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In Committee I set out some of the Government's objections to an amendment of this nature and I will recapitulate some of those now. First, were the British electorate to vote no in a referendum, it is clear that the Government would have to consider their future action carefully. It would be difficult to view the result as anything other than a firm rejection of a proposal for treaty change. If the Government wanted to hold another referendum for whatever reason, under the terms of this legislation, as my noble friend Lady Brinton said, they would first need to secure parliamentary approval to do so by Act. Primary legislation would be necessary to enable the referendum, so Parliament would have to consider that request very carefully and itself be persuaded to agree, which is not necessarily a given.

Secondly, the amendment reduces flexibility, a quality that has attracted a lot of support from all Benches. We do not know what will happen in the future, and as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has suggested, sometimes we do know what will happen in the short term future. As noble Lords have argued on a number of occasions,

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and in this case following the rejection of a proposal by the British people in a referendum, circumstances could change. There are "events, dear boy" and unexpected crises whether they be security crises, financial collapse, economic recession or even crises of energy supply or surges in immigration. All might conceivably transform the situation. So there could be previously unanticipated grounds for the Government and Parliament to believe that the treaty change on the table was in the national interest of this country. As a consequence, if both the Government and Parliament were to decide that there were good reasons for putting a question to the British people in a further referendum, Parliament should be able to do so without having to disapply an inflexible provision.

I have to say to the noble Lord that I would be surprised if any Government in the future would wish to hold a referendum in the hope that the people would be somehow persuaded to change their minds merely by the Government cajoling them rather than in response to a substantial change in circumstances. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said in Committee. He pointed out that the people of Denmark, Ireland, France and the Netherlands,

Those changes were any changes that had taken place or had been made to the treaty before them between the holding of the first and second referendums. People are clear in their own mind and will not easily be browbeaten into giving a different answer just because the Government-any Government-would like one. As the Minister for Europe made clear in the other place, it is a recipe not only for the public to say no again, just as firmly if not even more so, but also an invitation to be voted out of government at the next election for treating the public with contempt. But I reiterate that there might be circumstances where a repeat referendum may be in order before the three years suggested by the noble Lord had elapsed.

We were running through a most wonderful boom at the end of 2007. The recession hit us rapidly and sharply thereafter, with the financial collapse of a number of banks. We face a potential crisis in energy supply. At the moment there is a range of possibilities where crises might erupt that would affect us and our European partners. Therefore I see no reason for reducing flexibility, as this amendment would, and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw it.

9.30 pm

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, made his position on referendums perfectly clear, so I do not think there is any point in pursuing that. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for his support. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said that a new treaty might possibly have some advantages for Britain and therefore the Government should not have their hands tied on another referendum. But the whole reason for the Bill-I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will concede this-is that, so far, all the new treaties have given power away from Parliament and the British

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people to the European Union. That is the nature of treaties and it is what has happened. That is also why we have the Bill in front of us right now. It is to stop this constant, undemocratic transfer of power from Parliament and the British people to the European Union. It has been one-way traffic all the way, and while this Bill is not perfect, at least it is a step in the right direction.

I am sorry that the Government do not feel that the amendment is helpful. I think it would be helpful because it would persuade the British people that in spite of the protestations of Ministers-no one believes any longer what they have to say-they will not be double dealt yet again. But, having heard the opinion of all those who have spoken and from the Government, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.

Amendment 31

Moved by Lord Triesman

31: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause-

"Promotion of United Kingdom's membership of EU

In participating in a campaign for any referendum held in pursuance of section 2, 3 or 6, or in taking other steps required by this Act, Ministers of the Crown must have regard to the desirability of promoting the United Kingdom's membership of the EU."

Lord Triesman: My Lords, this is very close to an amendment that my noble friend Lord Radice moved in Committee. For that reason-aside from that of plagiarism, having reproduced the amendment so closely-I shall be very brief.

It appears that the circumstances in which the referendum on whatever subject-an omnibus referendum on a treaty or a more limited one-would be held would be those in which the Government had concluded that it was right to take matters to both Houses. They would have secured a majority in both Houses, including -critically, because of the confidence issues-the House of Commons. Legislation would have been approved by Parliament and would therefore have become the position that Parliament had adopted. That is the decision that would then be put to a referendum-put before the people of the country to overturn it, should they choose to do so. Throughout that process there can be little doubt that it would be incumbent on the Government, and anybody who supported them, to pursue as vigorously as they could the case for the change that they advocated. It would be pointless-indeed, frivolous-if a Government did not, by the time they had reached that point, argue fiercely for the substantive issue.

