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6.30 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. We will come back to this on Amendment No. 14.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Like the noble Lords, Lord Blackwell and Lord Pearson, I am a bit concerned that the questions in this amendment are being asked after the horse has bolted, so to speak. Surely these are all questions that need answers before we agree to ratify the treaty. Once the treaty is ratified, they can do just as they damn well like. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that the questions are superb. They have been very well thought out. They need to be asked, and they need to be answered—but before the treaty passes from this House. I hope we can get some of the answers.

I should like to put one or two other questions to the Leader of the House because many serious rumours are circulating and they worry people, not only Euro sceptics but others as well. One of them is that there is a move for the amalgamation of the posts of President of the European Commission and president of the Council. The Leader of the House is shaking her head, but that is one of the rumours and it is a very strong rumour indeed. If such a post were to be created, it would be a very powerful post indeed. Therefore, if the noble Baroness can give us an assurance that there is no truth in the rumour and that the British Government would oppose and veto it if it were ever brought forward, it would be extremely helpful.

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Lord Tomlinson: If the noble Lord looks at Article 1(18) of the treaty he will find it clear that the President of the European Council must not be President of the European Commission. That is explicit. It is clearly laid down and is there for anyone to read. There is total clarity.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: We read all sorts of things and we know that sometimes they do not mean exactly what they say. If I can obtain an absolute assurance, not only for me but for many other people as well, that there is no truth in this rumour, it would be helpful for our further debates.

Then we come to the question of the powers and trappings of the presidency. I mentioned to the Leader of the House—who was very kind to see some of us yesterday—that a lot of suggestions were going around that the post will be made very powerful and that the president will have a plane, a staff of 36, a fleet of limousines and a palace. That seems to me to going over the top. She said that that was rubbish, and I took her word that this was mere rumour mongering by people opposed to the whole concept. I can assure noble Lords that it was not me who sent the rumours around. But this morning, lo and behold, when I looked at the EUobserver, I found that the European Parliament itself is concerned about it. This is what was said:

That is very good, and fortunately—as far that report is concerned—the European Parliament can control the purse strings. I should therefore like to know whether Her Majesty’s Government agree with the European Parliament, or at least with the head of the budget committee, that the role is administrative and will not be executive, and whether Her Majesty's Government will see to it that that situation remains. If they do not, the post of president will grow and grow until it supersedes and overrides the Heads of State or Government in the nation states.

I hope the noble Baroness will be able to give assurances on the matters I have raised. They are current; they are circulating; and they need to be put in proper and truthful context.

Lord Waddington: This amendment highlights a highly unsatisfactory situation. I could not possibly vote for it, for some of the reasons that have already been advanced, for instance by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson. All the amendment does is highlight some of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the agreement signed up to by our Prime Minister without giving any hint of a solution to the problem that has arisen as a result of his signature. The amendment does not for one moment, for instance, provide for Parliament’s agreement to changes that may occur after the treaty has been ratified. It cannot and it does not.

The real question, therefore, is why did the Prime Minister sign up to the deal without agreement being reached on all the matters listed in subsection (2) of the proposed new clause? Why on earth did he sign up to an agreement without,

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being properly defined? Surely that is a matter of the most immense importance.

If you are going to have a semi-permanent President of the European Council, it is inevitable that the balance of power between the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council will change from the situation as it is at present. I quite understand those who say that, as a result, certain changes in the powers of the president will have to come about. But for goodness’ sake, we are supposed to be giving our approval to an agreement. If we are asked to sign up to an agreement that leaves all of these important matters undefined, it is a pretty ridiculous state of affairs.

Why on earth should we be asked to ratify a treaty without being told what is,

What is his,

Goodness me, why on earth should we ratify this treaty without even being told what will be,

Lord Lea of Crondall: Is the noble Lord not asking in fact for a constitution? Looking at the President of the United States, the President of France or the president of any of the countries where these various rumours or mirages may be built up, you see that they have a constitution. There is also the high representative, and therefore there will be an evolving role. However, is not what the noble Lord asks for the complete opposite of normal Conservative philosophy, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said? It is moving us to demand something rather like a treaty signed in Philadelphia in 1787.

