Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002
STUART MP AND
20. Is he engaged with parliaments?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) He has been to London early on,
and then I think he is on his second round of consulting with
the governments. I am told by some journalists that he refuses
interviews. I think this is not the way to encourage and excite
the public. He should not just be talking to the old faces at
21. Does he meet parliaments?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I do not think he visited parliaments.
Perhaps that is not his job, but I think I would like to feel,
in visiting other countries, he ought to make himself more open
to public views, and perhaps parliamentary scrutiny, either himself
or he should encourage it amongst his staff with his two Vice
Chairmen. It is still a rather top down attitude that he brings
to the Convention; whereas I believe it should be ideas from the
bottom in order to re-engage the attention and consent of the
22. Going back now to the candidate countries,
how prominent a role is being played by their representatives?
Are they bringing in fresh thinking and insights, or are they
just taking a back seat and keeping quiet in the interests of
not making problems for themselves?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) As Gisela mentioned, I think
one problem is that they are being a little shy, because they
believe (I hope wrongly) that they are negotiating to join when
they are speaking in the Convention. For instance, they may not
wish to be too rude about the role of the Commission when they
are relying on the Commission to authorise the terms of their
accession. So far I have not found any particularly creative diplomacy
coming out of most of the applicant states. There are a few exceptions
to that. In fact, I believe they could bring a lot, because they
have escaped from one centralised block and they do not want to
see the back of Moscow in order to sign up to a new centralised
power from Brussels, even though of a rather different nature.
I think their observations on the nature of democracy and self-government
could be very welcome. I am still hoping rather than experiencing
23. Do you agree with that?
(Ms Stuart) Yes. The Commission has made it quite
clear that the Convention and the Commission negotiations, which
will become critical about December, have simply no connection
at all. They have actually put that on record, which is welcome.
One of the Slovak representatives in a contribution said, "My
country used to be ruled by Vienna and then by Moscow and I do
not want it now to be ruled by Brussels". That is one voice.
At the same time there are also vociferous voices saying that
"Europe should do this, that and the other". They have
to make up their minds what they want to happen. The real difficulty
is, the reforms which we want on the Council of Ministers are
the kinds of things which, because it happens behind closed doors,
you have to experience it to know what needs reforming. I hope
that they will be encouraged more to join those voices but they
have this lack of firsthand experience which makes it difficult
for them. They are slightly handicapped because there is no ready
membership of a political family. We did an analysis of one-third
of the representatives of national parliaments and there is no
happy home, where they are either in the socialist group, the
EPP or the liberals, because the party political structures are
not there yet for them to readily align themselves.
24. Finally, the parallel Youth Convention,
what is it intended to achieve? How were its UK members selected?
I notice on your Order Paper today we have a planted question
to ask the Secretary of State who will represent the United Kingdom
on the Youth Convention on the future of Europe. I wonder if you
might have an insight into the answer we will get this afternoon?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) There are six membersthree
of them have been selected by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal
Parties; the other three were selected through a newspaper competition.
I disagreed with this. It was run by The Independent and
they got very few replies. It was not prominently carried by
The Independent. I wanted it run perhaps by one of the tabloid
papers, giving it more prominence, to get in some radical new
ideas, not from the safe political organisations, or people who
read smart broadsheets.
25. What do you believe that the Youth Convention
is intended to achieve?
(Ms Stuart) Not wishing to be indiscreet, we had a
wonderful session in the Praesidium about what kind of young people
we wanted to attend the Youth Convention. I suggested that we
did not want the kind of people we used to be when we were their
age. We made it open to each country to select their members,
and how they chose to send them. What I am very pleased about
is that at least there are far more women than men in the main
Convention. What we hope to achieve is essentially have the views
of that generation because, in a sense, we are sitting there trying
to design the framework for the Europe they will have to live
in. We want to hear: what is their vision; what is their view
of how they see Europe. That is why the Youth Convention was set
up. It should also be seen with the next session, which is on
NGOs, trying to bring outside views into the Convention.
