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Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I happily accept what the noble Lord has said, but if that is the only piece of confession that he is making today, then I am happy that he has accepted everything else I said.
I believe that our interests are served by the extensions of qualified majority voting that have been negotiated at Nice. The extension of QMV serves us well as regards trade liberalisation and better financial controls. I congratulate our negotiators on those improvements. Equally, however, we can praise them all the more when we recognise that, in those negotiations, there was a defence of essential national interest for unanimity on questions such as treaty changes, defence, border controls, own resources, taxation, social security--a long list of all the matters that were promised to be ring-fenced before negotiations on the Nice Treaty began.
I believe that we have here a set of circumstances on which we can all agree: that the European Union is here to stay; that the procedures need to be improved; that the Treaty of Nice helps to improve them; enlargement is imminent and cannot wait; and the ratification of the Nice Treaty which is necessary for the efficient enlargement of the Union. On that basis, those who are looking for more in terms of issues such as those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell--how we defend the interests of national parliaments--should start preparing now the parliamentary input for the 2004 IGC and, in the mean time, persuade parliaments to embrace the existing powers and responsibilities they have, which are better to monitor and control the activities of governments.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very sincere and characteristically well-informed speech. However, does he feel that the decision reached in the Irish referendum, which did not concern enlargement--that was already broadly accepted--but rather everything else that had been bunged into the treaty, will slow down the enlargement process?
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, that is a matter for the Irish people. Clearly it is not the result I wanted to see in Ireland. I hope that a significant outcome of the result of the Irish referendum will be that the Irish Government will take somewhat more seriously their responsibilities in explaining the benefits of what they agreed to at Nice than apparently was the case during the referendum campaign.
In conclusion, I believe that we have before us a modest Bill to ratify a modest treaty which will bring about essential institutional changes to create the conditions for enlargement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, so cogently described to us, enlargement is a great historic goal. All noble Lords ought to consider very deeply what responsibility they will bear if they do anything to hold it up.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, about the contents of the treaty and the contents of the Bill. The treaty, and consequently the Bill, is not in the main about enlargement--except in the sense that some European politicians, vigorously supported by the Commission, were determined not to allow enlargement to happen unless there was first more integration. Not for the first time, continental politicians have been a lot more frank than our own about what has really been going on.
No one will quarrel with the fact that the treaty includes institutional changes necessary to accommodate new members, but those changes take up only a fraction of the final agreement. Qualified majority voting, however, replaces unanimity in about 30 policy areas--not only in trivial and technical areas, as the Prime Minister at one time suggested--not to complete the single market; not to encourage trade; not to make enlargement work--but in important areas of domestic policy which have nothing whatever to do with enlargement. Some other changes are made which will limit enormously our ability to shape the future of the European Union.
Does anyone seriously suggest that Article 137 is unimportant--Article 137, which gives the EU a role in combating social exclusion and the modernisation of social protection systems? It could, of course, well open the door to the EU meddling in our own social security system, but one thing that no one can disagree with is that it has absolutely nothing to do with enlargement, except in the sense that some states are determined to curtail the competitive advantage which applicant states may have as a result of lower labour costs.
Article 100 is not trivial. It gives the EU power to hand over taxpayers' money to states in difficulty, while Article 191 provides for taxpayers' money to go to political parties. I know that that issue will be dealt with by my noble friend in some detail. It is certainly not an unimportant matter, still less is the power to make regulations governing political parties, with the danger of discrimination being practised against those who do not agree with further integration.
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Does he not agree that there is a significant difference between what he says is nothing to do with enlargement and what we say is everything to do with an enlarged community? The noble Lord is talking about process; we are talking about consequence.
Article 13 seems to assume that states will be racist unless the EU is there to act. Article 144, with its social protection committee to monitor the social situation and the development of social protection systems in member states, is surely an integrationist measure. It has nothing to do with enlargement but a lot to do with limiting the power of elected national governments and placing that power elsewhere. Surely these are glaring examples of the European Union seeking to meddle in matters with which MPs of member countries are particularly well qualified to deal.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He talks about the transference of powers from elected national governments to Brussels. I take it that he is aware that the major decision-making power in the European Community and the European Union lies precisely with those member governments in the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament, of which I have the privilege to be a member, does not have nearly the same amount of power--let alone the Commission, which proposes legislation but does not decide it.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, the noble Baroness knows perfectly well that the Council of Ministers can look only at proposals which emanate from the Commission; it cannot itself initiate policy in any way at all. Therefore I was entirely right to say that it was a transference of power from elected MPs to unelected bureaucrats. I do not detract from that for one moment.
There is then Article 159, which deals with economic and social cohesion outside the Social Fund. That is certainly important, as are the provisions for support for industry and economic co-operation with third countries But they are certainly not provisions necessary for enlargement.
Finally, there are the articles on foreign and security policy: Articles 63 to 67 on asylum, refugees and immigration policy; and Article 7 which gives the Council power to interfere in the affairs of a state which it considers is at risk of breaking the principles of the Union. Everyone must agree that that has deep constitutional significance. It is not a housekeeping matter nor a matter necessary for enlargement; it has deep constitutional significance, as has Article 40, which states that proposals for enhanced co-operation are no longer to be subject to unanimity.
