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5.58 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I have counted the foreign affairs paragraphs in the gracious Speech—there are six in 38. That is hardly surprising, because in legislation a Government can normally deliver on the domestic side, whereas on the foreign affairs side there is the need to persuade, the need to find compromises and the need to respond to the unexpected and the unforeseen. But in the current debate we have to understand the crossover between the domestic and the foreign; we have to understand that virtually all the domestic matters with which we deal have a greater foreign content. We should think of migration, drugs—Afghanistan has been mentioned—and terrorism. These key issues all have a foreign dimension. At a deeper level, we have to understand our national strengths and the way in which our proud history has given us a unique membership of key international institutions, and we have to understand ourselves—what we can do independently. We speak on virtually the 25th anniversary of the Falklands invasion, probably the last independent military operation of its kind that this country will be capable of undertaking.

We have pre-eminence in a number of institutions and many centres of excellence, and the world context is changing. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, mentioned the China dimension and the first $1 trillion company, PetroChina. Of the 10 most valuable companies in the world, five are supplied by China and three by the United States. That is the substructure on which the political superstructure will be built. In this debate, we have to look at how we in the UK, with our advantages, can make the most serious contribution.

I listened with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Howell. He always speaks with great thought, but it puzzles me why the Conservative Front Bench—both in this House and in the other place—cannot bring itself to say one word in favour of the European Union. It cannot be as bad as that; there must be something good and worthy about it, even if there are many blemishes on which it is worth dwelling. Surely our relationship with the European Union will dominate parliamentary debates for at least the first six months of next year. Is our future in the new Europe of the amending treaty? Should the European Union of 27 members be given the institutional structure to enable it to function in our common interests? Is isolation, however dressed up, a serious option?

The immediate debate will be on our response to the amending treaty, but the subtext is much deeper. Have we accepted that our future lies not in unilateral initiatives—nor in some ad hoc groupings, as though we were a sheriff seeking to find a different posse for each of the diverse challenges that we face—but rather in working as a team with our EU partners? The point was well made by a former European Union commissioner, Peter Sutherland, in a rather despairing article in the Financial Times of 17 October entitled “Does Britain want to be in or out?”. Many who attack the proposed amending treaty do not want to be part of the Union at all, preferring the illusions of either independent isolation

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or some mythical intergovernmental and limited grouping that is not on the agenda.

Another unrealistic diversion lies in calls for a strengthened Commonwealth as an alternative grouping to the European Union. I speak as someone who has been on the executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for well nigh 25 years, and knows many senior Commonwealth leaders. I know that the proposition is not on the Commonwealth agenda and that it was comprehensively destroyed—rubbished, indeed—by Don McKinnon, the outgoing Commonwealth Secretary-General, in a recent lecture. Will those opposed to the treaty play to a populist Eurosceptic negativism or seek to make a constructive contribution to the debate? Both horses cannot be ridden.

Surely we must now recognise that the European Union is the main influence on our foreign policy, for good or ill. Large sections of our foreign relationships are already wholly within EU competence—for example, trade policy, and aid and development is more and more part of European Union policy. A key outcome of the October European Council is that the CFSP will remain intergovernmental; there was a clear declaration to that effect. Coherence in the CFSP is in our interest, is necessary and can be achieved only by the institutional change of double-hatting one individual to chair the Council and be responsible for external relations in the Commission.

It is also clear that the main crises in the world cannot be tackled by this country acting on its own or as part of some ad hoc posse, as I mentioned. They can be tackled only as part of an EU enterprise. The reality is also that our foreign policy is already the product of intense regular discussions at all levels with our European partners in seeking greater convergence. Let us look at some of those world crises, to show that we are working closely with our European partners, as we should do.

We had a recent debate on the Middle East so I shall not dwell on it, but the recent EU Sub-Committee C report argued for an enhanced EU role in the Middle East. Of course, the EU is already part of the quartet on Israel/Palestine. Already the EU3 work together in respect of Iran, while the United States is hobbled because of its agenda of regime change. Only intensified diplomacy can deliver on the nuclear threat, and that should include security guarantees to Iran. However, if Iran persists along its present road and continues to be a spoiler in the region—yes, with Lebanon; yes, with Hamas—the European Union must ensure with the rest of the international community that it pays a high price.

