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Viscount Runciman of Doxford: I am grateful to be spared an impending embarrassment. I must confess I am particularly disadvantaged because I did not see the amendments until the middle of this morning. I was not prepared to cancel my appearance at the Christmas head office lunch of a substantial multinational conglomerate which I chair in order to do some last minute homework which I think would have been inadequate in any case. Therefore I make my two points tentatively but I feel bound to make them.
My first point is one of principle. It would be disturbing if the effect of the Bill were that a person accused of a serious offence--I am particularly concerned with Crown Court offences--was expected to decide on plea before being fully informed of the nature of the offence. Surely that cannot be right. I
The other point is the practical one. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh said. Within the Royal Commission we found that it was not merely helpful but essential, on these recommendations and others, to consult widely and as far as possible among experienced practitioners, asking about the effect upon the defence and its ability to look after, as it should, the interests of clients if there were to be change along the lines proposed. We recognise that duty to the client will--as up to a point it should--require defence solicitors and counsel to do whatever they can to avert the possibility of their client being prematurely pressed into disclosing his or her hand or proceeding in such a way as might undermine a legitimate defence at a later stage. In purely practical terms the criticism which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has made of the Bill is a disturbing one. I do not feel entirely satisfied with the Minister's response.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: There are some practical problems. I shall speak briefly. I hope that we shall not have to divide at this stage on this amendment which involves an important question of principle which ought to be considered carefully. I hope that my noble friend the Minister may without commitment be able to say that she will at least meet, discuss and consider the practical implications. If she were to do so without commitment, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, might not take the opinion of the House.
Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Lord decides what to do about this matter, I wish to answer the question posed by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman. It will not be a consequence of the Bill that a person has to decide plea without information on the case against him. It is only unused material that will be disclosable after plea.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is persuasive as always but he does not seem to realise that it is on issues of principle that we take the opinion of the Committee. That is exactly why we have the voting system in this Chamber. Whether there is subsequent consultation on the practicalities of the Bill is a matter for the Government and for those of us in the Chamber who are concerned with the issues. I can assure the noble Lord that, if I take the opinion of the Committee, whatever that opinion may be if there is any advantage in further consultation and discussion with the Government I shall seek that further discussion and consultation, as I always do. I am quite sure that the response from this Minister will be, as it always is, one of complete co-operation.
The issue has not been resolved by the answer given either to me or by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman. As a result of the further exchange I am confirmed in my view that I should take the opinion of the Committee on Amendment No. 1.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the Madrid European Council. The Statement is as follows:
"On economic and monetary union the Madrid Council decided on a name for a single European currency. "Euro" was not a name which attracted enthusiasm around the Council table. It will not ease the task of those seeking to market the idea of a single currency, but one or more of the member states had objections to each of the other names suggested.
"A more fundamental decision was to study the implications of seeking to introduce a single currency in 1999. As the House knows, I have for a long time argued that the introduction of a single currency by a small number of states would raise very serious questions about its economic consequences and about the way Europe functions.
"The Maastricht Treaty lays down strict criteria for entry to a single currency. It is now certain that on a proper interpretation of the criteria only a small number of member states will meet the criteria if a single currency is introduced in January 1999.
"Before taking such a step, the European Union needs to examine what it would mean in practice. It must consider its effect on the states outside the single currency area as well as those inside it. It must consider how decisions would be taken. It must ask whether the result would be divergence rather than convergence of European economies. It must consider the potential effects on employment and the demand for resource transfers.
"The risk of monetary instability is one of the questions to be examined. Some have argued for rigid linkages between those inside and those outside a single currency by reverting to an old-style exchange rate mechanism. This is a course which has already been tried and which failed. I have made clear to our partners that I would not recommend that sterling should return to such a system.
"Europe needs coherent answers to these and other questions and I am glad the Madrid Council decided to examine them. The opt-out I negotiated at Maastricht protects the United Kingdom from being forced into an unworkable system. But it is vital to our interests, and to the interests of Europe as a whole, that a single currency does not begin and then fail, thus causing economic turmoil across the continent.
