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I rise only to reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay; that is, to emphasise that among the other features of this amending treaty, which distinguish it clearly and implacably from the previous constitution, is the fact that that constitution would have displaced and replaced every single treaty of the European Community. This treaty does not do that. It amends, which is distinctly different from accumulating, replacing and codifying all that has gone before. It simply takes its place alongside the treaties of Maastricht and of Nice, the single Act and the assortment of other adjustments that have had to be made over the 50-year lifetime of the European Union, in order to be able to face the altering realties
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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Will the noble Lord deal with a point made by my noble friend? He has described how the treaty is not a consolidation measure but an amending treaty. Will he tell us how it differs from the original constitutional treaty and what makes it not a constitutional treaty, rather than describe the consolidation aspect?
Lord Kinnock: The noble Lord must have suffered untypically from a momentary lapse in concentration, because I just told the Chamber about just one of the features that categorically and irreversibly makes a difference between the amending treaty, which is currently under consideration, and the constitutional proposal that was previously before Europe until it was killed off by the electorates of the Netherlands and France.
For the recordthis may permit me not to have to cover the same ground again and again in the days stretching out before us, although I live more in hope than in expectation on that pointI never favoured the necessary amendments to the procedures, practices and systems of the enlarged Union being called or supported as a constitution. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, was here earlier. I am certain that he would bear testimony to the fact that in the European Commission when we considered these matters with the two representatives that we had on the so-called convention, I repeatedly made the pointto his credit, he made similar pointsthat since what was being proposed, despite the grandiose terminology of Giscard dEstaing, did not alter the way in which any of the democracies of the European Union were to be governed, it could not therefore justifiably be called a constitution. I continue to insist on that valid point and I had some pleasure in putting it directly to Giscard dEstaing when we had the opportunity to discuss these matters.
I should like to make another brief point, which is connected to my former point. Publicly, repeatedly, and sometimes in contradiction of the leadership of my party, I made it very clear, well before the 2005 general election and the compilation of the manifesto as well as after, that since what was being proposed could not be regarded justifiably as constitutional, it did not in this parliamentary democracy warrant a referendum.
We can discuss the merits of a referendum, but I am certain that noble Lords who have said that Members on the other side are pursuing a political line are correct. However, it would be implausibleindeed, impossiblefor this House or any House of Parliament to try to avoid being political in its argument, so I do not quarrel with the right of Members opposite to offer political arguments. I echo the view of my noble friend earlier who rued the fact that words such as lying and deceit were used, but it is up to the people who use them to decide whether they adorn or
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If it is argued now that on this treaty there should be a referendum, and that the final judgment on this treaty should be taken away from Parliament and be made the subject of plebiscite, where does that stop? If the answer cannot be offered as to where it stops, what issues are fit to be determined by Parliament and what issues are of such concern and such status as not to be considered by and determined by Parliament, where does it stop? Until that question is convincingly answerednot conveniently answeredat least we shall know who put the dum in referendum.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: With his usual distinction, the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, has done the service to the Committee of trying to disentangle the issues of what is a constitution and what is a treaty. He also has done us the service of trying to flesh out the difference between allegations made from one side of the Committee and those from the other.
Like others who have declared their positions during these debates, the first political meeting I went to was called by Mr Grimond, held in the town where I then lived, in favour of the Common Market. I was in favour of that and, as a teenager, went to that meeting with great enthusiasm, not least because my father was one of five brothers who had served in the Armed Forces. One brother died in the RAF. My father was in the Desert Rats and survived. They all believed, as I did, that the community of the European nations should come together and do what they could to create reconciliation in Europe. I believed in the ideas of Maritain, Mounier, Monnet, De Gasperi and others who had created the European Community.
Throughout the 1970s, alongside others who fought for that idea, in the difficult environment of Liverpool where I was a Member of Parliament, I fought in favour of the retention of our membership of the European Community when the then Labour Government called a referendum, which was the right thing to have done. It was right also when I stood alongside the late Peter Shore and the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and argued for a referendum in favour of Maastricht, although I was in favour and they were against.
It is right that there should be a referendum now on the Lisbon treaty. The reason why I think that, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Owen on this, is that this is an issue of trust. The question placed before the electorate at the last general election was clear. Like other noble Lords, I have been out on the streets in the most recent local elections campaigning for candidates of different political persuasionsI am an independent Peer, so I can do thatand I heard again and again people raising their concerns about this matter. The issue for them is one of trust. They ask why it is that they were promised the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the Lisbon treaty when it is now being withdrawn. We are in grave danger of misunderstanding the feeling among many people who believe that elites are driving them into something of which they are not in favour. That is what the House has to consider.
