Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Yes, my Lords: I meant India, China and Russia. I meant where the money is on the planet today. They have the money, and we have the debt. If we are not free to trade with other nations of this world on level terms, at least, we will live to regret it. As we side more and more with the European Union, we will become, as an American senator friend

4 Jun 2008 : Column 232

of mine said to me last week, a little old antique shop in Europe. The Americans’ interests lie in the east; that is the east I referred to. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, cannot grasp it.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, there are some sad occasions in this House, even during the passage of the European Union (Amendment) Bill. There should not be, really, as it should be a very jolly occasion looking forward to the treaty coming into force if the Bill passes all its stages. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will not be offended if I say that that was like a Captain Queeg performance from him, if you remember The Caine Mutiny. These obsessive neuroses about the evil, wicked effect of European Union membership on member states, particularly Britain, are really going too far.

I presume the majority of eurofacts, the magazine of UKIP, is written by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, himself; I do not know. The front page of the latest edition has a leading article saying that the European Commission is preparing a directive to prohibit people in any member state from criticising the European Union. They are apparently at work on measures to prevent the burning of the flag. I do not know who wants to burn the European flag anyway, but this was actually raised in Committee on this Bill a few weeks ago. I mean—

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon): My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. Has the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, moved his amendment?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I fear I may have forgotten to mention the magic words. I beg to move.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I am very relieved to hear that, as I thought that the noble Viscount was about to refer to the Companion and chastise me for saying something improper, although I could not work out what it was.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am advised that I did remember the magic words. However, I trust that we can take the pearls of wisdom cast by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, thus far as read and that he may continue with his peroration.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, for once I can agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I thought that I heard him say, “I beg to move”, but the tone dropped at that point because he obviously realised that he was losing the argument. His speech was yet a further rerun of the old examples that we heard in Committee—yet another repeat of wicked effects. Our membership of the European Union goes much wider than just an analysis of facts and figures, although those are very important. We on these Benches believe that the economic benefits to this country of our membership of the European Union are tremendous, have provided us with enormous new opportunities and created more than 3 million new jobs directly arising from our activity in the European Union, which would not have

4 Jun 2008 : Column 233

been possible without the creation of the single market and the greater export opportunities that have arisen from that.

I referred to the enlightened magazine, eurofacts, with all its tirades and diatribes. Usually it refers to an extra sinister effect of the latest proposal, which is that the first country that proposed it was Germany. Contributors to eurofacts love to repeat that because it recalls echoes of the past. It is all complete rubbish. It is very sad that this is the only member state where this kind of debate is taking place. The amendment again asks for a cost-benefit analysis. One realises how shallow these arguments are.

Since we are talking about facts and figures, I remind your Lordships that in 2006 the gross UK contribution to the EU budget totalled £12.4 billion overall. We should deduct the UK abatement that we get from our unique and special privilege of the rebate. No other member state gets this. All the other member states thought that it would last for a certain number of years. They did not realise that it would carry on many years after its inception. If we take away the UK abatement of £3.6 billion and the public sector receipts of £4.9 billion that we get directly as a result of our adhesion to the European Union, the net UK contribution to the EU budget is £3.9 billion. I think that I am right in saying that the figure for Germany is probably approaching £8 billion as a direct comparison. I am happy to be corrected on that by other noble Lords, as I have not had time to look up the latest figure. In fact, in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, referred to these comparisons and said:

the basis of his calculation with the budget rebate—

You can bandy these figures about to make any point, but they show that our membership of the European Union has been obtained on the basis of a very reasonable price given all the things that we get back—for example, the huge power that each member state gets from its collective membership of the Union of 27 members.

