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Lord Pearson of Rannoch:My Lords, more precisely, it is on proposals advanced in secret by the unelected Commission, passed in secret by the bureaucrats from the nation states in the shape of COREPER and passed, again in secret, in the Council of Ministers,
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I was about to regale your Lordships with the uses to which this clause has been put. I think I started by saying that one of them was the grant of food aid to the least developed countries. Then there is the promotion of urban renewal in Northern Ireland, the provision of assistance to economic reform in Mongolia, a new translation centre for EU bodies, the co-ordination of our social security systems, the prevention and aftercare of terrorism and establishing the EUs Agency for Fundamental Rightsthe agency that will carry out the charter, which will only be made legal by the now-defunct Lisbon treaty. There is also a new €235 million information campaign, which some of us would call propaganda. That will certainly be needed after the Irish people have spoken and the way they are about to behave. Then there is the regulation of glucose and lactose and the control of civil emergencies inside and outside the EU.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am fascinated to discover that the Commission has allocated exactly €235 million for this information campaign under the original Article 235, now subtly renumbered Article 352. This is clearly a very deep conspiracy. I think it sounds rather like the Da Vinci Code.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I refer the noble Lord to the House of Commons Select Committees report on this matter. It was passed under Article 308, which is what I am talking about, if the noble Lord had listened with appropriate fascination to my opening remarks.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, if I understand it, by his own admission the noble Lord is giving us the speech that he should have given us last week when he was not in his place to give it. Now he is abusing the procedures of this House and giving us a speech on something that is nothing whatever to do with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. Could he perhaps come to the amendment and explain what his position on it is?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I think I am entirely within the rules, which are to tidy up what has been said before. This is a new amendment in view of new circumstances that were not there when this subject was originally debated. I trust it is helpful to your Lordships. In any case, I have only got about another two minutes.
The House of Commons scrutiny committeeI say to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that none of what I am saying now was said on 9 Junewas overridden in its opposition to several of these initiatives. Indeed, it has produced excellent reports to confirm that. Some of those reports would be really quite funny if they were not so serious. For instance, only two years ago the Government started by agreeing with the committee that Article 308 could not be used to pass the control of civil contingencies to Brussels. The Government replied, in time-honoured fashion, that there was nothing
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That is the sort of thing that has been going on, away from public scrutiny of course. It is supported by the judicial activism of the Luxemborg court. As long ago as 1996 the court gave a judgment on the use of Article 308 that simply ignored the requirement that the clause could be used only in the course of the operation of the Common Market. The court did not even mention it but ruled that what mattered was to obtain a Community objective that was not covered elsewhere in the treaties; in other words an illegal Community objective. I might add that that sanctioned the use to which this clause has been put. There is no appeal against such rampant dishonesty in the court. That is why I fear the amendment will not make much difference to the juggernauts process, but I support it none the less.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, for the past 33 years I have had the privilege of being a guest of the Irish nation, and I was present for 12 days of the referendum campaign and read their literature. I notice from the two speeches that we have just heard that the Irish referendum is prayed in aid for this amendment. Reference was made to the way that the Irish have spoken and to the idea that their referendum is more democratic than what we do in our two Houses of Parliament. I want to make only one pointI think it is a new oneand then say a sentence or two about the particular amendment.
The point is that the Irish nation was not asked in the referendum question, Do you agree with the proposal to ratify the treaty of Lisbon?. That would have been a complicated enough question given the appalling drafting and opaque language of much of the treaty. This is the question they were asked:
There was then an official press pack which explained the proposal to insert various provisions in Article 29 of the constitution, referring to articles of the Lisbon treaty with a promise to the voters that they could obtain a copy of the Bill in the post office but not a copy of the treaty. It was literally impossible even for a legal genius to understand the question unless they had the Lisbon treaty next to them.
