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The noble Lord who has just sat down talked of his concerns about the role of the president, but it seems to me that it is clearly laid down that the president is appointed by, and accountable to, the European Council. Therefore, the president would be speaking on issues, or representing the Council, in those areas where there was an agreed position. I do not see that as a threat to the many areas in which Britain operates independently. It does not represent a threat in all those areas of foreign policy where sometimes, rather sadly, it has not been possible to have an agreed common position. For those reasons, too, we should welcome what is being proposed on practical grounds, rather than be alarmed about it on the grounds mentioned a few minutes ago.
Finally, I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in speaking to his amendment, praised Switzerland greatly. Switzerland was, I think, the last democracy to introduce votes for women, as late as 1971, and for that reason I could not go along with all his comments. I have to say, too, that the European Union has been very much a champion of womens equality and womens rights in all the directives that it has put forward since it came into being. For that reason as well, even though I like Switzerland, I have doubts about the examples that he used. I hope that the amendment will not succeed and I welcome the provision in the Bill.
I intervene briefly to say how much I support my noble friends amendment. I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, very revealing, because he is looking at this from the perspective of creating an entity. My noble friend Lord Trenchard said that to create a presidency was to view Europe as a country and not as a set of nation states. I think that what my noble friend Lord Howell said about celebrity was not a flippant point. If we create a president who represents the Community externally, especially if it turns out to be President Blair, he would use that office and all his talents to become a figure on the world stage. What I find difficult about the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is that, on the one hand, we have to give up many of our vetoes, because apparently it is impossible to get agreement when you have such a large number of member states forming the Community, but, on the other hand, apparently it is okay to have a president representing the views of the Community externally that somehow are going to be agreed magically without having that requirement.
I think of the crises that have beset us of late. I personally opposed the invasion of Iraq, but I wonder, if we had a world figure, a president of Europe, representing our views, quite how he would have managed the chaos that we saw in Europe at the time of the invasion of Iraq. We can think back to the Falklands and many other examples of where it has not been possible for Europe to form a view. The serious point that I want to make is that this is yet another example of the elite in Europe trying to force the pace of political integration too quickly. If it does that, it will damage the Union.
Lord Roper: The noble Lord suggested some time ago that the president would represent the views of Europe externally and that these would be arrived at by QMV. However, he must be aware that external policythe CFSP, or common foreign and security policyis still an intergovernmental matter and therefore has to be decided by unanimity.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am sorry if I put it badly and misled the noble Lord, but that is the very point that I was making: if we need a presidency in order to represent views that are unanimous in Europe, how is that consistent with the argument for giving up 60 of our vetoes on the ground that Europe has now become so large that it would not be possible to get unanimity on important issues? There is a contradiction here. On the one hand, we have the idea that we have all to surrender our vetoes to get agreement with so many member states; on the other, we must have this new figure to represent Europes view, which will apparently be easily achieved by unanimity.
I used the examples of the Falklands and the invasion of Iraq to show that it is extremely difficult to get agreement. If you create an international figure whose role it is to explain that he has nothing to say because there is no agreement, that will damage Europes standing in the world. Where there is dissent within the Community, member states will see the institution failing to represent their views and that will be damaging to the Community, whereas the current system has the advantage that no one is able
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We should listen to the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, is not in his place, but I will long cherish his statement that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead. The idea was that, by creating a First Minister and a body, nationalism would stay in its place. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House is giving me a look that says, Arent you getting a bit wide here?. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, spoke about creating an institution or a position. I give as an example not just the present Scottish First Minister, who is a nationalist, but his Labour predecessor, who decided to have his own foreign policy. We had an aid programme to Malawi; I think that he has now become the high commissioner to Malawi. The Parliament takes more and more powers. The role of First Minister has been developed way beyond even the functions of the Secretary of State in the old days. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is quite right: once you create a post of this kind, it will develop its own momentum and create tensions and divisions within the Community. Those who support the European Union, who are perhaps more ambitious than I would be for its role, would do well to recognise that they are sowing the seeds of the destruction of the institution that they wish to support.
The criticism made by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, of my noble friends amendments and what is done in another place would carry more weight if he and his party had put down any amendments whatever in this debate, particularly on what his leader said this week on the Today programme that he longed to have debated. Why has it not been put down? I think that we know the answer to that.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: In introducing this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, indicated that he regarded it as very important. He expressed the hope that it would be a long debate. I have not quite shared that hope and I am conscious that I am intervening rather close to the end of the debate, but I would not like the balance to be struck as it has been up to now.
