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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I do not know whether it is in order in these Committee proceedings to make a prophecy rather than to ask a question. My prophecy is that the Committee of the Regions, and the regions concerned, will eventually come forward, in a future amendment to the Treaty of Rome, as elected bodies that report directly to Brussels, and to a degree that is not yet clear to me, they will replace the parliaments of national governments. There is evidence for my remarks, not because of the inevitable drift of Euro-creep, to which I referred before, but Article 263 lays the ground for the change that I forecast. It refers to,
Lord Bowness: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I should explain that in the United Kingdom legislation that implemented Maastricht, we specified that members of the Committee of the Regions should hold a locally elected mandate. That was not the case for all member states. There were instances of people who had lost their local mandate but did not resign. To some extent that went to the heart of the Committee of the Regions which, far from being representative of Brussels, was representative of local and regional authorities from the different member states.
Lord Acton: I understood the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, to speak before the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, sat down. If I may also speak now, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, if he is familiar with the golden words in the Companion that debate must be relevant to the Question that is before the House. I do not wish to be anything but polite to the noble Lord who knows that I hold him in the highest esteem. He is a friend of 30 years, but he constantly speaks off the point. Prophecies are not relevant.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: In answer to my noble friend Lord Acton, if I may refer to him as such, it is pertinent if one is considering how the Committee of the Regions is to be altered by this treaty that we consider what its future may be. I could have a bet with the noble Lord, if he would like that.
Lord Waddington: We used to talk at the Bar of pleas in aggravation. I think that we heard a plea in aggravation rather than mitigation a short time ago. The trouble with the Committee of the Regions is that it is there for a purpose. There is only one conceivable purpose, which is to further the project of a Europe of the regions. As that is the last thing on earth that we want and would be very damaging to our interests in this country, I certainly look with no favour whatsoever on the Committee of the Regions. Anything that can be done to diminish its influence is something well done.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: First, I wish to ask the Minister a question. Does the treaty alter the method by which members of the Committee of the Regions from this country are appointed? Will the system be altered in any way?
My other point is that, whether we like it or not, there is a worry in the country that the Committee of the Regions is working towards the regionalisation of Europe on a cross-continental basis. I have received letters about it. I was at a well attended meeting in Exeterthere were about 300 people therewhere concern was expressed about the activities in relation to regionalisation. There was also a meeting in Bristol, attended by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, to discuss the question of regionalisation. A member of the Commission attended that particular meeting. Naturally, people questioned why that
To support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, I understand that at a meeting of the European Movement at the University of Bristol, Dr Caroline Jackson, a Tory MEP, was asked whether regional assemblies would become regional governments and eventually cause Westminster to be abolished. She said yes. I did not hear the observation of the noble Lord, but I give way to him.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: But game, set and match to whomCaroline Jackson or Parliament at Westminster? The fact of the matter is that she is, presumably, a responsible person. She represents the South West. I know her reasonably well. She is a nice woman whom I like very much. I got on very well with her when I represented Swindon. She is presumably a responsible personand that was the statement that she made. She may not have meant it. She may not have meant it in the way she said it. I do not understand why people would do that; nevertheless, although she may not have meant it, that was what she said. That is why people are worried, and it is legitimate to raise these concerns when we can in this Chamber since we are likely to be involved in future.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are not very many rules in this House, but I shall invent one: do not take bets on line. If the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, wants to give you his money, do it outside the Chamber, please.
This is a debate on an amendment which would introduce qualified majority voting into the selection of members of the Economic and Social Committee and of the Committee of the Regions. The present situation is that both committees are consultative bodies on each of which the UK has 24 members. No change is proposed under the Treaty of Nice. The only change is the increase in the total number of members to accommodate the new member states. As I understand it, in practice in the past no member state has ever objected to another's nominations. The only reason that I can think of for the provision of qualified majority voting is the same as that which applies to the Court of Auditors; namely, it would prevent a member, unusually and without precedent, objecting to the nomination of another member state.
Lord Howell of Guildford: I said that in the knowledge that the noble Lord would rise to his feet to assert what is decreasingly true as the whole pattern of the debate on Europe shifts to a new direction. That will produce some surprising new divisions as Ministers will shortly learn.
The conclusion is that this is a matter of no great importance. I must not distort the words of the Minister, but he indicated that this was not a tremendously progressive and creative provision. He could not see any point in our objecting to it; nor could he see very much point in the provision in the document. We are left with the feeling that we are dealing with rather small matters, although interestingly these kinds of debate uncover deeper issues, which perhaps are not dealt with either in the other place or this Chamber, about the way that Europe and our own affairs in relation to the rest of the Union are developing. Perhaps that should be debated more thoroughly.
For the moment, we are concerned with two narrow amendments which are not vastly important, although the provisions are significant. We note yet again that they are small grandmother's footsteps in the direction of a qualified majority vote and away from unanimity. I suspect that in the end they will make some difference, but obviously we shall not get to the heart of the matter this evening. Therefore, in the same spirit that I moved the amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.
The noble Lord said: We come now to matters extremely central to the debate about the whole Treaty of Nice and the legislation that is passing through your Lordships' House in relation to it. It has been argued by Ministers and their supporters that the issue we are about to address adds up to the whole purpose of the treaty; namely, that it is the key to the process of enlargement, which we on this side support very strongly, and that if anyone tampers with it, somehow that process will be held up.