Since Nice, Brussels has not paused for a moment in its plans for further integration. Indeed, today in The Times we read that President Prodi and his officials, like Jo Moore at the Department of Transport, look upon the international crisis as "beneficial" as it favours further integration. Virtually on the nod, EU Ministers have reached agreement on a whole raft of proposals--which again have serious constitutional
It is extraordinary that after the Danish referendum and the Irish referendum on Nice--not to mention the events in Gothenburg--and when there is more than enough evidence of people in Europe feeling more and more alienated from what the elite is doing in their name at Brussels, the EU and its leaders should be bashing on regardless, telling us all that they do not intend to alter the text of the treaty by one comma; telling the Irish, with extraordinary arrogance and in a perversion of democracy, that if they had voted "Yes" to Nice that would have been an end of the matter but as they voted "No" they had better keep on voting until they get the right result.
I could say much more in that vein but I wish to concentrate on the applicant countries. What of those whose entry into the EU this treaty is supposed to facilitate? After the terrible events of the last century, it is not difficult to understand why they should wish to join the family of European nations. But is it not rather shameful that while they have been waiting at the door, the EU has been devoting its energies not to making it easier for them to join but to increasing the number of rules they will have to obey; in effect, to increasing the cost of admission. There is more than enough evidence that they, like most of us, look with some dismay at the attempts of some to force us down the road of super-nationality.
Perhaps I may say a very brief word about what was said at Nice in regard to the European security and defence policy and the charter of fundamental rights. Noble Lords will be glad to hear that I am not going to reopen the arguments about the rapid reaction force and the threat that some of us feel it poses to NATO. To quote the oft-used words of Labour Ministers in holes, "It is time to move on".
Europe is an essential part of the coalition that has been painstakingly put together to fight international terrorism. It has been put together and, it is hoped, will stay together simply because states have been able to respond in different ways, and some more enthusiastically than others. What chance would there have been of an EU that was responsible for defence and security giving the kind of support in the fight against terrorism that Britain has given--with Belgium refusing even to co-operate with the FBI in the interviewing of key witnesses, Italy calling for an end to the air strikes before they had hardly begun, Sweden wringing its hands, and Ireland agonising about its neutrality? The answer is obvious.
I am glad that my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon spoke as he did about the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I shall use slightly stronger language. According to Mr Vaz, it was no more important than a Beano comic, and the Prime Minister thought it a mere political declaration, a showcase of existing rights which would not impact on national law.
Scorn was poured on those of us who begged to differ and pointed out that both the Commission and the Senior Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Palm, had said that the charter would become mandatory as a result of the Court's interpretation of it. But it is instructive to look at the recent decision of the ECHR about night flights at Heathrow. I pass over the absurdity of Article 8, drafted to protect people from totalitarianism, being used to give people a quiet night. I merely point out that in that case one of the judges, Judge Costa, actually cited with approval the environmental provisions of the charter which so short a time ago a Minister of the Crown was telling us was of no more significance than a comic cut. That should be a lesson to those who take seriously this Government's forecasts of the likely effect of developments in Europe. Sometimes the effect of these measures can be very different from what the politicians who entered into such bargains imagined at the time.
As justice and home affairs spokeswoman for the European Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, I am especially conscious of the importance of admitting the countries of eastern and central Europe, and Cyprus and Malta, in order to extend our co-operation on fighting organised crime, terrorism, and trafficking in arms, drugs and people--especially women and children for sexual exploitation; and to co-ordinate our immigration and asylum policies.
As enlargement is central to the Treaty of Nice, I make no apology for mentioning Cyprus. I returned only last night from a fact-finding visit there. I met, among others, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Kassoulides, and the Turkish Cypriot President, Mr Denktas. I make my remarks with humility--I was about to say in the presence of experts like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, but he is no longer in his place. I am a firm supporter of the accession of the island of Cyprus and all its peoples to the European Union. However, I am concerned at the consequences of accession taking place in the absence of a political settlement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said, enlargement is the opportunity to end divisions. The
The assertion that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus are negotiating accession on behalf of all Cypriots is, I am afraid, merely a legal fiction. There are no Turkish Cypriots in the negotiating delegation, and no one knows how they would be incorporated even if they accepted any such arrangement. Most Turkish Cypriots want to join in EU accession and their isolation is sad to behold.
Much of the deadlock in the UN efforts at political talks is down to the obstinacy of Mr Denktas, who is as stubborn as he is charming. But the sense of frustration cannot be directed at only one side. There is also an onus on the Greek Cypriots, who presently hold many of the trump cards. They must make bridge-building efforts in order to demonstrate their firm attachment to the concept of a new partnership between two politically equal communal entities on which a bi-zonal federation must be constructed.
I regret that neither the European Parliament's rapporteur, Jacques Poos, nor the Commission's president, Sr Prodi--who were both in Cyprus last week--saw their way to actually crossing to the North, even if they met some Turkish Cypriots during their stay. There is a need for creative and imaginative thinking whereby acknowledgement of and respect for the equal status of the Turkish Cypriots, and pragmatic acceptance of the reality that a separate administration exists in the North, is not immediately pounced on as being equivalent to legal recognition of the "Turkish Republic of North Cyprus".
