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Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, has repeated the phrase, "We will not have a constitution at any price". That phrase has been stated without the price being defined. What is the price that the Minister will not pay?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I rather hoped that I had made it clear that we would not have a constitution based on a content with which we could not agree. The important issue is what the constitution saysnot having a constitution. I hoped that I had made that clear.
I return to the role of national parliaments. I agree strongly with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that strengthening the role of national parliaments has enjoyed widespread support in the convention. As the noble Lord says, that is heavily stressed in the first report of the European Union
There have been many opportunities for parliamentary debate on developments and reforms of the European Union in the past few years. There have been the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, committee reports, parliamentary questions and debates such as this. I was a little sad that the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, should be quite so gloomy about the lack of discussion. However, I was forcefully struck by the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson about how little feedback he has had on his role in the convention. I must say that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, about organising seminars to which no one turns up, has a disheartening concordance with some of my own experiences.
The noble Lords, Lord Howell, Lord Williamson and Lord Stoddart, and my noble friend Lord Brennan were all very concerned about the charter. My noble friend Lady Scotland went to some lengths to cover that issue. She is an expert in the field, and I am sure your Lordships are as aware as I am of our great good fortune in having her considerable intellect and talent brought to bear on the issue.
I take issue with some of the more colourful passages in the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. This Government have always made it clear that the charter as proclaimed at Nice was not suitable for incorporation in the treaty. We have repeatedly explained that there are issues of legal certainty that would need to be resolved before we could consider that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, said that he was very concerned on that point. As the Prime Minister said,
By engaging positively in the discussion in the charter working group, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, along with other colleagues, has been able to make people elsewhere aware of our difficulties. As my right honourable friend suggested, that has not been an easy task, but some of those people have come to appreciate that they, too, would have some problems with a fully incorporated charter.
I again stress that we have not agreed to anything yet. I made it clear at the outset that those decisions would be for leaders at the intergovernmental conference. The charter now discussed is very different from the Nice version. It brings the charter back to the basis in treaty, in the ECHR and in common constitutional tradition. It links the commentary, which has hitherto been separated from the charter, and amplifies it, so that the charter as currently discussed would help to clarify the difference between legally enforceable rights and the more aspirational principles of the charter. I hope that that goes some way towards addressing some of the concerns of my noble friend Lord Brennan and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. I say to my noble friend that there are remedies. They are the same remedies as are available to citizens today. The charter seeks to make visible the rights that our citizens already have. It does not seek to change that.
My noble friend Lord Tomlinson and the noble Lords, Lord Lamont, Lord Williamson and Lord Willoughby de Broke, were also concerned about subsidiarity. Many of your Lordships were unconvinced about the appetite in Europe for the relevance or importance of subsidiarity. I acknowledge that the word is not particularly catchy or self-explanatory but the principle is an important one, for which, as my noble friend said, the UK has argued forcefully.
The recommendations of the subsidiarity working group in the convention should be recognised for what they arethey are not modest; they are ground-breaking. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, asked what the national powers might be. The Union has never had a mechanism that would allow national parliaments to make a political judgment on whether the EU's legislative proposals suggest action at the right level. The convention suggests exactly that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, made a powerful case on that issue and for the back-up that was needed. Some very interesting ideas were proposed by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Owen. My noble friend and I are happy to debate this matter further. I say to all noble Lordsand to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, in particularthat we are happy to deal with such questions. We have made ourselves available on a number of occasions and shall do so again if there are still unresolved questions.
I turn to the question of the legal personality, which exercised many noble Lords. We have said that we could support a single legal personality for the EU in some circumstances. We could not accept a single legal personality if that jeopardised the national representations of member states in international bodies.
My noble friend Lord Judd asked about the United Nations. There is no question of the United Kingdom surrendering our seat on the UN Security Council. We support the reform of the Security Council to include five new permanent members, including Germany, Japan and India. I stress, in view of the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble
Lord Judd: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for having addressed the point about the United Nations. Will she clarify the Government's position on a seat for the European Union at the Security Council?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am not as yet in a position to do that. I said that we believe that Germany should be included and that there should be five new memberswe specified three of them. I am aware of the difficulties raised by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, as are all my colleagues. Those difficulties are inherent in our discussions. I am grateful to him for putting his case so cogently.
Foreign and defence policy must remain intergovernmental. We would not countenance a shift away from the current intergovernmental approach to the EU's foreign and security policy or in the field of defence policy. Those areas must be made more effective and efficient, along with every other institution and policy area of the European Union. However, foreign policy and defence policy must remain in the hands of national governments co-operating freely. We have consistently made that clear in the convention. We believe that the discussions in the external actions working group went a long way towards clarifying how we can improve the effectiveness of CFSP and make EU external action more coherent.
However, we were less happy with the outcome on "double-hatting" the roles of the high representative and the external relations commissioner. We made clear our opposition from the start. Several member states and the current high representative share our concerns. No one has been able to answer our questions about accountability to two different masters. However, we welcome the fact that the "double-hatting" model in the group report is firmly Council-based and presented as one of four possible options.
Jean-Luc Dehaene made clear in the plenary discussions of the report on 20th December that CFSP would remain intergovernmental. The defence working group's report has the potential to make a real difference to European security and defence policy by supporting our common foreign and security policy objectives with military means.
The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, raised questions in relation to ESDP and NATO. The ESDP is not NATO. We are not in the business of an EU territorial defence guarantee; nor should we be. Within the ESDP we must focus our energies on areas where we can make a real difference, but not a difference that would undermine NATO. That means strong support for increased co-operation on capabilities development
I believe that that point was made very eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. His reference to the Balkans and to our role in the Quartet on the Middle East was very much a case in point. He raised the issues of too many cooks in the foreign policy kitchen, the importance of better back-up for Mr Solana and better use of EU diplomatic missions. For a dreadful moment, I thought that the noble Lord had been a fly on the wall this morning during some of the discussions with ambassadors in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. His points are very well taken.