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I come now to the reform treaty, as it is expected that this will be signed by the leaders of the member states of the European Union at the Lisbon European Council. If so, we know that the Government intend that it should not be submitted to a referendum but should be submitted for ratification by Parliament in the tradition of our parliamentary government. In consequence, we in this House will be asked to approve a Bill for that purpose. The treaty itself cannot be amended. It seems to me none the less that the key issue for us is to judge whether and in what respects the treaty is of benefit to the United Kingdom and its people since that is the decision we have to take in voting for or against a Bill.
I have already made it clear in earlier debates that I consider the measures in this treaty to be useful but not very important for Britain. That view puts me in a very small minority. Relative to the major issues of today, in particular the changes in our society resulting from the high level of immigration and our involvement in wars outside our frontiers, this treaty is not at the top of my agenda. However, I would stress the place of the proposed treaty and its historical context within the European Union. It was launched in the belief by many member states that the highly significant enlargement of the Union by the
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I pick out some points which illustrate why there is this perception of the reform treaty. Many of them have been mentioned here and no doubt will be mentioned again so I select a few. First, it is clear to me that the role which the member states of the Union together can play in encouraging peace, respect for human values, international development and stability, both worldwide and around our borders, has not been as effective as it might have been.
The common foreign and security policy has played a part but most member states think that they can do better as a result of the proposed changes, in particular, combining the foreign policy roles of the Commission and the high representative of the Council. The single person holding this role will be appointed by the member states in the European Council and can be sacked by it. He will chair the foreign ministers council and be responsible to it, thus ending the six-monthly rotation rule. This should not only make action more consistent but also maximise the advantage of combining diplomacy and the leverage which the Commission can sometimes bring to bear. It is true that this is no more than a redistribution of existing functions in Brussels in order to make them more effective in arriving at and implementing policies on which all member states agree, but in the greatly enlarged Union this can be of value.
Secondly, there already exists a large network of external delegations of the European Commission. How many may come as a surprise; they fell within my responsibility to some degree when I was in Brussels. There are plenty of them all over the place, concerned for the most part with trade, aid and development issues. That is clearly a legacy of great value to the enlarged Union. It is now proposed to make better use of this network by putting it under the high representative, thus meshing it in with national diplomatic services which would also provide some people from their own national resources to widen the scope of the delegations work. While maintaining our own excellent diplomatic service and presence in the world, I am certainly in favour of a little help from the External Action Service of the European Union. Indeed, when I was in Brussels I always believed that it could be used better.
Thirdly, the reform treaty includes elements which reflect public opinion right across the Union and are the opposite of supranational; for example, the increase in the role of national Parliamentsabout which there has been quite a bit of discussion so far,
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More widely, we should use this Lisbon European Council, if the reform treaty is signed this week, as an opportunity to take stock, to turn away from dry and sterile arguments about institutional or treaty matters and to look towards the areas for priority action which we, the British, want to see in Europe. I therefore welcome the Governments pamphlet Global Europe. Most of the British public will welcome the eight priority areas in it, and their first reaction will be, Well, now, lets get on with it and achieve them, or at least make some progress towards them. That is clearly true of growth, employment, free trade, openness, climate change and energy security, and tackling terrorism and organised crime. Of course, most potential progress must rely on specific actions, such as improvement of the EUs Emissions Trading Scheme or the opening up of the energy and telecoms markets, as we have seen in the EUs action to reduce mobile phone roaming charges.
One point which the brochure might emphasise a little more is the importance of making as effective as possible the adaptation resulting from the current enlargement of the Union. It is not a one-off operation; some things must still be dealt with to make the best use of this greatly enlarged market and area of influence. The document demonstrates that the European Union is involved worldwide in tackling problems and exploiting opportunities which can be of considerable benefit to Britain. I strongly hope that, after the reform treaty, we can look to a future in the European Union no longer mired in treaty amendments but committed to the search for action within the Unionwhich men and women in the Bell Inn Broadway, the indicator of political life in my part of the world, will see as worth while for them and their children.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, it is always a tremendous pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, and recall those days when he was the highly distinguished Secretary-General of the European Commission. He was also patient and kind enough to put up with successive and far too frequent importunate visits by naive and enthusiastic Europeans such as myself. Despite having a frenetic agenda in the Commission work office, which he opened up to visitors, he always gave one time patiently and maintained the same calm tone he shows now when he makes a speech on European matters. We thank him for the enormous amount of work he has done. I am glad that he referred to the delegations, now all over the world, of the European Community and European Commission offices which do so much valuable work, and how the public can relate to them in direct practical terms in any countryincluding the Commission offices in member stateswithout in any way undermining the sovereignty of the country of which they are proud to be patriotic citizens, as in Britain, France or Germany.
