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Lord Triesman: My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate. The Government have perhaps done a little more than he allowed in his comments. There have been two documentsone rather long and one relatively shortboth of them very readable and one of which even won a prize for being in readable English, which is worth noting on the occasions it happens. It is also quite right to point out that a great deal of attention was given, certainly in France as I can say from firsthand experience, to the treaty. It was either the second or the third best selling book in France during the whole of the run up period. That is not the same as saying that everybody read it, but it is very interesting to note just how much attention was given to it.
I believe that during our presidency we will continue to try to provide a great deal of information, not least to accomplish one of the goals that the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, described of making sure that some of the most fundamental debates are aired properly. It is essential that that happens.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to make sure that this time it is not just lip service to the main arguments for our membership of the European Union. Does he not agree that we are now in the aftermath of 26 years of neglect about untruths, distortions, not telling the facts about Europe and our membership of the Community? That is one of the reasons we are in this plight, with the colourful right-wing comics that masquerade as newspapers having a field day of triumph saying that Europe should stop completely.
The Government therefore have a very strong obligation not just to say that they will do things up to the summit and afterwards, but to have a formal programme of information and explanation for the British public about all these complex issues for when the time comes to make whatever revised decision is necessary. We have, after all, to respect those two votes that have just occurred in the two referendums. When that time comes the British public will know the full facts and not just the terror propaganda in the British newspapers.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I said a few moments agoand I hope the point was thought at least reasonably sensiblethat we have published two significant documents. Over the years politicians of all parties with European interests at heart have done their best to make sure that there was a debate about substantive issues and not about straight bananas. We should continue to do that. I am strongly committed and the Government are strongly committed to ensuring that there is very thorough debate.
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Perhaps I may observe that debates on European questionsand this Statement is an interruption of a debate on European questionsdo that. We all have a lot more to do in making sure that we try to engage the media. The media are the media we have got and we will have to try to engage them more thoroughly in these vital issues.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does my noble friend agreeI am sure he doesthat Lady Blatch was a lovely person? Does he also agree that as a consequence of what has happened in France and Holland over the past few days there is a risk of going back to the bitter schisms and rivalries which scarred Europe for so long?
Therefore, is it not vital that we should stress the reasons for bringing Europe together in a way that we have neglected over the past few years? I stress, as one who was engaged in the European Year of the Environment, that young and old people were brought together in a way they understood. It is vital when we talk about climate change and all those other areas which have been stressed today. I think that if we go back to fundamentals the case for Europe is stronger than ever.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I would hope that the processes that have gone on in Europe over the better part of five decades have drawn us together as nations in a sufficiently strong way to make unlikely the kind of very deep and bitter schisms that have scarred European history.
However, of course it is always right to try to make sure that differences do not become deep scar tissue. In order to do that, we will need to look at the areas in which we have been able to co-operate and work effectively and to make sure that in areas where reform is necessary and where deep debate is necessary we face those deeper debates as friends and work on them as well rather than wishing that those differences were not there.
On economic reform, institutional reform and most certainly environmental policy reform, we have to be realistic. But we must surely have a basis for that on the grounds of the history that we have managed to achieve together in five decades.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, no. The referendum commitmentwere we to think of joining the eurocomprised the five tests that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set out to be met. Were they to have been met, that would be the appropriate moment for that question.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord for a clarification of the assurance that he has already given? Can he give us an assurance that the Government will not agree to the implementation of any part of the constitution unless and until the treaty establishing this constitution is ratified?
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In particular, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not agree to the establishment of a full-time European Council president, will not agree to a Union minister for foreign affairs and that there will be no nodding through at a European summit of the various extensions of majority voting provided for in the constitution? If they were to agree to any of those matters, they would certainly not be observing their promise that there will be a referendum, if any part of the constitution is to be implemented.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I had hoped that I had answered that question directly earlier. I do not believe that any of the measures that the noble Lord has just mentioned could possibly come in without ratification of the treaty. They are all specific and new requirements of the treaty.
I wonder if I could pose a rhetorical question. Were it to be the case that the Council of Ministers concluded that its business should be conducted with television cameras in the room, or other fundamental discussions were to take place in a spirit of openness and transparency, my assumption would begiven what has been said so frequently in the Housethat we would say, "Quite right", and we would welcome it. We would not require a referendum before the electric plug was put into the camera.
I put that point not in a particularly light-hearted way, but because some of those improvements are exactly the kinds of improvements needed to bring the people of Europe and the institutions of Europe closer together. I would think, given the traditions in the House, that they would be welcome.
What this Statement should have said was that the constitutional treaty requires ratification by every one of the member states, now 25, before it can come into force. In the last week, however, as the House and country are well aware, in referenda the electors in France voted "No" by 55 per cent to 45 per cent and in the Netherlands by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. The treaty is therefore dead. It is dead. The European Union Bill will be withdrawn and will not be reintroduced. That is what the Statement should have said under the existing rules and the law of the European Union. Since it has not said that, could I ask the Government whether they will now seek the opinion of the British people by immediately introducing a simple Bill to have a referendum, certainly by October,
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so that the views of the British people can be tested and they can give their opinion, which will help the Government in their further negotiations?
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