Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bach: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate never puts me on the spot, and it is always a sensitive time. We remain fully committed to the aircraft carrier programme, which represents a huge step up in military capability for our Armed Forces. The carriers will be the biggest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK. They will be built in the UK under a policy that the previous government and this Government have both adopted. That is very good news for British defence and, in particular, for the British shipbuilding industry.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, what is a physical integrator? Could I qualify to be one?

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bach: My Lords, I told the House that the competition was ongoing. If the noble Baroness would
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1333
like to put in a late bid, I am sure that she would stand a very good chance. I did my best to describe what a physical integrator was or should be to the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever; it looks like I did not totally succeed.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, are the Government absolutely committed to a particular size for the ships? If so, what is it?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we are not committed to an absolute size. If the noble and learned Lord will excuse the expression, size is not of the greatest importance here. What matters is the capability that the ships have to do the important job that we have determined they should do and which most people agree is critical for our future forces' structure. They will be the largest ships that we have ever constructed.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I presume that the physical integrator will make sure that the two halves of the ship fit together to the same size.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bach: My Lords, my noble friend has great expertise in the railway industry. Of course they will.

Mental Capacity Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Business of the House: Standing Order 47

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to allow the Consolidated Fund Bill to be taken through its remaining stages on Thursday 16 December.—(Baroness Amos.)

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, although I do not oppose the Motion, would my noble friend not agree that it might be good for Members from all parts of the House to read—for light reading during the Christmas Recess—the Standing Orders and the Companion to the Standing Orders?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I totally agree with my noble friend; we could all do with a refresher course.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will particularly draw them to the
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1334
attention of noble and learned Lords who are judges, in the light of experience on the Constitutional Reform Bill.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I said that we could all do with a refresher course.

Lord McNally: My Lords, would the noble Baroness the Leader of the House agree to have a discussion with the usual channels about order in Questions? It does not do the House's reputation much good to sound like another place during Questions. On the other hand, if the Order Paper is to be littered with Questions that allow the questioner to read out a long list of government triumphs with a Minister then reading out another list of government triumphs, between now and the general election the patience and good order of this House will be tried a great deal. We all have to learn. I make no criticisms of what happened earlier; we have all made mistakes in this House.

Noble Lords: Too long!

Lord McNally: I am still learning, my Lords. In the most friendly way, I say that the usual channels need to look at the matter and restore some good order.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree. The issue affects all Members of the House. I also think that the House is sometimes a little unforgiving of our new Members; the House should consider that.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Education Bill [HL]

Lord Triesman: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Filkin, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Education Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 18, Schedule 2, Clauses 19 to 26, Schedule 3, Clause 27, Schedule 4, Clauses 28 to 45, Schedule 5, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 6, Clauses 50 to 52, Schedule 7, Clause 53, Schedule 8, Clauses 54 to 60, Schedule 9, Clauses 61 to 65, Schedule 10,
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1335
Clause 66, Schedule 11, Clauses 67 to 69, Schedule 12, Clauses 70 to 74, Schedule 13, Clauses 75 to 95, Schedule 14, Clause 96, Schedule 15, Clauses 97 and 98, Schedule 16, Clauses 99 to 103, Schedule 17, Clauses 104 to 113, Schedule 18, Clauses 114 to 119, Schedule 19, Clauses 120 to 124.—(Lord Triesman.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Turkey and the EU

Lord Cobbold rose to call attention to the proposed accession of Turkey to the European Union; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject of our debate this afternoon is of enormous importance to the future of Europe and, by implication, to the future of this country. In two days' time in Brussels the European Council is due to decide whether to open formal negotiations with Turkey with a view to Turkey becoming a full member of the European Union. The European Commission on 6 October, in its regular report on Turkey's progress towards accession, expressed itself in favour of instituting formal negotiations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, in her response to my Question on 10 November, stated categorically that the Government strongly supported Turkey's bid to join the European Union. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, in the same debate, expressed support from her side of the House for the goal of eventual Turkish membership. My concern is that there has been insufficient discussion in this country of the very important issues involved—hence my sponsorship of this debate. Your Lordships' House, with its unique reservoir of expertise and experience, is an obvious place to hold such a debate and I look forward to the contributions of noble Lords who are participating this afternoon.

Let me say at the outset that I am open-minded on this important question. I do not know Turkey well, but I have stayed with Turkish friends in Istanbul and I was recently on holiday in the Turkish part of Cyprus. My wife has travelled extensively in Turkey and always praises the friendliness, openness and generosity of the people she encountered. I am particularly aware of Turkey's long-standing membership of and contribution to NATO, since in my National Service in the RAF in the
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1336
1950s I had flying training under the NATO scheme in Canada in company with Turkish and other NATO trainee pilots.