Although the Helsinki European Council said that a political settlement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots should not be a pre-condition for accession, it also said that, when deciding on accession, all relevant factors would be taken into account. I urge Mr Denktas and Mr Clerides to provide some such relevant factors in the form of progress towards a settlement in the next crucial 18 months. This will be good for Cyprus and good for security in Europe.
Returning to the Nice treaty, I agree with others that it is necessary but flawed. Judged by the criteria that the Government claim to share with the Liberal Democrats--namely, that EU decision-making should possess the qualities of transparency, efficiency, accountability and legitimacy--we are still falling a considerable way short of that goal.
Decision-making is made even more confused, and therefore less transparent. I do not know whether I am disappointed or relieved that none of my constituents, let alone any member of my family, has so far asked me to explain the proposed complicated new voting arrangements. Democratic accountability has barely improved since co-decision with the European Parliament has hardly been extended, even to matters where qualified majority voting will apply in the Council.
In reference to the Council, our own Government's grasp of the importance of openness is distorted by their view that the European Union is no more than an organisation of sovereign states--or in the words of Mr Peter Hain yesterday in the Financial Times, a "Europe of independent states". We are surely inter-dependent. We are not a diplomatic League of Nations. The fact that the Council will, under the Nice treaty, continue to legislate in secret reflects a completely wrong perspective on the demands of democracy and accountability in the Union. The Council may not yet be a representative assembly, but with a membership of 28 it cannot continue to operate as a cosy club shutting out the citizen.
Similarly, the Government do not seem to grasp the fact that the European Parliament's primary role is to ensure, in partnership with our colleagues in national parliaments, that legislation is decided democratically. The European Parliament can do this by having co-equal power with the Council whenever the Council votes by QMV.
This Government failed to fight hard to minimise the loss of UK Members of the European Parliament. Germany will keep 99; Britain's membership will be reduced from 87 to 72. But on both the money laundering directive and the take-over directive in the European Parliament, to which co-decision applied--both very important measures, including to the Government--the views of German MEPs were less liberal than those of British ones. Surely the Government have allowed what can only be called their disdain for the European Parliament to undermine our national interests.
On the topic of disdain, I take the opportunity, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, has spoken, to recall with amusement the occasion in 1984 when he chaired an SDP/Liberal Alliance press conference in Brussels. With myself and my SDP colleague on the platform, both candidates for the European Parliament, he declared that he was opposed to direct election to the European Parliament. Well, I got there eventually.
As my noble friend, and, I am delighted to say, my new leader, Lady Williams of Crosby has said, the situation in the area of justice and home affairs is lamentable. First, in the area which is under Community competence--that is, asylum, immigration and borders--there is something of a mess. Member states as well as the Commission can make proposals, which they do like confetti, usually when they take over the presidency of the European Union and want a new initiative for a press conference. The Nice treaty gives a modest boost to qualified majority voting in this area of the treaty, but mostly we shall have to wait until 2004 for generalised majority voting, let alone for a European Parliament power of co-decision.
The United Kingdom has a supposed opt-out from that area. However, the research paper in the Library has three pages of proposed legislation in respect of which the UK is opting in. I suggest that the Government's intentions are less than transparent in relation to that supposed opt-out. For the part of
The Treaty of Nice shows that the purely intergovernmental method of weaving the fabric of European institutions and policies has had its day. I am glad that it has been agreed to hold a convention starting in early 2002 comprising members of the national parliaments, the European Parliament, the Commission and member governments whose task will be to submit to the intergovernmental conference in 2003 a proposal for a constitution as the basis for its work. We can then take the opportunity to rectify the errors of Nice and to scrap the Byzantine system of qualified majority voting in favour of a simpler one that we can all understand. There must be co-decision whenever there is majority voting. I welcome the surge of activity since 11th September to tackle crime and terrorism, but there must be democratic control to ensure that the breach of civil liberties is minimised. We need to settle on the European Union relatively few but very important powers at the supranational--federal, if you like--level, including not only asylum, immigration and free movement of people but also cross-border crime.
But in those areas of justice and home affairs the European Court of Justice must also have full powers of judicial supervision which is currently lacking. It would be guided by the entrenched fundamental rights guaranteed in the treaty through the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I am, I am afraid, surprised that noble Lords such as the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Waddington, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, dislike the fact that European Union powers would have to be exercised within a framework of respect for individual rights. I think that is a gain for the citizen against the bureaucracy and I am reassured by it.
Finally, the objective of being able to tell our fellow citizens who does what, why and how, which is all that a constitution does, has moved a little nearer with some parts of the Nice treaty, but, I am afraid, farther away with others. We must achieve such a clarified constitution in 2004, but in the meantime we must ratify what is an imperfect treaty but one whose rejection would set back enlargement.
