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Prescribing rights will be held by fully registered nurses or midwives. At the moment only some of the registrants have full prescribing rights. This is not about a solution to an emergency but about enlarging that pool so that, were there an emergency, we would not have to deal with that issue at that point. That is probably quite a sensible precaution.

Will the Midwifery Committee be abolished? That is not part of this order. It would take another Order in Council to do that so the answer is no. It would take a separate process to do that.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I would like to be clear on one point. It is always very boring to throw Explanatory Memorandums at Ministers because they probably have not had a chance to open them, but I think the Minister said that the nurses and midwives would be given powers to prescribe in advance of an emergency. That is not what the Explanatory Memorandum says. Paragraph 7.2 refers to the need,

It will be quite cumbersome, because it could not be done in advance. You would have to see a pandemic coming and then register nurses and midwives. What the Minister says makes sense. Such people would not be fully qualified because they are not registered. They are registrants—people coming on to the register. She might like to clarify that.

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It may not be possible to answer this now, but I would be interested to know how the Appointments Commission will be advised about the professionals who are to be appointed. It will have to interview people because it will have to have a long list, a short list and other lists and it will have to interview people against criteria. Professionals will need to be involved and I wonder where they will come from.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am happy to write to the noble Baroness about that because I am not absolutely certain. I have seen how other appointments procedures take place, and they always draw on the expertise of the body concerned. I shall clarify that in a letter.

I am sorry if I was not clear about the annotations for people being able to order drugs and medicines in an emergency. The noble Baroness is completely correct. These measures are essentially reserved powers which have been legislated for to provide options in the event of emergencies. The provisions are drafted in such a way as to provide maximum flexibility. The NMC wishes to ensure that anyone whose register is annotated in this way can operate safely and effectively—so it refers to people who are on the register. It is currently developing a protocol for the use of those powers, which we will see in due course.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.29 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.50 to 8.29 pm.]

European Union (Amendment) Bill

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 2.

Lord Howell of Guildford moved Amendment No. 13:

“(i) any provision that amends the position of President of the European Council unless the Secretary of State has laid, and undertakes to lay annually thereafter, a statement before Parliament, explaining the powers, duties and role of the President of the European Council, and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with some loose ends, or even unanswered questions, that arose when we had an extensive debate in Committee on the broader questions of the proposed role of the new semi-permanent or, at least, longer-term President of the European Council. That debate became rather wider than some of us would have wished and turned into a general debate on different views about how Europe should progress. I seem to remember that it ended on a slightly sour note, so I hope that this debate can be shorter and sweeter.

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This amendment would provide for an annual reporting process on the powers, duties and role of the President of the EU Council. I gather that some of these things have not been decided and perhaps cannot be decided yet, but it would be helpful to me, and perhaps to some other noble Lords, if we could have a little more thoughts and updates from the Minister on where discussions on the powers, duties and role of the president have got to. In the previous debate, a noble Lord reminded us that creating new positions and ensconcing individuals in them always has consequences and raises new questions about their continuation, power and so on. We are still not totally clear about what role this president will play and how he or she will interrelate with the rotating president, who will continue to be a national head of state. How will these two activities dovetail? When will the final decisions be taken on that and on other logistical matters that were raised in the previous debate but could not be answered at the time?

The Minister of State helpfully wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, about what he called implementation issues. They involve matters that the Slovenian presidency is urging should be addressed while the process of ratification unfolds. They include a list of discussions on the Council presidency. I shall not detain noble Lords by reading them out because I think that the Minister will be familiar with them. With those few words, I ask that we now carry forward some of these issues and possibly tie up a few of the loose ends on this important role that is to be created should the Bill pass and the treaty be ratified. I beg to move.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, it would be interesting periodically to have a report on the development of all the institutions of the European Union, particularly where new roles are envisaged, but whether it should be a condition that it is necessary to fulfil before enactment of this legislation is something quite different.

Those who favour the view that the European Union should be primarily an intergovernmental organisation—that view has had a lot of support from the opposition Benches—should take considerable interest in seeing the role of the President of the Council developed, as the coherence and continuing effectiveness of the Council is part of the necessary condition of the European Union speaking with one voice in the councils of the world and a necessary condition simply of carrying forward the work of the Council from one session to the next. One of the great weaknesses has been the rotating presidency. The present Government—and the former Prime Minister, Mr Blair, in particular—have always recognised the desirability of this office continuing beyond the six-month pattern that has marked the arrangements to date.

