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consider it in the British interest to do so, but also to remain outside, if that is in our interests. In the past, for example, we have opted in on measures dealing with combating illegal immigration and exchanges of information where these measures are unquestionably in Britain’s interests.“The new treaty gives us the freedom to protect the fundamentals of our common-law system if we believe that it could be jeopardised, while at the same time it allows us to participate in areas where co-operation is in the national interest. The agreement set out in the details of the text is that it will be in our exclusive power to decide on a measure-by-measure basis. As a result of our recent negotiations, the opt-in now covers all types of measures: completely new ones; amendments to existing ones; and, where measures come forward under the Schengen agreement, we also have the right to opt out. So we can choose to participate in any and every measure, but we cannot be forced to do so. If we choose not to, there is a fair, objective and robust system for consequential changes but no financial or other penalties. So we have secured a comprehensive, legally binding opt-in on all justice and home affairs measures, which will enable the UK to choose whether or not to participate in any justice and home affairs measures in future.“I turn to the common foreign and security policy. I welcome further scrutiny by this House of the agreements that we have secured. For again I believe that it is now absolutely clear that the basis of foreign and security policy will remain intergovernmental, a matter for Governments to decide. The intergovernmental basis is unchanged and subject to distinct rules and procedures that protect that position.“The declaration that we secured expressly states that nothing in the treaty affects the existing powers of member states to formulate and conduct their foreign policy, including maintaining their own national diplomatic services and membership of the UN Security Council. There is no sole right of initiative for the Commission and there is no role for the European Parliament in decision taking. Voting by unanimity is the rule for all policy decisions. Apart from two specific and limited provisions in foreign policy—appeals against EU sanctions and, as now, any overlap with, for example, international development assistance—there is no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice.“The declaration agreed on Friday made it clear that the European Parliament would have no new role in the appointment to the new post of High Representative, which will be made by the European Council, and there will be no change to the way in which EU foreign policy is decided; it will continue to be governed by unanimity. There is, in addition, a clear declaration that nothing in the treaty, including the Office of the High Representative and the External Action Service will affect in any way,

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“On social security, we have secured an effective veto power on any proposals for important change. We can insist on taking any proposal to the European Council and, because it will be decided by unanimity, we have a veto where we—Britain—determine that a proposal would impact on important aspects of our social security system including its scope, cost or financial structure. “In justice and home affairs, the amending treaty gives us the right not to participate; in social security, it gives us the right to insist on unanimity. Many qualified majority voting measures—for example, rules for the euro or special state aids for Germany—do not affect the UK. The remaining areas of QMV agreed in June are decisions on emergency humanitarian aid to third countries—manifestly in the UK’s national interest—and energy market liberalisation, again in our interest. Others are technical or procedural and simply relate to the efficient functioning of the Union—for example, the internal rules for appointing the Committee of the Regions, judges and the Economic and Social Committee.“While there is a two-and-a-half-year presidency of the European Council, the President of the Council has been appointed as the servant of the leaders of the national Governments, and the purpose is to strengthen the council of national Governments in relation to other EU institutions.“The new treaty also expressly provides that national security is the sole responsibility of member states. The declaration to the treaty makes it clear that, while the European Union, like the UN, World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund, can sign international agreements, this does not and cannot authorise the Union in any way to legislate or act beyond the powers conferred on it by member states in the treaties. “As a result of our negotiation, we are agreed that the new text will make it clear that national Parliaments have the right, but are not obliged, to contribute to the work of the Union. Under the amending treaty, national Parliaments have a new right to force the EU to reconsider proposals if a third of Parliaments feel that the issue is better dealt with at member-state level. Symbols of statehood that were the characteristic of the rejected constitutional treaty—European flags, anthems or European mottos—have been abandoned in the treaty. “As I have already made clear, the Government will agree the amending treaty in December only if in the final text all the UK’s protections I have outlined are included in the detail that we have negotiated. Parliament will have the opportunity to debate this amending treaty in detail and decide whether to ratify it, and the Government will recommend that there is sufficient time for debate on the Floor of the House so that the Bill is examined in the fullest of detail and all points of view can be heard.“In addition, we propose to build into the legislation further safeguards. To ensure that no Government can agree without Parliament’s approval to any change in European rules that could, in any way,