The House may ask why I am raising an issue which post-dates the Nice treaty. I do so because I want to know where in the treaty this decision was agreed. I can find something only in Article 30 of the preceding treaty. Article 30.1.b. speaks of the collection, storage, processing, analysis and exchange of relevant information. Intelligence and information are not the same thing. So why was this decision made, and was it made by QMV rather than by unanimity? Had this issue arisen under the rubric of the CFSP unanimity would have been required. This decision, if implemented, could have serious consequences both for our relationship with the United States and for the safety of our own soldiers and our agents. No one should deceive themselves about the risk. Europol is a leaky sieve and there is no mechanism for member states to control it. As long ago as 1994, when the Select Committee in this House reported on Europol, it said how vital accountability would be for a body about to be given,
As there is no effective oversight, control over, or scrutiny of Europol--its members are appointed by an EU committee, not the nation states, and report only to that committee--I ask what the position is and what power of scrutiny or control we have? We were told in June that at Luxembourg it was agreed that there
The CFSP is being amply reported on by the appropriate committees so I shall state only my belief that we have created an unnecessary mechanism which may grow, in terms of resources, to become a seriously expensive dinosaur. We could and should have secured the increased defence spending needed to keep the Americans in Europe through NATO. As it is, no nation has yet put any serious money or, in most cases, any money at all into defence. We now have an unnecessary and quite expensive duplicate command and control system and political institutions to match which depend for any purely EU Petersberg tasks on being run by our own joint HQ. This happens, as we always warned it might, to be fully committed to operations in Afghanistan.
When we create an unnecessary institution, it soon finds work for itself in order to survive. Which country in the EU other than France will inevitably be required to contribute the bulk of the troops? The UK. I believe that the Government have a healthily pragmatic view of the position. It is nevertheless yet another example of the EU's genius for mission and institution creep. We shall pay dearly for our tolerance of a number of weasel words in the CSFP text. Not least, we must watch carefully Mr Solana's proclaimed technique of using enhanced co-operation and the implementation of common positions with common strategies to move from decisions by unanimity to decisions by QMV. Articles 27b and 27d are contradictory. They, and Article 24, are the critical articles. I hope that we shall discuss them fully in Committee.
The Nice Treaty is a nice treaty, not only in the sense that it is agreeable to me, but also because it is nicely judged and finely tuned to Europe's current needs and aspirations. Like Amsterdam, it lies between the ground-breaking Maastricht Treaty and the forthcoming 2004 IGC. It is a modest treaty, containing much good housekeeping for the European Union, but it is also a treaty that acclimatises us to the important step of the enlargement of the Union from 15 to perhaps 27 countries. I warmly welcome the fact that the Hungarian Foreign Minister has been next door in the Moses Room this afternoon and the Romanian Prime Minister visits the House of Lords next week.
However, for our Eurosceptics, the Nice Treaty is not a nice treaty. For them it is a front, like Halloween--a trick, not a treaty. As ever, our Eurosceptics want to make a mountain out of this relative molehill of a treaty and, as ever, confronted with Nice they find the concept of building a European Union as difficult to negotiate as climbing the north face of the Eiger.
It is hard to see why this piece of summitry should excite fears in our opponents. Are they for or against enlargement? In voting against the Bill in the Commons over the summer, the Conservative Party seemed content to leave the EU applicant countries kicking their heels in the waiting room of Europe until such time as the EU is remodelled wholly in the shape of Conservative thinking. I for one am impatient to open the doors to our natural allies in eastern and central Europe, who, having thrown off the yoke of Communism, deserve better than the cold shoulder of English Conservatism.
We are told that we must wait until the common agricultural policy--the CAP--is reformed, but in their 18 years of rule the Conservatives signally failed to do just that. I am bound to say, if the cap of indecision fits, I suggest to colleagues opposite that they should wear it.
We are also told that we must wait until a referendum has been conducted among the British electorate--this in the wake of a resounding general election result, when the forces of Euroscepticism were roundly routed, and from a party that studiously eschewed referendums at the time of the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty.
We are told that we must not increase the powers of the European Parliament in co-decision-making, even though that would deepen democracy without undermining the supremacy of the nation state and the European Council. The European Parliament is a key institution in holding the Commission to account and has hitherto done a good job. Are the Conservative Front Bench for or against that sensible extension of democratic scrutiny?
Almost as reprehensible as the snub offered to applicant countries by any rejection of the Nice Treaty is the threat offered to Britain's business people, who wish to trade in a simpler and freer single European market. The extension of QMV to important areas, helping small businesses and promoting research and development for industry, will help to cut the red tape that can currently frustrate even the boldest of Britain's business buccaneers.
A propos of Mr Redwood, I am reminded of Basil Fawlty in "Fawlty Towers", who is enjoined in the presence of German guests not to mention the war. That nostrum has been changed by our contemporary Eurosceptics, whose new self-denying ordinance seems to be, "Don't mention the peace". How refreshing it would be to hear our Eurosceptics acknowledge that if the European Union existed for no other reason, its role in preserving peace in Europe would justify it on its own.
In Committee, there will be ample opportunity to welcome the cautious but important advances in developing the CSFP, to highlight the re-weighting of national votes in Council and to underscore the changes proposed for the community courts, the COR and ECOSOC--a tasty sandwich of acronyms, but also a substantial repast of reforms.
I conclude by highlighting the unfortunate message that Britain would send to the world were we to reject Nice. First, to the applicant countries we would be saying, "Yes, you can join the Eurovision Song Contest, but not our markets, not our community and not our Union". Secondly, the message to British business would be, "Yes, we want you to be the entrepreneurs and to go out as modern merchants, market-making, but be very careful beyond the Straits of Dover, for here be dragons speaking in forked foreign tongues, breathing fire and waiting to ambush you". If we as politicians cannot be bothered about Europe, why should our business men and business women? The constant drip-drip of Euroscepticism serves to demotivate, not inspire, British commerce. Such loose talk will cost Britain jobs and prosperity.
