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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, in view of the complexity of developing such major sites in London, can the Minister promise that completion of the comprehensive redevelopment of the Dome will proceed at least as rapidly as the comprehensive redevelopment of the site at Battersea power station?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, we shall use our best endeavours. This is a major project in a major part of London. It is intended to provide jobs for thousands of people and homes for thousands more as the beginning of the Thames Gateway. It will be a private sector development, assuming that everything goes ahead as planned. Ministers will give it all the support that they can during that period, and we hope that it will be very successful.

Convention on the Future of Europe

3.8 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which Minister now speaks for the Government at the Convention on the Future of Europe.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Foreign Secretary continues to have overall responsibility for government policy on the European Union, including the convention. The Secretary of State for Wales is the Government's representative to the convention and will therefore report to Parliament on his role in the convention.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the Minister who speaks for the Government in the convention is involving himself

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and, indeed, this country in huge decisions about our future, including a written constitution, a brand new charter of rights, which is to be brought into the centre of this constitutional treaty, and a whole series of other major issues? Is it not vitally important that this Minister is properly accountable to both Houses? Can she explain how he, or the person to whom he delegates his activities, answers to the other place and to your Lordships about these major issues?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course my right honourable friend Mr Hain has enormous responsibilities but in this respect he exercises them under the supervision of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Mr Hain last gave oral evidence to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee on 20th November. That session focused exclusively on the convention. He will also participate in an Adjournment debate on the convention which is scheduled to take place on the Floor of the House of Commons on 2nd December. He is accountable to the House of Commons and, as your Lordships know, I answer for these matters in the House of Lords.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Government's position in the convention is an absolute model of clarity by comparison with the views of the Conservative Party? One has Mr Heathcoat-Amory having left the European People's Party because he dissents from its views and the Conservative Members of the European Parliament in the convention remaining within the European People's Party taking a totally different view? One is clear; the other is absolutely obscure.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Well, my Lords, it is a matter for the party opposite as to how it wishes to be represented at the convention. I am bound to say that I have some sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Tomlinson has said. Mr Hain has been working very hard on the convention for some eight months. There are a further seven months to go before the convention reports. I think that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was quite right when he judged that UK interests were best served by a continuity of the principal Minister involved in the convention.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I recognise the central role of the Commission's executive power in delivering the agreed goals of the European Union, but would the Government's representatives be reacting favourably to proposals from the convention that are designed to enhance the effectiveness and acceptability of that executive role by strengthening the Commission's own democratic basis?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government believe that it is very important to strengthen the democratic basis under which Europe operates. We also believe that it is very important to have a clearer understanding of the respective roles of

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the Commission and, for example, national parliaments. I very much hope that in the many working groups that have been set up—some of which have already reported, others of which are due to report by Christmas this year—we shall have some clear guidance for those of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, who have been participating in these discussions.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the Minister said that the Government's policy is magnificently clear. Would she care to enunciate the Government's attitude towards each of the major proposals that have so far been put forward by Mr Giscard d'Estaing and the convention?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we were discussing the representational issues which were clear. The noble Lord may laugh at this point, but if he had been listening to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson, he would have heard that the contrast was drawn, not between clarity or lack of it on policies but between clarity or lack of it on representation.

There are 11 working groups. I do not really think that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, wants me to go to every single one of them now on the Floor of the House. The noble Lord is nodding his head, but I am afraid that the clock would be against me and the Leader of the House would be very upset. Instead, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and place a copy of my letter in the Library.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I understand that the British Government's representative has submitted a number of papers to these working groups. Can the noble Baroness tell us what steps the British Government have made to draw the attention of members of their own national parliament to the existence of these papers and to make them available for them?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have indicated that the Government have reported to Parliament on a regular basis. The Government remain committed to informing Parliament about the work of the convention. The parliamentary representatives, as well as the Ministers, have given evidence to the appropriate scrutiny committees of both Houses on a number of occasions. I am sure that they have drawn attention to the various pieces of work that have been submitted to the convention. A full list of such representations is readily available.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, bearing in mind the point raised by my noble friend Lord Howell, these are very important matters. I quite understand that the noble Baroness does not have the time at the moment to answer the points raised by my noble friend Lord Tebbit. Would it not be helpful for this House to have a debate on the convention as soon as possible during this Session, and if possible before Christmas, in order to discuss and air the issues raised?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is, as always, a matter for the usual channels to decide.

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I would be very happy to participate in such a debate. There are 10 working groups that either have reported or will report by Christmas. A further eleventh group has just been set up on social Europe. There is a great deal to discuss.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the Minister explain where Mr Denis MacShane fits into all this?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my honourable friend Dr MacShane is doing all the work that is normally undertaken by the Minister for Europe when there is not a convention running. Dr MacShane currently deals with the EU's central, southern and eastern European countries, Russia, the Balkans, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and economic relations. He has a full portfolio.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, given the enormous importance of the constitutional issues which are being considered by the convention, will the United Kingdom Parliament be free to accept or reject whatever the convention comes up with, or will it all be subject, as before in the progress of the European Union, to the treaty-making powers of the Royal Prerogative, which make this Parliament into a rubber stamp?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, having participated with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, in debates on the Nice Treaty and before that on the Amsterdam Treaty, it has never been my feeling that Her Majesty's Parliament is in any way a rubber stamp.

After the convention has reported, which will be in June next year, there will be an opportunity for debate by national parliaments before any treaty is drawn up. At that point I am absolutely certain we shall hear a great deal from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, can the Minister say what is the role of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, at the convention?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Scotland is an alternative to Mr Hain. She is undertaking work in particular as the United Kingdom representative on the working group on justice and home affairs. She is also responsible as the representative on the working group on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. She is working very hard and is an invaluable member of the UK team.


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