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I turn to Zimbabwe and the daily deteriorating situation of horror there. Two weeks ago, the Government sent the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, to the EU-Africa summit to represent our country. What a pity there was no Statement to this House by the noble Baroness. She could so easily have intervened in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on conflict in Africa last Thursday. I wonder if anyone thought to encourage her—or, indeed, even discourage her—from doing so.

Was anything agreed at the EU-Africa summit to discomfit Mr Mugabe? If so, why was it not mentioned in the conclusions of last weekend’s summit? Why was it left to my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Epsom to raise it today in Question Time? Is the noble Baroness aware that patience in the House is wearing very thin at the line that this brutal tyranny is something that only Africa can deal with? Whatever happened to an ethical foreign policy?

Finally, I return to the question of the referendum. The conclusions of the summit talk of,

The Prime Minister has talked, although it seems a long time ago now, of restoring trust in politics. How can we do either of these things if two parties—the Government and the Liberal Democrats—flagrantly dishonour their promises to the British people to hold a referendum on this treaty? The Prime Minister’s confidence in this treaty’s acceptability and his willingness to proclaim its merits by taking them to the British people were on display in the hole-in-the-corner charade in Lisbon. The Liberal Democrats

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have joined him, skulking in that very same corner. If this treaty is so good, then, as Mr Blair once said, let us have the national debate: “Let battle be joined”.

As 240 of the 242 propositions in the rejected constitution are in the new treaty, and as most of the red lines were in the previous document on which we were offered a referendum, just what is the difference now? Why “yes” then and “no” now? The noble Baroness has bravely taken leadership in this House on Europe, so she knows the answers to these questions. So can she tell the House unequivocally what elements that were in the constitution are not in the new treaty? Will she spell them out? What is the difference between the two? Every other European leader admits that they are substantially the same, so why cannot she do so this afternoon? Does she not see that there will be no trust in this Government unless they fulfil that central promise which they gave at the last general election? After the farce of Lisbon, there will be no authority for this Government in Europe unless our Prime Minister can show, before ever the treaty comes to be ratified, that he is a strong leader whose actions carry the full-hearted consent of the British people? Great harm was done to the image of our country last weekend. Only honesty, courage and the keeping of promises can repair it.

4.21 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, watching the Prime Minister, I have worked out that his favourite bedtime reading is How to Offend Friends and Alienate People. Last weekend, he managed to annoy the Europhobes by signing the treaty and the pro-Europeans by an exercise that sent all the wrong messages and—as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, indicated—made us look silly. Fortunately, tomorrow the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader: young, committed to Europe and well versed in European affairs. He—either of them, they both fill this—will be a 21st-century leader, whereas the Prime Minister is looking increasingly like a leftover from the Attlee Government who famously boycotted the Coal and Steel Community talks because the Durham miners would not have it. However, despite the Prime Minister’s ineptitude, we will support the Government in their desire for Parliament to endorse this treaty via the European Union (Amendment) Bill, so long as the Bill is presented in a positive and forward-looking fashion.

In reply to the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I say that for the Conservatives to continue to call for a referendum diminishes Parliament and ignores the fact that the earlier commitment to hold a referendum on the constitution ended when the Dutch and French said no and the constitution concept was abandoned. A referendum would distract and delay, without settling anything, for we know full well that almost anything to do with Europe thereafter would again elicit a demand for a further referendum. I know that some of my colleagues would like to smoke out the Conservatives by calling for a rerun of the 1975 in-or-out referendum, but I say to the Conservatives that politicians of all political parties should stop reaching for the referendum fig leaf every time they face a difficult decision. We are a parliamentary

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democracy, and it is here in Parliament that such decisions should be taken. We made a promise on a previous constitution which was abandoned after the French and Dutch said no.

However, are we sure that the balance is right? Is the Lord President sure that, in seeking to draw red lines, we are not excluding ourselves from European co-operation in counterterrorism, drug control, the fight against organised crime, people trafficking and immigration control, where we need to work ever closer with our European neighbours? Is she really happy that a Labour Government, with no support from their trade union colleagues, seek to deny British people rights won in Europe for workers in societies that are more socially cohesive than the one provided by the so-called Anglo-Saxon model, with its wide disparities of wealth?

On Iran, the Balkans and Kosovo, surely the lessons all come back to the fact that Europe working together is more effective. Can the Minister think of a major issue where Britain’s voice is not made more effective by being part of Europe—be it climate change, the world trade talks, Afghanistan, Africa or the Middle East? Will the Prime Minister be taking a more positive role than hitherto in promoting greater cohesion in defence and foreign policy? Does she agree that it is time to face the more daunting agenda facing Europe? When we come to the treaty in early spring, will this House follow the other place in debating by topic, in an orderly and structural way, so that we can have a proper examination of the Bill?