A number of speakers have indicated that opposition to this proposal rests on the hope that the Council will not work. That was explicitly stated by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart; it has just been stated by implication by the noble Lord who has resumed his seat. I can understand these sorts of amendments being tabled and discussed by those who want to destroy the effectiveness of the Union. The candour of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is welcome in revealing what this is all about. It is an attempt to wreck the Union, dressed up with constitutional niceties and doubts about how the office might develop.
The actuality is that the Union has not, throughout its history, punched according to its weight. To the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, I say that that is what we ought to be seeking to do. If the Union has a view, which is arrived at by unanimity in the Council, is it not desirable that that view be represented effectively overseas? Is it not appropriate to have somebody who
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Some of the odder things that I have encountered in the Select CommitteeI have to say that it has been a very interesting experience; it has been a great privilege to serve on ithave been the reports that have come from the country that has been occupying the presidency for six months, in which we have had reports on presidential priorities often with an attempt to indicate some particularity of view by the six-month incumbent. This is about seeking to ensure that the presidency represents the views of the Union, arrived at by unanimous agreement and not by a sort of ducking and weaving around particular interests of a transient president who feels that his or her country has to be given its place in the sun while this is going on.
We have to recognise that, if we belong to this organisation and it is to be more than a charade on the international stage, we need the kind of continuity that this office will help to provide. We need the kind of continuing heavyweight work from a chairman who can pull together the priorities on an ongoing basis, following the lead of the Council.
I do not find it easy to accept the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that the larger the grouping of nations, the more important it is not to have a leader. That is like saying that a company that is global in its operations should not have a chairman. The initiative, which was taken by the British Government in this respect, in the Convention on the Future of Europe, of which I had the honour to be a member, along with the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, was very properly directed towards removing one of the weaknesses of the constitutional arrangements that still exist. I am glad that the British Government were successful in persuading others of the importance of the measure that was taken. I very much hope that this amendment will now disappear and not trouble your Lordships House any more.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: Like the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I agree with the amendment. Why do we need this long-serving, long-time president? That was answered in a sense by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who made a Jesuitical point about efficiency and effectiveness. Well, it depends how you define those two words, but it seems to me, and to others in our position, that the European Union has been perfectly effective or efficient enough already, both on the national and international stage, with a rotating presidency.
I do find it rather odd, again picking up on something that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, saidI hope I have not misunderstood himthat it would relieve the burdens on smaller countries, such as Cyprus and Malta, not to have a presidency or to be a long way down the line to have a presidency. That seems to me extraordinary. All the federalists make great play about equality of nations and what a wonderful brotherhood this is, yet it seems to me that there is a first and a second divisionthose who will have the presidency and those who will not have it.
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I move on to another point that has not been raised in this debate. I sincerely hope that we do not have a long-term president of the EU with all the trappings. I do not give any particular credence to this, but I have heard that the president will be salaried, have a house and staff, have a helicopter or two and several limos. We do not know about that; that is by the by; but the position is being built up. But if the EU is going to be a figure in the worldand it is obviously the design that it should have a position on the world stagecan I ask the Minister or her proxy what the position would be of Her Majesty the Queen, relative to the president of the European Union? We are a member state and Her Majesty the Queen is under the Maastricht treaty a citizen of the European Union. I wonder how or if her constitutional role would change, under these arrangements. Who would receive ambassadorial credentials? Who would represent Great Britain at international conferences, or at any international event in which the European Union might have a role and the United Kingdom might be separately represented? Would it affect her role as head of the Commonwealth, for instance?
I ask those questions simply for information. It is important that we get some answers during these debates, whether now or at a later stage. The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, said that she was rather dubious about Switzerlands credentials as a democracy because it had denied votes to women for such a long time. Wellthat is Swiss democracy. There was a referendum in the local canton of Appenzell, where they voted against having the representation of women. It may be reprehensible, but that is what happened; that is what they wanted. They changed their minds and now women are fully represented, of course. The Swiss have a terrific representative democracy. They have referendums on almost everything. There is almost perhaps too much representative democracy there, as the Swiss sometimes say. But, of course, that is a happy position to be in, when you have too much democracy. In the EU we have much too little.
Lord Tomlinson: I was going to say that it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, but, having heard that intervention about how the amendment would impact on Her Majesty the Queen, I think that he is either demonstrating that he has not read the amendment that he purports to support or that he is completely out of touch with its effect.
Unusually in this debate, I join in agreement with a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. When referring to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, he said that it was revealing. Indeed it was. It is the first speech that totally revealed what this part of the treaty is about. It was revealing and helpful and stands in contradiction to many of the other speeches made in the debate so far.
