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Lord Williams of Elvel: With some hesitation, I have to say that I rather agree with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, about Europol. The whole point about Europol is that it must receive intelligence, and in many respects that has to come from the United States. We have heard in the committee of which I and the noble Baroness are members that the United States would be very reluctant to share its intelligence with Europol. I hope that my noble friend will be able to assure us that this is not on the agenda at the moment. If not, I am doubtful about the inclusion of the clause.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My understanding is that Europol does not deal with political intelligence of the highest sort. It is mainly concerned with trans-national crime. When I visited the National Criminal Intelligence Service with one of your Lordships' committees my understanding was that NCIS was strongly in favour of Europol and its development in the investigation of trans-national crime. The question of political intelligence, anti-terrorism information and matters of that sort is a rather different matter. As I understand it, not being an expert, such intelligence comes from different, more confidential channels.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, reminded us of the ditch that was dug in 1978 by a number of Labour Party Back Benchers in very different circumstances against what they saw as the erosion of the power of the national Parliament in favour of the European Parliament. As the noble Lord also explained clearly, this was seen by themand still is seen by the noble Lord himselfas a zero sum gain: the more power the European Parliament gets, the less power national parliaments have.
That is not a view that we share on these Benches. We see the erosion of the powers of the British Parliament but we see that happening as a result of the growth of the power of the executive, of the British Government. That is something to which my party is strongly opposed and about which it is much concerned. Speeches about maintaining the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament, or even White Papers that refer to maintaining the supremacy of the Commons in terms of the reform of the Lords seem to us to be a little hollow when the House of Commons has steadily lost power to the Government over the past few years.
I am not sure that the Xditch" that was dug in 1978I am not sure whether or not it was the last ditchwas about a very different view of Europe. Simply on the question of where we are in regard to the third pillar and trans-national crime, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart thatif I remember my figures correctlythere were 25 million outward journeys from Britain to the Continent in 1978, and there are 100 million now. The level of interaction, legal and illegal, between Britain and the Continent has been transformed since then. That is one of the reasons why
There is not a zero sum gain between national scrutiny and European scrutiny. I hope that the majority of Members of the Committee share the objective that we should have both stronger national scrutiny and stronger European Parliament scrutiny, and greater co-operation between national parliaments and the European Parliament. We shall not, therefore, oppose the Motion that the clause stand part of the Bill.
Lord Renton: The European Parliament is not a sovereign state. Indeed, the European Union is an alliance of independent sovereign states which have not so far expressed any intention of surrendering their individual sovereignty to a central body. However, if Clause 3 is accepted, it would set an unfortunate precedent within the European Union. It would mean that the intentions that we all supported at the time of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 had been overcome. Therefore, I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. We should not pass Clause 3.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, should certainly not apologise for one moment for raising the issues of the powers of the European Parliament and the relationshipwhich is itself a matter of dispute and debatewith the powers of this Parliament and other national parliaments of member states of the European Union.
We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the aspiration that the national legislatures and the European Parliament ought to be able to get along. It is a worthy aspiration. It should have been possible, and it should still be possible, to have within the European Union a system of accountability and the calling of decision-makers to account at all levels which embraced closely and fully the powers of this House and the other place and of other national parliaments and what was then the European Assembly, which later became a parliament. It should have been possible to devise the loop containing processes throughout for such a procedure.
Unfortunately, no attempt has been made to do that. What is more vexing is that, again and again, there are fine words. We have heard some in this debate, the Nice treaty contains some, which are echoed in the Bill before the Committee, as does the clause that we are debating. But absolutely nothing has been done to meet the need that I have described. There is a reference in Declaration 23, attached to the treaty, to the role of national parliaments, and there were such references in previous treaties. There was an assize about 10 years ago in Rome, in which I was involved, when everyone talked about the role of national parliaments. But nothing was actually done. No move was made to create that loop of procedures and to bring back to national legislatures' powers that
That is why many of us feel that, as the Financial Times said this morning, the entire scene has moved on. Most of the discussions about the treaty and most of the high rhetoric that the Prime Minister utters about the dangers of isolationism and the need to be involved in Europe are all yesterday's debate. They have nothing to do with the issues that we are discussing now, which centre on how to restore to the European Union a proper pattern of accountability before legitimacy drains away altogether. That requires a far greater involvement by national Parliaments and a return of powers to them.
When people tell us about the democratic deficit, I say that the European Parliament fulfils an important and detailed role in calling to account various acts of the other European institutions. But however many powers we give it, a European Parliament is not enough. It will not fill the growing democratic deficit, of which everyone in Europe is aware. Even the European Commission, whose attitudes we discussed under an earlier amendment, recognised in its governance White Paper that democratic legitimacy was declining and was under attack. Those who wrote that White Paper went on to do exactly what some noble Lords have done this evening, wringing their hands and saying that it was all a terrible thing and how desirable it would be for us all to work together, but proposing no means of achieving that, because they would not bite the bullet and face the fact that powers had to be returned to national Parliaments.
The idea that giving more powers to the European Parliament will create a democratic balance is yet one more step along the road to top-down Europe-building, which everybody, right up to Jacques Delors, admits is at an end and will not help us to reinvigorate the European Union and create a modern, flexible Union, built from the bottom up.
The return of powers to national Parliaments and to joint groupings drawn from a reformed and open Council of Ministers, from the European Parliament, which has an important role to play, and from national Parliaments is desirable and inevitable. The Commission, which wrote the European governance White paper, and the decision-makers, with what has been described as their ill-tempered treaty-making at Nice, will have to face that fact, even though they have refused to do so until now. Any further resistance or denial will fracture the Union and undermine its legitimacy further. Indeed, I think that it is already too late.
Those of us who argue that some powers should be surrendered realise that it is a bitter pill to swallow for the Monnet-model European Union-builders and for those, particularly in the Commission, who already feel that they are overloaded with work. If they do not want to be overloaded, they should accept the need not merely for subsidiarity, but for a real return of powers
In its governance White Paper, the Commission asserts once again that it Xalone" makes legislative and policy proposals or represents the Community in international negotiations and that it retains a monopoly in the matter of initiatives and proposals to the Council of Ministers. That view is in head-on conflict with the desire that all good Europeans should have to build Europe from the bottom up and it is totally in conflict with the new latticework of international relations and dealings that is now emerging. Such a view belongs to a bygone age, as does much of the thinking behind the Nice treaty. A real reform of European governance means turning upside-down the hierarchical nature of EU decision-making and adjusting the entire structure to the more flexible methods and perspectives of the network era. We have a wide range of detailed proposals for open co-ordination between a reformed council and the member Parliaments, together with the formal methods of proceeding. I shall not detain the Committee now, but at some stage I shall put forward those proposals.
In the meantime, we can say with certainty that adding powers to the European Parliament while neglecting the other track is taking Europe the wrong way and taking our democracy the wrong way. It is wrong to proceed on one track when we should have a definite and powerful two-track strategy. That should involve strengthening national legislatures and reinforcing the opportunities for them to be involved far earlier in legislation, as well as reversing the strong trend for issues and decisions emerging from the Council of Ministers to be made into secondary rather than primary legislation, as noble Lords have mentioned this evening. There are even hintsalthough this goes far ahead of the present debatethat, should there be a reform of your Lordships' House, even the secondary legislation powers will be downgraded. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was entirely right to raise these matters this evening.
Lord Monson: It may appear that the more powers that are given to the European Parliament, the more democratic the EU becomes, but that cannot be so as long as most MEPs are elected under the closed list system, which is not truly democratic. The reasons for that take too long to go into, but most noble Lords recognise what they are. For that reason and others, I support the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
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