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Finally, I have heard tonight, and it has been echoed in the words of William Hague in the other place, that somehow we do not need this and that the European Union works perfectly happily as it is. I have been at the other end of a European foreign policy lever as European special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was often told that Bosnia was dysfunctional, but I can tell your Lordships that it was far less dysfunctional than Brussels has been. Europe now operates with two heads in places such as Bosnia. We have put into Bosnia and Kosovo more money than the United States, but because we cannot speak with a single voice as between the Council and the Commission, if a Bosnian or a Kosovar wants to get something done, they knock on the door of the United States, which speaks with a single voice, responds quickly and provides the resources needed in the time available.
We cannot do that in Europe. We are wasting our resources and influence even in areas that matter to us gravely. Those who say that we should continue as we have done and that it is all working perfectly okay are saying that we should continue to have a split and divided voice on the key issue of Kosovo, which is so essential to our future, and that we should continue to be content with the idea that we provide differential inputs as Europe within NATO in Afghanistan. I do not thinkhere I agree so much with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwaterthat we have understood the new world in which Europe is now moving. It will be a much chillier world.
Let me give your Lordships some facts. In the early 1990s, Europe had about 35 to 36 per cent of the total global wealth; today, the figure is 20 per cent. At the same time, in the early 1990s, the Far East had 17 per cent of total global wealth; today, the figure is over
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We are seeing a retrenching United States, a rising Russia, a rising China and the development of global problems. If anyone in this House believes that we can best serve the interests of our citizens by condemning ourselves to being a series of corks bobbing along in the wake of other peoples ocean liners, they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. If Europe does not deepen its integration on matters of defence and foreign affairs, we will waste money, influence and time and the decade that we see ahead of us will be much more turbulent, dangerous and difficult.
I do not know what we do next. I am in a quandary. This is a tragic moment and it was a tragic decision, but we must treat it with respectof course we must. When we come to consider what should happen in the new world that is now developing, knowing where our colleagues in Europe stand on the Lisbon treaty will be the best mechanism by which we can decide what to do next. That process starts in this House and it starts tonight. We should not delay; we must make sure that the voice of this House on this treaty is heard not in five or six months time but tonight. That is the best way to move forward into what is a difficult and potentially very tricky situation.
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, but I would like to deal briefly with two points, one made by
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, all we can do on the Front Bench is count the numbers. It is five each. There is time for both noble Lords to speak. I cannot possibly make any kind of ruling, because I will get it wrong.
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords, I will deal with two arguments, one raised by the noble Lord, Lord King, and one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, was that we should give it a week; the situation will be clearer next week. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord King, was that proceeding and completing Third Reading would be an affront. I do not really understand either argument, but I would like to make two factual points.
Ireland last said no to a European treaty, the Nice treaty, in June 2001. The result was 53 per cent no, the same score as this time. In June 2002, the European Council issued the Seville declaration on Irish neutrality. In October 2002, Ireland said yes to the package of the treaty plus the Seville declaration on Irish neutrality by a majority of 63 per cent to 37 per cent. The parliamentary timetable here was as follows. The Irish said no the first time around on 7 June 2001. On 4 July,
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I draw two morals from that. First, nobody should be in a great hurry. Nobody should expect anything to happen at the European Council this weekend or by October. The Irish have made a legitimate point. The European Union has to consider it and to think about it. There will be a discussion and it will be for the Irish Government to tell the European Counciland they will not know as of this weekend, as they will not have decidedduring the next year or so what they think should be done. This is a wrecking amendment. By October nothing will have become clear in Brussels as to the fate of the treaty.
Secondly, I shall deal with whether this is an affront to parliamentary procedures. If, in 2001-02, we could start, carry out and complete, both in this place and in the other place, the full process of ratification after Ireland had said no and before the answer was secured for Ireland in Seville that enabled Ireland to say yes, how could it be unprecedented or an affront for us to complete the very last stage of what has been an extremely full analysis now? As for whether it would help the Irish if we did stopthe other argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Owenit would certainly baffle the Irish. It would baffle all our partners in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, has explained the reasons why he feels that it would be a serious mistake for us to delay. All his reasons were correct. It would baffle the Irish and weaken our ability to assist them in what will be a long, slow, complex and serious debate. So we should complete our job today and give the Bill a Third Reading.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I will speak briefly at this late stage. To avoid adding to the confusion in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, as to the state of mind in my party, I say to him that I speak as a pro-European.
The vote on the amendment to the Motion will send a signal. It will signal either that Britain sides with the big battalions against the lone voice of a small countrywith the message that the sooner the Irish can be persuaded by some means or other to recant, the betteror that we respect and take full account of the view so clearly expressed by the Irish people. On the basis of both constitutional principle and political pragmatism, it is in the interests of Britain, the Government, my own party and, not least, this House that we should vote for the amendment tonight.
