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Lord Tebbit: Any consideration of the merits of qualified majority voting always takes place on the terms of extending the role of QMV. We never have debates on the overall virtues of QMV and of unanimity. That is because there has been no case in the history of the European Union of a move away from the requirement for unanimity back towards QMV. In other words, this is a one-way street.
Of course, distinguished ex-civil servants from the Foreign Office, who have later served in the European Union, will always come forward to tell us that we are living in the best of all possible worlds, except that this treaty would make just one little improvement to make it even better than the best of all possible worlds. Never, in any circumstances, is the European Union said to have over-reached itself in its extension of its powers. This is not a debate on the merits; it is merely
On the general issue of the merits of QMV and of unanimity, I say again what I half said in the debate on Second Reading. Those of us who in general take the view that unanimity is a safeguard must also remember that on many issuesnot this oneof policy making unanimity is something of a two-edged sword. Once a UK Government say yes to a proposalsuch as the Social Chapterand it goes into the treaty, it would require unanimity of all member states to get it back out again.
So the unanimity rule can make it impossible for an incoming Parliament, however large its majority in terms of votes or seats, to change something which has been agreed within the Council. Therefore, it leaves more and more areas open to reformshould that be what the British people wantonly by the nuclear option of opting out of the Treaty of Rome altogether. It pushes us down that road. We must bear that in mind. But, in general, in cases that are more administrative than consist of policy, there is a strong case for maintaining the rule of unanimity.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The problem for many of us who have been engaged in discussing these treaties over a long period of time is that we remember some of the things that were said in previous debates. During the discussions on the Amsterdam Treaty, for example, when we dealt with this question of the High Representative for defence and foreign affairs, we were told that it would be all right because he would be appointed by unanimity. Therefore, if we did not like the appointment, Britain would be able to veto it.
The ratchet moves on. With the European Union everything happens by stealth and by ratchet. The ratchet moves slowly up one and then another until eventually we arrive at the position at which those who form the European Community always wanted to arrive: that is a country called Europe. With that in mind and with the assurances that we were given at earlier times we now wonder why we had the safeguard
I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I listened with the utmost respect because he has much experience in these matters. But he will forgive us, I am sure, for taking what people say at face value. We cannot get away from the fact that the President of the Commission in his interview with the Independent on 4th February 2000 said:
Not everyone reads the new arrangements in the same way. Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I am discouraged. I thought that perhaps there was some good in this new arrangement; that perhaps it meant that the Council will take power from the Commission; and that it was trying to arrive at a situation that would cut the Commission down to size, because it is growing, as Mr Prodi says, too big for its boots.
I had some hopeit seems that I was wrongthat the Council was saying to the Commission, "This is going far enough", and that, "We are going to listen to what Mr Chirac says about the Commission; that it should not grow into a government, but that it should be the civil service of the European Union and the servant of the Council and not its master; and that it should not be the sole organisation and institution that proposes policy". I had some hope that that is what this was about. But unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who has had much experience in this area, has disabused me of the marvellous thought that perhaps the whole thing was going to become a little more democratic. So I am disappointed that perhaps I am wrong.
On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, may be wrong. It may be that that is what the governments of the EU intend. They, like so many of us, have been concerned about the Commission accruing power which it should not have. It may be that they have been listening to what we have said. It may be that they want to take power from the Commission and to exercise their considerable power in a more democratic and open way rather than from behind closed doors.
Those are my thoughts. We are in Committee. This is when we put forward our ideas, our fears and our questions. I hope that the Minister will be able to come down on my side and say that at last the elected representatives will go backwards and regain power
Lord Tomlinson: Perhaps I may sound a warning to my noble friend on the Front Bench. If perchance he were tempted to come down on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, he would create far more problems for those who sit immediately behind him than he might solve.
The debate has been interesting and wide ranging, but the vast majority of it has borne no relevance to the group of amendments. There are three amendments in the group and they are identical. The only change in the treaty would be the addition of the words "by a qualified majority". The amendments do not deal with Mr Prodi, the Commission, or anyone else.
Were we to be tempted into dealing with the election of the President of the Commission, I remind members of the Committee that twice in recent years we have been the country that has exercised the veto. I am not sure whether we are more proud of having created the presidency of Mr Jacques Santer or Mr Jacques Delors.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, has put his finger on the point. We are dealing with another example of Euro-creep in that we are discussing the move towards qualified majority voting for the appointment of the High Representative for the common foreign and security policy. I do not know why the European Union has to indulge in the hubris of always putting the word "high" in front of representative. There is a high representative of this, that and the other, which smacks of something from Gilbert and Sullivan. I fear that that is a little more dangerous than was intended.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit made an excellent contribution, but I may have misunderstood him when he said that, in the progress of these unions towards the glorious European mega-state that awaits us at the end of the gilded ladder, there has never been a move from QMV to unanimity. There has never been an example of giving up the veto. All the examples show a move from unanimity towards qualified majority voting.
Lord Tebbit: If I did get it the wrong way round, I was going to say that I would be sure to send my secretary up to the Hansard office in the manner of Ministers to put into the official record what I thought afterwards that I ought to have said rather than what I actually did say.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, in his excellent contribution, referred to "the ratchet". It is important to understand that we are dealing with a ratchet that can move in only one direction. The treaties say that it must do so. They say that the so-called acquis communitaire can never be reversed. If your Lordships
On the specific matter of the common foreign and security policy, it is worth saying that there is a case for suggesting that the events of 11th September do not show that we need more CFSP. We do not need to move towards ever closer union on that issue. I know that those who support the European dream immediately pounced after those events, saying that we must have more collaboration and CFSP, and that it was once again the hour of European unity in standing and fighting together.
I note that the Prime Minister, whom everyone believes has done a magnificent job since 11th September, and on which he should be congratulated from all sides of this Chamber, did not rush off to sit down with his friends in Brussels. He contacted the President of the United States immediately and has stood shoulder to shoulder with him ever since. The other leaders in the European Union have been rushing round the world trying to emulate him in a rather unsatisfactory manner. The Dutch Prime Minister rushed to Downing Street to a dinner to which he had not been invited because the Prime Minister had rightly put together the big hitters of the European Union and asked them to dinner. There was the spectacle of the Dutch Prime Minister muscling in on that.
We also heard chippy remarks from the Belgian Prime Minister when he said that our Prime Minister was hogging the world stage too much, which was not helpful. Our Prime Minister was trying to help in the interests of civilisation and humanity as we know it.
I do not agree with the theory that the events of 11th September mean that we should have more common foreign and security policy in the European Union.
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