It is particularly true that that would be the case because, so often when we were dealing with matters to do with Europe, the previous Government did not argue effectively or convincingly. The case was never put with the level of conviction that, on reflection, I should have liked to see. In those days, the Opposition-now the Government-never pursued an argument for Europe with any great vigour that I could detect. There was in general no great desire to do so. However, it will become very important that it should be done-that

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the argument should be pursued, and that there should be some proper presentation that will enable people to understand why any kind of decision is being put in front of them at all.

I say that in the briefest terms for this reason. I have no doubt that if and when any referendum takes place, whatever the substantive issue being put before the people of the United Kingdom, there will be those who regard the occasion as an ideal opportunity to argue against membership of the European Union per se. It will come up and it will begin to look like the opportunity-for which some people outside this Chamber and some within it have urged-for another decision to be taken on Europe. We shall find that that is how the argument will be displayed in much of our media. It will not necessarily be about the issues; it will be about whether people really want to be in Europe. The media will campaign vigorously around that. Of course, the decision will be on the substantive issue in the referendum, but I have little doubt that the campaign will be disfigured by the argument over whether we should be in Europe at all. That is why there is a great deal of merit in asking the Government to have regard-not a very high hurdle to climb over-to,

My noble friend Lord Radice put that point in very convincing terms in Committee. There are extremely good reasons for it, not least that we have all failed so abjectly to argue the case for Europe with great effect in the past. I beg to move.

Lord Risby: My Lords, I very much agree with some of the underlying sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman. There are powerful reasons for us to be part of the European Union and to have a positive view of it. Of course that is the case. Sometimes that is completely lost in the wash, which is regrettable and unfortunate. However, on promoting the desirability of our membership, I just point out that we have to take great care over what we do in this respect. One of the most extraordinary episodes under the previous Government was their attempt to explain the euro. We had the exceptional sight of the then Europe Minister, Mr Keith Vaz, going round in a white van to various market towns, handing out literature explaining why the euro was a very desirable thing. The net effect of this risible campaign was to cause support for the euro to diminish, so we have to undertake these things with great care.

The amendment implicitly reflects concern about the lack of popularity-

Lord Dykes: I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way, but has he not left out the vital fact that a lot of support for Europe grew out of Mr Keith Vaz having learnt the trick of taking Mr Eddie Izzard round with him on the campaign?

Lord Risby: I discussed this episode with Mr Keith Vaz and I am not sure that he felt it was one of the high points of his political career, but we can leave it at that.



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The amendment implicitly reflects our concern about the EU's lack of popularity, but I fail to see the point of it. It is completely unnecessary. To have a referendum the Government need to have agreed the relevant treaty in Brussels in the first place, and Parliament will have enacted an Act of Parliament, having debated and scrutinised it. I entirely agree that a referendum campaign should educate the public in the fullest sense of the word. Presumably, having decided on a referendum, the Government would like to win it. The notion that they would somehow be against the EU, implicitly or explicitly, makes a nonsense of the whole situation. Why waste money on such an exercise? The case for membership is explicit in the whole referendum process. The way to change the view of the desirability-

Lord Lea of Crondall: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but I am rather intrigued by his clear statement that the Government will want to win a referendum. Is he absolutely sure that they will not do a Pontius Pilate in some cases in a referendum?

Lord Risby: If a Government have got that far and want to test public opinion, it is very unlikely that they would behave as the noble Lord suggests. It is not likely that a Government would embark on a referendum if they thought that they were going to lose it. That is not the natural course of political events, but perhaps the noble Lord-

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Surely it goes somewhat further than that; if the Government put forward a referendum that they are trying to win and they lose it, that damages their credibility.

Lord Risby: That would certainly be the case; I entirely agree with my noble friend. The way to change people's view of the desirability of EU membership is simply to prevent them believing that we have been on a conveyor belt to greater integration without their assent. That is the real point; it is better than any publicity campaign. The real reason for negative attitudes is because over the years when there have been European Council meetings or discussions over treaties such as at Nice, Amsterdam or Lisbon, we have had the whole "Grand Old Duke of York" activity on the part of successive Governments. Statements have been issued by Downing Street, particularly more latterly, that indicated that great victories had been won for Britain, which no other European nation would recognise as being the truth at all. The good thing about the coalition Government is that all the spinning and posturing that characterised our relationship with the European Union has stopped. Where has anyone seen it in the past year? That is an admirable change for us all. The Bill will give us a better chance of restarting our relationship with the EU by addressing public attitudes than any publicity campaign could possibly do.