What of our young people--tomorrow's ambassadors of British culture and commerce? We implant in them a latent xenophobia at our future peril. What of Britain in a wider world, where it is imperative as never before to fill in our own global address book? If we cannot make friends in our own back yard, how can we make friends and allies beyond Europe?
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, that objections to the Bill amount to making a mountain out of a molehill. Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I have serious misgivings about the treaty, because I believe that in a number of areas it continues the process of ceding sovereignty to a European entity.
A total of 39 vetoes will be replaced by QMV or co-decision-making. Either some of the changes are significant or they and the whole treaty are unimportant. The Government cannot have it both ways by arguing that the whole treaty is vital and yet at the same time saying that individual changes are all as uncontroversial as the reference to the Court of Auditors that the Minister mentioned--an example that I seem to remember featured prominently in the Prime Minister's press release at the time.
My view is that a number of the changes are much more important than that example and that many of them are not in our national interest. We should not dismiss the small changes either. Over time, the accumulation of small changes adds up to big change, as well as setting a precedent for the direction of institutional drift and for the interpretation of the all-important acquis communautaire.
The Government argue that these changes are essential to enlargement. Indeed, that has been the drift of all speakers who are in favour of the treaty. But, as others have said, there has been no serious attempt alongside the IGC to deal with CAP reform in anything like the time-scale that would be required to meet the planned admission of members. Yet without it, any attempt at enlargement is doomed to failure. As noble Lords will know, the scale of the CAP budget is such that admission of members without such reform would, to quote the Minister, "cripple" the European Union.
Therefore, I am led to the conclusion that the enlargement argument is merely window-dressing for forcing through a range of unrelated measures that have other motivations behind them. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, accused the Opposition of creating a Christmas tree of opposition. I believe that the European Union created a Christmas tree by trying to drag through a whole range of changes on the coat tails of the enlargement argument. We must point out those changes.
If the European Union is, as I believe it should be, primarily about fostering the economic benefits of free trade within a single market, we conceded as long ago as the 1980s substantial areas of QMV decision-making in order to facilitate that. I am not convinced that we need more QMV in order to extend the common market to new members; nor, frankly, do any of the proposals in this treaty seem to relate to that.
Therefore, if the changes proposed in the treaty are not related to the common market, they must relate to other areas of sovereignty which, until now, we have not regarded as necessary to concede. Therefore, why should we concede them now? I do not find it a compelling argument that enlargement means that we should now regard existing areas of sovereignty as less vital simply in order to make it easier for a European entity to reach decisions and impose common laws in areas outside those related to the single market objective. That is what it must mean.
Enlargement goes hand in hand with ceding sovereignty only if one has a model of the European Union as an increasingly powerful political government acting across much wider fields. As my noble friend Lord Waddington said, much of this is about deepening the European Union, not about enlarging it. If, like me, one does not accept that vision but sees the European Union as being about co-operation between nation states, then the argument that these changes are needed for enlargement is simply bogus.
Perhaps I may take a few examples, many of which were quoted by my noble friend Lord Waddington, to illustrate the points that I am making. I start with Article 137, to which my noble friend has referred. It already contains quite dangerous powers for the European Union to impose policies on what are called "the social rights of workers" in the UK where those social rights are defined by the European Union through a majority vote of its members. To the existing list of areas where the common European political judgment is regarded as superior to our own democratic process, the treaty now adds two new areas. I quote:
I believe that historic experience should warn us of the manipulation of meanings. Such manipulation was used in relation to the health and safety regulations when there was an attempt to impose the Social Chapter through the back door. That experience should teach us to be very wary of creating, by adding new words, new openings through which EU regulations that are harmful to our national interest can leak.
If those are not simply warm words, what is the intent? What new regulations, impositions and constraints are on the shelf in the European Commission, ready to be unleashed on the UK once we grant them this power? Why should we believe that the European Union has anything to add to our own deliberations on these topics? And why should the majority view of European governments be superior to the views of our democratic process on how we might develop our own policies for social exclusion or social protection systems?
Therefore, I ask the Minister whether, in her response, she can set out exactly what changes she expects to come about through the addition of these clauses to Article 137, and why this accession of power to the European Union is so vitally important? What does it have to do with enlargement?
I move on to Article 144, which establishes a new social protection committee to monitor and report on social protection policies in each country. That committee will have the right to establish direct contacts with national trade unions and national business groupings in order to do its work. How long, I ask, before that body seeks to position itself as a centralised and corporatist negotiating body which seeks new powers to give teeth to its proposals? What is it there for if not, with the intent of the European Commission behind it, to take more responsibility and more powers? Again, what has any of that to do with enlargement?
What about Article 157, which is a charter for industrial meddlers? Under that article, the European Union is empowered to: take any action that it decides is appropriate to speed up the adjustment of industry to structural changes; foster initiative and the development of businesses; encourage an environment favourable to co-operation between industries; and foster better exploitation of industrial potential. All that will be moved to QMV and co-decision-making.
