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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I support this amendment. I too am concerned about subsidiarity. I remember discussing the Maastricht treaty. In this House we had 11 days of debate on the Maastricht treaty and we examined it fairly thoroughly. We were assured that the Maastricht treaty was good for Britain because some powers would be returned. We were promised that. The noble Lords, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Pearson, were involved in those debates. I am sure that they will confirm that we were promised a return of powers that we had lost and that subsidiarity would give us game, set and match. Do noble Lords remember that? It was

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Mr Major's game, set and match. Unfortunately, it was not game, set and match, but a sell-out in exactly the same way as we have been sold out so many times.

Perhaps my noble friend can tell me how many measures of subsidiarity have been put into operation since 1992 when we ratified the Maastricht treaty. I also want to know exactly what water resources have to do with the Community. My own experience tells me that when bigger and bigger organisations interfere with issues like water resources they make matters worse.

When I was leader of Reading county borough council, a nationalisation measure came into being to bring the water companies and the water boards of Berkshire and south Oxfordshire into one board. It was a local board and worked successfully until the Metropolitan Water Board stepped in. The board said that in order to manage its own water throughout the Thames Valley and into the Thames basin, it needed to extract water from the Thames and the Kennet valleys, water that we have enjoyed from the green sands and the chalk for many hundreds of years. That board took out the beautiful, clean, sweet water and pumped it into the Thames where it became dirty. The water then travelled down to London and other places where it was extracted and the board had to clean it. The damage that that did to the wildlife and to the rivers of the Thames Valley and the Kennet Valley has to be seen to be believed.

Lord Watson of Richmond: The noble Lord asked rhetorically what should the EU have to do with water. Perhaps I may point out to the Committee that the EU intervention in the flow of polluted water on to the beaches of Britain, for example, has been one of the great pluses of the European experience in recent years. The reports on the new clean beaches of Blackpool were most reassuring and a confirmation of the efficacy of Europe in the matter of water.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The noble Lord thinks that he has made a very good point—

Noble Lords: He has!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I simply do not agree with him. It was not necessary to become members of the European Union or the Common Market in order to clean up our beaches. We had the opportunity to do so ourselves. Indeed, we have done it ourselves and we have paid for it ourselves. We have paid for it very highly ourselves! Therefore, the noble Lord cannot say that because we are members of the European Community we have had our beaches cleaned. The beaches have been cleaned because the British water consumers and taxpayers have paid for new sewage works, which could have been and would have been built without our membership of the European Community.

In order to have good, clean water and beaches, it is not necessary to deal with it on a Community-wide basis. After all, we developed our water resources, our river basins and our sewage works over a long period of time without help from anyone else. Indeed, the

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great dams and sewage works which were built by the Victorians are evidence of that and we can see them every day. Therefore, I do not know why on earth the EU needs have any input into the way we provide water in this country.

I am tempted to talk about electricity because at one time I worked in a power station and was a member of the electricity industry's national joint council. I do not see why the EU should be involved, but that is another matter. I am sure we want to get on and I look forward to the noble Lord's reply.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have a self-denying ordinance; I like to talk about the Bill and about the amendment before us rather than other matters. But I must say that I am sorely tempted by my noble friend Lord Stoddart. He may not realise that 35 years ago I was a member of the Metropolitan Water Board—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Shame!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My noble friend despises it so much. We were the wicked big brothers down the river who destroyed the good, clean water from the green sand of the Thames Valley.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: You did!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I believe that my noble friend was right and we were wrong, but I do not believe that that applies to the European Union. If ever there were an issue which crosses national boundaries, surely it is pollution. It is the environment. If ever there were an issue which can be dealt with better by multinational, collaborative action across a whole continent, it is the environment. I am sure that everyone will agree with that. I cannot believe that there can be any disagreement.