Lord Radice: My Lords, I support the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Liddle. I could hardly do otherwise as it is an exact replica of the amendment that I moved in

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Committee. I thought it was a good thing then and I that it is a good thing now. In Committee, I made a general case for Ministers-the amendment refers to the general case-making a positive case for the European Union.

9.45 pm

We have been members of the European Union for 40 years, but government Ministers have consistently been hesitant about putting the case for the European Union. Unfortunately, that includes members of my own party. For example, Tony Blair, when he was Prime Minister, was far better at making speeches about the EU and British membership when he was on the continent than when he was in the United Kingdom. One of the main reasons for that was that he was frightened of the Eurosceptic press. He was frightened of the reaction in the Murdoch press. Any time he said anything positive about the European Union, he was almost always in trouble. I still remember the headline in the Sun, asking,

"Is this the most dangerous man in Britain?",

when he said that there might be a good case for Britain joining the euro. It was not surprising that he was a bit more cautious afterwards about making that kind of speech.

One reason for the disconnect that the noble Lord, Lord Risby, has just talked about is that successive generations of British Ministers have failed to make the case for British membership of the European Union. Of course I agree with the noble Lord that there must not be foolish propaganda that can easily be knocked down. However, that is no excuse for Ministers not making a positive case based on the facts. Such a case should also admit some of the weaknesses. It does not have to be propaganda; it has to be a genuine case.

I congratulated David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, who explained very well in a Written Answer why he believed that European Union membership was in our national interest. The noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, from that Dispatch Box, said in very positive terms following a Eurosceptic attack from somewhere behind me that the United Kingdom got more out of the EU than it put in. It is good to hear Ministers with the courage to say that. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in answer to my speech, stressed the need for the Government,

That is absolutely right, and I hope that he and his colleague next to him will continue to do that, because it is their responsibility.

However, this is not just their responsibility but the responsibility of those much higher up-the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary. I want to hear them all make constructive speeches about the EU-not spinning speeches and saying "game, set and match", as John Major was reputed to have said when he came back from Maastricht. We need to hear the case for why membership of the EU is in Britain's interests, because if you ask the British people whether they are aware of some of the benefits, they are not because they are

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never told about those benefits, which certainly never appear in most of the newspapers, and Ministers are frightened to mention them.

That was the purpose of my amendment, and I want the coalition to live up to the constructive part of its agreement on Europe. We know what the negative part is; we have heard it time and time again in our debates. The case is that you will have a lot of referendums that will re-establish the connect between the British people and the European Union. However, there is another responsibility on Ministers: to put the constructive case for the European Union. That was the purpose of my amendment and is partly the purpose of the amendment moved by my noble friend.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with this amendment. In the course of the last three months we have heard from all sides of the House the collective failure of politicians to articulate a vision of why Britain needs to co-operate with members in her region to advance her interests. Putting an obligation on Ministers to spell out positively a vision for the EU seems eminently sensible, given the context of the Bill. This is, as the noble Lord, Lord Risby, said, that once the Government have passed an Act, they would presumably like to win an amendment. It seems odd to resist an amendment such as this when we are clear that the Government would have passed an Act proposing the policy solutions that there would be and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, said, would wish to maintain their credibility by seeking actively to campaign in a referendum. I cannot see why there is such resistance to this amendment.

I remind noble Lords of some of the things that have been said about the media. Even if the Government of the day were determined to win a referendum, it is entirely conceivable that a sceptical media would choose to ask questions about why the Government were spending money. We have known from the several months of debate over referendums in this House in relation to other matters that large amounts of money have been set at the door of the practicalities of holding a referendum. It would be entirely possible for our media, which did not wish us to promote that measure that was meant to be discussed in the referendum, to say that this was a huge waste of money. The fact that a requirement for promoting that measure would be enshrined in the Bill would allow the Government to say that they were carrying out what statute and legislation required them to. We have had arguments for months on the lack education and the lack of information about the European Union. This would be an opportunity for the Government of the day to move beyond those technical measures to use that process to educate the public about their vision.

