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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my latest statement has at the bottom the phrase, "To enable us to get used to the euro, we have presented your solde [final statement] in euros as well as in francs".

Lord Annan: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, in his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, did not imply that the Government, when they came to the point, would be entirely neutral? It is one thing to produce papers for the public to introduce them to the pros and cons of the matter. But when it comes to the point, surely the Government will have to come to a decision to recommend or not to recommend.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have always made it clear that the first stage will be a decision by the Cabinet and by Parliament. Only after that will there be a referendum. Of course the Government will consider it their responsibility to make their position clear to the country. I thought that as far as that was concerned I stone-walled in my answer to my noble friend Lord Stoddart.

China: Human Rights

3.25 p.m.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, European Union Foreign Ministers decided on 23rd February that neither the presidency nor member states should table or co-sponsor a draft resolution on China at this year's Commission on Human Rights. We support that decision and will continue to pursue our human rights concerns through dialogue and co-operation.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, do the Government understand the amazement and scepticism among human rights campaigners and politicians across the party spectra that next month at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva for the first time in nine years, since the censure motion which was introduced in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the United Kingdom Government will not support a resolution to draw attention to China's record on human rights, particularly given the Government's much publicised commitment to a so-called ethical

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foreign policy and the importance they have attached to UN resolutions pertaining to Iraq? Why have the Government gone soft on human rights violations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government have not gone soft on human rights violations. I hope that those individuals to whom the noble Lord has referred will not be amazed, as he suggests they are, when they hear the explanation as to why the Government have taken the course of action they have taken. The resolution on China has consistently not only failed to be adopted but has not even been voted on in seven out of the past eight years. The truth is that there has been a consistent failure of the resolution and very little has been done for human rights in China. So what we are trying to do is to secure the same objective--the objective of greater human rights in China--which I accept the noble Lord supports and I hope he accepts that Her Majesty's Government support it too, but through different means; through the resumption of dialogue. Since October 1997 the resumption of dialogue has delivered so much more in the furtherance of human rights in China. It has delivered a signature on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; it has delivered an invitation to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to visit China; it has delivered an agreement to visit Tibet by the EU troika embassies; and today it has delivered an encouraging statement by the Chinese Foreign Minister about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that dissidents in China continue to be arrested? Does she also agree that China still has a very long way to go to reassure the world about the freedom of comment of the media in that country, not least in the light of events that led to the BBC being closed out of China? Does she recognise that in view of the statements made by the former East Asia editor of The Times, Mr. Jonathan Mirskey, there is bound to be considerable suspicion about the relationship of friendship that exists between The Times newspaper and the government? In the light of that, will she answer two questions? First, has a date been found for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to go to China? Secondly, can she say whether the Government will consistently report back on the steps that China takes in response to the dialogue that she has told us now exists?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course I agree that there is still a very long way to go on questions of human rights in China. That is why the Government have considered it so important that we find alternative means rather than the ones which have been exhausted in the way that I described in my second answer. The noble Baroness asked specifically about the visit of Mrs. Mary Robinson to China. As yet a date has not been fixed. I hope that it will be fixed very soon. But Her Majesty's Government will also be reporting back, as we have done, on the exchanges with China. There have been eight top-level exchanges in the past

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few months with Chinese officials, senior government officials and Ministers over human rights incidents in China. That will continue.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister accept that very many people will be very relieved indeed that the Government have moved away from the ham-fisted and deeply offensive approach of the previous government, together with the previous governor of Hong Kong, which resulted in breaking off relationships effectively with the People's Republic of China, to the considerable disadvantage of the inhabitants of Hong Kong? Will she further accept that many people are grateful that we have moved away from this rather old-fashioned imperial approach to foreign policy?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for his remarks. In the Government's election manifesto we made it clear that we did not believe that human rights were necessarily encouraged by isolating countries, but by proper and open dialogue. That was the position that we freely stated before the election. The noble Lord is quite right. The exchanges of views are what is important, not only as regards Hong Kong but also the many millions of people in China who do not enjoy the human rights that we would wish to see.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, if the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, are correct, why has the human rights campaigner Wei Jingsheng praised the United Kingdom for its vociferous stand on the issue of human rights in China until this year? Why has he criticised the Foreign Secretary as a coward whose soft pedalling on human rights violations in China for the sake of commercial contracts he described as a large and wrong-headed gamble and whose ethical policy he described as no more than a political slogan?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, those remarks do not reflect the tenor or the substance of the meeting that took place between Mr. Wei and the Foreign Secretary yesterday morning. The facts of that meeting are that Mr. Wei recognised that the United Kingdom had a strong record on human rights in China. He thanked my right honourable friend for the efforts that have been made by Her Majesty's Government and in particular as regards his own release. I believe that that stands for itself.

