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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I would love to answer that question and the noble Lord speaks from authority. I hope that we will not promote yet another wide debate but I will just say that the trade mandate, which is very interesting, important and lies in the hands of the European Union, should be pursued, but the noble Lord must not be deluded by economists
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I beg your Lordships to let me turn to the amendment where my propositionwhat we have discussed is related to itis simply that this is a Bill and a treaty that leaves an enormous number of unanswered questions. It was the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who I think talked about a further agenda. Everyone has talked about treaties ahead and a number of European integrationists in the European capitals are ready to talk about the next treaty and another IGC. So the idea that this is a settled matter is unlikely.
I am fully aware that I am treading an ambiguous path in the sense that we have argued that this treaty is self amendingas it is. Some of my noble friends, and others, have argued that that means there will not be any more treaties because this one can expand the powers of the European Union and remove the vetoes of nation states on European Union activity to an almost unlimited degree, barring only the areas of CFSP and so on, where we have debated how far they can get into those areas.
Those who talk as thought this treaty and its ratification is somehow the end of matters and that they have all been settled and tidied upthe language that the officialdom of the world loves so muchare on a completely erroneous path. We are dealing with the distribution of power and the argument will go on for ever. There will constantly be new pressures for nation states re-acquiring powers and for things to be done in common in the European region. There will be other pressures to link up and share our sovereignty with other bodies outside the European region. That will go on and those who think that they can tidy it up and tie it down are living in a fools paradise because that is not the way it will be. Future Governments, including ourseveryone seems to assume that there will be another Conservative Government although I think we should be a little more cautiouswill be facing this relatively fluid situation. The distribution of power will not all be settled.
I recall, many years ago in the other place, dealing with budgetary legislation coming forward from the then Labour Government. We had to christen it liquid legislation because as it came forward, although things were stated on paper, hardly had they been set down than they were constantly being changedthey were evolving all the time. There is a sort of liquid legislation aspect to this Bill as well in a way that I think did not exist in the previous treaty Bills relating to Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. I believe, incidentally, that some of my colleagues in the House of Commons when encountering current budgetary legislation from the present Government find it takes rather a liquid form in the sense that an announcement one week tends rather frequently to be modified, or amended, the next week.
Therefore, a whole series of concerns which have come up in the Committee and Report stages are open-ended. The obvious ones, which we have debated endlessly, are the self-amending nature of the new passerelle provision on top of the existing passerelle provisions. There are ambiguities which have yet to be settledalthough I do not know howon the sharing of competences, given the new list of extended competences. There are the issues under Article 352, which we debated on Monday. It used to be Article 308 but is now Article 352. There are also the so-called hidden wiring features of the treaty, all of which are to do with matters yet to be settled, although some may be at the shortly forthcoming June EU summit.
We are told that a little more may be learntand, I hope, communicated to Parliamentabout the job specification of the President. We have debated that but we have not voted on it. We have not even had a clear answer on it because the Government are not in a position to give one. It is a matter yet to be settled. Then we have the European External Action Service and the streamlining of diplomatic functions which it is said to involve. We do not know anything about that at all. Apparently, an argument is still raging in Brussels about where it should be, to whom it should report, how it will work and how it will draw on national diplomatic services. We have debated that but we have not reached a final view on what is to happen. Again, we have debated the question of the public prosecutor, but when will the matter be settled? Who is to be appointed and what powers will that person have? A power to define to criminal offences is to go to the EU but the list can be expanded indefinitely. How will that be settled? How will borders be secured?
The energy field is an area of maximum vagueness, as it is not clear exactly what powers we are handing over. It is not clear whether the new suggested powers over sharing oil stocks supersede, dovetail with or undermine the powers of the International Energy Agency, which, for a brief time, I once had the honour of chairing. We worked out the original oil-stock system and it has worked pretty well since then, but there are some very vague propositions here about the sharing of oil stocks in the future. As for the formulation of common energy policy, we know the gap between the theory, which is that we all share energy through the gas grid and the electricity grid in Europe, and the practice, which is that the gas does not come through and someone else has negotiated the contracts. Those are very serious matters, particularly because, as a result of neglect of our energy policy, this country is sleepwalking into extreme difficulties over energy supply and energy costs. Those will cost this country dear. These things need to be 10 times clearer as a result of this treaty than is the case at the moment.