The idea that the European collective ideal rules out national sovereignty is absurd. These are all treaties and agreements between intrinsic, deep, continuing, sustaining and profound sovereign countries. This reform treaty enhances the individual sovereignty of the member states. The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, expressed a degree of shock about the lugubrious, reactionary, backward, old-fashioned words of the Conservative spokesman, who has temporarily left his place. I was very shocked, too. I had never quite heard it so bad from the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. This disease that has inhabited the Conservative Party is for them to deal with; I wish them luck in doing so. There are one or two Conservative Peers we occasionally see who are not quite like that; I happen to be looking at one right now. However, this appalling, incurable disease of hatredI use the word liberallyof the European Union as it stands is shown even more by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. I hope that he will not mind me saying so, but he was on the verge of venom about Europe and all that it has done and so on, as a huge piece of deception and a prolonged conspiracy. Surely he must understand, in the evolution of countries, as well as the evolution of the European Union then and now, things have proceeded step by step, as Jean Monnet always envisaged, with the sovereign member states making their collective decisions, enhancing both their individual sovereignty and the collective sovereignty of the European Community to ensure that the whole machine still
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I hate to interrupt, but I want to correct the noble Lord in one regard. I was referring to the way in which we had handled European matters in this country. I felt that there had been a great deal of deception and was using that as an argument for having a referendum on this occasion.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, the member countries have together intelligently evolved gradually and created new structures through successive treaties. Maastricht was in many ways far more fundamental than the reform treaty. There was a Tory Governmentwhich I rightly supported at the time as a Conservative MP in the other placenot proposing any referendum on that.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, is disagreeing with my humble opinion. We are only discussing opinions on facts, not sacred facts set in stone. The government spokesperson should therefore be congratulated todayI hope that does not cause her too much difficultyon having set
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I am sure that if they were allowed to say it privately, the Ministers on the Front Bench would agree what a disaster it was that Tony Blair, who made such a good Prime Minister on so many domestic subjects, was so deficient on this. The constitution then was a much stronger document than the one we have now; there are considerable differences between the two, as the Government rightly said. Tony Blair said that the constitution was indispensable to Britain and there was no need for a referendum because the sovereign Parliament of the sovereign United KingdomGreat Britain and Northern Irelandelected by the people, would decide these matters. That is the most important expression of sovereignty in action: making political decisions. He then changed his mind because of Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail, and those other highly unintelligent organs of British press opinion, poisoning the British publics mind about Europe for years as they havewe do not thank them for the work they have done and continue to do. Some people read intelligent newspapers, and thank goodness. More and more the majority of the British public are becoming keen on Europe in the practical sense. That is the attractive thing, as the Lord President said in her remarks: dealing with the modern world in a practical, unhystericalunlike the noble Lord, Lord Waddingtonand pragmatic way.
When we sign all sorts of other treatieswith the UN, NATO and all over the worldand implicitly give away some of our most particular sovereignty to the rest of the collectivity as well as enhancing our own in practical terms, that is okay, even for the anti-Europeans on the Conservative Benches and for UKIP as well, I suppose. The two Conservatives who have spoken so far sounded more intense than UKIP when complaining about these matters, and this is the first time that I have heard that in this Chamber. Why is it wrong when it is the European Union? The title of section 2 of Command Paper 7174, The Reform Treaty, is From the Treaty of Rome to the Reform Treaty, which reflects the gradual evolution. That section states:
what a shocking thing. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, said, Arent they weak, the Europeans? They agree with each other. They form collective decisions. That is such a weakness. We have got to have this adversarial system exported to Europe, otherwise theres something wrong with it because they wont agree with the way that we sometimes run the internal politics of this country. The list continues with,
I am going to be brief today, but if there was time I would refer to other matters that are not in the treaty document, which is sad to me as I have been an enthusiastic European for many years. When I was chairman of European Movement in Britain in the early 1990s, Mr Giscard dEstaing was chairman of the whole European Movement. I did not find him pompous at all, which was his reputation when he was President of France. He was an extremely amusing man and very scathing about British hesitation at that time, which was less fierce on the Conservative side than now. It is sad that a party that under Mr Cameron has modernised itself in respect of its internal domestic policy stances and formation has not done so in respect of the important aspect of our membership of Europe. I would love to have seen some aspects of the Governments commitment in mundane things, such as showing the European flag in Britainthat was part of the Bill that I introduced in the previous Session, which foundered in the Commons. Now, 26 European states display the European flag frequentlyhere, there and everywhere on official buildingsbut we do not do it in this country. I agree that there is no need for that to be in this treaty document.
