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Those are very interesting but they are stratospherically vague ambitions. Of course the UN needs reform; there are Members of your Lordships' House who know that very well. When I heard a UN official say the other day that Robert Mugabe was in good standing at the United Nations I began to worry that something really needs attention there. As for the European Union, its foreign policy is useful to us. But it is not the only network. That is where we draw a linewith those who say that it is the only game in town and the only destiny. We have to ask: what about the Commonwealth network? What about India? What about our links with Japan? What about the new centres of power? How will we develop our foreign policy with those?
We need much more than EU partners and a common foreign and security policy to fulfil and promote our contribution and our interests worldwide. We need maximum flexibility in our EU alliances and coalitions. Frankly, the Lisbon treaty gives us neither. Our foreign policy defines us as a nation and Parliament deserves and requires a proper say in that part of our international role, which is to be shaped by the EU and its agencies. This amendment makes a very modest request. That is why I beg to move.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the noble Lord has said that he is not convinced that the provisions of the treaty, in respect of foreign policy, are watertight. I suspect that whatever those provisions were, he would come to that same conclusion. He has said that there are alternative clusters or instruments of power available to us other than the European Union, and of course this is correct. But it is clear that the weight which we as a country have as a partner nation of the European Union gives us far greater clout in areas where we would be relatively weak on our own. I hope that he would follow me, for example, in respect of Iran, where a purely UK voice would be pretty ineffective and where the Commonwealth, which appears to be one of his preferred alternatives, would have no voice at all; also in the Balkans, where, apart from the faults
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The amendment asks for an annual report to Parliament and I would join the noble Lord in saying that it is vital, if his aim is parliamentary accountability, that we seek in all ways to further that. Nobody can doubt that the Lisbon treaty increases parliamentary accountability. I had the privilege to follow the noble Lord in chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee in the other place. Part of the duties of the person who chaired that committee was to go every six months to the country which chaired the Union at that time and to discuss with those colleagues who chaired the sister committees in the Union. What struck me very forcefully was how jealous those other countries were of the powers which our Parliament enjoyed in respect of foreign policy. I saw that over a large number of issues. Whatever may have been the formal powers, we had far greater instruments of control in our Parliament, well beyond the ingenuity of individual Members, be it the particular Select Committees, both in this House and in the other place, or the means of questioning Ministers. Therefore, I wonder whether the report which the noble Lord is suggesting will serve any useful purpose; in short, whether it is otiose, given the large number of other means of control in the parliamentary sense which we now enjoy.
I am also struck by the fact that, when the common foreign and security policy was established in Maastricht, the noble Lord, who was then in Governmentor certainly his party was in Governmentdid not take the opportunity to insert a similar clause. It is crystal clear that the powers of the Union are largely unaffected. Certainly if the noble Lord and other colleagues look through the very useful report produced by the European Union Committee of this House, they will see that the conduct and nature of foreign policy remain intergovernmental. That was the position in Maastricht and it remains the position. Given the fact that there are so many other instruments of control, my own judgment is that this amendment is unnecessary. Had it been necessary, the noble Lord and his friends would certainly have inserted a similar provision at the time when the Maastricht treaty was passing through this House and Parliament generally.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I followed as far as I could the logic of the speech of the noble Lord in moving the amendment. I will have no difficulty in recommending that we on the Liberal Democrat Benches oppose the amendment. The noble Lord quoted the Times on the paucity of EU strategic thinking. I must say that, from what we heard in the introductory speech, the paucity of Conservative strategic thinking is also rather mind-boggling. Not even Senator McCain, in his proposals for an alliance of democracies, suggested China as a more appropriate partner for Britain and the United States than France and Germany. However, if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that is exactly what he was proposing.
The notion of the Commonwealth as a stronger institution for British foreign policy than the European Union requires, again, a good deal of careful examination. The noble Lord said that EU foreign policy has not always been successful. Actually, British foreign policy has not always been successful. American foreign policy under President Bush has not always been entirely successful. By what criterion are we judging success?
I say to our Conservative colleagues that one must be careful about ones position on the European Union and foreign policy. I was interested to see William Hagues letter yesterday to the leader of my party suggesting that we have some confusion, but the Conservatives are doing their best to straddle their dog-whistle movements towards the Europhobes and those within the Conservative Party who want to make the best of British membership of the European Union.