Sub-Committee C will again look at Russia. I do not anticipate our report but it is surely imperative for the European Union, so far as possible, to co-ordinate our response to a newly assertive Russia. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that there are divergent national interests. It is surely in our interests to converge so far as possible.

We think of the coming Africa-EU conference in Lisbon. In Darfur and other areas of conflict it is

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with the European Union, not some independent and illusory foreign policy, that we are embarked.

Finally, I shall dwell a little on the Balkans, because a crisis is looming in Kosovo after 10 December. I do not share my noble friend’s confidence that there is but a minor gap between those who want independence and those who want substantial autonomy, which can be bridged by the international community. A resolution needs most skilful management. The European Union has the necessary range of tools, civil and military, to smooth that transition.

Some talk of a grand bargain with Russia. More realistically, the likely scenario is as follows. On 17 November, there will be legislative elections in Kosovo with all participating parties pressing for independence. That will almost certainly be boycotted by almost all the Serbs. On 10 December, the troika—the European Union again, Russia and the United States—will declare its failure to the United Nations Security Council, in spite of the valiant efforts of Ambassador Ischinger. The Security Council will fail to agree on a resolution and ask the European Union to assume control of the province, which will be agreed. Finally, it is very likely that Kosovo will declare independence in the second half of January; that the majority of the European Union will recognise that; and that gradually the international community will adjust, step by step, to the new reality. However, that is the best scenario—it could all go tragically wrong, with Serbia and Russia playing rough and possibly encouraging not only the breakaway of a part of Kosovo, but the joining to Serbia of the Republika Srpska from Bosnia. The jingoistic Prime Minister Kostunica has already threatened that. His coffers are full and his country is used to sanctions. He is probably not bluffing with his recent threats.

Obviously, to reduce the chances of such turbulence, we must try to understand and respond to the sensitivities of Serbia. First, the international community must be tough with Kosovo on human rights and minorities. It has many potential levers—not just financial sanctions for non-compliance, but in the very last resort the threat of the redrawing of frontiers. Remember that two municipalities north of the Ibar were moved to Kosovo only by Tito in 1950 for administrative reasons. De facto, Belgrade already rules north of the Ibar. Secondly, Serbia must be assisted financially in respect of the 250,000 refugees on its territory who are dumped in villages and hated by the local Serbs. The prospect of European Union entry must be opened more widely. It is vital for us and the EU that we do not have on our doorstep in Europe a failed state acting as a conduit for drugs, migration and even possibly terrorism. The EU has a key and unique role here and elsewhere in the crises of this world.

Finally, for us, the EU should be not a problem but an opportunity. Today the EU provides a far more benign context for us because of changes in the leadership of France and Germany and the policies of the new countries in central and east Europe. History is not dead but leads to international crises. It is absolutely clear that our interests broadly coincide

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with those of our EU partners and need to be harmonised with them, which was the theme of the inaugural lecture of the director of Chatham House. Some in our country are blind to those recent changes; others rush into false cul-de-sacs. Let the current debate on our relations with the European Union be serious, but let it be honest, with opponents of the treaty ready to expose their real agenda. Let us recognise that the international context has changed and that our interests demand that we play a full role, not as an independent national entity—the Churchill illusion—but as a full member of the European Union.

6.11 pm

Lord Jopling: My Lords, in this vastly wide-ranging debate, I wish to draw attention to a relatively narrow matter, which causes me great concern, regarding the lamentable lack of co-operation and, indeed, indifference between the European Union and NATO. I approach this as one who is in no way a Eurosceptic and has for many years attended the NATO Parliamentary Assembly with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. I am afraid that I cannot see much in the proposed European treaty Bill that will improve the relationship between NATO and the EU. Surely there should be growing co-operation between the two, especially given their largely, but not entirely, overlapping membership, which ought to bring their work closer together.

On the one hand, NATO, with its continuing credential as a relevant organisation, in view of the new belligerence of President Putin, has been moving more into EU territory with regard to civil protection against terrorism and natural disaster. On the other hand, the EU has been moving more into the military role of NATO. The Berlin Plus agreement set out how co-operation could be established. It was to allow the European Union assured access to the assets of NATO, including SHAPE. However, that agreement has not broken the logjam that bedevils NATO-EU relations.

