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The noble Lord has been rather rude about John Major but he should give him a little credit because he secured not only the opt-out from the social chapter, which this Government gave away on their election in 1997, but he also secured an opt-out on the single currency. That is why we are not in the single currency. Given his views, the noble Lord ought to be a little more polite about the previous Prime Minister.
Lord Kinnock: I will happily intervene to reflect upon the opt-out from the single currency. Witness the exchange rates at this moment: it is scarcely the puny invention that has been described elsewhere. The noble Lord may want to comment on that.
Is the noble Lord actually asserting that efforts to regulate the way work is conducted have no implications either for the operation of a market or for the achievement of satisfactory standards of health and safety that affect not only workers but the public with whom they
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I was about to try to be nice to Mr Major. I simply say to my noble friend Lord Forsyth that I think Mr Major should have vetoed the whole social policy chapter and the project of the European currency.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, that if we were not in this project of European integration we would be able to decide all these matters for ourselves and not have to go along with, and be outvoted by, a large number of nations. We have much in common with those nations and can collaborate with them over many things, but we do not want to be in this unfortunate project of European union.
That takes me back to where I started: subsidiarity, and why it does not work. It is also an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Owen; it is as well to have it on the record. If he wants to know what the limits are of the European Court, the answer is that there are none. It has always advanced the project of European integration and it will continue to do so. The quicker we get out of the whole thing, the better. I beg to move.
Lord Williamson of Horton: More in sorrow than in anger, I come to this amendment. I am, frankly, surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has chosen this subject to exclude from the coverage of the legislation that we are now looking at. When the noble Lord read out the extract from the text, I realised that under the rules of this House it is not considered correct to applaud, but I felt tempted to applaud that text. First, it seems to be highly valuable to the United Kingdom, and, secondly, it is an anti-centralisation measure. That is why I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will not support the amendment, because it goes in the direction that he has favoured.
When we turn to the purpose of the subsidiarity clauses that exist now and are repeated here, and which were quoted, we should recall that they did not exist some years ago. When we entered the Community, they were not there. It was one of the faults of the Community that there was a centralising tendency. There was no recognition that a number of things could be better done at national level, and that the things that were to be done at Community or Union level were those that were better done for specific reasons at that level. That was an important step forward and one that in the United Kingdom we should welcome now, just as we welcomed it at the time.
Furthermore, it is not correct to interpret this part of the text as if it had no application to the work of the Council and the Commission. That is where it has application. This shows that where the Council takes decisions, it should bear in mind the principle of subsidiarity. The Commission also should do that in presenting proposals. It may well be that we are not satisfied that the Commission has always gone as far as it should go in respecting the principle of subsidiarity, but that is not a reason to attack the basic proposal that we are discussing now.
Lord Williamson of Horton: Yes, I think that is the case. I stress that, while we may not always be satisfied with the way in which the principle of subsidiarity is operated, it is none the less a very valuable principle which goes in our interest. The proposal on the table from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, would delete the lot. It would delete not only the bit about the national parliaments but everything about subsidiarity. He explained that he would be quite happy to see subsidiarity go because he would like to see the whole thing go. We all know that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannochif I may use a Scottish phrasehas the mulligrubs about the European Union. I am sure that Hansard will have the pleasure of recording that phrase for the first time. It means to grumble and grumble and grumble. It is a very useful phrase which our Scottish colleagues have used in the past and is very appropriate for the interventions
Lord Williamson of Horton: The phrase he has the mulligrubs means that he continues to grumble and grumble and grumble, which in the case of the noble Lord is true. He does not like the European Union and he continues to grumble. He has applied that to a part of the treaty which is not appropriate for either a grumble or deletion; it is a part of the treaty which we should preserve. The amendment is not a neutral point, but an attack on something which is of value to us as a nation. So I reject the amendment and hope that we shall retain this part of the treaty without amendment.
Lord Tomlinson: I say more in sorrow than in anger to my noble friend the Leader of the House that if ever she sends our mutual noble friend Lady Farrington to recover the notes of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and subject us again to that tirade that we heard in consequence, my support for her leadership cannot be taken as guaranteed.