I object to the endless repetition of certain statements on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. He referred to his three Bills. I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong but, speaking from memory, I think that he initiated a Second Reading debate on the Bill that he introduced in 2007 but did not take it into Committee, as is his habit. Why not send it down to the other place to see what Members there think about it? Mr William Cash, David Heathcoat-Amory and the new UKIP Member of Parliament could have a field day discussing it. But no, the Bills are always taken just to Second Reading, so the effect is always the drip, drip of this tedious and inaccurate propaganda about the wicked disutility of our membership of the European Union. I think that I am right that on two previous occasions he took his Bill just to Second Reading, whereas most Members who have a Bill in this House seek to get it

4 Jun 2008 : Column 234

quickly into Committee so that it can go down to the other place and get a hearing there, which is of course far harder.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, as the noble Lord labours this point, he will find that the first of those Bills went into Committee here. It is true that the other two Bills did not. There was no point in continuing with the Bills, because as soon as they got to the House of Commons it would have taken only one unfortunate Member of the noble Lord’s party to block them. None of these Bills would have made any progress in the House of Commons. The object of the exercise here was to have a debate on this subject. We have had three now and I have yet to hear the noble Lord respond to any points made in those debates.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, we are in danger of lapsing into a Committee stage debate. I am grateful that noble Lords are trying to stay within the rules, but can we try very hard to observe them?

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I will take the sagacious advice of the Lord President and proceed with what were supposed to be very brief remarks. I detect that the Government feel that the Lisbon treaty is in the interests of Britain and of the European Union, in every way that has been explained at previous stages of this Bill, including Second Reading. It provides acceptable, rational adjustments to the operating procedures inside the Union that allow the EU to function more effectively with a much larger number of states. That is the common-sense aspect of what we are talking about. It again goes beyond costs and benefits.

The benefits are also strong emotionally and psychologically in terms of the public’s increasing acceptance of the natural state—the common-sense, routine, even mundane basis—of our membership of the European Union. On an everyday basis, the public are ahead of the politicians. They may not have detailed knowledge of every aspect of what is a very complicated scenario. None the less, in natural ways—with people moving with their families and children, or retiring to other European countries as part of a general diaspora—the mobility of populations within the Union is much higher than mobility in the United States, which was always given as an example of a high-mobility country in comparison with the sluggish population movements of European countries. That era has now passed. This is the modern European Union of the future, where younger members of the population in particular are extremely keen, in a natural, practical sense, about what they can do and the opportunities that they have of being members and citizens of the whole Union and not just loyal and patriotic members of their own sovereign member states.

We will certainly agree with the Government if, as I hope, they assert again that the benefits of EU membership far outweigh the costs and make completely nonsensical the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and his colleagues. Jobs, peace and security together mean a massive amount to a continent that was riven by horrendous conflicts in the days when France and Germany hated each other with a visceral hatred that had to be felt to be believed. One of the

4 Jun 2008 : Column 235

great stories of post-war Europe is the reconciliation of France and Germany, leading to the basis of a strong European Union. They invited Britain to join at that stage and we foolishly said that we did not want to. Lest this revert to a Committee stage debate, which would be reprehensible—and I do not want to make this a Second Reading speech—I conclude by saying that I hope that the House will reject decisively this ridiculous amendment.

9.30 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I do not want to speak for long on this issue, but the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, has brought me to my feet. He told the House that this was the only country where this sort of debate takes place. Well, he is wrong. In Denmark, there are frequent debates, and indeed referendums, on the important issues in treaties. In Sweden, there is an argument going on, with a threat from the trade unions that, unless the Swedish Government can deal with a wages problem that has been caused by a ruling of the European Court, they will be against the Lisbon treaty. When I was in Estonia some while ago, I did not get the impression that there was no dispute about membership of the European Union in that country.

We are not alone in querying our membership of the European Union and its cost and benefits; that is the sensible thing to do. In any event, if we were the only ones doing so, why not? Let us not make any mistake about the fact that we are different in many respects, probably most of all because we are an island that has been successful over a long, long time—much longer than any other European state, except perhaps France. It is perfectly in order for us to have such a debate. Indeed, it is a recommendation of our democracy that we have such debates.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and to the Liberal party that I can respect their position. There is no doubt that their position is that we should have in Europe a fully federal state. That is a perfectly respectable view to hold and I do not criticise them for it, but they must allow other people to have a different point of view. I have a different point of view, which I have held for a very long time.

