Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the noble Lord is well known for his less than high regard of the European Union and its works. I was waiting for the corrupt octopus of Europe to make an entry. I would then have been able to say that it is not so much the corrupt octopus of Europe, but the tired tentacles of European scepticism which strangle coherent debate.

Lord Richard: My Lords, is my noble friend aware, although I do not see how she could be, that when I hear the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, talking about the European Union, I am reminded of a story about Lyndon Johnson when he was running for the presidency in 1964? In everyone's view it was an election that he was bound to win. But he was campaigning very hard and someone said to him, "You know, the trouble with you Lyndon is not only do you want everybody to vote for you but you won't be satisfied until they all write 'We love you Lyndon' on the ballot paper".

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, would not be satisfied with the composition of the Commission unless they were all card-carrying members of UKIP, or the alternative continental version thereof, in which the only item on the agenda was the dissolution of the Union. Even then he would want regular checks to make sure that there was no backsliding.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, that is all very amusing, but could we please address—

Noble Lords: The Minister.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am afraid that the record of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, shows that that could well be what he would like to see in the Commission.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I apologise for my ardour in intervening.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister recall the advice of the late Professor Walter Hallstein who was, I think, the first president of the Commission? He warned very strongly that the
7 Dec 2004 : Column 731
Commissioners should not only be upright and dedicated people but that they should also concentrate on the reform and modernisation of Europe as a whole and not get bogged down in national interests too much. In particular, they should stay out of national politics and not meddle with party politics. Is that not good advice? Would the Government please repeat that advice to the incoming Commission?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, that is extremely good advice. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, is absolutely right. The principle of subsidiarity is to the fore and very much supported by this Government. We want to see the Commission doing the job that it is intended to do, not the job of national governments or the job of local governments.

We very much agree with the noble Lord that the Commission should now focus on where it can really add value. This Commission has been in place only since 22 November, but we are extremely pleased to see that the early signs are that it is focusing on where it can add value enforcing and developing the single market, regaining the confidence of business and opening up the EU's labour market.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the noble Lord, Lord Rannoch, has failed rather in his research into the defects of members of the Commission. He failed to note that one of them is a former student of mine, which I am sure he would think is worse. Does she also recognise that the Question implies that the European Commission is the sole initiator and executive of European Union legislation? For example, the communiqué for the November European Council makes it clear that the heads of government have just set out a new five-year programme for justice and home affairs and that much of the execution and implementation of EU legislation is done by national governments.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, and I am pleased that one of his former students is a member of the Commission.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that while the European Commission is quite properly the executive body of the European Union, national parliaments have an important role to play? Does she further agree that the constitutional treaty for Europe is therefore welcome for the enhanced role that it gives to national parliaments?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, absolutely. The constitutional treaty to which my noble friend referred strengthens the role of national parliaments by giving them an active voice in the whole area of subsidiarity.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm to both the House and the country that she is happy for the British taxpayer to pay £35 million a day to a complacent and corrupt
7 Dec 2004 : Column 732
organisation that has failed to have its accounts passed by the European Court of Auditors for 10 years in succession?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, financially we get a good deal from our membership of the European Union, not only in the form of our rebate, which is very secure, but also in the amount of money that goes to poorer areas both within our own country and throughout the European Union.

Lord Elton: My Lords—

Lord Grocott: My Lords, we are in the sixteenth minute.

Hunting Act 2004

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the article is clearly not a statement of government policy. Even so, it does make some interesting and telling points.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that clear reply. Did the Minister for Rural Affairs, Mr Alun Michael, see and clear the article written by his Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Sunday Telegraph before it was submitted for publication? If he did not, should Mr Bradley resign for making government policy on the hoof? However, if he did see it, perhaps Mr Michael should consider his position as he clearly misled Parliament on the purposes of the Hunting Act. It was supposed to be an animal welfare measure, although according to Mr Bradley's article was anything but that; it was about class war.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, Peter Bradley did not claim that his article was government policy. There is no requirement for a PPS to have the agreement of their Minister before they give an opinion—as is the case for any Member of Parliament. Mr Michael was aware of the article, but there was no question of him clearing it. He has made his position clear.

The noble Lord would be well advised actually to read the article rather than rely on the headline in the Sunday Telegraph. The article makes it clear that it was not the Labour Party, the House of Commons or anti-hunters declaring class war. As I have always said, we do not care whether it is a toff or a tinker who hunts
7 Dec 2004 : Column 733
cruelly in our countryside. "Class war" was the declaration made by some elements in this House and the hunting fraternity who decided to confront the House of Commons, the democratically elected Chamber, and threaten civil disobedience in the countryside.

Baroness Gale: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that on 25 November the Countryside Alliance held a demonstration outside a Cardiff hotel where a Labour Party event was taking place? Many people entering the event had their clothes ruined as the demonstrators threw eggs at them. Homophobic taunts were hurled at Chris Bryant, the Member of Parliament for Rhondda, who was threatened with being torn limb from limb if he went into the event. A woman police officer was subjected to racist remarks and four policemen were injured.

Does my noble friend condemn the actions of the Countryside Alliance supporters, who seem to have declared war, if not class war, on law-abiding citizens and on the police force?

Lord Whitty: Absolutely, my Lords. I condemn utterly those who organised and participated in the disruption of that event. It is a disgrace.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, would the Minister care to invite the view of the Leader of the House of Commons on direct criminal action in support of a political objective?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page