It is, however, also clear that executive positions of this kind must be sufficiently flexibly defined to enable them to be occupied effectively by the incumbent and to play to that person’s strengths. This role should not be confined by detailed prescription from the Union members; rather, it should be allowed to develop in accordance with the aptitudes of the individual who occupies the role, bearing in mind the interplay with

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other Union leaders such as the high representative and the President of the Commission. In earlier debates on the Bill, concerns were expressed about the possibility of a single leader emerging to speak for the Union as a whole. That is no part of the provision of the treaty of Lisbon, which quite clearly strengthens the role of the President of the Council but also creates the much more influential double-hatted high representative, whose influence will therefore be considerably elevated in the conduct of foreign policy.

These things are all devised to enhance the effectiveness of the European Union, and whatever view one takes of the European Union—members of the Conservative Opposition have all protested their strong European credentials, which must indicate that they want the European Union to be effective and to speak with one voice when it participates in world organisations or seeks to advance the collective views of the whole—it is necessary to have leadership. Anything that underpins that in the treaty is welcome. I do not want the Government at this stage to go into great detail about how they anticipate that these roles might be discharged in the circumstances that lie ahead. The purpose of this constitution in broad terms is to provide room for manoeuvre. That is an important aspect of working constitutions.

We in this country have frequently taken satisfaction from the degree of flexibility in the powers of the Executive. Any attempt to define the precise role of the Prime Minister has to be linked to the period about which you are talking. The Prime Minister’s role has been exercised very differently even during the time of this Government: his role, relative to the committees of the Cabinet, has shifted depending on the Prime Minister. Similar arrangements and flexibility are highly desirable in this instance and I very much hope that the Leader of the House will not feel tempted to draw too tight a prescriptive role in this debate or, indeed, to crystal-ball-gaze on how it may all develop in the months ahead.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I would argue a little differently, yet in the same sense as the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, because to my mind this amendment is completely otiose. It states that the Secretary of State should,

but all you have to do is open the treaty of Lisbon and you will find those powers, duties and role described there. Now, they may not be thought to be described sufficiently or in enough detail, but they are described in the treaty. It is perfectly clear, from the way in which European Union treaties are constructed, that if you wish to change those provisions, you need a new treaty and have to have the whole process of ratification again.

This amendment is completely otiose unless a rather elaborate interpretation is put on to “amends the position”, words that seem very slippery to me and capable of almost any interpretation by whoever wants to think of one. I do not know what they mean. This is all completely unnecessary, because if the European Union wishes to change,

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it will have to amend the treaty of Lisbon.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I take a completely different point of view from that of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, who says that at this stage he is not concerned about the detail. I would like to hear the Government’s point of view on how this new post will develop. It is essential that we should know exactly what the Government think about it. We have had various declarations from the previous Prime Minister—but not, I think, from the present one—who thought that the post of president of Europe was important and that it should be taken by somebody who spoke for Europe on the world stage. I do not know whether that is actually printed in the treaty; nevertheless, the view of our then Prime Minister was that the job would, in fact, be very important.

At present, there is no question about how the role of President of the Council works. Because it rotates every six months, there are, I believe, checks and balances built in and everybody is given a turn. That means that power is not concentrated on one person for a significant period. What worries me about the proposed presidency—whether we need a president at all is, of course, a different argument—is that this is how individuals and organisations get a power creep. The longer they go on, the more they like the job and the more power they wish to exercise. That power can be exercised only at the expense of the nation states, which has always been a worry to me. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to tell me exactly how the Government see it—differently from me, probably, but I would like to hear it.

Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, that this is a good and positive treaty change in removing the rather outdated system of rolling presidencies and introducing a degree of continuity. It will ensure greater coherence in the overall management of the European Union in the years ahead, yet that role will, of course, evolve over time. It is difficult to say now exactly how it will be in two, three, four or five years’ time. It seems to me that that evolution is, indeed, a matter of importance to the functioning of the European Union and, therefore, of concern and interest to this House and to the other place.

However, it seems to me that the right way to track that evolution is through the regular reports that the Government and the Prime Minister will make after each meeting of the European Council, in which, as well as recording what has happened, I would hope that there would also be an analysis—six months by six months, or four months by four months—of how the institutional changes are evolving and how the role of the President of the European Council is evolving, too.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble Lord has just made a speech that encapsulates why some of us object to the future of the European president being left to evolution within the European

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Union without the possibility of Parliament in this country being able to stop each one of those stages as the powers of the president move forward. I would like to support the amendment, but obviously it does not go far enough. If we are just going to be given a statement once a year from the Secretary of State telling us what has happened—somewhat inaccurately, I suggest, and somewhat low profile to what is really going on—it will not be enough. I point out to your Lordships—and I ask the Minister to disagree, if she does—that this will be yet another important instance where the octopus in Brussels gets a tentacle around the remains of our diminishing sovereignty. I speak with lukewarm support for the amendment and attempt to warn your Lordships of the inevitable progress of the ratchet of the salami slicer towards the European megastate that many of us fear.