Those are all treaty areas where there is unfinished business and, to use the American phrase, known unknowns. We do not really know what is round the corner and we need to know a little more, although we can never know it all. I can see that added to my list is the point that we do not know how the European Defence Agency will be set up, although it will be under QMV.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are now in the 16th minute of this interesting speech, but in the past 10 minutes I have not heard the noble Lord refer to anything in the amendment and I suggest that we return to it. The amendment is extremely familiar to me because I cannot find anything in there that we have not already discussed, and I am very surprised that the Public Bill Office has accepted it. However, we might at least discuss what is in the amendment, rather than the very large number of issues that the noble Lord has raised in the past 10 minutes.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord is a good listener but in this case he has not been a listener, because I have been talking about the proposed role of the President and the European External Action Service. Did he not hear those words? He must have done, yet he says that he has not heard anything about those matters. Would he like to withdraw what he said, as it was inaccurate? I take a lot of inaccuracies from his Bench but that was so wild that I think that he should unscramble that particular proposition. Would he like to do so?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I did not say that they were but it is not accurate, correct, fair or true to say that I had not mentioned anything in the amendment. I had, and the noble Lord should accept that in good faith. He must remember that we used to be the nasty party but we are now the nice party and we like to do things nicely.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I mentioned the timetable and method for the implementation of any other treaty provisions as well. I do not think anyone could criticise me for that. I have gone on much too long because I had a most engaging exchange with the noble Lords noble friend Lord Watson, with whom I always enjoy exchanging views.
I have a further list of domestic issues arising from parliamentary scrutiny being utterly confused with parliamentary control. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has rightly written to the noble Baroness, pointing out the difference between the two. I have a lot of questions on the very unfinished business arising from the new powers the Government hope to take in order to fulfil this scrutiny-plus arrangement, which we debated at length on Monday. I will not go into that again but there are new powers and consequences from how they will be used. The methods by which they will be used will require very careful examination. They, too, are known unknowns. I beg to move.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was very surprised to see this amendment put down late last night because I can find very little in it which has not already exhaustively been discussed in Committee and on Report. I am rather surprised that the Public Bill Office accepted it. The arguments about Network
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The noble Lord, Lord Howell, wants to have an end to politics. He says he wants to have all the questions completely answered. My understanding of democratic politics, let alone international politics and diplomacy, is that politics never stops. You never get a final answer and if you ask to stop the world and get off, you will never achieve that. Of course we will continue to cope with new problems by negotiating new solutions. That is the nature of the world in which we live.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, mentioned canvassing how often we hear the issue of the EU raised on the doorstep. I have been trying to remember if there has been any occasion in the past five years when I have heard someone mention the European Union on the doorstep and it is very difficult. I remember canvassing in Hull in 2004 with an American friend from the National Journal in Washington who wanted to hear responses to the Iraq invasion. The first door we knocked on, we got a very strong reaction on parking on the verges in the local council estate. Ninety seconds later we had moved on to Iraq, passing through the European Union mean time. But the European Union is not something I often hear about on the doorstep.
I hope what I am about to say is not entirely out of order. We have heard a lot from the Conservative Benches about flags. I hope that this is not a story about one of our noble Cross-Benchers. When the European Union negotiated the question of a European flag in the mid-1980s under the Government of Mrs Thatchernow the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcherthe proposal was made that the European Union should adopt a flag. An anonymous British official is alleged to have saidI have this story from someone in another Governmentthat Mrs Thatcher would never accept a flag, but if the European Union would agree to accept an emblem which could then be put on a flag, that might be acceptable to the Conservative Government and herself. We do not officially have a European Union flag; we have an emblem which is carried on a flaga very important and subtle distinction which infringes British sovereignty less.
That is quite enough for a short after-dinner speech, but I simply want to say that I still do not understand why this amendment is on the Marshalled List and why we are repeating arguments that have already been made several times. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, there is no final destination in politics; it is a journey. It is the illusion of the extreme left and the extreme right to
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Baroness Ludford: My Lords, over our seven hours of debate I have listened to many Conservative speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, claims that the Conservative Party is the nice party now, but I think that it is the confusing party. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, told us that the approach of the Government should aim to be at the heart of Europe. I certainly agree. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, seems to be reluctant to recognise any role for the European Union. He says that on the one hand the Lisbon treaty will be followed by more treaties, but on the other hand it is self-amending so there do not need to be any more; it is liquid legislation.
Many questions have been asked today. At one point the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made an important statement to the effect thatI do not want to misrepresent him, but I cannot recall whether he was speaking for himself or putting forward the Front Bench position for his partyhad there been a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, the Conservative Party would have campaigned for a no vote. I am not clear whether that represents the settled view of the Conservative Party as a whole, but I cannot see the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, taking the same position. In summary, I remain confused on exactly what the Conservative Party position is on the European Union and indeed on the Lisbon treaty.
