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The Minister replied:

This is, then, a body set up to deal with EU crisis management operations, and I submit that we must think: what are those likely to be? Friends of mine—in the UK Independence Party and others, in Brussels—tried to find out. They went to Vicenza, where I have to tell your Lordships that they were not all that well received.

Noble Lords: Ha!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Perhaps that was not surprising, so, on 4 February this year I tabled another Question, because a rumour was going around that this wonderful new European military police force was going to be deployed in 2012 in this country, at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Noble Lords: Ha!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Well, one point about the European Union is that whenever we hear of a plan that it appears to be hatching, one always thinks, “That’s so absurd: it couldn’t possibly happen. It wouldn’t dare do that, would it?”. We thought that about corpus juris, social policy and many things, yet history has shown that it always dares to do it.

If I may continue, then, without ridicule from the Liberal Democrat Benches, I will reveal to the Committee that on 4 February I asked Her Majesty’s Government:

I received an Answer from the Government, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, which read:

In government-speak that, as we all know, means, “We think that it may happen”. His reply continued:

but which community? Then:

It must be said that the EGF, if I may refer to it as such to spare the Committee my deplorable French, was not validated until 8 October 2007 under the treaty of Velsen—the same day that the Lisbon treaty

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was signed, as it turned out. In that treaty, the EGF is allowed to recruit from candidate countries, and I understand that Turkey is particularly interested in joining in.

Can this thing be used here, and are the Government thinking of allowing the EGF in? Of course, it is quite a clever arrangement; I have given the Committee the countries that make it up, and in that sense it resembles the Farnborough agreement to which I referred on defence matters. It is just a few countries, but it can easily be turned into an EU initiative.

10.30 pm

Lord Bach: In what possible way is this equivalent to what the noble Lord knows as the Farnborough agreement, which I know as the LOI agreement? These are quite different countries. How can he say it is in any way a parallel?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord is being unusually obtuse. The Farnborough agreement is made up of five or six EU nations that have clubbed together to pool their defence procurement, but can be turned into an EU initiative. In fact, it now concerns most of EU procurement, as the noble Lord himself said the other evening. This initiative is also an agreement between a few EU countries but, as I shall show, it can be turned into an EU initiative at the flick of a switch. My submission is that it will be. Indeed, the EGF is training—

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Having regard to the number of Turkish drug smugglers who are convicted in this country, would it not be a good idea to have some Turkish bobbies on the beat?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I would not mind if decent Turkish citizens became British bobbies on the beat here. I would be somewhat more worried if Turkish citizens of perhaps a less salubrious kind were to be employed by the organisation I am describing, about which I wish to ask the Government some questions.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The hour is late, and I hesitate to suggest that the noble Lord is wasting police time, but that is what he is doing. This body is designed, as he read out, for crisis management outside the European Union. If he had any familiarity with the mounting of peacekeeping operations and conflict prevention, he would know that there is an increasing requirement in such operations for gendarmerie-type police. They exist in some member states, but do not exist in this country and a number of others. Therefore the countries that have them are prepared to get together, pool them and put them at the disposal of the United Nations or the European Union for peacekeeping operations, where they are extremely valuable and important. They are not for deployment within the European Union to other member states. We can go on with these fantasies, I suppose, all night if necessary, but it might be better to consign them to our pillows where such fantasies can become nightmares. Really and truly, this is not a serious subject.

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord is very generous, but can he tell me where in the arrangements of the EGF it is not allowed to operate within the EU? I give the Government’s Answer again—that it will be,

Lord Roper: Can the noble Lord tell me where in any EU document the words “crisis management” are ever used for activities within the EU? If we look at the Petersberg tasks and the development of the ESDP, the words “crisis management” are always used in external activities rather than internal ones.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Noble and Europhile Lords must tell me why these operations could not be internal to the European Union. There is nothing—

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: That is a “when did you stop beating your wife?” argument. Can we please not have that sort of argument? The noble Lord, Lord Roper, has explained, and I have tried to explain, politely, the purpose of this instrument. It is a perfectly legitimate: it is for dealing with the activities that the European Union undertakes in the form of conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations outside the European Union. There are no provisions in any of the treaties for conducting such operations within the European Union. It is considered unthinkable that they should ever arise. You cannot turn negatives into positives in a vacuum. It really would be wiser if the noble Lord would, at this very late hour, ask the Minister to reply briefly and then withdraw his amendment because we are wasting time.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I have no intention of doing that because Europhile noble Lords, as usual, are saying that this EU initiative could not turn into what one fears it could. I do not accept that and I quote one obvious instance. The control of civil contingencies in the European Union passed to Brussels last December under Article 308 of the present treaty of Nice. When I withdrew my amendment earlier today, I hope I indicated—perhaps I did not—that I would return to it on this amendment. Whether Europhile noble Lords like it or not, the control of civil contingencies, which is clearly in the European Union—

A noble Lord: It means crisis management.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Not at all, absolutely not. If the noble Lord cares to read the House of Commons report on the use of Article 308, he will find that it applies to foreign crisis management, but is also applicable in this country and the European Union. This clause, Article 308, which was in the 1957 Act, and which allowed the Common Market, as it then was, to make minor adjustments to tariffs and so on, said that it could only be used in the course of the operation of the Common Market. This clause, with the support of the Luxembourg court, was used, among many other initiatives, to pass the control of civil contingencies to Brussels. Those civil contingencies clearly include civil contingencies in this country. There is no exception to them.