Business of the House: Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to enable the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages on Monday, 16th March.--(Lord Richard.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

European Communities (Amendment) Bill

3.32 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Meaning of "the Treaties" and "the Community Treaties"]:

Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("(but, for the avoidance of doubt, not Article 1)").

The noble Lord said: We have seen a remarkable sight. At Second Reading a Whip did a Minister's job and today the Minister has been doing the Whip's job. As we begin our detailed consideration of the Treaty of Amsterdam, I should like to take this opportunity to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, to the Dispatch Box today. Following the misunderstanding which in part led to her absence at Second Reading, I am very pleased that she is able to be here today on what we on the Opposition Benches are aware is a very busy time for Foreign Office Ministers. I am also very pleased that the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord McIntosh, are here today to complete the Bill's ministerial troika. On behalf of the Government they will be responsible for answering all the questions we put to them on the effects of the treaty's provisions; the implications of the transfer of powers for which it provides; and for justifying the action that the Government took on behalf of the people of Britain in Amsterdam last June.

On that note, I am delighted that, following the great praise rightly heaped on the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, at Second Reading, the Government have recognised his exceptional talent, abilities and European expertise and rewarded him with promotion to ministerial rank. I quote from a Foreign Office memorandum which I have with me today. It describes the noble Lord as the Minister,

    "with special responsibility for the UK presidency of the European Union".

Perhaps I may be the first, on behalf of the Opposition, to congratulate him on his promotion, and to express the sincere hope that he will receive a salary commensurate with his responsibility as well as a fully complemented

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private office, appropriately furnished, and a ministerial car. I assure him that, following our successful advocacy on his behalf at Second Reading, the Opposition will do all it can during Committee stage to persuade the Government that this is no less than he fully deserves.

The purpose of the wide-ranging amendment tabled in my name and those of my noble friends, which we are considering today, is primarily to elicit from the Government an outline plan of how they intend to manage the Committee stage of this Bill. As the Committee is well aware, the Treaty of Amsterdam has important constitutional implications. I should like the assurance of the Minister in particular that since a guillotine Motion was introduced in another place after just 12 hours in Committee, allowing only a further 12 hours of debate for the remaining stages, there will be ample time allotted in this House to enable us to discharge our duty in full to the British people by examining the vital issues of constitutional importance contained within the treaty, including those which affect the powers and sovereignty of our national Parliament, qualified majority voting, the co-decision procedure and the new powers to the president of the Commission.

Some of the most important aspects of the Treaty of Amsterdam are dealt with in the amendment which I have tabled and which we are considering now. The Committee will be aware that not all parts of the Treaty of Amsterdam are amendments to the European Communities Act. Those parts which do not need to be incorporated into our legal system can be agreed by the Government without the approval of this House or another place. Treaty articles which are held to be intergovernmental in structure come into that category. But it is those very provisions, nominally intergovernmental, contained within Article 1 of the Treaty which would have a significant impact both on the sovereignty of this House and another place and on Britain's role in the European Community.

From these Benches we are aware that although this House cannot override the Government's right to use the Crown's treaty-making prerogative, the amendments tabled in my name nevertheless make it clear that the Opposition does not accept the principles set out in Article 1.

Three main aspects of this article give rise to serious concern on these Benches. First, there are moves towards further integration in the area of foreign policy and defence which need to be fully explored; secondly, the role and powers of the European Court of Justice; and, thirdly, the measures on human rights.