26. Who will represent the UK on the Youth Convention.
(Ms Stuart) It is already a matter of public record,
I understand, because names have been submitted to the Praesidium
and I think it is available on the website.
Sir John Stanley
27. All of us here are veterans of successive
intergovernmental conferences taking places with ever-increasing
frequency. We all recall that each of the IGCs have been preceded
by a plethora of submissions from the European Parliament, from
the Commission, from national governments and from a whole host
of other bodies and institutions; but when the crunch has finally
come and the ministers have met at the IGC, a large amount, the
majority perhaps, of the recommendations in these various submissions
have been set aside and basically ministers and national governments
have cut their own deal into long nights, continuing nights, as
we all remember at Amsterdam, Maastricht, Nice and so on. What
I would like to ask you both is whether you have any grounds for
thinking, when we finally come again to the crunch in the Berlin
IGC, once again the work of the Convention will be largely set
aside and will go much the same way as all the huge number of
other submissions prior to IGCs? Or whether you have grounds for
thinking that the recommendations of the Convention are going
to be given a status and be treated more substantively than such
similar representations to ministers prior to an IGC have been
treated in the past?
(Ms Stuart) National governments are taking the Convention
extremely seriously. That is displayed by the fact that so many
of them have sent their senior figuresEurope ministers.
I think you have to recognise just what a tremendous time commitment
it is for a minister to be on the Convention and serve on the
working groups. They have sent senior representatives to the Convention.
I am not critical of the fact that the President of the Convention
does his rounds of national governments, and that he does them
regularly and frequently; because unless national governments
continuously buy into this process at the early stages, we will
end up with having a very worthy piece of paper which, when it
comes to Berlin, the Heads of State look at and say, "Yes,
that's very interesting, thank you, but, no, thank you".
My impression is that the governments are engaging at an early
stage and keeping a very close eye on the direction of the Convention
to ensure that they can accept what the Convention comes up with
and so does the President. The signs at this stage are that it
should not happen, that we end up in Berlin and they say, "Very
interesting but we won't buy it".
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I agree. I think this is a danger
that the Convention and the subsequent IGC is seen to be simply
politicians talking to each other and parcelling out more powers.
In other words, the solution to perceived problems is simply more
Europe without any examination of the foundations. I do not think
that will happen this time. At least I hope it will not, because
the voters are trying to say something. We have mentioned the
French election, and it was remarkable that an incumbent French
President should receive less than one-fifth of the popular vote
in the first round, and for the Left to have been annihilated
because the voters did not think they were being offered a proper
choice on issues like immigration, crime and so on. These are
partly European matters. So there is a feeling of alienation,
and I think that has sunk in. Sir John is right, finally this
should be disposed of by Member States. I would prefer that, at
least in some countries, there is a referendum on the outcome
of the Convention, or perhaps on the proposals recommended by
the next IGC; so that the voters can have the final say, rather
than the politicians who are often perceived as being part of
28. Could I just follow up Mr Heathcoat-Amory's
last point. Have you got an indication that any Member State other
than Ireland, which I believe is bound by its constitution into
having a referendum, is going to require a referendum to endorse
the conclusions of the Berlin IGC before they take legal effect?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) To my knowledge no State has
declared that at this stage. Of course, if it will entail a change
to their constitution, a number of States do require referendums.
A number of referendums are almost certainly going to be held
within the next yearthe Irish, again, in this year on the
Nice Treaty, and possibly Denmark and Sweden on their Euro opt-outs.
We are in a time of referendums, but I know that it will be greeted
with some alarm by the technocratic side of the European Union,
because the last three referendums on Europe have all gone the
wrong way. Switzerland voted not to join; the Danes voted not
to join the euro; and the Irish voted against the Nice Treaty.