There are two clauses in this group. I shall speak to a probing amendment that is concerned with the redistribution of voting weights in the Council which is covered by the article that we are considering. My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke has tabled an amendment which takes a larger vista and considers the whole of the crucial protocol. With the leave of the Committee, I should like to make some comments in relation to that as well.
I start with the narrow point. We are dealing here with new procedures which will require 169 votesa qualified majorityfor a decision to be reached. There is a new weighted population factor62 per cent of the totalin deciding whether such a decision by 169 votes, or at least two-thirds of the majority of the Council, is valid. This raises some interesting arithmetical questions. One of the propositions of Ministers all along, including at the time of their return from the exhausting process of the Treaty of Nice, which many found an unsatisfactory event, was that somehow in the battles for weightings of Council votes and so on, the United Kingdom had come out of the scrum somewhat better off than when it went in.
However, my noble friend Lord Tebbit observed the other day in this Chamber that, in fact, when one added up all the votes and looked forward to the enlarged Unionwe read that the aim is that there should be a so-called "big bang" involving an extra 10 in 2004, so it is hoped, with Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, coming along behindthe number of votes left to the United Kingdom appeared to be a considerably smaller proportiona shrunken proportionof the total. Therefore, there are two circles to be squaredor squares to be circledand it will be interesting to hear the views of Ministers on how that is to be done.
I move to the larger issue. Those of us who want to see enlargement move ahead might have hoped that the protocol would be the core of a treaty which might have gone through considerably more quickly. The present treaty has come up against the bufferswe hope they are temporaryof the Irish referendum. The reasons that that took place in the Republic of Ireland are associated not with enlargement or the protocol but with a mass of other issues which were hung on the treaty like decorations on a Christmas tree. That made it a treaty which many peoplein particular those who want to see enlargement carried forward as quickly as possiblefind unconstructive and undesirable.
Contrary to the assertions of Ministers, we believe that the Treaty of Nice is not the vital key. There are important mechanical keys to the enlargement process although they are by no means the main obstacles or issues. In so far as the enlargement arrangements give to the new applicant countries fewer seats in the European Parliament on a population-merit basis it will make life more difficult.
The Nice Council identified a list of issues: transport, taxation, justice and home affairs, energy and, above all, the need for the applicant countries to comply with the full body of the acquis communautaireI understand that there are 80,000 pagesand the insistence not only on compliance and the signing up to it but also on implementation and enforcement over areas so vast that no human mind can get hold of them. These are matters which have to be handled by a set of computer programs. We are dealing with complexities of such detail in 1,001 different areas that those who seek to negotiate them and sign up to the acquis lose all track of the underlying purpose: to become members of the European Union, a totally understandable and desirable aim.
Last week, I attended a conference in Budapest involving a number of Ministers from the leading applicant countries. The Treaty of Nice was not mentioned once. Concerns about enlargement, whether the timetable would be adhered to, and the problems involved, concentrated on quite different issues: the movement of labour, immigration questions and the common agricultural policy. Polish Ministers spoke. We must remember that there are more farms in Poland than in the whole of Germany and France added together. Concerns concentrated on security and the need to maintain the Atlantic dimension. In the centre and east of Europe one finds more determination that we should not undermine NATO to which Hungary and the Czech Republic have recently adhered and less satisfaction with the idea of autonomy, separate forces and so on. There were concernsI noted them on visits to capitals of other applicant countriesthat the complexity of the acquis is creating colossal problems. Some countries are being asked to adhere to standards which are not asked of existing members of the Union. That is one of the great issues. But when we look at enlargement, the protocol and the Government's arguments that this is essential and that the whole treaty coating and envelope are essential for enlargement, the biggest issue is none of those things: the biggest issue is the budget and who pays. Ten per cent of the EU budget is said to be set aside for financing enlargement. I have heard suggestions from Brussels that it could be as much as 25 per cent. Mr Stoiber, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, said recently in Berlin that if one wanted to remove obstacles one would have, first, to increase regional aid from 30 billion euros to 67 billion eurosI cannot work that out in dollars or pounds but the amount is more than doubledand that for the process to move forward the financing of the common agricultural policy would have to increase from 34 billion euros to over 50 billion euros. He added, as have others, that for the applicant countries that is a moving target. People are considering ways
That is the reality of the enlargement debate. It is not a question of the Treaty of Nice being pushed through, without even a pause in relation to the Irish referendum. We are heading towards a Europe which could have 25 members and nearly half a billion people by 2004 with three more countries to come. Many of those countries face colossal awkwardnesses and difficulties.
Lord Radice: I thank the noble Lord for giving way; I do not yet know the conventions of the House. I accept all that he said about the real concerns of the entrant countries. However, if the weightings for the countries had gone wrong, the noble Lord would have heard a lot about the Treaty of Nice. The Polish Government were very concerned that the weighting of their vote should be of the same order, for example, as Spain, which has a similar population. There was a moment when it seemed that that might be so. We would have heard a lot about the Treaty of Nice if it had gone wrong.
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