I turn to the final point in the amendment that I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, in moving it, quite brought out to the extent that I would wish to do. It states,

The discussion we have had so far pertains only to the holding of referendums. There are other measures in this Bill that do not call for the holding of referendums.

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Sometimes they call simply for an Act of Parliament, or for a Statement to be made to Parliament. In doing these things, an obligation would be put on the Ministers of the day to have regard for the desirability of promoting the United Kingdom's membership of the EU. This amendment says to us as politicians that we have to step up to the mark and that if we believe that the legislation that we are passing is good legislation, we have to go out and explain why we think that it is good legislation. While I would love to say that I wholeheartedly support the amendment, I will only go so far as to say that I can see a lot of merit in it and I look forward to hearing from the Minister why he does not think that it is extremely useful and long overdue.

Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I am afraid that, although I listened with great interest to my noble friend Lady Falkner, I cannot agree with her that the amendment makes much sense. I listened carefully to the noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Radice, in putting forward the amendment. It is an odd amendment. What does it actually mean? Any referendum that might be held under the Act is not going to be a referendum as to whether our membership of the EU is or is not a good thing. By definition, if the Government want to put a referendum event to the people, it follows that they must already have decided that it is a good thing, so to get the result they want in the referendum, they will obviously explain the benefits as energetically and positively as they can.

There is something strange about the language of the amendment, because the desirability of promoting the United Kingdom's membership of the EU sounds rather as though we are not a member but perhaps should be. We are a member, so obviously Ministers must explain what being a member of the EU means and must honour the obligations of being a member. I fear that that is rather subjective.

Furthermore, under the Bill, a referendum other than one which the Government wanted to win might be triggered. There are many ways in which a referendum can be triggered under the Bill, as noble Lords have said. Ministers of the Crown might be obliged to put a certain point to the country but they might not necessarily want the result to be yes. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, said that Ministers have not positively made the case in public for membership of the EU on a continuing basis. I suggest that that is because many Ministers of the Crown have felt that our membership of the EU is no longer so clearly wholly beneficial as they had thought it was, or as people thought it would be 10 years ago, or longer ago than that.

The amendment does not add anything to the Bill. It is somewhat subjective and I cannot support it.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I agree very much with the earlier utterances and express regret that I cannot agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said. I do not think that there is any evidence that Ministers have become less enthusiastic about our membership of the European Union. That is irrespective of the colour of the Government. That applies to both parties in power in recent times and, as far as I can

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detect, definitely applies to the coalition-very positively so in respect of the first part of the coalition statement about their aspirations on Europe.

I am sure that it is because of what the noble Lord, Lord Radice, mentioned and what the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, hinted at less directly: because of what the British press say. It is mainly the tabloids-the comics that masquerade as newspapers in Britain. They are more and more like magazines rather than newspapers. That is affecting the broadsheets as well, particularly those with owners living in tax havens overseas, not normally living in the UK and not paying UK direct taxes themselves, mainly the Murdoch press, but all of them anti-European and attacking our membership of the European Union in a most extraordinary and vicious way, which has not been seen in any other member state that I can think of.

I have to declare an interest as I also live regularly in France at weekends whenever possible. The French press are not at all like that. My colleagues in politics in Paris express astonishment that we allow the overseas-based owners of the press here who do not pay UK direct taxes themselves to attack our fundamental membership of the European Union in such a way. That has been the reason.

The most astonishing contrast that I noticed was just at the moment of the IMAX launch by the new Prime Minister Blair, with his new Government, still very, very popular, not quite walking on water but pretty close to it in those early days and causing a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm among the British public for the new Labour Government. That launch was the beginning of the decline in the new Labour Government's support for Europe in atmospheric and psychological terms. That was tragic. Britain in Europe was destroyed by it. So was the European Movement-although it still exists, it is struggling along as a very truncated body doing noble work but very much at the fringes of British life.

