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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. The point I sought to make is that this particular IGC will review the Treaty of Rome and every single amending treaty that has since been created.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the IGC will be looking at them for the purposes of clarification, not for the purposes of changing what has been set out. When making comparisons between the treaties, I should stress in particular the point I made about the Treaty of Maastricht. That treaty laid down the stages for progress towards economic and monetary union. It created the citizenship of the European Union. Those changes were every bit as fundamental, if not more so, than those now being anticipated. But I see that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite are supporting the noble Baroness by shaking their heads. This is an issue to which no doubt we shall return.

I am bound to say to noble Lords that we should listen closely to the wise words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. He asked the House to look carefully at how noble Lords on the Benches

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opposite are proceeding. What he said was enormously important. Again, I hope that I do not embarrass him by returning to that point.

The United Kingdom team; that is, the United Kingdom Government, Parliament and European parliamentary representatives, are fully engaged on the issue of the convention. We are proposing ideas, we are trying to persuade others, and we are listening closely to what is being said to us. Our efforts are focused on delivering the Europe that we believe British citizens want: a Europe that is safer, stronger and, indeed, a Europe that will be richer for the future. There can be no question of our not pursuing those aims. We have made some promising gains in devising a new political architecture for a Europe of 25 nations or more. There will be new responsibilities for this House as national parliaments take on an enhanced role in European Union affairs. A great deal remains to be done in continuing to protect our national interests, but we are confident that not only the Government, but also those noble Lords who take such an active interest in these debates, will be well capable of rising to the challenge.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. With other noble Lords, I should like to thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, for his contribution as chairman of the Select Committee and to thank him and his colleagues for the work they do on our behalf. I hope that he feels, as I do, that the speeches which followed his contribution, including a number from noble Lords with great experience in this area—I refer in particular to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon and the noble Lords, Lord Williamson of Horton and Lord Maclennan of Rogart—lived up to his exhortation for an informed debate.

I am conscious that there would be some way to go before our five hours were all used. I do not intend to take up much of that time, but perhaps I may take a few minutes to make one or two comments and observations in the time we have available. I shall begin with the response of the Minister, for which I was very grateful. I thought that it was a reasonable and reasoned response which gave detailed answers to a number of specific questions raised in the debate. The problem for many noble Lords concerns the gap between the Minister's words of reassurance and the reality of the draft treaty before us. As she herself admitted, it includes a number of odd elements and surprises, along with areas that she spelt out where the Government would want to oppose the draft as it currently stands. I think that the jury is out and many noble Lords will want to study her words with care and compare them with what emerges over the coming weeks and months.

I shall return briefly to the two questions I raised at the start of the debate and the responses that have been drawn out of our discussion. The first question asked how important is the constitutional convention. It would be fair to say that a variety of views were

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expressed across the House about the changes that are likely to be effected. Some were hopeful and some were fearful of what was likely to emerge.

On the one hand, my noble friend Lord Norton described it as a paradigm shift in line with our initial membership. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that he thought that the constitutional convention would have even greater significance than he had thought when it was initially set up. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, reminded noble Lords of the new era that the convention intends to usher in and that only a failure of nerve would lead to it turning into a treaty that was merely tidying up. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, made the point that it would mark the end of Britain as an independent nation state, while my noble friend Lord Stevens of Ludgate said that now the draft has been published, in practice it is very difficult to effect substantial changes.

On the other hand, my noble and learned friend Lord Howe thought that much discussion still has to take place and that the convention was waterlogged, so that it was not yet possible to see what is likely to emerge. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, saw the treaty as a document more concerned with clarifying rather than extending powers, but unlike my noble and learned friend Lord Howe, he remarked that he was surprised by the large areas of agreement already reached on what has been put forward. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said that the treaty was more concerned with simplification than extension.

In my view, the brunt of the argument, based on the draft before us, is that if it was enacted, we would see very significant changes. Furthermore, the fact that so many amendments have been tabled is not a source of reassurance. I suspect that it will be easier for those amendments to be ignored. As we have heard, there will be little time for each of them to be considered. However, time will tell. A more important point is one that I notice the Minister did not address: the Prime Minister has already agreed many of the key changes which, as they stand, many noble Lords would judge to be important.

