Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
MP AND MR
20. So a balance between the formal and the
(Peter Hain) Yes, not always to go for legislation,
but if you are going to do it on a treaty basis being flexible
about it as well.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick
21. Can I ask three questions, one about the
Court of Auditors, one about budget and one about the Stability
and Growth Pact? On the Court of Auditors, do you not think now
we are going to have 25 Member States it is really high time to
have a Court of Auditors that does not have one member per Member
State and thus be needlessly top heavy and over-bureaucratic,
and would it not be time to take a leaf out of the Central Bank's
book and get down to some rotation in the Court of Auditors? On
the budgetary matters, do you think there is any realistic possibility
of either abolishing the distinction between obligatory and non-obligatory
expenditure or at least giving the European Parliament more say
over the bits of the budget that are obligatory expenditure, and
if so do you think it is desirable? On the Stability and Growth
Pact, is the Government looking for substantial changes in the
Stability and Growth Pact when the IGC meets? I am not asking
so much about the Convention but when the IGC meets.
(Peter Hain) On the Stability and Growth Pact, if
I just do them in reverse, it has not figured in the Convention
at all. As to whether it arises in the IGC it is not, I guess,
primarily a matter for the IGC but I guess it could come up. There
has been no encouragement from us to bring it up. On the question
of obligatory and non-obligatory budgetary distinctions, provided
that this falls within the financial ceilings set by Member States
then it is something we are happy to look at and indeed did discuss
that issue in a paper which we submitted. On the question of the
Court of Auditors, I understand the point that is implicit, that
every time you get a new Member State you have another member
of the Court of Auditors virtually and it could prove very difficult
to manage with 25 full time members. I think this is something
that we are prepared to look at with an open mind.
22. While we are on the financial questions,
Secretary of State, can I ask you this? There seem to be some
problems about who is going to adopt the budget. The Praesidium
seems to be having a problem in that it does not appear to be
able to reach agreement. How do you think that problem might be
(Peter Hain) I think there is at the momentit
has just been set up and I think Lord Tomlinson is on ita
Budget Working Group to address these kinds of issues. It is not
something that has engaged the Convention's attention or my attention
with any priority, but if there are any considerations the Committee
wants to put forward to me for that or to the Government in general
I would be interested to hear them.
Lord Howell of Guildford
23. Do you buy draft Article 13 which says that
the Union "shall co-ordinate" the economic policies
of Member States?
(Peter Hain) No. It was one of the things I objected
to when they were published, in that this is a matter primarily
for Member States in the existing Treaty saying that and as currently
phrased it could give all sorts of competencies to Brussels, for
want of a better term, to effectively run Member States' economic
policy which is not something we would entertain for a moment.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
24. In considering institutional questions is
the Convention paying enough attention to the overarching issue
of inter-institutional interdependence? Can the fundamental balance
of power in the institutional triangle survive enlargement? I
would like to add to that, do you not think that it might complicate
things even further to set up the European Congress which I see
the UK and Spain supported? I know you said that it must be an
informal political body, not a new institution, but if you are
still saying it is worth considering and there is a useful role
for it, do you not think there is a danger that it would create
yet one more body and complicate things further?
(Peter Hain) Yes, there is, and this is why we have
not proposed this idea. It came initially from President Giscard
himself and from members of the French national parliament who
are particularly keen on it. It seems to have gained a bit of
momentum but then others are opposed to it because it does give
national parliamentarians representative rights perhaps
to hear an annual work plan by the European Union or conceivably
to play the role of an electoral college in that. I do not think
that need upset the institutional triangle or the balance there
perhaps because we devoted a lot of attention to explaining our
ideas on Council reform early on in the Convention, the impression
was put about that we were opposed to a strong Commission or an
influential parliament. That is not the case. It is in Britain's
interest to have a strong Commission to make sure, for example,
that the beef ban is complied with, to make sure that energy liberalisation
is driven through, to make sure that the single market operates
on a genuinely level playing field which in many respects it does
not. For these kinds of things you need a strong Commission and
any Euro-sceptic demand for a weak Commission is against Britain's
national interests. I would argue that we need a stronger Commission
than we have been unfortunate in having in recent years, possibly
being reorganised, as President Prodi suggested, with fewer departments.
The situation where you have to create a job for every country
that joins is not a logical position to be in though I also understand
and do not challenge the principle that each country should have
right of admission, but there are ways of accommodating that principle
whilst obtaining a strong Commission. I think that in a Europe
of 25 or more a strong Commission is vital. To have a stronger
Council, which has been weak up to now, does not mean to say that
you want a weak Commission. On the contrary. Equally it does not
mean to say you want a less influential parliament. In fact, in
some of the proposals we have supported parliament would have
a greater say than at the present time.
