than the Government and other supporters of it have made it out to be. It is beyond doubt that it continues the process of integration towards the European superstate which we all fear so much. That is true in all 21 areas of the Bill that we have discussed. In not one single area is the process of integration reversed. The salami-slicer of my noble friend Lord Tebbit moves relentlessly on.
We touched on economic and monetary union during the progress of the Bill. The recent conference, which was somewhat controversial, set EMU on its path while the Bill was going through your Lordships' House. I do not necessarily expect the Minister to answer, because I do not believe that the noble Lord or the noble Baroness can answer, but EMU raises one of the two questions that I wish to leave with your Lordships about the Bill. It is a question that I have asked several times and to which I have not received an answer. It is: what will the European Central Bank do in a Europe of disparate and diverging economies with a single interest rate? I believe that that will be an insurmountable problem.
The division between us seems to have come about because the word "Europe" is much more ambiguous than many think it is. That has been brought home to me during our debates. It means two different things to different people. To some of us, it means the Europe of nation states, freely trading together, which we love and support; to others it means the Europe of the Treaty of Rome, the ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe.
These unanswered questions and others leave me very unhappy that the Bill should leave your Lordships' House. When the Maastricht Treaty reached this stage in this House, we took the unusual step of dividing the House on "The Bill do now pass". I can assure your Lordships that we shall not do that today, but I do not want that to be taken as any sign of greater approval of this treaty from some of us than we held towards the Maastricht Treaty.
I end by thanking the Government and all the Government Ministers and spokesmen for their unfailing courtesy during the debates. I think they did their best to answer our questions, but I believe that we won the arguments and that history will prove us right.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, as a Back-Bencher who hardly deserves the kind tribute paid to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams--alas, I have said very little--I wish to say that I greatly admire, and would like to record my respect for, the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Lord Monson and Lord Bruce of Donington, who between them have been the mainstay of the series of debates. I know that I could hardly expect the Government Front Bench to be excited about that. However, those noble Lords should be respected and admired for their persistence and their courage.
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