Pollution does not respect national borders. It may to some extent respect the English Channel and the North Sea, but in Europe as a whole, clearly it does not respect national borders. Look at the Danube——

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Why cannot there be intergovernmental collaboration? Why does one need the absurd and destructive paraphernalia of the European Union to clean up our water? It simply does not make sense.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It did not happen.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: It did and, incidentally, at a cost of £40,000 million.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not get a word in edgeways here! The answer is that it did not happen. I admit that that may be because no one had ever thought of it at that time. The original Treaty of Rome did not refer to environmental protection and our awareness for such need has grown over the years and grown properly.

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Perhaps I may finish the sentence I began before the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, so politely interrupted. The waters of the Danube flow through many existing and future EU member states. It is true of the Rhine and of a very large number of what are called "water resources". It is precisely in these areas that we need common standards and rigorous procedures. The answer to the noble Lords, Lord Pearson, Lord Stoddart and Lord Willoughby, is that we are following this course because it did not happen before and there is no other way.

Consciousness of the impact that the EU can make on environmental protection has grown as we have become aware of the need for tough action on that subject.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene to say that one of the problems is that the theory is there but not always the fact? I remember that when we were discussing beaches we were shown a map and every blue flag on it indicated a good beach. A red flag showed a bad one. We were shown a map of Italy at the time. Every single flag was blue except one, which was for the Bay of Naples which nobody could possibly pretend was not polluted. So the theory is there, but it does not necessarily work.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Is it suggested that environmental protection would work better by being returned to national rather than international control? I cannot believe that the noble Baroness, who is so well informed about these things, can believe that.

We moved over to QMV, it not having been present in the Treaty of Rome, in the single European Act and in Maastricht. All of that was carried out by Conservative governments. There is now a large measure of support from the citizens of Europe for action at a European level. Until hearing the strange debate this evening I should have thought that that was something with which everyone would agree.

Environmental protection is not an area in which we can afford to have common standards at the level of the member state least willing to clean up its act. I believe that that is what we would finish up with. Environmental standards have to be demanding as well as achievable. That is why most of the environmental provisions in the treaties are already subject to qualified majority voting.

Again, I have to disappoint the supporters of the Nice Treaty because I have to admit that it makes very minor adjustments to these provisions. They are good adjustments and I am surprised that anyone should oppose them. The one area which moved to QMV in this article is water quality. It is not a new competence, but the use of QMV is.

Perhaps I may explain why I believe that that is right and where the logical objection to new QMV, whatever the reason—although not expressed in this House, but by the Opposition in another place—would actually harm Britain's interests. Water quality affects us all whether we are at home or visitors

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elsewhere in the EU. British companies need a level playing field on which to work. Why should others gain a competitive advantage by being able to meet less high standards of environmental protection? Qualified majority voting will prevent any member state lagging behind from keeping the standards below an acceptable level.

There is also a perverse peculiarity in these amendments because Article 175 returns one of the aspects, which is land use, to unanimity of voting from QMV. The measures of a general nature on land use were part of a carve out which made them subject to QMV. That has been deleted because it was believed to be too vague and it will now be subject to unanimity. I did not hear the noble Lord, Lord Howell, or anyone else objecting to that change.

The article on environmental measures is an excellent example of how at Nice we followed the rule on QMV which we have always followed; namely, to examine proposals for extension, and in this case for reduction, on their merits. Where we see advantage for Britain and efficiency, we shall agree with them as we have done here. Where we judge that there is a fundamental national interest which requires that we retain the veto, we shall not agree to QMV. In this article we do not agree that QMV should be extended to taxation measures—nor has it been.

To set ourselves the standards required to guarantee environmental protection we need to use QMV and encourage those lagging behind to bring their standards up to an acceptable level. Without that, we all sink to the level of the polluters. We support these changes. The Government argued strongly for these measures and I hope that the Committee will not reject them.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord. However, the Minister kept referring to qualitative management, whereas the article makes reference to quantitative management. Is there any difference?


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