In consideration of this first amendment, I do not anticipate developing my arguments in detail, but simply to highlight those areas of concern. I should like to assure my colleagues that I have tabled a further series of amendments on all the critical issues. There will be ample opportunity to enter into substantive debate during our consideration of the Bill at a later stage. There is a wide-ranging opportunity to debate these issues now; but, as I have mentioned, I have sought to ensure that we shall look into the details in subsequent amendments, which will allow equal opportunity to the Committee to cover these issues in detail.

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I should like to look briefly at the structure of the treaty, which is divided into supra-national and intergovernmental sections. It is that division and the distinction between the two which limits the extent to which this House and another place have any real say over certain parts of the treaty. At Maastricht, the division of the treaty into three pillars was intended to ensure that co-operation between governments both inside and outside the institutions would be the central feature of Europe's future development. That structure enabled matters relating to a common foreign and security policy in the second pillar and those relating to justice and home affairs in the third pillar to be settled by national governments co-operating on an intergovernmental level outside the formal decision-making process of the European Community; namely, the first pillar.

In our view, the pillared approach was one of the best features of the Maastricht negotiations. It is our firm belief that the most sensible way to proceed on foreign affairs, security, and home affairs is on the basis of intergovernmental co-operation, not through the use of the institutions of the European Union. Previous governments strongly supported the development of a common foreign and security policy but, critically, a CFSP built on closer intergovernmental co-operation. I intend to return to this theme at a later date. The pillared approach is worth defending and I should like the Minister's assurance that that is the Government's view.

The Amsterdam Treaty undermines the pillared structure. Article K.7, for example, explicitly involves the European Court of Justice in the home affairs pillar by giving it a degree of jurisdiction therein. That encroaches on the intergovernmental structure agreed at Maastricht whereby the question of the jurisdiction of the ECJ was to be left open. That encroachment may be marginal, but nevertheless the fear is that it represents the thin end of the wedge. We seek the Minister's assurance that the Government are cautious about the implications of this extension of the role and powers of the ECJ and that they will oppose any attempt to extend its jurisdiction further into other pillared areas.

I have outlined briefly some of the good reasons and justifications for opposing Article 1. This treaty brings in the social chapter. It reflects the total failure of the Government to advance the argument for the reform of the European Court of Justice. It threatens to undermine one of the prizes of Maastricht, the pillared approach. It commits us to the progressive framing of a common defence policy. It threatens to lead us away from a true common foreign policy agreed by all towards a common foreign policy agreed by most. It begs the question: is this really the best deal that the Government could get for Britain or was a good deal given up?

As I said earlier, I look forward to a substantive debate on these issues. I repeat that that is the reason we tabled separate and specific amendments which we did not couple with this initial amendment. I look forward also to the Minister's response to the questions and concerns that I have outlined. I beg to move.

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3.45 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: It may be for the assistance of the Committee if I set out equally concisely and briefly the position of the Liberal Democrat Benches on the treaty. I hope that I shall not need to repeat later the general arguments that I shall advance now when we come to outline our position on many of the issues raised in the Bill.

The Amsterdam Treaty is a modest treaty. It is not regarded by the Liberal Democrat Benches as wholly satisfactory because it did not deal with the question of institutional change or with many of the implications of enlargement. Nevertheless, it contains some useful advances, to which I shall return. Before doing so, it is important to make it plain that the Amsterdam negotiations took place over the period of a general election and at the time when Her Majesty's Government changed from being a Conservative Government to a Labour Government. That change is reflected in the Amsterdam Treaty. Several clauses were brought forward at a very late date--literally within the last few weeks of the negotiations--because the Government had changed. We owe to the change of government the changed attitude, as reflected in amendments and changed clauses, to the social protocol, to the employment chapter and to the provisions on non-discrimination on grounds of race and religion. I express the gratitude of these Benches to the Government for their efforts during the closing weeks of those very long negotiations.

