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Let me emphasise the changes that the treaty will make. They are fundamental changes, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, pointed out. For example, there is the permanent or semi-permanent presidency. It was never envisaged in 1972 that we would have a president of Europe, but that is what this fundamental change will mean. When the previous Prime Minister, Mr Blair, was discussing that issue he said quite firmly that the president of Europe would speak for Europe on the world stagenot individual Prime Ministers or heads of state but the president of the European Union. He foresaw that the presidency was going to be a very important job and would set the debate in Europe, set the agenda in Europe and talk for Europe on the world stage. I am quite sure that the people of this country do not want that80 per cent of them want a referendum, but they are not going to have one.
The other great change in this treaty is the establishment of Europe as a single entity, giving it a single personality. People say, That does not really matter, but it does, because it will enable the European Union in its own right to make treaties with other countries without let or hindrance from the nation states, which will not have to ratify such treaties. That is another important change.
There is also the question of a Foreign Secretary. There is no doubt about the intentionindeed, the treaty lays down the importance given to that office. We in this country believe that the Foreign Secretary and the Government carry out Her Majestys foreign policy. Once this treaty is put into operation, we will have not Her Majestys foreign policy but his presidencys foreign policy. That, again, is a fundamental and important change, which will not be welcome once it is seen in practice.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I concede that we are at the warm-up stage of the Committee and that we will perhaps move with slightly greater speed on amendments on our second and third days than we are at the moment. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, promised us line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill, but so far I have heard only a number of familiar
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We do not need line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill. Well over 100 Members of your Lordships House have already given the treaty detailed line-by-line scrutiny in our committees. Many of us have waded through their massive reports from different committees. That is the sort of scrutiny that we need and to which we should return in Committee. Scrutiny is, however, also an ongoing process, and the Chamber and its committees should continue to do it. We must be very careful about claiming that Members on our Benches are speaking the truth and that others are not: that we are presenting the truth, if I may quote the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for what it really is. That takes us down all sorts of conspiratorial roads in deciding who is not speaking the truth and who is really identifying the underlying issues. These are charades familiar to many of us from previous ratification debates.
The British constitution is famous for its flexibility, its pragmatism and its ability to adapt to different circumstances. That is also true of Britains foreign policy and our participation in international institutions. Those who cling to a wish that the world would stand still form part of the bedrock of those who vote for the UK Independence Party. I well remember during the last election campaign a BBC interview with a woman who said that she had just voted for UKIP because, I would like England to be the way it was 40 years ago. Many of us would like that, although we would like to have todays income in the England that was 40 years ago, but the world changes and our unwritten constitution adapts. When I listen to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and others on his Benches, I am also reminded a little of Trollope in the 19th century. For the Conservatives and unionists, the EU is the equivalent of the Irish question in the late 19th century. It is the one they stub their toes on all the time. They cannot come to terms with it, and they grapple with it as a constitutional issue. However, all international treaties limit national sovereignty. Membership of the United Nations limits British sovereignty.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord has left his less than flattering allusion to the UK Independence Party, of which I have the honour to form part. When he refers to the change in the British constitution, does he not understand that the fundamental element of the British people is that they should elect and dismiss those who make their laws? I should be grateful if the noble Lord would answer that. Or has he abandoned that element in his great, brave new world?
Does he not realise that leaving the European Union would be immensely advantageous to us not only constitutionally but economically? Unless he addresses those problems, which are the questions of the future, and if he goes on dwelling in the past, he will not advance his case.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I should have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, on the new addition to his party in the House of Commons. I hope that it is not the last from the Conservative Benches. I realise that the overlap in the Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party is a matter of great delicacy which we will see many on the Conservative Benches struggling with as we deal with the Bill.
I do not agree with him about the absolute defence of British sovereignty. When I was a history student, I read through some of the debates on the Irish question in the late 19th century. For the unionists, the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament was absolutely inalienable. One could not allow Dublin, let alone Edinburgh, to have its own Parliament, because that would somehow destroy the essence of what was the United Kingdom, which of course was about English supremacy.
The noble Lord should also have noted that David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, in a rather good speech on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation at Chatham House two weeks ago, proposed common funding for NATO defencea common budget for defence operations which would be a huge loss of British sovereignty. In that respect David Cameron recognises that we are in a different world from 50 years ago, let alone 100 years ago. The leader of the Conservative Party recognises such a pooling of sovereignty as worth while at least in the Atlantic context, even if in the European context he still stubs his toe on those who do not speak English, who are therefore not trustworthy.