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Lord Roper: I have heard very clearly what the noble Lord has said. Civil contingencies are one thing. In any of that legislation, do the words “crisis management” appear? My feeling is that they do not. “Crisis management” appears in the original Petersberg tasks, which were in the Maastricht treaty, only in the context of the use of forces in crisis management, and in subsequent CFSP matters. The noble Lord will have to strain very hard to find the words “crisis management” ever used for activities within the European Union.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord does not have to strain very hard because, if Europhile noble Lords will permit, I am about to ask Her Majesty’s Government what, if any, is the connection between crisis management and civil contingencies. I ask the Government: what is going on with this EU gendarmerie force? Can the Minister assure us that it will never be used to put down civil contingencies or for crisis management—or however the Petersberg tasks wish to describe it—in this country? Can the Minister give an unequivocal guarantee that the EU gendarmerie force will not be deployed in this country without parliamentary consent? Can he assure us that it will not be used, as is widely feared in Brussels and elsewhere, for instance, in the 2012 Olympic Games?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It is simply not feared widely in Brussels. I have read a great many documents on the EU gendarmerie force. Much of this is in the public domain. It started with civilian police operations in the western Balkans, to which the British made some contributions, usually from the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This has been used. There have been some operations in which civil police have operated in other European countries. British police, the noble Lord has no doubt not appreciated, walked in uniform on German soil during the last World Cup. It may well be that, during the British Olympics, police from other countries do the same here as a useful means of dealing with international crowds. That is entirely different from the delicate conspiracy theory of foreign takeover of Britain that the noble Lord is attempting to build.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I would have preferred to get that answer from Her Majesty’s Government. I beg to move.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I support my noble friend Lord Pearson. I do not think that the strictures from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, are correct. This is an EU force, which, as my noble friend said, is training in Vicenza. It is not a civil, nice, friendly bobby police force, but riot police. I know that I am not allowed to produce photographs or anything else as hard evidence in your Lordships' House, but I can describe a photograph of helmeted, shielded, gas-masked, armed police training in Vicenza, with EU flashes on their shoulders. They are obviously acting in an EU capacity. Why, therefore, should they not at some point be deployed within the European Union?

On the Olympic Games, recently, in London, we had unfortunate demonstrations when some Chinese

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goons in rather unfortunate track suits were guarding the flame. Under what authority were they deployed? No one seems to have answered that question. I think that they even manhandled the noble Lord, Lord Coe, who is in charge of our Olympics. If the Government are happy to have Chinese goons guarding the Olympic flame this year, will they have the EGF in any role in the future, whether at the Olympic Games or in any other capacity? Whether it might be for friendly matters at football matches, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said, I do not know, but these are not friendly bobbies with whistles around their necks. They are an armed and gas-masked European Gendarmerie Force.

A noble Lord: And jack-booted.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: The noble Lord is right and after this debate I will give him a photograph of the EGF, if he would like that, and he will see that it is booted. I support my noble friend’s amendment and I look forward to hearing from the Government Front Bench.

Lord Bach: Amendment No. 128 would insert a new clause requiring UK parliamentary approval prior to the deployment of the European Gendarmerie Force in the United Kingdom. I was asked to distinguish between civil contingencies and crisis management by way of examples. Civil contingencies might be flooding or some natural disaster. Crisis management could involve the collapse of a state, such as Kosovo some years ago. The difference could hardly be greater.

The latest recruit to the noble Lord’s party, the honourable Mr Spink, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs a Question on whether he,

My honourable friend said:

I was asked whether Article 352 would be used to establish a European Gendarmerie Force. Perhaps I may interrupt myself to say that Members of the Committee talked about an EU gendarmerie force, which it is not. It is the European Gendarmerie Force and has nothing to do with the European Union.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Then why is it bedecked in the European flag?

Lord Bach: I have no idea, but it is nothing to do with the European Union.

The question posed was whether Article 352 could be used to establish the European Gendarmerie Force and could the force operate in the United Kingdom.

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Article 308, to which the noble Lord referred, allows the Union to take action in pursuit of a Union objective where there is no specific legal base but any action would have to be agreed by unanimity—that is, we would have a veto. But that position would not arise because the European Gendarmerie Force is nothing to do with the European Union. There is no suggestion that it should be brought within the framework of the European Union using Article 352 or otherwise. In any event, it can operate only with the consent of the state concerned. So if the fear is that the EGF could operate in the UK, it could only do so if we asked it to.

The United Kingdom does not participate in the European Gendarmerie Force. It is an initiative of France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Its purpose is to assist the international community in dealing with states in crisis situations. The EGF can only be deployed in agreement with the state in question. In short, the EGF has nothing to do with the EU, nothing to do with the Lisbon treaty and nothing to do with this Bill.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Is there, therefore, any reason why the noble Lord cannot accept the amendment? If he cannot accept the amendment, is he giving an unequivocal guarantee—it is reasonable to ask this question before I decide what to do with the amendment—on behalf of the Government that this force will not be used in this country without the consent of Parliament?

Lord Bach: The issue does not arise.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Then why does not the Minister just say no?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Why does he not just say yes?

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Lord Bach: I think it is time for the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment so that we can either go home or move on.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I do not know whether we are going home. I am ready to move on to “Xenophobia”, which is even more interesting. But were we not to move on to “Xenophobia”, I think Hansard will bear me out that the Government have said that my fears about the EU Gendarmerie Force are completely unfounded. I very much hope that they have not given a hostage to fortune. With that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I would like to go on to “Xenophobia” but as tomorrow is Thursday the House needs to rise by 11 pm. I regret that it will not be possible to move on this evening unless the noble Lord can give an assurance that he will speak briefly, that my noble friend will be able to respond and that we will finish by 11 pm.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I would like to give that assurance but, as I have discovered in these proceedings, if one puts the smallest match to the dry hillside of Europhiliac fury, I cannot guarantee that even if I move the amendment very briefly—it will take me about four minutes—we will not be here until 1 o’clock before we finish with “Xenophobia”. In those circumstances it may well be time to draw stumps.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In that case, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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