Lord Waddington: I do not want a constitution but even less do I want half a constitution. If we are to have thrust on us all these constitutional changes of great importance, we should obviously know what they really mean. That is the answer to the noble Lord’s question, and we should certainly be told what the powers and duties of the EU high representative are to be. If we are not to be told that, I am blessed if I can see why we should be asked to ratify this treaty. It seems odd in the extreme that we should be asked to ratify a treaty which leaves all these very important matters entirely undecided.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Again, we have had a very interesting and important debate. I begin where the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, ended. I think that close study of the treaty will demonstrate that these questions are not left unanswered in the way that he implied. I know that, like me, the noble Lord had a late night last night but I hope that he will be able to go back through the proposals in the treaty and see that some of the detail is more coloured-in than he indicated.

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In our deliberations on this group of amendments, I think we all agree that it is very important to continue the current scrutiny and, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, says in his report from the European Union Committee, to consider how best to take forward some of the proposals in the treaty—particularly, as I indicated earlier, in relation to the role of Parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, suggested, we have a system for reporting back to Parliament. It takes place after every European Council meeting, although I accept that doing so after the event is not necessarily what noble Lords are seeking. There is correspondence with the committees before every Council of Ministers meeting and there is a six-monthly White Paper, to which I think the noble Lord, Lord Owen, referred, on forthcoming developments in the European Union, normally looking ahead to the next presidency. Of course, all forward-looking work programmes—the five-year programme and annual work programme from the Commission and so on—are deposited so that they can be scrutinised. Speaking from experience, I can say that Ministers are regularly invited to appear before Select Committees and sub-committees in order to describe and discuss particular points of interest of aspects of negotiations that are under way. Those discussions—again, I speak from personal experience—do not last for minutes but for hours as we take great note of, and scrutinise, the issues that are currently before the individual councils. I pay tribute to the members of the committee whom I have appeared before.

I take issue with a proposition underpinning the amendments which suggests that there are articles that require further negotiation. That is not the case. No articles in the treaty of Lisbon require further negotiation. I have already indicated that I spent three days in Brussels during the recess, when I discussed with the head of the Council’s Legal Service, Jean-Claude Piris, the Secretary-General of the Commission, Catherine Day, and others their views on the treaty and on the future. What was striking about these discussions was that not only did these people think that the treaty addresses far better some of the questions that have reasonably been raised about how to ensure that the European Union delivers for its citizens but they also believed that it sets a proper and, they would argue, lasting institutional framework. There was no appetite at all for further treaty negotiations.

I turn to the specific points that have been raised. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, who, as a Member of the European Parliament, has great experience of the European Court of Justice. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that this is a very important issue, and later we will be able to have much chunkier discussions about the ECJ. I know that there will be a lot of interest in aspects of foreign policy, about which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, is particularly concerned, and justice and home affairs issues with the collapse of Pillar 3, and there will be an opportunity to discuss the opt-ins for the UK more fully. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, between now and the next Committee sitting, with a copy placed in the Library for all noble Lords who have participated in the debate, setting out what I consider to be the role of the European Court of Justice. I do not suggest that in order to evade

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debate—far from it—but to provide a backdrop to the discussion which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in particular, and others can use as a template in taking our discussions further. I should be very happy to do that if it would be helpful. I see several noble Lords nodding, so I shall ensure that it is done.

I realise that I did not answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, about the two articles that are different. The evidence that I have is from Essex University, which talks about 35 differences between the two treaties. I do not have the documentation in front of me and so I propose to share it with the noble Lord and take it from there. I am conscious that he was very specific about articles and I have been very specific about differences.

6.45 pm

Lord Blackwell: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. That would be very helpful.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Again, I apologise for not dealing with the matter there and then.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: It could be circulated.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: That would be even better. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asked specifically about an index. I wonder whether he has seen the comparative table of the treaties. I know that it is not an index as such but I found it incredibly helpful, and I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that it is in the Printed Paper Office. It goes through each of the articles and relates them to the previous treaties, although it does not do what I think the noble Lord was after. Article 26 refers to the ECJ and Article 27 refers to the Council, and so on. We do not have an index of that kind—at least, if we do, I have never seen one—but I hope that it will deal with some of the issues that noble Lords have.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I was aware of the document to which the noble Baroness refers but I was simply asking for an index such as that printed in the British Management Data Foundation’s analysis of the treaty of Lisbon. That index runs to several pages. Under A one can look up, for example, administrative co-operation, advisory bodies, agricultural and animal welfare. Everything covered by the treaties is in this index and that is what we need, with a page number and an article number relating to the new treaty of Lisbon. I am sure that in the noble Baroness’s department there are many people who could run that up overnight. It would be enormously helpful to your Lordships.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: In those famous words, “I shall see what I can do”, but I am not sure about running it up overnight. That sounds like an interesting proposition, but the noble Lord makes a point of sorts. I shall come on to that document in a moment because it relates to something else that I want to mention. The flying of flags is covered by regulation in this country under the Town and

