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9.15 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, this has been an interesting albeit shorter debate than our previous debate, but an important one. While listening intently to what noble Lords were saying, I was musing to myself on where the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, might be were we to be having a referendum. It is a rhetorical question; I am not going to ask the noble Lord to answer it.

Noble Lords: Oh, go on.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Okay then, my Lords, I will. If there had been a vote for a referendum, it having been agreed in another place, would the noble Lord have been campaigning yes or no? Sparing his blushes, I know that the noble Lord has for many years been a strong proponent of Europe and a strong leader in his party on the values and benefits of the European Union. I take this amendment in that spirit. I will take a lesson from the noble Lord here because his track record on this is second to none in his own party. That has probably ruined his career for the rest of his life, but I do not care because it is well worth saying.

I apologise to the most reverend Prelate for referring to him incorrectly as the right reverend Prelate, and although the most reverend Prelate does not mind—

Lord Hunt of Wirral: The most reverend Primate.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Thank you. It is even in front of me and I get it wrong. In my position I should have got that right and I apologise because it is important.

I agreed with a great deal of what the most reverend Primate said because the focus of this amendment above anything is for us to have a short debate about the importance of promoting what we are doing in the European Union. I am not going to get into the arguments about this or another booklet. Both booklets were primarily about explaining the European Union and both referred to what was, at that point, where we were in our deliberations—one on the constitution, one on the Lisbon treaty. Let us leave that aside. It would perhaps have been relevant in the previous debate but it is not now. What matters is what we do.

I am not going to apologise for putting a lot of information before the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, because I keep being criticised for not doing that. Today I made sure that the noble Lord had it. Equally, the noble Lord has an important point about making sure that the information is available in a form that people can understand.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way and apologise that I have not heard all of the debate on this amendment because I was at something interesting elsewhere. She talks about information. I am constantly amazed when I go as Member of the European Parliament to address school children. I was under the impression that as part of citizenship education they now learnt about the European

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Union. I am afraid the results do not seem to be evident. As part of this exercise, will she ensure that she feeds in to her ministerial colleagues the fact that citizenship education is meant to include knowledge of the European Union but does not seem to be doing so? It is vital that young people grow up aware of just the basics about the EU. It is really not that complicated and it is crucial.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness completely. It is important that young people, indeed all citizens, learn about the European Union and I accept that we need to do more. Yet the noble Baroness will not be surprised by the criticism that I, as an education Minister responsible for citizenship, would get were it suggested that we should do more to promote the European Union—it would be “propaganda”. The noble Baroness will not be surprised at all by that but that is indeed an issue and a problem the Government face all the time when people suggest it.

It was particularly true when the euro was brought in across many parts of the European Union. I for one was keen to—and did—produce something for young people to make sure that they knew what the euro looked like, that they understood what it meant. That was not least because teenagers have a habit of travelling across the European Union and not knowing what the money looks like could lead them into some difficulty. We did, therefore, produce a lot of information, but this is an issue that we always have to deal with. I am very grateful that the noble Baroness raised the importance of making sure that young people are educated, because I agree completely with that.

I could go into a list, which I have, of all the different aspects of information that we produce. I will not do so, for I sense the weariness of the House even before I begin. We do make sure that we have on the website all of the available information, which is particularly relevant for young people. That is available at, where anyone is able to obtain as much information as possible.

Where I join with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, in his amendment is in my commitment to ensure that people get as much information as possible in the appropriate manner to enable them to understand the European Union. When we held the presidency, I tried extremely hard to get media attention on some of our work on civil justice which was relevant to people’s everyday lives, and I found that almost impossible. If, as a result of this discussion, all noble Lords would join me in trying to find ways to promote the European Union in our media, in the broadest sense, I would be more than delighted.

The amendment is not necessary because we already produce a lot of information. We seek to circulate it as widely as possible. We want members of the public to look at the Foreign Office and No. 10 websites, and we have blogs from the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe, which are run weekly and, I gather, attract a great deal of interest and comment from members of the public. I am sure that noble Lords will support them in that.

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Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, this has been an interesting and helpful debate. I would say to the Minister that when I suggested that the Government should publish an explanatory leaflet on the Lisbon treaty, she sent me the leaflet that I have in my hand. I was criticised by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for saying that it explained the Lisbon treaty. He said, “No, it’s a guide to the European Union”. It has been sent to me by the noble Baroness to demonstrate that information has been published about the Lisbon treaty. We have to decide which is which. An explanation of the treaty of Lisbon is very much a part of this leaflet, but the noble Lord is quite right that it contains a lot of information that is nothing to do with the Lisbon treaty. We do not have a leaflet that explains the treaty of Lisbon. My point was that we ought to have one.

