Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

There will be, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, rotating team presidencies. There has been greater collaboration between the presidency in position, the previous presidency and the next presidency, so that there is a kind of triumvirate working more closely together to greater effect, in my experience, so that you get continuity running through decisions. That has been extremely effective for the presidency. They will chair the sectoral councils. The noble Lord will be familiar with ECOFIN and the Justice and Home Affairs Council. They will not chair the Foreign Affairs Council because, under the proposals, that will be chaired by the high representative. That will continue. There will be greater coherence and consistency because of the team presidencies that operate over 18 months. The experience of that has been that the agenda, although set within the presidency, is also linked to the presidency before and the presidency after. You have the three presidencies moving together. That has been a more effective way of moving forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Jay, asked about scrutiny, and how this would be brought to your Lordships’ attention. The Minister for Europe wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, chair of the Scrutiny Committee, on 22 April. A copy of that letter has been laid in the Library, as noble Lords will have seen. It describes how the Government intend to keep Parliament involved. In that letter, the Government commit to ministerial contact with the Scrutiny Committee ahead of any decisions that might be taken to implement any of the issues concerned with this amendment. There will of course be an update before the June European Council, as noble Lords would expect.

I hesitate over the word “analysis” because I am not sure how to interpret it. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, will forgive me, but I want to think about it a little more. Underpinning what he said is the need to ensure that Parliament is kept informed of the development of this role. I am sure that within the context of regular reports to the committees, that will happen. Perhaps I may say in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that it is not least because the committees are

4 Jun 2008 : Column 226

perfectly capable of requiring the Government to come forward and explain where we are in the process, how effective it has been, who is taking on the position, the functions to be undertaken and so forth.

I complete my response by saying that I do not believe the amendment is necessary because we already have the process in place. It will enhance the opportunities for the European Union to operate effectively, not least when talking to countries outside the Union. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I appreciate that this amendment has been received with less than total rapture by some noble Lords on all sides. As I made clear in moving it, I have brought it forward more in the spirit of seeking clarification. I confess that I remain uneasy and puzzled by some of the propositions before us. Of course presidencies evolve. The presidency of the United States has evolved in ways that make it vastly different from when the original constitution was drawn up. On the whole, however—I am not sure whether it is the case for the Philadelphia Constitution—constitutions tend to define the actual powers in relation to the legislature and other institutions of authority within a state and they tend to define the powers of the president. I do not want to get into an argument at this stage, although we will certainly get into an argument later, on whether this is a constitution because it has the same wording as what was called a constitution, although many people argue that that should not have been called a constitution either. Thereby springs many of our troubles. Nevertheless, this is an attempt to bring more coherence by one means or another, in this case by amending various treaties rather than putting around them the wrapping of a completely new treaty, and introducing various new positions and roles.

The noble Baroness says that the President will work in a way that is “complementary” to the High Representative. Should we not be asking a little more clearly who is going to be in charge on the foreign policy side? Foreign policy issues will come up in the Foreign Affairs Council; the president will be sitting in the general Council; the issue of the rotating president will have to be sorted out in ways that I am not clear about even now—but as the noble Baroness has said, it will have to be sorted out—and there will be, in her words, a “triumvirate” who will somehow clarify all these things. Perhaps we should just relax, as the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, advises, and abandon any prescription so that the whole thing can evolve in various ways. However, we are a parliamentary democracy and we need to know where power lies and how it will be used. It would be an exception to the rule of the evolution of presidential roles, the transfer of powers and the creation of legal systems, which is what we are involved in, to leave the matter hanging in the air.

The noble Baroness has made an excellent fist of trying to describe things which, frankly, are not yet settled. We are half way through the cooking, as it were, and we do not know how the meal is going to turn out. That will leave a lot of parliamentarians a little uneasy and worried. But this is not a matter that

4 Jun 2008 : Column 227

can be settled here and now. Loose ends need to be tied up and further discussions are coming along. Perhaps this is not the moment to test the amendment and therefore I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 14:

(a) the economic costs and benefits to the United Kingdom of implementing the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, and(b) a comparison of the economic costs and benefits of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union before and after the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I fear that this amendment is yet another attempt to get the Government to carry out a detailed cost-benefit analysis of our membership of the European Union, and while we are at it, it would be nice to know if the Conservative Party has come round to the idea of supporting such an exercise.

Noble Lords may recall that I have introduced three Bills over recent years with the same aim, which we debated on 8 June last year, 27 June 2003 and 17 March 2000. This amendment is drawn somewhat more narrowly than those Bills in that it applies only to the economic costs and benefits of our EU membership, whereas they cover the cost to our sovereignty and powers of self-government as well.

