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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the Minister leaves that point, will she at least admit on the record that the sixth point of the protocol on subsidiarity says that after the review to which she has referred the Commission may decide to maintain,
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is what the protocol says and I do not make the claim that it says anything more than that. I made that point clearly in my opening speech and I make no greater claim now. Having waited about eight hours to reply to the debate, if there are to be many such exchanges we shall be here for at least another hour. I say to the noble Lord that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, supported the return of the powers to national parliaments and subsidiarity, although I believe that both the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, came to rather different judgments about the way in which their wishes had been met in the proposals.
Another point that most of your Lordships overlookedit perhaps adds more to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannochis that it is disappointing that there has not been much interest in partner countries in the principle of proportionality. That refers to how detailed and intrusive legislationlike subsidiaritywas introduced in the Maastricht Treaty. It is a shame that there has not been a concentration on that issue, and I wish that we could have engaged partner countries more on that because I believe that both issues are essentially political issues. Given the natural linkage between the two, we, the British Government, are trying to generate support for proportionality to be considered by national parliamentarians in the same way envisaged for subsidiarity. That adds to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and I hope that he will take it on board and argue for it because I believe that it is an important point for us to consider.
I assure my noble friend Lord Judd that there is a greater role for national parliamentarians in shaping EU decisions, but I do not make inflated claims for it. I believe that it will increase the EU's democratic legitimacy and accountability. That is as it should be. National parliamentarians are the closest and most visible link back to their citizens.
I turn to the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough. He found much to work on in the proposals. I agree strongly with him that a remote political mechanism is not helpful. He spoke very powerfully about making the treaty accessible to people, as did the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, about the terminology in terms of trying to gain support for the proposals as a whole.
The right reverend Prelate was also concerned about the regions. Perhaps I may point out to him that the draft treaty articles and the draft protocols contain a number of references that formally recognise the role of the regions in the EU. That is a major advance and indeed a welcome one. The Government submitted a paper to the convention drawn up in co-operation with the devolved administrations setting out a number of ideas for enhancing the role of the regions, including a more explicit acknowledgement of the role that many
My noble friend Lord Haskel moved away from the national interest or regional interests to concentrate his remarks on connecting with individuals within the European Union and he asked about the outward-looking nature of the EU in commercial relationships. Of course we want a Europe that is outward looking and that continues our progress economically and commercially. We want to encourage efforts towards greater European competitiveness in the global market. This applies to the Government's own achievements in working for British competitiveness.
On a broader basis, the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, asked how many of the proposals are new. He asked for a comprehensive written analysis of how treaty changes compare with previous treaty changes and, in particular, for an analysis of the QMV proposals. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, wanted the Government to spell out how many of the proposals are questions of constitutional consolidation. I hope that there will be a chance to reply to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in the Government's response to his committee's report in October. He will know that the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, wrote to my right honourable friend Peter Hain to request a similar analysis before the Recess. I hope that the matter will be resolved very shortly, and that it will answer at least some of the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, on relative voting weights.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, we do not expect formal records of the IGC deliberations to be kept or published. But I repeat the assurances of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary that Ministers will appear before the Standing Committee of the IGC as regularly as requested. Like the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, we welcome the continuing debate in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, made a very persuasive argument on the need for a president elected by the European Parliament. Of course I share with him the desire to make the Commission as democratic and as accountable as possible. But the great strength of the Commission, and what enables it to be a real guardian of the treaties and guarantor of the rights of all, is its independence from the influence of member states and political groups. Making the president dependent on one or more political groups in the European Parliament does not seem to the Government the best way of ensuring the independence, effectiveness and authority of the Commission.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, was exercised on the question of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The charter attracted caustic criticism from the noble Lords, Lord Lamont, Lord Harris of High Cross, Lord Bowness, Lord Blackwell and Lord Cavendish of Furness. The UK's position has always been that the charter, although welcome as a political declaration, was not drafted in a suitable form for incorporation in the treaties. That remains the case, so in some respects I
The charter is not clear about what our citizens may expect or from whom they may expect it. Such ambiguity and uncertainty is unsatisfactory for the law. The charter was not intended to change the competencies of the Union, and we need to ensure that an incorporated charter is faithful to that. But we have not been afraid to look at ideas about how to give the charter legal status. The challenge has been to find ways to give our citizens legal security and certainty in relation to the charter's ambiguous and conflicting tests.
In answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, the status of the charter will be decided at the IGC. The noble Lord raised questions about justice and home affairs. I shall write to him about those because I do not believe that they were very widespread questions. Perhaps he would be kind enough to accept a letter from me on the matter.
I shall now deal with the questions raised by the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Owen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, who I was very pleased to see back in her place after her absence from your Lordships' House. Let me be positive in this respect, as I was urged to be by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. Britain is committed to playing a leading role in the ESDP. We want to tackle real problems and to deliver capabilities; we want increasing co-operation with partners and to ensure that we have the military force to back up our policies. We want to develop a capabilities agency; we want to update the Petersberg tasks and to create a solidarity clausethree very important proposals.
We do not support the introduction of a common defence, either at 25 or through enhanced co-operation. It is divisive and a duplication of NATO. We do not support anything such as the creation of a standing in a group, or in a corpscall it what you willon ESDP which would undermine the inclusive, flexible model of ESDP that the EU and NATO have agreed. My noble friend Lord Judd was very exercised, not so much on defence but on the common foreign policy, a theme that engaged the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, who reminded us very eloquently that the CFSP was an innovation under the government led by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher. It is also a question that interested the noble Lords, Lord Bowness and Lord Skidelsky.
We said right from the start of the convention that we must focus on making CFSP and the EU external action more coherent and effective. That inevitably involves some discussion of institutional issues, but the matter is not just about institutions. So far, the discussion about the convention has been about practical ways to improve the effectiveness of the CFSP. To do that, we have to be more effective and efficient. We want to improve the coherence of the EU external action and CFSP.
Foreign policy co-operation will remain subject to its own distinct procedures, just as it has been since the common foreign policy was set up in the Maastricht Treaty. Common foreign policy can of course be a very positive thing. It certainly helped our missions in Bosnia, the DRC and Macedonia. Of course, we do not agree on everything, which was evidenced recently over Iraq. However, when we can agree, we can have a more influential voice.
I began to think that the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, had read a rather different set of proposals. For example, I hope that he welcomes, as we do, the retention in the convention's draft constitutional treatythe language makes it clearthat the common foreign and security policy is indeed conducted by member states, the European Council, and the Council of Ministers, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said when he described his pleasure on hearing that the unanimity principle had been preserved.
The noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, raised the question of the European foreign minister. The creation of a European foreign minister should improve coherence of EU external action across the board. In the IGC, we will need to tackle issues such as whether a European foreign minister would be subject to Commission collegiality, what sort of staff he or she would need and the exact nature of the role. We welcome the clarity of Part 1 of the constitution and the fact that he or she would be accountable to the council on CFSP.
I wish to make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and, indeed, to the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Lord Tugendhat, that we do not like the job title. We do not like the proposal for the job title of European foreign minister. We think that it is misleading because there is no European government. We created the term "Commissioner" instead of Minister decades ago in order to deal with that very issue. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, also asked about the consolidation of power in the President of the Council and the President to the Commission.
We have repeatedly made it clear that we could not accept the concept of double-hatting unless the person concerned was clearly accountable to the council on CFSP and not subject to Commission collegiality. I hope that that deals with the point raised by the noble Lord. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that the President of the Council must have the confidence of European heads of government. He suggested that that had to be on the basis of having been a past head of government, but the crucial issue is that the individual concerned must have that confidence. Incidentally, on the question of treaties, which was raised by one of your Lordships during the course of the debateI think it was the noble Lord, Lord Lamontof course we will still be able to sign treaties.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, gave us some powerful expositions on global thinking and development issues. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, gently chided me on references that I have made to the national interest. I am sure that he
Of course global thinking is more widespread than it used to be, but we are engaged in an evolving process, not one that can be fixed overnight. There are French farmers, German steelworkers, Gulf oil businessmen and Caribbean sugar producers. None of them forgets the national interest and, in the real world, neither do their governments.
