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Earl Russell: My Lords, the terms so accurately described by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, have an uncanny resemblance to the terms under which we first allowed the Commons to attend Parliament over 700 years ago. Perhaps I may express the hope that we shall use our opportunity as skilfully as they have done.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Barnett said. I partially agree with him and partially disagree. The essential feature of the work of the committee is that it will consider the future of Europe. Of course, in that respect I believe it is imperative that as many views as possible are taken from the Houses of Parliament. What is being contemplated here falls far short of that. I am not saying that this House should have exactly the same representation as another place, but our views should be heard. It is no good coming to the Chamber today and saying, "Well, our views will be heard but only just." There is absolutely no reason why the members of the committee should not participate on an equal basis. Frankly, that is not the case here, and I cannot agree with the new procedure.
A number of debates have taken place in this House on this issue. No one in their right mind would come to the conclusion that the views expressed have been meaningless. For that reason, I believe that, when it comes to scrutinising what Europe will look like in the future, no one should come to the conclusion that this House has no part to play whatever. In my view, the report presumes something about which we have not yet reached a conclusion. But it also presumes that we have no right to any views at all except by permission of the House of Commons, and that is entirely wrong.
Therefore, I believe that we should carefully put forward representations as expressed by a number of noble Lords today to those who really matter. What was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is by the way. In my view, the fact that the committee has
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, it seems that this is the time to speak if one has anything to say on this matter. I was not entirely enlightened by the reply given to me by the Chairman of Committees. Therefore, in case I miss the boat, I might as well say the few words that I want to say at this stage.
First, I welcome any proposal to have a wider and informed discussion about the European convention. That is extremely important since the convention is being used to take forward further integration through the imposition of a European constitution, a legal personality and further powers to the Commission and Parliament in areas of defence, foreign affairs, economic policy and taxation.
In my view it is a useful innovation that Members of your Lordships' House should be able to participate in questions to representatives and in discussions, together with Members of another place. All too often, both Houses operate in isolation. In this House we do not take as much note as perhaps we should of the House of Commons, and certainly the House of Commons does not take as much note as it should of this House. It may well be that this innovation will help to achieve understanding between both Houses. They should be directly informed of each other's views. That is important when we discuss matters European, which have a vital effect on the constitution of our nation.
I accept that noble Lords cannot move Motions, vote or be counted as part of a quorum. However, I should like assurance either from the Chairman of Committees or the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House that Members of this House will be given every opportunity to participate equally with Members of the House of Commons and not be treated as second-class participants. Will their views, for example, be recorded in Hansard? Will they be able to raise points of order or participate in discussions on points of order?
This is a novel procedure, and all noble Lords cannot possibly be expected to read every Order Paper, minute and Hansard report every day. Thereforeagain I emphasise that this is an innovative procedurecould all noble Lords be sent an individual letter about the new Standing Committee informing them of its establishment, the access to it which noble Lords will have, the restrictions on their actions and, indeed, the date of its inaugural meeting? Unless we do that and all Members of the House understand what is happening and how they can participate, this will be a flop. Having said that, I hope that we can proceed with the experiment.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I confess that I came into the Chamber today with, I hope, a totally open and neutral mind. Frankly, the longer I have heard the debate continue, the less enthusiastic I appear to be about the Motion before the House. Surely, the danger
Lord Richard: My Lords, I do not think that that undermines the point I am about to make. The danger is that this House will be seen to be committed to whatever the Standing Committee in the House of Commons produces. The Committee will be able to say, "We do not need to take any further account of the House of Lords because the noble Lord, Lord So and So, and the noble Baroness, Lady So and So, turned up and participated in a meeting".
The other difficulty is the question of who noble Lords represent. There is a danger that they will be seen as representing this Chamber, whereas they represent no one but themselves. If every Member of this House is entitled to participate in a House of Commons Standing Committee, frankly, the mind boggles. The Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee are carefully chosen. Presumably no one will choose our representatives to go down to the other end and participate in the affairs of the Standing Committee. We shall all be entitled to do that. What a thought.
It seems to me that the first part of the Motion to be moved by my noble and learned friend the Lord Privy Seal makes sense. Our representatives to the convention should be entitled to appear before the Standing Committee of another place. However, I find difficulty with the second part of the Motion, which is that somehow this Chamber should become involved in what is happening in that Chamber.
It seems to me that the proper way to determine Parliament's view on the convention is either to set up a Joint Committee, which clearly will not now be possible, or for each House to produce its view. The Commons will produce its view on the convention; this Chamber will produce its view and then no doubt one will be able to see to what extent they coincide.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I shall try to tie up one or two of the problems raised. While it is fresh in my mind, perhaps I may reply to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The Motion by Mr Robin Cook states:
The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, raised the question of notice of meetings, as did several other noble Lords. The noble Lord set out the question clearly but it may be of help to other noble Lords if I repeat the Written Answer given to the noble Lord by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons:
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the question of whether there should be more joint discussion on the setting up of the Standing Committee. I believe that the general view of the House is that there should have been. However, unfortunately there was not. As I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton pointed out that we are where we are, regrettable though that may be. However, this is only part of the proceedings of finding out what is going on in the convention and what this House wants to say about it.
I hope that I have explained to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, why there are two Motions. The second one, which the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House will move shortly, is a facilitating Motion to allow Members of your Lordships' House to go down to the other place. It would be generous of the House to allow them to do that.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said that opportunities had to be provided to hear the views of noble Lords. Well, there will be. The views of this House will not go unheard. First, I would not want that to happen and, secondly, I would not have any way of stopping it.
If one takes the whole package, it will be a useful experiment. It may not be perfect. It may have been better to have a Joint Committee. But this is a Standing Committee and we do not have Standing Committees in your Lordships' House for good and sufficient reasons. But it is an opportunity for Members of your Lordships' House to make their views known at the other end of the corridor, which does not happen often. That is quite valuable.
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