It is a tragedy for this country that we have had this nonsense for so long: politicians refusing to stand up bravely and correctly for the benefits of our membership of the European Union. Therefore, I very much welcome the proposed new clause. It was debated in Committee and therefore we need not go into all the arguments now. We particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for repeating that the purpose of the Bill is to oblige Ministers to promote the cause of our membership of Europe in what he would describe as a more correctly balanced sense because the public would have much greater participation through the referendum mechanism. Like the noble Lord, Lord Deben, I do not agree with that because I am against referendumitis and the populism that comes from it, but I can see his arguments. The proposed new clause would be a good thing, as we would return to promoting our membership-not in a propagandistic sense but in the practical sense of reassuring the public, explaining in detail many of the complicated matters and getting away from the dreadful xenophobia that is being allowed to develop because of the insouciance, nervousness, recalcitrance and hesitation of British politicians. There is a danger that that will start to affect the coalition if it continues, and I hope very much that it does not.



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I do not want to take up too much of the House's time but I conclude with an issue that may seem small, although it is very important. I refer to the display of flags-one of my favourite subjects. There is only one European flag within the vicinity of Westminster. It is on the Slovenian embassy building and we thank the Slovenians for their courage in daring to show it. It is the only one, apart from the one displayed on Europe Day in Parliament Square each year. All other major countries, together with some of the new ones, routinely proudly display the European flag alongside their patriotic national flag. Our national flag should be alongside the European flag on government buildings, as is routinely the case in France. When President Sarkozy makes a television broadcast, he always has the European flag alongside the tricolor. Why have all parties in this country been so hesitant and pathetic about this in the past? It is now time for the matter to be corrected. I have been encouraged by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on previous occasions in these debates and believe that the Government should accept this imaginative new clause.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, I have heard my noble friend Lord Dykes say on previous occasions that the only cause of Euroscepticism in this country is the Murdoch press, but I find that very difficult to go along with. I always reckon that to some degree the press has to reflect the national mood and, if it does not, it does not sell any newspapers. I also have a slight problem with the fact that Euroscepticism is growing at a pace in Germany, where I am not aware of the Murdoch press owning any newspapers. Therefore, I think that it is a little too simple to blame the whole thing on the Murdoch press.

However, let us get to the basis of the amendment and, for the sake of argument, start at the beginning, which seems to be a useful place to start. The Government will bring forward a measure to be put to a referendum of the people of this country only if they think they will win it. I do not accept the view of my noble friend Lord Trenchard that the Government might put something forward to be addressed by the country in a referendum if they want to lose, as I think that they can only possibly want to win it. If they do want to win it and if, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said, this is an opportunity for UKIP to say, "Ah, we don't want anything to do with the European Union at all. We must pull out", then of course the Government will be compelled to argue the virtues of remaining in the European Union, and all his problems will be answered by the referendum. For that reason, the amendment is completely otiose and I shall not support it.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I think that this is rather a sad amendment. It demonstrates the Europhiles' lack of confidence in their case in trying to put into the Bill a requirement for Ministers, frankly, to propagandise. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Radice, says that it is not propaganda but let us look at the words of the amendment. It says,

That sounds exactly like a recipe for propaganda to me. There is no balance there whatever-it requires Ministers to promote our membership of the EU. Like

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the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, I find it extraordinary that the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, should keep saying that the only reason for Euroscepticism is the Murdoch press or the Barclay press or whatever. They have absolutely nothing to do with the rise of the new Finn party, for example, or of Euroscepticism in France, Germany or Hungary. I am afraid that there is a growing realisation that Europe is going the wrong way and that the desire for more and more integration is not what people in member states want. To put this amendment in the Bill would be absolutely contrary to what people in this country think is right.

The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, had encouraged him in some of the things that he had said. I have listened to many speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. He is extremely balanced in his view of the EU. He takes a critical but on the whole positive approach, which is right; Ministers in the Government will always do that. There is absolutely no need to put this sort of demand for propaganda in the Bill, and I hope that the Government will reject the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, has perhaps underestimated some of the forces out there that make it difficult to explain what the European Union is doing. I shall speak briefly. Despite the fact that we have been, as my noble friend Lord Trenchard said, citizens of the European Union for 50 years, we have never spoken about it or taught it in our schools in any adequate way. We are almost unique in Europe in the fact that our syllabuses carry very little information about the common market and very little understanding of this additional citizenship, which is part of the law of the land.

This is an issue now with a new Education Bill that is considering what should be in the syllabus for English children. Ministers should encourage the idea that if we are part of the European Union-and we still are-there should be at least a limited level of education about Europe in our schools so that our children know what we are talking about and are capable of making critical judgments about statements made in the press and deciding whether or not they agree with them.