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alter the constitutional balance of power between Britain and the European Union, we will make a provision in the Bill that any proposal to activate the mechanisms in the treaty which provide for further moves to qualified majority voting, but which require unanimity, will have to be subject to a prior vote by the House.“The amending treaty will not be fully implemented until 2014. Indeed, one section does not have full effect until 2017. I can confirm that not just for this Parliament but also for the next it is the position of the Government to oppose any further institutional change in the relationship between the EU and its member states. In our view, there is also a growing consensus across Europe that there should be no more institutional change for many years. “The December European Council will also consider a declaration proposed by Britain that Europe moves to a new agenda and that the new priorities are a focus on jobs, competitiveness, prosperity, climate change and security so that Europe can play a far stronger part in the competitive economy of the world and be a leader and success story in the new global order. “So because it is right that Europe now focuses not on more institutional change but on the reforms that are needed to meet the challenges of the global era, we are publishing today our agenda for the new priorities that we as the EU must adopt: a renewed focus on completing the single market, with the priority being the liberalisation of the telecoms and energy sectors; a commitment to free trade and openness, with the priority being to ensure a successful outcome to the world trade talks and to promote better European Union/United States trade links; tackling climate change and energy security; combating terrorism and organised crime; reducing global poverty; and reforming the European Union budget.“It is by putting in place these changes that we can create a truly outward-looking, globally focused European Union that helps to deliver prosperity, opportunity and security for all—an agenda that is good for Britain and good for Europe. It is an agenda that allows us to continue to benefit from our membership of the European Union and, by working together, to have a greater influence in the world. So the protections that we have negotiated defend the British national interest. “We are putting in place new procedures to lock in our protection of these interests. We will oppose any further proposals for institutional change in the European Union this Parliament and the next. We will lead the debate in Europe to move to a new agenda of new priorities that focus on the economic and social needs of our citizens. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.



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3.58 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. As I listened, it became increasingly clear that it is a Statement that goes to the very core of the character of this Government, given the fundamental and unequivocal nature of the manifesto promise that it breaks.

Does the noble Baroness remember the Statement four months ago when the Prime Minister claimed that he would restore trust in politics after 10 years of spin? By contrast, he comes to Parliament today as a man who clearly does not trust the British people, who plans to break his manifesto promise, and who now falls back on spinning lines to the British people. Red lines, his spin doctors call them, but, as a Select Committee in another place, to which your Lordships were sadly forced to turn for guidance on this treaty, found, those red lines are about as durable as lines in the sand. The Prime Minister may believe that those lines will be there in five or 10 years’ time, but precious few others do, so can the noble Baroness explain what guarantees exist for the so-called red lines?

The first foreign policy act of this Government in 1997 was to abandon our opt-out from the social chapter, a green light to regulation from which British business has been reeling ever since. At what price a promise to hold to feeble, flimsy red lines when they are struggling to shore up positions that they abandoned 10 years ago? No one believes that the red lines are fixed or effective, and no one believes that this treaty is any different in substance from the constitution on which we were solemnly promised a referendum only two years ago. As the Spanish Foreign Minister put it:

As the German Chancellor said this very week:

It is a fact, yet the Prime Minister treats the British people as fools by translating German fact into Scottish fiction.

Does the noble Baroness agree with a top British business leader who told the Economic Research Council only this June:

Those are the words of a top British business leader who is none other than the noble Baroness’s noble friend Lord Jones of Birmingham. “It’s all a con”, he said. The noble Lord was handpicked to speak for a Labour Government because the Prime Minister did not trust any Labour Peer to do it. When he says it’s a con, should we not believe him? Does the noble Baroness? If the Prime Minister can sell the noble Lord as a good Labour man, he can certainly sell 98 per cent of the constitution as something else, and his manifesto promise can be sold down the river.

If the British people, like the noble Lord, Lord Jones, see this as a con, it will reflect on Europe as a whole. That would be damaging for our country. There is much that Europe ought to be doing and that we should be doing together. We should be dismantling the choking acquis of regulation that is holding back

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European business. Europe should be working to improve competitiveness and enhancing enterprise, not blunting it. It should be looking outside and listening inside. That is the right road for Europe, and one of the sad realities of Lisbon 2007 is that the last Lisbon process still remains stalled. The leaders of Europe were right when they said that too much time was spent on institution building and that it was time to move on, but the public of Europe need to have their stake in that too. That is why my party stands by the promise given by us all at the last general election to hold a referendum on this constitutional treaty.