I wanted to address one or two comments to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. He asserted with absolute confidence that the smaller states do not want this measure. I wonder, therefore, how on earth it ever got into the treaty. Were they deceived or were they all so stupid that they did not understand what they were doing, or did they actually support the proposition? Those are rhetorical questions, so I hope that noble Lords will not feel that they have to answer them. I am amazed by the noble Lords remarks. He went on to make a remark that immediately reminded me of my noble friend Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld, who has not been able to be with us for just over a year due to ill health. However, I am sure that if he were here and had heard the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, describe this measure as a pig in a poke, he would have stood up with the same alacrity that he displayed when, as a committee chairman, he replied to Mr Dennis Canavan in the other place when the latter accused him of trying to sell the committee a pig in a poke. My noble friend Lord Hogg pointed out to him that while there was a Hogg in the chair there would be no references to pigs in pokes or anywhere else. As soon as I hear the phrase pig in a poke I remember my noble friend Lord Hogg, as I do today.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, also made an important point. He said with great confidence to my noble friend Lord Sewel, who made an intervention, that, unlike the president of the Council, the president of a cricket club does not send ambassadors here, there and everywhere. However, the president of the Council will not be doing that either. The full-time, or longer term, president of the Council will have nothing to do with the external action service either in terms of its employment or deployment. Its deployment will be the responsibility of the Commission, particularly as regards the high representative. It will certainly not be a personal service at the disposal of whoever happens to be the president of the Council.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I support this amendment by underlining some of the questions put by my noble friends Lord Stoddart and Lord Willoughby de Broke. We are once again dealing with a well-worn area of Europhile propaganda, which runs that the European Union would grind to a halt if it does not have the constitution. The French and the Dutch knocked that one on the head and we had a one year and then a two year period of reflection. We are now told that the European Union will grind to a haltsome of us wish that it wouldif it does not get this new treaty with a permanent president strutting the world stage for two
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I have one question for the Minister, which I think undermines the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, and others. Since the rejection of the constitution by the French and Dutch people, does she accept that the pace and speed of European law-making has gone up by 25 per cent? The requirement for unanimity was no barrier to this increased speed of law-making, which occurred because laws were easily validated, as is generally accepted.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Once again, I ask what the noble Lords sources are. I recognise some aspects of Professor Helen Wallaces paper for the European Commission and perhaps some of his sources are what she actually said. It is a paper that I am familiar with. She said that the speed of decision-making has, indeed, increased somewhat in the past few years, but that the number of Acts passed has not increased. With the preclusion of a large amount of legislation, speed has increased but the mass of legislation has not.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: This evening, I am ready for the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. When he put a question to me earlier about the thousands of British troops that will be committed to the new European army, I was a bit flummoxed, because I had read the original in French. The Leader of the House tried to help me by sourcing my quote to Open Europe. When we come to the defence issue, I have the sources of that information, which are the Figaro and a very senior figure in the French Administration.
Regarding the question that the noble Lord has now put to me, the origin of my suggestion and my question is the Sciences Po institute in France, with which I hope the noble Lord is familiar. That is where the quotation comes from and it has been validated in Germany and in at least one Scandinavian country. I believe it to be factual. The absence of the constitution and, I maintain, the absence of this treaty, and certainly the absence of the European president, to which the amendment refers, will have little effect on the speed and quantity of European legislation. I suggest that we accept the amendment and see this project for what it really is.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Again, this has been an interesting debate. I only raise with noble Lords the time, because for noble Lords who I know have been clear that they want to complete the Committee in good time and in good order, I suggest that at the next Committee day we think about the length of our contributions, regardless of the intensity of debate, which I accept has been very important. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Quin, because it is very important that we girls get in on this debate. It is a boy-dominated discussion.
I cannot answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, about 25 per cent; I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, but I have no doubt that he will provide me with his sources and I shall be able to give him a full and factual answer. I have received a letter from Open Europe about the issue of its briefing, mentioned last time, in which it pointed out that there was an article in a newspaper. I have to say that I was looking for more authoritative sources. I will look at who wrote the article; I, too, can read it in the original French and we shall see where these debates take us.
Let me respond to the amendment by being clear on where we began our discussions on the purpose of the treaty. It related to the question of how we managed a European Union of 27 nation states, with a possibility of that number growing by one, two or possibly more, and made ourselves as effective as we possibly could, not only between ourselves as nation states, but on the world stage. I acceptand noble Lords have not made much of this, but it was an important element of the debate in another placethat the three presidencies working together, including the presidencies to come, have been important elements in making sure that there has been synergy, collaboration and continuity between those who have had the privilege of serving on the Council of Ministers in relation to all the aspects of European work and those who have chaired them together and thought through the continuity of what we do.
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