I will give a second example. There was a good deal of discussion in the House today and on previous occasions about the level of distrust in the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, made powerful points about the level of distrust in Parliament and in the whole democratic process. The distrust is part of the atmosphere of the present time; it is not specific to the European Union but much wider and in many ways more disturbing.

My final point is that we have some of the responsibility in this Parliament for the level of distrust. I will give just one example; I will not go into the expenditure crisis and so on. We heard much earlier in the debate about the number of occasions on which the scrutiny reserve imposed by Members of this House in the European Scrutiny Committee on the mandate given to Ministers in the European institutions has simply been brushed aside and disregarded. That has not been the act of the Commission or even of the Council

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of Ministers; it has been the act of our own Government in our own Parliament, despite the efforts of Parliament to persuade them to show caution or not to go ahead with a particular measure in Brussels.

We have to accept that our own Governments-I am not pointing at any particular one-have been part of the level of distrust created by a consistent disregard of Parliament expressing doubts and concerns about pieces of European policy pursued by those Governments. We have many times disregarded Parliament's doubts. That is not a way to build trust or to build a sense that Parliament has real power over what happens in Brussels, because often we have let that power disappear by failing to recognise what Parliament has urged us to take very seriously.

This is an important amendment. I do not terribly like some of its drafting; it should be much wider and, rather than referring simply to a referendum campaign, should concern the whole attitude of British citizens toward Europe. However, I commend the noble Lord for moving it.

Lord Radice: I would prefer the amendment to be much wider, but it would then be out of order.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I will always take instructions from my former colleague, the noble Lord on the other Benches. I commend him on the pressure that he has brought to bear on the issue, which is of immense importance.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, when my noble friend Lady Williams speaks about the need for strengthening the teaching in schools and in citizenship classes of Britain's role in, and relationship with, Europe-and dare I say in the Commonwealth generally and in the new landscape that is building around us-it strikes a chord with me. She is absolutely right that the quality of teaching needs a considerable uplift in this area.

I will begin with a tiny bit of propaganda for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We have supported the Hansard Society in producing a new booklet to help citizenship teachers teach secondary school pupils about the European Union and our role-our very effective role, despite some minor criticism in the European Union and in Europe generally. We are taking action to improve the resources available, as citizenship teachers asked us to do. That is the kind of way forward that we should all work towards instead of spending a lot of time sitting around talking down our nation and its extraordinary talents and abilities to adjust to the new world situation.

I wish I could say such enthusiastic things about this amendment. It strikes me as a bit curious because it seeks to place a statutory requirement on the new Bill that, during a referendum held under the provisions of the Clauses 2, 3 and 6, or in implementing any of the other provisions of this legislation, the Government of the day should have regard to the benefits of the UK's continued membership of the European Union. This sounds as though there is a desire to switch on a light at this particular moment rather than concentrate

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on the broader issues reflected in the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and of the noble Lord, Lord Radice, that these matters cannot just be switched on and off but require sustained and effective narrative-not propaganda but an effective story to show how we fit into, how we contribute to and how we are able to draw strength from associations in the European Union and elsewhere.

As the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, candidly admitted, the past record has not been too brilliant, to put it mildly. If one just looks at those who have been in government over the last decade-which happens to be one party-one can see that they have not achieved a dazzling success in uplifting public support for, or even public awareness of, the role that this country has played, is playing and is capable of playing in the future in the European Union. When we discussed this amendment in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Radice, said that the EU Bill was,

and that instead,

We have no difficulty with that. As I tried to make clear in Committee, we fully recognise the benefits of EU membership and the flow both ways of advantage of our being a key member of the European Union. This Bill does nothing whatever to alter our current commitments within the European Union, nor our current active engagement within the existing powers and competences of the EU, which are very extensive, nor indeed our positioning to reform and equip the EU for the 21st-century challenges that lie ahead, because, just as we are trying to adjust the position of this country to the new landscape, so everyone recognises that the European Union as a whole needs to do the same.

The noble Lord, Lord Radice, also said,

That just about sums up the key concern that this Bill has been crafted to focus on. It is that reluctance that the Bill seeks to address by making clear to the public that they will have their say over any future transfers of power and competence and that a future Government will have to make the case as to why such changes are in the national interest. That is the aspiration of this Government for the future. It is nonsense to say that it binds future Parliaments, which we cannot do, but that is our aspiration. This is a construction, an architecture that will be sustained and built to help the EU in the future.