To conclude, I agree with some of the spirit of the amendment in the same way that I intervened earlier to ask the Minister about citizenship education and the basics of the EU. I agree that there simply is not enough explanation about who does what in the Union. I have a theory that when people say that they do not know what the EU is or who makes decisions, it is because one of the problems is that they do not really know how their local council works, and they certainly do not know how the Government in Westminster work. However, because those institutions are within their sphere of legitimacy, they do not question them so intently. But I have to recognise that they do question the legitimacy of the European Union. It is not that they are burning to know all about the Union, but it amounts to people saying, We dont like what we dont understand. There needs to be a great deal more relatively simple but not unintelligent informationnot too simple because people are not stupidabout the EU.
Finally, on the one hand we are supposed to accept that there are a lot of Eurosceptics, while on the other hand reports from respectable polling organisations and Eurobarometer surveys carried out on behalf of but not by the European Commission show consistently that a large majority of people even in this country want the EU to be competent on issues such as tackling serious crime and terrorism, climate change and helping to solve the problems of poverty in the third world. They want the EU to be able to do things. There is something of a contradiction in those results, but I believe fundamentally that the British population supports a competent EU that is good at solving problems. It
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The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I am bothered by an Act of Parliament which comes into force because of what we were sent, but then someone says in that Act that a report will explain and clarify it. This is a departure from the way Acts of Parliament in this country work. Parliament passes an Act and it is for the courts to interpret and clarify it. We are creating another category of legislation here. I am quite dubious about frequent regulationyou can govern by regulationbut that process has increased under the present Government and I am quite anxious about it. Parliament by regulation is always dangerous. I can associate myself with Acts and Bills, but if you want clarification and interpretation it is for the courts to provide it, not the Government who have brought forward the Bill. The Prime Ministers reporting, clarifying and explaining will again be subjected to the courts, so why are we doing this? I would rather stick with the Act and forget this malarkey.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, earlier in the debate someone said that we were on a journey; we are coming to the end of tonights journey. I am very grateful for the 24th offer of a report19 of them from the Conservative Front Benchin the course of our deliberations. I am going to resist this one as much as I have resisted the previous 23.
In answer to the question about how many times the European Union is mentioned on the doorstep, my noble friend Lord Hunt suggested to me that it might be as often as Lords reform is mentioned on the doorstep.
I shall be rather old fashioned and talk briefly to the amendment before us. We have discussed the substantive issues in the amendment on many occasions, including the role of the full-time president of the European Council. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, has accepted that there are aspects of this amendment on which we have already voted and therefore should not have been included in the amendment. It is not the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Howellthey should not have got throughbut he has graciously accepted that and I shall not deal with those aspects of it.
I have said a number of times that when one is looking to ratify a treaty there are two principal issues. The first is to make sure that the work is done by officials at the right level to ensure that should ratification occur in all 27 member states, and thereby we move on with the Lisbon treaty, we are able to implement it properly. That happens with all legislation in a national Parliament and there is no difference in anything we
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We have been very clear that the decisions will be taken post-ratification and that Parliament will be involved appropriately in making sure that the Government are held to account, through scrutiny processes, for all the decisions that will probably take place throughout the remainder of the French presidency. The Minister for Europe has set out in a letter, which noble Lords have seen, how the Government intend to keep Parliament involved and has committed to ministerial contact with the committees ahead of ministerial discussions of these implementation issues. As I have indicated, there have been some preparatory discussions at the right level but, I repeat again, no final decisions will be taken until the treaty has been ratified, and they will be taken only by Ministers.
The scrutiny committees are receiving the draft annotated agenda for the European councils and the Foreign Secretary has given evidence today to the Foreign Affairs Committee. We expect there to be an informal discussion over dinner at the junior European Council on issues of implementation. It is important to have these informal discussions in order that officials are able to prepare for the moment when we hope ratification occurs across the European Union. The Prime Minister will be reporting back to another place from the European Council and, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat any Statement that is made on 23 June. That is one way in which we are able to keep noble Lords in touch.
I think I indicated previously, so I will not go over this ground again, that when I was in Brussels I talked at length to a number of different people, such as the head of the Council Legal Service and the secretary-general of the Commission, about all these issues. During all those meetings it was made clear to me that although official-level discussions were necessary to ensure that the arrangements were properly dealt with, no decisions would be reached without ministerial agreement. As I have said, we will keep both Houses informed.
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