25. If I could take that one stage further,
how does that affect finance because we noticed when we did a
recent report on the particular action that is going to happen
in Macedonia they ran into great problems because the Commission
was the only one who had the money. Would you say that sorting
out the financial situation is going to be part of it too?
(Peter Hain) Yes, I do. For instance, and it is perhaps
not directly to your point but is analogous, Javier Solana gave
very interesting evidence to the Working Group on Common Foreign
and Security Policy where he described his frustration at not
having any resources, and in fact the Balkans was the example
he gave. I am not sure that I have covered this point previously
in your hearings, Chairman, but he described how, even to the
point where he needed a vehicle in Bosnia, I think it was, he
could not get one because he did not have any resources as the
High Representative and the Commission would not give it to him
because he did not have the competency to do that, so he actually
had to go to a private car manufacturer and say, "Please
give me a four-wheel-drive vehicle to enable the European Union's
peacekeeping operations to continue in some form", decided
by the Council, approved by everybody in sight but no resources
to implement it. Yes, I do think the question of resources has
got to be looked at. The other side of it, of course, is that
you have a situation now where I think I am right in saying that
the Parliament has vetoed quite a large chunk of money for Afghanistan
not because it was opposed to Europe making its contribution to
rebuilding Afghanistanand quite rightly it should not be
opposed to itbut because it was involved in some other
struggle and it sought to exert its power by refusing the rights
of resources to be injected into the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
This cannot be a sensible way of behaving.
Chairman: It sounds to me a bit like Mr Berlusconi
on milk quotas to me.
Lord Scott of Foscote
26. I have a couple of questions I hope you
can help us with on the subject of the co-decision procedure and
qualified majority voting. I know the paper which you submitted
jointly with Ana Palacio argued for an extension of the co-decision
procedure with qualified majority voting into new areas but there
was not any indication what areas you had in mind. Article 31
of the proposed new constitution, which supported the Freedom,
Security and Justice title in Part Two of the new Treaty, suggests
that with some unspecified exceptions legislation in this area
will be adopted by the co-decision procedure and qualified majority
voting. First of all, what were the areas that you had in mind
for the extension of this procedure and, secondly, is the Government
prepared to accept the co-decision procedure and qualified majority
voting for the Freedom, Security and Justice area and are there
any no-go areas so far as the Government is concerned which will
have to be catered for by exceptions?
(Peter Hain) We have to look at this on a case by
case basis, as our paper indicated. For example, on asylum policy
and immigration policy, it is in Britain's interest to have foreign
policy particularly where there are procedures for accepting and
handling illegal migrants or migrants to determine whether they
are legal or not. On the other hand, unanimity will have to apply
over other areas, for example, joint police operations or the
operation of our criminal justice system. What we have to do is
to approach it on a common sense basis, that, for instance, in
the response to September 11 we agreed to extend qualified majority
voting in the fight against international crime. Equally, on asylum
policy but in other areas where national rights are pre-eminent
we would not accept that.
27. I have just been looking at a Green Paper
from the Commission on proposed common procedures in criminal
cases. Would that be an area where the Government would be prepared
to accept qualified majority voting?
(Peter Hain) We are looking at what this might mean
for the cross-border implications, for example. Mutual recognition
obviously is a very important principle. If the objective was
to harmonise criminal justice procedures or laws then no is the
short answer to that.
28. Do you anticipate difficulty in reaching
agreement on what will be the exceptions which will have to be
clearly defined from the application of qualified majority voting
in the Justice, Security and Freedom area?
(Peter Hain) The existing Article proposed by the
Praesidium as you know does have a number of exceptions and there
are a lot of other Member States in exactly the same position
as we are, saying that we have got to have some major bottom lines
here, including the ones I have mentioned, and we intend to hold
29. It has been proposed that the European Court
of Justice should have jurisdiction in this area, which at the
moment it does not have, so that, for example, if a particular
framework decision was not properly implemented the complaint
would not be simply a matter between governments but it would
be ventilated in front of the court. Is that something that the
Government will agree to or are there are particular limitations
of that which the Government would want to insist upon?
(Peter Hain) I might, Chairman, after I have answered
Lord Scott's point, bring in Nick Baird because he is the expert
in this field, which I am not. In fact, he is so much of an expert
that the Home Office to my chagrin is trying to poach him from
the Foreign Office. As you are aware, ECJ jurisdiction already
applies with certain limitations to both asylum and immigration
and to the police and judicial co-operation in the Third Pillar.