However, there were in what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said one or two nuggets that are worth pursuing. One of them was pursued very effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and related to the positive nature of that letter which Mr John Major wrote. If one really wants to have a go at John Major, one should have a go at him for the Edinburgh summit, at which he was so lackadaisical that he allowed his signature to be appended to a decision which bound us legally to having 12 sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg at great expense to the taxpayer and at great detriment to the European Parliaments effectiveness.
However, I say that as an aside. I wanted to help the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, with his concern about the integrity of the European Court of Justice.
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I am sure that it pacifies the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that that is the judgment of so distinguished a jurist as Professor Dashwood. I will not labour the point before the Committee; the noble Lord can read it himself in paragraphs 122, 123 and 124, which contain the conclusions of the Constitution Committee.
Baroness Ludford: I start by seconding what the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, said about John Major and Strasbourg, as someone who is on the 7 am flight to Strasbourg tomorrow morning and is doing the shuttle twice this week. I must add to the criticisms of Tony Blair, who allowed the protocol to be enshrined in the treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. Unfortunately, we cannot vote on our own seat, which is disgraceful.
I also felt that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, who had our thanks for her mercy mission for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, must have dropped the papers and jumbled them up before she delivered them to the noble Lord, because I was a bit confused as to why we went via social policy and all around the highways and byways in talking about subsidiarity. Like the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, I am completely mystified as to the motives of the movers of this amendment. I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, wants to be out of the EU altogether but, since he cannot achieve that this evening, I should have thought that the provisions on subsidiarity and the strengthening and reinforcement of those provisions in the treaty of Lisbon were right up his street. I, and I believe others on these Benches, would strongly welcome that reinforcement, and the associated strengthened role through the two protocols of national parliaments in monitoring respect for subsidiarity.
A principal objective of the Lisbon treaty is to strengthen the democratic element in the EU, which means enhancing the powers of the European Parliament and boosting the participation of national parliaments. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, referred to the demand from the British people that their laws should be decided by the people whom they have elected. That is absolutely rightbut those laws are decided by national Ministers and directly elected MEPs. The increase in the role of national parliaments will strengthen that element. National parliaments will be sent draft legislation direct from Brussels and the Commission; it is not mediated or filtered through national Governments. That is important.
There is a role for national parliaments in ensuring compliance with subsidiarity, and especially a very
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The EU Committees report on the impact of the treaty of Lisbon rightly makes the point that although eight weeks is better than the six weeks that is in the treaties at the moment for the response from national parliaments, it is still not an awfully long time. One of the needs will be for national parliaments to get their response in upstream, to get in early. A close relationship between Members of the European Parliament and their counterparts in national parliaments will be essential to doing that. That is particularly necessary with a tendency to First Reading deals. I was rapporteur on a First Reading deal last year and I am very conscious of the criticisms and the need for more transparency in First Reading agreements.
There will be every motive for us all to work together in interparliamentary co-operation among the national parliaments, and between them and the European Parliament, with a particularly strong role on things like monitoring and scrutiny of Europol, Eurojust and other functions in the justice and home affairs area.
The orange and yellow card arrangements strengthen the scrutiny function of national parliaments. Some wanted a red card. That was not achieved. But that is to confuse the roles of the national and the European parliaments. It is a pity that the orange card only covers Commission proposals, which apparently is an oversight since member state proposals often need a great deal of scrutiny.
I end on a point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. National parliaments will have to streamline and enhance their machinery to input both to the Brussels system and with national Governments. That is far from being achieved in this Parliament at Westminster.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I state instantly that I rise purely out of self-interest. I did not speak at Second Reading. I listened to two-thirds of the debate, and I have sat through the entire proceedings today without speaking. I realise that if I do not utter anything I shall not be allowed to be on the copy list of the billets-doux of the Lord President to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. Consequently, I simply wish to establish my place in the queue.
