|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he said that he saw no reason why the leaflet should not include government statements on why the European Union provides so many advantages for Britain. Does he classify that as being impartial?
Lord Bell: My Lords, it depends on how it is expressed. The art of communication in the industry I come from is about information and persuasion. It is virtually impossible to give information without it having some persuasive effect, particularly if the information is seen by the recipient as a benefit. I do not think that the leaflet should be turned into propaganda and it is perfectly possible for the Government to have people from either side put their arguments in it. But, setting aside the issue of whether or not the Government coat it in persuasion, the mere issue of what the Treaty will do for people's lives in Britain is sufficiently important that I would run that risk.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I, too, have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment because, on occasions such as this, I have been convinced that international draftsmen are not so much confused as seeking refuge in complexity.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, is chairman of the Citizenship Foundation. My interest in the amendment arises from my role as the founder president of the Institute for Citizenship. Like the Citizenship Foundation, we seek to preach and teach good citizenship and an understanding of parliamentary government, both in our own Parliament and in Europe. Prior to the previous European elections, the Institute for Citizenship endeavoured to explain and encourage an interest in the elections to the European Parliamentparticularly among young peopleunder the slogan,
In analysing this after the election, the most frequently reiterated phrase was, "We didn't know enough about it". In the new year, just before the House resumed, I attended a civic service in my former constituency of Croydon. I asked one of my former constituents, "Who is our Euro MP?", to which he replied, "Well, you are, mate, aren't you?". I never met anyone in Croydon who knew who was our European Member of Parliamentthanks to the list system, I gather that there are six of thembut, in the old days, when we had James Moorhouse, at least we knew who he was and what he was up to. Today, I fear, people know nothing or very little about the European Parliament, which is increasingly impacting upon our affairs.
I have added my name to the amendment because it is important that the people of this country understand what is being done here in Westminster in their name. Thanks to the 30-year rule, we now know that, in the 1975 referendum, we who were active in seeking a "yes" vote leading into the European Economic Community were not told at the time that we had signed away our fishing rights, worth billions of pounds, which has virtually killed our fishing fleets. Any further intrusion of this kind must be clearly spelt out. I urge your Lordships to look at this in the Library, as I have done, and in the Daily Telegraph of last week.
We are not now concerned with the EEC but with the European Union. It is crucially important that the people of our country are kept fully informed and made fully aware of the impact of the Bill on our national affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, calculated that the leaflet would cost £1.5 million. He mentioned that Jack Straw thought that this was an under-estimate and calculated that it would cost £5 million. Five million pounds is a paltry sum in economic terms. In my view, it would be money very well spent if, as other noble Lords have said, the leaflet spelt out clearly and in plain English the impact of the Nice treaty and the Bill on our future.
There is a feeling that we are signing away our freedoms and, notably, our sovereignty. The leaflet suggested by the noble Lord would protect the Government if it all went wrong and, importantly, it would spell out to the electorate the impact of the Nice treaty prior to a referendum on our entry into the euro, if and when it comes.
It is far easier to lose our freedoms than it is to regain them. The greatest enemy of freedom is apathy. We should do all we can to ensure that the electorate of our country know what is being done on their behalf. It is in that spirit that I warmly support the amendment.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, with one provisothat it might perhaps go a little further. It states that the proposed communication, which I
I say that because of what happened the last time a British government consulted the British people in a referendum. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, reminded us, that was in 1975, when the people voted on whether or not we should stay in what was then the European Common Market. It is worth remembering what happened then, much of which was encapsulated in a Radio 4 programme on 3rd February 2000 at eight o'clock. That programme, which was entitled, "Document: A letter to The Times", is well worth listening to again, or perhaps noble Lords should at least look at the transcript. In that programme, the BBC confessed that in the 1975 referendum it was heavily biased in favour of a "yes" vote before and during the campaign, and even, amazingly, that the "yes" campaign was generously funded by the CIA.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will give way. Is not it also worth reminding noble Lords that, in 1975, those members of the Labour government who were recommending a "yes" vote in the referendum said, in commending the union, that the public would be glad to hear that the threat of monetary union had been removed?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. I was about to quote from the pamphlet in question. Mr Wilson assured the public that the threat of economic and monetary union,
Lord Acton: My Lords, I am sorry. I do not mean to persecute him, but, before he sits down, did the noble Lord say that the "yes" vote in 1975 was partially funded by the CIA? Did I hear him correctly? If so, is it the case that on the previous Report day he said that it was the Soviet Union and today is saying that the last vote on Europe was funded by the CIA. I am becoming very confused.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Acton, heard me entirely correctly. The information was contained in the BBC Radio 4 programme broadcast on 3rd February 2000, which went out at eight o'clock. It was entitled "Document: A letter to The Times". Indeed, all the
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment, for the reasons in particular given by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. I assume, indeed I hope, that such a provision would come into force before the decision on the euro. It is my belief that most people in this country still see that as merely a financial decision. It is vitally important that there should be some wayas is offered by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillipsof explaining to people that we are looking at constitutional change; that it will be irrevocable; and that it will affect every aspect of their lives.
That is still not being brought home to the public. They are still thinking in terms of the euro, and in terms of money and markets. All those are important. But most important of all is that we should continue, through Parliament, to make our own decisions. Those decisions will be taken away from us if we are not very careful. Therefore, I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, for the particular reasons that he gave. I must apologise for not having been present earlier: no doubt these points have been made already. But perhaps the House will not mind my repeating them briefly. This is a constitutional issue, and that is what matters.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, my noble friend is known for his complete devotion to participatory democracy. I share his view. I agree with him that citizens deserve better information about Europe. But why should we leave it at Europe? If asked, quite a number of people, for example, would not be able to describe how the Stock Exchange worksalthough it probably affects them in their daily lives as much as many other matters. There is a huge range of matters about which people do not know a great deal. There is a vast amount of knowledge; we cannot all know all of it.
It would be useful if citizens were given greater information about this important subject. However, to achieve that, much more is needed than a simple leaflet about a treaty. We need a press which takes a responsible attitude towards this subjectwhich, until recently, the press has not. I have detected a slightly more responsible attitude recently, but stories about fishermen with hairnets and all the other rubbish in years gone by did not help.
We also need a willingness on the part of government to unleash the European movement from its shackles. We must suppose that we are in the run-up to a referendum, but so far the European movement has been told not to utter so much as a whisper.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|