|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. I listened to the long list of things coming out of Brussels. I sympathise with the noble Lord and understand. He mentioned a directive on condoms. I believe that the general public would consider that quite way out. Could he, perhaps, elaborate on that? What has the European Union to do with condoms?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. By coincidence I was looking at it this morning just to make sure. I have here, in a plain brown envelope, the European Union directive on condoms. We are often told that the European Union has ceased interfering in the nooks and crannies of British life. But I can tell noble Lords that these 50 pages prove the opposite. There was nothing wrong with the UK condom manufacturing industry when this directive was introduced in 1996.
I am happy to take the noble Lord and your Lordships through some of the unbelievable detail of this piece of interfering nonsense which, as I say, runs to 50 pages. For example, on page 6, we come to the definitions of a condom. Such definitions are all legally binding in a directive. It states:
"A hole in the condom that is visible under normal or corrected vision". But our friends in Brussels are not going to leave us with that. They want to describe in law what a non-visible hole is at Article 3.6. It is:
"a hole in the condom that is not visible under normal or corrected vision and is defined as a defect through which a quantity of water can be forced by rolling a condom containing 300 millilitres of water (or", your Lordships will be pleased to hear,
"electrolyte) on coloured absorbent paper such that all parts of the surface of the condom are brought into contact with the absorbent paper, the quantity of water being such that it can be detected visually as a wet mark on the paper".
"Under no circumstances use scissors or other sharp instruments to open the package".
"as a percentage of each test piece by using the following expression", so this is the formula,
"K + 2d - p x 100p
K is the length of the test piece in millimetres, rounded to the nearest millimetre", and so on. That incredible document is now being pursued by the EU on a worldwide basis. It demonstrates what I was saying before; that this is the kind of detail which British manufacturers have to put up with. As far as I know, they were making perfectly adequate condoms before. Indeed, they were world leaders in condoms before this nonsense came out. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention.
One can talk privately now to former Conservative Ministers who confess that much of their time as Ministers, and even more of the time of their civil servants, was taken up in disguising the fact that legislation they were introducing was in fact imposed upon this country by Brussels. This certainly applies to the Ministry of Agriculture and I suspect it runs across the board.
Another fairly big example would be the water directives, especially the urban waste water directives, the drinking water directives and the bathing water directives, the latter of which, when I sat on your Lordships' Select Committee, was described as a complete waste of money by no less than our own Department of Health.
No one seems to have the faintest idea how much those cost or what their benefit has really been, and certainly no one has dared to look at what the cost and benefit of cleaning up our water on our own initiative would have been without the massive additional and often superfluous cost imposed by Brussels.
For example, I remember that in 1996, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, elicited from the Government the fascinating statistic that we had by then, since 1972, spent some £14,000 million on water purity dictated by Brussels and only £1,000 million on infrastructure and supply. I do not know what the current figures are and would be grateful if the Minister could supply them when he comes to wind up. However, when I was on your Lordships' Select Committee three years ago, it looked as though spending on infrastructure and supply, which is not dictated by Brussels, would be rising to around £10,000 million by 2002, but the spending on Brussels directives has spiralled up to around the £40,000 million mark since 1972. Will the Minister clarify this and would he also be good enough to confirm that the usual bureaucratic stupidity is observable in the fact that the massively expensive drinking water directive does not require the lead pipes in people's houses to be changed, which are what cause much of the supposed damage to health? Will he confirm also that the United Kingdom had some of the purest drinking water in Europe before this nonsense started? Can he estimate what proportion of our vastly increased water charges are due to European water directives as opposed to additional expenditure on infrastructure and supply?
Finally, and I think importantly, can he tell us what all the other European countries are doing about these directives, not just some of them but all of them? I had a Written Question on this recently and the Government said that one or two countries were following them, but we have not the faintest idea what most of them are doing.
As I have indicated, this Bill, if drafted sufficiently widely, would expose the true effect of our adherence to the Treaty of Rome, which is why the Government will not want it. That is the real reason that they will not want it.
At col. 639, the Prime Minister was putting the Government's well-worn position that they would join EMU if it proved to be successful and if the Government judge it to be in the national economic interest. The Prime Minister went on:
"Given that more than 50 per cent. of our trade is with Europe, that would be a mistake for Britain". But it is simply not true to say that 50 per cent of our trade is with Europe. What is true is that perhaps as much as 42 per cent of our exports go to the EU, quite a chunk of which merely pass through Rotterdam and Antwerp to destinations outside the EU.
Therefore, I hope that the Government will stop using this grossly misleading figure of 50 per cent when they promote the need for our membership of the European Union; nor does the Prime Minister's figure of 3 million jobs depending on our trade with the EU appear to have any basis whatever in fact. As evidence of that I would refer to a Written Answer that I received from the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Highbury, on 30th March 1999 in response to my Question as to the effect of the European single market upon net UK job creation figures between 1993 and 1997. The Answer he was obliged to give was:
It will not come as a surprise to your Lordships that my solution to the problems covered by the Bill would quite simply be to leave the Treaty of Rome. There is really nothing at all frightening about that. We are the fourth largest economy in the world, with which we trade in surplus, while we trade in deficit with the European Union.
Leaving the European Union would be a thoroughly positive thing for the United Kingdom and for the British people. We could adopt the Swiss model, which is highly successful. We could, perhaps, look at a new North Atlantic free trade area. It is, in that respect, gratifying that the existing NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area) is already negotiating with Norway and Iceland; or, we could simply opt for complete independence under the World Trade Organisation, which has, in any case, brought international tariff barriers down to below 4 per cent. That means that the EU is redundant, if we leave out its sinister aim of political unification, which is also denied by this Government as it was by the Conservatives.
I know that leaving the European Union is a little way off and this is not the time to consider the sunlit uplands of the United Kingdom unburdened by the shackles of the incompetent, fraudulent and hopeless European Union. So, in the meantime, I support this excellent Bill. I hope that it can be drawn widely enough to show the British people the true nature of the quicksand into which their political leaders have so blindly led them, and which I hope, before long, they will have the clarity and the courage to leave.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page