I say to the most reverend Primate that I do not think anyone has ever been as complimentary about me as he was tonight. I much appreciate that, because I have enormous respect for him and the courage that he shows in giving his views. He is a prime example of someone who I look up to in the whole area of communicating with people. I would also say to him that someone has to explain the Government’s position on not having a referendum because, according to the latest poll, 64 per cent of the public believe that there should be a referendum. That could be ignored, but by ignoring the issue, it festers and inhibits the positive case that can be put forward for making sure that Britain is right at the heart of Europe, which is what I have always believed.

We have to begin to tackle these problems of people believing, as we said in the previous debate, that there was a bargain between all the main political parties and the British people that they would have a referendum. Therefore, it is important to say that there has to be some explanation in simple and easy-to-understand terms of why we will not get the opportunity that the Republic of Ireland will have tomorrow.

The noble Baroness has not referred to what happens if Ireland votes no. That is the great unknown, or the known unknown. If the Republic of Ireland votes no, what happens? Do we go on regardless? Do we still have Third Reading; or do we do what the Conservative Government did over the treaty of Maastricht, which was to suspend parliamentary scrutiny for a considerable period until the heads of state had met and discovered what would happen next. All those are questions that we should be addressing.

The Archbishop of York: My Lords, if the public were correctly to read Hansard, which is recorded accurately, of our earlier debates, they would see that there are very clear reasons why some of us went through the Not-Content doors. What about the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in which she clearly argued that the treaty is a very different thing? I am one of those who believe that a name is important. I am Sentamu; I am not Hind. The moment that they say Hind is going to be Archbishop of York and then put in Sentamu, everyone would be quite angry—and quite rightly so. For me, “constitution” and “treaty” are therefore quite important.

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If you really think that our public read Hansard and know what has gone on in Parliament, which is always on television, and are not persuaded why there is no need for a referendum, we have a job that is far more serious than I thought. I believe that in York, where I am, they know. They listen to the debates, and they will say, “Oh, Wirral, he comes from the same place as York; they are part of the North. They disagreed but, in the end, the vote was probably right”.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I really enjoy listening to the most reverend Primate. He takes us on journeys that are fascinating to behold, but the one description that he gave of queues of the public at the Printed Paper Office waiting to read Hansard is not a picture that I can believe. He assists me enormously in my case. I disagree with him and agree with my noble friend Lord Howell in his response to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, who, together with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and I, are fellow governors of the English-Speaking Union, where we debate these issues all the time. I do not agree with his assessment, but I hope that he agrees that if we were to try to encapsulate the arguments in clear and simple terms, we would begin to win again.

The public must be persuaded. If individual political parties break their bargain with the British people—the majority think that that bargain has been broken—you cannot just leave it and move on, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that of course we have to move on. I do not know exactly what will happen; there are a lot of hypothetical questions in this debate; but my argument has always been that we have to win the public's hearts and minds on the issue of Europe.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dykes; he and I have fought hard in the past to try to get across to people the positive side of our membership of the European Union. We have neglected all that too much; I especially point my finger at the Government. If we are to make progress, we need a Government who strongly believe that Britain's place is at the heart of Europe and who get out there to communicate to people and knock the scare stories on the head.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene; I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but he has now led us twice into this argument about being at the heart of Europe. It is one on which I strongly agree with him, but does he agree that he could make a singular contribution to this if he held a physiology lesson for some of his colleagues to show them that you are best being at the heart of Europe by not trying to take Europe by the jugular?

9.30 pm

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I do not belong to a political party which once campaigned to withdraw from the European Union, but the noble Lord does. I will take no lessons from the noble Lord about what others in my political party, the Conservative Party, do. I have always thought of myself as a Christian democrat, a national liberal. My predecessor, Lord Selwyn-Lloyd, stood as a national liberal and Conservative. I represent that part of the Liberal Party which joined

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the Conservative Party and I strongly believe in Europe. It is what brought me into politics. I will not take any lessons from him on how I have to rein in members of my own party when he allowed his party to campaign to withdraw. We have had a good debate—

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Lord asked me a direct question. He has not answered my direct question, but I shall answer his on the Irish referendum. I wish to make it clear that I intend to complete this legislation at Third Reading. It will be for the Council of Ministers, which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will attend, to make any decisions about what happens there. It is my intention to complete this.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howell of Guildford moved Amendment No. 31B:

(a) a report by the Prime Minister has been laid before both Houses of Parliament to clarify the institutional changes in the European Union arising under the Treaty of Lisbon, including in particular—(i) the role and identity of the proposed President of the European Council;(ii) the role and identity of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy;(iii) the size, role, budget and objectives of the proposed European External Action Service and its implications for membership of the Security Council of the United Nations by the EU and its member states;(iv) the timetable and method for implementation of any other Treaty provisions agreed to under this Act which had not been decided and published at the time of the signing of the Treaty;(b) a report has been laid before both Houses of Parliament on such discussions as have been taken place at EU Council or other EU meetings in 2008 to clarify the matters referred to under this section, which remained unresolved at the signing of the Treaty; and(c) the reports laid by the Prime Minister under this section have been approved by affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I should preface my remarks on what will be the final amendment by saying that I have no career left to ruin, so I do not need to seek any accolades from anyone in these matters. I begin with a formal note, that I am informed by the Clerks that this amendment is not quite correct, in that sub-paragraph (ii), concerning the role of the high representative, is a matter on which the House has already concentrated and voted. That part of the amendment should not be there and is out of order. For that reason I wish to concentrate on the amendment, without any reference to that sub-paragraph.