The Government have always refused an official cost-benefit analysis on the wholly unjustified grounds that the benefits of our EU membership are so wondrous and obvious that it would be a waste of time. I expect that they will say the same thing tonight. However, the true and obvious reason why they refuse it is that they fear it would reveal the unacceptably high cost we bear from being in the European Union and the result would be so disastrous as to make their precious policy of staying in the EU untenable.

In the absence of such an official analysis there have been several respectable private academic studies over the past five years, which put the cost of our EU membership at anything between 5 and 10 per cent of GDP, or roughly some £50 billion to £100 billion per annum. All the studies agree that the main elements of cost are the higher price we pay for food as a result of the common agricultural policy, the hard cash we hand over annually to Brussels and the effect of EU overregulation.

4 Jun 2008 : Column 228

If we accept the EU’s own figure for the latter—that is, overregulation alone—we come to some 6.5 per cent of GDP, which has been estimated by the Competition Commissioner GĂ1/4nter Verheugen. If we accept that, we are at the top end of the studies that I have mentioned. It probably is the dead hand of Brussels bureaucracy that causes most of the harm, especially when compared with the new free economies of the East. One thinks of such tragedies as the decimation of our fishing industry, the flight of our art market to New York and Geneva and the impending damage to the City of London caused by the EU’s financial services action plan.

It is not just swivel-eyed British Eurosceptics who suggest that the EU membership is hugely expensive. Only last week in Ireland, Mr McCready, the commissioner, admitted that some 80 per cent of all legislation now affecting British businesses comes from the European Union.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is the noble Lord seriously saying that the City of London does not benefit from the common market and financial services created by the EU? I assure him that British financial services organisations and those international companies based in London are full participants in the work of creating the legislation under the financial services action plan. I see heads nodding, but there are some people who try to dissent. The overwhelming view of the City of London and the Corporation of London is that the EU single market has been a great advantage to British financial services.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I should point out to the noble Baroness that the head, which was being shaken, not nodded, was that of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, who has certain experience in these matters, as do I. I have spent my life in the City of London in the real marketplace; I do not believe that the same is true of the noble Baroness.

If noble Lords are in any doubt about this, they should take the trouble to read the publication by Open Europe, a mildly Eurosceptic organisation, entitled Selling the City Short? A Review of the EU’s Financial Services Action Plan. That document details that the mere cost of transposing these directives into British law will be some £23 billion over the next four years. It does not attempt to quantify the damage that will be done to the City of London when practitioners, particularly in the wholesale markets, vacate the City of London for New York, Singapore, Dubai and elsewhere. So I must answer the noble Baroness: yes, I do mean that. I mean that the financial services action plan looks to me, as far as I can see at the moment, as though it will destroy the City of London and the benefit which that confers on this country.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene again because the noble Lord made a personal remark to the effect that I obviously know nothing of what I was talking about. I spent the second half of the 1980s working in the City, first for Lloyd’s of London and then for American Express Europe; so I did work in financial services. The EU has been a great benefit to

4 Jun 2008 : Column 229

the London insurance market. Having worked for an American international company, I know that it took full advantage of the EU. So I do know a little bit about financial services.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I accept that the noble Baroness knows a little bit about financial services. I apologise if in any way I have impugned her reputation in this regard.

I had started saying that it is not just us British Eurosceptics who suggest that EU membership is hugely expensive. I mentioned Mr McCreevy, who last week, in Dublin I think, admitted that 80 per cent of all legislation affecting our commerce and industry comes from Brussels. We know what that means in terms of overregulation. I would quote to your Lordships the Swiss Government, who last year calculated officially that EU membership for Switzerland would be nine times more expensive than their present bilateral arrangements. There is really no reason to believe that a different calculation would apply to the British economy. We are in many ways similar to the Swiss economy, although we are of course bigger.

I think that I have mentioned to your Lordships the study carried out by the top French think tank, the Conseil d’Analyse Economique, which reports directly to the French Prime Minister and has recently estimated that neither the single market nor the euro have done anything for the French economy. One has to ask: why should that be so different here?

I could go on, but I trust that that is enough at the moment to suggest that our membership of the European Union is extremely expensive economically. And to all this the Government now give two answers, both of which are clearly wrong. First, they say that millions of jobs are created by our EU membership, thus implying that were we to leave the EU millions of jobs would be lost. This is clearly nonsense because the jobs are created by our trade with our clients all over Europe, not by our political subservience to Brussels. If we left the political construct of the EU, that trade would continue, especially as we are the EU's largest client. It sells us much more than we sell it. I trust the experiences of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, in the City, will lead her to agree with that point.