Some cynicism has been generated by the tendency to go on having
referendums until the electorate deliver the right answer. I hope
that would not be done with the outcome of the Convention on the
future of Europe.
29. In the light of that track record on referenda,
would not your suggestion of a referenda in all the 15 countries
likely lead to a total immobilism and no progress on the consensus
of the Convention?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) It is up to us to design some
recommendations that do enjoy popular consent. I would rather
proceed more cautiously than on the basis of the public separating
off from this project because that is what has happened. We have
had decades in which the political class in Europe thinks it has
known what is best for everybody else, and I think that has run
out of road. It is incumbent upon us to design a solution which
will enjoy the consent of the governed. Otherwise I see very real
problems ahead which will be worse after enlargement. If we think
we have got a democratic deficit in Europe now, just wait until
we have another 100 million East Europeans in with their rather
creaky, fragile legal, economic and political systems to add to
Chairman: It is a bold view that there will
be a Convention among the people, and that extraneous issues will
not enter referendum decisions.
30. What I am not clear about is, at what stage
decisions will start be taken within the Convention because it
seems, listening to you both, there have not even been discussions
on heads of agreement, there have not been "closing chapters".
It seems to me your work at the present time is chewing the cud
rather. When and how do you see perhaps not final decisions but
agreement about competences on the European Parliament or the
Commission, or the role of the Council of Ministers? When and
how do you see that being arrived at?
(Ms Stuart) The Praesidium set up the first six working
groups, which largely came out of the remit from Laeken. They
are going to start reporting back in September/October. I would
be extremely surprised if the chairs of those working groups (despite
the fact that the remit is to come forward only with recommendations)
will not be tempted, with their recommendations, to recommend
some Treaty proposals with that. Then the second and third waves
of working groups, which will look at European security, and again
you have got the September/October wave. By the time the House
returns, for example, we will have on the table some very early
cuts of the kind of directions in which recommendations are going.
I expect them to fall into two categories: one will be the kind
of political disagreement; and the other one which will be more
work because they are technically quite difficult. That will determine
the next wave of the working group, whether they are specifically
technical ones. Secondly, and I am not aware of what the Liberals
are doing, but I know politically for the EPP and the Socialist
Group there are conferences over the summer which will be their
political input into the Convention. I am delighted to say that
the European Socialists will meet in Birmingham for their deliberations.
31. Presumably you are happy with that!
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I am sure there is going to be
a constitutional text at the end of this process. I am also sure
that there will be a proposal to incorporate the Charter of Fundamental
Rights against the stated position of the British Government.
I think the EU will be endowed with legal personality. I believe
the second and third pillars of the EU will probably be incorporated
into the first pillar, the European Community pillar. Those are
the outlines that I can identify at this stage. There are not
firm proposals, and no text has been tabled. I would expect us
to get down to that sort of work in the plenary session after
the summer break.
32. We will perhaps meet in November/December
to have a mutually beneficial session. Listening to Mr Heathcoat-Amory,
and I suspect that he and I are probably at different ends of
the pole on Europe, yet I find some common purpose. It seems to
me, those of us who would crudely describe ourselves as "pro-European"
nevertheless have a vested interest in taking the electors of
Europe with us. Certainly some people have not been able to digest
some of the integration. Also subsidiarity and competences should
not be unopposed to centralisation. What consideration has there
been given to competences? Is there really scope to repatriate
some things to national governments? I am not talking about what
ideally you want, but politically practical. Has there been any
discussion of that? Should some things go up and some things down?
Have there been any chats about it?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) Chairman, I think it is absolutely
essential that some matters are repatriated to national decision
making. There is no reason whatsoever to have matters like health,
education, sport, culture or industrial policy decided at EU level.