Europe, however united within the EU, will always be divided in some ways, not least between the so-called Anglo-Saxon model of a vibrant, entrepreneurial, flexible, free-trade Europe and a social Europe that seeks in vain to preserve an unsustainable economic model of subsidy and privilege protected by whatever tariffs or state intervention may be needed to do that. Let us
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The noble Lord, Lord Jay, says that we must not be out of step. Many of the proudest hours in Britains history have been when we have stood alone or nearly alone. That is why I shall support my noble friend.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I was not able to be in the European Parliament in Strasbourg this morning, as I wanted to be in your Lordships House. One of the many reforms that has not been made, and is not in the treaty of Lisbon, is for the European Parliament to be able to save €200 million a year by deciding its own seat, which would of course be in Brussels. I had to come back last night because Air France is not very co-operative. However, had I been in Strasbourg, I would have heard my Irish MEP colleague Marian Harkin say:
It is only possible to defend Irish sovereignty if you also recognise the sovereignty of other member states.
She said that in urging continuation of the parliamentary and ratification procedures in other member states.
At the risk of sounding pedantic, I believe that there is confusion between parliamentary approval through the passing of the Bill and ratification, which is the deposit of the instrument of ratification. We are not ratifying as such but empowering the Government to ratify if that is appropriate in the future. I agree with those who say that it would strengthen the Prime Minister this weekend if we had the certainty of knowing where we stand. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord King, that we should postpone because of the uncertainty; it is precisely because we do not know what is going to happen that we should hold fast to what we do know.
As has been said on the Benches opposite, this Parliament has had 24 days of debate and has considered hundreds of amendments. The treaty is in the national interest. We all agree that we should respect the voices coming out of Ireland. However, I suggest that we should actually listen to them and to people such as my Irish MEP colleague and the Prime Minister of Ireland, who ask us to continue following our procedures and doing what is in Britains national interest. That means passing the Bill.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I have consistently opposed this treaty because I believe that it fossilises an outdated structure for Europe rather than introduces a structure fit for the 21st century. However, this is not the time for those debates.
I support the amendment on the ground of trust. Listening to this debate, I am tempted to think that the expedient way forward for people like me who have opposed the treaty is to support the Governmentand,
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However, there is a question of trust. My noble friend Lord Howell set out very sensible reasons why, given how much uncertainty there is, it would be sensible for this House and, indeed, Parliament to know what the circumstances might be if the treaty were ever to come into force. However, I am afraid that I also have an issue of trust as regards the Governmentas I believe have the people of the countrywhich concerns what they might do if we pass the Bill tonight. Suggestions have been madewe do not know how they will evolveabout protocols being developed for Ireland, implementing parts of the treaty without full ratification and even coming up with a two-speed Europe that puts Ireland in a different position. None of those outcomes ought to be possible without amending this Bill to reflect amendments to the treaty. If we pass this Bill tonight, and the treaty is ratified by the UK, I fear that the Government will argue that they can do those things without coming back to this House. For that reason it is incumbent on us to hold the Government to account and ensure that in the autumn, when we know better what the situation will be, they are able to come back and explain why they want to proceed with the ratification of the treaty, whether there have been changes and whether those need amendments. I might live to regret it if those amendments enabled the Bill and the treaty to survive, but nevertheless it would be the right thing to do.
Finally, I say to those who dismiss the voices of the Irish people and of others across Europe that, even if they have not read the fine detail, people understand what lies behind this treaty better than some noble Lords think they do. A democratic Government may be able to defy the will of the people for so long, but eventually the will of the people will prevail.
Lord McNally: My Lords, when I intervened at this stage last Wednesday and spoke for only two minutes I received so many congratulatory letters and phone calls that I decided that that was the way forward for me to gain popularity in the House. We have had yet another extraordinarily good and varied debate but I think that we have reached the stage in our deliberations when the House would like to hear from the Lord President and the noble Lord, Lord Howell. Then if the noble Lord wishes to press his amendment, the House can come to a decision.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, this has been yet another interesting and high-quality discussion. I have sat through some 75 hours of discussion in your Lordships' House and I hope noble Lords will believe me when I say that it has been a great privilege to do so. I have heard speeches with which I agreed wholeheartedly and speeches with which I agreed with
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I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, for the ingenuity with which he came up with his amendment to the Third Reading procedure. There will probably have been much scratching of heads as those with responsibility for our procedures looked back over precedents. The previous occasion on which such a precedent was used, but with no vote, was in 1984. The previous occasion on which a vote was taken on such a Motion was in 1976. Therefore, we are in territory that is way before my time in the House. But, inevitably, as I reread the speeches in the relevant Hansard of 1976, I recognised some noble Lords voices.