The issues that I have raised may sound harmless. They may be harmless. But there are very few policies that any past socialist, communist or interventionist government in the European Union or, indeed, eastern Europe and beyond have ever pursued or taken that could not be justified under one of those headings. I fear that there are still many political advocates across Europe for just such intervention. Yet, under this treaty, our national veto to protect us from such folly is removed, and the decision-making is moved to co-decision-making with the European Parliament. Again, I ask the Minister: why do we want to do this; how can it possibly be in our national interest; and what does it have to do with enlargement?
I do not have time to review all the other areas, but perhaps I may mention a few other concerns. I am concerned about the articles which surrender national decision-making on the mechanisms for controlling movement of people across borders and for dealing with external immigration. I cannot believe that, while not formally adopting the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, an attachment can simply be brushed aside as having no significance. The treaty would allow a majority of members to vote that the UK was at risk of a serious breach of the principles of freedom and law, based on their interpretation of those principles.
Under the treaty we would greatly increase the scope of the European courts in their jurisdiction over British courts and British justice. An extension of co-decision-making of itself implies a further shift of power towards Europeanised institutions, as opposed to national governments and national parliaments. Therefore, in this treaty, major shifts in power are intended which I do not believe have yet been fully understood in this country.
Finally, I am concerned that the treaty concedes the right of a small group of countries to move ahead in enhanced co-operation without extracting all the concessions that we might seek to win in return. I certainly do not object to a small group moving ahead towards political integration without us. Indeed, if that is what they choose to do, I prefer that they do so without us.
However, we must understand that, for those countries, this is a major prize, and our consent is an important bargaining chip. If we really were concerned about enlargement, should we not argue, for example, that such consent should be given only once we had also agreed a new and more sensible framework for the common agricultural policy? There are many other arguments that we could have extracted in return for
For all those reasons, this is a Christmas tree treaty and, as such, it is a mistake. It is a dangerous addition to the flow towards a decentralised Europe, it concedes new transfers of sovereignty and it fails to protect or enhance our national interest. We have previously seen the danger of soothing words about the meanings of certain passages in treaties--those passages have come to have significant meanings and interpretations that were not appreciated at the time.
Given that constitutional significance, I ask the Government whether they would consider putting the treaty to a referendum of the kind that they used in relation to constitutional change in Wales and Scotland. I raise that because I do not believe that the British people have had a proper explanation of or debate about what is involved. It is not just about appointments to the Court of Auditors. If the British people had that opportunity for understanding and debate, I believe that, like the Irish, they would reject the proposal. If the Government do not volunteer that action, we should consider whether the Bill should be amended in Committee to achieve it.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, over the years there has tended to be a rule of thumb for judging European treaties. If they are criticised by those I should call maximalists (the supporters of a European federal state) and by those I should call minimalists--although, listening to their rhetoric, it might be better to call them nihilists--(they regard any step towards greater European integration as an unacceptable surrender of national sovereignty), the treaty that is in the middle between those two extremes is thought to be a modest, cautious but necessary step forward. The Treaty of Nice, whose ratification requires the approval of the Bill, certainly fulfils the first of those conditions. It has been assailed vigorously by the maximalists both for the lack of ambition in its content and for the somewhat messy way in which it was negotiated. It was criticised by the minimalists for being one more step towards the inexorable construction of a European super-state. I believe that the treaty fits neither of those caricatures and is indeed a modest, cautious and necessary step forward. That is why I support its ratification.
There is perhaps more to that rule of thumb than first meets the eye. It is not just some cynical diplomat's observation. In the politics of Europe, just as in national politics, the battle for the middle ground is what really counts. There is plenty of sound and fury from the two wings; but neither of them determines the consensus outcome, which is what every European treaty has to be, because it has to be approved by unanimity; that was the case with this treaty. That is surely just the sort of pragmatic approach that is part of our national political heritage.
The political and diplomatic significance of this major enlargement can hardly be exaggerated. It will transform the EU from a body that, for all its use of the European label, is in fact not much more than western Europe, into something that is worthy of the title. It will heal the wounds of Europe's division during the Cold War. It will underpin the democracies and market economies of those countries that languished for so long under the dead hand of Soviet domination. It will greatly enlarge the single market and transform Europe's common foreign and security policy. Those objectives have been shared by all the main parties since the end of the Cold War first made such an enlargement a real possibility. That is the wood of which we must not lose sight when examining individually the trees of which this treaty is made up.
Enlargement on that scale inevitably requires substantial adaptation to the functioning of the Union's institutions. It cannot make sense to try to run those institutions in a union of 27 member states in exactly the same way as we have run them in a union of 12 or 15 member states. Are we to allow the Commission to expand far beyond the number of tasks that are available for its members? Are we to allow the European Parliament to expand to a point at which one would have to hire a football stadium to accommodate its members? Are we to allow the voting weight of the smaller member states to become more and more preponderant over that of the larger member states? I should have thought that the answer to all of those questions has to be, "No". But that is exactly what one would get if one said "Yes" to enlargement and "No" to the changes that are set out in the Treaty of Nice.
So far as the weighting of votes in the Council is concerned, it must surely be in Britain's interest to reverse the steady drift, through recent enlargements, towards a situation in which our votes count for less and less in the composition of a qualified majority. That is precisely what this treaty does. As more decisions are taken by qualified majority, this reversal--this shift back--is all the more important to us. Of course it is easy to mock the complex formulae for voting--to point out that one would need a sophisticated calculator to work them out. But that conceals quite a simple point. Is Britain's voice to have more or less weight in the taking of decisions?