Of course I acknowledge that the Turkey-Cyprus dispute is one of the reasons behind this apparent impasse, but that is not the whole story. I was struck by remarks made by Tomas Valasek, former director of the Slovak defence ministry, who said that the Turkey-Cyprus dispute has merely been a “smokescreen” for the European and Atlanticist camps in NATO and the EU to hide behind. There is a lot of truth in that. The Secretary-General of NATO, de Hoop Scheffer, said not long ago:

One serious problem is the astonishing absence of any formal channel of co-operation between NATO and the European Commission. The Commission decides on an increasing number of subjects that affect NATO and the EU. There should be a comprehensive institutional framework of co-operation between the Commission and NATO. In January of this year, when I was in Brussels with the committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, we met a Commission official who told us

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that he had never met his NATO counterparts. That seems astonishing when you realise that there is already too much overlap and duplication between the two—for instance, the EU battle groups on the one hand and the NATO Response Force on the other, and, in the field of command and control, the EU Operations Centre on the one hand and SHAPE on the other.

What can be done to correct all this? I hope that the Government will make an effort in the months and years ahead to try to correct this abysmal relationship. Perhaps the climate has changed, which might give us the opportunity to make those changes, especially with the election in Paris of President Sarkozy. His new attitude should give us hope, because he appears to be much more interested in co-operation with the United States than his predecessors were, which was one of the causes of the logjam in relations.

Let me make some suggestions for Ministers and Governments to do something about. I have spoken about the need for better institutional contacts between the two organisations, especially at Commission level. My second suggestion concerns the fact that the EU and NATO both have growing capacity to come to the aid of a stricken nation that cannot cope on its own after suffering from, say, a major terrorist attack or natural disaster. These facilities, which both organisations have put together and are growing, are largely civil resources such as fire, police or technical assistance. Within those organisations there is a military element and both bodies have their regular training exercises but, unbelievably, they carry them out separately. The EU has its Monitoring and Information Centre for civil catastrophes, whether by terrorism or natural disaster, while NATO has an almost exactly parallel organisation, the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. Both carry out separate exercises.

In May, I attended a NATO exercise in Croatia where a hijack, biological attack, earthquake, chemical spill and transport disruption were simulated. Many countries took part, from as far away as Finland, which sent emergency units. The EU has similar exercises to do exactly the same job—14 in the past five years—using the same scenarios that I saw in Croatia earlier this year.

Why do the Government not make a start in trying to improve relationships between NATO and the European Union? As a start, they could try to get them to do these exercises together. There is no reason on earth why they should each approach this from separate points of view. It must be sensible to do it in co-ordination. There is a huge amount to do to achieve a closer relationship between the European Union and NATO. I hope that the Government will be able to give a little time to considering that, as it is of great and growing importance.

6.20 pm

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I join others in very warmly welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, to her important portfolio. I am also delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, is winding up the debate. We were working colleagues about a decade ago in the World Bank—in fact, he

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was my superior. I am delighted and quite amused that once again he will be having the last word after I have had my say. It is great to have him with us.

Many noble Lords have spoken about the reform treaty in the course of this very long and varied debate. It will be no surprise to any of you that I want to make that the theme of my remarks. At the outset, I emphasise that I have absolutely no intention of arguing the merits or demerits of the treaty. That would be wholly incompatible with being chairman of an all-party committee which is already engaged in an in-depth and thoroughly objective assessment of the impact of this treaty on the United Kingdom and on the EU as a whole if it were ratified by the member states.

I want to be quite clear about this. There are those who have expressed surprise and disappointment that the Select Committee has not produced a report comparing the reform treaty text with that of the now defunct constitutional treaty, as the European Scrutiny Committee in another place has recently done. There is, of course, a long-established practice in your Lordships’ House of complementing, not duplicating, the work of Commons committees. But quite apart from that, we felt strongly that to make a comparison between the constitutional treaty and the reform treaty would draw us into the domestic political argument over whether ratification of the new treaty should be subject to a referendum. We considered that to be wholly outside our terms of reference.

There was an equally compelling reason for our rejection of that proposal. We simply do not agree with those who assert that whether or not the reform treaty is substantially equivalent to the constitutional treaty is of the highest constitutional significance. On the contrary, it is our view that that question is only of political significance to the arguments being advanced both for and against the holding of a referendum. What is of undoubted constitutional significance is the contrast between the existing position and what would follow from the coming into force of the treaty following ratification.