I turn now to the main issues. The first is simply one of geography. Article 1 of the proposed constitution for Europe states:

So is Turkey a "European state"? A small part of the country, about 5 per cent, is in Europe with about 8 per cent of its population. Personally, I find it hard to accept that this qualifies Turkey to be called a "European state" and I think that if it were to become a full member some modification of Article 1 of the proposed constitution would be required. One should point out at this stage that an exception to this rule has already been made in the case of Cyprus, which is geographically in Asia. Cyprus is small but Turkey has a population of 70 million, making it larger than all existing EU members except Germany. If current population trends continue, it is likely to overtake Germany later this century and could reach 100 million. As such, given current voting arrangements in the EU, it would have a very powerful voice.

The second issue is one of culture and involves the contentious question of to what extent there is a European identity and a common purpose that extends beyond economic co-operation and success. If there is no such thing as a European identity, there is no reason why the Union should not be extended to any neighbouring state that is willing to accept the basic rules of membership, as laid down by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993. The Copenhagen criteria, although designed for eastern European applicants, do not specifically mention Europe. Section 7A(iii) of the conclusions requires a candidate country to have,

These criteria are popular with Euro-sceptics, as they omit mention of Europe and there is no pressure towards political union. But at the other extreme you do not have to be an ardent federalist seeking a European superstate to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a European identity and that it is relevant for the Union of 25 nations that we have today.

I grew up in the post-war years. My father was an instinctive European. He was a director of the Bank for International Settlements in Basle for 25 years and participated in its regular monthly meetings of European central bankers, building friendships, trust and co-operation—and, incidentally, contributing significantly behind the scenes to the successful birth of the European Central Bank and the single currency.

As a trainee banker on Wall Street in the 1960s, I found myself siding with other Europeans and against our American colleagues in discussions on the issues of the time. That is where I learnt that there is such a thing as a European identity and that I was a European as
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1337
well as being an Englishman. I believe that the concept of a European identity still exists and is important. It underlies the opening lines of the proposed new constitution which read:

The question is whether Turkey and the Turkish people fit into that definition.

The third issue is the related but more sensitive subject of religion. The European Union is sometimes referred to as a Christian club. I find that too exclusive. But Christian values and a Christian heritage are part of the European identity that I have already discussed. This remains the case despite the fact that there are an estimated 20 million Muslims in Europe now, and, we are told, more people attend mosques in this country now than attend churches.

Europe is quite rightly an increasingly multi-cultural society. While we support this evolution as a necessary part of modern society, we all know that it can be the cause of problems, particularly in socially deprived areas. Since the time of Ataturk, Turkey has been a constitutionally secular state and has separated religion from government. It has also resisted religious extremists. Nevertheless, there are important differences, particularly in respect of gender equality, which set the two cultures apart.

On the positive front there is a strong argument for supporting a secular state embodying a moderate Muslim faith in an area of the world so beset by religious extremism. Making Turkey a prosperous secular democratic nation can, it is to be hoped, provide an example for others in the region to emulate. On the negative side, there remains the risk that Turkey would provide an entrée for the spread of Muslim extremism into the Union. This risk would be less easy to control in the circumstances of a large-scale migration of Turkish workers to the West. The free movement of people is a key element in the structure of the Union as we know it. With current population trends, it is likely that the large economies of western Europe will depend increasingly on immigration to meet labour requirements of the future. The Commission's regular report in October on Turkey's progress towards accession admitted in its conclusions that:

and such discussion that had taken place had been concerned with the treatment of foreign citizens living and working in Turkey.

These issues have not been much discussed in this country but they have been a matter of concern on the continent, particularly in France, where, in a recent Figaro poll 56 per cent voted against Turkish membership and only 36 per cent in favour. In an article in the Financial Times of 25 November, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing expressed himself to be against full membership for Turkey. He suggested that instead the EU should negotiate "privileged partnership
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1338
agreements" with its neighbours, which could then include other countries such as the north African Mahgreb. This, he claimed,

Giscard's views were denounced in the Financial Times editorial the following day under the headline,

and again, by Philip Stephens in the Financial Times of 10 December, under the heading,

Philip Stephens wrote,

Somehow, though, Philip Stephens admitted that,

I shall now leave the background debate and consider the practical issues faced by the European Council on Friday. To a large extent its decision is predetermined because of the history that stretches back 40 years, to 12 September 1963, when Turkey sealed an association agreement with the then European Economic Community. In April 1987, Turkey applied for full EEC membership. Its eligibility was accepted, but the application was deferred. In December 1999, the EU summit in Helsinki recognised Turkey as an applicant, subject to a range of reforms. Since then a major reform programme has been undertaken in Turkey: inflation, for example, has fallen below 10 per cent for the first time since 1973, from more than 50 per cent in 2001.

In its October regular report on Turkey's progress towards accession, the European Commission has given Turkey a green light under almost all headings. Thus it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Council will agree to start formal accession negotiations in 2005, probably during the British presidency in the second half of the year.

The negotiations themselves will have to address the three main issues that I have raised and many other more detailed aspects. They are expected to last up to 10 years. If and when a final agreement is reached on Turkish accession, it has to be accepted by each and every member state, and in France a referendum has been promised. I believe that sums up the situation as it stands and I look forward to hearing the views of other noble Lords. I beg to move for Papers.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page