I should like to pause for a moment on the question of majority voting. It engenders a good deal more heat than light. It is argued that the extension of majority voting represents some fundamental sacrifice of our national sovereignty. When I listen to some of the views expressed from the Opposition Benches--the
Qualified majority voting has been a crucial part of the European treaties from the outset. The original treaties provided for it in 1958--important policies such as agriculture, trade policy and the budget fell within its scope. Those were the treaties that we accepted in 1973, when we first joined. Those who object to majority voting as such must object to Britain's membership of the European Union as such.
If majority voting was needed to run a community of six--it was--how much more is it needed now that we are contemplating a union of 27? We found that out for ourselves when our early efforts to make progress towards a single market were continually frustrated by the requirement for unanimity in the relevant parts of the founding treaties. That was what led us to accept the single biggest extension of majority voting in the history of the EU in the Single European Act 1986. The fruits of that were not long in coming. Between 1986 and 1992, a series of measures of deregulatory legislation laid the foundations for a single market, which has brought huge prosperity, economic security and job growth to this country and our partners.
In examining that single market, I add that we owe a great debt of gratitude to a Member of this House--to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who did a great deal to ensure that that was not just a few words on paper but a real, living single market. If anyone doubts the case for majority voting, I suggest that he compares the amount of single market legislation that was adopted before 1986 with that adopted after that date; it is quite a salutary comparison.
The extensions to majority voting contained in the Treaty of Nice are modest compared with those contained in the original treaties, the Single European Act and in the Maastricht Treaty. There is a simple reason for that. The extension of majority voting is now bumping up against the natural limits for it. It is coming up against a determined reluctance in a whole range of member states to allow such decisions to be taken in matters of great national sensitivity such as tax and social security. No doubt there will continue to be those who will argue for an extension--the maximalists will do that--but I doubt whether the extension of majority voting will ever again be the centrepiece of a treaty revision conference, as it has been hitherto. In that view, I join the noble Lord, Lord Owen, although I would not go as far as him in opposing any such move on any such matter.
So it should be with the Treaty of Nice. The key objective is to bring in as many of the 12 candidates as possible and as are ready to accept the burdens and responsibilities of membership of the Union by 2004, with the accession negotiations having been completed as near as possible to the end of 2002. That is the purpose of the treaty and why its rapid ratification is an important signal for us to send both to our partners in the Union and to the candidate countries themselves.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I strongly support enlargement of the EU. I have had the opportunity of seeing how the prospect of membership of the EU encourages economic reform in eastern Europe, the building of civil society and the ability for those countries to put communism behind them. Without the prospect of EU membership, many hard decisions would be avoided in these countries. I certainly look forward to the day when the wholly artificial division of Europe is ended.
It is said, and has been repeated endlessly in this debate, that by opposing the Bill and the treaty, one is opposing enlargement. If I thought that the Bill was essential for enlargement, I might well be in favour of it. There was an earlier exchange about the precise significance of the words used by Mr Prodi. In that exchange, we lost sight of the fact that Mr Prodi referred to up to 20 members--that is, five more new members. There is no problem in running the institutions of the EU. That is what he said. All this business about amending the accession treaties of each country, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, rightly pointed out, would be laborious, would be after five more countries had joined the EU. Mr Prodi's point was not just a narrow, technical one, but highly significant.
The real point, made forcefully by my noble friend Lord Waddington, is that there is so much more in the treaty other than the provisions dealing with enlargement. Brian Hindley, in his brilliant pamphlet on the treaty, pointed out that the part dealing with enlargement is in the annexes dealing with the votes in EU institutions and accounts for only 5 per cent of the contents of the treaty and the presidency conclusion.
The most depressing feature of the treaty is that it schedules yet another treaty and yet another constitutional conference in 2004. I know that my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, who loves these things, will enjoy it, and his wife will enjoy it, too. They will be going to many conferences. But for many
Why is there another treaty in prospect? It is not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, because the EU is responding to specific problems. It is not that at all. It is part of the endless process of salami slicing in the building of a European political entity. Each small step is small enough to be difficult to object to. We are told to consider everything on its merits and to consider the next step only when it is taken. But when the next step comes, we are asked, "How can you disagree with this when you have agreed to so much already?".
The treaty is rightly described as modest, but it takes small and significant steps towards the creation of a full political union. Because they are modest steps, perhaps there would be no loss in dropping them. The treaty also contains potential threats, as I shall try to illustrate, to our own rights and freedoms.
I agreed with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said. It is not the changes in qualified majority voting that I most strongly object to, although I should prefer an EU that did less with less majority voting. Like my noble friend Lord Blackwell, I note the contradiction between the Government's insistence that all these changes are technical and unimportant but simultaneously vital for enlargement.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, about the removal of the right of veto on enhanced co-operation. It is made crystal clear that that does not apply to military or defence matters. To object to other countries going ahead with integration in certain areas that we might not want to participate in would be a dog in the manger attitude. Removing the veto makes it easier for Britain to say no to proposals that it does not like.