I respect the integrity of the great parties represented in this House—of Labour and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats. Whatever their leaders say now, I think that when they knocked on the doors, most members of those parties meant what they said in their manifestos. The Labour Party said:

The Liberal Democrats said that,

It is a question of trust, a question of honour, and whatever our views on this treaty, after that election campaign the British people have a right and an expectation to be consulted. The Government did not say then that there should be no referendum, yet can the noble Baroness confirm that the constitution had essentially the same red lines as we have today? So why is there no referendum now? They did not say that only a parliamentary route is right in any of the 30 referendums we have had in this country since 1997 in creating a new Scottish Parliament or an Assembly in Wales. So shall the British people not have a say in having dozens of vetoes stripped away, powers taken from Parliament, new encroachments on British laws and new institutions to take decisions in their names? I believe that they should, and many in Parliament on both sides of the argument will agree.

Few really want to see this country leave the European Community, and my party would fight that step. On the contrary—

A noble Lord: Oh!

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the noble Lord will have an opportunity to speak in a moment. We believe in a strong, modern, competitive and decentralised Europe, not the old-fashioned, centralised version in this treaty, supported by both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. Does the noble Baroness not see that, if we do not trust the people on this and if we let the gulf grow between the governed in Europe and a new political class, disenchantment and disillusion with Europe will surely grow? Does the noble Lord, Lord McNally, not see that, too?

The leaders in Lisbon agreed on two things: they agreed that this new treaty is brilliant news for the people of our countries, but that in no circumstances will we allow our people to vote on it. That attitude was a negation of the principle of trust on which open democracy in Britain has been built. That breach of trust is a time bomb ticking at the heart of the European project. The reality cannot be wished away.

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A referendum, as we found in 1975, should be an occasion to put the case for Europe and the kind of Europe that each of us wants and to ask whether we believe that the integrationist route set out in this treaty is in our national interest, as the Prime Minister claims.

Can the noble Baroness shed any light on the timing of the ratification Bill, and on when this House should expect to deliberate on it? Does she agree that, when the time comes, this House will have to think long and hard about where its responsibilities lie in upholding the integrity of our politics, the trust in our politics, and the British people’s right to have their say on one of the greatest questions facing our nation’s future?

4.06 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I thank the Lord President for repeating the Statement, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on successfully concluding these negotiations. I hope that we can have a debate very soon on this document on global Europe, which of course none of us has had a chance to read, and on the new agenda set out in the Statement. I realise that that will be a matter for the usual channels, but I sincerely hope that we will have that debate soon. The Statement has about one page of positive statements and a lot of defence in it. I understand the reason for that balance, but is the Lord President aware that we on these Benches agree with the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which was referred to, that the changes and opt-outs negotiated by Britain make this a different proposition for this country from those proposed earlier in the constitution?

As for the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about trusting the British people, my personal view is that Parliament should be wary of going too often to referendums to solve its problems. We are a parliamentary democracy, and these great decisions should be debated and discussed in Parliament, as they have been for the past 700 years. I wonder whether the crocodile tears being shed by the Conservative Party on this matter about the need for a referendum would have more validity if the previous three Conservative Prime Ministers—Mr Heath, Mrs Thatcher and Mr Major—had not carried through far more fundamental changes to our relations with Europe by means of the parliamentary process.

Are not most of the amendments being proposed a direct result of the enlargement of the European Union to 27 states—an enlargement which the Conservative Party enthusiastically supported? Having willed the ends, they wish to throw a spanner into the work of achieving those ends. Anyone who saw Mr Hague on television over the weekend saw the real problem at the heart of the Conservative Party when he was asked about the Early Day Motion that had been tabled by, among others, Mr Bill Cash, Mr Iain Duncan Smith and Mr John Redwood. The flat Earth society is alive and well in the Conservative Party, and the Conservative leadership must yet work out how it deals with it.