"Let me turn now to enlargement. Ahead even of prosperity, the European Union exists to provide security and stability to the peoples of Europe. For that reason, I believe that enlargement is the most important task facing the European Union. Having
"Ten or more countries are hoping to negotiate entry to the European Union in the coming years. This is an historic opportunity to entrench stability through a union of democracies right across the continent--and one we must take. The Madrid Council gave further impetus to enlargement. The European Commission has been asked to produce opinions on all eastern and central European applicants as soon as possible after the end of the Inter-Governmental Conference. This is a necessary step towards full accession negotiations, which are likely to begin with at least the most advanced of the new applicants, as well as with Malta and Cyprus, in about two years' time.
"The Madrid Council considered reports from the Commission on the implications of enlargement for the European Union's policies. These are profound. To be affordable and to be consistent with the EU's obligations under the GATT, the common agricultural policy will have to be reformed when the Union enlarges. So will the structural cohesion funds. At my insistence, it was agreed that future meetings of the Council would examine the implications. The Madrid Council has therefore taken an important step towards combining policy reform with enlargement, both of which are essential to the European Union's future.
"Let me deal briefly with some of the other subjects discussed at Madrid. It was agreed that the Inter-Governmental Conference would start at Turin on 29th March. The conference will be conducted by meetings of foreign ministers, supported by a working party made up of a representative of each minister and of the President of the European Commission. No decisions were taken at Madrid on the substance of the IGC. Work on the agenda will be carried out under the Italian presidency by foreign ministers.
"The drive to promote subsidiarity was strongly in evidence again at Madrid and vigorously supported in informal discussion. The Commission has been instructed to examine the continued need for existing Community legislation and for proposals now on the table. It is now widely recognised that the United Kingdom was right to reverse the trend towards greater intrusiveness by the Commission.
"There was also support for our approach to job creation, flexible pay relating to performance, curtailing non-wage labour costs and the reform of social protection systems. Increasing emphasis is being given to small and medium enterprises and to the need to cut the burden of red tape and over-regulation. The campaign against fraud and for better financial management which I launched at the Essen Council a year ago gained further weight at Madrid.
"The House will welcome the higher priority being given to inter-governmental co-operation against drug-trafficking. At Madrid I presented, with President Chirac, an initiative to help Caribbean states crack down on the transhipment to Europe and
"On external affairs, the Council underlined the importance of successful implementation of the Bosnian peace agreement and gave support to Mr. Carl Bildt who will be leading the international civilian effort there. It also discussed the European Union's relations with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and welcomed the agreement at the recent European Union/United States summit to strengthen the European Union's relationship with the United States.
"This was a Council at which the key decisions for the future were identified rather than taken. The programme of work for the next five years, the Political Agenda for Europe, is set out in the Madrid Conclusions. It is a formidable programme. In this period Europe must review the treaty at the Inter-Governmental Conference; review the Union's policies, including the common agricultural policy and the structural funds; take decisions on a single currency; carry out enlargement negotiations; determine the Community's future financing; contribute to new European security arrangements; and develop its relations with neighbouring countries, especially Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries.
"The decisions we take in this period will determine the shape of Europe well into the next century. They will vitally affect the United Kingdom's interests and our future security and prosperity. That is why at successive meetings of Heads of Government I have argued for cautious and careful consideration before decisions are finalised.
