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The noble Lord, Lord Laird, raised the issue of prosecutions. He raised some examples, but that is a matter for the prosecution authorities. They are independent and are not responsible for operational matters relating to us. He said that he would pursue this via Questions for Written Answer, as he is entitled to do.

I hope that I have covered all the other issues that I have written down. I am very grateful for the support and to all the people who participated in this, because this has taken several years. Literally hundreds of people were involved in the consultation, leaving aside the vast petition in Northern Ireland.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland Consequential Amendments) Order 2008

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 3 March be approved. 16th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

European Union (Amendment) Bill

8.39 pm

House again in Committee on Clause 2, Amendment No. 9.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: This concerns a very important new provision in the treaty. We should make no mistake about it: it is a further step on the way to creating a centralised European state. There can be no other reason for it. Indeed, from the point of view of the smaller nations, it is a retrograde step; with a rotating presidency, at least they have a turn at that office. I am not at all sure that from now on they will ever have a turn at holding the presidency of the European Union.

In history, whenever an office such as this—a chairman of something—has been set up, it has always evolved. The chairman wants more power and the members want to give him more power because, if he has more power, there is less for them to do. Therefore, all history shows that, once you give senior office to people, the whole thing tends to develop into a new power centre. If people do not believe that, they should look at the development of the European Parliament. I think that the European Parliament came into existence under the Single European Act but before then it had been a European Assembly. Until 1977, it was not a directly elected assembly but a representative body of the national parliaments. However, as soon as it became directly elected, as some of us predicted, it became more powerful. It was renamed as a parliament, and in each treaty since the Single European Act the European Parliament has accreted to itself, or has been given, new powers so that it has become a much more important part of the European Union. Indeed, only this afternoon, just before this debate, we saw that it had accrued new powers under this treaty.

As I said, all history shows that once you make an office permanent—indeed, when you create an office for which you do not immediately know what the powers will be—there is every incentive to build that office into a very powerful position. We are being asked to give permission to a pig in a poke. We do not know what powers will be exercised by the new president. We know that he will try to accrue more powers to himself and, of course, the ultimate aim will be an elected president by universal suffrage. That is the end product and it is what the new president

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and the people who believe in a united federal state of Europe want. I appreciate that there is nothing wrong with that. I do not want it; nevertheless, that is what it is all about. This evening, we are being asked to create a permanent presidency or semi-permanent presidency or whatever it is called—it will, at any rate, last for up to five years—and certainly for the first two and a half years the president will build up his position so that he gets elected for another two and a half years. We have seen it all before.

I feel sure that the noble Baroness will reassure me on this. She will say, “Of course, the British Government do not believe any of this at all. They simply think that, as we heard earlier, it will be a more efficient way of driving things forward”. However, I do not want things to be driven forward. Nevertheless, that is what we will be told the role is about. At present, however, we are aware that private discussions are going on about the role of the presidency. Some pretty powerful people believe that it should be a leading role and that the president should in fact act like one, not like a lord mayor. Our former Prime Minister foresaw this position as being one where the President of the European Council spoke for Europe on the world stage—quite clearly, a powerful post indeed.

8.45 pm

Noble Lords will have seen that when Mr Blair’s name was put forward for the post of president, he quite clearly said that he would consider accepting the position only if it were a powerful one. He did not want any sort of job that was simply meeting people or holding banquets and what have you for visiting diplomats or heads of state. He sees it, as he saw it at the beginning, as a powerful position—one that will get more powerful as time goes on. The Prime Minister of Belgium certainly sees the position as very powerful, and has said as much. I believe that he is a candidate as well. He has said that if he gets into the job, he will be trying to make it very important indeed.

People know my position on the European Union. It has always been made plain. I agree with nothing that enhances its reputation and powers. I believe that a president will do that, therefore I am against it.

Lord Tomlinson: Ha!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, finds that funny. At this time of night, I am glad to be acting as a bit of a comic.

Lord Tomlinson: I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that I did not find it funny. I found it pathetic and risible; that is why I was laughing.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Well, some of us find that the noble Lord’s position on the European Union has always been rather dangerous for this country. I would probably prefer to be risible rather than dangerous. However, we have known each other a long time, and we know each other’s position. We can probably carry on without any name-calling. The

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noble Baroness knows my position. I believe that this is a retrograde step and I therefore support the amendment.