The noble Lord said in his opening statement that he is not entirely convinced of the need for a common energy policy. The Daily Mail this morning tells us that high gas prices in Britain are entirely the fault of the French and the Germans and nothing to do with anything else. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, does not entirely agree that the problems of British gas prices are the fault of wicked French and German energy companies. There may be a case for closer European energy co-operation. I recall William Hague saying that we needed a stronger European position in our relations with Russia. That seems to be a good case for closer European co-operation in foreign policy.
In the 27-member EUand, for that matter, the 26-member NATOone occasionally stubs ones toes, in terms of effective action, against one difficult member; Greece and Macedonia currently, and Cyprus is holding up the whole question of closer co-operation between the European Union and NATO. The European Union External Action Service has also been mentioned; we talked about it in Committee. Some of us pointed out that Britain currently has no resident representation in 50 member states of the United Nations and that there is a great deal to be said for shared representation in those 50 states.
We must be careful in listening to what William Hague is saying about Conservative policy. This is the man who said, on the Nice treaty, that we had 10 days to save the pound and that British democracy was under threat. I have received several letters in the past few days that said that the Lisbon treaty threatens the future of British democracy; indeed, that it would be the death of British democracy. I cite some of these lettersthey must have come from some Europhobic newsletter, they are so similarwhich say that it would be comparable to the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It is their policy, too, my Lords. The Government are a little closer to what I regard as an effective foreign policy than the Conservatives. I do not know what Conservative policy is on this. Let us talk about how we make the best of British interests shared with those of our European partners. That is what my party stands for. I am sorry that the Conservative Party has this intrinsic mistrust of our continental partners and a blind faith in following the United States; so blind that I noticed that noble Lords on the Conservative Front Bench made no effort to intervene on the fourth Oral Question today because they might perhaps have been seen to criticise American policy.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I am continually struck that those who tell us how important this treaty is hasten to say, as soon as the consequences of a provision are pointed out, that that provision will not change anything and is not important. It is difficult to understand whether they believe that the treaty provisions are significant. I happen to think that the treaty provisions on the development of an ever more integrated foreign policy are there because the intention is to develop an ever more integrated European foreign policy, and that we should take those provisions for what they are written as being. That may be a good thing or a bad thing but we should not ignore them. Therefore, I very much support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Howell that proposes the reporting arrangements.
However, I wish to ask a question that I do not think was dealt with adequately in Committee; namely, what happens if the UK signs up to a common foreign policy in the European Union and decides at a later stage that it has a different view of foreign policy because there is a change of Government or a change of heart or perhaps because of a debate in Parliament which results in a different view being adopted? I do not understand what provision there is in the treaty to allow the UK to change its mind once it has agreed to a common EU foreign policy and subsequently to get that policy changed. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain what allows us to get a change enacted in the European Union once the Government have signed up to a foreign policy because that is a very significant consequence of this measure and another reason why it is important to have reports made to Parliament.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I have a different concern. The existing EU delegations are already very generously staffed. How long will it be before the Treasury decides that we cannot afford, and do not need, our own missions? Then what will Mr Smith, who goes to prison or has lost his passport, do? Political crises blow up extremely fast and without our own missions we shall be unprepared for them. They usually happen in small, dangerous, out-of-the-way countries. Article 16 requires:
The other thing that concerns me is intelligence and security relationships. They are vital to our interests. Will those EU missions which, for all sorts of reasons, we may see taking over more and more, hold not only British passports but our intelligence and security reports and records? What will that do to our essential special relationship with the Americans and, indeed, bilaterally with a number of other intelligence agencies with which we need to work on a bilateral basis and where they can trust the fact that what they tell us will be protected? We have to consider the dangers of getting rid of our own missions so that we no longer have young diplomats making relationships which become extremely valuable, and we shall also lose the confidence of the relevant countries. If they consider that we do not think it is worth having our independent representation, that will not improve our chances in trade, diplomacy, defence and culture. Incidentally, our own value to the EU will thereby be diminished.
I want to see very careful safeguards to ensure that there is no question of closing any more British missions in favour of the splendid new organisation which, incidentally, will cost us a lot of money and which already has plans for common defence relationships to be paid for from that new fund. I am concerned on the intelligence side and I cannot see the practicality of expecting an EU mission, which may be made up of any group of countries, holding, for instance, our passports, our visas and, basically, our intelligence.