My second question asked whether this is a matter on which we should hold a referendum. While a number of noble Lords said that they would not be opposed to a referendum in principle, others said that they wanted to wait to see what emerged. That follows on from the points that I have just made and here I indicate most notably the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, and my noble and learned friend Lord Howe. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, too, would fit into that category. The majority of noble Lords on all sides of the House have expressed support for the principle that if what emerges from the constitutional convention does have the kind of significance that has been suggested, they would support a referendum. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, for clarifying the Liberal Democrat position; namely, that a significant constitutional change should be either the explicit subject of a general election or the subject of a referendum. I agree with that view.

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For my own part, I am quite willing to accept that, while we must have debate along the lines suggested by my noble friend Lord Norton and other noble Lords, the Government may want to wait until after the text is clear before reaching a judgment on whether this would be a matter for a referendum. I would be happy if ways could be found to minimise the concerns that have been expressed because that would mean that there would be no need for a referendum, a point made by several noble Lords. However, I judge that to be unlikely and I should say now that I would not be prepared to accept a prejudgment from the Government that a referendum would not be needed. It would be wrong to take such a decision at this stage.

In conclusion, I shall repeat what I said at the beginning of my remarks. If necessary, I would seek to table an amendment at the ratification stage when the Bill came before the House to enable noble Lords to make a judgment at that point on whether a referendum was appropriate and, if so, to require a referendum to be held before ratification took place. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Harbours Bill [HL]

7.48 p.m.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Berkeley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Boston of Faversham) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Amendment of procedure for dealing with applications for harbour orders]:

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 8, leave out from "unless" to end of line 4 on page 2 and insert "—

(a) he decides that the application shall not proceed further,
(b) he considers the objection is frivolous or trivial,
(c) the objection does not specify the grounds on which it is made, or
(d) the objection was not made within the period allowed for making it.
(1A) Before making his decision under paragraph 19, the Secretary of State may—
(a) cause an inquiry to be held, or
(b) give to the person who made the objection referred to in sub-paragraph (1) an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Secretary of State.
(1B) Where—
(a) the objection referred to in sub-paragraph (1) is made by a person within sub-paragraph (1D), and
(b) that person informs the Secretary of State in writing that he wishes the objection to be referred to an inquiry or dealt with in accordance with sub-paragraph (1A)(b),

2 Apr 2003 : Column 1394

the Secretary of State shall, before making his decision under paragraph 19, either cause an inquiry to be held or, if he so determines, cause the objection to be dealt with in accordance with sub-paragraph (1A)(b)."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1 and, for the convenience of the Committee, to speak to Amendments Nos. 3, 5 to 11 inclusive, as well as to Amendment No. 13, also standing in my name.

Before going into the detail of the amendments, I should once more like to thank my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey for expressing at Second Reading the Government's support for the Bill and for the prompt publication of the regulatory impact assessment.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, asked at Second Reading which organisations had been consulted. I responded that organisations would be consulted after the regulatory impact assessment had been published. I can now state that the Environment Agency, English Nature, the RSPB and the British Marine Federation are generally supportive of the Bill.

The amendments have been prepared by Parliamentary Counsel. They do not make any difference to the substance of the Bill; they are technical drafting amendments. The Bill as introduced seeks to amend Schedule 3 to the Harbours Act 1964. The substantive clauses of the Bill—that is, Clauses 1 and 2—make amendments mainly to paragraphs 18 and 28 of Schedule 3. One deals with orders made on application to the Secretary of State—the most usual orders—and the other deals with orders made on the initiative of the Secretary of State.

The provisions of the Bill would make the minimum changes to Schedule 3 required to achieve the change in the law proposed by the Bill, while leaving the drafting of Schedule 3 as little changed as possible. The amendments improve and clarify the drafting of paragraphs 18 and 28 of Schedule 3 to the 1964 Act, as amended by the Bill. These provisions would be more complex if left unchanged. The improvements made by the amendments incorporate the changes to the law proposed by the Bill. I beg to move.

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