It is probably true that about 10 per cent of our jobs, some 3 million, do support our trade with the European Union, but none of them would be lost if we left the EU and continued in free trade with our friends across the channel. That is also part of the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. What advantages have we had by our political subservience to Brussels that we could not have had by open and simple free trade with our friends in Europe?

We must not forget that EU regulation stifles 100 per cent of our economy, including the 90 per cent which does not trade with Europe. No serious calculation has been made of the number of jobs which might be created if that 90 per cent were set free from EU red tape to trade on more level terms in the vibrant new economies of the east. That calculation should be done and it should be part of the analysis which this amendment proposes. Whichever way you look at it, it is reasonable to claim that jobs would be created, not

4 Jun 2008 : Column 230

lost, if we left the political construct of the European Union and continued in free trade with our clients and friends in Europe.

The other stock answer given by the Government to justify our continued membership of the European Union avoids its cost altogether. The Prime Minister has recently started to say that our membership is not necessarily an economic matter. Perhaps this was inspired by his time at the Treasury, which in October 2005 issued a report chiding Brussels for its overregulation and putting the cost of our membership as perhaps as high as 28 per cent of GDP. That Treasury report included 12 per cent for increasing competition within the euro area to US levels, and 7 per cent for the cost of EU food under the CAP. Both those percentages are considerably higher than in the independent studies to which I have referred. So the Government’s second stock answer appears to have become that however much the EU may cost our economy, it is worth it because as members we construct the world stage as part of a large bloc and therefore have more influence than if we had retained our independence. This line has been strongly supported by noble Lords who can only be described as leading members of the “international conference-ariat”, to coin a new phrase. From Second Reading and Committee I would mention the noble Lords, Lord Ashdown and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, in that context, and other noble Lords come to mind, mostly our several noble former employees of the European Union.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I shall be very short. I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Would he try and play the game and not the man? It would be a great help if he would stop that nonsense.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble Lord provokes me. The game is made up of the men. I was not going to remind noble Lords in receipt of an EU pension of the unanimous judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and his committee on Members’ interests that EU pensions should be declared in debate. I was not going to mention that at all.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, once and for all, would the noble Lord grasp that I do not receive a pension from the European Community? I never have and I do not now. So would he please withdraw that remark?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am not sure that I said that the noble Lord did personally receive a pension from the European Community but several noble EU pensioners—about 11 by my calculation—contributed forcefully at Second Reading and in Committee. Only one—the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who, I regret to see, is not in his place—to his great credit has declared that interest. Of course I am aware that our Committee for Privileges, most unusually, did not share the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. We debated the matter on 19 July 2007. Any noble Lord who is not familiar with this subject should perhaps read that debate. The point is that EU pensions are rare, perhaps even unique, because they

4 Jun 2008 : Column 231

can be forfeited if the holders go against the interests of the European Union, even many years after they have left. Anyway, that is enough on EU pensions.

Lord Tomlinson: Enough? Too much!

9.15 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I said that I did not want to bring that in, my Lords, but I was provoked.

We appear to be dealing with a new class of people. The best phrase I can think of to describe them is an “international conference-ariat”. They go to conferences all over the world at our expense, very comfortably, to places like Bali to talk about climate change; not that that makes any difference, or that anything we do will make any difference. The line of this new conference-ariat is that we increase our sovereignty by surrendering it. For the United Kingdom’s voice to be heard in this globalising world, they say, we must give up our right to govern ourselves and abandon our special relationship with the United States of America for the delights of the French-inspired European army. That is nonsense.

Lord Tomlinson: Name him!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the British people would like to know how much this madness is costing us in cash. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I was very familiar with much of his argument; indeed, wearyingly so. However, one thing was new to me and I did not entirely understand it. He spoke of the “free economies of the east”. Can he tell us which these are? Does he mean Poland and Slovakia, in which case they are members of the European Union? Does he means the Russian economy, which is free, after all, of the World Trade Organisation and, indeed, of law and regulation as such? Does he mean the Chinese economy, which is free of any democratic accountability? Which are the “free economies of the east” that he admires so much?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I trust that it was clear that I meant free in the sense that they were unburdened by the EU’s overregulation and thus not handicapped by it.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Which ones?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I meant the economies of the Ukraine and central Asia.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page