I am sorry to say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, whose commitment on development issues is second to none, that I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, was right: national interests will prevail, while democratic governments act in what they and those who elect them believe to be the national interest. That is the nature of democracy, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, reminded us so clearly, with regard to reform of the common agricultural policy. That point was re-emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
Of course, it is a hugely interesting debate. The points on national interest were developed by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, made some thought-provoking predictions about how our national interest will develop over the next few years in the context of European co-operation on foreign and defence policy. I wish that we had time to debate that.
What next? I listened carefully to the exposition given by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, on how Parliament should deal with the proposals. I thought that his thesis that party politics should be subverted to common sense was an intriguing one. If he can tell us that his own party will espouse his view, I will be surprised. Meanwhile, the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, raised the fundamental issues of the constitution. He believes that the debate defined by the elected parliamentarians in the 15 countries of the EU and the accession countries does not adequately cover the issues. Elected representatives of all parties had the opportunity to argue their case. It was a reasonable way to define our agenda. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, that, despite the difficulties, 200 representatives from all the EU countries, representing a huge range of political views, achieved something remarkablean agenda and a set of proposals for a way forward.
The noble Lords, Lord Owen, Lord Tugendhat, Lord Rees-Mogg, Lord Eden of Winton, Lord Inglewood, Lord Norton of Louth, Lord Marlesford, and many others spoke about a referendum. As is well known, the final recommendations of the convention will form the basis of discussions by leaders at the intergovernmental conference. That is where decisions will be takenby unanimity. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, suggested
The crux of the argument will be the nature of the treaty. How radical is it? How fundamental is it? How constitutionally ground-breaking will it be? Some have argued that it will be unprecedented. The Government's view is that it will not. The Government believe that the convention's outcome will not create a new tier of government, as the introduction of regional assemblies in England would. Nor does the convention offer a once-in-a-lifetime choice, such as whether to join the euro.
The noble Lord, Lord Owen, accused the Government of cowardice in not going for a referendum. I thought that, uncharacteristically, he over-egged his pudding. The view of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary is no more based on cowardice that that of Mrs Thatcher, when she did not go for a referendum on the Single European Act, or that of Mr Major, when he did not go for one on Maastricht. I have heard no compelling reason to change the way in which the country ratifies treaties. We have a strong tradition of parliamentary democracy, and the Government believe that it provides the best way to ensure that there is detailed scrutiny and accountability to ensure a real democratic legitimacy.
I hope that the Conservative Party will listen to the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. I am sorry if that destroys his credibility. Sadly, I doubt that it will listen to him. He has real experience of European treaties, past and present, as does the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, who was a participant at previous conferences. Their experience is matched by that of another of your Lordships: the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick. He exhorted us to move forward with the IGC and asked what those who opposed the text would achieve. Like the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick. It will be an important treaty, but it will not be as far-reaching as the Single European Act or the Maastricht Treaty. On neither of those issuesrightlydid the party opposite hold a referendum.
I was asked specifically about the Parliament Act, in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. I believe that the Act could be used, but I shall confirm that advice in a written response to the noble Baroness on that important question.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has led many a negotiating team in his timesome of them very recent. He knows that the United Kingdom team on the IGC is fully engaged. It will be proposing ideas, persuading others and listening very closely. Our efforts are focused on delivering the Europe that British citizens wantsafer, stronger, richer.
There can be no question of us not pursuing the arguments that we have espoused. I say that with all the force at my command to members of the party opposite who have cast doubt upon it. We have made some promising gains in devising a new political architecture for a Europe of 25 and more, and there will new responsibilities for this House as part of a national parliament to take up an enhanced role in European affairs. There is a great deal left to do.
I conclude by reminding your Lordships of the wide-ranging and powerful contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. He exhorted us to talk about the real European Unionnot a utopian fantasy, nor an apocalyptic nightmare. He doubted our ability to have such a balanced dialogue. I am bound to say that I understand why. But the noble Lord encouraged us, none the less, to go forward on that basis. He made his remarks with far greater wisdom and far greater experience than I have. But I agree strongly with the sentiments that he expressed. I hope that that visionthe vision of a real European Unionwill characterise our approach to the IGC.