Let me remind noble Lords that for a referendum to be held under the terms of this Bill, both the Government and Parliament have to be in favour of the proposed treaty, as many of my noble friends and indeed almost every speaker have recognised. That is the starting point for any referendum activity. Otherwise, if the Government did not like the measure, they could block it at the European Council, or Parliament could simply legislate against it. Parliament would be fully in control. Therefore, the change in question would have to be considered by the Government to be

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in the national interest before it could be put to Parliament. That would be the necessity, the sine qua non. While the referenda provisions will help address the reluctance that exists in Britain and that must be faced, no one is claiming that they are sufficient to address the general lack of information on, understanding of and enthusiasm for the European Union. Clearly, that cannot be done just when action under the Bill is needed. The oddity of the amendment is that it so inadvertently implies that action is switched on only when there is activity under the Bill, not least because the EU Bill focuses on future changes to the treaties and does not call into question our membership of the European Union.

10.15 pm

We all recognise that it is essential to promote with vigour and depth and without shallow propaganda the positioning of Britain in the Union, our contribution to it and the benefits that we draw from our alliances. That is why we give such high priority to our positive agenda, ensuring that the Government work to make positive progress on the things that really matter to the people of this country and to give them pride, purpose and a sense of belonging. That is the best way to show people the benefits of European Union membership. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been leading an initiative on jobs and growth within the European Union. This approach has been exemplified by the UK's leadership in the EU during the recent stormy events in north Africa and the Middle East. I am advised that when the Croatian Prime Minister visited London on Friday, our own Prime Minister made it clear that Croatia belongs in the European Union and that it is very exciting for Croatia and for Europe that this day is getting ever closer.

As I said in Committee, the sentiments behind the amendment can be agreed with, but the idea that one can somehow carry this cause forward, make the case or build up the narrative with vision by popping this kind of amendment into the Bill is unfounded. While I applaud the intention, I think that the action is wrong. For those reasons, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, particularly the noble Baronesses, Lady Williams and Lady Falkner, the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and my noble friend Lord Radice. My noble friend was quite right to point out that it would have been ideal to have a much more widely constructed objective, but I doubt that we could have got it into the Long Title, although it would have been well worth it for all the reasons that have been argued. Perhaps I may express a word of appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, for pointing out the phrase in the middle of the proposed new clause that was intended to broaden the scope of

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what is intended beyond a referendum. I had not made that point, so I greatly appreciate that it was.

I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Radice, did not intend last time around, as I did not this evening, to advocate some system of propaganda of a narrow and fruitless kind or publicity stunts. I can promise the noble Lord, Lord Risby, that if anyone approaches me in a white van, they will see me heading rapidly in another direction. I have no intention of engaging in a serious matter with anyone in a white van. I have nothing against white vans in general, but if there is anything emblazoned on the side that tells me that they are part of a propaganda campaign, I shall head off-on a bicycle, of course-in another direction.

I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, that it is not only the media who criticise the EU, but they do play a dynamic role in these things, as they do in Germany and elsewhere.

I was reflecting on the difficulty of dealing with the media. Not all that long ago, I remember reading a detailed account-albeit in relatively short paragraphs and sentences-in one of the newspapers of the European Union's desire to insist that in future we should have only straight sausages in the United Kingdom. Such was the level of debate. I would have taken that seriously but for the fact that I turned over a couple more pages and found that it also reported that Elvis was alive and well and driving a bus in Stalybridge.

My point is that you do not always get a fair crack in the media. I do not attribute all the difficulties that I have described to the media but the balance in the media has not been the balance which we have sometimes achieved in debates in your Lordships' House. The point is to try to seek further rebalancing. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was fair enough in mentioning one decade and pointing to the fact that we were the Government. However, he might have been a bit more generous and gone back a couple of decades to the impromptu words that the Prime Minister of the day was caught saying on television about some of his colleagues and their attitude to Europe.

In the recent past, we have not had a glorious history of a balanced debate. Indeed, on occasions we have not had any debate. In seeking to withdraw the amendment, as I now do, I hope that it if has done nothing else, the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Radice, which we followed up this evening, will make us reflect on the fact that we are unlikely, whether in the context of anything in this legislation including referenda, to have an intelligent discussion about Europe if we continue to pillory it without any serious attempt to tell the other side of the story.

Amendment 31 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.23 pm.


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