The goal for the European Community that the original founding fathers had in mind was a good and
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Lord Waddington: I apologise for not being present at the beginning of this debate. There is one point which it is important to make: we should keep in mind the bearing this matter has on the issue of the reform of this House. Some noble LordsI can see one of them in their placeare vehement Europhiles and believe that this place should remain a largely nominated Chamber. But a lot of people are watching this House, and if the nominated House does not use its powers to make the elected Members in the other place honour the promise that every single one of them made to the electorate to support a referendum on the matters set out in this Bill, quite frankly, we might as well all go home.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: We have debated this amendment for two hours and 14 minutes. I begin by saying that I have been looking forward to our debates, and I have not been disappointed. I say that because assuming that we can keep the temperature down just a little, this debate is already proving to be a fascinating opening to our consideration. I want to say something about how I intend to approach this because the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was good enough to say how he would do so at the beginning of his remarks. I have had the privilege of talking to many noble Lords about the course of our consideration, and I hope that in the six days of debate we will have the opportunity to do what the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Hunt, in particular, but other noble Lords too, have asked for: as far as possible and led by the amendments that have been tabled, we should go through the Bill line by line. Doing so will allow us on many occasions not only to have high-quality debates about particular issues, but also to question, as noble Lords have begun to do today, the issues that lie at the heart of some of the divisions between the different Benches of this House.
That comes down to questions such as: what this treaty amounts to when considered in detail; how different it is, or not, to the constitution that was put before; whether that should have been put down, as my noble friend Lord Kinnock, who is not in his place, said, as a constitution in the first place; or as we look further forward, whether that should have led to a referendum based on the genuinely held view of some noble Lords that that was a commitment which should be kept to because there is no fundamental
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At Second Reading I made a promise to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I intend to keep. I have 50 pieces of paper covered in quotations, many from leaders of other European states and from all over the place. I do not intend to use them. I intend to quote only Members of your Lordships House and another place. I pay great tribute to, and will use substantially, the reports of the European Union Select Committee in another place, the committee in your Lordships House and the Constitution Committee. All of these reports have been quoted and, alasas my honourable friend Michael Connarty said in the Commonsmisquoted from time to time. If I can encourage noble Lords to stick to using those we know and those who can stand before us and tell us what they meant when they wrote what they wrote, I think our debates will be substantially better. I am not going to resort to quotations from a variety of leaders and I would welcome other noble Lords agreement that that is a substantially better way forward.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am just taking in what the noble Baroness said. Is she seriously suggesting that we should have a debate about this treaty in which we do not quote from Prime Ministers, leaders of Europe and Brussels? The only conceivable explanation I can have for her suggesting that is because so many of them have said things which are in direct contradiction to the Governments line.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The noble Lord is completely and utterly wrong in that. The week before last, during the Recess, I spent three days in Brussels talking to a variety of people and having many conversations about the treaty. Obviously I have had the opportunity to obtain information through our Foreign and Commonwealth Office and my fellow Ministers about the views of many others. My point was meant to be more substantial than the one for which noble Lord has given me credit.
I do not believe that it will necessarily help our colleagues and other noble Lords who are looking at this debate and looking at the substance of the treaty if all that happens is that we read out quotes or parts of quotes from a variety of leaders who are not here to explain the context of what they said or, indeed, what happened next. If other noble Lords choose to do that, it will be fine. I was merely saying that, for my part, in looking at the questions that are to be raised in this Committee stage of the debatein delving through, at the request of the noble Lords Front Bench, a line-by-line examinationI feel it much
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As I said, I intend for todays purposes to focus on what is in this group of amendments. That is not to shy away from the broader discussions that have been raised. We were in danger of moving into a second Second Reading debate, but there will be many opportunities to discuss the issues. One can see from the amendments that have been tabled that there will be many opportunities to look at the issues about which noble Lords are very concerned. I expect that on one of our days in Committee there will be a particular focus on the question of a referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, has already tabled amendments, for example, and there may well be others by now. This is a consequence of the last clause in the Bill, where the commencement date will give us an opportunity to debate the issue.
I am not moving away from that but I am not prepared to turn it into a Second Reading debate. Noble Lords who did not hear what I said at Second Reading are very welcome to read it; it was an extraordinary debate of 12 and three-quarter hours. Today I want to begin the process of dissection; of looking at the individual issues that have been raised. This is notwithstanding the strength of feelingwhich I absolutely understandof noble Lords who wish to raise other issues as well.