I am more concerned about Article 100, which allows the EU to take appropriate measures, including financial assistance that may be agreed, to aid member states in financial difficulty. There was some discussion about that in another place. Peter Hain claimed that it did not undermine the "no bail out" rule, which is central to maintaining budgetary discipline behind the single currency. It is clear from the amendments made at Nice that Article 100 refers not only to national catastrophes but to other circumstances beyond the country's control. Perhaps the Minister can explain the purpose of Article 100.
It is all very well for Peter Hain to assert, without offering any reason, that the provision could not be used to bail out, or compel countries to bail out, other countries with financial problems. We remember how health and safety provisions combined with QMV were used to force through the working time directive. It is right to be suspicious about anything in the treaty that is widely and vaguely drafted. There is plenty of that in this treaty.
An important veto removed by the Treaty of Nice about which I am concerned covers breaches of fundamental rights by a member state. Under Article 7 the determination of the existence of a breach of fundamental rights by a member state still requires unanimity. However, the article, as modified at Nice, allows action in the event of so-called "risk" of a breach of fundamental rights. It allows the Union to put forward appropriate recommendations. If a state is judged to be in breach of fundamental rights, it can be punished, and that includes suspending the voting rights of that country.
Last year we saw the hysterical, alarmist over-reaction to the inclusion of Mr Haider's party in the Austrian Government after democratic elections and perfectly normal negotiations to form a coalition. I have no time for Mr Haider; I dislike his politics. But the EU's reaction was dangerous, counterproductive, an insult to Austria and simply plain silly. The EU knew it was silly; otherwise it would have taken more serious action than it did before it found a way of climbing down.
But one of the most adolescent scenes I have ever seen in politics was that of EU finance ministers with badges of Mr Schussel's bow tie and a big cross through it saying "No". That may be appropriate for student politics when running for the rectorship of Edinburgh University; it does not seem the right way for people to behave in the Council of Ministers. It does not give one confidence about how additional powers of this kind will be used in the future.
The merits of Article 191 depend on the detail. But one is not encouraged by the letter to Mr Prodi from the leaders of the four main groups in the European Parliament who proposed that political parties which did not respect fundamental rights might be subject to suspension proceedings--yet again, the Haider approach: "We do not like you; we will ban you". There is not much of the spirit of Voltaire there.
It is easy to imagine certain political groups proposing similar measures against parties seeking to defy the conventional consensus on Europe. They will be called "xenophobic". Is that exaggerating? I wonder. Look at the Commission proposal for a regulation on the financing of political parties. I acknowledge that it is designed to deal with the
There are arguments for and against state funding or European funding of political parties. I am not always sure which side of the argument I am on. But of one thing I am certain. If we are going to have state or European funding of political parties, it cannot be decided on the basis of whether we approve or disapprove of those parties. That is wholly and completely wrong.
To qualify for funding, parties also have to have elected representatives in at least five member states, or have received at least 5 per cent of the vote in the most recent European parliamentary elections in at least five member states. When Mr Hain appeared before the European Union Committee of this House, he said to me that the Government did not want to see parties which are not part of European-wide groupings prejudiced in their ability to fight European elections. With respect to the Minister, that is exactly what the proposed rules do. National parties which are not part of wider groupings will be at a huge disadvantage. They will not receive financial support.
We have already had the Government putting forward a rigged proposal for any referendum on the euro; now apparently we are to have rigged European elections in terms of finance. It is no answer to say parties are free to join another pan-European grouping. What if they do not want to? The whole purpose is the use of EC money to create something completely artificial: European-wide political parties designed in turn to create something else that is completely artificial--a European public opinion.
Another area where bland, innocuous sounding proposals may turn out very differently, is police and judicial co-operation; the so-called "Eurojust" under Article 31 in Title VI. The Belgian presidency's website announces that,
So much of the charter just reflects social democratic orthodoxy reflecting the political complexion of Europe as it is at the moment. A true charter of fundamental rights would not reflect passing political whims and fashion.
One wonders what is the point of articles like Article 29 giving everyone the right of access to a free placement centre. What is the point of asserting the right of everyone to marry and start a family. It all sounds like a PR effort for the EU, trying to imply that our right to marry or our right to have children somehow derives from the European Union. Indeed, Mr Vaz, in his short period in the Foreign Office, appeared before the Select Committee of this House and said, "We are going to give out plastic cards with the rights of everybody on them so that they know what their rights are". Fortunately we have since heard little of that proposal.
I would also be interested to know if the Minister can tell us whether the Government intend to uphold the right enshrined in Article 19.2--the right not to be extradited to a country with the death penalty. Are we really going to refuse to extradite to the United States anyone arrested here and accused of involvement in the 11th September atrocities? I gave the Minister advance warning of that question and hope she will be able to comment on it.
Some of the articles are strangely illiberal, such as the article which says that no one is entitled to engage in any activity or to campaign against any of the rights enshrined in the charter itself. So if I wanted to campaign against the right to refuse to extradite someone to the United States, by doing that, according to the charter, I would be doing something against the charter.
We have seen in this debate that the Bill and the treaty contain many strange things which have nothing to do with enlargement. If the issue was enlargement, my welcome would be very different. But so much is about political correctness and about extending the powers of Europe into areas where it need not go. There are many provisions in this treaty that we would be better off without. In my view it would be no great loss if Britain followed the example of the Irish.
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