When it comes along, the Bill will be a treaty Bill. There may be lots of pretend amendments, and there may be lots of real amendments, but we know that only one significant amendment can be presented and argued with.
We have not yet adhered to the euro. The other member states are in the euro-zone, and there is a lot about the euro in this new treaty document that will be effective for them but not for us. What a pity. What a tragedy that the United Kingdom still has not had the courageunder a Labour Government as wellto join what has now become the most successful currency in the world. It is a united policy that is doing very good work in increasing the prosperity of citizens throughout the European Union. Notwithstanding those things that still need to be done in the future, without in any way reducing at the margin the slightest scintilla of our intrinsic national sovereignty, we have to live with what we have now.
When the Bill eventually comes from the other place in whatever formI assume it will get through the other place; I hope that it will and that common
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I wanted the British Government to go to Cyprus and Malta to get their advice on how we could handle joining the euro. Those small territories have done it, so I do not see why Britain could not do it as soon as possible. In the mean time, I am sure that the whole House, with a few dissenting eccentric voices, will give this legislation a warm welcome. That is what I hope and pray. The Liberal Democrat party will be in the fore on that matter. We will be critical of the Government where necessary, but will enthusiastically support them when they are fighting some of the nutters on their own Benches in the other placeand we know there are some in another party. Maybe there will be some on the Labour Benches here who will be difficult, but the noble Lords, Lord Tomlinson, Lord Harrison and Lord Watson, will add to the pro-European bias of an increasingly intelligent House of Lords.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, will the noble Lord clarify a point of great importance to me and make it clear that the praise he heaped upon a Member of this side of the House was not intended for me but for my noble and learned friend Lord Howe? Any other interpretation would extinguish the slumbering embers of what, in my more optimistic moments, I consider my political career.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: St John of Fawsley, I am so sorry, my Lords. My political career started with a gesture on his part. When he was going down from Cambridge in order to go up to Oxford, I was one of the college representatives raising membership for the Cambridge University Conservative Association under his leadership. When he departed, he wrote me a letter of thanks and appreciation for my work in that humble role that would have matched any from No. 10 Downing Street to a retiring Minister. My career was launched by the noble Lord, and I am grateful to him for that.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend. I have never been paid such a high compliment in my life, and I do not expect ever to be paid such a one again. This is the zenith of my career.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I think that is enough badinageI could not resist it. I have long since lost count of the number of speeches and pronouncements I have made on the European Community. I have often recalled in this House my first one. In the Jean Monnet era, in July 1950, I wrote a letter to a school friend just five years after we had left school. I wrote,
Rather to my astonishment, three decades later, I found myself involved in the implementation of that wish. I became steeped in it in 1971-72, when we were engaged with the passage of the European Communities Bill. It lasted 53 days in the House of Commons. I made 91 speeches. We had 104 Divisions, and I was there for 325 hours. That was the first step in laying the framework for the positive achievements of the European Community, to which even my noble friend Lord Howell is willing to pay tribute. The second step was at a rather different pace. It was the Single European Act of 1986, which my noble friend Lady Thatcher enthusiastically supported. That took us only six days to get through the Commons, with the assistance of a guillotine. Those two formidable steps were taken without any form of referendum and were the foundations of all that has been achieved within the European Union: a partnership of co-operation in foreign policy and in the production of the single European market.
What I find so astonishing in listening to the peroration of my noble friend Lord Howelland we have worked together in many partnerships over the yearswith the resurrection of nation states bargaining with each other and forming new agreements quite independently of treaties and alliances that may have been embodied in the European structure, is that my noble friends dream would involve the disregard and destruction of almost all the European institutions we have created so far. He may wish to escape and yet retain all that, but the future can never be as simple as that.
I must confess that, having been involved in all those Acts years ago, I feel less well qualified to comment on any of these things. I can only listen with great admiration to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. The work he does with his many colleagues in this House in clarifying what we are about is of formidable importance, and it is particularly striking that this evening he dealt as clearly as he did with the enlarged role of the Parliaments as a result of the treaty we are considering. He went some way to offering me some comfort in relation to the passerelles. They are legitimate concerns.
The fact is that since we took those initial steps, there has been a significant change in the scene, the environment and the agenda that we in Europe have to address. In almost all these respects it has become
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