Is the Lord President aware that there was some concern that one of Mr Brown’s first weekend guests at Chequers was Mr Rupert Murdoch? Can we be

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assured that the Government will not be bullied, intimidated and threatened by Mr Murdoch on this matter? When reading the editorials of synthetic outrage about there being no referendum, will the Prime Minister remember that all Mr Murdoch’s esteemed editors would stand on their heads tomorrow at one click of their proprietor’s fingers? Mr Brown should remember that the two Prime Ministers best remembered for their dealings with the press are Stanley Baldwin, who memorably accused the press barons of his day of practising power without responsibility, and Mr Attlee, who read only the Times and then only for the cricket scores. A similarly robust attitude in the face of self-interested hysteria would do the Prime Minister's reputation no harm.

Finally, in giving this responsibility to Parliament, can we be assured that the Prime Minister and the Government will present their case not in terms of saving Britain from some Brussels monster? For 30 years, successive British Governments have given succour to Euro-scepticism by treating every positive outcome as a domestic triumph and every difficult decision as an imposition from Europe. By all means, let us have a robust agenda for reform of the CAP, the democratic deficit or a realistic approach to subsidiarity. However, the Government must use the debate ahead of us to remind the British people of the peace and prosperity that the European Union has delivered. They should also remind the public that none of the global challenges facing us—on the Lisbon agenda, trade, climate change, the fight against terrorism and organised crime, energy supply or our current contribution to peace and stability in the world's trouble spots—is not better faced by a Britain working at the heart of a successful Europe.

This is a defensive Statement and, as I said, I understand why, but it is now time for the Government to move on to the front foot in this argument. Given that kind of lead, the Conservative opposition will be seen for what it is: a piece of shoddy opportunism to paper over its own divisions on Europe. If the Government give such a lead, I can assure them that they can rely on the votes of these Benches in seeing this amending treaty through this House.

4.11 pm

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for setting out their views so succinctly and especially grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for the commitment that he gave to support the Government in this matter. The noble Lord is right: in many senses we rely on precedents. We have looked at the treaties that have gone through your Lordships' House and another place over the years and, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has heard many times already, the precedents of his predecessors are there for all to see. That, above all else, should give succour to noble Lords in understanding precisely what the Government are doing.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on that question, the Minister will readily agree that, between Mr Major signing up to the Maastricht treaty and its ratification in Parliament, there was a general election, which

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there might have been if the Prime Minister had gone ahead with what he was going to do only a few weeks ago.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, indeed, but that is not relevant to the precedent that I am putting forward. Let us be clear that it is important to look at the detail of what is being put forward in the reform treaty, to compare it with what is proposed in the constitutional treaty and for noble Lords to make their judgments on what is before us.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that we are a parliamentary democracy. The different elements of this treaty are worthy of substantial debate in your Lordships' House and another place. In the Statement, my right honourable friend made a commitment that the Government would ensure that there was time to do that, and we will do so in your Lordships' House. That is the way to ensure that we deliver on what we set out last weekend in Lisbon and in the formal signing of the treaty later. That is how we should proceed. It is a much better proposition to look at all of these issues in detail than simply to say that they can be condensed into what could be seen as a discussion about whether we are in or out of Europe, which is precisely what some noble Lords and Members of another place want.

The trust of the British people is important not only to this Government but to both Houses of Parliament. It is essential that in our deliberations the British people are able to see parliamentary democracy at its best. We said that if we were ratifying the constitutional treaty we would seek a referendum. We are not. The reform treaty is substantially different. In another place, it was made absolutely clear in the report of the Select Committee at paragraph 72 that because we have—I quote it more or less from memory—the opt-ins, opt-outs and derogations, there is no need for us to seek such a referendum. Nowhere in the report, as I have read, does it recommend a referendum. Noble Lords should be clear about what is being proposed.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, had a number of quotes. I have as many quotes as the noble Lord, although I will not take too much of your Lordships’ time. One important quote is from the Dutch Council of State, which says:

The right honourable Mr Kenneth Clarke said that,

I could go on. Alan Dashwood, professor of European law at Cambridge University, said about the red lines on justice and home affairs:

I assure the noble Lord that my noble friend Lord Jones of Birmingham is full-square behind the Government in this and is working with us to make sure that business is able to add its voice of support, as my noble friend is sure it will.


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