In this group of amendmentsI am grateful to all noble Lords who have talked to me about groupings and so on, and we will continue that dialogue, toowe are challenging what we saw in the 1972 Act, which is about the primacy of European Union law. When we gave effect to that in 1972, it was already well established. It was something that those involved at the time recognised was important, in order to ensure that we had uniform application of the operation of the single market. If we undid that underpinning point about primacy from 1972, we would fundamentally and radically change our relationship with Europe; indeed, we would change the way that Europe operated.
Parliament, of course, remains sovereign. It can choose to repeal the 1972 Act and the application of the primacy of European Union law. There may be noble Lords who wish it would do that, but the consequence, in my view, is that that would have to go hand in hand with leaving the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, agrees with me on that, and indeed may agree that some noble Lords would wish to see that happen. Let us be clear that that would indeed be the logical outcome of moving away from the current position.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I hope that the Minister did not misunderstand me. I was not saying that if we were to have a referendum on this treaty and for any
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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The noble Lord was not saying anything; he was nodding. By that, I thought he was agreeing with what I saidthat if you move away from the 1972 Act and the primacy of European Union law, the logical conclusion would then be to leave the European Union. I am deliberately talking not about the referendum but only about the amendments as they stand.
The Lisbon treaty does not alter anything in that area. When we come on, as I hope we will, to look more closely at what is proposed for the role of national parliaments, we will see that that role is strengthened. Noble Lords of all persuasions should welcome that because it gives parliaments a direct say in EU law-making for the very first time. I have no doubt that some noble Lords will argue that they wish to see more, or perhaps less, of that and they will want to understand what it actually means. There is a lot to do, particularly in talking to our European Union Select Committee about how we make that a proper reality in a way that both Houses of Parliament would wish. None the less, that measure is there, and I hope we will have good and interesting debates on it.
Lord Owen: The Minister said that we would be doing this for the first time, but that is not the case. The European Assemblies Act 1978 made it clear that control would be by primary legislation in this House. The proposal from the Government is merely a single vote in both Houses.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The noble Lord and I may be talking at slightly cross purposes. I am suggesting that, within the Lisbon treaty, the European Union for the first time is making it clear that it wishes to see direct involvement from national parliaments. I think the noble Lord is referring to what happened in 1978 from the UK perspective of its relationship with the European Union. In that case, neither of us is wrong, but I am saying that from the EUs perspective it is the first time that the EU has offered this. When it was in Brussels it was clear that this was an important part of current thinking about how, if the treaty is ratified, it could be made a reality when it is implemented.
I shall say something briefly about each of the specific amendments in turn. What we have done in Clause 1 is standard practice. Other noble Lords, with far greater experience than I, have talked about specific experience of putting together the beginnings of a Bill. We have defined the treaty in standard, neutral terms. I will not repeat many of the arguments that have been made by noble Lords about the purpose of Amendment No. 2. On one hand, it is argued that the wording would signify the reality; on the other, one could argue that the wording would be there in order to ensure that we raised the issue of the
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When I look through that important report, it is difficult to find anything about which there are serious concerns. There are interesting points that the Government must respond to, and we aim to respond as quickly as possible so that those responses can form part of the debates we have in your Lordships House. However, when the committee looked at fundamental rights, accession to the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights, citizenship and competencies, it concluded that there were no significant implications for the UK constitution. That conclusion comes from an important committee, and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, is not in his place. I hope that noble Lords who have not yet had the chance to look at the report will do so. It raises questions for the Government, of course, but it is interesting in terms of that important principle.
Amendment No. 125 would undermine the application of the principles of primacy and direct effect. As I have said, they are long-established principles that were there before we joined the community; principles that are fundamental, I argue, for the effective and uniform application of laws across all EU member states, and that remain unchanged by the Lisbon treaty in any way. I have already indicated that it is for Parliament to decide if it wishes to repeal the Act. By passing the Act, Parliament, not the EU or the European Court of Justice, decided to accept the obligations of European Union membershipor, as it was then, EEC membershipfor the United Kingdom. We have continued to exercise our sovereignty in passing the legislation necessary to implement every amending treaty. Parliament remains free to repeal the treaty, but let us be clear what that would meanit would mean leaving the European Union.
Some noble Lords have indicated that they remember being part of the discussions and debates in 1972. I am going to quote the then Solicitor-General, now the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, who unfortunately is not in his place. I do not think he will mind me repeating what he said then:
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