We want to retain limitations first of all in the carve-out for
law and order and internal security which are matters for national
governments and national courts, and then have a provision allowing
Member States to apply to courts of appeal with the power to make
preliminary references to the European Court of Justice on particular
aspects of JHA to avoid clogging up the legal processes hearing
(Mr Baird) That is right.
30. For instance, we are in the process of implementing
the European arrest warrant and if somebody wants to say that
we have not done that properly will they be able to go to the
ECJ or will the Commission be able to take that to the ECJ?
(Mr Baird) Under the new Treaty we would accept jurisdiction
for the ECJ with those exceptions so the answer is yes, but each
Member State would have the right case by case to decide whether
it was only the last Court of Appeal that could make the reference
to the Court of Justice for an opinion within the system not at
earlier stages in the process.
Baroness Harris of Richmond
31. In a sense I am following on from Lord Scott
and returning to QMV. You have explained carefully about the areas
where legislation would be voted by QMV. Would that apply to the
integrated management of external borders, and I think I know
the answer to this, and where do you think the provisions for
enhanced co-operation should be taken in those areas?
(Peter Hain) We want greater practical co-operation
between Member States on external borders. We do not want a single
European border guard. We welcome the fact that the Treaty Articles
do not suggest it, and we support QMV in areas where this will
help push forward action that is in Britain's interest, but we
want to retain our opt-in provisions in this area and would only
wish to take part in the kind of co-operation at the external
border which is consistent with that approach. As far as enhanced
co-operation is concerned, it really depends on how widely the
future measures are supported by Member States but I think we
would only move in this direction if there was not general support
for enhanced co-operation.
32. So with the collapsing of the Pillars establishing
the legal base calling for integrated border management you would
not be prepared to revisit the opt-out that we gained in Amsterdam?
What about the Irish and Danish governments?
(Peter Hain) No, emphatically not, to the question
do we want to rescind our opt-out. We intend to retain that. As
far as I know the Irish are in exactly the same position; in fact,
I am certain of that. I think the Danish might be too but I know
the Irish are.
33. With the idea that QMV will be taken forward
in the Treaty do you not think though that our position might
be really much more difficult to retain?
(Peter Hain) No, I do not, because I think it is in
our interests to get British interests advanced in getting more
effective action along borders and also in dealing with the problem
of human trafficking by QMV. There are frankly a number of back
markers in this amongst fellow Member States. I do not think you
would like me to name them but they exist and it is clearly and
self-evidently in our interests to make rapid progress in this
area in order to improve security, including in the struggle against
terrorism and international crime. That is a distinction from
harmonisation. What we do not want is harmonisation on this. It
is common action where QMV is sensible.
34. Secretary of State, is what you are saying
basically no change on the opt-out protocol post-Amsterdam?
(Peter Hain) Yes, loud and clear.
35. Minister, can I come to the proposal to
merge the roles of the High Representative and the External Affairs
Commissioner? Do you think this makes sense? Do you think it could
work? How should that person, if he were to be created, divide
himself between the Council and the Commission? I might say that
Sub-Committee C of this Committee was firmly of the view on this
issue that the High Representative role must remain firmly based
in the Council but if that were so how would he connect with the
(Peter Hain) We are very firmly in agreement with
Sub-Committee C's view on this, that the High Representative,
foreign representative, whatever the title might be, will only
mean anything if that person is the voice of national governments
and accountable to national governments and parliaments through
the Council. On the other hand, there is a strong case for greater
co-ordination with the Commission and I repeat the example that
I gave earlier of Javier Solana being paralysed by lack of resources
to the extent that if he goes to New York or Washington he cannot
even use the Commission's staff representatives out there. They
do not serve him. They do not serve me. They see me as a representative
of a foreign body which is ludicrous, so if you think of foreign
policy, as I do, as being a continuum with a soft end of aid and
maybe trade, but let's leave it at aid for these purposes, and
a hard end of soldiers and diplomacy in the middle of that which
tries to avoid the reliance on either aid or soldiers, then where
are we now? We are in a situation where the Commission has responsibility
for all the aid and development with a lot of resources for external
relations in terms of association remits and so on and for a lot
of other related work and I am represented as the operational
diplomat who gives some serious diplomatic force to different
views. Therefore, I think co-ordination there is a desirable objective,
but not to the point where, first of all, the Representative would
find that he or she had two masters who might be in conflict.
There can only be one master and that is the Council, so proposals
to situate the High Representative, foreign representative, in
the college as a full equal voting member of the college is not
something we want to see because effectively we will see a communitisation
of foreign policy in that way. On the other hand, it may well
be that you need several deputies for the High Representative
sitting in the Commission doing the kind of work they do at the
present time on aid and development and so on, so it is in that
kind of area with our bottom line being that the Council has to
be in charge and effectively the CFSP cannot be in a position
of being, either by default or by gradual erosion, communitised
through the Commission taking over the role.