As we are drawing to the end of this stage of the Bill, I wish to comment on the very interesting observations in the previous debate—they lead to the point I am making so I hope they are not too out of order—from the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who is a

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most ebullient and persuasive proponent of a number of views, one of which is that we must all think about how to be better Europeans. I am very willing to go along with that. When he talks of the concern about shared sovereignty, he is not so much wrong, as focusing on a past state of affairs. There are people in all political parties and in the media who use that phrase and who are concerned about the concept of sharing sovereignty.

Although in a very narrow legal sense, any nation state can put up the shutters and close down or do what it likes—alas, even that may no longer be possible in this era of liberal intervention—we all know that we are completely inter-dependent; that we have to restrain our own ambitions and aims in the light of others; and that we have to work together in a whole variety of international affairs. In the past half century, this country has been superb in developing an effective role in a number of forums or fora—whatever the plural of that word is—and I hope we shall continue to do so. All right, share sovereignty, participate in interdependence, but the question for those who come back again and again to a Eurocentric way of thinking is: with whom?

We live in a network world in which Europe is certainly our geographical region. We want to be very good Europeans and work with them intimately within the European Union, from which we will not be withdrawists. What has happened in the past five to 10 years makes one think again. When I hear such speeches, I do not sense that the “thinking again” has gone on. Even the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says in its annual report, “We must look to international institutions to make them more effective”. Mr Miliband has made four new goals, three of which are stratospherically vague but one of which is to make institutions more effective. The document goes on to say that that involves the UN and the EU. But the UN and EU are not the only game in town. The idea that our foreign policy will be conducted entirely through our European partners is not a way forward in promoting our contribution to world stability and peace, overseas development and in protecting our interests. Many other avenues are open.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, is a prominent figure in promoting Commonwealth interests and those of the English speaking world—is that right? Could he talk to us—perhaps not now but on another occasion—about shared independence and sovereignty with the great powers of the Commonwealth, which happens to contain some of the fastest growing and most dynamic countries in rising South-East Asia and East Asia? Are these not areas, too, where we have a foreign policy to develop? Should we not be careful in looking exactly at our own common foreign and security policy regulations with our good neighbours in Europe? The wider area and the wider importance are growing in all our relations: with India, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the old Commonwealth and the new. Should we not be careful to promote those interests, those shared sovereignties and those degrees of interdependence, rather than living in a world where we feel that the EU is the only game in town?

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Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, I rise only because the noble Lord has spent so much time talking about my alleged position.

Behind what a lot of the noble Lord has said is a sort of assumption that Europe’s relationship with a wider non-European world is an alternative relationship to the ones that we have. If you look, for example, at the level of trade and investment between the Federal Republic of Germany and China, you will find that it is quite as great as our own. If you were explaining this position in Germany, the Germans would find it almost incomprehensible. They do not see their relationship within the European Union as an alternative to their relationship with China. They see them both as being essential. Frankly—this is my question for the noble Lord—why pose these things as alternatives? Within the European Union we have a pivot which is vital to our relationship with the Commonwealth, the United States and China. These are not alternatives. They all converge and relate to each other. To pose it as black and white alternatives is deeply misleading.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, this is turning into a fascinating debate but I must get to the core of the amendment. However, I must say in response to that lovely intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that that is precisely the point: I am not talking about alternatives. I am talking about the proposition that I would like to resist. I sometimes hear advancing towards me the argument that the European relationship with China is a substitute for our own bilateral relations. None of my German or French friends would accept that for a moment. They would laugh at us. They are developing their own bilateral, as well as their European relations with China and Japan. We arrived in China and found that it is not the EU propositions or EU trade policy that have arrived, it is German concessions, French contracts and German franchises—they have got the advantage of us. It is about time that we realise we must act in this network world bilaterally as well as through various organisations, of which the EU is only one. Unless we understand that, we are going to be outwitted at every point. That is why one feels very deeply about this constant distortion of the argument, as though we are proposing either Europe or something else. That is nonsense.

Let us turn now to—

Lord Kinnock: My Lords, for clarity, can the noble Lord, Lord Howell, say what significance he attaches to the reality that the European Union negotiates trade terms with China as an entity and is therefore able to deploy much greater strength and influence than even the strongest individual economy can do inside the European Union? Can we have his view on what he thinks the future of the trade mandate of the European Union, given by its democracies, really is?

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