In light of that, your Lordships’ Select Committee decided that the best service it could render the House was to conduct a rigorous and detailed impact assessment, based on the treaty text agreed at the 18 October informal summit, to be carried out through our policy-based sub-committees, of the effect of the treaty changes in their final form on the United Kingdom and on the EU as a whole. The Select Committee will assess the institutional changes with the exception of the creation of the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy which will be scrutinised by our Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy Sub-Committee. We plan to publish the consolidated assessment in advance of any ratification Bill coming before your Lordships' House in the event that the treaty is signed at the 13 December European Council. Our sole objective is to produce a report that can prove useful to all participants in the debate.

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We shall be looking principally at the treaty itself, with the UK's opt-ins and opt-outs treated separately. With regard to the latter, we shall explain where opt-outs are possible, and what would be the implications of not opting in. We will, in particular, seek to probe in detail the effectiveness of the Government's red lines, including, of course, the provision that national security remains a matter for member states. Opt-ins in freedom, security and justice matters will be subjected to close scrutiny, as will be the United Kingdom’s position regarding the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. We shall also look closely at any provision made by the Government to implement parliamentary involvement in passerelle provisions which enable qualified majority voting to be extended without treaty amendment, a matter on which the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, has already expressed interest.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that that is precisely what our Select Committee and its sub-committees should be doing. Work is already under way, and on Thursday last we published a preliminary report setting out our work programme on the treaty and publishing some evidence already taken from our permanent representative to the EU, as well as from the head of the Commission's legal service, from the office of the EU Commission vice-president in charge of relations with national parliaments, and from one of the three MEPs who represented the European Parliament in the intergovernmental conference on the treaty.

That is just the beginning. The Select Committee and its sub-committees are now fully engaged in carrying forward this very important inquiry. We are asking interested parties within and widely outside Parliament to put their views directly to our sub-committees and to the Select Committee. On Tuesday of last week, and leading the pack, our Law and Institutions Sub-Committee—chaired, as noble Lords know, by one of our Law Lords—which will bear a heavy burden in this inquiry, published its call for evidence, seeking a broad spectrum of views on the impact of the reform treaty in the areas of freedom, security and justice.

Meanwhile, the regular scrutiny of EU documents, particularly draft legislation, continues, as it must. In addition, a dozen parallel inquiries are currently under way, such as those into the functioning of the single market, the EU's relationship with Russia, the future of the common agricultural policy, and the European external borders agency. Ahead of us lie the Commission's annual legislative and work programme and the annual policy strategy. Both will, as usual, be carefully scrutinised and reported on to this House. We will, of course, on behalf of the national Parliament, be contributing to the European Union's special 2008-09 review of the Union's budgeting system.

I remind your Lordships that relations between the national parliaments and the Commission have been markedly improved by a commitment made by Commission President Barroso, enshrined in the conclusions of the June 2006 European Council. The Commission has committed itself to go beyond the formal obligation to respond to national parliamentary

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scrutiny of compliance with the subsidiarity and proportionality principles in the framing of EU legislation.

Last June, President Barroso unilaterally committed the Commission to respond directly to views conveyed to it by national parliaments on the substance of Commission proposals as well as on the issue of competence. Your Lordships' Select Committee is taking full advantage of this development and the Commission has been duly responding directly to our committee. Indeed, we are also now receiving comments from the Commission Vice-President in charge of relations with national parliaments on reports of the Select Committee which contain recommendations for EU action, or, in some cases, EU restraint.

So we have our work cut out for us. I tell your Lordships, not for the first time, that but for the rich pool of expertise and experience to be found in this House, and the willingness of some 80 Members of your Lordships’ House to give so much of their time, this work simply could not be undertaken. I am truly grateful to them. I am sure the whole House feels equal gratitude. On a personal note, perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank the House very warmly for having done me the honour of entrusting to me for one more Session the chairmanship of the Select Committee.

With the reform treaty, in particular, we shall be very busy indeed during this Session. I trust that the fruits of our work will prove useful to your Lordships as this House deliberates the United Kingdom's place in the European Union and in the wider world.

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