We have US bases on British soil, and they are an immense invasion of British sovereignty. I passed RAF Menwith Hill at sundown two weeks ago and stopped to watch US soldiers taking down the RAF flag that marks the British presence there. There were no British soldiers present although there were one or two MoD police outside. It is a huge incursion on British sovereignty which most of us recognise to be worth while for our security.
The right-wing conservatives in the United States, with whom some on the Conservative Benches are highly familiar, believe that American defence of sovereignty is indeed absolute. Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court and others argue that the United States cannot accept that international law overrides American domestic law. I do not think that we in this country wish to accept that; we accept that, in a changing world, international law has to limit domestic law. So we are talking about a number of international obligationsof which the European Union is the most extensiveof a political character.
I should like to remind the Committee of what Sir Alec Douglas Home said in June 1971 when opening the debate on Britains application to join the European Community. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddartsince one of the great myths is that no one told us what we were going intothat Sir Alec, in his first sentence, said that the first thing he wished to say was that,
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that his plea for proper line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill would carry a bit more weight if there was a single Liberal amendment on the Marshalled List. There are no Liberal amendments. I find that very surprising as his party made a great play in the other place of tabling an amendment for a referendum on a slightly different questionwhich, of course, under the rules of this House would be perfectly in order. I dare say that the scrutiny to which the Bill will be subject certainly on these Benches will prove to be excruciatingly embarrassing for him and his party.
The noble Lord, Lord Lester, talked in his speech about how he was mystified as to why there was so much interest in the use of the word constitution, because we do not have a constitutional court. He told us that he had read the treaty as part of his duties in this Housewe all sympathise with him, and no one more than Giscard dEstaing, who has described how impenetrable the treaty isand said that he could not understand why so much emphasis has been put on the use of the word constitution. I suggest that he read page 13 of the Liberal Partys 2005 manifesto, which states:
My noble friends amendment, which I support, will not be supported by the Liberal and the Labour Benches, despite the fact that what it says is blindingly obvious. They are opposed to it because it draws attention to the embarrassment that they carry, having told a lie to the British people during the general election campaign when they promised a referendum on this treaty. That is why the words which my noble friend wishes to add to the Bill are so important. They remind people that a promise was made and a promise has been broken.
It is the deceit that is central to the handling of this Bill, a deceit which was underlined in the debate on Second Reading. I usually enjoy the speeches of the Leader of the Liberal Party in this House. However, when he said that the Liberals had changed their position on these mattersfrom one of promising a referendum, to one of abstention, to one of being determined to vote in this House against a referendumhe gave as one of the explanations that the arithmetic in
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Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene, and for his reference to me. Would he accept that one of the differences between this House and the other place is that we in this House are capable of transcending narrow party advantage and looking at issues more freely? Would he also accept that none of the main parties has covered itself in glory when it comes to the questions he has raisednot his own, my own or the government party? What we need to do is not hurl abuse at each other about deceit, being misleading and matters of that kind, but actually look at the merits of what we are discussing.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I would be more persuaded by the noble Lords suggestion that we transcend party advantage if his party had not stood its position on this matter on its head in the House of Lords compared with the position adopted by his party in the House of Commons. A number of the elected Members of the Liberal party in the House of Commons were sacked by the Leader of the Liberal party for abstaining on the Bill, and in this House the unelected Members on the Liberal Benches have decided to take a completely different position. I have considerable respect for the noble Lord, not least for his intellectual abilities, but for him to try to make the argument that his colleagues on those Benches are transcending party politics is the height of absurdity. Clearly they are playing party politics. They are rescuing the Government from the defeat they would suffer on the referendum question were his party to maintain its position.
The noble Lord raised the issue of the role of this House. What is the role of this House? If this House is not able to stand up for the promises that were made to the electorate by almost every single Member of Parliament standing for election and insist on a referendum, people will begin to question what exactly this House is for. The noble Lord and his colleagues will have played a major part in bringing the House into disrepute by the way in which they are playing party politics and denying the people the right to speak on these matters as they were promised. Governments can govern only by consent.
I am not a committed Euro-federalist. I believe that we should be in the European Union, and I want the European Union to work. One of the ways in which Governments have to operate is by consent. By forcing political structures on the people without consent, they will destroy the very institutions they support. It is not anti-European to insist on the people having a say; it is pro-European. It is in the interests of Europe that this should be seen to carry consent. The reason noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches are denying the promise which their elected colleagues made to the voters is that they know that if there were a referendum, they would lose it very substantially.
