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Lord Waddington: I cannot pretend that I can go entirely the whole way with my noble friend Lord Northesk but I think he has a point. Why should people gain the style of an MEP when they will not be able to carry out the normal functions which are carried out by a Member of Parliament in the other place? The principal function, of course, is to represent their constituents and deal with their constituents' problems. I can see that the electoral system which has been chosen by the Government has an appeal to some people. Presumably it has an appeal to those who think that the only purpose of an electoral system is to put in place people in exact mathematical proportion to the votes cast for each individual party in the election.

That is not my idea of the principal function of a Member of Parliament or of an MEP. Obviously those who are elected ought to be in a position to command the respect of those who have elected them. Those who are elected should be able to represent in a broad sense the general views of the parties which they represent. But, above all else, those who are elected ought to be able to look after those who have elected them and also those who have voted against them. I cannot for the life of me see how the electoral system which has been chosen by the Government can provide for that.

Indeed spokesmen in another place have said that you cannot begin to acquaint the job of an MEP with the job of an MP. Obviously these people as MEPs for vast regions, such as the north-west region stretching from Merseyside to Carlisle, will not be known to the people who have voted in the election. You just have to accept that. The spokesmen in the other place say it is absolutely obvious that these people will not be able to perform as ordinary MPs and that they will not relate to any particular identified group of constituents within those large regions; all that is quite impossible. If it is impossible, why on earth has this bizarre system been chosen? Goodness only knows. My noble friend has made an important point. It seems to me odd that we should grace these people who cannot perform the duties of Members of Parliament with the style of Members of Parliament. I make that point now in the knowledge that we shall be able to debate the details of the scheme later.

It is important to start our debates this afternoon by saying that the Government have selected the worst possible form of electoral system which they could have done which cannot possibly have appeal to anyone in this Chamber except those--I suspect there must be some on the Liberal Democrat Benches--who really think that the only function of an electoral system is to throw up Members in proportion to the votes cast for different parties in the election. That is complete and utter nonsense.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am a little puzzled by this group of amendments. Far be it from me to defend Members of the European Parliament, but I am puzzled

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as to why these amendments have been tabled! I believe it was in 1985 during the discussions on the Single European Act that the assembly was changed into a parliament. Once that had happened and once it was given the status of a parliament, not by a Labour government but by a Tory government, it gained more status. It would be quite wrong to say to Members--and they are Members--of a European Parliament that they must suddenly revert to being deputies in an assembly. I do not think one can do that in this Bill.

I would have much preferred that the European Parliament, as it now is, had remained an unelected assembly with people deputised to that assembly from this Westminster Parliament, as happened originally. I was an opponent of the 1977 Bill passed by the then Labour government. But having got this far, and as this Chamber and another place have agreed that there should be an elected parliament in Europe, we cannot now say that the Members must not be Members of a parliament but deputies of a parliament. That simply is not on. The word "deputy" means to deputise for someone. Who on earth will they deputise for under this Bill? I am sorry to say that I think that this group of amendments is misconceived. I sincerely hope that the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, will withdraw them.

Earl Russell: There is a problem here which is to be addressed by later amendments, most notably Amendment No. 6 which is to be moved by a Member of my Front Bench. What I do not understand is why the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, believes that this amendment makes a practical contribution to solving a problem. It reminds me a little of the academic thesis that Shakespeare was not written by Shakespeare but by someone else of the same name.

Lord Henley: I shall not on this occasion follow my noble kinsman in discussing the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Like him, I know that is a matter of considerable controversy and not one on which I think we would wish to delay the Committee this afternoon. I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this group of amendments. I think one can describe it as three groups of amendments in that he puts forward three choices. I believe he described this discussion as something of a warm up for this afternoon's business. I am grateful to have that warm up as I believe it is nearly two-and-a-half months since we had the Second Reading of this Bill.