What the Prime Minister signed in Lisbon was the necessary amending treaty to make organisational sense of the expansion of the European Union to 27 members and beyond, and it is welcome to know that Croatia, Serbia and Turkey are now in that pipeline as well. The real hypocrisy is not among those who want to ratify the treaty, like all parliamentary treaties, by parliamentary means, but among those who argued for enlargement but now wish to deny Europe the means to make enlargement work.

Perhaps I may offer one quote from the Prime Ministerial Statement, which I greatly welcomed; it is in reference to Iran but I think it has wider implications. The Prime Minister says that,

If that is what he concluded from his little jaunt to Lisbon, the trip was well worth while.

4.26 pm

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for engaging with a Statement that, although long, is none the less important in the number of issues addressed.

Let me begin by saying that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister did what Prime Ministers are required to do: he fulfilled his obligations both to Parliament and to the European Union. He appeared before the Liaison Committee, an important body in parliamentary terms; went to Lisbon and signed the treaty; and then went to the European Council in Brussels. Whatever embarrassment the noble Lord,

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Lord Strathclyde, may feel about my right honourable friend’s signing later than the other European leaders, that is nothing compared with a Prime Minister not going at all to sign a treaty, which is the position in which the noble Lord’s party would have had us.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is right: we are stronger by working closely with our colleagues in Europe on trying to tackle issues that every noble Lord recognises are important, be it climate change, the drugs trade or international terrorism. All these big issues cannot be dealt with in isolation; we are far stronger by working with our colleagues.

Perhaps I may continue on the theme of the red lines and where we are in our discussions. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is concerned that we might put ourselves in a difficult position. I do not believe that that is true. Having negotiated in the justice and home affairs arena for two and a half years, I know that it is possible to be very clear about wanting to ensure that Britain’s interests are fully and properly recognised and respected, and to do so in a spirit of negotiating with colleagues to work as closely together as possible in the fields to which the noble Lord referred. I am sure that that is exactly the position we would wish to ensure that we are in for the future.

I agree, too, that this is about the parliamentary democracy in which we live and about Parliament’s ability to take the decisions. How we decide to discuss the legislation is a matter for the usual channels. I am open-minded on that. If noble Lords feel that debates of a particular kind would enhance our opportunity to scrutinise the treaty I would be more than happy to consider it as a real possibility. But I shall leave that in far more capable hands than mine.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, brought us back to the principle of the reform treaty versus the constitutional treaty. I have no doubt that we will debate this at great length, and I have already had the privilege of a six and a half hour debate on it. However, the principle is that the constitutional treaty would have abolished the European Union and refounded it under a single constitutional order. That is fundamentally and distinctively different from what we have before us now, which is an amending treaty. I understand the politics of all this. I understand that politically it is useful to discuss and describe an issue as being about trust in a Government—that is what opposition parties do—but we have to be realistic. What we have before us is fundamentally different and should be treated properly in a parliamentary democracy by having it debated within Parliament.

We look forward to the young, dynamic leadership of the Liberal Democrats. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was referring to himself in that discussion—or perhaps he was referring to me. We wait with great interest to see what happens, and we look forward very much in working closely with them to ensure that we ratify this important treaty, whoever the leader of the Liberal Democrats is tomorrow. I am extremely grateful for the support that the noble Lord has given me.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked a number of detailed questions. I cannot answer the one on the sex trade in Moldova because I do not have the

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information. I shall write to the noble Lord on that. On Kosovo, the noble Lord referred to the “cultural and religious heritage”, as it says in the Statement. That covers some of the artefacts to which he referred; that is a very important part of what is focusing the minds of those involved in this.

On Iran, we know that the reports from El Baradei’s and Solana’s reports have been negative, so we are looking to see if we can get a new UN Security Council resolution that will increase pressure on the Iranians, but we remain committed to a negotiated solution. So I think that we have the authority to continue as we propose.

As for immigration and migration, a lot of discussion took place. The Council’s conclusions underline the importance of taking forward what we might describe as a comprehensive approach to migration in line with what the Commission described as its new communication on common policy. We need to think about migration from a global perspective and ensure that through the European Union we can work with third countries effectively to manage migration. As noble Lords know, that led to recent directives in the field of legal migration. We shall have to decide whether we opt in to those proposals in January. Our first priority is to tackle illegal migration and work with third countries to manage that process as effectively as we can.

The reflection group is not looking at Lisbon. The 2008-11 cycle of the Lisbon strategy will be agreed in the spring Council. Instead, the reflection group is looking longer term, to 2020 and 2030, and our priorities are firmly on the agenda.

As for the EU-Africa Summit, there are conclusions in the document reflecting what happened in December. Earlier today, during Question Time, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown referred to some of the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Amos. There was strong and real criticism of Zimbabwe from Heads of State and Government, and there have been reports in particular about the comments of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. That is very much part of the agenda.