I shall be relatively brief because much of what I wanted to say has been said. Having sat through many interesting hours of debate, noble Lords will know where the Government, and I on behalf of the Government, stand on the issues before us. I want to focus on three points. The first is parliamentary sovereignty. Noble Lords have spoken across the House about the importance of parliamentary sovereignty. Indeed, in the Question that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked just before we began this debate, that issue was raised again. I stand firm by what I said then and what I have said before: it is important that we act as a sovereign Parliament on behalf of this country and do things which are appropriate for that parliamentary sovereignty, not least in determining the position that this Parliament holds on a treaty of this importance. I recognise the importance that my noble friend Lady Symons attaches to that and the relevance of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said about the importance of passing legislation even if it were not to be implemented. It is not that unusual for that to happen. It is completely within the abilities and propriety of your Lordships House to do so. We are 96 per cent of the way through our deliberations. It is important that we should ratify.
The Czech Republic is reiterating the position it has been stating since Aprilthat its constitutional court, because of the way it operates, must deliberate. I have now read the entire statement of the Prime Minister and yesterday it was reiterating that position. It will come to a conclusion later in the year, and I respect that. Its constitutional court will make a decision and the Czech Republic will move forward on that basis. It is for each member state to make its decision. Some 18 countries have so far done so. It is our turn to decide what we wish to do.
The second point has not much featured in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, came closest to covering it. Why are we doing this? What is this treaty about? Why do I think it is a good thing for this country? Noble Lords have touched on issues of, for example, reducing the size of the Commission and making sure that Europe can work more effectively. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and others talked about that. That is important because Europhobe and Europhile alike have said for a long time that Brussels needs to work more effectively, as does the Commission. How much money is spent has featured in discussions, as far as I can remember, over the past 20 to 30 years.
The treaty also gives national Parliaments a greater say in making European Union laws. That is an important aspect of our deliberations in the past 24 days across your Lordships House and another place. It is important to recognise that that makes a difference. The treaty also sets out what the European Union can and cannot dothe competences, on which we spent a great deal of time in our earlier discussions. It deals with some of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, in his life and work in Bosnia-Herzegovina when he dealt with the problems of a European Union with two heads. These are resolved by the treaty. Perhaps more important than anything, it sets overarching priorities for eradicating poverty and introduces childrens rights for the first time into the European Unions objectives.
Part of our deliberationsperhaps the most important part of the scrutiny in your Lordships Househas been looking line by line at what this treaty actually does and agreeing or disagreeing about it. Those who have participated know what it is trying to do. Deliberating on the content of this treaty is important. Making a decision on what we think about the content is important. Whether this treaty ever becomes law across Europe, sending a signal that childrens rights are important or that the eradication of poverty matters makes a difference to our representativesour Prime Minister and Foreign Secretaryat the discussions. We should not lose sight of what this is all about or what it is for.
I was also taken by a message in the Evening Standard today from some business leaders who said that this was a positive step for Britain, that we should do more to support the treaty and that we in this House should make sure we ratify it. The article says,
That comes not from me, but from eminent business leaders. Noble Lords can look at the Evening Standard website to see what they have said. The content matters and the messages that we send about our views on the content matter hugely when our representatives are in Brussels, deliberating with their colleagues on what should happen next.
The third and final point is whether a delay would help the process. Does it help the Irish in what they have to do next and will it enable us to amend the treaty? There is no appetite, as has already been said, for trying to find ways to amend treaties or to find new treaties. In the Statement last night, it was made clear that should we want another treaty, it would have to come back to your Lordships House and to the other place and go through the process again. Would it help the Irish to say, We will give you four months and then come back to this issue? I do not think so. Considering everything that noble Lords have said about not wanting to put the Irish in a difficult position and not wanting to bully them, with which I wholeheartedly agree, we should let the Irish have time, but setting some arbitrary four-month timetable does not make any sense. In my view, it sends the opposite signal to the Irish. It says, You have only four months and then we shall come back to the subject.
We can look at what has happened on previous occasions. In 1992, it was 17 months before we came back with a solution when the Danish voters rejected
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For those three reasons it is very important that tonight we make our decision. The noble Lord has found a procedure from 1976 which, I presume, he wishes to test in your Lordships' House. This is a very good opportunity for us, once again, to deliberate and to discuss, but we have done that. It is now time to decide that this treaty should receive Royal Assent and that our Prime Minister should go to the European Council tomorrow with our views on what is in the treaty and the ideas behind it in order to participate fullynot in a semi-detached wayin the European Union and be able to ensure that, in doing so, he supports the Irish people who have to think through their next steps.
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