Therefore, when noble Lords say that this is some new event which gives a new opportunity and that our procedures are less democratic, I disagree. So far as this amendment is concerned, it says nothing at all,
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Lord Waddington: My Lords, we have had a long discussion and noble Lords will bear with me for a moment if I touch on a matter that has not yet been touched on. Some people have always been in a state of denial and, as far as I can see, always will be in a state of denial. Most people, however, recognise that the Irish vote almost certainly was not a manifestation of Irish eccentricity but an expression of opinion that very likely reflects the opinion of people throughout Europe. Certainly every time that people have been asked to express an opinion in a referendum, they have answered the question in a way that seems to show their concern about the way in which things are going in Europe and about the pace of change. I defy anybody in this House to say that there is not now a serious disconnection between public opinion and the opinions of the elite in Europe. That is a dangerous situation. I am using this amendment to make this simple point. I hope that the elite will show some humility and, as a result of what has happened in Ireland, go away and seriously consider what has gone wrong.
Lord Roper: My Lords, the noble Lord says that every time there has been a consultation, this view has been expressed. I assume, therefore, that he is referring to the referendums on the previous treaty as well as on this one. If that is the case, he ought to remember that on the previous treaty there were four referendums: two were in favour and two were against.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, before the noble Lord continuesand I hope that noble Lords will recognise that I have been patient in listening to what has been saidlet me just remind the House that we are considering an amendment. We had a long debate on the amendment to the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, during which we dealt with these issues. At this hour and at this stage of the Bill, we should confine ourselves to the words of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway; we should deal with that and not other issues, important though they be, which have been debated at enormous length. I hope that the House will indulge me in so doing.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I do not wish to delay noble Lords another moment, but I defy anybody in this House to seriously argue that there is not a disconnection between the opinion of ordinary people and those who pontificate about what is happening in the citadels of power in Brussels. That is a dangerous situation and I hope that in the next month or two some people will, instead of smirking and suggesting that the Irish people have just made a mess of it, go away and seriously consider what has gone wrong.
Baroness Quin: My Lords, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary. It simply says that, in the absence of progress on the Lisbon treaty, the existing treaties should be adhered to. However, as I understand it,
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In various debates, noble Lords have stressed their strong views either for or against the Lisbon treaty, but it has always been my view that, although the Lisbon treaty is important and has a lot of useful provisions, if it does not proceed the European Union will still be in a position to make a lot of important day-to-day decisions. One thing that always struck me when I was a Minister in various councils was that for the most part the European Union proceeds by consensus without votes and in a purposeful way. I would like my noble friend the Minister, when she replies to this debate, to confirm that there is absolutely no reason why Governments should not continue to pursue with all the energy that they can muster such issues as tackling climate change or the worrying situation regarding rising food prices in the world, or indeed any of the other challenges that the European Union faces. It is true that the treaty of Lisbon would have improved the decision-making procedures; none the less, if the European Union has the will, it can tackle a lot of these important subjects.
Although it is a blow that, unfortunately, as a result of the Irish vote we are now again thinking of how to improve the European Unions institutions, that should not become the sole focus of the European Union, which has a great deal of important business to conduct on a day-to-day basis, as I hope it will do purposefully in the months ahead. For that reason, the amendment is completely unnecessary. The countries of the European Union, whatever their views on the Irish result and on the future institutional framework of the European Union, should get on with tackling the real issuesthose issues that are capable of engaging the publics interest and closing the gap between the elites and the electorates in Europe.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, we shall not know how necessary this amendment is until we hear from the Minister. The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, may be absolutely right that the amendment is completely unnecessary because this is the way in which things will happen. However, we need to hear from the Minister, which is why I warmly welcome the amendmentindeed, I put my name to itas this is an important opportunity for the Government clearly to set out the position.
I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, when he described the wording of the treaty as opaque language and appalling drafting. If he had attended all our debates, that is the message that he would have heard from this side of the House as we sought to improve the way in which this European Union (Amendment) Bill proceeds.