It simply means that decisions are made in Eurospace beyond any
democratic recall. The decisions come out of a machine and we
have to implement them. That is a slight caricature, but there
is no feeling of engagement, as we know, when we have to make
sense of all these regulations on these matters. Even ministers
get confused about where they have come from, and the public then
have to comply with them. That makes a mockery of self-government,
as I understand it. Subsidiarity is not really working in practice.
No-one seems to have an interest in enforcing it strictly, so
there is this moving staircase where more and more powers are
being exerted centrally. We need to put that into reverse. Secondly,
we need to define very precisely what has to be decided internationally
at EU level, spell them out in detail in a text and then improve
the decision making on those issues. In my view, that too will
mean a bigger role, and an earlier role for national parliaments
so we can debate these matters here before we have to comply with
(Ms Stuart) I think if the Convention were to try
to reach agreement on what should be repatriated it would never
reach agreement. What I think is essential is that we allow for
a-two-way balance, because at the moment it all travels in one
direction. Once it becomes an EU competence it remains that. We
have to have mechanisms for sometimes doing something at EU level
but then saying, "This was for a limited period. It goes
back to national parliaments". I think David touched on something
very significant and that is: who should be making decisions on
questions of subsidiarity? The extreme views are that either it
is a question for the courts or it is a political question. I
think the answer is somewhere in the middlethat sometimes
it will be the courts. For example, it is interesting with the
German constitution that the courts have consistently refused
to give rulings on subsidiarity and said, "This is a political
question". If it is a political question, at what level should
it be decided? I think that is where national parliaments should
play a very, very significant role on those decisions; and then
they refer to the Council of Ministers and say,"This is what
politicians decide" and make it accountable. Subsidiarity
is discussed at that level. I think it is a mechanism which the
Convention will come up with rather than specifics.
Sir Patrick Cormack
33. How, in the United Kingdom, can you begin
to engage public interest, sympathy and enthusiasm if you persist
in talking about complementary competence, pillars and repatriation
of competences and all of this jargon which turns the average
Brit off in a very big way, and turns me off in a dramatic way
even though I call myself pro-European?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I completely agree with Patrick.
It is difficult enough to hold people's attention at a national
level on matters of democracy and government. At least there is
a British electorate, what the Greeks would call demos; so we
can have a functional democracy of people elected. They reject
people; they change things; they know us; and they identify with
us. That is where we need more decision making back to that level,
and only send up to Europe those matters that have to be decided
internationally and they should be defined. The entire language
is opaqueand not just the language but the structure. I
have discovered that there are scores of working committees reporting
either to the Council of Ministers or to the Commission. I have
only discovered recently the full number, and I was a Europe Minister
for over a year and I was more or less unaware of this submerged
part of the iceberg. There are 496 of these working committees
in the European Union. They are only accountable democratically
in the most technical and indirect sense, so we really have to
slim down this organisation if we are going to obtain that popular
consent on which the entire future of Europe depends.
34. That was the whole idea of the Conventionto
make it more acceptable and more amenable to the people of Europe
and to find its new direction to have a working group on the jargon
and language. Is the timetable realistic for the Convention so
far, bearing in mind the workload imposed upon delegates, the
timetable of meetings and the working groups?
(Ms Stuart) I am a firm believer that a deadline concentrates
the mind no end. To work for late spring/early summer 2003, I
think we have to work towards that. We are all politicians, if
you give us another year we will talk for another year.
35. Do think you there will be constitutional
text available around that time?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) Yes, I think the outline plan
is for us to start being specific with our ideas this autumn and
then to have some real proposals by the spring of next year. I
personally would hope it is not a single recommendation. I think
the public probably get more interested, to revert to Sir Patrick's
question, if they are given alternatives. If there is a real clash
of ideas, if there are proposals which are even mutually contradictory,
then I think you get a feel there perhaps is another Europe that
is trying to make itself heard, a Europe of democracies, a Europe
which would make it easier for these other countries from the
East to join instead of having to take on this vast superstructure
of the European Union. I certainly reject it myself, a single
constitutional text on a take-it or leave-it basis.