On the cost-benefit analysis, other parties, unlike the Liberal party, say that it is about trading. They say that it is not about a country called Europe, although I believe that eventually it will be, and the Lisbon treaty takes us another big step towards that. If it is about trading, and if it is about the benefits to the British people, it is sensible for the country to have regular cost-benefit analyses. If the Government do not do that, they are not properly serving their people and indeed they are cheating their people. Therefore, the suggestion that is being put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is sensible and should be accepted by the Government. The noble Lord pointed out that the Prime Minister, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, produced a paper that showed that our membership of the European Union, in economic terms, cost us £28 billion a year. That being so, I would have thought that the Government would want to look at it to see whether that figure could be reduced and whether the books could be better balanced.

4 Jun 2008 : Column 236

On the question of our net contribution, I am not at all sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, got his figures right. The last figure that I saw was that the present net contribution was £4.5 billion but would rise by 2010 to £6.2 billion. If you add the £3.5 billion rebate that we get at present and which we would perhaps lose if the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, had his way, the net contribution would be £9.7 billion a year. That would exceed that of Germany and make us the highest contributor in net terms to the budget of the European Union.

Then let us take trade. That was the basis on which we went into what was then called the Common Market. Last year the deficit in trade was £40 billion, rising from £32 billion in 2006. That is an enormous gap in trade and loses the country jobs. With a proper cost-benefit analysis to try to correct that situation, far from losing jobs we might gain them. Then there is the cost to the consumer, estimated by the Treasury to be £20 per week per family. That cost ought to be taken into account for the sake of the families in this country, whom the Government ought to be protecting.

Finally, if this is really about trade, there are many good places to trade with other than Europe and without having the trappings of a full-blown state—a president, foreign minister, Parliament, currency and goodness knows what. I recommend the House sometimes to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and indeed with me that this is too important a matter just to be left to the economic superstition that it is good for us. We ought to have a cost-benefit analysis. It would be beneficial to the country and make a contribution to the good debates that we have in this House about our membership of the EU.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Pearson on this amendment. I do not understand why the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, is so against it. If our membership is so self-evidently beneficial, surely he should welcome a cost-benefit analysis that would demonstrate that conclusively and once and for all to the British public, so lancing the boil. There would be nothing to worry about. I do not know why our Europhile colleagues are so nervous or so against having a cost-benefit analysis. This would help them if they are sure of their facts. If our contributions, which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has analysed so carefully, are so minor, our Europhile colleagues should welcome a cost-benefit analysis. I cannot see the problem at all.

Let me pick up on one or two things. The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, quoted from eurofacts. I claim some credit for his assiduous reading of eurofacts because I think that I sent it to him as a Christmas present last year. I have yet to receive a thank-you letter; I am a little disappointed by that. Of course it is essential reading. If Europhile noble Lords have time, when they are not busy excoriating the Murdochite press, they will find that eurofacts is correct—it is Eurofactual. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will recognise that. He took great pleasure in Committee in rubbishing an allegedly fictitious story that the European Commission was going to regulate fortune-tellers and spiritualists. He had terrific fun with that. Actually, as noble Lords will know, because we have circulated the report, the

4 Jun 2008 : Column 237

story was true. The noble Lord should be a little more careful about what he says when he affects to rubbish the stories in eurofacts.

I am quite sure that at some point the Commission or European Parliament will come forward with a proposal to make it more difficult for parties such as UKIP or any other Eurosceptic party to have a say. Indeed, that is already happening. They are going to be cut out from funding unless they have a certain number of representatives. So I advise noble Lords to be a little bit careful and to concentrate on the Murdoch press rather than on eurofacts.