We have heard a lot of versions of why the Irish voted as they did. The answer lies with the Irish people. They have expressed a view. We cannot start surmising why they did it in this particular way. However, I say to the noble Lord that this is not a problem for the Republic of Ireland alone. The plain fact is that this is a problem for the entire European Union and, consequently, any solution must involve the entire European Union.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, no blow-in in west Cork would ever dream of saying other than that we must respect the treaty rights of the Irish. The Irish problem is a British problem and a European problem.
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Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I always defer to the noble Lord because I am very proud to have been listed alongside him as one of the 100 most powerful lawyers in the United Kingdom. That company is a heady mix. I just feel that the amendment is an ideal opportunity for the Government to reaffirm that they will comply with what he accepts is normal, standard procedure. In some of our debates, we have asked whether this will in fact happen. In the treaty of Lisbon, there is a huge constitutional change: the collapse of the Third Pillar. That dominated the debate in the Irish Republic.
The presence of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York suggests an analogy to me. When Samson started to collapse the last pillar, he brought the entire edifice crashing down on top of him and wiped out a load of Philistines at the same time. I will not carry the analogy any further. Suffice it to say that, when you collapse a pillar, you have a major impact. That is the message that we have tried to put across.
Finally, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, that of course the Irish referendum has a place in this debate. I did not agree with the noble Baroness when she sought to curtail the debate, because the amendment refers to a situation in which the treaty,
The decision reached by the Irish people is therefore very relevant to this debate. However, the noble Baroness has it in her hands to render any further debate superfluous by saying that she accepts the amendment.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I was not trying to curtail the debate; I was trying more to feed it into the debate on the amendment. I make no apologies for that, but I hope to allay the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, which he expressed in his earlier speech in particular.
This Treaty shall enter into force on 1 January 2009, provided that all the instruments of ratification have been deposited, or, failing that, on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take this step.
The Foreign Secretary and I have already made it clear in our discussions that there is no question whatever of ignoring the vote of the Irish people or of bullying them. The Irish Government have set out clearly their respect for the right of other countries to complete their ratification process. We have discussed that at great length this afternoon in your Lordships House. The legal position is absolutely clear as a matter of international and EU law and it is not necessary for it to be reflected in an amendment to the Bill. For further clarification, noble Lords will be keen to hear that we understand that treaty preparations will no longer feature on the European Council agenda.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, what has happened to the discussions about preparing for the new presidency or the discussions about the European diplomatic service? What has happened to the discussions that were taking place on the European defence policy?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I indicated that those discussions were among officials and that such discussions take place in any deliberations on any legislation, both domestic and international. I say that just to clarify the matter. The noble Lord knows this, although I notice that he sprang to his feet rather like a tiger. Therefore, I cannot indicate whether there has been any further discussion. I imagine that there will be discussions on the back of the discussions this weekend on where to go next. I will report back to your Lordships House, because my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will make a Statement on his return from the European Council. With the leave of the House, I will make a Statement on that, as I am sure noble Lords will wish me to, and ensure that I have an answer to that question, if indeed the matter was discussed. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord.
To make absolutely certain, I checked with parliamentary counsel, which has allowed me to quote it on the question of whether the amendment is necessary. In effect, it said that for clarification to be effective, there needs to be some doubt about the position. There is no doubt about the position, so this clarification
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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I prefer not to withdraw the amendment. It is quite apparent that it has served more than one constructive purpose, the last of which was spoken to by the Leader of the House. It is also apparent that we have no idea which way we are going. In those circumstances, it is not prudent or sensible to ratify or to assert that it is right to ratify the treaty.
The amendment was also constructive in that it gave my noble friend Lord Waddington a chance to pick up one of its crucial aspects and the justification for it, which I put to the House: would noble Lords give pride of precedence to the interests of the people and not to the interests of government? My noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral also made an encouraging contribution, which helped the validity of this exercise. The fundamental reason why I seek the opinion of the Housein doing so, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken both for and againstis that I believe that it is fundamentally wrong to assert ratification of something that has to be worked out when one has not the slightest idea how it will be done. For those reasons, I seek the opinion of the House.
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