4.30 pm

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is not the attack of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on the Prime Minister totally predictable? Does it not underline the complete bankruptcy of the Conservative Opposition on anything to do with Europe? If the Prime Minister had attended the signing of the treaty, would he not have been accused of putting the interests of the EU before those of the UK? Equally, if he had not attended the committee, would he not have been pilloried for having ignored the requirements of Parliament? In other words, he could not do right according to the Opposition. As it is—and I hope that my noble friend will agree—the Prime Minister should be congratulated on rather than condemned for what he did.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as I have made clear, my right honourable friend fulfilled his obligations in both directions. The interesting thing for the Opposition will be, if Parliament ratifies this process, what then?



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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that it is more important to discuss the substance of this treaty than who signed what when, out of which I am not sure anyone emerges with huge credit? Those who live in glass houses really ought not to start throwing stones. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, signed the Single European Act, and the Financial Secretary, Mr Francis Maude, signed the treaty of Maastricht—both of which were much more weighty documents than this one. We should pass on to something more interesting.

On Kosovo, will the Minister confirm that the European Union is now committed, effectively, to what it was asked to do under the Ahtisaari plan and that that commitment is not conditional on a positive Russian vote in the Security Council, but will go ahead willy-nilly?

On Iran, does the Minister not agree that, although it is welcome that further sanctions against Iran will be considered both in the Security Council and the EU, there is a very strong case that, if those decisions go ahead in either one of those two forums, at the same time, the United States should say that it is prepared to enter into an unconditional dialogue with Iran?

Finally, I noticed in the conclusions of the European Council a reference to technical preparations being put in hand on the implementation of the reform treaty on the basis of a work plan to be produced by the incoming Slovenian presidency. Will the Leader of the House confirm that Britain will play a full, effective and constructive role in those preparations? I have heard that, at the moment, there is not much input from the British side.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I associate myself with his opening remarks about who signs what, when and where. Certainly, in terms of Kosovo, we believe that the Ahtisaari proposals provide the best way forward and that is the stance that we will take. We want to ensure that Kosovo's leaders remain in step with the international community and we do not want discussions to be dragged out.

On Iran, our discussions continue: I can say nothing further than that at the moment. As far as I am aware, we have been involved with the Slovenian presidency. I will try to follow up the detail of the noble Lord's comments.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I should acknowledge that I signed the treaty for the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Union in Madrid and Lisbon. I regard that—perhaps the Minister will agree—along with the other treaties mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the one signed last week, as one of the less than elegant but essentially necessary components in progress towards the coherent development and success of the European Union.

I would not seek to argue that it was a meticulously perfect document, but they never have been because they have all been the result of endless negotiation. I am glad that it has been signed. I hope that there will be no undue enthusiasm about referendums. I have

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always regarded those as suitable exercises for Welshmen approving or disapproving of the opening of pubs on Sunday, but not for the merits or otherwise of a treaty of this complexity and importance.

Having said that, does the noble Baroness not understand the shameful impact of the Prime Minister’s leadership on the management of these closing stages? I am reminded of the old legal joke about counsel asking for a case to be adjourned by saying to his Lordship, “I'm afraid that the alibi witnesses are at present busy in another court”. Nothing can justify the Prime Minister's failure to play the role that ought to have been played. Frankly, I worry about the explanation for such an inadequate and incoherent performance—the reluctance to give any evidence of effective participation in team membership and support of an important project, and a reluctance to proclaim the merits either here or there in the way in which they ought to have been proclaimed. I worry that the Prime Minister, so it is said, experienced some difficulty in coexisting and cohabiting with his officials at the Treasury, demonstrated some difficulty in cohabiting with some of his own colleagues in Cabinet and demonstrated almost no ability whatever to work the room of the European Council meeting in the way that President Sarkozy did.

The Prime Minister arrived late and walked straight through the crowd as though he were among strangers, instead of taking advantage of the situation and promoting our interest by his personality and presence. Is it not this that the Prime Minister needs to learn, if he is still capable of learning such novelties—the importance of his personality at assemblies of this kind in promoting British interests in the way in which they ought to be promoted?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I would say to the noble and learned Lord that I do not recognise his description, certainly in terms of Cabinet colleagues, of which I am one. I hope that the Front Bench opposite will listen to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, has said about the possibility and relevance of holding referendums. I am sure that noble Lords have listened carefully to the extensive Statement. It is quite clear that my right honourable friend was fully participating in all the discussions and is proud of the commitments he gained, with his colleagues from the European Union, in terms of our operation economically, in terms of poverty, in terms of our global responsibilities and so on—and indeed in the invitation to President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to come to London to carry on discussions. I believe that demonstrates a full commitment.

Lord Roper: My Lords, we will see the Bill tomorrow, but I would like to pursue one point, which seems somewhat ambiguous, in the Statement. The Prime Minister stated:

Does “Parliament’s approval” merely mean approval by the House of Commons, or does it mean both Houses?


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