Lord Dykes: I assume that it is a coincidence that the amendment proposed by the Tory spokesman was—like Amendment No. 89 in the Commons; and I got the date wrong, it was 30 January—also moved in the Commons in the name of Mr William Cash and Mr John Redwood, as Amendment No. 90 on page 564. So the Vulcan strikes again, with many interesting suggestions about changes.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: As the noble Lord is making such a study of amendments in the House of Commons, why does he not table the amendment that his leader could not table there, but which could be tabled in this House, allowing for a referendum on “in or out”?

Lord Dykes: It is necessary to speak to the amendments on these occasions, otherwise we will digress and go back into a Second Reading debate. As the noble Lord knows—

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Does the noble Lord—

Lord Dykes: When I am dealing with an intervention, I should have a chance to finish. I never know about the propriety of automatically giving way. I suppose that it is not absolutely necessary in Committee, as far as I know. The Companion is being produced again to remind us of the relevant clause, and I will gladly give way if the Minister wishes to remind the Committee again about it.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): From memory, there is no obligation on a Member to give way. However, the tradition of your Lordships’ House has been that noble Lords do give way. The noble Lord did give way and I am not sure that he needs to continue to do so.

Lord Dykes: I am grateful for that explanation. That was my understanding. I would be delighted to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, but for reasons of time I will not do so. It is getting late and I shall be very brief. As the Conservative Party in the Lords and UKIP have been conferring frequently on these matters—that is a normal procedure and I do not object to it—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will make precisely the same point as the one just made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth.

We on these Benches regret that Amendment No. 9 has been tabled. The adjective used has changed over a short time. Those of us who are interested in philology will reflect on the changes in language over time. For instance, in English, the words “thank you” have now been replaced by the word “cheers”, which now means “thank you” on all occasions. When you are getting out of a taxi and saying goodbye to the driver you say “cheers” rather than “thank you”. That has taken probably about nine years to evolve.

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In this case, the adjective for the nature, quality and texture of the amendments from our Tory colleagues last Tuesday—the first allotted day of the Committee of the whole House—was always that the amendments were “probing”, whereas in the Commons the text was always presented as “wrecking” amendments. So the adjective “probing” has evolved from “wrecking” in the space of four weeks. That demonstrates how language can change rapidly depending on the examples provided.

We believe that the amendment would be destructive and we hope it will not be taken further. The creation of this post will be important for the future progress of the enlarged and complicated European Union of 27 member states. The important change envisaged is the creation of the post of a new full-time president for a first period of two-and-a-half years, renewable by only one similar period, making up to five years for the same individual. This would be the person to drive forward—a phrase which was also used by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, though he does not approve of it—the European Union policies. I use the modern phraseology “drive forward” because the European Union needs a powerful and respected figure as president to drive forward the agreed consensus policies of the sovereign member states. That is what it is in essence, and that is what it will remain in the future—in this highly non-federal, unfederalistic European Union.

The European Union is a modern creation which is not easy to describe in the context of the history of political and state structures. It is a unique body, sui generis in every way; a Union of sovereign member states. The member states will inevitably allocate to individuals, and to the central institutions which were freely and happily adopted by them, a considerable amount of discretion and intrinsic power, of whatever nature, in the actualité of how the role unfolds in the future. Logically, we do not know what that will be because it is a new post and many details will have to be discussed when and if the treaty is ratified by all the member states, which could take up until the end of this year.

There is currently a President of the European Council but that position has been weakened in the increasingly enlarged community. All the people involved in it have repeatedly said in recent years that the troika system has not been able to function effectively and that the six-month period for an individual chairman of the Council of Ministers and the European Council has not produced sufficient results. It is a complex exercise and this new creation is necessary.

Amendment No. 9 is negative because it seeks to remove the role of the President of the European Council in external representation of the European Union. The President of the European Council now has the role of representing the EU externally. A good example is that Slovenia will lead the EU-Japan summit later this month.

For all those reasons we hope the amendment will not make progress tonight and that other members of the Committee will endorse that view.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I am a bit puzzled by the debate so far, because it is not at all clear what it is about. I would have got the impression from the noble

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Lord, Lord Howell, that the amendment would remove the presidency of the European Council altogether, but when I look at the Marshalled List I see that it does not have that effect at all; it merely removes the external function of the President of the European Council. But many of the speeches, including that by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, implied that they wanted nothing to do with the President of the European Council at all.