That is the difficulty. It has been compounded by the attitude that has been displayed, and I have pages and pages of quotes from leading Europeans. I have mentioned Valery Giscard dEstaing. In a letter to Le Monde on 27 Octoberit has been quoted a number of times but we should keep it in mindhe said that the new treaty is designed to avoid having a referendum thanks to the fact that the articles are spread out and constitutional vocabulary has been removed. There is that word constitutional again.
The reason why the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is puzzled and why the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asks why the amendment is not appended to our Bills is that it is central to the whole debate about whether this new European institution will carry the consent, and be seen to carry the consent, of those who are affected by it. The amendment, though strikingly bland, is therefore necessary. In any other circumstances both the Government and the Liberal Democrat Benches would accept it.
They refuse to accept it because of deceit. That is not a party-political point. It is a deceit to tell people in a general election campaignin order to get elected, to get on the red and the green Benchesnot to worry about the European constitution, and that it is not an issue for the campaign and they will have an opportunity to discuss it properly later, but then to turn round and say, We are withdrawing that opportunity.
Lord Tomlinson: I had not really intended to intervene in this debate; I thought that it was going to be a rather cathartic experience for Eurosceptics opposite and I would just sit and listen. But I have listened with great interest to a number of the contributions, in particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who has just sat down. He appeals to us that he is really one of those Tories who is a good European and that he wants to be in Europe. But everything he then said showed that he wants to be a good European and in Europe providing that the other 26 countries of the Union change their opinion of what the Union is and bend their will to his. That is not pro-Europeanism. It is an individual sort of arrogance: We are the people who will tell Europe how to run its affairs and what it ought to do. If they were really good Europeans they would all change their minds and join in with our rather eccentric, limited view of what Conservative Europeanism is.
Earlier we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. He took us for a wander down memory lane, through 1972 and the circumstances leading up to the 1975 referendum. That referendum is deeply ingrained upon my memory; I felt we were being dragged along by our own Eurosceptics in the Labour Party, and we had a fix of a referendum. That was not in order to paper over fundamental constitutional issuesthere was no such issue to sort outbut to patch over the divisions inside the party and stay in power for the rest of the 1970s. That is what it was all about.
My own recollection of that referendum was of even more concern to me. I approached the parliamentary bookmaker in the House of Commons, Mr Ian Mikardo, and asked him what odds he would give me on getting a yes vote in every constituency in the United Kingdom. He offered me 200-1, on which I had £10 with him. My
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The David Stoddarts of this world, and the people who were leading the campaign to destroy our European engagement, were promising that the referendum would resolve the issue for all time. So far as I am concerned, in my party that issue is resolved.
Lord Tomlinson: I am sure we all recognise that my noble friend Lord Kinnock has shown great maturity as he has aged. He has changed his mind definitively and made a positive contribution, whereas the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is telling us the same fairy tales that he was telling us 40-odd years ago.
Lord Kinnock: What I did was much simpler than what my noble friend suggests. I heeded the words of a former Member of this House, Lord Keynes, who advised that when he discovered he was in error he changed his mind. What do you do?, he saidand I am still asking that question of some dear friends who are erstwhile comrades.
Lord Tomlinson: I do not wish to delay the House much longer. I have only two more points to make. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, told us that we would have full, frank and accurate analysis. I suppose one out of three is not bad; it was certainly fullbut frank and accurate it was not. It was a distortion of the historical position.
I agree with two points made by other noble Lords. Importantly, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, clearly said in his opening remarks that we can do without these words that Amendment No. 2 would add. He would prefer to have them there, but they are clearly not imperative to the Bill. I also agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the views that have emerged from the legal sub-committee of your Lordships House, which has examined this question in great detail and come to a conclusion that is completely opposed to the rhetoric that we have heard from opposition spokesmen here today.
I remind the Committee of the important words of John Palmer when he gave evidence to the Select Committee, which were echoed by Professor Damian Chalmers of the London School of Economics. Describing this amending treaty, they said that it was much ado about not very much.
Lord Williamson of Horton: I declare an interest as having spent a large part of my life working on European affairs in the United Kingdom Civil Service
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I congratulate the noble Lord on being the only Member of your Lordships House to declare that he is in receipt of an EU pension, which can be lost if one fails to uphold the interests of the Communities, as we shall discover as we proceed.
Lord Williamson of Horton: It is a great pleasure to be a friend of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, while not being a friend of the United Kingdom Independence Party. As an independent Peer, I am in a remarkable position; that is, I have no political baggage whatever; I have no commitment to a referendum on the original constitution; and I have no commitment of a political kind to having no referendum on this treaty. I offer only the view of a citizen. I do not have to transcend, as everyone else over there has said, political points or political history. There will be no transcending on my part.
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