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As my noble friend Lord Howell said, that does not mean that we are anti-European but pragmatic and realistic about the European Union. People do feel disconnected from what is happening in Europe. My noble friend Lord Biffen pointed out the very low turnouts in European elections. When a country as traditionally pro-European as Ireland votes against the treaty, it is time for Europe's leaders to listen to their citizens.
My noble friends Lord Tebbit and Lord Willoughby de Broke speculated on what might be done to make the Irish "get it right next time", as did the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. I share the warm tribute paid by him and by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to the late Lord Shore. I agreed with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said in a very powerful speech. I look forward to reading that speech in Hansard.
We on these Benches will support moves to strengthen democratic accountability, and I hope that we shall find some common ground with the Liberal Democrat Benches on the issue during the Committee stage. I join other noble Lords in warmly congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on her election.
I agree with the Minister that it has been the strategic aim of successive governments to welcome enlargement. We remain strong supporters of it. Enlargement will mean that British companies will be able to benefit from access to the largest single market in the world for trade and investment. Enlargement is a way of stabilising countries that have recently experienced turbulent times. There was much debate on both sides of the argument as to whether the Nice treaty is necessary for enlargement. To the disappointment, I am sure, of the Minister, Commissioner Prodi's comments were widely brandished.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the European rapid reaction force. We have long supported the concept of pan-European defence co-operation under NATO command. The Anglo-French Air Corps and the Anglo-Dutch Amphibious Force are examples of that. But we have firmly registered our opposition to the proposed EU rapid reaction force. We must do nothing that would undermine our relations with NATO and with the non-EU countries within NATO.
There can be no benefit from duplication between NATO and the EU of military and political staffs and analysts. We need one clear chain of command. We do not need two interpretations of a crisis as it develops--one by NATO and one by EU staffs.
I am also concerned, as was my noble friend Lady Park, that there will not be sufficient commitment to providing financial support to ensure military capability, particularly because few EU governments have the appetite to expand defence expenditure.
My noble and learned friend Lord Howe and my noble friends Lord Waddington and Lord Tebbit mentioned the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. In the context of funding political parties, my noble friends Lord Lamont and Lord Willoughby de Broke raised the possibility of the EU banning political parties of which it disapproved.
Many noble Lords mentioned the IGC. I agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Williams and Lady Crawley, that one area that should be discussed is the simplification of treaties. I also agree with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, made about paperwork. We on these Benches will come forward with positive and constructive proposals for the IGC in order to create a modern, forward-looking and flexible Europe.
The CAP has been a recurring theme throughout the debate. Enlargement cannot succeed with the CAP as it stands. As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, said, the reforms that were agreed at the Berlin Council in March 1999 were inadequate for that purpose. The Prime Minister said in 1995--in his early days as the leader of the Labour Party--that,
We heard many arguments about QMV. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, said that enough is enough, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, chided these Benches for our views on QMV. I have carefully read the Hansard reports of the Bill's progress through the other place, and several Back-Bench Members in the Minister's party were very critical of QMV.
My noble friend Lord Blackwell asked some important questions about Articles 137, 144 and 157. If the Minister is unable to answer them tonight, maybe she could write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the letter in the Library.
One example of a directive being passed against the vote of our Government is that of the art levy directive, which my noble friend Lord Howell described. The practical effect of that will be that most valuable works of art will no longer be sold in the EU--they will be sold not in London but in New York, Japan or Switzerland.
We want the EU to work. We want to help the accession countries. However, we do not believe that the Bill will help enlargement. It fails to achieve the aims that were set out by the Government and it fails to advance the vision of a flexible Europe that lies at the heart of our policy. The Opposition will table substantive amendments in Committee and I look forward to contributing further to our debate at that stage.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging and an extremely well-argued debate. The judgment of your Lordships has been varied. Most of your Lordships have welcomed enlargement, but have raised fundamental questions as to whether any comprehensive treaty, or this one in particular, is necessary for that enlargement to take place. A huge range of other issues has also been raised, and I can only hope to touch on the arguments that I venture to suggest we shall discuss in greater detail in succeeding stages of the Bill's passage.
I join others who have participated in the debate in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on her election as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. She is an extremely gifted and highly persuasive parliamentarian, and I wish her well in her new role.
I now turn to some of the arguments and shall start with enlargement. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, fulfilled all my hopes and expectations by quoting Romano Prodi. Frankly, I was not entirely sure why he did so, as I did not believe that there was any difference between us. The President of the Commission said that Nice is not a legal prerequisite for enlargement, and I made very much the same point in my opening remarks. In theory it is possible to proceed with enlargement without the Nice treaty, but only in theory. The point that I made was that the treaty was a prerequisite for successful enlargement. In a practical sense, the treaty is necessary for enlargement to take place, but I did not hear the noble Lord dissent from that proposition. Indeed, he did not go on to address what would happen in a practical sense were we not to have the treaty and still go for enlargement.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am in no position to interpret Signor Prodi's remarks, but the noble Lord knows very well that he went on to qualify those remarks by making it absolutely clear that he was speaking in a legal sense. The Government have not challenged that position. In my remarks, I was addressing the far more important point of successful enlargement.
The points made by my noble friend Lord Grenfell were eloquently and persuasively argued, as were the wise words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon and the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond. If we do not ratify the treaty, we shall at best delay, and at worst entirely wreck the enlargement that most of your Lordships have said is desirable. We cannot, as my noble friend Lady Crawley made clear, pay lip service to enlargement and then oppose every practical means of achieving it.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, on a slightly different point, I think that the Minister said in her opening remarks that there was no cause to delay the Bill in the light of the Irish referendum because the Conservatives had not delayed the earlier treaty after the Danish "No". The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, triggered something in my memory, which is not as good as it was, but I checked and found that the Minister was wrong. The government of the day, led by John Major, decided to delay the Bill after the Danish referendum. It was delayed for several months and then brought back a few months after the famous Monday in June when the Danes delivered their vote. Would the Minister like to correct that for the record?
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