I want to do one other thing. It is now more than 20 years since I gave up being the British Minister on the Budget CouncilI served for four years in that position, which I greatly enjoyed. I wish to pay a considerable tribute to the work of COREPER, which, however mysterious it is to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is reasonably well known to everybody else. The Budget Council was incapable of making a decision until dawn. Had COREPER not reduced the
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Lord Willoughby de Broke: I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said on increasing the power of national parliaments. It is simply not happening; it is just window dressing.
Where reasoned opinion on a draft legislative acts non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least one third of all the votes allocated to national Parliaments in accordance with,
Reasons must be given for that. So actually it is business as usual. They do not have to do anything about it at all. National parliaments can say exactly what they want. We have to get one-third of all national parliaments to agree to do this. The Commission can then decide to maintain the proposal anyway. How does that possibly increase the power of national parliaments? The answer is that it does not, so I hope that we will not hear any more about subsidiarity increasing the power of national parliaments.
That bit was in the earlier Maastricht and Nice treaties. The new treaty says that under the ordinary legislative procedureI will not read the whole thing, it is too boringhalf of national parliaments would have to get together. They can then put a reasoned objection to the Commission. Yet again the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the draft.
Even assuming that you can get half the national parliaments to consider the proposala proposal that has already of course been signed up to by the relevant Governmentthere is absolutely zero chance of anything happening at all. There is no further power to national parliaments whatever.
I hope that whatever else comes out of this brief discussion on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pearson, the measure cannot possibly be construed as giving more power to national parliaments. It simply is not the case. It is damaging to national parliaments and to the European Unionalthough I do not really mind it damaging the latter bodybecause it gives the impression of accountability without the reality of accountability. It is selling the pass doing this. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment of my noble friend.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I oppose this amendment. Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, I was reminded of the closing lines of act 3, scene iii of Hamlet where King Claudius rises and says:My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
But the amendment gives us a chance to probe the meaning of subsidiarity. As many noble Lords know, including the noble Lords, Lord Williamson and Lord Tomlinson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the problem is that this term arose in a completely different context to the one in which it is now used by the European Union. I know that it is said to date back to Aristotle and it has references in the works of Locke and John Stuart Mill but it really arises from the need of the Catholic Church to uphold its authority in a time of rising political tension, particularly in the late 19th century. The trouble is that we do not really know what it means. We have tried to define it many timesit means taking decisions at the lowest appropriate level. But even when definitions establish a presumption in favour of the national level of decision-making, they still leave scope for political and judicial argument about exactly where it fits. I hope that the Minister will assist us on this. As far as we are concerned, this yellow card, which sounds like a forceful sanction, has no referee to exercise it or to demonstrate itas happened in tonights match of Liverpool versus Chelsea. When I last heard, Liverpool was winning 1-0. But even when you have a referee to flag it up it has little effect. We need a red card.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am grateful for the challenge that has been laid down. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any literary works to refer to. I offer sincere apologies to my noble friend Lord Tomlinson for my momentary lapse of generosity in getting the relevant papers for the noble Lord. It will not happen again.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I shall not prolong this as the hour is late and noble Lords wish to go. I shall of course ensure that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, gets all the billets-doux. I normally note who is in the Chamber so we shall ensure that noble Lords get copies of all the relevant material. I am noted for giving people too much paper rather than too little.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, rightly gets to the heart of the matterwhat is it that we are trying to describe in this principle. I did not know the background with regard to the Catholic Church. I was grateful for that information and I shall read up on the matter. Certainly it is not a word that trips lightly off the tongue in terms of explanation. The noble Lord is right; traditionally we have looked at it in the context of saying that you devolve down to the lowest possible level where decisions should rightly be made. I put it a different way in saying that the European Union should and must undertake only
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Members of the Committee will know too that we have successfully invoked subsidiarity on a number of occasions; for example, in 2003 on taxation, where we argued that a Commission proposal to abolish the UKs VAT zero rates on food, childrens clothes and so on was inconsistent with subsidiarity. In 2006, following a Commission report to determine what was needed next on labour law, the UK successfully argued that no new EU-level legislation was necessary.
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