Although one is often grateful for a delay between the Second Reading and Committee stages as that allows one time to draft amendments and to think them out, it also allows one time to forget precisely what the Bill intends and some of the details of the Bill. Therefore, as a small warm-up before we come to what might be described as the bigger arguments, such as my noble kinsman's discussion on Amendment No. 6 or the amendments on Gibraltar, it might be useful to go through this process.

Like my noble friend, I have no particular preference in relation to the three choices that he places before us: "Deputies", "Delegates" or "Representatives". However, he is right to make the point that the role of Members of the European Parliament, whether a parliament or an

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assembly prior to 1985, is very different from that of Members of the Westminster Parliament. It will become even more different following the passage of this Bill.

The difference of role was confirmed by the Home Secretary in another place. My noble friend Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, also made the point that what Members do and how they behave is very different from Westminster Members. There will be a greater difference once the constituency links between an individual Member of Parliament, or whatever he may be called, and his constituency are destroyed by the Bill. We are moving to nebulous regions, originally created for a very different purpose by the Department of Trade and Industry. Those regions are also very large. My noble friend Lord Waddington pointed to the fact that in his part of the country and mine, the north west, we should see individual MEPs representing a region extending from Merseyside to Carlisle. It will in fact be much bigger. It starts well south of Merseyside, in Cheshire, and extends up past Carlisle right on to the Scottish Border; and the region (if I dare call it that) beyond the north west, into Scotland as a whole, extends from Gretna as far as Orkney and Shetland. That is to be one region. MEPs will have to represent the whole area rather than the individual parts of it that they have represented in the past as individual constituency Members of the European Parliament.

My noble friend's amendment therefore raises some interesting questions. I shall be interested to hear the noble Lord's response. My noble friend will then no doubt make up his mind as to how to pursue these amendments in due course before we move on to the more important amendments facing us today.

Lord Bruce of Donington: One of the lessons that can be learnt from a study of these amendments and the matters to which they relate is that, notwithstanding anything that we may say or do here, the European Union institutions tend to do exactly what they like in any event. Perhaps I may offer an illustration.

In 1975 I had the honour to be one of your Lordships who was chosen to be a Member of the European Parliament by the British Parliament. On being nominated, I was called a Member of the European Parliament and was accepted as such in the so-called European Parliament institutions. In fact, at the time it was an assembly and had no official title as a parliament. Not until many years later was it suddenly realised (if indeed it was realised at all) that the European Parliament in 1975, and until 1979, was not a parliament at all. It was a complete pretence. To that extent I participated in the duplicity. I was issued with a European Parliament passport at a time when there was no European Parliament, only an assembly. Moreover, it was connived at by the British Government and their successors by paying attention to the exchange restrictions and the money one could carry abroad by an endorsement in the appropriate section of the so-called passport, which I still have in my possession.

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Although for other reasons I shall not support the amendment, I can well understand the reasons that lie behind it. Despite the change of name accomplished later by treaty, it is not a parliament at all, as the Government themselves were at pains to point out in a recent debate in another place. The Home Secretary said:


    "The European Parliament is a representative body; it is not a Parliament from which a Government are drawn".
He went on to say:


    "The European Parliament does not form the basis of a Government, but is simply a representative body".
Later he said:


    "We are not dealing with the election of a Parliament which then sustains a Government, but with the election of a representative body in Europe";
and finally, in the same speech:


    "The electoral regions will be very large, and individual candidates are unlikely to be known by more than a small--not to say tiny--fraction of the electorate. Voters cannot, therefore, be expected to make an informed choice between individual candidates from the same party".--[Official Report, Commons, 25/11/97; cols. 804-13.]
Since that speech was made by the Home Secretary, the Government may possibly have come to a more definite frame of mind. It may now suit their purpose to call Members real Members of Parliament, as distinct from representatives, deputies or whatever. As I say, for other reasons I shall decline to support this amendment. But the reason is quite simple--the whole thing is a farce anyway.


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