36. That then would suggest it would give it
a text for an alternative Europe, or an alternative European Union.
What you are suggesting is to give people of the Member States
a choice between carrying on with the way the European Union is
now, or looking at an alternative system?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) That would create a genuinely
popular debate and might raise the turnout.
37. Would it achieve anything in a referendum?
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I do not mind a certain amount
of confusion at that point if the outcome gives people a choice.
At the minute they have no choice. If they give the wrong answer
in a referendum they are told to have another referendum until
they deliver the right answer. It is not surprising that the turnout
in our last European parliamentary election in this country was
below a quarter. It is not surprising that when the European electorate
are allowed anywhere near a ballot box on the referendum they
deliver a snub to the whole system. I mentioned the last three
which blew up in the face of the proposers.
(Ms Stuart) One of the Italian comments of the last
Convention was the very interesting phrase that when you refer
to the role of national parliaments and also European parliaments
on a European level the national parliaments were the face with
no power, and the European parliaments were the power but without
the face. The problem of the electorate engaging with these various
significant institutions at that level was that there was not
a face to put with the power. I very much hope that one of the
things that will come out of the Convention is not just the much
earlier involvement of national parliaments in the decision-making
process, but I see no reason why the Commission should not have
a duty imposed on them to come to national parliaments to explain
the legislative programmerather than a pilgrimage to Brussels,
which is possible but rarely done. Also, much closer working with
the European Parliament and the national parliaments, so that
when people go to vote in European elections that face they vote
for actually has some real meaning. I think it is a duty incumbent
on us to actually make that link. We have the means of making
that link; they do know us; but we have to make that connection.
If I may make a brief reference back to what Sir Patrick said,
he is absolutely righttry and explain to anyone what comitology
is, other than saying it needs reforming; but it is that kind
of technical matter which at some stage we have to engage in.
What we have to come up with is a simple way in which we can tell
people who is responsible for this decision; so we need to know
who makes it; who they are accountable to. Also, if we do not
like it, how do we get rid of them? The real lesson of the recent
referenda is a sense of powerlessness amongst the electorate.
I always say that in the Irish referendum the electorate said
(putting it very crudely), "Up yours". We were not quite
sure who "they" were, but they did not like what they
38. The only thing I disagree with is the whole
of the power is in the Commission. Could I just come back to the
timetable question. Are you still in the listening phase before
the analysis phase, as suggested by the President? Is there still
a working convention, or has the whole thing just taken on a life
of its own?
(Ms Stuart) With the working groups that was the end
of the listening phase, and now working very specifically towards
that. The real political crunch, which is where the real political
tension and fault line isand David and I are probably agreed
95 per cent on thisis whether something is an end in itself
or means to an end. For example, the internal market. For a lot
of people in Europe it is seen as a means of deeper and further
integration; whereas the Anglo Saxon view is that the internal
market is something extremely worthwhile having in its own right
and we feel unhappy with only 60 per cent of provision implemented.
I want the Commission to focus much more thoroughly on this and
say, "Implement it completely". The reason why lots
of others are relaxed about this is because they do not see the
aim in itself but a means of further integration. That is where
the political fault line is.
39. The Convention does have a huge number of
members and working groups. Is the working timetable for individual
members adequate, or do you find you are bogged down with work
in the Convention; is it likely to hold things up the more we
progress; or do you think the working arrangements are adequate?
(Ms Stuart) It is almost a full-time job and you just
do it. That is my view.
(Mr Heathcoat-Amory) Yes. There are plenary sessions
at least once a month, and there are now, in addition, working
group sessions on separate days at least every month. I came back
from one yesterday. It is almost full-time, but I think it is
very important that we do not get sucked into the Brussels machine
ourselves, and that we refresh our ideas in our own parliament,
and also in talking to our own electors; so that we bring in from
the outside ideas, rather than trying to sell the product back