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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Or rather the Foreign Secretary.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I am sure that my right honourable friend will take all appropriate action with anyone who gets a bit above themselves.

The noble Lord asked about our membership of the Security Council. There is nothing in the treaty that undermines our position on the Security Council. The noble Lord also asked about upholding the common positions. I hope that I have explained that I do not believe that we would be in the position of having to uphold a common position in which we had not participated. Given what I have explained to the Committee about the unanimity of view required for a common position, I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured on those points.

Lord Bruce of Donington: In congratulating the noble Baroness on the detailed manner in which she has dealt with these many questions which have arisen under the common foreign and security arrangements, has she taken into account one rather important factor? I refer to the Elysee treaty between Germany and France concluded in 1963 whereby the governments of France and Germany agreed to meet together before every meeting of the Council of Ministers in order to determine a common position between those two countries?

Is my noble friend further aware that in a process which I cannot identify, but which nevertheless exists, the European Commission seems to be singularly well informed of the common position arrived at between France and Germany before each meeting of the Council of Ministers? Bearing in mind my noble friend's emphasis on the importance of individual member states reaching their own decisions and the manner

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undoubtedly with which our ambassadorial staff deal with the individual countries as such, will she indicate to what extent she has taken that extra factor into account in what she has so lucidly put forward this evening?

10 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I cannot for a moment claim to have anything like the extraordinarily detailed knowledge of my noble friend in his careful and painstaking study of European relationships; but I think I can safely say that those briefing me will have taken into account the treaty to which my noble friend referred. Perhaps I may also point out that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is now making good the undertaking made in Labour's manifesto to move into a leading role in Europe. It is our business also to have good bilateral relationships with our colleagues in Europe. My right honourable friend is doing that--and he did it not only to his great credit, but to the credit of the whole country, in Paris this week.

Lord Shore of Stepney: Before my noble friend begins her well-earned rest--we greatly appreciate her excellent and detailed responses--may I put it to her that what she has managed to produce for the Committee has been a number of last resort vetos which are available to the British Government or, indeed, to other governments who are at the extreme end of their tether, as it were?

As against that, will she not recognise and comment on the whole thrust of the treaty? I quote the first sentence:

    "The Union shall define and implement a common foreign and security policy covering all areas of foreign and security policy".

Either those words are, quite frankly, misleading and should never have been accepted by any British Government or they really do indicate what in the real world is the actual tilt of the treaty and the pressures that we would come under from a majority within the European Union before we were able to use our veto. We must always see vetoing the European Union's activities in one area against the possibilities of the Union taking counter action against our veto in a number of other adjacent areas.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I fully understand the passionate and sincere views that my noble friend holds on these matters. However, I do not believe that he is right when he describes these measures as "last resort vetos". The Common Strategy is the point where common views come together. This is not a last-minute veto. The Common Strategy has, through painstaking discussion, not only to set out objectives but also deal with the duration and the means to be made available for delivering that Common Strategy. I think that what is presented to us in this treaty is a far more logical position--one that allows for a great deal more thought in putting together the strategies and position of the EU as a whole--than was the case in its predecessor treaty.

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Lord Tebbit: I hate to risk the ire of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, by referring again to some of these matters, but I do not think that the Minister adequately dealt with the point that has just been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shore. The noble Baroness appears to have fallen into the same trap as the previous administration in believing that such words are guff and do not mean very much, whereas we know that when the chips are down the interpretation of the treaty is based upon its broad ideals which always override the niceties that we in our parliamentary system regard as important but which under the continental system do not matter a damn.

I am distinctly unimpressed by the arguments of the noble Baroness in reply to my point that an incoming government may have the endorsement of the electorate to change the foreign policy agreed by their predecessor. There is no provision whatever in the treaty for that to happen. The views of the electorate are brushed aside; they do not matter. If a government have agreed to a policy that is the policy. This treaty states that it is not for an incoming parliament to say that it will not be bound by the deeds of a predecessor. The noble Baroness said that the predecessor government may have cautiously agreed that the policy should last for only six months, or perhaps 12 months, but that may not be the case. Does not the noble Baroness understand that there is something fundamentally offensive about a government, who have been elected on the basis of one policy, being required by this treaty to go about the world upholding a contrary policy? If she does not understand that, she does not understand anything about the parliamentary system that has grown up in this country over the past few centuries.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I believe that the noble Lord has sought to put words into my mouth. I do not believe that the words of this treaty are so much guff. He may believe that they are, but I do not. I have the greatest possible respect not only for those who negotiated the treaty but for our European partners. I rather doubt that there are any words that can reassure the noble Lord on this point. I am sure that the views of the noble Lord are extraordinarily well known and that he will not be reassured. I reiterate, if he is willing to listen to the point that I put, that international obligations are binding on a state, not a government. The noble Lord is aware of that. He chides me and says that I know nothing about the parliamentary system. I am sure that I do not know as much as the noble Lord, but I know a little. I am aware that international obligations are a matter for the state and not a government. I said earlier that in this treaty Common Strategies were time-limited at the time of negotiation. That is clearly laid down in Articles J.3 and J.4. Therefore, in practice a new government would soon find themselves able to renegotiate the terms of an instrument which they wanted to renegotiate. I am sure that I have not been able to reassure the noble Lord, but I have done my best. I hope that other noble Lords, who may have wondered whether the noble Lord had a point, are now convinced that he does not.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Can I tempt the Minister to go further and explain in a little more detail the concept of the emergency brake and the constructive abstention to which reference has been made only briefly? Article J.13(1) is a very carefully balanced article. Article J.13(1) refers to constructive abstention in order to enable decisions to be made when one member is unhappy. Article J.13(2), however, provides an emergency brake.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I hope that I explained that. I was at some pains so to do, and in answer to the specific point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The Minister disagrees with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, that what we have been observing here this evening is a constant stream of desperate vetoes which we may or may not be able to launch against the advancing tide of European integration. Can I put to her a question that I put to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on Tuesday, and to which I did not get an answer? Perhaps the Minister can give it.

The original Treaty of Rome talked of creating an ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe in Article A, as it then was--Article 1 now. Can the Minister think of any amendments to the Treaty of Rome since that time--in the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty, or the Treaty of Amsterdam--which go against the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe? If she can, the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and I might be marginally reassured. I am afraid she will see that all amendments, sometimes with the British Government rather desperately trying to avoid them, putting in a little veto here and a little block there, go in that direction. That is because the intention of our partners in Europe is precisely to achieve what is written in the treaty:

    "an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".

The ever closer union leads in the end to the Union.

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