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Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007. In response to a specific question asked by the noble Lord, for the avoidance of doubt, neither the European Union flag nor the anthem have any legal status in the UK or in the rest of the European Union.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: They do not lack status in the United Kingdom. I am aware of the legislation that the United Kingdom passed to allow the flag to be flown here in parity with national flags and so on. I also asked where that legislation is rooted in European legislation. Is this just one of those areas that are part of the doctrine of the occupied field that the European Union went into, inventing a flag and flying it? It has been withdrawn from the constitutional treaty of Lisbon. As I understand it, 16 countries have signed a document saying that they want it to be their official flag. What is its legal position? Does it have a legal basis? The same questions apply to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: It does not have a legal status. That’s it—it does not have a legal status, full stop.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked me a question. I was waiting for someone to ask me about the private jet, lots of staff and so on. When I was in Brussels this was running as a news story, that there had been a discussion on a Tuesday evening, I think, where a jet and lots of other wonderful things had theoretically been discussed. Our permanent representative there—our ambassador, if I may call him that—was at the dinner and there was no discussion of that kind. There has been no suggestion of a private jet, no proposals or discussions about the residence and the salary and no formal discussions about the precision of that job, though obviously there have been informal discussions on the respective responsibilities of the different people defined within the treaty—for example, the President of the Commission, the high representative, the rotating presidency and the President of the European Council, which are exactly the issues raised by Members of the Committee here. As I indicated, the briefing about the 10,000 troops is not true. As we go through the line-by-line scrutiny, issues such as defence and other matters will be raised, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord will have an opportunity to have any myths exploded or, who knows, any clarification or confirmation that may be appropriate.

There has also been confusion about whether the president of the Council and the high representative could be a merged job. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is reassured about that—that that is not allowed under the treaty. A specific reference says that if you hold office for the Commission you cannot hold any other office. I think the problem goes back to the glorious blue book. I must again thank the noble Lords, Lord Pearson, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Stoddart, for presenting me with a copy of the book. On page 36 of the opening section, under “President of the European Council”, it states:

of Lisbon,

That is not true; they have it wrong in the book. I hope that the person who wrote it, whom I have met, will get in touch and have it corrected. It is absolutely clear in the treaty—with luck I shall find the right bit—that if you hold a Commission role you cannot hold another role. So the vice-president of the Commission, who is also the high representative, cannot become president of the Council; the president of the Commission cannot become president of the Council; and the president of the Commission cannot become the vice-president of the Commission, because you cannot hold two roles.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: This is a self-amending treaty under the passerelle arrangements, which we will discuss later. Is it not conceivable that the Council could vote by unanimity to make this a matter for qualified majority voting? Therefore, there could be a double-hatter.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The UK Government do not agree with double-hatting or allowing two of those three positions to be put together. A change would therefore require the UK to do something that it does not want to do. In theory one could make a decision to go from unanimity to QMV and therefore arrive at another conclusion. I lose the plot here a little. I have worried about why noble Lords think that the two jobs could be together, but I think it is just the way that the provision reads. I make no slur on it, but it is the way that it reads.

Lord Owen: One of the reasons why this has caused concern is that the Dutch Government—on exactly the same wording as is currently in the treaty, it has not changed—have told their parliament that they believe it would be possible to double-hat the president of the Council and the president of the Commission. I will be very happy to give the noble Baroness the reference to that. The Dutch are international lawyers of some distinction. I welcome the British Government’s position and I think that their judgment is correct. I am worried about the reference to the ECJ and a creative interpretation of the power.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I have the consolidated text before me. If I look at the Treaty on the European Union and go to Article 17(5)—this is for the connoisseurs—and then go to Article 244 in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, I see that Article 245 says:

It is pretty clear to me.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: It continues:

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