"The European Union must carefully weigh the practical consequences of all these issues. Its decisions must be securely grounded in reality. We need, above all, a Europe that works. In that respect, I believe that important steps were taken at Madrid, as they were at Mallorca. They would not have been taken if we had not been prepared to raise the difficult questions and to demand practical answers to real problems.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating a Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. This is one of the more important European summits to take place in recent years. Quite frequently, Prime Ministers and heads of government go to these meetings and fly back with communiques which are not over-precise. In this instance, it appears that certain very important decisions
I make to the House a plea that I have made in respect of other Statements made by the Prime Minister when he has returned from other summits. I hope that your Lordships will read the communique and not rely merely upon the Statement. The communique is a somewhat lengthy but not too daunting a document, and it has been agreed to unanimously. I do not know what happens in the aeroplane on the way home from these summits. Recollections appear to be slightly disturbed and in the 24 or 48 hours that elapse between the end of the summit and the Statement by the Prime Minister certain things tend to be pushed to one side and a gloss is given to this or to that. Of course, none of it is directly misleading. Nevertheless, it is important that we look at the document and not just bathe ourselves in the rosy glow that all heads of government try to put upon what they have agreed to but perhaps do not particularly wish to own up to.
The fact is that at the Madrid Summit this country ended up isolated and alone on the essential points. It is very important that we accept that and see where the country should go to from here. Some parts of the communique and agreement are welcomed; for example, the issues of enlargement and subsidiarity. As far as enlargement is concerned, I ask the Leader of the House whether it is envisaged that negotiations with the applicant east European countries, who seem most ready for admission, will take place simultaneously with those conducted with Cyprus and Malta. Which countries do the Government see as being in the first batch of negotiations? As far as subsidiarity is concerned, I welcome what the Government and the communique have to say about that. However, I am bound to say that for the Government to go abroad trumpeting subsidiarity, in view of the treatment that they have meted out to local authorities in this country over the past five years, is a bit rich--but there we are! Perhaps we should not complain or be too surprised about the way in which this is presented. We also welcome what is said about Turkey, Caribbean drugs and the United States.
I turn to what are perhaps the two most important single issues: employment and European monetary union. Employment is dealt with in the Prime Minister's Statement in one small paragraph as if it is of no great account. I welcome what is said in the communique--that the European Council reaffirms that the fight against unemployment and for equal opportunities is the priority task for the Community and member states. I welcome, too, the list on page 11 of the communique. The communique urges member states to regard as priorities about a dozen spheres of action which are set out in the list. It would be nice to know at some stage the Government's thinking on these various items, not merely to have them all wrapped up as if the European Council agreed with the Government's approach to job creation and employment. I take but one example. Member states are urged to step up training programmes especially for the unemployed. The Prime Minister accepted it in Madrid. It is strange that he heads a
As regards European monetary union, the fact is that for all the Government's bluster before going to Madrid the European Council has agreed unanimously that the third stage should begin on 1st January 1999. It has reaffirmed all of the other criteria for its introduction. To all of this the Prime Minister has agreed. It is not as though he is in a minority of one. He has agreed to all of it happening. Could he have done otherwise? He probably could not, given the rough nature of domestic and international politics. But at least it stops all of the nonsense that we have heard for so long about our view gaining ground with our European partners. What happened to the prospective alliance with the French? They were to stand with us on European currency shoulder to shoulder against the Germans. What happened to the very successful foray to Rome last week when apparently the Italians were also to stand with us? The fact is that one thing Madrid has done is to strip away the illusion and destroy the fantasy. On the issue of the EMU, Britain finds itself isolated and alone in Europe. The only thing the Prime Minister came back with was the fig leaf of a study into the effects of the single currency.
Why are we in this position? I believe that, among other reasons, we are isolated and alone in Europe because nobody is quite sure what the Government mean. Is the Prime Minister in favour of a single currency and European monetary union but wants to get there rather more slowly and in a different way? I do not know. Is he against the whole prospect and is desperately trying to hold out? I am afraid I have to say--because it is true--that our European policy is being dictated by the internal state of the governing party in the United Kingdom. This is a document and a policy that are designed to preserve as much unity as possible in the Conservative Party. In my view, it is not good for this country for us to stand isolated and alone in Europe against developments which, it is perfectly clear from the summit, will take place.
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