The difficulty was that the Conservative Government did not know what they wanted to do about Europe. Even today, it is plain that the Conservative Party does not know what it wants to do. It is a deeply divided party on these issues. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches believe that the concept of Europe that needs to be the basis of our discussions on this treaty, and on treaties yet to come, must recognise the extraordinarily radically changed world in which we live.

First, the European Union is here to stay. Whether or not the United Kingdom remains within it--I trust that it will and I believe that under the leadership of the present Government it certainly will--it is clear that the European Union will go on. Indeed, with no fewer than 11 nations queuing up to join, it is also plain that the European Union is seen throughout the whole continent as the anchor for stability and prosperity not only in Europe, but also for an area spreading into Asia, the Maghreb and elsewhere. It has become one of the crucial pillars of law and order in the world.

However, that does not mean that the European Union is faultless and that it should not be criticised. It means that today, along with the United States and, I hope, once again a reformed Russia and some day China and India, we share responsibility for universal law and order. That is a major responsibility--and Europe must begin to bear it.

Secondly, we live in a globalised world, which has changed out of all recognition. Only a few days ago, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recognised that no individual state can easily withstand the sheer weight of the capital that moves across the

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world, often at very short notice, which can swamp governments within literally a matter of weeks, as countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and others have, sadly, recently discovered. Europe provides us with a base within which we can help to influence that global economy and without which we would have very little opportunity to do so.

Thirdly, within that global economy, there is a responsibility on this country and on the European Union to uphold the basic principles of human rights, individual liberty and the rule of law. I believe that that is an important part of the acquis to which Britain has made a major and valuable contribution. I believe that that contribution could be much extended and expanded in future years by a British Government willing to co-operate with Europe rather than spend their time opposing it or trying to belittle what it has achieved.

We must also consider the nature of the changing special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. That special relationship continues on a cultural, personal and linguistic basis, but anybody who imagines that the United States regards the United Kingdom on its own (as distinct from the United Kingdom in Europe) as a suitable partner with which to work is living in the world of the past. As many have said, including Presidents Clinton and Bush, Dr. Kissinger and others, the crucial nature of the relationship with the United States today is anchored on the relationship between the whole of the European Union on the one side and North America on the other.

In that context, I do not agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said about a common foreign and security policy. In a week in which we have looked at the crisis in Kosovo, which is essentially a European crisis, and in the week after the week in which we looked at the crisis in Iraq, which is essentially a crisis with which Europe's prosperity is bound up in every possible way, it seems strange that we should still be saying that a common foreign and security policy is out of the question. We on these Benches welcome the steps that the Government have recently taken with regard to Kosovo to try to create a common position on the part of the European Union. I believe that that has been important in terms of sending a warning shot across the bows of Mr. Milosevic.

Finally, there are two areas in which I believe that the European Union has an indispensable task to carry out. The first relates to the United Nations. It is fragile, faulty and fallible but it is the only international institution that represents the whole world. Its agencies perform remarkable duties and have achieved remarkable results. We know that the US Congress is extremely reluctant to pay the subscriptions that it owes to the United Nations. If the United Nations is to survive and flourish in the next few years, it must depend upon the support of the European Union.

In that context the Amsterdam Treaty has certain remarkable achievements to its credit. At its heart is a commitment to human rights. Surely, that is something that many of us should welcome. At its heart for the first time--it is a great step forward--is a new article, Article F and, with it, Article F.1, which enables the

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European Union to hold its member states to a commitment to human rights and civil liberties. That is a radical step forward and one that I believe every Member of this House supports.

The treaty has also introduced a new employment chapter. That does not go very far because essentially employment is a national responsibility, but it still enables us to exchange good practice and share experiences one with another. Importantly, it introduces a prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of religion and race. That is something which surely every Member of this House who cares about democracy welcomes. It also includes for the first time in the body of the treaty the social protocol which represents the belief that the economy and the free market should be balanced by the consideration of solidarity, the care by one person of another and family-friendly policies in the workplace.

I shall not detain the Committee any longer. I believe that the Amsterdam Treaty is a modest step towards the achievement of some of these goals. It is high time that those of us who believe in those goals should express our conviction and commitment that the European Union will bring them closer.

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