36. I think you said that the High Representative,
when he is in Washington, finds it very difficult to enjoy the
services of the Community representation. You may like to know
that a month ago Sub-Committee C was in Washington and I think
the view of the Committee then was that he does not miss very
(Peter Hain) I hear what you say.
Chairman: Are there any more questions on Common
and Foreign Security Policy?
Lord Howell of Guildford
37. I suppose just to ask the Secretary of State
the obvious question, that in terms of the last few weeks, is
this all going to be left out of the part of the draft Treaty
or do they think they will cobble something together again?
(Peter Hain) No. I think we are on course to agree
the kind of proposition I have suggested on the High Representative
and I think the elected President of the Council of nearly five
years will be two key institutional changes which will enable
Europe to gradually move to a stronger Common Foreign and Security
Policy and had they been in place, these changes, these reforms,
ten years ago, we might well have got to a position where it was
occupying a more sensible stance on Iraq than it has been where
its existing 15 Member States were pretty well split down the
middle, as will be the 25 Member States, with a substantial minority
in our camp of the existing 15 and a substantial majority in our
camp of the existing 25. I think it would have been desirable
if Europe could have come to an agreed position and these reforms
would have helped us to do so simply because to play a serious
role in foreign policy, Europe needs to act in partnership with
the USA not as a rival, as perhaps Paris seems to have suggested,
but as a partner, disagreeing where necessary, as we have done,
mainly on Kyoto, on the International Criminal Court and other
key measures and key international treaties, but in trying to
find the common ground in order to make the world a safer place.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
38. What is the intention of the Germans and
the French in talking about the European Minister for Foreign
Affairs having a formal right of initiative in matters of the
ESC? How would he use that initiative?
(Peter Hain) Well, I think it is a good idea in principle.
At the moment the Commission has the right of initiative across
the board for its areas of competence, but this would be Member
States being able to have effectively, through the High Representative,
a right of initiative for CFSP and that person enjoying the confidence
of Member States as a serious interlocutor on foreign policy matters,
as Javier Solana was a credit in the Balkans to a very large extent
and to some extent in the Middle East as well. Giving that formal
right of initiative ultimately of course accountable to and determined
by the Council would be, I think, an important step forward.
Chairman: We come to the last area before we
have to let you go, Secretary of State, and that is on energy
Lord Cavendish of Furness
39. Secretary of State, under that broad heading
there are three questions and, with your permission, I will ask
them all three together. Is it proposed that the Euratom Treaty
will be absorbed into the Constitutional Treaty and, if so, is
it in the radical alteration so as not to cause problems with
some Member States? The second question is that Article 3(2) of
the draft Constitutional Treaty charges the Union with the discovery
of space. Independently the Commission has made claim to space.
Are there financial consequences for that policy, what is your
position on that and might it not preempt important debates on
security, defence and foreign affairs? Finally, the Praesidium
states that there is a need for a legal basis for energy policy
and I am wondering how this would affect policy areas such as
nuclear waste disposal. Is it the case that until there is a firm
policy on nuclear waste disposal, the discussion is closed as
far as new build for generation and would this policy clarify
things like nuclear waste?
(Peter Hain) Well, on the Euratom Treaty, the Praesidium,
as you will be aware, is aware of the Laeken remit which says
that the Convention does not have a role here for revising the
Treaty and I think the Praesidium would also be concerned that
it would be impossible to do justice to very difficult and technical
issues of sensitivity in the limited time available, so they suggested
that the Euratom Treaty should be revised so that its finances
and institutions are in line with what is agreed in the new Treaty,
but otherwise left as it is and we are quite content with that.
On the discovery of space, I did say that I thought Giscard was
aiming high in this and I could not quite see that it was a priority
for them. Obviously we want better European co-ordination in space,
but the issue which you referred to, the financial implications
are potentially very significant and I think that a specific reference
to the discovery of space in Article 3(2) is not appropriate and
we are trying to get that changed. On energy policy and energy
efficiency, I do not see a serious argument for any specific legal
basis for energy, but there was a consensus in favour of it in
the group on competence, so we are willing to look at that if,
and only if, it brought together existing measures relating to
energy policy, but we would resist any attempt to use it to extend
competence in this field. In terms of nuclear waste disposal,
where would that fit into?
(Mr Baird) It would not.
(Peter Hain) It would not fit into the existing Treaty.
I was not clear whether you were saying that it ought to, but
at the moment we are saying that it should not.
Lord Cavendish of Furness: I wanted to see the
impact it would have.