8.45 pm

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I am used to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, describing everyone and everything European as corrupt and not worthy of any sort of trust. However, when, in his brief intervention, he assumes that the Secretary of State, when he gives a report after a European Council meeting, would do it “somewhat inaccurately”—I think that I quote him correctly—he casts an aspersion on our parliamentary system, which, on sober reflection, if the noble Lord is capable of it, he might want to withdraw.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that, without evolution, he would not be here. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, says that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is a creationist. I do not believe that. Evolution is a very important concept, not least because without it none of us would be here. It enables us to think about how we evolve and how we can develop ideas in their infancy that can help the functioning of any kind of institution, not least the European Union, for the future.

I take slight issue with my noble friend about how the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has described those of us who support the European Union in a way that he does not. I know that the noble Lord has a very particular use of the word “Europhile”—I have joked with him about this—but I do not think that he has described us all as corrupt. I hope that my noble friend will forgive me again for, as he no doubt would describe it, being too kind to those with whom he disagrees fundamentally.

First, I should like to talk more about the detail of the purpose of the full-time President. Noble Lords will know that I described in Committee—I will not go into the detail—the importance and value that I attach to having someone who is able to be in position for a minimum of two and a half and, possibly, up to five years. I think that I previously have described the relationship, for example, of a key country, in the shape of Russia and President Putin. From 2000 to 2007, he had 16 meetings with the European Union

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with 16 heads of state. In Committee, I said that I was very concerned about continuity at the time of the development of those relationships. My argument would be that there is something quite fundamental about moving to a position where one is able to be in that position for longer.

Noble Lords will know that we move from the Slovenian presidency to the French presidency shortly, but President Sarkozy still will have to continue dealing with all the issues in France, as well as with the European Union presidency. I believe that we would get a better deal from having someone whose focus is on the European Union, particularly with 27 member states and with the issues that we described in Committee that are facing the European Union as well as those individual states. The principle of a President who can focus on the European Union is very important.

The specifics, which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, in particular, was concerned about, are contained within the consolidated treaties in Article 15. But let me put them on the record very briefly. First and foremost, the role of the President would be to chair and drive forward the work of the European Council. He or she would focus on those meetings, make sure that they are effective and responsive to member states, and take the agenda forward. He would ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council to take forward its agenda to make sure that its work is detailed, considered and is able to take decisions. He would endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council; that is, the work behind the scenes.

Noble Lords know how important it is, before the set-piece debates, to ensure that the contributions and discussions of member states enable the meeting to have the greatest value. I never underestimate that. It will be the President’s role to present a report to the European Parliament after each meeting of the European Council, and to be the spokesperson, going into the European Parliament to explain what has happened. This is an important role—which the presidency would fulfil in any event—for somebody who can take that on and is able to deal with the European Parliament appropriately. The President would ensure the external representation of the European Union in a way that is complementary to the work of the high representative, but none the less recognises the important role of the President in common foreign and security policy issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, spoke extremely articulately about the issue of flexibility; I agree with him completely. Designing a job, and a job description for any role, is, in part, about the person who will fulfil that role. Therefore, we are trying to make sure, in an evolutionary way, that we recognise that the person who fulfils this job will bring to it talent, expertise, knowledge and experience. This will ensure that they do the job efficiently, but will, in a sense, also determine the focus that they may have, working closely with the High Representative, who will bring different skills to that role. Therefore, we would be wrong to try to detail exactly what the role should be in a way that prevents somebody coming into that role making it their own. I give way.

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. Does she envisage the role of this new President of the European Union—because that is, I think we can all agree, what he will become known as—having the power to sign treaties, and does she see him receiving ambassadors? Has the noble Baroness got as far as that?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not believe the President will be signing treaties. I make a distinction with the President of the Council. The noble Lord seeks to position this role in a different way for all sorts of reasons that I can imagine. It is a function that is performed on a six-monthly basis by the state that carries the presidency. It has become clear, over the years, that the rotating presidency has strengths and weaknesses. It is important to acknowledge where having somebody in position for longer can bring coherence and continuity to the European Union’s work. That is exactly what this is, and no more. The role is not meant to move us into a position that the noble Lord fears might arise. I can assure him of that.

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