I believe that the amendment is both necessary and timely. It is a very modest amendment. All it seeks to do is to ensure that this Parliament is given a report once a year about what is happening on the European stage in relation to foreign affairs and security. I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, would oppose such an amendment. It seems to me that everyone who cares about Parliament, its powers and its influence, should be in favour of the amendment.
The amendment is also timely. I looked at euobserver.com this morning and found that the European Parliament is discussing this very matter and how it should be involved. So why should we not discuss it in this Parliament before the Bill goes through? I quote from the report of that meeting:
The European Parliament is seeking to bolster its role in the blocs common foreign and security policy ... with senior MEPs saying it is time for Europe to become a player and not just a payer on the world stage.
Polish centre-right MEP and head of the foreign affairs committee, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, says that EU foreign policy is moving from one era to another with the new Lisbon Treaty, due to kick in next year.
The fact that Javier Solana, the EUs foreign policy chief, will for the first time be present at the MEPS annual debate on CFSP on Wednesday (4 June) is in itself a turning point, said the Pole at a briefing on Tuesday.
Euro-deputies will today debate a report that sets out principles for the EUs foreign policysuch as respect for human rightscalls for certain issues to be prioritised and says that the CFSP budget from now until 2013 is insufficient.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will he tell the House which provisions in the treaty of Lisbon grant powers to the European Parliament in common foreign and security policy? If the answer is none, perhaps he could cut short his reading of its minutes.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I will do nothing of the sort. For the first time, the European Parliament will have a role in foreign policy. That is why it is discussing what that role will be and how it will be reported to. I will not cut down my quotation from this interesting report. I thought that Members would be interested to hear about the report, bearing in mind that, as well as ourselves, the European Parliament is discussing its role in foreign policy on this very day. I am sorry if certain people are bored by what the European Parliament says; frankly I am always very interested, because it is always seeking to get greater powers.
It suggests that the foreign minister regularly appear before MEPs and that the parliament be fully consulted on who the foreign minister should be, as well as what the diplomatic service should look like.
If the European Parliament is demanding that it should be reported to, why on earth is it wrong that an amendment should be moved in this Parliament to ensure that the House of Commons and this House should have a report on events for the past year? After all, we are partly paying for the foreign policy. This is not only a good amendment but an essential amendment to ensure that this Parliament and not the European Parliamentor perhaps as well as the European Parliamentshould be fully informed of matters and developments in European foreign policy.
Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, I will intervene briefly to comment on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, about whether the provisions
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I shall comment on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The proposed European External Action Service is an important component of ensuring a more coherent common foreign and security policy, not in any way as a substitute for but as a complement to our own missions and Diplomatic Service. I do not know whether discussions have been taking place, in COREPER or elsewhere, on the European External Action Service. If they have been, I hope very much that the British Government and our representatives have been closely involved in them, to ensure that the European External Action Service is shaped in such a way as to complement and not to substitute for our own Diplomatic Service and that the expertise that we have is being brought fully to bear on the formation of the External Action Service at the earliest possible stage. For those reasons, I do not support the amendment.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I have listened most carefully to the debate and I simply cannot understand the objections that have been raised to the amendment. Why should not this Parliament have the opportunity to discuss what the high representative is up to, on the basis of a report from the Secretary of State? What harm could possibly be done by placing an obligation on the Secretary of State to make such a report? I simply do not understand any of the speeches that have been made objecting to the amendment, which seems to me very moderate. It certainly does not cut across the scheme of the Bill as a whole.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, it is a great delight to be at the beginning of Report stage. I shall follow fully the advice in the Companion, which suggests that I do not deploy arguments that I have deployed at great length in the Committee of the whole House. I shall try my best to deal with the points that noble Lords have rightly raised but not to go on at length by repeating what I hope I made clear in Committee was the Governments position.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that this is an important area. We dealt with it extremely well in the many amendments in Committee, although I accept that it is an important issue to be returned to at Report. I will deal first with what the amendment would do in relation to a report and then come on to the nub of many of the contributions: the External Action Service. That will serve your Lordships best. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, as did other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, in the last speech before I stood up, that the amendment is simple: could there be an annual report on the
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