It is also being suggested that the President of the Commission might at the same time become President of the European Council despite the fact that the treaty says:

That seems to me to debar totally the President of the Commission becoming at the same time President of the European Council. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, seems to think that the rotating presidency has been abolished. But it has not been abolished. It has been abolished only in the external representation of the European Union, not in the running of all the Council formations that deal with domestic policy. So he will still be there.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, said that he did not want a cult of celebrity. I pinched myself then when I thought that, in two months’ time, the possibly last holder of the rotating presidency, Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy, is going to become the President of the European Union. If you do not get that point, I shall not go any further. But I think that celebrity is a word that might spring to mind in that context.

I hope this amendment will not be pursued. I think that giving an external job to the President of the European Council makes sense. If we did not have that, we would have the President of the Commission alone doing it. I cannot believe that that is what those proposing the amendment want. They presumably want the Council and the member states to be in the forefront of all the summit meetings with Russia, China, the United States and so forth. But if they remove the President of the European Union, then they will leave only the high representative, who will be one level down from the President of the Commission in that respect, who will be his president.

I do not think that the amendment is very well thought through. Although I would agree that the deconfliction of the jobs of President of the European Council and the high representative will be an important part of the implementation of the treaty once it has been agreed and ratified, I think that, on the whole, the outcome will be a positive one, particularly because, if you think about it, the rotating presidency in the external field no longer makes much sense. There are 27 member states, probably 28 or 29 fairly soon. That means that you get the presidency once every 14 years, with no continuity and with countries such as Malta or Cyprus holding the post. The mind boggles a little bit about all that. There is no external representation anywhere around the world. I do not think that it makes any sense. This change is a timely one. I therefore hope that we will not insist on pursuing the amendment.

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Viscount Trenchard: I support my noble friend Lord Howell in his amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has just tried to clarify the role of the President of the European Council, as envisaged, and that of the apparently not-so-high representative for foreign affairs, who is also envisaged. I wonder how the overlap between their roles would be dealt with. As my noble friend Lord Howell said, we have heard much too little about how that will work out in practice.

However, I also thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was most helpful in explaining that the permanent President of the European Council is indeed not intended to make the Union more efficient but to make it more effective. That is exactly what I feared. It seems to me that the corollary of the fact that the President of the European Council will be made more effective is that the Heads of Government of the 27 member states will be made less effective. That does not matter for the Heads of Government of the countries that punch below their weight on the world stage, but it does matter for those that punch above their weight on the world stage. Having spent 14 or 15 years working in Japan, I have seen that, in Japanese eyes, the United Kingdom has continually punched above its weight on the world stage. I suspect that the same is true in Korea, China and other countries that I have visited.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, says that we cannot go on with a rotating presidency involving 27 members. I do not see why we cannot. Indeed, it is important to ensure that we do not have a permanent president because that would make the EU into a country, which means that the United Kingdom would be less effective because it would become less of a country; it would be less clearly seen as such.

9 pm

Lord Sewel: Hang on. The argument is that having a permanent presidency makes the EU into a country. I am a member of a number of associations and organisations that have permanent presidencies and they are not countries. My local cricket club has a permanent secretary, and that is not a country.

Viscount Trenchard: The association the noble Lord referred to does not send ambassadors with credentials to be received by Heads of State of other countries. That is the difference.

We have not heard clearly, for example, who ranks first: the Head of State of any particular country in the Union or the new President of the European Council—who will always be referred to colloquially as “the President of Europe”, of that there is no doubt. We have to be very worried that by enabling the treaty to be ratified and to create the post of permanent President of the European Union, we will reduce the ability of our own Head of Government to act on the world stage with the effectiveness that he undoubtedly has. We as a country are seen throughout the world as having on the whole done more good than harm; a country that punches above its weight in diplomacy, defence, business and many other areas. If we reduce ourselves to the status of a member state of

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what is, whether we like it or not, bound to emerge into a federated state, we will reduce our ability to exert our influence in the world in the way that we have done through the ages.

Baroness Quin: I listened carefully to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in introducing his amendment and I shall make one or two comments on it. I agree with those noble Lords who have said that in many ways the provision in the Bill is useful because it provides some continuity, which is needed at European Council level. It also helps to reduce the pressure, not only on small countries but on those countries in particular, from the burden that is otherwise imposed by the current presidential system.

The provision has another benefit. In terms of ministerial representation on the European Council, it will mean that the Council will be chaired by the new president rather than by a head of government of one of the participating countries, which has always been a rather strange factor in negotiation because the president of the presiding country has somehow had to be above the political discussions while often coming from a country with strong political views on the subject being considered. The political representation of that country has therefore had to be delegated to a more junior level. Having been a junior Minister, I am not sure that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the new arrangements provide parity between all the participating countries in the European Council in a way that will be helpful in the future.

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