My noble friend Lord Pearson has made the arguments conclusively and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has backed them up. I prefer to look at our gross contribution to the EU, which I think is now £12 billion or £14 billion. It moves all the time and it is increasing. We should look at the gross figure. If one pays tax, one does not say, “I am actually paying 20 per cent, but I only pay 8 per cent because I have roads and policing”; one says, “I am paying 20 per cent tax”. Apart from our rebate, the returns that we get, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, have Euro Commission labels telling us on what we should spend the money. Our money goes to Europe and comes back with a label on it telling us how to spend it. I hope that we look at our gross contribution in the future. The noble Baroness may tell us that it is about £14 billion and likely to increase.

Finally, we are often told by our Europhile friends that this is a club and that if you become a member of a club you have to pay your dues for your membership. Of course, that is absolutely right. However, if you are a member of a club, you look at your membership dues annually—at least I certainly do—and you review them; you see what the advantages are of your membership of the club; you look at who your fellow members are; you look at what advantage you get from membership and what services you get; and you look at whether your subscription gives you value for money. That is all that my noble friend Lord Pearson, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and I want; we want to see whether our subscription to the Euro club is worth it. The people of this country also want to know whether it is worth it.

At one point, the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, said that there is a groundswell towards Europe and the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said that there is a swing towards Europe. I do not know what world they inhabit, as any poll will show that people are increasingly sceptical about our membership of the European Union. I let that pass, as it is a matter for debate and polls can swing one way or the other. Certainly no poll that I have seen over the past five to 10 years has said that we want more Europe, which is what this treaty gives us. I believe that my noble friend’s amendment is valuable and will be useful to the general debate outside the Westminster bubble. I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, the problem with an amendment like this is that the words “cost-benefit analysis” sound very factual. In fact they are very pseudo factual. You would need to do a complete study of what you included as a cost and what you

4 Jun 2008 : Column 238

perceived to be a benefit. If I were to do a cost-benefit analysis, I would, for example, want to look at how much the buttressing of democracies in Spain and Portugal during the 1970s and 1980s saved us on the NATO budget in strengthening the southern flank of NATO. I would want to look at how the investment that was made in Greece, following the colonels, buttressed that country's democracy and saved us massive expenditure which otherwise would have been put into our defence budget. Similarly, you can look at what is happening in the Balkans at the moment and at what has been happening in eastern Europe and the process leading to accession there. That sort of cost-benefit analysis is the analysis of people who pretend that they know the cost of everything but know the value of nothing.

My brief point of fact is in relation to something that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said when he referred to this movement in Sweden that was leading to a rebellion against the ratification of the treaty. I happened to be in Sweden the week before last visiting the Swedish Parliament. I spent some time in the Rikstad listening to some of the discussion. I heard the debate on the Alpha Laval case, which has been referred to the European Court of Justice. Although there is serious concern about the case, I did not hear one speaker from any party—the government coalition, the social democrats, the greens or the communists—in any way link this discussion to the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon, which they will be dealing with in the Swedish Parliament this autumn. It is assumed by everyone there that the Swedish Parliament will overwhelmingly ratify the treaty of Lisbon.

9.45 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am sure he will recall, or, at least, he will see when he reads Hansard, that I referred to the trade union movement, not the Parliament.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I shall pretend that I had not sat down in response to that because that is a rather naive intervention since it is not the trade unions that will be ratifying the treaty of Lisbon. It will be a process of parliamentary ratification in exactly the same way as it is here. It is not a referendum outside Parliament, and there can be no doubt that the treaty of Lisbon will be ratified in Sweden.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, this has been, as ever, an interesting debate. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I think it could be rather a jolly occasion, despite the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Dykes. I begin where my noble friend left off, which is with the issue of cost-benefit analysis, and not least with what one describes as a cost and what one describes as a benefit. I fear that no cost-benefit analysis the Government could do would satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, in its interpretation.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page